Trouble with the Curve

After a long couple of weeks working and being away from home, there was a huge need to sneak away and get back to the theaters to check out Trouble with the Curve.

Clint Eastwood found some time to get away from humiliating himself at political conventions to star as Gus, a old, long time baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves in search of one last signing before he gets pushed out by a new way of thinking that has seemingly taken over the Braves organization.

Mickey (Amy Adams) is heading towards partnership at her law firm, and is finally ready to prove to her father that she is independent and successful on her own. When she finds out that her father is starting to lose her eye sight she decides to join him out on the road in North Carolina as together they check out the next "sure thing" who is about to enter the Major League Baseball draft.

Justin Timberlake plays Johnny, a former pitcher who since being injured has taken up scouting as a way to stay involved in the game en route to his dream of broadcasting for the Boston Red Sox. Along the way he finds out that he and Mickey may have more in common that just the link of Gus playing major roles in their lives.

Watching this movie for me must be like watching E.R. or Grey's Anatomy for a doctor. There were so many liberties taken by the film makers to make the process of finding/developing baseball players more entertaining that it took away from my enjoyment of the movie. The fact that high school baseball was still being played at the time of the MLB draft, and that an organization wouldn't have all of their scouts (including their longest tenured, and one of the GM's right hand men) in their draft "war room" were just two of the most glaring to me.

With that being said, I certainly was entertained and enjoyed this movie. It's no secret that I think Justin Timberlake is great, and Amy Adams was very good in her role as Gus' daughter/strong female character. While he clearly is a different actor than he was in decades past, Clint Eastwood was very entertaining and played the grumpy old man role perfectly.

It was the type of performance you'd want to talk to an empty chair about.

Trouble with the Curve
Directed by: Robert Lorenz
Written by: Randy Brown
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake
My Rating: 3.25 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes

Hit and Run

Another Sunday, another early morning trip to the local Cinemark to check out Hit and Run the latest comedy staring Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper and Kristen Bell.

After becoming a key witness in the trial against his bank robbing former friends, Charles Bronson (Sheppard) is entered into the Witness Protection Program and begins his new life in a small town in California. It is here where he meets the love of his life, psychology professor Annie (Bell).

Annie is a professor at the local community college with dreams of making to a University to become one of the only experts in her field in the country. When this opportunity is afforded to her she and Charles plan a trip to the scene of his trial in Los Angeles. Along the way they find there might be a couple of bumps in the road courtesy of Annie's jealous ex, and Charles', out for revenge former best friend, Alex (Cooper).

Throughout the movie I had a hard time deciding whether or not the creative team was trying to create a comedy, or a dramatic thriller with some really cool car chases. I think because of my confusion it detracted a little from the enjoyment I would have had going into this movie. As you enter the theater the best advice I can give you is to take the movie for what it is. It's not thought provoking enough to make you think, it's not funny enough to keep you in tears from laughing so hard, and there isn't enough action to keep you on the edge of your seat for two hours.

But it is a more than adequate combination of all three.

There are cameo appearances by some big names in the comedy game, and some that will keep you entertained every time they are on the screen. They do what every guest star hopes to do in a movie or TV show, add just enough entertainment not to detract from the main characters.

There is some really great news for NBA fans from this movie. The more times you see the movie, the more you will come to enjoy it. So next spring when the NBA playoff games end on TNT at night you will have the perfect excuse to stay up until 3:00 in the morning watching this movie and enjoying it more each time.


Hit and Run
Directed by: David Palmer and Dax Shepard
Written by: Dax Shepard
Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper
My Rating: 3 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes

The Campaign

Two movies in one day, and yet it still took me a week to write each review. I need to step up my game.

For my night cap last Sunday night, despite missing the exit off of I-15 for my local Cinemark, I was able to check out The Campaign, the latest comedy starring two of the biggest names in the business Will Ferrell, and Zach Galifianakis.

When long time congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is up for re-election, two wealthy CEO's decide it would be in their best business interest to create a bit of competition in the upcoming election. They need someone who will be able to win over the hearts of the public, yet still be willing to take direction from those who put him in a position of power. Enter loveable loser, Marty Huggins (Galifianakis).

