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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

REWIND REVIEW: Disconnect

MOVIE
Disconnect

CAST
Jason Bateman, Hope Davis

RATING
R

RELEASE
April 12, 2013

DIRECTOR
Henry Alex Rubin

STUDIO
LD Entertainment

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 56 minutes







STARS
****







REVIEW:

Kids and teens all over the world are addicted to Twitter, Facebook, and other social network sites like a drug, myself included.  Unfortunately, these sites can be used as a danger towards lonely kids who are looking for someone to talk to.  While this has been portrayed in TV shows, movies, and other media forms before, it hasn't been done as well as it has been done in Henry Alex Rubin's "Disconnect."  Filled with astounding performances, superb direction, and a great script, "Disconnect" might have been the hardest movie for me to watch in 2013.

While "12 Years a Slave" might have been the hardest film to watch visually, this was a hard 2 hours for me because of how close it hit to home.  I feel that, despite its relatively hard R rating, that this film should be shown in all high schools around the country.  Not only does it accurately depict cyber-bullying and the causes of it, but it is also a great watch for those who purchase things online or fall victim to false links and such.  I am so happy that I got around to watching this before the year ended, because this may very well be the single most under-appreciated movie of the year.




REVIEW: The Wolf of Wall Street

MOVIE
The Wolf of Wall Street

CAST
Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill

RATING
R

RELEASE
December 25, 2013

DIRECTOR
Martin Scorsese

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
3 hours







STARS
****








REVIEW:

"The Wolf of Wall Street," for the lack of a better term, plays out like a three hour long high that one could have.  From the moment the "drug" starts, it shoots adrenaline and pure debauchery across the screen, grabs you by the throat, and never lets you go.  As the magic of the "drug" progresses, the high becomes even more absurd to the point that you can't help but laugh at how pathetic and coked out of their minds these characters are.  Once the second half of the film kicks in, it goes from being an insane, hilarious, and fun party of debauchery to a dark, shocking, and jaw-dropping depiction of the downfall of the central character Jordan Belfort.  This movie is not going to appeal to everyone, but for those who are able to take the risk and just let it all sink in, I think that they are going to fall in love with Martin Scorsese's latest.  I know I sure did.

To say that Leonardo DiCaprio is a talented actor who's constantly snubbed by the folks running The Oscars is like saying that an apple is red, meaning that this is and has been a known fact for quite some time.  With the character Jordan Belfort, Leo not only shows how devoted an actor can be to his role, but it also shows that he's one of the most talented film actors currently living.  If Leo doesn't at least get nominated for his work in this film, then it shows that the Academy simply doesn't like him for some reason.  Almost equally as great is Jonah Hill, who might have given the single best performance of his career in this movie.  He is about as bonkers and as insane a character as Belfort, and yet not even as despicable.  Every actor in this film gives performances to be remembered, but it is Hill and DiCaprio that you will be talking about when you're walking out of the theater.

I find it absolutely astounding that Martin Scorsese, a 71 year old director, still has it in him to make a film as energetic and as crazy as this is.  The fact that he's able to make things like this and "Hugo" shows that he's able to adapt to times and make films that still appeal to the general movie buff.  Not to mention, this is some of the best directing I've seen all year.  Scorsese is able to take these characters and these plot points and turn them into possibly the best acid trip you'll see this decade.  Plus, the editing for this film is outstanding as well, being able to envelop the audience in this insane mayhem being presented on screen, ranging from small people being thrown at giant dart boards to an orgy commencing in a plane.  If this wasn't a Scorsese picture, I don't think it would have worked as well because it's his name on the poster and his vision behind the camera.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" is not a movie that will appeal to everyone.  Many will criticize its obnoxious characters, constant use of nudity, drugs, and profanity, and the fact that the film is three hours long.  In fact, I was worried about whether or not I'd enjoy this film because these despicable characters are never likable throughout the movie.  However, the difference between the characters here and the characters in, say, "Pain & Gain," is that we, the audience are supposed to laugh and be shocked at the acts taking place right before our very eyes.  "Pain & Gain" tries to make us sympathize with these horrid people and have us be on their side, which in the end doesn't prevail.  Thanks to the superb acting, sharp and fresh script from "Sorprano's" writer Terrence Winter, and the fantastic direction from Martin Scorsese, "The Wolf of Wall Street" is absurd, hilarious, dark, and one of the best movies of the year.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Draft Day

Lone Survivor

300: Rise of an Empire

The Monuments Men

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit



REWIND REVIEW: The Purge

MOVIE
The Purge

CAST
Ethan Hawke, Lena Headey

RATING
R

RELEASE
June 7, 2013

DIRECTOR
James DeMonaco

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 25 minutes







STARS
**1/2







REVIEW:

2013 gave us some great horror films, including "The Conjuring" and "You're Next."  However, it also gave us our fair share of stinkers, most of which I skipped.  "The Purge" happens to fall somewhere in the middle of those.  It has a fantastic premise: all crime is legal for 12 hours one day a year.  Seriously, how awesome does that sound?  Unfortunately for this movie, it goes from being fascinating and engaging to generic and formulaic.  While the acting isn't horrible, it isn't great either.  The story tries to be clever by having so many twists at the end, and yet they're kind of laughable and stupid considering the circumstances that are going on.  Still, I was mildly entertained while watching this movie, so for that I'd say watch it if you're bored one day and you're in the mood for a decent horror flick.  I really hope the sequel shines more on the political aspect of this story instead of trying to be another slasher flick.




REWIND REVIEW: Rush

MOVIE
Rush

CAST
Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl

RATING
R

RELEASE
September 20, 2013

DIRECTOR
Ron Howard

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 2 minutes







STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

In a year of stupid and fun movies involving cars, it's nice to see that there's one that tells not only a fascinating story, but a true story nonetheless.  "Rush" tells the tale of the long rivalry that took place between British driver James Hunt and Austrian driver Nicki Lauda.  Hunt is a reckless womanizer while Lauda is a devoted driver.  They might not become best friends in the end, but the story in itself is riveting and extremely entertaining, to say the least.  Thanks to the superb acting from Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, some well shot racing sequences, and superb direction from Ron Howard, "Rush" is a fun and impressive movie that is sure to win people over in the coming years.  While it's not one of my personal favorites of the year, mostly due to pacing and other minor problems like that, I would still highly recommend it for fans of Chris Hemsworth, Ron Howard, and/or racing films.




