Monday, December 12, 2016

Hellion (2014)


Starring: Josh Wiggins, Aaron Paul, & Juliette Lewis
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Coming of age films are a dime a dozen, and what it really comes down to is the stregth of the young actor or actress. The way it usually works out is that the better they are, the better the film is, and when it comes to Hellion, casting was dead on, but there was also something else that made this one special. After losing his mother, Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins) started acting out. Maybe his fathers transformation into a full blown alcoholic had something to do with it, or maybe it's the fact that he's left to be the adult and take care of his little brother that's the problem, but whatever the case it gets a whole lot worse. After stupid teenaged behavior causes his younger brother to be taken away and placed with his aunt, Jacob has to become the adult and convince his father to clean up in order to bring his little brother home, a herculean task, when you consider the fact that Jacob himself is still a wreck. The young star of the film, newcomer Josh Wiggins is absolutely terrific, outshining multiple award winning actors and actresses in this film, but he's not the only difference here. Hellion takes on the dark southern poverty stricken surreal feeling of other similar films that have become extremely popular in recent years. Similar to Winter's Bone, Joe, and Mud, there is an aspect to this film that is methodical and real. It's almost like you aren't watching a movie, you're just seeing real life unfold in front of your eyes. This combined with an extraordinary young talent made this extremely enjoyable to watch. Everything was very raw, emotional, and just real, a credit to both the writer, director, and cast involved in Hellion. This style is fairly new in cinema and has really defined the 2010s era, to see it combined with something that was so relate-able made for a very special film.  

The Blacklist


Starring: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Ryan Eggold, Parminder Nagra, Henry Lennix, Amir Arison, Mozhan Marno, & Hisham Tawfiq

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Blacklist is the wildly innovative new crime drama that took network television by storm four seasons ago. The show did so well in the ratings in fact, that Netflix shelled out a ton for the exclusive streaming rights, but was it a good investment, lets find out.

Raymond Reddington (James Spader) is number one on the FBI's most wanted list. There isn't a crime that this former government agent hasn't committed, so everyone is shocked, when after years on the run, he turns himself in under the condition that he speak with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), an agent who just started working at the FBI, that very day. Eventually Reddington comes to an understanding, that he will provide information about the worst criminals out there, from what he calls his blacklist, but he will only do this for Agent Keen.

On the surface this show is ingenious and was originally very addictive. The writers of this show have a way of developing the bad guy that would put Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to shame. Some of these guys have committed acts and exhibit personalities like you have never seen, but they all fail in comparison to Red. The show is extremely addicting, but it is somewhat narrowly focused for a continuous show. 

What I mean by this, is that the show features continuously running story lines and you have to see every episode to keep up, but these are such a small piece of each episode, that the series almost plays as though it were episonic. Some of these story lines run in circles and drag out throughout entire seasons, long after the audience has figured them out, as a viewer that can be quite frustrating.

All that aside, James Spader is the star and he is as good as he has ever been. Most actors come across their career defining roles early on, and its somewhat unusual for someone to find the character they will forever be associated with, after they've been doing this for decades, but much like with Anthony Hopkins and Hannibal Lechter, James Spader has found his role. Spader will be forever known as Red and for good reason.

The bottom line, sometimes the story lines are frustrating, but James Spader is as good as it gets, particularly on a network show. The writing isn't always amazing, but the character development for the Blacklist is top notch. This show is unusual in that it's more about the personalities than it is about the actual stories, but that really is the point isn't it, something different?

The Expendables 3


Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, & Mel Gibson
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

After the success of the sequel, everyone knew the Expendables was destine to become a trilogy, because after all, there were still a few action stars who hadn't gotten in on the action (pardon the pun). This time however things did get a little out of hand, as one can see by the enormous cast in the movies poster. the Expendables added something this time around that the other two films were severely lacking in, comedy, whether it was intentional or not. Included in this were how Barney's team had to be bigger than ever to fight the baddest guy of them all, Mel Gibson. Harrison Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger taking part in a machine gun battle from a golf cart, since they obviously can't run anymore, and they even managed to sneak in a joke about Wesley Snipes being in prison for not paying his taxes. New editions included Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer, Ronda Rousey, and various other UFC personalities, leading to a lot more hand to hand stuff than in previous films, but much like the other films, the third installment of the Expendables was an action junkies dream come true. There were non-stop explosions, gun battles, and bodies, all surrounded by a very thin and improbable story. We don't watch these movies for the story or even the characters, we watch these films simply for the adrenaline rush. In that context alone, Expendables 3 hits the target every time, but if you're looking for a good story, great performances, or even a reason behind the madness, then you're watching the wrong series. When it comes to the Expendables think less Die Hard and more Michael Bay.

23 Blast


Starring: Mark Hapka, Max Adler, & Alexa PenaVega
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Movies can inspire us by introducing us to people who overcome the odds, despite having much bigger problems than we do. Most of these films are based on true stories, and are as real as it gets, but sometimes, no matter how amazing the story, it doesn't necessarily make for the best cinema. 23 Blast is one of those films, as it tells the inspirational true story of Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a star High School Football player, on his way to a College scholarship, when a rare illness struck him blind. For many High School students, football is just a means to popularity, but for Travis, football was his whole life. His illness left him devastated and almost killed him, until miraculously, with the help of an unorthodox coach and supportive teammates, Travis was able to play again. The story here is almost unbelievable, and while it would make for a terrific episode of ESPN's 30 for 30, I found it severely lacking in content for a feature film. 23 Blast is the directorial debut of actor, Dylan Baker, and while he does a great job of telling the story and inspiring the audience, there just isn't enough story here to keep people interested for a full ninety minutes. The film focuses a lot on Travis's depression and rehabilitation, while a key component of the story, it also takes up a good majority of the film. If one were to shorten those scenes, there wouldn't be enough for a full length film. As for the young cast, they turned in surprisingly strong performances, in particular Mark Hapka, was excellent, but in the end it all comes down to this. 23 Blast, while inspirational, also moves extremely slowly, as it keeps coming back around to a single focus, Travis's illness. There is no deviation from the main story line, and things continue to go around in circles, until the last half hour or so when they finally get to the point. Basically, I loved the story, Travis Freeman is an inspiration, but the film is a bit of a snooze. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them


Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, & Colin Farrell
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

