Sunday, March 30, 2014

First Quarter of 2014


Well, we're already one quarter through 2014 so it's time for my quarter end review.  Below is a summary of my grades for the 76 films I saw released in the first quarter of 2014.  Many of these are available right now on Video on Demand, so be sure to check out my What to See on VOD post for some lazy days at home.

There weren't very many wide release movies worth seeing this quarter, which is typical for the first quarter of the year.  But 'Sabotage', 'Non-Stop', '3 Days to Kill', and 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' are all much better than the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic would have you believe.  Don't listen to the fools on there.  In Flieder on Film We Trust, right?

However, there were a decent amount of great finds on Video on Demand this quarter.  Horror and crime dramas were particularly strong.  '13 Sins', 'Open Grave', 'Enemy', and 'In Fear' are four that any fan of creepy genre films should definitely check out.  'Blood Ties, 'Jamesy Boy', and 'McCanick' are three crime dramas worth your time if you like that genre.  And, if you prefer the lighter fare, try 'Better Living Through Chemistry', the heist film 'The Art of the Steal', the romance 'Barefoot', or two great documentaries 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me' and 'We Cause Scenes'.  All of these films are currently available on Video on Demand.  (I use Amazon and Xfinity, which are usually priced the same but occasionally different.)

However, while my focus on this blog remains films, I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight the best movie-like option, not just of the year, but of recent history.  Yes, I of course refer to 'True Detective'.  For those of you living in a cave, this is a new anthology series on HBO which will feature a different story and a different cast each season.  This season starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as two detectives on the trail of a satanic serial killer.  And it's my favorite movie or TV show I've seen in quite some time.  The acting, the dialogue, the cinematography, the direction, the opening theme/montage and really every aspect of it is just about perfect.  In my opinion, it's filmmaking at its finest and deserves nothing less than an A++, a grade I have not yet given out to anything else.  It's only 8 hours long, available on HBO on Demand, and will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on June 10.  I hope you enjoy it nearly as much as I did, though I'm sure some will not, and will kindly offer me their "feedback".  Que Sera Sera.

  1. 13 Sins        Grade: A
  2. Open Grave        Grade: A
  3. Sabotage        Grade: A
  4. Non-Stop        Grade: A
  5. Blood Ties        Grade: A
  6. 3 Days to Kill        Grade: A
  7. Jamesy Boy        Grade: A
  8. Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me       Grade: A
  9. Enemy        Grade: A
  10. We Cause Scenes         Grade: A
  11. Better Living Through Chemistry       Grade: A-
  12. Le Week-End        Grade: A-
  13. McCanick       Grade: B+
  14. The Art of the Steal        Grade: B+
  15. Barefoot        Grade: B+
  16. Bad Words        Grade: B+
  17. Nymphomaniac: Volume I        Grade: B+
  18. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit        Grade: B+
  19. Chlorine        Grade: B+
  20. The Pretty One        Grade: B+
  21. In Fear        Grade: B+
  22. Veronica Mars       Grade: B+
  23. Big Bad Wolves       Grade: B+
  24. Grand Piano       Grade: B+
  25. Odd Thomas       Grade: B+
  26. About Last Night       Grade: B+
  27. The Bag Man       Grade: B+
  28. Journey to the West     Grade: B+
  29. The Monuments Men       Grade: B
  30. At Middleton       Grade: B
  31. Divergent       Grade: B
  32. Robocop       Grade: B
  33. Nymphomaniac: Volume II       Grade: B
  34. Just a Sigh      Grade: B
  35. The Lunchbox       Grade: B
  36. Cesar Chavez       Grade: B
  37. The Face of Love       Grade: B
  38. Cheap Thrills        Grade: B
  39. Alan Partridge      Grade: B
  40. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones       Grade: B
  41. Winter's Tale        Grade: B-
  42. I, Frankenstein       Grade: B-
  43. 7 Boxes        Grade: B-
  44. A Birder's Guide to Everything        Grade: B-
  45. Jimmy P.        Grade: C+
  46. The Best Offer        Grade: C+
  47. Noah       Grade: C+
  48. Adult World        Grade: C+
  49. Repentance        Grade: C+
  50. Reasonable Doubt        Grade: C+
  51. That Awkward Moment        Grade: C+
  52. Run & Jump        Grade: C
  53. Endless Love        Grade: C
  54. The Lego Movie        Grade: C/B/A * (see review)
  55. Patrick: Evil Awakens       Grade: C
  56. Cold Comes the Night       Grade: C
  57. The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C
  58. In Secret       Grade: C-
  59. Maidentrip       Grade: C-
  60. The Rocket      Grade: C-
  61. A Field in England        Grade: D+
  62. Pompeii         Grade: D+
  63. Haunt        Grade: D+
  64. Ride Along        Grade: D+
  65. Devil's Due        Grade: D
  66. The Wait        Grade: D
  67. As the Palaces Burn      Grade: D
  68. Knights of Badassdom       Grade: D
  69. The Legend of Hercules        Grade: D
  70. A Fantastic Fear of Everything        Grade: D-
  71. Awful Nice      Grade: D-
  72. Back in the Day        Grade: D-
  73. Hide Your Smiling Faces        Grade: D-
  74. Almost Human       Grade: D-
  75. Maladies       Grade: F
  76. Summer in February       Grade: F


