Terrific Trailer Tuesday: ‘Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens’

Cautiously optimistic on this one.  There are some great shots in here, especially the excitingly inventive Millennium Falcon shot at the end.  Please be good.

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Review: ‘Interstellar’


                Christopher Nolan is a director who seems to most people, me included, unable to make a bad movie.  From Memento to the Dark Knight Rises he has created successful movie after successful movie.  As he is my favorite director, it came as no shock when I went through my list of movies to look forward to this year, it was number one.  After early rumors that it was going to be a global warming propaganda film, I was hesitant, but then remembered that Nolan doesn’t create the over handed peachiness of false gospels like that in order to tell a great story.  After the first trailer I was sold and looked forward to his take on science fiction.  Would it live up to the hype?

                In the future, the world is a barely inhabitable planet with constant dust storms and food growth extremely scarce.  Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, is now a successful farmer of corn and lives on his farm with his two kids and father-in-law.  One night he and his daughter follow some strange coordinates that lead them to a secret NASA site run by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) who is one of a team of scientists trying to figure out how to use a recently discovered wormhole to find habitable planets.  Unfortunately Cooper has to make the hard decision to leave his family behind for what could be years.  Cooper and a team of scientists then embark on the adventure through space to find a world that may someday house mankind.

                Lets get the bad out of the way.  I have one big issue with this movie that makes me give it the rating that I did.  The set up is completely contrived and unbelievable unless you know the ending of the film which even then doesn’t help.  For the first time watching a Nolan movie I groaned and rolled my eyes.  Our main character just so happens to end up at the only facility on earth currently going to space and he also happens to be the only pilot that can be perfect behind the wheel.  Not only that, he is then too easily convinced to leave his family behind within a day.  Takes you fully out of the film and if it wasn’t for the rest of the film making up for it, I would have hated my first Nolan film.  What about the rest of the film?

                As usual for a Nolan movie, the film looks great and has some interesting and oftentimes beautiful camera shots.  The acting is good, at least from McConaughey, John Lithgow and Mackenzie Foy.  The adult female characters for the most part, and this is still Nolan’s biggest weakness, are stilted and dry in their performance.  The other weak performance is from Matt Damon who probably channeled a younger and awful actor named Ben Affleck.  Thankfully all of this doesn’t drag the movie down as much as it really should have all considering.  It’s the story that gives the movie its legs.

interstellar still                 Interstellar is a movie about lost hope and the desire to regain it.  I think the quote that explains the films journey to rediscover hope was also in the trailer.  “We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars.  Now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.”  It is a powerful line with much theological significance.  Unfortunately the promise of possible theological themes coming up later in the film with talks about the supernatural at the beginning lead nowhere, but there is still the instinctive themes of hope, love, family and perseverance.  Even though it is presented with arguably a man centered, if not atheistic tone, these themes work hear.  It is unfortunate that there was a missed opportunity here that seemed so promising in the beginning.

                Interstellar is a good film that could have been great with a few tweaks here and there, starting with the my main complaint above.  You’ll hear a lot about plot holes, and there are a lot, but just enjoy the movie because all science fiction movies have plot holes, but they don’t always look this good.

2 and ½ stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Nightcrawler’

 nightcrawler poster

                It is hard to make me feel uncomfortable in a movie, which is probably not a good thing but is my reality regardless.  The Grudge is the only horror movie to date that scared the stuffing out of me and made me really jump from my seat.  There have been tense moments in other movies, for instance, the skyscraper scene in Mission Impossible 4 made my palms sweat because I’m scared of heights and that IMAX screen was huge.  When a movie is able to draw you into the point that you feel something visceral or you find yourself holding your breath, that’s a good film.  Nightcrawler’s trailer made it look like it could be one of those movies that make the audience feel something and most likely it would be an uncomfortable feeling.  So, was it or was it another trailer promising good things and delivering nothing?

                Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a very determined and motivated young man looking for a job in a down economy.  Problem is most people won’t hire a thief who steals chain link fence and manhole covers in the middle of the night.  One night he finds himself near a car accident and sees Joe (Bill Paxton) pull up in a van with an assistant and two high end camcorders.  Joe begins to film the accident and tells Lou that he sells it to local television news stations.  Inspired, Lou buys a camcorder and a police scanner to try and make some money by beating Joe to a crime or accident.  When he gets a good shot he of a man dying, he sells it to Nina (Rene Russo) at a nearby television station.  She informs him that he can contact her with anything else he can find because he has an incredible eye for film.  As Lou becomes more determined and excited for his work, he starts to cross certain moral lines that could have some big repercussions for him.

