Director: Neil Burger

Lead Actors: Shailene Woodley, Theo James

Executive Producer: John J. Kelley

Plot Synopsis
In a Post-apocalyptic, war-torn society that is a sliver of a modern-day earth city, presumably Chicago, we meet Tris, played by Shaileene Woodley. 

She is a waifish teen who still has baby fat on her arms. She lives with a family that has chosen the caste that gives and nurtures this new society.

We meet Tris the night before she is tested and gets to choose her place in this new society - kind of like taking the SATS, getting your score and then immediately choosing your college and career path within a matter of two hours.

In one of many heart-warming scenes, her mother, played brilliantly by Ashly Judd, and her father, played well by Tony Goldwyn (the guy who played the bad guy who contract kills Patrick Swayze in Ghost) tell Tris and her brother that they love them and trust them to choose wisely the next day. 

This rites of passage scene reminded me of the night before leaving for college.

                                         Tony Goldwyn in Ghost

The next day we learn that Tris can choose between five different castes, but once she chooses, she cannot change. Wisdom and common sense suggest that she follow the path of her peaceful but humble parents. But when the Dauntless caste- or the people who are trained and designated to protect the society, show up, we can tell where Tris wants to be.

The dauntless are cool, rambunctious, and free. Indeed, anytime they're in public, they present the same type of front that the United States miliatary does - they make being a soldier seem cool and desirable without demonstrating the tough parts right away.

In a war-torn society, the Dauntless are fearless and free, they are energetic and make a huge show any time they enter the scene. While Tris' caste teaches her to be humble (they can only look in the mirror 30 seconds a day), the Dauntless are flashy.

Tris joins Dauntless in a ceremony by cutting her hand and letting the blood drip onto burning hot coals. When the equivalent of basic boot camp starts, Tris realizes that Dauntless it is not exactly what she thought it was. The training is tough and at times deadly. 

What's worse is that Tris' exam held a darker secret. A secret that if the wrong people find the results to, she could be executed.

Who Would Like it and Why
Fans of good acting mixed with action. Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd are just some of the proven actors to appear in this movie that was made for teenie boppers. The more mature actors manage to keep the movie grounded and real, while the younger actors do all the great stunts.

                                         Ashley Judd is still a factor.

Who Might not Like it and Why
This movie projects a failed world, and it is post appocalyptic and harsh. This may depress some people.

Highlights/Top Scenes
There is a zip-lining scene in which Tris pretty much ziplines from Sears tower for about two miles to the ground. This was exciting.

Two Mike and Ikes

Music Video Review: Katy Perry's "Dark Horse"

IS Katie Perry the most powerful woman in pop music today? Well, most likely the real queen of musicland is sitting in some high-rise office building, she is some high-achieving, business-skirt wearing executive in her 50s.

But, on the surface, pop music is arguably ruled by the quirky Perry who has marched to the tune of her own drummer right up to the top of the billboards, time and time again.

In Perry's latest project, "Dark Horse," we meet Queen Perry in Ancient Egypt, striking poses and wearing outfits crazy enough to get the attention of Cleopatra herself. As in life, she employs legions of strong men who would let her walk across their backs on a rough patch of trail. In this video, these men are painted blue. An homage to her Smurfs 2 performance?

Perry first sits in the middle of a lavish boat being rowed by servants, then she sits and holds court at her throne in the desert. Again, she is surrounded by servants who are still painted blue but this time wearing golden calf masks.

Throughout the video, admirers come from all around to honor Perry and shower her with gifts. As soon as they do, Perry reduces them to sand with her special powers.

"So if you want to play with my jig, boy you should know what you're falling for,
Baby if you dare to do this, cuz I'm coming at you like a dark horse," Perry warns.

What is she saying? Who is this meant for?

Hard to say. This video is about as literal as her video for California Gurls, in which Snoop Doggy Dog and his gummy bear soldiers imprison Perry's friends with candy and it's up to Perry to set them free. When they are all free, Perry shoots whip cream out of her bra. Not exactly as linear as a video to an Aerosmith ballad.

