Movie Review: Creed (2015) – The Best Rocky Film Yet


The day before Thanksgiving saw some great new releases, and coming out on top is the critically acclaimed Creed, based on the prior Rocky franchise. I’ll admit to being prejudiced, as I loved Rocky, but have to say, that this one pretty much beat out all the others, as far as I’m concerned.

Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) is the son of Apollo Creed, Rocky’s former rival and eventual friend. His father is dead but Adonis still wants to connect with him, so off he goes to Philadelphia, where we meet a contentedly retired Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) who is running his own Italian restaurant. Then, the champ comes out of retirement, this time to coach the hopeful newcomer into filling his deceased father’s shoes.


Despite the fact that this movie comes 39 years after the release of the original, it still has a nostalgic feel that helps fans of the original identify with the film. It’s your standard movie, where the underdog makes good, but it still works. Classics are classics for a reason, after all.

Jordan plays the plucky newcomer quite well, and brings a level of depth to a character that was at risk of becoming cliché. The training montages, love interests and fight scenes don’t feel like clichés. They feel comfortable and enjoyable. While you can see the punches coming from miles away, it’s still a great, and enjoyable effort.

That’s because they also managed to make this contemporary. They didn’t just regurgitate the same old stuff, but instead created a new and exciting movie about a character we can genuinely care about. The movie isn’t dependent on nostalgia, and Creed is a standalone rather than a sequel, but I could see another franchise come out of this.

One thing I like about this movie is that it didn’t go with the inner-city cliché. In the beginning of this. Adonis is actually a white collar worker who believes there’s something more. He doesn’t go to Philadelphia because it’s his last resort. It’s an attempt to find some common ground with a father he never knew.

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It’s clear that the director has some affection for the Rocky franchise. He references the great, and the corniest moments of Rocky without being apologetic. He’s not filming this as some kind of tongue in cheek parody. Instead, it’s an homage to the original and a great work all its own.

Stallone is in his best part in decades, and kind of reminded me of Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby. He has a kind of fragile air of mortality over a steely core that makes him seem incredibly authentic and believable. He really does shine in this movie.

This is absolutely worth the watch. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to see it, you’re missing out. You don’t need to have watched any of the prior Rocky movies, but it is helpful just to get an idea of the original Apollo Creed, who was easily one of the best characters in this series.
WE GAVE IT: 5 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below

5 Stars

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Movie Review: Inside Out (2015) – One Of The Most Inventive Storylines I’ve Seen In Years


Pixar is back and they’re blowing minds with the new release “Inside Out.” With an inventive storyline and lots of humor, this movie is sure to delight audiences young and old.

The story focuses on Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) an eleven year old girl who has just moved to San Francisco with her parents. It’s not a particular thrilling storyline. Not much happens. She tries out for sports, goes to a new school and is homesick for her old home. The action happens on the inside of Riley, where her feelings are embodied by a bunch of characters including Joy (Amy Poehler), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kalig) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). From a control center in the brain, they react to Riley’s life and occasionally, fight over who gets to be in charge.

It’s a simpler storyline than Pixar has ever done. Riley isn’t a teen detective or friends with an alien. She’s just an average girl reacting to life around her. As a result, her character is infinitely relatable.

Despite the simplicity of the storyline, there’s tons of laughs and lots of intrigue. The voice actors chosen for their rolls couldn’t have been better. Lewis Black is the very embodiment of anger and he was the ideal pick for this. I imagine the guy could be ordering at a drive through and still sound like he wants to murder everyone.

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Per the standard with Pixar, the animation was flawlessly adorable. They used bright colors that popped and lots of rounded edges to give the movie a soft but vibrant overall feel.

But the real winner with this movie is the pure world building done. There’s lots of fun puns and cute site gags, along with unique ideas as far as how Riley receives her experiences (as colorful bowling balls) and a train of thought comes puffing through at regular intervals. Fun puns and lots of imaginative characters keep the story moving and keep audiences of all ages engaged.

