Laff at the Movies

New movies on video 4-14-14

April 15th, 2014 at 7:05 am by under Entertainment

New movies on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, etc. 4-14-14:

“Ride Along” (PG-13)
(Kevin Hart, Ice Cube)
“The Nut Job” (PG)
(Will Arnett, Liam Neeson)
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (PG)
(Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig)
“Philomena” (PG-13)
(Judi Dench, Steve Coogan)
“Black Nativity” (PG)
(Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett)
“Better Living Through Chemistry” (R)
(Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde )
“Copperhead” (PG-13)
(Billy Campbell, Peter Fonda)
“Great Expectations” (PG-13)
(Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes)
“The Invisible Woman” (R)
(Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes)
“Date and Switch” (R)
(Dakota Johnson, Sarah Hyland)
“Mobius” (R)
(Jean Dujardin, Tim Roth )
“Mallrats” (R) – first time on Blu-Ray

Last Week 4-7-14: (more…)


Review: “Draft Day” scouting report – NFL fans should wait

April 11th, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment
"Draft Day" poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Draft Day” poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Draft Day” (2014)
Rated: PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes
Genre: Sports Drama

My spoiler-free review:

As a huge fan of NFL football, a long-time fan of a struggling team, and somewhat of a draft nerd, I really wanted to like this movie.  Even though it appeals to more than just football fans, with its behind-the-scenes of NFL drama, its no “Moneyball” (2011) and certainly not Kevin Costner’s best sports movie.  Setting this movie at the upcoming 2014 draft caused it to have too many factual issues which challenged my ability to believe a movie that tries so hard to be realistic.  I give it 6.0 out of 10.  This may actually play better for moviegoers who are not pro football fans.

Warning to parents: the movie is rated PG-13 on appeal for brief strong language and sexual references

Since this movie was filming several months before the start of the 2013 NFL, it makes sense that the filmmakers wouldn’t know the outcome of the season, and wouldn’t know which team would have the pivotal number one pick in the 2014 draft.  However, why did you choose the Seattle Seahawks?  Sure the franchise has never won a Super Bowl and for years (I have been a fan since 1984) they were a team in the top or middle of the draft, having missed the playoffs for many years.  But the rebuilding is over and they have been a more likely playoff team recently, and were a 2014 preseason favorite by many analysts.

I’m not bothered that the writers made my favorite team the “villain” of the movie… its that they set the draft of this movie in the present months from now at the 2014 draft… and in the movie the Seahawks have that number one pick and are willing to make a trade with the Cleveland Browns, the team that Kevin Costner is running as the General Manager.  But in the real world 2014 draft… the Houston Texans have the first pick and the Seahawks have the 32nd pick.   Everyone who pays attention to the draft knows that, barring an earlier trade, the team with the worst record in the league gets the first pick, not the team that just won the Super Bowl.  Also, in the movie, the general manager of the Seahawks wants the hottest prospect in the draft, a quarterback.  Anyone who watched the NFL playoffs or the Super Bowl knows that Seattle doesn’t need a quarterback, we’re just fine with Russell Wilson.  There are also moves made on the day of the draft because of players they have on their team that conflict with real players on their team.  Like the characters saying the Denver Broncos wouldn’t take a quarterback because they have (?) Garrett.  I’m sorry, but does the writer know that they have future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning?

So the first advice for anyone who wants to do a movie pulling back the curtain on how NFL teams work… set it in the not-so-distant future where the draft selection and the players on the team could make more sense.  The movie is trying to be real, but lives in a fictional alternate universe set in the present, because the movie uses fictional players currently on the team and as college prospects, but still tries to be authentic by using real retired players, real NFL media, and the real commissioner.   ”Draft Day” doesn’t feel as real as a behind-the-scenes movie about a professional sports team’s General Manager (GM), the way “Moneyball” (2011) did.  The Brad Pitt film included real athletes and actors but using the names of real players, combined with actual footage and Brad Pitt was hidden inside his character, who was a real-life GM not a alternate universe fictional GM dealing with fictional players and fictional prospects.

