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Cake (II) (2014)
This Cake Has No Frosting
1 July 2015
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).
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Dope (2015)
A Film for the "Now" Generation
19 June 2015
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.
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Insurgent (2015)
Not Great; but Not Bad
20 March 2015
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.
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Seventh Son (I) (2014)
Writers...... really?
6 February 2015
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+.
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This Mulatto Loved this Film
31 January 2015
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.
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The Good Lie (2014)
Better Late than Never
6 October 2014
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.
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Leave Now
20 September 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.
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No Good Deed (I) (2014)
Pretty Decent Film
12 September 2014
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.
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Brilliantly Fun!
1 August 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!!!
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Great Graphics; Great Story
14 July 2014
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.
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The Immigrant (2013)
Great Change of Pace
27 June 2014
I figured that most folks would be transforming this weekend and I didn't want to get caught up in the hype, so I decided to take the road less traveled and went and saw The Immigrant. I've seen lots of movies on how my father's ancestors (African-American) got to America, but I really didn't know all that much about my European heritage and what they might have had to go through. So I figured what the heck; I'll go check it out. The film takes place in the early 1920's, right around the time of prohibition. I just want to stop here and say that you know those old pictures that you've seen of your great grandparents (for folks my age) and how rustic they look; well almost the whole film was filmed this way; although every now and then there were subtle splashes of color. Anyway, Ewa Cybulska (Marion Cotillard) arrives at Ellis Island with her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan) and it is very noticeable that Magda is very sick. The thing is that if you were sick when arriving at Ellis Island, you were quarantined until they figured out what was wrong with you and you got better. Meanwhile, Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix) has been lurching around the admittance section like a vulture. All of a sudden it has been discovered that there are some scathing rumors that Ewa had done some unquestionable things during her journey across the great pond and she is going to be deported back to Poland. But wait a minute, in swoops the vulture that has been skulking around just in time to save the day. What a coincidence. Anyway, the story takes off from there and I must say that it was not as predictable as I thought it was going to be. I can understand why this film was nominated and won at various film festivals. The story centered on so many human issues including family loyalty, survival, trust, forgiveness, shame, rivalry, sacrifice, I could go on, but it would take all day. I have to say that I did enjoy the film and it was nice to get away from all the larger than life mega-hero movies, but to be honest, I probably will be transforming sometime this weekend. As a side note, my mother's ancestors arrived in America around the same time and I understand that I had a great, great, great uncle that helped carve Mt. Rushmore. Who knew?!?
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Chef (2014)
Finger-licking Good
7 June 2014
It was really refreshing to go to the movies just to see a good story. I consider myself to be a foodie, so I was excited about this film. The story centers around Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) who is stuck at a restaurant where he is forced by his boss, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) to continue to make the same old dishes that he has always made and not try anything new. He winds up crying on the shoulders of his friend, Molly (Scarlet Johansson) who eventually gives him some excellent advice. Chef Carl is also in the process of trying to get his private life together with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and his son Percy (Emjay Anthony). There is a strained relationship between father and son because Chef Carl is so wrapped up in his career that he has neglected the one person that should be at the top of his list, his son. This kid is so adorable and it also turns out that he is a social networking genius. All the kid wants is to spend a little time with his dad. Chef Carl has a best friend named Martin (John Leguizamo) who truly epitomizes the meaning of friend. Everyone should have a friend that is as loyal and supportive as this guy. Now about the food; the food in this film had my mouth watering every time something new was prepared. Even something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich looked very inviting. I am going to start making my grilled cheese exactly the way Chef Carl made his in the film. He also made a pasta dish for his friend Molly and I was mentally trying to remember the ingredients so that I can prepare it myself. When Molly took a bite of that pasta, I took that bite with her. Her reaction was exactly what I expected. It did not seem like she was acting; it genuinely felt like she was enjoying the food. I think that Jon Favreau did a fantastic job writing, directing, producing and playing the lead role in this film. He even found a bit part for his old friend Robert Downey Jr. (Marvin) who played the role of Inez's first ex-husband. The ending of the film was kind of predictable, but I still had a great time watching it all play out. If you get a chance, you should check this one out.
