Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

Maps to the Stars

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                Such a messed up and yet very well made film.  This film and The Wolf of Wall Street are the best examples in recent years of the disgusting moral depravity of man.  All the actors are great in this film especially those that most likely really act like this in real life…looking at you Julianne Moore.  The breakout here is Evan Bird whose role as an entitled teen Disney type dirtbag is so good that you are constantly nervous when he is on screen.  This is an uncomfortable movie to sit through, like Wolf, but a very well done film.  3 stars out of 4

Blended

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                The hate for Adam Sandler in the last decade makes absolutely no sense to me.  Are his movies classics or made for awards season?  No and that’s the point.  They are made for people who want a marginally positive themed movie that makes them laugh and makes the studios gobs of money.  Here another one of those to add to Sandler’s resume.  Sandler’s comedies have always been about loyalty and family, at least in the last TWO decades.  Sandler and Barrymore are still great on screen together.  This is another great movie about family, responsibility and loyalty and it has many laugh out loud moments.  Watch out for Terry Crews giving a very hilarious performance and Sandler and Barrymore still proving they can pull the ole heart strings.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

The Cobbler

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                Spoke too soon?  Not really but man was this an awful movie.  This film has no idea what it wants to be.  Fantasy?  Comedy?  Family drama?  If you’ve seen the trailer, this is not the movie promised in that trailer.  Adam Sandler was fine, Dustin Hoffman better still but everyone else was just atrocious.  The love interest was so bad I don’t even want to bother to do a simple Google search to give you her name.  Not sure which was worse, this one or Grown Ups1 star out of 4

The November Man

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               Pierce Brosnon doing his best Liam Neeson impression.  This is the new thing apparently, now that we have the despicable Sean Penn coming out with his own geriaction movie (wish I had made that one up).  This is good enough.  It has some decent action and looks good but that is really all there is to it.  Outside of some interesting scenes, one of which includes Brosnon asking his protégé to choose between his love or his job, the movies a let down.  Give it a shot if you are bored one day and it’s on Netflix.  2 stars out of 4

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Little Buddy Review: ‘Planes: Fire and Rescue’

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                The first Planes movie was a huge disappointment for me.  Practically zero laughs and a story that didn’t seem to be told very well.  I really enjoy the 2 Cars movies so I was expecting to enjoy Planes.  So it was no surprise that I wasn’t all that willing to see the second one.  Then Christmas came around and I like getting my son movies for Christmas.  He loves fire trucks, which he still calls “weenews” and he likes helicopters.  So this was a no brainer purchase.  Would it be as bad as the first one or at least re-watchable?

                Dusty Crophoper (Dane Cook) is still a world famous racing plane that helps his hometown with notoriety for their upcoming corn Festival.  During a practice race he pushes his gear box too hard and breaks it.  There are no more gear boxes made in his model but his friends try to track one down leaving Dusty unable to race.  An accident at the air strip he lives has a fire that makes it so the older engine needs upgrades and a new volunteer firefighter.  Dusty volunteers and is sent to a national park to train as a firefighter with Blade (Ed Harris) and his team.

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                Hands down, this is a much better movie than the first one.  The story is streamlined to something that is clichéd, but with characters you actually like (especially ones your kids will connect with and love) it doesn’t matter.  That’s what was missing the most from the first film.  My son has seen that one maybe twice, while this one he and I have watched multiple times.  He loves it.  He even got so attached to the characters and what they were doing that when someone was in danger he was worried for them.  He also laughed a lot just like me.

                The icing on the cake for this one is that it is dedicated to heroes, in this case firefighters, before the film even starts.  Fire and Rescue is a enthusiastically positive movie of the sacrifice and heroism of our nations firefighters, especially in fighting wildfires.  This is a really fun movie to watch with your kids.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Music and Lyrics’

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                Hugh Grant was thrust into the celebrity arena in the early nineties with a little movie called Four Weddings and a Funeral.  It was a movie that was hugely popular at the time, but doesn’t seem to have held up as well as it continues to age.  Drew Barrymore in mostly known nowadays is the cute Rom-Com girl and she can do it very well or very badly, doesn’t seem like there is a middle ground.  Both have seemed to get better with age, especially Grant, just look at About a Boy, Love Actually, The Pirates! Band of Misfits and possibly the upcoming A man from U.N.C.L.E.  But there is one movie I’d like to add to that list and it’s this one I am about to review.  Even though certified fresh through Rotten Tomatoes, there is a lot of hate for this movie for some reason.  I have seen it show up numerous times on his worst roles or horrible romantic comedy.  Not only do I think that’s unreasonable, I think it’s one of his better roles.

