Wednesday, April 29, 2015

An Honest Liar

An Honest Liar - 90 min - N/A

This is a great documentary that gives us a personal look at a man who has stood as a guard for us against the flimflam artist who would rob,cheat and steal our money while taking advantage of our vulnerabilities.  See what I wrote on Web Wombat

Monday, April 27, 2015

Get Hard

Get Hard - 100 min - R

I'm lukewarm on Will Ferrell's work. His brand of comedy doesn't always match my taste. I was really drawn to it because of Kevin Hart. He is a rising star and his humor has intrigued me. Their collaboration seems to work but the movie had a mix of cringe worthy and full belly laugh moments. More cringe than I care for really. It also had a homophobic vibe. For these reasons I am giving it a yellow light. Will Ferrell fans will like it, I was on the "meh" side.

James (Will Ferrell) is a big shot hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud. He has a big house and a very expensive fiancee, Alissa (Alison Brie). He knows in 30 days he is going to be serving hard time for 10 years. The only Black person he knows is Darnell (Kevin Hart), the guy who washes his car. Assuming because Darnell is Black, he has spent time in prison, James hires Darnell to teach him how to survive in prison.

The major theme of the story is James not wanting to go to jail. As a character he confuses me. He’s a brilliant trader and can see the trends and makes money hand over fist. I imagine in that work he can link things together. So he completely trusting his father in-law and not suspecting him seems disingenuous. However Will Ferrell plays the completely clueless person so very well that perhaps that is what they were going for.

It was funny watching Darnell abuse James. In his attempt to get James ready for prison, they try and toughen him up. He goes to parks and picks fights with people and tries to physically work out. Nothing seems to work, So Darnell has to level with James. He is going to have to learn to become a bitch. So they go to a gay pick-up spot and because he is faced with his biggest fear, a homosexual act, he find a new motivation to become ready and work harder and becoming... wait for it… harder, pun intended because that’s what the biggest continuous joke is in the movie.

There was a lot of time spent getting him ready for prison and only in the last section of the last act do they think to try and prove his innocence. It really feels like an afterthought on how to tie up the story. It would have been better to have more balance in all of the story lines. One of the biggest things I appreciate in a film is the growth of a character. James does go through a change and walks away from the film with a new point of view.

Darnell is a little under developed. His motivation is to get enough money to get his daughter into a better school district. I totally understand that and as a father I can sympathize with his motivation. He plays along with James to get what he wants but there is nothing that he walks away with no lesson learned.

Kevin Hart can take on more as an actor. This role was a little under his skill level. I saw one of his stand-ups and he is incredible. I guess what kept this movie from a red light were his parts. I think he has the ability to carry the right project.

Do you have a favorite performer who you think is ready to take the next step?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hector and the Search for Happiness

Hector and the Search for Happiness - 114 min - R

Simon Pegg takes a world win trip around the world to see if he can define happiness. As a travel film and some really profound thoughts on what makes a person happy.  See what I wrote on Web Wombat

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Kingsman: The Secret Service - 129min - R

I enjoy the spy genre of films. James Bond films are an institution in Hollywood. I have enjoyed the new gritty realistic standpoint that those movies have taken. Kingsman takes the spy movie to new heights and/or depths depending on how you look at it. I am not fazed by graphic scenes in films and I almost never flinch when someone breaks a bone in a fight scene. This film has found my breaking point for violent images. I liked the film even with the sour feelings it left me. I did want to go home and dust off my Disney collection and watch something wholesome to repair my soul.

Harry Hart, code name Galahad (Colin Firth) takes young Eggsy (Taron Eggerton) under his wing because Eggsy's father sacrificed himself for his team, saving Harry. Harry offers to give Eggsy a chance to try out for the Kingsman. During his training a criminal mastermind known as Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) starts to develop a plan that will have devastating effect across the world.

The film was put together well. It has a nice balance between action-adventure and campy spy gadgets. The performers were all top notch, there didn't seem to be a person out of place or out of their depths with the performance. The touches of humor fit in nicely with the story and weren't overdone. I don't know if they were enough to lighten up the level of violence that really starts off the film and doesn't end until the film is over.

I'm going to talk about the more bloody scenes here so if you are not wanting spoilers please look away, I'm sure you would have in the movie as well.

I think I was past my comfort level about a quarter of the way through the test of Valentine's weapon at the church. You would think that a church based on hate and bigotry would not make me flinch to see them all die horribly, but it did affect me, I was over my violence quotient for a movie. It was completely horrific, the ways that people killed one another in that church. It kept escalating to a darker and more brutal place.

I found it interesting that the movie set the stage for me to not feel bad for the victims as they were intolerant jackwagons, but as the scene continued on I was feeling bad that even intolerant jackwagons didn't need to die that way.

To offset that level of killing there is a scene further in that has a lot of heads exploding. Instead of showing us all of the heads they covered over them with a CGI firework display that took the place of all of the heads. That really softened the blow of the event that took the heads of hundreds of people.

I think that what this movie has going for it is the like able characters. I felt a solid connection with everyone. The fight scenes were outstanding and well-choreographed and the car chase was one of the better ones I have seen.

At its heart it's a really good spy film that has potential. I do hope they will make a sequel. But I also hope that the violence experiment is over and we never ever have to watch a scene like that one in the church again.

