Friday, August 28, 2015

No Escape

My View: No Escape (2015)  R  An American couple (Owen Wilson, Lake Bell) and their kids are caught in the middle of a coup in a Southeast Asian country. Now they must get from their hotel to the American Embassy, running from a crowd hell-bent on executing every foreigner they find.   I liked Wilson as an every-man action hero, and while Bell isn’t asked to do much other than needing to be rescued, she is extremely likable on the screen. But, this film is filled with rampant xenophobia, an unknown country  filled with horrible people determined to rape or kill every foreigner. There are some action sequences that are so outrageous that at, my screening, most of the audience laughed. And, the two daughters (Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare) are so annoying that you almost wish that, at some point, the parents could leave them behind. This is a strange and messy film that isn’t enjoyable to watch and misses the mark by so much that it makes Vietnam (yes, that Vietnam) the hero of the film.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   No Escape Facebook Page
Indiefest: Mistress America (2015)  R   Tracy (Lola Kirkel), a college freshman, is not ready for her stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is going to turn Tracy’s life upside down. Brooke is a whirlwind of non-stop ideas and talk. I loved this film, co-written by its star, Greta Gerwig. Gerwig plays Brooke, a 30-something girl who lives in a small apartment in Times Square. She is a woman of a million ideas and tells you them in a very rapid stream of conversation. Lola Kirkel plays a slightly shy, reserved college student trying to figure out a way to fit in while trying to become a short story, writer. Kirkel beautifully plays Lola and is able to take some of the spotlight from Gerwig with a winning, quirky performance. The dialogue is fast-paced and witty, and the storyline gets better as the complicated plot moves along. This film should make Gerwig a star and put Kirkel on every casting director’s radar. If you like smart, funny comedies that have rich, well rounded characters, this film is for you.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Mistress America Website
My View: We Are Your Friends (2014)  R   Cole (Zac Efron) is a struggling DJ with dreams of becoming a record producer. He meets DJ James (Wes Bentley) who takes an interest in Cole and helps him learn the business. When Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), James’ girlfriend, starts dating Cole, Cole has to choose between love and business.  The only reason to see this mess of a film is to participate in the drinking game: “Take a shot when Zac takes off his shirt” (I lost count at 10). This film is predictable from the start with characters who do things with no other reason than just so that the plot can move along. We are supposed to like Cole, but he sleeps with his mentor’s girlfriend, takes serious amounts of drugs and abandons his friends when he gets better gigs. Sophie, played by Emily Ratajkowski, is equally shallow, turning down liquor several times, making a big deal about it, but then takes drugs at a moment’s notice. The dialogue is laughable with such lines as, “You’re not a real person until you’re 27.” My head was hurting after seeing this movie, not from the loud electronic dance music, but from the awful storyline and horrible dialogue.    My Rating: Cable     We Are Your Friends Website
Indiefest: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet  (2015)  PG   Mustafa (Liam Neeson) is a poet whose works has been banned, and he has been a prisoner for seven years because the authorities believe his words will incite rebellion. He is given a chance to go back home, but that means he will have to leave his love Kamila (Salma Hayek) and her daughter Elmira (Quvenzhane Wallis). Will he choose to stay in prison for love or go home? This is a beautiful film that doesn’t quite fit together. It takes the poems of Kahlil Gibran and animates them, all by different artists using a vast array of mediums. The problem is the story, itself, about Mustafa, Kamila and Elmira is rather simple and has an almost cartoony feel to it. It makes the transitions between the storyline and the poems seem jarring, which makes the film seem at war with itself. I think kids will be bored when the poem sections come on, and adults will be bored by the Mustafa storyline.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Prophet Website
Indiefest: Digging for Fire (2015) R   A married couple (Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt) decide to spend the weekend apart. What could go wrong? Director Joe Swanberg, who co-wrote the script with leading man Johnson, brings us a tale of a modern couple who are struggling to keep their identities separate from their marriage. Both characters feel as if they have lost themselves by becoming a couple, especially after the birth of their son. Their lives have become meshed together, and both wonder if there will ever be a point when they feel like their old selves again. I like this film, but I wanted to love it. I think one of the problems with this film is that the cast is so big. There are certain characters whom we barely see, much less get to know. I enjoyed the performances of Johnson, and especially DeWitt, who makes her character seem conflicted and real. Sam Rockwell as the “fly in the ointment” friend is brilliant as the guy who loves to stir up trouble. It’s an interesting, light film that, while the plot is rather superficial, it does explore the cracks in a couple’s relationship. We get to see if those cracks become mended or if those cracks become massive fissures that a marriage ultimately can’t survive.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Digging for Fire Website
Forgotten Film: K-PAX (2001) Prot (Kevin Spacey) is patient at a mental hospital. Prot claims that he is from a faraway planet called K-PAX. As his psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges) tries to help him, the mystery of Prot grows deeper, and the psychiatrist begins thinking that just maybe his patient might not be crazy. While the cast in this film is excellent, it’s Kevin Spacey who makes this film so gripping to watch. He makes you hope and possibly believe that Prot is from another planet. This is a fascinating film with an ending that will have you thinking about this movie for days.    My Rating: Full Price   K-PAX Info

