Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rock of Ages

“Rock of Ages” presents a mastery of 80s hard rock music well sung by the notable actors performing in character. It is a problem that breaking out in song and dance works well on stage yet risks appearing abnormal or “hookey” on film. Some of the dance sequences are excellent and some appear cheesy and out of place. The plot could be stronger and the stakes higher. Love interests come and go in a matter of a song. This is a nice visual and audio stroll down memory lane for 80s music lovers. Somewhere in the music a movie breaks down, but not long enough. This movie decided to be a long rock video without the intricacies of music videos when it may have been better as a movie with musical backgrounds. It chose a middle ground that may be less satisfying.

Sons of Anarchy: Season Five

The fifth season of “Sons of Anarchy” is amazing. It continues throwing new obstacles at the characters as they attempt to resolve their problems. There may have to be a bit of suspension of belief that things work as they do, but they do work. Jax has critical decisions to make, and is he turning into the step father he despises? Opie makes critical decisions about what he can do for the club. The results of this are shocking and help guide the continuing storyline. We see sympathy when Tig rescues a defeated fighter dog, and that sympathy follows us as Tig faces more challenges. We see the heartache of Tig watching a most horrific event sees a daughter murdered.

Tara makes moves to solve her family problems only to see them become more complicated than before. This all leads to a suspenseful conclusion where the fates of Clay and Tara hang in the balance. This show continues leaving viewers on the edge. This is one of the most creatively constructed shows in history. Viewers should note that many scenes are violent. The heroes are criminal killers. Yet we see the humanity in these characters, and it makes viewers hope they find their way out of their dilemmas.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Blue Jasmine

“Blue Jasmine” is an excellent introspective look into the life of a group of very interesting characters. A key dilemma is how much does someone know, what does she do with what she knows, and what consequences result. The writer-director has created a cast of divergent believable characters who are, above all, interesting. Each character has flaws and good elements. The movies makes excellent use of flashbacks, a technique that often is difficult to implement. Here, the flashbacks work as they drive divergent story lines and helps us appreciate the future and flashback stories much better. While writer-director Woody Allen is known primarily for comedies, this is a serious drama. Do not arrive expecting a typical Woody Allen comedy. One should find a sensitive look into the lives of people with their own torments and hopes. The acting is superb. As one who has liked Woody Allen’s films yet criticized that sometimes needs someone overseeing his own work to help him trim some lines (which is a danger of writing and directing your own film), I have no such criticism for this film.  The screenplay is brilliant and the directing appears superb. Most characters arrive at satisfying arcs, although some may quibble that while Jasmine reaches an arc in her story line, one does not know what the future holds for Jasmine. Although, that probably is the point. This is an excellent dramatic film.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season Seven

The seventh season of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” shows it is able to continue its successful wacky humor formula that has served this show so well. We may cringe at the wild ideas the gang conceives yet many laughs are found as their schemes fall apart. The faults are the making of the characters. They often are too self-absorbed, out to make quick money, generally lack the ability to foresee the consequences of their actions, and often lack common sense. They  have little honor even amongst themselves. This all sets the episodes for many of the most bizarre situations for the characters. These are adult situations with foul language and sexual situations. Some may find offense at a scene where two characters want the services of a police sketch artists so they make a false rape report. That, though, seems normal for this incredibly unique cast of characters. The cast are all hilarious and great actors. They have terrific chemistry between them that has remained through these seasons. The scripts are funny. This is a great show.

Carnival Knowledge

“Carnival Knowledge” is the film of Naomi Grossman’s one woman play It is set with an arcade background and depicts life as represented by carnivals. The tales of dating are humorously told. Many witty remarks and references emerge from the stories and analyses Naomi Grossman presents. The tales become serious and urns to sadness. Fortunately, the tales arc to a nice conclusion. Much of the humor is adult in nature, It is well told and should produce quite a few laughs for most viewers.


