Whenever a film based upon real events comes out, there is always a lot of discussion over how historically accurate it is. There are always loud swaths of people who claim the film is nonsense or rubbish because it got one detail or another completely wrong. But then when the film is praised for its accuracy, the other swaths wind up calling it boring, or unnervingly slow. Between these two extremes lies the difficulties of making a "based upon a true story" movie. No matter how an exciting a life one might live, there are still going to be large
Recently in Pick of the Week
It's a big week for interesting new releases including an Alan Turing biopic, a big outer-space epic, Reese Witherspoon getting real, Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant and much more.
This week brings a big Hollywood musical, a bigger battle for Middle Earth, a collection of documentaries, neatly packaged fury, and Angelina Jolie as a director.
A funny thing happened on the way to posting this week’s pick. Yesterday, I wrote the words you will read below, which is all about how I’ve developed mix feelings for the theatre. I was hopeful over Into the Woods, but was afraid that I wouldn’t like it and be forced to turn in my theatre-geek card. But before I could post it I had to put my daughter to bed, and when I returned, my wife had stolen the computer and refused to relinquish it until way past my bed time. A day has since passed and in that
This week brings us early Truffaut, new Chris Rock, classic film noir, a silly sequel, and more.
Before she became a stay-at-home mom (and forced me to get a real job, le sigh) my wife taught French at university. A small university. In Tennessee. She was the French department. Like all of it. The only person on campus that spoke French, I think. She made a real go of it, offering as many classes as she could but also hosting regular crepe days, celebrating French holidays, and inviting the kids to our house for the viewing of French films. My wife is a francophile and she lives to share that passion. Especially with me. I like to
This week brings us a Bible story, a silly remake, a sillier b-movie, and hills coming alive.
My sophomore year in college I started working for the university dinner theatre via the work study program. The previous semester I’d worked for the library and found it extraordinarily dull. I wasn’t all that interested in the theatre at that point, but I was happy to no longer be staring at book spines all day. Turns out, I absolutely adored the theatre work and stayed there the rest of my academic career. It was a small school and an even smaller theatre so I was often called upon to help out with the various productions we put on. I
This week brings us a very serious Steve Carell, a not so humble Al Pacino, an old Robin Hood, and a gruff sheriff.
Wrestling (real wrestling - not that soap-opera stuff you see on cable TV) is an odd sort of sport. You basically dress two people in tights, toss them on a rubber mat, and watch while they try to roll each other on the ground. I know there is more to it than that and I don’t mean to belittle the sport’s rich history, its athleticism, or the skill involved, but really it is pretty silly. Which probably helps explain why it never really took off professionally (aside from the even more silly aforementioned soap-opera stuff) and why there aren’t a
This week features two Oscar winners, two Criterions, and a quaint historical drama.
Out of all the winners (and even nominees) of last night’s Oscars, I’ve seen exactly one (The Grand Budapest Hotel). That’s low by even my standards. I’ve lamented in these pages before how I rarely get out to the movies anymore, but this year it was even worse. This is mainly due to me losing my privileges as a stay-at-home dad and having to go out and get a job. Employment means being away from the house for many hours at a time which means less time to take in a film (though I must add being a stay-at-home dad
This week has us talking about has-been super-heroes, Japanese folk-tales, dumb comedies, and life itself.
Last year, I moved from a teeny tiny little town in Tennessee to a slightly larger one in Oklahoma. The benefit of the slightly larger one is that it's fairly close to a much larger city, namely Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now, Tulsa isn’t the most cosmopolitan of metropolises. It isn’t the biggest and brightest of places in the universe. It's not even the largest city in Oklahoma, and lord knows Oklahoma rarely shows up on anybody’s places you want to be. But it has its appeal. It has some nice shopping, some big parks, a couple of museums (and while they
This week brings us social commentaries, based-on true stories, foreign horror, and a drugged-up nurse.
In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a seedy young man who makes a name for himself filming crime scenes and selling them to a local Los Angeles news station which in turn uses it to draw larger and larger viewers to their screens. They come, of course, in droves, leading Lou to make more videos with more lurid crimes and eventually pushes him to manipulate the scenes. That’s an interesting set up and one rife with social commentary. It is almost cliche to talk about the media-saturated world in which we live, and yet here we are. The standard
After missing a week I'm back talking about Keanu Reeves, the search for happiness, Australian nurses and more.
My computer crashed last week. Well, no, that is not exactly true, my computer got very sick so I reformatted it. It had been running very slow for a few months. Strangely, it got ridiculously slow whenever I ran iTunes. Like every 90 seconds or so, it would just lock up for a minute or two, then run fine only to freak out again after a little while. This would be exasperating to anyone but it was hopeless to someone like me who spends inordinate amounts of time listening to and manipulating music. I looked around a bit online to
Rest in peace, James Gandolfini.
