Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Don't Think Twice: Movie Review

Funny people being funny - and then success comes knocking.

Don’t Think Twice takes a concept that is difficult to articulate in a fair and easy-to-watch manner, and it makes it funny. It centers around a six-member improv comedy group in NYC performing in front of small to medium sized crowds in a theatre about to close down, all the while hoping to make it big. Only one of them lands everybody’s dream job – as a writer and performer on Saturday Night Live (but actually called Weekend Live).   2016

Directed by: Mike Birbiglia

Screenplay by: Mike Birbiglia

Starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Manchester by the Sea: Movie Review


The intertwining of love, death, depression and beauty.
A story of death, loss and depression, Manchester by the Sea is also an entertaining, eloquently constructed film about hope and moving on. The brilliance of Manchester by the Sea lies in its ability to completely envelope you into its world, and with its universal themes that is rather easily accomplished. It’s a very simple story that it tells, but one that can leave a loving impact on its viewers. 2016

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

Screenplay by: Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges

Monday, December 12, 2016

Loving: Movie Review

Understated approach to historical importance.

Loving is about the Lovings, and that is their real last name. A couple from Viriginia whose story takes flight in 1958. The movie is an historical discussion and a romance about pure love. We’re introduced to Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred (Ruth Negga) just before they get married. She’s pregnant, he’s elated, and there is absolutely no doubt that their marriage is one of love, and not convenience or social pressures. 2016

Directed by: Jeff Nichols

Screenplay by: Jeff Nichols

Starring: Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Moonlight: Movie Review


Thrives in the unevenness of life.
Beautiful and brilliant at times, brutal and uncomfortably real at others, Moonlight is a tough watch. Thought-provoking for sure, but it’s entirely up to you to find a connection to these characters – or this character, only one is actually explored. The film is a three-part story. The first part is Little (young Chiron), a small African American kid bullied on a daily basis and raised by his crack-addicted mother, and even at that young age is searching for a better way of life. 2016

Directed by: Barry Jenkins

Screenplay by: Barry Jenkins, Tarell Alvin McCraney

Starring: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Phenom: Movie Review


Interesting character study with unclear intentions.
The Phenom is not a baseball movie; that fact should make it more universal, but its disorienting structure and unclear journey do make this otherwise sound character study a difficult watch. Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons) is a young man who believes (and is told) that he is destined for greatness; however, to actually achieve that greatness, he must overcome personal demons from his past – mainly his abusive father. The story is an interesting and affecting one. 2016

Directed by: Noah Buschel

Screenplay by: Noah Buschel

Starring: Johnny Simmons, Ethan Hawke

Friday, November 11, 2016

Other People: Movie Review


Sweetly funny and insightfully dramatic.
Other People is sweetly funny, insightfully dramatic and an all-around crowd pleaser despite the tragic elements of the plot. David (Jesse Plemons) has returned home to be with his dying mother. He’s desperate to be the successful son, but he’s a comedy writer with no big gigs on the horizon and was recently dumped by his ex-boyfriend Paul (Zach Woods), so he’s content to just pretend that Paul is still his current boyfriend. 2016

Directed by: Chris Kelly

Screenplay by: Chris Kelly

Starring: Jesse Plemons, Molly Shannon, Bradley Whitford

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Girl on the Train: Movie Review

Great lead character leads the film astray.

Part of the problem with The Girl on the Train is that it’s not the film it was meant to be – this is of course assuming we know what it was meant to be; or at the very least it’s not the film it seems like it should be. Let’s start with the pedigree: it’s based on a popular thriller novel by Paula Hawkins, and stars it-girl, always-on-the-cusp-of-making-it-huge Emily Blunt. She’s always seemingly one good role or one big movie away from an Oscar. This could have been it.   2016

Directed by: Tate Taylor

Screenplay by: Erin Cressida Wilson
Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins

Starring: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Raising the Bar: Movie Review

Humorous and touching, albeit full of cliches.

Raising the Bar is a small, family-friendly gymnastics film that has “cute” written all over it. Over-achieving teen girl joins overly-ambitious teen girl on an under-achieving gymnastics club, and we have an underdog sports story. It has a very familiar plot with familiar characters but that shouldn’t stop their target audience, and their mothers, and their older sisters, and their younger sisters from enjoying it. 2016

Directed by: Clay Glen

Screenplay by: Clay Glen

Starring: Kelly Berglund, Lili Karamalikis, Tess Fowler and Jack Tomich

Monday, September 12, 2016

Snowden: Movie Review


A dramatization of Edward Snowden and the interesting man he became.
Snowden is a compelling film because Edward Snowden is a compelling person. But it’s still an odd choice for a bio-pic since he had one moment of intense significance, the rest of his life was just little things that add up to the man currently hiding out in Russia. The film cuts back and forth between his 2013 meetings with documentarian Laura Poitras and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and a more chronological telling of his life starting in 2004. 2016

Directed by: Oliver Stone

Screenplay by: Kieran Fitzgerald, Oliver Stone

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley

Friday, September 9, 2016

Brother Nature: Movie Review

Fish-out-of-water, nature hijinks and familial dysfunction served up
with some chaotic, rambling and unpleasant comedy.

