Archive | January, 2012

Opportunity Lost

Posted on 30 January 2012 by Thraxxus

Today I attended a funeral. I can’t say that I enjoy funerals, frankly I don’t know anyone who truly does – given the subject matter is deeply saddening. I have been to funerals in the past and it is that subject that is the topic of discussion here. My own mother passed away in 2001 – having lived just long enough to witness the terrible act of the Two Towers falling in New York. Prior to her passing she gave to me a bit of advice that has to do with the subject of death, both I hold dear to this day:

  1. Funerals are for the living. They are an opportunity for those left behind to get together to pay respect to the deceased as well as pull together to mourn. As mom put it, the deceased are already gone – and thus those in attendance to such a gathering are the ones that need it.
  2. “Do not have a wake, a funeral or anything else even slightly depressing in my honor. When I go, and you feel the need to think of me, or talk about me in anyway, I want you to discuss happy things. Something I did that made you smile, or happy – not something sad. If you get together and have a sad event for me I shall haunt you – so throw a party! Talk about your crazy mom with jovial stories – raise a toast to me – but do not sit around and be sad – it will do you no good.”

In short, she was right. The funeral thing, like the one I attended today, is actually missed by most who attend one.  Many people go to a funeral for the person who died, not for themselves. This is tragic. Again, the deceased is gone and with any luck they made peace with you before they left. The reason that you are there is for you and those also in attendance. The most important thing at a funeral is the part that most people dismiss – I even discussed this with the Pastor today: There is a part where the Pastor, or whomever is presiding over the event, asks those in attendance if anyone would like to come forward and discuss the deceased. At the funeral today one person did – one person out of all of those there – I was not that person either. I don’t say this to chastise those in attendance today, only to illuminate with example.

Why is that important to note? Tragically in the USA, for some reason, we have managed as a society to stifle our sadness, our emotions and in most cases our sharing of those things that we all have in common. I know that there were many in attendance just today who were not only sad but also felt that they were made a better person by the deceased. The catch is only one person felt compelled to say as much. Why? Long ago a man died, Bob, whom I looked at much like a second father to me. He was a saint. I truly loved the man for who he was. He was my friend’s father and just an incredible guy. I was given the opportunity then to speak at his funeral, to say one last bit of dialogue, maybe he’d hear it – who knows really. I passed on the opportunity because, to be frank, it just felt weird – standing there in front of a couple hundred people bearing my soul regarding the man I cared for as a father. Think about that – why is that so wrong? What is wrong with us? I will always regret not having said what I felt – and no, it wasn’t for Bob, it was for me. I loved him. Everyone there loved him. The primary thing about Bob that hadn’t been said, and needed to be said, was simply this: Bob was a cool guy – and it remained unsaid.

Today I was at Helen’s funeral – she lived to 92. Helen was breathtaking. I mean that. There are few people in my life that I have met that actually amazed me – that I was in awe of – Helen was one. Helen was a great mother, not only to her own children, but to so many others that she didn’t owe anything to – she just cared for them. She loved them, and showed love for them as any amazing mother would for her children. Helen was also an incredible wife. She and her husband spent a long happy life together – in fact they set an example to so many others on how two people might do just that.

To me Helen was more than that. I was not related to her in any way. I would love to say that we were friends, but the truth is we barely knew each other – we attended the same family events, sure, ones where she was a borderline institution – the woman was famous for her cooking skills and sitting idly by watching her family enjoy her labors. I would watch Helen, I would say hello to her, I would occasionally kiss her head as if I was kissing my own grandmother’s head. I can honestly say I loved Helen as well – why? She was not my mother, nor my grandmother, and we were not old friends – but what she was, and always will be, is far more than that – an Inspiration.

We all need inspiration in our lives, and sadly, often times it is difficult to find. 92 year old Helen was just that, an Inspiration. She never once accepted the societal norm that some people do: old people are to be shelved until they pass on. It is sick – and Helen never once acted like she even knew that people did that. No, Helen lived her life the way people should – she sucked the marrow out of the bones of life to the end. At 92 years old she went bowling several times a week. 92 year olds aren’t supposed to go bowling are they? No they are supposed to just sit in chairs and nap right? Not according to Helen – no, she lived every day like it might be her last and still wanted to get in a little bit before it ended – even the day before she passed she was out doing errands and visiting people. Now that is living.

So to Helen, if I had a glass I would raise it, an Inspiration for us all. A woman who showed us how life should be lived – to its fullest. I am a better man having known you. God speed.

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Primary Debate Questions

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Thraxxus

Apparently this question was asked:

“Which one of you is the bigger douche bag?”

This pic was the was the answer given.

Hey, at the least they were being honest for once.

How do the Republicans really think they can beat Obama with the mud slinging they are doing to each other now? Not one leaf has been left un-turned to diminish the public perception of each other. By the time the real elections get here these guys will have already done Obama’s work for him. Congrats gents.

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A Roving SUNDANCE reporter and…wait for it…Dark Knight Rises Prologue

Posted on 24 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

I am just returning from a great week in DC, I must say I am most envious of my favorite Indie Girl, Kimbaliano, who is currently rubbing elbows with film glitterati in Park City.  There has been a great deal of buzz about this year’s Sundance Film Festival and I am excited to get a report here and there from our girl on the streets.  Stay tuned to the back half of this post for her first update…

In the course of my DC run, I had a chance to make it to three movies, two new in Shame and The Divide, and one repeat in M:I 4, at the Smithsonian Institute National History Museum IMAX theater.

I will post soon on Shame and The Divide, but I want to focus now on my third viewing of Mission: Impossible 4…

Yes, folks, this viewing was in a real IMAX theater (eat your heart out Aziz Ansari) and it had been so long since I’ve been to a full screen IMAX…I had forgotten how absolutely grand they are.  Yes, it is very evident the slight graininess that screams (gloriously) film, but that massive screen is more than enough to give the desired viewing experience.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my fellow filmgoers, Mike and Robert…fellow travelers who were as excited as I for what played before the feature…

I have commented at length on my enjoyment on my enjoyment of the M:I 4, but this was my first run at…oh, I am excited just writing about it…The Dark Knight Rises prologue.  By God is it glorious!!

It is the most appropriate introduction to the new nemesis of the Bat that we could ever hope for.  And folks, Bane is going to be spectacular.  If you haven’t seen the prologue, make it a priority now.  You will not regret it…it is worth the trip, wherever you have to go to see it.   I was truly flabbergasted at how intense and exciting it was.  Gritty and compelling, Christopher Nolan continues to amaze me with his talent and ceativity.

I will be there at the midnight screening for this, I promise.

Reel Rhino yields the floor to KIMBALIANO, who is back in the house for her favorite time of the year!

SUNDANCE!

Yep, my friend gets to live the good life for a week…a life which I envy and plan to emulate sometime in the future.  She works as a volunteer by day, taking in flicks by night.  And thank the good Lord she has great attention to detail, and once again, is willing to share her experiences!

Thank you KIMBALIANO…truly, thank you!

(reposted from an e-mail she sent me Sunday evening)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sundance is going great!  I got here Friday night, and my volunteer shifts don’t start until Wednesday, so I’m packing the movies in now.  4 yesterday, 3 today – my movie going muscles are already sore 🙂

My favorite so far has been MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a small, intimate story from the perspective of the wife of a man serving 5-10 years in prison.  Really well acted, and beautifully shot.

I’ve seen a couple docs – one called THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES – focusing on the family who runs the Wingate Timeshare Empire (most recently having built the PH Towers on the strip in Las Vegas). What started as a story of excess, and the building of their new house (inspired by the actual Versailles which, once built, would be the largest house in America), became a story of the markets crashing and the collapse of their fortune.  It was really promising and totally fascinating, but I’m not sure the film makers knew how to focus the heavy story that unfolded in front of them.  Overall it was a bit of a mess and lacked a point of view, but there’s no denying it provided an interesting view into a life very few people lead.

Big Boys Gone Bananas, another doc, about an amazing David and Goliath story of a small Swedish film maker who directed a film (Bananas!*) about Dole’s use of pesticides in Nicaraguan banana orchards, and Dole’s all out assault on the film and it’s film makers.  It is a really interesting story, if only 10-15 minutes too long.

The most memorable movie so far was Tim and Eric’s billion dollar movie.  Now, apparently these guys have a bit of a cult following on the Internet, and there were a TON of cameos – Will Forte, Zack Galifianakis, Jeff Goldblum, etc.   We actually left before the movie was over.  I’m all for random, quirky, edgy humor, but I just didn’t find this movie funny at all.  It was just odd…and gross…and not great.  We actually held out longer than about 20 other folks who left before us.  Perhaps if you like their Internet show, this is for you, but it was not for me.

