Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘The Identical’ is Not as Good as the Original

posted by jtotey
Blake Rayne, Ashley Judge and Ray Liotta star in "The Identical." (City of Peace Films)

Blake Rayne, Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta star in “The Identical.” (City of Peace Films)

I used to think that Elvis impersonators didn’t arrive on the scene until late in the King’s career, but apparently they have been around since the mid ‘50s. The first was Carl ‘Cheesie’ Nelson who did his own versions of “That’s All Right, Mama” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and even sang with Elvis in 1954. It’s all documented in the book, “Elvis in Texas” by Stanley Oberst and Lori Torrance. Oh, the things you learn on Wikipedia.

The above story might have made for a better story than The Identical did. That movie has a similar-themed story. In real life, Elvis was born with a twin brother, Jesse who died shortly after childbirth. Or did he?

The Identical is a pretend story of “what if.” All of the names have been changed, but it is basically a story about what would have happened if Elvis’ brother had lived and had been raised by another family.

This story begins during the Great Depression with the Hemsley’s, a poor couple expecting their first child. However, it is during the birth that the new parents learn that they have two sons, Drexel and Ryan. Convinced that they would not be able to afford to raise both boys, the Hemsleys offer up Ryan, for adoption to a traveling pastor and his wife. They make Rev. Reece Wade (Ray Liotta) and Louise (Ashley Judd) promise that they will not tell Ryan that he was adopted until his natural parents have passed away.

As time goes on, Reece is convinced that his son is destined to further his ministry. Ryan (Blake Rayne) tries to follow his father’s plan, but it becomes clear soon on that he has a gift for music and singing. It doesn’t help that this new rock star comes on the scene, Drexel Hemsley (also Rayne) looking and sounding exactly like himself. Ryan becomes Drexel’s #1 fan and ends up pursuing a career where he imitates the singing legend and becomes known as The Identical.

Despite the fact that the story is far-fetched, it starts out pretty good. In fact, the first third is probably the best section of the movie. Liotta and Judd are fantastic as the preacher and his dutiful wife. One scene in particular is priceless where the pastor is interrupted in his study by Louise who comes in with the latest copy of Drexel Hemsley’s  new record. Without saying a word, she purses her lips, puts her hand on her hip and tilts her head to say, “What do we do now?” The two age gracefully throughout the film and are reason enough to see it.

However, star power isn’t enough to make a good story great. The film does all right when it keeps a light-hearted tone, but begins to flounder when it insists on becoming a drama. In addition, as the characters age and the fashion styles start to look out of control, so does the story. The movie puts all its energy in Ryan’s character and we only see glimpses of his brother’s life. The two DO meet, but it is only for a moment, and that is a disappointment.

Seth Green really plays the drums in "The Identical."

Seth Green really plays the drums in “The Identical.”

Rayne, who is an Elvis impersonator in real life, does okay for this first feature film and having Seth Green play his best friend was an inspired choice. He actually plays the drums himself in the movie, which is pretty impressive. Also impressive is the fact that the film, which is not a musical, features over 20 original songs, all sounding like they were written by Elvis.

Promotion for the film has been odd as well. All over the internet there have been ads that will feature a character from the movie and say, “Ashely Judd…in a Christian movie!” or “Seth Green…in a Christian movie!” Apparently the Marcellino family who wrote, directed and produced the movie thought that promoting the stars instead of the story was the way to get Christians to see a faith-based movie. We’ll see if it works, but I suspect Christians would be more interested to know that the film has a few good messages in it including that you can be a singer and still be following the will of God.

Thursday is National Ghostbusters Day

posted by jtotey
The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man came for a surprise visit to honor Al Roker's 60th Bithday. (NBC)

The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man came for a surprise visit to honor Al Roker’s 60th Bithday. (NBC)

It has been 30 years since Ghostbusters hit the movie screens and to celebrate, the marketing team at Sony has big party plans. The festivities began a little early on August 20th as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man made a visit to NBC’s Today show to honor Al Roker’s 60th birthday. (How the two connect is a mystery), but the biggest news is that a restored and remastered version of the original 1984 film will return to theaters this Labor Day weekend in over 700 locations in the United States and Canada for a limited engagement starting August 29. Other marketing…er…party plans include:

  • A bunch of new merchandise from Sony Pictures Consumer Products will be released including products from Lego, Mattel, Funko, Mad Engine and others.
  • Sony Pictures Consumer Products has partnered with Gallery 1988 to create a once-in a lifetime experience, displaying original paintings, limited edition prints, and sculptures inspired by the film.
  • Legacy Recordings / Sony Music Entertainment will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the iconic Ghostbusters soundtrack with multiple collectible vinyl LP releases this year.
  • Finally, on September 16 the Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary Edition and the Ghostbusters II 25th Anniversary Editions will be released on Blu-ray. The releases will also be available in a two-disc anniversary edition Blu-ray™ Digibook including both films, as well as a limited edition gift set that includes an exclusive collectible Slimer figurine and the two-disc Digibook.

