Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Favorite Films with Animals as the Lead

My Favorite Films with Animals as the Lead
  1. Jaws
  2. King Kong
  3. Old Yeller
  4. Orca – Whale Killer
  5. Babe
  6. Jurassic Park
  7. National Velvet
  8. The Birds
  9. Benji
  10. Seabiscuit
  11. Born Free
  12. Harry and Tonto
  13. The Black Stallion
  14. Secretariat
  15. Cujo
  16. Gorillas in the Midst
  17. Babe: Pig in the City
  18. Shiloh
  19. Fly Away Home
  20. Best in Show

Jersey Boys - Review

Jersey Boys – Review

Based on the Tony Award Winning Musical, “Jersey Boys” is the big screen adaptation of the story of 4 young men from NJ who came from relative obscurity to eventually being responsible for writing and performing some of the most popular and iconic songs of the 1960’s, 1970 and 1980’s.

Known more popularly as “Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons”, Jersey Boys essentially weaves a rags to riches tale of triumphs, defeats, tragedy, loan sharks, mob bosses, organized crime, failed marriages, back room deals, cigar smoked filled lounges, jail cells, business managers, wild parties, deceit, forgiveness and great songs.

What bothered somewhat about this film is that Director Clint Eastwood, wanted thematically to have his cake and eat it too. He wanted to convey the risk that some of the decisions the group made could potentially be dire, but takes his foot off the pedal so to speak by injecting the aura of mobsters and loan sharks who from my perspective came across less of a threat and more like day care teachers minus the violence who still nonetheless just so happens to have guns. Case and point, Christopher Walken who plays mobster Angel De Carlo seemed more as a warm cozy avuncular type character who would have been more suited as some spiritual self-help advisor than actually someone to actually be fearful of. It’s through this and other roller coaster periods of the film disjointed execution that it felt a bit like a pedestrian tale, a TNT-ish movie of the week, something conventional, safe, predictable and sweet with a beautiful and glossy set to look at.

Now, there are a few good moments in the film where the story line is crisp and exciting, even soring and brilliantly funny. But eventually the film would always come down back to its own “safe” establish orbit involving these 4 men and in the processed being weighed down by their endless series of infighting, jealously and petty arguments.

Jersey Boys is OK and it has its heart in the right place, it’s that I was expecting a little something more. Instead I got for my 2 hours a lot of great songs that I readily remembered and even knew all the words to. But in the end, I realize that instead of going to the theatre to see this movie about 4 men and their great music I could of heard all of these songs on YouTube for free.

Ultimately, It’s a decent enough entertaining rental.

3 stars

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Night Moves - Review

Night Moves – Review

“Night Moves” starring Jessie Eisenberg (The Social Network), Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education) is the contemporary story of three American radical environmentalists living in Oregon who come together to plan and execute a terrorist plot. Their reasoning for this attack is they see a local dam as a symbol that is devouring the very organic essence from the natural and exquisite beauty of the state; literally they see the dam as something that is hydroelectrically sucking the very life force out of the Earth itself. So, with this deep conviction shared by all three the radicals; one a former Marine, the other a runaway high school dropout and the other an idealistic self-made militant, decide to act on this reverence for the natural world they seek to protect by raising the collective social awareness through an act of destructive sabotage by placing a bomb at the dam one summer night.

“Night Moves” at its core is simply an original authentic in the moment thriller with impeccable directing and flawless acting to make the audience feel both as an observing fly on the wall to the planning of the plot itself and also in having a bit of culpability to their actions as well. Once the reality of their actions kicks at a key point in the film, both audience and the radicals simultaneously become fully aware that actions such as these, as reverently honest and well-meaning in their design they may be, the aftermath of such decisions can be in-deed dangerous and felonious and wrought potentially with extreme deep and dire consequences.

