Archive | October, 2011

When life gives you lemons…

Posted on 29 October 2011 by ~baba

I had a friend drinkin’ n drivin’ in his convertible, cruising through Arizona one night. He passed a large truck and waved his bottle at the driver and after several waves of the bottle the driver pulled over and had a couple of shots. He offered John some lemons which was his load and John accepted. The driver swung a chute over John’s car and nearly filled it with lemons, John was in the convertible when they were dumped and not being able to move he slept it off there. The next day he was able to redistribute the load so he could drive and stopped at the first supermarket and traded lemons for bags and a box to make a sigh and sold lemons. Well he has some wild tales and some that are unbelieviable but there’s one thing I know to be true for sure, he’s a Cajun and one of his reciepies uses 1 tep of kerosene, and it’s delicious……..baba(this is an actual photo of him, I lived at his house once when I needed a place and he lived at my place when he needed to one winter, and yes, I’m feeling pretty good finally)

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In Time – Reel Rhino Review

Posted on 29 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

I may be light on the filmgoing this weekend…if any of the Reel Rhino faithful get a chance to see Puss in Boots, Anonymous, or The Rum Diary…please drop your opinion in the comments section below.  And now on to the show…

I was extremely excited to see IN TIME.  I say that, knowing full well that the lead was played by none other than J Tim…Justin Timberlake that is.  I am here to announce once and for all, I no longer recognize as a former boy band member and I now recognize him as an actor.  His role as Jacques Grande in The Love Guru withstanding.

Granted, he wasn’t in Sean Parker form (see also: The Social Network), but he can pass for an action/adventure hero, and I think that we will be seeing a lot more from him in the very near future.

When I saw the trailer for this, I was pretty blown away at the concept of the flick…I think I will describe this film more than offer a commentary, other this: go see this flick…it is an original concept, and for that alone, it deserves to be seen.

When Will Salas (Timberlake) is falsely accused of murder, he must figure out a way to bring down a system where time is literally money, enabling the wealthy to live forever while the poor, like Will, have to beg, borrow, and steal enough minutes to make it through another day.

It was the trailer that sold me on this flick…Currency is time, in every sense of the word in this film.  There is no paper money…set in the near future, you are paid for work with time, you pay your bills with time…time is all that matters.  You age normally from birth through age 25…that’s when your “clock” starts and you maintain a youthful appearance until the day you “time out.”  Imprinted on your arm is the sum of your wealth, being the amount of time you have left in your life, unless you can get more time.

Salas stumbles into a great deal of currency, when he saves a stranger from a group of thieves.  Muggings in this future society have a bit more of a dire impact, than just losing your wallet.  Time can be shared with friends or family, which is also how the thieves make their run at getting minutes however they can.  The means of transfer is touch, with the grip and direction of twist in the hands affecting the direction of flow of time.  A neat concept, indeed.

Then there are the timekeepers…the cops of the future, who are tasked with investigating unbalances in the distribution of time in society.

The concept is made even more complex as the nature of these unbalances become more clear.  There are neighborhoods, known as “time zones,” \which to travel into, you must pay a steep toll, to the tune of a day up to a few months, to travel from one to the other.  A sort of population control.  The rich and famous live in Zone 1, where people have time banked to the proportion that they are essentially immortal.  The poor live day to day, literally.

When Salas gets this load of time dropped in his lap, he quickly maneuvers himself to Zone 1.  He makes some friends and is invited to a party, where he meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried).  This is where the story really takes off and i’ll leave it to you to see how it plays out.

The lead timekeeper is played by Cillian Murphy.  He looks twice the size as he was in 28 Days Later and truthfully, he was pretty bad ass!

Also making an appearance here was Olivia Wilde, 2011’s It-Girl.  She plays Will’s mother, Rachel.  It is kind of an odd concept to get used to, given the oldest anyone looks is 25 years old.  Yes, some of the less fortunate do look a bit more haggard…Johnny Galecki for one…good to see you back in features, my friend.

Murphy’s timecop is certain that Salas must have stolen the windfall of time that he was given, and the cat and mouse game is on.

This film was written and directed by Andrew Niccol.  A notable work in his past that bleeds through in this flick is Gattaca.  The bio-medical sci-fi genre is clearly something he does well…but then again, he also gave us S1mOne, the Al Pacino atrocity.  He was the screenwriter on Peter Weir’s The Truman Show, a Reel Rhino favorite.  I think as a filmmaker, Niccol has talent, I only wonder why his films are so few and far between.  Gattaca was Niccol’s first feature, released when he was just 33 years old.  Since then, he has made only 4 other films, In Time included.  He does have another writer/director credit slated for 2012, a sci-fi flick called The Host.  Given my enjoyment of this flick, I can’t wait.

The tone of the film reminded me of Gattaca, as well as last year’s Surrogates, the later being the much less sophisticated of the two, but a film I like none the less.  I liked the tone, as well as the overall look of In Time, very industrial and dark, where appropriate, which was contrasted nicely with the light colored and more clinical look of things, also when appropriate.

This film had some good laugh out loud moments, a solid through and through storyline, and a real cute hair cut on Seyfried.  What more could you ask for from an original sci-fi film, the likes of which was reminiscent of Christopher Nolan, with just a little less panache.

A real decent outing by all, I give this 4 of 5 horns.

FYI: Ghostbusters is still playing at AMC Theaters…they are running two shows, including a midnight screening, through Halloween.  Go see it if you can!!

Until later, take care,
Reel Rhino

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Mit “Waffler” Romney

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Thraxxus

Mit Romney is, at present, the leading presidential candidate for the Republican Party – granted it really depends on who is counting the “votes” and when. Mit has a rather lengthy professional career and has also been the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. Mit ran for the presidential seat back when Obama won, and didn’t pull it off then. Why? Mit is a waffler and flip-flopper. Why does that matter?

First you must understand that Mit Romney was a very successful business man – with loads of help from other people. Ironically many people would argue that he was a ruthless, evil bastard – maybe – but that is typically the cocktail needed for a successful business dude. Given the successful businessman history one might conclude that he knows a little about economics – maybe.  See this is where a mistake is being made, pushed mostly by Mit’s camp might I add, that because he was good at business he will in turn be good at being President. Amusingly enough this was the same conclusion that Ross Perot presented years back and the Republicans called BS on that campaign strategy – and here they are now using just that. Either way we must state that Mit was a successful business guy and thus is a millionaire of epic proportions.

So successful private sector business guy makes Governor and shoots for Presidential election. One must ask all politicians where they stand on issues right? Therein lies the rub for me with Mit – the dude doesn’t really know. See the odd thing about Mit is that he takes a strong stance on things, and then later undoes said strong stance because people questioned his strong stance. On important issues he often doesn’t take any stance at all, only to later take this awkward high ground about how he was always right to begin with – catch being the guy never made a comment on the matter being discussed at all – except of course “I have no comment at this time.” Well no shit Mit my man, of course you were right – you did have no comment!

I find this perspective on politics to be the new uber Politician. Stance? On abortion? Yes! There is such a thing! The economy in shambles?!?! I know right!? Mr. Romney do you have an opinion at all? Yes! Two, totally opposite opinions about the same topic at the same time! Here is the thing – if that is really the case then do we really want a guy running the country who at times acts like he has multiple personalities?

Or is it that he really isn’t the one answering these questions to begin wtih?

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Footloose and Paranormal Activity 3

Posted on 28 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

I am a slacker.

What I should have done is to have watched the original Kevin Bacon classic, a childhood favorite of mine, before having watched this film.

The truth…well the truth is I never planned on watching this remake, mostly because the trailer gave me more a vibe of Step Up, rather than Footloose.

I was wrong. Footloose (2011) was a sweet film, with a decent emotional core, that had some really enjoyable action set pieces. Now read that correctly, please…an action scene in Footloose, for me, is a well choreographed dance number, and of this, there were several.

What you may not know is that I am a sucker for a good choreographed dance number. That is one of the reasons I love Glee, but with Glee, they have been mostly devoid of fun songs this season and things have been a little too much show-tuney.  A good dance scene can nearly bring me to tears…okay, it does bring me to tears…

I never intended to see Footloose. I actually meant to go see The Three Musketeers 3-D, given the 3-D trailer for Attack of the Clones preceded it. You would think after 1050 movies at the theater, that I could read the times correctly, but I’m a rhino, not an elephant…rhinos can be forgetful!

So Footloose it was and I am better for it. The film is really a standard fish out of water story, combined with a standard stranger in a strange town, outsider story…set to music.

