Friday, December 20, 2013

American Hustle: Movie Review

Traded history for comedy to give us characters with a lasting impression.

“American Hustle” is the story of the Abscam scandal of the 1970s when the FBI was investigating theft, forgery and stolen art. The history of the story is likely sketchy at best which would explains why it opens with “Some of this actually happened” as opposed to the more standard “Based on a true story.” David O. Russell chose to just focus on the characters instead. 2013

Directed by: David O. Russell

Screenplay by: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nebraska: Movie Review


Simple story, characters, photography and comedy done pretty much to perfection.
“Nebraska” is a simple journey, told with beautiful black and white photography, of a father who thinks he has won a million dollars and a son who doesn’t know what to do with his father except go along with him. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) suffers from dementia but he’ll argue that point with you straight to the pub. David Grant (Will Forte) lives a fairly empty life so decides to head to Nebraska with his father. 2013

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Screenplay by: Bob Nelson

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte and June Squibb

Friday, December 6, 2013

Philomena: Movie Review


Masterfully written, beautifully portrayed story that is better than just a human interest story.
“Philomena” starts with Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) in the doctor’s office; he’s quite pleased with news of his outstanding stool sample – until he realizes it just means that it hasn’t been received yet. The humour is kind of a like that. You don’t realize that the movie is funny until a joke has just been said and you’ve been given a moment to digest the punch line. The movie really is very funny. 2013

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope

Starring: Steve Coogan and Judi Dench

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Short Term 12: Movie Review

Realism allows comedy and drama to come together in a fully likable manner.

The realism of a foster care center for teenagers is up-close and personal but provides so much humour that the drama is never over-whelming. It’s also quite touching that the adults in charge are just as messed up as the kids but try even harder in covering it up. Short Term 12 stars Brie Larson as Grace a twenty-something counselor who is in charge of fellow staff and a few emotionally-damaged kids. 2013

Directed by: Destin Cretton

Screenplay by: Destin Cretton

Starring: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr.

Friday, November 29, 2013

C.O.G.: Movie Review


A dichotomous journey through religion and homosexuality.
“C.O.G.” is the journey of one man based on the real life journey of writer David Sedaris. David (Jonathan Groff) is an academically-minded man in his twenties who has destroyed every relationship with his own arrogance. He’s not entirely aware of it, as he thinks he’s on a journey with his girlfriend after they read The Grapes of Wrath and decided to get back to nature. But really his ex-girlfriend had no such journey in mind. 2013

Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Screenplay by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Starring: Jonathan Groff

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Girl Most Likely: Movie Review


A girl has lost her way and comes back home with quirky comedy.
“Girl Most Likely” is Imogene (Kristen Wiig); a girl once likely to become the next big playwright in New York City, now she’s desperately hanging on to the upper-class lifestyle convinced that it’s all about who you know, where you live, and who you are with. A failed attempt of a fake suicide attempt sends Imogene back where she came from. All the way to New Jersey. 2012

Directed by: Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini

Screenplay by: Michelle Morgan

Starring: Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening, Matt Dillon and Darren Criss

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dallas Buyers Club: Movie Review


A character with conflicting ideals provides a drama with charm and humour.
Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) has been diagnosed with AIDS in 1985. But surely that’s a mistake because he “ain’t no homo”. “Dallas Buyers Club” does a good job of establishing the character of Ron Woodroof with that of what he needs to do to survive. He lives in Dallas, lives a very disgusting lifestyle and should be close to dead. But he also likes making money and disregarding authority. 2013

Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée

Screenplay by: Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kill Your Darlings: Movie Review

The story of Allen Ginsberg during some of his more interesting years.

“Kill Your Darlings” is the story of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) as he arrives at college and is ushered into a new generation of writers. Ginsberg is young, naïve and innocent. He was raised by his father – a writer (in the very traditional sense), and his mentally unstable mother. Columbia University presents a whole new world, a bright future for this talented man. 2013

Directed by: John Krokidas

Screenplay by: Austin Bunn and John Krokidas

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Captain Phillips: Movie Review

Walks the obvious Hollywood line but Hanks keeps us hanging in every moment.

