Broke & The U

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They knew when payday was. They knew it better than I did. They had it circled on the calendar. Broke

This was an excellent informational film for professional athletes. So I learned a lot that would have been extremely useful, if I were a professional athlete. However, my physical abilities left me a bit shy of making it to the pros in any sport. I did appreciate how difficult it must have been to get these proud men to talk about their embarrassing public bankruptcies. Even talking about being broke Andre Rison seemed cool. Although wearing reflective sunglasses for his indoor interview was a bit odd.

Billy Corben directed Broke and two years prior directed The U for part of the original 30 for 30. The only thing that was improved upon in Broke was the obnoxious music from The U. Besides that, the story of how the University of Miami became excellent at football and then hated by the nation is an interesting one. As a member of the the American nation The U had more meaning for me so watch it before you watch Broke.

*** for Broke and ***½ for The U.

We’re The Millers

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Well, I’m awake and I speak English, so yeah I know what you’re saying.

If it were twice as smart, or half as earnest, I think this could have been an enjoyable movie. As it was, there were definitely several very funny scenes and a few horrific (comedic) ones as well. IMDb compared it to The Heat, but that movie had a better balance between absurdity and reality. The Heat realized that its flawed characters were ripe for mocking, whereas here Rawson Marshall Thurber—director of Dodgeball—was a little too confident in the inherent comedy of his characters. The preposterous premise here is that a depressingly old drug dealer—Jason Sudeikis, Horrible Bosses—gets mugged and robbed because…wait for some coincidences…a homeless girl—Emma Roberts—is getting mugged extremely slowly by three “Gutter Punks,” a young man—Will Poulter, Lee Carter in Son of Rambow—wants to cross the street to save her and Sudeikis condescends to help and when Poulter tells said Punks of Sudeikis’ profession they rob him and burglarize his apartment of all of his drugs and all of his (and some of his drug dealing boss’) money. So then Sudeikis’ college buddy/drug dealer boss wants him to smuggle some drugs into the country in an RV, so Sudeikis, obviously, convinces the Roberts and Poulter, plus a down on her luck stripper—Jennifer Aniston, to pose as his family. Yeah, not exactly a well thought out movie.

Molly C. Quinn, Will Poulter, Kathryn Hahn, Emma Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, and Nick Offerman, We're The Millers, © 2013 WB.

Molly C. Quinn, Will Poulter, Kathryn Hahn, Emma Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, and Nick Offerman, We’re The Millers, © 2013 WB.

Since the boss man—Ed Helms, The Hangover— is rooting for Sudeikis’ success, so later in the movie we meet Mexican Tomer Sisley (not an actual Mexican) and he has a great Mexican right hand man, Matthew Willig—Yuri the Gobbler, “Chuck”, also not an actual Mexican. There appeared to be only one actual Mexican, the always wonderful Luis Guzman. But as wonderful as he always is, he was born in Puerto Rico. Close enough? Apparently Denver is much closer to Mexico than Puerto Rico is. Would having an actual Mexican fix a film that expects us after 60 minutes to really want this fake family to stay together? This was a bad idea for a movie and a waste of many talented people’s time. There were serious topics here! Topics that this movie bit into like the gumming of a toothless old mutt. Homelessness? Do not worry, Roberts sleeps on her friends’ couches! Mexicans trying to sneak into America? Great! Now our drug smugglers can sneak in their drugs! Pressuring women to have sex with the men they strip for? Boner Garage—Laura Leigh, officially listed as Kymberly—was psyched for that!

Please let that be non-permanent.

Laura Leigh with her Boner Garage tattoo, We’re The Millers.

That said, there were definitely funny parts and nice performances. Tom Lennon—Lt. Dangle on “Reno 911″—has a nice half-scene when he runs into Sudeikis and tries to tell him that he has the life by not having anyone to keep track of him, i.e. no wife, no kids. And Lennon is fat! I have never seen him fat before. At some point Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn made me laugh as a couple, I just cannot remember when. The above quote from Sudeikis was in response to this carney, Scottie P, who ends every sentence with “you know what I’m saying?” There is also Ken Marino making a joke about needing to add sex to the menu at the strip club he runs, because of the competition from across the street from an Apple store. Jennifer Aniston nailed her delivery of the punchline in that joke. And there truly are several more very funny moments. But there are probably several funny moments in an animated train wreck too, but that does not make it a good train ride.

