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This Cake Has No Frosting
There isn't a lot out in independent films this week so I thought that I would turn to Netflix since they have a whole category for independent films. When I saw Cake on the list, I was kind of surprised because I wasn't sure that it would be going to Netflix; but there it was. The main reasons that I wanted to see this film is because it was nominated for a golden globe and Jennifer Aniston was also nominated for a couple of awards. I have to say that Jennifer was not her glamorous self in this film. She was pretty badly scared up. It is not really apparent what happened to her for a very long time into the film, but you immediately know that it was something very tragic and painful. I was almost in pain just watching her. Emma and I watched this film together and I even stated to her that if I was ever in that much pain, I don't think that I would want to live. She assured me that I would, but I think it was that shot of tequila that we had (smile). Anyway, it was also not apparent why the film was called "Cake". You basically found out at the end, but I still think that it was a stupid title to this film. Silvana (Adriana Barraza) was Claire Bennett's (Jennifer Aniston) helper, maid, best friend
. Etc. She went above and beyond to make sure that Claire's needs were met and that she was taking care of herself. The main gist of the film centered on her friend Nina Collins' (Anna Kendrick) suicide. I know that suicide is a cowardly and selfish way to go, but being in chronic pain every minute of every day makes you wonder and probably a little empathetic. After sitting through this film for about two hours, Emma and I were just starting to complain about how long it was when the film suddenly ended. When I say suddenly; I mean suddenly. The film went absolutely nowhere and it left me wondering "what was the point?" I am not saying that this film was terrible, but in my opinion it was unfinished. I am not sure that I want to recommend this film, but let me just say this
.. take this film with a grain of salt (or a shot of tequila).
A Film for the "Now" Generation
To give you a little background on this film
.. it was written and directed by a virtual unknown, Rick Famuyiwa, who apparently is a close acquaintance of the producer, Forest Whitaker. I'm not really sure how Pharrell Williams got involved as executive producer, but that's neither here nor there. I am just glad that more minorities are giving new and upcoming filmmakers a chance to show their craft. This film was nominated at the Cannes and Seattle film festival and actually won the award for editing at the Sundance film festival. I have to agree that the editing on this film was brilliantly done. When this film first started I was a little confused as to what decade I was in. There sat Malcolm (Shameik Moore) with a high-top fade sitting at the kitchen table. Then I spotted the cell phone (which is what confused me). The time period is cleared up rather quickly, so I was relieved by that. This story really is about a nerdy kid, Malcolm and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) who find themselves in unfamiliar territory and have to adjust their way of thinking in order deal with the situations that arises. There are many issue that are addressed in this film and there was even one scene that kind of paid homage to The Breakfast Club (which they actually mentioned in the film). There was also a little flavor of Boyz in the Hood and Cooley High (I know I'm dating myself, but oh well). Along the way, Malcolm finds himself head over heels for Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) who is affiliated with a somewhat shady guy (okay, really shady guy) named Dom (Rakim Mayers). This is where the whole mess gets started. One of the main points of the film (there were many) is the kind of expectations that people have of individuals that come out of the hood. As someone who grew up in the hood and "across the tracks" I can attest to that. It was fortunate that I grew up in a military family and was not afraid to leave. Most of the folks I grew up with are either dead, in jail or still live there. I did not think that I would like this film as much as I did. I think that they wrapped it up nicely and with a bit of a twist. I highly recommend this film.
