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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

My Criterion Collection: THE KILLING (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Timothy Carey, Jay C. Flippen, Vince Edwards

With its opening narration in that voice you would hear on a radio show mystery and the score by Gerald Fried played against the credits, you already know something big is going to happen. This is not going to be a light, fun day at the races. It’s Saturday afternoon in September and the place is hopping with people placing bets on their favorite horse, grabbing drinks, and watching the race. A gang of individuals including Mike the bartender, police officer Randy, Nikki the shooter, George the window teller, and ring leader Johnny Clay (Hayden) have a scheme set in motion that must go according to plan.

Early on, the film introduces the audience to some of the backstories involving our characters. One of the more vital introductions is with George (Cook) and Sherry Peatty (Windsor) and their broken marriage. Sherry is quick on the tongue often talking back to her husband. She doesn’t really seem to think much of him. He claims he’s going to get rich, and she basically laughs at him. George’s loose lips get him into trouble when he is reprimanded by the gang after Sherry is found snooping around the secret meeting location. He debates about leaving the mission after he realizes the situation he’s gotten himself into, but Sherry informs him that if he really loves her he should stay all in. It turns out that she is a bit of a floozy as she also happens to be seeing Val (Edwards) on the side. When she steps out to see Val, she reveals George’s elaborate plan to get rich. George and his boys plan on robbing the race track of two million dollars.

I feel like whenever you think about Kubrick’s work, his earlier films like The Killing, Paths of Glory, and Killer’s Kiss rarely get mentioned as The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange are his more popular and universally seen films. I always love going back to a director’s earlier works to see how they started and to analyze the scope of their career. I have done that a couple of times now in My Criterion Collection with my reviews of Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket and Terrence Malick’s Badlands. I encourage any movie lover to dissect a director’s career like that as it’s always fascinating watching their growth. Even as a young director, Kubrick seems to be just as particular about his way of working as he was later on in life. According to one of the special features, cinematographer Lucien Ballard HATED working with him. Kubrick had previously worked as the cinematographer on his own films but wasn’t able to for this one. They frequently disagreed on lighting and camera choices. I actually really enjoy the darkly lit interiors and the use of lamps and lights to create minimal lighting effects.

A heist at the tracks may seem like a simple premise on the outside, but there are a few twists and shocking moments that keep the audience guessing. This film easily could have been told in a very conventional sense, but why would Kubrick take that route. He wrote the screenplay with additional dialogue added by Jim Thompson and is based on the book “Clean Break” by Lionel White. They take a non-linear approach using time stamps like “At 11:30 that morning” and “At 2:00 that afternoon” to keep the audience in check. Originally this received negative reaction from various screenings. Kubrick obliged and tried re-cutting it into a straight timeline, but later switched it back again. When it comes to the heist, Kubrick replays the mission from numerous angles and character’s perspectives depending on how each person is involved in it.

There are a few special features on the Criterion Blu-Ray release worth noting. There is a new interview conducted specifically for Criterion Collection with producer James B. Harris about his working relationship with Kubrick and the making of the film. He highlights that he gave the idea to Kubrick and suggested it to be their next movie. The studio only gave them $200,000 even though the budget was $330,000. Harris acquired the rest of the money in order to get it made. There is a lengthy interview with Sterling Hayden from a French television series where he discusses his collaboration with Kubrick. They would later collaborate on Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. As always, we get a new digital restoration of the film, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. There are essays by film historian Haden Guest and an interview with actress Marie Windsor. Plus as a bonus, Kubrick’s earlier work Killer’s Kiss is also featured in its entirety here with a new high definition digital transfer.

At the age of twenty-eight, it is quite clear that he had a vision, style, and tenacity to do exactly what he wanted to do. If horse racing is a foreign concept to you, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this film with classic noir characters. Kubrick was correct in wanting character actors for these types of roles. Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, and Elisha Cook Jr are all fantastic. In a smaller role, Timothy Carey is sleazy and creepy as Nikki the shooter. The film is only eighty-four minutes and moves along swiftly as you wonder if they will pull off this heist. It all culminates to an ending that I did not see coming but is the cherry on top of an already delightfully fun movie.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? If you are a fan of Kubrick or film noir, you will get sheer joy out of The Killing.


You can find more films in the My Criterion Collection series HERE!

