Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1.  Clemson 7-0 (3)
2.  Ohio State 8-0 (2)
3.  LSU 7-0 (5)
4.  Alabama 7-1 (4)
5.  Notre Dame 6-1 (9)
6.  TCU 7-0 (6)
7.  Baylor 7-0 (7)
8.  Iowa 7-0 (8)
9.  Michigan State 8-0 (10)
10. Stanford 6-1 (15)
11. Oklahoma 6-1 (14)
12. Florida 6-1 (11)
13. Utah 6-1 (1)
14. Memphis 7-0 (18)
15. Michigan 5-2 (13)
16. Oklahoma State 7-0 (16)
17. Mississippi 6-2 (21)
18. Florida State 6-1 (12)
19. Mississippi State 6-2 (23)
20. USC 4-3 (NR)
21. UCLA 5-2 (25)
22. Houston 7-0 (22)
23. Temple 7-0 (NR)
24. Texas A&M 5-2 (17)
25. Toledo 7-0 (20)
Dropped out: California, BYU

Monday, October 26, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

The Gift *** Directed by Joel Edgerton. Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance (Edgerton) from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. This film, a psychological roller coaster on a doomed track, is one of the best directorial debuts in ages, hands down.

A Borrowed Identity *** Directed by Eran Riklis. A Palestinian-Israeli boy (Tawfeek Barhom) is sent to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem, where he struggles with issues of language, culture, and identity. Commendably avoids polemics in order to provide a textured portrait of a young man going through a set of personal transitions against the background of ongoing cultural flux that reflects a larger, collective identity crisis. Its evocation of the historical period feels carefully honed and resonant.

Southpaw **½ Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Boxer Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) turns to trainer Tick Willis (Forest Whitaker) to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife (Rachel McAdams) in a tragic accident and his daughter (Oona Lawrence) to child protection services. Gyllenhaal’s performance is great, but for reasons unrelated to his physique. He’s thrilling to watch and the only unpredictable thing in a two-hours-plus movie where you can count on one hand the number of moments that aren’t hand-me-downs from better boxing films like Rocky, Raging Bull, and Fat City.

7 Chinese Brothers **½ Directed by Bob Byington. Lazily treading water on the sea of life, sad sack Larry (Jason Schwartzman) drifts from job to job and bottle to bottle. But his apathetic attitude toward his latest place of employment — a Quick Lube station — changes when he starts to fall in love with the boss (Eleanore Pienta). This is no Listen Up Philip, but it’s an amiable enough slacker comedy, boosted by its star.

Sunset Edge ** Directed by Daniel Peddle. As four rudderless teens spend their days skateboarding and scavenging in the dilapidated remnants of a rural North Carolina trailer park, they cross paths with a young stranger who’s come looking for clues about his father’s death. The film uses nonprofessional actors and has a good eye, but more story development and fewer lingering shots of the trash-strewn trailer park would have been an improvement.

Max ** Directed by Boaz Yakin. A dog that helped US Marines in Afghanistan returns to the U.S. and is adopted by his handler’s family after suffering a traumatic experience. A genial if somewhat old-fashioned tale that’s too clunky to transcend its genre(s) but effective enough within its own limited emotional range.

Pixels * Directed by Chris Columbus. After aliens attack Earth using 1980s arcade games as models for their onslaught, President Will Cooper (Kevin James) calls in longtime friend and former gaming ace Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to take on the extraterrestrial invaders. The "characters" vary from slightly annoying to unbearable — this is a film in which a viewer can be forgiven for rooting for the old video game icons to annihilate humanity. God help us if the best savior we can muster is Sandler.

The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) no stars Directed by Tom Six. The warden (Dieter Laser) of a notorious and troubled prison looks to create a 500-person human centipede as a solution to his problems. A cynical, and consistently unpleasant film with creators who try very, very hard to push as many of your buttons as they can.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Really looking forward to these

Hits theaters around Christmas time.

Word is the best picture Oscar race right now is between this film and Spotlight.

