Wednesday, April 16, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Heaven Is For Real

This week, one of the best selling books in a long time come to the movies. Greg Kinnear stars in the new, Heaven Is For Real.

This is based in part on the true story of a Nebraska Methodist Reverend (Kinnear) whose 4-year old son Colton, has a near death experience.  Colton then emerges from his emergency surgery and is talking about, and claiming he was in Heaven. His revelation is so vivid that his father, town, and church congregation start to question their own faith wondering if the can fathom such a thing that is literally being presented to them.

This is a very interesting movie for many reasons.  First, a huge amount of Hollywood critics are going to dismiss this out of hand, and slam it mercilessly.  And the people that go to it, are going to love it.  It is a story that none of us have really ever seen before told this way at least.  It's a movie that has something to say, says it, and lets you go home.  And although I have read from many that this is far too religious for many critics to bear, I disagree, as I thought it was a story - period.

As many of these kind of themed movies are, this to me was simply the story of this little boy and his ordeal.  Yes, he claims he saw heaven. You can decide if you believe that or not. This movie does not demand that you do.  Yes, his father is a Reverend.  And yes, much of this takes place in a church, and with a dose of spirituality.  Well, what do you expect? 

That's the story that is being told.  Can't really water that down to make some a bit more comfortable.  From my seat, this movie is not trying to change your mind, or sway your thinking to an agenda.  This doesn't really preach at you, or go overboard with speechy dialogue about your faith. It simply tells the story that is at hand.  I have seen movies far, far more agenda laden than this.

This is not perfect by any means. In fact, there are parts of this that are a bit awkward, and poorly written and wandering as a screenplay from the book.  Also, it doesn't go as deep as I though it would into detail of Colton's actual experience. I expected more depth that never came.  Kinnear is fine as our pastor in search of answers.  And his supporting cast is fine, although Thomas Haden Church is a bit over casted in a small supporting role. 

This is a movie that is going to have limited, but loyal appeal.  There won't be many people going to see this that have an honest curiosity about it.  It has a built in audience that has a love for the book, or this kind of story.  Those who go will love this. I did find it interesting that when this movie was over, people didn't seen to want to leave as they watched the credits almost entirely.  You don't see that very often. 

Heaven Is For Real.   Needs to be seen honestly for what it is.   It's simply a story of this little boy, with a big story . 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Oculus

There are so many "scary'" movies made these days it's hard to keep them separated in your head.  The new Oculus though tries to be a bit different.

When you see the preview for this movie, you may say, "Well, here we go again.."  And being fair, that trailer does look like a thousand other flicks.  But the story here is original, and flat out better than most of these kinds of movies.

There is this family that 11 years ago was torn apart by a series of  violent events that seem to traced back to an antique mirror in the house.  Turns out this mirror has a 400 year history of supernatural events tied to it, and is thought to be responsible for about 50 deaths.  In short, it is a processed mirror. In this family, mom is killed, and dad is shot by his 10 year old son after dad became infected with what ever this mirror is dishing out.  The son then goes and does 11 years in a mental hospital.

The daughter who is 2 years older than the son, goes into the Foster System.  She learns all about this mirror, and has vowed revenge on the spirit, and is out to kill it.  Flash forward to today.  Her brother is released from the hospital, and they are all grown up.  They return to the house where the crime against their family was committed.  They set up an elaborate scheme to somehow harness and kill the mirror demon.  But he/she/they have other plans.  This is cleverly told in a mixture of flashback scenes and time travel scenes, which hold your attention. But what will happen?

The way this is done is actually quite good. Oculus is far more concerned in building suspense on a slow burn, and telling a story than being bloody or extremely violent. But don't be fooled, there is some tough to watch stuff here, and there are scenes that are graphic, but they are quick hitting and necessary. It has some of the same trademarks as all the others. Dark scenes, shadows, the predictable music, and some predictable moments.  And yet again, when things are going south, no one seems to want to turn on lights in dark rooms. But that's OK.  This has a better than average story to tell, and it's told well.

