Wednesday, July 30, 2008

21 (movie)

Years back I watched the documentary: Breaking Vegas (which is on my list now to re-watch). It was the true story of a team of MIT students who devised a way to count cards as a team and beat the Vegas system. It was an interesting show.

When 21 came out in the theaters, I was interested in it because I knew the original story.

The movie starred Keven Spacy, Kate Bosworth, and Jim Sturgess--three great actors. I knew going in that the movie would take liberties with the actual story (I had been warned by others) so it didn't bother me that the movie was probably 60% fiction.

It was entertaining and exciting. I love watching people win lots of money. I wish they had gone into more depth on the card counting strategy and showed a bit more of their game play, money earned, and money spent. But as it was, they spend most of the time showing the relationships between the team and what not to do (screw over the team leader).

My Rating: 3.8
My Recommendation: It's worth a rental. Get some popcorn, enjoy the movie.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bourne Ultimatum (Movie)

This movie got my heart beating from the first scene. Intense doesn’t begin to describe it. These guys really know how to write and produce a movie. Not only are the action scenes well-choreographed, but the writing is intricate and exciting.

I’ve always loved movies about conspiracies and near-omnipotent shadow-like governments and The Bourne Ultimatum does not disappoint. This is my kind of movie: full of suspense and action, unpredictable, fantastic cinematography, and a great performance by Matt Daemon—better than (and very different than) his performance in Ocean’s 13.

There was also a fantastic battle between Bourne and another assassin (as there are in all the Bourne movies) in which Bourne almost goes Jackie Chan on the guy, using everything from a phone book to a razor blade to aide him in the fight.

Mostly I just love how awesome and flawless Jason Bourne is. He’s perfect at everything he does and it’s fun to watch that.

If I had to find one flaw, it would only be that this movie, though far better than the second movie and even possibly better than the first, was still basically the same story we’ve seen before: Jason Bourne stays 10 steps ahead of Treadstone (or Blackbriar or whatever current name they have) while they struggle endlessly to keep up, all the while slamming telephones down and grunting in frustration.

In the end, however, it was more than a good movie.

My Rating: 5/5
My Recommendation: Buy it. You NEED this movie. And then watch it again and again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ocean's 13

The Ocean movies are very fun. I just finished watching this one. First, I would have to say that it was very entertaining and better than the second movie. Honestly I thought it paralleled the first movie.

In this one they go back to Vegas and rip off another big casino billionaire. But this time they're not really in it for the money themselves; they just want the casino manager to get screwed.

The way they set the whole thing up is, as expected, very detailed and meticulous. It was far from predictable (except for the fact that you know from the start that Danny Ocean and his crew are going to come out victorious), but if you know the format of these movies, you know that things aren't what they seem. When someone is caught by the gaming commission and exposed, you know that it's a setup. When a plan fails, you know they have a backup plan, etc.

Still, the pace was fast and steady. Drawbacks? Julia Roberts wasn't in this one. I thought she was very good in the first two movies. I also didn't like that they don't really explain how they seem to have access to EVERYTHING. They can get into every room in the casino, they can get ahold of any uniform they need, etc. Also, Danny Ocean and his crew are basically known for having ripped off Terry Benedict in the first movie; there's no way they'd be allowed to just walk around in a new casino and not questioned. It was weird how they just seemed to brush over all of that.

Still, a very good movie and worth your time. A great popcorn flick.

My Rating: 4.5/5 (almost a 5, but hey, I can't give every movie a 5)
My Recommendation: Get some friends together, pop some popcorn and rent it or buy it.

It Could Happen to You (Movie)

This 1994 movie was on tv the other day and I DVR'd it. I'd seen it before but I remember it was kind of an interesting movie and I had nothing better to do. I like Nicolas Cage and he did well in this movie, though it wasn't his best performance.

Mostly I just really like seeing some shmoe win the lottery and it was interesting to watch him give half of it as a tip to a waitress.

Beyond that the movie was quite predictable. You knew he'd end up with the waitress and dump his more-than-annoying, over-the-top wife. The second half of the movie was actually quite boring and seemed to drag on and on as you waited for these things to happen.

Overall, the first half was okay and the last half a bit boring. Plus, it's a bit of a chick flick and that can't help its rating in my department. :P

My Rating: 2.5
My Recommendation: If you've got NOTHING better to do, catch it on TV (but I'm sure you could break out a DVD in your collection that'd be more entertaining.

The Simpsons Movie

I love the Simpsons. I remember watching them as a small child and I'm so glad that the show has stuck around this long.

The Simpsons Movie was incredibly funny though I can't say it was MORE creative than the regular TV show. Still, it was like watching a really good 1.5 hour episode of the Simpons and you can't beat that. I am glad, however, that I didn't pay $10 to see it in the theaters. It was funny, entertaining, well-planned, etc... but it was still just a long episode of the Simpsons.

