Saturday, October 28, 2017

The House (2017)

R | 88 min | 2017 | 2/5
There was once a time when you couldn't miss when a movie starring an SNL alum was being released, it would either feel like a skit or an original. With that said, how was The House released without me noticing, especially since it stars two known SNL members, Ferrell and Poehler. Although I knew nothing about it, I decided to watch it anyway.

Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) have been planning for years for the day their daughter goes off to college. However, when she gets accepted to a school, they are faced with the dilemma of how to pay for it. When the scholarship money falls through, they have to think of something quick, with the help of their neighbor and buddy Frank (Jason Mantzoukas), the three brainstorm a crazy idea that may actually work - to form an underground casino, after all the house always wins -right? Unfortunately for these two, they have something resembling responsibilities, making a casino a much more dangerous and scary place than they could ever imagine.

It's crazy to think that a comedy with two of the funniest, talents surrounded by others in the game could result in such a dud, but unfortunately, that is what happened. Just like many comedies released these days, this one neglects to follow a coherent story. It's simply just a movie starring a couple mediocre at best funny actors just everything up as they go along. Even the jokes, which I kid you not appeared to be reworded over and over again, weren't very funny. For a movie that was as short as this, coming in at just over 80 minutes, it felt like it was much longer, it just dragged on and on.

Hey, at least we've got Daddy's Home 2 to look forward to, right? Never mind.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday the 13th (1980)

R | 95 mins | 1980 | 5/5

Here's the granddaddy of every slasher film ever made. Released in 1980, Friday the 13th would spawn a multitude of sequels, reboots, and even a television series that ran for three seasons. There's no doubt that this film kicked off the most successful horror franchises of all time.

It all started in the summer of 1957 at Camp Crystal Lake, when a young boy drowned. The following year two camp counselors went missing and were later found brutally murdered. The authorities were forced to shut down the camp. A few decades later, now under new ownership the camp is scheduled to re-open, and a new group of counselors have arrived to help prepare the grounds for the busy season ahead. While these teen counselors are too young to remember the camp's bloody past, they have all heard one iteration or another about what happened. Also, there's someone lurking in the woods who'll be more than happy to give them a history lesson.

Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller
Starring:  Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Children of the Corn (1984)

R | 92 mins | 1984 | 4/5
When a young couple find themselves stranded in the isolated community of Gatlin, Nebraska, they discover that all of the town's adults have been slaughtered by a religious cult of twisted children who worship a mysterious cornfield deity. Can these adults escape the fanatical wrath of these adolescent zealots, or will they become the next blood sacrifices to 'He Who Walks Behind The Rows?' [Anchor Bay Entertainment]

It all started one year when this mid-western farming town's corn crop struggled to grow. This inspired local farmers to pray for a divine intervention, when boy preacher Issac Croner (John Franklin) gathers the local kids in the town square with an suggestion that they form a cult....a cult that kills every living adult in town to please the savage corn Gods (also known as "He who walks behind the rows").

The problem with this plot is the notion that the kids could possibly keep this a secret from the rest of the civilized world is nonsensical. The movie explains that the kids would simply kill every adult wandering through town, but in reality wouldn't that only lead to more people visiting the town? A little hard to believe these kids could really get away with this for so long, but it's just a movie...

Anyway, a few years after the initial massacre, we meet Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) driving across country. During their trip, they run into the body of a young boy and decide to take him to a hospital, in a nearby guessed it.

The film's only unsettling element is Isaac, played with effective gravitas by Croner, who I later learned is really an adult actor with a growth deficiency). I never quite figured out why Isaac speaks like a 16th century Puritan minister, but his stern face and archaic language certainly make him a memorable figure.

The fact that this movie spawned at least seven sequels and a remake should indicate it's worth checking out if you haven't yet. Horror movies can leave a lot to be desired, frankly many aspects are best left unexplained, and a religious cult story such as this one is no different.

Directed by: Fritz Kiersch
Written by: Stephen King
Starring: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

"Gooooooooooooooooood Morning, Vieeetnaaam!"

Robin Williams is best described as a comedic genius, at least early in his movie career. One of his best movies is the glorious "Good Morning, Vietnam" which not only allowed him to shoot off wise crack after wise crack but also deliver a touching story about what life in Saigon was like during the Vietnam War.

Live wire disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) is shipped to Saigon to boost troop morale with a new radio show. With his witty remarks and love of modern music he soon becomes a hit with the troops but runs afoul with his superiors who are less than impressed with his disregard for the rules and protocol. While posted in Saigon he gets to know the locals especially a young girl and her brother as well as experiencing the war at first hand.