REWIND REVIEW: The Hangover Part III

MOVIE
The Hangover Part III

CAST
Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms,
Zach Galifanakis

RATING
R

RELEASE
May 23, 2013

DIRECTOR
Todd Phillips

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 40 minutes







STARS
***










REVIEW:

Let's face it: the only reason director Todd Phillips and Warner Bros. Pictures wanted to make sequels to the 2009 hit "The Hangover" was so they could make a lot of cash back.  Luckily for then, "The Hangover Part II," while it wasn't even remotely as clever and funny as the original, made money, so a third film was fast-tracked soon after that.  Up until recently, "The Hangover Part III" stayed off my radar because I didn't have time to see it.  Now that it's the end of 2013 and a lot more time can be spent to revisit films from earlier in the year, I decided to give this film a chance.  Low and behold, it was actually entertaining.  In terms of quality, the film isn't really that good, nor is it well-made.  However thanks to the dedication from its actors, a somewhat decent script, and some nice cinematography, "The Hangover Part III" proves to be a satisfying enough ending to this unnecessary trilogy, so much so that I can recommend this one if there's nothing else to watch on TV at the moment.





REWIND REVIEW: Before Midnight

MOVIE
Before Midnight

CAST
Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

RATING
R

RELEASE
May 24, 2013

DIRECTOR
Richard Linklater

STUDIO
Sony Pictures Classics

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 49 minutes






STARS
****







REVIEW:

There are people out there who consider "Before Sunrise" to be one of the best romantic movies of all time.  Personally, I disagree with those people, as I feel that the sequels surpassed the original by miles. Each film I felt got significantly better in terms of portraying its characters and telling a fascinating story that people could invest in.  Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy might have reached their masterpiece with "Before Midnight," as to me, it finally did what I expected the first two films to do: play out as if these characters were real people.  Celine and Jesse, the only two characters in every scene in the film, aren't particularly happy being together, and it really shows as the film progresses.  In fact, almost the entire second half of this film takes place in a hotel room with these characters arguing, and yet it was the single most engaging part of the movie to me.  After 18 years, three films, and a lot of growing up between the actors/screenwriters, "Before Midnight" was made, and boy oh boy does it cap off this trilogy perfectly.  This film successfully shows that even people who are madly in love with one another can have their relationship put to the test when age becomes a factor and kids start growing up.



REWIND REVIEW: Getaway

MOVIE
Getaway

CAST
Ethan Hawke, Selena Gomez

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
August 30, 2013

DIRECTOR
Courtney Solomon

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 30 minutes






STARS
**










REVIEW:

Oh man, where do I even begin with this movie?  "Getaway" is this action movie that came out back in August that was trying to be a combination of "The Fast and the Furious" and "Drive."  Starring Ethan Hawke and teen-sweetheart Selena Gomez, this movie does everything that a generic action movie would do, only now with an action sequence every 2 minutes (not even exaggerating) and lots of exploding cars.  As bad as this movie sounds, and believe me this is a bad movie without a doubt, this is probably the best bad movie you will see in 2013.  In fact, I'd say that this is to action what "The Room" is to romantic dramas.  Everything about this movie is so bad and so poorly executed that it's hilarious to watch, aside from this one well done take that's towards the end of the film.  The acting is mediocre, the script is piss-poor, and the amount of car chases in this film are so excessive that it will make you groan in your seat.  Having said that, if you gather up a bunch of buddies and pop this baby in, then you are going to have one hell of a fun night making fun of this.



Monday, December 30, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

MOVIE
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

CAST
Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig

RATING
PG

RELEASE
December 25, 2013

DIRECTOR
Ben Stiller

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 54 minutes







STARS
****










REVIEW:

It should be known before going in to "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" that it's a special kind of movie.  It's not the kind of film that everyone will universally love, but it is one that, if you decide to let it in, it will take you on a fantastical journey through the mind and soul of the peculiar title character.  Walter, first and foremost, is a daydreamer.  His daydreaming can get so extreme that he'll start fantasizing about saving a dog from a building explosion while talking to someone on the phone.  These types of fantasies go on for the first 30 or so minutes of the film, so this may turn some people off.  For those who are able to stick it out and embrace the weirdness of his imaginations, the film becomes tamer with its fantasy sequences, and the journey Walter goes on to recover a missing photo for his job becomes exciting and even moving to watch.  While it's not without its flaws, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a marvel of a movie, and one hell of an accomplishment for director Ben Stiller.

Of all of the films he's directed, this is Ben Stiller's best directed film thus far in his career.  Having directed solely comedic films prior to this film, including the insanely hilarious "Zoolander" and the awesome "Tropic Thunder," Stiller is able to spread his wings metaphorically and tell a fascinating character story with amazing set pieces and not as many comedic moments as one would expect.  Not to mention, he does a solid job as the lead character Walter in the film.  Stiller isn't one of the best actors of all time, I would say, but he does carry this film mostly on his own and does a good job doing that.  Not to mention, he's able to get some pretty solid performances out of fellow actors Kristen Wiig, Sean Penn, and Shirley Maclaine.  However, Adam Scott's villainous role was a little too over the top at times, though that might have been because A.) that's how the character was supposed to be, or B.) the awful beard he sported throughout the film decided to do all of the talking.

"Walter Mitty" reminds me of "Bridge to Terabithia" in a way, where the film as a whole might not be one of the best of the year, but its fantasy element is done so well and the story is told fantastically that all of the flaws I would have with this film flew out the door because I was along for this adventure with this peculiar character.  This might not be the best film Stiller has directed in terms of quality, but it is his most ambitious project and something that I feel will go down as a classic for the ages in the way that Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" did.  The cinematography and visual effects look fantastic, the story is so satisfying in the end, and the acting from everyone was great.  "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is such a special movie, and it's so rewarding for those who are able to embrace the weirdness and quirkiness of it all.






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Noah

Winter's Tale

The Monuments Men

Son of God

Rio 2

Mr. Peabody and Sherman




Sunday, December 29, 2013

REVIEW: American Hustle

MOVIE
American Hustle

CAST
Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper

RATING
R

RELEASE
December 13, 2013 (NY/LA)
December 20, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
David O. Russell

STUDIO
Columbia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 18 minutes









STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

David O. Russell has really been making a name for himself with "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook" respectively.  Not only is he able to successfully give his actors the opportunity to give Oscar winning performances, but he's also able to tell a story that flows and strikes with every scene put on screen.  This can be said for not only his previous two films, but also for his latest flick "American Hustle."  Telling the story of a conman and a prostitute being forced to work with an FBI agent in order  to fulfill the FBI agent's personal "duties," "Hustle" brings sly humor and some colorful characters to this dark world of greed, jealousy, sex, and violence.  And for the most part, the result is a pretty entertaining movie to watch from start to finish.

The best thing about this film, by far, is Christian Bale's performance as conman Irving Rosenfeld.  Bale not only physically got into this role, but he is so believable as this sleazy yet charismatic conman who can even show his sensitive side once in a while.  Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper also play their parts really well, with Adams pulling off both a sly wit to her character and a classy British accent in certain scenes, and Cooper just overall having a good presence on screen and is just entertaining to watch to say the least.  Jeremy Renner was really good in the film, but he wasn't really as engaging or as entertaining as Bale or Cooper.  As for Jennifer Lawrence, I thought she was good in the film, but she was way too over the top in parts, and just seemed to be trying to steal every scene she was in.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it took me out of the film to an extent.  Michael Pena, Louis C.K., and one particular Oscar winner all make appearances in the film, and they are all good as well.  There are no bad performances in the film whatsoever, but I felt that it was Bale who really stole the show.

