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

Follow me on Twitter for updates to my blog and other fun movie news. Find me at @PaulsMovieTrip

Find and "like" me on Facebook at Paul's Trip to the Movies

Friday, October 17, 2014


Dear Readers,

It has been a long time coming, but I am happy to say I finally have a brand new website for "Paul's Trip to the Movies". This wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous help from my brother Adam McGuire and his partner in crime Brad Berthiaume. It’s cleaner, easier to find, and will allow me to feature some other content that I couldn’t do on my blog.

I have loved posting all my reviews and movie content here since I started this little blog back in May 2010, and it has grown into something I could never have imagined. I have been slowly moving all four and a half years of content over to the new site, but it will take more time. I’ll keep this site active until the transition is complete, but I will be writing and posting all of my new content here on my new site. New content today includes my review of Fury starring Brad Pitt and look at last year’s indie hit In a World…starring Lake Bell.

I would love for you to check it out, leave me your thoughts, and share it with others as I continue to write about my trip to the movies. You can also find me every Friday on Twin Cities Live, Like me Facebook at Paul’s Trip to the Movies, and Follow me on Twitter @PaulsMovieTrip

Thank you for reading,
Paul McGuire Grimes

Pin It Now!

Monday, October 13, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE--October 10, 2014

October 10, 2014

This week we had three very different movies that talked about the power of family.

1. THE JUDGE, Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Very Farmiga
2. ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY, Starring: Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Ed Oxenbould
3. NEIGHBORS, Starring: Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne, Zac Efron, Dave Franco

Here's the video:

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
Pin It Now!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Movie Review: THE JUDGE

Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard, Leighton Meester, David Krumholtz, Ken Howard

Tony Stark vs. Tom Hagen. Robert Downey Jr. vs Robert Duvall. They lead an all-star cast in the family legal drama, The Judge. Hank Palmer is that hotshot big city lawyer that never loses a case. As you’ve seen in the trailer, he’s so cocky he pees on his assistant (Krumholtz). Just before they are about to hear a verdict, he gets the dreaded phone call informing him that his mother has passed away. He drives back to his small hometown to be with his brothers (D’Onofrio and Strong) and their father Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall).

Hank’s trip back home takes another turn when his father is accused of allegedly hitting and killing a man with his car. The man just happens to be someone he once presided over in court. There is blood on his car and all the evidence points back to him directly, but Judge Palmer has no recollection of the incident. Despite the fact that Hank and his father have a very fractured relationship, he takes on the task of being his father’s lead attorney. It’s a huge case that could kill and destroy the strong reputation his father once had as being the top judge in the city. To make matters worse, Judge Palmer has been hiding the fact that he has stage four cancer. Hank is going through his own issues as he is in the early stages of getting a divorce from his wife.

This film has all the right ingredients to be a powerful story, but it falls so flat that it’s a real wonder why such a dynamic cast signed on for such a lousy script. It’s co-written by first timer Bill Dubuque and Nick Schenk (Gran Torino). There’s a very generic wash over it that feels like they wanted to do a legal drama but didn’t have enough experience with the law or the court to write it with some intelligence behind it. I felt like they watched some old episodes of Law & Order just to get some of the basic legal jargon down. I’ve seen better writing on an hour-long TNT drama. At a very long run time of two hours and twenty minutes, there is an abundance of characters and side stories that completely over stuff the movie and take away from the father/son conflict at its core. Hank is the only character that seems to be given this massive back story that doesn’t really serve a purpose. He has a wife that he is divorcing and a daughter that he brings with him back home. There is also the old flame (Farmiga) and a bartender (Meester) that come into play. I love Vera Farmiga dearly, but her storyline with Downey is a prime example of a sub-plot that takes up too much time. Dax Shepard plays the dim-witted attorney that is also working on the Judge Palmer case. Again, there are scenes and bits with him that take up too much time. His sole purpose seems to be just to provide some laughs as the “much needed” comedic character. It’s a script that’s bursting with clichés and not-so-surprising revelations that many of these supporting characters fall victim to this and feel like generic characters you would find in a “how to write a family legal drama” manual.

The Judge is the first film for Robert Downey Jr.’s new production company Team Downey. It’s evident that he wanted to tackle a different character than Iron Man or Sherlock Holmes as he has been stuck in those franchises for the past decade. While I applaud the effort and desire, I couldn’t help but feel like he was just playing Tony Stark (Iron Man’s alter ego) the whole time. This character is another arrogant and hot-tempered individual like Stark.  I could hear him reverting back to old vocal cadences he’s used as Stark. He’s not the only character like this in the movie. Robert Duvall and Vincent D’Onofrio have their bullheaded moments as well. Too many hot tempers flare up with too many father/son meltdown scenes when it just feels like forced drama that is easy to write to create tension. David Dobkin is trying to stretch his range into dramatic territory as he has primarily directed comedies before with Wedding Crashers, Fred Claus, and The Change-Up. He seems a bit out of his league here, and I wish he would have been able to see these actor traits coming out and really challenge Downey and Duvall to try something different.  Instead, he probably just trusted their instincts and took a more back seat approach to shaping some of the scenes.

