Friday, August 22, 2014

Grudge Match

Directed by Peter Segal.
2013. Rated PG-13, 113 minutes.
Sylvester Stallone
Robert De Niro
Kevin Hart
Kim Basinger
Alan Arkin
LL Cool J
Jon Bernthal
Camden Gray
Mike Tyson
Evander Holyfield
Jim Lampley

Way back when, Henry "Razor" Sharp (Stallone) and Billy "The Kid" McDonnen (De Niro) were both championship quality boxers. They gave the world two classic bouts with each man winning once. Fittingly, the two agreed to a tie-breaking third fight. It was not meant to be. Shortly before it was to take place, Sharp abruptly retired. Fast forward thirty years or so to the present. McDonnen is now a successful car dealer, but he's still sore over not getting another go at Sharp. Sharp is living a nice quiet life, but in danger of losing his house after being laid off from his job. Both men, Sharp begrudgingly, agree to allow their name and likeness to be used in a popular video game. The deal is handled by Dante Slate Jr. (Hart), the son of Sharp's former promoter. When both fighters show up to record themselves for the game, a brawl breaks out that finds its way onto YouTube and even ESPN. Suddenly, Slate brokers a deal to have the two meet in the ring even though both are over sixty years of age.

Okay, so the premise is beyond ridiculous. Let's just go with it for shits and giggles. When approached that way, Grudge Match isn't half bad. The movie wisely spends most of its time focusing on the lives of these guys outside of the ring. We find out the extenuating circumstances that led to Sharp's retirement and may lead to this fight not taking place, either. We see how deep McDonnen's hatred runs for his old rival. The surprise of this is that the better more nuanced performance between our two stars comes from Sylvester Stallone. Part of it is the way their characters written. Still, it's unexpected to see Sly do most of his acting through body language and facial expressions. That latter I'm using as proof he hasn't had a botox shot in a while. Good for him. On the other hand, De Niro isn't bad, he's just the same De Niro he's been for the last decade or so.

Similarly surprising, the stand-up comedian in the cast, Kevin Hart, is upstaged in the funny department by Alan Arkin as Sharp's friend/trainer Louis "Lightning" Conlon. Hart actually isn't bad, but he doesn't give us anything different than he has in any other movie in which he's appeared. On the other hand, Arkin is magnificent. He displays wonderful comedic timing and sells every joke perfectly. I will say that some of the movie's funniest moments happen when the two of them are riffing off one another. Between, they have to do all the heavy lifting in regards to the humor as neither Stallone nor De Niro are particularly funny. The headliners handle the emotional stuff, while Arkin and Hart take care of the jokes.

Speaking of the emotional stuff, it's unexpectedly touching. For Sly, it's his time with Sally (Basinger). She was his girlfriend back in his fighting days and has all of a sudden resurfaced. I've already mentioned that Stallone gives a really nice performance. Basinger matches him and the two display a nice chemistry. Similarly, the subplot involving De Niro and his character's estranged son B.J. (Bernthal). It doesn't work on quite the level as Stallone and Basinger because it's more predictable and lacks focus, but it still adds a nice dimension.

Eventually, that premise has to take center stage. When it does, the movie is not nearly as strong as it was early on. Everything revolving around the fight is silly, at best. Unlike the subplots, it holds no surprises, either. It just drones on because it knows at some point it has to get these two old farts into the ring. It also knows it has to make it seem like it might not happen. Here is where the film gets into trouble. It does lots of things that are far too silly, even for a movie about geriatric boxers. When they finally get to their destination, the movie can't help but look goofy. For those of us old enough to remember both man achieved greatness playing a boxer. De Niro as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull and, of course, Sly played Rocky Balboa in a few movies you might have seen. Those glorious roles shine a harsh light on this movie. These two old dudes having a knock-down-drag-out looks far too much like aging stars reaching back into their prime trying to recapture past glory and failing. On top of that, it drags on much longer than should be legal. We're left with a movie where the subplots are far better than the main one. The very good cast makes a valiant effort to save it, but can only lift it to mediocrity.

