Friday, October 2, 2015

The Martain

My ViewThe Martian  (2015)  PG-13   A mission to Mars goes bad as a storm forces the astronauts to quickly abandon the planet. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is lost in the storm and is presumed dead by NASA and his crew. Left behind on a planet where life doesn’t exist, Mark must figure out how to survive long enough to be rescued. This is a film that needs to be seen on the big screen.  The special effects are extraordinary, and the film is filled with thrilling scenes that keep you on the edge of your seat. What makes this film so enjoyable is that Mark Watney uses his sense of humor as a coping mechanism. The film is filled with Watney quips as he deals with the harsh Martian world. Matt Damon is brilliant as the plucky astronaut that is determined to survive. I highly recommend this film.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   The Martian Website

My ViewThe Walk  (2015)  PG   Based on the true story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in the summer of 1974. I enjoyed this film. It’s got a strange narrative that takes a bit of getting used to, with Petit narrating the film, mostly on camera. The storyline is a little weak, especially if you have seen the fabulous Academy Award-winning documentary Man on Wire. Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives an entertaining performance as the talented wire-walker who is sure he can do the impossible. It is worth seeing in IMAX 3-D (it was shot in the 3-D format and uses the technology to a great advantage). Much has been made of people getting vertigo while watching the film. I am slightly afraid of heights but I had no problems watching this film. I did look away once, but I think that was due more to the anticipation of a shot, rather than the shot itself. It’s not a great film, but the last 20 minutes is worth seeing. It's a beautiful film with a great message; that you can do anything if you believe in yourself. There is a great tribute to the Twin Towers at the end of the film. You could say this is a love letter to the Towers and what they stood for. Please note that the film will be playing at IMAX theatres the first week and will open wide to other theatres next Friday.   My Rating: Full Price     The Walk Website

My ViewSicario  (2015)  R  An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is sent to join a task force to aid Mexico in the war against the drug cartels.  As she gets deeper and deeper into the mission, she starts to question the methods used to take down the cartels. Blunt gives a masterful performance in the film, making us root for her FBI agent character. Benicio Del Toro is perfectly cast as a mysterious, menacing consultant who just might be a C.I.A. agent with an agenda of his own. I liked the action sequences, which were fast moving and well-choreographed. I just wish the script had been a little tighter. There are a few plot holes that never get addressed. The film does have a scintillating score that helps create tension throughout the film. This is a film, due to its subject matter, that is hard to watch, though I enjoyed the film, but it’s not one that I will want to revisit anytime soon.  My Rating: Full Price    Sicario Website   

IndiefestThe Keeping Room (2014)   In the last days of the American Civil War, three Southern women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru) are trying to survive.  They will have to fight off two rogue soldiers who have broken off from the fast-approaching Union Army.  Brit Marling is brilliant as Augusta, a woman driven to keep her family safe. She is extremely believable in the part of someone who makes every effort to survive. Marling plays well off of both Seinfeld and Otaru and has a real sister-like connection with both characters. Steinfeld plays Louise as a self-indulgent young woman,  someone who cares more about herself but when pushed to her limits fights back. Marling does most of the heavy lifting in the scenes with Steinfeld, but you get the idea that Steinfeld’ s character is more complex than we first thought. Muna Otaru is amazing as Mad, a woman who has seen hardships in her life but continues to have some hope for the future. The scenes between Marling and Otaru are some of the most moving and touching scenes of the film. Otaru gives us a character whose dignity shines through. Sam Worthington makes for a convincing menacing lunatic who is bent on continuing his path of destruction. Director Daniel Barber has created a movie that keeps building the tension until there is the breaking point conclusion, and its talented cast makes that tension almost unbearable. It's a film that shows war is hell for everyone and, because of it,  lives are changed forever.   My Rating: Full Price   The Keeping Room Website   
Forgotten FilmStrange Days  (1995)  R  Set in the near future, technology has been developed called data-discs that allows users to experience the memories of other people.  Lenny (Ralph Fiennes)  is an ex-cop who now deals in the data-discs when he’s pulled into a murder mystery that becomes more complicated the further he investigates. Director Kathryn Bigelow creates a unique and mysterious world where everything isn’t quite what it seems. Fiennes gives a dazzling performance, one where you just can’t take your eyes off of him. This was a big box office dud when it came out, and it should have been a big hit.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Strange Days Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Martian:  Neoprene Spacesuit Cutter

