Tag Archives: film

Movie Review: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Dun dun dun da dun dun dun dun…doo da dooo..do da dooo…doo da doooo…da doo doo!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, 3.5 readers, is to read this review.

This review will self destruct in 5 seconds….

Also, SPOILERS

Movieclips Trailers – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

I can’t believe this movie franchise has been going strong for so long, 3.5.  I really can’t.

Want to know how old this franchise is?

Ving Rhames took the role as Hunt’s associate Luther Stickell when he was hot off of playing crime boss Marcellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction.

Time, where oh where did you go?

Cruise, well-preserved, likely due to praying to the alien gods of Scientology (it pays to swear fealty to the Mighty Potentate) is as cool as ever in this one.

To Cruise’s credit, he’s a man who’s lived an extraordinary life, has nothing left to prove and yet, for our viewing pleasure, hooked himself up to the side of a flying plane.

Here’s a CNN article about how Cruise pulled this one off.  It involved special contacts to protect his eyes from flying debris (a piece of dirt flying at high speeds could have blinded him), a safety harness, and so on.

Amazingly, there was all sorts of safety precautions taken, yet the final shot looks as though he was just holding on with nothing but his hands.

Would you strap yourself to a flying plane moving at 185 mph?

I would not.  I would tell the writers they need to rewrite that shit.  Those terrorists need to be foiled on the ground.

So kudos to Tom.  You were married to Nicole Kidman, Katie Holmes, and now you’ve literally flown.

So, the setup.  This go around it’s IMF vs. the Syndicate, an evil organization bent on bringing down the world.

To throw a monkey wrench into the works, Hunt has also cheesed off the CIA and MI6.

Fast cars, exotic locales, insane stunts…it’s an action movie that’s got it all.

I don’t know about you, 3.5 readers, but with these types of movies, I just go for the pretty colors and fancy special effects and don’t waste a lot of time getting bogged down by the plot.  There’s so much explanation of how someone is going to break in to some place and blah blah blah, here’s how it’s going to happen and here’s what everyone is going to do.

Perhaps you sit there with your popcorn, trying to parse out all the details, but to me, it’s all just:

ETHAN:  To break in, we’ll need the thing to do the thing and get past the thing.

BENJI:  You’ll need a thing.  But the thing has to be done with the exact thing or the thing will happen to the thing.

LUTHER:  Nope.  No way.  You can’t do that thing with this thing.  You’re going to need that other thing and when that thing happens, you’d better be ready to do that thing.

ETHAN:  So it’s settled.  We’re going to do the thing.

This is a big role for Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa (not Elsa, no one sang, “Let it Go,”), the British agent who works with Hunt.

Sean Harris is exceptionally creepy as the film’s uber villian Solomon Lane while Jeremy Renner and Alec Baldwin get into a bureaucratic turf war over whether the CIA should absorb the IMF’s functions.

Last but not least, Simon Pegg, a nerd after my own heart, returns as Hunt’s tech savvy sidekick Benji.

It’s worth the price of admission with some awesomeness you have to see on the big screen.

I always look forward to these whenever they’re out.  In this nerd’s opinion, when it comes to spy action movies, MI is second only to 007.

And by the way, there’s a great Spectretrailer before this one.  Can’t wait for it.

Interesting side note:  I noticed this movie was backed by the China Movie Channel and Alibaba Films.  (Alibaba being the Chinese version of Amazon).  Will the Chinese become major players in the American film industry?  Eh, it seems new but then again Asia bridging the gap to Hollywood isn’t all that new.  Japanese backed Sony has been around forever.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Trainwreck (2015)

A hard partying, traditional lifestyle loathing gal is forced to face her fear of commitment when she meets a man worth committing to.

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of Amy Schumer’s comedy Trainwreck.

SPOILERS ahead that will totally wreck your good time if you haven’t seen it yet.

Trainwreck – Movieclips Trailers

3.5 Readers, let me start with this:

I LOVE AMY SCHUMER.

Male or Female, I think she’s the funniest comedian out there right now.

Her Comedy Central show, Inside Amy Schumer, regularly leaves me in stitches.  In particular, two sketches she put out this season have caused her stock to rise:

  • Last F*&kable Day – Amy has a picnic with Julia Louis Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette and hilariously discuss how the media puts an expiration date of female actresses, leaving them unable to play anything other than frumpy mother types whereas male actors are left to play leading men until a ripe old age.  (“Remember how Sally Field played Tom Hanks’ love interest in Punchline and then five minutes later she was his mom in Forrest Gump?”)
  • Twelve Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer – In a parody of the classic jury deliberation film, twelve men deliberate whether or not Amy is hot enough to be allowed on TV, thus pointing out how women are often judged more on their looks than what actual talents and qualities they have to offer.

But before you rush to label her some kind of radical feminist, keep in mind she’s an equal opportunist when it comes to dishing the dirt, and in this reviewer’s eyes, there’s no better sign of a great comic than pulling no punches.

In other words, while she’s been great at pointing out difficulties women go through, she also gets men have it tough at times as well.  Thus, there’s the sketch where she dons the guise of a karate sensei and educates men on how to verbally spar with their angry girlfriends (“She will be unable to defy the authority of therapy and Oprah”)  or the sketch where women walk through the “Museum of Boyfriend Outfits” and react to various bad outfits worn by boyfriends as if they were some of history’s greatest atrocities. (In other words, sometimes women judge men a bit too harshly as well).

In short, she’s great.  I’m a big fan.  A big, big fan.

That’s why it’s hard for me to say answer this question:

Is this a good movie?