MY SCORE: 6/10

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies About Time Travel

Happy Thursday, all! I'm glad you're joining me for another installment of Thursday Movie Picks, hosted by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves. Or maybe, you're reading this from the future. Maybe you're from the future and when you landed in 2014 you walked past a computer, and had to stop to check today's date. You may have even journeyed here from the past and are simply stunned that computers no longer take up entire rooms, if they even exist during the time from whence you came.

What am I babbling about?

That's easy. This week's theme is Movies About Time Travel. As has become my usual for this feature, I'm going to explore lesser traveled to pockets of time. That means no going back to November 5, 1955. You figure that one out. So I'll once again try to hip you to some hidden gems.

Deja Vu
It's hard to imagine a Denzel Washington vehicle as a hidden gem, especially one released within the last decade. Truthfully, this one did gross about $180 million worldwide. However, only about a third of that came from here in the U.S. and the critics were not exactly singing its praises. That said, I quite enjoyed this movie where Denzel plays an ATF agent who goes back in time trying to stop a terrorist attack and save the life of the key witness played by Paula Patton. Much of the time is actually spent watching her through a device called "Snow White" which enables us to look back roughly four days into the past. Why yes, that is a pic of Denzel watching himself four days prior.

The Jacket
We meet Gulf War Vet Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) in 1992 after he's survived getting shot in the head, but now suffers bouts of amnesia. This means he can't recall the facts of an event that led to him being charged with the murder of a police officer. He's found not guilty by reason of insanity, but ends up incarcerated in a mental institution (hey, travel back in time to when that was the theme). The doc there, played by Kris Kristofferson, does what docs in these types of movies do. He puts our guy in a strait-jacket, and injects him full experimental drugs. Next thing you know, Jack finds himself 15 years in the future. This one bends your mind as far as it can without actually breaking it.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Of all the movies about the subject, this might have the least time travel of them all, if it really has any at all. Hmmm. Still, it's a wonderful little film about a guy who runs an ad in the paper requesting a companion to go back in time with him and the reporter sent in to see if he's cuckoo for Coco Puffs. It's much more a film about human interaction than about hopping through time, but it does happen. Or, does it? Read my full review here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

Directed by John Lee Hancock. 
2013. Rated PG, 125 minutes. 
Emma Thompson 
Tom Hanks 
Paul Giamatti 
Colin Farrell 
B.J. Novak 
Jason Schwartzman 
Ruth Wilson 
Annie Rose Buckley 
Melanie Paxson 
Bradley Whitford

Even if you've never seen Mary Poppins, chances are you're familiar with the character. Based on a children's novel and released in 1964, it quickly became an iconic piece of cinema, raking in all sorts of money at the box office and an armful of Oscars for good measure. Our plot revolves around the struggles of the great Walt Disney (Hanks) to get the book's author P.L. Travers (Thompson) to let him bring it to the big screen. The problem is she's so attached to her creation she can't bear to see anyone embellish it any way and is willing to fight tooth and nail about it. We get to see how Disney and his team of merry makers charmed her enough to get her to loosen the reins. This is no small feat considering she starts adamantly against him making it one of his "silly cartoons" and absolutely does not want it to be a musical. A power struggle with a seismic shift ensues.

The film benefits from a wonderful performance by Emma Thompson in the lead role. She is a perfect blend of standoffish, defensive, and rude. At the same time, we know that she is fiercely protecting something she loves. We respect that immensely even if we disagree with her methods. Thompson commands the screen whenever she is on it which is most of the time. Her strong presence pulls us in. She makes us understand that she feels wronged by Disney and his people at every turn. We're also glad when she begins coming around.

