Friday, August 29, 2014

In Theaters Now - 8/29/14



(new releases in green)

Boyhood       Grade: A+

Ghostbusters 30th Anniversary      Grade: A

Chef       Grade: A

The Hundred-Foot Journey       Grade: A

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes       Grade: A-

Magic in the Moonlight       Grade: A-

Lucy       Grade: A-

The Trip to Italy       Grade: A-   (also available on Video on Demand)

Life of Crime      Grade: B+   (also available on Video on Demand)

The Purge: Anarchy       Grade: B+

A Most Wanted Man       Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy       Grade: B

Land Ho!       Grade: B

Calvary       Grade: B

What If       Grade: B

Frank       Grade: C+

Get on Up       Grade: C+





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Admiral: Roaring Currents
As Above, So Below
Cantinflas
The Expendables 3
A Five Star Life
The Giver
How to Train Your Dragon 2
If I Stay
Into the Storm
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
November Man
Let's Be Cops
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Step Up All In
A Summer's Tale
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When the Game Stands Tall

Trip to Italy


Who's up for another food tasting European road trip with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon?  What??  You haven't seen the first one yet???  Outrageous!!!  OK, well for your benefit I will once more recommend you check out The Trip circa 2011 when Coogan and Brydon first take to the road, swapping observations, comedy, and impressions, all the while getting on each other's nerves.  And, as with the first film, the locations in this sequel are beautiful, the food looks ever so tempting, and the camaraderie is perfect.  Sure, the novelty is gone.  And yes, this one isn't as funny as the first.  But it's still a trip well worth taking ... for the right viewer.

Both 'The Trip' and 'The Trip to Italy' are available right now on video on demand.  And 'The Trip to Italy' is also in limited release in theaters now.

The Trip     Grade: A
The Trip to Italy      Grade: A-

Who are these movies for?  If you like British comedy series like Ricky Gervais' 'Extras' or 'Life is Short' you're sure to find these films hilarious.  Some, on the other hand, might not find it funny at all.  It helps if you dig impressions.

Friday, August 22, 2014

In Theaters Now - 8/22/14



(new releases in green)

Boyhood       Grade: A+

Chef       Grade: A

The Hundred-Foot Journey      Grade: A

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes       Grade: A-

Magic in the Moonlight        Grade: A-

Lucy       Grade: A-

The Purge: Anarchy       Grade: B+

Life After Beth       Grade: B+

A Most Wanted Man      Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy       Grade: B

Land Ho!      Grade: B

Calvary       Grade: B

What If       Grade: B

Are You Here      Grade: B   (also available on Video on Demand)

The Prince       Grade: B-   (also available on Video on Demand)

Frank        Grade: C+

Get on Up       Grade: C+

Earth to Echo        Grade: D





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

The Admiral: Roaring Currents
After
Another Me
The Expendables 3
Finding Fela
A Five Star Life
The Giver
Hercules
How to Train Your Dragon 2
If I Stay
Into the Storm
Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
Let's Be Cops
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Step Up All In
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When the Game Stands Tall

Friday, August 15, 2014

In Theaters Now - 8/15/14



(new releases in green)

Boyhood        Grade: A+

Chef        Grade: A

The Hundred-Foot Journey      Grade: A

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes        Grade: A-

Magic in the Moonlight        Grade: A-

Lucy         Grade: A-

Rich Hill       Grade: A-   (also available on Video on Demand)

The Purge: Anarchy        Grade: B+

Dinosaur 13      Grade: B+   (also available on Video on Demand)

A Most Wanted Man       Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy        Grade: B

Land Ho!       Grade: B

Calvary       Grade: B

What If       Grade: B

Get on Up        Grade: C+

Mood Indigo        Grade: C





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

22 Jump Street
The Admiral: Roaring Currents
The Expendables 3
Finding Fela
A Five Star Life
The Giver
Hercules
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Storm
Let's Be Cops
Maleficent
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sex Tape
Step Up All In
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams (1951 - 2014)

 
Just like the rest of the world, I am shocked to hear that not only is Robin Williams dead at 63, but it sounds like he took his own life.  I was aware he was in and out of rehab in recent years, battling alcoholism, but didn't realize he suffered from depression.  It's a terrible thing that doesn't care if you're poor or rich, famous or unknown.

