Get Him to the Greek

That Guy Named David makes a triumphant return to The Movie Court!

Get Him To The Greek (C-)

Maybe I just don’t like British comedians. No, that can’t be it, because I enjoy John Oliver (from the Jon Stewart Show) and have laughed occasionally at Monte Python. Okay, maybe I just don’t like Russell Brand. Yeah, that’s probably it. Oh, and I’m not a big fan of that Jonah Hill kid either. And adding Puff Daddy to the ensemble really didn’t do it for me. My wife told me after the movie that she was tempted to just walk out around 30 minutes before the asinine conclusion. I wish we would have. I understand the idea was to try to capture a little of what resonated with everyone in The Hangover (which I thoroughly enjoyed); however, this one missed the mark for me. I just don’t find Russell Brand very funny. And considering the whole movie revolved around him trying to be funny, I would say that probably had a bit of role in what I didn’t like. So, the movie sucked. Don’t see it. Instead, I recommend watching The Hangover again.


Tyson

That Guy Named David offers another review

Tyson (A-)

In my humble opinion, there is little in cinema that outshines a good documentary. Unlike the originator of this website, who enjoys documentaries on birds, penguins and watching paint dry, I prefer my documentaries to be about cultural icons (Bob Dylan in No Direction Home; Muhammad Ali in We Were Kings), sports (Hoop Dreams, When It Was A Game), or other topics that do not put me to sleep. So, the documentary Tyson by James Toback was right up my wheelhouse. It did not disappoint. Tyson primarily consists of an interview with the former heavyweight champion with highlights (and many lowlights) from his career sprinkled throughout. The greatness of this particular documentary, however, is that it demonstrates just how entirely dysfunctional Mike Tyson was during his glory years and remains, although to somewhat a lesser degree, today. One second, Tyson will sound like a professor (with a strong lisp) outlining his thoughts and motivations as he dissected his opponents and worked his way from the streets of Brooklyn to the heavyweight championship while still just a kid. The next second, he will sound like the raving lunatic that beat his wife, was convicted of raping a pageant contestant and bit off half the ear of Evander Holyfield. He is a sociopath that you come close to feeling some sympathy for as the interview progresses. Makes for a good documentary.

The Proposal

That Guy Named David surfaces with a new review

The Proposal (C-)

I propose that no one go watch this movie. Plot: guy (Ryan Reynolds; most famous for marrying Scarlett Johansson) works for witch of a boss (Sandra Bullock; famous despite lack of acting ability and marriage to motorcycle repairman Jesse James), she finds out she is going to be deported to Canada, she makes him act like her fiance, they go to Alaska to see his family, they fall in love, Michael Jackson dies. Okay, the last part probably has nothing to do with the movie; although, I think there was a point where I was wishing I would come down with a serious illness so I could get out of the movie. Seriously though, there is nothing redeeming about the movie. Bullock (Gravity) plays the exact same role she plays in every other movie, Reynolds (Adventureland) was more convincing (and more entertaining) as Van Wilder, and while I admit to getting a kick out of reruns of The Golden Girls, the inclusion of Betty White (Lake Placid) in the cast fell flat for everyone in the theatre under the age of 65. Save your money. Wait until it is picked up by TBS.

Springsteen concert review

That Guy Named David checks in with a review of the Boss’s Dallas concert

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (A-)

I first saw Springsteen when he came to town a few years back to do an acoustic show at the Nokia Theatre. While I was very impressed with that show, I was told by a friend that it was nothing compared to the type of show he puts on when he is complemented with the full band. The friend was right. For a little over 2 hours last Sunday, Springsteen and band brought a high-energy, very entertaining show to the American Airlines Center. The show started out with “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” and proceeded to go back and forth between the stuff from the new album (Magic) and his classics. There were a few obscure choices (“Meeting Across the River,” “Independence Day”), but for the most part, the songs were well-known to the vast majority of the baby boomer crowd. The highlights of the night for me were “Because the Night,” “Long Walk Home” and “Badlands” in the initial set; however, the energy of the show really picked up in the encore with “Born to Run,” “Glory Days” (with Jon Bon Jovi), and “Dancing in the Dark.” I was a little disappointed that “Thunder Road” was not played, given that they opened with it a few shows back (and played it again the next night in Houston); however, overall, it was a great performance by great artists. Solid A-.

Shrek 3; Ocean’s Thirteen

The triumphant return of That Guy Named David!

