Living every day like it’s your last is a concept every person tries to abide by. That is difficult for one Adaline Bowman. After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with handsome philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline stands at the crossroads of a decision that will change her life forever. Director Lee Toland Krieger is just the kind of guy to tell a romantic tale with a twist. After cult success with independent 2012 charmer “Celeste and Jesse Forever”, Krieger continues the success with a surprisingly charasmatic, “The Age of Adaline”. Where normal romance films dry out by the second act due to a repetitively laughable dialogue, this film takes a different approach, crafting many solid laughable moments while playing with how truly ridiculous Adaline’s condition is. The plot has been ridiculous to me ever since i first saw the trailer, and the movie did little to change that moment. The origin of Adaline’s freak change is on the same level of some of the Winter magic done in 2014’s “A Winter’s Tale”, but thankfully it never goes that far. Outside of a plot whose setup is taken from “Friday the 13th Part 6” (You think i’m kidding?), i found many aspects enjoyable. The cinematography is very appealing, with an almost 1940’s golden age look to the background of styles around our main characters. It’s a film that looks very similar to what Angelina Jolie has done as a director with such films as “Unbroken” or “In The Land of Blood and Honey”. The pacing is solid enough that even when the movie feels like it’s hitting those cell phone checking moments, it throws us another twist to an evolving story with these characters with long histories. While the chemistry wasn’t there for me with Lively and Huisman as a romantic couple, it was oddly there whenever Lively conversed with Harrison Ford’s character. I think that was meant as a reflection of how much longer their characters have known each other as opposed to her current relationship with Ford’s son. What i’m saying shouldn’t be a spoiler to anyone who has seen the trailer once, as little is left in the element of surprise after knowing so much about it going into the film. That is one thing i wish could’ve changed, as the movie treats the audience like we are in the dark about these bombshells before the film begins. What lifts “The Age of Adaline” further than every new Nicolas Sparks romance tale we get every year, is the element of solid performances by actors that never allow themselves to be held captive to laughable dialogue. Ford is still an on screen presence that steals a smile or two from me, Ellen Burstyn supplies the laughs of the film every time she pops up as Adaline’s much older looking daughter, and Lively gives a performance to kick her into the stratosphere in her early career. Adaline is a perfect role for her because it allows her the ability to showcase a side to her we havent seen in action films to this point. Overall, i surprisingly enjoyed this film, and i think there’s enough in it to warrant an enjoyable date night for both sides. It’s not too cheesy, and works as much more than a romance story with so many good jokes based on Adaline’s age. Before you age another day, check out this decent film.
Sometimes the effort of the individual pieces is greater than the sum of it’s parts. That’s not to say that Nicolas Sparks newest big screen adaptation is a bad film, but instead that the film does quite well on the individual efforts of trying to play against a script that typecasts it with other Sparks failures. Director George Tillman Jr (Barbershop films) adapts this Sparks novel that centers on the star crossed love affair between Luke (Scott Eastwood), a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Britt Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and different lifestyles test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and feateful connection with Ira (Alan Alda), whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. The film definitely has it’s problems. Like other Sparks adaptations, there are crowd grimmacing line reads, plot conveniences that include out of nowhere tension to create conflict among our protagonists, and the repeated setting of a rich town within a mile off the coast of an ocean. With all of this considered, i actually really enjoyed “The Longest Ride”. The acting is solid among a sensual duo of Eastwood-Robertson whose on screen chemistry pulls through dialogue that we have heard far too man times. Eastwood definitely has the look and charm of a Hollywood A-lister, and i could see him making a name for himself with a last name that already casts some big shoes to fill. Alda also adds a gentle presence that pulled a smile out of me every time he was on screen. As i mentioned, the structure is a little sloppy and contrived with two stories being told at once. I honestly feel like there was enough in each story to give each respective couple their own movie. For my money, i enjoyed Alda’s story a little bit more than the young lovers. There are times when we go long spans without hearing from whatever story isn’t being told, and i think it’s something that Sparks should work on. Other films of his have taken me out of the story because the running time ran too far over, and while this film has a similar problem (2 hours), the film ends right as the developments were getting too convenient for the audience. The camera style of the film is very complimentary, especially when Luke is in the bullfighting ring. Many slowed down motion shots showcase an artsy side to a down and dirty sport that is usually anything but. There is also a sex scene in the film that is very passionately shot. It’s done so well that it almost rivals the on screen magic of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams in Sparks biggest hit to date, “The Notebook”. Overall, i think this movie is solid for a date night among couples. It’s not a great movie, but it’s good enough for me to give a positive review for the first time ever for a Sparks adaptation. The film has it’s problems, but the charms of the things you wouldn’t expect make this romantic tear jerker a ride that is long, but far from the longest compared to the horrors i have faced with this writer.
