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.

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.