It is exciting to see Downey and Duvall in their first movie together. Both carry a strong screen presence that should have been exhilarating to watch. With Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, and Vincent D’Onofrio joining them, there could have been the potential for it to be a touching movie that really resonated with moviegoers. Instead there is nothing fresh or original at hand when it’s painfully obvious that it’s trying really hard to be just that.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? No. So many talented actors in such a long, drawn out movie.


Pin It Now!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Movie Review: ANNABELLE

Director: John R. Leonetti
Starring: Ward Horton, Annabelle Wallis, Alfre Woodard, Tony Amendola

If you saw The Conjuring, you may remember that it opened with scenes involving a possessed doll named Annabelle who the Warrens later took possession of and kept in their artifacts room. It should come as no surprise that with the huge success of that film, a follow-up was rushed into production. This time the studio decided to go the prequel route by telling the story of Annabelle and her time with Mia (Wallis) and John (Horton). They live in a cozy house and are expecting their first child. The baby’s room is decorated with a wide variety of dolls, many of which seem far too creepy for any newborn. One day John brings home a huge box with Annabelle inside and Mia couldn’t be any happier as it’s hard to find and completes a set. I’ll tell you why it’s hard to find. It’s old, cracked, and scary as hell. Why oh why would you put that in a baby’s room?

Soon after Annabelle arrives, their house becomes a haven for disaster. One night Mia is awoken by the sounds of her neighbors being brutally murdered. The killers make their way over to Mia and John’s house where one of them starts whispering for the doll. One of the intruders proceeds to kill herself while clutching the Annabelle doll. Strange occurrences start to happen throughout all hours of the day forcing Mia to have the baby early. Like many possession stories we have seen before, Mia and John move to a new house hoping to rid themselves of their problems. We all know this never works and the demons follow the couple to their new apartment.

The Conjuring was based on a true story and the real Annabelle doll is an old Raggedy Ann doll instead of a porcelain doll that's used in the movie. While that film stuck fairly close to the real life story of the Warrens, I am curious as to why they decided to give Annabelle a completely fictionalized story instead of using the true story that goes along with the real Raggedy Ann doll. There seems to be plenty of information out there regarding it, but maybe this was the faster and cheaper way of cranking out a paint-by-numbers script. I’ve seen enough of these types of movies that always seem to have a priest character (Amendola) and a mysterious neighbor character (Woodard). Is it so hard to create a different type of character that informs John and Mia that Annabelle is a conduit for evil spirits? Even the ending feels unoriginal and tired.

I was relieved to see that the film does stick to the 1970s timeline. I would not have been surprised if they were going to call it a prequel and than randomly set it in a contemporary timeline. The 1970s was one of the smartest choices they went for as it provides for some interesting design concepts to make up for the unoriginal story. The names John and Mia may ring a bell for you as they are clearly named after John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow who played the couple in Rosemary’s Baby. It is very apparent that director John R. Leonetti was inspired by Roman Polanski’s film. Leonetti was the director of photography on The Conjuring so he knows his way around lighting and shooting a horror film. The film sticks with using real effects to give it a more natural feel over relying on CGI. It makes sense with the time period and how horror films were shot in that decade. Don’t worry, the Annabelle doll doesn’t walk around or do silly Chucky type moves.

This may be the biggest project yet for stars Ward Horton and Annabelle Wallis. Horton had a small role in The Wolf of Wall Street and has had numerous one-episode appearances in a variety of television shows. Wallis has had some television work on Pan-Am and The Tudors. They are both strong enough actors to keep the characters grounded without feeling like they are ever over-acting or being the bimbos we often find in horror films. I just don’t feel like there is anything interesting about John or Mia. Maybe the point was to make them very normal and bland people. How can you make a movie work with two fairly unknown lead actors playing characters we don't really want to invest our time in?

I wish I could say that Annabelle is as exciting and scary as its predecessor. There are a couple of jumpy moments, but most of the scares tended to be dragged out longer than they needed to be. James Wan is attached to the film as one of the producers. He is the top-notch horror director behind The Conjuring, Insidious, and Saw, and I would have expected it to be better with his involvement.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Go revisit The Conjuring or Rosemary's Baby instead.


Pin It Now!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE--October 3, 2014

October 3, 2014

I was excited to give another new release my 5 Ticket Stubs rating! Find out which one below...

