Showing posts from 2014

Rental Review - Dark Skies

Dark Skies (2013), PG-13, 97 minutes - This is a film that my wife and I had been interested in since we first saw the trailer last year. It was added to our Netflix queue where it sat and sat until the other night when we finally had the opportunity to give it a watch.

Dark Skies is a paranormal thriller that follows the Barretts - Lacy (Keri Russell), Daniel (Josh Hamilton) and their sons Jesse (Dakota Goyo) and Sam (Kadan Rockett) - a family battling financial trouble and the stresses that come along with it. To make matters worse, the family begins experiencing strange phenomena, most of which seem to revolve around Sam and his belief in the stories about the Sandman  told to him by Jesse. As unexplained events continue, other members of the family are effected. Lacy's fear of what is happening leads her to the internet, where she finds a local man named Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons) who is considered an expert on the paranormal phenomena they have been experiencing. Lacy…

Review - Into the Woods

Into the Woods (2014), PG, 124 minutes - Ordinarily, I'm not much of a musical fan but this big screen adaptation of the Broadway show caught my eye thanks to its cast and the way it mashes up a number of fairy tales (including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel).

The story opens with a in which we learn what the various characters wish for but the film primarily revolves around the baker (James Cordon) and his wife (Emily Blunt) and their task to collect four items so that the witch next door (Meryl Streep) will reverse the curse that she had put on the baker's bloodline many years before. Only then will their wish of being able to conceive a child come true. The items they must obtain just happen to be items from the other fairy tale characters and their stories: one of Cinderella's (Anna Kendrick) slippers, Jack's (Daniel Huttlestone) cow, a lock of Rapunzel's (Mackenzie Mauzy) hair, and Little Red Riding Hood's (Lilla …

Review - Big Eyes

Big Eyes (2014), PG-13, 105 minutes - Big Eyes is the latest directorial project from Tim Burton and is based on the events of artist Margaret Keane's life. Events which are both phenomenal and unbelievable at the same time. I can't say as I was familiar with her story before now, but it really is quite remarkable.

Margaret (Amy Adams) met fellow artist and future husband Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) while painting portraits in the park for money in an attempt to support herself and her daughter. Keane was a charming man who had lived over seas and seemed to know everyone. They got along well, and when Margaret's ex-husband attempted to get custody of her daughter claiming that she could not provide a stable environment, they got married. Shortly thereafter, Walter talked his way into displaying their art at a local night club. His foreign street-scapes and her portraits of children with distinctive over-sized eyes. One night a couple mistakenly thought that one o…

Review - Fury

Fury (2014), R, 134 minutes - This is another film that I was fortunate enough to catch before it disappeared form theaters, but haven't had the time to get anything written up. Fury is a film that caught my eye as soon as I saw the trailer earlier this year. Then a couple former co-workers highly recommended it and I knew that it would be right up my alley. I've always enjoyed period pieces, especially those that portray the difficulties of war time. Fury takes place in the waning days of World War II as the Allied forces push into Nazi Germany and focuses on Staff Sergeant Don 'Wardaddy' Collier (Brad Pitt), his four man crew, and the tank they operate.

Collier runs a tight-nit crew who loses a member in battle early in the film. The rest of the group Boyd 'Bible' Swan (Shia LeBeouf), Trini 'Gordo' Garcia (Michael Peña), and Grady 'Coon-Ass' Travis (Jon Bernthal) have to adjust to the dynamic of having a new member - Norman Ellison (Logan …

Review - The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything (2014), PG-13, 123 minutes - I have been looking forward to this film for a few months, not only because Stephen Hawking is a fascinating figure, but because there is no way to tell Hawking's story without at least touching on Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or as it is mentioned in the film, Lou Gehrig's Disease). As some of you may know, my uncle has lived with this debilitating disease for over nine years now. I wasn't sure if I'd have a chance to see it as it arrived at our local art house theater amidst the holiday chaos, but I was fortunate enough to find the time to sneak it in last week, on one of its last days here in town.

To my surprise, the majority of the film centered around the challenges and obstacles that Hawking, his (now ex) wife Jane and their family have had to overcome as a result of ALS over the years. Of course his scientific theories and accolades are touched upon here and there but they are not the…

Review - The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), PG-13, 144 minutes -Originally subtitled 'There and Back Again', 'The Battle of the Five Armies' marks the final installment in director Peter Jackson's adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. This portion of the story shows the events surrounding the party of dwarves - led by heir to the dwarven throne Thorin Oakenshield - reclaiming and then defending their homeland, the Lonely Mountain of Erebor.

