Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Director: Derek Cianfrance
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Dane DeHaan, Rose Byrne, Emory Cohen

After watching 2010's Blue Valentine, I knew that director Derek Cianfrance was a director that needed extra attention. The raw emotional story told by him and stars Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams really struck a nerve with me. Cianfrance has re-teamed with Gosling for his third movie which is one hell of an undertaking. Luke (Gosling) is a tough, tattooed, stunt motorcycle rider. He drives around in small steel cages with two motorcyclists touring the small state fair circuit. His ex-girlfriend Romina (Mendes) pays him a visit and he finds out he is the father of her son, Jason. She has moved on from him and is working as a waitress in a small diner and is now dating another man. Luke decides to get his act together by quitting the stuntman lifestyle to stay in town and help raise his son. His good intentions to turn his life around quickly stall as he turns to robbing banks to make money for his son.

After a couple of successful heists, Luke hits a snag on one attempt sending him into an altercation with rookie policeman Avery Cross (Cooper). The film shifts focus onto Avery's life. Avery comes from a wealthy family and has a beautiful wife (Byrne). There is a pre-determined path that his family wants him to go down, but Avery is torn with what he wants to do in life. After the altercation, he comes to realize his colleagues in the police force led by Deluca (Liotta) are about as corrupt as they come causing interal struggles with Avery's core values and constant determination to do the right thing. The story takes another turn and jumps fifteen years later. The culminating focus of the story narrows in on the actions of Luke and Avery and how they have impacted theirs sons. Avery is now running for public office but his teenage son, AJ (Cohen), has gotten himself messed up and arrested for drug possession with Jason (DeHaan). AJ and Jason have no idea of the history between their two fathers, and their friendship comes into question as certain truths start to reveal themselves.

I am always drawn to big ensemble dramas where actors are being pushed in every scene. With these three interconnected stories, Cianfrance delivers strong performances across the board from his cast. Gosling is as strong and realistic as he is with every character. Mendes plays completely out of her standard sexy bad-ass chick routine I think she has gotten herself stuck in. She has finally taken on a role that allows herself to give off a strong, stripped down, and vulnerable performance. This role has finally forced me to take notice of her when I had never given her credit before. Liotta may be the only one in comfortable territory playing the ruthless corrupt cop. I am happy to see Cooper successfully take on another flawed character. I was hoping Silver Linings Playbook was not a fluke performance. It is hard not to take notice of Dane DeHaan. He reminded me of a young Leonardo DiCaprio in his approach. Do not be surprised if he follows in the footsteps of DiCaprio or Gosling and becomes the next in demand actor if he continually takes on these challenging and unstable characters.

Cianfrance is drawn to making movies about family life. Blue Valentine focused on the husband and wife dynamic while The Place Beyond the Pines taps into the relationships between fathers and sons. The central characters must deal with coping with the life they have either been born into or got themselves a part of in their later years. They have to realize that certain choices and actions have consequences from one generation to the next. For an up and coming director, this multi-layered approach to the story is no easy feat. With the opening tracking shot, the cinematography is gritty and very in your face at times. Cianfrance manages to go all in without playing it safe in any regard. The film is by no means perfect, but it has had a lasting impression on me. I can only imagine what future stories and themes Cianfrance will come up with, and I know I will be in line as soon as they open.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Review: TO THE WONDER

Director: Terrence Malick
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams

Director Terrence Malick is known to be a reclusive, artistic, mysterious type of director. Over a span of his forty year career he has made six movies clearly taking time in between each artistic endeavor. It comes as somewhat of a surprise that his latest, To the Wonder, has been released just two years after his Oscar nominated The Tree of Life. This internal look into life, love, and happiness feels very much like a companion piece to The Tree of Life in tone, style, mystery, and artistry.

Unlike some of his other films, the story is entirely set in modern day. Neil (Affleck) and Marina (Kurylenko) fall desperately for each other against the backdrop of the Mont St. Michel in France. Marina and her daughter, Tatiana, give up their home in France to live with Neil in Oklahoma. She starts to settle in as he works doing environmental research in the community. Their mainly empty home is set in the heart of a new development with wealthy neighbors and their beautiful houses.

