Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Heat / ***½ (R)

Ashburn: Sandra Bullock
Mullins: Melissa McCarthy
Hale: Demian Bichir
Levy: Marlon Wayans
Jason Mullins: Michael Rapaport
Julian: Michael McDonald
Craig: Dan Bakkedahl
Adam: Taran Killam
Rojas: Spoken Reasons
Mrs. Mullins: Jane Curtain
Captain Woods: Tom Wilson

20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Paul Feig. Written by Katie Dippold. Running time: 117 min. Rated R (for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence).

I’m just going to come out and say it. Melissa McCarthy is some sort of comedic genius. McCarthy makes this movie. She makes it into possibly the funniest movie of the year almost single handedly. Perhaps that’s not giving her headliner enough credit. Sandra Bullock is no slouch and now that she’s graduated from the unpredictable character to the straight woman, she’s found the role she was meant for in an action comedy.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Goonies (1985) ***

PG, 114 min.
Director: Richard Donner
Writers: Chris Columbus, Steven Spielberg
Starring: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Ke Huy Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey, Lupe Ontieros, Mary Ellen Trainor, Keith Walker, Curtis Hanson

They just don’t make this type of movie anymore—the tweenie summer adventure. “The Goonies” isn’t a great movie, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It embodies going to the movies in the summer for me. Today it’s either the big budget extravaganza for the kids, or the latest CGI 3D animation. Well, I suppose they’re both in 3D now. Now, I’m depressed.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Invictus (2009) ***½

PG-13, 134 min.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Anthony Peckham, John Carlin (book “Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation”)
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Tony Kgoroge, Patrick Mofokeng, Matt Stern, Julian Lewis Jones, Adjoa Andoh, Marguerite Wheatley, Leleti Khumalo, Patrick Lyster, Shakes Myeko

With Nelson Mandela’s health concerns of late, I can’t help looking back at a movie about the revered leader who has done so much to change the course of racial relations in the world, starting with the very country that took away almost half of his life. It’s amazing more movies haven’t been made about him. It’s even more surprising that the highest profile movie made about him is structured like a classic sports movie that looks at his role in inspiring South Africa’s national rugby squad to win the 1995 World Cup.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Fall, season 1 (2013) ***½

TV-MA, 5 60-min. episodes
Creator: Allan Cubitt
Directors: Jakob Verbruggen
Writers: Allan Cubitt
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Jamie Dornan, Bronagh Waugh, Niamh McGrady, John Lynch, Sarah Beattie, David Beattie, Siohban McSweeney, Michael McElhatton, Ian McElhinney, Gerard Jordan, Simon Delaney, Frank McCusker, Ben Peel, Emmett Scanlan, Aisling Franciosi, Lisa Hogg, Archie Panjabi, Nick Lee, Karen Hassan, Laura Donnelly, Stuart Graham, Eugene O’Hare, Gerard McCarthy, Séainín Brennan, Lucy McConnell, Brenda McNeill, Brian Milligan, Chris Corrigan, B.J. Hogg, Tara Lynn O’Neill

Americans are interested in the whodunit aspect of the crime story; not the actual who, but the mystery of it. British audiences seem to be more interested in the mechanics of it all. The mechanics of the investigation, the mechanics of the criminal act, the specifics of the psychology that goes into both sides, and the ever-present criminal element on the side of the law.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Safe (2012) **

R, 94 min.
Director/Writer: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Jason Statham, Catherine Chan, Reggie Lee, Robert John Burke, James Hong, Anson Mount, Chris Sarandon, Sándor Técsy, Joseph Sikora

Jason Statham is one of those actors that I have a strange respect for despite the fact that he rarely appears in the types of movies that I enjoy. More accurately, he rarely appears in movies I feel are any good. Perhaps my respect comes from the fact that I know if it came down to him and me; I’d just kneel down and say ”Uncle!” without a fight.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Wrong (2013) **½

NR, 94 min.
Director/Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Starring: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner, Regan Burns, Mark Burnham, Arden Myrin, Kuma

“Wrong” is the sophomore picture from the man who brought us all what we wanted to see in the film “Rubber”, a film about a tire that terrorized people with its telepathic powers. That’s right. You read correctly, “a tire that terrorized people with its telepathic powers.” It was a surprisingly brilliant film in its simplicity and absurdness.

