Thursday, December 24, 2015

Joy

My ViewJoy  (2015) PG-13   Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) is a single mom who lives with her two kids and her mother (Virginia Madsen). Joy has an idea for a mop that is revolutionary, but can she get anybody to back her idea? First, the good: the scenes between Lawrence, who plays the the fiery Mangano and Bradley Cooper, who plays the head of the home shopping channel, QVC, are some of the best of the film. The bad:  those scenes are few and far between. My biggest problem with this film is the dialogue is very uneven, due to the director, David O. Russell, allowing his actors to improv their lines. The movie works when the actors have great timing and chemistry, like with Lawrence and Cooper. It doesn’t work when they don’t, like scenes between Lawrence and Elisabeth Rohm, who plays Joy’s sister. The film is too long and takes forever to get to the QVC scenes. I liked Virginia Madsen as Joy’s home-bound mother, but I thought that Robert De Niro, who plays Joy’s dad, went way over the top in his role. The film never seems to find its pacing and never quite finds sure footing for Lawrence to really shine.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Joy Website

My ViewThe Big Short  (2015)  R  Four outsiders in the world of big banking predict the housing market is going to collapse in 2008. Can these four outsiders take on big banks and make money doing it? This is a funny, creative film that, in one moment will make you laugh, and then, in the next moment, will piss you off. The ensemble cast is scintillating with a couple of real standout performances. Christian Bale plays the brilliant but strange Michael Burry, the man who figures out that the housing market is about to crash. Bale gives his everything to an intense, quirky role that only he can do. Steve Carell gives a scintillating performance as the always angry Mark Baum, who decides to go all in on the theory that the crisis will happen I don’t want to ruin anything, but there are some really funny celebrity appearances to explain the very complicated financial workings. I never thought I would thoroughly enjoy a film about banking and housing, but this film makes it a blast to watch.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Big Short Website
My ViewDaddy’s Home  (2015)  PG-13  Brad (Will Ferrell) is trying to be the best step-dad he can to his wife’s (Linda Cardellini) two kids. Everything changes when Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), the kid’s real father,  comes to town. While not a bad film, this movie just doesn’t have enough funny scenes to make it totally enjoyable. As with a lot of these go for the quick joke films, most of the best comedic bits have ended up in the trailer, making the film feel very slow, not something you want from a comedy. While not dazzling, the chemistry between Ferrell and Wahlberg is credible. There are a few scenes making fun of film product placement that are out and out funny. I did like the last fifteen minutes. I just wish the first hour and twenty minutes had matched that level.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Daddy's Home Website
My ViewConcussion  (2015)  PG-13  A brilliant forensic neuropathologist (Will Smith), discovers CTE, a football-related brain trauma in a pro player and puts him at odds with the billion dollar National Football League. Before this film came out, many critics were thinking that this might be an Oscar contender for the film and Will Smith. While a servable film, it is not Oscar quality. Smith gives the role his all, but the film never hits the emotional impact it desperately needs. I think the weakness of the film is that it tries to cover too many topics over too many years. It’s very one sided and never talks about the advances that the NFL has made in the past few years dealing with concussions and football. It’s a film that feels it wanted to make too many points and missed on just about all of them.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Concussion Website
Indiefest Carol  (2015)  R   Set in 1950s New York, Therese (Rooney Mara) is a department-store clerk who dreams of a better life. She meets and falls in love with an older woman, Carol (Cate Blanchett). This is a beautiful film that takes its time with the love story between Carol and Therese. It captures 50’s New York City perfectly, as we travel from the posh, stylish settings that make up Carol’s life to the contrasting life of Therese and her hard-living friends. Blanchett is utterly mesmerizing as the sophisticated Carol, who set her sights on the slightly naive Therese. Rooney makes this film worth watching as she holds her own on the screen with the two-time Oscar winner Blanchett. You will be captivated by their story and will root for them to find a way to succeed in the world that works against them.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Carol Website
IndiefestThe Hateful Eight  (2015) R   In post-Civil War Wyoming, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is escorting fugitive Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock where the latter will face justice for murder. They encounter a group of strangers at a stagecoach stop, including another bounty hunter named Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson).  I had a blast watching this film, but be warned, this is a violent and bloody film full of some very uncomfortable scenes.  The second half of the film mostly takes place in one room, but the movie fully utilizes the 70mm format, taking what could have been a very claustrophobic film and turning it into a film that thrills the senses. This is truly an ensemble piece with Jennifer Jason Leigh as the unruly prisoner and Samuel L. Jackson as the wisecracking bounty hunter standing out from the rest of the cast. I also enjoyed Tim Roth as a chatty hangman. The film doesn’t feel like it’s almost 3 hours long, moving at a quick pace with witty dialogue. I will warn you -  there is a scene near the end of the film that is quite disturbing and not for someone with a weak stomach. While not for everybody, if you like or love Quentin Tarantino films, you will have a great time watching this one.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Hateful Eight Website
Forgotten FilmLove with a Proper Stranger (1963)  Angie Rossini (Natalie Wood) is a salesclerk at a department store who, after a one night stand, finds out that she is pregnant.  She finds the one night stand, a musician named Rocky (Steve McQueen), who doesn’t remember her. They decide to work together to figure out their next step. The film, while not clicking on all levels, does work because the chemistry between Woods and McQueen jumps off the screen. They work perfectly together, and it looks as though they had fun making this film.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Love with a Proper Stranger Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Concussion:  Police Radio Voice