“Insidious” grabs the viewer by getting at one of our greatest fears: A child is sick, in a coma, and no one knows why. The family just moved into a new house, and there are unusual things about this new residence, like weird sounds emanating from unknown sources. A villainous person appears, but only the wife sees him, creating tensions between the husband who doesn’t see the creature and a scared wife. This movie gets a bit intense for those easily scared. It has some terrifying scenes which are signs of a good horror movie. It is noted that the late Tiny Tim probably never realized his tulips songs could be the source of immense terror. If one likes to be frightened, all through the story, this is a movie for you.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Butler

‘“The Butler” is an inspiring movie. It projects the life of one family with their personal involvement with what is happening during around them regarding changing attitudes on race relations. It begins shockingly and tragically depicting the times when a white person could kill a Black person without legal ramification. It shows how disagreements within a family over how one should respond to racial hatred tears apart a family. Viewers see the debates over civil rights through the eyes of a White House butler and a son who is in the forefront of civil rights protests. We see the son realizing that domestic servants play their own roles in the movement for civil rights approval. A father comes to realize that activism also an important role. This movie presents a satisfying arc for the characters and the nation. The lead characters are all well acted. The film provides an excellent view of important parts of our national history. The portrayals of some of the Presidents play to their caricatures and visually fail to capture the Presidents. Yet the story is the butler and his family, and that is the true heart of this film.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Knight Rider: Season One

The first season of “Knight Rider” is reminiscent of an era where many TV dramas were a bit hokey and underacted. This is one of the better representatives of that era, as a talking car that can drive itself (soon to be a reality) steals the limelight. There is a consistent theme: some rich criminal hurts people that includes a beautiful woman and attempts to destroy hero David Knight and his car KITT, without realizing that Knight and KITT are pretty much indestructible. In most episodes, Knights saves a new damsel in distress. David Hasselhoff is good as the lead although held back by scripts where things happen without much intellectual challenge, sometimes by coincidence. Edward Mulhare is a pleasant eccentric support cast member. Patricia McPherson, whose auto mechanic’s suit never has any dirt, is underused as the requisite female support cast member by only having a few lines each episode. The underacting is amplified by scenes which should be of intense drama where few emotions are shown.Still the story lines,at times, can be compelling. One gem is when David Knight is confronted with his fiancee from his past life. Realism is difficult to find in this series. For instance, one wonders how Knight finds all those roads to drive so fast or so quirky where there is no other traffic. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fruitvale Station

“Fruitvale Station” is a film that accomplishes something difficult for a film. It presents a gripping story where the audience knows how the movie will end. Indeed, the film begins with the scene of Bay Area Transit Police shooting the main character dead. Viewers then see actors presenting a flashback of the final day in the life of a man unaware that his demise is near. It is very well done. The movie takes the risky route of presenting something negative about the main character near the film's beginning.  Over the course of the film we see a more complicated and caring person. We see a man who is loved, who has people he loves, who does nice things, and who has flaws. It has an interesting arc where characters seen previously reemerge at critical moments. This makes for a great film. (I have not checked how much of the film is true or fiction. This is a review of the film itself.) It is an interesting peak into a life as it proceeds towards a disastrous end.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Way, Way Back

“The Way, Way Back” is both a realistic depiction of the awkwardness of the early teen years and a natural comedy. One is amused throughout the films over the situations in which the characters find themselves. There is an extroverted neighbor and a water park manager who refuses to go his age who provide much amusing entertainment. There are memorable side characters such as a wise cracking employee who is afraid of germs. These characters are well portrayed and are believable. Many will be able identify with the characters and feel for them. The movie has a great arc for the teenagers that is honest and refreshing, as well as an important arc for a scared mother, This is truly one of the funniest movies around, with an excellent script and superb acting. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


“Savages” is a rare film that opens with intense suspense which then quickly dials down the tone. It then slowly prods through with growing tensions. Some intense scenes are quite violent and are meant to shock the audience. Some may feel a bit cheated towards the end of the film yet it rearranges towards an overall satisfying ending. This is another disturbing film from Oliver Stone, but it was his intention to disturb you.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sons of Anarchy: Season Four

The fourth season of “Sons of Anarchy” unfolds the tensions to a slower,more  deliberate rate than in past seasons. Then after a boiling point is reached, the struggles take off at rather exciting rates. A secret often alluded to in previous seasons peels away more and more information with serious consequences.  The resulting suspense produces very dramatic scenes. Relationships between characters shift swiftly and are well portrayed.

Unlike the third season, where the major conflicts were resolved by the actions of the characters, outside factors force many of the decisions. It is more satisfying when matters are the results of the characters. Major accolades are given to Katey Sagal whose acting presents a range of emotions as her manipulative character takes pursues critically important avenues. The whole cast makes for an excellent ensemble. It should be difficult to care these violent criminals, yet this series makes the audience feel for them. There are new leading “good guys” are with another who is very eccentric yet the the fourth season presents them as more sympathetic and decent. This series continues on an overall excellent route.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sons of Anarchy: Season Three

The third season of “Sons of Anarchy” is remarkable in that it continues presenting a highly suspenseful show with lots of tensions that often leaves the viewers wondering what happens next and how situations will be resolved. Perhaps some things happen a bit too coincidentally, yet other things, especially the season conclusion, show both surprising twists as well insightful character development.

