Tag Archives: movie review

Life Has Nothing Original To Offer Sci-Fi-Fi Fans

When it comes to alien sci-fi films, there isn’t much that hasn’t already been done. This is especially true after 1979 when Ridley Scott completely turned alien films on their head when he expertly mixed horror and aliens in one movie. Everything since then has had elements of Scott’s Alien in it.

The key to telling one of these stories is coming at it with a fresh outlook or, making it appear fresh. It’s very rare that a movie like last year’s Arrival comes along and does something completely new with the story of alien discovery. The movies all seem to be a cheap knockoff of Alien or E.T.

Earlier this year Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds starred in Life which kind of came and went with a whimper in the theaters and wasn’t built up as much of anything of substance for the two stars. It is the story of a space exploration crew who has found a living organism on Mars and is bringing it back to earth. This is the first alien ever discovered, so their return is eagerly awaited. Things go seriously wrong when the single cell organism rapidly begins to grow by destroying the nearest living thing around it. The crew is soon held hostage while attempting to either contain or destroy the life form.

As I stated before many alien or extraterrestrial films are just a retold and regurgitated version of the 1979 classic. Life is no different despite its many attempts to be its own film it follows very similar plot lines. The one difference I noticed is that the crew is in a constant state of zero gravity which gives it a more realistic feel. The development of the creature from microscopic to full fledged being and a deadly monster is also a bit of a deviation. With all of this said, it’s not a bad film by any means. But there is nothing new or groundbreaking here either; the film is just an entertainment piece for those that enjoy this genre. A positive to be taken away is that it isn’t a long film, so it doesn’t give itself time to trip over itself. It moves quickly and smoothly which makes it an enjoyable experience, but if you are a stickler for originality and a massive Alien franchise fan, it may be best to steer clear of this one.

Woody Allen’s Annual Film Has Everything We Have Come To Love About Him

imageEver since the release of Annie Hall in 1977, Woody Allen has written, at least one movie every year and directed the majority of them. It is a streak of success, unlike anything in pop culture history. While there have been a few of these movies that have been somewhat forgettable, when he hits on all points, the movies are UNforgettable.

Allen’s latest release, Cafe Society, has many of the trademarks that we have come to recognize in various Woody Allen films. Set in the 1930’s during the golden age of show business and Hollywood in general, Allen once again brings together a cast of actors who perfectly embodies their characters.

When young Bobby Dorfman wants to leave life in New York City imageand try his hand at life in Tinseltown, he seeks the help of his uncle, big time movie star agent, Phil Stern played by Steve Carell. Phil soon gives him a job doing menial errands around town and introduces him to young Vonnie and asks her to show him around town. As Bobby begins making contacts in the industry and moves his way up in the business, he is also falling deeply in love with Vonnie. Even though he knows she has a boyfriend, he stays persistent and when she finds herself single again he is right there for her. They soon begin dating and Bobby realizes that his heart is back in New York and wants Vonnie to marry him and move back east with him.

Vonnie soon finds herself having to choose between Bobby and the return of her former lover. Heartbroken and jilted by the entire industry, Bobby returns home to New York and begins working for his gangster brother running the hottest nightclub in the city. With help from contacts previously made in L.A. Bobby becomes quite the nightclub tycoon and meets a stunning young woman who shares the same name as the woman who broke his heart a couple of years earlier.

imageLife seems to be going smoothly for Bobby until years later when Vonnie walks back into his life right through his nightclub doors. Soon his brother is entangled in serious legal troubles and Bobby finds himself once again desiring the unattainable Vonnie.

The very talented Jesse Eisenberg is just perfect for the role of Bobby, in fact, he is a perfect actor for any movie Woody Allen wants to cast him in. He has the perfect ability to deliver Allen’s dialogue with the same nervous and neurotic tone that has become his trademark. Kristen Stewart is cast as Vonnie, a young woman working in Hollywood who has held on to her small town mentality which is one of the many reasons Bobby falls so hard for her. Eisenberg and Stewart are no strangers to each other, in fact, this is their third film together, all of which they play lovers, so the chemistry is clearly there and they definitely make it work.

Woody has always had a love affair with the time period of the image1930’s and 40’s. It’s an era of movie and music that he has a passion for and a knowledge like no other. He incorporates his jazz, love and shows the inside of movie palaces like those of his youth.

