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.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 26, 2013


JOBS Home Video Review

It was a well-known fact from the time we first heard mention of battling Steve Jobs biopics that the one starring Ashton Kutcher and a creative team of newbies wasn't going to be the one that broke any new ground or would even get anyone too excited. While Kutcher's turn as the founder of Apple Inc. and innovative mind that brought us the Macintosh, iPod and iPhone wasn't cause for much alarm it isn't for a lack of effort on the actors part. It is clear that Kutcher studied the mannerisms and vocal tones and inflections of Jobs with a considerable amount of obsession and in some ways the performance feels like a tribute as Kutcher is more a fan giving the most flattering of interpretations than a man attempting to bring another mans story to light in the truest form. That said, the script is not particularly kind to Jobs as it highlights his ego and his consistent inability to get along with others unless they are strictly abiding by his ideals, but Kutcher's performance has a consistent aura that he ultimately knows what's best floating around him. No matter if that is actually how Jobs was or not, that is how we'd like to think of him. He held the secrets of what we really wanted and was able to package them in ultra-portable containers so is there any other option than to believe he was onto something we weren't? The film likes to think this way and so for two plus hours we are treated to what adds up to little more than a cliff notes version of the rise, fall and unavoidable return to the spotlight of Steve Jobs that all biopics tend to follow. This wouldn't be so bad if the film did more than barely scratch the surface, but we are given little more than the facts that are already well known to anyone who was a fan of his or knew anything about his philosophy or his products. There is no real substance or justification as to why he strives so hard to diverge from the beaten path or prove others wrong. There is one line concerning his real parents abandoning him only to never be mentioned again to which he responds by doing the same exact thing to his child while nothing close to a parallel is drawn. Director Joshua Michael Stern and writer Matt Whiteley have taken what could have been an exceptional subject and a beyond incredible journey of a man not necessarily likable, but who demanded to be listened to and molded him to fit the outline of every redemption story. The world loves a comeback kid, this is true, but the accomplishments of Jobs the man deserve more than jOBS the movie, delivers.

DELIVERY MAN Review

To evaluate a film like Delivery Man it seems one must be in tune with the career trajectory of Vince Vaughn and much like Matthew McConaughey it seems the guy has fallen into the trap of knowing what his speciality is and sticking to that comfort zone for the reason that it has worked in the past, why wouldn't it continue? Of course, if you've been paying attention to the projects McConaughey has been choosing as of late it is clear he has made some kind of decision to not only play characters who aren't the most charming or admirable guy on screen, but instead he can sometimes be the most downright despicable. Vaughn is in a slump, that is clear, but the problem is that he has been and that Delivery Man is the kind of film he thought might begin to turn that around. Hell, he probably secretly hoped that was what The Internship would do this past summer, but in a landscape of comedies where they push the envelope to the end of the world, a buddy comedy with his old friend can't even drum up enough excitement or laughs to be remembered past opening weekend. Both actors burst onto the scene in hip, independent comedies that would help them get into more mainstream projects, each of which chose more serious material and supporting roles in major blockbusters while attempting to reach that one project that would seemingly put them in the place they were destined to be. They were on a similar trajectory in any sense of the word as McConaughey finally found leading man success in 2001 and Vaughn was front and center in the now classic Old School in 2003. They were able to ride those waves of stability for the better part of the first decade of the new millenium until the well began to run dry. No one expected much from McConaughey after 2009's Ghosts of Girlfriends Past seemed to be the nail in the rom-com coffin, but a mere two years later he began to re-build. The problem with Vaughn is that he's had a number of nails, but somehow he manages to keep finding open space. There hasn't been that huge disastrous story (not counting The Watch of course, but the blame didn't fall directly on him). In any case, not since the fast-talking funnyman decided to do a pair of Christmas movies has he been able to re-claim the kind of comic credibility he had in his Dodgeball//Wedding Crasher prime. With Delivery Man he seems to at least be accepting this truth and trying to find new ground to cover while still incorporating what he is best known for. While he succeeds in proving he has the chops and charm to pull this kind of dramedy off, the film itself feels so middle of the road and inconsequential it is hard to take it as any kind of statement.