From the other side of things, we feel the frustration of the people who are trying to give cinematic life to Travers' book. Despite what you've heard, Disney is not really key to conveying. He's the muscle brought in when the rest of his team is at their wits end. They spend much more time with her, and with us. It's their pain we feel. Mostly, this is thanks to a pair of wonderful turns. One is B.J. Novak, the other by Jason Schwartzman. They play the two songwriters who compose the music for the movie. Their battles with her take on an epic quality that serves the movie well. As for Hanks as Disney, he gets two scenes where he goes for the gusto, but otherwise isn't given a whole lot to do. To his credit, he makes it work when he's called upon.

Where Saving Mr. Banks lacks most is in the tension department. Given that we all know Mary Poppins got made, the movie can't generate any whatsoever. P.L. Travers can rant, rave, stomp, and shout all she wants to, we're never going to think she's actually going to stop the production. It's like watching a sporting event when you already know the final score. Sure, seeing how it got that way can be fun, but it never generates the same excitement as not knowing how it ends. Even with lots of movies that we can predict the ending, that shred of doubt that says we might be wrong can keep us interested. This movie never affords us that.

The movie does do a decent job combating this problem by using flashbacks to Travers' life as a child. It's a history most viewers aren't familiar with. We don't know how her relationship with her dad (Farrell) plays out. We hope it works out for the best. Unfortunately, this is still only a subplot. Over overriding focus is on whether or not a movie will be made, a question to which we already know the answer. That said, I have to give Colin Farrell credit, for turning in some very nice work as the author's dad. It is him and his character that provide the movie's most emotional moments.

As the movie comes to a close, we're left with the feeling we watched a nice movie that is very well made. We really enjoy the performances by Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell, as well as those of actors with smaller roles. This includes Tom Hanks, disarmingly charming when he needs to be. However, its iconic subject matter serves as an anchor. The movie can never pull it along enough to build up any serious momentum. It just moseys along, pluckily doing things we can appreciate, but aren't necessarily thrilled by. I hate to say it, but we have an enjoyable and pleasant watch that is bound to be forgotten.

MY SCORE: 7/10

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guilty Pleasure Movies Blogathon

If I'm anything, it's a man with a number of guilty pleasures when it comes to my movie watching. Sure, I love most of the movies we collectively call great. I even revere a number of them. Many of the films I personally consider the best of all time give us some great insight into the society as it was when said film was released. Do the Right Thing, 12 Angry Men, M, and Boyz N the Hood come to mind. Others are just examples of epic story-telling that stand the test of time. I'm talking stuff like Once Upon a Time in America, Oldboy, Schindler's List, and  the first two parts of The Godfather. Some are not only great stories, but have also advanced filmmaking from a technical aspect. The cinematic landscape irrevocably changed after Citizen Kane, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and The Matrix came out.

Screw them.

This is about the flicks I put on when I get a hankering to watch something outrageous. There may not be one socially redeeming quality about the movies I pick when I get in such a mood, but they're fun. They're usually bad, like beyond a shadow of a doubt bad, but I have a blast watching them. The binding thread between them is that they are really too loony for me to take even a little bit seriously. So yeah, some are violent to the point of being nihilistic, just for the sake of it. Gratuitous nudity is another common trait. In fact, most are exploitative in some form or another and they could all be called stupid.

What's your point?

These are MY guilty pleasures, not yours.


before I go on, I must thank the ladies who gave me the impetus for this post. The wonderful Jenna and Allie from Flick Chicks invited us bloggers to write about our own guilty pleasure movies. Since there must be rules, here they are in the words of our two gracious hostesses:

1 - You can choose and discuss as many or as few movies as you like. We both did a Top 10, but you can just choose 1 movie if you like. Just tell us a bit about the movie and why you like it so much.

2 - Please create a new post for our Blogathon, rather than linking an old post you may have already done.

3 - Please include our Blogathon Banner anywhere in your post

4 - The deadline for entries is Sunday, 31st August, so there's plenty of time!

This ain't about rules.

Sorry, girls.

This is about my undying love for crap cinema. In other words, even though I've developed a pretty good blogging relationship with Jenna and Allie, they may regret letting me play this particular game. For maximum effect I'm going with a list...

