Friday, August 31, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 8/31/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Lawless', 'The Possession', and 'Celeste and Jesse Forever'. FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Dark Knight Rises       Grade: A+

Celeste and Jesse Forever      Grade: A

Ruby Sparks                        Grade: A-

Killer Joe                              Grade: A- 

Robot and Frank                Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Cosmopolis                          Grade: A-

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

The Odd Life of Timothy Green       Grade: B+

Premium Rush                 Grade: B

Hit and Run                     Grade: B


The Bourne Legacy          Grade: B

Lawless                             Grade: B

2 Days in New York         Grade: B

The Campaign                  Grade: B

To Rome with Love          Grade: B

Total Recall                       Grade: B

Hope Springs                    Grade: C+

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild         Grade: C

The Possession                      Grade: C

The Amazing Spider-Man     Grade: C-

Ice Age: Continental Drift     Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Sparkle                              Grade: D+

The Apparition                 Grade: D

Lawless


It's getting to that time of year when Oscar caliber films are released, and 'Lawless' certainly has the right look and feel to be one of them.  At least on the surface.  In this bloody conflict between corrupt law-men and a family of moonshiners during Prohibition, it's the cast that really does the shining.  Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, and Jessica Chastain clearly worked overtime to try and make their roles something unique.  But for some reason I can't understand, I just wasn't pulled in.  I certainly feel like I should have been.  It's a well made film for sure but, like another prohibition era tale, 'Boardwalk Empire', it just didn't command my attention at all times, as it should with everything it has going for it.  In short, it's good but not great.

Grade: B

The Possession


As I wrote last week for the sorry excuse for a movie, 'The Apparition', most horror movies suck.  They just do.  There's zero creativity that goes into them.  Even the titles 'The Apparition' and 'The Possession' are completely uninspired.  It's as if they're not even trying.  But I'll be fair and give 'The Possession' its due.  The cast is decent.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick are definitely watchable as the parents to relative newcomer Natasha Calis, who definitely has big screen presence as a child possessed by a demon.  The film is shot well and looks good.  And B-horror movie fans will unquestionably flock to any horror movie that Sam Raimi touches, even if he's just one of many producers.  But unfortunately there just isn't anything special about this possession/exorcism story that we haven't seen a dozen times already.  The best thing I can say about it is that it's better than 'The Apparition' and 'The Devil Inside' which came out earlier this year.  So if you're jonesing for a horror movie in theaters now, it's the best you have and it's OK.  But if you can hold off until September 18th, you're much better off getting 'The Cabin in the Woods' on DVD.

Grade: C

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cosmopolis


For most movies, by halfway through I've already graded the film and written the review in my head.  Surely my feelings can change by the end of the film, but they usually don't change all that much.  But every once in a while I see a movie where I'm not sure what to think.  Part of me thinks it's brilliant and part of me considers it an ambitious failure.  Last year I felt that way about 'Martha Marcy May Marlene', 'Tree of Life' and 'Melancholia'.  And movies like these I have a hard time grading without a second viewing.  (Ultimately, on my second viewing I loved 'Martha', liked 'Melancholia', and found 'Tree of Life' overrated.)  'Cosmopolis' is surely one of those films.  People who know me know that I make every effort to know as little about a movie going into it as I can.  That generally works in my favor.  But for this one, I wasn't mentally prepared.

'Cosmopolis' is more like a play than a film.  It takes place in only a few settings, and is extremely verbose, with every role a true actor's dream, consisting of one long monologue after another.  And the cast is perfect for what it is.  Robert Pattinson does a fine job as the lead, but it's the many mini-supporting roles that surround him that bring it to life.  Paul Giamatti, Sarah Gadon, Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche, and Jay Baruchel are among the familiar faces.  (And I can't help but think Philip Seymour Hoffman would have felt at home with a part here as well.)  But the film is sorely light on plot, and I found it quite hard to follow.  Many will surely hate this movie and find it a complete snooze fest.  (I could hear one man snoring away a few rows in front of me.)  Though, for me, this was a challenge I enjoyed and I look forward to seeing it again.  I'm not certain how to grade it yet, but I do commend writer/director David Cronenberg for creating something unique that requires your full attention in order to fully appreciate it.  For now, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that it's a true success and just went slightly over my head.

Grade: A-

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 8/24/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Premium Rush', 'Hit & Run', and 'The Apparition'.


FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Dark Knight Rises       Grade: A+

Celeste and Jesse Forever      Grade: A

Ruby Sparks                        Grade: A-

Killer Joe                              Grade: A- 

Robot and Frank                Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Cosmopolis                          Grade: A-

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

The Odd Life of Timothy Green       Grade: B+

Premium Rush                 Grade: B

Hit and Run                     Grade: B


The Bourne Legacy          Grade: B

2 Days in New York         Grade: B

The Campaign                  Grade: B

To Rome with Love          Grade: B

Total Recall                       Grade: B

Hope Springs                    Grade: C+

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild         Grade: C

The Watch                                Grade: C

The Amazing Spider-Man     Grade: C-

Ice Age: Continental Drift     Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Sparkle                              Grade: D+

The Apparition                 Grade: D

Robot and Frank

Frank Langella is one of those characters actors that never really got the recognition he deserved.  Those that knew him by name prior to 2008, probably knew him as Dracula.  In 2008 he reached greater recognition as Nixon in 'Frost/Nixon'.  To date, those are by far his best known roles (though I grew a particular fondness for him in 'The Ninth Gate' and more recently in 'Starting Out in the Evening'.  In any event, I'm a fan, and I'm happy to see that at the age of 75 he's having a renaissance with his career with several leading roles on the slate and a tell all autobiography released earlier this year.  And this particular film is a joy to watch.  Langella plays Frank, a cranky ex-jewel thief who has too much free time on his hands and nothing constructive to fill it with.  That is until he receives a robot helper from his son, played by James Marsden.  Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler co-star.  It's a really nice, light, likeable indie dramedy.  Though, with anyone else other than Langella in the lead it wouldn't be nearly as good.

Grade: A-

Premium Rush


Not everybody is right for a 9 to 5, suit and tie lifestyle.  Some folks can't be contained in a cubicle.  Some feel the need for speed.  Joseph Gordon Levitt stars as a bike messenger in New York City who risks life and limb every day for a modest salary solely because he loves the rush.  But one particular package he's engaged to deliver across town gets him mixed up with a whole lot of trouble.

It's always refreshing to see something I haven't seen before, and I can't say I've ever seen or thought much about bike messengers.  So this was new ground for me.  While it's a bit cheesy at times, it's also fast paced, (taking place in basically real time), relatively short, and backed by a fun rock soundtrack, all of which help to keep the energy high from start to finish.  And the cast is just right.  You get the strong feeling that Levitt is exactly the kind of guy who might be a bike messenger in real life if he weren't so lucky as to be an actor.  And antagonist Michael Shannon is always fun to watch. You may know him from 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'Revolutionary Road', but if you haven't seen him in 'Take Shelter' you're missing out.  That's essential Shannon.  But he's also pretty good here too.

Grade: B

Hit and Run

Real life couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard star in this action comedy road movie written and co-directed by Shepard.  She just got offered the job of her dreams, but he's not happy about it.  The problem is it's in Los Angeles and he's in the witness protection program and specifically avoiding L.A.  But love makes you do stupid things.

My opinion of this movie waxed and waned a bit throughout its 100 minutes.  On one hand, I do love Kristen Bell and kind of wish she was in every movie.  And you get the feeling that the quarrelsome yet loving 'Mad About You' relationship she has with Shepard on screen is probably pretty close to reality.  So the chemistry is definitely there.  Plus, the supporting cast is strong, including Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, and Kristen Chenoweth.  But every time I thought the film might approach the A range, a ridiculous scene with long passages of ridiculous dialogue would follow, assuring it shouldn't get anywhere close to an A.  I suspect lots of critics might pan it, but overall I enjoyed it.  It's a pretty smooth and pretty fun watch with a charismatic cast.

Grade: B

The Apparition


Is it just me or do most horror movies suck?  There's zero creativity that goes into most of them.  Hollywood seems to think that all they have to do is throw some creepy images on screen and add a few jolts here and there and we'll be satisfied.  Well guess what?  I'm not.  I need more than this all-too-standard haunted house/spirit-brought-back-from-the-dead schlock.  To say the cast is lackluster would be an understatement.  (I'm not sure what Tom Felton, 'Harry Potter's Draco Malfoy, was thinking following up such an important role with this.  He needs a new agent, stat!)  If you're a horror junkie then you'll probably get a few moments of enjoyment out of this one.  To me it was a big waste of time.

