Monday, June 27, 2011

Bad Teacher Review

If you have seen the trailer for Bad Teacher, you have seen most if not all of the funny parts of the film. We have the dodge ball scene, the Jordan/LeBron argument between the gym teacher and the student, and of course some of the more humorous lines. At the end of the day, this film is all about the shock value of seeing Cameron Diaz behave badly as a self-centered and sex crazed teacher.  That’s it.  There is no real plot or conflict here, whatsoever.  Because of this, the film runs a little long in the tooth, even at 92 minutes.
Our anti-hero in this film is Elizabeth Halsey, played by Cameron Diaz.  She’s rude, crude, and selfish to the bone.  After her sugar daddy realizes that she only loves him for his money, he promptly dumps her, with the help of his mother.  This forces Elizabeth to return to her job as a teacher, where she is known for going on autopilot and drinking the day away while putting on movies to distract her students.  Her new goal is simple: to raise enough money to get breast implants.  Yes, that’s the “conflict,” if you will.  While teaching at this school, she befriends a likable gym teacher played by the always funny Jason Segel and a nerdy substitute teacher played by Justin Timberlake. 
The principal at this school is played by John Michael Higgins in an interesting turn as a clueless dolphin lover.  The real star in this movie, however, is Lucy Punch, who plays Amy Squirrel. She brings a crazy energy to what could have been a simple role: the goody two shoes teacher.  She hams it up and brings new life to this otherwise thankless role. Every time she was on screen, she produced genuine laughs with her willingness to commit to the role.  Phyllis Smith from the Office, Molly Shannon, and Thomas Lennon round out a solid supporting cast of characters.  Sadly, the screenplay doesn’t give them anything funny to say or anything funny to do.  The film is a series of random scenes that begin and end with no real rhyme or reason.
At the end of the day, Bad Teacher is not a bad movie.  It’s an uninspired movie that never really puts the pedal to the metal and takes off.  It lingers around, producing laughs every ten to fifteen minutes, but not nearly enough to keep your interest.  When the movie ends, it sort of erases from your memory instantly.  Nothing memorable really occurred, but you can’t say you hated it, either. 
I’ve never been a big Cameron Diaz fan, and this film did little to change my mind.  Yes, she’s saying some vulgar and off color remarks, but I didn’t feel like it was something her character would have said.  It felt like the screenplay just put them in there to gain a forced laugh. Timberlake is forgettable as the nerdy sub.  He’s just there because he’s Justin Timberlake.  Jason Segel made me smile every time he was on screen, and I wish he had a bigger role because he’s effortless with his comedy.  Actually, I would have loved to have seen a movie with just Jason Segel and Lucy Punch.  Their characters and their brand of comedy would have made an interesting movie.
Grade: C+
How should you see it? Rent it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

One Year Later: Surviving a Break Up and Starting New

No matter how you slice it, break-ups are tough on both parties involved. No one ever leaves a break up as a winner or a loser.  Everyone feels the pain and goes through numerous emotions after it's all said and done. With this new blog, I'm going to tell you how I survived a break up, moved on, and entered a new relationship.  This blog is not meant to take shots at anyone or name call.  It's simply to walk you through the process I went through and how I handled the breakup.

When my last relationship ended back in the Summer of 2010, I knew the first step in moving on was realizing that it was over.  I had to remove my mind of regrets and "what if's?" I had to tell myself the truth, which is that it was best for both parties involved.  Sometimes, when you are with someone for a long period of time, in my situation, two years, there are a lot of emotions involved.  You have to take your emotions out of it and look at the big picture of it.  If the relationship is causing both parties more harm than good, there is something wrong.  Yes, all relationships have problems, issues, and concerns, but if they are happening all the time, draining both parties of life-force, it's time to think seriously about ending it.

If you are no longer connecting and there are chemistry issues, again, there is something wrong and maybe you are not meant to be with this person.  It's a hard realization to come to, after a long period of time, but eventually, you reach a point where you realize something is missing and it can't be fixed.  You realize that the relationship is broken and beyond repair.

It's best not to talk to them right away, after the break-up occurs, because you might be tempted to take them back or try to work it out again. If it hasn't worked before and you have talked and tried every possible solution, you have to look at the writing on the wall and face facts.  You have to go cold turkey and allow yourself to feel the break up. You have to feel the pain, the heartache and the sadness.  Once you feel those emotions, cry, and reality sinks in, you can move on and start new.

Personally speaking, I saw it as a chance to start a new chapter in my life.  You always have two ways to handle an unpleasant situation.  You can either be scared, avoid it, and live in fear.  Or you can say, "Hey, new is not always bad.  Something new can be a good thing.  It doesn't have to be bad. Embrace this new chapter in your life, as a single guy, and focus on you, see what happens."

First things first, I had great friends that helped me survive it.  They took me out of the house, kept me busy, and made sure I wasn't sitting around and feeling sorry for myself. We went out to the movies, out to eat, and I was never alone.  Without my friends, I would not have survived the break up.  I probably would have been sleeping all day, not shaving and not taking care of myself.  Because of them, that never happened.

I also started to get back into my writing and my career.  I was going to the movies every weekend,  writing about movies, and doing interviews again. I did an interview with Sean Salisbury in September that ended up being quoted in the Chicago Tribune. That, to me, showed me that yes, life is going to be OK and better than before.  There is nothing to be scared of and you have strength inside you to be strong and come out a better person.

I also found out that it was OK to do things on your own. I would sometimes go to the movies by myself or take a late night walk by myself.  I's OK to do those sorts of things by yourself.  It doesn't make you a loser or lonely.  It was sort of freeing, to be on my own, doing my own thing, after being in a relationship for two years.  I enjoyed this new-found freedom.

That said, I still wanted someone to hang out with, female wise, and have something more with.  I joined a few dating websites, and even talked to a few girls.  I didn't put a lot of stock in it. My whole philosophy was, "Hey, put yourself out there, no pressure. You meet someone, cool. If not, that's cool, too."

