MOVIE REVIEW: Barefoot (2014)

Barefoot 1Light Comedy + Light Romance = A Decent Watch

3.5 stars

Barefoot, the latest indie romance, might have had a disappointing opening weekend, but it does have its own unique charm.

Barefoot tells the story of Daisy (Evan Rachel Wood) a mentally ill young woman who has been institutionalized after being raised by a reclusive helicopter mom. At the hospital, she meets Jay (Scott Speedman) the black sheep of a WASPy upper-class family. In order to hit up his dad for cash, Jay takes Daisy with him to his brother’s wedding, to prove how responsible he is.

The movie is a bit predictable. Of course, it is learned that there is more to Daisy than meets the eye and it all gets resolved when Daisy shows how stunning she is in an evening dress. But it’s a cute, not entirely light comedy, which is worth a few laughs.

Wood makes this movie sparkle, with her portrayal of the incredibly naive and inexperienced Daisy. She plays the part with childlike innocence, while at the same time bringing seriousness to the part with flashbacks.

The fact that Daisy is mentally ill is a bit sugar coated, and the movie makes metal illness seem like it could just be a quirk rather than a serious problem. Among other problems is Speedman’s character.

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As a recent parolee with a gambling problem, Speedman has a lot to overcome to make his character likeable. Unfortunately, he didn’t and Jay comes off as a real jerk. You almost want him to fail, because he is that unbearable. It would have played better if the character was a bit more sympathetic. Instead, they made the guy the requisite dirt bag, which made it hard to root for him

I’m a little bit reminded of the 90’s cult hit Bennie and Joon. Of course, that one approaches the issues faced with a mentally ill couple a little bit more seriously, but it’s the same general idea. While Barefoot is nowhere near as fantastic as Benny and Joon, and is too formulaic to have the same unique charm, it is a watchable movie.

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It’s a little too sugary sweet to make it a compelling classic. Despite that fact that it is a reasonably unique story, it does follow a lot of the same clichéd plot lines of any romantic comedy. But it is not a bad movie, just a bit predictable. In addition, the secondary characters weren’t really fleshed out like they should have been.

Sometimes, Daisy is a bit too naive and sweet, to the point where it gets a little irritating. Like when she keeps asking people; ’why do you wear shoes like that?’ Yeah, we get it. Daisy likes to go around barefoot, hence the name. Now move on.

The direction is reasonable, with good transitions between flashbacks and current events. The movie is a bit like a 1930s screwball comedy, with a bit of light romance thrown in. While it is hardly going to light the world on fire, clever timing and the sweetness of Woods’ character give the movie real heart.

Movie Review: Winter’s Tale (2014)

MV5BNTMyNjI1NTM4N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjcwMzc1MDE@__V1_SX640_SY720_Just like Winter, I wanted this to be over
2.5 Stars

With the Valentine rush of romantic movies was one that got little metnion.   This week I watched the minimally advertised “Winter’s Tale”.

Winter’s Tale ties in so many different plot lines, it feels as though half a library was placed in a blender. Our main protagonist Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a modern day Moses who washed up on the shores of Ellis Island in a basket. Then, it flashes forward to him running from Pearly Soames (Russell Crow) and his gang of hooligans. But it’s ok, because he is saved by a magic angel horse Athansor. Pearly is pissed, and his face morphs into a Demon shape when he’s mad. He goes for a meet with the Devil (Will Smith) where they talk about some chick that is dying that Peter is in love with. On, and then for some reason we flash forward in time about 100 years. And then some other stuff happens as well.

You ever have a four year old child tell you a story? Most four years olds aren’t great story tellers of course, so you generally wind up with a disjointed mess that doesn’t go anywhere and gets more and more preposterous as it goes on.


That’s what happened here. I spent the majority of the movie in the complete friggen dark as to what was going on. When I did understand it, it was either so ridiculous that I laughed out loud or it was just plain stupid.

I can’t believe that Akiva Goldsman was responsible for this. I really can’t. This is the screenplay writer who brought us “A Beautiful Mind” and “The Davinci Code”. Winter’s Tale, while clever, was never really a novel that was suited to the big screen.

