Category Archives: 2.5 of 5

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his highschool sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.

Apparently, the primary activities pursued by mankind when faced with their ultimate destruction are sex and drugs. Lots of drugs. Except for Dodge Pederson (Steve Carrell), who we are to see as so schlubby and milquetoasty he drowns his troubles with codeine-laced cough syrup.

Somehow, Dodge finds himself on a road trip with Penny (Keira Knightley) in search of a lost love. Anyone familiar with road trip movies knows the odd couple will eventually fall for each other. This couple’s differences should be insurmountable (despite the whole “end of the world” thing) but there is a sweet chemistry between Knightley and Carrell that draws you in.

There are a few laughs and some fun cameos, but for the most part this movie is just…blah. It isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t ‘good’, either.

Can’t think of anyone I would particularly recommend it to, but can’t think of anyone whom I would advise to avoid it. Guess I’ll give it a 2 1/2 because that is middle of the road – which is exactly how this film left me feeling.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 55%; Audience 56%

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Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

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Machine Gun Preacher

Sam Childers is a former drug-dealing biker tough guy who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children who’ve been forced to become soldiers.

Another movie “based on true events”; this is a more vivid, higher budget “Kony 2012” The final product is sub-par, but still conveys what is a gruesome, horrifying situation in Sudan.

The main failing is that the film tries to tell us too much of the tale. The narratives get a bit disjointed as we follow Childers’ come to Jesus, crisis of faith, family tension, business success, business failings, friendships gained, friendships lost, battles fought, children saved, ups & downs… An inability to focus the story, rather than sending us in several directions, dampens the ability to fully invest in any part of it.

I understand (and appreciate) that it was important to reveal our hero’s flaws, but he comes across as simplistic. As does much in the movie.

It’s actiony. It’s tragic. It’s well cast. It just didn’t quite succeed. Some will enjoy it, but not many in my circle.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 29%; Audience 64%

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The Hunger Games (2012)

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen voluntarily takes her younger sister’s place in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death in which two teenagers from each of the twelve Districts of Panem are chosen at random to compete.

Confession: I never read the Hunger Games books. I knew only that Hunger Games readers seemed to enjoy making fun of Twilight readers, which is a positive in my book* 😉

Which is to say, my main interest in this flick was as the anti-Twilight. Jennifer Lawrence in the lead was a bonus, as I pegged her for a star when I first saw her in The Burning Plain (2008) On both of those fronts, this movie is a roaring success.

It is also fantastical and visually stunning. And sometimes quite a bit ridiculously over-the-top. That is where it falters for me. That…and Woody Harrelson. How he keeps getting cast is one of life’s great mysteries for me. He hasn’t been convincing or inhabited a character since Cheers, and so always takes me out of any movie he is in.

The Hunger Games was entertaining, but it didn’t leave me anticipating Catching Fire (2013). On the Word of Mouth Scale, I’ll give it a 2.5. The teens & young adults in my circle will likely enjoy it – the rest, not so much.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 84%; Audience 81%

* To be fair, I haven’t read those books, either. I am a bit old for the genre. However, using the movies as a gauge of quality, Twilight does not impress…but that may be the abominable acting

Scott Johnson

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Scott Johnson at The Last Exit

You know, when I tell you about these shows you should attend, you really ought to listen. If you missed the show you missed out.

Not only a great concert, but a great time. I had never been to The Last Exit so wasn’t sure what to expect of the venue. Last night it seemed the perfect place for a rock concert. Smallish enough to be cozy, big enough not to be cramped, friendly staff, great bar (where Sparks were only a penny till 11 – those things are…odd), graffitti covered bathrooms…

The show started a bit late, but it was worth the wait. Opening up were The Persuaders, really great sound. After their set I asked the bass player if they had a CD for sale and he told me it was only their second gig. Was he just messing with me? They sounded too good to just be getting together. Maybe he was serious because my brief search of the net (including MySpace) turned up nothing.

this pic not from last night After a short break to change up the stage, Scotty got it going. It is rare to find musicians who sound even better live than on their highly produced CDs, but that was definitely the case here. Perhaps the vibe of the room and the feedback of the crowd added to his performance. Whatever it was, it worked.

Robin Wilson joined him on stage to sing Stop, a song that you knew was intended for the Gin Blossoms from the opening chords, very distinct sound. Once Robin started singing, there was no doubt. I am glad Scotty put it on his album, it deserved a showcase.

Scotty finished his set, which was filled with his amazing guitar work, joined by Meredith Meridith Moore. What a set of pipes that girl has! I tried tracking her down online, as well, and had no luck. I do know she plays every Wednesday at The Big Fish Pub but, since I doubt I would be allowed in * , I probably won’t get to see her there. UPDATE: Meridith Moore

After Scotty was CHIME, a band out of LA. Also a really great sound, good enough that my buddy bought their 3 song EP.

All in all, a rockin’ good time. You shoulda been there.

