Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Lot Of Activity

"Paranormal Activity" has been tearing up the box office. The small budget film tells the story of a young couple living in California and how they deal with the presence of a demon. The movie was made for only $11,000 and has already passed the $60 million mark. I had a chance to see the movie recently and it does not disappoint. The theatre was packed and everyone in the crowd was on the edge of their seat. I'm a fan of scary movies, but a lot of the newer "slasher" films these days don't really appeal to me. "Paranormal" takes the most important element of horror, timing, and uses it utilize jumps and screams throughout the film. This movie sticks with you!! It will make you think twice about certain everyday things that happen (sorry, no spoilers here) and how they impact your routine.

These days it's simple to get caught up in the money and the special effects. It's nice to see that a simple, small budget movie can still have the impact of the million dollar action flick. I have seen a lot of horror films, and "Paranormal Activity" is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Here's The Pitch: Baseball Movies That Score

Tonight, the New York Yankees took on the Philadelphia Phillies in the first game of the 2009 World Series. So, here are my picks for some of the best baseball movies ever made.

"The Natural" Robert Redford is perfect as a natural born baseball player with a mysterious past, who finally gets to play pro ball late in life.
One of the best casts ever assembled. Watch out for Wilford Brimley as the stubborn manager of the New York Knights, as well as the great Richard Farnsworth at his side. Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Robert Prosky, and Darren McGavin round out the cast.
The film also has a wonderful score by the truly gifted Randy Newman.

"Field Of Dreams" Kevin Costner leads another all star cast with this movie about a farmer (Costner) who risks everything after he hears a mysterious voice say "If you build it, they will come."
What he builds is a baseball field, and then he brings in James Earl Jones to help him solve the mystery. Also featuring Ray Liotta as Shoeless Joe Jackson and the late, great Burt Lancaster, "Field Of Dreams" is indeed a wonderful film.

"The Pride Of The Yankees" Gary Cooper stars as baseball phenom Lou Gehrig in this heartfelt drama about a man who rose to baseball superstardom before he was cut down in the prime of his life by a terrible disease. Great story, great cast. Don't miss this classic baseball tale.

"A League Of Their Own" Penny Marshall directs Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna in this story based on the real life women's baseball leagues of the 1940s. While most men were off fighting World War II, women came to the rescue of the great American pastime. Tom Hanks plays a baseball player just past his prime, who's given a second chance to coach one of the women's teams. Watch out for David Strathairn and Jon Lovitz as a baseball scout. And if you look closely, you'll also spot me in the stands. I was lucky enough to be one of the extras in this film, which was shot in Indiana. Tom Hanks very entertaining both off and on screen.

Countdown To Halloween--Movies Guaranteed To Give A Good Scare

Ask anyone, and they'll tell you I'm definitely -not- a fan of modern day "slasher" films.
I hate all of them. I mean, seriously, who wants to pay money to watch someone get brutally murdered??
As it turns out, plenty of people do, and that's why Hollywood keeps turning out these things.
Since Halloween is just a couple of days away, I wanted to point out some other classic scary movies that will make you jump or grab the person next to you.

"Halloween" (The original) Still as creepy as it ever was, this movie succeeds where it should--the anticipation factor. The music is really what gets you here--that fabulous piano-rich score, telling the audience that, yes indeed, something very bad was about to happen. It's a simple construction of a movie, and the panic on the face of a young Jamie Lee Curtis is enough to keep your heart racing. Violent, yes, but not nearly as much as current movies.

"Poltergeist" From the '80s, this is a film that doesn't really start out terribly scary, but lulls you comfortably into the family home where Craig T. Nelson and JoBeth Williams sleep soundly until those magic words: "They're heeeeeeerre!" from young daughter Carol Ann.
This should be good, as it was touched by the hand of Spielberg. As scary as they come. Be sure to put away any clown dolls before watching it.

Speaking of Spielberg, for sheer terror, check out his early effort called "Duel."
Originally made as a TV movie, it stars Dennis Weaver as a businessman on a road trip who finds himself in a showdown with a semi. It all starts when Weaver passes him... The cat and mouse game is guaranteed to make you squirm in your seat. Helpful hint: Don't watch it the night before any long trips.

"The Others" Nicole Kidman stars in this story of a woman and her two small children who stay at a remote house in the country. Then strange things start to happen at home. Curtains vanish, things go bump in the night, the housekeepers add a dash of extra creepy, you get the picture.
The music alone will make you want to turn away. I saw this in theatres, and opened my eyes at the wrong time. Ouch. It felt like I jumped 6 feet in the air. The usher says it was only 2.