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- June 25, 2014

June 25, 2014

Today we looked at Clint Eastwood and aspects of the music industry told through two very different movies. Here they are:

1. Jersey Boys, starring John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, Erich Bergen
2. Play Misty for Me, starring Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter
3. 20 Feet From Stardom, starring Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Judith Hill, Tata Vega,

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!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Movie Review: JERSEY BOYS

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Vincent Piazza, Michael Lomenda, Erich Bergen, Johnny Cannizzaro, Christopher Walken, Joseph Russo

Every year we get a new movie musical adapted from a hit Broadway show. As a music theater lover, it can be great seeing an exciting Broadway musical brought to life in a different medium. It gets people who may have seen the movie to go back and get tickets for the staged version or vice versa. We’ve seen big Hollywood actors take on this genre like Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia) or Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables) and sometimes we get actors from the original Broadway casts reprising their roles in the film version like Rent or The Producers. While that sounds like a great idea in theory, the results are not always the best as playing the role for the camera is very different than playing the role to reach an audience member at the back of the house. The movie version of the massive hit Jersey Boys has made its way to the big screen nine years after it premiered on the Great White Way. John Lloyd Young steps back into the role of Frankie Valli after creating the role on Broadway.

A sixteen-year-old Frankie Valli (Young) and his friends Tommy DeVito (Piazza) and Nick DeVito (Cannizzaro) can’t seem to keep themselves out of trouble. Somehow they think that they will be able to rob a massive safe, put it in the trunk of a car, and not get caught. Wrong. While his other friends come and go out of jail, Frankie seems to be getting a pass. Mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Walken) keeps a close eye on him and acts as a mentor of sorts to Frankie and his friends. Tommy gets Frankie to join his singing trio along with Nick Massi (Lomenda), but the success of the group waivers around which members are coming and going based on jail sentences. The trio becomes a quartet after songwriter Bob Gaudio (Bergen) joins the group at the suggestion of Joe Pesci (yes, the star of Goodfellas) to Tommy. Bob is determined to write songs to go along with Frankie’s smooth falsetto voice. The group changes their name to The Four Seasons and start cranking out the hits to the adoration of fans everywhere. Tension starts to rise among the guys as they all have different approaches in dealing with the fame and fortune that comes into play.

If you have seen the staged musical, it’s hard to watch the movie and not think about the show. You desperately try to separate both mediums as there are changes that will inevitably have to be made. It has been a few years since the last time I saw the musical, so I thought I could go in with a fresh perspective without doing the unjust comparison. As I sat watching this drawn out and odd take on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, I couldn’t help but think about the musical and how vastly different they are in the end. If the movie was actually good, I wouldn’t have minded so much. Three of the four actors (Young, Lomenda, Bergen) playing the Four Seasons have previously played their roles in the staged production whether it was on Broadway, the national tour, or the Las Vegas production. Director Clint Eastwood specifically wanted actors that had played those roles before. Vincent Piazza who plays Tommy DeVito (Boardwalk Empire) is the exception to that casting requirement. He is brand new to this story which serves him the best as he seems the most authentic and natural with his acting for a movie musical. Even though Young won a Tony for playing Frankie Valli, he has a hard time transitioning into playing it for the screen. He has to play Valli through the many decades the film covers, but often comes across as over acting with facial gestures too large for the intimate camera. I hate to play the age card, but for someone in his late thirties, he is far too old to be playing the sixteen-year-old Valli that opens the movie.

Eastwood has an adoration and love of music as he has composed the scores for many of his recent movies. Even though he has made many fantastic films in the past, he was the wrong choice to tackle this story. Vince Vaughn was originally slated to direct, but I don’t think he was right either. Eastwood’s movies tend to be slower in pace which isn’t always a bad attribute. He uses that same tempo here which doesn’t work for a big screen adaptation of a jukebox musical. There is an exciting drive and energy in the musical that is completely missing from the movie. The musical makes you want to get up, dance, and sing along to the hits you know while the movie never gave me that feeling. The movie seems to focus on the drama behind the scenes of the group instead of celebrating the music that they created that has lasted generations upon generations. The high energy performance numbers seem to practically disappear for the second half of the movie. At that point, you may hear some of The Four Seasons songs but it’s simply used as music for the soundtrack. Even the cinematography feels odd and choppy at times. During their concert scenes, I just wanted the camera to face the four guys and be still to capture them all in one shot. It felt too busy trying to shoot the performances at side angles that felt uneven.