My 10 (but more like 25) Most Guiltiest Pleasures

# 10 
At roughly 117 years of age, Sylvester Stallone decided to dust off one of his most iconic characters by making this, the fourth installment in the First Blood franchise. That first flick, is one of the best films ever made about Vietnam Vets. The sequel, Rambo: First Blood Part II is an action flick that takes the wonderfully nuanced character of John Rambo and transforms him into a superhero. It's dumb, but still a good time. Rambo III was action packed, and dumb, but not a good time. This one doesn't even pretend to be a good movie. It pretty much just tries to see how many casualties it can cram into a movie less than 90 minutes long (actually 92 according to its imdb page, but that's just a flat out lie). So yeah, take another look at that pic. That's basically the plot. By the way, this is by far the most "acceptable" movie we'll be discussing today (but we'll be seeing Stallone again). It only gets worse better from here.

True Story.
Punisher: War Zone
Marvel's wonderful anti-hero The Punisher has been brought to the big screen three times. General consensus is that the second version starring Thomas Jane is the best. That depends on how you define "best." Is that one the most accomplished and polished of the three movies. Yes, it is. Is it my favorite. No, it's not. And it's not even close. The version with Jane is basically a re-enactment of every Steven Segal movie ever made. That can be fun. I like some Segal flicks, but it didn't stand out one bit. The older version starred Dolph Lundgren. Yeah, it starred Dolph Lundgren. Meh. This last version, Punisher: War Zone, is just bonkers from start to finish. It's incoherent and damn bloody. Is it good in any reasonable sense of the word? Hell no!

You've read the eloquent thoughts of my inner-sadist, now my inner-pig is requesting some air-time. He presents to you the wonderfully craptacular  H.O.T.S. If you're not familiar with this one, it's a 1979 exploitation flick that I became familiar with as a very young teen in the early 80s. Set on a college campus, it deals with the weighty issue of gaining acceptance by ones peers. Honestly, the teen sex classic Revenge of the Nerds ripped off this movie for its premise. A group of girls not cool enough for the popular sorority start one of their own. Only instead of a giant school-wide battle of the bands, this one culminates in a strip football game between the two sororities.

Death Race 2000
Before Jason Statham remade it, there was this cult classic. It stars David Carradine and a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone. Given the details surrounding Carradine's actual death, his role here gains a whole new level of creepiness as he walks around in a leather suit, including a mask, a cape, and lots of zippers. Still, this is loads of fun. This one actually does try to make some social commentary, but whatever. Set in that most futuristic year of 2000, lol, we follow the world's best drivers on a cross country race. Finishing first is simply not enough for these his . Drivers earn extra points for running down pedestrians. Each motorist also has a navigator of the opposite sex in the car. Since you can't drive all the way across this land in one day, there are plenty of breaks in the action for things such as fist fights between competitors, back-stabbing by politicians, and nude co-ed massages while the press interviews the participants. I'm in! (My full review here)

Happy Birthday to Me
How could this not be the most fun you've ever had? I mean, it's a slasher flick starring a girl from Little House on the Prairie, the most wholesome movie ever made. On top of that, it is a totally insane watch. Some of the kill scenes have become iconic among those of us into such things. And those last fifteen minutes are a doozy. If you're at all into horror, you have to see this to understand what the fuss is about. Do it, now. Either before or after, read my review of it, too. 

Dolemite Movies
Dolemite is his name. 
Rappin' and tappin' is game. 
He was born in a barrel of butcher knives, 
been shot in the ass with two Colt .45s. 
He's been bit by a shark and shocked by an eel. 
He'll chew a railroad track and shit out steel. 
He swam the ocean and swallowed a whale. 
He handcuffed lightning and threw thunder's ass in jail...

Oh, sorry. I was gettin' my Dolemite on.

What does that mean?

Dolemite is a pimp that often talks in rhyme, is a master in martial arts, and trains all of his hoes to be likewise. What's not to love? If you need more convincing, I've reviewed two of them. Just so you know, I really could have chosen a number of Blaxploitation flicks for this spot. Just sayin'.