I was going to school, going to work,  following my Packers/Lakers and just living life.  I can't say I was sad and I can't say I was really happy either. I was just living life and doing my own thing.  As the old cliche goes, when you least expect it and when you stop looking, that's when you find someone.  Sure enough, that happened when I met Amanda in my Journalism class  in the Fall semester, and we started going out in November.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I couldn't be happier in my relationship with Amanda, or with life, in general.  I've never felt so loved, understood, or happy in any relationship before. The connection, chemistry, and love is through the roof.

Yes, the break-up I went through last Summer was difficult, painful, and unpleasant. Even through the darkness and sleepless nights, I was able to find my angel: Amanda. As the old cliche goes, everything, indeed, happens for a reason. The journey to happiness might be a bumpy one, but the destination was worth it. If you would have told me, the first night of my break up, that I would be in this spot, one year later, I would have thought you were crazy.  You can never predict where life will take you or who you will meet. It's crazy to think that a simple decision like taking a Journalism class would give me my soul mate, but it did.

That's the beauty of life and love.

-Tony Farinella

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Skip it or Rent it: My thoughts on the latest DVD releases

As some of you probably know, I work at Blockbuster Video, which means that I get to watch A LOT of movies.  My girlfriend also works at the local library, which also has a pretty good movie collection. Needless to say, we try to catch up on what's newly released on DVD. With this blog, I'm going to give my thoughts on some of the latest DVD releases and whether they are worth seeing or not. I hope you enjoy this blog!
Hall Pass
This is one movie I was waiting to see since I saw the trailer for it attached to Due Date. The storyline of two married men having a week off from marriage was an interesting concept. I thought the direction of the Farrelly brothers would provide huge laughs and leave me rolling on the floor. The cast was also solid with Owen Wilson, Richard Jenkins, Jason Sudeikis, Christina Applegate, and Jenna Fisher from The Office. Instead, we get a lazy movie that is stuck in neutral and goes nowhere.  There is a scene in the movie involving pot brownies, which is probably the laziest attempt at humor in these sorts of comedies.  The last half hour turns into a cheap Apatow picture with its attempt at having an ending filled with heart.  There are not a lot of funny lines or even funny moments in this movie.  It's just floating around, dead in the water, and going nowhere.
Rent it or skip it? Skip it

The Roommate
Cheesy B-movie fun at its finest.  It's hard to take a movie seriously where they put a cat in the dryer.  This is over-the-top and campy, but it's never, ever boring. Leighton Meester stars as the roommate and sells this role pitch perfectly.  A lot of people have compared to this movie to Single White Female with its premise, and I'd say that is an accurate assessment.  Minka Kelly is the unfortunate soul that is stuck with the roommate that turns out to be obsessive, a little wacky, and very, very dangerous.  Nothing that happens here is terribly shocking or unique, but it's slickly made, well-acted, and moves along pretty quickly.  This movie was a nice little surprise.
Rent it or skip it? Rent it

The Dilemma

This movie was flat out terrible from start to finish. There are no laughs to be had, and as Gene Siskel used to say, there is nothing worse than a comedy without laughs. Kevin James is married to Winona Ryder, and one day Vince Vaughn discovers that she is cheating on him with Channing Tatum. We then see a series of bumbles and stumbles as Vaughn tries to inform his friend of this situation.  Meanwhile, they are going through a big event at work, so they both need to be on the top of their game.  Queen Latifah and Jennifer Connelly are also wasted in this seriously dreadful and dull comedy.  It's even more shocking when you see that the great Ron Howard directed it.  I don't know what anyone was thinking when they put this movie together.  I understand they were trying to do something different, but this is a gigantic misfire.
Rent it or skip it? Skip it

True Grit

Now this was a great experience watching this movie.  Jeff Bridges puts his own twist on Rooster Cogburn and gives another fantastic and screen-engaging performance. Matt Damon, as usual, is solid and dependable, but the real surprise here is young Hailee Steinfeld.  Now this is a performance that is filled with great fight and a huge heart.  This is how a movie like True Grit should look and feel.  It's ugly, rough, tough, and takes no prisoners.  The Coen Brothers hit another run with this project as they know how to film a chase movie just perfectly.  It's dark, beautiful, and very, very suspenseful.  The final act of the movie is also surprisingly moving.  Yes, it's better than the original True Grit.
Rent it or skip it? Rent it

Gnomeo & Juliet
This is a simple, yet effective kid’s movie.  The premise is simple: two gnomes in competing lawns fall in love.  Of course, because they are in competing lawns, they have to go through a lot to end up together.  The voice cast is extensive and it would take many paragraphs to name all of them. I'll just say that the names are as unique as Hulk Hogan and Dolly Parton.  The movie features a lot of great jokes and puns for adults, but I'm not exactly sure how kids will react to it.  For me, I had a ton of fun with it and thought it was quite charming and cute.  It's not as good as Tangled, but it's still very enjoyable and goes down easily.
Rent it or skip it? Rent it

No Strings Attached

This movie reminded me a lot of Going the Distance with its combination of R-rated comedy and heart.  Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman star as friends who just have sex, nothing more.  Of course, they realize that it's pretty complicated to do just that.  Yes, this movie is rather predictable at times, but the journey along the way is filled with a great supporting cast, great direction by Ivan Reitman, and some very funny lines.  It aspires to be more than its premise.  It's one of the better romantic comedies I've seen in quite some time.
Rent it or skip it? Rent it

Green Hornet
Seth Rogen as a superhero might seem like a far-fetched idea, but it works for the first half of the Green Hornet.  He has great chemistry with his sidekick Kato, played by Jay Chou.  The first half is very interesting  as we learn about his rise from slacker punk to crime-fighting machine.  The second half, however, is just another shoot 'em up action movie with no rhyme or reason.  The build-up takes us nowhere and the movie goes on autopilot.  It turns into a loud movie and completely gives up.  If only it would have been as interesting as the first half and stayed on that course.  It might have been a great movie.
Rent it or skip it? Skip it

