Friday, January 25, 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

My ViewHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) It’s been fifteen years since Hansel and Gretel escaped from the blind witch’s gingerbread house, and now Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and his sister, Gretel (Gemma Arterton), dedicate their lives to hunting down and killing witches, aided by the knowledge that, for some reason, they are not affected by the witches’ spells. They may have met their match, though, in the evil sorceress, Muriel (Famke Janssen), who is planning a mass sacrifice of children during the upcoming “Blood Moon.”  This film is not for kids as there is quite a bit of violence, a little nudity, and a whole lot of cussing.  It's rated R , so this film is appropriately not meant for the below age 17 audience.  This is what I call a popcorn movie where you should just sit back and enjoy the action, and don't worry too much about plot lines or the writing.  It's worth seeing in 3-D as it was shot in the format, and the action scenes use it to great advantage.  Both Rennet and Arterton come-off as bad asses in the action sequences and they have great chemistry on-screen.  Femme Jenssen makes a fine evil witch, the special effects are well done as is the makeup of all the bad guys.  While not a great film, it's a fun film to watch and is much better than some of the other action films that have come out in the past months.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee    Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Indiefest Quartet (2013) Music fills the manor that serves as a retirement home for musicians, and it's time to stage the annual fundraising concert at the home. But things might never be the same with the addition of a grand Opera singer, Jean Horton (Maggie Smith), whose pride may keep her from helping stage the musical. Dustin Hoffman picked this film to be his directorial debut, and he picked correctly. The film will be compared to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but it is a much better script, with fully fleshed out characters and a much better storyline. The cast is first rate with Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and especially Tom Courtenay standing out. Maggie Smith gives her usual flawless performance, perfectly portraying an Opera Diva with an ego the size of the manor she has moved into. The remarkable thing about this film is that most of the supporting cast are musicians that toured with national companies. This film is warm, funny, and touching, and it's a film where you leave appreciating how music and its performers make up an important part of our world.   My Rating: Full Price   Quartet Info
Indiefest:  Rust and Bone (2013) Ali (Matthais Schoenaerts) gains custody of his young son and moves from Belgium to Antibes to live with his sister and her husband. While working as a bouncer at a night club, Ali meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a woman whose job is to train killer whales at a Marine Water Park. Stephanie is injured in a freak accident at the water park and has to have both legs amputated at the knees. She now reaches out to Ali and a strange, wonderful relationship starts up between the two as they figure out their places in this new world. Cotillard is the reason to see this French/Belgium film, as she brings a full range of emotion and strength to the role of the troubled and damaged Stephanie. It truly is amazing to see the bond that develops between Stephanie and Ali, two people who, at the start of the friendship, have no idea how important each other will be to their growth and happiness.   My Rating: Full Price   Rust and Bone Website
Forgotten FilmPride Of the Marines (1945) Al Schmid (John Garfield) is a happy-go-lucky factory worker who loves to hunt and hang out with his best friend, Lee (Dane Clark). Life is good for Al, he has a good job, good friends and his life gets better when he starts dating Ruth (Eleanor Parker), a girl who is as fun and carefree as Al. All this changes when Pearl Harbor is attacked by the Japanese and Al joins The Marines to fight for his country.   He may never come back to Ruth, though, and if he does, will things between them ever be the same? John Garfield is perfect in the role of Al, and makes us like him the first time we meet him. What I love about this film is a long, drawn out scene, where Al is having Sunday dinner with Lee and his family, and they slowly learn through radio reports about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This film also contains a horrifying scene (especially for the time period that it was made) of a Japanese attack on Al’s small outfit somewhere out in the Philippines. The film does a great job showing the transition that Americans, both the men who joined the military and the families that they left behind had to make, rising from a peaceful, ideal world to one that was carrying on a World War.   My Rating: Full Price   Pride of the Marines Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD)Taken 2 (2012) This film made my bottom 10 list as I hated this silly, stupid film starring Liam Neeson who is trying to rescue his wife and sometimes his daughter from mobsters who want revenge for what happened to their family in the first Taken film. Quickly, I said quickly, run from this movie!   Taken 2 Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  The Haunting of Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013) In what must be the most confusing title of the year, I can’t tell if the ghosts move to Georgia and start haunting in Connecticut or if it’s the other way around. Let’s just say I want to call my travel agent and go anywhere this film isn’t playing.   The Haunting of Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia Website
Weird Credits: From the credits of Gangster Squad: Environmental Steward
Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouOz the Great and Powerful (2013) The film about the origins of the Wizard of Oz (way before Dorothy), directed by Sam Raimi and starring James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis. Just the poster makes me want to see this film!   Oz the Great and Powerful Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 18, 2013