“Captain Phillips” is the harrowing adventure of a US ship captain encountering pirates off the coast of Somalia, based on the real-life 2009 hijacking. Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is a veteran captain, always doing what’s right and can draw the respect of his crew, even if they think he’s a bit of a hard ass. If it sounds like a role that’s perfect for Tom Hanks, that’s because it is. 2013

Directed by: Paul Greengrass

Screenplay by: Billy Ray

Starring: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

Friday, November 8, 2013

12 Years a Slave: Movie Review

A story where bad becomes worse becomes worse and may never get to worst.

Set in the 1840s, “12 Years a Slave” is the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York who was abducted and sold into slavery. The beginning of the film has a number of scenes out of order and out of context. When all is said and done the point appears to be to give some “interesting” vantage points into the character of Solomon, but it does just add to an overly-long runtime when most scenes in the movie provide an interesting vantage point to the character of Solomon. 2013

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Screenplay by: John Ridley
Based on "Twelve Years a Slave" by Solomon Northup

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Fassbender

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Prince Avalanche: Movie Review


Just a simple conversation between hilarious characters by great actors.
It's 1988. One year after wildfires destroyed much of central Texas. The explosive opening of raging fires gives way to destruction, and the isolation that destruction can cause, and the loneliness that isolation can cause. It's an appropriate setting for two men alone in the woods, working for the state repairing the roads. 2013

Directed by: David Gordon Green

Screenplay by: David Gordon Green

Starring: Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanks for Sharing: Movie Review


A lot of addicts, but some comedy and empathy help us get to the point.
“Thanks for Sharing” follows a group of men who meet at a sex addicts anonymous meeting. Mike (Tim Robbins) is the veteran, who is married and has been on the road of recovery for a long time. The film opens with Adam’s (Mark Ruffalo) five year anniversary with Tim as his sponsor. And Neil (Josh Gad) is the new-comer. He wants Adam to be his sponsor, but what he really wants is to pretend that he’s not an addict but continue behaving in inappropriate ways. 2012

Directed by: Stuart Blumberg

Screenplay by: Stuart Blumberg, Matt Winston

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Josh Gad and Gwyneth Paltrow

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Happy House: Movie Review


A horror-comedy short on thrills and laughs but has interesting character interactions.
The Happy House is a remote Bed & Breakfast specializing in odd rules to make your stay as uncomfortable as possible. It somehow got good reviews (even though the movie itself has gotten bad reviews) and our New York Couple are off for a weekend to repair their relationship. Wendy doesn’t want to go; Joe thinks it will be for the best. And as an audience, we have no clue what it’s going to be like. Marketed as a horror-comedy, but presented with a really understated style, it is set up to be an odd mix. 2013

Directed by: D.W. Young

Screenplay by: D.W. Young

Starring: Khan Baykal and Aya Cash

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Runner Runner: Movie Review

Lives the meaningless life for way too long to provide much substance.

College student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) survives by using poker winnings to pay his tuition, but when he goes bust on an online gaming site, he’s determined to make a name for himself by exposing the fraud. Unfortunately for Runner Runner they didn’t spend much time with the smart, capable and struggling-to-get by Richie, who could be an intriguing form of the “every-man”. He gets turned into a money-grubbing success story way too quickly. 2013

Directed by: Brad Furman

Screenplay by: Brian Koppelman and David Levien

Starring: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Parkland: Movie Review


The unfortunate aftermath of Kennedy’s assassination.
Set at Parkland Memorial Hospital and surrounding areas on November 22, 1963 and the days thereafter, “Parkland” is about the circumstances of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But what I primarily liked about the film is that Kennedy is not a character, this is not about him, but about those that had no choice but to be thrust into a chaotic situation. 2013

Directed by: Peter Landesman

Screenplay by: Peter Landesman

Starring: James Badge Dale, Paul Giamatti and Zac Efron

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Spectacular Now: Movie Review

Floats around life with two good performances.