E.L. James’ kinky best-seller gets the big screen treatment with this Universal Pictures/Focus Features co-production. The steamy tale details a masochistic relationship between a college student and a businessman, whose desires for extreme intimacy pen from secrets in his past. The plot i have just told you is EXTREMELY stretched for sure. When you consider that most of the conflict in this film (If there is any) stems from Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) stuck in a decision of signing her life over to the mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), i found myself perplexed by their decisions to explore bondage multiple times even before the contract is ever signed. There are some things that i did enjoy about this film, and i will get to them later. The biggest problem facing this movie is the fact that it has two second acts. The non-existent third act pushes us into an ending that is uneventful, and feels like Director Sam Taylor-Johnson didn’t pick the right spot to end this first of a proposed trilogy coming in the next few years. The audience i sat with felt very puzzled as the movie ends without solving it’s conflict, or even advancing our characters beyond a few short reveals. The film’s first act to me was intriguing enough to get me remotely interested in the backstories of the rich and puzzling Grey. It’s in that aspect that the film succeeds to it’s highest level, but fails at it’s highest expectation. We don’t learn a lot about Christian except for why he is a dominant. I’m sure the books do a better job at explaining it, but i have to grade this film alone, and on that aspect, it’s very tight lipped. I also enjoyed that the movie seems to have some comedic underlying tones, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I talked greatly in my review for “Jupiter Ascending” about films that take their gutsy premises too seriously, but i’m glad that this movie didn’t venture down that path. Some of the line deliveries from Johnson are intended to be humorous. I think this is a first big step in her career, but i wish the overall effort around her was more memorable. Dornan just didn’t make a believer out of me, and i’m someone who has never read the books. His line deliveries seem more like an actor reading a script and not necessarily someone with a problem ripping him at the seams. Dornan could do a lot more if he wasn’t so monotonous to the point that it only does his character a disservice for anyone in the audience to root for him. Christian Grey is the single toughest protagonist to ever get behind. He’s abusive (Yes i know there is a contract, but it doesn’t make it right), he’s pushy to an overbearing ordering personality, and he’s a HUGE stalker when it comes to Anastasia being his property. I ask what woman would be fine with their best friend being with a man like this if he didn’t have millions and millions of dollars, and that is the biggest misunderstanding i had with the movie. What exactly does the women demographic get from this film? The sex? It’s mostly female nudity. Johnson has so many tedious and repetitive sex scenes that it almost seems pointless for her to wear clothes by the final act. There are too many sex scenes even for this type of movie. To cram Six sex scenes in a two hour film only slows it down when it’s trying to progress it’s character arc’s, and to be honest, it’s the part of the film i could’ve done without. The scenes feel like a porno in the sense that if you have watched one, you’ve watched them all. Luckily, the movie knows this and rushes the final two sex scenes (In a five minute span) along in a chopped and edited fast forward. Are the women in this for the female empowerment? Steele is forced into a toxic relationship by being showered with gifts such as a new car and laptop. Seriously, every time there is a conflict, Steele is presented with a new gift. It gets to the point of laughable absurdity. So i am puzzled at what any woman sees in Grey or this story alike. Anastasia is yet another female character who requires a man to be happy, and it’s a trait in Hollywood films that i am absolutely sick of. I would think that in 2015 that we have come a long way in presenting the empowerment of a woman’s prowess and how she uses her beauty as a weapon, but i guess we haven’t come far enough. The film is based off of “Twilight” fan fiction, and it’s clear to see the comparisons. For one, there is a small love triangle present with Anastasia’s friend, Jose. He might as well be called Jacob in this scenario because he reeks of it. The film’s premise is also in Seattle. Sound familiar? Christian takes Anastasia flying and it’s a scene similar to when Edward put Bella on his shoulders while climbing the tree. I could go on forever with the similarities, but i’d rather not. I went into the movie giving it a fair chance, and with the exception of the positives i have already mentioned, there are a couple more. The film is stylishly shot. It’s very well lit with wonderful camera photography. If Vogue Magazine made a film, the visuals would come close to “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I also enjoyed the soundtrack to the film. I’m not a huge Beyonce fan, but her additions for “Haunted” and “Crazy in Love (Remix)” were welcome additions when the toys come out. I also am digging on the newest track by Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”. Overall, “Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t an effort that is going to make me jump at the other sequels that will come out. It gave some surprising artistic directions, but the film’s overall effort left me limp with disappointment at the flacid plot and character development. It doesn’t matter what i say because women are going to see it, so go see it and have the fun that i only did when i laughed at it. Bring on the hate feedback
