Thursday, January 29, 2015


There have been some good movies that take place over an evening dinner party. The film Coherence takes that setting and adds a sci-fi wrinkle that is intriguing and a bit mind-bending. I don't want to say much about the plot because the mysteries are good as surprises. I struggled with this one, but it was a good film. Good to rent so that you can re-watch confusing scenes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Interview

There was a hack and a huge controversy surrounding the release of The Interview around the holidays. Violent threats were credited to North Korea and the wide release was canceled. After a few weeks the film found a home on small art-house screens and online. After all of the furor it landed on Netflix this weekend. The film is a silly, sophomoric comedy. Butt and poop jokes abound. I feel like this story may have benefited from making the target a fictional country. There are glimmers of good comedic structure, but the film would then devolve to silly. I can see how some will find this film hilarious, I did not. Amusing at best.

The Judge

The film critics I usually trust gave The Judge such tepid reviews that I did not see it in the theater. With Robert Duvall's Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, I rented the film from iTunes to while away the morning after the Blizzard of 2015. What a pleasant surprise. A story of a family with their issues. A court case with secrets. An old love is rekindled. Though a bit formulaic, I enjoyed the story and the performances. A good rental.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Days, One Night

To most people, thier job is their lifeline. We have bills, commitments, homes, families. In the film Two Days, One Night a woman tries to approach all of her coworkers to influence a vote allowing her to keep her job. Her pleas are gutsy and heartfelt as she spends the weekend laying her future at the feet of these people. The reactions are varied and a few are surprising. This is a quietly intense French film. Well done.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


It's one thing to record the news, it's another to create it. In Nightcrawler a deranged young man sees an opportunity in filming night-time crime and disasters. He goes into the business of selling the footage to a local news station. He makes demands, offers ultimatums, withholds evidence and becomes rather despicable in the interest of getting the most dramatic footage that he can sell for the highest dollar. He becomes devious and manipulative. The final chase scene is a wild ride. This was quite a film. I really liked it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam is a master of unusual storytelling and amazing visual effects. His latest film, The Zero Theorem is worthy of his reputation. Qohen is in search of the meaning of life and desperate for his "call". Management is unsympathetic, but a teenager lends his knowledge and energy where he can. A sumptuous film that challenges the imagination.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

White Bird in a Blizzard

In what seems to be a story of teen angst, White Bird in a Blizzard, becomes a mystery and a thriller. A teenager copes with her mother's abandonment of the family and lives with her father. She sees a therapist, embarks on an inappropriate relationship and goes to college. The final reveal is pretty grisly. Decent rental.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Favorite Films 2014

I have finally put together my Favorite Films of 2014 list. This was a good year for film, and I enjoyed the small, thoughtful films that were in abundance. There were a lot of wonderful performances and creative ways to tell these stories. These are the films that tickled my fancy this year. It's an even dozen. Click on the title to see what I thought.

Begin Again
Guardians of the Galaxy
Gone Girl
St. Vincent
The Bobadook
Cheap Thrills
The Lego Movie

P.S. End credits were very creative this year: 22 Jump Street, The Boxtrolls, American Sniper and The Hobbit to name a few. Sometimes it's worth sitting through "the words" as my grandson calls them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson successfully made three films out of a little book called The Hobbit. As a film fan I dutifully saw all three. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies expands the characters and their struggles, first with a dragon, then with Orcs. The battle scenes are chaotic and creative. The final battle runs about 45 minutes and is intricate and surprisingly immersive. I'm sorry that the journeys to Middle Earth have ended, but Mr. Jackson and all involved should be proud of the work.

Torn Curtain

In a recent interview with Julie Andrews, I learned that she had been in a Hitchcock film in the 60s. Her co-star was Paul Newman and the film was Torn Curtain.Renting the film I was reminded of Hitchcock's talent for frame after frame of beautiful, meticulous shots. The story is a political thriller and the Curtain is The Iron Curtain. Newman and Andrews are excellent in this, I'm glad I saw it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

American Sniper

In the film American Sniper we see the story of Chris Kyle's service life based on his book. Kyle was a Navy Seal and specifically an accomplished sniper. The shooters who protect ground forces. The film delves into his enlistment, deployments and the effect they had on his personal life and psyche. The war scenes are intense. The ending was a bit of a shock, as I did not know anything about the man. The emotional level of this movie is high. The credits are silent and the theater emptied in silence as well. Dramatic story well told.


Knowing that you are an orphan is one thing. Looking for your family as a young adult is another. In Ida a polish nun goes to her aunt to find her parents. The two set off to find the person who can tell them the story. The aunt is less than virtuous and the two make interesting travel companions. This is a good story and is beautifully shot in black and white. Excellent film.

