Welcome to Doug & Jeff's Movie Review Archive!

In case you missed any of past movie reviews, you can find them here.

The Revenant- Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Hunger Games- Mocking Jay Part 2
Sister Act- Chanhassen Dinner Theatres
The Martian- Directed by Ridley Scott
American Ultra - Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Southpaw - Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Inside Out directed by Pete Docter
Mad Max:  Fury Road directed by George Miller
Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret - Chanhassen Dinner Theatre
Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Josh Whedon
Unfriended directed by Levan Gabriadze
Unfinished Business directed by Ken Scott
Black or White directed by Mike Bender
Taken 3 Directed by Olivier Megaton
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
The Judge Directed by David Dobkin
The Equalizer Directed by  Antoine Fugua
Chef Directed by Jon Favreau
Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gun
22 Jump Street directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
A Million Ways to Die in the West directed by Seth MacFarlane
Heaven Is For Real directed by Randall Wallace
Bad Words Directed by Jason Bateman
Academy Award night at the Solem’s
Oscar Night 2014
Inside Llewyn Davis Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Dallas Buyers Club Directed by Jean-Marr Vallee
Jackass Presents:  Bad Grandpa Directed by Jeff Tremaine
Prisoners - Directed by Denis Villeneuve
We’re the Millers - Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
Man of Steel - Directed by Chirstopher Nolan
"It is Fine!  EVERYTHING IS FINE" - A night with Crispin “Hellion” Glover
Iron Man 3 - Directed by Shane Black
Oblivion - Directed by Joseph Kosinski
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Directed by Don Scardino
Oscar Night at the Solem's
Promised Land - Directed by Gus Van Sant
Skyfall - Directed by Sam Mendes
Alex Cross - Directed by Rob Cohen
End of Watch - Directed by David Ayer
The Bourne Legacy - Directed by Tony Gilroy
The Dark Knight Rises - Directed by Christopher Nolan
Moonrise Kingdom - Directed by Wes Anderson
Magic Mike - Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Men in Black 3 - Directed by Barry Sonnefeld
The Avengers - Directed by Joss Whedon
The Hunger Games – Directed by Gary Ross
21 Jump Street – Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
2012 Oscar Winners
The Descendants - Directed by Alexander Pain
The Wrestler (1974) - Starring Verne Gagne
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Directed by David Fincher
Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows - Directed by Guy Ritchie
In Time - Directed by Andrew Niccol
The Ides of March - Directed by George Clooney
Moneyball – Directed by Bennett Miller
Warrior – Directed by Gavin O’Connor
The Help - Directed by Tate Taylor
Friends With Benefits - Directed by Will Gluck
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Directed by David Yates
Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Directed by Michael Bay
The Hangover Part II - Directed by Todd Phillips
Jesus Christ Superstar - Directed by Michael Brindisi

Limitless – Directed by Neil Burger

The Adjustment Bureau - Directed by George Nolfi
Hall Pass - Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Unknown - Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Just Go With It - Directed by Dennis Dugan
The King's Speech - Directed by Tom Hooper
True Grit - Written & Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen
The Green Hornet - Directed by Michel Gondry
Black Swan - Directed by Darren Aronofsky
The Fighter - Directed by David O. Russell
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Directed by David Yates
Morning Glory -  Directed by Robert Michell
Due Date - Directed by Todd Phillips
Hereafter - Directed by Clint Eastwood
Red - Directed by Robert Schwentke
The Social Network - Directed by David Fincher
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Directed by Oliver Stone
The Town - Directed by Ben Affleck
The Expendables - Directed by Sylvester Stallone
Dinner For Schmucks - Directed by Jay Roach
Salt - Directed by Phillip Noyce
Inception - Directed by Christopher Nolan
Twilight Eclipse - Directed by David Slade

Grown Ups - Directed by Dennis Dugan

Knight and Day - Directed by James Mangold

High Fidelity - Directed by Stephen Frears
Avatar - Directed by James Cameron
Robin Hood - Directed by Ridley Scott
Iron Man 2 - Starring Robert Downey Jr.
Kick Ass - Starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage
Date Night - Starring Steve Carell & Tina Fey
Clash Of The Titans - Directed by Louis Leterrier
Hot Tub Time Machine - Starring John Cusack
Brief Encounter - Words by Noel Coward
The Bounty Hunter - Starring Jennifer Aniston & Gerard Butler
Green Zone - Starring Matt Damon


Doug's Featured Review 
The Revenant
directed by
Alejandro González Iñárritu

I have been off the grid for the last month or two.  My wife and I got it in our heads that we should move.  So…in about a two month span, we sold our home in Coon Rapids, packed everything up and moved to a log home in Clear Lake Minnesota.  It’s on the Brigg’s chain of lakes and is just 45 minutes from my office here in the Northern Suburbs.  We have all of our possessions boxed up in the garage as we work on some rehabbing projects that need to be completed before we settle in for good.  We have been breathing drywall dust and listening to the sounds of hammers pounding day and night…but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  With that said…Jr. and I decided it was time to take a break and go see The Revenant.

 Long Story Short: (As provided by studio) While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.


 My Take:  I will jump right in by saying, and I might be in the minority here, that I felt that DiCaprio was miscast.  He just didn’t seem right for the part of mountain man.  Sure he had a beard and talked with a growl…but just not buying it.  That’s not to say, I haven’t enjoyed his acting in tons of other stuff…just not so much here.  On the other hand, Tom Hardy was incredible as his nemesis and was totally believable.  An earlier scalping by Native Americans and a face so leathered it looked like it was taken off an old catcher’s glove left nothing to remind you that this guy is normally a Hollywood pretty boy.   In my opinion, it was also the best acting performance I have seen to date for him.  He, not DiCaprio, deserves award consideration.  The movie also felt extremely long.  I can think of several scenes that just seemed to go on forever!  If a guy is crawling through the snow to try and survive…do we really need to watch him crawling for 20 minutes to get the point?  On the other hand, the cinematography was stunning.  The fantastic framing of the landscape was jaw dropping.  The epic scenery shots were filmed in Canada, Montana and parts of Argentina and were worth the price of admission.

 I enjoyed the movie…just wish a few things had been done a little different…but what do I know?


 Jeffs's Featured Review 
Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
directed by
Francis Lawrence

Refresh your memories and hold onto your hats, because Hunger Games:  Mockingjay 2 starts off fast and right where it left off...a year ago.   Make sure you know who is who and what just happened because things start to happen fast and not everything is to the character's liking.   The first conflict is very close and personal,  and psychologically hurtful.    It throws Katniss into such a deep despair that even death seems a better choice to her.

The books may have been written for youth, but early in the movie the characters are forced to make some real grown up decisions about war and morals.   Trying to win against superior odds forces the Alliance to choose actions which differ little from Snow in the Capitol.   Art imitates life as surrendering refugees are given commands to "Get down on the ground!  Show your hands!" with such force and fear that tension builds,  and the viewer almost expects someone to be unjustly shot dead.

This movie is less about adventurous combat and more about the effects of war on people.  It's also how the justification for doing evil in the name of good seems reasonable and expedient....until the perpetrators are finally held accountable.    Including holding yourself accountable.   


There is enough combat and action in the movie to make fans happy.   The level of violence and gore is manageable, even for pre-teens.   However, the battle in the flooded tunnels is so intense that it might be prudent to watch it through a screen of fingers before the eyes.    I doesn't help that a beloved character and hero dies a gruesome death.

Katniss is not motivated by strategic goals, or support for the revolution....early on the movie, she is driven by pure revenge and hate.   And nearly everyone around her suffers.   At the climax of the movie,  she reclaims her pure, good intentions.....and causes Snow to die a far more horrible death than she had hoped to inflict on him by her own hand.

The end of the movie treats us to a beautiful sunset and idyllic countryside.   Katniss' final words could easily be said by any veteran that survived a protracted, painful conflict.   We should listen to all of what they tell us.


Doug's Featured Review 
Sister Act - Chanhassen Dinner Theatres

I am probably one of the few who has not watched the movie Sister Act with Whoopee Goldberg.  With that said, I wasn’t really sure what to expect during my recent visit to Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, where the musical comedy is now showing on their main stage.

Long Story Short: (As provided) Sister Act tells the hilarious story of Deloris Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a surprising turn when she witnesses a crime and the cops hide her away in the last place anyone would expect – a convent!  Set around the Christmas holidays, Deloris helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she also rediscovers her own in a sparkling tribute to the universal power of friendship.

My take:  I can’t say enough about the media night performance of Regina Marie Williams, cast as Deloris Van Cariter, the star of this fun production.  I was a little unsure of how things would go early on but after a few minutes of getting her feet wet, she had me sold…lock, stock and barrel.  She has the acting and singing chops that makes this production soar.  Her supporting cast was equally up for the nights challenge.  The nuns and priest shared a great deal of stage time with Williams and were the perfect singing and comedic compliment to her strong performance.  There were also equally hilarious performances turned in by police officer “Sweaty Eddie” (Reginald D. Haney) and head crook Curtis Shank (Andre Shoals).  While I am at it…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Shanks side kicks played by Kasono Mwanza, Mathias Anderson and Daniel Hines.  Good thing for the other actors that these guys weren’t on stage more…because they stole every scene they were in.  Everyone was soooooooooo good!!!

I can honestly say that I have always looked forward to my times at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.  The caliber of talent is always extraordinary.  The food is savory.  The staff…amazing.  If you think I am going overboard…I challenge you to make a reservation to their latest hit “Sister Act” to find out for yourself what you are missing.

Chanhassen Dinner Theatre
501 W 78th St.
Chanhassen, MN  55371


Jeff's Featured Review 
The Martain - Directed by Ridley Scott

Full disclosure:  I am a science nerd and a science fiction fan.   My mind has been travelling to, and living on, the planet Mars…..probably since 1965.    This movie is artistically beautiful in its realistic depiction of what it would be like to live (and die) on Mars.   To me, it was fascinating to see everything in the photos that have been sent back from our landers and rovers….become real.

We get a very brief glimpse of what a “normal” life on Mars is like, with botanist Mark Watley (Matt Damon) out in the field, collecting samples, and other scientist astronauts working on their own tasks.  They haven’t been there long…before a giant Martian storm with deadly winds boils up over the horizon.   In the chaos and violence of the evacuation from the surface back to Mars orbit, Watley is separated from the group and failure of his electronic devices make the rest of the crew believe he is dead.   Threatened with imminent destruction themselves, they launch, leaving him behind.

One of the more accurate things about the movie is the reaction and behavior of NASA officials to these developments.    You become acutely aware of an agency that is struggling to survive terrible setbacks, so it’s easy to excuse some of their decisions.    However, it’s also their can-do culture and “every problem has a solution” outlook which helps save the day.


Back on Mars, astronaut Watley makes a decision that, even though he only has food for a mission of 28 days, somehow he has to survive over 500 days before another mission previously scheduled to come to Mars can bring him rescue…or, at least, more food.  It’s a very good thing he’s the botanist in the crew, because he decides to “Science the sh*t” out of the problem.   And the very thing that allows him to survive is…all the (s--t) left behind by his crewmates.

The movie becomes a series of problems and solutions, both on Mars and back on Earth, with smart, stubborn people working hard to rescue the marooned astronaut.   One of my small complaints about the movie is that the script takes a fair amount of time to inventory food…but nothing at all, really, to tell you about all the OTHER technology that is available for Watney to work with.   I would have liked to have seen the entire process of how they got to Mars, how they set up their shelter, and how they planned to survive (for even the 28 days) – that story could have been told in 10 minutes or less.  

Watney the astronaut is nearly irrepressibly positive.   A person would need to be, to survive.   However, it also would have been good to have more of his doubts and fears and life philosophy in the movie.   It helps that he has communications with Earth.

A very good movie, with the good guys being NASA astronauts and the “bad guys” being uncaring, unfeeling Nature and the Laws of Physics.  Human ingenuity and human heart win out in the end.   


Jeff's Featured Review 
American Ultra - Directed by Nima Nourizadeh

I went into American Ultra only knowing that the plot was about a young man who discovers that he’s secretly a super-spy under cover…..and that people are trying to kill him.  I didn’t know if it was going to be played for comedy or straight.

And by the end of the movie, I still didn’t know – about the comedy, or straight action-adventure part.

The movie starts out very pleasantly, in the first-person view of Mike Howell (played by Jessie Eisenberg, last known from “Zombieland” that I have seen) who talks about his love for his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart) and his plan to ask her to marry him.    He’s a funny, likeable stoner who makes very wry comments about life and can be almost poetical most of the time.    Many times, when he is talking about the comic book he’s working on and his fictional fantasy hero Apollo Ape, he is very touching and “real”.

Then his REAL past starts to intrude.   The CIA one, where Mike is apparently just an embarrassment waiting to happen, a problem to be fixed by an ambitious middle-manager who wants another achievement line for his resume’.   That character is probably the scariest, most realistic part of the movie, since we all know someone in the corporate world who has just the same motivations and morals. 


After a supportive CIA officer tries to warn Mike, and flips his super-spy action switch, it stops being really funny…simply because of the amount of violence and carnage it releases.  Mercenary psychopaths are sent to take him out, which he disposes of in a reflexive and sometimes comical way – but the blood really spurts high.   What  I found disturbing is the number of innocent bystanders who are killed along the way, being literally used as ‘meatshields’ to keep Mike alive and keep the plot going.   That’s a personal pet peeve of mine;  I don’t mind if armies of truly evil monsters are put down…..but better if they are dispatched in a desert, or tundra, or remote enemy fortress.   When half your local small town gets whacked, it seems like too much.

There’s some real surprises in this movie, and they were very satisfying – who helps who, who turns out to be something they are not, simply objects shown in the beginning of the movie that have a key purpose later on.   

The movie has a Hollywood ending, if not a happy one.  I was hoping that Mike would get to return to his simple but deeply satisfying life.    About all that DOES get resolved is that he finally gets to propose marriage.   And his comic book character comes to life.

I recommend this movie if you can laugh at wry humor, blood and carnage, and like to see people fight back against the full force and incompetence of the US government.   It’s the most violent tender love story I have seen.


Jeff's Featured Review 
Southpaw - Directed by Antoine Fuqua

I have to warn you right from the start – “Southpaw”, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as boxer Billy Hope, is not a movie everyone should see.    I wanted to see the movie because I am a BIG Jake fan, going back to his “October Sky” days.    But it was painful and shocking to see Jake as a boxer, and here’s why – it was one of the most brutal and realistic boxing movies I have ever seen.   The violence was not just for show, it moved the movie along – but it looked and sounded real.  Even hard to watch.  

The good acting helped to keep your eyes open during the hard parts.   The story starts with Billy Hope on top of the mountain of his success…and then plunges like a roller coaster through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.    The scene where his wife dies tragically is heart-wrenching and it’s not even the worst that happens to him.    Bad decisions start to pile up and he loses everything, even his daughter.   Some very real emotions are displayed on the screen, and Billy is lucky to have one reluctant and gruff ally to help him cope.

If I were to have any criticisms about the movie is that once Billy decides to rebuild his life focused on getting his daughter back…..it’s a little too smooth – he doesn’t really have the number of setbacks and “two steps forward, one step back” situations that many people have.    He never really seems to learn to focus on anyone except himself – the social worker for his daughter asks him, “Do you really WANT your daughter to see you all messed up?” is a question everyone else in the movie needs to ask Billy.


And when Billy is given a chance to take a REALLY big step forward – like trying to jump a giant glacial crevasse – it makes you wonder if he’s doing it for his daughter, or for himself.   Before the offer, he’s making steady progress towards holding a job, healing his body, and building relationships.

Of course, there’s a big fight at the end, against the villain that helped to cause his downfall – which was 90% Billy’s fault in the first place.   It’s a nail-biter finish, and you’ll be satisfied with the results.   But make sure you leave time to go out after the movie and talk about “I wonder what happens next?” – because the movie will not tie up all the loose ends for you.    So, I cautiously encourage you to see this movie if 1) you are a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal’s acting;  2)  are a boxing movie fan for the realistic details and energetic fight scenes;  3) aren’t afraid to openly weep in movies.    It’s not a “date movie”.  J


Jeff's Featured Movie Review 
Inside Out Directed by Pete Docter

I saw “Inside Out” in 3-D, with the colored glasses.   What surprised me is not objects flying at the screen, or other tricks of the eye to get you reacting to the screen.  What amazed me the most is how the movie worked on at least three different levels and engaged your mind, your heart, and your “inner child”.    This is a wonderful movie to go and see, for small kids, for big kids, for adults, parents, and grandparents.   

It works for small children – it’s colorful, the characters are fantastically drawn and visually stimulating (“Anger” was my favorite, combined with the voice of Louis Black, hysterically funny every time he does or says something).   The landscapes and visuals are delightful, sometimes like a Dr. Seuss book come to life and sometimes like a big imagination factory.  There’s plenty of physical humor for little kids;  lots of pratfalls and impossible actions.   The “personality islands” of Family, Honesty, Friendship, and yes, Hockey…..were fascinating, beautiful places that you wanted to see in more detail.

For big kids and adults, there’s lots of humor too…..some current events humor, some hipster humor, some witty jousting between characters.   More than enough to make you laugh out loud.   And, because it takes place inside a character’s mind, struggling with emotions – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger – there’s a lot to just =think= about.    How memories are made and stored, how people are motivated by a combinations of emotions just to get through the day.    It made me want to go back and read up on basic psychology (remember, this is a CARTOON movie, for goodness sake) just to see if the movie was being true to principle.  


 Not only did it work for the inner child, and tickle our big brains with humor…..it really, really pulls on the heart.  Sometimes, just with images alone.    As a parent who’s child has grown up and moved away…and who has lost his own parents….the scenes where little memory marbles that previously glowed with their own warm light….turn dark and blow away to dust.    I had to turn away from the screen as if I was watching a horror movie – too intense to bear.   Not something that a small child would even notice, except that the character on the screen was shedding a tear.  But for me, an arrow straight to the heart.    Other visual cues, like when the “personality islands” start to crumble and fall away, adults will recognize the possible “danger’ and feel anxiety, while little kids will just see a special effects disaster in the making.   

Joy finally realizes that Sadness has an important role to play in our lives.  And the movie has one of the happiest endings I have seen in a very long time.  Take your little kids to see this movie, take your parents to see this movie, invite your grandparents to see this movie.   It’s truly funny and beautiful and might even give you something to think about.



Jeff's Featured Movie Review 
Mad Max:  Fury Road directed by George Miller

Mad Max starts out fast and hard….and never takes its foot off the throttle for the next two hours.  And makes several sharp turns along the way to make you grip the seat and lean hard.  You don’t need to have watched ANY of the previous Mad Max movies to understand the story; in fact, since this movie is the BEST at telling the story of a desperate, violent, and mutated future apocalyptic world….it’s better that you haven’t seen any of the previous ones.  

It’s the same desolate, broken world – where people queue up and fight over dirty water, for the amusement of evil, twisted leaders.  Max himself….who’s name you don’t actually learn until almost the end of the movie….is simply trying to survive on his own in the middle of all this, but away from people.   Since this Brave New World that everyone lives in is so short of everything….he is hunted down for everything he owns and everything he has…even his blood.

I really liked the script of this movie, and the way we learn about it – not from disembodied narrator telling us the back story, not from a character using “history” as a way to justify what their world has become.  You learn about this apocalyptic world from what people do and say, what their “home” looks like around them, what their religion is now, what their new God seems to be.  All of this dialogue and visual clues and actions really make you pay attention, and get drawn into the movie.


While some of the sets are fascinating (it must have taken years just to come up with the ideas on how to use people as machines and power), some of the most important characters in the movie are:  cars.  All real, all very Frankenstein-monster-ish, they all have individual characters that help push the story along.  The cars even play a part in the new religion – believers hope to become chromed after they die (and have some very interesting actions to take just before they do).

Much has been said about the female characters in this movie….and they are far stronger (character, morals), than Max.  There are OLD WOMEN who have important, strong, and action-oriented roles in this movie.  And not just ninja-killing roles, either.  I have never seen a movie offer a role to women that has both a feminine, nurturing side….and a kick-butt action hero side for the same person.  Women play a key role in every action scene in this movie – and the action is non-stop.  Even when the characters pause to talk about their plans or ideas, there is always tension building, from pursuers off screen or signs of threats to come.  I had unfinished popcorn by the end of the movie.

This movie is rated R, with good reason – there is a lot of violence in the movie.  But not the gory kind, with blood and guts spewing everywhere.  The only incidence of nudity happens so far away that it could be a statue on top of a church.  If your junior-high school child wants to go, then take him – to show him a good story, with good acting, in a movie that has non-stop action.


Doug's Featured Review 
Stevie Ray's Comedy Cabaret
Chanhassen Dinner Theatre

I know we do a lot of movie reviews for this column but I wanted to take a moment out to say what a great time our staff had at Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret the other night.  It has become one of the premier comedy hot spots of the Midwest.  A lot of us are familiar with the Chanhassen Dinner Theater and the wonderful plays we can count on year and year out…but if you haven’t discovered the wonderful little club that is housed in the lower level of the sprawling Chanhassen complex…you are missing out on a really, really fun time.

The night we were there, it was a great mix of stand up comedy, SNL type sketches and of course improv mixed seamlessly with video and musical accompaniment.  For those of you not familiar with improv…the audience shouts out suggestions and The Stevie Ray’s Comedy Troupe creates magical hilarious comedy based on those suggestions.  One of the things I liked best, was this comedy club proves that you don’t have to be raunchy to be incredibly funny.  The comedy is clean and clever!!!

Now add in your choice of drinks, appetizers or a full dinner menu and that my friends are the makings for an incredible date night out or the perfect spot for a gathering with friends and relatives.  Our group was nothing but smiles not only that night but the next day as we relived every funny moment.  I know one thing…we will be back very soon.  Bravo Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret!!

Book your tickets today!  by calling 952-934-1525 or Click Here and click on the On Stage tab at the top. 


Jeff's Featured Movie Review 
Avengers: Age of Ultron directed by Josh Whedon

This is a “Spectacle Movie” which will keep you fully engaged from the start until after the credits roll (make sure to stay in your seats until AFTER the last credits roll, to see the final sequel scene).   Like most of the blockbuster Marvel comic book movies, spectacular special effects, unimaginable vistas and scenes, and nearly non-stop action make Avengers: Age of Ultron a real treat for kids from 6 to 96 who love comics books come to life.

But it also has a good story to build on, and some real characters to care about.     The Avengers team starts out as a happy-go-lucky nearly bulletproof gang of wisecracking friends who destroy a Hydra stronghold.   However, a mutant brother and sister quickly manage to land several blows against the over-confident Avengers……causing them to doubt themselves and their mission.  Some of the dark nightmares and dreams suffered by the Avengers are very real and normal, and very painful.

And, of course, all this doubt and pain and fear create the REAL evil in the movie:  Ultron.   From humble beginnings as an Artificial Intelligence (AI) with no more menace than a gravelly-voiced Siri……he rapidly becomes a lethal menace that is dispersed throughout the Internet, turning up all over the world in powerful robotic bodies that even battle tanks have problems fighting against.      The action/combat scenes are amazing and the one final Alamo-stand to save humanity is a hyperspeed ballet of superheroes, evil robots, flames, rays, bullets, that left me laughing out loud at the sheer joy of seeing all the pieces come together and yet go exploding apart at the same time.


I liked the fact director Josh Whedon filmed on location in South Korea and Africa for some of the interesting conflicts;  it made for some very interesting background and the amount of devastation that results is probably why the Avengers aren’t in a American prison….but they should probably wait to go back to some of those countries on holiday to avoid arrest.    I liked that many of the good guys had serious flaws in their background they struggled to overcome (and that we were given part of their back story to learn this).   And one good guy dies.   But not the one you think.

My only wish for improvements would be to wonder why Ultron becomes evil so completely and so fast – it’s like your iPhone wanting to strangle you with its headphones as soon as you open the box.   Is this the fate of all sentient beings when you get too smart too fast?   Can Skynet come to no other conclusion than to immediately exterminate mankind?   Oh, and another thing – Ultron’s plan to exterminate mankind didn’t pass the giggle test for me.  While impressive and visually stunning (and the Dolby sound that went with the start of the Doomsday plan really DID sound like what the end of the world would be like)……it just wouldn’t work.  A small nitpick, I know, in a movie filled with flying robots, phaser cannons, and 3D-printed flesh repairs……but lots of people know what an Extinction Level Event is these days…..and Ultron’s didn’t measure up.    

While there is a lot of fighting and combat, there is no blood and gore.   The action is intense, so small children might have a problem with it.   There are only two bad words said in the movie, and both characters pay a price for using them.

Go see this movie, like our ancestors would have gone to see “Ben Hur” or “The Ten Commandments” or even, god forgive me, “Star Wars”.  This is a “Spectacle Movie”, visually rich and impressive, but with enough a story and substantial characters to keep any movie-goer engaged.


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
Unfriended directed by Levan Gabriadze

Not much to report this month.  Cabin is open and my son put out our dock the other day.  We had another couple up for a two person golf scramble.  My son played too.  It was a beautiful day and we finished it off with dinner at one of the area restaurants.  I had heard about a low budget horror movie called Unfriended that was made for less than a million bucks.  It all takes place on a computer screen and dealt with cyber bullying.  Sounded interesting so I headed over to the local Cineplex to check it out.

Long Story Short:  (synopsis for Unfriended provided by tribute.ca.  )  California teenager Laura Barns commits suicide when she's called "a slut" and a "waste of life" after one of her classmates posts an embarrassing video of her online to shame her. Her suicide is also captured on video and posted online.

A year later, an anonymous person uses Laura's Skype account to contact six of her friends to demand that whichever one of them posted the shaming video online come forward and admit it. When no one confesses, the anonymous person types "Tell me who posted the video...or someone dies." When they all claim to be innocent, frightening things begin to occur.  The cast includes Shelly Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman.


My Take:  First of all, I applaud the producers of this movie for proving that you can make a pretty descent flick and not have to spend a billion dollars.   After only a week the film has grossed close to 20 million dollars against a production budget of just 1 million dollars.  They didn’t have to spend a year making it either.  Production was just 16 days total.  If I was going to invest in a movie…these are the types of guys I would want to have on the team….fast and efficient!   It certainly gives hope to all you would be indie film makers.

The movie itself was well worth the price of admission and then some.   Its target audience, obviously, is the millions of us that can’t put our phones down.  All those who live on Instagram, Twitter. Facebook or any other addictive digital media.  I think it is one of the first movies out that mixes a group of tech savvy kids with the horror that awaits them when they take their cyber bullying to far.  I thought the fact that the entire movie takes place on a computer screen would get a little old…but it didn’t.  There were so many things taking place on the computer screen that it held your complete attention and made perfect sense.  Because you were watching a computer screen, the video was purposely shown a little grainy.  If you remember the Blair Witch Project…viewing the video had that sort of amateur feel that made certain moments even more frightening.   I very rarely go to horror movies because of all the gore.  However, this movie left a lot up to your imagination, which can often be even scarier then when you are shown every drop of blood on the screen.  The young actors were well cast and very believable.   Most of the actors are so new they don’t even have pictures or bios up on IMDB.  Bottom line…an interesting, enjoyable low budget flick that offers a few good frightening moments and a good lessen to be learned.


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
Unfinished Business directed by Ken Scott

Wow…temps almost up to 60.  I am leaving for Vegas in a few days.  Just my luck it will be warmer here then it is in Vegas.  Hope not…but if it is that’s ok too.  It’s just nice to getaway once in awhile.  We have picked out 4 golf courses we will be playing and they all look like good fun.  I just called Majestic Oaks in Ham Lake, Mn and they told me their golf range is open.  I will head over after work and try to perfect my very imperfect golf game.  Last Friday I took a couple hours off to go see why everybody has been hating on the new Vince Vaughn movie Unfinished Business

Long Story Short:  (as provided by studio) A hard-working small business owner (Vince Vaughn) and his two associates (Tom Wilkinson, Dave Franco) travel to Europe to close the most important deal of their lives. But what began as a routine business trip goes off the rails in every imaginable - and unimaginable - way, including unplanned stops at a massive sex fetish event and a global economic summit.


My Take:  Well, I didn’t think it was as bad as all the other reviews I was reading.  Vince Vaughn has become a one dimensional actor.   It’s not hard to figure out exactly what you are going to get in the way of a performance from him.  With that said…I don’t mind his usual shtick.  He’s like a funny uncle you get to see a few times a year.  If you saw him everyday it would wear thin…but since it’s only on holidays he’s hilarious.  The same holds true for Vince Vaughn….if I had to see him in a movie every week, it would be too much…but a few times a year keeps me coming back for another visit.  His movies are all pretty predictable, as well.  Underdog looks like he is going to fail….at the last minute everything falls in to place…everyone live happily ever after…the end.  Again, I don’t like fluff movies all the time but on occasion they fit me like the old recliner I have in my living room.   Dave Franco gets most of the laughs. He plays a dim-witted, socially inept goof ball.  The beautiful women find his honesty refreshing and naiveté irresistible and somehow he is able to bed whom ever he desires. (If only it were that easy in real life…just kidding honey!)  Tom Wilkinson is thrown into the mix to reach the seniors demographic.  You might not recognize the name but the guy has played second banana in a million movies.  From what I have been able to gather, Vaughn felt the last movie he did, The Internship with Owen Wilson, would have been funnier if it had an R rating and a little more “sexed up” humor.  Well, he got the R rating for this movie and I don’t think the few “sexed up” scenes were worth the rating, which in turn limited his audience reach and appeal.  This is not a movie you have to run out and see at the theater but a good one to watch at home in your favorite recliner with a six pack of beer and a bag of chips.


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
Black or White directed by Mike Bender

Well the only thing to report since my last review is I got my butt handed to me at the big poker game the other night.  7 of my closest friends get together twice every year to play cards.  Lots of fun but I think I only won like 3 hands.  Ouch!!!

