Mike Saulters's blog

Review: No Strings Attached


No Strings Attached

Ivan Reitman has a directorial history of examining hypothetical, but impossible situations. He's brought us professional ghost hunters, a male pregnancy, a regular guy breaking up with Supergirl, and now in No Strings Attached he looks at the mythical conceit of friends having sex outside the bonds of a relationship, aka "friends with benefits."

I'm not sure I could have thought of a more unlikely pair than Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. Each plays a caricature of their own personalities. Portman is a serious, studious, and no-nonsense personality. Kutcher is, well Ashton Kutcher. Meeting first at summer camp as teens, the pair run into each other again and again in random places and become friends, with Kutcher's Adam having a solid crush on Portman's Emma the entire time.

When they finally, inevitably, end up in bed together, the sex is great, and Emma, who has always had a fear of emotional attachment, offers Adam an arrangement to become sex buddies. It is clear by this point that the two are already in a relationship, but they refuse to admit it. Through the continuing emotional ups and downs, they grow closer until it finally reaches a breaking point, and they each have to deal with their feelings.

Review: Season of the Witch


Season of the Witch

Nicolas Cage continues a string of performances in genre films including Kick-Ass, The Sorceror's Apprentice and Drive Angry with Season of the Witch, which opened on Friday. Along with Cage are Ron Perlman and a strong cast of supporting characters including Stephen Graham (Snatch, Doghouse), Ulrich Thomsen (The World is Not Enough), Claire Foy ... and  a fantastic cameo by Christopher Lee. Not unlike Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, this is a swashbuckling Middle Ages action adventure that discards any pretense of historical accuracy. Also like the Kevin Costner romp, this left me walking out of the theater with a smile on my face.

I've never been a Nicolas Cage fan, but I'm starting to warm to him with roles like these, and of course everybody loves Ron Perlman. Together, they make a crack buddy fighting team as they kill and plunder through the various Crusades, until Cage realizes they're not really doing God's work, just killing innocent people. So, they set off to find their own way and return home to find the land decimated by plague and the people in terror.

Review: Country Strong


Country Strong

They say if you play a country song backwards, you get your job back, you get together again with your wife, your dog comes back to life, and your truck starts working again. Well, if you take a couple of up-and-coming actors, throw in an Oscar winner, have them record the above and then play THAT backwards, you get Country Strong, which opens today in theaters. This is a rumpled mess of a movie that I kinda liked, expected to hate, but just couldn't find much to love.

The story ostensibly covers Gwyneth Paltrow's down-and-out country superstar Kelly Canter as she attempts a comeback tour after leaving rehab a month early. Garrett Hedlund's Beau Hutton accompanies her as her "sponsor" and opening act along with her husband James Canter (Tim McGraw) and Leighton Meester as former beauty queen Chiles Stanton.

2010 In Review: Mike's Top Umpteen Lists (Part Two)


Hatchet 2

Read Part One for my top films and top flops of 2010.

I have also compiled two lists for flicks I think were overrated and underrated this year. Some of them would be in my top films or top flops except for their inclusion here. These movies either received too much love or in my estimation, too much hate from critics or audiences.


#10 -- Shrek Forever After
I watched this with family on Christmas Day and was surprised at the critical vitriol that almost kept me from seeing it this year. It worked MUCH better for me than either Shrek 2 or Shrek 3. Not worthy of my top ten (or 20) but definitely not one of the worst things I've seen this year. 58% from critics and 64% from audiences. (Jenn's review)
How to see it? Available on Blu-ray and DVD.

#9 -- Legion
I really enjoyed this for scenes that were evocative of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead. Not the greatest, but I've suffered through much, MUCH worse. Only 18% from critics and 36% from audiences.
How to see it? Available on on Blu-ray and DVD.

2010 in Review: Mike's Top Umpteen Lists (Part One)



Looking back at this year's releases, I can say 2010 was a surprisingly prolific year. The sheer number of interesting titles released this year and the overall quality of them, even the duds, was impressive. Some have said Hollywood is dying, but if that's the case, its death throes are glorious. I'm going to list and comment on 75 of this year's releases that I've grouped into various categories. About half I've seen. The other half, I want to see. Here goes ...


#15 -- Piranha 3D
There was nothing I didn't love about Piranha 3D. This movie didn't try to be anything other than balls-out stupid fun. It's the best-looking 2D-3D conversion I've seen, and it managed to one-up itself with each new scene. 51% on Rotten Tomatoes and 74% from critics.
How to see it? Will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 11.

#14 -- Despicable Me
Many of my favorites this year were children/family friendly. Steve Carell and Jason Segel are just as funny animated as they are in person. Brillian animation, great story, loved it. 81% from both Rotten Tomatoes audience and critics. (Jenn's review)
How to see it? Available on Blu-ray and DVD.

24 Hours of Mandom at Butt-Numb-a-Thon 12


BNAT 12This year, I was privileged and honored to be in the audience for Harry Knowles's 12th annual 24-hour birthday party and film festival known as Butt-Numb-a-Thon, or BNAT for short. The 24-hour movie marathon took place this year from Saturday morning, Dec. 11 through midday on Sunday, Dec. 12 at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar (mostly).