As important as the day of the draft is, there’s more going on in the preseason leading up to that big day.  Some players on the roster are resigned at the end of the season, some become free agents, some get traded, some retire… the GM has to deal with all of these things and then tries to make some moves himself to fill the needs that might not be filled in the draft.  Then there’s the scouting and prepping for the draft … and not just the first round pick.  There are four days, 7 rounds of picks!  Some teams pick more than once in a round, but the average team has 7 picks total.  Many teams live and die with their first round picks, but many teams thrive making great picks AFTER the first round.  NFL nerds will know that.  This is your core audience.  The peripheral audience of casual fan, friends of fans, or dates of fans, might not… but who are you appealing to then?  ”Draft Day” does not address anything else in the off-season except focus on the first round of the draft.  I know the movie is called “Draft Day” so technically its about the first round, but a GM’s job is never done… he wouldn’t go off to his office after he makes his one pick, and he wouldn’t go to a party at the end of the first round… he has three more days, 6 more rounds to think about.

So enough about the football… I guess the movie’s strength has to focus on the drama… the relationship then, of the people involved in these make or break decisions regarding the franchise.  Costner is Costner.  Solid but very Costner.  This could have been one of many different Costner characters dropped in this role and he would act very similar.  His character wasn’t unique enough to separate him from the actor, so I had a hard time not seeing Costner when we see his character ‘Sonny Weaver, Jr.’.  The story is interesting… he has a challenging day, not only is the draft the beginning of a make or break season for him, everyone in his life is pulling at him for attention… his co-worker ‘Ali’ (Jennifer Garner), the owner (Frank Langella), his mom (Ellen Burstyn), Coach Penn (Dennis Leary), the other coaches and staff, and even his new intern ‘Rick’ (Griffin Newman).  Leary’s ‘Coach Penn’ is cliche.  Too cliche.  He puffs himself up, he’s the tough talking know it all that came from a bigger market and he’s got all the answers.  The executives helping with the draft are not all that smart.  The exception is ‘Ali’ (Garner) she is smart and knows football, and is good at her job, although we only get one real mention of what her job is and what that means (and the casual fan/non-fan may not even know what that is).  There is a lot of insider talk that goes unexplained assuming the audience knows what they’re talking about, meaning the casual fan may not understand the gravity of the dealings made during the movie.  So what’s left is a fairly interesting but completely fictional story which at least to football fans starts too become predictable during what is the most interesting part… the last 30 minutes of the movie.

But the movie does move along well and it does look good, with production elements are solid as it takes us around the league as ‘Sonny Weaver’ tries to make deals to make his team better.  Some of the best moments of the movie showcase what director Ivan Reitman has done in the past – humor – whether its subtle or overt, there is not enough of it… and too many of the characters are paper thin – with very little much depth, leaving the movie to win or lose on the success of its main characters and main cast, who are good, but not great.

Final word to the producers: just because you make it, doesn’t mean football fans will come.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): (more…)


Review: “Noah” departs from scripture for sake of story

April 6th, 2014 at 4:56 pm by under Entertainment
"Noah" poster courtesy Paramount Pictures

“Noah” poster courtesy Paramount Pictures

“Noah” (2014)
Rated: PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content

Runtime: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Genre: Adventure/Drama

My not very spoiler-free review (sorry its vital to this review):

It’s often said that reading the book is better than the movie.  While I frequently prefer the latter, I would agree in this case that one should brush up on their Noah reading before or after watching Darren Aronofsky’s version of one of the biggest tales of the first book of the Bible.  The filmmakers take many liberties or Hollywood-izes parts of the story that it must be clear that this is based on the story, not a true-to-the-Bible theatrical version of the story.  This is not a substitute for Sunday school teachings!  The movie enriches what may have happened while on the Ark during the flood with a intriguing family drama in a post-apocalyptic setting, but its several jumps from accuracy making it jarring to watch at times… I give it 6.0 out of 10 … despite its controversy, it does promote conversation about Biblical tales.  I’m not here telling you what to believe… just what to expect when you see the movie.

Warning to parents: this is not for little kids with its PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content

What tha?  I am sure that trying to depict the events leading up to the story of Noah, visually to audiences both domestic and foreign was a challenge Aronofsky had to know was going to be difficult.  So I accepted the visuals of the first few minutes of the movie as we get a backstory of Noah and the world he was living in before the biggest storm in history.  But then a scene involving a fantastical element of giant walking rock creatures that reminded me of the Ents in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002).  Yes.  That’s right, instead of a Charlton Heston-esque epic like “The Ten Commandments” (1956) we get more of a Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg sci-fiction/fantasy retelling of a classic Bible story.  They are later explained to be this movie’s understanding of what the ‘watchers’ (fallen angels) are, but you lost me for more than 30 minutes before you explained what I was supposed to be seeing.

