Friday, April 24, 2015

The Water Diviner

My ViewThe Water Diviner  (2015)  R   An Australian farmer, Conner (Russell Crowe) is sent by his wife to Turkey to find his dead sons’ bodies after WWI.  If you long for the epic, big screen films of the past, this is your movie. Sweeping across both the ranchland of Australia and the coast of Turkey, the film moves at a quick pace, especially during the action sequences. Crowe directed this film, and he does a fine job helming a very expansive movie.  I was entertained by Olga Kurylendko’s performance as the widow who owns the hotel where Conner stays. Kurylendko and Crowe work well on screen together, and she lights up their scenes. While not a great film, it’s a sound start for a first-time director.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee    The Water Diviner Website  
My ViewThe Age of Adaline  (2015)  PG-13   A young woman (Blake Lively), born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. She meets a man (Michiel Huisman) who is worth losing her immortality for. This is a charming romantic film that somehow makes an unbelievable storyline work. Lively is tremendous as the woman who never ages. Huisman has terrific chemistry with Lively, and he makes an interesting leading man. My big problem with this film is the amount of voice overs that are used to explain what’s going on.  It’s just not necessary and gets very annoying. The film is saved by the performance of Blake Lively, and she makes this film delightful to watch.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee    The Age of Adaline Website
IndiefestClouds of Sils Maria   (2014)  R   A veteran actress (Juliette Binoche) decides, at the urging of her assistant (Kristen Stewart), to take a role in a revival of a play that started her career twenty years earlier. This film is a master class on how to act in a film.  Binoche is her best in this film, and Kristen Stewart is extraordinary in her role. Stewart holds her own with Binoche on the screen, and their chemistry works to reveal their characters issues. My only problem with the film is that it drags a few  times when the two are running lines from the play. I know a lot of people aren’t fans of Kristen Stewart, but between this performance and her work in Still Alice, I have become a fan.  My Rating: Full Price   Clouds of Sils Maria Website   
IndiefestLambert and Stamp  (2014)  R   Documentary about the partnership of filmmakers Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, who produced one of the greatest rock bands in history, The Who.  Lambert and Stamp is an excellent film with tons of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s fascinating how little I knew about the early days of the band.  The fact that they survived as long as they did is a miracle. There are some tremendous interviews and, of course, the music is outstanding.  The film is full of interesting facts about the band, and it never slows down.  Any fan of The Who or rock and roll history will love this film.  My Rating:  Full Price   Lambert and Stamp Website
Indiefest5 to 7    (2014)  R   An aspiring novelist, Brian (Anton Yelchin), has an affair with the beautiful wife (Berenice Mariohe) of a French diplomat. The couple can only meet between the hours of 5 and 7 each evening.  I absolutely adore this funny, romantic film. It’s not going to be for everyone since the film deals with cheating on a partner, but it surprised me how well it worked. Yelchin makes an appealing everyman, and Mariohe just dazzles on the screen. I also enjoyed the performances of Glenn Close and Frank Langella, who play Brian’s very opinionated parents. This is one of my favorite romantic films of the year.    My Rating:  Full Price   5 to 7 Website

Forgotten Film: Yanks  (1979) R   During WWII, Americans were stationed in army bases in Great Britain. Not every Brit is happy with the Yanks, as American men are hitting on lonely British women, some who have boyfriends away fighting in the war.  This is one of Richard Gere’s early films, and his charisma just pours out on the screen. Lisa Eichhorn is terrific as Gere’s love interest. I also enjoy William Devane, as an Army captain who falls in love with a married woman (Vanessa Redgrave). Yanks is an enjoyable film about an important time in the world’s history.   My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Yanks Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Water Diviner:  Webbing Master

Coming Soon to a Theatre NearFar from the Madding Crowd  (2015)  PG-13    Based on the Thomas Hardy novel set in Victorian England, a young woman (Carey Mulligan) has to choose between three very different suitors. I love Carey Mulligan, who never gives a lackluster performance.     Far from the Madding Crowd Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ex Machina

