After a bit of a delay it is time to wrap up the show with a flourish. If you have not yet enjoyed Part 1 and Part 2 of the 2013 Sammy Awards please take time to do so and then come back for the big finish. We’ll be happy to wait while you catch up.
Our next presenters are thrilled to reunite more than 25 years after they made one of the best comedy films of the 20th century. From the 1986 classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off please welcome Matthew Broderick, Ben Stein, Alan Ruck, & Jennifer Grey.
And the nominees are:
Oz the Great & Powerful
Would someone dare risk remaking 1939’s Wizard of Oz?? Well…no…not yet (unless you count The Wiz, a 1978 blaxpoitation redux starring Michael Jackson & Diana Ross). But they did make a prequel. You see, L. Frank Baum actually wrote over a dozen books about the Land of Oz between 1900 & 1920, so there is a wealth of material for anyone enterprising enough to craft a decent film. Does this one qualify as decent?? Yes, I think it does even though it isn’t based on any of Baum’s books. The story shows how shyster Oscar Diggs…the future Wizard…ends up in Oz and introduces us to younger versions of Glinda the Good Witch and the dastardly Wicked Witch of the West…familiar characters to fans of the classic film. The casting is a bit questionable (I would have preferred Johnny Depp over James Franco as Oscar), but the transformation of kindhearted Theodora into the Wicked Witch is well done and worth the price of admission.
Much like The Big Wedding this film unites four Academy Award winning heavy hitters: Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro (again), & Kevin Kline. Unlike The Big Wedding this film did not make me want to hurl sharp objects at the screen. In a nutshell four old pals (emphasis on old) reunite in Vegas for one of the group’s bachelor party, like a crossbreeding of Cocoon & The Hangover. Is it a great movie?? No. I could have done without a couple of the subplots and would have preferred to see A LOT more of Las Vegas. In my opinion if you are going to have one of the most fascinating cities in the world as a backdrop then why not make copious use of it?? Having said that though, this is a pleasant story with actors talented enough to lend gravitas to even the thinnest material. I can envision an entire franchise with this concept, at one point or another starring a virtual who’s who of old geezers: Nicholson, Eastwood, Redford, Shatner, Pacino, Caine, Gere, Cosby, Hoffman, Caan, Connery, Beatty, Harrison Ford, Hackman, Duval, James Earl Jones.
Back in 2005 Owen Wilson & Vince Vaughn co-starred in the memorably hilarious Wedding Crashers, so the idea of them teaming up again seemed like a good idea. And while The Internship doesn’t quite measure up to the duo’s previous effort it is a perfectly acceptable comedy. Vaughn & Wilson have mellowed a bit and share the stage with a group of young unknowns, so I can understand why some may be disappointed by the outcome, but I also think comparing this film to Wedding Crashers is somewhat unfair. This is a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours and I have no complaints. Watch out for newcomer Tiya Sircar. She lights up the screen and has the potential to become a big star.
I came along a few decades after Jackie Robinson changed organized sports forever by becoming the first black player in Major League Baseball, but I am enough of a student of the game and appreciate its rich history & tradition tremendously so I am fully aware of his cultural impact. This movie tells the story and gives us a glimpse of some of the behind-the scenes hardships that Robinson endured. The only big name in the film is Harrison Ford who does a solid job portraying Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey. Otherwise the cast are all unknowns, which I think works well for this particular movie. It’s an above average film even if it is somewhat forgettable.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
One would assume that the combined comedic talents of Steve Carell and Jim Carrey would be excellent ingredients for a funny movie, but this tale of an aging Las Vegas act in the vein of Siegfried & Roy trying to compete against a fresher magician in the mold of Criss Angel is just kind of…okay. There is solid support from the likes of Alan Arkin, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, & the late James Gandolfini (his final role…I think). A little bit of Carrey goes a long way, so I think these kinds of smaller “second banana” roles are perfect for him.