Plot details?  I also suspended belief and accepted the way the movie chose to visually present some of the supernatural events of this story that has been told with many interpretations throughout history.  Taking Noah’s story from Genesis 5:21-9:25, about 4 chapters or  several pages from the Bible and turning it into an epic-feature length movie is quite the undertaking but why take so many big steps to differentiate from a well published account of Noah?  Interpretation is one thing… but… what is going on here?

1) In the Bible, God talks to Noah about what is coming, but in the movie, its presented as dreams or visions
2) In the Bible, God gives Noah instructions on how to build the Ark, but in the movie, its not included
3) The Bible tells of Noah and his father, but in the movie, its portrayed with an abrupt difference
4) In the Bible, Noah’s grandfather is a mere lineage mention, but in the movie, Methuselah is in several scenes and he’s got supernatural magical powers
5) The Bible describes in detail how the animals were selected for the Ark, but in the movie, they just show up
6) In the Bible, it tells us that only 8 people are on the Ark (Noah and his wife, his three sons and their three wives), but in the movie, it omits two of the sons’ wives, and it’s a pretty big conflict in the movie between Noah and his second oldest son
7) In the Bible, only 8 survivors were on the Ark, but in the movie, it adds another survivor, and this is big because the ‘great flood’ was meant to cleanse the earth of the sinners and the lineage of Cain, but the movie depicts that very differently (avoiding spoiler)
8) In the Bible, Noah sent out a Raven to discover if the flood waters had receded enough to reveal dry land, but in the movie, his youngest son Japheth is the one sending out the birds on this mission
9) In the Bible, the rain continued for 40 days, but in the movie, it’s not really mentioned… throughout this story, the passage of time in Bible verses is more clear, while in the movie it’s I more vague
10) The Bible gives us two very important symbols at the end of the flood: the dove with the olive branch and the rainbow, but in the movie, they are just shown but never explained the significance of peace and that a flood would never again be used destroy the earth

Whether you take Noah as fact or as a myth, its jarring to see many of these plot points changed!

It does a pretty admirable job… trying to explain the events leading up to the great flood, like how the Ark was built and how Noah and his family were protected from the rest of the world (so the ‘watchers’ work in this version of the story).  Their visualization of how the materials were created for the Ark, how the animals got to the Ark and didn’t create problems on the Ark were all interesting.  I wish it showed more of the interaction with the animals inside the Ark, the people who thought Noah was crazy for building the Ark in the middle of a dry landscape, the flood waters rising, and the rush of the sea level lifting the Ark higher than mountains.  Unfortunately, some of these “explanations” created more questions than were “answered”.  While Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ is more like Russell Crowe’s ‘Maximus’ in Gladiator (2000), which may be different than many pictured him, Crowe does a solid job portraying the strong willed faithful patriarch that is written in the screenplay.  The added/expanded character of Emma Watson’s ‘Ila’ adds a kinder, softer character to the group and to Noah’s character depth, whether or not is accurate is up for debate.  The rest of the cast including Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, and Ray Winstone are good but its clearly not the acting that I had trouble with while watching this movie.

Yes there’s a message in the movie, but this is clearly not the same story I learned as a child.   These radical changes in plot are distractions from what had the makings of being a very solid movie based on a Biblical tale.  It didn’t have to sway so much from the original material just to appeal to the general public to make millions of dollars and attract both believers and non-believers… but it did and that’s too bad because there’s a pretty compelling story there already.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): (more…)


Review: “Captain America 2″ thrills with action and twists

April 3rd, 2014 at 8:01 pm by under Entertainment
"Captain America The Winter Soldier" poster courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Captain America The Winter Soldier” poster courtesy Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014)
(2D/ DBOX/ 3D/ IMAX )
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout
Runtime: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller

My spoiler-free review:

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” offers more action, new characters, and lots of twists which you don’t get with a lot of action movies.  It’s a fun big-budget superhero movie that’s set in a political thriller.  It helps to have seen “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011) and especially “The Avengers” (2012)  because this movie follows the events of the 2012 team up but ties back to the first movie about the super soldier.  With a lot of focus on the dealings of SHIELD, Nick Fury, Black Widow, and some new characters, it begs the question ‘who can you trust’?  I give it 8.5 out of 10.  I’m told comicbook fans will like it because it sticks pretty close to the comics even though filmmakers took some liberties with character details.