Answer:  It depends.

If you’re going because you love her TV show and were hoping this movie was going to be Amy’s big break to knock it out of the park, then you might be disappointed.

At least I was.

I judge comedies based on one question:

Did it make me laugh?

Answer:  Only a few times, and mostly at characters other than Amy’s.

Laughter is the most honest of emotional reactions.  Either something tickles your funny bone or it doesn’t.

For the most part, this didn’t.

Everyone’s sense of humor is different.  You might disagree and love it.

Colin Quinn doesn’t disappoint as Amy’s dad, Gordon, the womanizing commitment phobe whose bad example sets Amy up for a lifetime of cheap one-night stands and avoidance of any real intimacy.

Surprisingly, NBA superstar LeBron James steals the show.

Often times, sports star cameos in movies are flat.  Athletes aren’t trained in the theatrical arts, after all.  But LeBron, who plays himself as the friend of sports doctor Aaron (Amy’s love interest), turned in a funny performance that left me feeling like he was comfortable in front of a camera.

Hell, if this basketball thing ever stops working for him, he has a second career waiting for him as a thespian.

But while Colin and LeBron provided me with some chuckles, Amy just didn’t razzle my dazzle in this one.

Am I being too hard on her?  Maybe.  Maybe it’s just because her show is so great that I was expecting to roll in the aisles for this movie.  Maybe I built it up too much in my head.

Or maybe gut busting laughter wasn’t what the film was meant to be about, because if your goal in seeing it is to take in a sweet romance (albeit with R rated debauchery mixed in), it does actually deliver.

The theme that ties the movie together?  People today are so interested in petty nonsense that doesn’t matter.  Looks.  Status. Fashion.

Amy works at a stereotypically fluff magazine where she and her co-workers write catty articles that judge people all day.

But as the story points out, if you’re too focused on getting drunk and random hook-ups, then you might let someone who’d bring a lot of joy into your life pass you by.

There’s been a bunch of movies where the man is the one who needs to tone down his playboy lifestyle in order to let a special lady into his heart.  Here, Amy puts a modern twist on that old rom-com trope by being the woman who needs to decide whether meaningless trysts are worth passing up a good life with a wonderful man who’d do anything for her.

For me, the scene that makes the movie work comes when Amy’s nephew asks his aunt whether or not she likes Aaron.  Amy stumbles, says yes, but then starts to go into a longwinded explanation as to why that’s not enough, but the kid just interrupts with a, “Why don’t you invite him over?”

TRANSLATION:  So many potentially great relationships hid the skids when people talk themselves into dumping people they like for silly, superficial reasons.

If two people like each other and get along, they need to hold onto each other for dear life, because those kinds of relationships are hard to find.  If passed up, they rarely, if ever, come along again, at least not anytime soon.

STATUS:  C- Comedy.  B+ Love Story.  Amy and Bill get a chance to display their acting chops.  Not the knockout I hoped it would be, but don’t feel too bad for Amy.  Her mug’s all over the place these days.

Not shelf-worthy but worth a rental.

(But for the record, few people in the entertainment industry have done more to champion the idea that people shouldn’t be judged based on their looks than Amy Schumer, so on that note, A+)

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Movie Review – San Andreas (2015)

Holy Crap it must suck to live in Los Angeles.

At any given moment you could be burnt up in a wildfire, carjacked by hoodlums, or hell, you could be practicing your putt on the back nine when friggin’ Harrison Ford lands a damn antique World War II plane directly on your face.

On top of all that, earthquakes are always a constant danger for the west coast due to the San Andreas fault and thanks to big blockbuster special effects, audiences are given a front row seat to experience just how horrifying it would be to trapped in the middle of one.

“Shut your mouth and know your rule, you 9.0 on the Richter scale, jabroni!  Can you smell what the Rock is cookin’?”

Because…you know…the Rock used to be a wrestler and he’d call his opponents jabronis and ask them if they can smell what he’s cooking?

Never mind, 3.5 readers.  Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of this summer’s wide scale disaster film, San Andreas.

(I know.  I’m disappointed that it wasn’t about the video game that took away a large chunk of my early  to mid 2000’s.)

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING

Trailer – San Andreas – Warner Brothers Pictures

I’m sorry.  I forgot we have to refer to the lead actor as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.  He’ll always be the Rock to me, but I don’t want to quibble with a guy who could rip my arm off and beat me with it.  I don’t think he would, he seems like too nice of a guy, but the point is he totally could so why chance it?

Johnson stars as Ray, an LA Fire Department rescue chopper pilot.  He’s in the process of a divorce with his wife Emma (Carla Gugino).  Together, they scour the California coast in search of their daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario), braving a non-stop onslaught of falling buildings, debris, explosions, floods looters along the way.

Blake teams up with two British blokes, her love interest Ben (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) and Ben’s little brother Ollie (Art Parkinson) as they face all sorts of mayhem on their own.

Paul Giamatti lends his fine tuned character acting skills to bring us Lawrence, the Cal Tech professor who was able to predict the earthquake was coming but no one listened.  Once the carnage ensues, people are all ears it’s it up to Lawrence to save as many lives as possible by getting across the message that more large scale seismic activity is on the way.

Overall, the film is more of a thrill ride on screen than a vehicle to deliver any sort of a plot, though it does have its dramatic flair moments.  Ioan Gruffodd of the original Fantastic Four films plays the cowardly Daniel, the man Emma’s left Ray for only to instantly regret it once his true colors are shown.