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE Review

There are plenty of perks to being the middle installment of a giant trilogy. Whether you've read the books or not I think it goes without saying that Catching Fire, the film, is a much bigger and more impressive exercise than what the first film was able to deliver after it finished setting up the world all of this would be taking place in. This, coming from the benefit of being that middle child. It has always been the case though (Empire Strikes Back, The Dark Knight, X2: X-Men United, Spider-Man 2) that without having to deal in exposition and not having to worry itself with how to wrap everything up nicely, that the second chapter of a larger story is the one where we get to dig in, where we are able to see the meat of the conflict, and get to really know the characters and what drives them, what makes them different and why we remain interested in their plight past the unbelievable circumstances they were thrown into the first time around. All of this remains true in director Francis Lawrence's follow-up to Gary Ross's faithful and fervent opening chapter. Yes, it is important to note that I am a fan of the books, all three of them, but that Catching Fire was by far my favorite and for all the reasons I've listed above I desperately hoped the film turned out the same way. As we reach the final shot of this film it became all the more clear that we'd just witnessed something rather special. It may not have been a game-changer like The Dark Knight or as exceptional as X2, but it has some clear moments and techniques that are more than impressive and more than intriguing that lead us to becoming intensely wrapped up in the world of Panem and the brewing revolution. The scope and scale, the performances all-around, the more confident hand behind the execution; it all adds up to a film that knows what it is, what its message and main themes are, and where it is going because there is a driving force behind the narrative that makes the briskly paced film (not a bad thing with a run time of two and a half hours) feel like a consistently mounting piece of music that perfectly staggers its force and intensity until hitting that crescendo. This is only one passage though, and that perfectly timed climax of this specific progression only leaves us wanting more which can only mean part two has done its job and done it well.

First Trailer for SABOTAGE


We're less than a week away from the opening of the latest Jason Statham actioner which also happens to be written by his Expendables co-star Sylbester Stallone and thus we now have our first look at their other co-stars latest project that will no doubt play in front of Homefront this Thanksgiving. I've been hearing some pretty positive things concerning Statham's latest outing though and despite the recent box office misfires this crew of action stars has faced ole Arnie looks as if he may have something a little "different" on his hands as well that may just do the trick for his non-Expendable movie career. Sabotage is billed as a loose adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery Ten Little Indians and sees Schwarzenegger heading up a DEA task force that makes a major arrest of a cartel leader only to see its members begin to be picked off one by one after a fair amount of the money seized in the capture goes missing. I'm actually pretty excited for this one as David Ayer is handling directing duties and produced one of my favorite films of last year (End of Watch) and is heading up one of my most anticipated for 2014 (Fury). While he didn't write the script for this film as well he seems to have captured the camaraderie and intense tone of the content with fun and important precision. The trailer gives just enough of the plot points without getting too heavily into much of the second or third acts it seems and exploits the charisma between its large ensemble cast which will no doubt be a selling point as, besides the Governor, the film also features Joe Manganiello, Sam Worthington, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Josh Holloway, Olivia Williams, and Mireille Enos. Sabotage is set to get us all ready for Summer 2014 when it opens on April 11th.

