Friday, January 01, 2016

MAINSTREAM & INDIE FILMS TO SEE IN 2018 reviews & interviews by Gerald Wright


Directed by: Donovan Marsh
Running time: 121 minutes
Release date: October 26, 2018
Genre: Drama, Action, and Thriller
Distributor: Summit Premiere/Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: R

In a classic submarine search and destroy thriller, filmmaker Donovan Marsh takes notes from famed director John McTiernan's 1990 espionage thriller film The Hunt for Red October, the adaptation of Jon Clancy's 1984 bestselling novel of the same title.

The setting is deep under the Arctic Ocean, American submarine Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is on the hunt for a U.S. submarine in distress when he discovers a secret Russian coup is in the offing, threatening to dismantle the world order.  Meanwhile, stateside CICS Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman) under orders from U.S. President Dover (Caroline Goodall), now must assemble an elite group of Navy Seals to rescue the kidnapped Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) and sneak through enemy waters to stop a possible WWIII.

As American CIA, other operative agencies, and politicians deducing motives, they must prove honorable theories.  Before a violent confrontation between the Russians spirals on of control, a rogue Russian coup is in the works.  

Also starring Common as RA John Fisk, who conflicts logical strategy with CICS Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman), the on-screen chemistry is energizing.  Along with terrific performances by Linda Cardellini and Toby Stephens, this high stakes thriller sets crisp pacing and spectacular rhythm.

The high energy brings a tone of impending disaster concentrating on chaotic events and efforts of survival - a 'what-if' scenario.  The casts are made up of familiar character actors.  Once the disaster begins in the film, the characters are confronted with human weaknesses, calling upon the lead to struggle against the threat, and finds a bad guy to blame.

Hunter Killer is predictable in its outcome, but involves intense character development and interaction.  It is a exciting film designed for pure audience escapism.


Directed by: David Lowery
Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes
Release date: September 28, 2018
Genre: Drama, Crime, Comedy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on the true story of Forrest Silva "Woody" Tucker (Robert Redford), from his audacious escape from San Quentin Prison at the age of 70 years old to an unprecedented string of bank robberies that confounded authorities and enchanted the public.  Wrapped up in the pursuit by detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck), who becomes captivated with Forrest Hunt's commitment to his craft, and a woman named Jewel (Sissy Spacek), who loves him in spite of his chosen profession.

As this story is mostly true, the film relies heavily on the crime drama laced with comedy.  However, the true story is of an American career criminal who was first imprisoned at age 15 who spent the rest of his life in and out of jail.  He is best known as an escape artist, having escaped from prison 18 times successfully, according to himself.

His personal life is that he was born June 23, 1920 in Miami, Florida, to Leroy  and Carmen Tucker.  Leroy, a heavy equipment operator. left the family when Forrest was only six years old.  Forrest was raised by his grandmother Ellen Silva.  Later on in his life as an adult Forrest was married tree times and had two children, a boy and a girl; none of his wives knew of his criminal career until they were informed by police.

With his legendary prison escapes from Alcatraz and San Quentin, he wrote a number of books about his life including Alcatraz: The true Story and The Can Opener, although it is unclear if they were ever published.  He was profiled by David Grann in The New Yorker in 2003 in a piece titled "The Old Man and the Gun".  Living in a retirement community in Florida, at the age of 79 and married for the third time, he robbed an estimated four banks by himself in the local community with an allegiance to The Over-the-Hill Gang.

Robert Redford portrays Forrest Tucker in his latter years pulling off these bank robberies and finding a love relationship with an older woman Jewel (Sissy Spacek).  This is Redford's final screen role, as he announced his intent to retire from acting in August 2018, he ignites the screen with an energizing performance. 

As the string of robberies makes media attention Casey Afflecks' character, Detective John Hunt, goes after the old seasoned criminal in a hot and heavy pursuit.  The 'cat and mouse' chase is a challenging narrative that has the audience seating on the edge of their seats.  It is a serious, plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interactions by a solid supporting cast.

This is a good biographical crime drama.

In the epilogue, Forrest Tucker dies in prison.


Directed by: Bjorn Runge
Running time: 100 minutes
Release date: August 17, 2018
Genre: Drama and Adaptation
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: R

In a tale based on the book by Meg Wolitzer, is a mid-life self-discovery story and a feminist essay about being true to oneself.

Joan Castleman, brilliantly portrayed Glen Close in an Oscar nominated performance, is a highly intelligent and still-striking beauty - the perfect devoted wife.  She is married to husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce), a charismatic man whose literary career is garnered by his peers - enough to have his works acknowledged for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The tone of this narrative displays the forty years spent sacrificing her own writing talents, dreams, and ambitions to fan the flames of her husband.  Their fateful pact has built a marriage upon uneven comprises.

Filmmaker Runge uses flashback scenes to their meeting in 1958 when he was a professor/writer, while she was an aspiring writer/student of his.  Actually, he was a struggling writer who needed structure in his works.  She, on the other hand, always put the necessary proper context and structure to his early work.  

Christian Slater, in a supporting part, portrays Nathaniel Bone, a person who has doubts on who is actually the writer of Joe's notable work.  Is Joan the force behind Joe's literary work that will garner him a Nobel prize?  Will Joan demand her respect and acknowledgement from Joe?  Is she tired of being the hidden force behind Joe's success?

This compelling and engaging narrative is seen through the eyes of this strong woman who wants her own acceptance.  The film blends into tense dark comedic drama with the foundation of extraordinary acting power of the duo of Glen Close and Jonathan Pryce.


Directed by: Jon Turtletaub
Running time: 115 minutes in RealD 3D and IMAX
Release date: August 10, 2018
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Action, Horror, and Adaptation
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG:13

This American-Chinese co-production science fiction action horror film is adapted from the 1997 science fiction book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Allen.  The film stars Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, and Cliff Curtis, and follows a group of scientists who must stop a 75-foot Megalodon shark from terrorizing a beach.

The premise is set-up three hundred kilometers off the Chinese coast, when a 22 meter long prehistoric shark called Megalodon, thought to be long extinct, rises from the depths of the ocean and attacks a research submersible, leaving its crew stranded.  Diver Jonas Taylor (John Statham), who encountered the monster before, is called into action to help rescue the crew and stop the monster before it attacks the mainland and eats those that are offshore.

The plot offers a flashback as its opening that shows Jonas attempting to rescue other divers, among them Dr. Heller (Robert Taylor).  Jonas rescues some but refuses to go back to save others, after he understands that going back for the rest would mean the death of everyone.  Heller grudgingly holds Jonas responsible for abandoning the rest of the crew.

This brings the film to the contemporary setting five years later, when Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson) meets Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), his widowed daughter Suyin (Lin Bingbing), and her young daughter Meiying (breakout performance by Shuya Sophia Cai) at a modern underwater research facility called "Mana One".  A mission to dive further into the oceans is being conducted with Celeste (Jessica McNamee), Toshi (Masi Oka) and The Wall (Olafur Darri Olafsson) underwater and supervised by DJ (Page Kennedy) and Jaxx Heard (Ruby Rose) and James 'Mac' Mackreides (Cliff Curtis) at the station.  The mission appears to be going well, until a large object hits the ship and causes it to contact with Morris, Zhang, and Suyin.

This a multi-layered plot where as Jonas who is written off as a crackpot suffering from PTSD taking on his demons to save a new crew of people, to becoming affectionately involved with a woman and daughter, to destroying a monster in order to make offshore China safe.

For pure audience escapism, this is a action-packed adventurous film.  A pure block-buster popcorn flick!


Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Running time: 147 minutes in RealD 3D, IMAX 3D, and 2D IMAX
Release date: July 27, 2018
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller, Adaptation, and Sequel
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on the television series, this action spy film is the sixth installment in the Mission: Impossible film series.  It stars Tom Cruise as IMF mission leader Ethan Hunt, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin, all of whom reprise their roles from previous films, while Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett join the franchise.

Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.  When the mission ends badly and Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) escapes custody, the world is faced with dire consequences.

Tom Cruise, is in fine form as super-spy Ethan Hunt as he takes it upon himself to fulfill his original briefing.  The CIA begins to question his loyalty and his motives, but he is determined as he is hunted by assassins and former allies, as he finds himself trying to prevent a global catastrophe - It is a race against time.

Much like the prior series of this franchise, this film includes high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises (explosions, fires, etc.), non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional 'good-guy' heroes (or recently, heroines) batting 'bad-guys' - all designed for pure audience escapism.  The adventure tone is an exciting story with new experiences and exotic locales, highlighting special-effects and action.  As the action thriller theme is imposed for a multi-layered narrative, it is virtually promotes excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.

As a global espionage spy flick, this episode offers great plot twists with mind-boggling cat and mouse scenarios.  Tom Cruise is doing his thing with fantastic stunts.  This energized movie gives the audience over-the-top situations and more.  


  SICARIO: Day of the Soldado
Directed by: Stafano Sollima
Running time: 122 minutes
Release date: June 29, 2018
Genre: Drama, Action, Crime, and Sequel
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

In the sequel to the 2015 film Sicario, the film features Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin reprising their roles as Alejandro Gillick and Matt Graver respectfully, along with Isabelle Moner as Isabelle Reyes, Jeffrey Donovan as Steve Forsing, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Gallo, and Catherine Keener as Cynthia Foards joining the cast.

The series begins a new chapter in the drug war with no rules, and the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the U.S. border and CIA (Catherine Keener) orders federal agent Matt Graver (Brolin) to call on the mysterious undercover rogue operative Alejandro (Del Toro), whose family was murdered by a cartel kingpin, to escalate the war in nefarious ways.  Alejandro kidnaps the kingpin Gallo's daughter Isabelle (Moner) to inflame the conflict - but when the girl is een as collateral damage, her fate will come between the two men as they question everything they are fighting for.  In the midst of ruthless characters is a young man named Hector (David Castaneda) who wants to make his name in the illegal trafficking of people across the U.S. border.

The focus of the story is how the main characters go into Mexico to basically start a war, on purpose, between rival Mexican cartels.  It a crime film developed around the sinister actions of criminals, mobsters,underworld figures, and ruthless hoodlums who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.

While using interchangeable plots to merge into the overall story, this edgy contemporary western thriller is suspenseful and promotes intense excitement and a high level of anticipation.  This is set by the soundtrack by Hildur Guonadottir.

The late Johann Johannsson received an Oscar nomination for the music he wrote for Sicario (Golden Globe winner for The Theory of Everything).  Guonadottir had collaborated with Johannsson on Sicario and many projects over the years, so now the Icelandic cello player, composer and singer has manifested herself to score for this sequel.  Her work is more emotional than the previous film, and the score follows that direction.  This score is a bit more of a classical rendition, with musical themes that follow certain emotional landscapes and surrealism.

This is a brilliant crime drama and plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  The tone is dark, the style is bleak, and the primary moods are of melancholy, alienation, disillusionment, disenchantment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia.  

Sicario: Day of the Soldado shows the great screen chemistry between Del Toro and Broslin.  The movie is gritty, desolate and harsh.  This film seems to be a stand-alone spin-off rather than a sequel.  


Directed by: Christina Choe
Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes
Release date: June 8, 2018
Genre: Drama, Mystery, and Thriller
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
MPAA Rating: Not rated

Writer and director Christina Choe crafts a provocative psychological thriller about love, intimacy, and trust - and what happens when lies become truth.

Nancy Freeman (Andrea Riseborough) lives a life of poverty as she cares for her ailing mother in a rural community.  Her life is conducted and communicated through pseudonyms on the internet world of social media.  Once her mother Ellen (J. Smith-Cameron) dies, Nancy's internet relationships expands show far to arrange a mutual meeting with a man Jeb (John Leguizamo) who grieves for his late wife, which turns disastrous once he finds out that she is a fraud.  

The plot is a character driven presentation portraying a mentally unstable young woman, as she interacts with realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development as Nancy craves connection with others.

While promoting suspense to the story, Andrea Riseborough's performance adds a high level of anticipation once she creates elaborate identities and hoaxes under pseudonyms on the internet.  Nancy becomes increasingly convinced she was kidnapped as a child.  When she meets a couple, Leo (Steve Buscemi) and Betty (Ann Dowd), whose daughter went missing thirty years ago, fact and fiction begin to blur her mind, and she becomes increasingly convinced these strangers are her real parents.  As the bonds deepens, reasonable doubts give way to willful belief - and the power of emotion threatens to overcome all rationality.

Nancy is a story that promotes intense excitement, suspense, a high-level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.  It is a good watch!


Directed by: Dominic Cooke
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Release date: May 18, 2018
Genre: Drama, Romance, and Adaptation
Distributor: Bleeker Street
MPAA Rating: R

Based on Ian McEwan's 2008 novel, this British period piece character driven narrative exposes early 1960s romantic and marital attitudes during a global changing of lifestyles.

In 1962, Florence Pointing (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Adrian Scarborough), a young couple find their idyllic romance.  However, the new arrival of sexual freedom and the antiquated  established societal pressures, collide to an awkward and fateful wedding night.

The story drifts smoothly in the cinematic descriptions of their courtship and youths were splendid as well, and is practically felt in the dappled sunlight of the Oxford countryside.  Yet, the layered plot uses past and present tense narrative to merge how the romance collapsed and decades later finds a hard closure to each person's individual and separate life.  Their inner complex lives, their past lack of experience, particularly their sexual innocence and naivety are quite credible in the period when the atmosphere takes place.  

The fact that there are only two main characters make the plot very dense and tight.  One can't escape the tragic climax that looms inevitably between the two, who really know so little about each other and about themselves in a 1960s world that was rapidly changing.  After their devastating wedding night clashing and their final departure from marriage, the action on screen takes up speed of a 20, 30 and 40 year latter part biographical destiny.  

This is a serious, plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters masterfully performed by the two lead actors, using great settings of the 1960s England.  The life situations and stories involve intense character development and interaction.  The dialogue is funny, wrenching, and hugely gratifying in unexpected ways.

On Chesil Beach is remarkable, heartbreaking, and gripping.  It is as merciful to its characters, as it is merciless in its heartbreak.


Directed by: Jason Reitman
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Release date: May 4, 2018
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA Rating: R

This is a new dramedy from Academy Award-nominated director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno).  It's a character(s)-study film that spotlights Marlo (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron), a mother of three including a newborn, is gifted with a nighttime nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis) by her exotically detailed successful brother Drew (Ron Livingston), and accepted by her loving husband Craig (Mark Duplass).  

The terrific performances are displayed by the chemistry between Marlo and Tully.  Tully is a single "Millennial" female who addresses the themes of domestic and gender roles in a family.  In this film the tone is accurately depicted to the wealth of invisible labor that is performed by women all the time.  Marlo is married to a great guy, a good father, but she is performing many times the labor for the family that he is.  She delivers a new child to the household, and Drew must commit to his job with a new promotion causing a more demanding workload.  This situation is done in the course of her maternity leave space, whereas her domestic workday never begins or ends, it is just an infinite cycle of tending to others without getting any recognition for it.  The nighttime nanny Tully makes it possible for Marlo to reconcile her core self with her life as a mother,  Tully eventually becomes a great friend to Marlo, someone who brings her joy while offering honest conversations.

This is a story that comes full circle in a female empowerment theme.  It is a plot and character driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Hesitant to the extravagant gift from her brother of a night nanny, Marlo comes to form a unique bond with the thoughtful, surprising, and sometimes challenging young nanny named Tully.  

Tully is a highly creative narrative that maintains a standard of excellence.  Brilliant cast performances.


Directed by: Jose Padilha
Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes
Release date: March 16, 2018
Genre: Drama, Crime, and Thriller
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA Rating: PG:13

Inspired by true events of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight en route from Tel Aviv to Paris via Athens, and the most daring rescue mission ever attempted.  This is the powerful story about the Jewish passengers who were separated and held hostage in demand to release many terrorists held in Israeli prisons.  

The true story begins on the week of June 27th, when an Air France plane with 248 passengers had been hijacked by two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - External Operations (PFL-EO) under orders of Wadie Haddad, and two members of the German Revolutionary Cells.

With extremely strong performances by Rosamund Pike as Brigitte Kuhlman, Daniel Bruhl as Wilfred Bose, Eddie Marsan as Shimon Peres, and Nonso Anozie as Idi Amin, this cast sets a stimulating tone.  

Filmmaker Jose Padilha gives the audience a great musical setting of choreography to merge with this narrative.  The film gives insight into personal lives and families of the hijackers and Israeli Special Forces, while injecting engaging facts behind the published tabloids.  It offers thoughtful and challenging attitudes of philosophy behind a controversial time in history.

Structuring the plot in a 7 day staging, the plot examines the hijacking, the operational planning (preparation of the raid and diplomatic solution), the raid (attack route with hostage rescue), and the departure.  The use of archival footage added the natural effect of realism.

This historical narrative takes on dramatic scope, high production values, and a sweeping musical and choreographic score that will give a more spectacular version of a biopic film.


Directed by: Nash Edgerton
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes in English, Spanish, and French
Release date: March 9, 2018
Genre: Comedy, Crime, and Action
Distributor: Amazon Studios/STX Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R

Gringo, an exhilarating dark comedy mixed with white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, explores the battle of survival for businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) when he finds himself crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal.

In this sarcastic and sardonic story naive Harold finds himself at the mercy of his back-stabbing business colleagues Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markison (Charlize Theron) who implicate him into the world of kidnapping, local drug lords, a Mexican cartel, and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary.  David Oyelowo's performance as innocent businessman, who is manipulated by a hard-nose and bitchy Elaine Markison and a corruptly spineless Richard Rusk, is passive as he battles to survive his increasingly dangerous situation in his joyride into the illegal drug trafficking world in Mexico.

The action in this film is thrust into a series of challenges that typically include violence and frantic chases.  Harold is featured as a resourceful character struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, and villains in pursuit.  This is a dark comedy crime plot developed around the sinister actions of criminals, mobsters, underworld figures, and ruthless hoodlums who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.

However, this film doesn't hit its mark.  The key roles don't provide the audience with a good idea of how the film is going to be.  The setting and atmosphere is not successful.  The plot does not flow all the way through the film and becomes disjointed.  The characterization fails on all points - on all actors.  Of course, the audience will relate to the characters, but the portrayals are uninspiring and whimsical.


Directed by: Eli Roth
Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Release date: March 2, 2018
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, Crime, Remake, and Adaptation
Distributor: MGM Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

This revenge crime thriller written by Joe Carnahan is the sixth installment of the Death Wish series and a remake of the 1974 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson, and based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield.

The film stars Bruce Willis as Paul Kersey, a Chicago doctor who sets out to get revenge on the men who brutally attacked and kills his wife Lucy (Elisabeth Shue), and places his daughter Jordan (Camila Morrone) in a coma state.  Vincent D'Onofrio portrays Frank Kersey, Paul's younger brother.

The storyline displays the tone of the Chicago police being overloaded with crimes.  However, Paul burning with revenge hunts his family's assailants to deliver justice.  As the anonymous slayings of criminals grabs the media's attention, the city wonders if this deadly avenger is a guardian angel or a grim reaper.

Bruce Willis is the vehicle that drives the character-driven plot as he becomes a divided person; a man/doctor who saves lives, and a man who takes them; a husband and father trying to take of his family; and a shadowy figure fighting crime.  It is a complex psychology of Brian Garfield's book injecting thrills and suspense.

However, this film does not add anything new to previous installments.  It is predictable in every sense of developing the actions of sinister criminals and ruthless hoodlums who operate outside of the law.  The revenge theme is high energy grim action exaggerating spectacular rhythm and pacing.  The two-dimensional 'good-guy against the bad-guy' tone is mundane, and is penalized for poor execution.


MAZE RUNNER: The Death Cure
Directed by: Wes Ball
Running time: 141 minutes
Release date: January 26, 2018
Genre: Drama, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Thriller, Sequel, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In this dystopian science-fiction action thriller film based on The Death Cure, the final book in The Maze Runner trilogy, written by James Dashner, is the sequel to Maze Runner: The Search Trials (2015) and is the third and final installment in the Maze Runner film series.  

Formatted in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D, the conclusion shows Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission to save their friends.  It is a mission to break into the legendary Last City, a WCKD-controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all.

With returning cast members of Kaya Scodelario as Teresa, Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt, Dexter Darden as Frypan, Nathalie Emmanuel as Harriet, Patricia Clarkson as Ava Paige, and Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge along with Aiden Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, and Rosa Salazar the director Wes Ball weaves an epic film where anyone who makes it out alive will get answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they arrived in the maze.

The setting is of post-apocalyptic fiction, set in a world and civilization after a disaster.  The time frame is after the catastrophe, focusing on the travails and psychology of survivors, including the theme that the existence of pre-catastrophe civilization has been forgotten.  This is a story that takes place in an agrarian, with only scattered elements of technology remain.

The performances are solid but seem to over dramatize.  The action and adventure of heroes thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fight scenes, violence, and frantic chases.  It also, features resourceful characters struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, villains, and a pursuit which concludes in victory for the heroes.  With CGI the creation of action sequences are quite visually enhanced.

Along with showing the spectacular, the concentration is on chaotic events surrounding the disasters, including efforts for survival, the effects upon individuals and families, and 'what if' scenarios by use of multiple plotlines.  However, this high budget film is banal and less impactful than its predecessors.  


Directed by: Bethany Ashton Wolf
Running time: 104 mins.
Release date: January 19, 2018
Genre: Drama, Music, and Adaptation
Distributor: Roadside Attrractions
MPAA Rating: PG

This is a film adapted from Heidi McLaughlin's novel by the same title.  A story accepted as an emotional roller coaster about a country music super star Liam Page (Alex Roe) who left his bride, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar choosing fame and fortune instead.

However, Liam never got over Josie, his one true love, nor did he ever forget his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised.  When he returns home after learning of his best friend's death, Liam is suddenly faced with the consequences of all he left behind, plus another bundle of joy he never knew about - Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson).

Under the music direction of Brett Boyett with original songs and score, Forever My Girl features impeccable country-western music by Alex Roe and young Abby Ryder Fortson.  

Yet, the plot is banal and doesn't truly engage its theme of a man attempting to reclaim his past.  Some parts of the story are told in flashbacks and these are to be the favorite parts of the movie.  In these moments, it is apparent just how Liam and Josie meant to each other and loved each other.  It is made evident that their young love is still in tact at this stage in their life.

While this is somewhat centering on a love story, the timeline in the flashbacks are not engaging enough to hold an audience.  Liam's leaving college and becoming an overnight rock star isn't plausable or realistic in his journey to fame. 

Forever My Girl, is a film best suited as a television movie for Lifetime or Hallmark cable - not for theatrical release.


Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Release date: January 12, 2018
Genre: Drama, Crime, and Mystery
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Action thriller is the tone and theme in this film starring Liam Neeson.  

However, one can think of an action crime story, as Liam Neeson portrays a New York City ex-cop Michael MacCauley turn 9-5 insurance salesman who gets a pink slip after 18 years of pushing policies.  This set back is at the wrong time in his life, as he is with a mortgaged home in New York's higher middle-class upstate community, a wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) who believes in "keeping up with the Joneses", and a child Danny (Dean-Charles Chapman) registering for college.  

The setting is on the New York Metro-North commuter, when Michael MacCauley is approached by a mysterious beautiful woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a large amount of money to find a particular person on the railroad cars traveling from New York's Grand Central Station.  It is a criminal conspiracy to have someone killed.  The MacCauley family is held in the cross-fire of assassins who will force Michael to follow secret plans left for him of his cell phone.

Michael confides with his old police partner Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) about the sinister scheme, but through an illogical structure and scenario, this film takes Liam Neeson into another 'geriatics action film' where this older man is going one on one with younger man in fists fights.  

Of course, this is a down to the minute cloak and dagger plot, but in all reality, the story is too far fitch to take in a possible movie replicating or imitating real-life.  It is more of a crime thriller at its lowest post and a storyline seen far too many times on screen.  

These are quality actors of the highest capabilities of brilliant performances, but they are placed in a film that offers them very little to expose their talents.   


Directed by: Adam Robitel
Running time: 1 hr. 43 mins.
Release date: January 5, 2015
Genre: Horror, Supernatural, Mystery, Thriller, and Prequel
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the fourth installment in the Insidious franchise, and the second in terms of the serie's in-story chronology, is a prequel plot following parapsychologist Elise Rainer's (Lin Shaye) investigation of a haunting in her childhood home.

The movie begins in 1953 with Elise (Ava Kolker) in her childhood with her Audrey (Tessa Ferrer), her younger brother Christian (Pierce Pope), and abusive father Gerald (Josh Stewart) in New Mexico.  Gerald works as an executioner in a nearby prison.  One night, moments after a prisoner is executed via electric chair, Elise begins to see paranormal things, including knowing the prisoner's name, family, and crime.  Her mother Audrey speaks with her, telling her that while her father does not understand her gifts and is afraid, she can come to her with her insight.  Her reluctant father ridicules and abusively punishes her.  Young brother Christian is given a whistle to use as a deterrent against the strange spirits behind a red door that haunt the children at night.

As the film jumps to contemporary times, the story shows adult Elise (Lin Shaye) nows works as a paranormal investigator with her two colleagues, Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), taking clients via phone calls.  Elise and her team is called for help by Ted Garza (Kirk Acevedo), who has been experiencing paranormal activity since moving into his new home, which happens to be Elise's childhood home she ran away from leaving her younger brother to struggle with an abusive household.  Accepting this job has a double purpose for Elise; one is to accommodate Ted Garza and second to bring closure to her past.  However, reuniting with her estrange adult brother Christian (Bruce Davison) is difficult.