Shrek the Third (C)

My nieces and nephew were in town over the weekend, so we went kid-friendly with the video rental and got the most-recent addition to the Shrek family. In short, the movie was decent but nothing to celebrate. Maybe I am just “Shreked-out,” but I just did not find myself enjoying this movie. I think the writers/directors attempted to re-hash many of the same themes and dialogue that made the first two successful. However, they failed to add any new, interesting characters, and the story was not creative enough to keep my attention (or the attention of the kid-folk) throughout the movie. They should have stopped at 2, instead of trying to complete the trilogy.

Ocean’s Thirteen (C+)

Speaking of bad attempts at completing a trilogy, we also rented Ocean’s Thirteen over the past weekend. In Thirteen, the writers had the unique idea to bring together a bunch of mega-moviestars, put them in Las Vegas, have them put together and execute a complicated burglary of a major casino, all the while avoiding (a) being killed and/or (b) ending up in jail. Sounds like winner, huh? Well, it was… for Ocean’s Eleven made in 1960 and remade in 2001. Not so much for the one re-remade in 2007. Seriously, can someone please think up an original idea in Hollywood these days? Had the weather been half-decent, I would have been kicking myself for wasting 2 hours on a Sunday watching this dud.

Shut Up and Sing

From That Guy Named David

Shut Up and Sing (A-)

Continuing my jaunt through the genre of musical documentaries, I picked up this one the other day which chronicles the backlash to Natalie Maines’ statement regarding George W. Bush in the weeks preceding the invasion (or “liberation,” should you vote Republican) of Iraq. In case you were in a coma or on another planet back in the spring of 2003, our country was making its allegedly rock-solid case for sending hundreds of thousands of troops and spending billions of dollars to take over a country in an area of the world that is known for not being too friendly to the good ol’ U.S.of A. The country was rallying, Congress was actually agreeing, people were tying that yellow ribbon around the old oak tree, dogs were loving cats, etc. It was at this time that Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, a group that had sold more records than any female group in music history, committed herself to eternal damnation by commenting on a stage in England (the U.S.’s biggest ally) that she was ashamed the leader of the greatest country in the history of civilization was from her home state of Texas. Blasphemer!!! Hanoi Jane redux!!!! This documentary does a fantastic job of showing the snowball effect that this one, relatively benign comment had on sending the careers of the Dixie Chicks into a tailspin. Its strength is demonstrating the dynamic between the artists, who believed the reaction was completely overblown, and their handlers (managers, publicists, sponsors, etc.) who were trying to keep the band afloat during a time when the entire country music industry (and large portion of the country) began turning their back on the group. The documentary does an exceptional job of showing how the group, based upon this one comment, became demonized by the section of this country that sees everything in black and white. USA – good; people who disagree – bad. “You’re either with us or against us.” Dixie Chicks = communists, traitors, terrorists, sluts, etc. The most poignant portion of the film dealt with the group’s reaction to a death threat against Maines, in which it was communicated to her that she would be shot and killed on a stage in Dallas in the summer of 2003. In dealing with the backlash and threats, the documentary does a good job of demonstrating how it all brought the group closer and led to the production of their most-recent album (which is their best in my humble opinion and one of the best records I have heard in several years). If you like their music, a definite A. If you don’t (or think they are communists), you probably won’t grade it as high.

Stop Making Sense

DVD Review from That Guy Named David

Stop Making Sense (B+)

For whatever reason, I have seen several music documentaries in the past year or so. I have raved on and on about No Direction Home, director Martin Scorsese’s lengthy documentary about Bob Dylan. This led me to rent Heart of Gold, director Jonathan Demme’s documentary on one concert performed by Neil Young in Nashville (which was horrible, by the way). So, when a friend put in Stop Making Sense, another documentary directed by Demme from the mid-80’s about the Talking Heads, I was a bit skeptical. For those of you unfamiliar with the Talking Heads, they are best known for the songs “Once in a Lifetime,” “Take Me to the River,” and “Burning Down the House,” as well as their unusual antics on stage and in their videos. Well, I must admit having a deeper appreciate for the Talking Heads after watching that video. Granted, the video was playing while we were drinking and playing cards; however, it dominated my attention, and we actually put it in to watch for a second time. I only wish I would have discovered the video while I was in college, but alas…

Neil Young: Heart of Gold; The Break-Up

New reviews from That Guy Named David

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (C)