But...who cares!? Katy's hot, the music is good, and her sets, whether live or video, are always bright, lively and vibrant.

Is Katy, in this video, describing her tumultuous relationships with men? Her most recent playtoy from her stable has been singer John Mayer.

Is she issuing a warning to MAJOR PLAYER MAYER who goes through women quicker than he does guitar strings to not break her heart? Is she saying she's as dangerous as any player? What is the penalty for cheating on or otherwise humiliating Perry?

To answer this question we tried to locate comedian and former Perry fiancee Russel Brand, who could not be fished out of obscurity by press time.

Who knows! An analytical mind could get stuck on these videos and songs for decades, but then they would be missing the point - it's Katy -and to be taken as such.

It's better to pay attention to the music and how it makes you feel. Does Katy's music make you want to move? Do people scream when it her songs come on at a club? Do you find yourself driving around your block one more time if one of her songs come on the radio as you're pulling in to your parking spot? Check, check and triple check with this hitmaker of infinite power.

"Dark Horse" is supposed to take place in "Memphis, Egypt a crazy long time ago". Historians would be quick to point out that in the "crazy long time ago" period, there was no Memphis Egypt, but there we go again. . . 


Director: Alexander Payne

Lead Actors: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Devin Ratay, Angela McEwan, Franklin Dennis Jones

Producer: Albert Berger

Plot Synopsis: We meet Woody Grant in black and white. He will stay that way through the entire movie.  He appears to be an almost senile old man, played well by Bruce Dern, as he walks hunched over, but with determination alongside a highway. A highway patrol officer approaches him and escorts him to the station.

This could be the cover to an indie album!

Hey, you look familiar, didn't we build
the ark together?

There, Woody's son, David Grant, picks him up, dubbing his dad "the man of the hour".

David takes his dad home where Woody's wife, Kate Grant, played beautifully by June Squibb, rips into Woody in every way possible. Woody slumps on to the couch and lets it all pass over.

As Ross Grant, the other son, shows up and starts criticizing his nearly senile father, it becomes clear that some members of the family would like to put Woody into a nursing home.

Dave, though, doesn't seem to think his dad is to that point yet. This begins a cadence of Dave sticking up for Woody and Woody egging Dave on.

Dave finally asks his dad why he was walking along side the highway. This is when the plot is revealed: Woody has a letter from a magazine promotions company saying that he has won a million dollars, and that all he has to do is go to Lincon, Nebraska to pick up the money.

The Grants live in Billings, Montana, and according to the writers of the movie, Lincon is about 800 miles away from Billings. I mapquested, it's closer to 900 miles. Either way, that would have been a tough walk for Woody, but as a drive, not that bad.

As the movie goes along, we learn more about David, who is played wonderfully by Saturday Night Live standout Will Forte. He is a stereo sales man, and lives alone because he has recently broken up with his girlfriend. The reason they broke up, we learn when she stops by to get the rest of her stuff, is because nothing was happening, which suggests that David's life wasn't really going anywhere.

                                      Will Forte, who played David.

One of Forte's standout characters- MacGruber.

Ross, David's bother, doesn't seem as stuck as David. Ross is finally getting some "desk time" at the local news station because the usual anchor is going through a nasty infection. Ross is  played brilliantly by Bob Odenkirk, another giant in comedy. Television watchers will recognize him as the actor who played Saul Goodman from AMC's "Breaking Bad". If you're a big fan of comedy, you will recognize him from the cult hit, "Mr. Show".

If you pore over IMDB a lot, then you'll know that he wrote for Saturday Night Live at one point. In this movie, he is all high-pitched voice, midwestern charm and goofy white boy and he is perfect!

      Bob Odenkirk may be best known for Mr. Show, a sketch
                                         comedy show.

           Odenkirk in "Breaking Bad" as Saul Goodman.

Dave, though, in contrast, seems to be overly attached to his parents' home and he raids his mom's refrigerator for casserole.

Woody, at a critical point in the movie, tells Dave that he doesn't have much going on in his life.

He starts taunting  Dave about it, and finally Dave responds by agreeeing to take his dad to Lincon, which, as was mentioned before about an 900-mile drive, in his Subaru.  

