Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dead Poets Society

Starring: Robin Willimas, Robert Sean Leonard, & Ethan Hawke
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Dead Poets Society is considered by many to be the crowning achievement of Robin Williams career. There is no dispute over Williams performance, as it is considered to be one of the best of all time, and the film is so revivered, that it's require viewing in many education classes, but just how good a film was it? Robin Williams stars as Professor John Keating, an unconventional teacher who inspired his students to push the boundaries of the way they think. Keating's students worship him and reform the old club he was a founding member of as a student, The Dead Poets Society. Keating's unconventional thinking pushes his students, but the question is will it push some of them too far from the norm, at their strict boarding school? The performances makes this film, as you will see some amazing things. As for the story, it really isn't anything more than a means to present the characters. When you take away the performances, the truth is that this film is about a traditional boarding school, an English class, and a poetry club, not the most interesting of stories. Dead Poets Society is rather slow moving and one begins to question just how meaningful a club like this would be, especially in today's digital world. When it comes to Dead Poets Society, I loved the performances, but wasn't crazy about the film as a whole. I think the storyline is lacking, the characters aren't as unconventional as they could have been, and things move much too slowly for mainstream audiences. That being said, if you are a movie lover, this film is like It's A Wonderful Life and Citizen Kane in that it may not be the best of films, but it is a part of cinematic history that must be scene for it's undeniably outstanding performances and it's contribution to the history of film.

The Good Son

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Elijah Wood, & Wendy Crewson
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

To me, nothing is scarier than an evil child. These kids are pure evil wrapped in the guise of innocence. They can usually get away with whatever they want and no one suspects their cute little angel of being a monster. Even if they are caught, what can anyone really do about it anyway? If that's not frighten enough, think about the fact that every serial killer on earth was at one time a child, and films like The Good Son represent a story that could be happening right now. The film begins when young Mark (Elijah Wood) losses his mother in a traffic accident. Mark's father is so distraught that he needs some time to himself and sends his son to live with his brother's family in the country. Both families think it will be good for Mark to be around someone his own age, his cousin Henry (Macaulay Culkin), but what they didn't know is that Henry is pure evil and has killed before. We see stories like this from time to time, but never one that is so realistic. When you think Killer Kids, movies like The Omen come to mind, but this is different as Henry isn't possessed, he's just a psychopath. This was Macaulay Culkin's first role after Home Alone and he is beyond terrific. At his age, Culkin is asked to play two roles, the innocent kid with the face of an angel and the demented psycho with the heart of the devil. How a pre-teen, who'd only been in two films prior, could accomplish such a feat, is nothing short of astounding. Elijah Wood is also great, showing that some people are just naturally talented. I've seen Wood in dozen's of things since The Good Son and his eyes still creep me out, it's almost like he can see right through you, and that might have made him a better choice to play Henry. While Wood might have had the look, you'd be hard pressed to find any kid who could do a better job than Culkin did here. The Good Son is mysterious, creepy, and a whole lot of fun to watch. It's among my favorite Horror films and really is one of the most underrated films of the nineties.

The Simpsons/Family Guy Crossover

Starring: Seth MacFarlane & Matt Groening
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Some people call it ingenious, while others saw it as an act of desperation. Either way, the Family Guy/Simpsons cross over episode gave fans everything they wanted and more. While it's true that the ratings of both shows are not great, the franchises mean millions of dollars for FOX, not to mention that every new episode means syndication money, and that's why these shows have stuck around for as long as they have. In this very special episode, Peter and his family are forced to leave Quahog, after once again offending a large group of people. While on the road, they stop for gas and wind up having their car stolen. The Griffin's end up in a local town called Springfield, where as Brian puts it, "everyone looks like they have hepatitis." In many ways the shows are similar, many even call Family Guy nothing more than an edgier version of The Simpsons, and if you didn't think that before, it comes across crystal clearly in this episode. Over the years and due to shows like South Park and Family Guy, the Simpsons don't seem as edgy as they once did, but I thought the crossover brought out the best in them. In many ways, for the Simpson's it was a return to it's roots, as we got the famous catch phrases, hardly uttered at all anymore, and saw some of the things that drew us to the show in the first place. As for Family Guy is was just another episode for them, incorporating their own unique brand into Springfield. Two things that particularly stood out (You'll want to stop reading if you haven't seen the episode yet) were the cameos from other animated shows on FOX and the court room scene where all the similar characters from Springfield and Quahog were sitting next to each other and interacting. This was the kind of idea that could lead to a huge movie, maybe the Simpsons 2: Road To Quahog? Either way the crossover was terrific and should be a huge ratings grabber for FOX, and for all you Matt Groening fans, this isn't the only crossover you'll see this season, as a Futurama crossover is scheduled for sweeps week.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rage (2014)

