Friday, November 21, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Hunger Games:Mockingjay Part 1

It's time to check in again on Katniss Everdeen and the rest of The Hunger Games Bunch in, The Hunger Games:Mockingjay Part 1. 

This is the third in the Hunger Games series, and for some this will be the best one yet. And for others it will leave them wondering what happened?   This is far less action based than the first two, and that's a risk.  But the book stories are what they are, and when you bust the final book down into two parts, this can be the by-product.  But for me, this series seems to be getting better as the movies pile up.  But many will wonder where all the violence and killing is.

MJP1, is much more political and actually far smarter than the first two.  I like this series.  This is far more than an action series.  In this installment , there are no acutal "hunger games" like we had in the first two. Instead, we catch up with Katniss at the end of the second acutal hunger games.  And since her last victory was so stellar, now the Districts are rising up to face the Capital and challenge its authority, and restore freedom.  The "rebels" need a face, a leader, so it's Katniss as the Mockingjay.  Can she rally a nation, and give the repressed hope?

This whole storyline of course takes place in the way far future.  Although it's never revealed in the movies themselves, it seems to be about 500 or so years in the future.  And it takes place in North America which is now called Panem, that has risen after an also never disclosed apocalyptic event. 

This story focuses on the propaganda of war that seems to have survived the centuries.  It shows the medias place in the future, and actually makes a loud commentary on today's media as well.  This movie is far more of a story, and far less action.  This is becoming far more cerebral, and imaginative.  It also continues to successfully develop Katniss' character, as a leader, a fighter, now a soldier, and actress, and most importantly a woman. 

Yeah, there's a bit of Twilight in this.  A young women seemingly playing two men against one another, and toying with young studs' emotions but that's part of the allure for some.  Jennifer Lawrence again is great at Katniss, and although she as a critical actress has far outgrown this, this will end just in time for her to get on with her real career of great projects far richer and with the pressure off.  She also leads a all star supporting cast here, with way too many to mention.

Overall, this is good, entertaining and stays remarkably fresh as compared to other ongoing teen and young adult dramas.  Even with the seemingly eternal  and endless backdrop of gloom and doom as we look to the future.

The Hunger Games:Mockinjay Part 1.  This is good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW -Beyond The Lights

Beyond The Lights is out, and is one of the most surprising movies of the year.

This is a romantic drama that is reminiscent of movies similar, most notably The Bodyguard.  But that's been a long time, and this stands up well on its own two feet.  This has opened to very little fanfare, but this is worth a view.

BTL is the story of a young pop singer named Noni.  She is a beautiful young woman trying to make it with a super controlling mother at the wheel calling the shots.  In a fit of weakness, after an awards show, Noni attempts to kill herself by jumping off a 9 story balcony.  But at the last second, she is saved by a really nice young cop, Kaz.  He pulls her to safety.

As time goes on, Kaz and Noni strike up an unlikely romance.  Each come from very controlling families that have a plan for their kids, that may not be the same as themselves.  What this is, is a love story that's a little bit Bodyguard, Romeo And Juliet, and a few other music driven movies. And when you shake it all out, this is OK.

Overall, the story holds up well, and although there are a few convenient holes in it, and some of this could have been done much better, it's still OK.  Our performances are strong by the main stars and the supporting cast.  There are also a slew of cameo's that give it credence in the music and entertainment real world.  And the music is really good.  In fact they were really smart, and didn't forget the music would be pivotal here.  And they didn't let the love story dominate this so much, that the music would be in the back seat.  Let's remember, Noni is a young pop star.

Is this perfect?  No.  But this is pretty darn good, and opened to very little buzz with Disney's animated flick and Interstellar, and Dumb And Dumber dominating the box office.  But don't be afraid, this is a nice diversion from the cartoons, special effects, and those two morons going through mid-life crisis on the screen.

Beyond The Lights.  This is pretty good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

DVD - New Streaming and DVD November 18

As we move closer to holiday shopping time, the list of new movies coming to your DVD store or streaming service is growing. This week there is something for everyone.

Keep in mind, we only feature major motion pictures here and not straight to DVD, games, or TV series making their way to video.  Where applicable, I will link you back to my review from the original theater run to help you make the an informed decision before you rent or buy.

New This Week

Into The Storm

Big action flick from August, that deals with the biggest storm ever. Tons of holes in the story, but this is a special effects fest. Acting and story week. Special effects - old.

