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.

2014 Oscar Predictions

When the Academy Award nominations were announced on January 16th there weren't really many surprises except for the fact that American Hustle actually slipped past everyone as an exceptional film to become the most nominated of the year. Though, even this was something I expected from the Academy. It is hard to even understand the affection for the film as it is a rushed and sloppily put-together script and film that only rises above something more than a Scorsese knock-off because of the acting talent involved. I won't say I didn't like certain aspects of the movie and the ensemble cast certainly make it a more enjoyable experience that I'm more than willing to give another chance when it comes to Blu-Ray, but did it deserve the awards love? No, that attention would have been better spent on Fruitvale Station, The Place Beyond the Pines, Short Term 12 or Inside Llewyn Davis. That these films will be almost completely absent from the the biggest ceremony honoring the best motion pictures of the previous year is a real shame and an eye-opener that it truly does mean the studios have to offer up their awards hopefuls in the final quarter of the year if they want to see it actually be considered and as is tradition, get an extensive run in theaters guaranteeing new interest and bigger than estimated returns.  The time has come and gone to complain though so we can only speculate on who will actually take home the awards and ultimately there is still a strong chance many of my personal favorites of the year will make good showings. My favorite film of last year, Gravity, should no doubt score a best director win for Alfonso Cuarón, but after his win for best director at the Directors Guild Awards in late January coupled with the film tying presumptive frontrunner 12 Years a Slave at the Producers Guild Awards gives us reason to consider Gravity as the likely winner. We all know Cate Blanchett and Jared Leto will be making acceptance speeches on March 2nd, but who else will be taking the stage? Hit the jump to find out my predictions for all of the major categories.

EDITORIAL: The Best Actor Race 2014

Leonardo DiCaprio should probably win an Oscar this year, but he won't and that doesn't really matter because he is a movie star and we all understand he is a serious one. Is being a movie star better than being an Oscar winner? Cuba Gooding Jr. probably wouldn't think so, but I'm sure Jason Statham would argue that point and just for the record: he would win. What would winning an Academy Award, an Oscar if you will, actually do for DiCaprio anyway other than symbolically confirm (for him, maybe) what the masses already believe? It is a reasonable question to ask as the Oscar voters seem to have grown more disconnected with mainstream audiences the past few years than even the despicably contrarian critics seem to be lately. This brings in a more interesting question though as there have been plenty of discussions surrounding the film in which this DiCaprio performance takes place. The Wolf of Wall Street has been accused of many things, both from general audiences and those who participated in the actual events it's based on, but strictly as a film it fulfills what both mainstream audiences and critics are typically looking for in their movies: entertainment as well as higher art. It has succeeded in being successful not only from a financial standpoint (over $300 million worldwide on a $100 million budget), but also in creating ongoing conversation that debates the point of the amount of lewdness and profanity in the film and whether it's glorifying excess or simply holding a mirror up to society and forcing us to take a hard look at what we've made the points of our lives out to be. This is a film that will continue to be discussed and won't simply fade out of public consciousness and this status is owed, in many ways, to the presence of someone like DiCaprio in such a film.

POMPEII Review

I've never been a big fan of director Paul W.S. Anderson as I've never even seen a single Resident Evil movie (though he's only directed three of the five) and while I did rather enjoy his 2008 re-make of Death Race that was as much due to the fact it starred Jason Statham as anything else. In light of that film and all of the facets that his 2011 Three Musketeers interpretation had going for it I was rather interested in seeing how it turned out, but I couldn't even make it through the entirety of that flick when I rented it at home and I doubt I would have made it through Pompeii either had I not been sitting in a theater. The story of the city of Pompeii is no doubt a fascinating one as what occurred in the aftermath of Mount Vesuvius exploding in 79 AD and wiping out the entire city, killing two thousand people, within a matter of moments and leaving everything covered in several feet of ash and rock, allowed those moments in time, those moments of fear and humanity to be captured, frozen in time and preserved for thousands of years creating a mystery around the city. It would be impossible not to delve into the stories that exist under the ash, but Anderson is not the director I would have chosen to create what is inherently an epic because once his name was attached it became immediately clear what type of film this would be and the final result proves nothing if not the fact he is a predictable and safe director. While it is only of my opinion, it would seem this kind of story lends itself to that of a gritty realism and an opportunity to ask and address bigger questions such as at the end of the world, what are we? This as well as investigating the human element of survival and of meaning under circumstances completely out of our control. Instead, Anderson makes the whole point of this film feel like a reason for the 3D technology to exist because watching fireballs zoom by and crash into ancient cities is more entertaining than story or character development. I'm all about having fun at the movies and being completely wrapped up in the outlandish worlds of pure popcorn entertainment, but Pompeii doesn't so much have a story as it does serve as an excuse to blow shit up on the biggest scale possible. It is a disaster movie that keeps its promise in terms of action, but only skims the surface of what the circumstances of these events bring to the lives of those who suffered under them.

