Friday, February 26, 2016

In Theaters Now - 2/26/16



(new releases in green)
  • Room       Grade: A+
  • The Revenant       Grade: A+
  • Brooklyn       Grade: A
  • Spotlight       Grade: A
  • The Big Short       Grade: A
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens  Grade: A
  • Where to Invade Next       Grade: A
  • Creed       Grade: A
  • How to Be Single       Grade: A-
  • Triple 9      Grade: A-
  • Anomalisa       Grade: B+
  • Daddy's Home       Grade: B+
  • Eddie the Eagle      Grade: B+
  • The Witch       Grade: B+
  • Hail, Caesar!       Grade: B+
  • Deadpool       Grade: B+
  • The 5th Wave       Grade: B
  • 45 Years       Grade: B
  • The Boy       Grade: B-
  • Risen       Grade: B-
  • Carol       Grade: C+
  • Zoolander 2       Grade: C+
  • Lady in the Van       Grade: C+
  • Ride Along 2       Grade: D

Additional Films Not Reviewed:

  • The Choice
  • Fifty Shades of Black
  • Gods of Egypt
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Race

Triple 9


Amongst all of the super hero franchise flicks, crude comedies, and low budget horror films of which we have been inundated over the last two months, finally arises one of a genre in short supply: The gritty, dirty cop crime drama.  This also just so happens to be one of my favorite genres, and yet I surprisingly find it more on the small screen than at the multiplex.  Though some Hollywood filmmakers still make a go of it.  David Ayer (Harsh Times, Street Kings, End of Watch, Sabotage) is a master of the genre.  Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) is as well.  And now, John Hillcoat tries his hand.  And having made The Proposition and The Road, a few of my favorite dark films over the past decade, I had a good feeling about this one.  And, with its stellar ensemble cast including Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, all the better..  Individually, any of them can carry a drama.  And together?  Well let's just say I was psyched.

I won't say much about the plot.  Or anything.  Partially because that's not how I roll here, but also because it's pretty convoluted.  Probably too convoluted, actually.  And that's a bit of a problem.  But not problem enough to ruin or even lessen my experience.  Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish, for the cast, the performances, the action, and the suspense, even if I was left with a lot of questions about plot points that may or may not have been intentionally vague.  Maybe that's just reason to see it again down the road.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  This is not a movie for kids.  It's not a movie to see if you want a laugh.  Nor is it a good date movie.  It's a gritty, violent, dirty cop, crime drama for adults.  That might make it niche, but as someone in that niche, I'm happy with it. 

Eddie the Eagle


There are many things in life I don't get.  Among them are people who climb mountains like Everest.  When asked why, the canned answer is just because it's there.  Similarly I don't get people who train for years to compete in some ridiculous event at the Olympics.  Why?  What's the point?  Presumably just because it's there.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service) plays real life Olympic ski jumper Eddie Edwards, who pursued his lifelong dream of competing in the Olympics.  Under the tutelage of a jaded former jumper (played by Hugh Jackman), Eddie transforms from a kid with a lot of spirit but little talent, to a true competitor. 

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Do you like feel-good, inspirational, "follow your dreams", Disney-esque films?  If so, you'll totally dig it.  Those Brits and Aussies have a charm that's undeniable.

Friday, February 19, 2016

In Theaters Now - 2/19/16



(new releases in green)
  • Room       Grade: A+
  • The Revenant       Grade: A+
  • Brooklyn       Grade: A
  • Spotlight       Grade: A
  • The Big Short       Grade: A
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens   Grade: A
  • Where to Invade Next       Grade: A
  • Creed       Grade: A
  • How to Be Single       Grade: A-
  • Anomalisa       Grade: B+
  • Daddy's Home       Grade: B+
  • The Witch      Grade: B+
  • Hail, Caesar!       Grade: B+
  • Deadpool       Grade: B+
  • Dirty Grandpa       Grade: B
  • Forsaken        Grade: B
  • The 5th Wave       Grade: B
  • 45 Years       Grade: B
  • The Boy       Grade: B-
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi    Grade: B-
  • Risen      Grade: B-
  • Carol       Grade: C+
  • Zoolander 2       Grade: C+
  • Lady in the Van       Grade: C+
  • The Finest Hours       Grade: C
  • Ride Along 2       Grade: D

Additional Films Not Reviewed:

  • The Choice
  • Fifty Shades of Black
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  • Race

Risen


Have you ever gone to a movie and realized just as the lights went down you didn't really want to be there?  Usually I'm pretty stoked to start a movie, but occasionally, right from minute one, I realize I'm just not that into it.  Such was the case here and the burden was on Risen to convert me.

