Friday, May 31, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 5/31/13


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'After Earth', 'Now You See Me', 'Star Trek into Darkness', and 'The Hangover Part III'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/category/233752/good-day

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now



(newest releases are in green):

Star Trek Into Darkness     Grade: A

Pain & Gain     Grade: A-

Mud     Grade: A-

Frances Ha    Grade: A-

The Hangover Part III    Grade: A-

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay     Grade: A-

Sightseers    Grade: B+

Iron Man 3     Grade: B+

The Iceman     Grade: B+

The Place Beyond the Pines     Grade: B+

Now You See Me    Grade: B+

The Big Wedding     Grade: B

Stories We Tell     Grade: B

After Earth    Grade: B-

Oblivion     Grade: B-

The Great Gatsby     Grade: C+

Love Is All You Need     Grade: C

42     Grade: C

Peeples     Grade: D+


Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Croods
Epic
Fast & Furious 6
Kon-Tiki
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's

What Maisie Knew

After Earth


After a three year hiatus, and a steep decade long decline in the quality of his filmmaking (reaching rock bottom with 'The Last Airbender' in 2010), M. Night Shyamalan is back in the director chair once again with yet another genre film.  And, like an overwhelming number of recent films and TV show plotlines, the apocalypse has come, Earth has been deserted, and the remainder of the human race now exists in outer space.  And now a General, played by Will Smith, and his son, played by real life son Jaden Smith, crash land on Earth and must survive against its many perils.

As I already mentioned, these post-alien-apocalypse Earth tales are way overdone these days, which is all the more reason you really need to create something special to make it memorable.  That's not the case here.  It's a pretty standard and predictable storyline.  And, while papa Smith has proven himself a watchable lead, spending 100 minutes with li'l Smith was a lot more pleasurable before he hit puberty.  Now, not so much.  I'm not so sure Jaden Smith has a future in the biz.  Nevertheless, once you get past the slow first half, it becomes a reasonably enjoyable sci-fi adventure.  And it's thankfully much better than 'The Last Airbender'.

Grade: B-

Now You See Me



I love films about magic.  (If you haven't seen both 'The Prestige' and 'The Illusionist', you should run, not walk to the video store.  Yes, yes, I know there aren't video stores anymore.  It's a figure of speech.)  And this particular film about a group of magicians who are brought together by a mysterious figure boasts an amazing cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Melanie Laurent.  Wow!  How could this film be anything but amazing?  And sure enough, it begins that way, captivating the audience as if you're at an actual magic show.  Unfortunately, it gradually gets more tedious and unbelievable all the way through until the final unremarkable reveals and unsatisfying ending.  Don't get me wrong, it's still an enjoyable film.  It just doesn't reach its potential.  And there are so many other better movies in theaters now, it's best to put this one on hold until it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Grade: B+

Stories We Tell



Filmmaker/Actress Sarah Polley ('Away from Her', 'Take This Waltz') turns the camera on herself in this documentary about her family.  Through a series of interviews, Polley unveils the kind of secrets that most families keep to themselves.  It's an interesting and slightly voyeuristic peek into other people's dirty laundry, but it's not exactly a fast paced thriller or nearly as good as its overrated reputation.

Grade: B-

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay


I love documentaries about remarkable people who have led really interesting lives, particularly those in the Entertainment industry.  And Ricky Jay is certainly one of those people.  Though, many won't know him by name, fans of magic and/or the films of David Mamet would surely recognize him.  (Personally I know him more from the latter than the former.)  Regardless, this doc, partially about the mentors and role models of Jay, and partially about the man himself, will be appreciable even to the uninitiated.  You get some history and archival footage of some of the greatest sleight-of-hand magicians performing some of their greatest acts.  You get interviews with Jay, and footage of and anecdotes about some of his greatest tricks.  (Some of which are so unbelievable it's downright creepy.)  And, most interesting to me, you get a little insight (though not nearly enough) into the upbringing and private life of a very private man whose first and foremost love has always been a deck of cards since he began practicing magic at the age of 5.  60 years later it still is.  As a man who has always been obsessed with his hobby, I feel a kinship and find him utterly fascinating.

