Category Archives: Movie review

“Killing Kennedy” (2013)

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Based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s best seller comes this shocking thriller starring Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin. As John F. Kennedy (Lowe) rises to become U.S. president, a former Marine grows disillusioned with America. When their paths ultimately cross, the course of history is changed forever as seen in this mesmerizing film about the assassination of JFK — and its chilling aftermath.

Directed by Nelson McCormick

8 out of 10

By Vic De Leon

“Killing Kennedy” is an intriguing, compelling and strongly acted 90 minute docu-drama about the history of both Lee Harvey Oswald and President John F. Kennedy leading up to that fateful day in November of 1963. The film, directed by the ever busy TV director Nelson McCormick (Longmire, The Stepfather, Touch), was produced by Scott Free productions and aired on National Geographic earlier this month. The movie stars Rob Lowe (Salem’s Lot) as JFK, Will Rothhar (CSI, Battle: Los Angeles) as Lee Harvey Oswald. The movie is based on the novel by Bill O’ Reilly and Martin Dugard.

The movie utilizes the strong cast to incredible effect. McCormick directs his actors with an amazing precision and it is the one thing in the film that is a solid constant. McCormick and writers O’Reilly and Kelly Masterson (Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead) tell the tale of these 2 iconic men in a linear and parallel timeline. What is refreshing about this production is that the story deviatesi (or maybe shuns?) the wild and kooky theorizing in order to provide a more straight forward version using facts and archival info to inform us. It is earnest in it’s depictions of how Oswald and JFK are fated to have their destinies intertwine in history.

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The movie, in fact, (with it’s beautifully lush tones for the sequences with JFK and the harsh blues and shadows for Oswald’s) is a traditional drama about isolation, warped ideologies, political theater and tragedy. McCormick’s film is robust with short vignettes about the 4 years prior to JFK’s murder, often switching from Oswald to JFK during this period. Rothhar’s Oswald is incredible to watch. Oswald, here, is fanatical, un-appreciative, paranoid and a completely evil figure with nary a shade of grey in the the whole scheme. Rothhar makes Oswald a nervous, impulsive and duplicitous type will great skill. Oswald is always obsessive, misconceived and angry. Rothhar allows Oswald to grow during the movie into a indecisive sociopath who cannot maintain any semblance of a normal life because of his edgy and frustrated ideologies.

Rob Lowe’s JFK is a different matter altogether. As you watch the film unfold, one comes to the conclusion that Oswald is the meat and potatoes of the movie. Much more time is spent on watching the life of Oswald, his wife and children, unravel around them. We are witness to many of the pivotal moments that Oswald was a part of like his defection to Russia, his return to the states and various interviews with the CIA and FBI. As almost the anti-thesis. JFK’s dramatic re-creations are like small doses of history and drama together in the mix. The movie follows the book closely with small insights into the pain, drive and convictions of JFK. Lowe does an amazing job here, adding levels of complexities and melodrama. We watch him as he gets his daily pain and steroid injections for his back, all the while trying to solve a crisis regarding the Russians.

And while “Thirteen Days” is the seminal film to watch about the Cuban Missile Crisis, “Killing Kennedy” does a fine job covering the event that defined JFK’s term in office. As we peek ever more into his life we that he plays with his children, campaigns and even consoles Jackie after her latest miscarriage. Lowe’s JFK is an emotionally earnest but quiet lamb amongst wolves. While the details of these scenarios (especially the political showmanship) are a bit glossed over, we still get accurate and believable moments of clarity which makes the film even more enjoyable and informative. Lowe holds his own here despite being overshadowed by others in the cast. He nails JFK brilliantly. Accent, mannerisms and even in looks.

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Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald is probably the strongest performance in the film next to Rothhar’s. She is emotionally charged and remains a tragic figure of sorts while she tries to understand Lee Harvey and why he does the things he does. Trachtenberg adds depth to Marina, who in so many other films is reduced to a background character. Here, she is a larger player in the history that unfolds. Her portrayal gets better and better the more she has to fight with herself to remain a caring mother and dutiful wife to Oswald. One particular scene that impressed me was how she had to admit to the FBI that Oswald did indeed own a rifle and had to lead them to the garage. In this moment of clarity for Marina, Trachtenberg floored me with her incredibly powerful achievement in that scene as she realizes the truth.

Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie is also wonderful to watch as she is almost in the same boat with Marina while dealing with her tribulations backing JFK all the while having to turn a blind eye (we don’t really know if this happened or not) to JFK’s indiscretion with women. One that even had ties to a Mob boss. She is quite capable and carries the elegance and maturity of Jackie very well. One scene, where she refuses to take off the blood spattered pink dress is an emotional powder keg of a scene and Goodwin manages to knock it out of the park.

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Jack Noseworthy (U-571, Breakdown, Event Horizon) as Booby Kennedy is fantastic. His reaction to hearing about his brother’s death raised the hairs on my arms. Noseworthy’s Bobby is a protective and handsome person and he gives Bobby a powerful essence that even JFK reveres in this movie. But in the end, it is Oswald’s show and when Jack Ruby (Casey Siemaszko) shows up we know Oswald’s end is near and the film deftly handles the aftermath, (including the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit by Oswald) confusion and mayhem that the assassination created and spurred. McCormick uses real life news breaks, interviews and footage to blend in well with the re-creations. The film is a point by point narrative that reveals people, places and things with great respect and force. For a 90 minute film, I was very surprised how much was covered and how dramatic and captivating “Killing Kennedy” was.

It is not a movie for conspiracy theory pundits but for those who feel that a simpler drama unfolded all those years ago that was more or less a black and white affair. The film feels much like a companion piece to The Warren Commission’s opus at times but it is not such a bad thing. And whether or not you agree with any of it, “Killing Kennedy” is worth your time for the strength of the narrative and the incredibly dynamic performances. Recommended!

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“Iron Man 3” (2013)

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When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.

Directed by Shane Black

Reviewed by Brian –

I really enjoyed the first two Iron Man films and was looking forward to watching this one. It’s tough to put your finger on just why this one doesn’t feel right. I had my Iron Man checklist ready:

Sarcastic and funny Tony..check

Humor within the action…check

Formidible bad guy…check

Romantic chemistry…check

But, why didn’t this one succeed like the first two films? The main problem is the story just isn’t compelling. A former business associate turns into a fire guy while running an underground terrorist organzation to flush out the president so the Vice President can take over to pass his legal agendas? That’s really the best idea they could come up with?

There’s thousands of issues of Iron Man available with far more compelling enemies and plot twists that they could of decided on. Another issue I had is that they really make Iron Man far too vulnerable. One of the reasons that super hero films are so engaging is that you have a collection of characters that can do spectacular things. “Iron Man 3” doesn’t even have Tony in the suit for 85% of the film and when they do a lot of his suit’s functions either don’t work or are ineffective against his foes. It’s hard to accept when in the Avengers movies he was taking out an advanced alien race, fighting toe to toe with a God, and hurling a nuclear bomb into a wormhole. Now I’m supposed to believe that because a group of people can turn their skin hot, he’s done for?

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My criticisms may sound harsh but I still enjoyed watching “Iron Man 3.”  Robert Downey Jr. is typically great in the role, Ben Kingsley has some scene stealing moments, and the special effects are better than ever. It just didn’t click together for me. You could possibly chalk it up to the change in director from Jon Favreau to Shane Black. Black’s tone is certainly darker and more desperate which takes away some of the fun. But, I tend to feel the more of these comic book films come out, the more the writers have to find ways to challenge our super heroes. The problem with Iron Man 3 is it challenged him to the point of making him no longer feeling super.

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Vic’s Review – Step 9 (2012)

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Vic’s Note: I recently had the distinct pleasure of watching a screening of “Step 9” here in Rochester, New York.  I was graciously invited by local D.J. and Film-maker Scott W. Fitzgerald of http://fairportpictures.com , to attend the showing at the beautiful Memorial Art Gallery here in the Arts district. I would like to personally thank Scott, his lovely wife Kelly, Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media for the invitation. It was a wonderful and revelatory evening. Thanks, guys!

A former drug addict attempts to make amends with his ex-wife by telling her a secret he’s been keeping to himself for years.

