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  • 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…

    Read More

  • Pride Movie Poster

    Pride (2014)

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Her Review: In 1984, England is experiencing a form of social turmoil.  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike…

    Read More

  • Alexander Movie Poster

    Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, V...

    Sunday, October 12, 2014

    Her Review: Alexander can’t seem to catch a break.  He always seems to be having a bad day and his family doesn’t seem to empathize with his plight…

    Read More

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!

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.

Kill the Messenger (2014)

kill-the-messenger-poster-404x600

His Review:

Kill the Messenger is a dramatic political thriller that surrounds the investigative journalism of Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner.)  During the 1980s, Webb discovered evidence that the CIA knew and aided the selling of cocaine inside the United States in order to raise money.  Webb digs up all kind of dirt on drug lords and politicians alike and publishes an articles spilling the beans on the operation.  What happens to Webb after the article is released is the real tragedy has his live begins to spiral out of control as everyone he exposed comes after him!

Lead by a stellar performance by Jeremy Renner, Kill the Messenger is an interesting and thrilling political drama that is both captivating and bittersweet all at the same time.  In what felt like a cousin to All the President’s Men, Gary Webb set out to expose the truth like Woodward and Bernstein did to uncover Watergate.  However, unlike what happened to Nixon, Gary’s work gets him into a lot of trouble and he begins to feel like he is drowning as everyone who every supported him begins to disappear.

The first half of the movie is the investigation which will just suck you right in.  It is interesting and disturbing all at the same time that the government could be that corrupt.  The second half of the movie is when Webb’s life spirals out of control and he just seems to lose everything.  What makes this movie pack the punch it delivers is due to it being a true story.  It’s always different watching a movie knowing it all actually happened versus something someone made up.  Gary Webb just did his job and his life was never the same again.  For those of you that like scandalous mysteries, political thrillers or impactful dramas, you can’t go wrong with Kill the Messenger.  Just don’t expect for this to be uplifting…  Co-starring Rosemarie DeWitt, Ray Liotta, Paz Vega, Tim Blake Nelson, Oliver Platt, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Andy Garcia, Michael K. Williams, and Joshua Close.

7/10 Stars – It’s interesting, the ending dropped my likability for the movie yet it’s a true story and is the way it was.  Shameful.

Pride (2014)

Pride Movie Poster

Her Review:

In 1984, England is experiencing a form of social turmoil.  Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike in response to her massive pit closures.  Along side this turmoil there is a division amongst the people in response to the rising number of homosexuals who are seeking equality.  In response to the miners strike a small London based group of gay and lesbian activists decide to raise money to support them.  They call themselves LGSM – Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners.  At first their efforts are rebuffed by the union so they decide to go directly to the desperate miners and they reach out to a tiny mining village in Wales.  Skeptical at first the small mining community comes to not just appreciate but love the support of the small group.  Together the two outcast groups discover that joining forces creates the strongest union of all no matter the cause.  Starring Ben Schnetzer, George MacKay, Monica Dolan, Matthew Flynn, Andrew Scott, Joseph Gilgun, Faye Marsay, Freddie Fox, Jordan Metcalfe, Chris Overton, Joshua Hill, Dominic West, Menna Trussler, Paddy Considine, Jessie Cave, Jessica Gunning, Rhodri Meilir, Dion Lloyd-Jones, Lisa Palfrey, Imelda Staunton, Liz White, Nia Gwynee, Bill Nighy, Sophie Evans.

Pride is the kind of movie that may or may not have an agenda but it is so enjoyable and so moving that you don’t care because by the end you are in love with its characters and you are ready to stand up and cheer for everyone and everything.

I loved this movie. Now anyone who knows me knows that I am partial to all things British but Pride deserves to be loved.  First of all it is based on true events.  Sometimes this can be a detriment to a film depending on the nature of the events.  For this film however since certain aspects of those events still bare relevance today it gives the audience reason to relate.  On top of which the story is such a touching and meaningful one that it will undoubtedly strike a cord with most audiences.  The only downside to the story is that at the beginning you don’t get a whole lot of background so you don’t really know where Mark got the idea to support the Miners or why it’s so important to him.  Ultimately this didn’t affect my overall opinion or enjoyment of the movie though so it isn’t a big fault by any means.  There are also elements about the film that predictable.  This didn’t surprise me really given its based on real life so if you have lived at all you should be able to pick up on a few things.  Still despite this the film finds ways to elicit awe and surprise which was really nice.

What makes Pride such a great film for me are the characters. There are quite a few considering the film centers around groups of people.  What is amazing is that each character develops a full enough story to be compelling.  Impressive for the length of the film.  Even better the actors portraying them are spectacular.  Every single one of them.  Seriously I don’t think there was a bad performance in this film.  I think my favorite performance is by Imelda Staunton as Hefina.  I like the tough broad act and she provides a great deal of the comic relief.

The takeaway message of Pride is pretty clear, we aren’t all so different as we might think and if we join together we can accomplish a lot more than if we work separately.  A powerful yet simple message that is elegantly shared in a thoroughly enjoyable movie.  I think this might be one of my top 25 films for the year.

9/10 Stars – Funny, moving and one of those audience rousing films that are hard to come by these days!

 

His Review:

Pride is the kind of movie that takes a true story about a taboo subject (for that time period) and presents it to us in an uplifting, yet very safe way.  When I say safe way, I mean that there is very minimal violence and prejudice towards the Gays and Lesbians.  Sure there is tension and name calling, but for the mid 80s, you know it had to be much worse for them when they are still being singled out today.  Now, maybe I’m wrong for the amount of prejudice they might have experience since this story is in England, but I still think this movie keeps the tone happy for a reason.  Don’t get me wrong, that reason is to tell an uplifting story which will offer motivation and hope even for the people of 2014.  This movie isn’t about the hardships or the prejudice.  It’s about 2 groups needing each other and working together to overcome and prevail.

Pride is the kind of Hollywood movie that takes a random true story that had an impact on the world and tells it in a way so it will have an impact the audience, even if they didn’t experience it in real life.  This kind of movie usually shows up as a sports movie or biopic, and Pride in a way feels like a biopic, but the biography is about the group and not just a single person.  It has comedic moments throughout to keep the movie light-hearted, but controversy shows its ugly head enough for us to get behind the cause.  I think if this movie wasn’t a true story, it would be too simple, but it shines at all the right times and the cast is very loveable.

7/10 Stars – Tells a true story from the mid 80s about Gays and Lesbians that is more about teamwork than being different.  Very uplifting and charming.

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)…

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…

kill-the-messenger-poster-404x600

Kill the Messenger (2014)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

His Review: Kill the Messenger is a dramatic political thriller that surrounds the investigative journalism of Pulitzer Prize winner Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner.)  During the 1980s, Webb discovered…

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