We are thrust into the action as 'The Battle of the Five Armies' picks up right where 'The Desolation of Smaug' ended, with the dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch) attacking the people of Laketown. Smaug's vacating the Lonely Mountain allows Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his crew, including Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to re-enter the mountain and begin searching for the Arkenstone, the crown jewel of the dwarven treasure. As the search lengthens, Thorin is increasingly afflicted with 'dragon…

Review - Exodus: Gods and Kings (3D)

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), PG-13, 150 minutes - Generally I really enjoy sword and sandal 'epics'. And generally I enjoy films directed by Ridley Scott, especially when they boast a strong cast. Unfortunately, an extremely poor 3D screening severely limited any enjoyment that could have been had with this film. I tend to avoid 3D when at all possible, but on this occasion it was the only showing that fit my schedule. At first I thought that my eyes just had to adjust. I hadn't sat through a 3D film since earlier this summer when I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which happens to be an example of 3D done right). After a few minutes, nothing had changed. A person or object would be clear, but the rest of the picture still looked fuzzy as if I weren't wearing the 3D glasses at all. It didn't seem to be bothering anyone else in the theater so I figured it was just my eyes. I put up with it, disappointed but determined to try and enjoy whatever I could of th…

Trailer Talk - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

It is finally here.  After years of wondering whether or not there'd ever be another Star Wars film, a historic purchase of the franchise by Disney, and the announcement that J.J. Abrams would helm an Episode VII, we finally have the first look at The Force Awakens!

I've always loved Star Wars.  But at the same time, I've never been such a fanatic that I would get in great debates over the tiniest details.  Just like most people my age, I believe that Episodes IV, V, and VI comprise one of the best trilogies I've ever seen (if not the best) and, while I can see some good in Episodes I, II, and III, I generally look down on them as having not lived up to the originals.

I have also enjoyed most things J.J. Abrams has been involved in that I've seen.  I can't help but be encouraged by his recent revival of another Sci-Fi franchise: Star Trek.  At this point, the only thing that sucks is that Abrams is known for being secretive and not revealing too much in his tr…

Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (2014), PG-13, 123 minutes - Those familiar with the books know that The Hunger Games was originally a trilogy, the third installment of which was Mockingjay.  Shortly after the monumental success of the first film in 2012, it was announced that not only would they be completing The Hunger Games story on the big screen, but that the final chapter would be split into two films (which seems to have become a popular trend in recent years).  At the time of the announcement, I was a little disappointed.  Being a fan of the books, I didn't feel as though splitting Mockingjay was necessary.  It just seemed like a greedy Hollywood move.  Having seen Mockingjay - Part 1, I have to admit that I now understand why they made the split.

Mockingjay - Part 1 takes place shortly after the end of last year's Catching Fire.  Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) awakens in the care of the District 13 facility which was previously believed to have been destroyed.  She…

Review - Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), R, 119 minutes - I've been looking forward to this film for just about a year now, ever since learning that Michael Keaton would be starring in the latest project from director Alejandro González Iñárritu.  Since its initial release a month ago I have been waiting not-so-patiently for a) it to come to my local art house theater and b) a little break in the long list of things we've been trying to get done in the new house.  Thanks to a technical difficulty last week that wiped out this review once, I'm finally able to get my thoughts down 'on paper' so to speak.

Michael Keaton plays Riggan, a washed up actor whose claim to fame was starring in a superhero franchise twenty years ago.  He's working on writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway show that he hopes will show the world that he still has the drawing power he had in his prime.  Getting the show ready proves to be quite a struggle with Riggan j…

Review - Interstellar

Interstellar (2014), PG-13, 169 minutes - There are a handful of directors whose films I will make the time for no matter what.  It doesn't matter how much I know or have seen of one of their films, I know that I'll enjoy it.  Christopher Nolan is in that group and I have tried very hard to avoid any other information about Interstellar that could spoil the film.  These efforts were undoubtedly helped by our recent move - I just haven't had the time to browse the web and inadvertently stumble across something spoilery.

At an undisclosed time in Earth's future, the planet has become increasingly uninhabitable.  Each year more and more crops fall to blight and corn is one of the few that has not yet been infected.  The atmosphere has deteriorated and vicious dust storms are a regular occurrence.  Most of the planet is focused on trying to adapt their way of life to cope with the changes, but a secretly re-constituted NASA (they had been shut down to focus resources on &#…

Retrospective - The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption (1994), R, 142 minutes - On this date twenty years ago, my favorite movie of all time quietly hit theaters across the country. The funny thing is, like most people, I never saw The Shawshank Redemption in the theater and would have no idea that it would have a lasting effect on me until almost three years later when I first encountered it.  In October of 1994, I was a sophomore in high school and a substantial amount of my time was taken up by basketball or just about any other sport that caught my attention for longer than five minutes.  I was the backup point guard on the JV team that year.  I hadn't yet discovered my love for film and my love of sports dominated my free time. Looking back, my discovery of Shawshank a couple of years later was the result of a unique set of events that explain my initial draw to the film and how it has grown to become so important to me over time.

"Since I am innocent of this crime, sir, I find it decidedly inconveni…

TV Talk - Daredevil (2015) [Netflix]

Daredevil (2015), Netflix, 15 Episodes - I've mentioned in some of my reviews of Marvel's films in the past that Daredevil is my favorite comic book character.  So as one may expect, I have been extremely excited about this series since it was announced a year ago.  This live action series marks Marvel's efforts in adapting one of their most critically acclaimed characters since they regained the film rights to the property from Fox in early 2013.

