Friday, May 31, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Americans, season 1 (2013) ****

TV-MA, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Joe Weisberg

Directors: Gavin O’Connor, Adam Arkin, Thomas Schlamme, Jean de Seconzac, Holly Dale, Daniel Sackheim, Alex Chapple, Bill Johnson, Jim McKay, Nicole Kassell, John Dahl

Writers: Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields, Melissa James Gibson, Sneha Koorse, Joshua Brand, Bradford Winters

Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich, Holly Taylor, Keidrich Sellati, Richard Thomas, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Alison Wright, Margo Martindale, Maximiliano Hernández, Lev Gorn, Daniel Flaherty, Peter von Berg, Vitaly Benko, Derek Luke, Cotter Smith, Tim Hooper, Anthony Arkin

A few weeks ago I claimed that “Elementary” might be the best new drama on network television. It isn’t even close to as good as “The Americans”. The new FX series brings us back to the final days of the Cold War, when both sides were beginning to get desperate. The Americans and the Russians had been at it so long that each country had sleeper agents well embedded into the other’s bedrock. The genius of this series is that instead of showing us American spies, its protagonists are Russian agents posing as an average American family.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Hangover, Part II (2011) ***

R, 102 min.
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Craig Mazin, Scot Armstrong, Todd Phillips, Jon Lucas (characters), Scott Moore (characters)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Ken Jeong, Justin Bartha, Paul Giamatti, Mike Tyson, Jeffrey Tambor, Mason Lee, Jamie Chung, Sasha Barrese, Gillian Vigman, Aroon Seeboonruang, Yasmin Lee, Nick Cassavetes, Bryan Callen

I find it odd that people would complain that “The Hangover, Part II” is basically the same as the first one. Isn’t that the point? I’m all for originality, especially in sequels, but sometimes the originality lies within how exactly the filmmakers can replicate the same situation for the characters in an entertaining way. “The Hangover, Part II” might lack a little bit of the fresh spirit of the original, but it excels at throwing its characters back into nearly mirroring circumstances of the original despite that fact that these men should’ve learned from their mistakes in the first film.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Arrow, season 1 (2012-2013) ***

TV-14, 23 42-min. episodes
Creators: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg

Directors: David Nutter, David Barrett, Guy Norman Bee, Vincent Misiano, Michael Schultz, John Behring, David Grossman, Ken Fink, John Dahl, Eagle Egilsson, Nick Copus, Wendy Stanzler, Glen Winter, Michael Offer

Writers: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, Moira Kirland, Lana Cho, Wendy Mericle, Ben Sokolowski, Geoff Johns, Beth Schwartz, Gabrielle Stanton, Jake Coburn, Drew Z. Greenberg, Bryan Q. Miller, Lindsey Allen

Starring: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Salmon, John Barrowman, Emily Bett Rickards, Manu Bennett, Colton Haynes

Guest starring: Jamey Sheridan, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, Annie Ilnozeh, Kelly Hu, Ty Olsson, Emma Bell, Byron Mann, Roger Cross, Eugene Lipinski, Sebastian Dunn, Jeffery Robinson, Currie Graham, Kyle Schmidt, Jessica de Gouw, Jeffrey Nordling, Hiro Kanagawa, Christie Laing, Brian Markinson, Andrew Dunbar, Danny Nucci, Fraser Corbett, Michael Daingerfield, Ben Browder, Colin Lawrence, Janina Gavankar, Serge Houde, Seth Gabel, David Anders, Agam Darshi, Ona Grauer, Adrian Holmes, Celina Jade, James Callis, Chin Han, Jarod Joseph, Michael Rowe, Alex Kingston, Craig March, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Christopher Redman, Audrey Marie Anderson, Darren Dolynski, Nelson Leis, J. August Richards, Al Sapienza, Ray Galletti

“Arrow” turned out to be a more interesting television series than I expected. I never watched “Smallville”, but as a long time comic book fan, I often wish I had. So when “Arrow” came up as a CW replacement for the former DC Comics based series, I decided to give it a try. I did read the “Green Arrow” comic book when I collected comics as a teen.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974) ***

