Saturday, December 19, 2015

Sisters: Movie Review

Spends too much time on the big jokes and loses the better human elements.

Sisters is the big screen pairing of SNL vets Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and a movie that appears to be made for that sole reason. You can see both acting ridiculously immature, both trying on a myriad of clothes, from sexy to just non-sense and back to sexy, and both hitting on men, successfully and unsuccessfully. But it’s missing the smarter satirical edge of their small screen shows, the nugget of truth in every-woman Liz Lemon and the charming optimism of Leslie Knope. 2015

Directed by: Jason Moore

Screenplay by: Paula Pell

Starring: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler

Friday, December 11, 2015

Brooklyn: Movie Review


Beautiful, well-written, powerful
Brooklyn is a beautiful and simply powerful film about life, love, adulthood and home. It’s a story of immigration that should resonate with everybody. How one girl chose her home, and made it her home and the home for her family and future generations to come. It’s a story of loneliness, true love, and the pull of familiarity. It’s a singular story, that revels in it’s simplicity, to reveal grander implications and a universality to connect everyone. 2015

Directed by: John Crowley

Screenplay by: Nick Hornby
Based on the novel by Colm Toibin

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spotlight: Movie Review

Enlightening and moving.

Set in the journalism world of the early 2000s, Spotlight is so engrossed in its subject matter that it takes us there. A team of reporters at the Boston Globe uncovered the truth about priest molestation and the cover-up by the Catholic Church within the Boston area but with the obvious implications for the rest of the world. And the audience is right there with them, interested in the facts, disgusted by the truth. 2015

Directed by: Tom McCarthy

Screenplay by: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schrieber

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Room: Movie Review


Delivers an emotional punch with sadness, ferocity, intensity and tenderness.
Room is a story that hasn’t been told in this way before, and is probably something you couldn’t imagine since the main plot is very foreign to the majority of us. I also believe that Room is at its best when you go in knowing as little as possible. So to that end, this review will be spoiler-free and frustratingly vague. I’ll apologize for that now, but you’ll thank me later. 2015

Directed by: Lenny Abrahamson

Screenplay by: Emma Donoghue
Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bridge of Spies: Movie Review

A masterful production of Cold War tensions with humour and heart.

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect Hollywood royalty production of a Coen brothers screenplay, directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Hanks, and Bridge of Spies delivers on that perfection. It is dramatic, interesting, beautiful, funny, intense and entertaining from scene-to-scene. It opens with the heart of the Cold War, a foreign spy, on American soil, engaging in secretive behaviour, and then he’s arrested. It’s a mysterious opening, and the film seamlessly evolves from mystery to court room drama to thriller.   2015

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Screenplay by: Matt Charman, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Steve Jobs: Movie Review


The machine side and human side of Steve Jobs are detached but interesting.
Biographical drama Steve Jobs, is a very novel approach to a biography. It’s not the story of his life, but a development of who he is based on a peek into what was happening during three different periods of time. The machine side of Steve Jobs has always been described in a cynical way – cold, manipulative and only caring about results. That side gives us this emotionally-detached methodical overview. The human side doesn’t come through until the end as a father-daughter relationship drama. 2015

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin
Based on they book by Walter Isaacson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Goosebumps: Movie Review


The fun, funny, creepy and thrilling world of Goosebumps.
I haven’t read an R.L. Stine book in 20 years, and so, at the same time, I am both in the target audience and not in the target audience. It can be hard to sell it as a kids movie to today’s kids and as a nostalgic kick to yesterday’s kids, and yet that’s exactly what Goosebumps has done. Give our young hero a witty line and let Jack Black as author R.L. Stine have one creepy look, and it took just a few quick minutes to be transported back into the fun, funny, creepy and thrilling world of Goosebumps. 2015

Directed by: Rob Letterman

Screenplay by: Darren Lemke
Based on the books by R.L. Stine

Starring: Dylan Minnette, Jack Black and Odeya Rush

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Stanford Prison Experiment: Movie Review

Recreates the experiment with intensity and alarming intrigue.