Despite the new life, Marina has troubles adjusting to the vastly different life she now has in Oklahoma compared to the one in France. She spends her spare time in her local church reflecting and contemplating her options. Father Quintana (Bardem) is struggling with his own vocation all the while putting on the standard content face he must share with his congregation. He spends the majority of his days helping the poor and sick members of the community often times putting his own life in jeopardy. Marina's visa expires and she moves back to France with Tatiana. Meanwhile, Neil reconnects with formal flame, Jane (McAdams). Marina cannot seem to ever stay in a happy place as she realizes back in France that she misses Neil too much and moves back to Oklahoma.

Much like his last film, Malick uses poetic narration, imagery, and a simple musical score to tell his story. There is very little actual dialogue between the characters. The narration goes back and forth between the three main characters in a poetic style feeling like they are writing each other letters. The camera never stops moving as the actors are set out to interact with each other and the space while maintaining this story through the sparse dialogue. Much to Malick’s direction and the strong work done by Bardem, Affleck, and Kurylenko they all have created a world you can easily understand. You theoretically could turn off the score and narration and still understand the through line of the story.

Malick’s films are not the most accessible to watch. They require an open mind and patience when sitting through two hours of a slow story with limited dialogue and action as you watch three characters internally struggle with their happiness and purpose in life. I was continually in awe of the beautiful nature shots captured by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who also shot The Tree of Life. Both films feel very personal and autobiographical for him. This film will by no means convert anyone into a Malick fan as these characters are continually depressed with their lives and are seen walking around town dealing with the poor, twirling around in a field, or getting into fights. The audience does not even get to hear any of the potentially good and juicy dialogue that usual comes with these fights. You just watch the two actors struggle. Having watched a few Malick movies before, I knew what I was getting into. I was able to ease in and enjoy the film for what it was. Will you? Only if you are a Malick fan. What does that say about a director that has a distinct point of view, is artistic, and personal in his work but can only cater to a small sect of fans? Does that make him all the more genius or does it turn into someone being self-indulgent and pretentious?

RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Movie Review: ROOM 237

ROOM 237
Director: Rodney Asher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Julie Kearns, Jay Weidner

“The wave of terror that swept across American is HERE” is the description used on the poster.

I am sure any movie-goer can sit down and think of a few movies that have left a lasting impression on them. They may even go so far as to read articles and stories about the filming of it, listen to the director’s commentary, or watch interviews with the actors. Any new insight or glimmer of knowledge into your favorite film is always rewarding.

The legendary Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest directors of all-time. I am always transfixed and left with wild images flashing through my mind after watching any of his films. They may not always make sense and you may shake your head afterwards, but he leaves the audience with something to think about. For these fans, I mean theorists, they take their love of The Shining to the next level of movie probing. The six enthusiasts have watched the Stanley Kubrick adaptation of the Stephen King novel countless times finding new meanings and hidden agendas Kubrick may be saying and hinting at throughout the film. They mention that no Kubrick directorial choice can be taken as arbitrary. While that is true about such accomplished directors, there is no end as they dig deeper into every nook and cranny of the Overlook Hotel.

The film requires an open mind as you listen to some theories that sound slightly possible to some that seem downright absurd and laughable. Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, Jay Weidner, and Buffy Visick all give their insights via audio commentary. None of them are actually featured in the documentary so at times you may get lost on who is speaking and which opinion belongs to which fan. In the end, it does not really matter. There is a thought that he was potentially bored while making Barry Lyndon and was looking for the next thing. He was studying the idea behind subliminal messages and images in commercials before making The Shining. Blakemore starts off by claiming Kubrick used the story to voice a commentary on the genocide of the Indians. He mentions the use of Calumet brand Baking Powder cans found in the pantry and all of the framed artwork of Indian chiefs as proof. You may be thinking to yourself, that’s it? Cocks makes a bold statement that the film was Kubrick’s way of making a film about the Holocaust. He was known to be so moved by the Holocaust but he couldn’t figure out how to make an actual film about it. He states the abundant use of the number 42 and the German typewriter Jack Torrence uses as his evidence. The theory that made me audibly laugh is the belief Kubrick was involved in faking the Apollo moon landing footage. That theorist also believes Kubrick leaves hints in all of his movies regarding this claim. He gets so deep into his belief that he makes every line and image out to be a nod to the landing and Kubrick’s relationship with his wife. He mentions that the mean distance from the moon to earth is 237,000 miles. He points out that Danny is wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. Those are just a couple of the ways he tries to make his theory about Kubrick and the “faked” moon landing.