Sometimes those of us sitting on the highest of mountains have the furthest to fall before hitting rock bottom. As is such in the life of a famous pop star named Noni (Guga Mbatha-Raw), a musician just about to hit it big with her first album when she has had enough being something that she isn’t underneath the hair extensions and makeup. She meets Kaz (Nate Parker), a young cop and aspiring politician who’s been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them who urge them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance. But it is ultimately Kaz’s love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was always wanted to be. I enjoyed this movie surprisingly more than i thought i would. The script is very plain and filled with some genre cliches that almost slips this film back into the mediocre pile, but it’s the performances of the two main characters that gives the movie the wings to fly over some dangering problems in that script. Mbatha-Raw impressed me earlier this year in “Belle”, and she plays Noni equally as impressive. Make no mistake that Raw IS this character, and has clearly done her homework when it comes to the way pop stars act in front of the camera. Everything from her dance choreography, to her sexual magnetism, to the style of her wardrobe is done to relate to many of today’s pop stars. I saw Rihanna and Beyonce mostly in this character, but that is up for debate depending on the viewers opinions. What is great about her transformation throughout this film is that it’s not just the clothes and the hair, it’s everything about Noni to get her back to the little girl she was when we first saw her during the film’s opening scene. It’s impressively shot, and we feel like a parent that is seeing their daughter for the first time in a long time. The music was also very well done with a mix between hip hop and unplugged folk singer style. If that sounds like two genres that don’t mix, it somehow is pulled off very well in this film. Early in her career, Noni is dating a major rap artist (Played by Machine Gun Kelly), and it’s during this time where it feels like Director and writer Gina Prince-Bythewood is giving a commentary on today’s musical starlets and the prices they pay to get to the top. Many female singers are treated like strippers at awards shows and concerts that the musical talent falls to second in level of importance. “Beyond The Lights” does a great job at spotlighting this problem. The film doesn’t have too many problems outside of the minor cliches in the script, but there were some things that bothered me. First of all, short and sweet, Machine Gun Kelly CANNOT act. I know the guy has his fans out there, but he is essentially playing himself in the movie, and the lights he is cast under doesn’t do him any favors to change his image for old school hip hop fans like myself. The only other problem was that the film was a little too long clocking in at 111 minutes. I felt like there is a lot of scenes leading into the third act that could’ve easily been trimmed to give this a smooth transitional 1 hour and 40 minute run time. The film doesn’t drag too much as a result, but it ended right before the viewer started feeling that run time. These problems aren’t a major deal though, as the on screen chemistry between Raw and Parker is believable as both bring out the best in the other. Kaz saves her life, but we never feel like he is done over the top with a “Prince Charming” kind of feel. He is just an everyday hero whose life changed when he reached his arm out over that balcony. You cheer for these two throughout the movie because of the magic they bring to their characters. There is something that just cannot be explained when you see two characters perfectly cast for their roles, and that is the case here. It was also nice to see supporting roles by Minnie Driver and Danny Glover. Driver in particular has been out of the limelight for a while, but she played the mother of Noni very well. She drives her daughter almost to the point of death, but there is a caring side somewhere under there that even the audience hates to admit. I recommend this movie as a matinee movie. I do think it’s a good date movie, but i wouldn’t recommend it full price at the same time. If you have to see it in theaters, check it out before the price goes up for the night, otherwise just wait till DVD. “Beyond The Lights” is romantic, patient, and real. Three things that are rarely together in any romantic tear jerker in 2014. It’s often to get one or two but never all three, and that is where this movie succeeds as being just too charming to not enjoy.
If the ladies are crying and the guys are dying, it must be Nicolas Sparks newest film. The Best of Me is the best selling adaptation of the book written by Sparks, and it’s about Dawson and Amanda, two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of a beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they’ve never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago live on, posing even more serious threats in the current day. This film didn’t do anything to change my mind about Sparks film adaptations. To be fair, i have never read any of his books, and only grade his scale on his film adaptations alone. The film isn’t as bad as some of the worst films i have seen of 2014, but it’s not a very good one either. There are so many problems that i had with this film, but i am not shallow enough to not appreciate the good things as well. An easy writing would be to dismiss this film simply because i am playing my “Man Card”, but i like to think that you the reader have more faith in your favorite film reviewer than that. First of all, the casting is decent at best. As Amanda, we get two performances from Michelle Monaghan and Liana Liberto. Liberto is definitely the better of the two as the younger version of our female protagonist. I didn’t mind Monaghan much, but she never does enough to make her personality anything memorable in the role. Every time i saw flashbacks during Liberto’s scenes, i couldn’t help but feel Ellen Pompeo would’ve been a better choice visually to compare to Liberto’s teenage face. This leads to the big problem i had with the casting of Dawson, LUKE BRACEY LOOKS NOTHING LIKE JAMES MARSDEN. Even to squint your eyes and defy everything you know about genes, this casting is completely opposite. Both are good in this role, but Bracey is not only taller, but he is more built. This would all be easy to dismiss except that Dawson towers over Amanda when they are teenagers, and then he is about two inches smaller than her when they hit adulthood. That is one hell of a growth spurt. One thing enjoyable about the film was the flashbacks to 1992, and the music that followed. I didn’t notice anything that really took me out of the scenes they were presenting, and the soundtrack was quite the audio scrapbook that i needed to take me back to some of my childhood favorites. Mainly, the biggest problems that i had with this film (Outside of tired romantic genre cliches) was the logical problems that take me out of any movie. I will be getting into spoiler territory here, so turn away now. During