Warning for parents: with all the action and violence and loud noises, it may be too much for the little ones or even those who are a little skittish.

The “world’s greatest soldier” – that’s what SHIELD Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), but that doesn’t mean they see eye to eye about the moral decisions they are making in the name of protecting the public from terrorists and supervillians.  During the events of the “The Avengers” (2012) Cap’ started to become leery of SHIELD – the organization he was working for, but since he is a patriotic boy scout he’s kind of gone along with the program, until now when the latest version of the hellicarier (3 of them) is unveiled to him with technology that would make Tony Stark flinch… plus the rhetoric that SHIELD is spewing reminds Steve of a certain Nazi villain of his past.

There is more action in this second Captain America movie and a lot more conspiracy theories flying around involving SHIELD and the World Security Council (including Robert Redford’s character).  Captain America’s costume is updated, you’ll notice its mostly blue and white to fit him in with SHIELD… but we eventually get to see the classic red, white, and blue uniform… one of the biggest changes is his fighting style.  The Cap’ has clearly gotten some intense training since New York… with some new styles of hand to hand combat that accentuate his strength and abilities and some parkour.  This Captain America 2.0 is trying to adapt to life in the modern era but in battle, he’s a one man wrecking crew without all the dazzling technology of Iron Man or lightning from Thor… one of the first scenes that show us the new style of Captain Rogers is a gee whiz cool sequence that has him clearing off a bunch of mercenaries like rag dolls… but in that non-ruthless Captain American way.  We also get to see him with and without his trademark shield, which one bad guy calls him out on and he’s not always in uniform while battlting the bad guys… a hint that he isn’t just this character when he puts on the uniform.

There’s more screen time than before for Fury and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who spends a lot of time and is developing a chemistry with Captain America.   The additions of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) take this movie up a notch… we get to see two of his longtime characters from the comics finally come to the big screen, as he develops and friendship with Sam and an intense rivarly with Winter Soldier.

The movie looks good, has the dark political conspiracy thriller undertones, coold SHIELD tech, and lots of one liners like  ”I only act like I know everything” (Black Widow), ”I’m 95 I’m not dead” (Captain America), and ”I do what he does, just slower” (Sam) – just to list a few.  And there are many pop culture references throughout, like ”War Games” (1983), a Pulp Fiction reference with Samuel L. Jackson’s character Nick Fury, Robert Redford’s commercial product, reference to the TV series ‘Community’ that the directors (Anthony and Joe Russo), and an actor from that show making a reference to “Top Gun” (1986).

But … I did have some problems with the movie, which I’ll try to make vague enough that they are spoiler-free: why does the leader of SHIELD, Nick Fury, with access to endless next generation technology not have a cell phone when he really needs it?  And why doesn’t he call on other well known members of SHIELD for help when he suspects big trouble? (see minor spoiler below)  There are a few plot holes and a red herring I was expecting but never materialized, but that would be a spoiler if I mentioned it here.

Okay fanboys (and fangirls) -  next are some minor spoilers about the new characters, references, and the two scenes in the credits (which you need to stay all the way to the end for), but you need to click the continuation link/scroll down for the minor spoilers….  (more…)


New movies on video 4-1-14

April 2nd, 2014 at 8:05 am by under Entertainment

New movies on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, etc. 4-1-14

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (PG-13)
(Will Ferrell, Steve Carell)
“47 Ronin” (PG-13)
(Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada)
“At Middleton” (R)
(Vera Farmiga, Taissa Farmiga )
“The Bag Man” (R)
(John Cusack, Robert De Niro)
“Knights of Badassdom” (R)
(Ryan Kwanten, Steve Zahn )
“The Little Rascals Save the Day” (PG)
(Valerie Azlynn, Doris Roberts )
“The Pirate Fairy” (G)
(Christina Hendricks, Tom Hiddleston )
“Seal Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines” (R)
(Tom Sizemore, Lex Shrapnel )

