Sunday, September 29, 2013

Third Quarter of 2013


We're 75% of the way through 2013 and it's time for my quarter end review!  And it's probably also a good time to refresh your memory on the films of the first quarter and films of the second quarter  (with some additions since I originally posted them).

Below are the 87 films I saw that were released in the third quarter of 2013.   Overall I thought it was a very good quarter, with 44 of them getting a grade of B+ or better.

(As usual I may have tweaked a few grades since my original review after pondering them a bit.)


Prisoners    Grade: A+

Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

Blood     Grade: A

Enough Said     Grade: A

Broken    Grade: A

Short Term 12     Grade: A

The Spectacular Now     Grade: A

Blue Jasmine     Grade: A

Kick-Ass 2     Grade: A

In a World ...     Grade: A

Don Jon     Grade: A

Jobs     Grade: A

Some Girl(s)    Grade: A

Still Mine    Grade: A

Blackfish    Grade: A-

The To Do List    Grade: A-

A Single Shot    Grade: A-

The World's End     Grade: A-

Rush     Grade: A-

Prince Avalanche    Grade: A-

The Hunt    Grade: A-

Pacific Rim    Grade: A-

The Family    Grade: A-

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Stuck in Love    Grade: B+

2 Guns    Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Lifeguard    Grade: B+

Afternoon Delight     Grade: B+

Scenic Route   Grade: B+

Frozen Ground    Grade: B+

R.I.P.D.     Grade: B+

Devil's Pass    Grade: B+

Austenland    Grade: B+

Salinger     Grade: B+

I Declare War     Grade: B+

I Give it a Year   Grade: B+

Mr. Nobody    Grade: B+

Thanks for Sharing     Grade: B+

See Girl Run    Grade: B+

Closed Circuit    Grade: B+

Terms and Conditions May Apply   Grade: B+

Killing Season    Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

A Teacher   Grade: B

Fruitvale Station     Grade: B

Girl Most Likely    Grade: B

Generation Iron    Grade: B

Ain't Them Bodies Saints     Grade: B

Touchy Feely    Grade: B

Elysium    Grade: B

Populaire     Grade: B

Grabbers    Grade: B

Europa Report     Grade: B-

Drinking Buddies     Grade: B-

C.O.G.   Grade: B-

Crystal Fairy    Grade: B-

All is Bright (a.k.a. Almost Christmas)    Grade: B-

Red 2    Grade: B-

Good Ol' Freda   Grade: B-

Adore    Grade: C+

The Look of Love    Grade: C+

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

Grown Ups 2     Grade: C+

The Time Being    Grade: C+

Getaway    Grade: C+

The Lone Ranger    Grade: C

The Conjuring     Grade: C

You're Next     Grade: C

Magic Magic    Grade: C

Paranoia    Grade: C

Passion     Grade: C

Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction   Grade: C-

Clear History    Grade: C-

When Comedy Went to School     Grade: C-

V/H/S/2    Grade: C-

Dealin' With Idiots    Grade: D+

Herblock: The Black & The White    Grade: D+

Frankenstein's Army   Grade: D

Jayne Mansfield's Car    Grade: D

The Wolverine    Grade: D

Jewtopia    Grade: D-

The Act of Killing    Grade: D-

The Rambler    Grade: F

Hell Baby    Grade: F

La Maison de la Radio   Grade: F



Films Not Reviewed:

Artist and the Model
Battle of the Year
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Computer Chess
Cutie and the Boxer
Despicable Me 2
Drug War
The Grandmaster
A Hijacking
I'm So Excited!
Inequality for All

Instructions Not Included
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain
Lovelace
Metallica: Through the Never
Museum Hours
One Direction: This Is Us
Only God Forgives
The Patience Stone
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Planes
Riddick
Smurfs 2
Stranded
Terraferma
Therese
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Turbo

Ways to Live Forever
You Will Be My Son

Friday, September 27, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 9/27/13


FOX 35 is still taking Good Day on the road for a few Fridays. So I won't be on to tell you what to see and what to avoid. But fear not. You can still read it all right here on Flieder on Film!

Here are some films I might have discussed on the show today:

Rush - Now in theaters. My Grade: C
Don Jon - Now in theaters. My Grade: A
Enough Said - Now in theaters. My Grade: A+
Baggage Claim - Now in theaters. My Grade: B+
Iron Man 3 - Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray. My Grade: B+
Unfinished Song - Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray. My Grade: B+

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)

Prisoners     Grade: A+

Enough Said    Grade: A+

Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

In a World ...     Grade: A

Don Jon    Grade: A

The Spectacular Now     Grade: A

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

The World's End     Grade: A-

The Family    Grade: A-

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Way Way Back   Grade: B+

Short Term 12     Grade: B+

Salinger     Grade: B+

Baggage Claim   Grade: B+

Thanks for Sharing    Grade: B+

Populaire   Grade: B

Elysium    Grade: B

Monsters U     Grade: B-

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

The Conjuring     Grade: C

Rush   Grade: C

The Wolverine    Grade: D



Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Battle of the Year
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Despicable Me 2
The Grandmaster
Inequality for All

Instructions Not Included
Metallica: Through the Never
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Planes
Riddick
Smurfs 2
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Turbo

You Will Be My Son 

Enough Said


Is finding love possible for divorced and disillusioned 50-somethings, or does prior emotional baggage make it hopeless?  Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini do their best to get a second chance at love in this romantic dramedy by writer/director Nicole Holofcener.