My View:  Ex Machina (2015)  R   A computer coder named, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), wins a chance to spend the week at the mountain home of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the man who owns the company where Caleb is employed. It turns out, though, that Caleb is there to test Nathan's latest experiment, a life-like robot named, Ava (Alicia Vikander). Ex Machina is one of the best pictures I have seen this year and is an outstanding film with a highly creative script. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are perfect on the screen together, giving us a great "cat and mouse game" of a film. The story line is rich, and the characters are complex, which makes this film an extraordinary experience. This is a film that will be the standard-bearer of great Sci-Fi films for years to come.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again   Ex Machina Facebook page
Family Faire:  Monkey Kingdom  (2015)  G   A nature documentary about a family of monkeys that live in the ancient ruins of an area of Sri Lanka. This is a funny, sweet film the whole family will enjoy. Narrated by Tina Fey, the film centers around the life of a female adult monkey named, Maya. We follow Maya and her newborn son as they struggle to survive in the jungle of an ancient temple. The film is beautifully shot, and the storyline keeps you riveted as you root for Maya to succeed. The monkeys are fascinating to watch, and you will leave the theatre with a smile on your face. My Rating: Full Price   Monkey Kingdom Website
Indiefest: Queen and Country (2014)    Bill Rohan (Callum Turner) has had to leave his beloved home and family to join the army. During boot camp, he meets Percy (Caleb Landry Jones), and they strike up a friendship that lasts through their next assignment. Now they are dealing with lazy subordinates, crazed officers, and, all the while, looking for love from the local girls. This is a sequel to the brilliant and entertaining 1987 film Hope and Glory (see Forgotten Films below). Unfortunately, this film isn't very funny, and a lot of its characters are mean-spirited. The film only comes alive when Bill goes back home on-leave and interacts with his quirky family. While there are some excellent performances by the supporting cast, both Rohan and Jones disappoint in their portrayals. Jones overacts in almost every scene, and Rohan is dull and lifeless. Instead of making a film about life in the drab 1950s, director/writer John Boorman should have set his film in the 60s, where life was fast-moving and changing.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Queen and Country Website
Indiefest: The Riot Club (2104)  R  Alistair (Sam Claflin) and Miles (Max Irons) are new to Oxford University and make their goal to join the social group called, "The Riot Club. I am guessing that this film was meant to be a biting satire on the excesses of the privileged upper class. Instead, this film leaves a bad taste in your mouth as each member of the club becomes more and more outrageous and gruesome as the night goes on. The film never lets us understand why these characters feel the way they do, which makes the film seem hollow. Most of the characters are unlikeable, which is fine, but we end up not liking even the one character who had some redeemable traits. It's a film that, at the end, I felt that I had just wasted two hours of my time.   My Rating: Cable   The Riot Club Info 
Indiefest:  The Salt of the Earth (2015)  PG-13   Documentary about award-winning photographer, Sebastiano Salgado, who has traveled the world documenting it with his camera.  A moving documentary that, at times, is breathtaking as Salgado's pictures are displayed, most of which are in gorgeous Black and White. It is also a heartbreaking film because a great deal of his work dealt with war-torn areas of Africa. I will warn you that there are quite a few shots of dead and dying people, some due to starvation. Ultimately, it's an uplifting film because Salgado's uncanny ability to get into the heart of a picture, allowing us to see the humanity in his work. The film perfectly captures a remarkable man who has taken some remarkable and vibrant pictures.   My Rating: Full Price   The Salt of the Earth Website
My View: True Story (2015)  R  A newspaper reporter, Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill), has just lost his job due to a scandal. One day he receives a phone call from prison. The call is from a recently captured prisoner, Christian Longo (James Franco), who has been accused of murdering his own family. Michael may regret answering his phone after he gets involved with investigating Christian's story.  At first, the film was compelling as Finkel discovers who Christian Longo is. But the film's use of close-ups, when the characters were interacting in Longo’s prison, was claustrophobic and dull. The film failed to keep me involved with the storyline, and by the end, I didn't care about either character and found both rather uninteresting.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee  True Story Info
My View: Unfriended (2015)   Six friends get together via Skype when a seventh unknown person joins them. The unknown person begins to reveal that they know a lot about the group, including that the six friends bullied a fellow classmate into killing herself.  It's a great idea for a film; a movie that takes place only on a computer, with other characters interacting using Facebook, Skype, Instagram, and Twitter. Unfortunately, the movie is let down by a script that is un-imaginative and worse yet, for a horror movie, not scary. The first part of this film works, as the characters interact with each other on one of the character's computer screens. The film starts breaking down when the killing starts, and what started out as an interesting idea becomes tedious and predictable.   My Rating: Cable
Forgotten Film: Hope and Glory (1987) This is a warm, joyful film about a boy living in war-torn London during, “The Blitz.” We see the story through the eyes of Bill (Sebastian Rice-Edwards), who treats the rubble of bombed homes as his playground. His family is full of eccentric people who are trying to deal with a war and all its consequences. My favorite scene in this film is when Bill rounds a corner and finds his classmates happily dancing around the playground because a bomb has been dropped on his school the night before.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again  Hope and Glory Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Ex Machina: Additional Greens: For Palmbrokers

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Misery Loves Comedy (2015) A documentary directed by Kevin Pollack that asks more than 50 comedians, “ Do you have to be miserable to be funny?”  Misery Loves Comedy Info  
Until Next Time!