Grade: A-

Love Is All You Need


Ever since 'Remington Steele' in the 80's, I've always been a big fan of Pierce Brosnan.  Arguably the coolest guy who ever lived, it's not hard to imagine him as James Bond.  But what always impresses me, is when Brosnan frequently departs from the blockbusters to do softer fare.  His performance in the underseen melodrama 'The Greatest' is nothing short of the greatest (though be sure to have a box of tissues handy.)  And even his attempt at singing in 'Mamma Mia' which received mixed reviews I found to be utterly charming.  (Polished singers often bore me.  Give me an amateur trying his or her best any day.  Woody Allen's 'Everyone Says I Love You', anyone?)  So this Danish film where he plays a successful businessman who has sworn off love but opens his mind and his heart to a married woman recovering from cancer but underappreciated by her husband appealed to me despite its trite sounding plot.  My thought was, if it's good enough for Brosnan, it's good enough for me.  Generally that's true.  In this case, not so much.  The scenery, primarily in Italy, is beautiful.  And the performances are fairly heartfelt and reasonably good,  But there's zero chemistry between anyone in the film and a movie like this lives and dies by that magically chemistry.  Unfortunately this is only worth the time for romance die hards.

Grade: C

Thursday, May 23, 2013

In Theaters Now



(newest releases are in green):

Star Trek Into Darkness    Grade: A

Pain & Gain     Grade: A-

Mud     Grade: A-

The Hangover Part III   Grade: A-

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay   Grade: A-

Oz the Great and Powerful     Grade: B+

Iron Man 3     Grade: B+

The Iceman    Grade: B+

The Place Beyond the Pines     Grade: B+

The Company You Keep     Grade: B

The Big Wedding     Grade: B

Olympus Has Fallen     Grade: B-

Oblivion     Grade: B-

The Great Gatsby     Grade: C+

Love Is All You Need    Grade: C

42     Grade: C

Peeples     Grade: D+


Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Croods
Epic
Fast & Furious 6
Frances Ha
Kon-Tiki
Renoir
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's
Something in the Air
What Maisie Knew

The Hangover Part III

 
The Wolf Pack is back, and for the last time as 'The Hangover' trilogy comes to a close.  Those who are familiar with the first two should know what to expect.  The third and final chapter doesn't stray too far from the formula that's worked for me so well.  And that's ok.  In fact it's good.  For me, this franchise has always been about the surprisingly amazing chemistry between this unlikely group of actors, particularly between pretty boy Bradley Cooper and goofball Zach Galifianakis.  Of course, this time you should expect a lot of Ken Jeong's Mr. Chow.  He's the central character here.  So depending on your opinion of him (and I know there's a wide range there) you may love or hate this film.  And also take note, this is the least funny of the three.  Nevertheless, I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish.  I love the chemistry.  I love the edge-of-your-seat danger that's pervasive in all three.  And I love the addition of John Goodman here.  (He just makes every film better.) 
 
Bottom line:  Don't believe all the haters on Rotten Tomatoes.  This is a fitting send off to a really fun series.  Fans will enjoy it, but probably not as much as the first two.  Personally, I already miss the Wolf Pack and I'm sad to say goodbye.  Bye Phil!
 
Grade: A-

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Iceman


Based on a true story, Michael Shannon plays a cold-as-ice hitman for the mafia in the 60's through 80's who only truly cares for one thing: his family.  Winona Ryder plays his doe-eyed ignorant wife and Ray Liotta plays the ruthless mob boss who employs him.

There isn't a whole lot new to this story we haven't seen in every gangster film ever made, but it's engrossing and worth seeing if only for the great and consistent performances of Shannon and Liotta.  Both of them have been on a tear recently with non-stop great roles.  After his breakout role in 'Revolutionary Road', Shannon followed up with the grossly underseen 'The Missing Person', and really hit the mark in 2011 with 'Take Shelter', though is probably best known for his role in 'Boardwalk Empire' (that is, until he fills the shows of General Zod in the upcoming 'Man of Steel').  And Liotta is the best part of 'The Place Beyond the Pines' and 'Killing Them Softly'.  Add this to the list of roles perfectly in their wheelhouse.

