Sunday, May 31, 2015


Let me start off by saying I enjoyed Writer/Producer/Director Cameron Crowe’s Aloha…despite its problems.

Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bradley Cooper, John Krasinski, Bill Murray, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, Danielle Rose Russell and the rest of the supporting cast all give excellent performances.
But, there’s a problem with the script.  Not that the writing is bad.  In fact, there are some really funny and charming scenes.  The issue is the focus.

The film starts off with photos of Hawaiian history…native history juxtaposed with our military history on the islands.  An expansive story.  However, this is, primarily, a romantic comedy with the more expansive story kept in the background and, therefore, lessened.  So, in some sense, we’re confused and feel cheated.

Then, there’s Bradley Cooper’s character Brian Gilchrist.  He’s loved by two smart women and is respected by the Hawaiian native elders, yet he, basically, acts like a jerk.  So, what are we to feel about him?  Again, we’re confused.

Yet, the biggest problem is the lack of scope.  Cinematographer Eric Gautier did not or was not allowed to show us the breadth of the subject matter…the islands, the planes, the skies.  Everything feels cramped.  The screen size is too small.  A potential epic has been squeezed into a confining box.  Again, we feel cheated.  Here’s a situation in which more budget or better talent was needed.

All that being said, Aloha is still worth a view.  It's just that it could have been and should have been better.  I give it a 3+ out of 5.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I had a lot of high hopes for Writer/Producer/Director Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, but I was, initially, frightened by the cutish opening sequences.  They were too Disney. Everything was too neat and clean. 
But thanks to the engaging Britt Robertson as the can-do main character and the absolutely adorable Raffey Cassidy as an amazing A.I., things picked up considerably and, when Georg Clooney entered the action, the film got better and better until, I must admit, I choked up at the lovely conclusion.

It’s a story about optimism versus pessimism and a call for creating a new type of society before humanity destroys the Earth.  

Production Designer Scott Chambliss has created a fabulous view of the potential future and created intricacies of the Eiffel Tower that will surprise even the most jaded audience members. 

I give Tomorrowland a 4 out of 5. 


The only scary thing about Director Gil Kenan’s remake of the 1982 classic Poltergeist is that he and Writer David Lindsay-Abaire think they’ve created something scary.
This film is pabulum compared to just about any horror film I’ve seen since the laughable Paranormal Activity 4 in 2012.  Not that this one is laughable. It’s more sad that better use could not have been made of the usually wonderful Rosemarie DeWitt and Sam Rockwell.  And it’s a dishonor to the excellent story originally created by Steven Spielberg.

Skip this and see the 1982 version.

I give this Poltergeist a 2 out of 5.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

Moving from Actor/Producer/Shorts Director to long-form Directing, Elizabeth Banks approaches the ranks of the great Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, The Parent Trap) with Pitch Perfect 2.

It’s no news that comedy is more difficult than drama, especially when it comes to directing.  In Pitch Perfect 2, Elizabeth Banks uses her acting skills in front of, as well as behind the camera by pulling excellent performances from her cast, including the increasingly beautiful Anna Kendrick, the talented Hailee Steinfeld, the funny Rebel Wilson and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.  At the same time, she, herself, is in top comedienne form, partnering, again, with the wry John Michael Higgins.
I don’t want to put Ms. Banks on too high a pedestal, yet.  There are a few bits that just lose gas and should have been cut, but she more than makes up for them with scenes that are funny, charming and touching.

Of course, the writing team of Kay Cannon and Mickey Rapkin are responsible for providing the excellent blueprint from which Banks and company were able to work.

It’s no wonder that Pitch Perfect 2 dominated the box office results this weekend.
If you want to have a really good time and walk out to the theater with a big smile, go see Pitch Perfect 2.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

And, I look forward to seeing the next project directed by Elizabeth Banks.


Mad Max: Fury Road

If you think the world is in bad shape now, take a look into the future with Writer/Director/Producer George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

This is not the world in which anyone would choose to live, but Miller gives us a view of the post-apocalyptic dystopia into which humanity might descend, if we’re not more careful and kind.
Survival is the only mode of existence in this desert land where marauders roam in hand-made war machines and sand-worthy vehicles, killing each other and anyone who might have something of value.
A despot (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who is actually looks more terrifying without his scary war costume, rules the water, gas and mines in an oasis and doles out food and liquid in meager rations to his pathetic-looking subjects.

Somehow, he has found Earth’s last 5 beautiful women (Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton), who would do any time in history proud, and has made them his harem.

As the story opens, Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured and used as a human blood bank for the despots son (Nathan Jones).

Luckily for him, one of the despot’s war leaders, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) flees with the harem to find sanctuary in the land of her birth.

What follows is non-stop action with a few laughs, not because of humor, but out of relief at the brief points where the action slightly eases.  

We feel we have survived the action before we’re, once again, thrown into it.  It’s the same feeling you might have on a roller coaster.   

This film is an amazing ride, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
I give Mad Max: Fury Road a 4+ out of 5.