Movie NERD

Review "The Hustle"

"The Hustle" (2019) 

It lacked oomph. We need so much now when the movies are of such high quality. The acting was not the issue rather the script they had to work with. There were only a couple of belly laughs, and others that were funny but not hilarious. The setting was fine as well. Some nice views were on show. With comedies they have the opportunity to be ridiculous and far fetched with some superb lines thrown in for effect and to give good actors a chance to shine. A few twists and turns that you cannot see coming also helps. The actors were let down I think. The storyline needed to be more complex. The very best comedies are multi layered and clever. This one lacked all that unfortunately. There was little tugging of the heart strings as well. That can be omitted for a comedy but it helps as well. In depth characterisation was not there either. I did not connect much to any of them. There were a few surprises but I had guessed them or saw them coming. Maybe keep it for a TV movie later on. It is not in the realm of the fine comedies!

In one word?  Awful!

 

2/10

 

Review "The Descent"

"The Descent" (2005)

A year after a severe emotional trauma, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) goes to North Carolina to spend some time exploring caves with her friends; after descending underground, the women find strange cave paintings and evidence of an earlier expedition, then learn they are not alone: Underground predators inhabit the crevasses, and they have a taste for human flesh. 

If nightmare inducing horror is not your bag then the less you know about The Descent the better. Geordie writer-director Neil Marshall has delivered an accomplished, well acted, out and out horror movie that comes as much of a pleasant surprise as his first major feature Dog Soldiers did back in 2002. Shot in a mere 7 weeks The Descent sees a sextet of undeniably attractive action women leaping headfirst into an Appalachian potholing adventure that goes wrong so quickly you are left wondering if any one of them will survive, let alone ever see daylight again.

There are comparisons to be drawn to Marshall's 'Soldiers of course - again the story is stark and wonderfully economic. Again there is group of six people, predominantly one sex accompanied with a lurking, ominous threat and again there are more nods to popular film culture than you probably realise. The Descent however has a sense of humour that is suitably pitch black.

Long before the cave appears we play witness to a traumatic event that underlies the plot and serves to both unite and tear apart relationships in equal measure. Mostly affected are fragile Sarah and physically strong Juno, an adrenaline junkie who leads the group further and further beneath the ground. No time is wasted in recreating the primal feel of crawling through tunnels with hard hats scraping the dust from the rocks, choking and inducing paranoia all the way as it lingers in the stale, torchlit air. It's here Marshall gets a little inventive. Playing with various different lighting techniques our heroines become colour coded through scenes via glow-sticks, flashlights and video camera. Sounds echo when visuals are briefly lost and deliciously bone crunching they are too. Events escalate quickly and the whole ride becomes what can only be described as a non-stop relentless assault on the senses that will demand repeated viewing.

The only thing that will ruin this movie for you is word of mouth, which ironically is exactly what this film will need to become commercially viable. But the less you know, the more you will enjoy it. Have fun spotting references to Carrie and Apocalypse Now by all means, but don't be fooled into thinking this is a mere standard entry into the much saturated genre-movie staple. The Descent will rank as one of the most unashamedly terrifying British films ever made. It was made by people that love good cinema, and it shows. The Descent was made before The Cave, and now has an alternate ending for new audiences. 

(8/10)   

Review "Notes on a Scandal"

"Notes on a Scandal" (2006)

Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a veteran teacher at St. George's, senses a kindred spirit in Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett), the school's new art teacher. The younger woman's charisma intensely draws in the older, and the two become friends. Then Barbara learns of Sheba's affair with a teenage student and becomes the keeper of the explosive secret.

What a treat to watch three of the best actors of our time in the same movie! Judy Dench is an international treasure; Cate Blanchett never looked better or created a more compelling character in any of her other movies, and I had the good fortune to discover Bill Nighy on Broadway in "The Vertical Hour" with Julianne Moore the night before I saw "Notes from a Scandal," and I now want to see everything he's done. A superlative creator of character. "Notes from a Scandal" tells us a lot about the "British" penchant for relishing "scandals" (they invented the tabloid press) and also about the odd, intersecting relationships that have become a nearly commonplace reality in the contemporary world. Both Blanchett and Dench (as Sheba and Barbara) teach at the same Islington secondary school. And both, in very different ways, embark on "inappropriate" relationships that create turmoil in their lives and the lives of their community. Judy Dench conveys the desperate loneliness of her character's life and a remarkable scene of her smoking a cigarette in a bathtub conveys the distinction between her kind of loneliness--an older, unattractive, single woman with no real connections in life--and the more endurable kinds of loneliness that many of us share. This is a gripping film that moves crisply from one scene to the next, missing only a very few beats along the way. A must see.

(10/10)

Review "Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation"

"Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation" (2018)

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation is an entertaining animated film filled with unique creativity. Wonderful voice acting and a distinctive animation style separate this from the majority of animated films. This is sure to be a worthwhile watch for all families.

The movie follows Dracula (Adam Sandler) as his boring hotel business and lack of love continue to bring him down. Wanting to bring back his joy, daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) surprises Dracula and the rest of his best friend-monster pack with an adventurous monster cruise. Initially angered by this, Dracula slowly begins enjoying himself and even finds a new crush in the mysterious yet charming cruise captain Ericka (Kathryn Hahn). However, things take a left turn when former nemesis Abraham Van Helsing (Jim Gaffigan) hunts the cruise, threatening the lives of all monsters aboard.

Adam Sandler, as Dracula, is my favorite character as his transformation to being his old adventurous self is well-presented. His love for his daughter and kind acceptance of humans also provide for a nice central message. Selena Gomez, as Mavis, continues to shine by providing an equally strong father-daughter bond with Dracula. Kevin James, as Frankenstein, greatly presents a dumbfound friend to Dracula whose deteriorating body assures for some inventive comedy. Steve Buscemi, as Wayne/Wolfman, regales with his signature voice highlighting the character's parenting struggles with his many cubs. David Spade, as Griffin/Invisible Man, equally entertains despite not having a corporeal form. Last but not least, Keegan Michael-Kay, as Murray/ Mummy, completes the pack with his unique, child-like nature. Kathryn Hahn, as Ericka, adeptly portrays her mysterious past and interesting attraction for Dracula. Jim Gaffigan, as Abraham Van Helsing, exhibits a new take on the legend monster hunter.

Genddy Tartakovsky brings out his zany and fast-paced direction in new ways. In spite of that, this is nowhere as memorable and groundbreaking as his other works, such as Samurai Jack and Dexter's Laboratory. My favorite scene is the opening one which quickly introduces us to the Dracula-Van Helsing rivalry and sets the stage for a grand adventure. The biggest flaw in the movie is that some of the humor comes across as farcical and this could dissuade adults from watching. Also, the plot is rather one-note and forgettable, especially when compared to the standard of Tartakovsky's other work.

The movie's message is to never discriminate against a person based on their looks and instead, appreciate them for who they are.

(10/10)

Review "The Dark Knight"

"The Dark Knight" (2008)

This 2008 rendition of Batman became an instant classic, and drew many cult fans. It's prequel, Batman Begins (2005) was fairly weak in comparison, but it set the stage for one of the most controversial and critically acclaimed movies ever made: The Dark Knight.

This movie is a definite stretch from its predecessor, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Not only was it performed differently, the cast and crew took an entirely different approach to the making of The Dark Knight. One is meant to provide comic relief, with (in Tim Burton tradition) very spruced up, "avant-garde" sets and vivid color. The other is meant to tell the tale of a psychological nightmare in Christopher Nolan's gritty, lurid, and bleak fashion. On a personal note: The Dark Knight is not only far superior to the 1989 version, it is among my favorite movies of all time. (Rated 10 Stars on IMDb)

There is a very sick charm this movie has, Heath Ledger. Much like Batman did with Jack Nicholson, The Dark Knight is made by the role of The Joker. Ledger's Joker is a very special villain in today's cinema, as he makes no efforts whatsoever to redeem himself. He is not looking for pity (as his past is obscured in this movie), all he wants is to see you suffer. This is one of the most enjoyable elements of the film, as Ledger's emphasizing The Joker's psychology as opposed to his origins. Character development is a prevalent theme, yet the writers were very cautious to keep the characters relatively 2-Dimensional.

Eckhart's Two-Face is The Dark Knight's second freshest face on the set. Over the course of the movie, you watch an ultimately very likable character lose everything he ever loved. Eckhart really delved deep into his dual-personalities, and was characterized as hating, tender, destroyed, strong, fixed, and broken.

