Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good movies, even better actor...

With the holidays here, I am on a pretty big movie kick and thought I would give my thoughts on an actor that has been in a bunch of movies I have seen here lately. Last night I watched the movie Hunger and earlier over the break I caught the movie Shame. Yep, Michael Fassbender is who I am talking about and if any of you listen to the Filmspotting podcasts, this name will be familiar as he is probably Adam Kempenaar’s favorite actor of the moment right now. Some of the more popular movies he has been in here recently were Inglorious Bastards, A Dangerous Method and X-Men: First Class where he played a young Magneto. He is still relatively unknown right now, but that is changing as he surely has become a talked about actor who many consider to be one of the better ones out there right now. Born in Germany, but raised in Ireland, Fassbender can play characters from a variety of European backgrounds and it can be tough to really get a feel for where he might actually be from by just looking at him. In Hunger he plays a Northern Ireland prisoner who begins a hunger strike to protest the English government. For the role he dropped about 40 lbs from the beginning of the filming and at the end of the movie he is at 135 lbs. The dramatic weight loss that takes place over the time of the film is tough to watch and so it must have been even harder for him to go through what he did. And while the weight loss is certainly something that everyone can see, I think the most memorable aspect of the film is a scene between Fassbender and a priest that takes place in a visiting room. The whole scene is one single shot, with the camera not moving, just dialogue for 17 and a half minutes between the two actors. It is unreal and you find yourself wondering how they possibly shot this…and if they had to attempt it more than once. There is no room for even one mistake when a single shot is at play and the practice to get it right must have been extremely laborious. While it is normal for actors in plays to talk for great lengths, it is just not something we see in film. Truly one of the more mesmerizing scenes I have ever seen, right up there with the one shot soccer scene from The Secret in the Their Eyes (still the best film I have seen in a really long time).

Going to another extreme is the character that Fassbender plays in Shame. The movie gives us the portrait of a man who literally is controlled by sex and his need for sexual satisfaction. This role put Fasssbender back together with Steve McQueen who directed him in Hunger and the two just work really well together. Fassbender has a pretty stark existence in Shame, with his life pretty much revolving around going to work and then doing whatever he has to do to satisfy himself sexually. His life gets knocked out of his normal routine when his sister unexpectedly comes to stay with him and he does not really know what to do with his life now that she is around. There are a lot of undertones that the two of them have had a tough past together, but nothing really is said and so everything is left up to interpretation. Needless to say, they have a very contentious relationship that reaches a scene at the end that I did not see coming.

There has been lots of praise for Fassbender for his role in Shame and I will say, it is very well deserved. He does a terrific job of playing a character who has almost no emotion, just the sense of what he needs to do to get to his next “fix.” Right now he is up for a Golden Globe and typically that leads to an Oscar nomination and so we will see soon enough how things end up for him this year. In the end, Michael Fassbender is a great actor who only has brighter days ahead as he gets more and more notoriety for the roles he plays. Keep an eye on him, although some of you might have already had your eyes on him from before.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo review

Wow!! Been a while since I have updated the blog and so thought, what better way than with a review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now for those of you who have not read the books and are going to see the movie, maybe lay off this review as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Okay, now we are ready to go….

So I have read all three books in the Stieg Larsson trilogy and loved them. While the first one took a little bit of time to get into, it did not disappoint as it introduced us to one of the most interesting characters to come along in a long while….Lisbeth Salander. The second book was addicting as Stieg brought us further into Lisbeth’s life and giving us a whole lot of back story. The third book wrapped everything up for the most part, although there are stories out there that Mr. Larsson had written more books for the series, but due to his unfortunate passing, we might never get to see what actually took place.

And of course when a trilogy is complete and when it is hugely popular, movies are made and the three books were made into films a few years ago with an entirely Swedish cast (as that is where the books take place). Fast forward to now and David Fincher (Seven, The Social Network, Fight Club) is at controls of the “Hollywood” versions of the stories. Now I did go see all three Swedish films and liked them all very much, they were very well done. Subtitles for sure for those of you out there who stay away from those types of movies, but highly entertaining and they did an amazing job of bringing Lisbeth to life on the big screen. For those of us who read the books, we all had a pretty good vision of how we thought Lisbeth would look and act and to finally see her on screen was pretty dramatic. Noomi Rapace was the actress who played Lisbeth and she did an awesome job in what had to be one of the hardest parts to pull off in recent movie history.