Anytime you put two of the funniest comedians in the world together you are bound to create some laughs. It would truly be a work of Hollywood magic to not have scenes that make you laugh in 97 minutes with this cast. Throw Jason Sudeikis in and you've got yourself a comedic team worth voting for. However once you get past the primary information in this movie, you left staring at a hanging chad.

The movie feels like a lazy effort from writers Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell. It would be like having two of the best basketball players in the world and not being able to win the world championship. Or in other words, the 2010-2011 Miami Heat. When you clearly have the capabilities to do more you frustrate your audience because they know what they should be seeing, and unfortunately what you produced resulted in one of the bigger disappointments of the summer movie season.

The Campaign
Directed by: Jay Roach
Written by: Chris Henchy and Shawn Harwell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis and Jason Sudeikis
My Rating: 1.75 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: No

The Bourne Legacy

Despite a lack of time, and decent options I do still enjoy going to the movies. I tried to get back in the swing of things last Sunday by checking out The Bourne Legacy. Even though I had the time to go to the theater and see it, I haven't had time until today to get a review written.

The fourth installment of the Bourne series introduces us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), an operative in a special ops group called "Operation Outcome". Much like his predecessor Jason Bourne, Cross is a one of a kind agent who is capable of dealing with the best and worst that can be thrown his way.

Despite what you will read in other reviews or from other movie related websites, this movie had no storyline. It was literally a 2-hour introduction to the character of Aaron Cross. Sure things happen and you will be on the edge of your seat for a large part of this movie, but the storyline really never goes anywhere.

The series shows a lot of promise with co-stars Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz, both who are great in their roles, but without a story to develop into it felt like a 2-hour cocktail reception while we all sit around and wait for the main course (the next installment).

With all of that being said, this movie is still plenty entertaining. If you enjoyed the first three movies that featured Matt Damon, you will enjoy installment number four. And from the looks of things, you will probably enjoy at least one or two movies in the series.

The Bourne Legacy
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Written by: Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, and Robert Ludlum
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton and Rachel Weisz
My Rating: 3 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes

The Newsroom

Writer's Note: Really? You don't already know what I'm going to say here? It rhymes with Shmoiler Smlert.

I wrote last week about my affection for entertainment that makes you feel good. Ask any Aaron Sorkin fan and they will refer you to the episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip when Tom's military brother is found and located after being kidnapped in Afghanistan, or the Posse Comitatus episode of The West Wing, and start to tell you about the goosebumps they got during those episodes. This week's episode of The Newsroom just skyrocketed up that list.

There is no one better in the world at writing "soapbox" moments than Aaron Sorkin. Whether it is Mark Zuckerberg telling his former friends to go to hell in The Social Network, President Bartlett helping the country fulfill the visions of our founding fathers, or now Will McAvoy informing the country that Osama Bin Laden has been killed, there is NO ONE better.

Even the critics of Sorkin agree. There is a reason why people get so fired up when discussing whether or not they like his work. He evokes emotion from the audience, which is the goal of every writer, entertainer or performer in the world. He can't control whether or not you agree with him, but even without knowing the man I can guarantee you that if you have a strong opinion on his work one way or the other, he will feel like he did his job.

The seventh episode of The Newsroom is entitled "5/1", and for good reason. The fine folks at ACN are celebrating at a party in their superstar's apartment. When Charlie receives an anonymous phone calling letting him know that there is a news story that they will all want to be ready to break coming in the next few hours the party quickly comes to a close as the staff shuttles their way back to the office.

The news as we all know, and the staff is quick to find out, is that American forces have killed Osama Bin Laden. They way the story unfolds is a beautifully written hour of television.