the first scene of the film, Dawson is blown into water by a huge oil explosion on a charter that he works at. He manages to land in the cleanest spot of water so we can perfetly see him in the water despite all of this oil spilling out around them. The back and forth transition of time era’s is something noticeably bad because it’s very confusing during the final scenes of the film. There is a scene in which Amanda’s son is in a car wreck and needs a heart operation. We learn the a donor has already been cleared and he is getting ready for surgery. It ends up that Dawson is the donor, but this announcement happens five minutes before Dawson is killed on screen. I know the viewer can say that Dawson could’ve died before the announcement due to the sloppy nature of the editing, but it’s still too soon and would take too long to rush a dead Dawson to the hospital to save this boy. I personally think the movie should’ve been told from a straight through viewing of young to old. The film doesn’t need any of the back and forth stuff, and it only confuses the audience. Another thing a little unsettling for me was the setting of this film in the south, and yet no one spoke with a southern accent with the exception of one character. Am i being picky? That’s up to your opinion. I have always felt that a film will take me out with these sloppy productions that were obviously never addressed. Sparks isn’t the director of the film, so i’m not even going to blame him. I blame director Michael Hoffman for his sloppy and uninspired choices. It seems Hoffman doesn’t care to address these issues because he knows his female audience will show up to support the movie no matter what, and to a certain degree he is right. The female audience of my showing ate this movie up, and loved every minute of it. To that degree, The Best of Me succeeds. I think a film like this will say so much more though if it can take moviegoers not known for liking films like this and convince them of some stellar film making. Instead, what we get is a crowded, cliche ridden, predictable rush of a film that crams in too much too fast for just under two hours. I will recomend this for the female audience only, and that’s because i am not foolish enough to believe for a second that they care about the things i mentioned in this review. The Best of Me was a little better than i thought it was going to be, but it’s story dooms a mediocre film into ever becoming something more. Not terrible, but not good either.
Chloe Moretz is a teenage girl stuck at a crisis between life or death after a car wreck severely injures her and kills the rest of her family. Her choice is to live to stay with her grandparents and boyfriend or die and never go through any of the pain of being alone. If I Stay is full of good stand alone performances most notably from Moretz. This is the role that gives her the biggest transformation in her young career.The problem is that the performances aren’t enough to support a script that is full of situations and characters who are hard to relate to. That alone can ruin such deep performances. The option of living or dying didn’t seem that tough to me even for her whole family passing. Mia (Moretz) isn’t suicidal, she is a Juliard accepted Cello player, and she has a boyfriend who she is madly in love with. What does death solve in this question? Why is this decision so hard? The relationship with her boyfriend (Jamie Blackley) is another problem i had with the film. A female viewer might view things differently, but i found Adam to be controlling and unsupportive. He seemed to only care about himself which came across as arrogant even for a teenager. Their relationship doesn’t cast the best light for their chemistry, and every dialogue scene is met with extreme awkwardness. Going back to what i said about the question, i feel like this film would’ve been better if Moretz was suicidal or very depressed. She is a character who hasn’t lived life outside of Portland, so i can’t imagine why we are put through 100 dull and repetitive minutes just to come to an answer that never feels satisfying. Speaking of unsatisfying, the ending is ever bit of it. Just after the result is revealed, the movie just ends. We get no feedback from the other characters or no reaction….it just ends. What is most frustrating about this is that the character feels dead no matter what the result (No spoiler there). Some bright spots in the film were the supporting characters. Stacy Keach in particular is the best part of this movie. He plays Mia’s grandfather who is literally on the heels of losing everyone he loves in one accident. You feel Keach’s pain because he is a student of the acting game who knows what kind of looks it takes to get through to the audience. One of the toughest things to accept from these characters is that they live in Portland, but they talk like a Nicolas Sparks novel. No teenager ever talks like the ones in this movie. Also, very nice to see Mirelle Enos and Joshua Leonard as Mia’s parents. They are very down to earth because they are the same people that Adam is. I wish we got more camera time with these characters and their close relationship to Mia, and it would hit us a lot harder when these characters die. Instead, we are left to fill in the blanks through scenes that would rather focus on her relationship with Adam. The soundtrack is good and bad. The good comes from cover songs done in a creative accoustic way like “Today” by The Smashing Pumpkins, or “Halo” by Beyonce. The negative from the soundtrack comes from the tone deaf original songs played by Adam’s band. They play no less than four songs, and i wanted to hear a screaming baby rather than their awful tones throughout the film. When comparing this film to The Fault in Our Stars, i look at this as the weaker film because TFIOS knew what buttons to push to jerk the tears. It shows a relationship and only needs to focus on the strong performances to translate the real pain. I don’t doubt that the ladies will enjoy this movie. I expect a lot of backlash from the female audience, and that is why i am going to recommend it to them. I have no doubt that this film was meant for them and only them. The male audience will get nothing from this. If you are going to see the film, i would wait till dollar theater showings. If i could say one summary for If I Stay, it would be that the film is just good enough for anyone who likes a tearjerker, but not good enough for anyone who doesn’t like these movies to not cry out in boredom.
