Archive | September, 2011

60 Minutes – A Farewell

Posted on 29 September 2011 by Thraxxus

Andy Rooney, age 92, is leaving 60 Minutes. Why is that important? That starts with my history – I am 38 years old. Andy Rooney has been on 60 minutes for 23 years. I remember watching 60 minutes with my parents and enjoying his little bits at the end of the show. My mother adored those little bits. What always got me was the fact that lots of people hated those little bits – I have no idea why. Perhaps it was how Andy was pointing out the obvious, sometimes that can get annoying to people. Oddly enough when other people point out the obvious they are exhaulted like some form of a deity – take John Madden for instance. When was the last time that guy said anything of value in a football game? We know John – to win you do have to get the most points. Thanks buddy.

So why is it amazing for one person to state the obvious when another is lambasted for doing the same thing? Is it topic based? Maybe. Back to John Madden – it isn’t like every single week John talked about a different topic – no – John only ever talked about football – the sport that he was a successful coach in. Maybe that is the difference. John is remembered for being a great coach and thus no matter what he says about football people act as if he is spouting gospel. This leads us to beg the question – what the hell has Andy Rooney done – prior to 60 minutes anyway?

Andy Rooney was, is, and will remain always, a writer. He wrote everything. TV shows. Commentaries. Most of all? Essays. For 60 minutes alone Andy Rooney has written 1097 essays – and you were whining about having to write three essays in the same class in college. Granted Andy gets to write about stuff that he likes – and with any luck his audience enjoyed as well. It was said that Andy Rooney is an “American Original” – an icon. I agree. The odd thing with that is Andy Rooney never really tried to be liked, loved, or hated. He just tried to inform and entertain. His sometimes witty perspective made take just a moment, and to ourselves, say “hmmm? Yeah really.”

In his own words:

Thanks Andy. You will be missed. Mom loved you.

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Cutting corners

Posted on 26 September 2011 by ~baba

I have made arrangements with the local hospital, my residence for half of the month, to pay $100 a month until my bill is paid off, I can do without coffee I guess, about $35 a month. 35 baht a day is $35 a month, only eat one meal out each day, $30, and stop using the internet, about $30 a month. I’ll find some other thing I can live without too. I’ll miss you all but maybe I can use someone’s laptop sometime and see how you are doing. Bye……..baba

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A Smattering of September Films

Posted on 25 September 2011 by Reel Rhino

So I have been a busy little Rhino…sorry for the long respite between posts, but writing doesn’t pay the bills, and papa had to earn some real cheese.  Just because I didn’t write, doesn’t mean I didn’t keep watching.

While I am short on time, I will offer a mini-review for each of the following:

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark 2 of 5 Horns
This film was written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, but not directed.  His name was atop of every ad for this and one would have hoped that under his tuteledge, that director Troy Nixey could have delivered gold.  Not so much.  Inspired from a TV movie del Toro saw as a boy, his patented creature effects were here, but their ineffectiveness made them more comedic than frightening.  There were a handful of decent visuals, but all in all, this is a flop in my book.  Pan’s Labyrinth was 100 times more effective as a visual thriller/horror feature.  I have much higher hopes for del Toro’s release slated for 2013, Pacific Rim.  As for this, the title is apt…you won’t be afraid of the dark.

The Guard 4.5 of 5 Horns
Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle were a perfectly matched odd couple in this comedic thriller/drama.  This is John Michael McDonagh’s major feature debut and he comes from a pedigree of production success, being the brother of Martin McDonagh.  Martin gave us the 2008 gem, In Bruges, which also starred Gleeson and the tone of The Guard has many similar sensibilities of dark comedy rooted in a rich story.  The basic tale is an FBI agent (Cheadle) heads to Ireland to continue tracking a $500 million dollar drug drop.  Unorthodox police Seargant (Gleeson) happens to have an inside line on things as he was on the crew that found a body of one of the drug runners dumped the previous day.  Calamity ensues and Gleeson’s sharp wit mixed with Cheadle’s fish out of water role make for wholly enjoyable movie going.  Sadly, this film was rolled out in very limited release, but if you can find it, check it out!

Straw Dogs 4 of 5 Horns
James Marsden fills the role played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1971 original, in this surprisingly decent remake.  Not having seen the original, I was surprised at the slow burn that the first 80% of this flick was, but how effective that slow build was at making the last act more impactful.  Kate Bosworth was even palatable in the female lead and I am digging the resurgence of Dominic Purcell in flicks these days.  He was John Doe in the single-season 2002 Fox show that I absolutely loved.  He also shows up later on this review in the Killer Elite blurb.  Purcell is perhaps best known from his role as Lincoln Burrows on Fox’s Prison break.  Some say he is a bit wooden, but I like him.  Straw Dogs succeeds as a drama and as a very dark thriller.

Drive 4 of 5 Horns
“If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.”