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Life as a Stutterer (Audio Clip attached)

For most of my life, I’ve battled a stuttering problem.  I know some people reading this blog might be shocked to hear that. A lot of people that I’ve hung out with or been around have never picked up on it.  Close friends, family, and others are probably more aware of it.  It’s not severe. I’m able to talk freely most of the time without any major setbacks or problems.  At other times, it can be rather crippling and difficult.  It has never really prevented me from doing anything that I have wanted to do, however. I am able to work, interview people on the phone, and have conversations with people close to me. It usually happens when I’m nervous, uncomfortable, or feeling unsure of myself. Around authority figures or bossy people it tends to flare up. You can probably tell how comfortable I am around you by how often I stutter. If I stutter a lot, you probably make me nervous. If I am able to talk freely, I am completely relaxed around you.
I’ve gone to speech therapy in the past and it has helped at times, but at the end of the day, it’s something that I have to live with.  I don’t let it define me, though.  Yes, I stutter, but it’s not all that I am about.  I also don’t let it stop me from living my life.  Early on, I learned that you can’t let fear control your life. It will if you let it.  Now, I know a lot of you are aware of my interviews.  You are probably wondering how I was able to do interviews with celebrities and movie stars while having a stuttering problem.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous before the interviews and even during.  Most of them were on the phone, so it wasn’t face to face.  That helped with a lot of the pressure.  At the end of the day, however, you are still talking to Carmen Electra, Robert Wagner, or other famous celebrities on the phone.  I would just try to talk slowly, think about what I was saying, and take my time.  Most of my stuttering occurs when I’m rushed, nervous, or flustered. My throat gets real tense and the words have a hard time coming out.  I have to push them out, which usually causes more stuttering and stumbling.
At times, however, I would stutter, and they would ask me to please repeat the questions because they couldn’t understand me.  Once you stutter, you have to move on and keep going.  You can’t let that one mistake or fumble ruin the whole interview.  I never let it upset me or bring me down while doing the interviews, though.  I just put it behind me as soon as it was over. If I lost track of where I was, I would pause, take a deep breath, and compose myself.  It would take great concentration. For most people, they just talk and talk without even thinking twice about it.  It’s no big deal to them.  For stutterers, we have to really take our time, think of our words and how they are going to come out of mouth.
Of course, in school, and even now, I’ve had to deal with people making fun of me for it. At work, a customer called me Porky Pig and mocked me.  In school, they would tell me to spit it out and say ‘tttttttoday junior’. I can honestly say that it doesn’t bother me.  If it makes them feel better to be mean and cruel towards me, that is their problem and they have to go to bed at night and deal with themselves. I’ve never let it stop me from talking to girls, doing interviews, or going after jobs.  I’ve heard every insult in the book, and it doesn’t faze me.  I don’t quite understand the need to make fun of me for it, though.  Does it make them feel better to insult someone? While I will never understand it, it has just motivated me even more to keep doing what I am doing, regardless of insults or roadblocks.  It just makes it that much more enjoyable to do interviews and have a great personality with a stuttering problem. To me, it makes it that much more impressive.
 I have a lot to say and express to get off my chest. I do it in person, as well as when I’m writing. Sometimes in person, it might take me longer to say it, but it will get out.  I have a voice and things to say.  Yes, I’m going to stutter, fumble over my words and have trouble at times, but I always get it out eventually.  It has never stopped me, EVER. I’ve never hesitated to ask for an interview, go after a girl (in the past, I’m happy now) or talk at work with customers and promote products.
I just have a stuttering problem. I’m still healthy and happy. I don’t have any limbs missing and I’m not in a wheelchair.  I’m not a hero, either.  What I am trying to say is this:  No matter what life throws your way, go after what you want and make it happen.  Yes, it might be hard or difficult, but it’s worth it.  You can’t let anything define you or make you live a safe, quiet life.  I want to do interviews, be on TV, and have my own interview show.  Yes, I stutter and probably will for the rest of my life.  I am still a person with thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I will always get them out there, even if it takes me longer than most people.  You have to keep on keeping on and deal with it. You can’t hide from it or avoid it.  That’s the safe and easy route.
To end this blog, I’m going to post my radio segment on the David Stein show where I talked about my stuttering problem.  I hope you like it and get something out of it. Scroll down at the bottom of the link to listen to it.
Thanks for reading.
-Tony Farinella

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Midnight in Paris Review

These days, so many romantic comedies are predictable, dull, and completely by the numbers.  That's why it's so refreshing to see a movie like Midnight in Paris, which is very unusual and different.  Yes, we have seen time travel movies in the past, but the backdrop of Paris adds so much more to it.  Owen Wilson is also a likable, quirky and fun main character with his love of everything in the past.  When you add Woody Allen to the mix, it's a recipe for success.

Owen Wilson stars as Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter that is writing a novel about a nostalgia store.  His fiancée, Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, doesn't understand why he doesn't just stick to writing movies in Hollywood.  He makes good money doing it, but it's not where his passion lies.  His passion lies in the past where he believes everything was romantic, magical and much easier.  His present is not exactly an enjoyable lifestyle.  His  fiancée and her parents are very demanding of Gil and don't understand why he often appears to be drifting away in his head.  As Inez's dad says, "There's something missing in him."

Everything changes for Gil when he takes a midnight walk around Paris and discovers a mysterious past with great writers and great artists. Gil starts to wonder if there is something wrong with him.  Yes, he was drinking, but it's not like he was completely wasted.  He tells his fiancée that he's out walking for inspiration, but her father is not as trusting as Inez. He hires a private detective to follow his every move.  Every night, without fail, something weird happens at midnight to Gil.  Meanwhile, his relationship with his fiancée is crumbling by the day.

Midnight in Paris must be viewed on the big screen, as the scenery is eye-popping, absorbing and stunningly beautiful. You can't help but be taken in by everything that surrounds you.  The film really shows how romantic everything in Paris is.  Even as a viewer, you can feel it.  It's breathtaking  It really is a main character in the film.

