The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

Worst Films of 2012


I usually include my five least favorite films of the year at the bottom of my top 10 list but seeing as I will not be able to compile my top ten list this year until after January 10 (due to not having the opportunity to screen Zero Dark Thirty until then). For this reason I am going ahead with publishing them separately this year. I feel out of the loop slightly as most critics have already put forth their top 10 lists but these are the drawbacks of living in a small market where you don’t get The Silver Linings Playbook until Christmas Day. In clearing that up, I don’t like to seek out movies that I think will be horrible, or even bad. I try to look for redeeming qualities in each and every film I screen, and these are the few this year I just couldn’t really get over in seeing them as anything more than bad, or irritating or disappointing. There is most certainly a trend here as well. Only one of the films on this quick list is outside the genre of action. I didn’t get around to seeing many of the obvious choices such as The Apparition, Alex Cross, The Devil Inside or Piranha 3DD and I won't get ridiculous and make a list of movies that weren't everything I wanted them to be. Most films falling into that category were still decent films even if they didn't meet my personal expectations. Still, these five films, even with my sub par expectations, failed to be anything more than crud.

DJANGO UNCHAINED Review

It is likely with a biased opinion that I fully indulged in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. I am, of course, from the generation that was young enough to find Reservoir Dogs on VHS and proclaim Pulp Fiction as our own kind of masterpiece that pushed us to go to film school and wanting to gather a larger pool of knowledge concerning film so that we might apply them to our own works. Tarantino is the inspiration, the guy who made it seem possible for a film lover to become a filmmaker and that essence, that feeling of connection in giving the audience what it really wants, what it really craves despite feeling so constricted to the standards of Hollywood filmmaking. When the man decided he was going to take on the topic of slavery for his latest film it was certainly a field that would provide plenty of material for the kind of brutal, over-the-top genre pictures he likes to pay homage to. My only concern going in was how might this come off when made by a white man. From the get go though it is clear that Tarantino knew what he was getting himself into and that he wouldn't have done so had he not known what he was going to do with it. The film is, most of the time, extremely bent on undermining the power and authority of the institution of what slavery was and in doing so the writer/director brings his flair for sharp, witty dialogue into a film that is overall a very serious movie. In the same way he treated the Nazi's of World War II Tarantino again turns history on its head and gives the overseer's exactly what they deserve and then some. It also doesn't hurt he's extracted some of the better performances this year from his top form group of actors.

JACK REACHER Review

I am not a fan of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels, but that is only because I have never been afforded the chance to read one. I am a fan of Christopher McQuarrie though. McQuarrie wrote the script for one of my favorite films of all time, 1995’s The Usual Suspects. So, it is no surprise that I was genuinely excited to hear he was writing and directing a film and that it was an adaptation of a popular book series about a military investigator. Those that have read or are fans of Mr. Child’s book series were likely also very excited to hear One Shot was going to be brought to the big screen but not so much when Tom Cruise was cast in this lead role. Apparently Jack Reacher, our main protagonist, is a 6’5 beefed up ex-military man who is also a womanizer and leaves an unmistakable impression every time he walks into a room. As big a movie star as Tom Cruise is it is still hard to see his much shorter stature make up for all he is lacking physically with the intensity he was sure to bring to the role. Having not read the books this quarrel was something that was less of an issue with me and rather allowed me to be more inclined to enjoy the film rather than constantly holding my breath to see if Cruise could actually do it. While the books seem to be a series of nicely written cop procedural, stories that you might here on an episode of 48 Hours or some such programming both McQuarrie and Cruise are able to elevate this to something fresh on screen by taking notes from those that have come before. Jack Reacher is a very serious, hard edged cop drama that knows it isn’t breaking any boundaries but does what is expected of it very well.

LES MISERASBLES Review

Les Miserables is impressive. There is no doubt of this in anyone's mind who wanders out of the theater awestruck by the onslaught of grandiose that Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) has included in his screen adaptation of the extremely popular stage musical which is in itself an adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel. Personally, I was not familiar with the original Hugo novel on which the story comes from but was lucky enough to have seen the stage play a few years back. I was entranced by the play, not fully knowing what to expect but understanding what was likely going to take place. I was mentally prepared to be bored, to check my watch every now and then or maybe even drown out the noise as people singing sentences rather than speaking them tends more to annoy than to inspire. Yet, all of that changed when the curtain came up and the dynamics of the story were introduced and the audience was made to root for this most genuine of human beings who was dealt a rough hand in life, but overcame. It was stunning to say the least, and I was grateful to have experienced it. For this reason, I was looking forward to the film. It is a great idea, a grand one; to take such an epic piece of work and apply it to the platform of cinema with huge movie stars and a grounded yet sweeping scale to it. The film succeeds in many ways and still it did not leave me completely satisfied. The sets are beautiful as is the cinematography. I am a fan of the way Hooper decided to shoot the film and for the most part enjoyed the performances of the star studded cast. It is a movie to be marveled at but more times than not I found myself admiring more than connecting.

THIS IS 40 Review

Maybe it's because I too have a relationship with Lost, that I still hold onto my love for The Office or that I also enjoy the music of Hairspray that allowed me to appreciate This Is 40 all the more, but either way I look at it I can't shake the overall impact the film left me with. It is easy to complain about Judd Apatow movies; whether it be that they are too long, that they try to do too much or are unable to balance themselves between the drama and the comedy. For me, these complaints are not necessarily invalid but they do prove to be somewhat easy to make. They do not take into consideration the skill at hand, the ability with which Apatow more as a writer than a director has likely so painfully made it feel so effortless to capture the real essence of life, the standard complications, the humor in everything. The genuine humor, not the forced false broad jokes that can so easily be relayed in awkward home movies, but the honest and often hilarious conversations we have everyday with one another that are so easily forgotten but just as easily recognizable when someone such as Apatow is able to tap into the truthfulness of life and bring it to a mass audience. I still like The 40 Year Old Virgin more than Knocked Up, but with his last two efforts the writer/director has certainly become more introverted, attempting something few comedians have the balls to do once they find real success. Those two early works afforded him the opportunity to do such a thing and he is not missing his chance. Like Funny People, This Is 40 touches on the bigger questions of what we decide to do in this life and why it matters and why it might not. Unlike that more serious film though Apatow lets his characters create their own story and resolve their own issues without forcing a narrative, a task upon them. A daring move, but one that pays off for the most part.

First 9 Minutes of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS


I didn't get the chance to see the 9-minute Star Trek Into Darkness prologue before my first screening of The Hobbit because I chose to see it in 48 frames per second rather than IMAX and in Arkansas you have to make those kind of choices. I was able to follow up with this preview of J.J. Abrams follow-up to his 2009 re-imagining of the Star Trek universe this past week though. Before seeing Abrams original film I was never attracted to the Kirk and Spock property. Never had I laid eyes upon a single episode or one of the prior films. I was always more of a Star Wars fan as a kid and always thought myself too late to catch up by the time I heard Hollywood was going to produce a new vision of it. For that reason I was thankful Abrams made a film that was apparently appeasing to the long time fans while catering to the newly ordained that would no doubt become fans. After experiencing that film it was hard not to become a fan but I have yet to go back and explore any more of the universe. Mainly for the reason that there seems to be so much and also for the fact my first introduction was a fresh take, a starting over if you will and so in many ways it seemed unnecessary to visit a different incarnation of these characters. I may decide at some point, when I have an abundance of time to take a look back on what I'm missing out on, but for the time being I'm sticking with this universe and enjoying it. This limited pool of knowledge does limit me to not picking up on what might have been clues within the first 9 minutes of the new film, but nonetheless I enjoyed the hell out of it and it truly offers everything you could want from 9 minutes of movie.

