Friday, September 21, 2012

Here Comes the Boom (PG/105 Min.)

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“Without music, life is a mistake” –Nietzsche (sort of) and Marty

How many of you out there saw the movie Zookeeper? Come on. A show of hands please. I know it wasn’t just me. And how many of you vowed to never see another Kevin James movie as long as you live after you saw Zookeeper? Okay, fewer hands. I get that. I may have been a tad drastic in making that vow. The lovely people at Gofobo provided passes for the screening of Here Comes the Boom and I snatched them up. I had seen the previews several times on TV and thought that maybe, just maybe, it would have enough redeeming qualities that I could sit through what I was sure would be an overabundance of stupid silliness. This is proof that you shouldn’t always judge a movie by its trailer. I loved it! Kevin James, I owe you a huge apology.

Why did I like this film so much? It involved two of my favorite things; music and sport fighting - in this case, Mixed Martial Arts. Yes, I am a complex woman. It’s why I’m such a catch. To make it better, they mixed them together. Because what is a televised fight without the music? Pretty darn boring, I’ll bet. If you knew me in middle school or high school you can probably figure out my love of music since I was one of THOSE people; the band geeks. I also grew up in a singing family. To this day it’s no surprise when one of us just bursts in to song. Yeah. We’re THAT family. I have absolutely no explanation for my love of fighting. Or watching it, rather. It’s just fun. Especially at Buffalo Wild Wings when Manny Pacquiao (yes, I realize that’s a different style of fighting but it still rings true) is fighting on the big screen and I’m in the middle of a huge crowd of people and I’m sharing a big, round table with absolute strangers and we’re all glued to whatever is happening on that screen and, for just those few moments, we are of one heart and mind. I love it. And I just took a huge detour there.

If you’ve avoided the television and haven’t been to any movies lately to have seen the trailer for Here Comes the Boom let me lay it out for you. Kevin James is Scott Voss, a Biology teacher at a high school in Boston. He’s basically just phoning it in until the day the school decides to cut some of the extracurricular programs because the budget just can’t cover them. Any guesses as to what is cut? Yup. You guessed it…the music program. Debate and Art were cut too but I am the worst arguer on the planet and I can’t draw stick people so you can see how I didn’t focus on that. Can’t you? Anyway, Scott decides to come up with a way to raise the money to save the programs. How, you ask? By becoming a Mixed Martial Artist (or MMA fighter if you prefer) and donating his cut of the purse to the school. He ends up doing so much more than he set out to do but I’m not going to tell you about that here.

For those of you who’ve read previous posts you might have caught my ramblings about how much I love to go to movies with my mom because if it’s a really good movie and something wonderful happens she does not hold back. She giggles and breaks in to applause and has the entire theater joining her. Her happiness knows no bounds. I almost made it to that point. The only thing that stopped me was my absolute fear of being the center of attention. But only just. I figured, at the last minute, that yelling, “KILL HIM!!!” in the middle of a fight scene would earn me a glance or two…hundred.

Kevin did an excellent job as Scott Voss. I don’t know if I thought that because my expectations were so low or because he really was that good but I’m leaning towards the latter. He was funny. He was sweet. He was cute. Well. He was. Best of all, he was inspiring. If you’re not rooting for him by the end of this movie, you might want to check your pulse. Regarding my earlier statements about Kevin I do have to admit that I really liked him in Hitch. I shouldn’t have let “that other movie” dissuade me.

I am also happy with Salma Hayek again. Savages really made me not like her for a while. That’s what makes her such a good actor. She’s right up there with Christian Bale in The Fighter. They were so good at being bad that it took a while for me to come to grips with the fact that they were just acting. It wasn’t real! In Here Comes the Boom, Salma played Bella Flores, the school nurse and object of Scott’s affection. She was also funny. And sweet. And inspiring. That’s just the kind of movie this was. She and Kevin need to be in other movies together. They play well off each other. Two of my favorite scenes were the sneak attack scene and the dislocated shoulder scene. No, the one did not cause the other.

Henry Winkler is Marty, the music teacher. Some of you may remember Henry as The Fonz. Some of you may not. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, join Netflix and rent Happy Days. It may still be on TV. I wouldn’t be surprised. That has nothing at all to do with this movie though and Marty is so completely different than The Fonz but you really can’t appreciate Henry if you don’t see how he got his start. Marty is the other reason Scott wants to raise the money. What is a music teacher without a music program? If you said unemployed then you are right, my friend! Marty is Scott’s biggest fan and cheerleader. You just can’t help but love him. They have a real bromance going on. Yeah. I said it. Marty also delivers one of my favorite lines in the film…and in life really. “Music takes us where words cannot.” Wow. Deep.

