Friday, January 30, 2015

A Most Violent Year

My View:  A Most Violent Year (2014)  R  The winter of 1981 was the most violent year in the history of New York City.  Under that backdrop, a businessman (Oscar Isaac) and his wife (Jessica Chastain) struggle to keep their business against all the odds. This is a gangster film about a man who isn't a gangster but is forced to do what he must do for his family and his business to survive. Isaac gives a memorable and believable performance of a man who gets pulled further and further into the seamy world of New York City. Chastain, as usual, is perfect as the woman who knows how the gangster life works and helps her husband in his quest. I didn't enjoy this movie as I was watching it but, after further thought, I have changed my mind and now think this film works on all levels.   My Rating: Full Price   A Most Violent Year Website

My View:  Black or White  (2014)  PG-13  A grieving widower (Kevin Costner) is drawn into a custody battle over his granddaughter in Black or White.  Costner plays Elliot, a father whose daughter died in childbirth. He and his wife were raising dead mom's daughter when his wife suddenly dies.  The father of the young girl is a drug addict.  His mother (whose mother? (Octavia Spencer) wants her granddaughter to spend more time with her side of the family and, after several incidents with Elliot, she decides to file for custody. I like Costner in this role as he gives a very nuanced performance as the grandfather who can't get over the losses of his wife and daughter. The young, talented Jillian Estell is the best part of this film, giving a winning and touching performance as the granddaughter and focus of the custody battle. I didn't like Octavia Spencer as the fiery matriarch who bullies her family to get what she wants. She just kind of missed the mark for me as I never believed her in the part. It's not a bad (better word?) film, and Costner is excellent in it, but I just never got the big emotional moment that I wanted from this type of film.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Black or White Website
Indiefest:  Black Sea  (2015) R  A submarine captain (Jude Law) takes a job to find a World War II Soviet sub that may be full of gold at the bottom of the Black Sea.  I really liked this taut suspense film that is a new take on the classic submarine film. Law, in a strong performance that is fun to watch, really commands the screen as the rough and tumble sub commander who has always placed his work over his family. The film has some vibrant and fascinating underwater sequences and has very few special effects shots, making the film feel realistic and slightly claustrophobic. Besides Law, I loved Ben Mendelsohn in the role of the menacing sailor who challenges Law's command decisions at every turn. This film is enjoyable for both its performances and strong storyline.   My Rating: Full Price  Black Sea Website

Indiefest:  Two Days, One Night  (2014)  PG-13  A young Belgian mother (Marion Cotillard) has a weekend to convince her fellow workers to give up a bonus so that she can remain with the company.  This film features a brilliant performance by Cotillard, who has become one of the best actors out there. She is perfect in the role, and we root for her to succeed right from the start. It's an outstanding story that slowly builds the tension until the end of the film. Cotillard could be a dark horse to win Best Actress at this year's Academy Awards. Her portrayal is just that good.   My Rating: Full Price   Two Days, One Night Info

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)   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

The Boy Next Door

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

American Sniper

My View: American Sniper (2015)  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!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Taken 3

My View: Taken 3 (2015)  PG-13  My View: Taken 3 (2015) Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is accused of a crime he did not commit. As a determined lawman (Forest Whitaker) attempts to capture Bryan, he must use his special skills to track down and get revenge on the men who have caused him so much pain. Can we just stop making these films? The plot is plain stupid, the dialogue is even worse, and don’t get me started on the ending that just doesn’t make sense. For fans of the first film, this will be a big disappointment. The action sequences are too few and far between, and the film takes forever to get going. There is one plus - Maggie Grace, as the daughter, does not scream her head off like in the second film. As Neeson says in the first film, “Quickly now, quickly. There is no time.” Yeah, hopefully for you there isn’t any time to go see this one. My Rating: Cable   My Rating: Cable   Taken 3 Website

Indiefest: Inherent Vice (2014)  R   Larry (Doc) Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator in Los Angles in the 1970’s. He is asked to investigate the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend. He will soon regret taking the job, though, as it’s a tangled web of lies and deceptions that he encounters.  I felt that there were some great performances in the film, especially Phoenix and Josh Brolin, who plays a police detective who terrorizes Doc, but I also think the movie was let down by the script. You need some sort of lineup card to figure out all the characters who are quickly introduced in the first part of the film. There are some funny parts, but that doesn’t overcome the plot that just doesn’t make sense most of the time. I will say this, there is as much reefer smoking in this film as in any Cheech and Chong movie.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Inherent Vice Website

Indiefest: Predestination (2014)  R   A time-traveling law enforcement officer (Ethan Hawke) goes after the one bad guy who has eluded him all these years - the infamous terrorist known as the “Fizzle Bomber.” During his travels, the officer encounters a man (Sarah Snook) who has a significant tale to tell. I loved this film. It’s quirky and contains so many twists and turns that you will not see the ending coming. Hawke is perfect in the role, and Sarah Snook is a real revelation in a dual role, bringing a complex and complicated role to it full potential. If you like mysteries combined with a little Sci-Fi, then this film is for you.  My Rating : Full Price  Predestination Facebook page