Seeing as the prologue has now been running for a week the rest of this article will discuss impressions from the footage. If you want to avoid spoilers or have not seen the prologue yet you have officially been warned. If not, go ahead and hit the jump...

First Trailer for THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

Going the absolute opposite route of the movie you might expect to see two marquee names such as Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper star, The Place Beyond the Pines focuses on two fathers and their quest to provide for their sons. One, Gosling, is a pro motorcycle rider and bank robber while the other, Cooper, is a rookie cop who has big aspirations. Each has a significant other in Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne and their sons naturally become the center of their lives and their respective legacies. The film is from the same director behind Gosling's Blue Valentine and this looks to carry the same intensity. Like Derek Cianfrance’s previous film this is a study of a basic human emotion and the cards life deals us and how certain people respond to them and/or turn them around. The trailer is chilling and sets a wonderful tone for what we should expect from the film. I was a fan of Blue Valentine but it was certainly a bleak film and brought out a ton of questions that make the audience think on their own lives and apply those same questions to their own situations. While that film was about a more universal emotion such as love this seems to focus on that same element while at the same time going into much deeper themes. This trailer displays the intensity and the raw feel you expect the film to have but it also presents the dilemma there will be no clear cut lines between what we would automatically assume to be right and what is clearly meant to illustrate the wrong. The performances look great and it is simply refreshing to see young, admired actors doing work such as this rather than taking what would likely have been a much bigger paycheck for half the work that went into developing these characters and making this film. The film also stars Ben Mendelson, Ray Liotta and opens March 29, 2013.

THE GUILT TRIP Review

The Guilt Trip really has no right to be as good, as touching, or even as funny as it turns out to be. There is an entire genre for these kinds of brisk, whimsy holiday films that take a subject everyone can relate to and turns them into a by the numbers production that we can all leave happy with. In some ways these comfort food type films are what the movies are all about. They are escapism with a sense of audience and what that audience needs to feel a sense of satisfaction when leaving the theater. There are no surprises, there is no topic to stir conversation, there is simply a story that we all know and when this kind of movie is done right it also has that flair that reassures us we are doing pretty well in leading our day to day lives. This may sound like I might be over thinking a simple road trip comedy that is intended for nothing more than a little extra laughter around the holidays, a film that can be put on at any time of year and everyone approve, but this needs to be said because despite The Guilt Trip falling into all of these categories quite neatly it has that little something extra that pushes it past all the expectations anyone who dismisses the generic poster might have. One may sit down with the perception that this will be an indulgence in mindless entertainment but by the time the credits come around and you are sitting there with the surprised feeling of emotional connection, something a little more than simple contentment you come to appreciate the work put into crafting a film that follows the rules while being able to exceed the average..

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 21, 2012

First Trailer for THE INCREDIBLE BURT WONDERSTONE

Upon first hearing about The Incredible Burt Wonderstone I was nothing short of thrilled to see the pairing of Steve Carell and Jim Carrey. Carrey has had a rough go of it lately but he is still the guy, "THE" comic that my generation grew up with and I can guarantee any single person in my age bracket would love to see the guy make a solid comeback instead of watching his career continue to dwindle. Carell is the everyman with the ability to be amazingly versatile as a comic. The combination of these guys on screen together, as battling magicians no less, sounds completely absurd yet completely amazing at the same time. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this one, but am starting to have a few reservations based on this first trailer. It looks to be a little too much of a safe, standard comedy that follows a 90's formula for a simple, but fun time. As much as I embrace those films for nostalgia I'd like to embrace this film for different reasons. I will of course reserve judgement until seeing the final film, but I hope they haven't put all of the best jokes here because there aren't many. Carell and Steve Buscemi play partners very much a model on Siegfried and Roy whose relationship has become strained and whose ticket sales have dipped dramatically. They are challenged by Carrey's cooler, edgier illusionist not so unlike Criss Angel and funny stuff ensues. This world is ripe with opportunity for comedy and the cast has more than enough clout to pull off something truly funny not to mention it was directed by 30 Rock vet Don Scardino. I'm not overly confident yet, but I hope I am proved wrong. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone also stars Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, James Gandolfini, and Jay Mohr and opens March 15, 2013.

First Red Band Trailer for THIS IS THE END

In what may have just moved to an extremely close second behind Man of Steel for my most anticipated film of 2013 This Is The End is simply put: the antithesis of those Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve films. It features an all star cast, a ridiculously large cast, but of some of the funniest people working today. I have no idea how this story will unfold, who will get the majority of screen time (I'm guessing the guys on the poster) but all that really matters is this is going to be fun. A lot of fun. The directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg This is the End is based off a short that Rogen and Jay Baruchel made a few years ago called Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse which you can check out here. In this feature length version all of these guys play themselves and we just get to hang out with them for a bit. Sweet! They have decided to release a sneak peek at the trailer for the film seeing as tomorrow may or may not be the end of the world and if the Mayans are correct they would like at least a little bit of their work to be seen. As if my first sentence didn't give it away, I am extremely excited for this. I wish some of the older generation above these guys were involved such as Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, or Jack Black, but hey Paul Rudd is listed to show up along with plenty of others including Jason Segel, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, David Krumholtz, Paul Rudd, Martin Starr, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, and Rihanna. The main cast consisting of Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride. This Is the End opens on June 14, 2013.

First Trailer for Michael Bay's PAIN AND GAIN

There are hoards upon hoards of cinema lovers that absolutely despise Michael Bay and all that he stands for. Personally, I think the guy has a great eye even if that eye sometimes picks from obvious sources. Still, what director doesn't do this? Bay's choices are just picked more extensively due to the serious level of hate the guy receives. That aside, he still pulls in a ridiculous amount of box office on the majority of his films. Even before the Transformers franchise the guy made Armageddon, The Bad Boys films, and Pearl Harbor. Granted the quality of these films can be easily disputed but their popularity cannot. In making his first non-robot film since 2005's The Island Bay has tapped a bizarre true story based on a series of 1999 articles written by Pete Collins, a reporter for the Miami New Times. The story centers on two bodybuilders who engage in a campaign of kidnapping, extortion and murder in Florida. This was described as Michael Bay's "small film" and I guess that rings true when applied to such a director but there is nothing about this trailer that makes it feel at all small (the films budget is a reported $22 million). There is a fine element of black comedy going on here and there is no mistaking the visual style of Bay. All in all I am really excited to see this film and hope it will knock some of the naysayers off the filmmakers back. I know this isn't exactly a complete turn around for the guy, but hey, there are only two explosions in the trailer. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Rob Corddry, Ed Harris, Rebel Wilson, John Tuturro and hits theaters April 26, 2013.

First Trailer for Terrence Malick's TO THE WONDER

There is something about this trailer for Terrence Malick's To The Wonder that is extremely reminiscent of his last feature, The Tree of Life. It should be noted that generally Malick takes several years between his films. There were six years between The New World and The Tree of Life but the reclusive filmmaker seems to have been given a boost of creative energy as this will be his second film in two years and he has three more in the pipeline in post production as I write this. Whether this much faster output of pieces will affect the quality remains to be seen for a mass audience but To The Wonder debuted at the 2012 Venice Film Festival  followed by the Toronto International Film Festival and received generally mixed reactions. At the Venice festival there were reports of boos as well as cheers. This is to be expected with a Malick film as lately they seem not to be so much narrative stories as they are meditations on life. I enjoyed The Tree of Life immensely and it made my top 10 list of last year and so it is with a hopeful optimism that I look forward to this film as well. You may have heard of the film due to the fact it cut out parts filmed with such stars as Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper, and Michael Sheen. You will still see the likes of Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem on screen and the general public will get to glimpse Malick's latest when it comes to theaters April 12, 2013.

