Movie Reviews 

Woman in Gold

by Alan Rapp on April 10, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Woman in Gold
  • IMDb: link

Woman in GoldDirector Simon CurtisWoman in Gold is an odd film not good enough for awards consideration but also choosing not to become an action-suspense film about stolen Nazi art. Much more a straightforward drama, I’d compare it to 1998’s A Civil Action, a more engaging film with a similar arc of a lawyer whose money-first philosophy is changed by taking on an emotional case he can’t possibly win.

Based on the true story of Maria Altmann‘s (Helen Mirren) attempts to regain possession of her family’s lost masterpiece from the Austrian government, Woman in Gold is a slow-moving drama starring Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer hired by Maria to take on a foreign government. Reynolds and Mirren work well together as the unlikely pair to take on Austria (even if Reynolds casting seems like an odd choice). Well-acted and shot against the backdrops of Vienna and southern California, the story is intriguing if never fully engaging. Despite its cast (which also includes Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jonathan Pryce) Woman in Gold is a good film that never fully lives up to the promise it offers flashes of early on.

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Furious 7

by Alan Rapp on April 4, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Furious 7
  • IMDb: link

“Cars don’t fly.”

Furious 7The latest entry is neither the best (Fast Five) nor the worst (2 Fast 2 Furious) of the franchise. Taking place after the events of Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 introduces Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as the brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who the team took down in the last movie, and the man responsible for killing Han (Sung Kang) in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Now Shaw is targeting Hobbs (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson) and every member of Dominic Toretto‘s (Vin Diesel) team.

Despite Paul Walker‘s death during filming, Brian O’Conner‘s role in the film isn’t truncated thanks to the use of CGI and a little trick photography involving his two brothers. The film ends with a nice farewell for its fallen star although, despite discussion of making more Fast & Furious films, the character isn’t killed off on-screen making you wonder what kind of role Brian could possibly play going forward.

As with all the previous movies, the strengths of the latest film are its stunts which get larger and more ridiculous. Like the last film, this one stretches all credibility during its climax.

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Home

by Alan Rapp on March 27, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Home (2015)
  • IMDb: link

HomeAlien occupation has never been so cute. Based on the children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, Home begins with the invasion of Earth by an alien race known as the Boov who relocate the entire world’s population to suburban-style camps while taking the rest of the planet for their own.

Oh (Jim Parsons) is a likable screw-up who finds himself on the run from his own people when he accidentally discloses the location of their new home to the alien race which has been pursuing the Boov across the galaxy. After encountering another fugitive in a human girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna) the two, along with Tip’s cat Pig, are thrown together as Oh agrees to help Tip find her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) while learning there’s far more to the planet and its complicated people than the Boov’s buffoonish leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin) believes. Despite the number of humans and Boov shown on screen, Home has a tiny cast list. Other than Oh and Smek the only Boov who gets any lines is traffic cop Kyle (Matt Jones), who Oh mistakenly believes is his best-friend and who is sent to track Oh down after his latest mistake.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

by Alan Rapp on March 6, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • IMDb: link

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasted a cast that was able to elevate its source material to create a likable, if lightweight, film about a group of elderly travelers finding a second home in India by choosing to stay in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the the Elderly and Beautiful.”

The sequel returns most of the cast, and director John Madden, but almost none of the charm of the first film. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wastes it cast and beautiful backdrop with enough romcom cliches, misunderstandings, overreactions, and poor judgement to fill half-a-dozen Three’s Company‘s episodes or three Kate Hudson movies.

The drama surrounding the hotel this time around centers around Sonny Kapoor’s (Dev Patel) impending marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and plans to grow his brand with the acquisition of a second hotel. Neither is going as smoothly as Sonny would like leading to the script slowly turning the charming young man into an intensely dislikable character and his bride into a woman too dense to understand the basic nature of the man she’s about to marry.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

by Alan Rapp on February 27, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • IMDb: link

Kingsman: The Secret ServiceKingsman: The Secret Service isn’t the first time director Matthew Vaughn has signed on to bring a Mark Millar comic to the big screen. Like Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service centers on the life of a young punk who enters a world of violence, ridiculous adventures, and even more ridiculous villains. This time, however, the subject of spies rather than comic book heroes is both celebrated and lampooned.

Based on Millar’s comic The Secret Service, Taron Egerton stars as a working class kid from a bad neighborhood raised by a single mother after his father died in mysterious circumstances working for a secret organization of spies (and tailors?) known as Kingsman. Recruited by the same agent (Colin Firth) who recruited his father, Egsy spends most of the film proving himself against other candidates (Sophie Cookson, Edward Holcroft, Nicholas Banks, Tom Prior, Fiona Hampton) working to take the place of the latest Kingsman (Jack Davenport) who died investigating a link between a kidnapped professor (Mark Hamill) and an eccentric billionaire known as Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who has some extreme ideas about lowering the population of the Earth.