Films Not Reviewed:
300: Rise of an Empire
Afternoon of a Faun
Bethlehem
Ernest & Celestine
God's Not Dead
If You Build It
Kids for Cash
Like Father Like Son
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Muppets Most Wanted
Need for Speed
The Nut Job
Omar
Particle Fever
Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club
Son of God
Stalingrad
Stranger By The Lake
Vampire Academy
Visitors

13 Sins



How far would you go for money?  Mark Webber plays an everyman about to get married and with a disabled brother dependent upon him, when he suddenly loses his job.  So when he receives a mysterious phone call offering him increasingly large cash prizes for each of 13 challenges he completes he can't say no.  It sounds a lot like Cheap Thrills which also came out recently on Video on Demand, but it's much, much better here.  In fact, this could be the start of the next great horror franchise.  Catch it at the very beginning!  It's great disturbing fun!  And anything with Ron Perlman in it is always worth seeing.

'13 Sins' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Fans of the best horror franchises like 'Saw', but more fun and not QUITE as disturbing.

Blood Ties


Two brothers, one a cop (Billy Crudup) and one an ex-con (Clive Owen) must coexist within the bonds of family all the while going their polar opposite paths.  A tremendous cast including James Caan, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Lili Taylor, Noah Emmerich, and Griffin Dunne and a compelling story make me wonder why this crime drama got such a limited release in theaters.  Fortunately you can see it on Video on Demand.

Grade: A 

Who is this movie for?  Fans of crime dramas and family conflict.  Pair it with Jamesy Boy for a good crime drama double feature of films no one has seen, both now on VOD.

Maladies


James Franco has been known for a diverse amount of work, ranging from acting in film, acting in TV soap opera, directing, writing screenplays, writing novels, and attending multiple graduate schools.  And in general I'm a fan.  But he's also known to be fond of experimental art, and that can often be terribly painful to watch.  I had the displeasure of seeing his highly experimental film 'Francophrenia (or Don't Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is)' at the Tribeca Film Festival, a film composited of outtakes and off camera moments from his experience on General Hospital.  It was a glorified film school project, and certainly not something I should have had to pay to see.  And now we have 'Maladies'.  Don't be fooled by the quality of the cast including Catherine Keener and David Strathairn.  It's a boring, pretentious, unintelligible mess.

'Maladies' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: F

Who is this movie for?  No one.  Not even big time Francophiles will get their time or money's worth.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Enemy



Ah, the long awaited, buzzed-about 'Enemy'!  Ever since it premiered at Toronto last September I've been longing to see it.  Directed by Denis Villeneuve ('Prisoners', 'Incendies'), based on a novel by Jose Saramago ('Blindness'), and starring Jake Gyllenhaal in not one but two roles as a seemingly disturbed history teacher who finds out he has a doppelganger and then tries to track him down, this dark and atmospheric mystery was rumored to be a bit of a head trip.  Well, that was an understatement!  WTF? is the question that jumps to mind.  I very much enjoyed the build up and the air of suspense and confusion throughout, but I can't help but feel slightly dissatisfied by the ending.  It's almost as if the last reel were missing from the theater.  Or perhaps it's just art.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Those that like their films dark, mysterious, and don't feel cheated by abrupt endings and unresolved questions.