Truthfully I never cared for Robin Williams as a stand-up comedian.  Sure his mind worked a mile a minute, too fast for even his mouth to keep up, but his comedy never really won me over.  But, surprisingly, as a dramatic actor, he was almost unmatched.  It amazed me that that wacky guy who played Mork from Ork could deliver such amazing performances as he did in 'Good Will Hunting', 'Dead Poets Society', and 'Awakenings' (which literally brought me to tears.)  Occasionally his comedies worked for me (including 'Mrs. Doubtfire', which I would've bet money on that I'd hate but I actually love) but more often than not it was his darker films that really struck a chord with me.  His dark trilogy in 2002 ('One Hour Photo', 'Insomnia', and 'Death to Smoochy') showed a whole new side to him.  'Bicentennial Man' was a totally underrated film and 'Patch Adams' is way better than critics give it credit for.  'The Final Cut' is possibly his most overlooked gem.  And now, under the circumstances, 'World's Greatest Dad' (which isn't for everyone, because it's both terribly sad and weirdly quirky) strikes an even more fitting chord.  Though, for me, I will most appreciate and remember him for something he did in 1994.  Back then a fledgling new series called 'Homicide: Life on the Street' was struggling to avoid cancellation, due to inconsistent airings and frequent changes of timeslots on NBC.  Enter movie star Robin Williams who did what movie stars didn't do back in 1994.  He guest starred on a TV show!  (And one with only 9 episodes under its belt.)  On one very poignant episode called 'Bop Gun', he stole the show from the huge talented ensemble cast, brought in viewers, and is often acknowledged to be the person who saved that show from cancellation, after which it went on for another 5 seasons and 110 amazing episodes.  It's just one of many reasons I will miss Robin Williams.  Rest in Peace.  And Nanu Nanu.



Friday, August 8, 2014

In Theaters Now - 8/8/14



(new releases in green)

Boyhood        Grade: A+

Chef       Grade: A

The Hundred-Foot Journey     Grade: A

Snowpiercer        Grade: A    (also available on Video on Demand)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes       Grade: A-

Magic in the Moonlight       Grade: A-

Lucy        Grade: A-

About Alex        Grade: A-   (available on Video on Demand)

The Purge: Anarchy        Grade: B+

A Most Wanted Man       Grade: B+

Begin Again        Grade: B+

Obvious Child        Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy       Grade: B

Calvary        Grade: B

What If        Grade: B

Wish I Was Here        Grade: B-

Jersey Boys        Grade: B-

Get on Up        Grade: C+

Mood Indigo        Grade: C

And So It Goes        Grade: C





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

22 Jump Street
James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge
Hercules
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Storm
Maleficent
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sex Tape
Step Up All In
Tammy
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Transformers: Age of Extinction

About Alex


It seems like every other week there's another low budget indie drama on VOD about a group of old friends reuniting.  Often times it's due to a tragedy, thus triggering intense bonding, philosophical conversations, vicious fighting, and swapping of sex partners.  Every one of them wants to be the next 'Big Chill'.  Few of them compare.  But 'About Alex' is one of the few exceptions that really stands out in this genre, largely due to the quality and chemistry of the cast.  Max Greenfield shines the brightest, but Aubrey Plaza, Jason Ritter, Maggie Grace, Jane Levy, Max Minghella, and Nate Parker all gel and make this a VOD premiere well worth your time if you like the genre.

'About Alex' is now available on Video on Demand.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?   It's the next 'Big Chill' for fans of talky indie dramas.

Mood Indigo


There are no more charming and likeable actors in French cinema than Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, and Gad Elmaleh.  So I would bet the farm that I'd adore this latest film written and directed by Michel Gondry.  The problem is, it's written and directed by Michel Gondry.  And he's one of the most overrated art film directors in film history.  Gondry often gets credited for 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', but he only directed that film and it is Charlie Kaufman's brilliant writing that made it a brilliant film.  Gondry's greatest credit is that he didn't ruin it.  Unfortunately, 'Mood Indigo' didn't have Kaufman's involvement.  It's pure Gondry.  And that means it's way too artsy and way too quirky.  The right amount of art and quirk is a great thing.  Too much is just tedious.  And this film gets way too tedious way too fast.  Disappointing.