1. GONE GIRL, Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Tyler Perry, Neil Patrick Harris
2. THE EQUALIZER, Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz
3. CHEF, Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leugizamo

Here's the video:

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
Pin It Now!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Movie Review: GONE GIRL

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Rosamund Pike, Ben Affleck, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Carrie Coon, Patrick Fugit, Kim Dickens, Missi Pyle, Sela Ward

When I heard that David Fincher was going to tackle the big screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s hot bestseller Gone Girl, I knew that he was the perfect choice. I have proclaimed my love and adoration for the guy many times before. With films like Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Se7en under his belt, he has tackled his fair share of thrillers, mysteries, and devious crimes. Amy (Pike) and Nick (Affleck) Dunne seem like the perfect couple. They are smart, creative, attractive, and live in a wealthy neighborhood. She grew up in the spotlight, as she was the subject of her parents’s “Amazing Amy” children’s books. The fictional Amy was always one step ahead of the real life inspiration.

One their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick stops home and discovers their glass coffee table has been shattered, and Amy is nowhere to be found. Her disappearance causes a media frenzy that shakes the neighborhood, and Nick becomes the number one suspect. Press conferences, continuing police interrogation, and a candle light vigil continue to put Nick in the spotlight even though he claims he had nothing to due with Amy’s disappearance. The only people he feels like he can trust are his sister Margo (Coon) and his hot shot lawyer Tanner Bolt (Perry).

If you have read Flynn’s novel, you know it is a juicy pager turner. It will be a relief to any moviegoer to know that she also wrote the screenplay, so you can trust that it’s a faithful adaptation. Even down to the structure of how the book is laid out, the film stays true to that  without feeling like it’s been compromised for a different medium. From the outside, you may think this seems like your standard murder mystery. She is cunning in that just when you think you’ve got it figured it, she flips the whole story on its head and takes it to a whole different dimension, much like the marriage of the main two characters. I read the book some time ago, so some of the more minute details were not as fresh on my mind when watching the movie. Despite knowing the major twists and turns she takes us on, I was still hooked and drawn in as if I was watching this all unfold for the first time.

I would assume with her involvement in the movie, she was fairly particular with who would be directing the film. David Fincher’s last film was the adaptation of the bestselling mystery The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He has become the master at these types of pulsating thrillers that wrestle inside of you. He has a way of digging deep into something and finding a layer that rumbles deep within. If you saw The Social Network, you know that it’s more than just some movie about Facebook. He can take a novel like Gone Girl and shape it into something that’s more than a bedside page-turner. Part of this comes from his use of the media and how it plays out like an integral character in the movie. Fincher really drives home the power that the media and various news outlets can have on a crime as shocking and mysterious as the disappearance of Amy. Immediately Nick becomes the target of a Nancy Grace type news reporter played by Missi Pyle (The Artist, Big Fish). Cameras, news vans, and hoards of people station themselves in front of Nick’s home watching his every move. It’s a powerful commentary on this sensation that we live in a 24-hour news society. You see very easily how the citizens react and trust anything that they hear in the news. Nick’s interview with another reporter (Ward) is expertly crafted to show him in just the right light in hopes of winning back the people’s support.

Fincher continues his collaboration with composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor who won the Oscar for their score to The Social Network. Their music here may be their most subtle work to date. It rests in the background perfectly complimenting each scene without ever feeling that it’s taking over the scene itself. Only in the film’s more shocking moments does it ring out loud and clear like a Bernard Hermann score.

Whoever doubted Fincher’s casting of either Rosamund Pike or Ben Affleck or even Tyler Perry (yes, Madea himself) should remember to trust all of his casting decisions. He likes casting unknown actresses or actresses that don’t come with a background of work that we may stereotype them for. You may have seen Pike as a Bond girl in Die Another Day or in The World’s End, but she isn’t a huge household name yet. Here’s hoping she is the talk of the awards season as she gives a dynamic performance that will be one of the best of the year. Amy Dunne is such a rich and complex character. I would hate to spoil too much by talking about the ins and outs of her character, but Pike digs deep into the soul and psychological depth of Amy that starts to unfold in the movie. Affleck gives one of the best performances of his career. Fincher cast him due to his relationship with the media and the scrutiny he is under being part of a Hollywood power couple. There are stereotypes and visions we have of Affleck that are brought on by the media that work in conjunction with his character. Affleck keeps Nick guarded and on the verge of being unreliable. He’s always playing and toying with the idea of whether or not Nick is a bad guy. He isn’t the weeping and inconsolable husband when Amy goes missing, but does that automatically make him guilty?

Fincher is known to be a meticulous director often demanding an abundance of takes and a sharp look at every piece of the puzzle. With a film like this, you have to have a detail-oriented craftsman in charge. Flynn’s novel is a winding road of twists and turns taking the audience on a very specific journey. You have to know what you are doing in order to stay ahead of the audience. Fincher’s eye and ways of working with his actors keeps us in the palm of his hand. We continue to second-guess who’s in charge in this he said/she said world. We grow to question, not just the characters of Amy and Nick, but of those others around them as to whether they are allies or enemies. Gone Girl is another homerun for David Fincher. It has a high place on my best of the year list, and I cannot wait to see it again.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Absolutely. I don’t think they could have made a better adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel.


