Ant-Man Review: The movie follows Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a master thief and his mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a master scientist. In Pym's younger days he wore the Ant-Man suit, which allowed him to shrink to microscopic size but retain all his strength. This ability is thanks to "The Pym Particle" that allowed him to shrink distance between molecules. Pym, who used his particle for good was frightened that his invention would fall into the wrong hands even to the point that his board voted him out of his own company that invented the technology in the first place. Enter Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) the new CEO of Pym Technologies that is on the verge of unlocking The Pym Particle and use the technology to create an army of micro soldiers. In order to stop Cross Pym enlists Lang, who is fresh out of jail to don the Ant-Man suit and defeat Cross from the inside. Pym's estranged daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who has gained the trust of Cross and is his adviser is displeased that her father has picked Lang for the operation feeling it's her duty to ultimately defeat her employer.
What works: It's refreshing to see Marvel return to their roots with a story that focuses on a single character. The Age of Ultron released earlier this summer was masterful at planting the seeds for future installments in the ever growing "Marvel Cinematic Universe" but fell short to develop the characters themselves or give good reason why so many characters needed to be involved in the story. The movie is a homage to 60's and 70's heist films and Lang's fellow parolees (played by Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and rapper T.I.) add a lot of fun humor as they help their friend "be a hero" while becoming heroes themselves.
What doesn't: If you're looking for something new, you won't find it. Marvel Studios has a firm formula in place to draw audiences to the theater and they succeed masterfully. One of the broken parts of their formula is the ability to create compelling villains. Ant-Man partially succeeds with Darren Cross compared to their many past efforts but I still felt he was there to be a disposable villain to prime Ant-Man for his eventually membership into the Avengers.
Final: Highly recommended. Very refreshing to see a superhero movie that's focused on the viewer having fun. Reminded me very much of Robert Downey Jr.'s first Ironman movie.
This documentary was fascinating. Back in 1998 shortly before Fox Studios revitalized the superhero franchise with Bryan Singer's X-Men, Warner contacted Tim Burton to do a movie titled "Superman Lives" with Nicholas Cage as Superman/Clark Kent and Christopher Walken as the villain Brainiac. After seeing interviews from the conceptual artists, to Tim Burton to the former president of Warner Bros. it makes me wonder how this film would have been received upon its release. As one of the screenplay writers Kevin Smith says reflecting on if he wished it had been made - "F*^k you, take my money."
Inside Out Review: Inside out tells the story of the emotions of an 11 year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) who are Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). To establish the characters we are introduced to Riley's very first emotion Joy who is quickly accompanied by the other emotions as Riley starts developing as a human being. Joy, the strongest emotion finds herself in a conflict with Sadness when Riley's parents (Kyle MacLachlan & Diane Lane) relocate from Minnesota to California for a job opportunity. The emotions operate in a central command center (Riley's mind) which stores her core memories and define her as a person. After a mishap, the core memories are scattered throughout her brain along with Joy and Sadness who must return to central command with the memories to realign Riley's personality.
What works: Pixar has created another masterpiece. Wonderfully developed characters with perfect voice actors to portray them (Anger, Fear & Disgust are worth the admission price by themselves). The imaginative environments and other supporting characters that make up a person's mind and personality are brilliant. The story also treats adult viewers with humorous takes on how things get stuck in our minds, how our emotions influence things that frighten or disgust us and a reminder of profound sadness of how we forget things that make us so happy during our age of innocence. Pixar proves once again that they are the masters of modern animation films and this film can stand equally beside any of their other classic films.
What doesn't: It's difficult to find something wrong with such an excellent movie but searching through other reviews online I've noticed some parents have been critical of the film because it's tough for their younger children to relate to the subject matter. I can see that. Of all of Pixar's films I would certainly consider this the most "mature" material in their library.
Highly recommended to see Inside Out. Very refreshing to see a family movie that injects humor for adults that is relatable on a human level without insinuating sexual innuendo or "adult situations".
Changing up reviews. Getting away from star ratings.