The trailer made the film look like it had promise. It seemed like a natural and easy transition from stage to screen. I knew the June release was suspect as it seemed like a strange release for this type of movie. Maybe the studios felt disappointed in it so they hoped it would get buried by the other summer blockbusters or maybe they knew they couldn’t compete with Into the Woods and Annie in the Christmas time slot. The movie isn’t a complete waste as the music is still catchy, but the movie just needs more of it. I always like hearing about the history behind a musical group, so I was kept mildly interested in the story. I went in expecting a strong adaptation of the stage musical, but this take on Jersey Boys feels more like a cheap behind-the-scenes look at the drama amongst the guys. 

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Skip the film and wait for the tour of the musical to come to town. It comes to the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis April 28-May 3, 2015.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Ticket Stubs
Pin It Now!

Friday, June 20, 2014


Writer/Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

Dreamworks Animation has made some fantastic animated franchises like Madagascar, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to Chicken Run. They have another successful one under their belt with How to Train Your Dragon 2. In the Viking land Berk, the Vikings and dragons are friendly and peaceful. For many of the characters, their dragons are their best friends. Our favorite Viking Hiccup (Baruchel) has grown up a bit since the first film. He is eager to explore new and uncharted territories with his dragon pal, Toothless. He is joined by his friend Astrid (Ferrera) on his adventures, and they uncover an area covered in ice. They are captured by Eret (Harington) who tries to steal their dragons for the evil conqueror Drago (Hounsou). Before Hiccup and Astrid are too deep into danger, they are rescued by Hiccup’s dad Stoick (Butler) and are warned of Drago’s twenty war history of capturing dragons for his personal army. Hiccup will always try to play the peacemaker and in turn heads out to confront Drago. Along his way, he meets the mysterious Valka (Blanchett), a dragon rider who has spent the last twenty years trying to rescue dragons from Drago. She also has a familial connection to Hiccup.

One of the first things you will notice with this series is the stunning animation. There are so many creative and distinct choices made with the design of the dragons and the Viking world. It is a visual feast that often kept me focused on its execution. Numerous times I caught myself watching the animation over listening to the dialogue. If you have seen the first film, you will realize the animators have wisely aged some of the characters like Hiccup and Astrid to show the passing of time. I’m glad they chose to keep Toothless as a non-talking creature. They bring so much personality into his character that you don’t need a voice added to it. There is a dragon race that opens and ends the film that definitely feels like you are on an action ride at some theme park. I normally shy away from 3D films, but I think it is worth it for animated films. The 3D enriches the already striking animated visuals in a way that typically ruins many live action films.

Many of the actors from the first film lend their voices again for the sequel including: Jay Baruchel (This is the End), America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), and Jonah Hill (22 Jump Street). Heavy hitters Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine), Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), and Djimon Hounsou (Amistad) join the cast. This is Blanchett’s second animated film after doing a voice in the English version of Miyazaki’s Ponyo. I found that the voice over work is subtle compared to your standard kids movie. Usually you have someone being this loud mouthed obnoxious sidekick playing for laughs like Eddie Murphy in Shrek. I never once felt like these characters were written for shtick and comedy purposes. While I recognized the voices of Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, or Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Neighbors), they never overpowered their scenes or distracted from the story.

Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you will still be able to understand and have fun with this one. If you do have the opportunity, go and Redbox or Netflix the first one just to have a better understanding of the background of these characters and how the land of Berk has changed between both movies. Again, it’s not imperative as this story does stand on its own but certain specific details will make more sense. Parents will appreciate the themes of family loyalty, acceptance of others, and the responsibilities that come with having a pet. This is a perfect movie for kids that may still be a bit young for the Harry Potter series. The dragon race game that opens the fim is very similar to Quidditch. If you’ve enjoyed both films, you will be happy to know that writer/director Dean DeBlois has announced that How to Train Your Dragon 3 is in the works. He stated that he sees the story as a trilogy and that the third part is not some quick and easy way to make more money.

Is it worth your trip to the movies?
There’s a lot of charm and heart with this sequel that is equally enjoyable for any member of the family.

Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE-June 18, 2014

June 18, 2014

It's a day of sequels, animated movies, and Jonah Hill.  It's the first time one actor has been a part of all three movies I've talked about.  Here they are:

1. 22 Jump Street, starring Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, and Ice Cube
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2, starring Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and Craig Ferguson
3. The LEGO Movie, starring Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, and Will Ferrell

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!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Movie Review: 22 JUMP STREET

Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Jimmy Tatro, Amber Stevens, Nick Offerman, Peter Stromare

Most movies adapted from television shows rarely work, especially when a new cast and new characters are involved. Who would have thought that 21 Jump Street would have worked so well that a sequel would follow? Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back for another case as Jenko and Schmidt, respectively. The old church at 21 Jump Street that served as the police headquarters in the first film has been converted back to a church. How convenient for them that there is also a church across the street at 22 Jump Street that can now pose as the police headquarters.

Jenko and Schmidt are assigned their next case and this time it has them going under cover again as college students at MC State College. A new synthetic drug called WHYPHY is being passed around like candy, and one of the students dies of an overdose. The boys are given a picture of the girl getting the drug slipped to her, but the only identifiable feature of the dealer is a tattoo on his arm. Schmidt feels left out of their partnership after Jenko joins the football team and fraternity as fellow teammates Zook (Russell) and Rooster (Tatro) take him under their wing. Schmidt decides to pursue the case at a different angle by dating Maya (Stevens) who lives across the hallway from the victim.

If you are thinking that this plot sounds exactly like the first movie, but now they’re in college instead of high school, you are correct in your assessment. I was a bit worried when I first saw the trailer as it looked like a carbon copy of 21 Jump Street. In theory, this film should not work. Comedy sequels that completely rip off the jokes and plot of the first outing are typically insulting to the fans. Nick Offerman’s police chief has a not-so-subtle speech toward the guys describing how the police department was so happy with how the first task turned out that they want to send the boys out again on a similar case but with a bigger budget. This is exactly what studio executives pitch after a comedy makes the big bucks at the box office. They want the original cast to come back and make the same kind of movie again. The Hangover Part II is a prime example of why this is typically a horrible idea. That movie was a messy insult as it was the exact same movie as the first one. 22 Jump Street does that exact same thing, yet succeeds and surpasses expectations. Screenwriters Michael Ball, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman have written about this exact commentary in their script. There are copious jokes and references as to how they are ripping off the first one. Even Mr. Tatum makes a reference to the premise of his movie White House Down at one point.

Tatum and Hill have this unique chemistry that completely works and is the reason why this rebooted franchise succeeds. Having two cops that are complete opposites is by no means a new concept, but I think part of the charm and humor is grounded in how well they play off each other. While it may have been funny having Jonah Hill paired up with Seth Rogen or James Franco, it would be a completely different kind of story and tone all together. Schmidt and Jenko are exaggerated stereotypes of the images people label under Hill and Tatum. Hill wrote the stories for the films, so I can assume he played into his persona a bit and made Tatum that good looking but dumb jock frat boy that Hollywood has probably labeled him at some point in his career. Ice Cube returns as Captain Dickson whose moments with Jonah Hill provide some of the best laughs in the movie. I’ll forgive him for making Ride Along. Dave Franco and Rob Riggle are back for cameos as prison inmates who offer some advice and help to Hill and Tatum.

The directing team of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord are the men behind The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The LEGO Movie is another film of theirs that I would not have expected it to be as enjoyable as turned out to be. The laughs are pretty consistent throughout 22 Jump Street which was a surprise and a relief. It's hard not to laugh when Jonah Hill gets in way over his head wtih some of the more dangerous aspects of his job. The movie easily could have gone downhill fast. The comedy isn’t all the clever or original, yet it delivers. This is the baffling thing behind the movie. Everyone involved knows we’ve seen frat movies, spring break scenes, shoot-outs, buddy movies, terrible sequels, franchises, and they make fun of all of that along the way. I give them major credit for pulling this off so well. Make sure to stay through the credits, for a hilarious sequence that left the whole audience in stitches. I’m not sure what was funnier, the sequence or how my mother-in-law completely lost it because she was laughing so loudly.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? If you liked the first one, you will definitely enjoy the sequel. You can sign me up for 23 Jump Street.


Pin It Now!

Friday, June 13, 2014


Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong, Kick Gurry, Tony Way

I think I would be pretty disgruntled if I was thrown into war with aliens only to die, get stuck in a time loop, and then have to relive those two days all over again. Tom Cruise stars as military officer William Cage who wakes up and finds himself on a training base not sure of how he got there. He is approached by Master Sergeant Farell (Paxton) who takes him to his new combat team. Cage, who has no experience or training, is told he is a “deserter” who is trying to get out of his duties as a soldier. Cage and his new team get loaded into their new full bodied combat suits and dropped onto the beaches of France. There he comes face to face with the alien species known as “mimics” that are killing off the human race, and it’s not long before Cage is killed.