PG, 93 min.
Director: John Hough
Writers: Leigh Chapman, Antonio Santean, Richard Unekis (novel “The Chase”)
Starring: Peter Fonda, Susan George, Adam Roarke, Vic Morrow, Kenneth Tobey, Roddy McDowell, Lynn Borden, Tom Castranova, James Gavin

Now, here’s a classic car movie. “Fast & Furious” is pretty good for seeing great cars in great action scenes, but there’s not much else thought put into them. “Dirty Mary Crazy Larry” is a heist movie and a car chase movie that has put some thought into the consequences of the characters' actions and the motives behind their crimes. Somehow, it’s all a whole lot simpler than the “Fast” series, but it engages us better.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Fast Five (2011) **

PG-13, 130 min.
Director: Justin Lin
Writers: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Matt Schultz, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Joaquim de Almeida, Dwayne Johnson, Elsa Pataky, Michael Irby

Ho hum. That’s a phrase I tend to use at the beginning of a review when I really don’t have much to say about its subject. This time it’s the fifth entry into the “Fast & Furious” franchise that I find to be bland and fairly unnoteworthy. Perhaps that’s because this one is called “Fast Five”, which I must conclude to mean it isn’t so furious as the others. But really, my attitude can apply to the whole series of movies. Even the one’s I’ve enjoyed could warrant my “ho hum” response.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Superman: The Movie (1978) ****

PG, 154 min. (director’s cut)
Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Robert Benton, Jerry Siegel (creator), Joe Shuster (creator)
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Ned Beatty, Marlon Brando, Jackie Cooper, Valerie Perrine, Marc McClure, Glenn Ford, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York, Trevor Howard, Terence Stamp, Jack O’Halloran, Sarah Douglas, Maria Schell, Harry Andrews, Jeff East

There is a mindset of extreme scrutiny that has developed through our pop culture obsessions driving our generation to consume the influences of our childhood in mass quantities. Recently the latest in a long line of “Star Trek” franchise vehicles has opened at the box office to rave reviews by critics and good mainstream audience reaction. The film’s harshest—and pretty much sole—critics have been those bringing some sort of history or childhood connection to the events depicted in the film. Because it isn’t the same presentation of ideas that held emotional resonance with them as children, they nit pick at all the details of the picture to prove the validity of their arguments against it, when really their complaint is that absence of the same emotional resonance they felt as children. The details of the film hardly matter.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Iron Sky (2012) *

R, 93 min.
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Writers: Timo Vuorensola, Michael Kalesniko, Jarmo Puskala, Johanna Sinisalo
Starring: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Götz Otto, Udo Kier, Peta Sergeant, Stephanie Paul, Tilo Prückner, Michael Cullen

Yesterday I criticized the Boy Scouts for perpetuating the culture of fear that surrounds homosexuality in this country. Today I will look at a film that examines an organization that is the ultimate extension of such a culture of fear, the Nazis. Again, the movie I’ve chosen is not a good one. Like the scouting movie, it is filled with ideas that don’t have the execution behind them to deserve them.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Nature Calls (2012) *

R, 79 min.
Director/Writer: Todd Rohal
Starring: Patton Oswalt, Johnny Knoxville, Maura Tierney, Rob Riggle, Patrice O’Neil, Darrell Hammond, Kelly Coffield Park, Eddie Rouse, Jill de Jong, Robert Longstreet, Nilaja Sun, Thiecoura Cissoko, Regan Mizrahi, Joshua Ormond, Joseph Paul Kennedy, Santana Pruitt, Adam Dorfmann, Eric Ruffin

Let’s get this out of the way right away so I can move on to what I’d really like to comment about. This movie is bad. It’s about two brothers who don’t get along. One followed their father’s passion for scouts; the other is a con man in the guise of a legitimate entrepreneur. The scout troop is looking sad with more adults involved than children. When the con man brother steals the last remaining scouts from a planned camping trip, the scout brother essentially kidnaps the children to camp out in a state park with out any permissions. Comedy does not necessarily ensue. The main problem is a plethora of ideas without any actual jokes. Writer director Todd Rohal confuses absurd, ridiculous and inappropriate behavior with comedy.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Stand By Me (1986) ****

R, 89 min.
Director: Rob Reiner
Writers: Raynold Gideon, Bruce A. Evans, Stephen King (novella “The Body”)
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Southerland, Casey Siemaszko, Gary Riley, Bradley Gregg, Jason Oliver, Marshall Bell, Frances Lee McCain, John Cusack, Richard Dreyfuss

“Now he said, ‘Sic‘em, boy!’ But what I heard was, ‘Chopper! Sic balls!’”

