Sat, 20 Sep 2014 04:52:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Movie Review: This Is Where I Leave You Sat, 20 Sep 2014 04:52:00 +0000 In This Is Where I Leave You, amidst a tumultuous time in his own marriage, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) finds himself surrounded by the family members he both loves and can barely tolerate. For seven days following the burial of Judd’s father, the Altman family — led by the perfectly meddlesome family matriarch, Hillary Altman or “Mommy” (Jane Fonda) — must sit Shiva (participate in a week-long mourning period) together under one roof.

This Is Where I Leave YouAlong with sister Wendy (Tina Fey); brother/family screw-up Phillip (Adam Driver) and his much older new-to-the-family fiance, Tracy (a lovely Connie Britton); brother Paul (Corey Stoll) and his wife, Alice (Kathryn Hahn), Judd must navigate through the muddy waters of his own marriage while apprehensively attempting to restore the kinship between him, his mother, and his siblings.

Jonathan Tropper — who wrote the book the film was based on, as well as the screenplay for This is Where I Leave You — brought the book to the big screen terrifically, though I fear some brilliant notions may have gotten stuck between the pages. That said, what may seem somewhat depressing on the surface, This is Where I Leave You isn’t so much a sob story; it’s a rather enlightening rom-com-drama sprinkled with occasionally unrewarding moments. With an ensemble cast and some fairly predictable storylines and “surprises,” the design has the familiar feel of August: Osage County or The Family Stone.

The story itself is truly an exercise in overcoming — or at least muddling through — the combative, bumpy nature of love that comes with marriage and family, and the subsequent loss (in a variety of forms) of loved ones. We immediately discover that Judd’s wife, Quinn (Abigail Spencer) is sleeping with Judd’s boss (a wealthy, frat-boy-esque radio DJ who never grew up — played quite convincingly by Dax Shepard). What ensues is one of the most painfully uncomfortable and hilarious scenes of the movie.

The bond of brotherhood really comes through in This Is Where I Leave You. In fact, though the story centers on Judd, younger brother Phillip’s character produced the most dynamic moments. Adam Driver has an ability to hone in on his believable quirks, and connect with the audience through his slightly irritating, yet on-the-spot portrayal of the little brother who never quite grew up. Making less of a splash, but with an overall impact, is Judd’s and Phillip’s brother Paul. Corey Stoll and Kathryn Hahn are terrific supporting actors in their roles as Judd’s brother and sister-in-law, trying to get pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You

ane Fonda, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Corey Stoll, and Adam Driver in “This Is Where I Leave You.” © 2014 – Warner Bros. Pictures.

Tina Fey plays Wendy — Judd’s sister and confidant, who can’t seem to shake her first true love, Horry Callen (charmingly played by Timothy Olyphant), who was in a traumatic car accident several years prior. In a loveless marriage of her own, Wendy and Judd share some of the warmer moments — and biggest secrets — on screen. Penny (Rose Byrne) sparkles as the girl who never left their small hometown, and whose childhood crush on Judd adds to his overall apprehension.

The one-liners fly throughout this movie, and Cole (a toddler played by Cade Lappin) is one of the funniest tiny humans I’ve seen on-screen. Eventually, all cats are out of the bag as world-renowned writer and therapist Mommy — sexy, and romantically charged upon the death of her husband — finds out what her children have been up to; they, in turn, find out some secrets of hers!

Is This Is Where I Leave You the greatest movie you’ll see all year? The best ensemble cast? Probably not. But it’s certainly enjoyable, and the actors (particularly Bateman and Driver) play off each other as well as any family off the screen would. Things get a bit hairy; things get awkward; and as far as the audience is concerned, there are moments of near-tears and some genuine chuckles.

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Movie Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones Sat, 20 Sep 2014 04:40:18 +0000 A Walk Among the Tombstones is a tidy, character-forward procedural offering up Liam Neeson in this year’s second “Liam Neeson movie” working in a more somber, less super-heroic mode than in Non-Stop or the Taken bonanza. A Walk Among the Tombstones finds haunted P.I. Matthew Scudder hunting a couple of sick slashers targeting 1990s New York women in a grim but engrossing dot-connector the likes of which you have certainly seen before, yet is still worth a run due to a well-casted ensemble and the elegant filmmaking of writer/director Scott Frank (he also scripted Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Minority Report) and cinematographer Mihai Malamaire (D.P. on The Master, so that’s enough of a draw for me).