Terminator: Genisys Review: The latest film begins in the future previously established in the past Terminator films with John Connor (Jason Clarke) and his friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) defeating Skynet, the A.I. program that ultimately eradicates humanity through nuclear war. Before Skynet is "turned off" it goes through a last ditch effort to save itself by sending a Terminator android into the past to kill Connor's mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke). John Connor responds by sending his friend Kyle after the Terminator to protect his mother. Kyle is sent back to 1984, the year the first film takes place but he realizes that timeline and events of the first film have drastically changed. Instead of finding a scared waitress with zero combat experience, he finds Sarah already prepared for his arrival and partnered with a Terminator (Arnold Schwartzenegger) that was sent by an unknown party to protect her back in 1973. The three join forces to leap throughout time to once again fight Skynet that keeps correcting its failures as time progresses to the inevitable nuclear destruction known as Judgement Day.
What worked: The expansions of time lines are explained well throughout the film. Arnold is a pleasure to watch as the Terminator a role that was rather joyless to watch in the 3rd installment. Skynet's new plan to succeed is interesting even though it was sadly spoiled in the trailer.
What didn't: Much like Jurassic Park, you can only play "what if" so many times within this franchise. It's on nonstop loop. The Terminator travels back to kill someone to prevent Connor's birth, it fails, Judgement Day happens, Connor defeats Skynet and the Terminator travels back in time. I accept iconic roles are hard to recast but Emilia Clarke didn't sell herself as tough and Jai Courtney is just simply awful. He has the charisma of a toaster.
Final: I recommend seeing it. It's a good movie for nostalgia purposes and watching Arnold back as the T800 is a lot of fun. But after this? No more please unless the next one finally breaks the cycle.
Ted 2 Review: Ted 2 picks up a year after the first film with Ted (Seth MacFarlane) marrying his sweetheart Tammy Lynn (Jessica Barth) while his best friend John (Mark Wahlberg) mopes over his divorce. It doesn't take long for marital bliss to wear off and in an effort to fix their broken marriage Ted and Tammy Lynn decide to have a baby. One problem - Ted isn't considered "a person" but a piece of property revoking his marriage, employment, citizenship and any attempt to adopt a child (he's a teddy bear so he has no reproductive organs). He and John hire civil rights attorney Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to fight for Ted's civil rights to restore his status so he can move on with his life and marriage. The movie also includes Sam Jones, Patrick Warburton and Giovanni Ribisi returning from the first film and Morgan Freeman. Ted 2 has some genuinely funny gags and jokes but misses the flow of the first film. I remember the unrated trailer from the first movie and thought all the good jokes would be in the trailer. Boy, was I wrong. The first one hit the accelerator and didn't let up even until the end of the film. This movie's transition pieces sadly moves at a slug's pace to the next gag. Also, picked on for her useless character Meg in Family Guy, this film was missing Mila Kunis's Laurie. She was a much stronger and likeable character compared to Amanda Seyfried's Samantha. Final Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars
Jurassic World Review: Instead of going through the synopsis of this film I just rather offer some commentary based on my viewing experience. Only 2 movie franchises have blown my mind that have combined never-before-seen special effects and a story that hits the heart. Those 2 franchises are Star Wars and Jurassic Park. Movie buffs (especially those from age 40-55) know that George Lucas changed the movie business forever with Star Wars in 1977. His team did it once again in 1993 with Jurassic Park when a photorealistic computer generated dinosaur lumbered across the screen. Fast forward to 1999 when after 16 years audiences would once again visit that galaxy far, far away in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We pretty much all know how that turned out. An out of touch director more worried about the wizardry of CGI short changed what made his movies great to begin with - great characters and quotable dialogue. The second issue was that the wizardry was already spent on Spielberg's Jurassic Park instead of the franchise that defined special effects and what we now know as "the summer blockbuster". Now in 2015 we have Jurassic World, a film like Star Wars trying to capitalize on the nostalgia of a 20 year old franchise. I can't say I had the exact reactions watching this film as I did watching The Phantom Menace - that movie killed my ability to buy into hype - but I felt that same hollow feeling of "been there and done that". Jurassic World isn't a terrible movie because it's constructed well and has likeable actors, it just lacks the magic and well developed characters of its predecessor. The film's message also is bigger is better because we've become blase' toward what's older and dated. I think the issue is technology (CGI in particular) has hit the glass ceiling and until we hit the next plateau of cinematic technology, the magic will stay static in the eyes of the viewer. Final Rating: 2 out of 4 Stars