Christian Bale playing the lead role as Batman also showed signs of emptiness throughout, as someone who was coping with loss and suffering from the The Joker's mind-games, and being crushed under the weight of an unthankful Gotham. This battle of the mind effects the already dark mood of the movie, and adds the temporary flavor of hopelessness. As an evaluation of Bale's performance, I would say he greatly improved on his already powerful character from Batman Begins, taking his dramatic effects to a whole new level.

Also, Christopher Nolan creates a dystopian Gotham that rivals any competition. He creates a culture in the city that feels strangely disunited yet in harmony, where the good transcends the evil. This happens much in the same way the characters interact.

Every superhero movie I ever see will be compared to The Dark Knight. It's complexity will not go unnoticed and many will try to rival it. Some may watch this movie purely for action and entertainment, but if you look an inch or two deeper... you'll also see a master work of art.

(10/10)

Review "Life of the Party"

"Life of the Party" (2018)

When her husband suddenly dumps her, longtime and dedicated housewife Deanna turns regret into reset by going back to college. Unfortunately, Deanna winds up at the same school as her less-than-thrilled daughter. Plunging headlong into the campus experience, the outspoken new student soon begins a journey of self-discovery while fully embracing all of the fun, freedom and frat boys that she can handle.

If good comedy can marry the outrageous with the meaningful, then Melissa McCarthy's Life of the Party is a fine party of a film. It's outrageous that she as middle-aged Deanna can go back to college and pal it up with her daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), and meaningful to show the positive fruits of hard work to overcome hardships. Although not every scene or line evokes hilarity, many are spot on in part because McCarthy has the timing to make almost any joke effective, but also because honesty and truth underlie almost every setup. For instance, as Deanna faces divorce from Dan (Matt Walsh), she decides to finish college despite lack of funds and the sheer improbability of integrating with young college students. Her lines are often silly but tinged with a love for life that makes them both funny and poignant. The kids love her. One of the most improbably interesting and moving bits has her making an oral presentation, for which she has had a life-long fear. Director Ben Falcone (McCarthy's husband and third time collaborator of Tammy, The Boss) and writers Falcone and McCarthy play the pain longer than usual and resolve it in an unromantic but plausible way. While they do not fall into the clichéd voiceover to tell us this is how life may often resolve itself, they let the sequence rest among the small occurrences of life from which a valiant person like Deanna might survive. Even though there are too many sorority sisters to fully develop their characters, the film has an undercurrent of goodness that promises everyone, like Deanna, will come out well if they are honest in their pursuits, both of books and of love. As for the wedded relationship of Falcone and McCarthy, the unevenness of the comedy suggests they might consider not collaborating next time. Deanna need be only a loving mother and student to gain the respect of her classmates. No heroics like those of Indiana Jones (she is, after all an archaeology student) are necessary, just good intentions. Yes, Life of the Party is funny; it is also an effective commentary on loving one another as the true graduation with honors.

(8/10)

 

Review "Better Off Dead"

"Better Off Dead" (1985)

If there was ever a role that John Cusack milked until it mooed, this one would have to have been it. His portrayal of Lane Meyer will forever be remembered in high school lore as the Ultimate Champion of the Underdog. I laughed so hard my sides ached and tears were running down my cheeks. What has long been a cult classic, this film did an excellent job of portraying the awkwardness of those teenage years that all adults thank God every day that we now have behind us. "Savage" Steve Holland's directorial debut was simply sensational; he could not have picked a better vehicle in which to make his mark! Rounding out the cast includes Amanda Wyss as the fickle girlfriend who is more interested in her popularity than anything else; David Ogden Stiers (Major Winchester from M*A*S*H fame) as the dad who tries too hard to be "in", Kim Darby is priceless here as the mother who is completely, absolutely and utterly clueless, Scooter Stevens as Lane's little brother Badger is one ongoing surprise after another, and what is probably going to go down as BY FAR the most coveted film role in the 20th century, Demian Slade plays the paperboy from Hell. His portrayal alone makes the film not only worth watching, but worth buying! To close matters off in the casting department, the chemistry between Cusack and Diane Franklin – who plays the French foreign exchange student Monique Junot, is something that simply cannot be denied. Keep in mind however, that whatever you do – that like The Cable Guy – DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT take your eyes off that paperboy! Cusack and Holland do a perfect job of capturing that period of time in the 1980's better than any other film of the period. This film is well worth an evening's entertainment. Rent it once, and then buy it, as you will want to watch it many times over. The DVD was just bought for $10.00 and change from from Wal-Mart.com. I highly recommend this film to one and all as a MUST-OWN and a 10!

(10/10)

 

Review "Tag"

"Tag" (2018)

One month every year, five highly competitive friends hit the ground running for a no-holds-barred game of tag -- risking their necks, their jobs and their relationships to take one another down. This time, the game coincides with the wedding of the only undefeated player. What should be an easy target soon becomes an all-out war as he knows they're coming to get him.

Though it's only the broad scenario that's inspired by real life as opposed to the actual narrative or characters, both aspects of 'Tag (2018)' work surprisingly well. The true story is quite cute and idyllic, though hardly movie material. That's where Rob McKittrick and Mark Steillen come in. They've written a flick that's fairly fully formed, and fairly funny, too. The adaptation comes not from those playing the game, but from the game itself and is only 'accurate' when it comes to its rules or the specific - and suitably outlandish - scenarios chosen to bring to the big-screen. The film provides plenty of laughs (honestly, more than you'd expect) and even has some nice messages perhaps counter to those most obvious. Some moments are unpredictable, with the piece playing with expectation in a neat, if somewhat contrived, way. There's still the foreseeable mix of ad-libbed nonsense that seeps into the fray which, though it delivers solid material on a number of occasions, means that the comedy comes more from the actors than the actual characters. This is a minor but noticeable issue that stops any meaty development, essentially, dead in its tracks. It doesn't ruin the pacy picture, however, as there are a some moments of change for a few of our core players. Sometimes, these don't feel quite genuine but they always stem from the right place. This lack of true character-focus does prevent the picture from becoming anything other than a fun ride that does exactly what it says on the tin, though. It is much better than it could have been and I certainly enjoyed it. It was an entertaining time that gave me a good chuckle here and there.

(7/10)

Review "Bad Match"

 "Bad Match" (2017)

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve seen a stalker thriller before. Two characters date, one doesn’t want to date anymore, and the other one decides to stalk, harass, or otherwise continue to “Pursue” the first. Here we have Bad Match, which is a stalker thriller for users of dating apps. Or for those of you who are tired of most stalker thrillers, because it provides a subversion of expectations that’s clever and far more enjoyable than you might expect.

Our protagonist is Harris (Jack Cutmore-Scott), someone who uses dating apps as a means to a quick lay and nothing more. He matches with Riley (Lili Simmons), who immediately seems very drawn to him. They have a good time, and then when he tries to blow her off, she doesn’t let him. Relentless texts and calls lead him to believe that she’s crazy.

That’s all you’re getting out of me. To see how he deals with that situation, and how the film eventually winds up playing around with the genre and the gender expectations that come from it, you’ll have to watch it yourself. Suffice to say, as far as I’m concerned, it’s very clever and a lot of fun. Simmons and Cutmore-Scott are really solid, there’s some good filmmaking and some very solid cinematography, and there are more than a few laughs. Bad Match is really good.

Conclusion: Thanks to the way it subverts expectations, Bad Match winds up being a smarter-than-average and pretty fun stalker thriller.

Recommendation: Bad Match is worth checking out.
(8/10)

Review "A History of Violence"

"A History of Violence" (2005)

When a pair of petty criminals attempt to rob his small-town diner, Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) quickly and easily kills them both. In the flush of news coverage of Tom's seemingly heroic actions, a threatening stranger named Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) comes to town, fingering the unassuming family man as long-missing Philadelphia mobster Joey Cusack. To the horror of his wife, Edie (Maria Bello), and teenage son, Jack (Ashton Holmes), Tom finds he must confront his violent past.

I expected bloody senselessness and instead saw a film laden with the deepest human emotions. It was real. From youthful loving to hard violence, from simple innocent joys to the full depth of adult violence and sex, and ultimate redemption, this film has it all. Every piece of clothing and set, every camera angle and lighting propelled the story relentlessly. I was never bored, and never overwhelmed with overdone violence. Nothing was gratuitous. Viggo Mortensen proved he's one of the finest actors to come along in a long while. Maria Bello carries so much on her talented shoulders. With Mortensen she shines with alternately warming and heartbreaking truthfulness. Ed Harris was delightfully menacing, and William Hurt gave the liveliest and best performance I've seen from him.

This movie is about truth and redemption. It's the best film I've seen in a very long time. Kudos to Cronenberg, Mortensen, Bello, and all the cast and crew for what was for me a nearly perfect movie.