The original Footloose was a film I saw in the theater, and much like Ghostbusters inspired my friends and I to hunt the spirits roaming our neighborhood…Footloose inspired us to dance. We had roots in the breakdancing years, so making the jump to more contemporary moves shouldn’t have been a problem…within a few days, we were back to headspins and backspins. You should have seen us after Karate Kid, now that was a show.  All three; Footloose, Ghostbusters, and Karate Kid all came out in 1984.  I was 8….it was a big summer.  You should have seen the bunch of us after 1985’s The Goonies…adventure was afoot plenty that summer.

The acting performances were passable. Unknown actor Kenny Wormland plays Ren, just moved to Bomont, TX from Boston following the death of his mother. Ren isn’t really a troublemaker, but in a town where dancing is illegal, any non-Bomontian would seem like a rabble-rouser.  Wormland would be just any up and comer to me, except when checking his bio, I see that he played an unknown dancer in Kevin Smith’s Clerks II.  That knocks him up a notch in my book.

We learn early on that five students were killed in a car wreck three years prior to the timeline of this movie. This event led to the institution of a curfew, and among other laws, the banning of public dancing by the town’s youth and any playing of “disrespectful” music.

The love interest is Ariel (Julianne Hough) and the best friend role of Willard is played by Miles Teller. Ariel’s brother was one of the kids killed in the wreck. Her father, the town Reverend, was played quite stoically by Dennis Quaid.

As an aside, I thought that Hough and Teller were the spitting image of both Jennifer Aniston and Shia LeBouf.  Also as an aside, Hough is listed as an uncredited extra from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone.

Zac Efron was originally slated to play the role of Ren. I am glad he did not, as his presence may have been a little distracting. Wormland was better than passable in his performance, but I mean c’mon, he’s no Kevin Bacon…but few are.

There are a few recognizable faces in the rest of the cast, including Andie MacDowell, Ray McKinnon, and Kim Dickens.

This film has your standard love triangle and several montages, perfectly lifted from the 1980’s blueprint for this type of film.  The music was good, but not as memorable as the original, but in a turn of homage, all of the best songs from the 80’s classic, were organically integrated into this film. That was a surprising and very welcomed aspect of the film.

An enjoyable film, I give Footloose 4 of 5 horns.

Given this film had a Tomatometer score hovering around 80%, I entered the theater with high expectations.

I think I like this movie more in hindsight, much more than in the first few minutes after walking out of theater. But don’t put too much stock in that, as I have decided to upgrade PA 3 to a 2.5 from a 2.

This is a barely passable offering as a horror movie.  There were some good jump scares, but for 88 minutes running time, it seemed to take way to long to get into the meat and potatoes of the mythology.  Everything were simple scares until the last few minutes of the films.  And what you learn in those last few minutes, seem highly unlikely give you know exactly the fate of these two young ladies.

That’s right, if you didn’t know it, this film it a prequel.  It covers a period of time in the young lives of Katie and Kristi Rey, the two fated heroines of the first two flicks.

Paranormal Activity, the original, was shot and produced for $15,000.  It made $107 million domestically. That’s a profit many would kill for…it didn’t hurt that the film was viewed by Steven Spielberg, who championed its theater release.  With Pappa Steve guiding the ship, he suggested a change to the ending, and it was so.  Given the $15,000 independent spirit of the original, although I didn’t love it, I respected the hell out of it.  Much the same is my opinion of the first Saw film and the sequels that followed.  Much like Saw, it seems as though the more of these are made, the crazier things will get.  Not good crazy, though.  (see also; Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, etc……)

An interesting aside is that the directors for this film were none other than Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the directors of the 2010 documentary hit, Catfish.  Catfish was one of my favorites of last year and I stand by you should watch it, just don’t check out anything about the movie before you see it.  The description by the critics of the film’s Hitchcockian feel was accurate.

But the past is the past, and what have you done for me lately?

Jost and Schulman were logical selection as the lead male in PA 3 was as much obsessed with filming their day to day lives as the pair was filming Nev Schulman in his romantic endeavors as was pursued by his Facebook girlfriend.

Paranormal Activity 3 is a lackluster film that is good for jump scares only.  If you haven’t seen the first two, it won’t matter.  It will help give some context, but not much.

I am told they are planning a total of five movies, and for now, they are left with a tough choice…do they stick with the found footage approach, or do they flip over to studio films.  It didn’t work for Blair Witch…the original Blair Witch is a cult classic…yes, it only holds up for one viewing, but it is effective.  Blair Witch: Book of Shadows was an atrocity.  It’s a tough choice, but to make these worth watching, it may take more than adding a tradition shoot to pull it off.

As an aside, as a Maryland Terrapin, the first time I saw Blair Witch on an unmarked VHS tape making the bootleg rounds around campus, long before the first ad for it hit newsstands or theater previews.  It was scary as hell, and for all we could have known, it may have been real.  That’s one helluva way to watch a flick.

I don’t think Paranormal Activity will be able to turn it around…but you know that I’ll be there to figure it out.

2.5 of 5 horns.  Mediocre at best.

Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

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So…Who are YOU gonna call?!?

Posted on 25 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

(NOTE: So I am about to weave a yarn, like my grandma used to tell about a spectral-locomotive that would rocket by her farmhouse as a little girl…but let me be clear…my point here is to let you know that this Thursday, October 27th, 2011, GHOSTBUSTERS is back.  It has played the last two Thursdays on a special Halloween re-release, and this Thursday is it the end of the run.  Your last chance (for now) to see this film on the big screen.)


Well that’s what my 2-year old was saying, at least….

It’s the Ghostbusters and they’re ready to believe you!

This is, without question, my favorite film of all-time.  I saw it first in the theater in 1984.  I was eight.

So as I was saying…I was 8 years old.

The film came out in June.  We spent the rest of that summer trying to fashion proton packs from miscellaneous scraps of metal and wood and nuts and bolts from my dad’s leftovers from his constuction business taken clandestinely from my garage.  Of course some of the best stuff came from the Mulvin’s shed up the street.  They had scrapped electronics, sheet metal, and everything needed to make a real sweet proton pack.

But as it went, we were eight.  Instead of getting a decent pack built, we nearly burned down that shed, thinking we could replicate some wicked Hot Wheels stunts if we trenched out a track and filled it, moat-like, with gasoline.  That day things went a bit awry.

Now a few years later, when we were in 6th grade, a friend of mine’s older brother had actually made a proton pack.  I can’t promise that it worked (heehee) but it looks effing awesome.  He made it in shop class and bought a GB-like jumpsuit, got creative for the patches, and for my money, he was a fire-breathing pimp who as far as I knew, was sure as hell ready to bust some heads, in a spiritual sense, of course.

(Note: these days, for anywhere from $50 to several thousand, you can actually by a pre-made proton pack…just remember if you do, you may be walking around with an unlicensed particle accelerator on your back!)

Smash cut to high school…in eleventh grade, I had moved handily past trying to create a respectable Ghostbuster costume…or as I would have referred to it, a uniform.  But I was admitted into “The Vault’ that year.  Named after the in-joke to Seinfeld, The Vault consisted of a group of close friends, who had the unfortunate pleasure of spending junior prom night shooting hoops in Mike Wargo’s driveway.  They would be there for the Zima incident of 1994 and for the record, initiation for me was strutting into Victoria’s Secret and asking if they had a crotchless teddy in my size.  By the time I did it, dozens of my classmates had gathered outside the store, by the time it was over, security had been called and I left a little piece of my dignity inside of the Millcreek Mall that day.  Although many shuvs and zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the slor that day I can tell you, but it was worth it.  (C’mon, you remember, the last of the McKetrick supplicants!)

So one night, I am at a volleyball game with some of my fellow vaultians.  I turn to take a picture and the flash fires, with my friend Mike uttering, I looked at the trap Ray.  Golden.

For either my one of my birthdays or graduation, my best gal pal Lora got me a VHS copy of the flick.  You can read more from Lora here:  She’s pretty awesome and to her credit, she knew exactly what I would need foraying to the big city (College Park, MD)…yes, I know, its not that big, but leaving McDowell High School in Erie, PA…really any city is a big city.

I watched that copy of Ghostbusters a lot and I estimate today that I have see the film in general no less than 500 times.  I watched it falling asleep, watched it studying for tests, I watched it a lot.

Eric, Reel Rhino, John (l to r)

Between high school and now, I have always come back to this film.  One of my best friends Eric and I would quote GB back and forth like we were breathing.  Like the ebb and flow of the tide, I haven’t seen Eric in some time, well over a year by this typing, actually a bit closer to 18 months.

I bet next time we get together, I’ll drop the Gozer the Gozarian speech…he may say something or another about “the twinkee,” and perhaps one of us will agree that ‘yes, this is true….this man has no dick.”

