Thursday, June 26, 2014

Closure: June 2014

After a May full of movie watching, I turned to Orange is the New Black to occupy most of my screen-time in the month of June. Not only did I watch all of season 2, but I also went back and watched season 1 all over again, because of its sheer awesomeness. If there is one thing that I could influence you to do this summer, it would be to get your butt over to Netflix and watch Orange is the New Black. I know... I'm supposed to be promoting movies, but the prison drama goes above and beyond what can be found in most TV shows today, which says a lot about its quality. Trust me... You WILL NOT be disappointed!

On a completely separate note, which probably should not be sharing a page with Orange is the New Black, I will be heading off to Doraville, Georgia, tomorrow, with the high school students from my church. Last year, I had the opportunity to accompany them on this yearly mission trip, and the experience was absolutely awesome. Please, be in prayer for the students and the other leaders, as we spread the good news of the gospel with the children of the Doraville area. Because I won't return until next week, it is safe to say that my movie-watching month has come to a close, hence the early release of this list. Below, you will find a list of all the films I watched in the month of June... Enjoy!

Movie Watched Year Format Did I Enjoy? Would I Watch Again?
The Fault in Our Stars 2014 Theater > Full Price Yes Yes
The Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Bernie 2011 TV > Netflix Yes Yes
22 Jump Street 2014 Theater > Matinee Yes Yes
Transformers 2007 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Jersey Boys 2014 Theater > Matinee Yes Yes
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Friends With Benefits 2011 DVD > Borrowed Yes Yes
O Brother Where Art Thou? 2000 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Enemy 2014 DVD > Netflix Yes Yes
The LEGO Movie 2014 DVD > Rental Yes Yes

Monday, June 23, 2014

Jersey Boys

From the age of 14 to the age of 20, I worked at a small-town grocery store, in Poplarville, Mississippi. For those readers who are not from my neck of the woods, Poplarville is a community college town in which about 80% of the population is oddly made up of men and women above age 60. I could give you many more interesting facts about that quaint little town, but that sarcastic demographic number should be enough to keep you up to speed. You see... In a town made up of individuals who lived their prime in the 60s and 70s, a grocer must appeal to the appropriate musical taste, in hopes that these old farts continue to buy their goods. With that being said, it should come as no surprise that many a song that came through that store's old speaker system was sung by none other than Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, the "Jersey Boys" themselves. Thankfully, in my time working in Poplarville, I really grew to enjoy that classic sound. If I hadn't, I would have been in trouble, because it was not going anywhere. Not long ago, Jersey Boys was Off-Broadway, in New Orleans, and I really wanted to check out the play. Unfortunately, that didn't work out, which made for even more excitement when I heard that Clint Eastwood was bringing the story to theaters. As a disclaimer, I knew very little about Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons before heading into the theater. But, I was excited to watch their story unfold and even more excited to listen to some great tunes along the way...

With the success of Jersey Boys on Broadway, I knew the storyline would be fairly compelling and entertaining. Considering that these guys were musicians, they certainly had a lot of grit. However, the story is sold as a tale about a group of guys who grew up on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, and I don't quite agree with that description. While one of the four members of the group (Tommy DeVito) was a rough character, the other three guys (Frankie Valli, Nick Massi, and Bob Gaudio) proved to be fairly good-natured or innocent. The moral make-up of the group was quite unexpected, but, in the end, it didn't take away very much from the plot. In fact, it made me feel more sympathy toward the characters, because of their rough upbringing. I even wanted to root for the morally compromised DeVito. In general, the story was simple and accented well by the light, peppy music throughout. The most glaring issue, in my opinion, was the humor, which was difficult to catch. At times, I was cracking up, and the folks sitting around me were dead silent. Other times, I would hear laughter around me, and I would be taking in what I thought was a serious moment. Maybe I was just watching the movie with stupid people... Either way, the audience's experience with each other is so important to the success of any film, and the awkward humor of Jersey Boys really lessened that experience.

I spent much of the "Plot" section talking about the characters, but, in a film that follows the lives of four musicians, the characters lives are the plot. The film had quite a plethora of characters, including a young Joe Pesci, played by Joseph Russo, who reminded me a lot of... an older Joe Pesci. Who knew he would show up? There's no way that I could cover each and every character, but here are a few worth noting...

Of the four members of the group, easily the weakest character was Nick Massi, played by Michael Lomenda. Not only was the character weak, but the performance was also lacking. Maybe someone who has seen the show in the theater could give a better analysis of Massi, but, in my opinion, he was quite a weak link.