See it, then see it again. It's brilliant.

(9.5/10)

Review "Rings"

"Rings" (2017)

The third installment in the American supernatural horror franchise, following 2002's 'THE RING' and 2005's 'THE RING TWO'; the series is based on the 1998 Japanese horror movie 'RINGU'. This sequel has a college student, and his girlfriend, trying to survive the curse of Samara Morgan; which haunts you for a week, before death, after watching a mysterious video tape. The film was directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, and it was written by David Loucka, Jacob Aaron Estes and Akiva Goldsman. It stars Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki and Vincent D'Onofrio. The movie has been a hit at the Box Office, so far, but (of course) it's received mostly negative reviews from critics, and fans alike. I found it to be pretty disappointing.

A college professor, named Gabriel (Galecki), discovers the curse of Samara Morgan; after buying an old VCR at a garage sale, with a mysterious tape in it. He creates a college experiment out of the curse; where he assigns students to watch the tape, and then he finds them someone else to show it to (which saves their lives). Holt (Roe) is one new student that's unlucky enough to get the assignment. When Holt's girlfriend, Julia (Lutz), doesn't hear from him, she comes looking for him.

The film starts out pretty promising, and it's creepy enough (like the others), but it loses it's way pretty quickly. There's definitely some cool, and somewhat frightening, scenes in it; but they're mostly all in the first half of the movie. This sequel is definitely not as original, or as memorable, as it's predecessors; but it's worst crime is that it's just boring. The first half is mildly amusing, but the second half is definitely a bore!

(6/10)

Review "Unsane"

"Unsane" (2018)

As soon as I heard about this film I was super excited. That's always the case when there is a new Steven Soderbergh film out. Definitely a solid filmmaker who is consistent and fairly innovative. Loved his recent Side Effects and Logan Lucky. This seemed like a different take in the vein of Shutter Island and a bit like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I also liked the style of filming that was immediately visible from the trailer. After seeing this film, I'm happy to say I actually liked it a lot. I'm looking forward to unpacking this one.

The film is about a business women named Sawyer (played by Claire Foy) who is involuntarily committed to a facility. Her attempts of explaining herself and checking out are thwarted. She also soon starts seeing a man who had previously been stalking her and starts blurring the lines of reality. She tries her best to seem sane to leave the facility, but things become hard for her as the days go by. The film also stars Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharaoh, and Juno Temple.

I do love when Steven Soderbergh uses an alias for cinematography in his own picture. That's the same case here. The film is shot entirely with an iPhone 7. I love the filming style because it aids to the heightened paranoia and claustrophobia of the facility. I know filming with an iPhone was done before with Sean Baker's Tangerine, but that doesn't change the fact that Soderbergh uses a similar method to perfection. It felt a bit like Lynch's Inland Empire as well. The film is absolutely engorging from the get go. The film's trailer is a bit misleading but I won't go into that and its by no means a bad thing.

The film does so well to build suspense and real emotion. You become a part of the film. Its also incredibly scary. Can you imagine being in a similar position where you are involuntarily committed with no escape and no one to believe you. The film isn't so much about if Sawyer is insane or not but its about her strength and will to survive and get out of the facility and escape this possible stalker.

I haven't seen much of Claire Foy, but holy high hell she is so good in this. Excellent and I can imagine that this role is something very far from portraying the Queen on The Crown. I know there will be people who will dislike this film and style but I loved it in all honesty. Its not perfect and isn't as complex as it could appear but its one thrilling film with excellent performances. Pleasantly happy with yet another Soderbergh effort. Will re-watch for sure.

(8/10)

Review "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" (2018)

Young Han Solo finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission -- the Millennium Falcon.Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second of Lucasfilm's anthology movies, released as part of the reinvigorated franchise since the studio was acquired by Disney in 2012. The first standalone film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, loosely connected to the episodic Skywalker Saga, but introduced a whole ensemble of new characters. For Solo, Lucasfilm took a different route, instead depicting the origin story of one of Star Wars' most beloved characters: Han Solo. Though originated by Harrison Ford in 1977's Star Wars: A New Hope, who played Han through to 2015's The Force Awakens, Lucasfilm hired a new actor to portray a younger take on the iconic smuggler in their latest anthology movie. Solo: A Star Wars Story hits all the expected Han Solo origin story beats, delivering a solidly entertaining experience with few surprises.The great thing about these stand-alone instalments is that you don't have to arrive with a preconceived idea of what they're going to add to the SW universe. Solo does a little of everything. At its core it's almost exactly what I expected it to be: a fun action film about Han, Chewie and Lando - but it also gives you some surprises along the way. The film accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. The script is good, the cinematography and sound design are excellent, and all in all we were thoroughly entertained. Ehrenreich inherited a seemingly impossible task as Ford's successor, but he does well (the whole cast does well, in fact) and I'm hoping for a sequel since he's signed on for three films. Go see it.

(8/10)

Review "Thoroughbreds"

 "Thoroughbreds" (2018)

Ever wondered what you would get if you mixed American Psycho and Heathers? Well, this movie Thoroughbreds has answered said question, as new comer writer & director Corey Finley brings an all around unsettling albeit subtly humorous tale of two childhood friends, upper class Lily and sharp witted social outcast Amanda, who debate try to solve each others problems, no matter the cost. Along with a sharp screenplay and well directed moments of suspense, the actors really drive the film with how much depth and motivation they display. The film itself feels like a play from its structure, and it works from how simple and unpredictable the plot is.

Anya Taylor Joy and Olivia Cooke have excellent chemistry together as Lily and Amanda, merely from how they reconnect after years of being apart. Although different personality wise, the subtle humor derives from said contrasts, such as Cooke's dry hilarity and emotionless stature, and Taylor-Joy's conflicting role as a young woman trying to cope with her terrible step-father. Many scenes consist of the two, and while slow at times, they really help make the audience uncertain in how they'll remind friends. Despite that, their friendship is genuine, and while the content is dark, the film surprisingly handles the gruesome parts offscreen. In an age where horror directors try to be shocking for the hell of it, Finley respects the audience enough to keep them disturbed without going too far when not needed.

As for the acting, Anya Taylor-Joy does a splendid job adding in angst and frustration to a rich girl who debates whether she wants to get rid of her step father, and it's great how she gets them out from her interactions with Olivia Cooke who triggers emotional stigmas in her. Also, Cooke feels quite reminiscent to Winona Ryder's Veronica Sawyer from her distraught presence, and even Anton Yelchin (sadly in his last role) practically screams Christian Slater's J.D. from the unanticipated layers within Tim that he delivers. Some of the funniest moments come from his interactions with Amanda and Lily, but even then he shows signs of humanity when getting in their troubled situations. Paul Sparks keeps his role rather nuanced while coming off as condescending and bitter, and it's not hard to root for Lily to get rid of him.

 

The actual humour is much more subtle than one would imagine, especially compared to the off the wall ludicrousness of Heathers. Where Heathers strove for campiness, Thoroughbreds chooses to keep things subdued and practical, which fits in the realistic tension between the arches between Lily and Amanda. Even the music score by Erik Freidlander comes off as eerie without screaming itself out, as it balances the realistic albeit creepy tone of the film when needed, aided by well shot scenes that add quiet gloominess and tension.

Finally, the film is only ninety minutes long, making it's goal short, sweet and straight to the point. Too many films today run longer than needed, but this movie knows how long it needs and it keeps the momentum moving at just the right length, even if some moments are a little slow. And that's the best way to describe this movie, subtle, slow, and entertaining enough without going too overboard or too long in its tone or length. While not the greatest teen drama, Thoroughbreds offers enough quiet atmosphere, amusing moments, and solid interactions with splendid actors to keep audiences enticed to wonder what will happen. By bringing us into a world of sterile mansions and girls who want to put the law into their own hands to add something new in their life, this film will definitely mark as a solid directorial debut for Corey Finley as he progresses with his tropes and characters to make even better films in the future.

(8.5/10)

Review "Meet the Fockers"

"Meet the Fockers" (2004)

There are many movies where the performances are so good that the weaknesses of the movie itself are almost oblivious.

The casting in this film, bringing together the stars of the original with Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as Greg aka Gaylord Focker's parents, is sensational.

While I admit that I believed I would read comments and reviews about the crudeness of the material, I believe the reason this is not a typically tragic Hollywood farce is due to the strength of the performances and the interaction of the characters.

As you know, the premise of the movie is very simple. Prior to the wedding of Greg and Pam, the two families will meet. In typical Hollywood sequel fashion, we already know that the Byrnses are somewhat reserved, set in their ways. So it is no surprise that the Fockers are almost the complete opposite.