Barefoot


Scott Speedman plays your stereotypical love 'em and leave 'em ladies man.  But when he needs to find a date to take home to his rich mommy and daddy for his brother's wedding, he ends up with a seemingly mentally ill patient from the hospital he works in, played by Evan Rachel Wood.  And let me tell you, if you are tragically cursed with mental illness in this world, I hope to God you look like Evan Rachel Wood, because no one will treat you with the patience and help that she gets in this film.  It's totally phony.  And the realist in me says it's way too phony to be good.  But I honestly couldn't help but be won over by how sweet this romance is, perhaps largely due to the cast.  Evan Rachel Wood and Scott Speedman should both be way more famous than they are.  They're both beautiful, both great actors, and both very compelling.  And the supporting cast includes the always amazing J.K. Simmons and Treat Williams.  Frankly I liked this movie a hell of a lot more than I feel I should have (and certainly should admit to.)

'Barefoot' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: B+  (but I kind of want to give it an A-.  Maybe I'll upgrade it.)

Who is this movie for?  Those that enjoy a sweet romance with a great cast, even if it is more than a little phony.  It'll win you over.

Better Living Through Chemistry


Sam Rockwell stars as a small town pharmacist.  He's a great guy, a great husband, and a great father, but despite that his wife, his child, and his father-in-law walk all over him.  Enter the mysterious and sexy Olivia Wilde, who changes his life.  Michelle Monaghan and Ray Liotta costar, and Jane Fonda even pops up as the narrator.  This movie isn't life changing in any way, but it's a really fun and sexy film with a great cast, making it a great choice to watch on a rainy day at home.

'Better Living Through Chemistry' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Those looking for a fun, sexy, light film with a great cast that you can rent at home.

The Wait


Those who follow my blog know that I see a lot of new releases that premiere on Video on Demand.  I enjoy the thrill of the hunt.  Sometimes I find a gem!  And sometimes I waste money and time.  This one is in the latter category.

Jena Malone and Chloe Sevigny play sisters who have just lost their mother.  They are emotionally destroyed, but even before they give the body over they receive a phone call from a woman who implies their mother will return.  Sound intriguing?  It did to me.  (That's why I rented it!)  But it's terrible.  It's a complete mess, switching from one subplot of one family member to another, but not concluding or satisfying any of them in any way.  It's truly terrible filmmaking, saved only slightly by the quality of these two actresses.  The title is appropriate.  I waited for something interesting to happen.  It didn't.

'The Wait' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: D

Who is this movie for?  No one.  Pass.

Friday, March 28, 2014

In Theaters Now - 3/28/14



(new releases in green)

Non-Stop       Grade: A-

Sabotage      Grade: A-

Le Week-End      Grade: A-

Nymphomaniac: Volume I      Grade: B+   (Also available on VOD)

Enemy       Grade: B+

Bad Words        Grade: B+

Veronica Mars       Grade: B+   (Also available on VOD)

About Last Night       Grade: B+

Tim's Vermeer       Grade: B+


Frozen       Grade: B+

The Monuments Men       Grade: B

Divergent       Grade: B

Cesar Chavez       Grade: B

The Face of Love       Grade: B   (Also available on VOD)

3 Days to Kill       Grade: B-

The Lego Movie       Grade: C/B/A * (see review)

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Pompeii       Grade: D+

Ride Along       Grade: D+


The Wind Rises       Grade: D- * (see review)




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
300: Rise of an Empire
Bethlehem
Ernest & Celestine
God's Not Dead
The Lunchbox
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Muppets Most Wanted
Need for Speed
Noah
Particle Fever
Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club
Son of God