The third season presents greater depth and understanding of many characters. Important backstory enters the stories and how the characters respond is often fascinating. As the fate of a baby is at stake, the viewer is sympathetically drawn into the flow. The sociopathic behavior of some are creative developments which allows one to realize their arc is perhaps deserved. The acting continues to as great as in previous seasons. Subtle color and shooting differences, especially when in Ireland, accent the moods and are brilliantly presented. This is one of the series that improves over time as viewers are constantly wondering where things are headed.

The Patient

This is a nice independent short film. It is well acted and expertly shot. While it is hard to develop  an insightful character presentation in a short film, one does come away with a good sense of what the main character is about and the roots that led him to where he is. The film features several comedic characters that poke fun at a few stereotypical personalities. There are a few laugh out moments, such as a church organ played by feet. The talents of the lead actor Johntrae Williams to portray different characters are presented. Hopefully this will be a vehicle to see more of the people who put together this short film.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sons of Anarchy: Season Two

The second story of “Sons of Anarchy” is highlighted by excellent acting on all accounts. There are no weak characters and only strong performances. The characters are interwoven in intriguing situations. The stories are not for the faint at heart: there are portrayals of rape, violence, and death.

There is much tension arising from the stories. The problems increase and grab the viewer. One often does not know how situations can be resolved. A looming problem from season one is resolved over time, yet with much drama that nearly tears apart most of the characters. There are new white supremacist protagonists who are unsettling. A positive result is this makes the motorcycle criminals more appealing by comparison. These new villains create new conflicts from multiple angles which keeps the second season very interested. The friendships and defense of families among the criminal main characters allows viewers to root for them. One would probably want to familiarize oneself by viewing the first season before jumping into the second season.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sons of Anarchy: Season One

It initially was difficult to like the characters in the first season of “Sons of Anarchy”. The criminals were violent with little about them to like. The surrounding characters seemed to have been drawn into their bad situations at their own choosing. Even the “good guy” law enforcement personnel were deeply flawed and generally despicable. As the season progresses, the story lines and conflicts became more intriguing. The season ends well with one wanting to find out what the future holds.

There are some general plot lines of “Sons of Anarchy” that are reminiscent of “The Sopranos”. Both series had mother figures with a strong presence where one realizes that, in a family feud, the mother has deliberately and potentially let her son be placed at risk. That is some wake up call for the main character. In both series, the main characters need to consider how to handle “a rat”, yet to give “Sons of Anarchy” great credit, their story line on this is gripping. This is a series that slowly grabs the viewer and pulls the viewer in. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Baby Makers

This is two distinct movies seeking to be one. It begins as an insightful yet funny look at how infertility affects a comedy. The couple have a delightful relationship where they solve the simpler problems well, which may be positive to watch yet lacks the conflict sought in many films. The fertility issues looms with growing intensity which does create interesting conflict. There is a long focus on this relationship with some laugh out loud hilarity among a serious examination of how infertility affects people.

The movie then shifts into weird digressions as a slapstick comedy with much silliness. It sinks to racial humor. Overall, there is enough humor to make this a fun movie, The viewer should be prepared for an unorthodox cinematic journey.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dark Circles

This is a remarkably impressive film that mostly uses the good but seldom now used Hitchockian method of creating suspense without showing much blood and gore. It creates tension with expert filming, music, and writing. The story presents a very plausible explanation for the horrors that face a family, while create the mystery that there could be another more disturbing reason. The suspense is greatly enhanced as a baby is involved. Th

The tensions are increased throughout the film which increases the suspense. The movie digresses into a more modern ending which includes some blood, which may be the requirements of today's audience. Fortunately, the blood is not overdone. This movie startles the viewer into pondering who or what is the villain and who will the hero be? The script is excellent although there are some continuity issues. Overall this is an impressive presentation from the suspense genre.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Identity Theft

This film relies on situational comedy. The dialogue’s humor often occurs only when profanity emerges. It is well acted with Melissa McCarthy demonstrating great slapstick comedy talents. Jason Bateman proves again he is the master of being the straight man as the world collapses into comedic insanity around him. The plot requires much suspension of belief, The supporting characters are often ill defined and fail to connect with the audience, save for the wife and children. As the supporting characters are weakly created, they often are a sudden distraction with mostly far fetched reasons for popping into the story. A major plus for the film is one is often unsure how the movie will end and that upholds interest. The ending is indeed one that is overall satisfying.