Winter-Spring 2016 Mini Movie Reviews

SPOTLIGHT
11/25/15

Key Players: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo

SpotlightEven though I’ve only spent a couple of short months in a real hustle-and-bustle newsroom and never at a major paper, I still get really amped when I watch movies about that kind of setting. It takes me back to when I worked for my college paper—the Spotlight team’s tiny room sectioned off from the rest of the staff made me nostalgic for our tiny computer lab in the basement of the student union, heavy with the scent of newsprint and stale coffee.

Spotlight truly deserved its Best Picture win—what a powerful film. As a journalist, I easily related to their passion for the story, their sense of duty to discover the truth and unveil it to the world. As a former Catholic school kid, the statistics were staggering. Based on true facts, Spotlight tells the story of how The Boston Globe exposed the wide-spread scandal of pedophilic priests and the massive cover-up within the Catholic Church. It hit the front page of the Sunday paper in early 2002 and sent shockwaves around the country—and, as the end credits show, the world.

Should you see it?
If you enjoy journalism movies or are interested in the subject matter. I highly recommend it.

. Continue reading

Advertisements

Australia’s Sweetheart Takes Home The Mirror Ball

Winners

For the first time ever in its 21-season run, I finally gave a flying pirouette about who won “Dancing With The Stars” this fall.

I’m usually somewhat aware of the line-up as each new one is announced, waiting for a name that actually aligns with my Hollywood interests. They’re few and far between; I’ve always argued that the “stars” they enlist can barely be considered as such. They’re always has-beens, reality rejects, former athletes, or ‘90s pop stars.

In my opinion, the most famous thing to come out of DWTS is the Hough siblings. Julianne is trying to establish herself as a B-list actress—you can see her step into reckless Ariel’s dancing shoes in the 2011 “Footloose” remake, dueting with Tom Cruise in the 2012 “Rock of Ages” screen adaptation, or taking on a drippy Nicholas Sparks romance opposite Josh Duhamel in 2013’s “Safe Haven.” Her older brother Derek is known more for his choreography, but he also had a brief guest role on ABC’s “Nashville” last year and the sibs recently went up against each other on Spike’s LL Cool J-hosted “Lip Sync Battle.”

But this season, I had to tune in. Granted, I was only interested in the performances of one particular dancer, but I tuned in just the same instead of rolling my eyes once again at the premise of this show.

In September of 2006, I was a baby-faced freshman at Lock Haven University. I was just beginning my journalism classes, adjusting to dorm life, and trying to make new friends out of a sea of over 6,000 students. And in my first weekend, I received the news that shocked most of America: Steve Irwin, wildlife warrior and famed Crocodile Hunter, had died in a tragic accident.

BindiI loved watching Steve. His joyful mission to save animals was full of so much passion and enthusiasm that it was instantaneously contagious. He inspired me. And I cried right along with his wife, family, and friends during the publicly aired memorial service a little over a week later.

So when DWTS revealed that their 2015 shining star would undeniably be 17-year-old Bindi, Steve’s bubbly and charming daughter, I knew I would want to watch. Continue reading

Famous Favorites

When you love pop culture and entertainment as much as I do, you come to realize something: Having favorite celebrities is rather different than having favorite actors or singers. You can love a person for who they are (who could have guessed) while not really loving their role choices or song style. To me, that’s the mark of a celeb doing things right. When they’re not fake or trying too hard, but just down-to-earth people who remind us that celebs are people too. Knocking down the stereotypes of “celebrity,” they make us like them just by being them. I, naturally, have a ton of people like this in mind, but let’s start with three:

JTJustin Timberlake: Here’s the thing about JT. I’ve been in love with him since his spaghetti-fro days and I always suspected he would have a successful solo career. But I haven’t always enjoyed his style of music. When I was a knee-socked elementary school kid, *NSYNC was my jam. Loved them. Knew it was a phase, but loved them. They were my first concert. When they broke up and Justin started doing his own thing, I was just a little disappointed that I didn’t immediately love it all. “Cry Me A River” can still get me singing in my car to this day, but that was about it. And as his style evolved, my enthusiasm waned. Until the “20/20 Experience.” The music was better, but the concert was mind-blowing. It made me love the music in spite of itself. Seeing him live was one of the best experiences of my life and I’m not even remotely embarrassed to admit that. He rose up out of the stage flanked by a full orchestra, decked out in—what else—a suit and tie and I was re-awakened to what it feels like to love JT. He’s a fantastic performer with a wonderful sense of humor—ever see him with Jimmy Fallon? Any conversation they have is hilarious. He’s taking time off now after his whirlwind tour to adjust to being a dad and I can’t wait to see what he does next. Continue reading

Summer Series Snapshot: The Strain | America’s Got Talent

It’s sometimes really hard to pick just one topic to write about, especially given how absorbed I can get into pop culture on a daily basis. The thing about entertainment is that it’s always evolving and changing and flowing; what was big news an hour ago is old news in even less time. So it’s time to do a little round-up of my current obsessions, specifically, summer television since options are limited but nonetheless entertaining. Here’s a couple items from my TiVo list that keep me occupied during the long dog days (and nights) of summer …

