Movie Review: ‘Transcendence’ Starring Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany

“Yesterday Dr. Will Caster Was Only Human.”

gofobo flyerChronologically, we have The Dark Knight Rises, Moneyball, Inception, The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Italian Job, Insomnia, Memento. Those are some very impressive credits. Although Transcendence director wasn’t at the helm for the aforementioned films, he was the cinematographer – and very influential on how they turned out looking. Needless to say, the directorial debut of a D.P. with that kind of resume is sure to get some attention. Unfortunately looks aren’t all that matter when it comes to making a film, and without a cohesive story and well-written script, things tend to fall apart. At least Transcendence looked good, right? I wish I could say it did. With a background like Pfister’s, the movie should have been visually better than simply complacent.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp) is a world-renowned scientist in the field of Artificial Intelligence, or AI. His life’s work has lead to his most important project, a sentient computer code-named PIMM. While there are those who strongly support the work Dr. Caster is doing, there are many who fear this type of computer intelligence – mainly a group of extremists called RIFT (Revolutionary Independence From Technology). What they are afraid of is “Transcendence,” defined as an existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level. During simultaneous attacks on AI labs across the country (don’t other countries have AI research too?), Will is shot with a radiation-laced bullet and given only weeks to live. His wife and fellow researcher Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) decides to apply the research of uploading the consciousness of rhesus monkeys and apply it to her dying husband. With the help of Max (Paul Bettany), Will’s mind lives on… or is it really Will?

The problem with the film does not lie in the far-fetched plot, or impossible nature of using technology in this matter. The film is science-fiction, after all. Yet the main problem lies in how the film tries to be so smart, while never reaching the level that it thinks it does. There was a film that just came out last year that was a perfect allegory and social commentary on our current dependance and addiction to technology. It is called Her, which is very human and personal, while getting a similar message across. The polar opposite of Transcendence‘s cold and lifeless story, which seldom makes any connection during it’s boring narrative.

Johnny Depp is one of the greatest actors of all time. His ability to get into a role, and become the character is impressive. Which is unfortunate for his latest film, because it just doesn’t happen. Or rather, Depp is never really given the opportunity to. There is nothing really special about Will Caster, as he is just kind of a boring scientist. And when he becomes a computer, his performance becomes as rigid and robotic as necessary. It isn’t that Depp does a bad job in the role, but rather he is never given the chance to shine. Having him as the lead in the film is nothing more than a credit, and isn’t enough to put the film where it needs to be.

Rebecca Hall gives a great performance, and is probably the best part of the film. She is even joined on-screen by several talented actors from the Nolan “troupe,” like Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy. Yet even with all the star-power, the film remains dull. Simply put, the actors just aren’t given anything to do. Writer Jack Paglen’s first screenplay is dull, from the dialogue to the action sequences.

Probably the biggest disappointment with Transcendence is the look of the film. Is it poorly filmed and put together? No. But the director, the man with the vision, is the Academy-award winning cinematographer for Inception. Pfister photographed Momento, The Prestige, and the Dark Knight Trilogy for crying out loud. It goes without saying that the audience is going to expect some interesting scenes. Unfortunately the shots are just run-of-the-mill, in this standard looking movie.

With all the anticipation surrounding the film – everything from the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, to the concepts and big names in the cast – Transcendence is truly a letdown. It is easy to see what they were trying to do with it, and there are some good ideas in there somewhere. But the execution was seriously flawed, and what should have been compelling ends up feeling ultimately boring.

Transcendence is a D+

Interview With Comedian Marlon Wayans, Producer/Star of A HAUNTED HOUSE 2 – In Theaters Everywhere Today
Marlon with brother Shawn in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

Marlon with brother Shawn in Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood (1996)

For those who know anything about comedy, the name “Wayans” is sure to ring a bell. Comprised of 10 brothers and sisters who do everything from acting and writing, to directing and producing, the Wayans have made their name synonymous with funny. And that is only in the first generation, who have given birth to an entirely new line of actor/writer/comedian/directors.

Marlon Wayans, the youngest of the siblings, made his film debut in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) at the age of 16. Although he only had a small role in his brother Keenen’s directorial debut, it would be the start of an epic career spanning the last 26 years. And things don’t look like they are slowing down any time soon.

In honor of the release of A Haunted House 2, the sequel to his hugely successful 2013 comedy (which grossed over $60 million dollars worldwide on a $2.5 million dollar budget), Marlon came to St. Louis to talk about the film and his long-running career.



 The interview began after a lengthy conversation about The Walking Dead (which we found out Marlon is a huge fan of).

Marlon Wayans ReviewSTL InterviewWhat do you have against dogs?

Marlon: What do I have against dogs? They used to chase me when I was little.

Because I mean, you’re killing them right and left. PETA is going to be after you.

Marlon: You know, I thought they would of. Thank God it’s fake dogs. I really would love to do it against cats, but I can’t. I’m allergic to cats.  But, you know, I don’t have nothing against dogs. What’s crazy is, that dog… I named Shilioh. Which is my kids’ dog’s name. And they named him after Brangelina’s kid shilioh. So, you know, it’s to have fun with Shiloh.

So, is your son worried about HIS dog?