                This is a great film that shows the seedier side of the news business, especially in Los Angeles.  Gyllenhaal turns in his best performance to date and he mesmerizing to watch.  Every time he is on screen you can’t look away, he is charismatic, manic and an incredibly interesting character.  The way he decided to play the character is brilliant  His lines are delivered fast and confidently and sound like he’s reading from cue cards he memorized, but that is the great effect about his character, it draws you in.  Rene Russo is great, as usual.  A strong character that knows she’s in a business that make compromises regardless of how much she thinks she is above it all.  Paxton expands on his dirtbag character from True Lies and it works well to add to the drabness.  Riz Ahmed does a commendable job in his role as Lou’s assistant and he plays it subtly and innocently.  When his character finally finds his confidence, not only do you worry for him but you believe him.  The film looks great with some incredibly filmed action sequences that tense your muscles up.  The way in which the cinematographer decided to shade this film with dreary colors suits it well and helps to add to the tension of what is happening on screen.

nightcrawler still

                That trailer delivered on what it promised.  This is the definition of suspense, you have no idea how each scene is going to play out and it is tremendous fun.  Many times I was surprised by decisions characters make and I usually pride myself in knowing what is going to happen.  This movie is also a well told story about the participation trophy generation.  In the midst of his character, Gyllenhaal has the entitled sensibility rampant in the generation that was raised by self esteem doctrine.  He does work hard, but he will get the job done immorally if possible and at the expense of others with little to no integrity.  Sounds too familiar in this day and age.

                Probably one of the better performances I have seen in awhile because of how engaging Gyllenhaal is.  See this movie if you like suspense and gripping movies that take you into a world you’re not used to being in.  Language and violence warning.

3 and ½ 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.


automata poster

                This is another one for me that came out with a good trailer that made the movie not only interesting but visually impressive.  Both were correct…sort of.  While the story of Robots helping humans in a post-apocalyptic scenario that are not able to hurt humans is not new, they did seem to add a twist to it.  The robots are not supposed to be able to repair themselves or other robots.  Some of course start to and that makes them learn at an incredibly fast rate.  Antonia Banderas plays an insurance agent for the company that makes the robots and one investigation takes him outside of the city walls to see who is helping the robots.  This is the halfway point to the movie and it is also where it becomes a little convoluted and its once interesting idea is wasted.  The movies story doesn’t live up to its potential but kind of just turns into a shoot ‘em up action ending, which could have worked if it made sense for the movie as a whole.  Visually the movie does look really good with light color tones, almost brownish to imply the dirtiness earth has become and the robots themselves look like they came out of Jim Henson’s brain and that’s a good thing.  2 stars out of 4

The Last Sacrament

the sacrament poster

                I was actually looking forward to seeing this movie after watching a very good documentary on Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple on Netflix.  The trailer for The Last Sacrament looked exactly like that documentary and looked like Gene Jones would knock it out of the park as the Jim Jones character.  Unfortunately, anytime Jones isn’t on screen the film is slow and boring.  The found footage genre just didn’t seem to work for this film because there were very obvious problems with why a camera was filming the way it was versus the reality that certain angles and shots would not be possible with only two cameras.  I’ve tried looking online how they were able to pretty much recreate the Jonestown Massacre while never giving it credit for the story.  I’d say just watch the documentary and you’ll be more horrified by that than this poor attempt at horror.  1 star out of 4

The Equalizer

the equalizer poster

                I was really, really looking forward to this one but, while it was a good movie, its disappointment lies in its pacing.  Taking it from what could have been a tremendous outing for fans of both Denzel Washington and his action films to a great story idea that didn’t really get off on the right foot for a possible future franchise.  What the trailers promised was a Washington pick in the vein of Man on Fire, which is my favorite Washington picture.  What we got was something that could have been that great but just couldn’t find its footing.  I did not hate the film, just disappointed that a film about a man who helps protect others because he has a special set of skills could feel so overly long.  The action scenes are fantastic and Washington as well as Chloe Grace Moretz were great casting choices.  The problem is it is about twenty minutes to long and you feel it.  A sharper and more focused edit would have made this film awesome.  2 and ½ stars out of 4

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Terrific Trailer Tuesday: ‘The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron’


                Only two years ago an event happened that no comic nerd would ever have imagined possible…The Avengers were on the big screen in a big way.  Now we have had two great single outings and one somewhat decent one that leads us to its sequel.  Like any sequel the stakes need to be higher and they look incredibly high here.  With a new villain that seems like we could have the best villain since Loki who isn’t a one dimensional character in Ultron, voiced by the creep James Spader no less.  What we have here is a trailer that promises something better than the first and that may shake up things in a universe that some say is already growing stale.  Can’t wait.