O. Russell definitely shows that he is a talented filmmaker by getting the best performances out of the actors he's working with, as well as being able to tell solid stories in general.  My one problem with his style of directing is that he love to zoom in on his actors a little more often than I'd prefer.  It's one thing to do a zoom in so it shows a character reacting to something that makes a huge impact on the plot.  However, when he does it once every 15 or so minutes just for the hell of it, then it aggravates me.  I'm most likely in the minority on this opinion, but this is merely a nitpick in an otherwise fun flick.  Plus the script that Russell co-wrote with Eric Warren Singer is fresh, clever, and often very funny.

While this film isn't remotely along the lines of O. Russell's previous movie "Silver Linings Playbook," "American Hustle" plays out like a solid caper that drags on a little bit, but is overall a lot of fun to watch.  The acting is great, particularly from Christian Bale and Amy Adams who really get lost in these crazy roles.  The direction from David O. Russell might be repetitive with its zoom in shots, but overall he gives the film a very rich look and feel to it and makes you believe that you are indeed in the 70s.  And the script that Russell co-wrote helps out with that 70s vibe as well.  While it might not be the best movie of 2013, "American Hustle" is still worth your time and is a very entertaining caper flick.






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Lone Survivor

Sabotage

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

Million Dollar Arm

Endless Love

Robocop

The Other Woman

The Monuments Men





Saturday, December 28, 2013

REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3D

MOVIE
The Hobbit:
The Desolation of Smaug

CAST
Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 13, 2013

DIRECTOR
Peter Jackson

STUDIO(S)
Warner Bros. Pictures,
New Line Cinema
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 41 minutes







STARS
***1/4







REVIEW:

Last year, director Peter Jackson brought the "Lord of the Rings" series back to theaters with the first of three prequels "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."  Next year we'll be getting the bridge between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" with "There and Back Again," so this year we've been given the second film in this new trilogy, "The Desolation of Smaug."  We begin where we left off at the end of the previous film, with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the rest of their company continuing their quest to the mountain that is the home for the vicious dragon known as Smaug.  Along the way, they encounter elves, orcs, and other magical beings, and this is all pretty much dragged out into a nearly 3 hour long film.  While that may sound like a bad thing, it really isn't.  In fact, I had a lot of fun with "Smaug," though probably not for the reasons one would expect.

It's one thing to make jokes during a film, but to make fun of an entire movie with one of your best friends, who happens to be a huge "Lord of the Rings" fan, is really something.  My buddy and I were making fun of this film non-stop and were constantly pointing out how implausible certain things in the film were.  This isn't taking away from the film at all, because looking back at it, I might not have given the film the proper attention it deserved.  To be fair, though, I don't think scenes involving characters fighting in barrels are supposed to be taken seriously in the first place, so go figure.  However, just because my viewing experience wasn't the best way to see this film for the first time doesn't mean that the film itself is flawless.

The fact that Peter Jackson decided to take "The Hobbit," a 200+ page book, and expand then into three 3 hour movies to me is completely ridiculous.  Having not read the book, I just wonder if everything in these films, which most of it apparently comes from other things J.R.R. Tolken wrote regarding this universe, was really necessary to put in.  You have subplots about elves and dwarves romancing each other, as well as Gandalf doing his own thing away from Bilbo and the others.  And yet, the main story of Bilbo on his quest to kill the dragon Smaug is kind of put to the sidelines and becomes the subplot in its own film.  And to make matters worse, the film ends on a cliffhanger to what is supposedly the finale of "The Hobbit" book.

After over 2 and a half hours of subplots, filler, and a 30 minute segment with a talking dragon, we don't even get the finale of the damn book.  If Peter Jackson had done what he promised and made "The Hobbit" into two movies, then have "There and Back Again" be the bridge in between "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," then I think it would have paid off in the end.  But now, the last 30 or so minutes of the next film, like "Return of the King," is just going to be multiple endings that somewhat lead into the series we all know and love.  In my opinion, this is truly a shame and a letdown to fans of the book and even fans of solely the movies, because they could have easily wrapped things up here and have the next film be a 2 hour bridge between each series.  Having said that, there are actually good things present in this film despite not seeming like it at first.

The action, for the most part, is great to watch. Every scene, no matter how ridiculous it's executed, is done very well and are overall a lot of fun to experience. The visual effects are a marvel to behold, with all of the digital sets and particular characters, especially Smaug, look absolutely amazing. Even the makeup on certain characters and creatures look realistic and so good. They might not look as astounding as Gollum, but they are still technically impressive and a sight to really admire.  The acting in the film is also really good, with Martin Freeman's portrayal of Bilbo becoming ever so better than in the last film.  Benedict Cumberbatch voices Smaug the Dragon, and he too is fantastic in the movie.  Man, this guy can play villains really well, with Khan in "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and now this.  Nobody really shines in this film per say, but everyone does a great job.  As for the 3D in this film, it's pretty much a gimmick now, so only see this film in 3D if you really want to.  Otherwise, what's the point?

While "The Desolation of Smaug" is a lot more entertaining than "An Unexpected Journey," it's not necessarily a better film by any means.  This movie to me is a lot easier to make fun of, plus most of it felt a lot like pure filler throughout most of it.  "An Unexpected Journey" might be the slower of the two, but it's successfully able to balance the filter and the adventure of the film with some intense sequences, fantastic visuals, and a better told story I must say.  Plus, that film had an ending that's really satisfactory, while this film's ending just felt like a cop out, to some extent.  Nevertheless, Peter Jackson has made an entertaining enough movie that is good, but nothing spectacular, enough to recommend.  If there is one great side to this film, I will say that it did make me excited for the final installment coming out next year, and that's from someone who isn't even that big of a fan of the "Lord of the Rings" series to begin with.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Divergent

Jupiter Ascending

Edge of Tomorrow

Maleficent

How To Train Your Dragon 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

300: Rise of an Empire




Friday, December 27, 2013

REWIND REVIEW: One Direction: This Is Us

MOVIE
One Direction: This Is Us

CAST
One Direction

RATING
PG

RELEASE
August 30, 2013

DIRECTOR
Morgan Spurlock

STUDIO
TriStar Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 32 minutes







STARS
***








REVIEW:

Every concert documentary is the same: several musical sequences, usually shot in 3D because why not, fans screaming about their undying love for either the singer or band, and the focus or focuses of the film talking about their lives and how they're just normal people like everyone.  "One Direction: This Is Us" does not break that tradition of filmmaking, but that doesn't mean that the formula doesn't work still.  Director Morgan Spurlock is able to make us, the audience, appreciate these five men a lot more than we did prior to have seeing the film.  Most go to see their favorite member in the band, whereas I go for an interesting look in these guys lives.  And frankly, that's exactly what I got.  It's not the best concert film that's ever been put out there, but it is an enjoyable hour and a half to say the least, and for that I'd recommend checking it out if there's nothing else left for you to watch this year.  It might not make you a fan of their music, but I think it will make you respect these guys quite a bit.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

REVIEW: August: Osage County

MOVIE
August: Osage County

CAST
Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts

RATING
R

RELEASE
December 27, 2013 (NY/LA)
January 10, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
John Wells

STUDIO
The Weinstein Company

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 1 minute







STARS
***1/2











REVIEW:

Every member in a family is different in their own unique way, and they all react to dark situations such as death in very different, strange, and even hilarious ways.  "August: Osage County" not only allows us to laugh and be shocked at this crazy family, but it also shows how much better many have it.  Seriously, if you thought your family was crazy, then you may want to think again once you've seen this film.  Not only is "August: Osage County" a darkly funny, uncomfortable, and odd film, but it also helps to let others appreciate their families even more than they previously did.  Not to mention, it's an strangely entertaining 2 hour peak into the life of one hell of a dysfunctional family.

Whenever Meryl Streep is in a movie, you know she's going to be amazing, so much so that it's almost a joke now.  With "August," Ms. Streep goes full method here and brings, once again, another performance that is simply brilliant and incredible to watch.  Another incredible performance comes from Julia Roberts, whose portrayal of a woman who wants to get everything right and try to set her mom straight is quite riveting I must say.  She may be a little over the top at times, but Roberts kills it in every single scene she's in, and I'd argue that it's one of the best performances she's ever given.  Hell, all of the performances are fantastic in the movie, but since I feel that Streep and Roberts stole the show, they were the only ones I really wanted to talk about.

If there were any big complaints to be had with this film, I'd have to say that there were a few too many scenes that were a little too ridiculous to be taken seriously.  I mean, I get that this family was supposed to be crazy and out of control, but there were moments that seemed to go off the rails and just get so out there that it took me out as well.  Also, the film dragged on a little bit at points.  It's kind of expected from a film that's mostly just to be seen for the performances, but still, the body gets antsy when a film makes you feel its length.  These are really just small problems presented here, because the rest of the film is pretty great if you ask me.

"August: Osage County" is a fascinating movie to watch for the performances alone.  Without these performances being as good as they are, the film would pretty much be a waste of time.  There are themes in this film that would be deemed "controversial" by some, so if you're not a fan of themes of incest, rape, and pedophilia, then chances are this isn't the film for you.  However if you can get past all of that, then you are in for one hell of an interesting 2 hour study of one crazy family.  Every actor is so believable in their roles, and they all play off each other really well.  It's ironic that this film is being released around Christmastime because of how families get together for dinners and such.  If you ever thought that your family was crazy and insane, then wait until you get ahold of the people in "August: Osage County."  Not only will it make your family look subtle in behavior, but it will also make you appreciate the people around you a lot more than you did prior to seeing the movie.  Plus if you see this movie with members of your family, then I can guarantee an interesting conversation between you and your loved ones on the ride home.





Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

MOVIE
Mandela:
Long Walk To Freedom

CAST
Idris Elba, Naomie Harris

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 29, 2013 (NY/LA)
December 25, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
Justin Chadwick

STUDIO
The Weinstein Company

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 27 minutes








STARS
***








REVIEW:

It seems to me that this is THE year for films about anti-slavery, anti-racism, and all types of freedoms that African Americans have been granted over the past century.  That's not supposed to sound like a bad thing, as "42" and "12 Years a Slave" are among some of my favorite movies of 2013.  However, the difference between those films and the potential Oscar bait that is "Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom" is the way they're executed.  Where "42" and "12 Years" tell their stories flowingly and with a way to let the characters explore the characters portrayed on screen, "Mandela" merely is just a window into the life of a man who has been loved by people all around the world for several decades.

Idris Elba and Naomie Harris deliver fantastic performances as Nelson and Winnie Mandela, respectively, both emulating the emotion and power that these two figures possessed.  Normally I'd go on to praise more things in this type of film, but unfortunately the two leads are the only things I can praise about this movie.  The film itself isn't awful, as it has solid direction and tells the story just right.  Movies that are 2 and a half hours should not feel long and dull, but this one sadly does.  There are scenes in here that just feel like they're forcibly tugging at the heart strings while screaming "Feel sad" at the same time.  The movie overall is a decent watch, but it's nothing spectacular, nor the Oscar contender that executive producer Harvey Weinstein was hoping for.  It's truly a shame, because the life of Nelson Mandela could have been portrayed so much more fluently and to the core rather than dragged out and boring to watch at times.




Monday, December 23, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Lone Survivor

MOVIE
Lone Survivor

CAST
Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster

RATING
R

RELEASE
December 25, 2013 (NY/LA)
January 10, 2014 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
Peter Berg

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 1 minute








STARS
****










REVIEW:

It seems that every decade has that one war movie that could stand the test of time and become a classic among cinema-goers.  The 80s brought us Oliver Stone's "Platoon," the 90s brought us Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," the 2000s brought us Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down," and now the 2010's have brought to the table "Lone Survivor," a film starring/produced by Mark Wahlberg that tells the heartbreakingly true story of a group of Navy SEAL Team's mission to kill a Taliban leader becoming a quest for survival after a chance encounter with a group of Taliban sheep herders.  The movie tells you right off the bat that Mark Wahlberg's character, Marcus Luttrell, is the only one who will survive the fatal mission.  However, the film is more about the journey that Luttrell and his "brothers" go on in order to attempt to survive.  And what is presented over the next two hours is intense, hard to watch, and incredibly emotional.  "Lone Survivor" is either one of the last great movies in 2013 or the first great movie you'll see in 2014, depending on when the film hits your town.

A film like this wouldn't have worked well without its cast being devoted to their roles and literally become their characters.  The chemistry between Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch is amazing to watch unfold, as they not only act like best friends, but they fight as if they were each a mother lioness protecting her cubs from impending danger.  Not to mention, their performances alone are fantastic.  Wahlberg gives possibly the best performance I've seen him do, as he makes the audience believe that he has truly become this tragic character.  Every scene with him is captivating and emotional, and even kind of sweet during the first half hour or so.  Character actor Ben Foster also dominates it in the film, so much so that he's able to emulate a man who would not go down without a fight despite his face being gashed open.  Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch also give fantastic performances, both showing their cocky sides and their humorous sides.  Hell, all of the performances in this film are fantastic, but these 4 successfully manage to hold the film together and make the film theirs.