Allen makes more references to his childhood than he has since the film Radio Days, which was loosely autobiographical. Such references include, Bobby’s parents constantly arguing and often over meaningless topics, and a neighbor with no regard for those who live around him. Allen also narrates the film, although he never appears on screen, much like Radio Days.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 11:  Actress Blake Lively, director Woody Allen, actress Kristen Stewart and actor Jesse Eisenberg attend the "Cafe Society" premiere and the Opening Night Gala during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 11, 2016 in Cannes, France.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 11: Actress Blake Lively, director Woody Allen, actress Kristen Stewart and actor Jesse Eisenberg attend the “Cafe Society” premiere and the Opening Night Gala during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 11, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Cafe Society is the third Woody Allen film to open the historic Cannes Film festival and what a perfect choice it was. Cafe is not funny in the traditional sense like other Allen movies have been, yet it is not weighed down with the seriousness of some of his past films such as Blue Jasmine or even Match Point. There is a lighthearted appeal while deep down the film is about love and the mess it can make in one’s life as well as the rescue it can be. How it can change a person and their views, but also how love can be impossible to get rid of.

Hard Sell Tackles The Difficult Genre Of Mental Health Films

imageWhen it comes to making a movie about mental health, it doesn’t take much to make it very difficult to relate to or to try and understand what those lives are like. There are also two aspects that have to be represented when telling this type of story. First is trying to understand the mind of the one or ones suffering from the condition themselves. The second is those who are directly affected by those who have the condition.

In Sean Nalaboff’s latest movie, Hard Sell, he attempts this difficult way of storytelling. Young Hardy is a young student in private school who is tasked with taking care of his alcoholic mother and maintain his school life and being the one in charge of caring for the household. When he is tasked with coming up with the money for a debt, he is at a loss for how to come up with the money.

He is soon introduced to Bo, a beautiful young woman who is stayingimage at a shelter that Hardy is volunteering at. She immediately sees someone she may be able to use to get her to her next moment due to the fact that she is taking on life with no plan whatsoever. A chance moment has Hardy discover a way he may be able to use Bo as well as take advantage of the rich boys he goes to school with.

Hardy essentially rents Bo out to the boys for certain activities, none of which involve her in, sleeping with the boys. It isn’t long before Hardy discovers that Bo has family looking for because she has run away from a hospital where she was being treated for a nervous breakdown.

My problems with the film have nothing to do with the subject matter, it tries to attempt raise awareness too. My biggest issue, is with how much overwhelming issues young Hardy has to deal with at such a young age.

imageI find it difficult to believe that a high school student who is running a household with no income and a mother who needs a lot of attention, would be going to an expensive private school and also find time to volunteer on top of it.

I would also argue that the possibility of him encountering someone else who is in need of such similar care, is very unlikely.

While there may be factors unknown that makes these scenarios possible, that falls into the faulty story telling for not clarifying these situations.

While it is a very good idea, I feel that the writer/director tried much too hard to fill the story with too many tragic lifestyles in one film. To do mental illness films that make the viewer understand what goes into the life of all those involved one only needs to look at films like, Silver Linings Playbook and Infinitely Polar Bear. These are movies that are gripping as well as having the emotion that they intend to convey.

It is a noble effort from a young filmmaker and will hopefully serve as a learning step for him and I look forward to stronger work coming from him.

Ridley Scott Is Once Again The Best Sci-Fi Director Working

imageRidley Scott is without a doubt one of the best Sci-Fi directors in the history of cinema. He created such classic films like Ailien and Bladerunner that established him and allowed him to stretch his creative legs. In the last few years he has returned to his roots, first with Prometheus and now with The Martian, which may soon join the list of his best Sci-Fi movies.

Based on the novel by Andy Weir, The Martian is the story of astronaut Mark Watney who is part of a team sent to Mars for discovery and exploration purposes. While out doing research they are alerted that a storm is on it’s way, while preparing everything for its arrival, Watney is swept away. After assessing that there is no way he could have survived, the rest of the team depart the red planet and inform NASA of the events.

Little does anyone know, Watney was miraculously able to survive. With virtually no way to contact NASA and the crew that left him behind, he is forced to find a way to survive long enough until it is theoretically possible that someone may be able to rescue him in time. Watney uses humor while keeping a video diary of his activities showing how he managed to stay alive and sustain himself. The longer he is there, the harder everyone works to find the best way to bring him back alive and not lose him for a second time.

The Martian has really best three things that make a very good movie, imagea great script, a great director and a great cast. The cast is lead by Golden Globe winner, Matt Damon who really breathes life into the character, is the perfect choice. I would argue the only cast member that doesn’t seem to fit their role to perfection, is Jeff Daniels. That is not at all meant to be a slight to Daniels, who is one of the great veteran actors working right now, but he just feels off as the head of NASA.

As I mentioned before, Ridley Scott is definitely back in his element and it shows. He took the great script and the evenly paced the story along while never leaving the viewer feel they were left our not explained what they need to understand. There is an industry saying that goes, ” a director can’t make a bad script and make a good movie but, he can take a good script and make a bad movie.” The second half of that statement can easily happen with a Sci-Fi movie and it does all to often.