Grade: B+

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In Theaters Now




(newest releases are in green):

Jurassic Park    Grade: A   (3D not reviewed)

Star Trek Into Darkness     Grade: A

Disconnect     Grade: A

Pain & Gain     Grade: A-

Mud     Grade: A-

Oz the Great and Powerful     Grade: B+

The Iceman    Grade: B+

The Reluctant Fundamentalist     Grade: B+

Iron Man 3     Grade: B+

The Place Beyond the Pines     Grade: B+

The Company You Keep     Grade: B

The Big Wedding     Grade: B

Olympus Has Fallen     Grade: B-

Oblivion     Grade: B-

The Great Gatsby     Grade: C+

42     Grade: C

Peeples     Grade: D+

At Any Price    Grade: D-

Evil Dead     Grade: F


Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Croods
Escape From Planet Earth
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Hava Nagila (The Movie)
Kon-Tiki
Midnight's Children
Renoir
Scary Movie 5
Something in the Air
Tyler Perry's Temptation
Venus and Serena

Star Trek Into Darkness


I'm not a Trekker.  Yet I am a big enough fan of the Star Trek universe and its super fans to know that they prefer to be called Trekkers and not Trekkies.  And as a fan, it's been a long four years waiting for J.J. Abrams follow up to his exceptional reboot of the original cast classic.  In 2009, uber-geek Abrams wowed Trekkers, casual fans, and newcomers alike by ingenious storytelling and truly perfect casting.  He managed to capture the essence of each character from the original series, allowing a new generation to experience a reimagining, but without invalidating the beloved original.  So how do you follow that up?  Well, Abrams is particularly smart about one thing:  Keeping his mouth shut.  He is extremely hush hush about his projects, being one of the few that understands that the anticipation of not knowing is more fun than knowing everything going in.  It was eventually revealed that the great Benedict Cumberbatch (best known as BBC's Sherlock) would be part of the cast.  And rumors floated around that he might fill the shoes of the greatest enemy the original cast ever faced, Khan, as originally chillingly portrayed by Ricardo Montalban in Star Trek II.  Well I won't confirm or deny that, but I will say that this movie totally delivers.  It's 2 hours and 12 minutes of larger than life action mixed with laughs, quality storytelling, and plenty of great homages to the original.  I loved it, though not quite as much as the last one.  I look forward to the next installment and may the franchise live long and prosper.

Grade: A

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Upstream Color


And the nominees for the 2013 WTF awards are: Terrence Malick's 'To the Wonder' and Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color'.  It's gonna be a tight race...

In 2004, Carruth wowed art house sci-fi audiences with his time-travel-for-the-thinking-man low budget film 'Primer'.  And now, nine years later, he gives us his second film, another low budget sci-fi head scratcher with minimal dialogue that makes 'Primer' seem extraordinarily easy to follow.  As he did in 'Primer', Carruth once again stars.  But don't ask me for a synopsis.  I'd be hard pressed to give you a good one.  And I just watched it TWICE back to back!  According to IMDB:

"A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives."

And, even more perplexing than that cryptic blurb, I can't even say it sounds like the movie I just watched twice.  So, needless to say, those that don't like to work for their art appreciation should run from this film.  ('Tree of Life' haters, this means you!)  Nevertheless, as incomprehensible art films go, I kind of liked it.  And I liked it even more the second time.  Maybe the third time will be the charm?!?

'Upstream Color' is now in limited release in theaters, but also available on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Video On Demand.

Grade: B+?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 5/10/13


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Peeples'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/category/233752/good-day


FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now




(newest releases are in green):

Jurassic Park    Grade: A (3D not reviewed)

Disconnect     Grade: A

Pain & Gain     Grade: A-

Mud     Grade: A-

Oz the Great and Powerful     Grade: B+

The Reluctant Fundamentalist     Grade: B+

Iron Man 3     Grade: B+

The Place Beyond the Pines     Grade: B+

The Company You Keep     Grade: B

The Big Wedding     Grade: B

Olympus Has Fallen     Grade: B-

Oblivion    Grade: B-

The Great Gatsby   Grade: C+

Angel's Share     Grade: C

42     Grade: C

Peeples    Grade: D+

Evil Dead     Grade: F


Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Croods
From Up on Poppy Hill
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Hava Nagila (The Movie)
The Host
In the House
Kiss of the Damned
Midnight's Children
Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary
No
Renoir
Scary Movie 5
Tyler Perry's Temptation