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McFarland, USA

by Alan Rapp on February 20, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: McFarland, USA
  • IMDb: link

McFarland, USAMiracle. The Rookie. Cool Runnings. Remember the Titans. Walt Disney Films has a talent finding true stories and adapting them into surprisingly moving films. Hell, even Eight Below was better than it had any right to be. Sure sometimes the efforts limp to the finish line (remember Secretariat?), but more often than not the tales of struggle, perseverance, and overcoming great odds turn out to be solid family films.

Based on the true story of troubled sports coach Jim White who took a job in the only place that would hire him, Kevin Costner stars as a man struggling with not being able to better support his family who, despite their initial distrust of the predominantly Mexican-American town, eventually come to think of McFarland, California as home.

The story follows a basic pattern as White and his family (Maria Bello, Morgan Saylor, Elsie Fisher) come to embrace the town made up of mostly fruit pickers including a group of young kids (Carlos Pratts, Johnny Ortiz, Ramiro Rodriguez, Rafael Martinez, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Michael Aguero) who White will turn into a cross country team.

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Fifty Shades of Grey

by Alan Rapp on February 13, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
  • IMDb: link

Fifty Shades of GreyWell, at least the foreplay was mildly entertaining. The attempt by director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel to adapt E.L. Jamesnovel of the same name feels every inch a Hollywood adaptation of a trashy romance novel.

Fifty Shades of Grey, which could just as easily been titled “Porn for Women” or “Wild Orchid 3: The Seduction of Anastasia,” offers us the ridiculously named duo of college student Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Despite their initial attraction through a random plot device involving Anastasia’s roommate and an article for a school paper Ana doesn’t work for, the pair struggle to get together because of Christian’s aloof manner and odd sexual proclivities.

Through a mix of celebrated bad dialogue and nonerotic and unromantic sex scenes shot like music videos we, along with Ana, learn of Christian’s sadomasochistic tendencies as he offers her a way into his world. Overwhelmed by the attention of a hunky millionaire, Ana fights back her doubts in order to be with a man she’s quickly fallen for.

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Two Days, One Night

by Alan Rapp on February 13, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Deux jours, une nuit
  • IMDb: link

Two Days, One NightThere’s a little bit of Don Quioxte in Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne‘s French film Two Days, One Night. Marion Cotillard stars as a factory worker ready to return to work following a nervous breakdown only to discover that her coworkers, after being given the option by their boss, have decided they would rather have their yearly bonuses than her return.

Allowing Sandra to plead her case, her boss schedules another vote on the following Monday giving her two days to convince a majority of her 16 coworkers to change their minds and allow her to return. Championed by her husband (Fabrizio Rongione) and best-friend (Catherine Salée), Sandra begins a series of heartwrenching conversations with coworkers who, like her, need the money.

There are no real heroes or villains (with the exception of Sandra’s boss and one angry young man) in the film. Many simply are relying on their bonus to make ends meet and others simply don’t wish to give up money they feel they earned during her absence.

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Jupiter Ascending

by Alan Rapp on February 6, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Jupiter Ascending
  • IMDb: link

Jupiter AscendingJupiter Ascending is insane (and only occasionally in a good way). The latest from the Wachowskis casts Mila Kunis in the starring role as an illegal immigrant house cleaner who is actually the resurrected matriarch of one the galaxy’s richest families. Despite being born on Earth, and having no memory of her previous life, based on her DNA Jupiter is entitled to her former estates and riches which her galactic progeny (Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton) will do anything to prevent from happening.

Saved by a soldier spliced with a wolf on rocket shoes (Channing Tatum), Jupiter eventually finds her way into space to accept her inheritance which includes the planet Earth and everyone living on it.

Did I mention this movie is insane? Jupiter Ascending jumps the tracks fairly early, after a slow introduction to our protagonist’s pre-space-faring life, and becomes a constantly exploding runaway train that no one involved in the project lifts a finger to gain control of for the remainder of its 127-minute running time. Visually intriguing, the film is a mess of mashed-up sci-fi ideas borrowed from better films.

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A Most Violent Year

by Alan Rapp on January 30, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: A Most Violent Year
  • IMDb: link

A Most Violent YearI’ve never been a big fan of gangster movies. Writer/director J.C. Chandor A Most Violent Year, however, is more a character study than a focus on the questionable business practices of a successful immigrant businessman (Oscar Isaac) during one the most violent winter’s of New York City’s history.

All things considered, Abel Morales (Isaac) is actually a good guy whose ambitions to enlarge the business leave him vulnerable to attacks from his competitors and investigations by the police. He also must deal with the ruthlessness of his wife (Jessica Chastain) and the mistakes of one of his drivers (Elyes Gabel).

A Most Violent Year is a well-made film that, even if it isn’t as satisfying as I’d like, has plenty to recommend. The entire film is built around Isaac’s performance which doesn’t disappoint. Chastain is scary at times in the role of Isaac’s wife and the daughter of a gangster (whose name gets dropped often but never makes an appearance leaving a large piece of the couple’s lives unexplored). Scorpion‘s Elyes Gabel is put to good use as the eager but distrustful immigrant who wants nothing more than to become Abel.

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