AMOUR Review

Amour is a french language film written and directed by Michael Haneke. Haneke is a filmmaker often known for his disturbing style more than anything with bleak thoughts and social commentary seeping into his writing. With this film though, which won the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes film Festival, the usually dark director stays true to his style while exploring a more sentimental subject. Amour literally means love and in that we are given a story that is truly a testament to what that word means. I went into the film not knowing much besides the fact it was receiving great reviews. The poster wouldn't seem to allude to anything more than a quiet little drama, almost amateur in its presentation. Everything about that statement tends to be true except for the idea it is anything close to amateur. Amour is a tough look at an aspect of life many would choose to ignore, a section so far down the road most people who join in the bond of matrimony cannot even comprehend. It is striking to see such a simple premise involve such complicated decisions and choices that reflect a lifetime of knowledge. It is impossible not to respond to the film in ways that, even if you haven't witnessed a loved one go through what unfolds, cause you to think of your life in terms of what is really important and who really means something to you. As cliched as it may sound it makes you appreciate the one by your side if you truly love them and likely question your allegiance if you jumped into something for reasons other than pure feeling or emotion. It takes on inevitable questions of life, its worth, and death. It is powerful in the most subtle of ways and a cathartic experience as any you could expect from a film.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Review

It is important to state that I have never been overly fond of the fantasy world. The ideas of dwarfs, goblins, wizards, and elves has always been one of great mystery in their appeal. They are stock ideas put into thousands upon thousands of different stories and adventures by a multitude of writers over a long period of time. What makes one different than the other? There is probably many people, many an avid fan of J.R.R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin that would be glad to write an essay on why this all works so well and reaches such a wide fan base, but despite the mountain of proof they could likely provide, the insight they would divulge, I would likely still not understand the inherent ability to love such strange, silly stories. In the end, that is what The Hobbit feels like; just all a bit silly. I loved the Harry Potter books, don't get me wrong, but that was a series I grew up with and that grew up with me. I have never read any of Tolkien's work and wasn't even familiar with the titles until the first Peter Jackson motion picture trilogy became such a grand deal eleven years ago. I went, I watched all three of those films and I enjoyed them well enough even if I did feel slightly outside the loop in doing so. I never felt as if I "got" what "it" was all about or why the story was so special despite the films being greatly entertaining and beautiful to look at. As the years have passed, as I have become better acquainted with film in general, I can see the merit the original trilogy has and how skillfully they were crafted. This, in itself, is reason enough to be excited for Jackson's return to middle earth. Unfortunately, this return is so far marked by stretching things a little too thin. There seems no need for this to be the first part of a trilogy, but instead a fitting start to a more easily resolved adventure than we encountered with The Lord of the Rings. Too bad, Jackson seems to have decided the fatter the better rather than the slimmer the winner.

NEW Teaser Trailer for STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

With the release of the 9-minute prologue in front of The Hobbit this weekend a brand new trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness has surfaced and supplies a first look at more of the Enterprise crew in this sequel to the mega-successful 2009 film. Back at the helm is J.J. Abrams and the villain for which he has enlisted this go around has been under much speculation as of late. Well known British actor Benedict Cumberbatch is portraying the baddie who as of now is being called John Harrison though this name apparently has no meaning in the Star Trek universe. I am not a devoted fan of the series and never watched a single episode of the original or its many incarnations. My first exposure to these characters and to this world was in fact Abrams 2009 film and so, despite my history with the world, I am very excited to see the only version I know of this continue. The new trailer carries a more somber tone and features a voice over from Pike (Bruce Greenwood) that seems to be a speech he is giving to Kirk (Chris Pine). From here the trailer unleashes quick cuts of the multitude of action this film will no doubt contain. Is Cumberbatch playing Khan? Have you seen the prologue? What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments below. The film also stars Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, and Noel Clarke and opens in 3D and IMAX 3D on May 17, 2013.

A Doomsday Watchlist

As talk of the world coming to an end reaches a fever pitch, this having nothing to do with the fact every single person on earth is less than a week away from their imminent death, I can think of nothing more logical to do in this quickly deteriorating world other than watch a few movies. Not just any movies though, but the ones where we may be able to pick out what could happen and what we hope is in store for us. Every year there are plenty of post apocalyptic flicks that come through the megaplexes and offer their version on what they think the world will be like after everything goes to hell. I'm here to investigate who I hope got it right. There is such a range of films that could fall into this category but lets face it, Roland Emmerich pretty much has us covered no matter if we take the option of aliens, crazy ass weather or as next weeks prediction foretells, ancient myth. If you are unaware of the reasons for these end times or what all the fuss is about it all goes back to those darn Mayans and their blasted ability to develop the very first written language, some of which was apparently applied to a calender. These 5125-year-long cycle calendars supposedly have an end date of December 21, 2012 aka next Friday. This has led many people to believe that the Mayans (An ancient civilization noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for their art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during 2000 BC to AD 250.) were also into predicting the end of the world. On top of that various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae have been applied to this date to create even more panic. Also, the calendar could be interpreted to mean the 21st or 23rd so we may or may not have an extra day or so.

2013 Golden Globe Nominations

The 2013 Golden Globe nominations were announced this morning and Lincoln leads the pack with seven nominations and Argo close behind with five. Despite not having yet seen Django Unchained I am excited to see it so loved, at least in the recognition the Hollywood Foreign Press has given it. The new Quentin Tarantino film also garnered five nominations and is easily one of my most anticipated of the year. I can't wait to see it for myself on Christmas Day, but I can only become more excited about the quality of the film after seeing it get a best picture nod for drama as well as nominations for Tarantino for best director and both Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio for best supporting actor. I was especially glad to see Jack Black also receive a nomination for his work in Bernie as it is one of my favorite films so far this year.

First Trailer For Guillermo Del Toro’s PACIFIC RIM

I am not a huge fan of Mr. Guillermo del Toro but I enjoyed Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies well enough to look forward to what he is doing next and a ton of fanboy anxiety has been circling that project. Titled Pacific Rim and documenting the rise of massive monsters from our own seas and the human race attempting to fight back by creating weapons known as Jaegars that can be controlled by human pilots from a distance. The concept is pretty interesting but the visual flair you expect from such a project seems a little unfinished in this first trailer we have been delivered. I did not know much concerning the plot going in, but it was hard to avoid the posters and talk of the film after this years comic-con. I am excited to see how this turns out because there is certainly a level of expectation with del Toro but despite having an interesting idea the way the story looks to be executed could prove tiresome and overly familiar to a summer audience looking to find something new rather than, dare I say it, Transformers or Battleship. The quality may end up (and hopefully will) being miles ahead of those films, but this trailer does have a slight feel of deja vu to it. Still the film has an international cast led by a charismatic Idris Elba and also features Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Ron Perlman, Charlie Day, and Clifton Collins Jr. Pacific Rim is slated to hit theaters on July 12, 2013 in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D.

ANNA KARENINA Review

There is something magical about the way in which Joe Wright creates his films. There is a definitive eye for craft and a grand amount of attention paid to detail. It has resulted in some of the more beautiful shots of the last decade whether they be the glorious steadicam shot on the beach of Dunkirk in Atonement or some of his more subtle work in overlooked films such as Hanna or even The Soloist. There are moments in each of these films where you could simply sit back and marvel at the craft and skill being put into it rather than care about the story that is unfolding. In his latest effort, a retelling of Leo Tolstoy's meditation on love known as Anna Karenina Wright again enlists his muse for period pieces Kiera Knightley and takes us on a spectacle that may be his most beautiful film to date, but suffers from not having the emotional core that his other period pieces have contained. I am a huge fan of Atonement and have followed Wright's career since that film captured my heart. I was anxiously awaiting what the director would do having the opportunity to again venture into his comfort zone and while the results may not have been as spectacularly moving as I'd hoped there is no doubt this is a fine film. The acting is top notch and features an array of characters that all compliment the central theme in a way that writing seems to have lacked for some time. Adapting Tolstoy is no small task and Wright along with screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) have not only brought to life a story that likely didn't need to be told again but have condensed it so as to elicit a central idea, a study of an emotion, and the way in which it controls our lives with an unnerving direction.

