Category Archives: TV & Movies

The Voice: Live Shows — Team Adam & Team Cee Lo

Katrina Parker (Tonight, Tonight, Smashing Pumpkins)
Got swallowed by the accompaniment at times, but she’s a very strong singer who delivered an excellent performance. Kind of breathy, but not in an off-putting way.

Cheesa (Don’t Leave Me This Way, Thelma Wilson)
She was about a second away from not making it through the blind auditions, and then Cee Lo chose her in the battle rounds despite the fact that she was unequivocally out-sung. Her first live show performance had high-energy but it lacked a true wow moment. My guess is she is in America’s bottom three, but Cee Lo will save her.

Tony Lucca (In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel)
A solid all-around performance. A lot of very good moment, but I didn’t really find myself finding a great moment. He’s definitely more than what Xtina made him out to be by calling him one-dimensional.

Kim Yarbrough (Rolling In The Deep, Adele)
Huge challenge with her song choice, and I felt she struggled a little bit with the big parts of the songs. I will echo Cee Lo’s sentiments, I don’t know if I loved the performance, but I still love her.

James Massone (Don’t Know Why, Norah Jones)
He’s just so smooth and swag. He doesn’t have a real big voice, but in this competition, I’m actually finding that as a nice change of pace.

Juliet Simms (Roxanne, The Police)
Not a big fan, and I don’t think that Roxanne is as big of a deviation from what she usually sings as Juliet seems to think it is. A lot of voice cracks throughout the performance—maybe that’s intentional and maybe that does it for some people, but I don’t care for it.

Mathai (Ordinary People, John Legend)
My favorite performances are the ones that can captivate me without the flashes and bangs. Mathai stood up on stage with a pair of guitar players and knocked it out of the park.

Tony Vincent (Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Tears for Fears)
Flamboyant outfits and over-the-top facial expressions aside, Tony is a very talented singer. He’s certainly a performer in every sense of the world and in that way, he’s a perfect match for Cee-Lo.

Karla Davis (Airplanes, B.O.B.)
I really liked Karla’s arrangement on this song, particularly the way she took the rap part and put it to music. There were certainly some weak spots and I’d guess she’ll fall in the bottom three, but she took a risk and it worked, but she’s just not as strong vocally as her competition.

Erin Martin (Walk Like An Egyptian, The Bengals)
Another beneficiary of Cee Lo’s questionable battle round decisions, I felt she was very weak in her first live performance. For someone that claims she doesn’t want to be judged on her looks, she sure puts a lot of effort into making as big a spectacle as possible to distract from her actual vocal performance.

Pip (When You Were Young, The Killers)
Wow. The High School Musical/Glee kid can rock. Because of how he’s presented himself so far, I didn’t fully buy into it, but overall, he’s still an extremely strong vocalist who should move on.

Jamar Rogers (Are You Gonna Go My Way, Lenny Kravitz)
Twitter exploded over his performance, but I found it just, very loud. Again, Cee Lo’s ridiculous level of showmanship was evident with people on stilts walking around. A very energetic performance that was kind of hard to take much away from his vocals.

My Top 3 from Team Adam would be Pip, Mathai and Kim Yarbrough. The fourth would be Tony Lucca.

My Top 3 from Team Cee Lo would be James Massone, Jamar Rogers and Juliet Simms. The fourth would probably be Tony Vincent.

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The Voice: Live Shows — Team Blake & Team Xtina

Jermaine Paul (Livin’ On A Prayer, Bon Jovi)

He’s certainly got the chops and stage presence to be successful. Overall a solid performance, but I was surprised that a singer of his caliber was swallowed up by the band at times.

Chris Mann (Bridge Over Troubled Water)

A simple, but beautiful performance, which is what we’ve come to expect from him.

RaeLynn (Wake Up Call, Maroon 5)

So annoying. Adam Levine must have crapped himself hearing his song murdered on live TV. He said he liked it, but watching his reaction during the song told a different story.