I'm not a religious man, and have no interest in all these faith-preaching films of late.  But Risen at least had the allure of Joseph Fiennes to draw me in.  So I decided to give it a go.  And, as expected, he was quite good, as he always is.  But even with his watchable performance, it was still a struggle for me to get into it.  Though, I told myself if I made it through The Passion of the Christ, which was literally pure torture, I could make it through Risen.  And I did.  But was it fun?  No.  Was it educational?  No.  Did it change my feelings towards faith?  Not at all.  Is it just another Jesus resurrection story?  Kind of.  But it's a well made film with some good acting and told from a different angle, as seen through the eyes of a non-believer.  So that's something.

Grade: B-

Who is this movie for?  It's well made for what it is, but unless Jesus is your savior, I just can't see why anyone would want to choose this as their weekend movie.

Friday, February 12, 2016

In Theaters Now - 2/12/16



(new releases in green)
  • Room        Grade: A+
  • The Revenant        Grade: A+
  • Brooklyn        Grade: A
  • Spotlight        Grade: A
  • The Big Short        Grade: A
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens    Grade: A
  • Where to Invade Next      Grade: A
  • Creed        Grade: A
  • How to Be Single       Grade: A-
  • Anomalisa        Grade: B+
  • Daddy's Home        Grade: B+
  • Hail, Caesar!        Grade: B+
  • Deadpool        Grade: B+
  • Dirty Grandpa        Grade: B
  • Tumbledown        Grade: B
  • The 5th Wave        Grade: B
  • 45 Years        Grade: B
  • Son of Saul        Grade: B
  • The Boy        Grade: B-
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi     Grade: B-
  • Carol        Grade: C+
  • Zoolander 2        Grade: C+
  • Lady in the Van        Grade: C+
  • The Finest Hours        Grade: C
  • The Danish Girl        Grade: C-
  • Ride Along 2        Grade: D

Additional Films Not Reviewed:

  • The Choice
  • Fifty Shades of Black
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

How to Be Single


We may like to think we don't, but we all judge books by their covers.  We just do.  That's how we select and prioritize what books we're going to read and what movies we're going to see.  Though the nice thing about being a film critic and seeing most everything, is that you often realize your original pre-conceived notions were wrong.  In the case of How to Be Single, there were several reasons why I almost skipped seeing it.  For one, I'm a dude.  And a film starring an ensemble of chicks whining about being single just doesn't have an appeal to me.  Second, these types of movies are so damn cliche by now.  And third, Dakota Johnson really undewhelmed me in Fifty Shades of Grey.  That's three strikes.  But, they screened the film close to where I live, and I had nothing better to do, so I figured I'd give it a go.  And I'm glad I did, because it's really a very funny and very entertaining film with a very likeable cast.  Everyone in it (including Ms. Johnson, as well as Leslie Mann, Alison Brie, and Rebel Wilson) really delivers.  But most importantly, the writing is strong.  What the plot lacks in originality, the dialogue, ensemble, and laughs more than make up for.  So don't be scared off if it seems like it's not your thing because you're too old, or too male, or too single, or too married, or too whatever.  Don't overthink it.  It's just a comedy.  And a good one at that.

Grade: A-

Who is this movie for?  Everyone.  It's a great feel-good movie for a date, or to see with a group of friends, or even alone. 

Deadpool


It's barely February and already it's time for another Marvel comic film.  Ryan Reynolds is back as Wade Wilson (a.k.a. Deadpool), a character he debuted in X-Men Origins: Wolverine back in 2009.  Though, expect a few key differences.  For one, they made a big mistake in Wolverine, sewing his mouth shut mid-way through the film.  (You don't hire an actor with the gift of gab and then sew his damn mouth shut!)  Rest assured, in this one his mouth stays wide open.  In fact, he never shuts up, uttering a seemingly endless amount of quips.  And second, Reynolds gets the freedom to be as crude as he pleases.  While most filmmakers and studios fight the MPAA and make cuts to secure a PG-13 rating to attract a wider audience, Marvel has decided to test the waters in the R market.  Parents and prudes beware, this Marvel film is filled to the brim with profanity, innuendo, and sex.  To be sure, Reynolds and co. (including Morena Baccarin and T.J. Miller) take full advantage of the R rating with lots of dirty humor.  But there's lots of non-dirty humor too.  There are enough inside, self-referential, and meta jokes to keep us entertained and offset it's ok story and blah villain.

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Do you like dirty humor?  Yup, me too.  You'll enjoy it.

Zoolander 2


I must admit, I never really understood the cult following for Zoolander.  It just seems like a marginally clever SNL-type sketch stretched out thin to feature length.  Sure, it has its moments.  And yes, I'm not above busting out my own Blue Steel face when the moment is right.  (And trust me, when I do it's truly breathtaking.)  But it's hardly one of my favorite comedies.  In fact, Ben Stiller always struck me as schizophrenic, with half his films based upon cartoonish characters in preposterous situations, and half of them as a neurotic everyman in a mundane world we can all empathize with.  I strongly prefer the latter.  Flirting with Disaster, Meet the Parents, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and While We're Young are my kind of Ben Stiller films.  Y'all can have Dodgeball and Zoolander.