Full-Length Trailer For MAN OF STEEL

Personally, and I am in the minority here, but I was surprised and anxious to see what would come of Christopher Nolan choosing Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) to take over the Superman directing job. He would no doubt give the series its much needed reboot after Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns failed to resonate with audiences (though again, I personally loved it). When we first caught a glimpse of Man of Steel before The Dark Knight Rises this past summer I was cautiously optimistic that Snyder captured a rough, gritty tone to a character who was always looked at as the boy scout of the super hero community. With this second trailer it seems the director has laid all doubt and worry to rest as this centers around the characters and more importantly the man at the heart of the film. As with Nolan's Batman series this seems to be grounded more in reality where what people might do if a being such as Superman really did exist. It will be an interesting take on the character and I am more than excited to see how this all turns out. We also get a first glimpse here at the Oscar-worthy supporting cast including Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, as well as Amy Adams as Lois Lane and Michael Shannon as General Zod. Henry Cavill seems to be handling the weight of playing such an iconic character with ease and a gravitas that may make even a God-like man relatable to us mere mortals.

Full-Length Trailer For THE LONE RANGER

Summer 2013 is starting to look all the more interesting as we've had several trailers coming out over the past few days. We've already seen a glimpse of Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as The Lone Ranger and Tonto in a teaser back in early October but now we get our first full, fleshed out look at what is sure to be one of the more interesting stories of summer '13. The film has already encountered many problems in getting to the screen, but now that the dust has settled all that is left to discover is how good the quality of the film will be and if any of the budget concerns or production woes will ultimately affect the quality. I have not jumped off the Depp train yet, though I believe he needs to steer clear of any more Jack Sparrow roles. I know the guy is good at what he does and the collaboration between he and director Gore Verbinski in 2011 made my top 10 list of the year, so needless to say I have high hopes for this one. With Verbinski at the helm Depp has created Jack Sparrow and Rango; I only hope that magic continues with Tonto. Still, the sidekick is not the focus here and as this trailer proves Armie Hammer seems to be handling leading man duties just fine. The film looks gorgeous and besides Hammer and Depp contains an all star cast that includes Tom Wilkinson, Barry Pepper, and Helena Bonham Carter. The Lone Ranger is set to open July 3, 2013. Hi-yo, Silver!

On DVD & Blu-Ray: December 11, 2012


First Trailer For M. Night Shyamalan’s AFTER EARTH

Everything about this production would seem to hint at it being another solid hit and another solid entry in the Will Smith sci-fi canon. As with Pursuit of Happyness Smith co-stars with his son Jaden in After Earth. The story sounds engaging enough, but after yesterdays premiere of Oblivion it is hard not to compare the two. Too bad visually the Tom Cruise vehicle looks worlds ahead of this over reliance (hopefully unfinished) on CGI and the Fresh Prince doing something different with his performance. I am a huge fan of Smith and because of that I will stand watching his son again, but am concerned because Jaden seems to have much more screen time than his father and two because it is directed by M. Night Shyamalan. They give no credit to the director in the trailer which is noteworthy as the filmmaker has not had a hit since 2002. I am hesitant to get too excited over the film for this reason alone. Still, there is reason to be optimistic as Shyamalan did not pen the script for this film as he usually does but instead After Earth has been put together by Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) and Gary Whitta (The Book Of Eli). With this bit of hope along with the charisma of Smith I can only hope this turns out to be more I am Legend than Men In Black II. After Earth is set to hit theaters June 7, 2013.

International Trailer for OBLIVION

We thought we might have to wait until Sunday for the revealing of the Oblivion trailer, but it looks as if an international trailer has hit the web already. Directed by Tron: Legacy helmer Joseph Kosinski and starring Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Zoe Bell, and Melissa Leo the first look at the futuristic sci-fi film is certainly nothing short of gorgeous. Though it follows the well worn pattern of engaging its audience with a perception of the future and then wrapping its main plot devices in mystery I am still hooked. The plot sounds interesting though I'm hoping it doesn't pale in comparison to the wonderful visual style they have designed for the film. It also seems a little lazy they have decided to go with the name Jack for our main character. This is the second "Jack" Cruise will be playing in a row. I have high hopes for his Jack Reacher in a few weeks, but am much more excited to see how this one turns out. Universal has Oblivion scheduled for an April 19, 2013 release but it will hit IMAX theaters exclusively the week before on April 12.

HOLY MOTORS Review

I'm not sure what to think. I've given it a few days and I've not tried to force myself to think about it, but I can't help but go back to Holy Motors and try to figure out exactly what the hell I watched. Opening with a crowded theater watching a film we soon see a man who turns out to be the director himself Leos Carax as he breaks through a wall covered in wallpaper painted with bare trees. Breaking through he wanders into the balcony of the theater while we hear audio that is either from the film playing onscreen or is simply meant to elicit a memory from the individual audience member. We never see the screen, thus we are unaware that if what comes next is what this specific audience is watching or something else. The film, after only a few minutes in cuts to a large, secluded house as a man we come to know as Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) exits the elaborate estate and enters a limo driven by Celine (Edith Scob). These are essentially the only characters we see consistently in the film and from this point on we are challenged to understand the meaning, if there is any, of Holy Motors. As Oscar goes from appointment to appointment changing his appearance, his attitude, his way of life it only becomes more vague as to what Carax is trying to say. I understand the actions, I believe I grasp the premise, but why? The why of this whole thing is what I am unsure of and two days after watching the film am still unable to come up with any answers for. It would be a lie to say the film isn't fascinating for it is relentless in it's attempts to engage, but it provides no answers to the point I found it hard to care about the questions it raises.

KILLING THEM SOFTLY Review

Killing Them Softly is like the grit off a grill that you make sure you keep on your dish because it adds that something special. The mob movie is the entree and director Andrew Dominik adds that gritty coolness to it by blessing it with a visual flair and gathering up a well pedigreed cast to execute what otherwise could have been a rather stale film. It has been five years since Dominik's previous film hit cinemas. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a wonderful spin on the western, a subtle film about a larger than life name that was in many ways an epic portrait that brought a real life, a real man into fill the legend of that name. With this feature the director again takes a well known type of film and gives it a sense of realism that now, having seen how it can be done, makes the others of the genre feel like they were missing something. There are certainly moments throughout the film where I was somewhat stunned there wasn't actually more to the film than the simple message it is trying to deliver, and in that regard it does beat its ideas into the ground to the point that by the end of it that payoff isn't as great as Dominik would have likely hoped it to be, but for such an intimate film, it feels nothing short of ambitious. Killing Them Softly has the cool edge to a film that I really dig, that is sometimes easier to admire in the sense of its style than it is to enjoy the actual going-on's that contrive the story yet I was never once bored with the film and on was consistently impressed with the tone, musical choices, and wonderful cinematography.

