Django Unchained

The Bleacher Bum says it’s a hit.

Django Unchained

Epic movies provide us with sights and sounds that are unshakeable. These sights and sounds pop into our minds when we are on an elevator or waiting at a red light, even if the movie was not in our consciousness at the time. Django Unchained is one of those movies.  Quentin Tarantino’s latest film deals with the heaviest of all subject matters: slavery in the United States pre-Civil War.  Jamie Foxx stars as Django, who is a recently freed slave. Django helps a bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) look for three fugitives from justice. Their travels lead them all over the south, including to a notorious plantation owner (Leonardo DiCaprio).   While Tarantino made the movie into a western in a nod to the spaghetti westerns, he does not take a lighthearted approach to its subject matter.  This movie is not for the faint of heart because of its violence, subject matter, language, and images.  Foxx, Waltz, DiCaprio, and several other stars are all exceptional. However, the true star of the movie is Tarantino.  As the film’s director, he took things to another level and provided us with images and sounds that we will never forget. GRADE: A.

Magic City: Season 1

The Bleacher Bum sends in this review

Magic City: Season 1.

Magic City is the nickname for Miami, Florida, and specifically 1960s Miami, Florida.  Magic City is a television period piece on the Starz Network.  It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ike Evans, the owner of the Miramar Playa Resort Hotel.  Evans, the King of South Beach, carries the weight of South Beach on his back, and his burden comprises his hotel, his family, his employees, the politicians, the mob, the criminals that frequent his hotel, and his past.  Evans is married to a former dancer from Cuba who struggles to be a suitable queen to King Evans. Evans has two sons: Stevie and Danny. One is good and the other is the opposite, but both are loyal.  Evans’s business partners/enemies are his former sister-in-law and the local mob boss.  The show primarily focuses on Morgan as Evans, the Miramar, and 1960s Miami.  The show is two parts Mad Men and one part Sopranos, and like those shows, it has some stellar performances, exceptional direction, and skillful storytelling to go along with its glitz and glamour.  Grade: B.

Skyfall

The Bleacher Bum sounds off with a new review.

Skyfall is the latest James Bond film to smoothly jump, crash, explode, and speed into movie theaters finely tailored with a cunning wit.  Skyfall is the third film of the franchise starring Daniel Craig as Bond…James Bond.  (There are unconfirmed reports that Skyfall might be Craig’s last Bond film, and he is to be replaced by Idris Elba.)   In Skyfall, Bond is out to recover a computer disk containing the true identities of all NATO spies before the spies are exposed. He has to go to Turkey, China, London, and Scotland on his mission.  Daniel Craig is getting very close to overtaking Sean Connery as the best Bond ever.  He handles the emotions of the character as well as he handles a gun or an Aston Martin.  Dame Judi Dench returns as M.  She is as driven and focused as ever while showing a touch of concern for her favorite operative.  Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, and Naomi Harris round out the primary cast.  If Craig is not the star of the film, it is only because director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) made the film more than just about chases, explosions, shootouts, cool gadgets, and Bond girls.  (Don’t worry – the Bond girls are prevalent).  In Skyfall, Mendes told a story of why and how these characters do what they do.  He just doesn’t show the what.  Grade: B+.

Game of Thrones: Season One

The Bleacher Bum proffers a second opinion.

Game of Thrones, Season 1.  Game of Thrones is based on a series of fantasy/medieval novels by George R.R. Martin.  It is my understanding that Season 1 covers only the first book. I cannot confirm because I have not read the books. (I ordered the first book today.) I think it is important to note that I am a huge fan of this genre, and I have since learned to my dismay, some people are very much not.  With that said, I think everyone would be a fan of this show because it is entertainment personified.  It is about the battles, politics, bribery, murders, curses, marriages, relationships, betrayals, bloodlines, histories, and scheming of seven families in ancient times.  They are all trying to seize control of The Seven Kingdoms aka The Realm. The cast is massive. The performances are phenomenal. The writing and direction are exceptional. The sets and scenery are majestic.  The deaths are breathtaking.  Everything is bigger and better on this show. This show is HBO.  And as an HBO show, this show is not for children under the age of 16. But this show is for people that like to be pulled in about 1,000 different directions.  Grade: A.

True Blood: Season 4

A new review from The Bleacher Bum.

True Blood, Season 4 was too much, too fast, too many people, and too many storylines.  Generally, HBO shows know how to pace itself.  Often the first couple of episodes of a new season of an HBO show are so slow that some viewers get bored.  This slow, ramping up pace is done deliberately for proper story development. The first three seasons of True Blood followed this model to the letter; however, Season 4 did not.