Animated films have really enjoyed quite the renaissance in the past couple of decades, thanks in large part to Toy Story and other Pixar productions. Free Birds doesn’t measure up to the best of the genre but it is nevertheless an amusing little story about turkeys who travel back in time to stop they & their brethren from becoming the main course for America’s favorite November holiday. Starring the voice talents of Owen Wilson, Amy Poehler, & Woody Harrelson, I don’t think it’ll become a Thanksgiving tradition on par with football, Planes, Trains, & Automobiles, or the Macy’s Parade, but I rather enjoyed it.
It’s the sequel that absolutely no one was clamoring for. Adam Sandler used to make funny movies (Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, The Waterboy, The Wedding Singer), but he’s been on a bad roll for the past decade or so. In 2010 Sandler teamed up with Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James, Salma Hayek, and a few others to make Grown-Ups, about a group of buddies reuniting in their home town to celebrate the life of a former basketball coach. I revisited Grown-Ups on TV a few weeks before the sequel hit theaters and it was slightly more amusing than I remembered so I headed to the local cineplex on the Friday this flick was released. It’s not a bad movie and is spottily entertaining, although I could do without so many jokes about bodily fluids. The film benefits from the unexplained absence of Rob Schneider from the first one, but Rock’s comedic talents are squandered and I’ve never found Spade particularly humorous. The story is unfocused and ultimately pointless, but hey…it’s a freakin’ Adam Sandler movie so no one expects much, especially lately. This one doesn’t measure up to Sandler’s best stuff from the mid to late 90’s, but it’s a definitive upgrade from the crap (Jack & Jill, That’s My Boy) that he’s done in the past few years.
I have become a bit of a hermit in my older years, so usually when I go to the theater it’s a weekday matinee. I’ve always kind of liked having an entire movie theater almost totally to myself. However, I made a rare appearance during prime time on a weekend to see this flick starring Sandra Bullock & Melissa McCarthy. The place was packed and everyone seemed to really enjoy the film. There was a copious amount of raucous laughter. It’s a typical buddy cop film in the grand tradition of Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, and Rush Hour and therefore isn’t necessarily distinctive, but there’s a reason why Hollywood keeps going back to this particular well…it works. McCarthy is best utilized as a sidekick who can steal the show, while Bullock is a great “straight man”, so kudos for the perfect casting. The Heat is a bit too violent for my taste and the vulgar language is excessive, but those are the only two nits I can pick. There will almost certainly be a sequel, and when it arrives I’ll be sure to be there with my popcorn & chocolate covered peanuts.
The Hangover Part III
I have to give credit to the powers-that-be behind The Hangover. They took a relatively limited concept and somehow managed to squeeze a trilogy out of the idea. I also must say that unlike the somewhat amusing but way too safe Part 2 the filmmakers actually put some effort into this third installment. It’s a decent enough way to spend a couple of hours (actually less…which is part of the problem), but comes nowhere close to matching the original. These characters are…for the most part…ones that we really like, which means that there is already some capital built up with the audience. That capital is heavily drawn upon here and makes the whole deal acceptably entertaining, but the funny parts aren’t funny enough and there’s a little bit too much action/adventure and violence for a comedy. I have no doubt that…despite this entry being trumpeted as the end…we will see a fourth Hangover 5-10 years down the road and when that happens hopefully the combination of lowered expectations and absence making the heart grow fonder will dictate a more comical coda for this unique series.
