THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. || August 14th, 2015

TheManFromUNCLE-poster THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. || No one was really asking for a feature film remake of the 1964 television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” but if Guy Ritchie’s going to give it to us, we might as well take it. Following the footsteps of fellow spy films like the James Bond series and the “Mission: Impossible” franchise, both of which we’re getting a dose of this year, it almost seems redundant to continue in this vein. Armie Hammer with an accent doesn’t really sell it for me. But Alicia Vikander does, and for that I’ll give it a shot.
THEATER
MistressAmerica-poster MISTRESS AMERICA || Director Noah Baumbach, like David Gordon Green and Wes Anderson, is unafraid to lean hard into his sense of humor, no matter how dry or off-putting it might be. With “Frances Ha,” he teamed with Greta Gerwig to make blissful movie magic, so returning to her side to also pen this latest feature, “Mistress America” seems only fitting. Much in the same realm as all his previous films, the main characters may not be completely likable but they are entertaining.
RENT
StraightOuttaCompton-poster STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON || Blowing all expectations, “Straight Outta Compton” proves that by sticking to your guns and making the film you truly want to make, you can overcome any odds. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre produce with Ice Cube’s son actually playing the role of his father. This tells the story of the rap group that basically started it all, N.W.A. to which most people know the story. And with a two-and-a-half hour run-time, I’m blown away by the numbers it pulled off. Could be enough to launch it some Oscar buzz.
THEATER
Underdogs-poster UNDERDOGS || REPOST: With some bigger names on the voice cast, like Nicholas Hoult and John Leguizamo, as well as an interesting enough story involving a young, picked-on boy beating his bully at Foosball only to have his bully grow up to be one of the world’s best soccer players and coming to own his small town, for which the picked-on boy must give the bully a rematch to win back the town, with the help of the wood Foosball player that have come to life. As convoluted as that may sound, it actually rings through. But as far as animated films go in general, there is not much to write home about with this one.
PASS

