Old School Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Lionsgate’s Latest Expendables Outing

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s new action flick The Expendables 3 is one of the best new movies of 2014. The third installment in the studio’s fan favorite franchise, it held its own quite well against the rest of the annual summer blockbusters that filled theaters this year. While it might not have exactly performed as expected domestically in theaters, those numbers mean nothing. The only reason that it didn’t pull in the numbers of its counterparts from Marvel Studios and others is that it didn’t have the notoriety of those properties. This is despite the fact that it was front loaded with some of the greatest names in the world of action flicks. That in itself is actually one of the reasons that audiences who haven’t yet seen this movie will enjoy it. It will be discussed later. The central reason for the movie’s enjoyment is its writing. This includes the movie’s story and its dialogue. Both elements are classic action flick elements in every sense of the word. Together, they make for plenty of reason for every lover of the action genre to watch The Expendables 3. The acting on the part of the cast adds even more reason for audiences to check out this throwback to Hollywood’s golden era of action flicks. Last of note to the movie’s positive is its pacing. The movie’s run time is just over two hours. To be precise, it is listed at two hours and six minutes. Over the course of that time, the story’s pacing rarely lets up. The rare times when it does it is only in moments that help to advance the story. The end result of that solid pacing coupled with the cast’s wholly entertaining acting and the movie’s writing overall is a movie that is one more great trip down memory lane for any fan of classic action flicks. In turn it proves itself to justifiably be one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is, on the surface, just one more sequel among seemingly countless others churned out over the course of 2014. While few if any of the sequels thrown out there this year were really worth seeing, Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 is an exception to that rule. This movie is a fun outing for any lover of action movies. It is especially so for anyone that grew up in the golden age of action flicks. It proves to be so fun thanks in large part to its writing. At the heart of the movie’s writing is the movie’s story. The movie’s story is a time honored element that any classic action flick fan will appreciate. It sees Barney and his team having to hunt down former Expendables co-founder turned bad guy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) for war crimes. Believe it or not, this is something from which writers seem to have increasingly strayed in the current era of film making. Whether it be action flicks, dramas, or otherwise, writers today seem to be trying to outdo one another in who can churn out the most convoluted and overly busy script possible. It’s nice to see that lead actor Sylvester Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict were able to work together and keep the story behind this movie so simple. It’s also nice to see other classic elements incorporated into the story such as the script’s dialogue.

The story that was crafted by Stallone, Rothenberger, and Benedict is a full-on old school action flick story. The story itself isn’t all that’s old school about the trio’s script. The dialogue that is incorporated into the script is a throwback in itself. There are classic one-liners peppered throughout the course of the movie’s run time. And then there is also Stonebanks’ equally classic soliloquy explaining his motives for having gone rogue. Conrad explains that he joined the bad guys’ side because of his hatred for the people that sent The Expendables to clean up their messes and the human cost associated with said missions. That is within itself another throwback. It is a throwback to so many classic action movie villains before. Considering the classic action flick dialogue and the equally classic story line that are used in The Expendables 3’s script, one can’t help but make a slight comparison to another movie released this year. The movie in question is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The reason for the aside is that where that movie teased old school Ninja Turtles fans with references to their childhood favorite series and movies, The Expendables 3 has done the exact opposite, which is why TMNT failed and The Expendables 3 succeeded even if it didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. It didn’t tease audiences with references to the golden era of action movies or the action movies that some audiences grew up with. It goes for the jugular, giving audiences of all ages another example of what once made action movies so great and what can still make them great again.

