Wednesday, November 26, 2014

3 Days to Kill

3 Days to Kill - 117min - PG13

Here is my review of 3 Days to Kill. I am a sucker for a Luc Besson story.  Take a look at the article on Web Wombat

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Judge

The Judge - 141min - R

The best part of this film is the spectacular cast. Working with excellent material, director David Dobkin, whose films have been hit or miss, has created a wonderful story that plays well and gives the setting an honest feeling. The characters all play well off one another without overdoing it. The story could easily fall into a bog of sentimentality but it provides enough to give the film flavor without overdoing it. I sentence this film to be a green light.

Hank (Robert Downy Jr.) is a high priced defense attorney. His client list consists of the worst of humanity but the best paid. When he gets a call from his brother to say his mother has passed away, he is faced with going back to his home town and dealing with the family issues he has separated himself from. His father (Robert Duvall) is a judge of the local area and is a hard man. Hank reconnects with his family and his old life. His interactions are those of an outsider only there to bury his mother.

As he about to leave, his father gets accused of killing a man he had problems with in the past. Now, Hank has to stay and defend his father. Through the trial, he starts to learn about his past and why his relationship with his father has been so hard. This journey is peppered with self-realization and a new understanding, and Robert Downy Jr. does an excellent job of showing us that journey. His performance is spot-on.

This film's trailer is misleading. It really focuses on the trial but the story has way more depth than expressed. The movies that show growth of a character are more appealing to me than anything else. They give us hope that we can change as well. Hank is going to be Hank but the story shows us his change in direction as a person without losing the edge of flare of who that character is. His journey back home brings to light a lot of feelings and emotions that he has buried but not forgotten.

Robert Duvall's portrayal of Judge Palmer is excellent. He really does an outstanding job of expressing the proud professional that sacrifices his relationship with his son to maintain the image of propriety in the community. He would rather be found guilty than have his judgments called into question because of possible evidence that could save him in the trial.

Some outstanding performances that need recognition are Vincent D'Onofrio and Vera Farmiga. D'Onfrio completely nailed the emotional struggle of the older brother who has moved past the loss of his shot at baseball and the frustrations of the possibility of having to be the cartaker of his youngest brother. Farmiga is a great strong independent woman. Her character's strength is in knowing her feelings for Hank but also knowing who he is and she doesn't let that change or color her world.

I enjoy the realism of the story. Its strength is the honesty of the characters and their realness. Other films of this nature give in to sentimentality but this one keeps it feet on the ground and provides a good story that makes the viewer enjoy the ride. We also see the change in character in the opening scene Hank urinates on the prosecuting attorney after his journey we see him in the same setting offering the character a bit of advice. The second interaction is completely civil and a perfect touch.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Snowpiercer - 126min - R

Here is my review of this film on WebWombat. Now showing on Netflix. 

Excellent work performed by all, what should I watch next on Netflix? 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone Girl – 149min – R

This movie is surprising. It’s defiantly not what you expect. The trailer does a perfect job of giving you the feeling of the film and entices you in without giving anything away. This is a well-made film and expands into a whole new level of creepy. Imagine if the 1991 film He Said, She Said were darker and written by sociopaths. Then you have some idea of what this green light film has to offer.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) and his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) are having problems. They are the normal problems couples have if they fall out of love and the pressures of life are weighing down on them. Nick goes and sees his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon) at the bar they both own. When he returns home he finds signs of a struggle and his wife gone. Nick is completely clueless to how his wife disappeared you start to wonder if you have the whole story. What happens then must be seen to be believed. It’s hard to replay more about this film when I don’t want to give away too much. This move is best experienced.

The amazing thing about this film is its ability to provide clues, yet keep the whole story a mystery until the end where you can see all three sides of the story: his side, her side and the truth. I’m still wrapping my head around how completely broken a few of the characters are. I feel manipulated and I wasn’t even in the story.

Movies sometimes provide lessons to the viewers. For example Basic Instinct was a cautionary tale about infidelity. In Sleeping With the Enemy you have a woman who feels free but in reality her nightmare of a spouse shows back up again, warning us that things will come back to haunt us. I still don’t know what message this movie is imparting, or at least I can’t and not give away huge parts of the plot. If you want to talk more about this drop me a line at .

David Fincher continues to impress with his storytelling and his wonderful ability to build pressure and deliver the goods. Not surprising there, but what I really enjoyed was the story itself. I have been told that the movie guts the novel but as you know direct translations to film never work out so you have to make sacrifices.

I think the important parts of the book were relayed in the film because I would be interested in reading it based on my experience with the movie. Gillian Flynn was the one who wrote the novel and the screenplay so the story's creator had some control of what the end result was. Gillian Flynn does pen a good story.

This gripping story is definitely going to make this one of my favorites even if Neil Patrick Harris plays a complete creep in it, showing off his range. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a Fincher film.