“Step 9”

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”

Directed by Scott W. Fitzgerald

8 out of 10

“Step 9” is a powerful and somber short film which is an amazing character study efficiently told with sobering detail and an almost funereal reverence. Co-writer and director Scott W. Fitzgerald, of Fairport Pictures, handles the material with respect and a like-able craftsmanship that leaves the viewer completely immersed. Then eventually exhausted by the deep testimonial that is the result of a 20 minute journey into a man’s attempt to put his life back in order at any cost. Fitzgerald’s story, which he co-wrote with “Step 9” actress Kelly Austin, is an acute observation that tempers the soul of those who particularly understand the tribulations of the lead character, Ray, played brilliantly by Danny Hoskins. (Better Than Wine) Ray is a recovering drug addict who wants to clear the air about his troubles with substance abuse to his estranged wife, Addison (Kelly Austin of the upcoming “Bury My Heart with Tonawanda”).

Fitzgerald’s film begins bleakly with Addison (Austin) getting into her vehicle in order to follow her husband, Ray. DP Derrick Petrush, from http://dtrainmedia.com/ ( Mason Darby, He’s Our Man!keeps his camera tight on all the prologue proceedings.  When Addison gets in her car and we see close ups of her starting the ignition and clicking in her seat belt. Fitzgerald automatically gives the short a claustrophobic feel as Addison drives, the shot lingering of her eyes in the rear view mirror, after Ray one snowy and rainy day. She eventually catches up with Ray at what appears to be warehouse/ storage facility. Addison pulls her car into frame and she watches as Ray and another man, a stranger, are in the middle of what looks to be a transaction of sorts.

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Addison jumps out after moving closer and confronts Ray as the other man turns and runs. Ray tries to calm Addison down as she yells and attacks him. She turns to get back into her car as Ray attempts to explain what is transpiring. But it is too late. Addison gets into the car and Fitzgerald quietly reveals the film’s title as we continue to hear Addison’s crying. The film flashes slowly white then we come to Ray contemplating better and jovial days with his beloved wife as he sits eating a meal. Confined to a compact dwelling, Ray sits somberly and eventually Addison arrives to speak with Ray. Things are frosty and as Addison tries to be immediate and hurried, Ray comes off as a bit standoffish as he makes a biting comment about Addison’s prosperity. It doesn’t sit well with her and almost leaves Ray alone to wallow. Ray tells Addison about some bad news and he realizes that he is not getting any support or sympathy from her. In the course of the conversation she asks Ray about his prior drug use already making a judgement. Fitzgerald and Austin make their characters hot headed and prone to arguing. They continue this discourse for a while as the movie slowly boils in the incommodious environment.

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Ray begs to have the “old Addy back” as he tries desperately to get her to understand that this disclosure is not easy for him. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald adds the occasional flashback in black and white of Ray being sneaky and devious all the while with a devilish grin on his face. Ray tries to take a trip down memory lane but Addison decides otherwise. Ray, then, proceeds to tell her what he was going through and how he felt during his use as the steely Addison rubs her hands with antibacterial lotion in a very symbolic gesture. Fitzgerald’s characters are people under a microscope in “Step 9.” They are being slowly picked apart by their movements, dialog and emotions. The short incorporates layers of dynamic drama and it is fueled by slow and deliberate conversation. The  film peels back layers upon layers exposing issues, trauma and deep rooted despondency. Self image, addiction and insecurities come to surface. Especially when Ray finds out something salient about Addison’s past. All of this is on display and it works because of Austin and Hoskins. They play the conflict and then resolution well off of each other.

It isn’t all done with an easy flow though. Hoskins’ somewhat maniacal outbursts towards Austin seems a bit forced and heavy handed but it is fleeting. The script, too, clunks around a bit in the beginning but it finds it’s footing and never trips again. By the end of the short after all things are said and done between Ray and Addison, things are very different and the climax is both appropriate, crushing and eye opening. “Step 9” is about forgiveness, despair, re-creation and sometimes futility. There is hope in this short though. In spades.  My hat’s off to Fitzgerald, Austin, Hoskins and Fair Port Pictures for putting together a beautifully shot and wonderful short that is well acted, relevant and engaging. “Step 9” is indeed about what the 9th step is all about. Making amends. That in itself is a conviction that Fitzgerald and company express brilliantly in this short. Highly recommend.

“This is not right, Ray. You are a good man. You SAVED us.” – Addison

“The slate is clean.” – Ray

“Step 9” was shot and filmed in Rochester, New York

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You can watch the Festival Cut of “Step 9” from Fair Port Pictures and D-Train Media here:

Brian’s Review – Man Of Steel (2013)

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Man of Steel

Directed by Zack Snyder

4 out of 10

A young itinerant worker is forced to confront his secret extraterrestrial heritage when Earth is invaded by members of his race:

I blame annoying ass comic book fanboys for this film. After the release of Bryan Singer’s 2006 resurrection of the franchise with Superman Returns, fanboys bitched and moaned up and down with quotes like:

“There’s not enough action.”