Grade: C

Who is this movie for?   Fans of Tautou, Duris, and Elmaleh should probably still see it.  (I wouldn't listen to a film critic who told me not to.)  Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Coherence


I love thought provoking films.  I love original ideas and movies that make you think about life in a different way.  I love movies that focus on the science of science fiction (e.g. 'I Origins').  And 'Coherence' is all of that in spades.  It's quite frankly one of the best art house sci-fi films I've seen in quite some time.  It's 'Primer' meets 'Another Earth' but even better than both.  It's near perfection.  All that's missing from it is Brit Marling.  (Though quite fittingly there is a Brit Marling type (Emily Baldoni), and in a parallel universe I'm sure this same movie exists starring Marling herself.)  Cryptic review, I know.  Just see it!

'Coherence' is available right now on Video on Demand.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Honestly, if you want to see a low budget, spooky art house sci-fi film that will blow your freakin' mind, then this is the one!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Magic in the Moonlight


Those who know me or follow my blog know by now that I am a fan of Woody Allen's films, and always look forward to seeing his latest.  Having made around 50 films over the last 50 years, every year I know I can count on him to release a new one, generally between May and September, and I'll most likely be enjoying it on a weekend afternoon at the Ritz 5 in Philadelphia.  And I just thoroughly enjoyed his latest, which conjures back up the magic realism he's done so well in films like 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' and 'Midnight in Paris'.  And, as most of his films of late, this one is once again set in Europe.  Like 'Paris', it largely takes place in beautiful France in the 1920's.  And just as with 'Paris', the locations, the clothing, and the old time jazz soundtrack are as gorgeous as the cast.  And, just as with 'Paris', I find myself not only loving the film, but actually wanting to live inside of it.  It's just so damn beautiful!  Of course, as with any Woody Allen film, the casting is amazing.  Just like Owen Wilson did in 'Paris', Emma Stone just fits so well, as if the lines of dialogue she was given to say are truly her own.  She is a true talent in everything she does, and one could easily fall for her in any role.  Colin Firth, on the other hand, is a bit less natural reciting Allen's lines, seeming somewhat forced at first, but nevertheless his natural charms more than compensate and reassure that he's the right man for the part.  The film is as light as air, which is refreshing as compared to every other movie in the theater about the end of the world.  Though I can't say it's quite as strong as 'Paris' or 'Blue Jasmine'.  Nevertheless I am once again grateful to the Wood-man for giving me my annual fix.  Very enjoyable.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Who doesn't need a little magic their life?  It's light and it's charming.  If you loved 'Midnight in Paris' you'll like this.


Friday, August 1, 2014

In Theaters Now - 8/1/14




(new releases in green)

Boyhood       Grade: A+

I Origins       Grade: A

Chef       Grade: A

Edge of Tomorrow       Grade: A

Snowpiercer       Grade: A   (also available on VOD)

Coherence       Grade: A   (available on VOD)

The One I Love       Grade: A   (available on VOD)

Magic in the Moonlight       Grade: A-

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes       Grade: A-

Lucy       Grade: A-

X-Men: Days of Future Past       Grade: B+

The Purge: Anarchy        Grade: B+

A Most Wanted Man        Grade: B+

Begin Again        Grade: B+

The Fault in Our Stars        Grade: B+

Obvious Child        Grade: B

Guardians of the Galaxy       Grade: B

Wish I Was Here        Grade: B-

Jersey Boys         Grade: B-

Get on Up       Grade: C+

Code Black       Grade: C+

And So It Goes        Grade: C

Alive Inside       Grade: D

Earth to Echo        Grade: D





Additional Films Not Reviewed:

22 Jump Street
Cabin Fever: Patient Zero
The Fluffy Movie
Hercules
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Louder Than Words
Maleficent
Planes: Fire & Rescue
Sex Tape
Tammy
Think Like a Man Too
Transformers: Age of Extinction

