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  • Nightcrawler Movie Poster

    Nightcrawler (2014)

    Thursday, October 30, 2014

    Her Review: Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate but driven young man who really is just looking for work or better still something that ignites his passion….

    Read More

  • 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 their…

    Read More

  • 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 much…

    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)…

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Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler Movie Poster

Her Review:

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate but driven young man who really is just looking for work or better still something that ignites his passion.  He finds it one evening in the form of freelance video as he happens upon a car crash and some seemingly random guys filming it to sell to the local news.  Intrigued by the situation and the idea all he needs is a camera and police scanner Lou starts his journey into the cut-throat and sometimes dangerous realm of nightcrawling.  After a bumpy start Lou finds his niche filming the worst crime the city of LA has to offer and joins forces with Nina (Rene Russo) a local night news director.  Always looking to be the best Lou begins to blur the lines between observer and participant, creating his own break stories and playing a very dangerous game. Starring Rick Garcia, Pat Harvey, Sharon Tay, Bill Seward, Rick Chambers, Holly Hannula, Eric Lange, James Huang, Carolyn Gilroy, Kevin Rahm, Ann Cusak.

Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy plays to the wide-spread and sadistic fascination our society has with the sensational and while the film itself often veers dangerously toward that territory itself it and lead actor Gyllenhaal manage to get far enough under your skin to send shivers down your spine.

Surprisingly Nightcrawler is a perfect Halloween film release.  It is markedly better than the majority of the horror films that might have or have already been released and it offers a far more stimulating story than them as well.  I didn’t think it was going to be the thriller it ended up being and was impressed by the depth Nightcrawler had to offer.

Now when I say depth I don’t really mean the story.  The story is pretty straight forward although you can read tons of subtext into it seeing it as a commentary on the millennial generation and their over exuberance for success and the downfall or the take over of the previous generation.  However all that is a bit much for a film of this nature to really be making any true commentary on.  No, the depth of the film comes from the up close and personal look at a sociopath – Lou Bloom.  This main character for me was THE most disturbing thing about the movie even in comparison to the horrific crimes and accidents depicted.  Gyllenhaal manages to draw something out of himself for this character that I hope he never has to again because it is creepy, extremely unsettling yet impressive.  Everything from Gyllenhaal’s hair and clothes to his seemingly innocent smile and nonchalant laugh made me extremely uncomfortable – which I presume was the point.

If Nightcrawler falls short it is in two places for me.  First the action.  The action scenes and even most of majority of the crimes and accidents that the character films are mundane.  They didn’t insight any disturbing thoughts etc. like the rest of the movie.  And I can’t say I am desensitized to them because to be honest I don’t watch the news…ever; so it’s not like I see that kind of thing on a day-to-day basis.  The second place the film misses out is that it veers a bit too far into the sensational.  Personally I found the film more ‘thrilling’ and disturbing the more realistic it felt.

Nightcrawler certainly has its place in the news genre films and the performance of Gyllenhaal will ensure that it is a prominent place for sure.

8/10 Stars – Not a fun film but for a halloween flick will certain send some chills down your spine.

 

Birdman (2014)

Birdman Movie Poster

Her Review:

Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) was once the iconic super hero known as “The Birdman.”  After turning down any future appearances as the character he has decide to reinvent himself by staging a Broadway show called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  Like with so many Broadway shows this one has its fair share of disasters leading up to opening night not the least of which is the loss of a lead actor to injury while on set.  To top it all off Riggan is not only directing the show but starring in it as well.  To add to that he has to juggle the method acting of his replacement actor, his ex-drug addict and defiant daughter, his ex-wife and then of course his current girlfriend who also happens to be starring in the show.  With the premiere New York Times stage critic threatening to close the show even more it opens Riggan must face his deepest fears and most disturbing self.  But the big question is where will all this lead?  Starring Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Jeremy Shamos, Andrea Riseborough, Damian Young, Natalie Gold, Merritt Wever, Michael Siberry, Clark Middleton, Amy Ryan, Lindsay Duncan.