It was a rough year to be a celebrity in 2014. It seems like we lost a lot of greats. There were some such as Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, and Shirley Temple whose deaths, while very sad, were not a shock to hear about. But then there were others, Harold Ramis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams - whose deaths were like a blow to the head. A great bit punch in our collective guts. Hoffman and Williams especially, their deaths made more tragic by the means in which they happened. I want to include James Gandolfini in that list,
This week brings us David Fincher's latest thriller, an empires final boardwalk, a Hendrix biopic, a space documentary and The Facts of Life.
I very much like to read, I’m just not very good at it. Or rather I’m not very good at making the time to read more than a few pages at a time. Between movies, TV, games, Facebook, music, work, and family I rarely make myself sit down for long stretches with a good book. Honestly, I do most of my reading on the toilet, or sometimes at the dinner table (when my wife doesn’t let out that groaning sigh that tells me she’d like a little attention rather than the pages in front of me). Now and again I’ll
After a week off I'm looking for movies about boys, girls, a former wizard growing horns, and Nick Cage in his most inexplicable role ever.
I took last week off to spend some time with my wife’s family. Her clan are a bit spread out with the parents living in Kentucky, one brother in North Carolina, the other in Nashville. We now live in Oklahoma, all of which makes it rather difficult for us all to see each other at the same time. We always try to meet up over the Christmas break, and if the star align properly, we might all of us gather sometime in the summer. The brothers have three boys amongst them, two born months apart some 13 years ago and
It's a slow week and I'm using that as an excuse to say very little.
When I’m not writing about movies and televisions shows, I run The Midnight Cafe, a little blog that deals in unofficially released concert recordings, or "bootlegs" as they are sometimes called. I own thousands upon thousands of hours of live music that was kindly recorded by untold fans just wanting to share their passion. I lovingly upload these shows into the cloud and share them freely with whoever wants them. Mostly, I just post the shows with the pertinent information included and leave the discussion to the comment section. But I’m a writer at heart and sometimes I like to
Another banner week of releases as Christmas comes near.
So often when writing this series I have to admit that I haven’t seen the things that I pick, or even the ones I highlight. I rarely make it to the movie theater anymore and since I cut the cord at home, I inevitably have to wait until TV series come out on DVD before I get a chance to watch them. Sadly, I now have to admit that even though Arrested Development: Season 4 has been out for some time and that I’ve had a subscription to Netflix on which I could watch it and that I’m a huge
This week brings us several Criterions, more Woody Allens, three TV collections, a talking, space traveling raccoon and so much more.
My recent visit to Wizard World solidified the fact that while I like geeky things I am not in anyway a full-fledged geek. This is especially true when it comes to comic-book movies. News will come out that some new superhero is hitting the big screen and the Internet goes wild. Speculation starts on who they should cast, cyber wars are waged when the cast lists are actually announced. Web sites are broken from the massive spikes in traffic whenever the posters, images, trailers, and other media are released. We collectively go crazy. I used to get caught up in
This week brings us an excellent concert series, some damn, dirty apes, short journeys, vampires, and more.
I’ve been blogging now for a little over ten years. I started back in 2004 when my wife and I spent a year living in Strasbourg, France. Initially it was solely a journal of my experience abroad. I invited a few friends and family that I thought might enjoy reading about my adventures, but mostly kept it private. Eventually I got bored writing about baguettes and started writing pop culture reviews. At first that was just for fun, a way to kill some time while my wife was at work, but over time I got serious about it. If you
I'm taking a chance that an odd comedy will actually tickle my funny bone.
I have an unusual sense of humor. I generally don’t find the things that the apparent majority of people find hilarious to be in the least bit amusing. I’ve never enjoyed a Farrelly Brothers' film or any movie associated with Judd Apatow. I’ve got no use for Hangovers or elderly Virgins. I stare at the Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men dumbfoundedly wondering how anybody could find any ounce of humor in any of it. Broad comedy almost always falls flat to my ears and even more esoteric and odd comic film like Borat or Archer barely
The Christmas season keeps bringing all sorts of great stuff.
When I bought my first DVD player back in 1999 I vowed that I would only buy really great movies - the classics, interesting indies, fantastic foreign flicks, etc. I wanted to develop a collection of the world’s best movies with no fluff. That died out with in a few months. At the time DVDs were still really rather expensive, running about $20 or more per film. Every now and again, I’d find a used sale at Blockbuster or some such place and you could grab something for ten or sometimes even five dollars. Such a bargain price often made
Halloween is over so its time for the Christmas season and with it lots of big TV collections.
You’ve got to love the (extended) Christmas season. It seems like every year it gets pushed farther and farther up the calendar. I’ve barely taken down my Halloween stuff and already the stores are flooded with Christmas decorations and the radio is playing non-stop carols. There’s plenty of reasons to get annoyed with that - the crass commercialism, the lack of decent music, the spoiling of any specialness the season actually has, etc., but as a collector I gotta say I love it. From now until the end of the year there are going to be sales and deals on
Christmas is coming and with it comes big boxed sets and lots of TV collections.