Grade: D

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 8/17/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green', 'Sparkle', and 'The Hunger Games'. FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Dark Knight Rises       Grade: A+

Celeste and Jesse Forever      Grade: A

Ruby Sparks                        Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Savages                                Grade: A-

Killer Joe                              Grade: A- 

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

The Odd Life of Timothy Green       Grade: B+

The Bourne Legacy          Grade: B

2 Days in New York         Grade: B

The Campaign                  Grade: B

To Rome with Love          Grade: B

Total Recall                       Grade: B

Hope Springs                    Grade: C+

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild         Grade: C

The Watch                                Grade: C

The Amazing Spider-Man     Grade: C-

Ice Age: Continental Drift     Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D+

Sparkle                              Grade: D+

Celeste and Jesse Forever


What do you do if you're beautiful, talented, and famous but still not getting the film roles you deserve?  If you're smart you write the script yourself, with a role tailor made for you.  And that's exactly what Rashida Jones has done here (at least with help from co-screenwriter Will McCormack).  We all know her from the small screen in two ensemble comedies, 'The Office' and 'Parks and Recreation'.  But here she proves she can do more than just support.  She lights up the screen as the leading lady, alongside Andy Samberg, playing lifelong best friends who can't quite make a marriage work.  Of course, the premise for this romantic dramedy is hardly original, but that just makes it all the more impressive for how enjoyable, comical, and heartfelt it is.  And it's not just Jones who should get the praise.  Everybody shines here.  Samberg more than makes up for his poor first post-SNL film outing, 'That's My Boy', alongside disaster-king Adam Sandler.  And the supporting cast includes Elijah Wood, Chris Messina, and Emma Roberts, all in top form.  And when all the performances in a film are top notch, I always give credit to the director, in this case Lee Toland Krieger.  Krieger made another little known film that impressed me, 'The Vicious Kind', which I saw at Sundance a few years ago.  So if you want to know what a good movie experience is like at Sundance without leaving your geographic region, and you like a good indie festival dramedy, then be sure not to miss this one.   And do yourself a favor and look for 'The Vicious Kind' on DVD.

Grade: A

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play a couple who, more than anything, want a child of their own.  Unfortunately it seems that's just not in the cards for them.  But if you truly want something and never give up, sometimes the impossible becomes possible.

It's refreshing to have a family film that isn't a ridiculous animated comedy, doesn't insult your intelligence, and isn't cookie cutter.  Like 'Big Fish' and 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', this one's original, well casted, and has just the right amount of magic realism.  Writer/Director Peter Hedges ('Pieces of April', 'Dan in Real Life') clearly knows how to make a technically solid movie and also get just the right performances, particularly from CJ Adams who plays 10 year old Timothy Green.  Adams is this year's Thomas Horn (the child prodigy from last year's 'Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close') and earnestly plays the child we all wish we had.  (Like with Horn, some audiences will undoubtedly be irked by him, but I thought he was great.)  If you've ever wanted something so badly but that seemed impossible then this movie may be an inspiration for you.

Grade: B+

Sparkle


Prior to my screening of 'Sparkle' a few things concerned me.  It's not good when an otherwise non-noteworthy film tries to capitalize on a highly publicized death.  When I would ask people if they were aware of the film, all they really knew about it was that it was Whitney Houston's last film.  (See how she's front and center on the poster, despite her role only being supporting?)  And, as my companion for the film astutely pointed out, the title is a little too close to 'Glitter', a universally panned vehicle for another pop star, Mariah Carey, which has the dishonor of being on IMDB's bottom 100 rated list.  At that point I settled in for what was likely to be a long two hours.  And unfortunately, it was just that.  At least for me.  There isn't anything particularly wrong with this movie about the tumultuous lives of three sisters in the 1960's trying to become successful Motown singers, but there really just anything about it worth seeing.  Unlike another all-African American cast film from earlier this year, 'Think Like A Man', where I wanted to spend more time with each of the characters, here I wasn't interested in any of them.  It was just a dull ride that you feel like you've ridden before already several times.  Unfortunately it's really just a poor man's 'Dreamgirls'.