Star Trek: Into Darkness
Some people loved it, some hated it. There are hardcore Trekkies who view this film as a subpar rehash of 1982’s renowned Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, widely regarded as the best of all the Trek films. There are some who have decided that they hate director JJ Abrams and have zeroed in on his love of something called “lens flare”. Those folks are entitled to their opinion, but I happen to disagree. When Abrams rebooted Trek in 2009 he & the writers utilized an exceptional alternative timeline concept that allows for the idea that everything that happened to the original crew as portrayed by the actors we all knew & loved for decades (Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, et al) still actually happened and this is just a different chronology. In my opinion this permits two things. It obviously gives the writers the freedom to create new stories. However, I also believe it allows old stories to be retold in a new way. I see Into Darkness as an homage to Wrath of Khan and enjoyed all the nods to Trek history. The “new” cast of the Enterprise is about as good as a Trekkie could have ever hoped for. I’m not sure if this particular brand of Trek will end after completion of a trilogy, although my hope is that even with Abrams moving on (he has been tapped to revive the Star Wars franchise) someone else will take up the mantle and we will get to enjoy the adventures of this crew for decades to come.
Vince Vaughn is back, this time in a remake of a 2011 French language film. Vaughn plays the kind of lovable ne’er-do-well that has kind of become his trademark. In this one he is a middle aged slacker named David who lollygags thru his day delivering meat for his family owned butcher shop, owes big money to the kind of guy one doesn’t want to owe money to, and has a cop girlfriend who has just about run out of patience with his antics. In his younger years David made some nice change donating copious amounts of his apparently high quality seed to a sperm bank and now finds out that he has sired over 500 children, a third of whom have now decided to get all litigious in an effort to find out the identity of their “father”. David doesn’t want to reveal himself but instead decides to get to know his “children” clandestinely. Vaughn is apparently into making sentimentally amiable movies now, with little of the edge of his earlier work. That’s cool…I can dig it. Delivery Man wasn’t what I was expecting and certainly isn’t the type of notable film that we’ll all fondly recall a decade from now, but it has a level of charmingly benign appeal that didn’t make me feel like I wasted my time & money.
We’re the Millers
The track record of Saturday Night Live alumni in feature films is hit & miss at best. Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Billy Crystal, Will Ferrell, Bill Murray, & Adam Sandler have all done pretty well for themselves. Conversely, Dana Carvey, Chris Kattan, Norm Macdonald, Tim Meadows, Kevin Nealon, & David Spade have all crashed & burned at the box office to a large degree. So, what about Jason Sudeikis?? Well, he’s only been away from the SNL nest for less than a year and has been a feature player in just a few movies so the jury is still out but this one…about a small time pot dealer who pieces together a fake family to assist him in smuggling a big load of weed from Mexico into the USA…is the best of the lot so far. Jennifer Aniston is still as smokin’ now at age 44 as she was two decades ago when Friends first became Must See TV. Ed Helms is dependably amusing as an odd drug lord. Emma Roberts (daughter of Eric, niece of Julia) has grown into a lovely young woman and competent actress. Newcomer Will Poulter is quite funny as the goofball neighbor/fake son. Once again I’m not sure there’s anything all that memorable here, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion that provides a few chuckles.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic 1925 novel has only been adapted into a movie a half dozen times. In comparison Mark Twain’s famous 19th century tale The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been translated into about two dozen films. There is a reason for the disparity. Fitzgerald’s story of self-indulgence & duplicity is difficult to tell on the big screen. I think that’s because the allure of the book is the author’s well written prose. The characters themselves aren’t all that exceptional, and the plot is really just another love triangle (or two). I have no issue with Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Gatsby. In fact I can’t offer any ideas as to who could’ve done it better. The rest of the cast is more subpar that I would have preferred, but that isn’t a big deal. The nit I would pick is with the choices of director Baz Luhrmann, best known for the atrocious 1996 adaptation of Romeo & Juliet that featured more gun violence than a military coup, and 2001’s Moulin Rouge which I have never seen. The anachronistic rap music is weird and the CGI mildly disturbing. I would have loved to have seen this script and this cast directed by someone more interested in telling a story than creating a visual spectacle. Still though, overall this is a decent flick and I will probably watch it again at some point down the line.
And the Sammy goes to…..