This film is extremely stylized and of the art house variety.  It has been marketed as a mainstream film, and it is certainly not that.  I think that this film will find many happy cinema goers, but there will likely be just as many disappointed viewers.  This film has a great retro feel, a great cast, and a myriad of beautiful shots.  But it is not going to be for everyone.  This flick brought home the Best Director Award for Nicholas Winding Refn at Cannes and was nominated for the Palm d’Or, or best in show award.  What is good for Cannes, will not always be good for America, sadly.  This may be one of those cases, but if you can open your mind to something different, have a hankering for some more Ryan Gosling in what is clearly a breakout year for him, and can stomach a bit of “ultra-violence” (read: extremely bloody, life-like killshots)…then this may be a film for you.  Personnally, I perfer something different now and again and this fit my bill.

Killer Elite 4 of 5 Horns
Jason Statham has a niche, there is no debating that.  In short, I enjoyed this film and the great cast it put forth.  I offer this short decider for you…do you like other Jason Statham movies (Transporter, Crank, etc.)?  If the answer is yes, you will like this movie.  My only complaint…Yvonne Strahovski, also known as Sarah Walker on the NBC series CHUCK, was far underused.  I mean yes, the ultra-hot Aussie was used as the great looking damsel, but if you have ever seen Chuck, you know she can handle herself when in distress.  I guess its nice to see her in a mainstream release, but I am waiting for her to get some choice, ass-kicking roles.  At least we still have this last season of chuck.

Moneyball 5 of 5 Horns
See. This. Movie.  It is a great film, that falls well outside of the sports film genre and more securely in well-made drama department.  Brad Pitt has ridiculous chops and it was funny at times, his facial expressions reminded me of his turn as Aldo Raine, notable Tarantino nazi-hunter.  Jonah Hill demonstrated last year in Cyrus that he can do more than make us laugh (even though that was a funny movie), but the more subdued Hill definitely has talent in the dramatic realm…keep an eye out for Jonah Hill 2.0, the sleeker Hill who is prepped and ready for his version of 21 Jump Street, sans about 100 lbs.  For an earlier look at the loud and extremely funny Hill, check out Campus Ladies, if you can find it.

So there you have it…short, but sweet.  All I can say is that I was happy to avoided Abduction.  Compulsion will keep me headed back for the last two Twilights, but I was happy to steer clear of Taylor Lautner’s latest offering.  I was surprised there were no shirtless shots in the trailer, but perhaps that was what led to the failure?

Until later, take care…

Reel Rhino

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Other than the obvious, more good things about Tha(and Lao) girls

Posted on 20 September 2011 by ~baba

I was released early from the hospital because of no funds to pay my bill, within an hour I had passed out, fallen, hit my head on the floor and went in for more xrays and three days more hospital, crap! Well, when I was in the first time for the first two days I lay on a gurney/bed with no sheet, the bloody pajamas I wore since I was admitted, had to beg to have my catheter bag emptied, no pain meds or food or water. I felt pretty neglected, I was pretty neglected. Late that day some of the girls from a local bar came in to see me, adopted me and washed, changed me, brought me whatever I needed. they came in twice a day from then on to bathe and change me and it was a gift from God/Buddah. When I checked out the second time a friend had moved into my place and had set the place up for me so I could stay in bed and not walk around and since she couldn’t be there all the time she got a friend to move in with me. I’m doing better now, have an appetite and just now walked all the way to the internet place, about 1 kilometer! This is a major thing! I have my appetite back, I lost over 7 kilos in the last two weeks but feel sorta ok now, I still get dizzy but the vertigo only lasts a moment now. I had vertigo for over two days once, horrible, I kept my eyes closed and refused to move the whole time. The good news is that I’m ok, I have two girls who care for me and we’re family now. When I was in the hospital several falang(Ameroeuropeans) visited me for a few minutes then left and never returned, the Thai/Lao people who visited brought food, cared for me, sat with me while I slept… I can’t leave here, I love these people…..baba

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Fantasy Football

Posted on 19 September 2011 by Thraxxus

ARGGGG.

I am playing Fantasy Football again. GlazednConfused and I have a team that we manage together. Last year we won the Superbowl, made loads of money, and are at it again this year. The problem with winning the Superbowl is that the next year you get hosed on picks – meaning you go dead last. In reality this isn’t as bad as it sounds as the draft we had was using what is called Snake Pick Format. It looks something like this:

Round 1: Team 1, Team 2, Team 3…. Team 10

Round 2: Team 10, Team 9… Team 1

Round 3: Team 1… Team 10

And so on. The best place to be, in my opinion, is dead center as you get less dead time between picks. The problem with being on the ends is that you get two solid picks in a row and then nothing for a long time. Our picks were tough as that means that we had to get a running back and a quarterback as our first picks – leaving us with lackluster receivers and other QBs and RBs down the road. The real mistake was made when we picked lots of players with the same bye week – so now we lack coverage.

