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REVIEW: Boulevard (2015)

September 28, 2015 3 comments
Boulevard (2015)Directed by: Dito Montiel
Produced by: Monica Aguirre Diez Barroso, Ryan Belenzon, Mia Chang, Jeffrey Gelber
Written by: Douglas Soesbe
Edited by: Jake Pushinsky
Cinematography by: Chung-hoon Chung
Music by: Jimmy Haun, David Wittman
Starring: Robin Williams, Kathy Baker, Roberto Aguire, Bob Odenkirk, Giles Matthey, J. Karen Thomas, Giles Matthey
Year: 2015

 

Filmed in 2013, screened at Tribeca in 2014, and finally given a release in 2015, Boulevard was the final film release left with an onscreen appearance in the late Robin Williams’ acting career (Absolutely Anything is the last ever, though Williams appears in voice only). The role isn’t necessarily the one you would have probably expected from the actor had you only ever thought of him as a comedian. After still fairly recent comedic releases like The Angriest Man in Brooklyn and A Merry Friggin’ Christmas, this one last little dramatic film comes our way to at least remind us of what Williams was capable of, even when he wasn’t trying to make people laugh, often times far more effective at making us feel empathy for a character than anything. Read more…

GRUDGE MATCH REVIEW: Fifty Shades of Grey vs. Old Fashioned

July 2, 2015 1 comment
Fifty Shades of Grey vs. Old FashionedFIFTY SHADES OF GREY (Unrated)
Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Produced by: Michael De Luca, Dana Brunetti, E.L. James
Screenplay by: Kelly Marcel
Edited by: Anne V. Coates, Lisa Gunning, Debra Neil-Fisher
Cinematography by: Seamus McGarvey
Music by: Danny Elfman
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Eloise Mumford, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Victor Rasuk, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Max Martini, Callum Keith Rennie, Andrew Airlie, Dylan Neal, Anthony Konechny, Emily Fonda, Rachel Skarsten
Based on the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Year: 2015

 

OLD FASHIONED
Directed by: Rik Swartzwelder
Produced by: Nathan Nazario, Dave DeBorde, Nini Hadjis, Rik Swartzwelder
Written by: Rik Swartzwelder
Edited by: Jonathan Olive, Phillips Sherwood, Robin Katz
Cinematography by: David George
Music by: Kazimir Boyle
Starring: Elizabeth Ann Roberts, Rik Swartzwelder, LeJon Woods, Tyler Hollinger, Nini Hadjis, Maryann Nagel, Lindsay Heath, Joseph Bonamico, Dorothy Silver, Ange’le Perez, Anne Marie Nestor
Year: 2015

 

This review contains spoilers, including the movies’ endings.

 

Alright, everyone, listen up! Things are about to get ugly in here! I’m going to be fanning the flames of a culture war, and it’s bound to make some people kind of angry!

In one corner, we have the inexplicably popular, smutty to a fault movie adaptation of a book that was itself originally an online Twilight fan fiction, written by someone who didn’t seem to catch on to that franchise’s coded abstinence message: Fifty Shades of Grey! In the other corner, we have that film’s chaste, Christian-targeting, message-laden morality tale counterpart, meant to provide a more wholesome alternative for anyone who proudly proclaims that they’ve kissed dating goodbye: Old Fashioned!

… Okay, I can’t keep up that boxing announcer façade. …

Anyway, I’m reviving a very old (and once-used) feature on this blog that I really didn’t enjoy doing the first time around but recently figured would be kind of interesting to try again. (It’s something I’d been meaning to try for a while, anyway, back when I thought about doing it for the original King Kong and its remakes.) The concept behind this grudge match review works pretty much like you’d expect. There will be a series of rounds in which I compare the two movies to one another, and there will be a winner for each round based on which movie succeeds more in that area. What will make this a bit more interesting, however, is the fact these two films aren’t remakes or adaptations of the same source material, but rather polar opposites! The marketing for Old Fashioned proclaimed “Chivalry makes a comeback,” while the BDSM-themed, sex-and-nudity laden Fifty Shades demanded audiences “Lose Control.” As if its obvious opposition weren’t enough, the films were only released one week apart, with Old Fashioned beating Fifty Shades to the punch in an effort to overtake it and likely to encourage people to not give in to the smut.

I’m of the opinion, however, that too often Christian films try to take on too much of a counterculture stance, to the point where they’re not even willing to study the very thing they’re opposed to or portray it in a fair light. As I’ve pointed out countless times before, I am a Christian, and yet I am more often than not finding myself at odds with the image the Christian pop culture industry and the people who consume it propagate for themselves, and flaunting it in non-Christians’ faces (and even the faces of Christians they disagree with), prideful in their willful ignorance. So, I am trying to do something different and see it from all sides in comparing the two movies. It’s actually kind of funny how they actually have some things in common! To be quite honest, though, I’m also trying to have a bit of fun at their expense, too. I mean… neither one of these movies is really any good, so I’m really not going to take this too seriously. I’m also just here to let you know which one is better than the other, too – or, in this case, which one is the least bad.

Read more…

2014 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen

February 7, 2015 1 comment

Under the Skin - Eye

Finally, we come to the films that I actually did see! As with the films I didn’t see, these films will come at you in three parts: the films that were just somewhere in the middle in terms of quality, the films I greatly disliked, and the films I really enjoyed.

I use those qualitative terms just to avoid confusion over what I’m ranking here. The films in this section range from generally bad to generally quite good, but never elevating to excellence or making me fall in love with them or making me hate them with a passion. That being said, I didn’t expect to like some of the films here as much as I ended up liking them, and, of course, I was letdown by others I actually was kind of looking forward to.

