Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Movie Trailer – Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante

Starring: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Gary Busey

Release: July 31st, 2016

I agree with Fin; you have got to be kidding me.  Weren’t three of these movies enough?  And shouldn’t I have stopped watching them by now?  Sharnado, The Second One, Oh Hell No!, and now The 4th Awakens; haven’t we been through our fair share already?  Isn’t it time to stop?


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Movie Review – The Shallows

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Blake Lively

Year: 2016

The surprisingly must-see horror film of the year is here, and it’s The Shallows.  Last year, that honor went to It Follows, which hopefully sparked a movement toward simplistic horror filmmaking, leaving the ghosts behind & focusing on the pure terror of death.  Well, if you’re looking for death, look no further than this blood-in-the-water fright fest, and just in time for your trip to the beach too.  If you watched the trailer back in April, you could see that there was a possibility of something special here, though I doubt anyone expected just how well this film would be received when it was released.  But it’s quickly becoming something that anyone who wants to be scared must check out, as well as something critics need to weigh in on.  The Shallows is a legitimate contender for perhaps not breakout film of the year, since we know both Collet-Serra & Lively, but at the very least the summer shocker that you can’t miss.

To escape from the pressure of her mother’s death, her father’s heavy hand, and the stress of med school, perfectionist Nancy takes an extended Spring Break, heading to Mexico with a friend to discover a secret beach that has an emotional connection to she & her mother.  A surfer as well as a doctor-to-be, Nancy hits the waves of an idyllic lagoon on one perfect day, looking to find a peace that has been missing for far too long.  But what she finds there is anything but peaceful, rather the deadliest encounter of her life.  The body of a whale has become stagnated just over the crest line, attracting a massive shark, an animal unheard of in this area.  Attacked by the shark in defense of its new feeding ground, Nancy is injured & marooned on a rock, bleeding and counting down the hours until high tide returns.  It’s man vs nature in this struggle for survival, with only one combatant set to make it out alive.

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With many homages to Jaws and a knowing nod to Shark Week fans everywhere, The Shallows delivers on all levels as an exhilarating, gory, exciting, frightening horror flick that deserves all the attention it never expected but definitely deserves.  From the very beginning to a quick end (the film is only about an hour & fifteen minutes long), the intensity of that beach never slows, even in the peaceful moments there’s a sense of dread in the mood & the music that makes your hair stand on end.  The action woven within the quieter moments is intense & devastating, making even the most comfortable in the water rethink their next swim out to the sandbar.  It’s horror on a higher level and should earn credit for its raw power as well as its cinematography, each beach shot beautiful, each underwater scene drowning in blood & terror.

And speaking of beautiful shots, look no further than the star, Blake Lively.  Extra attention was paid to her assets at the beginning, only to tear them apart on the rocks & on the teeth of a monster, an intentional shock in which the joke is on us.  Director Collet-Serra (Non-Stop, Run All Night) knows what he’s doing, knows how to play with the most basic parts of us and force them to work in his favor.  He did borrow from Jaws a good deal, and even perhaps Gravity in a weird way, creating a Soul Surfer vibe with an adult twist.  He even added in a bird friend to lighten the mood, following the formula of Shakespeare himself, adding a dash of humor to the most tragic moments to keep audiences from giving in to the despair.  I could have done with a little less backstory, a little less message, because the action spoke for itself, and loudly.  But overall, The Shallows is what I wanted though never actually thought I would get.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Keeping Up with the Joneses

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Greg Mottola

Starring: Isla Fisher, Zach Galifianakis, Gal Gadot, Jon Hamm

Release: October 21st, 2016

What a silly & recycled plot to try to convince us to watch.  We know this story, we’ve seen it before, I guess the filmmakers were banking on the fact that Fisher & Gadot are hot, that men will want to see this movie for that reason alone.  Or maybe I’m underestimating the number of people who will think this type of obvious comedy is funny.  Count me out though.


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DVD Review – Touched with Fire

Category : DVD Review

Director: Paul Dalio

Starring: Luke Kirby, Katie Holmes, Christine Lahti

Year: 2015

We’ve pretty much given up hope on Katie Holmes an an actress, ever since her downward spiral with Tom Cruise.  Dawson’s Creek ended in 2003, Batman Begins was 2005, and since then we’ve seen a whole lot of either nothing or worse than nothing from Miss Holmes.  Mad Money, The Romantics, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, The Son of No One, Jack and Jill, Days and Nights, Miss Meadows, The Giver; most of these I hadn’t even heard of, others I cringed when I saw.  But it would be too quick if we were to write Katie Holmes off completely.  She obviously had talent, got mixed up in a confusing life, and hasn’t found her stride since.  So although her role in Touched with Fire will not go down in the books as the comeback of the century, it just might be a glimmer of hope for a career that hasn’t flatlined quite yet.

