Thursday, May 31, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alien 3 (1992) ***½

R, 144 min. (special edition)
Director: David Fincher
Writers: David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, Vincent Ward, Dan O’Bannon (characters), Ronald Shusett (characters)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henricksen

Many were disappointed with the third film in the “Alien” series, with good reason. When I originally saw it in theaters, I enjoyed it; but it didn’t have the substance behind it established by its predecessors. The mother and company themes were sprinkled into its plot, but hardly featured heavily into its execution, which was more concerned with creating a situation where a limited number of people without any weapons were trapped to be hunted down by a new type of alien. That alone made for an exciting movie, but it wasn’t something amazing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Awake (TV series 2012) ***

TV14, 13 43-min. episodes
Creator: Kyle Killen
Director: Jeffrey Reiner
Writers: Kyle Killen, Howard Gordon, Leonard Chang, Evan Katz, Noelle Valdivia, Davey Holmes
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Steve Harris, Dylan Minnette, BD Wong, Wilmer Valderrama, Cherry Jones, Laura Innes, Daniela Bobadilla, Mark Harelik, Michaela McManus, Kevin Weisman

I was reading some comments online at about the time this show wrapped up its run. One person said that “Awake” fell the way of so many of NBC series. He complained that NBC seemed to be in the business of creating great shows and then cancelling them before they even got a chance. Yes, the turn over rate at NBC is very high. This is because they’re just about the only network willing to take risks. The risks result in a high rate of original quality programming. It also results in the lowest network ratings of the bunch. For my money I’d rather have NBC keep plugging away and being satisfied with last place, than settling for the status quo. Of course, it would be even better if people would tune in and some of their shows could stick around.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Men in Black III / *** (PG-13)

Agent J: Will Smith
Agent K: Tommy Lee Jones
Young Agent K: Josh Brolin
Boris the Animal: Jermaine Clement
Agent O: Emma Thompson
Griffin: Michael Stuhlbarg
Young Agent O: Alice Eve
Jeffrey Price: Michael Chernus
Andy Warhol: Bill Hader

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Written by Etan Cohen. Based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham. Running time: 103 min. Rated PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content).

I’m going to admit it right here and now for all you readers who might be fans of the “Men in Black” franchise, I was not a fan of the original “Men in Black” movie. I never read the Malibu Comic. And, I wasn’t a fan of Will Smith before the first movie. However, I believe it was that movie that started turning my opinion on Smith around.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Aliens (1986) ****

R, 137 min.
Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill, Dan O’Bannon (characters), Ronald Shusett (characters)
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henricksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, William Hope, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston

“Aliens” is proof that the Hollywood way is the wrong way. Generally when Hollywood makes a sequel, they do everything they can to repeat the same formula exactly the way it worked with the first film. It’s true that when audiences go into a sequel there are certain things they expect to see. With “Aliens” we needed to see some facehuggers, some chestbusters, acid for blood, and Sigourney Weaver being a tough-ass bitch.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alien (1979) ****

R, 117 min.
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo

I’m wondering if a movie like “Alien” could ever be made again. 20th Century Fox greenlit the project in 1978 because after the success of “Star Wars” every studio had to have a space movie in production. However, “Alien” is about as far from “Star Wars” as it is from “The Great Gatsby”. Its horror foundations wouldn’t be enough to get it made today either, because there is so much more than a horror movie going on here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Spider-Man (2002) ***½

PG-13, 121 min.
Director: Sam Raimi
Writers: David Koepp, Stan Lee (comic book), Steve Ditko (comic book)
Starring: Toby Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Rosemary Harris, Cliff Robertson, J.K. Simmons

I remember showing “Spider-Man” to some people not long after it was released. They didn’t see what was so special about it.  What set “Spider-Man” apart from the comic book movies that came before it was that for the first time a movie got the hero character right.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Moneyball (2011) ****

PG-13, 133 min.
Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis (book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Steven Bishop, Kerris Dorsey