J.K. Rowling may have ended the Harry Potter series, but she isn't done writing about her magical world. Her latest series Fantastic Beasts has finally hit theaters, with the first of what will be a five film series, that starts off a hundred years before Harry Potter stepped into Hogwarts. The film is centered on Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who has come to New York City as part of his quest to save the endangered species of the magical world. These creatures live in what appears to be a suitcase, but when some of them escape and a muggle is exposed to Scamander's attempts to retrieve them, he finds himself in a world of trouble. Scamander's only salvation is that with another unknown creature and a dark wizard on the loose, there are other things to worry about, so he is sent with an agent (Katherine Waterston), and the muggle, to collect his creatures and to try to help figure out what is going on. Even though this movie takes place a hundred years before Harry Potter the special effects and especially the CGI on all the creatures involved is amazing! Even if I watched this film without the sound on, I'd still be blown away by how visually impactful it is. As for it's star, they cast one of the biggest up and comers in Hollywood, Eddie Redmayne, and he is perfect for the role. Redmayne is exactly like Harry and the kind of character Rowling loves to write about. He's this geeky, skinny, soft spoken, lovable loser, that no one would expect to be perhaps a hero in waiting. Aside from some corny jokes thrown in for the kids and die hard Potter fans, this movie was absolutely fantastic and I can't wait to see where it goes next. Rowling has stated that the other films will focus on other characters, including a younger Dumbledore, which I'm a bit indifferent to. I really liked this film, and I am curious to know what would be the point in a sequel that starts over. I'd imagine it would be to introduce everyone and then bring them all together in the end, but no matter what they do, the producers will be hard pressed to out due this film.

Bad Santa 2


Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, & Brett Kelly
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Despite advertising to the contrary, Bad Santa 2 is not bigger, badder, or funnier than the previous film. In fact, this time they went too far and broke the cardinal rule of comedy. The film goes too far to be as raunchy and funny as the first film, that unfortunately it goes from funny to stupid and by the end, it becomes a farce of itself. In the sequel to this classic comedy, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is just as broke and drunk as he ever was, and this time he's saddled with a twenty-one year old Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), who just won't leave him alone. Just when he thinks things can't get any worse, his old pal Marcus (Tony Cox) is released from prison, and has a job that promises to make them all rich. A reluctant Willie agrees, only to find out the place they are going to hit, employs his worst nightmare, his mother. I was hoping this film would be even half as good as the first one and it certainly does have it's moments, especially when Brett Kelly is involved, but overall this movie just isn't that funny. I don't know if it's because they put it all on the table in the first film and the jokes were just all done, or if it tried too hard, but the laughs just didn't come as easily. I mean how many times can Willie curse at a kid on his lap or make short jokes about Marcus? At least it wasn't just the same film with different names and places, but the jokes are similar, the personalities have changed very little, and I really didn't laugh as much as I hoped that I would. Bad Santa 2, wasn't a bad movie, maybe I was just spoiled by the pure genius of the first film, but I really didn't think it was anything more than your ordinary run of the mill comedy. There is nothing extraordinary about this one, sorry folks.

Skyfall


Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, & Javier Bardem
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In a recent Ultimate Movie Review Twitter Poll, I asked you what your favorite James Bond movie starring Daniel Craig was and you chose Skyfall. For me this was a hard choice, because Daniel Craig seems as though he was born to play James Bond. All the films he's done have been fantastic, but I can see why Skyfall won. This film stands out for many reasons, most importantly it gives us a rare look into the childhood of James Bond and for the rarest of moments we see Bond scared and on the edge of possibly giving up, but you know how the story ends, he's James Bond. If you missed Skyfall, the film is like many other stories, where an old enemy reappears, but in this case, the enemy isn't looking for world domination, he's looking for revenge against his former employers, the British Government and in particular the Double 0 program. Bond films are often times so similar that we tend to rate them based on the villain and the song, well, the song doesn't get better than the gem produced by Adele, but what about Javier Bardem? He is an Academy Award winner and for good cause, this dude was one of the scarier Bond villains to come around in a long time. The others in the Craig Bond movies were some pretty bad guys, who had done some horrible things, but no one was what anyone would call truly scary, not like the villains used to be. Bardem had that special something though, that not only made him a bad guy, but that kind of bad guy that can make audiences cringe. The Bottom Line, Skyfall wasn't my pick, but it was a close second, as this was probably the most personal and emotional Bond film perhaps in the entire series. Daniel Craig is still very much at his best, Javier Bardem is a villain who will always rank in the top ten, and who better to sing a bond theme than Adele. Wheather or not you picked Skyfall, there is no question that it is one of those Bond films that won't ever be forgotten.

Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision


Starring: Jason Scott Lee & Thomas Ian Griffin
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

While I loved the idea behind Timecop, I hated the first movie. I thought it was really poorly done. With such a great idea, there were so many different directions the writers could have gone in, and the one they chose was just sloppy, however they made up for that in the second one. Too bad it was done in a low budget, direct-to-video film, that starred absolutly no one of any name recognition. In the second installment of Timecop, Anti-Government Terrorists want to change the United States to make it more like the way they want it to be, and the only thing stopping them is The Time Enforcement Commission. Led by former agent, Brandon Miller (Thomas Ian Griffin), the terrorist decide to go back and take out the agents before they are able to defend themselves, with them out of the way, they'll be able to do anything they want, but the only thing stopping them is Ryan Chan (Jason Scott Lee) The top Timecop, who they thought had been stranded in the past. The story here is much better than it was in the first film and much more what I expected to see. In ninety minutes, we go from the roaring twenties, to the wild west, and even Nazi Germany on this amazing chase through time. The film is however lacking in several ways, most important of all the cast. A low budget direct-to-video film means shotty special effects and worst of all a cast of actors no one has ever heard of. Jason Scott Lee stars, and while he has the moves, he butchers a lot of lines and really hasn't mastered emotions yet. As for his counterpart, Thomas Ian Griffin, he was kind of all over the place, so this was not the kind of film that will ever be used in an acting class, but by in large the story was enjoyable and does offer some redemption for a series that had so much promise.

