Monday, October 28, 2013

12 Years a Slave


So in case you haven't been paying attention, '12 Years a Slave' will be the next Academy Award winner for Best Picture.  Sure, the year isn't over, and there are some highly anticipated films that no one has even seen yet.  But I'd still safely put my money on this one.  Is it that good, you ask?  It is good.  It's great in fact.  But that's not what matters.  What matters is what voters and audiences are told to believe.  And this is the film we are all being brainwashed to say is the best film of this year.  If you're not yet brainwashed, you will be over the next 4 months.  And like most years, the film we're told to say is the best isn't actually the best.

So how do I know this?  Well, for one, traditionally the Audience Award winner at the Toronto Film Festival is a strong predictor of who will win the coveted Oscar.  In recent years, 'The King's Speech', and 'Slumdog Millionaire' both won the audience award at Toronto and went on to win the Best Picture.  (Of course last year 'Silver Linings Playbook' won the audience award but didn't take home the top prize at the Academy Awards, so you never know.)  Now, while they're all very good movies, none of them are the best in my humble opinion.  But while most people call the Toronto Audience Award a strong predictor, I will instead call it a strong determining factor and therefore the beginning of our brainwashing.

Now, don't get me wrong.  This epic film based on a true story about a free man unjustly enslaved during the mid 1800's when slavery was an acceptable practice is a great film, albeit a very hard movie to watch because of its seemingly endless brutality.  Technically I'd say it's flawless, with excellent performances across the board, including Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Brad Pitt, but especially Chiwetel Ejiofor (who will likely win Best Actor) and Michael Fassbender who plays a character so evil I fear for his real life reputation.  I can't really criticize the film for anything except the fact that, like 'Gravity', the story itself is pretty straightforward and lacks the narrative surprises that I enjoy most when I go to the movies.  So, for me, there are better films this year.  And when it comes to the topic of slavery or being held captive, last year's 'Django Unchained' is more fun, 'Prisoners' is more intense, and 'The Butler' is a more interesting story.  There, I said it.

Grade: A

Sunday, October 27, 2013

22nd Philadelphia Film Festival - Final Thoughts


Well, it's over and I'm exhausted but also sad.  It was another great year of the Philadelphia Film Festival and I've got to give thanks to Andrew Greenblatt, Michael Lerman, Pari Patel, Alyssa Kaminski, Mariah Weiler, Alex Gibson, Rebecca Cain, Kate Miller, Scott Hudson, and all the rest of the folks who did a tremendous job making sure we all had a great time.  They put on a hell of a festival with a pretty limited staff and budget!

And now on to the movies.  This is tricky.  I'd love to post all the films I saw ranked from A+ through F.  But because of silly embargoes for critics, I'm not allowed to post reviews prior to release date.  Of course many of these films won't ever get distribution unless critics like me help them by posting favorable reviews.  So I'm going to post grades for the films that have released already, have no theatrical release date as of now (and probably never will), and/or would likely appreciate the press, and hope that goes over alright:

Coherence   A+   (A superb low budget art house science fiction film best described as 'Another Earth' meets 'Primer', and possibly better than both.  This one NEEDS distribution people!)
The Short Game   A+   (A delightful crowd-pleasing documentary about the best 7 year old golfers.)
The Congress   A   (An extremely imaginative, original, and thought provoking sci-fi/animated mixed genre mash-up with Robin Wright playing herself.)
12 Years a Slave   A   (Can't say much that others haven't.  It's likely to win the Oscar for Best Picture.)
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me   A  (A charming doc on the stage legend and her 60 year career.)
Young & Beautiful   A-  (A terrific French drama about a 17 year old experimenting with her sexuality.)
We Cause Scenes   B+
McCanick   B+
Blue Ruin   B+
Grand Piano   B+
Big Bad Wolves   B+
Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons   B+
The Discoverers   B
Mystery Road   B-
Tasting Menu   B-
A Touch of Sin   B-
All is Lost   C+
R100   C-
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction  C-
Blue Highway   D  (I didn't enjoy the film, but it was a real treat meeting director Kyle Smith and actress Kerry Bishe who were both awesome.)
Awful Nice   D-  (An unfunny bore, though it did justify leaving in the middle to watch the less terrible 'The Counselor'.)
La Maison de la Radio   F  (A complete mess, though it allowed me a much needed nap.)

