‘Friday Night Lights’ takes a gritty look at high school football

[rating=2]Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Derek Luke, Jay Hernandez, Lucas Black, Garrett Hedlund, Tim McGraw
Director(s): Peter Berg
Writer(s): Screenplay by David Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg; Based upon a book by H. G. Bissinger

Billy Bob Thornton coaches high school football in 'Friday Night Lights'
Billy Bob Thornton coaches high school football in ‘Friday Night Lights’

After watching this DVD, I thought perhaps I wasn’t the right person to review this film. That maybe I should have found someone who is obsessively into football like the characters of the film, because to be quite honest I just didn’t get it.

To put it simply, this movie represented everythingI hate about sports. The obsessiveness, the arrogance, the win-win-win mentality. And what amazed me most about Friday Night Lights is that it appeared to celebrate those attitudes, instead of perhaps offering some commentary on the destructiveness of it.

Read more‘Friday Night Lights’ takes a gritty look at high school football

‘Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites’ highlights their staple of cartoon legends

Starring: Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Chip and Dale

Goofy is among the cartoon legends featured in 'Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites'
Goofy is among the cartoon legends featured in ‘Walt Disney’s Classic Cartoon Favorites’

I think it’s probably safe to say that the animation industry would not exist without Walt Disney. Say what you want about the company, it’s politics or whatever, it established the standard by which all animation films and shorts have been judged.

And the characters who helped set those standards are Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Those three iconic figures grew beyond the two-dimensional drawings they are into pop culture standards. But it always seems to me that Disney has shied away from using these cartoon greats too often. It’s been years since any of them have been seen on the big screen. The closest we have is Goofy, who made his most recent big screen appearance along side his son.

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Clever ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ gets treated well with collector’s edition DVD

[rating=3]Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Tom Wilkinson
Director(s): Michel Gondry
Writer(s): Story by Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Busmuth; Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'
Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’

This was one of those films that came to me highly recommended by several people. For some reason, however, I dragged my feet in reviewing this DVD. The funny thing was my sister-in-law had recently loaned us her copy of the movie, which was the original single-disc release. But when I got the collector’s edition for review, I still dragged my feet.

Why? I don’t have a clue.

Read moreClever ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ gets treated well with collector’s edition DVD

Oscar Buzz

This is a tough year to call for the Oscars. Not so much that there really isn’t one particular film that naturally stands out as a winner, but I personally have only seen a handful of the nominated movies. It’s a rare thing for me, but a natural result of having a 20-month-old son who eats up a lot of my free time.

Thankfully, I will most likely get the opportunity to see most if not all of the films before the awards are dished out. But right now I thought I’d go over some of my initial reactions, and invite anyone to post their own thoughts below about who they think will take away the famed naked statuettes.

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‘Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’ is a clever, quick, and concise film

[rating=3]Starring: Andy Garcia, Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, Treat Williams, Jack Warden, Steve Buscemi, and Fairuza Balk
Director(s): Gary Fleder
Writer(s): Scott Rosenberg

Andy Garcia in 'Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead'
Andy Garcia in ‘Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead’

“Give it a name…” is a phrase that is often used in Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead as a way of saying, “…tell it like it is”, a phrase of communicating to a friend that someone understands and agrees with them. This phrase, in a film that uses stylish language to portray a criminal subculture, captures the essence of what this film is all about. The title of the film establishes virtually every action and word spoken about a world where people know and understand that their life is limited because of who they are and what they do.

Read more‘Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead’ is a clever, quick, and concise film

‘Bend It like Beckham’ is worth seeing… and seeing again

[rating=3]Starring: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyer
Director(s): Gurinder Chadha
Writer(s): Gurinder Chadha, Guljit Bindra, Paul Mayeda Berges

Parminder Nagra and Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in 'Bend It Like Beckham'
Parminder Nagra and Jonathan Rhys-Meyer in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’

Bend It Like Beckham never would’ve been made if it had been pitched to a studio executive at a major Hollywood studio. A story about the obstacles faced by a young Anglo-Indian teen girl who dreams of becoming a professional soccer player would’ve been deemed too specific. Her problems wouldn’t be of interest to anyone outside of her race, class and culture. But Bend It Like Beckham was an international box office phenomenon when it played in theatres, and seeing it again on DVD, reveals why it has such broad audience appeal. In Bend It Like Beckham, audiences of all ages, races and cultures, can see themselves as they attempt to conquer insurmountable obstacles in pursuit of their individual dreams.

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Wanna be a Film or TV Writer

Tell me if this is you…

Night after night, you lounge in front of your HDTV, your fingertip bruised from pressing the guide button on your remote, watching hours of second-rate programs and thinking, “Are you kidding?! I could do better than that…”

Then one day, it dawns on you: “Hey! I could be a screenwriter! I could quit my job at the Gap, hang out at coffee shops all day with Final Draft installed on my laptop, and take a break from my iced soy vanilla mocha-latte-chinos just long enough to walk to my mailbox and pick up six figure checks for residuals and bonuses.” And so, with visions of Oscar nominations and unlimited free time floating about in your head, you sit down and write a screenplay.

So far, so good… then what?

Read moreWanna be a Film or TV Writer

Birol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli are great together in ‘Head-On’

Birol Ünel stars in 'Head-On'
Birol Ünel stars in ‘Head-On’

[rating=3]Starring: Birol Ünel, Sibel Kekilli
Director(s): Fatih Akin
Writer(s): Fatih Akin

Cahit (Birol Ünel) is a 40-year-old self-destructive drunk. To pay the bills, he picks up empties at a nearby club — often finishing the abandoned beers himself. He snorts coke when he can, he looks like a grungier version of Benicio Del Toro, and his apartment in Hamburg reaches levels of filth I never saw in four years of fraternity life. So it’s not much of a surprise when, during one bender, he totals his car by driving it into a brick wall.

Read moreBirol Ünel and Sibel Kekilli are great together in ‘Head-On’

‘Zatôichi’ is Takeshi Kitano’s best

[rating=3]Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Michiyo Ookusu, Gadarukanaru Taka, Daigorô Tachibana, Yuuko Daike
Director(s): Takeshi Kitano
Writer(s): Screenplay by Takeshi Kitano, based upon the novels by Kan Shimozawa

Takeshi Kitano in 'Zatôichi'
Takeshi Kitano in ‘Zatôichi’

Zatôichi… aka The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi is a new vision of Akira Kurasowa’s feudal-Japan, samurai films with a little of Chicago or Moulin Rouge thrown into the mixture. Zatôichi is the story of an older swordsman who arrives in a small Japanese village overrun by opposing Samurai gangs fighting for control of the village at the same time that a pair of geisha girls comes to the town seeking revenge for the death of their family.

Zatoichi emerges as a big change from Kitano’s other works in that there is a departure from what is normally a very strong sense of reality in his films like Brother or Fireworks. This altered reality is most strongly seen in the use of digitally generated blood during the fight scenes but also carries through to a dance sequence at the end of the film. Zatoichi also marks a change in filmmaking for Kitano with the use of shorter, quicker shots instead of the longer, precisely framed moments that his previous films capture. Kitano places more concentration on the action of the fight sequences, drawing forth a real sense of physical destruction.

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