My View:  Mama (2013)   Two young girls (Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nelisse) are found in a remote cabin, apparently living by themselves for the last five years. The two orphaned girls are taken in by their uncle (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend (Jessica Chastain). Mysterious things start happening in the home, and the big question is are the girls causing the problems or did they bring something with them? The first 15 minutes of this film are truly scary, especially when we first meet the two girls after they have spent 5 years in the cabin by themselves, but the rest of the film can’t sustain that level of fright and rarely are there any other true scary moments. Chastian isn’t given much to showcase her talents, as she plays a character who doesn’t want to be in charge of the children. The end of the film is very disappointing and somewhat confusing, which makes the film just not very fun to watch. The film was originally a short, but maybe there isn’t enough material to make a full length flick, and it certainly feels that way.   My Rating: Cable   Mama Website
Indiefest: The Impossible (2013)   Based on a true story of a family who, while on vacation at a coastal resort in Thailand, are separated after a devastating Tsunami hits. Naomi Watts, in an Academy Award nominated role, plays Maria, the mom who has given up being a doctor to raise her family. Ewan McGregor plays the father, Henry, who, when separated from his wife and oldest boy, risks his own life to find them once again. Watts is brilliant in the role of a woman who is determined to make sure that her oldest son (Tom Holland) survives the ordeal, even if it means risking her own life. The special effects are incredibly realistic and you get the full effect of what it would be like to be hit by a tidal wave of water and debris. This is an awe-inspiring film that keeps you not only on the edge of your seat, but also brings tears as you wonder how, and if anyone, can survive such tragic devastation.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Impossible Website
Indiefest: LUV  (2013) An 11 year old boy, Woody (Michael Rainey Jr.), plays hooky from school when his uncle Vincent (Common) decides to give him a lesson on how to be a man. But, it’s a tough world, especially if you are an ex-con like Vincent, which makes it even harder to start over. The film has an excellent supporting cast including Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover and Charles S. Dutton. Common does an admirable job as the ex-con who’s gets in deeper and deeper into something that he may not survive. But it’s Michael Rainey Jr., as Woody, who makes this film enjoyable to watch, as he brings a presence to the screen that has to be seen to be believed.  My Rating : Bargain Matinee   LUV Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#9 Worst Film
The Postman  (1997) Kevin Costner stars in this film about post nuclear war America. Since you will be bored out of your mind watching this film, watch for a small cameo by rocker Tom Petty. Will the mail get through? No one cared in 1997 when the film was released, and you shouldn’t now.    The Postman Info
Forgotten Film:  In the Heat of the Night (1967)  Not to be confused with the Carol O’Connor TV show from the late 80’s, this film is a classic murder mystery film with the setting in the Deep South. Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, a Black police detective from Philadelphia who has the bad luck to be at a train station in Sparta, Mississippi just after a white businessman was murdered. Tibbs is arrested for the crime, based only on his race and the fact that he is new in town and has money. When the Police Chief in the town (played by Rod Steiger) learns that Tibbs is not only a policeman, but one of the finest detectives on the Philly force, he enlists Tibbs to help with the investigation. But now you have a Black man investigating the murder of a white man in a racist town. The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Steiger. That Poitier wasn’t even nominated was an injustice, as he is brilliant in the role of the smart and proud Tibbs. The film was shot on location and perfectly captures the nuances of the small town life in 1960’s Mississippi.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   In The Heat of the Night Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD): Frankenweenie (2012) I feel that children 6 and under shouldn’t see this film as it was a little scary and there are deaths in the film. My view was that you could only really enjoy this film if you were a big Tim Burton fan.  If you’re not a fan, you will probably be bored.   My Rating: Cable   Frankenweenie Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):   Knife Fight (2013) A political comedy about a strategist who is trying to get three very different candidates elected. The cast makes this film sound like it should be on TV, with Rob Lowe, Jennifer Morrison and Julie Bowen headlining . The big problem:  Audiences in the theatre won’t be able to change the channel.    Knife Fight Info