Just say ‘no’

The Texas Constitution is a mess — a statement that is probably as revelatory as saying rain is wet. In my view, a constitution should outline basic government principles. The Texas Constitution consists of whatever dumbass ideas legislators had at any given moment.

For that reason I have always voted against any new amendment to the Texas Constitution and will continue to do so until (1) a constitutional convention agrees on a completely new document that achieves what a constitution is supposed to accomplish, or (2) I die. I have a feeling I know which will come first.

But I actually have specific reasons to vote against these proposed amendments and since early voting on these issues have already started, it’s time to state my case.

Prop. 1: The last thing Texas government needs to be doing is taking money away from school districts. I know, legislators are promising they will reimburse the districts, some how, some way, but where have I heard those kind of empty promises before?

Prop. 2. This is worthwhile, but it simply should not be a part of a state constitution. Simple enabling legislation will accomplish the same kind of housekeeping.

Prop 3. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to make it more difficult to prosecute crooked politicians like Attorney General Ken Paxton. It’s the legislators protecting their own and it’s shameful.

Prop. 4: Why this should be a part of a state constitution boggles the mind. The only reason I can think of is that some of our lawmakers are deeply in debt or extremely beholden to owners of professional sports teams,

Prop 5: Nothing particularly wrong with it except it is not a constitutional principle.

Prop 6: The only reason I see for this proposal is that animal rights activists have these right wing nuts who run our state government paranoid. Come on. Get serious. Does anyone really believe this groups will have any affect on hunting and fishing regulations in Texas?

Prop 7: This is another plan for the legislature to take money out of one fund in put it into another instead of simply doing the right thing which is providing for more funding. This type of legislation should be the subject of legislative debate during regular sessions and not locked into the constitution.

I know that most Texas voters don’t pay any attention to these amendments and just hit the "yes" key because they think it’s the proper thing to do, even if it isn’t the right thing to do. What I’m saying is that all these propositions will undoubtably pass by large margins. But that doesn’t mean they should.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1.  Utah 6-0 (2)
2.  Ohio State 7-0 (6)
3.  Clemson 6-0 (4)
4.  Alabama 6-1 (9)
5.  LSU 6-0 (11)
6.  TCU 7-0 (1)
7.  Baylor 6-0 (8)
8.  Iowa 7-0 (15)
9.  Notre Dame 6-1 (10)
10. Michigan State 7-0 (22)
11. Florida 6-1 (3)
12. Florida State 7-0 (14)
13. Michigan 5-2 (5)
14. Oklahoma 5-1 (17)
15. Stanford 5-1 (13)
16. Oklahoma State 6-0 (12)
17. Texas A&M 5-1 (7)
18. Memphis 6-0 (NR)
19. California 5-1 (21)
20. Toledo 6-0 (23)
21. Mississippi 5-2 (16)
22. Houston 6-0 (NR)
23. Mississippi State 5-2 (NR)
24. BYU 5-2 (NR)
25. UCLA 4-2 (19)
Dropped out: Northwestern, Boise State, Temple, USC

Monday, October 19, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Güeros *** Directed by Alonso Ruiz Palacios. During a student strike at Mexico’s National University, flatmates Sombra (Tenoch Huerta) and Santos (Leonardo (Ortizgrls) settle into a different routine until the arrival of Sombra’s brother, Tomás Sebastián Aguirre), sends the trio on a quest to find a long-forgotten musical star. A good story, full of life and related with intelligence and a sense of humor.

The Wolfpack *** Directed by Crystal Moselle. In the heart of Manhattan, Baghavan and Susanne have raised their seven kids with virtually no exposure to the outside world. This documentary captures their offspring’s unique views of society molded largely by films they’ve watched. Despite its considerable faults, this bizarre, fascinating story is impossible to shake off, like the expression on the face of one of the brothers as he’s talking about his father and begins getting choked up (instead of crying, he smiles convincingly, evidence of a life led having to learn to hide his emotions for fear of reprisal).