The focus is all about Kubrick and all of his artistic choices, but why do none of these theorists attribute any of these things to King since he is the original source material being the author of the book? It is no secret that Stephen King was very disappointed in the movie. Kubrick made many changes and took many liberties with King’s story. They do wonder if Kubrick was changing things just to piss him off and claim that The Shining was his territory now.

While the concept of reading into a director’s work can seem interesting, it has to make sense and be believable. Oftentimes, these loyal fans would seem to take two props and run with their conspiracy theories. They manifested an idea and went with it looking for any poster on the wall, design in the carpet, or layout of the hotel to support it. The further they seemed to reach and pull evidence to support their theory, the more skeptical I became. Shouldn't it be the opposite? Some of their ideas and thoughts seem so far-fetched and possibly made up in their head that they do not make sense. I tilted my head and laughed in amusement at times I was so confused by what point they were trying to make. When you delve so deep into a movie does it make you enjoy the movie even more or does it take away the mystery or intrigue it has on you? Can you still enjoy a movie if you have broken it so far down that you know everything about it?

Whether or not you believe anything they say about the film, you cannot deny that Kubrick was a visionary director that had a point of view. He may or may not have had any of these messages or hidden meanings in mind when he made it. We will never know. I do not think anyone will be converted to believe Kubrick faked the moon landing after watching Room 237, but you may watch The Shining under a different light the next time you pop it in. If you love Stanley Kubrick, The Shining, or consider yourself a cinephile who likes to dig a little deeper into movies, this film may pique your inquisitive mind. The more likely scenario is that you will feel like these six people have far too much time on their hands. During one observation someone states, “Perhaps I’m grasping at straws here.”

Yes, I think you are, but I still had fun hearing you pitch your theory.

RATIING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Movie Rewind: DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Tom Powers

“You got the wrong guy…I killed Dietrichson.” Those are the words of insurance salesman Walter Neff (MacMurray). Sweat pours down his face as he confesses into a Dictaphone machine directing his message to his boss, Walter Keyes (Robinson). What would a film noir be if a little murder and intrigue wasn't involved!

Walter narrates the story as the he flashes back to how the story began. He approaches the Dietrichson residence to discuss the renewal of their car insurance policy. Mr. Dietrichson (Powers) is not home, but luckily for him his wife, Phyllis(Stanwyck), is home and is very easy on the eyes. Her perfume and ankle bracelet are just a few of her touches that leave a lasting impression. A return appointment to the Dietrichson home turns from quick renewal talk to accident protection talk. Phyllis is just so worried that something could happen to him while working in the oil fields. The cagey aspect of the situation is that she does not want her husband knowing about said policy. Walter reads into this as her confessing she wants to kill her husband. A confrontation between the two of them occurs but she denies this shocking allegation.

Days pass but Phyllis is still keen on her true motive. She lays right into his flirtation and surprises him at his home to discuss things further. “He keeps me on a leash so tight I can’t breathe.” She explains to Walter that he would never divorce her so that is out of the question. Walter cannot bear to have anything abusive happen to her, so he agrees that he will help her hill her husband. After all, he is the right man for the job. He knows all the tricks and loopholes about insurances policies and comes up with just the right way for him to die in order for her to get the most out of the policy. He informs her of the “double indemnity” clause where if someone were to have an accidental death, the insurance company would pay double to the deceased’s widow. Plus, there is money and a new romance he can get out of it.

Discrete public meetings, coded telephone calls, alibis, and calculated movements are imperative for Walter to carry out the act of causing Dietrichson’s "accidental" death. The plan, which involves some mistaken identity, is carried off without a hitch. It is only time before suspicion grows. Lola, Mr. Dietrichson’s daughter from a previous marriage, along with Keyes cannot seem to make sense of how Mr. Dietrichson died. They know it is no coincidence that an insurance claim was taken out just days before his death.