Moses Stone (Stonger/Power, Kanye West)

Still not a particularly strong singer and it showed. The Voice is not really the right platform for rappers. He sang very little in this performance.

Naia Kete (Turning Tables, Adele)

Peaked at her blind audition. This performance wasn’t as good as her first one. A unique sound can’t be forced, and like RaeLynn, Naia forces her quirkiness a little too much. She’s strongest when she just opens up and sings.

Lindsey Pavao (Somebody That I Used To Know, Goyte)

Didn’t like the arrangement, and Lindsey didn’t seem that strong vocally. We learned that she’s pretty good at squeaking into the microphone, Adam nailed it when he said her performance lacked power during the chorus.

Jordis Unga (Alone, Heart)

Very, very good voice, so the screaming runs are wholly unnecessary. One of the better performances of the night.

Sera Hill (Find Your Love, Drake)

Despite being shown up, Sera was helped through the battle rounds by Xtina’s preference for loud female vocalists. Surrounded by shirtless hunks, she delivered a rather forgettable performance. It was not a song suited for her style, and she should probably expect to be on the chopping block this week.

Erin Willett (Living For The City, Stevie Wonder)

A lot of stage-filling fluff distracted from what was ultimately a pretty good performance. Ms. Willet is certainly growing on me.

Ashley de la Rosa (Right Through You, Alanis Morissette)

There were too many runs in the song that didn’t allow Ashley to properly show off her chops, which are impressive. I like the singer, did not like the performance. Adam’s glowing review probably stemmed from his buddy-buddy relationship with Alanis.

Charlotte Sometimes (Misery Business, Paramore)

Never was a big fan and she did nothing to sway me with this performance. Her voice just sounds lazy, like she’s not pronouncing her words properly or getting on top of every note.

Jesse Campbell (What A Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong)

The best thing about Jesse is that all he needs is a microphone. No flash, no dancers, no props, no smokescreens, nothing. His voice is more than enough to carry a performance. He’s definitely the best of the night, and probably the best in the competition. Really a signature performance. Again.

***

My top three from Team Christina would be Jesse Campbell, Chris Mann and Lindsey Pavao. The fourth would Ashley de la Rosa.

My top three from Team Blake would be Jermaine Paul, Erin Willet and Jordis Unga. The fourth would be reluctantly be Naia Kete.

The Voice: Battle Round 4

Cee Lo 5 — James Massone vs. Wade (True Colors, Cindy Lauper)

Cee Lo’s Pick: James

Adam thought James’ voice grabbed his attention but that there was still work to be done. Blake felt like both men had good voices, but thought James took this one. Xtina complimented Wade’s strong voice, but thought he had pitch problems. Ultimately, she loved James character and chose him.

My Pick: James
Wade’s upper range sounds like so much work, while James is just smooth. There were some significant pitch problems, mostly stemming from Wade. Not a great song for either man, but James adapted better and was more impressive.

Adam 5 — Nicole Galyon vs. Mathai (Love Song, Sara Bareilles)

Adam’s Pick: Mathai

Blake thought Nicole’s breathing affected her singing a little bit while Xtina said that Mathai brought confidence and swagger to her performance. Cee Lo felt that Nicole was a generic, straightforward type of singer.

My Pick: Mathai
Both ladies impressed me in their blind auditions—especially little Mathai, but neither did much to move me during their battle round performance. Mathai was the stronger of the two.

Xtina 6 — The Line vs. Moses Stone (Satisfaction, Rolling Stones)

Xtina’s Pick: Moses Stone

Cee Lo liked their compatibility and thought Moses really worked the stage with his personality/swagger. Adam liked the unorthodox take on the song and picked The Line judging by the voices. Blake felt the presentation was weird but good. Thought both were good, but went with The Line.