Good thing I could go to a movie the next day to try and take away the pain.  My wife and I headed over to Andover Cinema for the latest Kevin Costner movie Black or White.  Unfortunately it turned out to be almost as painful to watch as my poker playing skills the night before.

Long Story Short: (provided by studio) Black or White is the story of a grandfather (Academy Award winner Kevin Costner) who is suddenly left to care for his beloved granddaughter. When her paternal grandmother (Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer) seeks custody with the help of her brother (Anthony Mackie), the little girl is torn between two families who love her deeply. With the best intentions at heart, both families fight for what they feel is right and are soon forced to confront their true feelings about race, forgiveness, and understanding. Anchored by an all-star cast and based on real events, the movie is a look at two seemingly different worlds, in which nothing is as simple as black or white.

My Take:  This movie just didn’t work for me.  I like Kevin Costner and I like Octavia Spencer…but it still didn’t work for me.  Here’s why…Kevin Costner’s daughter died while giving birth and then his wife and he adopt the racially mixed child because the granddaughter’s biological father is a drug addict.  When Costner’s wife dies, he suddenly finds himself as the primary caretaker of his granddaughter.  Trouble is, he is a drunk and a mean drunk to boot.  Now he never abuses the daughter physically but a drunken grandfather is just not a very good influence to have around.   He is cynical and surly…he is a downer.  Yet somehow we are supposed to be rooting for him to retain custody over Octavia Spencer’s character.  She plays the mother of the drug addict father, who wants the granddaughter to be part of her family instead.  It seemed like three quarters of the movie was just Costner’s character getting drunk and being confrontational.  It got old real quick.  Octavia’s character was so over the top that she was hard to get behind too.  As I pointed out, there was nobody you were really pulling for in this movie.  Everybody was kind of a pill.   Bottom line…if you can’t find someone to like in a movie …it’s a waste of my time.  Oh well, they can’t all be 5 stars. 


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
Taken 3 Directed by Olivier Megaton

So glad I had the opportunity to leave this frozen region for a few days.  I took my wife and two kids to Disney World and Universal Studios for their Christmas present.  Not to rub it in but….the weather was sooooo warm!!!! My daughter is now an Assistant General Manager in the hotel industry, so she got us an incredible rate of just $29 a night at a great Hilton property that was just minutes away from everything.  Life is good!!!  Next up, heading to Vegas for my annual outing with some of my golf buddies.  I don’t know if you watched the Golden Globes or not, but my pick for Best Actor was Michael Keaton.  He won for Birdaman (see my archives for the review) and now I just hope it carries over to the Oscars.  My son and I both think Liam Neeson is great.  What a voice!  He was home on break from college so we headed to Andover Cinema and caught his latest action flick, Taken 3.

Long Story Short: (Provided by studio) Ex-covert operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), are enjoying reconciliation when Lenore is brutally murdered. Bryan is framed for the crime and flees, with the CIA, FBI and police all in hot pursuit. For the last time, he channels his rage and particular set of skills into hunting down Lenore's real killers, taking his revenge and protecting the one important thing left in his life: his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).


My Take:  Not too much to say about this one.  Basically more of the same stuff we saw from the other two installments.  But who cares…that’s what we wanted…right?  For an old fart, Liam Neeson sure knows how to kick butt. The beauty of short takes and creative editing, I guess.  I was a little disappointed that Famke Janssen got killed off right away.  She is a good actor and not hard to look at either.  Maggie Grace has played Liam Neeson’s daughter throughout this Taken trilogy.  She was also a regular for awhile on Showtime’s Californication.   She was great on Californication playing a sexy groupie whom Hank begins a relationship.  In the Taken movies I have not been as impressed.  Her acting is a bit stiff and physically she seems a little awkward….maybe it’s just me.  A few good chase scenes.  Some edge of the seat suspense.  A few plot twists and turns.  A happy ending.  It may be formulamatic but it works for me.

Here is the Jimmy Kimmel Taken 4 Parody.  Funny stuff!




Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance
 directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu

Thanksgiving was wonderful this year.  Per usual, everyone comes to our house to celebrate.  This year we had over the usual suspects of friends and family.  Everyone had a great time…even though I heard a few grumblings because my Thanksgiving word scramble contest was too hard. When the first place prize includes a bag of Oreo cookies, you want to make them work for it!  My wife is a great cook and along with everyone bringing something for the table…this years spread was once again amazing.  I really do have a lot to be thankful for and count my blessings everyday.  I am especially thankful for left-overs the next day!   My daughter is staying with us while she is in between apartments so I dragged her along to see that new Michael Keaton movie, "Birdman".

Long Story Short: (As provided by studio)  Riggan Thomson's (Michael Keaton) blockbuster days starring as the superhero "Birdman" are long behind him, which is one of the reasons he's making a grab for renewed relevance by directing his Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Efforts are complicated by the presence of his troubled daughter Sam (Emma Stone) and his co-stars: famed stage actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), Shiner's insecure girlfriend, Lesley (Naomi Watts), and Laura (Andrea Riseborough), whom Thomson also happens to be sleeping with. And let's not forget the voice of "Birdman" himself, constantly urging Thomson to embrace his inner badass.


My Take:  Let me start right off by saying…BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR!!!  I had heard whispers that it was a good movie and it exceeded all expectations.  There are so many good things to say about "Birdman".  The film is mesmerizing and it all starts with the cinematography.  Emmanuel Lubezki was the cinematographer for Gravity.  A movie that was mesmerizing in it own right.  Now he lends his incredible talents to this movie and along with director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (from here on out AGI) the two created an entire movie that appears to be done with one continuous take.  The result is an almost hypnotic flow that leaves you feeling like you are on a magic carpet ride that allows you to be right in the middle of every scene.  I have never experienced and entire movie that offers this seamless, continuous motion.   It is a little hard to explain, so you just have to go out and experience it for yourself.  You won’t be sorry.  Next we have the cast.  I know I am bragging up this flick more than most but…..it was also the perfect ensemble of players!  Michael Keaton gives a performance of a life time.  His character is flawed in some pretty big ways.  He has been unfaithful to his wife.  He hears voices.  He is followed by an imaginary superhero…the list goes on and on.  But it’s those flaws that make this movie so fun to watch.  He is the proverbial…accident waiting to happen.  How long can he go on before he self implodes?  I would also nominate Edward Norton for a best supporting actor award.  Other than Primal Fear, I have not been a big fan of his movies.  Not the case in "Birdman".  He plays the arrogant jerk flawlessly.  He does it so well and with such witty banter that, despite your disdain for him, you still find yourself in awe of his smoothness.  Emma Stone, as always, is so captivating.  She plays the daughter to Michael Keaton’s character.  She has a presence about her that allows her to steal almost every scene she is in.  The rest of the cast is just icing on the cake.  I can’t say enough, how well this group of talented actors worked together.  The last ingredient to this winning mix is the music by Antonio Sanchez.  It’s hip and it’s contagious. It has a jazzy vibe that works perfectly for the story.  The drum and symbols, heard prominent throughout, give the movie its edgy heart beat.  For some reason this movie is hard to find at local theaters, so you might have to do a little digging for a screen, but well worth the search.  This movie is the whole enchilada and if you really like going to the movies, like I do, this one should not be missed!!!



Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review
The Judge Directed by David Dobkin

Reviewed by guest movie critic Doug Solem, Jr.
Doug is a Senior at St. Cloud State University,
majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in Film.

The Judge seemed to be a fitting movie to see considering what has been going on in my life right now.  Unfortunately, I lost my Uncle Bob this past week.  He was not only a great man but one of the people I have tried to model my life after.  He led his life with integrity and respect and chose to put everyone before himself.  He was a great man and will be forever missed.

The Judge is the story of Hank (Robert Downey Jr.) a big slick lawyer from Chicago who heads back to his hometown after his mother has passed away.  He reunites with his two brothers and while there he finds that his father (Robert Duvall), the respected town judge, is implicated as a murder suspect.  Between the broken relationship with his father, who is  now suffering from cancer and early stages of dementia, to his current divorce proceedings with his wife, Hank has more than enough on his plate, to say the least….but it doesn’t stop there.


Let me start off by saying, Robert Downey Jr. is by far my favorite actor in Hollywood, so I was already a little biased going into this movie.  With that said, RDJ once again delivered a spectacular performance and, in my opinion, his best dramatic role to date.  I was especially looking forward to this film because I wanted to see if RDJ could separate his persona from that of the Ironman franchise.  At first, I was worried because I noticed Hank had a similar cockiness and wit to that of Iron Man.  However, as the storyline became more serious and intense so did Downey’s character.  At that point you really got to see Downey’s acting chops and the incredible amount of emotion he brought to this role.  However, as good as RDJ was in this movie, Robert Duvall was just as good, if not better in my opinion.  I mean this guy is a legend and his performance in this movie was straight up awesome.  He played a stubborn Judge who had given up on his relationship with his son Hank (RDJ) and was secretly battling cancer and dementia.  When a guy like Duvall is acting so good that you think he must be like this in real life, you know you are witnessing a command performance.  Besides having a dynamite cast, I thought the well written script gave them a lot of opportunity to show their skills.  The director of this film, David Dobkin, had directed lighter fare like Change up, Wedding Crashers and Shanghai Knights, so I really wasn’t sure if Dobkin could make the leap to an emotional dramatic piece.   Boy was I wrong; I don’t think I have connected with a film, emotionally like this, since I saw Argo a couple years back.  Dobkin does a great job especially with the court scenes by making them intense while inserting well timed twists and turns.  The film also does a great job of keeping your attention throughout with smaller side stories such as his relationship with his high school sweetheart (Vera Farmiga), and his brother (Vincent D’Onofrio)  who’s baseball career ended after a severe car crash caused by Hank.  The well inserted changes in pace keep the movie interesting and adds a needed dynamic that holds your attention every step of the way.    With that said, this is a very touching movie that a lot of us can relate well to with regard to dementia and cancer issues in many of our own families.  RDJ and Duvall are worthy of Oscar nominations and if I get the chance I will go see this movie again.




Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
The Equalizer Directed by Antoine Fugua

Just found out I still have one last golf tournament to play in tomorrow.  They are predicting temps in the low 40’s.  To be honest, I am not one of those diehards that has to play regardless of weather conditions.  I committed, so I am going.  I will just have to throw on the long johns and bring my stocking cap.  This weekend I will also begin closing down the cabin.  Hate the thought but it gives me something to look forward to over the winter.

Long Story Short:  (As provided by studio)  In the Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays McCall, a former black ops commando who has faked his death to live a quiet life in Boston.  When he comes out of his self-imposed retirement to rescue a young girl, Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), he finds himself fact to face with ultra-violent Russian gangsters.  As he serves vengeance against those who brutalize the helpless, McCall’s desire for justice is reawakened.  If someone has a problem, the odds are stacked against them and they have nowhere else to turn, McCall will help.  He is help.  He is the Equalizer.


My Take:  I am a big Denzel Washington fan.  I would go see any movie he is in.  My all time favorite was Training Day.  I have liked them all…Flight, American Gangster, Man on Fire, blah blah blah.  His latest movie, The Equalizer, will not be on the top of my list, but enjoyable nonetheless.  As anyone who reads my column is aware, I’m a sucker for kick ass - action movies and believe me there is a lot of ass kicking in this flick…most of it dished out by Denzel.  His nemesis and the guy who you will love to hate is a Russian named Nicolai (Marton Csokas).  He’s the one who is called in to clean up big messes for other bad guys.  The dude is mean to the bone and psychotic to boot…a worthy adversary for Denzel.  Speaking of kick ass, if you go back to one of my archived reviews, you’ll see one for the movie Kick Ass.  In that review I said that one of its actors, Chloe Grace Moretz, would some day be a big star.  Well she is not quite as big as I thought she would be by now but she is starting to turn up more and more in other movies.  In the Equalizer, she is the reason Denzel comes out of retirement.  She plays a prostitute trying to get out of harms way but her pimp has other ideas.  Another reviewer said this movie was as good as Training Day.  I don’t know what movie he was watching but I can guarantee Denzel will not receive another Oscar for this film.  It is a B movie at best.  It just comes across as kind of schlocky.  The music, the lines, how it’s filmed…all just have a cheesy feel to it.  Bottom line for me, it’s a so so movie that is enjoyable because Denzel Washington is so damn good!!!


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
Chef Directed by Jon Favreau

Wow…this summer has been flying by the fastest ever.  I remember when I was a kid, it seemed like the summer lasted forever.  I’m not complaining though…this summer was incredible.  The weather was the best I can remember.  I actually was part of a team that won a golf scramble and took second in another.  Whoo Hoo!!!  Never got rained out for Thursday night golf with the guys.  Went to a ton of Twins games with my daughter.  What more could a guy ask for??!!!  Deb spent most of the summer at the cabin and I would meet up with her on weekends.  She is forcing me to take her to the Little Falls Craft Show this weekend.  Last but not least, I will be hosting the 25th Annual DFS Invitational Golf Tournament at Bunker Hills and Majestic Oaks a week from tomorrow…a sure sign that summer has come to an end and time to start watching more movies.

Long Story Short:  (As provided by studio) When Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), he is left to figure out what’s next.  Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) to launch a food truck.  Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen and zest for life and love.


My Take:  Jon Favreau is probably best known for being the director behind the hugely successful Iron Man movies.  He is also the guy who plays Iron Man’s sidekick in the movie.  Needless to say, he is a very talented guy and surrounds himself with a lot of very talented people.  Chef is a much smaller movie than his Iron Man franchise but it still delivers big in many ways.   The movie is a throw back to the road trip movies of yesteryear.  As a result, the movie is filled with really nice bonding moments between father and son, husband and ex-wife, and between two best friends.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a good balance between heart string pulling and great comedy.  It never gets too syrupy.  The cast is stellar.  A bunch of really big stars (Dustin Hoffman, Scarlet Johansson, Oliver Platt, and Robert Downey Jr.)  have smaller but still very fleshed out and key roles.  There are a few scenes that seem a little too improvised and don’t quite work but overall it is a really fun, uplifting film.  If you’ve reached your quota of bad news for the day, Chef is the perfect “pick me up”!


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
Guardians of the Galaxy directed by James Gun

Reviewed by guest movie critic Doug Solem, Jr.
Doug is a Senior at St. Cloud State University,
majoring in Graphic Design with a minor in Film.

The next addition to the marvel movie franchise is here with Guardians of the Galaxy.  It’s the story of an alien abducted boy named peter quill (Chris Pratt) who grows up to be one of the Galaxy’s most infamous outlaws.  But with the world possibly coming to an end, it is up to him and his newfound team of misfits to save the world. A team which includes a smartass raccoon (Bradley Cooper), a talking tree (Vin Diesel), a sexy green alien (Zoe Saldana) and drax the destroyer (Dave Bautista)

Guardians of the Galaxy was everything you want in a summer block buster.  It had music, action and a great cast.  I’m not going to lie, I was surprised at how good the movie came out.  When I first heard that marvel was going to add this movie into its franchise I was very skeptical.  I thought there would be no way this movie would succeed if it had a talking raccoon and walking tree as part of the cast.   But I was pleasantly proven wrong.  Chris Pratt is now my new favorite actor and his performance in the movie was perfect.  He has just the right mix of comedy along with charisma which makes his performance phenomenal.  However the thing that this movie has going for it most is Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) music cassette player, which also serves as the soundtrack of the movie. From the start of the movie, as he puts his headsets on, we as an audience are spoiled with hit after hit from the 70s.  The music really sets the tone for the movie and gives it a fun and upbeat vibe.  My dad and I are still singing the opening song of the movie, that kicks off the opening action sequence, which is worth the price of admission all by itself!  The only problem, that I see with this film, is that it can be confusing at times, especially if you are new to the marvel franchise.  I wish they would have gone into more detail about the origin of each character but maybe that will be something they expand on in upcoming projects.  Also, there are many fictional cosmic terms used in the movie to describe planets and characters which can be a little overwhelming at times.  However, this movie is undoubtedly one of the best flicks I’ve seen all year.  I have now come to the conclusion that Marvel knows the right formula for creating successful blockbusters that are perfect for all ages.

Go and see this movie and I personally guarantee you will not be disappointed!


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
22 Jump Street directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

What a great summer so far!!!  We just got back from the annual family vacation up north.  So much fun!  I didn’t catch many fish but just being out on the lake with friends and family made it all worth while.  The golf was great too.  Got in two rounds worth at the Breezy Point courses.  The courses were in incredible shape and the staff couldn’t have been nicer.  If you are ever looking for something to do…you can’t go wrong if you check out Breezy Point and all that they have to offer.  Never to busy for a movie…so here is the latest.

Long Story Short:  (As provided by studio for 22 Jump Street):  After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college.  But when Jenko meets a kindred spirit on the football team, and Schmidt infiltrates the bohemian art major scene, they begin to question their partnership.  Now they don’t have to just crack the case – they have to figure out if they can have a mature relationship.  If these two overgrown adolescents can grow from freshmen into real me, college might be the best thing that ever happened to them.


My Take:  I know this is a silly movie.  I know it is not very believable.  All I can say is it is movies like this that keep me young…or at least feeling young.  It’s goofy and predictable.  It’s the perfect flick for the summer…breezy and care free.  Our two stars are perfectly suited for this sort of “no mind needed” entertainment.  I remember seeing Johan Hill in one of his first movies “Superbad”.  I have to admit after seeing that one; I would have never guessed he would turn into this huge star that everybody, including Martin Scorsese, wants in their movies.  For that matter, I never thought Channing Tatum would be any good in a comedy.  Boy was I wrong.  These two just clicked in their first pairing 21 Jump Street and they don’t miss a beat in this sequel.  There really isn’t much to say about 22 Jump Street.  It’s got some action; it’s got some romance…a little bit of this, a little bit of that.  Aside from Tatum and Hill, Ice Cube gets a little more screen time and that’s O.K. by me. He brings energy to the film that keeps things moving.  There is also a prison seen cameo from two of the guys that were in the last movie, Dave Franco and Rob Riggle, that is hilarious.  If you want to be transported back to those good old high school days…this movie is the right vehicle to get you there.  


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
A Million Ways to Die in the West directed by Seth MacFarlane

We are getting ready to head off for our annual summer vacation to Birch Lane Resort in Pine River.  I have been going on this yearly trek since I was about 10 years old.  Wow…that’s like 47 years.  Always a great time.  While in the area, Dave Gravdahl at Breezy Point has set us up with rounds of golf for his White Birch and Deacon’s Lodge courses.  We play there every year and the courses are incredible.  Family, friends, fishing, golfing, grilling…I can hardly wait!!!  Although it is a busy week…I am never to busy for the movies!

Long Story Short:  (As provided by the studio)  Seth MacFarlane directs, produces, co-writes and plays the role of the cowardly sheep farmer Albert Stark in "A Million Ways to Die in the West."  After Albert backs out of a gunfight, his fickle girlfriend leaves him for another man. When a mysterious and beautiful woman rides into town, she helps him find his courage and they begin to fall in love. But when her husband, a notorious outlaw, arrives seeking revenge, the farmer must put his newfound courage to the test. 

My Take: 
I have to start off by admitting, and some of you will quit reading my column for saying this, but I am a Seth MacFarlane fan.  “Family Guy” is excellent!  “Ted” was pretty good. I like a guy who is not afraid to push the envelope.  A guy who could care less about being politically correct all the time.  His sense of humor, for better or for worse, tickles my funny bone.  Sure it can be a little sophomoric at times…sure it drives the censors crazy…sure some people would like to tar and feather him…but I just don’t care.  With that said…this latest movie sucked….just kidding.  However, judging from all the other critics out there…I am one of the few who liked him in his first starring role on the big screen.


The movie is a mix between “Blazing Saddles” and an old Bob Hope road show.  Another critic mentioned the Bob Hope similarity and I have to admit that’s who he reminds me of in this movie.  Some of you probably don’t even know who Bob Hope is and you will just have to google the name to see what I am talking about.

What I like about this movie and MacFarlane’s comedy in general, is he puts so much out there that you are going to find something to laugh at.  A lot of it is hit or miss but when it hits it usually is side splittingly funny…at least for me.  He is not much of an actor but you can’t help but like him.  That’s where the Bob Hope comparison comes in to play.  He left the acting up to the rest of his cast. 

Charlize Theron was his love interest.  She is one of my favorite actresses.  It was nice and refreshing to see her in a comedy.  I think this is the first one I have seen her in.  She had good comedic timing and is very easy on the eyes. Liam Neeson was the villain.   Again, I was pleasantly surprised because usually he is the lead and always the hero.  His voice is mesmerizing.  He is one of those guys that could read from the dictionary and you would listen to every word.  Neil Patrick Harris is hilarious as the town’s rich guy that steals away Macfarlane’s first girl friend in the movie.  He owns a shop that sells nothing but supplies for grooming your mustache.  It reminded me of an old SNL bit that had a shop that sold nothing but scotch tape.  Some of the biggest laughs are the result of the humor we get from Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman.  She is the town whore and is engaged to Ribisi’s character.  However because they are both good Christians, they will not have sex until they are married.  It starts there and just keeps going…funny, funny stuff!

Like I say, the movie has a lot of near misses but the one’s that land are worth the price of admission.  This might be a good “wait to see on DVD” but I thought it played perfectly fine on the big screen.


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
Heaven Is For Real directed by Randall Wallace

I can’t believe in May, we are still seeing signs of winter.  Yesterday was a mix of rain and snow.  Who woulda thunk?  I was able to get the cabin open…but just barely.  Saturday was beautiful and it gave me time to rake and clean up.  Sunday was a wash out…literally.  The only salvation during these dreary days is my love for seeing movies! 

Long Story Short:  The movie “Heaven is for Real” is based on the #1 best selling book by the same name.  It tells the story of a young boy named Colton (Connor Corum) who claims to have gone to Heaven and back during a near death experience.  What makes his story even more amazing, he is able to recount details about things that happened even before he was born.  While in Heaven he remembers meeting another sister…the miscarried sister that he was never told about.  He remembers details about his great grandfather, who also happened to have died 30 years before Colton was even born.

Todd Burpo (Greg Kinnear) is Colton’s father.  He is also the pastor of a small town somewhere in Nebraska.  Much of the movie is spent with Todd and his wife (Kelly Reilly), as well as the rest of the town, trying to come to grips with all the publicity and curiosity surrounding the boy’s revelations.


My Take:  I have read quite a bit of negative press from religious factions who do not think this movie should be seen because it does not follow what the bible says about Heaven.  All I can say is, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  That’s the beauty of the country we live in.  However, I simply saw the movie as a very family friendly film.  It’s nice to see a movie once in awhile that is not laced with the “F” word and gratuitous sex scenes. Greg Kinnear is definitely the glue that holds this picture together.  Without him, I think the whole thing would have been a little too corny.  Props also go out to newcomer Connor Corum.  I haven’t seen a kid this cute since the little dude in Jerry Maguire.  I thought Kelly Reilly, as Kinnear’s wife, over acted just a bit..but what do I know, she just landed her own new TV series.  Thomas Haden Church has a pretty significant role in the film as Todd Burpo’s buddy.  I’ve always like his acting and although this movie didn’t give him a lot to do, he is a good choice for this role.  (If you want to see Church at his best check out a little film called “Sideways”.)

Much like real life, the town’s people were having a hard time with accepting that this little boy could really have gone to Heaven.  At one point they were ready to dismiss Burpo as the pastor of the church if he didn’t stop believing what his son was saying.  Again, I can’t quite wrap my head around what all the fuss is about.  A little boy says he went to Heaven…if you want to believe him you can, if you don’t…well that’s up to you too.   As far as I am concerned, if you want to take the entire family out for a great night, you won’t go wrong by adding this movie to your night’s itinerary.    


Doug's Monthly Featured Movie Review:
Bad Words Directed by Jason Bateman

As I am typing this review, I can’t believe there is another winter storm brewing in April.  I am mad as hell and I just don’t want to take it anymore.  Fortunately, my wife and I slipped off for a much needed vacation a couple of weeks ago.  It was a great cruise on the biggest ship ever.  We visited Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel.  Life was good for a while….now back to reality.  When will it end!!!????

Long Story Short:  Bad Words stars, and is directed by, Jason Bateman.  His character, Guy Trilby, is a troubled 40 year old proofreader of warranties with a chip on his shoulder.  He never finished the 8th grade and as a result, finds a loop hole that allows him to compete in the Golden Quill National Spelling Bee alongside a cast of over-achieving middle schoolers.  Guy is no pretender when it comes to spelling.  Coupled with his amazing vocabulary and his devious methods of sabotaging his younger challengers, he makes it all the way to the Golden Quill finals.  Along the way, he forms an unlikely friendship with 10 year old Chaitanya Chopra (Rohan Chand).  The young boy is also in the spelling bee and together they raise a little hell.  Online journalist Jenny Widgeon (Kathryn Hahn) is trying to find out why a grown man would want to compete in a spelling bee for children.  A question that is answered at the end of the movie.


My Take:  For a first time directing effort by Justin Bateman, I thought the movie was a little above average.  The premise, although a bit far fetched, was acceptable.  The supporting cast, most notably Rohan Chand and Kathryn Hahn, was entertaining.  I’ve always like Justin Bateman.  His dry wit and sense of humor were much appreciated.  I guess, I just didn’t think the parts where he was “bonding” with the 10 year old kid was done right.  I found it distasteful that part of that “bonding” included Bateman plying the 10 year old boy with alcohol on a night out on the town.  I thought it was disturbing that  part of that “bonding” included purchasing a hooker to show the young boy her boobs had nipples.  The sort of “bonding”, now days, that would get you locked up for long, long time.  I just think Bateman didn’t need to take it that far to make the relationship or the movie work.  The ending was a little schlock too…but I will leave that up to those of you that want to see it.  All and all, I would have to say this is a movie I would not strongly recommend. Like I always say though…that’s just my personal opinion.   


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Academy Award night at the Solem’s.

Well, believe it or not, I won the Oscar ballot competition at our Annual Academy Award party last night.  I should probably mention there were only three of us involved….my wife, my son and me.  But I don’t care…it’s the first time I ever won with the most correct picks!  The prize was a crisp $20 bill that I had put up as the prize in the first place.  Still not complaining!  In case you missed it…here is a recap of the winners.

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyer's Club

Best Original Score: Gravity, Stephen Price

Best Original Song: "Let It Go," Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez; Frozen

Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her

Achievement in Directing: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

Achievement in Costume Design: Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby

Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: Adruitha Lee and Robin Mathews, Dallas Buyers Club

Animated Short Film: Mr. Hublot

Animated Feature Film: Frozen

Achievement in Visual Effects: Gravity

Live Action Short Film: Helium

Best Documentary Short Subject: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Documentary Feature: 20 Feet From Stardom

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year: The Great Beauty, Italy

Achievement in Sound Mixing: Gravity

Achievement in Sound Editing: Gravity

Achievement in Cinematography: Gravity, Emmanuel Lubezki

Achievement in Film Editing: Gravity

Achievement in Production Design: The Great Gatsby


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Oscar Night 2014

One of my favorite nights of the year is almost here.  It will be Academy Award night at the Solem’s this Sunday.  So if any of you out there were planning on calling, texting, Skyping, instant messaging, Facebooking, Instagraming, tweeting… forget about it…because I will be glued to the TV.  For those of you who are also fans of Oscar night, click here for your very own Oscar ballot. 

Oscar ballot


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Inside Llewyn Davis directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Coldest winter ever!!!  Planning a getaway for March but I don’t know if that will be soon enough.  The cartoon below pretty much sums it all up for me…

Long Story Short:  The movie,  Inside Llewyn Davis, takes us through a week in the life of a young folk singer in 1961.  Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is struggling to make it on the coffee house circuit of Greenwich Village.  It is a time when every earthy café is featuring folk singer wannabes. The backdrop is a winter that is as gloomy as the one we have here in Minnesota.  His home is the couch of anyone who will take him in for the night, friends or strangers.  During the course of the week we are privy to all his ups and downs…actually just his downs.  There are no ups for Llewyn Davis.

My Take:  Anyone who has ever read my reviews knows I love almost everything the Coen Brothers have done.  With regard to their latest offering, I love certain parts of the movie…just not the whole enchilada.  The cinematography was amazing and truly captured the feel and mood of a depressing wintry 1961 in New York.  As in most Coen brother movies, the characters are perfectly cast from top to bottom.  Oscar Gold is beyond reproach as our cynical protagonist douche bag wallowing in self pity.  John Goodman provides good fun as an overweight, sickly, blow hard that Llewyn Davis is forced to share a ride with on a quick road trip to Chicago.  Justin Timberlake is bright eyed and bushy tailed as an aspiring folksinger.  Carey Mulligan is married to Timberlake’s character but finds herself pregnant from Llewyn Davis.  Her character helps to reinforce that Llewyn Davis is a thoughtless, self centered jerk.  Also the sound track is great.  Inside Llewyn Davis is not a musical where people break out unnaturally into song at any given moment but instead weaves an incredible mix of folk songs sung by characters in musical settings that make sense ( recording studios, coffee house stages, etc.).


Here is what I didn’t like about the movie.  Many of the Coen Brother’s films center around losers (Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading to name a few).  The thing is, they are likeable losers.  You actually want them to get over their hump of problems and come out on top.  You want to root for them…you want to be in their corner.  Not the case with Inside Llewyn Davis.  The guy is totally unlikable.  And I get it…that’s what they were going for…but I don’t care!  Just when you would begin to think he might have some redeeming quality, he would do something that made sure you realized that ain’t gonna happen.  As one critic put it…and believe me, we seem to be in the minority…but I couldn’t put it any better…”Llewyn Davis is bleak, bloodless and soulless”.   Again, I get, and normally applaud, that they like breaking the standard cinema mold.  I love their Homeric story lines.   I just can’t get completely behind a movie where the  hero is  totally unlikeable...it’s just too depressing.