This truly is one of the most inventive storylines I’ve seen in years. The writers and animators clearly used their imaginations to the nth degree on this one. As far as imagination goes, this story is going to be hard to beat.

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It’s one of those kid’s movies that’s for adults too. That’s obvious in some of the choices of actors, which tend to resonate more with adult viewers. These are all voices we’ve heard before, but now we’re seeing them in an entirely new way.

It’s adorable, but not so adorable that it comes off as sugar floss. It’s just cute enough to entertain kids and just edgy enough for parents to enjoy as well.

This one is a home run. Pixar used a simple storyline to build a complex world, got the best possible voice over actors and then set it all up with perfect animation. I can really think of nothing I didn’t like about this movie.

This one isn’t just a worth the watch. It’s a must watch.

WE GAVE IT: 5 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below

5 Stars

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Movie Review: Me & Earl & The Dying Girl – An Extremely Well Balanced Sleeper Hit


It’s amazing how much a really well done drama can stay with you. Movies like Fried Green Tomatoes or Stand by Me are a couple of great examples. By making the characters dimensional, real and likable, they set you up for the big fall. Then they kick you in the gut for the bad news and even though it depresses you a little, you’d go back for it time and time again.

That’s Me & Earl & The Dying Girl.

Greg (Thomas Mann) is a nerdy high school boy who’s generally friendly with everyone without really being part of any clique. I think we all had that one guy in our school. The one with the wise cracks and limited affiliations. Earl (RJ Cyler) is his one close friend, and is a lot like him. Then, his mom finds out that Rachel, a classmate of theirs, (Olivia Cook) has cancer. In order to be nice, she makes Greg spend some time with her. He decides to bring Earl as a buffer. Of course, despite his desire to not get attached, he does.

Then comes the tear jerking.

First off, they put together such an amazing cast, if this had been a two hour shoe commercial, I would have watched it. I am a bit afraid that Oliva Cooke is getting typecast. I mean, she also plays the girl with CF on The Bates Motel. That’s pretty much Hollywood trying to tell her she looks sickly.

She’s not. From all news accounts, she’s perfectly healthy. But here’s a fun fact. She’s British.

Thomas Mann plays Greg and slips right into the roll perfectly. He also starred in a gem called Project X and the kid clearly has some range. That range is displayed in this movie as his character grows. The way he goes from distant to emotional is believable and heartbreaking.

RJ Cyler is a newb to the scene, this being one of his first movies. Even still, he’s a talent to watch out for. He isn’t just the sidekick or the comic relief. He’s a talent in his own right.

Even the voice over narration and the snappy screen titles like “Day 7 of Doomed Friendship” add something unique. These light humor moments keep the movie from being too heavy and too sentimental.



The perfect balance was struck with Me & Earl & The Dying Girl. It’s just funny enough to keep from being heartbreaking, and just heartbreaking enough to keep it from being goofy. They’ve managed to make a sentimental movie and left out the sap.

It was a huge hit at the Sundance Film Festival and I imagine that this limited release will be again when rolled out nationwide. It’s completely worth the watch and is a classic that’s destined to become a sleeper hit.

It’s not often that a low budget indie film can get this kind of reaction. It was a hit at the festival, just as it will be a hit with audiences in a summer packed with adrenaline filled blockbusters. It’s a great break from the monotony and a movie that will stay with you.

WE GAVE IT: 5 STARS! Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below

5 Stars

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Movie Review: Cinderella (2015) – Brilliantly Done, An Instant Classic! – 5 Stars


Who doesn’t like a good Cinderella story? From the first Disney cartoon, all the way to the racier Pretty Woman, Cinderella has been made and remade, in countless mediums. So really, can it be improved upon? In this case, I have to say yes. Disney really nailed this one.

They stuck to the traditional telling of the story. The beginning of the movie starts with the death of Ella’s mother (Hayley Atwell), who gives her daughter a mantra. “Have courage and be kind.” Ella (Lily James) sticks to this even after her father (Ben Chaplin) brings home the evil Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters, Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drisella (Sophie McShera). After her father dies, Ella is relegated to the roll of servant. Then, she meets a handsome stranger (Richard Madden) who just happens to be an eligible prince. With the help of her fairy godmother (Helen Bonham Carter), pumpkins become coaches, mice become coachmen and Cinderella becomes a princess.