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Longest Ride

My View:  The Longest Ride (2015) PG-13   Luke (Scott Eastwood) is a professional bull rider who is trying to make a comeback and make it to the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) finals. Sophia (Britt Robertson) is an art major who is about to graduate and do an internship at a New York City art gallery. They meet and start dating but only after encountering an old man (Alan Alda) whom they rescue from a car accident. Now their interaction with him will change their lives forever. I liked this film. Yes, it has all the Nicholas Sparks plot points; there is a death, two star-crossed lovers, lovers separated for a time, etc.  What I think is different about this film is the bull riding sequences are well done and exciting. There is good chemistry from Eastwood and Robertson, and Alan Alda makes any film better. I would rank this film third in the Sparks movie list behind A Walk to Remember and The Notebook.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Longest Ride Website  My interview with Nicholas Sparks, Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson

My View:   While We’re Young (2015)  R   A middle-aged couple’s (Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts) lives are overturned when a young couple (Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver) infiltrate their lives. Their world will never be the same. This is an excellent adult comedy about dealing with aging when your mind says you are still 25, but your body says you’re in your late 40’s. Stiller and Watts work well together and have some terrific scenes. Driver and Seyfried are the perfect young couple, full of energy and stupidity. The strong point of this film is the dialogue, which the cast performs at a quick, very crisp and funny pace. Twenty-somethings will like this film, Fortysomethings (and beyond) will love this film. This was one of my favorite films from the SXSW Film Festival.  My Rating: Full Price  While We're Young Website

Indiefest:   Kill Me Three Times (2014)  R    A professional hit man, Charlie Wolfe (Simon Pegg), is sent to kill the wife (Alice Braga) of a wealthy man (Callan Mulvey).  Wolfe soon realizes that he isn’t the only one trying to kill her.  The start of this film is inventive, and I just wish the plot for the rest of the film was as imaginative, but it isn’t.  Pegg is wasted as a steely-eyed hit-man, as the film never gives him a scene where he can shine. I do like Bryan Brown as the police chief that has his hands in everybody's illegal money. The film jumps too quickly from hard drama to light comedy, making the film seeming disjointed. The ending of the film is easy to predict and doesn’t make a lot of sense.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Kill Me Three Times Website

Indiefest:   The Sisterhood of the Night (2015)  PG-13   A teenage girl (Kara Hayward) says she is the victim of a secret network called, The Sisterhood of the Night. Accusations run rampant, and the girls of the network, led by Mary (Georgie Henley), refuse to talk about their group. The film is based on the Salem Witch Trials, which is an outstanding idea, but, unfortunately, this is another film where the superlative cast is let down by a weak script.  Henley just shines on the screen and dominates every scene she is in. The plot is rather boring, though, and never delivers on the intriguing premise. This isn’t a bad film, but it just isn’t all that interesting.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Sisterhood of the Night Website   My ATLFF Red Carpet interview with the cast

Forgotten Film:   Night on Earth (1991)  R   No one saw this Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive) film back in 1991, and that’s a pity because it’s a cool, well-done film.  It’s five short films that take place around the world at the same moment. The film’s common denominator is each film has a taxi ride at its core. The film is bold and gets better with repeated viewing. The cast is mostly made up of unknown actors with a few notables like Winona Ryder and Gena Rowlands.   My Rating: Full Price  Night on Earth Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Kill Me Three Times: Surf Cinematographer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Age of Adaline (2015)  PG-13  I don’t know if this will be any good but the plot, about a young woman (Blake Lively) who after an accident stops aging, looks interesting.  The Age of Adaline Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Furious 7