This was an “intimate musical portrait” of Young produced by famed director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Silence of the Lambs, Caged Heat). In renting this one, I was under the impression it would be similar to No Direction Home, Martin Scorcese’s 2005 documentary on Bob Dylan, which I consider to be one of the best documentaries put out in the last few years. I was mistaken. Heart of Gold is merely a concert film, and not a real good one at that. The film documents a performance by Young at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville on his Prairie Wind concert tour a few years back. That’s it. That’s everything. And while I enjoy Young’s music (and therefore, didn’t really mind watching the concert), it fell far below my expectations. Perhaps if I had realized I was going to be watching Young sit in one spot on a stage and play the guitar for an hour or so, I would have enjoyed it more. Oh well…

The Break-Up (D)

*** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT ***

Vince Vaughn (Couples Retreat) and Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust) meet. They move into a condo together. They break-up. They stay living in the same condo and continue to fight. They sell the condo and go their separate ways. The end.

I just saved you $3.50. If it wasn’t for a brief view of Aniston’s butt as she walks naked down a hall, this would get the same grade as Anaconda.

Brokeback Mountain

DVD review from That Guy Named David

Brokeback Mountain (D)

When my fiancé rented Brokeback Mountain, I thought that, because it was nominated for multiple Oscars (and was the favorite to win going into the night of the awards), I would enjoy this critically-acclaimed movie. I based that initial opinion on the fact that (1) I am open-minded; (2) I am considered by most to be a pretty liberal, card-carrying member of the Democratic Party, (3) the movie was put out by Focus Features (Lost in Translation, The Pianist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Wet Hot American Summer), and (4) I believe gay couples should enjoy the same rights as married couples and find the floating of a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as offensive and nothing but pure politics for Republicans to energize their base every election year. All that being said, this movie is horrible. Yes, I get that it is groundbreaking in the sense that it has a few major movie stars in a homosexual relationship that Ang Lee had no problem dissecting at every level. However, to me, the story was hollow and boring. Basically, it is 2 guys who go off together to the mountain to round up sheep for a few months, become a couple, leave the mountain, get married to women thousands of miles apart, have kids, get back in touch, and then take annual “fishing trips” to Wyoming to rekindle the flames of their time on the mountain. Heath Ledger’s accent reminded me of Sling Blade, and I thought both main characters overacted their roles. To me, this movie was nothing more than an over-hyped attempt by Hollywood to put out a “controversial” product and see how many eyebrows it could raise. My eyebrows, however, were lowered along with my eyelids as I damn near fell asleep watching this dud. As the great poet Flavor Flav once said, “don’t believe the hype.”

Mission: Impossible 3

The triumphant return of That Guy Named David:

Mission: Impossible 3 (C+)

From watching t.v. over the past year, I have come to the conclusion that Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages) is crazy. Seriously, if you have seen the interviews with him, you can see he really should be institutionalized. Thus, it was with a degree of trepidation that I decided to pay my $6.50 matinee price (which is completely outrageous) to put money into Cruise’s pocket (and thus, the pocket of the rest of those crazy Scientologists) and see his latest endeavor. Yes, once again, special agent Ethan Hunt is out to save the world from almost certain destruction at the hands of [fill in the blank with the name of a really bad dude; this time played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages)]. In MI 3, Hunt once again uses his considerable super human skills to dodge approximately 2.3 million bullets, leap from building to building in downtown Shanghai and over a crater on a bridge that has been shot with about 20 missiles but manages to stay intact (seriously), survive self-electrocution to short circuit a bomb inserted into his brain through his nose (my personal favorite), escape from his car seconds before it is shot with one of the afore-referenced missiles (which amazingly doesn’t affect Hunt who is about 6 feet from the car when it explodes), and still manage to save the world. Oh yeah . . . and he does all of this while saving the life of the hottest girl this side of the equator (who also happens to be his main squeeze in this movie). But, I guess it’s a winning equation because now there have been three of these, and people (including myself) keep coming back. I hate myself for lacking the self-control to avoid trekking to the theatre to see these types of movies. I give it a C+.