Two games have been played – we lost both – in effect we got beat like a rented mule. Screwed – no kissing. It was bad. Week three we lose half our team to byes. We are basically already done for the season. At the least that will ensure us a better pick spot for next year and it only cost us $40 for that set of mistakes! Thank god we aren’t paying for every loss.

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Warrior – One helluva film!

Posted on 12 September 2011 by Reel Rhino

While the tag team is more commonly associated with the WWE than MMA, the Catfish is working the corner with the Reel Rhino and the outcome is victory.  I love having the Cat swing by, he is the poet laureate of the Reel Rhino site and I appreciate it, no matter how much I bust his balls outside the posts, he sure can write.

Warrior.

As a former D-1 athlete, the word always carries some resonance with me.  I have known some true warriors.  I feel as though I may have made some warrior-like moves in my day, but my flashes of brilliance were fleeting and I was fortunate enough to play besides some of the greatest athletes of the 1990’s.

I am a Maryland Terrapin…oh, how the floodgates of hatred may open now that I have shown my colors, but I am proud of my roots.  I played football in the mid-90’s and had the good fortune to run along side the likes of Jermaine Lewis, Lamont Jordan, Eric Barton, Eric Hicks, John Feugill, and Kris Jenkins.

We must protect this house?  Yep, I had the honor of running with Under Armour founder and all around nice guy, Kevin Plank.

I married my college sweetheart, who when the timing is right, will remind that she is owner of three national championship rings, that help her win just about any argument…well she really doesn’t need the rings, but they do help add the exclamation point.

Joe Smith and Steve Francis ran the hardwood under the tutelage of the great Gary Williams in my years with the Terps.

I made many great friends and relish those days with a great warmth in that remembrance.  I know many great warriors.

My brother is a US Marine.  I once said that he was a Marine, and I was quickly corrected that once a Marine, always a Marine.  I can’t deny that the error was mine.  I’d be lying if I said that my past, my pride for my brother, the urge to leave the theater and sign up for some rec league hoops…all of this, made this week’s review strike an exceptionally deep nerve in me when watching.

Warrior.

I make a bold statement in this: Warrior has earned itself a place in my all-time top 10 films.

I loved this movie.  I loved it.

I was reduced to tears on several occasions and I had truly visceral reactions to this film.

I agreed with the guy sitting two rows behind me when he leaped to his feet in one of the culminating moments of this film.

I felt the pain of the woman who was sobbing on her companions arm, notably moved, as I walked out of the theater.

I felt the moments of this movie like sledgehammers banging gongs inches from my head.

The only thing I don’t understand, is how the take for this flick was only 5.2 million, coming in a paltry 3rd place this weekend.

My plea is this…see this movie.  It is an emotional roller coast that works on every level.

Yes, I have a history that leaves me exceptionally susceptible to the sports flick genre.  But I think the messages in this film transcend a love of competition.

The running time is long at 2 hrs 20 mins, but the additional time building this world makes every moment in the back half all the more powerful.

Maybe this film needed bigger stars to succeed, but the truth is, for the lesser known folks in this movie, this will be a star making turn.  Nick Nolte was the biggest name, but Tom Hardy is a stone cold beast.  I enjoyed him in Inception, last year’s Reel Rhino #1 flick of the year, and I am looking forward to Hardy as the Bat-breaking Bane in next year’s Batman-trilogy finale.

This is an entirely 5 of 5 Horn movie for me, and I hope it will be for you, as well.

Gavin O’Connor has woven together a masterpiece, serving as both writer and director.  He gave us magic in 2004 with Miracle and in truth, he may have been born to deliver us inspiration sports stories.  For my money, he is two for two.

Enough drivel from a sentimental softee like me…what does the Catfish say?

(SPOILER ALERT: Granted, the trailer gave away some of the key issues that in the film, don’t arise until the end of the movie, the Cat got spoiler-rific in his review.  If you want to go in cold, save the back half of this post for after your viewing of the film).

I am admittedly a fan of combat sports.  I was exposed to boxing predominately on ESPN as a youngster.  Things began evolving and I found myself not only rooting for favorite boxers my dad and grandfather liked, but kickboxing began getting more attention.  Kansas City native Bob Thunder Thurman took kickboxing to another level, which caught my attention and fed my imagination.

I participated in Tae Kwon Do as a pre-teen.  I was pretty good at it as I recall.  I’m not sure why I stopped taking it, but I think it just got to be a bit too expensive for Mom and Dad.  In 1999, the empire crumbled all at once for me.  My friends and I split up the cost of the Evander Holyfield-Lennox Lewis heavyweight unification pay-per-view fight.  I was rooting for Evander, but even to a biased observer it was painfully obvious Evander was outmatched that night.  There was not a knockout or fight stoppage.  The decision went to the judges.  The fight was ridiculously determined to be a draw.  I had heard all the talk of corruption in boxing, but I had never personally experienced anything quite like this travesty.  That evening I vowed never to spend another dime on a boxing pay-per-view.  As a matter of fact, to this day I have not watched as much as a single round of a boxing match.