Air-poster AIR || Simple, two man, one location films such as “Air” are likely a dream compared to some of the huge productions going on these days. The premise of the film is anything but small however, as two men are stationed to control a “farm” of people in suspended animation after the world runs out of breathable air. The catch is, the breathable air in the station is about to run out and Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou must figure out a way to navigate this perilous situation without killing humanity’s last chance. As simple as this idea may be, these two men, although talented are unable to peak my interest.
PASS
AlleluiaDevilsCarnival-poster ALLELUIA! DEVIL’S CARNIVAL || Heaven. Hell. It all looks the same in this. Like “Repo! The Genetic Opera,” this sequel to “The Devil’s Carnival” titled “Alleluia!” is some sort of underground, punky musical with strange make-up, and strange casting choices. Can’t say this is anywhere near my wheelhouse.
PASS
Amnesiac-poster AMNESIAC || Kate Bosworth has never looked so in control. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a lovely girl, but she’s never blown me away. Now, I don’t see her doing that with this role in “Amnesiac” either, but at least she’s headed in the right direction. Basically a new spin on the story “Misery,” about a woman keeping her favorite writer captive, Bosworth plays a strange woman keeping Wes Bentley locked up and calling him her husband. The cold look in his eyes is handled with such precision, I almost can’t say no.
STREAM
BigSky-poster BIG SKY || Bella Thorne is apparently on the popularity rise, as she’s shown and talked about everywhere. But she really hasn’t done much to get that attention. Before her star rise, she was on some Disney Channel show I believe and then in the Adam Sandler movie “Blended”. But now that her star has risen, you can find her in the television series “Scream” and this latest feature, “Big Sky,” where she plays a girl with agoraphobia who gets involved with in a homicide and must walk through the desert to find help. Frank Grillo also stars.
PASS
Blackhats-poster2 BLACKHATS || REPOST: The quality of “Blackhats” is laughable. The acting is rigid and melodramatic, there are lines in this trailer that had me laughing out loud, and it’s not even imitating anything notable. I couldn’t even finish this trailer, it was that bad.
PASS
BloodCells-poster BLOOD CELLS || Visually, this is striking. Critically, the reviews are quite good. But there’s still something missing from “Blood Cells” that makes it not high on my interest level. The trailer does a nice job of selling the better qualities of the film, at least, with the visuals of the burning field and the dying farm (the dead cow on the forklift was memorable) and the haunting music of the violin matches perfectly, but when my gut says there’s something missing, I tend to listen to it.
PASS
TheBoy-poster THE BOY || Right on the edge of wanting to see this or not, “The Boy” follows a nine-year-old boy who, with his mother gone and father (David Morse) slipping into a dark place himself, begins to show signs of a sociopath. With a drifter (Rainn Wilson) staying at the motel that he and his father maintain, he apparently has a guide down a dark path of his own, with some “final, unnerving metamorphosis” that is the film’s climax. Very creepy, and highly tense, it might be a great film but it might also just be a really great trailer.
PASS
Exeter-poster EXETER || “Exeter” is a horror film, so automatically I’m inclined to at least give it a show. It sets up a haunted rehabilitation center that was once for the mentally handicapped, but was actually a much darker place. Enter a group of teenagers looking to mess with the occult and you get what ends up being an exorcism movie with hints of comedy intertwined. It definitely is all over the place but still has hints of at least a B-horror movie. And it comes from the director of the rebooted “Friday The 13th” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” so at least it’s not a nobody. If it embraces its Rated-R nature enough, I could get aboard.
STREAM
FinalGirl-poster FINAL GIRL || Dammit, I was really hoping to like this trailer for “Final Girl,” because not only am I interested in where Abigail Breslin’s career is headed and for once Wes Bentley doesn’t look completely terrible in a role, but also because it’s basically around the horror genre, with the idea of the “final girl” being in most slasher films. In this particular film, a group of guys pick up women and drop them off in the woods to hunt them. But one girl (Breslin) has been trained her whole life to take them out. Unfortunately, the style is all over the place and that’s probably because director Tyler Shields is a photographer and this is his directorial debut. He might finesse his style over time but for now it feels sloppy.
PASS
FortTilden-poster FORT TILDEN || Normally I reserve seeing this type of kitschy, off-beat, female-centric comedy from directors that I know and trust. But with positive reviews and enough originality in the trailer, I’m slightly on board with “Fort Tilden,” a comedy about two “new age” females who invite themselves on a beach day trip as they trek across Brooklyn on their bikes. Making dry, dark comedic jokes and sticking out in a world of normal people, these two women do revoke a sort of “Romy and Michele” throwback.
STREAM
TheLostKey-poster THE LOST KEY || The tag-line for “The Lost Key” is: “the universal secret of Jewish sexuality revealed.” Don’t even get me started on how narrow that makes the audience for this film. In a documentary where a rabbi talks to Jewish couples about their sexuality through intimacy, for any non-Jewish viewers, the only thing you realize is that some rabbis do at least have a sense of humor and are unafraid to broach topics like this. Being Catholic, I feel like the topic of sex is usually avoided and anyone that does talk about it is somehow “dirty”. So this type of openness is actually quite refreshing.
PASS
Meru-poster MERU || “The test for the master climber”. That’s how this Meru mountain is described in the trailer for “Meru,” a mountain climbing documentary following a group of men putting their lives on the line. The film includes interviews with author Jon Krakauer (“Into Thin Air”). As a layman of sorts, at least in regards to mountain climbing, I’ll never understand putting your life on the line, especially when you have a family back home, and when the danger of dying is very real. There are some breathtaking views in this film, but if you’ve seen one mountain climbing film, I feel like you’ve seen them all.
