Showing posts from 2015

Review - In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea (2015), PG-13, 122 minutes - This is a film that originally caught my eye months ago when I saw the first trailer.  Directed by Ron Howard and sporting a cast including Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, and Michelle Fairley it just seemed like a film that I would enjoy.  Especially considering my soft spot for period pieces.  In the Heart of the Sea tells the story of the American whaling ship The Essex and its crew, which set sail on a whaling expedition from Nantucket in 1820 and is based upon the non-fiction book of the same name (published in 2000).  This story is also presented as being the real-life inspiration for Herman Melville's literary classic Moby-Dick (published in 1851).

The Essex's expedition got off to a rough start as the heir of a well known sailing family, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), was selected as the ship's captain over the much more experienced Owen Chase (Hemsworth).  Chase had previously b…

Review - Creed

Creed (2015), PG-13, 133 minutes - When I first heard that there would be yet another entry in the Rocky franchise, I was admittedly a bit leery.  After all, there had already been six films chronicling the boxing career of Rocky Balboa, the last of which saw Sylvester Stallone's iconic boxer come out of retirement for one last bout in the ring.  I was afraid that the franchise may be going to the well one too many times (I actually enjoyed 2006's Rocky Balboa, which course corrected the franchise a bit after the mis-step that was 1990's Rocky V).  But then, as I learned more about how this seventh film came to be, and who was involved, I became more and more intrigued.  Apparently, Creed was the brain-child of up-and-coming writer/director Ryan Coogler, who had previously written/directed 2013's highly regarded Fruitvale Station (a film I have unfortunately not yet had the opportunity to see).  Anyway, he went to Sylvester Stallone with an idea for a film that would e…

Review - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), PG-13, 136 minutes - 2005 was the last time we (the public) had the experience of a new Star Wars film in a theater.  And while that was an event, it was the final prequel film (Episode III - Revenge of the Sith) in a trilogy that to most, didn't live up to expectations.  The buzz surrounding this new franchise installment - the first under Disney's production - has been as abundant as I can remember.  Star Wars long ago transcended the typical movie-going experience and crossed over into the realm of pop-culture phenomenon.  Add to that the promise of the return of franchise-favorite characters under the watch of highly respected writer/director J.J. Abrams (who had already revitalized the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises) and you've got a perfect storm that has led to this film opening at a box office shattering pace.

The Force Awakens picks up 'A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...', about th…

Review - Jessica Jones (Netflix), Season 1

Jessica Jones (2015), TV-MA, 13 Episodes - November 20th saw the release of Jessica Jones, the second collaboration from Marvel and Netflix.  Similarly to the Daredevil series released back in April, this Netflix Original is set in a section of New York known as Hell's Kitchen, is comprised of thirteen episodes, and is connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

As the title states, the series follows Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), a woman who developed powers after a childhood accident: super strength and the ability to fly, or as she calls it 'jumping real high...and then falling'.  She's attempted the super hero gig in the past but it didn't work out the way she had imagined so she started her own P.I firm, Alias Investigations.  She's a bit of a loner and keeps the few friends and loved ones she has at arms length because of the danger she feels that she attracts danger.  Of course, events from her past have caused her to feel that way and a …

Review - The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015), PG-13, 137 minutes - Four years after the first Hunger Games adaptation hit the big screen with overwhelming success, we have come to the end of the franchise.  I remember feeling a bit apprehensive when they first announced that the trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins would become four films.  I was worried that the decision was a money grab by the studio.  That feeling was alleviated last year after seeing how Mockingjay - Part 1 played out and now, after seeing the finale that is Mockingjay - Part 2, I must admit that my worries were unfounded.

Much like previous installments, Mockingjay - Part 2 picks up moments after the previous film ended, jumping immediately into the next chapter and not looking back.  Mockingjay - Part 1 set up the budding revolutionary forces of districts two through thirteen and Part 2 sees that revolution play out.  Feeling that Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) - the Mockingjay and living symbol of the revolution - …

Rental Review - Spy

Spy (2015), R, 119 minutes - Our rental of The Gallows Friday night earned us a freebie from Redbox, so last night my wife and I decided to change things up a bit with this comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney, and Miranda Hart.  The aptly named Spy is probably the best mockery of the super spy genre since Austin Powers, although it doesn't quite go full-parody.  It finds itself more in the homage/parody range similar to films like Hot Fuzz (2007) or 21 Jump Street (2012).