The Longest Yard

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To be clear this is the original 1974 version that stars Burt Reynolds—Boss Hogg from the remake of The Dukes of Hazzard—and Ed Lauter—Peppy’s Butler from The Artist, but he is recognizable as a TV guest star. It is lewd, crude and rude!

I think I broke his fucking neck.

Samson (Richard Kiel) in The Longest Yard, © 1974 Paramount Pics.

Samson (Richard Kiel) in The Longest Yard, © 1974 Paramount Pics.

The penal system, or at least this prison, casts a shadow on the respectability of “the Citrus State.” I expect that peobeple already know the plot of this movie—former football star goes to prison, puts together a rag tag bunch of inmates to face the guards in football! But how do we get there?

1. Create a retired football player who is skilled enough to be desirable at a prison, felonious enough to be sentenced to said prison, and a decent enough human being to function as the protagonist. This is achieved through Paul Crewe–Burt Reynolds–a drunken former MVP booted from the league for points shaving who wakes up with a rich woman who hits him, so he hits her back, then he leaves with her car, which results in a police chase, a “Maserati” labeled Citroën that winds up in the drink.

2. An asshole lieutenant who is clearly a jerk who works for a baddie whose character is less clear. Ed Lauter is Captain Knauer who greets Reynolds with a nightstick to the gut. Eddie Albert—the photographer from Roman Holiday—is the warden who wants his semi-pro football team to win a national championship, but keeps coming up short.

3. Terrible offensive “comedy” to burn time until the football montages start.

4. Football montages.

5. Emotional stakes. This is achieved by having one jerk kill off the nice manager of the convicts’ team.

6. Football game. The end is really close and predicated on there being a 2 point difference.

7. Leverage to get the protagonist to throw the game. A half-time the warden threatens Reynolds with more time in prison by saying that he can frame him for accessory to murder of the manager.

8. Brief doubt. Reynolds throws interceptions, fumbles, fakes an injury and everyone hates him.

9. Surprise comeback. This has lots of slow motion for a touchdown to put the convicts ahead, but the director did not bother keeping track of the score of the game, so instead of 8-6 Convicts, he thought it was 7-6 Guards. So, so lazy.

10. One last doubt! As Reynolds goes to pick up the football the warden tells his lieutenant to shoot him for escaping and the lieutenant turns on the punk warden and refuses, since Reynolds just wanted the game ball. “Game ball!”

Ed Lauter & Eddie Albert, The Longest Yard, 1974 © Paramount Pics.

Ed Lauter & Eddie Albert, The Longest Yard, 1974 © Paramount Pics.

So that all happened. They pulled it off and it made enough money/cultural impact to get a sequel from Adam Sandler. I do not think I will be watching that any time soon. **

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Captain, in Order to build a better world, sometimes that means tearing the old one down… And that makes enemies.

  aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), © Empire Magazine, 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

<Name Redacted> aka Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), © Empire Magazine, 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Who watches the watchmen? It has always been a classic question in the war between freedom and safety. Especially since when that “safety” turns out to not be safe for those who do not step in line with the those in power. That is an interesting question for regular people, even for powerful people like Nick Fury–Samuel L. Jackson–but this puts that question onto the broad shoulder’s of America’s super soldier, Captain America. Then we get introduced to The Winter Soldier, but without an origin story, which helps the movie flow—even if some of us wanted to see it. Other than lasting a little bit too long, this was a well paced, well shot, excellent action movie that makes us think.

Nick Fury (Jackson) & Alexander Pierce (Redford), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, © 2014 Marvel.

Nick Fury (Jackson) & Alexander Pierce (Redford), Captain America: The Winter Soldier, © 2014 Marvel.

With that review material out of the way, I can almost not wait to get to my “accuracy” post for this movie!  What I can say, without spoilers, is that Robert Redford’s character, Secretary Alexander Pierce, was a home run. In a film without a villain, he made an extremely interesting grey area character. He is on the that damned Counsel that tried to nuke Manhattan at the end of Marvel’s The Avengers. How he replaced Powers Boothe’s character is never addressed. The nice surprise is that at first the film has a mid-level Captain America/SHIELD baddie named Batroc—Georges St. Pierre, Canadian, UFC Welterweight Champion. He provides a legitimate challenge for Steve Rogers (Cap) to fight.

