Friday, November 29, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 11/29/13


I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  Personally, I am very thankful to get to impersonate a proper film critic most Fridays on Good Day.  I am not thankful, however, for technical difficulties.  I just got word that I won't be able to go on this morning to tell you all how great Philomena is, how good Frozen is, and how bad Homefront is.  But no worries, you can read it all right here on my blog.  Now go buy something you don't need because it's 70% off and then go see 'Philomena'.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homefront


I am always wary when a new Jason Statham film comes out (which is all too frequently.)  Statham started off his career in great Guy Ritchie British crime films like 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'Snatch', showing a lot of charisma and and a lot of potential.  But he has devolved to starring in sub-par action films with single word generic, non-descriptive titles like 'Safe', 'Blitz', 'Redemption', and now 'Homefront', and I seriously doubt if even Statham himself could tell them apart at this point.  I wrote a similar review earlier this year, but then had to eat a little crow when I found myself being entertained by 'Parker'.  I can admit it when it's better than expected.  But now we've reached a new low.  'Homefront' is an utterly terrible bore-fest from start to finish that raises several questions:  How did this script, with Jason Statham attached as the lead, attract a decent supporting cast including James Franco, Kate Bosworth, and Wynona Ryder?  And even more of a mystery: how did it get a theatrical release?  This one has Straight to Video on Demand written all over it.  And trust me, it's not even worth seeing at home on your most bored day, even if it were free.  That is unless you want to see Statham as a cliche ex-DEA tough guy repeatedly puffing out his chest and trying to stare down one thuggish tough guy after another, resulting in him reluctantly having to kick ass, over and over and over.  No thanks.

Oh, and for the record ... director Gary Fleder?  No relation.

Grade: F

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)

Philomena   Grade: A+

About Time     Grade: A+

Hunger Games: Catching Fire     Grade: A

Enough Said     Grade: A

Dallas Buyers Club     Grade: A

12 Years a Slave     Grade: A

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

Ender's Game     Grade: B+

The Armstrong Lie     Grade: B+

Gravity    Grade: B+

Frozen   Grade: B+

Last Vegas     Grade: B

Nebraska     Grade: B

The Best Man Holiday     Grade: C+

The Book Thief     Grade: C+

All is Lost    Grade: C+

Thor: The Dark World     Grade: C

Kill Your Darlings     Grade: D

Delivery Man     Grade: D

Homefront   Grade: F




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Black Nativity
Blue is the Warmest Color
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Free Birds
The Great Beauty
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Oldboy

Philomena


The best experiences for me as a film critic come from sitting down in front of a film that has absolutely no buzz at all, and of which I know absolutely nothing about, and being blown away by it.  And that's what happened to me when I saw 'Philomena' at the Philadelphia Film Festival last month.  It was one of the standout films I saw there, and has generated great word of mouth since.

Steve Coogan plays a recently fired broadcaster looking to return to the world of journalism, when he decides to take on a human interest story to help a woman (Dame Judi Dench) track down the child she hasn't seen for 50 years.

We all know Dench as a great actress, quite comfortable in her wheelhouse of British drama.  (Let's face it, they don't knight you for nothing.)  But those of us in America who are familiar with Steve Coogan primarily know him as a brilliant comedian.  Though lately Coogan has made several attempts to show us his more serious side.  This year alone we had 'The Look of Love' and 'What Maisie Knew', both showcasing his skill as a dramatic actor, but neither film turning out exceptional, despite his efforts.  But the third time's the charm for him, and both Coogan and Dench deliver some of the finest performances of the year in this film, which also happens to be the best drama of the year, in my opinion.