3 DAYS TO KILL Review

From the opening moments of 3 Days to Kill I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be laughing or not. That the first real "name" we see on screen comes in the form of Amber Heard is nothing but disheartening, but when you start throwing in nicknamed bad guys like "the albino" and "the wolf" I think everyone sat back in their seats and immediately realized what type of movie we were in for. As Luc Besson has done ever since truly breaking through in America with Taken six years ago it seems he has been keen to write another action hit starring a credible, middle-aged actor at the center of it. Granted, Besson only writes these things and hardly directs, but his distinct European flavor is written all over them and while neither Lockout nor this will work the way Neeson's surprise hit did it was nice to see Kevin Costner give it a try and it was surprising, if not concerning, to see McG behind the wheel of another seemingly brainless action movie that if not proving to be exactly artistic could at least be fun. The guy has directed competent action/comedies before, I actually enjoyed the two Charlie's Angels films though history doesn't look too kindly on them now, but has had a rocky road of swaying back and forth between genres since and has never really found a way to re-gain his footing. This is also the problem with 3 Days to Kill as not only does it not know what it wants to be, but it never seems to gain its footing in the first place. From the opening sequence that has Costner's senior CIA agent tripping and coughing through a large European hotel we are made to think he is going to be the nonchalant charmer who does his incredibly difficult job with an ease that makes him appealing, but instead it simply turns out he is in the right place at the right time and there isn't necessarily anything special about him other than the fact that he is dying and sees the error of his ways in choosing to chase bad guys rather than develop meaningful relationships with his wife and daughter. 3 Days to Kill could have easily been that dumb fun action flick that sees Costner re-gain some of his prime in a leading role, but instead it just turns out to be dumb with an identity crisis that leaves us nothing if not discontent.

First Trailer for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY

In what has become increasingly more interesting and all the more mysterious as time has passed, Guardians of the Galaxy stands to either be a massive hit and a step in a new (likely right) direction for Marvel studios or a tragic misfire that may only give caution for the studio to regress back towards more mainstream heroes. As Marvel is a studio that likes to make plans well enough ahead of time though, I doubt they'd be putting as many eggs in the GotG basket if they didn't have a good amount of trust in it. Personally, I am really excited to see both what director James Gunn (Slither, Super) does with a big budget action flick and how comic book movies may change with this release. While Marvel has ventured into the cosmos before with Thor, this will be the first time we have a film taking place completely outside of our own planet with a scale all its own. The sequels as of late have felt more like additions to a long-running mini-series than feature films and have given us beats where we know what to ultimately to expect each time out. What is exciting about GotG is the opportunity it has to re-define the super hero film and turn an unexpected corner. I have never been a big comic book reader, but have always enjoyed films adapted from them and while I've never read a GotG story (I hadn't even heard of them until the film was announced) I am very much looking forward to what this swashbuckling team of space explorers bring to the table. As for the trailer itself, Gunn has assembled an all-star cast that look to be in fine form and while the visuals are stunning I was interested to see how they would pull off making a gun-toting, talking raccoon legit: so far, all looks well. Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Peter Serafinowicz, Benicio Del Toro with the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper and an opening date of August 1st.

First Trailer for THINK LIKE A MAN TOO

Back in 2012 Think Like A Man became a break-out hit when it seemed African American audiences had grown tired of Tyler Perry productions while the large ensemble cast put together by seasoned director Tim Story and based on a book by Steve Harvey seemed to be appropriate alternative programming. It is clear the black audience in America is one that is largely ignored by mainstream studios as they still look at these entries in the African American genre as financial risks when it has become more and more clear over time that there is most certainly an audience for them. Think Like A Man was a film that featured a cast almost completely made up of African Americans and was a genuine box office hit where the story didn't center around the struggles of being black or the issues of race that have or still exist. Last year alone we saw 42, The Butler, 12 Years A Slave and Fruitvale Station either make impacts critically, commercially or both, but while still dealing with those issues. This all came to a head though with the release of last Novembers The Best Man Holiday which debuted at $30 million and went on to earn over $70 on a $17 million budget and was a pure Christmas-themed dramedy. It was the combination of this finally striking a chord with studio execs surprised that such a film would be a hit and the wave Kevin Hart is currently riding that will seem to shape a brighter future for the African American genre. Hart, who has already scored a massive hit with Story this year in Ride Along and made About Last Night bigger than the RoboCop movie this weekend shows no signs of slowing down as he is clearly the highlight of this trailer and looks to completely dominate the summer box office when this sequel will likely win out over Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys and the rushed sequel to The Purge. The trailer impresses that this is perfectly fun, summer fare and will have no problem convincing those that loved the first that they are in for better times with the second. Think Like A Man Too also stars Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrara, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Adam Brody, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Terrence Jenkins, Jennifer Lewis, Gary Owen, David Walton, Dennis Haysbert and opens on June 20th.

ENDLESS LOVE Review

Endless Love is not a great movie, but it does know exactly what type of movie it is and it embraces that whole-heartily. There isn't really a sense of real-world expectations (other than going off to college of course) and there is never any real feeling of impending doom despite the films attempts to continue to raise the stakes and put its characters in danger. If you saw the original 1981 film starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt you probably expected some of those stakes to pay off in different ways than this new version decides to take the facets of what is still essentially the same story. Surprisingly though, this new version feels very much like its own movie, like its own world and though it may be an imaginary world for many of us the film is able to deliver a convincing love story while never actually paying attention to the development of that core relationship. We understand the circumstances surrounding our two young lovers (portrayed by Brits Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde) and we see the doomed nature of their obsession early on and the mountain of obstacles facing them, but thanks to the charming performances from both of these leads we are able to somehow root for these young lovers that don't necessarily give us any reason to do so as far as why their relationship is so special, but because of little more than their dedication to one another and the films unapologetically optimistic view of love we go from believing this is nothing more than a summer fling (as most of the adults here do) to buying into these kids truly having a genuine affection for one another that could sustain itself for longer than the flutter in time youth is. Still, to enjoy even a moment of this updated tale of forbidden love you have to be willing to accept the movie on its own, melodramatic terms. Everything here is amplified from the posh superiority of some of the inhabitants of this lakeside town to the circumstances that some of our characters just happen to wander into. So, as long as you can take these characters and their heightened emotions and accept them as the conditions of the film you might find yourself enjoying this, if not, you'll alternate between laughing and cringing.

Teaser Trailer for TAMMY

I saw the teaser trailer for Melissa McCarthy's latest comedy before my screening of About Last Night a few days ago and had no previous knowledge of its production or what the story was about. The good news is that this teaser doesn't give much education on what that story is, but it lets us know the tone of the film and that it is going to let McCarthy do the type of comedy she does best and in what might be the most freeing form yet as far as features go. I say that due to the fact that McCarthy's own husband, Ben Falcone, is making his directorial debut with this feature. The story is said to revolve around a road trip taken between Tammy (McCarthy) and her foul-mouthed, alcoholic grandmother as played by Susan Sarandon after Tammy is fired from her job at a fast food restaurant (giving new light to what is screened in the teaser) and learning that her husband has been having an affair. Judging by the reaction of the audience in the theater people will be more than willing to throw down they're money to see McCarthy play out her physical comedy schtick in a prime summer slot that seems poised to do nothing more than further solidify her status as a comedic force. I have to wonder when audiences will get tired of McCarthy essentially playing the same character over and over as it seems Tammy could have been taken from any one of the characters the actress pulled out for her recent hosting duties on Saturday Night Live, but at the same time I can't help but laugh at her and as long as this is closer to The Heat than Identity Thief I think I'll be more than willing to take it in and accept it for what it's meant to be. Tammy also stars Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon, Dan Aykroyd, Kathy Bates and opens July 2nd.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT Review

Kevin Hart has officially become everything the studios behind him want him to be. He is a bankable star that can show up in the advertising for a film and almost guarantee a certain amount of audience because they know if Hart is present in the film, it will likely be a good enough time for them to dedicate part of a weekend night to. The good part of this line of thinking is that it is true. Hart, who has been around for years and serving as comic relief in any number of comedies finally was allowed his film breakout when his sense of stand-up was brought to his supporting character in Think Like A Man. Since, the guy has been pretty much unstoppable. Just look at the last few months alone: he single handily saved December's Grudge Match from being unwatchable and last month had one of the biggest January debuts when he teamed up with Ice Cube for the generic, but entertaining Ride Along which continues to put up strong numbers at the box office almost a month later. All of this on top of the success he found last summer with the theatrical release of his stand-up special, Let Me Explain, has led to this Valentine's Day weekend release that will seemingly do nothing more than to prove how much Hart is actually worth as he goes up against a good amount of competition, but if his reputation precedes him and the quality of the film is good enough to generate positive buzz he will be poised to add that much more weight to his name. The good news is that About Last Night is not the exercise in safe movie-making Ride Along is and though this won't be as big a hit, it is a better film and one that isn't afraid to let its actors loose on the material and approach it in the most honest way possible. While this is still a remake of the 1986 flick starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore (which I have not seen) it seems to have modernized the relationship dynamics well enough while utilizing both Hart and Regina Hall in a way that counteracts the typical beats of a PG-13 romantic comedy while still fulfilling those requirements through the relationship explored by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant's characters. As with almost every rom-com we know where things are heading and so it is really the journey that matters and for the most part, About Last Night delivers a fun, diverting and to a certain extent even an enlightening experience.

ROBOCOP Review

Sometimes it seems critics are so intent on seeing themselves as more intelligent than popular entertainment, above it in many regards, that they cannot help but look for what might be implausible in those big action movies that, the majority of the time, do in fact place explosions over intelligence. At this point though, that is an age old argument and I think studios have come to realize that audiences know better than to accept big, expensive action flicks for what they are, but that we have come to expect a little more from our movies. It doesn't necessarily have to be biting satire, social commentary or even a story that breaks any new ground, but what we do expect is something that someone somewhere seems to have put a good amount of thought and effort into creating that, preferably, comes from a single point of vision as to why this feature should exist. Those last stipulations are especially true when we come to something like a re-make of a classic film that many people will brush off from the moment its greenlit or will immediately dismiss as never being able to live up to the original. With Robocop, one did have to wonder what more could there be to the idea of re-making the 1987 Paul Verhoeven classic other than to rip-off the well-known brand-name that would hopefully assure butts in the seats opening weekend? It would naturally be taken as nothing more than a cash grab initially, something that, like Robocop himself, was put together by a committee of studio execs looking through old properties that could turn a profit in todays market and hey, science fiction has been hot lately so why not go for it? While I never had much affection for the original film (it came out the year I was born) and because I couldn't really watch it given the R-rating and gratuitous violence until many years later I came to view it more as a fun, little 80's flick with a guy in a cool suit rather than appreciate it as many seem to that were old enough to enjoy it in its heyday. That being said, I didn't walk in with horribly low expectations, but I knew the story, knew the likelihood of why this was produced and therefore knew not to expect much, but after the great introduction to this new world we get from Pat Novak aka Samuel L. Jackson I began to slip comfortably into enjoyment and let those critical inhibitions go to where the implausibilities and plot hang-ups disappeared and I was simply having fun.