Now here comes the part in which some of my earlier comments might seem a bit off. There were at least two actors in Here Comes the Boom that probably most any MMA fan would know. I knew neither. When I saw them I kind of wondered if maybe they were real fighters but I didn’t know for sure until I came home and jumped on IMDB. In my defense, I have been a big boxing fan for years but have only recently started watching more and more UFC bouts. So, I really couldn’t be expected to know that the guys who played Niko, Scott’s coach, and Ken “The Executioner” Dietrich, one of Scott’s opponents, are real, live MMA fighters, could I? There were other real fighters in the film but these two have the major roles so they’re getting mentioned. Bas Rutten is Niko and Krzysztof Soszynski is Dietrich. They both did well in the film though I don’t recall Soszynski saying anything. He was really good at being intimidating. One of the few scenes I didn't care for at all involved Niko. He was so bitter and selfish that he almost ruined a lucrative opportunity for Scott thereby affecting the kids. Niko, you should be ashamed.

Many, MANY thanks to the two people who commented questioning why I left out any mention of Mark DellaGrotte. Basically, he was left out because my hand-writing sucks pond water. As mentioned previously, I'm relatively new to MMA so I'm still trying to figure out who, in Here Comes the Boom, are the fighters in real life. I wrote down his name while watching the movie but it was dark and I couldn't read my writing when I went to type this up. I am so glad y'all said something as I liked Mark from the get-go. Mark played...Mark. He is the owner/operator of the Sityodtong USA Branch in both the movie and real life. He agrees to take a look at Scott's mad skills to see if he's worth training. He was hilarious. He was loyal. And he did 2 things that completely surprised me in a movie like this. He quoted scripture and he led a pre-fight prayer time. I have no idea if that portrayed the real Mark DellaGrotte but I was happy to see it in the film. And the reason I was ashamed of Niko above? Mark busted him on it. Well done, you!

Another person who might make you question my earlier comments is Charice. What? You don’t know who Charice is? I didn’t either until tonight. She is a flippin’ good singer is who she is. And her acting isn’t too shabby either. Charice plays Malia, one of Scott’s students and the pianist in the school orchestra. She also gets to sing in the movie. This girl has a got a set of pipes, let me tell you! Where have I been while she was becoming so widely popular? Absolutely no idea. Malia totally and completely proved a theory my dad had for years about my study habits. He always said that if I put my schoolwork to music I would remember everything and make A’s in all my classes. Let’s just say I’m not big on studying but I can memorize a song quicker ‘n a wink. I loved Malia’s breakthrough with Niko. Her rendition of Holly Holy even made me tear up a little. I couldn’t help it.

I know I’m rambling. It’s late. I got too in to researching the different actors that I lost track of time. I’ll wrap up the character comments by talking about Joe Rogan. While not one of the greatest actors in the world there was a moment in which he thoroughly impressed and moved me. In the movie Joe Rogan plays the part of Joe Rogan, ringside announcer. He does something so incredibly touching (and irresponsible at the same time) that I couldn’t help but think, “What an amazingly generous man!” Once again, it took me a second to remind myself that this was just a movie and that Joe didn’t really do what he did. It was still sweet though.

I believe the people running the pre-screening shindig said that the movie is rated PG but I can't remember for sure and I can't seem to find the rating anywhere. Found it! It's definitely PG. There is one thing and one thing only that I think might make you reconsider before taking your kids to see this and that is the fight scenes. Let’s break it down and I’ll show you what I mean.

Sex/Nudity – None at all.

Cussing – I am ashamed to admit that I don’t know for sure because I got so wrapped up in everything else. I do think a couple of A**’s slipped, no pun intended, but other than that I don’t remember any of the big words being thrown around.

Drinking/Drugs – There’s really not a lot of drinking. I saw beer and wine but not much of it. It was so not a big part of any of the scenes that I almost didn’t mention it but since helping parents make good movie decisions for their children is a big reason for this blog I figured it wouldn’t be right not to. I’m curious. What kind of chaos does a quadruple negative cause?

