April 11, 2014, - 11:43 am
Well, it’s mid-April, and as we’re closer to the summer movie season (which starts in May), the selection of movies opening today at theaters is getting better.
* “Draft Day“: This is a two-hour love letter to the NFL or a two-hour commercial for it. Take your pick. The NFL clearly cooperated with and highly massaged the script of this movie to make it come out smelling like a rose. Otherwise, it would not have allowed its logos and team logos all over the place in this movie, along with scenes of the NFL Draft and an appearance by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And a theme of the movie–that NFL teams are extremely interested in drafting pure men of integrity–is pure NFL fantasy, since we know that the National Football League is chock full of criminals from America’s killing fields. That said, the movie–while mostly predictable, formulaic, and somewhat overloaded with synthetic syrup–is entertaining enough and fast-paced.
Kevin Costner plays the washed-up general manager of the Cleveland Browns, who is struggling to keep his job on the eve of NFL Draft Day, the date on which NFL teams choose their new rookie players emerging from college. In addition to a lackluster team and an impatient owner (Frank Langella), Costner has a bad rep for firing his own father, who was the team’s longtime head coach. And his current head coach hates him. On top of all that, his girlfriend–the team’s lawyer–is pregnant with his baby, and he’s still trying to keep their relationship a secret from the team.
Costner is desperate to do something big and build buzz, so he makes a big trade to get the first pick in the draft. But he’s now under attack because he traded a lot of future draft picks in that move. And–in a big storyline in the movie–he’s concerned that the superstar White quarterback he wants to pick is dishonest. Not that the kid committed any crimes, but he may have lied about whether or not he has any friends on the team and why no players were arrested at his birthday party. Costner and other NFL teams agonize over this White player’s possible minor dishonesty and unlikability, while the two Black players Costner is looking at are righteous, worthy, honest heroes. Really?
PUH-LEEZE. Hollywood is telling me that NFL teams are concerned with whether some White player may have no friends and lied about it, when it regularly drafts and/or signs murderers (see Ray Lewis), rapists (see Darren Sharper, Ben Roethlisberger), and other hardened criminals (see Adam “Pacman” Jones), without even a shrug or a sigh? Come on. And Hollywood is telling me that only the star quarterback White guy is the morally defective dude, while the Black players are pure as the driven snow? Yes, there are White cretins (such as Roethlisberger and various others), but most of the criminals in the League are Black (again, see Ray Lewis, Darren Sharper, “Pacman” Jones, etc.) as are the majority of the players.
A couple of casting notes: Costner’s girlfriend is played by Jennifer Garner, whom I don’t get. Her acting is terrible, especially in this movie, and her whole act is speaking in a sing-song high-pitched voice that sounds like it is struggling against a past lisp. Her look reminds me of ET with hair. Phone home. She utters lines like, “I gave my life for football.” Huh? Who says that? And who does that? And then there is Denis Leary, who plays the Browns’ head coach. I like that Leary, an Obama liberal, does at least face reality on Islam and that it is behind 9/11 (he’s famous for sticking it to 9/11 Truthers while raising money for 9/11′s first responder firemen). But have you seen him lately? I kept wondering who the aging lesbian playing the Browns coach was. As he resembles Jane Lynch more and more, I just didn’t see him as an NFL head coach, and his on-screen tantrums seem manufactured and aren’t believable. Add to that Leary’s mullet in off-screen promotions of the movie, and he looks even more like someone’s crazy lesbionic grandma who came out long ago. Just sayin’.
But other than the NFL propaganda and BS, the movie is entertaining and fine for two hours of escapism. It’s not a great movie. Not even close. But it’s decent entertainment and better than I expected it would be. And you will probably enjoy it whether or not you like football and/or sports in general. If you do like those things, you’ll definitely enjoy this.
It’s just not NFL reality. NFL teams don’t care whether or not their draftees are boy scouts. They care only if the players can run with, throw, pass, and catch the ball, score yards, defend, and make tackles and touchdowns. The only time NFL teams seemed to care about an NFL potential draft pick’s criminal activity was when Maurice Clarett was indicted for committing armed robbery. And that was only because it would get in the way of actually attending team practices and playing in games.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Oculus“: This is one of several movies produced in recent years by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) with no-name actors. It’s a horror movie. While it is not a great movie, it was better than I expected. It’s not original, and I feel like I’ve seen several movies very similar to it (some of them better, most of them about the same). It’s definitely been done in one version or another before. It’s a little bit bloody and it’s slightly scarier than many horror movies I’ve seen lately, though the ending is somewhat predictable.