A wee bit behind the UFC curve due to the persistent sour taste in my mouth, I began taking in my first real experience with MMA (mixed martial arts).  I really liked what I was seeing, but I proceeded with caution.  As far as I knew every combat outfit was corrupt.  I recall watching the Rich Franklin and Ken Shamrock fight in 2005.  Ken Shamrock was destroyed in short order, but I was a bit hesitant to believe this fight wasn’t rigged.  Shamrock had slipped at one point, but he never even attempted to stand back up.  That was the beginning of the end for him as Franklin obliterated him on the ground.  It seemed I had been duped again.  I wanted to get to the bottom of this fiasco.

I talked to a guy who really wasn’t well versed in the UFC, but he planted the idea that some guys would rather fight on the ground.  I began doing my research.  I went backwards and began renting the old UFC videos.  Fighters using different styles of martial arts were competing in this sport, but at least in the early days, ground fighting was the Achilles heel of most competitors.  Royce Gracie, the undersized Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu artists, took down men twice his size by fighting on the ground and submitting them with joint locks and choke holds.  He revolutionized the fight game.  This was the great awakening I needed to get me back as a fan of combat sports.

When I first saw the advertisements for Warrior I had lukewarm interest at best.  There are just too many B rated fighting movies starring actual MMA fighters that are absolutely painful to watch.  It wasn’t until I watched the trailer for this movie that I had a bit more intrigue.  Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to realize the difference between a big budget production and the B rated turds I was accustomed to.  Since watching Inception I have been willing to give any actor in that movie the benefit of the doubt (unadulterated blind bias on my part).  Since Tom Hardy plays a starring role in Warrior I felt obligated to give the film a chance.

The big test was convincing my wife to agree to go with me.  Our 11th anniversary was Friday 09/09/11, but we spent the evening at the school Fun Fair.  With a bit of coaxing I convinced my mom to babysit Saturday so we could celebrate a day late and a few dollars short from the fair.  Dinner and a movie is the standard fare.  Agreeing on a movie, however, is something different altogether.  She mentioned Contagion, but I had zero desire to see that.  I am a fan of Robin Cook who happened to write a book called Contagion.  Reel Rhino informed me this movie was unrelated to his book.  For whatever reason that turned me off.

If you have ever read this blog then you know Reel Rhino likes just about every movie made (no exaggeration).  I convinced my wife to watch the Warrior trailer.  The storyline in those few minutes turned her in my direction.  She warmed up to it and begrudgingly agreed to see the film.  At dinner as I perused some Facebook posts.  Unknowingly, Reel Rhino with an uncharacteristically negative review of the movie Contagion made our movie-going decision final as my wife completely capitulated.  We were going to see Warrior.

Warrior had it’s share of fighting, but make no mistake, it was story driven.  It was a layering of the consequential separate lives of a dysfunctional family spawned by an alcoholic father.  The characters are sympathetic and their background stories were riveting, grabbing your attention and holding you through the end.  Yes, there is nothing new under the sun, but I was quite intrigued as their individual stories unfolded throughout the movie on paths that would all eventually intersect.  Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton) is a former fighter who is now a likable high school physics teacher trying to raise a family and keep his head above water.  Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy) is a former high school wrestler and Iraq war veteran heading down the same unfortunate road his father, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte), paved for him.  He is a brooding man with so much pent up anger that is boils over anytime he’s put remotely close to conflict.  As patriarch of the family, Paddy Conlon finally has finally come to grips with his demons and actually has remorse for the damage he caused in his family’s life.

Brendan and Tommy’s resentment for their father shaped their lives.  Brendan always wanted to where Tommy was in Paddy’s eyes, but never thought he could live up to that standard.  When their mother and Paddy split up Tommy stuck to the plan and left town with his mother while Brendan stayed behind because he had found the love of his life, his eventual wife, Tess Conlon (Jennifer Morrison).  You know me, having a beautiful actress to watch throughout a movie gets high points in my book.  She gets mighty high points.   Tommy resents his brother for staying behind.  He and Brendan resent their father for being a drunk.  Tommy is awash in self loathing as he returned from the war as the only surviving member of a squadron that was killed by friendly fire.  Brendan wants a relationship with his brother again.  These side stories collide in an MMA gran prix event called Sparta.  It’s a single elimination tournament with a $5 million dollar purse for the winner.  This is the incentive Brendan needs to keep his home out of foreclosure.  This is the incentive Tommy needs to aid the family of a fallen soldier he promised to support.  This movie takes you on an emotional ride as you are pulled into rooting for both brothers as they fight for their respective causes.  As the brothers clash in an unlikely finals match-up the tension is at its height.