Hilarity ensures, some crude, some overtly sexual. But the cast is skillful and it plays more like a comic version of "Closer". You will believe that Bernie and Roz (amazing performances by Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) are Greg Focker's parents. Not only is their interaction genuine, their love for their child is as well. Part of Greg's embarrassment is the knowledge of his parents' "quirks" and how different they are from the Byrnses. Ben Stiller aptly conveys this while not backing down from his love for his parents.

Meanwhile, stern Jack Byrnes scans the Fockers for clues to prove why he should not like them, therefore not allowing his daughter to be married into that family. His design of the RV is classic Jack Byrnes. What is an improvement in this film, is that Jack discovers some things about himself and his relationship with his wife and daughter that change him. This may be the funniest performance in Robert DeNiro's career.

Throughout the film, there are themes that everyone has experienced but most of all, how important love is. The love of another and the love of family and friends. There is a very good example of this in a scene between Teri Polo and Ben Stiller, after some new information is exposed that could possibly tear them apart once again.

All in all, when you know the cast is having a good time, the audience does too. Good stuff.

(10/10)

Review "The Kissing Booth" (Netflix)

"The Kissing Booth" (2018)

The Kissing Booth is a 2018 romantic comedy film based on teen author Beth Reekles' novel of the same name. The film was released on 11 May 2018, by Netflix.Elle Evans is a 16-year-old high school student who has tried to but never been kissed. When she ends up in a kissing booth with her secret crush, she is swept up in a romance with the hottest boy in school.I got a lot of John Hughes vibes, not just because Molly Ringwald makes guest appearances. But because its a coming of age movie. It was super cute and funny. The lead actress goes through many life experiences and comes into her own. Super impressed by this movie. Reminds me of Pretty in Pink & Sixteen Candles! Cute little flick.

(8/10)

Review "Dark Crimes"

"Dark Crimes" (2018)

A hard-boiled detective becomes suspicious of an author when the incidents described in his hit novel resemble the inner-workings of an unsolved murder.

 

There is nearly nothing subtle about Dark Crimes. Not in its blunt title, nor in its heavy-handed script or flashy, unbalanced performances. There is, most assuredly, no subtlety to its opening, which assaults the viewer with images of full-frontal nudity, sex, and female degradation. The only subtlety to be found is in the performance of singer and actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, though it’s her co-star, Jim Carrey, who will be the subject of most of this strange, ugly film’s discussion.

And why not? It’s a bizarre, fascinating turn for Carrey, who plays a police officer named Tadek with grim, glassy-eyed restraint. Carrey’s approach is consistent with the character, a joyless, buttoned-up Polish investigator who can’t stop himself from dredging up a cold murder that went unsolved the year before. Tadek’s obsession initially rises from his belief that the detective initially assigned to the case (and subsequently promoted to police chief), Greger (Robert Wieckiewicz), was involved. The subsequent reveal that the murder seems to be described in intricate detail in a novel by acclaimed author Krystov Kozlow (Marton Csokas) soon becomes all-consuming, especially once Kozlow’s ties to Greger become clear. As the film unfolds, Tadek’s obsession reveals itself to be rooted not just in catching the killer, but also in the sordid details of the case itself, which involves sadism, torture, and a now-shuttered subterranean sex club. There is no room for laughter in this film. Carrey is hauntingly brilliant.

(8/10)

 

Review "The Skeleton Key"

"The Skeleton Key" (2005)

Caroline Ellis (Kate Hudson), a good-natured nurse living in New Orleans, quits her job at a hospice to work for Violet Devereaux (Gena Rowlands), an elderly woman whose husband, Ben (John Hurt), is in poor health following a stroke. When Caroline begins to explore the couple's rundown Bayou mansion, she discovers strange artifacts and learns the house has a mysterious past. As she continues to investigate, she realizes that Violet is keeping a sinister secret about the cause of Ben's illness.

Part of the success of this type of movie is setting up and making sure its resolution lives up to its expectations. I must say that in this film everything seems to work, and yet... I'm not sure what spooked more: its ending or the nature of its ending.

The film deals with the adventures of a young care worker in the middle of Louisiana. The atmospheric surroundings, the haunting score, beautiful, spooky photography, and some very good acting by Rowlands and Kate Hudson raise the bar for upcoming "horror films". We're glued to the screen for nearly two hours, as things become more mysterious and intriguing. A few times we're treated to a jolt and a revelation, but what closes the film is bound to ruffle a few feathers.

Above all, this is a very good movie, with a script that doesn't cheat anyone and doesn't rely on silly gimmicks. Those factors should portend good tidings for its success in its original release, but it will probably become a classic of its kind. The heroine in distress manages to be smarter than the usual stereotype. She wants to explore the surroundings and solve the problem. The problem is she has no idea how bad the situation might be.

Gena Rowlands provides her character with nuances rarely seen in this type of film. She is a strange character and hooks up the audience from the very beginning. There is no really an archetype for what Rowlands brings to life. A few might find the previous statement questionable, but if you look closely to the development of her character, it is almost an original.

Kate Hudson makes a very strong impression in this film. She goes beyond the pretty actress to an accomplished performer who matches up to Rowland's intensity. She navigates the film with an ease rarely seen in today's roster of plastic pre-packaged pseudo celebrities. It is refreshing to see an actress make you care for the character that has so often been portrayed as an offensive stereotype. There no gratitude's screaming scenes here. The film reminds me of "The Others", a movie with substance and intelligence.

(9/10)

Review "The Con is On"

"The Con is On" (2018)

The comedy thriller "The Con is On" is a Who's Who of 1990s indie film character actors, but the movie ends up delivering a lot of cliches from that brief but extremely specific era of filmmaking, and not necessarily the ones you might want. 

Uma Thurman gets a starring role as Harriet, a glamorous British con artist who works with her hard-drinking partner and husband, Peter (Tim Roth), doing whatever it takes to live comfortably. James Haslam and his co-writer Alex Michaelides seem to have imagined them as cruddier, more profane cousins of gumshoes Nick and Nora Charles in the "Thin Man" series of films. The first time we see Peter, he's flamboyantly mixing drinks (and spilling a lot). Whenever we see one of them without alcohol in their hand, something seems off. They always look fantastic (Thurman especially), and some of Roth's scowling mannerisms are amusing, but this is still a film that consistently delivers less than meets the eye, even as it seems to be aiming for the sleek, sexy, knowing vibe of a Guy Ritchie heist picture or one of Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's" films.

The movie suffers almost instantly from a case of the Try Too Hards, opening in London with Harriet accepting a package of drugs from a woman in a nun's habit (or maybe she's just a drug-dealing nun), and from there we follow Harriet and Peter to Los Angeles. They move into the Chateau Marmont, living rent-free and with a personal shopper thanks to Peter's pretending to get hit by their own car at the valet parking stand, and visit an old friend, a pedophile priest played by Stephen Fry who's connected in the underworld. Then they get embroiled in a plot to steal a priceless jewel from Peter's actress ex-wife, Jackie (Alice Eve, very amusing in her singlemindedness) so that she can pay back a debt to ferocious criminal Irina (Maggie Q), who seems to kill people in every other scene she's in, often with knives or silenced pistols. 

Along the way, we meet other eccentrics, many of them played by beloved '90s indie movie fixtures, including Jackie's spoiled, abusive snot of a fiance, Gabriel Anderson (Crispin Glover, who's first introduced sitting lotus style and barking orders while he's supposed to be meditating); Gabriel's suffering personal assistant Gina, played by Parker Posey (who manages to be kooky and charming despite being given little to do; an unfortunate Posey predicament); and the leading lady of Gabriel's latest film, played by Sofia Vergara.

Uma Thurman, Sofía Vergara, Alive Eve, Maggie Q, Tim Roth and even Parker Posey are in this mess of a film and somehow every single one of them gets wasted in this dumbster fire. From the terrible sense of humor to the awful portrayals of some of this actors (especially Vergara is been shown as a stupid bimbo). The Con is On tries to be smart but starts falling apart from somewhere around the first 15 to 20 minutes and it's sad considering the terrific cast.

(4/10)

Review "Buried"

"Buried" (2010)

A civilian truck driver in Iraq, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) falls victim to a band of insurgents. An unknown length of time later, Paul awakes in a coffin, with little more than a lighter, a cell phone, and his ever-growing anxiety. Faced with a dwindling oxygen supply and a dying battery, Paul must fight panic, despair and delirium as he awaits a rescue that might not arrive in time.