The Strain | Season 2 | Sundays at 10 on FX

The Strain

Basically a vampire version of The Walking Dead, I gave this a shot purely to have something to watch on Sunday nights. Here, we got to see the start of the apocalypse (though they’re not actually calling it that yet) and in some ways, it’s far more gruesome than Dead. These aren’t your teenage daughter’s vampires; no sparkling skin or brooding eyes. These guys dispel snake-length tongues that latch on and bleed you dry. If you manage to scrape by with just a scratch, you’ll likely find yourself with worms wriggling under your skin, spreading the infection. And when you turn, my, do you get ugly. Ugliest of all is The Master, king of the vamps, who has a mysterious tie to one of the main characters, played by David Bradley. He’s joined by a CDC scientist (Corey Stoll) and a small band of determined New Yorkers dead set on killing all the bloodsuckers and keeping the strain contained to the five boroughs. It’s incredibly slow-moving, but when the action does pop up, it’s disgusting. It’s sub-par television horror; I personally prefer zombies. Continue reading

Vacation Hangover Movies: Cruise Edition

The post-vacation transition from relaxation back to the rise-and-grind routine is usually a pretty tough one. At press time, it’s my first day “back to work” (working from home is such a godsend) after a 10-day cruise throughout the Caribbean. I boarded Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas with my family on Thursday, June 18 and spent the next week exploring: King’s Wharf, Bermuda … Philipsburg, St. MaartenSan Juan, Puerto Rico … and Labadee, Haiti. We kayaked. We snorkeled. We saw the sights. We swam. We sweat buckets on beautiful beaches. All while living on a floating oasis that offered an ice-skating rink, full-sized boxing ring, rock-climbing wall, surfing simulator, mini golf course, three pools, five hot tubs, and mouth-watering meal options that included a full daily buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, a coffee café, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor, cupcake shop, Johnny Rockets, sushi bar, 24-hour pizza, and a five-star formal dining room for dinner. (I’m actually working from home because I can’t see my feet anymore; I just roll from room to room.)

Needless to say, it was a wonderful escape … but it’s always nice to come home. I tend to return to reality with overwhelming wanderlust stowed away in my suitcase, so to help my travel hangover subside, I usually watch some movies that help me ease back into the real world. When I go to Disney World, I unwind with Disney movies. When I visit an island, movies that take place in Hawaii or Greece, usually. So since I just got off a 13-deck luxury ocean liner, I plan to indulge in some of my favorite flicks that take place on (or in) the high seas, such as:

Pirates of the Caribbean | 2003

PiratesBefore Johnny Depp became Disney’s cash cow and Tim Burton’s play thing, he was a respected actor who chose his roles very carefully. The tip of the slippery slope he’s found himself on in recent years (in my opinion) was his very first portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow—which isn’t to say that I don’t love those movies, because I do, very much so. I just don’t like what it did to his career and that they couldn’t stop at just one excellent film. Regardless, the first is the best, as is usually the case, and I absolutely love watching it when I want to get into a nautical mood. Based on the popular Walt Disney World attraction, it’s a highly quotable swashbuckling adventure that I’ve practically memorized. Drink up, me hearties, yo ho! Continue reading

Welcome To Jurassic World

This past weekend, I was all about the pop culture phenom-of-the-moment: I binge-watched season three of Netflix’s prison dramedy “Orange is the New Black” and sat enRAPTORed (ba-dum-BUM) throughout the record-breaking dino juggernaut “Jurassic World”—twice.

1907492_10100414465579958_262451441502663559_nI’ll get to OITNB later, but for now, #RaptorSquad4Lyfe!

Jurassic World exceeded all expectations, not only mine, but at the box office as well. It shattered opening weekend statistics, earning $524.4 million worldwide. (It’s the first film ever to make more than $500 million in one weekend!) Domestically, it was lagging only behind Avengers: Age of Ultron before finally smashing it down with $208.8 in U.S. sales. So, uh … wow.

I wanted this movie to be so good so badly (it is). I wanted to learn to like Chris Pratt (I did). I wanted to be amazed (I was). Most importantly, I wanted to know that all the years spent waiting would be worth it; for a while, it seemed a third sequel would never happen. We last saw the residents of Isla Nublar and Isla Sorna back in 2001 and perhaps the long wait was needed to refresh and hit us hard with a brand new concept. It’s been said that Jurassic World is intended to be direct sequel to the 1993 film, safe to pretend that the other two—The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and Jurassic Park 3 (2001)—don’t even exist. Probably wise.

Hats off to director Colin Trevorrow and executive producer Steven Spielberg (director of the legendary original); the film was both an homage to and brilliant reimagining of John Hammond’s innovative vision. The park is open!

Here’s how Jurassic World rates against its predecessor (IMO): Continue reading

Girl Meets World: A Season 1 Review

Title

Boy Meets World was the sitcom darling of a generation who grew up learning everything about life from one Mr. George Feeny. It was the best part of ABC’s TGIF line-up in the late ‘90s and the show I most looked forward to. It was chock-full of important lessons without patronizing kids. It was wholesome without being too cheesy or unrealistic. And most of all, it was flat-out hilarious.

When the show went off the air in 2000, it developed a cult following of fans who could recite nearly every line of dialogue and laughed in all the right spots as though it were still the first time they were hearing the lines—myself included. Without fail, the final scene of the series finale guts me like no other TV show ever has. The uncontrollable tears start as soon as Mr. Feeny tells them to “Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good.”

So when the news broke a couple years ago that creator Michael Jacobs was going to attempt a Disney Channel-hosted sequel featuring Cory and Topanga’s coming-of-age daughter, the internet exploded. It seemed way too good to be true. But when the series finally premiered on Friday, June 27, 2014 at 8:30 p.m. (same time slot as it’s TGIF predecessor!), I was more than pleasantly surprised; hell, I was delighted. The unexpected Feeny cameo at the very end put instant tears in my eyes. Continue reading