Friday, January 29, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

Family FaireKung Fu Panda 3  (2016)  PG  Po (Jack Black) finds out he has a father (Bryan Cranston) and that there are more of his kind in a far-away land. When Po travels with his father to find this magical land, the world is threatened by a new evil one, Kai (J.K. Simmons), who wants to destroy everything. Now Po must train his new-found family and take on the evil Kai.  I enjoyed this film, and its 3-D animation is some of the best I’ve seen. There are some beautiful scenes up in the mountains, and the final fight sequence is a wonder to watch. It’s a fun and funny film that adults will enjoy just as much as the kids. The plot moves quickly and has some commendable life lessons for anyone watching. Kai is an enjoyable villain, and J.K. Simmons is delightful in the performance. This is one kid’s film that adults won’t mind seeing.  My Rating: Full Price   Kung Fu Panda 3 Website
My ViewThe Finest Hours  (2016)  PG-13  An oil tanker off the Cape Cod coast is destroyed by treacherous winter winds and waves, splitting the ship into two pieces.  It’s up to the Coast Guard to try and save the tanker’s crewmen. First, do not see this film in 3-D. It was not shot in 3-D, and the process adds nothing to the viewing of the movie. The action sequences are the best part of this film. Chris Pine is Bernie Webber, the Coast Guard sailor who attempts the rescue in a tiny four-man motorboat. His performance, though, is not given a lot to work with, and he has absolutely no chemistry with his love interest, Holliday Grainger. Grainger plays Miriam, a determined and head-strong woman who works at the telephone company.  The best part of this film is the performance of Casey Affleck, who plays the sinking ship’s engineer. Affleck gives a strong and powerful performance as the man who leads by example and comes up with a way to slow the ship’s sinking.  The film is weighed down by the love story and the fact that this is a Disney produced movie that tries too hard to keep the movie rating at PG-13. The film, based on a true story, is set in 1952, and even though the film deals with a very stressful situation, there isn’t any cursing or, more amazingly, any cigarette smoking. I might wait and see this film when it comes out on DVD so you I fast forward through the love story and get to the action.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The Finest Hours Website   
Indiefest:  Lazer Team  (2015)  PG-13  A 1980s style sci-fi comedy about four misfits who stumble upon alien technology, a mysterious suit made up of two boots, two arm pieces, and a helmet.  Each guy puts on a piece of the equipment, which attaches to their bodies with no way of getting them off. They are then forced to work together to save the planet.  If you are a fan of the Sci-Fi films of the eighties, you will enjoy this crazy, and sometimes nutty take off of the superhero films.  This is a fun film, which, while not all the jokes and gags work, there are enough scenes that do work to make this such an entertaining film. The cast, made up of relative unknowns, is enjoyable to watch and work well with each other on camera. Burnie Burns, as the picked-on small town sheriff, and Gavin Free, as a stoner who suddenly becomes smart when he puts on the alien helmet, stand out, both showing some exceptional comic timing. I love when the stoner puts on the helmet, he starts talking with a British accent because “that’s what stupid people think smart people sound like.” The best part of this film is the band of characters who must work together to save the earth but can’t quit arguing and feuding long enough to learn how to operate the alien equipment.  Their back and forth banter is quick-witted and laugh out loud funny. The special effects are well done, the action is fast, and the plot is well developed. Overall, Lazer Team is a blast to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   Lazer Team Website
Forgotten FilmPrimal Fear  (1996) R  A big time lawyer, Martin Vail (Richard Gere), takes on a case that no one thinks he can win when an altar boy, Arron (Edward Norton), is accused of murdering a priest. Gere is extraordinary as the lawyer who takes the case, not because he thinks his client is innocent, but because this case will get him the most publicity. Edward Norton is even better as the teenager who has been accused of the crime, caught running caught the scene, covered in blood. Norton was so good in this, his first feature film role, that he got an Academy Award nomination. The movie has a brilliant cast including Laura Linney, a former girlfriend of Vail’s who is the prosecuting attorney, John Mahoney as the hard-nosed DA, and Frances McDormand as the psychologist hired to profile Arron and Alfre Woodard as the presiding judge.  The plot has a number of great twists which makes this film enjoyable court genre film to watch.   My Rating: Full Price   Primal Fear Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Finest Hours:  Photo Double For “Tiny”

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  The Witch  (2015) R   Audiences at Sundance and Toronto were raving about this horror film about a family in the 1630s torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic, and possession.  We don’t get enough good horror movies.   The Witch Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 22, 2016

