Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lucky Them


When it comes to indie dramedies, you don't get a much better cast than Toni Collette and Thomas Hayden Church.  And they're both absolutely perfect here as a music critic and amateur documentary filmmaker, respectively, in search of a Kurt Cobain-ish once-worshipped musician who inspired the world and then disappeared ten years earlier.  Is he still alive or are they just chasing a ghost?  And as if that's not enough, the great Oliver Platt also appears in this funny, dramatic, poignant, and pretty damn perfect indie dramedy.

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

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  It's a must see for fans of Collette, Church, and indie/festival-type dramedies.  I saw it at TriBeCa and just saw it again on VOD and loved it even more the second time around.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Chinese Puzzle


I always look forward to any French film with either Romain Duris or Audrey Tautou.  And in the case of the beloved romantic dramedy 'L'Auberge Espagnole' (a.k.a. 'The Spanish Apartment'), back in 2002, we got both along with an ensemble of great actors from all over Europe.  A few years later that film spawned a sequel called 'Russian Dolls'.  And now almost a decade later, much like with the 'Before Sunrise'/'Before Sunset'/'Before Midnight' trilogy we get a new look into the love lives of our beloved characters.  This time Duris' Xavier must move to New York to be close to his kids, so it's mainly a fish out of water story, but in a refreshingly opposite way than us Americans are used to seeing it on screen.  We get a taste for what it's like to be a stranger in the strange land of New York City.  It's charming and just feels like the right ending (or possibly only continuation) of a great story over 10 years in the making.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Fans of 'The Spanish Apartment' and 'Russian Dolls' will definitely be pleased.  But if you're unfamiliar with the trilogy, it's a great time to binge watch the whole thing!  And yes, it's 50% in French, but it's also 50% in English making this the perfect transitional film for all you hesitant to read subtitles.

In Theaters Now - 5/30/14



(new releases in green)

Chef      Grade: A

The Immigrant       Grade: A-

Million Dollar Arm       Grade: A-

A Million Ways to Die in the West      Grade: A-

Cold in July     Grade: A-  (also available on VOD)

Chinese Puzzle      Grade: A-

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago     Grade: A-

Captain America: The Winter Soldier       Grade: B+

The Double       Grade: B+   (also available on VOD)

Divergent       Grade: B

X-Men: Days of Future Past       Grade: B

Neighbors       Grade: C+

Godzilla       Grade: C+

Locke       Grade: C+

Fading Gigolo       Grade: C+

The Railway Man       Grade: C+


Palo Alto       Grade: C+

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Belle      Grade: D+




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Blended
The Dance of Reality
Fed Up
Ida
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
The Lunchbox
Maleficent
The Other Woman
Rio 2

A Million Ways to Die in the West


Regular readers of my blog know I often complain about comedies.  Most of them simply aren't funny.  And yet, even more painful than the movies themselves is the fact that the entire audience seems to be laughing but me.  Well this comedy western was a refreshing change of pace.  For once I thought a movie was hysterical and yet my laughter was frequently met by a deafening silence from the rest of the theater.  What can I say?  Seth MacFarlane's antics just tickle my funnybone!  And 'A Million Ways to Die in the West' boasts a LOT of crude humor packed in and delivered by a very impressive and unexpected cast including Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sarah Silverman.  Sure, those that know me may question why I love MacFarlane and come down so harshly on the likes of Adam Sandler.  To some, a fart joke is a fart joke.  (And there are plenty of them in this movie.)  But MacFarlane brings a freshness to those farts that Sandler lost fifteen years ago.  And sure there are plenty of cameos here just like you get in Sandler films.  But they're unexpected faces, which makes them even funnier.  (I mean, how many times can we see Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows, Steve Buscemi, and Kevin James pop up and still find it funny?)  I'm sure fifteen years from now I'll be criticizing MacFarlane for making the same childish movies over and over.  But for now, he's one of the better and fresher comedic talents in Hollywood, and this is easily the funniest movie of the year so far.  I think.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  If you enjoyed 'Ted' and 'The Three Amigos', you'll enjoy this.  If, on the other hand, you were one who found MacFarlane's hosting of the Academy Awards childish, unfunny, and misogynistic then you should probably steer clear.  And that's ok.  Everyone has a different sense of humor.  Just don't think less of me for loving MacFarlane.  (Oh, who are we kidding?  We all know that's not possible.)

