"So Let it Be Written... So Let it Be Done"

The life and times of a real, down to earth, nice guy. A relocated New Englander formerly living somewhere north of Boston, but now soaking up the bright sun of southwestern central Florida (aka The Gulf Coast). Welcome to my blog world. Please leave it as clean as it was before you came. Thanks for visiting, BTW please leave a relevant comment so I know you were here. No blog spam, please. (c) MMV-MMXV Court Jester Productions & Bamford Communications

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SNMR 8.8: "8MM"


Private investigator Tom Welles (Nicholas Cage) has just gotten home from an assignment when he receives a phone call from Mrs. Christian, a wealthy elderly woman whose husband recently passed away. Among his personal effects found in a safe in his office was a disturbing, short 8MM snuff film. Mrs. Christian hires Welles to find out who made the film and if the events of the film are real or not. In his search Welles meets young Max California (Joaquin Phoenix), a clerk at an X rated movie store who guides him into the world of underground film making, Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini), a seedy Hollywood film director and Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), maker of 'fine' snuff films. What will Welles find? Will he get in too deep?

Quite frankly, this film is disturbing on many levels and is not for the faint at heart.

I'm always in the middle of the road when it comes to Nicholas Cage. Some movies he's really good and I like him a lot - others his acting seems flat and uninspired.. This, I think, was one of Cage's stronger performances. Joaquin Phoenix delivers yet another intense performance. James Gandolfini plays to type as the muscled hoodlum, sleazy guy and does it well. Peter Stormare, whom I had never heard of before, was truly creepy. Catherine Keener gives a balanced performance as Cage's wife, contrasting his unusual work life with the peacefulness of domestic life.

Andrew Kevin Walker continues to excel writing creepy thriller type dramas with this screenplay as an encore to the equally creepy Se7en. I thought the ending was a bit cliche' with Cage doing the vigilante justice thing.

With this film, Joel Schumacher continues to prove why he's one of the best directors Hollywood has these days. He always seems to get good performances from his actors.

The DVD extras include a "making of" featurette which was too short and hardly worth watching. However, this is a film that, despite the seedy subject matter, is filled with excellent performances and enough action/suspense to keep you paying attention. If not for the ending, this movie would have garnered a five star rating.

****½ out of *****

8MM (1999, R, 123 minutes), starring Nicholas Cage, Joaquin Phoenix, James Gandolfini, Peter Stormare, Anthony Heald, Catherine Keener and Chris Bauer. Screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker. Directed by Joel Schumacher.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pain in the a**

Many things in life fall into the category of being a pain in the a**, but none more than passing the papers on real estate. Especially when you have nothing to do with the actual transaction and are caught in the web of "what happens if..." or "what do we do when...." with no way to affect the situation one way or another.

Let's get on with it, people.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

SNMR 8.7: "Ponyo"


A boy, Sosuke, lives with his mother Lisa (Tina Fey) in a house on the Japanese coast and his father, a fisherman (Matt Damon), is rarely home. Sosuke rescues a fish trapped in a trashed glass bottle against the will of the ocean and brings it to her mother's work at a nursing home, which is right next door to Sosuke's school. Of course that fish, whom Sosuke names Ponyo, is akin to aquatic royalty. So what happens when Ponyo declares her love for Sosuke and wants to become a human? How will her parents, the magical Queen of the Ocean (Cate Blanchett) and fish-man Fujimoto (Liam Neeson) react?

Because today is my daughter's birthday, I told her she could choose the movie that I would review for today's column. Since she's such a fan of Miyazaki movies, it came as no surprise when she chose this film, the latest Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney release to hit the DVD racks.

The story is based on Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid. The problem with this story compared to Mermaid is that Sosuke is only five years old and Ponyo can't be much older. How many five year old kids really know what that kind of love is or means?

As with all Miyazaki films, the quality of animation is at the level of artwork. The partnership between Studio Ghibli and Disney hasn't missed a beat. Disney again has assembled a superb English voice cast for the Americanized version, highlighted by Tina Fey, Cate Blanchett and Liam Neeson. Accomplished screenwriter Melissa Matheson is given credit on the DVD box for being the writer of the English language screenplay but IMDb only gives her credit as a storyline consultant.