My Pick: The Line
Individually, both singers from The Line are very good, and together they are great. Moses just didn’t show me enough during his performance for me to go with him. The Line took the rock and roll song and embraced how different it was from their comfort zone, but Moses resorted to his style rather than tackling a song that was different from what he was used to.

Adam 6 — Orlando Napier vs. Karla Davis (Easy Like Sunday Morning, Commodores)

Adam’s Pick: Karla

Blake didn’t think that anyone stood above the other in the battle. He liked Karla’s voice, but thought Orlando performed better. Xtina thought Karla was a little more entertaining, but neither were all that spectacular. Cee Lo liked the swagger from Orlando.

My Pick: Karla
Very impressive performance by both artists. Orlando was spectacular, but there was just something special about Karla’s voice that drew me to her.

Blake 6 — Jordan Rager vs. Naia Kete (I’m Yours, Jason Mraz)

Blake’s Pick – Naia

Xtina thought Jordan had a solid performance, and Naia had more of a natural groove. Cee Lo liked Jordan’s strong voice and thgouth the song was perfectly suited for Naia. Adam noted some pitch issues for Jordan, outside his comfort zone.

My Pick – Jordan
The song choice undoubtedly favored Naia. Jordan has a great country rasp, but country artists are typically less flexible when it comes to tackling different styles. As such, I expected Naia to wipe the floor with Jordan, but I ended up preferring Jordan. He had some pitch issues (Naia did too) but his stronger parts were better than Naia’s.

Cee Lo 6 — Tony Vincent vs. Justin Hopkins (Faithfully, Journey)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Tony

Adam liked the dirtiness in Justin’s voice. Blake notes Cee Lo’s fingerprints on the performance. Tony was more versatile, but liked Justin’s more. Xtina liked Justin’s voice, but picked Tony’s versatility.

My Pick: Tony
Justin Hopkins initial advance I felt was due more to his connection to host Carson Daly than anything he did vocally. Tony is one of those guys that hearing his voice is infinitely better than watching him. Not a particularly great performance, and I was surprised Carson Daly didn’t issue an immediate host override when Cee Lo picked Tony.

***

Ultimately, there weren’t too many decisions by the judges that I vehemently disagreed with. I found myself preferring the artist that Blake Shelton did not pick a lot, but in those cases, the difference between the two singers wasn’t terribly noticeable. One of Cee Lo’s and two of Xtina’s choices were flat out putrid.

Cee Lo’s choice of Cheesa over Angie Johnson.
Xtina’s choice of Sera Hill over Geoff McBride.
Xtina’s choice of Moses Stone over The Line.

Looking at the coaches teams, I have to rank them

1. Adam
2. Blake
3. Xtina
4. Cee Lo

Adam’s team is the most complete, as he doesn’t have a bad singer in the group. A lot of solid 8’s and 9’s in there. Blake’s team is also fairly even throughout but a step below his buddy Adam. Xtina has a couple of duds taking up space, but also holds her ace in the hole – Mr. Jesse Campbell. Cee Lo’s best contestant is probably fourth or fifth on any of the other teams.

The Voice: Battle Round 3

Adam 3 — Pip vs. Nathan Parrett (You Know I’m No Good, Amy Winehouse)

Adam’s Pick: Pip

Blake complimented Nathan’s big voice, but said that Pip is the guy who can do everything. Cee Lo liked Nathan’s effortless “cool” factor and Xtina was impressed with the way Nathan’s voice commands attention, even though he came across as less confident than Pip.

My Pick: Pip
Nathan’s nerves definitely returned during the actual performance, while Pip nailed just about every note. Nathan was tentative and pretty much just let Pip sing circles around him. I really didn’t think it was even close, let alone as close as the judges made it seem.

Cee Lo 4 – Erin Martin vs. The Shields Brothers (What’s Love Got To Do With It, Tina Turner)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Erin

Adam felt that the pairing and the performance was “so weird”. He preferred the Shields Brothers when Erin overshadowed her unusual voice with quirky attempts at uniqueness. All Blake could come up with was the fact that he liked Erin’s corset-based outfit. Xtina had fun watching the battle, calling it entertainment. She didn’t think that the song really fit Erin’s talents and loved the harmonies and energy of the Shields Brothers.

My pick: The Shields Brothers, reluctantly.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with either one of them during the blind auditions, but Erin really turned me off in the battle round. The Shields Brothers took all the advice to heart and did everything they could to improve. Erin acted like a spoiled baby the whole time and then didn’t impress me vocally. I think just about everyone else sent home in previous battles were better options than either Erin or the brothers.

Xtina 5 — Ashley de la Rosa vs. Jonathas (No Air, Chris Brown & Jordin Sparks)

Xtina’s Pick: Ashley

Adam noted that Jonathas was very comfortable on the stage, but went with the bigness of Ashley’s voice. Blake enjoyed the character in Jonathas’ voice, but was disappointed that he didn’t build on his performance. Cee Lo enjoyed the visual chemistry between the two performers, but opined that Ashley stretched out more.

My Pick: Ashley
Jonathas was more polished, but the sound that Ashley produces is just phenomenal and unexpected. I think I’ve kind of seen all that Jonathas is capable of, but with Ashley there’s huge untapped potential that I would love to get a chance to see.

Blake 4 — Alyx vs. Jermaine Paul (Get Out of My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Billy Ocean)

Blake’s Pick: Jermaine

The judges were unanimous in declaring Jermaine as the clear winner. Adam said that Jermaine kicked the song’s ass, while Cee Lo loved the confidence that Jermaine put on display. Xtina loved the energy and how he made the song his own.

My Pick: Jermaine
Two big voices going head-to-head, but I think that Jermaine ended up blowing Alyx out of the water. I think that the arrangement definitely lent itself to showing off Jermaine more so than Alyx and it showed.

Adam 4 — Angel Taylor vs. Katrina Parker (Keep Bleeding, Leona Lewis)

Adam’s Pick: Katrina

Blake: Loved Angel’s unique voice, but thinks Katrina flat out won the battle.
Cee Lo: Angel seemed a little uncomfortable while Katrina came in confidant .
Xtina: Unique rasp, but liked Katrina’s Adele-type voice.

My Pick: Katrina
Katrina started the song so strong and just continued getting better through the whole track. Angel was not bad, but she didn’t do anything too special to set herself apart. Katrina has this smoky, sultry aspect to her voice that just intrigues me.

Blake 5 — Gwen Sebastian vs. Erin Willett (We Belong, Pat Benatar)

Blake’s Pick: Erin

Adam was drawn in by the richness and warmth of Erin’s voice and Xtina gravitated to Erin’s style. Cee Lo preferred Gwen who completely sold him with her last phrase.

My Pick: Gwen
Erin is all power all the time, and I prefer the nuances of Gwen’s voice – with the wicked run at the end really selling it for me.

The Voice: Battle Round 2

Xtina 3 — Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill (Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin)

Xtina’s Pick: Sera

Adam felt that Sera put on more of a show, but Geoff was better vocally. Blake was more turned on by Sera and really felt her energy in the performance. Cee Lo enjoyed a high-energy performance, and picked Geoff who displayed more vocal control.

My Pick: Geoff
Everything Christina said Sera did well, I felt that Geoff did better. Xtina once again went with the vocalist that she preferred, and while that’s her prerogative, she’s proven that who she likes doesn’t always have the most talent. For the second week in a row, she sent one of her better singers packing early.

Blake 3 — Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land (Pumped Up Kicks, Foster the People)

Blake’s Pick: Charlotte

Adam felt that Lex outperformed Charlotte, Cee Lo preferred Charlotte but also commented on how smooth and soothing Lex’s voice was. Xtina also picked Lex

My Pick: Lex
It sounds like Charlotte’s jaw is still collapsed or whatever because she can’t correctly pronounce anything when she is singing. Lex’s voice is definitely better and her style doesn’t rely on gimmicks.