Undoubtedly, the best performance was given by Vincent Piazza, who was quite convincing as Tommy DeVito, the likeable bad guy. Kudos to Piazza for shining in a film full of small, mediocre performances. Two other characters/performances that I really enjoyed were Christopher Walken's Gyp DeCarlo and Erich Bergen's Bob Gaudio. Walken was his normal, frightening self, and Bergen was probably the only one who really nailed his humorous lines, in my opinion.

Overall, Jersey Boys was quite enjoyable! The music was expectedly lovable, and the story, while not groundbreaking, was entertaining. I don't know if everyone will enjoy Vincent Piazza's bad-guy performance as much as I enjoyed it, but it's worth a shot. If you love the music of The Four Seasons or Jersey accents, Jersey Boys is just the film for you! Also, for those of you who are scared away by the word musical (I'm not much different), I wanted to note the fact that Jersey Boys is not a traditional musical. The music is never used to move the story along or serve as a substitute for dialogue. Instead, the songs are only sung in the setting of a concert or studio... Where music is meant to be sung! Finally, if you've never heard the music of The Four Seasons or Frankie Valli, go listen! Right now! I give Jersey Boys 3.23 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

22 Jump Street

To inform you of the obvious, comedy sequels rarely succeed. With that fact in front of you, it would be quite easy to condemn 22 Jump Street, well before the film's release. But, before you do that, ask yourself this question: "While watching 21 Jump Street, how much did I laugh?" Because the most common answer to that question is "a whole freakin lot," there may yet be hope for the sequel to the hit 2012 buddy comedy. There was never any doubt in my mind that 22 Jump Street would provide a multitude of hilarious moments, considering its predecessor took home my award for best comedy in 2012. However, from watching the trailer, I wasn't so sure that it would be able to live up to the sarcastic, ironic hilarity of the first film. Regardless, I was going to watch, and, regardless, I was going to laugh. The only question was how much...

For anyone who missed out on the point of 21 Jump Street, the film's real purpose was to make light of the fact that turning a television show into a film is an absolutely horrible idea (it's only other purpose was making me laugh). In keeping with that theme, 22 Jump Street focused on yet another blatant sin that continues to be committed in Hollywood... the unnecessary sequel. In fact, 22 Jump did a better job than its predecessor of picking out film-flaws and making them hilarious. At the same time, the flow of the film made it feel a bit lengthy. For me, that is no problem, because I could watch these guys 24/7 and still want more, but, for an average viewer, there may be a moment or two where you feel as if the story will never wrap up. Thankfully, there is plenty of laughter to be found throughout the film, including an amazing scene centered around Ice Cube's Captain Dickson and Jonah Hill's Schmidt that is sure to have you rolling for at least ten minutes. Although I will avoid spoilers, that scene was undoubtedly my favorite from either film, and I kind of want to go watch 22 Jump Street again, this week, just to see that one scene!

In addition to 21 Jump Street taking home my prize for top comedy, in 2012, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum shared my prize for top male comedic performance. Considering how much I loved their performances, I expected great things from both of them in the sequel. Fortunately, they did not disappoint!

Peter Stormare's Ghost was an extremely forced element of the 22 Jump Street investigative puzzle, and, whilst being forced into the plot, he never really provided any laughs whatsoever. My opinion of this character may be solely a result of how hilarious the other characters managed to be, but, either way, I did not care for the scenes in which he was a big player.

Once again, my main man (and probably my favorite actor), Jonah Hill, was able to come up big in his hilarious role as Schmidt. His performance, alongside that of Ice Cube, really made 22 Jump Street work. I don't know why, but anything that Hill touches just seems to turn to gold before my eyes. That said, Channing Tatum's Jenko really seemed to take the backseat to Hill's Schmidt in the overarching storyline. Maybe I didn't enjoy Tatum's performance, because he was removed from Hill a good bit, but, regardless, he just didn't shine as bright as he did in 21 Jump. Don't get me wrong... he was great. Just not quite as great as he was in the first film.

Considering that most comedy sequels are doomed from the get-go, 22 Jump Street deserves like 20 awards for not sucking! I know for a fact that I do not have the creative capability to come up with some of the clever hilarity that these guys were able to manifest. Kudos to the cast, directors, writers, and anyone else involved in the creation of such a great masterpiece. Both 21 and 22 Jump Street will remain on my re-watch list for many, many years to come, and I really hope we get 72 Jump Street in 50 years or so. I'm thinking it will work well alongside The Expendables 50! I give 22 Jump Street 4.20 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars

Last week, I did a write-up about which actors I believe should have played the major characters in The Fault in Our Stars. Additionally, the post talks a bit about my views on the book, John Green, and reading in general. If you are interested, you can check that post out here. Now, on to the review...