The second disc has some excellent extras, including some storyboard animation, which are informative and fun.

This is a testament to the quality of this movie ~ it's not my favorite Miyazaki film ~ but it is still excellent and worth your time to watch.

**** out of *****

Ponyo (2008, PG , 100 minutes), starring the voice talents of Noah Lindsey Cyrus, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Lily Tomlin, Cloris Leachman and Betty White. Based on "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson. Written and Directed by Hayao Miyazaki.


My daughter the teenager

Happy 13th birthday, V! I love you sweetheart!

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

SNMR 8.6: "Fierce People"


Finn Earl (Anton Yelchin) is excited about going to spend the summer with his anthropologist father in South America, studying a native tribe. But when he gets arrested trying to buy drugs for his strung out mother Liz (Diane Lane) his summer plans change. Instead the Finns go for the summer to live at the Osborne estate, where patriarch Ogden (Donalt Sutherland) is one of Liz's former massage clients. It is here that Finn gets seduced by the sexy maid Jilly (Paz De La Huerta) but falls in love with Maya (Kristen Stewart), Ogden's granddaughter and befriends Bryce (Chris Evans), Ogden's grandson. Things seem to be going well until Finn learns that friendship between the rich and the not-so-rich can happen, as long as the status quo is maintained.

This is a film that kicked around the minor film festivals for two years before gaining wide release in the US in 2007, so it wouldn't surprise me if you've never heard of it. Neither had I. I borrowed it from the library solely based on the fact that Diane Lane is in this movie. I've been a fan of hers for a long time and still think she's an underrated actress. Having old timer Donald Sutherland as your co-star doesn't hurt either. They've got a pretty nifty supporting cast including rising stars Anton Yelchin and Kristen Stewart, who were probably around 13 or 14 when this movie was filmed in 2004.

I like the fact that the screenplay was adapted by the author of the novel, which as I always say makes for a stronger movie. I've not read the novel that the film is based on but one of the DVD extras indicates that the screenplay doesn't stray very far from the novel. Veteran character actor turned director Griffin Dunne does a good job keeping the story moving along. There are only a few spots where the film sags but they don't last long. The only really unnecessary scenes are where visions of the South American native tribe that Finn's father is studying appear on the Osborne estate, as if we can't draw the parallel connections from the film itself.

The "Breaking Down the Tribe" featurette has some informative cast interviews.

Fierce People is worth your time to watch. I enjoyed this movie.

***½ out of *****

Fierce People (2005, R, 112 minutes), starring Donald Sutherland, Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Perkins, Paz De La Huerta and Chris Evans. Based on the novel by Dirk Wittenborn. Screenplay by Dirk Wittenborn. Directed by Griffin Dunne.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Lena Horne (1917-2010)

Lena Horne, one of the great pioneer actresses of the early 20th century has died at the age of 92. She helped pave the way for the modern generation of talented African-American actors & actresses, with her talent, grace and good looks.

It's too bad, as Horne herself put it that, "Hollywood didn't know what to do with me."

Indeed, that is a shame.

The only movie I can recall that I saw Ms. Horne act in was Cabin in the Sky, where she played the sultry temptress, Georgia Brown, opposite Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. There is even a song titled Sweet Georgia Brown.

This is a film that I was exposed to in a college film critique/appreciation class in the late 1980's. If you haven't seen this movie, I suggest you do. It is one of my favorites. I reviewed it here.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

SNMR 8.5: "Revolutionary Road"


Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet) seem to have the perfect marriage with two kids and a quaint starter home in a small Connecticut town close to New York City. April wanted to be an actress but wasn't well received while Frank has a good job at the same company his father labored at anonymously for thirty years. But Frank hates his job and April feels confined as a housewife. To break away, they decide to move to Paris in the fall where April will work to support Frank, so he can pursue his dreams, whatever they may be. Then, when word gets out that Frank wants to leave, he gets a big promotion at work and decides maybe Paris wasn't so realistic after all, shattering April's dreams of a better life.

I saw this movie during its theatrical release because of the hype surrounding Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's first on-screen appearance together since Titanic in 1997. Plus, the film was directed by Winslet's husband at the time, Sam Mendes. The hype was worth it as the two actors displayed the same chemistry as they did a decade ago.