Owen Wilson gives his best performance in a long time as Gil Pender.  He's wacky, outrageous, very neurotic and never, ever boring.  Owen has a ton of fun here with this character.  He has a lot to work with, and we never know if he's crazy, open-minded, or a hopeless romantic.  Maybe he's a little bit of everything. Rachel McAdams, however, is given a nothing role as the unsupportive and bitchy fiancée.  It's a shame to see her wasted in this secondary role.  Make no mistake about it, this is Owen Wilson's movie.

The first half hour of the movie is a little meandering, slow and dull, but when it picks up and starts to make sense, it's a great journey.  The comedy is effortless, real, and very bizarre.  The romance and the heart are also very big throughout this movie.  You will walk out of this movie feeling like a hopeless romantic.  The film also makes you want to visit Paris as soon as possible.  This is the best Woody Allen movie since Match Point.

In one era, you might be viewed as a buffoon, an idiot, and a weirdo.  If you were born in another era, you might be viewed as an inspiration.  It's all about timing and what era suits you.  Midnight in Paris shows us that it's OK to long for the past, hope for a better life, and enjoy the little moments.  However, you have to use the past to shape your future.

Grade: B+

How should you see it? See it on the big screen to enjoy the beauty of Paris.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From the Vault: True Grit (1969) Review

With the new True Grit out on DVD, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the 1969 classic. Here is my review of the film, which I posted over four years ago, when the new special edition DVD came out. Check out my review and the original film before watching the new one from the Coen Brothers.

John Wayne is perhaps one of the biggest movie stars to ever grace the silver screen. While he's never been a method actor like Marlon Brando, he's always been a lot of fun to watch. He's always had a certain presence about him. When John Wayne talked, people would listen. If you're a wrestling fan, I can best compare John Wayne to Hulk Hogan. They were both larger than life figures. With John Wayne, you couldn't help but be drawn to him. He was such a commanding figure on screen. He stood for everything that was pure and right in the world. Because of this, people still talk about John Wayne to this day. It's been over 25 years since his death, but he still holds a place in our hearts. It's hard to forget all the classic John Wayne films and performances. I think we all have a personal favorite performance by Mr. Wayne.

My personal favorite is 1956's The Searchers, which was directed by John Ford. John Ford brought out the best in John Wayne. John Ford used to ridicule John Wayne to the point of being cruel. Because of this, it made John Wayne a better actor. He didn't want to let John Ford down in any way. John Wayne never really got any credit for his acting. He was never a showy actor or very loud in his performances. He would get across so much emotion and pain with his face. John Wayne used to say: "I don't act, I react." John Wayne has also been accused of portraying the same character in every film. Well, he broke out of that mold with his performance in True Grit, which helped him win his very first Oscar. While it's not his greatest performance, it's entertaining to see John Wayne portray such an outlandish character. It's a performance to remember for John Wayne in True Grit, which was released in 1969. The same year that Midnight Cowboy won the Oscar for Best Picture.

Our film opens up following Mattie Ross, who is played by Kim Darby. She's about to send her father off with some money to buy some ponies. He then plans to sell them in return. On his way to buying the ponies, he's killed by a drunk at a local bar. He was trying to help out the drunk, but his help was met with a gun shot. Following this, Mattie goes on a mission to track down the man who killed her father. She's upset with the lack of help and support from the local police. They are basically turning the other cheek to her situation. Mattie is a head-strong girl who won't take no for an answer. She won't settle for anything less than the death of the man who killed her father. Because of this, she wants to find the best man that money can buy. She wants a man with has "grit." She wants a man who will get the job done. As we all know, you need to hire John Wayne to do the job. He won't rest until he's done the job. The only problem is that John Wayne is not the John Wayne of old. He's Rooster Cogburn.

He's overweight, drunk, and loud. Not only that, he shoots his pistol a lot. He's killed over 23 men during his time as a Marshall. When he's not killing people, he lives with a man named Chen Lee and a cat. Rooster is one lonely man. At first, he wants nothing to do with little Mattie. He finally caves in when she offers him a hefty sum of cash to take out the man who killed her father. The only catch is that she wants to come along with him on his journey. She wants to make sure that the man is dead. We are also introduced to La Boeuf, who is played by a very young Glen Campbell. He also wants to join their twosome to make it a threesome. He's a young ranger who appears to be nothing but trouble. He's always getting in the face of Mattie and Rooster. He thinks he has the answers to all their problems on this journey. Along the way, we also meet a lot of familiar faces in True Grit. A very young Dennis Hopper shows up as Moon. We also meet Robert Duvall as a crusty villain.

True Grit is wise in spending almost forty-five minutes with the characters before it sends them off on their journey. You really get to see them in their natural environment. You understand what makes them tick and who they are. The writing is very strong in the scenes involving Darby and Wayne. Darby really lets John Wayne have it. It's refreshing to see a strong female character opposite of John Wayne. We haven't seen a strong female opposite of John Wayne since Maureen O'Hara. It's been a long time to say the least. While True Grit is a hardcore Western, it also has a lot of heart behind it. John Wayne is hysterical as Rooster Cogburn. He really chews up the scenery and has a lot of fun with this character. It's quite comical to see John Wayne with such a ridiculous eye patch. You really get the sense that John Wayne is having a lot of fun with this character. We are also having a lot of fun watching him as this character. Kim Darby more than holds her own in scenes with John Wayne. Their scenes have a lot of humor and truth behind them.

The major problem with True Grit is the last forty minutes of the film. The film really goes on automatic pilot and gives a lazy ending. I wish the film had the nerve to end the way that it started. The film really turns into your typical Western with tons of gun shots and escapes. I felt like the film really gave up at the end. The film also could have benefited from about a twenty-five minute cut. The film runs at over two hours. It's just way too long for a film like this. The film should run at about one-hundred minutes. With all that said, John Wayne carries the film with his outrageous performance. It's John Wayne like you have never seen him before. It just proves once again that the Academy got it wrong. John Wayne should have won for The Searchers or Sands of Iwo Jima. True Grit is their way of making it up to Mr. Wayne. It's the same with Morgan Freeman and Million Dollar Baby. He should have won for The Shawshank Redemption. He also should have won for Driving Miss Daisy. I'm probably just nitpicking here. In the end, True Grit will probably go down in the record books as John Wayne's most unusual performance.