A man (Daniel Radcliffe) just broken up with his cheating girlfriend meets a girl (Zoe Kazan) at a party, and the two hit it off creating a friendship that develops into more. The catch is that Kazan has a boyfriend, and Radcliffe must keep his crush to a minimum. First of all, we have seen this film a lot, but director Michael Dowse takes What If into territory that keeps it from becoming predictable. Credit is definitely due for the chemistry he creates between Radcliffe and Kazan. Daniel in particular continues to break away from the Harry Potter typecast as an actor who did suspense/horror in The Woman in Black, and now doing comedy in What If. The sharp dialogue between he and Zoe is what keeps the film pushing well beyond a second act that drags a little bit. The film also has a soundtrack that is full of the emotional tones that our characters are going through. It’s an instrumental splash of indie rock music mostly conducted from Carl Newman of the rock band The New Pornographers. One track in particular called “Beach Bummer” collides a dreamy piano with an electric guitar that reminds us of looking up at the stars on a warm summer night. What If isn’t just about setting the mood with the music in the scenes, but the romantic genre scenes it creates. I admit that some of the cliches are a bit corny at times, but i am happy that the story never goes in the direction it seems like it will. There are many opportunities for our two main characters to hook up, but it never happens. If this were another romantic comedy, you could almost write the script yourself based on seeing any five of these films at any point in your life. What If differs itself from those films because it pushes our characters a little further for a possible hook up. The ground work they lay with their chemistry simply isn’t enough to convince these two that they belong together. I always appreciate a movie that is simple enough, but throws serious obstacles at it’s characters that leaves you thinking if they will ever be the same. So what is the problem with What If that leaves it with only a 6/10? The tone of this film overall has troubles distinguishing whether it’s a romantic comedy or a simple comedy. I would normally think the former, but this movie has some roll your eyes scenes with slapstick comedy reminiscent of a Farelly Brothers movie. It seems completely out of place, and i would be OK with this film being just a romantic comedy. Besides that, it just doesn’t seem like Dowse cares about any characters who aren’t his protagonists. From the guy who brought us one of the big surprises of 2012 in Take Me Home Tonight, it seems like he still doesn’t know how to build his supporting characters for anything other than granting a funny reaction for the main character to look at them like they are alien. They serve as cheap eating silverware for a main course that feels too rich to eat with fork or spoons. What If is one of those films that starts strong during the first act and loses a little steam during the second. It builds a relationship that the audience can get behind and cheer for. Perhaps most importantly, it showcases Radcliffe as the A-list actor he was destined to become. He can’t be limited to just one genre, and that is said about only the best of actors. It’s a cute film that is easy to forgive on it’s biggest of faults, but What If will never have you asking questions on what might have been. It’s answers are satisfying enough for a perfect date night. The ladies will love the chemistry, and the men will love the relatable situations to being single and wanting something you just can’t have. What If is going on my recommended list. Enjoy
Woody Allen is back behind the camera directing and writing in his newest film about a magician (Colin Firth) who takes on a mission to try to debunk a supposed psychic medium (Emma Stone) as a phony. Magic in the Moonlight sizzles during a first hour that builds the mystery to the audience as to whether Stone really is a psychic or not. This question is interesting to us because of the wonderful chemistry between Firth and Stone. They are so well playing against the grain of how obvious Woody Allen builds romantic interests. There was a point in this film where i really wondered if these two become romantically involved because the first two acts of the movie focus on their rivalry instead of what they have in common. I am totally for this, and if the film had a better final act, it would’ve been a favorite for romantic film of the year. As it finishes, Allen gives us too many false finishes with turn after turn that makes the movie feel almost unfamiliar from the quirky and cute magical scenes between our two protagonists. The ending is done in a feel good way that only Woody Allen could do, but it’s too predictable. The movie plagues itself into that kind of inevitable ending because there is no possible opposite direction it could go. All of that aside, Magic in the Moonlight is every bit the charming fairy tale that asks the question if it’s possible to give in to belief over reason. The shooting locations are absolutely breathtaking and serve as the perfect transformation into 1928 French Riviera. It’s in that atmosphere where Allen creates the real magic of an eternal time machine through the lens of the camera. The setting makes this film feel like if it were black and white that it could actually be a Fred Astaire or Clark Gable film. Firth certainly casts the charm to compete with such Hollywood icons. He’s