Friday, August 28, 2015

No Escape

My View: No Escape (2015)  R  An American couple (Owen Wilson, Lake Bell) and their kids are caught in the middle of a coup in a Southeast Asian country. Now they must get from their hotel to the American Embassy, running from a crowd hell-bent on executing every foreigner they find.   I liked Wilson as an every-man action hero, and while Bell isn’t asked to do much other than needing to be rescued, she is extremely likable on the screen. But, this film is filled with rampant xenophobia, an unknown country  filled with horrible people determined to rape or kill every foreigner. There are some action sequences that are so outrageous that at, my screening, most of the audience laughed. And, the two daughters (Sterling Jerins, Claire Geare) are so annoying that you almost wish that, at some point, the parents could leave them behind. This is a strange and messy film that isn’t enjoyable to watch and misses the mark by so much that it makes Vietnam (yes, that Vietnam) the hero of the film.    My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   No Escape Facebook Page
Indiefest: Mistress America (2015)  R   Tracy (Lola Kirkel), a college freshman, is not ready for her stepsister Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is going to turn Tracy’s life upside down. Brooke is a whirlwind of non-stop ideas and talk. I loved this film, co-written by its star, Greta Gerwig. Gerwig plays Brooke, a 30-something girl who lives in a small apartment in Times Square. She is a woman of a million ideas and tells you them in a very rapid stream of conversation. Lola Kirkel plays a slightly shy, reserved college student trying to figure out a way to fit in while trying to become a short story, writer. Kirkel beautifully plays Lola and is able to take some of the spotlight from Gerwig with a winning, quirky performance. The dialogue is fast-paced and witty, and the storyline gets better as the complicated plot moves along. This film should make Gerwig a star and put Kirkel on every casting director’s radar. If you like smart, funny comedies that have rich, well rounded characters, this film is for you.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Mistress America Website
My View: We Are Your Friends (2014)  R   Cole (Zac Efron) is a struggling DJ with dreams of becoming a record producer. He meets DJ James (Wes Bentley) who takes an interest in Cole and helps him learn the business. When Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), James’ girlfriend, starts dating Cole, Cole has to choose between love and business.  The only reason to see this mess of a film is to participate in the drinking game: “Take a shot when Zac takes off his shirt” (I lost count at 10). This film is predictable from the start with characters who do things with no other reason than just so that the plot can move along. We are supposed to like Cole, but he sleeps with his mentor’s girlfriend, takes serious amounts of drugs and abandons his friends when he gets better gigs. Sophie, played by Emily Ratajkowski, is equally shallow, turning down liquor several times, making a big deal about it, but then takes drugs at a moment’s notice. The dialogue is laughable with such lines as, “You’re not a real person until you’re 27.” My head was hurting after seeing this movie, not from the loud electronic dance music, but from the awful storyline and horrible dialogue.    My Rating: Cable     We Are Your Friends Website
Indiefest: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet  (2015)  PG   Mustafa (Liam Neeson) is a poet whose works has been banned, and he has been a prisoner for seven years because the authorities believe his words will incite rebellion. He is given a chance to go back home, but that means he will have to leave his love Kamila (Salma Hayek) and her daughter Elmira (Quvenzhane Wallis). Will he choose to stay in prison for love or go home? This is a beautiful film that doesn’t quite fit together. It takes the poems of Kahlil Gibran and animates them, all by different artists using a vast array of mediums. The problem is the story, itself, about Mustafa, Kamila and Elmira is rather simple and has an almost cartoony feel to it. It makes the transitions between the storyline and the poems seem jarring, which makes the film seem at war with itself. I think kids will be bored when the poem sections come on, and adults will be bored by the Mustafa storyline.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Prophet Website
Indiefest: Digging for Fire (2015) R   A married couple (Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt) decide to spend the weekend apart. What could go wrong? Director Joe Swanberg, who co-wrote the script with leading man Johnson, brings us a tale of a modern couple who are struggling to keep their identities separate from their marriage. Both characters feel as if they have lost themselves by becoming a couple, especially after the birth of their son. Their lives have become meshed together, and both wonder if there will ever be a point when they feel like their old selves again. I like this film, but I wanted to love it. I think one of the problems with this film is that the cast is so big. There are certain characters whom we barely see, much less get to know. I enjoyed the performances of Johnson, and especially DeWitt, who makes her character seem conflicted and real. Sam Rockwell as the “fly in the ointment” friend is brilliant as the guy who loves to stir up trouble. It’s an interesting, light film that, while the plot is rather superficial, it does explore the cracks in a couple’s relationship. We get to see if those cracks become mended or if those cracks become massive fissures that a marriage ultimately can’t survive.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Digging for Fire Website
Forgotten Film: K-PAX (2001) Prot (Kevin Spacey) is patient at a mental hospital. Prot claims that he is from a faraway planet called K-PAX. As his psychiatrist (Jeff Bridges) tries to help him, the mystery of Prot grows deeper, and the psychiatrist begins thinking that just maybe his patient might not be crazy. While the cast in this film is excellent, it’s Kevin Spacey who makes this film so gripping to watch. He makes you hope and possibly believe that Prot is from another planet. This is a fascinating film with an ending that will have you thinking about this movie for days.    My Rating: Full Price   K-PAX Info