Although, this is a low-budget horror thriller, the mystery of contacting the dead and ghost hunting is novel in the fact that their is a solid story to follow.  The film is designed to frighten and ti invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining us at same time in a cathartic experience.  This film feature a wide range of styles, from the earliest silent Nosferatu classic to the present-day CGI monsters.  It also, entertains the fantasy and supernatural sub-genre.  While, giving a tone of a character study in getting closure to a dysfunctional family problem, science-fictional technology offers improbable settings for shadowy villains to scare the hell out of its audience.

The performances are engagingly formidable and gives the supporting cast fortification to enhance the mediocre script.  Yet, this is a film that gives you what you want for a horror film.


Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Running time: 140 mins.
Release date: December 25, 2017 & January 5, 2018 (wide)
Genre: Drama, Crime, Biography, and Adaptation
Distributor: STX Films
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

In Aaron Sorkin's debut directorial outing, he cinematically examines and adapts the memoir of Molly Bloom's published story, Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventures in the World of Underground Poker.  This is a true story film that follows Molly Bloom, who becomes the target of an FBI investigation of her underground poker empire for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business tycoons, and the Russian and Italian mobs.

Two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Chastain portrays adult Molly Bloom, along with Samantha Isler as teenage Molly and Piper Howell as 7 year old Molly, as the film gives a backstory to evaluate the dimeana of this aggressively tempered woman who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York City for nearly a decade before being arrested by the FBI.

When Molly was a little girl growing up in a small Colorado town, she watched her brothers win medals, ace tests, and receive high praise from everyone they met.  Molly wanted more than a back seat to that glow.  She pushed herself to achieve the greatness academically and competitively in the sport of Olympic-class skiing.

As in the book, this film shows how aggressively competitive Molly wanted more in life - a life without rules.  This is an unconventional coming-of-age story about a young girl's pursuit of her version of the American Dream that lands her in dangerous underworld.

Jessica Chastain gives a great performance, but as the costume designing displayed on screen is less than satisfactory.  The dresses she wears is more of a prostitutes' attire oppose to a poker game empress.  The attire on screen takes away from her dialogue when her breast are pushed over her top.  It is a fact that the setting of film is one of the main elements in production and when costume design is given less attention, it takes away from the tone.

As for the story of this woman, it is none engaging and perhaps less than important to being memorable.  With a supporting cast of great actors, such as, Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffy (Molly's lawyer), Kevin Costner as Larry Bloom (Molly's father and clinical psychologist), Michael Cera as Player X (a composite character of real life Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck and other real-life celebrity poker players), Claire Rankin as Charlene Bloom (Molly's mother), and Chris O'Dowd as Douglas Downey (a hedge fund manager), along with a host of fine actors, this film gives credit to this woman as a feminist.  

I personally find this film to give credit to an underworld criminal who gets caught by the FBI.  It trends on the thread of being pretentious and self-admiration to a woman who wants a social standing in the superficial world celebrity status.

I don't recommend this film for the general public.  It centers too much on the "plastic" world of idle worshipping, and not a film with a moral and meaningful resolutional ending.


Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Running time: 1 hr. 59 mins.
Release date: December 6, 2017
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy, and Sequel
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This the sequel to the 1995 blockbuster film Jumanji, that starred Robin Williams, Kirsten Dunst, Bonnie Hunt, Bebe Neuwirth, David Allen Grier, Patricia Clarkson, and Bradley Pierce where the characters are trapped in a magical jungle board game.

In this adventurous production of fantasy and action, four teenagers in school detention are sucked into the world of Jumanji.  When they discover an old video game console with a game they have never heard of, they are immediately thrust into the game's jungle setting, into bodies of their avatars, played by Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan.

The two-dimensional layered plot first uses the real world characters; Alex Wolfe as Spencer Gilpin, a nerdy gamer who discovers the Jumanji video game and goes to detention along with school football jock Anthony "Fridge" Johnson (Ser'Darius Blain) for writing his homework.  Along with them serving detention is the prettiest girl in school and a cheerleader who is caught talking on her cell phone during a classroom quiz, Bethany Walker (Madison Iseman); Martha Kaply (Morgan Turner), a shy bookworm who objected to participate in physical education.

The second plot in this two-dimensional story is set in the Jumanji game world with avatar characters; Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), an archaeologist and explorer who is Spencer' avatar.  Next is Jack Black as Professor Sheldon "Shelly" Oberon, a cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist, and paleontologist who is Bethany's avatar.  Karen Gillan plays Ruby Roundtree, a killer of men and dance fighter who is Martha's avatar.  Kevin Hart plays Franklin "Moose" Finbar, a short zoologist and weapons specialist who is Fridge's avatar.  Also, in this fantasy world is Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough (Nick Jones), the avatar of Alex Vreeke that is a mysterious guide, adventurer, and pilot who was stuck in the game for years, and now helps the avatars escape Jumanji.

As the adventurous journey of escape takes the audience to netherworld places and dimensions where events are unlikely to occur in real life - they transcend the bounds of human possibility and physical laws.  It is an element of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.  The super-natural theme by the cast presents comical, whimsical, romantic fashion, and not designed to frighten the audience.  It is designed to add suspense and promote intense excitement and nerve-wracking tension.

This is a family-fun film that is offers momentum pacing, good special effects, and a solid coming-of-age scenario for all to enjoy.


Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Running time: 114 mins.
Release date: November 10, 2017
Genre: Drama, Mystery, Crime, Remake, and Adaptation
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This is a period piece detective-mystery film that focuses on the unsolved crime(s) of murder and disappearances of one and/or more of characters.  It's a hard-boiled detective hero who meets various adventures and challenges in the cold and methodical pursuit of the criminal(s) and the solution to the crime.

Adapted from the 1934 detective novel by Agatha Christie featuring the famed Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), this story is set in 1930s Europe.  While in between cases, Poirot receives a telegram to return to London.  He boards the Simplon Orient Express where he meets an assortment of passengers.  One fellow passenger, American underworld  individual Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp), implores him because of fear of his life.  However, Poirot declines the job, but finds Rachett dead the next morning.

With an international star-clustered cast of; Penelope Cruz as Pilar Estravados, Willem Dafoe as Gerhard Hardman, Judi Dench as Princess Dragomiroff, Josh Gad as Hector MacQueen, Derek Jacobi as Edward Henry Masterman, Leslie Odom Jr. as Dr. Arbuthnot, Michelle Pheiffer as Caroline Hubbard, Daisy Ridley as Mary Debenham, Marwan Kenzari as Pierre Michel, Olivia Colman as Hildegarde Schmidt, Lucy Boynton as Countess Elena Andrenyi, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Biniamano Marquez, Sergei Polunin as Count Rudolph Andrenyi, Tom Bateman as Bouc, and Miranda Raison as Sonia Armstrong, Agatha Christie's classic novel, directed by lead character Kenneth Branagh as detective Hercule Poirot, is a marvel to watch and unwind as the thirteen strangers stranded on a train, where everyone's a suspect.

As the individual performances are brilliant, they come together as a powerful noir ensemble.  Using a backdrop of intriguing cinematography, the tone sets the primary moods of melancholy, alienation, bleakness, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia.

For the fans and cinephiles of mystery crime stories, this is a film maintaining high standards.


Directed by: George Clooney
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Release date: October 27, 2017
Genre: Drama, Crime, and Mystery
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

The setting is a picture-perfect 1950s suburb where the best and worst of humanity is reflected through the deeds of ordinary people.  In the decade following World War II, known as the Cold-War Era, America's emerging middle class was moving to the suburbs: idyllic. affordable homes in planned communities.  For many, the American Dream of owning a home was becoming a reality for the first time.

Filmmaker and Academy Award winner George Clooney based the scripting of the events that unfolded in Levittown, Pennsylvania when in 1957 William and Daisy Mayers became the first African American family move into the community.  This was a time when everyone after the war could buy a nice house with garage and a yard.  You could get a good job, live in a nice neighborhood and start a family, as long as you were white.  George Clooney peeled back the veneer of the perfect home life, and showed how ugly things can get when bigotry and racism is relevant.

However, the racial tension is only the subplot and backdrop for this murder mystery where Matt Damon plays embattled suburban husband and father Gardner Lodge.  On the surface, he is a model father and husband, but soon the plot unfolds him as a man with a criminal element in his closet.  His ill wheel-chaired and unhappy  wife Rose and twin sister Margaret who helps around the house (both parts played by Julianne Moore) raise a pre-teen son Nicky (newcomer Noah Jupi).  However, Matt has a perverted sexual appetite for Margaret that leads to Rose's death.

At the start of the film, Margaret is the sweeter, simpler sister, but she is secretly envious of her sister's life, which creates some tension and informs the decisions she makes.

The crime comes to a head when crooked insurance investigator Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac) sees through the murder-for-profit scam and scams the newly married Lodge family of Gardner and now Margaret.  What started off as a mild period piece story of a utopia community, turns into a story of racial backlashing by whites as a backdrop intertwining another dimension to the narrative of a socio-ethnic murder mystery.

Matt Damon shows his range as a deranged character, Julianne Moore's dual role is fascinating, and Oscar Isaac adds a solid performance to bind this offbeat story written by Joel & Ethan Coen.

Perhaps, not the best work one would expect by all of the credits offer.  However, this is a interesting presentation that will hold your attention as it evolves.


Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Running time: 163 minutes
Release date: October 6, 2017
Genre: Drama, Neo-Noir, Sci-Fi, and Sequel
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

In a rediscovery of the groundbreaking magic of Blade Runner a revision and updated edition of the classic guide to Ridley Scott's transformative film, is the sequel Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, and Harrison Ford.

Ridley Scott's 1992 "Director's Cut" confirmed the international film cognoscenti's judgement: Blade Runner, based on Phillip K. Dick's brilliant masterpiece Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, is the most visually dense, thematically challenging, and influential science fiction film ever made.  Understanding this cult phenomenon is a "future noir" of storytelling about a new Blade Runner named LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling).

The premise is of Officer K discovering a dark secret that could bring an end to humanity.  He directly reports to Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) as the discovery leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner (reprising his role) who disappeared thirty years ago.  

In a post-apocalyptic setting, in a world after catastrophe, focusing on the travails and psychology of survivors, androids are the companions of humans.  One such android is Officer K's artificial romantic interest, Joi (Ana de Armus).  She is a completely devoted android who merges its existence with a real female human, Luv (Sylvia Hooks) to sexually satisfy Officer K.  Giving intense character development in their individual performances, the above mention actors display visionary and imaginative work on screen.

noir setting is established immediately on screen.  It encompasses a range of subplots: as the central figure is a hardboiled policeman , a victim of circumstance, investigating a criminal matter in a melodramatic theme.  The tone is moody with shades of melancholy, alienation, bleakness, and disillusionment.  While the action is high energy non-stop motion pacing, the characters performed in the manner of the script with performances of moral corruption, evil, guilt, and paranoia.  

This sequel is a solid edition to the edgy classic film, as it promotes intense excitement, suspense, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectations, and uncertainty with the supporting characters: Jared Leto as Niander Wallace, a manipulative android replicant manufacturer; Barkhad Abdi as Doc Badger, a totally deformed scientist; Wood Harrris as Nandez, and Dave Bautista as Sapper Morton a Nexus 8 replicant fugitive.

Blade Runner 2049 has all the right elements of thought, theme, action characters, spectacle, and drama that will offer the audience complete escapism.


Directed by: Angelina Jolie
Running time: 2 hours 16 minutes
Release date: September 15, 2017
Genre: Drama, History, Biography, and Adaptation
Distributor: Netflix
MPAA Rating: Not rated

Cambodian author and human rights activist Loung Ung recounts the horrors she suffered under the rule of the deadly Khmer Rouge.

Based on the deadly rule of the Khmer Rouge (1975 to 1978), a communist inspired movement led by the dictator Pol Pot, young actress Sareum Srey Moch brilliantly portrays Loung Ung.  The story is told through her eyes, from the age of five, when Khmer Rouge came to power, to nine years old.  The film depicts the indomitable spirit and devotion of Loung and her family, consisting of actors Phoeung Kompheak as Pa Ung and Sveng Socheata as Ma Ung, as they struggle to stay together, which under a regime estimated 25% of the Cambodian population died from famine, malnutrition and mass killings.

In 1975 Ung, now the national spokesperson for the campaign for a Landmine-Free World, was the five year old child of a large, affluent family living in Phnom Penh, the cosmopolitan Cambodia capital.  As extraordinarily well-educated Chinese-Cambodians, with the father government agent, her father was in great danger when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and throughout Pol Pot's barbaric regime.  Her parents strength and her father's knowledge of Khmer Rouge ideology enabled the family to survive together for a while, posing a literate peasants, moving from village to village.  However, the brutal regime catches them as their parents are killed, and the focus of the siblings is to stay together or reunite.

This is serious presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  Great adaptation of Loung Ung's memoir.


Directed by: Neasa Ni CHianain and David Raine
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
Release date: September 8, 2017
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The collaboration of the Irish husband and wife directing process takes form of a charming portrait of a year in the life of the only primary-age boarding in Ireland and the two inspirational teachers at its heart.

Headfort, a school not unlike Hogwarts with its 18th century buildings, secret doors and magical woodlands, has been home to John and Amanda Leyden for 46 years and a backdrop to their extraordinary careers.  For John, rock music is just another subject alongside math.  English and Latin, all of which are taught in a collaborative and often hilarious fashion.  For his wife Amanda, the key to connecting with children is the book, and she uses all means to snare the young minds.  The level of attention and the concern the Leydens have for their students lead to some remarkable developmental transformations as the children journey from being homesick and afraid to confident young people, tearful upon realizing that school is over and they must go home.  

As John and Amanda ponder retirement, the film poses a quietly question:  Will their intimate and caring cultivation of future generations live on, or will it vanish like so many community-centered practices?

The filmmakers/documentarians, examine the pair of teachers' plan to retirement.  Confusion and despair are the emotions displayed as they guide young minds.  The film delves into the experiences of the coming of age scenarios.  Topics such as, sex, politics, social issues, and religious faiths are shared.  

School Life is refreshing, wholesome, pleasing, and inspiring.  It is a nurturing experience that is wonderfully structured for a coming of age theme that shows another layer of the teachers reconciling retirement.


Directed by: Sebastien Lauenbach
Running time: 80 minutes
Release date: July 11, 2017 (Limited), July 21, 2017 (NY), and August 4, 2017 (LA)
Genre: Animation, Drama, Fantasy, and Adaption
MPAA Rating: N/A

Based on a story by The Brothers Grimm, this is a coming of age romantic folklore tale of a young girl finding her way in a satanic world, only to be delivered into a world of love to a prince charming, by way of avoiding the devil's attraction.

With the use of hand drawn and painted characters, using colorful art canvassed characterization (similar to skitchings), the story begins in a setting of hard times.  A poor miller sells his daughter to the Devil for riches.  Protected by her purity, she escapes from the clutches of the Devil, who in revenge, deprives her of her hands. So begins her long journey towards the light...but in spite of her resilience and the new protection of a handsome prince's estate, the Devil devises a plan of his own to claim her as his own.

The Girl Without Hands is the audacious feature debut from acclaimed short filmmaker Sebastien Laudenbach, whose beautiful and dreamlike take of the Brothers Grimm story has created an adult fairytale destined to become a classic.  Hand painted with lush, evocative details and featuring the voices Anais Demoustier and Jeremie Elkaim, this brilliant animated movie is magnificent.

The coming of age scenario is always relevant in the narrative, but the story takes on a romantic twist as the young girl finds affairs of the heart that centers on emotion and romance with her marriage to the Prince.  It's a journey that their love takes through courtship and marriage.  But in this tale, he must temporarily leave her, as the Devil still pursues her.  Will he get back in time to rescue her?

As Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm told and published folk tales displaying cruelty and violence, such as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, The Goose-Girl, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, to name a few, Laudenbach stays true to this original discipline, while using his talented artistry to create a tale that is a marvel to watch.


Directed by: Edgar Wright
Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes
Release date: June 28, 2017
Genre: Drama, Action, Crime, Music, and Romance
MPAA Rating: R

Edgar Wright wrote this exhilarating crime drama, that exploits fast cars and a dynamic music score.

A talented, young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal music pinned to his ears to be the best in the game of robbery.  After being coerced into working for a crime boss named Doc (Kevin Spacey), he finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.  

With a cast of erational and dangerous criminals, such as Jamie Fox as Bats, Griff (Jon Bernthal), Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Barista (Micah Howard), this crime film is developed around the sinister actions of criminals, mobsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, and ruthless hoodlums who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life.

The tone is set from the opening scenes as the high energy action bank robbery get-away displays a high-budget car chase scene. The primary theme is the character and plot driven presentation of Baby played brilliantly by Ansel Elgort (young Baby played by Hudson Meek).  The story is edgy in a thriller and suspenseful means as it promoted intense excitement, a high level of anticipation, utr-heightened expectation, and uncertainty.

Edgar Wright used a somber tone by introducing a romantic interest with Lily James as Debora, a diner waitress Baby falls in love with. She brings a great twist to a solid traditional crime genre, with the affectionate involvement that interacts in the journey that their love takes through.

With the use of a great music score, this "sleeper" movie is an adventure all designed for audience escapism.  Non-stop motion and spectacular rythm galore!!



Directed by: Trey Edward Shults
Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes
Release date: June 9, 2017
Genre: Horror and Mystery
Distributor: A24
MPAA Rating: R

Imagine the end of the world.  In this doomsday mystery, a teenage boy Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) along with his father Paul (Joel Edgerton) and mother Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) are secure within a desolate home as a viral disease threatens mankind.

As Paul maintains a secure domain, he is vigilant, protective, and heavily armed to navigate fear.  When a young couple, Will and Kim (Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough) arrive to seek refuge with Paul's family home with their young child paranoia leads to grief.

Despite the best intentions of both families, panic and mistrust erupts with threats of contamination as the horrors of the outside world creep even closer.

This film is designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often in a terrifying, shocking finale, while captivating and entertaining at the same time in a cathartic experience.  The intense character development and interaction is methodically structure by use of a strong diverse cast led by Joel Edgerton.

Filmmaker Trey Edward Shults' psychological horror thriller is a story of an unarmed plague that disrupts daily life on an unimaginable scale.  The tone and setting is established early in the film, displaying a mercy killing and creating a feeling of trauma. The over-protection by the patriarch is the backdrop emotion for the complex family dynamics.  

It Comes At Night is an edge of your thrilling ride!


Directed by: Gaby Delial
Running time: 1 hour 32 minutes
Release date: May 5, 2017
Genre: Drama and Family
Distributor: TWC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

In this coming of age tale coupling with a stirring and touching New York domestic story of three generations of feminist women, is a narrative focusing on a young teenage girl who must deal a life-changing transformation who was born a female, who knows he is a boy, even though he was assigned female at birth.

Elle Fanning, in an exceptional performance, portrays Ray, who has already been living as a boy for years, but is now ready to start hormone replacement therapy.  His single mother, Maggie (Naomi Watts), must track down Ray's biological father (Tate Donovan), who now has another family, to get his legal consent to allow Ray's transition.

Ray's lesbian grandmother, Dolly (Susan Sarandon) is having trouble accepting that she now has a grandson.  Meanwhile, Maggie is reluctant to seek out Ray's biological father because of her sorted past that caused her breakup. 

In the course of a deliberate character study plot, the coming of age scenario transforms into a subplot of Ray secretly seeking out her extended family of her father.  This is a slow building paced film of sensitive dramatics laced with dark humor as family dynamics become an expression of forgiveness, acceptance, and conviction.

Portraying realistic characters, in a serious plot driven presentation, in a New York City setting and using actual life situations, the brilliant performances by cast members Tessa Albertson, Marquis Rodriguez, Gameela Wright, Elle Winter, and Jordan Carlos complete a formidable and engaging movie.  They characters support a challenging story of sexual identity and how each must confront their own identities, learn to embrace change, while finding their strength as a family in order to gain understanding.

Elle Fanning shows her growth as a brilliant actor.  This is a great ensemble.


Directed by: F.Gary Gray
Running time: 136 mins.
Release date: April 14, 2017
Genre: Action/Adventure, Crime, and Thriller
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In its eighth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise, film stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriquez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Lidacris' Bridges, and Kurt Russell reprise their roles.  Charlize Theron joins the production in a femme fatale role.

The Holy Grail of Car Chase action films begins as Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his new wife Letty (Rodriquez) are vacationing in the festive Havana, Cuba, until cyber-terrorist Cipher (Theron) coerces him into working for her and turns him against his team for the stealing of a nuclear weapon of destruction.

As 'muscle cars' run rampart through several cities and countries, this is a film not to star Paul Walker, who died in a single-vehicle crash on November 30, 2016, in the middle of production of Furious 7 (2015).  

Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a Diplomatic Security agent allies with Dominic's street car racing crime fighting team with the aid of covert leader Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his assistant Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) to retrieve a nuclear weapon Cipher wants.

The story is a high energy adventure with new experiences for the team and exposes new exotic locales.  Yet, it stays true to its theme of big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues, battles, fights, destructive crises, spectacular rhythm and pacing.  

Jason Statham is great in his role as Deckard Shaw, a bad-ass rogue special forces assassin who serves as an ally to help take down Cipher.  Charlize Theron shines on screen as Cipher the criminal mastermind and cyber-terrorist.  Kurt Russell's sarcastic dialogue is the real comic relief in this film and adds another dimension to a hard-boil intelligence lead operative.

This movie is not designed to be a thought-provoking narrative, but an explosive cinematic car racing and chasing action crime film. No more than a 'popcorn flick'. 


Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Running time: 2 hours
Release date: March 31, 2017
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Crime, Action/Adventure, and Adaption
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Ghost in the Shell, is a Japanese media franchise originally published as a seinen magna series of the dame name written and illustrated by Masamune Shirow.  The magna, first serialized in 1989 under the subtitle of The Ghost in the Shell, and later published as its own tankobon volumes by Kodansha, told the story of the fictional counter-cyberterrorist organization Public Security Section 9, led by protagonist Major Motoko Kusanagi, in the mid-21st century Japan.

In this Hollywood version set in the near future, Major (Scarlett Johansson) is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world's most dangerous criminals.  Scarlett Johansson heads up an international cast as the operative leader of the security team which includes Pilou Asbaek as operative Batou, Juliette Binoche as Dr. Ouelet who surgically created Major, Michael Pitt as Kuze, Chin Han as operative Togusa, Danusia Samal as Ladriya, Lasarus Ratuere as Ishikawa, Yukata Izumihara as Saito, Tawanda Manyimo as Bornia, aswell as Daniel Henshall and Kaori Momoi.

As a magna adaptation, this version struggles to preserve the original identity created by its Japanese origins, but gives a great visuals.  Scarlett Johansson's performance is solid but the script is too loose in its structure.  With a stellar cast, the film seems to waste their talent in trivial parts.  Casting of Scarlett Johansson drew criticism and accusations of whitewashing from die-hard Ghost in the Shell fans and Japanese media when in premiere in Tokyo on March 16, 2017.

However, this is a science fiction action/adventure film filled with non-stop motion, fast pacing, special effects and CGI that is designed to overwhelm the audience.


KONG: Skull Island in IMAX 3D
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Running time: 118 mins.
Release date: March 10, 2017
Genre: Horror (Monster), Reboot, and Adaptation
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

From the original story by John Gatins and Dan Gilroy is a reboot of the King Kong franchise.

In an epic film that stars an ensemble cast consisting of Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Brie Larson, Jing Tian, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham, Thomas Mann, Terry Notary, and John C. Reilly comes another and new saga in the 'big ape's existence.

The setting is 1973, as the Vietnam War comes to an end.  A secretive organization known as Monarch, ran by Bill Randa (John Goodman), finds an island shrouded in mystery.  This mystery stems from the final years of World War II, when an American pilot Lt. Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly & Will Brittain as young Hank) and Japanese soldier found themselves marooned there.  The mystery is of new species - or - prehistoric species that still exist.

The Monarch finds funding from the American government resulting in an expedition to the island with the last Army Rangers Unit to be discharged from the Vietnam War, led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maj. Jack Chapman (Toby Kebbell).  Monarch leader Bill Randa is accompanied by Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins), a young Yale graduate geologist, and a gorgeous leftover war photo-journalists and peace activist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson).

Once the crew arrives to this unidentified and uncharted island they come in contact with the giant monstrous ape named Kong who dominates over the island against apex predators, nicknamed the "Skullcrawlers", responsible for killing the local natives and his own ape kind.

The plot is of action and adventure in a big-budget array of physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, and escapes.  As the expedition crew makes plans to fight for survival against Kong and the other monsters on the island, some see that Kong is worth saving.

Of course, being a spoiler of the story isn't necessary, because this is a predictable plot.  However, the movie is truly a 'popcorn flick' and does not need any thought provoking dialogue, tone, or theme. This is just a movie that will thoroughly entertain, as a form of audience escapism.  

It's a great 'ol fashion' fun movie, that's full of 'eye candy' to enjoy!


Directed by: Jordan Peele
Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Release date: February 24, 2017
Genre: Horror, Drama, and Romance
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

In actor and comedian Jordan Peele's directorial debut, he scripts a socio-horror film that hinges on a combination of an interracial romance, terrifying dramatic horrors, and comedy.  Jordan Peele cited the original Night of the Dead (1968) as an inspiration for making this his feature film, writing-directing debut, because the film had an African American protagonist and dealt with serious racial issues inside the framework of a horror film. 

A young African American man Chris (Daniel Kaluuya)) visits his Caucasian girlfriend Rose's (Allison Williams) wealthy and mysterious family estate.  However, upon their arrival he learns that some its residents Georgina (Betty Gabriel) along with Walter (Marcus Henderson), and visiting guests Andrew Logan King (Keith Stanfield), who are black, have gone missing or not themselves.