Being so familiar with the story at hand, my hopes for The Fault in Our Stars were terribly high. My expectations, however, did not quite reach the stars... Yes, that was a pun... After viewing the trailer many, many times, I was extremely frightened at how it appeared the film would portray Hazel and Gus's love story, which is obviously the key to the success of the story in the book. Even so, I could not wait to see The Fault in Our Stars! This story and it's imminent tangibility really created a very unique movie-going experience for me. In no way am I a literary guru, but, somehow, this book had a profound effect on me, which made the characters feel so personal and familiar. All of you avid book readers are probably thinking, "Well, duh, Tanner!" and you are probably right. I'm just dumb to that feeling! Not only am I inexperienced at having read a book prior to its movie version, but also I'm not used to being so connected to characters in a book or a movie. In fact, the only comparison I have, from an emotional standpoint, is my relationship with television characters. For me, TV characters are able to connect and draw you closer, in a way that movie characters cannot, and the characters from this amazing book felt similarly connected and close to me. I apologize for the rambling... Nevertheless, there is much more ahead...

If you took the time to read through my praise of the book, you probably know that I am going to say positive things about the plot. The movie's story was extremely true to the book, and, honestly, I don't think anyone could have done a better job of translating The Fault in Our Stars on screen. At the same time, it was easy to see that this book was not designed particularly for a big screen portrayal. Much of the story felt rushed, and, as a result, someone who hadn't read the book might not get the full effect of the evolution of the relationship between Hazel and Gus. As you know, tissues are necessary for most anyone of the female kind (not stereotyping, just speaking the truth). Almost everyone was sobbing uncontrollably, but I was just trying to pick the whole thing apart...

If you read my post about my ideal cast, you will get a good feel for how I interpreted each character, in my readings. That post will probably give you a good understanding of each and every character, but here are a few highs and lows:

While many people may disagree, for me, the glaring negative in this entire film was the portrayal of Augustus Waters by Ansel Elgort. I know, he's nice to look at, and he gets along with Shailene Woodley. But, as a character who is supposed to be a year older than his love interest, the film version of Gus was just a bit too puppy-loveish. Not everyone is going to agree with me, obviously, yet there is no denying that Woodley's Hazel was in absolute control for the entire duration of their time on-screen. I know that the story is told from her perspective, but that's no reason to weaken the strength of Gus's character. Add to that the absolutely awkward/horrible portrayal of Hazel's father (Sam Trammell) and the underuse of Isaac, played very well by Nat Wolff, and you have yourself a film that did not utilize its characters as best as possible (in my opinion).

While the guys may have struggled in their roles, the girls took charge and made the film a memorable one. Shailene Woodley's portrayal of Hazel Lancaster was pretty spot-on, which I was not expecting... at all. In an attempt to suck in stupid, teenage girls, looking for a good date movie, the trailer was not true to the film's version of Hazel, which was quite a relief to me. Additionally, Laura Dern was pretty amazing as Hazel's mom... another unexpected success. The film's portrayal of the relationship between Hazel and her mother had me way closer to tears than her relationship with Gus, which is saying something. Kudos to the filmmakers for pulling off that great relationship with what appeared to be such ease.

Because my watching The Fault in Our Stars was such a personally unique situation, I must say that my judgment of the film (as a film) is likely a bit skewed. In fact, I would actually like to see the movie again before I truly pass judgment on to my awesome readers. If you are in the mood to feel, The Fault in Our Stars is exactly what the doctor ordered, as you are pretty much guaranteed at least twelve lumps in your throat. While some movies build up to one, huge, emotional moment, TFiOS just keeps you emotional the entire time. So, you have been warned! Before I change my mind about encouraging such behavior, let me say that I do believe you should read the book first, which basically goes against all of my beliefs. I'm hopeful that The Fault in Our Stars can be a uniquely awesome experience for each and every one of you, and the book is a good place to begin that journey. I give the book 4.57 out of 5 stars. I give the movie a "to be determined"...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Casting Re-Call: The Fault in Our Stars

Rarely do I take the time to read any books:

I don't usually read my textbooks for school.

It even takes serious discipline for me to read my Bible on a regular basis.

I mean, I like to read for pleasure, but watching movies is so much more efficient, right?...