CHIME, along with Scotty Johnson, Robin Wilson and several other bands, will be back out at The Last Exit tonight for Lanceapalooza. Doors open at 7:00, there will be two stages of music, and the proceeds are going to Maricopa County Animal Care & Control.

One more point about the venue that I definitely appreciated. The sound. It was loud enough that you knew you were at a rock show, but not so loud you worried about your ear drums bursting. I hate when bands are so loud you can’t actually “hear” and appreciate their music. I think, generally, bands crank it up so loud because they aren’t that good and don’t want anyone to catch on. I hate when your ears are ringing for the next three days. Good job to The Last Exit for finding the sweet spot.

Cross posted at Vox

Slither (2006)

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Slither

A mysterious meteor infected with a deadly alien plague brings chaos to a small hunting town in the feature-length directorial debut of screenwriter James Gunn (Scooby-Doo, Dawn of the Dead). Booted out of bed by his young, trophy-wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks), and in desperate need of some female companionship, wealthy Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) picks up bar local floozy Brenda (Brenda James) and heads into the woods for a hedonistic night of extramarital excitement. When a flaming meteor lights up the sky before crashing to the ground nearby, Grant’s curiosity gets the best of him and he sets out to find the space rock. Subsequently infected with a rampaging space virus, which he passes along to Brenda, Grant transforms into a horrific, cow-munching monster and begins terrorizing the town. As thousands of squirmy space slugs burrow into the brains of the unsuspecting Wheelsy denizens creating an ever-amassing horde of mindless space zombies, panic grips the small town and it’s up to Starla, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), and gung-ho mayor Jack MacReady (Gregg Henry) to put an end to the infection and save the planet. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

Campy, Sci-fi, Horror – the perfect way to spend an evening. There are definitely some gorey bits, and the script wouldn’t win any awards, but it is a hoot.

This is a great, goofy B movie, a clever homage to the flicks that filled double bills in the 1950s, combining low-brow slapstick and gory scares in equal measure. Art it’s not; but it certainly is fun. ~ Full Review

Lower on the Word of Mouth Scale due to gore and foul language, but good fun for those who can appreciate such entertainment.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 84%; Users 77%

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World Trade Center (2006)

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World Trade Center

On September, 11th 2001, after the terrorist attack to the World Trade Center, the building collapses over the rescue team from the Port Authority Police Department. Will Jimeno and his sergeant John McLoughlin are found alive trapped under the wreckage while the rescue teams fight to save them.

~ Claudio Carvalho

 

I hadn’t planned on seeing this one when I heard about it, since Oliver Stone is so completely in the tin-foil-hat club. I was not about to pay money to sit through two hours of his theories of how the 9/11 attacks were America’s fault, or perhaps a government plot. When Jeff Jarvis gave his reaction, I felt more inclined to give it a chance. After all, he lived the day more directly than anyone I have actually met and through his blogging I get the New York flavor, not just my distant Arizona memories of the day.

Other reviews, as well, said this was not like other Oliver Stone movies, that he allows the story to tell itself. Good enough, it is a story that needs to be told.

My trepidation, then, became solely my expected reaction to the heart wrenching emotion of it. The trapped police who were there to help, the men who put their lives on the line to help others, just the thought of it breaks my heart. The families who waited and hoped, not knowing. In my safe little house here in Phoenix I was unable to process the loss and I cried imagining what those families were going through; wondering if your loved ones were alive or dead, knowing that, either way, they had been terrified and in pain. I remember how we waited for more of these happy endings, how we would call each other about every rumor that they found someone alive.

I have to say that I agree with US Weekly in their review of this movie: “A disturbing and disjointed letdown”

Maybe I went from expecting too little to expecting too much. I kept waiting to be moved, kept wondering when the emotions would hit. In fact, at one point in the movie (one of the more action packed portions) there was a man in front of us snoring – yep, SNORING – his wife(?) had to jab him in the ribs to wake him up.

I was disappointed by what seemed like a lack of urgency on everyone’s part; the people leaving the buildings (which Jarvis commented on), the police and fire entering the building, the rescue crews working after the collapse. Everyone seemed sort of lackadaisical, not at all what I imagine it was really like.

I never believed that the wives were really waiting for that kind of news, I never felt anguish or longing… They are both fine actresses so I am not sure what the problem was (well, I did find the blue contacts on Maria Bello very distracting). The one moment of true emotion I felt came late in the film when another woman in the hospital was relating her last conversation with her son, an elevator operator. In her eyes, I saw the terror and the grief.

I wouldn’t say this was a bad movie, just not a good one. I needn’t have feared the blame America angle, it wasn’t here really. It may be worth seeing this picture, just for the story, but it needn’t be seen on the big screen. There is just nothing big in the way Stone presents it.

(I think they have the actual guys in the BBQ scene at the end. Anyone?)

UPDATE: Just found another reviewer who was bothered by (among other things) those stupid blue contacts. He, like several other reviewers I found through Rotten Tomatoes, claims to have dreaded United 93 and eagerly anticipated World Trade Center – only to have his opinion of both of them flipped.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 71%; Users 70%