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Saturday, June 20, 2015

REWIND REVIEW: The Boy Next Door

MOVIE
The Boy Next Door

CAST
Jennifer Lopez, Ryan Guzman

RATING
R

RELEASE
January 23, 2015

DIRECTOR
Rob Cohen

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 31 minutes







STARS
*











REVIEW:

There are bad films, and there are films so horrendously awful that they're ridiculously entertaining; "The Boy Next Door" falls in the latter category.  Jennifer Lopez can be a decent actress, which she's proven before.  I use the term "can" lightly as her last acclaimed performance came nearly two decades ago.  In this film Lopez plays Claire Peterson, an English teacher whose favorite books include Homer's "Iliad."  This love for Homer actually has some relevance in the movie, hence the mention.  Unfortunately the only way we know she's an intelligent teacher other than a couple of scenes of exposition is the fact that she wears glasses during a couple of scenes, and as we all know wearing glasses automatically makes you smart.  Anyway, a hunky 20 year old named Noah, played by Ryan Guzman, moves in next door and plans to attend the school Claire teaches at.  Unsurprisingly, he's attracted to Claire, and after a couple of advances he (luckily) sleeps with her.  The next day, though, Claire regrets what she did, which causes Noah to become as cartoony of a villain as one could imagine.

From the horrible directing and the cliche-drenched script to some horrible performances and laughable moments, "The Boy Next Door" manages to get nearly everything about it wrong.  Yet from all of that comes an unintentionally hilarious film that is surprisingly a lot of fun to watch.  There are things the characters either say or do that are either so absurdly stupid, make no logical sense compared to everything else going on, or both.  As a thriller, this movie fails on all levels.  It isn't intense, creepy, or smart as films like "It Follows" was.  As a comedy, however, this is cinematic gold.  If you want to grab a few friends and watch/make fun of a horrible movie, then I absolutely recommend checking "The Boy Next Door" out.  If you're looking for a legitimately thrilling and intense movie that will creep you out and send chills down your spine, then go find another movie out there.  After all, how can a film that has the line "I love your mother's cookies" actually be taken seriously?





MINI-REVIEW: Hungry Hearts

MOVIE
Hungry Hearts

CAST
Adam Driver, Alba Rohrwacher

RATING
NR

RELEASE
June 5, 2015 (LIMITED/VOD)

DIRECTOR
Saverio Costanzo

STUDIO
Sundance Selects

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 52 minutes







STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

Parenting seems to be a tough job, now doesn't it?  Of course I'm not speaking from experience, more so from observation.  TV shows and films have shown the struggle, whether it's comedic, dramatic, or horrific, of either becoming pregnant, raising a child, or both.  Saverio Costanzo's "Hungry Hearts" examines the relationship of two people who, after a chance encounter in a restaurant bathroom, begin a life together.  They start dating, they get physically intimate, and they end up getting married after the two conceive a child together.  What makes this movie stand out from other films about raising a child is that this plays more as a psychological thriller than any comedy or drama to have come out within the past several years.

Without spoiling anything, there are things that each parent does to show the love they have towards their child and his growth into a healthy human being.  Each parent sees the other's way of doing things as unhealthy and evil, and both try to stop one another in what they're doing to raise the child.  Adam Driver's character Jude even has his mother come into their life to try to straighten things out.  From there, we get an intense though sometimes zany psychological thriller that delivers on great acting, an eerie atmosphere, and some well directed storytelling.  "Hungry Hearts" isn't the best movie of 2015, but it's definitely one of the more unique films I've seen this year.  If you want to see a darker look at parents trying to raise a child in the ways that they deem "proper," then definitely check this film out if it ever comes your way.