And a special Hall of Shame award should go to The Rave or Cinemark or whatever the hell that theater at 40th and Walnut is calling themselves. They consistently disappoint me year round by allowing talking, texting, calling, and who knows what else in the theater while I'm trying to enjoy the movie. And during the last ten days, not once but twice, their crack staff was unable to play the movie I came for (Ragnorak and The Motel Life). And my understanding was there was at least one more instance as well. Way to go Cinemark!

And you should continue to check back here on the following dates for my reviews of the following.  (One of them is an A+!)

Last Vegas - 11/1/13
Let the Fire Burn - 11/1/13
About Time - 11/8/13
Nebraska - 11/22/13
Philomena - 11/27/13
The Unknown Known - 12/13/13
Labor Day - 12/25/13
One Chance - Late 2013?
Le Week-End - 3/7/14
The Immigrant - 2014
Alan Partridge - 2014
The Art of the Steal - 2014?

How about you?  Do you agree or disagree?  What did you see that I missed?

Friday, October 25, 2013

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)

Prisoners    Grade: A+

Enough Said    Grade: A+

Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

12 Years a Slave    Grade: A

Don Jon    Grade: A

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

Runner Runner     Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

Escape Plan     Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

Gravity     Grade: B

A.C.O.D.     Grade: B-

Machete Kills     Grade: B-

All is Lost    Grade: C+

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

The Fifth Estate     Grade: C

Rush     Grade: C

Wadjda     Grade: C

The Counselor    Grade: C




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Battle of the Year
Carrie
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete

All is Lost


I love this time of year when all the Oscar bait films are released and buzz is all around us.  Of course some of these films live up to their expectations and reputations, and others are all wet.  This one, quite literally, falls in the latter category.

Robert Redford is the old man in the sea, doing everything he can think to keep his damaged boat from sinking.  And that's the movie.  This is literally one man vs. nature.  It's being compared to films like 'Life of Pi', 'Gravity', and 'Cast Away', and rightly so on all counts.  Except in all of those cases, there was someone or something for the protagonist to talk to and act against (whether it be a tiger, George Clooney, or a volleyball named Wilson, respectively.)  And that's what this film lacks.  There's virtually no dialogue.  So much so, that when a frustrated Redford finally lets out an aggravated F-bomb, it's truly one of few highlights of the movie.

'All is Lost' is a competently made film, with an aging legend showing us once again that he definitely still has big screen presence.  But, disappointingly, it's also severely boring.  After a while, the silence becomes deafening and tedious.  I like it in theory, but next time a filmmaker attempts a similar idea, he should make sure there's a volleyball on board.

Grade: C+

The Counselor


It doesn't matter how many movies I see, I still have no idea if a film will be any good before I see it.  Who would think that a film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Cormac McCarthy, and starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem, and Brad Pitt could be anything but spectacular?  And yet it isn't at all.  Not even close.

Fassbender plays the titular counselor.  (We don't even know if he has a name, as he's only referred to as counselor.)  But he practices more than just law.  Unfortunately for him he gets involved with drug trafficking, and of course problems ensue.  This one seems to have it all: The director, the writer, the cast, and an air of coolness throughout.  So much so that it's hard to convince yourself throughout the first hour that it isn't good at all.  But that's the thing about the script.  If the script isn't good, nothing's good.  I can say that the second half is better than the first, so if you do find yourself in the theater don't leave halfway through.  But I recommend skipping it altogether.  This is one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Grade: C

Friday, October 18, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 10/18/13


