We Are Your Friends (2015) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

The sheer charisma of the cast nearly offsets the banality of the plotting in We Are Your Friends. Obviously inspired by Trainspotting (visually), Boogie Nights (storyline), and Saturday Night Fever (introducing a musical phenomenon to the masses)–the energy level is kept high and the film doesn’t over stay its welcome, but the predictability of the script makes this one feel like it’ stuck on repeat. First-time feature Director Max Joseph shows promise with a clear understanding of visual language, smart editing choices, and interesting artistic flourishes.
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Purple Rain (1984) – Review

3 Stars

With the recent passing of musical icon Prince, Warner Bros. and Cinemark theaters have teamed for a one-week engagement of theatrical runs for the 1984 hit, Purple Rain. The seminal film and soundtrack in Prince’s vast catalogue is still as engrossing as it was in its heyday. This autobiographical musical is brimming with beautiful music and imagery, while otherwise dealing with backstage theatrics that are mean-spirited and awkward.
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Disclosure (1994) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

One of top twenty grossing film from 1994, six of them were adapted from popular novels. Including the year’s highest grossing film, Forrest Gump. Amongst the big-screen book to movie conversions from literary heavyweights Anne Rice, Tom Clancy and John Grisham, Michael Crichton’s Disclosure holds it own in that fine company. In a particularly strong year for adaptions, Disclosure is surely the most lurid,trashy, and erotic of the bunch. Written by former movie critic turned scriptwriter Paul Attansio and directed with low-key professionalism by Barry Levinson, Disclosure is the second best movie made from Crichton’s literary canon.
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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) – Review

4 Stars

It has become commonplace in recent years to nonchalantly acknowledge (and dismiss) the substantial acting abilities of John Goodman. His ubiquitous appearances in supporting roles over the last decade have cemented the notion that he’s one of our country’s most under-valued talents. Perhaps, with the extremely strong work in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Goodman will finally get attention from the awards circuit.
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Fargo (1996) – Review

4 Stars

The Coen brothers successfully un-shackled themselves as America’s most under-valued filmmakers with the release of Fargo. Having been much adored in cult circles for their work on Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, and numerous other titles–the Coens finally achieved both critical and commercial success with this quirky crime drama that plays like the tonal antithesis of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The mixture of violence, humor and suspense has rarely been carried off with such ease and efficiency of plot.
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Crossroads (1986) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Walter Hill’s affection for blues music is evident in this supernatural road movie about a duo of blues travelers. The esteemed director has employed musician Ry Cooder to compose the score to nearly all of his films. Cooder, an accomplished bluesmen, has contributed a wealth of music to Crossroads, which is the film’s strongest point. The story wobbles as Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca wander through the countryside looking for the devil. You have to give Crossroads points for combining elements of The Karate Kid, Honkytonk Man, and pop culture myth into an oddity that is always interesting, but not much worth all the fuss.
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Sunset Park (1996) – Review

2 Stars

How many of you knew that Cheers star Rhea Pearlman headlined a basketball drama about inner city high-schoolers on a losing team? This ill-conceived project has its heart in the right place, but it’s a bone-dumb exercise that is notable for its soundtrack and downbeat climax. Location lensing in and around New York City, as well as the world-famous Madison Square Garden, add a level of (much-needed) authenticity to this mildly enjoyable sports fable.
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Punch-Drunk Love (2002) – Review

2 Stars

After the sprawling opus Magnolia, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson has pared his unique brand of filmmaking into a off-beat romantic comedy that’s not quite worth the talents of all involved. Playing like Anderson’s take on Kafka and Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, Punch Drunk Love is an under-written piece that holds viewer’s attention because of the strength of Sandler’s central performance and the sheer wonder of what the next scene will provide. This is a slight film given gravitas through skilled craft and technical efficiency. It’s a strange journey into a world that can best be described as modern take on German’s cinematic expressionist movement. Anderson’s film is dark and frustrating, while simultaneously feeling incomplete.
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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) – Review

3 Stars

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was my first introduction to the off-beat and often intriguing filmmaking style of cult favorite Jim Jarmush. This particular film is arguably Jarmusch’s most commercial project and still it retains the quirky sensibilities that often arise in the director’s work. Not, without flaws, Ghost Dog proves to be a far-fetched tale about an insane person masquerading as a samurai in modern-day New York.
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Bed of Roses (1996) – Review

2 Stars

Today a film like Bed of Roses would be considered a Lifetime channel movie, but twenty years ago the network was a fledging station that had yet to earn that undistinguished nomenclature. Here is a story that could only take place inside a movie, had this been reality the lead female character would have surely called the cop on the loon sending her flowers every hour on the hour. However, since this was a valentine’s day timed release and stars Christian Slater, it is an innocuous mix of sweet and fluff.
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The Hateful Eight (2015) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Each Quentin Tarantino film is such a unique movie-going experience that any new entry is guaranteed to be greeted with expectations that have become almost impossible to meet. Every few years the auteur brings to the screen another one of his personal opuses, taking us on strange journeys through differing genres. How many other directors can pull audiences to see a two-part kung-fu flick, a three-hour serio-comic WWII movie, or a western set mostly indoors?
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Spy Game (2001) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

Spy Game is a carefully plotted and rather ingenious story set over the course of one day. The action takes place inside CIA headquarters located in Langley, Virginia, while also flashing to a Chinese prison where former shadow agent Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) is awaiting execution in twenty-four hours. When Bishop’s rogue mission goes awry, he’s captured and sentenced to death. With a short deadline, Bishop’s former boss Nathan Muir (Redford) must navigate the political sharks inside the agency while battling enemies abroad in saving his protegĂ©’s life.
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The Big Short (2015) – Review

4 Stars

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies after space opera fantasies, along comes The Big Short. A film that harbors a palpable sense of disbelief at the unethical behavior displayed by the nation’s leading financial structures and their unregulated practices overlooked by the government. Director/writer Adam Mckay has taken Michael Lewis’ (dry) account of the pre-market collapse and the resulting bailout chronicled in his bestseller and made the endeavor easily understandable and darkly comic at the same time. This is no easy feat and Mckay (mostly known for his Anchorman movies) proves himself a rich storyteller. Who knew? That seems to be the theme of the tale outlined here and characterized by a dozen gifted actors portraying real-life fund managers that foresaw the burst of the housing bubble.
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