Z for Zachariah **½ Directed by Craig Zobel. In the wake of a disaster that wipes out most of civilization, two men and a young woman find themselves in an emotionally charged love triangle as the last known survivors. Its craft can be impressive: Zobel’s film possesses a searing, slow burn tone that’s beautifully controlled. The movie is admirably patient and gives breathing room and space for these relationships to bloom believably and organically. But the build to a climax is far too slow and with little emotional payoff.

Jurassic World **½ Directed by Colin Trevarrow. A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park’s newest attraction — a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine — escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. The movie unquestionably "delivers." It feels like a hit; it offers a professionally crafted blend of blandness, predictability, watered-down cultural commentary and manufactured excitement.

Seeds of Time **½ Directed by Sandy McLeod. A documentary that follows agricultural scientist Cary Fowler as he traverses the globe on a mission to preserve and stockpile seeds that may someday avert a worldwide famine. Fowler is not a terribly charismatic subject, but the matter-of-fact manner in which he delivers important information and the stunning depth of his knowledge compensates, as does the steady way in which McLeod reveals pertinent personal details about his life and work.

Paper Towns **½ Directed by Jake Schreier. When Quentin Jacobsen’s (Nat Wolff) longtime crush — fabulously cool high school senior Margo Roth Spiegelman (Cara Delevingne) — vanishes soon after drafting him for a revenge-fueled mission, he sets off on a cross-country road trip to find her. While Schreier (Robot & Frank) doesn’t do a whole lot with the camera besides make sure that there are people in the frame, he does manage to provoke strong performances from Wolff — who looks kind of like a young Dustin Hoffman, but stretched out like a piece of taffy — and the young supporting cast.

Meet Me in Montenegro ** Directed by Alex Holdridge. Linnea Saasen. A failed American writer enters into an affair after a chance encounter with a European dancer. While this tale of a couple experiencing myriad romantic ups and downs has its occasional amusing and insightful moments, it doesn’t quite render its characters’ foibles endearing.

Hungry Hearts ** Directed by Saverio Costanzo. When Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) and Jude (Adam Driver) get stuck in the bathroom of a New York City restaurant, romance, marriage and a child soon follow. But before long, the couple finds themselves clashing over the care of their infant, who’s not developing. Beginning as an adorable romcom, the film morphs into a disturbing but not particularly illuminating story of mental illness.

The Vatican Tapes Directed by Mark Neveldine. When an infection from a cut lands 27-year-old Angela Holmes (Olivia Dudley) in the emergency room, everyone around her begins to suffer, thanks to a Satanic force that’s taken possession of the young woman. Another day, another exorcism. Ho-hum.

Chloe & Theo * Directed by Ezna Sands. Determined to save his Arctic Inuit homeland from environmental ruin, Theo (Theo Ikummaq) sets off for New York City, where he finds an unexpected ally in a homeless young woman named Chloe (Dakota Johnson). This should have been a film about Theo: a complex man taking on an unfamiliar world he is not particularly fond of, with little more than conviction and principle to help him along. Instead, we get another film where a hapless foreigner teaches white people how to better themselves.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1.  TCU 6-0 (9)
2.  Utah 5-0 (4)
3.  Florida 6-0 (7)
4.  Clemson 5-0 (6)
5.  Michigan 5-1 (13)
6.  Ohio State 6-0 (2)
7.  Texas A&M 5-0 (4)
8.  Baylor 5-0 (8)
9.  Alabama 5-1 (5)
10. Notre Dame 5-1 (19)
11. LSU 5-0 (12)
12. Oklahoma State 6-0 (20)
13. Stanford 4-1 (10)
14. Florida State 5-0 (15)
15. Iowa 6-0 (18)
16. Mississippi 5-1 (16)
17. Oklahoma 4-1 (1)
18. Northwestern 5-1 (11)
19. UCLA 4-1 (21)
20. Boise State 5-1 (NR)
21. California 5-1 (NR)
22. Michigan State 6-0 (17)
23. Toledo 5-0 (24)
24. Temple 5-0 (NR)
25. USC 3-2 (14)
Dropped out: Georgia, West Virginia, Navy

Monday, October 12, 2015

In loving memory

August 2, 1945 - October 12, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Click on title to see the film’s trailer.

