Category Archives: Reviews

Alphabet Cinema: “H” is for “Hereafter”

Did you ever buy a really cheap rental copy of a movie from a dying Blockbuster before one of its branches went caput? Yep, I did that quite a lot; it was oddly satisfying. Problem is, I haven’t finished watching them all yet . . . so let’s begin with:

Hereafter (2010). From the DVD cover, looks like a paranormal action tale with Matt Damon. Uh, nope. Remove one of those adjectives. Despite Damon’s face, Hereafter boasts very little running and jumping (after the first twenty minutes or so). In fact, it isn’t all about Damon’s character either, even though his paranormal ability does play as a fulcrum to the plot. The story is split into three sections of a braid. Continue reading Alphabet Cinema: “H” is for “Hereafter”

Alphabet Cinema: “G” is for “Gone Girl” and “Grey’s Anatomy”

My brother wanted me to review Gone Girl (2014) for “G” but it hadn’t been on my Alphabet Cinema list when I first made it. (I’m still surprised he didn’t write a review first.) I’d had this film on my Redbox watch list though, and wanted to watch Oscar-nominated Rosamund Pike (Pride and Prejudice, Jack Reacher) in action.

Ruthlessness lies in those eyes.

So, because of her stellar skill and the movie’s success in general, I’m adding this blurp about Gone Girl, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn of the same title.

Watch it. (Maybe not with your significant other, if you’re having tiffs.)

It is a brutal analysis on marriage and the two partners involved therein. The critique is wrapped inside a media smorgasbord topped with suspected murder, one terrifyingly cunning wife, and the chance to strip all pretenses of marital bliss. It’s the type of shitstorm that either makes you, or breaks you. Continue reading Alphabet Cinema: “G” is for “Gone Girl” and “Grey’s Anatomy”

Alphabet Cinema: “D” is for “Don Jon”

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a man of many talents, and he demonstrated them exceedingly well in Don Jon (2013) as director, writer, and actor. It’s a hat trick I was initially wary of regardless of my admiration for his work in both 50/50 (2011) and Inception (2010)–not from any doubts in what the man can do, but from this movie’s subject matter.

Don Jon is a 90-minute film that definitely earns its R rating from the get-go. Lots of cussing, lots of pornography. No, not X-rated, people, (whoa there slow down) but the viewer cannot doubt what’s going on if they’ve eyes and ears. The story focuses on a young man named Jon, who’s famed among his friends as “the Don,” for his ability to seduce the sexiest girls every night. And yet his activities cannot touch the feelings he receives from porn.

Well, enter Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a voluptuous New Jersey vixen (and damn, hearing that accent from both actors was so odd), who snares Jon’s senses and demands that he gives up his internet fixations. See? On the surface, the movie sounds none too special, and prone to cliches. Fortunately, Gordon-Levitt excels at pulling you in with witty charm, snap-fast story-telling, and genuine emotion. He explores addiction and that pesky human tendency to deny its existence to our own detriment.

Don’t worry, though. All this sounds like a basis for heavy drama, but Don Jon is told with so many quick cuts and satirical musical stereotypes that you can’t help but be entertained.

Continue reading Alphabet Cinema: “D” is for “Don Jon”

Double Feature! Reviews for Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” and “Planes”

We have a running joke in my family about Double Features. It stems from my dad and his buying my mom two pairs of tennis shoes for Christmas one year. He found it hilarious for some reason and I recall my mom whacking him with one of those shoes. (It’s one of those you-had-to-be-there situations.) So now we endeavor to buy my dad double features of every gift.

Anyway, that memory has nothing to do with this review.

I haven’t written a movie review in a while now, and for that I apologize, and say only this: the movies and TV shows I HAVE been watching cater to innocent young minds with short attention spans.

Sound like you? Okay, great!