Stomach Turning – Yes, this is a new category that I hope to not have to use very often. I must mention that there is a vomit scene. Having said that, most of you will be able to figure out about when it’s going to happen. Trust me on this one. I wouldn’t even mention it if it wasn’t incredibly gross.

Violence – With this film this is just a given. Not every fight scene had a lot of blood but the big fights certainly did. The final fight most definitely did. It was streaming down their faces. Did this bother me much? Not at all actually but remember, I watch this stuff quite often. Also note, though, that despite the blood, it wasn’t gag-worthy and their faces weren’t beat to a pulp. That’s never fun to watch. I do have to admit that the slow-mo Superman punch was way cool.

There are so many people I would recommend this to that it’s just easier to say who might NOT like it. If you absolutely, 100% abhor violence then this isn’t for you. As for the rest of you, I hope you like it as much as I did. Jumping back to the music, I more than likely won’t own the soundtrack because a lot of it is mostly yelling but it was perfect for this film. The yelling songs were all used during the fight scenes and, as mentioned before, what is a fight without music? It gets you pumped and ready to watch two guys beat the snot out of each other. Wahoo!

There is no reason to stay through the credits. At least there wasn’t during the pre-screening. So, head on out to your various modes of transportation with your friends, spouses, dates, whoever and spend that time talking about what a good movie this was. Then tell all your friends who decided not to go that they really missed out. It’s only right.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Trouble with the Curve (PG-13/111 Min.)

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Okay, I know this isn’t a football movie but it’s what was playing and what I was given free passes for. I’ll get to that list later.

I have a love/hate relationship going on with Clint Eastwood movies. I either love ‘em or I hate’em. You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? We’ll get to that kind of predictability later. This relationship has been going on for years. Until now. Trouble with the Curve starts off very VERY badly. It begins with Clint using the bathroom and taking to his…er…member. I have never, in my entire life, had any desire to watch someone use the bathroom. Nor have I wanted to hear them have a discussion with their parts about it. I’m kinda weird that way. Once that’s done it does get a little better. I mean, it had to, right? It still took a while to become bearable but it eventually came around.

Trouble with the Curve is the story of Gus Lobel, a scout for the Atlanta Braves, and his estranged daughter Mickey, an attorney. Mickey is on the verge of becoming a partner at her law firm when she discovers her dad has a health issue that will affect his job. She takes a few days off and joins her dad scouting a high school baseball player. Along the way they run in to Johnny, a former baseball player, who is vying for a position as an announcer for the Red Sox.

Sounds like the makings of a somewhat interesting movie, right? That’s what I thought! And then the movie began. It was a tad disjointed and incredibly predictable. When one character did what he did right before the high school baseball game started, I leaned over and told Leanne what was going to happen later on. I was spot on. Am I bragging about this? Not at all. It was just that easy. I was going to make a comment about 2 year olds being able to figure this out but that would be rude and I’d feel really bad if any of you didn’t guess it too. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt though. I believe in you! The only parts that weren’t completely predictable involved Mickey’s boyfriend from the law firm and those totally came out of left field. Get it? Left field? Baseball? Okay, so I typed that before I thought it out and then I found it amusing and forced you to share. It couldn’t be helped.

There were many frustrating things about this film including scenes that just weren’t needed and were even a tad confusing. There are a couple of scenes in which Gus and some of the scouts are picking on another scout, trying to make him mad. It’s just stupid, for lack of a better word, and doesn’t play right in the film. Those bits should have ended up on the cutting room floor. They just weren’t funny. They really didn’t even need the other scouts as anything but extras. None of their interactions seem to fit. Gus reacts strongly to a man touching Mickey but you just chalk it up to him being an overbearing, over-protective crank-pot until later on in the movie and then you just kind of go, “Huh.” If this had happened more than once I might have wondered but as it stood the big reveal wasn’t as dramatic as it should have been.

Let’s move on to the cast. Clint Eastwood plays the part of Gus Lobel. He growls a LOT, curses a bit, cries a couple times and even sings. And although I’ve heard Clint sing before (Paint Your Wagon) it was a bit uncomfortable when he did it this time. It felt like it was personal and I shouldn’t have been witness to it. He also delivered one of my favorite lines in the movie. “Get out or I’ll have a heart attack trying to kill you.” Or something really close to that. Gus is very gruff but, as expected, really loves his daughter. Despite being such a bear he has gained the loyalty of several good friends including Pete. We’ll talk about Pete in a bit.