I have seen far more brutal movies. Sadly, this is set up for more of these up the line, and more than likely the "Oculi" that will follow will be far more brutal, bloody and violent. That is generally the formula.  This is also missing some with exit interviews with paying patrons. My gut feeling is that the young adults going to see this are disappointed at the lack of non-stop slasher type-violence and are bored with the story at large.  Even though the opening weekend was pretty strong, many are less than thrilled.

Oculus.  Better and more original than most scary movies.  Could be a bit too long, but overall pretty good. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

DVD - What's New Streaming and on DVD This Week

This is a very big week for you and your home services, and a good chance to catch up on some movies you may not have seen.  Sometimes it's tough get to the movies for many reasons. But movies are coming to your home theater faster than ever now.  

This week, there is something for everyone.  Maybe you might want to go and see some of the big hits again, or maybe there's a niche movie you missed and have wanted to see.  Keep in mind, we only feature major motion pictures here, and not TV shows coming to DVD or straight to video.  I will link you back to my original review (where applicable) to help you make an informed decision before you rent, buy or pay-per-view.

New This Week 

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller's telling of the classic tale, made relevant in today's world.  A very different kind of movie for him.

Philomena

What a gem of a movie, with amazing performances, and a story worth telling. Plenty of Oscar nods.

The Nut Job

Animated that flamed out badly at the box office. A victim of too much animation at one time.

Black Nativity

Big cast, in a movie that simply go lost at the box office with tons of other options at the time.  But a star studded lineup.

Ride Along

HUGE hit. Kevin Hart and Ice Cube.  It was number one for a few weeks.  Biggest comedy of last year.

scott@wqmx.com

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Morning Golf Course Review - Shale Creek

Course: Shale Creek

Location: Off Marks Road in Medina

Directions: Easy access from I-71, I-271, Rt. 42.  20 Minutes from Akron, 30 from Cleveland

Dewsweepers Tee Time Was: 815

Shale Creek Website

A great weekend meant the Dewsweepers 2014 tour got underway in Medina at a really nice course, called Shale Creek.  This course is in a conga line of sorts, of some good places to play in Medina County. Just a couple miles from Bunker Hill, and Pleasant Valley golf courses.  All nice places to play good public golf.

Shale Creek is a part of a housing community, but the houses seldom are a factor in your shot making process as they are mostly well off the course.  This can be played from 6,000 up to 7,000 yards.  This is a wonderfully designed course with a bit of everything to test all of your skills.  Hills, sand, water, sloped greens, and just flat out good golf.  Today the weather conditions were fine, for the exception of the 30 mph winds that really made it very difficult at times.  It's early in the season, but they were in very good shape. Of course, like all golf courses this early, they will improve, but Shale is way ahead of the curve.  The were in pretty darn good shape, considering how early it is.

We struggled with the wind especially on the back 9, when things really kicked up. Not much roll either today as the course was still damp. But it was dryer than most after this harsh winter, and slow to spring, Spring.  Overall for our inaugural round, we couldn't have picked a better place to start off.

Beef got off to a slow start today, and had a couple of bad numbers of the front. But Beef did what all good players do, he hung in there and waited to find his swing.  After a 48 on the front, with a 8/7 back to back, he warmed up on the back 9.  Parring 5 of the last 7 holes, and keeping the ball in play, even with the wind.  That's what you gotta do. Just grind it out, and he did posting a very nice 40 on the back with a vicious wind, for a nicely recovered 88.

Tex had a remarkably consistent round, scoring 51/51 on a tough day weather wise. Tex is a low ball hitter, and that helped him with the wind, but with the damp, he didn't get much roll and that's his bread and butter.  Tex did keep the ball in front of him most of the day, and was the only one of us that did not record a 3-putt. And that was no small feet.  Greens everywhere right now, have a ways to go, and are hard to read and not always true. So getting the ball in the hole sometimes is not small  thing.

Joe Red today was the story. Red did something none of us had ever seen in 30 years of golf!  He CHIPPED IN 4 birdies today.  On holes 2, 7, 13, and 17.  Stunning!  He only had 26 putts on the day.  He saved himself about 8 strokes by just - not putting 4 times!  I have never seen anything like it.  Plus, we all got to see the highly inappropriate victory dance 4 times. Yeah, thanks!  I don't have to see that again.  But, he earned it. Red also struck the ball well to put himself in position to make those chips.

