Wednesday, November 25, 2015


My ViewCreed  (2015) PG-13   The illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson Creed (Michael B. Jordan), wants to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a boxer.  He is willing to do just about anything to reach his goal, including moving to Philly to get the man who beat his father, Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), to help him train.  This is one of the best films of the year and has some of the greatest fight sequences I have ever seen. There is a fight in the film where we follow Adonis from the cramped dressing room to the small ring in a seedy auditorium, that in one continuous shot that doesn’t cut away till the whole fight is completed. It’s a spectacular sequence that punctuates this film with a bang. Jordan sizzles on-screen as the troubled but talented son of Apollo Creed. Stallone gives an Oscar-worthy performance that is understated and moving. Jordan and Stallone have phenomenal chemistry that makes this film work from all angles. This film is a nice homage to the “Rocky” films without getting too campy or sweet, and the final fight sequence is thrilling and just as exciting as any action film that has come out in the past few years. Just like the original Rocky, you will want to see Creed more than once.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See It Again   Creed Website
Family FaireThe Good Dinosaur  (2015) PG  What if the asteroid that caused the dinosaurs to die off never hit earth and humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time? An Apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) has been separated from his family, and he enlists a human boy named Spot (voiced by Jack Bright) to help him complete the tough journey home. The animation in this film is unimaginably beautiful, highly realistic and drop dead gorgeous  looking film. The story isn’t quite up to the Pixar magic touch of films like the Toy Story franchise, but it’s a sweet story of finding courage within yourself to tackle life’s obstacles. Kids will enjoy the antics of Spot, and adults won’t be bored with the storyline. The film is reminiscent of the old Disney films like The Incredible Journey, and, for some, will bring a few tears near the end. This film is delightful, and, while not quite Pixar’s best, is still fun to watch.  My Rating: Full Price   The Good Dinosaur Website
My View:  Victor Frankenstein (2015)  PG-13  The legend of Frankenstein (James McAvoy) before he created his monster, told from the perspective of his friend and colleague, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe).The film is a retelling of the Frankenstein’s monster story, centering on Igor. Unfortunately, it loses all the meaning behind the story, making the film feel shallow and simple, something the Frankenstein story isn’t. Radcliffe is wasted as Igor and James McAvoy chew up the scenery in every scene. The ending feels rushed and unsatisfying.    My Rating: Cable     Victor Frankenstein Website  
IndiefestLegend  (2015)  R  Two identical twins, Reggie, and Ronnie Kray (Tom Hardy), are bent on creating an organized crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960’s. Their reign will be noted as one of the bloodiest times in the city’s history. This film wastes an intense and virtuoso performance by Hardy in the two Kray roles. The film never finds it’s footing, getting caught up with the violence without letting us ever understanding the characters. The movie is overly long, sometimes tedious and only occasionally shows us glimpses of what the film could have been. Only the most devoted Tom Hardy fan will enjoy this film. If you are interested in the subject matter, there is a much better film from 1990 called The Krays that deals with the storyline in a much more satisfying conclusion.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Legend Website
IndiefestTrumbo  (2015)  R  In 1947, Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriter and one of t he most talented writers out there. There was one problem: Trumbo was a registered member of the Communist Party, and the U.S. government was targeting communists for persecution. Trumbo is fired from his job and suffers the injustice of the blacklist, which kept writers, actors, and directors from working on any film.  Cranston gives a complex and scintillating performance of a man who liked to tweak the establishment and was probably too smart for his own good. The talented cast includes Diane Lane as Trumbo’s wife, Helen Mirren as gossip maven Hedda Hopper, Louis C.K. as troubled screenwriter Arlen Hurd, and John Goodman as Frank King, the king of “B” pictures. Dean O’Gorman stands out doing a dead-on portrayal of Kirk Douglas, the actor who was instrumental in Trump’s triumphant return from the Blacklist. The film's big flaw is that it tries to cover too much ground and deals with too much time and too many instances of Trumbo battling the system. It’s a film with some sparkling and vivid performances that, unfortunately, is brought down by its length.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Trumbo Website  
Indiefest:  Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict  (2015)  Documentary about Peggy Guggenheim,  an heiress to her family fortune who became a central figure in the modern art movement. As she moved through the cultural upheaval of the 20th century, she collected not only art but artists. Her colorful personal history included such figures as Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, and Jackson Pollock. This is a fascinating film about a woman who lived a life filled with art and artists. The film shows us that not only did Guggenheim have great taste, but she also single handily saved some of the great modern art paintings from the Nazi’s, buying up hundreds of paintings and then shipping them to the U.S. just before the fall of Paris. I have always loved modern art, and this film made love it even more.    My Rating:  Full Price   Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict
Forgotten Film:  Being There (1979)  PG  A simple, sheltered gardener (Peter Sellers) is pushed out into the real world when his employer dies. Through a series of chance events, he becomes an advisor to a powerful businessman who has the ear of the most powerful people in Washington. Sellers is brilliant as Chance, a man who has only known gardening and spouts gardening tips that are perceived as highly intelligent commentaries on the ills of society.  The film, beautifully directed by Hal Ashby, is part black comedy and part satire. Melvyn Douglas won a Best Supporting Actor for his role of the businessman who takes Chance under his wing and unwittingly makes him one of the most admired men in America. The last scene of the film is not to be missed.    My Rating;  Full Price   Being There Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Creed:  Additional Voices