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Dallas Buyers Club Directed by Jean-Marr Vallee

I waited until the last minute to start cleaning up my yard.  It felt like about 50 below but I pushed through and got most of it done.  Whoever came up with the mulching idea on a lawn mower should get one of those Nobel Prizes.  I can literally chop up what seems like a million leaves and can fit them all into just one bag.  My neighbors don’t do any mulching and use about 400 bags.  Is my life boring or what?!  Now this week it’s snowing and even colder.  Lucky I got the yard done when I did.  Not much to do in this kind of weather other than go see a good movie…and let me tell you…this was a good movie!

Long Story Short: In the movie Dallas Buyers Club, Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) is a hard drinking, hard living electrician and rodeo cowboy.  Set in 1985, Ron has a rude awakening, when he finds out his wild partying has brought him more than a simple hangover.  After ending up in the hospital, following one of his drug and sex fueled binges, he is diagnosed as H.I.V. positive and is told he has less than 30 days to live.  Ron refuses to accept his prognosis and sets out on a mission to stay alive as long as he can.  He quickly finds out that there is little to offer in the way of approved treatments and medications in the U.S.. He crosses the border and finds a doctor who lost his license in the U.S. but is continuing his fight against AIDS in Mexico.  The doctor takes Ron under his wing and nurses him back to health through alternative treatments.  Ron starts smuggling the unapproved medications back to the U.S. to help others.  Initially a homophobic, Ron forms an unlikely alliance with fellow AIDS patient, Rayon (Jared Leto).  Rayon is a transsexual who is able to help Ron gain acceptance within the gay community.  Together they establish a “buyers club” to avoid the strict government regulations with regard to unapproved drugs.  The club sells memberships and then gives away the drugs for free.  This set-up allows them to operate legally in the U.S….at least for awhile.

My Take:  Bravo…Bravo…Bravo!!!  This movie is a winner and it will bring multiple Oscar nominations.  Lets start with Matthew McConaughey.   His role is a complete departure from the “pretty boy” parts he usually portrays.  The guy lost 47 pounds for the role, which is amazing all by itself, considering he wasn’t fat to begin with.  You will believe that he has the disease….skeletal and wasting away.  He embodies an AIDS victim both physically and mentally.  His transformation from gay hater to champion of the infected is amazing.  His line delivery of “good ole boy” wit and sarcasm is hilarious at one minute and strikingly poignant the next. Jared Leto is every bit as good in his role as a transsexual with AIDS who is just trying to find her way.  When the two first meet you could not possibly fathom that the two would eventually become both friends and partners. Leto had taken 5 years off from acting and was thinking about never performing again until this role was offered.  I am so glad he didn’t turn it down.  He conveys all the hurt and turmoil a transsexual must live with everyday.   Add in his physical transformation as both a transsexual and an another AIDS victim… and you have another Oscar nomination.  A smaller but equally impressive supporting role by Jennifer Garner, as a Dr. with a conscience,  only adds additional kudos to this wonderful and thought provoking movie.   


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Jackass Presents:  Bad Grandpa Directed by Jeff Tremaine

Not much to report.  Shut down the cabin last weekend.  For some reason the hot water heater took 5 hours to empty.  What’s that all about?  Must have some sediment or something clogging things up.  Me being the mechanical dweeb that I am, I will have to hire somebody next year to figure it out.  When it comes to anything that’s plugged in to electricity, about all I can handle is changing light bulbs.

I will definitely have more time for movies as I slowly ease into winter hibernation mode.  My son convinced me to go to Bad Grandpa.  Now that he is finishing up his degree at St. Cloud State, I don’t see him very often.  So, against better judgment, I gave in and spent some, less than quality, time with him. 

Long Story Short:  86 year old Irving Grisman (Johnny Knoxville) has recently become a widow.  His number one goal is to now enjoy the life of a bachelor half his age.  Unfortunately his drug-addict daughter spoils that dream by dumping her son on him, right at his wife’s funeral.   Unwillingly, he must now travel cross country with his eight-year-old Grandson Billy (Jackson Nicholl) to deliver him to his drunken, drug dealing father.  What follows will disgust some and will have others laughing uncontrollably.


My Take:  I know I am going to make myself sound old and stuffy…but I have I have never had the slightest interest in going to see a “Jackass” movie.  I have accidentally stumbled across their TV shows on occasion and have found them to be offensive and totally disgusting.  However, as much as I hate saying it, I didn’t mind this “Jackass” offering. 

If you saw Borat. you know this movie is set up very similar.  There is a weak story line that is driven by real people who are unaware that they are becoming part of a movie. The gags that catch these people off guard were set up perfectly. I found myself laughing harder than I have at any other movie in a long time.  The type of laugh that makes your eyes water.  Granted, there were some gross out scenes that I could do with out and a biker bar scene that didn’t quite sit right, but overall, the pranks were harmless and funny.  One of the last scenes takes place at a beauty pageant for little girls.  Although it is a direct rip-off from the movie Little Miss Sunshine, it still had everybody in the audience falling out of their chairs.

But the biggest reason this movie works for me, is because of Jackson Nicholl. He plays the grandson.  He is amazingly funny and completely believable.  He alone was worth the price of admission.  He has had a couple of smaller roles in movies…this one should get him a lot more work.  It’s hard to believe someone could upstage Johnny Knoxville but this kid does it effortlessly.  I will go see this movie again, just to watch this 8 year old work his magic.  With that said, I hope I don’t lose my coveted critics license for letting everyone know I enjoyed a “Jackass” movie.


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Prisoners Directed by Denis Villeneuve

It’s been a great summer, a little hot but not complaining by any means.  Finished up last week with the DFS Annual Golf Invitational and buddy Craig Zumwinkle won the scratch trophy again for something like the 100th time while Luke Magdik took home the handicap championship.  So funny…I won the tournament the very first time it was held 25 years ago and nothing since.  Lucky for me, there was only a couple of guys in the tournament back then and I don’t think they had ever golfed before.  Had the big neighborhood cook out at the cabin the other day and someone asked me when we should take docks and boats out. Damn, I hate hearing those words…cause that means an end to another great summer.  I did make time to take in Prisoners at the newly remodeled Andover Cinema.  If you haven’t checked that theater out lately, you won’t believe how cool that place is now!  Incredibly comfortable reclining new seats, new screens, new sound system…yeah baby!

Long Story Short:  In the movie Prisoners, Hugh Jackman plays Kelly Dover, a family man and carpenter by trade who is a survivalist to the extreme.  He wants to make sure he is prepared in the event all hell breaks loose in this crazy world we live in.  This is personified by a glimpse into his basement, that is set up with enough food rations, ammunition and other survival odds and ends to take a small army through the apocalypse.  His family heads over to the neighbors for a little Christmas dinner.  Their daughters go outside to play and are abducted in broad daylight.  An old dilapidated RV was seen in the area the same time the girls disappeared.  A finger is quickly pointed at the frightening Alex Jones (Paul Dano looking his creepiest with greasy long hair sporting a pair of super thick glasses).  Jones is quickly arrested by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) but then released for a lack of evidence.  This doesn’t sit well with Kelly and he takes matters into his own hands by abducting Alex and putting him through some pretty horrific torture tactics that had me turning away from the screen more than once.

My Take: Not much I didn’t like about this one.  The movie kept me on the edge of my seat the entire ride...and I mean ride.  Both Jackman and Gyllenhaal were award worthy for their respective roles.  Jackman as the, throw all caution to the wind, dad who is going to do everything he can possibly do with his survivalist skill set to bring his daughter home.  His rage and torment is so believable, it’s almost like you are watching a documentary.  Gyllenhaal is equally up to the task as a cop who also is not going to stop until he brings the girls home…dead or alive.  His many tattoos and nervous twitches brings into focus a lonely man and a troubled soul …obviously a result of the profession he has chosen and the horrendous cases he has to work on every day.  I’ve seen Paul Dano in a lot of other movies and he never disappoints.  I don’t think he had more than six lines in this entire movie…but he was every bit as creepy and scary as any character I can ever remember.  Terrence Howard, Viola Davis and Melissa Leo round out this superb cast with astounding performances. 


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
We’re the Millers directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber

I’m sure you have already heard everyone else saying it but…hasn’t the summer flown right by!  Already looking at Ruttger’s next week for the final golf scramble of the year.  However, no complaints here…it’s been a great summer filled with a lot of the same old stuff I love doing….cabin, grilling, golf, grilling, boating, grilling…did I mention lots of grilling?  My daughter finished college and has entered the real world of 40+ hour work weeks and living on her own.  I just got my son settled in to an apartment for his final two years at St. Cloud State.  I only see my wife on weekends because she pretty much lives at the cabin during the summer.  As a matter of fact…today is our 26th wedding anniversary.  Now that I am thinking of it, I better order some flowers or there will be hell to pay.

Movies are not a top priority during the summer months but I did make it out to see We’re the Millers.  If you like your movies raunchy…this is a must see!

Long Story Short:  David Burke (Jason Sudeikis) is a small time drug dealer who gets his stash ripped off and has to pay back his dealer (Ed Helms) by going to Mexico to pick up a load of weed.   In order to not appear so obvious, when he comes back into the United States from Mexico through customs, he puts together a fake family.  He hires his misfit neighbors to pose as the “Millers”.   Rose (Jennifer Aniston) is a cynical stripper who is tapped to play the wife.   Awkward Kenny (Will Poulter) poses as the geeky son while Casey (Emma Roberts) transforms from the overly tattooed and pierced slacker into the darling daughter. 

My Take:  Is it wrong of me to start right off by saying how hot Jennifer Aniston looked in this movie…especially seeing as it’s my wedding anniversary today.  I asked my wife first and she said I could.   Appropriately enough…or should I say inappropriately enough…she plays a stripper who quits her job because she is asked to do more than just dance for her customers.  Not much acting chops required for her role…but what is asked for she delivers in a big way.  I’ve always liked Jason Sudeikis in most everything I have seen him in from SNL to his movies.  This is his biggest starring role to date and he handles it quite nicely.  His understated and deadpan sense of humor fits well with the script.  One of the funniest characters in the movie is Will Poulter who plays the son.  He has one of those faces that only his mother could love.  Wait until you see his eyebrows.  Facial features aside, he is the perfect goob.  A scene where his fake mom and sister are showing him how to kiss, so he won’t disappoint his new girlfriend, is hilarious…especially when the new girlfriend walks in on them.    The rest of the players…Ed Helms, Emma Roberts and assorted other character actors are well cast and all bring a few good hoots of there own to the table.  We’re the Millers is raunchy, crude, predictable and surprisingly funny!


Doug's Featured Movie Review:

Man of Steel - Directed by Chirstopher Nolan

Reviewed by guest movie critic, Joe Taft
Joe is a Junior studying Film Production at
Central Washington University (CWU) for Screenwriting

Move Over, Iron Man: The Real Man of Steel Just Arrived

It's been seven years since the last film adaptation of the original superhero that started it all. Superman is back in a revamp of the character and his mythology. "Man of Steel" is the newest film in the history of Superman. Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) is in the director's chair with Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Trilogy) producing and David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight Trilogy) writing. Snyder is known for his visuals and popcorn blockbuster projects. The cast is as elite as the creative team behind the film. Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane, and Kevin Costner star as the supporting cast. As for the American icon, he is actually played by a Brit. British actor, Henry Cavill (Immortals), is the first non-American to don the red cape. The cast is exceptional and makes this film what it is. Cavill definitely makes an impact as Superman and will be a familiar face in Hollywood after this newfound success.

The plot of "Man of Steel" is very traditional in the sense of the original Superman films with Christopher Reeve. In those adaptations, General Zod and Superman's Kryptonian origin is told. In the newest film, the audience is retold the story of how Jor-El (Crowe) and his wife give up their newborn, Kal-El, in order to save him. Jor-El is aware of his planet's doom. General Zod (Shannon) tries to overthrow their government, dissatisfied with the leaders of Krypton. Zod and Jor-El have a mutual respect for one another despite their differences. Jor-El sends his baby off with the key to Krypton's survival, called the "codex." Zod is temporarily defeated and is bitter toward Jor-El, vowing to find Kal-El and reclaim what's his in Krypton's honor. As the 1978 film spends time to see Clark grow up in Smallville, Man of Steel introduces us to Clark as a full adult. Scruffy beard and all, Clark Kent (Cavill) is a loner who seems to wander city-to-city, job-to-job, in search of answers to his true alien identity. I enjoyed the use of parallel storytelling through the childhood flashbacks. The character development is established the same way; this is due to the believability of Lane and Costner as the loving Earth parents, Martha and Jonathan Kent. Events in Clark's life and the wisdom of his family in Kansas set the base for who he is and who becomes once he puts on the blue suit with the "S" shield on his chest. Clark is the best of both worlds. As for Lois Lane (Adams), she's as feisty as ever. The relationship between Lois and Clark/Superman is interesting because like most of this film; it's refreshing. There's a twist in this film that no other adaptation has ever done in the origin story of Superman in regards with Lois. She's in search of discovering who the mystery man is that saved her in crisis along with other similar stories. Fishburne does a phenomenal job as Daily Planet's Chief Editor, Perry White. I loved him as this character. As Lois comes across answers about Clark and his past, General Zod arrives to Earth with an agenda to destroy the human race. It forces Superman to choose a side, as he is the only defense for Earth.

The action sequences are packed with by far the most epic fight scenes you'll see in a film this year; it's as good as The Avengers. The only word to describe it is "epic." The fight scenes and visuals really give the viewers the sense of how big this film really is. The scale is enormous and other worldly as Snyder captivates the audience right from the beginning with the clash between Jor-El and Zod on Krypton. Superman takes on Zod and his army, destroying what seems like every possible location. From the Kent farm, an IHOP restaurant and Sears store in Smallville; to the city scenery of Metropolis. Nowhere is off limits in this film. The score of the film brings these scenes to life. Hans Zimmer again lends his brilliance and composes what I believe is some of his best work since Inception (even though anything Zimmer does is fantastic). The subtleness Zimmer plays off of in tone during quiet moments touches the heart, while in contrast, the loudness he creates matches the intensity and chaos built up in climatic fight scenes is genius. He is the best at what he does and just adds to the ensemble of creative minds that brought this film to life.

"Man of Steel" is an incredible thrill ride of a story, filled with a lot of heart. It's the definitive Superman story that needed to be told in this decade. Fans finally have a Superman film to be proud of. With amazing special effects and a great story arc, Superman is back and looking better than ever. There are quite a few hidden Easter eggs to be found when watching this film in regards to future sequels, as well as the anticipation toward the Justice League film for DC Comics. With that being said, just keep your eyes open and be aware to details in the film. There's a lot to be excited about after seeing this. I look forward to seeing the next installment of Superman as well as when we'll finally get to see Batman, Wonder Woman, etc. stand to fight side-by-side with Superman as we saw last summer with Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. in Marvel's The Avengers. Kudos to Snyder and his team on making a thrilling blockbuster. This is what summer films should be.


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
A night with Crispin “Hellion” Glover…featuring his movie
…live at the Heights Theater.

I’m always looking for something different to do…so when I heard Crispin Glover was going to be at The Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, I grabbed my buddy Paul and moseyed on over.  (Can’t remember the last time I used the word moseyed…I remember Grandpa Walton using that word a lot.)

Crispin Glover or  Crispin “Hellion” Glover as he prefers nowadays, is probably best known as Marty McFly’s dad in the Back to the Future movies.  But, if you’ve seen him in anything else, you probably noticed the guy takes a shining to roles that cast him as a pretty strange dude.  Case in point…River’s Edge or Willard.  Well let me tell you…you ain’t seen nothin yet…until you go see his one man show that has been making the rounds for, what I found out to be, about the last 15 years or so.

I got to the theater a little early to pick out a good seat.  However my buddy Paul slowed me down by insisting on a chocolate dipped ice cream cone from the Dairy Queen that is right next door to the Heights Theater building.  Once he finished the cone and wiping off the ice cream from his nose, we went inside.  Lucky for him, we were still able to find two seats perfectly situated just a few rows back from the front.  Only problem, the guy in the seat in front of me had a head the size of a small filing cabinet.   My buddy Paul, despite me making fun of the ice cream on his nose, moved down a couple of seats and allowed me to move into his old seat…problem solved.  As I surveyed the crowd that had come to watch this quirky thespian…I noticed they all looked as if they had just come from the carnival and had the night off from performing in side shows or fleecing brainless Neanderthals out of all their midway money.  Not that there is anything wrong with that look…it’s just that I don’t see that counterculture style very often at the local Andover Cinema I am used to patronizing.

If you aren’t familiar with the Heights Theater, you really should go check it out.  The place has been totally rehabbed and is soooooo neat.   It looks like something right out of the old silent film era, complete with beautiful chandeliers and a massive Wurlitzer Pipe Organ that rises right up out of the floor.  After listening to a guy impressively play this jaw dropping instrument for a few minutes, the pipe organ went back down into the floor and Crispin “Hellion” Glover was announced and took center stage.

Looking like a liberal arts college professor at some university, complete with unkempt beard and a worn out corduroy sport coat, he seemed a little frazzled and disoriented.  He kept the small talk to a minimum and immediately jumped into his slide show presentation. This is where things start to get really weird.  For the next hour he showed slides from different pages of the books he sells at the end of the night out in the lobby.  The books are old public domain books from the early 1900’s.  So in other words, the books were written by someone else.  What Crispin has done, that allows him to sell the books as his own, is he has crossed out certain sentences and added some hand written new sentences to give the books a completely different meaning.  All I can say is the changes and additions he has implemented to these books were so bizarre that they made little or no sense to me.  One whole chapter, of a book he read, was simply repeating the phrase “This is the egg farm” over and over while showing the actual page from the book on the slide up on the screen.

Next up, we were shown the movie he directed in 2007 called "It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE!"   The screen play was written by Steven C. Stewart who also stars in the movie.  Stewart in real life has severe cerebral palsy and for years was in a nursing home where they thought he was mentally challenged.  The movie is basically his life as a man in a nursing home with cerebral palsy who fantasizes about making it with beautiful women and then ends up strangling them because they want to cut their hair and he can’t let that happen because he has a fetish for long hair.  According to Glover, in one interview, “Stewart wanted to show that handicapped people are human, sexual and can be horrible.” 

Glover came out after the movie and rambled on about how he made the movie with his own money from the fee he was paid for his role in the movie remake of Charlie’s Angels.  He went on to say that corporate interests have total control over what movies get distributed.  As a result, he feels movies like his that make an audience uncomfortable will not get distributed. 

The evening was very interesting.  I am glad that I went.  However, I guess I can honestly say I am a product of that corporate mind set Glover is so against.  I like Iron Man 3 and don’t mind all the special effects and product placements it brings to the big screen.  I don’t mind feeling uncomfortable once in awhile but just not very often and especially not when I am paying for the ticket.   

Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Iron Man 3 - Directed by Shane Black

Reviewed by guest movie critic, Joe Taft
Joe is a Junior studying Film Production at
Central Washington University (CWU) for Screenwriting

If it’s summer, it’s blockbuster season. Some could say if it’s May, there’s a Marvel movie. Following the past trend of Marvel inspired superhero film releases, such as Iron Man, Thor, and last year’s The Avengers; “Iron Man” once again takes to the big screen. I was honored last year to see The Avengers and write a review. A year later, I find myself yet again at a theater to see the next adventure of Tony Stark.

Familiar faces Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), and Don Cheadle (James Rhodes aka “Rhodey”/War Machine) all return to reprise their roles. New to the Iron Man family is Rebecca Hall (The Town), Guy Pearce (Lawless), and Ben Kingsley (Hugo). Jon Favreau (Iron Man 1 & 2) reprises his role as Happy Hogan, but didn’t return in the director’s chair. Instead, Shane Black steps in to direct. Black is most known for writing Lethal Weapon. “Iron Man 3” reunites Shane Black and RDJ because they worked together on Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, in 2005. RDJ plays the role of Tony Stark with such effortless charm; it’s easy to see how much fun he actually is having. The comedy and memorable one-liners can be found again in Iron Man 3 as they were in the previous installments. But things have changed this time around since we last saw Stark in The Avengers.

Black’s delivers with the spectacle and action an Iron Man film should have, especially the last fight sequence between villains and many (emphasis on many) Iron Man armored suits. But since this is the first film of Marvel’s Phase 2, “Iron Man 3” attempts to really focus on Stark’s “post-Avengers” experience. We pick up after the events of New York and the alien invasion. Stark isn’t coping well. He’s suffering from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) and begins to worry strongly about his relationship with Pepper Potts (Paltrow) and how to ensure her safety from his enemies. At the same time, The Mandarin (Kingsley) comes into the picture. This film strongly gives a glimpse of how past events in Stark’s life come back to haunt him. Aldrich Killian (Pearce) is a bitter business man who knew Stark and is determined on ruining his life. Maya Hansen (Hall) also knew Stark in a different time and is the founder of ‘Extremis,’ which is essentially a super soldier serum. Killian builds an army of ‘Extremis’ soldiers that can regenerate and seem invincible. They prove a great challenge to Iron Man. At the same time, there is a terrorist who’s threatening the United States. The Mandarin is an Osama Bin Laden-esque villain who attacks globally and threatens the President. Kingsley’s performance is genius the Oscar-winning actor continues to show what he’s capable of. Rhodey (Cheadle) is upgraded from War Machine to Iron Patriot. He now has an armor decorated in red, white and blue. Rhodey is trying to find the Mandarin to end his attacks while Stark is busy fighting off henchmen of both the Mandarin and Killian. There is a huge twist that I guarantee nobody will see coming. This definitely makes the events build up to a climatic ending.

As good as this film is; it still has flaws. After being spoiled to the epic and well-written Avengers film, “Iron Man 3”, although it captures the essence of Stark, it just doesn’t quite pack the punch that some would expect it to. This, being the first installment of Phase 2, doesn’t deliver the hype that Iron Man did back in 2008. I didn’t walk away with anything to talk about from this film, it was just showy but I didn’t feel any real character investment or depth. I really enjoyed the first two films and I did like this one, but as I said I think we’re all still hung over from The Avengers and this didn’t do it for me. I didn’t think it was as creative as it could’ve been and the huge reveal that Iron man 3 has just seemed absurd to me and reminds me of the disappointment I had from Spider-Man 3. Don’t be alarmed though, Stark doesn’t go become emo and wear guy-liner as Tobey Maguire did. Some may see the film, watch the twist and not care; others will see it and, be upset and wonder, “What were they thinking?” There is an additional scene after the credits; there’s a good laugh there so stay and see it.

There are a lot of mixed feelings from “Iron Man 3”, RDJ is so charismatic, and that alone is what makes people see these films. No matter what the story is, good or bad, at least RDJ brings his A-game and makes these films the best they can be. The story is debatable but the action and visuals are stunning and the cast really brings these characters to life. If I had to, I’d give this film 3 out of 5 stars. Overall, Black did a fair job and now fans wait for the god of thunder to strike again this November with Thor 2: The Dark World.



Doug's Featured Movie Review:
Oblivion - Directed by Joseph Kosinski

I am looking out my office window on a Tuesday morning and there is still snow on the ground.  So depressing.  As a matter of fact, last night Old Man Winter dropped another few inches on us.  He just doesn’t care.  The weatherman says highs possibly reaching the 70 are this weekend.  Dare I believe him?  He has disappointed me so many times before.  I can only hope!  It’s not bad enough that the snow won’t stop…but I think I have only seen sunshine twice in the last six months…ok that might be an exaggeration…but not by much.  I will try to open my cabin up this weekend, weather permitting.  Last year, at this time, I had about 12 rounds of golf under my belt…obviously this year…not so much.  Here’s where I would normally segue into my movie review using some clever and witty transition…but this snow has sucked all of my creative juices right out of me…I got nothin…so plain and simple, this weeks review is on "Oblivion" with Tom Cruise.

Long Story Short:  The year is 2077.   60 years earlier the moon was blown up and broken into a few big pieces by aliens called Scavs.  The effects of such a catastrophe allowed them to mount an attack on the earth.  After many years of war, we eventually defeat the Scavs….only problem is we used so many nuclear weapons that, along with the broken moon debacle, the earth were left almost uninhabitable. What’s left of the human population moves to Titan, one of Saturn’s Moons.   Enter Jack Harper (Tom Cruise).  Remember the Jetson’s?  Jack works in a home that is very similar to theirs. It’s thousands of feet above the earth’s surface and serves as his work station, as well.  It’s his job, along with his communications officer and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) to make sure none of the remaining Scavs interfere with the huge machines that are extracting the remaining water resources left on earth and then transporting it to the Titan colony.  With just a few weeks remaining on their tour of duty, before they will be allowed to join everyone else on Titan, a spaceship crashes on the earth’s surface.  The ship is carrying a number of crew members that are in hibernating pods.  Only one survives, Julia (Olga Kurylenko).  Jack immediately recognizes her as being the woman he always sees in his dreams.  From this point on all hell begins to break loose.


My Take:  First off, the special effects are phenomenal.  The pad Jack lives on, above the earth’s surface, is so cool.  The structure is 100% glass walls and ceilings.  It comes complete with a swimming pool and a landing dock for his futuristic hover craft.  The huge machines that suck up all the sea water are amazing.  The ominous and pesky drones that help police the earths surface are equipped with an arsenal of weapons that could single handedly take on any major army and inflict more than just a little damage.

As anyone who reads my column knows, I am a sucker for the action movies.  Throw in the sci-fi special effects and I’m not going to miss opening weekend.  I’ve always liked Tom Cruise and he was good in this movie too.  Morgan Freeman doesn’t hurt the movies credibility either.  He plays the leader of the Scavs and provides us with an interesting twist to the stories plot.  The two female leads, Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, are perfectly cast.

Here’s the problem with this movie…about three quarters of the way through…the story line gets all screwed up and very implausible.  For me nothing made much sense and I just thought it was one big overload.  Clones of our lead character.  A sinister mother ship Remember Slim Pickens riding the bomb into oblivion in Dr. Strangelove?  Remember Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey?….you’ll find pieces of about 10 different sci-fi movies crammed into the last part of the movie.  Bottom line…great special effects, good acting…the ending storyline is a buzz kill. 

Weather update:  It is now Friday and the sun is shining and there is no snow left on the ground…life is good again!


Doug's Featured Movie Review:
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone directed by Don Scardino

I got sick and tired of all this snow and decided to get out of dodge.  My first little getaway was with some of my golfing buddies.  We headed to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  My first job in radio was as an assistant news director at a small station in Arkansas called KURM, so it was fun to go back and reminisce.  The weather was spectacular and although my golf game still sucks…we had a great time.  Since I got to go on the golf trip with my buddies, my wife twisted my arm to go on a cruise to Key West and Mexico.  She didn’t have to twist too hard and the next thing I knew we were porting out of Miami last week on a 5 day vacation.  Once again, the weather was unbelievable and the sites were spectacular.  We even visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum…a must see if you ever have the chance.  Now it’s back to reality and of course the only diversion for me during these frigid temps is a good movie.  Steve Carell and Jim Carrey together sounded like a good bet, so I headed over to Andover Cinema for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone".

Long Story Short:  Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) is picked on as a kid and finds an escape outlet through learning magic tricks.  Anton (Steve Buscemi) is his childhood buddy. Together the two become another Sigfried and Roy on the Las Vegas strip, minus all the animals.  However, after years as the top attraction, the act starts to get old and stale.  Suddenly there are a lot of empty seats in the theater.   Burt is totally oblivious to the impending demise and has also become a womanizing, cynical jerk.  Enter Steve Gray (Jim Carrey).  Think Chris Angel but even more over the top.  Suddenly the new guy is giving the old guys a run for their money.  Burt and Anton try to pull off their own spectacle stunt by hanging from atop a crane in a clear windowed sweat box for one week.  Unfortunately, Burt didn’t do his homework and the trick goes terribly wrong after just 45 minutes.  The two break up and Burt starts his downward spiral.

My Take:  Steve Carell was hysterical and is the master at being obtuse.  His hair alone was worth the price of admission.  Jim Carrey was the icing on the cake.  His outlandish over the top character was perfectly suited for his outlandish, over the top comedy.    His repertoire of illusions, including holding his urine for 7 days, lying on a bed of hot coals for 24 hours, finding a card inside his cheek bone that he cuts open to retrieve, shouldn’t be missed. 

When Burt hits rock bottom, he starts performing at nursing homes.  Now that’s funny stuff!  It’s here that he meets his retired mentor played by Alan Arkin.  I really enjoyed the scenes Carell and Arkin had together.  They were funny and touching.  Arkin’s character was much needed to help bring out the likeable side of Burt Wonderstone.  Olivia Wilde plays the token female interest for Carell whose character is never quite fleshed out.   Buscemi as the buddy works for me.  The scene where he leaves Burt and becomes a philanthropist by traveling to poor parts of the world and handing out boxes of magic tricks instead of food and water, although not politically correct, tickled my funny bone.  James Gandolfini makes an appearance at the dim witted casino owner…nothing much more to say about him.

I think I might be the only guy alive who really liked this movie.  It bombed at the box office.  None of my friends or family really cared for it and every other review, I have read, said it stinks.  Don’t care…still liked it!  



Oscar Night at the Solem's

The Oscars are always a big night for my family.  Leading up to the event, it seems like we've been talking about who the winners would be for months.  The day of, we start out with appetizers while watching all the red carpet pomp and circumstance on our big screen.  Nothing I like better than knowing who made all those dresses. Then my wife, Deb, lays out a main meal worthy of any Oscar contender.  Last night was no exception, as she prepared her secret recipe lasagna complete with bread sticks and salad. In holding true to a time honored tradition, each of my family members filled out their own Oscar ballot and cast their predictions of who the winners would be.  For some reason, I am always stuck putting up the prize money...a crisp $20 bill.  For something like the 10th year in a row, Deb won all the money and only missed picking three of the winners.   After consuming a few cocktails for good measure, she only did her "rub it in our face victory dance"  for what seemed like an hour.