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY Review

Walking into The Best Man Holiday I was willing, but had no prior knowledge of what these characters had been through and what this feature might contain. I knew in the back of my mind I'd seen bits and pieces of director Malcom D. Lee's 1999 debut feature over the past fourteen years, but never had I sat down to take it all in. That being said, the first few minutes of this belated sequel gives a slight catch up on the main characteristics of the ensemble cast before setting us back down into their day to day lives to play a little catch up with each before reuniting the gang for a holiday celebration. Having not seen the original I'll admit I was hesitant to jump into the sequel, but was anxious to see if expectation would be trounced and if the film would deliver a distracting two-hour experience that would get me ready for the Christmas season. Much to my surprise I was rather taken with the film and wrapped up in the going-ons of each individual character or couple and the problems they were facing given I hadn't been waiting to see how things turned out for them for nearly fifteen years. I knew going into the film that the true test of whether the film moved me would be if I immediately wanted to go home and watch The Best Man. It would be rather pretentious of me to hold out and not say what the outcome of this desire was, so I'll tell you now I've already searched through a few local places and online to see if I can locate the film on DVD. There is a distinct welcoming tone that pulls you in and holds your interest while setting up all the oncoming conflicts that weigh down the second half of the film and deliver blow after blow to your emotional sensory. Still, when all is said and done this is a film meant to serve the purpose of reminding its audience how important family members and memories are and the seasonal backdrop only re-enforces a certain sense of nostalgia that makes the effect of the film all the more powerful, especially for those that identified with and have felt close to the characters they were originally introduced to over a decade ago. As someone who had no particular expectation or anticipation for the film, The Best Man Holiday is one of those films that would easily escape a Caucasian male when walking into a movie theater, but there is plenty to relate to here because despite me not being in the target demographic, many of the situations and family dynamics are elements that are universal and are executed in a way where everyone feels welcome.

CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN Review

The original title of this film added a slightly indulgent "The Unnecessary Death of" before stating its titular protagonists name. I still thought that the title until I realized it had been cut short to simply introduce us to Shia LaBeouf's character and the man in which we would be following on this journey that's described simply as him finding love in a Romanian beauty only to become entangled in the drama her intimidating and very violent ex-husband brings to her life. The film is being modest though in this description as Charlie Countryman has much more to it than a simple love story and both visually and dramatically it is consistently striving for something more, something important and more substantial than what it appears to be on its surface. I can see how it would be easy to take this film as first time feature director Fredrik Bond finding his footing and infusing writer Matt Drake's screenplay with a strong sense of style and visual flair that would allow it to appear as nothing more than an exercise in artistic freedom, but as I took the film in I couldn't help but to feel they were really trying to accomplish something here. Drake has only penned a few screenplays in the past, his only feature being what couldn't have been more than a sketch outline for 2012's Project X, but once that forgettable paycheck project was out of the way it seems he was ready to really invest in something he was creating and thus we have the plight of Mr. Countryman. I've always had a soft spot for LaBeouf simply because I enjoyed Even Stevens so much as I was growing up and was happy to see him go on and find success in big-budget blockbusters, but as he's grown up too it is clear he wants to challenge himself and feels a want to find material that is more satisfying for him to look back on, something he might actually be able to be proud of when he hits fifty; at least moreso than watching himself run from CGI robots. With this film he has at least proved he has the capability of accomplishing such a feat even if the overall project may seem somewhat lacking. Despite the name change there are still plenty of over-indulgences in the film as it's never sure of what it wants to be and its tone skips around so much that we sometimes don't know with what context we're supposed to accept a scene, but more times than not Charlie Countryman is an entertaining if not introspective look at how the soul compensates for loss and continues to love.

First Trailers for Darren Aronofsky’s NOAH

There has been much talk concerning director Darren Aronofsky's desire to adapt the tale of Noah and his ark for the big screen ever since that desire was made public. Aronofsky is a director who likes to push the limit and is always willing to look for an interesting perspective on subjects and a style to go along with that perspective that will influence how he captures the story on film. I have always been a big supporter of his 2006 passion project, The Fountain, and have enjoyed his work since as well as prior. With the ability to secure a massive budget and backing of a studio like Paramount Aronofsky is now operating on his biggest scale yet and if there is a story that might justify this excursion into big budget studio films for a more arthouse director, it would be a Bible story in which everyone will have plenty to say. Paramount is no doubt hoping this mentality means it will put up Passion of the Christ-like numbers though we've already heard reports that the director and Paramount are at odds over the final cut of the film after a few test screenings didn't come away with the most shining of results. All I care about though is that the final cut we see on-screen is the one Aronofsky originally had in mind when he began this project. The director knows what he is doing and the trailer implies he has a very specific way of channeling the aspects of God and how he communicated with Noah in a way that make this event feel all the more plausible. The visuals here are absolutely stunning and there is a grand scale to the film that a story like this justifies but going even further, Aronofsky has gathered a cast that will more than do their part to elevate the human aspects of this story we've all heard many times before and in doing so will no doubt deliver a complete film that packs plenty of its own surprises. Russel Crowe plays the titular Noah and is joined by the likes of Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Kevin Durand, Martin Csokas, Mark Margolis, and Anthony Hopkins. Noah opens on March 28, 2014.