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Revenant  (2015) R   From the director of Birdman, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is a tale of a man in 1820’s who is attacked by a bear and left for dead.  He then struggles to survive in the wilderness. Many critics feel that Leonardo DiCaprio could win an Oscar for this role.   The Revenant Website
Until Next Time




Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

My ViewStar Wars: The Force Awakens  (2015)  PG-13   Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is missing, and that has caused a ripple effect throughout the Galaxy. What was left of the evil Empire has reformed in what is called the First Order, and they are intent on destroying the Rebels once and for all. I loved this film. It does a great job of giving us some of the classic characters from the first three Star Wars films while introducing us to a new cast that take up the ‘Star Wars’ mantle. The film looks like (with updated special effects) and has the aura of a Star Wars film, giving you a feeling that you are back with a storyline and characters you know and love. While paying an homage to the past films, it gives us some exciting players that it introduces to the timeline. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger that dreams of bigger things and somehow knows that she is destined to explore more than just her desert filled planet. Finn (John Bodega) is a man who is trying to escape his past, but fate keeps getting in the way. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is a brash fighter pilot whose skill matches his bravado. All three are about to go on an adventure of a lifetime to try and stop the First Order. The chemistry between Bodega and Ridley is the key to this film and their scenes together make the film work as well as it does. The film is full of great action sequences that will thrill you and surprisingly, there is a great deal of comedy, mostly through the fast quips that the first films were so good at. Filmmaker JJ Abrams is a fan of the original films and it shows. He gives us exactly what we wanted from this series, a new hope. Oh, and by the way, go out now and buy a BB-8 toy (it's the new round droid). Your kids are going to want one after seeing this film.   My Review: Full Price   Star Wars: The Force Awakens Website
My ViewSisters (2015)  R  Katie (Tina Fey) and Maura (Amy Poehler) are completely sisters with completely opposite personalities. Katie is childish and sleeps around. Maura is uptight and still hasn’t gotten over her divorce. The sisters decide to hold one last party at their parent’s home before it is sold. I expected more from this film due to Poehler and Fey, but I got a lot less than I needed. The film takes forever to get started, only really moving when the “party” starts going. Of course, Fey and Poehler have great chemistry on screen, and there are times when the two play off each other with great comic timing. But the film drags when the two are separated, and it’s about thirty minutes too long. I was disappointed by John Cena’s performance, but that wasn't his fault, his part is badly written. The film’s finale is predictable, and its resolution isn’t very satisfying. I would love to party with these two women but just in a different movie.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee  Sisters Website
IndiefestThe Danish Girl  (2015)  R  In the early 1920s, artist Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and her artist husband, Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) are living in Copenhagen.  Einar slowly realizes that he is no longer happy living as a man. I wish this was a better film. Redmayne’s performance never won me over. I don’t know if it is because we don’t get a lot of exploration of Einar’s innermost feelings, as we just get a lot of Redmayne crying or posing with his hands. I did enjoy another brilliantly subtle performance by Alicia Vikander who plays a woman who is slowly losing her husband. The film feels like it would rather give us a beautiful looking shot than let us explore the character's motives.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Danish Girl Website