                Alex (Hugh Grant) was part of a popular pop group in the eighties.  His partner in that group went on to be hugely successful as a solo act while Alex lives on his former glory, performing in small venues to a much older fan base.  A popular pop star named Cora (Haley Bennett) has hired him to write her a new hit.  Sophie (Drew Barrymore), a girl who has been watering his plants for a few days, impresses Alex with her talent for lyric writing.  He employs her talent and the two begin to scramble to write Cora’s next big hit in only a few days.  As they do they both grow close as they learn about each other’s past and former passions.

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                This is a fun, well paced and well acted romantic comedy.  Not only are there great performances from the two main players but the supporting cast are just as good.  Brad Garrett has a lot of big laughs as Grant’s characters always faithful manager.  Kristen Johnston also has some heavy laughs as Barrymore’s sister who has a huge crush on Grant’s 80’s pop star.  The music video at the beginning of the movie is one of its highlights as it looks perfectly 80’s.  From the horrible outfits and haircuts, to the cheesy storyline and rhythmic beat of the music it is a pure 80’s flashback.

                The main song is not what you think, the catchy throwback to the eighties that opens the movie, but the “Way Back into Love” song the two main characters write together.  Both characters have lost something in their lives that they once loved and have forgotten what their passions are.  Their way back into love is original music and performing for Grant’s character and writing for Barrymore’s.  It’s not only a decent song but wraps the story up nicely and showing that the theme of the movie is ones passion and how to encourage it in each other.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Deliver Us From Evil’

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               Scott Derrickson is one of the few directors in Hollywood who is a Christian and you can see what effect that has on his films.  Hellraiser: Inferno, one of my favorite horror films, which he wrote and directed, gave one of the most straight forward message of the Gospel I have ever seen in a movie.  The Exorcism of Emily Rose was profoundly pro-Christian and what the fight against evil means.  Even Sinister tried to take a hard look at what evil is and questioned if it could be stopped.  So it was no wonder that his next film would be about faith vs. skepticism and good vs. evil.

                Ralph Sarchie (Eric Bana) is a NYPD officer who works in one of the toughest burrows in New York.  He is haunted by many of his past and current cases of violence and horror.  His latest case seems to be one he has never dealt with before because it of its odd nature of having men who returned from Iraq going crazy and hurting people.  He soon meets a priest (Edgar Ramirez) who tells him that he believes this case to be one of true evil that needs to be dealt with by faith and exorcism.  While his family (Olivia Munn as his wife) increasingly feels the danger around them, Sarchie tries to find the last man (Sean Harris) possessed by a demon, which he doesn’t believe is possible.

                The look of the film is great as it feels as dark and cold as the story that it tells.  The acting is good to decent and the always welcome Joel McHale does a good job as the tough partner with an adrenaline addiction.  I like Eric Bana as an actor, but he seems like he held a little too much back with this role.  Most times he feels distant and uninterested with his part.  Edgar Ramirez on the other hand, plays his character confidently and with some zeal and is the better part of the film.  Secondary characters like Olivia Munn and Sean Harris feel underdeveloped, but still do a good job with their roles.

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                A very interesting and great debate is brought up during the film, it just isn’t long enough to satisfy the viewer.  When the problem of evil is brought up as a problem for belief in God, the priest asks about the problem of good.  Why is there any good?  Great theological/philosophical question that had a great set up but no pay off.  The whole movie, unfortunately, seems like this great set up with no real pay off.  What we are shown is evil throughout the film but then the ending shows good triumphing, yet it feels like a footnote to the rest of the story.  Even with this, it must be appreciated, especially by Christians, which the Christian faith (even if it is from a Catholic viewpoint) is shown positively and respectfully.  Men of faith are shown as they truly are, fallible and still struggling with the sins of the flesh.  Rare but always welcome depiction.