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, & in the background Maria Hill. Captain America 2, © 2014 Marvel

Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, and in the background Maria Hill. Captain America 2, © 2014 Marvel

There are several other badasses in the movie, but Cap’s allies, Black Widow–Scarlett Johansson and Sam Wilson—Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker—take the cake. With a bonus taking of the cupcake going to Maria Hill—”How I Met Your Mother’s” Cobie Smulders—for a couple of leaning-back-in-a-chair headshots. I was hoping she would get promoted to Director of SHIELD in this one, but nope, I guess we will have to wait for that. And gutsier than anything in the movie is the tie in to “Agents of SHIELD”. This actually takes place between two “Agents of SHIELD” episodes. That takes more gumption than even X-Files: Fight the Future had! At least they gave us a whole summer to see the movie before the next episode aired. I am just glad that I did not wait until next week to watch this movie!

300: Rise of an Empire

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You fight much harder than you fuck.

Artemisia (Eva Green) leading the Persian navy, © 2014 Legendary.

Artemisia (Eva Green) leading the Persian navy, © 2014 Legendary.

Well this film was all over the place. The beginning was uninspiring, like a cheaper looking 300, with computerized blood splatter that I am certain looks much better in 3D than in 2D. But ignoring this story, that occurs contemporaneously with 300, Eva Green portrayed Artemisia and she was amazing. To be fair I think that she is always amazing, but she anchored an extremely deep cast:
1. Themistocles – Sullivan Stapleton, best known for playing one of the Cody clan in Animal Kingdom. He does a solid job as an Athenian hero/general, and was about 4/5ths as good as Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas. He also is the one who fights harder…
2. Lena Headey is back as Queen Gorgo and she does a great job of narration, on par almost with David Wenham’s narration in the original. Wenham also returned briefly as Dilios. Pre-and post-eye scarf.
3. Aesyklos – Hans Matheson, who was excellent as Lord Coward in Sherlock Holmes, is fine as Themistocles’ brother.
4. Xerxes is played by Rodrigo Santoro once again, and when I went to look who played young, normal looking Xerxes, I saw that there was no young Xerxes I was really impressed as that means Mr. Santoro brought it twice. I am glad he was given the chance.
5. Scyllias & his son Calisto – neither looked familiar to me (they are Callan Mulvey, he is 39 & Jack O’Connell, he is 23) but it is interesting to learn that Jack could have been Callan’s son, since 16 sounds like a good age to have a kid in Ancient Greece.
6. King Darius – Igal Naor, recognizable as a Palestinian terrorist in Munich and the target in Green Zone. I do not remember him talking in this movie, but he has an impressive presence, mostly fueled by some serious eyebrows.
7. General Bandari – Ashraf Barhoum, whose end must have been death, but I do not remember when that happened. What I do remember is his powerful, varied turns as a Saudi in The Kingdom and as a … oh I have no idea what in Coriolanus. He also had minor roles in Paradise Now and Lebanon. So not that many people would actually recognize him despite a very high average film rating.

Artemisia looking amazing during a parlay with Themistocles aboard her flagship, © 2014 WB.

Artemisia looking amazing during a parlay with Themistocles aboard her flagship, © 2014 WB.

Returning to the most important actor in the film, Eva Green. As much as I loved her power, sensuality and rage, I left wondering if Artemisia was a positive female character. Version 1: she is almost perfection, the greatest warrior of the Persian Empire, the highest of the generals, lords over men, wears what she wants, she made Xerxes into the godking, she rose up from the grip of death to become what she was, even if that was prideful to the level of expecting betrayal by here enemy to become her #2, prideful enough to disobey Xerxes even after he slapped her. Version 2: She wears armor with nipples large enough to make George Clooney’s Batman jealous, has sex with her enemy, was a child victimized and assaulted as a slave, killed by one Greek man—and not even a Spartan one, slapped by her king. And then there was the sex scene. It was very violent. Both Artemisia and Themistocles both appeared to want to hurt the other as much as they wanted to have an enjoyable sexual experience. Lots of hair pulling and throat grabbing. I expect that for some percentage of the populace this was best sex scene in the film, but I am not in that group. Still, I found her to be a positive (for a villain) character, but I am a white man and that influenced my view.