Just in case you were on another planet last night or you were watching a repeat of Seinfeld for the 3000th time...Here's a list off all the big winners for the 85th Annual Academy Awards. 

2013 Oscar Winners

Best Picture: "Argo"

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway

Directing: Ang Lee

Animated Short Film: "Paper Man"

Animated Feature Film: "Brave"

Cinematography: Claudio Miranda for "Life of Pi"

Visual Effects: "Life of Pi"

Costume Design: "Anna Karenina"

Makeup and Hairstyling: "Les Miserables"

Live Action short Film: "Curfew"

Documentary Short Subject: "Innocente"

Documentary Feature: "Searching for Sugar Man"

Foreign Language Film: "Amour"

Sound Mixing: "Les Miserables

Sound Editing: "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" (A tie)

Film Editing: "Argo"

Production Design: "Lincoln"

Original Score: "Life of Pi"

Original Song: "Skyfall"

Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio for "Argo"

Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantion for "Django Unchained"



Doug's Featured Movie Review
Promised Land Directed by Gus Van Sant

Not much to report on the personal side.  The holiday season was spectacular, as usual.  My wife is a big reason for that!  She loves Christmas time and makes sure our home reflects that holiday festive feel.  This year we even had a special prize, at our annual gathering, that was handed out to the person that could guess how many Santa Claus figurines she had displayed throughout the house…I think it was something close to 30 or more.  My Dad recently turned 80 and still looks better than I do…which isn’t saying much.  I held the annual poker tournament and was the very first one out!  I wait all year for the big game and I’m out before the first break….DAMN!!!  After a grueling battle with the other nine at the table, my good friend Phil Littlefield went home with the coveted trophy and most the loot to boot.  Phil is the same guy who has won the DFS Invitational Golf Tournament on numerous occasions and even had a hole in one just a couple years back, during the event.  Enough about Phil, let’s talk about another winner… Matt Damon in "Promised Land" (was that a lame transition or what?).

Long Story Short:  Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and his partner Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) are a couple of sales people, working for a huge natural gas company. Their job is to travel to small towns in rural America to soften up local politicians while convincing farmers to allow shale gas drilling on their land.  In one of the opening scenes we find the two arriving at their next small farming community dressed in business suits.  The two make a quick pit stop to the town country store, Rob’s Guns, Groceries, Guitars and Gas.  Immediately we realize this duo is pretty slick at what they do as they proceed to purchase a new wardrobe of jeans and flannel shirts.  A ploy that will allow them to better fit in with the locals.  Initially, because of the depressed economy, it looks like it will be a slam dunk for the two to get all the farmers signed up and on board.  However, at a town meeting, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), one of the most respected town elders,  points out that his personal research shows that the “fracking” the company will be doing has poisoned the land and the water supply in other towns.  To make matters worse, an environmentalist (John Krasinski) suddenly shows up and starts rallying the town against the $9 billion dollar energy company Butler and Thomason represent.

My Take:   Matt Damon is one of those guys who I would go see anything he is in.  Although this is not my favorite movie with him, I still enjoyed the film.  Damon seems like he would be such a likeable guy in real life and that’s exactly the way he comes across in this movie.  A great guy who just happens to be pitching a questionable product.  As we get a little deeper into the storyline, we can see that he also has a conscience that begins to make its voice heard louder and louder.  Krasinski is perfect as the environmentalist who shows up out of the blue to preach the negative effects of digging for gas.  Little do we know that he might also have an ulterior motive for being in this specific town at this particular time?  He certainly gives Damon a run for his money when it comes to who can be a better “good ole boy”.  Frances McDormand is one of my favorite female actresses.  From big roles in movies like Fargo and Burn After Reading to small but memorable roles in movies like Moonrise Kingdom or Something’s Gotta Give…she is truly one of the best!  This time around she knocks it out of the park as Damon’s flawed partner.  When it comes to her character having a conscience or good business ethics, they are nowhere to be found.  Hal Holbrook is wonderful as the old man everybody in town looks up to and seeks out for his sage advice.  He is getting so old but he is still so good!   

I saw a documentary on “fracking” and what it can do to land and water supplies and believe me it looks like some pretty scary stuff.  They showed entire towns who had to ship in their water from somewhere else.  They also showed people turning on their water faucets and putting a match to the liquid coming out and it would immediately flare up and start on fire.  Damon and Krasinski wrote the movie and obviously are trying to get the word out in a big way.   I would say this is one movie you do not necessarily need to rush out and see on the big screen but would be a perfect choice to fill some gaps on a winter night, at home on blue-ray.


Doug's Featured Movie Review
Skyfall directed by Sam Mendes

November is a little slower month than most.  Not much cooking other than my turkey on Thanksgiving and celebrating my Dad’s 80th birthday.  Appropriately enough, I think Dad actually came over on the Mayflower.  Anyway, happy birthday pilgrim…you the man!!!  November is also the month for my annual poker tournament that brings together nine highly skilled professionals and me.  Like I say, things are slowing down this month, so what better time to see the new Bond flick "Skyfall".

Long Story Short:  The movie opens with Bond’s (Daniel Craig) latest mission not quite going the way he planned.  As a result, a list of undercover agents are exposed and there is an all out attack on the M16 headquarters in London. At the same time, M (Judy Dench) is being hunted by a new psycho bad guy named Silva (Javier Bardem).   007  is her only chance to stay alive.

My Take:  Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the movie but it wasn’t my favorite of the 23 installments.   The opening chase scene was incredible.  Just when you think it would be hard for them to surpass the high octane opening chase scene from the last installment, they step up and deliver another knock out.  Breathtaking comes to mind.  When that scene finally wraps up they bleed…literally…right into Adele’s theme song for "Skyfall".  Holy Moly Rocky, she is incredible and it’s now my favorite of all their theme songs. That’s saying a lot when you consider it beats out, in my book, Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better”, Paul McCartney & Wings “Live and Let Die” and Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” or “Diamonds are Forever.   Wait a minute…I may have over spoken…let me back up just a little and rephrase that by saying  Adele’s “Skyfall” is in my top five of all time favorites.  Those others are pretty damn good too!!!


Getting back to the movie, the cast is superb.  Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M could not be better.  Anyone who has seen No Country for Old Men knows you can’t go wrong with Javier Bardem as the frightening criminal mastermind.  Naomie Harris and Bernice Marlohe are great eye candy and Ralph Fiennes as the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee is flawless.  My problems with the movie would have to center on the plot.  Everything in this movie pretty much revolves around Silva trying to kill M.  That’s it!  I love Judy Dench and the M character but the entire movie centering on her does not peek my interest as much as a world domination scenario or stopping the bad guy from killing millions.  Also Q (Ben Wishaw) introduces just one new gadget and it’s not any big deal.  It’s a gun that will only shoot only if Bond is holding it…whoop dee doo.  I love the cool weapons and gadgets that are usually a big part of Bonds arsenal that he will need to stay alive.  I also didn’t like the fact that Bond was showing some age in this installment.  I always like my Bond in superhero condition.  Pointing out that he has trouble doing a pull up or needs extra fiber in his diet reminds me of a commercial for AARP.  

With that said, I must be alone with most of my disappointments because the movie has already raked in close to a half billion dollars and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.  And again, I’m not saying I didn’t think the movie was really good…I just didn’t think it was as good as others….but what do I know, I thought "Titanic" would be a bust.



Doug's Featured Movie Review
Alex Cross” directed by Rob Cohen

Well, I finally got out of dog house with my wife.  If you’ll recall, our official anniversary was August 15th and I didn’t get her anything but a card because I had made plans for a romantic weekend getaway to come later.  Later was this past weekend as we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge.  I had champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries waiting for when we arrived.  We golfed everyday and had a great time during their Octoberfest celebration.  She said I had redeemed myself and no longer has to sleep in the spare bedroom. 

I just looked out my window, as I am writing this review, and it’s actually started snowing already.  That reminds me that I, unfortunately, have to close up the cabin tomorrow.  On the bright side, I will be looking forward to watching lots of good movies throughout the cold spell.  Speaking of which, I finally had a chance to run over to Andover Cinema….because I am a “movie critic” they let me in for free…gotta love it!  I was in the mood for an action thriller (surprise, surprise) so I sat down for “Alex Cross” directed by Rob Cohen.

Long story short:  Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) is a detective and forensic psychologist for the Detroit Police Department.  His partner and best friend is Tommy Kane (Edward Burns).  The movie opens up with a fight scene taking place in a make shift octagon housed in a warehouse.  Seedy looking spectators are betting on the fights.  It is here that we get our first glimpse of our psychotic assassin (Mathew Fox).  He shows up to fight and nearly kills his opponent.  A wealthy woman in the crowd picks him up and takes him home.  Little does she know that he was actually targeting her from the very beginning.  Once she gets him into bed, we see first hand his modus operandi.  He likes to inject his victims with a shot in the neck that renders them unable to move but still totally awake.  Unable to scream, he then tortures them to death.  Cross and Kane pick up the case and we soon find out that wealthy French financier Leon Mercier (Jean Reno) is the assassin’s main target.  Cross smells a rat in Mercier.  After a couple more brutal killings of those closest to Cross, he gets really pissed off and we know someone is going to get their ass kicked!    


My take:  I would imagine just about everyone is familiar with Alex Cross.  You have either read the books by James Patterson or you have seen the films with Morgan Freeman.  The movies are repeated all the time on TV…Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider.  This time around Alex Cross is played by Tyler Perry.  Most of us know him from those Madea movies where he dons a wig and dress to play that cranky, opinionated family matriarch.  A role that has made him a media mogul.  Almost all the other reviews I have read have slammed Perry’s acting in this new movie.  I didn’t see it that way.  I’m not saying he was Oscar worthy but I had no problem finding him a believable character.  I think he got the most out of the script he was given.  I had a bigger problem with the writers…a lot of the lines were just a little too corny for my taste.  Edward Burns got all he could out of his role as well.  I love his raspy voice and the guy is like Dick Clark…he never seems to age.  However, once again, his character was never really fleshed out by the writers. Case in point…when his girlfriend meets an untimely end at the hands of the crazed maniac, he doesn’t give it a second thought and it’s almost as if she never existed.  It made no sense.

The real star of this movie was the cage-fighting serial killer played by Mathew Fox. Remember him from Party of Five and Lost…you won’t think he’s the same guy.  Let me tell you…his character in “Alex Cross” will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up more than a few times throughout this feature.  Think Hannibal Lecter on steroids and you’ve got a pretty good idea of just how messed up this dude is.  To prepare for this role Fox lost 46 pounds through a diet of chicken breasts, steamed broccoli, protein shakes and a grueling, intense daily gym routine.  I have often said that just one scene from a movie or sometimes even one line can be worth the price of admission.  Trust me when I say, Fox’s character alone is worth the $10.   If you miss this film at the movie theater, it will definitely be a good Red Box choice to heat up one of those cold winter nights.  

End of Watch - Directed by

I know my summer fun is coming to an end when we finish the season up with my DFS Dual Course Invitational Golf Tournament.  This past weekend we celebrated the 23rd annual by bringing together 36 golfers of all skill levels.  We play the first nine at Bunker Hills and the second nine at Majestic Oaks.  I was a little worried because this year I pushed the event out a little further on the calendar, compared to years gone by.  Sure enough, the weatherman was predicting some pretty frigid temps.  Thankfully, the wind chill wasn’t quite as bad as they said it would be and the sun peaked its head out on a regular basis throughout the day…so the weather became a non factor…thank God!.  Jeff Magdik and Craig Zumwinkle ended up tied after regulation when Magdik missed a short putt for the outright win.  On the playoff hole, Zumwinkle sunk a 12 foot putt from the fringe to take home the traveling trophy for an unprecedented 6th time.  For some reason, I can’t remember what my score was but after I finished my round some smart ass asked if this was my first time golfing?…that guy won’t be getting an invitation next year.

Last night my wife had one of those home parties where you sell stuff to your friends, so it was the perfect opportunity to go catch “End of Watch” at the local cinema.

Long Story Short:  Two LAPD cops, Brian Taylor (Jake Gylllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are partners assigned to one of the most dangerous, gang ridden neighborhoods of Los Angeles.  They end up gaining some positive notoriety within the precinct after they are involved in a car chase and shooting that is recorded on their squad car camera.  The two are just this side of being reckless and sometimes stick their noses where they don’t always belong.  An unauthorized stakeout leads them to uncover that the Mexican cartel is now working out of their jurisdiction.  The two are warned, by a special undercover drug enforcement  team, to stay away but Taylor and Zavala don’t listen very well. 

My Take:  The director was David Ayer.  He’s the same guy who did Training Day.  If you haven’t viewed that movie, it’s a must see.  Denzel Washington won the academy award for Best Actor.  This movie, has the same gritty, in your face feel.  To document each of his days at work, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character clips a mini camera on his and his partners shirts so you get an almost hand held camera perspective of all the events that unfold.  Gyllenhaal and Pena have no problem convincing us that they are not just partners but true friends in every sense of the word.  A lot of the movie is just the two of them talking while driving the mean streets of LA.   You would think all this bantering in the patrol car would slow the movie down, but au contraire.  Those scenes are so well scripted and delivered that they are just shy of spellbinding.  Of course the glue that holds everything together is the nerve-racking situations a cop in that part of town is going to come up against.  The gangstas, the prostitutes, the seedy neighborhoods…”End of Watch” is all masterfully filmed and yet another winner by David Ayer! 



The Bourne Legacy - Directed by Tony Gilroy

Just celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  My wife, Deb, gave me a beautiful pocket watch with my initials inscribed and a sentimental engraving from a line from Elvis’s Love Me Tender that says “Till the end of time”.  I forgot it was our anniversary, so I will pick something up for her next week….just kidding….gave her a card and some cash…just kidding…taking her to Ruttger’s for a little weekend getaway…just the two of us.  She asked if she could invite other people…not sure how to take that.   As a prelude to our romantic weekend, I took her to see "The Bourne Legacy".  Sorry honey, I didn’t realize it was an action flick…thought it was a chick flick…oh well next time you get to choose.

Long Story Short:   Colonel Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is the leader of Outcome. This is the CIA’s own internal top-secret organization that oversees all of their assassin programs.  For those of you that have not seen the other Bourne movies, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), has exposed this top secret assassin program and left it vulnerable to not being so secret anymore.  As a result, Byer decides to eliminate, as in kill, all personnel related to the program.  The only problem is, this time they also fail to kill special agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).  Big mistake, because this guy would give even Jason Bourne a run for his money!  (Special note:  In this latest movie, Matt Damon is only seen in one quick photo that comes up during a short scene in the film…otherwise it is all Jeremy Renner this time around.)

My Take:  What’s not to like!  Everyone was great!  Lets start with the director.  Tony Gilroy was the screenwriter for the first three Bourne movies that starred Matt Damon.  This time he is in the directors chair and does a more than admirable job taking this billion-dollar franchise and going in a totally different direction with a brand spanking new hero….you don’t see that very often.  Jeremy Renner is the new hero and he has quickly become one of my favorite actors out there.  I first saw him in The Town with Ben Affleck.  If you look back at my review on that movie, in the archives below, you’ll see I had this guy nailed from the beginning.  His assassin character in "Bourne Legacy" is so cool.  The C.I.A. has made him dependent on a certain drug, without it he will die. Through most of the movie he is need of a fix.   As a result, his assassin character is played with a conflicting mix of calm control and total desperation.  His love interest is Rachel Weisz.  She plays a doctor who unknowingly keeps assassins in line by administering the top-secret medication that they can’t live without.  (This is the only plot line in the movie that I thought was a little weak…but what do I know.)   Her character was still very believable and she wasn’t afraid to let us see her warts and all.  Edward Norton provides the cerebral edge to the movie.  A guy who would never make it as an out in the field assassin but is extremely good at using technology to hunt you down from behind his desk.  His character is void of emotion and would have no problem throwing even his own mother under the bus if she crossed him.  I don’t care what your movies have to have to get you in the seat…this one has it all…romance, suspense, action, great story, good looking people, blah, blah, blah.

On a sad note…Tony Scott apparently committed suicide a few days ago.  He produced and/or directed some of my favorite movies…Top Gun, True Romance, Days of Thunder, Domino, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Unstoppable, and The Last Boy Scout.  The list goes on and on.  He was so talented…he will be missed! 


Reviewed by Guest Critic, Joe Taft
He is a college student at the University of WI-Superior,
Majoring in Video Production

The Dark Knight Rises - Directed by Christopher Nolan

To begin this review, I must first say how difficult it is a task to review a movie that truly leaves you speechless. As a kid, my grandmother made me a black cape that I’d wear around the house; I didn’t just watch Batman movies, I became Batman. It felt more real than tying a towel around the neck. If you asked me then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d reply, “Batman!” This is a character that stands the test of time and is a pop-culture icon.

Batman has gone through both good and bad TV and films, but thank goodness for the brilliant mind of director, Christopher Nolan. If it wasn’t for him and his crew, people wouldn’t be treated to films like Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, and Inception (just to name a few). In 2005, Nolan re-envisioned Bruce Wayne’s origin story with Batman Begins. In 2008, he followed it with the more crime drama and social ideology film, The Dark Knight, which exceeded limits for a superhero genre film. Seeing both films prior to "The Dark Knight Rises" might help in comprehending the plot. It’s a true full-circle film (keep that in mind) with flashbacks and references from the previous two movies. The tone and use of such a grounded hero in reality is unparalleled to any other superhero franchise. When success is reached in such a highly acclaimed film as is TDK, it’s nearly impossible to recreate that magic when moving on; unless you’re Nolan.

Nola returns in the director’s chair to finish Bruce Wayne’s compelling story. Events of "The Dark Knight Rises" take place eight years after the conclusion of TDK. Wayne (Christian Bale) starts off the film as an old recluse who seems to have lost hope and has given up moving on with life. When a new evil rises, Wayne must once again don the cowl and fight crime. It’s a true comeback story. This is more of a Bruce Wayne story as it is Batman (if that makes sense) and Bale is at his best in his performance. As Batman returns, an underground army are preparing to take seize of Gotham City with Bane (Tom Hardy) leading the threat. Hardy is a brutal brawler with no rules. Right away we know he’s an instant danger and unique villain in the Batman rogue’s gallery. Bane’s very much Batman’s equal both mentally and physically. If anyone can break the bat, it’s Bane. Some comparisons will be made to TDK, it’s inevitable but one should look at each film as an individual installment. I think it’s an unfair comparison when the late great Heath Ledger rewarded us with the best take on the Joker that will be ever be seen, but TDKR is a worthy sequel. Hardy delivers in the role, even with his face hidden behind the intimidating mask. His piercing eye gazes and body language is what sells the part (which people might overlook). He really deserves some credit for bringing this villain alive. Most of the movie you can understand him; however, there are some parts of his dialogue that get lost with noise. Overall, it’s such a minor detail that doesn’t take away from the film because it’s such a gratifying thrill ride. The fight scenes between Batman and Bane are rugged. It’s pure adrenaline and rage with each punch they exchange. The viewer will feel every hit as if they were taking the hits. The tension built up is unbearable.

Returning supporting characters are Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) as Batman’s inner circle. Anne Hathaway dazzles the screen with her presence as the cat-burglar, Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. She attempts to steal the show every chance she gets and demonstrates she can hang with the Batman and Bane in this film. Also new to the cast are philanthropist, Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) and cop, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Both are mysterious figures that are more than they appear to be. Gordon-Levitt, in my opinion, is another one that steals the spotlight. He’s the soul of this movie as a good-hearted cop that never gives up on believing in Batman. Every actor shines. The action is intense and epic. It’s a true spectacle and I recommend seeing it in IMAX if you can. Don’t be alarmed when the auditorium shakes, IMAX is a true experience that’ll leave you breathless and you’ll walk away with appreciation. The scenes of the Bane’s attack on the city and a football stadium will leave you in awe. Sequences with the bat-pod, tumbler and Batman’s new toy (thanks to Mr. Fox) “The Bat” is elevated due to IMAX. There’s a dogfight scene that’s absolutely stunning. For some concerned about the running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, the pace of the movie is brisk and nothing feels dragged out. Clever editing in this film is what distinguishes that notion.

As good as the action is the story is still the heart of this film as it is always with Nolan. His grasp of the characters and twists keeps you wanting more, even when it’s over and the lights come on. Nolan’s ideologies of terrorism, economic collapse, and revolution ring through the entire film. This is what grounds this film in reality, it’s scary to think how relevant this story is in today’s society. The ending of this film is the best to any I’ve seen in a long time. People stood up from their seats and praised the screen when the film didn’t even end yet. It was remarkable and that’s when I realized this was an event, not just another movie. Something that this series has over The Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man is the emotional investment. The last seven minutes are a rollercoaster ride of emotions. This is one of the best films this year and end to greatest trilogy of the decade. TDK trilogy will never be replicated and for that, I’m sad. This is filmmaking at its best. From the story developed by Chris and Jonathan Nolan with David S. Goyer, the cinematography from Wally Pfister, and the score by Hans Zimmer are all inspiring. People don’t always take notice to the components that make up a film, but TDKR is a true spectacle. Focusing on this as a stand-alone film, it’s a masterpiece of work. It brings closure to the Nolan/Bale Batman story. There was no deception in the tag-line: “The Epic Conclusion.” That’s what it is. The legend does indeed end and for those staying after the film waiting to catch a glimpse of an additional scene; there is none. This is Nolan/Bale’s curtain call of the caped crusader. Fans must wait for the next film adaptation of Batman, almost like waiting for the sight of his signal to flash in the night sky.

A believer in Batman, Joe Taft


Moonrise Kingdom - Directed by Wes Anderson

I am penning (typing) this column Wednesday morning and can’t believe my eyes.  I am looking out my office window and it is actually raining.  Boy do we need it!  I have been spending a lot of time at the cabin but, even on the lake, the overwhelming heat has been keeping us inside next to the air conditioner.  However, I am getting quite a bit of use out of the jet-ski this year.  I can kick that baby up to about 30 mph. and it provides a refreshing break from those high temps.  Well, like I have always said, it’s always comfortable at the cinemax.  This week was no exception as I found myself watching a whimsical little movie called "Moonrise Kingdom".

Long story short:  "Moonrise Kingdom" takes place on an island off the coast of New England during the summer of 1965.  It is a not-quite-coming-of- age story about two twelve-year-olds, played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who fall in love.  The two run off together because no one understands them.  The quirky little island community turns all of its attention to finding the young couple.  Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff.  Edward Norton is the local scout troop leader and Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl’s parents.

My take:  I have enjoyed everything Wes Anderson has ever directed…The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou… "Moonrise Kingdom" is now my favorite.  Much like the Coen brothers, all of his movies have a certain look and feel that cannot be mistaken for any other director.   Moonrise Kingdom is filled with dry humor and flawed characters…a trademark of all Wes Anderson movies.  The cast was nothing short of stellar.  The two newcomers, Gilman and Hayward, were wonderful in portraying two lost souls who together are no longer lost.  Bruce Willis was perfect as the likeable yet inept town sheriff.  Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are shown with all their warts as the parents of the runaway daughter.  Their eccentricities are both laughable and sad.  Being a former boy scout myself, it was fun to see Edward Norton as the overly zealous leader for a troop of very capable little scouts.   Add in cameos from Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman and you have one great little movie.  The film is in limited release for some reason so you might have to hunt around to find a theater near you….but I guarantee it will be well worth the hunt!



Magic Mike - Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Let me start right off by telling you that I was hoodwinked by my wife.  We were up at the cabin, and since it was so hot outside, my significant other suggested we go to a movie.   I asked her what movie and she said “I will tell you when we get there.”  At the time, I couldn’t think of any movie I would not want to see…so we headed to the Parkwood Cinema in St. Cloud.  The most beautiful and comfortable theater in Minnesota.  They have an attached restaurant and bar with seating that is better than first class on any airplane.  When we got to the theater, my wife asked to be dropped off at the front door and said she would get the tickets while I parked the car.  I thought that was a bit strange since she had always walked with me in the past.  When I got inside the theater she directed me to our individual screening theater.  18 movies to choose from and she has me going to see "MAGIC MIKE"….ARGGGGGGH!   I walk in only to find a packed theater of nothing but women.  That’s right, every single chair occupied by what looked like one huge bachelorette party.  I felt violated…until one other guy walked in with his wife also looking like a deer caught in the headlights.  Apparently his wife had kept it a secret as well.  Don’t ever let it be said that Doug Solem is not a trooper… I bit the bullet and watched the entire movie.

Long Story Short:  "Magic Mike" (Channing Tatum) is a roofing contractor by day and a stripper by night.  His dream is to some day have his own customized furniture company.  He meets 19 year old slacker Adam (Alex Pettyfer) on site at one of their roofing jobs.  Magic Mike takes Adam under his wing and introduces him to the world of snap on leather pants and  pay days that come in the form of one dollar bills.  Adam has a big sister Brooke (Cody Horn) who lets him stay at her apartment because he is such a loser.  Of course she becomes the love interest for Magic Mike.  Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) is the strip club owner who has his own dreams of opening up a huge new strip club in Miami.

My Take:  I will admit, although I will deny it if anyone asks, the movie was entertaining.  Channing Tatum is a likeable guy and very easy to watch on screen and I am not talking about his body, although my wife would.  I have seen him in a few other movies and he just sort of grows on you…again I mean that in purely non-perverse way.  In real life, Tatum was a stripper a number of years back.  Obviously he was a natural for this role.  His dancing…and I am only talking about his dancing mind you…was incredible.  The guy can move on stage.  I thought his scenes with love interest  Cody Horn seemed a little stiff…can I possibly get in any more puns?  I thought he was O.K. but Horn’s acting was hard to watch.  I said to my wife that she had to know someone to have landed the role. Sure enough, I found out later that her father is the head of Warner Bros….no big surprise there!  I thought Alex Pettyfer was equally as bad as her brother.  He came across as a total bore  with absolutely no personality.  Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, was a scene stealer.  His over the top performance as the club owner was the highlight of the movie for me.  Everyone knows he likes to take his shirt off all the time anyway, so this movie was perfect for him.  Although he is getting older the guy has the body of a 20  year old….give me a break…you couldn’t help but notice…he had his shirt off through the entire movie.  Steven Soderbergh was the director, and like some of his other movies,  a lot of the scenes felt as if they were unscripted and  it often felt like he may have just told the actors the premise for the scene and then just had them adlib.   For some parts of the movie it worked and for others…not so much.

I think most of the women in the theater that day would say it was a 10….not that I am jealous, but I would say it was more like a  6….talking about our rating for the movie of course!  The only disappointment my wife had was that the movie was not in 3-D.


Men in Black 3 - Directed by Barry Sonnefeld

Last week was one for the books.  My son was helping me move my daughter into her new apartment. When we finished up, he thought it would be quicker to slide down to the next floor on the wooden railing instead of taking the steps.  In the process, he got a 9 inch wooden sliver, the size of a railroad spike, lodged in the back of his upper leg.  When he showed me the damage…I nearly passed out.   I threw him in the back of the 17 foot moving truck, I had rented, and made like an ambulance across town to the St. Cloud Hospital Emergency Entrance.  After taking a peek at the extent of his injury, he was quickly moved to a private room and made ready for surgery.  They used an ultra sound and had to slice him open in 4 different spots to get everything out.  After the meds wore off a little, they quickly bandaged him up and showed him the door (I was told if he had received a heart transplant he could have spent the night.).  So far, everything seems to be doing OK and he even made time to go to a movie with me this week.  I wanted to see Battleship but his sources had told him "Men in Black 3" would be a safer bet.  So, because he is bigger than me, I obliged and we headed off to Andover Cinema to see if Will Smith’s return to the big screen would pay off.

Long Story Short:  This is the third installment of MIB.  This time around our plot centers on Agent Jay (Will Smith) traveling back in time to 1969 to meet up with a younger Agent Kay (Josh Brolin) to try and stop the evil villain Boris (Jemaine Clement) from destroying the world in the future.

My Take:  I must admit I was a little disappointed in MIB 3.  However, I should probably temper this review knowing that I am a bit biased from having just seen the Avengers, as well.  To me the Avengers was the greatest action movie ever!  So to follow that up so quickly, with MIB 3, is probably a little unfair…but who cares?

I have always liked Will Smith and after taking a break from the movies for a couple of years its nice to have him back on the big screen. However, I just thought his Agent Jay character, this time around, was a little worn out and stale.  I don’t know that this was all his fault because I thought the script was a little worn out and stale.  He has to work with what he is given…but it still seemed like he just phoned in a lot of his performance.  Tommy Lee Jones had a much smaller roll this time around as old Agent Kay.  Because it was such a small roll for him, there really isn’t much to say other than I have always enjoyed his work.  As mentioned earlier, Will Smith is transported back to 1969 to try and change a little piece of history.  If he is not successful it will mean the end of mankind in the future.  It is after being transported back to 1969 that he runs into a young Agent Kay, played by Josh Brolin.  Props to Brolin for nailing every mannerism, nuisance, and voice inflection of Tommy Lee Jones.   He even looks like what you would imagine Jones looked like at that young age.  In the first two MIB movies Chief Agent Zed was played by Rip Torn.  Much like Tommy Lee Jones, I have always loved watching Rip Torn in the movies.  Although never a leading man like Jones, his character roles are always quite memorable.  A few too many cocktails in real life have caused Torn some major embarrassments and probably his recurring role in this movie franchise.  Casted in his place is the capable Emma Thompson who plays Agent Oh.  Once again, a waste of such a good talent owed mainly to her poorly written roll.  Jemaine Clement, playing the one armed villain Boris, was a real scene stealer.  His over the top appearance and performance were and added pleasure to this otherwise ho-hum comic book movie sequel.