The 5th Wave

My View:  The 5th Wave  (2016)  PG-13  Four waves of increasingly savage alien attacks have hit earth and have devastated the planet. Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to save her younger brother from the aliens and may be the key to defeating them.  I liked this film, but it does follow the Young Adult book formula (it’s based on a best-selling soon to be trilogy): there is a love triangle, the two love interests for the main girl is a bad boy and a good guy, and kids are going to have to save the world because the adults can’t. As usual, Chloe Grace Moretz gives a satisfying performance, but the film is brought down by some rather stiff dialogue and not enough action. I will say that there was a twist in the plot that I didn’t see coming. Overall, it’s an acceptable film, but it could have been so much more.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   The 5th Wave Facebook Page
My View: Dirty Grandpa  (2016)  Jason (Zac Efron) is an uptight guy about to marry the girl of his dreams. He is tricked into taking his grandfather (Robert De Niro), a retired Army general, to Florida for spring break. After this trip, Jason will never be the same.  I hated this film. I have never seen a movie that uses more F-bombs, and most are when the Efron and De Niro characters interact. If you think jokes about pedophilia, selling drugs to minors and that it’s nothing to get arrested are funny, then this film is for you. Only Zac Efron fans should see this movie, and that’s only because you see a lot of Zac naked or without a shirt.  Oh, and it has one of the worst endings that I have ever seen.  This film is causing me to reconsider my respect and profound love for Robert De Niro.   My Rating: You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again   Dirty Grandpa Website
Indiefest45 Years  (2015)  R  Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and her husband Geoff (Tom Courtenay) had to cancel the party for their 40th wedding anniversary, so with their 45th coming up, they plan a big celebration. Kate’s world starts to fall apart when she learns something about Geoff’s past. This is a film that moves slowly but brilliantly, as the relationship between Geoff and Kate starts coming apart closer to their anniversary. Reliving the past is tough on Geoff as he retreats further into his thoughts and spends less time with his wife. Director/writer Andrew Haigh, adapting a short story by David Constantine, has done a masterful job of bringing this moving and heartbreaking film to the screen. He creates tension slowly, as the couple deals desperately with the growing chasm between them. Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay are brilliant together on the screen. Their interaction makes it seem that they truly have been with each other for those forty five years. 45 Years is a touching film that will stay with you for a long time. There is a scene near the end of the movie where Rampling takes your breath away; the look she gives is just so painful to experience. We don’t know if their marriage survives.  We just know it will never be the same.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   45 Years Website
IndiefestIp Man 3  (2015)  Pg-13   When a band of brutal gangsters threaten to overtake the city, Master Ip (Donnie Yen) is forced to take a stand against them. This is one of the best Kung Fu movies I have seen in the past ten years due to the excellent action sequences, a good script, Donnie Yen can act as well as fight, and the camera movement is exceptional. And, yes, Mike Tyson is in the film as the bad guy. He can’t act, but he does have a marvelous fight sequence with Yen. If you like action movies, I highly recommend this film.  My Rating: Full Price   Ip Man 3 Website
IndiefestSynchronicity  (2015)  R  Physicist Jim Beale (Chad McKnight) invents a time travel machine. He becomes suspicious of a woman (Brianne Davis) whom he meets.  To learn her motives, he sends himself back in time, potentially stopping the woman from stealing his invention for an untrustworthy venture capitalist.  Synchronicity is a low budget but excellent looking Sci-Fi movie that has a rather complicated love story at its center. It's also a mystery with more twists and turns than you could ever imagine. Some are slightly predictable, but more than once I was fooled and surprised. Writer/director Jacob Gentry never lets the film drag or get static. The film does get a bit complicated at times, but it does an excellent job of keeping us in the know as the movie progresses. I especially enjoyed the two leads of the movie. Chad McKnight, who plays the determined scientist Jim, has an nice presence on the screen and brings us a character that is the hero who tries to save his machine from the clutches of Klaus, yet he is also ready to risk everything for love. He has great chemistry with Brianne Davis who plays the mysterious and possible evil Helen. Davis has a quality about her that makes her the perfect femme fatale, bringing both an air of sexiness and smarts to the screen. Michael Ironside, who doesn’t play a huge part, still brings his menacing style to the screen, making Klaus a man not to be messed with. Synchronicity is a stylish Sci-Fi with a bit of film noir and mystery built in. It's a film that any Sci-Fi fan can get into and truly enjoy. It will keep you guessing on how it's going to end to very last frame.    My Rating: Full Price   Synchronicity Website
Forgotten FilmBirth  (2004)  R  A young boy, Sean (Cameron Bright) shows up at a woman’s (Nicole Kidman) apartment and announces that he is her dead husband reincarnated. Even though her friends don’t believe the little boy, Anna (Nicole Kidman) slowly but surely starts to believe his story that the day he died while jogging, he was reborn as Sean.  This is an intriguing thriller that keeps you guessing how it will end. Kidman is dazzling as the widow. There is an scene where the camera stays on her face while she is at the Opera. In those three minutes, you see her gradually come to the decision that Sean is her husband. If you like thrillers/mysteries, and you love exceptional performances, this film is for you.   My Rating:  Full Price   Birth Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Dirty Grandpa:  Vault Operator