Cee Lo 2 — Sarah Golden vs. Juliet Simms (Stay With Me, Rod Stewart)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Juliet

Adam loved Juliet from the beginning of the competition and continued to prefer her sound. Blake saw Sarah as the better option, considering how limited Juliet’s vocals are. Xtina didn’t think Sarah was a good fit for the song and thought Juliet was an easy choice to win.

My Pick: Sarah
Cee Lo really set up Juliet to succeed with the song choice, but I didn’t think either lady sounded all that great during the performance. I actually preferred Sarah’s sound, even though she was way out of her sweet spot.

Adam 2 Whitney Myer vs. Kim Yarbrough (No More Drama, Mary J. Blige)

Adam’s Pick: Kim

Blake thought that the performance was awesome and that both women used their strengths in their performances. He couldn’t pick between them and tried to choose host Carson Daly. Cee Lo felt that the song was better suited to Kim’s maturity than Whitney’s youth. Xtina thought Whitney had the higher end, but she loved the richness of Kim’s tone.

My Pick: Kim
I loved Whitney’s sound and performance, but Kim handled the song better and her voice is an actual powerhouse and not a wannabe imitation. Kim is everything that contestants like Cheesa think they are.

Xtina 4 — Lee Koch vs. Lindsay Pavao (Heart Shaped Box, Nirvana)

Xtina’s Pick: Lindsay

Adam was thoroughly entertained by a delightfully creepy performance. He thought it was odd, but in a great way. Loved Lee’s other-worldy sound. Blake was unfamiliar with the song, but would have picked Lindsay while Cee Lo was fascinated by the fact that the lighting made Lee look like Jesus. Apart from the physical appearance, he thought that Lee was unique and creative in his approach.

My Pick: Lee
Lee and Lindsay blended very well together, but Lee came across as more of the star and Lindsay was more the support. I felt that Xtina did a better job choosing her initial team this year during the blind auditions, but now that we’re into the battle rounds she’s getting rid of a lot of male talent just like she did in the first season. And that turned out to be a real poor strategy.

Cee Lo 3 — Jamar Rogers vs. Jamie Lono (I Want To Know What Love Is, Foreigner)

Cee Lo’s Pick: Jamar

Adam thought that Jamar came out and owned the performance while Jamie struggled with the high parts and fell off as the song went on. Blake however, liked Jamie’s vibe. Xtina was entertained throughout, but turned to Jamar when he nailed the final note of the song.

My Pick: Jamar
Jamie was definitely weak in the upper range, and neither guy gave a knock-out performance, but Jamar was better and deserved to win the battle.

The Voice: Battle Round 1

Adam 1 — Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley (Beautiful Day, U2)

Adam’s Pick: Tony

Blake: Expected Tony to dominate stage but thought Chris outdid him vocally.
Xtina: Name-dropped the entire Mickey Mouse club and picked Tony.
Cee-Lo: Tony articulated the song more clearly.

My Pick: Chris
Although you could tell that Tony was much more used to the crowd-engaging part of performing, Chris outshone him vocally. Chris has a unique sound to his voice that set him apart from the more mainstream pop sound that Tony has.

Blake 1 — RaeLynn vs. Adley Stump (Free Falling, Tom Petty)

Blake’s Pick: RaeLynn

Adam: Adley overpowered RaeLynn, but would go with RaeLynn’s unique sound.
Xtina: Thought both were on pitch, but picked Adley as the stronger of the two.
CeeLo: RaeLynn was adorable and youthful, but preferred Adley as being there now as opposed to being well on the way.

My Pick: Adley
RaeLynn seemed to know she was overmatched vocally in this battle and tried to do way too much to compensate. Adding too many dips and turns when she should have just sung. Blake kept true to his preference for the young female vocalist who have a unique quality to their voice. Xenia and Dia had it in season 1, and RaeLynn’s is the same way.

