Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘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.

ABC Shares New Shows for Fall

posted by jtotey

We have just made it to the halfway mark in May, and TV networks are already promoting their new fall shows. Yesterday afteroon, ABC held a press conference giving sneak previews to their 2014-2015 line up and you are invited to have a look as well. Here are five new shows to show up on the small screen in this September:

SelfieSelfie
Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m.

ABC Says: “Eliza Dooley has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But one lonely day she has a revelation: being friended is not the same as having actual friends. She asks marketing guru Henry to ‘rebrand’ her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect.”

My Synopsis: It is a contemporary half hour sitcom based on “My Fair Lady” with John Cho serving as Henry Higgins and Karen Gillan as Eliza Doolittle – or in this case, Dooley. This one looks like it has potential, but it has a terrible title. At least their drawing from a classic source.

Watch the “Selfie” promo.

ManhattanManhattan Love Story
Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Have you ever wondered what your date was thinking? This romantic comedy exposes the differences between men and women through the unfiltered thoughts, and often contradictory actions, of a new couple who have just begun dating.”

My Synopsis: This one has a clever idea of hearing the thoughts of the characters while their actions maybe saying a totally different thing. It stars Analeigh Tipton who is obsessed with purses and Jake McDorman who is obsessed with big breasts. Sadly, after only seeing a few minutes of this show, it looks fairly raunchy. Maybe they can clean up their act before the pilot comes out.

Watch the “Manhattan Love Story” promo

ForeverForever

Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “Doctor Henry Morgan, New York City’s star medical examiner, has a secret. He doesn’t just study the dead to solve criminal cases, he does it to solve the mystery that has eluded him for 200 years—the answer to his own inexplicable immortality.”

My Synopsis: This one looks intriguing, but I have my doubts. Henry’s secret is that he has died many times over the past 200 years and every time he comes back to life he finds himself in water and naked. Henry is played by Ioan Gruffield and the one man who knows his secret is Judd Hirsch!

Watch the “Forever” promo

BlackishBlack-ish
Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a colonial home in the ‘burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?”

My Synopsis: This family sitcom starring Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross looks like a lot of fun as Andre struggles to keep his family focused on their “black” heritage.

Watch the “Black-ish” promo

MurderHow to Get Away with Murder

Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “The brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.” Little do they know that they will have to apply what they learned to real life, in this masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller.”

My Synopsis: This one will be either brilliant or ridiculous or both. Viola Davis stars as the professor who appears to have questionable morals and students who are covering up their own crime.

Watch the “How to Get Away with Murder” promo

CristellaCristella
Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “In her sixth year of law school, Cristela is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. The only problem is that her pursuit of success is more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

My Synopsis: This looks like the Hispanic equivalent to “Black-ish.” It stars Cristela Alonzo as…Cristela.

Watch the “Cristella” promo

‘Moms’ Night Out’: Made for Women, but Men will Like it too

posted by jtotey
Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in "Moms' Night Out." Photo: Sony/Provident Films

Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in “Moms’ Night Out.” Photo: Sony/Provident Films

The new faith-based comedy, Moms’ Night Out, is taking a real beating among critics which is a real shame as this is not only a very well done “Christian” film, but it is also very funny with a storyline that many women can relate to. However, you wouldn’t know by some of the recent reviews of reviewers who were either annoyed or offended by the film’s tame tone. One critic calls it sexist and another says that the moral of the story is to never leave the house or all hell will break loose. Neither is the case of this film – although a lot of “hell” does break loose.

The main character is a stay-at-home mom (gasp!), who has a hard time controlling her children, constantly compares herself to other women and feels bad because she’s not the perfect mom. Yeah. No woman could relate to that. In fact, as of today, Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 17% “rotten” rating among critics but theater-goers gave it a 84% “fresh” rating. It is true that many faith-based films are bad – but this one isn’t one of them.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Moms’ Night Out stars ABC’s Grace Anatomy’s Sarah Drew as the harried housewife, Allyson. The only thing that she wants for herself is to write her own blog, but with everything else in her life, that too is a disappointment. Her husband Sean (Sean Astin) is a traveling businessman who understands that his wife is unhappy, but isn’t sure how to help. On a whim, Allyson decides to plan a “moms’ night out” with her best friend Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and their pastor’s wife Sondra (Patricia Heaton) who looks like she could use a night away as well. The kids will be taken care of by Sean, Izzy’s husband Marco (Robert Amaya) who has a fear of taking care of kids on his own as well as a number of other phobias, and their gamer friend, Kevin (Kevin Downes) who hates kids. What could go wrong? Everything.

The plot is very complex with too many twists and turns to explain here, but is very clever, enjoyable and (gasp again) clean. Don’t let the trailers fool you. This isn’t one of those silly movies where the kids misbehave and the dads are at a loss on what to do. Well, that happens too, but the kids are just kids. The film focuses on the adults who are just trying to do the best they can given the circumstances that put themselves into.

image16The casting is great. There is no surprise that Drew, Astin or Heaton do a great job with their roles, but audiences will be surprised by the talents of some of the other cast members. Andrea Logan White is a great actress, but many have not seen her work as the bulk of it has been done on straight-to-video Christian films. Trace Adkins is hilarious as Bones, the tattoo parlor artist. Amaya’s (who was in Courageous) role is small, but very enjoyable as well. The biggest surprise is that of Manwell Reyes in his first film role. Reyes is the lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise as the “Tattoo Desk Guy.” And then there’s David Hunt (Heaton’s husband in real life) as a British taxi driver.

Moms’ Night Out is a compilation of Christian filmmakers coming together to create one great film. It is a partnership of Sony, Affirm Pictures Entertainment (Heaven is for Real, Soul Surfer), Provident Films (Courageous, Home Run) and Pure Flix Entertainment (God’s Not Dead). It is written by Jon Erwin, who also wrote October Baby and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (What if).  It is directed by Andrew Erwin as well as Jon Erwin. The film is also especially important to Heaton and Hunt as they are not only acting in the movie but they serve as executive producers as well.

Moms’ Night Out is not preachy in the least and most moms will be able to sigh in unison that they are not alone in this struggle called motherhood. While there really isn’t anything inappropriate for children in the film, it really isn’t meant for them, so do yourself a favor and get a sitter. What’s the worst that can happen?

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