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Maleficent (2014)
Sleeping Beauty to the Tenth Power
31 May 2014
I expected to see a film about sleeping beauty and I assume that most people expect the same. I was pleasantly surprised to be surprised. The film is not what I expected. I also did not see this film in 3D, which I regretted by the end of the film. I could see moments (a lot of moments) that would have been beneficial if they would have been in 3D. Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) did a brilliant job playing the betrayed fairy. I do have to say that her cheek bones were pointy to the extreme. Elle Fanning (Aurora) is really making a name for herself. I am sure that by now she is tired of playing a younger Dakota. The three baby-sitters in this film Lesley Manville (Flittle), Imelda Staunton (Knotgrass) and Juno Temple (Thistletwit) have to be the worse babysitters on the planet. They were very cute as fairies, but when they became normal, they were just idiots. Watching them as adults was pretty painful and reminded me of the Three Stooges (which I do not like). Sam Riley (Diaval) was my favorite character in this film. I think that he provided a sense of humanity and sensibility as Maleficent's sidekick. The one thing that I did notice while watching the film is that a lot of adults kept getting up and walking out (to go to the restroom, buy more food, whatever). It was as if they were bored because they already knew what was going to happen. I have to say that I felt that way too for a while. I even stepped out to return a call to my mom. Turns out that there is a twist to the story and when that happened, everyone was glued to their seat. I think that the star of this film was the imagery. The creatures and background in this film was really what captured the attention of the audience (myself included). This is a film that I may have to go back and see it in 3D. By the way…. at the end of the film all the little kids in the theater applauded, which is always a good sign for a Disney film.
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24 May 2014
I want to start off by saying that my brother, Nick predicted this movie after the 2nd X-Men film. He is a true comic book geek and saw this coming. I am sure that he is not the only one. I was more of a bi-polar comic geek. I read Archie and Richie Rich on good days and Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Darkside on bad days. I read super hero comics sporadically. My brother informed me that Quicksilver (Evan Peter) is Magneto's son. I had no clue. Speaking of Quicksilver, he was my favorite character in this film. When assigned a task, I never had a concern that he would not complete it. Apparently he will make another appearance in the next film. Once again I neglected to stay through the credits and missed some important information. Nick informs me that it has something to do with the apocalypse. I really need to start staying through the credits of not only Marvel films, but also DC Comic films. Anyway, I was really glad to see the original X-men join forces with their younger selves. They even found a way to include Major Bill Stryker (Josh Helman). I was glad to see Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) as the person with the power to make going back to the past possible, but for some reason I was getting flashbacks to the film Inception. Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) has his mind set on creating Cyborgs that would identify mutants and destroy them and it is the X-Men's goal to travel to the past and to keep the present future from happening. I would be remised if I did not mention Mark Camacho (President Nixon). Not only did he do a great interpretation of the president, but the whole recreation of the 70s was done extremely well. There were glimpses of every X-Men film to date incorporated in this film and the writers did an excellent job tying them all together. This is one of those films that you really do not have to advertise. Most people are so engaged with the X-Men, that it would be almost criminal not to see the franchise through. I thoroughly enjoyed the film because (1) it was not too long and (2) there weren't any dull spots. This is definitely a film worth seeing, especially if you want to be ready for the next one.
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A Lone Time Coming
8 April 2014
I find it hard to believe that this film could not find a distributor and stayed in a holding cell for four years. Multiple personality films have always done well (The Three Faces of Eve, Sybil) and have garnered the lead actresses in both an academy award. Halle Berry (Frankie) was outstanding in channeling the other personalities trapped inside her head. As with all split personality films there is always some tragic event that occurs in the early years of life that fosters personalities to protect the host. This film was set in the 1970s and I have to say the wardrobe and locations were pretty accurate (from what I can remember). I even found myself singing along with some of the music. The fact that a straight-jacket and hypnosis was going to be involved was a no-brainer. The constant flashbacks also did not come as a surprise, but I think that the way that Halle managed those scenes is what made them memorable. Stellan Skarsgard (Oz) is the physician who takes a personal interest in Frankie's case and is responsible for getting to the heart of the issues. Phylicia Rashad (Edna) and Chandra Wilson (Maxine) are Frankie's mother and sister who are either in denial or assisting in a cover-up, or both. It was refreshing to see a film that wasn't tethered with CGI. It's kind of rare these days. Do I think that this film could have been shown on Lifetime…., sure, but I'm glad that it wasn't. The reason why is because anytime you can get a film on the big screen that contains a decent amount of diversity of actors (that isn't about slavery or servitude) then I'm all for it (I'll get off my soapbox now). The story held my attention and there were no areas of lag time. Of course I was trying to figure out what caused the personality split from the beginning. I have to say that this one kept me guessing until the end. I think that knowing that this is a true story adds to the appeal of the film and I was thrilled that the film explained what happened to the actual people at the end. I asked a few people after the movie, what they thought of the film and they all pretty much said the same thing; they liked the film, but it wasn't what they were expecting. I concur.