Xtina 1 — Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou (Power of Love, Celine Dion)

Xtina’s Pick: Chris

Adam: Monique picked it up after a shaky start, but picked Chris.
Blake: Thought Monique brought it just enough to beat Chris.
Cee-Lo: Believes Chris is one of the best.

My Pick: Chris
Even though he was way out of his comfort zone, I thought that Chris nailed his performance much more so than Monique did, who was a little shaky throughout.

Cee Lo 1 — Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson (Total Eclipse of the Heart)

Cee Lo’s pick: Cheesa

Adam: Early nerves, but goes with Cheesa.
Blake: Clarity and diction goes with Angie
Xtina: Angie got better as it went along.

My Pick: Angie
Angie showed a much bigger range of vocal ability, nailing the loud and powerful high notes, to the soft and sweet melodies. Cheesa didn’t do a whole lot new to impress me, replicating the skills she showed off in the blind auditions.

Blake 2 — Brian Fuente vs. Jordis Unga (Ironic, Alanis Morissette)

Blake’s Pick: Jordis.

Adam: Tough to choose, but Jordis.
Cee-Lo: Got a kick out of Brian really getting into it.
Xtina: Some pitchy moments throughout for both, but picked Jordis.

My Pick: Jordis
I went into the performance thinking I was going to prefer Brian, but he didn’t do anything to blow me away and while Jordis wasn’t spectacular, she was better than Brian and I think she has more untapped potential than Brian.

Xtina 2 — Jesse Campbell vs. Anthony Evans (If I Ain’t Got You, Alicia Keys)

Xtina’s Pick: Jesse

Adam: Sheer level of talent is mind blowing, picked Jesse.
Blake: Loved Anthony’s high note, thought Jesse’s swagger owned the stage.
Cee Lo: Blown away by both performances.

My Pick: Jesse
In the best battle of the night, both men absolutely nailed a terrific performance. Very similar styles, both guys have great control of the upper register, but stylistically I felt that Jesse had a slight edge. But Anthony is definitely one of the best 6 vocalists on Xtina’s team and it’s a shame he had to go up against her best vocalist so early in the competition.

Goodbye Community?

Over the past three years, Community has quickly become one of my can’t miss TV comedies. Although I prefer Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and The Office, Community is a completely unique type of television show. It’s off-the-wall and completely outside-the-box ideas make it a witty and entertaining half-hour. There’s an undefinable absurdity to the show that gives it and unpredictable and unmatched aspect.

Another underrated aspect Community is cuteness of Annie, played by the adorable Alison Brie. And if Community is truly on its farewell tour the rest of this season, then at least we’ll always have the GIFable memories of sweet, cute Annie.

Paragraphed Movie Reviews: War

The Hurt Locker: A-
Definitely very well done. Suspenseful and intense the whole way through, for a non-military individual this was an enjoyable movie for me. Casting fairly unknown actors to play the three leads added to it’s authenticity as you actually felt you were watching American soldiers rather than actors playing soldiers.

Inglourious Basterds: B-
Drawn out and lengthy. I felt there was a lot of film fluff in the movie that did little to further the plot. It was both jumpy and extended at the same time. I’ve never really been a huge Tarantino fan and he certainly didn’t win me over with this one. As is most of his work, Basterds was a little over the top and unbelievable.

Defiance: A
I love a good war movie, and this one was absolutely fantastic. Daniel Craig is phenomenal as the oldest Beilski brother, leading refugee Jews out of the Nazi’s way. He sets up temporary settlements for his people in the forests, moving and starting from scratch every time they are discovered. The Beilski brothers clash over how to handle their responsibilities and are ultimately confronted by the German army.

