Friday, September 25, 2015

The Intern

My View:  The Intern  (2015)  PG-13   70-year-old widower Ben (Robert De Niro) isn’t happy in his retirement, and he wants to experience something new,  so he decides to become a “senior intern” at an online fashion site. The fashion site was founded and is run by Jules (Anne Hathaway), but sales are slow, and the company’s board is considering cutting Jules’ power. Jules needs help, and Ben might just be the right man for the job.  I liked this film and enjoyed De Niro and Hathaway’s performances. De Niro, in this film, plays a man who you would want as a father.  Ben is kind and wise with a knack for giving his co-workers just the right advice. Hathaway’s character, Jules, is someone who is worth rooting for, and you want her to succeed. The first two-thirds of this film was enjoyable but with a lightweight story with two likable leads. My problem with this film is that the final third doesn’t match the rest of the movie. The screenplay,  written by the movie’s director, Nancy Meyers, puts Hathaway’s character into a corner that she just can’t get out of with any real resolution. The ending feels shallow and way too easy.  This is a feel good film that you will quickly forget, maybe as soon as you get to the theatre parking lot.      My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Intern Website
Familyfaire:  Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015)  PG  Dracula (Adam Sandler) and the hotel gang are back. Jonathan (Andy Samberg) and Mavis (Selena Gomez) get married and have a baby, Dennis (Asher Blinkoff). The question is, will Dennis turn into a vampire or will he be human? And, if he remains a human, will Dracula, and the gang be okay with that?  This is a fun family film that kids will love and one where adults won’t fall asleep. I am not an Adam Sandler fan, but he does an admirable job as the dad vamp who just wants his daughter to be happy and his grandson to have a great life. The film moves at a quick pace but loses steam about 15 minutes from the ending.  While not on the level of a Pixar film, it’s not bad, and kids over six will enjoy it.  The film is a little violent toward the ending, and the kindergarten group probably should skip it.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Hotel Transylvania 2 Website
Indiefest:  Sleeping with Other People  (2015)  R  Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) make unlikely friends. Jake is a womanizer, and Lainey is a serial cheater. After losing their virginity to each other in college, they meet up at a “sex addict anonymous” session years later and decide to strike up a non-sexual friendship. The big problem is they are attracted to each other but think that sex will ruin the friendship.  The two leads of Sudeikis and Brie are brilliant together. They play off each other like a stand-up comedy team. This is the best performance I have seen Sudeikis do in years. He is quick to the draw with a quip and makes you root for a guy whom you should loathe. He gives a character a lovable vibe that just comes off in waves on the screen. The chemistry between Brie and him is outstanding, and there seems to be a real connection between the two. Brie gives a masterful, comedic performance of a girl who is obsessed with a man who will never truly fulfill her. She makes Lainey relatable even though we don't understand why her character is so messed up. I loved this film and especially enjoyed the unconventional ending. This is a “rom-com” for today's app dating, “swipe right” world. “Sleeping with Other People”  is funny and touching, filled with characters you might not want to date but would like to spend some time getting to know over a beer or two.    My Rating: Full Price   Sleeping with Other People Website
Indiefest:  A Brilliant Young Mind  (2014)  Ethan (Asa Butterfield) is autistic and has trouble dealing with people. He takes comfort in numbers, and his mother (Sally Hawkins), a widow, is determined to keep Ethan’s life as normal as possible.  A math teacher (Rafe Spall) at Ethan’s school thinks that he is talented and could be a candidate for the International Mathematics Olympiad. This is a marvelous film that overcomes a slightly schmaltzy script with terrific performances by Butterfield, Hawkins and Spall. The story starts to move when Martin and Nathan began bonding over each other's love of math. Asa Butterfield is the reason to see this film. He does a marvelous job in a part where his character rarely talks. He uses his physical skills to create the wonder and emotion as his character starts opening up to the outside world. We see the delight in his eyes when he solves a problem. He has great screen presence, and he works well with Sally Hawkins and especially Rafe Spall.   “A Brilliant Young Mind” is a moving film about finding your place in the world. It might be a little scary and overwhelming at times, but life deserves the effort. It's a winning film that uses the strong performances of its leads to make a film that is well worth seeing.     My Rating: Full Price   A Brilliant Young Mind Website
Indiefest:  Ashby  (2015)  Ed (Nat Wolff) is a 17-year old high school student who is just trying to figure out his place in the world.  He makes friends with his neighbor, Ashby (Mickey Rourke), a terminally ill ex-CIA agent who killed people for a living. Their friendship will change both their outlooks on life. This film attempts to marry to genres:  the hard-nosed story of a man trying to come to terms with his past sins and the teen rom-com where a boy tries to find a way to face his fears and get the girl. The problem is the two just don’t mix. This is a film that tries too hard to be witty and fails most of the time. I liked both Nat Wolff and his love interest in the movie, Emma Roberts, but I never believed that Nat’s character, Ed, could just come off the street and be a starting wide receiver for a high school team. Rourke doesn’t have to work too hard with his character Ashby as he mostly just has to be a worn out Mickey Rourke. The film’s ending is too predictable to have any real impact. This is an Indie film that tries way too hard to be the ultimate “Indie” film.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Forgotten Film:  Near Dark  (1987)  R   Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) is from a small town in Oklahoma.  He meets a beautiful girl named Mae (Jenny Wright). They spend the night together flirting and talking. At the end of the night, she suddenly turns into a vampire and bites him on the neck.  Now Caleb is a vampire and has to join a band of southern vampires who roam the highways looking to steal cars and kill innocent drivers.  This is a combination modern western/vampire tale written and directed by Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow. It’s a dazzling take on the vampire genre with a storyline that will keep you guessing. The film moves at a quick pace and takes advantage of its accomplished cast led by Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton. If you like horror movies, then this will be a treat.    My Take:  Full Price   Near Dark Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Hotel Transylvania 2:  Hair Technical Director

