Labor Day

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7/10

I was very surprised in this film starring Kate Winslet as a mother who has her home invaded by a convict murderer (Josh Brolin) and the adaptations they face during this unpredictable event. Brolin is powerful in a role like this because he can show so much emotion without yelling. I really enjoyed the chemistry between him and Winslet. They are two people who long for each other after years of different loneliness. Director Jason Reitman shoots some beautiful hands-on shots when showing what is going through each character’s mind. I think a film like this could even work as a silent picture because Reitman is great at communicating with his audience. The film also takes place in a beautifully transformed 1987 Boston suburb. The film remains very truthful to the kinds of technology and food labels that were around in 1987, and no one appreciates that more than me. A movie can lose it’s focus for me if it has a cola can in the 1980’s when it wasn’t invented until 1995. Labor Day clocks in at 1 Hour and 50 minutes which might seem long to someone who knows the basic story, but it’s needed to show the advancement of relationships between Brolin and Winslet, but also Brolin and the little boy. Some problems i had with the film were few and far between. For one, there is tension in the final 15 minutes just because. From police officers getting a little too nosey for no reason to bank tellers asking Winslet what she is planning on doing with money she is taking out. It just makes the audience roll their eyes because there is no reason given for these things to happen. I also found it hard to believe that the police wouldn’t look at the cameras from the grocery store. On a news report, they say they knew Brolin was in the store, so why do they not look at the camera tapes to see who he left with? Wouldn’t the police watch those tapes and then find Winslet’s address? I also found it very far fetched that this movie and the relationships formed in 4 days. Loneliness is a frightening thing, but for a murderer who kidnaps Winslet and her son, this just doesn’t seem feasible to me. This may sound like i am complaining a lot about the film, but i promise that it’s better than 90% of the cliche romance pictures i normally watch. The ladies will love Labor Day, but i think even the guys will appreciate the powerful story being told here. Give Labor Day a shot. At the least, it’s a good date movie based on the relationship to root for in the film.

I Frankenstein

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3/10

This movie had the ability to be so much better than it was. Aaron Eckhart’s latest role puts him as the creature himself from the famous legend. First of all, i had no idea Eckhart was actually playing the creature. I was led to believe he was Dr. Frankenstein. It is this casting alone that has a lot to do with what is wrong in I,Frankenstein. From anyone who has read the Frankenstein novels to anyone who has seen the countless number of films, they know what the creature is supposed to represent. He’s a tall, slow and practically brain dead science experiment that returns from the grave. The character that Eckhart plays is the EXACT opposite of those things. He’s quick, intelligent and even a master swordsman. This Frankenstein can do it all, ladies and gentlemen. Don’t get me wrong, i love Aaron Eckhart but the man clearly doesn’t belong in this role. For those of you who say this is a new take on an old tale, you would be wrong. They even talk about the events of the past films/books at the beginning of this movie.This film just picks what it liked about the Frankenstein story and leaves out the rest. Besides this, the film has cheesy CGI and laughable death scenes that haven’t been seen since Van Helsing. Frankenstein is in the middle of a modern day war between gargoyles and demons. When a demon dies, they float to hell on a fire streak. Ya know, because fire represent bad. When a gargoyle dies, they float to heaven on a beautiful blue streak. Because blue equal good guy. I hope i came off sounding like a moron in those last sentences, it was intended. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t have good ideas. The story of the creature in the middle of this war had the ability to be a great after story, but because it never feels like Frankenstein we are never fully invested. The scenery is something straight out of an Underworld movie. There is nothing wrong with that, as i always felt Underworld had some beautiful landscapes with great shading. The fighting choreography is also beautiful in sync. They definitely had great intensity with every fight from countless amounts of gargoyle and demon armies. The ending is laughable (Unintended) and takes away from any creative buildup that the movie gains in the first 80 minutes. Coming into this film, i wasn’t expecting much from it. I was a little wrong in that regards. I, Frankenstein is a film that isn’t quite the monster that critics have dismissed it to be. There is a little something there behind the dead eyes of a nonsensical script. With the right casting and a little less overbearing CGI, this film could have been near the top of the list for January releases. I would recommend this film to a very small audience, and that is the people who have seen and loved every Underworld movie. I think you will get a kick out of this movie. If it’s your intention to see I,Frankenstein, wait until the dollar theaters.

Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit

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6.5/10

Tom Clancy’s latest adaptation stars Chris Pine as the one and only Jack Ryan. Jack has been a staple of Clancy novels and films like The Sum of All Fears, The Fugitive and The Hunt For Red October. The film also stars Kevin Costner as a CIA agent who acts as a mentor to Ryan. Costner is electric in this role that gives him an action star edge. With his future films coming, it seems Costner has decided to take a different direction in the films he does. Pine is great as Ryan. It is nice to see Jack Ryan portrayed as a younger fresh faced person coming out of college. Pine is the combination of intelligence and ignorance to play the Ryan character at it’s all time most human. The film itself is decent. There is a lot going on in this film that people might not be able to comprehend with the quick talking wit of the movie’s characters. If you are understanding when it comes to world currencies and foreign banking, you will pick up on this film with no problems. The action itself is fast paced with lots of high stakes on the line. Towards the end of the film, we learn that there are two missions for Ryan to solve. One in Russia and another on American soil. The Russia storyline is by far the best part of the movie. It is there when we really get to see the CIA at it’s very best in solving terrorism plots. The 2nd mission is the one that kind of brings this film down from a possible 7 or 7.5. It relies a lot more on chances that will make the viewer roll their eyes and the amazing coincidences. The villains are a little overdone like all Clancy novels, but we don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them. Ryan is definitely the main focus here with quick moves and a relationship with a beautiful woman (Keira Knightley) that is hanging in the balance. He is torn between doing his job and telling her what he does for a living. Shadow Recruit is a great film for anyone who enjoys Clancy’s novels or the fast paced American action film. Anyone else will feel left out when it comes to what is really at stake in this film. I enjoyed it, but i feel it can wait until rental.

August : Osage County

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5/10

Osage County is perhaps one of the most overrated films i have ever come across. For all of the Oscar buzz and critical praise that this film received, it really is quite disappointing. The story which is based on a play of the same name is about a dysfunctional family dealing with the loss of the father of the household and the secrets that follow. This 2 hour run time really has nothing to fill in the blanks with but childish arguments. Sure, it is an honest look at a real American family, but the big events in this film happen few and far between. Meryl Streep is definitely Oscar nomination worthy in her portrayal as Violet Weston. She is the same Streep who brings tears of cinematic virtue to every role she plays. Her character struggles with drug abuse, and it’s clear she is ripping apart at the seams. Julia Roberts is ok, but i didn’t feel she deserved an Oscar nomination. She practically plays the same character in every film (my opinion), and i think this film is cluttered with too many characters for it to be a memorable role for her. Two other bright spots in the film are Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale as the brother and sister of Violet. They have amazing chemistry as a couple who have been married far too long, and bring the best comedic chops to the film. It is the great acting performances like this that even give this movie this high of a grade. It tries so hard to be this generation’s Friend Green Tomatoes, but it just doesn’t have the articulate pacing of that film. The characters are so unlikable that by the end of the film we are left with a closing that doesn’t touch our hearts like it should. Overall, i would say that maybe this film will appeal to some female movie goers, but that’s about it. My advice to those fans who want to see it is to wait till a dollar theater or DVD rental. August : Osage County shows brief moments of excellence, but it’s the long waits in between that kill the momentum of this Oscar favorite.

The Legend of Hercules

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4/10

God, this film is bad. How do you screw up a story that is so universally known and embraced? You send in Director Renny Harlan. Kellen Lutz stars as the world’s strongest man and his coming of age against a dictator father and brother who want him dead. This film had a lot of problems, but none were bigger than the terrible miscasts. Kellen Lutz should never be the lead in any film, and i say that as a man who is trying to help him. He works much better as a supporting character like he did in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. They try to show him off with several wet chested out of the water scenes which does nothing but present him as a piece of meat. I am sure the ladies are going to tell me that Hercules is supposed to be presented in that light, but his story is so much more. I get that sex sells, but Kellen Lutz is laughable whenever he reads a line that is supposed to be an important part of the story. He just doesn’t believe what he says and therefore cannot become the character. I also felt the CGI was disappointing. Some of the objects are terrible when it comes to the real details, but nothing more than a lion in the beginning of the film. You can almost see the invincible object that Hercules fights against that is supposed to be the lion because he just doesn’t put his all into it. This is the only bad fight scene of the film though, as the fighting was one of the only things i enjoyed about the film. The war scenes in particular are done with great design and choreography. It’s like this was the one area they definitely had covered before they started writing the film. I also enjoyed the performance of Scott Adkins as King Amphitryon. Adkins is having the time of his life as he throws all cares out the window and gives us a performance that makes us yell “FINALLY, SOMEONE WHO GETS IT”. The Legend of Hercules clocks in at 99 minutes, and because of the slow pace it feels even longer. With a slow start mixed with an uncomfortable rape scene, this film is tough to get into from the get go. I do think the 3D would probably make for a better experience. I saw it in 2D, and thought some of the scenes would look impressive in 3D. In particular a chain wielding Hercules fight scene. If you want a cheesy movie that you and your friends will have a good time giving funny commentary, this is the film for you. I don’t think even a buff chested Kellen Lutz will be enough for the ladies to like this mess