Director Peter Berg apparently had to direct "Battleship" for Universal in oder to get financial backup for this movie, and after seeing the film, that was most definitely the right sacrifice to give.  Not only is he able to effectively capture the harsh and realistic brutality of war in a stylish and gritty matter, but he also manages to tell an incredible story with characters whom we care for and don't want to meet their fatal demises.  I honestly can't think of a single flaw present in this movie, and I could see this becoming a classic amongst other war films out there.  The acting is stellar, the cinematography is gorgeous and gritty at the same time, and Peter Berg brings this incredibly tragic true story to the big screen in tremendous fashion.  Plus, when a film manages to make you respect the brave men fighting for this country day after day even more than you had before, you know you saw something good.  "Lone Survivor" overall is dark, gritty, emotional, and one of the year's best movies.






Sunday, December 22, 2013

REVIEW: 12 Years A Slave

MOVIE
12 Years a Slave

CAST
Chitwel Ejiofor,
Michael Fassbender

RATING
R

RELEASE
October 18, 2013 (NY/LA)
November 1, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
Steve McQueen

STUDIO
Fox Searchlight Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 14 minutes






STARS
****










REVIEW:

It's been less than a year since Quentin Tarantino unchained "Django" to the general masses.  The response to it, other than Spike Lee's outlash, was overwhelmingly positive.  This helped the darkly comedic action thriller about one newly freed slave's journey to rescue his enslaved wife receive many nominations in the awards circuit, as well as a Best Supporting Actor win for Christoph Waltz.  Back in October, acclaimed director Steve McQueen released a movie about slavery that accurately depicts it to the core, so much so that it's often a hard film to sit through.  That film, of course, is "12 Years a Slave," and if you haven't seen it yet, you owe yourself to go to the nearest theater and endure the pain and hardship that Solomon Northup went through when he was sold into slavery in 1841.

The irony of the movie is in the fact that the cinematography, done by Sean Bobbitt, looks incredible, and yet the subject matter and the imagery presenting the brutality of slavery make the movie itself hard to watch at times.  I give credit to Steve McQueen for not only showing us arguably the most accurate representation of slavery ever put on film, but also making us feel and understand exactly what Solomon Northup went through.  When Solomon was hung by the neck with just a bit of muddy ground below him enough so he could stand on his toes and prevent himself from dying, we felt Solomon's pain and how slowly time went for him as he was on that noose for an entire day with no help from others.  What impresses me even more is how far many of the actors went in order to either portray themselves as vicious, desperate, evil, or in absolute pain.

Chitwel Ejiofor has always been one of those great character actors who you'd see in a film and recognize, but not be able to recall his name.  With the character of Solomon Northup, Ejiofer has finally been able to prove himself as a truly gifted actor who can take this persona and make it his.  Every scene with Solomon was heartbreaking and powerful, and that is mainly because of Ejiofer's powerhouse performance.  Equally as great in the film is Michael Fassbender, who portrays vicious slave owner Edwin Epps.

Every single time this man came on screen, chills went down my spine and my heart started pumping because you never know what he's going to do next.  There is one particular scene with Epps approaching Solomon about a letter he supposedly wrote that I would argue as being the most suspenseful scene in any movie this year.  Both men show how insanely talented they are, and I feel that both are the obvious scene stealers whenever they're on screen.  The rest of the cast, including small performances from Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Lupita Nyong'o, wrere all all fantastic, I just felt that Fassbender and Ejiofer made the movie theirs, and together share some of the most heart-wrenching scenes put on film in 2013.

I understand that I'm probably the last person to the table when it comes to seeing this film.  Seeing another person love the film is possibly wasting your time, as there are many other films coming out to end the year in style.  Having said that, I fell that, if you haven't seen this movie yet, then you must, and I mean MUST, put it at the top of your must-see list for the rest of 2013 depending on whether or not it's still playing near you.  Chitwel Ejiofer gives quite possibly the performance of his career in this film, and Michael Fassbender overall makes a friggin' fantastic villain.  The direction from Steve McQueen allows the audience to go deep into the harsh reality and grittiness of slavery back in the 1800's.  This might not be one of the easiest movies to watch, but it is something that I could see history teachers showing their students in the not-so-distant suture.  "12 Years a Slave" is one of the most emotional, gritty, and best movies I've seen all year, and I am so happy that it was worth the wait.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Saving Mr Banks

American Hustle

Belle

The Grand Budapest Hotel







Friday, December 20, 2013

REWIND REVIEW: Paradise

MOVIE
Paradise

CAST
Julianne Hough, Russell Brand

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
October 18, 2013

DIRECTOR
Diablo Cody

STUDIO
Image Entertainment

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 26 minutes









STARS
**1/2










REVIEW:

It's a shame that the directorial debut of acclaimed screenwriter Diablo Cody just ends up resulting in a film that's decent, but overall mediocre.  "Paradise" boasts a pretty impressive cast for a film from a first time director, including raunchy comedian Russell Brand and Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spencer.  In fact, the acting in itself is actually pretty good, and even Cody directs the film very well.  Ironically enough, the problem with the movie is in the script.  The reason for this is because the film is trying to be edgy and offensive while having a good heart, where in the end it is just an offensive and preachy movie that gets tiring to watch after a while.  There are definitely worse movies out there, but considering the talent behind this project, "Paradise" is a fairly large disappointment and something that overall isn't worth checking out.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Frozen 3D

MOVIE
Frozen

CAST
Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel

RATING
PG

RELEASE
November 27, 2013

DIRECTOR(S)
Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

STUDIO
Disney

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 48 minutes






STARS
***1/2





REVIEW:

From the moment the Disney logo first beamed onto the screen to the tune of humming work men at the beginning of this film, I knew that there was something magical about "Frozen" already.  Fast forward 100 minutes, and I walked out of the theater at the end of the film to discover that it had snowed 5 inches since I stepped into the theater and put on my 3D glasses.  Either it was a perfect coincidence, or the film actually possessed the type of powers that only Disney movies could have.  I fell in love with this movie about 10 minutes when a younger version of the protagonist begins to sing a sweet yet sad song called "Do You Want To Build A Snowman?" to her sister who has shut her out for reasons I won't go into here.  If you have kids, then you know you're probably going to have to see this movie anyway.  However, you may be surprised at how good the film is for both kids and adults.  Not only are the songs catchy and the characters lively and funny, but the message of the film and the morals about sibling issues are relatable and can teach kids to get along with their brothers and/or sisters.

The animation is gorgeous and incredibly stunning to watch, even in 3D.  The characters are likable and charming enough where we actually care about what their outcome is going to be.  The script has its flaws, but they're made up for the great songs and the message of how one shouldn't convince themselves that they're in love with someone after only a day of knowing them.  I didn't enjoy "Frozen" as much as I enjoyed "Tangled" or "The Princess and the Frog," but I still had a great time with the film, and for a movie that's nearly 2 hours, the time really goes by.  Since there aren't really any other kids movies out there right now for the holidays, this is most likely your only theater option when Christmas comes.  Luckily, the film is just as entertaining for kids as it is for adults, and it is overall worth checking out.