Friday, June 12, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Tomorrowland

MOVIE
Tomorrowland

CAST
George Clooney,
Britt Robertson

RATING
PG

RELEASE
May 22, 2015

DIRECTOR
Brad Bird

STUDIO
Disney

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 10 minutes







STARS
***1/4







REVIEW:

Back in 2007, Disney released a sci-fi animated movie entitled "Meet the Robinsons," in which a young inventor is taken to a marvelous future that's at risk of being destroyed.  To this day, I still believe it has one of the most inspiring messages ever put in a Disney film, that message being to never give up and to "keep moving forward."  There are aspects of that message present in director Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland."  Imagine a world where anything is possible, from jetpacks to flying trains.  Wouldn't you want to go there?  For the first half of the film or so, we're taken to this wonderful world that is entrancing and absolutely amazing to be in and look at.  The second half of the film, without spoiling anything, doesn't give us that anymore unfortunately.  Honestly, that's one of the biggest problems "Tomorrowland" has: it feels like a series of films crammed into one.

Had this film been spread out into a trilogy, with the first film being about George Clooney's character, the second one being about Britt Robertson's character, and the third about the second half of this movie, then I feel like this story as a whole would have been more engaging and cool.  There are still great things about the film, particularly in the visuals, acting, direction, and the ideas that are presented as the story goes along.  Unfortunately, it just feels like it was all clustered into a rushed two hour movie that doesn't give its audience enough time to comprehend everything going on.  I honestly liked the film less as I walked out of the theater, but I still overall enjoyed it as a whimsical exploration into what Walt Disney had envisioned for his "Tomorrowland" attraction at the Disney parks.  "Tomorrowland" is definitely a good film, and a film I would recommend checking out on the big screen, but the true shame of it all is that this could have been a great movie.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Underdogs

Shaun The Sheep: The Movie

Minions

Pixels

Paper Towns

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Inside Out




Thursday, June 11, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Poltergeist

MOVIE
Poltergeist

CAST
Sam Rockwell,
Rosemarie DeWitt

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
May 22, 2015

DIRECTOR
Gil Kenan

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 34 minutes







STARS
***










REVIEW:

Another day, another remake, and the latest film to have this happen to them is none other than the 1982 classic scare-fest "Poltergeist."  Produced by Steven Spielberg, directed by Tobe Hooper, and starring the likes of Craig T. Nelson and the late Heather O'Rourke, the original film set the standard for modern day horror films despite the effects being a bit outdated today.  It's a bit odd that filmmakers would chose to remake the film that modernized the horror movies of today, but "Monster House" director Gil Kenan and producer Sam Raimi have done just that, with Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Jared Harris filling some of the shoes worn by the previous actors.  Even though this remake was unnecessary to do considering the original's iconic status, I will admit that I had fun watching "Poltergeist."  There are a bunch of unintentionally hilarious things in the film, particularly in the predictable jump scares and the obvious 3D effects which, if you see this in 2D, are a lot funnier in my opinion.  However, there were also moments that were genuinely creepy and well directed overall.  "Poltergeist" isn't one of the best remakes of all time, but it is a mindlessly entertaining movie that I would recommend if you want to have a couple of laughs with some friends.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Terminator: Genisys

The Gallows

Ant Man

Crimson Peak

Pixels

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Spy




Wednesday, June 10, 2015

REVIEW: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

MOVIE
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

CAST
Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
June 12, 2015 (NY/LA)

DIRECTOR
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 44 minutes









STARS
****








REVIEW:

The first and only word that came to my mind when the credits of the latest indie dramady "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" began rolling was "wow."  Seriously, wow: what a movie.  This film took Sundance by storm back in January, grabbing both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for a Dramatic film.  This is the third year in a row where a film has taken home both of these awards at the festival, with "Fruitvale Station" and Oscar winner "Whiplash" being the previous recipients.  The film, based off of screenwriter Jesse Andrews' novel of the same name, tells the story of Greg Gaines.  Greg's goal for his senior year is to blend in with the crowd and be as anonymous as humanly possible.  He has one friend in the form of Earl who he shoots short parodies of classic films with, but he doesn't classify him as a "friend," but rather a "business partner."  Greg's life suddenly takes a turn into the unknown when his mom forces him to spend time with Rachel, an acquaintance of Greg's whom he hasn't spoken to since Kindergarten, who has just been diagnosed with leukemia.

