Sunday, August 23, 2015

American Ultra

Possibly the worst thing one can say about a film is that it is Lone Ranger-bad.  Such must be said about “Director” Naim Nourizadeh’s American Ultra.

It goes from incredibly boring to stupid to just plain bad. Even the few “good” scenes are bad because they’re imbedded in “Writer” Max Landis' ridiculous script.

It’s a shame, when one has such good talent as Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Connie Britton and John Leguizamo, to give them such dreck to work with.
 Casting Director Jeanne McCarthy has picked “heavies” that are laughable.  Or was that the fault of Cinematographer Michael Bonvillain and the Make-Up Department for making them look so silly?   And, you can’t believe what they do to make the lovely Connie Britton look bad!

The only thing you might enjoy are some of the remarks from the audience about wanting the “bad guys” to kill the main characters and get this farce over with. 

The entire production is ultra crap.  And the only thing to note is that this is, so far, the worst film of 2015.

I give it a .5 out of 5.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

 Writer/Director Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a bold, realistic coming-of-age story about a teenage girl in the early-‘70s, living in San Francisco.
Libido comes alive as like a tornado as Minnie (Bel Powley) gets sexually involved with her mother’s (Kristen Wiig) boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård).  And, that’s only the beginning!
Heller doesn’t hold back with the truth of this and many such stories of young women in the pre-AIDS era.  It would have difficult for a male director to have attempted such a film.  If nothing else, though there is fine directing no matter the sex, this film shows why there should be more female directors making movies.

The only negative is that Editors Marie-Hélène Dozo and Koen Timmerman didn’t trim the film a bit more.  But, this probably wasn’t their call.

I give The Diary of a Teenage Girl a 3.9 out of 5.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Writer/Director Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a valiant attempt to recreate the feel of the early Bond and Flint films of the ‘60s.  And, together with Production Designer Oliver Scholl and Cinematographer John Mathieson, for the most part, Ritchie succeeds.
The film is a lot of fun to watch.  It has action, adventure, laughs, wit, charm and the feel of a simpler time, when the “enemy” was clear and the “good guys” were dapper.

Henry Cavill is quite Bondian and could very well have taken over from Sean Connery. Alicia Vikander could have also been a “Bond Girl”…one of the smarter ones.  Elizabeth Debicki is a delicious villainess.  And, even Armie Hammer goes a long way toward making amends for his disastrous performance in one of the worst films ever made, i.e., The Lone Ranger.  I, also, have to give a shout out to Sylvester Groth for a truly diabolical performance as Uncle Rudi.

If you liked Kingsman: The Secret Service, you will enjoy The Man from U.N.C.L.E., as well.

I give it a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ricki and the Flash

 In Director Jonathan Demme’s Ricki and the Flash, Meryl Streep, once again, proves there’s nothing she can’t do.

Here, she shows a solid singing voice as Ricki, a local rock star at a Tarzana, California music hall, who left a country club lifestyle in Indianapolis, Indiana twenty years earlier, so that she could pursue her career.   

Contacted by her ex-husband (Kevin Kline) about the breakup of their daughter’s (Mamie Gummer) marriage, Ricki heads back to the family she abandoned.
Everyone in the film gives a crackerjack performance and Rick Springfield deserves as special shout out for his work as Ricki’s lead guitarist and boyfriend.

While I enjoyed the film overall, there was, in my mind, a very odd decision with Writer Diablo Cody’s story.

For more than half the film, I was engrossed with the mother-daughter story, which I felt was not fully resolved before Ricki left to go back to California.  Then, it was almost as if I was watching a new story about Ricki and her boyfriend’s relationship.  Then, that morphed into a third story of going back to Indiana for her the marriage of one of her son’s (Sebastian Stan).  And, oddest point of all, the daughter was nearly left out of that story. 

For that reason, I can only give Ricki and the Flash a 3.4 out of 5.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I can’t think of a film with a more apt title than Writer/Director Christian Petzhold’s Phoenix, nor a film with a better final shot.
This is a haunting film about a holocaust survivor (Nina Hoss), who was so disfigured by beatings in her prison camp that reconstruction has made her unrecognizable even to her husband (Ronald Zehrfeld), for whom she is searching…and may have betrayed her to the Nazis.

While Hoss is outstanding in this production, kudos also have to go to Nina Kunzendorf, her plays the friend, who is trying to help with her rehabilitation and have her go to the budding Jewish land in Palestine.

Cinematographer Hans Fromm, Editor Bettina Böhler, Composer Stefan Will and Production Designer Kade Gruber all deserve high praise for this sad, but, ultimately, redemptive film.

I give Phoenix 4.8 out of 5.