Friday, December 27, 2013



Written and Directed by Spike Jonze
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt, Portia Doubleday.

Most movies think they know about how real relationships work and how real love should feel. Most of these movies get it so wrong, it becomes pathetic. It takes an offbeat love story like the futuristic "HER" to become the most perceptive, real, honest and most beautiful story of love and relationships I have seen. Spike Jonze has written one of the best love stories of our time, a movie that will be remembered 50 years from now as timeless and groundbreaking. I mean groundbreaking in a written sense, this being a hauntingly beautiful, hilarious and real screenplay, some of the best writing I have experienced in a movie in ages. It is astounding that not one movie in at least 20 years has been as poetic and real when dealing with love and relationships as Spike Jonze's wonderful screenplay is.

"HER" stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Trumbley, a man who works writing hallmark like cards for any occasion. He is very great at writing these internet cards but is seems that he knows nothing about expressing his own feelings. He is recently divorced and the only real contact he now has with love is writing these cards. He downloads an OS which is a Operating System, sort of like Suri but way more detailed and life like. The Operating System he downloads is a female OS named Samantha. Samantha is there to fulfill every need that Theodore has. She reads his emails for him, deletes emails that are a waste of his time and suggests things that Theodore can do to make his life more comfortable.

Then Samantha will actually become more than just a secretary on a computer or I phone screen. She will be curious about Theodore's past relationships, what it is like to be married and separated and what it feels like to love someone. This is all I want to tell you because I want you to experience this cold, it is a movie that will surprise you and make you think. It is not all serious, it has some great scenes dealing with futuristic video games and computers themselves that are hilarious and some brilliant, laugh out loud scenes like a middle of the night sex chat scene. The movie has a futuristic feel (the movie is set in the near future) to it and the movie is beautifully shot but it doesn't feel cold like a science fiction movie. The screenplay is too real, warm, haunting and beautiful for the movie to feel cold.

The movie actually is scary for how perceptive it is when pin pointing flawlessly how hard it is to express what we really feel when it comes to relationships. It also brilliantly captures how little, petty arguments can ruin relationships. How we become lost and disconnected from others because we are so wrapped up in computers and social media, because it is easier not to deal with people. This realism comes from a movie dealing with a human and his Operating System, that is how brilliant this screenplay by Spike Jonze is.

The movie would also not work without the amazing performances by it's two lead actors. Let's start with Scarlett Johansson, one of our finest actors. She is doing a voice for a computer Operating System, we can't see her, we can not see how she reacts to the human emotions stirred up by Theodore. Even though we can't see her, Johansson is that much more brilliant with her performance. It is such a brilliant performance that I could actually picture her facial reactions and feel her hurt and amazement just by how she uses her voice. If she doesn't get an Oscar nomination for, let alone win Best Actress at the Oscars, it will be a tragedy and a travesty of justice.

Joaquin Phoenix has given us so many great performances but his performance here as Theodore is easily his best work to date. It is a subtly powerful, aching, touching and truthful performance. We also have to consider the fact that Phoenix is not in the room with Johansson but he makes it feel like she is in the room. That is a difficult job for any actor and Phoenix is perfect, one of the best performances I have seen by an actor. Spike Jonze gets great work from his actors, has written one of the best love stories of our time with brilliant dialogue and shoots the movie with beautiful precision. The story is not only breathtaking and powerful, the movie looks beautiful without Jonze ever showing off. He has now become one of the best and most original writers and directors of our generation.

The power and poignancy of "HER" is undeniable for it has stayed with me hours after I have seen it. It has made me look at love and the state of my past relationships with open eyes. It is so powerful and real that I can see a lot of what happens in this story happening in the future when it comes to computers and the loss of social interaction. The movie is touching, painful, real, honest, extremely funny and heartbreaking. It washed all over me, immersing me in it's world, making me experience feelings almost no other movie has ever done. It has everything, it will make you think and what incredible conversations will come from people who see this. "Her" is a masterpiece in writing, filmmaking and in making us confront our feelings when dealing with matters of the heart.

P.S. I kept thinking a lot about Stanley Kubrick after seeing "HER". Kubrick would have loved this story but Kubrick would have dreamed about having a screenplay this amazing when he was alive. "HER" is the best movie of 2013!

Thursday, December 26, 2013



Written by Terrence Winter based on the book by Jordan Belfort
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Christina Miliotti, Joanna Lumley.

The excess of Wall Street and it's sleazy stockbrokers are depicted in Martin Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street" with a fascinating and fast filmmaking style. I say this because if I had to spend time in real life with these jerks I would run out of the room screaming. Maybe I am generalizing too much here because I shouldn't compare stockbrokers in general to Jordan Belfort, I hated him though. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is full of boorish and hateful men and I found a few of the characters dull but Jordan Belfort is fascinating due to Scorsese's direction and Leonardo DiCaprio's bravura performance, maybe my favorite of his.

"The Wolf of Wall Street" tells the real life story of corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort who preyed and made money off of people illegally. The half solid and half rambling screenplay by Terrence Winter is based on Jordan Belfort's book. This is a three hour movie about the rise and fall of Jordan and credit Scorsese for turning a could have been sluggish movie into a very fast three hours. Jordan's mentor at 22, when he started out, is Mark Hanna and Hanna is played by Matthew McConaughey who again has stunned me. Mark is my favorite character in the movie and he doesn't stay long and I missed him for the rest of the movie. Though again Scorsese keeps up the fascinating filmmaking throughout the rest of the three hours even without Mark Hanna.

Jordan starts up his own company out of a strip mall with a group of nerdy losers. I found these characters dull and there are too many scenes that include them that I would have cut out. One of the nerds is Donnie Azoff, played by Jonah Hill, and Azoff starts out as a boorish nerd who turns into a richer, more powerful, boorish nerd. Jordan and Azoff will make most of their money illegally at the expense of weaker minded clients. A federal agent, Agent Patrick Denham, catches on to the two and there will then start a game of cat and mouse between Denham and Jordan. Add to the mix Jordan's second wife, a bombshell blonde, named Naomi who will fall under Jordan's spell.

Now I wasn't that interested in most of the supporting characters but I was fascinated by Jordan and his relationship with his wife. I was fascinated by the story of all the dirty dealings and the movie did grow on me and most of that credit goes to the wonderful Martin Scorsese. Scorsese has not lost his masterful touch, directing fast, energetic scenes that roll by in a glorious cannonball of momentum. This movie is three hours but it flew by for me and what could have become a bore stays on course thanks to Scorsese's never ending energy and control of the camera. I also thought that Leonardo DiCaprio has never been this fascinating in a movie and he has done a lot of fascinating stuff! DiCaprio is a force here and he turns what could have been a boorish dullard into something higher. I have never seen DiCaprio this much on fire, this could be my favorite performance of his.

I might not be that interested in all of the characters but the supporting acting is all wonderful. McConaughey is brilliant, fun and forceful in such a small part. Margot Robbie is sexy, beautiful and hot, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley plus a hilarious Rob Reiner are all genius. Jonah Hill is also very funny and full of energy here but his character can become really annoying. Hill is great but Winter's screenplay makes Hill yell a lot so his performance suffers just a smidge. The editing here for a three hour movie is amazingly cut just right by the legendary Thelma Schoonmaker and the movie is beautifully shot. In other director's hands this would become dull fast what with a lot of boorish characters populating the movie. Only Scorsese can turn a movie with risky plot material into gold.

Martin Scorsese has made some masterpieces and I mean a lot of them. Of course I will have my list of Scorsese's masterpieces, his fascinating failures and his middle tier movies. "The Wolf of Wall Street" is on my middle tier Scorsese level along with movies like "Casino" and "New York, New York". Those were wonderfully made Scorsese movies but they have weaker stories so "Wolf" becomes not as memorable as the best of Scorsese just like "Casino". Though Scorsese can make the most despicable characters like Jordan become somewhat likeable and make us want to follow them. Scorsese and DiCaprio do some amazing things here, Scorsese with his filmmaking greatness and energy and DiCaprio with his energy and charm.

There is a scene in the middle of this movie that is hilarious and jaw dropping. It involves some slapstick and some shockingly weird visuals. Only artists as amazing and skilled as Scorsese and DiCaprio can take a weird sequence and turn it into a comic masterpiece. Scenes and performances like this are as good a reason as anything to go see this on the big screen. A few amazing scenes, a few amazing characters and bravura performances by DiCaprio and McConaughey are worth the price of admission alone.

Friday, December 20, 2013



Written by Eric Singer and David O'Russell
Directed by David O'Russell
Actors: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Elizabeth Rohm, Said Taghmaoui.

Sometimes a movie comes along that has such energy, freshness, enthusiasm, joyful and thrilling filmmaking that gets you pumped up! "Pulp Fiction", "GoodFellas" and "Boogie Nights" are three of those type movies and three of my favorites, classics. Now you can add "American Hustle" to that glorious, perfect list! I was never bored, had a wide grin on my face the whole time, laughed my butt off and just sat back and watched the best acting I have seen from an ensemble cast in years! Add to my pleasure the fact that this story is set in the 70's, my favorite period of time in history. Yes, I said that, I love films from the 70's and I always say that if I was in a movie and was stuck in time I would pick the 70's to be stuck in, before technology robbed us.