Schindler’s List: B
Liam Neeson is terrific and Ralph Fiennes is terrifying in the true story of Oskar Schindler. The movie is a bit long, but is nonetheless a fantastic retelling of one of World War 2’s finest men. Schindler was personally responsible for saving the lives of hundreds of Jews by employing them in his factories rather than shipping them off to concentration camps.

We Were Soldiers: A+
For me to hand out an A+ to a movie it has to be absolutely amazing, and We Were Soldiers is that caliber of movie. Mel Gibson is tremendous as Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore of the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Ia Drang. The movie captures the true atmosphere of the Vietnam War and retells the story in a way that does the American soldiers true justice.

The Great Escape: A-
Although a bit lengthy at nearly 3 hours, The Great Escape is a very entertaining once it gets going. Steve McQueen is fantastic as the cocky American officer and his motorcycle stunts (performed by McQueen) at the end of the movie are breath-takingly enjoyable. If the movie had been made in 2011, the Nazis would have been more evil, the heroes less interesting and the movie would have been much, much louder. As it is, The Great Escape is highly enjoyable and definitely one of my favorite wartime movies.

Behind Enemy Lines: C+
I think I’ve type-casted Owen Wilson into the frat-pack actor that it took me a while to get into him as a military man. And if you can’t buy him in that role, this movie won’t change your mind. Wilson’s character here is probably the worst Navy pilot to be stuck in enemy territory and the only reason he isn’t killed is because the villains are somehow even more incompetent than he is.

The Pianist: A-
It always surprises me that a sick freak like Roman Polanski can turn out a great movie and believe me, The Pianist is a great movie. Dark and foreboding, but fantastic nevertheless. It’s a story of terror and loss, but amidst all the devastation and destruction, something beautiful continues to persevere.

Platoon: A-
Martin Sheen had Apocalypse Now and his son has Platoon. Having actually served in Vietnam, director Oliver Stone is able to depict an infantryman’s strife more accurately than any before him. He doesn’t glorify war as many movies do and Charlie Sheen stays mostly out of the way of great performances by Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe.

Black Hawk Down: B
Black Hawk Down accurately re-creates the disastrous US military raid in Mogadishu, Somalia. Using a true ensemble cast, the movie follows several different story lines and several groups of soldiers engaged with unfriendly forces.

The Dirty Dozen: B+
Another older film in which Lee Marvin is put in charge of 12 soldiers convicted of rape and murder and is instructed to train them to infiltrate a German chateau and eliminate as many officers as possible before they are killed. The movie is smart, funny and well-paced. There are amusing moments throughout and you almost forget that the guy you are rooting for are some of the most despicable criminals imaginable.

Paragraphed Movie Reviews: Great Villains

Last week I reviewed some recent animated films that I had seen and spent all week trying to come up with another grouping for this week’s Paragraph Reviews. I finally settled on movies that have a particularly memorable villain. We love movies where good triumphs over evil and the more evil the villain, the more satisfying the ultimate victory is.

Air Force One: A
I loved this one. Harrison Ford was excellent as the President of a hijacked Air Force One. It was a little more violent than I anticipated, but I don’t think it was overdone or unnecessary. Glenn Close was also wonderful as the determined Vice President. This is one that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from, particularly Gary Oldman’s chilling performance as a Russian terrorist. You can’t have a hero movie without a villain and the badder the bad guy, the more heroic your hero can be.

Psycho: B+
Knowing the ending really ruined it for me. While it was a very well done movie, it seemed to end rather abruptly. Instead of letting the viewer gradually figure things out for themselves before wrapping everything up, Hitchcock simply plot-dumps the whole movie in the last five minutes. A little disappointing given the recommendation this movie received.

Se7en: A
This movie is not for people that are put off by psychopathic serial killers. The entire film is dark, grisly and frankly disturbing. Despite this, it’s a fantastically fascinating film. The only thing keeping this film from an A+ grade is a somewhat disappointing ending. Not that it was bad, but so much went on during during the first hour and a half that the last half hour just seemed to “easy”. Nevertheless, Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are both fantastic as the old dog detective about to retire and the recently transferred young hot shot hunting a serial killer, John Doe, who is carrying out his crimes to preach a lesson about the Seven Deadly Sins.