As soon as he dies, he wakes up in the same spot as the day prior in the exact same scenario as before. He is now in a time loop reliving each day over and over every time he dies. He uses the knowledge he has from each previous trip to track down Rita (Emily Blunt), another fellow warrior who has gone through the time loop. There are posters and banners with her face hung all over the city proclaiming her as “Full Metal Bitch”. Rita trains Cage on how to fight these creatures as they work together to find the location of the Omega, the main source of the mimics’ powers.

As I was watching the movie, I kept thinking that it felt like a live action video game. I’m not a huge gamer, but it made me think of those first person high action “shoot ‘em up” games. It fits right in with the time loop idea where you die and start over again in the same spot. I’m assuming that was an intentional choice by director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) because even as non-gamer I understood what they were going for as the story played out. However, the movie is not based on a video game at all. It is adapted from the Japanese light novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Light novels are very popular in Japan and are short story graphic novels catered toward young adult readers. The film originally shared the same title as the novel but was changed to the safer and easier to understand “Edge of Tomorrow”. I prefer the original title, but I’m sure that would have driven audiences away from the movie.

The film has a really interesting concept as the time travel keeps you guessing the entire movie. The screenwriters really keep the momentum going as you never know where the movie is going or what’s going to happen next. The audience sees the story unfolding at the same rate the characters put the pieces together. That being said, I still think the film could be shorter. I wish the writers would have wrapped it up a bit quicker. In a high concept film like this, the special effects have to top notch. They are quite impressive and are meant to be seen on a huge screen with a loud sound system like the IMAX so you can be completely immersed in the world. I only saw the film in 2D, but it was the rare time when I wish I had paid the extra money as you can tell there was special attention made to make it enjoyable in 3D.

I’ve been a bit lukewarm on the latest Tom Cruise movies. I thought Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol was fantastic, but Oblivion and Jack Reacher left me wanting more in so many ways. Let’s not forget his turn as rock star Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages, which was fun on a campy level. You can’t deny that he is trying a variety of styles and genres. Tom Cruise is a movie star, and Edge of Tomorrow is another big action packed blockbuster that he is good at delivering. In many movies, his character is always on the pulse of what’s going on. He usually plays the tough guy that can get the job done. His character, William Cage, is the opposite of that. He gets thrown into this combat situation without any knowledge of shooting weapons, wearing those massive full bodied suits, or how to kill the mimics. The screenwriting team of Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth add in some unexpected humor to showcase this character flaw. Emily Blunt pairs quite well with Cruise. We’ve seen her in so many period films and rom-coms like The Five-Year Engagement or The Devil Wears Prada. It’s great to see her step into the action/sci-fi genre, and she proves she is one tough heroine.

Cruise has had a hard time getting audiences to flock to his movies. They play well internationally, but his off-screen antics come into play with American audiences. I’ve talked to many people who can’t separate his personal life from his movies. I have an easier time separating the two personas. I haven’t sworn off the Cruise yet, but I do want him to find another successful movie that will bring back the audience. Edge of Tomorrow is a win for him, but I know that it won’t get the audience it should.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? While it may not appeal to every moviegoer, Edge of Tomorrow took me surprise and is one entertaining ride.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Jim Carrey, Jeff Daniels, Kathleen Turner, Rob Riggle

Lloyd Christmas (Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Daniels) are back for another crazy adventure. It's been twenty years since we last saw these two act as idiotic as possible. The original team has been reunited as directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly are back for a new tale as Harry and Lloyd go in search for the daughter Harry never knew he had.

The humor seems to be right in line with the original one. It has been many years since my last viewing of the first film, so I should probably watch it again soon. While I found it funny, it was never my go-to comedy of choice like it was for so many of my friends. These reunion types of movies are all the rage, so the expectations are quite high. I know Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels were very picky about the script. Why would the do the film if the script wasn't perfect? I hope I'm not as disappointed in this like I was with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Feel free to leave you first impressions below!