Believe it or not, I'm still on break from Good Day FOX 35!  (I expect to be back on November 1.)  But here's what I would have discussed this morning:

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)

Prisoners    Grade: A+

Enough Said    Grade: A+

Lee Daniels' The Butler     Grade: A

Don Jon    Grade: A

Blue Jasmine    Grade: A-

The Family    Grade: A-

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

Runner Runner     Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

Escape Plan    Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

We Are What We Are     Grade: B+

Gravity     Grade: B

A.C.O.D.    Grade: B-

Machete Kills     Grade: B-

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

The Fifth Estate    Grade: C

Rush     Grade: C

Wadjda    Grade: C





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

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

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
Instructions Not Included
Metallica Through the Never
Muscle Shoals
Planes
Romeo & Juliet

Escape Plan


Don't you miss the good old days when a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie was an event?  These are two of the best action stars of all time, and you could generally count on them for fun, clever action flicks.  Then Schwarzenegger had to go and get political and everything changed in the world of action, for the worse.  Too many of them forget that a buddy action film with a little bit of comedy and charm makes for a more fun experience.  Anyway, I'm happy to say this marks somewhat of a return to what I used to enjoy the classics of yesteryear.  At least they're headed in the right direction.

Stallone plays a man whose special set of skills allows him to break out of any man made prison.  This is how he makes his living, testing how secure these jails are.  But he's put to the ultimate test when he agrees to take on a secret prison in a secret location that houses special convicts.  This is a fun film with some interesting turns, albeit with a completely unbelievable premise.  But it's all about fun, and fun is what you get, especially with a cast that includes fun performances by Jim Caviezel and Vinnie Jones.

Bottom line:  Stallone and Schwarzenegger still got it.  And in the right vehicle they can still bring it. Personally I'd like to see many more Stallarzenegger films to come.  I just hope they know a good script when they see it.  (Don't talk to me about those 'Expendables' films. They're both absolutely unwatchable.)

Grade: B+

The Fifth Estate


Often times it's the movies that move at the fastest pace that tend to put me to sleep.  And Daniel Bruhl has the distinct honor of being in two of them, both released in the last month: 'Rush' and now 'The Fifth Estate'.

The ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch plays Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, and Bruhl plays his colleague Daniel Berg.  And together these two tech geniuses create a site where secrets can be shared with no threat that the whistleblowers' identities will be revealed.  It's a fascinating story in recent American history that has polarizing viewpoints.  And, in case there's anyone still unconvinced, it proves that that Benedict Cumberbatch can really act.  And yet, I found it hard to pay attention to.  It moves at such a fast pace that a lot of the key elements went right over my head.  Surprisingly, I preferred the documentary that came out earlier this year, 'We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks'.  Generally I love a good narrative film based on a tech based true story (e.g. 'The Social Network' and 'Jobs') but in this case the story is much easier to follow and consequently much more enjoyable in documentary form.

Grade: C

A.C.O.D.


Some films seem to have all the right ingredients and yet the total doesn't quite measure up to the sum of the parts.  And that's the case here with this comedy about the adult children of divorce (i.e. A.C.O.D.)  Adam Scott plays one such emotionally scarred child of the Big D.  Though he doesn't seem damaged, at least at face value.  He has a good job and a good relationship with his brother and his girlfriend of four years (played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  He just doesn't want to get married because of the failure of his parents (played by Richard Jenkins and Catherine O'Hara).  The great cast also includes Amy Poehler, Jane Lynch, and Jessica Alba.  Plus the film is both shot and acted well.  But instead of jumping out of its comfort zone it just kind of lays there, inside the box.  There aren't any big laughs to be had, but rather a few giggles here and there.  It's still kind of likeable, but just not nearly as good as you'd expect and not worth going out of your way to see it.  In that respect it reminds me of 'Our Idiot Brother'.  (Who remembers that Paul Rudd led dysfunctional family dramedy from two years ago?)  This one's better to catch in a few months on Video on Demand when you're looking for something light and have already seen all the better options.