DIANA Home Video Review

Diana, not making a peep upon its release nor since, is one of those movies that simply exists where neither its content nor the way it was put together, where the techniques used to convey a well-known story, brought about no great insight, revelation or even valid emotional impact that only served to re-enforce the fact there was no reason for it to exist. It seems no matter how much director Oliver Hirschbiegel thought he might bring an interesting point of view to this film his attempts end up being completely ineffective in the fact that a majority of the people interested in the figure of Diana, Princess of Whales likely knew everything this movie would be bringing to the table (or had already read it in Kate Snell's book on which the screenplay was based) and thus found no reason to watch famous people play dress-up and re-hash the events of their beloved Diana while no doubt dramatizing it as much as possible. There was no need for a film though not because we all know how it turns out, but because Diana was such a figure that the public felt like they knew so well, personally even, that it is almost a betrayal to them to see this actress portray a part of the peoples princess they might not have seen before. This is no fault of the writers, filmmakers or actors and obviously is an element they have no control over, but while it may have felt like a valiant effort, a story worth bringing to a feature film the end result is something that points to every reason why it wasn't a good idea. All of that being said, there is indeed an effort put forth here and despite the bad press it received before it was given a chance there is a Naomi Watts performance here that, while she no doubt had much higher hopes for it, should be recognized as what it is: convincing on what were impossible levels. The same stigma that applied to the movie applies to the person picked to play Diana and the performance they ultimately gave. What Watts is able to do is somehow transcend the barrage of images we've all seen and do what the movie as a whole was unable to accomplish and that is make us believe in this material. No, I didn't necessarily enjoy the film or find much of it interesting, but it has its moments and it had enough to show there is a solid biography to be made about Diana, but that this just isn't it.

THE LEGO MOVIE Review

Upon initially hearing that there was going to be a movie based solely around the Lego brand and the toys and properties they owned I believed it would turn out to be nothing more than a cash grab, something to build the name (not that it needed it) or possibly expanding the brand may be a better way to approach it. Essentially, I expected this to turn out to be nothing more than one big commercial. There was little reason for it to be more than that, why waste such effort or creative juices on something that would no doubt deliver zero gratification in the end and would only serve as something to decrease further the credibility of Hollywood products and the way in which children's entertainment disparages its audience much of the time allowing itself to get away with body function jokes and funny voices rather than actual, contextual humor? So, why would directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who took something like the beloved 1970's Judi Barrett children's book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and turned it into a witty, colorful piece of cinema that took some unexpected themes and conveyed them in a manner that allowed the children to enjoy the food falling from the sky while the adults latched onto the insight the story might be re-educating them on, but was at least delivering it to them in a new, almost inspiring light? That these guys went on to direct something like 21 Jump Street, a reboot of an 80's property that no one really put much faith in, and turned it into not only one of the best films of 2012 or one of the better comedies to come out in a good while, but a movie that used its interesting concept to delve into the strange dynamics of male friendships and the actual struggles it takes to maintain those types of friendships as each individual grows up and changes? That film didn't have to be anything more than a re-make slapped together by a board of executives to satisfy humor-hungry teens who move from R-rated comedy to R-rated comedy without a care, but Lord and Miller made it something more, something notable. All of that is to say that the directors have done the same here; they have transformed what could have been that one, massive commercial into something of a reminder, a love letter in ways to the spirit of childhood and how the imagination is just as precious as the adequacy we need to feel as adults. In short, The LEGO Movie is magical and reminds us of how simple it is to feel that little something extra.