If you frequent my blog, none if this information comes as a surprise to you. However, you might be surprised to know that I, Tanner Jones, read The Fault in Our Stars about 1.5 years in advance of the film's release date! Personally, I believe I'm entitled to some sort of award or cash prize, but everyone keeps telling me no...

The truth is that I am a huge fan of John and Hank Green's Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube, and, while it may be a bit teenagery of me, I believe you should check out their videos: here. If you did not know, John Green actually wrote The Fault in Our Stars, and, as it gained in popularity, I gained interest in reading the book. Actually, for the record, I read the book before it was such a big deal... I'm just saying...

Not only did I fall in love with The Fault In Our Stars, but, as a result, I have actually read two more of John's books over the past year, An Abundance of Katherines and Looking for Alaska. While Katherines was not the best, Alaska had me hooked, and I would suggest it to any reader looking for a good YA novel. Again, however, I am no book critic, so take these comments with a grain of salt!

Now, when I read a book, I like to picture the characters as whatever actor/actress I believe would/should play them in a film version of said book. I know, that's very un-readerlike and un-imaginative of me, but I really don't care. That's how I roll! And, until The Fault in Our Stars, my methods never caused any problems, because I never read books that were turned into movies (aside from classics). However, because I loved The Fault soooo much and because I read the book before the casting decisions were made, I reeeeeeally wanted the characters to be played by the actors that I had imagined as I read through the book. Of course, as could be predicted from thousands of miles away, not a single one of the actors that I longed for actually made it into the film. At first, I was frustrated. Then, I got over it. Then, the trailer came out, and I started freaking out a bit (in a bad way).

Luckily, after watching the trailer like 10-15 times (I really am excited about this one), I've gained a sense of peace about the actors that were chosen for their respective roles. Nonetheless, I refuse to believe that any of them are ideal! So, in an effort to express my opinions, I have been inspired to create a new segment called Casting Re-Call, where I go back and re-cast an entire film. Hopefully, this post will be well-received, and I can use this same format for other films in the future. I could even re-cast films that were poorly cast, after watching them, which is what I actually planned to do with this post. But, since I've already read The Fault in Our Stars and know who I wanted to see, I figured I would share with you beforehand. So, here it is... my ideal cast for The Fault in Our Stars:

Character: Hazel Grace Lancaster
Actor Chosen: Shailene Woodley
Ideal Actor: Mae Whitman
Why?: Unfortunately, after watching the trailer, Woodley's portrayal of Hazel appears waaay too ditsy and girly. In the book, Hazel was quite opinionated and strong-willed, which I believe could have been amazingly portrayed by Mae Whitman. I think Woodley will do alright, but, ideally, Whitman would have landed the role (although she would not pull near as big of an audience).

Character: Augustus Waters
Actor Chosen: Ansel Elgort
Ideal Actor: Evan Peters
Why?: The character of Augustus Waters is undoubtedly the key to making this story work, at least in my opinion. I'm not going to condemn Ansel Elgort, considering he hasn't had much of an opportunity to be analyzed. However, I do know that Evan Peters would have been AMAZING as Gus! No doubt in my mind! If you've seen American Horror Story: Asylum, that's the Evan Peters I'm talking about! Fortunately, we still got to see Peters in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Unfortunately, The Fault in Our Stars may suffer in his absence.

Character: Isaac
Actor Chosen: Nat Wolff
Ideal Actor: Michael Cera
Why?: Getting Michael Cera to come on board for a minor role would have been a difficult task, and I must say that I do like Nat Wolff. Actually, I watched Wolff a lot in The Naked Brothers Band when I was too old to be watching The Naked Brothers Band. Regardless, I think Michael Cera could have brought a certain likeability to the character (think Juno) that Wolff may not be able to bring.

Character: Patrick
Actor Chosen: Mike Birbiglia
Ideal Actor: Jack McBrayer
Why?: I don't know that much about Mike Birbiglia, but I have seen a few of his sketches, which was enough to make this casting choice completely baffling to me. Now, I haven't seen how the character is portrayed in the film yet, but I think anyone who has ever heard of Birbiglia can see the massive contrast from him to Jack McBrayer. In my opinion, nobody could have pulled this one off like McBrayer, whose comedic range is quite small. That's saying something!

Character: Peter Van Houten
Actor Chosen: Willem Dafoe
Ideal Actor: Hugh Laurie
Why?: Next to the Patrick character, the casting of Willem Dafoe as Peter Van Houten is the second most baffling to me. I thought of many different people who could have played Van Houten (Bradley Whitford, Jim Broadbent, Michael Douglas), but Willem Dafoe just seems a bit too dark. In the end, I settled on Hugh Laurie, who I think would've been absolutely great. You can be the judge when the film hits the theater.