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Steve Jobs  (2015)  The true story of the man who created Apple.  All I have to say is that Michael Fassbender is in the title role. That’s all I need to want to see this film.   Steve Jobs Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

My ViewMaze Runner: The Scorch Trials  (2015)  PG-13  Having figured out and escaped The Maze, the Gladers now are confronted with a new set of challenges on the open roads of a vast and desolate landscape. If you did not see the first film (which I liked), just know that the “Wicked,” as the name implies, are the bad guys. I liked this film as much as the first one. The action rarely stops and is well done. There are quite a few scary parts in the film, with some intense scenes with a few ugly creatures. The cast comes through, and I enjoyed the performance of Dylan O’Brian, who plays the hero of the story. In the first film, I found his performance a little dull but he has grown into the role. This is a fun action film that makes me want to see the third film.  My Rating: Full Price   Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
My ViewBlack Mass  (2015)  R  The film depicts the rise and fall of the ruthless and violent Boston mobster, Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), in the 1970s and 80s.  This was supposed to be Johnny Depp’s Oscar contender and get him out of the bad movie/performance rut that he has been in. While it’s a fine performance, it’s certainly not Oscar-worthy. The film is flat and slow moving. There is not much character development, and it seems to be a movie about how many ways Whitey can kill people. I didn’t feel any tension throughout the film and never cared for any of the characters or their outcome. I was also disappointed in the performance of Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s politician brother. Cumberbatch mails in his performance, maybe because he had a hard time mastering the tough Boston accent. Black Mass never delivers the punch that it needs, and, by the end, you don’t care if Whitey lives or dies.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My ViewEverest  (2015)  PG-13  Climbing Everest is a tough task.  In 1996, a storm made climbing Everest nearly impossible to survive.  It’s rare that I say this, but I would have liked this film to be just a little bit longer and that the film would have given us more scenes about the climbers preparing for the trip, letting us see the characters interact with their loved ones and friends. Instead, the film starts with the climbers meeting up at the airport in Nepal. This lessens the impact of our understanding and sympathy for the characters as they fight to survive. The film is spectacular to watch, with outstanding shots of the mountain and the climbers. I rarely recommend the IMAX experience but, in this case, the film in IMAX is worth the extra bucks. This is a well-done film that lets you experience, up close and personal, what its like to climb a  treacherous mountain. The cast is one of the best ensembles I’ve seen with Jason Clarke standing out as the leader of the climb, Rob Hall. Josh Brolin is exceptional as the hard-headed Texan, and John Hawkes gives a truly moving performance as the climber on his third attempt to get to the summit. It’s a gut-wrenching film that will have you on the edge of your seat. And, be warned, take a sweater. I guarantee that you will feel the chill of the mountain.  My Rating: Full Price   Everest Website
IndiefestPawn Sacrifice  (2015)  PG-13  At the height of the Cold War, the world stopped to watch a series of chess matches between American champion Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) and the Russian Grand Master Champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).  Director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Steven Knight create a film that is part political thriller, with all the intrigue of a spy film, and part character study. It's the story of a man whose mind is slowly losing its grip, just as he needs it the most. Zwick and Knight have created a protagonist that isn’t likable, and it’s to Maguire’s credit that we continue to root for Fisher to win, in spite of his personality and his beliefs. Maguire never softens his portrayal of Fisher, who seemingly had two sides - the ultra-paranoid person who doubted everything and the strong-willed chess player who was confident in his abilities to defeat anyone.  “Pawn Sacrifice” is a fascinating movie that will keep you glued to the screen, even if you know the eventual outcome.    My Rating: Full Price   Pawn Sacrifice Website       
IndiefestRosenwald  (2015)    Documentary on Julius Rosenwald, who became the President of Sears and was inspired by the writings of the educator Booker T. Washington.  Rosenwald went on to join forces with African-American communities during the Jim Crow South to build more than 5,300 schools during the early part of the 20th century.  Aviva Kempner brings us another stunning and informative film in “Rosenwald.” Kempner uses old photographs combined with interviews with a diverse group of people including Julian Bond, Maya Angelou, Rep. John Lewis and Rita Dove. Bond and the others give background on just what the profound effect of Rosenwald and his schools had on the communities (most interviewees attended a Rosenwald school). One of the highlights of the film is when Maya Angelou talks, with pride, about her Rosenwald school and how much it affected her community. The community she lived in was so proud of the schools that when children got “A’s” they were paraded around from church to church to receive recognition and praise. It’s a warm, inspirational film that makes you admire and respect how one man had an idea that would change so many lives.   My Rating:  Full Price   Rosenwald Website
Forgotten FilmFallen (1998)  R  Homicide detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) helped in catching serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas).  Hobbes even witnesses Reese’s execution. Now, there are murders happening again in the same manner that Reese used to kill his victims.  Could Reese have come back from the dead?  This is a gripping horror story that is well written and never goes for the easy scare.  As usual, Washington gives an outstanding performance as does John Goodman, who plays Washington’s police partner.  The ending is a little weak, but it’s a wonderful ride to get there.   My Rating: Full Price   Fallen Info  