Star Trek: Into Darkness. First let me make a couple of statements. I think 2013 was a relatively weak year at the box office. There just weren’t any films that blew me away, and several that disappointed me to some degree. Secondly, there are atleast 3 or 4 movies in theaters right now that I wanted to see but just didn’t find the time. I’ll see them all eventually but obviously it’ll be too late for them to qualify for a Sammy Award. As for Into Darkness, I enjoy having Trek back in the cineplex and didn’t mind the homage to Wrath of Khan in the least. JJ Abrams is a capable director who will hopefully do good things for the Star Wars revival. I haven’t seen any indication as to who might helm the next Trek movie but with a terrific cast, a loyal audience, and an entire galaxy of story ideas whomever takes the gig will be in an enviable position.
To present our final award of the night it is a profound honor for The Manofesto to welcome retired NFL player & coach and current analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football Tony Dungy and the founder & CEO of one of the world’s great websites Amazon.com Jeff Bezos. And the nominees are:
Biggest News Story
Or as it is official known the budget sequestration of 2013. They were automatic budget cuts of more than $85 billion that went into effect in March (after some wheelin’ & dealin’ got them delayed from January). Economics was never really my thing. The only thing I know is that I’m still paying over $3/gallon for gasoline as compared to about half that before President Obama took office. That is my economic reality.
The IRS has always been an evil entity within the malevolent force that is the federal government and in 2013 that became crystal clear. It came to light that under the Obama Administration the IRS had been targeting certain groups based on their beliefs. In other words conservative organizations were being harassed by the feds. That Obama…he’s a real class act.
Boston Marathon Bombings
On April 15, 2013, just as the 117th Boston marathon was concluding, two bombs later found to have been crafted out of pressure cookers exploded near the finish line. Three people were killed and 264 others were injured…many of them quite seriously. The bombers were two Muslim brothers from the Russian region Chechnya. A massive manhunt throughout Boston eventually concluded with one of the bombers killed by police and the other one in jail. Well…the hospital and then jail. Apparently the two had plans to move on to New York City and bomb Times Square. Thank God that didn’t happen. Yeah…Islam is a peaceful religion. And monkeys are going to fly out of my butt, pay my rent, and solve all the world’s problems.
If memory serves me correctly this story was nominated last year as well. However, since the attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya occurred in September 2012 the story naturally carried over into 2013. The leftist drive-by media has continued their unwavering effort to minimize the whole thing, while legitimate pundits and news agencies have continued to ask questions. Congress is supposedly investigating but I have no faith that they’ll get the job done right. The scary thing is that the incompetent twit at the center of the controversy (one of them anyway)…former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton…will likely be a strong presidential contender in 2016.
3D Printer Creates An Ear
Last February scientists at Cornell University re-created a human ear using a 3D printer and some living cells. Well…isn’t that creepy.
George Zimmerman Trial
Zimmerman is the neighborhood watch volunteer that was arrested after shooting & killing teen Trayvon Martin just outside Orlando, FL in the spring of 2012. Martin’s trial commenced in the early days of last summer and the jury’s decision was announced on July 13, 2013. Zimmerman was found not guilty of both 2nd degree murder and manslaughter, the jury having seemed to have accepted Zimmerman’s claim that he shot the young man in self-defense. The whole case had taken on a racial tone early on and the aftermath of the not guilty verdict was no different. The usual suspects, like ”Reverends” Al Sharpton & Jesse Jackson, tried to fan the flames of ethnic & cultural discord, but I don’t think anyone outside of a handful of vacuous celebrities and of course the hardcore leftist media really bought into that poppycock. Musician Stevie Wonder said that he would never perform in Florida again, but since I don’t live in Florida and Stevie is a 60 year old blind man I’ll give him a pass. My Cherie Amour and Overjoyed are two of my favorite songs. One of the Wayans brothers (there are so many of them) went on a hilariously stupid Twitter rant, but I think he was just bored since the entire Wayans family hasn’t had a job for a decade or more. Ironically it has been Zimmerman himself who has cast the most doubt as to whether the verdict may have been wrong because…well…he just doesn’t seem to be very smart. In the 6 months since the verdict Zimmerman has had several run-ins with law enforcement, mostly due to domestic altercations with his wife and girlfriend. Yes apparently he has both.