Weird Credit: From Digging for Fire: Food Stylist

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Everest (2015)  PG-13   I have recently seen several documentaries about climbing. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood shows the sport. The film stars Elizabeth Debicki, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Josh Brolin and Emily Watson.   Everest Website  
Until Next Time!

Friday, August 21, 2015

American Ultra

My View:  American Ultra  (2015)  R  Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) seems like your usual stoner but, aside from being good at smoking weed, he is also the greatest government agent in existence.  Mike has been marked for extermination because the CIA thinks that he has become such a liability, but it’s not going to be easy to take him down. This is a movie that can’t decide what type of film it is. It’s part stoner comedy, part romantic drama, and part violent action film. The problem is that the first two parts (stoner comedy/romantic drama) don’t mix well with the violent action film. And boy is this film violent and bloody. Mike kills one man with a spoon to the throat and another by beheading a guy with a metal dustpan. Eisenberg does have excellent chemistry with Kristen Stewart, who plays his girlfriend. There is an amusing running gag where Mike keeps trying to propose to his girlfriend, and it never is the right time. Unfortunately, the violent action sequences just don’t mesh well with the lighter moments of the film, which makes the film feel very jagged and uneven. I think even if you were high watching this movie, you wouldn’t enjoy it.   My Rating:  Cable   American Ultra Website

Indiefest:  The Diary of a Teenage Girl  (2015)  R   In 1970’s San Francisco, 15-year-old Minnie (Bel Powley) dreams of becoming a comic book artist, like her hero Aline Kominsky.  Minnie’s world changes when her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard) takes an interest in her. Minnie thought that no one would be interested in her, but now she must decide if she is going to give in to her desires. Writer/director Marielle Heller has created a unique film that explores the sexual awaking of a young girl who had doubts she would ever be in a relationship. Minnie was feeling like a lot of young girls - that she just wasn’t attractive enough for anyone to be interested in her. While this film has great love and respect for Minnie, it’s full of nudity and very adult situations. The cast is outstanding with Alexander Skarsgård brilliantly playing the slightly dimwitted Monroe. Kristen Wiig plays the part of the selfish Charlotte to perfection, making her character seem very vulnerable. Bel Powley is an absolute gem to watch in this role. Though she was twenty-one when she made this film, she looks all of fifteen, which makes the film feel real. Powley also narrates, giving the movie a voice that we won't soon forget. The Diary of a Teenage Girl gives us a rare look at the world of a real teenager; one moment sure of herself and the next feeling hopeless, convinced that she will never be loved. While some scenes may be uncomfortable to watch, it is well worth going on this journey with Minnie as she travels through her sometimes animated world.  My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Diary of a Teenage Girl Website

IndiefestListen to Me Marlon  (2015)     A documentary on the legendary Academy Award-winning actor Marlon Brando.  Listen to Me Marlon is a fascinating look that lets us see Marlon Brando, not as just as the actor, but as the man. Using hundreds of hours of audio tapes that Brando recorded, Brando narrates this brilliant film. Director Stevan Riley combines those audio tapes with news footage, interviews, roving shots through Brando’s house and movie scenes to create an insightful look at a very complex and sometimes troubled man.  The film lets us know what Brando was thinking and feeling during his life, letting us experience just how he saw the world. Brando was a complex and sometimes maddening person, someone we truly did not know, until now.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Listen to Me Marlon Website