Malibu High
If you've never seen this one, you have never seen a crazy movie. The quick and dirty is that Kim is flunking out of high school and will do anything to get straight A's...and earn a little money in the process. This includes prostitution, drugs, murder, and the original theme song from "The Peoples' Court." You know, the usual. This is the one and only acting credit for star Jill Lansing and she made it damn memorable. It's a completely balls-to-the-wall performance in a movie fully deserving of one. If you don't want to see it yourself, you're in luck. In a rare move by me, I spoiled the entire movie with an in-depth and funny (I think) review

Friday the 13th Movies
Roger Ebert coined a term I've used to describe tons of pictures, "Dead Teenager Movies," or "DTM" for short. No franchise has lived up to that billing more thoroughly than the Friday the 13th series. What can I say? I just love watching Jason stalk pot smokin', beer swillin', fornicatin' teenagers, even if he has to come back to life at the beginning of every movie just to do it. I've written about one installment or another several times, here. As an added bonus, the very first movie gave us one of cinema's all time great moms. Hear me out. I love my own mom. She's damn near perfect in my eyes. However, Mrs. Voorhees makes me question how much she really loves me. I mean, would she really go and kill and bunch of camp counselors had I died while in their care? I don't think so. That's weak, mom. Weak.

Raw Force
The fact that it has an alternate title as widely known as its real one is telling. That that title is Kung Fu Cannibals is just as telling. That poster for it says tons. It does indeed involve kung fu, and cannibals. Let's add in zombies and plenty of random nudity, as well. Still, none of this reveals just how special a place this has in my heart. To understand this is to journey down one of those strangely lit corridors of my childhood that, oddly enough, also houses my memories of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I don't have enough room to do it justice in this post, so click over to this one.

I absolutely love this movie for all the wrong reasons. A plot that totally rips off All About Eve then both subverts and perverts it? Check. A leading lady, the questionably talented but easy on the eyes Elizabeth Berkley, who couldn't who couldn't carry Bette Davis' g-string? Check. A leading lady who often goes without a g-string, or any other type of clothing for that matter? Check. A leading lady who flops around like a fish out of water while having sex in the water? Check. Some of the worse dialogue you've ever heard? Check. Some of the sleaziest scenes ever filmed? Check. Gina Gershon sneering her way through a mostly topless performance? Check. Hell, just about everyone ass-naked so much that the poster above was pretty much the only "safe" pic I could find? Check. Never being able to look at Saved by the Bell with any thoughts of innocence ever again? Double check.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

47 Ronin

Directed by Carl Rinsch.
2013. Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.
Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Tadanabu Asano
Rinko Kikuchi
Ko Shibasaki
Min Tanaka
Jin Akanishi
Masayoshi Haneda
Gedde Watanabe

We find out right away that Ronin are samurais who have disgraced their masters. Then, we don't meet any of them for a really, really long time. And the ones we do meet, we don't care about.

Oh, wait. I'm getting way ahead of myself.

Let's start with Kai (Reeves). A long time ago in a galaxy not far enough away, he's a young man who is the foster son of the good Lord Asano (Tanaka). However, since he's of interracial descent, Japanese and white, he isn't the most popular guy in town. You know things are bad when you non-chalantly answer to "half-breed." For this reason, and because he's played by Keanu Reeves, Kai seems eternally depressed and wears a blank expression on his face. That's before we even get to the real bad things that happen to him. That stuff starts when Lord Kira (Asano) and his personal sorceress, the very creatively named Witch (Kikuchi) show up. She tricks Lord Asano into committing a heinous crime for which he is sentenced to death. His right hand man Oishi (Sanada) is branded a Ronin and thrown into a hole in the ground. Asano's daughter Mika (Shibasaki) is told she will marry Kira in one year's time. Kai, our hero, is promptly sold into slavery. When that year passes, Oishi is let out of his hole, tracks down Kai plus 46 fellow Ronin, and go after Kira. This is all very loosely based on a true story. Really loosely. Matter of fact, if you have any knowledge of it, just scrap it for the purpose of watching this movie. Hell, I'm even going to pick apart my own summary of the film for you. Out of everything I just wrote, here's what you need to know: it's all over a girl. That's it.