Marlon: No, he knows I’m not going to hurt his dog. I love that dog. It loves me. It’s the fist dog that ever loved me. I grew up in the projects… every other dog ever chased me… ever. Because they were trained to chase me.

Did you have something in your pocket, or…?

Marlon: No. The Puerto Ricans used to call them N***a chasers. And buy these big dogs that looked like… not even a dog at this point. This rottweiler was so big… in the guetto they don’t have dogs. They got dinosaurs. And this dinosaur was literally chasing me up fences, and they would call them killer names. Rambo, Conan… you know, Mauller. And this was chasin’ me.

No, I don’t have nothin’ against dogs… kinda.

You having fun in St. Louis?

M: Yeah, man.

You’ve ever been here before?

M: No… yeah… I don’t know. I travel around, I might have come here with my brothers when they performed here maybe 20 years ago. Shawn and Damon might have come here. Actually it’s a really cool city. You know, I didn’t know like, how nice of a city it was. You guys have a new ballpark, that’s nice. The ballpark park looks nice. You know, the food is good. It looks like down by the water over there, a lot of people get drunk. It looks fun. So… I wanna come back, listen to some jazz, and cool. I’m actually gonna set up a gig here. I want to spend some time…

There are actually several black comedians from St. Louis.

M: Yeah, Cederick… Cedy…he’s in the movie.

Also, Red Fox is from St. Louis. Dick Gregory is from St. Louis.

M: Oh really? Awesome.

And Rudy Ray Moore is not from here, but he lived here for many years.

Marlon InterviewM: But he talked like he’s from here… “you old rat soup eatin’ mother f….”

Well he made a movie called “Petey Wheatstraw…”

M: Yeah, “Petey Wheatstraw”  that was my…

It’s based on a famous St. Louisan… Petey Wheatstraw was a nightclub owner here in St. Louis… back in the 50s.

M: And they called him the Devil’s…

The Devil’s son-in-law…

M: Yeah, Petey Wheatstraw… The first five minutes of the movie… starts out with the woman giving birth, and she gave birth to a watermelon. And I said… this is… this, is Petey Wheatstraw! Then he taught the kid karate, that was my joint, Petey Wheatstraw. So bad it was good.

Well, he was a musician actually. Petey Wheatstraw, who opened the club. He made him more of a gangster…

M: Petey Wheatstraw… you old rat soup eatin…

So, it was said that you were possibly going to play Robin in Tim Burton’s “Batman and Robin.” And you opted not to.

M: It was really sad. No I didn’t opt not to! That was a great experience, because it prepared me… I got the role, I auditioned and got the role. We were negotiating, and I actually told me manager, “I don’t want to be stuck playing Robin for five movies! There are other things I want to do. So they got me the option to only do one movie… which was stupid! I should have signed for twelve! Man, what’s wrong with me?

“The next one will be Batman and Robin.” And then they changed directors, and it was Joel Schumacher. And he was just like, “Um…no. You’re not cute enough. Chris O’Donnel!”I don’t know, Tim Burton said that they were introducing Catwoman, Penguin… there were so many different story-lines that they just wanted to get Batman and Robin their own movie. And he’s like, “The next one will be Batman and Robin.” And then they changed directors, and it was Joel Schumacher. And he was just like, “Um…no. You’re not cute enough. Chris O’Donnel!” And so, yeah. I got written out of that one, and replaced. And then… but that set me up. That prepared me for when they wrote me out of GI Joe 2. I was like, you know, this just happens in Hollywood sometime. So you know, I didn’t cry. No funerals. I just went straight to writing and creating a movie.

I’m surprised there wasn’t a funeral. You’re very big with your pet funerals in your movies….

M: You’d have though… I’d be like, can a brother get some dog tags at least… but see, I didn’t feel as bad when I died in GI Joe. Because they killed Channing too. I was like, they got the white boy! You crazy! Oh…. Paramount is gangsta! Haha!

You know, everything happens for a reason. And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better. Because when I was saying that it was to make myself feel better, but in hindsight, 20/20, you realize that it’s supposed to happen. If it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be writing, producing my own franchise. I mean, I wish I had the GI Joe budget. But I don’t, and it’s  a lot of fun to work with this great of a cast for the budget that we have.

That being said, with a $3 million dollar budget that you had, most is going to go to special effects. Does that mean everybody had a back-end deal?

M: Uh, yeah. Back-end basically. Everybody. Nobody gets… I didn’t have a trailer. My trailer was like the guestroom of the house. That’s where all the grips go to the bathroom, so… You can imagine what that smelled like.

It’s grueling in some… it’s not your Hollywood movie experience, but you know. I’m from the old school where I’m just happy to make a movie. It’s such a blessing to be able to go make a movie. Especially in this climate. You know, I’m just always excited that every day I go to work, or drive to work, and I’m like, “I’m going to make a movie! Lunch sucks… but I’m going to make a movie!” You know?

Requiem for a DreamOne of my favorite movies of all time is “Requiem for a Dream.” And your performance, I loved it.

M: Thank you.

So Jared Leto just won best supporting actor…

M: Am I jealous? F**k yeah!

Do you keep up with him? And what are your thoughts on that?