IndiefestMeru  (2015)  R  Documentary about three elite climbers who attempt to climb Mount Meru, part of the Himalayas.  Mount Meru is considered the most difficult mountain to climb and has never been ascended. Some of the best climbers in the world have attempted to scale it and have have been defeated by a mountain that is a combination of ice climbing, mountain climbing and wall climbing. And oh, by the way, some of the climbing is done at night. Meru is 20,000 ft and is called the anti-Everest because you don’t have sherpas to carry your 200 pounds of stuff and it takes days, possibly weeks to do the climb.This is a brilliant film about overcoming incredible odds, coming back from adversity, and yes, even doing the crazy and impossible. It’s awe-inspiring and at the same time, jaw-dropping, especially when you realize that the 3 men also shot of the footage while also climbing the mountain. This is a beautiful, exhilarating film that is not to be missed.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again    Meru Website

Forgotten FilmThe Boy Who Could Fly  (1986)  PG  Milly (Lucy Deakins) moves into a new neighborhood with her family.  Living next door is Eric (Jay Underwood).  Eric has had a tough life; his parents died when he was five, he lives with his uncle, who is a drunk, and Eric is autistic. Milly befriends Eric, who has a secret:  He thinks he can fly. This is a warm and touching film about overcoming every roadblock that life gives you.  The casting is perfect, including Bonnie Bedelia, who plays Milly’s mom and Fred Savage as the plucky brother of Milly.   My Rating: Full Price   The Boy Who Could Fly Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of American Ultra:  Martial Arts Training for Mr. Eisenberg

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Reflektor Tapes  (2015)   Documentary about the band Arcade Fire and its conception and recording of the band’s Reflektor album. This should be an interesting and insightful look at one of the most creative bands out there.   The Reflektor Tapes Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

My ViewThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (2015)  PG-13   Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) team up with the help of a beautiful woman (Alicia Vikander) to stop a mysterious international criminal organization led by Victoria Vinciguerrra (Elizabeth Debicki).  This is a Guy Ritchie film, and it looks it. It’s very stylish (in a good way) with lots of creative action sequences and witty dialog. There are also some great running gags, including Solo and Kuryakin having such a fashion war that they could be contestants on Project Runway. I liked Alicia Vikander in the role of the German mechanic who can hold her own with the boys, though I wish she had done more action scenes. Both Cavill and Hammer play their roles with perfection. I especially liked Hammer’s tough, Russian vibe that he gave his character.  The film is a little long but has an enjoyable ending that sets the team up for more adventures.  My Rating:  Full Price   The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Website
My View:  Straight Outta Compton  (2015)   The film revolves around the rise and fall of the Compton, California hip hop group N.W.A., led by Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.).  The first part of this film, showing the origins of the three principal rappers, is a blast to watch. I especially enjoyed Ice Cube’s story, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s real life son) stands out in his picture perfect portrayal. The movie's concert scenes are fun, powerful and make you feel like you are in the live audience.  The film slows down considerably once (spoiler alert, sort of) when the group breaks up. And, it just seems that the film is just introducing characters like Snoop Dogg and Tupac for the wow factor instead of propelling the storyline. I also would have liked to have seen more of how songs were written and recorded. Fans of hip hop and N.W.A. will enjoy this film as music is used perfectly to set the scenes.  Overall, it’s an interesting film that has some stunning and awesome concert scenes.  My Review:  Full Price   Straight Outta Compton Website
IndiefestThe End of the Tour  (2015)  R  In 1996, immediately after the publication of his second book, David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal) goes on a five-day book tour with Rolling Stone writer, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg).  I think that if I had read either of David Foster Wallace’s books I would have enjoyed this more. It’s a movie mostly about two men, both writers, discussing life, writing and being famous. Segal gives a great performance as the rather withdrawn and quite strange Wallace. The film shows that Segal has quite the range, as his performance is brilliant and moving.  I felt that Eisenberg didn’t have to work too hard in his performance, and the film bogs down a little when they guys are traveling by themselves in the car. I wanted to like/love this picture, but like a few of the conversations, it’s a little long-winded and boring. The End of the Tour is a road picture that just doesn’t seem to go anywhere.   My Rating:  Full Price   The End of the Tour Website
Indiefest:  Cop Car  (2015)  R   A small town sheriff (Kevin Bacon) sets out to find the two youths who have taken his police car on a joyride. Director Jon Watts, who co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher D. Ford, brings out the best in his cast. The two boys, Welftford and Freedson-Jackson, play well off each other, and Watts lets the boys be boys, as they have a blast driving around in a police car. Bacon is perfect as the menacing sheriff, and we know the instant that we meet him, he is not to be annoyed. This sheriff is certainly someone who will do anything to survive. The film's second half just isn’t as compelling or fascinating as the first. The film becomes a cat and mouse game with a very ambiguous ending that is downright frustrating.  Overall, the cast and the excellent pace make up for that ending and make the film an engaging and sometimes amusing film with an acute style that slowly creates tension. “Cop Car” is an interesting take on the modern western.   My Take:  Full Price   Cop Car Website
IndiefestFort Tilden  (2014)  R  Allie (Claire McNulty) and Harper (Bridey Elliot) are best friends, and all they want to do is spend a day at the beach, but life has other plans for their day.  Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, who co-directed and wrote the film, have created two lead characters to whom you would hate to be seated beside at Starbucks. Allie and Harper are two young women who are spoiled, egotistical and clueless about how the world works.  Harper is a mixed-media artist who spends most of her days coming up with ideas that will never be realized. Allie, who sometimes is the more level-headed of the two, is solely consumed with her upcoming Peace Corps trip. Harper is convinced that, like many other endeavors that Allie has taken up, that Allie will not go on her trip, afterall. Neither woman has faith in each other; and it's as if they are in an endless cycle of letting each other down, only to forget about the transgression in a short amount of time. This is one of those films that some critics will find endearing and even possibly enchanting. I found the film a little tedious, rarely funny, and I was very often frustrated with the characters and their cluelessness.  My Rating:  Cable   Fort Tilden Website
Forgotten Film Newsfront  (1978)  PG  A group of cameramen and reporters struggle in post-war Australia to create newsreels for the movie going public. For a long time, most of Australia got a lot of their news from newsreels shown before the featured movie. The film, while a little low-key, is a poignant look at a proud cameraman (Bill Hunter) who takes all sorts of risks to get the best shot. Hunter is brilliant in the role and makes the film work as well as it does. The movie shows a lot of actual newsreels which gives it a bit of authenticity. It’s an intriguing film about our quick changing world and how it affects people.   My Rating: Full Price   Newsfront Info