They did not reinvent the wheel here. Instead, they stuck to the Disney story in the purest sense. While it might sound boring, it instead becomes pure magic.

The colors in the movie alone draw you in, from Cinderella’s giant blue ball gown, all the way to the glittering glass slippers. Every visual part of this movie is a pleasure to behold. It truly is the one of the best looking movies I’ve seen in a very long time.



The casting was extremely well done. Lily James seems like she was born for the roll of Cinderella, and she manages to come off as innocent and sweet, without reading as vapid. Blanchett played evil pretty well, which surprised me as she’s not usually someone I associate with villain roles. Helena Bonham Carter, who is one who shines in villain rolls, plays the good hearted fairy godmother equally well.

This is a movie that really focuses on the story. It doesn’t stray from the original formula. Instead, it gives the characters motivation for why they act the way they act. Even the Stepmother, although we hate her, she has her reasons for being the way she is.


The direction was brilliant. Instead of getting strange, they stuck with classic and it gave the entire, beautiful colorful movie a storybook feel. This is a fairytale that felt like a fairytale. It’s actually pretty refreshing. In the days where everyone is trying to remake the classics, turning princesses into warrior princesses to somehow make the story of Cinderella more PC, it’s refreshing to see a film that sticks with the classic story.

A lot of times, people have problems with the story of Cinderella because it’s not very PC. A poor girl gets rescued by a rich prince. But in this movie, Cinderella is rewarded and loved for her kindness, not her beauty, and I think that’s a better message for young girls.

This live action adaptation of Disney’s cartoon was fleshed out and made even more beautiful. This is easily an instant classic and it has more than earned its spot at the top of the box office.

WE GAVE IT: 5 STARS!  Watch the Official Trailer and See the Official Movie Poster below

5 Stars
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Movie Review: The Babadook (2014) – A strange, suspenseful, unsettling little gem


It’s a real shame that indie movies very rarely make the box office. Usually, that’s due to a non-existent marketing budget, where they are forced to compete with big budget movies that have millions to spend. Sometimes, though, an indie gets lucky enough to become a sleeper hit. If there’s any movie that deserves that status, it’s this one.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is having a hard time. She’s the single mother to an out of control 6 year old named Samuel (Noah Wiseman). But Samuel’s problems aren’t just getting in trouble at school or failing his math test. Nope, Samuel is convinced that an evil creature is coming to kill him and his mother. Tortured by monsters that only he can see, Samuel becomes violent and dangerous. That’s when Amelia is forced to medicate him. It’s only after she does that she starts to see the sinister forces that her son was trying to tell her about. Turns out, she should have listened to her son’s warnings.

This was an extremely well written movie that has many mirrors of society. It deals with the very real conflict of caring for a child who might be mentally ill. It shows the mother’s hopelessness in the face of a problem she can’t control. Then, it throws a twist in there and makes the conflict not just heartbreaking, but potentially fatal.

This was a genuinely frightening movie. It wasn’t frightening in the sense of jump scares or scary monsters. It was frightening in the way that a truly well written horror can be frightening. This doesn’t really count as a spoiler. Instead, it’s a warning. You will actually find yourself frightened of a children’s story. The Babadook is actually a character in a children’s book that Amelia finds on her son’s shelf, though has no memory of buying it. The rhyming text inside could only have been written by someone who hates children.




I also like the way motherhood was treated in this film. Too often, single mothers are portrayed as selfless, hard working Madonna’s whose only care is taking care of their angelic, perfectly well behaved child. This movie actually treats single mothers like humans for a change.

They show the bad sides of parenting, especially when parenting a child who isn’t well behaved, who is entirely too demanding and who is extremely frustrating. This is not the horror where the mother keeps getting warnings from her perfect kid, who never lies, and refuses to listen. No, when Amelia refuses to listen to Samuel’s complaints, you can understand why. This kid is a total attention hog!