Snow has kept us stuck in Salt Lake (and sadly the film makers stuck in Park City) so the star sightings and Q and A’s have been minimal.  It’s supposed to clear up, and we’re hoping to get to Park City tomorrow.  I’ll keep you updated :).

THANKS KIMBALIANO!!

Until later…take care!
Reel Rhino

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Me and Drama Don’t Mingle

Posted on 18 January 2012 by Thraxxus

I am a guy. I know, sad right? Why is this important? Men are simple creatures, simple to the point of being ridiculous. I remember seeing this list of how to impress a woman – it has like 50 things on it, such as give her flowers, write her a card, blah blah. The male version says “Show up naked with beer.” Not totally accurate, but pretty close. What they were saying there is that men are simple creatures. They want to spread their seed, often to a fault. They want to be full of yummy food. They want to be left alone. That is about it. Think Grizzly Bear and you have basically summed up a male.

This does not mean that I am stupid or not interested in other things – it simply means that men are simple creatures. They are easily amused. They like the physical world. It isn’t that men don’t do existential, in fact they excel at it, but it almost never directly applies to them. Men think existentially about other people. What if humans did have a soul? Crap like that. What men, well most men, can’t stand is fruitless drama. We hate it. I hate it. I am using the word hate here. WE HATE IT. Along with drama comes anything that leads to drama, we hate that too. Like Gossip. Gossip sucks. Typically it is bullshit. In an office environment when I hear gossip I either ignore it entirely or, if it is about me, I go straight to whom supposedly said X about me and ask them. I also sight the source of this knowledge. “Mary said you think that I don’t bathe. Is that true?” Nobody talks to me about gossip anymore.

WARNING: Chauvinistic stuff to come!

Why do women seem to enjoy gossip and drama? I don’t get it. I understand that not all women do, but it seems like a majority do to me. In the past I have discussed how drama, in this life, has a tendency to find you, meaning you don’t have to go look for her. She is a cold calculating bitch who loves to show up in your life when it can have the worst possible impact. So why look for her? The bitch will be back with a vengeance soon enough. If your life is so boring get a hobby. Do not create drama. Do not talk crap about other people. Gossip is bad, and typically is based on a concept that humans seem to excel at above all other things: embellishment.

Example: Janet almost walks out of the ladies restroom with a single sheet of toilet paper attached to her foot. She notices it, takes it off, washes her hands and giggles to Jessica. Jessica hates Janet. Jessica goes and tells Michelle that Janet stepped in poop, wiped it off with her finger, and didn’t even wash it off.

Why?

Humans are ugly creatures. We have an amazing ability to create, and a greater ability to destroy. Even my two year old son likes to figure out how things work so that he can break them faster. Women seem to love to tear each other down. It is this constant dance of the sick and twisted that destroys a family or team. Take any situation, embellish, and tell as many people as you can by prefacing said dramatic story with “You didn’t hear this from me but…” and you are on the right track for drama. This has taken such a foot hold in younger people on the internet that now they are killing each other off and committing suicide. Think about that.

What is to be gained exactly? What do you get by spreading drama, lies, deceit, and horror? Are you really so empty, so filled with self loathing that you need to destroy another to feel good about your self – even for a little while?

Do yourself and everyone else a favor, for just a day, and try to not create drama. Furthermore if someone around you is trying to create drama, call them on it. See what happens. Report what happens back here.

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Reel Rhino’s Top 15 Films of 2011

Posted on 16 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

So here it is folks…I know you all have been waiting with baited breath.  Feel free to exhale for the wait is over.

I have be honored to be a part of the Blinkin Blogs team, and I thank the site management for allowing me to continue to post.  I relish my relationship with movies and I appreciate the opportunity to share my experiences with you!

This list, as with much in life, comes with a disclaimer.  My top 15 list is based on the movies that I saw this year.  I am an 80/20 dude, you should know that from the get go.  80% of the films I see are mainstream releases, the other 20% are comprised of indies and documentaries.  Also, I rank my top flicks based on what I see in a calender year.  For example, I have not yet seen WE BOUGHT A ZOO.  Not to say that this would for sure make my list, but because I haven’t seen it, I didn’t even consider it.

Okay, okay…enough rules.  Get to business already!

Fine…you want it, you got it!!

REEL RHINO TOP 15 of 2011
15. Attack the Block – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Cornish has created a unique film, which may have been the most fun you didn’t have in the theater this year.  Yep, you probably missed this one, but you need to give it a chance.  Cornish is from the Edgar Wright camp and this is a British inner-city spin on the alien invasion tale.  This film exists solidly on its own merit and the rag tag group of dudes are part Goonies, part Ghostbusters with a whole load of British swagger and cheeky humor.  The special effects were creative and a bit campy, which gave great ambiance to this film.  Bravo Mr. Cornish, Bravo.

14. Hanna – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Joe Wright created a wholly enjoyable and unique twist on the CIA/spy thriller.  Gritty from the word go and the fantastic score by The Chemical Brothers added ambiance to this film that did nothing but make it even more great.  Saoirse Ronan is spectacular as the titular Hanna and Erik Banna and Cate Blanchett are in their prime.  Banna’s Erik is a bad-ass and he seems to have passed all of his tricks on successfully to the younger Hanna.  This film is very much a chase film from start to finish, and Wright manages the action like an old pro, when this is in fact his first dip into the action pool.  Hanna is not a perfect movie, but it is cool as can be.  It was released through an American studio but it Wright’s touches give it a very palatable European sensibility. The tone shifts from dark to light to dark and so on, keeping you on your toes not knowing who is lurking around the next corner.

13. Rango – 4.5 of 5 Horns
This kid’s flick ain’t really for kids, folks.  It is a fantastic film that is rich in characters.  It is not to be missed and while there are enough interesting visuals to keep the kids semi-happy, the adults will really see the humor and the depth that this film has to offer.  Johnny Depp himself has become somewhat a cliche of wild character films, but he does Rango true justice and yes, even though we rarely get to see Depp in any kind of subdued role, his wild eyed range adds to Rango in the best possible ways.  In most animated films, it is hard to look past the voices to see the characters.  In this film, these characters live and breathe on their own.  I challenge you to pinpoint any of the talent behind the voices, outside of Depp and a very obvious Timothy Olyphant-astic.  This film is a pure animated spaghetti western disguised as Nickelodeon fodder.  You will have a great time watching this movie.

12. Everything Must Go – 4.5 of 5 Horns
The story of a man on the edge of disaster…well actually, his life is a disaster.  He is fired from his job, his wife has left him, and he’s an alcoholic.  Oh yeah…his wife’s swan song…she moves everything he owns onto their lawn before she leaves the house and changes the locks.  What really made this film shine for me was Will Ferrell.  His performance was a tour de force in my book and he give a performance that proves he is more than sports spoofs and occasionally funny goofball comedies.  His sidekick, a young boy named Kenny is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace who is non-other than the son of the Notorious B.I.G.  The young Wallace has a deadpan delivery but he is exceptional in this role, only his second ever, having previously played the child version of his pops in the 2008 biopic, Notorious.  This film was somewhat depressing with an exceptional sense of catharsis head towards the finish.  The film actually inspired me to get my own business together and clear out years of hoarding stuff…a few garage sales later, and I feel I now have a lot of wheat, and a lot less chaff.

11. Red State – 5 of 5 Horns
Asked and answered counselor…see also my three posts about this film on my other site (http://www.reelrhino.com) – The third post is exceptionally entertaining IMO, as I was engaged on Twitter by none other than Fred Phelps himself:

Red State (POST 1)
Red State (POST 2)
Red State (POST 3)

10. Super 8 – 5 of 5 Horns
J.J. Abrams has existed as one of my favorite folks in the entertainment industry for some time now. He solidified that opinion with the wonderful reboot of the Star Trek series. I’d like to say J.J. is a wunderkind director, but he’s been in the biz for over 20 years. In the 1980’s Abrams helped Steven Spielberg repair home movies he had made as a kid. That’s a pretty good break for a young wannabe filmmaker and this was just the first of Abrams/Spielberg interactions that would ultimately lead to this project. While Abrams calls Spielberg the Grandfather of Super 8; Spielberg maintains that Abrams could have travelled this road on his own. Super 8 is something of a Goonies meets E.T. alien adventure film, that is surrounded by all the mystery that both directors love. For further reading, please see also, Abrams TED talk on the mystery of the box. Well Super 8 is loaded with mystery. For starters, the mystery of who the hell are these kid actors? If they were to remake the Goonies, I would vote these folks in. Elle Fanning is charming and a chip off the old family block. I was also happy to see Noah Emmerich and Ron Eldard back in the blockbuster feature game. Super 8 is pure adventure from start to finish. See this movie.

9. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol – 4.5 of 5 Horns
Impressive is just about the perfect word used to describe this film…this extremely impressive first live action effort from PIXAR wunderkind Brad Bird.  He made his bones in the action genre with The Incredibles, but the question was, could he do it without the support of the great animators and collaborative effort that makes every Pixar film shine so bright.  The answer is yes.  And to our old friend Tommy Boy (Cruise, that is), I give you a hearty round of applause, for reascending to the ranks of proper action star.  I think that it was as important to have the Bad Robot (JJ Abrams) team on-board as producer of this flick, as evidenced by JJ’s recent successes (see also: Super 8).  The IMF team assembled here play off each other well, in a comedic sense, as well as running missions like well oiled heists, making the impossible possible.  Jeremy Renner is the here and now, folks…he’s the real deal.  Ethan Hunt is very similar to John McLane as a seemingly indestructible hero…it sometimes gets ridiculous, but somehow it works.  Ethan Hunt is truly the Energizer Bunny of movie heroes.  These action sequences really pop and watching this film gave me one of my favorite film going experiences of 2011.  And, oh yeah, what a joy to see some good old fashion US/Russia hostility captured sublimely on the big screen.  I’m all for world peace but the hints of Cold War conflict in this film gave me a sense of nostalgia ala Red Dawn and Hunt for Red October style of tension.

8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – 4.5 of 5 Horns
When this project was announced, I shuddered.  Literally.  I was sick that we felt obligated to further demonstrate our ethnocentric way of being in the world of film, by taking a perfectly good foreign film and remaking it in the “American Way.”  My fear were mostly assuaged when I heard the picture would be handled by David Fincher, who along with Christopher Nolan, is one of my favorite working directors of the day.  Fincher lives in a dark world on film, and who better to translate the dark world of Stieg Larsson to the big screens her in the states.  He succeeded on every level and he managed to translate the cute American girl -type in Rooney Mara into a very impressive Lizbeth Salander.  Yes, Mara is something of a scream-queen, having appeared in a variety of horror/thriller flicks in the past, but she is this cute little thing, who becomes something else entirely.  Out of the gate, I feared the worst…David Fincher delivered the best product we could have hoped to get.  $83 million domestically and so far only $29 million in the foreign box office, which is quite lower than expected and likely hasn’t yet overcome the budget and P&A for this film.  I hope it gets greenlit for the two follow-ups as Fincher has a very solid grasp on this world.

7. Moneyball – 5 of 5 Horns
This is not a baseball movie, nor really even a sports movie at all.  Written in part by Aaron Sorkin, one my favorite writers, this film is a character driven, dialogue driven film.  Everything about the film is cleaver and not in a pretentious way.  Brad Pitt is true acting talent and he hits way more than he misses.  Jonah Hill is excellent in this film and I think his performance is something just short of perfection, potentially even an Oscar nomination waiting in the wings for him, as well as Pitt.  The world of profession baseball is interesting enough on its own, but when you throw in the drama that this film offers, you get a movie that is fun to watch from start to finish.  I was exceptionally impressed with the young Kerris Dorsey, who played Billy Beane’s daughter, Casey.  She is cute and has a unique voice that really compelled you further to feel for Billy in the various dilemma’s that he faces through this film.  Young Kerris sings a song to Billy in the course of the movie and when Billy listens to it, pensively looking out his window, it really his a great emotional chord.

6. My Week With Marilyn – 4.5 of 5 Horns
This is film is excellent…the acting, direction, writing, the overall look..everything. Michelle Williams was haunting in her portrayal as the Blond Bombshell  In her first moment on screen, I saw Michelle Williams in a Marilyn Monroe costume  By the end, all I saw was Marilyn Monroe.  The beautiful thing about this film is that it is a true story, written by Colin Clark, an ambitious young man with dreams of a career in film.  His family was privileged and he had been promised a job on the set of Sir Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branaugh) next picture. When he showed up for a job, it was his persistence that finally paid off.  He comes to meet and know Ms. Monroe and something of a complicated relationship ensues.  How I liked this film reminded me much of the way that I liked An Education from 2009.  This is a great story and the film as a whole was executed perfectly.

5. The Help – 5 of 5 Horns
I absolutely loved this film.  It hit my top five of the year the moment I exited the theater.  This is really one of the few times that I unequivocally put a film into the mandatory viewing category. The power of film is the ability to learn from the mistakes of our past. Such an opportunity exists here, providing biting insight to the hardships faced by African Americans in the racially divided south during a truly hateful time in World history.  Mistakes…such an understatement for the topic at hand. This movie demonstrates, albeit it watered down a bit for the masses, the brutality and hate of the era. But really, the brutality demonstrated here is not so much about muscle, as it was the complete demoralization of a group of people.  As we celebrate the recent passing of the law allowing same sex marriages in the State of New York, it brings to mind that while we have made great strides for the equality of all people in America, we still have some tough roads to travel.  I hope The Help rocks the Awards season, not because it matters, but because it will help give even more publicity to a film that everyone should see.

4. Win Win – 5 of 5 Horns
Win Win is an indie drama built around the spine of a sports film, loaded with comedic wit. I have never been a huge fan of Greco-Roman wrestling…never wrestled, rarely watched it in the rare instance it made it to the TV. Of course there was Vision Quest in the 1980’s, but otherwise, when it came to wrestling, I was always more of a WWF guy. As far as the wrestling goes in this film, you will want more. The film is 100% a success as a comedic drama…but only built around the spine of a sports film, it doesn’t give you that “hoisted on the shoulders and carried through town” ending so many sports films deliver.  The hunger that you have for a stronger ending to the wrestling story will be satiated by the resolution of the drama.  Thomas McCarthy is an amazing filmmaker (see also: The Visitor, The Station Agent)…you may know him as better as Dr. Bob from Meet the Parents.  Yep, that guy.  This movie was amazing and Paul Giamatti shines (per normal).  A great supporting cast included Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale. This is the first movie for Alex Shaffer, who is Kyle, really a co-starring role to Giamatti’s Mike.  The filmmakers wanted a fresh face for this film and boy did they get it.  Shaffer has a dry, deadpan delivery that absolutely just works.  Also, he’s a former championship high school wrestler.  He probably still would be, except for a broken L-5 vertebrae.  When asked in an interview if he will be able to keep wrestling, he said no, but probably will anyway.  His minimalistic approach works with double success as when he does get excited about things in the movie, it has that much more impact.

3. The Adjustment Bureau – 5 of 5 Horns
The Adjustment Bureau was made with the highest of production values and the city of New York is a palpable character in this film.  Matt Damon is stellar (as always) and Emily Blunt is clearly established as one of Hollywood’s finest young actresses.  Don’t agree with me?  Watch this movie.  Yes, it is high concept and it is full of rich characters with roots in the oldest of human literature.  It is based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by a legend in Science Fiction, Phillip K. Dick.  I have heard complaints that this is more a romance than a sci-fi, but I disagree.  There is such thing as a romantic sci-fi.  The sci-fi is overt.  The romance is overt.  The message has been decried by some as corny, but I loved it.  Hence it sitting comfortably here…in the top 3.

2. Hugo – 5 of 5 Horns
This is a movie lovers film.  Not just because Scorsese was helming, but because when it gets moving, it actually becomes centered around a true classic period in cinema and the earliest of days in film as a form of entertainment.  This all is built around this young boy, Hugo Cabret…a watchmaker’s son, orphaned and sent to live with his Uncle, a drunk who seems to have found a purpose keeping the clocks at the train station running on time.  But in the opening moments of the film, you learn that the Uncle has absconded and it is in fact Hugo, the orphan, running things at the station.  Young Hugo has refined the art of the steal, lifting occasionally, toys from the station toymaker, Ben Kingsley, playing Papa Georges, grandfather in name to a young lady, Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), who befriends Hugo and wants to share an adventure with him.

The adventure that unfolds is epic and the direction the story takes is wonderful.  I doubted Martin Scorsese could deliver from the trailers I saw for this.  I assumed it was some dream vanity project and it would amount to nothing short of an epic failure.  I was dead wrong.  This is rated PG and unfortunately it opened in week 2 of Twilight and against The Muppets and Arthur Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend.  It barely held its own in the box office and has made only $53 million domestically and $16 million in the foreign market.  This is a true shame.  Please give this movie a chance…see it as soon as possibly and if it happens to be playing right now in 3-D in a theater near you, go.  Go now.  You are a genius, Mr. Scorsese.