It’s the classic fish-out-of-water story told as dysfunctional family hijinks comedy. Straight-laced and meticulous up-and-coming politician Roger (Taran Killam) is brought by his soon-to-be fiancée Gwen (Gillian Jacobs) to meet her free-spirited family at their lake house, including soon-to-be (not completely sane) brother-in-law Todd (Bobby Moynihan). But Brother Nature seemed to decide to tell this entire story on meth. Funny at times, but chaotic, rambling and mostly unpleasant. 2016

Directed by: Oz Rodriguez, Matt Villines

Screenplay by: Taran Killam, Mikey Day

Starring: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sully: Movie Review

A hero to believe in.

While Sully is the story of a hero, the lesser-known story behind it casts doubt. The movie opens with an impressive and dramatic plane crash – not a real plane crash but the product of his nightmares. He’s a man hounded by the media, separated from his family, and the subject of a contentious National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing. It’s that latter part that didn’t make the media cycle (they don’t like anything that might take away national hero status) and the part that this movie focuses on.   2016

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Screenplay by: Todd Komarnicki
Based on "Highest Duty" by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger

Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart

Friday, September 2, 2016

Summer of 8: Movie Review

A slow and reflective end of summer.

At least Summer of 8 gets the simple things right. It’s the last day of summer before a group of friends go off to college – eight of them. Four boys and four girls. I particularly hate movies that can’t count the number of main characters, so this is a pleasant surprise even if it shouldn’t be a surprise. It also, for the most part, gets that feeling of anxiety right. That feeling of excitement, fear, restlessness and uncertainty before their lives change. 2016

Directed by: Ryan Schwartz

Screenplay by: Ryan Schwartz

Starring: Carter Jenkins, Michael Grant, Matt Shively, Nick Marini, Shelly Henning

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hell or High Water: Movie Review


Action, adventure and an entertaining crime caper.
It’s West Texas. Small towns, dirt roads, dirtier cars and well-traveled criminals. Meet the Howard brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster); they’re about to rob a bank. Hell or High Water is an electrifying good story. Part crime drama, part family relations, part heist movie merged into a film that is pure good story-telling and mesmerizing filmmaking. 2016

Directed by: David Mackenzie

Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan

Starring: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Intervention: Movie Review

Comedy and drama in an ensemble about marriage and life.

The Intervention is the first feature film written and directed by actress Clea DuVall and she hits that sweet spot between comedy and drama. It’s an ensemble piece about four couples coming together for a weekend getaway at an old family estate in Savannah, Georgia. Although as the title suggests, it’s not a simple gathering, it’s an intervention. 2016

Directed by: Clea DuVall

Screenplay by: Clea Duvall

Starring: Melanie Lynskey, Cobie Smulders, Vincent Piazza, Ben Schwartz, Jason Ritter

Friday, August 26, 2016

XOXO: Movie Review

Boring characters wander around at a music festival.

XOXO is an electronic dance music festival out in the desert. A rave, drugs, black lights, and an opportunity for DJs to make a name for themselves. And if all of our main characters can get there, then their lives will “collide in one frenetic, dream-chasing, hopelessly romantic night.” Or at least that’s what the plotline insists will happen. The frenetic nature, or dream-like, romantic atmosphere is never really conveyed. 2016

Directed by: Christopher Louie

Screenplay by: Dylan Meyer, Christopher Louie

Starring: Graham Phillips, Sarah Hyland

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Duel: Movie Review


Too many storylines spoil the intrigue and mystery.
The Duel’s description suggested that it was going for a mystery/thriller twist on a classic western. It feels about perfect time for such a send-up of genres. But the movie is actually a collection of about a dozen great ideas, only half thought out, all clashing with one another. There’s a good movie in there somewhere, but it’s hard to find. A Texas ranger is sent to a small community investigating mysterious deaths, and he got lost – or the movie did. 2016

Directed by: Kieran Darcy-Smith

Screenplay by: Matt Cook

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Billionaire Ransom: Movie Review (AKA Take Down)


Great setting, poor execution.
Take a bunch of over-privileged rich kids with daddy issues, send them to a remote island for a survival course, put some bad guys seeking a big pay day after them, and you’ve got Billionaire Ransom. The idea behind this survival course is that it’s a wilderness school where spoiled brats will learn to become men. The idea behind this movie is that these kids will be forced to put their survival skills to good use when they’re held for ransom. 2016

Directed by: Jim Gillespie

Screenplay by: Alexander Ignon

Starring: Jeremy Sumpter, Phoebe Tonkin, and Ed Westwick

Friday, August 19, 2016

Spaceman: Movie Review

A baseball biopic filled with comedy and heart.