Pin It Now!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Director: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Marton Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Bill Pullman, Melissa Leo

Denzel Washington is back in another high-intensity action flick. How many of these has he done lately? This time he reteams with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua. Robert McCall (Washington) spends most of his day stocking shelves or cutting wood at Home Mart (similar to Home Depot) and is a mentor toward another worker trying to get in shape for the security position. His nightly routine involves a stop at a local diner for a cup of tea and some reading time. He’s got a list of classics that his now-deceased wife wanted him to read. It is quite clear that he has some very distinct habits and OCD rituals. He brings his own tea bag that has been neatly folded up in a napkin and he has a very specific layout to how he likes his tea, book, and spoon placed on the diner table. Every night he sees Teri (Moretz) sitting at the counter. She is a young prostitute working under Russian gangsters. They form an unlikely friendship, as he seems to be the only male figure in her life that she can trust and doesn’t want her for sex.

One night when she doesn’t show up, Robert learns the men she works for have beaten her up. He goes to the hospital and witnesses the bloody aftermath they have left her in. We don’t necessarily know his background, but he feels the need to become the vigilante and go after the men who beat her. He shows up at their restaurant hangout and executes them all in a perfectly timed out attack. After his methodical approach to his plan of attack, we know this is not his first time taking down a gang. Robert’s initial kill is only the beginning as he uncovers a whole web of corruption, money laundering, and police involvement.

The film opens with the Mark Twain quote “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” For Robert McCall he was born to seek justice however he sees fit. Whether its threatening two cops who are stealing money from a family restaurant or some punk robbing the Home Mart, he will hunt them down and make them pay for their actions. A movie centered on a main character that acts like a vigilante does not have the most creative premise as we’ve seen plenty of movies like this before. I’m willing to forgive that little factor.

Who better to play this calm, cool and calculated man with a past than Denzel Washington? He is a powerhouse force that keeps you intrigued with a character who is more than just a killing monster. The film takes its time setting up his character and psyche. There is plenty of time devoted to his OCD like ways and the relationship he builds with Teri. Once her attack happens, he switches to hero mode and the movie really takes off. You always know he’s going to be one step ahead of everyone else and you expect him to be lurking in the shadows ready to pounce. The fun comes in as you try to anticipate his next move and mode of execution. We may not see all of his kills, but we are left with some evidence that he got the job done. There is something even more shocking when the reign of terror is left to our imagination, but since he’s the good guy we feel a bit more justified toward his actions. While Washington is a great casting choice, I feel like he can do these movies in his sleep. He was so gut-wrenching in 2012's Flight that I would love to see him get back to those types of roles.  Chloe Grace Moretz felt more at ease here than she did in Carrie or If I Stay. She seems to fare better in supporting roles than having to carry a whole movie. Popping up very briefly are Bill Pullman and Melissa Leo in minor roles. I swear Melissa Leo shows up in the most random of movies under some wig for all of ten minutes. I always end up saying, "Is that Melissa Leo? I had no idea she was in this."

Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen) and screenwriter Richard Wenk (The Expendables 2) have based their film on the television series of the same name that ran from 1985-1989. I have never seen the show before, but I am pretty certain that it is nowhere near as gruesome, violent, and out-of-control this film is in comparisons. I would like to think that Fuqua knew going in that they were going to have to have some fun along the way and that they couldn't take themselves too seriously with their approach to this story. The violence is so over-the-top at times that it felt like a slasher film in its execution. Who are we dealing with here? Denzel or Jason Vorhees? There was unnecessary blood splatter and anything with a sharp edge became a weapon to inflict pain. Consider this your warning if you get queasy. You may need to turn your head during the no holds barred ending. I, for one, was able to suspend reality and go along for the ride.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? If you go and just want to have a fun time, it will succeed at that.


Pin It Now!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Criterion Collection: BREATHLESS (1960)

Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Jean-Pierre Melville

Confession time. Watching Breathless was my first foray into the French New Wave movement. For a critic, it is embarrassing to say that it has taken me this long to watch one of the films of Jean-Luc Godard. Nor have I seen anything of Francois Truffaut. Both Godard and Truffaut are considered pioneers in this groundbreaking approach to filmmaking. From the very beginning of Breathless, you are immediately in tune with the character of Michel Poiccard (Belmondo). He is living in the moment, cigarette in his mouth, and calculating his next plan of attack. He proceeds to steal a car and drives out into the countryside. It’s not long before a cop tracks him down for speeding. Michel sees only one way out of his latest predicament and shoots the officer after being pulled over. He ditches the stolen car and hails a ride to Paris.

In Paris, he steals money from an actress friend that he knows and tracks down Patricia (Seberg) on the streets of the Champs-Élysées. She is his “New York girl” who is currently spending time in Paris working as a journalist and selling copies of the New York Herald Tribune. She is surprised to see him there, but he tells her that he has enemies there and that someone owes him money. She seems to be clueless about his past and has no idea that his picture is posted in the paper for being the cop killer. He continues to seduce her as he bides some time while hiding from the cops. This naturally involves more car and money theft and deceitful ways of lying so she doesn’t catch on.

