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.

First Red Band Trailer for A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

Over the past few days we've seen a number of promotional materials make there way online for Seth MacFarlane's follow-up to ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West, which will also represent the live action acting debut of MacFarlane and now a red band trailer has been unleashed upon us. As much as I was skeptical about how MacFarlane might come off onscreen when not being able to hide behind an animated character or stuffed animal I am surprised not only by the physical timing he seems to display here, but the way in which his performance doesn't feel as forced as it might if he'd try to put on a voice. It doesn't hurt MacFarlane has employed a stellar supporting cast to usher him into the live action realm with the help of Charlize Theron and Sarah Silverman (who both show off their comedic chops here to great results) it seems this is destined for summer breakout status just as that previous effort accomplished. Taking something inherently innocent and giving it a potty mouth is one thing, but taking on an entire time period and culture that has come to remain alive due more to its film incarnations than actual history is something completely different, but while playing on the multiple negative aspects of being alive during that period of time the trailer also hints at a solid enough story to support the satire elements that will allow audiences to invest and care rather than simply coming out and only remembering a few of the gags. The main issue with ted was the convoluted final act and while MacFarlane may have more on his plate this time around having to literally be both in front of and behind the camera I have high hopes he learned from his previous feature experience and has applied that to this effort. A Million Ways to Die in the West also stars Liam Neeson, Neil Patrick Harris, Amanda Seyfried, Giovanni Ribisi and opens May 30th.

Trailer Roundup: SUPER BOWL XLVIII

As Sunday draws closer we have begun to see early releases of not only commercials, but some of the movie spots that will be making their way towards the Super Bowl this weekend. Earlier this week we got a peek at The Muppets joining with Toyota for a tie-in promotion to not only help sell cars, but their sequel, Muppets: Most Wanted, to the successful 2011 reboot. Word is that Disney is giving Captain America: Winter Soldier a moment to shine with its release date set for the not too far off April 4th, but director James Gunn's highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy adaptation will be absent from the festivities. This is probably best as Disney and Marvel want to leave the emphasis on the ol' Cap for right now, but no doubt have a major rollout in place for GOTG later this year as hinted at by Gunn's twitter. DreamWorks will be forking over the reported $4 million for 30-seconds of commercial time in order to promote the March 14th release Need for Speed starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul in what will be a test to see just how far his appeal spreads. I never played the video game the film is based on, but the trailers so far have been much more impressive than I expected and as a BB fan I'm excited to see what Paul does next, but am slightly disappointed Bryan Cranston won't get the same love as his Godzilla reboot will also be a no-show. Next up, we have Paramount who is doing big business and hoping for serious business in return as they will have spots in place for both Noah, the biblical epic directed by Darren Aronofsky that is sure to cause a good amount of conversation when released on March 28th and our first look at Michael Bays fourth installment in the toys turned action stars series, Transformers: Age of Extinction. Mark Wahlberg takes over leading man duties this time as the series is somewhat rebooting itself and hits theaters on June 27th. Finally, Sony has big plans for everyones favorite web slinger and will air a spot for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 which will kick off the summer movie season on May 2nd. Last, and probably least is the appropriate yet surprising inclusion of Kevin Costner's Draft Day that obviously has a football-based story, but is not a tentpole release. Granted, Draft Day will only get a pre-game spot, but no word on if that actually cost them any less. Super Bowl XLVIII begins at 5:30pm Central, February 2nd on FOX.    