Grade: B-

Sunday, October 13, 2013

22nd Philadelphia Film Festival


The 22nd Philadelphia Film Festival begins this Thursday and runs from noon to midnight for the next 10 days thereafter (with two midnight screenings the first weekend as well.)  Tickets and all access badges are still available at very reasonable prices relative to other world class film festivals.  Or, even better, join the Philadelphia Film Society and get tickets or badges to the festival in addition to advance screenings year round. 

Check out the complete list of films and the complete schedule.  They're showing over 90 feature films.  But that can be overwhelming.  So let me offer some suggestions.

Some folks like to see high profile screenings with recognizable names in advance of when you'll see them released in theaters.  You just may see the Oscar Best Picture winner during the festival.  These films include:
  • All is Lost - Opening Night Film starring Robert Redford.  (Director J.C. Chandor is scheduled to appear for a post film Q&A.)
  • Nebraska - with Bruce Dern, Will Forte, and Bob Odenkirk.  Director Alexander Payne and actor Will Forte are scheduled to appear for a post film Q&A.)
  • Philadelphia - with Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington - 20th Anniversary screening.  (Director Jonathan Demme is scheduled to appear for a post film Q&A.)
  • Labor Day - Closing Night Film with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin
  • August: Osage County - with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts
  • Last Vegas - with Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline
  • 12 Years a Slave - with Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender
  • Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - with Idris Elba
  • About Time - with Rachel McAdams, Domnhall Gleeson and Bill Nighy
  • Alan Partridge - with Steve Coogan
  • Philomena - with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan
  • The Art of the Steal - with Jay Baruchel, Matt Dillon, and Kurt Russell
  • The Immigrant - with Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix, and Jeremy Renner
  • The Congress - with Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, and Paul Giamatti
  • Le Week-End - with Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, and Jeff Goldblum
  • Man of Tai Chi - with Keanu Reeves
  • The Motel Life - with Emile Hirsch and Stephen Dorff
Or, maybe you want to take the opportunity to see something you'd otherwise never have seen or even heard of.  Programmers spend all year watching submitted films and films playing at other festivals to look for interesting programming from around the world to bring to the festival.  Sure, many of these films are subtitled, but you'll be ok.  A great movie is worth having to read.  Of course many of them are in English as well.  There are documentaries, locally made films, and The Graveyard Shift for the crowd that likes midnight genre films.

