Established May 2010.

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

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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

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Tuesday, 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.


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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.


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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!
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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.


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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!
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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.


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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.


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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.


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Saturday, September 6, 2014

TWIN CITIES LIVE- September 5, 2014

September 5, 2014

It was a pleasure returning to Twin Cities Live after a few weeks off. It's been a little slow at the theaters right now, so we decided to do a fall movie preview instead of reviews of the latest new releases. Here are the four movies we discussed:

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Sela Ward, Tyler Perry

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine

Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Christine Baranksi

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney

Here's the video:

Video courtesy of Twin Cities Live/KSTP

For more on these four movies and my full Fall Movie preview, click HERE.

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!
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Friday, September 5, 2014



Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Michael Caine

I am a huge fan of Christopher Nolan, the visionary director of Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy. This film may be his biggest challenge to date. It is still shrouded in secrecy, but a couple of trailers have been released.  I am stunned and awed by everything I am seeing so far. It has been in the works for the past few years and was originally inspired by physicist Kip Thorne and his theories behind using wormholes in space to time travel. Matthew McConaughey continues his hot streak by leading this ensemble cast as one of the brave few willing to travel to the far reaches of space in hopes of saving the universe. If you were moved by last year’s hit Gravity, you will want to check out Interstellar.

Release Date: November 7

Director: Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Johnny Depp, Christine Baranksi

The latest big screen adaptation of a Broadway musical is based on Stephen Sondheim’s hit Into the Woods. Rob Marshall is no stranger to directing musicals after his work on Chicago and Nine. He has another all-star cast led by Meryl Streep as the Witch who makes an offer to a baker (Corden) and his wife (Blunt) that they can’t refuse. The two of them must face other fairy tale characters like Cinderella, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel and steal some precious items for the Witch in order for her to reverse the curse of infertility that has been placed over their home. If you know the staged version, you are already familiar with the beautiful music and insanely creative word play in the lyrics. You also know how dark and grim the story can be at times. With this being a Disney property, I will be curious to see how faithful they stay to the original story. There have been rumors floating around that specific numbers and side plots have been cut from the movie that would potentially make it more family friendly. Sondheim was involved in the process so I am going to remain optimistic about it and not give those rumors too much thought.

Release Date: December 25

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund, Jai Courtney

The highly anticipated film is based on the book of the same name by Laura Hillenbrand which stayed on the bestseller list for three years. I recently started reading it, and I can already tell that this will be one incredibly powerful and moving story. It tells the remarkable true story of Louis Zamperini (O’Connell), a record breaking Olympic runner who became an airman in World War II. His plane was shot down and he was left stranded on a raft in the middle of the Pacific. Forty-seven days later, he was rescued only to become a prisoner of war in the Japanese camps. The film is getting massive buzz due its story of survival and perseverance. It’s directed by Angelina Jolie with a screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. Expect lots of Oscar buzz around this one.

Release Date: December 25

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Sela Ward, Tyler Perry

If you have seen any of director David Fincher’s work like Seven, The Social Network, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, you know he is the perfect choice to tackle Gillian Flynn's bestselling novel "Gone Girl", He is exceptional at capturing these dark and mysterious stories. Amy (Pike) and Nick (Affleck) Dunne seem like the perfect gorgeous couple. On their fifth anniversary, Amy goes missing and Nick becomes the number one suspect. What follows is a twisty ride of deceit, deception, and mystery that was their marriage. It should be known that author Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay for the movie. In an article in "Entertainment Weekly", Ben Affleck mentioned how she rewrote the whole third act of the movie that takes it in a different direction than the book. Who knows if that is true or a ploy to keep the movie a mystery, but I am intrigued to see what these changes are going to be like.

Release Date: October 3

Director: Bennett Miller
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave

If you are a fan of funny man Steve Carell, like I am, you will want to take note of his latest, Foxcatcher. He received all sorts of early Oscar buzz for his role after it screened at the Cannes Film Festival. This is far different than anything we have seen from him before. The film is based on a bizarre true story with Carell playing millionaire philanthropist John du Pont. He was known for sponsoring and mentoring Olympic wrestling brothers Mark (Tatum) and Dave (Ruffalo) Schultz. It started off as promising friendship and working relationship, but tragedy strikes as du Pont’s growing paranoia, suspicion, and erratic behavior leads to murder. Don’t be surprised if Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo also receive high praise for their performances. The film is directed by Bennett Miller who has previously directed Moneyball and Capote, also based on true events.