With outstanding support performances by Catherine Keener as Rose's mother Missy, an eerie doctor of psychiatry, and Bradley Whitford as Rose's father Dean, a contemporary Dr. Frankenstein style doctor of neuro-surgery, the tone is set for a scary tale.  The fact that this tone is reminiscent of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967), the parents play immoral opportunist liberals.  Their impeccable performances explore issues of race and white privilege.  Their false neutrality is manifested in individual language through the use of slurs and slangs that is believed to embrace Chris.

The comic relief is singularly holstered by Lil Rel Howery, who plays Chris' best friend and apprehensive confidant.  This added dimension to the plot gives more merit to filmmaker Peele's brilliant first-time outing, as he balances the story of designed amusement provoking laughter, while invoking our hidden fears with shocking images, and tantillizing the audience with a romantic theme of affectionate involvement.

Get Out, is a highly creative film that brings to the intelligent audience the complex system of beliefs, along with the dilemma of false white racial obligations and moral Liberalism.  Yet, it satisfies and delivers, a shocking and mesmerizing ride of horror.


Directed by: James Foley
Running time: 118 minutes
Release date: February 10, 2017
Genre: Drama, Romance, Sequel, and Adaptation
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

This is an erotic romantic drama, based on the novel with the same title by E.L. James.  The second film in the Fifty Shades film series, and sequel to the 2015 film Fifty Shades of Grey.  

The plot takes off as eccentric and wealthy Christian Grey (Jamie Doman), after his break up with his girlfriend Anastasia 'Ana' Steele (Dakota Johnson).  He's suffering from nightmares of his sexual abuse as a child, caused by his adopted mother Grace's (Marcia Gay Harden) friend Elena Lincoln (Kim Basinger), who introduced him to the BDSM lifestyle.

Ana gets on with her life as a journalist n a small publishing company.  Soon after, Christian and Ana reunite and rekindle their relationship with new boundaries without inflecting pain and prepare for their marriage.  With meddling forces of an editor set on sexual harassment and assault, and a woman stalking Ana, the plot thickens.

The concept of this sequel is much to do about nothing, as Dakota Johnson's pathetic performance relies heavily on her nakedness as dramatic acting.  Jamie Doman's lifeless portraying of a S&M addicted man is distressingly boring.  Their chemistry on screen is harrowing and wretched, and brings on groans.

It is a misfortune that this film adaptation can not favor a successful book series.  Daunted by the meaningless dark secrets in the storyline is not engaging.   This film attempts to give the viewers an overgenerous amount of extravagant settings and grandeur, but the emotional impact implied is troublesome.

The use of a cast of talented actors in this movie, does not promote this film.  It does restrict and restrain the potential of making this a successful movie.     

Fifty Shades Darker, is penalized for poor execution.



Directed by: Ben Affleck
Running time: 2 hours
Release date: January 13, 2017
Genre: Drama and Crime
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: R

Post World War I gave momentum to an attitude for criminal elements to use their combat skills in civilian life.  Joe Coughlin is a war veteran whose creed is to use the fighting skills he has been taught by 'Uncle Sam', and apply it to the new 'Roaring 20s' era that places the law of Prohibition to the United States of America.

The early film setting is 1926 Boston, as Joe (Ben Affleck) a returning World War I veteran who thought his tour of duty was useless, decides to take to the Irish American streets of crime as a independent.  He came home where his father, Thomas Couglin (Brendan Gleeson) is police chief in a city divided by ethnic groups of organized crime.  As speakeasies, underground distilleries, gangsters, and corrupt cops had their way, Joe decided he did not need to belong to any one mob.  His income would come from his own local stick-ups and robberies.

The tone of the plot is set as Joe enjoys the spoils, thrills, and notoriety of being a lone outlaw, but the price he pays comes by way of powerful organized mob leaders who do not like their profits shattered by this loner.  In order to keep Joe under control, Irish mob boss Albert White (Robeert Glenister) attempts to recruit him.  But the only thing (or person) that could entice Joe would be Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), an attractive gangster moll who belong to White.  It is shadey business as Joe and Emma to risk their lives with their undercover love affair.

As this film is focused around the exploits of an antogonist (Joe) and developed around the sinister actions of criminals and mobsters, particularly bankrobbers, underworld figures, and ruthless hoodlums who operate outside of the law, stealing and murdering their way through life, the lead character is shown in the characteristics of being a likable human.  

The mindset of Joe is that, he survived a war so what is the worst that can happen to him - death?  With that train of thought, Joe robs the Italian mobs alcohol shipments, which puts him at odds with Italian mob.  But enlightens the Italain mob boss's ambitious son Digger Pescatore (Max Casella), and forges an alliance with Joe. But as fate would have it double-crossing is inevitable with the Italians, and Irish mob boss White will find out about the love affair of Joe and his moll Emma.

Unlike his younger brother Danny Couglin (Scott Eastwood) who went to Hollywood to make his fortune as a writer, Joe decides to pickup and go to Tampa, Florida where rum is profitable.  There he finds corruption is determined by the culture(s) of the locals. Police Chief Irving Riggis (Chris Cooper) keeps a tight reign on the rum business ran by Cuban female mob boss Graciella Suarez (Zoe Saldana), who finds Joe her soulmate.  Graciella and Joe will compete with KKK moonshiners.  This is the country of Evangelists who want to clean up this crime ridden environment, but an ambitious Hollywood-bound daughter of Chief Riggis, Loretta Riggis (Elle Fanning) is the bait Joe will use to manipulate the law and politics, as Joe has his Hollywood brother doop her. 

With a few more double cross schemes and Joe getting married to Graciella, then story begins to fall flat.  

Ben Affleck seems to have called in favors to heavily cast this film with so many talented actors.  The problem with this is that none of the performances merit anything worth mentioning.  The structure is an attempt to be epic period-piece production covering a large expanse of time set against a panoramic backdrop, but it does not. The pacing, gang war shoot-outs, and life stories could have evolved with better edtiting, but overall it is penalized for poor execution.


Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Running time: 115 mins.
Release date: December 21, 2016
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Ubisoft Video Gaming franchise has made a success in this game by the same title.  Screenplay writers Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage create the video game for screen with the same premise, but features an original story, starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael K. Williams, that expands the series of mythology.

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the virtual adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin during the era of the Spanish Inquisition, in 15th century Spain. Callum is a modern-day career criminal who is rescued from his own execution by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day incarnation of the infamous Templar Order.

The premise of this film is that as Callum Lynch continues to experience his ancestor Aguilar's memories under the guidance of Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), the daughter of Allan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) a visionary CEO of Abstergo Industries, his private Madrid based organization dedicated to the perfection of mankind, Callum begins to gain the knowledge and skills to confront the Templars, the age-old enemies of the Assassins in the present day.

With a stellar supporting cast, actors such as Brendan Gleeson plays Joseph Lynch, Callum's father give meaning to a complicated plot.  Charlotte Rampling portrays Templar head Ellen Kaye, Michael K. Williams as Haitian Assassin Moussa/Baptiste, and Ariane Labed as Maria, an assassin in 15th century Spain with Aguilar.  These characters are infused into the storyline as the film's structure is back and forth from past to present, and back again.  

Additionally, Michelle Lin portrays Lin, a decendant of an assassin, and another test subject like Moussa/Baptiste at Abstergo, while James Sobol Kelly appears as Father Raymond, a priest.  Denis Menochet also appears as the head of Abstergo security.

The selling point of the lead character, antagonist Callum, is that he doesn't have a lineage he can feel a belonging to....he's a bit of a lost soul.  He's always been drifting in and out of correctional facilities, and his ancestor Aguilar is conversely a person with a purpose that belongs to the Assassin's Creed.

Assassin's Creed, is a high energy film loaded with physical stunts and chases.  The essence of pure audience escapism is always relevant as rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crises, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing is ongoing.  Yet, the thriller and suspense elements are offered to promote intense excitement and a high level of anticipation.


Directed by: Mel Gibson
Running time: 138 minutes
Release date: November 4, 2016
Genre: Drama, War, and Biography
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: R

This film is about Desmond Doss, an American pacifist combat medic who became the only conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II.  The biopic stars Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, with Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Corr, Teresa Palmer, Richard Pyros, and Rachel Griffiths.

Young siblings Desmond and Harold "Hal" Doss (Nathaniel Buzolic) reside in the rural hills of Lynchburg, Virginia with their relgious mother Bertha (Rachel Griffiths) and father Tom (Hugo Weaving), who is an abrasive hard-drinking man haunted by his World War I service and the subsequent loss of his childhood friends.  One day, young Desmond and Hal are fighting in the yard when Desmond, overwhelmingly losing his temper, picks up a brick and strikes his brother Hal in the head, rendering him unconscious.  This traumatizing experience, along with a talk with his mother, firmly reinforces his belief in the Sixth Commandment of the Old Testament.

This backstory structuring magnifies the plot of this epic and historical costume period-piece drama that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.

The story progresses swiftly to a young adult Desmond where he takes to heart donating time to hospital work and is smitten with a nurse Dorothy Schutte (Teresa Palmer).  This is his involvement to his dedication to the medical field (later as a military medic), and his falling in love with Dorothy.  The biopic moves on to the outbreak of World War II and he and his brother Hal's enlistment in the Army, which upsets their parents. Because of Desmond's beliefs as a conscientious objector, he intends to serve as a medic. Before his deployment, he and Dorothy marry.

In a character and plot-driven presentation for the first part of this film, the tone is transformed to an action war drama, set in the heat of battle of World War II.  As Desmond refuses to carry or use a weapon and commits to the Seventh-day Adventist (Saturday as day of Sabbath), has problems under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) as his immediate superiors Sergeant Howell (Vince Vaughn) and Captain Glover (Sam Worthington) fail to get Doss discharged for psychiatric reasons.

This latter part of the film is filled with the acknowledgement of the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting on land, sea, and air provide the primary plot and background for the action of the film.  The setting was enhanced on screen replicating Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of World War II where Desmond saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun.  It was not so much of the outstanding acting of the cast, but it was the the elaborate production action adventure elements staging this heroic figure, accompanied by grandeur and spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values.

The true life situations and stories involving intense character development and interaction provided the most impact for the screen. The graphic special effects battle and hand-to-hand combat scenes added the highly overtone for this formidable film.

This is a riveting film depicting a person of high honors.



Directed by: Leslie Small and Tim Story
Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes
Release date: October 14, 2016
Genre: Documentary and Comedy
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

Actor/Comedian Kevin Hart performs in front of a crowd of 50,000 plus people at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field outdoor venue.  He is executive producer and co-writer on the script.

However, before the camera brings the viewer to the stand-up venue, a 007 Bond spy scenario is introduced, giving Kevin Hart the tag of Agent 0054 and Hallie Berry as his co-operative in a spy spoof.  In addition, the cast includes Don Cheadle as a card-playing advisory, with David Meunier, Ashi Dowling, Dennis Keiffer as a Man In Black character, Jeff Bauman as a Pit Boss in a Casino Royale location, and Richardson Jones as Bernard.  The spy spoof is meticulously funny giving Kevin Hart and Hallie Berry a platform to produce humor, as they share good chemistry on screen. Yet, returning to his hometown of Philadelphia for the setting and backdrop, the movie is really Kevin Hart's vehicle for absurdity galore.

As the narrative interweaves into a stand-up comedy documentary, Kevin Hart gives an hour's worth of non-stop, gut-grabbing comic relief.  This is the funniest comedy stand-up film since The Original Kings of Comedy (2000) starring Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and the late Bernie Mac.  

Of course some of the language is subject to adult themes due to sex related humor and profanity, but the backstage atmosphere and audience participation draws you right into the venue.  Kevin Hart is at the top of his game with several euphoric jokes and skits that keeps the audiences, both in the viewing theater and the actual venue, in stitches.

This is a total hour and a half of hilarious escapism and fun.


Directed by: Peter Berg
Running time: 107 mins.
Release date: September 30, 2016
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, Biography, and Adaptation
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, that killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in American history, is a biopic adaptation of the 2014 documentary The Great Invisible and an adaptation of the New York Times article.  

Lined with a cast starring Mark Walhlberg as Mike Williams, Kurt Russell as Jimmy Harrell, John Malkovich as Mr. Vidrine, Gina Rodriguez as Andrea Fleytas, Dylan O'Brien as Caleb Holloway, and Kate Hudson as Mike Williams' wife, gives a celebrity talented action packed version and a "Hollywood" account of the executives, survivors, and Gulf Coast residents who experienced this catastrophe as the survivors awaited rescue.

The chronicle of courage of those who worked on the oil rig brings to life the extreme moments of life threatening danger, moments of bravery, and survival in the face of what would become one of the biggest man-made disasters in world history.

This plot and character driven presentation cover a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  The story shares elements of the elaborate adventure tone and adds heroic figures, extravagant setting, accompanied by spectacle, dramatic scope, and high production values.

Deepwater Horizon's edgy intensity is frequently displayed on screen.  The performances are a non-stop thrilling occurrence, and the suspense promotes intense excitement, a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension.  The character interaction and development is brilliantly portrayed.

Although this is a "Hollywood" account of this true story, this epic version is a solid social drama whose central struggle is between champions of survival, a problem of unjustified greed, and a tragedy in society that should never be forgotten.


Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Release date: September 9, 2016
Genre: Drama, Biography, and Adaptation
Distributor: Warner Brothers
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Acclaimed actor and director Clint Eastwood tells the untold story behind the miracle on the Hudson.  The story behind of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flight 155 crew and passengers.

Academy Award winner Tom Hanks portrays Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger and Aaron Eckhart as Jeff Skiles his co-pilot.  This is a look at the event that took place on Thursday, January 15th, 2009 the "Miracle on the Hudson" when Captain Chesley Sullenger glided his disabled plane onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River saving the lives of all 155 aboard and aftemath investigation.

The substance of the film relies heavily on Sully, portrayed by Tom Hanks with realism, as he is being heralded by the public and the media for his unprecedented feat of aviation skill.  As an investigation unfolds as to his procedure being correct or not, it threatens his resputation and his career.

The character study is a serious plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations involving intense character development and ineractions.

Much of the historical content is dramatized and it covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  It is a historical event that adds an extravagant setting, accompanied by grandeur and spectacular, dramatic scope, and high production values.

This depiction of Sully's life and the situation of "The Miracle on the Hudson" presents an important historical personage (and group) from the past and present era.  Yet, the film offers a social drama, stories whose central struggle is between a champion/hero and a problem or injustice in society.  Sully has a personal stake in the outcome of the struggle.

Sully is a highly moving and emotional biopic.


Directed by: David Mackenzie
Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes
Release date: August 12, 2016
Genre: Drama, Western, and Crime
Distributor: CBS Films
MPAA Rating: R

Screenplay writer Taylor Sheridan is credited for crafting a contemporary American western story, merging the exploits of the 19th and early 20th century western bank robbery traditions meeting the new 21st century's crime wave.

Chris Pines (Star Trek Beyond) as Toby and Ben Foster (The Finest Hours)as Tanner portray ying and yang attitude brothers who decide the bank that holds the threatening mortgage over their family property, is their enemy.  In a clever, yet ruthless plan the two men rob small town banks in their locale and deposit their laundered spoils back into the threatening mortgaging bank to pay off the outstanding debt hovering over their family property.

The setting is of small town values and the tone is of brotherhood loyalty.  However, with the drama developed around the sinister actions of criminals, particularly bank robbers and hoodlums, the good-guy must solve the crimes and bring them to justice.  This person is played by Jeff Bridges, as the soon to retire Sheriff Marcus.  His grisly demeanor is of a methodic lawman, who always gets his man.  In this case, the bank robbing brothers are always one step ahead of him, and this disturbs him.

This cat and mouse scenario is perfectly paced with sometime adventurous two-dimensional good guys against bad guys scenes exerting non-stop motion and spectacular rhythm of high energy shoot-outs and explosive escapes. 

In a highly intense cat and mouse crime drama set in a present-day western genre, Hell or High Water is a serious plot-driven presentation. The character interaction and engagement is brilliantly portrayed by some of the finest performances of 2016. Along with supporting cast members Katy Mixon, Melanie Papalia, Dale Dickey, and Marin Ireland the cohesive ensemble brings an outstanding plot to screen.

This is an edge of your seat film that will be acknowledged at "Oscar Time".


Directed by: Susanna White
Running time: 107 mins.
Release date: July 1, 2016
Genre: Drama, Thriller, and Adaptation
Distributor: Lionsgate & Roadside Attractions
MPAA Rating: R

From the desk of author/novelist John le Carre', who is well known for his book "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold" and the recent TV adaptation of "The Night Manager", comes an edgy espionage cinematic thriller period piece.

In the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and with Britain on the brink of economic ruin, a young English couple on a holiday attempting to resolve the marital woes in a tropical locale meet an amiable Russian family.   Perry Makepiece (Ewan McGregor), an Oxford professor, and his barrister wife Gail (Naomie Harris) leave their London home to vacation and meet Russia born and bred Dimitri "Dima" (Stellan Skarsgard) and his family.  Dima and his family embrace the Makepiece clan, and soon they become very close friends.  At Dima's request, Perry conveys a message to MI6 in England that Dima wishes to defect, and on arrival home, Perry and Gail receive a summons from MI6 to a debriefing.  

The debriefing turns up information that Dima is a Russian money launderer, on the global scale of finances unbalancing world economics.  The stage is set for cloak and dagger scenarios as this serious plot driven production ignites a suspenseful tone.

Stellan Skarsgard's Dima character is a likable Russian criminal, who ties to ruthless Soviet hoodlums runs deep.  What he knows about the illegal operations, is critical to the mobsters all over the world.  Perry and Gail, played by Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris, have great chemistry on screen, as they maneuver through their marital problems, yet engage Dima and his family as good friends in assisting their escape from the Soviet Union to England. 

The main story of espionage involving intense character development and interaction moves with a strong determination of conviction.  It promotes a high level of anticipation, suspense, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension as the defection to the U.K. is a daring and dangerous life threatening escape.

The hard-boiled adventures and challenges in the cold and methodical pursuit of the criminal intent and the solution, makes Our Kind Of Traitor a formidable thriller.


Directed by: Bryan Singer
Running time: 2hrs. 24 mins. in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D
Release date: May 20, 2016
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Adaptation, and Sequel
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In this ninth installment of the X-Men film series, based on the Marvel Comics characters of the same name, this film stars an ensemble cast, led by James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Oliver Munn, Lucas Till, and Hugh Jackman.

This episode is the story of the ancient mutant Apocalypse awakens, and plans to cleanse the human race and take over the world, leading the X-Men to try to stop him and defeat his team, the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse.  In this case, the use of new recruit X-Men (students) are added to the team.

The plot starts with En Sabah/Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), a powerful mutant believed to be the first of his kind, rules ancient Egypt until he is betrayed by his worshippers, who entomb him alive and is awakened centuries later in 1983.  He is agree, and believes humanity has lost its way without his presence.  He decides to destroy the world and remake it.  He recruits a fight club member, Angel (Ben Hardy), who possesses a pair of large feathered wings on his back that Apocalypse turns into metal, to enhance his powers.  He also, recruits a pick-pocket from Cairo named Orono Munroe/Storm (Alexander Sipp), who can control weather, and maximizes his abilities.  Meanwhile, at this time mutant Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) recruits another fight member, Night Crawler aka Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee) for her purposes of stopping Apocalypse, as informs Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), leader of the X-Men and the Westchester, NY Mutant School, of the impending issues.

Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, a mutant who controls magnetic fields and manipulates metal becomes one of Apocalypse's horsemen, known as War.  He becomes involved with the evil-doers because of the death of his wife and daughter by paranoid humans when his true indentity is discovered, as he was disguised as a human in prior years.  Olivia Munn plays Psylocke/Pestilence another horseman, with the power of projecting a purple energy blade that can burn through metal.

As the sides of good against evil is chosen, the science-fiction plot thickens with the concern of the end of civilization due to the potentially existential catastrope of nuclear warfare, pandemic, and cybernetic revolt.  The time-frame is a essential tone for the film because it focuses on the travails and pyschology of survivors and the theme that the existence of pre-catastrophe civilization has been forgotten.  However, the super heroes with strong moral codes, including the willingnesss to risk one's own safety in service of good without expectation of reward, exert their motivations as a sense of responsibility.

The action in this film is projected in how the heroes are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fights scenes, violence, and frantic chases.  CGI and other visual effects such as the use of computer animations create additional action sequences forming unrealistic and highly unbelievable events (all for audience enthusiasm).  

The important impact feature generated is the open conflict that relies on the suspense of a struggle in which the heroes, through perhaps a fight against all odds, is not doomed.  Even with a cameo sequence of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine adds hope in defying the evil-doers.  It foreshadows in the form of ominous hints and symbolic hints, and conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments.  The dramatic irony is the fulfillment of a plan, action, and expectation in a surprising way, opposite of what is intended.

This is a lengthy, yet captivating film that doesn't feel like two and a half hours.  Each celebrity cast member gets substantial screen time and dialogue - and uses it.  It is truly an eye-candy experience and a fun film to watch.


Directed by: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly
Running time: 97 mins.
Release Date: May 20, 2016
Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy, and Family
Distributor: Columbia Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

In a film using 2D and 3D formatting, the question of why the birds so angry, is answered.

The movie's setting is an island where flightless birds live in a happy atmosphere.  They all worship the Mighty Eagle (voice of Peter Dinklage), as their leader and savior.  That's everyone except for,  Red (voice of Jason Sudeikis), a bird with a temper problem and a natural distrust for everyone. This problem lands him in the legal court of Judge Peckinpah (voice of Keenan-Michael Key) and resolves with a anger management sentence for Red.  At the sessions, led by Matilda (voice of Maya Rudolph), Red meets fellow patients, speedy Chuck (voice of Josh Gad) and the volatile Bomb (voice of Danny McBride), who have always been outsiders.

When an invasion of pigs land on the bird's pleasure island in space-like aircrafts, the amiable birds welcome them.  However, Red is leary of the motivations of the invaders.  With misadventures of chaotic events, the fast pace adventure takes off on an active visual ride the young audience can enjoy.  The humor, at times crude, is somewhat worthless and really can't engage an audience.  However the upbeat popular musical score throughout the film keeps the plot intact for the most part.

With an all-star supporting cast for comedic value of Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Tony Hale,Tituss Burgess, and Ike Barinholtz the film offers enough 'eye candy' to engage a young audience, but does not apply any logic to the narrative.


Directed by: Terence Davies
Running time: 135 mins.
Release date: May 13, 2016
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age, and Adaptation
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

This is a brilliant film adaptation based on Scottish writer Lewis Grassic Gibbon's, A Scot's Quair: Sunset Song Triology.  It's a Scottish tale set in the beginning of the 20th century, seen and told through the eyes of a young woman Chris, from a dysfunctional Guthrie family in a rural Scotland farming community.

The film opens in 1910, as Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn) is shown as a highly diligent academic student, preparing her life for higher education and aspiring to be a teacher.  However, she must revert to a home of sexual dominance between her middle-age mother Jean (Daniela Nardini), who is saddled with four children (two young twins, older brother Will, and Chris), and a physically abusive father John (Peter Mullan).  When John impregnates a reluctant Jean once again, and forces the family into dire economic conditions putting undesirable strains on the family with another child, Chris' academic outlook is hampered.  Meanwhile, the oldest of the siblings, Will (Jack Greenlees), wants to set out on his own and start his own family.  However, Will must endure harsh and brutal attacks from his father, who wants to maintain a unhealthy dominance over his family.

Giving a brilliant and formidable performance as Chris, Agyness Deyn masterfully captures a young woman faced with a choice between her harsh farming life and the seductive but distant world of books and learning.  When her mother kills her unwanted new born child and commits suicide, Chris eventually decides to remain in her rural community, bound to her intense land of the land.  This toll is more than she expects as her widowed abusive father dies from a stroke and a questionable sexual pursuit against his own daughter.  When Will leaves home, it is only Chris left to tend to the family farm.

This is a serious plot-driven period piece drama, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  It describes the life of Chris Guthrie, a woman from the north east of Scotland during the early 20th century.  In Sunset Song, Chris grows up in a farming family in the fictional Estate of Kinraddie in "The Mearns".

The film follows Chris as she adapts to her new world, displaying an intuitive strength, which, like the land which she loves, endures despite everything.  Life is hard, and she finds comfort in a young man Ewan Tavendale (Kevin Guthrie), and she marries him.  He becomes Chris' partner in the land, and they have a child.  The intervention of the first World War leaves her choices in tatters.  A reluctant Ewan goes off to war and *(spoiler alert)* returns a deserter to face a firing squad.

Adapting a brilliant novel to screen is not an easy transformation, but screenplay writer and director Terence Davies masters this feat. Sunset Song, is shocking, yet mesmerizing, emotionally impacting, and heartbreaking.  



Directed by: Garry Marshall
Running time: 118 mins.
Release date: April 29, 2016
Genre: Drama and Comedy
Distributor: Open Road
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the tradition to the beloved holiday-themed hits Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, legendary filmmaker Garry Marshall directs an all-star cast in Mother's Day, an endearing romantic comedy about everyone's first love.

Jennifer Anniston, Julia Roberts, Jason Sudeikis, and Britt Robertson are the lead stars in the interwoven stories about a group of women with one thing in common - mothers.  Expectant mothers, single moms, stepmothers, gay moms, estranged mothers, long-lost moms and mothers of all kinds get their due in an emotional tribute to the tie that can't be broken.  In the week before the one day of the year when Mom comes first, the lies of a group of strong, loving and wildly imperfect women, from a divorced mother dealing with her kids' new stepmom to a young mother trying to find her own birth mother, provide an emotional and humorous reminder that every mother is her own kind of hero.  As Mother's Day approaches, each of them is about to prove the power of the maternal bond in sweet, smart, sassy, and sexy celebration of mother's everywhere.