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Noah (2014)
Great Acting
8 April 2014
This ain't your momma's bible story! The one thing that I did want to mention is that I saw in an interview where they stated that the ark was built to scale. No green-screening the ark. It even survived hurricane Sandy. I wonder what the heck they did with that thing after the film was complete. Maybe turned it into a homeless shelter?? Some of the CGI was pretty amazing; like the actual flood. However, some of it was not so great; like when the family was walking with the Watchers or when they started gathering the animals. Speaking of the Watchers, when they were first introduced I started laughing a little, but then I realized, how the heck was Noah (Russell Crowe) ever going to get that big boat built? Then, ta dah, along comes giant rock people. I was glad that the film did keep some elements of the bible, but they sure spruced things up. Most of that sprucing up came by way of Ham (Logan Lerman). By the middle of the film he was really starting to get on my nerves. I guess every family has a rebel. The introduction of Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) also provided some variety. Needless to say he was a bad seed and was determined to survive the destruction of the people of the earth. He also couldn't understand why God didn't want to talk to him. I was like duh….. You're the descendant of the first murderer in human history. Anyway, I didn't really think that this movie was all that great, although the acting was outstanding. The emotional scenes between Noah and Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and Noah and Ila (Emma Watson), really managed to pull at the old heart strings. This film does take a bazaar turn and I found myself thinking "what the hell is wrong with him?" He completely turned into a total maniac. If you want to know who I'm talking about, you'll just have to see the film, but it may not be who you think. I initially didn't want to go and see this film because I assumed that I would be bored waiting on the rain to come (much like in Titanic, when I waited on the iceberg). It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped either. I say if you don't have anything else to do, check it out. I give this film an amber light.
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Man of Steel (2013)
Pretty Super
15 June 2013
This film could have actually been three separate films; the destruction of Krypton, the little boy wonder growing up in Smallville and aliens invade the earth. There were plenty of special effects in this film, almost to the point of overkill. I actually liked the Krypton special effects the best. I thought they were the most creative. When I called my sister and asked her how she liked the film, the first thing that she said was "it was long". I must say that I could not agree with her more on that point. The last 30 minutes of the film was a continuous brawl and had me thinking that it would never end. While I was watching Kal-El/Superman (Henry Cavill), the thought that kept running through my mind is that Superman is not all that super (although he was ruggedly handsome). I think that one of the most cleaver things about this film is the way that they kept Jor-El (Russell Crowe) incorporated in the film. That was pretty creative and unexpected. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) was a lot tougher than her predecessors. She was tough and gutsy which was a breath of fresh air from always playing the victim. Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) on the other hand was more docile than I expected. I remember in the comic books there were always a lot of symbols in his dialog box (smile). I didn't expect cursing, but I did expect him to be meaner. Speaking of mean, General Zod (Michael Shannon) fit the bill to a tee and I have to say, he was a tough one to beat. I think that the DC Comic franchise still has a little bit of catching up to do to the Marvel franchise. Unlike the Marvel films, there is no humor; it was straight drama. I never really developed an emotional connection to the character. I also think that I would have liked the film more if the story had been told sequentially instead of filling the screen with an over abundance of retro-vision. I do think that this film is theater worthy, just because of the CGI, but pack a lunch because you are going to be there for a while. This is one of those times that I wish we had a blue light (somewhere between amber and green), but because I am feeling pretty generous today, I am going to go with a green light.