Like I say, if I hadn’t just seen the Avengers, I probably would not have been this hard on MIB 3…but there’s nothing I can do about it now.  I don’t think I am the only one who feels this way.  Although its opening weekend numbers totaled over $55 million dollars, it fell well short of what industry insiders had predicted.  It faired better overseas taking in another $132 million but with a budget put somewhere around $230 million and millions more spent on marketing…it’s got a long ways to go if it’s going to put up Avengers type money…now estimated at over $1.3 billion!!!!!!!


This week Doug is on vacation so we have a guest movie critic, Joe Taft. 
He is a college student at the University of WI-Superior,
Majoring in Video Production 

Featured Movie Review:  The Avengers - directed by Joss Whedon
 Review by Joe Taft

To start with, let me say I am very honored with being given the task of writing this review. Twenty years ago I was born. By the age of three I could remember watching superhero shows and tying towels around my neck as capes. I also began drawing these heroes nonstop. My love for superheroes grew as they were adapted into films and I was always adamant about seeing the newest hero flick. It is now 2012; my love for these characters is as strong as ever as I am very invested into these stories. I even dressed as Captain America for last Halloween. Back in 2008, Iron Man hit the big screen and Marvel has since planned out one of the most genius schemes ever in this film genre: a team-up picture. What we get is The Avengers. This is the start of this year’s summer blockbusters.

"The Avengers" is made up of Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow/Natasha Romanova (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), and Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). If that’s not enough, Samuel Jackson plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury, the ringleader trying to get these heroes to work together. Along with him is the returning character of Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Greggs) and new to the Marvel Avengers’ line-up is Agent Maria Hill played by the delightful Cobie Smulders from CBS’s How I Met Your Mother. The villain of the film is Loki, who Tom Hiddleston reprises his role and is just as brilliant as he was in last year’s Thor. The Avengers is brought to life by director, Joss Whedon.

This may be overwhelming, with so many big named actors and character egos but let’s get to the movie. I went to the midnight premiere and saw the 3-D showing, but I’ll say right now: save your money! There aren’t that many impressive scenes worth the extra spending. And it dims the picture which I wish someone would find a way to fix. On the plus side, I did get a sweet pair of 3-D glasses that were Captain America themed. Getting into the story; having watched all the individual films that lead up to "The Avengers" will help to understand the plot. Loki, Thor’s step-brother has returned to Earth and is back with a vengeance. When he’s after the tesseract, or cosmic cube, it’s up to Nick Fury to round up all the heroes in order to defend Earth from Loki and his alien army. What is most interesting about the film are simply the interactions between the superheroes. They isn't a team at first and it’s their journey to become the Avengers that’s most intriguing. As usual, Robert Downey Jr. is brilliant as Tony Stark, but Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is his intellectual equal; their scenes together are a lot fun. Ruffalo is new to the cast as he replaced Edward Norton but he makes the role his own and does a good job in my opinion. As far as the Hulk goes, he steals the show. Flat out the best CGI for the character yet. As for the rest of the Avengers, Evans’ Captain America and Hemsworth’s Thor shine as well. Captain is learning to cope with being in a new world and Thor has come to stop his brother’s madness, where there are great scenes that show the audience why he’s the God of Thunder. There’s also a lot more depth given to Johansson and Renner’s Black Widow and Hawkeye as they never have been the main characters in any previous films. Everyone gets their deserved spotlight in this movie. Overall, the script is well-written and in my opinion, Joss Whedon is the best director yet for Marvel as he brings his unique style to the source material. All the elaborate shots and sequences he has set up are incredible. The film is very funny. I was surprised how funny it was and the jokes are so perfect for the characters. The climactic fight scene will blow your mind. Think of Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise with iconic superheroes instead (this is far better though, sorry Optimus). It’s EPIC! There are so many scenes in the film that will give you chills because it’s so iconic to finally see these heroes share the big screen together. It’s pure adventurous escapism at its best. 

As a fan, I am very pleased with this adaptation of these characters and the future only looks bright as there are more sequels on the way. Also, stay after for the post-credits scene like Marvel has trended with all the Avenger films previously. You don’t want to miss out on what Marvel and the Avengers have in stored next. "The Avengers" is Marvel-lous, there’s my cheesy critic line, sorry. But really, the film is worth the time and you’ll love every minute. This is not just a film, it’s become an event and you don’t want to miss not being a part of it. Thanks for reading this review.


Doug's Featured Movie Review: 
The Hunger Games – Directed by Gary Ross

I took my wife to see Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil for her birthday at the Target Center.  It was incredible!  It was both a rock concert with a live band (many of whom actually used to tour with Jackson before his death) and a mind-boggling display of dancers and acrobatics that only Cirque knows how to produce.  My only complaint would be that I paid about a year’s salary for 5th row seats.  You would of thought a view that close would guarantee the best sight lines.  Au contraire my friends…. in trying to appease the rest of the audience, they had a main stage up front and then a ramp that went out into the middle of the floor with another stage.  Through the entire first half of the show we constantly had to stretch our necks back and forth to try and see what was happening on both stages.  I felt like I was at a tennis match.  It really sucked…but after the intermission we got permission to sit in a couple empty chairs in the back row of the main floor seating.   Needless to say, the second half was more relaxing and enjoyable than the first.  The next day I went to see "The Hunger Games" to see if it was all it was cracked up to be.  I have not seen so much hype since the first Twilight came out. 

Long Story Short:  Based on the best selling books by Suzanne Collins…the film is set in the dystopian future of a nation called Panem.  The nation is divided into 12 districts, all surrounding the “Capitol.”  Each year 24 kids between the ages of 12 to 18 are chosen to compete in the “Hunger Games.”  A death match where only one teen will walk out alive.   The reason for the barbaric ritual is the result of an uprising years earlier.  There used to be 13 districts and they all joined together to try and over throw the “Capitol”.  The rebellion was unsuccessful and the 13th district was completely destroyed and wiped off the map as a result.  The “Capitol” holds the event each year as a reminder to the districts of who’s really in charge!   

My Take: First off, I was amazed at how violent the movie was and still maintained a PG-13 rating.  I don’t know if I am just getting old or what… but I saw so many moms and dads with their little 8 and 9 year olds going in to see this movie.  I’m not saying the kids will be traumatized for life but it just seems a little inappropriate for such a young audience. 

With that said…as a mature adult (yeah right) …I thought the movie was just ok.   Yes, I know I will probably be publicly flogged for saying such a terrible thing.   I find it hard to believe that it made over $250 million in only 10 days…the most ever for a nonsequel.  I just didn’t think it was worthy of those kind of numbers.  Of course,  I thought the same thing about the Twilight movies.  Obviously, I am not the target demo they are shooting for and those best selling books certainly help to prime the pump.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson do an admirable job as our two heroes, Katness Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.  However, I don’t think either convinced me that they truly cared about each other or that they might have a growing connection for each other in our next movie adventure.  Their relationship seemed a little shallow even after all they go through together.  Woody Harrelson was great as a former winner of the games who has now become a bitter drunk chosen to prepare the kids for battle.   Lenny Kravitz plays Cinna, assigned to making Katniss and Peeta look good for the viewing public and to gain the attention of the all-important “sponsors”.   It’s not a huge role but when he is on screen he effortlessly commands your attention.  He is a natural and I wouldn’t mind seeing him in his own movie vehicles in the future. The visuals of the movie were pretty good.  However for a movie that’s made a zillion dollars, I would have thought a little more of a budget would have been afforded for some bigger Harry Potter type effects and eye-popping cinematography.  A big portion of the movie is simply filmed in the forest with a single held camera…. and that gets a little stale after awhile.

The bottom line…I thought the movie was good…I just didn’t think it lived up to all the hype.  Since I have been told that I am the only person in the world who has not read all three books…maybe that has something to do with it.  Like I have always said…it’s just my opinion and I’m stick’ in to it!!!


Doug's Featured Movie Review: 
21 Jump Street – Directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

It’s hard to believe how nice it has been outside.  Last week, I got in my first round of golf at Majestic Oaks in Ham Lake.  They opened up nine holes on their Crossroads course.   I have been bragging to everyone how I scored a 44 .  That’s pretty darn good for me.   What I haven’t been telling them is the last two holes were under construction and shortened by about 400 yards.  We’ll keep that our little secret, if you don’t mind.  Nice weather or not…I always make time for the movies!  I was in the mood for a good laugh or two so I decided to give "21 Jump Street" a chance to put a smile on my face. 

Long Story Short:  As the movie opens we are transported back to a high school circa 2005.  Schmidt (Jonah Hill), a nerdy senior, is awkwardly stumbling through a conversation with the good-looking popular girl.  He has finally worked up enough nerve to ask her to prom. The school jock, Jenko (Channing Tatum) overhears the conversation and embarrasses him to the point that Schmidt retreats on his prom notions and goes back to being everyone’s whipping boy.   Flash-forward to present day …we now find Schmidt and Jenko have become unlikely buds who help each other get through police academy training.  Upon graduation, the less than dynamic duo is paired together on park patrol.   After totally screwing up their first big bust, the two are reassigned to 21 Jump Street. 

Enter Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) their new boss who has them going undercover at a local high school to try and take down the supplier of a new synthetic drug before it spreads to other schools.  The two donned their backpacks and head back to school.  What they find is a world that has turned totally upside down from the way things used to be.  There is now a big role reversal in play…the mindless jocks are now considered the dweebs and the tech savvy geeks are now considered to be the in crowd.

This movie is filled with lots of well-crafted funny lines and visuals.  From the moment we see Tatum and Hill on their first police assignment as park police riding their little police bicycles…the laughs just keep on rolling.  Even at his young age, Hill is already a comedy veteran with brilliant comedic timing.  He is also the master of deadpan humor.  I’ve only seen Tatum in more macho roles so I didn’t know what to expect.  However, he had no problem keeping up with Hill and the two played off of each other like a modern day Martin and Lewis.  (My son will read that and ask why I am comparing them to those two explorer guys.)  Ice Cube nailed his parody of the stereotypical no nonsense, hard ass boss we used to always see on cop TV shows back in the 70’s.  Dave Franco played the yuppie drug pusher at the high school. I predict this guy is going places and not just because his brother is James Franco.  He is a scene-stealer with tons of charisma.

For me, if a movie has one or two great scenes…those moments will often make the movie worth the price of admission…"21 Jump Street" has about a hundred.  This movie is a great value and you definitely will get your money’s worth of big laughs even at today’s crazy ticket prices!   Next up, I will be heading off this afternoon to see if The Hunger Games is worth all the hype…. more later!


2012 Oscar Winners

Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, "Hugo"
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, "Hugo"
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, "The Artist"
Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, "The Iron Lady"
Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, "Hugo"
Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, "Hugo"
Best Documentary: "Undefeated"
Best Animated Feature: "Rango"
Best Visual Effects: "Hugo"
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, "The Artist"
Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, "Man or Muppet"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Best Live Action Short: "The Shore"
Best Documentary Short: "Saving Face"
Best Animated Short: "The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Best Picture: "The Artist"



Doug's Featured Movie Review: 
The Descendants directed by Alexander Pain

With the Oscars just around the corner…I thought I better go see a few more of the contenders.  I’ve already seen The Help, Hugo, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, War Horse and now "The Descendants".  Out of that lot, I would give the statue to The Help, hands down!  That movie was amazing.  Of course I have not seen Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or The Artist so they might be able to change my mind.  I have heard some really good things about The Artist and can’t wait to review it.  Now it’s not that the other movies aren’t good but to me they shouldn’t even be up for the award…well maybe War Horse.  Best Movie of the year should be an epic that moves you to the point of facebooking all your friends to say “hurry go see this movie”.  The only one that did that for me was The Help. With that said, I had the opportunity to go see George Clooney the other day in The Descendants. 


Long Story Short:  Matt (George Clooney) by all appearances should be one happy guy.  Beautiful wife and kids, great job, lots of money and, to top it all off, he lives in Hawaii.  But appearances, as we all know, are not always what they seem.  As the movie opens, we see his wife water skiing and enjoying the day.  Next thing you know, we are at a hospital.  Turns out his wife is now in a coma as a result of a terrible boating accident that same day.  Matt starts to see, what he thought was his perfect world, start to crumble.  He has no parenting skills whatsoever and is totally out of touch with his two daughters.  17 year old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) and 10 year old Scottie (Amara Miller) are not about to make his life any easier.  They show him no respect and proceed to make his life so miserable that he probably wishes he was the one in the coma.  Matt and his relatives are descendants of a  Hawaiian royal bloodline.  He is the executor for  the family estate. He oversees an incredibly valuable and vast piece of land that they have owned in Hawaii since the 1860’s.  Part of the family wants to sell for millions while the others just want to keep the land from developers.  More headaches for poor Matt.   Can things get any worse…you betcha… to top it all off Matt finds out his wife has been cheating on him.

Once again, we find an actor who puts in a great performance that takes him outside his usual comfort zone.  We are so use to seeing Clooney as the good looking, always in control, leading man.  This time out he is  about ready to have a nervous break down as he comes full circle in putting his life back together again.  The two girls that played his daughters were exceptional and a driving force on why the movie worked so well.  I was a little annoyed, at first, with a surfer dude type character named Sid (Nick Krause) that was introduced early on and then hung around for almost every scene.  I thought his character was going to be a shallow unnecessary distraction for the film.  Turns out I was wrong and the kid grew on you after awhile.  The talented Beau Bridges stops by for a smaller part as one of the cousins who wants to get his moneys worth out of the family estate.  

I thought the movie was very good.  Is it worthy of best picture…I don’t think so. Is Clooney’s performance worthy of an Oscar?…maybe.  When I look at the nominees, he probably has a pretty good chance.  To me it’s a pretty weak field this year for all the categories.  I mean when Johah Hill is nominated for an Academy award…something is not right.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like Jonah Hill but I also like Pee Wee Herman.   Go see the movies and you decide for yourself.  Fill out your own Oscar ballot and let me know how you do.  Here is a link to this years nominee’s.   The Academy Awards


The Wrestler (1974) - Starring Verne Gagne

Some of my fondest childhood memories, of times spent with my Grandma Solem, would have to include watching Vern Gagne’s AWA wrestling TV show.  She totally bought in to their shtick and if you even hinted that you thought it was fake you would never be asked back to her modest home in northeast Minneapolis.  I like, most of you, could of cared less if it was real or fake…for a kid back in those days, it was some of the best entertainment you would find anywhere! 

This past weekend my good buddy Scott and I got wind that the Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis was going to be having a special screening of "The Wrestler".  Many of you probably associate that movie title with Mickey Rourke and the huge sleeper hit that came out just a couple years back.  However, there was another movie by the same name that opened right here in the Twin Cities on February 19, 1974.  Those strolling up the red carpet that day were not your typical Hollywood stars but instead the most memorable cast of grizzled misfits the Twin Cities has ever known.  The Crusher, Dick the Bruiser, Wahoo McDaniels, Dusty Rhodes, Marty O’Neil, Nick Bockwinkel, Wally Karbo, Larry Hennig, Dick Murdoch, Ric Flair and Superstar Billy Graham were all making their big screen debut.

As the story goes…Gagne scraped together $450,000 of his own money to put the movie together.  He cast Ed Asner and Elaine Giftos as the only bona fide Hollywood types to give the movie a little more credibility.  Everyone else, appearing in the film, came from Gagne’s stable of AWA cronies.  Asner plays Frank Bass, a wrestling promoter who is trying to put facilitate the super bowl of wrestling.  The idea is to bring together all the champions from the different associations to square off against each other to see who will become the one supreme grappler.  Gagne, 47 years old at the time, plays Mike Bullard, an over-the-hill champion of one of the associations (talk about type casting).   Everybody thinks Bullard’s all washed up but we in the audience know better.  The movies climax is a big match between Bullard and an up and comer named Lord “Tally Ho” Blears.  The movie was good fun, if for no other reason than to see all those wild and crazy wrestlers who you grew up with as a kid.

Before screening the movie, Greg Gagne (Verne’s son) got up on stage and delighted the packed house with some of the incredible stories that took place behind the scenes back in the glory days of AWA wrestling. The highlight of the night, for most I am sure, is the fact that Verne Gagne himself, was able to come and enjoy the event with the rest of us.  The crowd lined up and paid homage to the one time champion of wrestling entertainment. Now 85 and suffering from dementia, until Saturday, he had not made a local public appearance in 15 years. At least for this particular Saturday, he showed no signs of that terrible disease.  He seemed, once again, in his element… adored by the crowd…so appreciative of all the fun memories he had helped to provide.  

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Directed by David Fincher

I can’t believe I didn’t go golfing this week at Majestic with my friends while I had the chance.  The weather on Tuesday was something like 50 degrees, sunny and no wind.  It doesn’t get much better in my book…especially considering it’s the middle of January!  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not big on ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, ice skating, or any other activity that requires standing out in the cold pretending you are having a good time.  Give me the winter we have been having and I can at least keep from crying.  The only thing that sucks is all the businesses and people who rely on that white stuff for their livelihood.  That’s the one nice thing about going to the movies…it doesn’t matter if there’s a foot of snow or 100-degree temperatures…it’s always great weather conditions inside the neighborhood multiplex. (I promise to change up my feeble transitions next movie review.)

Long Story Short:
  "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is Columbia Picture’s first of three films that was put out as an adaptation of Steig Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy.  This film is based on the first novel of the trilogy that has sold over 50 million copies worldwide.  The movie is directed by David Fincher (The Social Club) and stars Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.  Craig plays Mikaw Blomkvist, a once highly respected but disheveled, alcohol indulging, investigative journalist. He writes an unflattering piece on billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. As the movie opens, he is found guilty of libel for the article.  Despite the verdict and the disgrace that comes with it, another titan of industry and the head of Sweden’s wealthiest family, Henrik Vanger, hires Blomkvist because of his thorough investigative skills.  He is asked to find out what happened to Vanger’s niece, who disappeared 40 years earlier.  Vanger promises Blomkvist not only to pay him a kings ransom if he finds out the truth  but will also give him the evidence he needs to bring down Wennerstrom.  Blomkvist needs a little help for such a daunting investigation.   He ends up working with a pierced, tattooed, gothic punk rocker named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). She also just happens to be unbelievably brilliant with amazing skills that are not taught at your local schools .  

Let me just say from the get go…I was totally bowled over by the Rooney Mara performance.  The Lisbeth Salander character is one of a kind.  In the beginning she appears asocial, demure, fragile and passive to a fault.  But it doesn’t take us long to realize this is one woman you don’t want to mess with!!!  Everyone had warned me about the brutal rape scene in the movie.  I admit it was disturbing but found the movie was worth the price of admission for how Salander exacts her revenge on the assailant.  Lisbeth Salander is the glue that holds this complex, thought provoking story line together. 

I found Daniel Craig’s performance to be quite refreshing.  I am so used to seeing him, in other movies, where he is allowed to get by with just his good looks, never a wrinkle tailored clothing and over the top action skills.   This time around he looks and dresses like Colombo and relies on his acting chops to carry the movie, instead of a bunch of special effects.   If you had told me at the beginning of the movie that there would eventually be some sort of hook up between these two polar opposites, Blomkvist and Salander, I would have thought you were crazy.  But when it happens, it works and works in a big way. 

Serial killers, corruption, incest… it’s a  twisted, cerebral, thriller of a movie…the likes of which I have not experienced since  Polanski’s Chinatown came out in 1973.  The movie will have you on the edge of your seat more than once.  If you like movies where you are not spoon fed and actually have to think for a change, you’ve hit the jackpot with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"!

Sherlock Holmes:  A Game of Shadows - Directed by Guy Ritchie

Hope all of you are enjoying the holiday season…despite the lack of snow.  To be completely up front, if we saw a light dusting on Christmas day that is all I would need to see for the entire winter.  Anyone that says they enjoy shoveling the driveway or scraping the ice of the roof is either a liar or should have their head examined, or both!  Give me that nasty looking brown stuff until spring and I will do no complaining. 

I, like most of you, have been busy attending holiday dinners and other seasonal celebrations involving lots of food and merriment.  I seriously have put on what feels like 100 lbs.  I am what they refer to as calorie challenged.  I blame it on people like my dad…who makes this cheese ball every year, for the big party my folks have, and it’s filled with crumpled bleu cheese, cream cheese and other artery clogging ingredients…but man is it good!!!  I’m thinking that I will make a promise not to eat so much starting the first of the new year…I wonder if anyone else has ever tried doing that????  Oh well…tis the season.  It’s also a great time of year for some really big movies to hit the big screen!  This week’s review is one of them.

Long story short:  "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is round two for Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprising their roles as Sherlock and Watson.  The movie opens with some pretty big explosions that are a prelude to all the mayhem and insanity that is yet to come.  The villain this time around is the infamous Professor Moriarity (Jared Harris), a worthy nemesis, to say the least.  This guy is an evil genius who is plotting to get World War I started early.  The war will make him millions because he has cornered the market on the weapons both sides will need to purchase to fight their enemy.

As most of you are aware, one of my favorite actors is Robert Downey Jr.…he never fails to deliver.  He’s as old as me but has the body of a 20 year old…and believe me, he needs to be in shape for all the trouble that is thrown at him in this movie.  He flexes his muscles convincingly as he escapes multiple beat downs, gunshots, bombs and other deadly devices. Of course his well knows abilities to make almost psychic deductions are the trademark of these movies and always fun to watch.  Jude Law’s role as Watson is much bigger this time around and gives Downey a run for his money with regard to who has more screen time.  I’ve never been a big Jude Law guy but he is pretty darn good as Sherlock’s sidekick.  Did I mention one of the major characters from the last movie makes her entrance in the opening minutes of this movie and is quickly killed off…ala Alfred Hitchcock getting rid of Janet Leigh in the early part of Psycho.  It normally just isn’t done and messes with your head a little when it does.  But it gave the writers the perfect opportunity to introduce the new femme fatale, a gypsy fortune teller named Sim, played by Noomi Rapace.   I didn’t think they made real good use of her and did not really draw the character out as much as I would have liked. The movies look is also a big winner in my eyes.  It’s the early 1900’s and the feel is dark, dank and dangerous.  Award winning cinematographer, Philippe Rousselot serves up a dizzying visual masterpiece as we’re taken on a ride that includes stunning stops in England, France and Switzerland.  

Bottom line…this movie is fun and who doesn’t like to have fun?…other than maybe that Scrooge guy.  For all those of you who enjoy my reviews, I hope you have a great holiday season and a healthy prosperous new year!  To the rest of you all I can say is “Bah, humbug!”

In Time - Directed by Andrew Niccol

I’m writing this review on the first Thursday that I won’t be golfing since spring.  For the last 20 years, as soon as the snow is off the ground and the temp is above 45, I have golfed almost every Thursday afternoon up at Bunker.  It’s been the same five-some since we started…Scott, Duke, Craig, John and myself.  50 cents a hole…one tie all tie.  We laugh so hard (usually at my score)…it is absolutely the highlight of my work week.  However, there is a little snow flying outside my window today and the high temp is projected to be just above 30.   Begrudgingly, I must put my clubs away for another season.  To try and put a positive spin on such a downer…at least I will now have more time to pen these fascinating movie reviews for you…and as the movie "In Time" points out…extra time is a very valuable commodity!  (Was that a great segue or what…)

Long story short:  The movie "In Time" wants us to believe that in the not to distant future, scientists have been able to change the entire populations DNA so that everyone stops aging at 25.  Sounds like a stretch…of course what do I know… I would never have guessed my phone would become a multimedia center capable of virtually delivering the world right to the palm of my hand.  Anyway, the only hitch with never aging past 25 is it creates a bit of a population explosion.  To combat this problem, after you hit 25 you are genetically engineered to only live one more year unless you can literally buy more time.  So time becomes the currency of trade instead of cash.  It’s how you pay for everything from your mortgage to your life.  Like any capitalistic society, the rich have thousands of years in time banked to do whatever they want…while the little guy like me tries to earn enough minutes just to live another day.

Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas.  Will comes from the poor part of town.  He stops at the neighborhood bar one night and befriends a rich guy who ends up giving him all of his time.  It’s enough to last for hundreds of years. The irony is, Will is then able to transfer time to whoever he wants.  Little does he know that his mother is down to her last few seconds and before he can reach her, to make a transfer, her ticker goes to zero and she dies.  To make matters worse, the guy who gave Will all his time commits suicide.  A corrupt police force called “time keepers” now starts to hunt Will down to take his time.. 

Cillian Murphy as Raymond Leon is perfectly cast as the evil billionaire banker of time.  Amanda Seyfried plays Sylvia Weis who is equally as good  portraying his spoiled daughter. Will kidnaps Sylvia and uses her as collateral to take down Raymond and his evil empire.  The pair of course become lovers and the rest of the movie becomes more or less a mix of Robin Hood meets Bonnie and Clyde.

The problem I had with this movie…is the whole “time as currency” premise gets old pretty quick.  The actors were fine…it’s just that the script was a little shallow and didn’t give them much to sink their chops into.  I’ve seen Justin Timberlake in a few different movies as of late (see Friends with Benefits review below) and I think this was his weakest performance to date.  If your time is also a valuable commodity…you might want to wait until this one comes out on dvd.

The Ides of March - Directed by George Clooney

I have not had much time for movies this month.  It’s October and that means time to start shutting down the cabin.  My official end of summer.  No more pontoon rides on the lake, no more golf, no more cook-outs….very depressing.  This year instead of doing everything over one weekend, I have been spreading the chores out over a few weekends.  I have now finished taking the dock in, putting the pontoon and jet-ski into storage, mulching and bagging leaves, blah, blah, blah. Now all I have left is emptying out the water heater and blowing out the lines.  Is this too much information?   I did take a break from all that fun last weekend and headed over to Muller Family Theater in Monticello.  That place is great… incredibly comfortable seats and monster screens.  I had heard “Ides of March” might be a good political thriller…so I grabbed a bag of popcorn (light on the butter) with a diet coke and made my way to one of those cushy seats.

Long story short:  “Ides of March” is an adaptation of Beau Willimons’s play Farragut North.  Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers. Stephen is an up and coming, hot shot, deputy presidential campaign manager.   George Clooney plays Governor Mike Morris, whom Stephen idolizes and is trying to help get nominated for the Democratic ticket.  Paul Giamatti is the opposing candidate’s campaign manager.  He meets with Stephen and tries to hire him away from his current job.  Apparently meeting with the other side is a big NO NO…and when Stephen’s boss (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets wind of the sit down…all hell breaks loose.  Just when you think things couldn’t get any worse for Stephen, he uncovers another huge secret that threatens to bring the Governor’s campaign and his political career to an end.

This movie is jam packed with star power.  Clooney, Gosling, Hoffman, Giamatti…and lets not forget former academy award winner and really hot looking babe in “The Wrestler” ….Marisa Tomei.  She is great as a ruthless news reporter who will do anything to get the story.  I should say, however, that I was a bit disappointed that her character was played with no sex appeal whatsoever.  She wore a pair of unflattering specs and was dressed in about four layers of clothing…..damn!    I saw Gosling in a movie a few weeks back called “Drive” and he has a number of other films coming out over the next year.  As far as I am concerned…keep them coming…he is the man!  As Stephen Meyers in “Ides of March” his character was slick, confident, a little full of himself and very cool.  He starts out thinking he “knows it all” and by the end of the movie he, like most of us, realizes there is a lot more to this crazy world than he could ever imagine.

While watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think of another flick that came out several years back called “Primary Colors”The plots are almost exactly the same.  “Primary Colors” starred John Travolta, a mirror image of the Clooney character in “Ides of March”….both well spoken, with a seemingly genuine passion for politics and helping the common man while at the same time dealing with personal demons that could destroy them.  The other thing, that I found interesting about “Ides of March”…it was the first movie that I have ever been too where I started out admiring all of the characters but by the end of the movie I thought everyone of them was despicable!  Obviously that’s what they wanted you to feel and it worked perfectly!  It’s not my favorite movie of the year…but I strongly recommend you see it now or when it comes out on DVD.

Moneyball – Directed by Bennett Miller

Brad Pitt is one of the few actors who I will go see no matter what movie he is in… and I am rarely disappointed.  He is one of those guys who could just stand and read from the phone book and I would listen to every name, address and phone number until he finished with Sandy Zywiki.  When I saw he was starring in Moneyball, I left work early and made sure I was in the front of the line for the first showing.  I know I sound like a teenage girl with a high school crush but who cares… it’s Brad Pitt for crying out loud!!!  

Long story short:  Moneyball is based on the nonfiction bestselling book that goes by the same name.  It takes a look back at Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who was able to put together a winning combination of players in 2002, despite having the smallest working budget in the league.  How he manages to accomplish this feat, with so little working capital, is the impetus of our movie.  Up until this point in time, the players on a team were usually put together based on gut instinct and intuition.  However, we are given to believe that Billy is the first to implement a “sophisticated computer-based analysis” to find just the right mix of low budget, rag tag, underused players that he could draft and still field a team that was competitive.  Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) is the computer geek and Yale graduate that Billy relies on to provide him with the statistical information he needs to find the best players for the least dollars.

This movie offers no special effects, no incredible car chases, not a single bullet fired…but it’s still soooooo good!  The writing and dialogue delivered by the actors is fun and clever.  The pacing of the movie is quick but not too quick.  It never bogs down and holds your attention effortlessly right up until the credits start rolling and then some.  What’s surprising is Jonah Hill.  Past roles have portrayed him as the over weight, goofy, smart-ass.  This time around he delivers a very solid performance in a much more understated and intellectual role.   Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane is brilliant.  His character is layered with complexity.  He is a man, who by all appearances, is very charismatic and sure of himself….driven and passionate.  Outside the clubhouse we see a very different side.  He is surprisingly very lonely while dealing in solitude with a failed marriage and the thoughts of not being there for the daughter that means everything to him.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman is another one of my favorite actors.  He has a smaller but still memorable role as Art Howe, the coach of the Oakland A’s team. 