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Review: ‘Gone Girl’


Spoilers O Plenty

                Gone Girl was one of the year’s most highly anticipated movies apparently because of the popularity of the book it was based upon with the same name.  Also it had a high profile director and a star that as of late is “controversial” whenever cast in anything now.  It has had two consecutive weeks as number one in the nation and seems like another triumph for director David Fincher.  Not only that but the usual rumors swirl around this type of Oscar bait on whether or not it has a chance against such and such movie or could it take home Best Picture.  Off of a great looking trailer and an interest to see if Affleck is getting any better at acting like he seems to be, I went this weekend.  Was it up to the hype?

                One morning Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns to his house in the suburbs of Missouri to find that his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) is not there like he expected.  It also looks like a struggle happened.  He quickly calls the police who begin to investigate the missing person and over the next several days find links that say Nick murdered his wife.  Expensive purchases, infidelity, an unraveling marriage, inaccuracies in his story and so on.  The media and his town quickly turn on him and also suspect him of a murder.  All accept his loving twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon) who continually supports him and suspects his innocence because of how horrible his wife was.  She also helps him to enlist a big wig lawyer from New York, Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who wants to help Nick not look so bad to the nation.  As the cops investigate, so does Nick and he finds things about his wife he never knew.

                Okay…turn away now if you don’t want to be spoiled on this movie because I am going to spoil everything because that’s how I want to review this movie.  Still here?  Okay then.  Let’s get the good out of the way.  The acting, across the board is all superb.  Yes, even Tyler Perry which really pains me to say.  The music and style of the film is all up there with great looking movies.  Tension in parts is really well paced and rewarding in making the viewer feel Nicks struggles as well as his growing frustration.  Now let’s get onto why this movie has nothing else to offer.

                Nick didn’t do it.  His wife hates him and has been planning to frame him for her murder for a very long time.  When her plan breaks down and she is forced to call upon an old boyfriend who she also abused mentally, that turns into her new plan.  She kills that boyfriend, framing him and coming back to Nick after Nick figures out what she is really doing.  She then manipulates him to stay with her.  Now, I know that this movie is supposed trying to feel smart, what with the hipster snarky dialogue through most of the flashbacks and making the audience guess what’s next, but it fails and it fails big time.


                There are so many holes in the wife’s story that she would have never, NEVER gotten away with this in the real world.  She got away with it in the film because that’s what they wanted, but they left gapping plot holes.  One, the cop in charge of the case asks legitimate questions to poke holes in Amy’s story, but she is shut down by idiot FBI men who feel sorry for the battered woman.  I call bullstuffings.  No cop would just let her story stand without some sort of verification or follow up.  Two and this is the big one, the framing of the old boyfriend.  She states he was the one that kidnapped her, but he would have easily been found to be somewhere far away for the whole day by a quick call to his office, his cell phone records or the fact that every house he owns has cameras that record all the time.  When hiding out in his lake house, she plays for the camera that she is being beaten, but that’s one angle!  She had no access to the cameras to delete everything else and even if she did that would cause more suspicion.  Other camera angles would have showed what really happened, like how she dipped her freaking pajamas into wine to make her look bloody in the one camera angle!  Also, as Nick points out at the hospital, if she was tied up the entire time, how did she get a box cutter to kill the man supposedly holding her captive?  Also, the only supposed camera angle the police looked at, she could have easily gotten out because the ex-boyfriend didn’t lock her in. The whole premise of the second half of this movie and final act is that everyone but the Amy character are complete and utter incompetent morons.  To think this woman would get away with anything with all the mess ups she did is asinine and takes the viewer out of the movie.

                If the filmmakers had taken time not to have all this idiocy, and there’s a lot, maybe we’d have a better movie, but instead we have something that by role of credits you are angry at.  But the fact that Pike was so good in her role that you hated her character shows great acting, so that’s why this one barely gets the rating below.  Lots of unnecessary sexual scenes and one very violent scene as a warning for any of you who still want to see the film.

