Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Drop (2014)
Tom Hardy Shines and James Gandolfini Leaves Us With a Memorable Performance.
"I just tend the bar," Bob Saginowski innocently states in this under- the-radar gem of a film. Tom Hardy plays Bob, a quiet, reserved bartender at his cousin Marv's bar. Cousin Marv is played by James Gandolfini in his final role. The Drop is getting a lot of attention because of Gandolfini, who gives another memorable performance, but The Drop is much more than an opportunity to see one our generation's greatest actors one last time, it's one of the best films of the year.
In The Drop, Marv owns a local neighborhood bar that also happens to be a "drop bar", which means the bar essentially collects money from illegal betting and god knows what else and then delivers it to the local Chechen gang. Gandolfini plays Marv as a Tony Soprano that never was. A guy that tried to get into the game, but couldn't really cut it when the big guys came into town. Those "big guys" are the Chechen mob that have taken over Marv's bar. It's his bar in name only and he's relegated to serving drinks and cleaning up spills. Gandolfini plays Marv as a bitter, beaten down man. It's vintage Gandolfini and a perfect way to end a career that was cut way too short.
As one actor takes his final bow, it's another actor who officially arrives. The Drop is clearly Tom Hardy's film. Granted, Hardy certainly hasn't come out of no where. He burst on the mainstream scene with Inception and should have become a household name after his performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He didn't, and I'm not really sure why. He seemingly has everything you'd want in a leading man.
Hardy's performance in The Drop should finally change that. I know it's early, but it's Oscar worthy. Hardy plays Bob with such an authentic nature that it's downright astounding. He really inhabits this character. Bob seems to take everything in stride, nothing seems to bother him. When he is confronted by the Chechen mobsters, he keeps his head down and chooses every word with precision, knowing that his life depends on it. Bob is non-threatening and unassuming and almost comes off as simple-minded, but as the film progresses, it's clear something is brewing beneath the surface. Bob is an example of a guy who is a product of his environment. He's a good man that doesn't really have a choice in life. He either adapts to survive or dies.
Bob also has a big heart as is evidenced when he rescues a puppy that has been beaten and literally thrown in the trash. This is where he meets Nadia, played by Noomi Rapace (Prometheus). Nadia is also reserved and seems wounded in some way. It makes sense that The Drop is written by Dennis Lahane (writer of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone and Shutter Island) who adapted the film from his short story "Animal Rescue," a title with more than one meaning. Not only does Bob rescue an injured dog, but both he and Nadia seem like animals that need rescuing in one way or another.
The Drop is the kind of film that Hollywood just doesn't make anymore. It really does feel like it was ripped right out of the 80's. It has a slow, deliberate pace that perfectly builds suspense. The Drop is a character driven film that constructs each scene with great dialogue and fantastic acting. The director allows his characters to inhabit the world they live in. It's the wardrobe and the set design that really help bring everything together and add to the authenticity of the film. Everything seems organic and not like it's part of a movie set.
The Drop is a film lovers film. It has everything you could possibly ask for: a top notch cast, great direction, dialogue, set design, cinematography, and an understated score. You name it, and The Drop has it. It's easily one of my favorite films of the year. We need more films like The Drop. Go see it.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The Most Fun You'll Have At the Movies All Year in This Galaxy or Any
Guardians of the Galaxy follows in the footsteps of its more powerful, well-known superhero family members. What Marvel has done over the past six years is just short of amazing. Pumping out one, sometimes two big budget films a year to (mostly) critical and commercial success in almost every case.
That being said, Guardians of the Galaxy was somewhat of a risk for the studio. Unlike the previous Marvel films that featured well-known comic book characters for those who have never even picked up a comic book, Guardians is unknown by even the most die-hard comic book fans. Not to mention the fact that director James Gunn (Super, Slither) doesn't exactly have a massive track record and had never directed a big budget studio film before.
Last but not least, Guardians doesn't have a big name actor like Robert Downey Jr. or Chris Evans to sell the film to the public. In fact, the most recognizable faces among the cast are Bradley Copper and Vin Diesel. Ironically, neither actor actually appears in the film, they just lend their voices to CG created characters.
