The following post will be updated periodically. Movies are presented in no particular order, though they are organized in categories of Good, Okay, and Bad. Ratings are on a scale of 0 to 4 stars. Good is 3 stars or greater, Okay is less than 3 but greater than 2, Bad is less than 2.
Stars: Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Bill Camp, Danielle Rose Russell, Jaeden Lieberher
Written and Directed by: Cameron Crowe
Aloha is a typical Cameron Crowe film – true to life, brimming with genuine characters, dialogue and filled with some laugh out loud moments. Aloha stars Bradley Cooper as a cynical military contractor returning home after a prolonged absence. Emma Stone plays his military liaison, while Rachel McAdams is his jilted ex from years ago, who has since settled with a husband and two children. The film follows Cooper’s character as he navigates not only returning home to the unfinished personal business he left, but also his work life as he desperately tries to get back into the good books of the wealthy mogul who is employing him (a typically delightful Bill Murray). While uneven in spots (feels like a lot was left on the cutting floor to the detriment of the picture) and certainly not Crowe’s best, it is still relentlessly heartfelt and charming in the way that only a Cameron Crowe picture can be. Set aside your cynicism for two hours and this film might just win you over.
My full review of Aloha is available here.
It Follows: ***½
Stars: Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Lili Sepe, Jake Weary
Written & Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
An exceptionally creepy horror film made in a style that brings to mind retro 1970’s slasher films, however It Follows is of immensely higher quality. The plot plays with some of the ageless tropes of the genre horror genre, namely teenage promiscuity, and puts a morbid twist on it – STD’s take on a whole different form in this film. If I’m being vague it’s because I don’t want to give away much of the movie – it would ruin much of the experience to do so. If you’re in the mood for a slow burning horror movie that is heavy on the atmosphere (thanks to a fantastic score and cinematography) and doesn’t rely on shock-gore tactics featured so prominently in contemporary horror movies, then you should find much to enjoy in It Follows.
Ex Machina: ****
Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac
Written & Directed by: Alex Garland
A creepy, slow burning science fiction film that will stay with you past the credits. Oscar Isaac is a billionaire tech genius who invented some Google-like search engine and lives in a massive off the grid estate. Domhnall Gleeson plays an employee who wins a contest and gets to work with Isaac at his estate. Vikander plays a robot created by Isaac – some subtle special effects are utilized to achieve this – and, without giving too much away, the movie revolves around these 3 as Domhnall undertakes the work assigned to him by Isaac. What develops from here is a great thriller that slowly builds up with each passing scene. What adds to this fascinating tale are the well-defined characters in the film that add an additional level to the movie. There is a lot going on in this film and it lends itself to discussion and further examination. Garland has done something special with Ex Machina and it is the perfect antidote to the big budget box office movies that are currently playing. Ex Machina is a small, creepy, thinking-man’s science fiction thriller – highly recommend.
While We’re Young: ***½
Stars: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Amanda Seyfried, Adam Driver, Charles Grodin
Written & Directed by: Noah Baumbach
A very funny, genuine and relatable film that revolves around a middle-aged married couple (Stiller and Watts) who hit a bit of a mid-life crisis when they begin spending time with a younger couple (Driver and Seyfried). The cast is perfect, the writing sharp and pointed and laughs are frequent. The actors throw themselves into their roles, fully embodying them. This is particularly true of Watts, who gets some of the biggest laughs in the film when her character tags along with Seyfried’s for hip-hop dance lessons. Baumbach is on top of his game in While We’re Young, delivering a wonderful and reflective film.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron: **
Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L Jackson, Don Cheadle, James Spader, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Linda Cardellini
Written & Directed by: Joss Whedon
A large, loud and bland entry into the ever-growing Marvel franchise. We all know what the plot is before we see a trailer or the movie; some nefarious villain threatens the world and our plucky band of heroes must band together and save it. Because this formula is so tired and overused, it becomes difficult to care or pay attention when the outcome is so predictable from the outset. Even the massive action scenes where our fearless super-heroes leap into action are becoming significantly less interesting and exciting. In the first Avengers, the on screen chemistry and banter that occurred when the movie was not busy pushing the plot along or introducing us to yet another random character that will get their stand-alone franchise, were the film’s highlights and kept it interesting and fun. Unfortunately, those scenes are few and far between in this entry and as a result, the viewer is likely to find themselves paying less attention (my friend fell asleep in the latter half of the movie) and caring less about the characters or the outcome. When people ask me what I thought of this movie, my reply is “Meh” – that about sums it up perfectly.
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Wei Tang, Leehom Wang, Holt McCallany
Written by: Morgan Davis Foehl
Directed by: Michael Mann
Hemsworth stars as a talented computer hacker who is serving time behind bars when he is set loose to help the authorities hunt down an international cybercrime network following a terrorist attack. The usual elements are there for a strong thriller, particularly with Michael Mann directing, but the film never seems to mesh. Its long, bloated, and there is an obvious lack of chemistry between Hemsworth and Tang, who plays his love interest. That said, there are some compelling sequences in the film and Mann shows he is still one of best action directors in the business. The gun fights in the movie are thrilling and feel authentic, contrary to the staged sequences aided by CGI that are often on display in most movies these days. Still, the action is merely the height of what is a truly mediocre film.
The Gunman: *½
Stars: Sean Penn, Ray Winstone, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Mark Rylance, Idris Elba
Written by: Don MacPherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn
Directed by: Pierre Morel
This movie is a huge clunker that aims high but doesn’t come close to hitting the mark. Sean Penn stars as a remorseful ex-assassin who finds himself in the thick of it when he and his former colleagues become targeted by some unknown entity. The movie is flat and the only thing memorable (at least for this viewer) is Sean Penn’s massive forearms in the movie. For how often we see Sean Penn’s physique shown off duringThe Gunman, it could have been called “The Gun Show” instead. Despite the best efforts from a solid cast (Jaview Bardem, Ray Winstone, and Idris Elba among others), the script is anemic, the story bland and tired, and the action scenes are run of the mill (including the climax, which oddly enough takes place during a bullfight in a city that has outlawed bullfighting for some time). Don’t waste your time on this poor effort – there are far better action films to be seen.