Directed and produced by Ivan Reitman (Meatballs, Stripes), with the screenplay written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, Ghostbusters is listed as No. 28 on the AFI’s List of America’s Funniest Movies. Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Sigourney Weaver star, along with Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis. Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts also star in the films.

To learn more about the Ghostbusters celebration, visit the official Facebook page.

Related: Who Ya Gonna Call…Again?

‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Modern Family’ win again at the 66th Emmys

posted by jtotey
Seth Meyers hosted the 66th Emmy Awards on Monday, August 25, 2014 on NBC. (NBC)

Seth Meyers hosted the 66th Emmy Awards on Monday, August 25, 2014 on NBC. (NBC)

For the first time in 38 years, the 66th Emmy Awards was broadcast on a Monday night, and host Seth Meyers made a mention of this numerous times during his opening monologue. NBC made the decision not to air the special on a Sunday due to its commitment for Sunday Night Football and not to compete with MTV’s Video Music Awards among other things. It will be interesting to see how the switch will affect this year’s ratings compared to others.

During the last few years, the Emmys have been trying to change its image as a stuffy and/or boring award show. This year’s special played out more like an extended viewing of the Late Night with Seth Meyers or Saturday Night Live with short comedy bits with former SNL members. This wasn’t a bad thing, but perhaps a little too “insider” for a show that is supposed to celebrate all types of TV.

Though everyone was dressed to the nines, most of those in attendance seemed ready to joke around. Fortunately, not too many off-colored jokes were told and the music was a lot more playful than usual, playing a number of former TV show theme songs, though I doubt that younger viewers recognized many of them. Speaking of which, one of the best moments was a music compilation of current instrumental theme songs with new lyrics written and sung by Weird Al Yankovich.

Of course, there was the annual remembrance of stars that had passed away during the last year and tribute was given to the late Robin Williams by fellow comedian Billy Crystal.

Not shocking at all was the number of awards that Breaking Bad won including Outstanding Lead Actor (Bryan Cranston), Best Supporting Actress (Anna Gunn), Best Supporting Actor (Aaron Paul), Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Drama Series. Nor was it a surprise that the ABC comedy, Modern Family won again for Outstanding Supporting Actor (Ty Burrell), Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Comedy Series. What was surprising was that PBS’ Sherlock won three awards for Outstanding Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special including Outstanding Writing, Outstanding Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Outstanding Supporting Actor (Martin Freeman) who won out over Joe Montello, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Alfred Molina who were all nominated for their roles in, The Normal Heart, which won the category for Outstanding Movie.

Here is the complete list of this year’s winners:

  • Best Supporting Actor of a Comedy – Ty Burrell, Modern Family
  • Outstanding Writer, Comedy – Louie CK, Louie
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy – Allison Janney, Mom
  • Best Guest Appearance – Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live and Uzo, Orange is the New Black
  • Outstanding Comedy Directing – Gail Mancuso, Modern Family
  • Lead Actor, Comedy – Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
  • Lead Actress, Comedy – Julia Louis Dreyfus, Veep
  • Reality Competition Show – The Amazing Race
  • Outstanding Writing for  a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic special, Steven Moffat,  Sherlock: “His Last Vow”
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor, Martin Freeman, Sherlock: “His Last Vow”
  • Outstanding Director, Colin Bucksey – Fargo
  • Outstanding Lead Actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: “His Last Vow”
  • Outstanding Lead Actress, Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
  • Outstanding Miniseries, Fargo
  • Outstanding Movie, The Normal Heart
  • Outstanding Writing Variety Special, Sarah Silverman
  • Directing Variety Special, Glen Weiss, for the Tony Awards
  • Best Supporting Actor, Drama, Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
  • Director of a Drama, Cary Joji Fukinaga, True Detective
  • Best Supporting Actress, Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
  • Best Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Joe Morton, Scandal
  • Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series, Allison Janney, Masters of Sex
  • Writer, Moira Walley-Beckett, Breaking Bad
  • Lead Actress, Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Lead Actor, Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
  • Outstanding Comedy Series, Modern Family
  • Outstanding Drama Series, Breaking Bad

‘When the Games Stands Tall’ Could be More Inspiring

posted by jtotey
When the Game Stands Tall (Affirm Films)

Michael Chiklis and Jim Caviezal star in “When the Game Stands Tall.” (Affirm Films)

This weekend, the faith-based film, When the Game Stands Tall, hits theaters. It is the true story about the De La Salle High School football team’s 151 winning game streak from 1992-2003, their devastating loss against a rival team and how they reclaimed their status once again. As a faith-based movie, we know that there is more to the point than just that, but that is the premise. The movie could have been the next Hoosiers. It has similar storylines and features a great cast. However, the end result is less spectacular and it is a little difficult to put into words why.

