Friday, February 27, 2015

In Theaters Now - 2/27/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A+

The Imitation Game        Grade: A

Birdman        Grade: A-

Still Alice        Grade: B+

The Wedding Ringer        Grade: B+

Focus       Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Selma        Grade: B+

American Sniper        Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

Leviathan        Grade B-

Black or White        Grade: B-

Red Army       Grade: C+

Jupiter Ascending        Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey        Grade: C

The Theory of Everything        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
The Boy Next Door
The DUFF
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
The Lazarus Effect
Oscar Nominated Short Films
McFarland USA
Paddington
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Timbuktu
Zero Motivation 

Focus



Who loves a good con artist film?  I know I do.  Whether it be a classic like The Sting, a slick drama like David Mamet's House of Games, or a fun comedy like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or Heartbreakers, I'm in.  And just like pizza and sex, even when they're not great, they're still pretty good.

Starring the always affable Will Smith and the extraordinarily stunning Margot Robbie (you know, the one who caught Leo's eye in The Wolf of Wall Street), Focus really entertains from start to finish. I know plenty of people who have issues with it, and honestly the first time I saw it I had some too.  Though I must have lost my own focus, because on my second viewing it really was a smooth, entertaining watch.


Grade: A

Who is this movie for?  Who doesn't love a good con artist film?  My suggestion is suspend your disbelief and just enjoy.  It may be unrealistic at times, but what movie isn't?

Friday, February 20, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows


The comedy horror genre is one of the more underdone genres, possibly because it's hard to get the tone just right.  And many of the lower budget entries just turn out as B-movies I'd rather not waste my time on.  But this New Zealand vampire mockumentary balances the satire just about right.  Personally I prefer the humor of TV classics The Addams Family and The Munsters, Simon Pegg's Shaun of the Dead, or Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, but this one has a charm that didn't escape me. 

Grade: B

Who is this movie for?  Fans of horror comedy should be satisfied and the dry mockumentary humor would work well for fans of This Is Spinal Tap.

In Theaters Now - 2/20/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A

A Most Violent Year        Grade: A

The Imitation Game        Grade: A

Birdman        Grade: A-

The Wedding Ringer        Grade: B+

Digging Up the Marrow        Grade: B+  (available on Video on Demand)

Foxcatcher        Grade: B+

Still Alice        Grade: B+

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Into the Woods        Grade: B+

Selma        Grade: B+

American Sniper        Grade: B

What We Do in the Shadows        Grade: B

Inherent Vice        Grade: B

Leviathan       Grade B-

Black or White        Grade: B-

Jupiter Ascending        Grade: C

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies        Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey       Grade: C

Mr. Turner       Grade: D+

The Theory of Everything        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
The Boy Next Door
The DUFF
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Oscar Nominated Short Films
McFarland USA
Paddington
Project Almanac
Seventh Son
Song of the Sea
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Taken 3
Timbuktu 

Digging Up the Marrow



Most would agree that documentary style horror is an overdone genre.  For every good one, there are at least 10 that are just derivative.  But they're cheap to make, and if done right can be very effective and entertaining.  And Digging Up the Marrow is very entertaining.

Real life horror film writer/director Adam Green receives lots of fan mail from his cult followers, some more bizarre than others.  But when he receives a plea from a man who believes he has found real life monsters and wants his help to film them, it's too appealing an offer not to pursue.  But has the man actually found them, or is he just crazy?  The formula may be tired, but the execution here is flawless, and helped largely by character actor Ray Wise.  It's good, creepy fun and you can see it at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B+ 

Who is this movie for?  Fans of documentary style, found footage, and genre films will probably be very entertained.

Friday, February 13, 2015

In Theaters Now - 2/13/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A

A Most Violent Year        Grade: A

The Imitation Game        Grade: A

Birdman        Grade: A-

The Wedding Ringer        Grade: B+

Foxcatcher        Grade: B+

Still Alice        Grade: B+

The Rewrite        Grade: B+   (also available on Video on Demand)

Kingsman: The Secret Service        Grade: B+


Into the Woods        Grade: B+

American Sniper        Grade: B+

Selma        Grade: B+

Inherent Vice       Grade: B

Two Days, One Night        Grade: B

Duke of Burgundy       Grade: B-

Leviathan       Grade B-

Black or White        Grade: B-

Jupiter Ascending        Grade: C

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies        Grade: C

Fifty Shades of Grey        Grade: C

Mr. Turner        Grade: D+

The Theory of Everything        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
The Boy Next Door
The Loft
Oscar Nominated Short Films
Paddington
Project Almanac
Seventh Son
Song of the Sea
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Taken 3

Fifty Shades of Grey




Ah, the long awaited, and much buzzed about Fifty Shades of Grey.  I'd heard so much.  And now it was finally time to see what all the fuss was about.  I expected passion.  I expected sweat.  I expected moaning.  I expected that outfit the Gimp wore in Pulp Fiction.  But ultimately what I got was underwhelming.  Imagine the acting you see in a daytime soap, in a Nicolas Sparks movie, after Sparks had been up all night watching soft-core porn.  Of course it doesn't matter what I say or think.  This movie is gonna clean up this weekend at the box office and then it will taper off fairly quickly, but only after making a tidy profit.  Women are gonna grab their gal pals or force their Valentine to sit through it.  And while it's not exactly painful, it's not exactly titillating or even all that entertaining.  But I'm a guy.  What do I know about it?  Personally I was more aroused by Frozen.  (Because Kristen Bell does one of the voices, not because I'm into animated kid films, sicko.)

Grade: C

Who is this movie for?  Women.  Duh.