It is undeniably an unforgettable and exciting finish.  When the rubber hits the road this film is about human emotions, not really about fighting.  It illustrates the importance of a child’s environment.  Children are a blank slate who are formed and shaped by their experiences.  You take two sons who have similar experiences.  One lives with rage and resentment and the other tries to live his life exactly opposite of how he was raised.  All any child wants is their mother and father to love and respect each other and give them the attention and love all children deserve and need.  Oh, and when humans act like the flawed beings we are then forgiveness is the only way we get back on the path of healing. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  A casual moviegoer would be grabbed by the storyline.  I think even fight fans will buy into most of the fighting scenes.  I doubt a referee would allow someone to fight on with an obvious shoulder injury that prevents him from using his entire arm, but guys fight on with broken arms and hands as long as the referee is unaware.

Although the final lines of the climax were a bit cheesy, it was touching nonetheless.  Don’t forget to enjoy the bit of comic relief from Principal Zito (Kevin Dunn) who perfected this acting niche in the Transformers films.

4.5 out of 5 Catfish Whiskers

Until next time, take care…
Reel Rhino

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Thunder, Lightning, and Brain Surgery

Posted on 12 September 2011 by ~baba

I was heading home on my bicycle Sunday night when two men rushed out of the darkness and split my skull open with a sword. They hit me twice more in the torso and were aiming another blow to my head when I lunged out of the way and was hit below my right kidney. About this time two people came up on a motorbike and the robbers ran off. I walked to the emergency room with bone fragments in my brain and leaking arterial blood through my fingers. They stitched me up to stop the blood flow and put me on a gurney where I stayed all night with no pain meds, water, information, no nothing. As a thunderstorm was going on outside a doctor came to me and showed me an xray of dime to quarter size bone fragments and said he was going to operate and remove them. I was anesthesized within the hour and awoke at about noon feeling much less pain. I’ve been in the hospital here for eight days and will have to be here for seven to eight more until the antibiotics I’ve been recieving(two weeks course)are done plus a day of observation when I’m finished with them. The hospital wants their money immediately since I’m not insured though I may try to get my State of Hawaii Insurance to pay. It may be hard to explain how I’m in Thailand though. The proceedure is the State Department pays my bill if I can’t, then flies me home to the US where they take the money they spent out of my Social Security check until it’s paid off or I die of starvation. I hope this isn’t the end of my Thai adventure but it looks like it may be. More in about a week when I can get back to a computer, I snuck out to write this….~baba

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Carriers over Contagion, Who’d a Thunk It?

Posted on 10 September 2011 by Reel Rhino

Thursday night, I decided that to generate some momentum for Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, I would check out Carriers.  Ever since I dropped the DVD portion of my Netflix, I have been watching flicks I may have otherwise missed (and some that I would have rather missed!).  I think this whole price change has worked out well for me, except that I had primarily used my DVD picks for flicks I couldn’t find anywhere else.  One of those being The Great Waldo Pepper, for example, which I first read about in William Goldman’s book, and had a hankering to see.  On the other hand, I did have the BluRay of The 400 Blows for 15 months, and didn’t actually watch it…but lest I digress.

CARRIERS: 3.5 Horns of 5
Carriers stars Captain Kirk err…Chris Pine, that is, Piper Perabo, and Lou Taylor Pucci and is both written and directed by Spainish brothers David and Alex Pastor.

This is certainly a different kind of apocalyptic pandemic movie than Contagion, but as you will learn below, that is a good thing.  I have spoke to several people who have started to watch it but said they turned it off because it was too scary.  Folks, there are the infected who may look like zombies, but they are just sick people.  It has some tense and scary moments, but really is more of a psychological thriller than a horror movie.

The flick is very much a road movie at its core.  A pair of brothers, one of their girlfriends, and another female friend are on the road, headed for a beach sanctuary that they believe will be disease-free and their last option for them to hide out and avoid those who have fallen ill.  The film starts with much of the chaos past and basically shows us just the ravaged world from the perspective of the main characters.

Yes, there are post-apocalyptic staples like the “carefree scene” in which they cruise around a golf course with no rules and no limits, blasting golf balls into building windows around the perimeter of the course.  There are radio transmissions broadcasting information about supposed safe-havens, and even a mad doctor, who is still trying to sort things out, when clearly we are way past Robitussin.

There are a lot of cliches for this type of film, but in the vein of Zombieland (minus the comedy), this film focuses on this small little band of folks trying to survive, and for that, I think it succeeds.

I give this flick 3.5 Horns of 5, and while it isn’t a mind blowing outing, it is worth your time and sadly, so much more so than my next review…

CONTAGION: 2 of 5 Horns
I really don’t have much to say here, but maybe this…

1. This movie stars a lot of really famous people.
2. This movie is competently shot and looks really pretty, especially in IMAX.
3. This movie offers nothing new to the genre of disease/plague/apocalyptic flicks, and for my tastes, plays out in extremely mundane and boring form.