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouFinders Keepers  (2014)   Documentary of a man who buys a bar-b-que grill at an auction, brings it home and discovers an amputated leg inside. This film has been wowing audiences at film festivals.  Finders Keepers Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Intern

My View:  The Intern  (2015)  PG-13   70-year-old widower Ben (Robert De Niro) isn’t happy in his retirement, and he wants to experience something new,  so he decides to become a “senior intern” at an online fashion site. The fashion site was founded and is run by Jules (Anne Hathaway), but sales are slow, and the company’s board is considering cutting Jules’ power. Jules needs help, and Ben might just be the right man for the job.  I liked this film and enjoyed De Niro and Hathaway’s performances. De Niro, in this film, plays a man who you would want as a father.  Ben is kind and wise with a knack for giving his co-workers just the right advice. Hathaway’s character, Jules, is someone who is worth rooting for, and you want her to succeed. The first two-thirds of this film was enjoyable but with a lightweight story with two likable leads. My problem with this film is that the final third doesn’t match the rest of the movie. The screenplay,  written by the movie’s director, Nancy Meyers, puts Hathaway’s character into a corner that she just can’t get out of with any real resolution. The ending feels shallow and way too easy.  This is a feel good film that you will quickly forget, maybe as soon as you get to the theatre parking lot.      My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Intern Website
Familyfaire:  Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)  PG  Dracula (Adam Sandler) and the hotel gang are back. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) and Mavis (Selena Gomez) get married and have a baby, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). The question is, will Dennis turn into a vampire or will he be human? And, if he remains a human, will Dracula, and the gang be okay with that?  This is a fun family film that kids will love and one where adults won’t fall asleep. I am not an Adam Sandler fan, but he does an admirable job as the dad vamp who just wants his daughter to be happy and his grandson to have a great life. The film moves at a quick pace but loses steam about 15 minutes from the ending.  While not on the level of a Pixar film, it’s not bad, and kids over six will enjoy it.  The film is a little violent toward the ending, and the kindergarten group probably should skip it.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Hotel Transylvania 2 Website
Indiefest:  Sleeping with Other People  (2015)  R  Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) make unlikely friends. Jake is a womanizer, and Lainey is a serial cheater. After losing their virginity to each other in college, they meet up at a “sex addict anonymous” session years later and decide to strike up a non-sexual friendship. The big problem is they are attracted to each other but think that sex will ruin the friendship.  The two leads of Sudeikis and Brie are brilliant together. They play off each other like a stand-up comedy team. This is the best performance I have seen Sudeikis do in years. He is quick to the draw with a quip and makes you root for a guy whom you should loathe. He gives a character a lovable vibe that just comes off in waves on the screen. The chemistry between Brie and him is outstanding, and there seems to be a real connection between the two. Brie gives a masterful, comedic performance of a girl who is obsessed with a man who will never truly fulfill her. She makes Lainey relatable even though we don't understand why her character is so messed up. I loved this film and especially enjoyed the unconventional ending. This is a “rom-com” for today's app dating, “swipe right” world. “Sleeping with Other People”  is funny and touching, filled with characters you might not want to date but would like to spend some time getting to know over a beer or two.    My Rating: Full Price   Sleeping with Other People Website