1. Warrior – 5 of 5 Horns
I gave this film a proper write-up after I saw it.  You can read that here:

Reel Rhino Review: WARRIOR – It’s That Effing Good

This may not be the best movie of the year, but it certainly was my favorite.  This was the best time I’ve had in the theater since The Dark Knight, and probably in my all-time favorite 5 trips to the theater.  This was due in part to the impassioned crowd that I watched it with.  Their excitement was my excitement, and we shared an experience, to that I have no doubt.

This film made only $13.6 million domestically…boo.  Doing the quick math, this means using an average ticket price of $10, only about 1.36 million people saw this movie.  Compare that to you “average” $100 million dollar box office blockbuster…not an uncommon feat to reach these days…$100 mil = approximately 10 million butts in seats.  Far too few people saw this movie!  To the film’s defense, the largest volume of screens it played on at any time was 1883 screens, but all factors aside, with $30 million in the production budget, it’s easy to think that this movie (so far) has lost money.

This film will make up some ground over time, and while it saddens me that it performed so poorly, I have a sense of joy that I was able to see it on the big screen.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton give heartfelt performances as estranged brothers, and Nick Nolte is as good as ever as their recovered alcoholic father.  This is a drama first and foremost..if these guys didn’t bring their A-game acting chops, this film would have failed….well I mean more than it actually did!

Let me leave you with this:

IMDB: 8.3/10 with 47,120 votes
Rotten Tomatoes: 82% fresh with 165 critic reviews counted
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% fresh with 29,421 user votes counted
Metacritic: 71 of 100 rated score based on 31 critic reviews

I loved this movie…and so did most people who actually saw it!  Please give it a chance and go in with an open mind.  This movie touched me in the same way that Rocky did the first time I saw it…and let me be clear, I am talking about the Oscar winning film, Rocky…not the watered down sequels that were fun to watch but a little light on palpable drama.  Warrior is that good, I promise!!

It was a fun year and I’m glad to have shared it with you!!  I’ll see you through 2012 for more adventures at the movies!  In the next week or so, I plan on doing a “what to watch in 2012” post…baited breath, folks, I know you’ll be waiting!

Until later,
Reel Rhino

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Beauty and the Beast

Posted on 14 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

My junior year in high school I found myself lucky enough to have me a steady.  She was an interesting gal…some of my cronies came to refer to us as Beauty and the Beast.  They enjoyed using that name for us quite much, and it stuck until the end of the year when we broke up.

In this little equation, they considered me the Beauty.

Ugh.

I didn’t see Beauty and the Beast when it was released in 1991.  Hell I was 15 years old and this “mushy” cartoon romance was the last place I would have wanted to be.

Smash cut to 21 years later…The Reel Rhino is in the house and there is no movie I won’t watch.  I lost a bet last year and endured and ultimately loved the film many view as an atrocity…Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.

I’ll defend that film until I’m blue in the face, just as I’ll defend my 15-year old self.  At 15, I had no business wanting to go to this movie.  In my current era, lifted of my filmic prejudices, I will see anything.  As I remember it, I’m certain my 12 year-old sister loved it…in fact, I am quite certain that in my box of childhood toys, you would find several of the Beauty and the Beast McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.

I have enjoyed many films on the notion “I have to see it.”  I have an obligation to broaden my horizons as wide as possible, for the sake of this thing I like to consider psuedo-reporting.  An obligation to uncover the truth about great movies. and some not-so-great as well.

I do find that more often than not, I enjoy whatever it is that I go to see.  I am no film snob and accusations have been made that I like too many movies.  What is the harm in that, I say?  At least I get the most bang for my movie buck!

Beauty and the Beast
Disney hand drawn animation is a beautiful thing to behold.  This film is no different and I am wholly in favor of their decision to re-release some of their more recent classics with the skilled hands of their 3-D animators at work.

Based on the French fairytale, circa 1740, known classically La Belle et la Bete, this story is a classic one of a figurative princess, not seeking but destined to find her Prince Charming.  There is a classic broad jawed villain, Gaston, that if I didn’t know better was drawn in the likeness of Bruce Campbell…truly a spitting image! There is a bumbling sidekick to the villain, a sorceress, a number of moments of heroism, and some classic Disney musical numbers.

This is classic Disney animation at its finest and a film very worth revisiting, or in my case, giving a chance if you have missed it all these years.

My friend Belinda shared with me this this is one of her favorite movies.  She said one of the reasons was that Belle wasn’t your typical damsel in distress and that after Ariel, The Little Mermaid, Belle heralded the new era of the growing strength of the female protagonist.  I couldn’t agree more.

Belle is introduced to us on her way through her small village, headed to the bookseller to return a book that she had borrowed, and to get a new one.  She dances through town reading her new book, and singing the day away.

The rest of town can’t understand why she isn’t head over heels for Gaston, the strapping hero of the town, a nefarious chap with seemingly one thing on his mind…Belle.

Belle wants nothing to do with his plans of domesticating her and in the opening quarter of the film, denies his proposal of marriage and embarrasses him in front of the whole village to boot.

Her father, an eccentric inventor, seen as crazy by the other villagers, sets off to enter one of his inventions into a competition.  He gets lost along the way and finds himself seeking refuge at the castle of the Beast.

The castle is enchanted and most of the furnishings are alive and talking and singing, trying to make the most of their meek existence, living as otherwise inanimate objects subject to the rule of the Beast, a rather agitated fellow who had a spell cast on him, making him into the beast he is, when he denied shelter to a traveler as a boy, because she was so hideous.  He is destined to suffer the same fate, until he can learn what love is, and also convince another to love him regardless of his looks.

Belle’s father is taken prisoner by Beast and Belle, in searching for her missing father, finds the Beast’s castle, and offers herself in exchange for his freedom.  The Beast accepts these terms.

From here, it’s a standard I hate you, no I love you kind of story, but presented magically the way that Disney does best.  Through the movie, the path to confrontation is laid clear as Gaston, a hero to the town by their superficial standards, will not be denied his prize, simply the objectified concept that he has attached to Belle.

I was wholly impressed by the voice talents of Paige O’Hara as Belle and Robby Benson as Beast.  This was the end of the era of using true voice talent as the 1990’s saw a shift toward star power and recognition in presenting the voices of the animated features of today.  The voices of Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach are there as well, but as fitting support of the powerful voices of the leads.  David Odgen Stiers has the voice of an angel and is pitch-perfect as the narrator.

As a funny aside, I received a little criticism on Facebook for not knowing who Robby Benson is…he looks a bit like Fabio and while he has a great run of bit roles and directing gigs across a huge span of time in Hollywood, he really hasn’t done anything in this era that makes him a face (or name) that I think most would instantly recognize!

At the end of the day, of course you should see this film.  It is a classic, it is critically lauded, and it is a really good time.

If you go to see it, please tell me if I’m crazy, but there were some extremely bosomy side characters wearing fairly low cut garb…a little risque, I thought, for Disney fare.  Maybe it was to give all the Dads who were roped into seeing it something to gawk at….ewwww, cartoon porn.

4 of 5 Horns for this 3-D reissue of Beauty and the Beast.  A great digital remastering and very enjoyable depth in the 3-D component of the film.  I thought the crude character sketches featured in the credits running at the end were quite well done.

Oh yeah, the new Disney classic Tangled gets the classic Disney short film treatment to beef up the bang for your buck.  It’s a cute story of the wedding day of Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, in which things don’t go exactly as they are planned.  With Beauty and the Beast coming in at a paltry 88 minutes, the short helps beef up the running time but made it tougher for the smaller tykes who had lost some interest by the end of the main feature.

Until later…(the top 15 is coming soon, I promise!)
Reel Rhino

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Some Words on Film: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and We Bought a Zoo

Posted on 13 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

In the interim between the honorable mention picks and my top 15, let me take a break for a couple of reviews.

This weekend has a couple of interesting movies on the horizon, but really nothing that grabs my full attention.  Contraband, the Mark Wahlberg flick, is sitting at 59% on RT and some of the Top Critics have some decent things to say about it.  I figured it was a throwaway January release, but maybe not.

The Iron Lady, starring Ms. Meryl Steep is getting great critical reviews for her performance, but sits at a paltry 56% fresh.  Yes, I am sure she will build onto her ridiculous tally already of 16 Academy nominations.  But for my taste, love, I think I will pass.  Margret Thatcher was quite a gal, but I think I’ll run a twofer on this and The Queen some night on home video.