"American Hustle" starts with the hilarious opening title, one that made everyone laugh out loud at the screening I went to, "Some of This Actually Happened". I knew after seeing that title that this would be one hilarious thrill ride! Actually in the late 70's the FBI recruited a con man and woman to work with them on a covert operation called "Abscam". This is really based on a true story and the story gets so nutty you know writers Eric Singer and David O'Russell had to embellish some of it but you never know about stuff that happened in the 70's. FBI agent Richie Dimaso, Bradley Cooper, recruited this couple, Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, to help him catch corrupt politicians. Add to the mix the wife of Irving, Rosalyn, played wonderfully by the amazing Jennifer Lawrence.

Richie, to the frustration of his boss Stoddard Thorsen, played wonderfully by comedian Louis C.K., creates a fake Arab Sheik to catch some crooked congressman. The con couple are quite a pair and when the Mob, Irving's loopy wife and the crazy Dimaso come together in this "Abscam" debacle it's a glorious mess! That's all I will tell you because I want you to be on the edge of your seat following this fascinating story and movie. I had such a fun time during this movie, I couldn't remember the last time I had this much fun! David O'Russell has made a thrilling, flawlessly recreated, shot, costumed and spellbinding movie! He also includes the best use of 70's songs in a 70's set movie since "Boogie Nights" because he doesn't use songs that others have used ad nauseum in other movies set in the 70's.

David O'Russell has become my favorite writer and director right now because he obviously loves movies. Starting in 1999 with my favorite war movie "Three Kings", he has made thrilling, fresh, hugely entertaining movies and he gets amazing performances from his perfectly cast actors. Last year "Silver Linings Playbook" was my best movie of the year and it had Russell's unique stamp on it, it's like I never saw that kind of movie before. Now he might earn my pick as best movie of this year because I have seen a lot of 70's set movies and this is not like any other I have seen. The movie is a delicious, black comedy that gets more outrageous as it moves along but it never loses control and never goes over the top. It's just this side of blowing a gasket but Russell steers it to delightful perfection.

Russell also has perfected a smart, crazy, hilarious, fascinating screenplay with Eric Singer. He also hits a home run for the umpteenth time with casting a great ensemble of some of the best acting of this or any other year. It starts at the top with the ladies, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, and man are they incredible! Amy Adams is sexy, fierce and funny as Sydney and Adams plays this con woman with such control and beautiful grace. My favorite performance of the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence and yes folks she is the real deal. What a hilarious, crazy, energetic and scene stealing performance and she isn't stealing scenes from chumps here. Now following her amazing performance last year in "Silver Linings Playbook" she has created two performances two years in a row of pure perfection, better than any actress ever has and I actually smiled and cried with joy everytime she was on screen.

The men are equally great and like Lawrence, Christian Bale has maybe cemented himself as the best actor of his generation. The movie opens with a gut busting opening scene as Irving is trying to fix the ugliest, messiest comb overs in history. Bale acts this scene about as perfect as any actor has acted out a particular scene. His performance here is fascinating and detailed and his chemistry with Adams is flawless. Also if you thought Bradley Cooper gave the best performance of his career with "Silver Linings Playbook" last year think again. He bounces off the wall wonderfully here as an FBI agent that tries so hard on this "Abscam" operation that he actually might ruin the whole thing.

These are four of the best performances you will ever see and it is lead by the dynamic performance of Jennifer Lawrence. You also have a great cast of wonderful actors that also contribute great supporting work. It starts with my favorite comedian Louis C.K. who plays Richie's FBI boss. The scenes between him and Cooper made me laugh longer and harder than I have in any comedy this year. You have character actors giving some of their best work here and you also have rising stars in the making. Jack Huston and Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Elizabeth Rohm, Colleen Camp, Alessandro Nivola, Jeremy Renner, Micheal Pena and Said Taghmaoui are all excellent!

"American Hustle" is a glorious masterpiece that is flawless in every facet of it's filmmaking. It has an infectious charm, energy and craziness that most movies would dream of having. It made me laugh throughout the entire movie, it has one of the best performances you will ever see by an actress. It is a fascinating slice of history that I sure didn't know about. I had so much fun learning about and absorbing this story. David O'Russell is building a fascinating career here and he is constantly thrilling us with the freshness of his movies. He again gets wonderful performances by a beautiful cast of great actors giving it their best. Movies like this don't come along that much, most movies go through the same old lazy, formulaic motions. "American Hustle" is one of the best times I have ever had at a movie and it will definitely become a classic!



Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Actors: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, F Murray Abraham, Max Casella, Justin Timberlake.

Sometimes Joel and Ethan Coen can make a movie that becomes a mainstream hit, sometimes a bomb that becomes a cult classic and then there are their personal stories that they direct. That is why I love them as filmmakers because you never know what you will get, what an eclectic, glorious team they are! "Inside Llewyn Davis" is more of a personal, character study and valentine to folk music and the journey of a self indulgent artist. You can call it an art film but no one tells a story better than these guys. It is not a huggable movie but it is perfectly executed, amusing and a very well acted movie.

Oscar Isaac, in a breakthrough, bravura performance plays Llewyn Davis, a folk singer who is very self obsessed. He is not a joy to spend time with but by the end I felt sorry for him, call it the artist in me sympathizing with another artist who is going nowhere. Llewyn is not a star and he is struggling to sell his record after his partner killed himself. Llewyn Davis is estranged from his girlfriend who is pregnant, played by Carey Mulligan, he doesn't have a winter coat and he travels, sleeping on many friend's couches, having no home himself. He then will try to sell his album and try to play a few shows at a famous joint in Chicago. His is a depressing life traveling from small venue to old dives playing his music to little applause and clinking glasses.

Alleviating the depressing journey is Llewyn's encounter with a cat that escapes his friend's apartment and winds up traveling with Llewyn on subway cars to different gigs and to his girlfriend's apartment. The scenes with this cat are funny, charming and touching because this maybe the only creature that connects with Llewyn, maybe not, the cat does try to run away a few times. The story follows Llewyn as he plays his music, pisses off his friends and gets rejection after rejection. He gets bullied by a traveling partner, John Goodman, and we kind of know what will happen when Llewyn gets to Chicago.

Llewyn is not a happy person, he is lost and he rubs a lot of people the wrong way but after the first hour I started to like him. I felt the rejection that an artist who is not mainstream can get on the road and then I started to feel empathy for Llewyn. This is a character study and some movie goers will feel bummed out but I found the movie entertaining and fascinating and that can be credited to the Coens, Oscar Isaac and the rest of the great cast. The Coen brothers are masters at sucking us in and this maybe one of their most perfectly made movies and it is really funny.

The movie has wonderful music and great folk songs lovingly created and produced by T Bone Burnett, who did the same thing with the songs for the Coen brother's hit "O' Brother Where Art Thou?" Oscar Isaac sings them beautifully and the rest of the songs are authentic. I am a big fan of "The Kingston Trio" and there is a great performance by a group that perfectly reminded me of them. The movie is edited perfectly, I never felt there was an unneeded scene. That editing is by the Coens who go under the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes. The movie is also shot beautifully by Bruno Delbonnel and I had to also check if that was a pseudonym for the Coens. The directing and storytelling are also perfect and there is not one bad camera shot.

Yes Llewyn is hard to like but you don't have to like a lead character to enjoy a story like this and a movie that is so well made. I never understood why some critics hate movies just because the lead character is a louse or jerk. I can identify with Llewyn so other movie goers will too, not everyone will hate him. The Coen brothers keep getting better and you can always expect something fascinating from them even if the movie isn't as great as some of their classics. "Inside Llewyn Davis" has some great storytelling, it looks beautiful, the performances by everyone shine and inside Llewyn you will find a strong will to survive through adversity.

Friday, November 22, 2013


'NEBRASKA' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Bob Nelson
Directed by Alexander Payne
Actors: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Rance Howard, Mary Louise Wilson.

In gorgeous black and white we see an elderly man walking aimlessly down a street, looking disheveled and lost. We will find out that this man is named Woody Grant. We are also seeing the start of a performance by one of out national treasures in cinema. Bruce Dern has always been seen as a supporting character actor. When he tried to stretch as a leading man with 1973's "The King of Marvin Gardens" his quest failed. That movie became a curio and a cult movie but Bruce Dern has always given great performances no matter the role. Now with "Nebraska", Dern gives his best performance of his career as a lead character. You can tell he has been licking his lips for decades for this opportunity and he hits a home run!

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, who believes he has become a millionaire when he is sent one of those marketing letters telling him he may have the winning number to win millions. His son David, played by Will Forte, tries to convince his old man that this is a scam. Woody, who lives with his wife in Billings, Montana, wants to go to Nebraska, where the letter came from, to collect his money. Woody is stubborn and dementia is starting to sink in and he won't listen to his son so David will take a road trip with his father to Nebraska. His wife Kate, June Squibb, is a great match for Woody even though she berates him and calls him crazy and lazy. Woody will go with David to Nebraska and on the way they will visit Woody's old town where he used to live and where he will try to settle old scores.

