Friday, March 15, 2013

Season of the Witch (2011)

Number Rolled: 19
Movie Name/Year: Season of the Witch (2011)
Genre: Sci Fi & Fantasy
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Dominic Sena
Writer: Bragi F. Schut
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen, Claire Foy, Robert Sheehan, Christopher Lee, Rebekah Kennedy, Andrew Hefler, Fernanda Dorogi, Kevin Rees, Matt Devere

Two medieval soldiers, Behmen and Felson, have spent many years spilling blood in the name of God, during the Crusades. Several events pass that put them in a situation where they are asked to transport an accused witch to a monastery that is in possession of a book that will put an end to her. They reluctantly agree and the quest to bring the witch to her trial begins.

There are a great many ways to look at this film and, while I’m aware it got trashed by audience and critics alike, I really enjoyed it. It’s possible that the table-top role-player in me just happened to note the Dungeons and Dragons like quality to the movie. I’m talking about a table-top campaign, not the movie by the same name.

I‘ve seen a few reviews that say that Nicolas Cage shouldn’t have played this role. That it should have been Steven Segal. Whenever I see that suggestion, I can almost feel the blood starting to flow out of my ears. Nicolas Cage is a unique actor. Love him or hate him, you’ll always recognize him. For as minor as the comedy was in this movie, I was surprised that he seemed to be the only person I could picture playing it. If Dominic Sena would have used a more action film actor for the role, the movie’s dynamic would have changed. It’s impossible to explain why without adding severe spoilers to this review. I’m going to just have to leave it at that. That being said, I’ve been iffy on Ron Perlman for a while, but after this movie I’m definitely a fan.

There are some very predictable moments in this movie. I wouldn’t quite call it a recipe film, but there were some familiar ingredients. Unfortunately, that happens in movies like this with a straight-forward storyline. The major twist, as well as the ending, however, I found I really enjoyed. I’m truly a sucker for this brand of ending.

I think the critics didn’t have the right outlook on this movie and I’m not sure why more of the audience members didn’t like it. In the end, none of that matters. Watch and decide for yourself.

Overall Opinion – 3.5/5

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mona Lisa Smile (2003)

Number Rolled: 61
Movie Name/Year: Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Genre: Drama
Length: 119 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal
Actors: Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic West, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden, John Slattery, Marian Seldes, Jennie Eisenhower, Laura Allen, Topher Grace, Jordan Bridges

Katherine Watson arrives at Wellesley, an all girl college, to teach art history and believing she is going to change the world. Set between the years of 1953 and 1954, there’s still a lot of change set to occur in the future for women; in that era, however, it’s marriage that the women are almost solely after. Katherine gets close to a few of her students and attempts to make a difference in their lives. In some cases the result is favorable, others not so much.

I have to be honest here, this movie just kind of was. I don’t think I’m the target audience. I got it. I liked the message but the story didn’t do anything for me. It was a really long 119 minutes from my perspective. That being said, there’s not much I can comment on.

I thought the actors were great. They likely did exactly what they were instructed to do and then some. I’m a huge fan of the quirky goddess herself, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and thought she was brilliant. Julia Roberts was also amazing. However, I had some issues with Julia Stiles strange accent. I also thought Ginnifer Goodwin just played an old fashioned version of her character from “He’s Just Not That Into You,” of course, “Mona Lisa Smile” came first so it might just be an issue of type-casting. Something about Kirsten Dunst bugged me, but I can’t put my finger on it, which is strange, because I usually think she’s alright. If I figure it out I’ll put it in a P.S. on the post at a later date.

All in all, this movie wasn’t for me. I understand why people would like, or even love, it. I’m not one of them. I didn’t hate it either. It was just kind of there.

Overall Opinion – 2.5/5

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beyond the Myth (2011)

Number Rolled: 50
Movie Name/Year: Beyond the Myth (2011)
Genre: Documentary
Length: 94 minutes
Rating: NR
Director: Libby Sherrill
Writer: Libby Sherrill
Actors: N/A

As a movie, this documentary was spectacular. It was a powerful look at breed bias against Pit Bulls. The movie took a significant stance on one side of the argument, and showed the audience why that side was superior to the alternate. To back up their argument they used a significant amount of verified facts and first person interviews.