With that said, I'm certain there are a lot of people out there who have waited with baited breath for the last 15 years for this sequel.  I'm not one of them, but I still went in with an open mind and a reasonably low bar.  Unfortunately Zoolander 2 couldn't even meet me half way.  The plot is way too over-the-top and incoherent.  And the laughs are way too few and far between.  (Most audiences cackle at everything, but my screening was noticeably quiet.)   Really, the best thing it has going for it are all the cameos, some of whom are better than others.  But that's not enough for me to recommend you go see it, even if you're a big fan of the original.  I expect it to be a box office flop and a top contendder for some Razzie awards.  And I think Mr. Stiller may want to learn from it and take the opportunity to rethink Dodgeball 2 which is currently in development.

Grade: C+

Who is this movie for?  It's not terrible but I expect it'll disappoint across the board.  Skip it. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

In Theaters Now - 2/5/16



(new releases in green)
  • Room       Grade: A+
  • The Revenant       Grade: A+
  • Brooklyn       Grade: A
  • Spotlight       Grade: A
  • The Big Short       Grade: A
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens      Grade: A
  • Creed       Grade: A
  • Bridge of Spies       Grade: A-
  • Trumbo       Grade: A-
  • The Hateful Eight       Grade: A-
  • Anomalisa       Grade: B+
  • Daddy's Home       Grade: B+
  • Hail, Caesar!       Grade: B+
  • Joy       Grade: B+
  • Dirty Grandpa       Grade: B
  • The 5th Wave       Grade: B
  • 45 Years       Grade: B
  • Son of Saul       Grade: B
  • The Boy       Grade: B-
  • Jane Got a Gun       Grade: B-
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi     Grade: B-
  • Carol       Grade: C+
  • Lady in the Van      Grade: C+
  • The Finest Hours      Grade: C
  • The Danish Girl       Grade: C-
  • Ride Along 2       Grade: D

Additional Films Not Reviewed:

  • The Choice
  • Fifty Shades of Black
  • Kung Fu Panda 3
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Hail, Caesar!



If you're a movie buff then chances are you're a fan of the Coen brothers.  I certainly am, though I'm particularly fond of their 90's works: Fargo, The Big Lebowski, The Hudsucker Proxy, Miller's Crossing, and my personal favorite, Barton Fink.  Back then, they unquestionably and consistently brought a unique vision and style to film that I had never seen before.  Though, since the 90's their work has been less consistent in quality, and Coen copycats have been aplenty.  Of course some are still gems, like the ultra dark No Country for Old Men and the ultra fun Burn After Reading.  But some just make me antsy and leave me cold (e.g. A Serious Man and Inside Llewyn Davis.)  I still look forward to each and every one, but I now go in with tempered expectations. 

Those tempered expectations served me well with their latest film, Hail, Caesar!,an homage to classic Hollywood cinema.  Josh Brolin plays a studio fixer, handling the films in production and the various challenges of those involved, including George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, and Scarlett Johansson.  Similiar to Wes Anderson films like The Grand Budapest Hotel, it's silly, heavy on style, and light on substance.  Personally I prefer their films that have a bit more gravitas, but this one has enough enjoyable scenes to make it worth your while, even if it is lesser Coen. 

Grade: B+

Who is this movie for?  Coen brothers fans will be satisfied but not blown away.  Some of the cast, particularly Clooney and Johansson, weren't given enough to do to really shine, but if you're a fan of old Hollywood, you'll get a kick out of it.  One spectacular dance scene with Channing Tatum alone was enough to make it well worth my time.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sundance Film Festival 2016

If you're at all into movies you've probably at least heard about a few that just premiered at Sundance.  I caught 28 while I was there, most of which were great or at least very good.  I missed a few I really wanted to see (e.g. Manchester by the Sea, The Birth of a Nation, Frank & Lola, Complete Unknown, and Yoga Hosers) but below are my grades for what I did see.
  • The Fundamentals of Caring     Grade: A
  • Captain Fantastic      Grade: A
  • Tallulah      Grade: A
  • The Hollars      Grade: A
  • Swiss Army Man      Grade: A
  • Maggie's Plan      Grade: A
  • Wiener-Dog      Grade: A
  • Goat       Grade: A
  • Sing Street      Grade: A
  • Other People      Grade: A-
  • Life, Animated      Grade: A-
  • Indignation      Grade: A-
  • The Free World      Grade: A-
  • The Intervention      Grade: A-
  • Gleason      Grade: B+
  • Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You    Grade: B+
  • Joshy     Grade: B+
  • Mr. Pig      Grade: B+
  • Love & Friendship      Grade: B+
  • Lovesong      Grade: B
  • Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper Grade: B-
  • Certain Women      Grade: B-
  • Little Men      Grade: B-
  • Southside with You      Grade: C
  • Carnage Park      Grade: C
  • Miles Ahead      Grade: C
  • Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall     Grade: C-
  • Kate Plays Christine      Grade: D