As we learn later, how long it takes you to get from Billings to that part of Nebraska is a testament to not only how fast you drive - but it also says what kind of man you are!

And so, that is how  this movie begins - a son rising to one of his father's final taunts, and a trip that will show what kind of Man Woody is, and also what kind of man Dave really is.

"If you're not careful, you'll end up like him," says the never gentle Kate Grant to son Dave before the trip begins.

Who Would Like it and Why
Director Alexander Payne has an excellent batting average as a director, starting, for me, with the tawdry Election in 1999, then Sideways, which was an instant classic.

Mathew Broderick is no Ferris Bueller in
the comedy "Election", which put Alexander Payne
on the map!

Payne is also responsible for "About Schmidt", a Jack Nicholson vehicle and "The Descendants".

Payne's delicate touch is on display here in Nebraska. One of the biggest choices was to shoot the movie in black and white. This was a great choice! The midwest, or at least the part that was shown in this movie, looks great in black in white. 

The whole movie was like slowly leafing through a beautiful coffee table photography book about farming country and the Great Plains.

Payneful Comedy
Another example of Payne's expertise were the subtle but delicious comedic moments peppered all throughout Nebraska. I couldn't help think back to Sideways and Paul Giamatti running at rude golfers like a mad man, and then drinking the spit bucket at a winery, letting it gush all over his chest. 

This type of humor in Sideways was so very unique, but great. Nebraska has the same effect. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it's great, and you're not going to see it anywhere else but in an Alexander Payne movie.

Giamatti is about to charge golfers who are rushing
him and his friend. This scene is classic Alexander Payne

There is one scene where the Grants are having a family reunion in Hawthorne, Nebraska, and everyone is in the living room, watching a football game. Anyone who wants to make conversation has to battle with the announcers on the television.

A conversation amongst the old men watching the game unfolds about what kind of car one of them used to drive. It goes on and on and on and none of them make eye contact. One of the men seems to think the other drove a Buick and that it was great, and the other insists it wasn't that great. It was a very funny scene.

Drama and Emotion
There is also drama and emotion in this movie. My favorite scene is when Woody tours the remains of his family home where he grew up. There is talk of a third brother who didn't make it past the age of two.

Dave asks his dad if he remembers when the brother died.

"I was there," Woody says out the side of his mouth. Then we see the remains of a crib. I felt that was well done.

The movie soon goes back to comedy though as the two younger brothers insist on stealing an air pressurizer they thought was taken from their dad and never given back. It turns out, they steal it from the wrong barn and have to give it back because the people they stole it from are "salt of the earth", according to Kate. 

Squibb's Kate Grant starts out as a nagging wife, but we see her true colors as the movie progresses - nagging wife but also fierce protector of her family and their pride. Her obsession with other people's sexual activity is amusing, especially when we learn that she "put out" early to win Woody over.

June Squibb's Kate Grant doing what she does best -chastising
and shaming the men in her family.
This is a great ensemble cast. We meet Angela Mcewan's Peg Nagy when David stops by the local newspaper to dispel a rumor. She is brilliant as we learn that she was one of Woody's early suitors. David is tender as he learns different sides to his dad that he didn't know existed.

Angela Mgewan offers a nice touch.

Who Might not Like it and Why
There are no bikinis, no Mark Wahlberg, and no machine guns and unfortunately no Jennier Lawrence.
This movie is a meditative character study, an acquired taste. This is a movie about clumsy, goofy white people with no rhythm. But it is also a classic, and one of the best I've seen in a few years.   

Top Scenes
A scene between Dern and Forte as they look upon Mt. Rushmore and Dern insists that Rushmore looks unfinished was featured at the Academy Awards. 

I have already mentioned several favorite scenes, but another one that strikes me is when Odenkirk's Rob arrives to the family reunion.

Dave, who has already been teased mercilessly for taking two days to drive from Billings, asks his brother Rob how long the drive took him. When he asks this, the entire room turns their heads to Dave to see what he says.

Three Mike and Ikes.