Movie Review: “Homefront”

Starring
Jason Statham, James Franco, Winona Ryder, Kate Bosworth, Izabela Vidovic
Director
Gary Fleder

Perhaps of all the genres, action fans often feel the most cheated. If you’re yearning for a post-metrosexual, non-superhero kickass character these days, well, your choices are pretty slim. It’s enough to make you wish there were more Westerns, or for the cast of “The Expendables”… before they were eligible for Medicare. So it seems only fitting that director Gary Fleder and Sylvester Stallone set out to craft a clever and engaging action flick with a Western theme starring today’s hottest star of the genre, Jason Statham, in “Homefront.”

Phil Broker (Statham) is an undercover DEA agent tasked with bringing down a major meth operation run by a ruthless biker gang. Posing as one of the bikers, the feds finally seem to have the gang right where they want them. Converging on the bikers’ lair en masse, the agents soon discover that drug lords tend not to go down so easily. The ensuing gun battle is almost at a stalemate when Statham reveals his identity and shifts the tide of the fight. Meanwhile, the gang’s leader, Lewis (Stuart Greer), makes a break for it with his son Jimmy (Marcus Hester). Broker leads the agents in pursuit and the fight leaves Jimmy with more holes than brain cells. Lewis vows revenge and Broker walks off into the distance.

Broker tries to start life over in rural Louisiana with his daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), but while the little girl didn’t inherit daddy’s hairline, she definitely got his butt-kicking gene, as she easily takes down the school bully, Teddy (Austin Craig). Teddy’s mom (Kate Bosworth) enlists her meth-dealing brother (James Franco) to put a scare in Broker, which sets off a series of events filled with revenge, gun battles, meth explosions and an all new reason to avoid Bayou real estate.

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Movie Review: “Frozen”

Starring
Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad
Directors
Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee

The ending of “Frozen” flies in the face of everything that Disney heroines had previously stood for, and it is glorious. Curiously, my 4-year-old daughter did not like the ending, because it does not fall in line with the other Disney princess story lines, though that is precisely why her mother and I high-fived each other when discussing it afterwards. Princess Anna is all girl, but she has more courage and determination than the other princesses combined. Between her and Merida from last year’s “Brave,” it is encouraging to see Disney crafting women who are focused on something other than the affections of a boy.

In the Norwegian village of Arendelle, there are two young princesses named Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel as an adult) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell as an adult). Elsa has the ability to make snow and ice, and Anna loves to see her magic. Elsa accidentally hurts Anna while putting on a show for her, and though they were able to heal Anna (and remove Anna’s memory of the accident), Elsa was forbidden from telling Anna the truth about her powers, which basically meant that Anna couldn’t play with Elsa anymore. As they grew older, they grew apart. On the day of Elsa’s coronation to become queen of Arendelle, her inability to control her powers sends the entire village into a deep freeze. Elsa, now regarded by the villagers as a monster, retreats for the mountains, and Anna enlists an ice salesman named Kristoff (Jonathan Goff) to help her find Elsa and bring her home.

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Downton Abbey Wine Collection

Fans of the hit PBS show “Downton Abbey” can now enjoy wines similar to those poured by Mr. Carson for Lord and Lady Grantham. The Downton Abbey Wine Collection features two blends from the Bordeaux region of France: a “Blanc” white wine and a “Claret” red wine. Downton Abbey Blanc is a light and crisp white blend, while Downton Abbey Claret is medium-bodied red with bright fruit and a silky finish. We tried both of them and were impressed, particularly when you consider the reasonable price of $14.99 per 750-ml bottle.

Both blends use the same vines, soil and region used to produce the wines from the Downton Era and are made by the Grands Vins de Bordeaux, a family-owned winery with more than 130 years of winemaking experience in the prized Entre-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux, France. The wines are available in select stores and also at Wine.com and DowntonAbbeyWine.com.

If you know someone who is a fan of this excellent period drama, then the Downton Abbey Wine Collection will make for a very memorable gift. “Downton Abbey” returns to PBS for Season 4 in January 2014 so the timing is perfect for a gift this holiday season.