Grade: B+

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Super 8 Review

File:Super 8 Poster.jpg
When one thinks of going to the movies in the summer nowadays, they think of superhero movies and endless sequels.  There used to be a time when a summer blockbuster featured action, heart, and great special effects.  Yes, the special effects are nice, but as the old cliché goes, you need a story behind it along with characters to care about for two hours. Super 8 features all of that and more.  It’s the old school blockbuster movie that has been missing from Hollywood for quite some time.  J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg have brought it back to moviegoers and judging by the reaction of the audience on Friday, they couldn’t be happier.
Super 8 is set in the 70’s and follows a group of young kids working on a zombie movie.  As everyone knows, when you are low on money and need a quick, easy movie to make, look no further than a zombie flick.  The boys are all unique and different from each other.  Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is dealing with the loss of his mother and a distant father, played by Kyle Chandler of Friday Night Lights. Charles (Riley Griffiths) is the loud-mouth director of the zombie film. We also have a sensitive, shy kid that is unsure of himself along with a short little runt that loves fire and explosions.  Elle Fanning is the only girl in the bunch and she’s also the best actress in the group, both in the zombie movie and in the real movie. Her father is a troubled alcoholic that doesn’t want her hanging out with the boys, especially Joe.
One night while filming their zombie movie, they see a huge explosion on the train tracks caused by a pick-up truck.  This crash ends up giving the kids more questions than answers.  Before long, the whole city is in a panic, as dogs are running away, microwaves are missing, and chaos is all over.  Only the boys were there to witness it, but they are worried that if they reveal too much, they might find themselves in trouble.  As far as what unfolds after that, it would be of great disservice to reveal any more details.  Half of the fun of this movie is uncovering all of the pieces of the puzzle and putting it together.   
The young actors are all solid in this movie, and their chemistry is obvious on screen when watching this movie.  A lot of critics have referred to this movie as part Goonies, part E.T., and part Cloverfield.  That sounds about right to me.  It takes all of the best elements of those films and puts them all together to make a fun, exciting, funny, and even romantic summer blockbuster. The special effects are also exciting, in-your-face, and well-done.  They come when you least expect them, and J.J. Abrams is smart not to overdo them.  He has plenty of confidence in his story and lets his actors and the story do most of the work.  However, when it’s time to throw in the special effects and light up the screen he does not disappoint.   The usual Spielberg heart is also present throughout this movie with the deceased mother angle, the broken family, and the budding romance.
The film, however, does suffer from a rather lackluster and abrupt ending.  While I understand it in the context of the story and it makes sense, it seemed a tad underwhelming.  There is a lot of build-up, suspense, action, excitement, and it just sort of ends. Perhaps I was hoping for a different conclusion, but it left me feeling like there could have been more.  All in all, though, this is an exciting big screen blockbuster that is worth seeing with a lively audience in the theater.   It will not disappoint you if you have been yearning for this type of blockbuster.
Grade: A-
How should you see it? See it on the big screen.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From the Vault: My Interview with WWE Superstar CM Punk from 2002

Like I mentioned in my introduction blog, I used to do a lot of writing online about the independent wrestling scene for the website, which is currently deceased.  Back in 2002, Al Lagattolla was kind enough to invite me along with him to interview CM Punk at a sushi restaurant in downtown Chicago.  CM Punk was recovering from an injury that put his streak of consecutive weekends worked to an end.  Now, CM Punk is a big WWE superstar with fans all over the world.  Nine years ago, he was a popular Indy wrestler with a loyal fan base of dedicated followers. He was known for his great matches that displayed amazing craft and skill.  I thought this interview would be a great blast from the past, as you see what it was like working on the Indy scene almost ten years.  It’s a very detailed and honest interview that shows you what it was like before he made it big.  I hope you enjoy this interview.
CM Punk knew it would take a serious injury to end his streak of consecutive weekends worked - it had reached as high as 88. When he fractured his skull in a match against Reckless Youth at the Jersey J Cup last month, he finally suffered the injury that made it necessary to step away. He has done that.

Punk says he had a concussion the night before in the i8 tournament, and he talks at length about how he got hurt and how long it'll take for a recovery.

Ideally, he'd like to be back by the IWA MidSouth's Sweet Science 16 Tournament, which takes place in early September.

In his first lengthy interview since his injury, Punk sat down with's Tony Farinella and Al Lagattolla. He talked about his injury, the retirement of Vic Capri, his perception of the East Coast, the Chicago scene and the LWF using the fact he is Broox's brother in a storyline, and the amount of email and calls he received from concerned fans about his injury.

AL: What exactly happened on the East Coast?

PUNK: The official diagnosis is I fractured my skull. I have blood in my spinal fluid, which I'm assuming is what really messed me up. It was something I've done 1,000 times, a corkscrew neckbreaker. I think Reckless was a little too far out. I grabbed him anyway, and I somehow straightened out in midair and I brought him down on top of me. His head hit my head. We hit the mat at the same time. I'm assuming that's what did it. I landed on my head a lot during that match and everyone says that was the most brutal. As soon as I did that, I knew something was wrong.

AL: You got up, right?

PUNK: Yeah, I covered him for a pin, he kicked out. I finished the rest of the match. I also did a senton from the inside of the ring to the floor and wound up whacking my tailbone pretty good. So everything else after the skull fracture was pretty much downhill.

TONY: How about the i8 tournament. You got a concussion. What happened?

PUNK: I was gonna hit Capri with a rana from the apron to the floor and I don't know. It wasn't his fault at all, because Capri rules, but he wound up powerbombing me on the floor and I whacked my head.