David’s Grab-Bag of Reviews

DVD reviews from That Guy Named David:

Bad News Bears (C+)

The original is better. Maybe it’s because I think Walter Matthau was a better actor than Billy Bob Thornton. Or maybe it’s simply because originals generally are better because, well… they’re original. Nonetheless, the second-coming wasn’t a total bust and provided quite a few enjoyable scenes. Thornton expands on the character he played in Bad Santa and once again, managed to make me laugh on several occasions. He is very good at being a worthless nothing of a human being in both roles. In addition, the kid playing Tanner was great, just as the original kid playing Tanner had a very entertaining role in the first one. It’s worth the rental fee and time if you have absolutely nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Broken Flowers (D)

This movie had the makings of everything I enjoy in cinema. It was put out by Focus Features, possibly the best production company in Hollywood today (Lost in Translation, The Pianist, The Constant Gardner, Wet Hot American Summer). It stars Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom), one of the greatest actors of our generation. It deals with the subject of loneliness and confusion, and casts the leading role as an individual searching for answers to unanswerable questions. Just the type of deep, reflective movie that makes me stay up drinking into the wee hours of the night wondering where I took the many wrong turns in my life… but I digress. In short, this movie sucks. It’s fragmented, has no real point, and leads the viewer to an ending that has no ending. Murray is good with what he is given with the role; however, the overall flow of the movie never gets going and when the credits finally roll at the end, you are wondering what just happened and whether you are actually worse off for having watched the movie. Very bad.

Crash (B+)

This movie profiles all the racial stereotypes in our society and doesn’t try to sugarcoat the problems that invariably arise from people acting out on the stereotypes. It is deep, hard-hitting, filled with superb performances (Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors), and leaves you with an uneasy feeling about the race issues that are still pervasive in our society. The one knock against the movie is that there was too much happenstance in the movie, so there were times when I thought to myself that the multiple storylines were being stretched a little too thin. That being said, however, it’s a quality movie with quality performances that should get some well-deserved credit in the coming months. Rent it.

Munich; Syriana; The Island

New reviews from That Guy Named David.

Munich (A-)

Coming into the this movie, I thought the Munich Olympic massacre occurred in 1968 instead of 1972, showcasing how very little I knew of the event. After the movie, I found myself surfing the internet to find out more about the hostage situation, as well as Israel’s response to the massacre over the next several years. To me, that is the sign of a good movie if it makes me want to learn more about the subject of the movie. The bulk of the movie follows the actions of a hit team organized by the Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) to track down and assassinate those responsible for the murder of the 11 Israeli athletes in Munich. While the movie does spend a significant amount of time showcasing the action scenes portraying each of the assassinations, Spielberg does a masterful job of setting forth the moral equivalency debate that such actions inevitably provoke. Throughout the film, you can see the actions of this hit squad incite reactions from the Muslim groups targeted by the Israelis. Spielberg did not attempt to sugarcoat the acts of Israel, nor justify the acts of the Muslim groups responsible for Israeli-targeted terrorism. However, Munich forces the audience to take in all the acts and make those judgments on their own. Very well-done. One of the best movies I have seen in quite a while.

Syriana (C+)

I saw on a “Best of 2005” movie show where the reviewer listed Syriana as the number 4 movie of 2005. He must have been vying for a position in Section 8 Productions, George Clooney’s production company, because I can name 20 films I saw this year (and some I didn’t see) that put this one to shame. Syriana is a complicated movie intended to set forth the complex relationship between oil companies, foreign governments, Muslim extremists, private and governmental lawyers, energy analysts, princes and emirs, presidents, and the always demonized Central Intelligence Agency. While generally these are the types of stories I find interesting, the way Syriana is made annoyed me more than it kept my attention. Basically, for the first hour or so, you have snapshot followed by snapshot followed by snapshot with absolutely no connections between any of them. Eventually (during the last 30 minutes or so), the director attempts to put the snapshots together to form a mosaic but instead gets a convoluted, confusing, and anti-climactic ending that leaves the viewer wondering what in the hell happened over the past 2+ hours. If you are in the mood for a heavy movie, see Munich. On a side note, they have one scene showcased in the movie that was filmed in Hondo, Texas, hometown of this reviewer. Needless to say, it was a little strange seeing my hometown of 6000 people acknowledged for a few seconds in a George Clooney/Matt Damon movie. Not enough to make me enjoy the movie, but still interesting.

