Ryan Reynolds

Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

A dreary, overcast afternoon couldn’t keep the Longhorn faithful away from UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday as fans gathered for the annual Alumni Game, a part of Texas baseball’s fan appreciation day. The game featured former Texas alumni, now affiliated with Major League Baseball organizations, squaring off against the current Longhorn roster.

Ex-Longhorns in the Major Leagues in attendance included Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Corey Knebel and MLB free agent Drew Stubbs. Other alumni included players fresh off of Texas’ 2016-17 campaign.

“It’s an honor to go out there and be able to throw against guys like Drew Stubbs and Mark Payton and the other guys I’ve played with (at Texas),” junior pitcher Chase Shugart said. “It’s fun to see the tradition that the University has and the players it brings out and the major league players it has.”

The contest pitted the “Gray” squad versus the “Orange” squad, with the former made up of the Longhorn alumni. Alumni would play in the first three innings of the game, being subbed out for current Longhorn players the remaining four innings.

The ex-Longhorns were shutout during their time on the diamond, managing only four hits. With the score locked at zero in the bottom of the fourth, junior catcher DJ Petrinksy, playing for the Orange, broke the game open with a solo home run. Sophomore infielder Ryan Reynolds hit a two-run dinger in the seventh to put the exclamation point on a 3-0 shutout victory for the Orange.

A slew of six pitchers for the Orange dominated the Gray squad, walking just two batters and allowing no hits after the professional players were pulled. Shugart was given the win, throwing two clean innings with three strikeouts.

Head coach David Pierce was enthusiastic about the pitching performance, highlighting the underclassmen.

“I thought we really pitched well,” Pierce said. “We have some younger guys that need to be three or four-pitch guys. They’re not throwing the ball 92 or 95 (miles per hour), but they can pitch well and their best pitches really came out today.”

The most memorable moment for the Gray squad came in the top of the sixth, when former Texas pitcher Travis Duke made a surprise plate appearance adorned in jeans and cowboy boots. After striking out, Duke staged a confrontation with the home plate umpire, drawing laughs and cheers from the crowd.

“Travis Duke is hilarious,” Reynolds said. “I wish I got to play with him. He’s always up here and he’s just hilarious.”

While the contest lived up as a fun event for spectators, it also doubled as a chance for the Longhorns to get live game action and hone in as the regular season approaches.

Pierce said the batters’ hitting must improve as the team heads towards opening day. On Saturday, current Longhorns managed only five hits in seven innings.

“Hitting is such a work in progress and it’s such a confidence thing,” Pierce said. “We hit too many fly ball outs today. We’ve got a tough schedule and we’re going to play teams with some really good arms. We’re going to be facing the best pitchers in the country, so we still have work to do.”

The Longhorns now have less than two weeks to shore up their hitting and make any other preseason adjustments. The season opener against UL-Lafayette is slated for Feb. 16.

Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) prepares to take on Austria in the U.S. Supreme Court.

At best, “Woman in Gold” is a mediocre film, competently crafted but painfully undramatic. Aside from boasting Helen Mirren, who carries “Woman in Gold” on her able shoulders, it is nothing more than your average feel-good flick. Mirren does her best with a shallow script and director Simon Curtis’ (“My Week with Marilyn”) poor execution.

The film focuses on the true story of Maria Altmann (Mirren), an elderly Jewish woman who fled Austria after the Nazi invasion and settled in California. Maria wants to begin a legal battle to regain a painting of her aunt, which is Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I.”

Maria recruits young and inexperienced lawyer Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to help her reclaim the portrait, one of hundreds of paintings the Nazis stole, but the portrait is an Austrian icon that the country refuses to give up.

Mirren brings “Woman in Gold” much-needed energy, adopting a Viennese accent and delivering her comedic lines with lively wit. Reynolds barely holds his own against Mirren on screen and doesn’t display much emotional depth beyond one crying scene. He doesn’t give any memorable moments, often fading into the background while other characters steal the spotlight.

Curtis and screenwriter Alexi Kaye Campbell overly simplify the issue of who rightfully owns the portrait. Instead of examining both sides of the conflict, they they pit the righteous Maria and Randy against the mustache-twirling, villainous Austrians and their arrogant establishment. This simple-minded writing does not  suit an adult-oriented drama.

The overbearing score by Martin Phipps and Hans Zimmer tries to make the audience feel what Curtis’ direction fails to communicate. Whenever a scene attempts to convey sadness, a somber piano score kicks in. The writing never manages to evoke any strong emotions on its own.

The clichéd dialogue aims for quick laughs rather than meaningful character development. The characters themselves repeatedly hammer the film’s many messages into our heads. Among them are the usual “never give up,” “underdogs can win” and “the Nazis did a lot of bad stuff.”  

“Woman in Gold” barely works as entertainment. Surprise, surprise — watching lawyers bicker about loopholes in wills gets old really fast. The film  consistently portrays Maria and Randy as in the right. Its three courtroom scenes favor Maria so much that there’s never any doubt she will win back the portrait. Without the drama to pull you in, you’ll glance at your watch more times than you can count.