Indiefest:  A Brilliant Young Mind  (2014)  Ethan (Asa Butterfield) is autistic and has trouble dealing with people. He takes comfort in numbers, and his mother (Sally Hawkins), a widow, is determined to keep Ethan’s life as normal as possible.  A math teacher (Rafe Spall) at Ethan’s school thinks that he is talented and could be a candidate for the International Mathematics Olympiad. This is a marvelous film that overcomes a slightly schmaltzy script with terrific performances by Butterfield, Hawkins and Spall. The story starts to move when Martin and Nathan began bonding over each other's love of math. Asa Butterfield is the reason to see this film. He does a marvelous job in a part where his character rarely talks. He uses his physical skills to create the wonder and emotion as his character starts opening up to the outside world. We see the delight in his eyes when he solves a problem. He has great screen presence, and he works well with Sally Hawkins and especially Rafe Spall.   “A Brilliant Young Mind” is a moving film about finding your place in the world. It might be a little scary and overwhelming at times, but life deserves the effort. It's a winning film that uses the strong performances of its leads to make a film that is well worth seeing.     My Rating: Full Price   A Brilliant Young Mind Website
Indiefest:  Ashby  (2015)  Ed (Nat Wolff) is a 17-year old high school student who is just trying to figure out his place in the world.  He makes friends with his neighbor, Ashby (Mickey Rourke), a terminally ill ex-CIA agent who killed people for a living. Their friendship will change both their outlooks on life. This film attempts to marry to genres:  the hard-nosed story of a man trying to come to terms with his past sins and the teen rom-com where a boy tries to find a way to face his fears and get the girl. The problem is the two just don’t mix. This is a film that tries too hard to be witty and fails most of the time. I liked both Nat Wolff and his love interest in the movie, Emma Roberts, but I never believed that Nat’s character, Ed, could just come off the street and be a starting wide receiver for a high school team. Rourke doesn’t have to work too hard with his character Ashby as he mostly just has to be a worn out Mickey Rourke. The film’s ending is too predictable to have any real impact. This is an Indie film that tries way too hard to be the ultimate “Indie” film.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Forgotten Film:  Near Dark  (1987)  R   Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is from a small town in Oklahoma.  He meets a beautiful girl named Mae (Jenny Wright). They spend the night together flirting and talking. At the end of the night, she suddenly turns into a vampire and bites him on the neck.  Now Caleb is a vampire and has to join a band of southern vampires who roam the highways looking to steal cars and kill innocent drivers.  This is a combination modern western/vampire tale written and directed by Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow. It’s a dazzling take on the vampire genre with a storyline that will keep you guessing. The film moves at a quick pace and takes advantage of its accomplished cast led by Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton. If you like horror movies, then this will be a treat.    My Take:  Full Price   Near Dark Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Hotel Transylvania 2:  Hair Technical Director