The only drawback was that I felt there were a few times that they did things or said things merely because they knew they could get away with it in a PG-13 rating. You know, things they couldn't do on TV and now all of a sudden they're like "hey it's PG-13 and we can get away with saying one really bad swear word so let's shimmy one in right here!" It felt contrived to have occasional bad language, an inappropriate innuendo or a quick shot of Bart's... uh... nevermind. They could have done without it; it wasn't necessary. Don't get me wrong, the movie isn't riddled with these things, but when it had them, it stood out because it was out of place.

My Rating: 3.5/5
My Recommendation: Rent it, Red Box it, Netflix it. I wouldn't say buy it... I really liked it but I'm not sure I'd ever watch it again. Then again, if you're a collector like I am, then go ahead, it'll make a nice addition to your collection.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hairspray (Movie)

I heard this movie was good but it was never on the top of my priority list as the title seemed to scream "chick flick." (You'll notice I rarely if ever review a chick flick, because I'm not the biggest fan and therefore don't watch them that often).

In Henderson, at the District, they show free outdoor movies every Friday and Saturday night. With a big grass area for picnic blankets and misters to dampen the dry Las Vegas air, they set up a large projection screen and give out free popcorn. It's awesome.

Last night we went and saw Hairspray at this outdoor theater: It. Was. Fantastic! Aside from the AMAZING music the movie was HIGHLY entertaining. I found my self smiling from ear to ear and laughing throughout the whole movie. Some moments almost brought me to tears and others had me rolling with laughter, but the whole movie gave me goosebumps.

The choreography was excellent, the vocal tallent was awesome and the acting was top notch. I knew John Travolta played a woman because everyone talked about it. But what I didn't know was the Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, James Marsden, and Zac Efron were also in this movie. WOW! There was some AWESOME talent in this film.

Michelle Pfeiffer:
Such a good performance playing (in my opinion) a very different type of character for her that I didn't ever know it was her until I started writing this blog and looked up the cast.

Christopher Walken:
Awesome. I love this guy in every movie he's in but he really cracked me up in this movie. He actually had my favorite line in the movie: "This heart only beats for size 60" (in the context of the film it was really funny).

James Marsden: WOW! Who knew Cyclops could sing??? Honestly I give this guy serious props for his performance. I truly think he found his calling in this movie. I honestly felt that he was better suited for the quirky, silly, up-beat character in Hairspray than he was for Richard White in Superman or Cyclops in X-Men.

Zac Efron: What can you say about this guy? He exudes talent. His role in this movie wasn't all that different from Troy in High School Musical but they dressed him up different and gave him a great 60s haircut and I honestly forgot about his Troy Bolton character. He did an awesome job and I think he's got a future ahead of him.

My Rating:
My Recommendation: SEE IT. Go rent it. It's a GREAT family movie and totally worth your time.

Iron Man (Movie)

I finally got around to seeing this movie. I had heard great things and everyone seemed to say great things about it. I am no exception to the norm.

Iron Man was a well thought out movie and very believable (for the most part). Those of you who know me, know that I am all about a movie that is believable and at least somewhat possible (superhero movies are sometimes the exception to this rule).

Originally, I thought to myself: "Come on, a guy builds a robot suit that is nearly indestructible, can fly, and shoots missiles from his wrists??? That's a bit far-fetched..." But surprisingly I was wrong. The story they wrote and the world they created made these things quite accessible by my imagination.

Iron Man had a great script, great story, and an outstanding performance by Robert Downy Jr. and a GREAT performance by Jeff Bridges. There was never a dull moment and there were plenty of "YEAH!" or "AWESOME" moments that we all wish were in EVERY superhero movie.

Cons: --Spoiler Alert--

If there were any cons at all, I'd say that it was predictable for one. I mean, the plot was fairly generic. I didn't feel that this got in the way of the movie, however. You knew he'd end up with the chick and you knew he'd defeat the bad guy, etc. Also, the one thing that really got me up in a bunch (here comes my realism vein) is that he was able to fly from the US to the middle east and back using only what little fuel he could store in his boots. Come on. I don't care what kind of super powered fuel you created, Tony Stark, it wouldn't be THAT powerful.

My Rating:
My Recommendation: SEE IT NOW!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Batman: The Dark Knight (Movie)

I just came from seeing the Dark Knight and I wanted to write while the movie is fresh on my mind. There is a VERY MILD spoiler in the last "con" listed in this review, but everything else is spoiler-free so read with confidence.

First of all. AMAZING. This flick was more than a regular popcorn flick. It lived up to the expectations and overly entertained. It was action packed, full of story, full of twists and turns, and most of all, Heath Leger's performance was PHENOMENAL! It's sad that he's not with us anymore, but he's not getting a sympathy vote from me. He sincerely deserves every acting award in the book for his performance in TDK. See the move for yourself and you'll know what I mean.