I expected a decent flick from Soderbergh and I hope this lackluster outing doesn’t mean that we can expect similar from Haywire.  Hopefully the stellar cast there and the introduction to a mainstream Gina Carano will be enough.  Soderbergh has toyed with the idea of retiring, maybe he has lost his passion?

There are several remotely intertwining story lines.  I mean for all intents and purposes, everyone in this film is in the intertwining plot as this movie is placing all who live at odds with this new and mysterious disease. At the heart of this all is a bird-flu like disease that has an initial R-0 (R-naught) of 2, meaning many, many people will die.  In the beginning of the film, early projections are around 1% of the world, for those that will meet their maker from this sickness.  Things grow more dire as time goes on…

And for something so dire, one would think that the stakes are pretty high.  My complaint?  You never feel it.  There is no real sense of dread; there are very few moments of even slightly elevated tension.  Everything happens so calmly and controlled, it feels at times you are watching a documentary on something you could really care less about.

That is not to say that there aren’t some decent story threads in the flick, it is just that the main thread, the Lawrence Fishburn/Kate Winslet CDC line, the main line that is, falls completely flat.

The Matt Damon everyman who loses his wife and tries to protect his daughter from the disease has some decent moments of drama and light tension.  The Marion Cotillard World Health Organizer investigator abroad has potential, but there is too little screen time with too little to hold on to, keeping you from feeling invested in her situation.  Maybe the most potential was in the Jude Law, rogue-blogger plot line, but given the CDC-centric core and everything else I mentioned, it too gets so diluted that there is too little effect on the movie as a whole.

Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, and Jude Law all have extremely dramatic moments, but, this film is a textbook example of how the whole of a film can make or break a performance.  What are supposed to be poignant moments play out as check boxes, ticked as the director shot them.  I actually think the strongest performances were the smaller bits put forth by John Hawkes, Jennifer Ehle, and Enrico Colantoni.

It all falls flat due to a spineless center that does little to draw you in and make you feel any kind of emotion for these characters.  Everything feels plain and in the end, you have watched a movie that looks nice, but leaves you devoid of any emotional ties.  This film went too broad, and while a lesser quality of production, Carriers held together as a more watchable movie, because it gave you one set of characters to worry about.  Contagion is an ensemble piece that very poorly gives you any reason to care for anybody in the troupe, or really even the separate parts on their own.

In my opinion, wait to watch this one at home…there is too little to make the trip to the theater a worthwhile movie buck spent.

Sorry I don’t have a more thorough diagnosis on this right now, but I have been falling asleep too quickly when writing lately, and given how boring and plain this movie was, I fear if I keep writing, I may get stuck on the ZZZzzzzzzzz key.

If you want to watch an entertaining film with a similar concept, check out Wolfgang Peterson’s 1995 Outbreak.  It was 1 part comedy, 4 parts frightening medical thriller reality, 4 parts government conspiracy, 1 part camp.  It has just as strong a pedigree and it is actually an exciting movie to watch.  Maybe Contagion set out to be a serious version of the same type, but sadly, Soderbergh failed.

Until later, take care!  Hopefully I will be checking out Warrior tomorrow.  I am curious to see how the violence plays out with a PG-13 rating.  Early reviews are positive and I hope to erase the memory of my lackluster Friday at the theater…

Reel Rhino

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Movie Roundup: Red State, The Debt, Attack the Block, Conan

Posted on 08 September 2011 by Reel Rhino

(Kenfu, I didn’t do a full review for Conan, but let me lead by saying it is better than they say.)

Lots to talk about folks, we have much to discuss.

We ran a three day garage sale over the weekend and I feel like I didn’t have any days off.  I have a silver tongue when it comes to makin’ deals, and I put a lot of my stuff in the happy hands of new owners.  Call it me being green, but I also like that green as well!…

I did slip out to a flick here or there, as well, and caught Red State On-Demand.

Okay, here’s the deal.  I have sat down the last three nights, and this is as far as I have gotten.  This is Reel Rhino: The Abbreviated Version.

PS: I have added the trailer for Bucky Larson, and I like most of what Nick Swardson has done until today, but dammit if this thing doesn’t look awful!?!

THE DEBT: 4 of 5 Horns

A well told story, well acted, with high production values.  This isn’t a monumental film, but in a span of mediocre releases, it stands out considerable.

SHARK NIGHT 3-D: 1 of 5 Horns

This could of been something decent, even though it was a blatant Piranha 3-D knock off.  If…and this is a big if….if this movie would have admitted what it was, a blatant Piranha 3-D knock-off, its self-awareness could have been used to its advantage.  Who cares what it’s copying, when you get “camp” done right.  There was nothing right about this movie,starting with the fact it was a near bloodless, boobless, PG-13.  There is a shark night rap after the credits that is mildly amusing.  If the rap would have followed a semi-decent film, it would have been even better.  This thing was a steamer.