Django Unchained


 

 







 
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, & Christoph Waltz
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most unique and interesting writer/directors in all of Hollywood, a man who's style and wit seem to transcend time and history, but would he be able to apply this talent to slavery and the wild west, I had my doubts. Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is not your typical bounty hunter, as he has a very unique and unorthodox way of getting his job done. Schultz thinks the best way to shock people is to free a slave, make him his partner, and let him ride into town and stay with him wherever he goes, which usually leads to shock, outrage, and more N words than your typical Jay-Z album. Eventually the successful duo goes in search of Django's wife, who is being held at the plantation of a truly evil man, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). In order to get her back, the two attempt to con the southern "gentleman", but will everything go as planned? This film is vintage Tarantino, filled with the unique characters you won't find anywhere else, ridiculous cameos you'd never expect, tremendous back and fourth dialogues, and of course the unexpected. as everything and anything will happen. Every actor under Tarantino's direction has a way of stepping up their game in his films, but Christoph Waltz was truly spectacular. There is a good reason he won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, as somehow he manages to give an even stronger performance than he did in Inglorious Bastards. I really can't say enough about Tarantino, and out of all his films, this was the one I was the least excited about, but as it turns out, Django may actually be one of the best films he's ever done, and it is now the newest entry on our list of must see movies!

The Expendables 2


Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, & Jean-Claude Van Damme
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sylvester Stallone had a brilliant idea that came to fruition in 2010, with an action movie that brought together all the big names in the action movie genre, but there was a problem. You just can't fit every big name into one movie and give them all significant screen time, so you had to have a sequel. The more things change, the more they stay the same, however, as this time, the story was a bit better, at least for an action movie, and the cast was a bit younger, but the basic genre was still the same. Barney Ross's (Sylvester Stallone) team is once again brought together to do a job, this time there are some new younger faces, to complete what seems like what should be an easy job, what they weren't expecting was to stumble right into the middle of a madman's master-plan. As I said, the story wasn't as basic this time, things were a little more complex, but on a basic level this is still you're typical shoot em up action film, with bodies and explosions constantly coming at you. What I did like was how they change things up a bit and didn't just feature the same actors, even though many members of the team were the same. The one thing the first film was severely lacking was youth, and I don't know about you, but I'd much rather see Liam Hemsworth fighting with his shirt off than Sylvester Stallone. All in all, the sequel doesn't differ that much from the original, but where it does, only helps the series. The cast is younger, the story is better, and the action hits harder. If you're an action junkie, it doesn't get more exciting than the Expendables and the sequel will have you craving a trilogy.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Arrival (2016)


Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, & Forest Whitaker
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Arrival is being called one of the best Science Fiction films in years. It is one of the best rated and reviewed films of 2016, and is drawing comparisons to Close Encounters of The Third Kind, but I have a question, did they watch the same film that I did? I wasn't crazy about Close Encounters, but that movie was leaps and bounds ahead of this one. Twelve alien crafts land in random places all across the planet, and the people are in a panic. Some countries react with hostility, but the U.S. Government decides to act cautiously (yeah right), and send Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), the best linguist they have, to figure out a way to community with the aliens. The aliens, turn out to be giant octopus, whose language turns out to be ink that they squirt into the air. This movie features flashbacks and flash-forwards, that seemingly make no sense, until the end when you finally figure out what they mean and once you do, you realize that you just wasted two hours of your life. If that wasn't bad enough, the film moves at an absolute snails pace, I mean you could take everything that actually happened in the film and squeeze it into about twenty minutes. The rest is just people talking to each other about the same damn thing over and over again. Trying to figure out the same thing over and over again. Worrying about the same things over and over again. The characters have no personality whatsoever, and you might think that it's one of those slow moving weird films that all comes together in an amazing ending, but no, it doesn't. Once you can see the whole picture, as one lady in the theater so eloquently shouted out, "really, that's it, that was so stupid." Her uncontrolled outburst really sums up this entire film. Honestly I think the slower and more artistic a film is, the more the critics love it, but I am one critic who isn't fooled by great actors and emotional music, this isn't the best film of the year, this is the biggest turd of the year, and it should be avoided at all costs!

Strangerland


Starring: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, & Hugo Weaving
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Set in the Australian outback, Strangerland tells the story of a family that has recently relocated to a small town that is literally in the middle of nowhere. The move seemed like an odd choice, but as you will later find out, it was a necessary one, but needless to say no one is particularly happy about it, especially the families two kids. One day there is a report of a large dust storm headed towards town and the parents go to get their children to safety, only to discover they are nowhere to be found. The local sheriff is called in, but he's not moving fast enough for the father, so he takes things into his own hands, further complicating things. Aside from the unusual setting and circumstances of the disappearance, this film isn't all that original, in fact, except for the ending and the location, it was really very similar to the film, Prisoners. The investigation was fairly interesting, as was the setting, Hugo Weaving was good as the sheriff, but was really the only interesting character with any kind of personality or background of interest. As for the rest of the cast, they're kind of just there, they don't talk much about themselves or their past and the film has an extremely narrow focus. Nicole Kidman just cries a lot and Joseph Fiennes wants to yell at anyone who will listen, which unfortunately is us. The bottom line, Strangerland is an average, forgettable film, it has enough going for it that it will keep your attention and it moves at a decent pace, but the characters are nothing to write home about, the performances are nothing special either, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand what's going on or what happened in the end. 

54


Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, & Mike Myers
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Okay, most people wouldn't admit it, but I will. I only watched this movie for the graphic sex and nudity. Based on the trailer, I was expecting a giant orgy, filled with drugs and dance music, but to my surprise, 54 actually turned out to be a docudrama about Club 54, as seen through the eyes of a young waiter/bar tender/dancer. The film features the shady practices of the owner, the drug trade inside, the celebrity guests, and of course the eccentric regulars, in what turns out to be one hell of an entertaining film (...and the sex and nudity don't hurt either). Ryan Phillippe stars in a role that today I could never see him taking, but back in his younger days, he really excelled in. The way he was able to demonstrate how the exposure to a place like that can change a person, was truly remarkable. He literally went from nothing to a face that was known all over the city, simply because he was a waiter at 54. It went to his head and changed the whole dynamic of his life and relationship with his family. For as good as he was though, Mike Myers was the real star of the film, portraying famed owner Steve Rubell. Rubell's life was just one big party and he never slowed down or cared about what he was doing or saying publicly, and we all know how that turned out in the long run. Myers is one of those actors who is out of this world when he's cast in the right role, and terrible when he's not, but much as the case with Austin Powers, this role fit him like a glove. On the surface, 54 is a wild, raunchy film that is going to offend a lot of people, I don't suggest watching it with your grandparents. It does however, tell a very relevant and historically accurate story of the drug and youth culture of the mid-late 1970s in the big cities. 54 is sexy, entertaining, and informative, a mix that you don't often see on the big screen.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials


Starring: Dylan O'Brian, Kaya Scodelario, & Thomas Sangster
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Maze Runner trilogy was one of the best book series I've read since the Hunger Games, but unlike the Hunger games, the transition to the big screen has not been an easy one. The first film in the series, was nothing like the book, as it completely failed to demonstrate the comradery among the boys, as well as eliminating key elements from the story. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who noticed this, as The Scorch Trials made sure the same mistakes didn't happen twice. Of course the same elements that were ignored in the first film had to still be excluded for the sake of continuity, but the rest of the film was dead on. In the second film, the boys learn that their rescue was only short lived, as they are still under the control of Wicked, and are about to face their second test. The group is to be dropped into the most unforgiving part of the earth, a place where the disease runs rampant, and cranks are everywhere, the Scorch. If they can survive the Scorch, the boys will have a better idea of what they are up against, and Wicked may just be able to get what they need from them to finally find a cure, that is if they make it to the end. Unlike the first film, Dylan O'Brian finally embraces the leadership role that Thomas is supposed to play in the series, and gives the film the hero to root for that it was sorely lacking. The additions of Jacob Lofland and Rosa Salazar further move the story along, as the film starts to pursue the side angles much in a way the novels did, something the first film also ignored. The narrow focus of the first film, combined with it's rushed nature, and missing elements, made it seem like a cliff notes version of otherwise terrific novel. The sequel however takes the time to properly tell the story, explore the angles, and was much closer to the original story. If you're not a reader and you were turned off by the first film, I don't blame you, but give the sequel a chance, it's a much more accurate depiction of the story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Doctor Strange (2016)


Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, & Rachel McAdams
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

At this point anything with the name Marvel attached to it, is box office gold, as is evident by their latest film, Doctor Strange. The Doctor is perhaps one of the least known out of all of their characters, yet he is still pulling in huge numbers. The big question is whether or not the film lives up to the hype, and I can honestly say, I'm not really sure. Dr. Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world renowned surgeon, who is badly injured in a car accident. When modern medicine fails him, Strange starts looking for alternative treatments and finds a bizarre ancient group, that claims they can teach him how to heal himself, and do a whole lot more. The big appeal of this movie, at least for me was the special effects. I knew the effects would be good, but Marvel really out did themselves this time. I watch close to three hundred films a year, and I'm not often impressed by special effects, but the effects in this movie really blew me away. That being said, this is just one of those film you have to shell out the extra money to see in 3D. It's a completely different experience in 3D and you really will be amazed by some of the things they can do. As for the story, it really is the same thing that Marvel keeps doing over and over again. I've really enjoyed the Marvel films and while they are all unique in their own way, the underlying theme always seems to be the same. Someone gets hurt, they lose the girl they love, they find someone or a group of someones who help make them extraordinary, then they fight the bad guys and in the process get the girl. It's a formula that is in every single one of their films and it's getting a little tiresome. The bottom line, Doctor Strange is pure Marvel. What I mean by that is, it's the expected story, with unique traits specific to this character, a Stan Lee cameo, a cast full of superstars, two scenes after the credits, and perhaps the best special effects you'll ever see. If you're a fan of these films, you won't be disappointed by Doctor Strange.

We Need To Talk About Kevin


Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, & Ezra Miller
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Americans are fascinated with criminals, and most films about them either focus on the criminal or on the people who are trying to catch them. With the recent uptake in school shootings, the one element that is often overlooked is the parents and what, if any, their role is in all of this. That is the focus of award winning film, We Need To Talk About Kevin. Kevin (Ezra Miller) has always been an angry, troubled kid, brought up by an upper middle class family. Kevin had a loving family, everything he could ever want, but still orchestrated a horrific mass shooting at his school. Despite all evidence to the contrary, his mother (Tilda Swinton) can't help but think that somehow everything is her fault, and by and large the community agrees. This is far and away one of the strongest performances I've ever seen Tilda Swinton give, and that's saying a lot, because she has always been terrific. Watching this was almost difficult, as one could actually feel her pain and see in her eyes the emotional toll everything had taken on her. She did nothing wrong, but everyone from the press to the owner of the local grocery store, blames her for the actions of her son. The film flashes between before, during, and after the event to show the differences in the lives and personalities of the characters, in a way that I've never seen before, it was really ingenious. This film delves deeper into the heart of darkness and into the eyes of the unseen victims in one of the most powerful films I've seen in years. We Need To Talk About Kevin may even be too emotionally overwhelming for some, but by in large it is one of the hardest hitting and most realistic dramas you may ever find.

The Ledge


Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Terrance Howard, & Liv Tyler
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

An all-star cast isn't everything, as proven by the independent drama, The Ledge. The film features, (big surprise) a man on the ledge of a building, threatening to jump, and when the police negotiator shows up, the man (Charlie Hunnam), through flashbacks, tells a twisted tale of love, adultery, and murder that led him to his current predicament. One of the biggest problems I have with this films is Charlie Hunnam, he was so good as outlaw biker, Jax Teller, on seven seasons of Sons of Anarchy, that I don't really buy him as this sweet, emotional guy. Not to mention the fact that he had better chemistry with Terrance Howard, who played the police negotiator, than he did with Liv Tyler, the woman he was supposedly willing to risk everything for. Together, Hunnam and Tyler seem almost uncomfortable and it wasn't just while they were talking. All of their interactions are awkward, clumsy, and uncomfortable to watch, something I assure you was not done on purpose. Aside from that, the story here, isn't even that great, The Ledge is more talking then anything else, yes I realize it's a drama, but something has to happen at some point doesn't it? I mean the endless talk is broken up by a couple of clumsy sex scenes and then it's back to talking, I really found the whole thing to be very boring, and apparently so did other Netflix viewers, as it was streaming for about two weeks before they pulled it. As I said before, the Ledge has a great cast, but besides that it's just another long, tedious, film you can live without.