AL: You said it wasn't Capri's fault and I'm sure you're not blaming Reckless Youth.

PUNK: Not at all. The skull fracture was a complete freak accident. I thought I had the hardest head in the world and I'm surprised I broke it. It was weird.

TONY: Did you have second thoughts about working the J Cup after the concussion?

PUNK: Nope. Never thought twice.

TONY: Did they know you were hurt?

PUNK: I think they knew, but it's not like I broadcasted it.

TONY: I think Billy Reil was worried, because he said with a concussion, he could hurt you.

PUNK: Billy Reil should worry about himself.

AL: You wrestled so many weeks in a row.

PUNK: Somebody said it was 88.

AL: You've had to have had concussions before.

PUNK: It never really affected me. Like I said, even when I fractured my skull, I didn't black out. I was conscious. If I've had a concussion, I've always been aware of what's going on.

TONY: So what have the doctors told you to do?

PUNK: I don't know. I didn't really listen. The doctor in New Jersey told me one week off of work, but even after a week off it got worse. I was sleeping 20 hours a day. I pretty much sat on the couch for three weeks and I just got back in the gym. I just started working out again. As far as when I can wrestle, the doctors really haven't said anything about that. I'm shooting for September. I'm probably going to see my doctor here, get another CAT scan. But that's probably going to be after constant nagging from Chez. I don't want to go to the doctor.

AL: Do you have to go to a doctor before you go back? You couldn't just go back, right?

PUNK: I think I'm OK. I really do. I've been working out. Everything's been fine. I obviously haven't been back in the ring yet, but I plan to do that in two weeks. The doctor said it'd be a few weeks before I'm my normal self, and I'm almost there. I'm sure I'll be 100%. At least I'll feel that way.

TONY: How did everyone on the East Coast feel about you and Cabana? Was anyone threatened by you guys?

PUNK: Guys like Reckless and Quack and Montoya, the loved us. It was good to see Scoot, I hadn't seen him for a while. It was the first time I met American Dragon. He was really receptive. He said he's heard a lot about me, I was like, vice-versa. I don't think Billy Reil was too happy to see us.

AL: What was the tournament like? It's obviously a big deal. What did you think of the experience?

PUNK: They had me flying out Friday morning, and I was supposed to be booked in New York on Friday. But I had to do the i8 Tournament. See, no one knows the hellish weekend I had, besides the skull fracture. I went to get my plane ticket switched to Saturday morning. I got to the airport at 4:30, and the plane left at 6:30. So I missed my first flight because I was in line too damn long and they were boarding by the time I got to the sky cap. I was in the international line for an hour. Then I missed the 9 o'clock flight because I was put on stand-by because I wasn't originally on that flight. The whole time I'm not sleeping at all. Eventually, they wound up shuttling me to O'Hare to fly out on a different airline. I got to Jersey at 6:30 (p.m.). The show started at 7:30. I got to the building at 7 o'clock. I said hi to everybody, had to walk right to the ring to take pictures with the trophy and all that stuff. And then I wrestled. It was pretty much a blur, but it was a good experience. Two really sweet girls picked me up at the airport. The promoter is a big hockey fan like me, so we had a lot to talk about. I wanted to hang out with the boys afterward, but obviously I couldn't since I was in the hospital. AJ Styles was really cool, too. Overall, it was really good. The matches were all right, they could have been better. I'm booked to be back there against Dragon in September.

TONY: How did the crowd react to you?

PUNK: A lot of people knew who I was. People started chanting for Chris Hero when I showed up, but that's understandable. I heard when Hero was at CZW, they chanted for me. That is pretty cool.

TONY: Since Chris Hero has been at Combat Zone, have you got any offers to work there?

PUNK: I have bizarre phantom heat with Combat Zone, I think. At least that's what I heard.

TONY: How come?

PUNK: They tried to use me two times, but I've never been directly contacted. It's always been Nick Mondo calling me to tell me to call somebody. I don't work that way. If somebody wants to book me to work a show, they can call me. Nobody's ever called me. I'm not hurting for work and I probably never will be, so I'm not going to call someone to be booked for a show.

TONY: What about Ring of Honor?

PUNK: I was supposed to talk to Feinstein after the J Cup. He was there. Obviously, that didn't happen. But I wouldn't be surprised if you saw me and Cabana there by the end of the year.

TONY: What do you think of their product, the straight-up wrestling style?

PUNK: I haven't seen any of it, but I like the idea. Obviously, I like a lot of the guys that they use. It's a breath of fresh air, kind of like the Chikara shows. Straight-up wrestling, not focused on beating up women and all this other crap.

TONY: Do you trust Feinstein? I've heard a lot of stories.

PUNK: I don't see why not. I've met him, he seems like a nice guy. I've never ordered tapes from him. I don't have any heat with him.

AL: The whole weekend, you said was a real mess. With the i8, there was talk you wouldn't be showing up for it. Were you ever not in the i8?

PUNK: I was always in the i8. I did talk to the guy who ran it - Brad Drake - about the plane trouble I was having. It was horrible. I gave that guy a heart attack. But I've never missed a show in my life and there was no way I was gonna miss it. I had a car booked from a rental place and I was ready to jump in the car right after the i8 and drive to Jersey if I had to. I told him what was up, and he was looking for replacements just to cover his ass.

TONY: I know in the match against Capri, you got hurt, but what did you think about the match?

PUNK: It was fun. I always have fun working Capri. It pisses me off to think that could be our last match.

TONY: Do you think the tournament was a good idea, or are tournaments overdone these days?

PUNK: Tournaments are completely overdone. The i8 was decent, but I don't like when people compare their tournament to the Super 8. Zenner, I'm doing the Super 8, but it's tag teams. Right. Come up with an original idea. I haven't seen CZW's Best of the Best, but I think it's a good idea to have 3-way dances in the first round. Then those who advance go into singles matches. It's different. They're not trying to be the Super 8. Everyone else tries to duplicate what Kettner does, and it's not going to happen.