HOW I LIVE NOW Review

If Twilight is the bubblegum pop of young adult literary adaptations and Hunger Games is the more alternative rock that still gets played on Top 40 radio, then How I Live Now must be labeled as the punk rock version of these popular archetypes that continue to be re-imagined and place young, female heroine's at the center of their conflict. I had not heard of Meg Rosoff's novel that was first published in 2004 (a full year before Twilight and four before The Hunger Games) prior to discussions of director Kevin Macdonald's adaptation out of the Toronto International film Festival. I was intrigued not only because Macdonald has directed a slew of acclaimed documentaries and feature films, but because it starred an aggressive-looking Saoirse Ronan and the last time she looked to be in this form was 2011's Hanna in which she turned contributed a great performance to one of my favorite films of the year. Though Ronan attempted to headline her own young-adult female-centric fantasy adaptation earlier this year with The Host, that effort bombed both with critics and general movie-goers, but How I Live Now is a different beast entirely. The mega-hits like Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games fall into that category because they are the first out of the gate in concept and execution, while the ones that trail behind will not find near the success for that same reason. The good news concerning How I Live Now is that it doesn't strive to be anything it's not and while it will seem all too familiar with today's Hunger Games-fueled audiences this is not a likable protagonist at the center of the story, it doesn't offer the typical love triangle nor does it strive to extend its saga over multiple chapters, but instead Rosoff created an isolated incident of how the greater affects of war and isolation effect a single soul as we see a large event through a small window. Much like Steven Spielberg's version of War of the Worlds, Macdonald uses the personal perspective to differentiate his film from those that we have seen before where a more global look is taken as society comes to an end. Here, we are as confused and lost as the characters we are following. This doesn't always work in terms of successful storytelling, but it certainly keeps us intrigued and ready to stick with wherever that story decides to go.

Teaser Trailer for Disney's MALEFICENT

The first trailer for next summers live action adaptation of the Sleeping Beauty story told from the perspective of its antagonist has premiered and it truly is nothing more than a teaser. Starring Angelina Jolie in the titular role of Maleficent, a young woman who grows from the pure-hearted creature she once was to the evil witch we perceive her to be in the story of Aurora. Speaking of Aurora, we get more of a look at her in the form of Elle Fanning here than we do at Jolie in Maleficant garb, but that is all well and good as I can appreciate a promotional campaign that knows how to restrain itself. Given that the film doesn't open until next year I assume this teaser has been timed to coincide with the release of Frozen around Thanksgiving. It is a bit of an odd pair as this certainly seems to be a bit of a darker tale than Oz the Great and Powerful but much more in line with Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Robert Stromberg is directing the film and actually served as production designer on both of the aforementioned films so expect this to all look very familiar. I'm interested to see this turns out though because I'm optimistic there is an interesting story to tell here and actors at the caliber of Jolie, Sharlto Copley, and Imedla Staunton wouldn't sign up for something that was an almost guaranteed blockbuster if they didn't see something worth investing in. Otherwise, the trailer itself actually looks fairly interesting and will at least get peoples attention with the promise of bringing one of Disney's most popular tales to extravagant real-life and Disney is really hoping this pays off as they already have live-action versions of both Cinderella and Cruella (why?) in the pipeline. Maleficent also stars Sam Riley, Juno Temple, Leslie Manville, Brenton Thwaites, Miranda Richardson and opens on May 30, 2014.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 12, 2013