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Steve Jobs  (2015)  The true story of the man who created Apple.  All I have to say is that Michael Fassbender is in the title role. That’s all I need to want to see this film.   Steve Jobs Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

My ViewMaze Runner: The Scorch Trials  (2015)  PG-13  Having figured out and escaped The Maze, the Gladers now are confronted with a new set of challenges on the open roads of a vast and desolate landscape. If you did not see the first film (which I liked), just know that the “Wicked,” as the name implies, are the bad guys. I liked this film as much as the first one. The action rarely stops and is well done. There are quite a few scary parts in the film, with some intense scenes with a few ugly creatures. The cast comes through, and I enjoyed the performance of Dylan O’Brian, who plays the hero of the story. In the first film, I found his performance a little dull but he has grown into the role. This is a fun action film that makes me want to see the third film.  My Rating: Full Price   Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
My ViewBlack Mass  (2015)  R  The film depicts the rise and fall of the ruthless and violent Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), in the 1970s and 80s.  This was supposed to be Johnny Depp’s Oscar contender and get him out of the bad movie/performance rut that he has been in. While it’s a fine performance, it’s certainly not Oscar-worthy. The film is flat and slow moving. There is not much character development, and it seems to be a movie about how many ways Whitey can kill people. I didn’t feel any tension throughout the film and never cared for any of the characters or their outcome. I was also disappointed in the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s politician brother. Cumberbatch mails in his performance, maybe because he had a hard time mastering the tough Boston accent. Black Mass never delivers the punch that it needs, and, by the end, you don’t care if Whitey lives or dies.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My ViewEverest  (2015)  PG-13  Climbing Everest is a tough task.  In 1996, a storm made climbing Everest nearly impossible to survive.  It’s rare that I say this, but I would have liked this film to be just a little bit longer and that the film would have given us more scenes about the climbers preparing for the trip, letting us see the characters interact with their loved ones and friends. Instead, the film starts with the climbers meeting up at the airport in Nepal. This lessens the impact of our understanding and sympathy for the characters as they fight to survive. The film is spectacular to watch, with outstanding shots of the mountain and the climbers. I rarely recommend the IMAX experience but, in this case, the film in IMAX is worth the extra bucks. This is a well-done film that lets you experience, up close and personal, what its like to climb a  treacherous mountain. The cast is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen with Jason Clarke standing out as the leader of the climb, Rob Hall. Josh Brolin is exceptional as the hard-headed Texan, and John Hawkes gives a truly moving performance as the climber on his third attempt to get to the summit. It’s a gut-wrenching film that will have you on the edge of your seat. And, be warned, take a sweater. I guarantee that you will feel the chill of the mountain.  My Rating: Full Price   Everest Website
IndiefestPawn Sacrifice  (2015)  PG-13  At the height of the Cold War, the world stopped to watch a series of chess matches between American champion Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) and the Russian Grand Master Champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).  Director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Steven Knight create a film that is part political thriller, with all the intrigue of a spy film, and part character study. It's the story of a man whose mind is slowly losing its grip, just as he needs it the most. Zwick and Knight have created a protagonist that isn’t likable, and it’s to Maguire’s credit that we continue to root for Fisher to win, in spite of his personality and his beliefs. Maguire never softens his portrayal of Fisher, who seemingly had two sides - the ultra-paranoid person who doubted everything and the strong-willed chess player who was confident in his abilities to defeat anyone.  “Pawn Sacrifice” is a fascinating movie that will keep you glued to the screen, even if you know the eventual outcome.    My Rating: Full Price   Pawn Sacrifice Website       
IndiefestRosenwald  (2015)    Documentary on Julius Rosenwald, who became the President of Sears and was inspired by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington.  Rosenwald went on to join forces with African-American communities during the Jim Crow South to build more than 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.  Aviva Kempner brings us another stunning and informative film in “Rosenwald.” Kempner uses old photographs combined with interviews with a diverse group of people including Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, Rep. John Lewis and Rita Dove. Bond and the others give background on just what the profound effect of Rosenwald and his schools had on the communities (most interviewees attended a Rosenwald school). One of the highlights of the film is when Maya Angelou talks, with pride, about her Rosenwald school and how much it affected her community. The community she lived in was so proud of the schools that when children got “A’s” they were paraded around from church to church to receive recognition and praise. It’s a warm, inspirational film that makes you admire and respect how one man had an idea that would change so many lives.   My Rating:  Full Price   Rosenwald Website
Forgotten FilmFallen (1998)  R  Homicide detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) helped in catching serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas).  Hobbes even witnesses Reese’s execution. Now, there are murders happening again in the same manner that Reese used to kill his victims.  Could Reese have come back from the dead?  This is a gripping horror story that is well written and never goes for the easy scare.  As usual, Washington gives an outstanding performance as does John Goodman, who plays Washington’s police partner.  The ending is a little weak, but it’s a wonderful ride to get there.   My Rating: Full Price   Fallen Info  

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Everest:  Charge Hand Dressing Props