“Moneyball” is another film from last Fall that plays just as well the second time through as it did the first time. Upon my first viewing of this movie, I was impressed mostly by the whole concept behind Moneyball, the science of selecting a team that will get you the most wins, and the character’s (and filmmaker’s) ability to convey their theories in clear ways that made sense and made it look like they were right. This time I was more impressed by the randomness of it all, the way it seemed these guys were just swinging at the fences and thanking their lucky stars they hit one out of the park.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Descendants (2011) ****

R, 115 min.
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Amara Miller, Nick Krause, Patricia Hastie, Beau Bridges, Robert Forester, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard

When I reviewed “The Descendants” back in December of last year, I was still reeling from my own father’s death. I enjoyed the movie very much, despite its connections with terrible personal events that were still quite raw on my heart. I’m still finding new emotions to deal with in facing my father’s death, but I’m doing much better now. This gave me a different experience seeing this movie a second time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Person of Interest, season 1 (2011-12) **½

NR, 23 43-min. episodes
Creator: Jonathan Nolan
Directors: Richard J. Lewis, Charles Beeson, Fred Toye, Stephen Williams
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Patrick Harbison, Greg Plageman, Amanda Segel, David Slack, Denise Thé, Sean Hennen, Michael Sopczynski, Nic Van Zeebroeck, Erik Mountain
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman, Susan Misner, Enrico Colantoni, Michael Kelly, Elizabeth Marvel, David Valcin, Brett Cullen, Robert John Burke, Mark Margolis, Brennan Brown, Annie Parisse, Paige Turco

If I had my druthers, I would’ve quit watching “Person of Interest” after seeing the first three episodes. This show is a great example of CBS grooming. CBS is the number one network for the same reason that most Hollywood blockbusters tend to run in the mediocre quality range. They each rely heavily on time tested formulaic storytelling. Don’t rock the boat, and nobody will have any reason to hate you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—A Dangerous Method (2011) ***

R, 99 min.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writers: Christopher Hampton (also play “The Talking Cure”), John Kerr (book “A Most Dangerous Method”)
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel

“A Dangerous Method” is director David Cronenberg’s latest peek into the twisted nature of the mind. This one doesn’t play like a video game on meth, or a writer’s grand paranoia, or the obsession of a perverse video voyeur. No, his subject this time around is real, based upon the theories and practices of two of histories greatest students and teachers of the mind.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Grimm, season 1 (2011-12) ****

TV-14, 22 43-min. episodes
Creator: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf
Directors: Norberto Barba, Holly Dale, Darnell Martin, Clark Mathis, David Solomon, Omar Madha, Terrence O’Hara
Writers: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, Alan DiFiore, Dan E. Fesman, Sarah Goldfinger, Cameron Litvak, Naren Shankar, Thania St. John, Richard Hatem
Starring: David Giuntoli, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mithcell, Russell Hornsby, Sasha Roiz, Reggie Lee, Claire Coffee, Sharon Sachs, Danny Bruno, Bree Turner, Henri Lubatti, Kate Burton, Randy Schulman, Brian Sutherland, Kyle Vahan

“Grimm” is my favorite new show of the 2011-2012 television season. It may be my favorite show on television now. Of course, I’m not watching any of those red hot cable shows at the moment. But, for network television “Grimm” is a fairly impressive series. It doesn’t shy away from its horror roots, and it successfully combines its horror premise with the tried and true police procedural format.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Battleship / ** (PG-13)

Lieutenant Alex Hooper: Taylor Kitsch
Commander Stone Hooper: Alexander Skarsgård
Petty Officer Cora ‘Weps’ Raikes: Rihanna
Samantha Shane: Brooklyn Decker
Captain Yugi Nagata: Tadanobu Asano
Cal Zapata: Hamish Linklater
Chief Petty Officer Walter ‘The Beast’ Lynch: John Tui
Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales: Gregory D. Gadson
Boatswain Mate Seaman Jimmy ‘Ordy’ Ord: Jesse Plemons
Dr. Nogrady: Adam Godley
Secretary of Defense: Peter MacNicol
Admiral Shane: Liam Neeson

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Peter Berg. Written by Erich Hoeber and Jon Hoeber. Based on the Hasbro board game. Running time: 131 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language).