Sabotage


Let me begin by setting your expectations.  This is not an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.  It's a David Ayer film that happens to feature Schwarzenegger.  And by that I mean, don't expect camp, mindless action, or bloodless shoot 'em ups.  Writer/Director Ayer ('Training Day', 'End of Watch') doesn't do camp, mindless action, or bloodless shoot 'em ups.  He makes realistic, very intense, and in this case extremely bloody cop films that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In this one, Schwarzenegger leads a group of undercover DEA agents who have infiltrated a drug cartel money stash with a plan to steal $10M of it before they had it over to the feds.  But things don't go as planned and now they are under investigation by the cops and being hunted by the drug cartel.  The plot sounds pretty generic, and the generic title doesn't help.  (They should have gone with a more original title and left 'Sabotage' for the next Jason Statham mindless action and bloodless shoot 'em up.)  But it's all about how you do it, and Ayer does it just right.  Everyone plays their parts well and the film keeps you guessing throughout.  I expect some will be turned off by the gore, and others will find it hackneyed, but for me it hit the spot during a quarter when few films have.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Fans of 'Training Day', 'Endless Watch' and those that prefer their cop films to be intense and bloody.

Le Week-End


The endlessly-watchable Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan play a long time couple spending a weekend in Paris in a British romance film that could best be described as an unofficial 25 year later sequel to the 'Before Sunrise'/'Before Sunset'/'Before Midnight' trilogy.  It's easy to see how this could be Jesse & Celine in their mid 60's.  After a lifetime together the romance isn't quite there anymore and they are attempting to get it back in The City of Love.  And as if that isn't reason enough to see this charming film, Jeff Goldblum pops up in a supporting/extended cameo in a role that's just so very Jeff Goldblum.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Those who fancy romance films for the more mature.

Cesar Chavez


Michael Pena plays Cesar Chavez in this biopic about the civil rights activist and labor organizer who in the 1950's fought for the rights of and created a union for his fellow immigrant farm workers.  Along the way he battles the expected bigotry and increasingly violent actions of the rich landowners and local law enforcement.  But all it takes is one man willing to risk it all to inspire and incite the masses to rise up against injustice.  It sounds corny, but it's educational and a reasonably entertaining watch with decent performances by Pena, America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, and the always fun John Malkovich.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for:  History buffs and biopic fans.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nymphomaniac: Volume II


Regular readers of my blog surely recall my review of Volume I two weeks ago.  And at that time I wasn't exactly sure what to think about the latest from Lars von Trier.  I wanted to see how it played out before I was comfortable with the B+ I gave the first part.  And now, I am comfortable with that grade for Volume I, but the second two hours I was less pleased with than the first.  The structure is exactly the same, as Charlotte Gainsbourg finishes telling her story to Stellan Skarsgard, but the tone is even darker, as we get into the latter and even more deviant half of her life as a nymphomaniac.  It's dark, it's perverse, and it's feel bad.  In other words it's quintessential Lars von Trier.

'Nymphomaniac: Volume II' is now available on Video on Demand.  I just don't really understand any artistic reason behind splitting it into two films.  It just seems like a ploy to get us to pay twice.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  Only fans of Lars von Trier's trademark dark, perverse, and feel bad cinema.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In Theaters Now - 3/21/14



(new releases in green)

Philomena       Grade: A+

Dallas Buyers Club       Grade: A

The Wolf of Wall Street       Grade: A

American Hustle       Grade: A

12 Years a Slave       Grade: A

Non-Stop       Grade: A-

Nymphomaniac Volume I      Grade: B+   (Also available on VOD)

McCanick       Grade: B+    (Also available on VOD)

Bad Words       Grade: B+

Veronica Mars       Grade: B+    (Also available on VOD)

About Last Night       Grade: B+

Tim's Vermeer       Grade: B+

Frozen       Grade: B+

The Monuments Men       Grade: B

Divergent       Grade: B

Robocop       Grade: B

The Face of Love      Grade: B    (Also available on VOD)

3 Days to Kill       Grade: B-

The Lego Movie       Grade: C/B/A * (see review)

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Pompeii       Grade: D+

Ride Along       Grade: D+

The Wind Rises       Grade: D- * (see review)




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
300: Rise of an Empire
Blood Ties
The Lunchbox
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Muppets Most Wanted
Need for Speed
Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club
Son of God