And the dialog. Just as a sample “If you don’t make love to me now, no one ever will.” Honestly, if the heroine goes around saying that a lot, I can see why no one ever has. It’s kind of a downer.

The effects and direction were equally clumsy and lacked the pace needed to make a movie as convoluted as this one flow. There is a horse chase scene in the film that most directors would view with pure embarrassment as the cuts are so choppy and desperate, most would have scrapped the scene rather than show it.A WINTER"S TALE

The leads do nothing with the movie and it’s clear that everyone, with the exception of Crowe, is there to collect a paycheck and move on. Crowe does a good job of making his character come alive, but the character itself is so over the top that it wouldn’t be hard.

It’s a shame that this movie came out so poorly, because I am usually a huge fan of Goldsman’s work. However, this novel was difficult enough to adapt to the big screen, without getting lazy on effects and camera work as well. This was a disappointing effort and not a recommended watch to anyone who is a fan of Goldsman’s regular body of work.

You can watch the trailer below.

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Movie Review: About Last Night (2014)

about-last-night-kevin-hartKevin Heart?

4 stars

Third on my list for my Valentine’s Day releases was About Last Night. This movie was a remake of David Mamet’s 1974 stage play Sexual Perversity in Chicago and thank God, was one of the few romantic comedies that was tolerable this week.

The movie revolved around two couples. Danny (Michael Ealy) and Debbie (Joy Bryant) are the nice couple. They are just starting out a relationship and both are waiting for something to go wrong. Complicating matters is Bernie (Kevin Hart) and Joan (Regina Hall), a couple whose relationship is one long ‘hate-screw’. Unfortunately for Danny and Debbie, the craziness of Bernie and Joan starts to rub off and soon they’re questioning everything about their relationships.

The real standout in this movie was Kevin Hart, playing the loud mouthed confirmed bachelor Bernie, who gets some of the best lines of the movie. He makes the volatile relationship between him and Joan funny rather than sad, when it could have gone either way. Regina Hall had her own great moments herself, and was no pushover to Hart’s aggressive character.


Ealy and Bryant, though they had obvious chemistry, felt one dimensional to me, as though the characters weren’t really fleshed out. I found it hard to believe that two people that good looking would have any trouble finding love. In order to make it believable, they should have given some kind of vulnerability to the characters.

The movie is light and fun, with no heavy back stories. Instead, it focuses on what it means to be in a relationship in a realistic, funny way. The movie focuses on one couple getting together as another falls apart. It shows the ‘choosing friends’ problems that come about when dating within groups. It is a realistic look at real relationships. There are no obvious romantic comedy clichés here. There’s no chasing someone down at an airport or meeting them at the Empire State Building at midnight. Instead, there is a realistic and frequently hilarious look at the stages of a relationship.

What really made this movie shine was the excellent screenplay, filled with snappy, intelligent dialog. The humor didn’t have to sink to being raunchy, because it was clever. For those who were dissatisfied with Hart’s most recent performance in “Ride Along’, “About Last Night” will more than make up for it.



In a way, the lackluster performance of the two leads was ideal, as it allowed the real stars of this film, Kevin Hart and Regina Hall, to shine through. The two as a couple really steal the show.

The pacing of the movie was well done and the balance between the characters made the plot easy to follow. It’s not an extremely intricate plot, so it’s easy to follow already. In this remake, they stuck to the original simplicity of the play, which was why it worked.

Good direction, good actors and a great screenplay made this movie what it is. This newer remake is actually much better than the movie one made in the late 80s and it feels like this remake followed the original play a bit more closely.

Watch the official trailer:

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Movie Review: Best Night Ever (2014)

Best Night Ever 1“Worst Headache Ever”

2.5 Stars

Have we learned nothing from every bachelor or bachelorette party ever set in Vegas? At this point, movie characters are just stupid for thinking they can go to Vegas the night before their wedding and make it back in one piece.

In Best Night Ever, Bride-to-be Claire (Desiree Hall), sister Leslie (Samantha Colburn), party girl Zoe (Eddie Ritchard), and quirky new friend Janet (Crista Flanagan) head off to Vegas for a one night bachelorette party. Of course, it doesn’t go the way they anticipated and the girls wind up staying in a sleazy motel and find themselves lost and broke, wandering the streets of Vegas.