                Also, finally we see a movie that depicts every song the Doors created the way I always thought of them when I hear them, creepy.  It’s a good time waster that had some strong potential that was regrettably wasted

2 stars out of 4

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Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

John Wick

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                Nothing new in this revenge story at all, but dang if it isn’t one of the best shoot ‘em up action films in awhile.  Keanu Reeves actually does really good here.  The look and feel of the film is all great to set up a revenge movie that seems like an old school grindhouse flick with better production value.  I haven’t seen crazy action like this since Shoot ‘em Up and I like it.  Action lovers, this one is for you.  Reminds me of John Woo films with Chow Yun-fat and 80’s action films.  3 and ½ stars out of 4

The Purge: Anarchy

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                Never saw the first but heard good ones about this movie.  I know that the creators mostly thought that they were making fun of Tea Partiers, but right here we have one of the better pictures of what liberals would do, happily, if they had total control with no one to stop them.  Get rid of the lower classes that are not needed because they are nothing more than a nuisance.  Getting rid of those working class rubes is a dream come true.  Unhinged and unaccountable relativist ideals helps to okay it and wow, does this film show that so well that it’s scary.  Frank Grillo is awesome as the main character out to purge but is caught up in helping others.  Also has a great ending preaching of forgiveness and redemption.  Not movie of the year and has some problems, but still fun.  2 stars out of 4

A Walk Among the Tombstones

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                Newly out of the closet anti-gun nut Liam Neeson uses guns freely and properly in a movie to help line his pockets and it’s just an okay film.  Nothing to see here really.  2 stars out of 4

Taken 3

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                An unfortunate way to end a surprisingly fun trilogy.  Why it didn’t continue with the same set of bad guys that have been through to two films and were promised in the second one, we are given generic Russian bad guys.  The bad guy is easy to pick out in the first few minutes of the film and that is always just bad set up.  The action promised in the trailer is much tamer this time around and it really kind of feels like they were just trying to get a trilogy here and make some money without really fully entertaining its audience.  Everyone looks bored with the movie and at some points, so are the audience.  1 and 1/2 stars out of 4

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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                I realize that it’s popular to hate anything Michael Bay touches right now, but dang it he doesn’t make films to please critics.  He is a proven money maker and for the most part, makes some fun films or helps to make them like he did here.  Yes, the turtles look odd and the thought of Megan Fox playing April O’Neil isn’t pleasant but it all still works.  She actually does her best work here.  Not Oscar material but it looks like she tried.  Comedy is good, action is fun and so is the overall movie.  It sucks that it looks like William Fichtner, said to have been the original Shredder, is replaced by a shadowy stupid actor because he’s Japanese.  I watched this with my son and he loved it.  Worth the watch as a good time waster.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

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Worst Films of 2014

                For the first time since starting this site, I have not been able to come up with a “worst’s” list that equals 10 movies.  Surprisingly I only watched good movies way more often than I saw bad ones.  Now I know there are many out there that came out in 2014, but I didn’t see any of them and most likely never will.  So, I got that going for me.  Here we go:

7.            Tusk

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                I just know Kevin Smith has a really good film in him somewhere.  We just haven’t seen it yet and probably never will.  Both of his last films looked great and gave Michael Parks some great lines and room to steal the show in every scene.  But dang it, this movie is just boring.  We already know it’s going to be weird when we hear it is about a man who turns another man into a walrus, but didn’t think it would be this boring.  Then throw in Johnny Depp in an incoherent role and this is just awful.  That’s my review, nothing else needed.

6.            The Sacrament

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                This is a horrible film whose trailer was the best part of it.  How do you make a story based on what happened at Jim Jones “utopia” in the late seventies boring and not at all scary?  Throw in the fact that they obviously made the characters in the cult Christians when even Jones himself hated is just the usual Hollywood bigotry.  It’s such a wasted effort on something that could have really been good.  Review here.

