Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Cold in July’ is a Chilly Thriller

posted by jtotey
Sam Shepard, Michael C. Hall and Don Johnson star in "Cold in July." (IFC Films)

Sam Shepard, Michael C. Hall and Don Johnson star in “Cold in July.” (IFC Films)

Sometimes the less you know about a movie, the better. That’s the case with Cold in July, the new Indy film directed by Jim Mickle, which makes this review a bit tricky not to share too much. Based on the novel by Joe R. Lansdale, Cold in July begins with action…immediately…with a married couple awakened in the middle of the night to find an intruder. Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall, in a very un-Dexter-like role) shakes while he loads his handgun. He’s not use to using it. Richard finds the intruder in the living room. He becomes startled and shoots the man, Freddy Russell. Startled and shaken, Richard is brought to the police station to speak to Officer Ray Price (Nick Damici) while his wife Anne (Vinessa Shaw) stars home with their young son.

Richard is cleared and returns home to help his wife clean up the mess. He returns to work as the mild mannered owner of a frame shop, but his day is far from normal. News of the event is all over town and he becomes a hero of sorts. A title he isn’t too thrilled to have. The couple purchase new security, purchases a new couch and settle into their new normal. However, it turns out that Freddy has a father (in the form of Sam Shepard), who is not too keen on what just happened, and by the way, he has violent past.

Set in East Texas in the year of 1989, Cold in July is a very smart film. It is rated R for language and violence, both are evident but not over-used in the story. Still, there is more than some movie-goers would like. Ironically, the thriller does have some humor to it. The biggest surprise is Don Johnson who is especially good here and helps you remember that he can be a good actor if he has a good script to work with. Hall plays the “fish out of water” role very realistically bringing some humor as well.

The only real negative I could find with this film is its soundtrack. Apparently it was last on the movie-makers priority list.

Cold in July starts in one direction and then keeps changing lanes as it goes on keeping you guessing all the way through. People you thought were good are actually bad while some of the “bad guys” turn out to be “good guys.”  Characters are forced to make decisions that they should never have to make and will make viewers question morality. It all wraps up to a satisfying, yet very sober ending and leaves you with questions like “what is a hero” and “what is the role of a father.”

Listen to Crowder Tonight, See Him in Concert This Fall

posted by jtotey
Crowder's "Neon Steeple" will be released on May 27, 2014.

Crowder’s “Neon Steeple” will be released on May 27, 2014. (Crowder Music)

Crowder’s solo debut album, Neon Steeple won’t be released until May 27, but it was announced today that fans could stream the album for free exclusively at iTunes Radio as an iTunes Radio First Play.

In the only way that Crowder can, he describes “Neon Steeple” as “The Appalachians and Ibiza. Folk music and EDM. The music of the People. Folktronica. Digital and Analog. The Ones and Zeros and the Handshake. The Banjo and the 808. A critique and a hope.”  This is the longer version of the description he used in the video telling the story behind the song, “I Am.” There he refers to the styling of the album to be “where porch music meets computer music.” By the way, the song, “I Am” is still holding strong in the Top 5 on Billboard’s Christian Music chart.


David Crowder as seen in a video talking about the story behind the song “I Am.”

If you like what you hear, you can pre-order the album now on iTunes as well. All pre-orders come with an instant download of “I AM” and “My Beloved.” You can also download “I AM” for free by visiting Crowder’s website.

Delving deeper into folk/country music, Crowder will perform at the Grand Ole Opry, his debut, on May 31st and one of the new songs on Neon Steeples is a duet with Emmylou Harris on the song “My Sweet Lord.”