I love the film Ghostbusters.  It is the embodiment of a type of film from that era that at the same time were sweet, well-written, well-shot and re-donk-u-lously funny.

SEE ALSO: Stripes, Caddyshack, Spies Like Us, The Three Amigos, Animal House, Meatballs, Vacation, Fletch, and a handful others that in the spur of the moment, I am certainly forgetting.

As the pre-production work for Ghostbusters 3 is reportedly underway, who knows if we will ever get to see that film.  I for one would like to…while I enjoy Ghostbusters 2, it is the far lesser film.  It would be nice to renew enjoyment in this series for a new generation of viewers….

Oh wait…maybe instead of waiting for Ghostbusters 3, you could get out to the theater and go see the original…in theaters for one last showing this month….OCTOBER 27th, 2011…

GHOST BUSTERS (yep, I used the original spelling…)

People, get out there and see this film.  What’s ironic is that this is a digital copy, so I figured it would be crisp and clear along the lines of the Blu-Ray release…THANK GOD, it was not.

It had the filmic look as though the film reels were spinning up in the projection booth and it looked glorious…let me say that as a big guy, I typically save the term glorious for only the most savory of treats (or whatever I happen to be jamming down my gullet) so you can rest assured that I really, really mean it.

Ghostbusters is playing at AMC and Cinemark theaters nationwide…it may be at more theaters elsewhere, but those are the two carrying it around my parts.

Do your duty folks…go see this movie because it is great.  Go see it to reinvigorate interest in this great franchise.  Take your kids, take your friends…go see this movie.

If you hadn’t guessed, this flicks gets pretty high marks from The Reel Rhino…I’d give is a 5 of 5, but I would say that it probably deserves a 6.

Until next time…I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!!

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Grand Opening(of my head)and two letters

Posted on 25 October 2011 by ~baba

What is the name of the village that you are moving to? What is the nearest big city? How long have you known Som?
It looks like your scar is healing up okay. I’m glad that the new medicine that you are taking is working well. Let’s hope it continues.
It’s looking like the sale of the 4 lots will probably go through at a sales price of $20,000. Cross your fingers. We will have to finance it, though. I am not sure what the down payment will be yet. I’ll let you know as soon as I know.
I’m glad that you are feeling better and that you are excited about moving in with Som. Be kind to her and always treat her with respect.
Love, Bruce

Reply: I don’t know the village name, it’s 6km towards Udon Tani from Nong Khai where I’ve been living, we’ll shop in Nong Khai for city stuff and in the village open markets for food, etc. Som was the first person I met in Nong Khai other than the school I taught at briefly. She is 22, from Laos, has parents and three young brothers living there and is returning from a visit tomorrow. She heard that I liked her and moved into my apartment when I was in the hospital the first time and has been caring for me since then. She brought up the idea of marriage and we were thinking of moving to Laos and living near her family but she’s gotten the idea of opening a beauty parlor here in Thailand and her bringing in some income which I like since I’m not quite making it here with the hospital payments, or even before that….
As far as treating Som kind and with respect, there is no question, first I really care for her and second, she grew up hard in two poor countries and had to make her own living, she’s tough and won’t put up with any disrespect, She wears the pants in the relationship, we do what she wants usually.
Last week we went to a sculpture park with 100’s of Buddah and related statues and we ran into a vendor who asked how the French girl was that I had been there with before and Som was upset that I’d been there with some other girl. I gave her a kiss and said that I’d never kissed anyone there before. She turned away but I saw she was smiling and so was everyone else watching us. I hope it works out, I’m pretty happy.
My vertigo is good today, I have brain damage for sure and have been controlling the vertigo with medication and various positioning techniques but sometimes I have episodes where I lose the ability to speak and use my hands, they’re short and scarey but they go away soon. The longest was 1-2 hours and the shortest was minutes. Not being able to speak is pretty weird, I can’t think of the word much less speak it. The hospital ran every diagnostic test they could, ekg, x-ray, blood sugar, you name it. They advised me not to hurt my head again, after all I did have a sword enter my brain and there is damage of some type up there. I guess overall I’m on the plus side, happy and only slightly debilitated.
Hope the land sale goes through and I really appreciate all the work you’ve done to get it going and thanks for what all you have done for me since Mom’s passing………..Dave&Som

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A Couple of Flicks: The Thing, The Big Year, Abduction, What’s Your Number

Posted on 21 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

Here’s a mini-cavalcade of film for your reading pleasure.  Reviewed this post:

THE THING (3.5 of 5 Horns)
THE BIG YEAR (4 of 5 Horns)
ABDUCTION (3.5 of 5 Horns)
WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER (2 of 5 Horns)

THE THING: 3.5 of 5 Horns
I prepared for The Thing, by watching The Thing.  When I say “The Thing,” I am referring to the 1982 John Carpenter version of course.  I have not seen the more aged classic, The Thing from Another World, but I am okay with that.  While there are many who pine for 1960 and older horror, my love of the genre begins with the 1968 Romero classic, with many of my favorites spanning the 70’s into early 80’s.

You see the concept of The Thing is based on a 1938 short story, “Who Goes There,” by John W. Campbell Jr.  The 1982 film was adapted by Bill Lancaster, whose only other credits include all of the Bad News Bears films and series from the late 1970’s.  Bizarre.

I love The Thing.  I think it was one of Carpenter’s finest, and that is saying a lot from the creator of Halloween.  Seminal Carpenter for me includes Big Trouble in Little China.  Carpenter pulled some great performances from Kurt Russell, and Big Trouble is no different.  See also, Escape from New York.  Skip Escape from L.A.

John Carpenter lost his groove in the 90’s.  If you have ever seen Ghosts of Mars, I’m sorry.  I you ever consider it, don’t.

But lest I digress…I was excited to see this prequel in a part based on my love of the first, but also I am a big fan of both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Joel Edgerton, most notably from their roles in Scott Pilgrim and Warrior, respectively.

So knowing that this current offering was a direct prequel to the Carpenter classic, I had to go in primed.  That score is so damn haunting and so perfect for the original, I am pleased to say that they channelled it nicely for this film as well.

This film serves as a suitable prequel, but it is certainly a lesser movie in general. The first 15 minutes had some of the grit of the original, this film also set in 1982, prequeling immediately the events that took place in the Carpenter classic.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a suitable lead and she gave an enjoyable performance. The problem is that this film was a carbon copy of the original film from 1982. There was very little difference, other than the gender of our hero, and for my money, I expected more.

Granted, one of the great aspects of the original were the practical effects that were exceptionally creative. This film offered a wide range of effects that actually stood up in comparison to the original, which lifted this from a mundane prequel to an enjoyable film.

As a fan of the original, I think I was drawn to this film and more apt to enjoy it. It is sitting at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, but perhaps the higher IMDB ranking at 6.7 of 10 is more fair a score for this movie with a a variety of thrills, decent effects, and a similar storyline to a predecessor in the series.

I say check it out. If you haven’t seen the original, put it in your queue and give it a run. 3.5 Horns of 5 for The Thing (2011).

I would support a sequel set after the events of the Carpenter effort that takes elements of both films and creates a new story based in the mythology of The Thing. A few characters seemingly survive the original and both actors are still working…close this series with a bang and give us a new story within this familiar, enjoyable horror world.

The Big Year: 4 of 5 Horns
Don’t listen to the critics…well, if you consider me a critic, listen to me, but ignore the naysayers!

The Big Year succeeds as a sweet, funny film, that is much better than it’s Tomatometer score would let on (40%).

How about this cast…

A subdued Steve Martin, a sweet Jack Black, a standard Owen Wilson, Rashida Jones, Dianne Wiest, Brian Dennehy, Rosamund Pike, Anjelica Huston, Joel McHale, Kevin Pollack, JoBeth Williams, and Anthony Anderson.

Wow!  The cast alone should have your interest peaked…I went in not having seen the trailer, only having heard through the scuttle that the film was about birdwatching, or birding.

It is in fact based on an actual contest, called appropriately, The Big Year, in which birders try and see how many different species of bird they can see or hear within a calender year.

Barry Bostick (Wilson) is the reigning birding hero, holding the world record and being the pimp daddy of the birding community.  He is as vain as they come and he is fearful of his record being broken.  Among those set to challenge him, is Stu Priessler (Martin), a recently retired high-powered CEO, who has dreamed for years of setting off on his own big year.  Brad Harris (Black) is a dreamer.  A computer debugger by day, he is mostly broke, and like Stu, is in it for the love.

These three actors have given great performances in the past, and while I think they are good but not great hear, they play off one and other perfectly, and it synergistically combines to something much better than most people are giving this film credit for.