“Why is the film all about the romantic element?”

“Why isn’t the film darker?”

“Why can’t it be more like Batman?”

Well asshole fanboys, you got what you wanted. And guess what? Your dream version of Superman isn’t very good. It’s not a complete catastrophe but it’s way too long for such a thin story and it literally sucks the joy out of the Superman experience.

The film opens with a long stretch similar to the far superior 1978 version that shows the end of the planet Krypton. What are the differences? Instead of showing an imaginative ice world filled with overly confident scientists whose own arrogance proves to be the destruction of their planet, we get a rock world filled with too much CGI and fisticuffs between Superman’s Dad and Zod. Despite the obvious advances in special effects, it doesn’t draw the viewer in. It’s cold and boring. The unfortunate part of that is that it permeates through the entire 2 1/2 hour running time.

After the obvious jettison of baby Superman to Earth in his ship that is curiously shaped like a penis, baby Supes goes through growing up bullied, alienated, and rejected. Does he discover new powers? Does he realize he’s capable of abilities that make him God-like? No! He mopes, he whines about how he’s different, and he makes himself the victim all the time. It’s again a far cry from the 1978 version that showed a young Clark Kent laughing and smiling while out running a train. Also, unlike the original film, this version does everything in flashback. Clark is roaming place to place in search of where he comes from and once in a while, he finds people to save. There’s no characters even brought into the experience that we relate to.

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I’ll run down the list of things this films gets wrong:

1. It’s not fun. Superman hates being Superman almost the entire film.

2. Lois feels crowbarred into the story. She’s in it a lot and you’ll scratch your head as to how she got there in the first place.

3. Clark doesn’t work at the Daily Planet. He’s a fisherman or something else for almost the whole film.

4. There’s no chemistry between Superman and Lois. This was the entire backbone of the original film.

5. Zod is terribly boring. He’s single-minded and 2 dimensional.

6. Perry White is in the film but doesn’t have any bearing on the story.

7. Kevin Costner dies trying to save a dog. Yes, a dog…. Remember the original Johnathon Kent. He had a heart attack and Clark couldn’t save him? It added extra meaning because it reminded him that as powerful as was, he couldn’t save everyone. It was poignant. This is not.

8. Action scenes go on and on without purpose, or suspense, or involvement from the viewer.

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What did I like? Henry Cavill could be a terrific Superman in a better film. There’s a few decent moments between Clark and his adopted parents. The problem is that these scenes are few and far between because we keep getting thrown into action scenes that aren’t interesting. It’s a city under destruction that was done better in the Avengers. That films had character development within the action. This does not.

I have always been a fan of the Superman character. He is a representation of the American myth that we are all capable of amazing things. We may not fly, or have super strength, or X-ray vision. But, he represented the inner good and possibility o the human spirit to help his fellow man without the need for reward. It was a character and story-line that was fun, romantic, and made you believe a man could fly. The “Man of Steel” felt like he never left the ground.

Brian’s Review – Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

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After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

Directed by J.J. Abrams

9 out of 10

It’s a great relief to me to see that J.J. Abrams has taken over the Star Wars series starting with Episode 7 and a great sadness that he will no longer be making any Star Trek films. This is every bit as good as the previous entry where Abrams reinvented the series by creating an alternate timeline that separates it from the original television and movie series with William Shatter and company. That was brilliant masterstroke of sci-fi writing because it opened the floodgates to possibilities of what could happen to these classic characters that differed from the original stories.

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Star Trek:Into Darkness is action packed and loaded with first rate stunts and special effects. However, I’m glad to say that they never come at the expense of storytelling or character interaction. All of the Enterprise crew have a likeability in their own way and you find yourself rooting for them. The main differences between this film and the last is a first rate villain played brilliantly by Benedict Cumberbatch who is far more interesting than Eric Bana’s villain in the last and an even more frenetic pacing because we no longer need introductions to the main players. I won’t give away plot details because there are several easy things to spoil. However, I will tell you that this is first rate popcorn entertainment. It may not be the brainy sci-fi that some Trekkies live for but it sure is fun.