“The Spectacular Now” is about one character trying to live in the now. Sutter (Miles Teller) is applying to university using swear words and has no qualms about the amount of alcohol he drinks. The film is light enough in the beginning that it seems okay to laugh, but nobody did. It just wasn’t funny enough. The lack of comedy suggested the film was going to get darker, but it took too long to get there.   2013

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by: Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber

Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Drinking Buddies: Movie Review


The criss-crossing of two relationships by four perfectly matched actors.
“Drinking Buddies” is a relationship drama and succeeds because the lines that the relationships cross, and not cross, are interesting, because the actors make them interesting. They dare us to like them and care for them and the best part is that there's a good chance that we would still like them no matter how each relationship ended up. That can be difficult when we have friends bordering on more and chemistry which could be stronger with someone else. 2013

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Jake Johnson, Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick

Friday, September 27, 2013

Austenland: Movie Review


The good and bad of a Jane Austen theme park with clever romance and cute comedy.
Austenland is a Jane Austen theme park designed for Jane Austen fans to live the life of their favourite heroines. I was really hoping that this was a real place or at least could have been a real place because the idea of it is a lot of fun. But for the sake of the delusional fans, it’s probably best that this is not real. Jane (Keri Russell) is obsessed with Pride and Prejudice, and in doing something about it, she spends her life savings on a trip to England to Austenland. 2013

Directed by: Jerusha Hess

Screenplay by: Jerusha Hess and Shannon Hale

Starring: Keri Russell

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Between Us: Movie Review


Boring people in uncaring friendships and relationships.
“Between Us” is a relationship drama. Two thirty-something couples, all friends, have ended up in slightly different places in life, but they are all determined to get through their relationships together. Except, they really don’t care. And that leads us to a pretty insurmountable problem. If they don't care, why should we? In short, we don't. 2012

Directed by: Dan Mirvish

Screenplay by: Joe Hortua, Dan Mirvish

Starring: Julia Stiles, Taye Diggs,
David Harbour and Melissa George

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Family Weekend: Movie Review

Dark comedy turns a kidnapping into a sweet coming-of-age story.

“Family Weekend” is a dark comedy about a 16-year-old girl, Emily (Olesya Rulin), who takes her family into her own hands to turn them into a normal family. But it’s not going to be easy; Samantha Smith-Dungy (Kristin Chenoweth) is a workaholic mom, Duncan Dungy (Matthew Modine) is hippie artist dad, and her brother and sister are maladjusted kids who think they are perfectly well-adjusted.   2013

Directed by: Benjamin Epps

Screenplay by: Matt K. Turner

Starring: Olesya Rulin, Matthew Modine and Kristin Chenoweth

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Prisoners: Movie Review

Two suspenseful approaches to one dark crime.

It’s Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania and the sky is gray, the air is cold and the ground is frozen. Two families, perfectly matched, celebrate the holiday together. Each family has two kids, a teenager and a younger daughter. The daughters are 6-year-old girls, ready to get into a harmless adventure, and the teenagers are teenagers. But the girls go missing, and on we go to find them and figure out what happened. 2013

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Aaron Guzikowski

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal

Saturday, August 31, 2013

In a World...: Movie Review

In a world where feminism is alive and well.

In a world where jobs for women are hard to come by and they are always over-looked for the less talented man comes one woman who’s going to make a difference for her generation. Her name is Carol (Lake Bell). Excuse me while I get a newspaper and figure out if it’s 2013 or if I have somehow gone back in time and watched a new film from 60 years ago. The film's over-the-top insistence that women have it so hard can make any well-meaning feminist vomit and it takes away from everything the movie did well.   2013

Directed by: Lake Bell

Screenplay by: Lake Bell

Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed

Friday, August 30, 2013

Blue Jasmine: Movie Review


Jasmine and Ginger through shady eyes and poisonous hearts.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) lived the high life in New York with her financial businessman husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and all the jewelry and parties she could want. With great success comes great failings, and with her husband in jail and all their assets taken, Jasmine comes crashing down. All the way to San Francisco. Broke and desperate, Jasmine moves in with her estranged sister. And Jasmine’s downward spiral continues. 2013

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Cate Blanchette and Sally Hawkins

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Sapphires: Movie Review

A fascinating look at a singing group in the year the world changed.

