Thursday, March 26, 2015

Get Hard (2015)

Directed by Etan Cohen
Written by Jay Martel & Ian Roberts and Etan Cohen

For years, Will Ferrell has ruled atop the comedy kingdom, creating quite the legacy of hit comedies from his time as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, and expanding on towards his own massive career in the movie industry. His career as we know it, however, may begin to wind down just a little bit. His trademark immature humor is impinging upon his growing age, which creates a dichotomy which grows more and more tiresome and less and less believable. I have no doubt his roles will evolve to fit his age as the public demands more comedy from Ferrell. Kevin Hart, on the other hand, has a career which is just blossoming. To pair these two comedy giants for the first time seems like a perfect pairing for a great comedy and a box office hit. With Get Hard, they take a step into the batter’s box, but instead of hitting a home run, they manage a measly single (which is at least far better than a strike out).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Insurgent (2015)

Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback

Having been a big fan of the Harry Potter series, the literature that kicked off the recent young adult trend in both book and film series, I cannot fault either the authors or the studios for capitalizing on what is a pretty great business opportunity. And if that sounded fairly cynical, it was not meant to be, as I fully support the fad, which has produced plenty of entertainment for the young adult crowd. I cannot speak to the quality of series such as Percy Jackson or even for that matter the literature quality if the Divergent series this film finds itself in, but if it gets the younger generation reading, and thinking critically about any number of topics, then I suppose it can’t be all bad for the sake of some entertainment. And for that matter, the first film in this series, Divergent, laid the groundworks for what could be a very promising series.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cinderella (2015)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Chris Weitz

Disney began the decade with the massive box office hit Alice in Wonderland, and has since moved to capitalize on the concept of reimagining their greatest animated successes of years past, releasing new and improved live action versions. Alice was followed by Oz: The Great and Powerful and last year’s Maleficent. Each was a new take on an existing classic in the category, offering a new story for a new generation of audience. With their latest, Cinderella, Disney strays from their strategy, giving the keys to the kingdom to filmmakers Kenneth Branagh and Chris Weitz, who take the classic story of “Cinderella” and, instead of re-envisioning it from a different perspective, or a different point in the story, they choose to give us the same fairy tale that enchanted audiences of the animated classic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Run All Night (2015)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by Brad Ingelsby

In the early goings on the new calendar year, I guess it makes sense that a gritty action movie features on the release schedule. And of course, anymore these days when you think of a gritty action movie, Liam Neeson is often the star. Such is the case in Run All Night, just another in the long line of action films Neeson has made since the initial success of Taken. True action movies, apart from the super hero genre, have pretty much been ruled by Neeson in recent years and at 62, I have begun to wonder just how long this reign can last for him.

Monday, March 9, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30: The U Part 2 (2014)

Directed by Billy Corben

The University of Miami, to put it lightly, is a controversial football program. In recent years we have seen its quick demise under the weight of NCAA sanctions following the scandal of improper benefits and booster extraordinaire Nevin Shapiro, who fake-bought his way into the program to gain access to the athletes of the football program in hopes of making even more money, on top of his Ponzi scheme, by representing the players once they entered the NFL. The seedy dealings reflect nothing but the norm for the city of Miami, which seems oddly boastful about this fact per Miami Herald reporter Dan Le Betard, nor is it surprising for the Miami football program, whose rise in the 80s was coupled by enough swagger and controversy to nearly cripple the program and certainly create enough hatred from fans outside of Coral Gables.

