Saturday, July 28, 2012

Preview: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

I don't know about everyone else, but if I saw a book entitled "The Perks of Being a Wallflower", I would have purchased it immediately. Perks? Really, there are perks to being a shy kid? You could have fooled me because I didn't encounter any when I was the one leaning against the cinder block wall of my school's gymnasium hoping no one would notice me. Or being petrified of being called on in class to answer in front of everyone. *Shivers* Yes, I was one of those awkward teenagers that just didn't seem to fit in with any crowd, so I kept to myself or hung out with a friend or two who also seemed to be a bit of an outcast.

Recently, I saw the preview for the film adaption for The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Logan Lerman (of Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lighting Thief) and Emma Watson (of the  Harry Potter films.) 

From the preview the film looks very interesting, but we will just have to see. Due out September 14th, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Preview: SCREEN

Alright TOP fans, I have a teaser trailer for you to see today. SCREEN

This is a horror, thriller film by David Paul Baker. You all know I love a good thriller, but I am bit of a chicken when it comes to horrors. However, I saw his first film: Mission X (2009) recently and really liked it (review to follow soon). So, I am pushing the chicken in me aside and watching SCREEN. (If you would like to view this film, go to the website and see how to there.)


Click on the Mission X link to view preview and film. It's a great preview - doesn't show too much, YAY!!

I would like people to know a bit more about this filmmaker. He is creating movies from very small budgets, using crowdfunding, not going a Hollywood route and has a drive that will inspire anyone who has a dream. Here is something I just found, an episode of a doc web series, from the filmmaker on YouTube that will explain a little bit more about how he created his first couple of films.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

Question: What was your first reaction when you heard Hollywood was rebooting Spider-Man? Honestly, I thought, “Why? It’s only been a decade since Tobey McGuire came out as the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. A decade!!” And then I got really annoyed but I can’t control what Hollywood does and nor do I want to, but this seemed like a waste to me.

I may have mentioned, a time or two, how much I dislike remakes, reboots and just the general laziness I think Hollywood is taking regarding movies and the mass production of uninteresting films or films that ALREADY HAVE BEEN MADE!!! So, I won’t bore you again with another full-on rant, but this one really threw me as to why or who decided to make this so quickly after such a well-made and beloved franchise.

But then I thought of my son and how much he wanted to see it after I read on the internet they were redoing the series. After watching the trailer, and despite my apprehension, I saw the HUGE smile on his face and I knew right then and there I would take him to see it. He LOVES Spider-Man, from his Spider-Man covered bed sheets, to his, at least, five Spider-Man action figures and other Spidey games and toys; Spider-Man is always near him in one form or another. It is the one superhero he always asks for when it’s birthday or Christmas time. Oh, I forgot to mention he has a ton of the web slinger’s comic books. The Amazing Spider-Man went on the must-see list, his not mine, and I knew he would enjoy the film – no matter what.

Nonetheless, I was still less than excited to see this version, but I was interested in seeing Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. The actor has already proven his acting chops in The Social Network and Never Let Me Go. Two films where I thoroughly enjoyed his performances. So I was curious, a little.

Well, the movie came out a few weeks ago and it took me a little while to convince myself I could sit through it. Yes, I know I sound like I went in with a preconceived notion about the latest Marvel film, but many of us do. I am a movie fan first and a critic second, and I was NOT a fan of seeing a reboot. However, I kept my mind open and my mouth shut as the movie started.

All in all, I found the reboot to be a mediocre film….and with that said, I really don’t want to make this a long review and pick it apart. Although despite my earlier prejudices, I did enjoy some of the movie. Andrew Garfield did a wonderful job, and I didn’t find myself comparing his performance to Tobey McGuire’s, which surprised me. So I am giving it points there. Also, the casting of Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben and Aunt May was a perfect match.

A lot of the film, or story line, was different from what I know about Spider-Man, and in case you are going to see it, I will keep the differences to myself. But I will say, some I liked and some I didn’t.