Aching for a little nostalgia?  Revisit 1991’s Beauty and the Beast…brought to you in remastered 3-D.  I like the concept of the production of Beauty and the Beast, because it was one of the last movies that starred relative unknown (to the public) voice actors in the two lead roles.  From there it was all Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Albert Brooks, Owen Wilson, and Ray Romano.  Who the heck are Paige O’Hara and Robby Benson…head to the theater and take a listen…it’s impressive what voice actors can do and they are really being pushed to the side by star power.

So with yet another semi-lame weekend ahead, I thought I would post a couple of brief reviews for flicks I haven’t yet touched on…

WE BOUGHT A ZOO
From Rotten Tomatoes (from the official movie site): “This holiday season, acclaimed filmmaker Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous) directs an amazing and true story about a single dad who decides his family needs a fresh start, so he and his two children move to the most unlikely of places: a zoo. With the help of an eclectic staff, and with many misadventures along the way, the family works to return the dilapidated zoo to its former wonder and glory.”

Well personally, I haven’t seen it…and I was tempted to avoid it all together until I read above about the “misadventures!”  You know I am a sucker for mis-adventures!!  Picking up my slack, I give you the return of “The Artist” with her take on We Bought a Zoo:

Matt Damon is quite charming in this film.  For those of you familiar with his work in Good Will Hunting and the Bourne Trilogy you will see here how he has evolved as an actor.  Damon has always been razor sharp, but there’s a sublime awkwardness to his Benjamin Mee that is so disarming and real, not dissimilar to the “everyman” widowed father he portrayed earlier this year in Soderbergh’s Contagion.  As a journalist, Benjamin Mee made his living from knowing the right words to say.  He found himself in unfamiliar territory with words, when as a widower, he struggled to find the right words to reach his son, Dylan (Colin Ford).

Buying a house with a zoo in its backyard begins as an adventure into a new life that becomes a journey toward self-discovery and healing.  While Scarlett Johansson is an adequate love interest for Damon and Maggie Elizabeth Jones (Rosie Mee, Ben’s daughter) is about as adorable as they come, it’s Thomas Hayden Church (Duncan Mee) and Colin Ford that really steal the show with their comedic and dramatic portrayals of Benjamin’s brother and son.

This story is one of the “feel good movies” of last year aided by a fantastic soundtrack featuring many songs from jonsi of Siger Ros.  Cameron Crowe is a true genius to make the soundtrack become another character in his movies. Take “Say Anything” (Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes) and “Almost Famous” (Elton John’s Tiny Dancer) to name a few?  Gabriel’s single from Say Anything re-entered the US Top 40 three years after its release, due solely to that iconic scene with John Cusack, boombox raised high above his head.  If we’re lucky, we just might see a live performance of “Gathering Stories” (jonsi) on Oscar night if the buzz for best song is true…it’s already picked up the Satellite Award from the International Press Academy and the Awards season is very young.   I guess we’ll know Jan. 24 when the nominations come out.

As for the film, The Artist gives it 4 Paint Brushes and not having seen it myself, I feel confident that I can recommend it for some good family fun that also hits some very tender beats while remaining a wholly uplifting film.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
From IMDB: “In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6’s echelons.”

This film has received high praise (85% on RT, 7.6 on IMDB, 85 on Metacritic).

There’s my review…a bunch of other people liked, so you should too.

No, I haven’t grown that shallow in my old age, but I will keep my remarks brief.  My take: I liked it.  I was blown away the way I expected and at times I thought that for a complex spy thriller, it may have been just a pinch too complex.

But what a cast and what a performance by Gary Oldman!  It’s no lie…he will be a front runner for the Oscar and his supporting cast is stellar as well.  He shares some screen time for the first of at least two times this year, with The Dark Knight Rises featuring each later this year.  TTSS is an enjoyable movie…but I think I will like DKR a tad bit more, or at least that’s what I’m expecting.

Also featured are William Hurt, Toby Jones, Ciarian Hinds, Colin Firth, and Marc Strong.  Strong used to be what I considered the poor man’s Andy Garcia…the tables have turned.  Strong is a chameleon that can take any role and devour it.

Truly, this movie is carried by the performances and the filmmaking.  With a lesser cast and lesser filmmakers, this wouldn’t have been nearly the film it was….no duh, Rhino!  I’m just saying, I think that this film has a lot going for it when when the story was resolved, I stood in awe of the film but not the story.

If you haven’t also seen one of director Tomas Alfredson’s earlier pictures, Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire flick, do it.  Please steer clear of Let Me In, the Americanized re-make, and stick with Sweden.

See Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy… I recommend it wholeheartedly and give it a 4 of 5 Horn rating.  I have very narrow reservations, but it’s 9 to 1 in favor of the good.

I don’t know what the film of the weekend will be…I just found out Gone with the Wind is playing this weekend at a local theater.  I’d like to see it on the big screen, but I don’t have 4 hours to carve out of my Saturday…eh, maybe some other time.  I think I may have to go see Beauty and the Beast, as I missed it on the big screen the first time around.  I will get behind pretty much anything Disney does…although I am curious as to how John Carter will be.  With Lassiter at the helm, some of my troubled thoughts are assuaged, but still…

Until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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Timmy!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted on 12 January 2012 by Kenfu

Ok, the sporting world is going nuts over Tim Tebow.

People either hate him or love him. There doesn’t appear to be a middle ground with him. I think he is proving a point that I have long advocated about the NFL.

The point being that the option can’t work in the NFL.

I truly believe that the option can work in the NFL and that it could work well.

Proof: The wildcat that was popular for a season or 2 was effectively running the option. It was effective.

Tim Tebow right now. He is winning games due to the Broncos effectiveness at running the ball. (Less turnovers/clock control)

If you were to run the option in the NFL you would have to construct your team differently (obviously).

You would need a good defense and a QB that would be able to run the offense.

The reason the option is not run in the NFL is that you can’t have a guy you pay $15-20 million dollars running into 250lb+ LB’s and DE’s every play without him getting hurt sooner or later. But you could pay your first QB $5mil with your 2nd and 3rd string making 3 and 2 mil respectivlely (this is still less than what you would pay your 1 franchise guy – saving money to spend on that defense.) Also you would get first choice of all of these QB’s since you’re the only one in the NFL that runs this offense. So you start with Tim Tebow and back him up with Denard Robinson or Vince Young.

The other reason the option isn’t run in the NFL, is the fact that NFL coaches want to be seen as geniuses and score lots of points. That’s done by spreading the field and running many different formations to make youself look smart.

But if you’re the only team that runs the option in the NFL, teams would have to train SPECIFICALLY for your team. You would be completely different than every other offense in the NFL. Short weeks, teams would only have 3-4 days to plan for you. This would be such an advantage. Some players in the pros might not have ever played against the option with the high school and pro shifting the spread offense.

ANother argument is that the NFL Defenses have such great athletes that they would shut the option down immediately. Well the offense has great athletes too. The US Naval Academies run the option and they definitely have inferior athletes for the most part than the colleges they typically play against. Yet they win more than they lose and the opposing team usually knows the play (there are only so many ways that you can run the option).

So Tim Timbow – run the option and prove all the experts wrong.

I’d like to see a NFL team go all in with it.

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The Repubs – Who the what?

Posted on 11 January 2012 by Thraxxus

Mitt Romney has won two primaries in as many states – Iowa and New Hampshire. Apparently this has never been done before by a nonincumbent – woot for him I suppose, frankly I don’t actually care. What I did think would be interesting to discuss is what those running for the Republican seat for the upcoming Presidential Election actually believed it – aka who the hell are these people? Let’s get started:

Mitt Romney – Named after a piece of sporting equipment. Romney favors a strong legal immigration policy, and he favors deporting illegal aliens who have not followed the proper procedures for entering the country.  He is against amnesty for illegal aliens, but at the same time, he does not feel we can round up all of the illegal aliens who have entered the country.  He believes that the federal government should cut off funding to sanctuary cities that encourage illegal immigration. He believes that the US Congress does not need to officially declare war to take military action.  He believes that Guantanamo Bay should stay open.  He is opposed to using torture as part of US military interrogation strategies, but he does approve of enhanced interrogation techniques.   He has not specifically indicated whether he believes that waterboarding is torture, but he has stated he would refer to military experts on the subject. He supports the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives citizens the right to bear arms.  Despite his views regarding the second amendment, he is in favor of a ban on assault weapons. He supported the Brady Bill in 1994.  In earlier days, Romney did not support the NRA, but in 2008, he stated that he is a member of the NRA. Romney passed a statewide healthcare mandate for the state of Massachusetts when he was the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.  He signed the bill in 2006 requires all Massachusetts residents to purchase healthcare coverage.  This bill could complicate matters in his run for the presidency, as many conservatives want ObamaCare to be repealed if Obama is not re-elected in 2012.  Romney has publically stated that he feels ObamaCare is not right for the United States, but he still supports his own state legislation from Massachusetts. (source)

Ron Paul – Guy came in second, twice, and is a doctor. What does he think? Ron Paul is a strong supporter of states’ rights.  He believes that the states should be much more powerful than they are today.  He believes the individual states should be able to make their own decisions regarding any social matters that are not explicitly directed by the constitution.  He thinks the death penalty should be regulated by the states.  He also believes the states should make their own decisions about education and marriage too.  He even believes states should be able to make their own decisions regarding drug use like medical marijuana.