"The Omen" Gregory Peck unwittingly becomes the adoptive father of the son of the Devil. Yee-ikes. The music alone is enough to unnerve you, and the story moves along at a breakneck pace. By the way, I'm talking about the original here, not the recent remake. As Peck finally uncovers the unspeakable truth about his son Damien, you'll find yourself reaching for the nearest nightlight. Its sequel, "Damien: Omen II" isn't bad, either. But you can skip the third one, even if it does have Sam Neill as the title character. 

"Dial M For Murder" The list wouldn't be complete without something from Hitchcock. This clever plot will keep you guessing. Most any Hitchcock film will fill the bill this Halloween. You might also like "Rear Window," with Jimmy Stewart. A recent movie called "Disturbia" with Shia Lebeouf, that's loosely based on  "Window" is also very good. David Morse is excellent as the creepy next door neighbor.

"Psycho" How could I possibly leave out this Hitchcock chiller? A great film that many only remember because of the infamous Bates Motel--people tend to forget that the first half showcases Janet Leigh with a hidden agenda. A great score and tense plot will leave you wanting more. Look for character actor Martin Balsam in a small role as a private detective.

Naturally, there are plenty of movies with a good scare or two out there, these were just a few of my favorites.
Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Overpriced Hollywood Stars

I recently watched a documentary on the British comedy troupe "Monty Python" released to celebrate the team's 40th anniversary.

Although I was familiar with some of their stuff,  the documentary provided unique insight to their beginnings,  back stories of  the three feature films, as well as what each one of them is currently working on.

Which brings me to the subject of this article. At the end of the documentary, we see that John Cleese has recorded his lines for the upcoming "Shrek 4," which comes out next year.
I didn't see the third "Shrek" movie, where he apparently also had a speaking part.
What astonished me was something I read a couple of days later--that he was paid the equivalent of $1 million dollars for 23 minutes work. 
You read that right. He worked for less than half an hour, and was paid a million bucks. 
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a John Cleese fan if there ever was one, but c'mon, folks--this falls under the "Are you serious??!?" department.
Nobody, and I mean nobody,  deserves to be paid that much money.

A couple of years ago, news leaked that Tom Hanks was to become the highest paid actor in history after his deal for doing "Angels & Demons" that brought him a whopping $50 million dollar paycheck.
Think about that.  Most of us will never see a million dollars, much less 50 times that.
It's completely mind-boggling. 
Do I still like Tom Hanks? Of course! He's one of my favorite actors, and a tremendously talented individual. He's just not worth $50 million for one movie. 
Most A-list actors don't need the money anymore, and chances are he donated a large portion of that money to charity and other worthy causes, but we'll probably never hear about that.
Still, in this economy, when studios like Paramount Pictures claim they don't have the money to market a film like Martin Scorsese's "Shutter Island," you gotta wonder how they can fork over hefty salaries to actors.
Excuse me, I need to call my agent...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Transforming To DVD

"Transformers: Revenege of the Fallen" is now out on DVD and Blu-ray. It's the biggest film of the year. Through August, Optimus and the gang have grossed more then $800 million dollars worldwide. There's a bunch of different versions at many outlets throughout the country. I picked up the "Big Screen Edition" which includes the IMAX scenes from the film. No, I don't have an IMAX at my home, but the "Forest Battle" is my favorite scene in the movie and you can see more of the fight with the wide angle lens. There's even an Optimus Prime replica for blu-ray fans that are interested.

I'm a special features type of guy, and "Big Screen Edition" does not disappoint. There's over 3 hours of features, including deleted scenes, interviews with Michael Bay and Steven Speilberg, and loads of behind the scenes footage. The movie is one of the biggest spectacles ever put together, and you can certaintly see that in the special features.

I grew up with "Transformers" so I was excited when I heard about the possibility of a movie. The first movie was AWESOME and the sequel expands the world of gigantic robots by ten times! The original is still my favorite, but this film takes special effects to a whole new level. Pop some popcorn, call over a few friends, and sit down and enjoy the show!

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Which We Talk To Whitney Matheson

She writes a daily blog for called "PopCandy," and a little while back, we got a chance to talk with Whitney Matheson about her experiences at this year's Comic Con in San Diego.
Yes, it's a little late, but she's an extremely busy person.
Check out the interview below:

PS: What do you think will be the biggest "sleeper" movie or TV show to come out of Comic Con?