Love & Mercy Review: The film tells the story of prolific songwriter, Brian Wilson at two different stages of his life. Paul Dano portrays Wilson in the mid 60s while John Cusack plays Wilson in the mid 80s. We start with Brian Wilson (Cusack) meeting Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) while trying to buy a car from the Cadillac dealership where she's employed. Wilson makes an impression on her despite his erratic behavior and the two start dating. Wilson opens up to Melinda sharing with her his past (Dano takes over the Wilson role in flashbacks) of mental illness, parental abuse, his failed marriage and the abandonment of his family. The more involved she becomes with him she learns that Wilson was bedridden for several years and was "rescued" by Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) from his depression. She also learns that Landy hold totals dominion over Wilson as well. The movie is based on the life of Brian Wilson but the title refers to the unconditional love and mercy given by Melinda Ledbetter who rescues him and ultimately becomes his wife. The acting in this film shows that true ability of all the leads. Dano and Cusack have Wilson's mannerisms nailed down. The likeness between Dano and Wilson at the same age are uncanny (no prosthetic make up was used). Paul Giamatti is once again perfectly cast and relishes his role as a slime-ball but the real award in my opinion goes to Elizabeth Banks. Known for her comedic roles in films like Role Models, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Zack & Miri Make a Porno, she steps into the role of a woman with a damaged past to rescue a man that truly needs her. Elizabeth Banks must have lived the title of this film in every shot she was in. FINAL REVIEW: 4 out of 4 Stars.
Entourage Review - 6 months after where we left off from the tv series, we learn that Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) has come out of retirement and is now running a studio. Ari's first movie, funded by Texas mogul Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son Travis (Haley Joel Osment), will star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier who says he must direct the film if he agrees to star. As the filming nears completion it runs over budget and Ari is forced to visit the McCredle's for more money. Larsen who only cares about profits instead of processes sends Travis to see an initial cut of the film before the funds are released. Subplots include Eric (Kevin Connolly) who continues to be Vince's manager while trying to work out the relationship with his pregnant girlfriend Sloan (Emmanuel Chriqui), Turtle (Jerry Ferarra) who tries to score a date with MMA fighter Rhonda Roussey and Vince's brother "Drama" (Kevin Dillon) who still struggles to find a career as a serious actor. The movie is great for fans of the show and easy enough to follow for those who have never seen the series on HBO. Some of the subplots are goofy as are the multitudes of celebrity cameos, however Entourage is not a film expected to recreate the art form. It's a playground for the likable characters to experience the ups, downs and excesses of their celebrity lifestyle. P.S. Thanks HBO for giving men their version of Sex and the City. Feels good to "bro down" while the yentas are out drinking mojitos. (I keed, I keed.) FINAL RATING: 3 out of 4 stars
Ex_Machina 2015 : Code writer, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) enters and wins a contest sponsored by his company's founder Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan who wrote software that revolutionized the Internet at age 13 is an eccentric billionaire who's walled himself inside of a high tech fortress far away from civilization. Caleb has no idea what to expect from the meeting but upon his arrival learns that he will serve as a test subject to interact with advanced artificial intelligence. The A.I.'s name is Ava who is beautifully realized by actress Alicia Vikander and computer generated effects. The films asks important questions about human nature, sentience and technology that could conceivably exist in the near future. Couple that with great acting, beautifully shot locations and you're left with one of the better films in the genre and possibly of the year. Many current science fiction films are following the model of the new age "blockbusters" with elaborate action sequences and overblown special effects. Ex_Machina plays out deliberately and doesn't preach to the viewer allowing the three leads to play out their story without being jarred by rayguns and explosions. It's reminiscent of the tales told by Issac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. I couldn't help being reminded of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone or Charlie Brooker's excellent Black Mirror series (which Gleeson appears in) that warns of what could happen in a very near future. Unlike Chappie (released in March of 2015), a film that introduced intriguing concepts but was trampled by mass marketing and broke under the weight of including too many plots, Ex_Machina stays on target and asks can a machine ever become sentient and if it becomes what we consider a "human being", does it learn to inact the good or terrible things that we do to each other?Final Rating: 4 out of 4 stars.