The film’s most effective scenes are the flashbacks to Maria’s early life in Vienna. Her family life crumbles apart as the Nazis gradually take over Austria, and her heart-pounding escape from her home offers is thrilling. Curtis doesn’t depict the dehumanization of the Jews in a manner as brutal as Steven Spielberg did in “Schindler’s List,” but he still conveys the tragedy of the event.

While the story of “Woman in Gold” is worth telling, Curtis and Campbell don’t do it justice. It feels like a Lifetime movie with a big budget that’s better fit for television. At least falling asleep is more preferable on your couch than in a theater chair.

"Safe House" stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds who play a young CIA agent tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. (Photo courtesy of Universal)

Safe House” stars Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, who are both at odd places in their careers. Washington is in the middle of a Liam Neeson-style career reinvention, lending the charm and gravitas that have worked so well in dramatic films to intensify stylized action films like “Man on Fire” and “The Book of Eli.” Meanwhile, the obviously talented Reynolds seems to be making a disastrous string of career choices, appearing in two absolute disasters last summer, “The Change-Up” and “The Green Lantern.” Teaming the two actors up for “Safe House” ultimately proves to be a smart move for both, even if the film around them doesn’t quite measure up.

Reynolds stars as rookie CIA agent Matt Weston, the guardian of a safe house in Cape Town who receives an unexpected visitor — notorious rogue agent Tobin Frost (Washington). After a vigorous waterboarding session at the hands of torturer Robert Patrick, the safe house is compromised and Weston and Frost are on the run.

The plot for “Safe House” isn’t especially dense, and that gives director Daniel Espinosa plenty of excuses to layer on the style. This is Espinosa’s U.S. debut, and he instills the Cape Town setting with a grimy, dangerous atmosphere. The action scenes are nicely staged throughout, especially a chase through the slums and an extended, brutal hand-to-hand battle between Weston and a colleague.

Unfortunately, Espinosa’s talent for style doesn’t extend to the narrative. “Safe House” is predictable to a fault, and the supposedly secret identity of its villain is made clear from the very beginning thanks to obvious foreshadowing. While the film’s narrative is mostly built around Reynolds and Washington kicking ass all over South Africa, its denouement tries to say something profound about government corruption and doing the right thing, but ends up sputtering out some nonsense about honor and accountability that’s been covered many times before in much better films.

Thankfully, Washington and Reynolds are very well cast. Washington is at a point in his career where he’s likeable and watchable in almost every film he’s in, and “Safe House” is no different. Though Reynolds is ostensibly the star, Washington is the center of the film, and it’s interesting to see the way that years of violence have hardened his Tobin Frost to the point where he makes killing seem almost casual, cutting down enemies with a menacing familiarity. Reynolds has done good work in other films (2010’s “Buried,” for instance) and he’s serviceable here but never really shines outside of his more quiet scenes with Washington. It doesn’t help that his character arc is in service of a narrative with the subtlety of a neon billboard, yet Reynolds still manages to emerge from “Safe House” unscathed.

“Safe House” is by no means a terrible film. It’s got intensity and style to spare and a good sense of forward momentum, not to mention a strong pairing in its two leads and some memorable action sequences. While that alone (along with the slim cinematic pickings of this week’s new releases) is enough to earn “Safe House” a recommendation, audiences sensitive to clunky exposition, over-predictability and what proves to be a weak, silly ending may want to steer clear.

Dave Lockwood’s (Jason Bateman) moments with his children are perhaps the most uncomedic scenes in "The Change-Up." (Photo courtesy of Universal)

When you hold director David Dobkin’s “The Change-Up” next to his 2005 comedy “Wedding Crashers,” it literally boggles the mind that these two films came from the same director.

Not to say “Wedding Crashers” is a cinematic achievement of the highest order, but it’s a film that keeps the laughs coming throughout and most importantly, understands the dynamics of male friendship. “The Change-Up” is a different story entirely. It does none of these things, and when it attempts to, it fails massively — making it easily one of the worst films of the summer.

The plot is about as complex as your average restaurant menu. Single, unmotivated Mitch (Ryan Reynolds) swap lives with hard-working lawyer and dad Dave (Jason Bateman) right when they’re about to face some of the biggest professional and personal obligations of their lives. The two quickly try to recreate the circumstances of their switch, which happened to involve peeing in a fountain.

The plot is perfunctory at best. The entire narrative arc of Dave and Mitch’s quest to get their bodies switched back is them waiting around for a phone call telling them where the fountain they have to urinate in has been moved to. It’s a sad excuse for a plot and shows how little thought was put into solving the film’s main narrative conflict.

A slight plot might be forgivable if the film was funny enough to distract from its lack of narrative window dressing, but the film’s humor goes from corny to obvious to juvenile on a level that even your inner 12-year-old may think is too lowbrow.