The Great Gatsby


Director Baz Luhrmann (known for his lavish productions 'Romeo + Juliet', 'Moulin Rouge!', and 'Australia') brings the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic we all read the Cliffs Notes to in high school to the big screen yet again.  And for those of us who've seen more movies than have read books, the most memorable telling of this tale to date had been the 1974 version featuring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Bruce Dern.  And while that film won the Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Music, it is largely considered to be a disappointing bore.  Now, 39 years later Luhrmann tries his hand, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead as the mysterious and wealthy Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as the object of his affection, and Tobey Maguire as the narrator and eyes and ears of their story.  It marks the reunion of Luhrmann and DiCaprio who collaborated on 'Romeo + Juliet'.  And it is very much a Luhrmann film.  And by that I mean it has wonderful style, with lavish sets and clothes, and an almost dreamlike quality.  It features a modern day soundtrack despite it being a period film.  And the ensemble cast is good, as is the case in all his films.  And for his first time, Luhrmann uses 3D to try and enhance the realism (which it does but it also takes away from the natural brightness of what he was trying to achieve.)  But as hard as I tried to appreciate all there is to appreciate, as with its predecessor I just found it hard to stay awake.  Honestly, the most exciting part of the evening was when the drunk woman three seats down from me, slurrily cheering her love for Leo when he first appeared on screen, got removed by security.

Bottom line:  The ladies are going to enjoy swooning over DiCaprio, as always.  But the men are going to find it dull.  And even as a seasoned period film watcher, I have to agree.  Expect mixed reviews on this one.

Grade: C+

Peeples


I'm not sure what's harder to believe; that the guy who plays Darryl on 'The Office' has a leading man role in a film, or that Kerry Washington would ever seriously date him?  Puh-lease.

Craig Robinson plays a working class man who wants to propose to his girlfriend in Tyler Perry's latest presentation.  But he's never even met her upper class family, so he pays them a surprise visit at their vacation house in the Hamptons and finds himself a fish out of water.  Of course, her family isn't all that they seem.  Each member is hiding a secret of their own.

The premise actually sounds even better than it is.  Sadly I didn't laugh once during this 'comedy'.  It's not completely unlikeable, but it's just not at all funny.  Your time is better spent with other good peeples.

Grade: C-

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mud



In this drama, two young boys living in destitute Arkansas, encounter a mysterious man living alone on an island and try to help him.  'Mud' premiered at Cannes last May and surprisingly took a year to open.  And that's crazy because this is a quality film.  The supporting cast is superb, including Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, Ray McKinnon, and Sarah Paulson.  But it is the leads, McConaughey and Tye Sheridan, who really give this film its heart.  (And that isn't to say it's corny, because it's not at all.)  But it is the kind of film that, if Oscar voters had better memories, might be awarded come February.

And on a related note, Matthew McConaughey has really come into his own. Since his amazing performance in 1996's 'A Time to Kill', he has mainly starred in forgettable roles in unremarkable movies, and became most famous as the guy who takes his shirt off whenever he gets the chance. (This reputation is exacerbated by Matt Damon's now legendary impression of him on virtually every appearance he does on The Late Show with David Letterman.)   But over the last year he starred in five films: 'Bernie', 'Killer Joe', 'Magic Mike', 'The Paperboy', and now 'Mud'. And even more remarkable than the number, he is the best part of all of them.  I really look forward to seeing what's next from him.  And, as a straight male, Mr. McConaughey, I say take your shirt off anytime you like.  You've certainly earned that right.

Grade: A-

Koch


I love documentaries about amazing people who led extraordinary lives.  And Ed Koch was an amazing man who changed New York City for the better in so many ways.  As Mayor between 1978 and 1989 he brought New York City out of bankruptcy, reduced crime, transformed Times Square, revitalized the housing market, championed gay rights when it was extremely unpopular to do so, and generally just did whatever he felt was right regardless of the consequences.  New York City was his life.  And he is greatly responsible for its extraordinary transformation over the last 35 years.  I can only hope that Philadelphia will one day soon get a Mayor even close to as effective and honest.

This documentary features a lot of archival footage but is also greatly enhanced by getting Koch's own participation at 86 years of age.  You get to hear first hand of how he views his reign in hindsight.  It is both tragic and poetic that he passed away on the very day this film opened, 2/1/13.  The man is gone but his legacy continues.  And, to respond to his trademark question, "How am I doing?"  You did great, Ed.  Rest in peace. 