one of my five favorite actors today because he continues to show that there isn’t anything he can’t do. This film shows off more of his comedic touch which is something he began his film career with, but hasn’t had many opportunities to lately. He is extremely arrogant in this film, and only an actor like Firth can pull off a character with such crass and have us enjoying every minute he is on camera. Aside from Firth and Stone, the movie has a veteran cast of who’s who in film history. Marcia Gay Harden plays Stone’s mother, and pulls off another snobby upper class sneak. Eileen Atkins plays Firth’s aunt and hasn’t missed a step at all since The Hours and Gosford Park. The movie clocks in at 92 minutes, and doesn’t drag until the series of false finishes. It’s no secret here that the best parts of the movie are the scenes in which Firth and Stone are at opposites and try to one up the other. Allen’s peak has always been to write stories that are just barely interesting enough, and let the character performances push it even further. Magic in the Moonlight is nothing different. Mostly thanks to the intoxicating scenery and the natural-light cinematography that flourishes in the French countryside, Magic in the Moonlight does weave itself a spell. It’s a romantic charmer perfect for anyone who enjoys films of the past generation. I recommend it for a wonderful date movie for two people who appreciate style over monetary substance. Magic in the Moonlight is far from Allen’s best, but it’s the best punch he has packed in a very long time
5.5/10 (Or 7.5/10)
The next chapter of the longest dance series ever shows most of the stars returning from the previous Step Up movies to form a super team to compete for a 3 year show in Las Vegas. Step Up All In is only the 2nd film of the Step Up Franchise that i have actually seen, and i have to say that it at least did a good job of keeping me well entertained. The reason i gave this movie two ratings is because the first one is if you rank it as an overall movie, and the second one is to rate it as a dance movie only. As a dance film, it absolutely succeeds with the best dancing i have ever seen. The finale match between our protagonists known as Elementrix facing off against the antagonists, The Grim Reapers, makes for the best dance battle i have ever seen in a film. I did enjoy You Got Served a little more than this one, but a close second isn’t bad for a genre that i feel like i have seen too much in. The stages and sets are also very well done, and that has to do with the lights of Las Vegas being a beautiful setting for such a film. The storyline isn’t anything very different from what you see in other Step Up films and i think that is what really hurts it. If the next Step Up film could make a story different from a crew facing off against a villain crew for a prize, they could really take the whole series in a different direction. I know it seems hard to do this as there are only so many avenues you can go with the dance genre, but i think the most creative stories always come from that extra push. The acting isn’t anything amazing as you would expect it to be for this film. It’s really just a bunch of real life dancers playing themselves for the camera. The cliche moments of breaking out into dance in public places is laughable for all the wrong reasons. On top of it, you get the corniest dialogue that makes it sound like the two people competing are about to do a knife or gun fight. One credit i will give Channing Tatum is that he at least brought the feel of a superstar who brought some fraction of emotion to a ridiculous plot. Without Channing Tatum, the appeal of this faltering franchise fades, except for the dance sequences. That is something that the Step Up Franchise will always have. It’s kind of nice to see a series where the main characters return as most (Tatum included) usually run for the hills whenever they hit it big. The running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes was a little long for a plot that you can pretty much predict how it will roll in the first ten minutes. One thing that kept it interesting especially during the dragging second half was the steamy romantic chemistry between the two main stars, Ryan Guzman and Briana Evigan. Their powerful emotion on the dance floor but dry emotion in script reading show two things. The first is that these two are definitely world trained dancers, and that area is where they feel the most comfortable. They say so much in an up close face to face shot on the dance floor that they had trouble communicating during an awkward 105 minutes. I did not see the movie in 3D, and i don’t think there were enough cool shots by watching it to really think it mattered. There were some old school 3D in your face shots with sand and confetti, but i think they are few and far between for paying an extra $4. Overall, Step Up All In isn’t as horrible a film as i originally thought i was in for. It’s not a good film by any means, but it’s not a bad sit if you are in the theater for a date night. If you really have to see it, i recommend just waiting till dollar theater. The big screen is a good experience for this kind of film, but there is no need to drop a ten dollar bill to see the same movie you have seen four times already. You don’t go to a Step Up film to see Oscar winning performances. You go to see remarkable dance moves and beats that always keep your toes tapping. In that perspective, Step Up All In delivers time after time.