The special effects were good, of course, but that hardly makes a movie for me. If the story isn’t there, then you lose me as a fan. This Spider-Man lost me on the overall story between the hero and the villain – and that’s all I will say about that. However, my son really enjoyed the film: the effects, the villain, the jokes, etc….He smiled throughout the entire film but he did say Spider-Man 2 was still his favorite Spidey movie as we were walking out of the theatre.

But to be a good reviewer, I just wanted to check and see if that was still accurate. So I asked him again, just now, and he’s already changed his mind and said The Amazing Spider-Man was the best of all the Spider-Man films. And he added that Tobey McGuire didn’t really fit the part once he saw Andrew Garfield’s performance. (I might be raising a future movie reviewer…haha.) Maybe Hollywood does know something about these reboots, remakes, and comic book heroes, oh my.

My favorite thing: Andrew Garfield. He really is an amazing actor.

My least favorite: The villain and his story with Spider-Man.

Directed by Mark Webb, Columbia Pictures, 2012.

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Thriller

Rating: PG-13
Length: 136 minutes

Review: 5 out of 10

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Question: If you could go back in time, what time would you return to and why? Normally I answer, or vaguely answer, my own questions in these reviews but I’m not going to on this one. I am not an overly nostalgic person unless it has to do with a film or a band. Plus, after seeing Safety Not Guaranteed this past weekend, I learned a valuable lesson.

Sorry if this confuses anyone but you will just have to see Safety Not Guaranteed to understand what I am referring to….or trying to, at least.

 I have wanted to see this film for a long time. There was just something about the story that drew me to it – not too long ago I even posted the preview on here; and I save those posts usually for films that I think will be interesting, unique or that tell a story that will move me. This one did, not drastically, but enough to get me out of my writer’s block (fingers crossed) and make me contemplate parts of my life.

That’s what I want from most films, art, books, etc…an opportunity to think; notice something you hadn’t before; and look upon an idea with a fresh perspective, etc… Safety Not Guaranteed took on an age-old idea: looking back on your past with regret and hoping you can change things so you wouldn’t be unhappy now. And the filmmakers made a charming, perfectly decent film that will just make you smile. Plus, they added the idea of time travel. Who wouldn’t like that, right?

So, I ask again, would you want to go back in time and why? For most, I believe, the reasoning will involve another person: a partner, girlfriend, boyfriend, parent or someone with whom you hurt or they did something that haunts you, still. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are thrust upon us. We fall in love with the wrong person, or the right person, and hearts get broken no matter what. Also, we can be cruel to another. Admit it – we have ALL been there. We are human. Safety Not Guaranteed represented several aspects of people’s regret and/or searching for the cure to change their current situation. And I think most will be able to relate.

Now the next question(s): Could we fix it? Should we fix it? Would we be better off if we changed these brief, few moments of the past? Or are we where we are supposed to be? Thinking about regrets is enough to drive you a little mad.  And that’s how the actor in this film, Mark Duplass’ character, is portrayed. Someone who must be insane because he puts a classified ad in the paper requesting  a partner go back in time with him. He declares it will be dangerous and your safety will not be guaranteed. His ad intrigues a magazine editor – enough to send a writer and two interns to check the story out.

There are a couple other character in this film that display the same sort of desire to change their present by reaching towards the past:  The young intern, Darius, played by Aubrey Plaza and her boss, Jeff, played by Jake. M. Johnson. Both these characters represented the vast differences on why someone would want to go back in time. I liked both characters, a lot. In fact, Jeff was one that kept the comedy going in this film. He’s the type of guy you don’t want to like but he evokes sympathy when you aren’t expecting. Darius is a sarcastic girl that has a deep, hidden secret on why she is unhappy now.