As if the direct throwbacks to the action genre’s old days wasn’t enough for audiences, there is one more element to the script that solidifies its success. That element is the commentary on the place of the classic action star in today’s movie market. At one point, the commentary makes for some great self deprecating humor with the younger members of the team throwing out verbal barbs at the team’s older members and vice versa. At another point before that, Barney ruminates on the place of himself and his team mates in their line of work. This is in essence the other side of that discussion on whether or not the old school action star still has a place in today’s action movies. It is a rather interesting moment especially when juxtaposed against the more light-hearted moment that later follows. The ultimate revelation is that there is and always will be a place for action stars of the past and of the future in today’s world of action flicks. Stallone and company don’t come right out and say it with these moments. But it’s pretty obvious that this existential discussion of sorts is what they were using. It just so happened that it worked both as its own discussion and as part of the story in whole, too. And it is a nice addition to the movie’s script. Together with the previously noted factors, it helps to prove once and for all why the writing behind The Expendables 3 is the most important aspect to the movie. While it is the most important aspect of the movie’s success, it isn’t the only factor that makes the movie enjoyable for lovers of real action flicks. The work of the cast in terms of its acting is just as notable to the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing behind The Expendables 3 is a solid foundation for the movie’s success. Resting just as easily on that foundation is the cast’s acting. The cast’s acting is just as enjoyable as the writing. Watching Barney (Stallone) and Hunter (Schwarzenegger) go was itself like watching a time capsule being opened up. At no one point do either of the duo’s portrayals feel forced. And even Drummer (Harrison Ford) is entertaining in a supporting role. Audiences that grew up watching Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be pleased that Ford wasn’t entirely relegated to the back burner in his role. And Blade himself, Wesley Snipes was just as entertaining in his portrayal of Doc. Watching Doc is just like Watching Blade, especially early on when he is first broken off of the train. While the performances by Snipes, Ford, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger were each impressive in their own right, it is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Stonebanks that is most notable. Gibson has his own experience in the action realm. But his portrayal here is peculiar. That’s not to say that Gibson did a bad job. Rather, he walks a fine line throughout the movie. He never really goes full classic, hammy action movie villain. Nor does he go the route of say Heath Ledger’s Joker a la The Dark Knight or any other villain. It’s almost like he tried to really channel certain classic action movie villains and those of recent years all into one for his portrayal. While a little bit uneasy, the end result is still a villain that remains believable enough. And set against Stallone and the rest of his team, Stonebanks becomes even more entertaining. The rest of the team is just as enjoyable in its own right. But it really is these core actors that make the acting in The Expendables 3 so enjoyable and an important part of the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing and acting that went into The Expendables 3 are both important in their own right to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment. The last element that makes the movie work as well as it does is the movie’s pacing. Over the course of the movie’s two hour run time, the movie rarely lets up. The only time at which it slows even slightly is when Barney is telling his team mates about breaking up the team. Even in a later moment when they–Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture)–sit ruminating on the development, the pacing doesn’t let up. It would have been so easy to go over the top with this moment. But Stallone and his co-writers don’t allow that to happen. They keep the story moving, allowing for the bulk of the story to be spent on its more important moments. And it is because of this that the movie never loses a step. Because it never loses a step, it allows for more enjoyment of the cast’s acting and of the elements incorporated into the movie’s script. It connects everything, making the movie complete and proving once more why it stands out proudly among Hollywood’s current forgettable crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes.

Hollywood’s current crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes is largely forgettable. They are movies that were churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios more for the sake of making money than actually entertaining audiences. The Expendables 3 is not one of those movies. It has proven through the combination of its in depth writing, the acting by its cast, and its pacing, that it actually sets out both to make money and to entertain audiences. It succeeded in both areas thanks to its global ticket sales total and despite being largely covered up by the rest of the blockbusters churned out this summer. Those flash-in-the-pan flicks will largely be forgotten. But this modern blast from the past is one that every true lover of action flicks will remember and want to watch again and again proving once and for all why it is one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered on DVD + Digital via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=The%20Expendables%203. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Advertisements

Guardians Of The Galaxy Is 2014’s Best New Movie

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios/Disney

Courtesy: Marvel Studios/Disney

Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014 hands down.  This diamond in the rough is a solid answer to director Tim Burton’s recent declaration that he wanted to see a happy superhero movie.  Given, the “guardians” aren’t exactly superheroes.  But at a time when the fare offered by Marvel and DC has become increasingly dark and dominated by damaged, anti-hero figures, this movie shines as the antithesis of those movies.  One part action and one part fantasy it is the breath of fresh air that the superhero/comic book genre has needed for some time and could not have come at a better time.  The movie’s multifaceted script lies at the center of its success.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as important to its success.  And last but hardly least worth noting of the movie’s success is its collective look and feel.  That includes both its backdrops and its special effects.  The combination of all of these elements proves exactly why Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one of this year’s best new movies if not the year’s best new movie.  One can only hope that Marvel won’t abandon everything that made this movie great when its sequel comes along in 2017.  Time will tell.  Until such time, audiences will agree that this movie more than deserves a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s best new movies.

When Warner Brothers debuted its Tim Burton-helmed take on Batman in 1989, it proved to be something of an anomaly.  No movie at the time or even before had taken the route taken by this movie.  It was dark and brooding, just as Bob Kane had first envisioned him.  It wouldn’t be until 2005’s Batman Begins that audiences would see the rebirth of the brooding superhero.  Some will argue that 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, which started in 2000, would qualify in that category.  But that’s only because of the inclusion of one Wolverine.  That being said, Batman Begins is to thank and to blame for what has become of the superhero/comic book genre.  That being said, the debut of Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air.  It is the antithesis of those movies in every sense.  And that is thanks first and foremost to the movie’s multi-faceted script.  The script, crafted by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, avoids every one of the trappings of the movies churned out by both Marvel and DC in recent years.  One of those trappings is the brooding superhero approach used by both Marvel and DC throughout the studios’ ongoing competition.  The script keeps the brooding to an extreme minimum with the extent of it being centered on Peter’s own thoughts of his mother’s death when he was a boy.  The brooding on the part of Drax and Gamora on the loss of their own families at the hands of Thanos and Ronan is kept to just as much of a minimum.  Because Gunn and Perlman keep the characters’ brooding in question, it allows for the movie’s related themes, jokes, and story to take center stage.  The end result is a script that while hardly timeless is still one of the most entertaining to come along in a long time both within the superhero/comic book genre and within the action drama in whole.