(Between you and me, 3.5 readers, in a film about a man flying around in the middle of a major earthquake, the most far fetched concept is the idea that a woman would dump the Rock in the first place.  I mean, I don’t know, I’m not a woman but I’d venture that few are able to resist the smell of what the Rock is cooking.)

If the movie serves any social purpose, it would be that once all of the CGI eye candy is digested, the very real danger of earthquakes and other devastating natural catastrophes are something that we should be preparing more for.

I’ll have to consult with Dr. Hugo because I honestly have no idea what kind of warning systems are in place and what evacuation procedures are available for Californians other than to run around with their arms flailing as the chunks of cement come flying overhead as illustrated in this film every two seconds.

As disaster flicks go, it wasn’t half-bad.  Not the worst film I’ve ever seen but not the best either.  It’s definitely something you’ll enjoy more on the big screen so it’s worth a trip to your local theater.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy

PS – Am I the only one who didn’t know that guy’s name is Ioan Gruffudd?  I feel like I’ve seen him in a zillion movies/TV shows over the years but never did I once suspect he was packing a moniker like “Ioan Gruffudd.”

Kind of sounds like he could be the villain in the next Star Wars movie.  “Quick!  Use the force or Ioan Gruffudd will conquer the galaxy!”

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Movie Review – Foxcatcher (2014)

Steve Carrell.  Channing Tatum.  Mark Ruffalo.

And so many scantily clad dudes rolling around on the floor that I swear I caught Aunt Gertie staring at the screen just a little too longingly.

Bookshelf Q. Battler here after FINALLY having had the chance to catch last year’s Foxcatcher.

I’m loathe to use the word “SPOILERS” for a film about a horrific crime that’s nearly 20 years old but honestly, while I’d generally heard about the case, I didn’t know the specifics until I began reading about the film.  If you’d like to find out on your own as you watch, you might want to rent it first and then read this review later.

Movieclips Trailers – Foxcatcher – Sony Pictures

Wealth.  For some it’s a blessing.  For others it’s a curse.

Throughout history, there have been people who have been born into great circumstances, their lives preordained before they even opened their eyes and took a look at the world for the first time.

Some individuals take the vast resources at their disposal and do their families proud, achieving new levels of greatness.

Others party hearty and are destined to become paparazzi fodder.

In the middle, there are folks who enjoy their riches, coast along and somehow manage to make jackasses of themselves.

Then there’s John du Pont.  Heir to a massive chemical company fortune, he’s an odd duck to say the least.  He’s socially awkward, almost painfully so.  It’s like he knows what he wants to say but has a hard time expressing himself, assumably because he’s lived such a sheltered life.

The majority of the film takes place in the late 1980’s, when du Pont is in his late fifties.  He lives on a sprawling estate which he dubs Foxcatcher Farm, fox hunting having been a popular activity for well-to-do visitors to the grounds.

The movie makes it clear – du Pont believes himself to be a great man and he wants the rest of the world to agree.  He doesn’t really want to do anything to achieve that goal.  He just wants to spend large sums of money and purchase the acclaim he believes he deserves.

At the heart of his need for glory?  A rivalry with his mother Jean (played by one of the few remaining Old Hollywood stars Vanessa Redgrave) leaves him with a burning desire to prove his worth to her.

One gets the impression that the rivalry is one sided.  Jean trains show horses on the estate and proudly displays her trophies in the family mansion.  du Pont envies the horses and wants his mother’s attention.  Despite being almost 60 years old, he’s like a little kid yearning for Mommy’s approval.

Meanwhile, brothers David (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark (Channing Tatum) Schultz have each won an Olympic gold medal for wrestling.  Keep in mind we’re talking about real wrestling, the kind that involves knowledge of various moves and techniques, and not the scripted garbage on Monday night.

From the film, it’s clear the brothers have a deep love and admiration of one another, but while David has found happiness with a loving wife and family, Mark is alone, living on ramen noodles in a tiny house and at the start of the film, earning a twenty dollar gratuity for speaking at an elementary school (it’s made obvious that Mark needs that twenty bucks).

Mark feels that even though he’s earned his notoriety, anything he does is overshadowed by his brother.  If he has success, the public attributes it to David’s mentorship of Mark and not Mark himself.  Mark wants to accomplish something on his own, and to make matters worse, he needs money.

Enter du Pont with a miraculous offer for the Schultz brothers.  du Pont wants them to come to his estate, select a wrestling team, train themselves to compete in the upcoming 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and train their team mates while they’re at it. He’ll pay them and give them houses on his property to live in for free.

David, not wanting to uproot his family, isn’t interested.  Mark, seeing a chance to break out of his brother’s shadow, takes the deal.

And for awhile he excels at Foxcatcher.

But alas, it is an understatement to say that du Pont is weird.

He insists that people refer to him as “America’s Golden Eagle.”  He orchestrates a large awards ceremony for himself, and in a sad commentary about society, it’s well-attended by the rich and the powerful.  He wants to be a wrestler too and organizes a senior citizen wrestling competition, only to pay off his geriatric competitor to take a dive.

That’s not all.  du Pont purchases a tank with the ease that one might order a book from Amazon.  When it arrives, he throws a fit that it doesn’t include a 50-caliber machine gun as promised and refuses to sign for the shipment.

He snorts cocaine with reckless abandon, takes his helicopter everywhere, and its not-so-subtly implied that his generosity towards the sport of wrestling might have been a front to allow him to roll around with young sweaty men.

Throughout his Pennsylvania community, du Pont is known as a gracious benefactor, a man who doles out the cash just so he can be a part of everything.  The local police department practice on his shooting range and he shoots guns alongside them.