And So It Goes

Romantic comedy for seniors, starring Micheal Douglas, and Diane Keaton. BTW, she is in every romcom for seniors.

If I Stay

Chole Grace Moretz is a great young actress.  She is good in this teen tragedyBut better work is ahead for her. This is a heavy movie

22 Jump Street

Sequel to 21 Jump Street with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum in the bro-comedy. Tatum is surpisingly funny as a stoner cop.  But this is growing thin.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Dumb And Dumber 2

There were a few words that kept running through my mind during the screening of Dumb And Dumber 2. The one most frequent was - sad.

20 years after the raunchy, but guilty-pleasure ridden original, film makers The Farrelly Brothers re-hired Jim Carey, and Jeff Daniels to be Lloyd and Harry again.  Right off the bat, it's sad the Farrelly Brothers have to rehash an ancient idea, can't leave well enough alone, and have no new ideas. 

Equally sad, is that two humongous multi-millionaires Carey and Daniels agreed to look like morons again, this time at 50+ years old, with the same jokes from 1994. Daniels especially has moved so far beyond this type of thing as an actor, it is miles beneath him to reprise this. Carey is who he is.  So, after making a bunch of good movies since, that too expanded his horizons, he fell back in the septic well too.  All they had to say was - no.  And we are all spared from this.

Really sad is the free fall from grace of the once great, Kathleen Turner.  She is in this, and it almost hurts to see her here.  There is a little known supporting cast that now can cash a nice paycheck, and keep their careers going, as this will be a hit one way or another.  This will do well at the theater, and if not, certainly for home streaming and DVD.

There isn't much to review here. It's the same movie as before.  A ton of poop and pee jokes, always trying to gross us out.  A bunch of silly dialogue that sounds amazingly similar to the original.  Plus, they again go out on the "no group left un-offended" list.  And just for good measure, they have to play the lets gross everyone out as much as possible card with a nursing home scene that designed for big laughs, is simply horrible.  And fell shockingly flat with the theater audience today.

In short, it's all about the cash.  They got away with this once, and that's fine.  This is clearly designed to re-boot this franchise, and introduce Harry and Lloyd to a new generation of fans who simply won't watch a 20 year-old movie.  There's enough 7th grade humor to go around.

Dumb And Dumber 2.  Yeah, there's a few laughs, but the emphasis is on - a few.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DVD - New Streaming and DVD November 12

This week, is another week where there is something for everyone. As we approach the Holiday gift buying season, get ready to more major releases to be available for your home theater.

New This Week

How to Train Your Dragon 2 

Sequel to the wonderful original, that I feel is none of the really great animated movies ever. 

Let's Be Cops

Sheesh!  Another raunchy comedy from August. 2 dudes pose as police officers for personal gain.  


Melissa McCarthy stars in another movie where she plays the exact same character then she was in the last movie she did.  Funny parts, but the act is tired.

Monday, November 10, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW- Interstellar

The new smash space travel hit, Interstellar is here, and is raking in the cash.

This is the latest epic from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who gave us the latest Batman trilogy.  This stars Mathew McConoughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Micheal Caine.  Before you plop down one dime for a ticket for a regular showing, or IMAX, this is three hours long.  But Nolan is in love with making long movies, so this is not new territory.

Interstellar takes place in the near future. Earth is dying, as the climate has changed so much, that "blight" has taken over.  Crops are dying off one by one, and the 6 billion people of the world cannot feed themselves.  Also, the air is becoming toxic, as dust storms are the new rule.  Governments have become hugely social.  You are assigned a job by the government be it a engineer, or a farmer, etc.  In short, the country and the world is not a very nice place, as life as we know it today is over, and now it's simply survival.

NASA is the most secret agency there is, as no one knows that they still exist.  And they are looking for a solution to the problem.  They are looking for a new home for humans, as Earth is dying.  So, they are sending missions secretly to other galaxies to look.  Meet Cooper (McConaughey).  He is a former NASA astronaut who is chosen to go on one of these missions, to hopefully locate a new home, and some of the other crews from earlier missions.  Will they succeed?

Being honest, this movie is far too complicated to explain really well. It has a ton of special effects, and huge action scenes and that's all well and good.  But the real strength of this movie is the relationship between Cooper and his 10-year old daughter, Murph.  After all the bells and whistles have gone off, that's really what this is. A daddy/daughter movie.  Will he make it back home to his little girl, and when, if ever - will that be?