Based on the psychology experiment conducted by Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University in the summer of 1971, the film The Stanford Prison Experiment is just as shocking even when we know the results. Watching it all unfold in this straight-forward recreation is still distressing, stunning, and alarming thanks to the fantastic ensemble cast and a chronological re-telling that really helps to put it in context 2015

Directed by: Kyle Patrick Alvarez

Screenplay by: Tim Talbott

Starring: Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller, Michael Angarano, and Olivia Thirlby

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sicario: Movie Review


Evil Mexican cartel drug lords, shady FBI agents, and little of interest.
Sicario is the type of film which starts with an idea, or just a basic premise, and then decides on all the elements that make it up afterwards. Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is a young, idealistic FBI agent thrust into the world of Mexican drug-trafficking. That’s the world they created, and after a few supporting characters and hiring a cinematographer, they stopped short of actually having an interesting story to tell. 2015

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice: Movie Review


Interesting line between arrogant genius and sympathy for mental illness.
Pawn Sacrifice is the biographical story of Bobby Fischer. And interestingly, perhaps taking a cue from its subject, it doesn’t have a direct structure. It just takes a few of the significant events of Bobby’s life, occasionally told out of order, and lets the importance of these moments build up who he is. An extra piece of the puzzle of who Bobby Fischer is gets added with each scene. 2014

Directed by: Edward Zwick

Screenplay by: Steven Knight

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Michael Stuhlbarg

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The D Train: Movie Review

Juggling two great characters with comedy and disparate tones.

I love Jack Black and James Marsden more than the next person and the two of them starring in a character-based dark comedy is even better, but “The D Train” is a tough sell for even their biggest fans. First it takes two characters, both of whom are interesting and both of whom are based on very real and relatable character traits, and then it gives them a twist, and then it cartoonizes them. Or, they were cartoonized first, it can be a little hard to separate how this was all thought up in the first place. 2015

Directed by: Andrew Mogel, Jarrad Paul

Screenplay by: Jarrad Paul, Andrew Mogel

Starring: Jack Black and James Marsden

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The End of the Tour: Movie Review

A battle of writers and a friendship with depth.

The End of the Tour is a conversation, a friendship, and a battle of intelligence and neuroses. David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) has just emerged onto the literary scene with the publication of Infinite Jest, hailed as the best writer of his generation. David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) is a new hire at Rolling Stone magazine and convinces his boss to let him cover the end of Wallace’s book tour, interview him and write an article.   2015

Directed by: James Ponsoldt

Screenplay by: Donald Margulies
Based on the book by David Lipsky

Starring: Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg

Friday, September 4, 2015

Before We Go: Movie Review

A simple conversation becomes fun, funny and romantic with two great characters.

Before We Go is simple, romantic, talkative, conventional and it's great. It's exactly what you want in a character-based, dialogue-driven romantic drama where nothing happens other than two characters meet and get to know each other over one night in New York City. The characters are engagingly real, compassionate and yet cynical, and they beautifully evolve after knowing each other for just a few hours. The dialogue is witty and insightful and elevated to dynamic levels by the talented leads. 2014

Directed by: Chris Evans

Screenplay by: Ron Bass, Jen Smolka, Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair

Starring: Chris Evans and Alice Eve

Friday, August 28, 2015

Digging for Fire: Movie Review


Lack of murder mystery still reveals a funny and insightful film.
Digging for Fire is both Joe Swanberg's funniest film and most mature film to date. It's another one of his indie films with mainstream accessibility, but it should be noted that it's not a murder mystery, or murder mystery comedy, as it easily could be with the excellent premise with such great potential. 2015

Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Screenplay by: Joe Swanberg, Jake Johnson

Starring: Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

We Are Your Friends: Movie Review

An overly dramatic, mostly uninteresting story of a DJ.

