Teen romance comes to the screen once more with the supernatural thriller Beautiful Creatures doing its best to break the mold switching from vampire lust to wooing witchery. It’s Twilight only better. The film takes you into the coven of some nasty people who want to preserve their species no matter the cost to their teenage daughter and local mortals. I found the film nicely acted and directed with brilliant cinematography and excellent retro costuming. Read more
The action gets to fever pitch in A Good Day to Die Hard the fifth in a series of Bruce Willis movies that have attracted large audiences. The film starts off with a bang and never stops with relentless destruction mounting to a thrilling roller coaster ride finish. If you are an action junkie and need a shot of adrenaline, then you won’t want to miss this butt kicking sequel to one of the most lucrative franchises. Read more
The comedy road tripper Identity Thief enters this weekend’s film choices on a good note. Although it’s not the best relationship film, I found it entertaining especially if you like the dead pan comedy of Jason Bateman and the wild and wackiness of Melissa McCarthy. If you want some guffaws and whoops, then take a ride with a name stealer and its owner in Identity Thief. Read more
Very compelling and gripping, the twisty little film Side Effects has the right cast, direction by Steven Soderbergh and a solid script by Scott Z. Burns. The movie works hard to keep the audience off kilter right up to an ending with a surprising payoff. Drama lovers, film buffs, and those hankering for a good mystery are the main audience for this thriller. Read more
After her successful feature debut with Somersault, Australian director Cate Shortland has focused her talents on adapting Rachel Seiffert’s “The Dark Room,” an introspective novel set in post WW II Germany.
Sensual, layered in its complexity and often bleak, Lore follows the lives of five German siblings at the onset of the Third Reich’s collapse. Lore (Saskia Rosendahl) watches as her S.S. Nazi father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Hitler idolizing mother (Ursina Lardi) are taken into custody by Allied forces. After begging neighbors for scraps of food, 14-year old Lore decides to take her younger charges through Germany’s war-torn countryside to seek out their grandmother in Hamburg.
The 500-mile journey is both grueling and eye-opening as Lore trudges from abandoned home to empty bomb factory in search of shelter and food. Keeping track of young sister Liesel (Nele Trebs), twin boys Jurgen (Mika Seidel) and Gunther (Andre Frid), and caring for baby Peter makes her trek increasingly arduous.
When she encounters a young Jewish refugee Thomas (Kai Malina), Lore comes to grips with the prejudice instilled by her parents and upbringing. She initially rejects him, but discovers that she needs him to survive. In a stark scene of guilt and awakening, she approaches a wall covered with graphic Holocaust photographs. A growing maturity forces her to place in balance what is plainly before her eyes and a lifetime of propaganda ingrained by parents, neighbors and Hitler’s media and schooling.
Shot in tactile and lingering close-ups, Lore takes its time to convey subtle messages of where we are at any given moment. Whether it’s a German in a chair with a self-inflicted gunshot through the eye or Lore’s sexual experimentation at the hands of Thomas, the film’s direction is richly nuanced. To its credit, Lore never goes too far in either direction, letting the audience interpret and judge.
Not one of Stallone’s best efforts or Walter Hill’s for that matter, Bullet to the Head’s just another partner film with a lot of mayhem and familiar one-liners. Missing the chemistry of the Stallone of yesteryear, the master of the choreographed fight has become too repetitive accepting too many of the same roles lately. However, if you would like a few laughs, some Walter Hill chaos and you really don’t care about the quality of the production, then pop into a theater. Better still, it will probably play just as well on your big screen TV.
The film opens in New Orleans with hit men Jimmy Bobo (Stallone) and Louis Blanchard (Jon Seda) knocking off a bad cop from Washington, D.C. for their usual contract fee. But this time after finishing the job Jimmy and his sidekick get confronted by Keegan (Jason Momoa), a member of the New Orleans mob, with Louis ending up dead. Knowing his number is up Jimmy goes into hiding trying to get to the bottom of the attack on his life. Read more
The film Stand Up Guys being released this weekend in theaters has a nice touch. It brings together three of the most revered stars in a film emulating some of their past acting gigs. It’s a testimonial to their craft that puts them in front of a camera, aged and changed from their earlier Oscar winning performances and still commanding the screen. The story brings out the best in each of the three with action, comedy and a murder or two.