I have to say flat out I was utterly surprised by this film.  The few trailers I saw didn’t give me much in the way of understanding exactly what the film was about, just a general overview really.  So as I sat in a hushed theater to view the film I found I was pleasantly surprised by what was displayed before me.  Birdman was a truly unique film going experience for me and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen for a second.  It offers something fresh to the film landscape despite the rather mundane and nonchalant topic it uses as its base.

First you need know that the film has a subtitle.  The real title of the film as displayed on the opening screen is Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).  Intriguing right?  Second I should say that the strange film that passed before me left me speechless.  Riggan asks in the film “how do you get to be a critic anyway” and I find that makes it harder for me to ‘criticize’ if you will…don’t worry I still will.

The casting for Birdman is impressive.  A group of fairly well-known actors, not the least of which who is Keaton, that when you think of them you expect certain things or certain roles.  Those expectations aren’t met instead they are flipped on their head.  Even Keaton’s role which is supposedly an exaggerated portrayal of himself comes off as more of an archetype.  He is perfection in the role and after seeing him play it I doubt anyone else could have done it so well.  Emma stone is a convincing recovering drug addict and Edward Norton…well he is Edward Norton and if you remember him from Fight Club his role in Birdman isn’t much of a stretch.

Birdman at its core is a satire.  I appreciate though that the film doesn’t tell you what to mock but gives you options.  I could have chosen to take it as mocking the onslaught of super hero films we have seen in theaters.  Or perhaps it came across as mocking the general nature of being a famous actor.  The list goes on and you as the audience get to pick.  I like that.

Cinematically the film holds its own as well.  It reminded me of Noises Off a Broadway show where there really are no scene changes you just follow from front stage to back stage and back again.  You can’t tell where one scene ends and the other begins.  Birdman’s flowing cinematography and seamless editing gave me the same feel where even at two hours long you didn’t feel as if there were any breaks or cuts to the film.  It was one big long moment that I as the audience was privy to.  Truly amazing work on a cinematic level.

Birdman is definitely one of the best films I have seen so far this year.  I recommend you see it in the theaters if you get the chance even if you don’t typically see the more artsy style films.  The performances of the cast alone are worth you going.  Besides, Birdman has Oscar nominated film written all over it.

9/10 Stars – Keaton will be in the Oscar race for sure and so might the whole film if you ask me.

 

His Review:

Before seeing Birdman, I knew this movie was going to be special.  I mean it stars Michael Keaton, a man who use to be Batman and is now in a movie about a guy who use to be a giant bird-like superhero.  Just like Riggan, Keaton turned down a role to be in the 3rd Batman movie and still to this day takes questions on why he made that move.  He really never had a career after Batman and has never gotten out of the shadow of Tim Burton’s Caped Crusader.  If you ask me, Keaton will always be Batman so this movie looked really interesting as the lead role seems to have many parallels to the actor who plays him.

As far as a movie goes, Birdman is dripping with artistic value.  From inner struggles to reputation to relationships to metaphors about life itself, Birdman might look like on the surface as a weird movie about a guy who use to be a superhero, but it’s not.  Birdman is entertaining, complex, comedic, enjoyable and dramatic all at the same time.  The performances of EVERYONE in this film is amazing.  If it weren’t for Keaton’s awesome performance, everyone would be talking about Edward Norton or Emma Stone.  Has Edward Norton even made a bad movie?  I would not be surprised if this movie takes several Oscar nominations come January because it is that good, and what makes it even better, is the common movie goer can appreciate this film.  This movie is not THAT strange or out of the ordinary.  It’s just flat out interesting and I loved it.

I wonder if Birdman will be Michael Keaton’s Broadway play and put him back on the map like in the movie?  I always liked Michael Keaton as an actor and hope to see him more.  Go see this movie especially if you love deep stories that are out of the ordinary.

8/10 Stars – Great story, characters and performances from everyone involved.  This is Michael Keaton’s career and I love it!