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Muppets Most Wanted

The Boxtrolls

The Wind Rises

The Lego Movie

Walking With Dinosaurs

Maleficent





Tuesday, December 17, 2013

REWIND REVIEW: After Earth

MOVIE
After Earth

CAST
Jaden Smith, Will Smith

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
May 31, 2013

DIRECTOR
M. Night Shyamalan

STUDIO
Columbia Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 41 minutes







STARS
**1/2









REVIEW:

People have given so much hate towards director M. Night Shyamalan due to his most recent critical failures "Lady in the Water," "The Happening," and, of course, "The Last Airbender."  Personally, I just think that he's a talented filmmaker who has lost his touch and needs that one good movie to bring him back on top.  Unfortunately, "After Earth" is not that movie.  I mean, it's not as horrible as most critics have said, but it is far from a good movie.  There are so many unintentionally hilarious moments present here that it gives "The Happening" a run for its money.  The acting from Will and Jaden Smith is incredibly wooden and unbelievable, yet so fun to watch because of how bad the performances are.

The script itself has elements that are clever and interesting, but unfortunately they're shadowed by the mediocre CGI, wooden acting, and hilarious dialogue.  If you want to laugh ridiculously hard at a bad movie with a bunch of friends on a Saturday night, then consider "After Earth" to be your comedy for the night.  Shyamalan, I personally believe that you are a talented filmmaker, but you have got to find a good script to direct and stop writing scripts, because the way you write dialogue is sadly atrocious if you're trying to make a serious and good film.



Monday, December 16, 2013

REVIEW: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

MOVIE
Anchorman 2:
The Legend Continues

CAST
Will Ferrell, Steve Carell,
Paul Rudd, David Koechner

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 18, 2013

DIRECTOR
Adam McKay

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 59 minutes






STARS
***1/4









REVIEW:

Ok, let's be honest here: the long awaited sequel to the Will Ferrell classic "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" is kind of a big deal.  It's been nearly a decade since the first one came out, and it has grown to be a movie that many quote, praise, and laud as one of their all time favorite comedies.  So, of course, screenwriters Adam McKay and Will Ferrell had to live up to a lot if they at least wanted to make a good and funny sequel.  And for the most part, they did exactly that: made a good and funny sequel.  Having said that, it could have been a lot better and a lot funnier than it actually was.  If you were hoping this movie would live up to or even exceed the original, I hate to break it to you, it doesn't.  As it's own movie, though, it is solid enough and funny enough to be recommended, especially if you're able to see it with a huge audience.

Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone are now living happily co-anchoring the news in New York City.  However, Ron got himself fired from the job due to frequent mishaps on set, so the boss of their news company also decides to promote Veronica to lead anchor.  This doesn't go well between the two, so Ron leaves.  Just as he's on the verge of killing himself and his dreams, fate comes knocking on his door and gives him the opportunity to be apart of the nation's first ever 24 hour news network, called the Global News Network.  Bringing his news team along for the adventure, Ron goes to work for the Global News Network in order to possibly change the news game as they knew it.

The biggest problem that this film possesses is the fact that it's trying to be the bigger and better sequel that audiences wanted to see.  McKay and Ferrell seem like they are trying way too hard to throw in random phrases of dialogue or people getting physically hurt in some matter to get a chuckle out of its audience members.  To be fair, though, they do succeed at telling some pretty hilarious jokes that are scattered throughout the film.  For example, something happens to our hero Ron about half way through the movie that is so stupid and out of place that you can't help but laugh.  The sequence I felt got a lot funnier when Ron adopts a pet and raises it back to health after it was injured.  Ferrell even manages to sing a song about this pet that I found to be one of the funniest moments in a comedy this year thus far.  As a whole though, the movie is funny for the most part, but I feel the jokes should have been much smarter and less juvenile.

I give props to McKay and Ferrell for assembling a vast majority of the cast back from the first film, making it seem like time hasn't gone by much.  Some roles are reduced to either cameos or relatively small parts, but nevertheless this movie has many of the characters we've known and loved back for seconds.  And, just like the first movie, all of them are funny in their own way.  Ferrell and Carell steal the show as they did in the first movie, and they share some of the funniest moments in the movie.  Paul Rudd and David Koechner, while funny in the movie, are reduced in screen time and aren't in the movie as much as they were in the first one.

The magic of the first film lied in the chemistry between the four leads in my opinion, so the lack of two band members through the majority of the movie just lost something for me.  However, I will give the film credit for giving Brick a love interest, played superbly by Kristen Wiig.  It's not even that anyone was bad in the movie.  For example, Dylan Baker and James Marsden are great in the movie, as well as Meagen Good, who plays Ron's love interest during the film's first half.  I just personally felt that certain characters could have been in it either more or less than others.  Yes, this even includes Ron Burgundy being in the film a bit too much.  Nevertheless, the cast is great in the movie, and the cameos during the film's big climactic fight scene are both hilarious and flat out awesome sights to behold.

I saw this movie about two weeks ago and at first was not a huge huge fan of it.  I did like it, but it just let me down and wasn't the movie I expected an "Anchorman" sequel to be.  As these weeks have passed, though, I have begun to remember some very funny moments in the movie and wonder why I was so harsh on it upon first viewing.  This might not be the year's funniest comedy by any means, but like "This Is The End" and "Ted" before it, this film gets better once you let it sink it and let your body digest it a little bit.  The cast is hilarious in the film, the script and story are absolutely absurd in the best of ways, and I personally feel that the film does a much better job at being a solid sequel to a hilarious comedy than films like "Wayne's World 2" and "The Hangover Part II" did when they came out.  So if you want to see an absurd yet highly entertaining sequel to one of the century's funniest cult comedies, then you might want to stay classy, because Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team are back again and they want your sweet love and money.  And believe me, it's worth the ticket price.




Friday, December 13, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Nebraska

MOVIE
Nebraska

CAST
Bruce Dern, Will Forte

RATING
R

RELEASE
November 15, 2013 (NY/LA)
November 22, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
Alexander Payne

STUDIO
Paramount Vantage

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 55 minutes






STARS
****











REVIEW:

It's movies like this that are simply satisfactory throughout its running time.  "Nebraska" is the latest directorial effort from Alexander Payne, whose last film "The Descendants" went on to get multiple Oscar nominations in the 2011/2012 awards season.  It stars Bruce Dern as Woody Grant, a delusional, alcohol obsessed old man who has convinced himself that a sweepstakes letter he received in the mail telling him that he won a million dollars is in fact legit.  Everyone around him knows that it's just a scam, but Woody's son David thinks that taking his father to claim his prize, which is supposedly located in Lincoln, Nebraska, can help his father live life just one more time, as well as spending some time with his son.  While the plot of that movie might not sound incredibly riveting, the movie itself is pretty damn amazing.