Weird Credit: From Digging for Fire: Food Stylist


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Everest (2015)  PG-13   I have recently seen several documentaries about climbing. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood shows the sport. The film stars Elizabeth Debicki, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin and Emily Watson.   Everest Website  
Until Next Time!


Friday, August 21, 2015

American Ultra

My View:  American Ultra  (2015)  R  Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) seems like your usual stoner but, aside from being good at smoking weed, he is also the greatest government agent in existence.  Mike has been marked for extermination because the CIA thinks that he has become such a liability, but it’s not going to be easy to take him down. This is a movie that can’t decide what type of film it is. It’s part stoner comedy, part romantic drama, and part violent action film. The problem is that the first two parts (stoner comedy/romantic drama) don’t mix well with the violent action film. And boy is this film violent and bloody. Mike kills one man with a spoon to the throat and another by beheading a guy with a metal dustpan. Eisenberg does have excellent chemistry with Kristen Stewart, who plays his girlfriend. There is an amusing running gag where Mike keeps trying to propose to his girlfriend, and it never is the right time. Unfortunately, the violent action sequences just don’t mesh well with the lighter moments of the film, which makes the film feel very jagged and uneven. I think even if you were high watching this movie, you wouldn’t enjoy it.   My Rating:  Cable   American Ultra Website

Indiefest:  The Diary of a Teenage Girl  (2015)  R   In 1970’s San Francisco, 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley) dreams of becoming a comic book artist, like her hero Aline Kominsky.  Minnie’s world changes when her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard) takes an interest in her. Minnie thought that no one would be interested in her, but now she must decide if she is going to give in to her desires. Writer/director Marielle Heller has created a unique film that explores the sexual awaking of a young girl who had doubts she would ever be in a relationship. Minnie was feeling like a lot of young girls - that she just wasn’t attractive enough for anyone to be interested in her. While this film has great love and respect for Minnie, it’s full of nudity and very adult situations. The cast is outstanding with Alexander Skarsgård brilliantly playing the slightly dimwitted Monroe. Kristen Wiig plays the part of the selfish Charlotte to perfection, making her character seem very vulnerable. Bel Powley is an absolute gem to watch in this role. Though she was twenty-one when she made this film, she looks all of fifteen, which makes the film feel real. Powley also narrates, giving the movie a voice that we won't soon forget. The Diary of a Teenage Girl gives us a rare look at the world of a real teenager; one moment sure of herself and the next feeling hopeless, convinced that she will never be loved. While some scenes may be uncomfortable to watch, it is well worth going on this journey with Minnie as she travels through her sometimes animated world.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Diary of a Teenage Girl Website

IndiefestListen to Me Marlon  (2015)     A documentary on the legendary Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando.  Listen to Me Marlon is a fascinating look that lets us see Marlon Brando, not as just as the actor, but as the man. Using hundreds of hours of audio tapes that Brando recorded, Brando narrates this brilliant film. Director Stevan Riley combines those audio tapes with news footage, interviews, roving shots through Brando’s house and movie scenes to create an insightful look at a very complex and sometimes troubled man.  The film lets us know what Brando was thinking and feeling during his life, letting us experience just how he saw the world. Brando was a complex and sometimes maddening person, someone we truly did not know, until now.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Listen to Me Marlon Website

IndiefestMeru  (2015)  R  Documentary about three elite climbers who attempt to climb Mount Meru, part of the Himalayas.  Mount Meru is considered the most difficult mountain to climb and has never been ascended. Some of the best climbers in the world have attempted to scale it and have have been defeated by a mountain that is a combination of ice climbing, mountain climbing and wall climbing. And oh, by the way, some of the climbing is done at night. Meru is 20,000 ft and is called the anti-Everest because you don’t have sherpas to carry your 200 pounds of stuff and it takes days, possibly weeks to do the climb.This is a brilliant film about overcoming incredible odds, coming back from adversity, and yes, even doing the crazy and impossible. It’s awe-inspiring and at the same time, jaw-dropping, especially when you realize that the 3 men also shot of the footage while also climbing the mountain. This is a beautiful, exhilarating film that is not to be missed.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again    Meru Website

Forgotten FilmThe Boy Who Could Fly  (1986)  PG  Milly (Lucy Deakins) moves into a new neighborhood with her family.  Living next door is Eric (Jay Underwood).  Eric has had a tough life; his parents died when he was five, he lives with his uncle, who is a drunk, and Eric is autistic. Milly befriends Eric, who has a secret:  He thinks he can fly. This is a warm and touching film about overcoming every roadblock that life gives you.  The casting is perfect, including Bonnie Bedelia, who plays Milly’s mom and Fred Savage as the plucky brother of Milly.   My Rating: Full Price   The Boy Who Could Fly Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of American Ultra:  Martial Arts Training for Mr. Eisenberg


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Reflektor Tapes  (2015)   Documentary about the band Arcade Fire and its conception and recording of the band’s Reflektor album. This should be an interesting and insightful look at one of the most creative bands out there.   The Reflektor Tapes Website
Until Next Time!


Friday, August 14, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

My ViewThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (2015)  PG-13   Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) team up with the help of a beautiful woman (Alicia Vikander) to stop a mysterious international criminal organization led by Victoria Vinciguerrra (Elizabeth Debicki).  This is a Guy Ritchie film, and it looks it. It’s very stylish (in a good way) with lots of creative action sequences and witty dialog. There are also some great running gags, including Solo and Kuryakin having such a fashion war that they could be contestants on Project Runway. I liked Alicia Vikander in the role of the German mechanic who can hold her own with the boys, though I wish she had done more action scenes. Both Cavill and Hammer play their roles with perfection. I especially liked Hammer’s tough, Russian vibe that he gave his character.  The film is a little long but has an enjoyable ending that sets the team up for more adventures.  My Rating:  Full Price   The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Website
My View:  Straight Outta Compton  (2015)   The film revolves around the rise and fall of the Compton, California hip hop group N.W.A., led by Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).  The first part of this film, showing the origins of the three principal rappers, is a blast to watch. I especially enjoyed Ice Cube’s story, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s real life son) stands out in his picture perfect portrayal. The movie's concert scenes are fun, powerful and make you feel like you are in the live audience.  The film slows down considerably once (spoiler alert, sort of) when the group breaks up. And, it just seems that the film is just introducing characters like Snoop Dogg and Tupac for the wow factor instead of propelling the storyline. I also would have liked to have seen more of how songs were written and recorded. Fans of hip hop and N.W.A. will enjoy this film as music is used perfectly to set the scenes.  Overall, it’s an interesting film that has some stunning and awesome concert scenes.  My Review:  Full Price   Straight Outta Compton Website
IndiefestThe End of the Tour  (2015)  R  In 1996, immediately after the publication of his second book, David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal) goes on a five-day book tour with Rolling Stone writer, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).  I think that if I had read either of David Foster Wallace’s books I would have enjoyed this more. It’s a movie mostly about two men, both writers, discussing life, writing and being famous. Segal gives a great performance as the rather withdrawn and quite strange Wallace. The film shows that Segal has quite the range, as his performance is brilliant and moving.  I felt that Eisenberg didn’t have to work too hard in his performance, and the film bogs down a little when they guys are traveling by themselves in the car. I wanted to like/love this picture, but like a few of the conversations, it’s a little long-winded and boring. The End of the Tour is a road picture that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   The End of the Tour Website
Indiefest:  Cop Car  (2015)  R   A small town sheriff (Kevin Bacon) sets out to find the two youths who have taken his police car on a joyride. Director Jon Watts, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher D. Ford, brings out the best in his cast. The two boys, Welftford and Freedson-Jackson, play well off each other, and Watts lets the boys be boys, as they have a blast driving around in a police car. Bacon is perfect as the menacing sheriff, and we know the instant that we meet him, he is not to be annoyed. This sheriff is certainly someone who will do anything to survive. The film's second half just isn’t as compelling or fascinating as the first. The film becomes a cat and mouse game with a very ambiguous ending that is downright frustrating.  Overall, the cast and the excellent pace make up for that ending and make the film an engaging and sometimes amusing film with an acute style that slowly creates tension. “Cop Car” is an interesting take on the modern western.   My Take:  Full Price   Cop Car Website
IndiefestFort Tilden  (2014)  R  Allie (Claire McNulty) and Harper (Bridey Elliot) are best friends, and all they want to do is spend a day at the beach, but life has other plans for their day.  Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, who co-directed and wrote the film, have created two lead characters to whom you would hate to be seated beside at Starbucks. Allie and Harper are two young women who are spoiled, egotistical and clueless about how the world works.  Harper is a mixed-media artist who spends most of her days coming up with ideas that will never be realized. Allie, who sometimes is the more level-headed of the two, is solely consumed with her upcoming Peace Corps trip. Harper is convinced that, like many other endeavors that Allie has taken up, that Allie will not go on her trip, afterall. Neither woman has faith in each other; and it's as if they are in an endless cycle of letting each other down, only to forget about the transgression in a short amount of time. This is one of those films that some critics will find endearing and even possibly enchanting. I found the film a little tedious, rarely funny, and I was very often frustrated with the characters and their cluelessness.  My Rating:  Cable   Fort Tilden Website
Forgotten Film Newsfront  (1978)  PG  A group of cameramen and reporters struggle in post-war Australia to create newsreels for the movie going public. For a long time, most of Australia got a lot of their news from newsreels shown before the featured movie. The film, while a little low-key, is a poignant look at a proud cameraman (Bill Hunter) who takes all sorts of risks to get the best shot. Hunter is brilliant in the role and makes the film work as well as it does. The movie shows a lot of actual newsreels which gives it a bit of authenticity. It’s an intriguing film about our quick changing world and how it affects people.   My Rating: Full Price   Newsfront Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.:  Costume Cutter


