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
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Duff

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.
Until Next Time!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

My ViewKingsman:  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 FilmThe 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 FilmPlan 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

Jupiter Ascending

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!