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  • St Vincent Movie Poster

    St. Vincent (2014)

    Thursday, October 23, 2014

    Her Review: Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) is a single mom who with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) have just moved into a new home in Brooklyn.  Unfortunately for them…

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  • John Wick Movie Poster

    John Wick (2014)

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    Her Review: John Wick (Keanu Reeves), an ex-hitman, has been living a quiet retired life with his wife.  After the loss of his beloved wife he doesn’t have…

    Read More

  • The Best of Me Movie Poster

    The Best of Me (2014)

    Sunday, October 19, 2014

    Her Review: Dawson (James Marsden) is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and a bad family.  Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is a sweet girl from a…

    Read More

  • Fury Movie Poster

    Fury (2014)

    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    Her Review: April 1945 the Allies are deep in the heart of Germany making their final push in the war again the Nazis.  Don “WarDaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt)…

    Read More

  • The Book of Life Movie Poster

    The Book of Life (2014)

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    Her Review: Manolo, Maria and Joaquin are the three amigos.  As children they are inseparable until Maria is sent away to Europe to learn to be a woman and…

    Read More

St. Vincent (2014)

St Vincent Movie Poster

Her Review:

Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) is a single mom who with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) have just moved into a new home in Brooklyn.  Unfortunately for them their new neighbor isn’t all that agreeable.  Forced to work long hours at her new job, Maggie has little choice but leave Oliver in the care of this neighbor, Vincent (Bill Murray) who she comes to discover is nothing more than a drunk, gambling curmudgeon.  Or is he?  Oliver and Vincent develop a strange friendship, each helping the other to be better.  Oliver can see past the grumpy old man and ultimately finds a misunderstood man who has a good heart and is a sort of unruly saint.  Starring Naomi Watts, Chris O’Dowd, Terrance Howard, Kimberly Quinn, Lenny Venito, Nate Corddry, Dario Barosso, Scott Adsit, Ann Dowd, Donna Mitchell, Reg E. Cathey, Dierdre O’Connell.

St. Vincent has formula film stamped all over it but a convincing performance from Murray makes it bearable and far better than it probably would have been with anyone else in the role.  I honestly can’t think of anyone better suited for the role of Vincent than Murray.  It certainly isn’t the best performance of his career but not necessarily the worst.  It will always amaze me at how he manages to be lovable and annoying at the same time.  A skill he puts to good use in the movie St. Vincent.  Aside from Murray not much else to impress on the actor side of things.  Although, I will say it was nice to McCarthy back in a role that doesn’t portray her as crass or idiotic.  She is better than a lot of the roles she takes and hopefully we will get to see that sooner rather than later.  Maybe this is a good start.

I will say that despite the predictable script it was nice to have some effort at heartfelt emotion, though not successful, instead of it being just another dumb comedy that I feel stupid for wasting my time watching.  The story isn’t anything special, seen it all before.  Grumpy guy with a good heart makes a difference in someone’s life but still remains his grumpy lovable self just slightly better.  The thing is we all know a St. Vincent in our lives so there is some reliability there that the movie has going for it.  Marketed as a comedy there aren’t really many laughable moments.  I had a few chuckles but not true laugh out loud stuff.  The comedy is subtle so you will either get it or not.

St. Vincent won’t go down in the history books as a memorable comedy and probably isn’t worth the ticket price for the theater but I would at least suggest n=Netfilxing it especially to get your Bill Murray fix.  He really does make the whole thing worth while.

6/10 Stars – Sometimes touching, sometimes mildly funny but too formulaic to aspire to anything great.

John Wick (2014)

John Wick Movie Poster

Her Review:

John Wick (Keanu Reeves), an ex-hitman, has been living a quiet retired life with his wife.  After the loss of his beloved wife he doesn’t have much left so when what little he had is brutally taken from him by some thug gangsters he decides to forgo retirement for a short time in order to exact revenge.  Starring Micahel Nuyqvist, Alfie Allen, Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Adrianne Palicki, Omer Barnea, Toby Leonard Moore, Daniel Bernhardt, Bridget Moynahan, John Lequizamo, Ian McShane, Bridget Regan, Lance Reddick.

John Wick as a film doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the hitman, action genre but it pulls out all the stops and lives up to any expectation one might have for a film of this style.  Technically speaking John Wick is flawless as an action film.  It has the perfect combination of shoot-em-up scenes mixed with hand to hand combat and then as an added bonus it has some old school gangster feel to it.  There are rules to the game being played in the film and if you break them there are consequences.  I like that about this film.