9/11 has always been an emotional topic for me. I wrote a post last year on the 10th anniversary of the attacks because I needed somewhere to keep track of being reminded of the way I felt on a Tuesday in September as a junior in High School. The way the country came together in the aftermath of that horrible day is something that I will never forget. Partisanship went out the window. It didn't matter if you leaned right or left (or in my world at the time, if you were a Red Devil or a Don - trust me, that was a big deal), we were all Americans. Entertainment like the seventh episode of the first season of The Newsroom reaches emotional levels that nothing else can touch.

I thought just about everything in this episode was the best it could be. The comedic relief of Will being stoned, Don and company being stranded with Flight Attendant Crazy Lady, and Neal's girlfriend being so closely effected by the events of 9/11 all were perfect fits in the story. I think the "romantic" scenes between the love triangle heard 'round The Newsroom (and also apparently on a United Airlines flight from DC-NYC) were a little misplaced. They certainly are playing a large part of the arc in season one, but this episode was so good, and will stand apart from the rest of the series regardless of what happens between Don and Maggie.

I am not sure what the remaining three episodes of this season have in store for us, but I have a really hard time seeing any of them matching this week's show. If they do... well, let's all just be grateful that we'll be along for the ride.

The Newsroom: 5/1 (Season 1, Episode 7)
Sorkin's Walk and Talk Tally thru seven episodes: Ironically still 1 1/2
Directed by: Joshua Marston
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
My Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Oh Hell Yes!

The Watch

After not seeing a movie during the month of July I feel like I have failed you, the loyal reader. No, the blog has not just turned into an Aaron Sorkin love fest, no it isn't only a TV review blog, and no I did not win the lottery and sail away to my own private island. Last night after work I made my triumphant return to the local Cinemark and got August off to a great start by checking out The Watch.

Starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill this movie features the trio forming a neighborhood watch program along with Richard Ayoade.

After the murder of his friend and security worker at Costco, Evan (Stiller) finds the local law enforcement to be subpar and decides he needs to take the law into his own hands. When his three new partners dive deeper into the mystery surrounding their small Ohio town, what they find not only surprises them, but it turns their world upside down.

As I sat in the theater for the first 20 minutes of the movie I couldn't help but wonder if I was going to get my money's worth for the free voucher I redeemed for admission. It was agonizingly slow. It wasn't funny, and only made me think of Vince Vaughn's performance in The Dilemma, one of the worst movies of 2011.

But then a funny thing happened. The story line became so ridiculous and unbelievable that all of the jokes became funny. For the next hour I enjoy laughing at the jokes that made me love the three stars in the first place. It was crude, vulgar, and hilarious. The perfect way to spend a Wednesday evening.

There are so many subtle lines or actions in this movie that kept me laughing, and of course seeing everyone's dream of being alone at night in a Costco helped made the movie even more enjoyable. It's not going to change your life, but it will help liven up your life for a couple of hours, and after all isn't that what you've come to expect from these leading men?

The Watch
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer
Written by: Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes

The Newsroom

Writer's Note: Because of a crazy work schedule followed closely by a much needed vacation, this review will be for two episodes of the best show on TV. Haven't seen either of them? Well, don't proceed.

There are certain times of the year that make it more difficult for me to get to the movies, or watch my favorite TV shows. Anyone who has read the blog over the last couple of years knows that June-September is at the top of that list. Unfortunately this meant it took me an extra week to catch up on episodes five and six of The Newsroom.

The fifth episode of Aaron Sorkin's latest television show is set in February of 2011. The streets of Egypt are filled with people trying to overthrow their government, meanwhile in Wisconsin the Governor is trying to flex his muscle and overthrow unionized employees in his state, specifically the teacher's union.

When the reporter sent to Egypt by ACN is attacked and is no longer able to do his job, Neal (Dev Patel) enlists the help of a young man known only to him as "Amen" (or the hidden one). The risks of sending an amateur into the streets of a country in the middle of civil unrest quickly plays out as Neal loses touch with his new colleague for longer than he is comfortable with.

While the search is on for their new reporter, the rest of the News Night staff is focused on the elimination of the power of collective bargaining in Wisconsin. Will (Jeff Daniels) quickly finds ways to report about the happenings in Madison that may not sit well with those on the 44th floor of his building.