Ron Paul has written six books on Austrian school economics.  Paul always votes against tax increases.  Ron Paul is against raising taxes under any circumstances.  He even feels that the country should abolish the state income tax, and he believes this can be done if we scale back the spending in the Federal government to 2000 levels.  Ron Paul gets a lot of support for his positions on the economy. He believes that the Federal Reserve should be abolished.  He does not believe that the country should return to the gold standard, but he is very concerned about inflation, and he is often known as an inflation hawk. He has been warning about the threats of hyperinflation since 1981. Paul is a pro-life supporter.  He spoke at the National Right to Life Committee Convention in 2007. He pushed for legislation that would give states the right to decide if they want to support or oppose abortion laws.  He opposes gay marriage, but he believes states should have the right to decide how to rule on the issue. He is a strong supporter of national sovereignty.  He opposed the Iraq War Resolution of 2002.  He does not believe the United States should be involved with the North American Free Trade Agreement, and he believes we should withdraw membership from the United Nations.  He believes strong National sovereignty is more important.  He believes that most of our military resources should be used to enforce border security.  He did support military action against terrorists involved in the September 11th attacks, but he feels the attacks should have been more limited to targeting specific terrorists as opposed to invading Iraq and Afghanistan. (Source)

Rick Perry – Dude is a Texan – period. Perry is strongly pro-life.  He opposes the government policy of funding abortions.  He has also signed a bill in Texas where teenage girls under the age of 18 must get parental consent before deciding to get an abortion.  In 2011, Perry signed the Mandatory Ultrasound Bill.  Governor Rick Perry supports limited central government.  He feels that the current Federal government is bloated and needs to be cut back. Governor Perry believes that there is no substantial evidence of global warming.  He feels that scientists have not concluded that global warming is a real problem in our society today.  He believes that global warming is a lot of media hype, and he is staunchly opposed to passing legislation that supports climate change initiatives. Texas is one of the states that does‘t have a state income tax, and Governor Perry has opposed any attempts to create an income tax for Texas.  He is a fiscal conservative that stands for conservative fiscal values in most cases.  He is very strong on job creation, as Texas leads the nation in new jobs created since 2003.  It has created 73.4 % of the nation’s jobs since 2006. (Source)

Rick Santorum – Came up Quick – appears to have smashed into a wall. He is pro-life and vehemently opposes same-sex marriage.  He is a strong proponent of heterosexual relationships and traditional child rearing.  He is concerned that the Supreme Court is making too many decisions about moral issues that the public should be making on their own. Santorum favors strong foreign policy initiatives against our enemies.  He feels the War on Terror started by the Bush administration can be won, and he supported President Bush on his leadership in occupying Iraq and Afghanistan as long as necessary to bring peace to these regions.  Santorum has recognized the threat of Islamic fascism in the Middle East and throughout the world.  He is pro-Israel, and he feels that Israel and Lebanon must be strong to counteract Islamic terrorism in the Middle East.  He strongly opposes having talks with known terrorist harboring nations like Syria and Iraq, as he feels we cannot negotiate with radical Islamic extremists. Santorum is opposed to illegal immigration.  He is vehemently opposed to amnesty for illegal aliens, and he feels that we need to take a stronger stand against illegals entering the country.  He wants the border fence to be built.  He would support National Guard troops being used to protect our borders with Mexico and Canada, and he also wants the United States to re-establish English as the official language in the USA. (Source)

Newt Gingrich – Guy is named after a lizard. He supports public school prayer. He feels that schools should compete for students just like businesses compete for customers. He feels teachers should have to compete with each other too. Gingrich feels education is one of the keys to getting the country back on solid ground. Gingrich feels we should have low taxes. He is opposed to increasing taxes on the rich, and he feels the corporate tax rate in the United States is too high. He wants to do away with the corporate tax rate, and he also wants to eliminate the inheritance tax. Gingrich is all about limited government. He feels that the government intrudes in our lives too much, and he feels that we should get the government out of our lives as much as possible. He used to teach an environmental studies class at West Georgia College. He also co-authored a book with Terry Maple called A Contract With the Earth. He is a strong proponent of green technology and energy conservation. He also feels the government should incentivize people with monetary prizes and tax incentives to come up with new innovative ways to generate alternative energy sources. He is against Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He feels Americans should have the right to make their own decisions on their healthcare needs. He believes ObamaCare is unconstitutional and should be repealed by the United States House of Representatives. He feels everyone should have to contribute to the healthcare system in some form.

Yeah, I know right? Each one, to me anyway, has something okay with him, and stuff that is like WHAT!??! Out of that list the one I like the most….. Ron Paul. Chances of him winning? ZERO.

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The Best of Film in 2011 – Honorable Mentions

Posted on 10 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

There is so much that I love about the movies.  While I regret putting together the “worst of” list, it seems to be a necessary evil of this critique racket.  I’m very happy to wash the stink of the bad off of me and get into the great…the things I loved this past year, and of that there were plenty.

Kevin Murphy’s book: A Year at the Movies: One Man’s Filmgoing Odyssey is one of my favorites.  If you haven’t read it, let alone heard of it, I recommend picking it up for a fun read.  In 2001, he went to one movie a day, at the theater or in some kind of public exhibition, every day that year; then he chronicled his adventures with the book as the result.  Ten years later, it’s kind of fun to read his writings on all the movies from that year being talked about in the present-tense.  Murphy, for those who don’t know, is one of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 team, best known perhaps as Tom Servo.  He is also an excellent writer, which besides making me insanely jealous for being paid to go to the movies for a full year, also made reading the book “a delight.”  Yep, I said delight….that’s what people say when talking about books.  What is really great about his book is that he didn’t just write about the movies he saw…he wrote about the experience.

In 2012, I plan to honor the path that Murphy blazed before me…

Kind of.  I think that as a man with a day job (that isn’t being paid to go to the movie), a husband, and as a father; to try and get to a movie a day at the theater would be a near impossibility.  To do so would likely wind me up on unemployment and discussing options with a divorce attorney.

But in this glorious day of technology, I have Netflix Watch Instantly available at my utter disposal……on my Android phone, on my iPad, and of course at home streaming through my BluRay player at home.  I even have an older iPod touch that allows me to drift off to movies in the waning moments of my day.  Last night, it was Keanu and Sandy in Speed…you see to fall asleep to a movie, it can only be something that falls into the guilty pleasure category…otherwise it may be too interesting and preclude the body’s desire for slumber.

Let me say here and now…I plan on making a run at 365 in 2012.  At least one movie a day, at home or abroad.  I will be reporting my results ongoing here on the site, but also in real time on MISO, one of my new favorite social media sites…one built for movie/tv addicts like myself..

So far in 2012, I have seen 19 movies in 10 days, counting the theater and my home views.  Yes, I agree that it sounds a bit crazy, but that’s how I roll.

2011: The Year in Review
So, crazy man, what were your stats for 2011?  Well I’ll tell you….

167 movies at home, 130 at the theater.  The theater flicks accounted for 13,993 minutes of filmgoing, which is just short of 10 days.  The home tally was 17516 minutes or 12.15 days.  Did someone say insane…I don’t disagree.

2011 brought a long time goal of mine to fruition.  My 1000th flick at the theater…a long time coming, but I am a locomotive running down the track.  While I hit that goal on June 18th, 2011, since that day, I have been to an additional 81 films since that day.  I do believe that it will be a fair bit short a distance to 2000 than it was to a grand (35 years).

So with all that cinema, what did I love about 2011?  I’m glad you asked…let’s start with my honorable mentions….

HONORABLE MENTIONS IN 2011
I’m going to get this out of the way…my first honorable mention….

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – Deal with it.  It was an interesting movie about a very talented young man.  The movie is 70% documentary, 30% concert film, and yes, we can all take or leave much of the teeny-pop fodder tunes.  I don’t necessarily like the music (okay, it is kind of catchy)…but he is an intriguing artist and this film showcases well his roots and the phenomenon that is Bieber Fever.  And no, I didn’t catch it.  But damn I respect the kid.  I’d being doing you a disservice if I denied liking this film.  I promise it is more interesting than you could ever imagine…be brave…give it a try.