Gunn and Perlman are more than deserving of applause because of the fact that they took the road less traveled in their script, opting to keep the story’s brooding to an extreme minimum.  In comparison to the rest of the movies churned out by Marvel and DC in recent years, it really is the single most important factor of the duo’s script. It isn’t the only reason that the script works, either.  The themes of family and friendship that the pair incorporated into the story are even more reason for applause.  They go hand in hand with that lack of brooding.  Throughout the course of the story’s script, Gunn and Perlman note the importance of family and friendship.   Gunn and Perlman essentially tell audiences through their script that friends and family don’t have to be just like one another to come together.  They don’t always have to completely like one another, either.  They even go so far as to jokingly say through the quartet’s interactions that the least likely of friends and families can come together when one least expects it.  This message is driven home in the movie’s final minutes, which won’t be given away for the sake of those that have yet to see the movie.  It is something of a cheesy moment, given.  But again in comparison to the previous releases from Marvel and DC, it’s a refreshingly cheesy moment.  It’s yet another aspect of the Guardians’ script that makes the movie such a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the movie is yet another aspect of the movie’s script that adds to its enjoyment.

The contrast of the positive themes and overall lack of brooding in the Guardians’ script is a hugely important aspect of the script that makes it a success.  The jokes that are tossed around throughout the script make it even more of a joy for audiences.  Whether it be the jokes added to Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon’s banter or the pop culture references used as jokes, or other jokes in general, Gunn and Perlman did an outstanding job in this area, too.  The banter between Peter and Rocket is a laugh riot.  Of course the acting on the part of Chris Pratt and Bradley Cooper respectively doesn’t hurt that banter and its jokes, either.  It’s classic back and forth that audiences haven’t seen in a very long time.  There are also plenty of pop culture references used themselves as jokes, including constant references to the hit 1984 Kevin Bacon starring vehicle Footloose.  And Peter’s attempt at a dance-off in order to distract Ronan at one point (again that moment won’t be revealed here) is itself a reference to Michael Jackson if one watches closely.  It’s one thing to use pop culture references in a movie or TV show by themselves to get laughs.  But to use them as jokes (especially as running gags) is rather smart writing.  There are also plenty of stand-alone jokes that will have audiences laughing along the way, too.  The jokes in question aren’t right in audiences’ faces.  But they are clear enough that there’s no missing them.  Again, such placement is very smart writing.  It still is not the end of what makes the script’s writing the key point of success behind Guardians of the Galaxy.  Last but not least worth noting in considering the strength of the Guardians’ script is the story itself.

The story behind Guardians of the Galaxy is the last element of its writing that makes it the hit that it has deservedly proven to be.  The reason that the story works as well as it does is its simplicity.  It seems on the surface that there is a lot involved in the story.  That is because of the amount of backstabbing that goes on.  But the story, at its heart, centers on one fanatical madman’s attempts to destroy an entire race of people and their home world because of his own personal beliefs.  It was used in J.J. Abrams’ recent reboot of Star Trek most recently.  It’s a tried and true plot that has been used any number of times before in other action movies.  And even here it still manages to work in its given setting.  This is especially worth noting considering the story’s extra elements—the chase for Peter Quill and the Orb, Gamora backstabbing Ronan, etc.  There is a lot of extra backstory that is thrown into the mix.  That extra could easily have bogged down the central story.  But even with two people handling the script, that didn’t happen, amazingly enough.  Because those extras don’t bog down the movie’s central plot, said plot is that much easier to grasp and follow, thus keeping viewers engaged from start to finish.  That, alongside the other noted factors that went into the script, shows once and for all why the movie’s writing makes it the best new movie of 2014.

A lot of work went into the writing behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.  The painstaking efforts that were taken to make this blockbuster stand out against its competition were not for naught, either.  Rather it collectively paid off and then some.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast should not be ignored as a reason for its success, either.  The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is just as much to thank for its enjoyment and success as the writing behind the movie.  The constant back and forth banter between Bradley Cooper and Chris Pratt makes for plenty of laughs throughout the movie.  At no one point does the duo’s arguing feel forced.  It feels entirely natural, which is what makes it so entertaining.  Cooper’s portrayal of Rocket set against Vin Diesel’s Groot is just as funny.  Both situations are classic comedy brought into the 21st century. Pro wrestler Dave Bautista’s own interactions with his cast mates on screen make for their own laughs, too as audiences will see when they watch the movie for themselves. One would be remiss to ignore Pratt’s own comic timing both by himself and set against the talents of others. Audiences will laugh uproariously at his comic timing when he distracts Ronan with his “dance off.” It’s yet another way that the cast’s acting makes Guardians of the Galaxy such a surprisingly entertaining work. Yet it still is not all that makes this movie so enjoyable, either. The movie’s look and feels make the movie even better. They collectively round out the movie’s positives and prove once and for all why any lover of action movies and the superhero/comic book genre will love this movie. Together with the cast’s acting and the movie’s overall writing, it proves once and for all why Guardians of the Galaxy is the best new movie of 2014.