Now don’t expect any good guy heroes here because you won’t find any.  Everyone is a bad guy but our anti-hero John Wick at least has a reason, and a damn good one if you ask me, for returning to his bad guy ways.  Speaking of which, the set up for the action packed film which comprises only the first 10 minutes or so is rough.  Seriously.  If you have seen the trailers you know that the character John Wick’s rampage is set off when a punk gangster kills Wick’s dog.  No joke, I mean who does that to a poor little puppy.  I was bawling like a little baby.  If John Wick hadn’t decided to seek revenge I would have done it for him.  I am serious when I say the set up for the film is brutal.  You don’t have a heart if it doesn’t hit you hard.  Assuming you can stomach that then the rest of the film is a walk in the park.  This isn’t action gore it is action brutality.  Keanu Reeves holds his cool and calm demeanor throughout most of the film only adding to the brutal way in which he exacts his revenge.  You know its personal to him but if you hadn’t seen the set up you would just think he was a cold-hearted murder machine.

If the film falls short in any category it is definitely the non-action side of things. If I face the facts the truth is that the story is simple but not necessarily in a good way.  There is definitely no depth, even knowing John Wick’s back story.  So there wasn’t anything for me to latch onto that would take this from pure action flick to action drama.  On top of which I swear there weren’t more than two or three hundred words spoken in the entire film.  Most non-action scenes felt a bit over dramatized but then when words were spoken they were often funny (not sure if it was intentional but it works).

John Wick isn’t a real world type of action film.  It creates its own world and although it isn’t one I would want to live in – who would when its a world where idiot men murder beagle puppies named Daisy – I did enjoy a visit to watch some good old-fashioned action.

9/10 Stars – Lacked substance but made up for it with flawless action sequences.

The Best of Me (2014)

The Best of Me Movie Poster

Her Review:

Dawson (James Marsden) is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and a bad family.  Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is a sweet girl from a well to do family.  They are complete opposites but that doesn’t stop them from falling in love in high school.  Life takes its toll though and the two are separated for more than 20 years.  They are brought together by the death of a beloved friend.  Their unexpected reunion shows both of them they never stopped loving one another despite the time and distance that has separated them.  Their lives are still there though and could easily tear them apart as they did so many years before.  Starring Luke Bracey, Liana Liberato, Gerald McRaney, Caroline Goodall, Clarke Peters, Sebastian Arcelus, Jon Tenney, Sean Bridgers, Rob Mello, Hunter Burke, Robby Rasmussen, Carline Hebert, Ian Nelson.

The Best of Me is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the ninth to be adapted sadly it doesn’t live up to some of its predecessors and comes across as melodramatic, manufactured and stuffy.  I can’t say that I am a fan of the films made based on Nicholas Sparks books.  I did however enjoy the 2013 Safe Haven and can appreciate several others like The Notebook and A Walk to Remember.  So while I didn’t have high expectations for this movie I certainly expected better.

The first egregious error is the story.  (Sorry Mr. Sparks.)  This story has been told many times before in various films.  I could spot the plot “twists,” if you can even call them, that from a mile away.  Telling a familiar tale isn’t necessarily negative if the writer and director take a fresh approach to it.  The Best of Me does not.  Nothing about the film – not setting, not cast, nothing stands out.  It is all cliché and expected.  Plus add to that the never-ending length and it makes for a foul taste in your mouth.  Or it did for me anyway or maybe that was something I ate…either way not a good combo.

If the story and how it is presented weren’t bad enough the chemistry of the leads, both the young couple and the older version, is completely lacking. There is no passion, which you would expect to be crucial with such a long-lasting love story.  Seriously I get that the Dawson character is suppose to be laid back but there is such a thing as too laid back.  I didn’t believe for a second he cared about Amanda.  It was all just too easy.  A recast might have solved this problem but then it would be only one solution to many problems with the movie.

The Best of Me will surely find a home with the regular Nicholas Sparks fan club but for anyone who isn’t a fan you might steer clear if you know whats good for you.

4/10 Stars – Would rather watch Safe Haven again or god help me even the Notebook.