Queen Gorgo (Headey) and Themistocles (Stapelton in Sparta, 300: Rise of An Empire © 2014 Legendary.

Queen Gorgo (Headey) and Themistocles (Stapleton) in Sparta, 300: Rise of An Empire © 2014 Legendary.

On the whole this movie was sexist, but so are most movies. And I think they tried to make an unsexist movie by having their villain be a woman and have her disregard most female stereotypes. But the violence against her and having her nakedness—but not Themistocles’—is just typical Hollywood sexism. Returning to that awkward sex scene, at least it was consensual and had no line as awful as, ” This will not be over quickly. You will not enjoy this. I am not your King!” Although in this movie itself, I was too distracted by Eva Green’s beauty to noticed most of these flaws. And yes I would absolutely watch this movie again.

N.B. I cannot do an Accuracy post for this, like I did for 300, because the graphic novel on which this is based…has not yet been released!

The Beast

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You’re a good soldier Anton. You can be counted on when they ask you to shoot your mother.

I forgot to review this movie! It was a tense thriller set inside of an isolated Soviet tank being hunted by the Mujhadeen. And it stars the ORIGINAL star of “Law & Order” George Dzundza. Plus Stephen Baldwin, Jason Patric and Erick Avari. No foolin’.

Charlie Wilson’s War

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You know you’ve reached rock bottom when you’re told you have character flaws by a man who hanged his predecessor in a military coup.

Fully clothed Jane Liddle (Emily Blunt) next to her fully clothed father (Peter Gerety). 2007 © Pics.

Fully clothed Jane Liddle (Emily Blunt) next to her fully clothed father (Peter Gerety). 2007 © Pics.

Part of this movie should have been called Joanne Herring’s War! Julia Roberts’ Joanne Herring in some way helped Charlie Wilson become a Congressman and eventually helped convince a fellow Baptist Legislator whose consent Wilson needed. As for Charlie Wilson, for much of the movie Charlie Wilson—Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump—plays someone who is smarter than he seems and more engaged than he appears. But he also appeared to be a moderately powerful, moderately wealthy Texan douche bag. He was what America wanted President George W. Bush to be. A charmer who killed commies! But they still needed the assistance of an obese CIA Agent whose steals the show by being such a droll jerk. Watching Philip Seymour-Hoffman kill it in that role makes his death even more depressing, at least he got nominated for the best supporting actor Academy Award.

What a fucking ugly shirt.

Charlie Wilson (Hanks) and Gust Avrakotos (Seymour-Hoffman) in Wilson’s office with some delicious Talisker. © 2007 Universal Pics.

Thanks to the CIA the Afghans got US-bought Soviet weapons. Eventually they got stingers to shoot down those classic Soviet helicopters. It is in an exciting scene where some cocky Soviet soldiers are about to hit a village of Aghanis, but then those simple Afghanis shoot one of them down! The attitude seemed to be, the only good Commie was a dead Commie! As the years rolled by the numbers of helicopters shot down appeared on screen. They did not post the Soviet casualties from this escalation. Commie killing—I have a problem with that. The moral high ground, in which this film lives, relies on our sympathies aligning with the women and children killed by Soviet soldiers. But glamorizing the deaths of “evil” Soviets seemed inappropriately lighthearted in this semi-serious movie.

An MI-24 Hind, just like the ones used in Afghanistan and in Charlie Wilson's War.

An MI-24 Hind, just like the ones used in Afghanistan and in Charlie Wilson’s War.

For a better slice of the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, I direct you to The Beast (of War). But before then I became aware of the Mujahadeen in the Bond film The Living Daylights. It is weird to watch this movie, since this was the first post-US invasion of Afghanistan that is set in pre-our war in Afghanistan. This tapped back into the days when the Mujahadeen were glamorous freedom fighters and not part of the Taliban. And this was filmed three years into the contemporaneously unending conflict.  Beyond that real life angle, the other thing that struck me as the film ended was just how short it had been. The story appeared to span for 5–6 years, but only took an hour and forty minutes. So thiswais just a well acted *** movie with an extra half star for Philip Seymour-Hoffman’s performance.

After thoughts: The naughty bits in this are the only part that indicated that this was also directed by Mike Nichols—Closer. And the clever political bits showed how this was adapted by Aaron Sorkin. On balance though, I had forgotten that they were involved with this film until I went to the IMDb page.

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