But I am here to talk about the new version of the movie and I saw it late last night on opening night. I am a big fan of David Fincher and so was intrigued as to how he would pull the story together and how he would give us his glimpse of the world Stieg Larsson created. And I will admit, after having slept on it for the night, while I enjoyed the movie a whole bunch, I think I am going to have to go with the Swedish version as being a little bit better. Now to be fair, I think pretty much everyone who has seen both movies is going to eventually compare the two ladies playing Lisbeth, as she is pretty much the focal point. That being the case, I am going to say that I think that whole aspect of the movies is a wash. While I loved Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth, I was equally pleased with how well Rooney Mara did in this huge role. Most people don’t know who Mara is, she has a very short filmography, and many were shocked when she won the role. Most moviegoers know her as the girl who dumped Mark Zuckerberg at the beginning of The Social Network and that is about all anyone has seen her in. And I think there were a lot of skeptics out there who were not sure she could deliver in what was one of the most sought after roles of the last decade. I am on the bandwagon though! She did an amazing job and she was great in what is an extremely demanding role. For those who know the story and know about Lisbeth, playing her would not be an easy task as there is a whole lot that happens in the story that would command just some amazing acting. Rooney Mara pulls it off and I think it is one of the better performances I have seen in a long time. You really can sense what is going on within her through her eyes and her expressions…and that is not an easy thing to do. She looks the part as she had all the earrings and tattoos and I found myself always gravitating toward her when she was on screen, even when she was in the presence of the more accomplished actors that are also in the movie. Lisbeth is a loner and you certainly got that feeling in the way she was portrayed by Mara and it cannot be understated how tough it must have been to film some of the scenes. She does an awesome job though and I am definitely a fan of Mara and look forward to how she moves the Lisbeth character forward.

Taking it all back to the story and my overall feel for everything, I did like the movie, but the ending seemed just a bit rushed. Good performances by Christopher Plummer, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgard and Daniel Craig, but none of them really stood out. I am a big Daniel Craig fan and actually think he does a whole lot better job playing Bond than he does Blomkvist. And for those who are fans of the AMC show “The Killing,” you will be happy to know that Holmgren is in this movie as a part of Millennium and so surely he will be around for the other two films.

I did like this movie, don’t get me wrong. There is a very climactic scene that takes place toward the end of the book and when it happened in the movie, there was about twenty minutes left. From there they seemed to close up and finish the rest of the movie extremely fast. There was a lot that took place in the last twenty minutes (from the book standpoint) and it seemed that they could have developed that aspect of the story just a little better. If I had not read the book, I know I might have been just a little confused. Either way, go see this movie. It is highly entertaining, it has a great soundtrack (Trent Reznor again) and if anything, become a fan of Rooney Mara, she does not disappoint.

Thanks for reading, sure I will be back again soon…

Thursday, June 2, 2011

New job, edo style....

I just recently started what is perhaps the coolest job in the world. I have been lucky enough to become part of the sales team at edo Interactive. I am back into the advertising sales world and back working downtown. Really I could not be happier as I am loving everything about this new job and company. To give you a little bit of background.......edo is a consumer marketing platform designed to drives sales at the retail level. On one end we partner with banks to access their debit and credit cardholders and their transaction data. On the other end, we partner with retailers to help them get through the final mile and get consumers to spend at their locations. The nitty gritty, the process works like this.....we use the bank transaction data information and their platform of cardholders to create unique and targeted deals and incentives for consumers to help retailers drive sales at the store level. Consider us the targeted, easy, efficient coupon of the future. Probably the most unique thing about this whole process is that consumers do not need a paper coupon when checking out at the various retailers. Everything is preloaded onto their credit card and so all they have to do is shop, swipe and save. Pretty cool, huh?

We are headquartered in Nashville, TN and were started four years ago by some really smart, driven entrepreneurs who had this amazing idea. We work with all national brands and retailers and with our sales team here in Chicago, we are just starting to get things rolling. I know edo is going to be taking off here real soon. Get ready to read about us in the news! The next google? The next Groupon? The first edo. Enough said....

Monday, May 9, 2011


Thought I would tell you all a little bit about a friend of mine from college's clothing line. My buddy Andrew Sarnecki, who I met my freshman year at Notre Dame, started his company HippyTree a few years after we graduated. Andrew was a graphic design major at ND and after finishing school, moved back to Los Angeles where he grew up. He worked for a little bit as a designer at Body Glove until he decided to go off on his own. Awesome clothes and amazing designs are a part of this unique, eco-conscious company and while it is tough to find the HippyTree line here in Chicago, you can for sure order some cool stuff online. For those of you who know me well and have seen that green tree on the back bumper of my car, now you know what it stands for! If you want to be fashionable and walk around Chi-city in some clothes that probably no one around here is wearing, check out Andrew's clothing line and help support a good friend of mine. HippyTree!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Movies, Movies, Movies.....