Weird Credits: From the Credits of Mama: Nightmare Concept Design

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Stand Up Guys (2013) A bunch of aging con men try to get the guys back together for one last con. Cast includes Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Christopher Walken and Juliana Margulies. Hey, Christopher Walken doing a con, count me in!   Stand Up Guys Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

My View: Zero Dark Thirty (2013): Maya (Jessica Chastain) is a CIA investigator who goes on a ten year mission to hunt down Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the Twin Tower attacks on 9/11. Chastain is amazing in this role as a character who is so driven to find Bin Laden that she has no personal life, almost no friends and she displays a single-minded determination that antagonizes everyone she works with. There are some very good supporting actors in this film, including Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Ehle, but it's Chastain’s film, and she dominates every scene she's in.  When you see it, though you know its outcome, you are still on the edge of your seat until the very end.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Zero Dark Thirty Website
My View: Gangster Squad (2013) :The story of a group of police officers who form an elite squad with the intention of keeping 1950’s Los Angeles free of Mafia influence. This squad, though, will have to make tough decisions in their attempt to fight crime, and the Mafia plays dirty, so the squad may have to do the same. Be warned, this film contains a lot of violence.  The first time we meet gangster, Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), he is having a man ripped apart by two cars. While I like Josh Brolin, I just feel like the part of the leader of the squad, Sarge, was just too big of a role for him. I did like Ryan Gosling as the slick police officer, but the film mostly wastes such talents as Emma Stone and Robert Patrick giving them one dimensional characters to work with. Overall, the film had an almost cartoon-like feel to it, Sean Penn's makeup is campy, and it was as if I were watching a remake of the 1990 Warren Beatty film, Dick Tracy.     My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Gangster Squad Website
The 50 (A Movie From My Best/Worst Films of All Time)
#10 Best Film
The Searchers  (1956):   Directed by John Ford, this western is about Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) who returns from the Civil War to his brother’s ranch in Texas. While Ethan is out tracking an Indian raiding party, Ethan’s brother’s family is attacked by Comanche’s who kill the entire family except Ethan’s niece, Debbie, who is kidnapped. Ethan, with Martin (Jeffery Hunter), Debbie’s adopted brother, sets out on a quest to find and bring back Debbie, but as years pass, the quest turns from being a rescue mission to one of revenge. In one of his better acting roles, Wayne is brilliant as the hard-nosed Ethan, whose hatred of Indians is apparent almost from the start of the film. This is a quintessential John Ford film with dynamic and sweeping camera shots that fill the screen with breathtaking scenery.    The Searchers Info

Forgotten Film: Downhill Racer (1969) Dave Chappelet (Robert Redford) is an ambitious skier who is added to the U.S. National team as a last minute replacement. Chappelet clashes with both his teammates and his coach (Gene Hackman) from almost the very start as he puts his own goals ahead of his teammates.  He has talent, though, and may be America’s best hope for a medal at the Olympics. This is not your usual Redford role, as his character for most of the film is self-centered and unlikeable, but Redford makes the role work. The racing scenes are well done, and the final race is extremely exciting to watch.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Downhill Racer Info

In Case You Missed it (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Looper (2012) This film is set in the future. When the mob wants to rub out someone, they send them 30 years into the past where Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is waiting to commit the perfect crime. The mob has a surprise for Joe, though. They are sending him his future, older self (Bruce Willis) to be killed. Will Joe do the deed? I enjoyed this film and especially enjoyed Gordon-Levitt’s performance as the young Joe, but I was left wanting the storyline to be a little more complicated and better thought out.   My Rating: Full Price   Looper Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):   Identity Thief (2013) When Sandy (Jason Bateman) finds out that his identity has been stolen, he sets out to find the thief and bring them to justice. Diana (Melissa McCarthy) is the woman who has stolen Sandy’s identity, but Sandy isn’t the only one hunting for Diana - so is the mob. This just looks like an attempt to put McCarthy into one zany situation after another, which means a film that just won’t be funny.   Identity Thief Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Zero Dark Thirty: Sign Writer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Warm Bodies (2013) I have seen the first three minutes of this film, and it looks like so much fun.  A zombie (Nicholas Hoult) falls in love with a human girl (Teresa Palmer). Will their love survive the end of the world?   Warm Bodies Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Not Fade Away and My Bottom Ten Films of 2012