5.            The Muppets Most Wanted

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                Hopefully this will be the nail in the coffin of this once beloved franchise.  While still better than the last one, it still misses what made the Muppets great in the first place, great family fair to be enjoyed by young and old.  Give a great (yet very hatful atheist) Ricky Gervais nothing to do was a waste and someone please stop hiring Tina Fey.  She’s not funny and it’s not because she is a horrible person in real life.  So is Gervais but I still he has tremendous talent.  Just watch the original trilogy and the first Christmas movie with the Muppet Show and forget everything that comes after.  Review here.

4.            Dumb and Dumber To

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                Did it have funny parts?  Yes.  Did it bring back memories of the glorious first film?  Yes and that’s the problem.  This movie should not have been made at all.  It sullies the original by its very existence.  It tries way too hard to be like the first film and it shows big time.  Huge disappointment.  That’s the review.

3.            Haunted House 2

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                Tricked again by the trailer that this one could be funny.  Wrong, so very very wrong.

2.            Horrible Bosses 2

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                Another film that had a trailer that tricked me into thinking this would be funny.  Few laughs and the ending is rage inducing.  After two movies, a main character that resists cheating on his wife then has his wife cheat on him.  Horrible movie.

1.            Gone Girl

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                Good looking film with a great cast.  That’s all this film has going for it.  The fact that the ending is seen as anything but impossible and having cops act like complete and utter morons is, well, moronic.  If this was meant to be a rebuke for the rape culture going on right now where women are trumpeted by the media as brave victims and anyone who asks a follow up question to said victim is a misogynist, but then turns out the victim is a evil liar, then yes better movie.  But that is not the case here.  Such a bad movie because of its third act.  Review here.

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Little Buddy Review: ‘Big Hero 6′

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                When I first saw the trailer for this film I never knew of this Marvel property.  If you thought Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man were out there, this one is further out.  The film looked interesting if not only for the way in which the robot character acted.  His walk, silent comedy scenes and other comedic moments looked like this one could be a good kids movie with humor for both them and the adults.  Outside of what looked like some pretty hilarious moments, would the movie turn out to offer something other than that?

                In San Fransokyo, Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a young man who very smart but uses those smarts to con people out of money.  His older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) wants his brother to use his brains for something important.  He introduces Hiro to his university, where he and his friends are constantly working on projects to better humanity.  Tadashi has created a healthcare robot called Baymax (Scott Adsit).  Hiro is interested in joining the school and to do so he invents thousands of microbots that can be controlled to do anything by his mind.  The invention is stolen when a fire is started and his brother Tadashi dies.  Hiro wants to find the one who killed his brother and will use the help of Tadashi’s university friends and Baymax.

                The look of the film is interesting, infusing Japanese architecture with American.  The computer animation is top notch and with Disney, it only keeps getting better.  All of the voice acting is well done as well, especially from Adsit and Damon Wayans Jr. who provides some of the bigger laughs outside of Adsit’s Baymax.  The problem with the film is that it can be very boring at places.  The beginning drags on before we are introduced to Baymax together with Hiro.  While there are plenty of laughs there are also many that fall flat, much like the character voiced by T.J. Miller who seemed like he was trying too hard to be funny.

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                Big Hero 6 has all the themes that I always enjoy.  Explore and enhance your gifts, family is important as are close supporting friends and good must overcome evil.  This film has all that but it still felt hollow.  You are in no way pulled into the story or even care about the characters, which is odd for a Disney film.  The film fails in resonating with its audience and instead seems to be a film that had people working on it that didn’t have their hearts in it.  Kids will have a good time no doubt, mostly because of Baymax and the secondary characters.

                Nothing overly offensive here for parents to look at before they let their kids watch it.  But, maybe just pop in the Incredibles instead.

2 stars out of 4

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Movies to Look Forward to in 2015

              Right here is the list of films this site is looking forward to this year.  Here we go:

10.          Ant Man (July 17th)

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                As a story, this could really not work well and from the first trailer it could look like Marvels first misstep.  Yet I want to see it for two reasons.  First and foremost I was very excited about the casting of Paul Rudd as the title character.  It will be interesting to see what he does with it.  It also has Michael Douglas, which is always a plus.  Second, well, it’s a comic book movie that looks like, to me at least, it could go either way.  Hey, Marvel made a great movie with little know comic characters in Guardians of the Galaxy, why not do it again here?