Rob Reiner returns to the directors chair in this film about Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton playing bickering neighbors who are forced to see their mutual connection when Douglas’s son goes to jail leaving his 10 year old daughter at Douglas’s doorstep. As romantic comedies go, this one isn’t terrible but it has problems displaying what kind of film it really wants to be. There are points in the movie that are filtered with dramatic turns from the point of view of Keaton and Douglas conveniently both losing a significant other. Then there are points with raunchy comedy including fecal matter jokes from a dog, Douglas complaining about seeing a child’s private parts, and a baby delivery that seems like it was something out of an Adam Sandler film. And So It Goes would be a much better film if it decided up front what it wanted to be, and didn’t see “How it goes”. Douglas is still charming enough to play a role that really colors him out to be a bastard. He says some of the absolute rudest things, but because of Michael’s ability to wink at the camera, you are left smiling at the once powerful leading man. Keaton isn’t anything spectacular from roles she has played before in The First Wives Club, Something’s Gotta Give, or Father of the Bride. She plays the role pretty safe and never pushes her character to anything more than the voice of reason. It would be nice to see her in a role that isn’t typcast for her, but “So It Goes”. The pacing of the story doesn’t do anyone favors as the movie feels unintentionally like the actors are definitely reading from a script. The two leads are legendary actors of film, and Reiner should’ve given them the reigns to show a different version of themselves than the one that this boring script calls for. It’s predictability at it’s absolute shameless as you pretty much see where the film is going to go 15 minutes into it. The best reason to see the film lies in the performance of good old Frances Sternhagen. Her smokey delivery really is priceless. Most people won’t recognize the name, but if you have seen films like The Mist, Julie and Julia, or Misery, you will remember the magic and show stealing variety that she is famous for. Films like these really make me think back to the times when Nora Ephron birthed the genre known as the rom-com and the different kind of sub genres that it has spawned as a result to careless screenwriting. What surprises me most is that Rob Reiner was at one time one of the top directors in Hollywood, but his film career over the last ten years has been shoddy at best when you consider that the guy acts in better films than he directs. When the credits role after 91 minutes of screen time, you will feel yourself wondering how this film is any different than the tons of John Cusack rom-coms that never hit movie theaters. What is the justification that gives this movie any reason why it had a wide theatrical release? Overall, it’s not going to be one of the worst films of the year in my book, just one of the most forgotten. It’s sad to see such high scale actors settling for this kind of mud. Douglas in particular needs a movie to showcase that he is still a strong presence. In my opinion, his best was always thrillers and smart comedies. And So It Goes is only a movie that i would recommend to the absolute biggest Michael Douglas fans. I think many will balk when they see the trailer, but there are some decent enough laughs and heartfelt moments for you to spend a dollar on this at the local Redbox. As far as theaters go? And so it BLOWS.
Every once in a while there will come a film in the romance department that a man and a woman can equally enjoy and it not be a one sided occasion. The Fault in Our Stars is that film for this decade. It stars Shailene Woodley as a cancer patient struggling for a reason to live. She meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort) who becomes romantically interested in the girl, and gives her life for the first time in a long time. On the surface, Stars is one of those films that is just another romantic teenager movie about self loathing and love being the only key to happiness. But it takes a deeper look into the 2 hour film to understand that this film is about living for today because tomorrow might not be there. I really enjoyed this film for it’s superior acting, brilliant soundtrack and it’s heartbreaking attitudes without resorting to too much exploitation of the genre. I am happy to say that i did successfully predict the ending of the film, but that didn’t take too much away from it. Stars has something that everyone can enjoy, and a lot of that resorts to Egort who is absolutely fantastic as Augustus. He gives the film the charm and the life it needs from what would otherwise be a depressing teenage tale. This is only the first film i have seen him in, but i think he is a young actor with a bright future. Some actors can just give you a look to make you smile back at the screen, and Egort is one of those lucky few. This review would be pointless if i didn’t talk about how good Woodley is in it as well. I kind of didn’t have an opinion on her before this movie. I liked Divergent, but didn’t think she needed to be a strong actor to play that part. She was good in The Spectacular Now, but was outshined by Miles Teller. Stars is finally her movie. She proves that she can provide the viewer a scope of a character that they can hope the best for without 100% feeling sorry for her. She is very witty as Hazel Lancaster, and speaks and acts in a way that all teenage and young adult females can relate to. Examples even as small as waiting for the boy you like to call you early on in the relationship, or not having that confidence in yourself until someone else makes you see it. Woodley captures superbly the awkwardness of being a teenager and the never say die attitude in being a cancer patient. The only slight problem i had with the acting was Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother. Most people will watch the film and think i was nitpicking, but i just didn’t feel she was cast right for the role. I have never been a fan of Dern’s and i don’t feel this movie did her any favors as well. Her scenes feel so fake whenever she delivers a very important role. It slows down the movie and makes us remember that we are just a viewer in a story and not actually there with the characters. The only other problem i had with the movie was it’s pacing. The first hour is one of the best opening hours in film in 2014 because there is so much packed into that hour. Once we get to the halfway point, we feel like we have been watching the movie for 90 minutes, but that is where the movie starts to show some of it’s problems. The second hour is good, but by that point you know where the film is heading, so it’s hard to stay as excited for a movie that already has a set direction. If the first hour of the film could’ve withheld some of those events and saved them for the early part of the 2nd hour, i think it would’ve made for a smooth transistion into the tearjerking 2nd hour. Speaking of tears, the ladies were absolutely bawling during my showing. I heard several sniffs during the emotional scenes, and plenty of reaches for the tissues. It’s in that area where Stars delivers at it’s best. You know you are coming into a sad movie, and this one never fails to deliver on that promise. I mentioned before that the soundtrack was something very noteworthy. It’s hip, but gives a different kind of feel for everyone from electro pop to indie rock to beautifully constructed piano backgrounds that greatly compliment the struggles that our characters go through. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the biggest surprises of the year for your favorite film critic. The thing i liked the most about it is that it shows that you don’t always need vampires and factions to show teens in all of their angst driven journeys that cultivate into hopeful glory. Well recommended for a good date night. It’s nice to see a weekend that comes out with two can’t miss choices in this and Edge of Tomorrow.