M: Um, no. We don’t really keep up that much. You know, Jared is in his band. You know, he’s a weird dude, Jared. He don’t know what character he’s playing. Depends on if Jared… sometimes I see him out, you know, and shows love. We had our ‘Requiem’ days, we had a great experience and, you know, that was a grueling… not grueling, it was fun… but at the same time we did a lot of research together. In terms of ‘Requiem.’ You know, we walked the streets, we found out what it was like to buy drugs…

It’s such a realistic movie. You really got into the role.

M: Dude… we really had to, you know. Darren threw a need in my arm, my God! Try this! Sleep…

Working with a director like Darren, who’s really hands on… I went to New York. I was supposed to start filming in June. I went out there in February, because I wanted to rehearse. I wanted to be around. And you know, he has this thing when Darren’s doing a movie… You really want to be there, you really want to be present. You’re not only being a part of the movie, but you’re actually a student. And you’re learning so much about filmmaking. Not just from the acting perspective. But as a director, he walks you through what the colors of each season’s gonna be. What the angles are… like, you really get absorbed in Darren’s world. At the end of the day, you’re just a mannequin in his world, and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. And be able to be in his movie.

Was that your first real dramatic role? You obviously come from a background in comedy.

M: Well, I did this wonderful… wonderful PSA for United Negro College Fund… Other than that, yes. That was my first, correct.

But, I went to Performing Arts High School for Dramatic Arts… so you know, me and Omar Epps… we’re actually best friends to this day. We were classmates together. And you know, that experience always stays with me. I would love to do more dramas, there’s just not that many…

Obviously you’ve shown you can do it, but you’ve always came back to comedy – which is where your roots are.

M: I’m hoping that one day I do a drama, about a comedy, hopefully I can fuse the two. And if I can get to do the Richard Pryor story, that would be awesome.

Does the Richard Pryor script… exist?

M: Yeah. Awesome script. Right now Lee Daniels has been tapped as director. I got it when it was Bill Condon. We had an amazing screentest that we did together. And we walked through the character. It was a grueling, crazy… and I keep saying grueling, because it really is lot of work when you prepare to do these type of things. You know, Bill came to my house and showed me the screen test. He was like, “this is magic.” And you know, everybody was like, “Yo, this is great!”

But then, you know, in Hollywood… things that are supposed to happen often don’t. It’s a lot like watching a soccer game… “Oh! Yeah, he’s gonna…. and he didn’t score…” And you’re doing that, like most of your career. You know? So Lee Daniels is now directing, so it’s going to be his choice. I’ve been through the whole change of directors thing. I understand that directors have their choice of who they want to pick. And when those hands change, you respect their choice and decision.

For me, I started doing stand-up because of Richard Pryor. Three years ago. Honestly, if I don’t wind up playing the role, I know that the preparation I did to try and become Pryor… I wanted to play it great. But now I want to be a great. And that’s why I travel the country doing stand-up. Because I love the art of Stand-up comedy.

Did you ever meet Pryor?

M: I met Pryor… when he was in a wheelchair. And he was at the Comedy Store. And he was doing stand-up. In a wheelchair. And I just thought that was the bravest, most beautiful thing I ever saw. Because he was just an artist, and all he talked about was his MS. And how his body was acting a certain way… and how his d**k wasn’t working, and how it wasn’t getting hard. And he couldn’t drive. And him talking to girls, and how he still thought he had it… but he didn’t. It was really funny. But just watching him, that night… I met greatness. It was like my son meeting Labron James. My son met Labron four weeks ago for his birthday, at the Clipper game. And Shawn, my son, is a really good basketball player. But the day he met Labron, I saw his game elevate. I was just like, wow. It’s the magic of meeting somebody great like that. And having that recollection of meeting Pryor, now when I do stand-up comedy, you know…. I feel like I met a great, so I’m fearless when  I hit the stage.

I still suck! But… I’m really great at something!

I’ve heard that writing parodies is one of the hardest genres…

M: It looks easy, but yeah. It’s tough.

What was the hardest part for you?

M: Everything. Because when you talk about this… I’m glad I was raised in parody, and raised in sketch. Two of the hardest mediums that you’re going to take on in comedy. Because everything is a joke. Literally. Your slugline… this one’s different because it’s a horror-comedy – with parody moments. But you know, when you look at doing parody, everything on your page is a joke. Except for the number, and the scene… Those things aren’t jokes. But for the most part, the description of where you’re at. The character has to be funny. The dialogue has to be funny. What the response from the other character has to be funny. What’s the action that they’re doing? The location… everything is a joke. And you’re doing this for 110 pages. So you are just like [rapid fire]… and you’re throwing out thousands of jokes, only to keep a hundred. Of which, maybe ten may kill.

You’re on all the time. Is that harder than not doing a parody. Do you find that exhausting to be ready all the time, joke after joke?

M: I’m on in my sleep! You should see me.

I think we did in the film, but you were [sleeping] with a doll!

M: Who? She came on to me!

Were you worried about splinters?

M: Definitely not. I wore a condom… for most of it. Haha.

We saw that come off….