It starts off with Ryan waking up, trapped in a box. A long box, the length of a human body, buried deep beneath the ground. From there the film plays out in an awe inspiring way, especially seeing as there's only so much you can reveal from one location. The way Rodrigo Cortes handled the filming is truly exceptional. From the start the camera switches between closely claustrophobic, and flying high above Ryan, showing the box with him inside and black all around. It's constantly on the move just like our main character's thoughts. Diving in when the action is intense, and then cutting to black when you don't think you can take any more.

The pacing and plot of the film were nothing short of genius. And Chris Sparling, the writer, should be commended for his work. He said after the showing, that after having his scripts rejected for their cost of locations he decided to go for a cheep but genius idea. One location, one star, and a wealth of idea's. It makes a film like 'Salt' look like a giant waste of resources, when Buried does what even some of the best thrillers can't do, it brings us inside the character's head, and does it all without a romp through the city, or blowing things up.

If you're one of those people who loves to sit on the edge of your seat, chewing at your fingernails, while you're constantly asking yourself what's going to happen next. Then by all means watch Buried, and consider yourself lucky that you're not in his shoes...

(9.5/10)

Review "Malice"

Malice (1993)

"Malice" features three of the finest actors in business - Alec Baldwin, Bill Pullman and Nicole Kidman in a brilliantly crafted complex mystery with smart direction and great screen writing. The plot twists are quite clever and they alter the pace and flavor of the story in a fruitful manner. There are indeed some unnecessary subplots present just in order to bring out those twists, but where isn't? I partly agree with a previous commenter who thinks Hitchcock would attempt for such a story if he had lived to this day.

Among the actors, Alec Baldwin shines bright as the rather eccentric and egotistic doctor. He was quite helped by the screenplay to show off his talents. Bill Pullman also had some of his best moments in this film, especially in the last confrontation with Kidman's character Tracy in the restaurant. Kidman, on the other hand, is a little dull for her role, which is extremely challenging according to the film's plot. There's also Bebe Newirth with a fake accent and an early Gwyneth Paltrow in minor roles.

The script is exceptionally good. There are plenty of memorable quotes and quite less cheeky dialogues. The monologue of Alec Baldwin towards Peter Gallagher about his 'god complex' is priceless, however unrealistic it may seem. Same can be said about the last Pullman-Kidman meeting. It's actually quite refreshing to see a thriller with such smart dialogues. Aaron Sorkin's next works are therefore highly anticipated & never disappoint.

(7/10)

Review "Heat"

"Heat" (1995)

Neil McCauley is a professional crook; he and his crew do very planned and detailed jobs and execute them without error. Vincent Hanna is a cop who's life revolves around catching criminals with robbery homicide division. One botched job brings these two men into direct confrontation, sparking a cat and mouse game where McCauley's crew wants one last job, regardless of the heat that is being put on them by Hanna.

The fact that this film brings with it one of the most anticipated onscreen pairings in recent memory is only the icing on a cake that stands out as one of the best cop thrillers of the 1990's. Essentially a remake of the much lesser LA Takedown, Mann delivers a story that is a simple tale of two men on the opposite sides of the law who clash heads over one job - each using the skills they have in their field in an attempt to do what they have to do, but only one can succeed. However this is layered with such great characters that it is difficult not to be impressed - many films would benefit from even half the characters and subplots that this has.

If they hadn't worked, then these subplots and side characters would have felt unnecessary and really dragged the film down. It is to the script's credit that this doesn't happen here and what they actually do is strength and enrich the central narrative and easily fills out the running time. The direction is great - visually the film is impressive and it really uses the streets of LA to good effect; I was really taken by how Mann was able to not only manage that side of things but to also to deliver on the characters as well. It is not without problems though - and some of the subplots are running for some time before we find out what the point of the character is (most notably in Breedan's cook). Also some of the threads seem unnecessary and distract - the fact that McCauley's betrayer is also a rapist is a side issue, while Lauren's problems are not dealt with that well.

The plot is a solid crime thriller but it is the characters that make it so much better - in particular those of Hanna and McCauley, both of whom are well developed to the point that the audience never sides for one over the other. The John Woo thread where the two men have admiration for one another is well done but not overdone.

Of course a massive boost to the delivery of this dynamic is the pairing of two actors who, regardless of bad spells, are rightly revered as two of the finest of their generation. Both are on great form here and it is as good a showcase for them as any other film. It is impossible to say who is better because both are excellent - hell, even Pacino's OTT woo-ha'ing works here! Both bring so much to their performances, using minor facial expressions to convey so much - just look at De Niro as he drives through the tunnel at the end, we don't need to be told his inner thoughts because De Niro lets us see them. The plot holds back their first meeting and it is worth waiting for - it doesn't overdo it and it proves that less is more. They both underplay in a scene that lacks fireworks but is immensely satisfying.

On top of this the support cast are roundly excellent with the material to work with in most cases. Kilmer is not great normally but is excellent here, as is Sizemore and a nice role for John Voight. It may be strange to see Haysbert now that he is famous for 24, but he is good here - even if the relevance of his subplot is less than clear until later. Fitchtner, Williamson, Levine and Noonan are all good but, if the film has a weak link, then it is in the female characters. The female cast are good on paper but they aren't given their fair share of the material. Judd stands out because she is given a decent character but Portman, Venora and the beautiful Brenneman are only really required to fit in the best they can. In fairness this is a minor compliant as such a rich tapestry was always going to have flaws - especially in such a masculine film.

So, yes, this film has the odd weakness - the female roles aren't as strong as the male ones, and some of the subplots require a bit of faith that they will come through, but mostly the film hangs together as one that works superficially, on a basic plot level but also deeper with great characters who have their own lives and are not simply there to say their lines and fill in the background.

(8/10)

Review "The Fourth Protocol"

Review "The Fourth Protocol" (1987)

Usually we get treated to one type of spy movie these days. This type is made up of good looking young agents with all sorts of high tech weapons and gear. There are beautiful women who are just lining up to sleep with the good guy. The Fourth Protocol is not one of these movies and thank goodness! It is one of the most realistic cold war spy movies out there. Despite it's age(1987) it is relevant to today's world. There is nuclear terrorism and real looking spies. Michael Cain plays a British agent and is too busy looking for Russian spies to be sexing up fine Russian female agents. In fact he has a family. He is excellent as the seasoned agent who uses his mind and not gadgets to track down the Russian spy played by Pierce Brosnan. For those of you who saw Brosnan in Tailor of Panama and found it refreshing to see him play a creep secret agent will be in for a real treat in The Fourth Protocol. Brosnan plays Petrofsky, a young hot shot KGB agent who tries to slice and dice his way to the top. I mean Petrofsky is a flat out cold blooded killer. He makes the guy in Tailor of Panama look like a saint. He has a conscience but he doesn't let it get in the way of his mission to explode a nuclear weapon on a US Air Force base in Great Britain in order to make it look like the US had a nuclear accident. Petrofsky was the right man for the job he would blow up two or three thousand people just like that. If he wasn't a KGB agent, he could surely find work as a serial killer.

The story moves along quickly and sometimes a bit too quickly. However it doesn't detract from the movie. The movie looks more like a cop movie in the way the investigation unfolds. When they finally find out what's going on there is a good action sequence that doesn't go over the top. It just serves the purpose in this movie. Other things I liked was the scene where they constructed the bomb. All in all a fun ride.

(9/10)

Review "Se7en"

Review "Se7en" (1995)

David Fincher's story takes place in a bleak and constantly raining city (never named) where urban decay and sleaze in all forms are rampant. Coming up to his retirement from the police force is Detective Lieutenant Somerset (Morgan Freeman) who is tasked with breaking in his replacement, Detective Sergeant Mills (Brad Pitt) before leaving. Somerset is world weary, under no illusions about the futility of the daily role he plays and (initially) wants nothing more than to escape the grime and violence of the city. Mills on the other hand is convinced that he is going to make a real difference having voluntarily transferred to this precinct, bringing his wife to the city with him. Before Somerset can move on, a homicide comes in which he and Mills are assigned to investigate. But its only the first of a string of ritual murders that will be committed by a killer who is basing his crimes on the seven deadly sins as depicted in Dante's "The divine comedy".

To begin with, Se7en appears to be a standard "cops on the trail of a killer" story which shouldn't be too difficult for the audience to get comfortable with. But as we descend along with the characters into the merciless, brutal world without hope that they inhabit, you are left reeling at the events that unfold.

The two detectives enjoy an uneasy relationship with no real friendship ever striking up between them. The older Somerset is educated, astute and gives the impression of being emotionally burnt out. Mills, who has no respect for Somersets methodical investigating gets excited at the thought of solving a murder and firmly believes that the good guys will win eventually. The further we get into the action, the might of the evil that they face pushes both men beyond their limits.