Where is your violence tolerance level?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Cobbler

The Cobbler  - 99min - PG13

Adam Sandler has a very specific skill set in his acting. When he has no one to mind him he tends to run his jokes into the ground.  His brouhaha about womanizing female actresses and also his issue with the Native Americans walking off his set. BUT this movie is fine.  Take a look at my review on Web Wombat

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ex Machina

Confessions of a Sci-fi-fan

Ex Machina - 108min - R

I have always been an easy sell when it comes to science fiction. From the first moment I saw the robotic woman from Metropolis I was hooked on the genre. Obviously this film is going to be rated with an easier eye in my book...

Or so you would think.

Perhaps my love for this kind of film makes me look at it with more scrutiny. I found the movie to be a wonderful idea poorly executed. At best, it's a yellow light. There are some captivating cinematic elements, but the pace of the film kills any tension that it starts building. Plus, some of the messages in the film rub me the wrong way.

Nathan,(Oscar Isaac) is the very creepy owner of Big Blue, the world's largest Internet search engine. He holds a lottery and invites one of his minions - sorry, employees - to take part in a new project. He's creating a woman and wants to see if his employee can be taken in by a bizarre and highly sexualized Turing test.

I have to tell you how uncomfortable I am with the implied subtext in this film: Women are objects that are best experimented on. To make a perfect one, make her unable to communicate and sexually available whenever the need arises. The emotional connection it creates with you is all an act to get something from you and if you do give them any freedom they will kill you.

There, it just had to be said. I know I have a pro-feminist streak but I can’t be the only one who saw this, can I?

The cinematography is perfectly done to bring out the maximum amount of creepy, and the soundtrack works to heighten the tension. The problem is the long stretches of tension are interlaced with characters watching each other staring introspectively. When you have so much tension, your audience gets numb to it so when things happen in the story that should elicit a reaction of surprise or enlightenment they are more likely to respond with "Oh. Well that happened. Finally."

Nathan is ultimately way too creepy from the start. To make the end work better they should have slowly shown us his oddness. It should have started out with him being a fun eccentric. Instead he starts off being someone who would make the family robot say “Danger, Danger Will Robinson!”

Domhnall Gleeson as Caleb, the hapless employee, was a great casting choice. He was the perfect test subject and he played his role really well. Alicia Vakander, who played the robot, Ava, did an amazing job at simulating emotions like a robot trying to... simulate... emotions. Your head can go wonky if you think about it too long. How well a performer does at playing a robot is hard to gauge. Are they doing a good job because they are a great actor or are they simply robotic in their performance? Imaging how confusing that direction would sound like from the director. “Ok do these lines but don't emote because you're a robot. BUT you are faking like you have emotion”.

Comparing her work in Seventh Son and this film gives you a better understanding of her range. She is someone to keep an eye out for. Hopefully we can see her (I can't believe I am saying this) with more clothes on.

Alex Garland is one of my favorite directors. His work in 28 Days caught my attention and I enjoyed Dredd, so I was looking forward to this film. This one is not among my favorites in his portfolio. I know he can do a less disturbing story.

What popular movie has a subtext that rubs you the wrong way?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

True Detective Season 1 (HBO)

True Detective Season 1

This series starts off with a bang, The concept is a great one every season is a new true crime story.  Its dark and depressing but so real in its story arc. The two heroes start as reluctant partners, then they are enemies, and turn out to be fiends, See my review on Web Wombat.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold - 109 min - PG-13

This film tells the story of Maria Altmann. At the age of 80 she sues the Austrian Government to recover a painting that was stolen by the Nazis. This movie took me by surprise. I have been busy so it kind of snuck in under my radar. I was pleased with the story and the chemistry between the stars. It was an enjoyable watch to see a woman confront her past and bring closure to some of the great wrongs she has suffered. The Woman in Gold gets a green light.

In 1938 Maria Altman (Tatiana Maslany) and her husband, Fritz (Max Irons) escape Vienna, Austria and the Nazis leaving behind her family. She goes to America and builds a new life. Her Uncle knew the famous painter Gustav Klimt who did a portrait of Maria's aunt. When Maria left the portrait and other paintings were taken from her family by the Nazis. In 2000 Maria (Helen Mirren) asks attorney Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to help her recover the family painting from the Austrian Government.

I really like the performance of Ryan Reynolds in this film. He was relatable and moving while bringing the struggle of Mr. Schoenberg to the screen. He chose to leave a promising career at a prestigious law firm to help Mrs. Altmann. He had to fight the Austrian government and had to keep his one and only client motivated to keep fighting. This is the kind of hero role he excels at.

I have been leery of Ryan Reynolds after the debacle that was Green Lantern. I know the poor story was not his fault but he still has the taint of that movie hanging over his head. I don't want to rehash the many reasons why that movie failed-- just know that he reminds me of that film. It was good to see him in a different role and something that reminds me that in his element he is a good performer.

Helen Mirren is majestic on screen and always a joy to watch. I have to admit I am smitten by her talent. No surprise that she can play the strength and determination of this character and also embody the frailty and frustration of the struggle even with her charming senses of humor. Mirren’s performance highlights the subtle but powerful spirit but also the weight of the fight she is in.

There are moments in the film where the story drags a bit because the events didn't happen over a week. The film had to also present the other things in their lives that are going on. It's hard to strike a good balance to keep the story moving along and give it scope. This movie could have been tighter but the strength of story keeps you interested.

If you are in the mood for a biopic you won’t go wrong spending some time with this story. It has some interesting sub plots that are truly touching. Besides… who doesn't love a story that shows that the little guy taking on big government.

What was your favorite BioPic?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Rosewater - 103min - R

Movies that are based on real life events are hard to to do with out taking too much creative license. As Jon Stewart was in a way partly involved in Maziar's incarceration it makes senses that he  makes a movie. See my review on Web Wombat