The story: a young son is convicted of murdering his father (who is believed to have murdered his wife, the son’s mother), and is just about to be released from juvenile prison at age 21. His sister wants to help clear him and prove that the crime was caused by a possessed antique mirror her father had in his home office. She takes her brother to the house where the incidents occurred and puts the mirror up. She sets up a system of video cameras, timers, and a kill switch mechanism–all designed to prove the powers of the mirror and capture what really happened in the house all these years ago.
The constant flashbacks and flash forwards in this movie are confusing (especially when present day characters are shown in flashbacks) and make the movie a little herky-jerky. And, like I said, this isn’t a great movie. It’s okay, though, for what it is (a horror thriller), and it’s somewhat entertaining, even if it moves a little slowly.
I don’t think I’d pay ten bucks-plus to see this. But I might watch it on video.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Face of Love“: This is, by far, the best new movie opening this weekend, and one of my favorites so far in a crappy year for movies. Showing mostly in arthouse movie theaters, it stars Annette Benning as a widow who was very in love with her husband (Ed Harris, a far lefty who refused to stand up when the great anti-Communist filmmaker Elia Kazan got a career Oscar), but he dies on a trip they took together in Mexico. Five years later, while at a local art museum, she sees a man who is her late husband’s doppelganger. He looks exactly like him.
Her feelings for her husband are stirred up all over again, and she is determined to meet this man. She stalks the museum and finally sees him again, following him and learning that he’s an art professor at a nearby college. Soon, she inveigles herself into his life and him into hers. The thing is, she knows that others will find it weird, creepy, and sick that this man looks exactly like her late husband, and so she is trying to keep it a secret from them . . . and from this doppelganger, who does not know better.
This is really a great movie and an interesting story that I haven’t seen much of before. There have been many other doppelganger movies, but none like this. And certainly few done as brilliantly and with as much subtle but marked insight as this one. The movie is a combination thriller, drama, and comedy all in one. And it’s weird in a good way–the kind of weird that makes movies interesting and keeps you wanting more. I very much enjoyed it, but the ending was extremely sad and brought tears to my eyes. You cannot help but be moved by this if you have a heart. And that is helped, in good measure, by the top notch acting of all involved.
A few other things I liked about this movie: the leading men (both played by Harris) are good guys who are kind, decent, loving, faithful, and generous, something you generally don’t see in Hollywood much, these days. (Robin Williams plays a creepy, nosy neighbor of Benning’s, but he’s only a minor character.) And the movie involves post-middle-aged characters, who are rarely cast in thrillers and movies involving suspense and mystery, making this movie refreshing in that sense. Finally, it’s rare to see a movie in which Hollywood admits that women are the manipulators with men often the victims.
Guys, if you must go to a chick flick with your significant female other, this is the one. (And it’s really not a chick flick at all, but more of a dramedy thriller.)
Watch the trailer . . .
* “The Unknown Known“: Whether you are left-wing or right-wing, you will like this movie and it will be the proverbial beauty in the eyes of the beholder. Though I do think liberals will be slightly disappointed. This is an Errol Morris documentary on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of whom I’m a fan. Morris is a far-left, anti-war liberal but a good documentary maker. Rumsfeld gave him hours of interview footage and willingly cooperated with what he knew was going to be a hatchet job . . . or at least an attempt at one. The movie spends a lot of time telling us the political and career history of Rumsfeld, which was interesting, even for those in the know about this.
Since I have tremendous respect for Rumsfeld and always liked him, I expected to hate this. But I actually liked it because I think Rumsfeld had Morris for lunch (and for dinner). As much as Morris tried to trap Rumsfeld and asked him pointed questions–as much as he tried to make him look bad or contradictory–Rumsfeld shined. He came through sharply as the brilliant man and great patriot that he is. His love for America and doing what’s right was sharply present here. While filmmaker Morris is a smart liberal, the far more brilliant of the two men–Rumsfeld–took over and bested him.
When I picked this movie as one of last year’s best documentaries, I wrote:
A liberal documentary maker tries to make former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look bad, but fails miserably. Instead, a great picture of the brilliance, integrity, and decency of the great Rummy emerges. I learned a lot about him, and admire him even more after seeing this.
Rumsfeld comes off here as what he is: a great American patriot who loves his country and did his best to do what is right and best for America.
Watch the trailer . . .
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