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.


unleashed poster

                This movie gets looked over way too often.  A great turn by the late Bob Hoskins as a gangster who has treated a man as a dog since he adopted him into his home.  This dog wears a metal brace around his neck and when it is removed the dog, Danny (Jet Li) goes on a violent rampage against anyone his master tells him to.  This is Jet Li’s best American work and the supporting cast, including Morgan Freeman, is all fantastic.  Surrounded by all the martial arts violence, there is a truly sweet story about a young man who had his childhood taken from him by a sadistic loan shark.  Jet Li brings a great amount of compassion through the eyes of the character of Danny.  He also is able to give him a childlike wonder when he is unofficially adopted by Freeman and his stepdaughter after he is found severely hurt.  The story is great as is the action, cinematography and acting.  Great message about loyalty and family and bad guys meeting their just desserts, but what else would you expect from a Luc Besson story?

3 stars out of 4


oldboy poster

                I can’t stand Spike Lee as a person.  He is a racist, anti-Semitic little man who gets way too much attention, but this movie looked stylistically great.  So I gave it a shot and I was glad I did.  I have never seen the original South Korean film, so this was my first look at the story.  It’s really dark and the ending is uncomfortable, but like the trailers, it is a great film to look at and the acting is great too.  Josh Brolin plays a great role as a man who wants revenge on being framed for his wife’s murder and locked in a hotel room for fifteen years.  After being released, with no explanation for why he was treated the way he was, he immediately tries to find the people who did this to him.  Finally Spike Lee has made a movie I really enjoyed.  It is a pretty good mystery thriller, but does contain a lot of violence and sexual scenes including nudity.

3 stars out of 4


homefront poster

                Outside of Bullet to the Head, Sylvester Stallone has had a pretty impressive career resurgence the last few years really starting with Rocky Balboa.  Here is another film he wrote that brings back the glory days of the 80’s action flick with a modern setting.  Jason Statham plays a retired plays a retired DEA agent after his cover is blown with a very dangerous biker gang at the beginning of the film.  He moves his daughter to the town her mom, who died, grew up to give her a safer place to grow up.  Stathams character of course gets into trouble quickly with local meth dealers and let the action begin, no need for any story from there, just action.  Great movie and cast.  Give it a shot to remember the good ole days when action heroes weren’t whiny troubled metrosexuals but actual men.

3 stars out of 4

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Terrific Trailer Tuesday: ‘Mad Max Fury Road’

mad max fury road poster

Sorry for the delay in any new posts lately, I have been moving my family out of California to Indiana.  I’m back and will have more posts soon, but I will start out with presenting to you one of the best trailers of the year.  This movie, Mad Max Fury Road, looks visually incredible.  This film had big delays; script issues, re-shoots, etc. and this is what came out of it, not too shabby.  You can’t really see what the story may be about outside of car chases, but who cares, it looks awesome.  Enjoy!

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Review: ‘Chef’

chef poster

                One day, over lunch, my friend told me he hates eating.  If he was able to just get the nutrients, energy and whatever else comes from eating without eating, he would do it in a heartbeat.  Not only did it seem like a weird thing to just blurt out, but it was a crazy notion to me because I loved eating.  The smells, the tastes all were awesome to me when I was having a decent to great meal.  Why would I ever want to not have those experiences?  There have been many movies on the subject of food.  Some good, like Ratatouille and some are downright awful like The Last Supper.  Now comes Jon Favreau’s version of a food movie.  Could he do with that subject what he successfully did with comic books?

                Carl Casper (Favreau) is a successful chef at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant.  A food critic is coming to his diner and he excitedly plans a menu that brings forth his passion for cooking.  Tony (Dustin Hoffman) the owner of the restaurant pulls rank and tells Carl to cook the regular menu.  When the critic decimates the food that is set before him in a scathing blog article, Carl is distraught to the point of quitting his job when Tony won’t allow him to try it again with the food critic.  With no job he reluctantly agrees to go with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) to Florida to watch their son (Emjay Anthony) while she does business.  While there he decides to buy a dilapidated food truck and turn it into a truck that serves Cuban food.  With the help of his son and former assistant chef Martin (John Leguizamo) they drive the truck across the country along the way stopping here and there to make food.  All along the way, they grow in popularity and Carl and his son begin to connect in a way they hadn’t before.


                Favreau has made another great movie, which I hope he continues after the deplorable Cowboys vs. Aliens.  This is one of the better movies so far this year and it is all because of an intimate script, great casting, wonderful cinematography, a love for the subject matter and a touching story that draws the audience in directly.  There is humor, drama and at times a little tear duct manipulation.  Favreau is great as the main character adding an enthusiasm to his character for what he does that seeps through the screen.  John Leguizamo provides most of the laughs but some added heart as well.  Scarlet Johansson, as the hostess at the fancy restaurant isn’t given a lot of screen time, but what she does to help progress the story along is good.  Sofia Vergara is also really good as the ex-wife and does well with her flirtatious nature with Favreaus character.  Anthony as the young son needing his dad’s love and attention was great casting here because he nails it as a kid that wants to act mature but is still hinting at those childhood insecurities.  His scenes together with Favreau are the highlights of the film.  Another highlight is a great cameo appearance from a Favreau favorite.