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After Earth (2013)
Not Out of this World
31 May 2013
I have to say that this is not one of M. Night Shyamalan's best works. Usually there is an element of surprise somewhere in his films; this one did not have any. In fact it kind of felt like a video game where every level gets a little more difficult until you arrive at the final stage and collect the prize at the end. This film is basically about a son who wants to walk in his father's shoes and with a broken ship and an injured father, he get the opportunity to prove his worth. I really kind of felt sorry for Katai (Jaden Smith) because he seemed so afraid most of the time (and he well should have been). This was a difficult task for Katai since he always felt responsible for his sister's death and he wanted to prove that he was not a coward, no matter how scared he was. Cypher (Will Smith) was pretty stoic in this film. He reminded me of one of those strict military fathers that never showed emotion and followed protocol, even in his own home. Cypher has acquired a skill called "ghosting" which allows him to remove any fear from his emotion thereby making him invisible to alien creatures. This is a skill that Katai has not mastered and seemingly no one else has either, which puts Cypher at the top of the mountain. The film is split into two story lines; the current crash and there are flashbacks to several events in the past and also what happened to Cypher's daughter Senshi (Zoe Kravitz) years earlier. Sometimes the flashbacks came at very weird times which made the film a little disjointed. I do have to say that the visual effects were stunning and I can understand why this film would be shown in an IMAX theater. The film is not a total disaster and although it is very predictable, you still want to see how it plays out. I also think that the father-son bonding experience was heart-warming and sentimental. Usually when a film is exceptional I get right on the phone and start calling family members and telling them how great the film is. I will not be making any phone calls today. However, if you are a Will Smith fan (which I am), I think it is worth seeing if you run out of things to do this weekend. I give this film an amber light.
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Live Long and Prosper J.J.
17 May 2013
J. J. Abrams must go to a lot of Star Trek conventions; either that or he has a library full of the original series and films. He really hit it out of the park (or out of this world) with this installation of the franchise. I see a lot more of this series in his future and the possibilities are endless. I like this film because it has a lot of action and the story is told very well; but more than that I also like the fact that this film was also about the relationships between the crew. Also, after the first film I was asking myself where the heck are the Klingons? Well, lo and behold they finally make an appearance in this film. There has always been that tension between the Federation and the Klingons so I am glad that they got that storyline started. Chris Pines (James Kirk) is evolving more and more into the William Shatner Kirk of the 60s. He is even starting to look like him a little (although Shatner was not as emotional as this upgraded version). Zachary Quinto (Spock) is as logical as ever, but in this film he even manages to rationalize how he processes his emotion (which I found quite interesting and profound). Zoe Saldana (Uhura) gets to display a more sensitive side and reacts to situations the way that most of us (women) would with our significant other. Once again (as in the 1st film) my favorite portrayal was done by Simon Pegg (Scotty). He was most definitely the comic relief that kept this film balanced. As for Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan), you really didn't know if he was a good guy or bad guy until Spock Prime shows up and gives the crew the down low. Of course being a Trekkie, I knew he was bad, but new comers will not know. The addition of Alice Eve (Carol) to the crew will no doubt create some interesting story lines going forward. I saw this film in 3D and there were a few things that jumped out at you, but all in all I think you should save the extra dollars. I think that you will be just as impressed without the 3D effects. This film was pretty long, but I did not notice because it was so well paced. This film is definitely one that you have to see on the big screen. Live long and prosper!!! I give this film a glaring green light.
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Best One Yet
3 May 2013
When I was getting ready to go and see this film I looked it up and discovered that it was two plus hours long. I groaned, and hoped that there would not be a lot of fluff. To my pleasant surprise there was not. It was the first time in a long time, that I could not feel the time go by. There were a couple of surprises that I did not see coming, which made the film even more entertaining. I also liked the fact that the film made reference to what happened to the Avengers back in New York. It gives all the Marvel characters a sense of connectivity. I even saw the same connectivity in the Trailer for the next Thor, where Loki is locked up for what he had done. Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man) is true to form and brings with him his usual wit and humor. Ben Kingsley (The Mandarin) was brilliant as usual, but I had no idea that his range was so expansive and that he could play this type of role. I think that a lot of folks will be surprised. Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian) who is the mad scientist of the bunch, is one of the more creative villains ever created. The "tug-at-your-heartstrings" role went to Ty Simpkin (Harley Keener), who is quickly befriended by Tony as a mini partner in stopping the bad guys. Although Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts) did not have a lot of screen time, her character made a definite impact on the outcome. Don Cheadle (James Rhodes) reprises his character very well, although he gets a bit of a make-over that is kind of cheesy. Director Shane Black has really made a name for himself behind the camera instead of in front of one. I have to say that I liked this Iron Man better than the previous films. I think it was because this film focused more on the man instead of the superhero. We get a chance to see Tony as a little vulnerable and that he has issues just like the rest of us. I did not see this film in 3D, but I could see where some of the action scenes would have been more explosive in that format. I have to say that I left the theater smiling because I thoroughly had a good time (you will too). I give this film a glaring green light.