With the two "A" stories for this episode not keeping me enthralled, we were left with the "B" story of Mackenzie's (Emily Mortimer) new boyfriend causing troubles for the entire network that conveniently is uncovered by a company owned gossip website. Unfortunately this fell right in line with stories one, and two. Yawn.

I don't understand the principle of brining in more actors that I can't understand. I have no emotional connection with "Amen" other than my own assumption that he is Neal's long lost brother. When he disappeared I was just excited that there were other people on my flat screen that I could understand.

I have always enjoyed watching "feel good" television or movies. My goal for investing my time of 30, 60, or 120 minutes is to be entertained. It doesn't need to be mind blowing material, or something that is going to drive the conversation at your office water cooler the next morning, but just something that I am going to be able to sit back on my couch and enjoy. The "Rudy" scene at the end of this episode did just that. Unfortunately that was only two of the 60 minutes that aired in episode five.

Everything about this episode was predictable. It felt like it was built around the three weakest aspects of Sorkin's writing: family, love, and emotional scenes based on family and love. It makes you wonder if he has the energy and stamina to be able to create the level of TV that I (and his loyal following) have come to expect with out significant help from this writing staff. He was the only credited writer on this episode (yes, I get that they have a writing staff that helps him) and it makes you wonder if he did the right thing in changing over just about everyone on his staff for season two.

The Newsroom: Amen (Season 1, Episode 5)
Sorkin's Walk and Talk Tally thru five episodes: Still 1 1/2
Directed by: Daniel Minahan
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
My Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Probably Not

Episode six takes us inside the mind of Will McAvoy. After falling over his words during the east coast (see: live) version of his broadcast, we quickly find out that he has been unable to sleep at night and this is causing his work to slip. After he agrees to actually show up for the weekly psychology appointment he has been paying for while not attending over the past four years, we are taken on a flashback of recent events in Will's life.

After changing some of the policies on the comments section of his website, Will receives a death threat complete with his home address. When Charlie (Sam Waterston) turns this information over the insurance company for ACN, his nightly news anchor is assigned a body guard.

Meanwhile, after returning from Egypt, Elliott is unable to host his 11 PM show (that follows News Night). Despite not being at the top of the list Sloane (Olivia Munn) is asked to fill in. During a pre-show interview with the spokesperson for the damaged nuclear plant in Japan, she is given some "off the record" information from her friend that the reporting of the seriousness of the radiation levels is not accurate. After getting some advice from Will, Sloane decides to take her interview to a level she is clearly not able to handle.

This was a very cerebral episode. From the advice Will receives from his Psychologist, to the way that Sloane was feeling while on the phone with her friend in Japan, you can see very deep into what each character is thinking and the effects it will have on their career(s). In one case the potential end to a career before it really gets started (Sloane), and in the other a change to the way they approach their entire thinking and how to do their job (Will).

The psychological analysis in this episode was fantastic. I have long been a fan of seeing the answer before asking the question. We saw hints of this with Will's conversations with his new body guard, and also through the revelations he makes to his psychologist.

The filler stories in this episode were just that for a reason. Don has gone from being the most unlikeable character on this show to number two in that category, but in good news for him his comment of "am I losing Maggie" has officially made him the dumbest person on the show. He is also quickly gaining ground on becoming the least attentive person in the history of television. So really it was a win for him.

It appears to me that the higher ups from HBO have the vision to look past the first season. It is being hit hard by critics for many things, the most common seems to be Sorkin's treatment of his female characters. It feels to me like he is dedicating season one to developing the characters while mixing in the things that make him great. My biggest hope for season two and beyond is that these two items swap places on his priority list.

Even with the hope of this show nearly turning itself upside down, I still find myself hoping it is Sunday night and a new episode is on my DVR. There is no bigger compliment I can give to a TV show or movie.

The Newsroom: Bullies (Season 1, Episode 6)
Sorkin's Walk and Talk Tally thru six episodes: 1 1/2
Directed by: Jeremy Podeswa
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Would Gene Pick it?: Yes