Being a stranger to the birding world, I was happy to learn so many aspects of this sport, albeit it a dramatized version of this world.

In addition to being a comedy and a drama, there are elements of thrills thrown into the mix, as whether one is engaged in a Big Year, is typically kept secret, for fear that other birders will set to derail them in their quest.

This is a fun story and for what I recall, a family friendly one.  Minus a few S-bombs and a scantily towel wrapped Rosamund Pike in one scene, this is a pretty clean film.  It is rated PG, which is rare for any mainstream film these days.  The comedy is effective and it is clean.

Give The Big Year a chance.  It has heart and this cast superbly comes together to make something of a Christopher Guest effort, without the tongue-in-cheekedness than comes with his mockumentary filmmaking.  David Frankel is a competent director and his previous efforts include Marley and Me and The Devil Wears Prada.  In my opinion, he has created a very accessible film, written for the screen by Howard Franklin based on the book by Mark Obmascik.

4 of 5 Horns for this very sweet and enjoyable film.

Abduction: 3.5 Horns of 5
The timing was right, so I subjected myself to this film, starring Team Jacob aka Taylor Lautner.  4% on Rotten Tomatoes….4%.

This is a better film than 4% indicates and better than the IMDB 3.8/10 as well.

John Singleton is a talented director.  I had no idea until moments ago that he directed this film.  His experienced hand definitely elevated this picture from mundane to mildly exciting.

And for a mildly exciting film, in general I have no real complaints.  Taylor Lautner is a tweenagers dream, Lily Collins is an up and comer (she’ll be the other Snow White next summer), and the experienced cast like Alfred Molina and Sigourney Weaver actually show up and don’t just appear to be grabbing a pay check.

The gist is Nathan (Lautner) is assigned a school project on Internet websites.  In his web travels, he comes across a website that is dedicated to missing children.  He finds an age progression photo of a boy that looks exactly like him.

Nathan confronts his mother and she admits that while a complicated situation, she and Nathan’s Dad have only ever acted in his best interest.  As this is happening, some black suited baddies show up and kill both his parents, and he becomes the pursued.

From the moment of the initiating events, Nathan is pursued by two groups, a terrorist and his endless supply of heavies; and the CIA.  He doesn’t know who to trust and the story is coherent and the action decent, if not a little underused in terms of thrilling action set pieces.

A short but effective sequence takes place at the stadium of the Pittsburgh Pirates, with a game underway.  While coming off as a bit needy for some cheap action, Nathan’s parkour escape run is actually well choreographed.

There a few cheesy bits of dialogue, but they are not overly distracting.

3.5 of 5 Horns for this a mindless but enjoyable film that would likely look better on the big screen than at home, so if you can work it in, check it out.  Give preference to more competent films, but if you must, don’t hate yourself for seeing this film.  I am often accused of being overly generous when rating films, but I really think this is not a terrible film.  Perhaps I went in with a negative attitude given the poor reviews and awful box office performance, but none the less, I liked it.

What’s Your Number: 2 of 5 Horns
The real shame about this movie is that Anna Farris and Chris Evans are two talented actors, both with solid comedic chops, with a great sense of on-screen chemistry.

How is that a shame, you say? Because all that good couldn’t save this flick from being just another entry into the romcom trope.

This was an r-rated movie, and while they touched on some decent adult humor, they made the mistake that decent raunch comedies have avoided…they had too many schlocky romcom staples.

Girl is hopeless…
Girl developed a plan…
Girl meets boy, but not “the boy” she thinks he is…
Boy helps girl…
Boy falls in love with girl…
Enter nameless conflict…
Enter heroic resolution…
Cue their kiss…
Roll credits…

The Break Up, for its darker moments, was one of the first films to have boy not get girl.  It wasn’t exceptionally successful, but I applaud its courage.

Bridesmaids had a subtle romance intermixed with the hijinx, letting your affection for the on-screen couple develop just as such, with a deft sense of underwhelming.

These chick flicks that focus on the love story, with the love story hijinks first, and the comedy second, will always fall prey to this pitfall.

One For The Money, starring Katherine Heigl trailered before my viewing of Number. What a pile this looks like, and its just another notch in Heigl’s long list of clusters that are destined for disaster. This film can’t be good, but it will be profitable, and that’s the problem.  That it is based on Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich, may save it.  And for the more gritty tone, it will only succeed if they go dark.  Keep things too light and bouncy, and it will just be the same old same old, regardless of the source material.

There were decent moments in Number, both funny and sweet, but I attribute that to the pure affability of Farris and Evans.

2.5 of 5 for What’s Your Number. See it at home, at best, and only if you’ve already seen all of the decent comedies that have romance at the core. ComRom’s, I say.  Let’s start putting the funny first.

That’s all for now.  Here’s hoping that Paranormal Activity 3 will give us a decent horror entry for this Halloween season.  If not, there’s always Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence.  If you get a chance, Centipede is playing at the Screenland Crossroads.  I have a feeling it will be the only spot in KC courageous enough to show it.

Until later, take care.
Reel Rhino

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The Tower Heist VOD Plan is Dead…Here’s Some Words From a Guy Who’s Got The Pulse of the Moviegoer

Posted on 20 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

Applause for Butch Rigby, Screenland Theaters (KCMO)

While this post gets into the opinion of a single theater operator, and this particular theater is close to my locale (KCMO), I think his take on entertainment rings true for Anytown, USA.  As such, I thought the Blinkin community would enjoy reading the passionate words of a theater operator who has in mind the most important component in movie going….the movie goer.

If you didn’t read my prior post (The Next Evolution) about the previously discussed offering of Brett Ratner’s Tower Heist on Video On-Demand (VOD), a mere three weeks after the theater release, you already know that NATO was, not mincing words, pissed.

Well it looks as though Universal has bagged the idea.  Cinemark had announced a boycott, and more of the big chains were threatening the same.  Universal caved.

In my post, I talked about doing more to serve the consumer, rather than focus only on dollars.  After all, film is an art form, and being such, we shouldn’t be spoon fed how we are to consume it.

The big ticket houses continue to shoot for a dollars only model, and I guess who can blame them, they are a business for goodness sake.  But by focusing on the business, rather than the show, in show business, we the movie goer suffer.

It is a problem of uniformity.  Corporate theaters conform to a company policy, which leads to a more mild version of what the individual theater GM’s could do, if given the latitude.  That uniformity is seen in shops like Wal Mart, McDonalds, and Best Buy.  That’s not to say that small theaters aren’t fans of making money, but if you look at each of the Screenland properties, they offer both a different theater atmosphere and a wide variety of film selection and special events alike.

Butch Rigby is the owner of the Kansas City local Screenland chain.  They get it…he gets it.  Here is a letter Butch sent out to e-mail subscribers this week.  The letter speaks for itself…there are those out there who try and make the filmgoing experience a fun one.

I am not trying to say that the good folks at AMC, my home theater of Barrywoods especially, don’t try and make the movie going experience fun.  But the suits at companies like AMC, Cinemark, and others, don’t always have a grasp of how the average movie goer is entertained.  I think Rigby gets it.

To hell with uniformity, but that is only coming out of one side of my mouth.  I will continue to make AMC Barry my theater of choice.  I like the people and I like the popcorn.

But I am thankful for Rigby and theaters like Screenland.  Without them, I wouldn’t have had the chance to see, on the big screen, the likes of Super, Antichrist, Troll Hunter, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, as well as local favorites like Nelly Don: A Stitch in Time and Blackhand Strawman, both Terrance O’Malley products.  I like seeing my indie fare and I like seeing them in theaters like the Screenland.

I get great enjoyment from seeing movies at Barrywoods, talking to their staff, many of whom are now my friends.  But I think there is a place for theaters like Screenland and I wish they were given some latitude so that I, your average movie goer, will continue to have the power of choice.

Maybe I’m just salty that this VOD experiment was quashed before it started.  Like I said, I want choice in how I consume, and an embargo on new ideas doesn’t help anyone.  With rising prices and more hikes on the way (Sony’s proposed plan of no longer paying for 3-D glasses), something has got to give.

Here is the entire note, sent out on October 12th, 2011, by Butch Rigby, owner of Kansas City’s Screenland Theaters.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Butch Rigby (Left)

I started Screenland Theatres because I love movies. Plain and simple. My colleagues love movies. We built theatres to bring movies to the screen that you might not see on a screen in Kansas City. We built venues that are unique. Fun. Interesting. “The show starts on the sidewalk”. At the Screenland Armour in North Kansas City (just a LITTLE BIT across the river for those of you south who might fear crossing the “Walls of Jericho”, aka the Heart of America Bridge) we decided to build a venue unlike any other in KC-and I think we did. A place where you could watch First Run Films in luxury. A place where the doors, windows and even the door handles reflect our passion for this business.

