Category Archives: Howling at the Stars

Fury: War is Hell

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“Fury” starring Brad Pitt

“Ideals are peaceful. History is violent”

Brad Pitt

“Fury” is an honest portrayal of the brutality of war, the toll it takes on soldiers, and how those soldiers manage to fight on in the face of overwhelming odds. Make no mistake, this is not a movie for the squeamish. “Fury” tantalizes us with calm, and then hits us square in the jaw; and this happens from jump street.

As always, very minor spoilers below the trailer; nothing that will give away the overall plot or ending.

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The Judge: Honesty and Anticipation

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The Judge

Tis no secret among those that know me – I love movies. I always have had, and always will have, a soft spot in my heart, mind, and soul for a well written and well acted performance. 

I have been looking forward to The Judge for quite a long time. After reviving his acting career as the (in)famous Tony “Iron Man” Stark, Robert Downey, Jr. was given a second chance – a chance to prove the potential everyone knew he had before his personal demons ruled his life. He has vanquished those demons, and realized the potential he showed as a younger man. The Judge is proof positive of this.

The Judge is not a courtroom drama – though it has courtroom drama. The Judge is not a love story – though it has one of those as well. The Judge is, at its heart, the story of a boy and his father.  Interestingly enough, it is a coming of age story for a man already grown.

I would describe the theme of The Judge to be one of reconciliation; a story of “tough” love; a story of compassion. The Judge will sway you, and hopefully make you think. It will make you feel. The movie is long at over two hours, and some might feel it is slow paced – it’s not an action movie. This is a character study – this is the story of a man and his father. While these things are true, there is suspense, and not just of the courtroom variety. 

I often find myself saying about movies that I would recommend them to my friends, and I worry that I over say this at times. Even so, I recommend you see this movie.

If you are a person who dislikes knowing what is going to happen in a movie, I’d like to caution you now. If you proceed below the following trailer, you’ll learn more about the movie than you might have preferred (though you will need to continue to understand the title of this article).

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The Maze Runner: Makes Your Mind Run

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Courtesy of the official movie website

This week, I decided to give The Maze Runner a trial run (see what I did there?). It was a last minute decision, and I was sure I was about to see another knockoff Hunger Games movie (I’m looking at you Divergent). 

I was wrong.

The Maze Runner is an intelligently written, and well acted, adventure mystery. Full of unknown actors (though the actor playing Gally did look like he could Chipper Jones’ son), I was very pleasantly surprised. This movie does a great job of asking the question, “What is home?” Gally really raises a great question. He was a great catalyst in the movie and lent credence to  a theme other than just “teens versus monsters”. 

Home is different for each of us. We all come from different walks of life – we all acclimate to our surroundings as we grow – we all internalize and identify with our environments. Even prisoners.

Do you ever wonder what life would be like elsewhere? Do you have the curiosity of Thomas, the main character, or are you content with a static environment? Themes like these are fantastic motivators and instigators of internal and external challenges. The Maze Runner does a great job of characterizing these challenges, while not skimping on the action.

This movie was definitely not Divergent; it wasn’t even Hunger Games. This movie lived and breathed on its own, and succeeded.

The Equalizer: What Defines You?

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Columbia’s “The Equalizer”

Do our circumstances define us? Or do we define our circumstances?

Can we change our world in order to change ourselves?

These are the questions I am left with tonight, and not exactly the questions you would expect to be considering after watching a movie you expect to be an action adventure. Tonight, my expectations were turned around.

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Back with a Bang

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Courtesy of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returned today, not with a whimper, but with a bang (please forgive the cliche – or not).

ABC’s super-hero adventure about non-super heroes had a tumultuous first season, starting slowly and then ramping up as it approached this spring’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The show kept the pedal to the medal through the end of the season. One episode into season 2, and I’m inclined to think that the pedal is still firmly cemented to Lola’s floorboards. 

Familiar characters that were viewed negatively (I’m looking at you Skye) have had gone through some radical changes. Skye was the “victim” of the hairdo make over showing their new badassery; guess what? She lived up to it. She was enjoyable, engaging, and real. Ward is apologetic for his actions last season – but only time will tell if the show-runners are willing to rehabilitate a character many feel is beyond redemption.

New characters added to the feeling of speed out the gate. The story flow was outstanding, new mysteries were introduced, a feeling of the team being more than just the characters we know, and intelligent use of special effects culminated in the desired resutl (with me anyway): I was on the edge of my seat throughout, literally.