Dope *** Directed by Rick Famuyiwa. In the tough neighborhood of the Bottoms, high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) sports his own funky style while working hard to gain admission to a top college. But his clean-cut perspective take an unexpected turn when a local drug dealer befriends him. Thanks to a witty, fast-moving script (also by Famuyiwa) and a sensitive performance from the newcomer Moore, Dope helps us see how a young black man coming of age in America faces complications unforeseen by the smugly entitled high schooler played by Tom Cruise all those years ago in Risky Business.

Above and Beyond *** Directed by Roberta Grossman. A documentary that looks at a diverse group of veteran World War II pilots who defied the U.S. Neutrality Act and volunteered to fly for Israel at a critical moment in its battle for independence. Pays well-deserved homage to these men who helped create the Israeli Air Force and ensured the survival of the burgeoning nation. It’s a wonder that it took nearly seven decades for the story to be recounted in feature documentary form.

Call Me Lucky **½ Directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. A documentary about flame-throwing comic and social critic Barry Crimmins who shocked and delighted audiences for decades with his caustic view of America and its leaders. Over time, his rage would give way to a calmer but committed life as a peace activist. Goldthwait’s hand too nervously tempers Crimmins’s outré tactics as kooky showmanship bred from unimaginable trauma.

Tomorrowland **½ Directed by Brad Bird. Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. Tentpoles are rarely guilty of overreaching, but Tomorrowland has a tendency to feel out of control, a film that is finally more ambitious than accomplished.

The Little Death ** Directed by Josh Lawson. The secret lives of five suburban couples living in Sydney reveal both the fetishes and the repercussions that come with sharing them. The actors are all game and well paired, but flashes of chemistry and an appreciable level of production finesse (courtesy of director of photography Simon Chapman and composer Michael Yezerski) aren’t enough to bring the requisite charge to this flimsy, pseudo-provocative material.

San AndreasDirected by Brad Peyton. In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot (Dwayne Johnson) makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) across the state in order to rescue his daughter (Alexandra Daddario). Even by the non-Olympian standards of the disaster genre, San Andreas is chock-full of cliché characters, staggering coincidences and wild improbabilities.

After WordsDirected by Juan Feldman. A librarian (Marcia Gay Harden) facing a mid-life crisis travels to Costa Rica. The good news about After Words is that it offers Harden a rare film lead. The bad news: Harden’s role in this groan-worthy dramedy is so dreary and ill-conceived that even her formidable talents can’t bring it to life.

The Gallows * Directed by Chris Lofing, Travis Cluff. To observe the 20th anniversary of a pupil’s tragic accidental death during a high school play, the current crop of students decides to restage the failed production with more disastrous consequences. The movie isn’t without a certain amount of atmosphere, it simply feels borrowed wholesale. That would matter less with a better script, but the four main characters are paper-thin even by genre norms.

Faith of Our Fathers ½* Directed by Carey Scott. Two men (David A.R. White, Kevin Downes) embark on a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial guided by the letters their fathers wrote while serving in the war. A clumsily told story of friendship and wartime remembrance that has a tough time serving up a halfway believable moment, let alone a moving and powerful testimony about Jesus.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My off-the-wall baseball playoff predictions