The characters are no better. Dave and Mitch aren’t exactly likeable when the film starts, and watching them make a complete mess of each other’s lives does nothing to make you root for them.

Bateman, who can usually coax some semblance of humor out of the lamest jokes, simply cannot do a good Reynolds imitation (which mostly involves him acting like an idiot and swearing a lot in inappropriate situations), and Reynolds crashes and burns in almost every scene, disposing of what little goodwill he had left over from last year’s spectacular “Buried.”

The supporting cast fares a bit better. As Dave’s wife, Leslie Mann plays a weaker variation on the frustrated wife role she played in “Knocked Up,” and she brings a beaten-down humanity to a film sorely lacking it. Olivia Wilde is asked to be a charming, too-good-to-be-true love interest, and she does that very well, and Alan Arkin is sorely underused as Mitch’s disapproving father.

So much about “The Change-Up” just feels glossy and manufactured, made worse by the film’s odd reliance on sloppy CGI. For instance, Dave’s infant twins are rapidly flickering in and out of lackluster CGI when they need to start playing with knives or spray feces onto Jason Bateman’s face. The CGI just adds another weird, distancing element to a film that’s already overflowing with them, making the whole thing feel even more manufactured.

There is no good reason to subject yourself to “The Change-Up.” This summer has been overflowing with strong R-rated comedies, from “Bad Teacher” to “Horrible Bosses” to “Friends With Benefits,” and all of them funnier and with more heart than “The Change-Up” could ever dream of having. A cinematic black hole, the film lacks logic, humor or any sort of recognizable human behavior from its main characters; it’s a film so terrible that you will wish none of its fine collection of actors had ever succeeded, just so you wouldn’t have to be sitting in a theater watching this terrible, terrible film.

Ryan Reynolds stars in the mediocre but watchable “Green Lantern.” Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

For the last decade or so, superhero films have become a staple of the yearly flock of summer blockbusters, and summer 2011 is perhaps the biggest year yet. Between the twin “Avengers” set-up films (“Thor” and “Captain America”) and a superb “X-Men” prequel, “Green Lantern” struggles not only to stand out, but to even stand on its own two feet. It’s as if the movie was aware that it’s little more than a distraction between much bigger event films.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a cocksure pilot who finds himself the owner of great power and responsibility when Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) crashes to Earth and gives him a little green ring. Jordan is quickly whisked away to Oa, an alien planet that serves as headquarters to an intergalactic group of superheroes named the Green Lantern Corps.

Much of the film’s relevant information, including the introduction of its odd villain — a cloud of perpetually swirling smoke called Parallax, is given to the audience via a dense exposition dump in its opening moments. Everything else is parceled out in the entirely too brief moments Hal spends on Oa. These are the scenes when the film briefly comes alive, as Hal learns what his new ring can do and we get to spend time with Mark Strong as Sinestro, one of the film’s strongest characters. (That is, until a blatantly sequel-baiting post credits tag that bastardizes everything we know about the character.)

Unfortunately, the film’s scenes on Earth not only take up most of its runtime, but also vary wildly in terms of tone, quality and entertainment. Peter Sarsgaard shines as Hector Hammond, an embittered scientist who suffers some unexpected consequences after examining Abin Sur’s body. Sarsgaard relishes in making Hector as repulsive as possible from his very first scene, and as the film progresses and Hector becomes more and more deformed, Sarsgaard’s performance only grows stronger. Regrettably, Sarsgaard seems to be existing in an entirely different movie, one that’s much darker and less entertaining, which causes the film’s tone to shift erratically depending on the story’s demands.

As for the rest of the cast, Ryan Reynolds is predictably heroic, but his arc is pretty standard fare for superhero films, ripped almost wholesale from “Spider-Man 2” and any other film that has its hero wracked with self-doubt. Taika Waititi plays Hal’s friend Thomas and seems to only be in the film so Blake Lively doesn’t hurt herself trying to be funny. In fact, Lively doesn’t seem to be capable of much of anything, and it’s telling that her best scene in the film is one where she’s unconsciously suspended in mid-air.

Director Martin Campbell, who helmed one of the best Bond films in history with 2006’s “Casino Royale,” does entirely serviceable work here, bringing a mischievous sense of fun to the film’s Oa scenes but fails at any sort of tonal consistency when juggling Hal’s origin story and the looming threat of Parallax. However, Campbell’s use of 3-D, while occasionally enhancing the film’s green-heavy color scheme, is absolutely abominable. Some 3-D effects look clearly unfinished.

All in all, “Green Lantern” isn’t a terrible film. While many of its ingredients leave plenty to be desired and the narrative glosses over the entertaining parts of the film in favor of an uninteresting, done-before origin tale, it all comes together to make a mediocre but watchable final product. While audiences surely won’t be clamoring for any sequels to “The Green Lantern,” and it’s surely not the star vehicle Ryan Reynolds sorely deserves, it serves its function as something to distract audiences until “Captain America” fills the superhero void in multiplexes late next month.