M: It was crazy. I don’t know where we were going with that. You know what was funny? A lot of the times when we do that stuff, that’s improv man. It was literally… we weren’t planning on doing that one. I was just on set, and said, “Heeyyyy…” Mike looked at Rick, and they were just like, “here he goes.” And I just started doing the scene. And before you know it, Mike is setting the camera, he’s pulling my pants down, going “here” and… makeup and hair don’t even need to come in, caus I’m literally sweating out. Jamie Presley was in that day, and she’s like, “what the hell!?” She was at the monitor like, “is he really doing this!? I can’t invite my parents to see this movie!”

I know, and it’s so foul, and so raunchy. I know my kid is going to be like this [covering his eyes] on that part. But, I don’t know… I just think it’s good to be silly, and good to not care. Some people are going to judge you, and some people aren’t going to like it.

You know, I try to make me laugh. And if I make me laugh… you know, I don’t laugh a lot. Comedians are funny because, we go, “that’s funny.” But it’s rare that we’ll laugh. And when you laugh, normally that means a lot of other people are going to laugh too. Or cry.

Honestly, I cannot stand the “Paranormal Activity” films. I think they’re stupid. But if it gives you ammunition and fodder – keep making them.

M: Thank you. The first “Paranormal Activity” though, I would say, for me as a filmmaker… or me as a guy, who would like to make movies… when I took on making this movie, it was honestly just trying to find a way to do a low budget comedy because Hollywood was only making big action movies. Or superhero movies. And I was just like, I want to do a low budget comedy. And I watched Paranormal Activity, and I was just like… Man, it’s tension, tension, tension… for an hour and fifteen minutes. But the last ten minutes is action, action, action. But it’s kind of brilliant when you are trying to make a low budget movie. Make it in a house that gives you a good paradigm and a good construct for all up-and-coming filmmakers… that want to make a movie cheap. Because they give you the diagram of how to do it. It’s a simple, one location, controlled environment. Not many special effects. With a small cast. That goes to student filmmakers, that goes to upcoming filmmakers. You want to make a movie that is inexpensive – do that. And if you do a comedy you can make them really inexpensive. I’m glad they did it. First one I thought was actually good. Second one was a little off. Third one I was like, OK, now it’s tired.

Have you ever had any paranormal experiences yourself?

M: I grew up in the projects. Ghosts don’t go there.

What scares Marlon Wayans? What are you afraid of?

Wayans in Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Wayans in Requiem for a Dream (2000)

M: Cops! Like, why are you chasing me? Just the thought of jail. I’m claustrophobic… jail frightens me. Nevermind the big prisoners, looking for man love. The scariest part to me is being closed in a cell, not being able to get out. That would really freak me out.

At the Q&A (after the screening in St. Louis) you mentioned trying to get the family together for a stand-up tour and possibly film. Is there talk amongst the family about doing an “In Living Color” reunion?

M: No, not an In “Living Color Reunion.”

Can’t get Carrey?

M: You can’t get Damon… Carrey… you can’t get the dancers. You can’t get J Lo, and Carrie Ann Inaba. Everybody blew up. You can’t get the writers back. That’s a tough one to bring back, and that’s going to be a very expensive pilot.

But, I will say, that I think me, Shawn, Keenan and Damon – we have been talking about doing a stand-up tour together, and making it into a movie. And then do some sketches as well. And eventually doing a Wayans Brothers movie.

I’m very happy you are doing standup. It’s my very favorite type of comedy and I love seeing it because… it’s just you and the microphone, and an entire audience that can end… your life if they want to. And it just seems very honest, and I do appreciate you doing it. Was there anybody besides Pryor that made you want to do that?

M: You know honestly, watching my brother Damon intimidated me from doing standup. I was just like, I’ll never be as good as him. So why even try? Because Damon had a twisted life. He has a club foot, you know, he has a colorful life. He’s been to jail… he smoked weed… he did it all. Me… My feet are pigeon-toed but they weren’t twisted up like his. I’ve never been to jail. I was a good kid, and didn’t get in much trouble. So I thought you had to have a dark kind of experience. But I realized that with stand-up you can still have your own point of view. All you have to do in stand-up is be true to the individual that you are, and tell your story. I realized that me and Damon have very different points of view, but similar styles. I’m very physical. He’s very physical. He’s not afraid to tackle any subject. I’m not afraid to tackle any subject. We’re both kind of fearless in that way. But we’re different.

We were in New York, and we were doing stand-up. And he would go on at the Comedy Cellar, and I went on right after him. And he was just dark… dark as hell. And the first thing I said when I came up on stage was, “uh, I just want to say on behalf of the Wayans family, that Damon’s views do not represent all of the views of the Wayans family.” But you know, Damon did that on purpose because he felt the audience clenching up. And he doesn’t like how nowadays audiences are so judgemental. Whereas before, you were free to express yourself on the stage. And that’s the great thing about going to a comedy club. You are free to hear all these different points of the world that we’re all living in. And it used to be a safety zone. But not people video tape you, and then go… “[there], he said it.”

They’ll real-time tell you to F off on Twitter, as they’re watching you.

M: Yeah, watch me. I curse them right back out.

How do you deal with the criticism?

M: They have something smart to say, I curse them back out. What the F**k you doing with your life? And, you know, sometimes you have to do that. I believe people like this about me, that I don’t believe I’m above anybody. I’m a real dude, and you say some foul stuff – I’m gonna say some foul stuff back to you. And then some of my best friends, I made them after we fought. Me and Omar Epps, in high school, we almost had a fight. Had each other in a headlock. And was like, “You know how to do a headlock? Yeah, you got the same technique!” Best friends after that.