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Brian’s Note: I saw this in IMAX 3-D and recommend it. It’s done much more tastefully than other three dimensional efforts. I still prefer 2-D but it’s acceptable.

Vic’s Review – Stand Up Guys (2012)

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A pair of aging stickup men try to get the old gang back together for one last hurrah before one of the guys takes his last assignment – to kill his comrade.

Directed by Fisher Stevens

4 out of 10

What the hell did I just watch? Oh man, is this what Christopher Walken and Al Pacino been reduced to? Lowbrow humor about Boners, prostitutes, and snorting prescription drugs? “Stand Up Guys” establishes that it is parody pretty early on but it isn’t even good or witty parody. It’s a bunch of disjointed skit-like scenes that that are neither funny or remotely smart.  It has some interesting bits of the “fish out of water” or “I’ve been out of the game” elements but they only elicited a smirk or a slight giggle from me. I never actually laughed out loud. Not even once. I did sit up and take notice at perhaps the coolest part of this mess but I’ll get to that later. I really wanted to enjoy this but instead watched something that was very similar to the comedy “The Crew” with Richard Dreyfuss and Burt Reynolds. “The Crew” while not a classic either still had some great chemistry among the leads and while the story stalled in places it got the parody right in more than one instance. “The Crew” is even a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it once in a while.  As much as I want to judge “Stand Up Guys” on it’s own merits I just can’t. The film is too feeble and expects us to enjoy two, no, make that three excellent actors trade very SNL type dialog that seems more appropriate in an “Harold and Kumar” movie. Too bad.

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Director Fisher Stevens ( Californication and Short Circuit) and writer Noah Haidle brings us a movie of firsts. First directing gig for Stevens and first major gig for Haidle for the writing. Unfortunately neither the direction or writing amount to anything that good or funny. Al Pacino ( Carlito’s Way, Scarface, The Devil’s Advocate) plays an ex-mobster simply named “Val” Val is being released from prison after being incarcerated for 28 years. His friend “Doc” played by Walken is there to pick him up. What Val doesn’t know is that Doc has been ordered to whack Val by crime boss “Claphands” ( A name that sounds like a Dick Tracy villain ) and he has until 10am to do it. Val, being quite horny, convinces Doc to break into a pharmacy to get some type of erectile meds in order for him to “perform.” After he takes a handful of them, which is a very stupid thing to do, he has Doc take him to a brothel nearby. A few sex and dick jokes later Val lands in the ER only to confront Julianna Margulies as Nina. Nina happens to be the daughter of their other friend, Hirsch. Nina and another Doc have to wait around after all of the boner humor is done and Val is given something for his perpetual hard on. Ugh. Sometime later after Nina tells the guys that Hirsch is in a home and slowly dying. They decide to pick him up for a last hurrah around town. A last hurrah that includes fast cars, ( with a stolen Dodge Challenger SRT8 no less ), close calls, police chases and guess what? A brothel! Haha, Sooo hilarious and original! I must admit that Alan Arkin was refreshing to watch and it made the movie suck a bit less but even Arkin is stalled here because the un-witty banter and humor is just too pedestrian.

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So, after Arkin croaks, because we don’t see THAT coming. Doc and Val find a naked girl named Sylvia ( Vanessa Ferlito from “Death Proof”) in the trunk of the SRT8 and helps her  get even with some thugs that violated her. Ferlito is quite cute and sexy but here she is wasted. She’s not appealing enough to really like and is forced to deliver a very bad one-liner about “The Nutcracker”  Ho hum. There is dull subplot about Doc’s grandaughter who is a waitress and some money that Doc wants to leave her and then by the third act Doc and Val ponder how things will go down. Will Doc spare Val and defy Claphands? Or will he do him in? Well, by the time the climax and story wrap up I’m not very interested or even care about what happens. Stevens gives his gravelly voiced leads way too much room to go overboard on delivery, exposition and much of the film is spent with the two trading lame quips and one liners. They are given way too much room to indulge. Watching Arkin, Pacino and Walken all together onscreen should have been a hit out of the park here. Stevens takes way too long to let them play well off each other, unfortunately. Most of the scenes with Pacino and Walken has a sort of desperation about it. It tries to be some kind of “Bucket List” meets “Goodfellas” type comedy or maybe it is trying to cash in on some of the vulgar sensibilities of “The Hangover” movies except using a couple of elder actors that should have really dissected this script before accepting the roles. The material is way beneath them and if they wanted to make this work they should have had a director on-board who totally gets the ironies, wit and aplomb that a comedy of this type involves. I can in no way recommend this movie. A shame really. I cringed way too many times during most of the painful scenes with these legends instead of laughing and appreciating the humor that is really lacking here.

