Saturday, August 1, 2015

Movies in August 2015

The last full month of summer is here and here are the movies hitting the theaters during the next few weeks.

WEEK-BY-WEEK MOVIE PICKS FOR AUGUST 2015


Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (The weekend of August 1)
Tom Cruise returns once again for another action-packed IMF adventure.


Fantastic Four (August 7)
I like director Josh Trank, and this superhero reboot seems a lot less cheesy than the previous movie versions, but I'm still not convinced this is the best adaptation of the beloved comic book series that it could be.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14)
Where's Robert Vaughn and David McCallum when we need them? Director Guy Ritchie tries to reimagine the 1960s series, this time starring Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.


Sinister 2 (August 21)
In this horror sequel, a mother and her twin sons move into a haunted house.


Regression (August 28)
Emma Watson and Ethan Hawke star in a thriller about a father accused of committing a crime for which he has no memory.

OTHER KEY MOVIES IN AUGUST 2015


American Ultra
Jesse Eisenberg stars alongside Kristen Stewart in a tale about a stoner who is actually a government agent.


Best of Enemies
This documentary chronicles the fascinating televised debates in 1968 between conservative William F. Buckley and liberal Gore Vidal.


Cop Car
Kevin Bacon is a small town sheriff trying to apprehend two kids who take his vehicle for a joy ride.


Dark Places
Charlize Theron plays a woman revisiting the murder of her family when she was a child.


Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F
Here's the latest feature animated film about the Z Fighters.


The End of the Tour
I was skeptical of Jason Segel playing author David Foster Wallace, but the critics are giving this excellent reviews. Jesse Eisenberg plays the Rolling Stone reporter who's interviewing the novelist on his Infinite Jest book tour.


The Gift
Starring Jason Bateman, this mystery thriller shows a young married couple's lives turned upside down when a creepy old acquaintance pays a visit.


Grandma
Lily Tomlin is earning rave reviews for her portrayal of a grandmother whose granddaughter comes to her for help.


Hitman: Agent 47
Here's another remake of the video game about the gunman-for-hire.


Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet
Various animators adapt the different chapters of the classic book.


A LEGO Brickumentary
This documentary examines the appeal of the building-block toys, which have grown into a major entertainment franchise.


Listen to Me Marlon
The life of actor Marlon Brando is examined.


Ricki and the Flash
Meryl Streep stars as a musician who had pursued a rock 'n' roll career and returns home to make amends with her family.


Shaun the Sheep Movie
A sheep leads the flock to the big city and needs to bring them back to the farm.


She's Funny That Way
Peter Bogdanovich directs a screwball comedy starring Owen Wilson and others.


Straight Out of Compton
This biopic tells the story of the hip hop group N.W.A.


Underdogs
Here's an Argentinian animated movie about Foosball players.


Vacation
This is a combination sequel and reboot of the classic National Lampoon comedy.

OTHER TITLES IN AUGUST 2015


The Diary of a Teenage Girl
A teen artist, played by Bel Powley, living in 1970s San Francisco enters into an affair with her mother's boyfriend, played by Alexander Skarsgard. Kristen Wiig is the mother.


That Sugar Film
This documentary explores the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body.


War Room
A family looks to a wise old woman to try to fix their problems.


We Are Your Friends
Zac Efron is an aspiring DJ who falls in love.

Happy movie-watching!


Friday, July 31, 2015

Remembering Rowdy Roddy Piper

Rest in peace, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (born Roderick George Toombs), another professional wrestler gone too soon. TMZ reported that he died in his sleep from cardiac arrest. He was only 61 years old.

Even though he played a villain for most of his career, he was a fan favorite. He had the gift of gab, and his famous "Piper's Pit" interview segments apparently were mostly improvised. Piper was one of the key players (along with Hulk Hogan, Cyndi Lauper, and Mr. T) in the "Rock and Wrestling" storyline for the WWF (now called the WWE) back in the 1980s that launched the popularity of the sport-entertainment nationwide (and then worldwide) when it had previously been a regional attraction.

A decade later, he asked Hogan on live TV when they were both on WCW, speaking of the fans, "Do you think they would have loved you so much, if they hadn't hated me?" It was that kind of wit, humor, and seeming genuineness that endeared him with audiences. They often cheered for him even when he was the heel. People enjoyed watching him even if he wasn't fighting in the ring, they just enjoyed hearing him talk. (The only other pro wrestling personality that came somewhat close to having that impact for me was probably Jesse "The Body" Ventura.)

He had multiple championships with the NWA and other wrestling organizations. For the WWF/WWE, while never Heavyweight Champion, he did manage to become the Intercontinental Champion and the World Tagteam Champion with Ric Flair. He was a true wrestling legend, voted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. He was also voted the "Greatest Villain" of all time.

In Hollywood, his greatest success was the starring role in the science fiction cult classic They Live, which featured one of the longest fist fight scenes ever filmed as well as Piper's classic ad-libbed line, "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum."

He will be missed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Scream TV Series Is a Success

MTV's adaptation of Scream has been renewed for a second season. I'm a big fan of the original movies and so far the show has been an extremely entertaining update for today's audiences.  It plays up all the horror genre tropes, while still delivering some good scares amid the self-referential dialogue.