Double Indemnity is considered a classic in the film noir genre. All of the key ingredients for this stylized genre are present. The film starts off with a confession of murder and a narration follows describing the circumstances around it. Stanwyck’s blonde femme fatale seems innocent at first glance, but she is manipulative and untrustworthy. Cinematographer John F. Seitz’s use of light and shadow along with the haunting score by Miklós Rózsa play into the conspiracy and demeanor of our central characters and their plot to stay under the radar.

The screenplay offers many twists and curve balls to keep the pace going. The suspense and anticipation builds as the cards are turned to reveal certain truths about these characters. The film keeps you guessing until the very end as these characters cannot be taken for granted. While the audience knows that Walter is involved in the murder, the others involved in the story have no reason to suspect him. It is easy to suspect Phyllis, but why would anyone question the insurance man? Wilder directed the film and wrote the screenplay with Raymond Chandler, who later wrote The Big Sleep and Strangers on a Train. The film came early in both of their careers. You can tell by the style and sharpness of the film that this would be the beginning of the exceptional careers they would both have. Double Indemnity came before Wilder’s future hits and Oscar wins with Sunset Boulevard, The Lost Weekend, Sabrina, The Apartment, and Some Like It Hot.

The film garnered acclaim from audience and critics. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards including nominations for Stanwyck, Chandler, and two for Wilder. Unfortunately, they all went home empty handed that night losing to the Bing Crosby film, Going My Way. The American Film Institute has included the film in many of their Top Films Lists including Stanwyck at #8 on the Top Villians list, and it landed the #29 spot on the Tenth Anniversary Top 100 Films of All Time list. From the very beginning, it is clearly evident why the film has stayed a favorite throughout the last sixty-nine years. I was immediately drawn into the mystery and intrigue in the relationship between the Phyllis and Walter characters. Throughout the film, I kept wondering why he is now confessing. What is motivating him to give up this potential future he has with Phyllis? Whenever I am given the ending of the film at the beginning, I am always trying to put the pieces together throughout the rest of the movie. Double Indemnity successfully kept me guessing and gasping every time a new wrench is thrown into the mix. If you are new or unfamiliar with film noir, this is a great entry to get you started in this genre. You may just be inspired to give it multiple viewings afterwards as you will have a whole different perspective on it. There are bound to be clues Wilder left behind that you will pick up on the second or third time around.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, April 15, 2013


Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Sam Claflin, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson

I must say that this teaser trailer was more than I expected. Usually teaser trailers contain a couple of images from the film with some narration or dialogue from the film playing over it. This teaser feels like your standard full length trailer. The second in the The Hunger Games trilogy looks to be just as thrilling, exciting, and exhilarating as the first part. Now that Katniss (Lawrence) and Peeta (Hutcherson) have won The Hunger Games, they must embark on a victory tour of the districts in Panem. Their win sparks controversy and rebellion which does not sit well with President Snow (Sutherland). Another competition, known as the "Quarter Quell", is announced that could leave a massive impact on the districts. This competition, which only happens once every twenty-five years, pits Katniss and Peeta against each other again and are now joined by previous winners to leave the last man or woman standing.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, and Jena Malone are all newcomers to the series. Hoffman is always fantastic whenever he plays mysterious and untrustworthy characters. I am already looking forward to his scenes with Sutherland based on this teaser alone. Francis Lawrence takes over the director chair from Gary Ross. His previous films include Water for Elephants and I am Legend. I hated Water for Elephants, but I attest that to the book and not him. I expect huge box office numbers as this opens Thanksgiving weekend which is always a big movie going weekend. I know what I will be doing after stuffing my face with turkey and pie.