This season introduced more characters and each character has a special talent of their own. I think we are up to eight different forms of the supernatural since the show began. Vampires are the least of our worries these days.  True Blood also went very soap opera this season with lots of relationship drama.  Of course, Sookie was in the middle of all it, solving as many problems as she created.  To date, Season 4 is my least favorite season of True Blood, but there is a payoff at the end that sorta makes it all worth it. Sorta. Grade: B-.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

A new review from The Bleacher Bum:

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: What do you get when you combine a terrible screenplay, miscast actors, and frenzied film direction? You get a film that will surely be nominated for a Razzie award this December. WTEWYAE is based on the best-selling book of the same name. I read portions of the book when my wife was pregnant; she read the book at least twice. While the book was beneficial, anecdotal, and entertaining, the movie was uneventful, dumb, humorless, and a black hole of fun. It is about five couples (an A-list cast with nothing to work with) that are dealing with the various stages of the pregnancy. If I was presented with the choice of giving birth to a child without an epidural or seeing this movie again, I would have a serious decision on my hands. GRADE: BIG FAT F!

Think Like a Man

New review from The Bleacher Bum.

Think Like A Man hit theaters on April 20th and has been the movie surprise of 2012.  The movie grossed $30,000,000 ($13,000,000 budget) in its opening weekend. It is the second largest opening weekend of a movie with a predominately African-American cast.  The movie looks at six guys and their relationships by using Steve Harvey’s best-selling book, “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” as a guide.  I was worried that the movie would be the African-American version of Gary Marshall’s disappointing Valentine Day, but comedian Kevin Hart did not let that happen. Hart generates belly laugh after belly laugh throughout the movie.  And between laughs, you get to follow the ups and downs of six multi-faceted, interesting couples. Grade B+.

Chop House Burger (dining review)

A dining review from The Bleacher Bum.

CHOP HOUSE BURGER is an upscale burger joint with a down home feel.  It is located in downtown Dallas on Main Street. The dine-in seating is very limited and the lunch crowd is pretty big.  The crowd is big because the burgers deliver the goods. They have a basic cheeseburger and five specialty burgers. They also provide a veggie burger and chicken sandwich. I tried the Buffalo Wild Burger. It made an impact.  The meat, cheese, and sauce were all flavorful but not overpowering. I ordered the parmesan french fries, and they were almost better than the burger. The only knock against CHB is that all the burgers can get quite messy, but there are napkins aplenty. Grade A-.

Food, Inc.

The Bleacher Bum reports on a 2008 documentary.

Food, Inc.: I have been watching more documentaries of late. My first rule is that the information being presented has to be truthful and accurate.  Secondly, the information must be presented in an entertaining way. Food, Inc. abides by these rules. Food, Inc. looks at and examines how America’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses grow, develop, raise, market, sell, and deliver food to America’s grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias, and dinner tables.  At times, the documentary did get a little preachy against big business, but the information presented was researched well and was thought provoking. Several individuals with their personal stories touched me. I finished the documentary thinking that I had learned something and had been enlightened.  I suggest you take a bite of Food, IncGRADE: B+.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

The Bleacher Bum sends in this review.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost ProtocolEthan Hunt (Tom Cruise) leads his team of IMF agents Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Carter (Paula Patton), and Dunn (Simon Pegg) to recover nuclear launch codes from a nuclear strategist who wants to start a nuclear war.  Hunt and his team have to carry out this mission without help from the IMF or the United States – a Ghost Protocol.  I saw the movie in IMAX format, and it was worth it. Everything about the movie was first rate from the stunts, gadgets, and locations. There were some moments were realism had to be forgotten.  Cruise, Renner, Patton, and Pegg (comic relief) turned in strong performances, which actually overshadowed all of the action and thrills.  Not enjoying this movie might be impossible. Grade B.

Avatar

DVD review from The Bleacher Bum

AVATAR: Expectations can be harmful or helpful to a movie. I expected to see an epic, not just a movie. What I saw was only a very beautiful and very cool moving painting. For the first third of the film, I was amazed at the visual images that James Cameron created. I appreciate his attention to detail from the color of the flowers to the look and language of the aliens to the weaponry of the massive gunships.  However, at the forty-five minute mark of the film, I stopped thinking, “This movie looks and sounds wonderful,” and I started thinking, “Shouldn’t there be some semblance of a story or plot?”  The movie did accomplish four things: 1) it showed that James Cameron has not lost his fastball; 2) it showed that the technology of movies has no bounds; 3) it showed that my LG plasma HD TV really kicks ass; and 4) it showed that I probably should have seen the movie in 3D.  I would have graded the movie a C+. However, Avatar made me feel so proud about my television and surround sound that I upgraded it a B-.