“The Sapphires” is a look at Australia, and the world, in 1968. For those unaware of Australia’s recent history, it is a fascinating look. Australia's history is told alongside history that more of the world is familiar with: assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the on-going war in Vietnam. With all of that unfolding, 4 Aboriginal girls formed The Sapphires, and we get a triumphant rise of their musical career.   2012

Directed by: Wayne Blair

Screenplay by: Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson

Starring: Chris O'Dowd

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rapture-Palooza: Movie Review


The rapture is coming, be prepared to laugh.
“Rapture-Palooza” is based on a true story. Or, so it says at the very beginning of the movie, and then you know exactly what type of humour you’re getting yourself into. It’s funny, extremely funny. The type of funny that you’re laughing out loud so often that you need to rewind to catch all the jokes you missed; it’s also the offensive kind of funny. It’s offensive, extremely offensive. 2013

Directed by: Paul Middleditch

Screenplay by: Chris Matheson

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Hunt: Movie Review


One bad deed, many questionable decisions and never-ending consequences.
The Hunt begins with a hunt, in the woods, for their latest animal prey. The hunt continues when one five-year-old girl, Klara, decides to tell the school’s director that her Kindergarten teacher, Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen), made inappropriate advances on her. He did no such thing, but thus begins the hunt of a lonely man’s innocence and second-guessing on everyone's part. 2012

Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg

Screenplay by: Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen

Monday, August 5, 2013

We're the Millers: Movie Review

The fake family brings many laughs, the other elements bring a few groans.

“We’re the Millers” is a stoner comedy, except better than that because it’s written as a family comedy, well, inappropriate family comedy. The additional genre adds a much needed structure to the film and increases the comedy. This is one funny movie. All of the main and supporting actors keep bringing the jokes so you can over-look the ridiculous plot.   2013

Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Screenplay by: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders and John Morris

Starring: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Way Way Back: Movie Review

Actors deliver the comedy in an otherwise dysfunctional family drama.

“The Way Way Back” is a coming-of-age / dysfunctional family dramedy about Duncan (Liam James) trying to find his way to adulthood. He has a lost mother, her intentionally (but disguising as unintentionally) mean new boyfriend, and his over-sexed daughter. And all the summer brings is an inappropriately over-sexed neighbour and her precocious daughter. But none of them make it easy on him. Duncan just wants to get through adolescence and find a place he belongs. Regular readers will know that I find dysfunctional family dramedies tiring and this one doesn’t start out much better.   2013

Directed by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Screenplay by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell

Sunday, July 28, 2013

At Any Price: Movie Review


A small character study that doesn’t lead to anything as interesting as it should.
At Any Price is a small Midwestern film about a small Midwestern family in a small Midwestern town. It translates well for any farming community. It also translates well for any character study fans, but it’s the thrilling elements that should have been heightened to make it a better movie overall. The continual build-up of the interactions between father and son don't lead anywhere you'd expect, and don't really lead anywhere you'd want. 2012

Directed by: Ramin Bahrani

Screenplay by: Ramin Bahrani and Hallie Elizabeth Newton

Starring: Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron

Friday, July 26, 2013

The To Do List: Movie Review


Trying to find the limit on sexual innuendoes.
Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) is smart; she’s school smart. She knows how to do her homework and that’s about it, but when she’s taught that college is more about sexual education than actual education, she makes a sex to do list. I thought this was supposed to be a teen girl comedy, but it’s actually an immature girl comedy. So close, yet so far. 2013

Directed by: Maggie Carey

Screenplay by: Maggie Carey

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Devil You Know: Movie Review

Lacks the thrill of the story and the sense of purpose of artistic merit.

“The Devil You Know” tells the tale of a daughter of a reclusive movie star trying to break into the business and of her mother trying to reestablish her celebrity reputation but then she is threatened by an anonymous blackmailer. Most people would assume that that would just be the beginning of the plot that the blackmail would lead to something eventful, or thrilling or suspenseful, or just something. 2013

Directed by: James Oakley

Screenplay by: Alex Michaelides

Starring: Lena Olin, Rosamund Pike

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing: Movie Review


Merging 1598 with 2013 in comedic seamlessness.
After not reading the play, this review will be from the point of view of someone who is Shakespeare-literate but has not read nor seen any version of "Much Ado About Nothing". But I still think Joss Whedon’s modern up-do is brilliant — literally and metaphorically. Shakespeare's original dialogue in modern times with modern characters acting in antiquated situations. 2012

Directed by: Joss Whedon

Screenplay by: Joss Whedon
Based on the play by Shakespeare

Starring: Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker