Friday, February 5, 2016

HAIL, CAESAR! (C+)


Buoyant with a bevy of boisterous performances – The Coen Brothers’ latest may boast some brilliantly staged shenanigans, but the rest is a rudderless, mixed-bag ship of unfocused energy and sporadically simplistic spirit.  In fact, the stop-go-stop-go, funny-to-flat ratio of the proceedings is the cinematic equivalent of your grandmother driving a car with one foot on the gas, while the other spastically taps the brake.  Brolin is terrific as an early 50’s studio executive who’s saddled with the task of making his contracted stars, despite their colorful private lives, shine bright in the public eye.  While he dutifully keeps these erratic plates spinning, his nincompoop troop of A-to-B-list marquee mavens (Clooney, Johansson, Fiennes, Tatum and Ehrenreich) all have singular moments to shine...  Only problem being that a handful of shining singular moments do not necessarily a great movie make.  There’s a lightweight, post-war cinema love affair at play that suits the characters and dialogue well – it’s a Golden Age ripe for ribbing, but the dull-edged snark on display is largely unbalanced and rarely ever embraces a singular tone.  Although the film will undoubtedly (and predictably) work for some, it still remains a slighter effort from this dynamic duo directing crew.  It’s an awkwardly erratic and wafer-thin effort with inspired flashes of greatness.  A film that – compared to the rest of the Coen catalog – might have been more aptly titled: Fail, Caesar.

Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, No Country for Old Men and True Grit)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1hr. 45min.
Story: Hail, Caesar! follows a single day in the life of a Golden Age studio fixer who is presented with plenty of problems to fix...
Watch the Trailer: www.hailcaesarmovie.com

Friday, January 29, 2016

THE FINEST HOURS (B)

More aptly titled: The Not Great But Still Pretty Darn Entertaining Hours, this harrowing, early 50’s Coast Guard rescue retelling is equal parts high seas heroics and old school charm.  A candy-coated, crowd-pleasing, fairly immersive maritime movie with strong doses of Greatest Generation swagger, captivating special effects and two terrifically against type turns from Affleck and Pine.  …and despite its fabricated melodrama, its gloss-over-grit mentality and an all-to-easy-to-forget-title, it still possesses a compellingly simplistic approach to the material that proves both gripping and good natured – a movie, I imagine, that would work for the entire family.  This good ol’ fashioned, page-out-of-history, courage-based disaster flick may not represent the finest hours you’ll experience in a theater – but spend the time and you’ll quickly learn it was all worth your while.
 

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Holliday Grainger, Ben Foster and Eric Bana
Directed by: Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm and Lars and the Real Girl)
Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1hr. 57min.
Story: Despite overwhelming odds, four US Coast Guardsmen, set out in a wooden lifeboat with an ill-equipped engine and little, if any, means of navigation, facing frigid temperatures, 60-foot high waves and hurricane-force winds to attempt a daring rescue of a T-2 oil tanker crew. (Disney)

Watch the trailer: www.movies.disney.com/the-finest-hours 

Friday, January 15, 2016

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (B-)


Built on the broad-shouldered backs of men who chose to do the right thing, 13 Hours is an admirable – yet never truly groundbreaking – attempt to patriotically and apolitically unfold the events that surrounded a Libyan militia attack on a Benghazi-based, U.S. compound in 2012.  As with most things Michael Bay, chaos is the order of the day and here, as director, he shows encouraging signs of being able to pump the brakes when called for (more often than not).  Unfortunately, he still has a penchant for obnoxiously ratcheting up the mayhem to an ear-shrilling fever pitch.  We may bear witness to sparse spurts of cheesy dialogue and the occasional tick of near-jingoistic self-indulgence, but it still it remains one of Bay’s most balanced and engagingly bombastic films in years.  There’s a resounding, immediately relatable emotional core at the center of this miscommunication meat grinder – a tangible camaraderie that cinematically thrives on love of family, love of duty and love of brothers-in-arms.  And to each actor’s credit, there’s a palpable truth to the playful and tactical chatter – a point where we buy in to the plight of these heroes and those they’re tasked (and not asked) to protect.  Although it ultimately lacks the true human depth of a Saving Private Ryan, the unnerving efficiency of a Black Hawk Down or the shell-shocked intimacy of The Hurt Locker – 13 Hours remains a well-paced, action-packed, grittily gung-ho flick that intriguingly informs and dutifully entertains.
 