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago


I'm not an outdoorsman by any means.  In fact I've always described myself as more of an indoor cat.  I've never been camping, and I joke that my idea of it is a hotel of less than 3 stars.  And I would never consider running a marathon.  To me, it just sounds exhausting and boring.  But yet every time I'm exposed to stories of those who do long walks, I am always inspired.  When I read 'A Walk in the Woods' about a decade ago, I felt an unexpected desire to experience the Appalachian trail.  And when I saw The Way in 2010, a film made by Emilio Estevez, starring his dad, Martin Sheen, who walks a 500 mile trail in Spain called El Camino, I was inspired and moved in a profound way.  (And I'm rarely inspired or moved.)  Even after watching that film a second time in 2011 I was just as inspired and just as moved, and wondered if I could ever do that.  And now we have this documentary that follows several regular people from different countries and with different reasons for being there attempt the pilgrimage.  And it just looks like a great life experience!  Of course sitting in a comfortable theater for 84 minutes is a world away from the 30+ days it takes people to walk the trail.  So it's hard to say if I could or should ever attempt it.  But I do want to!  Who's with me???

Now, as far as the film itself, it's a very enjoyable doc and if you're at all interested in these kinds of spiritual journeys then I recommend seeing it.  It's in very limited theatrical release and playing for one week at the Roxy in Philadelphia, followed by a run in NYC.  But The Way is way better and I really can't recommend that film enough.

Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago      Grade: A-
The Way     Grade: A+

Who are these movies for?   Fans of nature, people, and spiritual journeys.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Big Ask


David Krumholtz plays a man whose mother recently died of cancer.  To deal with his grief he brings his girlfriend and two other couple friends out to a rental house in the desert.  But their companionship is not all he's looking for.  As a way to deal with his emotions he wants to have sex with all three women together.  Awkwardness obviously ensues in this 'The Big Chill' meets 'A Good Old Fashioned Orgy' indie drama featuring Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Gillian Jacobs, Ahna O'Reilly, Zachary Knighton, French Stewart, and Ned Beatty (uncoincidentally father to the writer/director).  What it lacks in story it makes up for in chemistry.

'The Big Ask' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  Thirtysomething bonding indie drama fans.

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn


Robin Williams plays the angriest man in Brooklyn.  He is estranged from his wife (Melissa Leo) and son (Hamish Linklater), has a strained relationship with his brother (Peter Dinklage), and just found out by a doctor (Mila Kunis) he has a brain aneurism.  So he decides to make every minute count.

There's possibly a good movie to be found buried somewhere in this mess.  It's hard to say what went so wrong.  The cast is good, the script is decent, and director Phil Alden Robinson also directed 'Field of Dreams', 'Sneakers', and 'The Sum of All Fears', so it's not a matter of inexperience.  One thing is for sure, though ... the score is a terrible match to the film.  That hurts it for sure.  Whatever the reason, unfortunately the end product is not worth your time.

'The Angriest Man in Brooklyn' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: C-

Who is this movie for?  The 'appreciate your life while you have it' mentality crowd.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trust Me



These days, the best movies are often the ones you haven't heard of.  That's why I see a lot on Video on Demand and that's why I created this blog to begin with.  (And yes I'm aware that I ended both of those sentences with a preposition.  Whatev.)

Clark Gregg wrote, directed and stars as a former child actor turned agent.  In a sleazy and complex town like Hollywood, he knows what his clients need because he's been there.  And he does whatever it takes to protect them and get them what they deserve.  (Think of him as Jeremy Piven's Ari Gold but really sweet.)  And though he's been struggling to make ends meet, a new client (Saxon Sharbino) could turn all that around.  Gregg and Sharbino are truly spellbinding, and with an all-star cast of supporting players and a story that is constantly evolving and surprising, this is one gem definitely worth seeing.  I loved it when I saw it at TriBeCa a year ago and I just loved it all over again on VOD.