Convicted killer Val (Al Pacino) gets picked up by his friend Doc (Christopher Walken) on his release from prison after serving 28 years of his sentence. During that time he has never disclosed who was involved in bank robbery gone badly, keeping his two best friends and the mob boss from being indicted for the crimes. It’s his first day out and Doc wants him to enjoy it even if Val has the feeling that someone has put a hit out to keep him permanently quiet. But, Val has a plan, one that will include Hirsch (Alan Arkin), the third man in their capper trio who has long been waiting for that special moment he can also be free. Read more
A nice job with a Romeo and Juliet theme, Warm Bodies shows what an imaginative writer/director can do with a zombie love story. The slick little romancer creates fun out of terror and sends a lot of subliminal messages. Perfect for teens to twenties, it’s the perfect modern day date movie with both sexes looking for fun and some creative horror.
The USA has turned its population into zombies following an epidemic, germ warfare or other catastrophe of massive proportions. Only a small city has survived behind tall walls and armed with a militia that’s ready for about anything. Squads have been sent to seek food and medicine outside the walls and on this one occasion Julie (Teresa Palmer), the daughter of the militant leader Grigio (John Malkovich), has joined the group of searchers. The undead have been attacking these people and killing them for food, their brains being the best nutrition and they happen on Julie’s squad where a fight breaks out. Read more
ARNOLD IS BACK! A little loss for wear, yet he’s still a winner in my book with his new film The Last Stand. Action lovers and fans of Schwarzenegger are in for a real treat with this rock em’ sock em’ explosive film that brings back memories of the Arnold of yesteryear ‘s Terminator series. The well written script, kick-butt direction by KIM Jee-woon and an amazing film crew make The Last Stand a contender for this weekend’s top box-office champ.
High profile drug cartel mastermind Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) needs to be moved by FBI Agent Bannister (Forest Whitaker) from the courthouse to a secure jail in Las Vegas. In a daring escape the brazen Mexican drug lord heads for his homeland in a special racing Corvette that can reach speeds of over 250 miles per hour. In a high speed chase the FBI has positioned S.W.A.T teams in his path, but there’s a hostage in the car with Cortez, so stopping him will be very tricky. Read more
Picturesque, intriguing and romantic the odd love story of the strange King of Denmark comes to theaters this weekend. Called A Royal Affair, the opulent period piece transports the viewer back to the late 1700’s for an inside look at a time of ‘Enlightenment’ when this country was ruled by tyrants who deceived the crown. Take a look into this interesting world of idealism, insecurity and revolution.
The true story of the Danish King Christian VII (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) who takes Caroline Mathilda (Alicia Vikander) of England to be his Queen is at the center of this beautiful costume piece. While King Christian has a mental illness and depends largely on his advisors who make favorable decisions for the court, but chastise the people of his realm, have caused unrest. His new wife urges him to take advice from his newly appointed German doctor Johann Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen) who has visions of a free society. While he loves Queen Caroline, so does Johann and a love triangle of sorts ensues leading up a rebellion in the kingdom that changes forever. Read more
Los Angeles relives it’s gritty past in this fictional account of a real mob boss in Gangster Squad. The violent crime film has an exceptional A-list cast with creative sets, period costumes and props that resemble the era, but the lifeless storyline just doesn’t do it for me. The script with its over indulgence in Tommy gun fire, explosions, gory slice and dice mixed with an inconceivable romance burns then crashes. However, the film’s target audience, extreme action fans, will be glued to every move on the screen.