Indiefest:  Youth  (2015)  R  A retired orchestra conductor (Michael Caine) is on a vacation with his daughter (Rachel Weisz) and his friend (Harvey Keitel), a film director, when he gets an invitation to perform one of his compositions in front of Queen Elizabeth II. This is a fun film to watch due to the magnificent performances by Caine, Weisz and Keitel. The film is basically conversations, some of them quite abstract, dealing with life’s problems - finding and keeping love, aging,  and dealing with the past, mistakes and all. The film goes on too long, and the plot is sometimes hard to follow, both which bring down the film in my eyes. While a flawed film, it is a joy to watch some master actors spin their craft.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Youth Website
Forgotten FilmPrime Cut (1972) R   A mob enforcer (Lee Marvin) is sent from Chicago to Kansas City to collect a big debt from a crime boss (Gene Hackman). This is not your normal mobster film, and that is evident right from the start. The film mixes satire with almost cartoon-like characters that seem to come straight out of a Dick Tracy comic strip. It’s filled with action sequences that are thrilling and fast-moving. Sissy Spacek shines as a naive orphan who is being sold into slavery after complicating the mob enforcer’s life. This is not a complex film, but it is one that you will enjoy.     My Rating: Bargain Matinee    Prime Cut Info
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I've Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea):  Ride Along 2 (2015)  PG-13  The first buddy-cop film wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t so good that we would want to see another. To make this one completely different, instead of Atlanta, the guys go to Miami.  I think I will just pass on this ride.   Ride Along 2 Website
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray): Mission: Impossible Rogue-Nation  (2015)  PG-13  The incoming CIA chief (Alec Baldwin) wants to disband the Impossible Mission Force, just when we need Ethan (Tom Cruise) and the gang the most. This film is certainly the best film of the Mission: Impossible series and was one of my favorite films of the summer. The movie starts off with a breathtaking stunt and just keeps going from there. There is a motorcycle chase sequence that is one of the best chase scenes I have ever seen. I loved the “bromance” between Cruise’s character, Ethan and Simon Pegg’s Benji, with some great lines flowing. Rebecca Ferguson held her own with Tom Cruise (not easy to do) and makes a number of action sequences believable. Sean Harris makes a great bad guy, and Alec Baldwin is fun as the CIA chief. MI Rogue Nation is a blast to watch and has a plot that makes sense.     My Rating: Full Price   Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Star Wars: A Force Awakens:  Wire Supervisor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouRace  (2016)  PG-13  The story of Jesse Owens (Stephan James) and his quest to become the world’s greatest athlete, all on the stage of the 1936 Olympics in Adolf Hitler’s Germany. Jesse Owens has always fascinated me, and this film looks like it captures the time and mood of that very complicated period of American history.   Race Website
Until Next Time!







Friday, December 11, 2015

In the Heart of the Sea

My ViewIn the Heart of the Sea  (2015) PG-13  In the winter of 1820, the New England whaling ship Essex is assaulted by a whale of mammoth size that destroys the ship. The remaining crew will be pushed to their limits in their attempt to survive the aftermath. I loved the cinematography of this film. The whale attacking action sequences are stunning and exciting. If the film had just been about the quest for the whale, it would have been an excellent film, but this film loses steam during the last third as crew are trying to survive out in the middle of nowhere. I liked Chris Hemsworth as the headstrong first mate, showing a bit of range when he is asked to perform in some rather touching scenes near the end of the film. The film is let down by Benjamin Walker, who plays the captain of the ship, as he has no charisma on screen and absolutely no chemistry with Hemsworth.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   In the Heart of the Sea Website
My ViewMacbeth  (2015)  R   Macbeth (Michael Fassbender), the Thane of Scotland receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Consumed by his ambition and spurred on by his wife (Marion Cotillard), he murders the king and takes the throne for himself. This is an interesting take on the Macbeth tale, and the script deletes scenes from the play (for the better) and changes a few minor plot points to further the storyline. Fassbender gives the role his all, but he is slightly upstaged by a brilliant performance given by Cotillard, who makes this film worth watching. The film has some battle sequences that feel a little out of place by using slow motion action like it’s part of “300.” Most of the film takes place outside, and it uses the Scottish countryside to full advantage, which makes the film look spectacular.   My Rating: Full Price  Macbeth Facebook Page
IndiefestHitchcock / Truffaut  (2015)  PG-13   In 1966, director Francois Truffaut came out with the ultimate book on filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock called, “Cinema According to Hitchcock.” This documentary looks at how that book influenced today’s filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Peter Bogdanovich.  I am a huge Hitchcock fan, and it was a thrill to watch this film as it uses much of the original audio recordings from the interview to make its various points. It is fascinating to hear how many of today’s directors are influenced by Hitchcock’s work and how much they admire what he did. The film stresses that before Truffaut’s interviews were published, Hitchcock was seen as just a box office director. After the book was published, the film shows that Hitchcock was celebrated for his genius for making movies his way, brilliantly and entertaining.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Hitchcock / Truffaut Info
Forgotten FilmThe Brave One  (1956)  Leonardo (Michel Ray) befriends a bull named Gitano from certain death during a storm. The bull and the boy become friends, but that friendship is threatened when the bull’s owners want to send the bull to fight a matador in Mexico City. Can Leonardo save his bull from certain death again?  This is a beautiful and simple tale that is moving and sure to bring a tear or two. Dalton Trumbo wrote the script but had to do it under a pen name, as he had been blacklisted by Hollywood as a Communist during the last 40’s.   My Rating: Full Price   The Brave One Info
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray):   Minions  (2015)  PG  The Minions have been looking for a leader for ages to no avail. Kevin is a minion with a plan, and he, along with Stuart and Bob, are on a quest to find their next potential master. Scarlet Overkill(Sandra Bullock) just might be that leader. The Minions were always my favorite part of the Despicable Me series. Unfortunately, the Minions should only be a supporting cast, never the leads like they are in this very boring film. The film is set in 1968, and there are cultural references to things that kids are not going to know anything about (like The Beatles Abby Road).  The film does have five or six funny scenes, but it takes so long to get there that the laughs aren’t as big as they should have been. There is also a lot of Minion singing, which gets very old very quickly.   My Rating: Cable Minions Website  

