Thursday, October 18, 2012



Written by Kevin James, Allan Loeb and Rock Reuben
Directed by Frank Coraci
Actors: Kevin James, Salma Hayek, Henry Winkler, Bas Rutten, Greg Germann.

When I saw the trailer for the new Kevin James comedy "Here Comes the Boom" I kind of had a strange feeling of wanting to see it. Kevin James has not made a movie I have liked save for a weird half like of "Paul Blart Mall Cop". All of Kevin James's star vehicles have been dumbed down. I like James a lot, I think he is funny and very likeable so I am disheartened to see him in crap like "Zookeeper". Kevin James is again likeable here and this time he is given a story that grew on me. It is not a deep movie but it has laughs, a very charming debut performance and it had the kids I saw this with cheering. I even got swept up in the cornball underdog story.

Kevin James plays Scott Voss who is a biology teacher who has kind of slacked off lately. That is until he finds out that his high school is going through financial problems. The music department might be cut and the sweet music teacher Marty might be out of a job soon. Marty is played by Henry Winkler who is perfectly cast and gives a scene stealing performance. Scott wants to raise money to save the music program and he finds a second job teaching foreigners so they can become citizens. There he meets a student Niko from Holland who used to be an UFC fighter but suffered a career ending injury.

Scott comes to the student's house where he is watching a MMA fight and learns that even the loser wins major money, $10,000. Scott used to be a wrestler so he coaxes Niko to train him for the minor leagues of MMA. It first seems improbable that James would make a good MMA fighter but the filmmakers pull it off. The movie has a lot of charm and does not try to hard. I was afraid, being that it comes from Adam Sandler's production team, that the movie would have cheap jokes and come off as really stupid. I came away though with a big smile on my face because the movie has a good heart, is sweet and gets us cheering.

That has to do with Kevin James who finally gets a star vehicle that shows off his strengths. James is funny, charming and is good at playing an everyman type of character. He is not the type to surround with cheap jokes and lame family comedies like he has been given. He also does not have the greatest chemistry with Salma Hayek, who plays an English teacher that Scott fancies, but James is so likeable you cheer for them to get together. It also helps that the movie has Henry Winkler who is such comic gold here. Winkler is sweet and his performance is so charming he steals the movie. He is a great sidekick to Kevin James and they work so well together.

"Here Comes the Boom" is a lot of fun and it snuck up on me with it's charm and sweet, winning story. I have to end this review writing about another reason why I liked this movie. Former MMA champ Bas Rutten is a complete delight here in his first acting role. He gets some great lines and he delivers them so well. Here is a naturally gifted actor who made me smile. I would love to see Rutten do more, even action movies. He is funny, charming and winning just like the movie and he deserves to be in a lot more movies!

P.S. There was a movie called "Warrior" with Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy that dealt with MMA and it was more serious than Boom but also was a very compelling crowd pleaser. I am not a fan of MMA but I loved these two movies, maybe MMA is more intriguing to me in the movies than in the real world of MMA. "Warrior" and "Here Comes the Boom" would make a very good double feature at The View and Brew!



Written by Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Actors: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Fred Dalton Thompson, Vincent D'Onofrio, James Ransone.

"Sinister" sets a creepy, eerie tone right from the start and it surprised me. It is a decently made, well told horror movie that will give you the creeps and make you jump a few times. It is from the creators of "Insidious" which came out a few years ago but lacked a solid ending. It went all off in different directions. "Sinister" has more control and though the ending may seem out there I was satisfied by it. It also helps that Ethan Hawke is the star of the movie. We know he can act and he provides a solid center to this effective thriller.

Hawke plays Ellison, a writer who specializes in writing true life horror, crime stories. He moves his family to at first looks like a cool, cozy house but actually has a sinister history. A family had been discovered with nooses around their necks hanging to their death. It is discovered that there have been a series of family deaths like this in the house through the years. Everyone thinks Ellison is crazy for moving his wife Tracy and his two little kids Trevor and Ashley to a house of death like this and we agree. The local sheriff, played by Fred Dalton Thompson does not like Ellison from the start but his deputy is happy to help Ellison find out why these families all died the way they did.