RELEASE DATE: November 22, 2013

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Movie Review: EVIL DEAD

Director: Fede Alvarez
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore

If you have seen enough horror films, you are well aware of the old plot where five friends go to an abandoned cabin in the woods and all hell breaks loose. With the rise in popularity of zombies, it was about time for a remake of the classic low budget horror fest known as The Evil Dead. Do not be confused as this one drops the "The" and is just Evil Dead. Mia (Levy) is battling a cocaine addiction and her friends Olivia (Lucas) and Eric (Pucci) take her to a cabin in an intervention type escape from her every day life. Low and behold her brother David (Fernandez) and his girlfriend Natalie (Blackmore) arrive as a surprise to Mia. Mia and David do not have the best relationship so that adds some tension to the mix. Oh yes, let us not forget about their dog. Did I mention that they are in the middle of the woods with nothing around?

Late one dark evening, the dog starts sniffing around the carpet in the middle of the room. The guys pull up the rug to find a bloody cellar door. Naturally, they open it and the wafting smell overpowers the room. Eric and David go into the cellar to find numerous dead cat carcasses hanging from the ceiling among other treasures. Eric picks up a package that appears to be wrapped in a black trash bag with barbed wire over it. Inside contains a book covered in human flesh. Upon opening it, Eric reads many messages in red warning him not to continue reading. A plea to not awaken the evil that surrounds them. We wouldn't have a movie if he actually listened and took those to heart. He reads the incantations out loud not knowing he is summoning the demons. Mia struggles with her addiction and her withdrawals send her into a panic attack out into the woods to escape. That demon comes out, rapes, and possesses Mia in a twisted way in an ode to the original film. The possessed Mia makes her way back to the cabin and infects the others.

The tagline on the poster reads "The most terrifying film you will ever experience." I beg to differ. I suppose if gallons upon gallons of blood terrify you, then sure, you will find this movie to be the most terrifying film you will ever experience. We are in a phase with horror movies where torture porn and buckets of blood seem to be a standard. It seems to be the new craze with the likes of the Saw and Hostel movies reaching popularity. Evil Dead may just take the cake on being the most gruesome film I have ever experienced, yet somehow I was bored.

I sat throughout the film being torn and conflicted. I wanted to like it and I felt like I should be raving about it, but I just could not get into it. It has been a few years since I saw the original which I cannot decide if that is a good thing or not. If a horror movie is remade, I want to try to enjoy it on its own merit. One of the main things the movie does have going for it is that it is not a direct remake of the original. The main theme and framework is there, but the characters are different and there are a few twists thrown in. The original film had a ridiculously small budget that provided some good camp and cheese to the special effects. This one has been given money to spend on the make-up and blood effects. Original director Sam Raimi and star Bruce Campbell are two of the producers of the film and specifically chose Fede Alvarez to direct it. Instead of playing into the recipe that has made the original the success and cult following it has, they turned to the modern age of horror films and fit the Evil Dead concept into this era. I can get behind that but I still wanted more. When you have a story that is already far-fetched, you can really play into the dark comedy in the dialogue and in the way people are killed. There were moments of hilarious one-liners and times when the deaths were even more ridiculous and over the top. I loved those moments and wanted the film to continue in that direction. I suppose you could say that each death is over the top in nature but I wanted each one dialed up to 11 or even 12. Limbs are dismembered left and right and a tongue is slit in half, but I still wanted more creativity behind each one.

RATING: * (1 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, April 5, 2013



There are certain deaths from the film industry that have had a lasting impression on me. In 1993, I was only ten years old and I remember being heartbroken by the death of River Phoenix. Six years later, Stanley Kubrick and Gene Siskel died within weeks of each other. I still remember standing in my parents driveway reflecting on both of them at that time. I had just started delving into Kubrick's films and Siskel, along with his partner-in-crime Roger Ebert, were my movie critics. They transformed how I looked at movies and provided me with the knowledge and scope of what movies had to offer beyond the standard child fare or summer blockbuster action flick I would have seen at that age. Siskel left us far too soon. How can you have two thumbs up without Gene? On April 5, 2013, we have come to an end of an era. After battling cancer since 2002, Roger passed away and met Gene up in the balcony again.

I was devastated. Just a few days prior I had read, what would be his last blog post, "Leave of Presence". He announced that his cancer had returned. In true Roger fashion and determination, that setback was not going to stop him. He was going to step back from some of his work and duties but still be a presence and voice to be heard. My brother texted me the day he died saying he was sorry to hear about Ebert. He knows of my history and admiration of the man. I thought he was just learning of the news the cancer had returned. I then had that horrible feeling that it was worse. I went online to find out that one of my biggest inspirations as an amateur movie critic and cinephile had passed away. I gasped and started to cry at my cube at work.