Poor and crazy?  You’re crazy.  Rich and crazy?  You’re eccentric.  Not to fault the movie, but if you perform a web search on du Pont, you’ll come up with an endless supply of allegations, many of which weren’t portrayed in the film.  That’s not a knock on the film at all.  It’s just that the man was so nuts that there just wasn’t enough time to capture it all on screen:

Some of the allegations I was able to find on the web that weren’t featured in the film:

  • That du Pont put razor wire in the walls of his house because he thought it was haunted by ghosts
  • He crashed multiple cars into a pond on his property
  • He bought a look-alike police car and pulled over people who drove near his property.
  • Believed that Nazis and Russian spies were frequenting the property, often demanding that his employees search for them.
  • Kicked black wrestlers off the team claiming “the KKK runs this place”
  • That du Pont, after his mother’s death, sets her horse barn on fire with the horses inside.  The film only shows Carrell let the horses go.  Perhaps horses being burnt up is too graphic for the screen.

Again, there wasn’t just enough time in the movie, but the film more than manages to portray the fact that the man just was not right in the head.

Steve Carrell is no stranger to playing characters who aren’t exactly grounded in reality.  After all, he played the dimwitted bumbling boss Michael Scott on The Office for years.  But while Scott’s antics were relatively harmless, du Pont’s instability is (and as we see later) a disaster waiting to happen.

Barely recognizable under gray hair and a large prosthetic nose, Carrell earns his Oscar nomination as he plays du Pont, capturing his overall style of a hopelessly depressed ego-maniac slash elderly man child.

If I keep going, I’ll give too much of the film away.  It climaxes when du Pont, spurred on by his ongoing desire to achieve greatness (by letting others earn it for him) makes David an offer he can’t refuse to come be part of the Foxcatcher wrestling program.  Mark, who’s been sucked into du Pont’s unhealthy drugging lifestyle, feels betrayed by du Pont (at one point du Pont tells Mark he understands and supports his desire to win on his own), that he’s lost his chance to win without his brother’s help, not to mention he’s under intense pressure from du Pont to succeed.

Later, Ruffalo as David makes a face as if he’s losing his soul when a documentary film maker du Pont has hired to produce a glowing film about himself asks David to say du Pont is his mentor.  David is perhaps the most genuinely lovable character of the whole film, caring for his family, concerned for his brother’s well-being and at a crucial moment in the film, stands up to du Pont on Mark’s behalf.

SPOILER ALERT (Again, I hate using that term here but I have no idea what else to say.)

After losing in the 1988 Olympic games, Mark leaves the Foxcatcher program and the film ends with du Pont driving his car to David’s house.

Here’s the scary part.  I’ve known for years that du Pont shot David Schultz just because it was a well-known, highly reported on crime.  And I’ve been reading more about it since the movie came out.

Yet, even though I knew it was coming, I just wasn’t prepared for it and was startled anyway.  While David is standing in his driveway, du Pont pulls up, asks, “Do you have a problem with me?” then shoots David.

An employee riding with du Pont who had no idea what his boss was up to tries to stop him.  David’s wife comes out of the house and du Pont points his gun at her, sending her back in the house.

David struggles to crawl to safety but du Pont shoots him twice more in the back then drives back to his house to hole up.

The expressionless face, the clear lack of interest in the gravity of what he’s done…Carrell as du Pont arguably portrays a villain in that short moment that rivals Hannibal Lecter.

But while Lecter made it clear he wants to eat you, du Pont is one of those people who seems off, but no one realized just how off he was or what he was capable of until it was too late.

Accounts I’ve read online typically describe the situation in that du Pont was known throughout his community as being an oddball but his antics seemed harmless and people were happy to take advantage of the generous donations he offered, thus placating his bad behavior while failing to realize he was a ticking time bomb all along.

One can’t help but feel sorry for the Schultz brothers throughout the film.  Olympic wrestlers are in a tough position.  They’re paid no money to train and yet have to a) train all day in order to compete and b) still somehow find a source of income to pay their bills.

A benefactor swoops in and offers to pay them a salary and gives them houses on his estate to live in while they practice the sport they love?

Hell, be honest.  You’d ignore the tank too.

If you’re interested in reading more about the case, here are two articles I found helpful:

CNN – “Foxcatcher – The Crazy du Pont Next Door” – Reporter Ann O’Neil discusses what her childhood was like living near the Foxcatcher Estate

A Millionaire Madman Murdered My Olympic Champion Brother – Jane Ridley, New York Post.  Mark Schultz provides his account of the tragic loss of his brother.

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Movie Review – Hot Pursuit (2015)

Reese Witherspoon is short!  Sofia Vergara’s accent is hilarious!

This movie is dumb!

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of a movie so goofy that even the pimply faced teenaged usher asked “Really?” when he ripped the ticket I bought for it.

SPOILERS (if such a concept is possible for a movie like this) AHEAD.

“This is the performance of a lifetime!”

And thus, with a quip said without a straight face during the ending credits blooper reel, Witherspoon totally negates any ability for this reviewer to bust on the film.

This is a throwaway movie, one designed to make you chuckle, something you can check out when you’re bored but not feeling up to the emotional rigamarole of a heavy drama.  I know it, you know it and even the lead actress knows it: don’t take this flick too seriously.

It’s a mild comedy – not so lame that you won’t laugh yet not so raunchy that Grandma can’t enjoy it.  In fact, Aunt Gertie opined that it was a hoot and a half.

(I only brought her because she paid for the popcorn.  My blog stats took a major hit while she was watching this damn thing.)