I was very disappointed that this movie didn't get more Oscar consideration than it did in 2009. The Art Direction and Costume Design deserved the nominations they received, as the look of 1955 seemed to me to be spot on. I'm not so sure Michael Shannon was a worthy nom for Best Supporting Actor. He was good but really didn't have enough dialogue, in my mind, to warrant the nomination.

I believe Kate Winslet's performance here was better than her win a year later for The Reader. Leonardo DiCaprio has made himself into one of the best actors working in the biz today and I predict he will win a Best Actor Oscar in the next several years. Kathy Bates delivers another solid performance as the neighborly busybody/real estate agent. My favorite scene comes at the very end of the movie, just before the credits roll.

I bought the novel last year after seeing the movie but haven't read it yet. From what I understand, Justin Haythe did a great job adapting Richard Yates 1961 novel into the screenplay.

This was only the sixth film Mendes has directed, but he's already won a Best Director Oscar and does a fine job at the helm here. The run time of 118 minutes is a perfect length and the story doesn't sag at all.

The DVD includes an informative 'making of' featurette, deleted scenes and audio commentary for both feature film and deleted scenes. This was one of the better movies to come out in 2009 and I suggest you watch.

***** out of *****

Revolutionary Road (2009, R, 118 minutes), starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Katherine Hahn, Michael Shannon and David Harbour. Based on the novel by Richard Yates. Screenplay by Justin Haythe. Directed by Sam Mendes.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Yankees in town for three over the weekend

The Yankees are back at Fenway for three key games this weekend vs. the Red Sox. New York won the season opening series at Fenway, 2-1.

Currently in the AL East, the Yankees are in second place with a 19-8 record, 1½ games behind first place Tampa Bay. The Red Sox are in fourth place with a 15-14 record, 6½ games out.

As always when these two teams meet, I expect a great series with long, grinding games.

Pitching match ups and summaries for the series:

Friday, May 7th: New York @ Boston
Hughes (3-0) v. Beckett (1-0)

Saturday, May 8th: New York @ Boston
Sabathia (4-1) v. Buchholz (3-2)

Sunday, May 9th: New York @ Boston
Burnett (4-0) v. Lester (2-2)

After this series, the Red Sox will play the next nine games in the season series at Yankee Stadium, starting with a two game set on May 17-18.

The Yankees final visit to Fenway will be to close out the 2010 regular season on October 1-3.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

Good night for Boston sports teams

Red Sox win 17-8 vs. Los Angeles Angels at Fenway Park.

Bruins win 3-2 vs. Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden in Boston to take 2-0 series lead heading to Philly for games 3 and 4.

Celtics win 104-86 at Cleveland Cavaliers to tie series at 1-1 heading to Boston for games 3 and 4.

I was flippin' back and forth between the three games all night.

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

SNMR 8.4: "That Thing You Do!"


The year is 1964 and Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) is stuck in a rut working for the family business, a downtown appliance store in Erie, Pennsylvania. He loves to play the drums, but only for himself. His friend Lenny (Steve Zahn) approaches him to fill in for his band's drummer, who fell and broke his arm. Along with lead singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), his girlfriend and first groupie Faye (Liv Tyler), and the bass player (Ethan Embry), they sign up to compete in a local college talent show, which they win.

Which leads them to a local promoter who has them cut their first record and gets their song on the radio, and eventually to Mr. White (Tom Hanks) who signs the band to the Play Tone label, changing their name from the "One-ders" to "The Wonders." Predictably the band's notoriety and fame rises quickly - from local gigs to county fairs to television specials and a national tour, leaving the band in sunny Los Angeles.

For whatever reason, it took me 13+ years to finally get around to watching this movie. Yeah, tell me about it.

This is a film that has a pleasant mix of comedy, drama and romantic tension; just the right amount of each, with excellent character development for each primary character. Excellent acting performances all around, from the main cast to the bit parts. Look for Giovanni Ribisi, Charlize Theron, Kevin Pollack, Peter Scolari (Hanks' Bosom Buddies co-star) and Rita Wilson (Hanks real life wife) certainly help.