The movie centers on a plot that’s based on the true to life gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) who attempts to make his mob exclusive in Los Angeles during the late 1940s. Cohen’s the thread that keeps the New York based Jewish Mafia in business in the growing Tinseltown. But, Mickey wants the whole pie setting up a secret communication system that puts him in control of all the illegal gambling at the west coast operation. Working under the table, he’s at risk of upsetting the New York mob, but the former boxer goes ahead with his plan to become king of the criminal ‘Ring’. Read more
Not every stone has been turned about the atrocities on WWII and the people who stood up against the Nazis to make a difference in the world. Nicky’s Family gets released this weekend and the touching documentary reveals a little known event in history that saved nearly 700 children destined for gas chambers just before the war broke out in Czechoslovakia. The heartfelt film is inspirational, important to all audiences and necessary as a warning that freedom cannot be taken for granted.
Nicky’s Family plays out in documentary form with reenactments delving into how by chance one man can change destiny for children earmarked for death. From a scrapbook found in the attic of Sir Nicholas Winton and using home movies, movie news footage, snap shots and dramatizations we enter the world of Czechoslovakia in 1938.
With its government weak and frightened by the invasions going on in Europe by the Germans, Czechoslovakia finds itself in a precarious position. Without their attendance the main powers of Europe sign the Munich Agreement in Germany. This allowed the Nazis to take control of the areas bordering Czechoslovakia dubbed Sudentenland that was mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans. Thinking they were safe from the German onslaught, the county felt they could take a back seat to the inevitable war in Europe. But, their fate was already sealed as without a strong militia and a government weakened by a loss of support from France and Britain in a matter of months Czechoslovakia was sucked into the Third Reich. Read more
This step-by-step insight into how the CIA found Osama Bin Laden and then blew him away is nicely produced, directed and acted. I found Zero Dark Thirty involving, intriguing and then startling, playing out like a news story happening before my eyes. Even though you know the story from the media, you will be shocked with the finale of this nearly 3-hour suspense filled movie.
Although names have been changed the true account tells the story of CIA operative Maya Lambert who right from schooling gets hired by the intelligence agency to find Osama Bin Laden. Obsessed with her job she presses on through ten long years of digging, interrogating, nearly getting killed and witnessing an inordinate amount of death in the name of terrorism. Training under some of the best investigators, Maya learns how to handle herself with the sly terrorists and finally gets a break that will lead her to being the only one convinced of Bin Laden’s whereabouts. Read more
While I recently released my pop culture top 10 movies for 2012, after finally viewing several films that were not available to me prior to this week, the following are my artistic choices for best movies of 2012. The diverse selection of films fit into a year filled with challenges, changes and future choices. I hope you will enjoy seeing the movies selected below and be sure to give me your comments.
Number 1- ARGO- Bringing Argo to the screen in the face of the recent murder of an American Ambassador abroad in Benghazi, Libya was not expected for the filmmakers yet adds realism to the film’s presence in today’s conflicted world. Ben Affleck directs and stars in this intricate attempt to create an escape plan for USA Embassy workers out of Tehran, Iran during the uprising leading to 1980’s Iranian Revolution. Based on the real event the movie gets so tense at times, especially when Affleck’s character has to walk the escaping group around the city as a rouse to convince the government that they are part of a film crew. It was so fearful that it had me white knuckling my theater arm rests. Acting all around should be commended on the fine production that should be in the list of Oscar Nominees for Best Film.
Number 2. SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK: An excellent film with amazing performances by the whole cast. Nicely filmed and directed the movie flows through its script giving the audience an uninhibited look at the psychological effects that two young people experience involving relationships. The film stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence with direction by David O. Russell.
Number 3. THE IMPOSSIBLE- The acting, directing and cinematography are all in sync showing how one family survived a terrifying tsunami. The film pulled me into the action, emotionally turning me upside down and had me grasping for air. The film has excellent performances by Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor and newcomer Tom Holland.