Here's what I've seen so far that I can recommend (in relative order of recommendation):
  • The Short Game - If you're only going to see one film at the festival, make it this documentary about the best 7 year old golfers in the world.  Each one of these kids is more precocious to watch than the last.  Trust me, this is the ultimate crowd-pleaser and one of my favorite films of the year.  Bring your parents, your spouse, and your kids.  Everyone will enjoy it.  It's playing one more time on Sunday 10/27 at 12:10 PM.
  • The Congress - A completely original, complex, and thought provoking science-fiction film, 50% live action and 50% animated, featuring Robin Wright, Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, and Paul Giamatti.  I enjoyed the first half more than the second, but I look forward to seeing it again for an even deeper appreciation.  Fans of 'Cold Souls', also starring Giamatti, will love it.  See it on Sunday 10/20 at 12:00 PM.
  • The Immigrant - Anecdotally I've heard a lot of people say they found this one slow.  And I can't disagree it's a bit sluggish in parts.  But I thought it was excellent despite that.  It's a great story featuring award worthy performances and many complex characters.  You can see it on Wednesday 10/23 at 5:00 PM.
  • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me - Before seeing this documentary I only had a very general idea of who Elaine Stritch was.  Now I love her.  She's a great entertainer who lived a very interesting life with a career that spanned 60 years, and this is a really enjoyable doc about her.  See it on Wednesday 10/23 or Thursday 10/24.
  • About Time -  Catch this Romance/Comedy/Drama/Sci-Fi film starring Rachel McAdams, Domnhall Gleeson, and Bill Nighy two weeks before it comes out in theaters.  It's very charming and very original.  And Bill Nighy is the greatest.  See it on Friday 10/25 at 5:00 PM.
  • Young & Beautiful - I wasn't expecting much from this French film about a 17 year old girl discovering her sexuality, but I really loved it.  I was fully engaged and felt connected to every character in the film.  See it on Saturday 10/26 at 2:45 PM.
  • Blue Ruin - a gritty and bloody revenge thriller that's too good for the Graveyard Shift section.  Unfortunately there aren't any more screenings.
  • Grand Piano - This is a fun little thriller with a great cast that's another entry in the 'Nick of Time'/'Die Hard 3'/'Phonebooth'/'Getaway' do-as-I-say-or-someone-will-die genre.  But it also has the flavor of one of those classic anthology series like 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'.  This will make for a fun movie to close out your festival on Sunday 10/27 at 10:00 PM.
  • Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons - This one's a fun, somewhat silly Chinese comedy about demon hunters conquering demons (as the title correctly implies.)  You definitely won't see anything like it made in America, and who knows when you'll be able to see it again after Tuesday 10/22 at 10:00 PM.
  • Last Vegas - A comedy starring Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline.  Sure, it'll be out in theaters in a few weeks, but why not see it early on Monday 10/21 at 7:15 PM?
  • The Unknown Known - a documentary interview of former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.  Unfortunately it won't be playing at the festival a second time.
The following are decent movies that you might consider, but aren't strong recommendations:
And here's what I'd steer clear of:
  • R100 - An extremely weird Asian S&M fantasy film that looks like it was made in the 70's.  I dig weird when there's a purpose, or at least the slightest appearance of deeper meaning, but completely random weirdness is just a waste of time.
  • Blue Highway - It truly pains me to add this film to the skip section of my blog post because I just had the privilege to meet director Kyle Smith and actress Kerry Bishe and they were the loveliest people.  Getting the chance to speak with them personally and hear them do a Q&A after the film will definitely be among the highlights of my festival.  And I can say the film is shot well and the acting is good.  Unfortunately it just doesn't have the script, story, or substance to make it worth your time. 
  • Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction - I had been looking forward to this doc about the character actor every film buff knows, but I was disappointed.  For one, the long sequences of him singing country folk songs didn't work for me.  I'm interested in his acting career, not his hobby as a singer.  And second, quite frankly, I like him less having seen deeper into the man himself.  He strikes me as sad, uninterested, and unmotivated.  If only he had a fraction of the eloquence and enthusiasm about his own career that David Lynch does when discussing him. 
Still can't decide?  No problem.  Just ask me.  Write to me on here, on Facebook, or on Twitter and I'll be happy to make a recommendation.  And keep checking back as I'll continue to add more reviews throughout the festival.  See you there!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweetwater


There's nothing particularly original about this western (originally entitled 'Sweet Vengeance' when it premiered at Sundance earlier this year) wherein a small town is overrun by a murderous holy man (Jason Isaacs).  But the tables turn when a new sheriff (Ed Harris) takes over in town and a local woman (January Jones) decides to take matters into her own hands.  Frankly it's derivative of pretty much every western we've all seen before.  But, we're lucky to get a few westerns made a year, and this one is shot well, with fun performances by the always great Harris and Isaacs (Harry Potter's Lucius Malfoy).  And you can watch it at home on Video on Demand.  So I'd say it's worth a watch for those who seek some western comfort food.

Grade: B+

Escape from Tomorrow


'Escape from Tomorrow' made headlines earlier this year when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, but not because it's a good movie.  It's not. 

A typical American family vacationing in Walt Disney World and staying at the Contemporary spends the day at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  But this is anything but a typical day at the park.  It turns into a surrealistic nightmare.  Sounds pretty good, but it's not.  It's extremely amateur, with poor acting, similar to any home movie you might make with your pals.   But it does have the distinction of being the first film shot almost entirely in Walt Disney World (with some shots filled in from Disneyland as well.)  Filmed guerrilla-style, this film was made completely without the knowledge of The Walt Disney Company.  And that's the best part about it.  It's hard to believe that Disney hasn't used all of its muscle power to keep it from being released.  But apparently they have opted to not draw attention to it.