 

 

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.

 

His Review:

In his later years, Bill Murray is still making great movies, and this time it’s as a crumugend next-door neighbor to a likable 10-year-old boy.  The chemistry between Murray and newcomer Jaeden Lieberher is great fun.  You would think a normal person would be irritated and annoyed by the rudeness of Vincent, but Oliver sees him differently and has fun with his new “babysitter.”  Sure this formula has been used many times where an older character who has lost the will to live is paired with a youthful child and the 2 flourish, but there is something about these 2 that make it still shine. 

The first half of the movie is mostly awkward and depressing as Vincent’s demeanor and lifestyle takes center stage, but as the movie progresses, it becomes lighter, emotional and more comedic as Oliver’s influence takes effect.  We get to see Vincent’s true heart and the person he once was.  We get to see what really matters in life for Vincent and why he is so desperate for money, but more importantly, we get to see the need that Vincent has for people in his life, especially Oliver.  If it weren’t for the way the final act is carried out, St. Vincent would be just another movie about youth and growing old, but the ending is special and makes you smile. 

One last shining star for St. Vincent is Bill Murray’s performance.  In my eyes, his protrayal of Vincent is Oscar nomination worthy and something that elevates this movies many layers.  His performance isn’t wasted on an unlikable story and it even shines brighter due to the synergy he has with his partner in crime.  If noting else, give this movie a shot for Bill Murray, but I think as a package, this movie delivers.     

7/10 Stars – Only thing keeping it from being an 8 for me is the grungy nature of Vincent.  Otherwise, the acting, story and characters shine!  Heartfelt and emotional!

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.

 

His Review:

As a guy, I love a good action movie, but there are so many out there that the good movies need to be GREAT to be elevated as the best.  John Wick has enough good of things going for it in order to make it likable action movie.  It stars Keanu Reeves and has plenty of action, and I mean a lot of action.  However, sadly, this is all it has to offer.  John Wick’s action is its biggest reward and its biggest flaw.  John Wick is 1 dimensional as it has little to offer in terms of a story or unique characters.  What sets great action movies like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard apart from the rest are great stories and likable characters with PERSONALITIES!  John Wick is boring!  He doesn’t show much emotion and talks very little.  He apparently has a giant back story that is mysterious and is only revealed in small amounts.  Give us more!  Give us flashbacks! 

The story is pitched to us as a revenge story after John’s cute little puppy is killed and his car is stolen.  Someone explain to me why a dog needed to die?  I mean there are many ways to get the point across that John Wick needs revenge, but in this day and age, half, if not more, of audiences are animal lovers so killing off the dog just put a bad taste in their mouths.  I don’t get it.   Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, revenge.  I once saw a movie, a great movie, about revenge.  It is called The Count of Monte Cristo.  In that story a man is sent away to a hole-in-the-wall cell for a decade while his best friend marries his girl and steals his life.  When he finally escapes, he carefully weaves a poetic plan that gets back at the people who screwed him over.  John Wick just gets a bunch of guns and runs around shooting people.  I’m not saying that this approach to revenge isn’t entertaining, but when compared to the best revenge story ever, it’s drab.

John Wick simply suffers from not being the best and that’s it.  It is fun action entertainment that has little else to offer.  Had they given us a story other than some guy going after some European mob AGAIN (just saw that in The Equilizer and every other action film), then it might have been more refreshing, but for now John Wick will be lumped in with all the other high-octane action flicks and nothing more. 

7/10 Stars – High-octane action with little to offer in terms of story or characters.

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.

Nightcrawler Movie Poster

Nightcrawler (2014)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Her Review: Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a desperate but driven young man who really is just looking for work or better still something that ignites his passion….

Birdman Movie Poster

Birdman (2014)

Monday, October 27, 2014

Her Review: Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) was once the iconic super hero known as “The Birdman.”  After turning down any future appearances as the character he has decide…

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 their…

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 much…

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