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is an analyst working in the 'basement' of the CIA.  She acts as eyes and ears for super secret agent Bradley Fine (Law) when he's in the field.  A mission mis-hap by Fine leads to the death a weapons dealer who knows the location of a stolen portable nuclear bomb.  In an attempt to right his wrong, Fine tracks down the dealer's daughter Rayna Boyanov (Byrne).  Cooper believes that finding Boyanov was too easy and that they…

Rental Review - The Gallows

The Gallows (2015), PG-13, 81 minutes - When I realized that this past Friday was the thirteenth, I sent my wife a text jokingly wishing her a Happy Friday the 13th.  She replied with 'scary movie night!', and with that I found myself picking up this movie from the nearest Redbox, continuing our annual October scary movie binge into November.

The Gallows is a low budget, found-footage horror flick that revolves around events taking place at Beatrice High School.  It begins with the recording of the school's 2003 presentation of a play called 'The Gallows', which ended in tragedy as a prop malfunction kills one of the performers, Charlie Grimille.  Jump to twenty years later, 2013, and the school is preparing a new performance of the play in honor of the anniversary of that tragic night.  The current presentation has been organized by theater teacher Mr. Schwendiman (co-writer/co-director Travis Cluff) and student Pfiefer Ross (Pfeifer Brown).  Inexplicably, jock (…

Review - Spectre

Spectre (2015), PG-13, 148 minutes - It's been quite a while since I've gone to a movie on opening night.  It generally doesn't fit into our schedule, and truth be told, I don't miss dealing with the crowds.  But this past Thursday night, a perfect storm of events occurred, allowing me the opportunity to check out the latest installment of the 007 franchise as soon as it opened.  What was that perfect storm you may ask?  First off, Spectre was playing at the local art house theater, which pretty much negated the possibility of an obnoxious crowd.  Second, the start time was 7 pm as opposed to midnight (apparently earlier Thursday night showings have become a thing since I last attended an opening night - nice to know).  And third, my wife had an exhausting day at school, one of those days where she didn't mind having a nice quiet house for the evening.  As a result, I jumped at the opportunity to see Bond's return to action.

Spectre is Daniel Craig's fourth…

Review - Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak (2015), R, 119 minutes - There are a few directors whose films I would go see sight-unseen (not that that is very likely in this day and age), and while that list may vary here or there depending on where or when I may be asked (hypothetically of course I have never actually comprised such a list), I can assure you that Guillermo del Toro would be very close to the top of it.  I've been a big fan for quite a while, first becoming aware of his work through films like Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004), but developing a true appreciation for his talents in storytelling with 2006's Pan's Labyrinth.

Set in 1899, Crimson Peak is his latest completed project, and is another of his original stories.  This time around he weaves the tale of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author and daughter of wealthy American businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) who finds herself caught between the affections of childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and…

Rental Review - Insidious: Chapter 3

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), PG-13, 97 minutes - In keeping with the scary movie theme of October, my wife and I rented this film Halloween night.  We've enjoyed the previous two films in the franchise and were curious to see if this one, released earlier this summer, would live up to its predecessors (my reviews for which can be seen here and here).

Insidious: Chapter 3 is a bit of a misleading title.  Yes, it is the third film from the franchise, but the story acts as a prequel for the prior films.  For all intents and purposes it is an origin story for for psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye), and her paranormal investigating partners Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (writer/director Leigh Wannell).  If you have seen the other two Insidious films, you know they comprise the trio that helps the Lambert family with their paranormal problems.

In this film, Quinn (Stephanie Scott) visits Elise in an attempt to contact her recently deceased mother.  She explains that she feels what s…

Rental Review - Oculus

Oculus (2013), R, 104 minutes - Filmed in 2012 but not released until early 2014, Oculus had previously only been a blip on my radar due to its inclusion of two recent sci-fi favorite actresses: Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Gallactica) and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who).  Since I don't generally go out of my way to check out a horror film unless my wife is interested, it's a film that I hadn't previously had an overwhelming urge to see.  But after reading an indirect recommendation from an old college friend (technically his girlfriend - but she had posted online that it was the creepiest thing they had seen in quite a while) we agreed that it should be part of our Halloween-themed October viewing.