The Two Faces of January

When a couple runs into trouble in Greece, they turn to a young expat for help. Murder, jealousy and lies are the path in The Two Faces of January. Excellent performances and old fashioned intrigue make this a film worth seeing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Men, Women & Children

In watching Men, Women & Children you could think that technology is to blame for the actions of the characters. Texts, e-mail, video games and websites are the vehicles to their bad behavior. Under the surface, the reality is that these are just horrible people doing terrible things no matter what the method. You could have set this story in the 50s and they would have done the same things, just with different methods of communications. Technology is not the demon here, human nature is. Whew.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Inherent Vice

About an hour and a half into Inherent Vice you feel like you should be high from the second-hand smoke of all the weed being smoked. The story is set in the 70s in LA, and a private detective is trying to track down the kidnapper of an ex-girlfriend. Joaquin Phoenix gives an amazing performance as the PI, with intensity and humor. Constantly high, constantly smoking, he works his way through clues and bad guys to find his lady love. Crazy story, crazy film with a great cast. Well done.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Racial issues in the US are an ugly piece of the fabric of American history. We needed laws to make us treat each other, regardless of race, like human beings. In the film Selma we relive the march from Selma to Montgomery, AL to protest unjust voter registration harassment toward African-Americans in 1965. We see the relationship, negotiations and politics between LBJ and Martin Luthor King, Jr. We see King working non-violent protest strategies with SCLC and SNCC in Selma, which was strained as well. The violence in the first attempt is appalling and disturbing. It took three tries but they made it to demand rights they already legally had. This is a deeply moving film and as important today as it was in 1964. Powerful film.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Guest

In The Guest the arrival of a young man on the doorstep of a bereved family kicks off a series of events that are bloody and violent. And who the heck is he anyway? A solid thriller with the added mystery of mistaken identity.This was a decent rental.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Who is Shep Gordon? Only one of the most influential people in entertainment history. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon takes us on the ride of his life. There are so many incredible stories and the editing and use of old film footage is creative and interesting. What a life, what a story!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Life Itself

Roger Ebert was an icon. The documentary Life Itself shows us why. Though arrogant and sometimes pompous, he taught us how to look at movies and discern why we did or did not like a film. We get a look inside his personal life as well. Interesting documentary.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Story of Luke

Autism is a struggle. In The Story of Luke we see a young adult with autism deal with the real world, employment, relationships and resposibility. There is struggle and compassion along the way. I liked Luke and I liked this film.


Prisoner of war stories can be very compelling. In Unbroken the story of Louis Zamperini is told. From the plane crash, to the prisoner of war camp, to freedom, to forgiveness. The prison scenes are especially brutal, but the ending brings emotional relief. Quite a guy, quite a story. It's nice to know that he saw a rough cut of the film just before he passed away.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Trip to Italy

One of my dream trips is to the Mediterranean coast. In The Trip to Italy I get a little taste of what that trip would be like. Food, culture and the side effects of being away from home are all explored. And oh the food! As much a character as the actors. A lovely trip.

Big Eyes

Ever wonder who painted those spooky large-eyed children you see on cards and posters? Big Eyes tells the story of the artist Margaret Keane and her oppressive, abusive husband who took credit for much of her work. An interesting look at this piece of art history.

Into the Woods

There is nothing quite like a Sondheim musical. Into the Woods is brought to the big screen, blending familiar fairy tales to create a whole new tale. A bit dark, but sometimes very funny. Familiar stars show off their singing talents, some pleasantly surprising.The special effects make this one to see on the big screen. Very entertaining.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Imitation Game

Technology has not always been around. People used to noodle problems with paper and pencil until the industrial revolution. In The Imitation Game we see the birth of the computer in WWII as intelligence officers try to decode Nazi messages. The performances in this film are top notch. In my opinion, this is one of the best films of the year. It is amazing to me that this operation has been kept secret for over 50 years. What a story. What a film!


With wealth can come eccentricities masked by good intentions. In Foxcatcher we see this with John duPont and his training camp for Olympic level wrestlers in the 80s. Money meets creepy. That bully mentality of "look at everything I'm doing for you" while asking athletes to turn their backs on their families and lives is unnerving. The acting in this film is outstanding and I was a bit shocked by the ending. Excellent drama.

Thursday, January 01, 2015


Cheryl Strayed took off on an adventure and wrote a book about it. It was optioned for a movie and we get to go with her in the film Wild. I heard Strayed talk about her memoir on Live Wire! Radio a few years ago and found her to be very interesting and engaging. No matter why, to choose to walk a thousand miles is daunting. She faced her demons and found a little peace. This film was uplifting and inspiring.

Big Hero 6

When technology meets family meets superheroes we get Big Hero 6. Boy genius works his tech savvy in a effort to connect with family in surprising ways. A wonderful robot, Baymax, provides the heart and humor that is the strength of this film. Great family film!