The film rests primarily on these two characters. Belmondo is perfectly cast as Michel. He is unconventionally good looking with an extremely cut torso. He doesn’t have that look you would associate with a killer or someone that doesn’t think twice about knocking someone out in a public bathroom. Michel has a fascination with Humphrey Bogart and attempts to be as suave and charming as his hero. He is never seen without a cigarette in his mouth often using the last of one to light another. At the same time, he is whiny and immature when he doesn’t get his way. Jealousy sets in quickly when he catches Patricia getting cozy with her editor. She also plays hard to get with him as he attempts to persuade her into letting him spend the night. Jean Seberg was quite young and fairly inexperienced when she signed on for the role of Patricia. She seems to teeter back and forth on wanting to be independent but also wanting to feel loved by him. There is an underlying tone of depression that resides in her causing this back and forth emotional ride she forces on Michel. I never got a clear answer on where she is at in life. Maybe that was Godard’s point with her. She seems more mentally unstable than Michel does yet he is the one that kills people for some extra cash in his pockets.

You always hear about the French New Wave and how ground breaking it was at that time. As you watch Breathless, its cinematic achievements may not be as apparent as it doesn’t necessarily feel any different than your average indie film from an up and coming filmmaker. Godard and some of his fellow colleagues were film critics before they turned to directing. They became increasingly dissatisfied with the quality of French cinema at the time with its emphasis on grand and polished craftsmanship. Breathless was Godard’s first film and he threw out very conventional ways of moviemaking. In one of the special features, it is stated that “This was the New Wave: shooting among the crowds in the street.” That is exactly what Godard had in mind. There was no lighting, no sound, and he had a very bare bones approach to it. There were no dollies used for easy camera work. Cinematographer Raoul Coutard shot the entire film on a hand held camera while sitting in a wheel chair or other cart-like contraptions. They shot very long uninterrupted takes which later resulted in the use of “jump cuts” which are very evident as you watch the movie. The jump cuts were conceived of in the editing room as a way to keep up the pace and cut down on the time interval in each scene.

Even Godard’s approach to the script was against the norm. Before Godard came onboard, Truffaut had written a treatment of the story and worked on it with Claude Chabrol. They gave Godard the treatment after they were able to receive financing to get the film made. Godard proceeded to write the dialogue as they were filming it with scenes being written the morning that each scene was going to be shot. Belmondo accepted the part of Michel based on the rough outline and only learned of Michel’s adventures as filming commenced.

The three-disc Criterion blu-ray release is bursting with special features devoted to the film, Godard, and French New Wave. The high-definition digital transfer is approved by director of photography Raoul Coutard. We have archival interviews with Godard, Belmondo, Seberg, and Jean-Pierre Melville. Interviews form 2007 with Coutard, assistant director Pierre Rissient, and documentarian D. A. Pennebaker. There are two video essays, one on Jean Seberg and another by critic Jonathan Rosenbaum’s on Breathless as film criticism. Chambre 12, Hôtel de sued is an extensive eighty-minute 1993 documentary by Claude Ventura and Xavier Villetard that traces the filming locations and has interviews with various cast and crew. Godard and Belmondo’s short film Charlotte et son Jules from 1989 is included. One of my favorite Criterion features is the booklet that is usually included. The Breathless booklet includes numerous archival interviews plus Truffaut’s treatment and Godard’s scenario of the original story.

If you are like me and haven’t dipped into the French New Wave pool of films yet, Breathless is a great starting point. I was intrigued to see how long Michel’s charades were going to last and if Patricia would eventually catch onto his act. He tells her a story early on that would seem to the audience that he is outlining his whole plan, but even then she doesn’t catch on. It all culminates to an ending that I did not see coming. I'm glad I finally checked this one off my never ending "to-watch" list. However, more Godard and Truffaut films have now been added onto it. Good thing Criterion Collection offers a plethora of them in their library.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Anyone looking to educate themselves in groundbreaking cinema history, look no further.


Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE-- September 19, 2014

September 19, 2014

It was a page to screen adaptation day on Twin Cities Live. I believe this is one of my longest segments, and it's also one of my favorites. Enjoy!

1. THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver
2. THE MAZE RUNNER, Starring: Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Will Poulter
3. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern

Here's the video:

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
Pin It Now!

Friday, September 19, 2014


Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda, Rose Byrne, Dax Sheperd, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Abigail Spencer, Timothy Olyphant, Ben Schwartz

I must admit that I have a soft spot for these types of family ensemble stories. Two films in my top ten, American Beauty and The Ice Storm, both center on dysfunctional families. This is Where I Leave You takes a lighter approach than both of those films. It’s even lighter than last year’s August: Osage County, which has a similar premise. For Judd Altman (Bateman), when it rains it pours. Around the same time he walks in on his wife (Spencer) sleeping with his boss (Shepard), he gets a phone call from his sister Wendy (Fey) who breaks the news that their father has died.