First Trailer for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

















The Fault in Our Stars is a book I will soon be reading as I've just finished Divergent and intend on completing that series before the release of the first film in March. It will no doubt be disarming to read these two vastly different novels while picturing the same actor inhabiting both leading roles, but if the first trailer for the John Green adaptation is any indication Shailene Woodley has somehow seemed to pull off a performance that will in no way be hindered by her showing as a tough, dystopian soldier a few months prior to this films release. Another disarming factor is that while The Fault in Our Stars is clearly a love story, albeit an unconventional one, the male lead of Gus will be played by Ansel Elgort who portrays Woodley's brother in Divergent. I don't know that it will be weirder than seeing her prior love interest in The Spectacular Now, Miles Teller, as her sworn enemy in Peter in Divergent, but it will certainly be a competition. Why Woodley has decided to include many of these same people in all of these major projects she has landed as of late can hopefully only be attributed to the fact she has great chemistry with them. Again, if this first trailer is any indication that would seem to be the reasoning why. As I've yet to read The Fault in Our Stars I cannot comment on how well it seems to capture the tone and convey the story, but simply as a movie taken at face value I am interested in seeing how this turns out simply because of the performances the trailer hints at and the relationship at the heart of the story. This could easily be taken as a sappy and overly-sentimental akin to a Nicholas Spark film, but the wit, the realism and the accuracy in the depiction of the characters are what made Green's novel a smash and the film seems primed to do the same. The Fault in Our Stars also stars Willem Dafoe, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Mike Birbiglia, Emily Peachey and opens June 6th.

I, FRANKENSTEIN Review

There is little to say about a film or anything really when it feels the "artists" behind it didn't care enough to invest their own interests in it. There is little vision to be held with something like I, Frankenstein as it is nothing more than a typical January release, an ugly step-sister to the summer blockbusters that have equally silly stories or premises, but real vision and money behind them. With something like I, Frankenstein what we have is the writer of such blockbusters as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and the first G.I. Joe, but who also has more credible fare like Australia (c'mon you know you liked it) and Collateral to his name and has now apparently earned the right to direct his own feature and so Lakeshore Entertainment, for some unknown reason, entrusted him with a rather large budget and gave him free reign to pen a script that concerned Victor Frankenstein's monster living on into the modern world and being caught in the middle of a war that has been raging between demons and gargoyles. Sound ridiculous? It is. Its essentially another attempt to capitalize on bringing well known, well respected properties back to the big screen in more gritty fashion. It seems Stuart Beattie, the aforementioned writer turned director, decided he'd go just outside the realm of fairy tales and instead chose to pick from the iconic roster of horror figures and give them an all CGI environment with dark and brooding attitudes that would be fine if this were a substantial take on the gothic romanticism of Mary Shelley's source material, but instead it seems to want to achieve little more than box office success and disregards any sense of deeper storytelling in order to fit squarely into this pre-ordained January genre. It is an ugly genre, one where we get movies year in and year out like any one of the Underworld films (which this so proudly touts as being produced by the same people) or last years Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters or even Season of the Witch from two years ago (see a trend?). It is one of those films, set in a period where set designs call for grotesque statues and worn out castles, where CGI baddies look ridiculous and we forget about character and story the moment we walk out of the theater. You'd think, given Beattie's track record in writing he would jump at the chance to make his own film and be keen on leaving a good impression so as to earn another turn behind the camera, but if I, Frankenstein is any indication he should never be allowed to direct or pen a script again.

GIMME SHELTER Review

I have fortunately never been in the position to have to struggle or understand what it was like to have no one to turn to or to lean on. It is undoubtedly a scary feeling and something that seems brought on most of the time by nothing more than an unlucky set of circumstances. What I have never understood though, and movies have brought us countless characters with the same nature as our protagonist here, is why those who seem to struggle so much find it so hard to accept help. I understand it is easy to look at a situation as a person who’s never dealt with such harsh realities and not be able to understand the complexities of what is going through someone’s mind, to not understand how they see their life going nowhere and how the inability to trust anyone will forever hinder them in some way. These seem to be the points of tremendous stress and challenge in the life of Agnes Bailey or Apple as she prefers to be called as played by Vanessa Hudgens. Now, if you’ve heard about this movie it has probably not been for the fact it is based on a true story or that it is the first in many Christian-themed films this year that re-enforce a value system easily frowned upon if you don’t reside in the Bible belt. No, if you’ve heard anything about Gimme Shelter it is probably due to the transformation with which Hudgens has put herself through for this role. It is a film that at one point seems to have the smallest of aspirations to really be a kind of awards bait movie, while genuinely wanting to incite change in the heart of those who witness it. I was torn between what statement was really trying to be made here, what the agenda of the makers actually was as throughout the film I couldn’t read the true intentions of what the film was trying to accomplish. Is Hudgens almost trying too hard to be taken seriously? Is the tone a little overbearing and in many cases getting in the way of the already depressing story? Yea, in many ways it is and though there are redeeming moments that bring to light the type of solid drama this could have been Gimme Shelter ultimately suffers from poor craftsmanship more than anything else.