RED DAWN Review

Having not yet been born when the original Red Dawn came out and it seeming to leave very little of a mark on pop culture I was never really motivated to look it up. Even when news came of a remake I found it hard to summon any real enthusiasm for the project. This seems to have all been with good reason as the new version of what seemed to be nothing more than a guilty pleasure in 1984 is now a laughable attempt to cash in on a recognizable name with a slew of pretty young faces running around, shooting guns and doing little to make sense out of anything. We know it is going to be a pretty rough go when the opening credits have been so mangled and re-tooled to shift the focus from China to North Korea, but if you knew that you already knew what to expect seeing as this was shot back in 2009. Even worse is when Josh Peck shows up in the first scene as the star quarterback of a high school football team. Working hard to shed his Nickelodeon image and sustaining his confidence after his weight loss the guy did pretty fun work in Jonathan Levine's The Wackness a few years back but that film, and its story lent itself well to the actors cocky persona, here it only makes him seem more like a tool rather than the innocent kid who is supposed to become a leader. Peck is not the only offender in the bad acting class here though. This Red Dawn is full of undeveloped characters and unexplained plot lines, much less a reason for any of it happening. I expected a fun time, a light film that had a campy quality to it but what we were given was a lazy, irrelevant movie that will hopefully be forgotten really soon.

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS Review

Expectations were slightly lowered for Rise of the Guardians after word of mouth began to get out, but I still held out hope for the film, not divulging in any full reviews as to why others were so disappointed as of yet. I can guess to what some of these complaints might be, but overall I was pretty thrilled with the experience the movie delivered, not to mention a fine amount of escapism and isn't that what animated children's films are generally for? There is a sense of, as one character puts it, wonder about the world in which the animators have created for these events to take place in. It is in these events though that the biggest let down comes a calling. Nearly everything about the movie, from the high-wattage stars doing the voice work to the wonderfully creative character designs and their humble homes is engaging and most importantly feels fresh yet it is the adventure the writers have given them to go on that feels all the more stale due to those standout qualities. Still, I liked the film enough to recommend it in that it serves its purpose and might, on any other year been a standout for its beautiful animation and character development but in the world we live in it has the unfortunate task of following up Wreck-It Ralph and that is a tough act to follow on any year. Where Ralph took the clever elements of its concept and turned them into a full fledged story committed to that world Guardians takes its grand idea and drapes it over standard action/adventure beats that have us knowing where these icons of culture are going before we really get to know them.

LIFE OF PI Review

There is a calmness in the film adaptation of Yann Martel's bestseller Life of Pi. The calm of Ang Lee's beautiful film matches the lovely tone of the book that is a survival/adventure tale of a boy and a tiger for younger readers while providing intellectual questions of religion and the ideas of why there is such intolerance for religious equality to older ones. It is a lovely story, a fascinating one that is sometimes so subtle in its ideas that as an audience member I was unsure if they were alluding to a certain point or not. The main idea of Pi or, as we quickly find out, Piscine Molitor Patel's journey across the Pacific Ocean though seems to boil down to the testing of ones faith. In the story, Pi is curious as to what exactly shapes faith and what is outside the room in which he was inherently raised. This being Hinduism, Pi also embraces Christianity and Islam in his early life when looking for a path to follow. To embrace so many Gods is a sure sign that doubt will never enter the equation. This would be the easy road to take yet young Pi is keen on understanding the reasoning for the beliefs of each religion he steps into. He knows that doubt is what keeps faith strong, that if it did not exist everyone would believe with no problem. That he finds the strength of his faith once it has been tested is the central conceit of what played out in Martel's novel and feels equally explored in David Magee's screenplay. Having read the book shortly before seeing the film I was excited to see what type of translation it might become, but in a surprising turn Life of Pi is able to capture just as much the spirit of the story as it does the physical word on the page.

THE SESSIONS Review

The Sessions is certainly somewhat of a more acquired taste of a film in that it requires a sense of maturity about it that will not carry over with large amounts of people my age among their peers. Yet, sitting in a nearly empty theater with two couples that were 50+ and one other likely devoted film lover I was delivered a film that was both real and slightly sentimental, but mostly genuine. It is a quick film to behold, with a tone that matches its flighty pacing. The subject matter is a little tough to explain without getting an odd look as to why this would be intriguing. First, because it is in fact one of those movies based on a true story that has a physically handicapped lead overcoming some obstacle to prove to himself and everyone else that just because he is different doesn't necessarily mean he deserves to be looked down on. The magic of this film though is naturally that hill our main character, Mark O'Brien, is trying to climb but also the way in which director (and polio survivor) Ben Lewin handles the subject matter. Making this not just a small indie drama but also a very funny film that doesn't wallow in the challenges of Mark's disability but instead covers that with a sense of humor (as Mark does) used in such a way that it is a type of survival mechanism helping him as a person with polio and us as an audience deal with what is ultimately a very difficult, and emotional situation. Each of the principal actors here deliver great performances that are each worthy of nominations but more importantly they lift what could have been a typical, over-sentimental story to something completely opposite. Something fresh and truthful we've not seen committed to screen before.

LINCOLN Review

When coming from a generation where director Steven Spielberg has already been placed upon a pedestal as an iconic director it is hard to look at anything the guy does with anything less than high expectations. While other times it will naturally feel as if the man is skating by on his reputation rather than his abilities that could have easily come to a halt once reaching such a status. I have always wondered about this, wondered if Spielberg had what it takes to continue walking his line between serious films and blockbuster money-makers while maintaining his credibility with the critics and keeping the general public intrigued no matter what type of project he chose to take on next. In the time since I began seriously loving films (say, the last ten years) the director has created two genuinely great films and a slew of others that are very good. One thing was ultimately clear, these movies were made by a filmmaker who knew what he wanted and no matter the genre or the size has the power to make you feel something, an inherent reaction to what is happening on screen. While I have always been a fan of Spielberg and of course have wrestled with what some of his films might have become were they made by a less established name, none of this came into consideration when reflecting upon Lincoln many hours after the credits rolled. A film that has been in the works for over fifteen years, it is simply rewarding to see this work finally come to fruition. An intense and stirring look behind closed doors that doesn't cover Lincoln from birth to death but instead focuses on a small window in his life that very well defines why the man still commands an iconic status today.

SKYFALL Review

Having never been a huge Bond fan for most of my life, my interest in the franchise was peaked when director Martin Campbell delivered a hard boiled, gritty action film with the suave, iconic agent at the head of the film. Embodied by the newly minted Daniel Craig, for the first time I felt as if I was watching a man who could actually take part in a secret government agency and come out on the other side alive rather than seeing Pierce Brosnan as a version of some high class socialite who wondered into a gunfight, some off kilter version of the character Mike Myers so easily lampooned. Granted, I haven't seen many of the films in the franchise (though I certainly plan on doing so at some point) I've seen plenty of footage and clips from the older films when I prepped to see Casino Royale as a newbie to the franchise. I have caught a few of the Brosnan era Bonds on TV as well as seeing Die Another Day as my first in a theater which as you can imagine, wasn't the greatest introduction. A year after experiencing Chris Nolan's dark, realistic take on the Batman story it was interesting to have seen Bond go the same way within his own world. With the twenty-third film of the franchise, Skyfall, producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have recruited Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) to helm this latest installment that acts as a continuation of Craig's time in MI6 but also reestablishes much of the series history and lays the ground work for much to be excited about in what is coming in Mr. Bond's near future.

THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS Review

First things first I have no real knowledge concerning the kung fu genre. I have never watched much of the landmark films in its canon as I generally wasn't interested in what these types of film had to offer so, if one is looking for an expert opinion on The Man with the Iron Fists you are reading in the wrong place. This is simply an overview and opinion of the film as a film in general and not in comparison to what standards might have been held for in relation to other martial arts films. There is a certain type of vibe you expect a film to have as well when it is labeled with the infamous "Quentin Tarantino Presents" banner though and I am familiar with that directors work. While this is a film I will likely never lay eyes on again I cannot be mad at it either. It delivers everything you expect from it and probably a little more, but as far as really going for it, really getting it and exuding that quality of self-aware honesty and ridiculous characters and violence the film sometimes seems to be trying a little too hard, then again maybe that is the point. That is what a film so intent on honoring the style of this genre does seem to deserve and the effort is clear in every aspect as writer/director/composer RZA has thrown himself into this world and developed a universe for his story to take place. It is evident the man has a real knack for tone and pacing. The film is a brisk hour and forty minutes and it speeds by feeling more like a Saturday morning show than a feature length film. In the end though, the film feels more slight than epic and it should have at least emulated this feeling in one area or another. It makes a good amount of connections but is unable to land all its punches.