The various plots are lighted-hearted consistently and deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by often exaggerating the situations, the language, action, relationships, and characters.  Yet, as the narrative offers a dramatic source and projects a multi-plot presentation, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction.  It also adds a formulated romantic theme filled (with mis-matched lovers and female relationships), tear-jerking, and issues about family crises and emotional carthasis and female bonding situations involving families, mothers, daughters, and children.

Mother's Day also stars Timothy Olyphant, Hector Elizondro, Jack Whitehall, Aasif Mandvi, Sarah Chalke, Margo Martindale, and Shay Mitchell who support this production.

However, this being a great memorial and acknowledgement to the matriarchs of the world, Garry Marshall's directorial style gives this multi-character dramedy a low caliber situation sitcom tone not suitable for the silver screen.  The overall structure compiled from each story is too formulaic to actually engage.  Each scenario imposed on screen is too brief to react to when humor is delivered. It offers far too many narrative layers to digest, which takes away from the individual performances rendered.  Perhaps, less could have been more for a better execution of its delivery.  In this case it is penalized.


Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Running time: 120 minutes
Release date: March 18, 2016
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, Adventure, Adaptation, and Sequel
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This is the sequel to The Divergent Series: Insurgent and will be followed by the concluding entry, The Divergent Series: Ascendant. As a post-apocolyptic American sci-fi adventure based on the novel Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth, and the third installment in The Diverent Series (film), the film brings back stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Octavia Spencer, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Qand Naomi Watts while icluding Jeff Daniels, Ray Stevenson, and Bill Skarsgard to the cast.  Mekhi Phifer returns to this film for a brief amount of sequences.

Allegiant takes Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) into a new world, far more dangerous than ever before.  After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four and their comrades and go beyond the wall enclosing Chicago.  With high-energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases enhanced by CGI, the battling, escapes, and rescues prevail.

Four's mother and self-appointed leader of the enclosed Chicago, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), is set on revenge on her old enemies and is reluctant to Tris, Four, Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Tori (Maggie Q), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) leaving the enclosure. Yet, Johanna (Octavia Spencer) leads a non-violent group who wants to rebuild a more humane society.  But for the first time ever, Tris and comrades leave the only city and family they have ever known.  However, once outside the enclosure, they are pursued by Evelyn's army led by Edgar (Jonny Weston) through the toxic wasteland known as the Fringe before being rescued and escorted to the ultra-high-tech compound of the Bureau of Genetic Welfare.

Once there, Bureau mastermind David (Jeff Daniels) singles out Tris for being genetically "pure" and enlists her to champion his mysterious cause.  Tris will be forced to make impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

This installment of the series is the best by far. It exerts non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, and adventurous, often two-dimensional good guy heroes battling bad guy villains - all designed for pure audience escapism.


Directed by: Babak Najafi
Running time: 1 hour 39 mins.
Release date: March 4, 2016
Genre: Drama, Crime, Action, Thriller, and Sequel
Distributor: Gramercy Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

Reuniting the principal cast and key members of the creative production team of Olympus Has Fallen (2013), this sequel brings the heroic Secret Service Agent Mike Banner (Gerard Butler) back to do what he does best - save the free world from threatening sinister factions.

As the film's opening scenes sparks the screen, high energy action is provided as terrorists attack the Philippines.  Then a counter drone attack by the U.S. Air Force destroys a terrorist group sheltered in Pakistan.  As in all wars, there is collateral damage and terrorist leader Aamir Barkawi (Alon Moni Aboutboul), a lethal weapons dealer and one of the most wanted men in world, has many of his family members killed at his daughter wedding celebration during the U.S. drone strike.

The film skips two years into the future, and the setting is Washington D.C. where our protagonist Mike Banner and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are a homebody couple eagerly anticipating their first child.  However, in this fast pace narrative, news of the British Prime Minister's unexpected death plagues the media. Assigned to the U.S. President Asher's (Aaron Eckhart) Secret Service team, Mike Banner is always on alert under the orders of his Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett).  They are ordered to prepare for their visit to the United Kingdom for the British Prime Minister's funeral.  With every free world leader to attend the funeral, the U.K. must secure the environment. However, the U.S. leaves nothing up for chance and handles their own security.

The plot opens and expands with a revenge scenario launched by Aamir Barkawi and son (Waleed Zualter) to attacked London and kidnap U.S. President Asher.  Filmmaker Babak Najafi does not spare the non-stop motion and spectacular rhythm with the big-budget stunts and chases.  The movie explodes with battle, fight, and disaster scenes designed for pure audience escapism.  The plot also thickens as the secondary cast is introduced from the Washington D.C. war room with Morgan Freeman as Vice President Trumbull, Melissa Leo as DS Ruth McMillan, and Robert Forster as General Edward Clegg.  This gives the film a multi-dimensional plot format as it works countering the English performances of the new British Prime Minister Leighton (Clarkson Guy Williams), MI6 Agent Jacqueline Marshall (Charlotte Riley), and MI5 Intel John Lancaster (Patrick Kennedy).  With an extensive international cast, this film uses every aspect of the epic genre.

The panoramic backdrops are elaborate and sets the tone for all of the denunciatory approaches toward warfare.  London Has Fallen is a film that acknowledges the horror and heartbreak of war, allowing the fighting to provide the primary plot and background for the action of the film.  Yet, it opens in multi-levels, with a window for the human emotional aspect to shine through by showing an honest relationship of family dynamics that people of civil and military service must endure.


Directed by: Tim Miller
Running time: 108 mins.
Release date: February 12, 2016
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: R

Cut from the Marvel Comics comes an unlikely American superhero, whose personality is less than marvelous.  Deadpool is intended to be the eighth installment in the X-Men film series starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin,  Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapicic, and veteran actress Leslie Uggams.

The film follows Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) who, after being subjected to an experiment that leaves him with new abilities, hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson aka Deadpool, a mercenary whose botched experiment in regenerative cells to cure cancer, rendered him accelerated healing superpowers.  However, Wade is a shallow anti-hero with a dark and twisted sense of humor.  His search is for The Recruitor (Jed Rees), the Weapon X person that enlisted Wade into the program in hopes to cure his cancer and Francis/Ajax (Ed Skrein), a mutant with enhanced strength and the ability to feel pain, who is a weapons expert.  He is also a member of the Weapon X program that was responsible for the experiment for which Wade volunteered to cure his cancer.

Using added comic relief from T.J. Miller as Weasel the bartender, Wade's best friend who regularly helps him carry out his activities as a insecure superhero, the sidekick position is given a new light of sarcasm and humor.  Morena Baccarin as Vanessa Carlysle plays Wade's girlfriend who believes she lost him in death to cancer.  Reluctantly, Wade's disfigurement causes him to stay away from her and not let her know that he is alive.

The multi-layered plot offers a great deal of villainous characters. Gina Carano as Angel Dust, is a mutant in alliance with Ajax, who possesses superhuman levels of strength and speed.  She is a sexy vixen who dangerous as well as beautiful.

Wade gets unwarranted help from Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Piotr "Peter" Rasputin/Colossus (Stefan Kapicic).  Negasonic Teenage Warhead is a trainee mutant, who possesses powers to detonate atomic bursts from her body. Colossus is a mutant member of the X-Men, with the ability to transform his entire body into organic steel, and possess super-strength while in that form.  Veteran actress Leslie Uggams plays Blind Al, an elderly blind woman and Deadpool's roommate.

With the use of high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases with rescues and battles, fights, and escapes, the non-stop motion and pacing adds the two-dimensional 'good guy versus bad guy' scenario.  Yet, the witty sarcastic dialogue of Ryan Reynolds secures a consistent degree of amusement, as it exaggerates the situations.  The romantic twist falls into play as Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) secures her relationship with Wade when the plot unfolds and the truth is unveiled>

For pure movie entertainment, Deadpool is designed for audience escapism!


Directed by: Ethan & Joel Coen
Running time: 106 mins.
Release date: February 5, 2016
Genre: Comedy, Drama, and Musical
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The talented Coen Brothers penned a screenplay depicting the mechanics of the movie industry from one studio in a period piece of the 1950s.  Blacklisting, studio moguls dominate, and celebrity status has its reputations determined by media tyrants.  

Hail Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood fixer for Capital Pictures, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry.  But when studio star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) disappears, Mannix has to deal with it.

Using the backlot locations and the tainted personal lives of the movie industry as the narrative motor that drives the pacing, the plot and subplots interact with each other.  It a film on film scenario with characters such as, a Hedda Hopper dual character played by Tilda Swinton, an artistic director Laurence Lorenz (Ralph Fiennes), a singing cowboy star Tobey (Alden Ehenreich), and a swimming movie star reminiscent of Esther Williams played by  Scarlett Johansson makes this film a cartoonish spoof on the 1950s movie industry.

It's lights, camera, and abduction of Baird Whitlock from a production set much like Robert Taylor's Quo Vadis (1951), as he is kidnapped by Communist industry employees for a ransom, led by a song and dance man Burt (Channing Tatum).  This is a farce that floats without any particular meaning except for having Eddie Mannix fixing the situation.

By no means this is the Coen Brothers' best work, but the quirky subplots and humorous characterizations make this a fun-filled romp.


Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni
Running time: 95 mins.
Release date: January 29, 2016
Genre: Animation, Action/Adventure, Comedy, and Sequel
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG

A once American/British computer-animated action comedy martial arts film produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed originally by Paramount Pictures in 2008 has now switch lanes to an American/Chinese franchise distributed by 20th Century Fox.  

The idea for the film was conceived b Michael Lachance, a DreamWorks Animation executive.  The film was originally intended to be a single movie parody, but in 2010 DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katsenberg decided that the Kung Fu Panda franchise will have six movies or chapters.  

Kung Fu Panda 3 is the sequel to the 2011 Kung Fu Panda 2 film and the third installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise.  The film features the returning voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, James Hong, Bryan Cranston (new voice), Kate Hudson (new voice), and J.K. Simmons (new voice).

Set in a version of ancient China populated by anthropomorphic talking animals, the plot revolves around a bumbling panda anmed Po (Jack Black) who aspires to be a kung fu master.  In this installment of the series, Po reunites with his biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and travels with him to a secret sanctuary of pandas where, to his surprise, he does not fit in.  There he meets Mei Mei (Kate Hudson), an overly eager panda, who had been promised to Po through an arranged marriage when they were children.  To make matters worse, an evil ancient spirit called Kai (J.K. Simmons) begins terrorizing China and stealing the powers of defeated kung fu masters.  Now in the face of incredible odds, Po must train the village of clumsy fun-loving pandas to become a band of Kung Fu Pandas and bring peace to the land.

As a family-friendly movie, this film takes the audience to netherworld places that transcends the bounds reality.  It shares an element of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.  It appeals to both children and adults.  In addition, Hans Zimmer returned to score the film.  

The musical score includes performances from renowned Asian musicians such as Chinese pianist Lang Lang, Chines cellist Jian Wang, erhu musician Guo Gan, and Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou and Canadian-Taiwanese young singer Patrick Brasca with British pop-rock band The Vampires.

The light-hearted animation comedy offers action where one and more heroes are thrust into a series of challenges that typically include physical feats, extended fight scenes, and frantic chases. All this while featuring a resourceful character, Po, struggling against life-threatening situations, a villain, and a pursuit which concludes in victory for Po and his friends.  Yet, it is a story whose central struggle is about the hero finding his place in the world, as a coming of age scenario.


Directed by: Jason Zada
Running time: 93 mins.
Release date: January 8, 2016
Genre: Horror
Distributor: Gramercy Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Set in the legendary Aokigahara Forest of Japan, The Forest follows Sara (Natalie Dormer of "Game of Thrones" and "Hunger Games"), a young American woman in search of her twin sister Jess (also Natalie Dormer), who has mysteriously disappeared in the Japanese forest known for people committing suicide.

Rising with terrifying grandeur at the base of Mt. Fuji in Japan, the real-life Aokigahara Forest is the suspense-filled setting of the supernatural thriller.  As Sara journeys there in search of her twin sister, she meets expatriate Aiden (Taylor Kinney).  They embark a search into a forest having been warned to 'stay on the path' and not to stray.  Determined to discover the truth about her sister's fate, they stray.

As in most horror films designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden worst fears, often with terrifying twists, while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience, the lead characters go where they should not.  Sara will have to face the angry and tormented souls of the dead that prey on anyone who dares to come near them.

The meat of this unique thriller is how Sara deals with the malevolent spirits lying in wait for her at every turn.  As she plunges into frightening darkness, more and more clues draws her to own hidden past and her sister.  

Natalie Dormer gives a solid performance in this horror flick, but the supporting character Aiden loses his effectiveness as the plot misuses his direction in the story.  However, there is enough fright to balance out the satanic experience.

The Forest is an intriguing thriller, with a successfully twisted and shocking finale.  It's worth the wait just for the final scenes!


Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Running time: 187 mins.
Release date: December 25, 2015 and January 1, 2016 (wide)
Genre: Western 
Distributor: TWC
MPAA Rating: R

As the major defining genre of the American film industry, this western is creative.  This is a 70mm film eulogizing the early days of the American frontier.

In The Hateful Eight, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitve Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where John Ruth, known as, "The Hangman", will bring Daisy to justice.  Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town's new Sheriff.  Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie's Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass.  When they arrive at Minnie's, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces.  Bob (Demian Birchir), who's taking care of Minnie's while she's away, is hold up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, the eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock.

The stellar cast is brilliant in their performances.  The large expansive tone set in chapter formats with very negotiable plots, elements, and characters is engaging and often humorous.  However, the dialogue reflects an excessive negativity of racial exploitation.  The tone of the bigotry (which is needed to set the tone) is well established early in the storyline, and need not be exasperated throughout the entire film.  I find the filmmakers' form of sensationalizing the post-Civil War Era's racist mindset is overwhelming and really doesn't add very much substance to the overall character development, interaction, and plot.  It has become Quentin Tarantino's cinematic trademark to utilize the derogative racial slur of African Americans as an accepted form of writing his dialogue in several of his films.  But it is troublesome for some audience members whose personal beliefs on racial exploitation, whether historical or contemporary, to embrace repetitive distasteful usage of this type of dialogue on each and every movie he makes.

Using melodramatic themes as the plot builds, the recognizable story of the dusty frontier, six-guns blazing, and desperadoes is thrilling and suspenseful.


Directed by: Steve Martino
Running time: 93 mins.
Release date: November 6, 2015
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Adventure, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: G

Based on the comic strip created by Charles M. Schulz, all the characters from Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Sally, Violet, Schroeder, Linus, Lucy, Pig Pen, Peppermint Patty, Patty, and Marcie come to life on the big screen. With an addition of Frieda the little red-haired new girl, the kids are navigating their lives in the neighborhood and school.

Charlie Brown (voice of Noah Schnapp) has always suffered from low self-esteem, but when a new red-haired girl Frieda (voice of Anastasia Bredikhina) moves next door, he desperately tries to impress her.  
However, his shyness and lack of self confidence is his downfall.  His weird dog Snoopy (voice of Bill Melendez) imagines this romantic situation in one of his Red Baron 'flying dog fight' dream sequences, as he romantically pursues another female flyer dog named Fifi (voice of Kristin Chinoweth).

While using a comedic coming of age scenario and a light-hearted plot consistently and deliberately designed to amuse, the 3 dimensional effect transcends the bounds of the playground, the school year, and summer vacation.  It all adds an element of hilarious magic and wonder.

The misadventures and the young affectionate adventures offer the audience (all all ages) a thrill every moment the youngsters place themselves in various humorous situations, as they struggle to find their place in world.


LOVE in 3D
Directed by: Gasper Noe
Running time: 135 mins.
Release date: October 30, 2015
Genre: Drama and Romance in English and French with English subtitles.
Distributor: Alchemy
MPAA Rating: Not rated

Written and directed by maverick French filmmaker Gasper Noe (Irreversible 2002 and Enter The Void 2009), comes Love in 3D, a daring erotic love drama.

Using artistic and technical reasoning, filmmaker Gasper Noe crafts a sexually arousing film about a romantic entanglement of an American film student Murphy (Karl Glusman) living in Paris, France.  He meets a beautiful young artist named Electra (Aomi Muyock) and their highly sexual and emotional relationship takes off.  

Under the direction of Gasper Noe, Karl Glusman as Murphy and Aomi Muyock as Electra light up the screen with non-simulated scenes of sex, while building character development.  Their furious love affair scorches the screen capturing images in various sex acts and positions, not necessarily offering sensuousness, but to expose the audience to the aspect excitement.  As the love affair progresses, so does the risky business of experimenting with exploring other partners.  The mutual agreement of allowing another woman named Omi (Klara Kristin) in their sexual relationship causes a problem when she happens to get pregnant as a result of Murphy's infidelity.  This unwanted pregnancy ends the relationship between Murphy and Electra.

The foundation of the narrative works off of an early morning  telephone call from Electra's mother Nora (Isabelle Nicou) to Murphy, concerned about the location of her daughter.  Knowing that Electra has suicidal tendencies, Nora instills a worry in Murphy.  Murphy reflects on his two year relationship with Electra, which is a filmage of visual eroticism in 3D.

Love, dares to use film in a realistic mode of sexual acts.  Whether it captures and expresses the joy, beauty, passion, and/or thrill of good sex, it is left to the viewer's interpretation.  The portrayal of the visual acts can be quite artistic and intellectual in its accomplishments.  Due to the lighting, composition, cropping, and exposure in the production of this film, the overall effect is daringly  executed.  However, the three dimensional effect is whimsical, and does not add any euphoric value.  At best, it is a troublesome effect and can be considered over-exposure.


Directed by: Robert Fontaine
Running time: 126 mins.
Release date: October 16, 2015
Genre: Drama and Crime
Distributor: Industrial House Films
MPAA Rating: R

Filmmaker Robert Fontaine, pens the script and stars in this gripping tale based on true events.  The underlying focus is concentrated on late 20th and early 21st century hate crimes in a small upstate New York community.

Hate crime laws in the United States protect against hate crimes (also known as bias crimes) motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class.   Although state laws vary, current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's protected characteristics of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability dating back to the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994), and Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009).

In this story, Rolando Ramirez (Robert Fontaine), a Hispanic-American Detective, and a longtime resident of the upstate New York community of Braxton (Newburgh), is assigned a case that has origins of a earlier kidnapping and disappearance of five Hispanic migrant workers. This old case opens up into an uncovering of a white hate group that practices hatred, hostility, and violence towards the local Hispanic race.  In a certain instance, a massacre of these Hispanics is the nature of the crime.

The film carries a contemporary setting playing out Detective Ramirez's investigation with occasional flashbacks to tie in a backstory of racial bigotry plaguing the divided communities.

Robert Fontaine's performance is solidly convincing and effective in setting the tone.  The serious plot driven presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction creates a taunting atmosphere.  However, using a multi-layered storyline, deprives the audience to settle in on the seriousness of how one hate group advocates in violence and criminal activity.  With alternating subplots supported by a good cast of Brad Lee Wind, Michael Brainard, Grant Boyd, Angel Valle Jr., Mariana Fernadez, Lily Autumn Page and Zoe Hunter as Ann Ramirez my attention was interrupted by its less interesting dramatic source.

Mi America is a gritty film that delves into an issue that is mainstream media and is worth seeing. 


Directed by: Peter Sollett
Running time: 103 mins.
Release date: October 2, 2015 (limited) & October 16, 2015 (Wide)
Genre: Drama, Romance, and Biography
Distributor: Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The story of Laurel Hester and her domestic partner Stacie Andree first drew national headlines in 2005.  In an age when civil rights pertaining to same sex couples and marriages was (and still is) a monumental issue in all walks of life and politics, Laurel Hester was a decorated police officer with the Ocean County Police Department in New Jersey.  She rose to national attention with her deathbed appeal for the extension of pension benefits to her domestic partner, as a diagnosed cancer patient.

This dramatic biopic is based her battle shown in Freeheld (2007), the winner of the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary by Cynthia Wade.  Adapted for a feature narrative by screenplay writer Ron Nyswaner, starring Julianne Moore as Laurel Hester and  Ellen Page as Stacie Andree, the film begins as she falls in love with Stacie Andree.

Julianne Moore delivers an emotionally charge portrayal of this 23 years of service police officer Laurel Hester, who hid her sexual preferences from the rank and file.  When she meets Stacie Andree (Ellen Page), a 19 years younger soft-spoken auto mechanic, they instantly fell in love.  The film spends much of its time sharing the romantic and domestic bliss they shared.  It's a thoughtful approach to this biopic, giving the audience a feeling of tranquility.  Yet, the shadowing dilemma of prejudice and bigotry is a frightening factor holding the plot together.  This is relevant throughout the story, as Laurel's longtime police partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon), is reluctant at first to accept her way of life.  The attitude is shared among the "all male" police unit she was associated with in Ocean County, New Jersey.  The same attitude is rendered as Stacie works hard as an auto mechanic in an automotive industry dominated by men.  The film unselfishly and honestly navigates the viewer through their journey dealing with prejudices in their social and professional lives. 

The film's sophomoric theme is tempered with intensity as Laurel's cancer materializes and spreads to her brain.  It becomes clear that she has little time to live.  Laurel lived with and jointly owned a house with her registered domestic partner Stacie Andree, who would not be able to afford mortgage payments upon Laurel's death.  A married heterosexual with Laurel's years of police service would be able to pass on pension benefits to a spouse, but this privilege was not accorded to same-sex domestic partners in Ocean County.  Attorney Steven Goldstein (brilliantly played by Steve Carell) takes the lead in advocating on behalf of Laurel and Stacie.  His performance adds a stimulating impact to an already controversial and challenging plot.  

Freeheld is a universal thematic film.  It's focus is that everyone wants to be treated with respect, and have the right to love the person we choose to, while having the world acknowledge it without prejudice.  


Directed by: Denis Villeneuve
Running time: 121 mins. 
Release date: October 2, 2015
Genre: Drama, Crime, Mystery, Thriller, and Action/Adventure
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: R

In the realm of developing a crime drama around the sinister actions of criminals, mobsters, underworld figures, and ruthless hoodlums, Sicario delivers on all counts.  

An idealistic female FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is enlisted by a U.S. government task force to assist in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between U.S. and Mexico.  

In a multi-layered suspenseful plot Emily Blunt's character of Kate is fearless, yet timid in nature.  She portrays an aggressive woman in law enforcement whose ideals are by the book.  Once inducted into a special task force led by a "devil may care" agent (Matt) played by Josh Brolin, who gives a rogue agent Alejandro (mysteriously played by Benicio Del Toro) free reign, Kate is caught up in the adrenaline of hunting down drug cartel king-pins.  However, Alejandro's free reign consist of revenge killing, which is below the high standards that Kate maintains.  Can she be corrupted to bend the law?  Can she look the other way when she knows it's illegal, wrong, and immoral?  These are the plot layers involved in this challenging and lively thriller.  It is a wild, desolate, gritty, and harsh cinematic ride anchoring unsolved crimes, murder, and disappearances of one and more characters.  The hard-boiled investigative sequences and methodical pursuit of criminals and solution to crimes is the substance that enthralls the audience.

Emily Blunt is the lead character, who shows a complexity in her personality.  She's a woman who is suffering from personal self-esteem, and counters it with a strong motivation in doing her job.  Yet, her naivety in the underworld reality, leaves her in a troubled situation.

As a serious plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction, Sicario offers Emily Blunt a platform to stretch her talent in this shocking, yet mesmerizing narrative.


Directed by: Jerry Jameson
Running time: 97 mins.
Release date: September 18, 2015
Genre: Drama, Crime, Biography, and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on the non-fiction novel An Unlikely Angel by Ashley Smith, screenwriter Brian Bird pens an American crime drama thriller under the direction of Jerry Jameson.  Extracted from the memoirs of hostage Ashley Smith held in her home by escapee convicted murderer Brian Nichols, this gives a character study of two individuals who rely on a redemption text doctrine to overcome a life threatening situation.

A true story about Brian Nichols (David Oyelowo), who escapes on March 11, 2005 from the Fulton County courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia during his case trial for rape, takes off from his murder of the presiding judge Rowland Barnes (uncredited), as well as court reporter Julie Brandau (uncredited) and a sheriff deputy.  He also shoots Sgt. Hoyt Teasley (E. Roger Mitchell) while escaping from the holding cell, and then Agent David G. Wilhelm (Rob Bouton) at his home while fleeing.  Nichols then kidnaps single mother, Ashley Smith (Kate Mara), at her home, as a hostage.

This film lays out a solid backstory on the major players, Brian Nichols and Ashley Smith.  It depicts Brian Nichols as a bitter unstable man on the run from a city-wide anhunt and determined to make contact with his newborn son.  While, Ashley Smith is shown as a fragile recovering addict and single mother of a young girl named Paige (Elle Graham), grasping for serenity.  Both David Oyelowo and Kate Mara capture the honesty and desperation in their roles of two broken people who find a sliver of light in a very dark time period by reading The Purpose Driven Life by author Rick Warren (published 2002). 

Ashley Smith receives a book from a fellow recovering addict at a meeting, titled The Purpose Driven Life.  This redemption text doctrine is use for motivation in recovering from obsessions that causes addictions and mental instabilities.  It book is one of the best selling non-fiction books of all time, the second selling hard cover book of all time after the Bible.