IN A WORLD... Home Video Review







It takes a lot to make something look effortless. Whether you're talking about beauty or comedy, two things that don't often share the same space, it is necessary to have a large amount of preparation or thought in order to perpetrate something genuine into a format where the atmosphere is all but that and still allow such a precise quality to shine through. It has always been said that comedy is much harder to understand, much harder to pin down and really get right than say, a serious drama. Comedy is purely subjective, to every single person that is witness to it and to be able to craft a piece of art that doesn't come off as pretentious in its intention or narcissistic in its execution is to somehow be able to convey your dislike of certain aspects of society without alienating what might make up your audience. Comedy is about being up-front and honest, about peeling back the obvious that we don't like to acknowledge and in that we not only find ways to relate to the subjects of a piece, but we come to find what side of the fence we land on in the perspective of the creator and how that person who is specific to a region, generation, or political party might take on the world and view the issues and how we might solve them, or in the case of comedies, why it is necessary to laugh at most things. In the case of In a World... the sole creator and architect is credited to Lake Bell, the actress you've probably seen a million times in smaller parts and supporting roles whose name escapes you. As the writer/director/star of the film she is able to take on not only the voice-over industry and the role that women play in it (or don't) as well as the ideas and observations about the legacy of parents and its impending pressure on their offspring that results in a lack of support as well as the dynamic of relationships and how it's the details of the companionship rather than the details of the person that make it work and ultimately worthwhile. There is admittedly a ton of stuff going on in the movie but Bell, at the head of her first feature, somehow manages to shepherd these ideas and situations into a cohesive piece of work that ends up feeling beautifully funny and yes, effortless.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 21, 2014

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT Review

You could ask Kenneth Branagh where he found inspiration for the latest re-visioning of Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy's definitive character, but it would seem he looked to Martin Campbell's re-figuring of the Bond franchise in 2006 that led to a younger, more intense take on the Ian Fleming character. It would seem Branagh knew that Campbell did things right, that it was a more than flattering way to breathe new life into a franchise that had long since lost its luster yet Branagh also seems aware that simply going for dark and gritty has now become a cliche and doesn't immediately make your final product better off. It has to fit the tone of the character and Campbell along with Daniel Craig were able to create that correlation while Branagh has brought in Chris Pine (who has a knack for playing younger versions of iconic characters) and kept the timid, inexperienced attributes of our titular hero in mind while flattering his intelligence with modern technology and the issues and destruction that can be done in the wake of these advancements. While four films have come before this that center around the Ryan character the most successful of them were all released between twenty and twenty-four years ago. A reboot similar to this was attempted twelve years ago in the form of The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck in the lead role, but it never took off. While this attempt may indeed share the same fate as that one it doesn't mean this is a dull experience, but in fact it's pretty damn entertaining before devolving into standard action movie climaxes that are in line with the previous films yet insult the deliberate pacing and character development of the first hour of the film. In saying that, the good outweighs the bad for me here as Branagh has competently followed up his big budget/action debut with both an expertly acted film and a strong craft only lacking when it has to go for the bigger scope the genre this film falls into requires. Branagh has brought the character into the present world, easily introducing him to audiences who may not have seen or even heard of the Harrison Ford films and making his skills more than relevant while maintaining the core values and personality of our main character; something many were weary of when the marketing made this out to look more Bourne than Ryan.