Last Week 3-25-14:
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (R)
“Walking with Dinosaurs” (PG)
“Delivery Man”  (PG-13)
“The Great Beauty” - Criterion Collection
“The Past”  (PG-13)
“Chinese Zodiac”  (PG-13)
“Free Ride”
“Odd Thomas”
“The Punk Singer” - Documentary
“The Truth About Emanuel”
“Welcome to the Jungle”

So what did you think?  Please post a comment! (more…)


Review: “Bad Words” is R-rated comedy g-o-l-d

March 28th, 2014 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment
"Bad Words" poster courtesy Focus Features

“Bad Words” poster courtesy Focus Features

“Bad Words” (2014)
Rated: R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity
Runtime: 1 hours, 29 minutes
Genre: Comedy

My spoiler-free review:

Arrogant.  Inappropriate.  Raunchy.  Racist.  Loser.
These are not words spelled by the competitors in the golden quill spelling bee, they are words to describe the main character in “Bad Words” – ‘Guy Trilby’, played with all the snark, immaturity, and confidence that Jason Bateman could ooze out in 90 minutes.  He’s a 40-year-old man competing against kids in a classy american institution.  He’s a character that you love to hate but can’t help but root for.  ”Bad Words” breaks R-rated comedy conventions and wraps all the offensive stuff up inside an interesting story… I give it 8.0 out of 10.

Warning to parents: while there are kids in the movie for the spelling competitions, this movie is not for younger viewers, its rated R for crude and sexual content, language and brief nudity

Nothing but good words for ”Bad Words”… the hilarious R-rated comedy is a very inappropriate, quite  raunchy tale of rivalry and friendship between a 10 year old and 40 year old who both want to win the national title, but for very different reasons.  On the surface its about the spelling, but underneath it says something about family, and friendship, and competition in our society.

Lots of 4 letter words… while Antidisestablishmentarianism is one of the words that must be spelled in the competition, most of the vocabulary coming from ‘Guy’ (Bateman) are words that the tight laced, honor bound judges and officials involved with the tournaments would never want to hear spelled out on stage.  But the greatness of “Bad Words” is that it goes where most R-rated comedies don’t – an actual story with heart and character development.    First time director Bateman and writer Andrew Dodge avoid the crutch of simply raunchy and inappropriate humor for shock and shame sake…. it excels with its whip smart humor and a story about a unlikable adult and a cute 10-year-old competing to win on a national level.   This isn’t just jumping from one disgusting scene to the next, there’s a purpose to the story construction and the level of inappropriateness is part of the story… not comedic elements connected together by a shallow plot.

And… Bateman’s straight faced humor and inappropriate words give us a character that goes through several transitions during his competitions while still keeping the ultimate goal in mind.   His rival ‘Chaitanya’, played by Rohan Chand, holds his own –  going to toe to toe both in comedy and likability with Bateman – at one point asking ‘Guy’ if his “favorite word (is) the F-word?  ’Cause you say it a lot.”  His timing is great and he, like many of the others characters ‘Jenny’ (Kathryn Hahn), ‘Dr. Bowman’ (Philip Baker Hall), and ‘Dr. Bernice Deagan’ (Allison Janney) are perfectly cast and well developed in just a few minutes of screen time.

You’ll find yourself laughing at things you probably shouldn’t, but if you’re looking for some laugh out loud adult humor this is a great way to spend 90 minutes!

MORE INFO (possible spoilers):  (more…)


New movies on video 3-25-14

March 26th, 2014 at 2:59 pm by under Entertainment

New movies on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, etc. 3-25-14

“The Wolf of Wall Street” (R)
(Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill)
“Walking with Dinosaurs” (PG)
(Justin Long, Tiya Sircar)
“Delivery Man”  (PG-13)
(Vince Vaughn, Cobie Smulders )
“The Great Beauty” – Criterion Collection
(Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone)
“The Past”  (PG-13)
(Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim)
“Chinese Zodiac”  (PG-13)
(Jackie Chan, Oliver Platt)
“Free Ride”
(Anna Paquin, Cam Gigandet)
“Odd Thomas”
(Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin)
“The Punk Singer” - Documentary
(Kathleen Hanna, Carrie Brownstein, Joan Jett)
“The Truth About Emanuel”
(Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel)
“Welcome to the Jungle”
(Jean-Claude Van Damme, Adam Brody)