When the entire Altman clan arrives for the funeral, their mother Hillary (Fonda) informs her four children that their father’s dying wish was for all of them to gather under one room to sit shiva, the Jewish tradition where friends and relatives gather for seven days to celebrate the deceased. Judd isn’t the only Altman going through a personal crisis. Wendy’s marriage is on the rocks as her husband is the work-obsessed always on the phone type. Judd's older brother Paul (Stoll) and his wife (Hahn) are having fertility problems. His younger brother Philip (Driver) is the immature one who can’t seem to grow up. Philip is also dating a psychiatrist (Britton) who is old enough to pass for his mom. The seven days of mourning provides them all the opportune time to deal with their issues as returning home always seems to be that place to confront your past and deal with the present.

The film is based on the popular book by Jonathan Tropper. Fans of the book should be relieved that this is a faithful adaptation as he also wrote the screenplay. It’s almost a little too faithful. The book has numerous characters as each family member has their own world and problems that they are coming from plus people from their childhood that re-enter their lives. Some of the minor characters don’t work as well for the film as they do for the book due to the pacing of the film and overall narrative. Timothy Olyphant’s Horry is a challenging character that works better in the book. The same goes for Rose Byrne’s Penny who was Judd’s childhood flame. Olyphant and Byrne make the most out of their limited screen time, but under two other actors these characters would have been completely forgettable.

The dynamic cast was another big seller for me on why this family seems charming and relatable. The balance between both the comedy and drama is vital to this story. Director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum, Date Night) wisely chose actors that can not only play the comedic tone Tropper sets up but can also tap into the serious sides of each family member. Bateman, Fey, Driver, Stoll, Britton, Olyphant, and Shepard are all known for their television work, so it’s fun to watch them step outside of those roles that we are so used to seeing them play on a weekly basis. This is probably the most serious we have seen Tina Fey onscreen as she typically sticks to broad comedies like 30 Rock or Saturday Night Live. I’ve mentioned the delightful Kathryn Hahn in previous reviews. As Corey Stoll’s wife, she gets to be her standard quirky self but has some touching moments when it comes to her character’s infertility. The real standout of the cast is Adam Driver (Girls, Inside Llewyn Davis). Even though he has it a bit easy as his character is the goofball that gets to have the most fun, he really comes alive and is downright hysterical in every scene. Most of the time he's up to his old tricks, but Driver also brings out that internal side of Phillip that has strong intentions of proving he isn’t just some screw up.

Tropper’s ideas of finding the humor in tragedy ring loud and clear. I guess I hone in on this idea as it is also something I live by. Many of our characters are going through serious issues, but their moments of clarity come when humor is brought in. There were multiple times throughout the movie where the audience was laughing so hard I missed some of the dialogue that followed. There may be a dysfunctional aspect about the Altmans, but they are not as over-the-top and crazy like we have seen in many of these types of movies. The humor keeps it grounded in reality without taking it to a satirical or theatrical level.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? These characters and this idea of coming home to face and resolve your problems should resonate with moviegoers.


Pin It Now!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- September 12, 2014

September 12, 2014

I have three new reviews for Twin Cities Live this week. Even though the summer blockbuster season is over and the fall movies haven't started ramping up yet, there a couple of movies in theaters worth checking out. Plus, I've got a home release that is guaranteed to make you laugh.

1. THE DROP, Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace
2. THE TRIP TO ITALY, Starring: Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon
3. JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK, Starring: Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, Kathy Griffin

Here's the video:

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

You can find all of my past segments HERE.

As always, thank you so much for watching and your continual support. I truly appreciate it!
Pin It Now!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Movie Review: THE DROP

Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz

How can you go wrong when James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy star in a Dennis Lehane story? Bob (Hardy) has an innocence about him despite the fact that he works at a Brooklyn bar known in the underworld for being a drop location as money is handed off to local Chechen gangsters. There is a whole system in place for the covert operation that goes unseen by the general bar clientele. He works for his cousin Marv (Gandolfini) who is fully aware of the operations that take place at the bar. He once ran the place, but it's now under control of the gangsters. One night the bar is robbed by two masked gunmen, and Bob and Marv find themselves stuck answering (or not) the cops continual questions while knowing the Chechens will want the missing money paid back. This isn’t Bob’s only issue at hand. He meets Nadia (Rapace) after rescuing an abused pitbull that was abandoned in her garbage can. Their friendship is tested when her ex-boyfriend and owner of the dog shows up and brings along a violent past.

You are probably familiar with novelist Dennis Lehane whose novels Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island have all received the silver screen treatment. This is the first time he has ventured into screenwriting and has expanded his short story Animal Rescue. This time he trades in his typical Boston neighborhood for the local bar scene in Brooklyn. According to him, this was a studio choice as we have already seen numerous Boston crime stories. He was fine with the change, but let’s not pretend that Brooklyn was the most creative alternative location. He and director Michaël R. Roskam set the stage very early on that you can’t trust anyone involved. There’s a heightened level of suspicion that anyone could snap into a violent outburst. You never know who’s working for who, who is looking out for themselves, or who may turn on another character.