Release Date: November 14, 2014

Here's the trailer:

Pin It Now!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE-June 11, 2014

June 11, 2014

Here are today's picks plus links to each of my reviews:

1. The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern
2. Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
3. Non-Stop, starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy

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!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Director: Josh Boone
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe

Don’t let the phrase “young adult novel adaptation” turn you away. There are no vampires, no districts, no dystopian universes, no magical spells, and no whiny characters. Yes, Hazel Grace Lancaster (Woodley) and Augustus “Gus” Waters (Elgort) may be teens, but they are not those annoying types that you want to slap twenty minutes into the movie. Hazel was always opposed to going to cancer support groups. She reluctantly decides to go to appease her mom (Dern) who only wants the best for her. Hazel was not supposed to live past the age of thirteen, but after some tests and experimental trials, her health improved.

It’s a blessing in disguise for Hazel because the support group is the exact place where she meets Gus, another teenager who knows what it is like living with cancer. He is now cancer free after having his leg amputated due to battling osteosarcoma. They have pretty different outlooks on life, but a spark is ignited when he flirts with her and she is caught off guard by him. It’s hard for her to open up and be vulnerable to Gus as she thinks of herself as a grenade not wanting to hurt him in the long run. Despite her initial hesitation, their love is inevitable. Gus’ “live life to the fullest” attitude leads them on an adventure to Amsterdam so Hazel can meet the author (Dafoe) of a book she has obsessed over for years.

The Fault in Our Stars is based on the mega best-selling novel by John Green. I read the book months ago, so I went into the movie with an open mind as specific details of the book were not in the back of my head. I was able to solely take in this story as a movie without comparing the two mediums too closely. Green was involved with the production, so it should be known that the movie is an extremely faithful adaptation. Screenwriters Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter (The Spectacular Now, 500 Days of Summer) have perfectly captured the tone and feel of the book. Die-hard fans of the book may notice little things that got cut out, but that will always happen. For someone that has read the book, I was still completely enraptured with the story from the very first scene. I went on this heavy emotional journey even though I already knew what was going to happen.

Yes, it is widely known that this movie is a tearjerker. I hear that word tossed away so many times with many romantic stories, and I usually don’t think it will happen to me. Let it be known that I rarely cry at movies, yet The Fault in Our Stars got to me. No, not some little sniffle or a lone tear running down my right eye. I was UGLY crying. Repeatedly. One would think that after having read the book, I would make it through the movie. Wrong. Somehow when you see these two actors bring this story to life and you hear them speaking those wonderful John Greene words, it hits you all over again. As I watched their relationship, I couldn’t help but think about mine. I was brought back to when I first met my husband, our first dates, and how our relationship has evolved over the years. I think about what true love means to me and how it has shaped me as a person. While there are many sad scenes throughout, there are plenty of moments to laugh at along the way. Boone wisely knows that finding the balance in the tone is pivotal so the movie doesn’t fall into a sappy mess. You may be crying in one scene, laughing in the next, or doing a little bit of both all in one moment.

The casting for these two characters was the key to making this film work. The book has a legion of highly devoted fans that probably have images in their head about whom these two characters are and which actors should play them. The chemistry has to be dynamic as you want to believe they are truly in love. That magic was found in Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, both of whom starred in Divergent as brother and sister. Don’t let that weird you out. Woodley has already made a name for herself with Divergent, The Descendants, and The Spectacular Now. Everyone will now know who Elgort is after watching him as Gus Waters. They suck you into the story of Hazel and Gus and will make you quickly forget that you are watching a movie about two teens falling in love. It’s not about teen love or cancer, but what true love is all about no matter how old you are or what you are going through. There are many on-screen couples that have chemistry but it’s rare when they leave behind a legacy. Woodley and Elgort are probably the best romantic leads since Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. They transcend that standard idea of on-screen romantic couple to a pure and natural level. You believe that every flirt, giggle, or smile is real. It’s more than two actors repeating their lines for the umpteenth take. As you watch their relationship grow, Woodley and Elgort know how to keep these characters grounded and authentic. These characters felt very real to me which is often missing from other young adult novel characters or even teen soaps found on the CW. The rest of the cast deserves some notice as well. I always enjoy seeing Laura Dern on screen, and she does not seem to be aging at all. She brings a nice warmth and sense of humor to her supportive, happy, and loving mother. Nat Wolff is a wonderful young actor perfect as the sidekick best friend who can claim he is the catalyst for how Gus and Hazel meet.