It seems like almost every one of the movie spit out by Marvel and DC in recent years have become increasingly dark and gritty in their stories but in their look and feel, too. Thankfully Guardians of the Galaxy is the polar opposite of those movies in this aspect, too. It incorporates some dark elements in terms of its look and feel, yes. But there are also rather bright, colorful backdrops used throughout the movie. And thanks to all of the comic elements incorporated into both the movie’s script and the cast’s acting, the movie’s feel is just as colorful, light, and light-hearted. It is such a welcome change of pace from all of the movies released by Marvel and DC in recent years and even harkens back to the likes of Iron Man in its own interesting way. Not only does it have that same sort of light hearted, comedic feel, but it also has that same sort of playful edge about it, too. That mix of the movie’s fun feel and its balance of light and dark backdrops is perfectly balanced from the movie’s opening flashback to its final minutes. The end result of that mix leaves audiences wanting to see more in the best way possible. With any luck, Guardians 2 will have just as much of a positive look and feel. For that matter hopefully it will have just as solid a script and acting. If it does, then it will prove the success of this movie to be far more than just a fluke.

So much work went into bringing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy to life. And that work more than paid off. The movie’s multifaceted writing is its cornerstone. It incorporates themes of family and friendship that audiences of all ages will appreciate. It also avoids all of the brooding that has been a trademark of so many of Marvel and DC’s other previous releases. And the story itself is simple in every sense of the word. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast makes the movie all the more entertaining. It will leave audiences laughing nonstop from beginning to end. The look and feel of the movie is the polar opposite of so many movies that have come before, too from Marvel and DC. Each noted element makes Guardians of the Galaxy a memorable and entertaining movie in its own right. Together, they make it the single best new movie of 2014 fluke or not.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

(hed) p.e. Kicking Off 2015 With New Slate Of Live Dates

Courtesy:  Pavement Entertainment

Courtesy: Pavement Entertainment

(hed) p.e. will spend the first part of 2015 on the road.

The members of (hed) p.e. announced Monday a new slate of tour dates. The band’s latest tour schedule kicks off Friday, January 9th in Colorado Springs, Colorado and runs winds down Friday, February 6th in Lincoln, Nebraska. The latest tour schedule is in continued support of the band’s latest full length studio release Evolution.

Powerman 5000 has been tapped to join (hed) p.e. for its upcoming twenty-four date tour. It is also touring in support of its own new full-length studio effort Builders of the Future.

More information on (hed) p.e. and its tour is available online at:

Website: http://www.hedperocks.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hedpe

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/hedpe

Twitter: http://twitter.com/hedpe

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Opposite Sex Is An Edgy, Entertaining Rom-Com

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Courtesy: Cinedigm

Opposites attract or so people have been raised to understand. That old adage has served as the basis for so many rom-coms throughout the ages. Apparently so do people with the same personality type as is seen in indie studio Cinedigm’s new rom-com The Opposite Sex. Not to be confused with the 1956 June Allyson/Joan Collins rom-com, this movie is a fun, edgy romp that will have audiences laughing nonstop from start to finish. It obviously isn’t the first story of its kind by any means. But the execution of its oft-used boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end formula is relatively creative. It’s interesting to note that while similar setups have been used in previous rom-coms, this one is perhaps the first to actually incorporate a figure whose job it is to break up marriages himself finding love in the most unexpected place. The script behind The Opposite Sex is within itself plenty of reason to check out this new indie rom-com. The work of the star-studded movie’s cast is just as praiseworthy. Geoff Stults conjures Charlie Sheen’s Charlie Harper and even Josh Duhamel as he plays the chauvinistic Vince opposite the equally strong-willed Jane (Mena Suvari). The supporting cast on both sides collectively adds its own touch to the film making for even more laughs. Through it all, the movie’s pacing and its run time come together to round out the reasons for the success of The Opposite Sex. The movie–minus end credits–clocks in right at ninety minutes. throughout the course of that time, the story’s pacing never loses a step. Together with the work of the movie’s cast and the script behind the whole thing, The Opposite Sex proves to be a late addition to this year’s list of the best new indie flicks and the best new movies overall, too.