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Danny Glover, & Peter Stormare
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Laying on her death bed, Paul McGuire (Nicholas Cage) promises his wife, that he will leave his life of organized crime behind to be there for his daughter. That all changes when a decade later his daughter goes missing. The gloves come off and McGuire connects with his old crew and goes after old enemies to find his daughter. This was an entertaining film, but I think it would have been so much better if it were less violent. I love violent action films as much as the next guy, but the story here calls for a more investigative approach, but all McGuire wants to do is beat people for answers. Nicholas Cage stars and is one of those action stars that never goes out of style. He's been going after the bad guys and surviving impossible odds for nearly three decades, becoming very good at it. Despite being an independent film, Rage has a huge cast with many notable names that really help the story along. In fact, with all the named actors in the film, I'm really surprised that Rage wasn't released in theaters. While being entertaining, Rage isn't anything you haven't seen before, as it's your typical who done it, with all the gun fire and explosions you'd expect from an action movie. The cast is experienced and very good, while the plot does have a back story and moves at a reasonable pace. Rage is one of those film where you don't really have to think and ultimately it is somewhat forgettable, but if you're looking for something to watch without having to think too much, than Rage is a perfect choice and it is currently streaming on Netflix.

Trespass (2011)

Starring: Nicholas Cage, Nicole Kidman, & Cam Gigandet
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Has Nicholas Cage ever made a bad movie? Granted that some haven't been as good as Trespass, but when you see Nicholas Cage's name, you know you're always going to be entertained. Teaming up with famed Director Joel Schumacher and the always intense Nicole Kidman, Cage stars in a type of film we've all seen before. Trespass has a common storyline, but it's done in an unexpected way, with an ending that will leave you speechless. Kyle Miller (Nicholas Cage) is a wealthy diamond merchant, who has finally built the mansion he's always wanted. It has also made him a target for a sophisticated team of thieves, who want their share. Surprised at home one night, the Miller family is held hostage. Positive that if he gives them what he wants his family is dead, Kyle refuses their demands, leading to an epic standoff. Nicholas Cage shows a different side in Trespass, as he's not the cunning hero that saves the day, but rather a family man, trying to protect his family. He's paired with Nicole Kidman, who while being a terrific actress, usually makes films I have no interest in seeing. An action thriller is also something out of the norm for her, but she handled it like a pro and her chemistry with Nicholas Cage was outstanding! Finally, the cast is rounded out by OC star and teen heartthrob Cam Gigandet. I've made it clear that I feel a lot of these "heartthrobs" only get jobs because of their looks, and if that's the rule, Gigandet is the exception. Playing both sides in the conflict, the young star does an outstanding job. Gigandet's character is easily the most complex, having to play the good and the bad guy. It's his role and the twist associated with it that makes the whole film rise above similar films like Panic Room. On the surface Trespass is just another copycat, but the story turns out to be far more complex than a home invasion. A unique cast of characters with terrific chemistry, combined with one of my favorite Directors, make for what can only be called a must see movie! 

Jet Boy

Starring: Branden Nardon, Dylan Walsh, & Kelly Rowan
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Jet Boy is a unique coming of age story, that turns out to be nothing like the description on the back of the box. Many people are going to find it somewhat disturbing, however, unlike similar coming of age stories, Jet Boy does ultimately have a point and it's something most people need to learn. 12 year old Nathan (Branden Nardon) lives in poverty with his mother and all he knows is sex, drugs, and violence, so it's no surprise that at the ripe old age of 12, Nathan is a male prostitute. Things change for him when he meets a man who wants something other than sex. The man wants Nathan to help him with a job, and shows the boy kindness for the first time in his life. Nathan thinks he's fallen in love with this man and makes advances, only to be rejected. From his experiences, Nathan will ultimately come to learn that sex and love are two very different things and that kindness, doesn't always mean what he thought it meant. This film was Branden Nardon's acting debut and what a job he did. Part of me questions how someone with no experience can put on a performance like that, while the other part wants to know what kind of parents allow their kids to do something like this. Nardon doesn't just show off his talent with this performance, but he also shows a fearlessness that could come from upbringing or immaturity. Jet Boy is thankfully no where near as graphic as a film as Mysterious Skin, but it still has a few scenes that aren't easy to watch. This film is strange and someone disturbing, but by comparison it does have a message, that similar films don't. The writer is telling audiences to be weary of people who are overly kind, but in the end it doesn't mean that they're looking for something. In it's own bizarre way, it's also saying that sex is sex, and sometimes it's about anything other than love. An impossible lesson to have to learn at such a young age, but that is the true meaning of the film. Nathan learns something at a very young age, that we should have all learned in our adolescents and he ultimately becomes a better person for it. Jet Boy isn't an easy film to watch and many people are going to be turned off by the sheer age of the actor involved, but I like how everything turned out in the end. I was also introduced to a terrific young talent, and I appreciated the fact that the film got it's message across without being overly explicit. Sometimes we need to leave our comfort zones to experience something different and get a message that we general don't think a whole lot about, and for that I do recommend this film.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Long Time Dead

Starring: Marsha Thomason, Lukas Haas, & James Hillier
Rating: 1/2 out of 5 stars