When you start a film with “Most of this actually happened”, you better follow that up with a lot of off-the-wall, too-crazy-to-be-true stuff. Spaceman is the story of MLB pitcher Bill “Spaceman” Lee whose career was apparently filled with on and off-field antics, but the movie follows his life after he loses his Montreal Expos contract, and although that does make the movie a bit more pedestrian, it still has a lot of humorous moments and a lot of heart.   2016

Directed by: Brett Rapkin

Screenplay by: Brett Rapkin

Starring: Josh Duhamel

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

War Dogs: Movie Review

Balances the true story with comedy.

War Dogs starts cynical. War is not about freedom or whatever other noble pursuit the government is using the media to sell the public on; it’s about money. A movie about war, weapons dealings, illegal actions and shady government contracts isn’t necessarily a comedy. But combine that with two pot-smoking, wise-cracking idiots, and you’ve got War Dogs – a comedy. It balance its cynical message and extreme story by always staying on the right side of funny.   2016

Directed by: Todd Phillips

Screenplay by: Stephen Chin, Todd Phillips, Jason Smilovic

Starring: Miles Teller, Jonah Hill

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Joshy: Movie Review


Engaging characters shine through in a dark comedy balancing humour and tragedy.
Joshy’s tagline “The wedding’s off. The party’s on.” might make you think of a pure comedy born from a romantic comedy-styled break-up. You would probably be forgiven even though that’s not it. However, it is the type of movie where the less you know going in, the better it is. So I’ll just say, it’s a dark comedy. It starts dark, it gets funny, and then it gets heavy. And I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. 2016

Directed by: Jeff Baena

Screenplay by: Jeff Baena

Starring: Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Indignation: Movie Review


Interesting, fascinating and entertaining story of love, death and beliefs.
Indignation is a story of love, death and faith. It’s a story of college experiences, the Korean War and determination. And it’s told with an eye for detail, and an ear for dialogue, and told through a lead character who is simultaneously completely confident with who he is, and completely unsure what he’s supposed to do. It’s fascinating to watch unfold, even if it never goes far, and it’s almost always entertaining. 2016

Directed by: James Schamus

Screenplay by: James Schamus
Based on the novel by Philip Roth

Starring: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon and Tracy Letts

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Split: Movie Review

A romantic comedy in a world of bowling and video stores.

Split takes place in a slightly off world. Everything is just a little bit off-kilter. Characters are weird, jokes aren’t quite as funny as they probably should be, which makes it that much harder for the audience to get invested in the story or just be entertained. The plot is pure rom-com: Cassie has read a study that concludes that the average woman gets married between 26 and 30. Since Cassie is almost 30, she has to get married right now. 2016

Directed by: Jamie Buckner

Screenplay by: Jamie Buckner

Starring: Tracy Weiler, Sean C. Keller, and Christopher Guetig

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Café Society: Movie Review


A clash of secrets and affairs in two different worlds.
Café Society presents a new style of Woody Allen film. Stylistically it’s perhaps similar to Magic in the Moonlight – romance in the air even if everything else isn’t quite clicking. Thematically it’s very similar to almost every Woody Allen movie – romantic idealism, romantic idealism within a comedy of errors, murder, and belief that another city or another time period is better than the one you’re currently living in. But narratively, it’s unlike any story Allen has told before. 2016

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Undrafted: Movie Review


One baseball game, some comedy, some loud personalities, and one epic inning.
Let’s make this simple. If you don’t like baseball, this movie is not for you. However, if you do like baseball, it’s worth reading on. This has been compared to Everybody Wants Some!! but there are some key differences. While Everybody Wants Some!! is about the lives (college, partying, booze, and girls) of baseball players, Undrafted is about baseball players actually playing baseball. 2016

Directed by: Joseph Mazzello

Screenplay by: Joseph Mazzello

Starring: Aaron Tveit, Tyler Hoechlin

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bad Moms: Movie Review


Lessons on motherhood with some comedy and a lot of exaggerated simplicity.
Bad Moms is like one of those ideas that is both good and bad. A part of me feels like we’ve been given this lesson - that being a mother is hard and the dangers of modern perfectionism can destroy children and parents alike – a hundred times before, but upon reflection, perhaps we haven’t. And if they want to impart that lesson with some hard-core partying, then maybe it isn’t all bad. 2016

Directed by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Screenplay by: Jon Lucas, Scott Moore

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dear Eleanor: Movie Review

Charming and entertaining journey with history, family, friends and an escaped convict.