American League Division Series
Toronto over Texas
Kansas City over Houston

National League Division Series
St. Louis over Chicago
Los Angeles over New York

American League Championship Series
Kansas City over Toronto

National League Championship Series
Los Angeles over St. Louis

World Series
Kansas City over Los Angeles

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis. AP rank in brackets.
1.  Oklahoma 4-0 (8) [10]
2.  Ohio State 5-0 (1) [1]
3.  Utah 4-0 (5) [5]
4.  Texas A&M 5-0 (16) [9]
5.  Alabama 4-1 (6) [8]
6.  Clemson 4-0 (13) [6]
7.  Florida 5-0 (21) [11]
8.  Baylor 4-0 (10) [3]
9.  TCU 5-0 (9) [2]
10. Stanford 4-1 (17) [16]
11. Northwestern 5-0 (18) [13]
12. LSU 4-0 (4) [7]
13. Michigan 4-1 (19) [18]
14. Florida State 4-0 (14) [12]
15. USC 3-1 (20) [17]
16. Michigan State 5-0 (11) [4]
17. Mississippi 4-1 (2) [14]
18. Iowa 5-0 (NR) [22]
19. Notre Dame 4-1 (12) [15]
20. Oklahoma State 5-0 (25) [21]
21. UCLA 4-1 (3) [20]
22. Georgia 4-1 (7) [19]
23. West Virginia 3-1 (15) [NR]
24. Navy 4-0 (NR) [NR]
25. Toledo 4-0 (NR) [24]
Dropped out: Wisconsin (22), Mississippi State (23), Kansas State (24)

Monday, October 5, 2015

This week's DVD releases

Whew! A heavier than normal amount of releases this week. Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief ***½ Directed by Alex Gibney. An in-depth look at the inner-workings of the Church of Scientology. Gibney’s a bit like a kid in an exposé-candy store here, and you can sense him trying to cram as much as he can into the film. Good for him: Going Clear is jaw-dropping. You wouldn’t really want it any other way.

Little Hope Was Arson ***½ Directed by Theo Love. After arson fires destroy 10 East Texas churches in the space of a few weeks, the resulting police investigation fails to turn up any leads. Eventually, a citizen’s tip points detectives in the direction of two young locals. Love’s mesmerizing documentary is as evenhanded as it is unsettling.

Creep *** Directed by Patrick Brice. When a videographer answers a Craigslist ad for a one-day job in a remote mountain town, he finds his client is not at all what he initially seems. Knowing and funny without straining to be clever, the found-footage-style film works better than the Duplass Brothers’ 2008 Baghead, with which it has some elements in common.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl *** Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. High schooler Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl (RJ Cyler), finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate (Oliva Cooke) who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Treats a serious subject with wackadoodle humor that is endearingly contagious. It’s tender, clever, wise and highly recommended.

When Marnie Was There *** Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. A lonely city girl (Sara Takatsuki) with chronic asthma is sent to spend the summer with relatives in a seaside town where the air is clean. Before long, she makes friends with a mysterious girl (Kasumi Arimura) living in a deserted villa. The film may start off a bit awkwardly, but it’ll have you bathing in your own tears by the time it’s over.

Fresh Dressed *** Directed by Sacha Jenkins. A documentary that takes a look at a generation of fashion designers who turned the hip-hop youth culture into a billion-dollar business. Although it treads water for the final 15 or so minutes, the movie is brisk and engaging enough that it still doesn’t feel overlong.

People Places Things *** Directed by James C. Strouse. Will Henry (Jermaine Clement) is a newly single graphic novelist balancing parenting his young twin daughters and a classroom full of students while exploring and navigating the rich complexities of new love and letting go of the woman (Stephanie Allynne) who left him. Filled with arch wit, the film is sweet and sorrowful at the same time. Like many indies, it lacks much of a conclusion, though writer-director Strouse shows that simple ideas, ably executed, can make an endearing film.

We Are Still Here **½ Directed by Ted Geoghegan. Hoping to leave behind the trauma of their teenage son’s death, Paul (Andrew Sensenig) and Anne (Barbara Crampton) relocate to a rustic house in a small New England town. But soon after they move in, Anne begins to sense her dead child’s ghostly presence in their new home. Has its pacing problems, and the special effects are strictly of the cheesy variety, but it provides enough genuine scares to make it thoroughly enjoyable, especially if seen with your main squeeze late at night.

