Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Movie Review: Blue Is The Warmest Colour (2013)

I forgot to post this a few weeks ago.

I have a review of the French film Blue Is The Warmest Colour posted at:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some brief movie thoughts

This blog is slowly fading away due my postings at but I'm not going to let it die in case I once again become inspired to write about every movie I see... I see a lot of movies that I don't mention, but sometimes I get the urge to talk about them.

Here are my reviews of The Family, Prisoners and Salinger

I have also recently seen:

The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Interesting premise and shot well, but it isn't special

Numbers Station - Perhaps the worst movie I've seen in a long time... shame on you John Cusack

Rush - Very well done film and one of my favorites of the year

Enough Said - James Gandolfini's last film and he is excellent in an off typecast role as an aging divorced man who begins dating a woman with more problems than himself

Gravity - Visually incredibly film and worth seeing on any large screen with great sound... You will need to simply suspend some of your intelligence but do not hesitate to see this one.

Machete Kills - If you liked the first one you'll like this one, though I prefer the first one a but more for the fun of it all... This one captures the feel of the original, but also must try to live up to it.  These movies are crude exploitations and I love them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sticks and Flicks

I've been asked to contribute movie reviews to a new website called Sticks and Flicks focusing on sports and movies. I've got a few posted already and more in the can, so please check out the site and feel free to make comments there and here or on Facebook. I'll continue to update when new content is posted. Thanks for taking a look:

Sticks and Flicks

Friday, July 19, 2013

Pacific Rim; The Lone Ranger; The East; The Way Way Back

Apologies for the brief thoughts, but here are 4 recent films and what I have to say:

Pacific Rim (2013) PG-13; 131M: Anyone who has followed my reviews knows that I pretty much despise mindless action Hollywood crap, with limited exceptions, so I am happy to report that this movie is everything good that Avatar wasn't. I know a lot of people liked Avatar for whatever reasons but I think it had terrible acting and a stupid plot. Pacific Rim doesn't try too hard to explain shit it can't possibly explain and it just moves the story along. It would have been better without a very typical love interest sub plot but overall this was the kind of mindless action movie I can actually enjoy. Perfect movie? No, but god damn those fight scenes between giant robots were done really well. What does it mean to earth when monsters from another dimension threaten our existence? Who cares!

The Lone Ranger (2013) PG-13; 149M: So I was in a theater with about, oh let me count, 3 other people watching Lone Ranger. Dear god this is a steaming pile of shit. The opening is terrible, trying to make jokes that are just so lame nobody would ever even smirk at. Then it moves to the meeting of the two and Armie Hammer is just such a smug douche playing the 'dear sir I respect your opinion but I must disagree' role along with the loveable loser who can't pull the trigger (think Brendan fraser in anything, but specifically Bedazzled). Oh and yeah, there's a train scene with over 700 ridiculous things happening. Who approves this shit? Swinging from chains around poles with people clinging by their necks to legs and then landing back on trains and people getting fling through windows and trains derailing and stopping within inches of killing people etc etc etc etc. oh, and why don't we just go ahead and make it a really violent film at the same time as we are trying to make light hearted jokes and a corny score with bouncy music. Eat a guys heart? Ok. I walked out after 45 minutes. This film deserves any flop list it ends up on. 

And that, boys and girls, is why I always pay to see the movie I think is worth it, and then walk into the stuff that is questionable.

The East (2013) PG-13; 116M: Brit Marling is going to be around for a while (Another Earth and Sound of My Voice) - this is in a similar theme and tone of Sound of My Voice (which I din't love, but liked), though it is fleshed out a little more here and I like the supporting cast quite a bit. The only trailer I saw about this made it look like it would be a non stop action movie about anarchist fighting corporations, but it really isn't that for more than 20% of the movie... a lot of it is character build up and a cult like following, which both works and doesn't work... There is plenty of good in this with some not so good... if you get turned off by some weird wtf plot turns and some cult like scenes, you'll probably not be a fan... but the overall feel of the movie is decent and even
though a little of it gets off track it was a solid change of pace from summer action films.