If you don’t see the movie here and didn’t see it in the list of films I didn’t see, then you can almost certainly be guaranteed to find them on one of my next two lists, as this is just a portion of the 121 total films I ended up seeing from 2014 as of this writing, whether in theatres, on DVD/Blu-Ray, or through streaming. Read more…

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2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (September – December)

January 31, 2015 2 comments

The Skeleton Twins - Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader

I’m not going to waste too much time this year on introductions. For this third and final part of my review of films I didn’t see, we’re going through the prestige Oscar-baiting season. You know — hammy acting, controversial subjects, beautiful cinematography, politics… It’s often a mixed bag, and for every stunning masterpiece, there’s often a lot of films that misstep and come off like a cheap cheeseburger dressed up to look like prime rib. … I’m hungry.

This is by far the biggest portion of films I didn’t see, largely due to a lot of them coming out so much more recently and not being available to rent, if I missed them in theatres.

Yes, 2014 may have been a record year for me seeing the most movies from that year, but there were still movies I never got around to or never even had the ability to see due to either foreign or limited release. I still like going over them, however, as this process often leads  to me finding some unexpected gems that I might enjoy. Some of these I might become so interested in that I see them before I even get to the films I did see, so there is actually a possibility you might see these films reappear in this 2014 in Review series if that becomes the case.

Anyway, here are many of the films from September to December 2014 that I didn’t see, for one reason or another. It’s by no means complete, but that’s what you get when you’re using Wikipedia and Best of/Worst of lists from other sites. Read more…

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REVIEW: (500) Days of Summer

August 22, 2014 Leave a comment
(500) Days of SummerDirected by: Marc Webb
Produced by: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe, Scott G. Hyman
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Edited by: Alan Edward Bell
Cinematography by: Eric Steelberg
Music by: Mychael Danna, Rob Simonsen
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, Clark Gregg, Patricia Belcher, Rachel Boston, Minka Kelly, Maile Flanagan, Yvette Nicole Brown, Richard McGonagle
Year: 2009

 

“The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Except you Jenny Beckman. Bitch.”

The opening lines to the movie – unspoken, but probably the loudest statement this film makes – sets the tone for the remainder of this quasi-romantic comedy. Reportedly inspired by a real relationship experienced by screenwriter Scott Neustadter, (500) Days of Summer is clear right from the start (heck, even from its title) that this is not a story about everlasting love, but rather a season in passing. In fact, as if that point weren’t clear enough, yes, the girl at the center of the film is, in fact, named Summer. She’s a pretty girl who floats into the life of Tom, our film’s leading man, who is immediately smitten by Summer when she is introduced to everyone at work as the boss’ new assistant at the greeting card company Tom works for (another canny element playing with the theme of cheap, temporary sentiments). Summer is, as I said before, very pretty, seems quite nice, and she shares the same taste in music as Tom, even going so far as to make the first move when she notices this coincidence. Naturally, the two decide to hang out together. And, also naturally, there’s a big misunderstanding about what all this means. Where have you heard that before?

(Minor spoilers ahead.) Read more…

Theatrical Review: “Pacific Rim”

July 16, 2013 7 comments
Pacific RimDirected by: Guillermo del Toro
Produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Guillermo del Toro, Mary Parent
Written by: Travis Beacham, Guillermo del Toro
Edited by: Peter Amundson, John Gilroy
Cinematography by: Guillermo Navarro
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman, Robert Kazinsky, Max Martini, Ron Perlman, Ellen McLain (voice)
Year: 2013

 

In a year that’s been packed to the brim with follow-ups and counterparts to fan favorites, so far, I have to say that, as much as I may have loved movies like Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and even Star Trek Into Darkness, I can declaratively state that one of the best things I’ve seen so far was this giant machines vs. giant monsters film that, despite alluding to anime like Gundam and giant monster movies like Gojira, is a completely original thing. This makes it all that much more of a tragedy, as in its first weekend, it has already fallen behind two sequels – Despicable Me 2, which had already been out for longer than a week but at least has a built-in family audience, and Grown Ups 2, which by all means really shouldn’t be a thing that exists based solely on the amount of figurative and literal human waste that went into making the first, let alone be more popular than something as magnificent as Pacific Rim. (Seriously, all you who looked forward to watching a sequel to the glorified home movie that was the first probably have some kind of issue. Seek help. Also, I hate you.) Read more…

Review: “Stand by Me”

Stand by MeDirected by: Rob Reiner
Produced by: Bruce A. Evans, Andrew Scheinman
Written by: Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon (screenplay)
Edited by: Robert Leighton
Cinematography by: Thomas Del Ruth
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Starring: Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, Bradley Gregg, Casey Siemaszko, Marshall Bell, Frances Lee McCain, John Cusack
Based on the novella The Body by Stephen King
Year: 1986

 

Based on the Stephen King novella The Body and reportedly being the first film adaptation of King’s work that he fully approved of, Rob Reiner’s adaptation, Stand By Me (renamed due to the producers apparently thinking people would think the novella’s original sounded a little too dark or even perverse) is one of those quintessential “coming of age” films – indeed it may be the coming of age film. So much so that watching it for the first time these days after nearly three decades of imitators may take a little bit of adjusted expectations – you may have seen this done elsewhere. Stand by Me sets itself apart, however, with emotional honesty and engaging performances on the part of its four young leads. Read more…

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