There are three (well, actually, four) things that We Are Your Friends wants you to know: Zac Efron is really hot; electronic music is really cool; and Emily Ratajkowski has really nice boobs. Presumably you already know and/or don't care about points one and three which leaves you with the music. Thankfully, it didn't give me a headache and when Efron was actually creating his tracks, it was even interesting; just not enough to carry the entire movie. 2015

Directed by: Max Joseph

Screenplay by: Max Joseph and Meaghan Oppenheimer

Starring: Zac Efron

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Walk in the Woods: Movie Review


A simple journey with light humour.
Bill Bryson's memoir and trek along the Appalachian Trail are recreated (and changed) in A Walk in the Woods. It's a very light film, filled with Bryson's famous wit, and simple comedy as two septuagenarians go on an adventure which even people half their age would have difficulty with. Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is just ready to shake up his life rather than head into retirement and instead of hitting the trail alone, he's joined by his old friend Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). 2015

Directed by: Ken Kwapis

Screenplay by: Rick Kerb, Bill Holderman
Based on the novel by Bill Bryson

Starring: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte

Thursday, August 20, 2015

American Ultra: Movie Review


Goes for more action than comedy, but is entertaining.
American Ultra is trying to juggle quite a few ideas, a few genres, and different styles of humour, but it can be a genuinely good time in its earnestness to be entertaining. First it's a stoner comedy and it's a Hollywood-style shoot 'em up action movie, all the while actually being based in reality – albeit a hyper-stylized, uber-violent, way over-the-top form of reality. And you usually can't put those adjectives and the word “reality” in the same sentence, so you can get a sense of the problems that American Ultra is creating for itself. 2015

Directed by: Nima Nourizadeh

Screenplay by: Max Landis

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

Sunday, August 16, 2015

She's Funny That Way: Movie Review


A farce that pays tribute to a bygone age of movies.
She's Funny That Way is the story of a prostitute named Izzy who becomes an actress named Isabella and the theatre director who changed her life. The movie's a throwback to the screwball comedies of the 1940s where movies were seen as magical and and an escape from one's life. While this doesn't reach the same heights as a must-see comedy, it is clever and funny in its own way. 2014

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

Screenplay by: Peter Bogdanovich
Based on play by Louise Stratten

Starring: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson

Friday, August 14, 2015

Irrational Man: Movie Review


Shifting from drama to comedy with murder.
Irrational Man doesn't feel like a Woody Allen movie, even though it is one. The beautiful cinematography comforts you as it opens with a very odd tone, and we know the older-man/younger-woman relationship story is going to come, but it still doesn't feel right. Part of the problem is that it's supposed to be one of his comedies, even though the lead character, Joaquin Phoenix as Abe, acts as though it's a drama. 2015

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone

Friday, August 7, 2015

Ricki and the Flash: Movie Review


The family drama and comedy end up playing back-up to Ricki and her songs.
Meryl Streep is Ricki. I think it has already been determined that she can play whatever she wants and an aging rock star who still glams it up as if it's the 1980s and as if she's still in her thirties, doesn't even seem like a stretch anymore. For the movie itself, Ricki and the Flash is stretching and contorting itself into whichever genre it feels like being in the moment. 2015

Directed by: Jonathan Demme

Screenplay by: Diablo Cody

Starring: Meryl Streep

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Barely Lethal: Movie Review

A giant leap into nonsense with a preposterous premise and limited comedy.

Barely Lethal is a teen girl comedy and a spy action movie. Like combining Clueless (1995) and Mean Girls (2004) with Kick-Ass (2010) and Sucker Punch (2011). Not a bad combination if it works, but the premise starts at such a ridiculous level and it only gets worse from there. There are some good ideas, but overall it's a far-fetched mess. 2015

Directed by: Kyle Newman

Screenplay by: John D'Arco

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jimmy's Hall: Movie Review


A premise of fun combined with fascinating history of Ireland.
Jimmy's Hall is the true story of Irish activist Jimmy Gralton. It's a story that very few people probably know, but after hearing it, it's the type of story that needs to be told. The movie opens in 1932 but tells the history of everything that happened previously – most notably, the Irish War of Independence from 1919 to 1922. 10 years later, the citizens of a small community are getting ready for a more peaceful existence and a more optimistic future. 2014

Directed by: Ken Loach

Screenplay by: Paul Laverty
Based on the play by Donal O'Kelly

Starring: Barry Ward, Jim Norton

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paper Towns: Movie Review


A fun and enjoyable teen journey of comedy, adventure, mystery and coming-of-age.
A beautiful girl moves in next door to a geeky little kid, and the boy immediately falls for her. It's not hard to see why; she's beautiful with alluring eyes that can make good guys fall for bad girls. She's not the girl next door, but the mysterious girl next door, and he's going to watch her and admire her from not too far away. Paper Towns starts with the boy and girl at age 8 and she's baiting him into their first adventure. 2015

