Friday, February 27, 2015
My View: Focus (2015) R Nicky (Will Smith) is a long time con-man who agrees to show Jess (Margot Robbie) the tips of his trade. They get involved, and Nicky breaks it off when Jess gets too entrenched in Nicky’s life. Three years later, Nicky is doing one last con, a con that could set him up for life. The only problem: Jess shows up and throws his plan out the window. Con movies are one of the hardest genres to make; you have to have great chemistry between the leads. Con movies need to have several twists and turns the audience doesn't see coming and an ending that is surprising and creative. A movie like the 1973 classic, The Sting, would be a good example. Focus isn't one those movies as it fails in all aspects. There isn't any chemistry between Smith and Robbie, the plot twists are predictable and easy, and the ending is just plain stupid. It's sad when a cast seems to be just going through the motions except for TV veteran Gerald McRaney, who gives a great performance as a henchman. If you see this film, it will be like someone picked your pocket, but believe me, you will notice. My Rating: Cable Focus Website
Indiefest: Leviathan (2014) R In a small Russian coastal town, Kolya’s (Aleksey Serebryakov) house is about to be taken away from him by corrupt government officials. Koyla asks an old army buddy, who is now a high-power Moscow attorney, to help him combat the local government. Reminiscent of a mob film by Martin Scorsese, this film is worthy of its Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Picture. The film is filled dread and gloom as Kolya desperately tries to keep his way of life but is beaten down every step he takes by a bureaucracy that is corrupt and evil. The film is marked by three performances of the leads, especially Elena Lyadova, who plays the wife of Kolya, as she tries to stand by her husband and ultimately, his bad decisions, and, ultimately, bad decision after bad decision, herself. You eventually get the idea that the characters in this film are like the wrecked boats along the coast. They are doomed to waste away into nothingness. My Rating: Full Price Leviathan Website
Indiefest: What We Do in the Shadows (2015) It’s hard being a vampire in the modern world. You have to pay rent, do household chores, try to keep up with the latest trends and still keep your vampire coolness. Will this group of vampires get along long enough to survive another 8,000 years? Overall, this film drags a bit and probably should have been a little shorter, but it’s still a fun film to watch, and several times it's just out and out hilarious. The household of vampires has let a documentary crew come in and shoot their lives, which leads up to a big vampire ball. Everything that can go wrong does, including mistakenly taking a human friend to the Vampire Ball (not a good move for the human). The film, at times, seems a little like small skits put together, but some of those scenes work as great comedy. My Rating: Bargain Matinee What We Do in the Shadows Website
Forgotten Film: Julia (1977) At the request of an old friend, playwright Lilian Hellman (Jane Fonda), agrees to smuggle money through Nazi Germany to Russia. Complicating things is that Lillian is a Jew. This film stands out due to the stunning performances of Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave as Julia, and Jason Robards as writer Dashiell Hammett. This is one of the better films of the 1970s due to its outstanding cinematography and its depiction of the two leads: both strong women who are willing to risk anything for a noble cause. My Rating: Full Price Julia Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Focus: Assistant Football Coach
In Case You Missed It (A New Release Out on DVD and Blu-Ray): Big Hero 6 (2014) PG The Academy Award winning film about a young robotics engineer named, Hiro (Ryan Potter), and his plus-sized inflatable robot, named Baymax (Scott Adsit), uncover a criminal plot and put together a team of inexperienced crime-fighters to take on a masked villain. I loved this film, which combines the superhero element of the Marvel films with the nice, personal touch of the Walt Disney films. You will fall in love Baymax and his little fist bump catch phrase. The film is enjoyable for both adults and children and teaches a wonderful lesson of listening to your conscience. Full Price Big Hero 6 website
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter (2014) A young Japanese woman discovers an old copy of the 1996 film Fargo on VHS. She is convinced that it is a treasure map to the location of the big bag of money that Steve Buscemi’s character buried out in the snow in the film. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter Website
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Friday, February 20, 2015
My View: The Duff (2014) PG-13 Bianca (Mae Whitman) discovers that she has been labeled the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) by her more popular friends. Now she enlists Wesley (Robbie Arnell) to help her reinvent herself. The film is another in a long line of teen romantic comedies. Mae Whitman is just the right amount of cute mixed in with a bit of nerdiness to make her character likable from the start. Arnell is very believable as the jock with a sense of humor who helps Bianca find the confidence to ask her crush out on a date. The first kiss between Bianca and Wesley (come on we all knew that would happen, so it isn't a spoiler) is what makes this movie work, as the scene goes in a different direction than the ordinary rom-com. Teens looking for a "date" movie could go worse (50 Shades anyone?). My Rating: Bargain Matinee (*Please note that I work for CBS, this is a CBS Films release) The Duff Website