I also did something I have never done.  I took a "10" on a par 5, the difficult number 3.  After a nice drive into the wind, I tossed 2 in the water, and then 3-putted.  Tough to recover from that.  But, I did to a degree. I had 6 pars on the front, and shot a 43.  I wasn't too unhappy since I took a 10!  On the back, I played  OK, but not as well on the front. The wind kicked up, and I struggled on the last 3 holes, taking 2 doubles for a 45, firing 88 on the day.  Overall, not bad since I played the par 5's horribly, at 7 over (5 on one hole) and missed 4, 3 foot putts.  Hard to survive a 10.  Sheesh!

Course highlights?   This entire course is terrific!  The par 5's are all great. Number 2 is a great tree lined par 3.  Number 9 is a really nice par 4, that's short, and is a tough approach shot. Number 10, is a challenging par 4, hard dogleg right with a tough green to hit. And 12, is a really tough par 4 that wraps around hard to the right over trouble.  

Shale Creek can be played many different lengths and ways.  But this is not a beginners course at all.  The facilities are wonderful, and service is great.  They even called Beef to tell him they located his club head cove that he lost, and they would hold it for him til he comes and picks it up.  This is also pricier than most public courses, and it's worth it.  Just a really fantastic place to play!


Scores

Joe Red  - 82
Beef - 88
Wynn - 88
Tex - 102

Next week we visit Big Met, in Fairview that's part of the MetroParks system. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Draft Day

Lots of hype surrounding the new Kevin Costner football movie, Draft Day.

The timing is really right for this movie to be made for many reasons. Because of the explosion of sports TV and social media, the actual draft day in the NFL has become the Oscars for young men.  It has become a gigantic hyped media event, carried live on ESPN, and social media, where guys can watch the wheeling's and dealing's of their favorite teams getting ready for the next season. Plus, Americans love football and it is tough to get a football fix this time of year. Also, this was filmed almost exclusively locally in Cleveland and Berea, home of the Browns.

Draft Day the movie is a fictional story of the very real Cleveland Browns, and their rogue and young general manager, Sonny Weaver (Costner).   He is at odds with the teams owner over what direction to take the Browns after many losing seasons.  So on draft day, he begins to strike deals with many other NFL teams for better draft positions, and picks.  All the while trying to balance his personal life, including his love life with Allie (Jennifer Garner), who he is having a relationship with in the office.  Sound boring?   It's not, this is a pretty good movie.

I wouldn't call this a great movie, but it is certainly entertaining.  And that is something that has been getting lost at the movies the past few years. We have become so preoccupied with effects, and noise, and computer generated sets, animation and superheros, it's refreshing to see a movie that is simply...simple.  This movie in it's feel, is very reminiscent  of the Jackie Robinson flick last year in April, 42, starring Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey.  That too was entertaining.  Neither one of these movies are going to rewrite cinematic history, but they both are fun to watch.

Costner is very well cast as the lone wolf Weaver, and this is a gigantic part.  He just might be in every meaningful scene. And quite frankly, he delivers.  You do believe that he is Weaver, and you don't feel like you're watching a big movie star.  In that sense, it is reminiscent of Brad Pitt in Moneyball a year of two ago.  Funny, Costner, Pitt and Ford, may actually give us career performances in some pretty good sports movies in he past few years. And none of them in those movies play sports figures.  They play the complex men behind the game.

The formula in these three movies is really smart.  Make a sports movie that is way beyond the actual sport.  Develop great characters, and put them in our world with sports a part of it, and not the only thing in it.  You don't have to be a sports junkie to enjoy any of these movies, and that really pertains here.

They explore the toll of draft day from many angles. The team, other teams, Sonny's, his family and friends, the owner, and the players being drafted.  It takes us inside the process, (understanding this is fiction), and shows us to a degree what this is all about.  I always respect movies that take us to places we have never been. And this is an original story, so extra points given.