Directed by: Jake Schreier

Screenplay by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on the novel by John Green

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trainwreck: Movie Review


Too many sex jokes almost derails this very funny romantic comedy.
Trainwreck opens with a perfect setting scene where a father explains to his two young daughters that he's divorcing their mother. Monogamy is not real and used a metaphor with the young Kim's doll. Why play with one doll when you can play with multiple dolls? And why can that first doll tell you which dolls to play with? Don't all dolls deserve to be played with? Younger sister Kim seemed to understand, but it was older sister Amy who took the advice to heart. 2015

Directed by: Judd Apatow

Screenplay by: Amy Schumer

Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Breakup Girl: Movie Review


Leads three different sisters through life with a perfect mix of comedy and drama.
The Breakup Girl is Claire (Shannon Woodward). She's 29, a writer, and happily in a serious relationship. Well, maybe not happily. She's described as the type of girl who always finds something to stress about. Whether it's the meddling of her older sister or the free-spirited nature of her younger sister. She doesn't have a great relationship with her sisters. And then her boyfriend dumps her. Claire just wants to be upset but her family finds ways to impose further. 2015

Directed by: Stacy Sherman

Screenplay by: Stacy Sherman

Starring: Shannon Woodward, Wendi McLendon-Covey and India Menuez

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

No Way Jose: Movie Review

Not enough comedy to break up the pessimistic monotony.

No Way Jose stars Adam Goldberg as Jose, born as Joseph Stern but he's 1/8th Mexican so Jose it is. There's a lot of humour present in the lead character but he's also very tiring, pessimistic, passive aggressive, and did I mention tiring? He complains for the full hour and a half run-time of the movie. While some of his complaints are funny, there is just no reprieve from his verbose pessimism. 2015

Directed by: Adam Goldberg

Screenplay by: Adam Goldberg, Sarah Kate Levy

Starring: Adam Goldberg, Ahna O'Reilly

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ted 2: Movie Review


Crasser doesn't always equal funnier.
The general rule for sequels is bigger and bolder. Ted 2 is just crasser, and that doesn't make it better. Ted and Tami-Lynn have gotten married and decided to have a baby. Ted, of course, can not produce a baby so the first third of the movie are the most ill-conceived, disgusting jokes of Ted and John pulling the worst stunts ever for securing a sperm donor. Some of it is still funny (Ted dressed as Paddington bear to break into Tom Brady's house) but most of it is just how far can we take these jokes. 2015

Directed by: Seth MacFarlane

Screenplay by: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: Movie Review


Trades away sentimentality for quirky humour but doesn't go far enough.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, as the title suggests, is a quirky indie comedy; trying to subvert traditional mainstream sentimentality with referential humour. When it's trying to be funny, it is mostly funny. But it doesn't veer away from its mainstream source – girl dying from leukemia – as much as it thinks it does, and there isn't as much substance to make it more impactful or meaningful, or sentimental. 2015

Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Screenplay by: Jesse Andrews
Based on the novel by Jesse Andrews

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Love & Mercy: Movie Review


A tragic but admirable tribute to Brian Wilson.
As the tagline says, Love & Mercy is the life, love and genius of Brian Wilson. Jumping from the early hits of the Beach Boys, to the lonely and fragile life of adulthood and back to the dramatic transition period of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, the film is a very stark, intricate and achronological examination of mental illness and musical genius. It stars Paul Dano as the young popular Beach Boy Brian Wilson and John Cusack as the older, former Beach Boy, the damaged and tragic Brian Wilson. 2014

Directed by: Bill Pohlad

Screenplay by: Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner

Starring: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Spy: Movie Review


Funny as a spy spoof but does venture into spy action.
Spy is not quite a spy movie nor a spoof of the genre but somewhere in between. Sticking with the latter would have been better, but at least it is funny through-out the entire run-time. Every scene from the Bond-esque opening to the end credits has multiple laughs. Some so funny that you can't help but laugh obnoxiously, probably to the annoyance of fellow movie-goers, except that they're laughing as well. 2015

Directed by: Paul Feig

Screenplay by: Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, and Jason Statham