If you have seen the film, tell me what you thought did it end the way you were expecting it to? I know I was surprised.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Don’t Look Back

Don’t Look Back - 85min – Not Rated

William Dickerson tweeted me, asking me to review his film. It’s on iTunes so I paid for a copy and gave it a look. I was pleased with the result. This is a nice small production. The story focuses around a central character in a small town who is dealing with her past. I am a huge fan of small, well-done productions. They seem to have a lot of spirit when done right. This film is a well-deserved green light.

Nora Clark (Lucy Griffiths) is an author of children’s books. Her grandmother (Holly Kaplan) recently passed away and left her the house she grew up in. She seems to be having writers block so she goes to the house to get away and start writing the next book in her series. She meets Peyton (Cassidy Freeman) who is looking for a room to rent. They become friends and as Nora starts to write she asks Peyton to do the photography for the new book. Their friendship grows but is also tested because Nora’s past comes back to haunt her and Peyton seems to be more than she is letting on.

The psychological journey going back to your childhood and revisiting your past is a great subject. That’s what gives the audience a connection with this film. We have all had those moments of reflection. Not saying everyone has had the same past as Nora but that uncertainty of returning to the home you grew up in is a common feeling for all of us. The setting this movie takes place in is a wonderful idyllic, quaint and quiet town.

This story unwraps the layers of Nora’s history like a present. Slowly undoing the ribbons and paper to see what is in the box of her mind. In the film the use of the popsicle house is used to great effect to show us the progression of Nora’s journey. As much as Nora pushes this symbol into her past, Peyton embraces it and completes the house. The similarities in their characters play well with this imagery.

The cast was spectacular. The performances complimented each other very well. There was chemistry with all of them. I liked the relationship between Peyton and Nora. They played well off of each other and build that close connection. It was nice seeing Roddy Piper in another film, though it was a bit hard to watch him play this role so well. To me, he will always be Nada standing in the bank saying “I have come to chew bubble gum and to kick ass… and I am all out of bubblegum.” I still use that whenever I can in online games.

There is an HD version and an SD. It’s worth the extra few bucks for the HD version. The shot composition is really well done. With the beautiful Idyllwild as a backdrop it makes for great eye candy and you might as well enjoy it in its fullest depth of color and scope. The scenes are really put together well.

I had a chance to talk with the Director via Email here is our conversation.
What drew you to this story?

I'm primarily drawn to a theme, or themes, in a movie before I decide to make it. I find myself drawn consistently to the theme of "rebirth," which was the major theme in my film "Detour." The idea of rebirth is also threaded throughout "Don't Look Back." While it's a psychological thriller on the surface, the film is a latent coming-of-age story at its core. Albeit a twisted one. Nora hasn’t really yet become an adult, emotionally speaking. She is stuck due to her childhood trauma; until she confronts it, she can't fully grow into her present self. Her character arc, for all intents and purposes, leads to a cathartic rebirth into a new self. This idea fascinates me.

What was your favorite part to shoot?

It's hard to write about it without giving a key moment of the movie away! Though, it's like that with most of the movie, since there are a number of twists and turns. There is a death scene that is filmed through the viewfinder of the 3D camera -- if I have to pick one part of the film that I had the most fun shooting, I'd have to pick that!

What project are you working on next?

I'm writing several screenplays with my partner, Dwight Moody, several of which we would like to put into production. We are also writing a TV pilot that may, or may not, have to do with aliens.

What is your dream film to shoot?

My dream, my passion project, is to shoot the adaptation of my novel, "No Alternative." It's a coming-of-age drama set in the world of suburban American teens in the early 90's. One of the teens, Thomas Harrison, starts his own alternative band, which becomes an obsession that blinds him to what’s either the mental collapse, or the eruption of musical genius, of his little sister, Bridget. Bridget boldly rejects her brother’s music by taking on the persona of an X-rated gangsta’ rapper named “Bri Da B.” I think the landscape of the early 90’s – the “grunge era” of music and the lifestyle that went along with it – is something that evokes a great deal of nostalgia for people right now. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain and nostalgia for the 90’s is at a fever pitch. The remarkable thing about kids in the 90’s is that every kid felt alone, alienated – from their schools, from their family, from themselves – but they were all alienated together. The music that filled the air between them was the glue that connected them all.

When did you start getting the bug for filmmaking?

When I was a kid, my grandfather gave me his old camcorder, and I filmed everything I could with it. My first "legit" film was an adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" that I made in 6th grade. I was allowed to make a film in lieu of writing a book report. Thank you, Mrs. Burke.

How did you start?

"Ten Little Indians!" As legit as that project was, I really started to get going when I made a few shorts that got into festivals and got me accepted to the American Film Institute as a Directing Fellow.

Who were and are your influences?

The first time I realized there was a creative mind behind filmed entertainment was while watching television in the early 90's. I was watching Episode 8 of "Twin Peaks" as a kid and something just clicked: there was someone behind the curtain, and that someone held my emotions in his hands like a palm full of putty. That someone was David Lynch, of course. He is a big influence. As is Scorsese, Hitchcock, Spielberg, Bunuel, Kubrick and De Palma, among lots of others.