BLACKFISH Home Video Review

I enjoy watching documentaries, much the same way I enjoy catching an episode of 48 Hours or 20/20 on CBS or ABC, but they aren't necessarily pieces of work that demand my attention the way feature films typically do. That may or may not speak negatively of me (coming from the angle I place more importance on fictitious works of art than art that is meant inspire change), but I still find documentaries and the stories chosen to be highlighted in a good number of them worth watching and in turn they usually deliver an interesting if not necessarily entertaining time. Last year, Searching For Sugar Man made my top ten list for my favorite films of the year and though I sat down to watch Blackfish with much anticipation I knew not to expect something that would rock my world as much as that unexpected doc had. Though this has clearly been the hot topic doc of the year so far I had yet to find an opportunity to venture out and see it as it only played for a week at my local indie theater, but when I saw it was airing last week on CNN it seemed a most opportune time to see what all the fuss was about and also be able to have this full review up in time for its release on DVD & Blu-Ray today. Needless to say, Blackfish is a fascinating film that wraps you up from moment one with a veil of mystery and intrigue that is sustained throughout the brisk 82-minute runtime and draws some pretty unavoidable conclusions on plenty of solid evidence that will have you wanting to pick up your picket signs and head for the nearest Seaworld. That isn't to say there aren't two sides to every story, but the case seems pretty open and shut here with only our ignorance and the way of life we've been conditioned to enjoy stopping us from seeing the truth here. The film isn't as revelatory as I expected it to be, but it is rather shocking in just how solid of a case it builds adding the mystery element only to serve as a storytelling tool that intrigues the audience and then hits us with incident after incident to hammer home the overarching goal of the film. Still, if the point of a documentary is to provide a factual record or report on the given subject then Blackfish has more than done its job to great effect.

12 YEARS A SLAVE Review

As Brad Pitt's character Bass states after hearing Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) recount the story of how he was wrongly kidnapped and sold into slavery, this is an amazing story, but in no good way. There has been much made of director Steve McQueen's third feature that adapts the autobiography of Solomon Northup and takes an unflinching look at how slavery and ownership dominated the south and was inflicted upon the unfortunate souls born into that time period. Northup's tale is one of emotional and physical devastation and the success of the film hinges on being able to convey both of those impressions with equal weight. If there is an ideal director to take on this stark subject matter it would be the fresh pair of eyes and mind that is McQueen who, after his previous two films (Hunger and Shame) has focused on the downsides of humanity enough to understand where he needed to go to reach the emotional depths that the subject of slavery needs to take on. It is a subject that deserves this unflinching look illustrating how slaves were treated, how they were perceived, and how some plantation owners saw them and treated them as employees while others saw them as little more than property they could with what they please. 12 Years A Slave doesn't dive into the politics of what started slavery, why these white owners saw these people as they did, or how our main characters might put a stop to the tragedy, but instead we are forced to accept the facts that define our history and that is the true story of Solomon. Neither Solomon nor any of the slaves he comes to meet along the way knew why there were some slavers like William Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) and others like Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender), why it all began or how it was going to come to an end, but they simply had to accept the idea that this was their life and that they were meant to deal with it and that harsh reality is what McQueen forces his audience to accept as well with the only glimmer of hope being implied by the title. This is a film both so involving and at the same time so draining that you feel exhausted after having experienced it. It is a damn tough film to watch, but a necessary lesson in perspective that ultimately makes you appreciate what you've seen if not for the unflinching history lesson, but for the craft in which it is conveyed.