Sometimes I’m just a New York cat. So it’s good to be real, and it’s good to, you know, let people know that you’re human. There’s a better way for them to voice it. I think social media makes people think they can say anything. Because they don’t even put their face up. They’ll put like a pack of gum… Sometimes you go back and forth with ten people. I’m a comedian by trait – I don’t take anything seriously. So, they have some stuff to say to me, I look at their thing, I break them down and have some stuff to say to them, and then we leave with, “alright, that was funny, that was funny. Alright, cool. Respect.”

With “Scary Movie” you obviously reignited the spark that Airplane, Naked Gun, all that stuff started. And now you’ve spawned this whole new generation of the parody film.

M: I’m sorry about that. I really want to apologize, because some of them…

There’s obviously a reason why they took off. They were so good, and you were involved with 1 and 2. Keenan directed those, and you wrote on them. When are you going to get behind the camera, and in the director’s chair?

A Haunted House 2 PosterM: You know, right now, I like my director Michael Tiddes. We have a great bond, a great chemistry. I trust him. He’s been working with us ten years. As a producer, I get to make decisions. I have final cut. So I don’t want to direct just to go, “I’m directing!” I think when you direct you have to be able to sit in the editing room, at all times. You have to be able to make all the decisions, all the time. And for me, I don’t want to do the micromanagement things. I want to macromanage, because I have all these other things I want to do. And build my digital comedy network, whatthefunny.com. I have other movies I’m trying to produce. I’ve got “Funniest Wins,” which is the TV show that’s got 8 episodes finished for TBS. I’m doing so much that it would be disrespectful to myself, and disrespectful to the other people on the movie, if I was to allow my ego to go, “I want to be director too.” I have a really good director in Mike Tiddes, and he’s teaching me things. So when I’m able and ready to direct, I will really be able to take it on. But he’s really smart with cameras, and I’ve learned more with making movies with Mike than I’ve probably learned my whole career. We’re hands on… he’s a nerd. He’s a geek. He tells me about cameras, you know, about the chip inside the camera. And I think that’s awesome, the knowledge I’m retaining. One day when I’m directing, and he’ll be my producer to help walk me through it the same way I walked him walk through the comedy. So it’s a good marriage. All respects to him. He does a great job at doing what he’s doing. I don’t want to take that.

Who are you picking for the Final Four?

M: I’m going to take a shot in the dark. I’m going to go with Syracuse… I like Orange and Blue, I think the colors go really nice together.

A Haunted House 2 Opens in Theaters Everywhere Today, April 18.

Reel Spoilers Episode 40: ‘Oculus’ Starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

Oculus Movie PosterThis week on the show we struggle to find out just exactly what Oculus means. Not the movie, the word. It gets a little confusing since, like a Led Zeppelin song, they never actually use the title of the movie within the film itself.

Also, we set a land speed record for branching off on a tangent, we learn that Tom has a man-crush on Seth Rogen and we defend the oeuvre of Kevin Smith.

All this plus a box office report from Kevin and video recovery from Dan.

It’s Reel Spoilers #40: Oculus.

You’ve been warned.

Starring: Tom O’Keefe, Joe Buttice, Dan Graney, Blake Fehl, Kevin Brackett
Run-time: 1hr 14min

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Want to take Reel Spoilers on the go? Download episode 40 from TalkSTL.com.

Kevin Costner’s ‘Draft Day’ Is a Must See For NFL Fans

Draft Day Movie PosterThe National Football League rules America. It’s the most popular sport in the United States. Grown men don the jersey of their favorite team every Sunday for 16 or more weeks, in hopes of them reaching the Super Bowl. While Kevin Costner’s latest film, Draft Day, isn’t the Super Bowl of sports movies, it’s pretty damn good.

Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns. Weaver is a month removed from the death of his father, who was a legendary coach of the Browns. To make matters worse, Brown’s mother, played to perfection by Ellen Burstyn, resents the fact that Weaver had to fire his father, in a move that was best for the team. Costner’s romantic interest in the film is played by Jennifer Garner, a numbers crunching, front office executive for the Browns. Weaver must not only deal with his mother’s issues, but the issues of having the #1 draft pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. His Browns are on the clock and it’s a choice that will not only decide the fate of a team, but the city of Cleveland, as well as Weaver’s future as general manager.

Costner is at the top of his game in Draft Day. He not only delivers a great performance and is believable as a general manager in turmoil, his personal relationship in the film is quite believable. Costner is not alone in the performance category of the film. Garner is believable as a numbers-crunching, football-junkie, who is in love with Weaver. Dennis Leary plays Vince Penn, a Super Bowl winning coach with an ego bigger than Cleveland. Leary does not give his best performance, but is believable as the smug coach who Weaver has picked to replace his father. There are a number of cameos in the film that sports junkies will love to see. I particularly found the shots of Arrowhead Stadium and Weaver’s dealings with my favorite team, the Kansas City Chiefs entertaining. From ESPN personalities, to professional athletes, this film has a number of surprise cameos.