Aloha 2015: Aloha tells the story of Brad Gilcrest, a celebrated former military pilot turned contractor who returns to Hawaii, the place he achieved the greatest accolades of his military career. Now employed by Carson Welch (Bill Murray), Brad is on a ceremonial mission to gain favor of Hawaiian elders to launch Welch's satellite into space. He is assigned a military liaison named Allison Ng (Emma Stone) who is of Hawaiian decent to help along with this task. During his stay Brad also runs into his former lover Tracey Woodside (Rachel McAdams) and her husband "Woody" Woodside (John Krasinski). Brad finds himself caught between his job, regret and potentially a new path for love and happiness. I always enjoyed Cameron Crowe's ability to write such amazing characters - many of who are deemed special by the perceptions and standards of the American public and and then strip them down to being relatable to everyone. Unfortunately, he's trying to balance messages of the woes of businessmen buying themselves into the military and breaks away to shots that try to loosely tie Hawaiian culture into the themes of his story, both of which are extremely flimsy. I have zero problems with that subject matter but it took away from the core of what Cameron Crowe is known for - the interpersonal relationships of people. I think his subplots should have been left to a political thriller that he could have explored with a full film instead of short changing the characters that I was ready to like as much as the actors that portrayed them. With lesser actors this film could have turned out to be a far huger mess than the final product. FINAL REVIEW: 2.5 out of 4 Stars
Avengers: Age of Ultron Review: Filmmakers and film enthusiasts are always looking forward to the latest ground breaking technology to enhance the movie going experience. Marvel Studios has accomplished this but instead of finding the new tech that will change the way films are made they have redefined the term "movie franchise". Since 2008 with the start of Jon Favreau's Iron Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the 11th film that is part of Marvel Studio's "shared" Cinematic Universe serving as a sequel to 2012's Avengers and to several other films that feature the characters individually. Concerned that the Avengers will fail at protecting the world from extraterrestrial threats, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) creates an artificial intelligence program named Ultron that will "place a suit of armor around the world". Unbeknownst to his fellow Avengers and with the help of his friend Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) Stark starts running tests to bring the program online, which results in Ultron (James Spader) becoming self aware. Instead of executing his intended purpose, Ultron realizes that the extinction of the human race is best to bring about a new evolution of sentient machinery. These events throw the Avengers into turmoil creating distrust in the group and pit them against an enemy that knows more about them then they know about each other. The largest subplot in the film includes two new characters, Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). Bent on revenge for the death of their parents due to weapons created by Tony Stark's company, "the twins" form an alliance with Ultron to defeat the Avengers physically and tear them apart mentally. Age of Ultron is a good movie. It takes large pieces of information built over 10 films and lines up the events that will play out in upcoming films that will be released over the next four years. Ultimately it suffers where most comic book movies suffer - underdevelopment of the villain. Marvel has masterfully built their heroes. The characters (and the actors that play them) have become icons in popular culture. Sadly, the same can't be said for their villains with the exception of Thor's Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the excellent Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Nofrio) on Daredevil, which airs on Netflix. Marvel has created films that sit on the top of the genre and serve as relevant social commentary. The Age of Ultron sits somewhere in the middle of the 10 others. FINAL RATING: 3 out of 4 Stars
Woman in Gold Review: Woman in Gold follows the story of Maria Altmann portrayed in another exceptional performance by Helen Mirran and her attorney Randol "Randy" Schoenberg in a surprising performance by Ryan Reynolds. The story is set in 1998 shortly after the death of Maria's sister. She becomes aware that a Klimt painting of her beloved Aunt Adele is now hanging in a museum in Vienna after it was stolen by the Nazis during Hitler's rise to power. Maria and "Randy" travel between America and Vienna to reclaim what is rightfully hers, much to the dismay of the museum who believes the painting is now the property of the state. During this story the viewer is treated to several flashbacks that show younger versions of Maria, her experiences as a little girl, a young woman, her relationship with her beloved aunt and family, the brutality of the Nazi party and her final escape to America. This is a story about history, justice and international law. It is a complete story and the characters are wonderful. My only criticism is I would have liked to have seen more struggles in the courtroom comparable to her escape from the Nazis. It's tragic and heartbreaking that a group of thugs and killers stole so much that still to this day have not been returned to the rightful owners. Final Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars.