AL: What about the Super 8, any possibility of you going in?

PUNK: I don't know. I'm not the booker. There's always a possibility, but I haven't heard anything yet.

TONY: How is the East Coast style different from the Midwest style?

PUNK: The style?

TONY: The fans, everything.

PUNK: I don't think it's an East Coast, West Coast style. I don't think there's a certain East Coast style.

TONY: Talent wise. What's different, what's alike?

PUNK: A lot of guys on the East Coast I haven't really seen, but I've read good things about them. Everybody says Trent Acid got really good, but I haven't seen his recent stuff. The Midwest has a lot of good workers, but a lot of lazy people as well. The East Coast people seem to branch out a lot more, but maybe it just seems that way because they get a lot more press.

TONY: How do the fans compare?

PUNK: Everybody gets tapes from Feinstein and Smart Mark. The fans aren't really any different. Because of Smart Mark Video, fans at the J Cup knew who I was. The fans aren't really any different. Going to the East Coast and see fans for the first time. ... they anticipate us more because they've never seen us live. Maybe they come to the show with a little more anticipation.

AL: Did the i8 work?

PUNK: I think the i8 worked. I didn't get to watch all the matches, but I thi nk it worked, for what it was. Everybody from a different fed. It was decent.

TONY: How was Chikara?

PUNK: It was a blast. Chikara was the best place I've worked in a long time. The fans were awesome.

TONY: How are the fans different?

PUNK: The best way I can describe it is it was the closest I've ever had to wrestling in front of a Japanese audience. The fans were really respectful, and they applauded for all the spots. There were a lot of kids there, too. So that was cool. I worked the kids the entire time. The smart marks appreciate the wrestling and I'm sitting on the apron goofing off with the kids. It was a cool atmosphere. I love Quack, I love Montoya. I love Reckless. They run a good school and their students were super respectful. I've been in locker rooms in Chicago where some kid will come in and he doesn't introduce himself. But their kids were really humble. They came up to me, Cabana and Hero and introduced themselves. I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

TONY: What did their students work like?

PUNK: They did really good. They were dynamite. A lot of them have cool gimmicks like hoods and stuff. Those kids are over.

AL: You don't know exactly when you're coming back, but do you know which show you'd like to be back for?

PUNK: Most likely for the Sweet Science 16, in September. That's what I'm shooting for.

AL: I know it's been special show.

PUNK: This would be the third year I'd be in it. Me, Cabana, Hero and Ace have been in all of them. I don't want to miss it.

TONY: Did anyone at Chikara come to you for advice?

PUNK: No, not really. They were just really cool. They'd just talk about what bands they listen to. They didn't ask for advice, and I'm grateful, because it'd probably be really bad at giving advice.

TONY: What do you think of the fact they can't run shows at their school anymore?

PUNK: Obviously, it sucks. Especially for the students who were getting great experience. But they're working on different buildings. It's not like it's dead. They still run the school, but they just can't run shows.

AL: Zoning laws just seem to be some sort of problem. I know Ian's had problems.

PUNK: Everybody just hates pro wrestling for some reason.

AL: It's been a while since even the Morris show. Will Ian make a move here? Some of the Dayton shows didn't really draw.

PUNK: Some of the Dayton shows didn't draw at all.

TONY: 38 was the draw at the last one.

AL: Considering the people who were wrestling. ... would you say Dayton just may not be a good place to run?

PUNK: I don't think Ian's running Dayton anymore. I think Ian could grab a really good stronghold and get footing in Chicago. But he just got a new building and I'm sure he's focused on that. It's tough to say. ... Never know, I might start looking for a place he can run in Chicago. God knows, Chicago needs it.

TONY: You were going to work at RCW before the injury. What do you think of RCW? The talent? The philosophy?

PUNK: I don't really know what the philosophy is. I was looking forward to working there. I was supposed to work Eric Marx. I was looking forward to that. It would've been fun. I was supposed to replace Vic Capri, so I would have worked my ass off. I'm looking forward to working there when I come back, if they'd want to use me. It seems like a fun place to be.

AL: Is LWF still a place you will work?

PUNK: We'll have to see. I'm probably going to be a little picky about where and who to work because of my head. ... we'll have to see.

TONY: How do you feel about Billy Whack bringing out the angle with your brother, making it public?

PUNK: I don't know. I'm not pissed that they did it. I thought they'd have done it a long time ago. It made me laugh when I heard about it.

TONY: Did they ask you or just do it?

PUNK: They just did it.

TONY: Think it'll draw?

PUNK: Probably not. Everybody who knows we are brothers is already in the LWF. We'll see.

AL: Has the return to LWF been what you thought it'd be?

PUNK: It's enjoyable. I told Whack I didn't mind it. There are some goofs in that locker room. People don't understand, you've got to be cordial. I'll say hi to everyone in the locker room, but then I'll see people come and go. They're booked on the show, but they don't say shit to me. To me, that's ignorant. But a guy like Kaleb Pierce, he doesn't fucking know any better.

TONY: Speaking of Kaleb Pierce, what do you think of what happened to him and Chuckie Smooth at the LWF show?

PUNK: I don't know the full story. I know Kaleb was talking shit about Chuckie. I know if I'd have been at the show, I would have had Chuckie's back.

TONY: But is that something that should be done at a show, or is that something that should be handled in back?

PUNK: I know Chuckie better than most people know him. He doesn't really have a temper or anything like that. So for him to do that at a show, he must have been really hot. He'd probably be the first to tell you that shouldn't have been done at a show, but shit happens. I'm sure he's learned his lesson, and I'm sure Kaleb Pierce, and I don't even know the other kid, I'm sure they learned a lesson.

AL: In Chicago, you worked for a really brief time at MCW. What happened. Did Brian Zenner just not want you anymore?

PUNK: Brian Zenner says Jayson Reign and Danny Dominion don't want me on their shows. Dominion says it was Zenner and Reign. And Reign says it was Dominion and Zenner. So all I know is Danny Dominion shit canned me from working on the show because I worked LWF. How's that for a kick in the pants.