The Island (B-)

Pleasantly surprised. I kinda have a thing for Scarlett Johansson (We Bought a Zoo), and my girlfriend has a major crush on Ewan Moulin Rouge! McGregor (I think we look very similar). Anyway, she refused to watch the movie because the plot line of human clones discovering their clonehood and then attacking their makers really didn’t appeal to her. Nonetheless, because I got bored with football about 8 hours in, I decided to conclude my holiday weekend with a mindless action movie. Not bad. There really isn’t a whole lotta substance to the movie, and the dialogue is weak, but for some reason, I enjoyed it. Maybe I was taken by the beauty of young Ms. Johannson, but in any event, not a bad rental.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan

DVD review from That Guy Named David:

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (A)

Everyone should have a period in their lives when they really get into the music of Bob Dylan. I think my love of Dylan’s music began when I was 21-23 years old and a hell of a lot more idealistic than I am today. Today, when I listen to “Freewheelin” and other early albums, I still get goosebumps and revert to the thoughts that I had when I was much younger and used to debate with friends the issues prevalent in his music and still relevant today (being a young associate in a law firm tends to numb my senses when it comes to issues that actually matter in this world). Anyway, No Direction Home is a documentary about Dylan’s life, directed by Martin Scorsese (The Departed), that touches every aspect of his career and gives never before seen insight into the history and power of Dylan’s music. The documentary traces a young Robert Zimmerman growing up in rural Minnesota and does an incredible job of detailing his inspirations and eventual transformation into the voice of the anti-war movement in the 60’s. While the interviews with Joan Baez, Allen Ginsburg, and other figures of that generation are captivating, the weaving of Dylan’s performances and the reaction of the populace to them is what drives this documentary. For example, Scorsese does not sugarcoat the reaction Dylan received from his early base after he went electric at Newport (in fact, a performance of Dylan getting heckled for being a “sell-out” is sprinkled through the documentary). I also was struck by the interviews with Dylan wherein he continually points out that he was not really a political being but more of a writer just jotting down what he thought and observed during that time and putting simple melodies with the lyrics. Whatever was the origin or motivation for his music simply worked, and Scorsese does a heck of a job putting it all together in a striking documentary of one of the most influential writers/artists in American music history.

Good Night, and Good Luck

A review from That Guy Named David:

Good Night, and Good Luck (B)

Prior to seeing this movie, I really had never read or seen much about Edward R. Murrow. Sure, I probably knew about as much as the normal, college-educated male with some sense of 20th century history and understood that Murrow reported on WWII and was a pioneer in the field of early broadcast journalism. However, that was the extent of my knowledge. I did, however, know much more about Joseph McCarthy and his misguided attempts to label everyone who disagreed with him as a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in the 1950s. What I didn’t know was that Murrow and McCarthy had a public feud that cut to the heart of the role of media and public discourse in this country. Good Night was written/directed by George Clooney (The American) and is definitely a left-leaning flick showcasing Murrow’s on-air battles with McCarthy in the early years of CBS. I enjoyed the way Clooney used actual footage of McCarthy to portray him and did not rely on an actor’s ability to completely vilify him (the real footage does a good enough job of vilifying him on its own). I also enjoyed the message apparent through the movie that a government that persecutes dissent and discourages discourse should have its actions reported by the media without fear that the government will begin persecuting the media itself for accurately reporting what is going on (a bit of an applicable message considering this current administration’s blatant attempt to silence and/or discredit opposition to this administration’s policies). Overall, not a bad movie (despite being a little slow at times). On a side note, I found it entertaining that the combined age of my girlfriend and me was about 10 years younger than the average age of the people in the theatre. I don’t think there has been that much blue hair in one room since the Sex Pistols played CBGB in ’78.

Curb Your Enthusiasm

DVD review from That Guy Named David:

Curb Your Enthusiasm – Seasons 1 and 2 (A)

Okay, maybe I’m a little late to the dance with this review; however, being that I work at a firm where a healthy chunk of your salary is determined by performance, I have yet to accumulate the funds to purchase HBO. (I also tend to drink excessively, which whittles away at my disposable income.) Therefore, I’ve had to use my Netflix account (given as a gift) to rent the DVDs of all the past episodes. And I have been very glad that I did. There is just something I find fascinating about following the daily existence of Larry David, the balding, borderline manic-depressive co-founder of Seinfeld who has a habit of saying incredibly inappropriate things at the most inopportune times. Maybe it’s because I struggle to understand the way that David can live his life in such a manner, given that this character is so incredibly different from myself. Whatever it is, though, makes me laugh throughout nearly every episode. If you have HBO, you probably have already experienced the greatness. If you are like me and struggle to keep food on the table for yourself and your loved ones, ask for Netflix for Christmas and check out the DVDs.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

A new review from That Guy Named David.

