Tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. (2013)
Tracy Letts first came on my radar after I watched the brilliant Killer Joe. I had no idea it was an adaptation of a play, and I was thoroughly impressed with the writing that I had to look further into the playwright’s career. Though I didn’t know much about August: Osage County going into it, just seeing Letts’ name attached had me excited. I then came across the cast: Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch and a bunch of big actors. I became concerned that this movie was going to be Oscar bait and, oh boy, is it ever.
Let me start with the one part that worked for me: Letts’ writing. The screenplay is bleak, smart and never lets up. Unfortunately, there’s not all that much action, and so we the audience is bombarded by speech after speech and fight after fight. And my are there fights! Everyone gets their shot to scream at the top of their lungs and say something awful about another family member. Secrets are revealed, trusts are broken and no one comes out looking particularly good.
I would’ve preferred to see the same material with a different set of actors. I know these actors are some of the best (or more likely, well known) of their respective generations, but everyone just tears into each scene with a big Best Actor/Actress halo seemingly attached to their heads. The one standout is Benedict Cumberbatch as little Charles, an incredibly sweet if not particularly intelligent man. He adds subtlety to a movie where it’s not easy to find.
From John Landis, the director of Animal House and The Blues Brothers, Burke & Hare is adark comedy/thriller staring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Curry and Isla Fisher as the unfortunate denizens of 19th century Edinburgh, a setting rife with murder, theft, prostitution, corpse snatching, experimental medicine, and of course Shakespeare. (2011)
This is a true story.
Except for the parts that are not.
And with that we enter Burke and Hare, an entertaining mix of black humor and Monty Python-esque shenanigans that is based on events in history. I wouldn’t have expected this type of film from John Landis, but I’m certainly glad to have watched it. Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis do terrific work together, and I hope to see them reunite in another film. Isla Fisher is simply adorable and pulls off a very convincing Scottish accent. I wish the whole film didn’t have that post-production blue hue filter that has popped up in so many recent movies, but it does at least help sell the gloominess of 1800s era Edinburgh. Though some of the laughs are easily telegraphed, Burke and Hare is an enjoyable comedy that features a number of talented character actors.
A sudden snowstorm in Chicago forces the plane to land in Wichita. Unable to find a room in any of the four-star hotels, Neal is compelled to accept Del’s invitation to share his accommodations in a cheapo-sleazo motel. Driven to distraction by Del’s annoying personal habits, the ungrateful Neal lets forth with a stream of verbal abuse. (1987)
It’s always a weird feeling to not love a classic as much as you think you would. Such is the case with me and Planes, Trains and Automobiles. That’s not to say there are parts that I didn’t like– John Candy is at his best in the dramatic, sadder scenes. Him and Steve Martin are both funny, but what makes the film work is that John Hughes touch of humanity. That being said, I didn’t care much for the first act and some of the more gross gags. As a side note, is Due Date a super duper rip off of this movie or what?
The original 3D computer animated story follows Emmet (Chris Pratt) an ordinary, rules- following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.(2014)
I imagine most people would not expect much out of The Lego Movie besides frequent product placement. This is how I felt as well until I saw the first trailer. Then, once word of mouth began building, I became anxious to see if Phil Lord and Christopher Miller really pulled off something unexpected again (like their surprisingly excellent remake of 21 Jump Street). I’m happy to report that The Lego Movie lives up to the hype and exceeds it. With a simple but strong message, humor for both children and adults alike, and a very sharp script, The Lego Movie may be one of the better computer animated films I’ve seen.
Chris Pratt is going to be huge soon. He’s already my favorite part of Parks and Recreation, but with the upcoming Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and another Jurassic Park movie in the future, it’s just a matter of time before Pratt is a household name. His childlike glee and sweetness always feels authentic. He’s the perfect actor to voice the character of Emmet, a fairly normal construction worker who wants to fit in with everyone and follow all the instructions. The Lego Movie challenges him (and the young audience) to start coloring outside the lines and to be okay with not following the rules all the time.
As computer animated films began coming out more and more frequently, the list of famous actors replacing old school voice actors became more prevalent. Most phoned in their performances (sometimes literally), simply cashing a large paycheck from a booming part of the industry. Thankfully, that isn’t the case here– both Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman have some of the funniest lines and deliveries, and put in a good effort overall Will Arnett is perfect as Batman, and the filmmakers do a great job of poking fun at the mythos and occasional absurdity of the dark knight. Also, Jonah Hill as a fanboy-ish Green Lantern is just perfect.
The third act has a really interesting revelation that makes the themes of The Lego Movie even more poignant. Though I’d usually put Will Ferrell in that aforementioned category of money-grabbing voice actors, he does better dramatic work at this point of the movie than I’ve seen from him in previous (and far more serious) efforts. The Lego Movie sets itself up for a sequel in an interesting way, and I really hope that movie comes sooner rather than later. I should probably wrap this review up, as I now–for better or worse–have an insane urge to play with some Legos.
Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts – who he once would have shunned – and established a hugely successful “buyers’ club.” (2013)
Dallas Buyers Club succeeds via restraint. Director Jean-Marc Vallée shoots the film without any grand flourishes or touches that distract from the narrative. The physical transformation of the two leads is truly something, but the performances by both Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto overshadow the visual shock of their appearance. In two scenes, each featuring one of those actors, their characters begin breaking down and crying. There’s such a rawness in both their performances in these scenes that is absolutely heartbreaking.
The easiest way to slam Dallas Buyers Club is to put it in that awful category of Oscar Bait. Sure, some aspects of the movie make it eligible: two physical transformations (usually only one in movies such as Christian Bale in The Machinist, Charlize Theron in Monster or Robert de Niro in Raging Bull), characters suffering from life threatening diseases and a story based on true events. That being said, Dallas Buyers Club is a fascinating look at a man who doesn’t believe in his supposedly impending death, as well as the grey line of helping people while profiting off them.
Reinvents the genre by putting a fresh twist on home-invasion horror. When a gang of masked, ax-wielding murderers descend upon the Davison family reunion, the hapless victims seem trapped…until an unlikely guest of the family proves to be the most talented killer of all. (2013)
It’s a bummer that I didn’t get the opportunity to see You’re Next in a theater and with a packed crowd. I imagine this film would be a tremendous viewing experience for its humor and scares. That being said, it didn’t translate well for home viewing. This is one of the few instances where I let myself get swept away by the hype of a fresh take on horror. Whereas Cabin in the Woods exceeded all the positive word of mouth it got, You’re Next was a disappointment; however, the things it gets right, it gets very right.
Our lead heroine is a badass that happens to also be fearful of her situation, and Sharni Vision is perfect in that role. The supporting cast all does well too, with the exception of film director Ti West (stay way from acting!). The twist wasn’t all that great, though I do appreciate that it wasn’t done as a late third act reveal. The characters are somewhat well fleshed out in the first act, which helps make a lot of their deaths more impactful. Still, I thought You’re Next is a good film but not the genre classic it was made out to be.
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him Don Jon due to his ability to “pull” a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. (2013)
Don Jon begins with an incredibly unsubtle montage of the sexualization of women. Though it makes a good point, it’s a lot like the rest of the movie– broad and lacking depth. Jon is not necessarily the whore with a heart. For the most part, he’s a douche and though the audience doesn’t need a protagonist to be likable, it doesn’t help when the rest of the movie plays it fairly by the numbers. That is until the third act, where Julianne Moore’s character takes things for an unsatisfying left turn that doesn’t work. Don Jon is an admirable effort for a directorial debut, but Levitt stands to make some progress at a writer before he can truly create something worthwhile.