Lone Survivor

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8/10

Director Peter Berg’s love letter to the men and women who fight for our country is a tale of survival and courage in the fight for freedom. Lone Survivor is the story about Operation Red Wings, a navy seals unit stationed in Afghanistan. This movie focuses on Marcus Luttrell who was the lone survivor in the horrifying real life events that took place. This film doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the survivor. From the title alone, you know only one person survives this mission, and they reveal who it is in the opening minutes. Instead, it chooses to use it’s 2 hours to focus on the characters and their back stories so you care more when they lose their lives. The problem i have with a lot of war movies is that we don’t find out a lot about the characters that the cameras follow. That leaves me with a sense of not fully invested in them if something bad happens. Peter Berg has definitely done his homework as this is one of the greatest war movies i have ever seen. Led by a tremendous cast of Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch and the always great Ben Foster. The shooting is deep in impact as it chooses to give us an up close look at the damage and rounds being fired. I was happy that Luttrell served as a producer on the film as he helps the actors really grasp the feeling of being soldiers. It is this reason alone why i wasn’t 100% behind 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. The actors in the film never quite feel like soldiers to me because of the little things. My only lone criticism of this film was there being no subtitles with the Taliban soldiers. I think it’s obvious that it needs to be revealed what is being said between them when they encounter American resistance. I have no idea why this wasn’t included, but it needed to be. Lone Survivor is the best survival film i have ever seen, and i think everyone will enjoy this film. It has characters that you can really feel for, and that is something that any good war film definitely needs. It will be in theaters next week, so check it out.

Her

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8.5/10

Spike Jonze latest film is his greatest accomplishment to date. Her is a dramatic piece about the depths of loneliness and the things we look to for comfort in an aching wound. I saw the film even a little different from the description that i just typed. I saw it as a piece that warns us about the rise of technological advances, and how the need for human life is slowly getting phased out. Juaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombley, a man who is emotionally scared to open up to the world after the divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara). He buys a new operating system which gives the effect of an actual person in the room with him. What follows becomes the most emotionally invested relationship of Twombley’s life. Phoenix is absolutely breathtaking in this film. It sounds bad when i say this is a one man show, but he is definitely a step above the rest. That doesn’t mean that this amazing ensemble doesn’t do their parts. Led by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde and the voice herself, Scarlett Johansson. These characters give Phoenix all he needs to play through a series of emotions. The film for me was more sad than anything else. When you think about where we are today in our own technological world, it hits a lot closer to home than people might think. Problems quickly arise in the relationship when the voice lacks personal touch, and i think it is done in a manor that the audience will fully invest in. I wouldn’t be doing my job if i didn’t talk about the phenomenal cinematography. This is the most beautifully shot film that i have seen in a long time. The angles and close ups on characters faces that represent what they are going through is a Jonze classic in his arsenal. It works best in a film like this that plays off nothing but emotional depth. The use of light in the outside shots are like the beautiful path that Twombley is walking on his journey out of solitude. The dialogue does get a little cheesy at times, but the premise itself is kind of cheesy when you think about it. It honestly didn’t bother me as much as it might some other people. The only thing that worries me about a film like this is that it might be too artsy and slow at times for people to enjoy. I think the real lovers of film will truly enjoy this film because it’s everything that is great about Hollywood. Sometimes you only need a great actor like Phoenix to hit with such a powerful piece of cinema gold. The people who are expecting huge things to happen in this film will be set up for disappointment. The big things are there, but they come in the form of character growth. The original cut of this film was 150 minutes, and i would certainly be interested in checking out some of that deleted footage. In the end, this film shows us that the line between human interaction is being cut thinner with time. But if we are willing to accept help from the most unlikely sources, maybe we too can change for the better