Grade: D+

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Searching for Sugar Man


Documentaries are changing in an interesting way.  They're no longer just talking heads, biased views on politics, or preachings about the umpteen ways the world is coming to an end.  Some of them have the narrative stucture of a good mystery.  I saw one earlier this year called 'Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles' which was exactly that and quite good.  This particular doc, about an unknown American recording artist who unknowingly hit it big in South Africa, has gotten rave reviews at film festivals like Sundance and Tribeca and has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  But as always, I keep it real, and I never go along with the masses just to go along with the masses.  This is an interesting and hard to believe story for sure.  But, like another doc that got rave reviews this year, 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi', this is the kind of interesting story best learned in 30 minutes, at home, on TV.  It's relatively short at only 85 minutes, but I found myself struggling to stay interested.  So I can't recommend heading to the big screen for this one.  Just read about it on any number of sites that happily do spoilers.

Grade: C+

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Killer Joe


One of the problems with being a film critic and seeing so many movies is that you aren't always seeing them in the right frame of mind.  I rarely get to watch new releases when I feel like it.  I see them when they're screened, either for the press or at a film festival.  In the case of 'Killer Joe', I saw it almost a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival at 9:00 PM after three other films.  Not optimal.  My point is, sometimes I blow it.  And after giving this a second screening, it seems this is one of those times.  It's much better than I original gave it credit.

A son (Emile Hirsch) conspires with his father (Thomas Haden Church), his step-mom (Gina Gershon), and his younger sister (Juno Temple) to have his mom killed for the insurance money.  Basically this white trash family is as dysfunctional as it gets.  And then, enter Killer Joe (Matthew McConaughey).

Initially, aside from being too tired to appreciate it, I was extremely turned off by the gratuitous violence and gore.  Similar to 'Drive', the film gets exponentially and unnecessarily bloody as it goes along.  But unlike 'Drive', all of the performances here more than make up for it.  (All due respect to my man, Albert Brooks, who was damn good in 'Drive', aside.)  Everyone in the cast is tremendous, and McConaughey in particular delivers one of the most engaging performances of the year.  So, if you're a fan of 'Drive' and/or you like violent tales of dysfunctional white trash families and don't mind gratuitous violence and gore (i.e. you're a sick #@$% like me) then this one's right up your alley.  And trust me, you'll never look at KFC the same way again.

Grade: A-

Friday, August 10, 2012

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 8/10/12


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'The Bourne Legacy', 'The Campaign', and 'Hope Springs'. FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Dark Knight Rises       Grade: A+

Your Sister's Sister            Grade: A

Ruby Sparks                        Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Savages                                Grade: A-

Killer Joe                              Grade: A- 

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

The Bourne Legacy          Grade: B

The Campaign                  Grade: B

To Rome with Love          Grade: B

Total Recall                       Grade: B

Hope Springs                    Grade: C+

Searching for Sugar Man         Grade: C+

Beasts of the Southern Wild             Grade: C

The Watch                                Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

The Amazing Spider-Man     Grade: C-

Ice Age: Continental Drift     Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D+

The Bourne Legacy


After five whole years without a Bourne film, Hollywood decided it was time for a sequel.  But don't expect Matt Damon this time.  He opted out.  Instead the series has been 'bourne' again with Jeremy Renner in the lead, as another CIA experiment super spy on the lam.  And that's not all that's different.  This one is somewhat less action oriented and a bit more complex.  Of course, there are more than a few heart-pounding action sequences, so action buffs should still get their adrenaline flowing.  Just don't expect the wall-to-wall punching, shooting, and car chases of the original trilogy.  Personally I prefer that.  This one has a little more meat to it and feels more adult.  And though I'm surprised to say it, I think Renner might even be better than Damon, though like most of us, I really like Matt Damon as well.  I thought I was Renner-ed out (with his ubiquity in action franchises over the last 9 months, also including 'The Avengers' and 'Mission Impossible') but this is the best suited role he's had since his breakout performance in 'The Hurt Locker' and stand out role in 'The Town'.  Plus Rachel Weisz and Ed Norton, and a few cameos of supporting cast members from the original trilogy certainly don't hurt.  Some will surely like this less than the more mainstream originals, but I was pleasantly surprised, will award it a slightly higher grade, and look forward to the next one.