As Woody visits the town he used to live in the word spreads that Woody is a millionaire and Woody's creepy twins, his old partner(Stacey Keach) and old friends come out of the woodwork asking for money. "Nebraska" deals with small towns where living is easy and people just want to relax and just live. "Nebraska" is beautifully shot in black and white by Alexander Payne who just relaxes and let's us soak in the atmosphere. The screenplay by Bob Nelson is very deadpan but also brilliant and hilarious. I laughed out loud a lot during this movie and I was amazed that the movie treated it's characters so honestly and didn't ridicule them. A lot of writers would have poked fun at these simple town folk because let's be honest, movies about small towns and the South are usually full of stereotypical rube type characters in Hollywood.

Director Alexander Payne and writer Bob Nelson love Woody, his family and all these people. The movie successfully captures the simple beauty of the country, the small stores, the hole in the wall type bars. There are some priceless lines of dialogue and some wonderful, tender moments and this movie wouldn't have worked without it's wonderful cast of actors and their performances. Bruce Dern has acted in some iconic movies and given such wonderful performances but this is definitely his best performance of his career. He does not have much dialogue but when he does speak he carefully delivers each line with precision and poignancy. June Squibb is his equal and her performance is a hilarious gift of put downs but also some nuggets of honesty. Kate is not afraid to speak her mind and when she does I laughed my butt off! Squibb just might run away with Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, she is pitch perfect and steals the movie.

I also was surprised by the wonderful performance by Will Forte as David. I wasn't surprised that he was capable of a great performance in something substantial. I know Forte could become a great actor but I was surprised that he would give such a deep and measured performance that would be Oscar caliber. He works wonderfully off of Dern and I hope to see Will Forte tackle more big roles in more movies in the future. There are also some great supporting performances of well written characters by Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach as Woody's old partner who wants the money Woody still owes him.

This is Alexander Payne's best movie since "Sideways" and it reminded me of his other movie dealing with old people "About Schmidt" but this is deeper, more entertaining and ten times better. I also found this to be just right in it's focus and much more compelling than Payne's "The Descendants". It is beautiful to look at, charming, poignant and downright hilarious. The performances are beautiful and this movie won't insult a much older audience's intelligence like the terrible "The Book Thief" did. This movie could have gone so wrong but Payne and writer Bob Nelson care about their story and it's characters. Then there is Bruce Dern who I couldn't be more happy for getting a lead role that displays how amazing an actor he is. I love actors and the feeling I have watching a performance of a well written character by someone as great as Dern, that was long due in a movie like Nebraska", lifts me up and touches me.

Friday, November 8, 2013



Written by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack
Directed by Jean-Marc Valee
Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Deni O'Hare, Steve Zahn, Dallas Roberts, Griffin Dunne, Kevin Rankin.

Movies can transport us back to a time of our lives and a period of time that we have forgotten existed, that has evaporated from our minds. The best movies take you back to a time and effectively puts you in a certain era and teaches you something you didn't know. "The Dallas Buyers Club" is one of those great movies, it moved me, taught me a lot and effectively put me in a time and place that enveloped me and introduced me to people I would come to care about deeply. This is a fascinating movie and a very entertaining movie despite it's bleak subject matter.

"The Dallas Buyers Club" tells the true story of electrician and rodeo star Ron Woodroof who in 1986 was infected with the HIV-AIDS virus. Ron partied hard and definitely scored with a lot of women, having unprotected sex with them all, but Ron explains to a doctor that he is in no way a homosexual. Ron is a very homophobic man and a lesser movie would just be about how Ron learns to accept homosexuals as equals by living through a disease that was once thought of as only affecting homosexuals. "The Dallas Buyers Club" is much better than that, it follows Ron's change of heart and lifestyle but it also taught me a lot about the disease, the drugs used to try to curb the disease and what Ron finds in other countries, other forms of unapproved medicine that could help him.

Ron will also set up a club called "The Dallas Buyers Club" where HIV infected people could pay a monthly membership fee and Ron would then provide them with alternative medicine. Ron will strike up an unusual friendship with a transvestite named Rayon who will help him with the club's business. Ron will go to Japan and to Mexico to find alternative medicine with the FDA, police and doctors trying to stop them. My joy in watching this movie was learning about this time in history and the drugs that were available, but not FDA approved. We have seemed to ignore this period in time as it pertains to this horrible disease that changed us and a lot of others. The movie jolted me to my seat and I was fascinated by the subject matter, enthralled like I was watching an intense thriller. I was riveted by what I was learning and fascinated by all the characters and Ron's journey.

The pulse of the movie, that made it so special for me, was the two lead characters and the magnificent performances by Matthew McConaughey as Ron and Jared Leto as Rayon. These are two of my favorite characters I have spent time with in a movie and two of the best and most lived in performances I have seen. The heart of the movie is the developing friendship between the once homophobic Ron and the open hearted Rayon. McConaughey has now emerged as one of the best actors of my generation with his amazing performance here. Though I am not talking about the 40 pounds he lost for the role, I am talking about how he becomes Ron. His McConaughey southern drawl is there but he also disappears into his role. He is matched by the wonderful Jared Leto who we grow to love and respect because of Leto's way of not holding back but also touching us emotionally.

Ron and Rayon's friendship reminded me of the central friendship between Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman in "Midnight Cowboy" but I love this friendship and movie much more. There is also a small subplot of a love story between Ron and a doctor who tries to help him, solidly played by Jennifer Garner. Critics have complained that this plot development of a minor, almost budding romance is manufactured but I strongly disagree. We come to love Ron as much as she does and the wonderful screenplay by first timer Melisa Wallack and Craig Barten doesn't turn the subplot into a major love story, they scale the romance back. It is also a touching and effective emerging friendship and respect instead of a head over heels romance.

My favorite movies transport me back to a time and place that fascinates me and introduces me to people I wish I could have known and that I grow to love and respect. "The Dallas Buyers Club" is such a movie, it kept me enraptured for the entire running time. I didn't find any major missteps and the movie may seem long but I never wanted it to end, a mark of a great movie indeed. I loved the performances by McConaughey and Leto so much I now might put them as my front runners for Best Actor and Supporting Actor. McConaughey and Leto never appear as they are acting, they become Ron and Rayon and with McConaughey it had to be so difficult to do. My favorite period of filmmaking is 1968-1979 where movies taught me and also moved me to tears and made me confront life, helping me grow into adulthood. "The Dallas Buyers Club" is an effective evocation of the 80's equal to what the great movies of the 70's like "All the President's Men" and "The China Syndrome" did for the 70's. Bravo!



Written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley
Directed by Alan Taylor
Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Christopoher Eccleston.

The sudden rush of superhero movies, "Avengers" movies and "X Men" movies are exciting to many movie goers in the last half decade or more. That's fine with me but it gets to the point when I have had enough, I have to sit through sequel after sequel without that much time in between to breathe. "Thor:The Dark World" is the first one of these to make me think all this for it is a lazy movie and I am figuring out the problem. These movies are all being rushed and jumbled together in one or two years. With that traffic jam it's easier to rush one of these movies at the expense of the movie's story. If you rush the release dates time will not be spent on the screenplay. That brings me to the lazy screenplay to the weakest of these movies so far and that is this dumb "Thor" sequel.

I don't mean dumb in a fun way, with "Thor:The Dark World" it is a dull, badly written idiocy. I am not a prude when it comes to these movies I swear. I think the original "Thor" was dumb but a lot of fun and fast until the over stuffed ending. I also think "Ironman" is one of my all time favorites. I don't expect a home run at every bat but when the bar is set high with "Ironman" you at least have to try to bring something original to this kind of movie or people will get bored fast. This "Thor" sequel has such a drag of a first hour, a glum, dark, hard to follow suck fest, that it can't recover even with a better, funnier, lighter last half hour. Maybe the problem is the Thor character is the least interesting of the "Avengers" characters. Argue with me if you will but I think Thor is the most dull character of the lot.

Further backing up that opinion is that of all the bad guys, here the antihero, this "Thor" sequel is stolen by the sneering, funny and energetic Loki. Loki is the pulse of this movie and "Thor"The Dark World" shoots itself in the foot with putting Loki to the side while Kat Dennings blabs on and Stellan Skarsgard stumbles around embarrassingly in the awful first hour. The supporting characters are all dull here, the major bad guys are elves!? Hello, "Lords of the Rings" rip off! The first hour is dark, hard to understand, Natalie Portman proves she is below her pay grade here and Anthony Hopkins (terrible here) shouts and growls his lines. Maybe Hopkins should join Harrison Ford in a alcoholic grouch gabfest.

There is not an original thought or ideal in this movie, at least "Ironman 3" added an ingenious, little twist in it's plot. The movie belongs to Tom Hiddleston as Loki and he is a delight. My suggestion for the third "Thor" movie is to drop Thor and make it a Loki spin off. Chris Hemsworth is still effective as Thor but he is given nothing interesting to do and you can't do that to a fairly dull character to begin with. The effects are all very effective here but to what purpose? This "Thor" sequel is a waste of everybody's time, cast, crew and movie goers. Thank a Thor God that Loki is saving your ass or "The Avengers" movies might be in trouble.