'Trust Me' is now available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Everyone who is tired of the Hollywood Assembly Line pictures of comic book heroes, cartoons, and stale comedy.  This is quality.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cold in July


It's been a good year for dark indies. And now we can add this retro Texan thriller which premiered at Sundance to the list.

Michael C. Hall plays a husband and father whose life gets out of hand due to a home invasion.  But don't expect you know where this one is going.  Nothing is at it seems and the film takes several turns in unexpected directions.  Sam Shepard co-stars, and Don Johnson shines once again, continuing the strong comeback I've seen in Django Unchained and the upcoming 'Alex of Venice'.  It's a great stylized throwback to classic 80's thrillers, right down to the folds in the poster.

'Cold in July' is in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand,

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  If you like the dark, violent, quiet indie thrillers then you should definitely check it out.  Pair it with Blue Ruin for a good double feature.

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Theaters Now - 5/23/14



(new releases in green)

Chef       Grade: A

The Immigrant      Grade: A-

Million Dollar Arm      Grade: A-

Captain America: The Winter Soldier       Grade: B+

The Double      Grade: B+  (also available on VOD)

Divergent       Grade: B

X-Men: Days of Future Past      Grade: B

The Quiet Ones       Grade: B-

Neighbors       Grade: C+

Godzilla       Grade: C+

Locke       Grade: C+

Fading Gigolo       Grade: C+

The Railway Man       Grade: C+

Palo Alto       Grade: C+

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Belle      Grade: D+




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Blended
Fed Up
Heaven is for Real

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
The Lunchbox
Mom's Night Out
Muppets Most Wanted
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Other Woman
Rio 2

X-Men: Days of Future Past


I'm often hard on Marvel comic films even though the general public loves them so.  I'm the first to admit they look great from a distance, since they're generally cast perfectly and they spare no expense on the visual effects or any of the production costs.  But the scripts are almost always lacking.  In order to maximize revenue they are written to appeal to the masses.  There's no edge, nothing that could be taken as offensive, and no real sense of danger since there's virtually no chance they would kill off a beloved character.  (Do you really think they would dare kill a money making machine like Wolverine?  This is Jackman's seventh time in the role so far, so no way!  And if they did, he would surely be resurrected somehow in the next installment.)  As a result, most Marvel comic films are very formulaic and good always defeats evil so everyone can go home happy.

With that said, I am, always have been, and always will be a fan of the X-Men, and I'd be perfectly happy seeing this cast continue to make these movies for the rest of my life.  In my opinion, X-Men: First Class was the best one so far.  So my expectations were high for this one where the new cast and old cast are in the same film, via time travel.  Wolverine must travel back in time in order to stop a certain event from happening to prevent the most dangerous enemies the X-Men have ever faced from being created.  Sound familiar?  It should, because it's basically the same premise as we've seen a hundred times.  I wish I could say this movie brought something clever and new to this tired premise, but it doesn't.  And in fact it just glosses over all the known issues like the time travel paradox and the butterfly effect.  But let's face it, this is not a thinking man's movie, and those details are not what the everyman is looking for.  They want action, comedy, and some memorable moments.  This has all of those.  So in short it's good but it's not great.  It's not as good as X-Men: First Class and not as good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  But it's better than Godzilla!

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  X-Men fans will be satisfactorily entertained.  Non-fans need not go out of their way for it.

The Immigrant


It's always difficult to write a review for a movie I've only seen once quite some time ago.  And I saw 'The Immigrant' back in October at the Philadelphia Film Festival.  And while the details are a bit foggy at this point, I can clearly remember thinking it could certainly be an Oscar contender.  The acting is top notch across the board, which is should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the works of Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Renner.  And the story about an immigrant (Cotillard) coming to New York in 1921 has enough gravitas to make it worthy of awards consideration.  But for some reason its release was delayed until now, and movies released this early in the year are often forgotten.  But if you miss all the quality dramas of awards season then definitely check this one out.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?   Fans of period dramas.  (The good Oscar worthy ones, not the dull ones like Belle)

The Double


Doubles, doppelgangers, clones, and parallel universe alter-egos are strangely all the rage in film this year.  Jake Gyllenhaal pulls double duty in the ultra-bizarre Enemy (which is available on VOD beginning today.)  Ed Harris is an exact lookalike to Annette Bening's ex-husband in the melodrama The Face of Love.  'Orphan Black' (which is on my list to binge on this weekend) is quite popular on the BBC.  And two upcoming films which are absolutely worth your time, 'The One I Love', and 'Coherence' both deal with similar subjects.  Weird. 