PASS
MollyMoon-poster MOLLY MOON AND THE INCREDIBLE BOOK OF HYPNOTISM || Welcome to Harry Potter 2.0 a.k.a. “Molly Moon and the Incredible Book Of Hypnotism”. The graphics look exactly the same, the beginning story almost identical except swapping the gender of the protagonist, and even the magical elements draw similarities. You’ve got to wonder if the creators of this film knew they were drawing these connections and if they thought anyone wouldn’t notice. Sadly, the quality is nowhere that of the Potter films and how Dominic Monaghan got mixed up in this as the villain I do not know.
PASS
OnceIWasABeehive-poster ONCE I WAS A BEEHIVE || Whatever someone needs to get over a loss cannot be judged, in my opinion. Obviously nothing that hurts anyone, but you get my point. “Once I Was A Beehive” may look like a terrible, low quality film about a young girl that loses her dad and decides to go to nature camp in his honor, but to me, it feels like someone portraying a story that is close to home. And if that helps them to deal with loss, than all power to them. I will not see the film, but hope it had it’s re-nourishing effect that its creator needed from it.
PASS
OneAndTwo-poster2 ONE & TWO || Truly original science fiction Indie films are hard to come by, especially good ones. But “One & Two” looks to be in that realm, as a brother and sister deal with some superhuman powers while being locked away on at a secluded farmhouse with their parents. But when the urge to leave home and enter civilization becomes too much, the daughter (played by Mad Men’s Kiernan Shipka) escapes. The effects look great, borrowing the teleporting idea from “Jumper” and paying great homage to it with or without trying.
RENT
PeoplePlacesThings-poster PEOPLE PLACES THINGS || There’s something darkly funny about “People Places Things,” especially from the lead Jermaine Clement (“The Flight of the Conchords”). Lines like “I’m just having a bad life… don’t worry it’ll be over eventually” and his interactions with his two young girls are priceless. Being a father myself now, films about raising children peak my interest a little more now, and knowing how complicate love and life can be, this film really does resonate.
STREAM
Prince-poster PRINCE || Visually interesting at times and borrowing from the violence and erratic nature of films like “Drive” and “Spring Breakers,” “Prince” (no correlation to the singer) follows a young man as he navigates his neighborhood filled with junkies as well as trying to impress the girl of his dreams by wearing a crown and driving around with his bad-natured friend in his purple Lamborghini. With no dialogue in the trailer, it is hard to get a real read on the film and from visuals alone, I am not sold.
PASS
ReturnToSender-poster RETURN TO SENDER || After “Gone Girl,” Rosamund Pike definitely has my respect. With a mixture of sexy and thoughtful, kind and possibly crazy, Pike was the perfect pick for “Gone Girl” and now it no surprise that she’s being cast in this psychological thriller roles like in “Return To Sender,” where she is the victim of a rape and after the assailant goes to jail, she keeps in contact, exacting her revenge. Although the film has terrible reviews, there is something about Pike’s performance here that is drawing me in.
STREAM
TenThousandSaints-poster TEN THOUSAND SAINTS || A stacked ensemble cast playing the roles that really were meant to play still doesn’t say “Ten Thousand Saints” from feeling a bit washed out and low key. Ethan Hawke plays the cool dad role that almost won him as Oscar in “Boyhood,” Hailee Steinfeld plays the down-to-earth love interest who unintentionally gets pregnant, and Asa Butterfield shows his first real, authentic performance outside of “Hugo” and “Ender’s Game”. But still this feels lacking.
PASS
TomAtTheFarm-poster TOM AT THE FARM || Coming off last year’s film “Mommy,” director Xavier Dolan brings a psychological thriller being compared to Hitchcock titled “Tom At The Farm,” about a man whose lover dies. Leaving the city to attend the funeral at his lover’s parents farm, he is surprised to find that his lover’s parents were expecting a female in his place, and for this, he keeps his identity a secret, only to be “drawn into a twisted, sexually-charged game by Guillaume’s aggressive brother (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), who suspects the truth”. As interesting as this may sound on paper, the trailer itself does nothing to sell the movie.
PASS
Unity-poster UNITY || Supporting the message of all of us being equal and needing to put our petty desires for supremacy behind us, “Unity” is a reflective documentary that attempts to get this point across with the voices of over 100 celebrities including Geoffrey Rush, Helen Mirren, and almost anyone you could think of. Humans, animals, and trees being equal is the statement being made, as the film reflects on the being of time, the problems facing our planet, and the strange, predisposed nature of men to need to fight and wreck havoc on the planet. But I do not need a film to help validate these feelings in myself.
PASS
WeComeAsFriends-poster WE COME AS FRIENDS || In 2011, South Sudan declared its independence. “Surreal, moving, infuriating” is how The New York Times describes the documentary “We Come As Friends,” about the new form of colonization that occurred following the independence declaration. Not real specific on what exactly happened once this event took place, with many accolades accompanying the film, including a win at the 2014 Sundance and from an Academy Award nominated director (Hubert Sauper, “Darwin’s Nightmare”) you could do a lot worse in picking a documentary, but it will definitely not be a pick for me.
PASS

THEATER

  • The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
  • Straight Outta Compton

RENT

  • Mistress America
  • One & Two

STREAM

  • Amnesiac
  • Exeter
  • Fort Tilden
  • People Places Things
  • Return To Sender

PASS

  • Air
  • Alleluia! The Devil’s Carnival
  • Big Sky
  • Blackhats
  • Blood Cells
  • The Boy
  • Final Girl
  • The Lost Key
  • Meru
  • Molly Moon And The Incredible Book Of Hypnotism
  • Once I Was A Beehive
  • Prince
  • Ten Thousand Saints
  • Tom At The Farm
  • Underdogs
  • Unity
  • We Come As Friends
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