The Movie

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Marco is bipolar.  During his highs, he can spit rhyme with the best of them, even styling himself with a poet name, Luna, when he’s writing, rapping, or just seeing the world through an artist’s eyes.  His mania fuels his creativity, but also allows him to believe that he might be from another planet, since he feels so out of touch with this world.  On the flip side, his depressive states are just as low as his manic moods are high.  Depression, suicide, complete isolation; just a few of the fun facts faced by those with this illness, though in Marco’s case he hates when it’s called that.  He despises his condition, but also loves it, and the same could be said for the way he feels about himself as a person.

Carla is bipolar as well.  She writes volumes of poetry, using her ups as a source for inspiration, though her downs tear she & her family apart.  Recently, an obsession with her disease led her to a local mental hospital in the middle of night on a search for records.  Accidentally (and voluntarily) checking herself in for the night, the staff later won’t let her leave, with the doctors there understanding that she’s just not well enough.  In the same institution is Marco, also victim of a manic night that led him to this place.  The pair meet, comprehend each other, and begin to fall in love.  But on the outside, in the “real world”, can they make it as a couple or will their illnesses drive each other to dangerous extremes?

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My wife is a therapist, and I wish I had her input concerning the psychological aspects of this film, because it seemed to me to be an extremely upsetting but accurate representation of what it must be like to live bipolar every day.  We get to see the entire gamut of this condition, even if we aren’t entirely comfortable or ready; artistic outbursts, delusions of grandeur, emotions felt to a higher degree than most of us can even imagine, little sleep, complex & absurd theories, the crash that follows such a high, the depression, the meds, the suicidal thoughts, the comprehension that this disease prohibits a “normal life”.  It’s difficult to watch at times, but always feels honest, always comes across as telling the terribly tough side of an all-too-true story.

Give credit to the two main actors, who never turned the movie into a farce or joke of any kind, who always seemed believable even in the face of unbelievable circumstances.  Luke Kirby, who is no big name, was more than solid as Marco, manipulating the character into someone we could relate to, although the way his mind works is so different from our own.  And Katie Holmes, who seemed to have left the craft behind, was back on point here, playing Carla as well as can be expected for what must have been an extremely challenging role.  The film as a whole meandered a bit, rode the roller coaster of emotions a bit too literally, when the story staying centered might have helped audiences understand the characters’ imbalance all the more.  Director Paul Dalio is a complete amateur, but for his first shot at directing (especially for a film he also wrote, edited, & composed music for), I’d say there’s more good things to come.

The Blu-ray

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Video – With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 (1080p HD), the video quality of Touched with Fire is on par with other Blu-ray discs, though not the more action-packed or those that focus on video quality for their success.  This is an emotional drama; the visuals are based on feelings, not stunning effects, but the Blu-ray still delivers a high quality image throughout.

Audio – The Blu-ray disc was done in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with subtitle choices in English, Spanish, and English SDH.  The audio quality of the disc is fine, with a unique blend of original music that aids in the mood of the film.  Those looking for stunning Blu-ray sound might be disappointed, as dialogue in more in focus here, not sound effects.

Extras – There are many extras on the Blu-ray disc.  Audio Commentary is available with Paul Dalio (writer/director) and Kristina Nikolova (producer/director of photography).  Making of Touched with Fire is a 9-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.  A Conversation with Paul Dalio and Dr. Kay Jamison is a 4-miniute sit down with the director and the author.   There is one deleted scene, Planning for Apocalypse, which runs 1.5 minutes.  Also available are a photo gallery, the theatrical trailer, a bookmarks section, and previews for films also from Lionsgate: Miss You Already, Stonewall, Mr. Holmes, Love & Mercy, The Confirmation.

Final Thoughts

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Recommended. For Katie Holmes, this movie marks the return to a career that seemed so promising but was cut short by poor life choices.  She’s still a talented actress, though one who has been hiding her natural gift for some time now.  Combining her acting with that of a promising young man in Luke Kirby creates a pretty powerful film that won’t be knocked for its leads.  The subject matter is also strong, with a no-fear approach to the topic that might not be for everyone, but should impress those ready for heavy lifting.  The director is not experienced, the film isn’t perfect, but it does offer an honest look at a difficult subject, and for that deserves much credit.  The video is nice, the audio is fine, there are extras galore, and the Blu-ray disc as a whole delivers on its promises.  Watch with a warning toward the weight of the story and the inherent imperfections, but otherwise watch with confidence.