Release Date: November 14

Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Jane Fonda, Connie Britton, Rose Byrne, Kathryn Hahn

It’s become a joke with my parents that I love movies about dysfunctional families. As an actor, I’m always drawn to those types of large ensemble dramas as there are rich characters for the actors to play with. I was immediately drawn to This is Where I Leave You when I first saw the cast list and a publicity photo in "Entertainment Weekly". Jane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, and Dax Shepard are just some of the fantastic actors that appear in this adaptation of the Jonathan Tropper novel of the same name. Jane Fonda stars as the matriarch of the Foxman family and insists her children (played by Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver) reunite after their father passes away. As you can tell by the trailer, some of them are going through their own drama on top of the death in the family. The cast boasts quite a few actors known for their television work, and I’m excited to see them tackle a different medium. I recently finished the book and absolutely loved it!

Release Date: September 19

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan

I grew up watching Michael Keaton in Batman and Batman Returns. Frankly, the Caped Crusader or Beetlejuice will probably be the roles he will always be remembered for. His career seemed to stall a bit after those films. He would have a few hits here or there, but none seemed to have as big of an impact on his career like Batman had. It's great to see him back in prime form in a role that seems perfectly catered toward him. In Alejandro González Iñárritu's (Babel) latest, he plays a washed up actor best known for playing an iconic superhero. He struggles to open a new Broadway play in an attempt to revitalize his career. It's been playing at some early festivals to critical acclaim, so hopefully this is the film to catapult Keaton's career back into the public eye.

Release Date: October 17, 2014

Director: David Ayer
Starrring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michale Pena, Jon Bernthal, Scott Eastwood, Jim Parrack,

After seeing 2012's End of Watch, I was fully on board the David Ayer train. I thought it was a visceral, front of the line approach to what it's like to be a police officer in the worst area of Los Angeles. His next film was Sabotage with Arnold Schwarzenegger which was released earlier this year. Talk about a complete turn of opinion as I hated that film. It will surely be on my worst of the year list. With Fury, he looks to bring his A-game back into play with the heavy handed World War II drama. Brad Pitt leads the film as Wardaddy who vows to protect his four comrades and tankers in the final days of the war. I can only assume that this will be one of the most brutal and realistic war films we have seen in years. Maybe Ayer will have films on both my best and worst of the year lists.

Release Date: October 17

Director: Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Chris O'Dowd, Terrence Howard

I've watched the trailer for St. Vincent a couple of times now, and I am naturally drawn to the feel good vibe and Bill Murray's performance. Others may find it too sappy. St. Vincent (Murray) is that cantankerous old man neighbor that we would rather not deal with on a daily basis. Single mom Maggie (McCarthy) feels no choice but to ask for his help by taking care of her young son. The budding friendship between young boy and kooky neighbor leads to all sorts of adventures that are far too risqué and dangerous for someone so young. I'll be curious to see how moviegoers and critics feel about this one. Will Murray have Oscar potential? Will McCarthy win us back after the dreadful Tammy?

Release Date: December 17

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Lee Pace, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett, Luke Evans

Fans have been a bit hesitant when it comes to The Hobbit movies. I can understand the frustration as Peter Jackson and his writing team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens took one book and turned it into three movies by adding characters and taking details from the appendices. So far, they are nowhere near as good as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I feel like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was heading in the right direction. I have a strong inclination that this will be the best of this trilogy. Jackson may redeem himself from how the series started. I haven't read the book yet which I am embarrassed to admit, but I think that makes it a bit easier to judge the movies without any preconceived notions of what Tolkien's story originally had in store.

Release Date: December 17


Those are my picks for ten of the films I'm looking forward to in the upcoming months. I'd love to hear from you! What films are you most looking forward to as we come into the fall season?
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014



I don't think the 2014 summer movie season will be remembered for the good movies that came out. Let's face it, it seemed like each week we succumbed to some pretty disappointing movies at your local cineplex. Like every summer, we had our fare share of comic book movies, sequels, and reboots. There were big action franchises that wanted to continue their reign. Some fared well (X-Men: Days of Future Past), while others left us shaking our head in frustration (The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Here are my picks for the best and worst of the summer season, plus some that were pleasant surprises.