The acting is superb, particularly from Bruce Dern and June Squibb.  Both actors hit their parts dead on and bring lots of humor and heart into their characters.  The script is also quite fantastic, as it knows when to be funny and dry, which it is for about 80% of the film, and when to get serious/tug at the heartstrings a little.  What made me appreciate this movie so much was the ending, in which it might not be the happiest ending you'll ever see, but goddamnit, it's so satisfying and ends the film perfectly.  Director Alexander Payne has made a movie with likable characters, a story that could actually happen in one's lifetime, and a script filled with loads of dry humor and some effective dramatic moments.  "Nebraska" is not only one of the year's best movies, but it's also a movie that I feel that people of young and old could really enjoy, as well as somewhat relate to at times.









PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Out of the Furnace

The Wolf of Wall Street



Monday, December 9, 2013

REVIEW: Saving Mr. Banks

MOVIE
Saving Mr. Banks

CAST
Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 13, 2013 (LIMITED)
December 20, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR
John Lee Hancock

STUDIO
Disney

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 5 minutes






STARS
***3/4








REVIEW:

As Peter Pan said to the Darling children before whisking them away to Never Land in the 1953 Disney classic "Peter Pan," all you need to fly is "faith, trust, and pixie dust."  In the case of "Saving Mr. Banks," the new film about Walt Disney's quest to bring P.L. Travers' beloved book "Mary Poppins" to the silver screen, the way Disney and Travers saw each other's visions never had the same type of "pixie dust" where they could come to an agreement.  Disney had his "pixie dust" in the form of musical numbers, animated penguins, and Dick Van Dyke.  Travers, on the other hand, was never quite keen on what she wanted to see on the big screen because she only saw Disney as a Hollywood hack with an adorable mouse at his side.  The conflicts between the two, along with some incredibly heartfelt moments and superb performances from Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Colin Farrell, make up the two hour-plus running time of this movie, and yet the movie never drags.  Rather, it keeps the audience invested, as well as give them some watery eyes at certain moments.

Throughout the first half hour, the character of P.L. Travers is played out to be an uptight and unlikable person who practically says "no no no" in every scene.  This personally was a problem for me at first because there was nothing likable or redeeming about this character whatsoever and she just played out like a strict British lady.  Inter-spliced with her storyline throughout the film is a series of flashbacks featuring Colin Farrell as Travers' father, who is played out to be the exact opposite of her, which I loved.  Somewhere in the 30-45 minute mark of the film, both characters, in a way, end up at a meeting point that turns the film from silly and whimsical to dark and powerful.  In fact, everything after the half hour mark explains exactly WHY Travers is so picky towards an adaptation of a book that she holds so dearly to her life.  I give props to the film's screenwriters, Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, for giving the audience a reason to care for this supposedly terrible person, as well as telling a fascinating story with real emotion and a genuine sweetness to it.

Emma Thompson's performance is spot on here, in which she effectively captures this unlikable character in every aspect imaginable.  At one moment, she can be an uptight bitch who just can't handle the "magic" of Disney and his ever-growing empire.  Then in another moment, she can be a person who you can understand and somewhat relate to in the sense that you know where she's coming from when she does and says certain things.  I feel that's why the movie works so much, because every nasty character should have something rather likable about them.  Thompson pulls that off effortlessly, and therefore the praise towards her performance is granted.

Tom Hanks is having one hell of a year, I must say.  This film and "Captain Phillips" both solidify that Hanks still has the talent that he possessed when he won the Academy Award for "Philadelphia."  His portrayal of the movie icon is practically dead on, and the audience is easily able to fall under the film's spell and lose themselves in the performances.  While his portrayal of Walt Disney was right on the money when it comes to emulating the filmmaker, I felt that Hanks' performance in "Captain Phillips" was better and more powerful in the sense that it didn't feel like acting there, whereas here you could tell that Hanks was playing a character.  However, I did like how at times it showed that Walt wasn't just a happy and joyous man, rather somebody who gets lost in his own business at times when trying to make something that he feels will be loved by audiences everywhere.  As great as Thompson and Hanks were, I personally felt that members of the supporting cast stole the show in the long run.

Personally, I feel that Colin Farrell is going to be over-looked come Awards season, because his portrayal of P.L. Travers' father is not only fantastic, but also heartbreaking to watch at the same time.  The minute Farrell first comes on screen, he is instantly a lovable and awesome character to watch, and you want nothing but the best outcome for him in the end.  In fact, it's the scene involving Travers' "downfall" that turned the movie around for me.  It's hard not to talk about his performance without spoiling what happens to him, so I'll leave it by saying that Colin Farrell gives the best performance in the movie by far, in my opinion.  Paul Giamatti and Jason Schwartzman also give great performances as Travers' sweet driver Ralph and Richard Sherman of the Sherman brothers, respectively.  Both characters are extremely likable and further show how talented both men are.  While Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks give great performances in the film, I feel that Giamatti, Schwartzman, and especially Farrell, stole the show.

It's nice to see a movie that on the outside looks formulaic and predictable, and in the end is actually a lot more powerful and emotional than one would expect from the trailers.  Major props go to screenwriting duo Sue Smith and Kelly Marcel for taking this untold story of the making of "Mary Poppins" and making it thematic and fascinating to watch.  John Lee Hancock, who directed Sandra Bullock to her first Oscar win in "The Blind Side," shows his true talents behind the camera and understands how to bring out the best in his actors.  "Saving Mr. Banks" surprised the hell out of me in the best ways possible.  While cheesy at the beginning and kind of slow throughout, this is a movie filled with spectacular performances, a solid script, and an overall sense of magic that is present throughout the 125 minute duration.  Definitely check this movie out this holiday season, but don't let the Disney name fool you, as this isn't the family movie that you might be led to believe it to be in the trailers.




Sunday, December 1, 2013

REVIEW: Inside Llewyn Davis

MOVIE
Inside Llewyn Davis

CAST
Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan

RATING
R

RELEASE
December 6, 2013 (NY/LA)
December 20, 2013 (WIDE)

DIRECTOR(S)
Joel & Ethan Coen

STUDIO
CBS Films

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 45 minutes






STARS
****







REVIEW:

Throughout life, there are those who we never give a second glance to, and there are those who rightfully keep popping up and making a significant impact on ourselves.  Throughout the new Coen Brothers film "Inside Llewyn Davis," the title character, played superbly by Oscar Isaac, comes across many different people who come and leave fairly fast and the character never gives them a second thought after they leave.  And believe it or not, that, aside from numerous musical numbers and tons of moving from place to place, is pretty much all that happens in the entire movie.  This film isn't told in a proper narrative, rather it simply shows a week in the difficult and disappointing life of struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis.  While the film is a slow burner for the most part, this snippet into Llewyn's life is a gloomy, darkly funny, and enchanting narrative that is a must see for music lovers, movie lovers, and Coen Brothers fans especially.