AL: Why would he do that? You're his guy, right?

PUNK: I thought so. I thought I was his friend. Shit changes, though. It's a fucked up business.

TONY: Was anybody else mad at you for working the LWF?

PUNK: My side of the story is this - I took the LWF date a long time ago. A month before, I had to cancel out on them. Whack was really understanding about it, because Norm Connors in Pittsburgh wanted me to work Eddy Guerrero. So I called him up I said, I got this booking with Guerrero. If it's cool with you, I'd like to do it. So I worked with the IWC instead of the LWF. So #1 I owed Billy Whack one, and I hate owing people anything. I told him I'd definitely be on the next show. I didn't realize the next show was also an MCW date. Zenner emailed me and said he heard I was trying to work the LWF show. I told him I will gladly work twice, I will work the LWF, too. I wasn't trying to do the double booking thing again. I did promise him and Jayson Reign that I'd never double book myself again. It was completely by accident. I apologized to Zenner about the double booking thing. But I had the LWF show. If you don't want me to do the double booking, I can't do your show. So he told me not to show up. So I didn't. And the next thing I know, Danny Dominion was furious and told Zenner not to use me anymore. I did look Reign in the eye on February 2 - the last time I was double booked - and said it would never happen again. So I tried calling him to apologize, but he never called me back, and Zenner never called me either. I'll swallow my pride and apologize, but he's got to have the balls to call me back. I don't understand. I emailed Zenner a few times and called Reign twice, but nobody's ever gotten back to me. A week later, I got a "we're not gonna use you anymore" email from Zenner.

AL: I would say, yeah, if you called a guy two times to apologize and he never called you back that would probably...

PUNK: Piss you off.

AL: Yeah. And I've known that to happen with Jayson.

PUNK: I'm apologizing to you right now, Jayson Reign. I looked you right in the eye and said I'd never double book again and it happened. I'm sorry. I'm still also completely broke, and I need to pay my car insurance. So the double booking would have come in handy.

AL: You were double booked a lot for a while, and then it seemed to start a trend. Suddenly Capri was double booked. Double M was double booked. Then there started the war between the workers and the promoters. You never considered yourself to have a problem working two shows in a night.

PUNK: Not at all. I worked twice in one night. May 11, I was trying to triple book myself. I was trying to do MAW, go to Zenner, and then LWF. That would have been awesome. I don't give a damn about what anybody says about me cheating the fans because I've already worked. That never happened. I've never missed a show. I'm sort of glad I fractured my skull. I'm chilling out. Everyone keeps asking if the first weekend off was hard. It was easy. I slept for 20 hours that Saturday. ... But double booking is in my blood. I will work anytime I can. It helps me gain experience. I think I read a post on your message board about how me and Capri got hurt because we were double booked all the time. I don't give a damn what anybody says about me, but if you're gonna shit talk Capri, I'll punch you in the mouth. We got hurt because it's rough on our bodies, regardless if I do it once a month or whatever. It doesn't matter. Accidents can happen. Fracturing your skull is a total freak accident.

TONY: So what was it like working Low-Ki? Was he as stiff as everyone says he is?

PUNK: Nah. I think Ki's stiff if he doesn't like you. It was the first time I worked him, and he wasn't stiff at all. I was probably more stiff than he was. It was a really fun match, it was cool, and I can't wait to do it again. I really liked working him, a lot.

AL: You talked about working stiff. But it's not like your injury happened when you were working hardcore. Your injury didn't happen because you were doing anything you don't usually do.

PUNK: It's something I've done a million and one times. I've done it to Cabana. I've done it to Chris Hero. I did it to Eddy Guerrero three times. It's nobody's fault. I could have landed on my head doing a sunset flip.

TONY: When you come back, are you going to be toned down a little bit, or are you going to be the same CM Punk?

PUNK: I'm gonna be the same CM Punk. The first two things I'm gonna do when I get back will be the corkscrew neckbreaker and the senton from the ring to the floor. I guarantee it. It'll happen.

AL: You're not worried at all?

PUNK: Nah.

TONY: What about Acid. You guys were in a tag match. Are you getting along now?

PUNK: We get along. I still don't think he likes me, but I like him fine.

TONY: Do you think it'd be a good match?

PUNK: Yeah, I think that could draw. It could be interesting.

TONY: Would you be a heel or a face?

PUNK: I'd want to be a heel.

AL: He's pretty over as a face in LWF.

PUNK: Totally over. Plus, I'm naturally a heel. If I had to be a face and work him as a face, it'd just be a wrestling match. Where if I'm a heel and he's a face, it's a lot more fun. It'd get a better crowd reaction.

AL: It'd obviously be different than the last time you met.

PUNK: Totally. Completely different. That's why it'd be interesting to do.

AL: You've worked most everybody you could work, and he's one guy you haven't.

PUNK: There's actually a few guys I'd like to work. I'd like to work American Dragon and I'm booked against him at the end of September in Jersey. Harley Race's guys, they've been working IWA, so when I get back, hopefully I'll work those guys. I really wanted to work Eric Marx, too. I'd have fun throwing him around.

TONY: How about the match with Ace and Matt Murphy from Clarksville?

PUNK: It was nice and basic. Matt Murphy's a decent heel. We didn't really do a whole lot. We didn't talk about much, two heels and a babyface in a three-way dance. So we double teamed on Ace and then tried to cheat to beat each other. Matt Murphy is definitely a good hand.

TONY: Any offers from Harley Race to do his shows?

PUNK: Harley knows who I am. Harley likes me. Probably not as much as he likes Ace. He loves Ace. It's ridiculous. Harley calls the apartment all the time. I've talked to him a few times.

TONY: But no offers to work there?

PUNK: No, I've always been booked other places, too. I'd drop everything for Harley.

AL: You have an interesting, fun story about Harley, don't you?

PUNK: I got a very interesting story about Harley, but that's gonna stay between us. If you already know it, good for you. I'm not telling that story.