Andy And Vera Are Wasted "At Middleton" Review

Who doesn’t like Andy Garcia? Sure, he was in the only regrettable entry to The Godfather trilogy, but he more than redeemed himself with a career going on four decades that has seen everything from the major blockbusters to more nuanced fare a la Kenneth Branagh’s underrated Dead Again. His recent choices have been dynamic and engaging, like City Island, which is worth putting on right now. As in, stop reading this review and watch it; Garcia at his best in years. Similarly Vera Farmiga is at the top of her game professionally. Currently haunting TVs as the titular Norma running Bates Motel, she’s throwing in key performances in flicks like The Conjuring after a career that catapulted with The Departed and Up In The Air. These two should be a rock star team, but, sadly, in At Middleton, the script and direction are middling at best.

Apr
23
2014
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"And Then There Was" The World Beyond Hollywood Review

As Hollywood homogenizes, you have to give some much-needed credit to the underdog; that scrappy can-do mutt who can make something happen without $100m of CGI and A-list talent. As the tectonic plates of distribution shift and the movie studios themselves move farther away from actually being content creators, instead taking on the less risky task of acquiring completed products, the room for new voices to be heard is hopefully going to increase. Already vibrantly at work, are the niche directors who aren’t waiting for an invitation to speak up for their branch of humanity and sphere of experience. Writer/director Leila Djansi is one such voice, turning in her fourth feature with eyes set squarely on the messiness of a domestic unraveling.

Apr
23
2014
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Rich Performances Make This "Hobbit" A Little Less Desolate Review

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug covers the jam-packed middle portion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1933 novel and effectively takes you on a tour of the places and peoples of Middle-earth, from the home of Beorn the skinchanger, through the spider-infested woods of Mirkwood to the Woodland Realm of the elves, down the river to the dour and downright Dickensian village of Laketown, and finally, deep inside Lonely Mountain itself to hopefully reclaim the ancestral dwarf home of Erebor from that infamous dragon. And what a dragon it is! Some characters are so iconic on the page that the notion of seeing them adapted to the big screen strikes fear, rather than excitement, into the hearts of readers--the fear of a literary legacy being forever tainted by total and utter disappointment. A talking, fire-breathing dragon from one of the most beloved books of the twentieth century certainly fits the bill, doesn’t it? And yet as played by Benedict Cumberbatch via stunningly detailed motion-capture technology, his voice oozing with pure, poetic menace, Smaug was everything that this Tolkien fan had been imagining since I first read The Hobbit when I was about eleven years old--an utterly terrifying villain as well as a regal, magical creature. The moment in which he is first revealed, as the mountains of gold coins under which he has been sleeping slowly begin to shift, sent shivers down my spine.

Apr
23
2014
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"Broadchurch" Uncovers A Tiny Bit More Of The Procedural Review

In the quiet, seaside town of Broadchurch, a child has been murdered. Eleven-year-old Danny Latimer’s (Oskar McNamara) body is found on the beach. Despite the giant cliff above the site, they discern that his death wasn’t from jumping/falling off. They also discern that the crime scene is not where the murder actually happened. So begins an 8-episode, months-long investigation into who killed Danny Latimer that will rock the entire community.

Newly hired DI Alec Hardy (David Tennant) is in charge of the investigation. He’s harboring some secrets from his past, having chosen to relocate to this small town to avoid the scandals associated with them. His hiring snubs DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) who was promised his position. Her resentment for this and Hardy’s own off-putting demeanor create immediate strife between the two of them. Ellie has enough on her plate as it is, considering she is close friends with the Latimers.

Apr
19
2014
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"Scooby-Doo! Wrestlemania Mystery" Delivers Exactly What It Promises Review

In this collaborative film, the Scooby-Doo team works with WWE to tell an animated crossover story. Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) obsessively play a WWE video game, and when Scooby beats it on the hardest level and successfully completes an elaborate victory dance, he wins admittance to WWE City. While Fred (Welker), Velma (Mind Cohn), and Daphne (Grey DeLisle) are hesitant to go on a road trip to the wrestling capital, Shaggy manages to guilt them into doing something he wants to do for once (because, obviously, Shaggy and Scooby can’t go out in public without adult supervision).