The Way Way Back (2013) PG-13; 103M: Coming of age tale of an awkward boy (Liam James) on a summer vacation with his dysfunctional family on the beach. Along the way he learns to stick up for himself and get some self confidence while meeting some key people who really affect his life for this positive. I didn't come out thinking it was a masterpiece that I'll remember forever, but I definitely enjoyed it and definitely say see it, if for nothing else than to see the MOST awkward teenage performance I've ever seen (done so well) and for Steve Carell giving a really great performance as the mom's boyfriend who just nails his role as a small time big shot wannabe who is not in this film for comic relief at all, but for an actual dramatic performance that comes off extremely well.

Monday, June 24, 2013

11 Quick Movie Updates

Hey Everyone - Thanks for continuing to follow my movie reviews.  I have been less active this year because   1) It has been a pretty lousy year for movies and 2) I have been doing some side work on a new movie review website project that, at the moment, keeps me from double posting some reviews.  Once I have more information and that site is live I will link it here. For now I am staying brief here while I work on the more in depth reviews over there.

In the mean time, here is just a very quick catch up for 2013 of 11 movies I have seen. Some formatting is being weird and I don't want to try and fix it, so posting as is.

As always, please feel free to write me at if you have any comments, suggestions or just want to ask which movie to see this weekend.



Mud: This may be my favorite movie so far in 2013. I thought it was excellent. Has a very independent feel to it with solid acting by the two young boys and everyone else, including Matthew McConaughey... Reece Witherspoon is good too in a pretty limited role. This is one of those films about things that can only happen to 'people and places different than our own' or something like that... think smart film about some trashy people who all have more to them than they'll ever be given credit for... or something like that..."

Iron Man 3: I liked the original Iron Man but #2 was terrible and I never got into this one and left after 45 minutes.  So yeah, my opinion is invalid.

Room 237: If you like The Shining then you should see this doc about the movie from the perspective of a bunch of conspiracy theorists.  Not a great doc but it is fun to watch if you are into the movie.

Star Trek Into DarknessPretty much like the first one for me. Good enough for what it is. Actually this one may have been better because Cpt Kirk wasn't quite so smarmy. Never was into Star Trek so I have no idea how they did in terms of translating it to the big screen.

The Great GatsbyI liked it for the most part. Enjoyable in many ways. Nothing special though.

Hangover IIII hope it really is the end. I don't understand movies like this where I am supposed to be laughing but I never do.

Now You See MeDecent enough to kill some time. It never moves to anything great but it is entertaining all the way through. 

Man of Steel: This is the definition of trailer hype going in a different direction entirely and making me mad.  I thought it was going to be a good solid character and plot driven film with a darker tone and some great origins and a new take on the Superman history... based on the first two trailers that is what I expected. Instead, about 1/4 of the film is great and does what I thought it would, but the rest turns into typical CGI superhero genre crap.150 minute film containing, easily, 100 minutes of CGI battles and buildings falling down is NOT what I was expecting nor hoping for based on the early trailers, which had me actually convinced this would be a somewhat character and plot driven film. The June release should have tipped me off that it is just another money grab. Some good parts? Sure. Overall? Go ahead and see it like you probably will, but I'm sticking to "I told you so" on this one.

The Bling RingTechnically and superficially enjoyable, but lacking enough emotional and/or social commentary. I am going to love watching Emma Watson movies for the rest of my life.

This Is The EndI don't do enough drugs and I have come to accept that it has thwarted my funny bone growth over the last decade. I laughed a few times of course, but how is this a full length movie and how can people say it was awesome? Subjectively, I want every movie to be Caddyshack.

World War ZDidn't even know it was a book until a few weeks ago, so obviously no comparisons from me. Movie was pretty damn enjoyable from a sit back and relax summer blockbuster perspective. 


I'm no zombie aficionado so I'm sure it made my experience easier, but I (shockingly!) didn't enjoy most of the big zombie/helicopter cgi stuff but was much more drawn to the subdued scenes in the WHO lab. I somehow feel like the movie isn't a zombie movie, just sort of an action save-the-world movie that happens to contain zombies. 