Monday, June 24, 2013

World War Z / **½ (PG-13)

Gerry Lane: Brad Pitt
Karin Lane: Mireille Enos
Thierry Umutoni: Fana Mokoena
Segen: Daniella Kertesz
Captain Speke: James Badge Dale

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Marc Forster. Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and Drew Goddard & Damon Lindelof, and J. Michael Straczynski. Based on the novel by Max Brooks. Running time: 116 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense frightening zombie sequences, violence and disturbing images).

I’m beginning to feel a little schizophrenic about the zombie subgenre of horror movies. On the one hand, I’ve seen so many zombie movies—especially over the last decade—that I’m beginning to feel zombied out. On the other, it’s the one horror subgenre that continually produces something original and intriguing to the genre no matter how overdone it is. So, along comes the film adaptation of a novel that has proven to be one of those zombie event stories that people are responding to in a way that suggests there are still avenues to pursue in the zombiverse.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Monsters University / **** (G)

Featuring the voices of:
Mike: Billy Crystal
Sully: John Goodman
Randy: Steve Buscemi
Dean Hardscrabble: Helen Mirren
Squishy: Don Sohn
Don: Joel Murray
Terri: Sean Hayes
Terry: Dave Foley
Art: Charlie Day
Professor Knight: Alfred Molina
Greek Council VP: Tyler Labine
Johnny: Nathan Fillion
Claire Wheeler: Aubrey Plaza
Chet: Bobby Moynahan

Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures present a film directed by Dan Scanlon. Written by Daniel Gerson, Scanlon & Robert L. Baird. Running time: 110 min. Rated G.

I was disappointed with the last two Pixar outings, “Toy Story 3” and “Brave”. They’re both good movies, but they just weren’t up to the snuff of Pixar’s usual ingenuity. Many have speculated that the wonder company is losing its touch by succumbing to the Hollywood sequel engine, with little more original ideas or characters in their reserve. “Monsters University” might fall back on a setting and characters they’ve explored in the past, but like “Toy Story 2” before, it proves that there are multiple avenues in one city that can act as roads to success.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Penny Thoughts ’13—Monsters, Inc. (2001) ****

G, 92 min.
Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson, Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston, Robert Baird, Rhett Reese, Jonathan Roberts
Voices: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn, Mary Gibbs, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson, John Ratzenberger, Frank Oz, Daniel Gerson, Steve Susskind, Bonnie Hunt, Jeff Pidgeon, Sam Black

I was a huge fan of “Monsters, Inc.” from the moment I saw it, which was kind of a unique situation that speaks to the power of Pixar Animation and how it changed the animation industry in the United States. I was in Columbus, Ohio at an arborist industry trade show. It was Friday night, and we were looking for something to do after the conference events had wound down. It was also where my brother happened to live at the time, so he came out to join us for dinner. So it was me, my brother, my new father-in-law, and three other men who spend their days cutting and lugging trees around for a living. After narrowing it down to a movie, which one do we choose to go see? Not the new Steven Segal, or the latest Smith & Wesson commercial. No, we all chose to see the latest Disney animated film about the monsters that live in children’s closets. And no, we didn’t think it was a horror movie.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Hannibal, season 1 (2013) ****

TV-14, 12 43-min. episodes
Creator: Bryan Fuller, Thomas Harris (novel “Red Dragon”)

Directors: David Slade, Michael Rymer, Guillermo Navarro, James Foley, Tim Hunter, John Dahl

Writers: Bryan Fuller, Thomas Harris (characters), Jim Danger Gray, David Fury, Chris Brancato, Scott Nimerfro, Kai Yu Wu, Jesse Alexander, Jennifer Schuur, Steve Lightfoot, Andy Black

Starring: Hugh Dancy, Mads Mikkelsen, Laurence Fishburne, Caroline Dhavernas, Hettienne Park, Scott Thompson, Aaron Abrams