Sports fan or not…I think you will agree, this movie hits it out of the park!!!


Warrior – Directed by Gavin O’Connor

I was never a big martial arts fan until my friends Tim and Sue Howe invited me to go watch their son Nate mix it up in an actual big fight that was held in St. Paul.   Tim incidentally is the mayor of Coon Rapids…not that it’s important to my story, but who would ever imagine that I hob knob with royalty unless I told you.  Back to the fight…that night Nate was the underdog…but like a strong, patient and methodical snake he eventually wrapped up, the soon to be former champion, so tight that all the guy could do was tap out.  Right then and there I gained a real appreciation for the sport and for what guys like Nate must go through in grueling hours of training to become champions. I remembered Tim (did I mention he is the Mayor of Coon Rapids) telling me that Nate was also a jiu-jitsu instructor at a club that just happened to be called Warriors Cove.  So I took it as a good sign that the movie, I couldn’t wait to see, was also called Warrior.

Long story short:   Warrior is directed by Gavin O’Connor.  He’s the same guy who directed "The Miracle". This time around instead of a Cinderella story on ice, it’s a couple of down and out modern day gladiators in for the fight of their lives.  Brendon Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a high school teacher who had to put out a lot of money to pay off the bills for his daughter’s expensive heart surgery.  As a result, his home is about to be foreclosed on and life is really starting to suck.  He happens to be a former MMA fighter.  In order to try and make ends meet, he decides to climb back into the ring and travel the circuit of skid row MMA fights that are held at local strip clubs.  Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is an Iraq war hero…or is he?  He is also an MMA fighter who, like a young Mike Tyson, completely annihilates his competition.  The brothers have not seen each other since they were little boys. Their parents got divorced when they were children. One chose to stay with his alcoholic and abusive dad while the other chose to escape with mom.  The only thing the two now have in common is how much they hate their father Paddy (Nick Nolte). 

I don’t want to compare the movie to "The Fighter"…but it’s hard not too.  The story line is very similar…two brothers going through a strained relationship…an incredibly dysfunctional family….one brother upset that a parent showed more attention to his sibling….a big fight that could change everything…blah, blah, blah.  The only problem is, Warrior comes up a little short. The characters are not as flushed out.  As a result you don’t care for them as much.  I thought every single actor in "The Fighter" deserved an academy award…not so much for Warrior. You’ve heard me say before that most movies are just to darn long…however…and I can’t believe I’m going to say this…I actually think Warrior should have been a little longer just to develop the characters a little more to make us care.  The one exception might be Nick Nolte.  He was brilliant as the recovering alcoholic dad whose only wish is that his boys might someday forgive him. 

Don’t get me wrong…Warrior is worth the price of admission just for the great fight scenes…but I’m just a little bummed out because I think it could have been a classic with just a little tweaking….but what do I know?!


The Help - Directed by Tate Taylor

My daughter, Katie, just flew in from Alaska where she spent another summer working for a tourism company.  She is spending a few days with us before she heads back to St. Cloud for her senior year of college.  I told her she could pick the movie this week.  I was in favor of something with a little more action like “Cowboys and Aliens” or “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”….but no, she had to choose “The Help”…and boy was I glad she did.  When we first sat down, my buddy Mike was texting me updates on the Twins – Yankee game.  I was thinking, at least I had that going for me if I have to sit through some boring yarn about the Civil Rights movement.  It didn’t take to long before I powered down the cell realizing I was in for one hell of a movie.

“The Help” comes to us by way of the hugely popular book by author Kathryn Stockett.  From what I understand Tate Taylor, who directed the movie, is a friend of Ms. Stockett and he was able to secure the rights to the movie early on.  “The Help” takes us back to the early 60’s during the height of the Civil Rights movement.  However, the movie takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, a town that’s, to put it mildly, a little slow in accepting the fact that “the help” should be treated like anything other than slaves.  Ron Howard’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard plays Hilly Holbrook.  She is brilliant at portraying the town prude and head bigot.  To give you an idea of just how screwed up she is…throughout part of the movie she is organizing a fund drive for the starving children of Africa.  At the same time she is trying to get a bill passed that makes it mandatory that no one allows their maids to use the bathrooms in their homes…they must install a separate bathroom for “the help” outside the home.  Angela Davis plays Aibeleen, one of the first maids who is willing to help Skeeter (Emma Stone) write a secret book chronicling their lives as these glorified slaves.  Octavia Spenser plays Minnie, a former maid to Hilly, who provides a lot of the limited, but effectively used, humor in this not so funny time.  Other notable performances are turned in by Cisely Tyson,  Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Jessica Chastain.

This movie is a 10 and the best movie I have seen this year.  Everything works…the acting, music, cinematography…it’s perfect.  What’s really hard to believe is this is the first movie Tate Taylor has directed.  Although the Oscar’s are a long ways away…my prediction is this movie and cast will all be big winners.  I don’t often say this but…if you don’t go see this movie on the big screen you are missing out on something pretty incredible!!!

Friends With Benefits - Directed by Will Gluck

Yes, believe it or not, I am going to review a romantic comedy. I am giving in to the weekly pressure I receive from all the women (at last count at least 3) who email me each week and tell me they want more "chick flick" reviews. Apparently my appetite for extreme action movies with lots of special effects is not a big part of their viewing diet. So here you go...

Long story short..."Friends With Benefits" was a fast paced and enjoyable little movie that was well casted with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in the starring roles. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is the art director for a small web based magazine. Jamie (Mila Kunis) is the corporate headhunter who lures him to New York to interview for the same job but with GQ magazine. Before we get to this point, we have a couple of opening scenes that let us know that they each have problems staying in a relationship. Once Dylan gets to New York and lands the coveted GQ position, he hits it off with Jamie and they decide to have a strictly "friends with benefits" relationship. Kind of like on Seinfeld when Jerry and Elaine tried the same thing...and if you know the episode I am talking about you know how well that turned out! Things don’t go much better for Dylan and Jamie. Everything starts off great...it always does...sex without commitment...gotta love it...or do you?

The interaction between our two leads was a little stiff to start out with...their banter between each other seemed forced and a little over acted. By the middle of the movie, though, they were firing on all cylinders. Woody Harrelson was great as Dylan’s gay buddy at the office. Jenna Elfman was equally as good as Dylan’s sister who watches over their dad who has early signs of Alzheimer’s and likes to take his pants off wherever he goes. We’ve seen Justin Timberlake as a supporting role in a number of movies. He didn’t seem to have much trouble crossing over to leading man. I am not a huge fan of Mila Kunis, but I really liked her this time around. There are a lot of scenes where clothing is optional...so if you like your movies where one’s birthday suit is the primary costume...this movie will not disappoint. "Friends With Benefits" is perfect for date night...predictable but charming...and oh so warm and fuzzy. (Please don’t tell any of my macho friends that I used the words "warm and fuzzy"!)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Directed by David Yates

Everyone knows I am a sucker for big action movies ladened with special effects. So I took a few hours off this week and snuck over to Andover Cinema to take in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. My good friend Allison Horita, one of the funniest and wittiest people I know, was also there with her son Jack. So my wife and I parked in the seats right next to theirs and settled in for the big event...the final Harry Potter movie.

I looked up the numbers and they are staggering. The franchise has put out 8 movies amassing over 7 billion dollars. The latest movie has only been out for a week and is already pushing upwards of 600 million dollars worldwide. Those are crazy numbers!!! J. K. Rowling, the mind that started it all, is the epitome of the rags to riches story. She was once on welfare and now with book, movie, and product rights has become a billionaire in her own right. Gotta love it!!!

Long story short...The final chapter starts out a little slow...but who cares...this is the last one...let’s make it last forever!!! Everyone already knows the main characters, so there isn’t much to add. Harry, Ron, and Hermione are all grown up and a lot bigger now...except for Harry who is no taller than he was in the first movie...well maybe a little. Most of this final epic revolves around their hunt for the Horcruxes...objects that if found and destroyed, will leave the evil Lord Voldemort vulnerable. The movie delivers in every way possible...set design, costume, special effects, script, sound.....everything is top notch and no expense was spared. I am sure you could watch this movie a dozen times and would never be able to totally grasp all this cinematic treasure has to offer.

The only thing I might say, is Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a little darker than the rest of the Potter movies I have viewed. I thought it was great but I am not exactly sure if it is child friendly. A lot of people are killed and mangled in the battle of battles that makes up a big part of the movie...so just be advised. If you do bring the kids...you might want to have your hand ready to blindfold them a time or two. Not to give away too much but....the movie ends flashing forward a number of years later where we find the children of Harry, Ron, and Hermione preparing to step onto the train that will take them to their own first year at Hogwarts. It leaves you thinking that a younger generation will be waiting in the wings in the event J. K. Rowling says "OK" one more time. Lets keep our fingers crossed!


Transformers: Dark of the Moon - Directed by Michael Bay 

Wow…it’s July already and finally starting to feel like summer!  Since my last review, there’s not much to report.  A few more days spent at the cabin…a few more rounds of golf. This weekend my wife and her best girl friend are leaving for Alaska to visit my daughter.  I’d like to say…   “party at my house”…but sadly… my days of wild poker games, endless shots of Jack and waking up on the neighbors lawn with nothing on but a pair of  broken sun glasses…have long since come and gone.  However, I am looking forward to the huge family reunion this Saturday in Big Lake.  Lots of catching up with cousins I haven’t seen for years…burgers and brats… and of course the crowd pleasing polish horseshoe tournament…..ahhh life is good!!! 

I remember the first really big special effects movies I ever saw were Matrix in 1999 and Matrix Reloaded in 2003.  These movies were truly ground breaking with there use of image-based computer generated backgrounds. To this day, you would be hard pressed to find a more jaw dropping car chase scene than the one in Matrix Reloaded. It has so many incredible special effects…it’s worth the price of renting just for those few minutes of dizzying cinema magic.

Flash forward to today and we find the Transformer sequel Dark of the Moon directed by Michael Bay.  I could pretend that the acting and plot really matters in this movie, but it doesn’t.  Not to say there are not some quality people on board.  Shia LaBeouf,  Josh Duhamel, John Turturro all are back once again and are terrific actors…but who cares!  This movie is all about Transformers, Autobots and those fantastic special effects.  A big chunk of the movie takes place in Chicago and when the Decepticons (bad robots) are finished, there isn’t too much left standing. From the falling sky scrapers to the constantly evolving monster robots… the visuals are simply mind boggling!   I’ve seen a lot of movies since the first Matrix came out and I can honestly say Dark of the Moon has the greatest action special effects you will ever see.  If you’re into that kind of stuff…it’s a must see.

John Malkovich, one of my favorite actors, has been added to the cast and provides some additional comic relief.  Of course most of you guys will notice that Megan Fox is no longer part of the cast.  One of my sources told me, she bit the hand that was feeding her and was replaced.  She apparently told reporters that director Michael Bay was a nightmare to work with and next thing you know we are being introduced to new love interest Rosie Huntington–Whiteley.  For my two cents worth…purely speaking from an eye candy point of view…give me Megan Fox on the big screen any day!!!

Bottom line…if you like action flicks with amazing special effects and lots of computer wizardry (not sure if that’s a word, but sounds good)…."Transformers: Dark of the Moon" will have your head spinning and your eyes popping!!!


The Hangover Part II - Directed by Todd Phillips

I know I have been running a little behind on my reviews as of late…but I don’t think you can blame me.  My good friends, Mike and Patti, invited my Wife and me to Hilton Head to hang out at their vacation home to sit by the ocean and golf a few rounds…it was a tough decision but I decided to put my reviews on hold???  Then we had our first Golf Scramble of the year in Redwing…and of course that’s a high priority.  The next thing you know it was Memorial weekend with the relatives at the cabin and before I knew it I was about 5 movies behind.   As a matter of fact, I was up at the cabin last Sunday and I just told myself, all of your loyal followers (both of them) are probably in need of a quick movie review fix …so hear you go Jack and Sharon Jentz.

I thought the original "Hangover" was really funny.  It was one of those movies where it had so many hilarious moments and each one was worth the price of admission.  To be honest…I judge a comedy by how much I laugh.  Isn’t that the way it should be??!!!  Unfortunately for the sequel, "The Hangover Part II", I didn’t laugh as much or as hard.

Long story short…This is the same movie as the first one, except it takes place in Thailand instead of Vegas and instead of a tiger there is a little monkey (I like monkey’s better).  Stu (Ed Helm) is getting married this time around and Phil (Bradley Cooper), Doug (Justin Bartha) and of course Alan (Zach Galfianakis) follow him to Bangkok to be part of the wedding party.  A couple nights before the wedding the guys head down to the beach to share a six pack and some marshmallows.  Next thing you know Stu, Phil and Alan find themselves waking up in a sleazy hotel in Thailand, without a clue as to what happened the night before…sound familiar? 

There are two comedy paths that are used in Hangover II and both of them lead to a dead end for me.  First off, all of the hilarious moments that were in the original Hangover are repeated in the sequel…same joke - different location.  To me, if I’ve heard or seen a bit once…it is never as funny the second time…unless of course my good friend Scott McAdam is telling the joke (the guy just cracks me up).  Secondly, the new comedy they added to the sequel was just to dark for my taste.  For instance, Stu finds out one of the crazy  things he did during his black out was have sex with a man he thought was a woman.  I don’t care how messed up you are…some things should be obvious.    Stu’s brother in-law to be, also part of the black out party night, cuts off his finger on purpose…should have made it an arm…always love limb loss humor.  Also, Allan’s character now comes across, not as a misguided goof, but as a demented nut job who seriously should be put away in an insane asylum so he doesn’t murder anyone.

I am not saying the movie didn’t make me laugh…it’s just that parts of it also made me feel uncomfortable….kind of like when I’m at my yearly physical and the doctor starts to put on that plastic glove.  

Jesus Christ Superstar - Directed by Michael Brindisi

I must admit I have never been a really big fan of “dinner theatre”.  I have tried several and have always been disappointed in both the dinner and the theatre. However, when I visited the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre for the first time this past weekend, I realized that all those other supposed “dinner theatres” were just pretenders and that the Chanhassen is the real deal!

The mega complex opened in 1968 and is the largest professional dinner theatre in the nation and the largest privately owned restaurant in Minnesota.  I am still trying to figure out what took me so long to get there.  Although built over 40 years ago, it is still an impressive venue that has tiered Las Vegas type seating in a theatre that seems to have nothing but great sight lines.

The recently improved menu offered something for every palate.  My son and I played it safe and stuck with the top sirloin and had no complaints.  My wife and daughter chose the Chicken Chanhassen – a boneless chicken breast stuffed with Minnesota wild rice dressing, and topped with a special mushroom supreme sauce…and they are still talking about how great it was! For dessert I would strongly recommend the Baileys Irish Cream Cheese Cake…it is a showstopper all by itself.  I could stop right there and the Chanhassen would get my thumbs up, but wait there’s more…..

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar is currently showing on their main stage (yes this place is so big, they have more than one theatre).   I remember watching the movie back in the 70’s and thought that was great but seeing it live at the Chanhassen is jaw dropping.  Directed locally by Michael Brindisi, it is a must see!  It was one of the very first rock operas and is set in two acts. The story centers on the final seven days in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, his betrayal by Judas, the trial by Pontius Pilate and of course the ultimate crucifixion.

My wife (not a professional critic, like myself) always has American Idol on at our house and she thought the singing she heard at the Chanhassen was better than any of this years finalists. I was amazed at the quality of acting and singing in this local production.  Jesus of Nazareth (Ben Bakken) and Judas Iscariot (Jared Oxborough) were equally wonderful in the lead roles.  Mary Magdalene (Michelle Carter) delivers in a big way with her soothing and almost hypnotic vocal presence.  King Herod (Jay Albright) and his accompanying dancers perform a show stopping ragtime ditty that was hilarious. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic orchestra that played that night…they should put out there own CD.  The only thing I can’t figure out is no one applauded after any of the songs that were performed.  I wanted to clap but thought maybe there was something in the printed program that said wait until the show is over…believe me…there should have been a standing ovation after every scene.

The director indicated that he approached this material with reverence, love and hope and that it was his desire to share that will all of us.  Mr. Brindisi you succeeded in a very big way!

Limitless - Directed by Neil Burger

Although it’s not a big stretch to imagine that I could be smarter than I am right now…it would be so cool if I could take a pill and suddenly be able to out think some of my clever friends.  They would probably appreciate some witty banter instead of my canned response… “I know you are but what am I”…. that I give for every question they ask that requires an intelligent answer.   I would also use bigger words in my movie reviews, just to impress those readers who always email me to ask how old I am…thinking that a grade schooler must be penning this column.  When I saw the movie "Limitless" exploring the possibilities of a “smart pill”….I turned off my favorite song “Duelling Banjos”  and headed  over to  Andover Cinema.

Long story short…Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is a down and out writer who hasn’t written a single word in over a year.  His girlfriend (Abbie Cornish) is leaving him because he’s a loser.  He can’t even make rent money for the one bedroom garbage pit he calls home.  As luck would have it, he runs into his ex-brother in law on the streets. He turns him on to a new synthetic drug that he says will wake him up and help him see the light. 


Eddie takes the pill and the next thing you know the guy is like Einstein, Brad Pitt and Warren Buffet all rolled into one.  The “smart pill” affords him the capability of using 100% of his mind.  Suddenly he is able to write a best seller in just days and rise to the top of the financial world in just weeks. (I gotta get me some of those pills)  The only problem is to stay on top, he needs more of those pills. That’s when things start heating up.  Eddie has absconded with the only bag of pills known to be in existence…and he’s not the only one who wants to be smart.  Suddenly unsavory characters start trying to uncover the whereabouts of Eddie’s stash, and once they do are ready to put a permanent end to Eddie’s quest to maintain smartness!  To make matters worse, Eddie discovers there’s some major side effects that come with taking this drug.

Bradley Cooper is enjoying some notoriety as of late.  He’s been around for awhile but after "Hangover" came out his stock has gone through the roof!  I thought he got about as much out of this role as he could.  Before he takes the “smart pill” he was totally believable as an unfocused, under achieving, slacker.  After a dose of the designer pharmaceutical,  he was equally believable as a brilliant intellectual who has bitten off a little more than he can chew.  Robert De Niro plays Carl Van Loon, a Wall Street mogul who wants to use Eddie for his own personal gain.  De Niro is so good and his character gives the movie an added layer of depth.  He is one of the few actors who has no problem making the often uncomfortable transition from leading man to supporting actor.  Instead of fighting it, he has embraced it.

My wife and I both enjoyed the movie.  However, if the “smart pill” brings people even half the headaches Eddie had to deal with…I guess me going through life like Lloyd Christmas isn’t all that bad.

The Adjustment Bureau - Directed by George Nolfi

"The Adjustment Bureau" was written for the screen and directed by George Nolfi...he’s the guy that wrote Ocean’s Twelve and the Bourne Ultimatum...not bad credentials. As far as I’m concerned there hasn’t been a whole lot to choose from at the box office lately. So when I saw Matt Damon was also the star of this thriller, I made my way over to Andover Cinema and settled in to see if these guys could deliver the goods.

Long story short...David Norris (Matt Damon) is an ambitious politician who has just suffered a crushing election loss for a U.S. Senate seat. While preparing his concession speech in the bathroom of the hotel his campaign is headquartered at.....he bumps into Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt). She’s a contemporary ballet dancer who is hiding out in one of the men’s stalls while trying to evade security guards who are chasing her for crashing a wedding that is taking place at the same hotel. You can tell from the get-go that these two are meant to be soul mates. The only problem is "The Adjustment Bureau" has other plans for our leading man. The men of The Adjustment Bureau are a sort of God squad that are assigned to watch over the human race to make sure that everyone stays on a predetermined path with their lives. David accidentally discovers the Bureau and finds out he was never suppose to have met Elise and fall in love. He now must choose between his predetermined path that would have him become President of the United States without her or defy the laws of God and risk everything to be with her.

Despite the lame the movie delivers with all sorts of "hold your breath" thrills and chills. It’s a roller coaster ride for sure as David and Elise try to stay one step ahead of the Adjustment Bureau who are bound and determined to keep these two from becoming an item. The premise is a little weak and has plenty of holes in it...but you just can’t go wrong with Matt Damon. The guy could read the phone book for two hours and I wouldn’t move from my seat.

Hall Pass - Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly

I seem to be in the mood for sophomoric humor as of late. Perhaps a mid life crisis in the making. Next thing you know, I will be scheduling a botox touch up and riding around in a red corvette with the top down. Of course, if I'm not mistaken, those things take money....so not to worry...I will just stick to the occasional movie fix of fart jokes and mind numbing story lines. Hall Pass certainly fills that bill!

Long story short.....Rick (Owen Wilson) and Fred (Jason Sudeikis) are best buds who have been happily married for years. Like most men...not myself of course...they find themselves fantasizing about being with other women and all the ladies they could have if they weren’t married. Their wives get wind of their restlessness and decide to give them a "hall pass"....one week off from their marriage allowing them to do whatever they want, with no questions asked. It’s a dream come true, or so they think. These two guys are so out of touch with the whole bar and pick up scene they make Steve Erkle look smooth (not that I ever watched that show).


Like I say, this movie is perfect if you want to use even less than the 10% of your brain you actually use on your best day. Owen Wilson is acceptable playing the faithful husband who realizes he is a fish out of water and quickly wishes he was back home with the wife and family. His partner in crime, Jason Sudeikis (from SNL fame) is a good ying to Wilson's yang... a little more daring and ready to put his mouth where it shouldn't be. I like Christina Applegate as Sudeikis’s wife...I just wish someone would give her a little meatier role... I think she would be up for it. Most of us know Jenna Fischer as the receptionist on "The Office." As Wilson's wife, she is perfectly adequate for this non demanding role. The movie delivered exactly what I expected, a few really good laughs, some partially clad females and the all important happy ending. Going to this movie was like my own virtual "hall pass" come true...while also sparing me the embarrassment of being turned down by every gal I would have tried picking up in real life!!!

Unknown - Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

One of my favorite action movies of 2010 was Taken starring Liam Neeson. He played a highly skilled and dangerous ex-CIA operative trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter from a group who deal in the slave trading of young women for sex. The movie was a thrill a minute roller coaster ride. So I had my expectations set pretty high for Neeson's next movie Unknown.

Long story short...this time around in Unknown, Liam Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris. He and his wife (January Jones) head to Berlin for a conference where he is scheduled to be a guest speaker. When they arrive, his wife goes to check them into the hotel. Attending to the luggage, Dr. Harris realizes he left a bag at the airport. Without telling his wife, he quickly jumps in a cab and heads off to retrieve his bag. The cab gets into an accident and he is taken to the hospital. Upon awakening he remembers he should be at the conference. He makes a quick exit from the hospital and upon arriving at the conference is shocked to discover that his wife doesn’t recognize him and is even more bewildered to find out that another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity.

As one might expect, Dr. Harris frantically tries to figure out why his world has been turned upside down. The rest of the movie is filled with car crashes, hotel bombings, mysterious assassins and of course one really cute gal (Diane Kruger) who befriends Dr. Harris. If you remember it is just a movie...you can get by some of the plot’s implausibility's. For instance, why can’t he just call someone back in the states to verify who he is to the authorities. If you’ve lived 50 years or better, you would obviously have lots of friends, family and other business contacts that could come to your rescue.

Liam Neeson is just shy of 60 years of age in real life but has no trouble carrying the movie as the leading man. His voice alone is one of the most captivating you will ever hear...it is so smooth and elegant...almost hypnotic. I have always liked Aidan Quinn, although his roles now days seem to be little more than cameos. Diane Kruger (Inglorious Bastards, National Treasure) has all the right ingredients. She is sexy, smart and believable. Bottom line...the movie was not as good as Taken but is certainly worth a viewing, although waiting until it comes out on Netflix or Redbox would suffice.

Just Go With It - Directed by Dennis Dugan

No, I was not drinking. No, I did not do any drugs or hallucinogens. Yet, I still liked Adam Sandler's latest movie - Just Go With It. By admitting this, I will probably be thrown out of the American Film Critics Association.. As a matter of fact, I think to get into the Association I had to originally take an oath saying I would never go see an Adam Sandler movie during my lifetime. Boy have I screwed things up! I won’t spend a lot of time on the review because it is certainly not Oscar worthy...but as I have always said, not everything has to be award winning to be enjoyable. I took my wife and she thought it was hilarious. I looked around the theater and the audience was laughing through the entire movie. I saw a note on my niece Kelsey’s Facebook wall and she liked it also. I saw the weekend box office report and it was number one making over $30,000,000 dollars. That’s a lot of people who like Adam Sandler. So I can’t be completely crazy...can I? I am not trying to pretend like I have this sophisticated palate that only favors expensive wines and beluga caviar, but I honestly have not been a big fan of Adam Sandler movies...especially the one’s where he talks like a dufus from start to finish.

This time around he plays Danny, a plastic surgeon bachelor who wears a wedding band and gets beautiful women to go to bed with him by telling them stories about his imaginary wives and how terrible they treat him. Kind of a weak story line...maybe I didn’t like this movie after all. He finally meets Palmer (Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Model Brooklyn Decker) who he wants to have an honest relationship with but she sees his wedding ring and instead of coming clean he tells her he’s married but getting divorced. She wants to meet his wife and children and that’s where Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) enters the picture. She’s Sandler’s assistant who is a divorced single parent of two kids. She agrees to allow Sandler to borrow her and the kids so he doesn’t look like the liar he is. They all end up taking a trip to Hawaii together and the laughs just keep on coming.

To be completely honest, the movie is worth the price of admission for most guys, including myself, just to see Brooklyn Decker hanging out.....by the pool. Jennifer Aniston is also quite engaging when she unwraps her wraps. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how good the two kids, Bailee Madison and Griffin Gluck, were that played Aniston’s children. Nick Swardson plays Sandler’s over the top cousin Eddie and even he grew on me after a few scenes. If you are looking for a nice escape, a movie that doesn’t make you think to hard, some funny moments, a guilty pleasure...Just Go With It!!!

The King's Speech - Directed by Tom Hooper

Although it’s been out for a while, I thought I’d better review this movie because of all the Oscar buzz it is receiving.  The movie hasn’t made a lot at the box office and I think the movie title might have something to do with the empty seats.  It just sounds so boring... The King’s Speech... it just doesn’t quite have the panache of say a True Grit or The Green Hornet.  They should have punched it up a bit...maybe something like... "The Main Dude Speaks", "The Royal Ramble" or "Stutter Island"...now those names would have packed them in!

If you can get past that name and just go buy a ticket, you will probably enjoy this period piece...I know I did!  The movie opens in 1925 at the British Empire Exhibition.  Prince Albert (Colin Firth) is attempting to give a major oration to the public.  The only problem is...and it’s a doozy...he’s a stutterer.  Not a really good impediment to have when you’re supposed to be the voice of the people.  As he begins to speak at this major event, he not only stutters, but has huge pregnant pauses in-between every word.  Like the filmed grimaced faces of the crowd in attendance, I, too, found myself cringing for him and wishing for a quick end to this humiliating depicted moment in history.  Obviously devastated by this humbling experience, he and his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham) begin calling on every supposed "Speech Therapist" they can find.  Back in the day, these guys were mostly a bunch of charlatans.  They knew nothing about how to stop stuttering and their treatments were unorthodox, to say the least.  These scenes are some of the funniest in the movie.  One "therapist" prescribes a pack of cigarettes a day to end the stuttering.  Another has him put as many marbles in his mouth as he can possibly load up and then try to do tongue twisters. Fortunately, they finally meet up with Lionel Loge (Geoffrey Rush), an unconventional speech therapist in his own right but one who actually knows how to help the Prince.  As the movie unfolds, the two form an unlikely bond that is filled with heartfelt ups and downs.  When the reigning King dies and his older brother abdicates the throne, Prince Albert reluctantly becomes King George VI.  (I’m not quite sure why they change their name when they become King, maybe somebody can email me the answer.)  It’s around this time that Hitler starts to cause some major problems and it's up to the new King to make a huge speech to all the citizens of the country to help unite everyone.  Much of the movie is then centered on the King and Lionel getting ready for this big speech...thus the boring movie title "The King’s Speech."

When you think of movies that center on Kings and their grandiose lifestyles, you envision great layers of complexity and huge budgets required to capture that particular period in history.  This movie was made on a shoe string but still does an incredible job of creating that big feel. It gets away with the small budget by lightly sprinkling in the big buck cinematography while concentrating instead on this unheard of friendship formed between a King and a commoner.  It is funny at times...much of the on going humor revolves around the King's demands for Lionel to treat him as royalty and Lionel's total disregard for his "kiss my ring" ways.  It is gut wrenching at others... as we feel the pain, anxiety, and anguish the King is dealing with every hour of every day because of his affliction.  I would never have thought a movie about stuttering could be so captivating. Colin Firth has been nominated for the Academy Award for his performance, and rightfully so, but equally worthy would be Geoffrey Rush.  He is nominated for best supporting actor...but to me it was a best actor performance for sure.  If you can get past the boring title and just make the effort to get to the theater, you will be pleasantly pleased with this wonderfully inspiring little-big movie!

True Grit - Written & Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Is it just me or is Jeff Bridges the coolest dude to ever walk the face of this planet. I remember seeing "The Fabulous Baker Boys" and thinking how can one guy be that cool. If you haven’t seen that flick make sure you do...not only a good movie but Jeff Bridges is so cool. Now that I have worn out, the already worn out, word "cool"....let me tell you about his latest movie.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Cool...I mean Coen... "True Grit" is a remake of an older John Wayne vehicle by the same name. I think everyone who, is not still in the womb, has probably viewed the original that also starred one of my favorite actors Glen Campbell...(not really)....although I could listen to "Rhinestone Cowboy" all day long...(not really). As most of you regular readers are aware, I will go see anything the Coen brothers put out and to have Jeff Bridges starring is icing on the cake. If you have ever been to a Coen brother movie, you know you should always expect the unexpected. This dynamic duo does not normally think the same way most of us do. There are always incredible plot twists and turns that are the signatures of these two talented home-grown Minnesota boys. For "True Grit," however, they pretty much stay true to the original movie as well as the Charles Portia novel, with no big surprises or any new plot twists and turns....which really shocked me.