Friday, October 25, 2013


'ALL IS LOST' (PG-13) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written and Directed by J.C. Chandor
Actor: Robert Redford

A lot of survival cliches came to mind while watching J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost" and my mind raced with bleak thoughts while watching the movie. Thoughts like, I know I would be not knowing what to do and would probably be dead in two or three days if I was in the lead character's shoes. That lead is called "Our Man" and he is played by Robert Redford who, excuse the pun, is a natural fit for the story of "All Is Lost". He is sailing alone off the Indian Ocean in a small sailboat when he crashes into a cargo container, lost from a ship, which has gashed a huge hole on the side of the boat. His boat starts leaking and throughout 8 days he will have to deal with his boat falling apart and in danger of sinking, a diminishing food supply and sharks circling his boat soon to be hungry.

"All Is Lost" does a very good job of putting us on that ship with Our Man and photographing the perils that Our Man faces including a brooding storm that almost wipes everything away. I mention Redford being perfect here and not because he is a huge nature advocate. Critics in the past have called Redford a cold actor but I disagree and here I could identify with him. He might not be as endearing as a Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips) but he has an everyman, rugged screen presence that feels perfect here. We can feel his frustration building as more obstacles to surviving mount and more perilous situations build. Redford never overplays his reactions, he never over emotes or over reacts to the danger in a phony way.

We forget while watching "All Is Lost" that Redford has proved himself as being a great action movie star and screen presence before. His 1972 film "Jeremiah Johnson", one of Redford's best films, showed that Redford is an expert at the surviving nature, action thing. It is a very physically demanding performance and you can tell that Redford does all his stunts. It is even more impressive because Chandor makes all the perilous scenes look so effective and real that I know that Redford had to do all the physical stunts himself. Director Chandor does an excellent job at realistically capturing the danger of the storm that hits and what Redford has to do to survive. The cinematography here, underwater photography by Peter Zuccarini, and Frank G. DeMarco is beautiful and thrilling.

"All Is Lost" is not a movie that I would desire to go see again but for the one time viewing it kept me enthralled and never bored. A movie like this can get tedious but J.C. Chandor does a great job at keeping us involved with each twist and peril that befalls Our Man. Coming out around the same time as a more thrilling masterpiece like "Captain Phillips" can't help "All Is Lost" but it is a movie worth your time. You have a thrilling movie that is very effective and well directed and a movie star that strips away his vanity and gives an emotionally draining and flawless performance. Robert Redford is the perfect choice for this movie and he proves it with one of his best performances.

Friday, October 18, 2013



Written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Actors: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Portia Doubleday.

Let me get this straight right off the bat. No one can ever do a remake of the original "Carrie" with the same amount of surprise, scares and grisly shock scenes. Brian DePalma's 1976 horror classic "Carrie" is one of my ten favorite horror movies of all time. I don't get really scared often but I still can't watch the original movie without getting nerves and goosebumps. No movie as a child has haunted me more than DePalma's gritty horror movie. Piper Laurie as Carrie's mother is one of the most frightening performances I have seen in a horror picture. The performance by Sissy Spacek put her on the map and no one can touch her as Carrie except maybe the remake's Chloe Grace Moretz who is the only reason I am fully endorsing this movie. Sometimes a performance is so captivating it can make a so so movie become a solid experience.

The original "Carrie" has a lot more power than the remake because of the type of film making. The remake is glossier, less grittier and too polished. The original had grit, a better, spookier house for it's location and Carrie's mother Margaret is scarier and more effective in the original. It is funny but the original didn't have CGI and the visual technology that movies have today but the prom scenes in the original are much more effective in the blood and shock category. I also don't see the supporting actors becoming stars like Travolta, Nancy Allen and Amy Irving became, the actors here are a little flat. I remember DePalma getting great flak by critics and even Stephen King, DePalma has received more hate than any director ever has in the history of movies by critics, but now critics call "Carrie" a masterpiece. That is funny and also a reason I don't pattern myself after movie critics.

I should not like this movie because it in no way measures up to the original but the performance by Chloe Grace Moretz is equal in power to Spacek's. Moretz is one of our finest young actresses and she nails the sweetness, fragility and naivety of Carrie perfectly. It is a graceful, subtle and beautiful performance. The other aspects of this movie might not be as effective but Moretz grounds this movie and her performance made me follow this remake even though the horror scenes and scares just don't touch the original's and didn't impress me a lot. Kimberly Peirce is a great director, "Boys Don't Cry", but I expected more from her. The screenwriters do a decent job of giving us a fragile Carrie who has to emerge from her shell and deal with bullying and ridicule from her peers. I like the use of modern touches like facebook and other social media aspects and how more despicable bullying is today. I just wasn't scared or jolted and man did the original scare the crap out of me!

I did love Chloe Grace Moretz though and she turns a fairly effective horror movie into something much more. Because of Moretz I was able to be somewhat affected by her battles with her mother and her tormentors with the final scenes. I do love Julianne Moore a lot and she is good here but her performance can't possibly match Piper Laurie's. Also DePalma is one of my favorite directors, I despise the hate he receives by critics, and his direction of the original movie is singular, scary as hell and gut wrenching. The way the original was filmed brings in my head thoughts of visceral masterpiece, auteur and a groundbreaking horror movie. The remake can't possibly touch the original's genius and on it's own it needed more oomph but Moretz is the real deal. A star and a future Oscar winning actress has emerged!



Written by John Ridley based on the book by Solomon Northup
Directed by Steve McQueen
Actors: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o, Garret Dillahunt, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti.

A star rating or a comparison to other movies out there is not fair to a movie like "12 Years a Slave". It is on another level, a level that can't be reached by just any movie. "12 Years a Slave" is not just a history lesson, isn't good for you, doesn't attempt to compare itself to race relations today. It is just a powerful and moving story about one man's tale of survival amid impossible odds from evil. It has scenes that are more unsettling and horrific than just your ordinary melodrama about a slave. It will tear your guts out and make you cry and you will never be the same. There are cliches like gut wrenching that I can use but that would just insult this powerful experience.

"12 Years a Slave" tells the story of a free black man in the 1840's who gets sold into slavery because of a random meeting, wrong place, wrong time. His name is Solomon Northup and he has a wife and two kids and can play the fiddle brilliantly. He gets recruited to play in a circus by two men and on his trip he suddenly one morning wakes up to find himself in shackles and chains. He will be sold along with Patsy, who is ripped from her children, to Freeman who will then sell Solomon to a plantation owner and will be given a slave name, Pratt. Freeman is played by Paul Giamatti and we will be introduced to one of the most evil men I have seen in a movie. The man he is sold to is not as evil, even though his wife is, but he can't keep Solomon so he sells him to a cotton plantation owner , Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender.

Patsy will also come with Solomon to serve Epps and Patsy and Solomon forge a complicated but unique friendship. The performances in this movie are outstanding including Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon and Lupita Nyong'o as Patsy who are amazing and give two of the best performances I have ever seen in a movie. Ejiofor has been an amazing character actor but here as Solomon he gives a powerful performance that will forever change how movie audiences perceive him. It is a heartbreaking performance of quiet pain and Ejiofor is perfect here, without him this movie doesn't breathe. Equal to Ejiofor is Nyong'o who is also heartbreaking and in one of the most horrific scenes I have ever encountered in a movie Nyong'o will go through an incident that will shake us to the core and Nyong'o and Ejiofor make it that much more powerful. Both actors give amazing and powerful portrayls and their intense performances have to be seen.

Michael Fassbender and Paul Giamatti are frighteningly evil and also give intense performances but not all the white men in this movie are evil. This is not a black and white world here and wasn't back then, a lot of movies about slavery unfortunately are shallow. You have evil white men or noble black slaves but "12 Years a Slave" is in another stratosphere compared to other movies about slavery. Director Steve McQueen does such a wonderful job of presenting all the characters honestly and not making events come off as too melodramatic. McQueen doesn't sugarcoat things and goes for the throat and I admire that. He just lets the camera and the performances tell the story. There are many scenes that are graphic, horrific and unsettling and McQueen doesn't go to cutaways, he makes you stare evil in the face for long periods of time. A lesser movie would have softened the scenes of torture and that is why this movie is in another category.

"12 Years a Slave" can not be summarized or categorized as a movie about slavery and it doesn't paint any of the characters in broad strokes. It is a powerful experience that will tear you up but in the end the tears you will spill will be earned especially after one of the most powerful endings I have ever seen in a drama. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong'o are outstanding and their performances must be recognized. Steve McQueen never overdoes anything in his direction, he lets the movie breathe through the performances and the amazing screenplay by John Ridley. There are a few moments I didn't like, though tiny, in the storytelling but who cares. This is a movie going experience that will change your life and move you with it's story of one man's brave ordeal and journey through a world of evil.

Friday, October 11, 2013



Written by Billy Ray based on the novel "A Captain's Duty:Somali Pirates, Navy Seals and Dangerous Days at Sea" by Richard Phillips and Stephen Tally.
Directed by Paul Greengrass
Actors: Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Catherine Keener, Chris Mulkey.

Tom Hanks is one of the most likeable actors we have today because we can relate to almost any character he plays in any movie. This helps a lot when watching the stomach churning, tense, extremely well acted and enthralling "Captain Phillips". This is a hard movie to embrace and love but with Hanks you will be feeling a lot of emotion by the end of this movie. Paul Greengrass has directed another movie like this before with the powerful "United 93". With that white knuckler and now this movie, Greengrass is now one of our finest directors of thrillers. "United 93" never let you off the hook and never made it easy to embrace the story. "Captain Phillips" makes you identify with it's hero because of Hank's everyman, down to earth quality.