Coming Soon To a Theatre Near YouThe Lady in the Van  (2015)  PG-13  A man (Dominic Cooper) makes friends with a feisty old homeless woman (Maggie Smith) who lives in a van that has been parked in his driveway. Hey, any film is made better with Maggie Smith.   
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

My ViewThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2  (2015)  PG-13   Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is heading for a showdown with President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Katniss goes on one last mission and is determined to bring down Snow or die trying.  I liked Part 1, but this is a much better film, mostly due to the action sequences, including a brilliant scene where Katniss and her friends battle “Mutts” in the sewers of the capital city. The film moves at a quick pace, and Lawrence gives an intense and scintillating performance.  It is very evident that the script had to be rewritten when Philip Seymour Hoffman died before completing his work as Plutarch.  Though it was handled well, I think one of the last scenes of the film would have had more impact if Hoffman had been on-screen in that scene. I think both fans of the books and the movie series will be happy with this final installment.     My Rating: Full Price   The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2  
My View:  The Night Before (2015)  R  Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Isaac (Seth Rogan) and Chris (Anthony Mackie) have a tradition of going out on Christmas Eve.  Because Isaac is going to be a father and Chris has become famous, the guys decide to have one more night of adventure before their lives become too busy. This movie, while it’s message of the importance of friendship and family is well-meaning, it never really finds if momentum and very often the laughs are lacking. The last third of the film almost makes the film worth watching, mostly due to some surprises, but overall the film just doesn’t work. I did like Seth Rogan as a family man given a free pass for one night by his wife, and Michael Shannon as a creepy drug dealer who gives out marijuana like it is going to cure every ill. But overall the film never gives you the comedy buzz you want.     My Rating: Cable    The Night Before Website
My ViewSecret in Their Eyes  (2015)  PG-13   Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jess (Julia Roberts) are two FBI investigators whose lives are changed when Jess’s teenage daughter is found brutally murdered.  Thirteen years later, Ray thinks he has located the murderer and needs the help of a former flame, Claire (Nicole Kidman). This film is based on the 2009 Academy Award winning Argentina film of the same name, which I loved. Unfortunately, what made that film work, brings this film down. There is absolutely no chemistry between Ejiofor and Kidman, who are supposed to still be attracted to each other after all the years gone by. I felt that aside from the scene where Roberts finds her murdered daughter, she sleepwalked through her role. Ejiofor seems to be the only actor who put out an effort in this film, and, while he is exceptional, it doesn’t make up for this lackluster film.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Secret in Their Eyes Website 
IndiefestBrooklyn  (2015)  PG-13   Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) leaves her sister (Fiona Glascott) and mother (Jane Brennan) behind in Ireland to go work in Brooklyn, NY in the early 1950’s.  She finds a job and a boyfriend (Emory Cohen), which makes her life seemingly full. But Ireland is calling, and she may have to choose between her new life in the US and her old life in Ireland.  I loved this film and especially the performance of Ronan, who is picture perfect in the role of the determined Eilis. She sparkles on the screen and makes the film worth watching. The second half of the film drags a bit, mostly due to a love interest in Ireland that is quite boring, but Ronan even makes those scenes better.   My Rating:  Full Price   Brooklyn Website     
IndiefestMan Up  (2015)  R   Nancy (Lake Bell) is tired of being set up on dates by her friends.   On her way across London, she meets Ben (Simon Pegg) who mistakes her for his blind date. Nancy decides just to go with it, and this chance meeting changes both their lives.  I love a good romantic comedy, one where the two future lovers are witty, fun and full of life. Actually, that’s not true.  I do love romantic comedies, but I like more than just your formulaic plots and fortunately “Man Up” is one of those creative films that you just don’t want to end as it is so much fun to watch. It takes the genre and turns it on its ear, giving us a movie about two unique characters whom you would never guess would end up together. Lake Bell is dazzling in the role of Nancy, the woman who is ready to try something new at a moment’s notice, although she is always waiting for something to go wrong. Bell gives us a cynical character, but who still hopes for the best. Bell’s comic timing is perfect, and she wins us over from that first meeting in the hotel room. She would be home in those spitfire roles of the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s.  And let me say this, her British accent is one of the best an American has ever attempted, coming off natural and real. Pegg is equal in Bell’s comic timing, and his facial expressions are the perfect capper to some very funny scenes. Pegg brings to life a character who, while full of anger, doesn’t let it dominate his performance. The two actors make us want for this crazy romance to work out against all the odds.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Man Up Facebook Page   
IndiefestTab Hunter: Confidential  (2015)    This documentary centers on one of the biggest stars of the 1950’s, Tab Hunter.  Hunter, the object of desire for millions of women, had a secret:  he was gay. I never have been a big fan of Tab Hunter, the actor, but because of this film, I am a fan of the man. This film gives you an idea of what it was like to be a gay man in Hollywood during the 1950s. Hunter was a big star under the studio system, but the minute he rebelled, film executives let rumors go to the press about his homosexuality, and his career was finished.  This is an interesting and moving documentary that makes me appreciate both the actor and the man.    My Rating:  Full Price    Tab Hunter: Confidential Website
Forgotten FilmThe Paper (1994)  R   Henry (Michael Keaton) is a hard-driving editor of a New York City tabloid, who thinks nothing of blowing off dinner with his pregnant wife (Marisa Tomei) if there is a big story brewing. Henry has to mull over a job offer from the New York Times, a job that will let him have a normal life. He just about takes the job when a news story comes around that makes him thinks about staying. This film is part drama, part comedy and uses an outstanding cast to great effect. It’s a smart film that says a lot about the state of media today.   My Rating: Full Price   The Paper Info   