In support of Neon Steeple, Crowder will headline a fall tour which kicks off in Springfield, MO on September 30. The tour will include special guests All Sons & Daughters, Capital Kings and Ellie Holcomb on select dates. The full schedule of the tour is listed below, however, refer to Crowder’s website for the most up to date information.

posterNeon Steeple Fall 2014 Tour

  • 9/30 – Springfield, MO | Remington’s
  • 10/1 – Chicago, IL | House of Blues
  • 10/2 – Minneapolis, MN | University of Northwestern – St. Paul
  • 10/4 – Cleveland, OH | Grace Church
  • 10/5 – Indianapolis, IN | Murat Theatre at Old National Centre
  • 10/6 – Charlotte, NC | Forest Hill Church
  • 10/9 – Long Island, NY | The Space at Westbury*
  • 10/10 – Lancaster, PA | Lancaster Bible College*
  • 10/11 – Marriottsville (Baltimore), MD | Chapelgate Presbyterian Church*
  • 10/12 – Winchester, VA (DC) | Winchester Church of God*
  • 10/15 – Aiken (Augusta), SC | Millbrook Church
  • 10/16 – Tallahassee, FL | City Church
  • 10/17 – Orlando, FL | Northland Church
  • 10/18 – Ft. Myers, FL | McGregor Baptist Church
  • 10/19 – Jacksonville, FL | Christ’s Church
  • 10/21 – Panama City, FL | Marina Civic Center
  • 10/23 – San Antonio, TX | Floores Country Store
  • 10/24 – Baton Rouge, LA | Greenwell Springs Church
  • 10/25 – Houston, TX | Warehouse Live*
  • 10/26 – Tulsa, OK | First Baptist Church Broken Arrow*
  • 10/28 – Denver, CO | Paramount Theatre
  • 10/30 – Phoenix, AZ | Sun Valley Community Church
  • 11/01 – San Diego, CA | Skyline Church
  • 11/02 – Irvine, CA | Mariners Church
  • 11/04 – San Francisco, CA | Regency Ballroom
  • 11/06 – Sacramento, CA | Bayside Church
  • 11/07 – Portland, OR | Rolling Hills Community Church
  • 11/08 – Seattle, WA | Showbox Sodo
  • 11/09 – Bellingham, WA | Christ The King Community Church
  • 11/13 – Dallas, TX | Crossroads Church
  • 11/14 – Jackson, MS | Morrison Heights Baptist Church
  • 11/15 – Atlanta, GA | The Tabernacle

*Ellie Holcomb appearing in place of All Sons & Daughters

‘Godzilla’ is Huge

posted by jtotey
(Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures)

(Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures)

In 1954, Godzilla made movies history is his first Japanese monster movie. This week, the beast made history again by making a $93.2 million debut with the new American made movie. There have only been two American made versions of big lizard. The first was created in 1998 and starred Matthew Broderick. Many were disappointed with that one including Den Devlin, the co-writer and producer of the flop. In a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly he said, “I know I screwed up my Godzilla. I’d be very happy if they pull it off and do a great one. I always wish I had another shot at it.”

So, after all these years, was it worth the wait? It depends on who you ask.

Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures partnered to bring the legendary beast back to life bringing Bryan Cranston along for the ride. Directed by new director, Gareth Edwards, Godzilla is described as a “powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring Godzilla rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.” Wow. That makes it sound pretty important doesn’t it?

The film begins in 1999 as scientists Ishiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and Vivienne Graham (Sally Hawkins) investigate a huge beastly skeleton and two egg-shaped pods in the Philippines. Then quickly, the film moves to the Janjira Nuclear Plant in Tokyo, Japan where seismic activity is causing havoc to the plant. The plant supervisor, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), sends a team of engineers, including his wife Sandra (Juliett Binoche), to see if any damage has been done. An earthquake (or a giant monster?) causes an explosion and a huge evacuation takes place including the grade school (with a view of the plant) where Joe’s son goes to school. The story then jumps to present day where Joe’s son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is all grown up and has a family of his own. Ford is an explosive ordinance disposal officer in the Navy, is married to Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and lives in San Francisco. He is estranged from his father due to that event that happened in ’99. Even so, he is called upon to bail his father out of a Japanese jail. Reluctantly, the pair continue to invest ate similar events happening at the long abandoned site…or is it? Do I really need to tell you that it isn’t an earthquake making all of this ruckus?