The film's high intensity is magnified when the two major characters are confronted with finding an inner freedom during the seven hour captivity.  How her actions that night fueled her belief that she could truly start a positive life again, despite her past.  And he could find a solution through the power of acceptance, the answer to all problems through serenity and having no control over things he cannot change along with the wisdom to know the difference.

Supporting cast members Leomor Varela as Sgt. Carmen Sandoval, Jessica Oyelowo as Meredith MacKenzie, Mimi Rogers as Aunt Kim, and Michael K. Williams as Lt. John Chestnut along with many extras secure a solid crime drama adaptation.


Directed by: Claire Denis
Running time: 105 mins.
Release date: May 1989 (US), September 18, 2015 Restoration (US)
Genre: Drama in English and French with English subtitles
Distributor: Film Desk
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Made a her debut feature narrative, Claire Denis adapts her semi-autobiographical story to screen.  Base on her childhood in 1950s colonial French West Africa, this film depicts a realistic tone of the final years of French occupation in Cameroon, and examines the racial inequality and servitude seen through the eyes of pre-teen girl.

A young woman France Dalens (Mireille Perrier), a daughter of a civil servant Marc Dalens (Francois Cluzet) and mother Aimee Dalens (Giulia Boschi) reflects on her girlhood in this highly cinematic flashback in West Africa's Cameroon.  This erotic, sophisticated, and distinctive film is an enthralling account depicting a family's struggle during the last years of French rule in this region, while focusing on the little girl's friendship with the family's devoted black male house servant Protee (Isaach de Bankole).

The curious and observant 7 year old girl, France spends her days amidst the paradise of her family's remote estate, but behind the household's exterior beauty lies a growing hostility brought by France's always traveling father, which plagues her mother.  It plagues her mother enough to escalate sexual tension between the black male servant Protee, who scorns her.  

Using subtle plot driven insights, Claire Denis navigates its audience  with exclusions, betrayals and agonizing comprises.  Various characters introduced in the film, from an emergency plane landing to the estate brings a motley collection of people to the house.  They  come into the film as a quiet unfolding part of the movie, episodic rather than connected in character development.  However, this is the meat of the narrative, examining the state of racism, rage, loyalty, friendship, and uncertainty within the family unit.  Shot in long sweeping often silent frames, the film is as much about what isn't said in dialogue, as what is.  The performances are understated and often enigmatic, allowing the psychology of the characters to emerge with subtlety. 

After 25 years of this film's original release date, Chocolat holds up brilliantly and truly one of my best Claire Denis' films.


Directed by: Daniel Lee
Running time: 127 mins.
Release date: September 4, 2015 (U.S.)
Genre: Action/Adventure and History in English, Latin, and Mandarin with English subtitles.
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: R

After a massive success this year in its native China, Dragon Blade brings action spectacle on a grand scale to U.S. audiences.  

Featuring an international cast led by Jackie Chan (co-executive producer along with Susanna Tsang), John Cusack, and Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody, the film features the fight for the Sik Road when East and West collide.  

When corrupt eastern region Commanding leader Tiberius (Adrien Brody) arrives with a great army to claim the Sik Road, Commander of the Protective Squad of the western regions Huo An (Jackie Chan) and his group of trained warriors teams up with an elite legion of defected Roman soldiers led by General Lucius (John Cusack to maintain the delicate balance of power in the region.

As in most action/adventure films that usually include high energy, big-budget, physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, this film attempts to balance its tone with a historical thesis.  The plot maneuvers this balancing act by means of an epic endeavor which include costume drama, and a period piece that cover a large expanse of time set against a vast, panoramic backdrop.

However, as the plot becomes a scenario of dividing peace in a society by sacrifice and self-esteem - or by fighting for peace to keep respect, the screenplay and direction by Daniel Lee becomes unraveled by mediocre performances by a highly credible cast of actors.  What is intended to be character and plot driven presentation, challenges any emotional impact the story was to express.  The poor delivery of dialogue by much of the actors, except for Adrien Brody's performance as a shocking and mesmerizing evil man, hindered much of the execution of this production.  Yet, what gives this film merit is how it exerts being gritty, desolate, and harsh by use of the great landscape, which is in my eyes another character.  Its cinematic epic theme take an historic, mythic, legendary event, and add an extravagant setting accompanied by grandeur and spectacular, dramatic scope, and high production values.

Dragon Blade, has been greatly received at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2014, where star Jackie Chan and director Daniel Lee announced the film to be released in IMAX 3D on February 19. 2015, the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, and in New York at the July 2015 Asian American International Film Festival.  But, in my criticism, it remains to be a disjointed epic period piece film.


Directed by: Anna Muylaert
Running time: 1 hr. 52 mins.
Release date: August 28, 2015
Genre: Drama and Comedy in Portuguese with English subtitles
Distributor: Oscilloscope
MPAA Rating: R

Brazil's director Anna Muylaert mines an incendiary drama when old ideas and new worlds collide.  The immense satisfaction and fun of The Second Mother stems from watching tacit social codes and delicate hierachies waver as a new generation blithely treads on sacrosanct boundaries.  Filmmaker Anna Muylaert has given a fresh, contemporary spin on class distinction in Brazil, wrapped in a deeply moving story of what belonging and family mean.

The Second Mother centers around Val (Regina Case), a hard working live-in housekeeper in modern day Sao Paulo.  Val is perfectly content to take care of every one of her wealthy employees' needs, from cooking and cleaning to being a surrogate mother to the teenage son Fabinho (Michel Joeisas), who she has raised since he was a toddler.  But when Val's estrange daughter Jessica (Camila Mardila), whom she left behind to send money to and physically never raised in 18 years, suddenly shows up the unspoken but intrinsic class barriers that exist within the home are thrown into disarray.  

Camila Mardila plays a smart, confident, and ambitious Jessica, and refuses to accept the upstairs/downstairs dynamic, testing relationships and loyalties.  From day one, Val and Jessica are in conflict with each others idealistic values.  Regina Case's outstanding performance as Val, an established servant, with subordinate ideals, is the catalyst of Jessica's resentment.  Jessica is of the new wave of a non-cast system in the new Brazil.

The patriarch and matriarch of the estate is Carlos (Lourengo Mutarelli) and Barbara (Karine Teles).  Carlos is a doctor and takes an interest in Jessica, as she intends to go to university.  However, Barbara, an attorney, is annoyed by Jessica's free spirit in not respected the social distinctions and independence.  It goes further, as 18 year old son Fabinho and 18 year old Jessica become friends around the household, which is part of the Brazilian social new wave of equality.  

Family dynamics come full circle when Jessica is asked to leave the estate and find a place of her own once she gets accepted to university and affluent young Fabinho doesn't.  But Val finds out, Jessica has baggage from her past that is reminiscent to her own past,  and the pressure of accepting a new way of life and her daughter hinges on whether she will accept it or not.

The Second Mother is a brilliant, funny, and honest look at a mother/daughter bonding.  Yet, the movie offers much more in the study of Brazil's racial and economic cast system divisions.  


Directed by: Fouad Mikati
Running time: 95 mins.
Release date: August 14, 2015
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Distributor: RLJ Entertainment
MPAA Rating: Not rated

In this serious plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, and life situations, filmmaker Fouad Mikati develops a crime thriller anchoring on rape and revenge.

Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Jack Reacher, and Wrath of the Titans) stars as a nurse, Miranda Wells, whose life is very low-keyed, yet rewarding.    Living in a small town, not far from her father Mitchell Wells (Nick Nolte), she has plans of selling her house for a new one, with the assistance of real estate agent Judy (Illeana Douglas).  However, after being apprehensively applauded for accepting a blind-date by co-worker nurse Nancy (Camryn Manheim), Miranda prepares herself for the social occasion.  

The day of the blind-date arrives and a man comes her door.  She assumes it is Kevin (Billy Slaughter), her date, but it isn't.  It is a man named William Finn, a low-life sexual stalker.  Not actually knowing this isn't Kevin, Miranda welcomes him in her home, but suddenly finds herself uneasy with his presence.  Unable to protect herself, she falls victim to being rape.  Some moments later, the real blind-date Kevin appears at Miranda's door, and finds her brutally assaulted sexually.  

Even after her attacker William is captured, convicted, and sent to prison, Miranda can't overcome her ordeal, which leads her to live an abnormal life of fear and instability.  Her aspirations of becoming a doctor is diminished and the sale of her home is less desirable to the market (it's labeled as a home of a rape victim and can't be sold).  Her next step is to no longer accept the role of a victim, but to seek revenge and become a predator of her rapist.  

This is only the first half of the film, and it only methodically floats in its pacing.  I find the pace and settings uninspiring for the most part, although Rosamund Pike gives her best as another psychopathic character (referring to Gone Girl -2014).  With a stellar cast of accredited actors, I find them poorly used in substandard character performances.  The dialogue lacks emotional impact and the tone is much too light.  

The film attempts to build intensity when Miranda begins to play up to her rapist William, as she sends him letters  and visits him in prison.  Filmmaker Fouad Mikati allows the audience to see Miranda display a "Stockholm Syndrome" scenario in her flirtatious prison visits to William.  Yet, it is obvious she is setting him up for a big let-down once he is released.  The sensitivity of this sexual crime is handled with care on screen by good solid performances by Rosamund Pike and Nick Nolte, her father, but it opens problematic dialogue about Miranda's long time decease mother, that frustrates the flow of the plot.  By adding multi-dimensions in the storyline, it becomes somewhat disjointed.  

However, with a strong performance by Rosamund Pike exerting a revenge strategy, it proves to be a high point of the film, and a challenging characterization for a revenge scheme.  Yet, the final scenes dissolve and fail in executing a real shocking ending.

Return To Sender, is a slow-burner and doesn't offer enough credible character interaction to energize this narrative.  But it does offer enough curiosity atmosphere to keep its viewer anxious in its mediocre execution.


Directed by: Noah Baumbach
Running time: 84 min.
Release date: August 14, 2015
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In a screenplay co-written by director Noah Baumbach and co-lead actor Greta Gerwig comes a funny female bonding film.  

Men love when a woman isn't too proper to laugh at a crude joke in today's outrageous gag film comedies, raunchy stereotypes and sexploits are the name of the game.  Victoria Secret models and Brazilian bombshells step-aside, it's time to make way for hottest new trend in sexy.

In Mistress America, Tracy (Lola Kirke) is an 18 year old lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned.  But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be 30 year old stepsister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town, she is rescued from her disappointments and seduced by Brooke's alluring mad schemes.  Enthralled by Brooke's picturesque but illegal apartment and a lifestyle she only dreamed about, Tracy is quickly swept into a series of mad-cap adventures.

Using the foundations of female bonding, stories of funny love affairs, and how two opposites are attracted to each other over strange situations, the emotionally impacted funny film finds a delicate balance of both romance and comedy.  It manages the unique mixture of sexual and comedic chemistry with fresh realism.

As Tracy narrates the story, she also introduces a coming-of-age scenario to follow.  By use of brilliant performances by the entire cast, the satirical theme is dramatic, yet it retains its serious tone.

This is a witty screwball comedy, that displays intelligence in its pacing, performances, delivery, and execution.  


Directed by: Peyton Reed
Running time: 115 mins.
Release date: July 17, 2015
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

The next evolution of the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings a founding member of The Avengers to the big screen for the first time with Marvel Studio's "Ant- Man".  Based on the Marvel Comics characters of the same name: Scott Lang and Hank Pym, is a story of a man armed with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength.  

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang/Ant-Man, a down-on-his-luck petty criminal who is recently released from prison, working menial jobs, and acquires a suit by a robbery that allows him to shrink in size and increase in strength.  Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne, is the daughter of brilliant scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the designer of the Ant-Man suit and Janet van Dyne, and a senior board member of Pym Technologies, who helps Darren Cross take over the company.  Corey Stoll plays evil-doer Darren Cross/Yellowjacket, a former protege' of Pym, who takes over Pym's company, militarizes a similar version of the Ant-Man technology and creates the Yellowjacket suit. 

In supporting roles, Bobby Cannavale as Paxton, is a police officer and friend of Lang's, who has married Lang's ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer), and reluctantly allows Lang to visit his daughter Cassie.  With a strong comic relief performance by Michael Pena as Luis, Lang's ex-cellmate and bestfriend, Tip "T.I." Harris as Dave, and Wood Harris as Gale brings this comic book adaptation to life on the big screen.

This high energy 'popcorn flick', is non-stop action, displaying spectacular rhythm and pacing.  The two-dimensional 'good guy' heroes battling 'bad


Directed by: Asif Kapadia
Running time: 128 mins.
Release date: July 3, 2015 (limited) & July 10, 2015 (wide)
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: A24
MPAA Rating: R

Asif Kapadia's cinematic examination on the six-time Grammy winner features unseen archival footage.  It's a film primarily seen through the sad eyes of Amy Winehouse's father Mitch Winehouse and could be fashioned after his book, Amy, My Daughter.

Amy Jade Winehouse (14 Sept. 1983 - 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and her electric mix of musical genres, including soul (sometimes labelled as blue-eyed soul), rhythm and blues, reggae, and jazz.  Her 2003 debut album, Frank, was a critical success in the U.K.  Amy Winehouse's follow-up album, Back to Black, led to five 2008 Grammy Awards, tying the then record for the most wins by a female to win five Grammys.

The film takes the viewer through her early life when her grandmother Cynthia suggested she attend the Susi Earnshaw Theatre School, where she went on Saturdays to further her vocal education and to learn to tap dance.  Amy also toyed with her brother Alex's guitar.  She attended the school for four years and founded a short-lived rap group called Sweet 'n' Sour with her childhood friend Juliette Ashby.  Soon she sought full-time training at Sylvia Young Theatre School where she was expelled at age 14 for not applying herself and for piercing her nose.  However, Sylvia Young denied this, along with Mitch Winehouse's latter testimony.

However, at the age of 15 started entertaining patterning her style with legendary greats Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington.  The film shows clips of Amy's best friend, the soul singer Tyler James who sent Amy's demo tape to an A&R person, which led to her signing with Simon Fuller's 19 Management in 2002.  Meanwhile, she regularly sang jazz standards at local clubs.  This when she fashioned herself in the likes of the 1960s girls group, The Ronettes.

The controversy of Amy Winehouse is thoroughly examined.  Winehouse's dichotomous public image of critical and commercial success versus personal turmoil proved to quite controversial.  By 2008, her continued drug problems threatened her career.  Her personal life was unstable as she dated chief musician Alex Clare, while on a break with her on-off boyfriend and future husband Blake Fielder-Civil.  The marriage with Fielder-Civil was a turbulent and abusive one.  Amy and her enabling husband went down a road of self-destruction and degradation.  In various interviews, including Amy's father Mitch, along with legend jazz singer Tony Bennett (who praised her talent) the sorrow is shared.  However, substance abuse and mental health issues was a heavy contributing factor in her death on July 23, 2011 in Southgate, London, England.


Directed by: Rick Famuywa
Running time: 103 mins.
Release date: June 19, 2015
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Crime, and Coming of Age
Distributor: Open Road Films
MPAA Rating: R

The simplest way of looking at this dramatic comedy is to say that it surprises, startles, shocks, and delights.  Dope has the essential aspects of comedy and drama that goes beyond the ordinary, the dull and familiar.

Set in contemporary Englewood, California, teenage high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore), in a outstanding breakout performance, is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood.  While juggling college applications with the focus on attending Harvard University, academic interviews,  and the S.A.T. examination, he and his three best friends Jib (Tony Revolori), Bug (Keith Stanfield), and Will (Blake Anderson) enjoy their 'nerdy' companionship.  In a combination of Blaxploitation, crime thrilling suspense, and a coming of age theme, the story covers of the realm of what it is like living in the Black Ghetto.  Yet, it exposes the audience to the universal problems of peer pressure, consisting of affairs of the heart, sexuality (specifically Will who is a male dressing young lesbian), acceptance, and domestic difficulties, that plagues young people everywhere.

In a plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character development and interaction, the story takes form when the foursome receives a invitation to an underground party, where Malcolm nervously pursues the 'hot' Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) who is drug dealing gang leader Dom's (A$AP Rocky) girlfriend.  Fortunately, Dom befriends Malcolm.   While the party is being raided by the police, a drug package is dump into Malcolm's tote bag by Dom.  As Malcolm escapes from the raid with Nakia, so does the drugs.  Malcolm and his friends must adapt to being street smart and dropping the geeky ways to maneuver themselves in the world of criminals and illegal operations.

The crisp paced and energizing narrative takes form as an adventurous dark humored crime drama, as Malcolm and his friends play hide and seek with ruthless hoodlums and police, while attempting to keep their proper  perspectives.  The balance of keeping this film youthful in spirit and promoting a thrilling suspenseful tone is perfectly mastered by the dialogue.  A sense of decorum is established by the character's performances, i.e., what is said is appropriate to the role and situation of the character.  The exposition that is established secures the relationships, tensions, and conflicts from which later the plot developments derive.

In a film influenced and produced by Forest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams, and Sean Combs, the supporting cast of Kiersey Clemons, Tyga, Casey Veggies, Vince Staples, Chanel Iman, Quincy Brown, and Rick Fox, makes this film a rare gem.  Each of the tactics of this dramedy disturbs, disrupts, alters and changes things from what is expected with every cast member's performance.  The whole impetus is to create a distance, a perspective on the world, a world that is no longer pedestrian, but comic.  

Filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa relies on an open conflict scenario in this lively tale.  A plot structured on the suspense of a struggle in which the hero, through fighting against all odds, is not to fail.  Yet, the performances of the key roles  are given a thorough examination in them finding their place in the world.

Dope is an imaginative and highly creative film that will leave a formidable impression on its viewer.


Directed by: Bill Pohlad
Running time: 120 mins.
Release date: June 5, 2015
Genre: Drama, Biography, and Music
Distributor: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This is an intimate and unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the enigmatic singer, songwriter, and co-founder of the legendary musical rock & roll group, the Beach Boys.  Set against Wilson's groundbreaking, era defining music, the film examines the personal voyage and ultimate salvation of a cultural icon whose success came at extraordinary personal cost.

The movie is a portrait of a real person revealing the little known, behind the scenes drama that unfolded as the young musician began to explore the depths of his prodigious talent while battling deep-seated insecurities and psychological distress.

This is not a straightforward narrative of Brian Wilson' life.  It's more of an interpretation of two important times in his life: the creative era of the 1960s where Paul Dano portrays him and the psychologically complicated era of the 1980s where John Cusack portrays him.  Toggling back and forth in time, the multi-layered portrait takes the audience on a compelling journey into the life and mind of Brian Wilson.

Paul Dano plays a very gentle and sensitive young Brian Wilson and John Cusack plays the older complicated and disturbed personality.  Paul Giamatti plays Dr. Eugene Landry, the psychotherapist accused of making Brian Wilson a virtual prisoner for more than a decade.  Brian Wilson remained Dr. Landry's patient for more than a decade, paying almost a half-million dollars a year for his services and eventually becoming a hostage.  This is mirrored what happened to Brian Wilson in the first part of his life with his abusive father, who also kind of held him hostage in a dominant father/son relationship.

Dramatically, the plot is highly serious and driven with a story involving intense character development and interaction as it depicts a personal struggle.

With outstandingly stimulating performances, presenting real-life scenarios and settings, Love & Mercy is a mark of brilliant cinema.


Directed by: Eddie Mullins
Running time: 91 mins.
Release date: June 5, 2015
Genre: Drama and Comedy
Distributor: Candy Factory Films
MPAA Rating: Not rated

In a dramatic sense of comedic surrealism which laughter arises from cynicism and skepticism, Doomsdays is a film that mocks the victims and gives acceptance to its antagonists.

Director and writer Eddie Mullins crafts a tale of vagabonds illegally appropriating rural vacant Catskills homes.  Slackers Dirty Fred (Justin Rice) and Bruho (Leo Fitzpatrick), illogical and immature in their mannerisms, aimlessly roam secluded upstate New York countryside and towns with the intent of stealing and  vandalizing property.  Their purpose is to live freely before their  self-assessed doomsday ideology becomes reality.  

Structurally, the movie begins in thoughtless movement, without backstory and direction.  However, it's quick to understand that this is the tone and theme to be established.  Uniquely, the plot surprises, startles, shocks, and delights the audience.  It is an essential aspect of this dark comedic drama that goes beyond the ordinary, the dull, and the familiar structure.

The movement and pacing of the story is ongoing, as each venture into another dwelling brings on different scenarios for the destructive duo. The character development and interaction range from absurdity to mockery, and sarcasm to irony, as academically endowed Dirty Fred and violently destructive Bruho adventurously find homes to squat and destroy. During their criminal exploits, they recruit an impressionable young man named Jaidon (Brian Charles Johnson) and an attractive free-spirited woman, Reyna (Laura Campbell).  These two new characters add a romantic theme with Rayna and a coming of age scenario with Jaidon. The foursome's commitment to the lifestyle is challenged when the two newcomers bring their personalities aboard this oddball crew.

Using humorous and satirical mannerisms while retaining seriousness, the film exposes its audience to both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously.  The characterization successfully portrayed by the cast, creates a different match of the protagonist against the antagonist.  It exploits complexity and vitality through dialogue depicting climatic ironies and misunderstandings.  The fulfillment in the plot is a surprising reversal in expectations and renders the theme in conditions the audience will find uncertain in its development.  The setting and action tends to be suggestive rather than panoramic and colossal.  The story uses both settings and action a little more than hints for the audience to fill out, but employs a determined dramatic sense of conditions to support a dramatic conviction.   

Doomsdays, is a film that will offer an unconventional genre, that will surprise you - often of what is intended or logically expected.  The whole impetus of this dramatic dark comedy is to create a distance and a perspective of the world.  Each tactic used in this production is to disturb, disrupt, alter and change things from what we consider normal in society.



Directed by: Daniel Peddle
Running time: 87 mins.
Release date: May 29, 2015
Genre: Drama, Mystery, and Thriller
Distributor: CAVU Pictures
MPAA Rating: Not rated

In the theme of a Hitchcockian plot intertwine with a thrilling mysterious coming of age storyline, Sunset Edge is a beginning to end mesmerizing gothic thriller.

The basis of this emerging narrative is the visual surrealism.  Using decaying landscape of rural North Carolina and its solitude of its inhabitants project a loneliness of life.  The film merges two narratives to expose the lifestyles of teenagers, Haley (Haley Ann McKnight) and her boyfriend Will (William Dickerson), along with skateboarding buddies Blaine (Blaine Edward Pugh) and Jacob (Jacob Kristian Ingle).  As the teenagers cruise the abandoned streets and homes of a dissolved community, they come across mysterious and haunting aspects it possess.  

However, the story takes a sidestep to a Gothic tale where people disappear.  The backstory of this theme is complexed and requires the audience's undivided attention because of its flashbacks.  The secrets of this story unfolds using suspense and poetic visuals as the multi-layered plots come together with attentive continuity.  Yet, the past narrative is centered around young people on the verge of their maturation process.  It's truly the rites of passage into adulthood, but leaves an untold tale of another journey into adulthood by way of a shadowy past.  

This untold past narrative offers a shocking plot-driven presentation with eerie performances by Liliane Gillenwater as Dora Mary Moon. Jack Horn as Pa, and Gilberto Padita as Malachi.   

Sunset Edge, is an unconventional movie that is strongly implied that the decisions which the characters make on key elements will impact the rest of their lives.  On a grander scale, these decisions may provide much valuable information about the broader mysteries projected on screen.  This is the perfect build up for the extraordinary creative final scenes that brings closure to the multi-layered plot that is executed with perfection.


Directed by: James McTeigue
Running time: 96 mins.
Release date: May 29, 2015
Genre: Drama, Adventure, and Thriller
Distributor: Alcemy
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In this British-American spy thriller starring Milla Jovovich, Pierce Brosnan, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster that promotes intense suspense, excitement is not spared.

With the acknowledgment of terrorism and war, the collateral damage of heartbreak and its horror is the setting.  Using by-the-book elements of a dramatic spy thriller, filmmaker James McTeigue orchestrates a solid film.  

After being mysteriously framed for a terrorist bombing, Foreign Service Officer Kate Abbott (Milla Jovovich) newly posted to the U.S. Embassy in London, must evade government capture and death by a ruthless assassin Nash "The Watchmaker" (Pierce Brosnan).  

The crisp pacing is relentlessly on-going as Britain's MI-6 is pursuing Kate as well as her assassin.  As Kate's superior, Sam Parker (Dylan McDermott) offers his support in evading capture. Reluctantly, the Embassador Maureen Cran (Angela Bassett) is willing to 'throw her under the bus' and assume she is guilty in a bombing and the killing of co-worker agent and mole Bill Talbot (Robert Forster).  The film also focuses on the unsolved crimes, as it moves methodically in character and plot development.  Milla Jovovich gives an outstanding performance as she eludes elements on her trail.  And Pierce Brosnan is diabolical as he pursues his prey.  

There is an underlying interlocking subplot of an impending disaster, that is to develop in New York City.  This adds more excitement and intrigue to an already stimulating story.  

Promoting a high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety, and nerve-wracking tension, Survivor, is well worth watching.


Directed by: Brad Bird
Running time: 130 mins.
Release date: May 22, 2015
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Adventure, and Mystery
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

Fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, science and technology, parallel universes, and time travel is the theme of this fantasy.  

Although, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells was published in 1895 and was instrumental in moving the concept of time travel to the forefront of the public imagination, and encouraged many filmmakers to replicate and extend on this genre, early stories featuring time travel go back to ancient Hindu mythology with Mahabharata (written around 700 B.C.).  Another very old script can be found in the Talmud, with the story of Honi HaM'angel (written in 300 A.D.).  Other stories such as, A Christmas Carol, A A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Star Trek, The Terminator, and most recently X-Men:Days of Future Past all have been successful in cinematic and literary markets.