Jimmy Hollywood


Starring: Joe Pesci, Christian Slater, & Victoria Abril
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Joe Pesci is one of the most underrated comedic actors in all of Hollywood. The reason is simple, Cousin Vinny aside, he's never really been able to have success on his own. Pesci is usually in huge movies, paired with other big stars, and his rave reviews fall under the supporting actor tag. Jimmy Hollywood is yet another example of Joe Pesci going out on his own and striking out big time, which is quite surprising, when you consider who the Director of the film was. Jimmy Alto (Pesci) is a failing actor in Hollywood, he's done everything he can to make a name for himself, but he never has. One night a down and depressed Jimmy finds that his car has been broken into and it's the last straw. Along with him best friend, William (Christian Slater), Jimmy decides he's going to make a name for himself by cleaning up the streets of L.A., but that doesn't go exactly as planned either. The film is Written/Directed by Barry Levinson, who is usually known for his originality, but in this case, he's got nothing more than a trailer trash rip off of The Green Hornet. The parallels are really uncanny and the originality just isn't there. Even if a film has been done before, if it's good, I can still somewhat enjoy it, but that's another glaring problem with this film, it's not even that funny! Where are Joe Pesci's legendary profanity filled tirades? Where are the classic Home Alone type slapstick moments? Jimmy Hollywood just kind of is what it is, and what it is, is slow, predictable, and done. As a fan of Joe Pesci, I had to see it, but you don't, trust me, you're not missing anything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life


Starring: Griffin Gluck, Thomas Barbusca, Andrew Daly, & Lauren Graham
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Based on the best selling novel by the same name, it was widely believed that this would be the next Diary of a Wimpy Kid, sadly it was not. Griffin Gluck was fantastic is his first starring role, but the rest of the cast really didn't have much chemistry, and overall the film just wasn't all that funny. Rafe Katchadorian (Gluck) is a troubled kid, who is sent to his third and final Middle School in the district. It's very strict and if he doesn't follow the rules, he could be headed to military school. Once he gets there, Rafe learns that his principle (Andrew Daly) is beyond strict and decides to get back at him by anonymous breaking not one, but all his rules, causing a school wide rebellion. The story seemed like a good one, but the truth is the pranks weren't all that extreme or funny. The kids in the theater laughed more at the preview before the film than they did at the pranks in the movie. There were also times in the film where you expected the typical crude middle school humor, and while the writers set it up, they never delivered the punch line. That's not the only issue with this film, the kids had some chemistry, but the family didn't. Lauren Graham was terrible, as her character was completely different than that of her kids. She had no connection to them or any idea what was going on with them. But for as bad as she was, it was nothing compared to how awful Rob Riggle was. I have never been a fan of his, but he was beyond annoying in this film, his personality is just so obnoxious and over the top, that the last place he belongs is in a family film. Finally, the whole animation angle brings the movie to a dead stop. Gluck's character is an artist and likes to draw, and at times throughout the film, his drawings come to life in his imagination and take the place of what's happening on the screen, often at the worst possible times. The bottom line, for young actors in a family film, Gluck and Thomas Barbusca did a terrific job, but the story fails to live up to expectations, the humor just isn't there, and the whole thing was full of scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Chicago Fire


Starring: Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, Monica Raymund, David Eigenberg, Eamonn Walker, Charlie Barnett, Lauren German, & Teri Reeves

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

After twenty-five years and six Law & Order series, creator Dick Wolf, decided that it was time for a change. His latest idea centers around the heroes of Chicago, and what he did was basically take the show Third Watch, and split it up into three different TV series that interact with each other, on a semi-regular basis, with a fourth one coming later this year. Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Chicago Justice, make up the new look of drama on NBC, and the ratings have been hotter than the show that started it all, Chicago Fire.

As I said the show, the story lines, and the realistic way that it's filmed are very reminiscent of Third Watch, which was one of my all-time favorite shows, however, by splitting, the Firemen, Police, and Medical personal into three shows, the story lines run deeper, and the characters and character development is much stronger. This is why Chicago Fire works and is the only real stand alone show about Firemen to actually last more than just a couple of seasons.

Every character, even the part-timers have story lines and there is a deep connection to everyone involved in the show, but the main focus of the show is on Jesse Spencer who plays Ben Casey, one of the two guys in charge out in the field. Casey is very by the book and believes in the system, although that faith is tested on a regular basis. The other main focus is Taylor Kinney who plays Kelly Severide, who is the complete opposite of Casey. He will do anything to save lives and get to the bottom of a situation and the rule book be damned! The dynamic often causes conflict and causes people to choose sides, which further lends to the drama of the show.

The one negative I have is with how believable the stories are. Obviously it's a TV show and Hollywood is going to take it's liberties. The firemen are going to do things that are impossible and take risks that no one would ever take or survive if they did, but my issue is with things like the time. Someone will be injured and we'll be told they need months of rehab and could be out a year. The captain will talk about not having the money for a replacement and having to work short handed, putting the other men at risk. Then the very next episode, the injured man is back at work and cleared for duty. The actor doesn't even miss a couple of episodes, he's back the very next week. I don't know about you, but things like that bother me. Another timeline issue is involved with the crossover cameos, which don't always line-up. For example, Severide was involved in a Chicago P.D. matter, that was serious, and involved his whole family, but at the same time, there was no mention of it on Chicago Fire and it was business as usual? 

Obvious timeline issues aside, the action is fantastic, the story lines are gripping, the actors and actresses are as hot and exciting as the fires they are fighting, and there is a reason this is a top ten show. If you haven't started your journey into the heroes of Chicago, start at the very beginning with Chicago Fire Season 1, you won't be sorry.

Essex Boys


Starring: Sean Bean, Alex Kingston, & Tom Wilkinson
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Mafia movies are always somewhat confusing. They move very quickly, so it's hard to keep track of the timeline, and they introduce characters so quickly, that at times it's hard to keep track of who's who. Sometimes you have to watch a good mafia film a couple times, just so you can pick up on everything, but with Essex Boys, you'd be lucky to make it through the film just once. If the fast pace of the movie and large cast weren't confusing enough, add thick British accents to the mix, and it's hard to know what's going on. Sean Bean is a favorite of mine, especially when he's playing a bad guy, but there is so much back and fourth between different factions in this film, that I'm not so sure he was the bad guy. In fact, I'm not too sure of anything with this film. To me, Essex Boys was just one big confusing mix of gangsters double crossing and shooting at each other, the whole thing just didn't make a whole lot of sense at all. It really was a difficult film to watch and apparently, according to the other poor reviews, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Despite all that, not one, but two sequels have been made to this film. I am just bewildered by the whole thing, and my best advise is that even if you are the biggest mafia movie virtuoso in the world, this is a film you should definitely skip.