There are so many things I love about it that I don't know where to begin.  For one, I love how the story unfolds.  With so many movies, it's obvious within the first 15 minutes where the film is going.  I hate that.  This one keeps you entertained and curious from start to finish.  And equally important, as I mentioned above, the performances are top notch.  Coogan finally shows us that his skills as a dramatic actor equal if not exceed his comedy chops.  And Dench nails her role as well.  Most importantly, the chemistry of this odd couple is so strong and honest it almost feels like voyeurism.  If you love a great drama, do yourself a favor and go and see this film this weekend and then you can thank me on here, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Grade: A+

Frozen


Regular readers of my blog or viewers of my TV appearances know that I'm not generally a fan of animated films.  And I've learned that I'm not doing anyone a favor by sitting through them and rating them poorly, because if you like animated films you may well enjoy them even though I didn't.  Of course I make the exception to go see them if they're made by Disney or Pixar because to me, those are the best of their kind.  And if it's a musical, even better.  And 'Frozen' is just that: A Disney musical.  It reminds me of the animated Disney classics I loved as a child.  It's not quite in the same caliber, and I'd be lying if I told you I stayed awake through from start to finish.  (Yes, I had a brief nap in the middle.  But it was only a brief one and it had been a long day.)  Nevertheless, the music is exceptional.  The animation is good.  The story is decent.  And though I've only seen two other animated films this year ('Monsters U' which was decent and 'The Croods' which was terrible), this is my favorite of the three. 

Bottom line: If you liked 'Tangled' you'll like this.  Take the kids this weekend.

Grade: B+

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 11/22/13


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire', 'Delivery Man', and 'The World's End'. http://www.myfoxorlando.com/category/233752/good-day http://www.myfoxorlando.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=9559842 FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now

 


(newest releases in green)

Prisoners    Grade: A+

Hunger Games: Catching Fire    Grade: A

Dallas Buyers Club     Grade: A

Enough Said    Grade: A

12 Years a Slave     Grade: A

About Time     Grade: A-

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

Ender's Game     Grade: B+

Escape Plan    Grade: B+

Gravity     Grade: B+

Last Vegas     Grade: B

Nebraska    Grade: B

The Best Man Holiday    Grade: C+

The Book Thief     Grade: C+

All is Lost    Grade: C+

Thor: The Dark World     Grade: C

Kill Your Darlings     Grade: D

Delivery Man    Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Blue is the Warmest Color
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Free Birds
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Mother of George

Delivery Man


Vince Vaughn films aren't always great, but you can generally expect them to provide some laughs and to at least have a reasonably enjoyable viewing experience.  But don't believe the title.  This man definitely does not deliver on any of those expectations.

Of course, it didn't help that I saw the exact same story less than 8 months ago when it was called 'Starbuck'.  This remake of that French film (directed by the same man), about a guy who unknowingly fathered 533 children through anonymous sperm donation, is way too soon and way too similar to provide any good reason for it to have been made.  There's no improvement over the original, which wasn't great to begin with.  And in fact, this one is worse in many ways.  It's not funny.  It's not heartwarming.  And it's not even likeable.  Even the score is annoyingly cheesy.  At its best moments it was putting me to sleep.  And at its worst, it was sucking my will to live.  Spare yourself the same pain.

Grade: D

Nebraska


'Nebraska' is the latest from Alexander Payne, who has given us increasingly interesting films like 'Election', 'About Schmidt', 'Sideways', and 'The Descendants', though this is the only one that wasn't written by Payne himself.  In fact, Payne read this script nine years ago, and has been trying to make it ever since.  But his insistence that it be made in black & white was a hurdle that made it a challenge to get financing for, even with his prior successes.

Bruce Dern plays an aging alcoholic determined to get to Nebraska to collect the million dollars he believes he won according to a sweepstakes entry form he received in the mail.  And some much needed family bonding occurs when his son, played by SNL's Will Forte, agrees to take him.  It's a great premise for an Alexander Payne film, but this one's quirkier and less poignant than his prior works.  Considering the subject matter it could have been dealt with in a much more emotional way, but it really isn't.  And I think it would be better if it had.  I just didn't feel any connection to any of the characters.  Though it is a lightly comic, quirky film that may be worth seeing, but not worthy of its buzzed about awards consideration.

Grade: B

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


Let me preface my review by saying that even though I never read any of the books, I loved the first 'Hunger Games' film, and enjoyed it even more the second time I saw it.  It's everything a big Hollywood blockbuster should be.  It's original.  It's exciting.  The casting is perfect.  The visuals are breathtaking.  It's fully engaging from start to finish.  And it makes you want more after it's over even though it's almost two and half hours long.  Essentially it's everything that 'Thor: The Dark World' should be but isn't.