RIDE ALONG Review

Ride Along is something of a normality in the world of comedy. It is perfectly packaged, with standard jokes ensured to offend no one and completely appealing personas playing two archetypes that are sure to be so familiar to general audiences that they will settle right in and enjoy this brief, hour and a half comedy that keeps the laughs and action well balanced while carving out just enough of a niche for Kevin Hart while demonstrating his ability to play a fully formed character rather than just the comic relief. There is nothing terrific or substantial about the film and in fact it is rather sub par in many areas for despite the fact it is competently directed by veteran Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four) it displays no sense of style or wit beyond that of the typical Hollywood production with enough cash to back its story but not enough actual story or jokes to sustain the simple quotas we ask for from our most commonplace films. That is what Ride Along is after all: a film put together by a committee to appeal to as many people as possible in hopes of creating a bankable star in Kevin Hart that will allow them to roll out films year after year with thin premises, little to no imagination in the script while trusting that the on-set riffs and improvisations are enough to satisfy our need for laughter. In short, if everything goes according to plan Hart will turn out to be the next Adam Sandler (who is now experiencing a slight downfall) and the studios distributing and financing these slapdash efforts will have someone on hand that is a sure bet. Ride Along will be that solidifying film for Hart and he does fine with what he has to work with here making the most out of the otherwise dry material. There are movies like this, movies so obviously put together by a board room that I can't buy into it and I'm unable to get past the fact I'm not seeing a specific vision of what this story was supposed to be, but rather a combination of several ideas with only the intention of pleasing as many people as possible to get the biggest profit. I typically can't take films like this and while I understand these kinds of films aren't made for critics or true cinema fans, but despite all of that this commonplace comedy that has five writers names attached to its screenplay and a director who seems to be on autopilot I didn't mind what Ride Along had to offer even if it was nothing more than a brief diversion.

TOP 15 OF 2013

2013 was a pretty great year for film. As I've grown accustomed to ranking films on a five-star system I've realized how differently we approach each movie and how that rating reflects how well the film achieved the goals it was intended to meet. Four stars has become the standard for the above average film, ones with exceptional qualities that make them better than anything else playing at the given moment. There were a ton of four-star ratings this year and many of them even came in the midst of the summer movie season which I have been able to re-visit now and have verified that rating was worthy of most, especially films like The Great Gatsby, World War Z and The Fast and Furious 6. I would have liked to include more on the list, as there were so many above average to really good flicks this year, but I already expanded the article to what I would call fifteen of the best films I saw this year and I hate to expand the list further than that to weaken the value of the ones that do make it. I try to mix it up and keep as many small, indie films in there as much as big studio fare that tend to defy there stereotype and deliver something substantial. I really enjoyed Side EffectsPain & Gain, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyer's Club and The East and in a lesser year you would see them ranked here. Then there were of course animated films like Frozen and Monsters University that played really well and I enjoyed, but not to the point I felt they earned a place on a year-end list. We also have awards bait such as Her and American Hustle or the two black and white front-runners on many lists this year, Nebraska and Frances Ha, all of which I enjoyed well enough but didn't think of them as exceptional pieces of work or understood what the hype was about surrounding each of them. You could also lump Before Midnight in that category as I appreciate what those films do and how well constructed and written they are, but I don't necessarily get what all the fuss is about. 42Captain Phillips, Saving Mr. BanksOut of the Furnace, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and even Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues are all well deserving of a mention here, but with such stiff competition it was going to be difficult to carve out a spot and Ron Burgundy knows I have a special place in my heart for him. 2013 was a great year for films, but the ones I have chosen to put on my list are the ones that I could watch over and over again or left an impression on me I wasn't able to shake and needed to see again, immediately, to confirm the legacy they will leave. So, without further adieu...