Anytime you see a movie based on a board game that had no storyline to begin with, you’re going to be a bit skeptical. However, Hasbro has already found success bringing their popular toy line Transformers to the big screen. I suppose it’s no surprise then that the storyline they invented for “Battleship” involves a race of aliens that plan to take over the Earth with highly advanced machine technology. That makes me wonder about the other board games they plan to bring to life on screen, like Monopoly. Is that going to involve aliens taking over the planet with machines that will fix Wall Street?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman & Robin (1997) ½*

PG-13, 125 min.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, John Glover, Elle Macpherson, Vivica A. Fox

When I originally saw this movie, I was actually late to the theater—an incident that has happened so few times in my life I could count them on one hand. So, I started the movie in the middle of the opening sequence, when Batman and Robin are trying to stop Mr. Freeze in the Gotham museum. I was confused, not knowing what I had missed, I thought perhaps my confusion was at least a partial explanation for what I was witnessing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Battleground (1949) ***½

NR, 118 min.
Director: William A. Wellman
Writer: Robert Pirosh
Starring: Van Johnson, Marshall Thompson, John Hodiak, Douglas Fowley, James Whitmore, George Murphy, Ricardo Montalban, Jerome Courtland, Don Taylor, Bruce Cowling, Leon Ames, Guy Anderson, Thomas E. Breen, Denise Darcel, Richard Jaeckel, Jim Arness, Brett King, The Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division

“Now it's nearly Christmas... and here we are in beautiful Bastogne enjoying the winter sports. And the $64 question is: "Was this trip necessary?" I'll try to answer that. But my sermons, like everything else in the army... depend on the situation and the terrain. So I assure you this is going to be a quickie. Was this trip necessary? Let's look at the facts. Nobody wanted this war but the Nazis. A great many people tried to deal with them, and a lot of them are dead. Millions have died... for no other reason except that the Nazis wanted them dead. So, in the final showdown, there was nothing left to do except fight. There's a great lesson in this. Those of us who've learned it the hard way aren't going to forget it. We must never again let any force dedicated to a super-race... or a super-idea, or super-anything... become strong enough to impose itself upon a free world. We must be smart enough and tough enough in the beginning... to put out the fire before it starts spreading. My answer to the sixty-four dollar question is yes, this trip was necessary. As the years go by, a lot of people are going to forget. But you won't. And don't ever let anybody tell you you were a sucker to fight in the war against fascism. And now, Jerry permitting, let us pray. Almighty God... (sounds of shelling can be heard in the background)The organist is hitting those bass notes a little too loud for me to be heard. So let each of us pray in his own way, to his own God.”

                                                                                                            —The Chaplain

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—My Man Godfrey (1936) ***½

NR, 94 min.
Director: Gregory La Cava
Writers: Morrie Ryskind, Eric Hatch (also novel)
Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Eugene Pallette, Jean Dixon, Alan Mowbray, Mischa Auer

William Powell is genuine cool. That’s the best way I can think of to describe him. I can’t think of any other actor who can match him in that same sense. He wasn’t cool because he looked like a Goerge Clooney. He was surprisingly not as handsome as other leading men from his same era. But, he was just cool. Nothing shook him, even when it did.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—New Girl, season 1 (2011-12) ****