Well, the way of the world (or at least the parts occupied by the major studios) tells us that the small theatres are simply not going to get all of the first run product we need. Imagine a Wal-Mart next to a small grocery store-except in our case we don’t get to sell the “Tide”. In other words, we can’t compete with the big theatres when we cannot get a lot of the smaller releases since they are “not booking anything smaller than an 8-plex” etc for a particular film. Time for us to adapt. Not complain-but go back to our roots. Show films that you can’t see in another theatre. Be different. Think Different.

Therefore, we are going to be playing some movies that remind us of why we got into this business. Starting with “Rudy” on October 21st. Why Rudy? If you have seen it, you understand this is the kind of movie that must be seen with a crowd! It is the kind of a movie you cheer for. It is real, about real people. It is a movie that you must bring a young person to. Maybe, just maybe they will grow up fool enough to build movie theatres, or build something that no one else thought possible. Just for fun we are showing the Notre Dame/USC game on the big screen that Saturday night. After that, the weekend of November 4th, “Gone with the Wind” , restored and on the big screen. How many people have seen that movie? How many have seen it in a Motion PIcture Theatre? It is Truly an experience. After that on November 11th, the official launch of Terence O’Malley’s book! “Blackhand Strawman”, a compilation based upon his award winning documentary. We will be reviving the film for the weekend, as well as a special screening of “Nellie Don”. Keep your eyes open in the future for his next film (premiering at the Armour) “Tom and Harry”, a fascinating documentary looking at the relationship between Tom Pendergast and President Truman.

We will still bring you some of the Hollywood first runs, but we will be bringing more and more of the classics, documentary films and small independent features that brought us into this business. We will be featuring sing-a-longs, Roasts, the Big Lebowski and the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Additionally, we will be selling the Blackhand Strawman books, videos and other movie merchandise, including the incredible works of vaudeville photographer “Orville Hixon.

We love this business, and we love our beautiful theatres. We simply need to put “butts in seats” as the saying goes. Let us know what we can do to get yours there.

Butch Rigby
Owner-Screenland Theatres

Well said Butch.  Well said.

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Posted on 19 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

Yes, that Emilio Estevez…Our Kirby is all grown up, and he has officially developed some chops behind the camera.  He has previously directed a variety of high-end primetime TV shows and more notably, Bobby, the story of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.  I haven’t seen it, but I intend to.

All I knew about the film The Way, produced, written, and directed by Emilio Estevez, was that he and father Martin Sheen were puddle jumping across the country stopping at Wal Marts to promote it. I wanted to go down and see them when they came to KC, but my allegiance to my job had me firmly fixed to the grindstone that day, and I skipped it.

Having now seen the film, I wish I had gone that day, if only to have an even greater connection with this wonderful story.

The Way is a story about loss at first, but finds its core in showing the growth that can come from loss, no matter the pain that must be suffered as payment.

This film is not religious in nature, but rather, it is spiritual. Hey, no matter what you believe, at some point or another you have felt connectiveness in your life, to some place or some person. That is what this film taps into. The sense of connection or lack thereof that ebbs and flows with those we hold dear in our lives.

Martin Sheen is Tom. In the opening moments of the film, we learn that his son Daniel has died in an accident in the Pyrenees. He was walking the Camino de Santiago, a Christian pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain, also known as the Way of St. James, and on the first night of his journey, he fell victim to some inclement weather.

Tom has flown in to identify and claim his son’s remains, unsure of what led to his life being cut short. When he asks the police official, he first learns of the Camino pilgrimage.

In flashbacks, we gain insight to the sense of regret that Tom has for the deterioration of his relationship with his boy. In very short order, he decides that he will walk The Way with Daniel’s ashes.

His journey starts off as a solitary one, with Tom clearly carrying as much pain as he is gear in his pack.

Not by choice, but through proximity, he gains fellow travelers on his journey. Their stories are as checkered and rich as his own and truly, I feel as though I have said too much already, so I will skip their stories and cut straight to this: see this movie.

Each of the characters we meet have a different reason for making their pilgrimage, which is the primary strength of this film…there is so much to grab a hold of.  This film is not overly sentimental, which is a credit to Estevez, given the material being presented.

A character in and of itself is the path itself. This film was shot on location, and if ever I would ask to see a film in high def, IMAX, ETX, or whatever, this would be one. I saw it projected digitally, but still there is a filmic quality to it. While this added weight in the form of grainy charm, I would have like high res shots of many of the beautiful locales featured.

This is an impactful drama. I can not think of a person that wouldn’t find this film charming, reflective, and overall, uplifting. Yes, the undertones of loss push this handily into the tearjerker category, but only in the best ways possible.

Well acted, well written, and well shot, this film is my pick for some dark horse Oscar nods. Martin Sheen is as wonderful as ever and shows great range bringing honesty to the redemptive highs and depressive lows any father who had lost a child would feel.

Kudos to Emilio and company for making a fine film, self-promoting, and hopefully ending up with a fine piece if art that reaches a wide audience over time.

The Camino pilgrimage is real, and this film was inspired by Emilio’s son Taylor, and his father (Sheen) on a driving trip they took along The Camino in 2003.  Taylor fell in love with a girl on the trip and that girl would become his wife, giving special meaning to the whole concept of the Camino.  Being such a filmic family, the material was rife for some kind of treatment, Sheen initially suggesting a documentary.  Emilio wanted to go bigger, and I for one am glad.  It was worth it.

5 of 5 Horns for The Way

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Posted on 17 October 2011 by Thraxxus

If you have not heard, this weekend, during an Indy Car race in Las Vegas, there was a major accident that involved 15 of the cars. Dan Wheldon, a well known driver, was killed in this accident. Of course youtube is thriving with videos of the accident – macabre to be sure. The accident is tremendously violent and shows you just how fragile these cars really are. Think about nature for a moment. A rhino is a strong creature with lots of armor. He can’t scale a fence. He can’t walk a tight rope. Anything agility oriented is basically completely beyond him. That said he can take and deliver one hell of a hit. Now consider a cat. For his size he is incredibly fast. A cat’s agility borders on the mystical. They can dodge things that most creatures wouldn’t even notice. They catch mice for pete’s sake – a creature that is blindingly quick. Sneeze on a cat wrong and they die. Why? In a way cats traded durability for speed and agility – that is the price for those skills. The rhino preferred durability and strength.

What the hell does this have to do with an Indy Car? Indy cars are cats. They are incredibly fast, agile, and reportedly (I still find this tough to believe btw), if handled correctly, can actually ride upside on the ceiling due to the amount of downward force they exude. They are incredible feats of technological design, and they are just as equally fragile. In effect, if you touch an Indy car wrong, in breaks. If you hit one even slightly it blows apart. That is the price to be the way they are. That is the weird thing about this life – we all pay little prices to do things.

A football player knows that in any play he could be permanently injured for life – paralyzed, even killed. He knew that when he signed up. He gets paid for that danger. A Boxer knows that during any round, receiving any hit, can result in permanent damage, or death. It is what he signed up for. It is actually part of the documentation process – accepting the danger. This happens in many aspects of life. It is not tragic – it is just part of doing the job. Consider coal miners – black lung is something they can get. Deep well drillers – things explode on rigs all the time. It is the nature of the work.

Dan Wheldon died this weekend because of an accident that occurred doing what he loved to do, and made a good living doing it. He knew the cost of that ride. Drivers are taught that. It is not only part of their training, but their lore. They learn about others who have fallen doing what they love. Mr. Wheldon died doing what he loved. Think about that. How often does that actually happen? Yes he died, and that can be perceived as tragic as a life was lost, a man who was loved by many is gone forever. However, he died doing what he felt was his reason for living.

The news, media, and people everywhere are talking about how tragic it was that Dan Wheldon died. I don’t see it that way. A man sitting on a park bench with his children, all three of them being killed by a drunk driver flying off course into a park – that is tragic. They did nothing to be killed in that fashion. They didn’t sign up to be killed by a drunk driver. They weren’t being Professional Bench Sitters where being killed by a drunk driver is a common danger. No, they were just sitting in a park enjoying the weather and each other. Dan Wheldon was in a professional Indy Car race, and he died in that race. Do I wish that on anyone? No. Do I find it sad? Yes. Is it really a surprising tragedy? Not even close.

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Real Steel and The Ides of March…Eh tu, Brute?

Posted on 10 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

This was a weekend that jammed about 20 hours of stuff into each 15 hour waking day, up to and including one nature walk, one visit to the pumpkin farm, and one helluva garage sale.

I am a tired Rhino, but I did manage to catch both flicks.