My Review:   Not Fade Away (2012) It’s 1964, and America is being invaded by musical groups like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Douglas (John Magaro) and his friends are about to graduate from high school and decide to form a rock band with dreams of a record contract and playing to sold out venues. Soon the boys find out that carrying out their dreams isn’t as easy as they thought, as they end up having to play birthday parties and frat keggers just to get gigs. The best part of this film is the music, which does a superb job of giving the audience a sense of the monumental and groundbreaking music of the mid-1960s. Magaro, as Douglas, gives a satisfying performance as an initially shy young man. When he's given the center stage, he grabs it with gusto and is willing to take the lead singer position at almost any cost. James Gandolfini plays Douglas’ father who disapproves of his son’s career and lifestyle choices.  Gandolfini, though, isn’t given much in the role to play. He only gets to show some of his acting skills near the end of the film when he has a heart-to-heart with his son. I was little let down by the script and disappointed with a screenplay from a talented writer.  I feel I was never pulled into the story, it was as if Director/Writer Chase wanted to share great music but wrote a story to just set up each song.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Not Fade Away Website

My Bottom 10 Films of 2012 (picked from the films that I saw in 2012, in no particular order):
1).  That’s My Boy  (2012)  So, this is an R rated comedy, and, while it doesn't go as far as some of the recent R rated comedies, it still pushes the boundaries of good taste, and too often goes for the easy joke. Sandler's character gets old very quickly. He is the type of guy who is so proud of himself when he gets into a fight and doesn't spill his beer, and he's the guy who wants to be the center of attention and isn't too proud to sleep with not only your mother, but your grandmother. While 80's star Vanilla Ice is funny at first, his bad acting dominates his appearances, and Andy Samberg is wasted as the prim and proper son. I did enjoy Milo Ventimiglia as the Marine brother of Tom's fiancée (Leighton Meester), but his scenes are too few to make a big difference in a film that just isn't that funny.   That's My Boy Info
2).  Battleship (2012)  You know you have a film that just isn’t going to work when a former Sports Illustrated swimsuit model (Decker) has more screen time than your biggest star (Neeson). I did enjoy Rihanna as a kick ass Petty Officer who likes blowing up things, but the film made it look like she was the only female serving in the Navy. This film’s plot is so full of holes and asks you to believe so many unbelievable things that the audience whom I saw the film with was laughing at almost every twist and turn. It's a big mess of film that thinks it can just put some cool looking alien spacecraft in front of you, and you will be happy with it. If you do make it to the end, and I am not sure you will, there is a bonus scene at after the final credits. And, by the way, no one ever says, “You Sunk My Battleship,” but maybe they should have.   Battleship Info
3).  The Dictator  (2012)   As with all the Sacha Baron Cohen movies, he goes too far with almost all his jokes. I did not like this film mostly because his character is an extreme racist who makes derogatory comments about everything and everybody, and I became almost numb to them. I felt that, too often, he went for the easy joke - the easy pratfall. And, poor Anna Faris, who plays his love interest in the film, is just wasted in this role as an environmental, loving, hippy manager of a health food store. While I didn’t find this movie offensive (though some people will), I just thought it wasn’t very funny.   The Dictator Info
4).  Red Dawn ( 2012)  When Washington state is invaded by North Koreans, a group of teenagers, led by a marine (Chris Hemsworth) who is home off leave, take matters into their own hands and start fighting back using tactics from the more famous insurgent groups of the past. This film lets the viewers down on almost every aspect including its horrible direction with action sequences done with camera work so shaky that, at times, you have no idea what is happening. Chris Hemsworth gives almost no emotional range with his very wooden performance. The original film was fun and full of life, but it was very dull and boring.   Red Dawn Info
5).  Dark Shadows (2012)  This film has no idea what kind of film it is. Is it a comedy, a dark comedy, a drama, a horror film? It just doesn’t know, and the audience that I saw it with didn’t know either. It’s like the director Tim Burton and Johnny Deep just threw ideas against a wall and kept what stuck. I thought the appeal of vampire movies was that they were sexy, but there isn’t anything sexy in this film. And, Johnny Depp's makeup makes him look dead. The film has a great cast with Michelle Pfeiffer, Jackie Earle Haley, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Helena Bonhman Carter, but most of this talent is wasted on characters that seem to be just that - characters. The film is too long (almost 2 full hours) and feels like it could have used a couple of editing sessions to tighten up its pacing.   Dark Shadows Info