Batkid Begins **½ Directed by Dana Nachman. On Nov.15, 2013, young leukemia patient Miles Scott got his wish to become Batman when San Francisco transformed itself into Gotham City to become Miles’s playground, a singular act of charity that became an Internet sensation. This film would be easier to swallow if it focused less on self-congratulation than on the epidemic of unselfishness that inspired the magic in the first place.

10,000 Saints **½ Directed by Shari Springer Bergman, Robert Pulcini. Set in the 1980s, a teenager (Asa Butterfield) from Vermont moves to New York City to live with his father (Ethan Hawke). Part teen romance, part awkward love triangle, part generational-clash portrait, and almost all powered by nostalgia, this warmly conceived dramedy will likely resonate strongest with audiences who have a direct connection to the story’s place and time.

Harmontown **½ Directed by Neil Berkeley. A documentary that follows Dan Harmon on tour for his podcast series after he was fired in 2012. The best elements of the film capture Harmon’s unique raw energy.

Magic Mike XXL **½ Directed by Gregory Jacobs. Three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance. To the film’s credit, it knows it’s ridiculous. It’s aiming for ridiculous, and it hits the mark as precisely as the strippers groove half-naked to their beats.

Mateo **½ Directed by Aaron I. Naar. Follows America’s most notorious gringo mariachi on his misadventures to Cuba. First-timer Naar fails to convince us of his subject’s musical genius and gives the impression he’s leaving out important details.

In the Courtyard **½ Directed by Pierre Salvadori. After abruptly ending his musical career, 40-year-old Antoine Le Gerrec (Gustave Kervern) has little idea of what to do with his life. But when he takes a job as caretaker of a rundown Parisian apartment block, he’s soon drawn into the lives of his eccentric tenants. A wry, oh-so-gentle dual character study saved from sleepiness by the unexpected star pairing of Catherine Deneuve and Kervern.

Manglehorn **½ Directed by David Gordon Greene. Living only with his cat, a brooding locksmith (Al Pacino) remains in a rut, penning endless letters to his idealized lost love. Pacino has finally started acting again, which is cause for celebration. It’ll be real cause for celebration if/when he also starts picking projects worthier than The Humbling, Danny Collins, and now Manglehorn, all of which see him struggling to find moments of truth within a contrived, borderline ludicrous scenario.

Escobar: Paradise Lost **½ Directed by Andrea Di Stefano. While visiting his brother on Colombia’s idyllic Pacific coast, a young surfer (Josh Hutcherson) falls in love with a woman (Claudia Traisac) only to discover that she’s the niece of notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Benecio Del Toro). An entertaining and suitably gruesome gangster thriller which nevertheless feels like a missed opportunity.

Awake: The Life of Yogananda ** Directed by Paola di Florio, Lisa Leeman. A documentary that chronicles the life of Paramahansa Yogananda, who played a key role in changing Western attitudes toward Asian spiritual traditions and expanding the popularity of yoga and meditation around the world. Those looking for further enlightenment might want to pass on this feel-good cinematic hagiography.

What We Did On Our Holiday ** Directed by Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin. During a visit to celebrate the 75th birthday of the family patriarch, who’s terminally ill, soon-to-be-divorced Doug (David Tennant) and Abi (Rosamund Pike) try to maintain the pretense that they’re happy together. For a while the film broaches genuinely unexpected comedic and emotional territory, and while matters eventually return to the safe haven of pat formula, at least there’s been some vim and vigor added to the amiable observational humor and likeable performances.

Insidious: Chapter 3 ** Directed by Leigh Whannell. This prequel follows a psychic (Lin Shaye) who uses her skills to help a teen (Stefanie Scott) tormented by a threatening paranormal entity. You have a horror movie with two strong female leads – no small thing. The movie, however, has little else going for it.

