Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

My View:  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty  (2013)  PG  Walter (Ben Stiller) works in a very ordinary job at Life magazine and has a crush on Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), a fellow co-worker.  Walter has never been anywhere or done anything, but he does day-dream constantly about going on fantastic adventures.  He gets his opportunity to live his dream when a negative of a photograph goes missing, and he takes off on an adventure to find the world famous photographer (Sean Penn). I really enjoyed this smart, uplifting film.  The script does a remarkable job of not letting the film get cheesy or schmaltzy.  I loved the soundtrack in this film, and it helped move the story along. The scenery of the film is a sight to be seen, and there are some cool CGI special effects when Walter is in one of his numerous daydreams.  The opening credits of the film are some of the most imaginative credits I’ve seen in quite a while. There is nice chemistry between Stiller and Wiig, making the romance between to the two of them feel real and never forced.  Stiller does a superb job of playing the everyman who wants to break out of his shell.  While not a great film, it’s a fun, enjoyable film with a message.  My Rating:  Full Price  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Website
My View:  The Wolf of Wall Street  (2013)  R  Based on a true story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio), who rises from nothing to become a major player in the New York Stock Exchange, only to be brought down by a large securities fraud case.  DiCaprio is unbelievably great in this 3 hour comedy directed by Martin Scorsese.  DiCaprio shows a great comedic timing, especially working well off of Jonah Hill, who plays Jordan Belfort’s right hand man.  There is a scene near the end of the film that involve some stairs and a car, where DiCaprio has to do physical comedy that reminded me of Buster Keaton and Steve Martin.  There is an incredible cameo by Matthew McConaughey, playing a stockbroker that Belfort patterns his life from.  This is a film that not everyone will like due to the excess of drugs, profanity, and nudity (of which there is an incredible amount).  I liked the film and really enjoyed the performances of the actors, but I was let down by the script, which never quite jelled the storyline together for me.  My Rating:  Full Price  The Wolf of Wall Street Website

My View:  Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) PG-13  The remarkable story of Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) who changed a country and the world forever.  This film tells Nelson Mandela's life story from his childhood to his inauguration as the President of South Africa.  Idris Elba is the reason to see this film, and he fills the screen with Mandela’s spirit, passion and purpose. While Elba doesn’t really resemble Mandela physically, he perfectly mimics his diction and mannerisms. The film, though, doesn’t give Elba much to work with as the actor is much better than the script.  This is a movie that should have had me on the verge of tears several times, but I never felt very involved with the film.  I think the film covers too much ground and does a poor job of showing how hard prison life was on Mandela. Unfortunately this is a film that doesn’t live up to the greatness of the man it is depicting.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee  Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Website

Forgotten Film:  The Ruling Class  (1972)  R  Jack Gurney (Peter O’Toole) becomes the 14th Earl of Gurney.  The problem is that Jack is a paranoid schizophrenic who thinks he is God and has a habit of breaking out into a song and dance routine.  To keep the family out of scandal, his relatives decide that they must steal his estate from him.  Jack fights back the only way he knows, by becoming Jack the Ripper.  Peter O’Toole shines in this black comedy that has so many twists and turns to it, you just might need a flow chart to keep up.  He is an absolute delight to watch as he tears about the screen causing mayhem and madness.  The film was a failure at the box office but has become a cult classic that illustrates just how much we will miss O’Toole on the silver screen.  My Rating:  Full Price  The Ruling Class Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea): About Last Night (2014)  Why does Hollywood insist on remaking films that weren’t that good to begin with?  The 1986 film of the same name was an excuse just to put fellow brat-packers Rob Lowe and Demi Moore together.  Comedian Kevin Hart stars in the remake.  About Last Night Info

In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray): The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13  One of the worst films of the year.  The film is too long, never captures the audience's imagination, and the last big chase scene is entirely too confusing to make any sense.  It’s sad when I enjoyed the acting of the horse more than any actor in the film.  My Rating:  Cable  The Lone Ranger Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:  Facial Hair Artist

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Winter’s Tale  (2014)  PG-13  In 1916, a thief breaks into a mansion and encounters a dying woman.  He soon falls in love with her, only to have her die.  He learns that he has the gift of reincarnation and seeks to find her in the present day.  Cast includes Colin Farrell, Jessica Brown Findlay, Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt.  Winter's Tale Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

My ViewAnchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)  PG-13 Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) had it all – a good anchor job and a hot anchor wife (Christina Applegate). Then his marriage fell apart, and he got fired from his job. Now, down on his luck, Ron gets an offer from a 24- hour cable news channel. It’s time to get the old gang back together and take New York City… Ron Burgundy style.  It’s hard to create lightning in the bottle twice, and this movie just doesn’t match the comedic standards that the first Anchorman set.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some very funny scenes in this film (the scene in the Winnebago is hilarious), but the film was a let down due to lack of funny scenes.  I think one of the big mistakes the film makes is it elevates Brick, the daffy weatherman played by Steve Carell, giving him a storyline where he romances an equally daffy secretary played by Kristen Wiig.  Their first meeting is very funny, but their storyline just doesn’t go anywhere, and their scenes become stale very quickly.  Fans of the first film will have a good time with this movie, but I think no one will be quoting any lines.  There is a bonus scene at the end of the credits, but it’s really not worth staying for.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee  Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Website

My ViewAmerican Hustle (2013)  R  When Irving (Christian Bale) met Sydney (Amy Adams), it was love at first sight, and they fit together perfectly, especially in Irving’s line of work, con man. But, when the two unknowingly con an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), their luck just might have run out.  This is one of those films where the actors are better than the script.  Bale gives another one of his chameleon-like performances, playing an overweight con-man with a comb-over that must be seen to believed.  Bale is enjoyable to watch in the film, but I think this part didn't really challenge him.  The film seems disjointed as it just doesn’t flow from one scene to another.  It seemed as though each scene was done as an acting exercise on its own, making the film seem to start and stop many times.  I loved Jeremy Renner, with his “Goodfellas” hairdo, playing a local mayor who gets involved in a scandal that could ruin his career.  I just wish that Amy Adams' con-woman character had been the lead character instead of Bale's character as Sydney as the most interesting and complex character in the film.  I love Jennifer Lawrence as an actress, but I think this performance is not worthy of an Academy Award - it’s just too easy for her to play this part.  This is a film that will make a lot of critics' top ten lists, but while  it’s a good film, just not a great one.  My Rating:  Full Price  American Hustle Website

IndiefestInside Llewyn Davis (2013) R  Llewyn Davis (Oscar Issac) is a struggling folk musician, who, after his musical partner dies, attempts to make it as a solo act by playing at clubs around the Greenwich Village area in the 1961.  Llewyn doesn’t do too well and has to sleep on the couches of his friends and family.  It seems that Llewyn, while a talented artist, is his own worst enemy as he continually burns bridges with the people who love and admire him the most.  Llewyn finally realizes that he must deal with the fact that his dream of being a musician may just not be in his reach.  Issac gives an outstanding performance of a handsome guy who has a great many demons inside him, making him, at the same time, sympathetic and unlikeable. As with any Coen film, there is a lot of humor, brought mostly through the situations that Llewyn gets himself into, including a number of scenes with a cat that he gets stuck with and has to take on his travels.  Supporting characters are always important in Coen brothers films, and this one doesn’t disappoint.  Carey Mulligan plays a fellow folk singer whose contempt for Llewyn is shown just by the deadly glances she gives him each time they meet.   John Goodman, of course, makes an appearance as an over-the-hill jazz musician, and F. Murray Abraham plays a club owner who can make or break Llewyn’s career.  Justin Timberlake plays the almost “anti-Llewyn,” a happy folk singer who writes catchy pop songs, the kind that Llewyn feels are beneath his standards. The music in this film is outstanding, most of which was recorded on set as the cameras were rolling, including the Justin Timberlake song “Mr. Kennedy,” which makes for an incredibly funny recording session.   “Inside Llewyn Davis” is sure to please the Coen brothers’ fans and lovers of folk music as  the film gives us an inside view of the music scene that was to shape a generation.  My Rating:  Full Price  Inside Llewyn Davis Website