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2:  Stunt Monsters

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Sisters  (2015)  Two sisters (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey) decide to throw one last party at their family home.  You got me at Poehler and Fey in a movie together.   Sisters Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Love the Coopers

My View:  Love the Coopers  (2015)   PG-13   Four generations of Coopers are getting together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration.  What can go wrong? It turns out just about everything.  This is a comedy where no one in the family is happy, and even the family dog has an eating disorder. A grad student could write his dissertation on all the problems this family has and, remarkably, most are solved by the end of this unfunny film. The only storyline (and there are way too many of them) I enjoyed was where Olivia Wilde’s character picks up a soldier  (Jake Lacy) at the airport bar to pose as her boyfriend. Their relationship is the only one that has any sparks and is the most enjoyable to watch. Diane Keaton and John Goodman,  the patriarchs of the family, are just exhausting to watch as their bickering gets old quickly. There is a scene between Amanda Seyfried and Alan Arkin (she’s his favorite waitress at a diner) that just turns so weird that I couldn't even begin to explain it. If you hate the holidays and want to get depressed, then this film is for you.    My Rating:  You Would Have to Pay Me to See It Again   Love the Coopers Website
My ViewThe 33  (2015)  PG-13  Based on a true event, thirty-three miners are trapped underground in a mine for sixty-nine days with almost no food or water. The world watches as a rescue attempt does the impossible.  I liked several of the performances in this film, especially Antonio Banderas as the lead miner and Rodrigo Santoro, the mining minister who tries to save them. The biggest problem with this film is that there are three main events:  the collapse of the mine, locating the men, then getting them out. The film never creates enough tension and does a poor job of making us understand how the miners suffered. I never got the feeling of claustrophobia, and that should have been something that was first and foremost in this type of film. There’s a scene in the film that just doesn’t work where all the men start hallucinating about food. The audience I saw it with starting laughing and wouldn't stop till it ended. It's a film that has heart but just doesn't connect fully with its audience.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The 33 Website
My ViewMy All-American  (2015) PG   Freddie Steinmark (Finn Wittrock) has always wanted to play college football but continues to be turned down.  That is until he caught the eye of the legendary coach of the Texas Longhorns, Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart). Now, Freddie faces the toughest challenge of his life. This is an earnest take on the sports film genre that is both inspiring and sad. I liked the chemistry between Wittrock and Eckhart, and both make their characters likable without creating too much sappiness. The football scenes go on too long, and it takes a while to get the film going. While not a great sports film, this film is still inspiring and one that any football fan would enjoy.     My Rating: Bargain Matinee   My All-American Website