Fury (2014)

Fury Movie Poster

Her Review:

April 1945 the Allies are deep in the heart of Germany making their final push in the war again the Nazis.  Don “WarDaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) has been fighting the war since Africa and has managed to keep his tank crew whole…for the most part through the entire war.  Mission after mission they have come through it…together. Their next mission is deep behind enemy lines.  Outnumbered and outgunned, Don and his team of men face unimaginable odds in their attempt to hold the line and protect the men behind them.  Starring Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Jim Parrack, Brad William Henke, Kevin Vance, Xavier Samuel, Jason Isaacs, Anamaria Marnca, Alice von Rittberg.

Fury is a tense, unapologetic, dirty war film that impresses with its classic war film feel and a more modern philosophical look at the fatigue and stress this kind of thing has on man.  Like war however Fury has its ups and downs pulling it at times into the realm of bad film making but the effort is strong enough by the cast to snatch Fury from defeat and bring it to a heroic victory.

Fury is not for the weak of stomach.  It is graphic in its display of war carnage.  I haven’t been to war so I don’t speak from experience merely from research but visually the devastation and destruction felt real.  I could almost smell the gun powder and smoke.  Many of the scenes were graphic but it was the little quick moments, like a tank running over a body deeply imbedded in the mud that I found the most disturbing.  I think writer/director David Ayer’s goal was to unnerve his audience with as harsh a reality as he could possibly create without simply showing you real footage.

Sadly all these little details and horrific scenes don’t add up to much in the way of a narrative story.  There really is no beginning, middle or end to the journey we witness.  It felt more like I picked up a book and started in the middle but didn’t read all the way to the end.  In fact there is very little story and no back story hardly at all.  The audience is presented with this group of 5 main characters and told nothing about them.  There are hints at some things that speak to their characters but nothing in depth or meaningful.  Instead everything is surface level, except the evaluation of how they each handle the horrific situations they are faced with as they fight the war.  Seriously there is no story.  The whole film is a display of war with a study of its effects on the men who are forced to fight and kill.

Fury isn’t one of those films that I will feel the need to watch over and over again.  It lived up to expectations considering I had very few, Brad Pitt was fantastic as was the supporting cast and I feel that with a bit more umph behind the story it could have been great.  But since we can’t what has already been put to film, I accept Fury for what it is and I will reveal its disturbing display of war and the power it has to turn men from boys to men and men into monsters.

8/10 Stars – Not what you might expect but fascinating and disturbing all the same!

 

His Review:

From the first scene to the last, Fury is a war movie through and though.  It has plenty of action, suspense, and grit.  The characters are diverse and showcase the mentality of the soldiers during this time as they go from frightened to killing machines.  My only problem with the movie is that it basically has no story.  It has no direction or purpose as we are watching these soldiers just “survive” as the war goes forward.  Because of this reason, I felt that the movie goes too long.  I understand that some of the scenes included are there to paint the picture of the war, but the whole scene when the guys are eating breakfast with the 2 women was flat out boring.  If you can get past the moments of slow dialogue, the action and battles are terrific.  The acting is also quality as these actors become the heroes they portray and we forget we are watching a movie. 

I did leave the theater wondering if this was a true story or not as there is no historical commentary after the movie ends.  I was looking for something to tell us the impact this story had on the war or something about the heroes, but we get nothing, so I’m left wondering if this movie is a work of fiction…  Regardless, if you are a fan of war movies, this one wont disappoint, just don’t expect it to be in the elite.

7/10 Stars – Well acted with plenty of action, the absense of a story might turn some off but does WWII justice.

The Book of Life (2014)

The Book of Life Movie Poster

Her Review:

Manolo, Maria and Joaquin are the three amigos.  As children they are inseparable until Maria is sent away to Europe to learn to be a woman and the two boys are forced to live out their destinies as determined by their great ancestors.  Manolo grows into a man who pure of heart who will willing sacrifice himself for others.  Joaquin is the hero who knows his strengths and doesn’t mind telling you about them.  Both have never stopped loving Maria.  Their love for the same beautiful woman leads them both down fantastical paths that will forever change the course of their lives.  Starring the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Channing Tatum, Ron Perlman, Christina Applegate, Ice Cube, Kate del Castillo, Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Carlos Alazraqui, Ana de la Reguera, Placido Domingo, Jorge R. Gutierrez, Grey DeLisle.