Walking Dead (Season One)

A new review from The Bleacher Bum

The Walking Dead, Season 1: One of my pet peeves is whenever someone says, “The movie isn’t near as good as the book.” Really? (please note the sarcasm that follows) You mean to tell me a 500-page novel that takes about a month and a half to understand and comprehend is better than a 130-minute running movie? I am shocked. I mention this because a television series is more like a novel than it is a movie.  With a television show, characters can be developed on an intra-personal and interpersonal level, background stories can be explained in detail, and situations can evolve into about seven different storylines and subplots. Movies are incapable of this. In my opinion, the recent television dramas of HBO, AMC, Showtime, and F/X have already killed the standard drama series of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox.  The cable networks can get away with so much more than the over-the-air networks.  And if I was involved in the movie industry, I would be greatly concerned with popularity of dramas such as The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield, Mad Men, Weeds, Californication, and……The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead is currently in its second season on AMC, and ironically, it was created, written, and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile).  The show picks up right after the world’s apocalypse.  In the Atlanta area, everyone seems “dead,” except for about 100 survivors and about 250,000 zombies.  The survivors are led by sheriff deputy Rick Grimes and his partner Shane. The humans are just trying to survive by hiding out and living primitively, while trying to escape the hordes of zombies aka “walkers.”  The zombies only care about eating the flesh of the living.  The show is more about the human spirit, the desire of humans to exist and survive than it is about the zombies.  The first season is only six episodes, but there were about 600 instances where I was asking myself: “What the hell would I do in this situation?”  I recommend it, but it is not for children, persons with weak stomachs….or it is not to be watched while eating human flesh. Grade: B+.

 

The Ides of March

The Bleacher Bum pitches us this new movie review.  (NOTE – this review arguably contains spoilers)

The Ides of March:  The movie is adapted from the Broadway play “Farragut North.” It is directed by George Clooney and has an A-list cast, featuring Ryan Gosling, Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Paul Giamatti. Governor Morris of Pennsylvania (Clooney) is trying to claim the Democratic nomination for President by winning the state of Ohio. His campaign is led by Zara, his campaign manager (Hoffman), and Myers, his deputy campaign manager (Gosling).  Myers truly believes in Morris and believes Morris is going to win, until Myers uncovers a dirty not-so-little secret. Before Myers can “fix” the situation and keep a persistent New York Times reporter (Tomei) at bay, Myers loses his job after being played by Morris’ opponent’s campaign manager (Giamatti).  The movie provides great performances (notably Giamatti), fantastic dialogue, a good pace, and a very realistic look at what goes into winning an election, the good and the bad.  However, I bet the movie played better on the stage in front of a live audience than on the silver screen. GRADE: B-.

In-N-Out Burger

A dining review from The Bleacher Bum

In-N-Out Burger: Claude M. Bristol once said, “We usually get what we anticipate.”  I admit I don’t have a clue who Claude M. Bristol is or what he did or wrote. But I do have a clue that Claude M. Bristol DID NOT say this quote after eating an In-N-Out burger, after hearing for a decade how special the burgers are. I ordered the basic cheeseburger and fries. (They only have three burgers on the menu.)  And “basic” might be the best word to describe the burger. The ingredients were fresh, and the meat was properly cooked. But there was nothing about the burger that justified even 20% of the hype or the ridiculously long line in the drive-through. I will give In-N-Out a second chance, but in the meantime you can find me at Whataburger or Braums. GRADE: C-.

Law Abiding Citizen

The Bleacher Bum sends us this DVD review.

LAW ABIDING CITIZEN: On first thought, this is a movie that punches the viewer in the face.  But like any punch that didn’t come from Mike Tyson or Clubber Lang, the movie is soon forgotten after a couple nights of sleep.  It is a nice thrill ride if the viewer is able to leave realism at the door.  Gerard Butler (solid performance) stars as Clyde, a husband and father whose family is brutally killed after a home invasion. Jamie Foxx (not his best work) stars as the D.A. that allows one of the murderers to walk with a light sentence. Butler then seeks revenge on every person involved with the crime and case.  I think the real star of the movie is F. Gary Gray, the director. The movie has a smooth and slick feel but it pulls no punches. It also has a very quick pace (only 1 hour 45 minutes of running time). I really enjoyed the movie, but I wonder will I even remember it four months from today.   Grade: B-.