"Captain Phillips" is mostly a cat and mouse battle of wits, a tense thriller and an action movie. It is the best action movie of 2013 so far. Greengrass directed "The Bourne Identity", he knows how to make a highly charged, effective action movie. "Captain Phillips" tells the amazing story of Richard Phillips, a cargo ship captain who is on a trip to the coast of Somali. At first Richard is a tough boss towards his crew and demanding but not any more than a usual boss at any job. When Somali pirates invade his ship and demand money or they will kill the whole crew, Richard has to save his hide and protect his crew. When this incident starts we see that Richard has feelings and that he cares about his crew and is not so cold.

"Captain Phillips" will not waste any time setting up character development. It will jump right into business and it will reveal what kind of a man Phillips is by every problem he has to overcome dealing with these pirates. We will also learn more about the chief pirate who is in charge of this invasion. I didn't expect the depths that this story would reveal with it's antagonist Muse, an outstanding performance by Barkhad Abdi. He is a desperate man whose poverty and social situation has forced him to try something like hold a ship and it's crew hostage for money. The movie will become a fascinating battle of wits between Muse and Phillips. Muse can't turn back now even when the Navy Seals become involved and Muse pretty much has run out of options.

That desperation from Muse and Phillip's steely resolve will make "Captain Phillips" an amazing story of struggle between two different men. Muse's team of attackers will also be deeply written and their ambivalent feelings towards this mission is as important as Muse's and Phillip's feelings. Tom Hanks, in my opinion, gives my favorite Tom Hank's performance and in the many tense scenes Hanks never overplays his hand and in the explosively emotional finale Hanks will reach deeper than he has in any movie since "Philadelphia". Barkhad Abdi, as Muse, gives a powerful, natural debut performance that matches Hank's subtly effective acting with Abdi's anger and explosiveness.

"Captain Phillips" never has a dull moment and never rests for a minute. The movie is beautifully shot, edited, directed and performed. It starts off as the best thriller and action movie of the year and then winds up as a morality tale with deep emotional power by the end. Hanks has to be a shoo in for an Oscar nomination and I wouldn't be surprised if Abdi doesn't get noticed also. Paul Greengrass has directed another tense masterpiece that never makes a wrong move and never lets you breathe. There are edge of your seat scenes of intensity and action, surprising emotion and finally a compelling story that also makes you think. As the end credits rolled I had to sit for a few minutes and I couldn't move. I didn't expect that from what I thought would just be a simple thriller. "Captain Phillips" is easily one of the best movies of the year.

Friday, October 4, 2013


'ENOUGH SAID' (PG-13) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written and Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Actors: Julia Louis Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Eve Hewson, Tracey Fairaway.

"I know this might sound corny but you broke my heart"-Albert (James Gandolfini)

Yes, my heart has also been broken because we have lost a very special actor in James Gandolfini who with "Enough Said" was going to prove how great he could have been as a romantic lead. That line of dialogue, spoken by Albert, played by Gandolfini, is spoken so eloquently and truthfully by Gandolfini that I started to cry. His Albert is one of the truest and one of my favorite characters of this movie year. "Enough Said" also made me smile, amid the tears, more than almost any movie I saw this year. It is portrayed as a light romantic comedy but it's screenplay is deeper than that and wonderfully written by director Nicole Holofcener.

Nicole Holofcener has written many wonderful screenplays, my favorites being "Walking and Talking" and "Lovely and Amazing". All of her screenplays are perceptive romantic comedies that make us confront reality and loving it all the way. "Enough Said" is now my favorite Holofcener movie and it starts with a revealing performance by Gandolfini and an Oscar caliber performance of beauty by Julia Louis Dreyfus. The plot of "Enough Said" might sound preposterous and silly but trust me, this is a very funny, realistic and charming movie of great warmth.

Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced, single parent and masseuse who is looking to get back in the dating game but can't find anyone interesting. At a dinner party, at a friend's home, she meets Albert who is nice but a tad overweight for Eva and Eva is not afraid to voice that opinion to her closest friend Sarah, Toni Collette. She will start dating Albert though because he is sweet and down to earth and kind of cute plus he is also a single parent. I am not giving away anything here that the trailer has not revealed but Eva will meet another woman that she will become friends with. Eva will also find out later in the plot that her new friend Marianne is also Albert's ex wife.

Marianne also becomes one of Eva's clients and Eva will listen to Marianne complain about how much of a slob her ex husband is. At a certain point Eva will learn that Albert and Marianne were married once and you would think that the movie would become similar to a weak, shallow sitcom. There are scenes where Eva has to hide the fact that she already knows Marianne is Albert's ex wife and listen to Marianne bad mouth Albert. These scenes could come off as phony but Holofcener delicately treats these scenes to make them come off as not only very funny but also truthful. We like Albert and Eva so much that we will invest in the story and it's plot twists. The situation might seem far fetched but the writing about relationships and dating ring very true.

There are moments here of great hilarity and I laughed a lot during "Enough Said" and there are moments that are extremely charming and there are scenes of heartbreak. The lines of dialogue also come to life and seem real thanks to the excellent acting by the two leads. We know Dreyfus can act from her many accolades from television shows "Seinfeld" and "Veep" but I found her performance here on another higher level! This is Oscar caliber work and one of the funniest and most charming performances by an actress this year. Dreyfus handles the comedy scenes with perfection but the way she handles the dramatic, bittersweet scenes are a revelation. She is beautiful, funny, graceful and she makes us believe every feeling and line of dialogue she has here.

We all knew that James Gandolfini was an amazing dramatic actor and also one of our best character actors but everyone will be floored by how great a romantic leading man he will become here. Like Albert, Gandolfini was overweight and not a conventionally handsome, leading man in the romance genre but "Enough Said" would have expanded his movie career. So when Albert says that line about his heart being broken, the way Gandolfini says it made me lose it. Gandolfini is so sweet and likable here and so believable romantically that my heart broke. There are many scenes that are wonderfully and gently played here by Gandolfini and his performance is a revelation and romantic, comedic perfection.

"Enough Said" also has a great depth in it's story with it's supporting characters and subplots. Albert's and Eva's respective daughters are strongly written and acted by Eve Hewson and Tracey Fairaway. Both teenagers will be leaving for college soon and the heartbreak that will reach each parent is performed so realistically and truthfully here by Gandolfini and Dreyfus and so well written by Holofcener. Also the sexy and funny Catherine Keener, as Marianne, and the wonderful Toni Collette and Ben Falcone as a married couple and Eva's friends are so well written and acted here. I liked everything about "Enough Said". I loved all the subplots, characters and writing plus the performances by Dreyfus and Gandolfini which floored me, moved me and made me very happy.

P.S. My heart is broken indeed, now that Gandolfini has left us but seeing how great, funny and romantic he is here I did leave the movie smiling and very happy. We will all miss you deeply.


'GRAVITY' (PG-13) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Jonas and Alfonso Cuaron
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Actors: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

There is no doubt that very soon motion pictures will never be the same again now that special effects are getting more special. Now with IMAX being used as a regular viewing option for visual treats like "Avatar" we will be seeing more and more visually arresting movies. Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" has spellbinding effects that I have never seen before on screen and it begs to be seen in 3D on a giant IMAX screen. There will be more event pictures like Cuaron's latest in the near future but of course I hope it doesn't edge out the well written, small, independent movies. I loved "Gravity" for it's breathtaking visuals and performances but the screenplay needs some editing even if the effects are perfectly displayed.

The only thing is I don't think moviegoers watching "Gravity" are coming for the screenplay and they will certainly not be disappointed in how the movie looks. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski, a medical engineer and an astronaut who are on a space exploration that is controlled on the ground by a Mission Control voice, Ed Harris. Right from the start the movie pulls you in and makes your jaw drop with it's visuals of a floating space station. It is not only the sight of the station but how Ryan and Matt effortlessly float around it. The visuals and the editing throughout the movie are perfection and very impressive.

When debris from a Russian missile hitting a Russian space station collide with the American station Ryan will be detached from Matt and will dangerously float off in space maybe hurtling towards death. Ryan will have to get back to the station and try to rescue herself and others and make a safe re-entry back to earth. Ryan also has some past, personal problems at home that she will have to face head on while floating in space and trying to save her oxygen. Sandra Bullock gives an amazing, intense performance and she doesn't let the visuals overwhelm her. I wish I could say the same about the screenplay.

The best part of the movie, besides the breathtaking visuals, is how the movie becomes intense and scary just because it will seem impossible for Ryan to live and come home safely. Cuaron does a masterful job at creating tension and awe just by the way he moves the camera among the hurtling machinery and floating bodies in space. The editing here is perfect when it deals with the intense action scenes. Bullock also makes us feel her despair and fear and her performance never strays from greatness. She is showing us how great an actress she is with her comedy skills in "The Heat" and her dramatic chops here. George Clooney again gives his everyman, charming performance that he specializes in so well.

