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by on Apr.16, 2017, under Movie Reviews

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Undivided is available on iTunes, Amazon, Amazon Fire TV, and Amazon Prime!

by on Apr.16, 2017, under Movie Reviews

Is now available! Check it out online through Vimeo On Demand before it comes out everywhere else!

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The Boss

by on Apr.16, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the bossThe Boss sets up Melissa McCarthy as a leader in the corporate world, constructing her own empire. At her peak, she’s snobby, elitist and super-egotistical. But then, she gets caught for insider trading, ends up in prison, and in true Martha Stewart fashion, she re-emerges from the joint to rebuild her brand.

While not overly original, the film falls flat for a number of reasons. Normally, I like Melissa McCarthy but she seemed awkward in the lead role as she doesn’t play the corporate type in this context very convincingly. Another part of the problem is that she’s supposed to be the funny one at the same time playing against her straight-laced, hard working assistant portrayed by Kristen Bell. It was hard to find the funny at times and in other cases they tried too hard to make it happen.

Paul Feig wasn’t in on this one; McCarthy along with Ben Falcone (who also directed) were credited as writers. Unfortunately the script doesn’t really present anything but a formulaic approach and even with a strong cast, the film isn’t very funny or even all that compelling. I found my mind wandering while watching it.

In regard to the cast, there’s a good number of recognizable names here including Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Kristen Schaal, Dax Shepard and Tyler Labine.

There’s plenty of other things to watch, like maybe watch Sausage Party a second time, like I’m doing right now…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Central Intelligence

by on Apr.02, 2017, under Movie Reviews

central intelligenceI had a really good streak of some pretty amazing films to review lately, I’m afraid the streak has ended as I’ve hit a number of “meh” films, Central Intelligence being one of those experiences. While the comedy has its moments, the awkwardness of the film’s humor and some of the actor’s deliveries got a bit in the way of the funny.

The story centers around Calvin Joyner (Kevin Hart) an accountant who, taking stock of his life as his class reunion approaches, realizes he didn’t turn out to be the most-successful-whatever he was supposed to be according to everyone that loved him in high school. Enter the most awkward kid in school Robbie Weirdicht (get it?) who worships Calvin ever since he came to his aid during an embarrassing event as a victim of some bullies. Only now, he’s Bob Stone, CIA agent, luring Calvin into helping him crack a case of international intrigue and danger. Yep, that’s the script, really. The way it ends is equally cliche’ and even less believable.

Granted, films like this aren’t here to crack new cinematic ground, they’re just here for fun, which is what you’ll generally get here in a very predictable package. I’ll give the film props for trying to add some ingenuity through the Bob Stone character but that’s also where it goes off the rails. Bob Stone is supposed to be the weird angle to Calvin Joyner’s straight line in terms of character dynamics. And he is weird but not in a good way, he comes off a little off kilter and creepy sometimes when I’m not so sure he’s supposed to be like that. Part of my confusion stems from the delivery of Dwayne Johnson who as Stone is trying to get over his childhood traumas while also performing the duties of super spy CIA operative. Strangely, he’s savant-like in that he can orchestrate kicking the ass of numerous guys at one time (while wearing a unicorn shirt) but then revert to being the fat kid when confronted by his nemesis from 12th grade.

Johnson’s portrayal seems forced at times in terms of trying to generate a socially awkward character (which is the opposite of his wrestling persona “The Rock”). While Johnson might be one of the highest paid actors out there at the moment, he still could use some acting lessons. Kevin Hart is Kevin Hart so you know what to expect. The rest of the lineup is fine but it’s all pretty standard delivery. The lineup includes Amy Ryan, Danielle Nicolet, Jason Bateman, and Aaron Paul.

If you have some time to kill and want some filler, then, well, meh…

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Sausage Party

by on Mar.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

sausage partySausage Party is not your typical Pixar-inspired feel good animation love fest. No, this one is rated R for very good reasons and is NOT for the family. That aside, the film is as brilliant as it is crude, and believe me, it’s plenty of both…

The story is set mostly in a grocery store, where at night the products of said store come to life and have their own aspirations and adventures. The goal of these items including food, soap, paper towels, basically anything you can buy, is to get picked up by one of the “gods” (humans) and taken away to the promised land beyond the doors of the supermarket to live happily ever after. Only the truth of it is, these poor sundries have no idea that they’re being set up for consumption, a fact that is revealed to them later to great dismay.

The humor in this film is both low-brow and high-brow at the same time. Many cultural references are placed throughout the film, like how bagel and falafel don’t get along so well in the beginning and how this is creating tension between these different types of food. Now, you might not understand what I mean at first, but if you place bagel within the Jewish cultural landscape compared to falafel from the Middle East, you’ll see what I’m getting at. There’s a lot of subtle nods like that permeating the film in a way that I know I’ll have to go back and watch again to pick up on all the references I missed the first time around.