It was spectacular.

As for the topic, I have something to say.

In this documentary, people who were interviewed told their tales about what it was like for their dog to be confiscated after the passing of breed-banning laws. I don’t like to leave my dog, Honeybear, at the groomers for an hour, let alone a shelter for days or weeks, only to be euthanized at the end of her stay. If someone tried to take her from me, there would be hell to pay. No one’s coming for her though. She’s a Pomeranian/Sheltie mix. Those are not the breeds people are after.

I remember the day I met Honeybear. I’d lost my first dog a little while before, to health issues, and was miserable. I missed having my fuzz therapy roaming around the house. I found that I sink into a deep depression without having a dog by my side. A friend of mine who worked at a shelter knew this. He called me up and said, “We have this dog here that no one wants. She’s been here for months, she’s easily aggressive and she plays rough. We’re not going to be able to adopt her out. Why don’t you come by and take a look.”

I stayed up the whole night and went to the shelter first thing in the morning, before it even opened. When my friend finally got there, he paraded out this medium-sized dog that had most of its weight in hair. All of that hair was matted around her so that she almost looked like a smaller, darker, English sheepdog. She was skittish and when I went to pet her, she bit me. I knew pretty quickly that he was right. No one was going to adopt that dog. So I did.

She was terrified of scissors, so I spent the next three days taking eight hour shifts with a nail clipper, slowly, carefully, cutting off all those uncomfortable mats. I taught her how to trust and feel safe and, low-and-behold, she doesn’t bite anymore.

What does this have to do with Pit Bulls?

First, she was an “unadoptable” dog. A biter. It turned out all she needed was a dedicated and loving caretaker who could teach her that she didn’t need to bite.

Second, she’s not a Pit Bull but, look at that, she was a biter. All dogs can be mistreated in to biting.

Dogs are like children. There are all kinds of different breeds. Just like we come in all different flavors (Caucasian, African American, Mandarin, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etc.) so do dogs (Pit Bulls, Shelties, Rottweilers, German Shephards, Pugs, English Bulldogs, etc.). Saying that one specific breed is “bad” is like saying one specific human race is.

I was once punched in the face by a Chinese man. Should I now hate all Chinese men? Will they all punch me in the face? My first dog was attacked by a Rottweiler. Are all Rottweiler’s bad now? Will they all attack? No, of course not. Those ideas, the ones that say all are something because one is, are stereotypical and racist.

A domesticated dog is only as good as it has been trained to be. I’ve met roughly twenty Pit Bulls in my life. Do you know how many I’ve been bit by? None. I’ve been nearly licked to death or killed by bad breath, but I’ve never been bitten by a Pit Bull. In fact, of all my friends that have owned Pit Bulls or been close to those that do? None of them have been bitten either. I’m not saying that there are no Pit Bulls that bite. That’s about as stupid a thought as saying all of them do. I’m saying that no race can be judged in that general of a manner. Every person, every dog, every living being, needs to be judged on themselves. Nothing else.

I’ve always maintained this belief. What this movie did was remind me that there is a war going on. People are making heavy sacrifices of creatures they love, creatures that are part of their family, in order to try and get the law to understand basic rights. A war vet with a Pit Bull service dog, should not be forced to give up that dog. A good family with a well trained Pit Bull, should not have that dog torn from their home and put to death.

Think about it; creatures being taken from their home, completely on the basis of their race, and killed. Does it sound familiar? I’ve got to tell you, I’m Jewish and that sounds REALLY familiar. That sounds like something we can and have all agreed is wrong. So, why is it happening?

Fear is a very powerful motivator and Pit Bulls are strong-looking dogs. They’re easy to be afraid of if you have a closed mind and a small heart. They’re easy to be afraid of if you’re not willing to look past their appearance and their race.

Not all Hispanics steal. Not all Jewish people are cheap. Not all Caucasian people are racists. Not all Pit Bulls are vicious.

There is a war out there. One where innocent people – families of the innocent dogs affected – are suffering. The only person who can decide where you stand, is you. And while you’re thinking about it, I hope you’ll remember the words of Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Who will be left when someone takes the creature you love?

Overall Opinion – 5/5