It is clearly evident that great care was put into adapting John Green’s novel. The cast and creative team knew they making something very special and dear to many readers and succeeded at bringing Green’s story to the big screen. Naturally, I want to get my hands on all of Green’s other books as I’m sure they will get the silver screen treatment. If the film touched you in the same manner it got to me, it will sit with you for days afterward. It’s one of those movies I want to see again in the theaters as soon as possible.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Make sure to bring a Kleenex for one of the best on-screen romances we have seen in years.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

Pin It Now!

Thursday, June 5, 2014


June 4, 2014

Today's movies really ran the gamut from one that makes it on my worst of the year list to a home release that definitely deserves your attention. Here are today's picks and links to find my reviews of each film.

1. A Million Ways to Die in the West, starring Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Liam Neeson
2. Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
3. Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch

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!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Movie Review: MALEFICENT

Director: Robert Stromberg
Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites

We all have an idea of who Maleficent is from the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Disney has taken one of the most diabolical villains and put a fresh twist on a character we all thought we knew. Maleficent (Jolie) is a powerful fairy who lives in the trees of a magical kingdom called The Moors that borders the human kingdom. She has two horns and gigantic wings enabling her to fly all over the kingdom, and her lively spirit fits right in with the other mythical creatures around her. One fateful night, her wings are burned off which sets in motion a vengeful plot against the person that committed the act.

Through the help of her servant Diaval (Riley), Maleficent learns that the cruel act was committed by the new king (Copley) in order to become the heir to the throne. As an act of revenge for his betrayal, she decides to put a curse on his newborn daughter, Aurora, who on her sixteenth birthday will fall into a deep sleep after being pricked by a spinning wheel. A kiss from her one true love will be the only way to break the curse. Even though Aurora is raised by three pixies, Maleficent continues to keep an eye on her from afar. She may not be as evil as she is often portrayed to be as a maternal side of her starts to appear after the innocent Aurora (Fanning) grows up and could be the key to peace between the two kingdoms.

Maleficent is similar to previous Disney live action movies like Alice in Wonderland and Oz, The Great and Powerful where they reimagine a classic story in a CGI heavy movie. Even though the trailers looked pretty promising I went in with a bit of hesitation as I didn’t want to be burned like I was with both of those wretched films. The naysayers should have no fear as Maleficent is leagues better than both of those, but it doesn’t take much. I wasn’t as bothered by the blatant use of special effects versus realistic sets and effects. The dark and gothic tones seem to work better with the CGI than the bright and colorful palette those other movies used. I still rolled my eyes at some of the Moor creatures and wish they would have treated the pixies a bit differently. They are a weird mix of animation while keeping the faces of Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville. Frankly, I would have been fine with them attempting the Julia Roberts in Hook approach.

Angelina Jolie is the reason to see the movie. How can you NOT be Team Angelina? She brings this heightened, wickedly fun performance to Maleficent. She has a nice blend of being a bit scary and menacing, while not being too cartoonish or over the top. You can tell she is having a hell of a good time playing this character which makes the movie all the more enjoyable. The designers pulled out all the stops to give Maleficent the royal treatment as it is quite evident that so much care and attention is put into the character. The costume design by Anna B. Sheppard (Inglourious Basterds, Captain America: The First Avenger) is exquisite with its sharp and hard structure. The hair and make-up design compliments that quite well and still fits the look of the Disney villain we know and love. The lighting and shadow effects easily pull you into the mystery surrounding her. There is even an ode to the classic Maleficent silhouette.

The story is a bit simple, and I wish more attention would have been made to character development. It gets a bit lost as the attention seems to all go toward Maleficent and the special effects that were needed. I understand she is the title character, but I wish some of the other characters were written with the same juicy material Maleficent was given. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to pull any focus away from her at any point during the movie. Many of the characters like Sharlto Copley’s King and Brenton Thwaites’ Prince Phillip are pretty plain and generic. Elle Fanning brings that sweet, innocent, and angelic spirit about her that she always has to Princess Aurora. Yes, that is Vivienne Jolie-Pitt who has a cameo as the younger Aurora. There is no denying that she looks exactly like Brad and Angelina. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville are all talented actresses, but I wish screenwriter Linda Woolverton would have gone even further with the ditzy and klutzy aspects about the pixies to make them the scene-stealers they should be.