Road Hard ** Directed by Adam Carolla, Kevin Hench. Following an expensive divorce and the cancellation of his TV show, a stand-up comic (Carolla) is forced to go back on the road to provide for his daughter. Though Carolla and co-filmmaker Hench devise some funny situations — particularly, the one in which a newly divorced woman insists on coming back to his room — the overall feeling that comes across is one of sadness, and that seems intentional.

Missionary ** Directed by Anthony DiBlasi. A struggling mother (Dawn Oliviera) trying to create a better life for her and her son meets a handsome Mormon missionary (Mitch Ryan) with a troubled past and they begin an incendiary love affair. There’s no reason the missionary-recruiter turned stalker idea couldn’t work. But this one doesn’t.

Tio PapiDirected by Fro Rojas. Wild bachelor Ray Ray Dominguez (Joey Dedio) dreams of nothing more than a carefree life of indulgence in Miami, but his plans are abruptly changed when he becomes the legal guardian of his sister’s six children. If it weren’t for the well-intentioned moments of pathos — a tear or two, here and there — this would be a complete waste of time.

Dark PlacesDirected by Gilles Paquet-Brenner. A quarter-century after Libby Day’s (Charlize Theron) mother and sisters were brutally murdered in a crime she believes her brother (Tye Sheridan) committed, a group of amateur sleuths begins casting doubt on his guilt. Inexpert execution, lazy attention to detail and a lackluster lead performance conspire to render a juicy mystery rather boring.

Air * Directed by Christian Cantamessa. When Earth’s air ceases to be breathable, two engineers (Norman Reedus, Djimon Hounsou) become caretakers of an underground bunker housing cryogenically preserved humans. Boredom has long since settled in by the time gunplay is involved.

Amnesiac * Directed by Michael Polish. A man (Wes Bentley) awakes in bed unable to recall who he is, the victim of a car accident and resulting coma, only to begin to suspect that his wife (Kate Bosworth) may not be his real wife. The plot develops confidently (if unsurprisingly), abetted by coincidence and shoddy police work, but it’s the tone that grates.

Lucky Stiff * Directed by Christopher Ashley. A bachelor (Dominic Marsh) travels to Monte Carlo to claim an inheritance from his late rich uncle. Bad movies are bad. Bad theater is worse. But bad movies resembling bad theater are perhaps worst of all.

The Stranger * Directed by Guillermo Amoedo. A mysterious man arrives in a small Canadian town seeking his wife, though his presence plunges the community into a bloodbath. While the movie is bad, the fact that it makes you wait and wait for its excessively dismal perspective to be justified by a measly little twist is even worse.

The Anomaly * Directed by Noel Clarke. Traumatised ex-soldier Ryan Reeve (Clarke) wakes up in the back of a moving van next to a young boy who is being held prisoner. He frees the boy and must work out what is happening in bursts of less than ten minutes, while his mind is switched repeatedly between two parallel existences. There’s infinitely more than one anomaly to be found in this film, a thoroughly nonsensical futuristic sci-fi thriller that makes a case for the perils of vanity projects.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Top 25 College Football Teams

Last week's rank in parenthesis
1.  Ohio State 4-0 (1)
2.  Mississippi 4-0 (2)
3.  UCLA 4-0 (10)
4.  LSU 3-0 (5)
5.  Alabama 3-1 (4)
6.  Utah 4-0 (19)
7.  Georgia 4-0 (3)
8.  Oklahoma 3-0 (12)
9.  TCU 4-0 (6)
10. Baylor 3-0 (9)
11. Michigan State 4-0 (7)
12. Notre Dame 4-0 (8)
13. Clemson 3-0 (14)
14. Florida State 3-0 (11)
15. West Virginia 3-0 (22)
16. Texas A&M 4-0 (13)
17. Stanford 3-1 (15)
18. Northwestern 4-0 (20)
19. Michigan 3-1 (NR)
20. USC 3-1 (18)
21. Florida 4-0 (NR)
22. Wisconsin 3-1 (21)
23. Mississippi State 3-1 (NR)
24. Kansas State 3-0 (23)
25/ Oklahoma State 4-0 (NR)
Dropped Out: Georgia Tech (16), Oregon (17), Arizona (24), BYU (25)

This week's DVD releases

Slightly delayed posting this week because I was on vacation. Yippee. Click on title to see the film’s trailer

Spy *** Directed by Paul Feig. A desk-bound CIA analyst (Melissa McCarthy) volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster. Feig’s commitment to the genre, and some truly wonderful set pieces, make this film as lovable as its main character.

