Devotion can be a tricky thing. Lone Survivor is ostensibly an action film, but because of its source material and the man who lived the experience, the effort that went into making this film seems to have been heavily concentrated on making it have the feel of an “important” story, just as much as a technically proficient action experience. This is not anything new, but it can have an effect on how impactful a film may be, depending on how strident a film may be in wanting to tell a certain kind of story. Lone Survivor gets points for depicting a level of intensity not often found in anything other than action-heavy war films, but it is because of how devoted it wants to be to the true story by way of brutality and how heavily supportive it is of the actual men involved in this story that the whole thing ends up feeling less impactful as a standalone film.
Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category
After my last go around with Paranormal Activity 4 in 2012, I swore myself off the franchise for good. I made childish comments such as I don’t care how long this franchise carries on, I want nothing to do with it. When they announced the delay of the fifth film this past year from its lavish Halloween spot to a January play date, I just chuckled heavily. What movies play in January? A million arms raise high. I pick the loudest screaming one. The answer they all shout out unanimously is not very good ones. And then the unthinkable happened. Reports as of recent started flooding in on my RSS feeds saying low and behold, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones actually isn’t that bad and that revered writers praised it for reinvigorating their interest in the franchise and further installments. Say whaaat?! I can’t blame this on dirty ears and not hearing the information correctly. I actually read this with my own two eyes on more occasions this past week than I care to openly admit. So you can see my conundrum here, can you not? How can I not see this? Can all my fellow reviewers in the business be so wrong? I just had to take one for the team and take the plunge last night to find out. Continue reading ‘Guns, Gangsters and Brujas! It’s Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (Movie Review)’
I have made it no secret that I have been a fan of the Paranormal Activity franchise. While not every entry has been great, they have just the right effect on me, given that I enjoy horror films, but am rarely scared by them. Something about this series has worked well enough to have me tense in the theater, but more so the night after seeing the film. It must be the combination of a good audience experience, some of the clever ideas in creating the buildup and payoffs, and the attempts to keep these entries grounded by using the ‘found footage’ aspect. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones worked for me more than I expected it would. It has to do with some change ups of the format, but I do also continue to enjoy the simplicity of this series, even as it continues to develop its mythology and include bigger special effects.
Revered filmmaker Martin Scorsese directs the story of New York stockbroker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). From the American dream to corporate greed, Belfort goes from penny stocks and righteousness to IPOs and a life of corruption in the late 80s. Excess, success, and affluence in his early twenties as founder of the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont warranted Belfort the title – “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Continue reading ‘The Wolf of Wall Street (Movie Review)’
At last, after months of teasing trailers, I was able to sit in on a pre-screening of my most anticipated movie of the year, Wolf of Wall Street. As expected, it did not let me down. I had 3 hours of pure enjoyment. That’s right, I said 3 hours!!! Even without popcorn! Martin Scorsese has truly outdone himself with this film. Clocking in at an impressive 179 minutes, Wolf of Wall Street has set a record as Mr. Scorsese’s longest fictional film by beating out Casino by a mere one minute. Wolf is, in my opinion, by far the director’s most exciting film in years. Second runner up would be The Departed. How this film did not get a NC-17 rating is beyond me. Scorsese has pushed the boundaries of R rating to the absolute limits with a combination of drugs, strippers, sex, depravity and oh so much more. Not that I am complaining about that, because in no way am I. So do I have your attention yet?? Ok, I cannot wait any longer to dive into this brilliant film. Continue reading ‘‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ Huffs And Puffs And Blows Away Its Competition (Movie Review)’
It feels like I am already in the minority on this one, but I think it has been clear in my writing over the years that I enjoy enjoying films, as opposed to trying to be negative. Sometimes my enjoyment falls in line with a majority of other folk who watch and write about film and sometimes I am on the opposite end of the spectrum. An assumption about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is that it appears to be a light-hearted adventure comedy made for a trendy crowd, due to the use of various elements in its trailers. I would not necessarily agree, but that seems to have inspired a lot of ire in the film from some, for reasons that are beyond me. Now having seen the film, I was very happy to enjoy it for what it manages to accomplish. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a film about one man’s journey that may not have a whole lot of depth, compared to the scope of the film or others like it, but it worked for me in a very crowd-pleasing kind of way and I liked that.
47 Ronin is an enjoyable hybrid period action/fantasy movie that was much better than I was expecting. Granted I am generally pretty satisfied with Keanu Reeves action movies, but a lot of the surprise came from how different this very expensive movie played out. Along with putting the money on screen, this is a film that is very much inspired by samurai films and strives to play like one, in terms of its pacing and devotion to portraying the notion of honor. With that, the film also blends into other genres as well, most notably a swashbuckling adventure, with some fantasy elements thrown in for good measure. All of this made for a fun film that felt unlike a lot of expensive action films like it, especially given that its main star is really a supporting character. It is just too bad it will likely make next to nothing in theaters. Continue reading ’1 Lord, 1 Witch, 1 Shogun, And ‘47 Ronin’ (Movie Review)’
Real life can be a funny thing, mainly because it happens differently to everyone and all you can really do is react to the different stories you here. I haven’t read the memoir by Jordan Belfort, but the movie based upon it features a lot craziness that can seemingly only be matched by Roman orgies. Here is a story that is based on reality and can really only be accepted as truth, because the events that take place are just way too wild to have come from anywhere but reality. The Wolf of Wall Street is a Martin Scorsese film that is impeccably made, despite the long runtime, and features enough lunacy to fill in the requirements for another trilogy of Hangover movies. All of this and the film still features some of the finest acting work from its star Leonardo DiCaprio, who was hell-bent on getting this film made.
This matters very little in terms of my thoughts on the film, but I do not much care for the way this film is being marketed. August: Osage County is a lot of things. It is a well-acted drama, with some comedic moments. It is based on an award-winning play by Tracy Letts. It involves a family coming together to mourn the death of a loved one. It is not the kind of film where family members bicker, but manage to all come together in the end and celebrate the “true meaning of family”. It is not about a sassy, fire-spitting matriarch who is also loveable, with her children standing behind her in the long scheme of things. I like this film and the actors in it, but it is not the feel good comedy-drama that is being sold to audiences.
If anything, I should be mad at Her for upsetting my list of best films of 2013. Here is a film that I was excited for, as Spike Jonze is a force to be reckoned with, when it comes to directors of wildly imaginative original films (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), and it turned out to be everything I wanted it to be and more. Her is a fascinating film about love, loss, the state of technology, and the complications that come with different kinds of relationships, among other things. It is an inventive and soulful film, with a concept that is taken about as far as it can go, without crossing the line into too far out territory. It features a strong lead performance, a strong lead vocal performance, and some rather effective and affecting supporting ones as well. This is a film that has just about everything I would like to see in an alternative type of romance-drama and it only helps that it is occasionally very funny.
I remember the first time I saw Bradley Cooper on the hit ABC television show Alias opposite Jennifer Garner circa 2001 I proclaimed out loud that this cat is going to be a big star. My ex at the time scoffed at me and said whatever. She never believed in me. Therefore, that’s why she’s an ex. LOL. But seriously, was I right or was I right? He’s gone on to be such a huge star in highly successful films as The Hangover series, the immaculate conception known as Silver Linings Playbook and now everyone’s favorite foul mouthed raccoon in next year’s Guardian of the Galaxy. However, I digress about my love for Bradley Cooper. I’ll admit that I got a little off the subject of why we are gathered here today. But I can’t help it! I want to scream it from the tallest trees. My boy Bradley Cooper is a new movie and best of all, he’s sporting tight curls in this 70’s retro feature. Of course I’m talking about Columbia Pictures’ American Hustle, once upon a time known as American Bullsh1t (that little factoid makes me love the flick without even seeing it). Now you want to know more, right?! Great! I have an itch I want to scratch. Let’s get talking! Continue reading ‘Get Conned Into Loving ‘American Hustle’ (Movie Review)’
I have recently had discussions about comedy sequels with some friends. They are not easy to pull off, which is obvious just due to the fact that it is hard to name more than a couple comedy sequels offhand that really match up to the original film. For all the fun I had and continue to have with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, it is not necessarily a film that screamed for a sequel. A modest success at the time, which (as many comedies do) found a lot more success on home video, Anchorman is the kind of weird and endlessly quotable movie that hits just the right beats for a lot of people. Now the stars were able to finally align, as all the…stars were able to get back together for another madcap comedy adventure based around a team of doofuses that like reading the news together. The results will no doubt vary for many, but I laughed a lot during this film.
Despite this second installment of The Hobbit films being a grand adventure, with lots of excitement and visuals, at this point I think I know what the inherent problem is with this second Tolkien trilogy. For all the fun this movie wants its audience to have, no one in these films seems to be having much fun. Save for some one-liners from the various dwarfs, whose names I don’t know, almost everyone is gruff and serious all the time. I am not saying everyone should be laughing and smiling, but it comes down to the stakes at hand, and compared to the apocalyptic nature of The Lord of the Rings, the plot of the Hobbit films is about as serious as making it to a relative’s BBQ on time. Given how thin some of these characters are, spending nine hours with this story could be aided by a bit more charm to go with the heaps of CGI. With that being said, The Desolation of Smaug is a lot of the same, with the adventure starting midway through, allowing for less setup. There are plenty of thrills, action, and neat visuals to be found, but I am curious if the next chapter will make this unexpected trilogy something worth being turned into three separate films.
A lot of times I see films that seem to ooze a lot of cool and pizazz, regardless of substance, from directors I enjoy. My go-to example of this tends to be Steven Soderbergh and Ocean’s Eleven. What helps is how that film and others like it also have a collection of actors turning in really solid work, even in the midst of a story that is more about having a fun time. American Hustle, from director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Three Kings), has this kind of vibe. It loosely bases a story around true events, but is really more of a fun ride, filled with the styles of the 70s and a Scorsese-like drive to be a sexy, violent, and often funny piece of entertainment.
It is not as though I am completely averse to movies with intentions of having good-natured stories or ones that thrive on inevitably sweet and heart-warming outcomes, but sometimes a premise and those involved can give you that idea and sway your interest elsewhere. I have not seen Mary Poppins in many years and do not exactly hold the film in high esteem, because of that, so a film from the director of The Blind Side, produced by Disney, which involves telling a story about the making of Mary Poppins and Walt Disney’s personal involvement seems like it could go a very specific way. Fortunately, while the film has its share saccharine moments, there is also a more personal story here, with darker elements here, which focuses on an opportunity allowing for a character to move on with their life. Some terrific performances really aid the film as well, let alone choices in how the film decides to depict Disney. All of this turned the film into a favorable one for me.
Here we are once again. It’s the same place we were last year. It’s the cold month of December so it must be coincidentally time for the newest entry in The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) saga…err I mean The Hobbit saga. And low and behold…IT IS! Whether it’s a bad omen or not, the second picture in the epic fantasy series, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is opening on none other than on Black Friday. No, I don’t mean that Black Friday where all the ridiculous sales happen (although this year I think Thanksgiving Day sales were much more generous), but that special day when our favorite serial killer Jason Voorhees looms, Friday the 13th! And I’ll make this promise to you. My review below will not be as long as every LOTR infused butt numbing experience you ever had. No sir! Or no ma’am! I promise to keep my babbling to a minimum, but just in case let’s get a move on it. We have lots to discuss here. We have a dragon to slay, elves, dwarves and orcs to feud with and possibly even a certain hobbit to toast. Ladies and gentlemen…this is second installment in the three-part film series set to conclude with There and Back Again next summer…may I introduce The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug… Continue reading ‘Bilbo to the Rescue in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Movie Review)’
Once again and without disappointment, the Coen brothers showcase their talent for delivering an impeccably honest journey of life affirmation as told by Inside Llewyn Davis. Just as important, and equally as impressive, is T Bone Burnett’s contribution to the soundtrack. The film travels the same avenue as O Brother, Where Art Thou in that it delivers a cynical laugh on the account of a less than well off character trying to navigate his way through the crap shoot that is life. Full set folk ballads are interspersed throughout the film which convey the ever present Coen trademark of melancholy beauty. Continue reading ‘Hold Onto Your Potatoes…Laney Loves Her Time ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (Movie Review)’
Seeing so many good actors in a film like Out of the Furnace, which does not suggest a huge budget was in place or that there was a long, labored production (I hear the shooting schedule was about a month), gives me the idea that a lot of people responded to the script and those involved with it. While the film does not manage to live up to the high caliber of acting on display, overall, there is certainly a decent enough dramatic story here, with choices that separate it from others. Choice actually becomes a key theme in the film, which allows the viewer to accept what happens when men make good choices, as well as when they make bad ones.
At times it can be hard to elaborate on why regard can be put so high on certain films. Without tip-toeing around it, I think Inside Llewyn Davis is an incredibly well-made, well-acted, fantastically strange film that receives the highest rating from me, because I do not know what could be made different to have it be even better. It is in no way a film that is accessible to everyone, which pretty much comes with the territory when discussing the majority of films from the Coen Brothers, but that matters little to how I received the film. The film I watched was highly entertaining for a myriad of reasons that stem from the realms of both comedy and drama, when it comes to hitting just below the surface of what this film is, but also has plenty more to consider, as you go deeper into it. Often times I find myself attempting to find problems with a film that I am really enjoying in an effort to be more constructive in a critique of it later on. Inside Llewyn Davis did not even push me to that direction, which may have been due to my fondness of creative directors being very successful at producing the film they wanted to make or because of how absorbed I was by all the great music.
With Twilight having ended and The Hobbit being something of a different beast, there is little that The Hunger Games franchise currently has to compete with, in terms of popular book series being adapted into films. Several others have come out recently (The Host, Beautiful Creatures, The Mortal Instruments, etc.), but none have found the same sort of success. We are on the second of four Hunger Games films and the kind of event releases these films seem show that it will be one of the biggest franchises ever, among these types of films. Keeping all of that in mind, how are the actual films? Well, I was a big fan of the first movie in the way it both complimented the book and worked on its own and I found the sequel to be following the same pattern, while also strengthening certain elements this time around. It helps that I also like the second book more than the first, but this second film is nonetheless a triumph in carrying on with a storyline that still has a lot of ground to cover.