Buck – A great movie about a great man.  I have little to no interest in horses, cowboying, or being a horseman.  This movie compels all to be interested.  Buck Brannaman was the horse expert used on Robert Redford’s The Horse Whisperer.  He became an integral part of the film because he is truly a horse whisperer and this film features both his talents and more intriguingly, the nature of his character.

Immortals – I fell in love with the filmmaking of Tarsem Singh with his film debut, The Fall, which is a one of a kind movie experience.  I was excited to see what he would do tackling the world of the Gods.  He succeeded in creating a visual spectacle with a very palatable story.  Well done, sir, well done.  I am looking forward to Mirror, Mirror, his whimsical take on the Sleeping Beauty mythology, due out this Spring.

Winnie the Pooh – Hands down, the best all-ages animated flick of the year.  The length was perfect (63 mins) for even the youngest of kids.  The animation was perfect and the movie touched both young and old, striking that nostalgic nerve for the parents and making a slew of new fans alike, out of all the youngsters.

The Way – An immensely personal film to the Sheen/Estevez family, fortunately nobody told Charlie, which is why this film managed to keep such an utter sense of beauty and reverence.  The story of El Camino de Santiago, a traditionally Christian pilgrimage, but over time has become a broadly spiritual one that draws people of all different faiths and backgrounds.  The story is not heavy handed religious, but instead a pained journey taken by a father who is trying to connect with a son that was taken from him when he perished on his first leg of the Camino, killed in a freak accident.  The film is moving and made with a very skilled hand, which, no disrespect intended, is surprising as it was helmed by Emilio Estevez.  Martin Sheen shines in this and I will not be surprised if he makes the shortlist for best actor awards, this awards season.

The Way Back – Amazing cast, amzaing movie.  This film tells the tale of a group of prisoners from a Russian gulag and their subsequent four-thousand mile WALK to freedom, including a trek through the Gobi Desert and as well as a short jaunt across the Himalayas.  Jim Sturgess, Ed Haris, Colin Farrell, Saoirse Ronan, and Mark Strong are the meat and potatoes of the cast, and everyone shines.  Harris’s physical transformation is particularly amazing and this being a 2010 release, was actually nominated for several awards, losing best make (an atrocity in my opinion) to Alice in Wonderland.  This movie is compelling and is worth your time for a great drama that is both exciting and extremely well made (directed by the great Peter Weir).

The Adventures of Tintin – Well made (Spielberg and Peter Jackson, of course its well-made!), beautifully animated with stunning 3-D, and in my opinion, a very well told story.  I underlined that, because I seem to be in the minority in that opinion.  This is an intensely fun movie and I loved it.  Deal with that America.  It may not have been on this list if not for the lineage of the makers, that great John Williams score, and the fact that I felt at times that I was watching the adventures of a new Indiana Jones like character who has a great sense for adventure.  Its better than you’ve read.  Give it a try.

Arthur Christmas – An insanely British film, with the witty humor to match.  When I saw this film, the kids in the theater loved it and the parents were rolling in the aisles at the jokes that were a bit edgy.  This film should become an epic entry into the holiday film genre.  It crashed and burned by other kid-friendly holiday movie standards, making only $46 million domestically.  This movie was touching, hilarious, witty, and very well-animated.  I think this movie will become more endeared with time…please take my word, it is a fun watch and you won’t be disappointed.  The techno-savvy perspective of the magic of Santa was both creative and visually stunning and for my money, the first fifteen minutes of this movie made it worth my hard earned dollars alone.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – Part 1 cracked my top 10 of 2010.  I enjoyed this film immensely, but I thought it was just a little less than the first entry in the pair.  This pinnacle film had so much to do, I thought it was near perfect, but it didn’t draw me in the same as the first, which had the benefit of ending in a cliff-hanger, automatically generating a little more excitement if only in anticipation drool.  Bravo to the HP crew…this was a great series from start to finish, and although this film didn’t crack my top films of the year, I included here out of reverence for an unbelievable run of films.  This series is a great achievement in film…I mean come on, old Harry and company took down James Bond for the highest grossing series of all time.  Brilliant. Simply Brilliant.

Coming soon…the Reel Rhino top 15 films of 2011.  Yep…15 films.  I love movies that much that I can’t contain myself to 10…come on…I’m the big guy…I do everything larger than life!

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Film Stinkers – The Bottom 10 of ’11

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

I hate this list with a passion.  Not the movies on the list, but making the list.  I truly believe that for every movie that is made, there are hundreds of people that care about it so deeply, that its failure is not only upsetting, but also heartbreaking (to them, that is).  Some of these films aren’t financial failures, though, but fall more into the category of sellouts, which is almost as bad, some might say its worse.  For some of the sellouts and sequels that make the ‘worst of’ list, its not the disappointment those that made the movie I pity, but the fact that they have sold their soul for a paycheck in lieu of their place in Hollywood as artists.

2011 brought America its worst year at the box-office in 16 years.  That’s not to say that I haven’t done my part, making it to 130 flicks in the theater this year.  Given the awful box office season, it goes without saying that some of those movies would be bad…but others would out and out suck.

But this is purely my opinion…disagree?  Let me know.  But know this…I do the bottom 10 before my top lists, because I hate name-calling and blame throwing, and I want to get it out of the way.  For the sake of sharing my tastes, likes, and dislikes with you the Reel Rhino reading public, I may not like posting the BOTTOM 10, but I feel like its my duty…

To business:
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10. 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.  The title is apt…you won’t be afraid of the dark.

9. Red Riding Hood – 2 of 5 Horns
What was most upsetting, was the promise that the concept of this film showed.  It looked dark and foreboding in the trailers, but in its delivery, not so much.  I would have thought someone would have realized the acting by the B-players came off as excessively wooden and some of the cliche film making techniques would relegate this film to a campiness that is way too short of the fun that usually accompanies camp.  In the end, this Catherine Hardwicke added too much of what she gave us in the first Twilight, and the result was garbage,  In 2012, Hansel and Gretel should give us something along the lines of the darker spin on a fairy tale that this movie could have been.

8. 30 Minutes or Less – 2 of 5 Horns
This seemed like a funny premise, it had a good cast, and it had a pretty great trailer. Ultimately this movie is a waste of potential, both of cast and premise. Given the talent, including the sophomore effort from Zombieland helmer Ruben Fleischer, I think we all expected more.  There are certainly some funny lines throughout, but you of course saw them all in the trailer, and there were zero “piss-yourself-funny” scenes, which given the stellar set of ingredients, I expected nothing less.  There were also some serious issues of tone…there are some psychotically violent moments that were supposed to be funny, but come off as awkward, out of place, and, at times, downright uncomfortable. There are a lot of things wrong with this movie but perhaps the worst thing is that at 83 minutes running time, it felt like it dragged…a lot.  Maybe that was the problem…they left all the funny on the cutting room floor!  Better luck next time gang, and I mean that sincerely, since the talent pool in this film runs pretty deep, \they will all be back strong.

7. Final Destination 5 3-D – 1.5 of 5 Horns
FADE IN: One of the cast has a vision of a disaster, this time, it’s a bridge collapse.  He quickly realizes that his vision is about to come true.

CUT TO: He warns everyone, a few people survive the ridiculously vicious disaster.

MONTAGE: They start dying, one by one.

ENTER FRAME RIGHT: Tony Todd is seen here or there, perhaps at some times, offering insight to the plight of the survivors.

ACT II: The dwindling survivors hatch a scheme to further cheat death.

ACT III: A twist ending gives death the upper hand.

ROLL CREDITS

You just saw this movie…other than the gymnast’s death, which was both gruesome and ridiculous, this film was a stinker in 2-D or 3-D.  David Koechner could not help salvage this, and maybe Tony Todd can quit this series any get on with bringing us Candyman 4…or 5…or whichever they are on in that similarly terrible set of sequels.  How about a Candyman/Final D mash-up?  It couldn’t be any worse than this…

6. 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 copycat and cash grab at genre fun, its self-awareness could have been used to its advantage.  Who cares what it’s copying, when you get “camp” done right, it just works.  There was nothing right about this movie, starting with the fact it was a near bloodless, no-F-bomb, boob-less, PG-13.  There is a shark night rap after the credits that was mildly amusing, but so many people were sprinting for the door, few got the chance to see it.  This thing was a steamer.

5. Dream House – 1 of 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.   Even Director Jim Sheridan wanted his name removed from the final cut of this film.  I can forgive a filmmaker for making trash, when they can admit they have dropped a bomb.  But when will these studio heads learn that the art is best left to be crafted by the artists.  That’s an argument that will rage for eons to come.  I would love to see Mystery Science Theater 3000 take a crack at this so bad it is effing awful movie.