9.            The Hateful Eight (November 15th)

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                I have only ever really disliked one Tarantino film and that was the horribly slow and boring Jackie Brown.  I have always liked his quirky dialogue as well as his direction and camera set ups which all have not yet gotten old for me.  Then you add Kurt Russel, Bruce Dern and Walton Goggins and you have my interest.  Django Unchained was a really good western film that looked phenomenal, let’s hope that’s the case here.

8.            Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13th)

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                Almost anything from Matthew Vaughn is interesting to me and this new film looks really fun.  Add Colin Firth. Michael Cane and Mark Strong and you have my full attention.  An obvious franchise builder it still has the charm and dry wit of those across the pond.  Even looks a little bit imaginative, which is not always the case for Hollywood.

7.            Jurassic World (June 12th)

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                I hated Jurassic Park 2 because of the stupid environmentalist characters and the moronic choices the lead actress does to put everyone in peril.  It was actually rage inducing.  Jurassic Park 3 was a bit more fun but still did not meet the standards of the first incredible film.  This one looks like it could actually match the firsts wonder and fun.  Chris Pratt is the “it” man now and I am really looking forward to him playing a more serious role.  Trailer may not have squashed all the nervousness out there, but I still hold out hope that this will be good.

6.            The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay Part 2 (November 20th)

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                Honestly, this one should need no explanation on why it is on this list.  The franchise has only gotten better and I am looking forward to the end.

5.            Mission: Impossible 5 (July 31st)

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                As with The Hunger Games, these films have only gotten better.  Part three was great and part 4 was greater.  I am looking forward to see what this next installment will bring.  Hopefully it is not a franchise killer, but I doubt it, these movies are good.

4.            Spectre (November 6th)

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                Casino Royale and Skyfall were movies that made me interested in James Bond when I had never been before.  The unfortunate Quantum of Solace was an incredibly horrible film and I am hoping that this film will not have the same curse that Quantum had.  Same director as the last one and possibly more Ralph Fiennes and the addition of Christoph Waltz is very welcome.

3.            Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (December 18th)

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                While the second trilogy was a huge black eye to the original trilogy I had held out little hope that there would ever be a Star Wars movie that will give the same excitement the original movies gave everyone.  This one though looks like it could possibly bring back that magic.  A good and inventive director, practical and CGI effects and having most of the original cast come aboard and this could work.  Also, Andy Serkis.

2.            Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 1st)

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                The first one was so much fun to watch and brought all the characters in this universe together with ease.  This one looks to be upping the ante and also looks incredible.  James Spader voicing the title villain was an awesome choice.  Is there a creepier voice out there today than Spader’s?  I’m looking forward to the new additions, epic storyline, comedic moments and the battle between Hulk and Hulk Buster Iron Man.

1.            Mad Max: Fury Road (May 15th)

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                I will be completely honest on this one, I am extremely excited about this film and it has everything to do with the first teaser.  The film looks absolutely amazing and a feast for the eyes.  Tom Hardy as the title character and Charlize Theron and I am sold.  As it stands now, for me, this is the film to beat this year as far as a great time at the movies.

Honorable Mentions: 

Pixels (July 24th), Pitch Perfect 2 (May 15th),  Inside Out (June 19th), Hotel Transylvania 2 (September 25th)

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Review: ‘The Guest’

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                Over the last few years my wife has liked me to watch a show that seems really popular across the globe called Downton Abbey, which affectionately call Downtown Abbey.  Clever right?  To me the show is fine, especially when they get rid of the horrible characters, practically all satisfactorily.  Other than that, I find myself yelling at the television about how horrible most of the characters are.  One of the good characters is no longer on the show and was played by Dan Stevens and very well I might add.  To date, his was the only character outside of Maggie Smith’s wonderful character; I would have preferred stuck around.  But no, we are stuck with the super skinny hag of a woman who still hasn’t learned to treat people right yet.  Stevens left the show to pursue a movie career, and one of his first performances that he headlines is The Guest.  Does this movie tell us he made a good choice to leave or that maybe he should have stuck around for a sure paycheck?