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You: Race (2016)  R  The story of Jessie Owens, who went on to win 4 Gold Medals at the 1936 Olympics in  Nazi Germany.   The trailer looks outstanding and having seen a recent documentary on the subject; I can’t wait to see what they do with the story.   Race Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 15, 2016

13 Hours

My View13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)  R  On the evening of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a group of Islamic militants attack the American Embassy.  A group of six CIA security contractors undertake a desperate attempt to defend the Embassy and the American Ambassador.  I enjoyed the action sequences, and there are plenty of them, though some during the first half of the film are very confusing, and I wasn’t able to tell the good guys from the bad. The final firefight is exciting and well-choreographed. I liked the cast and felt that John Krasinski was especially believable as a former Navy SEAL. My biggest problem with this film is that it hits you over the head with trying to tug on your heart-strings. There is too much talk from the guys about how much they miss their family and how they wished they had done things differently. We get that idea very early in the film when all the major participants interact via the web with their families. We don’t need to be constantly reminded that they are fighting for their kids back in the states.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   13 Hours Website
Family FaireNorm of the North  (2016)  PG Norm (Rob Schneider) is a fun-loving polar bear who loves to dance.  With the help of three lemmings, Norm travels to New York City to try and stop a real estate developer from building homes in the Artic. Unfortunately, this is another in a long line of dull and unimaginative animated films. Only small children will like this film, and anyone over ten will start looking at their watches thirty minutes into it, wondering when it will end. The storyline is stupid (think a plotline from a bad  70s Saturday morning cartoon), and you see the ending coming from almost the start. I should have been clued into how bad this would be by the actor in the starring role, Rob Schneider.    My Rating: Cable   Norm of the North Website   
IndiefestAnomalisa  (2015)  R  Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a man who is unable to interact deeply with other people, even though he specializes in books about customer service.  When he goes on a business trip, he meets an extraordinary stranger (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who changes his life. Let tell you right off the bat, this is a very adult stop-motion animated movie, with language, a graphic sex scene and full frontal nudity. It’s a moving film with a main character that while flawed, you connect with and want him to find happiness. The animation is stunning and extraordinarily fluid. It’s a movie that touches both the heart and the mind. The storyline is a little hard to follow at times but overall it’s and experience you don’t want to miss. Just don’t take the kids.  My Rating: Full Price   Anomalisa Website
IndiefestLamb  (2015)  R  A man (Ross Partridge) meets a young girl (Oona Laurence) in a parking lot and decides to take her on a trip to show her the beauty of the outside world.  It’s a journey that will shake them in ways neither expects. First, let me say that this is a very uncomfortable film to watch. There is an attraction between the 47-year-old man and the eleven-year-old girl that gets creepier as the film goes along. While it never goes beyond hugging, it still looms over the film. But that is what this movie is about, two people who are hurting and empty, finding each other, knowing that their time together is fleeting. Partridge and Laurence have great chemistry, which is immensely important for this film to work.  Laurence makes this film worth watching, giving a performance that is filled with wonder and depth.  But, be warned.  You will be squirming in your seat throughout the film.   My Rating: Full Price   Lamb Info
IndiefestMustang  (2015)  PG-13  Sisters Lale (Günes Sensoy), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan), and Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan) are orphans, living with their grandmother (Nihal G. Koldas) and uncle (Ayberk Pekcan). It’s the last day of school and after a rather tearful good-bye to Lale’s favorite teacher, the girls decide to walk home. Along the way, they meet some boys and head to the beach. The girls and boys play innocently in the water, at one point the girls climbing on the boy’s shoulders to play a game of chicken fight. They are accused of being promiscuous by their grandmother and uncle, and the two decide to confine the girls to the house until suitable husbands can be found for the girls. Director / co-writer  Deniz Gamze Erguven brings to the screen a tale that treats its subjects with a caring touch, dealing with repression, but never quite delivers the emotional punch that you want. The film spends much time on the girls’ confinement and their various attempts to escape, as each attempt brings more barriers to their potential freedom. We spend too much time following the girls around the house as they try to fend off boredom, playing silly games. This film feels far longer than its 97 minutes running time, and you come away with the feeling that we never really got to know the girls. All we know is that most of the girls didn’t want to get forced into marriage at such an early age.   We never got to find out their hopes and dreams, which, I believe, would have made the film a much richer viewing experience.    My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Mustang Website 
Forgotten Film: Truly, Madly, Deeply  (1991)  PG   A woman, Nina (Juliet Stevenson) is mourning the loss of her one true love, Jamie (Alan Rickman). She is not taking it well, unhappy with her life and is missing her man. All of a sudden, Jamie appears back from the dead. Be careful what you wish for, because life with the man she lost forever isn’t what she had hoped for. And now she must choose to stay in the past or move forward to the future. This is a strange and beautiful film where the characters not only love each other, you also know they like each other. Stevenson gives a raw, emotional performance matched equally by the warm, nuanced performance by Rickman. This is a film that will stay with you for a while and is well worth the experience.   My Rating: Full Price   Truly, Madly, Deeply Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi: Military Webbing Assistant