IndiefestSpotlight  (2015)  R  The true story of how a group of reporters from the Boston Globe uncovered the huge scandal of child molestation and cover-up by the local Catholic Archdiocese. This is one of the best films of the year and very reminiscent of “All the Presidents Men” where a group of reporters fight both the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the city leaders to get the facts of a story that has far-reaching implications.  The ensemble cast is brilliant, led by Mark Ruffalo, who plays a gruff investigative reporter and his counterpart, a reporter who sees the good in most people, played by Rachel McAdams. Ruffalo gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a world-weary reporter who won’t give up. The story is riveting and tense, and the sets are perfect spanning between the cramped spaces of the newsroom to the contrast of the lavish Cardinal’s residence. This is an intense and moving film that perfectly captures a dark moment in time.    My Rating:  I Would Pay to See It Again   Spotlight Website
IndiefestLabyrinth of Lies  (2014)  R   A young and determined public prosecutor (Alexander Fehling) decides, against the wishes of his colleagues, to prosecute a former Auschwitz camp commander in a country that just wants to forget its past.  I liked this film during the first half of the movie, as Johann delves deeper and deeper into a part of Germany’s history that no one talks about. His horror discovering so many people were killed so casually in the concentration camps hits home, and we feel his pain as he realizes that people he knows were involved with the camps in one way or another. The film starts to break down as Johann lets the pressure and the sadness get to him, and he starts cutting relationships with everyone he knows, including his fianc├ę. This film has been picked by Germany to be their submission to the category of Best Foreign-Language Film at the Academy Awards.  I am sure it impacts Germans much harder than it did me dealing with a horrible time in their country's history. I wanted more of emotional payoff from the film but it never quite delivers it. Good performances offset a script that bogs down in the second half. If the movie could have held the excitement and the pace of the first half of the film, I would have enjoyed it more.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Labyrinth of Lies Website
IndiefestJafar Panahi 's Taxi (2015)   Jafar Panahi is a director living in Iran, where he is banned by the government from making movies. So what does he do? He installs cameras in his taxi and drives around the city to secretly make a movie about social changes in Iran.  At one point in this film, Panahi picks up a man who recognizes him as a director of movies. The man is convinced that everything that happens while he is in the cab is planned and staged by Panahi for a narrative film. When you see this film, you just might think that Panahi has planned it all, because the documentary works so well. It’s an fascinating, prodigious documentary that gives us a taste of what everyday life is in Iran. It’s funny, touching and sometimes you marvel at the humanity of people who are living under a repressive regime. This is one of the best documentaries of the year, and I want Panahi to make more. We could call it Panahi’s Taxi Cab confessionals.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Jafar Panaji's Taxi Website
Forgotten FilmConfessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)  R  Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) is a man who created “The Dating Game” and “The Gong Show.”  He is also an assassin for the CIA. In fact, he uses the trips his game show winners go on to travel the world and kill his targets. Any film that has Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as Bachelors 1 and 2 and they don’t get picked is a film for me. You don’t have to believe Barris is a killer; you just have to have fun watching him do it.  My Rating: Full Price   Confessions of a Dangerous Mind Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Love the Coopers:  Ultimate Arm Driver

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouJanis: Little Girl Blue  (2015) Documentary from Oscar winning director Amy Berg about the troubled life of singer Janis Joplin.  This will be a sad tale but one that needs to be told.   Janis: Little Girl Blue Info
Until Next Time!