Original Bourne Trilogy: B-
Bourne Legacy: B

The Campaign


Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis go head to head in a campaign running for Congress, and of course, comedy ensues.  Ferrell play the incumbent, who generally runs unopposed.  Galifianakis plays a nerdy and effeminate local who gets pulled into the race by wealthy special interest tycoons, played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow (the Mortimer and Randolph of a new generation, so to speak).  And then the political debates and campaigning begins.  But who cares about the plot?  The real debates took place before the screening.  Would this Ferrifianakis vehicle be any good?  Would the comedy flow freely and heartily or fall flat?  Well I'm pleased to report that it's actually a fairly funny, fairly likeable, and fairly short film that makes for a fairly fun viewing.  It's no 'Ted', but if you're in the mood for some outrageous comedy, then check it out this weekend.

Grade: B

Hope Springs


Ordinarily I'm a big fan of movies targeted to mature adults.  (And yes, that is a euphemism for old folks.)  It's just refreshing to occasionally have a film with quality actors rather than good looking twenty-somethings with nice hair but nothing to say.  It was great to see a good movie like 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' featuring an all star cast of 'mature adults' become such a success at the box office earlier this year.  So without knowing anything about it, I was looking forward to this one, if only because of the cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell.  Based on the poster, I imagined this to be a Golden Years romance, perhaps similar to 'Last Chance Harvey' which featured Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.  But that's not really what you get here.  It's a lot less of a romance and a lot more uncomfortable couples therapy, as frustrated Streep tries to get disinterested husband Jones to fall in love with her all over again.  Sure there's a sprinkling of comedy here and there, but it's really more awkward than anything else, kind of like hearing your parents talk about their sex lives.  Of course, if that's your bag then you could do worse than spend two hours with such engaging and seasoned actors.  But given the choice, I'd recommend getting a room at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel instead.

Grade: C+

Friday, August 3, 2012

In Theaters Now

Looking to head to the theater this weekend, but don't know what to see?  Here are my grades at a glance:

(Newest releases are in green)

The Dark Knight Rises       Grade: A+

Your Sister's Sister            Grade: A

Ruby Sparks                        Grade: A-

Ted                                        Grade: A-

Brave                                    Grade: A-

Savages                                Grade: A- 

Marvel's The Avengers           Grade: A-

Safety Not Guaranteed       Grade: B+

The Intouchables               Grade: B+

People Like Us                  Grade: B+

To Rome with Love          Grade: B

Total Recall                       Grade: B

Beasts of the Southern Wild             Grade: C

The Watch                                Grade: C

Snow White and the Huntsman     Grade: C

Men in Black III                 Grade: C

The Amazing Spider-Man     Grade: C-

Ice Age: Continental Drift     Grade: C-

Moonrise Kingdom          Grade: D+

Madagascar 3                   Grade: D+

Ruby Sparks


It's always good to be reminded from time to time why I go to the movies and why I avoid trailers at all costs.  From the directors of 'Little Miss Sunshine' comes another great indie-type dramedy with a terrific ensemble cast including Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas.  Don't expect too many laughs though.  This one's slightly darker than 'Sunshine'.  But if you're a fan of quirky and original films like 'Stranger Than Fiction', you'll appreciate this one.  And if the combination of that cast with those directors and that reference doesn't get you pumped to see this film, then you're probably better off disregarding my reviews and just seeing Spider-Man.

Grade: A

Total Recall


Get ready for a surprise!  (One of many quotable lines from the original 1990 Schwarzenegger classic.)  This time Colin Farrell plays the lead, suffering bad dreams, who goes to a service called Rekall to implant the memory of an uber-vacation and then begins to question who he really is.  The basic storyline's the same as the original, though some significant tampering's been done that makes it less of a fun fantasy film.  (They don't even get their ass to Mars!  WTF?!?)  Don't expect the campy cheesiness and quotable lines we all grew to love from all those Ah-Nuld classics of the 80's and 90's.  This one's a lot darker and more serious in tone.  And that's fine too, I guess.  The action is intense and plentiful, as are the babes.  It's hard to find sexier than Sharon Stone in the early 90's, yet they've debatably matched it with Kate Beckinsale, who's quite the ass-kicker in this one.  Jessica Biel, however, is a giant step down from the 'sleazy and demure, athletic brunette', Rachel Ticotin, from the original.  The rest of the impressive supporting cast includes Brian Cranston and way-too-small-yet-stand-out parts for Bill Nighy and John Cho.  Overall it's a decent action movie but, ironically, this 'Total Recall' is less memorable than the original.

Original:  Grade: A
Remake: Grade: B