This time it's Jesse Eisenberg playing dual roles.  One is a meek and lonely man overlooked by women and at work.  The other, who looks and sounds exactly like him, is brimming with confidence.  And not only does no one notice their similarity, but the latter is beloved by all.  Mia Wasikowska costars as the object of his affection, and Wallace Shawn, Chris O'Dowd, Sally Hawkins, and Cathy Moriarty also show up.  It's a bizarro world worthy of Terry Gilliam, The Coen Brothers, and David Lynch.  I'd say it's 'Brazil' meets 'Barton Fink', but not quite as good as either.  I loved it for its quirkiness, but I would have loved it more if it had a better payoff. 

In the meantime, I can't help but wonder if a guy who looks and sounds just like me but is better in every way is finishing his wittier and more interesting review of this film right now.  Damn you Frian Blieder!

'The Double' is in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Fans of Gilliam, the Coens, Lynch, and bizarre art house cinema will probably love the heck out of it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Message from Liam Neeson


I don't know who you are.  I don't know why you're here.  But if you're looking for movie reviews, you've come to the right place.  I can tell you I don't make any money doing this, but I put a lot of time and effort into it.  So I need your help.  If you Like this Facebook page and Follow this Twitter account, that'll be the end of it.  I will not look for you.  I will not pursue you.  But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Anna


Most people have bad taste.  Sorry, but they just do.  Yet opinions are like assholes ... everyone's got one.  More and more I find I disagree with the critical and mass opinion found on websites like Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB, and Metacritic.  I question why I even look at them!  My point is, this is the only site you should refer to.  There I said it.  Why?  Well, I see more films than almost any movie critic, buff, or fan, and I have no ulterior motives as I'm not 'in bed' with anyone and I make no money doing this.  I just love to watch movies and recommend the good ones you may have overlooked.  And 'Anna' is exactly that!  It's a terrific modern film noir thriller with a fantastic cast and great production values.  And it's the second time in two years that Mark Strong and Brian Cox have appeared in a fantastic movie that premiered on Video on Demand (with the other being Blood.)  It's not perfect, so don't expect perfection, but it's much more entertaining and well produced than almost anything I've seen this year.  And Mark Strong IS perfect ... as always.

'Anna' is now available at home on Video on Demand for just $6.99.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  If you like atmospheric film noir, Mark Strong, Brian Cox, and movies like 'Dreamscape' and/or 'Inception' then just see it.  Don't watch the trailers!  And pair it with 'Red Lights' from 2012 for another totally underrated and overlooked atmospheric Parapsychology thriller.

And if you like it, please tell your friends to follow my blog, like my Flieder on Film Facebook page, and/or follow me on Twitter!

Friday, May 16, 2014

In Theaters Now - 5/16/14



(new releases in green)

Chef      Grade: A

Million Dollar Arm       Grade: A-

Captain America: The Winter Soldier       Grade: B+

Oculus      Grade: B+

Divergent       Grade: B

God's Pocket       Grade: B  (also available on VOD)

The Quiet Ones      Grade: B-

Neighbors       Grade: C+

Locke       Grade: C+

Under the Skin       Grade: C+

Fading Gigolo       Grade: C+

The Railway Man       Grade: C+

Godzilla      Grade: C+

Palo Alto      Grade: C+

Transcendence       Grade: C

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Belle       Grade: D+

For No Good Reason      Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Bears
Brick Mansions
Fed Up
Heaven is for Real

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
The Lunchbox
Mom's Night Out
Muppets Most Wanted
Noah
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Other Woman
Rio 2
Wolf Creek 2 