The leads were well chosen and believable. The conflicts were intelligent and the underlying fear makes the whole movie tense and genuinely chilling. This was a horror movie written by someone who truly understands the genre of horror realism.

The movie has had limited release in theaters, but it’s available on demand right now. Either way you see it, it’s going to be worth the watch. I have to say, of all the high budget, overdone, relentlessly marketed horror movies I’ve seen this year, not one single one could outshine this strange, suspenseful and genuinely unsettling little gem.

WE GAVE IT: 5 Stars

5 Stars
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Movie Review: The LEGO Movie (2014)

Lego Movie posterIt’s Nice When All the Pieces Come Together

5 Stars

The Lego movie is both smashing the box office right now, and killing with the critics. It has a clever storyline with great effects that are fun for the whole family. This is the type of kid’s movie that adults will go to even if they don’t have kids.

The Lego Movie tells a story about a regular Joe construction worker named Emmet (voice of Chris Pratt). Emmet is mistaken for “The Special,” a master builder prophesied to save the world. Emmet is up against Lord Business (Will Ferrell) who has a plan to destroy the world. With sidekicks including Lucy (Elizabeth Banks), Batman (Will Arnett), and Vituvius (Morgan Freeman), Emmet seeks to fulfill the prophesy. They go on a long journey, where they meet everyone from Abraham Lincoln to C3PO and they break more stuff than they fix.

Co-directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller made it a point of staying true to the Lego style. When an apartment gets flooded, it gets flooded with Lego water. When there is a fire, it’s Lego fire. The intentional clumsiness of the camera work ensures that the viewers see every piece in the landscape is Legos.


The film is bright and colorful, though I saw it in 2D so I can’t speak for the 3D version. From what I saw, the visuals were absolutely spectacular. The movie is computer generated, but it was designed to look like stop action, and it plays it off wonderfully.

The storyline flowed and the dialog was snappy and fun. The scenes are enough to make even adults laugh out loud, including one that every adult will understand when the lead is charged $37 for a coffee. The clever characters including the consistently optimistic Emmet and the klutzy Batman will keep laughs coming. The movie is one laugh after another, but it never gets tiring.

The voice talent in this film was top notch. Will Arnett did the traditional Batman grumble and was the stand out star as far as I was concerned. Morgan Freeman was also fantastic, as a Gandalph style leader running the show. Of course, it’s Morgan Freeman; I once listened to that guy talk about penguins for 2 hours. You can’t go wrong with that voice. As anticipated, Will Ferrell was an excellent, over the top bad guy. No one fell down on the job in voicing their characters.



This rarely happens to me, but I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the movie. Even the snappy upbeat score, by Mark Mothersbaugh was cute, catchy and just a bit tongue in cheek, which fit the movie perfectly. You’ll find yourself humming the Devo style “Everything is Awesome” for days after.

This is a movie that is on par to become one of the greats, right up there with Toy Story. Clever dialog, a fun plot and absolutely astounding visuals will keep everyone in the family enthralled. This is a PG movie that was made for adults.  Watch the Trailer below:

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Movie Review: Her (2013)

her-movie-posterVery Necessary for Our Generation

5 Stars

Are you someone who can’t live without your Siri app on your iPhone? Then chances are you will completely get where the protagonist in the movie ‘Her’ is coming from.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a man who is lonely, introverted and just trying to get over his pending divorce from Catherine (Rooney Mara). Then, he gets a new operating system with an artificial intelligence upgrade. This upgrade comes in the form of Samantha, a program much like Siri, only it has the ability to think and learn. As Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), get more and more involved in Theodore’s life, he becomes more and more dependant on her. Soon, the two are in a relationship and everyone is chiming in with their opinions.