So for the handful of you out there who have never seen the original, let me give you the skinny. Mattie Ross (Hailee Stienfeld) plays a smart as a whip teenager whose father is murdered by low life gunman Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) a take no crap, red nose drunk who also just happens to be a U.S. Marshal, to track down and bring to justice the evil Tom Chaney. Matt Damon tags along as the inept Texas Ranger Leboeuf who is chasing after Tom Chaney for another unrelated murder.

Jeff Bridges, as we saw in his Oscar winning performance in "Crazy Heart" as well as his memorable role as "the Dude" in The Great Labowski (another Coen brother movie) has turned the art of being a drunk into a full time gig and nobody does it better. Matt Damon, as the doofus Texas Ranger, is hilarious and it was such a pleasant surprise to see he was onboard for this movie...who doesn’t like Matt Damon?...he’s awesome! Another pleasant surprise was the performance turned in by newcomer Hailee Stienfeld. Her portrayal of Mattie, a straight laced, no nonsense teenager who will not let anything get in the way of avenging her fathers death is remarkable. There is a scene in the movie where she talks a savvy horse trader out of just about everything he owns that is worth the price of admission. She definitely holds her own with this heavy weight cast and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

If your goal is to see a wonderfully filmed and acted western, you can’t go wrong with "True Grit." Like I said from the beginning, I am a huge Jeff Bridges fan. My only wish would be that he does not get typecast as a drunk in all of his "after 55" roles. It would be a shame, for one of my favorite actors, to become pigeonholed for roles that always require him to have blurry, blood shot eyes and a red nose.....but I still think he’s the coolest!

The Green Hornet - Directed by
Michel Gondry

I hate to talk badly about any movie. I know all the hard work that goes into making one. Yes, I too was once in a motion picture. As a matter of fact my wife and I pulled it out last night, blew off the dust it had been collecting and put it into our DVD player. I honestly did not remember me being so terrible in the movie. All of my friends who saw it, said I was great....except for my buddy John Horita, who told me the movie should have been called Sewer not Sever....I guess he was the only honest one of the bunch. Don’t bother looking for the movie on Netflix. I don’t think it was ever released because there was some sort of legal dispute over another movie that was made around the same time and they owned the rights to the name Sever....probably a good thing for our viewing public. I do have about five DVD copies, so if any of you are a masochists and want to inflict some real pain...just email me for one and I will send it to you in a plain paper bag....no one has to know!

Now back to the Green Hornet. For those of you not familiar with the Green Hornet, it started out as a comic and radio series back in the 30's. Some of you may even recall the tv series that had Bruce Lee as the side kick, Kato. Long story short....Brit Reid (Seth Rogen) is a spoiled brat newspaper magnate by day and an ass kicking vigilante by night. Along with Kato (Jay Chou) they seek out bad guys in the city and unleash some high tech whoop ass. The two also battle for the attention of Cameron Diaz who plays Lenore Case.

From what I’ve heard through my contacts in the movie industry (mainly the National Enquirer and People magazine) the director of this film was Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) but the guy that was really pushing the buttons and calling the shots was Seth Rogen. Yes from the humble beginnings of his first stoner movie Pineapple Express, Seth Rogen is now a Hollywood big shot. He was also the writer of this movie and his fingerprints are obviously all over what we see on the screen.

In my humble opinion, aside from the cool customized gun toting car and the slow motion fight scenes, the movie is just one big mess. The acting sucks and I had all I could do to keep from getting up and sneaking into another movie. Seth Rogen was obviously blowing a little weed when he put this story together. It’s almost as if they threw out the script and just improvised every scene. I expected a lot more out of Rogen. Cameron Diaz looked out of place and puffy. Jay Chou as Kato was the only character worth watching. His kung fu fighting scenes and hilarious butchering of the English language were all that kept me in my seat. Perhaps the most stupid scene I have ever viewed... had to be the part where their car gets cut in half yet they are still able to drive around. Then to add insults to injury, they are able to drive it into a public elevator and take it up 40 flights. It then comes out on the top floor and they continue to drive it around the hallways shooting at the bad guys....are you kidding me??!! If you have to see this stinker wait until it’s on the dollar clearance rack at Wal-Mart....and even then you’re spending a buck too much.

Black Swan - Directed by Darren Aronofsky

Before I get into the review...a cute story.  A few years back I was looking for something to do for date night and saw the end of an advertisement on TV for tickets to a performance of Swan Lake at the State Theater.  So I ordered up a pair and took my wife.  We sat down in our seats near the front row and settled in for a night of ballet.  It was around intermission time...yes we are a little slow...that my wife looked at me and I looked at her and we both said almost at the same time, "did you notice there aren’t any women in this show?"  We looked around at the rest of the audience and suddenly noticed it was almost entirely men with other men.  Sure enough it was the "all male" production of Swan Lake, which had totally escaped me when I purchased the tickets online.  We laughed so hard at my little oversight that I thought we would get thrown out!  Luckily we didn’t and we stayed for the entire show and it was great...although needless to say, not quite what we had expected!

Black Swan was not quite what I expected either.  Darren Aronofsky directed "The Wrestler" and for a low budget movie I was quite impressed with his end result.  So it didn’t take much persuading for me to go see his latest feature film.  Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballerina in a New York City ballet company.  As the movie begins to unfold we see that she is obviously driven to be the best darn little ballerina you could ask for...she practices until her feet bleed and purges on a regular basis.  She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who is, to say the least, just a little bit odd...she kind of reminded me of the mother in the movie "Carrie."  She is just as obsessed with her daughter’s career as her daughter is.

To put it in the proverbial nutshell...nut being the key word here...the artistic director for the ballet company Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace the prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) because she’s getting too old and wants to recast a younger ballerina for the opening production of their new season of Swan Lake.  Nina is the obvious pick, but Lily (Mila Kunis) is the new girl in town and she also catches the eye of the philandering ballet director.  Swan Lake requires the lead ballerina to play both the White Swan with innocence and beauty as well as the Black Swan that is sly and cunning.  Nina would be perfect as the White Swan, but Lily is the embodiment of the Black Swan.  Hence the rivalry that is set up between the two.  The ballet director insists that if Nina is to be the prima ballerina he is looking for, she must get in touch with her dark side.  This is where the movie starts to get a little crazy.

The director toys with our senses, as we are often left wondering if what we are seeing is the real deal, or are we just privy to Nina’s vivid imagination.  Not to give away too much of the movie, but Nina, we find out, has some real issues.  The kind where she needs to take a few years off and go see a good shrink.  The scenes that followed were dark, unsettling, bizarre, and made me grimace nonstop.  Much of the film is shot with a single hand held camera to give you even more of a front row voyeuristic view of the self mutilation that has become a big part of Nina’s world.

One last funny note for a not so funny movie...Natalie Portman said "Everyone was so worried about who was going to want to see this movie.  How do you get guys to a ballet movie?  How do you get girls to a thriller?  And the answer is a lesbian scene, everyone wants to see that!" Well not quite everyone.  This was a well made movie with great acting and thrills abound...but I found it hard to watch...which I am sure was what they were hoping for...but if I want to see this much bizarre graphic dysfunction, I will just go to my Netflix account and pull up the movie "Sybil!"

The Fighter - Directed by David O. Russell

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one...Let me start right off by saying, it’s my absolute favorite movie of the year!  I went into the movie expecting just a "Rocky" type remake...and don’t get me wrong, I loved Rocky...but this movie is much more in so many different ways.

When I heard that Mark Wahlberg was one of the stars of this picture, I was a little skeptical.  Not that I don’t like Wahlberg, but his movies are usually hit or miss...and lately I have seen him in a lot more misfires than straight shots that hit the target. But let me tell you, he was great!  Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, a real life boxer from Lowell, Massachusetts who has become little more than a punching bag for better fighters on their way up.  Now if the movie just focused on Wahlberg’s character it could have surely become just another Rocky type movie, but it branches out to encompass the entire Ward family and their friends...and that’s what makes this movie a 10.

There’s Micky’s older brother Dicky Eklund, whose only claim to fame was 14 years earlier, he fought Sugar Ray Leonard and knocked him down...or did he just slip?  Christian Bale plays Dicky who has now become a crack addict in the worst possible way....not that there is a good crack addict, but you know what I mean.  Bale has to win the best actor Academy Award or I will know once and for all that the Oscars are fixed and will never watch again.  Jaw Dropping...are the only two words I can use to describe his performance...actually I guess there are a few more, like incredible, mesmerizing, touching, outrageous, beautiful, courageous, thought provoking, manipulative, dynamic, blah blah blah... HE IS THE MAN!!!

The last thing I saw actress Amy Adams in was a Disney flick called "Enchanted" and those "Night at the Museum" movies where she was "oh so soft and delicate"...so I didn’t know what to expect from her in this gritty movie.  However, like everyone else in the film, she delivers her own knock out performance as a college drop out - turned bartender who plays Micky’s girlfriend Charlene Flemming.  It is Charlene who finally gets Micky to open his eyes so he can realize his true potential and escape the stranglehold his mother and brother have put on him. She is a street smart gal who takes crap from no one and can throw a punch almost as good as Micky himself...as shown in one of the funnier moments of the movie when she delivers a beat down to one of Micky’s sisters.  Charlene is sexy and confident yet flawed and fragile. Another jaw dropping performance, I kid you not!

I would be remiss to not mention, in a big way, the acting chops of Melissa Leo who plays Micky’s jerk mother, Alice Ward.  You despise her because all she cares about is her crack addict son, Dicky, and what he once was, while refusing to see what he has now become.  For some reason she cannot allow herself to see Micky as the son with all the real potential and deserving of the love and affection she never shows him.  She has that hardened look that is only brought on by years filled with straight shots of Jack and an endless chain of Marlboro reds.  She is a survivor who will not let anyone get in her way of manipulating her sons’ lives....that is until she meets Charlene.

I could go on about every little character actor in the movie and how great they were but you would probably just get bored and not finish my review.  I would just add that for a movie to be great, like this one, it has to have more than just great actors...the other real winners of this movie would have to be the script by Scott Silver, the cinematography that so vividly captures the raw and desolate feel of blue collar Lowell, Massachusetts and finally the music soundtrack...that if not being sold as a CD or on ITunes...should be!

"The Fighter" is the story of life...its highs and lows and everything in between...told and shown in a way that makes this film an absolute must see!!!

Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Directed by David Yates

I remember reading the first Harry Potter book to my kids when they were in grade school back in 1997.  The book weighed as much as my son Dougie did back then and I currently use it as a ladder during the winter when I have to reach the very top of my roof to remove ice dams.

Fast forward to 2010 and we find it all starting to wrap up with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.  This time I didn’t read the book because I wanted to squeeze in a few other activities over the next 2 years....so much like George Costanza...I just went straight to the movie.  Of course it’s your usual cast of characters, except now instead of sucking their thumbs they have all started shaving; either their face or legs...some both.  Yes, the gang has grown up right before our eyes.  Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reprise their roles as Harry, Hermoine, and Ron.

As the movie opens we are reminded that Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore is dead and as a result things are getting a little out of hand in the world of wizards.  The evil Voldemort has pretty much taken over the Ministry of Magic and his number one goal is to terminate our hero.  Harry, however, is not about to stand idly by and along with Ron and Hermoine they set out to destroy Voldemort's Horcruxes.  In case you don’t speak the Potter lingo...a horcruxe is an object in which a person has concealed part of their soul. If you can destroy Voldemort’s horcruxes you can destroy Voldemort...if you can’t he will remain immortal....and no one wants that, except maybe Kim Jong iI..

A lot of the movie takes place in a forest that serves as a safe place for the trio to chill and reflect on the troubles that lie ahead.  The only problem is those scenes were so slow and drawn out that all I wanted to do was slip out for my free refills on pop and popcorn.  The special effects of course are the saving grace and make it all worthwhile.  From what I understand there is one more blockbuster movie left and that’s the one that is suppose to be nothing but action packed...rest assured I will be in the front of that line come opening day!!! Until then "may the force be with you"......... sorry wrong movie.

Morning Glory - Directed by Roger Michell

My friend, Marge, told me I should review more feature films that women would be interested in.  Not that I am some sort of macho man, but I refer to those as "girly" movies.  Just kidding, of course, but I have to admit I do lean towards reviewing the hard hitting, shoot’em up, blood and guts, guy-type of movies.

My daughter, Katie, agrees with Marge and called me up the other day and convinced me to go with her to see Morning Glory.  She currently attends St. Cloud State University, so she was good enough to meet me halfway and we ended up at the beautiful Meuller Cineplex in Monticello.  She sprang for the tickets and I was in charge of beverages and popcorn...and we were good to go!

Rachel McAdams stars as Becky Fuller, a workaholic TV producer, who is fired from a local news station and then gets a new job as producer for "Daybreak" (a "Good Morning America" type national news show that is in last place.)  She then tries to breathe new life into the sinking morning show by bringing on board, legendary TV anchor, Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford).  Pomeroy turns out to be the biggest pain in the rear you could possibly ask for.  He refuses to do anything morning shows are known for: i.e.celebrity gossip, fashion, cooking etc.  He also clashes with his co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton).  Throw into the mix a budding romance Becky is having with fellow producer Adam Bennett (Patrick Wilson) and you have the makings for a cute and humorous little movie.  The cast also includes Jeff Goldblum as Becky’s disheveled boss who gives her six weeks to change things around or the show will be canceled.

Morning Glory is what I would call the perfect "date" movie.  The cast was delightful and the movie overall was very charming.  It’s warm and fuzzy and just makes you feel good all over. No blood and guts...just good clean fun.  Begrudgingly, I must confess, it was a nice change of pace from my usual fare of bedazzling special effects and rapid gun fire.

Due Date - Directed by Todd Phillips

Those of you who are regular readers of my reviews know that I don’t miss anything that Robert Downey Jr. is in...so it's not to hard to figure that I am writing this review on Due Date. Downey is one of my favorite actors and never fails to disappoint....until now.

Peter Highman (Robert Downey Jr.) is trying to get home from Atlanta to Los Angeles so he can watch his wife Sarah (Michelle Monaghan) give birth to their first child. Enter Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) who proceeds to not only get them thrown off the plane they are on, but to make matters worse, they have now also been put on a no-fly list. To add insult to injury, Peter loses his wallet and has no choice but to accept a ride with Ethan for the 2,000 mile road trip home.

One of my favorite all time comedies is Planes, Trains & Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy...and judging from all the trailers I saw for Due Date...I thought this would quickly become another classic....not to be! Don’t get me wrong...this movie has some really funny moments...it’s just that there is a lot of stuff that just made me cringe. In particular, a masturbating scene that is just plain crude, a brutal beating, a wasted cameo by Jamie Foxx, just to name a few. I know a lot of people refer to movies like this as dark comedies.  To be honest, I am just not a big fan of comedies that don’t make me laugh, whether they are designed that way or not. To repeat, the movie does deliver some big laughs, it’s just that they are not sustained and as a result the movie is just too bumpy of a ride for my taste.  And to be fair...I guess I can’t really blame it all on Downey or Galifianakis...they gave the best performance they could considering the script they were given.

My biggest complaint though is why Zach Galifianakis ever chose that last name. Galifianakis is so hard to spell and pronounce and it takes me an hour just to type. It’s like he put a bunch of letters from the alphabet into a jar and the first 13 he drew out he would use for his last name. Good thing the guy is an incredible comedic actor or I would simply refer to him as "the other guy".

Hereafter - Directed by Clint Eastwood

Anything that Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon are attached to, I am going to be the first in line when the movie opens.  That was exactly the case for the movie Hereafter.  Since I am not quite at the point where the producers fly me out for the red carpet openings or Fed-Ex me an advance copy of their movie to review...believe it or not, I stand in line just like you common folk.  Last Friday I headed up to the movie theater that just happens to be a convenient 2 minutes from my office, purchased my ticket with a box of popcorn (lightly buttered) and a diet pepsi and was in my seat before the previews even started.  Am I the only one who could watch 2 hours of just previews?  Some people complain there should be no previews.  I am all for adding another 15 minutes worth or maybe having a separate free theater on the premise that shows nothing but previews...that would be cool!

The Hereafter opens in a big way with an incredibly filmed tsunami.  Although this is not a 3-D movie, you will feel like you are right in the middle of this natural disaster.  It is truly breathtaking.  From this point on our story interweaves the lives of three central characters -- Matt Damon plays George, a psychic who is the real deal but does not look upon his ability as a gift but a curse.  Cecile de France plays a French television journalist named Marie who survives the tsunami after nearly drowning and having a near death experience.  Frankie McLaren play Marcus, a young English boy whose twin brother is killed in a car accident.

As you can tell by the name of the film, the movie is all about the hereafter.  Everybody has varying opinions on this topic...some believe...some don’t.  Clint, as he likes me to call him, lays it all out in a manner that I don’t think anyone would have a problem with.  (I don’t care that you’re not suppose to use the word "with" at the end of a sentence...I love dangling participles!)  I have no problem with the actors in this movie either...they are all great.  The McLaren twins have very few lines but command your attention whenever they are on screen. Matt Damon, is like Tom Hanks, what’s not to like?  The guy is incredible in everything he stars in.  I don’t think I have ever seen Cecile de France in anything else but I hope I see her in a lot more.

My only problem with Clint, and his directing of this film, is a lot of directors do not spend enough time on character development, so you end up not really caring what happens to them. Clint goes totally in the other direction and spends way too much time on character development... and I didn’t think that was possible!  As a result, the movie’s pace is so slow at times that you almost find yourself saying "enough already lets move along here"!  I really enjoyed the film but wish about 20 to 30 minutes had been left on the editing floor.  If you're like me, you have ever wondered about the hereafter, I don’t think you will find a better film to explore the possibilities. Remember to ask your boss if you can get out of work early next Tuesday to go vote and while you're at it you might as well go see a good movie...you deserve it!

Red - Directed by Robert Schwentke

I always like going to a new movie on the Friday afternoon that it is released.  I am usually one of the only ones in the theater and it feels like I am having a private screening.  Not for RED’s... I got into my seat just before noon and was surprised to look around and see the seats were about 3/4's full.  It was obviously a 50+ crowd and I am sure that’s who the producers were banking would show up. They got it right and it brought in an impressive $22 million dollars opening weekend!

As I understand it the original story was a three issue comic book that had a much darker tone that was void of any humor. For the big screen adaptation they lightened things up a lot and brought in an all star cast of "old but still kicking" actors including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine.

RED stands for "Retired and Extremely Dangerous".  The movie centers on a group of former government assassins who are now the target of the CIA.  A few unsavory politicians think the retired team knows too much and has put out their own hit squad to take them out.  Little do they know this over-the-hill gang can still pack a punch.  All of our geriatric stars are up to the task of keeping us well entertained for a couple of hours with some great shoot ’em up fight scenes and some hilarious dead pan humor.  If you're looking for something that has deep meaning and will bring on a cathartic moment or two you might want to pass on this one...but if you just want to take a couple hours off to smile and feel good, this movie delivers in spades.

The Social Network - Directed by David Fincher

If you have not heard of Facebook...you are either living on another planet or you're my parents.  There are something like a billion people who use Facebook everyday.  They use it to let you know everything from their marital status to what time of day they are blowing their nose.

Facebook, the movie, takes us back to 2003 where a little snot nose Harvard undergrad and computer programming guru named Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) comes up with an idea to rate the girls on campus if they are "hot" or "not".  Within hours, everyone at the school is online filling out the tasteless poll and the entire school mainframe is overloaded and crashes. Gaining a little notoriety on campus from the episode, a pair of well-to-do twin brothers (Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence) attending the school, approach Zuckerberg to develop an online social network for all Harvard students.  Zuckerberg accepts the offer from the Winklevoss twins, but then gives them the run around until he has enough time to launch his own social network that would of course go on to become known as Facebook.

Much of the movie plays out in a high priced lawyer's office where Zuckerberg is being sued by the Winklevoss twins for stealing their idea.  At the same time he is also being sued by Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield).  Saverin is Zuckerberg’s former college friend who was the first CFO of the company who put up all the initial backing money to get the company off the ground only to have Zuckerberg screw him out of all his promised shares.  Interspersed throughout these proceedings are flashbacks that show how it all started.  This is where we are also introduced to Napster founder Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake).  Zuckerberg thinks Parker is an internet God and quickly invites him to be part of his Facebook empire.

The acting is superb and I mean top notch!  Jesse Eisenberg has come a long way from his original breakout acting role as the buddy to Woody Harrelson in Zombieland.  If Zuckerberg is even a fraction of the jerk he is portrayed as by Eisenberg...this guy deserves to be tarred and feathered while being viewed online by all Facebook users.  The same holds true for Justin Timberlake...he was spot on at portraying the Napster founder as a clever, manipulating playboy with a penchant for cocaine and underage women. Obviously much of the credit for the success of this movie is also owed to director David Fincher (Fight Club) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing).  Let's hope these two collaborate again real soon.  Get out and see this movie...it’s a lot of fun and make sure you tell all your friends...post it on Facebook!

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps - Directed by Oliver Stone

I thought the first Wall Street was incredible...it was fast paced, exciting, intelligent, blah, blah, blah!!!  However, the sequel is just pretty good... and "pretty good" is OK with me.  They can’t all be home runs...just ask the Twins!

This time around Jake Moore (Shia LaBeouf) plays the Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) wannabe character and Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is back as the guy who knows all too much about greed.  As a matter of fact, when we last saw Gordon, he was heading to prison to do a stretch in the big house for letting his greed get the best of him.  Flash forward to 2008 and Gekko is out of prison pimping his new book appropriately titled, "Is Greed Good?"  Jake is involved with Gekko’s daughter Winnie (Carey Mulligan.)  He also just happens to be proprietary trader for a Lehman Brothers type firm called Keller Zabel Investments headed by Louis Zabel (Frank Langella, one of my favorite character actors.)  So knowing all that ahead of time, it just makes good movie sense that Jake would meet Gekko after he attends one of his book signings, and despite his daughters warnings, gets involved with the always greedy Gekko.  Josh Brolin plays the even greedier (is that a word?) Bretton James, the head of another powerful investment bank.  Brolin’s character is so despicable (I thought I was overusing the word greedy) he makes Gekko look like Santa Claus...not a very nice guy!

What’s fascinating about this movie is it actually makes clear, in a movie sort of way, what actually happened when our economy almost collapsed.  It feels like we are voyeurs peeking in on our government as it tried to make sense of what was going on and what it felt it had to do to keep those greedy banks afloat so our country would do the same.  Wall Street 2 is once again fast paced, exciting, and all those other adjectives that Wall Street 1 was... it’s just that it comes up just a little short on developing characters that we really care about.  You also question some of the story line.  For instance, you can’t quite believe that such a sharp guy like Jake would even fall prey to the evil Gekko.  That said, I would say go see the movie and don’t be greedy....share your popcorn!

The Town - Directed by Ben Affleck

I have never been a big Ben Affleck fan... and NO it's not because I am jealous of what a good looking guy he is... and NO it's not because he always gets all the good looking girls... and NO it's not because he has all that money.... well, maybe it has to do with some of that... but mainly I have just found him to be a pretty boring actor to watch on the big screen.  However, I thought Gone Baby Gone, his directorial debut a couple of years back, was a pretty decent movie. This time around he's doing double duty serving as both the star and director of "The Town"...and I’ll tell you right up front... Affleck is back on my good side!!!

The Town is a well crafted crime drama that takes place in Charlestown, Boston. The movie opens to an aerial view of the blue collar city and a graphic that dissolves in, letting us know from the get-go that this town is also "the bank robbery capital of America."  It quickly becomes evident that a prerequisite for living in Charlestown is you must know your way around a gun and someone in your family must be serving time in the big house for a stick up gone wrong.

I like a movie that grabs you by the shirt collar right from the very beginning and The Town does just that by giving us front row seats to a bank robbery that is just starting to unfold. The meticulous manner in which this crew carries out the job lets us in on the fact that these guys know their stuff. No detail is overlooked and they are simply a smooth running machine.

Here is the nuts and bolts on this charismatic crew of crime...Doug MacRay (Affleck) is the consummate professional; smooth, calm, and the brains of the outfit.  Jimmy (Jeremy Renner) is the ex-con/trigger man who is ready to blow you away if you so much as...well come to think of it, you don’t have to do anything and the guy will erase you from this world before you have a chance to blink.  Albert (Slaine) is the wheel man and Desmond (Owen Burke) is the technician who can shut down any alarm or surveillance system at the drop of a dime.  These guys are good in all the bad ways!

Of course all movies, especially ones with Ben Affleck, have to have a love interest or two. Enter Claire (Rebecca Hall), a bank manager who is taken hostage during the opening bank robbery as insurance for a safe getaway.  Since the crew is wearing masks, they release Claire after they are out of harm’s way.  But Jimmy, the hot head, finds out that Claire lives in the neighborhood and thinks she might cause problems down the road.  Doug, sensing that Jimmy might try turning Claire’s lights out, says he will keep an eye on her himself.  He follows her to a laundromat and makes her acquaintance and the two quickly fall in love, complicating matters even further.

Adding to the crew’s problems is a relentless FBI agent (Jon Hamm) and Jimmy’s sister, Krista (Blake Lively).  In my opinion Hamm is a little too over-the-top, but Lively is spectacular as Doug’s former girlfriend who now lives her life out of a glass of booze and a bottle of pills. Cameos from Chris Cooper as Doug’s dad doing life behind bars and Pete Postlethwaite as the head gangster in town give the movie even more credibility.

Not to put Ben down, but my favorite crook in the movie was actually the "hot head" played by Renner....the guy is the crazy glue that keeps the movie together and steals every scene he is in.  His honed acting skills are worth the price of admission all by itself.  My favorite movie of this genre is "Heat" starring Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, and Al Pacino.  If you haven’t seen it, go out and rent it and you will know what I am talking about.  It would be tough to knock that one off the pedestal, but "The Town" comes in a distant second, or maybe third....and that’s not all bad!!!

The Expendables - Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke.  The last time I saw this much testosterone in a movie was when.............come to think of it, I have never seen another movie with this much muscle and swagger!  You all know what a sucker I am for the this genre of movie...and this one is no exception.

The Expendables is an action packed thriller that doesn’t give you a chance to breathe until it’s all over.  Sylvester Stallone directs and stars in this fast paced macho man movie.  Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is the leader of an elite group of misfit mercenaries who is a no frills kind of guy.  He fears nothing and trusts only his elite team of combat ready professionals.  The team includes Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), a kick ass-talk later sort of guy whose weapon of choice is any size knife you want to put in front of him.  Yin Yang (Jet Li) provides much of the comic relief and of course is a master at close-quarter combat.  Toll Road (Randy Couture) is a demolitions expert. Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren) is a giant of a man and also a bit psychotic to say the least.  His character this time around is even more ominous (my big word for the week) than his well portrayed Rocky 4 role as Ivan Drago.

The team's mission...should they decide to accept it...which they will, or I would not be writing this review, is to topple a South American country’s army and its evil regime.  You heard it right...Stallone thinks big...he’s not happy with a plot that snuffs out just a couple of guys, he wants us to believe that this handful of mischievous mercenaries is capable of annihilating an entire country....and guess what?  He made a believer out of me!!!

Once things get cooking, we realize it’s a puppet regime that is being run by rogue CIA operative James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his trusty henchman Paine (played by Stone Cold Steve Austin.)  Gotta love that name!  Roberts always plays a great bad guy and delivers as a money grubbing, maniacal, sleaze who is up to the task of making sure our band of modern day warriors have their hands full 24/7.  Sandra (Giselle Itie) is Barney’s token love interest who plays a freedom fighter who he just can’t leave behind.

It’s a fun movie that brings together some of our most remembered action movie stars of the last 20 years.  I hope there is a sequel, but these guys aren’t getting any younger, so they better do it soon.  Mike A. from Champlin sent me an email and thinks they’re too old already and a good name for the next movie would be "The Dependsables".  I’m sure Stallone has gotten used to those types of comments over the years but probably forgets about them as soon as he deposits those multi-million dollar paychecks.

Dinner For Schmucks - Directed by Jay Roach

I had the opportunity to spend a few days up at my cabin in Clear Lake last weekend.  Went golfing with my wife, son, and nephew.  When we got done, it was so hot and steamy, we thought the best way to cool off would be going to the movies. Who am I to argue with that logic?  Love the movies!!!  (Notice how I did not mention my golf score?)  My nephew, Logan Gartin and I voted for Dinner For Schmucks, and my wife and son wanted to see The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  There movie started a little earlier than ours so we just cooled off in the lobby until Schmucks started.  Just as the trailers ended and Schmucks was about to start we saw my wife and son sneak into our movie...apparently The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was lacking the movie magic they had hoped for...good move on their part because this movie was a laugh fest and just the right stuff to help me forget about my earlier golf score!!!

I knew we chose the right movie as soon as I saw Jay Roach was the director...he helmed the incredibly successful Meet the Fockers and Austin Powers franchises.  The movie is an adaptation of the foreign film Le Diner de Cons...a little tidbit for those of you that want to bedazzle your friends with your incredible knowledge of French cinema.

After seeing Inception a few weeks ago...it was nice to now see a movie that had a plot that didn’t make my head feel like it was going to explode.  Paul Rudd is a businessman trying to get a promotion at a Wall Street type investment firm.  His boss is a shady jerk who has a monthly dinner event at his home known as the "dinner for idiots."  Rudd and other top guns from the company are invited to the dinner and whoever brings the biggest idiot of the night will get the top floor office.