TV-14, 24 24-min. episodes
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether
Directors: Jake Kasdan, Jesse Peretz, Peyton Reed, Jason Winer, Michael Spiller
Writers: Elizabeth Meriwether, Berkley Johnson, Josh Malmuth, Luvh Rakhe, Nick Adams, Kim Rosenstock, Donick Cary, J..J Philbin, Joe Port, Lesley Wake, David Walpert, Joe Wiseman
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake M. Johnson, Max Greenfield, Hannah Simone, Lamorne Morris, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Kali Hawk, Lauren Dair Owens, Justin Long, Lizzy Caplan, Dermot Mulroney, Rachel Harris, Phil Hendrie, Jeanne Tripplehorn

“New Girl” is my favorite new comedy of this past television season. I watched it initially because of Zooey Deschanel. It was a crush that developed before I’d realized how old I was. I became aware of Deschanel in those years when you lose touch of just how old you are, so I didn’t realize I was too old for her. She just seemed to play characters that I would’ve been attracted to in high school. Thankfully, Dermot Mulroney guested for a few episodes in this first season to prove that I’m not too old. My wife might feel I’m too married, though.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006) ***

R, 93 min.
Director: Liam Lynch
Writers: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Liam Lynch
Starring: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, JR Reed, Ronnie James Dio, Paul F. Tompkins, Troy Gentile, Ned Bellamy, Fred Armisen, Kirk Ward, Amy Poehler, Dave Grohl, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller

Today marks the release of Tenacious D’s new studio album “Rize of the Fenix”. Considering they’re the greatest band in the world, you’d think there’d be more fanfare about it. Their third studio effort is their best yet. Sure, their subject matter is still limited. They pretty much sing about sex, the devil and their own unheralded greatness. There isn’t even that much about the devil this time around. In fact, they even venture into a couple of other subjects, like space travel and the hard life of the roadie.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dark Shadows / **½ (PG-13)

Barnabas Collins: Johnny Depp
Angelique Bouchard: Eva Green
Elizabeth Collins Stoddard: Michelle Pfeiffer
Dr. Julia Hoffman: Helena Bonham Carter
Victoria Winters: Bella Heathcote
Carolyn Stoddard: Chloë Grace Moritz
Willie Loomis: Jackie Earl Haley
Roger Collins: Johnny Lee Miller
David Collins: Gulliver McGrath

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Tim Burton. Written by Seth Grahame-Smith and John August. Based on the television series created by Dan Curtis. Running time: 113 min. Rated PG-13 (for comic horror violence, sexual content, some drug use, language and smoking).

I went into Tim Burton’s new movie “Dark Shadows” without ever having seen a single episode of the 1970s television series upon which it is based. Considering how Burton tends to make cinematic properties his own, the experience of the TV show probably isn’t necessary to the cinematic one. I had heard about the series and had always planned to check it out someday. What I was unaware of was that it had been a daytime soap opera. Now, doesn’t that sound interesting? A daytime soap about a family with a vampire.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Tenacious D (TV series 1997-2000) ***½

TV-14, 6 12-min. episodes
Creators: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk
Directors: Tom Gianas, Troy Miller
Writers: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Tom Gianas, Bill Odenkirk
Starring: Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Paul F. Tompkins

Back in the mid ‘90’s HBO aired an incredibly funny sketch comedy show called “Mr. Show with Bob and David”. Bob Odenkirk and David Cross were the show’s hosts and creative forces, but they relied heavily on their cast of players for material. They heard about a band that was playing comedy songs about hard rock music on acoustic guitars who were playing small clubs in the Hollywood area. They saw Tenacious D and knew they would be a perfect fit for “Mr. Show”. After introducing the world to the greatest band in the world, which consisted of a then fairly unknown Jack Black and his cohort Kyle Gass, Bob and David and Jack and Kyle decided that Tenacious D should have their own show.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman Forever (1995) *½

PG-13, 121 min.
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Lee Batchler, Janet Scott Batchler, Akiva Goldsman, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Val Kilmer, Nicole Kidman, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Chris O’Donnell, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Drew Barrymore, Debi Mazar

I remember going to see “Batman Forever” in the theater with one of my best friends. We had seen the original “Batman” together, and it was still a pinnacle in cinema to us. I was also still of the mind that “Batman Returns” was even better. Nothing had prepared us for the disappointment that was to be “Batman Forever”.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Haywire (2012) ***

R, 93 min.
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Lem Dobbs
Starring Gina Carano, Ewan McGreggor, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Michael Angarano, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Mathieu Kassovitz

A couple of years ago indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch turned in his take on the spy genre with the movie “The Limits of Control”. That movie concentrated on the aspect of waiting in the spy game. It made no efforts to be anything like a typical spy thriller. Now, indie filmmaker Steven Soderbergh puts his hat into the ring of spy flicks with “Haywire”.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion (2006) ***

NR, 72 min.
Director: Michael Blieden
Writer: Zach Galifianakis
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Joe Wagner, Brian Unger

Back before the Netflix business brain melted, they produced a comedy special by then up and coming comedic actor Zach Galifianakis. Although Galifianakis’s awkward name was starting to buzz out of the comedy world and into mainstream pop culture, nobody knew how big the bearded oddball would become once he appeared in “The Hangover” in 2009. So it’s a little strange to look back at was he was before his superstardom.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Shark Night 3D (2011) *½

PG-13, 90 min.
Director: David R. Ellis
Writers: Will Hayes, Jesse Studenberg
Starring: Sara Paxton, Dustin Milligan, Chris Carmac, Katharine McPhee, Joel David Moore, Donal Logue, Joshua Leonard, Sinqua Walls, Alyssa Diaz, Chris Zylka


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Avengers / ***½ (PG-13)

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr.
Steve Rogers/Captain America: Chris Evans
Bruce Banner/The Hulk: Mark Ruffalo
Thor: Chris Hemsworth
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson
Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner
Loki: Tom Hiddleston
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson
Agent Phil Coulson: Clark Gregg
Agent Maria Hill: Cobie Smulders
Selvig: Stellan Skarsgård
Pepper Potts: Gwyneth Paltrow
Jarvis: Paul Bettany (voice)

Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures present a film written and directed by Joss Whedon. Story by Zak Penn and Whedon. Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Running time: 142 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference).

I read somewhere recently that the word “awesome” was becoming overused and losing some of its power in the English language. Therefore, it is not without careful consideration that I report here the one word reviews of both of my boys upon witnessing the new phenomenon that is Marvel’s “The Avengers”. “Awesome” was the word they used. It’s the word I’ve heard used by hundreds of people that saw the movie this past weekend. And, not without coincidence, I think, I would call this movie, “Awesome.”

Monday, May 07, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Sitter (2011) *

R, 81 min.
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: Brian Gatewood, Alessandro Tanaka
Starring: Jonah Hill, Max Records, Landry Bender, Kevin Hernandez, Ari Graynor, Sam Rockwell, J.B. Smoove, Kylie Bunbury, Erin Daniels, Jessica Hecht, Bruce Altman, Chris ‘Method Man’ Smith

Much like Kevin Smith did with “Cop Out”, David Gordon Green has caused me to do a double take with his latest movie, “The Sitter”. It’s not a good double take. It’s a “what the hell was that?” double take. This is not a good movie.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman Returns (1992) **½

PG-13, 126 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Daniel Waters, Sam Hamm, Bob Kane (creator)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Michelle Pfeifer, Danny DeVito, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway, Andrew Bryniarski, Pat Hingle, Vincent Schiavelli

I watched this movie as recently as last December, and I continue to struggle with a definitive opinion of it. Is it good? Not really. Is it unique? Yes. Director Tim Burton takes this second Batman film to make the characters his own.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Fight For Your Right Revisited (2011) ***