                Chef is a highly personal film that speaks volumes about the need a child has for his father.  How fathers need to be highly involved with their kids and the importance of family.  I hate admitting it, but there were scenes in this film between the father and son that got me chocked up.  They were very well done and were not manipulative, just honest.  Favreau is able to make a very truthful  and engaging story that is pro family and one that explores what moves us and drives us as people.  While his character is trying to rekindle his love for making good food he is using it as a powerful metaphor and rekindling the love for family.  Great film.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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“When I’m awake, I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t want the hassle of turning the light off, putting my head down and then all the thoughts. I don’t want all those thoughts…thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts and I’m; ‘I don’t want this’.  I have to knock myself out.”

Robin Williams from the book Feel

                It has been only a few days since the news broke and yet I still find myself thinking about it.  His family and friends left behind crushed and asking painful questions to themselves and each other.  A man who was generous with his money and time and a man who was adored by so many is gone.  My first experience with Robin Williams was with his first movie role, Popeye.  I loved it.  Couldn’t get enough of it and I remember asking my mom if we could get canned spinach, to which she did.  I opened it up took one look and decided against eating whatever was in that can.  In pools, I would act out the octopus scene because I thought it was the best part of the movie.  This would not be the first time Robin Williams affected my life.

                The Survivors, Club Paradise and the Best of Times would be welcomed company for me on many a weekend afternoon.  I must have seen those movies countless times and they never got old and I still watch them to this day.  Good Morning Vietnam was one of my first R rated movies.  I must have worn down the VHS copy of Hook because I had to watch the dinner scene with the Lost Boys and when his character realized who he was just one more time.  Same thing would happen to my copy of Aladdin and Toys (an underrated film of his).  Jack will always have a special place in my movie life because he portrayed the scared and innocent man child so perfectly that I felt in some instances he was talking to me, even as an adult.  He also did drama…very…very well.

                What a versatile actor, comedy and then would blow everyone away with drama.  First one I saw was Good Will Hunting and he was incredible.  His calm, confident portrayal of a grieving widower who has to counsel a snot nosed genius was heartbreaking, painful and honest.  More would come with Insomnia, What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, many of which critics didn’t enjoy but you could see his commitment to his roles and they were phenomenally played with seamless emotion and professionalism.  More great roles would come and he would always be the best part if not the only part of the film that was great.  What other great roles were waiting for him?

                As a Christian who suffers from depression and questioning in those horrible times if God cares, I have intimate experience with the deepest one may go in their own mind with depression.  I do not know how dark it was for him in those final hours, but I have experienced something like it.  I may have never thought of suicide, but I did welcome death.  Depression was always a tough thing to tell people about, not that I wouldn’t tell people if they asked, but I couldn’t make anyone understand what was going inside.  In those times there was nothing more frightening than the darkness that would surround me for days, weeks, months and the utter hopelessness that I would feel.  Surrounded by people, I would still feel alone, unappreciated, unloved, and unwelcome.  The night would be the worst, especially when you’re alone in the dark and you pound away in your mind’s eye what is wrong with you, that things will never get better, this will never end, and everyone has abandoned or could care less about you, especially God.  Hopelessness, despair, helplessness, these words still do not feel strong enough when explaining how deep the damage of depression can be.

                I’ve known the darkness and more often than not welcomed it as my only friend.  It looks like Robin Williams welcomed it one too many times and was crushed by it.  My pastor told me of a pastor in Los Angeles who saw Mr. Williams come into his congregation one Sunday and had lunch with him.  This was shortly after his heart issues and he was looking for answers.  Years ago he was lost, maybe depressed and the depression was too great.  I can’t get him out of my mind, how close have I been to that?  Who do I know that could be going through this struggle right now?  They may be and they don’t want to talk, they don’t think you would care, they are lost and in a lot of pain, I know all too well that sensation.  If you’re someone like this, please talk with people you trust, I bottled it up for almost two decades because I thought no one truly cared no matter how often they said they did.  If you’re a Christian, know that others like you are having the same struggles with trusting Christ; even David dealt with severe depression.  No one is outside the grace of God, you may feel it, but it isn’t true and can never be.  Praise God.

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