THOR: THE DARK WORLD Review

In episode two of the Marvel adventures this year we are given the extended look at what was easily the riskiest piece of completing The Avengers. Thor is by and large a fantasy character with a fair amount of fun to offer and fortunately director Kenneth Branagh was able to elicit those shining qualities the first time around to assemble a Thor film that while not necessarily overly impressive offered a fine enough preliminary set-up for the Norse God that was able to find just the right tone to make him credible rather than the goofy, over-indulgent mess it could have easily turned into. I credited much of the success of things being done the best way they could on 2011's Thor to director Branagh and a cast that was more than capable of delivering lines about bifrösts and frost giants with Shakespearean prestige. All of this is still in tact in the much grander, more expensive and thankfully more ambitious sequel, but Branagh has been replaced by Game of Thrones-helmer Alan Taylor and there is a new threat in the world that will of course make cause for our titular hero to jump back into action. While I am completely enthralled with seeing films overlap and build on one another we have now reached a point in our culture where we are taking in these films with such rapid consumption that we don't give them the individual focus they sometimes deserve. We are excited to see Iron Man or Thor back on screen again, but more than that we are looking forward to what will come next that the current film might hint at. I touched on this briefly in my Ender's Game review, but it is all the more relevant in the Marvel universe. The reason this has become a problem is that while these are still trying to be individual stories there isn't enough of a connection from film to film besides short mentions or familiar character pop-ups here and there. That and the fact these films aren't willing to commit to any tragedy they allow the audience to assume has occurred. Director Taylor and his film are not to blame for this issue as Thor: The Dark World is a more than worthy sequel and is generally a lot of fun to watch, but it also doesn't do much more than add evidence to the pile that Marvel is content with quantity over quality.

ENDER'S GAME Review

I've made it about halfway through Orson Scott Card's nearly 30 year-old novel and needless to say I expected some pretty great things. The deal is though, that despite the fact I was attempting to finish the novel prior to seeing the finally realized film adaptation of said unfilmable book I never felt as if the story took off or that it was going to anytime soon and it made no clear path for what direction it wanted to go in. That said, I was anxious to see what the movie would do with this and, as I didn't know the ending to the first chapter of Ender's saga, hopeful that I might be proved wrong in expecting the story to amount to much more than the now tired premonition that children would make better soldiers than adults because of their over-indulgence in video games. Turns out, Card seems to have had the idea for the final act before having anything else and had to figure out a world to build around this idea that would allow a functional story to be told leading up to it. The conclusion was likely the best part of the film, and that isn't saying the rest is bad, but it certainly feels as if the film finally gets going and gets into the thick of things just short of rolling the credits on us. Having said that, there is much to like about Ender's Game, but there isn't much to love or get excited about. As I walked into the film I knew better than to hope for a traditional adventure film, but was still optimistic this might serve as another entry in a rather good year for sci-fi that would remind me of films like Jumanji that would take me to a different world and that I could put on repeat as a child. Having given such credit to 2011's Real Steel and Pacific Rim earlier this summer, I was more than willing to believe Ender's Game would have a similar effect on me, but this is a much more serious film than it purports to be and despite the average age of its cast member is a movie filled with mature dialogue that will have some kiddos turning to their parents and asking what is going on while all they'll really be waiting on are more scenes in the zero gravity battle room. As a fan of science fiction and an inherently nerdy person when it comes to the great beyond, themes of reality and perception, and the psychology of humanity among other things I was intrigued and entertained by the film despite the fact it lacks a consistent tone and hook that will keep its audience more in tune with the time rather than allowing them to get lost in space.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: November 5, 2013