In my opinion, few auteurs can create character and dialogue driven storylines as well as Holofcener.  I said that in 2006 when I saw 'Friends with Money', and then again in 2010 with 'Please Give'.  She has a gift for writing dramedies with complex characters that feel honest and real in everyday relatable situations.  She consistently gets career high performances out of her cast.  She makes the tired chick-flick romance genre feel fresh and appreciable by men as well as women.  And she walks the line seemingly effortlessly between comedy and drama.  And as a huge Woody Allen fan, I rely on her (as well as Edward Burns) to provide me that Allen-esque fix I crave.  And quite honestly, she succeeds more regularly than Burns and even Allen himself.  Needles to say, I'm a fan.  So my expectations were quite high for 'Enough Said'.  And yet she exceeded them.  This is her best film to date.  Dreyfus really shows us her full acting abilities, often relaying more with a subtle expression than many could do with a well written monologue.  And Gandolfini reminds us he was more than just Tony Soprano.  He was a lot more, with a lot of acting range.  Here, he shows his softer and more charming side, and it makes it all the more poignant knowing this is the last time we'll see him on screen.  If he were still alive today I would have still given this film an A.  But, now that he's gone, it feels like an unexpected gift.  R.I.P. Mr. Gandolfini.  You deserve nothing less than ...

Grade: A (or maybe even an A+)



Don Jon


Joseph Gordon-Levitt hits another one out of the park, writing, directing, and starring as a bartending, weight-lifting, club-going, stereotypical Italian Don Juan type.  But he's a bit more complicated than that.  He regularly attends church.  And he's also addicted to pornography.  In fact, he loves his porn more than sex.  No woman compares to his masturbatory rituals.  But then he meets Scarlett Johansson ...

This indie which premiered at Sundance is very much a modern day romance that centers around pornography and masturbation but also still manages to be totally charming.  Gordon-Levitt is excellent as always, seemingly channeling a young Robert DeNiro (just as skillfully as he channeled a young Bruce Willis in 'Looper'.)  Johansson is also the best I've ever seen her, doing her take on the 'My Cousin Vinnie' Marisa Tomei New Jersey type.  And Tony Danza and Glenne Headley are fantastic playing Gordon-Levitt's stereotypical Italian parents (and way more fun than DeNiro and Jacki Weaver were in 'Silver Linings Playbook'.)  And you even get Julianne Moore thrown in as a bonus.  This is a really fun, funny, and totally original movie that's perfect for anyone who likes a romantic comedy but is also comfortable with their sexuality and all of those quirky peculiarities related to it.  (You know you have some.)

Grade: A

Rush


I see a lot of movies every year.  A lot.  And I don't always see them in the optimal state of mind.  I see them when they are screened for me, regardless if it's been a long day and I'm tired.  And that's my only excuse for my original (poor) review of this film (below).  Fortunately I get sent screener DVD's this time of year and had the opportunity to revisit the film which has received great reviews from audiences and critics alike, and saw the error of my ways.  It's a great story, with a great rivalry of two very different men who both want to become champion for very different reasons.  And yes, even the acting is quite good by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl.  I surely blew it on this one. 

Revised Grade: A-


Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl play race car rivals from the 1970's.  In many ways, they were very different people, but they shared one common goal: To become champion.

My first gut feeling when I heard about this film was, why would I want to see a movie starring Chris Hemsworth about race car driving?  Hemsworth somehow managed to make a Norse god seem boring.  And personally I just never understood the allure of the whole NASCAR thing.  (But that's just my opinion.)  But then I kept hearing festival buzz and a whole lot of positive reviews which made me adjust my expectations a bit.  Plus, it's directed by Ron Howard, and that guy knows filmmaking.  So maybe I'd be pleasantly surprised here?  But, you know, sometimes your first gut feeling is right on the money.  'Rush' is anything but.  Frankly, I had trouble staying awake for it.  I didn't find the characters, or the actors playing them, engaging enough to hold my interest.  I don't see what all the other critics are loving about it.  The only compliment I can offer is to Ron Howard who constantly moves from genre to genre, consistently reinventing his style.  But in my opinion, this once consistently reliable director has made his second misfire in a row.  (Who remembers 2011's 'The Dilemma'?  I sure do.)  Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong on this one.  As always, I welcome your comments.