Unfortunately, this movie is just a paler, unfunny version of “Bridesmaids”. The antics, while over the top, are nowhere near as funny as the antics to be found in “Bridesmaids”, or the much better “The Hangover”.

As an example, in what is supposed to be a side split-tingly funny scene, the girls sing a “4 non blondes” song while in a dumpster.
The plot is poor and depends on devices in order to keep it moving. When broke, the girls decide they have to ‘earn’ the money to get back to LA. Apparently, they can’t just call someone to wire them the $40 for a bus ticket. It’s Vegas to LA, for God’s sake, not Vegas to India.

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The fact that the movie isn’t very good wasn’t a surprise to me when I learned that it was written and directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. This notoriously unfunny duo has been responsible for such works of genius like “Vampires Suck” and “The Starving Games”.

This movie borrows most of its plot from other, much funnier movies. When they can’t seem to find something funny to do, they just throw in some poop as well.

In order to differentiate this movie from its much better counterparts, the directors went ahead and introduced another tired gimmick. Found footage. The film is filmed on the girls’ cell phones at various times. This will again make you wonder why these girls didn’t just turn off the record option and use their cell phones to call their agents and fire them.

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The film direction relies allot on reaction shots of the characters. This is probably necessary, as if it wasn’t for the reaction shots, I probably wouldn’t have known where to laugh. The majority of the ‘shocking funny’ site gags are just gross.

It’s impossible to tell who this movie is supposed to be marketed to. At first glance, you would think it would be like a “Hangover” for women. But there is so much raunchy girl on girl hate and unnecessary boob shots, that it instead would have been better focused on an audience of drunk frat boys. There’s no underlying motivation in the film, like in the much better “Bridesmaids”. Instead, the entire movie seems to be focused on punishing the girls for wanting to have a good time.

Best Night Ever is probably best skipped by those looking for a laugh out loud Vegas comedy. Between the found footage gimmick, the girl’s constantly screaming “woooo” and recycled plot lines, Best Night Ever is guaranteed to give you the Worst Headache Ever.  Watch the trailer below!

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Movie Review: Ride Along (2014)

ride along 4Worth the Watch

4 stars

Ride Along is topping the box office this week and there is a good reason why. There is just about no way to go wrong when you pair Kevin Hart with Ice Cube. Despite getting thoroughly panned by critics, Ride Along is still pulling in viewers at the theater.

Kevin Hart plays Ben, a security guard who is getting ready to get married to Angela (Tika Sumpter). Unfortunately, his impending marriage has a roadblock in the form of APD detective James (Ice Cube). In order to get James’ blessing to marry Angela, Ben must survive a 24 hour ride along. What follows are standard buddy cop shenanigans, where James proves to be a bit crazier than Ben thought, and Ben must survive not just run-ins with run of the mill thugs, but with the problems James causes himself.

Is it a new premise? No, of course not. Buddy cop, mismatched pairings have been around since the invention of the movie theater. What really makes the film come alive are the actors themselves.

Ice Cube’s straight-man tough cop is a great contrast to Kevin Hart’s eager, arrogant portrayal of a guy desperate to prove himself. A side plot about James going after an arms dealer gives the movie more purpose than just slapstick humor and makes it all come together. [more…]

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Of course, the movie isn’t without its flaws. The script feels a bit slapped together and it seems like the writers depended too much on Ice Cube and Hart’s likeableness, as the dialog wasn’t as strong as other buddy cop movies like “48 Hours” or “Bad Boys”. Hart and Ice Cube deserved better than that.

Also, Tika Sumpter’s character seemed spawned from some high school sex romp movie. She’s is large chested and small brained. She really does nothing but run around in short shorts, flashing cleavage, seducing Ben and leaving all her major life decisions up to her slightly unbalanced big brother James. It almost seemed like the writers slapped her in as an afterthought, even though her role in the film was part of a major plot point.

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While there is some pretty obvious product placement (a Ram truck gets commandeered in the first few seconds of the movie, Hart goes off on a tangent listing of the benefits of owning a Dodge Charger RT, etc.) they did manage to place the products in a way that fit the movie.