Review: Set in Johannesburg in the year 2016, the government takes a hard stance on gang violence by instituting a mechanized police force. Deon (Dev Patel) is the creator of these robots and has developed software that will give them human consciousness. He finds himself in competition with Vincent (Hugh Jackman) who also has a prototype law enforcement robot that's controlled by a human pilot. Against direct orders from his CEO, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) Deon selects one of his robots that has been ordered to be scraped after being damaged in a fire fight with gangs and uploads his software. When leaving the company he is captured by gang members Ninja and Yo-Landi, real life members of the rap/rave group Die Antwoord who play themselves in this fictional world. They name the robot Chappie and become his "parents" and plan to use him on one last heist to free themselves from their gangster lifestyle. The good thing about this movie is its titular character. When first activated he's like a baby. He learns to speak, develops morals and exhibits human behaviors. The CGI and voice acting (provided by actor Sharlto Copley) is masterful to create the character and some of the things he does to emulate his "parents" are genuinely funny. Besides head scratching plot devices - mostly the lax security clearance found at a company that has enough military tech to defeat a third world country on its own, there is way too much happening in this movie. Subplots upon subplots that are glossed over simply because director Neil Blomkamp loaded his movie down which inhibited the great things to truly shine. Many great questions are asked. Is human consciousness truly achievable by machines? Is it transferable? Is the human body also a machine albeit a biological one? Is our own consciousness what we define as one's "soul"? These opportunities were squandered by the inclusion of too many moral themes, an explosion of mass marketing by the Sony Corporation and questionable casting of a music group that didn't have the chops to handle the material.
Final Rating - 1.5 Stars. ~ Chris Tarride
*Sidenote - I checked out Die Antwoord and enjoyed what I saw as a music group. Very unique in look and sound and have some pretty killer beats. I agree with my buddy, Czar Taomg who saw the movie with the group, Die Antwoord will be signing a deal with Sony soon.
Unfinished Business 2015
Review: The film follows businessman, Dan Trunkman (Vince Vaughn) on a quest to make his small business successful while finding balance with his family life. Dan gets tired of being pushed around by his boss Chuck Portnoy (Sienna Miller) and ventures off on his own to make a deal only to find he's in direct competition with her. Joined in his new venture are his colleagues Tim McWithers (Tom Wilkinson) who is laid off due to his age and basket case, Mike Pancake (Dave Franco). The trio go on a business trip to "get the handshake" from a new client and go on a race throughout Europe while attempting to thwart Chuck Portnoy in the process. Each of the three leads have a specific reason as to why their livelihood depends on getting the account - Dan to improve the lives of his children, Tim to escape an unhappy marriage and Mike to prove he isn't an incompetent idiot. The movie has its moments but sadly covers no new ground. Vince Vaughn is in typical form. It's not the content of what he does but it's all in his delivery. Tom Wilkinson is competent in his role while Dave Franco is effective for about 15 minutes. I felt as if the writers took Old School, mixed it with Euro Trip and then watered it down immensely. This is reportedly Vaughn's 5th box office bomb in a row. I really like him and I'm thankful he has True Detective Season 2 to give him a boost. I hope it helps him.