I’ve had a lot drawing me to this movie lately. I’ve been watching an older Wil Wheaton on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. There’s a new movie out in theaters, which I desperately want to see titled “Mud”; it is drawing some comparison to this 80s classic. Summer is upon us, although this is really a late summer movie. And, the line “Chopper! Sic Balls!” has been stuck in my head for some unknown reason.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Grimm, season 2 (2012-2013) ***½

TV-14, 22 44-min. episodes
Creators: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf

Directors: Norberto Barba, Terrence O’Hara, David Solomon, David Straiton, Stephen DePaul, Rob Bailey, Darnell Martin, Eric Laneuville, Holly Dale, Peter Werner, Omar Madha, Karen Gaviola, Michael W. Watkins, Charles Haid, David Grossman, Tawnia McKiernan

Writers: Stephen Carpenter, David Greenwalt, Jim Kouf, Richard Hatem, David Simkins, Dan E. Fesman, Spiro Skentzos, Akela Cooper, Alan DiFiore, William Bigelow, Sean Calder, Thomas Ian Griffith, Mary Page Keller

Starring: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mitchell, Sasha Roiz, Reggie Lee, Bree Turner

Guest starring: Jessica Tuck, James Frain, Brian Tee, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Mike Dopud, Mark Pellegrino, John Pyper-Ferguson, Maddie Hasson, Steven Sukul, Sharon Sachs, Kevin Shinick, Danny Bruno, Robert Blanche, Jonathan Scarfe, Kristina Anapau, Jaime Ray Newman, Alice Evans, Josh Stewart, Claire Coffee, Jade Pettyjohn, Mary Page Keller, Logan Miller, Kate del Castillo, Angela Alvarado, Michael Grant Terry, Michael Maize, Jason Gedrick, Lisa Vidal, Jamie McShane, Christian Lagadec, Callard Harris, Lili Mirojnick, Eric Martin Reid, Kieren Hutchinson, Jenny Wade, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Eric Lange, Camille Chen, Chris Murray, Brian T. Finney, Bertila Damas, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Gill Gayle, Peter Anthony Jacobs, Eric Tiede, Erin Way, David Bodin, Nora Zehetner, Brian Gant, Keith Cox

As is often the case with second seasons, NBC’s supernatural police procedural “Grimm” has grown more confident in its style and mythology. The mythology, which skirted along the first season episodes, has almost taken the pole position in its second season, with many more episodes dealing with the mythology and long storylines running through many consecutive episodes. For the most part this has only enriched the series, which has a very intricate set up involving an unseen world of humanoids with special powers and a policeman that has access to this world.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Hangover (2009) ***½

R, 100 min.
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham, Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor, Ken Jeong, Rachael Harris, Mike Tyson, Mike Epps, Jernard Burks, Rob Riggle, Cleo King, Bryan Callen

“What do tigers dream of
when they take their little tiger snooze?
Do they dream of mauling zebras,
or Halle Berry in her Catwoman suit?
Don't you worry your pretty striped head,
we're gonna get you back to Tyson
and your cozy tiger bed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Guilt Trip (2012) ***

PG-13, 95 min.
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Seth Rogen, Barbara Streisand, Kathy Najimy, Miriam Margolyes, Rose Abdoo, Casey Wilson, Dale Dickey, Yvonne Strahovski, Colin Hanks, Brett Cullen, Nora Dunn, Adam Scott, Ari Graynor