Director Scott Derrickson does a very good job at setting a creepy tone and atmosphere. This is one of those horror movies that has a house that is a character in itself. I love this house as the kids explore all the tunnels, crevices and the attic. The movie almost always takes place at night and the house is shown as an eerie and at the same time beautiful place where evil can be discovered. This is the best use of a house in a horror movie since Ti West's masterpiece "House of the Devil". Ethan Hawke gives a grounded performance that does not go over the top. He gets great support from Fred Dalton Thompson, James Ransome as the deputy and the great Vincent D'Onofrio as an expert of the occult.

"Sinister" is more than just a haunted house movie and I was intrigued by the story. It is not laughable like most movies of it's kind because the story is very gruesome and it is played seriously, not tongue-in-cheek. It will keep you involved throughout and it will give you some chills and some good scares. It actually might scare it's intended fan base and that is rare these days. I also think the ending works and that is rare. It gives you an ending that might leave you scratching your head but once you walk out you discover that the ending is not a cheat and kind of cool. "Sinister" is a solid and effective, creepy horror thriller that delivers the goods all the way to the end.

P.S. The night before I saw and reviewed a wonderful movie I knew nothing about going in to. It turned out to be a movie that knocked me on my butt and entertained the hell out of me. It is "Kill List" and "Sinister" reminds me of it, you should check out "Kill List" on DVD and then go see "Sinister".

Friday, October 12, 2012



Written by Chris Terrio based on a selection from "The Master of Disguise" by Antonio Mendez and the Wired magazine article "The Great Escape by Joshua Bearman

Directed by Ben Affleck
Actors: Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Clea Duvall, Tate Donovan, Bryan Cranston

I knew there was a reason I love movies and it is proven how powerful and wonderful movies are in Ben Affleck's masterful "Argo". It is a throwback to my favorite period of movie making, 1967-1979. It is a fascinating and suspenseful political thriller with a flawless recreation of a certain time and place. It is also a story of courage and bravery and how a far out plan to make a fake movie saved many lives. Who knew that the movies were so powerful?! It is one of my favorite movies of this or any other year because like the great films of the 70's it keeps us enthralled from the first frame to the last.

"Argo" is as great as the best political movies of my favorite era including "All the President's Men", "Z" and thrillers like "The China Syndrome". Director Ben Affleck has become one of our best directors and I did not see that coming! "Argo" tells the true story of how CIA Agent Tony Mendez rescued six Americans taking refuge in the Canadian Embassy during the Iran hostage crisis. The CIA had many bad ideals to rescue these men and women but Tony came up with the best bad ideal he could think of. Pretend to make a science fiction movie named "Argo", recruit a Hollywood Producer and makeup artist to help with the ruse and go to Iran to put the plan in motion. Tony will train the six Americans on how to successfully act as a film crew and drill them with learning their fake jobs and backgrounds.

The story sounds so improbable and the mission so impossible but of course it is based on a true story. The power of "Argo" comes from how the movie plays with this goofy plot and makes us laugh at it. Though by the end the movie has us on the edge of our seats and choking up in the end. This is a suspenseful, well written and flawlessly directed, emotional ride. It takes us to a certain time and place and recreates it wonderfully. Ben Affleck directed one of the best crime films and mysteries of the past decade in "Gone Baby Gone", slipped a little with "The Town" and now has made his best movie and one of the best movies of this or any other year.

Affleck keeps us entertained throughout and this is a throw back to when movies had everything. "Argo" has a great sense of humor, suspense, great human drama and political intrigue that does not come off as boring. It has some wonderful performances including Affeck who doesn't over play his character and shows he is now ranked with the best actors who can direct and act in the same movie without missing a beat. John Goodman as the makeup artist John Chambers is wonderful and Alan Arkin as the producer is excellent and very funny. The actors playing the hostages flesh out their characters and make us care for each one as individuals.

"Argo" is an old fashioned, entertaining movie that made me tear up in the end. I expected a cracking good, effective thriller but I did not expect to get so emotionally involved. It is a stirring story of bravery, courage, love of movies and love of our country. There is not a wasted shot, emotion or scene and we are always invested in the story and in the last 45 minutes we are breathless and on the edge of our seats. I haven't seen many movies in the past decade and a half that capture a time and place and tell such a captivating story as "Argo" does. There are the masterpieces of the 70's which "Argo" resembles and David Fincher's masterpiece "Zodiac" and that is it. "Argo" teaches us that movies can be mindless entertainment but also a powerful tool to save lives. "Argo" is the best movie of the year so far and might become one of my all time favorites.