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Review

To be burdened with ambitions that outweigh what the average person looks for to find satisfaction in life is a burden that will weigh heavy your entire life. There is no escaping the thought that you need to keep trying, that you need to keep going or else you will miss the opportunity that will grant you access to a world and a life you have only dreamed of prior. There is seemingly no shame in this, but it can certainly make for an unpleasant existence. While in today's world it would seem easier to make one's self known for their musical ability it has become so crowded with so many people trying so many different avenues that those who do achieve a level of success that fully supports their livelihood are those whose names we know and hear rotated on top forty radio. They are deemed the successes, the ones who luck into or operate under the circumstances of being picked to have their song played over and over despite the fact music can be recorded, promoted and played on any social media and pretty much any device the average person carries around all day. It is more difficult than ever to make yourself stand out, but Llewyn Davis would argue to his point that no matter how hard he tries, being in the right place, playing the right music at the right time still doesn't guarantee success for despite the talent Davis possesses he doesn't seem to be able to catch a break. In the latest film from brothers Joel and Ethan Coen they bring their bleak, deadpan humor to the 1960's Greenwich Village folk scene and focus on a kind of day in the life of a struggling musician. Ultimately, the film becomes more than this and plays into the larger themes of disappointment and the difference in leading a fulfilling life and simply existing. It is, in many regards, a hard truth to swallow about human nature, our dreams and how we are conditioned to believe things must go a certain way in order to be regarded as a success which commonly translates to a satisfaction with ones self not too many people seem to ever fully reach. I have enjoyed Coen brothers films over the years and usually find their tone and sense of humor inviting and extremely in line with how my inner most thoughts work. Inside Llewyn Davis feels like something special though, something I'll cherish for a long time to come.

2014 Oscar Nominations

The nominations have come in and for the most part, they seem to be about what we expected. Sure bets like 12 Years A Slave and American Hustle showed up and received all of their expected nominations (including a supporting actor nod for Bradley Cooper that was on the fence). Still, depsite the fact Inside Llewyn Davis is the only major contender I've yet to see I was hoping to have it garner some awards attention as the Coens are usually Academy favorites though that doesn't seem to be the case this year as it received absolutely no love sans the Sound Mixing and Cinematography nominations. Philomena is the big story here. It received nominations for best picture, best actress and best adapted screenplay. I loved the film and it will easily make my top ten of the year so I was happy to see it and Steve Coogan receive some much deserved attention. Another big contender that wasn't necessarily seen coming was that of Nebraska. Sure we expected Bruce Dern and June Squibb to grab acting nominations, but Alexander Payne was also able to sneak his way into the best director category. Overall I am rather pleased both with the crop of films and the way in which the nominations were spread out this year. I'm surprised to see Tom Hanks not get an acting nomination for Captain Phillips while his counterpart in Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson, (and that film entirely) seems to have already been forgotten. For more thoughts on the surprises and stubs hit the jump.

20 FEET FROM STARDOM Home Video Review







We hardly notice them, yet it is their voices that are as recognizable as any of the names we could associate with countless hit songs over the past few decades. It is their voices that sing the hooks, that let out those soulful "Ooohhhss" and "Ahhhhhhs" that will get stuck in our heads for days and that we undoubtedly credit to the artist with their name on the cover of the album for taking the time to record themselves. It is a pity really, but it is the nature of the game. It is the nature of the industry in order to preserve that "special" quality that surrounds those we qualify as superstars and go on to sell millions of records. There is a fine line between the talent of a lead singer, a solo artist and those singing back-up, but, as Bruce Springsteen informs us, it is a long walk to the front of the stage and one that isn't the easiest of transitions. There is much in the way of transformation there and it isn't just about being a singer, it is about being an entertainer. At one point Sting brings up American Idol and how the accelerated climb of those auditioning to supposed superstardom makes the quality of their success paper thin. I agree in more than one way, but American Idol and shows like it, while every once in a while hitting the right balance of talent and appeal (Kelly Calrkson, Carrie Underwood), have really proven why it is so difficult for someone to become bigger than themselves, bigger than their talent even and that is the ego and the ability it takes to put ones self on display that is necessary for someone to truly appeal to the masses and not just be a good singer. With 20 Feet From Stardom director Morgan Neville takes us on both a journey and exploration to where back up singers became more than just simple singers, but attitude that embellished the mood and emotion of the songs they were featured on. We are given insight to some of the more seasoned back-up singers in the game, peoples whose voices we've heard numerous times yet never known the face that goes with it as well as those who are in the thick of it right now and the difference between those who enjoy basking in the space where they don't have to worry about the stress that comes with having their name on the marquee and those who are anxious to make the leap from the back to the front of the stage, a leap that doesn't always pan out for reasons that are most of the time just as unknown as the names we come to discover through this film.