My View: McFarland USA (2015) PG Jim White (Kevin Costner) has lost every job he has had. Now, he is the cross-country coach of a small town in California, where most of his students are migrant farm workers. What I really enjoyed about this film is the coach isn't some great savior but comes into a community and a culture he knows nothing about and embraces both, willing to become a part of both, instead of trying to change either. The film is strengthened by the chemistry of Costner and Maria Bello, who plays his wife. They work as a team to make their time in the community a success. Also working in favor of this film is this is a true story. The movie is a story of not only overcoming obstacles, but in believing that you can do anything you set your mind to. My Rating: Full Price McFarland USA website
Forgotten Film: A Perfect World (1993) PG-13 Butch (Kevin Costner) and Terry (Keith Szarabajka) escape from a prison and then kidnap a young boy (T.J. Lowther) as they escape across the Texas landscape, pursued by a Texas Ranger (Clint Eastwood) and a criminologist (Laura Dern). On their travel, Butch and the boy discover that they share a very troubled and violent past. Outstanding performances by Costner and Eastwood and the film’s ability to explore the complexities of the human condition, make this film an intense and enjoyable film experience. My Rating: Full Price A Perfect World Info
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) We really didn’t want chapters one or two, so why do need Chapter 3? Insidious Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD/Blue Ray): John Wick (2015) R I enjoyed this film for its nonstop action, and Keanu Reeves doesn’t disappoint as a hit man who comes out of retirement to get revenge for the killing of his dog (given to him by his dying wife). My Rating: Bargain Matinee John Wick Website
Weird Credits: From the credits of McFarland USA: Assistant Cross Country Coordinator
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: '71 (2014) R In 1971, a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot in the deadly streets of Belfast. This film has been wowing film festival audiences worldwide. '71 Website
Mike’s Fearless Oscar Picks: Click here to see Mike’s picks for this year’s Academy Awards.
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Friday, February 13, 2015
My View: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) R A secret spy agency recruits a young man to join the organization just as a global threat emerges. This film was directed by Mathew Vaughn, who directed the 2010 film Kick-Ass. If you liked/loved Kick-Ass, you will enjoy this film. If you didn't, then don't see this one, as it is ultra-violent with a sense of humor. I enjoyed Colin Firth as the super-cool secret agent, and Taron Egerton is up to the task as the young apprentice, but there is a major scene in this film that I have a real problem with and, in my opinion, it brings down the whole film. Without giving anything away, the scene is incredibly violent, with people dying in every way imaginable. I don't have any problems with that, but I do have a problem with Colin Firth's character participating and doing most of the killing in the scene. I did enjoy Samuel L. Jackson as the Steve Jobs-like villain with a lisp. And, the ending of the film is highly enjoyable, but the scene in the middle, which is a game changer, does not fit and makes me not like this film. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Kingsman: The Secret Service Website
Indiefest: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) In a town that is full of people doing bad things, no one notices that there is a new woman (Sheila Vand), a woman who just happens to be a vampire. I loved this film, and it has one of the best soundtracks of any film of the past five years. It's very stylish, shot in black and white, with the main character, the mysterious woman, almost uttering no lines throughout the film. It's a mixture of a modern vampire film with bits of an Italian Spaghetti Western thrown in. Vand is perfect in the role of the woman who only comes out at night and wears a long, black cape. If you are a fan of horror films I highly recommend this one. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Website
Forgotten Film: The Day I Saw Your Heart (2011) Melanie Laurent plays Justine, an x-ray technician who refuses to keep a boyfriend. Every time she starts going out with someone, her father (Michel Blanc) secretly befriends the boyfriend. She is bored with her job and would rather create art from her x-rays than do her actual job. Now it’s going to take a major event to propel Justine out of her funk. Laurent is brilliant as Justine and just shines on screen. I loved the message of this film, and it’s worth checking out this French gem. My Rating: Full Price The Day I Saw Your Heart Info
The 50 (A Movie from My Best / Worst Films of All Time)
#1 Worst Film: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) Directed by the legendary director Ed Wood, who directed some of the worst films of all time, this one is the ultimate in bad filmmaking. The acting is horrible, the special effects are incredibly bad, and the storyline makes no sense. If you tried to make a crappy film, you couldn't do it as pathetically as Wood does in this one. Be sure to look for the flying saucer, which is two paper plates glued together, spray painted and suspended by a string. The legendary actor Bela Lugosi, known for playing Dracula, makes an appearance. He died before principle shooting, but there were test shots of him done, so producers just put those in the film. I mean, why wouldn't you have Dracula in a film about space aliens invading the earth and creating zombies? Plan 9 from Outer Space Website
Weird Credits: From the credits of Kingsman: The Secret Service: fight arranger
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Cinderella (2015) While it sounds like a bad idea to remake a classic as a live action film, the trailer looks incredible and it’s directed by Kenneth Branagh, so I have hope that this will be fantastic. Cinderella Website
Until Next Time!