Grade: C

Baggage Claim


Paula Patton plays a flight attendant who just wants what most people want: someone to love and grow old with.  But since she can't seem to find it herself, her coworkers put a plan in motion to help her.

Ordinarily I can't stand predictable romantic comedies.  But some films get by on charm, and that's the case with 'Baggage Claim'.  You can see exactly where it's going from the first 15 minutes, but the journey is enjoyable nonetheless.  There aren't a lot of big laughs, but it's almost impossible not to have a smile on your face throughout thanks to the over-the-top goofy antics of Patton and the rest of the ensemble cast.  On another week, this could have been my feel-good recommendation for the weekend.  But on this particular week it comes in third.  'Enough Said' and 'Don Jon' are much more original.

Grade: B+

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 9/20/13


FOX 35 will be taking Good Day on the road for the next few Fridays.  So I won't be on to tell you what to see and what to avoid.  But fear not.  You can still read it all right here on Flieder on Film!

Here's the lineup I would have discussed on the show today:

Prisoners - Now in theaters.  My Grade: A+
World War Z - Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray.  My Grade: A+
The East -  Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray.   My Grade: A
Disconnect - Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray.   My Grade: A

In Theaters Now

 

(newest releases in green)

Prisoners    Grade: A+

Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

In a World ...     Grade: A

The Spectacular Now     Grade: A

This is the End     Grade: A-

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

The World's End     Grade: A-

The Family     Grade: A-

2 Guns     Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Short Term 12     Grade: B+

Austenland    Grade: B+

Salinger   Grade: B+

Thanks for Sharing   Grade: B+

Fruitvale Station     Grade: B

Elysium    Grade: B

Closed Circuit     Grade: B

Monsters U     Grade: B-

Insidious Chapter 2      Grade: C+

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

Getaway    Grade: C+

The Conjuring     Grade: C

You're Next     Grade: C

The Wolverine    Grade: D



Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Battle of the Year
Despicable Me 2
The Grandmaster
Instructions Not Included
One Direction: This Is Us
The Patience Stone
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Planes
Populaire
Riddick
Smurfs 2
Terraferma
Turbo

You Will Be My Son 

Prisoners


It's always great to get a reminder why I go to the movies so often and why I avoid knowing anything about the movie before I see it.  'Prisoners' is a perfect example.  So for those of you who have avoided knowing anything, stop reading this now and just go see it.

Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello play parents enjoying Thanksgiving with their kids and their friends, played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis.  But their enjoyment becomes every parent's worst nightmare when their young daughters suddenly disappear.  'Prisoners' is a gripping thriller, a dense mystery, and an emotional drama all in one with top notch performances across the board.  Jackman is heartbreaking as a dad who will do anything at all to find his daughter, and Jake Gyllenhaal embodies his role as the detective determined to solve the case.  It's a long movie at over 2 and a half hours but it doesn't feel it at all.  If anything it feels too short.  And you could tell the entire theater felt the same.  This one's in my Top 5 of the year so far.  Just go see it.

Grade: A+

Friday, September 13, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 9/13/13



Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Insidious 2', 'The Family', and 'Star Trek into Darkness'.

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

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now




(newest releases in green)


Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

Kick-Ass 2    Grade: A

In a World ...     Grade: A

The Spectacular Now     Grade: A

This is the End     Grade: A-

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

The World's End     Grade: A-

The Family    Grade: A-

2 Guns    Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

Afternoon Delight    Grade: B+

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Short Term 12     Grade: B+

Austenland    Grade: B+

Fruitvale Station     Grade: B

Elysium    Grade: B

Closed Circuit     Grade: B

Drinking Buddies     Grade: B-

Monsters U     Grade: B-

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

Getaway    Grade: C+

The Conjuring     Grade: C

You're Next     Grade: C

Paranoia    Grade: C

The Wolverine    Grade: D



Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Despicable Me 2
The Grandmaster
Instructions Not Included
One Direction: This Is Us
The Patience Stone
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Planes
Riddick
Smurfs 2
Terraferma
Therese
Turbo


The Family


Long time film buffs remember a time when a Robert DeNiro film was an event.  In all likelihood it was something worth seeing.  But somewhere along the way over the last 10 or 15 years he began to taint his brand with too many unmemorable thrillers and an overload of gangster and cop roles.  But every once in a while I get a reminder of what a great actor he can be when he's in the right role, with good material, and a great writer/director and executive producer.  In this case, that is Luc Besson and Martin Scorsese respectively.  Sure, DeNiro plays yet another gangster.  This time he and his family, including his wife played by Michelle Pfeiffer, are in the witness protection program, holed up in Normandy, by the FBI led by Tommy Lee Jones.  On paper, that all sounds as flat as any of the lesser roles of DeNiro's recent past.  And yet this one feels fresh.  Maybe it's just the right team along with a bit of Hollywood magic.  Or maybe it's just what the doctor ordered for me after a week of seeing so-so films.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's 'Goodfellas' meets 'My Blue Heaven'.  And I don't care what other critics say.  It's a lot of fun.

Grade: A-

Insidious Chapter 2

 

Increasingly I'm discovering that I don't like horror films.  I like them in theory, but most horror films suck.  They go for cheap, easy scares to compensate for a lack of creativity and originality.  And audiences soak that crap right up (which often infuriates me.)  But 'Insidious' was a better than average horror film.  Created by Saw-masters James Wan and Leigh Whannell, it was more ambitious than typical horror junk.  Sure, it had plenty of cheap scares, punched up by shrill sound effects.  But it also had a storyline that felt fresh and vast enough to sustain a franchise.  It was slightly and purposefully cheesy; enough to make it fun, but not so much as to belittle its horror value.  It's 'Poltergeist' for a new generation, and it actually made me want a sequel, which is rare for a horror film these days.

Chapter 2 picks up where the last one left off, with Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson returning as parents to a boy that's being haunted.  This time out we get a deeper look into the back story of Wilson's character.  But once again, the bulk of the film is taken up by cheap scares and shrill sound effects.  There is some story development, but not nearly as much as I'd hoped.  Rather than bring this franchise to a new level, I think they actually took a few steps back here.  I'm disappointed.  But even so, this is still a more fun horror franchise than most of what we've seen lately.  I just hope Chapter 3 is a little more creative.

Grade: C+

Afternoon Delight


Kathryn Hahn and Josh Radnor play a yuppie couple who have lost the spark in their relationship.  He's working all the time and she's lost interest in sex.  So what's a couple to do?  Head to a strip joint, of course!  But once Hahn meets a stripper played by Juno Temple, they strike up an unlikely friendship, and her life begins to take some unexpected turns.  'Afternoon Delight' is an enjoyable ensemble indie/festival dramedy that gets better as it goes along, slowly transitioning from lighter to more serious.  The cast is great and those that enjoy the Sundance fare should be sure not to overlook it.

Grade: B+

Monday, September 9, 2013

Adore


Naomi Watts and Robin Wright play two lifelong BFF's living in paradise on the coast of Australia, where they enjoy spending their days lying on the beach and watching their adonis-like offspring surf.  Of course within 5 minutes anyone with eyes can see where this taboo Australian drama is going.  You don't know exactly who is going to have sex with whom, but you know it's coming and you know it will be inappropriate.  Perhaps the film is supposed to be a fantasy, titillating in all of its forbidden fruit ways?  Or maybe it's a cautionary tale?  I'm not sure.  But it's all too contrived and unrealistic to really work on either level.  None of the relationships feel real, particularly those of the mother-son pairings.  Though I suppose one could do worse than spend two hours watching beautiful people have sex in paradise and then deal with the consequences.

'Adore' is now in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: C+

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Lifeguard


People who know me know I love Kristen Bell.  I always have.  But really, how can you not?  Besides being stunningly beautiful, she's just endlessly watchable in any genre.  But all too often her unmatched charisma is wasted in so-so rom-coms targeted to the mainstream audience.  So it's great to see her stretch in an honest and non-glamorous role in this festival/indie drama.

Bell plays a former valedictorian who's approaching 30 and is saddened that her life hasn't turned out like she planned.  So she decides to move back in with her parents and regroup with her high school pals to get back to basics and rediscover herself.  This is not ground-breaking material.  Frankly, Bell's storyline was more believable in the similarly themed 'Hello I Must Be Going'.  But this one digs deeper into the supporting cast and all their problems.  It's well made, honestly portrayed (even for relationships that seem too unlikely) and it's engaging.  Bell lovers and those who dig the Sundance fare should be sure to catch it.  And best of all, you can do so at home on VOD.

Grade: B+

Friday, September 6, 2013

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)


Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

Kick-Ass 2    Grade: A

In a World ...     Grade: A

Jobs     Grade: A

The Spectacular Now     Grade: A

This is the End    Grade: A-

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

The World's End     Grade: A-

Afternoon Delight    Grade: B+

2 Guns     Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Short Term 12     Grade: B+

Austenland     Grade: B+

Fruitvale Station     Grade: B

Elysium     Grade: B

Closed Circuit     Grade: B

Monsters U     Grade: B-

Drinking Buddies     Grade: B-

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

Getaway     Grade: C+

The Conjuring     Grade: C

You're Next     Grade: C

Paranoia    Grade: C

The Wolverine    Grade: D



Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Despicable Me 2
The Grandmaster
Instructions Not Included
One Direction: This Is Us
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
Planes
Riddick
Smurfs 2
Therese
Turbo