So, is Godzilla a bad movie? No. Is it a great movie? No. It is what it is – mostly scenes of people running away from giant creatures with little if any character development. Yes, many scenes are impressive and it is surprisingly “okay” to bring your children – provided that they aren’t afraid of giant lizards. There is lots of destruction and chaos, but not a lot of blood or cursing, believe it or not. It definitely captures the look and feel of an old monster movie with more traditional “monster movie” music styled from long ago.

While I thought the film was just “so so,” the audience surrounding me totally disagreed. The film is way longer than it needs to be, characters are barely fleshed out and it takes itself a little too seriously. Cranston is obviously the big draw for this film, but if you’re planning on going just to see Cranston, wait until the movie comes out on video as his role is fairly small. Still, it’s fun to see something that is just frivolous and “safe.” It’s not like you’re going to have giant lizard dreams after watching this.

Million Dollar Arm Swings Wide

posted by jtotey
Photo: Disney

Photo: Disney

The name Thomas McCarthy may not mean much to you, and it apparently doesn’t to Disney as they seem to have misplaced it on the webpage for their latest movie, Million Dollar Arm. McCarthy wrote the screenplay for this movie, and it is for that reason to go see it, not John Hamm. Don’t get me wrong, Hamm is fine in the role of sports agent, JB Bernstein, but it is McCarthy that gives the film its’ heart.

McCarthy is known for his work in the under-appreciated independent film, Win Win, another sports movie, but better known as the guy would made people cry during the first five minutes of the Disney-Pixar’s UP. Yep. That guy.

What makes Million Dollar Arm and Win Win great movies is that McCarthy doesn’t focus on the sports of the movie but rather the human nature of the characters in the sports movies. Some sports movies focus on how much a coach is willing to sacrifice his family for the glory of the game, and when they win the championship, all is forgiven. Not so with these two. Also, sports movies are always filled with majestic music throughout. Million Dollar Arm does feature some of that majestic music, but under director Craig Gillespie’s direction, it is used sparingly and in the right places.

Just as Disney gave us the fish out of water sports movie Cool Runnings about the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the Olympics over 20 years ago, Arm is just as unbelievable and yet, it too is based on a true story.

Not that long ago, JB Bernstein was a successful sports agent, but when he and his partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi) decided to go out on their own, it was hard to keep their business afloat. Just before closing their doors for good, JB gets a whim to find the next great baseball pitcher from an unlikely source – India. Baseball is almost unheard of in India while the game of cricket is extremely popular. While watching a game on TV, JB notices how fast the cricket players throw and plans a scheme to recruit one or two of the best and bring them back to America. He and Ash create a competition called the “Million Dollar Arm” and travel to India to find their next golden player.

The way cricket players throw looks very similar to how a baseball players pitch at first, but they soon learn that it actually quite different. Still, the duo bring back two players to America to train and hopefully make them rich. Dinesh (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Surai Sharma from Life of Pi), two 18-year-old boys, are the chosen ones and embark on a journey that they’ll never forget. Aiding JB and Ash is Amit Rohan (Pitobash), one of the few baseball fans in India who is willing to work as an interpreter and an assistant for free. Back home, JB’s renter, Brenda (Lake Bell), is fascinated with the two boys and interacts with them more than does JB. Alan Arkin plays a grumpy baseball scout which is fun, but sort of a one-note role and Bill Paxton plays the important, but lackluster role of Coach House, a sports psychologist/trainer. (You get glimpse of the real Coach House during the ending credits who has a lot more life in him, than the Paxton version.)

About a fourth of the film takes place in India with incredible photography showing both the beautiful and the absurd. JB is clearly out of his element here, but Dinesh, Rinku and Amit are even more out of place in America. All three are charming characters and totally make the film. All they want to do is please JB, but he appears to be more interested in re-building his wealth.

Arm is rated PG, a rarity for a Disney film, and has a few moments of “mild language and some suggestive content” but is done in such a way that the film is still family-friendly. In the end, it is an inspiring story that might make you shed a tear at the end.

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