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe Finest Hours (2016)  PG-13  In 1952 the Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod during a blizzard. The trailer makes this film look like one not to miss. The film stars Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Holliday Grainger.   The Finest Hours Website
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Revenant

My ViewThe Revenant  (2015)  R  A frontiersman, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), are scouts for a trapping expedition that is hit by Indians. Glass leads the men to an escape path when he is attacked by a bear and left for dead. Glass must now battle the elements to survive.   “The Revenant” is a brutally violent movie, but that violence is not exploited like a "campy" horror film and is shown to illustrate how harsh the world was in that time. The bear attack is horrific and goes on so long it becomes very uncomfortable to watch. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has created action sequences that are stunning to watch, especially since that scene was done with minimal amount of CGI special effects (mostly to animate the bear) and without “green screens.” Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his most powerful and captivating performances of his career. If he does win the Oscar for this role, it won’t be because of the dialogue as DiCaprio has more lines in Pawnee than in English. DiCaprio gives this part his all, and we can see it in his face and eyes as he fights for survival.  Overall, this is a film that, on one hand is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but also is a brutal movie to watch as we see men pushed to their very limits in a world that does not forgive. This film is a difficult journey the audience, but the performances of DiCaprio and Hardy make it worth the effort      My Rating: Full Price   The Revenant Website
My ViewThe Forest (2015)  PG-13  The Aokigahara Forrest is at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan.  While a beautiful place, it’s known for one thing…where people go to commit suicide. Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) is in the area to search for her missing twin sister.  Sara must now enter the forest to try and find what happened, and it could be the last thing she ever does. Unfortunately, this is another of a long line of your run-of-the-mill horror films. It is rarely scary, relies on  “jump out of the dark” devices to produce the scary scenes. The storyline is simple and too predictable with an ending that you see coming a mile away. Natalie Dormer does a lot of screaming/running but isn’t asked to do too much more. Skip this film and rent “It Follows” instead.   My Rating: Cable   The Forest Website
Forgotten FilmPlaces in the Heart (1984) PG   In 1930’s Texas, a sheriff’s widow (Sally Field), with the help of her kids, a black hobo (Danny Glover) and a blind boarder (John Malkovich), attempt to raise, then harvest that season’s first cotton crop. If they can succeed, the widow can save the family farm. The film features three astonishing performances by Glover, Malkovich and especially Field. It’s a story of perseverance and overcoming the odds, and the theme of the importance of family makes this film work so well.   My Rating: Full Price   Places in the Heart Info
In Case, You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD/Blu-ray):   Sicario  (2015)  An FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is sent to join a task force to aid Mexico in the war against the drug cartels.  As she gets deeper and deeper into the mission, she starts to question the methods used to take down the cartels. Blunt gives a masterful performance in the film, making us root for her FBI agent character. Benicio Del Toro is perfectly cast as a mysterious, menacing consultant who just might be a C.I.A. agent with an agenda of his own. I liked the action sequences which were fast moving and well-choreographed. I just wish the script had been a little tighter, as there are a few plot holes that never get addressed. The film does have a scintillating score that helps create tension. This movie, due to its subject matter, that is hard to watch, though I enjoyed the film, yet it’s not one that I will want to revisit anytime soon.    My Rating: Full Price   Sicario Website