Overall, Draft Day is a must see for NFL fans. The film shows a side of the NFL that is rarely seen by the public, the business side. I would not be surprised if this film actually helps the NFL Draft’s ratings come May. It’s not exactly like the NFL Draft’s ratings were hurting, but I expect the casual fan will pay more attention to the behind the scenes workings of their team after seeing this film. I’m sure that the non-football fan will have reservations about seeing “Draft Day,” but there is no need to worry as Costner brings the goods. With his presence and the help of a great story, Draft Day is entertaining enough to capture the attention of non-football fans.

Draft Day gets an A-

Movie Review: ‘Oculus’ Starring Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

Oculus Movie PosterI’m a sucker for a good mind-bender of a movie, and Oculus delivered in that department. Mike Flanagan’s low-budget horror film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, despite a bit of a slow start.

The story centers around Tim (Brenton Thwaites) and Kaylie (Karen Gillan), two siblings who were witness to some pretty horrible actions by their father onto their mother 11 years earlier. It all started when their father put a mirror in his office. As the film goes on, we find out that the mirror has quite the horrid past, and can play some pretty tricky mind games on the owners of it. Tim was convicted as a child of killing his father and sent to a mental institution. Now 21 and cured, Tim is released and met by Kaylie, who has some plans up her sleeve to destroy the mirror that destroyed her family more than a decade earlier. What ensues is mind bending images, frightening images, and a butt load of suspense.

While watching the film, I found myself thinking back to Insidious, which was a big hit a few years back. Both films had a low-budget, relatively unknown cast, a relatively unknown director, and an original premise. Insidious worked so well that it spawned a sequel. While it’s unknown if Oculus will get the green light for a sequel, the door is definitely left open for one.

Karen Gillian (Kaylie) at Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con 2014

Karen Gillian (Kaylie) at Wizard World St. Louis Comic Con 2014

One thing that worked quite well for the film is the realistic tone of it. The characters didn’t fit into your typical horror clichés. They didn’t do exactly what they shouldn’t do. As I sat through the film I was thinking I would have done the exact same thing as the characters, however, it still doesn’t matter in the end, as good may not always triumph over evil, just like in the real world.

Clocking in at 1 hour and 45 minutes, Oculus is a bit long at times. It starts very slow. The first 20 minutes of the film is very talky, and I could have done without a bit of it. But, once the pace picks up, I found myself glued to the screen, wondering what would happen next. There is not a lot of blood and guts, which is also a welcomed change from some of the recent horror entries. I prefer good old suspenseful films with a bit of a scare, so if that’s what you’re looking for, Oculus scores on all accounts.

Oculus gets a B+.

Film Review: ‘Draft Day’ Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary

DraftDayMoviePosterIf there’s anything Kevin Costner knows, it’s sports films.

Costner, whose film career has spanned five different decades, has permanently endeared himself in the hearts of baseball fans everywhere with his performances in Bull DurhamField of Dreams, and For Love of the Game. He played a golfer in Tin Cup. Now, after helping save the world earlier this year in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 3 Days to Kill, Costner’s going back to the sports world into uncharted territory (for him, anyway): football.

Now, I’ll admit I’m probably a bit biased when it comes to sports films. I grew up rooting for the Cardinals and Blues, and when the Rams moved to town, I adopted them as my football team. I’ve rooted for SLU and Mizzou sports for as long as I can remember. So it bothers me a bit when people quickly dismiss sports films, claiming either the topic is trivial to them or the ending is predictable.

And their points aren’t entirely invalid. Sports films tend to follow a particular formula, and they’re not going to be interesting to everyone. Draft Day tries to throw twists and surprises into the story, but for the most part, it’s generally predictable. Fortunately, though, it still works, and it works well.

It was almost a little eerie attending the screening with some of the Rams players this week, as the fictional Cleveland Browns franchise portrayed in the film draw a few parallels to St. Louis’s recent history. Cleveland’s heart was torn out when the Browns moved to Baltimore; St. Louis’s heart was torn out when the Cardinals moved to Arizona. Cleveland got a new team that’s struggled most of its nascent history; St. Louis got a new team that, with the exception of five or so terrific years, has struggled most of its nascent history. In the film, the Browns face uncertainty as they attempt to rebuild through the draft, as they got off to a hot start with their franchise quarterback, Brian Drew (Tom Welling from “Smallville” fame), through their first six games before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the seventh game. This past season, the Rams got off to a promising start through their first six games before their franchise quarterback suffered a season-ending knee injury in the seventh game. And so on.

For the Browns, though, GM Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) is stuck with some tough decisions. The consensus number one pick, Wisconsin stud quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), will likely be gone by the time the Browns pick in the seventh spot. Weaver’s given the chance to trade up with Seattle, who has the top pick, but he’ll have to mortgage the future for it.

Supporting him is Ali Parker (Jennifer Garner), one of the team’s financial wizards responsible for making sure the team doesn’t go over the salary cap. Ali, who has been dating Weaver, has to balance doing her job and standing with Weaver publicly while the two quibble in the background. Garner isn’t given a whole lot to work with in terms of material, but she does a decent job portraying Ali with an air of intelligence and independence mixed with a dose of insecurity.

Rams Head West – to Chesterfield Valley – for ‘Draft Day’ Film Screening

Football season’s over, right?