When Pitt and the Israeli woman are the only two to survive the plane crash I pictured The Fonz jumping the shark.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Movie Review: The Iceman (2013)

The Iceman (2013)
Director - Ariel Vromen
106 Min; R
Michael Shannon  - Richard Kuklinski
Winona Ryder - Deborah
Ray Liotta - Roy DeMeo
David Schwimmer - Rosenthal

If you want to know what evil looks like you need look no further than into the face of Richard Kuklinski, also known as 'The Iceman'.  Over the course of 30 some years throughout the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s, the Iceman killed at least 100 people and most likely more, all for the mob (The Gambino crime family), for money, and for the hell of it, using everything from guns to knives to strangulation and eventually, cyanide.  Known for his steely persona, Kuklinski would also often freeze his victims and later saw them up and dispose of them, so as to throw off traces of when the victims were killed.  What makes this story different than some basic serial killer or mad man, is that Kuklinski was just as much a good natured family man as an elite killer.  When he was finally arrested in a cyanide selling sting in 1986, Kuklinski's wife and 3 children had no idea that the man they loved was one of the most notorious murderers of all time.  After his arrest and until his death by suspicious activity in 2006 in Trenton State Penitentiary, Kuklinski never saw his family again.

In this film Kuklinski is played by Michael Shannon with a steely gaze and quiet intensity that is simply brilliant and chilling.  You can just imagine this man coming for you, and you having no chance, and nothing you said would matter. 

In a 1992 interview, Kuklinski recalled what he considered was his most sadistic murder.
"It was a man and he was begging, and pleading, and praying, I guess. And he was, 'Please, God, no,' all over the place. So I told him he could have a half an hour to pray to God and if God could come down and change the circumstances, He'd have that time. But God never showed up and he never changed the circumstances and that was that. It wasn't too nice. That's one thing, I shouldn't have done that one. I shouldn't have done it that way."
Michael Shannon has been around for a long time, but I didn't take much notice of him until his captivating role as a man who speaks the ugly truth to suburbanites in Revolutionary Road (2008).  In 2011 he gave one of the finest performances I have ever seen in one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Take Shelter, in which he portrays a man struggling with debilitating mental issues while the impending doom of some imaginary (or not) storm looms in the background.  In this film he continues his amazing ability to pull you into his character and lead you where he wants to take you.

Great supporting roles are all over this film, including Winona Ryder as the meek but loving and tender wife who never knew what evils her husband was up to.  Ray Liotta is, as always, perfectly equipped to play Kuklinski's over seeing mob man Roy DeMeo and he isn't just phoning anything in, he put some real effort into this role.  Perhaps a surprise turn by David Schwimmer as mob associate Rosenthal is the most interesting side story in the film.  Schwimmer is absolutely perfect as a just tough enough but certainly not going to make it all the way through the film kind of mobster.  I loved his character.

The filmmakers do an excellent job of placing us in the time periods as the years go on.  Scenery, costumes and wardrobes, and perfectly placed automobiles transport you from the 50s to the 80s and everywhere in between so that you never feel lost in time.  The look of the film has a nice graininess to it to complement the topic perfectly.

Michael Shannon has created an amazing portrayal of what this killer was like, but nothing compares to the iciness of the The Iceman as seen in his own words and gestures. The entire 2 hour special of interviews with the real Iceman, Kuklinski, is available on youtube and I strongly suggest you watch this before, or after, seeing this film:

4.5/5 if you tell me I have to give it a rating

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Company You Keep (2013) and Upstream Color (2013)

The Company You Keep (2013)

-I lifted my self imposed ban of all Shia LaFu*k films because he just didn't appear to be such a douche in this one, and I was right... he was decent enough. His character is ok, I guess, but far from believable in the way he gets so much information the FBI apparently could never get over 30 years.

-It was pretty good and worth seeing, but it falls short of being anything special, probably because the overall theme of the movie is a little too left wing nutjob radical or whatever you want to say about it, and it is a tad distracting in parts, but also because it just simply lacks the 'it' factor that can take a decent movie and put it over the top.

-The over abundance of well known actors is rarely a good thing in serious movies... It is simply weird to always have a new character introduced and you sit there thinking of who they are and what else you've seen them in and what awards they have won etc etc etc... Some nice supporting roles throughout, no doubt, but it is overkill - 3 top actors, maybe 4, is ok usually, but throwing about 10 well knowns together... not for me.