I'm pleased to report that my review for the sequel is exactly the same.  It's everything you could want.  It picks up exactly where it should.  It takes you in directions that totally make sense, but yet weren't obvious to me.  The cast is the same as the first, once again including really fun supporting performances by Stanley Tucci, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Donald Sutherland, but also now adds Philip Seymour Hoffman to the mix.  And it's just the right balance of similar to the first but different.  I loved it!  It flew by and I can't wait for the next one!  This is a movie you want to see on the big screen.  I saw it on IMAX and it looked tremendous.  Clear you calendar this weekend and go and see it (after revisiting the first one at home, of course.)

Grade: A

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 11/15/13


Check out my appearance from this morning where I offered my thoughts on 'Thor: The Dark World', 'The Best Man Holiday', and 'Dallas Buyers Club'.

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

FOX 35 News Orlando

In Theaters Now



(newest releases in green)

Prisoners    Grade: A+

Dallas Buyers Club     Grade: A

Enough Said    Grade: A

12 Years a Slave     Grade: A

About Time     Grade: A-

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

The Broken Circle Breakdown     Grade: A-

Ender's Game     Grade: B+

Escape Plan    Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

Last Vegas     Grade: B

Gravity     Grade: B

The Best Man Holiday     Grade: C+

The Book Thief    Grade: C+

All is Lost    Grade: C+

Rush     Grade: C

The Counselor     Grade: C

Thor: The Dark World    Grade: C

Kill Your Darlings     Grade: D

Diana     Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

Blue is the Warmest Color
Carrie
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Free Birds
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Dallas Buyers Club


Three years ago I would never have guessed I'd say this, but Matthew McConaughey has become one of the best actors working today, with an extremely impressive seven movie run where he is the best part of each film.  In 2011 he starred in the entertaining legal thriller 'The Lincoln Lawyer'.  In 2012 he delivered four unique and memorable performances in 'Bernie', 'Magic Mike', 'Killer Joe', and 'The Paperboy'.  And in 2013 he started the year off with rave reviews in 'Mud'.  But it's 'Dallas Buyers Club' that's going to secure his place in the Oscar race.  He lost so much weight for the role, playing an early victim of HIV in the mid 80's, that he's almost unrecognizable.  McConaughey doesn't just act, but rather completely embodies this character, based on a real person, and portrays his unbelievable arc in such a believable way.  As is the case with most of the Oscar bait films released this time of year, it's not an easy watch.  In fact, when it started out and I realized what it was about, I really wasn't in the mood.  But it won me over big time.  And McConaughey may just get my vote for Best Actor for the Critics Choice Movie Awards.  That's going to be a tough category.

Grade: A

The Book Thief


It's virtually impossible to make it through awards season without a World War II / Holocaust film.  This year's entry is 'The Book Thief' based on the popular novel by the same name.  13 year old Sophie Nelisse plays the titular character, placed under the care of foster parents, played by Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush, in Germany during the war.  In her new environment she tries to adapt to all who surround her, including a nagging mother, an adoring father, a young boy suitor, and a Jewish refugee taking shelter in their basement.

According to Nelisse, her research of the Holocaust included a viewing of 'Schindler's List', 'Life is Beautiful', 'The Pianist', 'The Reader', and 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas'.  This is certainly the gold standard for Holocaust films.  But unfortunately this film doesn't belong anywhere near that stellar class.  With the exception of the always amazing Geoffrey Rush, who is just a supporting role here, I didn't connect with any of the characters, and therefore film didn't move me emotionally at all.  And that's pretty essential for a film in this genre to succeed.  Unfortunately you can throw this one in the fire with the books.

Grade: C+

The Best Man Holiday


It's always surprising when a non-franchise film from over a decade ago spawns a sequel.  Studio execs are clearly digging deep into their catalogs for properties with a built-in audience.  Sometimes it works great.  2004's 'Before Sunset' and this year's 'Before Midnight' were increasingly impressive, well received, and completely unexpected continuations to the sleeper hit 'Before Sunrise' from 1995.  Though sometimes it just seems unnecessary and falls flat.  And that's the case here.  Of course I wasn't really a big fan of the first one, 'The Best Man', which came out 15 years ago.  It had a decent ensemble cast, including Taye Diggs and Terrence Howard, with a fun camaraderie, but neither the comedy, the romance, nor the drama really worked enough to make it a memorable watch.  And I can say the same goes for the sequel.  As a general rule, I strongly believe you shouldn't dig up an old property with a fan following unless there's good reason to do so.  The script here isn't terrible, but it's not reason enough to exhume this particular body.