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Daly, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, David Denman, David Costabile and Elektra Anastasi
Directed by: Michael Bay (Bad Boys, The Rock and Transformers)
Rated: R
Running time: 2hrs. 24mins.
Story: 13 Hours follows the attack of a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.  Based on the book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.
Watch the trailer: www.thirteenhoursmovie.com 

Friday, January 8, 2016

THE REVENANT (B)


If acting is reacting (and many would argue that it is indeed just that) then Leonardo DiCaprio should have his long overdue Best Actor win in the bag come Oscar Sunday.  Both he and Tom Hardy are brilliant in this hauntingly brutal, atmospherically immersive and breathtakingly bitter flick.  A tale of survival, a tale of revenge: The Revenant – a stunner on the cinematography front as well – will mesmerizingly drop you in to its frost-bitten ferocity with reckless abandon and little regard.  And aside from the entire running time of May 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, the let’s-get-the-ball-rolling, inciting incident here – in the form of a grizzly attack – is one of the most visceral things you’re likely to experience on screen in years.  With all that’s good-to-great swirling around this epic, it still took me a second viewing to almost fully appreciate its near-brilliance…  There’s a ribbon of sporadic spirituality to it that never fully worked for me and, sadly, kept the film too long winded and the running time too damn robust.  Keep things taut and efficient, shave the unnecessaries and focus solely on the survival/revenge aspects – with these minor tweaks I would have gladly accepted this as the frigidly maniacal masterpiece that it almost was…  The Revenant is very good – but still an odd case where I found myself wanting less and yet simultaneously craving a tad bit more.
 
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson
Directed by: Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman, 21 Grams and Babel)
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hr. 36min.
Story: Inspired by true events, THE REVENANT captures one man's epic adventure of survival and the extraordinary power of the human spirit. In an expedition of the uncharted American wilderness, legendary explorer Hugh Glass is brutally attacked by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. In a quest to survive, Glass endures unimaginable grief as well as the betrayal of his confidant John Fitzgerald. Guided by sheer will and the love of his family, Glass must navigate a vicious winter in a relentless pursuit to live and find redemption. (C) Fox

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

BTMG's MOST ANTICIPATED OF 2016


For better or worse (hopefully better), here are the fifteen movies I’m most excited about this year…

1. Captain America: Civil War
(5/16)
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Sebastian Stan, Chadwick Boseman, Frank Grillo and William Hurt
Directed By: Joe Russo
Story: Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War finds Steve Rogers leading the newly formed team of Avengers in their continued efforts to safeguard humanity. But after another incident involving the Avengers results in collateral damage, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability, headed by a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The new status quo fractures the Avengers, resulting in two camps—one led by Steve Rogers and his desire for the Avengers to remain free to defend humanity without government interference, and the other following Tony Stark’s surprising decision to support government oversight and accountability.

2. Hail, Caesar! (2/5)
Starring:
George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Story: Tells the comedic tale of Eddie Mannix, a fixer who worked for the Hollywood studios in the 1950s. The story finds him at work when a star mysteriously disappears in the middle of filming.

3. The Nice Guys
(5/20)
Starring:
Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Kim Basinger
Directed By: Shane Black
Story: The Nice Guys takes place in 1970s Los Angeles, when down-on-his-luck private eye Holland March (Gosling) and hired enforcer Jackson Healy (Crowe) must work together to solve the case of a missing girl and the seemingly unrelated death of a porn star. During their investigation, they uncover a shocking conspiracy that reaches up to the highest circles of power.

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
(12/16)
Starring:
Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Forrest Whitaker and Diego Luna
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Story:
Following the formation of the Galactic Empire, a rogue band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans.

5. Bourne 5
(7/29)
Starring:
Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, Vincent Cassel, Alicia Vikander and Tommy lee Jones
Directed By: Paul Greengrass
Story: Plot details are unknown at this time, though sources say Vincent Cassel will play an assassin tracking Bourne.

6. Everybody Wants Some
(4/15)
Starring:
Ryan Guzman, Blake Jenner, Tyler Hoechlin and Wyatt Russell
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Story: The movie centers on freshmen who work their way through the first year of college life as they try to make the baseball team.

7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
(3/25)
Starring:
Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Diane Lane and Gal Gadot
Directed By: Zack Snyder
Story: The greatest Super Heroes in the world - Superman and Batman face off.

8. Midnight Special
(3/18)
Starring:
Michael Shannon, Jaeden Lieberher, Adam Driver and Joel Edgerton
Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Story: A father goes on the run to protect his young son and to uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers.  What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre–defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human.

9. Deadpool
(2/12)
Starring:
Ryan Reynolds
Directed By: Tim Miller
Story: Deadpool tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

10. Suicide Squad
(8/5)
Starring:
Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Will Smith and Jai Courtney
Directed By:
David Ayer
Story:
A mix of well-known and unknown villains (Deadshot, King Shark, Captain Boomerang and Harley Quinn) are recruited by the government to accomplish a task deemed too dangerous for superheroes. The historically independent operators must bury their own interpersonal conflicts and agendas to form a cohesive unit to take on a singular task.

11. Passengers
(12/21)
Starring:
Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Lawrence Fishburne and Michael Sheen
Directed By: Morten Tyldum
Story:
Set on a spacecraft in the future, with thousands of passengers making an interstellar voyage to a distant new planet. One passenger awakens from cryogenic sleep 90 years before anyone else and decides to wake up a female passenger, sparking the beginning of a love story.

12. Ghostbusters (7/15)
Starring:
Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth
Directed By: Paul Feig
Story: Erin Gilbert (Wiig) and Abby Bergman (McCarthy) are a pair of unheralded authors who write a book positing that ghosts are real. A few years later, Gilbert lands a prestigious teaching position at Columbia University, but her book resurfaces and she is laughed out of academia. Gilbert reunites with Bergman and others when ghosts invade Manhattan and try to save the world.

13. Triple 9
(2/26)
Starring:
Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Winslet, Anthony Mackie and Aaron Paul
Directed By: John Hillcoat
Story: In TRIPLE 9, a crew of dirty cops is blackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way to pull it off is to manufacture a 999, police code for “officer down”. Their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie they set up to die foils the attack, triggering a breakneck, action-packed finale filled with double-crosses, greed and revenge.

14. Kubo and the Two Strings (8/19)
Starring the Voices of:
Art Parkinson, George Takei, Brenda Vaccaro, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes and Rooney Mara
Directed By: Travis Knight
Story:
Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town – but his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, he sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.

15. The Founder
(11/25)
Starring:
Michael Keaton and Laura Dern
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Story:
The story will focus on how Ray Kroc — a milkshake dispensers salesman turned McDonald’s into a global fast food empire. Kroc began working for the McDonald brothers in 1954 at the age of 51 as a franchising agent and bought the chain for $2.7 million in 1961.

…and a special shout out to a good friend of mine who wrote:

Midnight Sun (10/19)
Starring: Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Rob Riggle
Story: Katie, a 17-year-old sheltered since childhood, is confined to her house during the day by a rare disease that makes even the smallest amount of sunlight deadly. Fate intervenes when she meets Charlie and they embark on a summer romance.

Much success to you in Tinsel Town, my friend!

Upcoming titles that were considered for this list include: The Magnificent Seven (Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt), Finding Dory (Pixar), Deepwater Horizon (Mark Wahlberg), Moana (Disney), X-Men: Apocalypse (Jennifer Lawrence), The BFG (directed by Steve Spielberg), Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Tom Cruise), Star Trek Beyond (Chris Pine), Collide (Nicholas Hoult), La La Land (Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling), A Bigger Splash (Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton), Central Intelligence (Dwayne Johnson), The Lobster (Colin Farrell), The Jungle Book (Bill Murray), Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Independence Day: Resurgence (Jeff Goldblum)…