Okay so I have been seeing a lot of movies as I have been on quite a roll here lately. Quick rundown of what I have seen, what I liked and what you can absolutely pass. And really the only movie that you can certainly pass is "HANNA." Whoa, what a clunker that one was. And I am pretty disappointed in Mr. Ebert and his review on that flick as he gave it 3.5 stars. Really? Just could not get into it and it was pretty slow moving in general. Could have been sort of a Bourne Identity movie but really it was nothing of the sort.

Moving on to the good stuff....."WIN WIN" is an awesome movie and so definitely check that one out when you get a chance. Good performances by Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan. Cool "family saves a loner" plot line and the movie was actually a lot funnier than I thought it would be. Another one that I saw in the theatres was "Source Code" with Jake Gyllenhaal. Very good movie and while it was very Groundhog Dayish in how it kept on going through the same moment over and over, it had some unique twists and the ending was a little bit of something I was not expecting. Lastly, on Neftlix I watched "Tell No One" which is a French film and for those of you who hate subtitles, pass on this one. Great movie and one of those murder mystery thrillers which keeps you guessing till the end. It is a few years old and so not new, but worth checking out for sure. And let me know if you think the main character in the film looks like a young Dustin Hoffman. As the mighty Omar from The Wire would say......"Indeed."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Want to Adjust WHAT?

All right, so early on Saturday afternoon I got my movie fix in and went and saw The Adjustment Bureau. Now one of my pet peeves about going to see movies is that I hate being late and I hate missing the previews. And I DESPISE missing the start of the movie. I got in my car just a little late and with the Davis Theatre on Lincoln being in a pretty crowded area, I had a tough time finding a parking spot. I finally got into the theatre, bought my ticket and my Diet Coke and by the time I walked in, the movie had started. Needless to say, I was a little miffed at myself. Not to mention, there was some stuff going on at the beginning of the movie that I am sure was important and so I might have missed a few things. As I said, no one to blame but myself!! Okay, now to the movie. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in this one and I guess you would consider it a romantic thriller. A romriller? The whole premise of the movie is unique with the idea being that there is a group of people with hats on (the Adjustment Bureau) who make sure the world is going according to plan. And in this case, this bureau will do just about anything to make sure Matt and Emily don't fall in love and spend the rest of their lives together. Needless to say, this does not make Matt happy and he is going to do whatever he can to change that. Very good movie and while I liked it a lot, it could have been just a little better. I think there were some things they left out or that they could have elaborated on to make the flick just that much of a better film. But I am nitpicking for sure. Definitely go see this movie....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Have YOU ever been to Cedar Rapids?

I met up with my brother J.P. today and we caught the flick "Cedar Rapids." Dang good movie and pretty funny with some awesome laugh-out-loud parts. John C. Reilly is hysterical and Ed Helms (Andy from The Office) is perfect as the insurance rep who has never even left his small Wisconsin town. Basically this is the story of "small town guy heading to the big city and learning a few things while he is away." In this instance, Ceder Rapids will have to do as the "big city." Everything revolves around the insurance convention that Tim Lippie heads to for the weekend and the trouble/experiences/mischief he takes part in. He learns that while his thoughts and intentions are always in the right place, that that is not necessarily how the real world works. But in the end, Tim is going to teach the world (and his new insurance friends) a thing or two about the right way (all sigh, awwwwww). Lastly, before the main attraction started, there was a preview for a movie called "WIN WIN" and it looks to be an outstanding film. I will be seeing that one soon as it comes out in the near future.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse = Snowtastic

February 1st, 2011.....Will it be remembered as one of the storms of the decade? Or one of the most over hyped storms of all time? Guess we will find out here soon enough. If the coverage/trepidation surrounding the snow coming today is any indication, we will certainly have a lot to talk about here in the next few days. My office closed early this afternoon so everyone could get home safely and the office is already closed for tomorrow. Right now, it definitely is coming down here in the city and the roads look pretty bad. I am thinking the predictions on this one could be right. Is it going to rival 1967??? Get back to you in a few days....