-Compared to a lot of the early year movies, this one stands out as probably one of the better ones, but that's really just a comparison to the hand we've been dealt so far. I enjoyed watching it and I think I liked it more than I'm getting across with these complaints - I just thought (and wanted) to enjoy it much more.

Upstream Color (2013)

This movie sums up exactly why I don't like giving a movie a rating on a scale of whatever to whatever.  Films are very subjective, though I do feel you can spend a few seconds of thought to determine if one is 'good' or not.  This film is neither good nor bad, it simply is.  I could probably write something about it that would sound ok, but it was really strange and I think if you are the type of person who would enjoy this one you will find it on your own.  Shane Carruth made Primer (2004) 9 years ago, a film that challenged us to work out so much without quite enough details to actually do so, and here he does it again, though I'm not sure we're given enough at all (I'm digging around the internet for answers).  The film is beautiful, haunting, creepy and, ultimately, satisfying, though it surely falls into the category of art-house with little dialogue and if you aren't into that, stay away.

Monday, April 22, 2013

4 Quick reviews: 42; Oblivion; To The Wonder; The Gatekeepers

42 (2013): Schmaltzy telling of the Jackie Robinson story but still entertaining. You can skip it for sure, but you could also see it.  Harrison Ford turns in one of his better performances in a long time as Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, the man most responsible for breaking the MLB color barrier.

Oblivion (2013): A Tom Cruise Sci-Fi film that was much better than I expected. Very derivative of other sci fi films but not in a way that distracted me much. A few of the action scenes just a tad over the top but actually the overall film was well done.  Suggest you see it in IMAX - thankfully no 3D exists of this one.


To The Wonder (2013): A new Terrence Malick film - Always beautifully shot. Did you see The Tree of Life? Did you enjoy that experience? If your answer is yes, then you will probably like this one too.  I assume most people will not enjoy this artsy piece of work that is basically a realistic love story of 3 people told through a hazy, dream like state with little important dialogue.  Just as The Tree of Life told the history of everything in one incredible scene, this film seeks to tell the history of a few people's love over the course of a lifetime, in just about 2 hours.

The Gatekeepers (2013): Solid doc interviewing 6 former heads of the Israeli security force known as Shin Bet. For the first time ever they talked on camera about major events over decades of their work. Mostly real footage is used to portray bombings, assassinations and other terrors. Subtitled in English and a must see for people who love historical documentaries.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

3 brief movie reviews: Spring Breakers; The Place Beyond the Pines; Trance

Spring Breakers (2013): I mean, I don't know. Lots of great T&A but does that make it good? Yes, it does. But it doesn't make it a good movie. I'm not sure if was supposed to be real or some sort of fable. I don't care either. A whole lot of skin, drugs and violence. Hearing Franco's "Spraaaang breeeeak y'all" over and over and over was just too much when coupled with the ridiculous last 20 minutes.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013): I only knew one main thing about this movie before I saw it: people were giving it anywhere from 1.5-4 stars and everywhere in between. Also, it was being called a bit long. So I really tried to go in with a blank slate of opinion. I think I liked this one waaay more than most people I know who have seen it (4) and the only thing I could think of when I was walking out was that it combined elements of Crash (which I don't like) and LA Confidential (which I love) with a little Drive (which I liked a lot)... You have 3 major story lines that each take up about 1/3 of the film and each are connected, and though the last 1/3 does feel a little bit drawn out I actually enjoyed it because it brought everything together so well.