While the dialog wasn’t the best, the plot flowed pretty well and the major conflict, the arms dealer, didn’t feel forced. There is never a boring moment and just about every call turned into Hart getting beaten on or teased. All the standard clichés are there. Scary bikers, bratty kids and giant angry men all get a chance to throw Hart around. The action is entertaining and hilariously slapstick at the same time.

Ride Along isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. It’s a formulaic buddy cop comedy with a predictable ending. However, thanks to strong leads and nonstop action, it is a very good effort for its genre and totally worth the watch.

Watch the trailer below.  If you have seen the movie leave a review!

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf_of_wall_street_ver2_xlgActors being Actors at their Best
four and a half stars
When it comes to the stock exchange, the very best time to pick a time period for a movie is in the 80s and 90s days of excess. And if you want to turn that movie into a black comedy crime filled with corruption and betrayal, you can’t go wrong with Martin Scorsese as a director.

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a man making a fortune on penny stocks…and spending it all on sex, drugs and excess. It shows Belfort making a fortune, at the expense of the little man, and getting off nearly scot free. It should be annoying, but it is just plain entertaining.

It’s always amazed me how baby faced DiCaprio can play such a great villain. In this movie, he is no less than perfect. He is smug, self righteous, arrogant and utterly without remorse. What makes this movie fantastic includes DiCaprio frequently shattering the forth wall and making corrections right at the audience.

Terence Winter, whose previous credits include Boardwalk Empire, wrote the screenplay based on Belfort’s biography, and he couldn’t have done a better job. The film makes no apologies. It’s not designed to be an indictment of corporate America. It’s designed to say one thing. [more…]

“Hey everyone, look how bad we’re being”

Martin Scorsese has not gotten worse with age. In fact, he just seems to keep getting better. The direction of the movie following the slick, fast paced dialog and over the top exuberance of DiCaprio. Visual jokes abound and the cinematic techniques could be used to teach a course in direction. Scorsese proves that he is now, and always will be, not just a director, but the director.

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Of course, this isn’t Goodfellas, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a movie about shocking excess and bad behavior. The stakes are not life or death. There are no stakes. Belfort made it clear in his biography that there was no one he was afraid to take from, and no amount of money was too much to take.

While some might call this movie hollow and shallow, keep in mind it’s designed to be hollow and shallow. It is a comedy of criminality, not flipping Schindler’s List.

My main problem with this film is the run time. In today’s world of instant gratification, 3 hours is a bit too long to expect to hold anyone’s attention, especially when the story has no true moral or comeuppance. This could have easily been covered in an hour and a half, and the massive 3 hour run time is something that should be reserved for epic fantasies, not fast paced black comedies.

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DiCaprio really managed to keep a loose, love to hate him attitude throughout the whole movie. As much as you want to hate him, you can’t. He’s just that charming.

I have to admit, I’m a little ashamed of enjoying this movie as much as I did, and I have to give Scorsese props for having the gonads to release this movie. In an economy where much of the poverty in this country is blamed on excess on Wall Street, it was truly a daring move to produce a movie that almost seems to be celebrating that same excess.

The Wolf of Wall Street is absolutely worth the watch…but get comfortable, because you’re going to be there for awhile.

Watch the Trailer below and if you’ve seen the film, Earn some Points and leave a Review!

Movie Review: Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

movies_saving-mr-banks-posterDisney for the Sake of Disney

3.5 stars

I always feel a bit weird when I watch a movie about the making of another movie. Seems like it should be some kind of paradox.

In Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how the movie Mary Poppins was made is told. In it, Tom Hanks plays Walk Disney, a man desperate to get his hands on the movie rights to the story of Mary Poppins. However, in true crazy writer fashion, the author of the book P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) refuses to give up her work. It isn’t until she’s running low on money that she finally caves and allows it to get done.

The movie comes with a patented upbeat feel that you can expect from Walt Disney. Though the sap gets laid on a little thick at times, it’s Disney. What more can you expect?

Hanks plays Disney with surprising warmth and sentimentality. When playing Disney, he plays a man more focused on seeing his daughters dreams come true than he is on making money.

Travers was played by an equally good Emma Thompson. Emma makes her unreasonable character both amusing and just a tad obnoxious.