Character: Lidewij Vliegenthart
Actor Chosen: Lotte Verbeek
Ideal Actor: Frances McDormand
Why?: While this role isn't of the utmost importance (made obvious by the only no-name actress on this list), I thought Frances McDormand would have brought with her a lot of unique possibilities. Then again, I'm no casting expert!

Character: Mr. Lancaster (Hazel's Father)
Actor Chosen: Sam Trammell
Ideal Actor: Jeff Garlin
Why?: Jeff Garlin is one of the funniest, most likeable comedic actors that I've ever seen, and Hazel's father is meant to be likeable. Of course, I always like to throw a little humor in with my drama, and I just don't see that coming from Sam Trammell. But, we will see...

Character: Mrs. Lancaster (Hazel's Mother)
Actor Chosen: Laura Dern
Ideal Actor: Kate Walsh
Why?: Kate Walsh's motherly figure from The Perks of Being a Wallflower just seemed perfect for this character as well. While I do love Laura Dern, she is just a little too likeable. Hazel's mother is supposed to be a pretty strong woman, and I just don't get that strength when I look at Dern. And, Jeff Garlin could totally snag Kate Walsh... right???

Thankfully, John Green was happy with the cast (as far as we can tell)...
And, that's all that really matters!

So, there it is... My first ever Casting Re-Call. I certainly hope you enjoyed. After the movie, come back, take another look, and give me all of your great opinions! Look for this segment to pop back up in the future. Also, go read all of John Green's books. He is the man!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Great Expectations: June 2014

This month, I celebrate three full years of blogging, which is something I never quite expected to accomplish. I've had an absolute blast giving my opinion on the films I watch, and I want to thank each and every person who has taken the time to read my reviews and whatnot. As always, let me know if there is anything specific that you want me to write about. If you have an idea for a cool, new segment or want to post a write-up of your own, feel free to contact me in the comments or send me an email at Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter @TheTan_Man. I'm super-duper interesting! Thanks, again, for reading my blog, and I look forward to keeping up with the films that might interest you, in the coming months!

Also, I wanted to update my readers on my life, which has been up in the air for the past, I don't know, four years or so. In August, I will be entering graduate school and working toward my Master's in Economic Development from Southern Miss. The program is really great, and I can't wait to continue my education! Additionally, I have accepted an assistantship with the Trent Lott National Center at Southern Miss, which should be yet another amazing opportunity to learn more about economic development, particularly here is South Mississippi. I'm still not positive about what the future holds for me, but at least I know what I'll be doing for the next year!

Now that you're all caught up, take a look at what is coming your way in the month of June:

The Fault in Our Stars
(June 6)
22 Jump Street
(June 13)
Jersey Boys
(June 20)

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Closure: May 2014

School is out for summer! Which means that Tanner has time to watch movies! You'll find a lot of comedy and a lot of X-men on my list from this past month. However, the best (non-Days of Future Past) film that I had the pleasure of watching this month was Short Term 12, which you can currently stream on Netflix. If you want an emotional, fun, heartfelt drama, Short Term 12 will not disappoint. I'd been waiting for months to watch, and it was definitely worth the wait. Be sure you guys check it out!

Movie Watched Year Format Did I Enjoy? Would I Watch Again?
Short Term 12 2013 TV > Netflix Yes Yes
Despicable Me 2 2013 Blu-Ray > Borrowed Yes Yes
The Place Beyond the Pines 2013 Blu-Ray > Own Yes Yes
Frozen 2013 DVD > Borrowed Some No
Her 2013 DVD > Own Yes Yes
The Diary of Preston Plummer 2012 TV > Netflix Yes No
X-Men 2000 DVD > Own Yes Yes
X2: X-Men United 2003 DVD > Own Yes Yes
21 Jump Street 2012 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Arthur 2011 DVD > Own Yes Yes
This is the End 2013 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Taxi 2004 TV > HBO Some Maybe
X-Men: The Last Stand 2006 DVD > Own Yes Yes
X-Men: First Class 2011 DVD > Own Yes Yes
Mean Girls 2004 DVD > Borrowed Yes Yes
Godzilla 2014 Theater > Matinee Yes No
X-Men: Days of Future Past 2014 Theater > Full Price Yes Yes
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 2013 Blu-Ray > Own Yes Yes
A Million Ways to Die in the West 2014 Theater > Matinee No No
The Way, Way Back 2013 TV > HBO Yes Yes

Movie of the Month
Short Term 12