Indiefest: The World Made Straight (2014)   In 1970’s Western North Carolina, Travis (Jeremy Irvine) is just trying to survive in a world of drug dealers and an abusive father. Travis meets Leonard (Noah Wyle), a mild-mannered drug dealer who has an interest in the Civil War. Leonard decides to take Travis under his wing to try to show the boy how to be a man. This reminded me of the 2010 film Winter’s Bone. Both are films about mountain people who do desperate things to survive. Irving is perfect as the bad boy you want to root for. Wyle does a satisfying job as the knowledgeable Leonard. The reason to watch this film is Steve Earle, who plays the bad guy in the film. Earle as a kind of mountain man mafia king, is brilliant, bringing a menacing tone to  each of his scenes.  Earle (a singer /songwriter in real life) sings a haunting ballad that sticks with you long after the movie is over.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee  The World Made Straight Website
Forgotten Film: Bringing Out the Dead (1999) R   Nicolas Cage plays Frank, a burned-out NYC paramedic, who is haunted by the patients he failed to save. Martin Scorsese directed this film that takes place over three nights. His savior just might be Mary (Patricia Arquette) who is an angry ex-junkie who meets Frank when he attempts to save her father’s life. This is one of the better Nicolas Cage performances giving insight to a man who is a very tortured soul.  My Rating: Full Price    Bringing Out the Dead Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Taken 3: voice actor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Spare Parts (2015) Based on a true story, the film is about four Hispanic high-school students who go up against MIT in a robot building championship. Marisa Tomei, Jamie Lee Curtis, and George Lopez play the teachers who try to inspire the students.  Spare Parts info
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 2, 2015

My Bottom Ten Films of 2014

The Bottom Ten (okay, twelve) Films of 2014

1). Left Behind (2014)   How bad is this film? It makes the Kirk Cameron's film (of the same name) from 2000 seem like a masterpiece. This film should have been at least fun to watch because Nicolas Cage can chew scenery with the best of them. Sadly, he looks as if he was severely depressed and possibly on medication while making the film, and he seemed to make no effort to show any emotion. The film is summed up by a Photo-Shopped picture of a family that is so bad it looks as if it was done by a four-year-old with a dial-up modem and a fax machine.
2). Tusk (2014) It was painful and gross to watch this film, as a podcaster (Justin Long) is (spoiler alert) turned slowly into a walrus by a mysterious seafarer (Michael Parks). It's sad how far down writer / director Kevin Smith has come from his glory days of Clerks (1994) and Chasing Amy (1997).
3). Dumb and Dumber To (2014) What made this such a disappointment to watch is how this film totally lost the fun and sweetness of the first film. This film isn't funny and is mean spirited.  Lloyd and Harry, who used to be lovable, now just play horrible practical jokes on each other.
4). Ouija (2014) I think a movie based on "Chutes and Ladders" would have been scarier than this film. The plot never makes sense and is completely confusing. It's if the filmmakers wrote this script on the board itself.
5). Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) When Megan Fox is on the screen more than the Turtles, you know you have problems. The filmmakers were convinced that they had to explain everything along the way, going overboard when the opening credits told the story that they then took the next fifteen minutes to explore again.
6).  And So it Goes (2014) It's hard to make a romantic comedy where the male lead (Michael Douglas) plays a character we actually hate. Yes, I know he is supposed to be changed by the love a good woman (Diane Keaton), but by the time it happens, we just don't care anymore. In fact, I want to yell at Keaton's character to run away as fast as she can. Unfortunately, I didn't heed my own advice.
7). Tammy (2014) At one point I started to feel sorry for Melissa McCarthy, handicapped by a bad script and poor jokes, until I remembered that she and her husband were responsible for this dreck of a film. It's a sad thing when the outtakes shown during the credits are the only funny parts.
8). Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) It you love movies with loads of bad dialog and action sequences that make no sense, then this is the movie for you. The script feels as if Michael Bay just followed his son around while he played with some toys and took notes. The film is one long product placement movie that would be a great drinking game...the only way you will enjoy it.
9). Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (2014) This sort of sequel to the Wizard of Oz will bore the kids by the first song (Good news - you will never buy the soundtrack.), and parents will want to leave by the end of the opening credits. Poor storytelling and even worse songwriting make this film so painful to watch.
10A). Transcendence (2014) I never cared if the researcher (played by Johnny Depp) ever got out of the computer he inhabits after he dies (don't ask how that happens). This is one of those films that I wanted to be over five minutes after it started.
10B). The Bag Man (2014) You would think a film noir movie that takes place in the Louisiana swamp and stars John Cusack and Robert De Niro would at least be watchable, but you would be wrong. Horrible dialog and plot that just never gets moving makes this film one of the worst of the year.

10C). Blended (2014) It wouldn't be a worst films of the year list without Mr. Adam Sandler. Sandler likes to make films where he can take his family on vacation. A couple of years ago, it was Hawaii with the horrible Just Go With It (2011). This year, it’s a film about two single-parent families who mistakenly go on an African vacation. The film felt like it was three hours long, had almost no funny material and couldn’t decide if it was a kid’s movie or a film for frat boys. So it did both, poorly.

Dishonorable Mention: Dracula Untold, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Judge, Annabelle, The Hero of Color City, The Man on Her Mind, The Identical, Jersey Boys, Need for Speed, 3 Days to Kill, The Nut Job, The Legend of Hercules, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones