Friday, August 26, 2016

Don't Breathe

My ViewDon’t Breathe  (2016)  R  Suspenseful film about a group of friends who break into a house inhabited by a blind man. They think it will be an easy heist…boy are they wrong.  I enjoyed this film, but let me tell you, there is a lot of violence, gruesome, bone-cracking violence in this film. Also, there is a scene that is so gross, the audience I saw the film with let out a huge “eew.” There is a lot of suspense in this movie, and it builds extremely well. I thought that Jane Levy did an outstanding job as the cat burglar, Rocky, who steals to get enough money to take her and her sister out of state and away from their abusive mother. There is an excellent use of sound in this film, making the scenes incredibly tense. What I liked about this movie is that takes a very simple premise and makes it a highly entertaining film. But, be warned, it is very violent, and you will be talking about the gross scene long after the movie ends.   My Rating: Full Price   Don't Breathe Website

My ViewHands of Stone  (2016)  R  Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) was one of the toughest fighters ever. He fought from age 16 to age 50. In 1980, he defeated Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher) to capture the WBC welterweight title. That was just the start of the story.  The film takes what is a remarkable tale and makes it seem generic. The script, which has some horrible dialogue,  lets down the cast, especially Edgar Ramirez, who, in spite of the script, gives a phenomenal performance. Robert De Niro didn't seem to break a sweat playing the legendary trainer, Ray Arcel, who takes Duran under his wing. I hated the editing of the fight sequences, which were choppy and hard to follow. The film tries to cover too much of Duran’s life and so seems to drag in certain places. The film takes a fascinating, dynamic fighter and makes him seem dull.    My Rating: Cable   Hands of Stone Facebook Page

Indiefest:  Southside with You  (2016)  PG-13  The film chronicles the first date in 1989 Chicago of future President Barack (Parker Sawyers) and Michelle Obama (Tika Sumpter). I enjoyed this romantic drama by director/writer Richard Tanne, as it has a nice light touch of romance with some smarts to it, much like the subjects it profiles. The film concentrates on two people getting to know each other, both confident in their abilities to express themselves and make a point. Tanne creates a world where we see the potential in both of these people individually and as a team. It’s the dialogue that makes this film interesting and fun to watch. The heart of this movie and why it works so well is the performances by Tika Sumpter and Parker Sawyers. Sumpter gives a spirited and fiery performance as Michelle, while also being a little reserved, almost cold, especially early on. Sumpter plays off Parker well, with the patter between the two seeming natural and effortless. Sawyers does an excellent job capturing the future President’s speech pattern and mannerisms. It’s a delightful romance that works on every level.   My Rating:  Full Price   Southside with You Website

IndiefestMiss Sharon Jones!  (2016)  This documentary follows R&B singer Miss Sharon Jones in the most challenging year of her life when she confronts pancreatic cancer. Cancer will soon learn that you can’t keep a Grammy nominated powerhouse down for long. This documentary is from the two-time Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple. Kopple’s camera follows Jones, who is talkative and mostly upbeat, as she goes from surgery to remove and reroute her organs, to moving in with a holistic nutritionist to help her with recovery from her chemo. The film contrasts the concert scenes of the past, where Jones is a whirling dervish, to a woman who has lost her strength so much that she struggles to walk up a flight of stairs. We get to see the smaller moments of Jones’s struggle. You are constantly amazed at her positivity and her lust for life, such as when she revels in telling the camera of her seemingly endless list of daytime TV watching or when she interacts with other chemo patients, always with a positive attitude and ear to listen to their stories. You are going to want to go on this journey with this fireplug of a singer who, through her grace, spirit makes you feel better about the world, a world filled with the beautiful music that she creates.   My Rating:  Full Price   Miss Sharon Jones! Website

Forgotten FilmThe Whole Wide World  (1996)  PG  In a small Texas town in the 1930s, a young schoolteacher, Novalyne (Renee Zellweger), meets a young man named Robert Howard (Vincent D’Onofrio). Robert is the writer of the Conan the Barbarian stories and is quite shy and a little strange. They start up a friendship that just might lead to better things. This is a beautiful story about two people who seem exact opposites but find common ground to relate to each other. Zellweger is dazzling as the school teacher with the heart of gold, and D’Onofrio gives one of his best performances.   My Rating: Full Price   The Whole Wide World Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Don’t Breathe:  Standby Props

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:   The Magnificent Seven (2016) PG-13   Two of my favorite films are  Seven Samurai (1954), the original source for both westerns and The Magnificent Seven (1960), so I am looking forward to this retelling of the tale of seven gunfighters coming to the defense of a western town. The cast includes Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke.   The Magnificent Seven Facebook page
Until Next Time!

Friday, August 19, 2016


My ViewBen-Hur  (2016)  PG-13  A nobleman, Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), is falsely accused of an assassination attempt by his childhood friend and adoptive brother, Messala (Toby Kebbell). After years of being a slave under the Romans, Ben-Hur returns home to seek revenge, but, instead, he finds redemption.  The problem is when you remake a big, old-school Hollywood spectacle like Ben-Hur, you have to be bigger, more spectacular than the original, and this movie does the opposite. Other than a dazzling, impressive chariot race, this film feels and look flat, almost subdued. One of the mistakes is when we meet Jesus, we never feel that he is different than other people, except that he is preaching a nonviolence message. We should believe he is the son of God, but I never got that feeling. The water scenes in the 1959 film were much more moving, mostly because we never see Jesus’s face, just the reactions that everyone has when they see him. I was most disappointed in the screenplay because I greatly respect one of the screenwriters, John Ridley, but the storyline is slow moving, and the ending seems to have been written by a ten-year-old. I never thought Charlton Heston was a great actor, but he had a great “movie star” presence and charisma, which Jack Huston doesn’t have. It's not worth paying the extra money to see it in 3-D or IMAX for just the chariot scenes and it wasn't shot in 3-D. While not a bad movie, Ben-Hur (besides the race) is dull and lifeless. Maybe they should call it Ben-Blah.  My Rating:  Cable    Ben-Hur Website
IndiefestHell or High Water  (2016)  R  A divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) plan a series of bank robberies to save the family farm from foreclosure. A tough Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) and his partner (Gil Birmingham) are hot on the heels of the bank robbers. One of the best films of the year, mostly due to the outstanding, spot-on performances by the full cast. Writer Taylor Sheridan (who wrote the excellent “Sicario’) and director David Mackenzie have conceived a moving and exciting modern western set in the small towns of West Texas. The characters, even down to the smaller parts, like a grumpy old waitress, are rich and complex. The backbone of this film is the performances by the main cast. Foster and Evans play off each other so well; it makes the idea that they are brothers easy to believe and even easier to understand their relationship and motives. Jeff Bridges is scintillating to watch as he melds into the Texas Ranger who just might be hoping to go out in a flurry of bullets rather than fade away in retirement.  This is one film you will not want to miss.    My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again   Hell or High Water Website
My ViewWar Dogs  (2016)  R  Two young men (Jonah Hill, Miles Teller) win a 300 million dollar contract from the Pentagon to arm America’s allies in Afghanistan. Let me stress that this is not a comedy, because the TV ads and the trailer make it look like one.  Yes, there are comedic bits, but this is a drama about two men whose friendship is threatened when they get in over their heads with a contract they may never fulfill. I like the performances of Teller and especially Jonah Hill, who plays a man so unlikeable you began rooting against him from almost the start of the movie. My problem with this film is it’s too long and takes way too much time to get the story going. The backstory of Teller’s character takes almost the first third of the film, and it makes the film drag, so that by the time the story picks up, you just don’t care what happens.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee   War Dogs Facebook Page
Family FaireKubo and the Two Strings  (2016)  PG  A young boy named Kubo, aided by a talking monkey and samurai beetle, must locate a magical suit of armor that was worn by his late father to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.  Unbelievably beautiful stop-motion animation combined with a brilliant storyline make this film one of the best movies of the summer. The plot is simple but nuanced with a great message about believing in yourself and your abilities. The animation is beautiful and some of the best I have ever seen. Kids will enjoy the fast moving storyline, and grownups will thoroughly drink in the gorgeous animation. Outstanding voice work by a cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, and Rooney Mara add flavor and texture. The film is worth the extra money to see it in 3-D, as it was made in 3-D and uses the technology to it's full extent. Go on an adventure with Kubo and his friends this summer; you won’t be disappointed.   My Take: I Would Pay to See it Again    Kubo and the Two Strings Facebook Page 
Forgotten FilmThe Hospital  (1971)  An overly stressed doctor (George C. Scott) tries to stay sane while a hospital is collapsing around him. This movie, written brilliantly by Paddy Chayefsky, is part farce, part drama with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The movie starts out with a series of deaths, most due to the incompetence of the staff, making the film seem like this will be a comedy of errors. By the middle of the movie, it takes a turn and becomes a riveting drama bolstered by the dazzling performances of Scott and Diana Rigg, who plays his love interest. Scott gives one of his best performances as the Doctor who might not survive, either by his hand or someone else’s. You wouldn’t want to be a patient at this hospital, but you will enjoy watching the staff.   My Rating:  Full Price   The Hospital Info

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Ben-Hur:  Leather Master

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouHidden Figures  (2017)  Three African-American women provide NASA with critical mathematical data which enables the launch of the program’s first successful space missions.  The trailer looks awesome and with a cast of Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, how could it not be a hit?   Hidden Figures Website 
Until Next Time!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pete's Dragon

Family Faire: Pete’s Dragon (2016) PG In the Pacific Northwest, Forest Ranger Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard) finds a young boy named, Pete (Oakes Fegley), who has remarkably lived in the woods for six years.  Pete claims that he was under the protection of a dragon named, Elliott. Could Elliott be real? I am not a fan of the original 1977 Disney film, but this movie does improve on the story, mostly due to a fantastic and imaginative dragon (think a giant puppy with wings) that clearly loves Pete and is his best friend. Kids will enjoy the film, but parents may get a little bored with the simple storyline. The kid who plays Pete, Oakes Fegley, is a joy to watch, especially in the first half of the film where he is solely interacting with Elliott. The flying sequences are well done, but it’s not necessary to see it in 3-D. My biggest objection to the film is that the villain of the story is so broadly and clumsily written that he belongs in a 1950’s comic book. Pete’s Dragon is not a bad film, but I just wish it was a little more complex.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Pete's Dragon Website
My ViewSausage Party  (2016)  R  Food has one objective at the grocery store, to be chosen to go home with humans. A hot dog sausage named, Frank (Seth Rogen), learns the horrible truth that humans want to cook and eat food.  Now Frank must convince his friends in the grocery store that they must fight back if they want to live. A bit of a warning: If you are easily offended, don’t see this film. If you don’t like cursing in movies, don’t see the film. If crude jokes about sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or just about any other subject offend you, don’t see this film. This is a hilarious movie, but man, is it weird. At one time, I had my hand in front of my face because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This film is looks like the creators took all the raunchy parts from This Is the End, Neighbors and Knocked Up, decided to animate it and then said, “Well, that’s a start.” This is a hilarious film that basically takes the tried and true formula of a quest to get back home and turns it on its ear.  Though even with all of its crude jokes and over-the-top stereotypes, it’s got a deeper message about religion and race/ideological relations. But be warned, you are going to have to hear/see a lot of jokes about sex to get to that message. By the way, producers had to cut scenes to avoid an NC-17 rating.  After seeing this film, I can’t imagine what those scenes showed.   My Take:  Full Price   Sausage Party Website
My View:  Florence Foster Jenkins  (2016)  PG-13  Florence (Meryl Streep) is a beloved socialite who entertains her friends and family with her Opera singing. Urged on by her husband (Hugh Grant), she decides to record an album and play Carnegie Hall.  