The setup?  Vergara is the wife of a drug cartel informant who’s agreed to testify against his boss. Witherspoon, a police officer who’s been riding the pine in the evidence lock-up ever since an unfortunate mistake on the job tarnished her reputation, is selected to accompany a U.S. Marshall in transporting the couple to Dallas.

Shots are fired, foul play ensues, and the film turns into a mad cap buddy comedy/road trip romp as it’s up to Witherspoon to get Vergara to safety.

It’s a downgrade for Witherspoon, who we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in acclaimed dramas like the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line or the more recent Cheryl Strayed inspired film Wild.

Arguably, it’s an upgrade for Vergara, as this marks her first top billing in a major feature film.  And while this is a movie I’m not going to rush to watch again anytime soon, there were a few moments where Vergara shines, thus making it known to Hollywood that she has more to offer the world than a pair of miraculous bosoms and a funny accent.

Speaking of Vergara’s signature accent, the film even busts on that in an ironic manner.  Witherspoon uses a heavy Southern accent and at times both characters claim to not be able to understand each other.

I saw this movie so you won’t have to, 3.5 readers.  No thanks necessary.

STATUS:  Not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I wouldn’t advise anyone to rush out to the theater to take it in either.  Might be worth a rental.  Might even be the movie that allows Vergara to branch out and take on heavier roles.  Alas, doesn’t earn a coveted spot on the magic shelf.

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Movie Review – Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorowland…

OR

Disney makes its own version of a Jason Bourne conspiracy thriller.  (PG of course)

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of a movie all dreamers will want to see.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

Movieclips Trailers – Tomorrowland – 2015

At the outset, this is a tough flick to review, 3.5 readers.

So much time is spent in the first half of the film building up the suspense (or “showing not telling” as we nerdy writer geeks might say, that I have to tread lightly lest I give the whole story away.

Tomorrowland is a magical place where artists, scientists, and assorted geniuses are allowed to brainstorm freely.

It’s also hidden from our reality, thus allowing freethinkers to do their thing without having their work abused by greedy business suits, corrupt politicians, or vengeful dictators.

In other words, it’s proof that the world could be a wonderful place if the best and the brightest were allowed to do their work for good instead of evil.

(So yeah, basically it really is a fantasy.)

As a boy in the 1960’s, Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) is recruited by a girl named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) to visit this wonderful world.  Everyone in the 1960’s version of Tomorrowland looks like an actual 1960’s person, thus leaving this reviewer to wonder if this wasn’t Disney’s attempt to poke fun at that old joke of, “Disney World gives us a glimpse of what the future will look like according to someone from the 1960’s.”

Flashforward to present day and Frank Walker, now played by George Clooney, is a grumpy recluse, displeased that he was ever offered a glimpse of a world he’s grown too jaded to believe could ever be possible.

Meanwhile, teenager Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) hasn’t given up hope for a better tomorrow yet.  She lives in Florida with her father (played by country singer Tim McGraw), a NASA engineer and despite his objections, she gets in trouble whilst trying to prevent a NASA launch pad from being torn down.

(Or in other words, Disney’s not-so-subtle plea for the government to not abandon the space program, which this nerd agrees with, but that’s a whole other conversation.)

Grown-up Frank and kids Athena and Casey come together in a “surprisingly complicated plot for a Disney movie” to save Tomorrowland and our own world from obligatory villain Nix (the incomparable Hugh Laurie.)

To get into the how and why is to reveal too much info to the point that you probably wouldn’t bother seeing it if I did.

However, there are some great quotes along the way.  Two that come to mind:

1)  It’s hard to come up with an idea and easy to give up.

2)  Casey tells a story about two wolves, one led by hope, the other despair.  Who wins?  “The one you feed.”

Honestly, my memory isn’t fresh and I might have mangled both of those quotes, but you get the gist.

This is a film made by dreamers for dreamers, discussing all the ups and downs of life as a person who thinks big.

It’s for older people like Frank, who once believed they could make a difference only to regret reaching for the proverbial stars in the first place.

It’s also for younger people, like Casey, who see nothing but opportunity on the horizon.

It’s for the young who are lucky enough to dream of a bold new world and for the old who tried to do their part to bring about that world only to experience one of those soul crushing setbacks that all too often force adults to give up on their dreams and settle for whatever means of providing a living they can find.

It tells the youngsters to keep dreaming and the old timers to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back in the game.

Is this movie one great big giant advertisement designed to lure kids into nagging their parents for a trip to Disney World, where they can visit Tomorrowland (a part of the Magic Kingdom)?

Of course.

But it’s also Disney’s attempt to convince dreamers of all ages to take big ideas and use them for good and not evil, to use inventions in ways that will cure the world’s problems, not cause more.

A grim apocalyptic future is coming our way if we don’t stop our petty squabbles and learn how to work together.  That’s about as deep and meaningful a message as can be provided in a film produced by a company operated by a cartoon mouse.

From a movie buff’s perspective, it’s fun to watch two girls hold their own in scenes with Hollywood legend Clooney.  (Between you and me, they even upstage him at times, but don’t tell George.)

Laurie delivers a fabulous performance as Nix and while I won’t give it away, feel free to generally post in the comments below if you think Nix’s viewpoint was wrong or right.

Are you a dreamer?  Are you a nerd who dreams of a day when nerds will be allowed to work without seeing the fruits of their labor used for evil purposes?

If you’re a fan of this blog, then you probably are.

So all 3.5 of you should check this movie out.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Age of Adaline (2015)

It’s an eternal romance that makes you think about the fragility of life and love.