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Everest:  Charge Hand Dressing Props

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Sicario  (2015)  R  An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is sent to join a task force to aid Mexico in the war against the drug cartels.  Critics are raving about this film, and Emily Blunt has proven that she can be an action star.  The film has a distinguished cast including Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Donovan, and Victor Garber.   Sicario Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Visit

My ViewThe Visit  (2015)  PG-13   A single mom (Kathryn Hahn) sends her two young children (Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould) to visit their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie). Something very wrong is going on in the house, and their grandparents are acting strangely.  I love a good horror film, but I hate horror films that use sloppy, lazy screenwriting to create cheap scares with things jumping out of the dark, and this film is filled with them. I used to think that the director/writer of this film, M. Night Shyamalan had talent, but that opinion has long since gone. Every attempt at horror was weak and predictable.  The script has the two young kids spouting out psychobabble like they are freshmen in college who have taken a psychology class and think that they know everything about the human condition.  This is another film in the long line of recent "found footage” films, but this one picks and chooses when to look like a handheld film and when to look like a professionally shot film (there are establishing shots that just don’t make sense). The so-called twist in the film is so predictable and easy to figure out that I was hoping there would be another twist to turn the film into something watchable, but that never happened.  Some critics will praise this film for its mix of comedy and horror. I would suggest that those critics go back and watch The Cabin in the Woods (2012) or Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) as true examples of that genre. This film doesn’t know what genre it is; is it a horror film or a comedy or satire? I have no idea, but I do know that this film does not work as a horror film.  The young girl in the film is a wannabe filmmaker. I would rather see one of her films than any other from Mr. Shyamalan.    My Rating: Cable   The Visit Website
IndiefestSteak (R)evolution (2014)  This is a documentary about the search for the best steak in the world. The film goes to France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, UK,USA, Canada, Japan, Argentina, and Brazil to find out what makes a great steak and the different ways that we raise and prepare beef.  While foodies may enjoy this film, I found it a little boring and way too long.  I did learn about how to cook a steak and got to see just how some of the greatest steak restaurants in the world cook their meals. Much like a steak, I found this film could have trimmed some of the fat before releasing it to the public.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Steak (R)evolution Website

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Friday the 13th  (2016)  This film hasn’t even started shooting (it’s been in development since 2013), and I know it’s a bad idea to try and revive this series. Let sleeping dogs lie, please!
Forgotten FilmAll I Wanna Do (1998)  PG-13   When an all-girls high school is about to go co-ed, a group of girls get together and  hatch a wild scheme to keep their school from changing. This is a funny and charming film set in the 1960’s that highlights girls who have aspirations to be more than just homemakers. The cast is brilliant, especially Lyn Redgrave, who plays the head-mistress of the school and Rachael Leigh Cook, who tries to keep the girls from succeeding. It’s a fun film that is a joy to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   All I Wanna Do Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Visit: Parking PA

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Pawn Sacrifice  (2014)  PG-13   The legendary battle of wits between American chess champion Bobby Fisher (Tobey Maguire) and the Russian grand master champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) at the height of the Cold War. The film is directed by Edward Zwick (Traffic, Shakespeare in Love), and the script written by Steven Knight (Locke).  That’s good enough for me to see this film.  Pawn Sacrifice Website   