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Wire

In 2010 I signed up for Netflix and have definitely enjoyed it. I have a pretty long list of movies that I want to see and the whole movie-in-the-mail concept works nicely for me. While I have not taken the utmost advantage of getting movies in a timely manner, I am getting better and am working my way through my list. Up right now is not necessarily a movie, but something that I have been wanting to watch for a while. The Wire has been recommended by pretty much every friend of mine who has seen it and so I am psyched to get going with Season 1. I watched the first episode the other night and have to say, I am a fan. Intense scenes and storylines and I am looking forward to seeing where things go with this season and the following ones.....

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blue Valentine

I went out with a couple of friends last night and saw the movie Blue Valentine. This story of a marriage and love disintegrating stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a husband and wife who are trying to figure out where things went wrong. It is a very well-written and amazingly acted movie, definitely one of the better ones I have seen in the past year. Although, just as a warning, this film is depressing. Michelle Williams is very good as a wife who seems lost and has fallen out of love with her husband. And Ryan Gosling plays Dean who is the husband who just wants things to work and have them be a family with their little daughter Frankie. The movie has a unique look and feel to it as the camera is a little herky jerky at times and there are a ton of close ups on the actors' faces. The scenes seem so real and life-like, it is almost as if the actors had an idea of what the scene should look like and no real script. It just seems so real. There are a few very emotional scenes and in the last one in particular, you really do forget that you are watching actors and not an actual couple who are having serious problems and trying to figure out if things will work. I think the whole movie is a credit to the writer and director Derek Cianfrance and his vision of what this movie should look and feel like. The actors chosen were perfect and their acting is so believable, you really think you are watching a true story. Hopefully Blue Valentine will get some good recognition at the Oscars, but it is such a small film with limited release that it might be tough. Both Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling deserve best actor nods and Derek Cianfance deserves a best director nod as well. Definitely go see this movie....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stacey King! He's an announcer for Chicago!

For those who watch the Chicago Bulls on a pretty regular basis, you have probably become familiar with the announcing team of Neil Funk and Stacey King. Neil does the play by play while Stacey handles the color commentary for the Bulls. And we are all witnessing something special. Stacey King is unbelievably entertaining and by far and away is my most favorite commentator out there. He makes some of the most amazing calls and he even has a webpage dedicated to some of his best sayings. Listening to him makes the Bulls games entertaining enough, but the fact that D Rose is an MVP candidate has made the season just that much better. And the Bulls are really good this year. Please tune in and listen to Stacey and if you are lucky, you will see Stacey "posterize" someone during the game. Stacey King....."Too big, too strong, too fast, too good!!"

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Fighter only has True Grit when dressed as the Black Swan during The King's Speech

Recently over the past ten days I have seen The Fighter, True Grit, The King's Speech and Black Swan. I love seeing movies in the theatre and typically I tend to go see movies that I have researched and that I know I will like. And I was very pleased with all four of the above films. These movies were all reviewed quite well and also came out right around the holiday season which is usually a pretty good indication of the buzz surrounding the films. Needless to say, I would not be shocked that come Oscar time, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman and Colin Firth all walked away with the award in their respective categories. I thought Jeff Bridges was good in True Grit, but not an Oscar winner for my money. As for winner of best picture, I can see Black Swan (which by the way, talk about a demented movie!) taking that one, but I do think The Social Network is going to be tough to beat in that category. We will find out more once the nominations come out and we will also have a better idea when the Golden Globes announces their awards....they are a good pre-cursor as well. Definitely if you get the chance, see all these movies, they are all equally good in their own right. If I had to pick just one for you to see, go see The Fighter. It really is a great movie, plus the sisters in the film are scary, crazy fun....

Monday, January 3, 2011


It has been a while since since I have updated the blog and so I thought I would write a little bit about my recent travels. As I stated in my previous post, I was gearing up for a major trip to Cambodia at the end of November. And to say that it was an amazing trip, would be an understatement. I had the journey of a lifetime and it was an unreal adventure to a part of the world that I never imagined I would ever get to in all my life. I spent ten days in Cambodia visiting my good friend Daniela Papi, hanging out, sightseeing, and learning more about the PEPY Ride. Daniela truly is an exceptional person and all that she has done in the six years she has been there is truly remarkable. When you talk about making a difference and actually MAKING A DIFFERENCE, Daniela and PEPY is doing so. I absolutely loved Cambodia and everything about it.....from the people, the food, the culture, the history, the experiences. I really could not ask for a better trip and time spent away from the States. I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and an experience like travelling to Cambodia is one I will never forget. Thank you to Daniela, all the amazing people at PEPY, my new friends who live here and there, and to the country that is Cambodia....you will all always be in my heart.