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouA Walk in the Woods  (2015) R   After spending 20 years in England, Bill (Robert Redford) decides to travel the Appalachian Trail to reconnect with his homeland. This film has a brilliant cast including Nick Offerman, Nick Nolte, Kristen Schaal, Mary Steenburgen, and Emma Thompson.   A Walk in the Woods Website
Until Next Time!

   

Friday, August 7, 2015

Fantastic Four


My ViewFantastic Four  (2015) PG-13   Four young, brilliant teenagers are brought together to create a machine that can transport people to an alternate universe. The machine will change their lives in dangerous ways.  This is the best Fantastic Four film made, but of course, that isn’t saying much. This is a reboot and an origins story, which is part of the problem with this film. It takes forever to get started, much of the film takes place in a laboratory. While the first portion is slightly compelling, I think that it’s mostly due to the strong cast, led by Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan.  The biggest problem with this film is we really don’t meet the villain of the movie, Doom (Toby Kebbell), until 20 minutes left, and the ending feels kind of rushed. This film never really figures out what kind of film it is. It’s a superhero movie, but it takes forever until they become superheroes. It’s almost a horror film (think The Fly, spending a lot of time showing us the horrible aftereffects of the transporter accident that makes them superheroes. Then it’s a buddy movie as Ben (Jamie Bell), and Reed (Miles Teller) meet while in elementary school and become friends. Most of the special effects are well done, especially the scenes with The Thing, but there is a laughable scene involving a horribly animated chimp that looks just downright stupid. Hopefully, the next Fantastic Four film can better utilize the talents of the cast. By the way, there isn’t a bonus scene in the credits.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Fantastic Four Website

My ViewRicki and the Flash  (2015) PG-13   Ricki (Meryl Streep) gave up everything, including her family, for the rock-and-roll dream. Now she is returning to try and make things right with her family.  Meryl Streep is amazing as the flamboyant singer. Her performance reminds me a lot of Bonnie Raitt, a woman who commands the stage. The songs are fun rock and roll pieces and will make a great soundtrack. The problem with this film is that there are so many performance pieces that the movie feels more like a musical than a drama. It’s a strange little film that doesn’t have much of a plot, other than Streep trying to reconnect with her troubled daughter (played by real-life daughter Mamie Gummer). It’s as if director Jonathan Demme said, I am enjoying seeing Meryl sing and play guitar, let's shoot some more songs for her to perform. The 2nd half of the film feels as if it has forgotten what the first half was about (reconnecting with her daughter), so much so, that I don’t think Gummer even has a line in the last thirty minutes. I had fun watching Streep perform, and her band (including Rick Springfield) is better than any house band I have ever seen. Unfortunately, this isn’t a documentary but a drama, and so it feels as if we are only getting half a movie.  My Rating: Cable   Ricki and the Flash Website