Keep in mind, this is not a family film.  It's not appropriate for children, as it contains sex, nudity, and violence.  But don't get excited adults, that doesn't make it any more fun.  Frankly, unless you're a big fan of Walt Disney World (and I am), and will appreciate it for the locations, and for the mere fact that the filmmaker actually pulled this off, you should steer clear.

You can see it now in limited release in theaters or, more easily, at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B (though if it weren't filmed on location at Walt Disney World it would be a D-)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - FOX 35 Orlando 10/11/13


I won't be on FOX this morning, but here's what I would have discussed:

Captain Phillips.  My Grade: A-

Machete Kills.  My Grade: B-

The Hangover Part III.  (Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray).  My Grade: A-

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 Family    Grade: A-

Captain Phillips   Grade: A-

Runner Runner     Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

We Are What We Are    Grade: B+

Gravity     Grade: B

Machete Kills    Grade: B-

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Rush     Grade: C




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

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

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete
Instructions Not Included
Metallica Through the Never
Muscle Shoals
Planes
Romeo & Juliet
The Summit

Captain Phillips


You know the Oscar race is in full steam when a Tom Hanks film hits theaters.  This year he has two, with this being the first released, and 'Saving Mr. Banks' scheduled for release in December.  Based on a true story from 2009, Hanks plays the titular character, the captain of a cargo ship sailing through dangerous territory off the coast of Africa.  He and his crew are put to the test when they come under attack from Somali pirates. 

The film is a bit slow to start, but once things heat up it hits its stride and it's a tense nail-biter right up to its climactic ending.  You can usually count on Hanks to bring something fresh to the screen and deliver a great performance, and he certainly does that here.  Is it Oscar worthy?  Absolutely.  The performances are tremendous and the film is excellent.

Grade: A


Machete Kills


Danny Trejo has certainly led quite a life, and surely owes a lot to film auteur Robert Rodriguez.  Once an inmate at San Quentin for armed robbery and drug offenses, Trejo now has over 250 acting credits under his belt, and has 21 in some form of development right now.  But of all his roles, Machete will be his legacy.  Rodriguez first imagined the role for Trejo when they were on the set of 'Desperado' in 1994.  He then included him in some form of this imagined character as a supporting role in the 'Spy Kids' trilogy between 2001 and 2003.  He then used the character for a fake trailer in his 'Grindhouse: Death Proof/Planet Terror' collaboration with Quentin Tarantino in 2007.  And then, in 2010, he got his own eponymous film.  And you could tell it was exactly what Rodriguez had envisioned all along ... an homage to all those low budget, exploitation, B-movie grindhouse films of the 70's.  That's not my thing, but all things considered it was more fun than I expected with fun roles for actors from the past like Steven Seagal and Don Johnson.  And somehow he managed to get Robert DeNiro.

So now, three years later, we have 'Machete Kills', the film that was promised to us at the end of the first.  And I expected more of the same, but actually this one's pretty different.  It's a lot campier, with a lot more comedy, and even slowly transitions from the Tex-Mex genre we saw in the first to something totally different.  So that's pretty interesting.  And the cast additions are fun, including Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Sophia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, and introducing Carlos Estevez (a.k.a. Charlie Sheen).  Yet despite all of this potentially fun allure, I found the film to feel dull and too long.  Fans of B-movies will probably laugh their butts off.  Personally, I got a few chuckles and enjoyed a few interesting performances and twists.