Weird Credits: From the credits of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.:  Costume Cutter

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouA Walk in the Woods  (2015) R   After spending 20 years in England, Bill (Robert Redford) decides to travel the Appalachian Trail to reconnect with his homeland. This film has a brilliant cast including Nick Offerman, Nick Nolte, Kristen Schaal, Mary Steenburgen, and Emma Thompson.   A Walk in the Woods Website
Until Next Time!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Fantastic Four

My ViewFantastic Four  (2015) PG-13   Four young, brilliant teenagers are brought together to create a machine that can transport people to an alternate universe. The machine will change their lives in dangerous ways.  This is the best Fantastic Four film made, but of course, that isn’t saying much. This is a reboot and an origins story, which is part of the problem with this film. It takes forever to get started, much of the film takes place in a laboratory. While the first portion is slightly compelling, I think that it’s mostly due to the strong cast, led by Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan.  The biggest problem with this film is we really don’t meet the villain of the movie, Doom (Toby Kebbell), until 20 minutes left, and the ending feels kind of rushed. This film never really figures out what kind of film it is. It’s a superhero movie, but it takes forever until they become superheroes. It’s almost a horror film (think The Fly, spending a lot of time showing us the horrible aftereffects of the transporter accident that makes them superheroes. Then it’s a buddy movie as Ben (Jamie Bell), and Reed (Miles Teller) meet while in elementary school and become friends. Most of the special effects are well done, especially the scenes with The Thing, but there is a laughable scene involving a horribly animated chimp that looks just downright stupid. Hopefully, the next Fantastic Four film can better utilize the talents of the cast. By the way, there isn’t a bonus scene in the credits.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Fantastic Four Website

My ViewRicki and the Flash  (2015) PG-13   Ricki (Meryl Streep) gave up everything, including her family, for the rock-and-roll dream. Now she is returning to try and make things right with her family.  Meryl Streep is amazing as the flamboyant singer. Her performance reminds me a lot of Bonnie Raitt, a woman who commands the stage. The songs are fun rock and roll pieces and will make a great soundtrack. The problem with this film is that there are so many performance pieces that the movie feels more like a musical than a drama. It’s a strange little film that doesn’t have much of a plot, other than Streep trying to reconnect with her troubled daughter (played by real-life daughter Mamie Gummer). It’s as if director Jonathan Demme said, I am enjoying seeing Meryl sing and play guitar, let's shoot some more songs for her to perform. The 2nd half of the film feels as if it has forgotten what the first half was about (reconnecting with her daughter), so much so, that I don’t think Gummer even has a line in the last thirty minutes. I had fun watching Streep perform, and her band (including Rick Springfield) is better than any house band I have ever seen. Unfortunately, this isn’t a documentary but a drama, and so it feels as if we are only getting half a movie.  My Rating: Cable   Ricki and the Flash Website