The Dark Knight: A+
“Sometimes, a man just wants to watch the world burn.” The Joker is a different breed of criminal, one who commits atrocities with dangerous precision and planning for no reason other posing moral dilemmas for his intended targets. The special effects are incredible, but the movie is enjoyable because of the performances of the actors. Heath Ledger’s Joker is psychotic and insane while Batman, Gordon and Dent are all focal points of his evil transgressions. Possibly two of the world’s greatest actors, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine stand in as Batman’s pillars of confidence, both moral and ethical. Director Christopher Nolan has successfully taken Batman out of the comic books and transplanted the world onto the big screen in a way never done before.

The Silence of the Lambs: B+
Serial killers are never easily understood. So a movie about two serial killers is bound to be one messed up film—and Silence of the Lambs is just that. Hannibal Lecter’s entrance is carefully prepared and it is eventually under his guidance that the FBI locates and stops another serial killer. The Beauty and the Beast theme is played out very obviously, and Jodie Foster is terrific in her role as the young trainee assigned to work with Lecter and her steadiness and pluckiness are paramount to the movie. Despite her excellent work, she is upstaged by Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of what could possibly be film’s most iconic villain.

Die Hard: B
Overall a solid film that really defined a genre. Fast-paced and fascinating, Die Hard was highly enjoyable. Bruce Willis was pretty good as the man part of man-against-the world, but even more impressive was Alan Rickman’s portrayal of the sadistic corporate thief. His presence is so powerful that you almost find yourself more concerned about the outcome of Hans Gruber that the movie’s hero.

Up for next week? War movies.

Paragraphed Movie Reviews: Animated

I’ve seen a lot of movies—some great, some good and some completely unwatchable. People write reviews that take me longer to read than it took to actually watch the movie. So I’m going to go through some of the movies I’ve seen and write a short and simple review. Nothing too intense, just whether or not I liked it and why. I am going to try and organize these by genre and decided to start with some animated films.

How To Train Your Dragon: A-
I had not read the book and had put off seeing the movie because I assumed it would be some cheesy kids flick. I was wrong. This movie was very enjoyable for any age, it was clever and funny. It also took me over an hour to figure out that the head Viking was voiced by Gerard Butler. Very well written story and very impressive animation.

Tangled: B+
Another animated movie targeted to children that ended up as a quite enjoyable adult movie as well. It was a very clever re-telling of the classic tale Rapunzel and if you’re going to reinterpret a classic childhood fairy tale, you had better do a good job and they did.

Rio: B
Maybe it’s just my taste, but I continually find myself enjoying a good animated flick and you can count Rio among those. It’s easier to take liberties in an animated movie and maybe that’s what makes them special or maybe it’s hearing Anne Hathaway’s voice come out of a parrot that’s somehow attractive. One domesticated bird and one wild one team up to elude poachers and make it to their respective destinations.

Megamind: B+
Megamind wasn’t fantastic, but it put a smile on my face and made me laugh on more than one occasional, which is what any good movie does. Will Ferrell’s character goes from last survivor to evil genius to Metro City’s last hope.

Up: A
If Pixar has made a bad movie, I’ve yet to come across it. Up is just next in line of Pixar’s home runs. The plot is far-fetched but fascinating and the pairing of crotchety old gentleman, over-eager boy scout and talking dog just makes all the sense in the world. It’s an emotional and endearing story that immerses you in a world of wonder.

Gnomeo & Juliet: D-
There’s a reason that William Shakespeare didn’t pen his classic piece of literature about garden gnomes. There were close to a million characters and at 84 minutes, there just isn’t enough time to properly develop any of them, leading to a horribly confusing movie. It helps if you’re intricately familiar with the original source, but not much