Friday, March 6, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30: Rand University (2014)

Directed by Marquis Daisy

Randy Moss is one of the best wide receivers to have ever played the game of football at any level. Was he the best? Maybe not, but I’m not concerned with having that debate. What he had to overcome to become one of the best is a pretty astounding story, and the focus of Marquis Daisy’s documentary, Rand University. That is what I want to talk about. Anyone familiar with any sports knows that there is a good many players that come from humble beginnings, seeing sports as their only way out of broken homes and/or slums. For some, sport is an escape from the harsh reality of everyday life. Randy Moss’ story is not much different.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

Directed by John Madden
Written by Ol Parker

When the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came out a few years back, I did not enter with trepidation as my expectations were censored to include only the mildest hopes of an enjoyable movie, and an enjoyable movie is exactly what I got. John Madden and his wonderful cast of aging British stars were able to take such a simple concept and infuse it full of life and verve, an unexpected delight. There was never anything big, or grand about the affair. Its aspirations were never to change the way we make or watch movies, and that is part of what made it so charming. Sometimes we need these kinds of movies to remind us of the simple pleasures and joys of life, of friends and family. But when a sequel was announced, I have to admit to having been at least a little skeptical of what could be added.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: An Immortal Man (2015)

Directed by Josh Koury & Myles Kane

We all know what a bizarro world we live in today. With YouTube sensations and wacky local news stories available in bulk, there is plenty of entertainment to be had at the expense of others. But then there is the story of Ted Williams, perhaps the most natural hitter in the history of the game of baseball. We don’t usually associate the wacky new stories with those of well-known celebrities or athletes, but when Williams died in 2002 that changed. Supposedly based upon his own wishes, Williams’ body was shipped to Alcor, a cryonics facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, where his body would be cryogenically preserved in hopes of resuscitation upon a future medical discovery.

The jury is out as to whether this was truly the wish of Williams, or whether it was the weird desire of his son, John Henry, to freeze his dad and perhaps even profit from the DNA. There is some debate over the note used by John Henry to gain the right to freeze his father. Some believe the note to be a forgery, with John Henry using a “practice” autograph from his father for his signature, filling the rest of the document in around it. And there seems to be some validity to this theory as it was not sign “Theodore”, as Ted Williams traditionally did with legal documents according to a biographer. But whether it was his wish or not is only part of the story. The real question on my mind is what is the validity of a process like this, and what would drive someone to partake and believe in it?

For John Henry it makes all the sense in the world. Presumably living at his father’s coattails the majority of his life, forcing him sign autographs and pull strings for him to play semi-professional baseball. Living forever, and having the opportunity to further rise his father’s coattails makes sense. But then why would Williams himself desire a status he had already achieved, immortality? Williams was a ballplayer, and says he wanted to be remembered as such. He ended his career and in fact his life as perhaps the greatest hitter in the history of the game, having achieved so much. So why then the desire to live forever? No one really knows, and of course it may not have even been his idea or his wish. But the peculiarity of this story is unrivaled by most of the other oddities reviewed in the shorts series.

**1/2 - Average

ESPN 30 for 30: Brothers in Exile (2014)

Directed by Mario Diaz

The biggest new recently in the baseball world was actually quite political in its origins. When America reopened diplomatic relations with Cuba, a baseball hotbed for decades, this made the signing of big time talent from the shores of Cuba into the America Major League Baseball a much easier affair than it ever used to be. Previously, players like Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu had to defect from their native country in order to play in America, severing all ties with Cuba and leaving behind what they couldn’t take with them, including families. Not to say Puig and Abreu had it easy, but even before their defection and rise to stardom in the Majors, there was a pair of brothers that went through quite a bit in the 90s to live out their baseball dreams.

Monday, March 2, 2015

ESPN 30 for 30: Brian and the Boz (2014)

Directed by Thaddeus D. Mattula

The world of collegiate athletics has become quite the battleground for players v. universities, fans v. players, players v. professional leagues and so on. In recent years, the level of popularity sports has seen in this country is pretty remarkable, football especially. Players and teams are worshipped. Whole television channels are dedicated to the coverage and analysis, not just of X’s and O’s, but players and coaches lives. The sports world is under a microscope, leaving no space for a young college athlete to make any mistakes, lest s/he be brought to the court of public opinion, and subsequently be tried, convicted, and sentenced for the rest of their lives for something an immature college student did. The world of 30 for 30 has seen this story before, in the quite good Youngstown Boys, covering the trials of Maurice Clarett.