Oculus revolves around a haunted mirror that enters the lives of the Russell family when they move into a new house when siblings Tim and Kaylie were kids (Garrett Ryan and Annalise Basso respectively).  The film begins with an adult Tim (Brenton Thwaites) being released from a mental…

Rental Review - The Rite

The Rite (2011), PG-13, 114 minutes - My wife loves Halloween, so each year we tend to skew our movie viewing towards the creepy and scary during the month of October (as I'm sure many others do).  This year the first such film we watched was the Anthony Hopkins starring The Rite.

While Hopkins was the big draw to this film, as can be seen by his top billing and sole inclusion on the movie poster, he's really just a supporting (albeit very important) character.  The Rite tells a story - supposedly based upon actual events - that follows an American seminary student named Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donoghue) as he travels to the Vatican to take a class on exorcism.  Kovak begins in an interesting place: he attended seminary school to appease his father (Rutger Hauer) who had given him the choice of either carrying on the family business at the funeral home or joining the ministry.  He questions his faith and plans to resign from the seminary but is blackmailed into attending th…

Review - Sicario

Sicario (2015), R, 121 minutes - When I made my last post at the beginning of the month, I was hoping that October would be the time I got back to regular updates to the blog after a busy second half of the summer and an odd stretch in which there wasn't much in theaters that I was interested in.  Well, life decided to happen and after weekends absorbed by familial obligations and backed up yard work I find myself sitting here at the end of the month having not gotten 'back on track' in the way I had hoped. is attempt 2.0 at regaining momentum on updating content!

Sicario (Spanish for 'hitman') was actually the last film that I was able to see in a theater.  Oddly enough I watched it the afternoon after my last review was posted (my wife and I have since seen a handful of other films via Redbox/Netflix, reviews of which will hopefully be posted later today).  Anyway, Sicario focuses on up-and-coming FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) and her efforts to c…

Rental Review - Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), PG-13, 115 minutes - I don't remember a stretch quite like the last couple of months in the time that I have written this blog.  Sure there have been times when I haven't posted because I was too busy, but this recent lack of activity has been primarily due to there not being much in theaters that really caught my attention.  Fortunately though, the release schedule for this fall looks like it will more than make up for my recent inactivity.  In fact, I already feel a little behind as there were films released over the last two weeks that I didn't get to see due to previous plans.  Anyway, I figured a quick Rental Review would be a good way to try and get back in the swing of things.

My wife and I absolutely loved the first Pitch Perfect and have been eagerly awaiting the sequel (as evidenced by its inclusion on my Most Anticipated Films of 2015 list).  Unlike me, my wife doesn't enjoy theaters so we've been waiting for the home video releas…

Review - Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015), PG-13, 131 minutes - The Mission: Impossible franchise has proven to one of the strongest film franchises out there.  It has survived nineteen years, five films, and even more impressively, the fall and subsequent rise of it's star in the collective public eye.  One could even argue that through it all, the franchise is as strong as it has ever been.  And after seeing Rogue Nation myself, I certainly wouldn't argue that point.

This fifth installment continues the adventures of IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), this time as he tries to track down and eliminate The Syndicate, an organization that, for all intents and purposes is the anti-IMF.  Back on the home front, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) sits before the Senate oversight committee, requesting that the IMF be disbanded and absorbed into the CIA due to prior recklessness in the field and their lack of accountability for their actions.  Hunley's request is successful…

Review - Fantastic Four (2015)

Fantastic Four (2015), PG-13, 106 minutes - Every once in a while, a movie comes out that I'm generally looking forward to, but am not terribly psyched for.  This reboot of the Fantastic Four franchise by 20th Century Fox falls into that category.  In all actuality, I became more interested in seeing this film over the past week as word began to spread that it was less than stellar.  I have read some wonderful stories about Marvel's 'First Family' in the pages of the comics, but they have never been characters that truly caught my imagination.  As a result, my anticipation for the film was tempered by my not being as familiar with the characters as I am with others in the Marvel Universe.  Well that, coupled with the luke-warm reception (which may actually be putting things nicely) of information revealed during production.  Despite that, I tried my best to go into this film with an open mind.  After all, I was intrigued by the cast and have heard wonderful things abou…