Family FaireShaun the Sheep Movie  (2015)  PG   Shaun the sheep (Justin Fletcher) decides to shake things up and take the flock to the big city to find their farmer. That was a big mistake, and now it’s time to get back to the country. This is an imaginative animated film from the same people that brought us the Wallace and Gromit series and the very funny Chicken Run. The kids will enjoy the action of the stop motion animation and adults will enjoy the humor, some of it very subtile. The storyline is creative and the animation is fun to watch.  My Rating: Full Price  Shaun the Sheep Movie Website   

IndiefestDark Places  (2015)  R  Libby (Charlize Theron) was only seven years old when her family was brutally murdered in their Kansas farmhouse. Now it’s twenty-five years later, and she is revisiting the scene of the crime.  Fans of Gone Girl (2014) are probably going to be disappointed with this film, also based on a Gillian Flynn novel. Led by two strong performances in Theron and Christina Hendricks (who plays Libby’s mom ), the film is an intriguing mystery that is let down by some poorly written dialog. The film has a few twists and turns to keep you guessing on who killed Libby’s family but takes way too long to resolve the mystery.  Chloe Grace Moretz gives probably the worst performance of her career as the bad girl who gets involved with Libby’s brother (Tye Sheridan). Dark Places is a film that isn’t perfect but still gives us enough of a whodunit that it’s enjoyable to watch. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Dark Places Website

IndiefestThe Gift  (2015)  R  Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a married couple whose life is going great. Then, in walks Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old high school classmate who starts sending Simon mysterious gifts that may unlock the past that he doesn’t want to revisit. I loved this film that is full of so many twists that every time I thought I had figured out what was going to happen, it would turn out I was completely wrong. Joel Edgerton (who also directed the film) is brilliant as the strange and needy Gordo. Bateman is perfectly cast as Simon, the seemingly nice husband who may have something from his past to hide. The film really revolves around Robyn, and Hall is up to the task of playing the very complex wife who thinks Gordo is worth keeping as a friend. I am not totally happy with the ultimate ending, but, boy, did I enjoy getting to that part.    My Take: Full Price   The Gift Website

IndiefestThe Look of Silence  (2015)  PG-13   Documentary about a family who survived the genocide in Indonesia and the journey that one man, Adi, goes on to confront the men who killed his brother. This is a sequel to the award winning 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing. The killing of Adi’s brother was described by his killers with almost glee in the first film. The Look of Silence doesn’t have the visual flair of The Act of Killing, nor does it have the emotional impact of that movie. It just might be too late, with too many old men’s memories fading or dying, to give the needed release that you want from this film. There are a couple of feeble attempts by some of the children to ask for forgiveness for the sins of their fathers, but it’s few and far between. Adi, while he seems to be a noble and forgiving man, gets very little from his quest. The film gives very few answers to Adi, and many of his neighbors continue to believe that the mass extermination of more than one million people was justified.  That’s why many of the conversations that Adi has with his brother’s killers end with Adi looking at them, in silence.   My Rating: Full Price   The Look of Silence Website 

Forgotten Film:  The Hit  (1984)  R  Willie (Terence Stamp) is a former gangster thug who turned informant. He is trying to live peacefully tucked away in a Spanish village.  The mob knows that he informed on them, and now two hit men (John Hurt, Tim Roth) have been sent to bring Willie back for some mobster justice.  This is a fascinating film with three excellent performances. There is quite a bit of dry humor as the three gangsters try to one-up each other. The film is brilliant and a blast to watch Stamp on-screen in a role he was meant to play.   My Rating: Full Price   The Hit Info   

Weird Credit:  From the credits of Fantastic Four:  Movement Choreographer


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouMistress America  (2015) R  A lonely college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke) makes friends with her soon to be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) who makes Tracy a part of her many schemes. Gerwig, who I just adore, co-wrote the screenplay with the director of the film, the great Noah Baumbach. This is a "can’t miss" film in my book.   Mistress America Website
Until Next Time!