The Opposite Sex is not the first story of its kind. That goes without saying. The standard boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end formula used as the script’s basis has been used for nearly every rom-com that has come before it. Yet the execution of that formula makes this indie rom-com stand solidly on its own two feet. This applies both among the indie film community and that of its much bigger-name counterparts. Co-writers and cast mates Jennifer Finnigan (Tyrant, Better With You, Close To Home) and Josh Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Close To Home) placed lead character Vince in the position of a successful, high-powered divorce lawyer who ends up finding love through the most unexpected place. His character in particular is relatively original. Though audiences that are familiar with the likes of Hitch, What Women Want, and How To Lose A Guy in Ten Days will see instant similarities between those movies and this work. Just like the aforementioned stories, this work sees the standard male lead with the “bachelor for life” mentality “unexpectedly” falling for a certain woman after his view of the opposite sex changes over the time that he spends with her. In the case of The Opposite Sex Vince finds that certain female love interest thanks to his friend’s wife Stephanie (Jennnifer Finnigan). Stephanie is old friends with Jane (Suvari). Jane and Stephanie’s decades-longfriendship leads to a rather interesting meeting between Jane and Vince, which in itself makes for its own share of laughs. That first unfcomfortable (in many more ways than one) meeting is the first spark that leads to the pair’s slowly evolving romance. Again, the formula is very similar to previous rom-coms. But the ability of FInnigan and Silverman to change things up just a bit is just enough to make the script work in this case.

The formula used for The Opposite Sex’s script is one that is quite well-known to audiences of the rom-com genre. To the credit of both Jennifer Finnigan and Josh Silverman, the pair was adapted the formula in question just enough in the case of this movie to keep the story entertaining from start to finish. The script itself would have been nothing though, without a cast to properly interpret and make it entertaining. Again, lead stars Mena Suvari (Six Feet Under, American Beauty, Chicago Fire) and Geoff Stults (Wedding Crashers, She’s Out Of My League, The Breakup) do just that. And considering the duo’s experience in the world of rom-coms, it should come as no surprise. Suvari will have even the movie’s male audiences laughing as Jane puts Vince in his place time and again without even the slightest hint of remorse. From making a bet on a twenty-dollar pool game to some rather more interesting situations, Jane never once lets herself become the standard pushover female who ends up giving in to the guy. This submission on the part of the female lead happens far too often in other rom-coms. So it’s nice to see that didn’t happen here. It’s yet another way in which this movie stands out from its bigger-name counterparts. The duo’s supporting cast adds even more enjoyment to the movie, too. Audiences will find themselves laughing just as much as Stephanie (Finnigan) and Jane (Suvari) team up to play charades against Vince (Stults) and Kenny (Josh Hopkins). The sight of Kenny trying to act out the act of taxidermy will have audiences laughing tears of joy. It is such a hilarious moment because there is so much truth to something as simple as charades. The actors’ reactions to Kenny’s attempts only adds to the moment’s hilarity. And even when Kenny is by himself, trying to counsel a couple played by Josh Silverman and Nadia Dajani, audiences will laugh just as much. Add in a cameo guest spot by former N’Sync member Joey Fatone, and audiences will see just how important the work of The Opposite Sex’s cast was to the movie’s enjoyment and success. On a side note, Fatone’s blooper with Stults and Hopkins in the movie’s end credits makes for just as many laughs. Getting back to the movie’s main factors, the acting on the part of its cast does plenty to make it enjoyable, as audiences will see when they watch it for themselves. Its run time and pacing play their own pivotal role in the movie’s success, too. They come together to solidify it and show once and for all why it is just as entertaining as any of its bigger-name counterparts.

The scripting and acting that went into The Opposite Sex offers audiences more than its collective share of laughs. Even being an independent release, its script and the work of its cast make it just as entertaining as its more well-known counterparts. While both the script and the acting are key to that level of success, the movie’s pacing and companion run time play just as much of a role in its enjoyment. At no one point does The Opposite Sex ever lose audiences either in terms of its script or its cast’s acting. It never moves too fast or too slow, thus allowing audiences to enjoy every quip and every joke surrounding the never-ending battle of the sexes. It’s all done over the course of about ninety minutes. That perhaps is the most intriguing factor of all in the movie’s success. Not counting its end credits, it comes in right at about ninety minutes. That is roughly par for course in terms of run times for the rom-coms churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios. The combination of that standard run time and solid pacing completes The Opposite Sex, proving once more why this movie is just as enjoyable as any more well-known rom-com past or present. It shows once more that indie flicks can and are just as worth the watch as anything that Hollywood’s major studios can churn out and have, too. Keeping that in mind, The Opposite Sex proves that despite a familiar formula, the movie’s script, its cast’s acting and its collective pacing and run time make it one of this year’s best independent movies and one of the best movies of 2014.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Altina Is A Good Watch For Any Student And Lover Of Art And Art History

