Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Most Wanted Man

Had this film come out a year ago, it would simply have been known as a decent but unremarkable film about a CIA spy group fighting the good fight in the war on terror.  Sadly though, it will be better remembered as the last Philip Seymour Hoffman led film.  (Fortunately, we'll still see him in a supporting role in the last two Hunger Games.)  Hoffman gives yet another fine performance as the disheveled head of a group of spies climbing up the terrorism ladder, using one informant to identify another.  Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, and Robin Wright co-star.  It's a reasonably good film with a reasonably good ending and reasonably good performances across the board.  But this "thriller" is hardly thrilling.  In fact it's pretty slow.  While it's decent, it's unfortunate that neither this one nor 'God's Pocket', Hoffman's two posthumous starring role films, were exceptional.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Phil Hoffman fans and those who appreciate a well acted, but slow CIA ops / war on terror film.  I'd probably wait for it to come to VOD.

Friday, July 25, 2014

In Theaters Now - 7/25/14

(new releases in green)

Boyhood      Grade: A+

I Origins      Grade: A

Chef      Grade: A

Edge of Tomorrow       Grade: A

Snowpiercer       Grade: A    (also available on VOD)

The Immigrant       Grade: A-

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes       Grade: A-

Lucy      Grade: A-

X-Men: Days of Future Past       Grade: B+

Life Itself        Grade: B+    (also available on VOD)

The Purge: Anarchy      Grade: B+

A Long Way Down       Grade: B+   (also available on VOD)

A Most Wanted Man      Grade: B+

Very Good Girls       Grade: B+   (also available on VOD)

Begin Again       Grade: B+

The Fault in Our Stars       Grade: B+

Obvious Child       Grade: B

Wish I Was Here       Grade: B-

Jersey Boys       Grade: B-

And So It Goes      Grade: C

Happy Christmas      Grade: C-   (also available on VOD)

Venus in Fur       Grade: C-    (also available on VOD)

Earth to Echo       Grade: D

Additional Films Not Reviewed:

22 Jump Street
Deliver Us From Evil
The Fluffy Movie
How to Train Your Dragon 2
My Man is a Loser
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sex Tape
Think Like a Man Too
Transformers: Age of Extinction

I Origins

On 12/31/13 I published a blog post entitled A Look Ahead at 2014 where I listed the films I was most looking forward to in 2014, and 'I Origins' was #1 on the list.  Why?  Director Mike Cahill caught my attention in 2011 with 'Another Earth', which was co-written by and starring Brit Marling who co-stars in this one as well.  Not because it was an amazing movie, but because it was an extremely interesting movie showcasing amazing potential.  I just had a feeling that his next film would be something special.  And when I heard it would be starring Michael Pitt and Brit Marling, and would be even further steeped in science, I knew this could be something great.  And I'm thrilled to say it does not disappoint at all.  I've actually seen it twice already, and surprisingly enjoyed it just as much if not more the second time.  The cast is perfect.  The acting is amazing.  The attention to detail is unmatched.  And it takes you on an unexpected ride from start to finish that will make you think and make you feel.  Just please don't watch any trailers or read any reviews.  Just go see it.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Unlike most summer fare, this is a movie for adults.  It's more Science than Science Fiction.  And if you're anything like me, it will take you by surprise, give you chills, and make you think about life in a different way.  Pair it with another brilliant but overlooked Brit Marling film called Sound of My Voice for an excellent double feature.


It's nice to be reminded every now and again that not all wide release movies are franchises that come from the Hollywood Assembly Line.  We've had a few so far this year.  'Edge of Tomorrow' was totally awesome, but no one went to see it because it wasn't a known property like a comic book character, toy, or video game.  'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' is every bit as good as its reputation.  (Sometimes even the general consensus gets it right!)  And now, thanks to legendary action director Luc Besson, we get an original and exciting film that takes you on a fun ride in directions you don't expect (assuming you haven't already seen the trailer.)  Both Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman are at the top of their games here.  This is the movie that Freeman's 'Transcendence' and Johansson's 'Under the Skin', both of which were boring misses, should have been.  Don't watch the trailers.  Don't read any (other) reviews.  Just go see it and enjoy.  Besson crams an awful lot into its short 89 minute runtime and it flies by.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Fans of Besson's films (The Professional, The Fifth Element, Ronin) will definitely appreciate the action.  And fans of science based action films like 'Limitless' will enjoy it for the storyline.  I enjoyed both aspects.

And So It Goes

Director Rob Reiner and writer Mark Andrus, both very accomplished in their own right, seem to have borrowed this romantic dramedy right from the Nancy Meyers playbook.  The recipe that has served her well with films like 'Something's Gotta Give' and 'It's Complicated' is the same.  Take two or three silver haired and talented movie stars, add in a generous amount of beautiful homes and enviable locations, force some chemistry that isn't really there, waste most of said talent with trite drama and comedy that falls flat ... and so it goes.  This mixture of family drama and geriatric romance is filled with every cliche in the Meyers book.  I actually even considered walking out in the first half because it was just too painful to watch Douglas and Keaton have to endure this.  The good news, however, is the second half is more palatable.

Grade: C

Who is this movie for?  There's just no reason to see this in the theater.  If you love Nancy Meyers' films and/or enjoyed 'Parental Guidance' with Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in 2012, then see it when it comes to Video on Demand.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


With over 100 years of films, it's extremely hard to do anything groundbreaking anymore.  But director Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight) has done it again with 'Boyhood'.  At face value it's just another coming of age film, spanning 12 years.  But what makes this one truly remarkable is that it was actually filmed over 12 years, with the actors returning to Galveston, Texas every year to make the next part of this epic film.  Featuring terrific performances by Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (Richard's daughter), this movie isn't just about life ... it IS life.  It's Terrence Malick's 'Tree of Life' minus the pretentiousness.  It's 'The Up Series' but fictional.  And at two hours and forty four minutes, making it the longest film I've seen all year, it's shocking that it's one of the few films of the year that not only did I never once look at my watch, but I actually wanted more afterward.  This is truly something special and will surely be remembered come awards season, in one way or another.  (My prediction is Richard Linklater will win Best Director and the film might snag a nomination for Best Picture.)

Grade: A+

Who is this movie for?  It's a must see for those who enjoy a good coming of age film, with no action, explosions, twists, or major surprises.  It's just plain life.  And truly captivating.