Much of the success or failure of Guardians of the Galaxy and their presumed sequels falls on the shoulders of Chris Pratt. Pratt is asked to walk in the shoes of other legendary Marvel superheroes. A lot of pressure for an actor who is hardly a household name. Pratt is best known as the perennial scene stealer on the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. Pratt's film career mainly consists of small roles where he normally plays the goofy best friend.
Pratt plays Peter Quill, who was abducted from Earth in the 80's as a young boy. Quill is now a swash-buckling space outlaw who goes by the name of Star-Lord, an infamous rogue feared across the galaxy, or so he likes to think. As a child of the 80's, you can see who Quill probably grew up idolizing. As Star-Lord, Quill feels like a cross between Indiana Jones and Han Solo. Quill's memory of pop culture is the one thing that keeps him connected to Earth. That and a Walkman that is constantly playing 80's pop songs.
Pratt carries the whole film and his character really sets the tone. He infuses almost every scene with his free spirit and wise-cracking personality. You can't help but not love his character. Guardians is sure to blow up Pratt's career (he can be seen in the Jurassic Park sequel due out next year) and rightly so.
Quill rounds out his motley crew with Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana, a green-skinned assassin. Drax, an eloquent behemoth trying to avenge the death of his family. Drax is played by professional wrestler Bautista, who is surprisingly competent here as a cerebral brawler who takes everything literally, which happens to be one of the many areas mined for laughs. Then there is Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, a genetically engineered Raccoon whose temper is about as short as his stature. Finally, there is Groot, a gentle giant of a creature that resembles a tree. Groot is voiced by Vin Diesel, who has all of three words the entire film, but is sure to become a fan favorite.
This group of characters is what sets Guardians apart from all the other Marvel films. They all have their flaws and they're all interesting and unique. They feel new and fresh and you can't wait to see what kind of mischief they will get into next. I'm not taking anything away from the other Marvel movies, I've enjoyed most of them, but many of them feel a little too formulaic and often times they take themselves a little too seriously.
Maybe the best way to compare Guardians of the Galaxy and The Avengers would be to equate them to a high school setting. The Avengers would be the popular jocks that get all the girls and the Guardians would be the misfits who are always getting into trouble. As cool as The Avengers are, they are so powerful that it's almost too easy to root for them. Everybody loves to root for the underdogs and that's exactly what the Guardians are.
Although Guardians is a pretty light film, there are quite a few heartfelt scenes, including one 5 minutes into the film that will have you reaching for a tissue before the opening title. We get just a nugget of a back story from each member, which helps us invest and care for these strange characters.
Guardians also features one of the best soundtracks of the year. Often times mixing catchy 80's pop songs with fast-paced action scenes. Possibly my favorite scene is one that will remind some people of a more deranged version of "Singin' in the Rain."
In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge risk for Marvel, a studio that can seemingly do no wrong since Iron Man came out in 2008. To say that the risk paid off in a huge way is putting it mildly. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best Marvel films to date and it might just be the funniest and most fun film of the year.
Blue Ruin (2013)
Sweet, Sweet Vengeance Like You've Never Seen it.
Sometimes my favorite part of being a movie fan is discovering a film. Every year when I put together my list for my most anticipated films of the year, I do a little research in order to properly compose my list. Most of the films on the list are big blockbusters with well known actors and directors. I don't need to do any research to fill the list with those kinds of films. I then do some digging to find some other films that are getting some buzz.
I stumbled upon a website and down at the bottom they mentioned a film called Blue Ruin. There was no plot synopsis, just a picture of a desperate looking bearded man holding a rifle. The film wasn't set to come out for another year, so I decided that I would just remember the name and include it the next year. When the next year rolled around, the haunting image of the bearded man with the rifle still stuck with me, unfortunately, I couldn't remember the name of the film. All I could remember is that it had the word "blue" in it. After an exhaustive internet search, I found Blue Ruin and immediately put it in my Netflix queue. I've been eagerly awaiting it's DVD release ever since. It turns out that I would have heard about the film anyway because it has become a huge critical hit and is currently one of the best reviewed films of the year.