Friends with Benefits

A new review from The Bleacher Bum.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: Some movies just know what they are and don’t try to be anything more.  Sometimes actors are perfectly cast for the roles they are portraying.  These things can surely be said about Friends with Benefits.  Mila Kunis stars as an NYC headhunter that just got dumped. She is trying to recruit LA web designer Justin Timberlake, who also just got dumped.  The two become close friends and agree to start a sex-only relationship. The chemistry of Kunis and Timberlake is real and genuine. While it is easy to predict where the plot is headed, the laughs, smiles, tears, and warm feelings that are experienced make the journey worthwhile. Grade: B+.

Lions for Lambs

The Bleacher Bum sends us this DVD review.

Lions for Lambs: Titan actors Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise star.  Redford directs. But viewers sleep thirty minutes in. Redford is a political science professor at USC trying to encourage his most talented student to take action to shape the world and the country.  Streep, a television journalist, is interviewing Cruise, a GOP Senator, on his strategy for the war in Afghanistan.. The movie tries to be a high-brow thought-provoking look at political and military action in America.  But the movie turns into a Sunday episode of Meet the Press. Peter Berg is great as an Army Colonel that sends soldiers on a dangerous mission based on Cruise’s plan. This movie was more lamb than lion. Grade D+

Bridesmaids

The Bleacher Bum sends us this new review.

BRIDESMAIDS: (B+)  This movie is being billed as the female version of The Hangover. While I think that is unfair, Bridesmaids is a buddy comedy about an upcoming wedding. Kristen Wiig stars as Annie, who is going through a very rough patch in life.  Her best friend is recently engaged Lillian (Maya Rudolph). Lillian asks Annie to serve as Maid of Honor. Four other bridesmaids round out the primary cast.  The six women encounter highs, lows, and everything in between on their way to the big day.  Wiig is awesome as the lead character, but Melissa McCarthy, the groom’s sister, steals the movie. The movie produced different types of laughter, which is unlike The Hangover. But like The Hangover it produced a good time. Go see it.

Jumping the Broom

The Bleacher Bum gives us a view from the outfield.

Jumping the Broom  (B+).  Jumping the Broom is a romantic comedy made by Dallas’ Bishop T. D. Jakes’ movie company (Jakes has a small role in the film . . . as the reverend).  It stars Laz Alonso (Jason) as the groom-to-be and Paula Patton (Sabrina) as his future wife. The movie centers around their wedding and the clash of two families from different tax brackets.  Veteran thespians Loretta Devine and Angela Bassett are their mothers, who don’t see eye-to-eye on any detail. The movie has a strong ensemble cast and touches on issues of relationship, wealth, cultural history, and family secrets. It is good story-telling, while causing some laughs and even a tear or five.

Beer review: 55 Select

From The Bleacher Bum

Budweiser 55 Select: The “King of Beers” is trying to position itself as the king of healthy drinking with the release of 55 Select. 55 represents the number of calories per 12 ounces. I picked up a six pack this weekend for a taste test. I truly liked it. The beer is smooth; tastes like beer; has no after-taste; not filling; and tastes better the colder it gets. Budweiser succeeded where MGD 64 didn’t.

Bleacher Bum Grading Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

Grade: Double

G.I. Joe

The Bleacher Bum makes the call

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – First, this was my favorite cartoon as kid, and the only cartoon I really ever watched. Second, it is impossible to see the previews of this live-action version or read the reviews and go into the theater with high expectations.

This movie is another clear example of what the summer blockbuster has become – not a movie, but a marketable franchise. It rated PG-13, it is a trilogy, it has a video game, it has action figures, it will have some special DVD, and it has tons and tons of C.G.I. What it doesn’t have is a good script, good direction, or good acting. It does have its moments: the fight between Baroness (Sienna Miller, who is actually really good and smoking hot) and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), the Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow fight, and it does stick to the comic book storyline. Don’t go see this.

Bleacher Bum Grading Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Should be graded a Single, but Sienna Miller stretches it into a Double

Deadwood (Season One)

New from The Bleacher Bum

Deadwood. Season 1 (12 episodes). When it comes to television dramas, HBO has set the bar extremely high with The Sopranos and The Wire. Deadwood did not disappoint. It was not an instant classic like those two other shows, but the show was memorable, captivating, and entertaining. It was often shocking because of the violence and profanity, but it seemed very realistic, despite being a western.