FLIGHT Review

Denzel Washington defines magnetism. The guy produces this aura that attracts audiences to him no matter what character he is playing. No matter if his character might even be the most repulsive person we've ever met. In the new film from Robert Zemeckis (his first live action film since Cast Away) Mr. Washington plays Captain Whip Whitaker who may not necessarily be the most repulsive guy we've ever seen grace the screen, but regardless, has a full plate of issues. While the advertising for Flight has made the film seem like an interesting, if not mystery-steeped production that deals with what I anticipated climbing to a dramatic final courtroom sequence actually turns out to be a serious yet nuanced film about the struggles and downfalls that come along with any kind of addiction. We are of course teased with the fact that Whitaker was intoxicated while piloting the plane in the trailer, but we are unaware that this is where the heart of the story is going to lie. Though the overall film is less than I expected it to be I cannot deny that I felt a certain intrigue throughout. While Flight is a little too long and sometimes can become a little too preachy when its momentum begins to slow in the third quarter you never want to give up on the film because Washington brings such presence and pain to Whitaker that he makes you not want to give up on him. Even as it seems his chances are bleak and that the man would do anything to continue avoiding and ignoring those in his life who want to help him, we hold out hope as an audience. The film is captivating as a character study with a great performance at the center holding it together. The film crashes when trying to escape its dark territory.

WRECK-IT RALPH Review

Look at Disney animation upping their game and pulling out all the guns for a full on challenge with their subsidiary Pixar. Whereas the former flourished in hand-drawn animation for years and years (obviously) they haven't had as much luck with their transfer to full on computer animation. Though many would like to think projects such as Chicken Little, The Wild, or Meet the Robinsons (though I've heard good things about this one, but never seen it) are properties of Pixar as well, the fact is they are as much a Pixar production as Cinderella or The Fox and the Hound, they aren't. Lately though, beginning with Bolt and continuing on to Tangled, the Disney animation studio has shown they have a good amount of juice left in the tank. It all comes down to that concept, what hooks people? What is relevant and cool? What is an idea that, as a kid, you would have loved to think could really be true? Like Toy Story, Wreck-It-Ralph is about what happens after the kids are done playing (though to its credit it doesn't play up this angle) and the characters in these games have to go on with their lives. It is a great idea to play around with and where much of the charm comes from within the actual storytelling is in all the referencing and characterization of some recognizable folks that most of the audience will have played as one time or another in the past thirty years. As you can tell from the trailer the standard uplifting tale will be at the core of the story and the formulaic arc is nothing to be shocked at or hold against the film for that matter because the makers have surrounded it with such a great world and great characters to play in it. As I get older I find it increasingly hard to sit through animated films without them beginning to feel redundant, but you know it's a good one when you truly feel like a kid again.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 Review

Let's talk about the Paranormal Activity series and what it has become. At this point most people will be quick to dismiss it as nothing more than a cash cow for Paramount who turns a huge profit off these things by making them for next to nothing and placing them in theaters every year around this time to see how many of us show up to see where the mythology of the films go next. I don't know that I have a problem with it, at least, not until the films themselves become obvious to the audience as to what they really are. For the time being though, the studio has been lucky enough to have New York filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Catfish) who also made the third installment and writer Christopher Landon who co-wrote the second and penned the third and fourth all on his own. Each of these individuals have managed to inject a good amount of fun into the franchise while also investing enough in the movies that we can tell they are pretty excited about where the franchise could potentially take the story and that they want to be a part of that. I tend to forget how wrapped up in these movies I get. I have begun to even view seeing them as more of an obligation than a genuine thrill or excitement for scares. When it comes down to it though, and I sit down with the people so genuinely portrayed on screen and not your standard horror-heroine cliches I remember how invested I have become in these movies and how, despite this being the least scary in the series, it moves the story along and pushes the mythology surrounding Katie and her demon-tainted life.

CLOUD ATLAS Review

While I would certainly classify myself as a sci-fi nerd I don't think I would place Cloud Atlas fully in that category. It is one of those movies that is hard to describe. I can't imagine the pitch for it (which I guess is one reason it had to be financed by foreign investors) and to have such a grand idea condensed into a single cinema-going experience all seems to be a bit too much to feed in one serving. It is something that might have worked better, and would have likely benefited, from being a mini-series on HBO or something like that rather than having an audience sit through six elaborately detailed stories pushed together and feeling forced to connect what it attempts to deliver in theme. That being said, the themes this film does concern itself with mixed with several of the individual stories that are ambitious in their own way and are then layered with others combine to create an impact that will leaving you feeling as if you truly have witnessed something special, if not at least very stimulating. I cannot say that Cloud Atlas will be for everyone, in fact, I can certainly understand where many people would have issues with the film. Whether it be that it is simply too confusing without being compelling enough to hold their attention or that for all its big ideas, in the end, it feels rather simplistic. I would understand and to a certain degree, I would concur with those points. Still, this movie is far too ambitious, far too unique to be dismissed for not being exactly what you expected or wanted it to be. Cloud Atlas is a sprawling epic that not only delves into several subjects but wants to make us think and speculate as much as it wants to entertain. It is a rarity and for that, I appreciate every minute it gave me.

Favorite Scary Movies of the Millennium

Horror movies, in many ways have become jokes over the past few years. Especially for those of a generation that look to Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Leatherface as icons of the genre even if, when we look back at their movies their age is extremely evident. As many of these slasher movie villains have enjoyed plenty of continued box office success and reincarnations over the past decade there has also been the absence of a good amount of authentic, fear-inducing films hitting the megaplex. As a child of the 90's I didn't really become accustomed to the genre with a real grasp on what made up a good scary movie until after the new millennium and so, in celebration of Halloween being right around the corner I have compiled a list of my favorite scary movies over the past twelve years. I am not saying these are the best scary movies since 2000 as I can not say that I have seen nearly all of the supposed horror films that have come out since that time, but these have been my favorites or at least the ones that have provided the most genuine, fear inducing experiences in the theater. Some of these films on my list are remakes of the cult classics that are now considered the golden age of the genre I decided to put them on the lost because they came at the movie with a new perspective and in many ways made the film as if they had no predecessor. As if they were originals for this day and age. I appreciated that above everything while others have created new antagonist icons of their own while others were a one and done that have stuck with me.

SINISTER Review

It has become like a bad joke to get hooked into horror films rolled out by the studios no matter what time of year they come out, but the ones looking like nothing more than cash cows usually show up around this time of year. They never live up to much and if anything inspire more laughs and mocks at the bad acting than they do provide authentic fear or at least a few jump scares. I like scary movies though, and I love the atmosphere they can provide when done right. Thus, I get suckered into them more often than I probably should. In 2005, after becoming pretty well acquainted with the tricks of the trade it was a refreshing piece of contemporary horror mixed with the tired genre of the exorcism films that made me trust in modern horror movies. In The Exorcism of Emily Rose watching the scary stuff mixed with the courtroom drama inspired a new sense of investment in the material and I was surprised to find a first time director behind such well developed characters and a story that explored a very effective way of getting across a very scary situation. Needless to say, when I heard that same director, Scott Derrickson, was returning to the horror genre after a disappointing follow up in The Day the Earth Stood Still remake I was hoping for something that would again rejuvenate the failing genre. Though I will say 2012 has been pretty steady when it comes to its scary movie offerings (Woman In Black, Cabin in the Woods) I was looking forward to Sinister the most and it certainly didn't disappoint in being one of the best modern horror movies of the past few years.