Grade: A-

Friday, May 3, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 5/3/13


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Iron Man 3', 'Pain & Gain', and 'Broken City'.

http://www.myfoxorlando.com/category/233752/good-day

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now



(newest releases are in green):

Jurassic Park     Grade: A    (3D not reviewed)

Disconnect     Grade: A

Pain & Gain     Grade: A-

Mud    Grade: A-

Trance    Grade: A-

Koch    Grade: A-

Oz the Great and Powerful     Grade: B+

The Reluctant Fundamentalist    Grade: B+

Iron Man 3     Grade: B+

The Place Beyond the Pines     Grade: B+

The Company You Keep    Grade: B

Arthur Newman    Grade: B

The Big Wedding     Grade: B

The Numbers Station     Grade: B   (Also available on VOD)

Olympus Has Fallen     Grade: B-

Oblivion     Grade: B-

To the Wonder     Grade: C+

Angel's Share    Grade: C

42     Grade: C

Admission     Grade: C

Evil Dead     Grade: F


Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Blancanieves
The Croods
From Up on Poppy Hill
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
The Host
In the House
The Lords of Salem
Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary
No
No Place on Earth
Renoir
Scary Movie 5
Tyler Perry's Temptation

Iron Man 3


Unless you've been living in a cave (and maybe even then) you're probably aware that Robert Downey Jr. is once again reprising his role as Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man.  And something tells me this movie is going to make some money.  Perhaps it's because his last appearance as this Marvel super hero in 'The Avengers' was the third highest grossing film of all time, earning over $1.5B worldwide.  And perhaps it's because it already earned $200M last weekend overseas.  Yup, summer unofficially begins on Friday when this 'tent pole' guaranteed blockbuster does some serious business at the box office.

Of course, before projecting its success, the question should be, is it any good?  (It actually doesn't really matter because it's going to do monster business anyway.  This thing's critic proof.)  But, for the record, just like all the other Iron Man films, it's fun.  It's big, it's bold, it's loud, it's eye-popping, it's cast perfectly (with Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow returning, and adding Guy Pearce and Ben Kingsley), and it's peppered with plenty of Downey Jr.'s trademark one-liners.  My only critique, which is true for all Marvel comic films, is how simplistic and formulaic it is:  A new bad guy arises and our hero must conquer him.  So for that reason, it won't receive an A from me.  But this movie is exactly what a lot of people want after a hard day or week's work.  Turn off your brain, put on your 3D glasses, and watch super heroes battle super villains, big-budget-style.

Bottom line:  It's not quite as good as 'The Avengers', but it's about on par with the other two Iron Man films, and that's good enough for me to easily recommend it to be seen on the big screen for a fun evening out.

Grade: B+

The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Unfortunately, terrorism seems to be everywhere you look these days.  And if you don't get enough on your news programs, we're certainly seeing a flood of films and TV shows covering the subject.  And for those of you who can't get enough 'Homeland', you'll probably want to check out 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist', a drama about a nice, smart, ambitious Muslim young man, played by Riz Ahmed, living in the U.S. pre-9/11 and succeeding in living out the American Dream.  But his world gets turned upside down after the attack on the World Trade Center, when he is subjected to fear and racism.  The film explores the question, are we creating our own enemies or at least exacerbating the problem?  It's a well made film and features fine supporting performances by Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber, and Kate Hudson.  But I'd also be lying if I didn't admit it struck me as somewhat anti-American.  I have no doubt everything in the film happened on at least some occasions, but I'm just not sure it's fair in its representation in general.  Nevertheless, it's a very engaging film.

Grade: B+

Arthur Newman


Colin Firth and Emily Blunt play two strangers with very different backgrounds who have one significant thing in common.  They both want to be different people and lead different lives.  So when they meet up, they're an unlikely couple that take a road trip together to start their new lives.

I wish I could tell you this was a great film.  It's not, but it's a good film and it deserved better marketing than it's getting, pretty much assuring it will bomb at the box office.  I won't recommend you rush to one of the few theaters it's in to see it, but on DVD it makes for an enjoyable watch with two very enjoyable actors.

Grade: B