The 40-Year Old Virgin (B+)

As a fellow virgin, I was struck at the way the movie portrayed the emotional roller coaster that those of us who have yet to experience the physical side of love endure in our tragic struggle to make it through everyday society. Okay, I am just joking . . . except about the emotional roller coaster, but that’s just attributable to my job. The 40-Year Old Virgin was a ridiculous movie that had some ridiculously funny scenes that made for a pleasant-going movie experience. I thought Steve Carrell was absolutely hilarious and did a great job with his first leading role. It was one of those movies that never veered from the direction which you knew during the first five minutes that it would eventually go; nonetheless, the individual scenes were enough to keep you laughing throughout. Good, light, summer entertainment to bring in the beginning of fall.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

That Guy Named David works through some issues:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (C)

Gene Wilder freaked me out when I was a kid. I still wake up in the middle of the night screaming to high heaven when I think about the boat ride he took on the chocolate river singing that creepy song, “There’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going. There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing. Is it raining? is it snowing? is a hurricane a-blowing? Bah! Not a speck of light is showing, so the danger must be growing. Are the fires of hell a-glowing? Is the grisly reaper mowing? YES! The danger must be growing, for the rowers are still rowing and they’re certainly not showing any signs that they are slowing! STOP THE BOAT!” Okay. . . just typing that out gave me the chills. Anyway, in the 2005 version, I think that Johnny Depp tried his damndest to recreate the weirdness exhibited by Wilder but managed to overact to such a degree that his attempt seemed hollow. Personally, I am a big fan of Depp and think he is one of the better actors out there today; however, his portrayal of Wonka was a bit much. What I did like about this version were the amazing special effects (a little better than what was available in 1971) and that the ending was more true to the book (I never liked the ending of the original because it left too many unanswered questions). I would recommend going to see this on the IMAX where you could be blown away by the special effects or renting it in a few months when it comes out on DVD. Maybe my expectations were a little high because of the past work of Depp and Tim Burton (who directed Big Fish and Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, two of the greatest movies ever made). Oh well . . . I’ve learned to live with disappointment.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (book review)

A book review from That Guy Named David.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (A)

No, I am not 12 years old; although, I tend to act like it at times. That being said, I am pretty sure that most parents wouldn’t want their 12 year olds reading the newest novel in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Like many of my colleagues and a certain girlfriend I have, I was skeptical of the Harry Potter series when the first books came out and wondered how anyone over the age of 10 would have any interest in reading about a teenage wizard and his group of friends. However, while I was studying for the bar and looking for anything to do to get away from studying for the bar, I decided that I would hole myself up in my room where everyone thought I was studying and read the first novel. I finished it in a little over a day and immediately went to the next one. Since then, I have anxiously awaited the release of all the books (however, I am not one of the freaks that dresses up like a wizard and goes to Barnes and Noble for the midnight release; I do that in my home where there is more privacy). But enough about me . . . the latest Harry Potter continues the saga of Harry Potter vs. his long-time nemesis, Voldemort (the Dark Wizard who tried to kill Harry as a child). Voldemort has made his return to the wizarding world after a hiatus of 15 years or so and is raising hell left and right while gathering supporters (known as Death Eaters) at every turn. Harry, of course, is back at Hogwarts School of Wizardry, and with Dumbledore (the school’s headmaster), he is learning as much about Voldemort’s past as possible so that he has the tools available to finally defeat the Dark Wizard once and for all. As mentioned above, the types of scenes described in this book are not exactly child-friendly, and as has widely been reported, there is one high-profile death in the book. That being said, Rowling has an uncanny ability to describe the scenes and characters with such detail and keep the book flowing that it makes it difficult to ever put the book down once you start reading. In the Half-Blood Prince, she introduces some romance plot-lines to the characters to add to the basic fantasy/mystery plot-lines that have kept the series going through the first several installments. If you haven’t read any of the books, I highly recommend you do so . . . mostly so I won’t continue to be mocked, but also because I think you might just enjoy them.

Bewitched

A new review from That Guy Named David:

Bewitched (C)

I must admit that I was not the biggest Bewitched fan when I used to watch it on syndication on WGN in the middle of summer afternoons as a child. I was always more of an I Dream of Jeannie kinda guy. So, I wasn’t exactly excited about the movie coming out this summer until I saw that it starred Will Ferrell, the greatest comedic genius of this century. However, after sitting through the movie, I can honestly say that, had Will Ferrell not been a part of this movie, there is a very good chance that I would have walked out. I read a review that said the movie was a lot of funny scenes in search of a plot. That’s a very apt description. Kidman was cute, but unlike the Movie Snob, I need a little more than just her presence on the screen to get me to enjoy her movies (and she was fully clothed throughout). Ferrell was his usual act, which made for some laugh-out-loud moments, but by the end of the movie, I was just a little bored. Overall, maybe a renter, but don’t waste your $8 seeing it on a Saturday night.