Friday, November 6, 2015


My ViewSpectre  (2015)  PG-13  While M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond (Daniel Craig) ties to uncover a sinister organization called, SPECTRE, after receiving a cryptic message.  This film is a step back from the brilliant Skyfall (2012). Spectre opens with an exciting action sequence that takes place in Mexico City during a Dia de Los Muertos celebration. Unfortunately, the rest of the film can’t live up to that opening pace or action. The film has one of the worst Bond credit rolls of all time with a horrible song sung by Sam Smith, and the film just goes downhill from there. It is overly long, the plot is confusing and full of holes, and Daniel Craig seems to be bored by the whole thing. Monica Bellucci is in the film for about 3 minutes, and it takes forever to get to the bad guy played by Christoph Waltz. While Daniel Craig is signed for a 5th film, he apparently wants out. I think he got a look at this script and said, “I’ll do this one, but then that’s it.”  The film is the costliest Bond film ever, but I don’t think they spent any money on a script, and it looks it.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Spectre Website   
Family FaireThe Peanuts Movie  (2015)  G   A new girl is attending Charlie Brown’s school, and Charlie tries to figure a way to get the courage to talk to her. Meanwhile, Snoopy is embarking on his most dangerous mission: flying his doghouse in World War I.  I had a smile on my face the whole time I was watching this movie. While the film has a new type of animation, it still has plenty of roots in the old specials and comic strip. A lot of your favorite gags are in the film; Lucy and the football, Snoopy and the Red Baron, but there is a new story with Charlie Brown trying to get up the courage to talk to the Little Red-Haired Girl. Fans of the specials and the comic strip will be happy, and this film may  create new fans from a generation who hasn’t seen the antics of the Peanuts Gang.  The film uses 3-D to great effect, and it’s worth the extra money. There is a bonus scene, so stay through all the credits.     My Rating: Full Price   The Peanuts Movie Website   
IndiefestMiss You Already  (2015)  PG-13  The life-long friendship of two women (Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette) is put to the test when one starts a family, and the other gets sick with cancer.  Collette and Barrymore have great chemistry together, making it very believable that they are life long friends. I am not a big fan of Barrymore, but I felt she gave a very restrained performance that emitted warmth and humor. Collette had the hard role of a person who is selfish and a bully, but she carried it off with grace. I liked that the film dealt with relationships in a real-world sensibility that made you want to be apart of the two women’s world. It’s a film that doesn’t pull any punches, just like best friends should.    My Rating: Full Price    Miss You Already Website
IndiefestSuffragette (2015)  PG-13  Maud (Carey Mulligan) has worked at a laundry service since she was twelve.  Maud is married to Sonny (Ben Whishaw) who also works in the laundry service, and they have a young son named, George (Adam Michael Dodd). It’s hard, dangerous work with boiling water and harsh chemicals. It's a job that is filled with long hours and unappreciative bosses, and Maud believes that her workplace is unfair as women do the toughest work but earn half of what the men earn. She starts listening to friends, including rebel rouser Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), about the woman’s right to vote movement and starts getting involved with the cause. It’s a path that causes Maud great pain and anguish as she soon has to choose between a cause that is dear to her heart and her family who needs their mother and wife.  Carey Mulligan gives a powerful and touching performance as the headstrong young woman who risks everything for women to have the right to vote. Helena Bonham Carter gives an intense and vivid performance as one of the leaders of the movement whose own health is compromised by her repeated jailing. Though short, Meryl Streep gives a compelling and charismatic performance as the head of the suffragette movement. I found this film moving and compelling and well worth the experience of discovering the history of the struggle for women’s rights in the United Kingdom.   My Rating: Full Price   Suffragette Website 
Indiefest: I Smile Back (2015) R Laney (Sarah Silverman) seems to have the perfect suburban life with two loving children, a great husband and a home that everyone dreams about. Laney has a secret: she suffers from depression and has a drug problem. Can she get the help that she needs or will she destroy her family? This is a difficult film to watch as we watch a woman go deeper and deeper into a huge valley that she may never get out of. Silverman gives a gutsy and powerful performance of a woman who feels that she will never be worthy of love and doesn’t want to deal with the pain of life. Josh Charles plays Silverman’s put-upon husband who deeply loves his wife but can’t save her from herself. Charles is brilliant in the role as we feel his pain in dealing with a situation that he can’t fix. The biggest problem with the film is we never really get to know Laney and her past is quickly dealt with in one brief scene with her long-estranged father. The film is worth watching for the two leads, but I would have like more substance and background to the story.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee     I Smile Back Website     
Forgotten FilmThe Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)  R   Blue (Robert Shaw) leads a group of armed men to highjack a subway in New York City.   Police Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) takes the lead in negotiations and then tries to figure out how the men can be caught before they disappear into the bowels of the subway system. I love the casting in this film. Shaw, with his proper British accent, is in direct contrast with the gritty New Yorkers.   Matthau, as the world-weary lieutenant, is perfect in the role. The rest of the cast are mostly New York-based actors including Jerry Stiller, Martin Balsam and Lee Wallace, who all offer the film an authentic feel. It’s a tension filled movie that works while using the Subway as its main character.   My Rating:  Full Price   The Taking of Pelham One Two Three   

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Spectre:  Snow Consultant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   Brooklyn  (2015)  PG-13   An Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) moves to Brooklyn in the 1950’s and finds a job and a new romance. But her mother country is calling, and now she has to choose between love and family. Critics are gushing about this film and Ronan’s performance.   Brooklyn Website
Until Next Time!