REAL STEEL – 3.5 of 5 Horns
From “Set in the near future, where robot boxing is a top sport, a struggling promoter feels he’s found a champion in a discarded robot. During his hopeful rise to the top, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father.”

If I had been a younger man, I may have loved this movie.  If I had been a bit less jaded of a movie goer, I would have had a passion ignited in me, for a film like this.

As it stands, I liked this movie.

I am a fan of Hugh Jackman’s and I am happy to see Evangaline Lily getting some post Lost work.  Anthony Mackie wowed us in The Hurt Locker, and he again showed himself as a fully capable and extremely enjoyable.  Dakota Goya was really solid as Charlie Kenton’s (Jackman) long lost son, Max.  You think you saw him somewhere before?  Yep, he was the young Thor earlier this summer.

This movie was well shot, looked great, and had a moderately enjoyable story.  But it was maybe just a little too much in the robots fighting department.  I did like the sense of weight that was given with each step they took, especially seeing it in IMAX.  That said, it was really good, just not great.

I had hoped for more, but you take the good, you take the bad…it wasn’t a terrible flick and it served its purpose for a mindful summer flick.  Yes, I know it isn’t summer anymore, and I wonder if some of this films shortcomings didn’t keep it from going head to head with that other giant robots fighting movie.  I think Real Steel would have had more impact if it had dropped in August, rather than October.  What we need now is a good horror movie, and what we are getting is Paranormal Activity 3.  Like I said, you take the good, you take the bad…

Also, Steven Spielberg was an Executive Producer for this flick.  It showed…Atom, the underdog bot that becomes the lead fighter for Charlie and Max, was found and salvaged by Max.  This essentially becomes the non-transforming version of “a boy and his car” that Spielberg pushed into the first Bay Transformers.

These robots are not thinkers.  They are controlled by operators, which brings more “realism” to the concept and keeps this well out of the realm of being a Transformers spin-off.  But, with the robots being nothing more that machines, there is less invested in the outcomes except for the emotional attachments that have been added to them by the humans that control them.

The upside was that for a mildly effective drama throughout, I really thought the last fight and the resolution between Charlie and Max struck me as effective.  The movie ended at exactly the right moment, but that was exceptionally important since it clocked in at 127 minutes.  I think the whole thing would have been a tighter film at about 100 minutes and the drama would have been tighter if not stretched out so much.

Watch the previews, you’ll get a good sense of the action the film presents.

Again, not great, but definitely worth seeing at the theater, and I promise it will be enhanced if you see it in IMAX.

THE IDES OF MARCH – 3 of 5 Horns
Directed by George Clooney, here is the IMDB description in brief: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Based on the play by Beau Willimon.

This movie is being critically lauded and this is definitely the result of the superb acting chops that fill this flick from start to finish.  Ryan Gosling has been relatively quiet through the past 10 years in subtle roles, making a choppy wake in the Hollywood pool.  Folks, this is the year of the Gos.  He is making waves now, and with the Ides, Drive, and Crazy Stupid Love trifecta, he is officially marked as a superstar.  He excelled in all three roles, bringing high drama, delivering unwavering violence, and napping status as a sex symbol who has comedic delivery on top of it all.

George Clooney is standard (read: great) as presidential hopeful; Phillip Symore Hoffman is standard (read: stellar) as his campaign manager; Paul Giamatti is standard (read: stellar) as the opposing team campaign manager…even Evan Rachel Wood was above par in her role as the scandalous intern that serves as the fuel to feed the fire of drama in throughout the flick.  Also featured were Jennifer Ehle (see also: Contagion); Jeffrey Wright; Marisa Tomei; and Gregory Itzen.

Clooney is an effective director and I enjoyed a good number of his shots and the mild tension that some of the lighting choices brought.

But all this said, here is what I didn’t like…

The overall story was far too light in its handling of the drama.  There was far too little tension and while the gravity of the events unfolding were apparent, there was too little featured in the film that conveyed that any of the characters were really affected by the weight of things going on around them.

Really, only Gosling’s role as the idealistic staffer takes appropriate action when the situations around him demands it, but everyone else seemed to be coasting along.

George Clooney is a Steven Soderbergh favorite and I think the Soderbergh style has rubbed off on him.  I was reminded of Clooney’s 2006 role in The Good German, also billed in part as a thriller.  I liked The Good German, but thrilled I was not.  Just as with that film, I thought the Ides of March was an effective drama, but there was too little dramatic tension that gives the film the chance to be elevated to the status of thriller.

That I was expecting a political thriller, I was let down.  I remember thinking during the flick that if you told me that this was a dramatic re-enactment of actual events, I would have believed it.  Life is usually filled with drama, but far less thrilling that the movies make it out to be.  To that end, as a drama; as a view through a window looking into the procedural world of dirty politics, I guess the movie succeeded.

For my money, I was happy to see this flick, but overall, I liked it for the actor’s workshop we were treated to, more so than the tale that was woven.  I don’t know how the Willimon play came off, but I think the story created for the screen by Clooney and Grant Heslov was a little milquetoast.

That’s all folks….I will catch up with you soon.  I hope to get to business catching up on some TV this week.  I have three more episodes of Breaking Bad before I can watch the season finale from tonight…love that show.  Dexter is back.  I tried revisiting CSI with Ted Dansen in the lead…he looked competent in the role, but I decided to keep it off my watch list.  The first 8 season wore me out, but I will always remember the Quintin Tarantino directed two-fer back at the end of season four or five…perhaps my all-time favorite episodes of any show ever.

I would have liked to have caught Emilio Estavez’s The Way this week…it looks a little schlocky, but in a wholly enjoyable and heartfelt way.  Also, I am pretty excited for The Thing…hopefully this prequel will be the horror fare I am clamoring for.  That and Footloose are opening…my prediction on Footloose: atrocity.

Until later, take care….
Reel Rhino

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Will you still love me when I’m sixty-four?

Posted on 09 October 2011 by ~baba

Monday the 10th I’ll be 64 and my cute li’l Lao roommate is throwing me a party at SEXY BAR next to our apartment(you’re all invited) In other news the two sword wielding muggers have been caught, confessed, reinacted the crime for the police and were on several news broadcasts two days ago. My broken watch and still usable cell phone were also recovered. I don’t know what will happen to them but everyone says several years in jail for sure. I can go after their assets if I want and they both have motorbikes, one very nice and I’d like to give my girlfriend one, she’s 22 and very beautiful and I’d prefer her on a motorbike on a main road at night rather than on my bike taking shortcuts down alleys. I’ve heard there are muggers here. I’m on my feet now, riding my bike when Som isn’t using it and I walk alot now. I’m still having vertigo but am very careful about being next to something I can hold on to. There’s a proceedure that causes your inner ear balance crystals(calcium of some type) to migrate to their original position and I’ll be trying that when I find the info. I have a 300# neighbor who will assist me with the proceedure, under the direction of Som I’m sure. I am a lucky guy, I have friends, a nice apartment, the prettiest girl in town for a roommate, and am regaining my health daily…….baba

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Nov. 24th, 2011, A Date That Will Live In Infamy

Posted on 09 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

On Wednesday, October 5th, 2011, Universal Pictures made a monumental announcement that would have a serious impact on the future of film and film going.

Tower Heist, a film by Brett Ratner, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy, hits theaters on the 4th of November.  A very short 3 weeks later, Tower Heist will be released on Video On Demand.

Whoa.  It may not sound like much, but this is serious business.

Up until now, the only pre-theater release films set loose on VOD have been small, indie flicks; or films that had very low box office expectations.

I love the concept of pre-theater release and same-day release for films that are released in very limited engagements.  I had the chance to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil as a result…George Romero’s latest installment in the Dead series…Hobo With a Shotgun…and even another look at Kevin Smith’s Red State, before its release on DVD.

This concept is a good thing…but will it work for a major studio release?

Better yet, will it work when the price tag on catching Tower Heist at home is…

Wait for it…


Okay, at first glance, that sounds absolutely effing crazy.  When I told The Kid in the Helmet, his kneejerk reaction was nothing short of poetry:

“Blow Me.”

Gotta love The Kid!

Okay, so again, everyone calm down.  Yes, it sounds like an insane price.  But think about it for a minute.  Certainly, there is no way that this will become the standard means for people to see movies, or at least anytime in the foreseeable future.  Yes, the “rich” will probably choose this option at their leisure because they can…damn corporate fat cats!

But, for the average movie going joes and jills, 60 beans is quite a financial commitment for a single movie…or is it?