Friday, February 6, 2015
My View: Jupiter Ascending (2015) PG-13 Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) has always felt that she was destined for something better than her job as a janitor. But it’s much to her surprise when an interplanetary warrior, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), shows up and informs her that her destiny is to be part of a royal family who rules the solar system. "The Matrix" was a fun movie that took a little effort to understand. This film, also directed by The Wachowskis, is complicated, but I could see it forty times and still not understand it all. The film is a big mess, with special effects so horrible that, at one point, I thought I was watching an old Claymation movie from the 60's. The dialog is incredibly stupid as in, "Bees know royalty." There is absolutely no chemistry between Kunis and Tatum, with Kunis acting like a 16-year-old girl around Tatum's character (who, by the way, is part wolf). The movie uses the same plot device twice, making me think; "Didn't I already see this?" And Oscar nominee, Eddie Redmayne, chews up scenery like he is channeling a 90's version of Nicolas Cage. By the end of the film, your biggest question will be: "Why does Channing Tatum have Spock ears?" My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again Jupiter Ascending Website
FamilyFaire: The SpongeBob Move: Sponge Out of Water (2015) PG Someone has stolen the Krabby Patty secret formula. Life in Bikini Bottom turns to chaos, and it’s up to SpongeBob and his friends to catch the culprit and return the formula. If you are a kid and a fan of the TV show, you will love this film. If you are an adult, you probably won't have a good time, even if you are a fan. The movie is aimed at kids, with lots of color and stupid comedy bits. I did like the animation during the live-action parts with Antonio Banderas as the bad-guy pirate. It's an okay kid’s movie that will probably bore adults. My Rating: Cable The SpongeBob Movie Website
Indiefest: Still Alice (2014) PG-13 Alice (Julianne Moore) is a high respected linguistics professor who gets the shock of her life – she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. She and her family must deal with her rapid decline. Julianne Moore gives an Oscar worthy performance as we see her struggle with her diminishing faculties. She is truly dazzling on the screen, running the gamut of emotions. Kristen Stewart gives the best performance of her career as the black sheep of the family who understands how Alice is feeling. I just wish the script was better at giving us the big emotional moments, but it rarely does, and lets down the amazing cast performances. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Still Alice Website
Indiefest: Love, Rosie (2014) R Rosie (Lily Collins) and Alex (Sam Claflin) have been best friends since they were five years old. But, life took Rosie and Alex in different directions. They reconnect, and now they must decide…is it just a friendship or is it something more? I enjoyed this British rom-com, especially Lily Collins, who has a nice comedic touch. Sam Claflin makes a perfect romantic partner for her, and there are some sparks between his character and Rosie. It's a fun film that says that it's never too late to find love. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Love, Rosie Facebook page
Forgotten Film: Dead Calm (1989) R Sam Neil and Nicole Kidman play grieving parents who are trying to get over the death of their son. They go on a sailing vacation to reconnect with each other. Out in the middle of the ocean, they encounter a charming young man (Billy Zane) who is sailing alone on another boat, but there is more to his story than he lets on. This is a tense thriller with three excellent performances, especially by Kidman. The story centers around her and to watch her character evolve before our eyes is almost magical. The film has a great plot that will keep you guessing until the very end. My Rating: Full Price Dead Calm Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Jupiter Ascending: Movement coach
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Last Five Years (2014) PG-13 A musical with Anna Kendrick? Yes, please! The Last Five Years Website
Until Next Time!