Oh and back to the reason I gave this movie it’s rating, well maybe 2 reasons. There is a shootout and the film could have used a few shootouts and the other reason is: Doc and Val quote Nada  ( Roddy Piper) from John Carpenter’s “They Live” The only really cool part of the  movie.

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Vic’s Review – Texas Chainsaw (2013)

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A young woman travels to Texas to collect an inheritance; little does she know that an encounter with a chainsaw-wielding killer is part of the reward.

“Texas Chainsaw”

Directed by John Luessenhop

4 out of 10

Egads. Even though horror fans have seen iconic movie villains like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and even ole Mikey Myers rebooted, remade and re-imagined we seem to have forgotten Leatherface somewhat. Well in true predictable form we are treated to a grittier, violent and deranged Leatherface but a Leatherface that is actually a type of vigilante or “anti-hero” that is going after some people who either get in his way or have it coming. What Director John Luessenhop (Takers) gets right out of the gate is deftly re-create the climax of Tobe Hooper’s seminal movie. Using some new footage smartly intermixed with Hooper’s. Here he sets things up for us and with precision and gravity Luessenhop manages to invent some mood with dark carnage and twists. Unfortunately, that is all that he gets right. Everything else after the interesting set up is so predictable, fabricated, boring and incredibly dull. I have never been a huge Leatherface fan having only watched some entries of the franchise here and there. Luessenhop doesn’t accomplish much in the way of sparking some real interest all around here. It’s all violent style over much needed substance.

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Some will argue that it is indeed a decent entry because it does deliver some of the more horrific elements of a crazed slasher film but I have to disagree. It delivers all right but it’s not chills and thrills. Actress Alexandria Daddario (Hall Pass) plays Heather Miller who has been notified that her wealthy Grandmother  has left her a huge house and property. After she discovers that she is adopted, Heather reluctantly decides to  travel to collect her inheritance. She gets her  friends Ryan, Nikki and Kenny together for the road trip and they head out. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker named Darryl. They make it to the house and after doing a walk through of it Heather decides to go and get some supplies from town and they leave Darryl behind to loot the place. Dumb thing number 1. Never leave a total stranger to watch your brand new house which is full of expensive silver objects. And the dumb things continue. One right after a another. We are introduced to Leatherface (Dan Yeager) who survived the attack upon the Sawyer Home 20 years before. He is indeed creepy and very menacing but only in a cartoony sort of way. I just couldn’t take him seriously. So, Heather and her friends learn the hard way that Leatherface comes with the house like some sort of rapid pet. Yikes.

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The devil is  in the details here in this movie and some things do not gel. The film shows a lynch mob that destroys the Sawyer home with fire but 20 years later it’s perfectly re-built. Characters do not age and bodies are found with no explanation. It’s these little things that wreck the film. Well, this and the fact that everything else sucks. There is no suspense. The chases are boring and uninspired. Kenny and Darryl both run afoul of Leatherface in grisly ways that involves large metal hooks and Kenny gets sliced right in half in a deliciously gory and funny moment. Leatherface goes after Heather and the rest and in the escape he causes the getaway van to crash. Heather gets away from the wreck but her boyfriend Ryan (Rapper Trey Songz) doesn’t fare too well. Tania Raymonde (Lost) plays Nikki, who even though very sexy here,  can’t seem to escape cliche territory when facing the killer. The one high point of the film is when Leatherface runs amok at a carnival that Heather escapes to. But it is too little too late. Texas Chainsaw delivers a dull continuation of the iconic and mythical  film. It is riddled with cliche after cliche and it is incredibly boring. Luessenhop fails in his plot and execution. In the last act the movie totally falls apart. In a last ditch effort to impress, Luessenhop reveals something about both Heather and Leatherface that is a bit laughable and trite. I’d stay clear of this mess gang. But if you do have to see it then don’t expect anything other than a bad movie that isn’t bad enough to be good.