Still Alice

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7/10

When Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe for her turn in this film, i knew i had to check it out. What i found is a film elevated by Moore’s outstanding performance, and an educative look at the disease of alzheimer’s. “Still Alice” shows our title character, Alice Howland, a married woman with three grown children, and a career as an influential linguistics professor. When Alice receives a diagnosis of rare Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease,  Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. As a film, i found “Still Alice” to be very close to home with a woman close to my life. My Step Mother has been currently battling a disease similar to Alzheimer’s for years, and Moore’s portrayal was a mirrored look at everything you need to know about the condition. The film’s script is a little thin when observed outside of the obvious plot content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the movie serves as a reminder to the depressing clarity that every one in three faces with such a scary disease. Julianne’s deterioration never seems forced or over the top. The film’s beautiful pacing is complimented well by Moore’s top notch portrayal stepping up more and more the deeper the film goes. The gutting of this legitimately beautiful and inspiring person is one of the toughest thing’s i’ve had to sit through on the silver screen in the last decade. Kristen Stewart surprisingly also hands in what is easily her greatest performance to date. She plays one of Alice’s children, and it’s clear that she has the closest attachment to her mother. The sorrow in Stewart’s eyes shows that she was perfectly cast. To anyone who knows anything about Alzheimer’s, you know i am not spoiling anything by saying the final ten minutes of this film are absolutely heartbreaking. The relationship by Stewart and Moore helps that bittersweet note feel like the appropriate one chosen. Love is the last thing remaining when all else is lost, and i found the moral of that to be smile worthy. The only thing about the cast as well as the film that i didn’t enjoy was the casting of Alec Baldwin as Alice’s husband. Don’t get me wrong, i enjoy Alec Baldwin, and think there is a serious side to his acting that a lot of his fans don’t get to enjoy often. In this film however, Baldwin is a little over the top. I get that he is dealing with a new found condition for he and his family, but he is the most insensitive pig, and i don’t think 100% of that was written that way. During the film’s opening ten minutes, i made a prediction to myself that Baldwin would be cheating on her. I was wrong about that prediction, but i called this because there is something about his performance that just doesn’t gel with a man married to a woman he’s loved for over 30 years. If he does one thing well, his disappearing act every five minutes makes you feel even more sad for everything Moore is going through. Overall, the film is consistent in it’s tear jerking approach. There are moments when the layers in the plot start to wear a little thin, but “Still Alice” is an good film turned into a great film by Julianne Moore. She is acting supremacy at it’s finest, and is a shoe in to take home the Oscar in March. That is something none of us could ever forget.

47 Ronin

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7.5/10

I cannot understand why this film is sitting at a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Simply put, 47 Ronin is a perfect film for someone who enjoys the fantasy genre. It’s a samurai dream composed of 2 hours of excellent fighting scenes and a great story to make you care about the characters. Keanu Reeves stars as a samurai who is cast out of his family when he illegally competes in a tournament. Keanu was dealt the right hand for a film like this. I think he is really good because (And i’m not trying to sound mean here) he doesn’t talk a lot. They keep his character very mute and let him show his actions with the sword. Keanu is someone who can show deep emotion without ever saying a word, so why do so many films ruin him with too much dialogue? In addition to what i listed, the fight scenes are excellent in this film. Some of the animation of the monsters can get a little cartoonish for me, but this film is well choreographed from beginning to end. It knows where it’s going and it knows how to get there. The only other problem i had with the film was the 3D. I don’t feel this is a film that is needed with the 3D experience. There are a couple cool tricks with a dragon’s tail coming at your face, or a ball and chain being thrown in your direction, but nothing to write home about. 47 Ronin tells a true story about a group of men who paid the ultimate sacrifice by standing by a leader that they always chose to fight for. It’s a tale of honor and sacrifice, and that is why i recommend the film. Fantasy genre fans will love it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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9/10