☆ ☆ ☆ – Content

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Video

☆ ☆ ☆ – Audio

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Extras

☆ ☆ ☆ – Replay

 

 

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Movie Trailer – Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Edward Zwick

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders

Release: October 21st, 2016

Edward Zwick (Glory, Legends of the Fall, Courage Under Fire, The Siege, The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, Love & Other Drugs, Pawn Sacrifice) can be a bit cheesy & 90s, but that just might work well in the case of this movie.  What’s wrong with a little Tom Cruise action with a 90s vibe?  It could be fun at least, which is all it would be shooting for, no pun intended.  Action throwaways like this are a dime a dozen, and Cruz even has a similar franchise going with the Mission Impossible movies, which are probably better anyway.  But I’ve seen enough to make me want to go back, watch the first, and then give this one a fair chance.  This cast seems to be a bit of step backward, no Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, or David Oyelowo, but it could very well still work.


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Movie Review – Pleasantville

Category : Movie Review

Director: Gary Ross

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Reese Witherspoon, Joan Allen

Year: 1998

Before Gary Ross wrote The Hunger Games and Free State of Jones, he churned out a bunch of hits in the late 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.  Big, Dave, Pleasantville, Seabiscuit; all films with Ross as either the writer, director, or both.  Not a shabby list, even considering his penchant for Tobey Maguire, whose boyish naiveté was working in his favor at the time.  I remember seeing Pleasantville with my parents shortly after it came out; I would have been a teenager who was just dabbling in the arts, they would have been precisely the people who hoped our country could return to the “good old days”.  So it’s perhaps no surprise that I remember the room being a bit awkward and us as a group not loving the film; good thing I gave it a second chance, because now I most definitely do.

David is a classic nerd, Jennifer is just beginning to get cool.  These teenage siblings could not possibly be more different, but they’re about to spend much more time together, and in a much stranger place, than either of them could have imagined.  David is a giant Pleasantville fan, an old Mayberry-esque black & white TV show that he knows by heart.  But when he & his sister fight over and break the remote control one night, they are both transported into the television, into Pleasantville, into the roles of Bud & Mary-Sue Parker, two perfect children in a perfect town.  Their mere presence there begins to disrupt the harmony of Pleasantville, adding in things like discord, sex, and even color.  As the kids try to get back home, the townsfolk try to cope with all the changes, from rain to art, from enjoyable experiences to painful realizations.

This film doesn’t try to hide its morals, and for that I tip my cap.  The themes of race, gender, sameness, and many others are presented here first in metaphorical & literal black & white, but soon in bright color, never pretending to be saying anything but the blunt truth.  It’s a beautiful film, both cinematically & thematically, raising fascinating topics and showing off wonderfully stylized scenes.  It’s often like a painting come to life, and art has a definite impact on the plot, parading brilliant images past for our enjoyment.  And since this is a throwback of a movie, at least now, it’s fun to take a look at the actors who were involved: Maguire, Witherspoon, Allen, William H. Macy, Jeff Daniels, J.T. Walsh, Don Knotts, Jane Kaczmarek, Paul Walker.  It’s become a time capsule film in many ways, and I’m thankful for that; not only because it’s like safeguarding a wonderful portrait but also because these lessons should never be forgotten.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – American Honey

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: Andrea Arnold

Starring: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough

Release: 2016

First, I now love the term ‘youthquake’ and think it can be used perfectly to describe this film.  It looks like a coming-of-age movie that got very angry & very high, but somehow in a good way both times.  And I have a soft place in my heart for Shia, especially after watching him watch his own movies.  That spectacle meant something to the poor guy, and I think it showed us a frightening amount about him.  Anyway, I’m ready to see him in more stuff, specifically challenging stuff like Nymphomaniac or Fury.  Speaking of fury, or in this case Fury Road, Riley Keough makes an appearance here too, the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley, and an actress I recently saw in a similar role in Dixieland.  She was OK, but she seems perfectly suited for this film.  As long as the unknown lead actress is as well, I think American Honey could be a quiet success.