P.S. I can not wait to see "Argo" again and I highly recommend you see it in theaters and when it comes out on DVD rent "Zodiac" and watch both back to back. Those two movies are the best period movies in the past two decades.



Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh
Actors: Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits.

I love the art of storytelling and especially in the movies where mostly that art does not exist. There are either movies with one liners or action movies with no brains and no attempt at telling a smart, good story. "Seven Psychopaths" has a layered and imaginative story and great dialogue. It is a movie that would appear in concept to be dumb and violent with the violence overwhelming the story. It turns out to be highly imaginative, twisted, fun and hilarious. You also have one of the best casts in the movies with one actor giving his finest performance in awhile and another who I love, stealing the movie away from everyone.

"Seven Psychopaths" is written by the wonderful and talented Martin McDonagh who wrote the masterfully written and hilarious "In Bruges" which was my pick for the third best movie of 2008. This and that wonderful 2008 masterpiece have great dialogue, a nasty, violent and twisted story and great performances. "Psychopaths" has an original and black hearted story but I also felt an empathy for the characters like I did with "In Bruges". Take the story of the Christopher Walken character and his back story with his wife to witness this empathy. McDonagh has an uncanny knack for making us care about characters we shouldn't. It also helps that again he has a great cast of actors at the top of their forms.

It starts with two great character actors in an opening scene that starts the movie off on a shocking but very funny, high note. The actors are Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg and the scene shocks us with it's violence but makes us laugh also. That will be repeated throughout this story as we follow screenwriter Marty played by Colin Farrell, who is full of delightful energy and great comic timing. Marty is going through writer's block and is stuck with writing a multi layered story of seven psychopaths and the murder and crimes they commit. The movie then unfolds like a great book and I had a great time listening to the dialogue. I also appreciated the depth of the stories and the richness of the characters.

We also follow Marty's friend Billy who along with sidekick Hans kidnaps dogs and then brings them back to the owners to collect the ransom. They steal the Shi Tzu of a crime boss named Charlie. There is also the back story of a serial killer on the run and flashbacks to other crime stories. Billy is played by Sam Rockwell who steals this movie and gets better and better with each film. He is hilarious and takes a role that could have been over written and over acted and hits all the right notes. Hans is played by Christopher Walken and this is the best he has been in ages. The way Walken reads his lines sound more and more poetic as he ages, I could listen to him for hours. Woody Harrelson is of course perfect and quite funny as the crime boss who is ruthless until someone threatens his Shih Tzu.

I loved the delightful dialogue of "Seven Psychopaths" and I really felt the same way that I would reading a great novel. It is like the joy of listening to Christopher Walken tell us this story at a campfire as we listen with our stomachs on the ground and our hands under our chin listening rapturously as the story unfolds. Yes the movie is violent and unsettling at times but I laughed a lot. It is like a good suspenseful thriller and I was on the edge of my seat not because of action but because of the great dialogue and the sweet science of the art of storytelling. "Seven Psychopaths" is even better than I expected. I laughed a lot, always had a smile on my face and had a wonderful time even though it was a twisted, nasty good time.

Friday, October 5, 2012



Written by Kay Cannon based on the book by Mickey Rapkin
Directed by Jason Moore
Actors: Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Ben Platt, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Alexis Knapp.

I wanted to really like "Pitch Perfect" thinking it would be a more risque version of the popular television show "Glee". I love movies like this that are punctuated with great pop songs. I really liked "Glee" except for the last two years. I liked a little bit of "Pitch Perfect" but I didn't walk out smiling and clicking my heels like I do after a good musical. Save for two funny and charming, scene stealing peformances this movie fell flat in the end. I think it is worth a wait for DVD but this movie doesn't come off as deserving of a hit even though the qualifications are there.

Anna Kendrick is the major appeal here and she is becoming quite a star in the making. She plays a young college student who is a little bit of a rebel and wants to be a radio DJ. She gets roped into joining an all female acapella group after being spied on in the shower as she sings a song. The girls in this group have lost their leader who has graduated. The group is not fully formed and after auditions it looks like the girls will not win the top prize in the regionals. This is an eclectic group and they will need a lot of practice to sound good as one cohesive group.