FamilyfaireSaving Mr. Banks  (2013)  PG-13  Author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) created one of the world’s most beloved literary characters, Mary Poppins. Now, none other than Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) wants to turn her book into a musical film. Will Mrs. Travers turn over her creation to the man who built an empire with a mouse?  This is an interesting movie that gives us the behind the scenes creation of one the most beloved musicals that Disney ever created.  Tom Hanks is fun to watch as Disney, and Emma Thompson, as always, is amazing as the very set-in-her-ways author.  What I didn’t like about this picture is that, throughout the film, we flash back to Travers' childhood where Mary Poppins took root.  I would have preferred the flashback to open the film amd not go back and forth showing us the origins of her creation in piecemeal.  For fans of Mary Poppins, the film will be very enjoyable.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee  Saving Mr. Banks Website

FamilyfaireWalking With Dinosaurs 3-D  (2013)  PG  Patchi (Justin Long) is the runt of his family of Pachyrhinosaurus. Patchi is about to go on a big adventure with his big brother, Scowler (Skyler Stone), and his best friend, Juniper (Tiya Sircar).  This is a beautiful film to watch that combines the live action footage of the countryside of Alaska and New Zealand with amazing 3-D animated dinosaurs that look extremely lifelike.  Unfortunately, producers have combined this wonderful footage with a storyline that only 5 year olds will enjoy.  The dinosaurs talk, though thankfully, their mouths don’t move.  The dialogue is campy, the storyline is incredibly simple and the humor in the film is painful.  I recommend that parents take some earplugs - you will enjoy it more with the sound off.  My Rating:  Cable  Walking with Dinosaurs 3-D Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of American Hustle:  stitcher

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Monuments Men  (2014)  An unlikely group of American soldiers are given the task of rescuing some of the world’s greatest art from the retreating Nazi army in World War II.  The cast includes George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, and John Goodman.  The Monuments Men Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

My View:  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug  (2013)  PG-13  Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the dwarves continue with the quest to defend Erebor, their home, from the Dragon Smaug.  This film moves at a much  brisker pace then the first Hobbit film, and the action sequences are quite enjoyable and well staged.  I loved Evangeline Lily as Tauriel, a new character who is a fierce, butt-kicking elf with an attitude.  She does the action sequences with gusto and flair, making her character very believable.  It is also nice to see Orlando Bloom return as the elf warrior, Legolas.  The scenes with the Dragon Smaug are fun to watch, and Benedict Cumberbatch does an outstanding job as the voice of the Dragon.  This film is worth seeing in 3-D as the many action sequences use the medium to its full effect.  I will warn you that the film is 161 minutes long, so pack a lunch.  My Rating:  Full Price  The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Website
Indiefest:  The Armstrong Lie (2013) R  A documentary that covers seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and focuses on the accusations that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs and then lied about it.  Filmmaker Alex Gibney was given complete access to Armstrong’s 2009 comeback attempt at winning an 8th Tour, and he developed a rapport with Armstrong that continues to present day.  The film is a fascinating look at a man so driven to be the best, he was willing to do anything to get to the top and then fought dirty to stay there.  Armstrong is shown to be a man whom you support, or you are considered the enemy, and the film really brings this across.  This film gets much more in depth with the subject than the famous Oprah interview did and shows us a man trying to own up to his past downfalls.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee  The Armstrong Lie Website

Forgotten Film:  Zero Effect (1998)  R  Darryl Zero (Bill Pullman) is the world’s greatest detective.  There's just one problem - Darryl won’t leave his apartment for anything.  So he hires Steve (Ben Stiller) to be his right-hand man who manages any activity that requires going out into the world.  The two are hired to investigate a blackmailing case, and, as the case widens, they get involved in a 20 year old mystery.  Pullman, in one of his best acting jobs, is brilliant as the odd Darryl.  Stiller works well with Pullman and is able to convey his wonder for his boss.  The film starts out as a comedy, but it’s a really a fine, well thought out detective film with a very quirky lead character.  It has a lot of twists and turns in the plot to make it a fun film to experience.  My Rating:  Full Price  Zero Effect website

In Memory of Ed Wood ( A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers but Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  The Legend of Hercules (2014)  It’s never a good sign when the lead actor in the film, in this case, Kellan Lutz, says only two lines in the 2 min 15 second trailer.  And, this film is directed by Renny Harlin, who hasn’t directed a good film since the 90’s.  The Legend of Hercules Website

