Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Draft Day- Select Netflix

The best thing I can say about this movie is that I didn't hate it.  Draft Day is another Kevin Costner sports film but nowhere near the quality of "Field of Dreams", "Bull Durham", or even "Tin Cup".  I know the reviews were pretty good, but the poor box office supports my overall disappointment in this film.  As a huge sports fan I had high hopes.

Basically this is a story about Sonny, played by Costner, the Brown's general manager, facing the NFL Draft.  The entire sports world and Cleveland are watching and criticizing his every move.  He's under enormous pressure both externally, and internally.  His owner and the Super Bowl winning coach are on his back, his love interest works with him, and even his Mom is pressuring him, along with seemingly everyone else.

I had issues with the lack of surprise and lack of believability.  I never had a doubt that Sonny would come up aces in the end.  I wasn't sure how, but I never once doubted the ultimate outcome.  Now, knowing there will be a happy ending isn't exactly a rare thing but in this case it really muted the tone and suspense for me.  I also knew, since we "met" so few athletes, that each would eventually have some meaningful part in the plot.  Nobody is "just there"....  Nobody to throw us off.  No suspense.

My other issue was the complete lack of character development and chemistry between characters.   The most interesting character, other then Sonny, was the team's owner, adequately played by Frank Langella.  There was just too little of him.  Sonny's Mom, and the issue surrounding his recently deceased father were poorly developed and merely distracting.  A peripheral story-line adding nothing.  Ellen Burstyn's performance was distractingly bad and contributed nothing to further the story.  Denis Leary plays the coach who actually quits the team because he disagrees with Sonny's choices.  As a sports fan this is beyond unbelievable.  No NFL coach would quit because of a perceived bad draft.  Of course he changes his mind in the end, but still.........  Jennifer Garner, the love interest and the team's "capologist", newly pregnant with Sonny's baby, has her moments but overall is window dressing.  The scenes involving her financial management role are interesting enough, but the pregnancy was just another peripheral story-line adding little.  In general I don't find her to be all that talented and this role did nothing to change my mind about her. "Dallas Buyer's Club" was my favorite movie last year but she was my least favorite part of it.  There was even a nerdy receptionist kid, who seemed to be an afterthought, again adding nothing.  I guess he was supposed to be the Jonah Hill of this movie but he came across as simply silly.   Costner himself was about what we've come to expect from him.  Adequate acting and charm, but he can only go as far as the material allows.

In my opinion this was a poor rip off of "Moneyball", a far superior film.  There was none of the intrigue, suspense, or insight.  I never felt like I was getting the hoped for peek behind the curtain, the way I did in "Moneyball".   So if you're a big Costner fan, or simply want to watch a sports movie, and have already seen "Moneyball" you can rent "Draft Day".

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I saw this film with my 18 year old son.  Afterwards I asked him what he thought, and an he informed me that he liked it a lot.  I pressed him about what he liked exactly, hoping for some teen insight.  He simply replied "it was entertaining".
Well, he didn't know it at the time, but he pretty much nailed my primary criteria for liking or disliking a movie.  Was I entertained or not.
Quite simply Captain America: The Winter Soldier was entertaining, all 136 minutes of it.  I have to admit that in general I'm a fan of comic book movies, and movies that have to do with special powers and abilities.
The film was shot in bright futuristic color yet with a very modern "this could be real" feel.  The effects were believable but not so overwhelming as to feel stilted or overshadowing the action.  I particularly enjoyed a scene in which an SUV was the star.  The car responded to voice commands and "helped" Nick Fury, somewhat overacted by Samuel Jackson, survive an ambush.
To nit pick I did think some of the acting was weak.  In addition to SJ's hammy performance I thought Robert Redford seemed uncomfortable at best.   Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson were adequate, even if the lines they were given were a bit Greeting Card.  Captain America's goody two shoes overt "I never lie" persona got to be a bit tedious.
The Winter Solider aka Bucky Barnes, played by Sebastian Stan was pretty cool.  His look and cold blooded assassin code, along with a metal arm, made him the ideal villain.  I did think he looked a lot more intimidating and menacing with the veil like mask, which was discarded too soon.
 I know good is supposed to prevail over evil, but this was so black and white it came across as corny.  I like my hero's to have at least a bit of an edge.  They don't have to be Wolverine, or even Spiderman, but Captain America would make Superman seem downright sinister.
So in a nutshell, it's a fun and entertaining movie.  Now bring on Spiderman.