Simple, right?


It should have been.

Instead, the movie plays out in an excruciatingly convoluted and increasingly boring fashion. It mixes Samurai lore with the purely mystical to less than thrilling effect. It's bread and butter should be sword heavy martial arts. When it gives us this, the movie is at least a little fun. Unfortunately, it spends far more time with our hero and his "friends" tip-toeing around in the woods talking to magical beings and spouting pseudo-philosophical declarations at one another. It wants to be Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, but with a supernatural element. it's actually an even messier and far less exciting version of 2011's Conan the Barbarian, itself an incoherent slab of movie. This is definitely prettier, having some top notch production values. However, I'll say what I've said before. Pretty pictures do not a movie make. In this case, it's lipstick on a pig. That might make it a great looking pig, but I still don't want to kiss it.

You know what? I haven't even dug into Keanu Reeves' performance, yet. Or, should I say his lack of one? Truthfully, it's no more or less than what I expect. He gave us a non-descript villain in the better, but not great Man of Tai Chi. Here? You watch it and let me know if you detect a pulse. I'd say his rebranding of himself as a martial arts star isn't going too well. A quick glance at the numbers seem to refute my assessment, though. 47 Ronin stumbled its way to a $150 million take at the box office. However, you have to factor in what it cost to make such a beautiful mess. It had a budget of $175 million. Yeah, I'm right. Always.

MY SCORE: 4/10

Friday, August 15, 2014

Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Directed by Adam McKay.
2013. Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Will Ferrell
Steve Carell
Christina Applegate
Paul Rudd
David Koechner
Meagan Good
James Marsden
Kristen Wiig
Dylan Baker
Fred Willard
Harrison Ford

When we first catch back up to Ron Burgundy (Ferrell), he's co-anchoring the evening news in New York City with his wife Veronica (Applegate) at the dawn of the 1980s. Together, they share a happy marriage which includes their son Walter (Nelson). However, things fall apart instantly when Ron is passed over for a promotion to anchor the nightly national news show in favor of his wife. Soon, he's living in San Francisco, alone, and miserable because he's out of the news game all together. His fortunes change when he's hired by GNN, the first 24 hour news network. Blues Brothers style, he gets the band back together and travels back to the Big Apple for their new gig. Once there, he finds himself not only in competition for viewers with his estranged wife, but also with his own network's prime-time guy Jack Lime (Marsden). This is especially daunting given his 2 AM time slot. Hijinks and shenanigans ensue.

Anchorman 2 bolts out of the starting gates. The first half of the movie is as funny as the original. Part of this is due to how effectively it builds steam during the setup phase. It takes advantage of our excitement for seeing the crew back together by re-introducing the characters in brilliant ways. The most fun re-introduction belongs to Brick Tamland (Carell) and involves his funeral. In fact, Brick is probably the most fun character in the entire film. Also fun is the ambiguous feelings for Ron that Champ Kind (Koechner) displays through his actions. There are also a number of jokes rehashed from the original. However, they work early on. It's remarkable given the fact if you've seen the first movie, you're pretty much guaranteed to remember how funny those bits were.

While the re-introductions of old characters, intros to the new ones, and the occasional rehashing of familiar bits carries the first act, our source of humor changes a bit for act two. We focus squarely on tying those early days of cable to the current state of news reporting. For those of us old enough to remember what it was like back when there were only three major networks and news only came on at six and eleven, this is a sharp satire and truncation of three and a half decades of news dissemination. For younger viewers, it is at least effective at reminding you what things were like before the age of Twitter. The movie also gets mileage out of Ron Burgundy trying to get to know his son, the competition between Burgundy and Jack Lime, and the dynamics of interracial relationships. It does that last thing by putting Burgundy together with Linda Jackson (Good), his boss who happens to be both female and black, two facts that gave Ron and the boys cause for pause. Admittedly, it never really does anything other than use it for an excuse for Burgundy to act like an imbecile. It tries to show the ignorance of stereotypes, but loses something because Ron never gets it.