Weird Credits: From the credits of In the Heart of the Sea:  Special Effects Teeth

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  The Legend of Tarzan  (2016)  It’s very hard to tell the tale of Tarzan, but I like the cast of Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan, Margot Robbie as Jane and a supporting cast of Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, John Hurt and Djimon Hounsou. This is not an "origin" story as it takes place after Jane and Tarzan have become a couple and have moved from the jungle to London.   The Legend of Tarzan Info   
Until Next Time!


Friday, December 4, 2015

Krampus


My ViewKrampus  (2015)  PG-13  Max (Emjay Anthony) and his family are just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year.  Max gets mad and decides he is done with Christmas.  Unfortunately, Max has unleashed Krampus, a demonic force of ancient evil intent on punishing non-believers. Now Max and his family are going to have to fight for their lives. Where to start with this mess of a film? Oh, I know, it’s a horror film that isn’t scary. The film uses a mix of styles to animate the minions of Krampus, and it just doesn’t work. Some of the bad guys are animated, and others are done with a more lifelike CGI. The two styles don’t mix as if the filmmakers couldn’t decide to go campy or scary. I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters as they all deserved a lump of coal under the tree from Father Krampus. Unfortunately, I felt I also got a lump of coal from the filmmakers.  My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Krampus Website
IndiefestThe Wonders (2014)  Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) is a young girl who is struggling to find her place in the world.  She works with her beekeeping family in the Tuscan countryside. Gelsomina’s life is changed when a troubled teen boy comes to work on the farm, and her family is chosen to be in a local reality show.  This is a film that is all style, shot placement and cinematography are outstanding but has very little storyline substance to. I never could connect with the characters in this film, and the film feels like it wants to make a plea to go back to simpler times, but even that message is not fully explored. I liked Lungu as she has a pleasing presence on-screen, but I just never cared about this family and their fight to survive.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Wonders Website
Forgotten FilmPaper Moon  (1973)  PG  A con man (Ryan O’Neal) poses as a bible salesman during the great depression.  He is forced to take custody of a young girl (Tatum O’Neal) who may or may not be his child. They travel together and forge an unlikely partnership that changes both their lives. This is a delightful and terrific film, shot in glorious black and white, about two damaged people who find each other. It’s funny and warm but also has some very moving scenes. Tatum O’Neal is the reason to see this movie, and she gives the performance of a lifetime. Her performance work on the film as Addie is just unbelievable and the chemistry with her real-life father is just brilliant on the screen.   My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Paper Moon Website
In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)The Boy (2015)  PG-13  Here is the IMDB synopsis to get you excited to see this film: “An American nanny is shocked that her new English family's boy is actually a life-sized doll. After violating a list of strict rules, disturbing events make her believe that the doll is really alive.”  You lost me at “life-sized doll.”   The Boy Facebook Page
In Case, You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD / Blu-ray)Amy  (2015)  R  The possible frontrunner for the Oscar. It’s a documentary on the late great singer Amy Winehouse, who died too soon. This movie is a stunning and heartbreaking film to watch. I wasn’t a fan of Winehouse, but I am now because we get to see Amy in her early years before fame came crashing down on her. The film uses home videos, behind the scenes shots of her recording studio sessions and live concert footage to give us an insight into her life and what she was really like. We also see her downfall, the talented singer who was not ready or meant for the spotlight. Amy would have had a long and happy life just being a lounge singer, but fame came calling. “Amy” is a moving film that uses Winehouse’s music to brilliantly illustrate what was going on in her life. Even if you aren’t a Winehouse fan, you will want to see this documentary.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   Amy Website

Weird Credits: From the credits of Legend: Tattoo Cover-Up Model for Tom Hardy


Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: The Big Short (2015)  R  Four outsiders in the world of big banking, predict that the housing market is going to collapse in 2008. Now can these four outsiders take on the big banks and make money doing it. The screenplay is by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Moneyball) and the cast includes Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Leo and Rafe Spall, so you know I will will see this one.   The Big Short Website
Until Next Time!