COMPLIANCE Review

Compliance brings up an interesting question: can the quality of a film still be great despite the fact one might be repulsed by the story it tells. Does the story have a real purpose? Does it mean more than to simply entertain? Is it teaching a lesson or giving a warning? What are the intentions of the film if we are engrossed by it yet doubtful it could ever truly happen even if the one thing we know and you need to know before seeing a frame of the film, is that this actually happened and happened many times. It is a string of questions that not only challenge you as you watch the film unravel, but it allows Compliance to be a film where you don't say that you "liked" it in the common sense of the word, but that you took something from it, were fascinated by it or that maybe you were in fact disgusted by it, think every character in it is stupid and would never watch the film again. The crazy thing is, I feel I can see justification for any one of these opinions and not feel inclined to inject my interpretation of the film as to why that opinion might differ from my own in one way or another. The overall accomplishment of the film though is to see  how far people will go, how much we will trust in authority, and how obedient we can be when the commands are clearly violating some kind of ethical code. Would we still go against that inherent voice in our heads telling us no because of a slim promise that to do this will make it easier in the end? We don't know what we might have done in these characters situations. It is a complicated scenario to pull off on screen without each of the characters losing credibility and it is easy to say you might have done something different but in that moment, when your back's against the wall and you have someone who, by the pillars of our society, we believe we can trust and in turn are going to do as they ask. We trust them that they are having us do what is best for everyone and to abuse that power is to cause an avalanche of things, worlds falling apart.

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Review

Everything about The Perks of Being a Wallflower is subtle. As it should be. From its beautifully subdued soundtrack to its washed out color palette. Even in the most flashy of performances and moments that creep towards the melodramatic this lovely film is limited to its inherent honesty. I have never read the book by Stephen Chbosky on which this is based, but I will be sure to pick up a copy to really understand the culmination of our main character. I found myself, throughout the entire film, wanting to really get a grasp on the writing of our main character in order to get to know him all the better. The film does more than a fine job at this, don't get me wrong. It is more a justification of how well this film draws you into each and every character we are presented with that we want to continue on their journey with them, that we never want it to end. I can only imagine the  kind of emotionality that goes into re-creating ones experience at such a delicate time in their lives but Chbosky, who not only is the author of the novel but also adapted it to a screenplay and then directed the film has done so in award-winning fashion. He shows the natural intuition of a seasoned director as he manages each of his characters and their equally important journeys with such care that we truly feel the effects of that first love, those traumatic experiences that come with every high school experience, the loss of innocence and how what we feel in being carefree will always exist as shadows of those moments will forever stay with us; meaning so much more than anyone who recalls them around you will ever know. They will never know the individual, personal experience of what memories your mind drifts to, but this movie provides a universally identifiable yet uniquely individual story of one boys account that will not only move you, but help you to understand life a little bit better.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) and Patrick (Ezra Miller) have two
different interpretations of their shop project.
The story we see unfold is one that is essentially touching on growing up. Something that we are all forced to do, even if we regret rushing it once we get there. I don't know that there has ever been a person wise enough to not be envious of the attractive aspects of adulthood that it doesn't cause them to want to hurry through adolescence. Naturally, there are no real exceptions to that rule here, but instead young human beings who understand the moment they are at in life is pretty damn great and they are going to take advantage of it. We are first introduced to Charlie (Logan Lerman) as he enters his freshman year of high school with the humble goal of trying to make a friend on the first day. Friends are a big deal to Charlie, his older sister is a senior and his even older brother has just left for college at Penn State on a football scholarship. Charlie's parents are nothing if not typical. They aren't overbearing, but their children seem to know what they expect. His father (played at just the right temperature by Dylan McDermott) probably drinks a little too much and his mother (Kate Walsh) could probably show a little more interest, but then again Chbosky might have felt their influence wasn't necessary as it's clear parent issues are not what Charlie is worried about. Charlie is simply trying to find where he fits in. He seems very sure of who he is, despite what he has been through (which I won't divulge here, the way it unfolds in the film and to such perfect effect is much too good to spoil) but clearly finds it hard to carve out a place with others who seem to share his sensibilities. So, it is nothing more than a blessing when misfit seniors like Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson) take in Charlie to their exclusive group where he feels, for the first time, he can truly be himself.

Charlie, Patrick, and his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson)
become friends with a unique bond.
While Chbosky has created a film that will live on for generations as those John Hughes films of the 80's do, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will be referenced by teenagers of the time period it represents as well as teenagers of today. It could really be set in any time period and the dynamics, the relationships and the conflicts that these teenagers go through will be the same they just might have a different set of stipulations. This is the closest thing we will likely ever have that touches the magic of those Hughes produced movies and, as in the cases of those films, what will really live on and stick with you long after the movie has come to a close are the characters. I was surprised to hear Lerman would be playing the socially awkward Charlie, the angst-ridden teen who also needed to convey the necessary amount of charm to be appealing. Lerman can certainly be appealing as he has proved in big budget bombs like The Three Musketeers and Percy Jackson, but being given those type of leading man roles made this seem a bit out of character. The actor surprises at every turn, making Charlie the most genuine kind of wallflower. He is smart, he knows and understands things, but he doesn't flaunt his superiority to his peers because his humble ways don't allow him to be too self-assured. It is a complex personality to set forth but Lerman delivers this even in his vocals that narrate our story.

Our protagonist owes a good amount to his co-stars for helping make his personality shine though, there is no doubt there. Ezra Miller plays Patrick with a drama queen attitude and flair for the abusive honesty his classmates would like to sweep under the rug. Miller is clearly a force to be reckoned with (especially if you saw him in last years We Need to Talk About Kevin) and he brings a certain weight to every second he is on screen whether it be to comedic or dramatic effect. Then, there is of course Emma Watson who nails an American accent, but more importantly turns in a better, more mature performance than she was ever able to give in the Harry Potter films. As Sam, Watson breathes an intelligence that could only come with understanding where her character is in life. Lerman is our anchor, but Miller nearly steals the film and Watson simply makes this whole affair feel less of something that could have come from the mind of any screenwriter. She seems to have a real connection, a personal need with and from the story that is taking place. That coming-of-age tale that includes every emotion that comes along with real life. The whole movie could be described in the same way. The performances only make these facts even more true.

It is clear from the beginning Sam and Charlie share
something more, though we never know if it
will work out. 
There is no other way to put it other than to flat out say I loved this movie. It is so good and I enjoyed every minute of it. Never have I felt so often moved by a picture and at the same time so invigorated to go out and live by the virtues its preaching. It doesn't talk down to its audience. It isn't trying to teach us a lesson and it isn't judging us through the way it treats its characters. It doesn't throw moral guidelines at us, more it is simply providing an earnest interpretation of what being a teenager feels like and showing how everyone can find something to relate to in that stage of life. No matter if it were the ways in which these kids interact with one another or the moments in which they realize and come to that epiphany that expands their minds past  not just who they are but into what else is out there and who they (or we) could be in this bigger landscape our confined mind could have ever hoped to imagine. There is a real sense of ephemeral bliss to everything that happens in the movie and that relates to the crowd even more. You can relate so much that you can feel the similarities between what you did, might, or are going through and it seriously takes you back and puts you in that moment. It gets to you. If you don't feel anything from it, if you don't get a sense of nostalgia at the very least I don't know that you even understand the point of film. Spending two hours with these folks makes anyone who has ever felt lost know that there is something or someone out there who completely understands them and as cliched or pretentious as that might come off it, as the movie is able to effortlessly convey, is only meant in the most genuine and heartfelt of ways. This film is a true experience, a flash of memories and a rush of excitement. Above all, it is timeless and I expect it will stay with me more than any other film this year.