Date Night


Starring: Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, & Mark Wahlberg
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Despite an all-star cast, that reads like a who's who of comedians, the much anticipated, Date Night, from Night At The Museum Director, Shawn Levy, failed to deliver in a big way. Of course there is that old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen, but that wasn't the problem here, as individually, the performances were pretty good. What I didn't like about the film, was a lazy story that hasn't only been done before, but seemed to just run around in circles. The Foster family is going through your typical dry spell as a married couple with kids, and the news of a recent friends divorce has them worried about their own relationship, so they decide to start having a regular date night again. Not wanting to wait at a fancy restaurant without a reservation, they claim to be someone else, who are very late arriving to their reserved table. The Foster's think they're just stealing a reservation, instead they are stepping into the lives of two people who are wanted by many different people for many different things, leading to the wildest night of their lives. This story had some great potential, but once again, if these writers would stop worrying about PG-13 vs. R, in regards to who will go see their films, and just let the story take off in whatever direction it's going, the film could have been so much better. Instead, the writers hold back, because they don't want a raunchy comedy, they want a date movie, and the result is a mediocre comedy that should have been so much better than it was. Date Night is good for a chuckle here and there, but otherwise, the story goes in circles, it's predictable, and it wastes the talent of a terrific cast.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Friday Night Lights (TV Show)


Starring: Kyle Chandler, Connie Britton, Aimee Teegarden, Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemons, Zach Gilford, Derek Phillips, Minka Kelly, Adrianne Palicki, Brad Leland, Gaius Charles, Blue Deckert, Michael B. Jordan, & Matt Lauria

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For five seasons, Friday Night Lights was the number one teen drama on television and I have yet to find a single person who didn't love this show. It's impossible to imagine that a show centered around a football team could be so successful, when TV shows centered around sports almost never succeed on television. Looking back, I can't find a single TV drama that was centered around a sports team that lasted longer, so why was Friday Night Lights so successful? The answer is quite simple.

While the show was centered around the Dillon Panther football team, football wasn't the end all and be all of the show, it made up a quarter of the series. The other parts focused on the town of Dillon, the Taylor family, and the lives of the players. It's this mix that left something for everything. As a sports fan, I loved the football angle to the show and thought that Coach Taylor was on of the most realistic portrayals of a coach that I have ever seen. For the ladies, there is plenty of romance and teen drama involved with the show, surrounding the players, the high school, and the Taylor's young daughter. As for the adults, there is the family values aspect, as the Taylor's truly care and don't just take care of the students they are entrusted with, but they take an interest in helping the entire town that they are a part of. 

The story lines run deep and the character development is as good as you will ever find in any television show. In binging five seasons of this show, I felt as though I knew some of these characters as if they were members of my own family. 

As for the stars of the show, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton had amazing chemistry, which they used to play off each other and the result is that neither of them have ever been better than this. The Taylor's were career defining roles for both actors and they aren't the only ones. This show also launched the careers of Taylor Kitsch, Jesse Plemmons, and Zach Gilford, all of whom have gone on to some very successful roles following Friday Night Lights.

If you're thinking that this show is just some MTV teen drama or a show about football, you couldn't be more wrong. This is one of the best depictions of life in small town Texas, Southern youth culture, and the struggles associated with life in a small town that you will ever find. I highly recommend this show for it's drama, it's exciting action, but most important of all for it's amazingly accurate portrayals and lessons associated with real life in small town America.

The Green Hornet (2011)


Starring: Seth Rogan, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, & Christoph Waltz
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I know, it was pretty hard for me to imagine Seth Rogan as a superhero too, but as it turns out things aren't exactly as they appear. In this 2011 re-imaging of the series, Rogan play Britt Reid, the son of a billionaire publisher, who (surprise surprise) is a big time party animal, with no real ambition in life. When his father passes away suddenly, Reid is given this huge empire to run and with no idea how to do it, he starts to lean on the people around him, people like Kato (Jay Chou). Reid knew Kato for years, but knew nothing of what he could create and nothing of the skills he was capable of. With Kato's help, Reid decided to take on crime in the city, only one problem, he sucks at it. This film may be the most evenly scored film I've ever reviewed, because I can honestly say my like and dislikes were exactly fifty-fifty, most notably were the cast. Seth Rogan in the right setting is brilliant and in the wrong setting is just annoying as hell, with that hardly laugh and his never taking anything seriously, it is perhaps never more abundantly apparent as it is here. Cameron Diaz also adds nothing to the cast, but name recognition and a lazy one sided performance. On the other hand, Jay Chou was fantastic as Kato, he was clever, funny, exciting, and in my opinion he made this movie, it simply isn't a superhero film with him. Then there is Christoph Waltz, the man with the mesmerizing voice who forever capture our attention in Inglorious Bastards, and has been the quintessential bad guy in everything since. The bottom line is the new Green Hornet isn't without it's problems, but the story here is better than I expected it to be, there are some stand outs among the cast, and the special effects and fight scenes were hit or miss. This is the kind of film you'll be into or you won't. Just like my list, audiences are going to be fifty-fifty on the one as well.