The problem is that the group is full of stereotypes and not individuals. I only cared about two characters and they steal the show as do the actresses who play them. Rebel Wilson played the English roommate from hell in "Bridesmaids" and here she is just as funny. She plays Fat Amy who calls herself that so other skinny bitches don't call her that behind her back. Rebel Wilson has some very funny scenes and she plays them for all they are worth. She alone has the only truly funny scenes even though Anna Camp (True Blood) is very charming and cute as the clueless leader of the group. It is a shame that Camp is involved in not one but two unfunny vomit scenes.

The other reason I almost fully recommended this movie is because of it's adorable and charming star in the making Ana Kendrick. Kendrick is very appealing physically, cute and sometimes very sexy at the same time. She is funny, knows how to play all the scenes for maximum effect, even the flat ones, and makes you instantly like her and want to hug her. She was also this charming, good and appealing in "50/50", "Up in the Air" and "End of Watch". Her performance alone with the help of Rebel Wilson almost saved this movie for me just on their charm alone. Both actresses have great careers ahead of them!

"Pitch Perfect" comes so close many times to being a rip roaring, toe tapping, energetic time and I do love some of the musical numbers but it should have been better. I just felt the movie had too many dull, awkward stretches that zap the movie of energy. Kendrick and Wilson are great but some of the other characters are either not funny or uninteresting. There is a battle with another all male group but in the second half that battle fades away without much conflict or energy. There are great, funny and wonderful scenes and some inspired singing and choreography. The only thing is that the momentum of the story's energy drops out of sight from time to time. Though I would watch it again on cable just for Anna Kendrick herself. This is an actress that deserves to be a star!


'TAKEN 2' (R) (1 1/2 STARS)

Written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Directed by Oliver Megaton
Actors: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, D.B. Sweeey, Jonathan Gries, Rade Sherbedgia.

"Taken" was a surprise hit and a movie that delightfully gave us a new Liam Neeson, a Liam of the kick ass variety. It was a very well directed and suspenseful movie that delivered what it promised. I don't know what happened to "Taken 2" but I laughed a lot and it is not a comedy. I also was bored because maybe I have seen this story before, it is basically the same plot as the first one with slight changes. Maybe it is because this macho Liam Neeson thing is becoming a parody of itself. It is that way with "Taken 2" for I found the movie unintentionally hilarious and very stupid.

It feels like the filmmakers are grabbing at thin air for there is nothing new to see here. Even the action scenes seem like exact copies of scenes in the original except here it gets tiring without a substantial story. Liam Neeson again goes into attack mode when the father of the men he killed in the original kidnap Neeson and his wife played by Famke Janssen (who gets prettier as she ages). Bryan's daughter will also be chased and Bryan will try to help her escape through the cell phone. All the action takes place in Instanbul and it could take place in Paris for all I cared.

The movie takes a half hour to get going and the first half hour will give us golden nuggets of humor, unintentional humor that is. It starts with the father visiting his daughter as she is making out with her boyfriend. The overprotective father just walks in and doesn't acknowledge the boyfriend. The way it is presented is so corny and cliche and it comes off here as fake. Then Bryan takes his daughter for a driving lesson and asks her if she loves this guy and if she has ever been in love before. I laughed out loud because the dialogue is so fake and isn't this an action movie?! Then the movie closes with the daughter passing her driving test after three tries and then a dinner with the boyfriend, daughter and wife and man I laughed and threw up in my mouth after seeing how this all goes down.

There are more laugh out loud scenes including a hilarious scene as Bryan's daughter dispatches three grenades, one hitting a parked car in a parking lot so Bryan can find her location. There are also rusty, dull and uninspired action scenes and a final fight that is awkward and clumsy and I am not the only one who laughed out loud during the fight scene. Then Bryan, after killing everybody, goes to find the vengeance minded bad guy and asks him if he has more sons. The bad guy tells him yes and then Bryan gives him two options. Bryan could kill him and then the other sons could go after him for revenge and Bryan will kill then easily. Or he can walk away and enjoy the company of his surviving sons for the rest of his life. This is after Bryan has already killed the other sons. That is hilarious, no this is not a comedy but it is easily one of the worst movies of the year.

P.S. For better movies then "Taken 2" check out the original again or try the cult classic masterpiece "Mad Max".