Let’s focus on Disney/Pixar’s Cars (2006) and Disney’s Planes (2013). Seven years and Cars 2 lie between them but my three-year-old loves them both just the same. And why not? With talking vehicles of every kind, speedy action sequences, and brightly-colored animation, these two films are a young boy’s dream. (You know, before puberty ruins it all with . . . hormones.)  Continue reading Double Feature! Reviews for Disney/Pixar’s “Cars” and “Planes”

Departures Review: Your Last Ceremony

I expected a somber documentary-style film about a contemplative cellist-turned-mortician, a cerebral movie intended to question and disturb. When the very first scene elicited a burst of surprised laughter, I knew I was screwed. The next 125 minutes were going to impact me more than I had prepared.

Such was the skill of director Youjirou Takita (When the Last Sword Is Drawn) in provoking and guiding one’s emotions in the 2009 Academy Award-winning Japanese film Departures, originally titled Okuribito. Takita, along with an A+ cast, take the viewer into one of Japan’s taboo professions: a nokanshi, which translates into an embalmer of sorts, or an “encoffiner,” not a mortician (a.k.a. funeral director), as I had previously believed.  Continue reading Departures Review: Your Last Ceremony

The Giver Review: Jonas Sees In Color

Warning: Spoilers follow.

A film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s The Giver has been a long time coming. I remember reading the book in sixth grade, as required by my English teacher. It was only my second dystopian novel (Fahrenheit 451 being the first), before I even knew what the word “dystopian” meant. Now, I’ve read the book, but as I walked into the theater, I realized I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen–it had been too long.

However, I did remember bits and pieces: an old man, the murder of a baby, a sled. (And then the sled got me thinking about Ethan Frome, which has its own famous sledding scene, and well, maybe this isn’t the time to talk about it. Rosebud!!!) Anyway, the point is, I went into The Giver tabula rasa–much like its characters, who basically live without the memory of their ancestors. There is no history prior to the beginning of their civilization, which is one that upholds the importance of “Sameness” above all else.

Continue reading The Giver Review: Jonas Sees In Color

Lucy Review: Cerebral Callings

Bracing herself in the airplane seat as it is preparing to land in Paris, Lucy toasts herself with a flute of champagne. “To knowledge,” she whispers. And then she begins to disintegrate.

Lucy (2014) has so far been met with disappointingly average reviews (and, in some cases, outright hate). I blame the let down on the film’s marketing. We were told to go watch a vengeful superhuman rail against her drug-dealing kidnappers, and instead, found a human-turned-deity looking for her new purpose. Basically, people were expecting Limitless (2011) redone, but with Scarlett Johansson instead of Bradley Cooper.

Wrong, folks. Sorry. Don’t do that to yourselves. Of course, I cannot speak for director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element (1997), Taken (2008)), but this movie viewed more like a cerebral sci-fi flick than an action-filled superhero tale. Sure, there is plenty of action, but even Morgan Freeman’s character Dr. Norman said so himself that all this is but philosophical musing. Continue reading Lucy Review: Cerebral Callings

World War Z Review: Keep Moving and You’ll Be Fine

Movement is life. You have a better chance if you come with us.
-Gerry Lane

Or for Netflix viewers, keep scrolling. World War Z (2013) is not really a must-see. And for those that have read the book (not me), you’ll sob from everything awesome that was omitted (or so readers have decried, e.g. the Battle of Yonkers, nuclear wars, epic army combat with zombies, et cetera).

This is not to say that the movie offended me in any particular way, or sucked so badly that I wanted to sue director Marc Forster for wasting 116 minutes of my afternoon.

Continue reading World War Z Review: Keep Moving and You’ll Be Fine

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review: “Did He Just Throw My Cat Out The Window?””

If you’ve seen and freaked out about enjoyed Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (2012), you’ll fall completely in love with The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). (And if you haven’t seen either of these two fantastic films, well, hey I just gave you two great evenings’ worth of entertainment. You’re welcome.)

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a story about a girl reading a book written by a man who hears the tale from a modest hotel owner told over dinner about his life as a lobby boy in the 1930s for a prestigious Hungarian hotel run by one M. Gustave H, renowned concierge and overall BAMF.

Confused? Don’t be! Just settle in for a marvelous ride. Wes Anderson wields his gorgeous cinematography and hilariously timed narration to immerse you in a story that is vivid, thrilling, and unforgettable down to the very last character. Continue reading The Grand Budapest Hotel Review: “Did He Just Throw My Cat Out The Window?””