The One I Love


If you ask me, VOD is where it's at right now.  A lot of the best movies are premiering in your home before (or if) they hit theaters.  And there are few better examples than 'The One I Love', a romantic comedy of sorts, but unlike any you've ever seen.  Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss totally kill it.  This is what you want to see this week!  But don't read any reviews.  Don't watch any trailers.  Don't ruin one of the most original films of the year.  Just rent it this weekend on VOD and enjoy the ride.  You're welcome.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Anyone who is as tired as I am of the Hollywood Assembly Line.  If you're geeking out over 'Guardians of the Galaxy', then this small indie may not be for you.  But I loved the hell out of it!  Pair it with 'Your Sister's Sister' for a double shot of Mark Duplass at his best.

Guardians of the Galaxy


I know many of you look forward all year to the latest Marvel Comic films, though I can't say I'm one of them.  Sure, some are better than others (and the last Captain America was really quite good) but in my opinion they're never exceptional.  And since I'm no longer on FOX, I don't feel the need to see all these big blockbuster films anymore.  Though I was curious about this one, as it seems like it's been a long time since Marvel started a new franchise that was completely unknown to me.  So on Tuesday night I trekked all the way out to King of Prussia, PA, put on my 3D glasses, and settled in amongst a packed theater of cheering uber-fans.  And overall the experience was decent, but unexceptional.  The cast is good.  The action is good.  The story is typical of most Marvel films.  But it's the comedy that sets this one apart.  It's up there with The Avengers as the two funniest Marvel Comic films.  (While Hulk stole the show in the former, Groot steals the movie in this one.)  But still, honestly, I'd rather be at home on my couch watching America's Got Talent.  Personal preference.

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  Marvel Comic film fans won't be disappointed.  Personally I prefer the indie fare.

Get on Up


I'm really not a big fan of biopics.  And I think it's because they're limited to the true story, basically.  And truth is rarely as interesting as fiction.  Chadwick Boseman certainly does a decent job of embodying James Brown here, but to some degree that's the problem.  His James Brown is just as unintelligible and annoying (when not on stage) as the real one.  In fact, when the film first began, I couldn't decipher what the hell he was saying.  Maybe it's because I adapted or learned to speak James Brown-ese, but along the way I started to at least interpret the majority of it.  Unfortunately the talents of great actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are for the most part wasted here.  Dan Aykroyd is decent, and I enjoyed seeing him again.  But generally, I just found this movie to be too long and too slow.  Though, as the hardest working unpaid film critic in the business, I stayed to the bitter end.  Though I was certainly tempted to get on up ... and get on home.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  James Brown fans will probably enjoy it for nostalgic purposes.  Those who aren't all that familiar with the Godfather of Soul, like me, will probably be bored. 

Code Black


Get a glimpse of life in the E.R. at the L.A. County Hospital in this documentary about med school seniors and seasoned old timers dealing with the realities of medicine in America today.  It's fascinating and noble work in the craziest of environments.  Though don't expect a whole lot of revelations.  It's all pretty obvious.  There isn't enough funding or resources.  There's too much paperwork, too much regulation, and too little time actually spent on helping patients and saving lives.  Doctors are amazing people that dedicate their lives to saving ours, but unfortunately this documentary is neither exciting nor eye-opening.  Sadly, it's a lost opportunity at what could have been a great movie.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  Documentary enthusiasts.  But since it's only fair, I'd wait for it to come to VOD, if you want to see it at all.

Alive Inside


There's arguably nothing sadder than people and their loved ones having to deal with Alzheimer's and dementia.  These diseases truly strip a person of all their dignity.  Even those who once led exceptional lives get reduced to prisoners of their own minds.  And equally bad, the conditions of most of the homes they are put in are horrendous.  This documentary follows a nonprofit called Music & Memory who believe they have discovered that providing music to these patients can actually bring back their memories and improve their quality of life.  And to that I say fantastic.  But to watching this doc, I say no thank you.  While other reviews and awards may purport it to be uplifting and moving, I just found it thoroughly depressing. 

Grade: D

Who is this movie for?  Raising awareness of terrible diseases is a good thing, of course.  But watching actual people end their lives in such sad conditions is depressing.  By all means see it if you like these kinds of docs, but don't say I didn't warn you.