All of these memories started flooding my head of my history of being a loyal, avid fan of Roger's. Saturday nights as a kid were spent watching "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies". If I remember correctly it aired at 6:30pm in the Minneapolis market. I kept a journal of all of their reviews each week. I wrote down which way the thumbs went for each movie they discussed that week. It did not matter what the movie happened to be. It could have been some popular hit or some obscure foreign film I had never heard of, but I wrote it down. I jotted down their top ten best and worst of each year as well as other random notes from the episode. I "taped" them in case I wanted to reference them later. This was way back before DVR or OnDemand existed and I had to put faith in the VCR in hopes it would record properly and not shut off before the recap at the end. My parents are divorced and if I somehow missed an episode when I was staying with my dad, I made sure my mom had the notebook and watched the episodes so she could take notes for me. What a great mom. I did not know any other kids my age who even knew who Siskel and Ebert were, let alone took notes during every episode. I am sure those old notebooks are around my parents' house somewhere. I saw Independence Day opening night and absolutely loved it. Give me a break, I was 13. I remember after the movie I said to myself that if Siskel and Ebert give it two thumbs down I was going to protest and stop watching their show. Sure enough, they gave it two thumbs WAY down. I was appalled. My protest lasted about two weeks and there I was back to journaling and watching each episode.

They were both film critics in the Chicago area which could have caused a huge rivalry. As they continued to work together, their friendship grew stronger and stronger. It was always fun hearing them bicker and argue with each other if they disagreed on a film, especially if one hated it and one loved it. At the end of the day, they never let their egos and opinions about certain films get in the way of their friendship. I really admire that about them. It can be so easy to be jealous or have a rivalry with someone else in your field. As Roger writes in his memoir “Life Itself”, “Gene Siskel and I were like tuning forks. Strike one, and the other would ring at the same frequency.”

Every week I went to his website and read his new reviews. It was something I could always rely on and look forward to. Oh sure, I may not have always agreed with him but I always valued his input and thoughts on a certain movie. He published numerous books over the years and many have their place on my bookshelf devoted to film history and criticism. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Kathy went to a book signing of his in Chicago and got "Roger Ebert's Video Companion 1998 Edition" signed for me. It says, "To Paul, Roger Ebert." I will forever treasure it. Whether they were the year-end movie companions, “Scorsese”, or “Life Itself”, I have picked them up numerous times to reference, find a new movie to watch, or gain some inspiration. One of the many qualities I admired is that he knew how to review each film within context. He knew not to critique Full Metal Jacket and Benji the Hunted on the same scale. His exuberance for movies is evident with each new post. When you watch him banter back and forth with Gene or read any of his articles, you can feel the passion pour into everything he wrote or said.

“No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough.” He never came up short on finding some new way to hail or rip apart a movie. You knew exactly why he loved certain movies. He could go on and on about why the movie was a crowning achievement in cinema. His collections in his “The Great Movies” series are reflections on movies that have had a lasting impression on him. I came across his thoughts on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial in the first book in the series. It was not just a review of the Spielberg classic. It was a love letter to the movie, to Spielberg, and, most importantly, his grandchildren. He wrote them a letter about what it was like watching them experience E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial for the first time. I cannot wait to have those moments with my children and grandchildren. I want to watch their joy and excitement and wonder of watching one of my favorite movies. On the other end of the spectrum, he was not shy about the movies he HATED. Sometimes his reviews of terrible movies are more fun to read than the reviews of good movies. He has published compilations of those reviews as well. One of the more infamous reviews Gene and Roger did together was for the dreadful Elijah Wood/Bruce Willis movie North. Here is a classic Roger quote “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.” I also particularily love this quote from his review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen “If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination… The movie has been signed by Michael Bay. This is the same man who directed The Rock in 1996. Now he has made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Faust made a better deal.”