This film draws heavily on biblical themes and you can certainly see similarities with such films as "The Seventh Seal" (1957). Both films show the price that good men have to pay when they fight evil and the unsettling truth that the rule book goes straight out the window when you are dealing with something so diabolical that it has no boundaries or limits at all.Se7en shows us a world which has been destroyed by its own sins, a wasteland in which values are minimal. The killer, having nothing but contempt for this world, sees it as his mission to expose the faults and show everyone what they have become. It is a fascinating twist that when the killers motives become clearer, Somerset with his greater understanding actually feels some degree of empathy with him. This is lost on Mills though, whose level of clarity never reaches the same point.

A previous reviewer mentioned that you begin to expect the unexpected whilst watching Se7en and I completely agree. Eventually if you think of the most obvious outcome in any situation and predict that the opposite will happen, it usually does. Even the finale itself became kind of predictable because by then you are conditioned not to have any hope. This is a minor flaw though because the story is so well and so shockingly told.

Director David Fincher didn't pick up another script for 18 months, such was his exhaustion and frustration following the completion of Alien 3. Apparently he agreed to direct se7en after one reading of Andrew Kevin Walkers screenplay because he was drawn to its hard hitting delivery about inhumanity. He stated: "It's psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it". For the camera work specially altered film stock was used to make the visuals look as dark and unsettling as possible which is complemented well by Howard Shores music score.

The Most disturbing message that Se7en puts across, is that the fight against evil is destined to be a Pyrrhic victory. But regardless the only thing we can do is fight on whatever the cost. We have no other choice.

"The World is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.

(9/10)

Review "Primal Fear"

Review "Primal Fear" (1996)

Although Richard Gere has one of his juiciest roles in Primal Fear, the best performance by far is that of Edward Norton who got the film's only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a stunning debut picture. It's the kind of debut that any player would like to make and the trick is to keep up a high standard you've already set for yourself. Which Norton to his credit certainly has in his career.

But as to Gere he plays Martin Vail, a top criminal defense attorney who will let everyone know it if they haven't figured it out. It's a tricky part because a guy this arrogant has to maintain some kind of surface likability or else you'd never believe he'd ever win a case in front of a jury. As for movie viewers they must have a rooting interest for him as well. But Gere's definitely a guy who they make lawyer jokes about.

A young altar boy has murdered the archbishop of Chicago, a mush mouth kid with a Kentucky twang played by Edward Norton. He's part of a choir of street kids that the Chicago archdiocese shows off on many an occasion. It was a particularly brutal murder, multiple stabbings and the carving of a cryptic message in the chest of the deceased.

Gere makes no bones about it, he's wanting this case because of the headlines it will bring him. But when F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran offers to defend you for nothing, you don't ask questions.

Which brings us to Norton who has you might have gathered is not all he seems. He's a street kid and he's used to getting over on people himself. It's one of the darkest characters ever done on screen, maybe a bit too dark for Academy tastes. That might have been the reason that Cuba Gooding beat out Norton for Best Supporting Actor with his much lighter role in Jerry Maguire.

One in this film you will notice are Laura Linney as the Assistant District Attorney who Gere was once involved with and is getting a lot of pressure to bring in a guilty verdict for understandable political reasons. I also liked Alfre Woodard as the very patient judge at Norton's trial and Frances McDormand as the psychiatrist who examines Norton. If you think you've figured out what's behind Primal Fear, rest assured you haven't from this description. Let's just say everyone gets good and played here. A must see.

(10/10)

 

Review "Sleuth"

Review "Sleuth" (2007)

Andrew Wyke (Michael Caine) is a highly successful mystery writer living in a beautiful and technologically advanced mansion in England. Milo Tindle (Jude Law) is an unsuccessful actor with decidedly less to show for his professional exploits. The lives of these two men cross paths when Andrew's wife leaves him for the younger Milo. Hoping to carry out a cleverly constructed revenge plot, Andrew invites Milo to his estate, where elaborate mind games ensue.Just under 90 minutes that's all it takes to retell this Anthony Shaffer comedy of deception and disguise. The characters are not quite the same, this ones allow the darker side of their nature take the upper-hand. The new house is a cold technological monstrosity instead of the country manor of Laurence Olivier. In Harold Pinter's hand and brain everything is colder, darker and Shaffer's original comedy risks to become Ira Levin's "Deathtrap" at times. Michael Caine and Jude Law are inches away from a kiss here and that's a bizarre turn of events. True, Jude Law has a sexual presence that he carries as if he didn't know was there. Everything he says has a sexual connotation whether consciously or unconsciously. His Milo Tindle looks decidedly post coital. A bit undone, unwashed. Kenneth Brannagh conducts his duet with gusto but limited not just by the natural setting of the play but by the memory of the Manckiewicz original. Caine and Law make a fun, dirty pair and it's the power of their performances that makes this very short version appear even shorter. I could have stay a few more minutes with this two. That, I suppose, it's a form of giving it a thumbs up.

(7.5/10)

Review "JAWS-The Revenge"

Review "JAWS-The Revenge" (1987)

The family of widow Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) has long been plagued by shark attacks, and this unfortunate association continues when her son is the victim of a massive great white. In mourning, Ellen goes to visit her other son, Michael (Lance Guest), in the Bahamas, where she meets the charming Hoagie Newcombe (Michael Caine). As Ellen and Hoagie begin a relationship, a huge shark appears off the coast of the island, and Ellen's trouble with the great whites begins again.
Although it is hard to watch a Jaws movie without Roy Scheider, this is an okay movie. It isn't as bad as some people make it out to be, it is good to watch solely to see how the characters have grown up. Some parts can be quite confounding,yes, but you have to at least give it a try.

(7/10)

 

Review "The Peanuts Movie"

Review "The Peanuts Movie" (2015)

As someone who grew up watching the Charlie Brown animated specials as well as reading the comic strip "Peanuts" in my local paper and also in various book compilations, I highly enjoyed this movie immensely. What's to like? Well, how about an adult "voice" being represented by a trombone doing that "wah-wah" sound? Or Vince Guaraldi's music score occasionally being sprinkled throughout like the unofficial theme of "Linus & Lucy"? And then there's the various unrequited love pairings of Sally & Linus, Lucy & Schroeder, not to mention both Peppermint Patty and Marcie liking Charlie Brown who doesn't even notice? Speaking of whom, here he once again has a crush on a Little Red-Haired Girl who's depicted here as the new kid in town and school. Creator Charles Schulz never had her drawn in his strip nor given her a name though I remember one of the animated specials-"It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown"-had her animated and called Heather there. I don't think she spoke there, though. Here, she's not named but she does speak and is seen quite a bit. Since Schulz' son and grandson wrote the screenplay, I don't think he would have objected one bit especially when we hear what she says to Charlie Brown at the end. Also enjoyable was Snoopy's active imagination when playing the World War I Flying Ace and his battle against the Red Baron and his attempted rescue of Fifi. In summary, The Peanuts Movie is a wonderful tribute to the comic strip and the animated specials produced by Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez whose vintage voice tracks as Snoopy and Woodstock were provided here as well. Really, all I'll now say is go rent The Peanuts Movie if you like entertainment that is both funny and touching and makes you look fondly back at your own childhood.

(10/10)

Review "Spinning Man"

Review "Spinning Man" (2018)

The absorbing, if forgettably titled, mystery "Spinning Man" does a good job keeping us guessing not so much about who may have killed a high school cheerleader, but how it happened — and why.

 

The always watchable Guy Pearce proves a compelling combination of sympathetic and suspicious as Evan, a small-town college philosophy professor and the prime suspect in the disappearance of attractive teenager Joyce (Odeya Rush), with whom he may have been romantically involved.

 

Meanwhile, cagey local detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) is hot on Evan's trail as Evan's conflicted wife (Minnie Driver, quite good), young children (Eliza Pryor, Noah Salsbury Lipson), co-workers (Jamie Kennedy, Carlo Rota) and lawyer (Clark Gregg) must navigate Evan's increasingly thorny place in this potential murder case.

Matthew Aldrich's workmanlike script, based on the novel by George Harrar, features plenty of handy red herrings and misdirection, particularly concerning Evan's dubious past and adulterous leanings, while also offering an intriguing philosophical outlook involving proof and certainty.

On the downside, director-editor Simon Kaijser takes an often choppy approach to the narrative, the catch-a-mouse symbolism is a bit heavy-handed and the ending could use more oomph.