Number 4- BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD- The film with a big heart takes place in Louisiana in an area called The Bathtub starting a day before and two weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the area with a devastating blow. Living with her ailing father in a flooded area of the Bayou 6-year-old Hushpuppy has to deal with what has been handed to her, a life wrought in toil and an insurmountable apprehension of a dismal future. I am amazed at the fine acting by the unknown cast, especially 5-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis in the lead role. But, the star of the film is really writer/director Benh Zeitlin who’s first attempt at a full feature film turns out to be an award worthy piece that didn’t fall through the cracks. His ability to get star worthy performances from amateur talent, create an atmosphere of heart wrenching disarray, and show the results of a catastrophe far more shocking than most of us want to believe, certainly stands head and shoulders above most of the 2012 releases. It would not surprise me if Quvenzhané Wallis was nominated for an Oscar.
Number 5- ZERO DARK THIRTY- This step-by-step insight into how the CIA found Osama Bin Laden and then blew him away is nicely produced, directed and acted. I found the film involving, intriguing and then startling, playing out like a news story happening before your eyes. Even though you know the story from the media, you will be shocked with the finale of this nearly 3-hour suspense filled movie. It’s definitely worthy of being an Oscar contender with accolades in writing and direction. A fine performance by Jane Chastain keeps the movie believable and compelling.
Number 6- THE SESSIONS- Although it didn’t have major distribution, this inspirational film involving a polio victim who wants to have sex for the first time, delivers amazing performances in the well written The Sessions. Both John Hawkes as debilitated poet Mark O’Brien and Helen Hunt as Cheryl his surrogate sex partner are moving, sensual together and incredibly believable in their roles. Based on a true story, the film delves into the intricate life of O’Brien and his inspiring persistence to accomplish a goal that jump starts his life including his lifelong dream of marriage.
Number 7- DJANGO UNCHAINED- Quentin Tarantino pulls off another one of his up in your face films with no holds barred. Much like his Inglourous Basterds where he offers up a heap of whoop ass on the Nazis in World War II, Tarantino puts slavery in his dubious spotlight with a movie that grabs you where it hurts, twists them till their blue and chews the subject matter a new…. Well you get the idea. Being one of Tarantino’s ardent fans helps as I’m a believer that there’s not a filmmaker like him, except for possibly Sam Peckinpah. The movie features marvelous performances by Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio in remarkably divergent roles.
Number 8 SKYFALL- Probably the best James Bond in the series, Skyfall shows what a filmmaker can do with an excellent cast, an exciting storyline and the proper film crew. The movie takes off with an action sequence that equals the excitement of Fast Five’s ‘safe swap’ scene and works its way though some tight encounters up to its very creative final conflict. The third largest moneymaker worldwide in 2012, this film guarantees a continuation of a franchise that almost collapsed. Good acting all around by the whole cast.
Number 9. THE MASTER- This drama has it all, fine direction, and a creative story that shows the evils of society brought on by those who wish to control others for their ill gotten gain. It’s good to see Joaquim Phoenix back on his game with a brilliant performance that’s scary and deliciously evil. Look for possible acting award nominations for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams.
Number 10 FLIGHT- The acting in this film coupled with the fine directing carry this film into the top ten. The intricate plot involving a pilot with an alcohol problem who has to face his biggest fears when the commercial airliner he’s piloting experiences a mechanical problem causing the plane to crash, had me on the edge of my seat and provides a stage for Denzel Washington’s convincing performance.
Our longest serving President has a heyday in Hyde Park on Hudson, an interesting look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s affairs while in office. The historical, humorous and intriguing story puts our 32nd President in a rather awkward situation derived from an excerpt of the diary of his cousin Daisy. A questionable focus for the initiative, yet the film’s cast puts on an admirable show.
Taking place north of New York City in an area called Hyde Park, the home estate of his mother that covers 3 to four miles on the Hudson River, this small voyeuristic glance into Roosevelt’s private life came to light from his cousin Margaret (Daisy) Suckley’s diary. The snippet points out Roosevelt’s erotic lifestyle and his historical meeting with the stuttering King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Britain at the estate. Read more