“The Guilt Trip” is harmless, observational, humorous fun. It isn’t great by any stretch of the word. There’s no mystery about what will happen and how it will all turn out. It’s a road trip movie, so there are really only two characters that matter; all the others are just scenery that travel into view and out of it again. So we’re left with a mother and son played by Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen. Two actors from two very different generations, and they’re appeal together comes from that contrast. They make a good mother and son.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek: The Next Generation, season 2 (1988-1989) ***

TV-PG, 22, 45-min. episodes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry

Directors: Rob Bowman, Winrich Kolbe, Robert Becker, Larry Shaw, Les Landau, Paul Lynch, Robert Sheerer, Joseph L. Scanlan, Cliff Bole, Robert Iscove

Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Jaron Summers, Jon Povill, Maurice Hurley, Jack B. Sowards, Brian Alan Lane, Burton Armus, Les Menchen, Lance Dickson, David Landsberg, Jacqueline Zambrano, Tracy Tormé, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, John Mason, Mike Gray, Wanda M. Haight, Gregory Amos, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Scott Rubenstein, Leonard Mlodinow, Steve Gerber, Beth Woods, Kurt Michael Bensmiller, David Assael, Robert L. McCullough, Hannah Louise Shearer, Thomas H. Calder, David Kemper

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, Diana Muldaur

Guest starring: Majel Barrett, Whoopi Goldberg, Colm Meaney, Seymour Cassel, R.J. Williams, Earl Boen, Daniel Davis, Alan Shearmen, Billy Campbell, Douglas Rowe, Albert Stratton, Rosalind Ingledew, Kiernan Mulroney, Joe Piscopo, Teri Hatcher, Marnie Mosiman, Thomas Oglesby, Leo Damian, Howie Seago, W. Morgan Sheppard, Suzie Plakson, Barbara Alyn Woods, Patricia Smith, J. Patrick McNamara, John Putch, Christopher Collins, Brian Thompson, Amanda McBroom, Clyde Kusatu, Brian Brophy, Paddi Edwards, Jamie Hubbard, Peter Neptune, Mädchen Amick, Cindy Sorensen, Thalmus Rasulala, Carolyn Seymour, Dana Sparks, Noble Willingham, Sam Anderson, Jill Jacobson, Leo Garcia, Mitchell Ryan, Nikki Cox, John de Lancie, Lycia Naff, Christopher Collins, Leslie Morris, Daniel Benzali, Barrie Ingham, Jon de Vries, Brenna Odell, Robert Costanzo, Carel Struycken, Mick Fleetwood, Lance Le Gault, Roy Brocksmith, Armin Shimerman, David L. Lander, Leslie Neale, Glenn Morshower

The second season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” finds a much more relaxed Enterprise. The actors are more relaxed. Their characters are more relaxed. You can almost feel how the film crew is more relaxed. Director Rob Bowman handles most of the directing duties for the more important episodes of the season, and its clear he’s really hitting his stride as a television director. Bowman would go on to become the go to director for the television series “The X-Files” and even some feature films.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness / **** (PG-13)

James T. Kirk: Chris Pine
Spock: Zachary Quinto
Nyota Uhura: Zoë Saldana
Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy: Karl Urban
Scotty: Simon Pegg
Hikaru Sulu: John Cho
Pavel Chekov: Anton Yelchin
Khan: Benedict Cumberbatch
Dr. Carol Marcus: Alice Eve
Admiral Pike: Bruce Greenwood
Admiral Marcus: Peter Weller

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman & Damon Lindelof. Based on the television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Running time: 132 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence).

When fighting against the oppressive force of evil, we run the risk of becoming that which we fight. This is the basic lesson at the heart of “Star Trek Into Darkness”, the latest in the Star Trek franchise. It also provides the full science fiction function that some felt was missing from 2009’s “Star Trek”, which was also responsible for wiping the slate clean from all that came before it. In this second film of a franchise that has already had a second film, we learn that the slate might not be as clean as it might’ve appeared from the last picture.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Elementary, season 1 (2012-2013) ***½

TV-14, 24 44-min. episodes
Creator: Robert Doherty

Directors: Michael Cuesta, John David Coles, Rod Holcomb, Rosemary Rodriguez, Collin Bucksey, David Platt, Seith Mann, Andrew Bernstein, Phil Abraham, Peter Werner, John Polson, Christine Moore, Guy Ferland, Sanaa Hamri, Jerry Levine, Larry Teng, Adam Davidson

Writers: Robert Doherty, Peter Blake, Craig Sweeny, Liz Friedman, Corinne Brinkerhoff, Christopher Silber, Jeffery Paul King, Jason Tracey, Mark Goffman, Brian Rodenbeck

Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hall

Guest starring: Dallas Roberts, Manny Perez, Jonathan Walker, Kristen Bush, Jennifer Ferrin, Bill Heck, Casey Siemaszko, Johnny Simmons, Yancey Arias, Craig Bierko, Molly Price, Luke Kirby, Jennifer Van Dyck, David Harbour, David Costabile, Ben Rappaport, Jenni Barber, Anika Noni Rose, Reiko Aylesworth, Brian Kerwin, Roger Rees, Adam LeFerve, Callie Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Stephen Kunken, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lisa Edelstein, John Pankow, Ato Essandoh, Adam Rothenberg, Kristy Wu, Randall Duk Kim, Freda Foh Shen, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Reg Rogers, Stephen Park, Jake Webber, Mark Moses, Melissa Farman, Vinnie Jones, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Linda Emond, Richard Bekins, Michael Laurence, Chris Sullivan, Terry Kinney, Kari Matchett, Jessica Hecht, John Hannah, Michael Irby, Malcolm Goodwin, Paula Garces, Anwan Glover, David Furr, Christopher Sieber, Albert Jones, Jennifer Lim, Gibson Frazier, Dennis Boutsikaris, Josh Hamilton, Jim True-Frost, Geneva Carr, Jill Flint, Becky Ann Baker, Thomas Jay Ryan, Wayne Duvall, Joseph Siravo, Thomas Guiry, Roger Aaron Brown, Byron Jennings, F. Murray Abraham, Natalie Dormer, J.C. MacKenzie, Francie Swift, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Arnold Vosloo

“Elementary” is probably the best new drama on network television for the 2012-2013 season. It’s a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, this time with Holmes having left the service of Scotland Yard to recover from drug addiction in New York. Watson is now Dr. Joan Watson and starts out as a sober companion, but becomes an investigative partner of the super intelligent sleuth.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Celeste & Jesse Forever (2012) ***

R, 92 min.
Director: Lee Toland Krieger
Writers: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack
Starring: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Chris Messina, Emma Roberts, Elijah Wood, Ari Graynor, Eric Christian Olsen, Rebecca Dayan

I liked “Celeste & Jesse Forever”. It’s well acted. It’s well written, well directed. Andy Samberg is surprisingly effective in his dramatic scenes as many comedians often are. Rashida Jones makes for a compelling leading lady, attractive, but not your typical romcom beauty. It’s insightful about relationships, and its more funny than it is serious, which is probably how we should approach romance. It should be about having fun.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—New Girl, season 2 (2012-2013) ***½

TV-14, 25 24-min. episodes
Creator: Elizabeth Meriwether

Directors: Steve Pink, Larry Charles, Fred Goss, Eric Apple, Jesse Peretz, Jason Woliner, Neal Brennan, Tristram Shapeero, Craig Zisk, Alec Berg, Jake Kasdan, Lynn Shelton, Max Winkler, Lorene Scarfia, Matt Sohn

Writers: Elizabeth Meriwether, Kay Cannon, J.J. Philbin, Berkley Johnson, Josh Malmuth, David Iserson, Kim Rosenstock, Ryan Koh, Donick Cary, Luvh Rakhe, Nick Adams, Rebecca Addelman, Brett Baer, David Finkel, Sophia Lear

Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Max Greenberg, Lamorne Morris, Hannah Simone

Guest starring: Parker Posey, Rachael Harris, Nelson Franklin, David Walton, Anna Maria Horsford, Raymond J. Barry, Josh Gad, Latika Sye, Kali Hawk, Charlie Saxton, Morgan Krantz, Jinny Chung, Jasmine DiAngelo, Rebecca Reid, Jason Antoon, James Michael Connor, Maria Thayer, Carla Gugino, Ralph Ahn, Stone Eisenmann, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rob Riggle, Rob Reiner, Jeff Kober, Olivia Munn, Dennis Farina, Jordan Fuller, Nathan Corddry, Marcelo Tubert, Marcia Ann Burrs, Satya Bhabha, Meera Simhan, Andy Gala, Brenda Song, Steve Agee, Steve Howey, Odette Annable, Margo Martindale, Ellen Albertini Dow, Eric Edelstein, Bill Burr, Nick Kroll, Lila Lucchetti, Dermot Mulroney, Merritt Weaver, Lauren Dair Owens, Jaidan Jiron, Curtis Armstrong, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Taylor Swift

It’s nice when a television series doesn’t take five seasons to do what we all want it to from the pilot episode on. I don’t understand the thinking behind throwing two people together in a sitcom who obviously should be together and then making them wait five seasons to realize it. That being said, it took far too long for Jess and Nick to get together on “New Girl”. I know. Where are they going to go with it now? Who cares? It’s over with. Now, we can concentrate a little more on what makes this series so fun.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Person of Interest, season 2 (2012-2013) **½

TV-14, 22 44-min. episodes
Creator: Jonathan Nolan

Directors: Richard J. Lewis, Jon Cassar, Jeffrey G. Hunt, James Whitmore Jr., Félix Enríquez Alcalá, Fred Toye, Helen Shaver, Clark Johnson, Stephen Surjik, Chris Fisher, John Dahl, Kenneth Fink, Tricia Brock

Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Denise Thé, Greg Plageman, Patrick Harbinson, Melissa Scrivner-Love, Erik Mountain, David Slack, Nic Van Zeebroeck, Michael Sopczynski, Sean Hennen, Amanda Segel, Ray Utarnachitt, Dan Dietz, Lucas O’Connor, Tony Camerino

Starring: Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Chapman

Guest starring: Amy Acker, Jay O. Sanders, Cotter Smith, Boris McGiver, Sarah Shahi, Terry Serpico, Ken Leung, Loudon Wainwright, Margo Martindale, Paloma Guzman, Michael Kelly, Nick Gehlfuss, Annie Parisse, Enrico Colantoni, Jonathan Tucker, Michael McGlone, Paige Turco, Robert John Burke, Gloria Votsis, Brennan Brown, Clarke Peters, Anthony Mangano, John Ventimiglia, Brett Cullen, Alicia Witt, Carrie Preston, Sharon Leal, Julian Sands, Mark Pellegrino, Francie Swift, Sterling K. Brown, Michael Irby, Reiko Aylesworth, Tony Plana, Jessica Collins, Brian J. Smith, Luke Kirby, Luke Kleintank, John Sharian, Karolina Kurkova, Creighton James, James Knight, John Nolan, Brian Hutchison, Charlie Semine, Chandler Williams, Brooke Bloom, Jimmi Simpson, Mía Maestro, Paul Sparks, Luke Macfarlane, Becky Ann Baker, Dan Lauria, Dennis Flanagan, Ron McLarty, Michael Rispoli, Morgan Spector, Jennifer Van Dyck, Tracie Thoms, Al Sapienza, Dennis Boutsikaris

In it’s second season “Person of Interest” is still less than what I would wish it to be. It’s still too formulaic from episode to episode. Its characters still lack dimension. It even still employs some pretty sloppy filmmaking and storytelling techniques sometimes. It’s fairly inconsistent in its quality.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby / *** (PG-13)

Nick Carraway: Tobey Maguire
Jay Gatsby: Leonardo DiCaprio
Daisy Buchanan: Carey Mulligan
Tom Buchanan: Joel Edgerton
Jordan Baker: Elizabeth Debicki
Myrtle Wilson: Isla Fisher
George Wilson: Jason Clarke
Meyer Wolfsheim: Amitabh Bachchan
Dr. Walter Perkins: Jack Thompson

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Baz Luhrmann. Written by Luhrmann & Craig Pearce. Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Running time: 143 min. Rated PG-13 (for some violent images, sexual content, smoking, partying and brief language).