If you aren’t a fan, or you’ve heard bad things about the first season – I recommend you give this a try. I predict you will be pleasantly surprised.

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, the Avengers were born—to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand! Through the years, their roster has prospered, changing many times, but their glory has never been denied! Heed the call, then—for now, the Avengers Assemble!

Why am I a fan? Why does the world of “super heroes” appeal to me so much? Why am I attracted to that which is considered to be childish and immature?

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Public Service Announcement: Safe House – See it to Make Your Car Happy

My car is a 2008 Ford Mustang. Her name is Summer’s Shadow, and she likes to go fast. The only problem with this is that I’ve become more responsible now that I’m in my 30’s (no comments from the peanut gallery about my level of responsibility or age, please). Summer’s Shadow understands this, and is patient with me. The reason she is patient with me is because of movies such as Safe House. You see, after an action packed enjoyable movie, she knows  I’ll let her loose at 1am on the streets of my hometown. She knows she will get to growl and let loose and go fast and all kinds of other things that Mustangs enjoy.

So, in conclusion, see Safe House. Your car will thank you. Oh, and you’ll love the movie too.

***

So in all seriousness, I had high hopes for this movie when I first saw the previews. When I went out tonight, I had a couple of choices of what to see, and asked a couple of friends. I was leaning toward Safe House, and my friends seem to agree. I have smart friends (S-M-R-T). 

Safe House stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. To be honest, I will see any movie that has either of these actors in it – and a movie with both is one that I cannot resist.

Washington plays a traitor to his country who has sold out and sold secrets. Clearly the government doesn’t like this. Reynolds is a low-level safe house attendant who spends his days listening to music and doing whatever he wants so long as he picks up the phone when the boss calls. This dynamic duo (sorry for the cliché) are a perfect match.

Washington has secrets. People want secrets. People come after secrets. Boy Scout (ahem Reynolds) decides to save him. 

One thing I’ve learned is that to have a good story and a character you care about, a character that is real, the character has to be dynamic. Static characters tend toward boring, or can be anyway. Reynolds plays an innocent (insomuch that he is still a virgin in the espionage game and has no practical experience). Watching Reynolds’ character struggle with the realities of his career versus his moral compass is great. By the end, he finds a way to balance the two, and emerges a stronger man for it. Granted, he is pretty awesome in the fight scenes – I’m referring to the fact that he becomes stronger as a person.

Throughout, you want Washington to really be a good guy. You want the stories told about him to be just that. At the end of the movie, he is a man dressed in black, and you want him so much to be a man dressed in white. Is he? I don’t want to give it away – go see.

I. Loved. This. Movie.

And Summer’s Shadow is glad I did.

(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1599348/)

Movie Review: Contraband

As much as people grimace when they think of Marky Mark from the 90’s, Mark Wahlberg has grown up to be a great actor in his own right. For me, he has elevated his craft to the point where I am happy to see any new movie has has him attached to it, even when the trailer promises an overused plot. Such is the case with Contraband.

My faith in Wahlberg paid off.

Wahlberg’s recent movie choices have been of high quality (The Fighter comes to mind.) With this in mind, I was hopeful that Contraband would be enjoyable, if predictable. And while it was predictable, there was one twist had surprised both me and the audience. I won’t ruin this for you, as I plan to keep these reviews as free of spoilers as I can.

In this movie, Wahlberg plays a retired smuggler who is drawn back into the life for one final job. I know, I know, this is what had me worried too, but I needn’t have been concerned at all. Wahlberg does a great job of building a real person. His “anti-hero” character of Chris Faraday was one that we could all stand behind and root for, and Wahlberg did a great job of keeping his characterization fresh.

Joining Wahlberg in this movie is John Foster (who plays Faraday’s fellow retired smuggler) and Giovanni Ribisi (the villian of the movie). Foster did a great job supporting Wahlberg’s Faraday, and has the important job of keeping Faraday’s family safe when Fraday takes this one last job.

Ribisi does a great job as the villain Tim Briggs. Briggs plays an up and coming underworld boss who Faraday has to pay off to save his family. As always, Ribisi does a great job of making you feel uncomfortable and maintaining a feeling of instability in his character.

I definately recommend that you see Contraband. For more information about this movie, visit IMDB at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1524137/.