Chef


Jon Favreau is amazing.  Though many surprisingly still don't know him by name.  Of course they know his face (even if it is more full than it used to be.)  They know him as the kid from 'Rudy'.  Or as Vince Vaughn's sidekick in 'Swingers' (a film that he wrote).  Or as Monica's Ultimate Fighting boyfriend in 'Friends'.  But what even more people don't know is his success behind the camera, directing such diverse films as 'Elf', 'Iron Man' and 'Iron Man 2'.  My point is, regardless of his role in the filmmaking process, he generally nails it.  And with 'Chef', a movie he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in, he totally nailed it.  It's a feel good movie with a terrific cast.  It's one of the best foodie movies I've ever seen (along with 'Big Night'.)  And it's easily one of the best movies of the year so far.  Don't read too much about it.  Even the huge list of great character actors, many of which are foolishly displayed on the poster and on IMDB, are best experienced as surprises as they pop up on screen.  Don't wait for the trailers to ruin the best parts.  Just go see it!  (Though be prepared, it will make you hungry.)

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Everybody.

Million Dollar Arm


For the second time this year, with 'Draft Day' being the first, a sports drama has defied the odds and proven both entertaining and feel good but without being sickeningly positive, phony, or cliche.

Based on a true story, Jon Hamm plays a struggling sports agent with an innovative idea: find the best pitching arms in India, bring them to America, make them Major League Baseball players, and thereby attract a billion new fans to the game.  But can he pull it off?

It all works here.  The acting is great, particularly Hamm, but with help from a good supporting cast including Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton, and Lake Bell.  The fish-out-of-water aspects, in both India and the U.S., are fun.  And, at least for those of us who are sports history clueless and don't know how it actually turned out, it keeps you interested from start to finish.  Disney does it again with a family friendly film that won't make you gag.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  It's from the producers of 'Invincible' and 'Miracle', so those are pretty good benchmarks.  But it's also a bit reminiscent of 'The Rookie' and 'The Scout'.

God's Pocket


With a cast including Philip Seymour Hoffman (in one of his last roles), John Turturro, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins, Eddie Marsan, and Peter Gerety, how could any film buff not be stoked for this movie?  I know it's been on my must see list since it premiered in January at Sundance.  The problem is, films that have great written all over them can often disappoint.  'God's Pocket' about a group of down-on-their-luck nobodies in a blue collar town, is heavy on talent but light on script, which was cowritten by 'Mad Men's John Slattery, who directed the film as well.  There's a good story to be told here, but it just seems like there weren't enough rewrites to really make it something special.  It's fine, but it's not worthy of being one of Hoffman's final performances.

'God's Pocket' is in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  If you're as big a fan of the cast as I am, and like indie dramas it's worth seeing.  But keep your expectations low.

Godzilla


For the umpteenth time, Hollywood is once again trying to successfully bring the King of all Monsters to the big screen as a potential franchise.  The last time they tried it was 1998, featuring Matthew Broderick, but it was met with scathing reviews.  But Godzilla dates back to a Japanese film from 1954, and was featured in many, many films since, many of which I watched growing up.  This latest one seems like kind of an homage to the originals, going old school and really taking its time.  In fact, Godzilla doesn't even make an appearance until about an hour in.  And while I respect that, it only works if the human storylines work.  And they don't.  Talent like Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and Ken Watanabe are wasted on a script unworthy of them.  It isn't until Godzilla shows up, and is only sporadically featured in the movie that bears its name, that this movie has any life!  In 2010 writer/director Gareth Edwards showed he had talent for visual effects and a passion for monster movies in his generically titled film, 'Monsters'.  And if you saw it you'd probably agree that it has so much potential, but lacks in the final product.  And 'Godzilla' has a hell of a lot in common with 'Monsters', including the fact it does not reach its potential.  It's largely dull.  I loved 'Cloverfield' and 'Pacific Rim' a whole heck of a lot better.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  Fanboys will geek out when Godzilla is on screen even though the movie in its entirety isn't fanboy worthy.