Divergent


With the Hunger Games screen adaptations in full force, raking in money by the truckloads, Hollywood's choice to adapt this bestselling trilogy to screen was a no brainer.  It's not exactly the same, but it's close enough to attract the same audience.  Both feature young women as the protagonists (though, as much as I loved Shailene Woodley in The Descendants and 'The Spectacular Now', she's no Jennifer Lawrence.)  Both take place in futuristic societies, one with 13 districts and the other with 5 factions, and both on the precipice of a revolution.  Both feature a Kravitz (though 'Hunger Games' Lenny beats 'Divergent's Zoe hands down.)  Both are laden with enough young adult romance to keep the tween girls swooning, but fortunately neither one hits you over the head with it.  Both feature seasoned actors as the antagonists, and 'Divegent's Kate Winslet is always a powerhouse actress, though Hunger Games' Donald Sutherland wins by a nose if only because he's more devilishly fun to watch.

At the end of the day, if you like 'The Hunger Games', you'll enjoy 'Divergent', though probably less so.  The fact is, 'The Hunger Games' is better in every way.  But 'Divergent' is still decent.  It certainly held my interest throughout its 2 hours and 20 minutes.  I never read the books, so I never had any idea where it was going.  But unfortunately it wasn't anywhere quite as interesting as I'd hoped.  Maybe the sequel will be even better.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  Young adults.   Tween girls.  Fans of futuristic societies.

Bad Words


Jason Bateman takes his trademark 'I'm the smartest guy in the room' smug attitude to a new level when he sets out to win a national spelling bee tournament intended for those who haven't yet graduated from eighth grade.  The thing is, despite being somewhat of a genius, he never actually graduated past the eighth grade, so technically, much to the dismay of parents, teachers, and the tournament staff, they have to allow him to compete. 

'Bad Words' could fairly be compared to 'Billy Madison', where Adam Sandler goes back to grade school to pass each grade in two weeks, yet it isn't nearly as silly, slapsticky, or funny for that matter.  It's more of a dry comedy, much like you expect from Bateman's wit.  But it certainly does deliver plenty of the bad words promised in the title.  Bateman is filled with bitterness, for reasons kept unknown, and spews profanity and racial epithets without hesitation and with total disregard to his audience.  He's a man focused on his mission, and the mystery of his rationale behind it was, for me, what elevates this from being a so-so dark comedy to an interesting movie.  The occasional laughs and the charming camaraderie between Bateman and a young Indian competitor are enough to make it a fun viewing, but any movie where I can't deduce the final reveal in the first five minutes is even more worth my time. 

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Bateman fans and those that enjoy a good festival-type dramedy with a whole lot of bad words and racial slurs.  Pair it with 'About Last Night' for a double feature of comedies not to take grandma to.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

We Cause Scenes


My favorite documentaries are about interesting people who led interesting lives and/or have interesting hobbies.  Charlie Todd loves to cause a scene and over ten years ago he created a group called Improv Everywhere to do just that.  You've probably heard about or seen some of his scenes on YouTube, like his pranks on New York City subways where he gets his co-conspirators to take their pants off to give the unsuspecting commuters a laugh.  Although he's had some brushes with the law over the years, it's all in good natured fun to give people an unexpected story while they're going about their day that they can tell for the rest of their lives.  It's short, it's light, it's fun, and it's a good choice for a rainy day at home where you can take your pants off and not cause a scene.

'We Cause Scenes' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Fans of flash mobs (back in the good ol' days when that was a term for non-violent performance art, and not random mob violence.)

The Face of Love


Annette Bening plays a woman coming to grips with losing the love of her life (Ed Harris) to a tragic accident.  Five years later, while still grieving his passing, she happens across a man who looks exactly like him.  But can they sustain a relationship of any sort without her thinking of him as her dead husband?  Robin Williams costars as her caring next door neighbor and Jess Weixler plays her daughter.  Unfortunately, considering the impressive cast it isn't as good as I'd hoped.  It's melodrama that tugs at your heart a little bit, but is also more than a little creepy.

'The Face of Love' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  An older crowd with empathy for the loss of love.

In Fear


Generally speaking I'm frequently disappointed by most American horror films because they all too often rely on cheap scares to make us jump.  Anyone can jump out of nowhere and yell 'BOO' and frighten someone, but that doesn't make it worth watching in film.  But foreign horror films are often better, at least in my opinion.  They're scarier because they work on building and sustaining the tension that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole movie, and not just by leading music cues and shrill sound effects.  'In Fear' is an effective British horror film about a new couple en route to a secluded hotel for a romantic evening.  It's pretty low concept and contained, as the majority of the film takes place with just the two of them in the car, as they get lost and increasingly panicked.  The script isn't all that creative and the ending isn't all that satisfying, and yet the sustained tension and the quality of the small cast still makes it one of the better horror films I've seen of late.  If only we could get a do-over of the final act ...

'In Fear' is now available to watch in the comfort of home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Those, like me, who prefer foreign low budget, low concept, high tension horror rather than all those American haunted house/demonic possession/found footage films.

A Birder's Guide to Everything


A group of teenage nerd birder's, led by a boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) grieving the loss of his mother, embark on a quest to find a bird believed to be extinct.  It sounds decent but this coming-of-age film comes across more corny than sentimental and suffers from a less than stellar cast of youngsters who never really pull you into their stories.  Though supporting performances by James LeGros as the boy's dad and Sir Ben Kingsley as a birding guru certainly do help to make it just barely worth watching.  Thanks to them I can at least say it's slightly better than 'The Big Year', the only other film I've ever seen about birding.

'A Birder's Guide to Everything' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: B-

Who is this movie for?  Sir Ben Kingsley completists.  Those who don't worship Sir Ben should pass.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Veronica Mars


Exactly one year ago 'Veronica Mars' creator Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell started a one month Kickstarter campaign to raise $2M to finance a long desired reunion film for their short lived high school private eye mystery show that only lasted three seasons from 2004 to 2007.  In their eyes it was a Hail Mary.  In actuality, they raised the money they needed in just 12 hours, and over the month they raised a total of $5.7M from 91,585 contributors.  (For those with particularly poor math skills, that's an average contribution of $62.24 per contributor, but I'm guessing the median and mode were probably more along the lines of $20 and there were some big $10k contributions on the upper end driving up the mean.)  This shocked not only Thomas and Bell, but all of Hollywood.  Is crowdfunding the new future of film financing?  And from the perspective of us TV geeks, is there hope to revive all those shows we always wanted back, for a nominal contribution?  These are exciting times people.  Exciting times indeed.

I came a bit late to the Veronica Mars party, as it seemed in 2004 like just another teenybopper high school show for which I was too old to care about.  And it really wasn't until I had seen Bell on the talk show circuit, and then in person at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006 that I became instantly smitten by her charms.  (Read: Infatuated in a non-dangerous stalker kind of way.)  This girl (who was actually in her mid 20's by this point) came out of nowhere and I immediately saw greatness in her.  So I binge watched seasons 1 and 2 of 'Veronica Mars' and it, largely due to Bell herself, quickly won me over.  The fast talking, joke quipping, smart ass character fit so well into her wheelhouse that, even though she's a bona fide movie star now, still remains her best and most fitting role to date.  And that's probably why (unlike a lot of TV-turned-movie stars) she longed to return to the role that made her famous rather than run from it.  And lucky for us, because for fans of the show this is exactly what the doctor (or P.I. in this case) ordered.  It's a reunion of everyone (and as far as I can remember it's truly anyone who was anyone in Neptune) that doesn't feel forced.  Some of the characters have grown up (e.g. Veronica is now a graduate of law school, applying to a hotshot law firm in New York City, and seemingly closer to her character on 'House of Lies' than when we last left her.)  Other characters, like Ryan Hanson's Dick Casablancas, have remained just as juvenile as in their high school days.  And it's fun to see all the rising stars that came out of the show like Krysten Ritter and Max Greenfield.  Basically, like the kickin' Dandy Warhols theme song states, it feels like a long time ago we used to be friends.  But fortunately the show itself, while remaining true to what it was, has matured just enough so that us folks who are now in a different age bracket than we were when it first aired can still feel as much at home as you can tell it feels for Bell, et al.  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at the beginning that this was going to be another forced reunion movie, but by midway through, and certainly by the end I could tell that it was the right thing to do to make it.  This is where Kristen Bell belongs ... as a fast talking, joke quipping, smart-ass private dick.  Long live Veronica Mars.