Not Great; but Not Bad
This film pretty much picks right up where the last one ended with very little time lapse. Jeanine's (Kate Winslet) has issued an order that all divergents need to be killed until her soldiers find a box that was kept in Tris (Shailene Woodley) parents' house and she has discovers that she will need a divergent to open it. Tris, Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Peter (Miles Teller) have found refuge in a little village governed by Johanna (Octavia Spencer) until the hunting begins. Eric (Jai Courtney) and Max (Mekhi Phifer) have retained their blind loyalty to Jeanine; however I think that Eric has gotten even nastier whereas Max is just trying to do his job. I have to say that loyalty is a big element in this film
.. you just never know. This film actually kept up a good pace and there was very little lull time. They said that there would be a lot more action in this film. I don't know about "a lot" more, but there was definitely more than the last one. I was also glad to see that Tris was no longer wimpy when it came down to fighting, however emotionally she was feeling pretty guilty. They really beat that dead horse throughout the film. I did not see this film in 3D, but because of all the special effect, that might have been a mistake. Man, computer generated imagery has sure come along way. It really makes me look forward to some of the upcoming films this summer like Jurassic World and Terminator. I am happy for my fellow German director Robert Schwentke who has successfully bounced back from that armpit of a film, Rest in Peace Department, RIPD for short, that he directed back in 2013. You can only go up from that one. Anyway, I think that this film will do well especially with the "tween" crowd; and once you've invested in the series it's kind of hard to not find out what happens next. Do I think that this film was one of the best films I've seen this year
. Nope, but it was entertaining and didn't suck. I don't recommend that you see this film if you haven't seen Divergent. This one holds its own, but you'll enjoy it more if you've seen the first one.
Seventh Son (2014)
I am going to start out by saying that this was not a bad film. It is a very familiar story and there are no surprises to be had. I really enjoyed myself watching this film, but probably not for the reasons you would think. There were so many cliché lines in this film that people in the audience were saying the actors' lines (very loudly) before the actors did. This, of course had everyone in the theater cracking up. The writing for this film was terrible. Meryl Streep herself could not have saved this dialog. The one saving grace was that I saw this film in 3D and I have to tell you that this film has some of the best CGI that I have ever seen. So if you want to get your money's worth that is the way you should see it. The film is about a wicked witch that escapes from captivity and is determined to cause havoc and get revenge on the person that put her there. Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) summons all her minions to help her reek destruction and make Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) pay for what he has done to her. Along the way Master Gregory must train a new apprentice Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) to help him defeat the powers of evil. I really don't need to tell you much more
., you know how the story goes. Back to the CGI
. The transformation of Mother Malkin and her cast of evil doers; Radu (Djimon Hounsou), Inquisitor (Gerard Plunkett), Urag (Jason Scott Lee) Sarikin (Kandyse McClure) and Strix (Luc Roderique) was amazing. The landscape scenes and actions scenes were not too shabby either. I was truly amazed. I do have to say that I did have a difficult time wrapping my head around the fact that Jeff Bridges was playing a bad-ass ninja warrior type. I know that his body double got a real workout (LOL). Although the script was in the tanker, I could see how the actors would find this film enjoyable to make. It definitely took most of them out of their comfort zone. So to wrap things up I'm going to give the screenwriters a D and the CGI department and A+.
Black or White (2014)
This Mulatto Loved this Film
I was not surprised to read that this film was based on actual events. I am sure that these situations have played out numerous times when it comes to mulatto children. The one thing that did surprise me is that Kevin Costner felt so strongly about this film that he financed it himself (along with his wife). Being mulatto myself I was happy to see that a film that broached the subject was finally being made and it could not have come at a better time with all the racial issues of recent days. Mr. Costner recommended that you see this film with someone that does not look like you; and I agree. This film is about two grandparents that deeply love their granddaughter, Eloise (Jillian Estell). With the death of Elliot Anderson's (Kevin Costner) wife, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer) feels like she would be the better person to raise Eloise than Elliot and the battle ensues. Rick Reynolds (Bill Burr) is engaged to handle Elliot's case and Jeremiah Jeffers (Anthony Mackie) is representing Rowena. Both of these attorneys have their hands full because both Elliot and Rowena have issues of their own. The character that I enjoyed the most was Duvan Araga (Mpho Koako) who is the tutor hired by Elliot to help Eloise stay focused on her studies among other things. The theater was pretty packed and I think that everyone in the theater was enjoying the film. You can tell that it is a good movie when everyone else reacts the same way that you do to certain situations. This film has the potential to generate a lot of dialog which I think was the intent to begin with. I had never heard of writer/director Mike Binder, but I think that after this film, his name will be more recognizable in the future. What I got out of the film is that it is not Black OR White
.. It is Black AND White. I think that the entire cast did an excellent job and I would highly recommend this film to everyone.