The show is about a town in uncharted territory in the north midwest in 1876 after the Civil War and during a bonanza gold rush. The inhabitants of the camp range from businessmen from the east to prospectors to prostitutes to rustlers to criminals. The Town is at the crossroads of loving its freedoms with wanting to be annexed by the United States. There are over twenty characters, but the show focuses on two primary characters: virtuous Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Olyphant) and scheming, diabolical, maniacal, greedy, and nefarious Al Swearengen (exceptionally played by Ian McShane).

Reviewing a television show is not like reviewing a movie. A television drama is more like a novel with a series of story lines and many complex characters. A show can go in a thousand different directions with no end in sight. Deadwood is like that. It takes you on a journey that provides no inclination of where it might end or how its characters will turn out or even survive. Just be prepared to be shocked, entertained, infuriated, and overwhelmed along the way.

Bleacher Bum Grading Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

Deadwood, Season 1: Triple

State of Play

A new review from The Bleacher Bum

State of Play: Political thrillers are a huge genre with nonfiction books. However, there have not been many political thrillers as movies in recent years. State of Play is a big budget movie that focuses on Capitol Hill, mega-corporations, and the relationship between politicians and the press. The movie is based on the 6-part British television serial of the same name.

Russell Crowe (L.A. Confidential) is a superstar investigative reporter in D.C. working for a newspaper that is in the process of being bought. Ben Affleck (Chasing Amy) is an up-and-coming congressman from Pennsylvania that is chairman of a military spending committee. Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris) works for the newspaper as the on-line gossip columnist. Robin Penn-Wright (The Princess Bride) is Affleck’s wife. Crowe’s, Affleck’s and Penn-Wright’s characters were good friends in college. Helen Mirren (The Queen) is Crowe’s and McAdams’ editor. Mirren gives an award-winning performance as a boss that is being pulled in a thousand directions that wants to do the just thing and get the story right.

The good congressman is having an affair with one of his staffers, until she is murdered. Crowe and McAdams uncover the story and learn that many influential people and companies are involved. The story and dialogue are very good. The director did a very good job. The story covered a lot of angles, but was constantly moving, twisting and turning. Crowe and Penn-Wright were extraordinary in their roles. McAdams and Affleck were good, but they seemed a little outmatched when they shared the screen with Crowe and Penn-Wright.

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

State of Play: Triple that just beats the throw from right field

The Hangover

A movie review from The Bleacher Bum

The Hangover: Sometimes a movie knows what it is and doesn’t try to be anything more. The Hangover is that type of movie. It doesn’t try to send a message; it doesn’t try confuse with twists and turns; and it surely doesn’t pull on the heart strings. All it does is make you hurt with laughter. It honors the long-standing American tradition of the debaucherous Las Vegas bachelor party. And it pulls no punches. One of the guys is getting married. The groom and the three groomsman travel to Sin City to party. A chicken, Mike Tyson (Tyson), a baby, a stolen cop car, Rain Man’s suit, a mattress, and an unpleasant naked kidnapped Asian gangster are left in their wake. (Make sure you stay through the credits.)

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout

The Hangover: Homerun with runners on base

Quantum of Solace

DVD review from The Bleacher Bum

Quantum of Solace

Like most guys, it doesn’t take much for me to enjoy a James Bond movie. A cool car, some alluring ladies, a few explosions, a brutal fight, an exciting chase sequence and dame Judi Dench are about all I need. If the movie has a good plot and some witty dialogue, then it instantly becomes a James Bond classic. Quantum of Solace has all the aforementioned ingredients. James Bond (Daniel Craig) uncovers a global conspiracy by a well-funded organization named Quantum. Quantum is trying to control the majority of Earth’s most treasured resource . . . water, not oil. Quantum also frequently converts CIA and MI-6 operatives into traitorous murderers.

As in Casino Royale, Craig is really good as Bond. He is very skilled and athletic at the physical stunts while being deft and cunning at Bond’s mental side. Bond also has a personal vendetta that he is trying to fulfill while saving the world. The movie traverses the globe, showcases lovely ladies and keeps the action moving at a breakneck pace. Quantum of Solace exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed the ride on land, in the air, on the sea and in the bedroom.

Bleacher Bum Movie Scale: homerun, triple, double, single, strikeout

Quantum of Solace: Stand-up Double without a throw