Still, of the many interchangeable, name-lead thrillers and action pictures concurrently premiering these days in theatres and on VOD, this one's definitely a cut above.

(8.5/10)

 

Review "Death Wish"

Review "Death Wish" (2018)

This is a solid reboot of the original Charles Bronson classic revenge fantasy. It will drown in a sea of Progressive anti-gun propaganda, much like Ender's Game was squelched by Progressives retaliating for Mormon writer Orson Scott Card's "gay hate" beliefs. That's sad, because it doesn't deserve to. In fact, Roth takes a great hard swipe at 'gun culture' types in a couple of the scenes, while at the same time working it into one of the funnier moments in the movie.

In truth, there wasn't much renovation in this, nor much over-the-top innovation. The original book was written in 1972 and the movie was set in 1974-era New York City, so the crime setting wouldn't necessarily translate except that Chicago is currently one of the murder capitals of America responsible for high gun violence statistics.

Roth makes good use of the differences in technology; the vigilante anti-hero is being tracked on cell phones, caught on surveillance cameras, &c. but those are folded in well into the rewritten plot. Particularly useful is the change of the vigilante's profession; he's no longer a lauded architect, but a sought-after trauma surgeon who sees the damage first hand. He is mentally above it all, giving up on saving a cop & then immediately moving on to save the punk who shot the cop in the first place. The turn to vigilante thinking is more poignant than the Bronson version.

Willis is a bit wooden initially, though perhaps some of this is probably deliberate so as to not make the character just a Punisher clone. Willis also manages to capture the non-hardass aspect of the character to a somewhat better degree than Bronson did (who actually was a very decent guy in real life).

Let me bottom line it for you. Go see Willis & D'onofrio, it's a decent reboot. Both actors are on there game in this film. 

(8/10)

Review "Hannah and Her Sisters"

Review "Hannah and Her Sisters" (1986)

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is in her second marriage. Her first, to a television director (Woody Allen) ended in divorce, after having a set of twin boys. Now, hubby number two (Michael Caine) is a very successful businessman and she, as a semi-retired, admired actress, can devote more time to other things. You see, everyone else in her extended family depends on her. Sister Lee (Barbara Hershey) is in a longterm relationship with a talented artist (Max Von Sydow), who would rather sell his work to a small circle of fans instead of "going commercial". Thus, Lee is contemplating going back to school so she can earn money, too. The artist is also very reclusive so, at family gatherings, she often arrives alone. Plus, she has a secret admirer in Hannah's husband. Third sister Holly (Diane Wiest) is on shakier ground than Lee. She is a struggling actress/caterer who borrows money from Hannah LOTS. Her catering partner (Carrie Fisher), also a wannebe actress, ends up going after the same men and roles that Holly has her eye on. As a side note, Holly once had a dreadful date with Hannah's ex, after the divorce. Then, too, Hannah's parents, retired, famous thespians, drink too much and, even after 50 years, have big fights. Can Hannah keep solving all of their problems without saving enough time for herself and her marriage? This terrific Allen movie was made more than twenty five years ago but it is still fresh, relevant, and funny. The cast, yes, is wonderful, with many of the players up for major awards. Allen, especially, is very funny as the hypochondriac who tries many religions in a search for serenity. His script, of course, is clever, intelligent stuff while his direction is quite wonderful. As always, the Manhattan setting, costumes, background music, and photography is nice as well. If, you youngster, you, want to begin making your way through the canon of Allen films, you could hardly start with one better than this.

(7/10)

Review "Ready Player One"

Review "Ready Player One" (2018)

From filmmaker Steven Spielberg comes the science fiction action adventure “Ready Player One,” based on Ernest Cline’s bestseller of the same name, which has become a worldwide phenomenon. The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger. Spielberg directed the film from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline. The film was produced by Donald De Line, Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Dan Farah; with Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris DeFaria and Bruce Berman serving as executive producers. “Ready Player One” stars Tye Sheridan (“X-Men: Apocalypse,” “Mud”), Olivia Cooke (“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Bates Motel”), Ben Mendelsohn (“Rogue One – A Star Wars Story,” “Bloodline”) and T.J. Miller (“Deadpool,” “Silicon Valley”), with Simon Pegg (the “Star Trek” movies, the “Mission: Impossible” movies) and Oscar winner Mark Rylance (“Bridge of Spies,” upcoming “Dunkirk”). Behind the scenes, three-time Oscar winner Spielberg (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”) reunited his creative team from “Bridge of Spies,” including Oscar-winning director of photography Janusz Kaminski (“Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan”), Oscar-winning production designer Adam Stockhausen (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Oscar-winning editor Michael Kahn (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) and Sarah Broshar (“The Post”), and costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone (“Moonrise Kingdom”). So, I watched 37 minutes of this movie and had no interest. Did not follow it. I am not a gamer I am a simple moviegoer like most people who are watching this. I found that a little disappointing. I am also a huge Speilberg Fan. I just couldn't ID with the characters. Sigh..Ready..Set..No Go....

(4/10)

Review "Flawless"

Review "Flawless" (2008)

"Flawless"  is filled with the "bling" of not only diamonds, but of Michael Caine and Demi Moore, the stars of this caper movie.

The story starts in the present day with the elderly Laura giving an interview about female executives of the past. She shows the interviewer an absolutely huge diamond and tells her story.

Her story begins in London at London Diamonds, the largest supplier of diamonds in the world, where Laura (Moore) has a good position but is constantly passed over for promotion into the upper echelon. One day, the janitor, Hobbs (Caine) tells her that she's going to be fired. She doesn't believe him but finds out by snooping around that it's true.

Hobbs wants her to get the codes to the vault, which are changed weekly. He is then going to enter the vault, fill his thermos with small diamonds, which the company probably won't even miss, and leave. He is going to cut her in.

The next day the executives, including Laura, are called down to the vault. I'll leave it at that, but that was a pretty big thermos.

Really excellent film with a charming, subtle performance by Caine as Hobbs and Moore as the unflappable, cool, beautiful Laura, a career girl at a time when that was much more unusual than it is today.

The story will keep you wondering and intrigued up to the very last frame. The only "beef" I've got with this film is Moore's horrendous English accent. Really bad. Poor dialogue/language coach. No fault of Moore's.

(7/10)

Review "Mad Money"

Review "Mad Money" (2008)

Bridget (Diane Keaton) is a gracious matron with a lovely home. Yet, her world turns upside-down when her husband (Ted Danson) loses his job. Suddenly, bills are piling up and there is no solution in sight. Needing to maintain her lifestyle, Bridget takes a job as a custodial worker for the local branch of the federal mint. Now, she has the health care coverage she needs and the means to pay her creditors. But, she wants more, especially considering the menial tasks she is asked to perform and the smug attitude of the mint's bossman. Being a tough and smart cookie, Bridget hatches an elaborate plot to help herself to some of the worn-out bills that are headed for the shredder. But, in order for the scheme to work, she needs the aid of Nina (Queen Latifah), who operates one of the shredders, and Jackie (Katie Holmes), whose task it is to transport the cart of paper money to and fro. They agree, after some initial reluctance, to become Bridget's partners in crime, for Nina wants to send her two little boys to a fine school and Jackie has a need for some excitement. But, will they really be able to pull one over on the Feds? This is really a fairly funny movie, with a great plot and a nice cast. Keaton, especially, is fabulous as the conniving, high maintenance housewife and the Queen is equally wonderful as a single mother with big dreams. Danson, Christopher McDonald and the lesser players are fine, too. Only Holmes strikes a flat note, as her Jackie is rather forgettable. Since Katie has shown she is a fine actress (see Pieces of April or Abandon), one can only conclude that the director failed her miserably. Then, too, she sports an awful hair style and terrible costumes throughout the film as well. This is most odd, for Keaton and Latifah look great. Although the sets are not noteworthy, they are certainly adequate, as is the look of the film. If you have heard that this film is a bomb, don't believe it. While it may not be a masterpiece, it definitely has its funny moments and zany charm, more than enough, in fact, to make it a worthwhile watch.

(8/10)

Review "Dressed to Kill"

Review "Dressed to Kill" (1980)

Dressed to Kill is directed and written by Brian De Palma. It stars Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, Keith Gordon and Dennis Franz. Music is by Pino Donaggio and cinematography by Ralf D. Bode.

Brian De Palma continues his commitment to Hitchcock thrillers with this erotic and lurid slice of entertainment pie. Plot in short order finds a razor wielding blonde woman on the loose in the city. A high class prostitute, a psychiatrist and the son of a victim try to solve the mystery before they themselves fall to the blonde killer.