Grade: C+

Friday, November 8, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 11/8/13



Unfortunately there were technical problems this morning and I wasn't able to go on.  This is extremely frustrating as it was simply the earphone cord that wasn't working and by the time I resolved the issue it was five minutes too late and I missed my window.  That's live TV!  I suspect Marvel may have sabotaged the cord to keep me from bashing their film.  Maybe I'll get a second chance next week.

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

Let the Fire Burn     Grade: A-

About Time     Grade: A-

Captain Phillips     Grade: A-

Ender's Game     Grade: B+

Runner Runner     Grade: B+

Escape Plan    Grade: B+

Baggage Claim     Grade: B+

Last Vegas     Grade: B

Gravity     Grade: B

All is Lost    Grade: C+

Insidious Chapter 2     Grade: C+

Rush     Grade: C

The Counselor     Grade: C

Thor: The Dark World    Grade: C

Kill Your Darlings   Grade: D

Diana     Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

After Tiller
American Promise
Blue is the Warmest Color
Carrie
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Free Birds
Great Expectations
How I Live Now
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Spinning Plates
The Wicker Man - The Final Cut

Thor: The Dark World


Well I just finished watching yet another Marvel comic disappointment.  And yes, my opinion of this franchise stands.  Thor is still a bore.  This particular sequel struck me as kind of a mess, narratively speaking.  It was like watching 'Green Lantern' all over again.  Though at least I can say it was more fun than 'The Wolverine' from earlier this year thanks to a better supporting cast and the occasional humor injected at just the right moment so as to keep me awake between boring battle sequences with some forgettable villain.  I just saw the film and I'd be hard pressed to give you a proper synopsis other than the fact that there's a new bad guy and he battles Thor, but ultimately Thor wins.  Oops, I forgot to say spoiler alert.  Sorry about that.  But let's face it, this is a Marvel comic film and there's no variation to their formula.  So, I've come up with some new rules:

  • Beware of movies that start off with too much exposition told by voiceover narration.  I haven't even settled comfortably into my chair when I'm already told some detailed backstory of some creatures in some world in some galaxy that did some thing.  And I don't know about you, but I despise being lost after just five minutes.  It's not just because I'm slow.  It's poor storytelling.
  • Beware of films with a ':' in the title. Sure, you can say that the majority of movies with a ':' are sequels for lame franchises, and that's why they suck. But I find it interesting that the Iron Man sequels are numbered without a ':' and they're better than most of the Marvel sequels with the ':'  (Of course this isn't always true, so settle down naysayers.  It's merely an observation.)
  • Enough with the 3D already!  It's like watching a movie with your sunglasses on!  It takes away from the intended brightness of the film and makes it look depressingly dark.  And FYI, my entire life is in 3D, so it's really not a treat.  2D has become the novelty.
  • Don't be afraid to have the bad guy win.  In every one of these Marvel films there's some supporting character who dies to motivate the other characters to pull together, man up, and heroically take down the villain once and for all.  But wouldn't it be something if Thor was actually killed?  For real though, not just temporarily.  Which leads me to my next point ...
  • When a character dies, they should stay dead.   Wait, Clark Gregg's agent Coulson is alive?!?   Of course he is. They needed him for the TV spinoff 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'  Magneto isn't dead?!?   Of course not, they need him for another X-Men film.   Look, this was lame in 'Star Trek III: The Search for Spock' in 1984. Almost 30 years later, it's still just as lame.
  • If the best part of the film is the teaser for the next film during the end credits, you've made a bad movie.   We should be geeking out about what we're watching now, not what we'll be watching next year (which will ultimately not live up to the tease itself.)

C'mon Marvel.  Shake things up. Change the format. Take some chances. Maybe go a little darker. I recommend studying the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight trilogy.  Because eventually your audience is going to wise up and get as tired of your formula as I have been for some time.