From producer Guillermo del Toro and director Jorge Gutierrez, The Book of Life is a beautiful tribute to the traditions and values of the Mexican culture.  It is comprised of beautiful art and magnificent animation, it’s only downfall is its formulaic story and lack of any truly inspiring originality.  The Book of Life is sure to appeal to the hispanic audience but you can easily tell that wasn’t the intent or purpose of del Toro in making this film.  It feels more like a an open welcome to those of other cultures to come and learn about the rich heritage of the Mexican culture.  I say this because the fantastical story starring the main characters is book ended by a few “real life” scenes that set the stage for the fantasy portion of the film.  These separate parts nicely offset the fantastical elements and provide an added level of interest that gives the rather generic love story a boost.

There is certainly quite a bit to appreciate about this movie.  The animation is stunning with vibrant colors and beautiful details that you would expect from a del Toro produced film.  The voice acting is on target and I didn’t spend the whole movie sitting there thinking “hey that is Channing Tatum’s voice.”  Voices that fit the characters and don’t stand out is definitely a plus in my book.  If only they had a compelling story to tell.  I felt a little disappointed that the whole film is about a love story, which sadly didn’t inspire much love from me.  The story felt contrived and flat.  I didn’t get any real depth except a few moments at the beginning as they celebrate the Day of the Dead.  I felt in this scene that I was learning something and there was some history to savor and appreciate.  Sadly the film attempts to be a comedy but falls far short.  The jokes are cliché or you saw them so many times in the trailer they just aren’t funny any more.  This bright beautiful seemingly light-hearted film is actually rather one note with little passion and hardly any depth to speak of.

All that said The Book of Life was certainly an enjoyable film.  Sure I felt like it missed some opportunities to be a great film but it meets the basic requires with great animation, interesting characters and an okay story at a reasonable running time.  The Book of Life fills a void in the mass market films that has a more international appeal so that is a plus.  But I don’t think this one will be ‘remembered’ for too long before being banished to the land of the forgotten.  Still worth enjoying while it is here.

7/10 Stars – Not as compelling or interesting as I had hoped but beautiful animation is always worth a peak.

 

His Review:

Except for the story, the Book of Life is a unique and special movie.  It is full of loveable characters, has plenty of colors and has a style that I haven’t seen before.  The inclusion of the Mexican heritage is a welcomed theme that helps this movie not feel “samey” at all.  The story revolves around a simple love triangle about 3 childhood friends, but what makes this one different is the bet made by the 2 underworld rulers.  I think the addiction of these 2 characters makes the story that much better, even if the love story has been over done before. 

Both young and old will appreciate this movie.  For the young viewers, there are many life lessons to soak in that provide guidance and show selflessness, while the older audiences will reflect on the ones we have lost and the appreciate the time we have left.  I’m always touched and affected by movies that surround death and saying goodbye, so the emotional moments of this movie affected me a little more than it might others, but the messages it sends are delivered quite nicely. 

The only thing I didn’t quite get about this movie was the inclusion of modern songs.  Sure they had a hispanic twist to them, but why couldn’t all the songs be original rather than only some of them?  I know this is a small complaint, but I noticed during the movie and knowing some of the songs in their true form was a bit of a distraction.  Also, I would have loved for more education surrounding the Day of the Dead.  The movie focuses so much on the love story that I felt it missed the opportunity to provide more teaching on the Mexican culture.  Again, not that big a deal because there is a lot of culture already, but would have been nice.  At the end of the day, The Book of Life is a welcomed change of pace to the animation world from its style to its message.  Everyone will enjoy this movie!

8/10 Stars – Emotional, colorful, charming and educational, the Book of Life is a great family movie that will teach the young and touch the old.

St Vincent Movie Poster

St. Vincent (2014)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Her Review: Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) is a single mom who with her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) have just moved into a new home in Brooklyn.  Unfortunately for them…

John Wick Movie Poster

John Wick (2014)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Her Review: John Wick (Keanu Reeves), an ex-hitman, has been living a quiet retired life with his wife.  After the loss of his beloved wife he doesn’t have…

The Best of Me Movie Poster

The Best of Me (2014)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Her Review: Dawson (James Marsden) is the boy from the wrong side of the tracks and a bad family.  Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) is a sweet girl from a…

Fury Movie Poster

Fury (2014)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Her Review: April 1945 the Allies are deep in the heart of Germany making their final push in the war again the Nazis.  Don “WarDaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt)…

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