ATTACK THE BLOCK: 4.5 of 5 Horns

I had the good luck to see this in May when it played 25 cities on the 25th.  I am actually surprised that I didn’t review it then, but it was an honorable mention for the first half of the year.  I loved this flick!

It was Ghostbusters meets The Goonies meets Gremlins meets all your favorite alien invasion flicks!

Joe Wright has created a unique film that fits snugly in the canon of Edgar Wright-like flicks (Wright is a producer on this), while existing on its own merit with a cast that resembles a cadre of hard core British Goonies. I saw it as a a /Filmcast sponsored preview in cities across the US, and it is now out in limited release across the US.

RED STATE: 5 of 5 Horns

What follows is much of my March 2011 review of Red State, which I saw on its road show earlier this year.  September 2nd was the big day for the on-demand/iTunes/Amazon etc digital release of Red State, just after the LA theatrical run, to ensure that it will qualify via rules for Academy Award nomination.

Let me say this…The Reel Rhiness liked this film.  My wife who dislikes many films that I do like, liked this movie.  That is saying quite a bit….

To my earlier review….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

RED STATE is a landmark film for a number of reasons, but perhaps mostly due to the finance and distribution route that Smith choose for this effort. I was able to see this movie because Smith “bought” the rights from himself at a single-bidder auction following its premiere at Utah’s SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. (Sadly, KIMBALIANO was not able to attend that screening.) Smith decided he was “taking it back” (see also: Clerks 2) and would hit the road with Red State, like in the good old days, or something of what is done with the Afterdark Horrorfest these days. What does Reel Rhino say? Genius, pure genius.

In addition to self-release a la the road show, the film will get an October wide-release. The number of screens it hits in October will be affected, it appears, in part by the success of the road shows and also the amount raised in merchandising at the shows, at the Smodcast site, and Smith’s View Askew site.

As it stands right now, the advertising for this film has been web-based, twitter-centric, and word of mouth only. Smith did interviews on the radio stations, so at least he is effecting local word of mouth by hitting the airwaves as well as the net. I am curious to see the Prints and Advertising budget (if any) the wide-release brings in October.

(As it stands, the film is receiving not through Smodcast Pictures, as once speculated, but in fact by Lionsgate.)

This film is also a landmark in timing. Most of the casting announcements came out over Summer 2010, with a few roles filled as late as September 2010. This film was screened at Sundance in January. I am going to imagine a number of sleepless nights in the Smith household, and several more where Smith woke up drooling on the Avid console, mumbling some kind of an apology to Pete (see also: DOGMA).

When you write, direct, and edit your own film, you can roll it out as quickly or slowly as you like.

Essentially two months after shooting wrapped on this film, he had a first cut that was audience ready. Since that first screening, Smith has revisited the cutting room and I would imagine that what we see in theaters in October is the sum total of all of the experiences of the road show, rolled into a masterful cut. Really, its kind of brilliant. Normal, focus group showings are comped tix for the audience as long as you fill out this questionnaire. Smith got them (and me) to pay between $50 and $80 beans for a ticket to the event. And, he has all the questionnaire feedback he wants on Twitter, Facebook, and the Smod boards! I say again…he is an effing GENIUS! Kevin, my only request as I hope we see this more often, is that the ticket prices come down…between $20 and $50 would be much more reasonable for an event. $50 – $80 was too much. I was 5th row, dead center and I’d of paid more for such great seats to an event like this. But in times like these, I hate that folks had to pass because they just didn’t have the dough.

RED STATE follows the hijinx of THE FAMILY, a religious sect that has many shared beliefs exhibited by the WBC, but taken to extreme with murder and mayhem also on the menu. What I saw as the major parallel between the WBC and the sect featured in Red State, is that both groups seem to have a strong distaste (or HATE) for anything and everyone who isn’t them.


Pastor Abin Cooper is the leader of this band of religious fanatics, and his daughter Sarah (recent Academy Award winner Melissa Leo) is a church elder. Sarah’s husband Caleb is played by Director Smith’s HOLLYWOOD BABBLE-ON sidekick, Ralph Garman. Garman is a comedian, radio personality, and now movie-star and while his words are few, it was good to see him on screen. Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, wife to Kevin, is also a baddie in the flick, playing Ester one of the congragation’s loyal subjects.

The two most memorable roles from this film were the portrayal of the town sheriff, by Stephen Root, and the ATF Field Office Commander, by John Goodman. What about Michael Parks’ Cooper, you say? His role defied the term memorable to the level of being iconic. Abin Cooper as a character in this film, and Michael Parks’ portrayal of him is nothing short of iconic. But for every memorable moment with Parks, there was an near equally powerful moment by John Goodman. I was absolutely floored by Goodman’s performance and perhaps it struck me so starkly when compared to Parks because I was used to Parks being great and his fantastic delivery was no surprise to me. For Goodman, I think this is his finest role to date. And as for Stephen Root, it wasn’t perfection or delivery that made Root’s Sheriff Wynan so good, it was the character and his part in all of this that makes him so memorable.