In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray):  Fast & Furious 6  (2013)  PG-13  I surprisingly like this film, mostly because the guys in the Furious gang are portrayed as super heroes.  It’s a fun action-filled ride with big stunts and fast cars, plus, the longest runway the world has ever seen.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Fast & Furious 6 Webstite

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug:  Horse makeup

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  One Chance  (2013) PG-13 The true story of a shy, bullied shop-worker who sings amateur opera at night.  He tries out for “Britain’s Got Talent” and gets on the show.  One Chance Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Indiefest:  The Broken Circle Breakdown (2013)   Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) is the leader of a bluegrass band. Elise (Veerie Baetens) is the owner of a tattoo shop. When the two meet, they instantly fall in love and soon after, get married. Their life seems perfect after the birth of their daughter, but their marriage is tested when their worst nightmare comes true.  The most amazing thing about this Belgium film is that all the singing in the film by Didier and Elise sounds as though it was coming from the state of Kentucky - it’s that good.  The film hits the extremes of this very intense couple who are played perfectly by Heldenbergh and Baetens.  You can see the attraction of the characters from the very start.  This is definitely one of those roller coaster rides of a film that has some extreme highs and even lower lows.  My Rating:  Full Price  The Broken Circle Breakdown Website
The 50  (A Movie from My Best/Worst Films of All Time) 
#5 Best Film:
Seven Samurai  (1954) A grizzled samurai (Toshiro Mifune) has fallen on hard times and takes the offer of some villagers to protect them from a gang of bandits.  He recruits six other samurai to help him, and they proceed to try train the villagers in the art of war.  When the bandits do arrive, the village and the seven samurai face almost impossible odds to overcome to protect their homeland.  The film is expertly directed by Akira Kurosawa, a master filmmaker who fills the screen with extraordinary shots that just seem to flow.  The action sequences are far better than any action film done in present day. The final battle scene is one of the most stunning pieces of cinema ever done.  Seven Samurai Info
Forgotten Film:  Beautiful Girls (1996)  R  Willie (Timothy Hutton) is a man at the crossroads of his life.  He must decide if he is going to quit playing the piano for a living and get a sales job.  Plus, he is trying to decide if he wants to marry his longtime girlfriend, Tracy (Annabeth Gish).  Willie uses the excuse of a high school reunion to go back to his small hometown to sort things out.  He finds that everyone he went to high school with still lives in the town and most seem to be stuck in the past.  Willie then meets Marty (Natalie Portman), literally the girl next door, who is smart, beautiful and instantly has a rapport with Willie.  The only problem, she is 13.  This is a fun movie to watch with great dialogue that feels real and a incredible ensemble cast that includes Matt Dillon, Lauren Holly, Mira Sorvino, and Uma Thurman.  It’s Natalie Portman, though, who makes this film a delight to watch as she perfectly plays Marty as the girl with the “old soul." My Rating:  Full Price  Beautiful Girls Info
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) The Paranormal franchise has gotten a little old, so they are doing a spinoff. I think only positive thing I see about this film is that it is only 84 minutes long.  Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD):  Despicable Me 2 (2013) PG  Gru (Steve Carell), his adoptive girls (Miranda Cosgrove, Elsie Kate Fisher, Diana Gaier) and the Minions are back! This time, Gru has tried to settle into a life of raising kids and staying out of trouble. Trouble, though, inevitably always finds Gru, and The Anti-Villain League recruits him to find a new super-criminal who has stolen a secret formula. Gru must now go undercover, with the help of AVL agent Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and work at a place in his worst nightmares, the local mall.  I enjoyed this film much more than the first Despicable Me mostly because it features the Minions more.  My Rating: Full Price  Despicable Me 2 Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Frozen:  Head of music preparation

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouHer  (2013)   A writer (Joaquin Phoenix) who is still mourning the breakup of his marriage and installs a new operating system on his computer that is designed to learn about him and respond to his needs.  Very soon he finds that he has fallen in love with his computer.  There is a big debate on whether Scarlett Johansson, who voices the computer he falls for, can be nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award.  Her Website
Until Next Time!