On DVD & Blu-Ray: January 13, 2014

HER Review

For the first hour of Her I couldn't decide what I was watching; I couldn't figure it out, I couldn't follow the hype. I understood the acuteness under which director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Where the Wild Things Are) was operating and I could see why it was easy for the hipster crowd to so easily jump on board with the flick because our main character, Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), seemed to very much be a hipster himself jumping on the latest technology and style trends with his belly button-high pants. What was perplexing me though was the way in which the film has seemed to entrance everyone else and not just those hoping to be in touch with their own spectacled intellectual, but those who aren't desperate contrarians or what you would necessarily call progressive and seem to have a balanced understanding of the value in both large and small scale filmmaking. The strange thing here is that despite Her having the ideals and philosophies of a small, independent film it looks magnificent, as if it were operating with a fairly large special effects budget. The ethereal atmosphere in which these characters exist, though obviously in the not too distant future, actually feels like a plausible place that we as a society might reach. I drank the Hoyte Van Hoytema cinematography in with wonder and the China serving as Los Angeles locations only re-enforced the color scheme and scope with which Jonze was able to convey the mood and minuteness of our main character. We take Theodore as a surrogate of Jonze as it is evident from the opening speech in which Theodore shuffles through his thoughts on what it must be like to share your life with the same person for half a century and that we are not only getting a love story, but an examination of love as an emotion and how it transcends everything else in our existence to ultimately become every persons main point of focus and fulfillment. If we don't have loved ones what have we done to make this life worthwhile? If we don't have people who care about us, what will allow us to live on after we're gone? Questions we've no doubt asked ourselves plenty of times before, but Her looks to take them, throw in a little social commentary, and inevitably come to an epiphany not about the technology at the center of the film, but the emotion that continues to define the satisfaction of our being.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY Review

August: Osage County bring us into the dynamics of the dysfunctional Weston family as well as the countless issues, secrets, lies, and attitudes that constantly butt heads and leave everyone in a state of disarray and disappointment. There is much to be marveled at here as the cast is expansive and the acting is the real draw, but beyond the performances and familiar names this was first a stage play written by Tracy Letts (who also wrote Killer Joe which should give good indication as to how much bite this has) that no doubt won a Tony and the Pulitzer Prize due to its strong narrative and sharp dialogue. It is one of those films made for a very specific set of minds who find things such as this to be both entertaining and insightful. I find the psychology of what it means to each person to lead a successful life fascinating and to see a family, a group of familiar but distant characters, come together over a tragedy and let the flood gates open when it comes to expressing each of their issues with one another (and not in a calm fashion, mind you) to be something of a real treat. That said, this isn't the film the trailers have somewhat attempted to make it out to be. There is some feel-good music, but it is more for storytelling purposes than that of creating a certain tone. There are comedic moments, some that we readily identify with, but overall this is a very dark picture that delves into the issues each family member literally and figuratively brings to the table. There is so much characterization, so much to be learned from the small visual and vocal indications each of the characters give one another yet the film never feels overstuffed or bloated. Director John Wells (The Company Men) coaxes the tangled web of plotlines nicely as Letts adapted his own play for the screen and no doubt worked closely with the director to better translate his story for the more personal format of film rather than the open, less claustrophobic setting of a stage play. In the end, August: Osage County may have one too many twists to render it as credible as it would like to be, but after really thinking about it I couldn't help but feel even this was more the presentation of these facts rather than the fact they actually happened. We are talking about full lifetimes here and all the mistakes and events that come with that. It is an intense look at putting perspective on things and one that flourishes due to those bringing it to life.