The Martian flows and evolves the story just right. It’s entertaining while be just the right amount of light hearted as well as edge of your seat exciting. It’s a movie experience well worth the nearly two and half hour that never feels dragged out and is completely free of lulls.

Tina Fey and Paul Rudd Apply For Admission

admission-posterThere is no doubt that Tina Fey and Paul Rudd are two of the hottest screen stars working right now. So it only seems logical that they would team up for a movie and their latest film, Admission is it. Paul Rudd is a seasoned comedy film veteran and Tina Fey is a seasoned television comedy veteran and so one could only anticipate the chemistry these could make on screen.

Not to disappoint anyone but don’t keep your expectations too high. The two play their roles just fine and as you would expect but there is no wondrous connection between the two.

The story is that of a Princeton University admissions officer who is highly career driven until her life is thrown a wrinkle when the persistent John Pressman enters her life as the determined overseer of an alternative high school. Rudd believes in a strong and smart student whom he also believes is Tina Fey’s son. After she continuously attempts to avoid the situation, she is drawn in and also believes it may be her son and simultaneously begins to believe in the student herself. Soon a small connection is formed between Rudd and Fey as well as Fey and her perspective son. With no big twist and no shocking ending it is the exact film you expect it to be. The highlight of the movie turns out to be the wonderful Lilly Tomlin, who is, to our benefit, enjoying a great career rebound.th

Keep in mind there is a reason this film is being released around this time of year. This is a “dead time” for films. There are no blockbusters and no award contenders set for release. Thats not to say that every now and then certain gems don’t show up, but nothing is expected. This film is being released in that perfect time period because it’s not a surprise hit, nor is it a complete disaster (which often has to do with it’s release time). It’s an enjoyable 90 plus minutes and thats all that it is meant to be.

If you are looking to fall in love or be truly surprised, this isn’t your movie. Tina Fey isn’t playing Liz Lemon and Paul Rudd isn’t playing a Judd Apatow character.

This isn’t the kind of movie I am going to say to avoid,but on the other hand I can’t truly say it should be avoided, fans of either actor will enjoy their time.

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127 Hours Leaves A Lasting Impression

Danny Boyle made a name for himself with the 1996 heroin filled indie icon of a movie, Trainspotting, he carved out a nice career for himself as a somewhat dark and twisted film maker. Even his attempt at a love story included murder and mayhem in 1997’s A Life Less Ordinary which proved to be a break out role for the Scottish born,Ewan McGregor. He made another cult favorite of a film with the adventurous, tropical escape, The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. It wasn’t until 2008 that Danny Boyle made everyone stand-up and take notice when he won best director at the Academy Awards and his film, Slumdog Millionaire took home the best picture award.

That brings us to 2010 where he once again found himself nominated for an Oscar and his picture, 127 Hours up for the best of the year. At the time I firmly believed that this was out of respect for what Slumdog had done two years earlier and therefore had a negative view of the movie before ever seeing it. Needless to say I had no urgent desire to run out and see it and always found something else to watch instead. I must admit, big mistake by me. I recently saw his movie 127 Hours and I must say I was truly floored.

The story is that of Aron Ralston whom you may remember was the young man who was an avid outdoorsmen, who went hiking in the mountains of Utah known as Canyon Land and became trapped and his last resort of survival was to amputate his own arm. Anyone who saw the Today show or Good Morning America will remember him because quite frankly there wasn’t a single one not clamoring to have him on.

James Franco portrays Ralston and is in every single shot in the movie. He is engrossing and absolutely captivating. The real life Ralston had his video camera with him and documented his ordeal of being pinned in the canyon. He shows only close friends and family this video and  allowed Franco and Boyle to view his accounts to allow the story to be told the best way it could. The majority of the movie is his documentation of his ordeal and what was going through and the memories he chose to remember and the things he wanted to say to those close to him when he was convinced death was going to be the final result.

I tend to pride myself on the fact that nothing really makes me squeamish and makes me cringe. I was truly humbled during the amputation scene. Before the start of the movie, my wandering mind very briefly wondered, “what if he did this just to be famous and sell a story”. I quickly thought thats absurd, I was then harshly brought back to reality during that horrific scene. Boyle shoots the scene with such reality that I began to think I would almost give up instead of doing that. It is one of the most harrowing scenes I’ve ever witnessed but it was completely necessary to bring about the desired affect that Boyle was looking for and you can’t help but feel like you are with him at that very moment.

The movie is without question showing us the triumph that one person can have and the devastation he can overcome all at once. I saw this film being hailed as a triumph and it truly is nothing less. Amidst all the debilitating obstacles laid in front of Aron he breaks through and survives. A witness of the greatness humans tend to find within themselves when faced with adversary is the feeling Boyle was going for and it could not have come across any better.