Last Week 3/18/14:
“Frozen” (PG)
“American Hustle” (R)
“Saving Mr. Banks” (PG-13)
“The Jungle Book 2″ (G)
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (PG-13)
“Kill Your Darlings” (R)
“Contracted”
“Here Comes the Devil”
“Reasonable Doubt” (R)
“Swerve” (R)

So what did you think?  Please post a comment! (more…)


Review: “Divergent” is a great franchise starter

March 20th, 2014 at 8:00 pm by under Entertainment
"Divergent" poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Divergent” poster courtesy Summit Entertainment

“Divergent” (2014)
Rated: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality
Runtime: 2 hours, 19 minutes
Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi

My spoiler-free review:

“Divergent” is an interesting adventure with initially convoluted details turns out to be a story about basic themes of human nature: family, friends, greed, power, and romance.  Despite some minor flaws, its a pretty good movie with that is a better first movie in a based-on-a-book franchise than “Twilight”  or “The Hunger Games”… I give it 7.5 out of 10.

Warning to parents: not for the little ones – it has a PG-13 rating for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality

Let’s start with what troubled me about the movie…. I’m told that in the books there are a bunch of pages devoted to the backstory, in the movie we get an opening narration from our main character, we know its a futuristic war ravaged Chicago from the visuals, but we don’t know exactly what happened.  That may be intentionally ambiguous but what bothers me the most is that she’s explaining how this supposed dystopian society is seperated into 5 factions, based on virtues.  While the virtues are understandable and the clothes and colors that represent them makes sense, the names are spoken not spelled out on screen, they are not as well defined to those who have not read the best selling books or have any significant knowledge of the story before the movie.   As far as I could tell, there’s the smart ones, the farmers, the honesty, the brave protectors, and the selfless that also run the government.  By the end of the movie, I still couldn’t tell you the difference between two of the factions.  After reading an expanding plot summary about Veronica Roth’s novel, this makes much more sense:  ”5 factions. Abnegation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Erudite the intelligent, Candor the honest, and Amity the peaceful”.

Note to studios making movie adaptations of popular books: not all of us have read them… some are watching the movie, instead of reading the book.  So when pertinent big picture story elements are explained – please put it on screen to read, whether its the main character reading a book about this society’s history, or signs above each faction, please explain more clearly.  All this matters because when the audience stops paying attention to what’s on screen and starts to try to figure out something that wasn’t explained clearly… you’ve lost them for a few minutes… or multiple during the movie… and a confused audience is not the perfect audience for your product!

Also some effects shots looked like green-screen, there are several shots, mostly of the characters looking out on their city that look fake… you spent how much money on the other effects that look good… and these basic shots look hokey… again taking the audience out of the movie for a brief second… something you don’t want.

But the movie does a lot of things right… mainly really good character development and a story that is intriguing and easy to follow.  ”Divergent” is set in this futuristic society with different rules than we have now, but there’s a growing up and figuring out who you are theme throughout.  Kate Winslet’s character ‘Jeanine’ tells the kids to choose wisely because “the future belongs to those who know where they belong”.  Fitting in and teen angst and family and friends are also themes that will resonate with certain audiences.  There’s a lot of dramatic irony going on with the audience seeing that things are not as perfect as the leaders of this society think/hope it to be.

The physical and mental training that the members of Dauntless go through is important and understandable as you realize the importance of their jobs: protecting everyone inside this walled-in/fenced-in society… protecting them from whatever is outside – but because we don’t know what started the war that ravaged the city 100 years before – we don’t know what could be out there, adding a little bit of tension as we move forward in the franchise.

And most of the effects look good (except mentioned above) – the training simulations and other CGI work all look good, the costumes make sense, and the overall production is solid.  Its a good start, we’ll see how “Insurgent” (2015) and “Allegiant” (2016) turn out.