Amy Adams plays Mickey. Ask Mickey a baseball question and she’ll give you the answer. The correct answer. She’s one of those sports fans I’ll never be. She knows everything! All the rules, stats, players…EVERYTHING!!! Because of the way she was raised she has a huge problem making a commitment to any man. She is just as gruff and foul-mouthed as her dad but she’s able to give in a little easier than he is. It did say something about her, I think, that she set things aside to be with her dad. Trust me. Knowing now what she thought her dad had done to her you’ll appreciate her actions even more. I did.

John Goodman is Gus’s good friend Pete. I love John Goodman. I would marry him in a heartbeat. He just seems like an all-around good guy. That’s the part he plays here too. Pete is the head of the scouts for the Braves and completely believes in Gus’s abilities. Pete is also the reason Mickey finds out about her dad’s problem. At one point Pete questions Gus’s call regarding a player but sticks by the decision. He also supports and loves Mickey and you’ve gotta love him for that too.

Justin Timberlake is former baseball pitcher Johnny Flanagan. He and Gus are old friends from when he was being scouted by Gus. He’s thrown out his arm due to a bad trade decision that Gus tried to stop and now he’s working for the Red Sox. Johnny is just starting out as a scout and trying to work his way to becoming an announcer. I was pretty sure his scouting days were numbered when Mickey had to explain a few things about baseball to him; things a scout and former player should probably know. He helps Mickey lighten up so I liked him despite his lack of knowledge.

Matthew Lillard is also in this movie. He tends to typically be typecast as the goofball. Sometimes lovable, sometimes jerk-y. I think, in this film, he was attempting to step away from that kind of role. It was not a successful attempt. He was a jerk but he did such a poor job that I didn’t come anywhere close to hating him because of it. He didn’t have a major role in the movie but still stood out because I’ve liked his goofiness so much in other movies. Oh well.

And now for the breakdown:

Sex/Nudity – None. I know, right? How did they make a movie without either of those? Well, they did. The closest they came to nudity was Justin in his unders (and who doesn’t want to see that) but just his back side and Amy in her unders and a T-shirt. That kind of surprised me. I thought for sure she’d strip down to her bra and unders but nope. The shirt stayed on. Yea whoever made that decision!

Drugs/Alcohol – No drugs but several bar scenes and a scene in which Amy is downing whiskey.

Cursing/Cussing – Some cussing. Quite a bit of cursing. Several GD’s and JC’s. Were they necessary? Of course not.

Violence – Yes but little, if any, blood. Both incidents involve Gus fighting with someone else.

Hopefully you’ve made it this far because now’s the time to say some good things about Trouble with the Curve. It finally picked up about half-way through. I even teared up during one scene. I AM just that kind of dork. If you decide to go see this movie and the beginning makes you want to walk out and the predictability makes you want to roll your eyes, go ahead and stick it out. Despite knowing what was going to happen I was on tenterhooks waiting for the WHEN. I knew the movie had to be ending soon because things seemed to be wrapping up and yet…nothing. Then it happened. And I almost cried. For those of you who are going to go see this, it was the slow-mo scene that did it for me. It had been building up a bit before that but THAT nearly sent me over the edge. Why? Because I’m a sports’ movie freak and when things like that happen I want to stand up and cheer but can’t in the middle of the theater. Well, I could but I would embarrass myself doing so. So, it comes out in happy tears instead. I can’t explain it. Just work with me. I am happy to say that a little while later a couple of the audience members let out a few WHOO!’s. Those are my people.

If you like grumbly, ol’ Clint Eastwood you’ll probably like this film. If you like Amy Adams you might like this film. If you like Justin Timberlake you might like this film. If you’re a teeny-bopper who thinks Justin is “dreamy” then you probably don’t care at all about the film but will watch it anyway because, as mentioned before, he’s in his unders. If you like baseball you might like this but it’s more about the relationship between Gus and Mickey than anything else. Will I watch this again? Probably not. I won’t pay to see it again. Then again, I didn’t pay to see it this time. It was worth one viewing though. If you invite me over for dinner and a movie and this is your selection I’d probably sit through it. But only to be polite. Because that’s the kind of girl I am.

P.S. Feel free to leave when the credits start. Nothing happens at the end.
P.P.S. Pay close attention to Billy Clark (and don’t look the character up ahead of time, cheaters!). You might already know the actor or someone close to him. I completely missed it.