                A small town family is still grieving over the death of a son and brother who died overseas when serving for the Army.  One day a stranger named David (Dan Stevens) comes to their door saying that he was a friend of their son and told him as he died he would check in on them.  He quickly becomes a house guest because of his seemingly innocent charm and each member of the family builds a relationship with him.  When the daughter (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of him, she calls the Army base he said he was from and finds out that maybe he isn’t the man he said he was.

                Simple plot that also sounds familiar in a been there done that sort of way.  Not this one.  Stevens does a great job at being creepy charming in this role and you are transfixed by it.  You are also seemingly anxious throughout the movie because of the great score and song selection that makes even the most innocuous scene tense.  Monroe and the rest of the family cast are all pitch perfect casting.  The mom and dad, played by Sheila Kelley and Leland Orser are fantastic as a sweet mom and a kind of a bummer dad going through marriage issues and it’s believable.  Brendan Meyer does a great job as the young son being bullied and does a great job of showing how his character slowly becomes close to the main character.  The film itself also looks incredible, with some stand out cinematography and interesting lighting choices.

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                The entire film plays out like a seventies grind house thriller, minus all the cheesy acting.  This was a really fun film to watch, mostly because of the acting, music and a continual sense of not sure what’s going to happen next.  It seemed like what was going to be a clichéd and already seen it a hundred times ending, instead gives us a satisfying ending at the very last moments.  There is violence in the film, some language and a scene of sexuality without nudity that is on screen for a few seconds.  If you are a fan of interesting movies and their even more interesting cinematography as well as a enjoyable movie, this one is for you.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Whiplash’

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                I have two brothers, both younger than me who both have tremendous talents.  One is a great comedic storyteller who once let me be in one of his shows called Skeleton Crew which I still believe is on YouTube.  The other brother joined him in this talent and had yet another one.  He is a gifted musician who always impressed.  From reorganizing the worship music at church to the Ska band he was once in called “the Skashank Redemption”.  I remember going to his concerts during his time at high school and sometimes getting chills (as I would during his performances at church with other brass players).  He may not have gone through what the main character goes through in this film, but I could not stop thinking about him and hard he would work at whatever instrument he planned on playing.  Whiplash gave me those memories, but outside of that, was it a good movie

                Andrew (Miles Teller) is a young college student who has picked a prestigious college that has the best music program in the country to play the drums.  He is seen practicing by the unconventional teacher of the jazz band, Mr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) and is soon thereafter asked to join the jazz band.  Andrew learns very quickly that Fletcher is one of the toughest and meanest teachers anyone could have.  Foul mouthed and condescending he pushes Andrew and his students to their limits and even breaks some.  Andrew dreams to be one of the greatest jazz drummers in history, but will he be finally discouraged and fall flat?

                For a film that was shot in just 19 days, it is a very well done and tight film.  The editing is sound, the passing great and the acting is its best asset.  Simmons and Teller are incredible in this film.  Simmons gives not only his best performance but one of the best of the year.  He is mean, in your face and unpredictable.  Teller, who amazingly does all his drum scenes himself, is determined, vulnerable and confident as the young dreamer.  The rest of the cast, including an always underused Paul Reiser are all great.  The music is pulsating through the speakers and you feel the rush of energy through the screen.

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                “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’”.  One of the more brilliant lines in cinematic history that is so poignant for today’s world.  Granted maybe don’t push as hard as this character did, but his motivation for doing it was sound.  In the trophy generation and a world of young people growing up to be mediocre and yet still feel entitled, this movie is the answer to that.  The answer is, push yourself and see what you can do.  Don’t stand around waiting for the congratulations, earn it.  Great message and yet it is seen as the end all of one’s meaning in life.  The main character does this for his own glory instead of something more than himself.  In a movie full of good messages it ends on a note of selfishness which in a movie that should have a triumphal ending kind of brings it to a sadder end.

                This was a fun movie to watch and be impressed by.  There is lots of language in this film, which makes sense considering the story and characters.  Still, highly recommended.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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