Bookshelf Q. Battler here to review the crap out of The Age of Adaline.

Warning:  spoilers to come.

The incomparable Blake Lively, star of stage, screen and many of Bookshelf Q. Battler’s fantasies stars as Adaline Bowman.  Born at the turn of the Twentieth Century, she experiences a freak accident that leaves her ageless.  No matter how many years pass, she continues to remain young and beautiful.

TRAILER – Age of Adaline – Lionsgate

When Adaline hits her forties, people begin asking questions about how she’s managed to remain so youthful and so her life of solitude begins.  Afraid to reveal her secret, she packs up and moves to a new place every ten years, taking on a new identity every time she does so.

Tragically, she refuses to look for love as she figures it will be too heartbreaking when she grows old while a significant other remains young.

Continue reading

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Movie Review – Fast and Furious 7 (2015)

Fast cars?  Check!

Ridiculous action sequences?  Check!

Rap music?  Check!

Hot babes?  Check!

Catchy one liners?  Check!

Copious amounts of testosterone?  Better believe that’s a check.

Plot?  Ehhh…

Fasten your seat belt and hit your nitrous switch, it’s time for my review of Fast and Furious 7.

But be forewarned…the spoilers are going to come…at a fast and furious pace!  (:::rimshot:::)

Cars jumping out of planes?  Sure, that could probably happen…

BQB:  Yeti, what did you think of the movie?

THE YETI:  I did not understand the plot.  I have not seen parts 1-7.  Did a scientist unleash a chemical that turned most of the characters into a bunch of angry jacked bald men?

BQB:  What?

THE YETI:  The Rock, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Djimon Honsou…like 90% of the cast are a bunch of cueballs!

BQB:  I’m pretty sure that’s the great cosmic deal, Yeti.  The universe can make a badass, but in exchange, you have to give up your hair.

THE YETI:  The film company must have saved a mint on shampoo costs alone.

Paul Walker

Let’s get the sad part out of the way first.  Paul Walker passed away during the film’s production in a tragic car crash (sadly and ironically, on his own time).  Since he plays a main character (Brian) in these films, would the continuity of the film suffer without him became the question on the minds of movie buffs.

THE YETI:  BQB, do you think the continuity of the movie suffered due to Paul Walker’s unfortunate passing?

BQB:  Good question, Yeti.  That was just on my mind.  No, I don’t think it did.  Going into it, I assumed his character would somehow leave mid-film, but he stays right to the end, so apparently a great deal was taped before the world lost this action star.

I would be interested in learning what had to be done to compensate for his passing.  Toward the end of the film, there are some action sequences that take place in the dark, and “Brian” is either seen from far away, or if his face is on screen, it’s only for a split second between various karate moves.  That made me wonder whether a stunt double was utilized or if that was just the intent of the scene since it took place at night in a dark building.

In other words, there are times when I’m not sure whether or not it was Paul and I don’t want to diss Paul if in fact he was in said scenes.

There is a scene at the end where Dom and Paul do their usual “pull up to each other at the end” and have a heart-to-heart talk.  There, the scene did look like footage taken of Paul in the past.

And whereas these movies usually end with Dom and Paul drag racing, they instead, drive off, going their separate ways…Dom to continue his life as a bad ass, Brian to be a husband and Dad.

Aww.  Tear.

Obviously, I care more about Walker’s life than an action movie, but from a critic’s perspective, I did not think that Walker’s death impacted the overall quality of the film and in my eye anyway, I did not notice any defects or flaws caused to the film.  Any changes they had to make were minor or barely noticeable.

Great question, Yeti.  Do you have any others?

THE YETI:  Yes.  Were there any sad scenes made even sadder due to Walker’s passing?

BQB:  Indeed there were, Yeti.  There’s a scene where Brian has a heartfelt phone conversation with Mia, where she tells her husband that the way he’s talking makes it sound like he’s never coming home and well, that becomes more depressing now that we know Walker is not coming home.

There’s also a montage of Walker through the years in the past 7 movies, dating back to 2001 and it’s just amazing how you don’t recognize it while it’s happening, but people really do grow and change over the course of a decade.

One more thing – Walker left one more movie behind.  Last year’s Brick Mansions, was, in my opinion, another must see flick for fans of urban action films.

Alright then.  Let’s move from the sad to the awesome.

Obviously, with these films, you check your thinking cap at the door.  In fact, here’s my thought process with every outlandish stunt I see:

BQB:  Oh, come on.  That could never happen!  Cars jumping out of planes?  Preposterous!  Through buildings?  Get out of here!  That defies all laws of science and physics and…OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO AWESOME!!! DO IT AGAIN!

Nope, you don’t go for the plot.  You go for the action and special effects.

THE YETI:  Why do they bother pulling all of these fast car jobs when they have so many skills?  Driving skills, computer skills, planning skills…

BQB:  Shut up, Yeti.

I dare say that the scene where Dom jumps a 3.5 million dollar plus car through three buildings (as in it exits out one window, jumps a large expanse, does it again, then ends up in a third building).

THE YETI:  What did you think of Kurt Russell?

BQB:  You’re full of questions, aren’t you, Yeti?  Personally, I think the Rock is awesome and let’s be honest, he saved this franchise.  I get the impression that the Rock enjoys Hobbs, a character who is unapologetic about his awesomeness.

Therefore, it was sad to see Hobbs get laid up in the hospital for most of the film, with Kurt Russell taking over as the agent that convinces Dom’s crew to pull a job.  That being said, Russell did a great job and he was awesome.