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Brian’s Review – Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

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After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Brian

Rating: 9 out of 10

Holy Shit! Bradley Cooper can act! I honestly had no idea. Everything I’ve ever seen him in prior to this movie, he’s always delivered a minimalist performance where he seems to be doing little more than acting like himself. But, here he delivers a nuanced and fleshed out character that isn’t just interesting, but funny and touching as well. Honestly, all the acting in this film is fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Jacki Weaver are all top notch and make the film work but I knew THEY could act. Cooper caught me a bit off guard.

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As I’m sure you’ve read from the above synopsis, this is a film about mental illness and the long term effects it can have on life, love, and finding your place in the world. As generalized as that description can sound, it describes the experience of watching the film perfectly. David O. Russell does his best work since Three Kings here. He has always been a visionary director that uses interesting characters to help round out a detailed and oft-kilter world. But, here is a film that is more about emotion than rational thought. Cooper, De Niro, and Lawrence all have their mental illness vices. De Niro is obsessive compulsive, Lawrence lost her husband and has thrown herself to any man sexually who will make her forget her pain, and Cooper has constant fits of rage stemming all the way back to an incident where his wife was unfaithful. Each of them is looking for their own “Silver Lining.”

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 That makes for an interesting premise and certainly Russell is adept at weaving the tale but it’s the interaction between the characters that makes this film special, particularly the believable chemistry between Lawrence and Cooper. Their relationship builds over the course of the movie, not from some lame chance meeting like all of the predictable romantic comedies. They have very little in common except for one thing: they both have no filter between their brains and their mouths. This makes for some funny and unpredictable dialogue that is completely original.

I’ll admit that this may not be everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of film goers like their neat and tidy films that ride off into the sunset. While this film is far from a negative experience, it doesn’t dare to think that these people are cured. It just lets them find their silver lining within their imperfect existence. 

 

The Ten Greatest Directors

chaplin
Welcome to the final installment of The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each post removed ten directors from the list with an explanation as to why we cut them. It wasn’t easy, but we’re finally down to the Ten Greatest Directors. There was a lot of debate behind the scenes, but here they are, in no particular order. We’re simply naming them The Ten Greatest Directors.

Jean-Luc Godard
He is one of the pioneers of the French New Wave wasn’t just a great director but changed the language of filmmaking forever. Prior to Godard, such things as having a character address the camera, jump cut editing, and non-linear storytelling were considered taboo. Now, without Godard, we wouldn’t have Tarantino, Von Trier, or Coppola.

Federico Fellini
The ultimate dreamer who made dreams come alive on the screen. His films were a dance with a rhythm, intelligence, and sly wit that no other director in history can match. His legacy is assured and his movies are timeless. Be sure to see La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. They changed the way viewers looked at filmmaking.

Ingmar Bergman
The auteur of the top 10 also is underrated when it comes to delivering a film that also enlightens and entertains. His strongest attribute was dealing with the most basic human emotions: love, life, death, and family and making the films convey these feelings without condescending the audience. I have never watched a Bergman film without thinking about it for at least a week afterwards. They stay with you like all great art.

Charlie Chaplin
Most people know him as The Tramp — the iconic character with the funny mustach, top hat and cane. And it’s a phenominal character, but he also wrote and directed his best films, like The Kid, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. He had 72 films directed, won a lifetime achievement award from the Academy, best actor, and even one for best original score. He knew how to make great films, and was a notorious perfectionist.

Fritz Lang
If you don’t know him, the directors you love certainly do. Lang is one of the most influential directors, and is considered the father of film noir. He never won an Academy Award — most likely because he was born in Germany, and even though he moved to America because of his strong distaste for nazis, was still looked at as a “German filmmaker.” His movies, like M, Metropolis, and Fury are classics still shown in film schools around the world to this day. They are iconic, timeless, and resonate with great awe.

Alfred Hitchcock
He was master storyteller who churned out movies like it was his job… which it was. Over a 50 year career, he cranked out nearly 70 films as a director, plus he wrote and produced his own television series and other films. But he will be remembered most as a director for his uncanny ability to capture suspense, play with our minds with stunning visuals, and create iconic images in films like “Psycho” “The Birds” “North by Northwest” “Vertigo” and the list goes on. He set the stage for other directors in a genre he brought respect to.

John Ford
He’s arguably the greatest. He directed more than 100 films, including classics like Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, and also was a four-time Oscar winner for directing. His pace, understanding of timing, respect for actors and iconic imagery all make up his incredible talent. A master, through and through, and a workhorse.