Dear Eleanor combines so many perfectly compatible elements that it just effortlessly tells a story both fun and light, and historically interesting. Set in 1962 with two fifteen year-old girls, the movie is part road trip comedy, part historical drama, part coming-of-age dramedy, and all flows together very nicely because the adventure the girls find themselves in is funny, delightful, thought-provoking and very charming. 2016

Directed by: Kevin Connolly

Screenplay by: Cecilia Contreras, Amy Garcia

Starring: Liana Liberator, Isabelle Fuhrman

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Nerve: Movie Review


A gripping game of dare gets a little out of hand.
The premise of Nerve could have gone very wrong very quickly. But it doesn't matter that the game isn't real because the characters are real and very well established. Very swiftly the audience is immersed in this relatable but still exciting teenage world that definitely fits the movie. That's the first two acts. The third act bites off more than it can chew and attempts to undo the better elements already established. But at least it's still fun and interesting. 2016

Directed by: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman

Screenplay by: Jessica Sharzer
Based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan

Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Get a Job: Movie Review

Miles Teller and a few good jokes can't save a schizophrenic comedy.

Is the indie star-studded Get a Job a morality tale about the pitfalls awaiting recent college grads, or a ridiculous comedy about what not to do, or is it a romantic comedy about a guy trying to keep his girlfriend happy? Who knows. It never once feels like a quarter-life crisis dramedy even though that’s exactly what it should be. The characters and their situations never feel real, which also explains why it’s just not funny enough for a comedy.   2016

Directed by: Dylan Kidd

Screenplay by: Kyle Pennekamp, Scott Turpel

Starring: Miles Teller, Bryan Cranston

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates: Movie Review


An idiotic plan leads to some screaming, some comedy and some heart.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is, appropriately enough, as advertised. It’s a comedy, an immature comedy, a dirty comedy, and follows the title’s plot that Mike and Dave need to find dates for their sister’s wedding and surprisingly (unsurprisingly) things don’t go as planned. It’s also reasonably funny. Over-the-top in many places, but for the most part it finds the somewhat funny side of each situation. 2016

Directed by: Jake Szymanski

Screenplay by: Andrew Jay Cohen, and Brendan O'Brien

Starring: Zac Efron, Adam Devine

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Man Who Knew Infinity: Movie Review

Tells a good, well-balanced story.

The Man Who Knew Infinity is a biographical drama about a mathematician. While that is enough to draw me in, a can understand that others will need a bit more. Dev Patel as mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan provides that and more. Ramanujan is only 25 years old and from India (under British rule at the time) and is a mathematical genius. It’s been confirmed by enough teachers and others around him, that he can accept that fact without any arrogance. 2015

Directed by: Matt Brown

Screenplay by: Matt Brown
Based on the biography by Robert Kanigel

Starring: Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons

Friday, June 10, 2016

Now You See Me 2: Movie Review

Bigger, bolder nonsense that is just as fun.

With the original Now You See Me ending with a twist so spectacularly absurd that it goes from improbable to ludicrous rendering the entire film a farce, it seems a sequel is just gratuitous. Perhaps they know that; the first one did make decent money after all. But their task here is much harder, they have to go bigger, bolder, and more ridiculous than the first time around. Surprisingly, they did that without making it worse.   2016

Directed by: Jon M. Chu

Screenplay by: Ed Soloman

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Rufffalo

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Love & Friendship: Movie Review


Quick and funny romp through Jane Austen’s English countryside.
Love & Friendship is both a Whit Stillman movie and a Jane Austen movie. And while credit-wise, that seems like a rather matter-of-fact statement, it’s actually the marriage of the two that makes it the movie it is. Stillman is known for his deliciously witty dialogue; modern characters that can muse on about life. Whereas Austen movies are postcards from a by-gone era with easily digestible plots of romance and fortune. 2016

Directed by: Whit Stillman

Screenplay by: Whit Stillman
Based on novella by Jane Austen

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Emma Greenwell, and Xavier Samuel

Friday, May 27, 2016

Mr. Right: Movie Review


Combining rom-com with murder is funny but also inane nonsense.
A romantic comedy and a hit-man murder-fest. Comedy, sure, and with Anna Kendrick and Sam Rockwell, you’ve got the romance, chemistry, and quirky comedy to boot. If anybody can sell this violent, insane, romantic Mr. Right hero, it’s Sam Rockwell. He is fantastic. It’s just that the plot is so far-fetched and complete nonsense, that it’s just too hard to find him or this story interesting. 2015

Directed by: Paco Cabezas

Screenplay by: Max Landis

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Sam Rockwell