Palo Alto


I'm not sure what's more annoying.   Whiny overprivileged troubled teenagers?   Or the fact that there's yet another Coppola director, Gia, Sophia's niece, thereby cementing the Coppola's as the most rampant case of nepotism in Hollywood?   Personally I've had enough of both.

Coppola wrote the screenplay based on an (at least semi) autobiographical short story by James Franco who also has a role in the film as a high school coach who comes on to his student babysitter (Emma Roberts). The rest of the ensemble cast are the aforementioned whiny overprivileged teens who continue their self destructive behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence) despite having all the environmental conditions one could hope for.

It's not that this movie is bad. It's ok. It's just nothing new, nothing surprising, and nothing special.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  Teens, I think. "I'm gettin' too old for this shit." - Danny Glover

For No Good Reason


Art docs seem to be all the rage these days.  And despite not being an art aficionado, I generally like them very much!  But this one about artist Ralph Steadman was a struggle for me to stay focused on.  It's so abstract and artsy-fartsy, just like his artwork, that I'm not even sure how to accurately describe its focus.  It includes his relationship with the equally vexing Hunter S. Thompson, and the King of Cool, Johnny Depp, accompanies him for his interviews, but even Johnny doesn't add any fun to this doc.  Frankly I loathed it as much as I did 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas'.

Grade: D

Who is this for?  The artsy-fartsy hipster crowd.  I can come up with no good reason for anyone else to see it.

A Night in Old Mexico


Film buffs of all ages love Robert Duvall.  He's a living Hollywood legend.  So I need know nothing more about a movie than he is in it to get me to see it.  In 2009 that really paid off with Get Low, an excellent film you should see if you haven't.  But he's unfortunately made a string of terrible movies over the last few years, including Seven Days in Utopia, 'Jayne Mansfield's Car', and now 'A Night in Old Mexico'.  He's great in all of them.  But the unavoidable fact is, the scripts are lame, and at least in this poor man's 'Scent of a Woman', he is surrounded by an unworthy cast.  I wish I could say otherwise, but you should steer clear.

'A Night in Old Mexico' is available to watch at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: D

Who is this movie for?  Only hard core Duvall completists should invest the time.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Whitewash



There's something about heavy snow that adds such great atmosphere so as to make any movie even better than it would otherwise be.  (Yes, 'Fargo' is the first to come to everyone's mind, but another great recent example is Deadfall.)  And add Thomas Hayden Church who is always amazing and you have yourself a movie worth seeing.  This time Church plays a lonely widow in snowy French Canada whose chance encounter with a down and out stranger has deadly consequences.  It's a dark, quiet, and atmospheric thriller.  The end payoff isn't great but Church is so good it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role.  Pair it with Blue Ruin and/or A Single Shot if you like the genre.

'Whitewash' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Those who like dark, slow paced, atmospheric thrillers.  Many will be bored by it, but I dig these kinds of films.

Bachelor Weekend


The bride-to-be of a metrosexual man insists that his buddies take him out on a male bonding stag camping trip in the woods to man him up.  Though things go continuously awry once the bride's brother, who goes by The Machine, crashes the party.  It sounds like 'The Hangover' meets 'I Love You Man', but this Irish bromance is more 'City Slickers' meets Stifler from 'American Pie', and is wonderfully unique, charming, and funny due to its great cast.

'The Bachelor Weekend' is now available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Who wouldn't love a good Irish bromance?

Bright Days Ahead


Caroline (Fanny Ardent) is an attractive 60 year old married, retired dentist.  All she has to look forward to in her golden years is the Bright Days Ahead elderly activity group her daughters enrolled her in as a gift.  But when the charming late 30's computer teacher comes on to her, her world begins to get a little more exciting in this lovely French May-December romance that succeeds based on the charm of its cast.

'Bright Days Ahead' is in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Francophile romantics.

Devil's Knot


West Memphis, Arkansas 1993.  Three children go missing.  A manhunt goes on and the local law enforcement focuses on a group of devil worshipping kids as their primary suspects.  But did they do it or do they just look the part?  Based on a true story, this drama stars Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth. 

I wasn't fully pulled in here, possibly because I knew the story, having recently seen the documentary West of Memphis.  So if you haven't seen that doc, don't know the story, and prefer narrative film, then by all means see it.  Otherwise I recommend the doc.

'Devil's Knot' is in limited release in theaters and also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  You like true stories and small town crime.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In Theaters Now - 5/9/14



(new releases in green)

Draft Day       Grade: A-

Young & Beautiful      Grade: A-   (also available on VOD)

Blue Ruin       Grade: A-   (also available on VOD)

Bright Days Ahead      Grade: B+   (also available on VOD)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier       Grade: B+

Divergent       Grade: B

Devil's Knot       Grade: B  (also available on VOD)

Neighbors      Grade: C+

Locke       Grade: C+

Under the Skin       Grade: C+

Fading Gigolo      Grade: C+

The Railway Man       Grade: C+

Transcendence       Grade: C

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Belle      Grade: D+




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Bears
Brick Mansions
Fed Up
Finding Vivian Maier
The Galapagos Affair
A Haunted House 2
Heaven is for Real

Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return
The Lunchbox
Mom's Night Out
Muppets Most Wanted
Noah
Oculus
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Other Woman
The Quiet Ones
Rio 2
Walking with the Enemy

Neighbors


Is it too much to ask for Hollywood to put out a comedy that isn't stupid, isn't rolled out by the assembly line, and that actually makes me laugh?  Maybe I'm asking for too much.  Or perhaps I'm too tough a crowd when it comes to comedies.  But aside from a few dramedies at the TriBeCa Film Festival I don't think I've laughed once during any "comedy" released this year.

Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne play maturing adults who are married, have a baby, and just bought and moved into their dream house.  But when a fraternity, headed by Zac Efron and Dave Franco, moves in next door, they are conflicted between being cool and clinging to their youth or just trying to get them to keep it down.

While it's alright, I have several problems with this movie:
  1. Seth Rogen generally walks the line between being funny and being annoying.  He's kind of on the annoying side here, I think.
  2. While I acknowledge they are eye-candy for the ladies, Zac Efron and Dave Franco are annoying.  Always.  They just are.  (Sorry ladies, I know you're blinded by their abs and boyish good looks.)
  3. I love Rose Byrne.  She's great eye candy for the men, and she's also proven herself a great actresss in dramas ('Damages'), horror ('Insidious'), and comedies ('Bridesmaids').  But here, using her native Australian accent for once, she is trying her darndest to be the female equivalent of Seth Rogen.  But she's sooo not the female equivalent of Seth Rogen.  It just feels forced.  And while we're on the subject ...
  4. There's just no way I can suspend my disbelief enough to buy that Byrne would ever be married to Rogen.  Puh-lease.  They should have cast someone more believable in the role.  But in Hollywood the list of bankable female comedy stars is short, and mostly made up of women too attractive to be married to Rogen.  (Of course this didn't hurt 'Knocked Up'.)
Don't be fooled by the tag line, "From the Guys Who Brought You 'This is the End'."  'Neighbors' is not nearly as funny or creative.  It's just fair.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  People who like stale comedy.  Edgy, this is not.

Locke


Ordinarily I'm a big fan of films that could just as well be plays.  I love character driven, dialogue driven stories that rely on great actors giving great performances rather than CGI and explosions.  And who better to star in, essentially, a one man show that takes place in real time inside a car than Tom Hardy.  Hardy is an exceptional actor and a chameleon, looking and sounding so different in every role that it's often hard to recognize it's him.  (e.g. 'Bronson', 'Warrior', and 'The Dark Knight Rises'.)  This time he plays a man in crisis, dealing with career and family issues over a series of phone calls that all take place during an 85 minute drive.  The general consensus of reviewers would have you believe it's a tour de force performance, compelling, moving, and suspenseful.  I wish I could agree, but the reality is, as much as I wanted to love it, I just didn't.  In fact, it was very hard to stay awake, as Hardy's choice of soft spoken manner of speech kept lulling me off into the nap I so wanted.  But I toughed it out, stayed awake, and made it to the end only to discover there was no payoff.  I disagree with the consensus.  It's a disappointment.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  Those who want to spend 85 minutes with a soft spoken Tom Hardy on the phone in his car.  You could do worse but you could do better.  Though this one may actually work better on the small screen as a rental in a few months.