Tell that to the members of the St. Louis Rams who attended Tuesday night’s screening of the film Draft Day. Starring Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, and Denis Leary, the film is scheduled for release Friday.

Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker talks with no-award-winning writer Steve Kelley about his off-season.

Pro Bowl punter Johnny Hekker talks with no-award-winning writer Steve Kelley about his off-season.

Hoping to stir up some excitement for the actual NFL draft (May 8-10) as well as the upcoming season, several players on the Rams roster (and some cheerleaders, much to the delight of the males in the audience) came out to the Chesterfield Galaxy theater and mingled with season ticket holders, signing autographs and taking pictures with the fans.

The regular season is sixteen games long (four months), but as any of these guys will tell you, it’s a year-round job. Talking with Johnny Hekker, Greg Zuerlein, and Mason Brodine, it was readily apparent these guys are chomping at the bit to get back on the field and get things turned around for a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since 2004. I asked each of them individually what they’d been doing this off-season, and all three of them indicated they’d been at the Rams’ training facility in Earth City, working out, getting ready for training camp.

Mason Brodine is not a small man.

Mason Brodine is not a small man.

That’s not to say they haven’t had a chance to kick back a little bit. Zuerlein, the Rams’ sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft, recently celebrated the birth of a child, so he’s been spending much of his off-season doting over his newborn. Greg, who acquired the nicknames Legatron and Greg the Leg for his ability to make field goals from 50+ yards, greatly improved his kicking accuracy this past season, successfully converting 26 out of 28 field goal attempts. He holds several team records, including longest field goal made in a game, 60 yards. I pressed him to see if he ever attempted to kick a kick-off between the uprights, to which he laughed and said no…but said he’s done it in practice.

Meanwhile, Johnny Hekker, who signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent, was one of two Rams (along with Robert Quinn) to head to Honolulu in January for the Pro Bowl. When asked about the experience, he couldn’t hold back the enthusiasm.

“It was incredible,” he gushed. “My family all came out. It was a great experience for all of us. It was such an honor to be recognized as one of the top players at your position, to go out and represent your team like that. It was a great opportunity.” Hekker’s 44.2 net yards per punt led the NFL, but he’s also become known for his arm and his ability to pass on fake punt plays. Although he only made one attempt this season, in 2012 he completed three attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown. It’s unusual for a punter to pass in a game, but it’s not exactly new to Hekker; he was a starting quarterback in high school, taking his team to the state finals his junior and senior years.

I’ll post my thoughts on the film in a review on Friday, but needless to say, the whole experience was pretty enjoyable. The fans who lined up for the screening were enjoying themselves, and all the players who came out were gracious with their time and interactions with their fans. As for the players, you can’t help but feed off their excitement for the upcoming season. They can’t do anything about the team’s past struggles, but they seemed determined as hell to do something about the future.

Draft Day comes out Friday.

To find out more about the Rams and purchase tickets, visit their official website.

WWE Hall-of-Famer “The Ultimate Warrior” James Brian Hellwig Dead at 54

The Ultimate Warrior makes an appearance on RAW the night after Wrestlemania, the day before his death.

The Ultimate Warrior makes an appearance on RAW the night after Wrestlemania, the day before his death. © WWE.

The Ultimate Warrior signing autographs before Wrestlemania 30, just days before his death.[/caption]Legendary WWE superstar Ultimate Warrior is dead. The former world heavyweight champion, who gained global fame in the 80s and 90s with the World Wrestling Federation, collapsed outside his hotel room in Arizona around 5:50 p.m. on Tuesday. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Warrior was 54 years old.

This shocking news comes just one day after Warrior, born Jim Brian Hellwig, was seen on WWE TV’s Monday Night Raw. Warrior had been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday night. The Warrior speech at the Hall of Fame was seen as vindication by many wrestling fans, as Warrior had a tumultuous relationship with the WWE following his departure from the company in the 1996. Warrior and the company spent years embroiled in lawsuits following a DVD titled “Self-Destruction” portrayed the Warrior as an ego-maniac. Hellwig legally adopted the name Warrior in the late 90s, and spoke of embodying a warrior-like lifestyle of pushing his body to the limit. Warrior frequently spoke out against drug usage, referring to several past wrestler as weak-minded due to their abuse of substances.

The wrestling icon gained global notoriety after his WrestleMania VI victory of then champion Hulk Hogan. Warrior left the company soon after, citing contract discrepancies with  owner Vince McMahon. Fortunately for wrestling fans, it seemed the Warrior and McMahon had buried the hatchet with Warrior’s Hall of Fame induction, multi-year deal with the company, and appearance in WWE2K14. Warrior leaves behind a wife and 2 daughters.

RIP Warrior.

&copy WWE.

© WWE.

WWE Review: WrestleMania 30 – A Weekend to Remember

WrestleMania weekend was everything I thought it would be. Fun, entertaining, and one hell of a long drive!