Cinderella Man

A review from That Guy Named David:

Cinderella Man (A-)

As the great poets of the late 1980’s Cinderella said, “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Well, that’s essentially the theme behind Ron Howard’s newest run at the Best Picture Oscar. Russell Crowe plays boxer Jim Braddock who, along with wife Mae (Renee Zellweger), attempts to keep food on the table and the electricity running in their one-bedroom shack through the early years of the Great Depression. Braddock had, at one time, been a rising contender in the heavyweight/light heavyweight ranks until a series of setbacks relegated him to “washed up” status in the sport at which he had made a good living prior to Black Tuesday and the stock market crash in 1929. The majority of the movie is a profile of Braddock and his wife as they struggle mightily to keep the family together during this tragic time in our nation’s history. However, this general theme is interlaced into the story of Braddock’s determination and drive to make the best out of his second chance in the ring, given to him by longtime manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti). The boxing scenes are intense, and the acting was sensational. I even enjoyed Renee Zellweger’s performance (something that I was almost certain would not happen given her last several performances (ex. Cold Mountain)). The movie (and in all likelihood, the Oscar), however, all belongs to Russell Crowe who once again demonstrates why is considered one of the best actors today. I was tired and cranky when I went into the theatre, and I left thinking I had just really enjoyed the previous couple of hours. Very impressive start to the summer movie season. Thanks to Ann C. for the free tickets to the early screening.

Closer; National Treasure

New DVD reviews from That Guy Named David:

Closer (B+)

As most followers of this site know, I kinda have a thing for Natalie Portman (that is, of course, until recently when she shaved her head; still relatively cute, but I’m ironically not a big fan of bald women). Nonetheless, my infatuation began with her appearance in Beautiful Girls, easily one of the top 20 movies ever made (slight exaggeration, but still one hell of a movie). I also loved her more recent endeavors such as Garden State. In Closer, she plays a much more grown-up role as the focal point of this story of the dysfunctional lives of four sexually-charged twenty-somethings in Europe. The performances by her, Jude Law, Clive Owen, and Julia Roberts were all exceptional, and the story kept my attention throughout, despite some dragging in the middle. The dialogue was a bit racy, but I appreciate relationship movies that are genuine and don’t pull many punches. The Movie Snob thought that the interactions between the characters were too over the top and not believable, given that they keep switching back and forth by sleeping with each other during the movie. I told him that he should have gone to law school at Tech. Anyway, good movie, but not one that your children should see until they are happily married.

National Treasure (C-)

Amanda (my girlfriend) refuses to watch movies starring Nicolas Cage. Obviously, she has not seen Valley Girl, when the young Nicolas Cage (then Coppola) made his debut in a starring role opposite the lovely Deborah Foreman. Anyway, back to this movie…. When I saw the preview in the theatre, I thought it looked relatively entertaining. Then, the movie came out and was slammed by the press. I tend to agree with my esteemed reviewing brethren on this one. Cage was great in Leaving Las Vegas and has been pretty damn horrendous in everything since (ex. The Rock, Con Air, Snake Eyes, Face Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds, on and on and on…). This movie is not much different. And to add to his ridiculous portrayal is the addition of the esteemed star of Anaconda, Jon Voight. Not to mention the fact that the story is so incredibly unbelievable (as in, there is no way you can fathom it to be remotely true, despite its attempt at portraying historical facts about this great country). In short, don’t waste two hours of your day watching this movie. Really bad.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

A review from That Guy Named David:

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (B)