Downton Abbey Wines

  

Ron White Still Loves His Scotch, But Now He’s Talking Tequila, Too

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Earlier this month, I had a chance to chat with comedian Ron White – you probably know him best from his work on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour - in conjunction with his latest round of tour dates featuring a night in my home town of Norfolk, Virginia. We chatted for quite some time…enough time, in fact, for me to pull together a piece for the Pilot (“Interview: Comedian Ron White Prefers His Shows Live“), an altogether different piece for AntennaFree.TV (“Pilot Error: Comedian Ron White Reflects on ‘Señor White’ and Takes Us Through ’12 Miles of Bad Road’“), and still have a bit more material left over.

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It’s not really “left over,” though, as I made a point of keeping this portion of the conversation for Bullz-Eye. I mean, come on: if Ron White talking about the tequila company he co-owns with his brother-in-law, fellow comedian Alex Reymundo, isn’t something that’s got “Bullz-Eye” written all over it, I don’t know what does. 

Once upon a time, White was quoted as saying, “There were years when I was a beer and tequila guy, then I got real fat. And then I found that you could actually go on a diet and drink scotch. Then I got hooked on scotch, and if you get hooked on scotch, then everything else just tastes wrong.” Apparently, he’s changed his tune a bit on tequila now that he’s selling the stuff. Then again, from the sound of it, this tequila probably tastes a hell of a lot better than the stuff he was swigging back then.

The topic of tequila came up somewhat offhandedly, when I asked White about his writing regimen. In the process of explaining that he writes most of his material on the road, getting input from the team of folks who travels with him, he began listing off the travelers by saying, “I’ll have an opening act, usually my brother-in-law, who’s also my partner in my tequila company. He and I own a company called Number Juan Tequila. Best tequila in the world.” He didn’t mention it again after that, but having thrown that tidbit into play, I decided to pick it up and run with it a few minutes later.

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A chat with Jason Statham (“Homefront”)

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Time really flies when you’re having fun. It seems like yesterday that audiences fell for Jason Statham in Guy Ritchie’s “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” Of course, it’s been 15 years and Statham’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned one iota. The London native has gone from former model and stuntman to arguably the hottest action star around. The man best known for his sarcastic delivery and closed combat action scenes mixes a bit of tenderness in his new role as Phil Broker in “Homefront,” based on the novels and adapted by his “Expendables” castmate Sylvester Stallone. Jason recently sat down with us to discuss the role, Stallone’s influence and the topic of bullying.

Amazing performance in “Homefront,” Jason. How much of it do you attribute to Sly’s script, which he had originally written for himself?

JASON STATHAM: Yes, totally. You can only have a good shot if you’re doing something of quality. If the writing’s no good, then what are you going to do with it? You’ve got good things to say and the situations are right. It’s all about what’s on the page. It goes back to that every time. More often than not, I can’t get Sly right for me. (Laughs)

You’ve done his work before, but how surprised were you with the quality of the writing?

JASON STATHAM: I look back at “Rocky” and it’s a bit of a masterpiece when you look at the writing. It’s just great. I think people tend to forget just how many films he’s written and what a prolific writer he is. He’s done so many. I think he lost sight as to how good this was and I got in there at the right time. I got a bit lucky there. (Laughs) He’d always been giving me advice, saying, “You really need to do something that shows a different side.” I said, “What side?” And he said, “Have a read of this.” And it was almost advice, but here’s how to do it. (Laughs) I remember that as a great moment, as in, “Thanks for the great advice and for showing me how.” He’s great. He’s been a massive influence on me. I’m grateful. I’ve been on a great film with great actors. I’ve been cast with people who used to be hairdressers. Now, I’m cast with James Franco.

It doesn’t seem fair when you see Statham versus Franco. Do you ever think in that adversarial way when you’re cast?

JASON STATHAM: It’s so much more interesting, because he’s so much more dangerous. He’s totally unpredictable and that psychotic nature is much better than me standing in front of a big musclehead and then me having to chop him down like a big tree. He’s manipulating things which means far more. To have your daughter in jeopardy, it can’t get much worse than that. He’s torturing our pets. (Laughs) It’s pretty sick. Once someone starts messing with your animals, the stakes are higher. You need someone who has this eerie kind of weirdness and that unpredictability. It’s a much better choice than someone that’s going to duke it out with me.

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