Tomorrowland, starring Academy Award winner George Clooney as Frank Walker, a grizzled inventor (Thomas Robinson portrays a young Frank Walker), along with Britt Robertson as an affirmative minded Casey Newton and Raffey Cassidy as Athena (an Android), are the lead characters.  Hugh Laurie plays the evil-doer David Nix, who sets up his own futuristic utopia for his own personal gratification is another instrumental character setting the tone.  As for tone, filmmaker Brad Bird uniquely regards the time travel motif as providing a necessary distancing effect which can allow fiction to address contemporary issues in metaphorical ways, and valuable for providing a view of history where every person is significant.

The premise is interesting, as Frank as a youngster at the 1964 New York World's Fair encounters a mysterious scientist named David Nix   and a enthusiastic young girl named Athena.  Soon, he finds himself in a special venue, and then in another world.  However, the plot jumps to the contemporary 21st century, where Casey Newton is introduced to the story as a positive scientific thinking teenager.  She inadvertently meets an adult Frank Walker hiding in an old farmhouse from alien intruders.  The two elude the evil aliens with help from Athena, and the threesome travel to a place somewhere in time and space only known as Tomorrowland where their actions directly affect the world and themselves.

This visionary story, complete with heroes, aliens, distant planets, impossible quest, improbable settings with great dark and shadowy villains is held together by fine performances by the major characters, and a solid supporting cast of Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Thomas Robinson.  The special effects are extravagant against an elaborate panoramic backdrop.  The interaction between the characters are dramatically intense and their development renders a natural flow on screen.  This is a commendable outing for this production.  

I find this to be a good and exciting family-friendly film!



Directed by: Richard Loncraine
Running time: 92 mins.
Release date: May 5. 2015
Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Focus World
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In a film adaptation of the novel Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment (2010), quoted by O, The Oprah Magazine, "a painterly depictions of a ratted city...deliciously biting satire of media and real estate madness."  Starring veteran acting greats Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton, is a magical story of growing older with grace.

With New York City as the backdrop, the atmosphere is on high alert as a gasoline truck is stuck in the Midtown Tunnel and the driver has fled. Through panic of alleged terrorism and gridlock, Alex (Morgan Freeman), an artist, and Ruth (Diane Keaton), a retired teacher and Chekhov devotee, must suddenly transport their beloved pet dog to an animal hospital.  But this is also the weekend when they want to sell their lower east-side apartment, overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, in which they have lived for 45 years, most of their adults lives.

The scenes that border on parody, the local news adopts a danger in the city with local television polls about terrorism to fuse "Big Apple" tension. Meanwhile, Ruth's niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon), a real estate agent, adds urban enthusiasm to list their property to see what the market might bear.

It's an ordinary plot, yet it's a gentle gem of a film.  The dialogue displayed by Freeman and Keaton is smart and funny.  Their chemistry on screen is perfect, as they generously work well off of each other.  The scenarios of the veterinary, real estate, and domestic details are crafted like elements of a thriller plot, but hold the audience in a light-hearted and surreal atmosphere.

It is safe to say, without being a spoiler, that Alex and Ruth realize that the same bond of love that has kept them together the many years, will see them through many more, as they embark on their new adventure of their later years of life together.  


Directed by: Anne Fletcher
Running time: 87 mins.
Release date: May 8, 2015
Genre: Comedy and Action
Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG-13

An uptight, super-straight by-the-book San Antonio female cop Cooper (Reese Witherspoon), is a law enforcement prodigy.  She is honored and thrilled to be assigned the seemingly simple task of escorting mob wife Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) across Texas, where she and her husband Felipe Riva (Vincent Laresca) will testify against a major drug lord. However, when crooked cops and mob gunmen intervene, Cooper must flee a shoot-out with Mrs. Riva.

The plot is simple as the two women run for their lives, on this comedic road trip to safety.  Mrs. Rivas, the curvaceous Columbian beauty with opinions as strong as her accent is just the opposite personality of life naive Cooper.  It is of a 'odd couple' scenario, as the two grow into buddies, with Reese Witherspoon plays the funny part and Vera Vergara does the straight woman part of this comic duo.

However, that's all that can be said of this pathetic attempt at comedy. The jokes are not funny, the southern accent of Reese Witherspoon is over-the-top in its delivery, the character interaction is flawed, and the development of the characters is less than desirable.  What is deliberately designed to amuse with the script's humor by writers David Feeney and John Quaintance, is destructively designed to annoy.  

The idea of a female-driven buddy action comedy is great, but this project is troublesome and whimsical.  Hot Pursuit, is penalized for poor execution and delivery.



Directed by: Alex Garland
Running time: 110 mins.
Release date: April 10, 2015
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction, and Thriller
Distributor: A24
MPAA Rating: R

Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with a stylish and cerebral thriller, starring Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and Oscar Isaac.

Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer and coder at an internet-search corporation called BlueBook Inc., wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company's brilliant CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

Upon his arrival by airlift to the secluded and remote estate, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test (an experiment in making artificial intelligence, A.I.).  Nathan assigns Caleb with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness of Nathan's latest experiments in A.I.  This experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a beautiful A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated and deceptive than the two men could have imagined.

The plot revolves around Caleb's and Ava's relationship, as Caleb evaluates her - and her him.  However, Nathan has another A.I. on the premise called Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), an attractive Japanese woman programmed by Nathan not to speak.  This is to keep all privilege information secretive, as Nathan goes on his occasional drug and alcohol binges. 

Using a slick and mysterious theme, Ex Machina proves to be visionary and imaginative.  In this movie, the formulaic and commonly used elements of sci-fi films are futuristic technology, unknown and unknowable forces, and the threat of forces to remove mankind.  Yet, the formidable drama gives its audience a challenging concept to hold, as it shows how emotions and systematic reactions can be confused as being the same.

This is a great outing for first-time director Alex Garland.


Directed by: James D. Cooper
Running time: 117 mins.
Release date: April 3, 2015
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
MPAA Rating: Not rated

In a kaleidoscope study of an era, this is an infused examination of the managing of rock and roll celebrities that became, The Who.  Present-day interviews with surviving principals, now older, reflect on their relationships and life trajectories.  

Christopher 'Chris' Lambert and Christopher 'Kit' Stamp, aspiring filmmakers, set out to make a documentary in the early 1960s about the mod world of rock and roll, but sidetracked into managing and developing the sonic powerhouse musical that became, The Who.  This is a story that has never been told before, featuring lots of archival footage of rock and roll's legends such as Jimi Hendrix, and starring interviews with Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend to name a few.

The study examines Lambert and Stamp, from their different backgrounds.  Chris Stamp (July 7, 1942 - November 24, 2012), an East London roughneck, born into a working-class family, and one of five siblings from London's East End.  Actor Terence Stamp is his older brother (also interviewed in the film), his father was a tugboat captain and mother was Ethel (nee Perrot).  Chris' film and music career began at London's Shepperton Film Studios as a filmmaker and met collaborating business partner Kit Lambert while working on such films as, I Could Go On Singing, The L-Shaped Room, and Of Human Bondage.  Kit Lambert (May 11, 1935 - April 7, 1981), a sensitive gay-man, was  the son of the composer Constant Lambert and grandson of George Washington Lambert, a sculptor and painter who was an official artist for the Australian government at Gallipoli during World War I.  Kit who studied at Trinity College at Oxford, served in the British Army, and later set out on an expedition with a comrade (comrade killed by tribespeople) to attempt to discover the source of a remote tributary of the Amazon River.  He was just the opposite of his collaborating business partner.  However, they were products of World War II and wanted to be part of the 'new wave movement' that captured post-WWII Europe's 1950s.

Meanwhile, in 1959, a rock and roll band called The Detours (later called The High Numbers), consisting of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, bassist John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon (replaced by Kenny Jones after Moon's 1978 death), was playing illegal underground dance clubs.  The film gives a full insight on these young men's beginnings, prior to their success as, The Who.  The founding members of The Who, Daltrey Townshend, and Entwistle, grew up in Action, London, and all attended the same grammar school.  Townshend's father played saxaphone and his mother sung in the entertaiment division of the Royal Air Force during World War II, and both supported their son's interest in rock and roll.  Entwistle played French horn, and as Townshend, their friendship grew, and so did their love of music to form a traditional jazz group.  However, Townshend's love of art carried him to an art college, while Entwistle to a symphony orchestra.  However, these were boys who were troubled with gangs and fitting in school, so rock and roll was their outlet.

The intertwining character examinations merge when in 1963 Lambert and Stamp came to share an apartment in west London, and Lambert convinced Stamp that the two should direct their own film about the burgeoning British rock scene.  In this documentary Stamp is interviewed and quoted, "Our idea was to find a group that somehow represented the emerging ideas of our times.  They would be rebellious, anarchistic and uniquely different from the established English pop scene."  Stamp and Lambert met the members of The Who, then known as The High Numbers at a local club, and as Lambert states in this film, "I shall always remember that night we first saw them together.  I had never seen anything like it.  The Who have a hypnotic effect on an audience.  I realized that the first time I saw them.  It was like a black mass.  Even then Pete Townshend was doing all tha electronic feedback stuff.  Keith Moon was going wild on drums.  The effect on the audience was tremendous.  It was as if they were in a trance."  Stamp and Lambert's contrasting personalities and backgrounds also made an impression on the band.  Despite having no prior experience in business management or the music industry, the duo made a move to acquire The High Numbers rock and roll group.  Lambert had learned from The Beatle's attorney, David Jacobs, that the band's contract with their manager was invalid.  In 1964, Lambert and Stamp became their new managers and officially changed the groups' name to, The Who.

The film delves into the latter years of the relationships between these animated personalities.  Fall-outs over the groups' direction, the music labels of Track Records associated with musical acts Jimi Hendrix, Labelle, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the loss of Shepperton Studios (which they acquire on their rise to success) due mismanagement of funds, the controversial legalities in the rights of the Tommy stage and film productions, and lastly the over indulgence in drug use which enabled the death of Kit Lambert.

Filmmaker James D. Cooper takes the audience on an insightful cinematic journey examining two men who shaped one of the most exciting bands of all time.


Directed by: John Madden
Running time: 122 mins.
Release date: March 6, 2015
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, and Sequel
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

In 2012, the sleeper comedy hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel beckoned audiences on a journey with a group of seven British pensioners who 'outsourced' their retirement, taking a risk on a newly opened Indian hotel claiming to cater to the "Elderly & Beautiful."  Though the hotel turned out to have seen better days, the fearless and optimistic residents came to realize that no matter what their age, the best might be yet to come.  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel brings together the original cast, headed by co-managers Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) and Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), along with Evelyn and Douglas (Judi Dench and Bill Nighy).  

As in some sequels, one should know the background.  In this case, the film picks up right after its predecessor and is not understandable if you don't know what to expect.  The original film took the audience to an exploratory cinematic journey into the lives of ordinary, complicated, and funny senior people embarking on a bold adventure played by the finest actors of their generation.

In this sequel, co-managers of the establishment Muriel and Sonny have a dream of expansion, while Evelyn and Douglas venture into a new fabric industry and wondering where their regular breakfast dates will lead.  Meanwhile, Norman and Carol (Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle) cement their exclusive relationship, as Madge (Celia Imrie) juggles two very eligible suitors, and recent arrival Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) finds a muse in Sonny's mother, Mrs. Kapoor (Lillete Dubey) for his next novel.  All this is happening on screen, as Sonny's marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai) soon approaches.

The story is quite busy, but not disjointed.  It is ignited by the presence and performances of the world's talented regal actors.  I personally did not care if the story had flaws concerning 'Bollywood' dance scenes that side-stepped the flow and pacing, because the talent overcomes those barriers.  Understandably, the musical and dance scenes placed emphasis in a significant manner on the Indian


Directed by: David Galeb
Running time: 83 mins.
Release date: February 27, 2015
Genre: Sci-Fi and Horror
Distributor: Relativity Media
MPAA Rating: PG-13

From masters of horror Blumhouse Productions, producer of The Purge, Insidious, and Sinister franchise, The Lazarus Effect follows a group of researchers who achieve the imaginable of bringing the dead back to life.

The facts concerning the production is nothing new reflecting on the stories of Dr. Frankenstein.  In this contemporary theme, the thought is to set the tone of humans having to sought the power of time immemorial.  This film delves into the perilous journey of altering the most basic law of nature - cheating death.  This story builds on a mysterious medical reality that has resulted in more than three dozen documented cases of the so-called Lazarus Phenomenon - when a patient spontaneously returns to life even after resuscitation has failed, named for the Biblical figure Lazurus who rose from the dead.  While scientists don't know precisely what might trigger a stopped heart's electrical system to restart, this film puts an imaginary theory to a cinematic narrative.

Following a group of researchers led by Frank (Mark Duplass) and his fiancee Zoe (Olivia Wilde), who have achieved the unimaginable by bringing a deceased animal back to life, the team is ready to unveil their breakthrough to the world.  Along with their team (Donald Glover, Sarah Bolger and Evan Peters, take matters into their own hands after being rejected by sponsors and losing their funding from the university's financial backing.  This sets the intrigue and intensity of the plot on how they strive to achieve their goals.

In a mild and 'B Movie' scenario of a science fiction, the procedure of the team appears to be successful, but the team soon realizes something is wrong when Zoe is the used for underground experiments.  They find that the problem is not in the attempt of resurrecting, but in the collateral damage of Zoe's return.

As this film is designed to frighten and to invoke our hidden fears, in a terrifying manner, it fails to captivate or entertain us at the same time in a cathartic experience.  The quasi-scientific setting is stale in delivering visionary and imaginative energy.  The performances are substandard, and floats on being sappy and frustrating.  The special effects are essential to the plot, but it isn't handled skillfully.  It seems that it does not serve a necessary function and sacrifices the film's plot and characterization.

The Lazarus Effect does not live!




Directed by: John Boorman
Running time: 115 mins.
Release date: February 18, 2015
Genre: Comedy, Drama, and Period Piece
Distributor: BBC Worldwide North America
MPAA Rating: Not rated

The setting is the early 1950s London, when post WWII still holds its inhabitants in a stage chaos from collateral damage of the Blitz.  Yet, this story written by filmmaker John Boorman, of the classics films Point Blank (1967) and Deliverance (1972), is a reflection of his own life crafted in a fictional narrative.  It is a film about a young Englishman who grew up in London during WWII, and joins the military to fight in the Korean War.

This film is a hilarious continuation of John Boorman's Hope and Glory (1987) film, when 9 year old Bill Rohan (Sebastian Rice-Edwards and Arran Best) rejoices in the destruction of his school by an errant Luftwaffe bomb.  Queen & Country picks up the story nearly a decade later.  The backstory shows young 18 year old Bill (John Boorman's real life alter-ego played by Callum Turner) dreaming his life away at the family's riverside home on the Thames, waiting to be called up for two year's conscription in the Army.  His carefree lifestyle is of swimming each morning and yearning for a pretty girl who daily cycles past his home at the same time.  The routine is broken when he is called to duty by the military.  The harsh realities of boot camp shatters his misconceptions of what discipline is about.  This sets the tone for a surreal, yet comedic sense of irony in a young man finding his way.

The plot takes form when Bill meets a free-spirited recruit Percy (Celeb Landry Jones).  Percy is an amoral prankster, and Bill's rival during boot-training, but soon becomes best-friends as they find a common ground to rebel against their rigid tormentor, Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis).  The story takes on a No Time For Sergeant theme, as this trio are at each others throats.  Bill and Percy are the Sad Sacks of the misadventures that take on a 'tug of war' scenario. 

However, the pressures of the strict military life is briefly relieved by excursions into the outside world, as Bill seeks out and falls in love with a troubled aristocratic beauty Orphelia (Tamsin Egerton) and Percy falls for Bill's older sister Dawn (Vanessa Kirby), who returns from Canada, leaving behind her two children and an uncertain future with her husband.  

With the two parallel plots merging, the superb ensemble cast weaves this wonderfully funny and often moving depiction of a still-recovering postwar England into a romp.  As a costume dramedy with a historical setting it covers a large expanse of time set against a panoramic backdrop and leaves a lot to gather as a story that centers on affairs of the heart.

Filmmaker John Boorman states, "many of the characters in the story are inspired by people I met at that time and my own family.  All the major events in the movie occurred much as depicted."  Whether fiction or not, Queen & Country is quality work, and the fine actors breathe life into those events that occurred more than sixty years ago.


Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Running time: 125 mins.
Release date: February 13, 2015
Genre: Drama, Romance, and Adaptation
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

In a film adaptation from Fifty Shades of Grey (Trilogy) by E.I. James, is an edgy love story that moves into dark territories of romance.

When literature student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) goes to interview young wealthy entrepreneur Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), she encounters a man who is handsome, brilliant, and intimidating.  The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants him and despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him.  Unable to resist Ana's quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Christian admits he wants her, too - but on his own terms.

The terms Christian dictates is strictly of masochism.  He is a victim of rape and sexual bondage as a boy by an adult woman, who now psychologically invokes his will on selective women in a reverse form of now being the oppressor.  This gratification gained from pain, deprivation, degradation inflicted and imposed on Ana would give him pleasure.  Ana being a person who has never had sexual intercourse, is without experience, but full of curiosity.  The film attempts to explore her romantic journey, centering on passion and emotion.

As Fifty Shades of Grey is targeted as a romantic tale, it falls short.  It is a pathos-filled tale of romance with stereotypical characters that would be directed to the appeal of feminine audiences.  Much too lengthy on running time and repetitive in nature, this story that is filled with rationalizations of sexual bondage, s&m, and sexual abuse is lacking substance.  The tone and theme suffers from a thoughtful plot by offering perversion as a substitute.  Does sexual exploitation and illogical nudity on screen give meaning to a romantic film?  In my opinion, it does not.  It does not share the form of erotism, but validates nonsense.

Casting the two leads in this movie is a waste of good talent.  Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dorman give as much of themselves on screen, as the film offers them to give - which is exasperating.  Jennifer Ehle as Carla, Victor Rasuk as Jose, Eloise Mumford as Kate, along with Marcia Gay Harden, as Christian Grey's mother, give solid supporting performances, as this controversial narrative struggles with partial merit.

Fifty Shades of Grey is penalized for poor execution in its delivery. It is troublesome, whimsical, and irritating.


THE SPOONGEBOB MOVIE: Sponge Out of Water 
Directed by: Paul Tibbett
Running time: 1 hr. 33 mins.
Release date: February 6, 2015
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

In a live-action and animation production, based on the television series by Nickelodeon and originally written by Stephan Hillenburg comes the second movie in the large screen SpongeBob Squarepants series.

The animated characters are unique and humorous.  SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) is a yellow sea sponge and is the main character.  His best friend is Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), a starfish.  SpongeBob works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab eatery, best known for its Krabby Patty.  His home is a pineapple, and he practices karate with Sandy Cheeks (Carolyn Lawrence), a scientist squirrel.  His boss a crustacean capitalist named Eugene H. Krabs (Clancy Brown).  SpongeBob likes working, but has an aggressive competitor across the way named Sheldon J. Plankton (Mr. Lawrence).  Plankton is the evil genius owner of the Chum Bucket restaurant, who hates the Krusty Krab and wishes to take the Krabby Patty formula.  Along with these characters are, Squidward Tentacles (Rodger Bumpass) the octopus, and the newly addition of Burger-Beard (Antonio Banderas, the fiendish pirate, and Slash (Jerry Vandergeld).

This romp's setting is focused on life in Bikini Botton where the animated characters work and reside.  Burger-Beard puts a plan in to steal the recipe of Krabby Patty and sell them to the humans for profits.  SpongeBob goes on a quest with his friends to discover and recover the stolen recipe that takes him to the human dimension, where he tangles with the pirate.

The whole point of this family-fun tale is to wonder how they would survive without a Krabby Patty.  It's an unlikely team-up of rescuers.  Innocent and naive SpongeBob and cynical Plankton are initially arch enemies, but there is a great juxtaposition to their dynamics when they are forced to depend on each other for the recovery of the recipe from the dastardly Burger-Beard the pirate.

There isn't much of a stretch in the storyline, but this light-hearted plot is deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter with one-liner jokes and exaggerating situations.  Yet, the fantasy takes the audience to netherworld places (another dimension) where events are unlikely to occur in real life.  It transcends the bounds of human possibility and physical laws.  It shines in the element of magic, myth, wonder, and the extraordinary.  This is a film that appeals to both children and adults.



Directed by: Dean Israelite
Running time: 106 mins.
Release date: January 30, 2015
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, and Coming of Age
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the history of science fiction thrillers from works of Jules Verne to Gene Roddenberry, writers Jason Harry Pagan and Andrew Deutschman have added their names to the list.  This American found footage film formerly titled Cinema One, Almanac, and Welcome to Yesterday is a contemporary science fiction thriller cemented in a coming of age scenario.

As a graduating high school student and aspiring inventor, David Raskin (Jonny Weston) is admitted into MIT, but is unable to afford the tuition.  Upon learning his mother, Kathy (Amy Landecker), is planning to sell their house.  David enlists his sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) and his geek friends Adam Le (Allen Evangelista) and Quinn Goldberg (Sam Lerner) to go through the belongings of his father, Ben Raskins (Gary Weeks), an inventor who died in a car crash on David's seventh birthday, in hope of finding an old camera with a video recording his birthday, in which he briefly spots his seventeen year old self in a reflection.  

Later on, the four teenagers find blueprints of a temporal relocation device that Ben was developing for the U.S. military, and use the available resources to build a functional time machine.  With the use of David's longtime crush, Jessie Pierce (Sofia Black D'Elia), and her car battery, they charge up the machine and begin to go back and forth in time.  

Of course, these kids find all the good things to do with this device, such as monetary gain, parties, and all the frivolous things they want.  David specifically uses the device to win Jessie's affection.

Introducing a young love affair into the plot gives the targeted young audience a love story.  Jonny Weston and Sofia Black D'Elia are perfectly casted for their parts and share solid chemistry as young lovers.  This affair of the heart that center on their emotions and affection is magical.  The journey of the romance sparks the screen.  However, it does not take away from visionary and imaginative quasi-scientific theme and tone.  

The story is fun and exciting as the kids take on impossible quests to fantastic places.  Perhaps, the quests sometimes share a theme of  fantasy with futuristic technology, but it is all in fun.

This is a highly creative sci-fi thriller with a contemporary setting reminiscent to a compilation of films such as, Loopers, Groundhog Day, and The Terminator movie series.  The lively performances excite a coming of age plot while igniting non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing.  It is adventurous and pure audience escapism!


Directed by: Paul King
Running time: 90 mins.
Release date: January 16, 2015
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, and Adaptation
Distributor: TWC-Dimenson
MPAA Rating: Not rated

This is the first film adaptation of author Michael Bond's beloved long-running series of children's books that first debuted in 1958.  The film is based on Paddington Bear by Michael Bond and stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, and Nicole Kidman, with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington.

Paddington tells the story of the comic misadventures of a young Peruvian bear who travels to the city of London in search of a home.  This is inspiration begins in the deep jungles of darkest Peru, when an explorer named Montgomery Clyde played by Tim Downe locates a family of semi-intelligent bears, whom he realizes can learn English and have a deep appetite for marmalade.  He tells them they are always welcome should they wish to go to Britain.  The bears, aunt Lucy (Imelda Staunton) and uncle Pastuzo (Michael Gambon), live in harmony with their nephew.  One day, an earthquake strikes their home, forcing them to seek shelter underground causing the death of uncle Pastuzo.  Aunt lucy encourages her nephew to London for solace and she moves into a retirement for old bears.

The misadventures begins as the young bear reaches London but fails to find a home, until he is taken in by the Brown family, who name him Paddington.  Mr. Henry Brown (Hugh Bonneville) is adament to Paddington's staying with the family permanently because of the series of accidents around the house.  As Paddington's feelings of being ostracised emerge, he goes in search for the explorer Montgomery Clyde.

This light-hearted plot consistently and delightfully transform into a fun film.  It is deliberately designed to amuse and provide laughter by exaggerate the situation, the language, action, relationships and characters.  The simplest way of looking at this is to say that it surprises, startles, and delights the audience.  The essential aspect of the movie is that is goes beyond the ordinary, the dull and the familiar by using live-action animation and actual live actors.  To do this in a good manner, it uses a whole range of comic tactics from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony, which creates a distance and perspective on the world, a world that is no longer pedestrian but comical.  Yet it tells a story of tolerance by way of humorous tactics that disturb, disrupts, alters, and changes things from what is expected.  

Paddington is a comedy of delight.  It brings to the screen a sense of what if all the obstacles were removed, and the venality and cruelty were banished.  


Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Running time: 125 mins.
Release date: December 31, 2014 (limited) & January 9, 2015 (wide)
Genre: Drama, Action, and Crime
Distributor: A23 Films
MPAA Rating: R

Filmmaker J.C. Chandor also scripted this period piece crime drama set in New York City during the winter of 1981.  The setting is post 'Son of Sam' killings (also known as the .44 Caliber killings) of the late 1970s New York City, when gasoline bootlegging gasoline rackets ran rampart.  While drug trafficking, construction schemes, loansharking, and extortion rackets were ran by the Genovese crime family, and an underbelly Russian organized crime syndicate emerged.

This is a fictional account of a fact based era, statistically one of the most violent years in the city's history.  The film centers on the life of an immigrant and his family trying to expand their business and capitalize on opportunities as the violence, decay, and corruption of the day drag them in.  Focusing on the bootlegging gasoline rackets conceived by the Russians and in cooperation with the New York Mafia Five Families, the mobsters would set up shell companies to distribute gasoline at a price fraudulently represented as including federal, state, and local excise taxes.  