Let me use myself as an example for a moment:
Two movie tickets: $20.00 at AMC Barrywoods
#1 Combo: $13.75
Bottle of Water: $5.00
Pack of Twizlers: $6.00

and here’s the kicker…

Babysitter for Reel Rhino Jr.: $40.00

Do the math…it works out!

This model is not for your average afternoon solo flight to the theater, BUT…this completely works for:

Date night
Bunch of friends catching a flick and drinking beers night
Your kid’s sleepover
Your kid’s birthday party
A movie party theme night

You get the idea.

My initial reaction was quite like yours.  I actually think this is a pretty lame way to give this a shot….three weeks later??!?

Ideally, if I am going to blow a load of cash on a flick like this, I am paying for the privilege of seeing it at home when I want, from the first moment it is available.  But NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) is pretty unhappy at the prospect of the movie dollars shifting from their theaters to the cozy confines of everyone’s living room and the high end home theater systems that have become so prevalent.  In fact, Cinemark is already talking about boycotting Tower Heist altogether.

Times are changing and we are living in the digital age.  I mean we are a far cry from the sedimentary society that was presented to us in WALL-E, but…times are a-changin’.

My fear is a real one, that rising prices for flicks and food at the theater will continue upwards as theaters try to react to this perceived encroachment on their livelihood.  But what are they really doing for us?

I applaud the distributors looking at new means for getting the art to the audience.  This is happening, just as it happened to the digitization of distribution of photographs; the transition of music from CD’s to .mp3’s; and the shift from the postal service and phone calls to e-mail and Skype.

Times are a-changin’…

So I say this…this idea is not a bad one.  Necessity is the mother of all invention, and perhaps this is the penis showing game the theaters need to get their ass in gear (anybody catch that obscure reference to cult-favorite flick, WAITING?).

Here is what I want to see:

Reasonable prices for popcorn, soda, and candy.  $7.75 for $0.22 worth of popcorn…hey, NATO, renegotiate the box office split with the studios…silently agree to spend a few years with lower profit margins…do something…do anything…but make this happen.  I think if you do, you will be pleasantly surprised at how willing people are to actually purchase MORE of your product.  Take an example from Kansas City’s Sprint Center…they operate Quiktrip stores within the arena and sell re-donkulous amount of product to the more than eager arena-goers.  Doesn’t it make you mad the lengths that people go to sneaking outside food into the theater?  Take some damn action.

Advanced theater going venues (ex. AMC’s ETX) that don’t have a huge upcharge attached to them…get over it, you upgraded your equipment.  Absorb the costs a bit more and you won’t have empty theaters for the upsold shows!

Show quality prints of older movies.  Not just these digital re-releases that have been making the rounds, but more classic prints and short-time runs of the movies that have impacted cinema for so long.  You know Gone With The Wind is the most successful film of all time (inflation adjusted) and you can get it dirt cheap basically anywhere you look.  But I would pay a premium price to come and see this classic film on the big screen just once.  There is money to be made out there, you just have to be willing to work for it.

Show special screenings of current films for roasts and live-tweet showings.  Both of these types of viewings would encourage second viewings.  Can you imagine if you got filmmakers and the film’s stars involved?  Getting to watch a movie with a live-tweeted running commentary by those involved with the film?  Rian Johnson recorded an .mp3 commentary shortly after The Brother’s Bloom was released so that you could watch the film with his commentary.  Brilliant.

Really, my thesis here is this:  You can’t stop progress….you can adapt…or die.

I am glad that Universal is trying this out.  It isn’t an insane idea and for smaller films, it has already taken hold as a successful means for generating viewership for movies many people may not have had access to.

Film is an art form…isn’t it sad that corporations and alliances are keeping this art from being released however the hell anyone associated with its creation wants it to be released.

I love going to the movies…that will never change.  I love midnight screenings…that will never change.  But I want the big movie houses and distribution companies alike to remember that they are working for me.  I am the one holding the dollars they are fighting for…fight for me dammit!

I for one am looking forward to the right situation that presents itself so I want to drop $60 and catch one of these flicks at home.  I am glad that I have another option, no matter how ridiculous the price seems on the face of things.

When silent pictures became talkies….when B&W flicks added color…when 2-D added depth…all of these changes have lead to forecasts of DOOM.

The world kept spinning and movies kept playing.  This is the next evolution.  Just remember, everyone who is fighting this out, are working for you.  We need to demand better service, more options, and maybe even some decisions on green lighting flicks not based on a business model, but rather on the prospect of a movie being good.

If you build it, they will come.

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NBA – Who Cares?

Posted on 05 October 2011 by Thraxxus

It seems like it was just yesterday that people were talking about the NFL and how they would never get past their labor disagreement, talks, etc to such a degree that the season would be lost forever! Of course it wasn’t, in fact very little was lost – except for the fervor of the fans. Yes the NFL talks finally finished with the greedy bastards getting mostly what they wanted (you can guess who I am talking about) and the season did go on with all the drama that one could expect – that said it all happened and the fans that I know just don’t seem to care as much as they did last year. That is important to understand. I know people with season tickets who really don’t even care to go. Its not that they now hate football, they just seem a bit disenchanted.

I still think that the NHL never fully recovered from their debacle. Sure people go to games, but I never hear anyone talk about hockey any more – I mean nobody. I have a dear friend who is a die hard NHL fan and he never talks about it either. I told him the other day that there was going to be an NHL game played here in Kansas City. His reply? “Meh. Who cares.” DIE HARD FAN. What happened? Disenchantment again. I believe that witnessing the greed based meltdown of his beloved sport and borderline religion ruined his love of the game. He still has a certain fondness, just now when he thinks about Hockey one of the first things that happens is that bad taste in his mouth.

So what now of the NBA? Again we are looking at greed. Lots of it. The crux of the argument is that a huge portion of the teams are actually losing money. Think that through. The players association gets 57% of the take from ticket sales, and the owners get 43%. Turns out most of those owners are losing money – some how – to such a degree that several of them implied that losing a season would actually SAVE them money. Apparently the owner proposed a 50/50 split with the players, who flat out rejected it. Understand this – we are talking about a sport where some players make 20 million per season. TWENTY MILLION. Apparently making less than that is just too painful. WTF?

We now live in an age where sports players are glorified to the level of Demigods, and are paid as such, where at the same time those who teach and care for our children daily are having their pay cut yet again. What gets me here is that if teachers were to strike the citizens get upset, the politicians start to cast stones of blame, and eventually everyone tells the teachers to just buck up and take it – and teachers make an average salary of like 37k per year. Meanwhile, professional athletes go on strike because they might not make as many millions as they usually do and the citizens seem to back them up by still buying tickets and going to games. Why?

I say let the NBA strike finish -and then boycott the shit out of the games. You can still watch it on television – in your local bar or at home – just don’t buy a ticket. Show them what it really feels like to lose out on money. Greedy bastards.

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50/50, Tucker and Dale, Dream House; The Kid Reviews Drive and Moneyball

Posted on 03 October 2011 by Reel Rhino

My writings have been light as of late…when I sit in my chair at night, I can barely keep my eyes open.  I am a tired, tired man…

But life is for living, so tired I shall be, but I am having loads of fun along the way.  Within that loads of fun is one of my favorite pastimes, catching flicks.

I will say it has been harder lately to walk into the theater, leaving temperate 70 degree, sunny days outside and to head for the climate control, darkened theaters.  But my love of cinema often outweighs my desire to enjoy a nice day.  Movies are my therapy.  They keep me well adjusted.  They let me laugh, wince, and sometimes cry or even sob at the exploits of larger than life characters.

My most recent flick was just such a day at the theater…

50/50 – 4.5/5 Horns
This has been billed as a cancer comedy, but it is anything but that.  Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of laugh out loud moments, but this is a great drama through and through.  Seth Rogen is funny and just hearing him spout everyday dialogue brings a smile to my face, but what he gets right are depictions of the relationships that exist between longtime friends.  Friends in their 20’s who make jokes with each other above shaving balls and getting laid…you are right, I am not going to crack jokes with a co-worker about blow-jobs or getting pissy drunk, but if you rally the three amigos, the gloves come off.

Seth Rogen gets this right.

And in this film, the story of Will (Joseph Gordon Levitt), Rogen’s real-life friend who (spoiler alert)….survives cancer.  This film depicts the many stages of enduring such a life trauma and as a useful plot device, even gives us a therapist to spell out the different stages that we are seeing on screen.  The therapist scenes may have played out as too didactic if not for adding the presence of the magical Anna Kendrick, a young star that is rivaled by few.

Throw in a sprig of Bryce Dallas Howard, a dash of Angelica Houston, and an Alzheimer’s subplot; when mixed appropriately with Rogen, you get the best of both worlds:  The laughs that come with a realistic depiction of friendship and facing challenges with those friends but also the retching pain that comes with that same realistic depiction, but in dealing with the deepest of cuts.  Treading water while headed for the falls, this film makes you smile in one moment and tears your heart out the next.