And I will watch this film again as it is super funny and had me laughing nearly throughout the whole thing. The humor is truly brilliant, at moments tongue-in-cheek while at others totally overt and just bashing you over the head with absurdity. A good example is the orgy at the end, which is of course the “climax” if you will, of the film which was so over-the-top ridiculous you can’t help but get lost in it, laughing out loud all the way.

The actors must’ve had a blast making this one; they’re a lot of fun to listen to and watch through their characters. The crazy ass lineup in this one includes Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill (both of which helped to write the film as well), Kristin Wiig, Michael Cera, James Franco, Bill Hader, Salma Hayek, Anders Holm, Nick Kroll (who is brilliant as “Douche”), Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, Lauren Miller and believe-it-or-not, Edward Norton.

This movie is a blast to watch, I can’t remember the last time a film that made me laugh so much. Definitely check out Sausage Party, but not with the kids!

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Eagles of Death Metal: Non Amis (Our Friends)

by on Mar.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

eagles of death metal non amisDirected by Colin Hanks, this documentary offers an inside, heartbreaking look into the tragic terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan concert hall during a show by the Eagles of Death Metal a little over a year ago. 89 people were killed in the theater, 368 were inujred, 130 total died in what was an act of murder and hate. This film is about not only what happened that night but how the band returned to Paris to perform for the survivors after this horrific incident.

The doc starts with some backstory in terms of how the band formed as a bond between two close friends who both used music as both catharsis and a form of expression. Those friends being Jesse Hughes (guitar and lead vocals) along with Josh Homme who is on drums. If you’re not familiar with Josh, he’s the rock star of the two as some of his credits include Kyuss and most notably Queens of the Stone Age. Both have been best buds since fending off bullies in high school and remain tight to this day. Their friendship is part of the spine of the story and is one of the elements that keeps you glued to the screen as everything plays out.

Interviews with the band, their crew and their friends along with people who attended the concert fill in all the brutal details. It’s compelling to listen to while scary and very sad all at once. To hear it in such a specific way from each person’s standpoint, it’s like they all had their own version of the same horror movie that none of them could escape.

There are uplifting moments here too, and thank God for it. After listening to what happened, I found myself angry and desperately wanting something good to be in here somewhere. Luckily, the end of the film ties up with the band returning to Paris after help and encouragement from their fans and from U2 who stepped up to show their support in the face of malice and intimidation. The calls to action from the people who rallied both in the band and around them are a big inspiration and should be both celebrated and shared as a sign of hope for others.

As hard as this film is to watch, I’m sure I’m going to watch it again, and again.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Logan

by on Mar.12, 2017, under Movie Reviews

loganLogan is one of those rare films that comes along and re-defines a genre. In the case of Logan it’s moreso a drama and less so a movie about superheroes. This time, mutants just happen to be part of the character landscape but they’re kind of forgotten about or treated matter of factly as the timeline is set in 2029. Without the pressure of having to create spectacle, the story is allowed to breathe and becomes much deeper and richer in emotion and tone than previously seen in the genre.

Tied in with the old man Logan version of the Wolverine comic, this film is about the end of the road in a number of ways. I won’t reveal spoilers but one ending here is Hugh Jackman playing the role he played so well for 17 years. I recently saw a retrospective on all the films he’s been part of and it’s pretty awesome to watch and see how he naturally aged with the character and how it all ties together so well.

They’re really going for it on this one, that’s why it’s rated R. So if you’re a parent, think twice about taking your little one to see this one, it’s not for kids, it’s really not. The film is really violent and does not hold back on the language either. Even Prof. X drops in some F-bombs. Speaking of which, the way Xavier is written and delivered is unique, challenging and rewarding to behold…

In regard to the performances – Jackman and Patrick Stewart have never been better. They both portray their characters with more depth and range than in their younger days. Now, both of them are vulnerable, scared, and not so the confident, strong badasses we’ve seen before. Their deliveries in this film is one of the things that kept me glued to every frame of it. Jackman is passionate and seems like the world is just falling out beneath him while Stewart’s Prof. X deteriorates mentally in front of him as he suffers from a degenerative brain disease.

That was another cool thing about this film. The way they did portray the mutant’s powers seems more organic and natural while even more powerful and volatile somehow. You’ll see what I mean when Xavier has a mental episode as that doesn’t work out so well for people anywhere nearby.

