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On the passing of Bob Hoskins

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I loved Bob Hoskins before I knew who Bob Hoskins was. That was due to Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And due to Hook.

Smee (Bob Hoskins) in Hook, © 1991 Amblin Ent.

Smee (Bob Hoskins) in Hook, © 1991 Amblin Ent.

Last week at trivia one question was, “Of all the films Steven Spielberg directed, this one, from 1991, has the lowest rating on Rotten Tomatoes.” Hook was the answer and no one from my generation has guessed that, or has even been able to accept that. I was nine when I saw Hook in theaters and bought the comic book after that. Hoskins was great as Smee, but back then he was just Smee. Just as in Who Framed Roger Rabbit he was just the private eye. Eventually I learned who Bob Hoskins was.

I had also seen him in Mermaids and Spice World but I don’t really remember those movies very well. Which is probably for the best, although there were some very popular singers in those movies. As an adult I watched Hollywoodland and was blown away. The simplicity of his character and how it transcended good and evil was one of the rawest displays of power that a soft spoken, short older man has even shown. Here is a scene where he faces down the accusations of a private eye played by Adrien Brody. Thence I moved on to Brazil and Mrs Henderson Presents. He was cruelly funny in the one and oafishly funny in the other. And I have gone back to Roger Rabbit and Hollywoodland several times. I was saddened to learn that he had cancer, both because of his impending suffering and for the selfish reason that I wanted him to keep acting. Instead of the traditional “rest in peace,” I hope he rests with a smile on his face and laughter in his voice. He deserves that.

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Straight Outta L.A.

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**½

I love L.A. (But as sung in that Randy Newman from the song in The Naked Gun way)

Well this ESPN 30 for 30 from Ice Cube is only his second attempt at directing—the first being the forgettable The Players Club. This felt like an ad for how cool Ice Cube used to be. To be fair, he was pretty cool, but he still talks like he did in the mid 1980’s. It is not that I want him to have changed, but Daddy Day Care has changed and he refuses own up to that. This documentary showcases the story of how the Raiders moved to Los Angeles and then left again. Contemporaneously Ice Cube’s NWA became the first gangsta rap group. The narrative is about how LA loved the Raiders and how NWA and the desire to not wear gang colors led to Raiders gear selling out for years. This led to schools identifying Raiders clothing as gang colors and banning them. It is an interesting story and one with lots of facts, but almost no concern with linear storytelling or with proving any causal relationship between gangsta rap, Raiders gear, and the Raiders leaving LA.

Divergent

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***

You’re supposed to be smart. If I wanted to hurt you, I would’ve.

Tris' poor ear. Divergent © 2014 Summit Ent.

Tris’ poor ear. Divergent © 2014 Summit Ent.

This film works as a standalone product. Certainly it is designed to be the first film of a trilogy, but as it was wrapping up—the end was exciting and the best part*—I wondered how anything would be left once our heroes took care of business. That said, it still seemed like a big book that got condensed down to something smaller than its readers would have liked, while also being longer than newcomers would feel was necessary. If you want to know what happens, that information is probably already in your head or is easily available elsewhere. Instead I will compare and contrast this with the more successful films of this genre: Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.

*According to Megan, who just read the book, this is also the most accurate portion of the film.

Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) with the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, © 2001 WB.

Professor McGonagall (Maggie Smith) with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) with the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, © 2001 WB.

Harry Potter: Instead of being eleven and having a magic hat choose your (school) house, there is a test that determines which of the five factions a young adult shall choose to spend the rest of its life in. In Harry Potter there is an anti-cunning sentiment, whereas here that sentiment is very anti-intellectual.

Twilight: The main character, Tris (Shailene Woodley) tells her love interest, Four (Theo James), that she wants to take it slow. My understanding is that in Twilight the characters waited for marriage before sex almost killed its protagonist. Herein Tris has a fear of Four sexually assaulting her which has sparked much debate, but is actually pretty much a non-statement in the actual context of this film.

A composite of Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

A composite of Gale (Liam Hemsworth), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).

The Hunger Games/Mockingjay or whatever: This seemed to be the closest parallel with a teenage girl as its protagonist and her un-requested role as revolutionary—which is non-existent for the first 5/6ths of the movies—who only wants to not die while living in a society where things have gone terribly wrong for most of the planet. Here there was no love triangle and the relationship between Four and Tris seemed more natural and exciting than anything involving Katniss. However, Woodley lacks the subtlety that Jennifer Lawrence has.

THEO JAMES and SHAILENE WOODLEY star in DIVERGENT, © 2014 Summit Entertainment.

THEO JAMES and SHAILENE WOODLEY star in DIVERGENT, © 2014 Summit Entertainment.

 

If the true test of this film was would I want to watch a sequel of it, then it definitely passed. A parallel film that I would connect it to was Hellboy. A good director (Neil Burger—The Illusionist before Divergent & Guillermo del Toro — Pan’s Labyrinth between Hellboys 1 & 2) with interesting characters and the promise of something greater that produced something that should have been better. It may be worth noting that Hellboy: The Golden Army was not actually better than the original, but it did change up the flaws. And neither story came close to the magic of the source material. Hopefully Burger can do something with these books that del Toro could not.

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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**½

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!

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