THE MONUMENTS MEN Review

When the first trailer for George Clooney's latest directorial endeavor premiered it was clear that this wasn't going to be the large, dramatic, Oscar-bait piece everyone expected it to be given the caliber of the cast, the subject matter and the release date. We were originally scheduled to receive The Monuments Men on Christmas Day last year, but after The Wolf of Wall Street was pushed to that date it simply became too crowded. Clooney knew what he had on his hands here though and he knew he wasn't going for Oscar gold, but even more impressive is that he didn't fold under the pressure of these stipulations and force what felt unnatural upon this story to make an overly-serious or pretentious film that would fit squarely into the wheelhouse of highly-praised, but undeserving best picture winners. It is nice to know Clooney made what he wanted to make, what he first envisioned upon reading Robert M. Edsel's nonfiction book chronicling the adventures of these museum directors, curators and art historians that were out of their element, but took the risks anyway to preserve the culture this art represented. In that first trailer, one of the biggest signs that this wasn't going to be exactly what we expected was the music and it is in the soundtrack that we find more than anything the revealing nature of what Clooney was going for. It is not about the epic sacrifices of war, it is not touching on the moral dilemma of what war actually accomplishes or if the lives lost are lost for good reason or a justified outcome, but it simply takes war for what it is and tells an interesting adventure story while consistently asking our group of protagonists if during this time of war, is their endeavor too small? Sure, there are plenty of complaints to be made about The Monuments Men as it could have very easily been more entertaining, more fleshed out, less awkward and more authentic, but for what it is and what it seems intent on accomplishing we get the version Clooney wanted to deliver. Despite these complaints though I was very much intrigued by what these men were trying to accomplish, what they stood for and how their story turned out. This may not be the best interpretation of their story that could have been made, but it is a beautiful and professionally rendered version that does well to pay tribute to their mission statement.

A FANTASTIC FEAR OF EVERYTHING Review

Writing can be a stressful activity as much as it can be a relieving one. For Simon Pegg's Jack it becomes more of the latter due to the subject he has chosen to document. His life has become one big panic attack after thoughts of death and his analyzing of serial killers has taken over his very precious, very fragile-seeming mind. Jack is not inherently a likable guy, he's moody and particular and takes those trying to help him for granted while he thinks of himself on a higher level than most other human beings. He is suspicious of everyone and everything that comes along and can't help but elaborate on the simplest of occurrences turning them into grand gestures of stalking and murder. His imagination, from which he makes a living, has essentially got the better of him and he doesn't know what to do with himself any longer. While Simon Pegg has always been a talented comedic actor and writer he is at the mercy of English writers and directors Crispian Mills and Chris Hopewell here. The screenplay, from Mills alone, is astoundingly specific and makes much of the small ticks of Jack's character that resonate throughout the film from his characterization alone. What we don't get though is a fully encompassing experience from the film. It feels more like a Cliffs Notes version of what is going on inside the mind of Jack rather than the introspective, in-depth look we seem to be promised in the first half of the film. While Mills is able to create this fantastical tone that hearkens back to classic horror films based around the Victorian era that necessitate the desired nature of the world Pegg's character is trying to immerse himself in we instead end up feeling the affects left to audiences. We never believe Jack as a creator, as an inventor of worlds, though we are forced to believe in his storytelling tendencies as he's concocted his entire atmosphere to mirror everything he has seen before in the genre he is trying to imitate. And in many ways, that is what A Fantastic Fear of Everything ends up feeling like, a homage to the films Mills and his co-director loved as they grew up. It is clear there are plenty visual references here and the style they imply to the film is not to be disregarded as it is one of the best things about the experience, but we go from feeling interested and truly invested in this kind of character study about the dissension into insanity to a film that in its second half is wandering aimlessly towards a less than satisfying conclusion.

R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)

I don't remember a time when Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn't the most credible of actors. I've always enjoyed movies and filmmaking. I made mini Super Hero films throughout my childhood and early teenage years, but was the oldest of my siblings so had little access to the more serious films in the years Hoffman came to prominence. I began writing in high school and really began taking in film as an art form and something to really be marveled at if not for the work and technique each person involved must put forth and hone, but for the suspension of self-conscientiousness an actor must have to perform any part of their job. As I began to delve further into the smaller films, the ones that didn't get big weekend releases I began to realize the consistency with which Hoffman operated. I remember discovering the reputation of the Coen Brothers and my need to go through their filmography and watch as many of their films as I could. The natural starting point for me in 2005 was The Big Lebowski since I'd already seen O Brother, Where Art Thou? and as the time between that and No Country for Old Men wasn't the kindest to the Coens I stepped back one further and was introduced to Jeff Bridges The Dude. Before Bridges was able to leave an impression though we meet Hoffman's Brandt and it is in his small contribution here, paired with the chatter he was beginning to receive for his portrayal of Truman Capote that I began to realize this guy was one to watch and was not entirely the goofy, portly fellow in a long line of goofy portly comedians trying to establish their own careers that I'd seen a year prior in Along Came Polly. That isn't to say his turn as Sandy Lyle was anything less than hilarious and perfectly on point for what it needed to be, but there was clearly an air of talent around the guy in that he could step into that kind of role, looking like he did and completely steal the show and that is what he did in minor films like Polly so it was only natural he would become a force of nature in the more serious, prestigious and meaningful roles he would come to be known for.