MORE INFO (possible spoilers): (more…)


Movie closing lanes of 196 for “End of the Tour” scenes

March 5th, 2014 at 4:52 pm by under Entertainment

Lanes of 196 will be closed intermittently tomorrow for “End of the Tour” movie

Interstate 196 in Grand Rapids

Interstate 196 in Grand Rapids

It won’t be snow and ice slowing traffic down on 196 in Grand Rapids on Thursday, March 6th.

In its third week of production in Grand Rapids, the movie “The End of the Tour” will be filming scenes in some lanes of eastbound and westbound Interstate-196.

Crews will be filming scenes with Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel riding in a car along the freeway with Grand Rapids as the background.   But the city is actually a stand-in for a Chicago suburb.  The car will be traveling less than posted speed limits as it rides on a flatbed trailer hooked up with cameras and production gear.

The closures will be changing as the production rolls along the highway with police escort between 9:00am and 3:00pm.  The production plans to begin going westbound on 196 from Fuller Avenue to Lake Michigan Drive (M-45), then they will turn around and then go eastbound on 196 between Lake Michigan and Fuller.  They will do this several times.   As they change sides, some ramps will be closed as the crews move on and off the freeway.  Only one side of the freeway is expected to be impacted at a time.  And depending on the nature of the shot, sometimes only one lane will be impacted, other times it may be two lanes.

The production is spending about 5 weeks filming scenes in and around Grand Rapids.  The movie is planned for a theatrical release, but the exact plans for the release date have not been set.  Cast and crew, including Eisenberg, Segel, and director James Ponsoldt are staying in town.

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in "30 Minutes or Less" courtesy Sony

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg in “30 Minutes or Less” courtesy Sony

This is Eisenberg’s second time filming driving scenes in Grand Rapids, he was the lead actor in “30 Minutes or Less” with Aziz Ansari as crews shutdown Division Avenue for a big chase scene.

Segel has also filmed in Michigan previously, filming “The Five-Year Engagement” in Ann Arbor in 2011.  Eisenberg will be back in Michigan later this year for the “Batman vs. Superman” movie, he’s been cast as Lex Luthor in the “Man of Steel” sequel.

Officially, the drama is about a magazine reporter (Eisenberg)  recounting his travels and conversations with author David Foster Wallace (Segel) during a promotional book tour.

Acoording to other reports – “The End of the Tour” – “follows the relationship between author David Foster Wallace and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky. Segel will play Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 while Eisenberg will play the RS reporter who was following Wallace around the country as he promoted his book Infinite Jest. As Wallace rose to fame, a rivalry developed between the two men”.

Previous post: “End of the Tour” filming in Grand Rapids 2-19-14  (more…)


Studio 28 to be demolished in a few weeks

March 3rd, 2014 at 11:13 pm by under Entertainment
Studio 28 in Wyoming, MI

Studio 28 in Wyoming, MI

Its been closed for more than 5 years and now the building that used to be home for thousands of moviegoers will soon be torn down.

The lobby and concessions were buzzing for one last time at Studio 28 on Sunday, November 23, 2008… the last day of business for the West Michigan movie landmark.  It was a popular spot for 43 years, opening on Christmas Day in 1965.  At that time, there was just one screen with 1,000 seats.  But times they were a changin’ …. Studio 28 expanded to 12 screens then later became the first-ever mega-plex theater in May of 1988 by adding eight screens for a total of 20 screens.  It wasn’t just a theater it was THE theater for many.  Many who saw their first movie there.  Went on dates there.  Brought their kids there.  Studio 28 was a piece of the community and its closing was a sad sign of a changing 28th Street corridor.

Today, 5 years and 3 months after that sad day for those who grew up going to the big screens of Loeks Cinemas/Celebration Cinema… the news broke that the old building just couldn’t wait for someone new to set up shop, it was going to have to come down.  We reported on the news tonight that Studio 28 will be torn down within four weeks… the roof is leaking, there’s broken glass, and the insides are deteriorating.

What will be left behind are the memories.  Memories of the movies, the popcorn, and the fun times West Michigan had… at Studio 28.

Related posts and links:

Larry Figurski and I team coverage of Studio 28 closing announcement plus historic lookback 11-14-08

Final Day at Studio 28 11-23-08

John Loeks speaks at last day of Studio 28

Subscribe to my blog (get email updates whenever I post a new blog): http://feeds2.feedburner.com/woodtv8-blogs-laff-at-the-movies?format=html  (more…)