So, while the mystery contained in this reunion film wraps up nicely, a few mysteries still remain.  Is this the finale for Veronica Mars or is it a rebirth for the series, either on TV or on the big screen?  And even more exciting, will the unexpected success of this Kickstarter campaign result in more of our favorite-yet-prematurely-demised TV series being resurrected by crowdfunding?  I certainly love the concept and am surprised it hasn't happened already over the last year.  Well let me get the ball rolling with a feeler for a 'True Detective' season one Kickstarter!  I'm in for $100 to get 8 more hours with Matthew and Woody.  Who else is in???  OK, OK I can do $250.  Fine, I suppose I could go as high as $500.  Pretty please?!?

'Veronica Mars' is now in theaters in limited release but also available from the comfort of your own home for a mere $6!  Just do it, if only to kickstart the resurrection of more great TV that just might be more up your alley.  Isn't that worth $6 to you?

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?   Marshmallows, of course.  Duh!

In Theaters Now - 3/14/14



(new releases in green)

Philomena       Grade: A+

Dallas Buyers Club       Grade: A

The Wolf of Wall Street       Grade: A

American Hustle       Grade: A

12 Years a Slave       Grade: A

Non-Stop       Grade: A-

Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me      Grade: A-    (Also available on VOD)

Better Living Through Chemistry      Grade: A-    (Also available on VOD)

Veronica Mars      Grade: B+    (Also available on VOD)

About Last Night       Grade: B+

Tim's Vermeer       Grade: B+

Her       Grade: B+

The Art of the Steal       Grade: B+      (Also available on VOD)

Frozen       Grade: B+

The Monuments Men       Grade: B

Robocop       Grade: B

3 Days to Kill       Grade: B-

Endless Love       Grade: C

The Lego Movie       Grade: C/B/A * (see review)

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Pompeii       Grade: D+

Ride Along       Grade: D+

The Wind Rises       Grade: D- * (see review)




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
300: Rise of an Empire
Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Need for Speed
Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club
Son of God

The Grand Budapest Hotel


There are two types of movie-goers on this planet: those that LOVE Wes Anderson films and people like me.  To say Wes Anderson has a cult following is an understatement.  He really has quite a large fanbase of extremely devoted followers who absolutely adore his films 'Bottle Rocket', 'Rushmore', 'The Royal Tenenbaums', 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou', 'The Darjeeling Limited', 'Fantastic Mr. Fox', and 'Moonrise Kingdom'.  Well I don't.  Of course, this is not to say I hate Anderson, or have any ill will towards him.  In fact, I respect him for creating such a unique and recognizable style and for attracting such incredible talent willing to take on even the smallest of roles just to be a part of his films.  But the simple fact is, as much as I want to be, and as hard as I try, I am simply not entertained by his movies.  To me, Anderson is more of an artist, and perhaps even more of a magician, than a storyteller.  His films are like paintings and his dialogue, while hardly lacking in words, seems to say very little though it certainly works overtime giving off the appearance of saying a lot.  And this is akin to the art of misdirection, of which any good magician is master.  He has you so focused on his heavily stylized production design, costume, and verbiage, that you don't even notice that he hasn't offered you much in the way of substance.  At least that's how I feel.  So despite an amazing cast including Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Ed Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and a host of alumni from past Anderson films, and going in with the most open of minds, I simply couldn't wait for the closing credits to arrive.  To be clear, that's not to say this is a bad film.  It's clearly a work of art, but just not the kind of art I go for.  I am not a hipster, nor did I play one on TV.  No, I'm just more of a 'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' kind of guy.

Grade: C

Who is this movie for?  Wes Anderson fans will undoubtedly be overwhelmingly pleased.  Personally I much prefer this parody of his films from SNL:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSEzGDzZ1dY