This movie worked for me, but it may not for you…mixing cancer and laughs, regardless of my opinion, is frowned upon by quite a few people.  My theater had some walk outs, but in the moments of catharsis in this film, there were shared moments of both heartbreak and joy.

If you think you might like this movie, give it a try.  It is the kind of flick I don’t know that I will ever want to see again, but I am better for having seen it once.

Will Reiser was urged by Rogen to pen this flick, after surviving the dreaded.  I think for Rogen’s unique blend of pot humor, sex jokes, and interesting sounding voice (and laugh), the entertainment industry is a much better place with him around.

Oh Canada….

Dream House 1/5 Horns
A movie directed by Jim Sheridan, starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, and Naomi Watts, has a great sounding line-up, but absolutely fails in its mechanics and delivery.  This movie failed on every level for me and it really got me thinking about the nature of films in general.  I see a Shutter Island like premise on the face of this, and while the combo is way short of Marty and Leo, I am sure that Dream House started with fairly lofty aspirations.  I wonder when along the road to release, if ever, that the filmmaker, the studio, or anyone involved with the film, realized it was a stinker.  Do they still believe in the film, the same way they did in pre-production, when they had a clear vision of what the movie would be?  The moniker of Alan Smithee is always available for those directors who wish to disassociate themselves with the end product.  But few directors would ever do such a thing.  I mean it must be better to be working and making garbage than to be jobless and looking too needy, right?

I guess if I mean anything from this rambling, it is this.  I can forgive most films, if only those involved with making it can admit what they have done.  Make a movie that fails to reach an audience….any audience.  Own it.  Own the bombs in the Hollywood system…own them and get behind them.  When a movie drops and drops hard, make week three a live-cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or something.  Have a showing synced nationwide where everyone live-tweets a roast of the flick.

If the film industry would become self-aware, the world would be a better place.

Self aware?  Kind of like…

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil 4/5 Horns
I love movies like this….this is the anti-hollywood movie.  This film is self-aware…A flick made for just under $3 million by a first time filmmaker (Eli Craig) with a couple of culti-fanboy fav-leads (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine).  If you don’t listen to the Slashfilm Cast, you should, but definitely catch the after-dark with Eli Craig (Slashfilm).

Tucker and Dale is pure genre fun.  A horror comedy in the vein of Evil Dead 2, with high production values on a budget, drawing the most possible from the building materials provided.

Tucker and Dale are “hillbillies” and in this story, its the same old story, the hillbilly clan versus the city folks, except it is nothing you expect and everything you will love, I promise.

So this is part review, part rant, but for all I do, its all I have for now…Check out Tucker and Dale in most forms of Video On Demand, or beginning this past weekend, it became available in 30 markets nationwide and may be expanding soon.  According to the director, after a few weeks in the theater, Tucker and Dale will be making their way to Netflix Watch Instantly…keep an eye out!

He is back!!  And he is bringing some much needed journalistic integrity to this post.  Kid, it’s always a pleasure to have you!

Hello Reel Rhino readers. Part time correspondent The Kid in the Helmet here, checking in with a couple quick reviews…

I have been looking forward to this one for quite some time as I am a huge baseball fan. And living in Kansas City and being a die-hard Royals fan I can sympathize with the predicament the book/movie presents: How can small market teams like The Oakland A’s succeed in a baseball culture that pits the rich against the poor. Currently sitting at 94% on Rotten Tomatoes it is summarized as follows, “Based on a true story, Moneyball is a movie for anybody who has ever dreamed of taking on the system. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s and the guy who assembles the team, who has an epiphany: all of baseball’s conventional wisdom is wrong. Forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget, Beane will have to outsmart the richer clubs. The onetime jock teams with Ivy League grad Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) in an unlikely partnership, recruiting bargain players that the scouts call flawed, but all of whom have an ability to get on base, score runs, and win games. It’s more than baseball, it’s a revolution – one that challenges old school traditions and puts Beane in the crosshairs of those who say he’s tearing out the heart and soul of the game.”

For me this movie is as close to perfect as movies get. As Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane says, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” And while I would agree I will say that I would qualify that by saying, “How can you not be romantic about baseball…if you are already in love with baseball?” Those who are not hard core fans of America’s Pastime may find the movie a bit slow. But for baseball geeks like me it ranks in the top tier of baseball movies along with Field of Dreams, Bull Durham , The Sandlot, and Major League.

While perhaps not as dynamic or over the top as his characters in Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or Inglorios Basterds; Pitt’s performance as Beane is one of his best. You truly believe he is a, “baseball guy,” who, “hates losing more than he wants to win, and they are two different things.”

Jonah Hill is a delight as always. It was really neat to see a versatile side of him. He tackles the dramatic moments with ease and excellence while still maintaining the sense of humor we have come to know and love from his many comedies. I look forward to more dramatic roles from him in the future, which are most certainly on the way after this performance.

This is a different type of baseball movie than we are used to seeing. It is far more about what goes on behind the scene of a Major League Baseball team than it is showing dramatic on the field sports moments. In that way it is kind of the Jerry Maguire of Baseball Movies. That said, Royals fans will be excited to see their Boys in Blue featured in the one scene with the most on field action. I found myself cheering for the fictional on screen version of the 2002 Royals. Yes, something is seriously wrong with me.

So while big time baseball fans will probably take more away from Moneyball, there is still a lot to enjoy for the casual fan. The summer blitz of blockbusters is over and right now Moneyball is one of your best bets for your entertainment dollar. I give it 5 out of 5 KC Royals batting helmets.

Last week I had the chance to see “Drive.” Currently sitting at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes it is summarized as such, “Ryan Gosling stars as a Los Angeles wheelman for hire, stunt driving for movie productions by day and steering getaway vehicles for armed heists by night. Though a loner by nature, Driver can’t help falling in love with his beautiful neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), a vulnerable young mother dragged into a dangerous underworld by the return of her ex-convict husband Standard (Oscar Isaac). After a heist intended to pay off Standard’s protection money spins unpredictably out of control, Driver finds himself driving defense for the girl he loves, tailgated by a syndicate of deadly serious criminals. But when he realizes that the gangsters are after more than the bag of cash in his trunk-that they’re coming straight for Irene and her son-Driver is forced to shift gears and go on offense.”

This is definitely an interesting flick and one that will keep you thinking for a few days after you see it. Taken strictly as a performance piece it is spectacular. Ryan Gosling delivers a quiet, understated performance as the sad yet confident Driver. Fans of AMC’s Breaking Bad and Mad Men will recognize the familiar faces of Bryan Cranston and Christina Hendricks, respectively. Cranston plays a two bit criminal who gives Driver a job at his body shop and assists him with his “extra-curricular activities” by providing souped-up get away vehicles. Sadly, Hendricks is given far less to do in this one as she takes part in the botched robbery and then falls victim to what happens to those who are involved in botched robberies. It’s a shame because most audiences know what she is capable of and would have liked to see her in a more substantial role. Personally I would have preferred her over Carey Mulligan as the female lead. Her performance is more than admirable, but she’s no Christina Hendricks. Albert Brooks also delivers a masterfully performance as the Jewish Mafia Boss. Usually cast as a funny man it was interesting to see Brooks branch out and he is truly terrifying.

What struck me most about this movie is the fact that it’s a modern day western and yet has a feel and a soul that is very 80’s. Take the basic story line: Our hero has no name (Gosling is billed simply as, “Driver”). He is the, “strong silent type.” He appears to be a bad guy, but there is more too him than a typical criminal and there is good in him. He works with criminals but he is not the same. He is morally ambiguous. He falls in love with a girl and in order to help her and her son he agrees to do a job for the, “real bad guys.” Things go horribly wrong and much violence ensues. Remove the fast cars and replace them with fast horses and you have a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. Even the ending is (somewhat) ripped right from the 1953 classic western Shane.

Overall the title of this movie is misleading. There is not a whole lot of driving in the flick. The opening five minutes contains the most driving and is by far the best part of the film. Here is a quick tease of the first couple minutes The word Drive applies more to the ambition of Driver to do whatever it takes to help the woman he loves. There is some good action and violence but this is more of an Art House picture than an action popcorn flick. So if you are going in expecting to see The Transporter Part 37, you will be disappointed. It does drag in parts and is fairly depressing. But if you like watching actors act and want to see a movie that has a true vision, give it a shot. 3.5 out of 5 Driving Helmets for me.

Thanks Kid!  Until next time, this is Reel Rhino, saying so long…

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