Final Review: 1.5 Stars ~ Chris Tarride
Andrew (Miles Teller) attends one of the most prestigious jazz conservatories in the country and earns a top spot in the performance band run by cutthroat instructor Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) who berates his students to tap into their greatest potential. I've seen most of what was considered the best offerings in film of 2014 and I have to say that Whiplash resonated with me the most. Though not as extreme, I was involved in the band program in high school with an instructor that demanded excellence and had zero problems calling you out in front of your peers. Before I saw the film I had people comment on the Monday Night Movie Krewe page that I didn't even know claiming the movie promotes bullying (sadly they've removed the comments so I couldn't respond). I see it differently. No matter what you do in your life there will always be assholes (we softly call them "bullies" now) that will test your patience and many who will take great joy in trying to break you. The question is will you stick your lip out and walk away or will you face adversity, use it to inspire you to create your greatest performance and shut down the person that tries to break you? I'm very pleased I was able to see this film in the theater. I've always been a fan of J.K. Simmons. I became familiar with him on HBO's prison drama "Oz" and was awestruck by his ability to portray someone truly ruthless. He's in top form and certainly deserved the Oscar win for his performance. Miles Teller shows his intensity as a young kid not only trying to win the top spot in a band but be truly great and be a renown master of his skill. Highly recommended. ~ Chris Tarride
Final Rating: 4 Stars
Kingsman: The Secret Service 2015
Kingsman follows Gary "Eggsy" Unwin (Taron Egerton) and his mentor Harry "Galahad" Hart as secret agents based in England. Kingsman was a tailor that clothed the most influential men in the world as used its funds to form an independent intelligence agency reminiscent of MI6 or "Her Majesty's Royal Secret Service". They are up against Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) a quirky but cool billionaire who cares very much about climate control and forms a plot to "cleanse" the earth. The movie's cast is rounded out with other Kingsman agents "Merlin" (Mark Strong) and "Arthur" (Michael Caine) who are fantastically British. Kingsman is every bit a homage film to the old James Bond movies. While Daniel Craig's Bond returns to less gadgets and more practical or "realistic" approaches to technology, Kingsman returns to cigarette lights that pack plastic explosives, umbrellas that double as bullet proof shields and fountain pens that dispense poison. The "gentleman spy" returns to the big screen with a vocabulary of Tony Montana from Scarface and Samuel L. Jackson proves once again that he is the premier actor that delivers the line "mother fucker". I can't be overly critical of anything because the film doesn't take itself seriously. The fight choreography and camera work to accentuate said fights are creative, graphic and pretty damned awe inspiring. It's a silly and fun, cliche' but innovative, big, honking, action, popcorn movie and a damn good way to kick off a year LOADED with mega-budgeted tent pole movies. I used to joke about my 4 requirements for a satisfying action film: 1) A gun fight 2) a car chase 3) something exploding and 4) someone says "fuck" at least once. My requirements have been pumped through a half stack amplifier and turned to volume 11. Recommended! ~Chris Tarride
Final Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.
Scott gives it a 2.5 out of 4
Solid Action, Great choreography, Great Vulgarity(lot's of it). This is the same guy that brought us Kick Ass(which I love).
Quote from the movie: "A spy movie is only as good s it's villain." Sam Jackson was not a great villain. The lisp was distracting. Other than that, a great popcorn movie. I agree with just about everything else Chris said.
Foxcatcher - 2014
After viewing this film it's easy to tell why it's been nominated for Oscars in the Best Director & Actor categories. With better editing to make the movie shorter instead of drawn out shots and create cleaner movement for its transitions it would have been nominated for Best Film as well. Mark Schultz played by Channing Tatum, who proves he's a good actor and David Schultz played by the ever reliable Mark Ruffalo are brothers who both won gold in the Olympics during the 80s. Steve Carell transforms into John DuPont and seeks them both out to use wrestling as a vehicle to return respect to the American ideal via athletic competition. Caught between his own quirks, ideals and lack of acceptance from his mother, DuPont manages to destroy the lives of the wrestlers in addition to his own. Side note - my business is automotive paint and I've sold DuPont products since my family opened in 1955. I've heard many stories about John E. DuPont and many of the images in the film made me knowingly chuckle as I watched them. Like all films "that are based on true events" authenticity is scrapped for story and entertainment. I've read many criticisms for and against all parties portrayed in the film but accepting the film for its characters, story and the great skill of the actors playing them makes it a very worthy watch.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars - Chris Tarride
American Sniper - 2014
American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle "the deadliest sniper in US military history" and his wife Taya. Half of the film shows Kyle's various tours in Iraq, which are intense and unapologetic and the other half shows Kyle's life at home before, during and after his tours in the Middle East. His wife Taya gets generous screen time as a woman coping with her absent husband (who is even absent in her presence) and the dealings of being married to a man dedicated to his duty. This film also brings awareness to fighting men and women who return to this country after war with post-traumatic stress disorder, Chris Kyle's struggle to regain his humanity, his wife's help getting him there and Kyle's new mission to help other soldiers regain theirs as well. The thing that impressed me most about this movie is its 84 year old director, Clint Eastwood. He still has it. Incredible cinematography, unbridled intensity and the ability to direct excellent performances from Bradley Cooper (Chris Kyle) and Sienna Miller (Taya Kyle). I can't recommend American Sniper enough. It's intense, gripping and gives you a look at soldiers' lives on the battle field, how they cope when the fighting is over and the victory of those who overcome the adversity of the battlefield.