"Gravity" will be a very intense and visually beautiful treat for audiences, especially in 3D and on the huge IMAX screen where it begs to be seen. The only time the movie lost me was when the action stopped and the very thin screenplay took over for a few moments. There is one plot point dealing with a tragedy Ryan has experienced in her life but I never felt any dramatic tension created from this tragedy. The screenplay doesn't do a good enough job at melding her past tragedy with the death she is facing now. There are some moments also where the movie just stalls and tries to create dialogue but sometimes that dialogue falls flat. If the screenplay doesn't bother you like it did me you will still find "Gravity" a special treat of groundbreaking visuals and nerve jangling, jaw dropping scenes of intensity.

Friday, September 27, 2013


'RUSH' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Peter Morgan
Directed by Ron Howard
Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara.

Not being a fan of Formula Racing, Nascar racing or any sport that goes around in a circle over and over, I wasn't getting Ron Howard's new Formula Racing movie "Rush". Especially in the first hour where every race seemed the same and the movie seemed too glossy and superficial. This was basically my problem and not the movie's for in the second hour I got it and I started to become amazed at one of the most fascinating rivalries I have ever seen or learned of in sports. Something happens in the start of the second hour or so that raised the stakes for this life threatening sport and how it effects the two men at the center of this rivalry.

"Rush" tells the story of 70's Formula One racing legends James Hunt and Niki Lauder. Hunt was a flashy playboy and very pretty while Lauder was German and not so pretty. Hunt will be seen as an ass and a jerk in how he treats Lauder and the other racers but I found Lauder an arrogant jerk also. The difference is that Hunt was flashier thus he could get away with it. You have to be arrogant to drive a vehicular weapon of death flying around at well over 100 miles per hour. The life threatening dangers of this sport can be seen as foolish but in Lauder and Hunt it becomes a focused battle of wills to be the best, no matter the sport.

In 1976, the year that Howard's movie focuses on, Hunt and Lauder were in a vicious battle for Formula One Champion the year after Lauder was champ. Lauder seems more serious about the dangers of the sport while Hunt is more focused on the fame, glory and the ladies. In the first hour that left me a little cold, "Rush" focuses on the quick fling, marriage and separation of Hunt and his wife Suzy Miller, played by the gorgeous Olivia Wilde. The first hour full of tedious races, which do look good, and the shallow depiction of Hunt's fame and quick divorce from Suzy left me a little bored until something special and powerful happens.

In the middle of "Rush" a tragedy befalls Lauder during a crash in one of the races in the middle of the season. That event will trigger a lot of great writing and powerful, emotional material in the second half. This is when I realized what Howard is trying to do here. The first hour of races and verbal battles between Hunt and Lauder seem superficial but when both are confronted with how dangerous their profession is a lot of soul searching from both men occur. Peter Morgan's screenplay becomes brilliant in capturing what this tragedy does to both men. In a brilliantly written scene near the end, one of my favorite of the movie year, Hunt and Lauder talk about the sport and Hunt tells Lauder that he needs to have fun in his life, stop being so serious.

That scene goes further and spells out what this movie is really about and how these two men have to recognize that they are similiar to each other, more than they think even among the hate they direct towards each other. Looking at real footage at the end of both men, Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Bruhl as Lauder are perfectly cast. Both men are wonderful and Daniel Bruhl gives a star making performance. The movie is beautifully shot by Ron Howard and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. The racing scenes are beautifully edited and edge of your seat thanks to Howard's technical prowess. The racing scenes are especially more effective after Lauder's accident. "Rush" is an exciting movie that becomes more powerful and fascinating as it goes on. You have to question a man who wants to drive a death machine but you have to admire that man also. "Rush" gives us two men whose drive to win is admirable, especially Lauder's will to win after staring death in the face.

Friday, September 13, 2013



Written by Michael Caleo and Luc Besson based on book by Tonino Benacquista
Directed by Luc Besson
Actors: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D'Leo, Tommy Lee Jones, Domenick Lombardozzi

There is something refreshing about a "Mob" movie playing with the clichés of your usual "Mob movie and then adding some new touches. There are familiar scenes in "The Family" that you have seen before but also some deeper, smart material that I didn't expect. Plus the characters are fascinating and Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer playing a Mob family husband and wife!? There are also some surprising subplots that I haven't seen in this type of story.

Imagine Henry Hill from "Good Fellas" after he is relocated in the witness protection program and what his life would entail. Then you have a feeling of what "The Family" will be like. Though in some ways the movie is unpredictable, that is until the last half hour shootout. Until that violent ending teeming with bullets "The Family" is fun and entertaining. The black comedy tells the story of married couple Fred and Maggie Blake or the real family name, the Manzoni's. The family also includes their son and daughter Warren and Belle.

The Manzoni's are relocated to Normandy, France by their FBI handler Stansfield, played by the great Tommy Lee Jones. Giovanni (Fred Blake) ratted on some Mob family heads and now the family is living in France and they are not fitting in. Fitting in with the Normandy residents is hard and Fred finds it hard to hide himself in the fake story that he has come up with, that he is a writer.

"The Family" surprised me with some of the directions it takes with it's few subplots concerning each kid and the parents. The movie is a black comedy and it can be very violent but it has an endearing quality to it. DeNiro is delightfully playing a parody of his usual Mobster character and along with "Silver Linings Playbook" he is back after the last few, safe, horrible comedies he has been in. He looks like he is having fun here. You grow to like these characters like you shamefully do with a lot of crime family characters in other "Mob" movies.

It is also wonderful to see Michelle Pfeiffer given her best role in ages as a "Mob" wife and I automatically thought of her Oscar caliber performance in Jonathan Demme's "Married to the Mob". Pfeiffer is charming, very funny and great here as her character tries to adjust to the snooty town residents. John D'Leo and Dianna Agron (Glee) are very fine as the two siblings and we like following their side stories. Agron is very beautiful and reminds me of a young Michelle Pfeiffer! Add to this Tommy Lee Jones's deadpan, delightful turn as the FBI agent. Jones's reactions to the wild lies Fred makes are priceless!

"The Family" has a very entertaining, twisted and funny middle section and just wait for the big surprise joke towards the end of the movie. It had me laughing out loud and though I should have seen it coming, I loved it still. "The Family" is fun if you like violent, twisted black comedies about mobsters. I think it will go down easy because it is fun, the characters are interesting, the acting is solid and the movie is smarter than you would think. It should please "Mob" movie fans because it doesn't insult your intelligence and it does all the usual clichéd material right while also throwing us some curves.

Friday, August 9, 2013



Written By Scott Neustadter and Michael Webber based on the book by Tom Tharp
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Actors: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Andre Royo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Sutter Keely has a good heart and he is a thoughtful kid but he has no direction in his life and he has problems like most teenage kids his age. He doesn't throw parties where laws are broken and women are violated. He is like a normal high school kid about to graduate. He is failing in one of his school courses, he has a slight drinking problem and he has an absentee father. Life at Sutter's age is not all heightened high jinks and parties and vulgarity.

That would be all the other movies about high school that have that same formula fakeness. Once in a while you want to see a realistic movie about kids and high school and the future. "The Spectacular Now" is that movie, a breath of fresh air and one of the most realistic movies about teenagers or heck, even about life in general you will ever see. It is funny, charming, beautiful, touching and heartbreaking. It has the best performances you will see in any movie this year. It is a special movie that will never leave me.

Sutter Keely is played by the very fine young actor Miles Teller (21 & Over and Rabbit Hole). Sutter is a kid with a big heart and a single mother raising him. He is a popular kid who drinks all the time and always doesn't take things as serious as he should. That is until he finds Aimee Finecky (now that is the most real name I have ever heard in a movie!. Sutter just broke up with his girlfriend Cassidy who was also popular. Cassidy thinks that Sutter has no direction and is not going anywhere and she is the opposite of him in her direction. When he finds Aimee he isn't even still broke up about Cassidy.

Aimee likes Sutter instantly and we believe it because we like him too. He drinks a lot and seems to not take things seriously but he has a good heart and cares about his friends. The dialogue in this movie may be the most realistic dialogue I have ever heard in a high school coming of age movie. The adults are even treated with respect here when it comes to realism. They are not non existent like most movie parents are and they are depicted as flawed, loving and frustrating just like real adults can be to teenagers in life.

The performances by the two leads here couldn't be any better than they are. They are my two favorite performances of the year so far. Shailene Woodley, who made her film debut wonderfully in "The Descendants", is a revelation here. This is the strongest, most mature, sweetest and most subtly powerful performance I have ever seen a young actress give in movies. She is the real deal and she will become an award winning actress and you will see her a lot with one majestic performance after another. She comes off her as real and she has this glow that lights up the screen.

Miles Teller has grown since his jokey performance in "21 & Over". He gives a thoughtful, natural, charming and finally heartbreaking performance here. Both actors hit every note perfectly. The supporting performances are also extremely solid especially Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights) as Sutter's dad. Chandler plays against type here as a deadbeat father and his performance is something special. This favorite actor of mine is finally getting the blistering career he deserves. It is also great seeing Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter's mother and she is real strong here. Credit also goes to Brie Larson as Cassidy and she is also real and strong here.

All the situations, dialogue and characters in "The Spectacular Now" are recognizably real. This might be the most realistic movie about coming of age and growing pains as a teenager that I have ever seen. James Ponsoldt's direction is just right, the screenplay is incredible work and the book it is based on I have to read. There are numerous scenes that broke my heart including Sutter seeing his father for the first time in ages and how his perceptions of his father will blow up in his face. There are even real scenes concerning Sutter, his job and a talk with his boss that come off so real. Also the final scene between Sutter and his mother will break your heart. So strong is this final scene that I cried during the scene, when the end credits rolled, when I was riding the subway home and now writing this review.