The Good Lie (2014)
Better Late than Never
This is one of those films that I wish they had made 20 years ago when this project began. I knew about the "lost boys" because I saw something about them on the television show 7th Heaven. It is really a sad state of affairs when you have to find out about the relocation on Sudanese refugees to the United States from a TV show (smh). The story begins with the back story of a group of children that survive a brutal attack on their village by rebel soldiers. The understanding of the back story is essential in order to understand the title of the film. The children spend many years in a refugee camp until one day the group is informed that they will be relocated to America, which is all they have ever wanted. Mamere (Arnold Oceng), Jeremiah (Ger Duang), Paul (Emmanuel Jal) and Abital (Kuoth Wiel) all arrive in the U.S. together only to find out that Abital is going to a different state. A lot of the film centers around trying to get everyone back together. Once the men get settled in, there is a bit of brevity just because there are a lot of things that we take for granted that these folks have no idea what their use is. It also demonstrated how ill-informed Americans were to the culture that these men came from. I do have to say that the Americans that were portrayed in this film all had good hearts (for the most part) and it was refreshing to see a film that showcased that level of generosity. Carrie (Reese Witherspoon) is responsible for finding employment for the lost boys and eventually becomes entangled in their lives and their pursuit to reunite with their sister. I have to say that when this film was over I had a new found respect for anyone who comes to America to escape the horrors of war. The lost boys that came to this country did not have it easy although once they got here they took full advantage of the opportunities that this country offers. I think that much too often we all tend to forget that. There has already been some Oscar buzz around this film; I'm not sure that I agree, but I think that it is a story worth telling (especially for our younger generation). Even if you don't make it to the theater, I urge you to put it on you "must rent" list.
This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
This is where I leave you is one of those films that should have been left behind. The gist of the film is that the father of a family dies and the siblings have to participate in a sitting Shiva. I had no clue what a Shiva was. Apparently it is when family member sit around the house at a certain time every day and friends and family stop by to offer their condolences. First of all, the family is not Jewish; or at least not practicing Jews. Second of all, at the funeral the Rabbi reads a passage from the New Testament. I'm not even very religious and I knew that it was the wrong book. Hillary Altman (Jane Fonda) is the mother who does not mind sharing everything and apparently has no filter. Judd (Jason Bateman) is the middle brother whose wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer) has been sleeping around. This is not news
. It's in the trailer. Paul (Corey Stoll), the eldest of the bunch seems to have a stick up his butt and is just annoying. The youngest brother, Phillip (Adam Driver) is the black sheep of the family and seems to have a long history of getting into trouble. Then there is Wendy (Tina Fey) who is there just to keep everyone in line, I think. Anyway, every single person in this film has issues (and I mean everyone); even Wendy's little boy, Cole (Cade Lappin). The only person that I had a little bit of sympathy for was Horry Callen (Timothy Olyphant) who had been in a car accident and had some mental issues, but he was still endearing. It is evident in the film that the siblings have not been together for some time and this is their opportunity to re-connect or at least catch up with what is going on in their respective lives. You would think with a cast like this that the film would have been funnier than it was. I didn't laugh out loud once, although I did find myself saying "wow" a lot. I just found the film to be awkward and uncomfortable. You would think that with a veteran producer like Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Real Steel) that this film would have been better. It wasn't a total bomb, but it just didn't meet the expectations that I had.