Lehane was pretty involved in the making of the film, but only had one request when it came to casting. The only actor he had envisioned for the role of Cousin Marv was the brilliant James Gandolfini. I still have a hard time believing that he passed away. The Drop will be remembered for marking the last screen appearance for Gandolfini. It’s a gritty role that he has always been strong at playing, yet I never got the feeling that I was just watching Tony Soprano on screen. Marv has this constant dry wit about him. Many of his lines are sarcastic rebuttals and Gandolfini is perfect at their delivery. I think people will be mixed with his performance. If they are like me, they will get on board with the fact Gandolfini’s last role is another crooked guy mixed up in an underworld of gangsters. He was a gifted actor that knew how to play the subtleties with each character. Others may feel like we have seen this numerous times from him. He always carries with him an intensity to keep you invested in the moment.

Tom Hardy (Warrior, Lawless) continues to do meaty work. How is he not on everybody’s radar yet? He has this rough, brutish exterior but he channels the calm and cool interior making himself this force of nature that keeps you guessing at his true intentions and motivations. Bob has a simple, nurturing mentality that seems all too good to be true if he’s always surrounded by these thugs at the bar. I love his continual choices of playing these complex characters that are have these misunderstood vulnerable aspects to them. They aren’t just the tough guys that would fit Hardy’s stature and outward demeanor. Hardy received flack for his voice as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and his tone here is a bit under the breath. I didn’t have a problem, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people have a hard time understanding him. Noomi Rapace (the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) plays off Hardy well. She’s another actor that gravitates towards damaged characters and can easily flip between the loneliness of Nadia into her crazier side in a split second.

The film’s drive comes from the characters and their relationships with each other and the idea of who’s playing who. The actual details behind the idea of the drops and the specific crime at hand doesn’t feel as fleshed out as we’ve seen in other films like this. It’s far more character driven than action driven. Even the pitbull plays a big part of the movie. It seems pretty evident that he symbolizes the misunderstood aspects regarding Tom Hardy’s character. Plus, the dog is so adorable you just can’t help but feel sympathy toward him every moment he’s on screen. Hardy, Gandolfini, and Rapace all deliver strong performances that keep you intrigued as you wonder who may explode first or who’s going to be the strong valiant type.

Is It worth Your Trip to the Movies? You may find the movie slow at times, but the twists and climax make for a great payoff.


Pin It Now!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Writer/Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Rosie Fellner, Claire Keelan, Timothy Leach

If someone asked me to drop everything and take a free trip to Italy for a week, I would definitely take them up on that offer. I had an unforgettable trip to this exquisite country back in 2004 and am dying to go back someday. I suppose movies like last year’s The Great Beauty and this one will have to suffice. The Trip to Italy is a sequel to the 2010 indie hit The Trip and is also based on segments from season two of the BBC show of the same name. Steve Coogan (Philomena) and Rob Brydon (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels) are back for another road trip, but this time they are touring Italy as Rob has been asked to do some restaurant reviews for his paper. There is not much in terms of a heavy plot, but don’t let that deter you. The audience is treated like we are the third passenger on this trip with two dear friends. The focus of their trip is spent on the culinary world of Italy and their love of Romantic poets Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Coogan and Brydon play semi-fictionalized versions of themselves. The conversation is silly at first as they reconnect. They pop in some Alanis Morissette for nostalgic purposes, and it’s not long before they dive into their numerous celebrity impersonations including Michael Caine, Al Pacino, and Tom Hardy, just to name a few.

The first film is one of those sleeper hits that not many people have seen, but if you mention it, someone may perk up and get excited to hear you’ve seen it as well. This has happened to me a couple of times when I’ve mentioned this movie. This one will have the same affect. I think anyone that saw the first one will no doubt love the follow-up. I must confess that I have not seen the first one yet, even though it has been on my “to-see” list. It’s available through Netflix streaming so I really have no excuse not to watch it now that I’ve seen this one. So was I completely lost? Not really. It will help if you have some general familiarity with either of the two actors. I have never seen Brydon in anything before, which helps play off the fact that there is an underlying theme in the movie that American audiences have no idea who he is. While on the trip, he decides to audition for a Michael Mann film for a role that is completely outside his typical playing field. I am familiar with Coogan enough where I understood the references to his filmography.

Writer and director Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) is back for this trip as well. He keeps a light and jovial mood throughout the movie as these two old friends reconnect and catch up. If you have ever taken a road trip with friends, you will definitely relate to their back and forth banter. Brydon is that friend of yours that will continue to talk the whole time fearing any moment of silence may dull the trip. He is constantly doing voices and silly impersonations to the point where you wonder why he can’t drop the idea of being “on”. Is he covering up some insecurities or is he just simply excited to be on this little getaway. At one points Coogan states, “You have a moral compass. You just don’t know where it is.” He seems a bit more level headed knowing when and where to join in on Brydon’s silliness. There is an absolutely hysterical scene where they delve into their impersonations and re-create a scene from The Dark Knight Rises.