Maleficent is a marked improvement over some of those other CGI heavy Disney live action movies, but it is still missing the mark at times. I recommend seeing the movie in 2D as the copious use of CGI special effects may be ruined with gimmicky post-production 3D crap. If it wasn’t for Angelina Jolie, this would have been another bloated CGI mess. I can’t imagine another actress in this role. A fair warning that the darker tones and approach will be too scary for little kids. It’s not as kid friendly as other live action Disney movies.

Is it worth your trip to the movies? Angelina Jolie makes the movie worth seeing even though it had the potential to be far better than it turned out to be.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

Pin It Now!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Writer/Director: Seth MacFarlane
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Giovanni Ribisi, Sarah Silverman, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris, Liam Neeson

Seth MacFarlane is a multi-talented performer who can write, act, sing, direct, and do voice over work. We have seen him do all of that with hilarious results in his television show Family Guy. His first full length film Ted had some pretty funny moments as well. He is pulling quadruple duty in A Million Ways to Die in the West as he produces, directs, writes, and stars in an attempted spoof of the Western genre.

MacFarlane cast himself as the main character, Albert, a sheepherder who can barely wrangle his own sheep or fire a gun. After bowing out of a duel, his girlfriend Louise (Seyfried) decides to dump him and quickly moves as to the mustached Foy (Harris). Foy is far more upstanding as he runs his own “mustachery” store. Albert has his friends Edward (Ribisi) and his girlfriend Ruth (Silverman) nearby at the saloon for comfort and support.

It’s not too long before the beautiful Anna (Theron) rolls into town and wins over Albert’s affections. He teaches her about the town’s god-awful bad luck while she shows him how to shoot a gun and have a bit of courage in life. What Albert doesn’t know is that she is married to Clinch (Neeson), an outlaw gunslinger who you do not want at the other end of a duel. Albert’s strength and confidence is put to the test when Clinch arrives into town and finds Anna with Albert.

It’s hard to watch a western comedy and not think of the Mel Brooks classic Blazing Saddles, which is one of the funniest movies of all time. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t even attempt this type of movie, but there will always be comparisons. A Million Ways to Die in the West wishes it was as funny as that, but Seth MacFarlane does not even come remotely close to delivering the jokes that Brooks was able to unleash. We have all seen those movies where all of the funny parts were shown in the trailer. That pretty much applies here. I’m not saying that I didn’t laugh as I still let out a few chuckles at times, but it pales in comparison to other comedies of late. MacFarlane is known for pushing the envelope of politically incorrect humor that can be shocking at times. Sometimes he resorts to cheap, low brow poop and dick jokes. You get more of the latter in this movie. I typically like MacFarlane’s work as I have always been a Family Guy fan. I found Ted to pretty funny for the first half of the film, but it got old after a while. It's disappointing that MacFarlane doesn't seem to try any harder and I know he is capable of smarter and funnier material.

MacFarlane has himself a fun and talented cast many of whom are probably his friends in real life that signed on to this film as a favor. I don't blame them as I guess I would sign on to work with MacFarlane without reading a script. Charlize Theron makes any movie better, and that applies here as well. We haven’t quite seen her do a comedy before, but I think I would rather see her and MacFarlane do a smart and mature romantic comedy over this that wastes both their talents. Family Guy actress Alex Borstein has a small role which should have been amplified as she is a hilarious character actress. Liam Neeson seems to be spoofing that same type of character he has played before which works for this movie. The only big casting beef I had happens to be MacFarlane. He seems oddly cast as he naturally carries with him this charm and good looking nature that didn’t quite fit the character. Both my husband and I thought it would have worked better if Giovanni Ribisi would have been in the MacFarlane role. He can pull off that loser type quality and be believable at it.

Of all of the comedic writers out that push the envelope, have an insightful commentary, and be cheap and crass, MacFarlane would be the one to rival Mel Brooks. It is really unfortunate that he seems to be playing it too safe and easy, which is not what I expect from him. He has written a very thin plot and I kept waiting for something to happen. He has mentioned in interviews that he wanted to write a western where the central character was the opposite of the gun-toting action hero. I see the appeal to that, but you have to have more to your concept that just a loose character description. One of the best parts of the movie happens to the cameos that pop up. I’m not about to spoil those here, but I will say they are an homage to the western genre.

Is it worth your trip to the movie? Absolutely not. I’m sure you can find Blazing Saddles or old episodes of Family Guy playing on some cable channel to watch instead.

RATING: 1.5 out of 5 Ticket Stubs

Pin It Now!