Friday, January 30, 2015
Indiefest: Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action and Animated (2015) The Academy Award nominated shorts, both Live Action and Animated films for this year’s Oscars. This year's nominees are an outstanding group of films from around the world. Highlights include: Aya, a fantastic live action film about strangers connecting on a car ride discussing their lives. The Single Life, the most fun animated film of the bunch, about a woman who discovers a record that allows her to travel through time. The Dam Keeper, a brilliant and touching animated film about a young pig in charge of a windmill that keeps pollution from reaching his town. The Phone Call, a live action short where Sally Hawkins plays a crisis center worker who receives a phone call from a man who is trying to kill himself and won't give his name or location. My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again Oscar Shorts Website
Forgotten Film: Fearless (1993) R Max (Jeff Bridges) is on an airplane that has lost its hydraulics and is going to crash. He spends what he thinks will be his last moments comforting a little boy. Against the odds, Max survives the crash and now has to deal with the after-effects. This is an moving film, with outstanding performances by Bridges and Rosie Perez, who plays a fellow survivor who seems to be the only person who knows how Max is thinking and feeling. This film also has one of the strongest supporting casts, including Tom Hulce, John Turturro, Benicio Del Toro and Isabella Rossellini. This is a magical film that has one of the truly greatest endings. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Fearless Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Black Sea: underwater best boy
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: What We Do in the Shadows (2015) I am hearing great things about this comedy. It’s about three vampires trying to live in modern society. I mean, how do you keep up with your appearance when you can’t look in the mirror? What We Do In the Shadows Info
Until Next Time!
Friday, January 23, 2015
My View: The Boy Next Door (2015) R High school teacher Claire (Jennifer Lopez) has just come off a messy divorce. She has a one-night stand with a young neighbor (Ryan Guzman) who then develops an obsession with her. I was looking for the door about five minutes into this film. The idea that Jennifer Lopez's character, who looks like Jennifer Lopez and therefore, could get any man out there, would lust for and have a one-night stand with a nineteen-year-old is laughable, but then again, so is the dialogue. The plot holes in this film are about as wide as the empty theatres. My Rating: Cable The Boy Next Door Website
Indiefest: Cake (2014) R Claire (Jennifer Aniston) suffers from constant pain. Not only does Claire have physical scars, she also has mental ones. She has driven away everyone, including her chronic pain support group. Now she only has her housekeeper (Adriana Barraza). Claire’s world is shaken when a fellow group member commits suicide. This film was written, it seems, to give Aniston every advantage of getting an Oscar nomination. Make her look slightly ugly but still look like Jennifer Aniston. Check. Make her character slightly unlikable but not so much that she isn't redeemable. Check. Have a bunch of well-respected actors show up for bit parts so we can put their names on the poster. Check. Have something in her past that we don't talk about for two-thirds of the film and then finally reveal what we already knew happened. Check. The one thing the producers missed to get Aniston her Oscar? Write a good script. My Rating: Cable Cake Website
Familyfaire: Song of the Sea (2104) PG Saoirse is a child who is the last of the selkies, a legendary group that can transform from seals into people. Now she is on a journey to free fairy creatures who are trapped in the modern world. This is one of the best-animated movies I have seen over the past five years, and it will become a classic, I believe. The film is beautiful and moving. The classically done animation is a joy to watch, and the storyline is original. Great blending of classic Celtic folk tales and a modern setting make this film one of the most inventive and imaginative films I have seen. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again Song of the Sea Website
Indiefest: The Humbling (2014) R Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is an actor whose world is turned upside down when he starts an affair with Pegeen (Greta Gerwig). This is Al Pacino playing Al Pacino with an insecurity complex. For most actors, the amount of scenery chewing scenes would be overwhelming and tedious, but Pacino pulls it off. There is great chemistry between Pacino and Gerwig. Their scenes together are the best moments in the film. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and watching a esteemed actor in an impressive part was the reason. My Rating: Full Price The Humbling Website
Forgotten Films: Martin (1977) R An awkward, teenage boy (John Amplas) has a secret; he thinks he is an 84-year-old blood craving vampire. He has just moved into a new town to live with his cousin and doesn’t know anyone. Trying to make new friends isn’t easy, especially when you tend to kill the people you meet and drain their blood. With an unusual and interesting take on the vampire movie, this film, directed by horror legend George a. Romero, never lets you know if Martin really is a vampire or just nuts. The directors of current horror films could learn a lot from watching this film. My Rating: Bargain Matinee Martin Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of The Boy Next Door: cat trainer
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Jupiter Ascending (2015) PG-13 Not sure exactly what this film is about other than Channing Tatum has a dye job but it got him, Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne, so I will watch it. Jupiter Ascending Website
Until Next Time!