It's all deserving as well. Blue Ruin is an intense, gritty thriller that takes normal revenge movie clichés and puts a realistic twist on it. On the surface, Blue Ruin seems like your typical revenge film, but pretty early on it becomes evident that the film wasn't going subscribe to the normal Hollywood standards when it comes to revenge flicks. It's never made more clear than when we meet the main character Dwight, a homeless man living in his car. He's docile and withdrawn. A solemn man living on the fringes of society.
Dwight learns some information that brings him back to his hometown to avenge the death of his parents. Dwight is played by relative unknown Macon Blair. Blair gives a quiet, but powerful performance. The first 20 minutes of the film are done with almost no dialogue. Blair carries the film with just his eyes and facial expressions. It's a grim, haunting performance. Evans is a man with nothing to lose and it shows in the desperation in his eyes.
Once Evans cleans up a little bit, he looks even less threatening and you get the vibe that he is even less capable of accomplishing his goals. He looks like an accountant, not some heartless killer hell-bent on revenge. I think this is where a film like Blue Ruin really stands out from dozens of other revenge films. Most other revenge films feature a main character that is some unstoppable killing machine. Evans is the polar opposite of that. He's an everyman that finds himself doing something he would never have thought about doing in a million years. He's bumbling and scared, just like most of us would be in a situation like this.
Blue Ruin also features some fantastic cinematography and quite a few moments of dark humor. Maybe the highest compliment I could pay the filmmakers is that Blue Ruin really echoes many of the Coen brothers' best films. Ruin lacks the stylized trademark of the Coen brothers, but the natural realism is what sets Blue Ruin apart from all other revenge flicks.
Blue Ruin is a true success story and I can't help but root for films like this. Director Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair are childhood friends that grew up making home movies. Saulnier was a struggling cinematographer that dreamed of making his own film. After years of getting told no by studios, he decided to make the film by himself, borrowing money from family and friends and maxing out credit cards. A true rags-to-riches story.
When people tell me there aren't any good movies out there anymore, I tell them they're wrong and that they just aren't digging hard enough because movies like Blue Ruin are out there and they're fantastic and they stick with you long after the credits role. Just like the screenshot I first saw of the bearded man and the rifle.
An uneven, but entertaining film that suffers from lack of Godzilla.
Godzilla is one of the most well known and recognizable movie characters of all time. His name and image has been ingrained into our pop culture vocabulary for decades. Even people who have never seen a Godzilla film, know the name. That's the definition of an iconic character.
With that being said, I fall into the category of people that has never actually seen a Godzilla film. Although I'm passionate about cinema, I've just never been particularly interested in the story. Sure, I've seen parts of the original 1954 Japanese film, but that's about it.
Despite being an iconic figure, it wasn't a nuclear bomb that almost killed Godzilla, it was Hollywood. In 1998 Roland Emmerich's Godzilla was released starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno. The film is now a Hollywood punchline and infamous for being one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. The 1998 version of Godzilla is also known for possibly killing more careers than its titular star kills civilians.
The good news is, nothing ever truly dies in Hollywood - it's just reborn. Boasting some of the best trailers you will ever see, Godzilla once again took a strong grip on pop culture. The trailer spread like wild fire through social media making Godzilla the must-see movie of the early summer. Godzilla is perfect blockbuster escapist fare and a perfect night out for anybody looking to turn their brain off for two hours. There's not a ton of great dialogue or character development. It's a Godzilla film, this is to be expected.
The film starts out with a quick montage showing us what happened to Godzilla in 1954. We are soon introduced to Joe Brody, played by Bryan Cranston, in an effort to capitalize on his post Heisenberg high. Brody is a scientist working at a Japanese nuclear power plant. The film quickly fast forwards 15 years and Cranston's brilliant scientist has now been disgraced and reduced to a jittery wacko. Or so he seems to everybody else. Like with any disaster film, Cranston isn't crazy; in fact, he knows something is about to go horribly wrong but nobody will listen to him.
As usual, Cranston is on top of his game. You can see the desperation in every wrinkle of his forehead and can hear it in every word he utters. Unfortunately, the focus soon shifts to Brody's son, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson really hasn't done much. I enjoyed him in the Kick-Ass films, but he's never struck me as a particularly strong actor. When a gigantic CGI lizard has more facial expressions than your male lead, there's a problem.