NR, 30 min.
Director/Writer: Adam Yauch
Starring: Elijah Wood, Danny McBride, Seth Rogen, Stanley Tucci, Susan Sarandon, Rashida Jones, Will Arnett, Adam Scott, Mike Mills, Rainn Wilson, Arabella Field, Ted Danson, Roman Coppola, Shannyn Sossamon, Steve Buscemi, Amy Poehler, Mary Steenburgen, Alicia Silverstone, Laura Dern, Arthur Scipio Africano, Alfredo Ortiz, Milo Ventimiglia, Jody Hill, Silvia Suvadova, Jason Schwartzman, Losel Yauch, Chloë Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, Clint Caluory, David Cross, Orlando Bloom, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Jack Black, Adam Horovitz, Mike Diamond, Adam Yauch, Martin Starr

It’s always sad when someone passes too young. Adam Yauch’s death isn’t special because he was a celebrity; but as a celebrity, his death gives us a chance to look back at what he did to contribute to our lives. Yauch was a third of the musical/rap group The Beastie Boys. His BB persona was MCA, and over a thirty year career in the music business the Beastie Boys contributed some of the rap anthems of our age. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just last month. Yauch succumbed to cancer May 4, 2012 at the age of 47 after battling the disease since 2009.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alcatraz, season 1 (2012) ***

NR, 13, 45-min. episodes
Creators: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt
Directors: Jack Bender, Paul A. Edwards
Writers: Steven Lilien, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Bryan Wynbrandt, Robert Hull, Jennifer Johnson, Toni Graphia, Leigh Dana Jackson
Starring: Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, Jonny Coyne, Parminder Nagra, Leon Rippy, Jason Butler Harner, David Hoflin, Jeffery Pierce, Jeananne Goosen, Joe Edgender, Robert Forster

I’ve kind of been waiting on this one, hoping to get word whether FOX is willing to renew a show that underperformed for its first season finale. “Alcatraz” was one of the most highly anticipated shows of the 2011-2012 television season. With J.J. Abrams as one of the shows producers, an actor from the hit series “Lost” as one of the main cast members, and a science fiction mystery at the heart of its premise, everyone’s breath was held to see if it might be a new “Lost”.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 (2011) *

PG-13, 117 min.
Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Melissa Rosenberg, Stephanie Meyer (novel)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Billy Burke, Peter Fascinelli, Elizabeth Reaser, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Kellan Lutz, Jackson Rathbone, Sarah Clarke, Gil Birmingham, Chaske Spencer, Julia Jones

The. Most. Boring. Vampires. Ever.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods / ***½ (R)

Dana: Kristin Connolly
Curt: Chris Hemsworth
Jules: Anna Hutchison
Marty: Fran Kranz
Holden: Jesse Williams
Sitterson: Richard Jenkins
Hadley: Bradley Whitford
Truman: Brian White
Lin: Amy Acker

Lionsgate presents a film directed by Drew Goddard. Written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard. Running time: 95 min. Rated R (for strong bloody horror violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity).

When you watch a horror movie, do you sit there ticking off all the conventions of the genre? Do you say, “Oh, she’s definitely going to die first!”? Or do you ask yourself just why is the last gas station on the way to the group’s remote destination so scary looking, and why does the operator always look like some inbred rapist? Or do you wonder if it really matters whether that cabin in the woods is haunted by ghosts or attacked by zombies? Because the results are always going to be the same, right? And, why are the victims always young college or high school students? Well, the new horror gore fest “The Cabin in the Woods” is not only one of those movies where you can bring your check list to mark off each element as it comes along in the pre-ordained order, it also does us the courtesy to explain why its situations are so predictable. In doing so, it becomes one of the more original horror flicks to come along in a while.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Batman (1989) ***

PG-13, 126 min.
Director: Tim Burton
Writers: Sam Hamm, Warren Skaaren, Bob Kane (characters)
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter

I don’t care what most people say, there’s still something valuable and interesting about Tim Burton’s “Batman”. No, it’s not as good as it once seemed, but there was something to what Burton did with the comic book superhero genre that works. There’s a reason that “Batman” finally made the comic book adaptation mold. It’s about production design, atmosphere and supporting characters, including a villain that not only overshadows the hero, but actually has more screen time.