Trance (2013): A Danny Boyle film. Who knows what you'll get? Well, you get some hot ass Rosario Dawson so that made it...better? I have no concept of what other people think of James McAvoy, but he annoys me. I don't particularly like his delivery or his voice or his look, so it's hard for me to get past that, but I did enjoy the first half of the movie enough. A little too much voice over for me, but that's the way it is. It jumps over some plot points way way too quickly way way too early so that I was shaking my head (I mean, Rosario's character joining their group soooo soon with almost no explanation?) - the film turns into a deeply contorted mess where the only way out for the director is to turn it into a final act that has to blatantly explain everything to you, because face it, no way you're gonna know what the fuck is happening in all the rapid fire, color coded quick shots which serve only the purpose of disorienting you with the hope that you'll forget that the movie isn't all that good.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Movie Review: Amour (2012)

French with subtitles
Director - Micheal Haneke
Pg-13; 127 Min

Michael Haneke's film Amour is two hours of octogenarians moving slowly within their apartment as they deal with the inevitable difficulties and sadness of death. And it's in French. If that opening doesn't make you want to run to your nearest independent theater and fork over $25 for a ticket, popcorn and diabetic-inducing sized soda, well, maybe I'm just not up to par with what gets the general movie going population into the seats.

You see, I simply want to weed out all the readers who will have dismissed any idea of viewing this film precisely because it is about old people getting sick and dying. In French.  Warning ahead Will Robinson! An amateur film critic is about to praise a movie that has and will win awards and will generally be unseen or disliked by the weekend warrior crowds.  No, we can't all just get along when it comes to movies, as many studies have shown there is a distinct Venn diagram that neatly intersects, in the tiniest of portions, a place where very few people can enjoy the Friday opening of yet another Tyler Perry travesty / Adam Sandler abomination whilst wolfing down buckets full of butter saturated popcorn and guffawing in sounds that make baby whales wish for death AND also enjoy the silence of the Artist, the character building of the wedding scene in the Godfather or the Deer Hunter, or the cut to black ending of an almost perfect No Country For Old Men.

What the hell am I getting at? I don't know. It's late and I want to write about a great film.  

Director Michael Haneke has made some truly remarkable films in his career that test the audience, the actors, and the characters the actors are portraying.  Check out his resume and do yourself a favor by watching a few such as Cache (2005) or The White Ribbon (2009).  I personally need to delve deeper into his many works, since in my opinion he is 3 for 3 at least. With this film, Haneke gives a splice of life, very particular lives, and simply asks us to take a peek.  From some opening shots where we are all but voyeurs to several later scenes with extended camera holds on somewhat excruciating details of everyday life, we are called upon to witness portions of life to which we may not be so eager to examine.  People getting old and dying is not really subject matter to get you hyped up.

And yet this movie conveys something far beyond the superficial auto-responses of repulsion, pity or even self-examination.  What it does so successfully is to take a complex issue which we all must deal with in one way or another and presents it to us in unflinching realism with no sugar coated easy outs coming our way every 15 minutes in the form of warm memory flashbacks or comedic relief.  This is a long time married couple who woke up one day like usual and almost instantly find themselves forever changed and on a path they both know will lead not to fulfillment but ultimately to sorrow.

George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are expertly portrayed by master actors and there is no other way to praise them for what they each bring to this film.  Riva has received a Best Actress Oscar nomination and there is no reason Trintignant could not have joined her, but putting aside awards and recognition from critics, these two draw us into a world we can all envision yet nobody wants to acknowledge and they present it in heartbreaking tones while using no gimmicks to tear at our emotions.  We are watching a progression within each character and we are drawn to the way each comes to terms with the reality presented to them.

There is very little in the way of spoilers that could ruin the film for you, since most of what you see are these two elderly people in their apartment dealing with the stroke of one and the fortitude of the other to do what has to be done, but there are a few plot points which I will not divulge nor should you seek out beforehand, as each leaves a lasting, important impression on you as the credits role.

I am reminded of the feelings I had when I first saw The Secret In Their Eyes / El Secreto De Sus Ojos (2009), a beautiful film in the Spanish language that deals with adult themes, albeit in a non comparable way to this film, that overlaps in a sense the types of emotions I went through while viewing adults go through adult problems.  In Amour, the statements being made by the end are ultimately up to you to internalize, but if you feel nothing, I can do nothing for you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February version of some very brief movie recaps

I've been lazy and uninspired to write lately so I'm just going to throw this here...