Weird Credits:  From the credits of The Revenant:  Makeup Effects Lab Technician: Beaver Fabricator

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouThe 5th Wave  (2016)  PG-13  Four waves of increasingly savage alien attacks have hit earth and have devastated the planet. Cassie (Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to save her younger brother from the aliens and may be the key to defeating them. I love Chloe Grace Moretz and think she is one of the better young actresses in films today. Count me in for this one.   The 5th Wave Facebook page
Until Next Time!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Hateful Eight

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 movie 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 who stand 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, as it moves 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 everyone, if you like or love Quentin Tarantino movies, you will have a great time watching this one. The film is being shown in select theatres in 70mm film and nationwide in the standard digital format.    My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again   The Hateful Eight Website

The 50  (A Movie from My Best/Worst Films of All Time)  #3 Best FilmThe Godfather Part II (1974)  R   We see the origins of The Godfather as Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) finds his way in the streets of 1920’s New York City. We also experience Michael Corleone (Al  Pacino) tightening his grip on his growing crime syndicate in 1958 as it stretches from Lake Tahoe, Nevada to pre-revolution Cuba. This is one of the few times that a sequel is better than the original movie. De Niro gives a masterful performance as the young Vito Corleone. There is a sequence where Vito is moving across rooftops, tracking the man he is going to kill as he winds his way through the streets of a neighborhood celebration. Al Pacino is equally impressive, especially in a scene with John Cazale, who plays his older brother, Fredo. Pacino delivers one of the great lines in cinema as he tells his brother “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!” The final sequence of the film is a brilliant piece of filmmaking by a director, Francis Ford Coppola, who was in his prime.   My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again

Forgotten FilmMedium Cool (1969)  R  John Cassellis (Robert Forster) is a hard nose reporter who always gets his story. He discovers that his network is cooperating with the FBI to give them ways of identifying protesters of the Vietnam War. When he protests this, he is fired. Cassellis decides to document the planned protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois. The film was written and directed by one of the greatest cinematographers of all time, Haskell Wexler. Wexler uses a documentary style to mix real footage of the convention with dramatic pieces, which makes you feel as if you are there, in the middle of scenes. The camera work in this film is beautiful and brilliantly blended between conventional  shooting and handheld shots. The film is enhanced by a soundtrack that includes songs by Frank Zappa.  Forster is perfect in the role of a reporter who won’t let the system beat him down.    My Rating: Full Price   Medium Cool Info

In Memory of Ed Wood (A Movie I’ve Only Seen in Trailers But Just Looks Like a Bad Idea)Fifty Shades of Black (2016)  A parody of the film Fifty Shades of Grey.  Is there any way we can stop Marlon Wayans from putting out any more of these crappy types of films?

In Case, You Missed It (A Film Just Released on DVD/Blu-ray):   Ant-Man  (2015)   PG-13   Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a car burglar who is hand-picked by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to become Ant-Man.  Ant-Man can decrease in size but, also, can increase in strength. I enjoyed this film that is more in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy with the amount of humor in it and the hero of the story who is dependent on his wits, rather than a superpower. I liked Rudd in the role, as he has a smart-ass quality to him, but not so much that you don’t like him. He plays off of both Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly (who plays the daughter of Dr. Pym), and there are some real sparks between Lilly and Rudd. Corey Stoll plays the villain well, bringing just enough menace to the role to make it enjoyable to watch. The action sequences are fast moving and exciting with some creative scenes that make the film a blast to watch. Once again, I think you can save some money and see it in 2-D. There are two bonus scenes worth staying for; one after the first portion of credits and one at the very end of all the credits.    My Rating: Full Price   Ant-Man Website  

Weird Credits:   From the credits of The Hateful Eight: Cat Trainer

Coming Soon To a Theater Near YouDeadpool  (2016)  A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary (Ryan Reynolds) has cancer and is about to die. He is offered a way to live if he lets himself be the subject of a rogue experiment. That procedure gives him accelerated healing powers, and he decides to become Deadpool. The studio has done an excellent job in marketing this film with very funny print ads and even better trailers.   Deadpool Website
Until Next Time!