However, this particular family's patriarch Abel Morales played brilliantly by Oscar Isaac, along with his wife Anna (Jessica Chastain), aggressively attempts to legally run their petroleum company.  With many disrupting corrupt elements altering their attempts and legal authorities investigating their every move, the process of living right is threatened.

The stylish plot is a crime drama, particularly emphasizing cynical attitudes reminiscent of the classical film noir.  Although this is filmed in color, the dark shadows and texture enhances the theme.  Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales, a protagonist, as well as, an antagonist, who is portrayed as a sometimes victim of circumstance.  Jessica Chastain gives another outstanding performance as a 'hard as nails' beautiful loving wife, whose backstory is of a femme fatal.  The methodic pacing is patient, until the final scenes when the element of surprise is exciting.  Spotlighting expressionist cinematography of New York City as a backdrop, is quite effective in this setting.  The camera angles are used impressively in setting the tone.  Skillfully using a nostalgic soundtrack as part of the characterization, it makes the film's symbolism authentic.

A Most Violent Year, is a serious plot driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations, and stories involving intense character interaction and development.  With a supporting cast of David Oyelowo, Alessandro Nivola, Albert Brooks, and Catalina Sandino Moreno, along with others to contribute, this is an emerging narrative.



NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Secret of the Tomb
Directed by: Shawn Levy
Running time: 97 mins.
Release date: December 19, 2014
Genre: Comedy and Sequel
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG

In this final episode of this 3 part imaginative and humorous series, the quest to save the magic continues.  Capsuling the Fox synopsis, imagine walking into the world's most magnificent museums, where the wonders and history of the world comes to life.  That was the starting point for the Night at the Museum motion pictures, which have captivated audiences globally.  Now, its third installment takes all of its beloved characters around the world for their greatest adventure yet.

Ben Stiller reprises his role as museum guard Larry Daley is once again at the helm, producing and directing a pantheon of comic talent.  Beloved actor/comedian Robin Williams, who sadly, passed away earlier this year, reprises his role as Teddy Roosevelt.  Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley stars as Merenkahre, father of Ahklmenrah's (Rami Malek) and Pharaoh of the Nile.  Acting legends Dick Van Dyke as debonair Cecil, the late Mickey Rooney as Gus and Bill Cobbs as Reginald reprise the roles of the original night guards, which they created in the first Night at the Museum.  Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan return as the comedic duo Jedediah and Octavius. Dan Stevens portrays Sir Lancelot, while Patrick Gallacher and Mizuo Peck reprise their roles as Attila and Sacajawea.  Ricky Gervais and Rebel Wilson are new faces to the cast playing Dr. McPhee (head of NY museum) and Tilly (guard of London's museum).  And lastly, the show stealing monkey, Crystal.

The plot is lively and amusing when the New York's Natural History Museum's exhibits, which comes to life at night, start to behave strangely.  Larry, the newly promoted director of nighttime operations at the Museum, must find out why.  The Tablet, which magically brings the creatures to life, has started to decay and the only way to restore it may at the British Museum.  Larry, who'll do anything to save his museum family, along with his son (he shares with ex-wife) Nick (Skyler Gisondo) and the museum exhibits, travel from New York to London, where they must discover the Tablet's secret.

In a recent press conference the question of why this film series lasted the years was answered by director Shawn Levy.  He states, "we knew we had a good idea at the core......and it was a conscious decision to bond father and son (in this final episode) characters."  Ben Stiller added, " I'm glad we connected children and adults."  Ricky Gervais commented, " I love museums." While Rebel Wilson added, "We didn't have museum's in my hometown.  My biggest challenge working in this film was the cold weather when shooting the movie."  And Owen Wilson complimented his director in saying, "Shawn allowed me to experiment with my work with Steve Coogan."

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, is a fun-filled finale to a successful film series that embraced universal audiences of all ages.


Directed by: Rupert Wyatt
Running time: 111 mins.
Release date: December 19, 2014
Genre: Drama, Crime, Remake, and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

Screenplay writer William Monahan adapted and scripted this American crime drama film based on the 1974 film starring James Caan of the same name and of original screenplay written by James Toback (Two Girls and a Guy).  In this version Mark Wahlberg takes the helm and portrays the literature professor who is titular gambler.

Much like the 1974 predecessor, this remake is an edgy psychological crime drama depicting the mind of an obsessed gambler who is an academic literature professor.  Mark Wahlberg is Jim Bennet, a brilliant college literature professor with the same weakness as one of Dostoevsky's characters.  He can't resist a wager.  However, he is in so deep that even his seemingly good- but lethally dangerous - bookie Neville (Michael K. Williams) threatens to kill him for past due amounts.  With a bailout from another gangster, Frank (John Goodman), Jim Bennet further drives himself into a financial hole.  After winning big, Jim isn't satisfied in walking away and clearing old debts.

Mark Wahlberg doesn't capture the aggressive compulsiveness of the gambling addict in a believable manner.  This role is to capture the personality of a man split between a seemingly intelligent teacher and an uncontrollably stupid impulse.  

The emotional roller coaster is only introduced with clarity through Jim's love interest and student Amy Phillips (Brie Larson).  Yet, the chemistry and romantic structure is strained on screen between Mark Wahlberg and Brie Larson.  

This crime drama is developed around the sinister actions of criminals and hoodlums with an emphasis on gambling addiction.  The only inspiring moments seem to come out from supporting players, such as, Jessica Lange who plays Jim's wealthy mother who enables him.

The Gambler as a serious plot-driven presentation portraying realistic characters, settings, life situations and stories involving intense character development and interaction falls short on this measure.  It is penalized for poor execution!


THE HUNGER GAMES: Mockingjay - Part 1
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Running time: 123 mins.
Release date: November 21, 2014
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, Adaptation, and Sequel
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13

This is the first of two cinematic parts based on the novel Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, and the third installment in The Hunger Games film series.  

The film stars Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland.  It is the prequel to The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2.

The story continues, which finds Katness in District 13 after she literally shatters the games forever.  Under the leadership of President Coin (Julianne Moore) and the advice of her trusted friends, Katness spreads her wings as she fights to save Peeta and a nation moved by her courage.  This is inspired by her (Katness) escaping the Third Quarter Quell and becoming a reluctant hero and symbol of hope for the nation of Panem.

Although this is a 'cliff-hanger' scenario, this is a very impressive mature character-driven plot with solid performances by all actors along with brilliant political and social themes.  It also, keeps its tone as an epic costume drama that covers a large expanse of time set against a vast panoramic backdrop.  It is elaborate, yet subtle in its delivery displaying grandeur and spectacle.  It acknowledges the horror and heartbreak of war, letting the actual combat fighting (against nations and humankind) provide the primary plot and background for the action of the film.  However, the human interest sequences inspires a natural emotional setting.  The dramatic scope and high production values shine throughout the film.  Giving the audience every bit of enjoyment.  

The second and final addition to this exciting franchise will prove to be rewarding and highly anticipated.


Directed by: Theodore Melfi
Running time: 102 mins.
Release date: Oct. 10, 2014 (Limited), Oct. 17 & 24, 2014 (Wide)
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Distributor: TWC
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Theodore Melfi is the writer/director of St. Vincent starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, and Chris O'Dowd.  It is a story based on an idea from Melfi's daughter about an unlikely friendship between a young boy and a rough-around-edges misunderstood older man with a genuinely good-natured heart.

Bill Murray portrays cantankerous Vincent, a Brooklynite who develops an unusual friendship with a 11 year old boy named Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher).  Oliver's mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy), a single parent, meets Vincent as she and her son move into their new home in Brooklyn.  Forced to work long hours as a nurse, she has no choice but to hire Vincent as a sitter for Oliver.  Reluctantly, she leaves Oliver in the care of their new neighbor Vincent, a retired curmudgeon with a penchant for alcohol, gambling, and the love of a Russian American pregnant stripper/prostitute named Daka (Naomi Watts).  An odd friendship soon blossoms between the improbable pair of Vincent and Oliver.  Together, Vincent and Oliver's after school adventures are trips to the race track, strip club, and the local dive bar.  

In a coming-of-age scenario, the first part of this film focuses on how Vincent helps Oliver grow to become a man, while Oliver begins to see in Vincent something that no one else is able to: a misunderstood good-hearted man who is dealing with an ailing wife suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

The film works on multi-levels as Oliver makes Vincent the saint in his homework assignment as they change each other's life.  Yet, there is a theme of recovery in Vincent's dealing with the lost of his institutionalized wife, along with the unorthodox love relationship between Vincent and Daka.  Daka is a Russian American stripper/prostitute with a lot of attitude, and a no-nonsense state of being.  Noami Watts is hilarious, and is the comedy piece of the film oppose to natural comedian Bill Murray.  Her performance is comically spontaneous, fresh, and strong.  However, there is much more to digest as Melissa McCarthy's character Maggie, dramatically deals with single parenting issues.

This a stimulating film, that is rich with character studies.  The ensemble, led by Bill Murray, show a multi-dimensional picture of human beings dealing with difficulties.  This is a brilliant dramatic narrative laced with humorous bitter sweat situations.


Directed by: Israel Horovitz
Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes
Release date: September 10, 2014
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Romance, and Adaptation
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
MPAA Rating: PG-13

With its unique blend of comedy, drama, and ultimately romance, My Old Lady marks the directorial debut of internationally celebrated playwright Israel Horovitz, adapting his own hit play.

Taken from the production notes of the studio, this is a project filmed on location in a ravishing Paris, France, of quiet back streets and familiar locales, this movie is a touching romantic drama about inheritance and past secrets coming home to roost, featuring an all-star cast working together at the height of their talents.

As further stated in the synopsis, Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) is a down on his luck New Yorker who inherits a Parisian apartment from his recently dead estranged father.  However, when he arrives in France to sell the vast domicile, he is shocked to discover a live-in tenant who is not prepared to leave.  His apartment is a "viager" - an ancient French real estate system with complex rules pertaining to its resale - and the feisty elderly Englishwoman Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith), who has lived in the apartment with her daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas) for many years, can by contract collect monthly payments from an impoverished Mathias until her death.

The plot-driven presentation portrays serious and realistic characters, brilliantly played by these outstanding actors.  Often the life situations are humorous in nature yet dramatically involving intense character development and interaction.  The unusual twists and turns of the plot offers a unique and highly complicated theme to love stories that center on passion, emotion, affectionate involvement of the main characters, and the journey that their love took and takes them through.

My Old Lady, is heartbreaking yet a wonderful tale, as the plot becomes entangled when Mathias finds himself with no place to go.  He strikes a tentative lodging arrangement with Mathilde, instantly clashing with suspicious and lovelorn Chloe over his private dealings with a rapacious property developer, who wants to purchase the apartment.  The intensity grows as an uneasy detente settles in as the quarreling Mathias and Chloe come to discover a common ground of childhood pain and neglect manifested by Mathias' late father and Chloe's mother Mathilde's long distance love affair of the past.  As they draw increasingly closer, Mathias unveils a complex labyrinth of secrets that unite the trio in unexpected ways.

This is a very good empathetic portrait of people who strive to transcend the limitations of life's terms.


Directed by: Jeff Baena
Running time: 91 mins.
Release date: August 15, 2014
Genre: Horror, Comedy, and Romance
Distributor: A24 Films
MPAA Rating: R

In his directorial feature debut, Jeff Baena (co-writer of I Heart Huckabees), writes and directs this quirky zombie comedy film.  With a young cast starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan along with Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, and John C. Reilly, this ridiculously funny horror gives new life to macabre.

Teenaged Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan) is a regular high school senior who is emotionally distraught when his girlfriend Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza), unexpectedly dies.  Devastated Zach is amazed when she seems to miraculously comes back to life after rising from her grave.  Not aware of her real situation as a member of the walking dead, Zach takes full advantage of the opportunity to share and experience all the things he regretted not doing with her before.

In supporting parts are the families of the Zach and Beth.  Paul Reiser and Cheryl Hines portray Zach's naive father and mother, Noah and Judy Orfman, along with Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach's civil patrol-minded flashlight cop older brother Kyle.  On the other end, Beth's parents Maury and Geenie Slocum are humorously played by John C. Reilly and Mollie Shannon, who are in extreme denial of their zombie daughter's situation of flesh deterioration, odor, and cannibalism habits.  These are essential elements scripted into the storyline to make this campy film successfully work.  

Designed to frighten and invoke hidden fears of the audience, this film fused satire to deliberately amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating situations, language and dialogue, relationships, and characters.  With over-the-top scenarios and the newly returned Beth isn't quite how Zach remembered her and, before long, Zach's whole world takes a turn for the worse.

If you want a funny romantic film focusing on a girl who is a human-hungry zombie, Life After Beth, is your movie!


Into The Storm, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D, James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D, and At The Devil's Door opens weak on consensus:

These four films open on August 8, 2014, to a mediocre to poor reception, giving the mid-summer market a weak presentation to the movie industry.

Into The Storm, a WB release from the Newline Cinema Studio is an 89 minute dramatic action thriller under a PG-13 rating.  This is a movie that is directed by Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) telling a tale spanning in just a few hours of the most furious twisters they have ever seen. Using the theme of disaster flick hinging on impending crisis as its basis.  Not with a challenging format to tell this story, it sweeps locales attempting to interlock a cast with natural perils.  High production values but low production taste.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3D, a Paramount Pictures release is a 2 hour comedic action adventure under a PG-13 rating.  This is a movie that is directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) rebooting the Nickelodeon franchise.  The origins of the Turtles came out-of-the-blue in 1983 when comic book artists Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman began their project to the first feature film in 1990.  This gives a new audience a chance to relive the exciting tales of the tenacious terrapins.  Fighting crime and fear that are spreading through the streets of New York City, as evil-doers Shredder and Foot Clan are put down by the oldest and most disciplined of the amped-up amphibians Leonardo, Raphael the rebellious bad-boy with a temper to match, Michelangelo aka Mikey the surfer eating pizza lover, Donatello the smartest of the terrapins who comes to life as a non-stop digital inventor, and Master Splinter rounds out the Turtle's patchwork family as the father-figure, instructing them in the way of the Ninja.  Included in the cast is Megan Fox, Will Arnett, and William Fichtner.

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D, is a documentary directed by John Bruno, Andrew Wight, and Ray Quint that follows the dramatic story of James Cameron's odyssey as he undertakes an expedition to the deepest part of the ocean.  This is a journey of historic proportion and risk.  The film panders Cameron's personal quest in exploration and hopes to mesmerize viewers of all ages with the thrill of true discovery and the allure of the unknown, of new forms, and of vistas never before captured on camera from the depths of the sea.  It is a bit pretentious in nature, but has merit for scientific material.

At The Devil's Door, is an IFC release horror film directed by Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact) that follows an ambitious young real estate agent Leigh (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who is asked to sell a house with a checkered past.  She crosses paths with a disturbed girl (Ava Acres) whom she learns is the runaway daughter of the couple selling the property.  Designed to frighten and to invoke our most hidden fears in a cathartic experience between captivating and entertaining, the eerie plot ventures into a realm when Leigh tries to intervene and help her.  Leigh becomes entangled with a supernatural force that soon pulls her sister Vera (Naya Rivera) into its web - and has sinister plans for both of them.  Lacks continuity and substance.

FILM RATINGS for all (C)

Directed by: James Gunn
Running time: 121 mins.
Release date: August 1, 2014
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, and Adaptation
Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

From Marvel, the studio that brought the global blockbuster franchise of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers has adapted for screen another comic book epic.  A comic book written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, is an action-packed adventure that stars an all-star cast of Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, featuring Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, with John C. Reilly, Glen Close and Benicio Del Toro.

Without knowing the basis of the story, the film gives a thorough jump-off backstory set in 1998.  Beginning at the following his mother's death, a frail young teenage Peter Quill (Wyatt Oleff) is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonto (Michael Rooker).  As the plot skips fast-forward six years later on the planet Morag, young adult and brash adventurer Peter Quill, finds himself in the midst of a theft of sphere-like artifact.  Once, he steals this mysterious orb coveted by fanatical Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace),  a member of the Kree clan led by her father Kree Ronan.  However, Peter escapes with the sphere, but Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after the orb sphere.

In an atmosphere of adventurous comic relief, including non-stop motion of action and high energy, Peter Quill takes on comrades like genetically engineered raccoon Rocket (voice of Bradley Cooper), tree figure humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel), and green face Gamora (Saldana) to escape the clutches of the many sinister elements.  The plot thickens as Peter Quill must negotiate a truce with his rogue rival Yondu, once the orb is taken from Peter by evil Korath (Djimon Hounsou), a Kree ally to Ronan who is a feared intergalactic hunter.  

Meanwhile, on the planet Xandar, a peace agreement is breached and Nova Prime Irani Rael (Glenn Close), who leads this government with the security assistance of Corpsman Rhomann (John C. Reilly), must defend along with the Gaurdians of the Galaxy, their existence from evil evaders.

Additional voices are added in this production by Josh Brolin as Thanos and Benicio Del Toro as Tanleer Tivan/The Collector, an obsessive keeper of the largest collection of interstellar fauna, relics, and species in the galaxy who operates out of a place in space named Knowhere.

Using this film as a staging point to enlighten an audience not aware of this comic book's origins, Guardians Of The Galaxy is a combination of Stars Wars and Looney Toons, and it gives its viewers a spectacle of special effects, heavy humor, and action.  The story may be light on content, but it is all designed for pure escapism.  A fun film!



Directed by: Luc Besson
Running time: 89 mins.
Release date: July 25, 2014
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, and Action
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

In a film production started in 2013 in Paris, for the the most part at the Cine' de Cinema, a new megastudio located on the outskirts of Paris, Luc Besson, who directed, written, edited and co-produced with Europacorp, aspired to bring an English language female French superhero to the silver screen.  

This is a story of a woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal of involuntary drug trafficking by an Asian cartel.  The tables on turned on her captors and transforms her into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

In a world that is run by the mob, street gangs, drug addicts, and corrupt cops, Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is an American woman living in Taipei, Taiwan who is forced to work as a drug mule for an Asian mob led by Kang (Choi Min-sik).  The drug implanted in her body inadvertently leaks into her system, changing her into a superhuman, due to accessing much more than the normal 10% of her brain capacity.  She can absorb knowledge instantaneously, is able to move objects with mind, and chooses not to feel pain or other discomforts.

Morgan Freeman co-stars as Professor Norman who teaches the theory of mind capacity and its usage.  Lucy reaches out to him to unlock her secrets to him and to further the study with her facts.  While Amr Waked plays a French policeman who vows to assist Lucy in her quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe and capture the bad guys. 

In a colossal and visually handsome spectrum of action scenes, Lucy becomes a high energy, big-budget physical stunts and chases flick that takes its production shooting crew to France, United States, and Taiwan.  Using these locations for the backdrops makes this an international adventure with entanglements, rescues, battles, fights, escapes, a plot-driven presentation of non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing.

Lucy is a two-dimensional theme movie, good versus evil.  All designed for pure escapism, this fictional story based on facts - it has factual errors.  The major premise of this movie is that humans only use a small percentage of our brains as proclaimed in the dialogue by acclaimed veteran actor Morgan Freeman's character Professor Norman, which is false.  But it does not matter for this 40 million dollar film production, it is only to promote an image of strong violence, sexuality, and special affects galore.  Using the quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative theme, complete with impossible quests, improbable settings along with dark and shadowy villains, and futuristic technology to create havoc is somewhat of an offshoot of a fantasy.  

However, Lucy is a fun film of science fiction that expresses the potential of technology.


Directed by: James DeMonaco
Running time: 103 mins.
Release date: July 18, 2014
Genre: Horror, Action, Thriller, and Sequel
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

This is the sequel to 2013 film The Purge and does not bring back Ethan Hawke, but stars Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, and Michael K. Williams.

The plot is laid out on the sixth annual killing event's eve.  The Purge is a night where all crime is legal and all hospitals, fire stations, prison control centers and police stations in the United States are closed down for 12 hours.  

In 2023, a year after The Purge of 2022, a married couple on the brink of separating, named Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), are driving to one of their sister's house in Los Angeles to wait out the Purge when their car runs out of gas just as the Purge begins, and they run from masked attackers on motorcycles and minibikes.  This is the beginning fuel for non-stop motion of action in this movie.

Meanwhile, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) goes out onto the streets to get revenge on a man who killed his son, and a hard working single mother Eva (Carmen Ejogo) and an outspoken daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) run into the night after being attacked in their tenement by a group of well equipped unknown assailants and Eva's father selling his body to the wealthy for slaughter (to enrich the family economically).

This plot-driven presentation is less dramatic and more designed to frighten and invoke our hidden worst fears, often in terrifying and shocking scenes while captivating and entertaining us at the same time in a cathartic experience.  However, the whimsical storyline is troublesome.  The stale theme is saturated with irritating performances, and leaves the 'wanna-be' horrific scenes to comic relief.  



Directed by: Matt Reeves
Running time: 130 mins.
Release date: July 11, 2014
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, Sequel, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In the production development notes, it is stated that after the release of the 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes, director Rupert Wyatt comments on possible sequels: "I think we are ending with certain questions, which is quite exciting.  To me, I can think of all sorts of sequels to this film, but this is just the beginning."  In the light of this statement, it is quite evident that this 2011 film was the platform to reboot the Planet of the Apes series that originated in 1968.

In this epic film starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, and Keri Washington opens this sequel with a news report showing the ten year global pandemic of a virus, since the ape breakout in San Francisco.  It shows a middle-age Caesar (Serkis) as leader of the new generation of apes living in a communal civilization apart from the humans who are struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic society.  The apes thought that human existence has long been gone until a human patrol imposes of the apes territory for the use of a broken dam for generator energy.  However, the humans are armed with assault weapons and cause havoc. 

Caesar orders the humans to never return and tells them, "Apes do not want war."  Yet, Malcolm (Clarke), a human scientist along with his group, consisting of Ellie (Washington) and Malcolm's son Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriend Caesar and his immediate family.  This bond is sabotaged by prejudice parties which promotes the conflicts.

As in most action films, this movie explodes with high energy, big budget physical stunts and chases, with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm, and a stimulating pace.  The quasi-scientific scenario is visionary and imaginative complete with improbable settings and unknowable forces.  It all adds to the promotion of intense excitement, suspense, high level of anticipation which increases the audiences expectations, uncertainty, and anxiety.



TRANSFORMERS: Age of Extinction (IMAX 3D)
Directed by: Michael Bay
Running time: 165 mins.
Release date: June 27, 2014
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, Sequel, and Adaptation
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

It is the fourth installment of the live-action Transformers film series and is part of the science fiction action movies based on Transformers (Hasbro Toys) franchise.  

A sequel to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the film takes place four years after the invasion of Chicago.  Like its predecessors, the film is directed by Michael Bay and the screenplay is written by Ehren Kruger (served as screenwriter since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen).  However, Shia LaBeouf steps down from the lead character in the version and Mark Wahlberg takes the helm.  Along side of Mark Wahlberg, the cast consist of a star clustered performers including; Stanley Tucci, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Kelsey Grammer, Li Bingbing, Sophia Myles, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller, Melanie Specht, and Victoria Summer.

The premise is predictable in this series that four years after the events of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a mechanic Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) and his daughter Tessa Yeager (Nicola Peltz) discover a deactivated autobat leader Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen).  Meanwhile, a powerful, ingenious businessman Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci), a group of scientists, and a paranoid government official Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) attempt to learn from past Transformer incursions and push the boundaries of technology beyond what they can control.

As motivated as a storyline can be, this is a lengthy lack-lustered plot that is big on special effects and small of substance.  This big budget film is to be high energy, but it overloads itself with rescues, battles, fights, escapes, destructive crisis (floods, explosions, natural disasters, fires, etc.), and non-stop motion.  It gives too much on the quasi-scientific scenario complete with hero aleins, impossible quests, improbable settings, unknown forces, and extraordinary monsters (creatures from space).

In the tradition of the franchise, this fourth edition is an action-pack sci-fi movie that will energize and ultimately entertain its audience.  The adrenaline is contagious, yet I found it to be excessive.


Directed by: Bernardo Bertolucci
Running time: 97 mins.
Release date: June 27, 2014
Genre: Drama, Coming of Age, and Adaptation in Italian with English subtitles.
Distributor: Emerging Pictures
MPAA Rating: Not rated

This Italian family film is based on the 2012 novel by Nicolo Anmanti of the same title.  It reprises the childish perspective and sinister psychological frightedness of his international best-seller I'm Not Scared (2002).  It is a narrow world in a constrained perspective of aristocracy, and made up for the most part, of only a cellar of a residential building a rebellious teenager inhabits while his parents think he's on a skiing trip with his classmates.

Lorenzo, a quirky 14 year old loner played by Jacopo Olmo Antinori, who has difficult relationships with his parents and peers, decides to take a break from everything by hiding out in his buildings neglected basement.  No one has a clue that clever Lorenzo will actually be abandoning a school ski trip to be alone.  For an entire week, he will finally avoid all conflict and pressure to be a "normal" teenager.  He plans to live in perfect isolation with his favorite music, books, laptop, and ant farm, an interesting alternative to watching television.

However, an unexpected visit from Lorenzo's artistic wayward older half-sister Olivia (Tea Falco) changes everything.  Away for years because of ill feelings towards Lorenzo's mother (Sonia Bergamasco), who is her step mother, she plummets into the small basement room in search of some forgotten possessions.  A worldly 25 year old beauty, her problematic and fragile state upsets Lorenzo's total escape from reality.  Yet, the siblings bond as Lorenzo aids his sister in going "cold turkey" from her heroin addiction.  As we see this bonding taking place on screen, the plot opens with backstory and allows the film to gracefully evolve in front of our eyes.