The cinematography is so rich in the Italian landscape, you can’t help but feel the vibrancy and culture. Even though this movie isn’t really about food, foodies will devour the shots involving food preparation and presentation when Brydon and Coogan visit each of the various restaurants throughout the movie. The road trip provides time for both men to have some self reflection on the meaning of life, their careers, and their family. When you are surrounded by the beautiful nature Italy provides, how do you not start contemplating what your life has to offer? The Trip to Italy is currently playing in various art house theaters, but you can also catch it On Demand if one isn’t in your area.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? If you take this trip to Italy, you will have a jolly good time.


Pin It Now!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Movie Rewind: JOAN RIVERS: A PIECE OF WORK (2010)

Director: Ricki Stern, Anne Sundberg
Starring: Joan Rivers, Melissa Rivers, Jocelyn Pickett, Bill Sammeth, Kathy Griffin

I first saw Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work a couple of years ago when it first started streaming on Netflix. I had a second viewing of it tonight, but this time there was a somber tone underneath it due to her recent passing. She died at the age of 81, but she was 75 when she was filming the 2010 documentary. For someone that has had their fair share of ups and downs in show business, she opens up about the drive, passion, and commitment she has toward what she does. There are days where I think I am busy. I’m only 31 and wonder why I stuff my calendar so full with various activities, events, or gatherings. I can’t imagine being her age and continuing to live such an active lifestyle. For her, she wouldn’t know what to do otherwise. There is a scene early on where she’s going through her calendar and you see how penciled in each day was for the month and in the upcoming months there are days that are blank with nothing filled in. She lived in fear of an empty calendar. “…nobody wants me. Nobody cares.” She felt a need to work in order to stay relevant and appreciated.

Many people probably know her best as a foul-mouthed comedienne or red carpet fashion commentator. That was never what she set out to do, because she always saw herself as an actress first and foremost. She took acting very seriously and wanted to be known as an actress. My first memories of Joan are as an actress as I grew up watching Spaceballs where she provided the voice of Dot Matrix, the C3PO type character. Early on in her career she co-wrote and appeared in a play called Fun City and was ripped apart for it. Those negative reviews severely damaged her. Part of the documentary focuses on her opening a play based on her life that toured Edinburgh and London. She was very cautious of taking it to New York or Los Angeles because she didn’t want criticism regarding her acting. She had no problems if people ripped apart other aspects of her career, but she didn't want them touching what she cherished the most.

It is quite clear that she was one of the hardest working people in the business. As the camera pans her lofty Maria Antoinette style apartment, it stops upon the filing cabinets full of jokes. There is something astonishing about the fact that she always wrote down her jokes and filed them away. She never wanted to forget them, so she jotted them down in notebooks, on cards, or on other random pieces of paper. She pulls a random joke out of a filing drawer and reads it to the camera. Who knows when she wrote it, but it was still funny as there is a timeless quality to her humor. This is also evident in the multitude of clips of her standup routine. I admire her fearlessness and her audacity to never hold back in the name of comedy. No subject was ever out of bounds. No matter how politically incorrect, crass, or inappropriate it was, she would deliver the joke and stand up for it. She frequently raised eyebrows and would get lambasted for the shockingly vulgar things that she would say. She always believed that was what women should be talking about.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work showcases Joan the person versus Joan the persona who we typically see her being. This is an insightful and fascinating look at the internal pain and struggle she faced in her life and what drove her to continue working. The film covers the shocking suicide of her husband Edgar. Due to the fact that he was a part of her business, she was left without a career, bad debts, sadness, darkness, and also became a single mother after the tragedy. This also came after she was banned from The Tonight Show by her one time friend Johnny Carson despite having been on the show for over twenty years. Even after all of those years of being on the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, you can sense that there was still a vulnerability with Joan. The film also provides a peak into her philanthropic side. There is a very generous side to her that is very rarely showed and discussed. She was very grateful for everything she had in life and always felt very blessed with what she had been given. She loved giving back and helping others by hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a big group of friends and family as well as delivering meals for God’s Love We Deliver which helped HIV/AIDS patients in need.

We lost one hell of a trailblazer when Joan passed away. This documentary is a great way for people who may not know a lot about her life to see a different side of her. Kathy Griffin is interviewed and states how she was a pioneer for female comics. I don’t think we will ever see a comedian these days that could get away with half of the things Joan did. You can catch this rare look into Joan’s life through Netflix Streaming if you have that service. Be warned, the language is extremely R-rated. You will no doubt laugh, and maybe even lower your head in shame for laughing so hard at what this 75 year old dares to say out loud.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? If you didn't know Joan before, you may end up having a better appreciation for her.


Pin It Now!