At one point, I was left wondering about the overall question of what makes a movie great.  Let’s face it.  Flicks like this one will never win an Academy Award and yet when you think about it, with all the stunts, action, special effects and so on…there’s probably more moving parts and issues to coordinate than, say Birdman.

And while I’m not saying, “Let’s give Fast and Furious an Oscar!” I am saying that F and F 7 is a better film than Birdman.

Yup.  I’m sorry.  I said it.  Had F and F 7 come out in 2014 it would of been more deserving of an Oscar than Birdman.

Other notables:

  • Game of Thrones fans will be pleased to see Nathalie Emmanuel aka the Khaleesi’s translator Missandei in a major on screen role.
  • Did anyone else think “If it is possible for this franchise to have a “Jump the Shark” moment, that it might have been the part where the crew jumps out of plane in their cars and somehow they all manage to land on one road in perfect formation?
  • Why are their cars constantly being sprayed with bullets and yet they never die?
  • Was the Rock’s epic fight in the beginning with Jason Statham the best thing ever?
  • Has anyone figured out why so many musclebound dudes go bald?

THE YETI:  But it’s so stupid.  They drive cars.  They blow stuff up.  Constant chaos.  It reminds me of the Yeti village.

BQB:  Again, suspend your concerns about plot and substance at the door.  These films are basically one big on screen thrill ride.  They might as well make the seats shake it charge admission to it at Disney World.

THE YETI:  Are you going to talk about Paul Walker again before you go?

BQB:  Yes.  So, on this blog, I talk a lot about heroes for average people – folks that the ordinary man can look up to.  Now, Walker was an above averagely good looking movie star, so obviously we can’t call him average.

But here’s what sets him apart from other action stars.  There’s a scene where he takes on a bus full of terrorists while wearing a hoodie.  That may not seem like much, but think about other movies where the hero wears a uniform, or a bullet proof vest or armor or something.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into it but when you see a good guy taking out bad guys while wearing ordinary street clothes, it makes me think that maybe that could inspire moviegoers to become better than average.

You too can do awesome things in just your hoodie and jeans.  But, you know, just don’t try to take out a bunch of terrorists by yourself.  Duh.

I’ll be interested to see what direction the series goes in from here, if it does continue at all.  As discussed above, it was left that Brian drove off in his own direction to become a family man.  I think that was a good decision because to kill the character off would have been a bit macabre given the the actor’s tragic passing.

Will the crew go on without Brian?  Will they hang up their stick shifts and call it quits?  Time will tell.  But all in all, they were faced with a difficult task – deliver an over the top action blockbuster while remaining respectful to the loss of one of the main stars…and it delivered.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  RIP Paul Walker.  You will be missed.

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MOVIE REVIEW – Olga’s Stewstravaganza Part II – Electric Stewgaloo (2014)

By:  The Siberian Yeti, Self-Appointed Ruler of Bookshelfbattle.com Until Further Notice

Hello pitiful 3.5 readers.  The Siberian Yeti here.  I have heard that the American loser known as Bookshelf Q. Battler has occasionally escaped my surveillance and found ways to post onto this blog behind my back.  Worse, his Intergalactic Correspondent, Alien Jones, has some kind of super computer that is able to post onto this blog without even having access to it.  He must have a Commodore 1,064.

It is my understanding that this website is some kind of entertainment blog, operated by a lowly attention seeking nerd with nothing better to do with his free time than tell 3.5 people about his interests in books, film, and television.

This is apparently some kind of trend in the Western world.  “Oh!  Look at me!  Here is a picture of my lunch!  Oh, look!  A picture of my feet on the beach!”

Blah.  You know what they feed us for lunch in Siberia?  Better you not know but let’s just say, you don’t want to see a picture of it.

All criticism of your annoying “look at me” American ways, I suppose if I am going to be the Self-Appointed Ruler of this Blog (forever apparently, since Hell will freeze over before BQB reaches 4000 Twitter followers), then I had best, how do you say, “go with the flow” and review some of my favorite Russian entertainment.

First up is Olga’s Stewstravaganza II – Electric Stewgaloo.

First, a warning.  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.  Yes, pitiful Americans.  All of the world there are people dying in shallow graves from all manner of diseases but the only thing that gets your ire up is when someone tells you what happens in one of your precious shows before you see it.

Second, if you have yet to see Olga’s Stewstravaganza Part One, I suggest you drop everything and go see it.  Ha, one guy just googled it to see if it exists.  That is funny.

But seriously, if you have not witnessed Olga’s antics in one, then you will never be able to comprehend two.

Part II picks up directly after the events of Part One.  Frumpy peasant woman Olga, who wears a coat fashioned from cow hide and chicken feather stuffing (the height of elegance in Siberia) has just vanquished all of her enemies, the degenerate low lives who tried to get between her and her pot of stew.

Now, she is left to simply cook her stew in peace.  And I must say, the suspense is unbearable.  In the opening scene, we see Olga’s hand holding a paprika shaker.  Will she add the paprika?  Won’t she?  Will she add oregano?  Will she add the floor sweepings?

Answer to all three questions?  Yes.  I told you there would be spoilers.  Stupid Americans.  You never listen.

By the middle of the film, we are introduced to Olga’s love interest, Ivan.  Ivan is a dedicated farmer.  Here, I will translate his first scene for you:

INTERIOR – POLLING PLACE

Ivan, a tall burly man with a mustache that reaches to his chest, picks up a ballot.  It reads:

ELECTION FOR PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA – PLEASE PLACE AN X NEXT TO YOUR SELECTION

1)  Putin  ___

2)  Putin  ___

3)  Putin ___

4)  Write-in Vote for Candidate Not Putin (Please attach instructions to your home, as well as times of day when you are asleep and at your most defenseless).

