99 Homes Review

99 Homes
Written and Directed by: Ramin Bahrani
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Laura Dern, Michael Shannon and Clancy Brown

99homes1

It’s pretty rare that I am caught completely off guard by a movie, but 99 Homes quite frankly blew me away. I didn’t know anything about the movie prior to the screening, and I went in with no expectations. The opening sequence tore my heart out, and waterworks ensued. I never quit crying for the rest of the movie.

Andrew Garfield plays Dennis, a down on his luck construction worker who falls behind on the mortgage payments for his home. Dennis is shell-shocked when a realtor (Rick, played by Michael Shannon) arrives with police in tow to inform him that the bank now owns his house. His family has mere moments to remove whatever necessities they can from the property before they are forcefully evicted.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Martian Review

The Martian
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Drew Goddard and Andy Weir
Starring: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sean Bean Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover

themartian1

The Martian tells the story of a man who refuses to be broken despite insurmountable obstacles placed in his path, again and again. It’s smart, witty, and thought provoking.

If you threw up your hands and gave up on trying to comprehend Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar last year you were not alone. The Martian also relies heavily on hardcore scientific concepts, but it is much more accessible than Interstellar. I won’t pretend I understood everything in The Martian, but enough to find it enjoyable and suspenseful. I didn’t leave the theater feeling like an idiot, I felt exhilarated and inspired.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Green Inferno Review

The Green Inferno
Directed by Eli Roth
Written by: Guillermo Amoedo and Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Sky Ferreira, Matias Lopez, Richard Burgi, Eusebio Arenas, Nicolas Martinez, Daryl Sabara, Ignacia Allamand, Magda Apanowicz, Kirby Bliss Banton, and Aaron Burns

greeninferno2

In 1980, a found footage Italian film called Cannibal Holocaust was released. The gore was so realistic that many people who saw the movie thought it was a snuff film. Director Ruggero Deodato was arrested for obscenity and the film was banned in several countries.

Now, decades later, director Eli Roth (Hostel) tackles similar subject matter with The Green Inferno. The title is the same as the film-within-a-film from Cannibal Holocaust.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Intern Review

The Intern
Written and Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Robert DeNiro, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Adam DeVine

theintern1

It would be easy to write off The Intern as a vacuous comedy based on the trailer, but that would be selling the movie far short. I had no desire to see this movie, but was pleasantly surprised by the film.

Robert De Niro stars as Ben, a bored retired widower who has tried out several “hobbies” and concludes that it is not the route he wants to continue. Ben has a solid background in business and lands a job at a successful internet company specializing in all things fashion. Ben is assigned to a team supervised by Jules (Anne Hathaway), the company’s CEO and owner.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fifty Shades Of Grey Review

Fifty Shades of Grey
Directed by: Sam-Taylor-Johnson
Written by: Kelly Marcel and E.L. James
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden

fiftyshades1

When Fifty Shades of Grey hit the bookshelves in 2011, it became a worldwide phenomenon within the female community. Women found the book oddly liberating, and discovered that it was okay not to clutch your pearls anytime something vaguely smutty crossed your mind. It seemed everybody had read it, or knew someone who did. Soccer moms started hawking sex toys to their friends in lieu of skincare products and cookware. Fifty Shades of Grey made it acceptable for repressed women to explore their sexuality, and it practically revolutionized the way women thought about sex.

Naturally, movie studios were eager to snatch up the rights, and there was much conjecture on who should be cast in the lead roles. The role of Christian Grey was originally given to Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), who dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Jamie Dornan eventually landed the role. It’s telling that his major claim to fame was being an underwear model.

Read the rest of this entry »

American Sniper Review

American Sniper
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Written by: Jason Hall
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller and Ben Reed

americansniper1

In the opening scene of American Sniper, we see Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) agonizing over a judgment call he has to make in regards to an Iraqi youth, who may or may not be a military combatant. To shoot or not to shoot? That split second judgment call is indicative of the minute to minute reality for Kyle, a Navy Seal sniper serving in the Iraq war. Charged with protecting his comrades, Kyle doesn’t have the luxury of ruminating over the morality of his actions. He’s trained to react, pure and simple, and he excels at doing so. There’s no time for emotional fallout – that comes later, when he returns stateside after each tour of duty.

Forget the politics – that’s another discussion. At its core American Sniper is a riveting biopic, the subject of which just happens to be the most lethal sniper in the U.S. military history. Some celebrate that legacy, some revile it, but Kyle was doing his job, pure and simple, and Sniper is his story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wild Review

Wild
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallée
Written by: Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed
Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Thomas Sadoski

wild1

Based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed, Wild is the story of Cheryl’s 1,000-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. Reese Witherspoon stars as the emotionally damaged protagonist who embarks on the journey as a means to come to terms with her personal demons.

Wild begins mid-journey. Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) stands upon the precipice of a mountain and screams into the sky, presumably over one of her lost boots and a nasty toe injury, but it’s apparent that there is much more to the story. She’s clearly anguished, but why? What compelled her to take this particular path?

Read the rest of this entry »

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Written by: Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Jeffrey Wright and Sam Claflin.

mockingjay1

Last year Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games franchise, went out with a bang when heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) abruptly put an end to the games with a well-executed arrow shot. Shortly thereafter she learned that drastic measures had been taken in District 12 (her home district) and that Peeta was in danger. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 picks up right where things left off.

Katniss is tucked away in a bunker under the charred remnants of District 13. The bunker is home to the rebellion movement, and they want Katniss to serve as a spokesperson for the insurgence. She reluctantly takes on this role for the sake of the movement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interstellar Review

Interstellar
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Wes Bentley, Mackenzie Foy and Matt Damon

Matthew McConaughey

Unless you have a degree in quantum physics, forget trying to figure out the inner workings of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan’s overly ambitious foray into space. In 2010, Nolan astounded audiences with Inception, a heady thriller with stunning visuals and a mind-blowing plot. Audiences had never seen anything like it, and the film grossed almost 300 million dollars when it was all said and done. Don’t bank on Interstellar repeating that level of success. Its convoluted plot makes for an extremely frustrating watch, and I doubt audiences will have the patience for it.

Interstellar takes place in the future, when a dust bowl has engulfed the entire planet. Consequently, food resources have been disastrously depleted. Corn is the only sustainable crop, but its days are numbered. There seems to be little hope for the human race.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nightcrawler Review

Nightcrawler
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed

nightcrawler1

Early on in Nightcrawler, we witness burgeoning psychopath Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) happen upon the fresh scene of a car accident. He stands transfixed as he watches the first responders pulling a woman out of a burning car, and the crime scene journalists aggressively trying to infiltrate the perimeter in hopes of getting a money shot. For Louis, it’s love at first sight.

In an instant, he decides that this is his career calling, and mere days later he has joined the lurid ranks of the “nightcrawlers”, the journalists who trawl through the police scanners at night in the hopes of arriving at crime scenes before their competition. It’s a dirty, unpredictable way to make a living, but Louis quickly adapts when he sells his first crime scene footage to a struggling newsroom director (Nina, played by Rene Russo).

Read the rest of this entry »

John Wick Review

John Wick
Directed by: David Leitch and Chad Stahelski
Written by: Derek Kolstad
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick

johnwick1

Admit it, you wrote Keanu Reeves off a long time ago as a has-been action star. You’ll quickly realize the error of your ways when you step into the bloody, fantastic world of John Wick. Prepare to be transfixed. Wick is a non-stop orgy of action and mayhem and it’s hands down the most exciting film of the year.

Reeves plays the title character, an ex-hitman who retired from the trade when he settled down and got married. His domestic bliss is short-lived when his wife passes away. Her final gift to him, a puppy, arrives at his house after her funeral. Unfortunately, some miscreants break into his house, steal his beloved ’69 mustang and kill his dog. Bad mistake.

Read the rest of this entry »

Men, Women & Children Review

Men, Women & Children
Directed by: Jason Reitman
Written by: Jason Reitman and Erin Cressida Wilson
Starring: Adam Sandler, Rosemarie Dewitt, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Emma Thompson (narrator), Jennifer Garner, Olivia Crocicchia, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever and Elena Kampouris

menwomenchildren1

Curiously, Men, Women & Children is categorized as being a comedy/drama. Truth is, there’s nothing funny about it. Children takes a bleak look at where our technology is taking us. Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno) delivers a heavy-handed cautionary tale about our obsession for all things electronic, and our increasing inability to connect to one another at a rudimentary level.

Children interweaves the stories of a handful of parents and their children in Austin. The circumstances vary, but each family struggles in one way or another with the encroachment of the digital age.

Read the rest of this entry »