The rise and fall of Jordan Belfort tells a story that is so crazy it can never be touched. I truly couldn’t have been prepared for the things that were coming in this movie. Leonardo Dicaprio gives and Oscar worthy performance as Belfort, a stocks trader who robbed hard working Americans of millions of dollars in the 90’s. Dicaprio is one of those actors who will always be an all time great. In Belfort, he makes us love and hate him which is the sign of any great actor. He brings so much to a character that we are supposed to despise because we cannot relate to him. Jonah Hill is also fantastic as Belfort’s best friend who quits his job to join up with Belfort. There were times when i forgot i was even watching Jonah Hill. It shows how far of an actor he has come from his days in Superbad and Knocked Up. The film is 3 hours long, and this is probably the only time i will ever advocate a single film being that long. You have to show every single scene along the way even when it seems pointless. It will all come together in the end like a puzzle. Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors in the world, and he only further cements his legacy with one of his greatest films ever. The lone problem that i had with the film was that we didn’t learn a lot about the characters after it all came tumbling down. We find out a brief interchange, but it doesn’t fill in the gaps to leave us satisfied. I am also curious to hear a woman’s perspective of this film as there are a lot of male misogynistic scenes where women are degraded and treated as meat. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be a woman working at that office. The Wolf of Wall Street is truly one of those films that you have to see to believe. Even though it’s only a film, it tells the story of an insane time in American business. One that will probably never be repeated again. I definitely recommend this film to everyone, but be ready for a long sit and some weird scenes that will make you wonder why they are in there. Once again, if females see this film i would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Saving Mr Banks

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10/10

Ladies and gentlemen, i give you the best cast in a film this year. Saving Mr Banks is one of those films that come along every once in a while and leave you with all kinds of emotions while watching it. You will laugh, smile, cry and even be frightened for the character of E.L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The film shows Travers (Played amazingly by Emma Thompson) struggling to make a living since writing Mary Poppins over 20 years ago. She is approached by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) with a deal to make Mary Poppins into a film. What follows is the struggle to find a decent agreement between the two sides for making a film that won’t damage the other party. There were so many great performances to talk about that i feel this review might be my longest ever. Tom Hanks is the only choice for Walt Disney. He brings out the magic and charisma in a constant workaholic who made a 20 year promise to his daughters to get this picture made. Emma Thompson deserves an Oscar nod for bringing out the true heart in an otherwise grouchy woman. She makes us understand why she is the way she is when pitching the book to Disney. Colin Ferrell stole the film for me. He gives his best performance to date as the father of a young Travers. He is majestic and energetic as a loving parent with a bad secret below surface. This is the second part of the story told in this film. It shows us flashbacks as the current film is going on of a young Travers and the actual real story of her family and the wonderful woman who came into their lives, Mary Poppins. I honestly tried my hardest to find something negative about this film, and i couldn’t. Everything is done so well that i would totally see this film more than once in theaters just to catch what i may have missed. The supporting cast also deserves praise for the talent that they bring to this picture. Paul Giamatti (ALWAYS amazing), Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak bring just as much to the picture as the actors i already names. Scwartzman is brilliant as the song writer to some of Disney’s most magnificent numbers. Giamatti is the limo driver who forms the only friendship with Travers, as he sees something deeper below the surface. The set pieces were outstanding with the recreation of 1960’s Hollywood. The film really does it’s homework in trying to get the look and feel right, from vehicles to clothes to Disney Land itself. Saving Mr Banks is one film that definitely cannot be missed. I can’t imagine anyone would have anything negative to say about this film. It’s one of those where the whole family will love it, and it tells two amazing tales with one movie.

Nebraska

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8/10

Bruce Dern and Will Forte star in this black and white adventure about an old man (Dern) who receives a letter in the mail claiming he has won 1 million dollars. We know it’s a scam from the start, but that isn’t what the film is about. There are a lot of hidden meanings in this film that you really have to pay attention to get. One of those meanings was a father/son bonding experience across country. We find out that Dern has been kind of an abandoning father to Forte, but there isn’t anything the son wouldn’t do to make his father happy. The film is beautifully shot in black and white which i feel gives an old style feel in the way that we may be seeing the world the way Dern does. There are also excellent performances from Bob Odenkirk and who i think should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Female, June Squibb. Squibb is electric as the nagging wife who is driven crazy by her husband, but stands by him with her devotion to love. Nebraska is a slow sit though. I can’t say i would recommend this film to anyone but fans of director Alexander Payne (Sideways). His style of slow shots and meaningful undertones is something i like in a director. As i said, the film is riddled in slow spots. The dialogue is 100% of this movie. If you are waiting for some big explosion or some earth shattering event, this isn’t the film for you. I think most people will be bored by it, but i enjoyed it. It’s a different film from what you see in 2013, and if you have to travel to Nebraska to find it, well so be it.