I often wonder, when a major movie star like Tom Hanks sets his mind to writing and directing a feature film, what the results will be. Not surprisingly, Hanks' efforts were not wasted. The story is not unique, but the screenplay is well paced and quirky enough to be fun. As always, that the writer and director are the same person is a plus. It's too bad that Hanks has given up the director's chair for now. Hopefully he will return to it once his days in front of the camera aren't as many.

The only Oscar nomination this film received was for Best Original Song, which surprised me. After watching I would have thought this movie deserved a nomination for Best Original Screenplay, especially over less worthy candidates As Good as it Gets and The Full Monty, which lost out to Good Will Hunting.

The title song was very popular on the radio in the fall of 1996 and got much better reviews than did the actual movie, which only made $25 million domestically. Still, this is a mid-90's classic.

I didn't mind the ending, which some say was cut too short (maybe because the production ran out of money?), in which we only see one character arc end and are left to read about the rest.

The DVD I got from the library had both the theatrical release and the 39 minute longer extended version, which is the one I watched. The bummer for me was that the feature film DVD and the extras DVD were scratched beyond what a cleaning would fix. On the feature film DVD that's not as bad because at least you have a chapter search and can go back to about the place you were and resume watching but on the second DVD each extra was only one chapter, so when the disc froze I couldn't work around it. What I saw of the extras were well done.

Eventually I'll buy the two disc DVD collection.

That Thing You Do! is a movie that I'd watch again and recommend to you, especially if (like me) you've never watched it before or if it's been a while since you've seen it.

****½ out of *****

That Thing You Do! (1996, PG, 108 minutes [Theatrical version] 147 minutes [Extended Cut version]), starring Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Tom Hanks and Charlize Theron. Written and Directed by Tom Hanks.


136th Kentucky Derby

Can't believe it's that time of year again. Time to see which horse will try to breal the 31 year old Triple Crown drought. The favorites may have a tough time due to the rain and sloppy track. Post time is 6:24 PM EDT.

Here's the story from the AP as I read it on espn.com.

All male horses carry 126 pounds. All female horses (11 Devil May Care) carry 121 pounds.
Betting Odds as of Wednesday:

136thKentucky Derby

Post Horse Odds
1 Lookin At Lucky 3-1
2 Ice Box 10-1
3 Noble's Promise 12-1
4 Super Saver 15-1
5 Line of David 30-1
6 Stately Victor 30-1
7 American Lion 30-1
8 Dean's Kitten 50-1
9 Make Music For Me 50-1
10 Paddy O'Prado 20-1
11 Devil May Care 10-1
12 Conveyance 12-1
13 Jackson Bend 15-1
14 Mission Impazible 20-1
15 Discreetly Mine 30-1
16 Awesome Act 10-1
17 Dublin 12-1
18 Backtalk 50-1
19 Homeboykris 50-1
20 Sidney's Candy 5-1

Here is a look at the 20 horses that will run today.

Here are the latest odds, as of 6:09 PM EDT (dramatic changes due to the weather):

Post Horse Odds
1 Lookin At Lucky 7-1
2 Ice Box 10-1
3 Noble's Promise 24-1
4 Super Saver 8-1
5 Line of David 18-1
6 Stately Victor 19-1
7 American Lion 21-1
8 Dean's Kitten 23-1
9 Make Music For Me 28-1
10 Paddy O'Prado 11-1
11 Devil May Care 10-1
12 Conveyance 27-1
13 Jackson Bend 21-1
14 Mission Impazible 18-1
15 Discreetly Mine 34-1
16 Awesome Act 12-1
17 Dublin 19-1
18 Backtalk 21-1
19 Homeboykris 25-1
20 Sidney's Candy 9-1


WIN: 4 Super Saver $18 $8.80 $6
PLACE: 2 Ice Box $11.20 $8
SHOW: 10 Paddy O'Prado $7.40

Exacta: $152.40
Trifecta: $2,377.40
Super: $$202,569.20


Now that Super Saver is this year's Triple Crown hopeful, here's a story about the winning horse and his dominant jockey.

It's good to know that Super Saver will run in the Preakness in two weeks.

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