FEBRUARY 11TH, 2014

ALL IS LOST // Starring only Robert Redford, “All Is Lost” wastes no time settling the viewer into the lost at sea adventure that awaits. As Redford tackles a hole in his boat, giant waves from unbearable storms, and the loneliness that comes from be stranded by one’s self, director J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”) explores the human psyche and the ever shifting breaking point of one man. Unless he’s screaming, Redford barely says a word, which makes the achievements of this film that much more commendable, as the film then relies on strong visuals and a strong emotional performance from the veteran Redford. One would be remiss to compare this film to last year’s “Life Of Pi”, which also featured being stranded at sea, because for one, it was told as a story, a part of Pi’s autobiography, while “All Is Lost”, although uses an “eight days earlier” moniker, is happening in the present. Also, in “Life Of Pi”, Pi has the animals (or humans if that’s how you took it) to give him other challenges.

“All Is Lost” is basically a survival guide to all the horrible events that can happen out at sea. As stated, Redford’s performance is key, and without any human connection, he is left to project his characteristics through his actions and responses to the oncoming events. The quality I found most endearing was his unwillingness to give up and the constant turning around to pick up his anchor or to go back for just a few more things when his ship is sinking. This is a quality that is not often explored in feature films, but is a common and justifiable trait that a sailor would probably have. Suspense is built in waves, building off moments like the hole in the ship or as it sinks. The viewer is on the edge of their seat, holding their breath for what will present itself next. Had anyone other than Redford try to take on this role, it may not have worked as well, but with Redford at the helm, “All Is Lost” could easily get some Oscar attention.

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THE COUNSELOR // Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy team up to deliver “The Counselor”, one of the most underrated ensemble dramas of the year. McCarthy, an 80 year old Pultizer Prize winning author (“No Country For Old Men”, “The Road”) is no stranger to the cinema, with both adaptations mentioned receiving acclaim across the board. “The Counselor” marks McCarthy’s first venture into an original screenplay however. Those that have read the unabridged screenplay say it reads like one of his novels and you get a hint of that in the feature film version. With an outstanding ensemble including Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz, and Penelope Cruz, the cast does their very best to get the thick dialogue/monologues to play across the screen, a venture to which the average viewer will shut down or turn off. Even critics pan the film as being a misfire on all accounts. I’m in the minority, however, that found the film captivating, with sex, violence, and situational drama running rampant.

Fassbender is undeniably outstanding to watch, delivering on a scale we haven’t yet seen in Hollywood for decades. Pitt and Bardem add the perfect supporting layer to Fassbender’s performance, both on different sides of the dramatic spectrum. Cruz is sadly just a female pawn in the game, but does so with enough poise and grace to keep her role from feeling too unneeded, while the real star becomes Cameron Diaz, who turns off all pith and goofy charm to deliver a cold-faced portrayal of a strong female. McCarthy’s script feels like a play, setting up different situations that often interconnect and I strongly feel a second viewing of the film is needed to appreciate all the film has to offer.

Often the portions people may not understand are discussed in dialogue in previous scenes, like the wire noose connected to a timer used to kill a character at the end or the meaning of the DVD that Fassbender’s character receives at the end of the film. There’s even an exchange that will make my best of list at the end of the year, involving Bardem’s explanation of a moment that will haunt him forever, involving the female anatomy and a yellow Ferrari. McCarthy builds several deep and rich characters and has a way with dialogue that chills. Agreed, this is not “No Country For Old Men”, but that aside, the film has so much going for it, it’s hard to justify all the negative press. “The Counselor” will not land on anyone’s best of the year list, but it does deliver to those willing to invest.

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ENDER’S GAME // This review may act as a spoiler, so stop reading now if you wish to be completely surprised. Occasionally in working for the industry and passionately partaking in the marketing for feature films, there comes causalities like “Ender’s Game”, which completely telegraph their ending. Ask anyone who actively avoids trailers and they’ll tell you that they give away too much of the film, so that they are expecting certain sequences or they’re able to guess how the film will end just from the two minutes of footage. “Ender’s Game” did not even try to keep their secrets hidden, perhaps banking on the fact this was a popular book series that has been around for quite sometime. Regardless, the tagline to the posters and trailer is “This Is Not A Game”, which could be innocent enough. But entering into this film with the idea that this isn’t a game, then telegraphs the ending, which could potentially be a complete surprise for anyone like myself who has never experienced the book. That being said, a film cannot be completely based on the strengths of its twist, and although this caused for a somewhat mild annoyance, the film must go on.

Asa Butterfield was a strong choice to play Ender, who often embodies the leader qualities that Colonel Hyrum Graff (Harrison Ford) sees in him. Butterfield never appears false in his role and carries the film nicely from start to finish. The script carries as many morals as I would expect from a children’s novel and has strong ties to fellow boy wonder stories such as “Harry Potter”. With some serious dark undertones in the rights and wrongs of genocide, intergalactic or not, the film’s dialogue brings up some strong points on pushing people past their breaking points for the good of the world. Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, and Ben Kingsley fill out the more important and sparse adult roles while the rest of the film rides on the child actors including appearances by Abigail Breslin and Hailee Steinfeld. Had I read the books, this film would probably have held more stock for me, but instead, it falls a bit flat on its CGI-heavy demeanor and heavy handed moral strategy. “Ender’s Game” shows the importance of less is more, and with several sequels to the book, we’ll see what will become of this potential franchise following this mishap.

New Releases
All Is Lost
The Armstrong Lie 2-denied2
Austenland 2-denied2
The Best Man Holiday
The Counselor
Diana (2013)
Ender’s Game
Grace Unplugged 2-denied2
How I Live Now
The Summit

TV Box Set

  • Dallas: Season Two
  • Doctor Who: The Moonbase
  • Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: Complete Series
  • Newhart: Season Two
  • Sherlock: Season Three   
  • Swamp People: Season Four
  • Yukon Men: Season One
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • 2 Jacks   2-denied2
  • 22 Bullets   2-denied2
  • 4 Play   2-denied2
  • The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box   2-denied2
  • And Then There Was You
  • The Artist And The Model   2-denied2
  • Balls to the Wall
  • Bottled Up
  • Chastity Bites
  • DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures One
  • Drums in the Deep South
  • GBF   2-denied2
  • Haunter   
  • Hidenburg (2014)
  • The Human Scale
  • I Heart U
  • Incomplete (2014)
  • Jewtopia   
  • The Jungle Book: Diamond Edition
  • Khumba   2-denied2
  • Killing Kennedy
  • The Last Days of Pompeii
  • Legacy of Jesus: Bloodline of the Nazarene
  • Life of a King   
  • Murder Eleven
  • A Night in the Woods   
  • Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer
  • Reaching for the Moon
  • Reel Zombies
  • Reverend (2014)
  • Riot
  • Seal Patrol
  • Semi Colin
  • Sidney Sheldon’s Windmills of the Gods
  • Smokey and the Bushido
  • Sorority Party Massacre
  • Spirit of the Marathon II
  • Testing Life
  • Unidentified (2014)
  • Wadjda   
  • Young Detective Dee: Rise of The Sea Dragon   2-denied2

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