All the steam we've coasted on for the first two thirds of the movie is lost when the third act starts. Simply put, the whole thing falls apart. The first thing is that all the loose strands come together quickly, but the movie keeps going as if they hadn't. Therefore, the climax is drawn out and unfunny. The effectiveness of re-using jokes from the first movie peters out because they go to the well one too many time. On that last trip, they also bring out way too large a bucket. Not content to merely copy what happened the first time around, the movie crams itself full of what seems like the most cameos in cinematic history. The problem is that the movie assumes that seeing these familiar faces is inherently funny rather than giving them something funny to do. It wants us to go "Ha ha, that's Will Smith, hahahahahaha." However, it only gives us enough material to say "Hey, that's Will Smith." See the difference?

The nosedive taken at the end of the movie makes Anchorman 2 a frustrating experience. We're enjoying ourselves for quite a while. Next thing you know, we're cringing at how bad things have gotten. It flipped from being slyly clever in a way that appears stupid to actually being stupid. Even the cast seems worn out by this time. Our main characters don't have much to do and seem to be going through the motions for what they do have. It's pretty apparent because, like the rest of the movie, they had so much life earlier. They become relegated to the sidelines while a bunch of celebrities hijack the end of the movie for no good reason, at all. Maybe the writers or director Adam McKay didn't know how to end it, or couldn't agree on it. In any event, they did not reach the right conclusion.

MY SCORE: 6.5/10

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies that Feature Food

Happy Thursday! It's time once again for me to give you three suggestions based on a theme selected by Wanderer at Wandering Through the Shelves. I've had a lot of fun with this weekly blogathon. I enjoy the challenge it provides me each week. Feel free to join us because it's never too late to get in on the action.

With the formalities out of the way, let's get to the table. I mean that literally because this week's theme is Movies that Feature Food. In general, with these Thursday picks, I've been unearthing hidden gems. Let's cook up another batch of them. We all like to try a new dish every now and again, right? Well, this week I'm serving up two documentaries and yet another 'hood classic. Have a seat, loosen your belt, bless the table if you'd like, and dig in.


Soul Food
Generally, I wouldn't call soul food anyone's appetizer. Trust me, there's more than enough to get you full. However, in the case of this movie and this week's theme, this should be just enough to hold you over until the main course arrives. It's a kitchen sink drama about a family with all sorts of problems. It is also about the gravitational pull of good food as it becomes a binding force in these people's lives. With the drama getting a bit spicy at times, we can dip it in the comedy sauce from time to time and get a decent laugh. Our cooks include Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Mekhi Phifer, and my beloved Nia Long. And yes, the dreaded (by me, at least) Chef Tyler Perry has built his entire career around emulating this movie.


A Place at the Table
For our main course, we'll go with something that's going to stick to your ribs. Hunger is a huge problem here in the U.S. Many of those who aren't hungry are still malnourished because of the types of food they can afford. Simply put, eating healthy is expensive. This documentary examines the issue with a heavy focus on our broken school lunch system and food stamp programs. We also meet several families from different areas of the country and look deeply into their circumstances.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi
I'll admit, Soul Food is a big appetizer and A Place at the Table is a rather heavy entree. Still, I can't let you leave without trying our sushi. You say sushi isn't a dessert? I beg to differ, at least in this case. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is such a sweet movie, I've no choice but to put it here. This documentary focuses on Jiro, a man with the most renowned sushi restaurant in the world. In fact, there is nothing else on his menu. He works tirelessly to perfect the craft of making it and has been doing so since World War II. Put short, the man is an artist. (Read my full review)

Once you take in all that, you should be full and ready for a nap. If not,...