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Entries in Movie Review (56)

Friday
Jul152016

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Directed by: Paul Feig
Release Date: July 16th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For the love of all that is great and wonderful in the universe, if you are going to remake a beloved movie, please make it better than the original. Otherwise what’s the point? For example, another version of Ben-Hur is set to be released next month. The 1959 version starring Charleton Heston and directed by William Wyler, itself a remake, still stands among the best films ever and certainly head and shoulders over the crap the studios pump out today. Why, Hollywood? Why?

You can ask the same question for the new Ghostbusters film. While it does have its funny moments and some decent special effects, there’s no real reason for its existence other than to make Sony money. Hell, even Columbia Pictures made a whole new division called Ghost Corps as a way to broaden the appeal of the Ghostbusters brand. This franchise isn’t going to die anytime soon.

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Friday
Jul082016

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Released on: July 8th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Another saccharine story by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life; Like Father, Like Son), Our Little Sister may be meticulously shot, offer competent and attractive actors — the likes of which we rarely see in American cinema — and told in Japanese with English subtitles, but it as emotionally superficial as a Hollywood movie by the likes of Nancy Myers or Cameron Crowe (except Kore-eda uses Asian actors when the story calls for it).

Based on the best selling manga novel by Yoshida Akimi, Umimachi Diary, Out Little Sister starts off obvious enough and then proceeds down its predictable path before its long overdue and comforting conclusion.

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Thursday
Jul022015

A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos
Directed by: Alan Rickman
Release Date: June 26th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Actor/director Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos stars Kate Winslet as the widowed Sabine De Barra, who makes her living as a landscaper in 1682 Paris. Unorthodox and bold, she is carving out her own distinct style. She is interviewed by court landscape architect of King Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), who needs help after being tasked by the King (Rickman also pulling directing duty) to create an outdoor ballroom for the Gardens of Versailles, complete with a cascade fountain.

Though reluctant at first, André is charmed by Sabine’s free-spiritedness and engineering prowess and brings her on board the project. Though she is met with some resistance because of her gender, she overcomes and finds favor with the royalty court, including the flamboyant Duke Philippe of Orleans (the amusing Stanley Tucci) and the King himself.

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Thursday
Jul022015

The Gunman

The Gunman
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: June 30th, 2015
Grade: 1.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

A good action movie works because the fun and thrills can suspend the audience’s disbelief of the genre’s inherent shortcomings. A good action movie can be intelligent without clubbing you over the head with a ham-handed message. A good action movie has an amiable tough-guy hero protagonist who saves the day.

The problem with The Gunman is that it’s tired and bland instead of fun and thrilling, with its impact also blunted by the presence of its hero and producer Sean Penn. The two-time Academy Award winner (Milk, Mystic River) is without a doubt a fine dramatic actor who chooses his roles very carefully for maximum intensity. That’s why it’s rather peculiar for him to step outside his usual template to do such an unspectacular action film.

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Thursday
Jun182015

One Cut, One Life

One Cut, One Life
Directors: Ed Pincus, Lucia Small
Released: May 15th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 of of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After the notable documentarian Ed Pincus was diagnosed with a terminal illness (compounded by other illnesses), he reunited with collaborator Lucia Small (The Axe in the Attic) to create a final first-person nonfiction film, One Cut, One Life.

Told by two different, but not too different, points of view, along with the sporadic disapproval of Ed's wife, Jane, One Cut, One Life offers a grand farewell to one of cinema's most important filmmakers and the wife, friend and filmmaker he left behind.

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Tuesday
Jun092015

Spy

Spy
Director: Paul Feig
Released: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In her best lead role yet, Melissa McCarthy is Agent Susan Cooper, a computer whiz who gives super support to the best of undercover agents, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), from behind her desk. Susan not only gives the super spy support, she romantically pines for him as well. Bradley loves Susan, too, but in a strictly professional and platonic way. Poor Susan.

As fate would have it, however, Bradley fails in his next mission and it is up to Susan to save the day. On the surface, Susan is not the obvious choice for the mission, but that is what makes her the best choice. Nobody in the criminal world will recognize her.

Starting off her European sojourn, Susan is sent to France, in an attempt to track down the mastermind criminal, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a vicious killer with a nuclear bomb who is not beyond putting people down permanently or with a direct insult to her or his face — mostly Susan's face (and fashion sense).

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Monday
Jun082015

Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth
Director: James Kent
Released: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Set during the days leading up to World War I and through the months following the conclusion of that "war to end all wars," director James Kent and screenwriter Juliette Towhidi's adaptation of Vera Brittain's memoir, Testament of Youth, has its charms, its feminist qualities and its anti-war sentiments, but it is very quaint and adolescent.

Like a heroine straight out of a Jane Austen novel, Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) is a feisty, naturally smart, young woman who wishes to stretch social barriers. Self taught and admirably determined, the haute-bourgeois British Brittain wants to be one of the few women to attend Oxford University. Her father (Dominic Ward) does not understand. He just bought Vera an expensive piano so she can entertain guests. Why can't his daughter just be a shallow, domesticated, pampered woman like her mom (Emily Watson)? Tradition is so much more tolerable.

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Monday
Apr272015

Gemma Bovery

Gemma Bovery
Director: Anne Fontaine
Screening: April 2015 at COLCOA Film Festival
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Rather than another adaptation of Madame Bovary, co-writer and director Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is a light lit-crit cinematic reinterpretation of Gustave Flaubert's great novel. 

After years in the publishing business, Martin Joubert (Fabrice Lucchini) has returned to the Northern France town of Normandy (the name of which works better as a play on words in English than in French). Martin may still be a voracious reader, but he now runs his deceased father's bakery. Martin is a natural at baking and seems happiest at work. At home, he has a nice wife, Valérie (Isabelle Candelier), plus a teenage son, Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) who does not share his father's love of reading.

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Monday
Oct132014

Left Behind

Left Behind
Directed by: Vic Armstrong
Released on: October 3rd, 2014
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Yep, it’s been 14 years since the incredibly awful, low-budget, end-times thriller Left Behind: The Movie starring Kirk Cameron hit video shelves. As per usual, idea-strapped Hollywood thinks it’s due for a remake. Producer Paul Lalonde returns to familiar Revelation-inspired territory with a bigger budget, more sophisticated productions values and a recognizable cast to retell the story of those left over after the Rapture, the event where the godly are taken instantly to Heaven before Christ returns to Earth, as some Christians believed is prophesied in the Bible. Based on Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins’ wildly popular series of novels, this Left Behind remake, despite its Hollywood polish, is just as bad and laughable as the original.

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Tuesday
Aug262014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Experienced at: Hollywood Palms Cinema
Released on: August 22nd, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Upon entering the gorgeous and extremely accommodating Hollywood Palms theater in Naperville, I was first greeted by the presence of a lavish cherry-red 1956 Ford Thunderbird just like the one used in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.  It set the tone for an undeniably prestigious and unforgettable evening, packed with a viewing of the new Sin City film as well as a face to face meeting with Rosario Dawson, Patricia Vonne, and Crystal McCahill – aka three of the Old Town girls in Sin City.  Hollywood Palms always bring the stars to you through meet & greets and this night was among the best they’ve put together.  As long as I’d waited in my career for a chance to meet Ms. Dawson (to say I’m a huge fan is an understatement), the encounter was on par with how spectacular the film turned out to be.

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