Monday, October 27, 2014


Director Lynn Shelton’s Laggies is the quintessential “chicks flick”…which is not a bad thing at all.  In fact, bringing Writer Andrea Seigel’s script to the screen enlightens the male audience to girls’/womens’ thoughts, words and actions a male writer would be unable to conceive or or fathom.

Keira Knightly plays Maggie, a twenty-something in identity crisis, who is put over the edge when her boyfriend proposes at her friend’s wedding and she sees her father being unfaithful to her mother at the same event.

She goes into hiding at the home of a teenager (Chloë Grace Moretz) for whom she bought beer and with whom she shares an affinity for skateboarding. 

Maggie finds herself regressing and, at the same time, progressing as she becomes infatuated with the teen’s lawyer father (Sam Rockwell).

The pace of the film follows Maggie’s development.  It starts out slow and builds to a satisfying conclusion.

I give Laggies a 4 out of 5 for its unique slant.

John Wick

John Wick is a slick action thriller, starring Keanu Reeves as a retired hit man, who comes back into the game when the spoiled son (Omer Barnea) of a Russian drug king (Michael Nyqvist) steals his vintage car and kills his dog…the last gift from his recently deceased wife (Bridget Moynahan).
Co-Directed by David Leach and Chad Stahelski and written by Derek Kolstad, the film has almost more killings than there were in the World War II movie Fury. 

The moral of the story is, “Don’t mess with John Wick, his car or his dog.

If you like revenge films, you'll like this one.

I give John Wick a 3 out of 5.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


In Writer/Director David Ayer’s gritty war film Fury, Brad Pitt gives one of his finest performances to date as Don “Wardaddy” Collier, an American Tank Commander, who has led his team from the North African campaign, through France and, now, in Germany as the War is drawing to a close in April of 1945. 
Cinematographer Roman Yasyanov and Production Designer Andrew Menzies have done a masterful job in recreating the feeling of the time period and Shia LaBeouf, Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal are all excellent in supporting roles as Wardaddy’s team.

That’s the good news.

From the film’s trailer, I felt the success of Fury would rely on how short Ayer would keep the story of the whiny, sissy boy (Logan Lerman), who was afraid to shoot.  Unfortunately, my worst fears were realized as it took fully one third on the movie before this character grew a pair and, to me, the wait was unbearably boring and damaged what could have been a great film. 

For that reason, I can only give Fury a 3 out of 5.


Amazing!  That’s Writer/Director/Producer Alejandro González Iñárritu’s brilliant Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) in a nutshell.

Michael Keaton gives a powerful performance as Riggan Thomson, a once popular movie superhero named Birdman, who is now adapting, producing and starring in a Broadway play as a means of reviving his popularity.  Thomson’s is a bleak, frightful odyssey as he moves toward opening night, not just due to the normal jitters of production, but for the Birdman voice in his head that constantly tears him and his effort down.
What’s great about this film is that it’s open to interpretation as to how much, if any, of Riggan’s super abilities are fantasy or reality and you’re never really sure right up until the end. 

What’s also really great about this film is the incredible camerawork created by Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (fresh off his Academy Award for Gravity) and the fabulous performances of Zach Galifianakis as Riggan’s lawyer/partner, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton as his theatrical co-stars, Amy Ryan as his ex-wife and Lindsay Duncan as the New York Times drama critic, who wants to tear his project down with a vengeance. 
And, that’s not all.  Last week, I hailed Naomi Watts as a definite contender for Best Supporting Actress for her role in St. Vincent.  Well, now she has competition from Emma Stone, who plays the just-out-of-rehab daughter of Keaton’s Thompson and is brilliant.  Also, a shoo-in for best soundtrack with that haunting drumbeat is Composer Antonio Sanchez.

This is a film about the magic of theater and I have to praise Co-Writers Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo for their brilliance, as well.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) well deserves 5 out of 5 stars and an Academy Award nomination.

Monday, October 13, 2014

St. Vincent

Casting Director Laura Rosenthal gave Writer/Director Theodore Melfi the perfect group of actors for him to realize his script St. Vincent.  The result is a gem of a movie.

Everyone has turned in an excellent performance.  Bill Murray is at his irascible best as the grouchy Vincent. Melissa McCarthy as a recently single mother shows she can play  serious as well as comedic roles.  Young Jaeden Lieberher as her son Oliver is a true find and Chris O’Dowd, Terrence Howard and Kimberly Quinn are wonderful in smaller roles.  But, the screen literally sings whenever Naomi Watts appears. If she isn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actress as Daka, a pregnant Russian pole dancer/”lady-of-the-night,” something is very wrong in Tinseltown.
Vincent’s antics are a little hard to take at the outset, but Watts’ Daka and Lieberher’s Oliver bring out his better nature, transforming our opinion of him and providing an enjoyable viewer reward.

Kudos, also, go to the creation of the most clever end credits setup in memory.  Amazingly, no one left the theater until they were over. 

I give St. Vincent a 4+ out of 5.