Friday, July 31, 2015

Mission: Impossible Rogue-Nation


My View:   Mission: Impossible Rogue-Nation  (2015)  PG-13  The incoming CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) wants to disband the Impossible Mission Force, just when we need Ethan (Tom Cruise) and the gang the most. This film is certainly the best film of the Mission: Impossible series and one of my favorite films of the summer. The movie starts off with a breathtaking stunt and just keeps going from there.  There is a motorcycle chase sequence that is one of the best chase scenes I have ever seen. I loved the “bromance” between Cruise’s character, Ethan and Simon Pegg’s Benji, with some great lines flowing. Rebecca Ferguson held her own with Tom Cruise (not easy to do) and makes a number of action sequences believable. Sean Harris makes a great bad guy, and Alec Baldwin is fun as the CIA chief.  I enjoyed seeing this film in IMAX, which made the action sequences come alive.  MI Rogue Nation is a blast to watch and actually has a plot that makes sense.  If you are an action fan, go see this film!    My Rating: Full Price   Mission: Impossible Rogue-Nation Website
My View:   Vacation (2015)  R  Rusty (Ed Helms) decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and take his family on a long distance trip to Walley World.  If you are nostalgic for the old Vacation series, you might enjoy this film. I found the film funny, at times, but it’s just too long and too predictable. I liked Ed Helms as Rusty, and he has good chemistry with Christina Applegate, who isn’t given enough to do in this film. The kids (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins) are both funny and have some enjoyable scenes together. Chris Hemsworth is hilarious as the Texas weatherman married to Rusty’s sister, Audrey (Leslie Mann). There is a scene with Hemsworth that had me on the floor laughing, but the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to that scene. I just wish there had been more laughs.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Vacation Website
IndiefestIrrational Man (2015)  R  A philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix) finds a new meaning to life when he gets involved with a student (Emma Stone).  This is not a comedy but more like Woody Allen’s drama and mystery films. The film wastes the talents of Emma Stone (Woody doesn’t seem to know how to write dialog for her), and Joaquin Phoenix looks lost at times in his role. The film starts to pick up in the 2nd half of the film, but it doesn’t save it from being only mildly interesting. There was so much potential with this film but instead of utilizing the very strong cast, the film feels hollow and underdeveloped. It’s if Allen had an idea for the movie but only wrote one draft, making its story-line and its characters feeble.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Irrational Man Website     
Indiefest A LEGO Brickumentary (2014)  G   A look at the global legacy of the LEGO building-block toys. This is an enjoyable documentary about the little plastic blocks the world loves. Jason Bateman narrates the film, and his voice is animated by an actual Lego figure. The film looks at the almost cult-like status LEGOS have in the world. It also looks at how people are using LEGOS for more than just play, as the film shows them being used to help Autistic children socialize, architects create models of their work, and even used to create artwork. It’s a film that moves at a quick pace and doesn’t feel at all like an hour and a half.  Fans of LEGOS, especially kids, will delight at all the inside information provided by this film.   My Rating: Full Price    A LEGO Brickumentary Facebook Page
IndiefestBoulevard  (2014) R  A devoted husband, Nolan(Robin Williams), confronts the life he has been hiding from the world for over 25 years. It’s sad that this is the last principle part that the late Robin Williams will play. The film never uses his vast talent to its fullest as the script is predictable and somewhat boring. This is a somber, downbeat film that never takes any chances, much like Nolan himself. I liked Kathy Baker who plays Nolan’s very patient and loving wife, but their scenes are never fully fleshed out, and the film leaves you wanting more…more for the plot and more for Williams, the actor.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Boulevard Info
Forgotten Film:  Seven Years in Tibet  (1997)  PG-13   The true story of Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt), an Austrian mountain climber who, while in India, is imprisoned by the British.  He escapes and makes his way to Tibet. There he befriends the Dali Lama (Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk) and becomes his tutor.  Heinrich is there to see the invasion of the land by the Chinese.  This is a beautiful film, and Pitt gives a multi-layered performance, and his scenes with the Dali Lama are magical. The film is a little dull at times (I would have liked to have seen the film done from the perspective of the kid instead of Harrer), but it’s gorgeous to watch and Pitt gives one of his better performances.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Seven Years in Tibet Info

Weird Credits:  From Mission: Impossible  Rogue-Nation:  Standby Optician


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   She’s Funny That Way (2014)  R  I am hopeful about this screwball comedy written and directed by legendary filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich.  The film is about a troupe trying to put on a Broadway production. The film has a great cast that should be perfect for this story, including Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Imogen Poots, Cybill Shepherd and Richard Lewis.    She's Funny That Way Website   
Until Next Time!