My main problems with the film were what I like to call ‘the Disney Whitewash’. This happens whenever Disney creates a film from real life events. The characters become one-dimensional and flat. Travers was unreasonable. Disney was everyone’s favorite uncle who insisted that employees called him ‘Walt’. [more…]

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I mean, I’m not saying that the producers should have delved into the anti Semitism allegations around Walt Disney, but couldn’t the characters have a bit more of an edge?

Travers was given the real twist though. In real life, she was an interesting woman who led an exciting life. In this movie, for the purposes of plot continuity, she is turned into an uptight church lady who lives alone in a big Victorian mansion, a victim of her own guilt.

If they are going to attempt to make a movie based on real events, I wish they’d attempt to be a bit truer to the characters that started the events in the first place.

Director John Lee Hancock (Blind Side) knows his way around heartwarming, so he’ll manage to get viewers chocked up more than once. Per usual, his direction was flawless.

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So why did I feel like I was getting run over by the corporate propaganda machine? This is not a behind the scenes tell all movie. This is clearly a movie designed by Disney, to make Disney look good. For example, despite being a complete pain in the a** for the first half of the movie, Travers inexplicably changes her mind about the movie and decides to accept all the changes.

That’s not the real life story, and honestly, I’m pretty sure the real P.L. Travers is spinning in her friggen grave.

All that aside, it’s a decent story. If you can ignore the innate sleaziness of a movie studio making a movie about how great their movie studio is, Saving Mr. Banks might be worth the watch.

Watch the trailer below.  If you have seen the movie rate, review and earn some points.

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug_ver15_xlg 5Nerdifyingly Satisfying!

four and a half stars

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second in line of the Hobbit trilogy, and it looks like this trilogy franchise is going to be just as good, if not better than its predecessor, the Lord of the Rings.

In movie 2, we are again following the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), as he journeys along with partner Gandalf (Ian McKellan), thirteen dwarves and Thorin (Richard Armitage) as they quest to reclaim the lost dwarf kingdom of Erebor.

Oh God, I just developed asthma and a desire to play “Magic; The Gathering” as I wrote that last paragraph. However, even though it sounds nerdy, it’s actually just plain awesome.

Let’s get started with the visual awesomeness, which probably could have carried the movie on its own, if the acting had been bad. Director Peter Jackson again gives us a world that is whimsical, without making it too over the top. Filmed in New Zealand, the scenery stays realistic, but keeps up the otherworldly feel necessary for a fantasy based movie. [more…]


Onto the screenplay, which was a loose adaptation of the actual book. The screenplay was a bit more mature than the original slim novel, but that was necessary for the more adult movie going crowd. For example, when female elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) is searching one of the characters after capturing them, they have the following exchange;

“Aren’t you going to search me?” Kili (Aidan Turner) asks. “I could have anything down my trousers.”

“Or nothing” Tauriel replies.

Elf/dwarf sexual tension aside, the movie features snappy dialog and just enough comic relief to ease the tension and keep the laughs coming.

Freeman shines again as the loveable hobbit Bilbo Baggins and I think it is safe to say we can’t expect anything less than brilliance from Ian McKellan. My only gripe was than Gandalf spent too much time off screen. Hopefully, he’ll be around for a lot more in the 3rd installment.

In case you were wondering about the title “The Desolation of Smaug”, “Smaug’ isn’t a town. It’s a dragon. A talking dragon, to be specific, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

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I also enjoyed the addition of a strong female character. Tauriel was never a part of the books and to be honest, most of Tolkien’s books were male-centered, with very few females taking any serious leads, aside from pining away, waiting for their man-folk to come home. I appreciated the fact that the writers were able to write a strong female character, and still make her fit the background of the story.

For those who were disappointed by the first version of The Hobbit, they can rest assured that number 2 in the series really ups its game. I think a big part of this comes from Jackson taking some major risks with the screenplay, which really paid off in the end.

A word of warning to those who aren’t familiar with the way these movies work, expect a mass groan from the audience at the end, as it does end in a pretty hefty cliffhanger. It’s the kind of cliffhanger that makes you want to tear your hair out. Instant gratification types should probably wait until the whole series is available on video.

Here’s the trailer below.  If you have seen the movie, leave a review and earn some points!!