     

THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER Review

Everything about The Perks of Being a Wallflower is subtle. As it should be. From its beautifully subdued soundtrack to its washed out color palette. Even in the most flashy of performances and moments that creep towards the melodramatic this lovely film is limited to its inherent honesty. I have never read the book by Stephen Chbosky on which this is based, but I will be sure to pick up a copy to really understand the culmination of our main character. I found myself, throughout the entire film, wanting to really get a grasp on the writing of our main character in order to get to know him all the better. The film does more than a fine job at this, don't get me wrong. It is more a justification of how well this film draws you into each and every character we are presented with that we want to continue on their journey with them, that we never want it to end. I can only imagine the  kind of emotionality that goes into re-creating ones experience at such a delicate time in their lives but Chbosky, who not only is the author of the novel but also adapted it to a screenplay and then directed the film has done so in award-winning fashion. He shows the natural intuition of a seasoned director as he manages each of his characters and their equally important journeys with such care that we truly feel the effects of that first love, those traumatic experiences that come with every high school experience, the loss of innocence and how what we feel in being carefree will always exist as shadows of those moments will forever stay with us; meaning so much more than anyone who recalls them around you will ever know. They will never know the individual, personal experience of what memories your mind drifts to, but this movie provides a universally identifiable yet uniquely individual story of one boys account that will not only move you, but help you to understand life a little bit better.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Review

Seven Psychopaths is a specific type of film. It is a special kind of movie yet it is one those outside the realm of devoted cinephiles might not fully comprehend. For this reason, and many many others I absolutely loved the movie. What is fascinating, yes fascinating, about the film is how despite the idea that an audience member who doesn't see many movies would still get everything out of this film they likely interpreted as being promised in the trailer (guns, sex, violence, humor) there is also a completely different layer provided for those expecting a little more from the outstanding cast and if you know a little more, the brilliant writer and fine director Martin McDonagh who was behind one of my favorite films of 2008, In Bruges. What this separate layer provides is a very self-aware, meta-style story within a story that provides all the cliches and archetypes of a Hollywood production while at the same time deconstructing and analyzing each of them. Telling us why they are needed in order for us to feel fulfilled when walking out of the theater and why some of it seems so ridiculous when put through McDonagh's unique looking glass. On another level, what is even more satisfying about the film is its ability to be the film that its main character is writing, and be the best version of what he could likely imagine. We are easily taken in by the tricks of the hilarity and the profane violence, but despite all of that it is a really nice, peaceful film about love and friendship. There is a lot to go through, but these inherent features are what shine through after we allow the film to really settle in.

Angela (Olga Kurylenko) and Bill (Sam Rockwell) find
themselves in a bit of a pickle...
Within the first few minutes it is easy to tell how much of a good time this movie intends to be. And as typical as it might sound, I don't know that I've had a more flat-out fun or a more strictly entertaining experience at the movies this year. It all begins with a seemingly unrelated couple of murders (that feature the great talent of Michael Stuhlbarg nonetheless) introducing us to our first psychopath which then rollicks into our introduction to Marty (Colin Farrell) who is a screenwriter looking for inspiration for his new script aptly titled "Seven Psychopaths". Marty just happens to have a best friend that possesses a good amount of applicable qualities himself to the screenplay in Bill (Sam Rockwell). Bill is kind of a bum, the guy doesn't have a steady job, is a wannabe actor and is always a bit on the uneasy side. Lacking in confidence would be a fair way to describe our early impressions of Bill. To make a little money Bill teams up with Hans (Christopher Walken) who is an older gentleman with a dying wife who suffers from cancer. To make this money though involves the scam that is the central focus of the trailer but is simply a way to set up all of the cross-overs and complications that the movie actually entails. Hans and Bill kidnap dogs only to return them once their has been a reward placed on the canines for their return. It is a fun, quirky little set-up that goes awry when Bill kidnaps the shih tzu of a psychotic gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson). This is clearly more than enough for Marty to draw on as Hans has an interestingly violent past for such a religious man as well as McDonagh also throwing in a character for Tom Waits and a metaphor of a Vietnamese man that brings a certain weight to the violent slapstick that presides over most of the film.

The experience of watching the film lies both within the script where McDonagh is both adept at pacing and weaving several storylines so intricately while keeping up with what were no doubt countless thoughts and intentions about making specific statements. The writer/director has so many things going on here it is a wonder how he kept it all straight, but he does so good at making his point clear about the predictability of B-movies and the way in which they are mass produced to include as big a demographic as possible. It is one thing to sort out such statements and characters to represent these points of view but it is another to also have the right actors in place to convey that material correctly, with just the right timing so that subtle sarcasm may be easily picked up on by those who are completely engrossed by the term paper that McDonagh is writing on the state of Hollywood action films.

Marty (Colin Farrell), Hans (Christopher Walken), and Bill decide to escape their issues by taking to the desert


While it is nice to see Farrell re-teaming with his In Bruges director, and he certainly does fine as the leading man, he is also playing the most sensible person in the film which immediately makes him the least interesting. While the throughline story contains his character Marty it is also fully focused in on Rockwell and Walken's characters and in them lies the real magic of the movie. Rockwell has always played unhinged well (be sure and checkout Moon and Choke if you've never seen them) and here he applies it to such a degree that we know we are in for a treat every time he appears on the screen. His scenes with Walken and Farrell in the desert are some of the smartest written and best delivered scenes I've seen on film this year. His characters description of a final shootout around the campfire will likely become a point of cult reference in the near future. Walken has not been this good in a while. He has, as of late, resigned to bit parts that have made more a caricature than an actual person, but leave it to McDonagh's wonderful characterization to pull something out of the actor that feels truly genuine in a way that anchors the entire movie with more gravitas than it would have possessed otherwise.

Marty is at the mercy of Charles (Woody Harrelson)
because of Bill's actions. 
I walked into Seven Psychopaths expecting a lot, but not necessarily something great. Whether it was the level of expectation or the low profile way in which the film had dropped itself into theaters this past weekend I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I came out loving the film. It turned out to be one of those movies you could immediately turn around and watch again and receive just as much enjoyment out of it the second time, probably even more. There is such a fine line for me between a film that is better than most of what we see and something great. I understand that some people will very much disagree with me about this film when I say I absolutely loved it and can't think of a bad thing to say about it. To a certain point, I like to think I could understand where they are coming from, but that would contradict my previous statement about my thinking. I loved it, no way around it, and I certainly hope McDonagh is allowed the opportunity to keep rolling out these bleak, black comedies that feature not only intelligent dialogue and razor sharp, very funny jabs at anyone and everyone. He has a knack for it and seems to know very well how to tell the story he so desires and more importantly get it across in the way he so intended.

It would be a crime not to mention Woody Harrelson in my review as well. The guy isn't in the film so much as you may expect with him being who he is, but he has proved himself again and again over the past few years with countless great performances that this almost feels like the cherry on the top of the icing as he could have seriously uttered not a single word throughout and he would have been just as entertaining as he is when he is allowed to let his psycho-side fly. Let's be serious though, we could gather this core group of actors in a room and have them read the telephone book and they would no doubt find a way to make it funnier and more original than half of the things we've seen at the movies this year. The fact they have a script providing such great material and the director who wrote it and understands that material well enough to weld every element together makes us lucky enough to witness such a brilliant product.