Grade: B- (and that may be a little generous)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 10/3/13


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:

Gravity - Now in theaters. My Grade: B
Runner Runner - Now in theaters. My Grade: B+
This is the End - Now available on DVD/Blu-Ray. My Grade: A-

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 Family    Grade: A-

Runner Runner    Grade: B+

We're the Millers     Grade: B+

The Way Way Back     Grade: B+

Short Term 12     Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

Thanks for Sharing     Grade: B+

Gravity     Grade: B

Parkland    Grade: B

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones     Grade: C+

The Conjuring     Grade: C

Rush     Grade: C

Haute Cuisine    Grade: C

Wadjda    Grade: C

The Wolverine    Grade: D



Additional Films Not Reviewed:

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

Instructions Not Included
Metallica Through the Never
Planes
Riddick
The Trials of Muhammad Ali
Wedding Palace

Gravity


'Gravity' was one of the more anticipated films of the year for a lot of people.  George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space?  Directed by Alfonso Cuaron ('Children of Men')?  Sign. Me. Up.

Clooney and Bullock play two astronauts who run into serious troubles when unexpected debris knocks them free from their space shuttle.  With just the two of them alone in space with diminishing oxygen and fuel, they need to figure out a way to survive.  The film largely consists of just the two actors (but with some notable voiceover work by Ed Harris, thereby completing his astronaut themed trilogy including 'The Right Stuff' and 'Apollo 13'.)

Maybe it's a function of seeing too many movies, but unfortunately 'Gravity' just didn't weigh in as heavy as I expected.  Bullock at least works overtime to impart the gravitas of the situation.  But Clooney is really just being typical Clooney, and as much as I like him, I didn't buy his unbelievably calm, cool demeanor under the circumstances.  And even though the storyline is compelling, and certain scenes are nail-biters, I can't help but feel we've seen it before in many other more compelling disaster films.  ('The Poseidon Adventure', 'Titanic', 'The Impossible', and 'Cast Away', to name just a few.)  This one just happens to be in space.

To be clear, most every critic I talk to seems to think this film is spectacular and the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are almost 100% fresh.  People seem to feel totally absorbed by the film, and find the 3D to really pull you in like you're there.  I just didn't feel as connected to it.  Don't get me wrong, it's pretty good, but it's just not the awards worthy film I was hoping for.  At least in my opinion.

Grade: B+

Runner Runner


Most films either take themselves too seriously or not serious enough.  And this creates a problem for those nights after a long work week when you just want to turn your brain off, sit back, and enjoy a fun popcorn film that isn't pretentious but also doesn't need to overcompensate with lots of gunfire and explosions.  And that's what you get with 'Runner Runner'.

Justin Timberlake plays a brilliant grad student who pays his tuition through online gambling.  But when he figures out he's been swindled, he goes to Costa Rica to take it up with the owner of the site, played with full bravado by Ben Affleck.  Not since 'Boiler Room' have we seen Affleck play a character with such confidence and salesmanship, and it's a fun side of him to get to see again.  (And as an aside, all these naysayers on the internet flipping out about Affleck as Batman really need to chill out.  He's shown us his broad talents on many occasions.  Give the guy a chance.  I think he'll bring it as Bruce Wayne.)  And Timberlake continues to prove he's a great dramatic actor in addition to his musical and comedic talents.  Plus you get the beautiful Gemma Arterton for eye candy.

'Runner Runner' is a fun film with a fun cast and is my pick of the week.  Pair it with a DVD screening at home of 'Boiler Room' or the underappreciated 'In Time' also starring Timberlake.

Grade: B+

Parkland


By now we're all quite familiar with the events on 11/22/63 when JFK was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  We know the story.  We've heard the conspiracy theories.  We've seen Oliver Stone's film.  So what more is there to see?  Well, if you're interested, there's always the personal experiences of those on the periphery, like the observers, the doctors, the secret service, etc...  It's not a must see, but with a good cast including Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, Zac Efron, Jackie Earle Haley, Ron Livingston, Colin Hanks, and Mark Duplass you could do worse.  If you liked 'Bobby' then this one's for you.  If you're JFK'd out then you can pass.

Grade: B