For nearly as long as I can remember and certainly for as long as I’ve taken cinema seriously ,I’ve been a follower of the auteur theory. Even at a young age, I realized how influential a director was to the overall development and final artistic vision of a film. To this day, I tend to refer to films by their director rather than their stars or plot lines. The best directors leave their stamp on a movie no matter the genre. Stanley Kubrick was truly an auteur in every meaning of the word. You can tell its one of his
Surprisingly its a weak week for scary movies, but a good one for everything else.
In case you’ve been stuck inside without any form of media (or a calendar) over the last month, Halloween is this Friday. I love this holiday more than just about any other day. I love the weather, the candy, the scary movies and dressing my kid up in some ridiculous costume. I just love every little bit of it. For years now, my wife and I have hosted a pumpkin-carving party. We invite all of our friends over, decorate the house, dress up the kids, fill every bowl with candy, put Thriller on the stereo, and carve little orange vegetables
This week's releases include a highly acclaimed science fiction movie, several complete television collections, an HBO special, and more.
My in-laws have been spending the week with us. Mostly this is just swell as they are wonderful people who have been very kind to me in the 14 years that I’ve been involved with their daughter. They make great sitters for my daughter as well. It really is nice to have them around, but it does wreak havoc on parts of my life. This is especially true of my entertainment consumption. There are lots of things I cannot watch when they are around. Part of this is simply that I’m in the middle of a series and they won’t
The film matched all of the promise of the concept.
I like the idea of X-Men more than I usually like the execution. The mutant concept with all of the different and interesting powers coming from genetics is really neat. I also love that the ideas behind the mutants can be connected philosophically to our fights against racism and homophobia, but can also connect to anyone, individually, who doesn’t fit in. It's comic book heroes with an important message that’s also super cool. Unfortunately, the execution of this concept hasn’t always paid off for me. I’ve seen all the Hollywood movies and while I’ve enjoyed them as big blockbuster summer-type
I can't wait for my little girl to grow up with me and movies.
There is a fairly constant discussion in my home over the television. Or rather how much of it my child should be watching. There are lots of studies, blogs, and opinions on the matter with a great many who will tell you that she shouldn’t watch any. TV is the opiate of the masses, the boob-tube, a bad babysitter, etc. It rots the brain. My wife and I sometimes side with those thoughts and try to not let her watch any. Except when we do. Which is often. Sometimes you just have to. Like when you are trying to clean
I'm not at all a foodie, but I'd like to be.
In college, I had a friend who majored in theater. One day he hit me up to help him out with a project. It was for his directing class and I was to be his actor. It was no big deal, he assured me, as I wasn’t meant to really act. This assignment was all about staging - where to place bodies to create an interesting picture from the audience. I didn’t need to memorize lines or nothing. I agreed and my friend Kellie and I spent a couple of days with Charlie learning where to stand when we said
The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology and Halloween: The Complete Collection Are the Picks of the Week
As Halloween creeps near its time to start bringing out the big horror collections.
A couple of years back I decided to finally sit down and watch the notoriously graphic horror movie A Serbian Film. My wife was at work so she couldn’t complain and my daughter was maybe 9 or 10 months old and also unable to protest. I like horror movies. I have since I was a teen. I even dig some of the really gory stuff. Or at least I like to be able to say I've watched the grossest of the gross. So it was with A Serbian Film. Its reputation as one of the nastiest films ever made only
David Lynch's bizarre, brilliant masterpiece gets the Criterion make-over.
People always carry on about how wonderful children are - how amazing and beautiful they can be, how they change your life and show you what love truly is. Mostly I find all that crap to be B.S., but there is some truth in how they change your life. Before I had a kid I actually had a life. Now I spend every waking moment feeding, cleaning up after, bathing, changing, and otherwise taking care of the little rugrat. I love my daughter more than anything in this entire universe, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days
Despite not liking a good number of his books, I can't help but love Nick Hornby.
I first heard of Nick Hornby through the movie version of his musically obsessed book High Fidelity. The film stars John Cusack as Rob, a down-on-his-luck, record-store owner whose entire life has been influenced by pop songs and who tends to spend his day making mix tapes for pretty girls and Top Five lists of favorite every things. After watching that film, pretty much all of my friends turned to me and mentioned that it must have been based on my life. That’s not true, of course, but it could have been. Certainly large chunks of my life have been
This week brings some good TV and some classic monsters.
It seems like forever since I’ve had a really challenging pick of the week. Hardly at all this summer have I had to really choose between two or three items that I was really interested in. More than once the picks have been between something kind of interesting and something else that might be ok. It not that there hasn’t been anything that I think will be good, and looking back on the things I did pick I recognize there’s been some really nice releases. But I don’t recall a week where I was blown away by all the great
P.G. Wodehouse's wonderful characters make it to the small screen.
I can’t remember when I first heard of P.G. Wodehouse. He seems to just always exist in my memory. I do remember the first time I read one of his books - I wasn’t particularly impressed. His writing was good and there were lots of funny parts, but nothing very much really happened. The plot was as light as a puff pastry just out of the oven. This threw me at first, but after reading a couple more I learned to just let go and enjoy the wonderfulness of his prose. The thing to me about Wodehouse is that he’s