6). The Three Stooges (2012)  While this is a Farrelly brothers creation (There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal), it's really a family movie, but only kids under the age of ten are going to enjoy it. The film feels, at times, like a bad 80’s sitcom, and you get tired, very quickly, of the Stooges poking each other in the eyes. The best thing was Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm) who plays an angry nun. The film has a running time of 92 minutes, but I would swear it’s much longer than that.  If I wasn't reviewing the film I would have walked out, not because it is a bad film (though, it is), but because it was so mind-numbingly stupid.   The Three Stooges Info
7). This Means War (2012) I f you are going to have any chance at all at enjoying this film, you will have to leave your mind at the door because the plot holes are large enough to drive a tank through. I did enjoy a couple of scenes, especially one where there is a nicely choreographed movement where Reese is home, and she thinks she is alone. While she's making popcorn, the two agents stealthily bug her apartment without her or each other’s knowledge. Tom Hardy is the best thing about this movie, and the audience will certainly root for his character over the slick character that Chris Pine plays. Ultimately, though, we just can’t buy the premise, much like we can’t buy that Reese’s character is so dateless that her local restaurant calls her “Sushi For One." And I just couldn’t get out of my mind the millions of dollars of CIA equipment that the two men destroy to get her attention.   This Means War Info
8). Journey 2: The Mysterious Island  (2012)  A young man (Sean Anderson) gets a mysterious coded signal from his grandfather (Michael Caine) and sets out with his step-father (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to find the Mysterious Island that Jules Verne wrote about. They crash on the island in a helicopter and begin looking, along with the helicopter pilot (Luis Guzman) and his daughter (Vanessa Hudgens) to find the grandfather. The island is full of giant bees, tiny elephants, and humongous lizards (which The Rock punches in the face) that they encounter in their travels. This is a horrible film with bad special effects, hardly any use of 3-D and equally bad overacting complete with a storyline that will bore all ages. Let’s sum it up this way: It's a film where The Rock sings, not once, but twice, What A Wonderful World….no it’s not Rock, not if you’re going to make a film like this.   Journey 2: The Mysterious Island Info
9). Taken 2 (2012)  In this sequel to the 2008 film, Bryan (Liam Neeson), is on a business trip to Istanbul when he gets a surprise visit from his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace) and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). But Bryan has enemies, and his wife and daughter are now the bad guys’ targets. Taken was a surprise hit when it came out in 2005, but Taken 2 died pretty quickly at the box office. It’s silly, stupid, and you can tell when an action guy is getting old - the film uses the shaky camera for all the action sequences. This is a film where you just want to tell Maggie Grace’s character, “Shut up, already!” as she seems to scream and cry out throughout the entire film. If you were a fan of the first, don’t see this one because it will ruin it for you.   Taken 2 Info
10).  Silent House (2012)  A young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) is in the process of helping her father and brother renovate their family lake house when things start mysteriously happening. At first, it’s just noises and odd shadows, but very soon it’s evident that someone or something in the house is not happy with the home-occupiers. Things go from bad to worse when Olsen discovers her father was beaten. This film is shot to look like it is one long continuous take, a noble experiment that gets old very quickly and, at times, almost makes you sick from the camera shaking so much. It’s very sad that a lot of audiences got their first look at Olsen from this film because she is so much of a better actress (as proven in 2011’s Martha Marcy May Marlene) than she exhibits here. This film wasn’t nearly scary enough, was easy to figure out and just wasn’t the exciting ride of a film that the trailer made it out to be.   Silent House Info
Films that almost made it on the list: Wrath of the Titans, Seeking Justice, Total Recall, The Bourne Legacy, What to Expect When You are Expecting, Chernobyl Diaries, High School.
Please note that I had the good fortune of not seeing the following that are making a lot of worst films of 2012 lists: Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds, Resident Evil: Retribution, The Watch, Alex Cross.

                                                                   Until Next Time!