A Walk Among the TombstonesComing from the raw world of pulp novelist Lawrence Block, the milieu is grim, the violence deeply unpleasant and misogynistic, but A Walk Among the Tombstones works as a retread 1980s-style thriller down to Scudder’s too-smart street-kid sidekick and banding with drug dealers to go after the psychos kidnapping and killing the dealer’s wives — the he plot is 10:00pm TV playbook with a few horror elements to keep the R-rating hard. Even though we have been spoiled with the complexities of True Detective and other new breed crime series, I can still enjoy a crusty, heart-thumping potboiler like this film. I just probably will not ever feel the urge to watch it again: there’s no heavy resonance or dilemma in that James Ellroy way or invigorating tossed banter and clever turns like an Elmore Leonard yarn (A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn’t get near the heights of Frank’s two Leonard adaptations made by better directors; those films found a stronger balance between shambling humanity and crisp plotting to become the classics that this never will).

Compensating for following the simplistic moral vengeance rulebook, the picture tries to reason with itself that it has a higher purpose (one nuanced in Block’s novels and reduced here); in fact the movie is merely a solid gory gumshoe ride with a potent bookend flashback and a blue AA book in pocket to give the hero shallow depth (a melodramatic voiceover at a key moment reveals the limits of the movie’s psychology).

A Walk Among the Tombstones

Liam Neeson in “A Walk Among the Tombstones.” © 2014 – Universal Pictures.

Neeson’s gravity is a better fit for the character than his first film outing: the 1980s coke bomb 8 Million Ways to Die, with Jeff Bridges aimless as Scudder. Hard-worn but still capable of sentiment, Neeson doesn’t show a glint the way Eastwood does or reach the hard-boiling points of Lee Marvin and his ilk, but does bring a grounded realism to the snug role of retired Irish cop with a moral compass; his command kept me involved throughout the series of convolutions and conversations that lead A Walk Among the Tombstones to its redemptive showdowns.

Allusions to Y2K and the NYC boroughs before gentrification suggest a societal anxiety that the strict compositional lensing of this Universal franchise-setter does not explore beyond functioning as a vague, paranoid red herring backdrop.

Handsome and downbeat, A Walk Among the Tombstones is a good dad movie with some pretty squirmy-pervy murders, an excellent sequence on a rooftop, and another round of grizzled warnings and wisdom from Neeson.

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Movie Review: The Maze Runner Fri, 19 Sep 2014 04:04:08 +0000 In this day and age we, as a society, have become obsessed with the idea of a post-apocalyptic life. This has created an enormous output of post-apocalyptic young adult fiction titles. From I Am Legend to The Road, and from World War Z to The Hunger Games, these fiction titles have been transposed to film for the good of both movie fans and producers alike. The latest installment in this craze is The Maze Runner. The novel by James Dashner, on which the film is based, is the first book in a trilogy about a group of boys that live inside of a maze. Too vague?

The Maze RunnerThe Maze Runner centers around Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), a young man without any memory, except for his name. He is thrown into the middle of “The Glade,” a society of only boys that exists in the center of a maze. Day in and day out, members of the society called “Runners” traverse the ever-changing labyrinth in hopes of discovering a way out.

Despite the inevitable love that the film will get from fans of the novel, O’Brien, and the genre in general, I didn’t see The Maze Runner as anything more than a mediocre representation of what, I assume, is a exceptional YA novel. The highlights of the film center mainly around the storyline. While I give a lot of credit to Noah Oppenheim, Grant Pierce Myers, and T.S. Nowlin, the writers of the screenplay, all love for the original story must go to novelist Dashner.

Aside from the phenomenally original plot, The Maze Runner tip-toes around the idea of having a solid ensemble cast. Many of the boys in the society were very good, young actors. The leaders of The Glade, Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Alby (Aml Ameen) were both emotionally driven characters that held their own for the time that they were onscreen. Two other supporting characters, Chuck (Blake Cooper) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) were given life and extraordinary amounts of purpose. In a cast largely comprised of twenty-somethings, the very young Cooper held his own and drew an enormous amount of emotion from the audience.