LONE SURVIVOR Review

In the midst of Hollywood's 2007 politically-charged, post 9/11 war on terror rally to get certain points of views into mainstream entertainment director Peter Berg produced a little seen gem called The Kingdom that starred Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Chris Cooper. There were plenty other a strong supporting player here, but despite it all the film failed to connect. That could be blamed as much on the saturation of of the market as it could the films own shortcomings. Prepping ourselves for this along with In the Valley of Elah, Rendition and Lions for Lambs there simply wasn't much of a chance for this well-made, but familiar feeling film dropped on us in the dog days of late September. I bring this up because despite The Kingdom not leaving much of an impression on audiences I actually wound up seeing the film a few times and the final scene in which Berg contrasted the feelings of hate and anger from the U.S. towards the Middle East and vice versa, while a simple statement, was also a strong and powerful one that immediately resonated with me as a viewer; it allowed for all the complexity of war and the purpose of the meanings behind words like honor and courage to be stripped down to not so much their definitions, but the intention behind them. It showed, in that brief moment, that we all have similar ideals and end games, but are naturally coming at them from different perspectives. It is fine to have different perspectives or opinions on things, that is what makes the world and the human race consistently interesting, but to allow those different points of view to culminate in a fight to the death or to use violence to re-enforce these points will bring both sides nothing but pain, eventually overshadowing any victory we might feel we've come away with. There is a difference between compromising, coming to an agreed upon solution and beating someone into submission, but somewhere along the lines of history we found war to be the most effective tool of persuasion and today, that tradition continues stronger than ever. I say all of this to say that while Berg's latest effort, Lone Survivor, is also a simple story he is able to say much more with the film and the implications of the events it documents that we come away with much more than an adrenaline rush of action or misplaced pride, but a real understanding for the value of life and that it is not worth throwing away for inconsequential details.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES Review

While the Paranormal Activity franchise has yet to reach the point where it is something more scoffed at than taken with anticipation it somehow doesn't feel like that point is too far away. This October will mark five years since the first time we met Katie and Micah and all the strange, demonic events that started happening to them and while each subsequent film that has pushed the limitations of people filming every important piece of their lives to the brink of implausibility, there is something to be said for the scope of what has developed here with having such humble beginnings. While the fifth film in the series was meant to be released this past fall it was instead pushed back to 2014 and so now, as these films bookend the year for us we are sure to feel both caught up and virtually still in the cold as to what is actually going on with this coven of witches that Katie and her sister Kristi became entangled in at a very young age (as the third film tells us). While each film has given us another piece to the bigger picture what comes to be more obvious with this off-shoot of the series is that they need to begin giving the audience more otherwise people are going to stop putting in their time and money to see these micro-budgeted movies that are dispersed consistently, but feature very little progression in narrative development. What makes The Marked Ones a worthwhile trip to the movies is that it delivers both more scares and more actual background information than any of the previous installments. The new characters introduced here serve as more of an explanation as to "how" everything that has been hinted at in the main canon films has developed as opposed to "why" this all seemingly began with Katie and Kristi and why it has all spiraled out of control since then. I generally like the Paranormal franchise despite the fact I'm never excited to actually sit down and watch one, but once I do I'm usually sucked into the intriguing if not normal people subject to the scares and moreover how this piece will fit into the overarching story that is being told. It would seem obvious from the marketing that The Marked Ones is not essential viewing, but if you're a fan of the series it at least opens many more doors to be explored and is worth catching if you intend on seeing numero cinco this Halloween.