If you’re one of these whiners that bitches and moans about they’re never being a “real” Wolverine film (sorry but The Wolverine was a definitive film for the character), Logan should make you shut the hell up about it already, bub.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Tickled

by on Mar.05, 2017, under Movie Reviews

tickledCompelling. Unique. Original. Strange. These are all words I would use to describe the documentary Tickled. Directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve present this bizarre story of how an innocent enough investigation into competitive tickling evolved into an expose on intimidation, public humiliation, hacking and legal threats.

Competitive tickling you say? Yep, it’a a thing. Sort of. But you have to watch who get involved with as there are some sites that promote tickling as an innocent enough fetish alongside something like say a foot fetish. But then, there’s Jane Media and David D’Amato (who has denied all involvement with Jane Media I should add here so he doesn’t bully and threaten me litigiously as he has others). Farrier and Reeve discover Jane through their investigation of this “sport” as an organization that pays big bucks for young men to tie each other up and then get tickled on video.

Initially, the men sign up, make some money and then sometimes that’s it. But it doesn’t always work out so well for the participants where a number of these videos have ended up online to ruin the lives of the guys who join up once they decide that they don’t want to do it anymore. Essentially, they get bullied and threatened when they stop making the videos for Jane and that’s one of the things that drew the filmmakers in to dig further.

You have to really see this one to believe how deep it goes and how strange it gets. The filmmakers are based in New Zealand and after many legal threats telling them to shut down the documentary, they forge on and take the risk of coming to the states to track down the source that’s issuing the letters that are telling them to cease and desist. The long trail does lead to the source I mentioned above and how they get there keeps you tuned in the whole time.

Would definitely encourage a screening of Tickled.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

 

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The Nice Guys

by on Feb.26, 2017, under Movie Reviews

the nice guysSet in 1970s Los Angeles (but shot in Georgia ironically) The Nice Guys pays homage to the detective/buddy cop flicks of the same era. Written and directed by Shane Black and starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling you’d think this would’ve been a sure fire hit but the film fell pretty shy of its $50M budget. Let’s see what happened…

Crowe and Gosling play competing PIs who team up on the same missing person case. Crowe is the heavy who mostly has his shit together where Gosling plays the charmed goofball / comic relief guy who’s also a lousy father and brings his daughter to crime scenes instead of getting a babysitter. The story revolves around the death of a porn star and a missing person on the run who knows too much.

While the setup of the story is pretty good and the film has some solid moments, it suffers from a series of “are you serious?” number of moments. One such moment includes a struggle for a gun that results in a neighbor getting killed and there’s no mention of it after it happens. It’s a really bizarre kind of insert into an action scene. I think it was supposed to be funny the way it was presented but it comes off tragic and dismissive. The film has a strange sense of humor sometimes that don’t seem to really hit the mark. Then there’s the believability of the head of the justice department and her motivations. I don’t’ want to give up any spoilers so you’ll have to see the film to see why I question the validity of her intentions.

The production of the film looks great, the wardrobe, sets, cars, everything hits the 70s on the head. It was fun to look at the various marquees and signs to see the listings of that time. The music is fun and authentic too as were the parties featured in the movie. It’s a shame some of the writing and directing is what ultimately kind of hurts The Nice Guys along with too much presence of Gosling’s daughter’s character. She got kind of annoying after a while.

The cast includes Kim Basinger, Angourie Rice, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, and Gil Gerard.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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Hail, Caesar!

by on Feb.19, 2017, under Movie Reviews

hail caesarHail, Caesar! is the latest offering from the Coen Brothers who brought us classics like No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The film is set in the 50s during the golden age of Hollywood and centers around a “fixer” (which is kind of another name for producer these days) who is trying to keep a studio together while dealing with erratic talent, a kidnapping, and a plot by some disgruntled writers.

The film itself is fun enough but doesn’t quite capture the magic of some of their other releases. In other words, for a Coen film, it’s kinda average which makes it a decent regular film by conventional standards but not a home run. The story itself is ok, with some interesting nods to the paranoia of the entertainment industry at that time as well as to the eccentric behavior that talent is often associated with. However, the dialog and action are not super compelling or exciting but rather run-of-the-mill. There are the occasional unexpected elements here and there but nothing as captivating or surreal as The Big Lebowski. And quite frankly, the ending is sudden and boring.

The actors are fun to watch, George Clooney shows some range, especially when he’s getting pushed around by Josh Brolin. A couple other pleasant surprises include Tilda Swinton playing the smarmy twin writers modeled after Dear Abby / Ann Landers and Channing Tatum showing off his song and dance skills. The film has a helluva lineup featuring Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and Alden Ehrenreich.

If you’re a Coen fan, you should probably give this a whirl and see what you think. If you’re not familiar with their work, don’t start with this one, there are better offerings from the Coens.

reviewed by Sean McKnight

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