A New Pope
Last February Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement after just 8 years, making him the first pope in nearly 600 years to resign. A month later Pope Francis ascended to the throne…or whatever it is that popes do. I’m not Catholic so who the pope is and what he does holds very little interest in The Manoverse. However, having said that, it does seem that…from various things I’ve read and heard…Pope Francis leans a little to the left on some socioeconomic issues. But like I said I really don’t care. Your mileage may vary.
Oh where to begin?? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2010 and upheld by The Supreme Court in 2012, but it didn’t start being phased into reality until 2013…and it is exactly the disaster that the 49% of us who didn’t vote for President Obama knew it would be. The powers-that-be can’t even design a website that works so people can sign up for Obamacare, so how exactly do they plan to execute the plan itself?? Folks were sold a bill of goods, thinking that government health care was going to be low cost or even free, but the truth is that most people are going to be paying much much more for a lower standard of care. Obamacare is the exact opposite of freedom. It will allow the federal government to, in essence, decide whether you live or die, and the very people who have pushed this fraud on the unsuspecting populace have cleverly made themselves exempt from the rules they expect the rest of us to follow. The optimistic part of me would like to think that Obamacare will eventually be repealed and slip quietly into the annals of history as one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated on American voters, but I have a feeling we have a long hard road ahead of us before that happens.
On May 20, 2013 Moore, OK…between Norman and Oklahoma City…was struck by an F5 tornado with winds of 210mph. Two dozen people were killed and nearly 400 others injured. The tornado was on the ground for nearly 40 minutes and caused $2 billion in damages.
Egyptian Military Coup
There was another coup in the Middle East?? What a shocker. I assume that most Americans (including me) have more detailed knowledge of the NFL playoffs or the latest Sandra Bullock movie that the ongoing strife in the Middle East. Does that make us bad people??
Imagine it’s a lovely yet frigid February day. You’re driving home from your job at the vodka factory and in your peripheral vision you see something streaking across the sky. Immediately you have flashbacks from every disaster flick you’ve ever seen. Aerosmith’s 1998 smash hit I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing starts ringing in your head as you tearfully put your hand up to the glass and begin to miss your father. You wish that Morgan Freeman really was the president and could soothe your fear by telling you that “Cities fall, but they are rebuilt. Heroes die, but they are remembered. The water receded, so now let us begin.” Then you snap out of your daydream and realize “Holy crap…this is real.” Folks in Chelyabinsk, Russia experienced this reality. Fortunately the meteor was harmless even though 1500 people did receive minor injuries.
For the first half of October 2013 the federal government was shutdown. I don’t mean to minimize everything that that entails, but let’s be honest. Did most of us even notice?? This kind of thing happens every few years. The President and Congress play a game of chicken, the media acts like the world is ending, and us regular folks get up & go to work and keep doing what we have to do to keep a roof over our head and put food on the table. At zero hour some sort of compromise is reached, both sides claim credit, and we continue to go to work, pay the bills, and bring home the bacon. Rinse & repeat.
PRISM & Edward Snowden
20 or 30 years ago this would have been a huge story, but in 21st century New America the masses have become so jaded that virtually nothing is all that surprising anymore. Snowden was a computer geek for the CIA and National Security Agency. Last spring he leaked a plethora of classified documents to news agencies around the world. These documents detailed various mass surveillance projects run by the NSA, including PRISM, a data mining operation that basically means the feds are watching a lot of what you & I are doing online. They could be perusing this awards show right now (c-r-e-e-p-y). Anyway, Snowden fled the country and is currently holed up somewhere in Russia. Much like Paulie in The Godfather, I suspect that we ain’t gonna see him around here no more. Some consider him a traitor, some think he is a patriot. I am undecided on whether Edward Snowden is a hero or a villain, but I know that I am certainly uncomfortable knowing that the modern U.S. government’s idea of freedom seems to differ substantially from what The Founding Fathers had in mind.