Unknown (2011)


Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, & January Jones
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills and instead of using them to save his family, this time he's using them to save himself. Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) has gone to Berlin, with his wife, for a medical conference, when an accident has left him in a coma. Upon awaking, no one knows who he is, not even his wife, but worse than that, there is another person walking around claiming to be Martin Harris. I don't know about you, but after three Taken movies and a handful of similar film, all starring Liam Neeson, playing the same type of character in the same type of situations, I've gotten pretty tired of him and his particular set of skills. At least the Taken movies moved at a reasonable pace and had more than a narrow focus, the same can't be said for Unknown. Parts of this film are as slow as can be, featuring Neeson and company sitting around talking about what could be going on and what to do before they show them doing it. They story is also so narrowly focused, that it leaves little flexibility for anything else. This film is as serious as it gets, it is a hundred percent focused on the story at all times, and Liam Neeson is as dry as the banks of the Colorado River. The chase scenes were cool, the conspiracy around everything was well written, but all in all this film feels very long and moves way too slowly for an action thriller, not to mention, I think I speak for everyone when I say we've had more than enough of Liam Neeson in these type of films.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children


Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, & Samuel L. Jackson
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Another best selling teen fantasy novel hits the big screen and thanks to Tim Burton, it's a big success albeit a little strange. The story centers around a boy named Jake (Asa Butterfield), whose grandfather always told him these strange stories. The whole family thought he was a little off and no one put much stock in them, until one day his grandfather is attacked, and Jake sees things that he can't explain. Jake decides the only way to get the answers he seeks is to find out if the stories of Miss Peregrine and her school are real, so with his father's assistance, he travels to Wales to find them, and begins the adventure of a lifetime. Even without Tim Burton's unique twist and strange characters this story is extremely original and more than carries it's weight, but the visual elements certainly help, especially when it comes to bringing in the young audiences. As for the stars, Eva Green is your typical Tim Burton casting job, while she doesn't jump off the pages to the screen as Miss Peregrine, she does fit the role in the way Johnny Deep did in the Chocolate Factory or Michael Keaton did in Beetlejuice. She was an important part of the story, but she wasn't the whole story. The real star of the show to me was Asa Butterfield as Jake. His character does jump off the page directly to screen, as Butterfield gives one hell of a performance. Butterfield has been acting since the rip old age of nine, and almost every role he's had has been a leading role. There's a reason for that, and as with Hugo, The Boy In The Stripped Pajamas, and Ender's Game, he proves why yet again in this film. Miss Peregrine is a terrific book, that honestly shouldn't work well as a film, but when you add Tim Burton and his eccentricities, the experience of Samuel L. Jackson, & the raw talent of Asa Buttefield to the mix, you get a unique and special film, that while not the same as the book, it's just as good in a different kind of way.

Stormhouse


Starring: Grahame Fox, Martin Delaney, Grant Masters
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

I don't know what in the hell possessed me to rent this film, and why I thought there was even a possibility that it would be even close to good with such a stupid plot, but I went there, and I'm sorry I did. Apparently, the British military has nothing better to do then to build a big chamber underground, at one of it's secret military bases, for the purpose of summoning and imprisoning a ghost. Once they do, they can't possibly understand why the ghost is so angry and is killing people, so they bring in a psychic from The United States, because I guess there aren't any in the UK? She does her talking and tries to make a connection, when inevitably the ghost escapes and runs a muck on the base. This is the kind of poorly written ridiculous story that gives horror movies a bad name. If this were the only kind of horror I'd ever been subjected to, I'd think horror movies sucked too. The cast acts like a bunch of complete idiots, the writing is a complete joke, and I'm left asking myself what's the point? Let me ask you a question, if a ghost is attacking and you shoot a gun at it, and it doesn't work, would you continue to shoot at it for the next hour? This movie is literally that stupid. I don't know how things like this get made, they are not only demeaning to the people who star in them, but they are insulting to the people who have to watch them, avoid this film like the plague.

Better Call Saul

Starring: Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mckean, Rhea Seehorn, Patrick Fabian, & Michael Mando

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Series Facts:
- The series takes place in 2002, six years before the beginning of Breaking Bad and seven years before Saul's first appearance.

- Saul Goodman is a pseudonym that was picked because it sounded Jewish and sounds like, "it's all good man."

- Better Call Saul scored the second highest debut rating in cable TV history.


For the die hard fans of Breaking Bad, the series ending was a crushing blow, and as is the case with the more popular series, few were happy with the way it ended. The fans wouldn't be disappointed for long however, as it was soon announced that fan favorite, Bob Odenkirk, who played shady lawyer Saul Goodman, would be getting his own spin-off and once again Vince Gilligan and the beloved genre he created lived on.

Better Call Saul is not what most of us expected it to be, as we assumed, Saul wouldn't stay where he was after the events of the Breaking Bad finale, and that we'd come to see what's next, but in fact, it's just the opposite. The series begins with a depressed and sentimental Saul, taking a look back at where it all started, back when he was kind of an honest man, who kind of cared about a few people, and went by his real name, James McGill. McGill was a con-artist who was frequently bailed out by his brother (Michael McKean) who was a big time lawyer at a huge firm. It was he who convinced Jimmy to turn his life around and try to follow in his footsteps and that's what he did....kind of.

Lets start with the show, because it is every bit as clever and well written as Breaking Bad was. You might not have the shocking violence, at least not yet, but as with it's predecessor, the show is always three steps ahead of you, it's clever, humorous in that dry kind of way, and it is extremely entertaining.

Also similar to Breaking Bad, you have some great side characters, but one man is the show, and that man is Bob Odenkirk. If you thought he was good on Breaking Bad, you haven't seen anything yet. By the time he was Saul, he was a complete con-man, everything was a joke or a scam, but Jimmy, he hasn't really crossed that line completely, he has his moments, but he still has his humanity and compassion. That internal struggle between doing what's right and doing what he deems is necessary is at the heart of the show, and Bob Odenkirk is the heart and soul of the show.

The bottom line, Better Call Saul is not on the same level as Breaking Bad...YET, but it's headed that way. What did you think of Breaking Bad after twenty episodes? Did you feel the same way as you did after sixty? That's the point, Saul is feeling his oats, building his story and his reputation. As for Vince Gilligan, he learned from his mistakes and I think people are going to catch on and get hooked a lot faster this time around. This show has the same feel to it and things are only going to get bigger and better, so if you're putting off on watching it until you start hearing more hype, that's your choice, but you're missing out on some pretty good stuff.