Writer/Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Marco Perella, Libby Villari

By now, you are probably aware of the fact that writer/director Richard Linklater spent twelve years filming this movie. The huge gamble paid off, and I obsessed over it after I saw it. I bought the soundtrack and am currently working on making the Beatles Black Album that Hawke's character created. It was the movie I plugged and championed for whenever anyone asked me for my recommendation. If you are sick of seeing the same kind of movies in theaters over and over again, Boyhood is your kind of movie. It will be one of the most unique and thought-provoking films you will see all year or of any year recently.


Director: Steve James
Starring: Roger Ebert, Chaz Ebert, Martin Scorsese, Werner Herzog, A.O. Scott, Richard Corliss, Gene Siskel

Documentarian Steve James and Roger Ebert started working on Life Itself with the intention of it being an adaptation of Ebert's memoir of the same name. Unfortunately, Roger passed away before the film was completed. I have been a huge admirer of his dating back to when I was a kid watching Siskel & Ebert & the Movies. This film is a wonderful look back at his life and career. He is truly inspirational as he never once gave up or quit working when his health started to decline. It is one of the best documentaries that I have seen in years.


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

I knew I would enjoy this teen romance as I had already read the book and fell in love with the story. What I didn't expect was that I would go on and do a full ugly cry at the theater. I rarely cry at movies, but this was the grand exception. I even tried to recreate it on Twin Cities Live when I reviewed it. Click HERE for the video.


Director: Joon-ho Bong
Starring: Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Jamie Bell, John Hurt

There were many films this summer that I wouldn't mind seeing a second or third time once they are available on blu-ray. I left Snowpiercer and immediately wanted to see it again as it was also available via On Demand at the same time it was in theaters. I never got around to writing a full review, but I will once I watch it again. It was a stunning visual feast for the eyes. I haven't seen any of Bong's other films, so I went in not knowing what to expect. For a film that takes place completely on a train, I completely awed by the fact that I never knew what was going to happen next! Plus, you've got the brilliance of Tilda Swinton giving her third performance this year alone.


Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe

I admit, this is probably a strange pick that you didn't see coming. I had a hard time filling this fifth spot. Do I go with a trusty and easy choice like a Marvel movie or go in a different direction? I'm going with Godzilla as it was a film, like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, that really took me by surprise. I had never seen a Godzilla movie before, but now I want to go back and rewatch those old black and white classics. Director Gareth Edwards gives the film its slow burn until our main character is finally revealed in a very Spielbergian way. It's sound and visual effects were top notch and made it a true summer popcorn creature feature flick!



Stay FAR FAR away...I'm warning you.


What a piece of garbage. A nearly three hour piece of garbage. Yes, I expected that going in but I still don't think we can excuse Michael Bay and not hold him accountable because we now expect that out of him. I can't believe people keep throwing hard earned money at these movies.



Seth MacFarlane is one of the funniest and smartest people in Hollywood. He can act, sing, direct, write and do voices as we have seen with Family Guy and Ted. It was a real shame that his attempt at a western comedy turned out to be a complete waste and really showed how lazy he can be.



I didn't even give this film a full review as I saw it weeks after it opened. It should be one of those dumb comedies that's so dumb, it's funny or it's so funny that you don't mind it being dumb. This was all dumb and no funny. Okay, I take it back. There was maybe two funny moments, one of which involved a fat naked man running.



It's a shame that this didn't work out in the end. Clint Eastwood was the wrong choice to helm the big screen adaptation of the hit jukebox musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. They tried sticking close to the musical but in all the wrong places. They even forgot to include the music in the second half.



It's good that Melissa McCarthy, Allison Janney, and Kathy Bates were all up for Emmys this year as it made me forget about this movie. We've seen McCarthy do this type of loud-mouthed, crass, and dirty character countless times. It's time for the otherwise talented actress to retire this character and move onto other more challenging roles that she is easily capable of.



There you go! Those are my picks for the best and worst of the summer season. Here's hoping next summer gives us some better quality popcorn flicks. I'd love to hear from you! What are your picks for the best and worst? Feel free to comment below or you can find me and comment on my Facebook page by clicking HERE.
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