You may remember that Fox released a Daredevil film back in 2003 starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner among others.  That film is widely considered as one of the low-points in the ever-improving genre of comic book films.  Oddly enough, that film holds a small and dear place in my heart.  At the time I really enjoyed it.  It piqued my curiosity in the character and led me to explore his comic book history.  In the time since, I have read every issue from Daredevil's fifty year publishing history (over 560 issues), and in…

Review - Gone Girl

Gone Girl (2014), R, 145 minutes - My wife and I have been extremely busy with all of the things that come with buying and selling a house.  And while we're very excited about it, the process has put a bit of a damper on our usual weekend routine (including my theater hopping habit).  Things are moving along nicely and by the end of the month we should be getting settled in our new home.  A midst all the house related craziness, I was able to sneak some time yesterday to see Gone Girl, the new David Fincher directed thriller based on Gillian Flynn's best selling novel from a couple of years ago.

I had heard great things about the book and started reading it about a month ago.  I'm not the world's fastest reader and I wanted to be sure to give myself enough time to finish it before the movie came out.  I shouldn't have worried.  The novel was every bit as good as I had been told and I blew through it in a week (slowed only by life's responsibilities such as work…

Quick Update

As some of you know my wife and I have had our house on the market since mid-April.  Things had been relatively slow moving for most of that time, but about three weeks ago that changed.  We had been actively touring many houses in the area and within days of each other we found the house that we wanted to call home for years to come and were also fortunate enough to find a buyer for our current house.  As a result of the increased buying/selling activity, I've not had the time to update the blog in that time.  I wish I could say that I just hadn't had the time to sit down to write reviews, but I actually haven't even been to the movies since my last post for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For.  
I would like to apologize to those who may check in regularly or periodically for the lack of new content recently.  I would also like to apologize in advance for the more than likely potential inactivity over the coming weeks as time is swallowed up by packing, (hopefully) minor touch …

Review - Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), R, 102 minutes - Nine years after its predecessor, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For finally made its way to theaters last weekend. Those with either a keen eye or memory (or both) may remember that this film was one of the honorable mentions on my Most Anticipated Films of 2013 list. That was before further delays pushed its release to the end of this summer (and a repeat appearance on this year's list). Sin City: A Dame to Kill For showcases the same grim, gritty, stylized violence that fans of Frank Miller's work have come to expect on either the page or the screen.

Much like 2005's Sin City, the key with this film is to remember that it is an anthology, a collection of stories occurring in the same universe, even overlapping at times with the events appearing in that film.  As a result, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is not a typical sequel or prequel.  This installment is comprised of the following stories: Just Another Saturday Night…

Review - Chef

Chef (2014), R, 114 minutes - I've heard a lot of great things about Chef since it was released earlier this summer and I was pretty excited when I was finally able to watch it last week. It is a smaller film that first hit theaters back in May so there's a pretty good chance that it's no longer playing at a theater near you.  The good news is that it looks like it will be available on blu-ray/digital/On-Demand in about a month.

Written and directed by Jon Favreau, the film is about Carl Casper (Favreau), a chef who was once known for his creativity and who now finds himself at a crossroads in his life and career after a very public confrontation with food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt). At the urging of his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and with the financial backing of his ex-wife's ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr), Carl opens a food truck named El Jefe. With the help of his son Percy (Emjay Anthony) and his former line cook Martin (John Leguizamo), Carl b…

Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), PG-13, 101 minutes - This reboot of the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise came out last weekend and has already been successful enough at the box office that a sequel has been announced with a scheduled 2016 release.  That's all well and good, but what I had heard about the film itself over the past week was that it fell flat and wasn't really all that good.  I tend to try not to let a bunch of critic-speak sway my desire to see a film, but sometimes that's difficult to do when the prevailing opinion is negative.  I had a little free time earlier today and I decided to give it a shot and what I found was a film that at its core, got the TMNT vibe down pretty well.

Now admittedly, there's not much depth to the story here, but honestly, upon re-watching the original 1990 live action Ninja Turtles movie prior to seeing this, there wasn't much there either.  This go around, the world's favorite wisecracking teen…

Review - The Giver

The Giver (2014), PG-13, 94 minutes - The Giver is based on the 1993 story of the same name written by Lois Lowry and is the latest post apocalyptic/sci-fi society young adult novel to be adapted to the big screen.  I've never read The Giver myself, but having been fourteen back in 1993, I was definitely a part of the target demographic and remember it being pretty popular among classmates.

This film version of The Giver takes place in a future utopian society created after an unnamed great war.  The elders who founded the community believed that the source of all misgivings and conflict in life was emotion.  They built a society devoid of emotion, which was accomplished by sterilizing the population of their memories and instituting a strict set of governing rules.  Everything from recognition of color (that of objects or even skin tone) to the enjoyment of music was lost, all in an effort for absolute equality.  The lack of emotion also means that no one has the desire to devia…