The mystery about who's doing all the killing is compelling, with suspicion falling on all the characters (and this is MTV so they're all good-looking). Every time you think someone is the murderer, they're placed in jeopardy so you think they can't be the serial killer, or can they? Red herrings and misdirection are rampant.


This is a reboot of the franchise with no direct connection so far to the popular movie series that began in 1996. Even the iconic mask of the unknown killer is reminiscent but slightly different than the one in the films (which was a lot better because it was closer to the Edvard Munch painting and the new one is a lot more bland.)


I especially like the use of social media, cellphones, and other communication technology in the plot. Like the memorable phone call at the beginning of the first film, the new series does a terrific job moving the story along with modern day gadgets as the characters interact online as much as they do in the real world.

I wonder how long they can keep the mystery going without jumping the shark. If they reveal the identity of the killer, I'm curious to see how they can add new mysteries without the show becoming stale or repetitive.

At one point, (one of many self-aware moments), the geeky Noah Foster (portrayed nicely by John Karna) jokes that a horror show doesn't work as a TV series because it's not sustainable (unless it's an anthology series). Let's hope he's wrong, because it seems to be working so far.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Suggestions for My Nostalgic Crate

If you're looking for clever gift ideas for all the special men in your life, consider Man Crates, unique packages sent in wooden crates with a cool laser-engraved crow bar included to open the box. They can be customized depending on the taste of the guy -- whiskey, cigars, grilling, fishing, baseball, football, golf, poker, the list goes on. Some of the more creative kits are for the retro gamer or the zombie apocalypse survivalist! My favorite is the "Old School Crate," loaded with items from our childhood memories -- Slinky, Rubik's Cube, Pez dispenser and candy, Pop Rocks, and Cracker Jack, just to name a few.

If I were to receive one, here are some ideas of what I'd like to see stuffed inside it.

CANDY


Reggie Bar 
Reggie Jackson wanted a candy bar named after him, and his dream came true. The combination of chocolate, caramel, and peanuts would make me remember rooting for the New York Yankees as a kid and sparking my lifelong love of baseball.


Reese's Pieces
These candy-coated peanut butter snacks are always delicious, and they were a highlight of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, making a fortune when M&Ms turned down the product-placement opportunity.


Big League Chew
Bubble gum was a safer and tastier choice for kids wanting to mimic their favorite athletes who chewed tobacco. Stay away from the "chaw," young ones, and enjoy blowing bubbles instead.

Runners up: 
Fun Dip
Nerds
Rolo
Spree
Whatchamacallit

TELEVISION


The A-Team
"If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team."


Miami Vice
From the music to the styles, this was one of the most trend-setting TV shows of the decade.


The Greatest American Hero
Before superheroes were all the rage, this little TV show made us laugh and root for the clutzy teacher with an alien suit that gave him superpowers, but he lost the instruction manual.


Knight Rider
We all wanted a talking car like K.I.T.T.


V
Forget the recent remake. The two 1980s miniseries about alien invasion were the best!

Runners up:
Airwolf
Cheers
Dallas
Family Ties
Fraggle Rock
Growing Pains
Max Headroom
Moonlighting
Newhart
Night Court
Peewee's Playhouse
Perfect Strangers
Police Squad
Sledge Hammer!
Small Wonder
The Twilight Zone (1980s reboot)
Wiseguy

TOYS


Micro Machines
I always loved toy cars, and now my toddler son does too.


Atari 2600
The graphics may have been terrible by today's standards and the gameplay may have been simplistic, but this brought the arcade experience home, letting us play Asteroids, Space Invaders, Pac-man, Missile Command, and all the rest in our own living rooms without having to constantly feed quarters to the machines!


Masters of the Universe
The cartoon was just an excuse to sell us the toys, and these action figures were great.


Transformers
If you only know Transformers from the blockbuster Michael Bay movies, then you missed out on some of the coolest toys ever made.


ViewMaster
Even though this was introduced in 1939, it was still a big part of my childhood, looking at a bunch of reels that displayed 3D scenes of dinosaurs, Batman, Superman, Land of the Lost, The Incredible Hulk, you name it!

Runners up:
Etch-a-Sketch
G.I. Joe
Nintendo Game Boy
Simon Says
WWF Wrestling Figures

MOVIES


Back to the Future
I watched this so many times, I know all the lines by heart.


Ferris Bueller's Day Off
This is still one of my favorite movies of all time.


The Goonies
They're planning to remake it, but it will never be as good as the original.


Blade Runner
Harrison Ford starred in one of the most atmospheric and thought-provoking sci-fi movies of all time.

Runners up:
The Blues Brothers
Ghostbusters
The Karate Kid
The Lost Boys
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rocky III
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
The Terminator

MUSIC


Michael Jackson - Thriller
How can you talk about the 1980s without mentioning the biggest selling album of the time?


Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.
I played this album to death.


U2 - The Joshua Tree
Anyone who knocks 80s music obviously has a very selective memory.


Van Halen - 1984
Any song from this album still makes me remember my younger days.


Bon Jovi - Slippery When Wet
Say what you will about the music of the 80s, it was fun.

Runners up:
Duran Duran - Rio
Madonna - Like a Virgin
The Police - Synchronicity
Prince - Purple Rain
Wham! - Make It Big

I know it's called Man Crates, but I know some women too who would love to receive some of these personalized packages.  Head over to http://www.mancrates.com/awesome-gifts-for-men and check it out.