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Sicario  (2015)  R  An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is sent to join a task force to aid Mexico in the war against the drug cartels.  Critics are raving about this film, and Emily Blunt has proven that she can be an action star.  The film has a distinguished cast including Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Donovan, and Victor Garber.   Sicario Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Visit

My ViewThe Visit  (2015)  PG-13   A single mom (Kathryn Hahn) sends her two young children (Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould) to visit their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie). Something very wrong is going on in the house, and their grandparents are acting strangely.  I love a good horror film, but I hate horror films that use sloppy, lazy screenwriting to create cheap scares with things jumping out of the dark, and this film is filled with them. I used to think that the director/writer of this film, M. Night Shyamalan had talent, but that opinion has long since gone. Every attempt at horror was weak and predictable.  The script has the two young kids spouting out psychobabble like they are freshmen in college who have taken a psychology class and think that they know everything about the human condition.  This is another film in the long line of recent "found footage” films, but this one picks and chooses when to look like a handheld film and when to look like a professionally shot film (there are establishing shots that just don’t make sense). The so-called twist in the film is so predictable and easy to figure out that I was hoping there would be another twist to turn the film into something watchable, but that never happened.  Some critics will praise this film for its mix of comedy and horror. I would suggest that those critics go back and watch The Cabin in the Woods (2012) or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) as true examples of that genre. This film doesn’t know what genre it is; is it a horror film or a comedy or satire? I have no idea, but I do know that this film does not work as a horror film.  The young girl in the film is a wannabe filmmaker. I would rather see one of her films than any other from Mr. Shyamalan.    My Rating: Cable   The Visit Website
IndiefestSteak (R)evolution (2014)  This is a documentary about the search for the best steak in the world. The film goes to France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, UK,USA, Canada, Japan, Argentina, and Brazil to find out what makes a great steak and the different ways that we raise and prepare beef.  While foodies may enjoy this film, I found it a little boring and way too long.  I did learn about how to cook a steak and got to see just how some of the greatest steak restaurants in the world cook their meals. Much like a steak, I found this film could have trimmed some of the fat before releasing it to the public.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Steak (R)evolution Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Friday the 13th  (2016)  This film hasn’t even started shooting (it’s been in development since 2013), and I know it’s a bad idea to try and revive this series. Let sleeping dogs lie, please!
Forgotten FilmAll I Wanna Do (1998)  PG-13   When an all-girls high school is about to go co-ed, a group of girls get together and  hatch a wild scheme to keep their school from changing. This is a funny and charming film set in the 1960’s that highlights girls who have aspirations to be more than just homemakers. The cast is brilliant, especially Lyn Redgrave, who plays the head-mistress of the school and Rachael Leigh Cook, who tries to keep the girls from succeeding. It’s a fun film that is a joy to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   All I Wanna Do Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Visit: Parking PA

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Pawn Sacrifice  (2014)  PG-13   The legendary battle of wits between American chess champion Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) and the Russian grand master champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the height of the Cold War. The film is directed by Edward Zwick (Traffic, Shakespeare in Love), and the script written by Steven Knight (Locke).  That’s good enough for me to see this film.  Pawn Sacrifice Website   

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

My ViewA Walk in the Woods (2015) R  Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is a world famous travel writer whose humorous books were once on the best seller list, but he hasn’t written a thing in 5 years. Bryson decides to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte).  Robert Redford has been trying to make this film, based on Bryson's book of the same name, since the late 90s. He initially wanted to star with Paul Newman in the Katz role. While that would have been fun to watch, the pairing of Redford and Nolte in a movie based on a beloved and hilarious book should have been a hit out of the park. Unfortunately, I think the script has been rewritten so many times that the final product, by screenwriters Bill Holderman and Rick Kerb, feels flat and stale. The film never really gives Redford and Nolte much to work with. The brilliant supporting cast is given nothing to do, with the exception of Kristen Schael, who briefly breathes some comedic life into the film.  While the +50 age crowd may have an enjoyable time watching the two old master actors stumble about on-screen, I think the rest of us, and especially fans of the book, will not want to go on this trip.    My Rating: Cable   A Walk in the Woods Website   