As for the rest of the story, no more details. Just go see this film. It is slated as a comedy, and it was absolutely funny at parts but it is not slap stick or a joke every few minutes type of film. The humor is subtle and well placed. Safety Not Guaranteed showed real humor, the humor we all have in our lives. The absurdity that is ever present – that’s what makes it a comedy. However, I would categorize this as a drama as well. And that’s a compliment.

Bottom line: Just give me a good story, tell it well and with respect (especially for the audience), and you’ve got a fan in me. Safety Not Guaranteed did all three. Well done!

My favorite thing: There might too many things to list here. I just really, really liked this film. Okay, I laughed OUT LOUD when Jeff raises his fists in the air. His reaction to what was happening just kept me smiling and smiling.

My least favorite thing: I got nothing this time.

Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Big Beach Films, 2012 

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Jake M. Johnson, Mark Duplass, Karan Soni, Jeff Garlin and Kristen Bell.

Rating: R
Length: 86 minutes

Review: 9 out of 10

Download soundtrack:

Friday, July 13, 2012

Preview: Compliance

I keep reading and hearing about the new indie film, Compliance. So, I finally took a look at the trailer. WOW! This one is based on true events and bizarre ones to boot. Many seem to believe that this couldn't actually happen. I suppose it made some uncomfortable. Who knows?

Genre: Drama, thriller

Written and directed by Craig Zobel. Due out August 2012.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Question: Are you afraid of needles? I am, never in my life have I ever been able to handle needles. When I was a child, my fear was so intense that when I would get a cavity filled I would forgo the Novocain because the huge metal syringe looked like a torture device. I would just raise my hand when the dentist hit the nerve. Then he could continue drilling. I know it’s not logical, at all, but something about the huge needle coming at me scared me to death.

Of course, over time I have learned to tolerate (hide) my fear; but I still have a small, silent panic attack whenever I see a needle during any doctor’s visit. And I just finished watching the film, Puncture, and now have a more elevated fear of needles. That does not mean it was a bad movie or story. On the contrary, I am glad I watched it and learned something about needle use and manufacturing in our country.

However, I am slightly angry at the moment. Right after the film I was almost numb because it was based on true events that shocked me. Then I began to really think about the story, in its entirety, and a wave of annoyance slowly crept in. Corporate greed and government corruption or manipulation, whatever you want to call it, is at the base of Puncture. To be honest, when the film began I had presumed it had a completely different plot. Chris Evans stars in it, and I believe I saw a preview for it awhile back but just saw that he was a lawyer (Mike Weiss) with a drug problem so I assumed the movie was about him and his issues. I was wrong.

Now I won’t go into detail about the film, as per my usual, but I will say you will learn about safety syringes in Puncture; and you will be glad someone invented them. The lead actor, Chris Evans, deserves the main focus of this review because many are used to him playing superheroes and not this type of role. He plays a character that I didn’t like and liked at the same time. That is very difficult to pull off, and he did it so well that I am still trying to figure out if the like outweighs the dislike or vice versa.

Bottom line, Chris Evans plays a drug addict. A fairly functional drug addict but he had more vices that will just rub you the wrong way. For example, he’s unfaithful, selfish, and arrogant. Plus, he’s a charmer, an ability that you know he uses to make people deal with his negative attributes whether they want to or not. Anyway, he and his partner take on a new client and his character’s drive to “win” the lawsuit is where everything gets muddy. As you watch Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) pursue his case, it is unclear what drives him to win the case: obtaining justice or he just has to win because he is so competitive. Or was it the drugs?

Watching someone doing his job high as a kite on pain killers and cocaine and unable to quit was disheartening. Chris Evans was so good in this role that I forgot about the other characters he has played. There was one scene when he is in a politician’s office and his reaction to their words gave me goose bumps. Despair, desperation and conviction were all portrayed within the short scene and it was very powerful; and Chris Evans deserves some accolades for this part. Puncture wasn’t an easy watch but worth it.