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT Review

How could something with so much potential and so many valuable moving parts be reduced to such utter filth? Well, that problem and answer is on full display in what we are calling That Awkward Moment. Each of the principal cast has better work in them, some of it just being released on home video, and others coming later this year in theaters. Why each of them decided to waste their valuable time on a project like this is beyond me, but maybe it was for nothing more than an opportunity to hang out with one another as that seems to be the hook the studio is looking to sell in the advertisements for the film so why should we think they made it look any different to Zac Efron, Miles Teller or Michale B. Jordan? While Efron is the clear marquee name here because he will put the most teenage girls in the seats it is Teller and Jordan who have actually been making the better career choices as of late that have landed them on many critics radars and have movie lovers like myself looking forward to their future projects. Both Teller and Jordan starred in films that made my list of the top fifteen films of 2013 and I like Efron enough that I was really hoping this along with Neighbors later this summer might put him on the map as having a great transitional year after attempts at prestige like The Paperboy, At Any Price and Parkland failed to resonate with anyone. While I still have more than enough hope for Efron's pairing with Seth Rogen later this year That Awkward Moment is not his The Vow and it is clear he will not have the breakout year Channing Tatum had in 2012, but will instead continue looking for that one role that will push him to the next level while hopefully, at the very least, cementing his status as a young adult primed at playing to his comedic chops in quality comedies. That retrospective of where each of these stars are at in their career right now aside, That Awkward Moment had the potential to be an interesting and unique take on the romantic comedy from the perspective of a couple of twenty-something males living it up in New York City, but instead paints a portrait of these assholes and pathetic losers who have such a delayed sense of maturity that it takes them crushing young ladies emotions in more ways than one to realize they may actually care about them after all. It isn't flat out horrible, Teller does all he can to salvage it, but when there is hardly anyone to like on screen and no entertainment value in their moral ambiguity there is hardly anything to like or enjoy at all. Pity, because it had such serious potential.

LABOR DAY Review

I really wanted to like Labor Day, despite the negative press it has received since premiering last fall at the Toronto International Film Festival. I wanted to believe that there was no way a film adapted and directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air) that starred Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, both well-respected and credible actors, would turn out to be little more than a melodramatic romance that could have been just as well adapted from the pages of a Nicholas Sparks novel than that of the Joyce Maynard source material. Granted, I don't know much about the source material or Maynard's writing, but if the film turns out to be anything it is a well-acted, beautifully shot slice of life drama that takes the late summer weekend that traditionally precedes the beginning of the school year and introduces a world of conflict into the otherwise simple life of a mother and child who are simply trying to get by. There is naturally more to the relationship between the mother and son as it becomes clear quite quickly that Henry (Gattlin Griffith) has been forced to grow up quicker than he anticipated and take care of his mother, Adele (Winslet), after his father (Clark Gregg) left them. Adele suffers from depression, but we understand this isn't due simply to the loss of her ex-husband to his secretary, but that this pain runs deeper and that the root cause of such pain has blurred the outlook she has on life and the qualities required to have what many would call a "normal" existence. There is a fair amount of ideas going on here; coming of age, forbidden love, regret and perspective, the depression aspect and of course the strong influence food plays in the developing relationships between characters. There is a charm to the film, but there is also a carelessness to the quality of the storytelling. It is almost impossible for Winslet or Brolin to give a bad performance and they bring their full efforts to two equally damaged people that need the strength of one another to feel complete, but the way in which this relationship and the circumstances surrounding their courtship develop do little to re-enforce the credibility these two actors bring to such a story. To be fair, this isn't a Nicholas Sparks adaptation and deserves to be seen as more than those manufactured stories now come off as because there is a strong air of authenticity to Labor Day, yet it simultaneously feels lacking in critical areas.