Grade: C

Kill Your Darlings


Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, and Jack Huston, play Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac, respectively; over-privileged students and budding beat poets and authors at Columbia in the early 1940's.  They drink, smoke, do drugs, listen to jazz, get into trouble, and struggle to find their inner voice.  But that description makes this movie sound kind of fun.  And it's not.  At all.  It's a big giant bore and artsy-fartsy in all the wrong ways.  It's all style and very little substance, as if Baz Luhrmann had directed 'Dead Poets Society' and replaced all the interesting characters with annoying ones you want to punch in the face.  Of course, that's just my opinion, and I'm not a beat poet, nor am I a fan.  I didn't enjoy 'Howl'.  I didn't enjoy 'On the Road'.  And now I didn't enjoy 'Kill Your Darlings'.  My apologies, to all my devoted beat poet / artist followers.

Grade: D

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Seduced and Abandoned


If you've ever wanted an inside look at what it takes to get a film financed outside the studio system, then this documentary is for you.  Alec Baldwin and director James Toback take their pitch of a 'Last Tango in Paris'-esque film, which would feature Baldwin and Neve Campbell, to the Cannes Film Festival, where investors go to finance independent films.  The problem is, neither Baldwin nor Campbell are big screen names anymore, and getting the $15M to $20M they want to make the picture is anything but easy, even with Baldwin's current uber-fame from the small screen, the stage, and the media.  The film is packed with really interesting, candid interviews with Baldwin, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Bernardo Bertolucci, Roman Polanski, James Caan, and plenty more.  Film buffs will really find it interesting, even if it is a little off-putting watching millionaires beg billionaires for money.

You can see 'Seduced and Abandoned' now on HBO.

Grade: A-

Friday, November 1, 2013

Flieder's Flicks - Good Day FOX 35 Orlando 11/1/13


Check out my return to Good Day Orlando after a 6 week hiatus, where I offer my thoughts on 'Last Vegas', 'Ender's Game', 'About Time', and '12 Years a Slave'.

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

 FOX 35 News Orlando

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

Let the Fire Burn    Grade: A-

Blue Jasmine     Grade: A-

About Time    Grade: A-

Captain Phillips      Grade: A-

Ender's Game      Grade: B+

Runner Runner      Grade: B+

Escape Plan     Grade: B+

Baggage Claim      Grade: B+

Last Vegas      Grade: B

Gravity      Grade: B

All is Lost      Grade: C+

Insidious Chapter 2      Grade: C+

Rush      Grade: C

The Counselor      Grade: C

Diana    Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

American Promise
Blue is the Warmest Color
Carrie
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2
Free Birds
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
Man of Tai Chi
Zaytoun 

Last Vegas



A few years ago who would have thought we'd see the day when Oscar winners Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline, and Mary Steenburgen would team up for a bromance bachelor party in Vegas comedy?  But ever since 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' became a surprise hit, the old folks have taken back the cinema.  And I love it.  Now, in films like 'Red' and 'Stand Up Guys', it's the old guys (and gals too) who get to have the fun.  Plus, instead of getting the standard Hollywood fare with one or maybe two big stars, we now get three, four, or even five Hollywood legends in one picture!  And, of course, ever since 'The Hangover' was a summer blockbuster spawning two sequels, bachelor parties in Vegas have been all the rage.  So this movie is kind of a no-brainer.  It basically writes itself.  And that's the problem here.  It looks like this movie was written on autopilot based upon what has worked in the recent past.  And everything about the story is cliche and phony.  It seems that once the brilliant casting was done, the creative part of the process was over.  Of course sometimes likeability and charm is all you need, and this one has that in spades.  Let's face it, we could watch these guys read the phonebook and still be entertained.  Plus, there are plenty of jokes here, and some that even work.  So it will keep a smile on your face and make you leave the theater feeling good, even if you didn't see anything memorable and, at its worst moments, phony as hell.  It's ok.  Not everything a legend does has to be legendary.  Sometimes it's just enough to watch four dirty old men hit on some way-too-young-for-them hotties and enjoy some camaraderie.  Just one suggestion though.  For 'Last Vegas 2', add Alan Arkin.

Grade: B

Ender's Game


It's gotten colder outside but apparently it's still summer at the box office with this introduction of a new big budget alien sci-fi franchise that should please all you popcorn movie enthusiasts of summer.