There is a line in this film that really stuck out for me, “Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places.” A wonderful line that I hope inspires people as it inspired me.

Directed by Adam Kassen, Mark Kassen, Cherry Sky Production, 2011

Starring: Chris Evans, Mark Kassen, Vinessa Shaw, and Brett Cullen

Genre: Drama

My favorite thing: Chris Evans. He was truly wonderful in this film. A great performance.

My least favorite thing: That this story is true - especially about the needles.

Rating: R
Length: 100 minutes

Review: 7 out of 10

Watch Instantly: Puncture

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Preview: The Sessions

As you know I am always on the hunt for indie films and/or films that try something new and different. Today I hit the jackpot! I went to my normal sources to find some up coming movies and found The Sessions. I had no idea about this film. I hadn't even seen or noticed one thing about it in all my social networking research prior to this; but when the preview started, and I saw it won Audience Winner for Sundance 2012, I was immediately intrigued.

The preview starts and I hear William H. Macy's voice, a huge fan of his. Then I see John Hawkes is in it. Last year I saw him in Martha Marcy May Marlene and he quickly went on my list to find more of his films. His performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene was brilliant, so it was nice to see he is in the lead on the new film by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Take a look.

Ben Lewin wrote and directed this film. It stars John Hawkes, Helen Huntand William H. Macy

The Sessions is due out for release in October 2012 in limited release so you will need to hunt for it.

My review of Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Remember the past....Fame

There are just certain movies that will never leave you. They make permanent imprints somewhere in your subconscious. Years, perhaps decades, go by and you think you forget about them but deep down the feelings it evoked, the emotions it would change, and the freedom it allowed you to have for a few short hours resonate somewhere off in the distance. And then one thing can happen like a hearing a tune, or a specific line or even something as little as one word, and the memories come flooding back. WOOSH! Then you start recalling specifics, smiles emerge. More scenes pop in and you rush to your laptop, like I am doing right now, to go to YouTube and look up those scenes to see if you remember them correctly.

Minutes pass quickly as you play scene after scene. Now maybe 30-45 minutes pass but you don't notice because you have been transported back to when you were 12 years-old and all the dreams you had then have fill current space and time. It's hard not to smile, even giggle, because you might remember what you used to wear because the film inspired you. Perhaps the film lent you a catch phrase you'd say when you wanted to make someone pay attention. Maybe the memory comes back of you sitting in front of the mirror alone in your room, singing along with the soundtrack trying to picture yourself as one of the characters because you thought they were more interesting than you.

Thousands of memories, too many to describe, but I know each and every one of you have dozens of films floating around in your brain right now, and maybe not at this instant, but soon, a spark will occur and you will be transported back to the past.

Tonight, I am sitting on the chaise lounge, in the dark, with headphones on and I am listening to a few songs from a movie that just popped in head. I was actually trying to sleep, something that is never easy for me to do because my mind wonders, usually about films. Then it happened. The phrase, "on my own" tripped across the random thoughts and stopped there. Three words just stood there, almost floating above my head, eyes shut, tossing and turning. Then it began...the memories. I hear a single piano starting to play. I tossed the sheets back, grabbed my laptop, clicked on the YouTube icon and I found it:

Yeah, yeah this was one of the "mirror songs" for me; and I have a feeling for a few of you out there as well. Go ahead, admit it. I won't tell anyone.

Okay, now that we're all in a sullen mood let's bring on the smiles and perhaps a little toe-tapping.

Anyway, after I finished "Out Here On My Own" from the original Fame, I went searching for other songs and scenes from this film. And I came upon this one....

"Shady Sadie, southern lady...." Who's groovin' now? I am personally sitting here slightly shifting my shoulders, trying hard to type but still keep up with the beat of the song. It ain't easy.... ha-ha...Love the lunch ladies....Okay, sorry I have to let the song finish before I continue....whew. That was fun.