Kingsman: The Secret Service



This was one of the movies I was most looking forward to in 2015.  Why?  A film about a secret spy organization trying to stop an evil genius from destroying the world, with a cast that includes Colin Firth, Samuel Jackson, Michael Caine, and the always so cool Mark Strong?  Sign.  Me.  Up.  Though even more so, I looked forward to it because it's written and directed by Matthew Vaughn.  His directorial debut, Layer Cake, is one of my favorite movies.  And Kick-Ass, which he wrote and directed, is way up there too. 

Well, after having seen it twice now, I can tell you it's super cool, it's super clever, it's super original, it's super stylish, it's super fun, and I enjoyed it way more the second time around.  (I'm not sure why it didn't fully take my first time.)  It's James Bond meets Unbreakable and it's totally awesome.  Matthew Vaughn is one kick-ass kingsman.

Grade: A+

Who is this movie for?   Dig cool movies?  This is one super cool kick-ass movie.

The Rewrite



It's been a terrible year for wide theatrical releases so far, and the place to find the best new releases has consistently been Video on Demand.  And this week The Rewrite is one of the best finds on VOD.  Hugh Grant, who has largely been absent from cinema for a number of years, makes a return in just the kind of film he shines best in.  Grant plays a once successful Hollywood screenwriter who has fallen on tougher times and crosses coasts to teach screenwriting at Binghamton University.  And while the story arc is exactly what you expect in every way, this movie succeeds in its execution, with clever dialogue, a great lead performance by Grant, and a terrific all star supporting cast including Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, and Chris Elliott.  It's nothing groundbreaking and hardly a must see, but it's a really smooth, fun watch that you can see at home.  And it's a great reminder of what great actors like Simmons and Janney can do in supporting roles.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Anyone who would fancy a light, enjoyable, Inside Hollywood rom-com that you can watch at home.  It should have fairly wide audience appeal, though critics are likely to pan it for being banal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Poker Night



Crime thriller/mystery fans, take note.  This is a must see.

Told over multiple timelines, a new police detective battles wits with a masked serial rapist, interspersed with a poker game where older, wiser detectives all take turns sharing their greatest cases.  But will their imparted wisdom help him when he needs it most?  Both timelines are equally engaging, and the non-linear storytelling adds complexity to keep you thoroughly enthralled, just the right amount of confused, and guessing right up until the last frame.  And along with a terrific supporting cast of character actors including Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Titus Welliver, and Ron Eldard, this is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre.  See it now on Video on Demand, DVD, and Blu-Ray.

Grade: A

Who is this movie for?   Don't be misled by the cheesy movie poster or the lack of marketing and notoriety.  Poker Night is a first rate thriller/mystery worthy of a cult following, particularly for those who adore cool, stylish cinema like Boondock Saints and The Usual Suspects.


RPG


Rutger Hauer plays a rich and powerful man nearing the end of his life.   And what is the only thing the rich and powerful can't buy?  Youth.  Though in RPG, they have a chance.  But it involves partaking in a video game, of sorts.

Calling RPG a B movie would be an understatement.  The production value is particularly poor.  And the young ensemble cast is attractive but not very good at their craft, at all.  But there are three things that might make this one worth seeing if you like the genre.

First, the great Rutger Hauer makes an appearance.  You may love him from Blade Runner.  I love him from The Hitcher.  But if you know him, you probably love him, and even though he isn't in the lion's share of the film, it's good to see him.

Second, while, it's sort of just a poor man's Hunger Games, the screenplay is somewhat original and interesting.  And personally I'd rather see a movie with poor production values and an interesting screenplay than vice versa.

And third, you can watch it at home on Video on Demand.

Grade: B  (a bit generously)

Who is this movie for?  People who dig the futuristic, high concept films, even when they're poorly made and straight to VOD.

Friday, February 6, 2015

In Theaters Now - 2/6/15



(new releases in green)


Whiplash        Grade: A

A Most Violent Year        Grade: A

Wild        Grade: A

The Imitation Game        Grade: A

Birdman        Grade: A-

The Wedding Ringer        Grade: B+

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I       Grade: B+

Foxcatcher       Grade: B+

Unbroken        Grade: B+

Black Sea        Grade: B+

Still Alice        Grade: B+

Into the Woods        Grade: B+

American Sniper        Grade: B+

Selma       Grade: B+

Inherent Vice        Grade: B

Two Days, One Night        Grade: B

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

Black or White        Grade: B-

Jupiter Ascending        Grade: C

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies        Grade: C

Mr. Turner        Grade: D+

The Theory of Everything        Grade: D




Additional Films Not Reviewed:
Annie
The Boy Next Door
The Loft
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Oscar Nominated Short Films
Paddington
Project Almanac
Seventh Son
Song of the Sea
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
Strange Magic
Taken 3
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wild Card


Few actors have I come down harder on than Jason Statham.  Why?  Well because even though he started his career showcasing his natural charisma in some good movies, he has consistently churned out nothing but terrible action movies over the last few years, mostly with terribly generic titles like 'Safe', 'Blitz', 'Redemption', and 'Homefront'.  (I doubt even Statham himself could differentiate one from the other at this point.)  But I owe him this post, because I strangely took a chance on his latest straight-to-VOD (with yet another lame title working as a pun on his character's name of Nick Wild) but I must say it was Wild-ly entertaining.  Aside from just the right amount of ass-kicking, it's got revenge, gambling, Vegas, Christmas tunes, and a surprisingly large all-star supporting cast in some pretty meaty roles.  It's more fun than the reviews on the internet would have you believe.

Grade: B+  ... a high B+

Who is this movie for?  Anyone who just wants to be thoroughly entertained with a 92 minute guilty pleasure you can watch at home on VOD for $6.99.  Welcome back to good movies, Statham.  But please, no more puns on your character's name.  I beg you.  Don't make your next character Nick Wolf in a movie called 'Lone Wolf'.  I know you're thinking about it.