WM: "I'm not really sure how to answer this, because these days Comic-Con is pretty much dominated by the big-budget movies and series. But the film I was most impressed with was "Kick-Ass," a movie that didn't have a distributor when it came to the convention. The filmmakers received a standing ovation, and, sure enough, it now has a distributor and a release date."

PS: What are you most looking forward to on TV this fall?

WM: "FlashForward" is interesting. I've also heard great things about "Stargate Universe," though the premiere is still on my DVR!

(*PS: In related news, ABC just picked up "FlashForward" for a full season!)

PS: What one thing from Comic Con (movie or TV show) can you just not
wait to see?

WM: "I hate to repeat myself, but it might be "Kick-Ass" - that movie looked so good! Also, I'm intrigued by "Avatar" ... who isn't?"

PS: What was one of the most revealing items from the "Lost" panel?

WM: "Ooh, there was so much I wrote a blow-by-blow description! I was happy to hear that Elizabeth Mitchell would be returning. And each video clip was extremely revealing (do a YouTube search to see them), even though I'm still not entirely sure what they all mean."

Our thanks to Whitney for taking time to answer a few questions! Be sure to check out her writing every day in PopCandy on

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Take A Break?

Paramount has recently announced that "Transformers 3" will be released in 2011. Director Michael Bay already has a few ideas rolling through his head and has already met with Hasbro to talk about adding some new robots to the mix. I love Transformers, but I'm on the other side of the fence on this one. Don't get me wrong I want a third installment, but I just don't want it rushed into my face...I mean Hollywood never does that right?? I had hoped that Bay would take a break from Optimus and focus on something else for a change. He had plans to make a small budget movie before completing the trilogy. This would help him get a new perspective on the things he has done so far and how he can supplement them.

I am THE biggest Transformers fan, but it's no secret that there are a few problems with "Fallen," -- you can find some of my complaints in an older post. I'm also one of those that stand behind Bay -- instead of the thousands that continue to bash him all the time over the web. I will still be first in line for the third movie, I just wish he would do something else first.

Can directors learn from their mistakes? We will find out soon enough. Sam Raimi says he has learned from "Spider-Man 3" and hopes to make the fourth installment much better -- he actually did another movie before jumping back on the wall crawler.

Optimus Prime is one of my favorite icons. Is there anything wrong with waiting an extra year before we see him slash up a few more Decepticons??

Patience is a virtue.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"The Twilight Zone" Turns 50

Submitted for your approval...

50 years ago today, Rod Serling's classic series "The Twilight Zone" made its debut on CBS. The show featured not only the best writing around, but top notch talent and acting that made you think--really think about what you were seeing and the message of the story.

I have far too many favorite episodes to just pick out just one. Among those I really enjoyed, Burgess Meredith as the bookish bank teller who just wants to read, then when he does get all the time in the world, he breaks his glasses. I believe the title is "Time Enough At Last."

Of course, who can forget Earl Holliman in the very first episode, "Where Is Everybody," as the subject of a military experiment on isolation gone awry. There are big stars in just about every episode of the series. They were all really morality tales, and Rod Serling's prologue and epilogue was nothing short of poetry--the kind of writing English teachers dream of, and has no equal on TV today. 

I'm so grateful (and you should be too), that this truly legendary series has been preserved on DVD so future generations can enjoy the iconic storytelling.

What's your favorite episode?

Theme from the Twilight Zone - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra/Erich Kunzel

You've Got A Friend In Pixar

That's right ladies and gentlemen, Pixar is going back to its roots to release "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" in 3D! The move is the first of many as the company gets ready for "Toy Story 3" next Summer. It's actually a double feature -- you pay for one ticket and get to see both films, a preview of "Toy Story 3," and an intermission thrown in between. Many people argue that most movies these days aren't worth the $40 dollars you would spend at the theater -- with "Toy Story" you don't have to worry about that.

I know, I know, seeing Buzz and Woody fly around in 3D seems like a gimmick, but I'm a fan of the latest 3D films. "Monsters Vs Aliens" was great in 3D and last week i became really hungry all of a sudden during "Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs" thanks to my 3D glasses. Pixar did not originally create these two movies for a 3D release, but early reviews online say that the films look great on screen.

So, if you wondering what to see at the movies this weekend or if you just need a break from the real world -- check out "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" in 3D! They are only in theaters for 2 weeks, so grab your Woody shirt and get to the movies quick!

You can't go wrong with Pixar.