Her might sound weird, but it’s actually a charming love story. It plays like a romantic comedy with just a bit of a sci-fi twist. It’s also a very clever commentary on our current reliance on technology. [more…]

Joaquin Phoenix was magnificent as the lonely guy Theodore. He played out just the right amount of wounded awkwardness and innocence to come off as a convincing lonely guy. In addition, I have to give props for the makeup crew on this one. They managed to play down Phoenix’s good looks so we wouldn’t be wondering why a guy that hot would be dating his cell phone.


Johansson had an even tougher part to play. She never appears onscreen in any form, so she only had her voice to rely on in order to get her feelings to come off as genuine. She managed to make it happen and really gives a disembodied voice a personality.

There is a twist ending which is both sad and necessary.

Director and Writer Spike Jonze really had his work cut out for him in this one. With such an implausible story line, it is very likely that this film could have gone in a ‘ridiculous but not in a good way’ direction. Instead his direction and dialog were spot on and believable.


This movie will actually make you think of another great, quirky comedy “Endless Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.” If you like that one, then you will like ‘Her.’

This is a boundary pushing movie. It had the potential to be ridiculous. But with the right direction and actors, instead came off as virtually flawless.

My biggest complaint about the movie was the overly long monologs where Theodore talks about his new love and how much better she is than a human woman. This was a classic example of ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’ and at a 2 hour run time, these scenes were overkill and completely unnecessary.

However, that is about the only flaw I could find in the film. This is not a lazy movie. It requires thought and self examination. At the same time, it plays like a clever romantic comedy. The ending is sad but hopeful, much like the lead protagonist Theodore. I could easily see this movie going down as one of the best movies of our generation.

Watch the trailer below.

Movie Review: 12 Years a Slave (2013)

12 Years A Slave Movie Poster12 Years a Slave Will Stay With You Forever

5 Stars

How can something be so incredibly painful, but absolutely amazing at the same time? 12 Years a Slave is the depressingly true account of Solomon Northup, a black man who was living a free life in New York, prior to being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

The story is true, which makes it that much worse. Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), was living as a free man in Saratoga. He was a gifted violinist. Then, he is lured to Washington DC for what he thinks is a show. Instead, he is trapped in a cell, manacled and stripped of his papers declaring him a free man. He is sold at auction and what follows is him trying to regain his freedom for 12 years.

First, the actors in this film need a serious shout out because they were flawless. Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) is the main bad guy in the film, a drunken, debauched, complete monster of a plantation owner. Fassbender plays his roll in a way that came very close to making me hate him as a person. I had to continue reminding myself that he was just an actor and that I shouldn’t start sending him hate mail based on the way he acted in the film.[more…]

As for Chiwetel Ejiofor, the man who played Northup, I can say nothing more than…wonderful. To be fair, I have been madly in love with Ejiofor since I first saw him in Serenity. However, he so completely changed himself for this roll that as first, I did not recognize him as “The Operative”. Instead, he literally became Northup, an educated man who had lived a beautiful free life, not just of acceptance, but of actual celebration. Then, he was taken down, as far as a man could go, but still retained a quiet dignity. I imagine if photos were available of Northup during both those periods, Ejiofor would match them frame for frame. If he doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar for his performance, I can only assume someone in the nominations office has brain damage.

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There is of course, a happy ending. Northup wouldn’t have been able to write his biography if there wasn’t. But before this happy ending, you’ll need to see a lot of heartbreak. It’s actually pretty hard to watch, but at the same time, you won’t be able to look away.

I rarely call a movie flawless. In fact, in most cases, even when I give a great review, I always find something to pick apart. This is a rarity for me, because there is nothing to pick apart. This movie was 100% flawlessly executed. The background music, produced by the noted Hans Zimmer, highlights the moments without taking them over. The director, Steve McQueen, knew when to fade out and when to keep filming. There were no lazy actors in this film. Even the bit parts were played with realism and authenticity.
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12 Years a Slave will stay with you. If you were a fan of the book, then you can rest assured that the movie remains true to it. This is a true story of triumph over adversity that is guaranteed to become a classic.

Here’s the Trailer and if you’ve Seen the Movie – Leave a Review & Earn Some Points!