This does have some writing problems in places, and there are a few too many sidebars for my taste, but none of that is a deal breaker.  Over all this is fun, entertaining, and most importantly does not wear out it's welcome, checking out at about 1 hour and 35 minutes.  Great decision. There was no more story to tell, and they didn't force it on us.

Draft Day.  Entertaining, worth a ticket. 


Monday, April 7, 2014

DVD - What's New on Streaming and DVD This Week

This week we have a few movies landing on streaming services, and DVD counters and there's something for everyone. We are still working on some movies that were out at Christmas time, and you may have missed some of these. 

When we spotlight new DVD and streaming choices, we only look at major motion pictures and not straight to video, or TV shows making their way to home choices.  I will link you back to my original movie review (where applicable) from the theater run to help you make an informed decision before you rent, buy or hit pay on your remote.

New This Week

Hobbit 2:

This brought in a ton of people, and a ton of cash as the sequel - to the prequel of Lord Of The Rings. 

August:Osage County

This has a huge all-star cast with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts each getting Oscar nominations. This is a highly adult drama, and comedy.  It is derived from a very successful play. It even feels like a play for most of it.

Grudge Match

Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro, and Kim Basinger.  Funny, most critics didn't care for it, but the public did.  Fairly bit hit too, long theater run.

Paranormal Activity 4: The Marked Ones

More of the same, shaky camera. 

scott@wqmx.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

MOVIE REVIEW - Captain America - The Winter Soldier

We live in an era of superhero movies and there is just no escaping that.  So here comes another one, with the second installment of Captain America - The Winter Soldier.

The first of this Marvel series I thought as really well done. It told us the origins of Captain America, and took us back to WWII.  Of course at the end, they brought him into the contemporary world where we find him in this movie.  The strength of the original was that it looked, and was, very different from other superhero movies.  Here with the strength of a thoughtful story it is pretty interesting. But sadly, now it looks like 25 other superhero movies before it.

This is basically the story of Captain America (Chris Evans) today who is teamed up at SHIELD with The Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson). And they find themselves in an epic battle with a political faction that has infiltrated SHIELD.   This is a group that is in pursuit of total world power and has been since the end of WWII.  They have come to know that people won't give up their freedom in the world by force, but they will willingly if given blind assurances that they will be protected.  So under that guise they set out on a world conquering mission. 

Trouble for them is, Captain America and troupe don't like that idea. And they are holding on to "antiquated" values from his era, that people should simply be free, and fight for it.  As he sets out on his quest to save the world's freedom, he encounters a new and awesome new foe, The Winter Soldier, who has been in the rival's possession as long as Captain America has.  The Soldier has been an off the radar weapon for 50 years, and now comes face to face with our hero. Who will win?

This is not really a good vs. evil movie as you might think.  To a degree it is, but this really makes very loud social commentary pulled right from today's world.  Do you really want freedom?  Or do you want some government, or some agency promising you freedom without really giving you freedom at all.  That plot line alone is riveting, and topical, and a fair question that many people around the world are having a tough time answering  these days, so it resonates. It also makes very loud commentary that will go over many heads. They state all of the worlds most horrible people that threaten world peace and that need to be eliminated are within a few counties of Washington D.C.

But the weakness of this movie is now the Captain America series now has a new look. And it's the same look as the other superhero movies.  And that's a shame.  This is loaded with 2 hours of computer generated effects and sets.  And the public just can't get enough of countless hand to hand martial arts style fight scenes.  And you get plenty of them here.  Lots of things blowing up, crashing and catching on fire.  And it has this new look for one reason.  Its works. People don't care that it looks like the rest. They liked the rest, and now they like this.  The formula is proven and true, and makes big money.  But, you will be way smarter than the movie in most cases here though. There are a few twists, but two of the really big questions will be known in your mind, long before the movie thinks you will. 

As far as performances are concerned, there really aren't any. This is so action driven, our actors are limited to sparse but effective dialogue that tells the story. But what it really does is kill some time so we can catch our breath for the next long action sequence.  A nice cast has been gathered here, including Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson and others.  This has also been set up nicely for the series to roll on seamlessly and it will. 

Captain America - The Winter Soldier.  Solid, and fun for many.  Moves nicely and will thrill it's fans.