This movie is going to be a huge hit, with its cast, its maker, and its hype. And being fair, there is a lot to like here.  There are great moments of real excitement, and some compelling action. Plus, there are some really touching scenes with Cooper and Murph.  But, being honest again?  It's just all too much.  It's too long, to drawn out, too dramatic at times, to the point of silliness.  And most certainly, too fatiguing.  This is not a bad movie, but it takes on so many issues, and there is so much to digest, it all just blends together into a melted mush.

It's also another gloomy and bleak picture of our future here on earth.  And even though it's dressed up in pretty clothes made by a great designer, it's still paints an ugly, if not depressing picture of the not to distant future according to Hollywood.  And that is getting old really fast.

Interstellar. Great moments  - yes. But overall this is over the top.                                                                                                                            

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blake Is The Man!

You love Blake Shelton, everyone does. He's a huge star, whose stardom keeps getting bigger every year.  He just won the CMA Male Vocalist again and he deserved it.  But what he said Wednesday night on the CMA Broadcast is the stuff that legends are really made of.

During his acceptance speech on national TV, he dedicated his award to someone you may never have heard of.  But you may consider doing so now.  He said that his hero was Earl Thomas Conley.  Who?  And man, were those great words to hear.

Earl Thomas Conley was a huge star in the 1980's in country music.  Quick stats. He's from Portsmouth, Ohio.  Much like a Thomas Rhett, he began as a songwriter.  He wrote number one songs for Conway Twitty, and Mel Street.  Then he started keeping his songs for himself to record ala Brantley Gilbert.  He then went on to have 18 number one songs all in the 80's. (including I think, 16 in a row).  More than Alabama, and George Strait.  And keep in mind, those are just the number ones! And as much as anyone else of that era, he set us up for the next generation of mega stars.  That was his gift to the business.

You see ETC was hitting the scene when acts like George Jones, Conway, Dolly, Merle, Hank Jr., Willie, Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers and Ann Murray were the mainstays.  The Urban Cowboy craze was over, and the new kids were Alabama, Strait, ETC, and Ricky Skaggs.  Country was struggling to sell music, and tickets.  There was only one way to get music then, at the record store.  There were virtually no country videos, and of course online was years away in 1982. 

ETC was different.  He and his amazing ETC Band recorded a series of sizzling albums, and hit songs that were of a different DNA.  They broke out the horns, the strings, the synthesizers, and went to work.  Conley was a songwriter too and wrote most all of them.  The music was real, and deep, and amazingly ruckus and borderline rock at times.  His music sounded as great in dump truck as it did in a Mercedes. He recorded number one songs solo, and with Emmylou Harris, Keith Whitley, and even Anita Pointer. (Yes, Then Pointer Sisters fame).   ETC also is the only country artist to perform on Soul Train!  He recorded some of the most heartfelt and best music of the era, and clearly influenced a very young Blake Shelton.  And me too.  I was new in country radio at the time and he was a real favorite of mine.

And ETC did all of this at about the age of 40 - 45.  Unheard of today, as the stars get younger and younger. 45 today is ancient in the music biz.  But we didn't think about that as much at that time. Now this is not some "it was better back then" thing.  Because it wasn't. The overall music and the business is much better and way more popular today, and much more mainstream.

But Conley deserves much more credit than he has ever gotten.  His quiet demeanor kept him from being Blake Shelton.  But he clearly kicked the door down for the next group that would follow, by expanding the walls of country music far beyond where the relics of that era were willing, or even knew to go. ETC did it.  Then came Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakum, and then the flood of Garth, Alan, Clint, and the rest of 1989. And just as Alabama, Straight, and Conley had shown Jones, and Conway the door, ETC was ushered out as well.  But he helped change things forever.  And today almost no one knows about him, and that's sad.  Reality, but sad.

It was such class that Blake, in that moment in time, his moment  - thanked someone that was important to him when he didn't have to.  It showed us all that remembering where you come from is a big deal. And somewhere,  a now 72 year old Earl Thomas Conley finally heard his name announced on a CMA stage, as he never won one, and that's a crime.  He was simply too far ahead of his time.  He was playing country rock then  - and everyone else was light years behind . And it would be years for them to catch up.

Now we have.  And we are better for it. Thank you Blake for the making of things right. And Earl, for your amazing music, your long lasting contribution and influence that no one knew you offered. 

Until now. Blake is the Man!  Well done!