Fame was one of my childhood go-to soundtracks and VHS tapes. I felt more mature when I watched the film. Heck, I wasn't even in high school when it came out. I was only 10 years old but saw it a few years later once it was released on video.

There was just something about the aura of a school of the arts, the struggle of artists, who were just kids, trying to learn their craft. Some realizing they didn't have enough talent, while others had the talent but trusted the wrong people. Fame took on many controversial topics for 1980. Homosexuality, suicide, pornography, abortion, poverty, etc…Also, it showed just how hard it was to find a career in the arts. Hollywood loves a happy ending, especially when it comes to films about certain talents like singing and dancing, but Fame showed a grittier side, probably a more realistic side than most films. (Okay, maybe not everyone dances on top of cars when a song starts playing out of taxi but, hey, it was still just a movie. There's got to some level of fantasy, right?)

I didn't attend a school of the arts, although my school had a fantastic drama department. (That's another story - one I'll tell you about someday when I actually acted in a few plays.) And I didn't have a talent like dancing, singing or acting even though I just mentioned I attempted to perform on stage. Fame taught me about conviction the students had, the level of self-esteem and belief in their abilities - that they could do something with their lives. Sure, they all struggled from self-doubt but they kept on trying and that inspired me, and still does today.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane. Now I am off to go find a photos of me in legwarmers…

P.S. Yes, I watched the television show.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

People Like Us

Question: Do you ever go into a movie, you like it at first, then something happens that you can’t quite put your finger on, but something is just off? A semi-bad feeling hazes over your opinion of the film, and you hope it gets to the point or something because you are losing interest, and fast. However, you stay in the theatre and continue on hoping it will get better. It finally finishes and you sink deeper into the seat, perplexed at what the filmmakers were thinking. And then you realize you just didn’t like the film. Honestly, I hate it when that happens and it happened with People Like Us.

I am still confused about the movie. It did start off well. Chris Pine plays a salesman, of sorts. He’s a fast talking, smooth dude who can charm anyone to do business with him. I liked his character immediately. Then we meet Jon Favreau, his boss, and they have a funny conversation and I relax into the story.  All is good and then the pace slowed down and never quite picked back up.

Bottom line, the story is about one particular family, how the children were raised, death of a parent, not really knowing what certain family members did or did not do, and being bitter about it all. I had no problem with all that. Many films take on the "family misunderstood" theme and can tell a heart-warming story with decent resolutions. However, in People Like Us, the filmmakers kept trying to tug at the heartstrings and it became redundant. By the middle of the movie, I was bored and a little annoyed but I stuck it out. Unfortunately, the movie never got back to an authentic voice and I just didn’t care for it.

Most of the acting was appropriate to the story-line, I think. Chris Pine did a fine job with his character, but there was something off with Michelle Pfeiffer’s character or the way she played it. She portrays Chris Pine’s mother and most of her scenes were with her son. The mother/son relationship, although strained, was just hard to comprehend. I am still unclear how a mother could treat a son, even a selfish one like him, with such disdain, or what I took as disdain. See, I am still confused. I know family members don’t get along, for whatever reason, but the “reason” for all the strife in the family in People Like Us was bland and unendearing.

Elizabeth Banks was also in the film and she did a good job with what she was given. As I have said in past reviews, she normally takes on comedy roles, but her dramatic side is getting quite good. I think I understood her character the most. I won't say why but to hint at motherhood isn't an easy deal, so I could relate to some of her responses. However, her connection to the others in the film just pushed the over abundance of forced dilemmas in People Like Us to bore me.

Directed (and co-written) by Alex Kurtzman, DreamWorks SKG, 2012.

Starring: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jon Favreau, and Olivia Wilde.

Genre: Drama

My favorite thing about the film: The scene between John Favreau and Chris Pine in the beginning.

My least favorite part: The mother/son relationship. Plus, part of it reminded me of Rain Man. I just wanted something more original, I suppose.

Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes

Review: 3 out of 10