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Oblivion (I) (2013)
Lots of Familiar Twists
19 April 2013
Where is a blue light when you need one? If you take elements of I, Robot, The Matrix, Independence Day, Total Recall and of course Top Gun and put them all in a bowl and mixed them up, you would come up with Oblivion. This film was totally crazy and literally out of this world. And to top it all off, with all the previews and the length of this film be prepared to get butt blisters for two and a half hours. I do have to say that I thought the special effects were brilliantly done, especially with the ship that Jack is flying. I also liked the fact that explanations of what was going on were trickled in throughout the film, right up to the very end. Basically the film centered on a band of rebels that are left on earth after a planetary war who are fighting against the establishment. Jack (Tom Cruise) is a drone repairman with less than two weeks to go on his so called tour of duty. Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) is his eyes in the sky and takes direction from the control center that is wedged in space. As depicted in the trailer, Jack is captured by the rebel tribe and this is where the journey of discovery begins. Beech (Morgan Freeman) is the rebel leader and is determined to get Jack to see the truth. This is also the point in the film where there starts to be a lot of twists and turns. I did hear myself saying (a couple of times), "what the heck is going on here". This is when the fun started for me, because I started thinking about all the other films that this one stole from. I think that director Joseph Kosinski did a pretty good job considering the only other film that he has produced was Tron: Legacy. He is definitely headed in the right direction if this is the genre that he wants to stick with. Although the film was a little long for my taste, it was definitely not boring. The film moved at a steady pace and the little enlightenments along the way kept my interest. I think that this film does merit the price of a ticket for the CGI and cinematography alone. Oblivion did not leave me oblivious so I am going to go ahead and give this film a green light.
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42 (2013)
Excellent Story and Acting. Great!!!!
13 April 2013
When I entered the theater I noticed a vast variety of folks coming to see this film; from the very old to the very young. There was even a coach that brought what seemed like his whole little league team. As you know I am not a huge fan of bio-pics, but I wanted to see this story just because of the amazing achievement of this man. I remember how hard things were in the 1960s, so I can't imagine how tough times were in 1947. The fact that Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) not only had to be a great ball player, but he also had to have the willpower to tame his temper. I am not sure that I know many men who would stand down to the abuse that he suffered. The verbal abuse that was lashed out by Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) was really disturbing, but it did shed a lot of light on what Jackie had to deal with. Luckily Jackie had his wife Rachel (Nicole Beharie) to lean on. It was surprising that Rachel was a bit of a rebel herself, which made her very endearing. General Manager Leo Durocher (Christopher Meloni) was also a bit of a rebel; just a different kind. Leo was rambunctious and seemingly did whatever he wanted. He turned out to be a color-blind manager and he did not care what anyone else thought. Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) was the reporter tasked to chronicle this historic event. He would sit on the 3rd base line with his typewriter in his lap and capture all of Jackie's great moments as well as the intentional injuries that he incurred. Although Jackie is definitely a hero in this film, he is not the only one. Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) was a hero as well. You had to be a special kind of person to change the policies of an entire league. There were many reasons why he wanted to sign the first black player to the Brooklyn Dodgers, but I think that the one that he gave at the end of the film was the one that tugged at my heart. This is one film that I think everyone should see because there are so many lessons that can be learned and taught to the next generation. The one thing that I did not know was that during one game of every season, all the Brooklyn Dodgers wear number 42. Very cool. I give this film a green light.
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Good Story but Same Elements
30 March 2013
Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor was conceptually a good film. It is basically about a couple who love each other, however things start getting a little bland at home and the wife feels like she is being taken for granted and things have gotten to be routine and boring. Judith (Jurnee Smolett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross) have known each other since they were children and they were destined to eventually get married and start a life together. Judith works for Janice (Vanessa L. Williams) at a high-end dating service. Janice has a weird French accent which struck me as kind of stupid. Her assistant is Ava (Kim Kardashian) who is a snotty (put expletive here). I am not sure if Ms. Kardashian had to do any acting in this film since I can totally see her saying everything that she said in this film in real life. Brice is your typical man and husband. He tries his hardest to keep Judith happy, but things are just not as exciting as Judith would like it to be. Brice works in a pharmacy and hopes to someday have his own pharmacy. Melinda (Brandy Norwood) is hired at the pharmacy and eventually becomes a major player in the story. Both Brice and Melinda work for Ms. Waco Chapman (Renee Taylor) who is the comic relief in the film. She had me cracking up. Basically, life is pretty normal and not that exciting. Along comes Harley (Robbie Jones) who is a multi-millionaire who is interested in investing in Janice's business. He is immediately smitten by Judith and the games begin. I think that the cast did an "okay" job, but I am not sure why there were so many skyline shots in the film. The film does deliver a good message, as all of Tyler Perry's films do. There is always a moral to the story and this one is no different. There is also the familiar religious aspect to the film. The one thing that I like about going to see a Tyler Perry film is that the audience reacts out loud and no one complains. I thought that the film moved at a good pace and there were a couple of twists and turns (which I totally saw coming), however the audience didn't. I looked around and thought to myself "ya'll didn't see that coming?" Apparently they did not. There were some things in the film that did not make sense to me, but I'll let you be the judge. Anyway, the film delivers a good message and for that reason I am giving it an amber light.