Famous Nathan *** Directed by Lloyd Handwerker. A documentary that charts the intriguing history of the director’s family who created and built Nathan’s hot-dog empire. Handwerker treats the project as genealogy rather than corporate image-making. And with home movies and private interviews at his disposal, no one is better equipped to tell this story.

The Connection *** Directed by Cédric Jimenez. A French police magistrate (Jean Dujardin) spends years trying to take down one of the country’s most powerful drug rings. The film is long and occasionally long-winded and determinedly old-fashioned in its approach. That’s why I liked it.

Avengers: Age of Ultron **½ Directed by Joss Whedon. When Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to stop the villainous Ultron (James Spader) from enacting his terrible plans. There’s so much ground to cover here — so many introductions to make, so much story to churn through, so many gargantuan set pieces to mount — that the movie never really finds room to breathe.

Cop Car **½ Directed by Jon Watts. A small town sheriff (Kevin Bacon) sets out to find the two kids (James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Welford) who have taken his car on a joy ride. Watts demonstrates masterful control, pushing right up against the limits of what we can take (even non-parents will be rattled watching the boys mishandling loaded weapons), and yet, at every turn, the screenplay falls short of the picture’s full potential, missing opportunities that could have made this a classic.

Unexpected **½ Directed by Kris Swanberg. An inner-city high school teacher (Cobie Smulders) discovers she is pregnant at the same time as one of her most promising students (Gail Bean) and the two develop an unlikely friendship while struggling to navigate their unexpected pregnancies. The nuanced performances of Smulders and Bean are flawless. Yet the movie’s calm levelheadedness is a subtle detriment. Everything is a little too easy.

When Animals Dream ** Directed by Jonas Alexander Arnby. Teenager Marie (Sonia Suhl) and her parents live a reclusive life in a small coastal town, where they frighten the townspeople and Marie doesn’t know why. Stylish but slight, Arnby’s debut feature ultimately sticks within werewolf movie conventions, adding little fresh to the form.

Poltergeist ** Directed by Gil Kenan. A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter (Kennedi Clements) after the apparitions take her captive. A disappointingly tame and unimaginative effort, which throws away much of what was best-loved about the original and fails to find worthy replacements.

ZipperDirected by Mora Stephens. A family man (Patrick Wilson) has it all until he risks losing everything due to his inability to fight off his obsessive temptation for other women. This might be entertaining enough in a campy way for you to watch it at home as long as you’ve got a really big bowl of popcorn and an even bigger glass of wine to get you through. Might. be.

Entourage Directed by Doug Ellin. Taking their reckless Hollywood ways to the big screen, actor Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his posse (Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon) find new and creative ways to get in trouble and Vince’s starring role in a big-budget Dracula film provides plenty of opportunities. That the bonds of friendship between Vince and his pals are predicated so strongly on excluding others feels regressive and drags the movie away from harmless high jinks into something needlessly more spiteful and ugly.

Aloft Directed by Claudia Llosa. A struggling mother (Jennifer Connelly) encounters the son (Cillian Murphy) she abandoned 20 years earlier. There are reasons why everyone on screen looks as unhappy as they do, but Llosa puts viewers in a place where they can’t understand precisely why, so the only choice is to sit there marinating in misery and boredom.

Return to Sender * Directed by Fouad Mikati. A nurse (Rosamund Pike) living in small town goes on a blind date with a man who is not the person he says he is. Proves to be nothing but dead air, an entirely too predictable, slow-paced, and misguided genre effort.