And the Sammy goes to…..
Obamacare, Boston Marathon Bombings, & The Zimmerman Trial. Have we ever had a three way tie at The Sammy Awards?? I don’t recall and I’m too lazy to check The Vault. At any rate, I can’t really add anything more than what I’ve already said about these stories. When the history books look at 2013 I believe these are the three topics that will stand out as the most significant. Hopefully we will never have to live thru the horror of anything even remotely close to the Boston Marathon Bombings ever again, but that is probably a combination of wishful thinking and naiveté. I think Obamacare will continue to be a dominant story in 2014 and I just wish that the truths that so many are learning now would have been exposed on a wider scale before the 2012 election. I have a sneaking suspicion that, despite the gift of freedom that George Zimmerman was given, he will screw it up and ultimately land in jail anyway.
film critic Roger Ebert…former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher…legendary sports broadcasters Pat Summerall & Ken Venturi…comedian Jonathan Winters…pro wrestling personality William Moody (aka Paul Bearer, aka Percival Pringle III)…authors Vince Flynn, Elmore Leonard, Tom Clancy, & Richard Ben Cramer…famed psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers…actors Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Lou Myers (A Different World), Conrad Bain (Diff’rent Strokes), James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), Allan Arbus (M*A*S*H), Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter), Milo O’Shea (The Dream Team, Opportunity Knocks), Cory Monteith (Glee), Joe Conley (The Waltons), Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious), James Avery (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), Henry Polic II (Webster), & Dennis Farina (Law & Order, Midnight Run, Crime Story)…”journalist” Helen Thomas…LA Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss…former NY City mayor Ed Koch…retired PGA golfer Miller Barber…singers George Jones, Patty Andrews (The Andrews Sisters), Bobby Bland, Mindy McCready, Patti Page, Lou Reed, Richie Havens, Eydie Gormé, Ray Price, & Slim Whitman…former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop…Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams…legendary British writer & TV host David Frost…former NBC News anchor John Palmer…retired pro football coaches Jack Pardee, Bum Phillips, & Chuck Fairbanks…actresses Jeanne Cooper (The Young & the Restless), Bonnie Franklin (One Day at a Time), Esther Williams (Ziegfeld Follies), Annette Funicello (Mickey Mouse Club), Jean Stapleton (All in the Family), Joan Fontaine (Rebecca, Suspicion), & Marcia Wallace (The Bob Newhart Show)…political activist Nelson Mandela…musicians Ray Manzarek (The Doors), Van Cliburn, & Ed Shaughnessy (The Tonight Show’s NBC Orchestra)…end of the world enthusiast Harold Camping…retired college football coach Don James…director Hal Needham (Smokey & the Bandit, Cannonball Run)…baseball Hall of Famers Stan Musial & Earl Weaver…Christian author Brennan Manning…former NBA scouting guru Marty Blake…music producer Phil Ramone…retired boxers Carl “The Truth” Williams, Tommy Morrison, & Ken Norton Sr.…talk radio pioneer Bob Grant…pro wrestlers Reid Flair (son of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair), Mark Starr, Jackie Fargo, Matt Borne, Cousin Luke, & Hector Garza…U.S. Senator (New Jersey) Frank Lautenberg…rapper Chris Kelly (Kriss Kross)…NFL referee Jerry Seeman…TBN founder Paul Crouch…retired NASCAR driver Dick Trickle…former NFL stars LC Greenwood, Chuck Muncie, Deacon Jones, Dave Jennings, Art Donovan, Thomas Howard, Rev. Ken “The Hutch” Hutcherson, & Jack Butler…Jeanne Phillips (the original Dear Abby)… writer & producer Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties)…NBA Hall of Famer Walt Bellamy…retired astronaut Scott Carpenter…former Speaker of the House Tom Foley…surround sound innovator Ray Dolby