Apr
19
2014
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Take A Trip Into "The Past" Review

The latest film by Asghar Farhadi, The Past, could have used the same title as his last film A Separation. Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to Paris to finalize his divorce with Marie (Berenice Bejo) after a four-year separation. But when he returns to his old home, he finds that a lot has changed.

Marie has taken up with a new man, Samir (Tahar Rahim), who comes with his own baggage. He has a wife, who is currently in a coma. And his presence creates tension in Marie’s relationship with her daughter Lucie (Pauline Burlet), who is not actually related to Ahmad (but to a derelict in Brussels). However, because Ahmad is the closest to a father figure in Lucie’s life, he attempts to reconcile the differences between Lucie and Marie. But he uncovers even more secrets in the process.

Apr
18
2014
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Not Too Many "Bible Secrets Revealed" Review

The History Channel’s six-week, 270-minute special entitled Bible Secrets Revealed is a hefty undertaking. The series launches in Qumram, the discovery site of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and quickly pushes the differences between the modern Hebrew Bible and the books found in the Scrolls front and center. So begins a meandering, detailed examination of the mysteries and obscurities found in history’s most famous text and its various predecessors with their traditional differences. Moving away from the rigid “Word of God,” the series is an interesting, if not entirely fresh, look at an ancient text’s origins before being appropriated by a world that has done unspeakable acts of both immense good and unconscionable bad in its name.

Apr
18
2014
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This Movie Is Worth Getting "Contracted" Review

Do you need a tampon?

When you think you've done a tinkle and you find the toilet looks like the inside of an abattoir, it might not just be a heavy flow. In Contracted (2013), Sam (Najarra Townsend), a budding botanist, is date raped by a shadowy creeper and wakes up with a nasty hangover and some messy sheets. She tries to deny it, but as her symptoms get worse (and worse), no answers present themselves. Somehow, she lets her ordinary problems take precedence, especially her deteriorating relationship with Nikki (Katie Stegeman). Her mother (Caroline Williams) and friends, like Alice (Alice Macdonald), try to steer her towards help, but she might have got something that nobody can help her with.

Apr
18
2014
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New "Anchorman 2" Cut At Least 23% Funnier Review

I approach this review at a bit of a crossroads. Do I review Anchorman 2 as it exists on this awesome three disc set as the theatrical cut or do I dare explore the absurdity of the Super-Sized R-Rated Version? For those unfamiliar with the Adam McKay Ron Burgundy films, the actors often provide an insane amount of takes and dialogue options often with hilarious results. The original Anchorman film, for example, when released on DVD through Best Buy, included a wholly separate movie, comprised of sub-plots that were cut from the theatrical feature. It was pretty impressive. I decided to take a similar approach to one I’ve made in the past, and reviewed sections of the film at different cuts.

The results, predictably, were hysterical. Often, you’ll see a few of these takes used in commercials or in credits sequences, alternate takes, etc. One of the more obvious changes that many will remember from the trailer for the movie and the Super-Sized R-Rated Version includes a drastically different (and incredibly funny) take on Ron’s dinner with his girlfriend, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) and her family. The theatrical cut is incredibly racist as it is, but the Super-Sized R-Rated Version takes that to the next level. It’s probably the best example of how over-the-top the Super-Sized R-Rated Version is when compared to the original.

Apr
16
2014
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"Philomena" Is So Good, You'll Want To Pronounce Its Title Correctly Review

You think I should do a human interest story?

Of all the films nominated for Best Picture this year, Philomena (2013) is the only one I would describe as flawless. As a piece of old-fashioned human interest, unlikely to be confused for an "important" film, it was primarily seen as a showcase for Judi Dench. Thus, its nomination for Best Picture is rather strange which greater transparency in the voting process might have illuminated. Perhaps those voters saw a film that is tender, funny, terrifically produced and tells a true (and thus un-editable) story with a massive stutter step right in the middle that should have destroyed it. That it not only survives the 'twist', but then resolves its story to absolute satisfaction will be credited greatly to the performances and the charm of the true heroine, Philomena Lee. Maybe a little of it should go to Stephen Frears and screenwriters Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.

Apr
16
2014
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