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Admission (2013)
Not a Whole Lot of Laughs
23 March 2013
For those of you who are thinking that this film is a comedy, you would be wrong. It is more of a drama with some funny moments thrown in (although I never laughed out loud; not even once). As a matter of fact, by the time the film was over I was actually feeling a little sad. The story centers on an admissions officer for Princeton University, Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) who is responsible for combing through thousands of submission requests and evaluating who should be allowed to attend this prestigious school. On top of that, the current dean of admissions is retiring and Portia and her rival Corinne (Gloria Reuben) are both up for the job. Gearing up for her annual recruiting trip, Portia is contacted by John Pressman (Paul Rudd) to come and check out his somewhat fundamental and "earthy" school. Upon arrival John tells Portia that he thinks that one of the kids in his school is actually the child that she gave up for adoption when she was in college. Jeremiah (Nat Wolff) has been a slacker most of his life, but it turns out that he is a natural genius and was just bored in school most of the time. He gets very interested in attending Princeton and so the story begins. The film started out mildly comical, but as the story went along it became more and more serious. The two characters that did add a little light-heartedness to the film were Susannah (Lily Tomlin) who is Portia's mother and an eccentric soul. She is not much into relationships of any kind whether it is a mother/daughter or a romantic relationship. The other character that I really liked was Nelson (Travaris Meeks-Spear) who is John's adopted son who is just looking to be normal and to not go gallivanting around the globe all the time with his father. I think the cast as a whole did a really good job and the story was not boring, but I think that billing it as a comedy was the wrong way to go. The story was a lot more serious than I expected it to be, so I think that as word gets out, this film may not do as well as expected. It was not a bad film, but I am not sure that it is worth the price of a ticket. I am giving this film an amber light.
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Awful Nice (2013)
Dumb and Dumber
16 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I don't know what the heck Todd Sklar was thinking when he wrote this film. I guess the best way that I can describe it is as a crazy dramatic comedy. While I was watching this film I kept thinking to myself, whose crazy family is this film based on? Hopefully no ones, because there were times that I thought these two brothers were going to kill each other. Dave (Alex Rennie) is the carefree younger brother who is homeless and is used to eating out of trash cans and seems to like his life just the way it is. He is really disgusting and does some outlandish crap (use expletive here). His older brother Jim (James Pumphrey) hunts Dave down because their father has died and they discover that they have inherited a cabin in Branson Missouri. A road trip ensues and the two of them hit the road. It turns out that the cabin is a total wreck and Dave decides that this would be a great brother bonding experience if they fixed up the cabin together instead of hiring someone else to do it. I was thinking that at this point in the film that Jim was the sane one since he has a family and a child; but that is not the case. For some reason (I think that it is guilt), Jim keeps doing whatever the heck his crazy brother Dave wants him to do. I just kept shaking my head. I don't care how much I may have ignored a sibling in the past there is no way that I would do some of the stupid stuff that these two do. At one point Dave swallows a handful of dog pills and I just knew that he would be dead in the next scene, but nope. The deceased father's business partner, Jon (Christopher Meloni) was responsible for handling the legalities for these two idiots. At first I thought that he might be nuts too, but it turns out that he was the smartest one on the screen. I almost didn't recognize Christopher because the wig and disguise he was wearing was so terrible. I guess the budget was not that big in the costume department. Anyway, although I laughed a whole lot in this film after it was over, I was just left blank. Like Emma, I am not sure what the title Awful Nice meant; but it is what it is.
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