The more of the film Taylor-Johnson is asked to carry, the faster it starts to go downhill. Another unfortunate part of the film is how they waste Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Taylor-Johnson's wife. Like many female characters in films like this, Olsen's character is reduced to sitting at home wringing her hands waiting for news about her husband. Elizabeth Olsen is a great actress, but she's not going to break away from the shadow of her famous Full House siblings if she keeps choosing roles like this. Got it, dude?
Maybe the biggest grievance I have with the film is the fact that Godzilla has his own film hijacked from him by two creatures most people have never heard of. While the two massive insect-like creatures are creating havoc, Godzilla is riding the pine. I paid money to watch Godzilla stomp on buildings, not to watch two over grown insects have sex.
I know it sounds like I didn't like the film, but that's not the case. The first half of the film is especially strong. Godzilla also features some of the best music you will hear in a film all year, as well as some truly breathtaking special effects. The film also boasts a satisfying climax. It's so awesome, it made me wish there was more of that throughout the film.
With Godzilla's success at the box office, it's safe to assume that he will stay in our current pop culture landscape for a little longer. I just hope Godzilla gets to flex his muscles more in the next film.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Misunderstood for all the wrong reasons.
It's unfortunate that Lars and the Real Girl was probably dismissed as some raunchy comedy about a boy and his sex doll. One might be led to believe that's all this film is about after watching the trailer or reading the back of the DVD case.
Lars is way more than that. In fact, Lars never even has sex with the doll. The film is more about loneliness, compassion, and mental illness.
One criticism for the film might be that it's a little unrealistic to believe the whole town would play along with a man's mental delusions, but Ryan Gosling is so believable, that you can't help but play along.
Ryan Gosling really shines here. He's one of my favorite actors around right now. The rest of the cast is spot on. Paul Schneider is perfect as Lars' brother. He reacts to Lars like most of us would, with embarrassment, disgust and sadness. Emily Mortimer does a nice job as Lars' sister-in-law who is determined to help Lars in any way possible. Unlike her husband, her devotion for Lars never wavers.
Another bright spot is Kelli Garner who plays Lars' co-worker, who's in love with Lars despite the fact that he's in love with a fake doll. She's an actress to keep an eye on.
Overall, Lars and the Real Girl is an original film that could have been a horrible, raunchy train wreck. Instead, it delivers a compassionate film with strong performance all around.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
An amazing feast for the eyes, mind and heart.
An amazing feast for the eyes, mind and heart.
When I first heard about Slumdog Millionaire, I had no interest in seeing it. As the hype grew for the film and it won an Oscar, it made me even less interested in seeing the film.
It was On Demand for free the other day and I thought there's no better way to watch it so I gave it a shot and boy am I glad I did.
When I first heard about the plot of the film, I couldn't see how they could make it work. To say that the back story flashbacks and the game show scenes are weaved together seamlessly would be an understatement.
From the very beginning the viewer is meant to care for the characters in the film. Even as they grow older, it's believable that they are the same person.
Danny Boyle does a great job at capturing the streets of Mumbai. It's filled with life and color even in the face of poverty. Slumdog Millionaire is literally a film that will appeal to everybody. Young, old and everybody in between.
I also think that wherever you are in the world, this movie will touch you. I can honestly say it's one of the most original films you will ever see.
If you are on the fence about watching this film, take it from me, you will not regret it.
Ritchie fails to capture the energy of Snatch and Lock Stock
I finally watched Revolver the other night and I'm still not sure if I liked it or not.
There were parts that I really enjoyed and there were parts that I just found downright annoying. I'm not sure what Guy Ritchie was going for here. I think he wanted to make a film that had a message instead of just making one of his normal films.
The problem with that is I like his normal films. I always hate when a filmmaker tries to send a message with a film instead of just trying to tell a good story.
I think if Ritchie just stuck to his formula Revolver might have been as good as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Instead, we get a twisted, convoluted plot that just ends up coming off as pretentious.
There were parts of Revolver that may have saved the film for me. The first was Mark Strong as the hit-man. He was so cool and captivating in every scene. I wanted more of him. He's easily one of the most badass hit men I've seen in a long time.
