Monday, February 23, 2009

More Movie Reviews

Now that the Academy Awards are done for another year I figure it's time for me to pipe in with my latest movie reviews. In no particular order, these films have been on our playlist during the last several weeks.

Young at Heart - Coldplay, the Clash and Jimi Hendrix will never sound the same once you've heard the Young@Heart chorus, a group of Massachusetts senior citizens who thrill audiences worldwide with their unusual -- and unusually poignant -- covers of rock songs. This humane and heartwarming documentary, which premiered at Sundance in 2008, follows the elderly ensemble as they prepare their new show.

I was really moved by this film. It reinforced my belief that having a passion can give meaning to life and keep you invigorated, adding great quality to your life. Warning - I cried.

Invincible - Average Joe and devoted Philadelphia Eagles fan Vince Papale manages to land a spot on his favorite NFL team in open tryouts. He's just lost his wife and his job as a substitute teacher, but by impressing the coach and winning a place on the field, Papale turns a terrible year into a winner in this inspiring film (based on a true story).

There is nothing original about this film – and that’s exactly why I liked it! It was a predictable root-for-the-underdog story – and has a really groovy mid-70s soundtrack. What’s not to like? (except Mark Wahlberg’s mullet – it’s bad, man!)

Deadwood Season 1- It's 1876, the height of the gold strike, and rebels and outlaws have been drawn to Deadwood, an ad hoc town cradled in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Everyone there, including an ex-marshall, the infamous Wild Bill Hickok and a city boy from the East Coast, is out to make a name for themselves at whatever cost.

Phil and I mutually agreed that one episode was enough. There wasn’t a single likeable character. Even I, who can make sailors blush with my bad language, was a little worn out by the constant barrage of F bombs. Not recommended.

24 Solo and Off Road to Athens are now available from NetFlix – but you have to search by title. For some reason, they don’t come up in a category search under “cycling” or “mountain biking.” Each movie is well worth your time – watch the extra scenes, too.

Office Space (1999) In a film that takes plenty of jabs at the nihilism of corporate life, office drone Peter Gibbons conspires with his cubicle cohorts to embezzle money from their soulless employers. With help and hindrance from those around him -- and the affection of waitress Joanna, Gibbons may just find his sanity … and his revenge.

One of my co-workers consistently refers to the “red stapler” – a joke I never understood until catching up on this classic of corporate cubicle culture. I have worked in cube farms on and off for the last decade, and there were a few too many really recognizable moments! (e.g., "Looks like someone is having a case of the Mondays.") Light entertainment that made our workout time pass quickly.

Chariots of Fire (1981) Fueled by disparate desires, runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams pursue a quest to bring Olympic glory to Great Britain in 1924. Liddell -- a staunch Christian -- seeks victory as a tribute to God, while Jewish student Abrahams views winning as a repudiation of anti-Semitism. Based on a true story, Chariots of Fire won the 1981 Academy Award for Best Picture.

I saw this movie when it originally came out (I think I was a junior in high school in fact – that dates me, I suppose) and remembered liking the film. Other than recalling something about one of the lead characters having a problem with running on the Sabbath, I didn’t really remember the story. It is a good film that holds up well nearly 30 years later. [As a fun bonus, the guy who was the lead in “Breaking Away” (Dennis Christopher) has a cameo in this film; something I never would have known if I hadn’t been digging into the backlog of “inspiring sports films” to fuel our indoor trainer sessions. I’m sure that will be a fact I need to know when I am playing “Jeopardy” some day . . .!]

24: Season 2. Anti-terrorism agent Jack Bauer faces another action-packed day in the second season of this "real-time" TV series. This time around, a nuclear bomb is loose in Los Angeles, prompting Jack, the President and a host of other characters to do whatever they can to stop it from detonating. But even if they find the bomb, they may be too late to prevent disaster. . .

Is Jack’s daughter, Kim, really the dumbest human on the planet? Sheesh. These are fun 50 minute episodes to make the trainer time pass. Pure mindless entertainment, but a heck of a lot better than watching the 5 am news on Channel 9.

Klunkerz (2007) This documentary follows a group of cycling enthusiasts who, in the late 1960s and early '70s, tackled the slopes of California's Mount Tamalpais using modified pre-World War II bicycles, planting the seeds for modern-day mountain biking. The pioneering group, made up of world-class road racers as well as hippies seeking a new way to commune with nature, unwittingly developed a sport that is now a multimillion-dollar industry.

Fatty recently reviewed this DVD on his blog
. I thought the review was sort of lukewarm, but both the filmmaker and one of the main subjects responded to the review in extensive comments. That piqued my curiosity. So Phil and I watched it during one of our oh-so-romantic Friday night dates. You know, the kind of date where we meet in the basement and ride our bikes for 90 minutes steady in Heart Rate Zone 2? Yeah, you’re jealous. But, I digress. It was interesting to see the back-story on how the sport of mountain biking developed. I also found it interesting how some of the guys who were “living the dream” are still driving 1960s VW buses, and others have become multi-zillionaire business moguls.

Die Hard (1988) Smart-mouthed New York City cop John McClane comes to Los Angeles in an attempt to reconcile with his wife. When terrorists seize her office building, McClane escapes -- shirtless and shoeless -- and desperately tries to stop them.

Sometimes you just gotta watch stuff blow up. Plus, the run-time is 128 minutes – perfect for a 2 hour tempo ride with a moderate cool down. Kind of funny to watch Bruce just light up a cigarette in the middle of the airport without getting arrested. Times have changed . . .Yippee-ki-yay

Six Feet Under: Season 1 (2001) This darkly comical HBO television series follows the members of a dynamic but dysfunctional Los Angeles-based family that operates a funeral home. It has an ironically grim but intriguing premise: Each episode is based on the death and extenuating circumstances of the family's current client.

We just watched the pilot episode this morning. It looks pretty good – we’ll watch a few more episodes and decide whether to slip it into our Sopranos/24 rotation.

There you have it. We can hardly wait for the weather to warm up and dry out so we get less movie time and more outside riding time. But until that happens, my Netflix queue is packed with all kinds of interesting little gems . . .

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