The world has already been attacked by aliens looking to colonize.   But humans were fortunate to be able to fend them off.  Now they must train the children to prepare for future attacks.  Harrison Ford plays the Colonel in charge who puts his faith in a young recruit nicknamed Ender to be our savior.  Sir Ben Kingsley and Viola Davis costar.

I've been critical of Ford's choices over the last 20 years, starring in one disappointing action/thriller after another, and not displaying any range in acting ability.  Well I can't say that he's expanded his range here, but this part fits nicely in his wheelhouse.  I just think sci-fi is a good genre for him (providing fond memories of 'Star Wars' to us all.)  More importantly, this is a fun new entry in the sci-fi genre and manages to succesfully differentiate itself from 'Independence Day' and all of its successors.  Like 'Pacific Rim', it's fun, and definitely one to see on the biggest, loudest screen you can find.

Grade: B+

About Time


Let's face it, most romance films are too schmaltzy and cliche.  So how can you make one that stands out and be appealing to men as well as women?  Well, you can add quirky dry British comedy, poignant drama, and maybe even time travel?  Oh, and make it just about perfect.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as a man who learns something life changing on his 21st birthday when his dad, played by the inimitable Bill Nighy, reveals to him that the men in his family all have the gift of time travel.  They can go back in time to repeat certain actions and events they wish they could change.  (Don't we all wish we could do that?)  And with that nugget of information, he begins the process of steering his life in a better direction, which includes falling in love with Rachel McAdams.

First off, I have to give this film credit for originality.  I can't say I've seen anything quite like it.  I found it enjoyable from the very beginning, but yet it didn't entirely pull me in on my first viewing until towards the end, when there are some terrific moments of poignancy.  And in fact it wasn't until my second viewing that I fully appreciated how brilliantly nuanced the performances are, and how deeply heartfelt the final product and its message is.  (And ordinarily message laden films make me gag.)  Bill Nighy is just about the greatest on screen personality so if you don't know him by name, or haven't yet fully embraced his greatness, I'd say it's about time.

(Slight spoiler alert below ...)

Ironically I failed at the film's central theme: to appreciate each and every moment fully as it is happening.  Fortunately, similar to the men in this story, I got a chance to relive this experience and appreciated it all the more on my second time around. 

(End of spoiler)

Having seen it twice now, and loving it completely and thoroughly on my second viewing, I can say that I don't think it's getting nearly enough acclaim by other critics.  Do yourself a favor and see this movie.  And ideally see it with someone you love.

Grade: A+

Let the Fire Burn



It's been a particularly good year for documentaries.  And continuing with that trend, we can add 'Let the Fire Burn' to your list of ones you should see.  It tells the story of the MOVE organization (i.e. cult) in Philadelphia between the mid 70's and mid 80's, and their conflicts with their neighbors and within the community that escalated to major incidents when the Mayor and police decided to take action.  Compiled from archive news and interview footage, it's a fascinating look back, whether you're extremely familiar with the story or not familiar at all.  I believe it presents both sides of the story fairly.  (Though, as I was fortunate to attend the lively panel at the Philadelphia Film Festival, I can tell you that both sides feel somewhat misrepresented.)  This is a very interesting and intense film from start to finish.

Grade: A-

Diana


Naomi Watts isn't having a very good year, professionally.  And that's a shame because she's a great actress who clearly works hard at her craft.  She started 2013 with a small part in 'Movie 43', one of the worst reviewed bad taste comedies of all time.  (Though many A-listers somehow got suckered into appearing in that fiasco!)  A month later she was robbed of an Oscar for her amazing performance in last year's tsunami disaster film, 'The Impossible'.  She followed that up with the awkwardly taboo May-September vaguely incestuous sex drama 'Adore'.  And now she plays the infamous royal Princess, which certainly seems like an Oscar bait film on the surface, but instead it's just a painful bore.  Of course, this is in no way Watts' fault.  She's as good in this film as usual for her.  The problem is there's just not a movie to be made here.  It's a two hour tabloid cover story of Diana's secret love affair with an Indian heart surgeon.  Yet, the romance falls flat, the drama doesn't work, and her tragic death isn't even climactic.  In short, 'Diana' is dreadfully dull.

Grade: D