4. Scream 4 – 1.5 of 5 Horns
The faces are new, the story is not.  Other than adding Twitter, Facebook, streaming video, and non-stop texting by all of the younglings, this is the same old story, rehashed. I was bored by this movie…really bored.  One of my chief complaints is that while there were red herrings a plenty, there was barely a single time that someone dropped into PERCEIVED PERIL (i.e. cue the creepy music), that they weren’t engaged and/or killed by Ghostface.  How can you build suspense if you don’t juke right at least once, but actually drive left for the hoop?  The original title of my Scream 4 review…Yawn 4.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – 2.5 of 5 Horns
Yes, I am aware that a 2.5 Horn rating should perhaps not have made this list, but remember above where I talked about making movies with no soul….this is an example. Actually, this is THE EXAMPLE.  This was pure cash grab…no sense of peril, no sense of excitement.  The only thing that makes it watchable is the HUGE BUDGET, which equals great effects, makeup, costumes, and production values.

2. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas – 2 of 5 Horns
A sub-par entry into the H&K series, there are a few decent gags, but otherwise, this film falls completely flat.  This flick is saved from my top spot solely by the presence of Neil Patrick Harris, as everything this guy touches, seems to turn to gold.  This film is clearly a must miss….nuff said. If they think about going for a fourth, they better get their game back, for the first was pretty damn funny, and the second was funny….this one was just plain bad.

1. Your Highness – 1.5 of 5 Horns
For my review of Your Highness, I quoted his highness, Sir Roger Ebert’s, in his review: Your Highness” is a juvenile excrescence that feels like the work of 11-year old boys in love with dungeons, dragons, warrior women, pot, boobs, and four-letter words. One of the heroes even wears the penis of a Minotaur on a string around his neck. I hate it when that happens.

This movie blew goats, almost literally!  I think that the talent involved with this film is high, but were they, unfortunately, when they made it.  If this gang shifted gears away from telling jokes that only 10% of their audience (read: those high themselves when watching), they might get something going.  Maybe Pineapple Express was lightning in a bottle for David Gordon Green.  His follow up to this stinker, The Sitter was A LITTLE better, but not much.  Jonah Hill breathed a little soul into his character, soul that Danny McBride failed to find here.  The Sitter was better, but only a little.  I guess in comparison to this atrocity, Green couldn’t have done much worse.  Please avoid this film at all costs.

So there you have it folks.  I’m going to go shower, to wash the stink from my body.  I’ll be back soon with some of the year’s highpoints….until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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Happy New Year (For Movies!)

Posted on 01 January 2012 by Reel Rhino

Happy New Year’s, Reel Rhino fans!

I am pleased to see we have all made it to 2012, which according to the Mayans (and to Roland Emmerich) this may be it for us, so thank God we will at least be getting 2012 releases of The Avengers and of course the final flick in the Twi-Hard series…we can all die happy, men and women alike!

I spent the last few days of the old year, nursing my big left toe, to which I had some holes drilled in the joint to try and stimulate some scar tissue to sub in for cartilage that I have long since compressed due to a combination of super human size and super flat feet. I also had a bone spur shaved off that was beginning to resemble a 6th toe.

To help cushion the blow of the time off my feet, I ended up running a huge marathon of 70’s disaster flicks (ala Netflix Watch Instantly), the grandfather films to the likes of the Emmerich and Michael Bay offerings of the 90’s and 2000’s. If nothing else, they brought back a lot of great memories of Sunday afternoon movies with my Dad, watching them on TV (when the Steelers weren’t playing, that is).

The full line-up I caught (so far) includes the following:

Airport
Airport 1975
Airport ’77
Earthquake
The Towering Inferno
Disaster of the Coastliner

This was quite a run and it is shocking to see how compelling these films are even after so long and having been made with creativity as the primary special effect! Earthquake literally leveled LA and they did so in a convincing manner with the use of some beautiful matte paintings as back drops.

A side note on George Kennedy…that guy was the pimp of pimps in these flicks. He was a legit star in the 70’s and he added great flavor to these movies, swinging into the straight man comedy role well in the Police Squad/Naked Gun flicks in the 80’s.

Believe it or not, I have also had the chance to see some theater flicks as well. I’m like the mailman, baby, nothing will keep me from delivering the goods!

I saw War Horse two days ago, but given that I gave you my friend’s review previously, I won’t get into it too much, other than to say that I liked it, but didn’t love it. I thought the build up was too long and scattered, but even so, the pay off was decent enough. There was a superb 30 minute stretch towards the end that send me headed for my Kleenex more than once, delivering several moments in what could be argued were heavy-handed dramatic moments. Spielberg makes beautiful movies…there is no argument there. Sadly, I saw it at a terribly projected film theater (Dickinson Northglen) and the projection of the film killed some the enjoyment of Spielberg’s epic scenes. I liked it enough to give it a 3.5 Horn rating and I will look forward to seeing it in HD when it is released, to see if that helps at all with my enjoyment. Sir Steven lives in an epic world, but I think a 30 minute shorter flick would have enhanced War Horse by giving it a cleaner run through without some of the fluff.

The Adventures of Tintin – Since we are talking Spielberg, I might as well get into this as well. I loved Tintin. It was a movie not without its flaws, but on the whole, I was amazed at the visual spectacle and was taken in quickly by the great story. The major flaw for me was that within moments of the movie’s opening, the main thick of the story is afoot. Whereas I thought War Horse was a bit heavy on the character building in the beginning, I thought Tintin was a little light. I am unfamiliar with the mythology of Tintin and other than learning quickly that he is a reporter and seeing on his walls the framed headline pages of some of his previous adventures, I knew nothing about him or this series. I would have liked a little more background introduction to this world before things got moving, but I quickly forgave that as the story was riveting and the visuals were some of the best ever. I am looking forward to more of this series from Spielberg and Peter Jackson. That is a partnership made in heaven! This film came off, of sorts, as an animated Indiana Jones, complete with John Williams score…I love Indy and I loved how great these scenes were constructed, both in terms of general visual appeal, but also in terms of the sense of adventure. The movie was fun, funny, and exciting and I had a great time at the theater. A 4.5 Horn score for Tintin…it was fun and regardless of some of the harsh writing critics, I think it is a film to behold.

The Darkest Hour – I was looking forward to this flick, perhaps most of all of the holiday releases. It seemed as though the studio was hoping for a hit, as well, scheduling a Christmas day release throwing this movie like chum into the shark infested water. The Darkest Hour has been poorly reviewed and poorly performed against a huge battery of more appropriate films for the season. BUT…it was a fun science-fiction release and I believe it is being unfairly raked over the coals. This movie has a few impressive young stars, including one of my favorites, Emile Hirsch. See also: Into the Wild, Speed Race. He has charisma and he has talent; as do Rachael Taylor, Max Minghella, and Olivia Thirby. Director Chris Gorak has an amazing resume as an art director and I believe that produce Timur Bekmambetov is a creative force just waiting for a HUGE breakout hit. All of these factors together should have yielded a more commercial friendly film, but it just wasn’t the time. I do believe that this flick will have a huge positive reception overseas and that with time, it will be successful. Successful enough to spawn a sequel, I do not know. But the film is fun to watch and very high-sci-tech in concept. In my opinion, this is how decent of a film the atrocity of Skyline should have been, and perhaps the post-apocalyptic fare is just not the thing at the moment. I am also even more forgiving because there were a handful of moments that gave me a Ghostbusters-vibe, minus the lighthearted tone…and a Ghostbusters-vibe ain’t never a bad thing 🙂 Give this film a try and I do not believe you will leave disappointed. It is the perfect length (just under 90 minutes) to be entertaining and not overstay its welcome. A 4 Horn salute to this not-so-holiday, holiday release.

I have not had the chance to see We Bought A Zoo and it may not be in the cards for some time, as I have committed this film to my next “date night.” With scheduling conflicts afoot (no pun intended), it could be a few weeks before we get to Cameron Crowe’s family friendly offering.

I will share that I am now addicted to MISO which can be found at http://gomiso.com a very cool social networking site for watching TV and movies…check it out if you like and feel free to follow me there as well.

With no new releases this week, and only some indies scheduled for this coming Friday, I do hope that my next few posts will pertain to The Reel Rhino YEAR IN REVIEW. I will give you my movie going stats for 2011 and chip my bit to the pile of year-end specials covering my top 15 films of 2011 and my bottom 10 stinker list as well.

Until later, take care…
Reel Rhino

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