Friday, July 24, 2015

Pixels

Family FairePixels  (2015)  PG-13  Aliens have come to wreak havoc on Earth.  It seems, though, they have misinterpreted video feeds of classic arcade games.  Now it’s up to a gang of video gamers to save the Earth from a weapons attack in the form of video games. Can someone just give Adam Sandler a hug because he looks miserable making crappy film after crappy film? This film should have been fun and funny.  Instead we get a film that wants us to believe that someone like Kevin James can be president and that the character Adam Sandler plays is so devastated by not winning a video game contest that it ruins his life. The only actor who gives a performance with any energy is Peter Dinklage, and it’s just not enough to save this sorry film. The movie has so much product placement in it that I expected the closing credits to say “Pixels brought to you by Bud Light.” At the screening I attended, with about 20 minutes left in the film, the fire alarm went off in the theatre. While waiting for the film to restart, my fellow critics and I were able to figure out how the rest of the film would go; it’s that predictable. The best way to describe this film: unimaginative and boring.  And don’t pay extra to see it in 3-D - it was not shot in 3-D, and it shows.  So save your quarters and don’t see this mess of a film.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Pixels Facebook Page
Indiefest:   Paper Towns  (2015)  PG-13  Quentin (Nat Wolf) is taken on an all-night adventure by his friend and neighbor Margo (Cara Delevingne).  Soon after Margo goes missing, Quentin and his friends decide to go on an adventure of a lifetime to search for Margo. I loved this film about a young man and the girl who inspires him to go outside his comfort zone. The film is perfectly cast, especially with Nat Wolf, who does a brilliant job as the shy and reserved Quentin. Cara Delevingne is brilliant as the rebellious girl who inspires Quentin to go on his quest. The rest of the cast is a blast to watch, especially Austin Abrams, who plays the nerdish Ben, one of Quentin’s best friends. The film is part mystery, part road trip which makes it move at a quick pace. It’s a film you will enjoy from start to finish.  My Rating: Full Price   Paper Towns Website
Indiefest:   Tangerine  (2015)  R  Transgender prostitute Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) has just gotten out of prison.  She is shocked to find out that her boyfriend and pimp, Chester (James Ransone), has left her for another woman. Sin-Dee is on a mission to find the cheating couple with the help of her best friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor).  This is an interesting film shot entirely on iPhones but doesn’t look like it was. Mya Taylor’s performance as Alexandra, a woman who is trying to keep her best friend out of trouble, is the best thing about this film. Taylor gives her role a funny, sparkling turn, which makes her stand out from the rest of the cast. Shot of the streets of downtown L.A., the film, has a realistic feel to it and makes L.A., itself, one of the characters in the film. The film doesn’t always work, especially some of the scenes with a cab driver (Karren Karagulian) who has a thing for Sin-Dee, but anytime Taylor is on screen, the film gets better.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Tangerine Website

IndiefestUnexpected  (2015)  R  An inner-city high school teacher (Cobie Smulders) finds out she is unexpectedly pregnant. At the same time, a student of hers, Jasmine (Gail Bean), discovers that she is also pregnant. The two soon become friends over this unplanned shared experience.  Cobie Smulders gives a moving and briiliant performance as the teacher who sees her career hopes and dreams fading due to her pregnancy. She works well on-screen with Bean as the film progresses. Gail Bean is outstanding as the smart and determined Jasmine, giving her an air of inner strength and making her a character who demands respect for the choices that she makes. This is a film that explores the choices and sacrifices that women make when dealing with pregnancy. It’s to the credit of the two leads that the film works as well as it does. While not a groundbreaking film, it’s an interesting experience showing two women trying to come to grips with the reality of their situations.   My Rating: Full Price   Unexpected Facebook Page   
Forgotten FilmTess  (1979)  PG   A young woman (Nastassja Kinski) in Victorian England becomes the pawn of two men in her life.  Kinski gives the performance of a lifetime as Tess, a woman who is preyed upon by men, and there is nothing that she can do about it. It’s a sad, heartbreaking film but one worth watching due to Kinski’s incredible performance.     My Rating: Full Price   Tess Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Pixels: Flamist Artist


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Listen to Me Marlon (2015)  The film uses a newly discovered archive of over a hundred hours of audio to create a documentary with Marlon Brando’s own voice.   Listen to Me Marlon Info
\Until Next Time!