Perhaps what fascinates me so much about cinema is how each and every film has a life of its own. I’m not talking about what happens in the story of the film, although there is that as well. I speak of how the film evolves as an entity in and of itself. Each film has good qualities and bad, and each one comes from a creative mind or rather several. Each film has influences, people and previously existing artistic and political expressions that affect that film in their own way. In the case of movies based on previously produced material, no matter what the medium, that previous incarnation affects them greatly; yet they still exist separately, like a child does from his own parent. Even perception of each film is different and works on each film in different ways. Hell, many people will hate a movie just because of who’s in it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek (2009) ***½

PG-13, 127 min.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Gene Roddenberry (tv series)
Starring: Chris Klein, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Karl Urban, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison, Deep Roy, Faran Tahir, Clifton Collins Jr.

Every time I watch the 2009 reboot of the “Star Trek” film series I get one step closer to giving up the four stars for it. I originally withheld that last half a star because the plot lacks the humanitarian lesson that traditionally accompanied most “Star Trek” stories from the television show. I still have yet to find some sort of traditional science fiction style societal or morality commentary in the film, but the intricate plot developments get richer with every viewing.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jurassic Park (1993) ***½

PG-13, 127 min.
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Michael Crichton (also novel), David Koepp
Starring: Sam Neil, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Joseph Mazzello, Ariana Richards, Bob Peck, Martin Ferrero, Wayne Knight, Samuel L. Jackson, B.D. Wong, Jerry Molen, Miguel Sandoval

The greatest thing happened last night when I decided to show my oldest son Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic “Jurassic Park”. During the scene in the conference room where the scientists were discussing the problems inherent in the concept of creating a theme park based on genetically engineered dinosaurs, he asked us to stop the movie so we could discuss some of the philosophies in play.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Thumb Snatchers From the Moon Cocoon (2013) *½

NR, 7 min.
Director/Writer: Bradley Schaffer
Voice: Evan Hyde

Cinematic legend Ray Harryhausen passed away at the age of 92 Wednesday. He was known for the stop motion animation work he did for live action movies. His credits ranged from “Mighty Joe Young”, to “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”, to the original “Clash of the Titans”. Working mostly in B genre pictures, Harryhausen was practically a household name, a rarity for a filmmaker working his entire career in special effects. Nevertheless, Harryhausen was thought of as one of the pioneers of filmmaking and many within and without the filmmaking community admired him.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13— Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) ****

PG, 105 min.
Director: Robert Benton
Writers: Robert Benton, Avery Corman (novel)
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Justin Henry, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, Howard Duff, George Coe, JoBeth Williams

I don’t think I’ve watched “Kramer vs. Kramer” all the way through since I saw it in the theater with my parents when I was 8. I’ve seen parts of it since then. We studied some of the scenes for a film acting class when I was in college. But, most of my memories of the movie before my recent screening are from my 8-year-old mind.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012) ***

R, 83 min.
Directors/Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Rae Dawn Chong, Steve Zissis, Evan Ross

It’s just like “Signs”, the movie starring Mel Gibson, Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin; but without the lame rubber-suited aliens, Joaquin Phoenix, crop circles and all the other bullshit that made that movie stupid.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Impossible (2012) ****

PG-13, 114 min.
Director: Jaun Antonio Bayona
Writers: Sergio G. Sánchez, María Belón
Starring: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oakalee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Geraldine Chaplin

“The Impossible” is one of the most agonizing films I’ve ever seen. I spent most of the running time watching with my hands plastered to my head or face or some other expression of anxiety. I hissed between my teeth the way you do when you smash your shin on the corner of the bed for about 40 minutes straight. The movie is brilliant in the way it depicts the impossible tale of survival this family went through; and I wondered, why do we want to watch a movie like this?