Aside from the solid performances, there were two surprising flops from some up-and-coming stars. Gally (Will Poulter) is an anti-progressive who was portrayed as the king of purposeless anger. Maybe I just can’t get past his role in last year’s We’re The Millers, but every negative line by Poulter had me struggling to believe that his character wasn’t going to subsequently get a wedgie from another one of a guys. The role just wasn’t for him. The lone, young female in the film is Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), who could neither sustain an American accent, nor a consistent character.

It’s not necessarily her fault, as the extremely speedy pacing of the film had the actors skipping explanations and changing emotions almost scene-to-scene. The exposition of the film was rushed, and most of the story was told and not shown. While the nearly two-hour film seemed like it flew by in about forty minutes, there was still much of the plot that was left poorly-explained. I didn’t understand what being “stung” (an important element of the plot) was until well into the film. The rushed pacing caused for the days in The Glade to seemingly string together. That was until about an hour into the movie, when Gally mentions that it’s only been a mere three days since the start of the film. There is no consistent timetable to follow. Things occur and you don’t know when, why, or how.

The Maze RunnerDespite the rushed pacing, the production aspects of The Maze Runner were exemplary. The visual effects and editing in the eerie dream-sequences were a breath of fresh air, layering shots and holding a continuous color scheme throughout the entire dream. Shots of the maze were also quite extraordinary, although I don’t know why the VFX team didn’t do the same great job on the “grievers” as they did on the construction of the maze.

The sound engineering and production design of The Maze Runner also deserves applause. At the start of the film, you are always in The Glade. From the livestock to the moonshine, the functioning society of grimy boys is always a constant in the film. It is very realistic and plausible.

All in all, The Maze Runner is a film whose exceptional adapted screenplay helps to overcome the lapses in other areas. While I’ve always wanted to see a modern screen adaptation of Lord of the Flies, this film creates something that closely resembles what I’m looking for. The story contains as many twists and turns as the maze itself. In a world over-saturated with slightly glamorized YA post-apocalyptic films, The Maze Runner pulls no punches. Death is a reality in the film, and that keeps it grounded. I value realism in film, and The Maze Runner gave that to me.

Although it’s nothing all that new, The Maze Runner will undoubtedly feed on the love from teenage girls, fans of the novel, and everyone in between. Expect it to set a standard for realism in young adult films to come.

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Watch the New Men, Women & Children Trailer Thu, 18 Sep 2014 15:00:45 +0000 Discover how little you know about the people you know. Watch the new trailer for director Jason Reitman’s new film Men, Women & Children.

Men, Women & ChildrenABOUT THE FILM

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN follows the story of a group of high school teenagers and their parents as they attempt to navigate the many ways the internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives. The film attempts to stare down social issues such as video game culture, anorexia, infidelity, fame hunting, and the proliferation of illicit material on the internet. As each character and each relationship is tested, we are shown the variety of roads people choose – some tragic, some hopeful – as it becomes clear that no one is immune to this enormous social change that has come through our phones, our tablets, and our computers.

For more information, visit:
Official site:

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN will be in theaters everywhere in OCTOBER 2014!

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Win Passes to An Advance Screening of Hector and the Search for Happiness Thu, 18 Sep 2014 04:01:58 +0000 Enter here for your chance to win passes to an advance screening of Hector and the Search for Happiness, starring Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer.

Hector and the Search for HappinessFor your chance to receive two (2) complimentary passes to see Hector and the Search for Happiness at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan on Wednesday, September 24th at 7:00PM, just look for the “Enter the Contest” box further down on this page. But hurry, because there are a limited number of passes available and when they’re gone, they’re gone!


HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS: Hector (Simon Pegg) is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. As he tells his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), he feels like a fraud: he hasn’t really tasted life, and yet he’s offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happier. So Hector decides to break out of his deluded and routine driven life. Armed with buckets of courage and child-like curiosity, he embarks on a global quest in hopes of uncovering the elusive secret formula for true happiness. And so begins a larger than life adventure with riotously funny results. Based on the world-wide best-selling novel of the same name, Hector and the Search for Happiness is a rich, exhilarating, and hilarious tale from director Peter Chelsom, starring Simon Pegg, Toni Collette, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno and Christopher Plummer. (RELATIVITY MEDIA) This film is rated R.

HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS opens in the Detroit area on Friday, September 26th!

Enter the contest by clicking here!

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