My View: Furious 7 (2015) PG-13   Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is out for revenge, and he is targeting Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family. It’s time to get the gang back together and take down Mr. Shaw.  I loved Fast & Furious 6 (up to that point, I wasn’t a fan of the series), mostly because writers decided to make the Furious crew superheroes who could fly from one car to another when jumping off a bridge. This film brings more of the same impossible stunts and deadly looking accidents where the crew just walks away unscathed. I liked this film, but I didn’t love it, mostly because while Furious 6 was a new take on the series, this film is just more of the same (and much longer). There is horrible dialogue, The Rock is only in the beginning and ending of the film, and some of the acting is amateurish (looking at you, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey and Iggy Azalea), but it’s still loads of fun to watch. The skyscraper scenes from Abu Dhabi are worth the price of a ticket. If you haven’t seen any of the other Fast & Furious films, you can see this one, as the plot is easy to figure out. The very last portion is a tribute to the late Paul Walker, who died in an unrelated car accident during the filming of this movie.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Furious 7 Website
Indiefest: Danny Collins (2015)  R   Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is an aging rock star who has been self-absorbed his whole life. After given a letter written to him by John Lennon, he decides to try to right the wrongs of his life.  This is the best performance that Al Pacino has done in the last five years. He plays a man who, instead of writing his own material, has been creating very popular songs written by teams of other writers. I loved the cast in this film with Annette Bening giving an outstanding performance as the manager of a New Jersey hotel that Danny stays at and Christopher Plummer, who steals the movie as Danny’s world-weary manager. It’s an enjoyable film with great performances that explores the price of getting famous and then staying there.   My Rating: Full Price   Danny Collins Website
Indiefest: An Honest Liar (2014)    Documentary about James “The Amazing” Randi, a world-famous magician and escape artist who has dedicated his life to exposing psychics, faith healers, and con-artists. For a man who has practiced the art of deception all his life with magic, there is one secret that he is hiding from the world. FULL DISCLOSURE: I backed this film on Kickstarter, as I have been a fan of James Randi for many years. This is a fascinating look at a very complex, smart man. His appearances (shown in this film) on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were landmark moments in television, and this movie gives us all the background on those appearances where he exposed phony faith healers and so-called psychics. The film does take a hard look at some of the things that Randi has done, and, to his credit, he is upfront and candid about those issues.  I loved the scenes when Randi used to perform his escapes from straitjackets, usually while hanging upside down, as I had never seen that footage of his younger days. It’s an interesting film about an “Amazing” man.   My Rating: Full Price   An Honest Liar Website
Indiefest:  Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter  (2014)  Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a Japanese woman who hates her job, is criticized for being single at 29 by her mother, and has a her only friend, a rabbit.  She goes on a treasure hunt and finds an old VHS copy of the 1996 movie Fargo.  She convinces herself that the money that one of the characters buried in the snow really happened and travels to the U.S. to find the hidden money. This is a strange but interesting film that drags a few times but ultimately finds it’s footing and becomes a film worth watching. Kikuchi has the difficult task of making a character, who isn’t very appealing or likable, someone that you root for to succeed. It’s heartbreaking at times but also inspiring.   My Rating:  Full Price  Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter Website
Indiefest: The Hunting Ground (2015)  PG-13  A documentary about sexual assaults on U.S. college campuses, how universities are not taking the assaults seriously and how a group of student activists are trying to force the schools to deal with the issue.  This a scary, maddening film that makes you want to write letters and make calls to the very Universities that we trust our sons and daughters to take care of. Every year between 16 and 20 percent of college underclass students will be sexually assaulted.  The film looks at how the accuser is almost always treated worse than the accused (even though 95 percent of all sexual assaults are found true). A portion of the film looks at sexual assaults done by fraternities and by college athletes and how the colleges and universities almost always side with the frats and athletes. This is a film that every parent needs to see before they send their child off to school.    My Rating: Full Price   The Hunting Ground Website
Forgotten Film: Rolling Thunder (1977)  R   Major Charles Rane (William Devane) has just returned to Texas after spending years as a POW in Vietnam.  He is given a few gifts by his community in recognition as a war hero.  A couple of thugs break into his home, kill his wife and child and mangle his hand.  Now, Rane is out for revenge and won’t stop until the people who murdered his family are dead. This is a gritty film with a lot of violence, but at its core is an unbelievable performance by William Devane. A very young Tommy Lee Jones plays the vet who Rane enlists to attack the thugs and get his revenge.My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Rolling Thunder Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of Furious 7: On-Set Food Stylist

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)  R   Retelling of the Mad Max movie franchise with Tom Hardy in the starring role. The trailer looks so cool, and I will always go see anything that Tom Hardy makes.   Mad Max: Fury Road Website   
Until Next Time!