I was so moved while reading “Life Itself”. I considered it a page turner in the way some others consider the latest mystery to be a page turner. Roger not only had a passion for movies but like the title says, “life itself”. As I read it, I was just enamored with his outlook on loving life, his work, his family, and his tenacity to keep working. He never let his cancer get in the way. He easily could have stopped working, stopped reviewing movies, and stepped away when his cancer got worse. When he lost the ability to speak and had his lower jaw removed, he never left. His new appearance was not about to stop him. He was never ashamed or embarrassed and still carried on with interviews and public appearances. In the book, he writes about the “Esquire” article and the full page photo of his face. It was the first time the public really saw him after the surgery. His work in the later years transitioned to a strong presence on his website, blog, and Twitter with traditional reviews, Outguess Ebert contest, and his picks for whatever was streaming on Netflix. I am sure a whole new generation of amateur film critics grew to know and love him via social media in the same way I did by watching "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies".

Over the last few days I have re-read portions of "Life Itself", read some of his older reviews in "The Great Movies", and watched some of those old clips of "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies" on YouTube. It has been a joy to go back and re-watch those vintage jabs Gene and Roger had at each other. I loved reading peoples' comments on Facebook and Twitter about their adoration of him. He resonated with so many people and reading how he changed others lives was so touching to see. His legacy to the film community was one of a kind. He was a movie critic for the people. I would never consider him to be one of those snobby high brow critics that only seemed to like art house pictures. He was one smart, honest, funny, and heartwarming man who shared his passion for film with countless individuals. I strive to be a better writer because of him. His writing was poetic and flowing with thought and emotion. He begged you not to just think of a movie of being either good or bad, but he asked you how it made you feel inside. He wanted you to have a visceral reaction to it. Film criticism will never be the same without him. Luckily for Gene, the two of them are now up in the balcony together again reliving their glory days.

Siskel & Ebert Opening Credits

Siskel & Ebert's INFAMOUS review of North starring Elijah Wood and Bruce Willis
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Thursday, April 4, 2013


Director/Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Tom Burke

One of my favorite films from 2011 was Drive. If you have never seen it, I cannot recommend it enough. It is now available on Netflix Streaming and you can find my 4.5-star review here. It's director, Nicolas Winding Refn, is re-teaming with star Ryan Gosling for Only God Forgives.

  Julian (Gosling) owns a Thai boxing club as a cover for his family's drug smuggling operation. His mother (Scott Thomas) arrives and convinces him to find and kill the person who is responsible for the death of his brother. There is not a lot of plot explained in the trailer, but it sure gives off the style and tone of the film.  The beautiful and insanely talented Kristen Scott Thomas has joined them for what looks to be another exquisite, gritty, dark, violent, and bloody trip.

From the trailer: "When I was pregnant with you. It was strange. You were different. They wanted me to terminate, but I wouldn't. I don't understand you, and I never will."

RELEASE DATE: July 19, 2013

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Movie Review: THE SILENCE

THE SILENCE (Das letzte Schweigen)
Director: Baran bo Odar
Starring: Ulrich Thomsen, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Katrin Sass, Sebastian Blomberg

I am a sucker for a good crime story that has some mystery and suspense, and more importantly, brains behind it. I am right there trying to solve it along the way. As two men drive around on a hot summer day, they see an innocent girl biking alone near a field. When you see Peer (Thomsen) and Timo (Möhring) put the car in reverse and go after the girl, you know what it will come next. Peer rapes and accidentally kills the girl as Timo waits in the passenger seat. Peer wraps the body and dumps it in the lake and they proceed to carry on with the rest of their day. Timo seems to be shaken and disturbed by the event.

Twenty-three years pass and the crime was never solved. The girl's body was never found and the police never caught the killer. A cross with the name "Pia" still stands at the sight as a memorial. Pia's mother (Sass) replaces the flowers on a consistent basis. On the anniversary of Pia's death, another girl goes missing from the exact same location and the crime appears to be a copycat of the original crime. Both cases are now being investigated in hopes to find the killers. Timo has not been able to fully move on since he was an accomplice to Pia's death. He had changed his name, got married, and has two children. The news of another girl being killed sends him over the edge.