  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ant-Man

My View:  Ant-Man (2015)  PG-13  Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a car burglar who is hand-picked by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to become Ant-Man.  Ant-Man can decrease in size but, also, can increase in strength. I enjoyed this film that is more in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy with the amount of humor in it and the hero of the story who is dependent on his wits, rather than a superpower. I liked Rudd in the role, as he has a smart-ass quality to him, but not so much that you don’t like him. He plays off of both Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly (who plays the daughter of Dr. Pym), and there are some real sparks between Lilly and Rudd. Corey Stoll plays the villain well, bringing just enough menace to the role to make it enjoyable to watch. The action sequences are fast moving and exciting, with some creative scenes that make the film a blast to watch. Once again, I think you can save some money and see it in 2-D. There are two bonus scenes worth staying for; one after the first portion of credits and one at the very end of all the credits.    My Rating: Full Price   Ant-Man Website
My View:  Trainwreck (2015)  R  Amy (Amy Schumer) has spent her whole life thinking that monogamy was not for her. Then she met Aaron (Bill Hader), and her world changed.  I loved this romantic comedy with a twist. Usually, it’s the guy who is a cad and whose life is changed when he meets the girl. This film turns that idea on its ear as Amy Schumer plays a woman who doesn’t want commitment, and, in fact, she wants the guy to leave as soon as sex is over. Cuddling to Amy is like a death sentence, and spending the weekend together is her idea of hell. Then she meets Aaron and, against every fiber of her being, she starts falling for him. Hader is exceptional as the straight man in the film, and he and Schumer work well together on-screen. Lebron James is funny as himself, playing Aaron’s best friend. James delivers lines with a comedic touch that a lot of current comedians can’t do. John Cena is brilliant as Amy’s go-to sex partner who develops feelings for her. This is Schumer’s film, and she is outstanding in the role, and she dominates the screen with her staggering timing. This is a film that delivers from start to finish, making it breathtakingly funny and touching at the same time. That’s something you rarely see in today’s comedies.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again    Trainwreck Website

Indiefest: Infinitely Polar Bear (2015)   A manic-depressive father (Mark Ruffalo) agrees to take full-time responsibility for his two daughters while his wife (Zoe Saldana) is out of town at business school.  It’s hard to make a successful film when your lead character is so erratic in his mood swings. I have always liked Ruffalo as an actor, but he struggles to find a voice in this film. Saldana isn’t given much to work with either, and her screen time is spent mostly being mad at Ruffalo’s character. What made this film watchable at times was the performances of Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide, who play the couple’s two daughters. They lend both a vitality and somewhat stable presence to the film, counteracting Ruffalo’s over-the-top performance as the manic father. The film is based on the real-life childhood of director Maya Forbes, and I think this story was just a little too personal to work on the screen.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Infinitely Polar Bear Website
Indiefest:  Lila & Eve  (2015)  R  Two mothers (Jennifer Lopez, Viola Davis), distraught over the deaths of their children gunned down by a drive-by’s, decide to get their revenge when the authorities decide not to pursue the crimes. Viola Davis gives an impressive performance as the mother who is devastated by the death of her college-bound son. I wasn’t as impressed by Jennifer Lopez’s role as the tough as nails mom who becomes Davis’s mentor. I just felt never fully committed to the role. The film is an interesting look at how death affects people different ways and how grief can overcome even the most rational thoughts. The film takes a very strange turn near the end, which I did not like. Overall, the film is worth watching for Davis’s performance but the plot is somewhat lacking in reality.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Lila & Eve Website

Indiefest:  Do I Sound Gay? (2014)     Filmmaker David Thorpe attempts to change his voice and explore the stereotype of the “gay voice. This documentary is funny at times and maddening at other times, as Thorpe explores why gay men are so aware of how they sound in public. Thorpe interviews some notable gay icons such as Tim Gunn and George Takei about how they feel about how they sound. Thorpe makes this film a little too personal to be totally effective and enjoyable, but the film does move at a quick pace and keeps the subject matter interesting.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Do I Sound Gay? Website  

Forgotten Film: Crumb (1995)  R  Documentary about the legendary underground comic artist R. Crumb. Crumb is a rather strange guy whose comic books are equally bizarre and touching. It’s a haunting world where we see how deeply an artist feels for his work and makes it his lifeblood. It’s not a world you would want to live in, though, but it’s fascinating to visit.   My Rating: Full Price   Crumb Info   

Weird Credits: From the credits of Ant-Man: Musician; Oboe & Cor Anglais  


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Fantastic Four  (2015) I    want to see this superhero film not because of the subject matter (all the other Fantastic Four films have been pretty bad) but because of two of the lead actors, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan. I think that Jordan and Teller are some of the best young actors working today.    Fantastic Four Website
Until Next Time!