Awaken (2014)


Starring: Natalie Burn, Vinnie Jones, & Darryl Hannah
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

For a small, independent, real-life horror film, Awaken has a lot of pieces to it's story, there really is a lot going on, in what initially seemed like a cut and dry story. If this film had been done a bit differently, and if it's impressive cast had been used for more than simple cameos, this may have been a much better film. The story begins with Billie (Natalie Burn) waking up on an island, being chased by strangers, and rescued by another group of strangers. She comes to learn that everyone in her group of rescuers woke up as she did, and appear to be hunted for sport. Billie wants to escape to one of the nearby cluster of islands, but learns that attempts have been made, and no one has ever come back, but Billie is a military brat and refuses to accept that. The story here is very well written, especially for this type of film, but everything is so anti-climatic. Just about every scene turns into a fight scene or a shoot out and there is nothing original about that. Honestly, what is the point of having this great story idea if ever scene is going to end up the same way? There is also the fact that the casting is a complete mystery. This film managed to get Darryl Hannah, Edward Furlong, David Keith, and Robert Davi and they simply make cameo appearances in ancillary roles? If that's the case, why even waste the money to bring them in? Awaken had the story, it had the cast, it had the looks, it even had a premium location, but poor dialogue, predictable outcomes, a misused cast, and a painfully horrendous ending absolutely destroyed what could have otherwise been a rather entertaining film.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Night of The Twisters


Starring: Devon Sawa, John Schneider, & Lori Hallier
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Long before Justin Bieber, Canada had unleashed another teen celebrity on the world, Devon Sawa. He was better looking, more talented, and much less successful. While not as well known, during the mid-90s, putting him in any film almost guaranteed a bigger box office, and that was the case with Night of Twisters. This horrible, direct-to-video film, never should have made it to the U.S., but gained worldwide distribution because of it's star. Even twenty years later, the DVD is still considered a collectors item among collectors of teen idol memorabilia, and regularly sells on Amazon and eBay for upwards of $50. That being said, what makes this movie so awful, besides that it's an independent film made in Canada? Even for 1996, the special effects are laughable, this was Canada's response to Twister and not only don't the effects come close to comparison, but the story is just terrible. Obviously the story is going to center around the teen star, who sneaks out with friends to go meet girls. He's punished and has to stay home and watch his baby sister instead of going to the town event at the local high school. It's a boring night, until the town is hit by a series of tornadoes, forcing Sawa, to save the baby, save the girls, save his best friend, and then if there's time, go find his parents. The story is straight out of a kids movie, but the language and some of the devastation is not, so which is it? Is this some weird teen friendly family film or some scary disaster movie? The bottom line a lot of people love Devon Sawa, me included, that's why even today he's still getting work, but when it comes to this film, there is no real story, no real plot, it's as predictable as anything you will ever see, and the special effects make the tornado from the Wizard of Oz look more realistic. I can't believe that twenty years later the DVD costs more than the Godfather and they're still playing this thing on cable, but some things are just inexplicable.

The Ultimate Movie Review's 900th Review!!!

2 Little Monsters


Starring: Charles Cantrell & Ryan LeBoeuf
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Some true crime stories are so horrific, that they are scarier than any horror film Hollywood can come up with. In February of 1993, Two ten year old boys took a three year old from a mall in England, bashed his head in with a rock, tied him to the train tracks, and watched as he was run over by a train. According to the law they were released at age eighteen, and disappeared under assumed names. 2 Little Monsters is a based on that event, speculating what these boys lives would have been like after they were released from prison. How hard would it be for them to hide their identities? Could they blend into society, having lived their whole lives in prison? This film answers those questions as well as following the paparazzi, who are in for a big pay day if they can find the boys and take their pictures. The idea here is very original and I was very much looking forward to this film, unfortunately, despite a lot of critical acclaim, nothing really happens. Yes, the boys are shy and awkward, and it becomes increasing difficult for them to hide who they were, but there isn't an urgency to any of it. This film moves at a snails pace and nothing substantial ever happens. The producers basically used the story of this horrible crime to sell DVDs, when truthfully they had nothing more to go on since the boys release. Everything is supposition, and it's probably very close to the truth, boring, predictable, and uneventful.

Parental Guidance


Starring: Billy Crystal, Bette Midler, & Marisa Tomei
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Now days, Billy Crystal doesn't appear in films as often as he used to, but for the right project and cast, he's always willing to remind us of why he's a household name. It doesn't matter if it's a raunchy comedy or a family film, his quirky and unique sense of humor always makes whatever he stars in that much more enjoyable and Parental Guidance is no different. On the surface, this is just another family comedy about Grandma and Grandpa getting in over their heads when they agree to babysit for the weekend. Add Crystal and Bette Midler to that and all of a sudden the film is taken to a whole other level. Everyone knows what to expect from both Crystal and Midler, but the real magic is their chemistry and how they play off each other, especially when you throw three unpredictable kids into the mix. Some of the scenes with the grandparents trying to use the modern technology or the kids taking advantage of the grandparents lack of respect for their parents strict instructions are truly laugh out loud funny. Yes, that's exactly what I said, it's a PG rated family movie, but it has more than a couple of laugh out loud moments. Parental Guidance is a film that the parents and grandparents will want to see for it's terrific cross-generational cast, but the kids will enjoy it too, for both it's old school and modern humor. It's the perfect rainy day weekend family feature film.

Eden (2015)


Starring: Nate Parker, Ethan Peck, & Sung Kang
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

How many stories are there that take place on an uncharted deserted island? I suppose such a thing was possible before there were google maps, but in 2016, these stories are almost in the realm of Science Fiction. Putting that aside for a minute, just how many types of stories can you tell, that take place in such a setting, and how many of them haven't already been told? Eden is nothing more than a cliche of these films, and despite not being a comedy, the fact that it has no originality to the story whatsoever is in fact laughable. After a world cup soccer team crashes near this island, and it's clear they won't be rescued, they set up a system of rules. The first major conflict is what to do with the severly injured man, who has very little chance of making it, who is costing valueable resources, sound familar Lost fans? After that, this film literally becomes Lord of the Files with soccer players in their twenties and thirties. The two sides are drawn and eventually one side leaves for another nearby deserted island. As resources continue to diminish, it becomes clear that only one side can survive and the battle is inevitable. Even the ending, which I would never reveal, is a rip off of another classic deserted island story, but maybe you like that setting and consider this the kind of film you might want to check out, okay, but first, consider this. Most of the cast are completely newcomers, and with the exception of Nate Parker, they're combined performances are a bigger disaster than the actual plane crash that brought them to this island. The bottom line, Eden is a familiar setting, featuring a story that's been done, and a cast that mumbles one cliche line after another, the whole thing just left a poor taste in my mouth.