Enter Steve Carell....prior to the monthly event Rudd runs into Carell, literally, and from that moment on we know who he will be bringing to the "idiot" dinner.  Carell is perfect as one of the most insane characters you will ever see in a movie.  The guy does not have a clue and no matter how hard he tries to do the right thing...it’s just not going to happen.  I don’t know if I was just woozy from the heat that day, but I can’t remember laughing so hard in quite some time. Slapstick and sight gags, if not handled right, can be a real turn off...not in this movie...almost every other scene has some sort of prat fall or hilarious knock down that works every time!

The supporting cast gets a great big WOW from me!  They were sooooo good.  Jemaine Clement plays Keiran, an artist super star so self absorbed that every one of his famous painting is of himself.  Zach Galifianakis, from The Hangover, plays an over the top IRS agent who steals every scene he is in.  Lucy Punch plays the stalking ex-girlfriend of Paul Rudd and puts a funny spin on a Glen Close/Fatal Attraction type character.

This comedy is not for everyone but when it was all over my nephew Logan and I were sure glad we passed on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

Salt - Directed by Phillip Noyce

Although the movie’s been panned by just about every other critic out there...I have to disagree...I thought the movie Salt was a great time.  Sure it’s not going to win many academy awards but if you like your movies fast and furious like I do and don’t mind seeing the world's most gorgeous woman on the big screen for a couple of hours...checking out Salt should be a no brainer!!!

Granted, the script is a little weak but remember Salt was originally written for Tom Cruise so they had to unfortunately mess around with some key plot elements to make it all work for a female lead.  Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent who is accused by a Russian defector of being a mole for the bad guys.  To her dismay, this allegation is made while she is interrogating the defector in front of her boss and all her other CIA cronies.  Salt, sensing that her peers believe that the rat is telling the truth, tries to make a hasty exit.  The building is quickly put into lock down mode to try and thwart her escape.  Early on we see that Salt is no ordinary CIA pencil pusher.  One opening scene, during the initial chase by her CIA mates, has her trapped in an office where she is quickly able to whip up a make shift rocket launcher with just a couple cleaning products and a few handy office items.  We immediately are put on notice that this babe is not just eye candy but a well trained covert operative.

The script adds another interesting plot twist having us believe that the Russians have planted sleeper agents that have just been hanging out for the last 20 years or so waiting to go into action.  Who would ever believe that could happen in real life....oh yeah it just did, didn’t it...duh!!! I should mention that Liev Schrieber (Wolverine’s brother in X Men) is great in this movie too.  He was Salt’s partner and appears to be the only one who believes Salt is playing for the right team.

I don’t know of any other woman in Hollywood who could have pulled off this action flick.  Rarely does Angelina Jolie not deliver and Salt is no exception.  Maybe not the best spy movie ever but.....great fight scenes, car chases, explosions and more twists and turns than the Wild Thing coaster at Valley Fair... the movie’s another thrill ride that doesn’t stop until the lights come up!

Inception - Directed by Christopher Nolan

I was anticipating a good movie once I saw who was onboard.  The director Christopher Nolan scored big, in my book, with his other thought provoking movies including Memento, The Prestige, and Dark Knight.  You can hardly go wrong with Leonardo DiCaprio and I immediately fell in love (cinematically speaking) with Ellen Page the first time I saw her in Juno.  So from the very first trailer that came out...I was psyched to say the least!  With my wife and son spending a week in Alaska visiting my daughter...I had nothing holding me back opening weekend that would keep me from reviewing Nolan’s latest offering --  Inception.

WOW WHAT A MOVIE!!!  Yes, right from the get go I must tell you how impressed I was with Inception!  It’s got everything I like in a film...great acting, suspense, thrills, chills, and special effects that will blow your mind.  To be honest, not since The Matrix have I seen a movie offering such ground breaking movie magic.

Inception centers around a team of highly trained individuals who literally get into peoples heads for a living.  Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), known as an "extractor", heads up the team and has accepted an incredibly complicated mission that has absolutely no room for error.  In the proverbial nut shell...they use a special intravenous-type machine that has a line with syringes at the end that injects into the veins of the teams' arms as well as the individual whose dreams they are trying to incept.  For this caper, the team is hired to enter their target's dreams to implant an idea so that the target will later make a major business decision that will benefit the guy that hired the team.  Believe me...it's much more complicated than that and so much more fun to watch it all evolve.

Each member of Cobb’s team is highly specialized and brings to the table their own specific set of skills.  Ariadne (Ellen Page) shines as the "architect" in the group and is responsible for creating the elaborate landscape and scenery that the target dreams.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt (remember him, the little kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun) I predict will be a big star some day and plays Arthur, Cobb’s sidekick.  Tom Hardy is a scene stealer and plays "the forger".  His role is to take on other peoples identities within the dream to gain the target's trust.  The list goes on and on with every actor turning in great performances.

The only thing that keeps this movie from scoring a perfect 10 with me...is that is too long.  I think they could have edited, even this cerebral movie, down by at least a half hour and that would have worked just fine for me.  Even the incredible special effects start to grow a little old after you have seen the same thing over and over...it’s like a magician doing a great trick and then just keeps repeating the trick.  It’s got all the right ingredients, it's just been cooked a little bit too long.

Twilight Eclipse - Directed by David Slade

I have to admit there are very few sequels that I have enjoyed more than the original.  Case in point, the mostly ridiculous and embarrassing sequels for The Sting, Meatballs, Rambo, The Godfather after 1 and 2, Dumb and Dumber, Blues Brothers, Caddy Shack, Grease, and the list goes on and on.  Eclipse, however, the third in the series of these Twilight movies is the best so far. Not that I have been overly impressed by any of them...at least each film has been better than the last!

This time around we find a new breed of blood sucking killer vampires that are wreaking havoc on the good people of Seattle while preparing to wage war on Edward, his family, and Bella.  Bella, played by Kristen Stewart, also gets torn between her love for Edward (Robert Pattinson) and what appears to be a more than growing fondness for the always bare-chested Jacob (Taylor Lautner.) This girl sure knows how to pick ‘em...vampire or werewolf...she should have stuck with that geeky group she’s always shown eating lunch with at her high school.

Owed to the success of the first two movies, they sunk a few more bucks into the special effects this time around and that works for me. Some pretty cool fight scenes, I’m sure, used up most of that budget. Visually, my only complaint would be that every time they show Bella and Edward together it's a close up shot...and I mean close up...we can literally count the pores on their faces.  Some of those shots are held for what feels like an eternity...a few more creative angles during those scenes would have been welcomed.  Although I am sure I am not the target audience for this teen love story...I liked it for having just enough of "this and that" to keep even an old dog...or should I say wolf... like me sticking around until the final credits started rolling.

Grown Ups - Directed by Dennis Dugan

If you like movies that include non stop fart jokes, scantily clad young women, adults acting like morons and lots of sophomoric pranks...then don’t stop to have anyone pull your finger...just get to the theater and see Grown Ups...because this goof-fest was made for you!!!  Now it’s not that I don’t care for any of the items listed above...I just think that they should be sprinkled in...not just dumped on us for 2 hours straight.

Long story short...and the shorter the better for this review...a group of kids who were on a winning basketball team reunite years later when their team coach dies.  They all meet up for his funeral and along with their dysfunctional families spend a weekend together on the lake.  Think "The Big Chill" meets "Meatballs"...and you’re almost there.  I like all the comics featured including Adam Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Chris Rock....just not in this film.  There’s not much chemistry to speak of between themselves or their family members.  If I didn’t know better...and I usually don’t...it’s almost as if these five guys had a break in their schedules and said "Hey Adam, get some of your camera crew together and lets ad lib a movie this weekend....it’ll make millions!"  (and it did, over $40 million opening weekend).

Grown Ups, like its main characters, is a little sloppy and overweight.  There’s lots of fat that could have been trimmed from this porker.

Knight and Day - Directed by James Mangold

Wow what a busy summer so far...just got back from our annual trip to Birch Lane Resort in Pine River, Minnesota.  Went golfing at Breezy Point and caught some monster fish on Horseshoe Lake.  But, now on to more important things....

I know that a lot of you have never been able to get over the infamous Tom Cruise meltdown on Oprah a few years back or the fact that he dumped Nicole Kidman for no apparent reason.  But I think you will agree, after watching his latest movie Knight and Day, the guy still has "the stuff" when it comes to being a great action movie hero.

The storyline revolves around a young scientist played by Paul Dano, who develops a battery that will never wear out.  It goes without saying, this is a game changer that our government wants to make sure doesn't get into the wrong hands.  Tom Cruise is the covert agent assigned to protecting the young scientist and his battery from the bad guys.  The roller coaster ride takes off right from the beginning of the movie as we find Cruise being chased down by his own agency, who thinks he has gone rogue and is trying to sell the battery secrets to the bad guys.  Cameron Diaz is the "up for anything" type of woman who accidentally gets drawn into all the intrigue.

The movie delivers exactly what it has promoted through all of its marketing.  It’s fast paced and has some great action scenes sprinkled with those incredible special effects we have all come to expect and take for granted in this type of movie.  Cruise and Diaz work well together and deliver the cleverly written comedic dialogue flawlessly.  For two actors who have been around for such a long time, they both have also been keeping themselves in tip top shape.  There is eye candy for the guys and the girls...Cruise is often filmed showing off his six pack and Diaz still looks pretty darn good in a bikini.

Academy award bound...it’s not...but it doesn’t try to be!  It is what it is...a good summer action/comedy flick that provides us with good laughs and some well crafted thrills and chills along the way...and who doesn’t like that once in awhile?

High Fidelity - Directed by Stephen Frears

Lately there just hasn’t been much out there that’s caught my eye to review.  I did go to one movie and it was so bad I just didn’t want to write a review on it because I would've had nothing good to say....and nobody needs that!  Also had to help my daughter move to Alaska...she was lucky enough to get a job working for a tourism company and will be there for the whole summer.  My son just graduated from Blaine High School and we just finished up with the big "Open House" celebration. Blah, blah, blah...long story short...been neglecting my professional duties lately!

However, the other night I saw the movie "High Fidelity" on TV. Now mind you, I am normally your typical guy who switches back and forth to a million different programs and would never dream of keeping the same channel on for the entire show...especially one I have already seen before.  I remembered the first time I saw this movie I liked it a lot...and now that I have seen it a second time...I know it’s worthy of a review to hopefully get all of you, who have not seen it, up off your kiesters to go rent it or have your TIVO record it next time it's on TV.

The movie came out in March of 2000 and came in a dismal 5th place while bringing in only $6 million during its opening weekend.  With numbers like that, it didn’t last too long in the theaters and a lot of you may have missed it.  It’s not a big budget blockbuster layered with special effects or incredible action scenes...it’s just a wonderful, fun little movie that deserves a viewing, maybe even two or three.

As far as I am concerned, this is as near perfect a dramedy (part drama/part comedy) as you will ever find.  John Cusack plays Rob, the owner of a shop that’s right out of the early 70's that sells hard to find record albums (remember those big round flat black plastic things that you would put a needle on to hear music?)  His quirky hired help includes Jack Black as Barry, who, in one of his first roles in a movie, shows us all why he went on to become known for his irrepressible comedic energy.  His coworker sidekick named Dick, played by Todd Louiso, is a total opposite and together they play the perfect ying and yang.  A big part of the fun in the movie comes from the shameless arrogance these three have as a result of their undeniable knowledge of all music past and present.  The banter between themselves and their record buying customers is sharp witted and funny for all the right reasons.

Fairly early on in the movie we discover that Rob’s live in girlfriend Laura, played by Iben Hijejle, is leaving Rob because she just doesn’t think he is willing to make the sacrifices that it takes for a long lasting relationship...and she’s right!  I should add that Iben Hijejle is an incredible actress in this movie...she is charming and sexy, in a Princess Diana sort of way, and when you hear her sultry voice I guarantee your pulse rate will go from 0-1000 in just seconds!  After she leaves Rob, a well deserved portion of the movie is dedicated to Rob’s "Top 5 worst breakups of all time".  He tracks down, in hilarious fashion, his past girlfriends to find out why they dumped him.  Three of his top 5 include actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lili Taylor, and Joelle Carter who all turn in great performances.  A pleasant little detour includes a short term romance Rob has with singer Marie DeSalle (Lisa Bonet) and another that Laura has with Ian, the upstairs neighbor (Timothy Robbins).  It’s the perfect cast for this perfect little movie!  If you like music, witty dialogue, fascinating characters, and romance... and a happy ending to boot....this movie is for you...guaranteed!!!

Tom's Featured Movie Review:  Avatar - Directed by James Cameron


Guest Critic:  Tom Horita
Tom is a resident of Coon Rapids.  He is an avid golfer and enjoys attending ball games at the new Twins' Target Field.  He and his girlfriend, Laura, also foster dogs who are in need of a new home. 
Doug's Note:  Since I am not able to review every movie that comes out...on occasion I will draw from the many emails I receive...and will post your comments for the review.

Well, it’s funny, about a year ago or so, Laura and I were at the movie theater and saw the trailer for Avatar.  I hadn’t heard anything about it up until then. Laura and I both said, “That’s gonna be a bomb”. I guess we were a little wrong in that prediction. Having said that, we watched it on Blu-Ray a couple days ago and I thought it was awesome!  Granted, the storyline wasn’t the greatest (basically identical to Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, and probably dozens of other movies), but for sheer entertainment, I loved it. Obviously, most of that had to do with the incredible special effects (by far the best I have ever seen). I thought it was well casted, particularly the hard-ass military guy.  I am glad they went with no names for most of the characters.  And, I am actually glad they stayed with a simple, predictable storyline, because then I could just sit back and enjoy the movie for what it was and not worry about thinking too much. Plus, the alien women were HOT!!!

Robin Hood - Directed by Ridley Scott

Let me tell you right from the get go...if you are expecting the old version of Robin Hood where he robs from the rich and gives to the poor...don’t hold your breath. This film, directed by Ridley Scott, chronicles the folk hero prior to his "merry band of thieves" days.

We first encounter Robin Hood (Russell Crowe) as a soldier fighting in the 10 year crusade of King Richard,  The Lionhearted (Danny Huston).  After Richard is killed in the war, Robin sets off on his own and through a totally unlikely set of circumstances ends up leading the entire English army against an invasion by the French....who woulda thunk?  Throw into this epic wannabe, a little onscreen romance between Robin and Maid Marian (Cate Blanchett), and I mean little.  Apparently trying to be true to the times, the flirtations are guarded and the courting seems hardly worth all the work.

The action scenes in the movie are well done and reminded me of the movie Braveheart, but they don’t quite make up for all the down time in between.  The acting, the directing, and the cinematography are all superior, but everything moves along sooooooooooo slow!  Aside from the pace of the show, I think the only other thing that upsets me was the bait-and-switch they used to get me into the seat.  Just from the name of the movie itself and the promo trailers viewed, I thought I was paying for the old Robin Hood and the escapades that we would be treated to while he robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  This movie could have been called anything other than Robin Hood, but they knew that name, all by itself would put thousands of unsuspecting people like me right where they wanted them...paying to watch the movie!  Doesn’t seem quite fair....but what does???  I’m not saying the movie was bad...I’m just saying I thought I was ordering a cheeseburger but they served me a club sandwich. (Why do I always make my analogies about food...no wonder I am 20 pounds overweight!)

Iron Man 2 - Starring Robert Downey Jr.

Iron Man 2 was as much fun as you could possibly want from an action packed sequel!  So much talent...Robert Downey Jr. is once again incredible as Tony Stark/Iron Man.  This time around he is enjoying the life of a super hero who is keeping the world safe, adored by millions of fans.  The only problem is he starts to believe his own press clippings and becomes his biggest fan....and we all know that can’t be a good thing!  Stark is called before a Senate hearing because they think he has too much power and that they should be the ones running the show. Soon Stark is having major problems with both the government and of course his major villain this time around, Ivan Vanko a.k.a. Whiplash, played wonderfully by Mickey Rourke.  Vanko wreaks terror on Stark and anyone who gets in his way and if you’ve seen any of the movie trailers you’ll know why they call him Whiplash!  He carries around a couple of whips that have enough voltage in them to power the city of Minneapolis.

Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Tony’s assistant Pepper Potts.  She is smart, sexy, and once again, we can feel the heat between these two every time they are on the screen together. However, Tony has promoted her to be his new CEO and the office romance gets even more complicated.  I don’t know why Scarlett Johansson was thrown into the mix, when you’ve already got Gwyneth Paltrow, but who’s complaining?  Her character Natalie Rushman, a.k.a. Black Widow, is hired by Tony as his new assistant after Pepper is promoted to run the company.  She is basically on the screen serving as eye candy and is certainly up to the task. She also just happens to be a secret agent for an international espionage organization.  For this role she is required to wear an incredibly tight leather outfit and has one big special effects fight scene that rivals anything you may have seen in the Matrix. 

Sam Rockwell is a scene stealer and is exceptional as Justin Hammer.  Hammer is a seedy arms dealer to the United States government, trying to come up with something better than Iron Man has to offer.  He teams up with Whiplash and not since Freddy teamed up with Michael in the movie Halloween 20....or was that 21.....has there been a more evil duo! 

Don Cheadle is Lt. Col. James "Rhodey" Rhodes and plays a top ranking soldier who is buddies with Stark and tries to help him out with the problems he’s having with the government.  What movie would be complete unless Samuel L. Jackson was in it?  Yes, the guy has been in every movie ever made...well almost!  Jackson plays Nick Fury, the leader of a mysterious crime fighting organization who lends a much needed hand to help out Tony Stark.

And finally hats off to Director Jon Favreau for knowing how to use a mega budget to make a movie that’s worth every penny.  This blockbuster is just one more reason why I love going to the movies!!!

Kick Ass - Starring Aaron Johnson & Nicolas Cage

My 18 year old son convinced me to go review Kick Ass directed by Mathew Vaughn.  From the previews I thought I was in for a harmless, innocent, sophomoric romp...in the same genre of Fast Times at Ridgemont High or more recently Superbad.  Boy was I wrong!  I find out after the fact that the movie was adapted from Mark Millar’s incredibly violent comic book by the same name.  The movie starts out sweet enough by following around our lead character, a somewhat nerdy New York high school kid named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who is also a super hero comic book geek.  Dave decides he wants to be a crime fighter and orders up a super hero costume (actually a wet suit) off the internet.  Without any special powers, or for that matter any crime fighting skills whatsoever, Dave dons the suit and starts to kick ass as best he can.  It’s here that our movie takes an unexpected twist as the fight scenes become more than just a couple bloody noses and a needed band aid or two.  Without giving away too much of the movie...just be prepared for slicing and dicing that will make everyone, but macho guys like me, wince.

A bystander catches Dave on video during one of his fights and puts it up on Youtube, making him an instant cult hero.  It also attracts other wannabe superhero types including a father-daughter wrecking crew called Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz.)  Remember the graphic fight scenes in "Kill Bill"?  Now multiply that times a million for these two.  I should note that Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) steals the show.  She is incredible and worth the price of admission.  The only one I can compare her to is the first time I saw Natalie Portman in "The Professional"...she was just a little kid but you knew she would be a movie star someday!

The plot revolves around the wannabe superheroes trying to take down a mob family played by your stereotypical gangsters.  The mob boss’s son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, the nerd from Superbad) puts on his own pair of tights to become Red Mist and tricks our hero into thinking he is another crime fighter just out to help the cause.  Little does Kick Ass know that Red Mist is not on the right side of the law and is out to stab him in the back...literally!  If you like over the top violence, mixed in with a lot of slow motion and cool shoot ’em up effects or if you want to see a big star in the making (Chloe Moretz) -- go buy a ticket or just walk in backwards when the earlier showing lets out.

Date Night - Starring Steve Carell & Tina Fey

I must admit, although I don’t watch much 30 Rock or The Office on TV, I am still a pretty big fan of Tina Fey and Steve Carell.  So when I heard awhile back they were starring in a movie together, I was on-board to go see it the first chance I could.  I brought my wife because she is a big Tina Fey fan and was, as far as I know, the very first person in the world who thought Tina Fey would be the perfect person to spoof on Sarah Palin.  Since it was date night for us anyway, the movie "Date Night" seemed like the perfect choice...dah!

The movie is directed by Shawn Levy...he’s the guy that did those Night at the Museum movies with Ben Stiller.  This story revolves around Claire (Fey) and Phil (Carell) who are a married middle class couple living in New York who, like many of us, have jobs and kids that make their daily schedules quite hectic.  The only time they have for any sort of social life together is their own date night once a week that is pretty much relegated to the same restaurant, with the same waiter playing the same game of "what do you think the person at the other table does for a living."   Sounds like a winner date to me, but what do I know?  On our last date night I took my wife to the car show at the convention center...I had fun!  Anyway, Claire and Phil decide to spice things up a bit and drive to Manhattan to an A list restaurant they don’t even have reservations for.  Upon arrival they quickly realize they probably should have made reservations, but even if they had, they would not have gotten in for over a month.  They go sit in the bar to drink away their sorrows when they hear a reservation being called out for the Tripplehorns.  With no one responding, they decide to act like they’re the Tripplehorns and take the reservation.  Innocent enough you would think.  Before they even have a chance to finish their meal, a couple of thugs (Common and Jimmi Simpson) who believe Claire and Phil are the Tripplehorns, escort them from the restaurant and into a back alley.  This is where the movie starts to kick in to high gear!  The thugs are bad cops who are trying to get a flash drive back from the real Tripplehorns who are trying to blackmail a mob boss played by Ray Liotta.

What ensues is one of the most hilarious car chases you will ever see and other sight gags that pretty much deliver what you are looking for in an action packed comedy.  I would definitely go see Fey and Carell together in any other movies they decide to combo up in.  Being a TV star doesn’t always guarantee you will make it on the big screen, but thankfully that doesn’t hold true for these two.  Although the script is a little weak, these two play off of each other with the same great comedic timing you saw in other movies with people like Steve Martin and John Candy (Planes, Trains, and Automobiles) or Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan (When Harry Met Sally).  Well, maybe Martin and Candy is pushing it, but the other two for sure!  Overall I give it a thumbs up...can I do that, or is that copyrighted?  If it is, I would just say go see it and you will be pleasantly pleased!

Clash Of The Titans - Directed by Louis Laterrier

My daughter was home from college for her Easter weekend with the parents, so we decided to go to a movie together. The pickings were pretty slim, so we settled on "Clash of the Titans" and figured the special effects would be enough to roller coaster us through the 2 hour ride.

For those of you who have not seen the original that starred Harry Hamlin (remember him from L.A. Law?) or for those of you not familiar with the story line, let me lay it out for you. It’s man (or should I say almost-man) against the gods and these gods aren’t necessarily the nicest guys in town. Our hero is Perseus (Sam Worthington from Avatar fame,) the son of Zeus, king of the gods. His mother was not a god and this causes some of the friction that we see throughout the movie. For some reason Perseus thinks he should keep his god powers in check and fight evil with only his mortal skills...yeah, I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either, especially when you have to fight creatures that are like a billion times bigger than you are.  Hades (Ralph Fiennes) is the evil god of the underworld who is trying to take over the business from his brother Zeus...which would also mean the demise of Perseus and his family.  Perseus volunteers to lead a group of warriors in an effort to defeat Hades before it’s too late! From this point on comes the special effects I was waiting for in the first place.

The movie doesn’t fail in delivering some real eye popping movie mayhem that Perseus has to deal with...starting with Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) a former king who is now a vengeful beast who wants Zeus out of power in the worst way.  Understandable, because it was his wife that Zeus impregnated to produce Perseus. Next up, some really big...for lack of a better word....lobsters. Yeah, that’s right, they look just like lobsters except they’re the size of buildings, but still pretty cool to look at. Medusa, the overly large head with a snakes body, delivers as the evil creature that will turn you to stone if your eyes meet her eyes. The biggest effect is saved for the Kraken, bigger than the IDS, it’s hard to imagine how Perseus can stop this big guy!

If you accept the movie for what it is meant to be...a couple hours of special effect entertainment...you will probably have a good time.  If you're looking for some incredible acting and some sort of cathartic moment or two...try another movie.  Sam Worthington looks the part but his acting skills are like watching paint dry, not much energy brought to the table. I like the gods...at least their acting capabilities...pretty fun to watch...but Fiennes and Neeson usually deliver. Clash of the Titans will keep you in your seats while you’re there, but as soon as it’s over you will probably just start thinking about where to go for dinner.

Hot Tub Time Machine - Starring John Cusack

Capitalizing on the success of last years raunchy comedy buddy flick "The Hangover," now comes "Hot Tub Time Machine," directed by Steve Pink. The buddies this time around include a similar group of 3 needy middle age guys and one pubescent twenty something... all experiencing some sort of major life crisis at the same time. Adam, played by John Cusack, has just found out his girlfriend left him. Nick, played by Craig Robinson, has a cheating wife and a dead end job. Lou, played by Rob Corddry, is a habitual party animal who is way past his prime, and Jacob, played by Clark Duke, is the much younger nerdy computer geek who seems quite content to stay in his basement playing video games for the rest of his life.

The 3 take a road trip, along with a reluctant Jacob, as they try to recapture the great times they had at a ski resort they partied at in the 80's. As the name of the movie implies, upon arriving at the resort they jump into a hot tub that transports them back to that storied weekend they had in the 80's. Here they have the opportunity to confront the mistakes they made in the past in an effort to make for a better future. Get ready for just about every sophomoric prank and bit you could ask for! Most of them are pretty hilarious, although I could do without the inevitable puke and poop gags. Chevy Chase plays a cameo role as the keeper of the hot tub and Crispin Glover plays a one armed bell boy. I particularly like Rob Corddry, as he easily provided the movie with a believable energy that kept the movie from slowing down and losing the audience. All in all, I would recommend it if you are looking for few good belly laughs and a happy ending!

Brief Encounter - Words by Noel Coward

Saturday nights have for some time now been called "Date Night" for my wife and me.  It's my responsibility to come up with something fun to do.  Last Saturday we started the night out at a wonderful restaurant called Stella’s Seafood Café in Minneapolis.  I could write my whole review on how incredible the food was, especially their Oysters Rockefeller, but instead I will focus on the play we saw at the Guthrie.

It was called Brief Encounter written by Noel Coward, adapted and directed for the stage by Emma Rice, and it was a real treat!  Before the show even opens, a quirky looking bunch of characters strolls up and down the aisles dressed in old time railroad garb singing Coward written songs that put a satisfying smile on all those seated.

Ah....but this was just the appetizer!  The main course started off with two of the actors seated in the audience, as if watching a movie on the stage.  They are our two star-crossed lovers, Laura (Naomi Frederick) and Alec (Tristan Sturrock.)  She gets up to leave because she is married to another and does not feel right being at the movie with Alec.  She jumps up on the stage that now has a train pulling up on the big screen.  She walks through the screen as if getting on the train and suddenly appears in the film looking out of the train window waving goodbye to Alec.  This mix of film, music, singing, and live acting on stage was intermixed and balanced perfectly throughout the evening and made for an incredible feast for the eyes and ears.  Add a sprinkling of multi-role talented character actors and your play is almost complete.  However, to finish off the palate, dessert was literally offered by the actors themselves as they stood outside the theater doors! They offered us fresh made cookies while playing Coward songs on a make shift stage in the lobby.  Mmmmm Mmmmm Good!

The Bounty Hunter - Starring Jennifer Aniston & Gerard Butler

I could hardly wait to get to the movie theater on Friday.  It had been a long week and I was ready for a good laugh. Unfortunately I chose the wrong movie and went to see The Bounty Hunter starring Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler. Dog The Bounty Hunter, on TV, would have been a better choice and probably more chuckles.

A weak script with some really bad dialogue set this one up for failure from the get-go.  Milo Boyd, played by Gerard Butler, is a former cop and is now a down-and-out bounty hunter with a gambling problem.  Nicole, played by Jennifer Aniston, is an investigative newspaper reporter hot on the trail of a suicide that she thinks could have been a murder. And, oh yeah....did I forget to tell you that they used to be married to each other? Believe it or not, we are supposed to believe that Milo just happens to get a job to go after a bail bond jumper who just happens to be....you guessed it....Nicole!   It’s another weak story line that I won't even bother to go into.

With absolutely no on-screen chemistry whatsoever, the two are paired up for most of the movie as they play cat and mouse, while at the same time trying to solve the suicide/murder case together.  Why is it everything I see Jennifer Aniston in, aside from reruns of Friends, is usually just one big mess?  She should fire her agent for even showing her the script.  Director Andy Tennant was at the steering wheel of this car wreck.  The few good laughs that I was able to pull out of this gobbledy-goop of a movie came from the supporting actors played by Christine Baranski and Siobhan Fallon.   All and all the movie had some great talent, but just too little story… 

Green Zone - Starring Matt Damon

Green Zone director Paul Greengrass takes us to the front lines at the very beginning of the Iraq War, and the search for the "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Adapted from Rajiv Chandrasekarant's novel of the same name, the movie Green Zone, lays out a very believable scenario that questions whether certain people working with our government, knew way before our troops ever landed, that there were no such weapons.  Matt Damon stars as Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller, who has been sent into Baghdad to find those so-called "Weapons of Mass Destruction." 

The only problem is, Chief Miller and his team keep coming up empty handed.  Chief Miller knows something doesn't smell right and tries raising some questions early on....but he is quickly silenced by his own superiors. 

A  slimy government liaison and C.I.A. agent, played to perfection by Greg Kinnear, is behind the conspiracy and doesn't make life any easier for Miller as he tries to figure out just what the hell is going on.  Throw in an investigating female Wall Street Journal reporter and another senior C.I.A. agent who really wants to help Miller get to the truth, and you've got a fairly decent suspenseful action packed movie! 

Don't arrive late or you will find yourself out of the loop!

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