An audience of approximately 200 people from around the world is chosen personally by Knowles from among thousands of applicants who submit questionnaires to gauge their love of films from all genres but especially those that fit the year's chosen theme -- this year it was "Mandom." Nearly half of those attending submitted a video of their own versions of the 1970s Charles Bronson "Mandom" cologne commercials, singing the Mandom theme song. Even Harry's close friends and family must submit their applications in order to attend.

Participants spend more than 24 hours in a theater (more than one this year, as noted below) and are treated to a lineup of movies -- usually six vintage films and six premieres -- smattered with trailers, commercials, prize giveaways, celebrity guest introductions and early footage of upcoming films.

This year, special guests at BNAT included director Jon Favreau, writer Roberto Orci and producer Ron Howard, who together presented footage from the as-yet-incomplete Cowboys & Aliens. Director Gore Verbinski also taped a video greeting to introduce footage from his upcoming animated feature Rango. Celebrities in the audience included Elijah Wood (a perennial attendee), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, filmmaker Rian Johnson and Meghan McCain.

Review: True Grit


True Grit

Joel and Ethan Coen make films that, love 'em or hate 'em, everyone loves to talk about. There's no question, Coen films are a polarizing force. They number among my favorite of all time (The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?), my guilty pleasures (Fargo, A Serious Man), and some of my least favored (Raising Arizona, No Country for Old Men) ... yet every one of these is an object of both critical acclaim and derision.

The Coens' latest film is True Grit, opening in theaters today. This retelling of the 1969 movie and the 1968 Charles Portis novel stands out as one that will be almost universally loved. Almost the entirety of the die-hard film-loving audience with which I attended Butt-Numb-a-Thon 12 chose it as their favorite selection. Westerns aren't my first love in film, but I will list the Coen brothers' True Grit among the best ever made.

True Grit hooks the audience from the very first scene with 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) holding her own in business dealings with men four times her age. The dialogue is electric, intense and in a perfectly convincing period dialect. The closest thing I've seen to this magic was the scene where Tom Hanks met Philip Seymour Hoffman in 2007's Charlie Wilson's War.

Review: Little Fockers


Little Fockers

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson have made quite a large body of movies together. Little Fockers, the latest entry in the Meet the Parents series is, well, it's another of them. The 2000 movie Meet the Parents was a fun, if not high-brow, examination of the tribulations when in-laws meet for the first time. Meet the Fockers, in 2004, continued with the established formula of "Jack doesn't trust Greg, Jack spies on Greg, Jack takes things out of context, Step 3 PROFIT." But at least it added Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand as Greg's wonderfully zany, new-age sex-therapist title-card parents. This latest entry in the series throws any pretense out the window that the movieis about anything other than the love story between Stiller's Greg Focker and Robert De Niro's Jack Byrnes.

Except for the family name, it would have been more descriptive to call this entry in the series "Little Afterthoughts." The Focker children serve only as the vehicle for getting Stiller and De Niro to fight, like a set of parents embroiled in divorce proceedings. Little Samantha Focker (Daisy Tahan) is drawn to and takes on the personality of her grandpa Jack while Henry Focker (Colin Baiocchi) is hinted to have a genetic "double dose of Focker."

Review: TRON: Legacy


TRON: Legacy

Twenty-eight years ago, before most of the world had heard of the Internet, before most people even had touch-tone phones, Disney inspired an entire generation of would-be computer hackers with the glorious adventure TRON. Now the studio is back with TRON: Legacy, a successor that will surely be a crowd pleaser. This modern update is faithful to the spirit of the original, but lacking in original story elements that will leave some viwers wanting more.

The story revisits Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and ENCOM about 28 years after the first movie. After defeating the evil MCP and returning to the real world, Flynn's success with his TRON game has led to ENCOM becoming a virtual Microsoft and Flynn running it as the leading shareholder. Then he mysteriously disappears, leaving his juvenile son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) all alone for 20 years, until one night a mysterious message draws him into the world of his father's creation.

My Not At All Sucky Austin Comic Con Experience


My Sucky Teen Romance cast, by Sam Butler

November 12-14 saw Austin's very first visit from Wizard World Comic Con. In addition to this being Austin's first Comic Con, it was my own initiation to the experience, so I had little idea what to expect when I came for the third and final day of the convention. I have been to a few professional conventions, all from the world of IT, so I wasn't a complete virgin to the convention hall. The two biggest differences I saw were the costumes and, of course, the celebrities.

The first sight to greet my eyes after I checked in and entered the hall at Austin Comic Con was the 1960s Batmobile, looking as glossy and sleek as when she first sped out of the batcave. Unfortunately, I had little time to linger as the first panel of the day was about to begin, and I had to make my way to the back of the hall where the auditorium was set up for a panel on Emily Hagins' movie My Sucky Teen Romance.

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