PARKLAND Home Video Review

There has always been an intense amount of interest around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and with good reason. It was a horrific event in which the President was murdered in front of countless people with any number of possible suspects, there was a race to get Kennedy to the hospital, the immediate man hunt for the suspected shooter and countless other avenues were followed that fateful November day. What writer and director Peter Landesman has attempted to do, in his directorial debut no less, is condense these events into a feature that runs a mere hour and a half long (including notes at the end and the credit sequence). There is not nearly enough time here to develop the several intriguing stories the film documents, much less get to know the the actual emotions felt by the people placed under these extraordinary situations. Parkland would be a film that justifies a run time of at least three hours, but it seems Landesman is keen on hitting the high points of these events and highlighting little more than small moments of that day in brief, almost news clip-like segments that intertwine to piece together November 22, 1963 and the subsequent days following as both the President and his suspected killer were laid to rest. I am a sucker for historically-based films and have read plenty on the JFK assassination, the investigations around this event and the countless conspiracy theories that continue to plague it nearly fifty years after it occurred. I also know better than to get my history lessons from the movies and so I approached this film with a sense of both optimism and caution as it seemed both ambitious while at the same time a balancing act of moments pulled straight out of the history books with little more intention that bringing to life how this death affected unsuspecting, regular citizens while adding nothing more to the story and having no particular point of view it was going to approach the subject matter with. Unfortunately, while the actual events of that day remain engaging as ever Parkland is only able to take us so far because it only gives its content so much attention before moving on and taking the audience, no matter if we have lingering questions or deeper interests, with it. I can admire the film for what it is trying to do and the dots its trying to connect, but ultimately this is more a failed experiment than anything else with an execution that doesn't come close to what it promised.

LAST VEGAS Review

Sometimes I have to ask myself what makes some of the more prestigious films that have already begun the awards season onslaught that much better than the mainstream fluff that comes out the rest of the year and have just as much potential to deliver satisfactory film-going experiences, if not more enjoyable ones. These Oscar-bait films that studios reserve for the final two months of the year yearn to be important, thought-provoking, and of course have a level of class to them that lesser, studio fare made more for profit than art could even imagine. Still, there is a comfort food feeling that comes along with much of the big studio fare that comes out around the holiday season and older audience members, families, and unknowing theater-goers are looking for just that kind of thing; something to be entertained by for an hour and a half, a quick escape from the real world that might offer fun conversation later or something that may allow them common ground or a nice suggestion. Last Vegas no doubt looks to fill that type of quota this fall as it has every single aspect these types of general audience members are looking for. First and foremost it has the star power, employing four highly recognized and well-respected actors that together will have no problem bringing in a wide range of people and second it is playing off the well-received first (if not now played out by its two sequels) Hangover film, but with the older generation so that we can lean on the crutch of laughing at senior citizens doing inappropriate things while any extra comedy might come purely from the chemistry between the four leads. This is essentially Red, but for comedy rather than action flicks and to a degree that is fine because ultimately this is pretty harmless, fun stuff and that both were able to nab Morgan Freeman has to mean there is at least something worth taking a look at here even if the results are more minor than substantial.

ABOUT TIME Review

Maybe it is the point I'm at in my life, maybe it was the non-existent expectations, or maybe it is the simple fact that there is true emotion coming through on screen that translates to the audience in spades, but any way you cut it, About Time bowled me over and hit me like a ton of bricks. Billed simply as a romantic comedy I should have known to expect more upon seeing that Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Pirate Radio) wrote and directed the film and has also said this would be his final directorial effort, that we were in for something magical. For all intents and purposes the film looked to be nothing more than a light romantic comedy with the twist of time traveling all of which was plagued by the fact star Rachel McAdams had already starred in a movie where the central conceit was that her husband involuntarily time traveled causing all kinds of problems with their marriage. Still, despite these pre-conceived notions, I was more than anxious to see Domhnall Gleeson (Anna Karenina, Bill Weasley) get a leading role and the supporting cast of top notch British talent wasn't so off-putting and neither was the fact it was obvious the film would have that native sense of charm that director Curtis effortlessly sprinkles throughout each of his projects. It was watching the film progress, feeling it move in on you and being completely taken aback when you realized you were watching something truly great that took me by surprise. The pure characterization of these people brought to the forefront and developed so well throughout that we genuinely feel we've been on a journey with them, that we've come to be a part of their close-knit family gives the film the ability to transcend its time traveling plot device and help us understand the point it is trying to make with said device rather than succumbing to the inherent hokey nature it usually implies. This is a film about life and it is as equally funny, warm, heartbreaking and uplifting as any single day of any of our lives might be. It is a truly moving film that I didn't see coming, but am keen to place as one of my favorites of the year. It struck a chord no other film this year has and has serious replay value, something I've not been able to mention much at all this year. Hats off to you, Mr. Curtis.