3 Wrestling FriendsI embarked on the journey to New Orleans with three friends. We left Thursday night, stopped in Tunica, which was not a good idea. The slot machines did not treat me well, however, the rest of the weekend would prove to be much better. After a night in Tunica, we finished the drive to New Orleans on Friday. Once we arrived, we checked into our hotel, a La Quinta Inn, about 3 miles from downtown New Orleans. Once we got situated, we took a cab to the French Quarter. Having never been to New Orleans before, I was quite shocked at how big of a party Bourbon Street actually was. Bars lined the street for blocks, along with strip clubs and souvenir shops. Chants of “Yes, Yes, Yes” were heard frequently throughout the evening. It was pretty cool to see so many wrestling fans from literally all over the world. I spoke with people from all over the world, ranging from Houston, Texas to Scotland. The WWE is really a global phenomenon.

Hulk Hogan and Jeremy

Jeremy and his hero, Hulk Hogan.

After drinking the night away, Saturday morning came way to early.  I got up early that morning to go the meet and greet of my childhood hero, Hulk Hogan. He was signing autographs and posing for pictures at the WrestleMania Axxess event at the very large New Orleans Convention Center. Due to begin at 8 A.M., Hogan actually arrived about 15 minutes early. After about a 20 minute wait, I got the chance I have been waiting 25 years for.

Hogan greeted me with a handshake and of course “Brother!” He signed my WWE title belt and we posed for a picture. Yes, I do believe we had a moment. After that brief, but most important encounter, I was off to find my friends and head for Wrestlecon.

Wrestlecon is an event that is held the same weekend as WrestleMania. It’s a convention for fans to interact with other wrestlers, former WWE and some from other organizations. The big headliner this year was Goldberg and Sting. IMG_106242020188023I did not meet either, as I was not a huge WCW fan as a kid. With all the pre-planning that went on with this event, I have to say I was disappointed. I expected so much more. It was not organized well at all. Those who pre-purchased tickets were supposed to get in an hour early. Instead, we waited an hour and a half in the rain. Once we got in, it was mass chaos at it’s best. Lines for meeting different wrestlers were everywhere. It was like a sauna in this small warehouse. The event was held at Sugar Mill Warehouse. It should have been much larger. Nonetheless, I made the best of the shitty situation and met several wrestlers. From Jake Roberts to Scott Hall, I had the opportunity to get autographs and photos with them. I even let my friends take my meet and greet passes for Diamond Dallas Page and Kurt Angle. As we fought our way through the crowd, Ric Flair walked right passed us. While he was not booked, he showed up to say hello to Greg Valentine and Jim Dugan. I was fortunate enough to take several photos of different wrestlers while in attendance.

After a long day, we cabbed it back to our hotel for a short nap before the Hall of Fame ceremony at the Smoothie Center. I personally enjoyed the ceremony. I thought Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ speech was very heart felt and emotional. It was really great to see him and Scott Hall doing well after their very public battles with drugs and alcohol. The headliner of the Hall of Fame was the Ultimate Warrior. I expected his speech to be a train wreck. I think most of his fans expected him to come out and take shots at a lot of people in the business. He did not, instead he took the high road. He was gracious, and had kind words for Hulk Hogan, someone he had traded verbal shots with through the years. All in all, it was a very cool evening. But, it didn’t compare to the next day, WrestleMania 30.

Wrestlemania 30 SeatsWithout a doubt, this was the greatest wrestling event I had ever been to. Our seats were pretty good, as we were in section 113. I spent some of the night watching the giant monitor, especially when the wrestlers went down to the floor, but I can’t complain about my view. My friends got up to their section in the 600-level to find their seats had been blocked by a camera from the WWE. After two hours of complaining at guest services, they were moved to the floor, in section 111. Talk about a hell of a trade off! The event itself was phenomenal. Getting the opportunity to see Hulkster, Stone Cold, and Rock together in a ring was a dream come true. That was exactly the way the show needed to be kicked off. I thought all the matches were pretty good, especially the Daniel Bryan vs Triple H match, and the main event which featured Bryan against Randy Orton and Batista. Besides Bryan winning and the “Yes Movement” taking over the Superdome, the talk of the night was the Undertaker’s streak coming to an end. I will admit that I was shocked, but happy. I am a huge Brock Lesnar fan, and loved every minute of it. I thought it was a mistake, as many did in the arena. It was dead silent when Lesnar scored the 3 count. I looked around and saw people just in shock. Grown men were crying. It really was a shocking moment in wrestling history. I think, ultimately, that’s what WrestleMania 30 will be remembered for, as it should be.

Overall, it was a great weekend. We are actually considering making WrestleMania a yearly tradition now. With next year’s being in California, we are already talking about flying and how we will get around once there. The WWE clearly knows how to put on an entertaining show, as the years WrestleMania weekend will not soon be forgotten.

Jeremy and Scott Hall

TRANSCENDENCE opens April 18! Enter to Win Passes to the St. Louis Advance Screening!

Enter for your chance to receive a pair of passes to a special advance screening!

Johnny-Depp-Transcendence-2014-Movie-PosterDr. Will Caster is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed—to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn and friend Max, both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can… but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power—to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him.

Cast: Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins, Jr., Morgan Freeman
Director: Wally Pfister

In order to enter the contest, e-mail us and tell us why you can’t wait to see the movie!

No purchase necessary. Void where restricted or prohibited by law. At the screening seating is not guaranteed and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Refer to screening pass for further restrictions. Screening pass winners will be drawn at random and notified via email. Limit two (admit-one) passes per person. Must be age 13 or over to enter.