This film plays less like a film that works on your basic sympathetic feelings and emotions and more like a Hitchcock hypnotic psychological haunting tale that maneuvers like the pieces on a chess board with the audience fully immersed in watching the three radicals and their every single plotting move, their every cautious conversation and their paranoid physical steps they take.  And while most of us may never be so incline to do something as criminal as this trio, you still are drawn into their own emotional plight of introspection, anxiety, paranoia and contemplation, by embracing throughout the film’s 2 hours their unrelenting raw angst of “what do we do next”, especially once we see the costly weight of the chaos they created by the dam’s explosion and its devastating impact on the close knit agrarian community in which they reside.

“Night Move” is one of the rarest of rare films where the suspense is not build upon loud explosions, car chases, shootouts, shouts of profanity or cliché tough talk. No this suspense here is as real as it gets, but it executes its own brand of unnerving with a perceptible quiet and demonstrative reserve.

I love this film an awful lot and it could very well be in my top ten for the end of the year, but it may be a bit too premature for that lofty status in that we have still have six more months this year of more highly anticipated films yet to come.

Still, for sheer riveting storytelling I highly recommend this film to everyone to see. And while it is currently in limited release in this area when you do get the chance to see it, please do. Like a good unsuspecting odd title page turning novel that sometimes catches you by surprise you will not be disappointed.

4 Stars




  1. The Godfather 2
  2. Aliens
  3. The Bourne Ultimatum
  4. Star Trek -The Wrath of Khan
  5. Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
  6. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  7. Silence of the Lamb (It’s prior was “Manhunter 1986)
  8. Toy Story 2
  9. Batman: The Dark Knight
  10. Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi
  11. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  12. James Bond - Gold Finger
  13. Ocean’s 11
  14. Kill Bill: Volume 2
  15. 28 Weeks Later
  16. Die Hard With A Vengeance
  17. The French Connection 2
  18. Before Sunset
  19. The Bourne Supremacy
  20. Lethal Weapon 2
  21. Jurassic Park - The Lost World
  22. For A Few Dollars More
  23. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  24. The Four Musketeers -  The Revenge of Milady
  25. James Bond - Skyfall

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars – Review

The Fault in Our Stars – Review

Based on the highly successful book written by John Green and starring Shailene Woodley (The Descendants & The Spectacular Now) as “Hazel” and Ansel Elgort as “Gus”, The Fault in Our Stars is in its basic narrative form is about a young woman fully aware of the fact that she is dying of cancer. What the films story - journey reveals is that it is not a story about a young woman dying of cancer; it’s about love and living to share that love with someone special.

I won’t give any backdrop to the film in that it does not warrant any story development by me for anyone to discern its motive. And while the film started out in the first 30 minutes a bit manipulative it eventually evolved over 2 hours into something that was initially entertaining to something enjoyable to a conclusion that overall I loved.

Now make no mistake about it, this movie wants to make you cry while pushing on all the right buttons to get you there, but what it does not do is let the audience lose its self-respect for the characters by pitying them or to anticipate  any mourning for them. Instead the story of Hazel and Gus and their chance encounter as friends and eventually as two people destined to be linked to one another, gives us the audience honest human performances of two people who are simply nice and who thrive and grow on their romantic connection with each other with every breath they take. And we get through this story with the help of the fine performance of the film’s principle stars, especially Shailene Woodley who manages to keep her Hazel character story grounded even when things start to wander off or threaten to get a bit too melodramatic.

While I don’t think this film reaches Oscar caliber level, Shailene Woodley performance is certain to garner her an Oscar Nomination as Best Actress as she navigate her character’s story with real authentic charm, wit, in the moment gravity, believable strength and human frailty. Her mother played by Laura Dern also has a good chance of her name being announced in the Supporting Actress Category as she too delivered a fine performance of her characters side of the story with displays of genuine Mom like sentiment, indomitable sweetness, love and support to also a Mom living with constant fear, angst and foreboding. With that “The Fault of Our Stars” overall has many good things in it from being wise to sometimes moments of being funny to sometimes delicately reminding us to live and love honestly and fully, to other times a sense of simply not having enough time.

The French have an expression, “Joie de vivre” with its translation to mean, “Joy of living”. “Fault” works very hard for the readers of the book and the viewers of the film to remind, even challenge us, whether we be healthy or not, that as you sit ask “Are you enjoying your life fully?” Probably not. And therefore if not, then why not? We are all on a terminal clock and this story of two young people who are dealing with one of life’s toughest challenges did so with heartfelt earnestness to move past any and all matters of personal inhibitions contrived or real. To move past the needles, the pain, the countless plastic bags of Chemo and constant oxygen tanks in tow. To move past all of the negative reminders of death into something far more noble to where one can compel oneself into simply living and living fully and if you can do it with someone who can openly and honestly love you back than it was a life worth living each minute whether you are from the age of 1 to 92 or if you lived only 1 or to 92.

3 – 3/4 Stars

Friday, June 6, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - Review

Edge of Tomorrow – Review

Starring Tom Cruise as Major William Cage the film “Edge of Tomorrow” takes place in the UK in the not too distance future. Earth has been invaded by an alien species called the Mimic who have come to Earth in a barrage of meteorites to unleash a relentless assault on humanity. Looking like shiny highly animated Octopuses’ the Mimic have undoubtedly come to conquer Earth and use it for their own consumption. They are formidable and seemingly impossible to defeat. But the global allied military believe they have a chance to defeat the invaders by soliciting every able body volunteer worldwide to fight the Mimic in the last unconquered area in the European theater.

Major Cage, who up to that point has had the rather cushy job of garnering the public relation support of getting volunteers to join the cause, suddenly discovers after a briefing on a new strategic plan to defeat the invaders, his desk duties days are over and that he would be part of the first wave of fighters to repel the Mimic. Immediately arrested and thrown forcibly into the European combat zone; Cage is totally untrained and reduced in rank into what looks clear to him as nothing more than a suicide mission.

Confused by the quick turn in events and now listed in rank as Private Cage and draped in a fighting metal highly armed exoskeleton, Cage is dropped into a whirl wind combat zone eerily similar to the opening scene in “Saving Private Ryan”, with Cage completely out of his element. But through a fluke circumstance when is he is killed, he is also transformed physically in a way that his life becomes a “Ground Hog’s Day” recycling of his previous days life. Each and every detail he experienced leading up to the day and moments of his own death are repeated over and over and over and over and over again.

Eventually Private Cage start’s to figure out the odd fact he is reliving his life. But Why? It is only when he meets a female soldier named “Rita Vrataski” played by Emily Blunt he starts to get some answers to this question. She unlike the other combat soldiers is uniquely aware of what is happening to Cage that she solicits Cage to come to speak to her “when he wakes up” just before she and he are killed……………again.

The big mystery to his repeating resurrection is the core plot point to this film. But what is fascinating about this film as a science fiction effort, while highly intricate and complicated to watch, “Edge of Tomorrow” is also cleverly crafted, rousing, thrilling, smart, refreshing, sensational and unexpected to watch. And you will watch it in the same way that I did probably saying to yourself this plot should not work, but it does work over and over and over again. And with each relived life cycle there is a bit more to be revealed as to the specific cause of this effect on Private Cage’s life. Director Doug Liman takes us through 2 hours of fun peeling away pieces of the plot with pulse pounding technical directing, writing and sharp brisk special effects action.   

In addition, Tom Cruise peals back his typical slightly over the top super confident alpha male persona by introducing here a more meek, scared and highly vulnerable male lead while giving equal screen time to his female counter part Emily Blunt, making the overall film have a more balanced story line and balanced sense of concern - caring for both the film’s lead characters.

“Edge of Tomorrow manages to keep you interested in every single second while not insulting your intelligence for one moment, giving the audience huge dividends on their ticket with a surprisingly imaginative action movie that takes you to a place you have never been before. Each 30 minutes of this film gets smarter and more creative up to its fulfilling climax.

Solid supporting acting performances from Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as the dictatorial Allied General Brigharn. One side note and it’s no big deal, I am beginning to believe that Tom Cruise has it in every film contract he signs he has to be seen on a motor cycle even if it’s for one minute. He does not disappoint.

See this.

4 - Stars