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Movie Review – The Fundamentals of Caring

Category : Movie Review

Director: Rob Burnett

Starring: Craig Roberts, Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez

Year: 2016

It’s hard to trust Paul Rudd too far in a drama about a boy with muscular dystrophy, and I can’t blame anyone who’s seen his movies for having a hard time believing that he pulls it off.  But pull it off he does, which is pretty shocking considering They Came Together, perhaps the worse rom/com or spoof of a rom/com ever made, depending on how you look at it.  Rudd does comedies, he’s normally good at them, and playing a caretaker of a disabled boy isn’t something you’d readily see on his resume.  Which is, I guess, why this Netflix original movie comes as such a surprise, because he delivers, and so does the rest of the cast, producing something pleasant, solid, watchable, and well-done; not the most glowing terms, but you take what you can get.

After a series of traumatic events, Ben takes a six-week course to become certified as a caregiver.  His first client is a young man with DMD, a disease that he was diagnosed with at the age of three, and which now keeps him wheelchair-bound.  Trevor stays at home, stays on schedule, loves to torture his caretakers, and likes Ben immediately in a very weird, practical joke, curse at you kind of way.  Ben warms to Trevor as well, even pushing him to leave the house and go on the road trip he’s always planned, a silly adventure to see all the lamest sites chintzy American has to offer.  So Ben & Trevor embark upon a journey that will change both their lives, teach them multiple lessons, show them the open road, and most likely drive them both insane.

Rudd does it, he plays the guy with heartache, he makes us believe that he actually cares about Trevor, even while bitching about wiping his ass.  I wouldn’t have fully expected it, and images from his past movies did pop up in my head from time to time, but Rudd delivered a great & likable character; bravo.  Roberts was strong as well, the cheeky British handicapped kid with sarcasm his only defense mechanism.  And even the incomparable Selena Gomez stepped up her game, giving it 100%.  Sure, the story was a little cheesy, and you kinda know everyone will end up understanding life in a deep, meaningful way that they hadn’t before and that, honestly, probably doesn’t exist.  But the story was sweet enough to get me on board, tugged at my heart strings a little, and some surprisingly good acting was enough to gloss over any imperfections.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


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Movie Trailer – Almost Christmas

Category : Movie Trailer

Director: David E. Talbert

Starring: Danny Glover, Mo’Nique, Gabrielle Union

Omar Epps, J.B. Smoove, Romany Malco, Jessie T. Usher

Release: November 11th, 2016

This Christmas, all I want is for filmmakers to stop making holiday movies.  That’s all, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.  They’re all awful, all full of fake sentiment, all over-saturated with b-list talent, and all complete wastes of our time.


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Movie Review – The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

Category : Movie Review

Director: Joann Sfar

Starring: Freya Mavor, Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano

Year: 2015

A French film noir featuring one of the most attractive women you will ever have the pleasure of seeing on-screen; not the worst way to begin a film, but also not a guarantee of success.  The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun is not only one of the longer non-subtitled titles you’ll ever come across, but it also fits my former description to a tee, a movie that uses simple ploys to get our attention but then can’t seal the deal.  The French Riviera, an American muscle car, a devastating redhead, a murder, a betrayal, a mystery; ‘check’ ad nauseam, but those ingredients still need to be put together to form something delicious, they won’t do it on their own.  Left to its incapable devices, the film meandered often and never quite lived up to the appeal of its plot or the beauty of its star, more’s the pity.

Timid secretary Dany has never been to the sea.  Actually, she’s never done anything remotely exciting or dangerous, a fact that is soon to change.  Her boss, the sexy, masculine, domineering Michel, puts in a special request.  He needs her to come over to his house to work on an important presentation while he & his wife go out for the night.  The next morning, he needs her to drive their car back from the airport after the couple leave on a trip.  Perhaps pushed a bit too far, Dany takes the cool car for a joy ride instead of straight home, beginning a series of bizarre events that she can’t explain.  Locals in the south have seen her before, remember things Dany herself does not, are acting like she’s taken this path before, which is quite impossible.  But when a dead man appears in her trunk, the situation goes from strange to indescribable in the blink of an eye.

It can’t be just me, and I’ll try to stay professional, but Freya Mavor is insanely hot.  She’s one of the hottest actresses I have ever watched, and the director knew many of us would feel exactly that way.  Each scene seems crafted to expose just a touch of mile-long leg, just a hint of the temptress hidden beneath a mild-mannered exterior, things getting a little more heated as time goes by until we are shown the whole package in a pretty racy sex scene.  I mention this in detail because it’s quite a highlight, and smartly done, the rest of the film paling in comparison.  The noir vibe grows tiresome, the mood begins to feel redundant, and at some point I assume you, as I did, will stop caring how the story ends.  There’s too much tease and not enough substance, a weak plot hidden under suave surroundings & one fine dame.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