A spoiler-free description in a nutshell for the movie is this: three city boys head off to the country, looking for a little bit o’ sexual escapade. They get wrangled into some trouble with the aforementioned religious sect and ultimately law enforcement is drawn in to investigate. Calamity ensues.

This movie was fun to watch with tense moments interlaced with well-delivered one-liners and longer monologues written with grace and finesse that Smith’s earlier works haven’t offered him as many opportunities to write. This is an adult movie with adult language (I mean tone, not swearing you infant!) – Smith shows us he can write for the big kids as well as some of the best dick, fart, and weed jokes ever written.

There were some great steady-cam, Bourne-Identity like running around action shots. For every bit of action, there was a bit of humor, some intentional, some were just of the uncomfortable as hell moments, so-I-will-laugh variety. My only complaint goes towards some of the shots of the sect members involved in a bit of gun play at a couple of spots point in the film. For a few scenes, the shots are limited to close-ups of their upper torsos, firing their weapons. I thought these static shots took away, oh so slightly, from the other action sequences that were shot so well. Perhaps his goal hear was to show the fortitude of their position as matching that of their will? Whatever the goal, I thought these few scenes could have been shot more dynamically, but I must say that on a $5 million budget, I offer some forgiveness because over all, Smith took $5 million and made it look like $25 million, easily.

The Reel Rhino is clearly a big fan of Kevin Smith. I give RED STATE a very strong 5 of 5 horns and offer to the Director a congratulations. Not only have you done something different than you have in the past, but you did it right See this movie!

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And a Hero will rise…

Posted on 07 September 2011 by Thraxxus

We live in a rather troubled world. In fact in four days we will recognize those who died in the Twin Towers in New York on September the 11th, 2001. I will write a post about that, on that day, but not today. Today I wanted to touch on something else, something that humans throughout our history have been captivated with – heroes. The real question is – why are we so intrigued by the idea of a hero?

All one really needs to do to find a hero in literature is to open practically any book – most of writing is centered around that idea in some way, shape or form. Even romance novels (not that I read those – psheah) have a hero of some kind who typically becomes the love interest of the main character. Written accounts of heroism dates back thousands of years, in fact it is those stories that have been handed down the most. The Bible? Filled with heroes. The Qur’an? Loads of em. The Torah? Please, of course. These are all the central texts of the three major religions in the world (yes there are loads of others) and each of them are filled with accounts of heroism. Why?

Simply put not everybody can be a hero. We like to believe that being a hero is in all of us, and to some extent, given the right situation, maybe that is the case. According to Berkeley :

“when we ask why people become heroic, research doesn’t yet have an answer. It could be that heroes have more compassion or empathy; maybe there’s a hero gene; maybe it’s because of their levels of oxytocin—research by neuroeconomist Paul Zak has shown that this “love hormone” in the brain increases the likelihood you’ll demonstrate altruism. We don’t know for sure.”

Does that mean if you lack that chemical, or are just short on it, that you can’t be a hero? This leads us to the question “What is a hero?”  Dictionary.com says:

he·ro

/ˈhɪəroʊ/ Show Spelled[heer-oh] Show IPA

noun, plural -roes; for 5 also -ros.
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal: He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
4. Classical Mythology .
a. a being of godlike prowess and beneficence who often came to be honored as a divinity.
b. (in the Homeric period) a warrior-chieftain of special strength, courage, or ability.
c. (in later antiquity) an immortal being; demigod.
Hmmm. None of that really strikes home nor does it describe the actions of the heroes we like to look up to – those found in comic books. Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man (lots of men here, wtf?), Wonder WOMAN, The Hulk. The list goes on and on. Granted, all of them have super powers – that does seem to make it a bit easier to be a hero as they all have something that the normal bad guys don’t have. Does that make a hero? Super Powers? That doesn’t explain other people. Consider these two high school football players who got a kid out of a car. People are calling them heroes when all they did was break a window – right? Doesn’t feel heroic – and they saved a life, a kid’s life.
I always liked this quote:
“A hero is one who will go where angels fear to tread.”
And this one…
“They were running in while everyone else was running out.”
And this..
“He could have gone down with us, and left that building, but instead, that man with the red hankerchief went back up into the burning building to help more people.” – On Sept. 11, at the age of 24, Welles Crowther became a hero — the “man in the red bandanna.”
What makes a hero? What really makes a hero? The answer is easy:
When a person puts the needs of others above his own.
On September 11th, 2001, many heroes rose to that call. They cast aside their own needs, not even considering them, to charge in where angels feared to tread, so that the needs of those they had never even met would be answered. They ran in when others were running out, some went back when they weren’t expected to ever even go in to begin with. On that day, that fateful nightmare of a day, the call of humanity was answered by the nameless few, those without capes or superpowers, those without the ability to defy death, those heroes. If you need to be inspired, on any day, just look to the sky and remember those who fell so that others might live another day.

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