Friday, January 16, 2015
My View: American Sniper (2015) R Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is the deadliest sniper in the U.S. armed services. This Navy SEAL saves lives of his fellow warriors on the battlefields. Back home, Chris struggles to return to a normal life with his wife (Sienna Miller) and kids. Is Chris’s dedication to his duty going to be his downfall? Bradley Cooper deserves his Oscar nomination for this film as he is perfect in the role of the tough but troubled sniper. I also loved Sienna Miller in the role of the wife he has left behind. They work wonderfully together, and some of the best scenes of the film are their interactions. I didn’t like the way Clint Eastwood directed the film. The film feels very stodgy, and the camera work is extremely unimaginative. The film opens with a great scene but never keeps that momentum. I also didn’t like the way the plot develops during the second half of the film, which feels almost like we are watching some sort of superhero movie. I would have liked the film to spend more time on Chris Kyle’s life after the military and less on trying to pull on the heartstrings.My Rating: Bargain Matinee American Sniper Website
My View: The Wedding Ringer (2015) Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart) provides a service: he will be the best man in your wedding. It’s a service for guys who are a little socially challenged and don’t have anyone close enough to stand by them. Doug (Josh Gad) has gotten himself into a pickle: he has fabricated not only his best man but all nine of his groomsmen. Now, Jimmy must come to the rescue. If you are a fan of Kevin Hart, you will like this movie. If you aren’t, then stay away because he and Josh Gad are in every scene. Luckily they work well together, and the film is helped by their on-screen chemistry. The film is funny at times but never can quite sustain the comedy. The comedic talents of Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting are wasted as she is mostly eye candy as the bride. My Rating: Cable The Wedding Ringer Facebook page
Family Faire: Paddington (2014) PG After Paddington The Bear loses his uncle to an accident in the Peruvian jungle, Paddington makes his way to London where he befriends the Brown family in a train station. They decide to take the bear into their home, and their lives will never be the same. Whoever made the commercials/trailers for this film should not be working because they don’t do this film justice. This is one of the best family films that I have seen in years. The animation of Paddington the Bear is breathtaking, and this film has humor and heart. It doesn’t hurt that the film has Hugh Bonneville playing the gruff dad and Sally Hawkins playing the loveable mom, both exceptional actors. This film is a blast to watch, and both adults and children will fall in love with Paddington. Oh, and Nichole Kidman makes a pretty good bad guy. My Rating: Full Price Paddington Website
My View: Spare Parts (2015) PG-13 Four Hispanic students from a high school decide to compete in a robotics competition against schools such as M.I.T. The team only has $800 and no experience, but the students are helped by their high school teacher (George Lopez). I never thought that I would write this about George Lopez, but he gives a very moving and understated performance in this film. He has great chemistry with the kids, which makes this film work. It’s a surprisingly touching film about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. I also like Marisa Tomei in the role of the fellow teacher who gives Lopez’s character some guidance on how to connect with the kids. This is a great movie for families, and I highly recommend this inspiring film. My Rating: Full Price Spare Parts Facebook page
Forgotten Film: Gloria (1980) PG Jack Dawn (Buck Henry) is an accountant for the mob and is about to give up evidence to the FBI. Fearing for his son’s (John Adames) safety, Jack sends his son to a neighbor, Gloria (Gena Rowlands), for safekeeping. Unfortunately for Gloria, Jack also sends over the evidence that could put many in the mob in prison. Now Gloria and the kid are on the run. This film has a great performance from Gena Rowlands, who plays a former mob girlfriend with her typical firecracker style. The film was written and directed by Rowlands’ real-life husband, John Cassavetes and gets better every time I see it.My Rating: Full Price Gloria Info
Weird Credits: From the credits of Paddington: special effects teeth
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015) Colin Firth as a secret service agent. You had me at Colin Firth. Kingsman: The Secret Service Website
Until Next Time!