Courtesy:  First Run Features

Courtesy: First Run Features

Artist. Film maker. Ground breaker. All of these terms apply quite well to famed figure Altina. Most people probably don’t know who Altina was or is. Even those within the art world’s tighter circles might not be entirely familiar with her work and her legacy. Now thanks to First Run Features, this landmark woman has been given the respect that she so rightfully deserves within that world’s history. Her life and legacy have finally been presented in First Run Features’ new documentary simply titled Altina. Audiences will most appreciate about Altina the fact that Altina’s life and legacy were presented in full. Audiences see every aspect of her life as told by those that were closest to her. Nothing is held back in their stories, including her apparently strong sexual appetite. The stories told by her fourth husband about her appetite will leave audiences laughing uproariously. The stories of her humility will move those same audiences. There is even footage containing interviews with Altina before her passing that will entertain audiences just as much. The stories shared by Altina and those closest to her are collectively a big part of what makes this documentary a must see for lovers of art of all ages. Also incorporated into the presentation are shots of pieces that Altina painted and sculpted. They serve to show just how much Altina stood out from the rest of the artists within her world. Last worth noting is the juxtaposition of the feature’s pacing to its run time. Altina runs roughly eighty minutes. Within the course of that run time, those charged with bringing the whole thing to life manage to keep audiences fully engaged with the documentary’s mix of stories and pictures. The end result is a pacing that loses audiences at not even one point, thus proving why Altina is a piece that any lover of art and/or art history should see at least once.

Altina is a documentary that is very much a niche presentation. It is a work that any lover of art and/or at history should see at least once. That is regardless of audiences’ familiarity with Altina and her legacy within the art world. The central reason for such enjoyment is the documentary’s collections of stories. Stories of Altina’s life and legacy are shared by those closest to her including both her friends and her family. There are also stories shared by Altina through archived interviews with her that were recorded before her passing in 1999. The stories culled for the program will at times leave audiences laughing. At other times, they will find themselves rather moved by the discussions of her upbringing and her personal humility throughout her life. Time and again, those interviewed for this documentary make note of her appreciation of everyone and her general love of life and of people. She apparently had quite the love of a certain adult activity, too. She had a love for said activity even into her older years, which when audiences hear this, will leave them laughing. That’s especially the case when audiences learn not only of her appetite but also of her alleged stamina. Simply put, what audiences learn through the collected stories is that unlike so many artists before her, after her, and even unlike her counterparts of the time, Altina was completely unlike other well-known names within the art world. As a matter of fact, the stories presented here paint a picture of a woman that was the total antithesis of the stereotype that surrounded (and still surrounds today) most art figures. Just knowing that there was at least one figure that defied that stereotype makes her endearing to audiences again regardless of audiences’ familiarity with the woman, her life, and legacy.

The stories that are shared about and by Altina throughout the course of her new bio by themselves make Altina well worth the watch by any lover of art and/or art history. They are made even more interesting when set against the pictures of Altina’s work. Those charged with working on the documentary include pictures of benches, chairs, and even some paintings and a skate, illustrating the breadth of her talent. It showed the versatility of her talents. And when coupled with the bio’s stories, the pictures in question gain a whole new life and depth. The benches and chairs for instance are discussed by Altina’s fourth husband. He explains how the pair worked on a numberof them together. It goes to show the love that the pair had for their craft and for one another. In turn, it shows the true love that the couple shared, even with his being her fourth husband (unofficially as audiences will learn in his interviews). The detail and the colors in all of Altina’s creations set them apart from so much artwork of its time. And incomparison to works created both before and after, that attention to detail continues to make them stand out even today. Having such understand showsonce again why Altina itself stands out, too as a documentary. The coupling of her art and the stories surrounding said art makes Altina all the more enjoyable for any lover of art and/or art history.

Those charged with bringing Altina to life for audiences are to be applauded for their efforts. The program presents quite a bit of information on Altina’s life and legacy from start to finish. Audiences are never left feeling lost at any one point, either. That is thanks to the fact that all of the material shared over the course of the bio’s eighty-minute run time was so well balanced. The balance in question created a solid pacing that will keep audiences engaged from start to finish. And even at eighty minutes, that pacing doesn’t feel to be too much. It is the last touch to a documentary that stands out just as much as the subject featured at its center. Together with the documentary’s stories and their companion pictures, the program’s pacing and run time solidify Altina as a piece well worth the watch by any student or lover of art and/or art history.

Altina is available now on DVD. It can be ordered direct from First Run Features’ online store at http://firstrunfeatures.com/altina.html. More information on this and other releases from First Run Features is available online now at:

Website: http://www.firstrunfeatures.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/firstrunfeatures

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Paramount’s Ninja Turtles Reboot Proves To Be One Of 2014’s Worst New Movies