The only problem: she can’t correctly sing even one note. This delightful film is reminiscent of the screwball movies of the thirties, though it never gets to a frenzied level of the comedies of the past. The film is funny, moves at a quick pace and has a few twists and turns (one which you won’t see coming). As with any comedy, it does have serious moments as well as an underlying sadness of what Florence’s life could have been, but her “can do” attitude and perseverance dominate which makes for an upbeat and joyful film. I liked Grant as the supportive but caddish husband and especially Simon Helberg as Florence’s quirky accompanist. This is, of course, Meryl’s movie, and she jumps with both feet into the deep end with relish portraying this fascinating woman. It’s a high energy performance that makes Florence extremely likable, making us root for her to succeed, even though we are aware Florence can’t sing. It doesn’t matter because, against all the odds, she thinks she can. Not everything is perfect in Florence’s world, particularly when her husband leaves her every night to sleep with someone else, and Streep allows her character to have that sadness just in the background of her character’s actions.  It's Streep’s boisterous performance that makes this film so much fun to watch.  You may not always enjoy the singing, but you certainly will admire the gusto.    My Rating:  Full Price   Florence Foster Jenkins Website
IndiefestDon’t Think Twice  (2016)  R  A long time New York improv group loses their lease, and one of the members lands a TV show.  I loved writer/director Mike Birbiglia’s first picture “Sleep Walk With Me,” which was about the trials and tribulations of being a stand-up comic on the road. I am happy to say that Birbiglia has done it again with “Don’t Think Twice,” as this movie is as humorous and inventive as his first film. The joy of this movie is the improv scenes (some were scripted, and others were improvised) that will have you on the floor laughing. Even some of the scenes away from the club are fun to watch as the group makes fun of each other constantly, though, sometimes the kidding can go too far and touch a nerve or two. This is a heartfelt, funny film that deals with all the pain, sacrifice and lows that comedians face in their everyday life just so that they can get those few minutes in the spotlight. “Don’t Think Twice” is a film that shows us that as painful as those struggles are, if you can make someone laugh, it’s all worth it.    My Rating: Full Price   Don't Think Twice Website
IndiefestGhost Team  (2016)  PG-13  Louis (Jon Heder) is obsessed with the paranormal and decides to investigate a possible ghost-filled sight. He brings along his depressed best friend (David Krumholtz), a cable access medium (Amy Seders), a girl who works next door (Melonie Diaz) and an over-eager security guard (Justin Long) to help him with his investigation. With this cast, this film should have been funnier, but the script lets them down. The film has an interesting premise, but after a promising start, becomes bogged down in a plot that is too transparent and light. There are some funny moments, but they are far too scarce. I also felt the creators dropped the ball and didn’t make the ghost element in the film scarier, which would have created some much-needed tension. Of the cast, Justin Long stands out as the wannabe cop who has a tendency to cry in pressure situations. I just wish this had been a much more enjoyable film.   My Rating:  Cable   Ghost Team Facebook Page
Forgotten Film: A Kiss Before Dying  (1991)  R  Jonathan (Matt Dillion) has been secretly dating Dorothy (Sean Young), a twin daughter of a wealthy tycoon. Realizing that her pregnancy will destroy his plans for his future (she won’t get the family money due to the scandal of an out of wedlock pregnancy), he pushes her off a building and makes it look like a suicide. He then sets his sights on Dorothy’s twin with the plan of marrying into her family’s money.  But Dorothy suspects that something isn’t right with Jonathan and begins questioning if her sister committed suicide. While I am not entirely happy with this thriller (there are a lot of plot holes that have to be ignored), this film is worth watching due to Mat Dillion’s brilliant and mesmerizing performance. Dillion is creepy and attractive all in one, an almost impossible task to perform on the screen, but he carries it off. I also really enjoyed the ending that ties in well with the opening scene.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   A Kiss Before Dying Info