The other is Jason Statham. I love him in almost every movie and he gives another great performance here. He tries his best with the overly complicated material and make it watchable.
Only the most die hard Ritchie fans should watch Revolver. Everyone else should steer clear.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Newman at his coolest
I'm not really sure where the origin of the word "cool" can be traced back to, but as far as I'm concerned it starts with Paul Newman.
Nobody is cooler than Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Paul Newman gives a wonderful, yet subdued performance as a prisoner doing time for cutting the head off parking meters.
At first, Luke is even too cool for prison. Nothing seems to bother him. He quickly becomes a favorite of his fellow prisoners and some of the guards by taking a beating in a boxing match. He never stays down and keeps getting up.
This shows the kind of heart Luke has that comes in to play later in the film. Unfortunately for Luke, he soon discovers that he is not meant for prison. The film touches upon what it's like to lose ones freedom and what a person will go to to get it back.
Newman is not the only reason to see Cool Hand Luke. George Kennedy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Dragline, a loud, somewhat dim good ole' boy who becomes Luke's closest friend.
The cinematography is also spectacular. The images literally jump off the screen.
And when Newman cracks that smile of his and flashes those blue eyes, it's easy to see why he is one cool dude.
The China Syndrome (1979)
An intense, underrated film.
The China Syndrome is a perfect example of what I love about film. It was made a year before I was born, and until Netflix recommended it to me, I had never heard of it before.
Of course I've seen hundreds of films from before my time, but they are always films that are hugely popular like the Godfather series, Jaws, etc.
So it's refreshing to find a hidden gem that has gotten lost in the shuffle over the years.
Jane Fonda plays Kimberly Wells, a TV news reporter stuck doing fluff pieces who deserprately wants to be taken seriously in her field. She gets her big break covering a routine story at a nuclear power plant with her freelance cameraman Richard Adams, played by Michael Douglas.
The story turns out to be anything but routine as they witness an accident and covertly video tape it.
Jack Lemmon gives arguably the performance of his career as the shift supervisor who soon discovers the accident could lead to an outcome far worst.
Lemmon plays the character of Jack Godell with a mix of cautious apprehension and loyalty to the company that he believes in. The weight of responsibility of running a nuclear power plant can literally be seen on Lemmon's face in every scene.
Unfortunately, nobody takes Godell's warnings seriously except for Wells and Adams. All the company worries about is the millions of dollars that would be lost if the plant is shut down, not the thousands of lives that might be lost if it's not shut down.
The China Syndrome is a superb thriller that is just as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. Fonda, Douglas and Lemmon are all on the top of their game.
The film also deals with other issues including the emergence of women in the broadcast news business.
The China Syndrome might not be as well known as many of the other films out there, but it just as good as most of them.
Slightly off the mark sequel to a cult classic.
The Boondock Saints are back, and boy does it feel familiar...a little too familiar.
If you are a die hard fan of the first film, then you will love the second film. If you hated the first film or haven't seen it yet, then stay away from All Saints Day.
The Boondock Saints II seems to exist only as a love letter to fans of the first. That's okay for most people, but I've been looking forward to the sequel for so long I was expecting a little more than we got.
There are a lot of rehashed jokes and bits in the longawaited sequel. Some of it works, a lot of it doesn't. I also think Duffy tried too hard to stuff all the ideas he had for the second film into the script. By doing so, it ends up feeling like a disjointed, hurried mess.
The best part of the film is just seeing the brothers back in action. Some of the action sequences are shot perfectly and really bring out the flavor of the first film.
We also get a little back-story for Billy Connolly that explains how he got in the business of killing. Although it's shot and acted well, it ends up feeling out of place in the film.
Another annoying part of the film is the 3 stooges, I mean cops. They get so much screen time you might think it's their film. There's also a lot of cheesy dialogue here and the character of the new detective didn't really work for me.
I know the review sounds like I should have given it a rotten rating, but I gave it a 70% because of the trip down memory lane.
There's just enough of our old friends that make it worth it. And when the bullets start flying and the brothers start praying, you realize why you feel in love with them in the first place.