Saturday, January 17, 2015

Movie Review: He's Way More Famous Than You (2013)

"He's Way More Famous Than You" is a quirky comedy written by and staring Halley Feiffer as herself.  Halley is a washed-up drunken mess of an actress years after her brush with fame in an indie movie.  After losing her boyfriend, Halley decides it's time to get her career back in gear and the way to do that is to get as famous as possible.  Halley's master plan involves making a short film about her newly broken relationship and including as many famous people in it and involved in it as possible (expect some cameos here like Ben Stiller, Michael Urie, Jessie Eisenberg, and more).

This isn't the typical comedy but there's some laughs here.  Halley really nails her part as the washed-up, drunken, fame-obsessed actress.  Her character is totally crude and not likeable one minute and then the next minute she's funny and worthy of my compassion.  In today's reality tv/fame-obsessed society this film isn't too far off the mark in terms of what some will do for fame and fame as a goal in of itself.

Quirky and sometime crude, this is a different comedy that's a bit more on point than some of us want to admit - solid B.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Movie Review: Better Living Through Chemistry (2014)

"Better Living Through Chemistry" follows a small-town pharmacist named Doug Varney (Sam Rockwell), who lives an uneventful life and is constantly over-ruled by his wife Kara (Michelle Monaghen) and her father (Ken Howard).  Doug's life changes dramatically one fateful night when he makes a delivery to the home of Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde), a bored trophy wife.  A whirlwind of sex, drugs, and possibly murder follows.  Jane Fonda narrates.

This film is more of the quirky comedy than a laugh-out-loud obvious type but it's enjoyable.  Rockwell, Monaghen, and Wilde are good here as well as Ray Liotta in a small role as Elizabeth's husband.  Decent script as there are some twists here and Fonda's narration is a plus. The story isn't really a new idea or a fresh telling but the film has charm thanks to the cast and some good moments that make it watchable.

Not anything new but good cast - B

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie Review: The Signal (2014)

"The Signal" follows a group of college kids traveling cross country who make a detour to confront a hacker, who has been taunting the two guys in the group.  The group pursues the hacker to a seemingly deserted house in the Nevada desert and finds much more than expected.  Laurence Fishburne co-stars.

I don't want to give away too much about the plot because it is a bit of a twist from the synopsis I read before watching the movie.  Billed as a "sci-fi mind-bender," this movie definitely is twisted.  Though I was surprised by some of the twists and figured out others, I really found the script lacking.  It just seemed like an over-reach in terms of the twists and the result was sometimes kind of silly.  I feel like with a more solid story this film could've been much more.  Rather, I was kind of shaking my head and ready to move on.

This one needed some re-writes: D+

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movie Review: The Book Thief (2013)

"The Book Thief" is a film-adaptation of a novel by the same name that focuses on young Lisel (Sophie Nelisse), and her adopted family (Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson) in Nazi-era Germany. Lisel learns to read and write, finding enjoyment in much books. She reads to the Jewish man, Max (Ben Schnetzer), the family hides in their home and even steals books from the mayor's home.

This film has a lot to like.  The story is good though it feels a little sanitized perhaps because we're seeing a lot of the story through Lisel's eyes.  It's PG-13 and probably appropriate for most.  There is a strong theme of showing and recognizing humanity even in the midst of Nazi Germany.  I also loved Lisel's love of books and the power of the written word.  The acting here is good by Rush, Watson, and Nelisse.  

Cute film with some strong themes - A-

Monday, March 24, 2014

Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

"Drinking Buddies" follows a male/female pair of best friends, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson), who work together at a brewery and often drink together during their off-time. Seemingly the perfect pair, they both have significant others, Jill (Anna Kendrick) and Chris (Ron Livingston). The situation gets complicated when the two couples go on a weekend trip to Chris' cottage and then more awkward with the fall-out from the trip.

There's a certain awkwardness and raw feeling from the dialogue in this film. It feels very real and sometimes that's a bit uncomfortable. Apparently the "script" was largely an outline and the actors improved a good bit of the film. I think this was really an interesting directing choice by director/writer Joe Swanberg. Overall the film is a take on the age-old question can men and women really be friends without taking it to the romantic level. I think there's an interesting take on that question here in that the question for Kate and Luke isn't as clear-cut throughout the film as one thinks - are they really the best fit for each other.  I don't want to give anything away but I found the ending a satisfying answer that at first I didn't think I liked but the more I think about it the more it makes sense.  Good chemistry among the cast complements the story.

Feels a little awkward but give this a try - B+

Movie Review: Girl Most Likely (2012)

"Girl Most Likely" stars Kristen Wiig as Imogene, who was an aspiring playwright with much potential but after a failed relationship, failed career, and failed suicide attempt is forced to move back home to New Jersey with her eccentric mother (Annette Bening) and brother (Christopher Fitzgerald). To add to the confusion, Imogene finds her mother has rented out her childhood bedroom to a casino show singer (Darren Criss) and a new boyfriend for her mother (Matt Dillon).

A quirky film with a good ensemble cast, I feel like "Girl Most Likely" has likely gone overlooked. Bening really sparkles as Zelda, the decidedly offbeat mother and Wiig is enjoyable as well in a role that's different than her "Bridesmaids" and Saturday Night Live fare. A lot of the laughs are from Dillon's character, the mysterious George Bousch. This one is definitely different but there's a nice message and some touching moments too. Nice seeing Natasha Lyonne in a small part.  

Quirky yet touching - Solid B

Friday, March 14, 2014

Movie Review: Last Vegas (2013)

Last Vegas (2013) is a comedy starring Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Kline as a group of childhood friends in their senior years reuniting in Las Vegas for a bachelor party for Billy (Douglas), who is set to marry a much younger woman. It's not all a celebration, however, because old tensions still exist between Billy and Paddy (De Niro). Meanwhile, Sam (Kline) has a "weekend pass" from his wife and Archie (Freeman) is avoiding his over-protective adult son. The group befriends a lovely lounge singer, Diana (Mary Steenburgen), who seems to create more tension between Billy and Archie.

The jokes and story here are a bit stale - expect every old man joke possible. What saves this film is the chemistry among the main actors, who appear to really enjoy each other. That's what makes this watchable and a bit of a fun romp senior-style through Las Vegas. Steenburgen adds to the boys' fun and she is a joy to watch. Look for a cameo by rapper 50 Cent.

Overall, this is fun and they are a fun group but there's nothing new here - C+