Courtesy:  Paramount Pictures

Courtesy: Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures’ updated take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the worst new movies of 2014. There is no way to sugarcoat it. Simply put, it is one more example of why Hollywood’s (and audiences’) seemingly insatiable appetite for prequels, sequels, and remakes can only mean a bleak future for the industry’s “Power Five” studios. The central reason for the failure of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is its writing. While the movie’s writers and the studio did back down on the original idea for the Turtles’ origin story, the story incorporated into the story proves to be just as bad. There is also the issue of the plot. While it can be said that the movie’s plot is not necessarily as cheesy as some of the plot lines from the animated series, there is still something about this movie’s plot that makes it unbearable. And dangling the proverbial carrot in front of old school audiences in the form of references to the original animated series (and movie) hurts the movie even more in terms of the movie’s writing. It’s one more example of why having multiple people working on a single script serves only to hurt said script. This has been proven time and again in a number of works before this one. TMNT is just the latest. Just as noteworthy is the acting. Credit should e given where credit is due. The actors behind the turtles are deserving of their due respect. However, the acting on the part of lead Meghan Fox and the movie’s supporting cast falls flat. Even actor Will Arnett comes up short as April’s photog Vernon Fenwick. He had the look. And he did make a valiant effort at his portrayal. But it still came up short in the end. Those issues with the cast’s acting coupled with the issues raised in the movie’s script hurt TMNT in a major way. They still are not all that hurt the movie. Last but hardly least of all that goes against the movie is its collective look and production values. Michael Bay wasn’t at the helm of TMNT. But in watching the movie, one may as well say that he was. That is because the movie’s look and its production values are quite similar to the much maligned Transformers franchise that he previously helmed. It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin, sealing the movie’s fate and proving once more why this movie is one of the worst of 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was and is one of the best movies to leap from the pages of comic books. That is the original live action movie that debuted in 1990. This year’s new update on that modern classic is the polar opposite of that incarnation. It’s painfully obvious from start to finish, too beginning with the movie’s overall writing. The movie’s plot by itself does plenty to hurt the movie. And it all begins with the Turtles’ much mailgned origin story. Those that followed this movie from the days even before its pre-production started will recall that the origin story was going to have Leo, Raph, Don, and Mikey come in as aliens from another planet. Thankfully that didn’t happen. However, the origin story that took its place is just as problematic. That story won’t be revealed here for the sake of those that have yet to watch the movie. But it directly involves April O’Neil. And to a point, it takes a page from Sony’s latest incarnation of Spiderman. April’s revelation at her link to the Turtles’ origin story is cheesy enough. But the acting on the part of actress Megan Fox, who plays April, only serves to make that revelation even more unbelievable. The acting on the part of the cast will be discussed in more depth at a later point. For now, the focus will remain on the movie’s writing.

The origin story crafted for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is but one part of the writing that hurts this big screen reboot bust. The movie’s very plot plays its own role in the movie’s failure. The movie’s plot sees Shredder and the Foot Clan–which is made more into a pseudo militia group here instead of the old school, evil ninja group from the original movie and animated series–trying to spread a virus through New York City. In turn, they and Eric Sacks (William Fitchner) can use the mutagen that created the Turtles for their own financial gain. Yes, it’s true. In defense of this plot, those that are familiar with the original animated series, there was an episode in which Shreddder sent up a satellite-like device the changed the weather around the world as a means for him and Krang to take over the world. So keeeping that in consideration it isn’t too cheesy of a plot. There’s still something about it in the script’s writing though, that makes it not entirely believable. Speaking of the comparison between this incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the original animated series (and the franchise’s original movie), that is yet another issue in the writing that hurts this movie.

The issues raised through the origin story and plot incorporated into Paramount’s new take on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both make the movie’s writing rather problematic in their own way. One can’t ignore the fact that Applebaum, Nemec and Daugherty did try to please the fans of the franchise’s original animated series and 1990 movie with constant throwback references to both. They even made sure to include the skateboards used in both properties. The issue at hand with making such references is that through the script’s previously noted problems, adding in those references essentially becomes a slap in the face to the fans that grew up with those originals. It’s the same as dangling the carrot in front of a donkey (or rabbit) only to have it pulled away for lack of better wording. Simply put, it is disrespectful to said audiences.