Until Next Time!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

My ViewA Walk in the Woods (2015) R  Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is a world famous travel writer whose humorous books were once on the best seller list, but he hasn’t written a thing in 5 years. Bryson decides to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte).  Robert Redford has been trying to make this film, based on Bryson's book of the same name, since the late 90s. He initially wanted to star with Paul Newman in the Katz role. While that would have been fun to watch, the pairing of Redford and Nolte in a movie based on a beloved and hilarious book should have been a hit out of the park. Unfortunately, I think the script has been rewritten so many times that the final product, by screenwriters Bill Holderman and Rick Kerb, feels flat and stale. The film never really gives Redford and Nolte much to work with. The brilliant supporting cast is given nothing to do, with the exception of Kristen Schael, who briefly breathes some comedic life into the film.  While the +50 age crowd may have an enjoyable time watching the two old master actors stumble about on-screen, I think the rest of us, and especially fans of the book, will not want to go on this trip.    My Rating: Cable   A Walk in the Woods Website   

My ViewThe Transporter: Refueled  (2014)  PG-13  Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) is a former special-ops mercenary who is now transporting classified packages for questionable people.  He gets caught up in a cat and mouse game between some bank robbers and a Russian kingpin. This is the typical movie written by Luc Besson, who created the Transporter series. The film has lots of action and flash but no real character or content. Ed Skrein is asked to fill the very large shoes of the star of the first three Transporter films, Jason Statham. Unfortunately, Skrein doesn’t have the charisma or screen presence. The action, while well-choreographed, is almost comical, reminiscent of an old Jackie Chan film, where the hero uses various devices like a life buoy to subdue his attackers. The acting is horrible, with the exception of Ray Stevenson, who comes off stylish and cool as Frank Martin’s father, an ex-CIA agent. The film is one big ad for Audi.  Instead of “Refueled,” I think this whole series needs to be retooled.   My Rating: Cable   The Transporter: Refueled Website

IndiefestLearning to Drive  (2015)  R  As Wendy’s (Patricia Clarkson) marriage falls apart, she decides to take driving lessons from a Sikh instructor (Ben Kingsley) who has relationship troubles of his own. This is a charming film about the development of a friendship between two lonely adults. Clarkson and Kingsley work extremely well together in this understated film. It’s a film about learning to believe in yourself and that a person can succeed if they just give it their all.  I especially enjoyed the performance of Clarkson, who just sparkles on the screen. Kingsley gives a powerful yet restrained performance.  This is a movie that moves at a slow pace, but that’s OK, because, like with good friends, sometimes it’s just fine to sit and talk for a while.   My Rating:  Full Price   Learning to Drive Website

IndiefestSteve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2014)  R This is a documentary by filmmaker Alex Gibney on Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. Through archival interviews and videos of Jobs, Gibney lets Steve do most of the talking in the film, making him almost a personal tour guide to the story of his life. Jobs had the uncanny ability to spot talent and the ability to inspire people who worked for him to achieve the impossible. Gibney interviews former employees from both the early days of Apple and the latter years, when the company that Jobs started had become a powerhouse not only in the computer world, but in the business world. Gibney shows Jobs as a driven man who expected his employees to create perfect products but demanded that the job take over their lives, so much so that their personal lives suffered. With this film, Alex Gibney shows us that Jobs was a man who helped connect the whole world through his products, but he couldn’t connect to people in his own personal world. It is truly ironic that Jobs created products like the iPhone, something that was meant to connect us to other people, but instead seems to isolate us as we stare at our iPhones at the bus stop or at the dinner table. The film is a fascinating, unflinching look at an extremely complicated and ego driven man. I just wonder that after seeing this film, will the fans of Apple and Jobs hold him in such high, almost god-like esteem and will they look at his products with the same reverence? Or will they just go back to staring at their iPhones?    My Rating: Full Price   Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

Forgotten FilmThe People Under the Stairs  (1991)  R  Two adults and a juvenile break into a suburban home rumored to have a large stash of cash. What they find is their worst nightmare, a house filled with secrets, secrets that may cost them their lives. This is a film written and directed by the master of horror, the late Wes Craven. It’s a film that starts out as an ordinary heist film that quickly turns into a film filled with mystery and horror, and with any Craven film, it also has some humorous bits. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking that is just plain fun to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   The People Under the Stairs Website   

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Transporter: Refueled:  Patina & Tint

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Visit  (2015)  PG-13  A single mom sends her two young children to visit their grandparents. Something very wrong is going on in the house, and their grandparents are acting strange. I have high hopes for this horror film, but writer/director M. Night Shyamalan’s track record lately hasn’t been stellar.   The Visit Website   
Until Next Time!