Oh Good Lord, where do i start? This film is by far one of the ten worst films i have EVER seen. There is so much for me to explain that i don’t know if i will get it done in one review. Colin Ferrell stars as a thief in 1914 New York who breaks into the house of a dying young red haired woman to steal her jewels, but ends up stealing her heart instead. Ferrell has been told his whole life to look out for a red head and that he will be her savior. So of course, there is only one red haired woman in the whole world, so it has to be her. STUPID. The acting in this film is severely awful and even comedic at times. Russell Crowe is the villain in this film as a demon thief who was once Ferrell’s boss. He is after Ferrell for reasons we never find out. He is a demon for reasons we never find out. That is one of the biggest problems with this awful narrative; it is nearly 2 hours long and we never find anything out. In my opinion, Crowe is a very overrated actor and that doesn’t shine more than this film. His accent alone couldn’t keep the theater from breaking out into loud laughter. (Spoilers) The woman ends up dying and Ferrell ends up getting beaten down by Crowe and his band of thugs. They dump him in the river and Ferrell ends up waking up in 2014 New York. The only explanation ever given for this is that sometimes miracles happen. This is by far some of the worst storytelling i have ever seen in my life. The only thing that can make something like this even worse is that it’s a deep obnoxious bore. As i said before, the movie is nearly 2 hours and you feel every single minute of it as it drags into a new year. I seriously thought it was 2015 by the time i left the theater. IT’S THAT BAD. The cinematography is something out of a 13 year old’s Mac computer. There are scenes with a flying horse (Whose name is actually Horse) that will make you think you dived into The Neverending Story or something similar. The dialogue is so bad that you will be bored out of the film by the 15th minute. It’s slow and just doesn’t work well with the story it is trying to tell. Everything i have told you is just build up to the actual worst part of this movie. What i am going to tell you is so bad that it has to be witnessed to see it. WILL SMITH CAMEOS AS SATAN. I am not lying at all. He stars as Satan with a filled in deep dark voice as his speech. It is by far the funniest thing i have seen in a long time. I literally couldn’t stop laughing in the theater which was garnering mean looks from the other watchers. Will Smith is possibly the last guy you would ever cast as Satan. I have to ask a serious question, what was the casting director thinking? It’s great to go for a big star, but i can name a million big stars that would be cast better than Smith in that role. I even like Will Smith, but not as Lucifer. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. Believe it or not, there are two good things to this movie (Besides laughter). It has a beautiful snow covered setting that really sets the mood for an old school eastern tale. It also has great wardrobe. The clothing is a perfect line for 1914, so kudos goes to costume designer Michael Kaplan for his beautiful vision. I couldn’t believe people were leaving the theater talking about how much they liked the movie. Art in general (Film, books, paintings) are based on opinion and i can respect that. I just don’t see how anyone could come out of this saying it’s a good film. That has to be the type who have never hated a film in their lives. To those people i say, hate a film, it will feel great. Shakespeare would be turning in his grave at this adaptation of his writing. I can’t possibly recommend this film to anyone. I guess it would be OK if you were in the presence of friends while having some drinks. It would be a fun film to sit down and just massacre. Winters Tale is one of the biggest disasters i have seen since “The Last Airbender”. Last year’s “Escape From Tomorrow” was bad, but i think Winters Tale is worse because it had a budget of 46 million dollars. Not recommended, but instead i will recommend an episode of Dawson’s Creek called “A Winter’s Tale”, it’s much better. I apologize for this review being outside of my typical fashion. I promise the next review will be much better. Apologies to my readers.