Their forced cohabitation in the basement's confined space brings forth confrontation and old resentments, but also a need for affection and intimacy.  A few emotional days and nights with his sister Olivia ill inspire Lorenzo to see the world through new eyes.

Me and You transforms the obvious "claustrophobia" of a small basement scenario into a love confinement in enclosed spaces.  The youthful actors capture vitality and curiosity in this brilliant coming of age narrative.


Directed by: David Michod
Running time: 102 mins.
Release date: June 13, 2014 (NY/LA Limited) & June 20, 2014 (wide)
Genre: Drama, Western, Crime, and Adaptation 
Distributor: A24
MPAA Rating: R

For his follow-up to 2011's universally acclaimed Animal Kingdom, a family drama set in the Melbourne, Australia criminal underworld, writer/director David Michod broadens  his palette for another thriller, this time set in the Australian outback, ten years after a great Western economic collapse.  The world of THE ROVER is a near future of social and economic decay, where services, utilities, law and order have fallen into dangerous despair. And yet, people from all corners of the world have come to this desolate outpost to work the mines that feed the Asian century.  With them follow the leeches, hustlers and criminals who hope to exploit the mines' economic margins.

The plot is dark and gritty as Guy Pearce plays a loner named Eric.  He's a cold and angry drifter who has left everything and everyone behind.  When his last possession, his car, is stolen by a gang of desperate desert hustlers, Eric embarks on a ruthless mision to track them down.  Along the way, he is forced into an unlikely relationship with Rey (Robert Pattinson), the naive and injured younger brother of gang member Henry (Scoot McNairy) who has left Rey behind in the aftermath of the gang's recent robbery.  The road trip of murder and mayhem is the center of this terrifying story.

The Rover, a dystopian western crime drama, does a delicate balancing act between outright nightmare and naturalism.  What binds the film together, throughout its shifts of tone, is the mood created by Guy Pearce's performance.  As the film establishes its depraved universe, there are some superbly touches of dark  cinematography.  But as you get caught up in its ever more involved drift, what distinguishes this film from others is that it is richly morbid.  However, it takes patience to be rewarded by its pacing. 


Directed by: Josh Boone
Running time: 126 mins.
Release date: June 6, 2014
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Teen Romance, and Adaptation
Distributor: 20th Century Fox/Fox 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Adapted to film from John Green's 2012 novel by the same title, is a soulful story that tackles life, death and love through the eyes of youth.  This is a coming of age tale with the blend of levity and heart-swelling emotion concerning terminal illness and the will to live.

This emerging narrative focuses on a clinically depressed 16 year old Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) who is a three year stage IV cancer survivor.  To help her deal with, her mother and father (Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) guided by their doctor send her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus 'Gus' Waters (Ansel Elgort), a fellow cancer survivor.  The two teenagers along with a blind support member Isaac (Nat Wolff) who share an acerbic wit and have a disdain for the conventional become close friends.   Hazel and Gus immediately fall in love and this romantic journey sweeps them away and takes them on an unforgettable miraculous journey.

The two kindred spirits share a sense of humor and an immense charm in their relationship, as it is profoundly displayed in the enduring performances by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.  Hazel's inquisitiveness of an ending of a novel written by Peter van Houten (Willem Dafoe) launches Gus' questions to human conditions such as, how will they be remembered, and does their life and death have meaning.  To find answers, the two teenagers take a trip to Amsterdam to interview bitter Peter van Houten.

Using an intelligently paced plot, The Fault in Our Stars is beautifully conceived and executed.  This film artfully examines the largest possible considerations of life, love and death with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity.  This is a movie that shows its audience how it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat way from death.  Yet, it shows the triumph of spirited love even while acknowledging its pain.

This raw and honest film explores the humor, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.



Directed by: John S. Baird
Running time: 97 min.
Release date: May 30, 2014
Genre: Drama, Crime, Comedy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
MPAA Rating: R

Based on Irvine Welsh's 1998's novel by the same title, director and screenplay writer John S. Baird adapts his version of this story of a Scottish bigoted bipolar junkie cop who manipulates and hallucinates his way through the Christmas and New Year season in a bid to secure promotion and win back his wife and daughter.

Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson brilliantly played by James McAvoy desperately wants a promotion.  In his confused demented mind he believes he is clearly the best man for the job and the rest of his colleagues are just idiots.  Although he leads everyone in his unit with arrests and convictions and the promotion should go to him, a high profile murder case is open and his boss Chief Inspector Toal (John Sessions) wants results.  The closing of this case will assure his promotion, but Bruce has unorthodox methods of handling this case, as in other cases he has solved.  He actually believes that he is in control as he drinks and drugs his way through life, and will win the promotion and get his family back.

Enlisted to solve the brutal murder and threatened by the aspirations of his colleagues, including a young inspired Ray Lennox (Jamie Bell) and Amanda Drummond (Imogen Poots), Bruce sets about ensuring their ruin right under their noses, by sabotaging evidence, and stealing his colleagues wives and exposing their secrets.

The plot is scabrious, lurid, blackly comic as James McAvoy vividly portrays a sadistically twisted sexual man preoccupied with several women and his increasingly chronic appetite for cocaine and alcohol.  The torrid childhood memories gives this story magnitude and relates to his superego, as this detective spins out of control wasting himself in a misanthropic rage.  This is a supreme antagonist who thrives moral deprivation, yet this extreme behavior is humorous in its dark direction.

Filth is hypnotic, harsh, and masterfully displays a deeply peeved sense of humor.  It is also, a challenging murder mystery using clever dialogue to promote a quick pace for the pursuit of the criminal(s) and the solution to the crime(s).  James McAvoy is a marvel to watch!

FILM RATING (A-)      

Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Running time: 123 mins.
Release date: May 16, 2014
Genre: Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, and Adaptation/Remake
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Celebrating its 50th year franchise anniversary, Godzilla, the world's most revered monster is back to the silver screen with a vengeance to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless.

The film stars an international ensemble cast led by Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene), Academy Award winner Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samuri), and Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) with David Strathairm (The Bourne Legacy) and Emmy plus Golden Globe Award winner Bryan Cranston (Argo and TVs Breaking Bad).

From the giant monster's first Japanese appearance on screen in 1954 as Gojira, originating from a series of tokusatsu films, Ishiro Honda's Godzilla has become a worldwide pop icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd.  The franchise film was Anglicanized to the western world with the Hollywood version starring pipe smoking Raymond Burr that same year, giving acknowledgement to its creators Tomoyuki Tanaka, Eiji Tsubaraya, and director Ishiro Honda.

While staying compatible to the original screenplay, this adaptation/remake leads off the film with nuclear disasters stemming from Japanese installations.  Perhaps using headlines from actual incidents of Japan's past, the undertones are very vivid in the minds of Japanese citizens and cites Japanese consciousness that Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons.  As radiation spreads, so does the world's eco-balancing becomes distorted.  Unstable weather prevails and tidal waves cause havoc.  All this is being investigated by once prominent scientist Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), whose wife and co-worker Sandra Brody (Juliette Binoche) died twenty years earlier, in a post WWII nuclear meltdown.  Their surviving son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), grows up with the shadow of not knowing the complete truth of a government cover-up.  None the less, he becomes a U.S. military man and marries Elle (Elizabeth Olsen), and they have a son.  

The epic plot thickens as Joe Brody passes the torch to his son Ford to find the truth of what alien monsters thrive off of radiation and what alpha monster is awakened to combat them.  Dr. Ishiro Serizawa intensely played by Ken Watanabe, leads the scientific charge to head off the "dooms day" for all mankind.

Godzilla is designed to frighten and invoke our hidden fears, while captivating and entertaining at the same time in a cathartic experience.  Yet, it is quasi-scientific, visionary and imaginative - complete with heroes, aliens, impossible quests, improbable settings, great dark and shadowy villains, futuristic technology, along with unknown and unknowable forces.  All this is set against the backdrop of an impending disaster scenario in locales such as aboard imperiled aircraft, trains, ships, and towering burning buildings and homes.  The high level of anticipation, ultra-heightened expectation, uncertainty, anxiety is fuel for the audience to feed on for two hours.

Lets hope for another fifty years of this great franchise!!



CESAR CHAVEZ: An American Hero
Directed by: Diego Luna
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: March 28, 2014
Genre: Drama, Biopic, and History
Distributor: Pantelion
MPAA Rating: PG-13

In Cesar Chavez, director Diego Lunar presents a powerful cinematic portrait of the legendary activist.  The film stars Michael Pena in the title role, along with America Ferrera, Rosario Dawson, and John Malcovich.

Chronicling the birth of a modern American movement originally set in California, Cesar Chavez tells the story of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer torn between his duties as a husband and father, and his commitment to securing a living wage for farm workers.

Michael Pena's magnificent performance approach in this period piece to portraying Cesar Chavez is passionate.  As a humble soft spoken person, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his global struggle to bring dignity to hard working deprived people.  With exceptional performances by Rosario Dawson as the legendary Delores Huerta (tutored by 84 year old Huerta on the film set), America Ferrera as Helen Cheves, and John Malkovich as land owner Bogdanovich, the authenticity of filmmaker/actor/producer Diego Luna's four year project is nothing short of brilliant.

Obtaining 80% of the funds from Mexico, Diego Luna states, "I found a connection in this film as a journey."  He also said, "I promised my family to do this film."  His approach to realism was to use actual farm workers as extras on the shoot.

As a mark in American history, Chavez inspired millions of Americans from all walks of life who never worked on a farm to fight for social justice.  His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual's ability to change the world.


Directed by: Neil Burger
Running time: 2 hr. 23 min.
Release date: March 21, 2014
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Lionsgate Films/Summit Entertainment
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on novel book series of the same name by Veronica Roth is an action-adventure film adaptation thriller set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues.

In a futuristic post-apocalyptic Chicago, Beatrice 'Tris' Prior (Shailene Woodley) daughter of Marcus and Natalie (Ray Stevenson and Ashley Judd) and younger sister of Caleb (Ansel Elgort), discovers that she is a Divergent, meaning she doesn't fit into any one faction (which is illegal), and soon uncovers a sinister plot brewing in her seemingly perfect society.  

When Tris joins the Dauntlet faction, a youthful police force, she befriends and later finds romance with a leader named Tobias 'Four' Eaton (Theo James).  When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader Jeannine Matthews played by Academy Award winner Kate Winslet to destroy all Divergents and enslave the society, the intensity begins.

With much of the cast being young popular actors such as, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Christian Madsen this is merely a cosmetic Hunger Games.  The film is epic in proportion, yet minor in content.  It leaves the audience with a larger than life coming of age romance story as a subplot.

Perhaps, this is a good read in Veronica Roth's best selling book series, but it does not comes across well as a cinematic gem.  Distilling her fine books into this one of three film series, does not construct well in the two and a half film.  It lacks a good backstory, good acting, and solid plot.


(The 19th Edition)

The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance Films celebrates the best in contemporary French cinema for its nineteenth year.  This year's line-up is comprised of 24 exceptional films making their New York, U.S., or North American premieres.  Included is master filmmakers Bertrand Taverier, Agnes Jaoui, and Francois Ozon, along with critics' favorites Sege Bozon, Michel Gondry,, and the Larrieu brothers.

Opening Night

ON MY WAY (Elle s'en va)
Directed by: Emmanuelle Bercot
Running time: 113 min.
Release date: March 14, 2014
Genre: Drama and Comedy in French with English subtitles
Distributor: Cohen Media Group
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

In an excellent dramedy displaying the expertise of veteran thespian Catherine Deneuve as Bettie, a young minded senior citizen and restaurant owner handling a recent break-up of her married lover for a much younger woman, finds life stressful.  Bettie played by Catherine Deneuve in a performance unlike any other in her legendary career, gives an enthusiastically graceful performance of a former Breton beauty queen turned bestro owner.  With the assistance of her elderly yet feisty mother Annie (Claude Gensac), the two ladies barely survive the everyday operation of a business that is going under.

What makes this poignant film a marvel is the reinvention of Bettie's family ties, specifically with her estranged daughter Muriel (French icon pop musician Camille) who asks Bettie to drive her pre-teen son Charly (Nemo Schiffman) to his other grandfather's home.

In filmmaker Emmanuelle Bercot's fourth feature, she uses a plot structured on a dramatic roadtrip thesis foreshadowing in the form of ominous and symbolic incidents.  It comes across as a grandmother and grandson bonding which conditions the audience to expect certain logical developments.  However, the clever irony is the fulfillment of the expectation in a surprising way, which is opposite of what was intended.  This is shown in an emerging theme  of a bonding of family members, having Bettie revisit her past, and a coming of age scenario.  The development is a delight to watch.

THE AGE OF PANIC (La Bataille De Solferno)
Directed by: Justine Triet
Running time: 94 min.
Release date: U.S. Premiere
Genre: Drama and Comedy in French with English subtitles

During a largely French broadcast political race, a female broadcaster is juggling her job of covering the race, dealing with her babysitter, her ex-husband, and a new boyfriend.  Filmmaker Justine Triet uses the backdrop of the contemporary French political race to examine the child visitation rights of a father (Vincent Macaigne) versus his ex-wife's (Laetita Dosch) control.  As she maneuvers her coverage of the political campaigning and results she relies on her male babysitter to insure the well being of her young toddler son.  The often complicated funny plot races in crisp pacing towards a resolvement of the domestic dispute and involves the audience with some actual political rally footage.  

In a documentary style format, this fictional emerging narrative ignites political issues of the Franch while merging a plot-driven character study. 

Closing Night

Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier
Running time: 114 min.
Release date: March 21, 2014
Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Adaptation in French with English subtitles
Distributor: IFC Films

In this film based on the graphic novel Quai d'Orsay (2010) by Abel Lanzac and Christopher Blain, filmmaker adapts to screen an impressive political character(s) study of post 9/11.  This is a film revealing the tension and politics through a French insider's point of view, with satirical humor that softens the controversial subject matter.

The setting is France during President Bush's "War on Terror" era, Alexandre Taillard de Vorms played by Thierry Lhermitte is the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the land of enlightenment: France.  He is tall and impressive, a man of style, and very attractive to women.  His gift to the world is his wit, yet it is fueled by his silver tongue.  This fuel is manifested by a team of speech writers as he takes on American neo-cons, corrupt Russians and money-grabbing Chinese.

Along comes the young Arthur Vlaminck (Raphael Personnaz), a graduate of an elite school in France, who is hired as head of 'language' at the foreign ministry.  He is to write the minister's speeches, but he also has to learn to deal with the sensibilities of the boss and his entourage of advisors who stalk the corridors of the Quai d'Orsay - the ministry's home - where stress, ambition and dirty dealing are the daily currency.

Between the tantalizing comedy and the reality of the characters, situations and dialogue The French Minister offers a light-hearted plot deliberately designed to amuse and provoke laughter by exaggerating the situation, the language, action, relationships and characters.  However, it shines in the dramatic scenes with a plot-driven presentation, portraying realistic characters, settings, and life situations pertaining to the global platform.

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Directed by: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Running time: 100 min.
Release date: February 7, 2014
Genre: Animation, Action, and Comedy
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG

The Lego Movie (3D) is the first full length theatrical LEGO adventure.

Directed Phil Lord and Christopher Miller ('Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' and '21 Jump Street') crafts the original 3D computer-animated story that follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules/instructions-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as The Special, 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.

To fully appreciate this fun-filled movie, it must be understood what LEGO  is?  The Robotics sets was initiated in 1999, however the roots of the product originated in 1932 with Danish master carpenter  Ole Kirk Christiansen and his son Godfred Kirk.  The company adopted the name LEGO in 1934 (LEg GOdt from the danish words) meaning "play well".

Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmet.  Will Ferrell is the voice of the evil-doer President Business aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life, and Liam Neeson is the voice of Lord Business's loyal henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop, who will stop at nothing to catch Emmet.

Voicing the members of Emmett's rebel crew on this heroic mission are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest;  Will Arnett as the mysterious Batman, a LEGO minifigure with whom Wyldstyle has a romantic history;  Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business;  Alison Brie as the sweet and lovable Unikitty and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something Spaceman.

The quest to stop the LEGO evil tyrant from gluing the universe together opposed to just attaching, is the adventure.  Using non-stop motion, spectacular rhythm and pacing, often with two-dimensional 'good-guys' battling 'bad-guys, and a motivation such as a sense of responsibility and a strong belief in justice and humanitarian service.  This family-friendly movie is all designed for pure audience escapism.  

However, exceptional traits are exploited where the children audience is pushed into the thought of perfection, opposed to being themselves (if only mediocre, if that is the potential).  Yet, it is a good self-esteem narrative for kids, with the strong moral code that every child can't be super, but they should be super in the eyes of their parents and teachers.

The Lego Movie is a must see 'family flick'!



Directed by: Jenee LaMarque
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: February 7, 2014
Genre: Drama, Comedy, and Coming of Age
Distributor: DADA Films
MPAA Rating: R

Filmmaker Jenee LaMarque creates a cinematic stage that incorporates an audience's involvement to the fact that they have, at a single point had a common experience to be someone else.  In this instance, when an eccentric and insecure young woman is mistaken for her identical twin, she seizes the chance to leave her pathetic existence behind and assume her sister's life.

The Pretty One is a dramatic comedy work that employs 'gallows humor'.  The definition being a Freudian term that anesthetizes an emotion, that all humor is 'black humor'.  While incorporating a coming of age scenario about the identity complex of Laurel, the identical twin of Audrey (both played by Zoe Kazan), lives a mundane virginal lifestyle while aiding her widowed father Frank (John Carroll Lynch) as a replica painter in the surburbs.  Meanwhile, her sister Audrey, who has long left home for the city to secure a high profile real estate sales position, is very much the extravert and quite shallow.

The plot takes form when Audrey returns home for a visit and the twins are placed in a tragic car accident.  Through this absurd situation when one of the twins is killed in this fatality, a masquerade as 'the pretty one' takes as the theme of the narrative.  Examining the film closely, details about the many ideas contained within the film become whimsical.   While the setting and atmosphere attempt to be successful, the plot did not flow all the way through the film and becomes disjointed and messy part of the way through.  The theme (what the story means as opposed to what happens in the plot) is stated clearly in the title, but doesn't hold solidly through dialogue by character interaction when romantic interest (Jake Johnson) enters into the storyline.  The theme becomes less obvious and emerges only after some study or thought.  The abstract issues and feelings only grow out of the dramatic action shown on the basic insecurities of the romantic exploits.

This is a film that toys with the journey that love takes through courtship and a story whose central character struggles with finding her place in life.  It is a clever movie riddled with tightly wound diatribes.  It gives Zoe Kazan a great platform to show her 'chops'.  The plot at times slips, yet the flow is consistent.  However, The Pretty One fails to find the common ground for it to settle for.




Directed by: Tom Gormican
Running time: 94 min.
Release date: January 31, 2014
Genre: Comedy and Romance
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA Rating: R

When it comes to romantic comedies or 'romedies', there is a new look at the genre.  What is 'bromance' - a look at how the guys perceive the affectionate involvement of the main characters (usually a leading man and lady), and the journey that their love takes through courtship and/or marriage.  

Filmmaker Tom Gormican penned the screenplay because he was interested in the idea of making a romantic comedy with a twist - the story would be told from the guy's point of view.  Using his years as a young single New Yorker as a jumping point, he spun a story about three very different 20-somethings enjoying life in the big city wile trying to make their marks professionally and socially.

Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller star in this hilarious  'bromance' about three male best friends who find themselves at that confusing moment in every dating relationship with the modern women when they must decide - "So...Where is this going?"

Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) are living are carefree single life in New York City when their best buddy Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) learns his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas) wants a divorce.  In a show of support, the three longtime friends  promise each other that they will avoid commitment at all costs and stay single together, but their plans derailed when Mikey starts to surreptitiously dates his soon to be ex-wife Vera, and Jason and Daniel unexpectedly fall in love with respectively Ellie (Imogen Poots) and Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).  Soon each man finds himself confused.  The question explored throughout the movie is what it actually means to be in a relationship?

The simplest way of looking at this romantic comedy is to say that it surprises, startles, shock and delights its audience.  The essential aspect of the story is that it goes beyond the ordinary, the dull and familiar.  The plot uses a range of tactics from absurdity to mockery, to sarcasm to irony.  The whole impetus of this comedy is to create a distance and a perspective of the world.  Deliberately, with likable characters each of the tactics imposed in the flow and pace of this comedic plot enjoyably disturbs, disrupts, alters and changes things from what is expected.  As it may be a staple for women to cling to romantic comedies, men will find That Awkward Moment enduring as the characters interact in sexual and romantic pursuits.  Each performance of the characters strongly being identified in some compelling visible desire, and desperately trying to win and win back the love of another.  They are desperate to achieve their goals, and terrified by the conflicts they face.  The humor arises from the way they overact to their situations.

In an interview with the cast, Zac Efrom stated, "The story allows guys to see their side of the situation and give girls a new perspective on relationships.....and we will all get a chance to laugh at ourselves and our friends in the bargain.  I thought it was a really unique idea."  Miles Teller commented about his fellow cast member Mackenzie Davis by saying; "My character was simple to adapt to because Mackenzie is a cool person - so I just got to know her personally."  Imogen Poots mentioned, "I felt part of an ensemble" and Michael B. Jordan said, "we went on a trip to the Adirondacks (upstate New York) and bonded."

That Awkward Moment is a likable and humorous movie that will engage couples.



Directed by: Ronald Krauss
Running time: 101 min.
Release date: January 24, 2014
Genre: Drama and Inspirational Biopic
Distributor: Roadside Attractions & Day 28 Films
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Based on the inspiring true events, this film centers on the courageous story of Agnes 'Apple' Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) and her incredible path to motherhood as a pregnant homeless teenager.

Filmmaker Ronald Krauss has been writing, producing, and directing intensely personal movies since his short film, Puppies for Sale (starring the late Academy Award winner Jack Lemmon).  Whether making documentaries or narrative films, Krauss' focus is always on reflecting real-life issues with compassion, hope, and authenticity.  He is recently known for his movie, America, a devastating drama about human trafficking screened at the United Nations.

Acclaimed actress Rosario Dawson co-stars in this parallel plot story inspired by the life of advocate Kathy DiFiore (Anne Dowd), a strong New Jersey woman who went from being homeless to opening her home as a shelter for women in need - - and a story of  teenage girl Apple, who is forced to flee from her abusive drug addictive mother June Bailey (Rosario Dawson) and her turned away biological Wall Street Broker father Tom Fitzpatrick (Brendan Fraser) whom she never knew.

When asked, in an interview with Rosario Dawson on what inspired her on doing this movie, she replied, "I think I had a lot of reasons that compelled me to be a part of this.  My mom was a teenage mom - she got pregnant with me at 16.  I don't know my biological father so that could have totally had a huge impact in my life had it not been for the fact that my stepdad married my mom when I was one and raised me as his own.  He will always be my hero for life because of that, marrying some woman whose child is not yours and she (mom) is 18 and he was like 21.  It was just really remarkable."  Rosario Dawson also added,  "My mom worked in a shelter when I was 10 called WOMAN, Inc. in San Francisco."....."So much about this (script) really kind of caught my attention."

The real-life Kathy DiFiore commented on her talk with filmmaker Ronald Krauss on doing this project and said, after a couple of meetings," my head I'm thinking that he seems like an awfully nice guy, but I don't know."  She continued by saying, "I let him talk to the girls (of the shelter), I let him get closer, and then when the girls decided to trust him, it was like actions speak louder than words because they do not trust easily.  That's when I knew that God was directing me in a different direction - the time has come (to approve the movie)."

The fierce and compelling performance by Vanessa Hudgens as Apple was complimented by others, such as, veteran actor James Earl Jones as Reverend Frank McCarthy who in the depths of her despair compassionately leads her to salvation and support in the shelter for homeless female teenagers.

Gimme Shelter, is a heart wrenching, yet an uplifting inspirational film that embraces the future with clarity and hope.



Directed by: Peter Berg
Running time: 128 min.
Release date: January 10, 2014
Genre: Drama, Biopic, War, Action/Adventure, Thriller and Adaptation.
Distributor: Universal Pictures
MPAA Rating: R

Based on the New York Times bestselling true story of heroism, courage and survival, Lone Survivor tells of the incredible memoirs authored by the only member to live through an ambush in the mountains of Afghanistan, Navy Seal leader Marcus Luttrell.

This is the true story of the fire team leader Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy Seal history.  The film adaptation, based on the  first-person memoir/book, has become a motivational resource for its lessons on how the power of the human spirit is tested when pushed beyond mental and physical limits.  

Starring alongside of Mark Walberg as other members of the Seal team are Taylor Kitsch as Michael Murphy, Emile Hirsch as Danny Dietz, and Ben Foster as Matthew 'Axe' Axelson.  They project a natural realism as members of their team on a covert mission to neutralize a high-level al-Qaeda operative who are ambushed.  The pacing is quick and the flow of the plot is intense as they are faced with an impossible moral decision when they find themselves isolated from help and surrounded by a much larger force of Taliban ready for war. 

Watching the first part of, Lone Survivor, it gave me a deep appreciation for just how hard it is to become a Navy Seal with the exhausting training endured.  The latter part of the film gave me a deeper appreciation of the servicemen who fought ferociously beside team leader Luttrell until he was the last one breathing.  (Spoiler Alert) The survival was explored thoroughly on film as he managed over four days, badly injured and presumed dead, fought off six al-Qaeda assassins who were sent to finish him, only to crawl seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a friendly Pashtun tribe.

This is an outstanding and compelling portrait of bravery!