Ever since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, European thrillers are becoming more popular. Too many American crime stories are all shock with hokey twists and turns. All games and gimmicks trying to be different. I have seen enough of those types of movies to know the ending during the first act. What I appreciate about The Silence is the style and realistic, believable approach they took with the story. There is still the mystery of who killed Sinikka, the second girl, but the focus is on the character study. We delve into the lives of these characters and how they have been affected by a tragic crime. Between the investigators, Pia's mother, and the family of the newly missing girl, you witness a variety of responses and reactions on how people deal and cope with two traumatic crimes that have and will forever affect their lives. The remorse and build up inside of Timo is coming to head as he has to deal with his past and how it could drastically affect his family. Meanwhile, Peer still lives in town and is a care taker for an apartment complex. The residents seem to think of him as a nice guy but have no idea of his past and current hobbies.

Spring tends to be the time of year when clunker after clunker is released. It is refreshing to see something different. If you don't mind reading subtitles, this German thriller should not be overlooked for some 3D action flick or some dopey comedy. The movie is beautifully shot with with many aerial shots of the town which reminded me of the opening of The Shining. There are some darker, more disturbing moments but it is never too gruesome or exploitative. Like any good mystery, it will keep you talking and discussing the film afterwards. It may not be at the top of your "to-see" list but you will not be disappointed in trying something new if you do see it.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, April 1, 2013



In a perfect world I could get paid for writing movie reviews and consider it my full time career along with some acting gigs on stage or on camera. That is not happening right now, so I have your standard full time job sitting in a cube all day. I have had the pleasure of being the movie critic and guest columnist for my work department newsletter for the past year. I have not typically added them to the blog, but I am going to start with this one. For the April Fool's Day issue of the newsletter, I wanted to look back at some of the movies people consider to be the worst of the worst. Here is the article:

In the last issue of The LSO Voice, I shared my love of The Oscars which celebrate the best of the past year in movies. For this special edition of The LSO Voice, let’s look back at some of the WORST MOVIES EVER! We all have definitions of a bad movie. Is it a movie you walked out on? Is it a movie so bad that it is good? What movies are just plain terrible in every regard? Do you find yourself hating a movie that everyone else seems to love? Let’s break it down…


Did you know that there are awards each year for the worst movies of the past year? The Golden Raspberry Awards are doled out around the same time as the Oscars. Some of the nominees even go so far as to show up and accept their Razzie Award. The same year Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side, she proudly showed up to win the Razzie for Worst Actress for her bomb All About Steve.

Here are Some of the Winner’s from the 2013 Razzie Awards:
Worst Picture: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2
Worst Director: Bill Condon-The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Worst Actress: Kristen Stewart-Snow White and the Huntsman, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2
Worst Actor: Adam Sandler-That’s My Boy
Worst Supporting Actor: Taylor Lautner-The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2
Worst Supporting Actress: Rihanna- Battleship
Worst Screenplay: That’s My Boy


There are certain movies out there that many consider to be wretchedly bad while other people consider them cult classics. They may even defend the movie for actually being good and leaving an impression on film history. I actually enjoy a few of these titles. You can be sure to find some of these playing as the midnight movie at the Uptown or Lagoon Theaters. Such iconic films include:
1. Showgirls
2. Pink Flamingos
3. Mommie Dearest
4. Plan 9 From Outer Space
5. The Room


Then there are movies that are just AWFUL.AWFUL..AWFUL… No matter how you look at it. Truth be told, I actually refuse to see these. I’m going by word of mouth on how stupid they happen to be.

1. Battlefield Earth—One of John Travolta’s many travesties
2. Gigli—Oh, Bennifer.
3. Jaws: The Revenge—Is this really necessary?
4. Norbit—See my note from #1 and replace John Travolta with Eddie Murphy
5. Jack & Jill—Poor Katie Holmes. Still “married” to Tom Cruise at the time.


Why did I waste my time on these pieces of trash?

1. Happy Gilmore—dumbest movie ever.
2. Waterworld
3. Event Horizon
4. Spawn
5. Catwoman
*Honorable Mention: Glitter

I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts on the worst movies ever. What movie really bugs the crap out of you?

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