Movies watched since my last posted reviews:

Life of Pi (2012) - Great in many ways but it never really entered my mind that it was a top 5 of the year. Must see? I don't think so, but yeah you should see it if you get the chance

John Dies at the End (2013) - Pleasantly surprised with this one as I knew absolutely nothing about it going in... some pretty crazy takes on a mix of genres including horror/comedy/time travel/different dimensions. Just a wacky story with some fun moments.

Side Effects (2013) First two thirds create a pretty reasonably well done thriller, but the final act falls apart completely. Liked Jude Law more than usual and Mara was decent enough for the first half... didn't care for the Zeta Jones character but not because of her acting, just the role.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Re-watch - Watched for a second time and my feelings are exactly the same that it was a top 10 movie but not a top 5, though that distinction is just too subjective to matter. It was solid in many ways but I don't think it fully pays off.

Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012) Re-watch - My favorite movie of 2012 and it got better the second time. Will watch again.

Brick (2005) - Joseph Gordon Levitt in an early role directed by Rian Johnson. I don't think I was in the right frame of mind, a little distracted to pay full attention, but I liked what I saw in general. It's a high school thriller that plays on a mob like setting with drugs and detective work, but it is done in a pretty cool way that doesn't pull any punches.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Very brief thoughts on some recent films

January is usually a time for me to catch up on films from the previous year with the very rare exception of going to a theater to see a new release.  99% of movies released in January don't appeal to me and of the big name ones, chances are good I've seen them already through early releases of some form.  So, with that said, here are the 9 movies I've watch in 2013, none of which are 2013 releases, and none of which I saw in a theater.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

A truly great film experience. Sometimes words do no justice to the feeling that a movie can give us.  A strangely beautiful story and one which may surprise you.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

I re-watched this movie for the 3rd time and it is simply one of my favorites of 2012.  Quirky but not unrealistic, this movie has a lot of heart felt emotion when you least expect it.

Killing Them Softly (2012)

I had heard it wasn't very good and it really wasn't, but I don't think it was terrible.  Basically, a good cast was left to fend for themselves in a movie with a lot of potential to tell a compelling story that ultimately doesn't do a good job of telling it.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

The hunt to find Osama Bin Laden after 9/11 was a 10 year odyssey and for some it was all consuming.  This movie tells the fictionalized story based on true events of such a person who did nothing but think about how to find him.  One of the best movies of 2012 - I will say it was a tab bit long, but not so much in a negative way because it all builds up to a very well shot conclusion.

Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

40 years ago Sixto Rodriguez was budding musician in Detroit with a few songs under his belt, but his career in the business was short lived and not to be.  After spending much of his life living and working in the Detroit area he was made aware that in South Africa his music was actually considered to be as big as the Beatles were in the rest of the world.  An amazing documentary that tells the story of this man and the documentarian who just wanted to tell his story.

On The Road (2012)

An iconic novel written by Jack Kerouac that will always be associated with a certain time and place in America, On The Road is a pretty tough sell as a movie.  I actually liked the overall feel and was impressed by the entire cast, yes, even Kristen Stewart.  Ultimately it is just a tough book to adapt to a 2 hour film, and I think it fails at keeping us interested in new things... basically, it is a lot of scenes with the same themes of love lost and growing up with different back drops, but moving images will never really have the impact on us that great written words do.

The Paperboy (2012)

If you like super strange, noir movies, then boy do I have one for you! I wish I could tell you to see it, but no way, no how, not me.  Just too out there even for a redneck swamp people kind of movie.  Nicole Kidman is great in her role, for what it is, but man this one is too messed up for me to pass along to you with a straight face. 

Hick (2012)

I saw this at Redbox and would have never given it a second thought, but I remembered hearing that Chloe Grace Moretz was in it, and I'm not even sure if it was released in theaters, but I've liked her in other roles and wanted to give it a shot.  Moretz is a good actress and she will only get better, and she did a good job in this movie.  But this was pure trash for a film.  I mean, do not see this.  That is as clear as I can get.

Young Adult (2011)

My third time seeing this surprisingly wonderful film.  It gets better each time if you ask me.  The entire cast and direction is amazing and each time I view it I find more and more nuances that add to the darkly themed story.  There are some sort of funny moments, but this is no comedy, and Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt do a spectacular job of portraying what happens to people with major issues as they get older, at least in age.