Being that I am not a huge Star Wars fan, I was a bit shocked to find myself at the premiere of the new Star Wars flick with the other couple thousand people who packed into a small theatre in Austin to see the newest installment. Nonetheless, I figured that since I had seen all the other episodes, I owed it to myself to finish the saga. To my surprise, I was not disappointed in the third/last feature from George Lucas and gang. Everyone knows the basic story of all the Star Wars stories, and if you’ve seen the original Star Wars (which every person on the planet has except a certain girlfriend of mine), you already know where this episode is heading. Therefore, there are no real surprises with this movie. Like the first two episodes (or the last two movies made), the special effects really stole the show. Also like the first two episodes, the acting was stilted and the dialogue was forced. It amazes me that Natalie Portman, who was exceptional in Garden State and Closer, looks like a rookie on the silver screen in all three most-recent Star Wars episodes. In addition, the guy who plays Anikan Skywalker really needs to attend some acting lessons. Horrible. Nonetheless, the story was well-scripted and the action was enough to make the movie a generally pleasant-going experience. If only the kid behind me had quit kicking my seat and the old man next to me had quit chewing ice, I would have had a really nice time at the theatre with the rest of central/south Texas.

Cold Mountain

DVD review from That Guy Named David:

Cold Mountain (B+)

This is the third time I have rented this movie, but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching it the other two times. I probably should have because it was a quality flick and I would have saved about eight bucks. Anyway, I’m sure that most visitors to this board have seen the movie, so I won’t bore you with a summary of the storyline. I was impressed with the performances by all the actors that did not win an Oscar for this movie. In other words, Renee Zellweger was absolutely horrible in her portrayal of Ruby, Nicole Kidman’s live-in after the death of her father. I am pretty sure I cannot point out a finer example of overacting. At first, I thought that it would wear off a little, like Kevin Costner’s British accent in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves; however, it was almost as if she got a head of steam as the movie went on and the accent got thicker, the mannerisms became accentuated, and my annoyance level went through the roof. On another note, the movie did a great job of visually portraying the scenes that were eloquently described in the book, and I was impressed with the way that the story moved forward without bogging down considering the length of the movie. I have respect for the movie, as I thought it was entertaining and kept me interested despite having read the book; however, after having Zellweger win for that ridiculous portrayal and DiCaprio nominated for an equally ridiculous portrayal of Howard Hughes, I am quickly losing my respect for the Oscar voters.

The Alamo

A DVD review from That Guy Named David.

The Alamo (D).

Several months ago, I wrote a review for The Day After Tomorrow in which I stated that I should know better than to rent a movie that has Dennis Quaid as the primary star power. Well, I should stick to that formula even with movies where he is one of a few “stars” on display (Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Patric are probably the biggest stars in this dud).

I read an article in Texas Monthly that blasted this movie, saying that it was an incredibly over-budget flop of a movie, so I figured that my expectations were reduced to the point where I would actually enjoy it. I was wrong. Everyone knows the story of the Alamo, and, at least in Texas, everyone should be aware of the details of the fight for independence by Sam Houston and the gang. So, in order to make the story interesting, I would think that the “powers that be” in Hollywood would have been able to put something together than doesn’t track the PBS special I saw in my 7th grade Texas History class. Nonetheless, that is exactly what this unbelievably long and boring docu-drama accomplishes. Thornton is horrendous in his portrayal of Davy Crockett (I actually laughed out loud when he said “taters” in one scene). Patric is decent as Jim Bowie, but he disappears from the movie when he comes down with pneumonia leaving the flick to Thornton, Quaid, and a nothing of a screenplay. There came a point in the movie where I was actually praying that the Mexican army would just hurry up and take the Alamo because I was missing the first half of the Louisville-West Virginia game. As a native Texan who actually enjoys Texas history, I implore you not to see this movie. It doesn’t do justice to the actual story and could bore you to the point where you don’t care about the history it tries (without any success) to portray.

The Aviator

A new review from That Guy Named David:

The Aviator (B+)

I cannot stand Leonardo DiCaprio. He was good in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He was decent in The Basketball Diaries. And he has proceeded to overact in every movie since then. The only actor in Hollywood who has made more by consistently overacting is Tom Hanks, which makes Catch Me If You Can one of the worst films ever made (small exaggeration, but still a bad movie). As to The Aviator, I thought that it was a very good movie, despite the lackluster performance by its star. Cate Blanchett was dead-on as Katherine Hepburn, and I appreciated the development of that relationship during the hour or so in which it was the focus. I also thought that Alan Alda was tremendous in his portrayal of the over-zealous, bought-off Senator who made the mistake of targeting Howard Hughes. I’m not familiar enough with the story of Hughes to know what was real and what was “Hollywood”; however, from things that I have read, most of the script was accurate to a degree. If they could have only cast a better leading man, I would have enjoyed the movie more. I am sure that Keanu Reeves was available.