  • Awesome action scenes
  • Great story line
  • Excellent acting for everyone
  • Heath Leger's fantastic performance
  • I found it quite predictable. While entertaining, I seemed to know what was going to happen or what was happening before the director wanted us to know. I kept turning to Megan and explaining my theories, only to find them true. There were so many twists and turns in the plot and yet I seemed to see them all coming. This, however, seems to often be the case with me as I know story-telling and I know how movies often work. So I think this is more of a con for me and that most people wouldn't have this issue.
  • The first 20-30 mintues of the movie felt quite slow to me. At first I was thinking "what's all the hype about?" But then it did pick up and the rest was amazing.
  • I didn't feel that Two-face had any motive for what he did. I don't want to say much more than that, but it just felt weird for him to suddenly go two-face on us. It felt contrived and out of place for Harvey Dent's character in this telling of the mythos.
All in all, a FANTASTIC movie and HIGHLY worth the price in the movie theater.

My Rating: 5 out of 5
My Recommendation: Do NOT wait to Red Box or Buy this movie. Go see it in the theater and get the full experience.

Here is a silly/funny NON-SPOILER video clip of how I felt about Heath Leger's performance (be sure to pause the jukebox in the sidebar first):

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Total Money Makeover (Book)

Have you ever picked up a book that really changes your life? I've read a few of them. Aside from the scriptures, books like The Success Principles or The Secret can be very inspiring. But this week both my wife and I read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Dave is a nationally-syndicated talk show host that talks about personal finance and about getting out of debt.

I've got three words to say about this book: IT WAS AMAZING. This book is for everyone. Please take my word on this, I don't care what your situation is, you NEED to read this book. Get it used on Amazon for like $8.

Dave Ramsey outlines in this book how someone that makes as little as $40K, even $30K, even $25K a year (in other words, ANY income) can pay off ALL debt (EVEN YOUR HOME MORTGAGE) and be a multi-million dollar CASH millionaire by the time your retire.

It's not about getting rich. It's about being FREE of debt and the amazing lifestyle that you will live when you have no debt.

Here's a taste of what you will be inspired to do if you read this book:
  1. In 8 months we will have paid off all our debt (other than our house), things like car payment and student loans
  2. In 2 years we will have $10,000 in CASH saved up as an emergency fund
  3. In 10 years or less we will have our house paid off
  4. In 20 years (I'll only be 50 years old), I will retire with millions in the bank
I'm not kidding. Get the book. Read it.

P.s. For those in the Las Vegas Area, starting THIS MONDAY (July 21, 2008) at 7pm the Dave Ramsey Show will start being aired on KXNT, AM 840. Be sure to tune in.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 (or 10 out of 5)
My Recommendation: Stop what you're doing this instant and GO BUY THE BOOK!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cocoon (Movie)

Last night Megan went to a Pampered Chef party so I had a few hours to kill. I haven't seen Cacoon for probably 15 years or so, so I popped it in. It was like watching a completely new movie. I literally remembered nothing about it.

It was very cute. A bunch of old people in a retirement community discover the fountain of youth (alien cocoons in a swimming pool). It's funny and entertaining to see these old folks become rejuvenated. It's also a touching movie about the sanctity of life and the heartbreak of death.

I'd say this is a great family flick, but there is some vulgar humor and even a random (completely unnecessary) butt scene. So save it for the adults, but it's worth a view.

By the way, I just learned that there is a sequel to this movie. Guess I'll have to go check that one out now.

My Rating: 3.8 (maybe 4) out of 5 for it's entertainment value and great soundtrack.
My Recommendation: See it, but I don't know I'd spend $5 to rent it. Get someone else to rent it, or find it in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Darkest Evening of the Year (Book)

Many of you know that Dean Koontz is my favorite author. I've read nearly everything he's written (see list of all books I've read here). So when this book came out, I had to have it... in hardcover. Let me just say: I want my money back. I have read over 37 of Dean Koontz' novels and I must say, this was right up there with his worst.

The Darkest Evening of the Year was Dean's attempt at immortalizing his recently deceased and cherished dog, Trixie. This book was nothing if not a very long epitaph.

80% of the book talks about how wonderful Golder Retriever's are and how they think. Look, I like dogs as much as the next guy, but.... BOOOOORING!

There was little if any plot in this book. No exaggeration, I was about 3/4 the way through the book and still wondering what it was going to be about and when the plot would emerge.

My rating: 1 out of 5 (the "1" is merely because he is STILL an amazing author. Even though the book itself was terrible, the individual paragraphs are still written by the hands of a literary master)

My Recommendation: Avoid at all costs

Ratatouille (Movie)

I recently saw this movie for the first time. I've always loved Pixar movies but this one eluded me, I must admit, because of it's title. I just thought it was a terrible title and difficult to read. And the whole premise (what I could tell from the previews) didn't attract me like Toy Story or Monster's Inc.

I was wrong. This film was excellent. I loved it from start to finish. It is witty, fun, fast paced, and even emotional. I won't say that it had the deepest plot in the world but there's hardly a drawback to this film.

My Rating: 5 out of 5
My Recommendation: SEE IT