Horror movies like this one really drive me crazy, because it sounds good, the previews are great, and when you sit down to watch it you find that the characters are so unbelievably stupid, that the film has no credibility what-so-ever. What happens when eight friends at a party get tired of drinking? Just like anyone else, they wind up going into a store room and using a Ouija board to contact the dead. In their ignorance, they forget to close the portal to the other side, and a demon escapes intent on hunting them all down. Las Vegas's Marsha Thomason stars and pretends to be some kind of spiritual expert, when in reality she doesn't know shit. She is this whiny, annoying, know-it-all who I couldn't wait to see get her head chopped off. The rest of the cast isn't much better, as most of them just blindly follow her lead. To avoid this demon's rage, what do they all decide to do? Stick together in an old house, a good idea, but of course they can't stay together in a room forever, and that's when the demon starts picking them off one by one, in textbook slasher fashion. When you have a ridiculous story, combined with no background information, and a cast of characters that makes the cast of Duck Dynasty seem smart, what you get is a film that is beyond terrible. If there was some humor or even a break from the main story, maybe parts of Long Time Dead wouldn't have been so bad, but this film is pure garbage from the drunken night out to the bloody end.

The Heat

Starring: Sandra Bullock & Mellisa McCarthy
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Heat is Paul Feig's follow him to his smash hit comedy, Bridesmaids. The trailers for this film made it look absolutely hysterical, a completely can't miss comedy, but it's extreme raunchiness turns out to be it's worst enemy. When an ambitious FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) is sent to Boston to catch a monster, she sees it as an open and shut case. What she didn't expect was to run into a local detective who is anything but conventional. The background story and case the pair are working on is really terrific and very well written, with just the right amount of comedy, this really could have been the female version of Lethal Weapon. Instead, the Heat goes so far over the top, that by the end it just isn't that funny anymore. Sandra Bullock is terrific, despite playing her usual whiny loner character. When she finally has had enough of McCarthy and snaps, it really is the best part of the whole film. Mellisa McCarthy is the problem here, as she too is playing her usual character, but to a real extreme. I find her to be very funny, but in this film, nothing is serious and every other word out of her mouth is an F bomb. Every time the story really starts to take off and become interesting, she shows up to screw everything up. Don't get me wrong here, this film is much better than some of the other comedies to come out lately, but as it's destine for a sequel, my hope is that they will tune it down a bit. The right line at the right time can really make a film like this and some scenes are hilarious, but the truth is, when the jokes are non-stop and the action is few and far between, it really hurts the film. Lethal Weapon would be the perfect template for a team like this and with the right jokes at the right time, they could find even more success than Glover and Gibson did.

The Samaritan

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Luke Kirby, & Ruth Negga
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Taking story lines straight out of other films and blending them together, The Samaritan is one strange and confusing film, that will really turn people off. While watching this film, one could easily identify elements straight from films such as Shaft, Payback, and Oldboy, making this film anything but original. Samuel L. Jackson stars as a con man, who has just been released from prison. He's been in there a long time and wants to go straight, but his partners son is determined to make sure that doesn't happen. Samuel L. Jackson is a legendary star that can carry any film he stars in. I love his personality and will watch anything he's in, I even sat through Black Snake Moan, but The Samaritan makes even less sense than that did. The story is just completely all over the place, jumping from one thing to another, without resolving any of the issues it presents. Often times films like that will come together in a terrific ending, but the end of the Samaritan just leaves more questions than answers. Jackson is of course very solid and shows his wide range or ability and emotion, but the rest of the cast is just awful. Independent films often times only feature one person of recognition, but when you're releasing a film like this one, which is heavily advertising that star, you've got to give them something to work with. I honestly feel like some of these people were just pulled off the street and asked if they wanted to be in a movie, their inexperience is that obvious. When you add to that a confusing story line, that is full of slang and innuendo, the result is something that is unwatchable. The biggest star in the world couldn't have made a film like this work.The Samaritan is a rare instance where I wish I had listened to my fellow reviewers and just let this one pass me by.

Witness To The Mob

Starring: Nicholas Turturro, Tom Sizemore, Abe Vigoda, & Debi Mazar
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Boss of Bosses told us the story of Paul Castalano, Gotti profiled the Dapper Don, and finally Witness To The Mob is the story of mob enforcer, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Unlike the other two films, for some inexplicable reason, Witness To The Mob was made for network television. While the film turned out to be very accurate, it was also twice as long as the other two and lacked the typical violence associated with a mafia movie. Sammy Gravano was John Gotti's second in charge, an enforcer, who eventually turned states evidence and testified against the Mob. He was an interesting guy, but should his bio film really be longer and more in depth than that of John Gotti's? NYPD Blue's Nicholas Turturro stars and while his performance didn't blow me away, he wasn't nearly as bad as I thought he would be. The story is further given credibility by it's supporting cast, which is the same people you've seen in every mafia movie since the late 80s. There were actually seven members of the Sopranos cast, who had some type of part in this film. It's not surprising, as some guys just have the right look and do mafia type films almost exclusively. Witness To The Mob is very accurate and has the typical large cast associated with these films, but being over three hours long and made for TV, really hurts a film like this. You can make the case that the language and violence aren't really necessary to the story, but I really felt like it took a lot of credibility away from the film. How believable is a gangster that constantly says "freaking?" It was interesting to see things from The Bull's point of view, but the producers of this film really should have held out for a cable or direct to video deal, in order to make this type of film what it should be, raw and emotional.