Family FaireShaun the Sheep Movie  (2015)  PG   Shaun the sheep (Justin Fletcher) decides to shake things up and take the flock to the big city to find their farmer. That was a big mistake, and now it’s time to get back to the country. This is an imaginative animated film from the same people that brought us the Wallace and Gromit series and the very funny Chicken Run. The kids will enjoy the action of the stop motion animation and adults will enjoy the humor, some of it very subtile. The storyline is creative and the animation is fun to watch.  My Rating: Full Price  Shaun the Sheep Movie Website   

IndiefestDark Places  (2015)  R  Libby (Charlize Theron) was only seven years old when her family was brutally murdered in their Kansas farmhouse. Now it’s twenty-five years later, and she is revisiting the scene of the crime.  Fans of Gone Girl (2014) are probably going to be disappointed with this film, also based on a Gillian Flynn novel. Led by two strong performances in Theron and Christina Hendricks (who plays Libby’s mom ), the film is an intriguing mystery that is let down by some poorly written dialog. The film has a few twists and turns to keep you guessing on who killed Libby’s family but takes way too long to resolve the mystery.  Chloe Grace Moretz gives probably the worst performance of her career as the bad girl who gets involved with Libby’s brother (Tye Sheridan). Dark Places is a film that isn’t perfect but still gives us enough of a whodunit that it’s enjoyable to watch. My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Dark Places Website

IndiefestThe Gift  (2015)  R  Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a married couple whose life is going great. Then, in walks Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old high school classmate who starts sending Simon mysterious gifts that may unlock the past that he doesn’t want to revisit. I loved this film that is full of so many twists that every time I thought I had figured out what was going to happen, it would turn out I was completely wrong. Joel Edgerton (who also directed the film) is brilliant as the strange and needy Gordo. Bateman is perfectly cast as Simon, the seemingly nice husband who may have something from his past to hide. The film really revolves around Robyn, and Hall is up to the task of playing the very complex wife who thinks Gordo is worth keeping as a friend. I am not totally happy with the ultimate ending, but, boy, did I enjoy getting to that part.    My Take: Full Price   The Gift Website

IndiefestThe Look of Silence  (2015)  PG-13   Documentary about a family who survived the genocide in Indonesia and the journey that one man, Adi, goes on to confront the men who killed his brother. This is a sequel to the award winning 2012 documentary, The Act of Killing. The killing of Adi’s brother was described by his killers with almost glee in the first film. The Look of Silence doesn’t have the visual flair of The Act of Killing, nor does it have the emotional impact of that movie. It just might be too late, with too many old men’s memories fading or dying, to give the needed release that you want from this film. There are a couple of feeble attempts by some of the children to ask for forgiveness for the sins of their fathers, but it’s few and far between. Adi, while he seems to be a noble and forgiving man, gets very little from his quest. The film gives very few answers to Adi, and many of his neighbors continue to believe that the mass extermination of more than one million people was justified.  That’s why many of the conversations that Adi has with his brother’s killers end with Adi looking at them, in silence.   My Rating: Full Price   The Look of Silence Website 

Forgotten Film:  The Hit  (1984)  R  Willie (Terence Stamp) is a former gangster thug who turned informant. He is trying to live peacefully tucked away in a Spanish village.  The mob knows that he informed on them, and now two hit men (John Hurt, Tim Roth) have been sent to bring Willie back for some mobster justice.  This is a fascinating film with three excellent performances. There is quite a bit of dry humor as the three gangsters try to one-up each other. The film is brilliant and a blast to watch Stamp on-screen in a role he was meant to play.   My Rating: Full Price   The Hit Info   

Weird Credit:  From the credits of Fantastic Four:  Movement Choreographer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouMistress America  (2015) R  A lonely college freshman Tracy (Lola Kirke) makes friends with her soon to be stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig) who makes Tracy a part of her many schemes. Gerwig, who I just adore, co-wrote the screenplay with the director of the film, the great Noah Baumbach. This is a "can’t miss" film in my book.   Mistress America Website
Until Next Time!