Rating: 3 and a half out of 4 stars. ~ Chris Tarride
Inherent Vice- 2014
Set in 1970 Los Angeles between the Manson Family murders and Watergate, private detective Larry "Doc" Sportello takes on a case to find his missing ex-girlfriend. Imagine the noir genre of film smoking a quarter bag of pot with influences of Cheech & Chong, The Big Lebowski and Dragnet thrown in. Paul Thomas Anderson creates a period film so authentic you'd be pissed if he decided to shoot this film digitally. Thankfully he went with 35 mm. Joaquin Phoenix transforms into "Doc" proving he is one of the greatest actors today and Katherine Waterston is sexy and mysterious as Shasta, his former girlfriend. Bit parts are played by Eric Roberts, Martin Short and Owen Wilson who all play contributing factors to "Doc's" journey. Reese Witherspoon plays a tiny role as one of "Doc's" flings and they carry with them their chemistry from "Walk the Line", which she starred in with Phoenix. The real powerhouse of the movie is Josh Brolin who portrays L.A. Detective and failed actor "Bigfoot". Imagine if Jack Webb from Dragnet was entirely frustrated, angry at life and hated hippies, yet manages an alliance with the very hippy he hates. I've read that readers of Thomas Pynchon, author of the novel Inherent Vice, are delighted by the faithfulness to the source material. As a movie goer who's unfamiliar with the material, I appreciate the film for it's production and Paul Thomas Anderson's ability to squeeze every emotion from his actors. The plot and motivations are awfully confusing and are extremely hard to follow. No doubt that many of the film's images are "Doc's" hallucinations. It's possible that some of the characters are a product of "Doc's" drug abused self-conscious. Despite the confusion and choppy plot, I recommend a viewing just for the sake of film as a true art form. RATING: 3 out of 4 stars - Chris Tarride
Unbroken - 2014
The film tells the true story of real life Olympian and WW2 veteran, Louis Zamperini. Zamperini was a bombardier aboard a B-24 Liberator, which malfunctioned and crashed into the Pacific. Most of the crew died and the survivors floated at sea for a record 47 days. They were found by the Japanese and tortured in two POW camps until the war ended. Considering this was Angelina Jolie's directorial debut, the movie was built to not fail. The cinematography was beautifu, the dramatic score was seamlessly placed in the appropriate moments and the writing was... safe. The "evil and ruthless" Japanese commander (calling himself "The Bird") threatened the POW's with promises of ruthlessness but I felt that ultimately only cliche' mustache twirling "villainy" was delivered by him. Unbroken isn't a bad movie (it's built to succeed) and certainly joins the fraternity of modern WW2 films alongside Saving Private Ryan and Fury. However, it never achieves the epic scope or intensity of those films. There is one awesome scene in the film that comes in the end though - the real life "Louie" Zamperini running through the streets of Japan at age 80 carrying the Olympic torch. That was the shit.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars. - Chris Tarride
Big Eyes - 2014
The film follows events of the lives of painter Margaret Keane and her narcissistic husband Walter who took total credit for her work. I read the real events of the Keanes and even though there are embellishments to entertain, the meat and potatoes are there. The movie is beautifully shot and has seasoning of Burton's signature style without beating you over the head, which is when he's at his best. Shots of the "cookie cutter" suburbs are reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands and 1950s Beatnik San Francisco made me think of what Ed Wood would experience had he side stepped into technicolor. Of course there's the Danny Elfman score that jumps between Margaret's despair, hip 50s Beatnik jazz and Hawaiian standards from the islands Margaret considers paradise. No doubt Christoph Waltz (Walter Keane) deserves in the least a nod for his role this awards season. I've seen some reviews that criticize his performance for not being "abusive" enough but he's such an egotistical douche bag you can't help but laugh at his pathetic used car bullshit at the end when Margaret gets her revenge. Amy Adams once again proves she's one of the top actresses in Hollywood. Sadly though her triumphs only come at the end of the film while she doubles as nothing more than a punching bag for the first 2 acts. This movie easily ranks up there with Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and Batman. It doesn't hit masterwork status of Ed Wood or Big Fish, which are amongst Burton's best.
Rating 3 out of 4 stars. - Chris Tarride