Young & Beautiful


It's hard to write a proper review for a film I saw at a festival more than 6 months ago.  But this French sexual coming-of-age film about a young and beautiful girl (Marine Vacth) experimenting with prostitution is very engaging, due in large part to Vacth's performance.  There's just something about French films that makes the simplest of ideas feel fresh.

'Young & Beautiful' is in limited release in theaters but also available at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  If you enjoyed 'Blue is the Warmest Color' then this one's right for you.

Belle


Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the proverbial black sheep for a British aristocratic family.  Sure, she is loved by her great uncle, played by Tom Wilkinson.  But she isn't allowed to partake in all the reindeer games because she is mixed race.  But fortunately she's beautiful, so love is still in the cards for her.  Blah.  It's just another boring historical costume drama.

Grade: D+

Who is this movie for?  It's hard for me to come up with any reason why anyone should see it.  Though the Merchant-Ivory crowd will probably eat it up.  That's just not my crowd, and this seems sub-par even for that genre.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Gambit


How does a film starring Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, and Stanlet Tucci, and written by the Coen brothers take a year and a half after its release in the UK to come to the US only to make a silent debut on Video on Demand?  Easy, it's not particularly good.

Firth plays an art curator who works for a rich jerk, played by Rickman.  So he decides to con him into buying a fake Monet, with a little help from a Texan girl played by Diaz.  It's a remake of a film from 1966 starring Michael Caine and Shirley Maclaine, and though it has everything going for it, it squanders it and never achieves any scenes or plot twists that make it worth the time I waited to see it.  Dag, rough day.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  Even big fans of Firth, Rickman, Diaz, Tucci, and the Coen brothers will probably agree it's only fair at best.

Walk of Shame


How does a comedy starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden only get a limited release in theaters with minimal marketing and also simultaneously debut on Video on Demand?  Easy, it's not particularly good and the studio smartly decided to not invest the additional money for a wide theatrical release.

Banks plays a local TV news anchor who is having a really bad day.  She lost out on her dream job of becoming a national TV news anchor, and her husband took off with her furniture and her dog.  So she begrudgingly accepts to go out on a crazy night with her friends to get drunk and slut it up.  And then things spiral even further out of control.

'Walk of Shame' has all the makings of a good comedy, including a great cast with a hot-in-Hollywood lead, good production value, and a premise with potential.  But it just never goes beyond passive entertainment.  There are no laughs, there's no edge, and nothing unpredictable happens.  You'd be much, much better off passing on this and seeking out the cult classic but largely overlooked 1985 Martin Scorsese film 'After Hours' featuring a terrific Griffin Dunne.

Grade: C

Who is this movie for?  People who prefer the Hollywood Assembly Line comedies.  To me this is just 95 wasted minutes of wasted talent.  Come to think of it, it's kind of shocking this didn't get a wide theatrical release with tons of marketing.

Friday, May 2, 2014

In Theaters Now - 5/2/14



(new releases in green)

Draft Day       Grade: A-

Le Week-End       Grade: A-

Blue Ruin       Grade: A-   (also available on VOD)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier       Grade: B+

Joe     Grade: B   (also available on VOD)

Decoding Annie Parker      Grade: B  (also available on VOD)

Divergent       Grade: B

Under the Skin     Grade: C+

Fading Gigolo     Grade: C+

The Railway Man     Grade: C+

Transcendence       Grade: C

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

Walk of Shame     Grade: C  (also available on VOD)

The Grand Budapest Hotel       Grade: C-

Hateship Loveship       Grade: D+ (also available on VOD)




Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Bears
Brick Mansions
Dancing in Jaffa
Finding Vivian Maier
God's Not Dead
A Haunted House 2
Heaven is for Real

Jodorowski's Dune
The Lunchbox
Mr. Peabody & Sherman

Muppets Most Wanted
Noah
Oculus
Only Lovers Left Alive
The Other Woman
The Quiet Ones
Rio 2
Walking with the Enemy