Words could never describe how the performances of Teller and Woodley affected me so strongly. I will never forget these two characters. I probably would have to describe how this movie felt in person, it is so strong, real, heartbreaking and magical. Movies like this don't come around very often especially in this CGI, action, chaos era of movies. I kept thinking about Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything, another realistic amazing movie about teenagers. What a double feature these two movies would make, a look at teens then and now. I cried a lot, felt warmth and was supremely touched by this movie. It is one of the best movies I have ever seen and it will not leave my heart for a very long time. This is what the impact of real and powerful writing and filmmaking should be.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


'BLUE JASMINE' (PG-13) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written and Directed by Woody Allen
Actors: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg,Louie C.K., Max Casella.

Like him or not you would have to admit that Woody Allen is one of the best at giving actresses strong lead roles when most male writers don't. The role he has given Cate Blanchett is a doozy of a character giving Blanchett the chance to give one of the best performances of this or any other year.

That character is Jasmine and she is a mix of tics, insecurities and craziness but fleshed out by Cate Blanchett. She is at the center of a failed marriage to a Bernie Madoff type, business man played by Alec Baldwin. After her marriage is destroyed she comes to live with her not well off half sister Ginger who has also survived a failed marriage and lives in poverty in Brooklyn. The two women will go through more relationships with men as we also see that Jasmine is having what seems like a continuous nervous breakdown.

Woody Allen has a distinct style of writing this time telling us a variation on "A Streetcar Named Desire". His writing is recognizable like a Richard Price or a David Mamet. It can drive some viewers crazy and non fans of Woody voice their problems with him just like they do for Mamet. I like his writing most of the time but here it can distract you out of the story and that creates some problems here even with a huge fan like me.

What covers that is the fact that Jasmine is a brilliantly written female character and that Blanchett is incredible in the role. There is also a wonderful cast and performances that are even equal to Blanchett. It starts with Sally Hawkins who is awesome as the half sister, Ginger. Blanchett's performance can overshadow the others but Hawkins is her equal actually. It is a lived in and great performance. Another surprise, but not too much of a surprise for me, is Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger's husband Augie who was a victim of Jasmine's husband investing money for Augie and then stealing it. Dice Clay is charming and his performance is also great and feels lived in and natural.

There are also more wonderful performances by an incredible cast. Alec Baldwin is perfectly sleazy as the husband, Bobby Cannavale continues exciting acting as Ginger's new boyfriend and Peter Sarsgaard is also good as a love interest for Jasmine. The screenplay can be clichéd but the performances are so perfect and great and the writing of Jasmine is so fascinating that it doesn't matter.

It all starts with Cate Blanchett who I think is one of our best actresses and maybe the most beautiful woman on screen now. She is incredibly amazing as Jasmine. It is a performance that commands the screen and takes over. She is not afraid to make Jasmine emotionally ugly, needy and vulnerable. This is a character that could have produced an over the top, annoying performance but Allen's directing and Blanchett make it real, haunting and powerful.

I wasn't always into the movie but Blanchett is a life force and I couldn't take my eyes off of her! It reminds me of maybe my favorite female performance ever on screen, Gena Rowland's performance in "Woman Under the Influence". It is the same type of character and it is powerful stuff, the type of performance and character any actor could dream of and Blanchett is a house on fire.

Thursday, July 25, 2013



Written and Directed by Ryan Coogler
Actors: Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray.

It didn't have to go down like this. How many times has this been thought of lately and how sick does it make you? With all the gun violence in Chicago and our kids, even babies, getting gunned down how may times do we have to think this? The unflinching, powerful and explosive "Fruitvale Station" brings us just one in a plethora of sad stories of lives lost because of prejudice and carelessness. It is perfect, emotional film making at it's finest and it gives us a heartbreaking story of one young man whose life was cut short when it didn't have to be that way.

"Fruitvale Station" is based on the true life story of Oscar Grant who was gunned down in the back by a transit cop in Oakland. The movie starts out with I think is the real cell phone recording of this shooting and how it happened. We then follow the victim on his last day, the last day of 2008. Oscar is a troubled kid who was in prison and now is raising a young daughter with his girlfriend Sophina. We follow Oscar on his last day on earth before he was fatally shot because of stupidity.

The movie is straightforward in it's storytelling but it effectively makes us get to know Oscar, his girlfriend and his frustrated but loving mother. We follow Oscar on this day as he tries to set up a birthday party for his mother Wanda, struggles with problems with his girlfriend and tries to get his job back before he goes back into drug dealing. We do get one flashback scene that is powerful and very well done and much needed. It shows us when Wanda visits her son Oscar in prison.

The acting here is unforgettable and powerful starting with the star making performance of Michael B. Jordan as Oscar. Jordan has been in a lot of movies and you will remember him as the struggling QB Vincent Howard in the TV series "Friday Night Lights". His performance here feels real, is subtle, quiet and very moving. This is a star in the making and an actor to look out for. Octavia Spencer plays Wanda and her performance here is even better than her Oscar winning turn in "The Help". It is quietly powerful and more subtle than her work in "The Help". It is a heartbreaking performance full of life. Melonie Diaz as Sophina is very pretty, glowing and sweet, she also gives a real and stellar performance.

First time writer and director Ryan Coogler does a wonderful job and never makes a wrong move here. There is not a wasted shot and in the writing he doesn't give us to much overbearing detail about Oscar's life. That is wise and why the movie becomes more powerful. It simply sets up the relationships and the bonds between the characters without too much needless exposition like lesser movies would have done. So when we get to that final, shocking scene we are affected more deeply.

Coogler has made a very impressive debut and I love seeing new talent arrive on the scene like this. I also love seeing an actor like Jordan emerge, showing us his maturity and wise acting choices. I hate comparing but this reminds me of a young Denzel Washington. This is wise, smart, economical, powerful and gut wrenching work. The final scenes are brutal, explosive and heartbreaking and I cried for a very long time. I challenge you not to cry by the time this is over.

The movie made me cry but also made me angry because the movie effectively makes us confront the police brutality, violence and prejudice that goes on everyday, the stories we don't know about. There are many Oscars out there and much prejudice and senseless violence. "Fruitvale Station" is important film making, as powerful and as relevant to today as "Do The Right Thing" was to the 80's.



Written by Chad and Carey Hayes
Directed by James Wan
Actors: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Joey King.

If it wasn't based on a true story and if the actors and director of "The Conjuring" didn't do their job so well I would not believe any of the story of this haunted house movie. I would have just thrown it in the pile of other possession, haunted house movies that look so phony these days. "The Conjuring" is an effective and surprisingly deep haunted house/possession movie, brilliantly acted, shot and directed. It scares you while making you care about the characters.

Ed and Lorraine were real life experts on demonic possession and they studied many real cases including the one based on the "Amityville Horror". In 1979 a movie was made out of that real life case but it didn't show the Warrens. It is a laughable thriller, one of the worst horror movies of it's kind. In "The Conjuring" Ed and Lorraine are set up very well by writers Chad and Carey Hayes. They are called on by a family who have moved into a new house and feel that it is being haunted. This family is also set up very well by the writers. We will get to know these people very well before the scares and jumps will start.

This will be why we will become so invested in this story while other demonic possession crap like "The Last Exorcist" will be exposed for the shallow crud they are. That is also due to the wonderful, lived in performances by it's four leads, one with Oscar caliber work. The movie is set in 1971 and it feels like it and that goes towards the characters also.

Ed and Lorraine are wonderfully played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. Farmiga is one of my favorite actresses right now, she is putting in consistently great work for years now. It is a strong performance and it is a strong female lead role. Wilson plays an everyman type character so well as he has done in other films including other horror movies. Ron Livingston as the father of the Perron family is also, like Wilson, an effective and under rated actor who plays everyman characters so well beginning with his great deadpan turn in "Office Space".

The movie is raised to a whole new level by the performance of Lili Taylor as the mother, Carolyn Perron. Taylor has been such an under rated force in acting ever since she sang about the detested Joe in "Say Anything". Hollywood did not know how to handle an unconventional beauty and great actress like Lili Taylor. I am very happy to see her get such a pivotal role here. She plays a loving, frustrated mother with such grace and natural, effortless ease. It is a powerful performance for a very difficult role and she is what this movie needs, she should be remembered at Oscar time!

Director James Wan has grown a lot since he directed "Saw" which I hated and which he directed very shoddily. Here he knows how to movie the camera, get great performances and make this movie as believable as it can be. Being an agnostic I am also not that much a believer in demonic possession but this movie does an effective job, better than the plethora of cheap, bad possession movies in the past few years. The period detail and camera work are impressive, there are great tracking shots and we can follow everything cleanly. Wan has grown as a film maker and here he has made a scary, believable, effective and finally very touching horror movie. This is the best horror movie of the year so far and one of the best movies of the year.

Monday, July 8, 2013


'THE WAY, WAY BACK' (PG-13)(3 1/2 STARS)

Written and Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Actors: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Maya Rudolph.

I remember those summers when I was a kid where school was out and freedom could be explored for only a few months but it could seem like a lifetime. The summer for Duncan, our hero in the charming new "Way, Way Back", will start off in a negative way. It is because Duncan's parents are separated, his father is away and his mother, Pam, has found a new boyfriend and he is a big jerk. His name is Trent and we first see Duncan, Trent, his daughter and Pam in a car about to go to Trent's summer home. Trent asks what Duncan would rate himself on a scale from 1-10 and when Duncan finally answers a 6, Trent says Duncan is a 3, what an ass!

Duncan's mother thinks she has found that special someone to spend time with but Duncan can see through this jerk's veneer. Duncan is a character we have seen before and "The Way, Way Back" is that coming of age summer drama we have seen before. We know where the story is going but we don't know what will happen to this wonderful cast of characters through the process. I identify with Duncan because I was shy, withdrawn and awkward when I was a teenager but that is not why I loved this movie. I love this movie because it is truthful, real, touching, funny and charming as hell. It is one of the best times I have had at a movie recently and it will cheer audiences up and keep them highly entertained.

"The Way, Way Back" also is set at a water park called "Water Whizz", based on a real Eastern water park, where Duncan will find a new adult friend. He is Owen and he is played by the most under rated, little known actor on screen today, Sam Rockwell. Yes his character will remind you of Bill Murray's camp counselor in "Meatballs" but a lot of the audience seeing this movie will not have seen that 70's cult classic. Also Rockwell makes the character all his own giving an original performance that is my favorite performance by an actor in 2013 so far. This is probably the best young character actor in this business with his energy, charm, sense of humor and comic perfection that rivals any comic actor today period.

Duncan will start working at the water park and Owen will take him under his wings leading to a touching friendship and a scene between the two that made me cry. Trent also has neighbors in three, real and original characters, a family led by a boozing woman played brilliantly by Allison Janney. The son and daughter of this woman are charming and real kids and the daughter, Susanna, is someone Duncan will have a crush on and she is played by the very capable and beautiful AnnaSophia Robb. The scenes in the water park remind me of my favorite movie of 2009, "Adventureland", and I love that movie! Though they are both very different and would make one of my favorite double features of all time!

"The Way, Way Back" was written by the brilliant team of Jim Rash and Nat Faxon who wrote the Oscar winning screenplay for "The Descendants". I liked this movie a lot more and it shows that these two writers, who are also great comedy actors, are real smart writers and I can't wait for their next movie! Steve Carell plays against type as the jerky Trent and it shows Carell can do drama or comedy or romance equally great. Liam James is likable and very good as Duncan and Toni Collette as Pam shows us that like Rockwell she is a great, undervalued actress. Robb, Janney, Corddry and Peet are also amazing. This is Sam Rockwell's movie in my opinion, his character is the catalyst for Duncan's growth and Rockwell has to get award recognition right away!. He is our best actor today who movie goers don't know and they should!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013



Written by Justin Haythe, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossario
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Actors: Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp, William Fichtner, Tom Wilkinson, Helena Bonham Carter, Ruth Wilson, James Badge Dale.

I don't think Hollywood knows what to do with the old radio serial and television show "The Lone Ranger". Writers Justin Haythe, Terry Elliott and Rosario and director Gore Verbinski don't get it because their "Lone Ranger" has multiple personalities. I didn't hate it as much as the critics did, I just shook my head a lot and felt kind of weird throughout. This almost hit the "White House Down" so bad it is good zenith but this movie is too dull in a lot of spots and it's hero is too much of a wimp and a dullard. This is a sometimes too violent (for what is supposed to be a light, fun western) and a lot of times an unintentionally funny and goofy slapstick cartoon.

Armie Hammer plays the titular character John Reid aka "The Lone Ranger" and I think he is either miscast or just not very good at playing a hero. This is a good actor that is called on to play a wimpering and shy simpleton who doesn't even want to be The Lone Ranger. The movie is over taken by Johnny Depp as the sidekick Tonto and Depp of course is good in the role but the character isn't really that deep. Shouldn't a modern "Lone Ranger" movie reinvent Tonto into someone more than just a cartoon character like he comes off here. Depp is good but this is in the good but weird category of Barnabas Collins and Willy Wonka then in the far superior Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands category of Depp characters. So what you have here is a shallow Ranger and a cartoon character Tonto.

The other problem with "The Lone Ranger" is the uneasy blend of offbeat black comedy mixed with extreme violence (nasty violence) and slapstick chases in the tradition of Buster Keaton. I did laugh at the weird use of the Ranger's horse Silver showing up at strange times to save the day. I couldn't figure out though if the horse was supposed to be supernatural or having the horse showing up was just a weird ploy by the filmmakers to be too cute.
This movie does not know what it wants to be and is to many things except for rousing, good and entertaining. Who is this movie for? It's not for little kids because of the violence but it has eccentric humor, slapstick and that strange use of Silver. It is also not for western loving adults because the chases are Road Runner like and too silly.

"The Lone Ranger" should have been fun and freewheeling and thrilling shouldn't it be? It should not be overly violent, very long and full of so many dark and boring moments. It has a weird Johnny Depp playing a weird Tonto and upstaging a very boring Armie Hammer and Ranger. It has a bad guy in Butch Cavendish who here looks scary, dark and way out of place for this movie (this will scare little kids). It has slapstick scenes and chases that are more "Pirates of the Caribbean" than scenes and chases suitable for a western and where is the shootout or final duel? This is a sometimes fun but mostly boring, dull and very violent movie that should have been much more. There are too many long spots in the movie that will bore it's audience, this is not a very fun time at the movies.

Friday, June 28, 2013


'THE HEAT' (R) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Katie Dippold
Directed by Paul Feig
Actors: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin, Tom Wilson, Michael McDonald.

You know that you are in the company of pure comedy acting genius when a formula cop movie that has no business being great becomes that way because of the acting. I have never seen a better pairing and comedy duo, male or female, in my life on screen till I saw the charming and hilarious "The Heat". Finally Melissa McCarthy gets a star vehicle that matches the talent she showed as a supporting actor in "Bridesmaids". She is not thrown around and treated like a punching bag like she was in the horrendously unfunny "Identity Thief". She takes charge of a movie with the help of a wonderful seasoned pro in Sandra Bullock. This is the best comedy duo in decades!

What surprised me the most was that the plot of "The Heat" is actually solid if formula and familiar. Though I didn't care about some of the plot's faults, I just sat back and watched McCarthy own the screen and Bullock complimenting her as the best straight man in the business. McCarthy is a scream, spouting "f" bombs brilliantly, a lesser actor would come off as a dullard swearing all the time but McCarthy is a treasure with her foul mouth here. She made me laugh harder than I have in a long time and Bullock is growing into an idol for me. She is perfect here, even better than she was in "The Blind Side" rubbing off McCarthy and providing solid back up.

Bullock plays an uptight, by the book FBI agent, Ashburn, who wants a promotion and thinks she is right all the time. She travels to Boston for a case and has to work with a tough, foul mouthed cop and from the first time we see McCarthy till the last frame she is totally in control equal to old Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Belushi and any comic genius on film you can mention. She caresses the profane language with great skill and makes us laugh long and hard. The plot might be old but I feel that there was a lot of improvisation here because there are gems of one liners throughout the whole movie that are classic and will be remembered by me for days.

I have had a crush on Sandra Bullock and now I am totally in love! I couldn't keep my eyes off of her because her acting choices fascinated me here. She can take a small throwaway line like she does several times and make me laugh out loud at small little comedy moments. This is her best work in a comedy to date and that is saying a lot! There are small moments that are my favorites in the movie and those are the ones I feel are improvised. That includes a wonderful, hilarious 15 minutes as the two women go to a bar to get drunk and what happens in this stretch is perfectly played, constantly funny and as classic a bit as Lucille Ball would have done and maybe even the Marx Brothers.

That got me to thinking that McCarthy and Bullock could become a classic comedy duo, one of the best ever, because their chemistry is so perfect. I also love that this movie is raunchy, violent and not afraid to go over the top without getting crazy. The two women are so good I didn't mind that Mullin's family is straight out of something like "The Fighter". I didn't mind the violent shootouts either, the family of Mullins is actually funny and the cop violence is invested in real, plausible situations instead of being played as a joke. I couldn't believe the great Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) could direct an action movie but he is better at it then Marc Forster was (World War Z).

There are priceless moments throughout this movie and moments (multiple)where I sat in awe of McCarthy's and Bullock's brilliance and comedy prowess. They have turned a formula cop comedy into something greater, probably this is now my favorite buddy cop movie of all time. They have turned this into a comedy classic, written by a promising new writer in Katie Dipold (TV's Parks and Recreation). This reminded me of "Beverly Hills Cop" where Eddie Murphy became a star acting in a movie that had a pretty lame, formula plot. "The Heat" has a better story thus it is a better film.

There is great supporting acting with a very talented cast that plays this straight. "The Heat" made me laugh continuously throughout and I mean laugh out loud and I rarely do that. There is an extra scene after the credits start rolling dealing with a cat and it is priceless! This movie even had me laughing after it was supposed to be over, don't leave early please!. I will now declare that I will watch this movie multiple times just for McCarthy and Bullock's acting which is Oscar caliber here and that is no joke.