At the end of the screening I attended, audience members actually said, “Good game!” when the credits began to scroll up the screen. That’s because the game footage is actually very good and you feel like you are part of the action. Just what you would want in a sports movie. But you need to have the human element as well to have the story feel well-rounded. Through the movie features all of the “big” storylines that happened off the field including the coach’s heart attack and a shooting of one of the team’s players, things that would affect how the characters interact with each other, but the movie sort of glosses over those events. Together, these elements make for a great story. However, they don’t necessarily make a great movie.

Coach Bob Ladouceur is portrayed by Jim Caviezel who became famous for play the role of Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. For an actor who is able to emote so much emotion portraying Christ it’s amazing how restrained he is portraying this coach. He hardly ever smiles, he almost always speaks in monotone and doesn’t appear to be a force of inspiration in the least. It may seem mean to say so, be he appears to be disinterested throughout the whole movie.

Laura Dern is better in the role of Bev, Ladouceur’s wife, but the movie doesn’t give her much to do except smile. There is the obligatory scene, (as with all sports movies), where Dern complains to her husband about how he isn’t really there for his family. Ladouceur agrees and then, like all other sports movies, he continues to spend more time with his team than his family. Bev continues to support her man from the sidelines anyway. (I’ve never understood how coaches in these movies can never figure out how to have a work/life balance even when it is brought to their attention.) Surely there must be more to this character, but we don’t get to see it. The movie also stars Michael Chiklis as the assistant coach and he does the best he can with it, but the script doesn’t give him much to do either. In fact, the movie is doesn’t really explore any of its characters in much depth. It is as if the story is being told from an outsider’s point of view where if we really understood what each of the characters were thinking and feeling, it would have been so much more engaging of a film.

What makes Hoosiers such a great movie is the film’s story arcs. This movie features many similar storylines that should have created a lot of dramatic tension, but instead, they don’t really go anywhere. Problems are either resolved quickly or they just aren’t addressed again. In this film, Ladouceur’s oldest son is pretty  ticked off at his father at the beginning of the film. Somehow that relationship gets healed in the end without the audience knowing how they patched things up. The movie just feels unfinished.

On the plus side, the best thing about When the Game Stands Tall is the mantras that are spoken by Ladouceur over and over again about having character on and off the field. No matter how many games the Spartans win, Ladouceur emphasizes that winning is not the point. It’s about team work. The players enter every game holding hands to the shock of onlookers. There is one player that thinks of himself as the star and of course, this is frowned upon. The other players “get” that they need each other to succeed.

This is also a faith-based movie that doesn’t feel like a faith-based movie. That might sound negative, but it isn’t. The gospel is mentioned plenty, but it is done so in a way that makes sense.  It never feels “preachy” and none of the characters are portrayed as being perfect. The movie smartly avoids adding a salvation message to the script as well. Some Christians will be frustrated by this, but if every faith-based movie focuses on salvation, then they all become the same. Instead, we get to see how “real” Christians actually live their lives.

Of course, fans of football will enjoy this film the most much like basketball fans enjoyed Hoosiers,  but what makes the latter a superior movie is its ability to reach out to people who are not sports fans and that probably had more to do with Gene Hackman’s acting than anything else. Unfortunately, Cavieziel doesn’t have the same charisma.

Previous Posts

‘The Identical’ is Not as Good as the Original
I used to think that Elvis impersonators didn’t arrive on the scene until late in the King’s career, but apparently they have been aroun

posted 5:49:15am Aug. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Thursday is National Ghostbusters Day
It has been 30 years since Ghostbusters hit the movie screens and to celebrate, the marketing team at Sony has big party plans. The

posted 3:54:59pm Aug. 26, 2014 | read full post »

'Breaking Bad' and 'Modern Family' win again at the 66th Emmys
For the first time in 38 years, the 66th Emmy Awards was broadcast on a Monday night, and host Seth Meyers made a mention of this numerous times d

posted 5:14:45am Aug. 26, 2014 | read full post »

‘When the Games Stands Tall’ Could be More Inspiring
This weekend, the faith-based film, When the Game Stands Tall, hits theaters. It is the true story about the De La Salle High School football

posted 3:51:40pm Aug. 22, 2014 | read full post »

A ‘Hundred Foot Journey’ to a Near Perfect Dish
It would be easy to excuse and skip The Hundred Foot Journey film as an artsy, fluffy movie that nobod

posted 4:32:31am Aug. 19, 2014 | read full post »


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