My ViewThe Transporter: Refueled  (2014)  PG-13  Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) is a former special-ops mercenary who is now transporting classified packages for questionable people.  He gets caught up in a cat and mouse game between some bank robbers and a Russian kingpin. This is the typical movie written by Luc Besson, who created the Transporter series. The film has lots of action and flash but no real character or content. Ed Skrein is asked to fill the very large shoes of the star of the first three Transporter films, Jason Statham. Unfortunately, Skrein doesn’t have the charisma or screen presence. The action, while well-choreographed, is almost comical, reminiscent of an old Jackie Chan film, where the hero uses various devices like a life buoy to subdue his attackers. The acting is horrible, with the exception of Ray Stevenson, who comes off stylish and cool as Frank Martin’s father, an ex-CIA agent. The film is one big ad for Audi.  Instead of “Refueled,” I think this whole series needs to be retooled.   My Rating: Cable   The Transporter: Refueled Website

IndiefestLearning to Drive  (2015)  R  As Wendy’s (Patricia Clarkson) marriage falls apart, she decides to take driving lessons from a Sikh instructor (Ben Kingsley) who has relationship troubles of his own. This is a charming film about the development of a friendship between two lonely adults. Clarkson and Kingsley work extremely well together in this understated film. It’s a film about learning to believe in yourself and that a person can succeed if they just give it their all.  I especially enjoyed the performance of Clarkson, who just sparkles on the screen. Kingsley gives a powerful yet restrained performance.  This is a movie that moves at a slow pace, but that’s OK, because, like with good friends, sometimes it’s just fine to sit and talk for a while.   My Rating:  Full Price   Learning to Drive Website

IndiefestSteve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2014)  R This is a documentary by filmmaker Alex Gibney on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. Through archival interviews and videos of Jobs, Gibney lets Steve do most of the talking in the film, making him almost a personal tour guide to the story of his life. Jobs had the uncanny ability to spot talent and the ability to inspire people who worked for him to achieve the impossible. Gibney interviews former employees from both the early days of Apple and the latter years, when the company that Jobs started had become a powerhouse not only in the computer world, but in the business world. Gibney shows Jobs as a driven man who expected his employees to create perfect products but demanded that the job take over their lives, so much so that their personal lives suffered. With this film, Alex Gibney shows us that Jobs was a man who helped connect the whole world through his products, but he couldn’t connect to people in his own personal world. It is truly ironic that Jobs created products like the iPhone, something that was meant to connect us to other people, but instead seems to isolate us as we stare at our iPhones at the bus stop or at the dinner table. The film is a fascinating, unflinching look at an extremely complicated and ego driven man. I just wonder that after seeing this film, will the fans of Apple and Jobs hold him in such high, almost god-like esteem and will they look at his products with the same reverence? Or will they just go back to staring at their iPhones?    My Rating: Full Price   Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Forgotten FilmThe People Under the Stairs  (1991)  R  Two adults and a juvenile break into a suburban home rumored to have a large stash of cash. What they find is their worst nightmare, a house filled with secrets, secrets that may cost them their lives. This is a film written and directed by the master of horror, the late Wes Craven. It’s a film that starts out as an ordinary heist film that quickly turns into a film filled with mystery and horror, and with any Craven film, it also has some humorous bits. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking that is just plain fun to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   The People Under the Stairs Website   

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Transporter: Refueled:  Patina & Tint

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Visit  (2015)  PG-13  A single mom sends her two young children to visit their grandparents. Something very wrong is going on in the house, and their grandparents are acting strange. I have high hopes for this horror film, but writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s track record lately hasn’t been stellar.   The Visit Website   
Until Next Time!

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!