Ever since I saw "Sucker Punch," I've been a fan of Oscar Isaac and his ever growing catalog of filmography.  While he had other supporting roles in films like "Drive" and "Robin Hood," I was waiting for that one leading role that could put him on top.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is just that role I was looking for.  The character of Llewyn is a grim and devious person, and yet through all of his unlikable traits, you still feel pity for him when he's rejected by his colleagues and others he meets throughout the film.  And boy, does Isaac carry this film with heavy force.  Not only does he give a wonderful performance in the movie, but his singing voice is both haunting and enchanting, especially in the film's opening song and when he sings "Fare Thee Well (Dink's Song)" alone with his guitar alone on stage.  It's a very haunting, raw, and natural voice that paints the picture of a lost soul trapped in his own version of the apocalypse.  Almost as good as Isaac is Carey Mulligan, aka the only other person in the film that's given any type of character development.

Mulligan's character Jean, from the moment she first appears on screen, has an angry attitude towards Llewyn that never picks up at all.  The reason why she is mad at Llewyn I'd rather keep behind closed doors because I feel that not knowing why she's mad at him kind of adds to the fun in a sense.  Mulligan's portrayal is not only believable, but just simply entertaining because of her ever-growing anger towards him.  Plus, the song that she sings on stage with Justin Timberlake and Stark Sands is a beautiful one to listen to, and her voice only elevates the power of it.  As for the other supporting players in the film, they are all good, however they aren't in the movie that much to make a huge impact on the audience.  Believe it or not, there is a reason for that.

The whole movie doesn't play like the typical linear plot-driven story, rather it plays out exactly how life does: unpredictable and sometimes boring.  This snippet into Llewyn's life might not be the most entertaining of stories, but it is a fascinating exploration into the life of a man who just never seems to have his way.  For those who complain about the lack of screen time with John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, and others featured in the movie, I personally don't think they got the point on exactly WHY they're not in the movie so much.  The people who come and go into Llewyn's life for the most part don't make that much of an impact on him, therefore he doesn't give them a second thought.  The only two characters Llewyn even comes in contact with for more than 30% of the movie is Carey Mulligan's character and a cat that he reluctantly takes with him after both are locked out of an apartment that Llewyn was staying at for the night prior.  The reason for this is because they keep popping up into Llewyn's mind and life ever so often throughout this hectic week, and they both have something to do with him personally that I won't give away here.

I give props to Joel and Ethan Coen for telling this story in this fashion because in that, they give us more time to focus on this character's journey in life rather than a fully drawn out plot or situation that Llewyn could have come across.  They could have just had this movie be about Llewyn's journey with John Goodman and Garrett Hedlund's characters as they head to Chicago.  They could have made the whole film about the conflicts that Llewyn and Carey Mulligan's characters have throughout the week.  Instead, they let this awful week for Llewyn pass by in a slow, drawn out, and fascinating way, while at the same time stitching it together with beautiful music, a wicked sense of dark humor, and some fascinating characters whom never really are mentioned again once their time in the film comes to a close.

The producer of the soundtrack for this movie is T Bone Burnett, and what he does with the music in this movie is simply outstanding.  The songs in this film aren't there to merrily transition into another scene or symbolize what's going on in the story like what a "Glee" episode usually does.  Instead, the music in this film are a character on their own.  Each song in a way is a piece of Llewyn's soul being reflected in a harmonious tone, even when the song is insanely over the top like how the song "Please Mr. Kennedy" is.  Overall, each piece of music performed in this film is superb, and I'd argue that this movie may very well have the single best soundtrack I've heard all year.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" isn't a movie, rather it's an experience into the muck and soul of the Folk scene in the 1960s.  The acting is superb, the story is fascinating and bitter, and the script is both darkly funny and very sad to witness.  Everything about this movie just simply worked for me, and I give credit to Joel and Ethan Coen for giving moviegoers this unorthodox yet realistic view into the life of a miserable and slimy individual whom we happen to care for when he's at the bottom of his own pit of misery.  The film might be slow at times, and it might have characters who we're barely given enough time to get invested with, but isn't that how life is for the most part?  Whether you're a Coen Brothers fan, a music lover, or a movie lover, this film has something for everyone to enjoy, but some more than others.  Overall, I loved this movie, and I can't wait to see it once again and share this experience with other friends of mine.








Me with "Inside Llewyn Davis" star Oscar Isaac after a special Philadelphia advance screening of the film on November 6, 2013!!!!



Saturday, November 30, 2013

MINI-REVIEW: Thor: The Dark World 3D

MOVIE
Thor: The Dark World

CAST
Chris Hemsworth,
Natalie Portman

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
November 8, 2013

DIRECTOR
Alan Taylor

STUDIO
Marvel (Disney)

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 52 minutes




STARS
***1/4








REVIEW:

At long last, the return of everyone's favorite superhero, Thor!  Ok, let's be honest here: who here was on their knees begging for a sequel to 2011's "Thor?"  As much as I enjoyed the first one, I wasn't exactly clamoring for another one, even considering the curiosity that peaked to my head on where the other superheros would be after the events of "The Avengers."  Well, back in May we found out what Tony Stark/Iron Man was up to, and next year we find out what Steve Rogers/Captain America has been up to.  So for now, we have "Thor: The Dark World," which is a solid sequel, I must say.  It's not as good as "The Dark Knight" or "Iron Man 3," for example, but it is still a fun superhero flick that is worth checking out if you want to see the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In a way, it's the same movie as the original "Thor," meaning it has great visuals, decent humor, a ridiculous name for ridiculous and stupid villains, and a scene-stealing performance from Tom Hiddleston.  The film isn't exactly special on any account, but it is at least more entertaining and better in quality than "The Wolverine."  I admire Disney doing these types of movies as filler between the "Avengers" installments, because it gives these superheroes their moments to shine which they might not receive in the huge crossover flicks.  If you're looking to fill that gap that's in between "Iron Man 3" and next year's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," then this is probably the best way they could have done it.

I will say, though, that the villains of the film are incredibly stupid and unintentionally hilarious, and Sir Anthony Hopkins was pretty annoying at times.  Plus, the film was a bit slow at times, though that could have just been because I was really tired when I went to see the film.  Nevertheless, "Thor: The Dark World" is a satisfactory superhero flick that will really get you excited for the next Marvel movies coming out, and this is partially thanks to the insanely awesome mid-credits scene in the film.  However, it's not worth seeing in 3D, even if you get 5 minutes of "Captain America" footage preceding the movie.






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Robocop

47 Ronin

I, Frankenstein

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Captain America: The Winter Soldier