Right off the bat, it's easy to compare the cancer story this has to last year's "The Fault in Our Stars."  Not to mention, the trailer doesn't do the film any favors in looking pretty different than that.  This isn't a love story about a boy and a girl falling in love thanks to an illness that will take one or both of them away.  Greg even says this himself via narration.  Rather, this is a story of survival, whether it's high school, leukemia, or anything in between.  It's in this story where the film really strives past cliches and becomes something, unique, witty, and surprisingly realistic.  Personally speaking, I was hooked into this from the first second in, and it held me all the way until its poignant and emotional end.

Thomas Mann is no stranger to the silver screen, having been in films such as the mediocre "Project X" and the overlooked "Beautiful Creatures."  Playing Greg, Mann manages to make this character into his own and, in turn, delivers a funny, relatable, and impressively deep performance that really helps to hold the film's quirkiness together.  Olivia Cooke sports a flawless American accent playing Rachel, "the Dying Girl."  Not to mention, she is also the light that keeps this film shining, in my opinion.  In every scene she's in, Cooke has this radiant glow of energy piercing off of her, as well as this adorable charm to her that is really hard to resist.  It's this adorable quality that really brought the emotional and heartbreaking elements of the film home for me, as well as solidifying that it wasn't just any "teen cancer drama" movie.  As great as these two are, and as great as the supporting cast (including the likes of comedian Nick Offerman, "The Walking Dead's" Jon Bernthal, and SNL alum Molly Shannon) is, none of them compare to how sidesplittingly hysterical and absolutely incredible RJ Cyler's performance as Earl is.

If you haven't heard of Cyler before, you're not alone: this is his first time acting in a movie.  Taking that into account, his comedic timing and his delivery of lines as Earl is absolutely incredible.  What makes Cyler so great, aside from delivering during some incredibly powerful moments of drama, is that he makes some black stereotypes, one particularly talking about two certain parts on the female body, extremely funny.  Even though he is considered to be a supporting character compared to Mann's Greg and Cooke's Rachel, Earl is a fully fleshed out person who has a great story arc that compliments everything else going on in the film.  Hopefully we'll be able to see more of him in the future, because he's clearly proven himself worthy with this film.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon has only directed one other film before this, and that was in the form of 2014's little-seen remake of the horror film "The Town That Dreaded Sundown."  Talk about a 180 degree flip from one film to another.  This man delivers on directing some of the best shot and most well executed scenes I've seen all year.  It's clear from the film that Rejon was heavily inspired by Wes Anderson as the style of this film is very quirky, offbeat, and often extremely funny.  That can also be attributed to Jesse Andrews' expertly written screenplay, which knows how to be downright hilarious and extremely heartfelt in the best ways.  Seriously, this film has both some of the funniest and some of the most powerful moments of 2015 thus far.  I can't imagine really anyone not being emotionally invested with these characters and the situations they get in to.  Not to mention, this film is FILLED with movie references that cinephiles will really swoon over.  This is the type of film that I believe can and will be loved by just about everyone who goes to see it.

"Me and Earl" is a film with soul and passion and love behind it, which is easy to tell within the first five minutes of it.  Every character has their purpose to the story fulfilled, and throughout the 105 minute duration of the film we get to know, love, care for, and empathize with teenagers who are dealing with the pressures of education, the future, and friendship along with the fact that one of them is slowly dying from cancer.  Even through all of their drama, there is light shined upon them in the form of absurdly hilarious scenarios and some of the wittiest dialogue I've heard in 2015.  It's a very offbeat movie, but if you can get take a chance with "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," then I guarantee you won't regret seeing it.  As someone who loved "The Fault in Our Stars," this is infinitely better than that, and as a whole is truly one of the best films you will see all summer, maybe even all year.  There's a reason why this movie won the top prizes at Sundance, and that's because, for lack of a better term, it's freaking amazing!