De Palma throws it all at the audience here, merrily pushing people's buttons as he goes. He uses all the tools and tricks of his trade for maximum impact, blending a number of genre staples and churning out a hyper stylised neo-noir that gleefully toys with audience expectations. Oh the plot is bonkers, deliriously so, but De Palma is a crafty pro who deftly marries up the excesses of the plot with virtuoso camera work, and not content with that he then brings Donaggio's musical score into play to ensure the viewer's senses are tingling.

Unsurprisingly for the director, Dressed to Kill is sexually charged and violent, from the steamy beginning that ruffled feathers in a number of quarters, to the outrageous coda at the end where De Palma homage's himself, it's a film revelling in its schlocky being. However, it still has time for dramatic suspense and dangerously sensual mysticism, reference an extended section of film that sees Allen's hooker pursued relentlessly through the perils of the subway system, and a sequence played out at an art gallery without dialogue as we become Dickinson's disoriented eyes. Then there is the key murder scene, a dizzying array of slashes and cartoonish blood, it's purposely excessive and followed by screw tightening suspense that sets up the rest of the movie. De Palma and his on form principal cast members are having fun, how could they not with such trashy material to work from? Is Dressed to Kill phobic and misogynistic? Well plenty of people think so, in fact there was quite a fall out when the film was first released, when De Palma was subjected to the ire of a few minority groups. Judge for yourself is the only way to go really, but personally in amongst the schlock I feel there's comment on the dangers of fantasising beyond your realm, or of unfaithfulness, maybe even that America is itself irresponsible for its treatment of women on film? Of course it could just be De Palma at his most playful? Sitting there giggling to himself as others lose their cool.

(10/10)

Review "Dear Dictator"

Review "Dear Dictator" (2018)

A naïve sixteen-year-old (Odeya Rush) starts corresponding with the dictator (Michael Caine) of a small island nation. When he’s deposed, he comes to hide with his former pen pal, and uses his revolutionary tactics to help her become popular in school.

I hate it when movies with decent, unconventional titles get re-named. It happened recently when CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE became the generic BEGIN AGAIN, and indies seem especially vulnerable to this trend. Such is the case with this week’s DEAR DICTATOR, which began as a Black List script (and first cut) called COUP D’ETAT, a more appropriate title which is spoken over and over in the film.

The premise isn’t half bad, with Michael Caine playing a Castro-like Dictator, who’s overthrown in a revolution. He somehow makes his way to suburbia, where he calls-on the high school student whose been sending him punk rock CD’s and fan letters, Tatiana, played by Odeya Rush, A take-off on MEAN GIRLS, which is name-checked and referred to several times throughout the film, Caine’s Anton Vincent uses his oppressive tactics as a means to help his “revolutionary-in-training” take over her high-school, mostly out of boredom, with his men having seemingly abandoned him.

It takes some suspension of disbelief to believe that an internationally wanted figure like Anton could somehow escape his island nation and make it to the U.S, and even more that a sixteen-year-old would shelter an international war criminal with a huge body count on his hands, no matter how naive they are. Likewise, Katie Holmes, as her man-hungry mom, not only finds out who her house guest is, but even starts to lust after him, although I guess Caine still has that movie star charisma, even if he’s getting up there a bit.

DEAR DICTATOR wouldn’t work at all if it wasn’t for Caine playing the lead. Clearly relishing the part, he plays well opposite Rush, although the latter is maybe too stereotypical a Hollywood version of what an unpopular kid is, in that she’s model-beautiful, smart and funny. It never really makes sense why she’d be an outcast.

DEAR DICTATOR stumbles in some respects, particularly when it comes to Katie Holmes' two dimensional part as Rush’s mom. She’s portrayed as having a torrid affair with her married dentist employer (played by Seth Green), but the whole thing is played in a cartoonish way – and having her be a bit more down-to-earth might have made the premise more palatable.

Luckily, Caine is Caine, and he can’t help but be worth watching. He brings his A-game here, and looks funny walking around in an Adidas track suit, and struggling to learn how to use “the world wide web”. Whenever he’s on screen, I quite enjoyed DEAR DICTATOR, and luckily he’s on-screen a lot. The high school aspect of the film is old-hat, but when it’s focused on him and his relationship with Rush, the movie is worth-watching.

(7/10)

Review "American Pie-American Reunion"

Review "American Pie-American Reunion"(2012)

In the summer of 1999, four small-town Michigan boys began a quest to lose their virginity. In the ensuing years, Jim (Jason Biggs) has married Michelle (Alyson Hannigan), though Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has left Vicky (Tara Reid). Oz (Chris Klein) has grown apart from Heather (Mena Suvari), but Finch still has the hots for Stiffler's (Seann William Scott) mom (Jennifer Coolidge). These lifelong friends have come home to reminisce about -- and become inspired by -- their former teen selves.

Finally a sequel that is an awesome comedy with a good kick of nostalgia! I grew up on the American Pie movies and when I got wind of the Reunion, excited could be an understatement. I couldn’t wait to see it! I am so happy to report that I was so impressed – I loved it! I left with such a warm feeling. I know that sounds super mushy, but this movie was well made and depicted the best of what the American Pie movies were about. It had everything – comedy, drama, shock value humor, and a happy ending.

This movie is set 10 years past the last American Pie series film, but it remains true to every character and their story. Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) and Stifler’s mom (Jennifer Coolidge) are still as hilarious as ever and the film’s overall humor encompasses all that the previous films did. While the movie is true to it’s past, it still remains the same laugh out loud comedy you’d expect out of it.This is a well-made, feel-good comedy with a nice dose of nostalgia. Great acting, great writing, and great all-around.

(9/10)

Review "Sully"

Review "Sully" (2016)

Sully is not a typical bio pic, and sets a new gold standard for how to make a movie that is thoughtful, touching, and overall about the nature of what it means to be a hero. I actually think this is one of Eastwood's best directed movies, along side Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River in the 21st century phase of his career.

There are interesting influences that have been seeping in from a couple of Asian directors: Zhang's Hero which approaches this same topic albeit in a different century and with more extravagant visuals, Ozu for the long, patient camera takes as well as Kurosawa for the Rashomon type story that takes place. "paintent" is the key word here, as many of the films detractors have said the movie is "slow". Notice how each flashback tells more, and more of the story, much like how Rashomon tells the story from different perspectives. Flashback are used as suspense devices, and Eastwood really crafts the picture in way that even though you think your are watching the same scene (birds!) new information is revealed every time which makes it entertaining. And entertaining is not a bad word.

For a movie touted as a big studio movie about a real life character, and unlike J. Edgar which I would say is about a "B" quality movie though well done biopic, I feel like Sully deserves an the highest rating possible because of the multiple nuances used, and like you said Hanks performance as he disappears into a role unlike any other he has ever had (compared to Captain Phillips, which to me was just Hanks doing Hanks). Hanks deserves an Oscar nomination at least, and a win at best. Eastwood makes movies about JUSTICE as a key theme, where 'what is right is right' and boy does he get his opinions on that across in this film (which also ties it to previous masterpieces he has done like Unforgiven, Grand Torino, and High Plains Drifter).

When you know how a movie will turn out it is a challenge to make it entertaining and new to the audience, and Eastwood found a way to do that with several devices and ideas (the court hearings, Sully's jogs and visits to bars around town, his nightmares which echo the 9/11 attacks). Sully is a movie I would recommend for everyone to see at some point in their lives, as it is one of the best movies ever made on the topic of a true life hero, who always includes others in his thoughts and refuses to take credit for his heroic acts (another Jimmy Stewart-Mr. Smith goes to Washington parallel for Hanks).

(9/10)

Review "The 15:17 to Paris"

Review "The 15:17 to Paris" (2018)

 

From Clint Eastwood comes “The 15:17 to Paris,” which tells the real-life story of three men whose brave act turned them into heroes during a high-speed railway ride. In the early evening of August 21, 2015, the world watched in stunned silence as the media reported a thwarted terrorist attack on Thalys train #9364 bound for Paris—an attempt prevented by three courageous young Americans traveling through Europe. The film follows the course of the friends’ lives, from the struggles of childhood through finding their footing in life, to the series of unlikely events leading up to the attack. Throughout the harrowing ordeal, their friendship never wavers, making it their greatest weapon and allowing them to save the lives of the more than 500 passengers on board. The heroic trio is comprised of Anthony Sadler, Oregon National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos, and U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Spencer Stone, who play themselves in the film. Oh my. what a dull film. I fell asleep half way through it. IMHO it's the perfect cure for insomnia. The film just doesn't work. Too much backstory for me and not enough action. BORING! What was Eastwood thinking? I know what I'm thinking-a big Thumbs Down...

(3/10)