The writing behind the script for Paramount’s new incarnation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a big part of what has made this movie one of the worst of this year’s new releases. While the writing proves to be quite problematic, it is only the beginning of the movie’s problems. The work of the movie’s cast is just as problematic. Actress Megan Fox plays April O’Neil in this version of TMNT. Her reaction at discovering her role in the origin of the Turtles is awful. It is so over the top and hammy that one can only shake one’s hand. While Will Arnett deserves at least some credit for trying to properly portray Vernon Fenwick, even he comes up short. He is hit and miss at best. To the cast’s credit, the men behind the mean green machine–Johnny Knoxville (Bad Grampa, Men in Black 2, Jackass), Pete Ploszek (Parks & Rec, Shameless), Jeremy Howard (Men in Black 2, Galaxy Quest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), Noel Fisher (Final Destination 2, Red, Battle Los Angeles), and Alan Ritchson (Fired Up, Blue Mountain State, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) are to be commended for their work. They did quite the job of establishing the attitude and comic element for which the Turtles have been known for decades in their protrayals. Sadly the same can’t be said for the duo of Tony Shahoub (Monk, Wings, Men in Black 1 – 3) and Danny Woodburn (Mirror Mirror, Employee of the Month, Death to Smoochy). The duo partnered to bring Splinter to life. Whether it is their own work (or lack thereof) or because of how Splinter was written into the story, their portrayals did little to make Splinter really stand out at any one point in the story. So simply put, the only positives that can be pointed out in terms of the acting in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the acting of the men that brought Leo, Don, Raph and Mikey to life. other than that, not much positive can be said of the rest of the cast’s work. It’s yet another example of why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up far short of its potential and proves in the end to be one of this year’s worst new releases.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comes up short in so many ways. its writing is the biggest offender when examining why the movie falls short. The acting on the part of the movie’s cast is another issue. Last but hardly least of note that damaged TMNT is the collective look and production values incorporated into the movie. Michael Bay did not helm this reboot of the classic franchise. But even as a producer, his influence is blatantly obvious throughout the movie. The fast-paced shots, the giant explosions, and of course Shredder’s Transformers-esque look show just how much influence he obviously had in this movie. The only positive to it all is April’s look. The use of a yellow jacket in place of a cheesy full body jumpsuit is the only fully acceptable update to the whole thing. Other than that one positive, one might as well just say that this was another Michael Bay film despite the fact that he was only a producer instead of director. And that considered along with all of the movie’s other negatives is the final nail in the movie’s coffin. One can only hope that whenever the already-in-the-works sequel debuts, it will make up for everything that this movie got wrong. Regardless, this reboot will remain among the worst new major motion pictures of 2014.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Bengals Host Broncos Monday Night On ESPN In Pivotal Playoff Game

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Next Monday night, Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals will play what is one of the most important games of the season for the team when it plays host to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Cincinnati and Denver will face off at Paul brown Stadium Monday night on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The Broncos (11 – 3) have already clinched the AFC West title. So for Denver, Monday night’s game will be a tune-up for the playoffs. For Cincinnati though, Monday night’s game means much more. Cincinnati currently sits at 9 – 4 – 1 on the season coming into Monday night’s game. And even if the Bengals win, it doesn’t guarantee a playoff spot for the team or even the division title. A handful of scenarios have to play out for Cincinnati to get the AFC North division title. And almost all of them require Cincinnati to win out at least Monday night.

The first way that Cincinnati can snag the AFC North title is to win out both Monday night and against the Steelers in Week 17. The second way that the Bengals can clinch the division title is to win at least one game between this week and next week and losses by both the Steelers and Ravens. In order to clinch a playoff spot, one of two scenarios has to happen. The first scenario is a win at least this week or next week against Pittsburgh. The other scenario would allow Cincinnati to lose both this week and next ONLY IF Kansas City, San Diego and Buffalo all lose at least once between this week and next. Making Monday night’s game all the more important for Cincinnati is the teams prime time record. Cincy is 18 – 41 all time in prime-time and 10 – 20 on Monday Night.  Taking an even deeper look at the teams’ numbers, Denver is only 4 – 3 on the road versus going undefeated at home. The team has gone 4 – 1 – 0 in its last five game. Cincy has only one more win on the road than at home, going 5 – 2 – 0 on the road and 4 – 2 – 1 at home. It is also 4 – 1 – 0 in its last five games. So it goes without saying that Monday night’s game will be one of the most important of the season for Cincinnati.

Adding to the interest of Monday’s games is talk of long term impacts of hits on Peyton this season and what it might mean in regards to his off season surgery. Manning will sit down with ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play man Mike Tirico to discuss that and more as part of the night’s pre-game broadcast.  Sideline reporter Lisa Salters will have a discussion with Bengals QB Andy Dalton on the other side of the ball. She and Dalton will discuss what a win tonight would mean both for him and his teammates and getting over the playoff hurdles of the past three seasons among other topics. Both interviews are part of Monday’s pre-game show Monday Night Countdown. Suzy Kolber will anchor Monday night’s broadcast. She will be joined by NFL analysts Trent Dilfer, Ray Lewis, and Steve Young live on-site. Chris Berman will anchor live from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. He will be joined by NFL analysts Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Tom Jackson, and Keyshawn Johnson and ESPN NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Monday Night Countdown kicks off at 6pm ET.

Kickoff for Monday night’s game is scheduled for 8:15pm ET. Mike Tirico will have the call from the booth. He will be joined by Jon Gruden, who just last week agreed to a contract extension with ESPN. The extension will keep Gruden in the booth alongside Mike Tirico through 2021, when ESPN’s next contract with the NFL comes up. Lisa Salters will be on the sidelines for Monday night’s game with all of the latest in-game news and reports. Monday Night Football is available for ESPN’s Spanish-speaking fans on ESPN Deportes and online via WatchESPN for those with video subscriptions from affiliated providers. More information on Mondays’ game and on all things NFL is available online at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/nfl/mnf
http://espn.go.com/nfl

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MNF
http://www.facebook.com/NFLonESPN

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.