On face value, this film may appear to be about an unorthodox approach to radio broadcasting which comes across unsettling to his immediate superiors. Look into the film at a deeper level and it's not just about a man bringing joy to the troops but also a man who hides behind jokes yet has to face reality. What is surprising is while "Good Morning, Vietnam" is set during the Vietnam War, it really isn't about war, it merely provides a backdrop more than anything and never encroaches on the main storyline.

"Goooooooooooooooooooodbyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye, Vieeetnaaam!"

Overall: With a superb cast (Robin Williams, Forest Whitaker, J.T. Walsh, among others) and a lot of hilarious one liners and an awesome sound track, this is a movie you don't want to miss. It's set during the Vietnam War, but it's not an actual war movie.

Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

30 Years of Film Birthathon - Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)

In light of my 30th birthday last week, this week has been devoted to films released in 1987. Today we're looking at the underrated John Hughes' 80s teen drama, Some Kind of Wonderful.

Keith (Eric Stoltz) is a high school senior who has eyes for the most popular girl in school, Amanda (Lea Thompson) all while ignoring his best friend, tomboy Watts (Mary Stuart Masterson), who just happens to like him a little more than he thinks.

It's been used over and over again in film over the years, and I'm sure we've all had personally experienced it once before. You ignore someone you could actually be with for someone more popular and prettier. Although this film tanked in the box office, this has the best elements in a John Hughes film. The chemistry between Watts and Keith is powerful and real - much like Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer in Pretty in Pink.

RATING: 4/5 - Forget the box office numbers, this one is a must watch!

Directed by: Howard Deutch
Written by: John Hughes
Starring: Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, Lea Thompson
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 95 Minutes

Monday, July 24, 2017

30 Years of Film Birthathon - The Princess Bride (1987)

In light of my 30th birthday last week, this week has been devoted to films released in 1987. Starting with what I've been told is a classic fairy tale, which I've put off watching until now.

The Princess Bride opens with a sick boy (Fred Savage) who receives a visit from his grandfather (Peter Falk) who visits to read to him from a book handed down from his father. The boy is not exactly pleased to be distracted from his world of sports and video games. However, his mood quickly changes as he and the viewer are transported to a place out of time. We are taken to Florin, a kingdom in an imaginary land, complete with dashing heroes, cowardly princes, rhyming giants, rodents of unusual size, fancy sword fights, and yes . . . even some kissing.

The fairy tale begins on a farm in the countryside where the young woman, Buttercup (Robin Wright) resides with farmhand Wesley (Cary Elwes). It's there where Buttercup quickly learns that "as you wish" really means "I love you" as she falls in love with him. While trying to seek his fortune, Wesley disappears at sea and becomes an apparent victim of the Dread Pirate Roberts. A few years later, Buttercup, who is now engaged to Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon), is kidnapped by a trio of misfits.

The focus of this film is to show that you can't stand in the way of true love. Throughout the movie, there are many hardships and trials that true love must endure. It has a mixture of fairy tale and witty one liners which you may end up repeating, such as "I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die."

RATING: 4/5 - A must watch film and even appropriate to include the kids if you've got them.

Directed by: Rob Reiner
Starring: Fred Savage, Chris Sarandon, Christopher Guest, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal, Mandy Patinkin, Cary Elwes
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Wilson (2017)

Directed by: Craig Johnson
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Laura Dern, Judy Greer
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout and some sexuality
Run Time: 94 Minutes

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a neurotic middle aged man who has lived alone most of his life. He loves to talk, to anyone, about anything even if nobody really cares to what he has to say. When his father passes away, he returns to his hometown for the funeral and decides to track down Pippi (Laura Dern), his ex-girlfriend who left him seventeen years ago. While they reconnect and everything seemed to be going great and wonderful, Wilson learns that they had a child together, in the form of Claire (Isabella Amara). Although Pippi put Claire up for adoption when she was born, Wilson takes it upon himself to find her and striking a sort of relationship that they clearly missed out on.

Rating: 3.5/5 Wilson has a mixture of comedy and drama but mostly, it's a sad attempt to string together a bunch of characters and ideas.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)

Ah, the American suburbia, where your social status means everything and your status improves by the amount of money you have or the material goods you buy. Back in the day, neighborhoods like the one in the movie were close-knit communities, today it seems like the most you'll get out of your neighbor is a friendly nod.

The Gaffneys had a good life. Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) works as an human resources director at a big defense plant. He's an average guy who hasn't met a problem that couldn't be solved with a stress ball. His wife, Karen (Isla Fisher) is an interior decorator who took some time off to raise their kids. On the surface everything appears to be normal, however it feels like something is missing in their lives, especially now that they're kids are away for the summer.

That is, until the Joneses' family moves in across the street. Natalie (Gal Gadot) is super sexy, who excels at everything she does and Tim (Jon Hamm) is an handsome, accomplished travel writer. Tim and Jeff hit it off immediately, while Karen is a bit hesitant to connect with the ever-so-suspicious Natalie. As it turns out, the Joneses' moved in next door for a purpose, they are spies and have their eyes set on Jeff's place of employment. It involves a mole within the company, a vicious arms dealer who is only known as "Scorpion."