Martin Scorsese
He came out of the NYU film school, and lead a generation of directors that bucked the Hollywood system and its traditional film-making techniques  and story lines. He made movies, like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, that challenged the viewer and put them in an uneasy chair. His mafia movies, like Good Fellas and The Departed, are unmatched in the genre. He approaches film humbly, and understands stories and imagery like no other. We love Scorsese, and we hope he never retires.

Stanley Kubrick
Kirk Douglas, after the making of Spartacus, said, “Stanley Kurbick is a talented shit.”

He only made 15 films in his career, which was one of his regrets as a director, but he was a perfectionist and his pictures were a reflection of that. His last film, Eyes Wide Shut, took five years to make. No other director has been given that freedom, and for good reason. Every Kubrick film is a masterpiece.

There has never been a director who understood a camera better. He was a still photographer before he became a motion picture director and his use of light and how it impacts stories and characters as a storytelling vehicle is extremely thoughtful. His storytelling skills are superb, but he never used narrative stories, or rarely did. His movies made you feel the story. They never handed it to you on a silver plate. He challenged viewers with his stories and portrayed them with stunning beauty. He was the Mozart of film making.

Akira Kurosawa
Ironically, Kirosawa was panned in Japan in his early days for being too influenced by western directors, like John Ford, and for bringing too much emotion to his pictures. But that was his strength. He captured both the action of war and its drama. He paid exquisite detail even to the most mundane characters, and brought humanity to war and famine. “The Seven Samurai” “Yojimbo” “Rashômon” and “The Hidden Fortress” continue to influence directors to this day.

The Ten Greatest Directors Part 3

spielberg

Welcome to part 3 of our series on The Ten Greatest Directors.

We started with a list of 45 directors and each day until our anniversary, we will each remove five directors from the list and give an explanation as to why we cut them.

Let us know which ones you think should stay, and which should go — and maybe some directors  you thought should have been in the mix that weren’t.

MATT

Francis Ford Coppola
Bram Stoker’s Dracula was probably the last really good film he’s made, and that was in 1992. I know it stings to take Coppola off this list, but he made the Godfather trilogy, and not a lot after or before.

Orson Welles
After Citizen Kane, Welles didn’t do a whole lot. He directed a lot of television projects. It’s strange that someone who directed such a beautiful looking film, with such great influence, never really met his potential.

Pedro Almodovar
I’m a big fan. Volver, if you haven’t seen it, was great. Talk to her, was also quite good. But his collection of work isn’t strong enough to warrant Top 10.

Sam Peckinpah
He only directed 14 films, but made some great ones — like Straw Dogs and The Wild Bunch. But I think his true strength was as a writer.

Steven Spielberg
What?! Yes, Spielberg is getting cut. This is a band-aid that just needs to be ripped off. For Every Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, there’s an Indiana Jones 4 or War Horse. This one is tough to cut, but again, I go back to relevance. He’s making Indiana Jones 5 right now. Lincoln was great, but you have to go back to 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence for his last good movie. This is a pattern for him.

BRIAN 

Mel Brooks
I’m a huge fan of the Producers but a lot of his humor falls flat with me. Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein are highly overrated one joke premises.

Wes Anderson
He’s the king of the dry humor. I loved Rushmore and Royal Tenebaums. Wasn’t crazy about Zizou and Darjeeling Limited. Either way, he’s not in the top 10

Tim Burton
I loved Pee Wee and think Ed Wood is one of the most underrated films ever made. But, he made Mars Attacks and Planet of the Apes and those weren’t just bad, they were complete disasters.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Delicatessen and City of Lost Children are fantastic. But, he directed Alien: Resurrection, which was horrendous. Also, Amelie is very cute but terribly overrated.

Brian Depalma
He has some great movies on his résumé: Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface. But, he’s still working today and hasn’t even made anything good in 20 years.

Remaining Directors:
Woody Allen
Quentin Tarantino
Charlie Chaplin
Billy Wilder
David Lynch
Ridley Scott
Fritz Lang
Terrence Malick
Robert Altman
Oliver Stone
Paul Thomas Anderson
Ingmar Bergman
Federico Fellini
Martin Scorsese
Joel and Ethan Cohen
John Huston
Stanley Kubrick
Sergio Leone
Milos Forman
Jean-Luc Godard
Yasujiro Ozu
Alfred Hitchcock
Akira Kirosawa
Christopher Nolan
John Ford