Weird Credits: From Pete’s Dragon:  Fur Groomer

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You:  Don’t Breathe  (2016)  R  I am hearing great things from film critics about this suspenseful film about a group of friends who break into a house inhabited by a blind man. They think it will be an easy heist…boy are they wrong.   Don't Breathe Facebook Page

Until Next Time!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad

My ViewSuicide Squad  (2016)  PG-13  A secret government agency turns to a group of super-villains to stop a mysterious and powerful supernatural being. While I didn’t hate this film, and enjoyed a few parts (especially the first third), I wouldn’t see it again, which is sad for a big blockbuster film like this one. The film pays to much attention to the backstory of its characters which makes the plot confusing. At one point, I got lost, I thought I might have dozed off and missed some key scenes, but that’s not the case. Due to build-up before the film’s release, I was disappointed on how little Jared Leto as The Joker does on the film, as he provides a back story for Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (who has the most fun in the movie and gives us an outstanding performance). I am not a big Will Smith fan but I thought he was spot on as Deadshot. When the end of the film rolled around (reminding me of the original Ghostbusters movie ending), I was disappointed. This movie had all the makings of an outstanding film, but instead we get one weak, bloated movie filled with a few characters you wish would go ahead and die. I did like the 3-D effects, which used them to create a few wild scenes. There is a bonus scene at the end of the main credits but nothing else after that.  My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Suicide Squad Website
IndiefestPhantom Boy  (2015)  PG  A boy with super powers helps a wheelchair-bound police officer attempt to bring down a mob. This is a light and simple animated film that is fun to watch. It's beautifully drawn and, though the storyline is a little too straightforward, it does have some good messages for kids. It's a whimsical film that has a style of its own, one that you will want to spend some time with.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee   Phantom Boy Website
Forgotten FilmTapeheads  (1988)  R  A couple of lovable losers (Tim Robbins John Cusack) accidentally set the music world on its head when they start creating out of this world music videos. This is a very uneven comedy that, when an idea fails, it dies a horrible death, but, when it has a great idea, it hits it out of the park. The fun of this film is seeing how far technology has come and all the crazy cameos that are in this movie including Bobcat Goldthwait and Courtney Love (blink and you miss her). Cossack and Robbins give it their all, and it’s a riot watching them perform on the screen.    My Rating:  Bargain Matinee   Tapeheads Info   
In Case You Missed It (A Film Just Released on iTunes and VOD):  Embers  (2016)  A man (Jason Ritter) wakes up in a dilapidated room, not knowing how he got there, who he is or whom the woman (Iva Gocheva) sleeping next to is. That’s the start of the best film I saw at any Film Festival this year. This low budget film (though it doesn’t look it) works because the script is creative with a concept of what the world would be like if every time you woke up, you forgot everything. The film is beautifully shot with a gray overcast that seems to be hanging from every nook and cranny. The plot moves at a quick pace, and the casting is brilliant with Jason Ritter playing the lead “everyman” who is willing to risk his life for people he doesn’t know. The direction is crisp, and each performer gives outstanding performances. Take a chance and explore a brave new world where everyone starts out the day not knowing what is ahead of them.    My Rating:  I Would Pay to See it Again

Weird Credits:  From the credits of Suicide Squad:  Tank Constructor

Coming Soon to a Theatre Near YouHell or High Water  (2016)   R  A down on his luck divorced dad (Chris Pine), and his ex-con brother (Ben Foster) start robbing banks in modern day West Texas.  Their plan is to rob enough to save the family farm from foreclosure. With a tough as nails Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges) hot on their trail, will the brothers be able to keep their plan going before going down? Hey, you had me at Jeff Bridges starring as a Texas Ranger.   Hell or High Water Website
Until Next Time!