Let's face it, espionage movies involving ordinary people have been done many times over the years. Similarities include, but are not limited to, Spy, True Lies, Mr and Mrs Smith, among others. Keeping up with the Joneses isn't any different, actually truthfully it may be one of the worst of the aforementioned titles.

RATING: 2/5  A movie to watch if you're really, really bored and have a buck-fifty burning a hole in your pocket but don't expect anything close to a masterpiece.

Directed by: Greg Mottola
Starring: Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Patton Oswalt
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, action/violence and brief strong language
Run Time: 105 Minutes

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen (2016)

High school can be the best or the worst time of your life. For many, it's a wonder how anyone survives this awkward time. For Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), she's earned the label. Over the course of the movie, which tracks during her junior year, she learns that the path of survival has less to do with doing homework, losing her virginity, or making friends than it does with becoming comfortable with herself.

Nadine is conflicted with one the most catastrophic ailments any nerd-leaning child can have: a popular sibling. Her brother, Darian (Blake Jenner) is beloved by the entire student body, but worse is he's always had more love and support from their mother, while Hailee's always been the black sheep of the family. Despite feeling isolated since the death of her father, Nadine has found solace in the friendship of Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), the sister-figure she never had. Krista isn’t just her best friend, however, she’s her only friend.

This isn’t a romance (although there are romantic aspects); it’s a coming-of-age drama. Hailee Steinfeld portrays Nadine as an awkward student, supported by a best friend-turned-brother's-girlfriend, a absent-minded mother, a loving but recently departed father, and Woody Harrelson: a teacher we all wished we had in high school. The screenplay presents life through Nadine's perspective and, as circumstances force her to grow and change, we see things more clearly: betrayals that aren’t really betrayals, “perfect” lives that aren’t quite so perfect, and people hurt by her actions who don’t deserve the pain.


Director: Kelly Fremon Craig
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Woody Harrelson
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content, language and some drinking - all involving teens
Run Time: 104 Minutes

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Walk in the Woods (2015)

Directed by: Ken Kwapis
Starring: Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, Emma Thompson

A couple old guys taking a walk on the Appalachian Trail doesn't sound like an award winning motion picture does it? Well, as it turns out, it isn't. The success of similar features usually relies on the chemistry of the two leads, something we notice is a bit lackluster here.

Bryson (Robert Redford), a renowned author, is facing a delayed mid-life crisis and on a whim decides to walk 2100+ miles on the east coast, from Georgia to Maine, via the Appalachian Trail. The problem is: his wife, Catherine (Emma Thompson), won't let him hike it alone. After being rejected by most of his old friends, he is forced to invite the only one with an interest - a man he hasn't seen in decades and with whom he didn't part on the best of terms. By his own admission, Katz hasn't done much with his life and is so out of shape, it looks like he might have trouble walking a mile, let alone 2100+ of them. Nonetheless, the two of them hop on a plane to Georgia and the odyssey begins.

Overall: A Walk in the Woods is a very mediocre adventure flick, if you want a similar film but with better background story my recommendation would be to see Wild. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Company You Keep (2012)

Directed by: Robert Redford
Starring: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Nick Nolte, Terrance Howard, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Sam Elliot

For anyone unaware, the Weather Underground Organization, commonly known as the Weathermen, was an American militant radical left-wing organization founded on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan in protest of the Vietnam War. In Robert Redford's film, The Company You Keep, he imagines what it would be like for some members of the group to still be alive and hiding in America today. They were once branded terrorists and now, the few that remain, have slowed down to blend in as soccer moms or local lawyers in small towns.

The movie begins when a mom, Sharon Solarz (Susan Sarandon) sends her kids off to school and sets to turn herself into the FBI for the crimes she committed while she was a member of The Weathermen. This event triggers a newfound interest in the case and the few others who remain hidden are suddenly being actively hunted again. The primary target is Jim Grant (Redford), a single father just trying to keep his daughter happy after the passing of her mother the year before. He is uncovered by a local journalist (Shia LaBeouf) and from that moment on, he runs, just as he's done for the last thirty years.

Overall: This is a very slow thriller, starring many A-list actors which makes it worth checking out at least once.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Me - 2017 Edition

Happy New Year, everyone! Hopefully everyone had a safe but fun last night of 2016; now it's time to get down to some business. As you know, I didn't bother making goals at the beginning of last year because I knew I would end up breaking them early on. This probably begs the question, why on Earth would I bother this year if I already know I'm going to break them? Well, for starters I need some order in my life, living a spontaneous lifestyle day by day may be exciting but can be more stressful.