Monday, May 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Desire (2013) **

NR, 13 min.
Director: Adam Smith
Starring: Damian Lewis, Shannyn Sossamon, Jordi Mollá

So I had a stupid idea. I heard that Jaguar had made a short film to promote their new car, the F-TYPE. I thought, “Hey! That might make a good Penny Thoughts entry!” Yeah, well, it’s a car commercial. What can I say?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Iron Man 3 / **** (PG-13)

Tony Stark: Robert Downey, Jr.
Pepper Potts: Gwyneth Paltrow
Colonel James Rhodes: Don Cheadle
Aldrich Killian: Guy Pearce
Maya Hansen: Rebecca Hall
Happy Hogan: Jon Favreau
Savin: James Badge Dale
The Mandarin: Ben Kingsley

Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures present a film directed by Shane Black. Written by Drew Pearce & Shane Black. Based on the comic book by Stan Lee and Don Heck and Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. Running time: 130 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content).

Despite the temperatures outside, it is finally summer blockbuster movie season again; and with the finest “Iron Man” movie yet out in theaters, everything somehow seems right again. Iron Man returns to solo work after his involvement in “The Avengers” movie last year, and it is once again easy to see why everyone seemed to want more of the Avengers; they make for such rich movie characters. Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark serves as one of the most original superheroes the genre has ever seen. He’s a hero with a brain, not just a knack for blowing things up.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Avengers (2012) ***½

PG-13, 143 min.
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow
Voice: Paul Bettany

“The Avengers” effectively closed Phase One of the Disney/Marvel movie initiative, which was a grand success. It consisted of 6 movies: “Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor”, “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers”. Each film was incredibly received and effectively built to the most successful of the bunch with its concluding film. Wisely, each film featured its own separate story, but with little elements that tied them all together. All the leading actors had to sign contracts that said they could (but not necessarily would) appear in five films. So, many of the characters made cameo appearances in some of the other characters’ films, and then they all starred in the finale.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Brazzaville Teen-Ager (2013) ****

NR, 20 min.
Director: Michael Cera
Writers: Michael Cera, Bruce Jay Friedman (also original story)
Starring: Michael Cera, Jack O’Connell, Charles Grodin, Kelis

“Brazzaville Teen-Ager” is a rather brilliant short film that marks the directorial debut of actor Michael Cera. Co-written by Cera and Bruce Jay Friendman from Friedman’s own 1966 short story, this film is no dipping of the toes for Cera as a serious filmmaker. This is the real deal. He is a bona fide filmmaker, proving it with a confident short entry.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) ***

R, 104 min.
Director/Writer: Kevin Smith
Starring: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jeff Anderson, Brian Christopher O’Halloran, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, Jennifer Schwalbach, Will Ferrell, Jason Lee, Judd Nelson, George Carlin, Carrie Fisher, Seann William Scott, John  Stewart, Jules Asner, Steve Kmetko, Tracy Morgan, Gus Van Sant, Chris Rock, Jamie Kennedy, Wes Craven, Shannen Doherty, Mark Hamill, Diedrich Bader, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Matt Damon

“Snoochie Boochies” — Jay.

What does that mean? Who cares? I don’t know, but this movie is still fun to me. Of all of Kevin Smith’s films… Scratch that. Of all of the films Smith has written (that disavows “Cop Out”) “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” is probably the silliest, and in many ways, his most mainstream. The undervalued “Jersey Girl” is fairly mainstream as well, but in a different way. It’s the one movie in Smith’s cannon that doesn’t seem to involve some obscure issue that Smith wants to explore. It just exists for the sake of having a movie where Jay and Silent Bob, the two characters who work in the background of most of his movies, are the stars.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—John Dies at the End (2013) **½

R, 99 min.
Director: Don Coscarelli
Writers: Don Coscarelli, David Wong (original story)
Starring: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck, Fabianne Therese, Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong, Tai Bennett

I was thinking the other day about the movie “Office Space”. I was working in a movie theater in Vail, Colorado when it was released theatrically. Our theater didn’t get it, so a bunch of our high school employees road tripped to Denver to see it. I didn’t sense much interest in it in anyone at the time but those kids. As such I think it was perceived upon its release as one of those knucklehead movies about young people behaving badly.