I won’t spoil it for you.  OK I will.  He votes for Putin.

Ivan then makes the long ride home to his village on a sleigh pulled by a team of twelve mangy, drooling oxen with flies swirling around their heads.  The ride takes two hours, and the director ensures we are not spared one moment of it.

Upon arrival at the village, Ivan realizes he forgot his wallet at the polling place.  We are left to watch the two hour journey back to the polling place, followed by the two hour return trip.

After six hours of driving oxen through the snow (a brisk 807 inches and therefore a mild winter for Siberia), Ivan passes out in front of Olga’s humble abode.

Olga brings Ivan in and revives him and the following scene transpires:

IVAN:  Olga, this stew is delicious.  What kind of animal did the meat come from?

OLGA:  Do you trust me, Ivan?

IVAN:  Da.

OLGA:  Good.  Because sometimes love means not knowing what kind of animal the meat in the stew you’re eating comes from.

“Sometimes love means not knowing what kind of animal the meat in the stew you’re eating comes from.”

I just wanted to repeat that for effect.  What a wonderful, beautiful film.  And you evil Americans give the Oscar to Birdman.  Patooie.  For shame.

Thank you 3.5 readers.  I will try to be a better ruler of this site and bring you more reviews until BQB reaches 4000 twitter followers.  And let’s be honest.  That will never happen.  Miley Cyrus will join a convent before that loser gets that many followers.

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Oscar 2015 Predictions

OK so I have failed miserably in my self-challenge to watch all 2015 Oscar nominated films.  I’m sorry to drop the petals off the daffodil folks, but occasionally this humble book blogger only reaches a 99.9% rate of perfection.

Thus far, I have only seen American Sniper, Birdman, and The Imitation Game (I still owe you a review).  I have  Boyhood loaded into my iTunes but have yet to get around to it.

So I’m a bit handicapped having not seen everything, which begs the question:

Bookshelf Q. Battler, are you really going to opine on things you know nothing about?

Um…yeah.  I do that everyday.  My original title for this blog was “Opinions on Stuff I Know Nothing About.”  Writing opinions on stuff I know nothing about is my God given right as an American.

Without further ado, my predictions:

BEST FILM – Birdman

All the commentary out there suggests there is a horse race going on between Boyhood and Birdman.  From what I’ve heard of Boyhood, it’s basically a “meh” sort of film and without the novel idea to shoot the young boy protagonist at different stages of his life, it probably wouldn’t have made it to the Oscars.

Meanwhile, Birdman has been winning many other awards and that’s a strong sign.

I’m going to flip a coin here and say Birdman.  Birdman has a lot of messages that Hollywood wants you to hear, namely a) Stop complaining we feed you so much crap when you’re the ones who are eating it b) Stop complaining we don’t make enough artsy fartsy movies when you never watch them and c) being an actor isn’t all its cracked up to be

BEST ACTOR – Michael Keaton (Birdman)

I’ve got to go with Keaton.  He’s been around for so long, he’s been in many amazing movies, and well, sad to say but, time keeps a-moving on whether we want it to or not, and he may not have many more chances to appear in Oscar buzz worthy work.  Carrell, Cooper, Cumberbatch, Redmayne all turned in great performances, but they still have time and haven’t been around as long.  It’s Keaton’s turn.

BEST ACTRESS – Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

I really, really want Rosamund Pike to win this for Gone Girl.  SPOILER ALERT – in that movie, she plays the Amy whose safety you’re very concerned about when she goes missing as well as the Amy who…well, just go watch it.

But this is the year where Hollywood settles its debts and like Keaton, Moore is also overdue.  That’s not a knock on Still Alice.  I’m sure it’s great.  She’s certainly been in a lot of other great films and is deserving.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – JK Simmons (Whiplash)

The King of the Actors Long Overdue for Recognition.  He’s that guy in every movie, you recognize his face as soon as you see it, but up until this nomination, you didn’t really know his name.  He’s also the voice of the Yellow M and M.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

When it comes to “long overdue” Arquette and Laura Dern (Wild) are both deserving.  However, Boyhood has had more attention than Wild, so I think it’s going to go to Arquette.  Emma and Keira turned in great performances, but they still have plenty of time.  And Meryl?  Jesus, she must be using these awards as paperweights at this point.

BEST DIRECTOR – Richard Linklater

Come on.  Filming a kid at different stages of life and mixing it all into one film.  Creative.  Give him an award.

SNUBS

Finally, here’s my list of snubs:

Interstellar – the movie laid out a roadmap on how to get to deep space.  Completely ignored!  What?  Who cares about outer space travel?  Michael Keaton’s pretending to be a bird!

The Lego Movie – Best animated movie of the year no matter what.  I assume it got turned down because it was seen by some as just a big commercial for legos but come on, most kids movies do lead to big time toy merchandising.  If it was a commercial, it was a commercial with heart.

Saint Vincent – That old grumpy person you know might not actually be a jerk.  He might have experienced some heinous crap that you can’t begin to comprehend.  He may have earned the right to be grumpy.  So cut him some slack.

The Drop/James Gandolfini – I wish James Gandolfini could have received a posthumous Best Supporting Actor nomination since, sadly, he’ll never have a chance at another one.  It was a decent film and in my opinion, Gandolfini’s best performance since The Sopranos.

What are your picks?  Who do you think got snubbed?  Inquiring Bookshelf Battlers want to know.

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