No Good Deed (2014)
Pretty Decent Film
The story portrayed in this film is pretty much spelled out in the trailer. Crazy escaped convict terrorizes a woman and her kids. That's pretty much it, but there is a nasty little twist in the story that I did not see coming (although I did have a feeling). You know
. When you ask yourself "surely it isn't this" and come to find out
. Oh yes, it is. I have to give Colin (Indris Elba) a lot of credit for playing it super cool to make his way into the house. Although you knew he was the "bad" guy who is eventually going to snap, you kind of find yourself liking him for a little while (with his fine self). Terri (Taraji P. Henson) was a relatively smart women who made some serious errors at the beginning of the film, but had I not known in advance what was going to happen, I probably would not have thought that she did anything wrong. She was just trying to be nice and do the right thing. Meg (Leslie Bibb) is Terri's best friend and she drove home the point that no one knows you better than your best friend. At first I thought that she was going to be a little ditzy, but she proved me wrong. Jeffrey (Henry Simmons) is Terri's husband who does not seemed to be vested in the relationship. This is very apparent right from the beginning. I went to the 2nd showing on the day the film was released and I have to say that the theater was pretty well populated. The one thing that I have to say about seeing a film with a diverse crowd is that folks talk (out loud) to the people on the screen (myself included). Toward the end of the film I heard myself saying "how does she think that's going to work" and then immediately after that I said "why does he think that worked"
... you'll see what I mean when you go to see it. Other than that, there are three reasons why I liked this film
., the great lead characters, the consistent flow of the film and finally the whole story was told in around 90 minutes. This is director Sam Miller's first attempt at a widely distributed feature film and I think that he did a pretty good job. I would recommend it to a friend.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
I think that I am going to start this review by saying that I cannot believe that the writer/director of a stinker film like Movie 43 actually also had a hand in writing and directed this film. James Gunn has completely redeemed himself, because Movie 43 was one of the worse films I have ever seen. Guardians of the Galaxy had a great story line and the acting was comical with non-stop action. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a galaxy scavenger (thief) who goes around collecting stuff that other people have commissioned him to acquire. That being said, he acquires an orb that apparently is very valuable to a lot of people. This sets up the film and the adventure begins. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) are some sort of bounty hunters and soon discovers that someone will pay a lot of money to bring in Peter (and his orb). During the film, the only words that Groot knows how to say are "I am Groot", but somehow Rocket has learned to understand him by his inflection rather than his words. This makes for a very endearing relationship. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) volunteers to get the orb from Peter and the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) agrees to let her go. The initial scene when all of these characters finally encounter one another was very funny and you kind of get to see what all of them are capable of (as far as fighting ability goes). Drax (Dave Bautista) joins the group shortly after the initial meeting. At first Drax is very self-absorbed and really has his own agenda (pretty much like everyone else), but soon comes to realize that the more the merrier (or whatever). The making of the sequel is already scheduled for 2017. I imagine that we will find out who Peter's father was because that is really the only cliff hanger in this film. Stan Lee made his usual cameo appearance as an elderly playboy (really?). Hell, I guess when you own so many characters you have the right to be whoever the heck you want to be. I recently downloaded an app called "Run Pee" which tells you when the best time to go to the restroom is during a movie. The app said there is no good time for this film. Maybe while they are running the credits, but come back because we all know how marvel does it. Great film!!!
Great Graphics; Great Story
I went to see this film in 3D, which was not worth it; however that was the only negative thing that I have to say about it. As a side note, I did get to see the trailer for The Guardians of the Galaxy in 3D and that one looks like it will be worth it. This film proved to communicate two distinct points; one, that there is always at least one bad seed in the bunch and two; dealing with kids can be a handful. Once again Andy Serkis (Caesar) made you believe that he was more than a man plugged into a green screen. The believability in his movement and expressions makes you realize that maybe he has attained a PhD in character acting. Brilliant! There are always a couple of folks that would rather fight than work for peace; and no, I'm not talking about the Republican Party (smile). Gary Oldman (Dreyfus), who did not really want the war in the beginning, had no issues jumping right in the middle of things when it did get started. Then there was Kirk Acevedo (Carver); he is the idiot that you will definitely love to hate. It is always the characters that have the most fear that seem to do most of the damage. Speaking of which, Toby Kebbell (Koba) had the task of filling that role on the opposite side of the house. I just didn't know what to say about this guy, but I was not surprised since he was the one with the most anger (and rightly so) from the last Planet of the Apes film. The humans that wondered into Ape territory, Jason Clark (Malcolm), Keri Russell (Elle) and their son Kodi Smit-McPhee (Alexander), quickly became the ambassadors for any good that was still left on the human side of the house. I thought that the film ran at a pretty steady pace and although there were no "OMG" moments, it was still a really good story. I do have to say that there may be "OMG" moments for younger viewer who did not grow up with the apes like folks from my generation did. Of course there will be another "Planets" film, which I am looking forward to just to see the evolution of Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) if nothing else. This is definitely a film worth seeing on the big screen, just save the 3D up charge.