Guest starring: Kacey Rohl, Vladimir Jon Cubrt, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Mark Rendall, Torianna Lee, Gina Torres, Eddie Izzard, Raul Esparza, Anna Chlumsky, Gillian Anderson, Dan Fogler, Demore Barnes, Lance Henriksen, Ellen Muth, John Benjamin Hickey

“Hannibal” is the rare example of a television series from another source that actually transcends its source material. Ever since most film audiences were introduced to the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme’s “The Silence of the Lambs” we have been fascinated with this sometimes-charming and highly intelligent man, diabolical gamesman, and outright cannibal.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

James Gandolfini (1961-2013)

The first movie in which I ever noticed actor James Gandolfini was one of his earliest. In the Tony Scott/Quentin Tarantino action love story “True Romance”, Gandolfini played a low level mob enforcer who was sent by Christopher Walken’s Vincent Coccotti to track down a suitcase of drugs that had made its way from Detroit to L.A. He drives the brutal scene in which he beats Patricia Arquette’s Alabama nearly to death in a hotel room. It’s not a very big role, but that scene marked the entry of a powerful and charming actor into the major Hollywood spotlight.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Abduction (2011) *½

PG-13, 106 min.
Director: John Singleton
Writer: Shawn Christensen
Starring: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Michael Nyqvist, Sigourney Weaver, Maria Bello, Jason Isaacs, Denzel Whitaker, Victor Slezak, Antonique Smith, Dermot Mulroney

Hrm. Once again we have one of those movies that inspires mostly grunts of discontent from me. This one really isn’t even all that bad. It just isn’t good. I feel like I’ve written those same words about other movies before. I’m sure I have. Well, this one is so much the same as other movies; in fact, it feels like it is another movie.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Mad Men, season 1 (2007) ****

TV-14, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Matthew Weiner

Directors: Alan Taylor, Ed Bianchi, Tim Hunter, Leslie Linka Glatter, Andrew Bernstein, Phil Abraham, Paul Feig, Matthew Weiner

Writers: Matthew Weiner, Tom Palmer, Lisa Albert, André Jaquemetton, Maria Jaquemetton, Bridget Bedard, Chris Provenzano, Robin Veith

Starring: Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, Vincent Kartheiser, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, Maggie Siff, Bryan Batt, Michael Gladis, Aaron Staton, Rich Sommer, John Slattery, Robert Morse, Kiernan Shipka

Guest starring: Remy Auberjonois, Darren Pettie, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Cullum, Talia Balsam, Anne Dudek, Darby Stanchfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Allport, Jim Abele, Kate Norby, Ian Bohen, Paul Schulze, Nathan Anderson, Christa Flanagan, Ryan Cutrona, Allan Miller, Mark Moses, Troy Ruptash, Katherine Boecher

Yes, I’m just now jumping on the “Mad Men” bandwagon. My wife and I actually started watching these last fall. We took our time with them, but we enjoyed every minute. Compared to the twists and drugs of “Breaking Bad”, or the blood and gore of “The Walking Dead”, or the terrors of “American Horror Story”, or the sex of “The Americans”, “Mad Men” seems downright tame these days. But, it’s juicy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jack Reacher (2012) **

PG-13, 130 min.
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Lee Childs (novel “One Shot”)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, David Oyelowo, Jai Courtney, Richard Jenkins, Werner Herzog, Alexia Fast, Vladimir Sizov, Joseph Sikora, Michael Raymond-James, Josh Helman, Robert Duvall

“Jack Reacher” is the type of movie that reminds me of the way my middle child likes to do his chores. He refuses to do them in the efficient ways we try to teach him. He prefers to come up with his own way to do things that rarely take into consideration his end purpose. He likes to take the long way around things. It seems almost everyone in “Jack Reacher” likes to take the indirect approach. Reacher himself is the biggest offender.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Last Stand (2013) *½

R, 107 min.
Director: Kim Jee-Woon
Writer: Andrew Knauer
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Jaimie Alexander, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Peter Stormare, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Genesis Rodriguez, Zach Gilford, Christiana Leucas, Harry Dean Stanton

This isn’t exactly a Father’s Day movie, but it is a movie I would’ve watched with my father, and he would’ve enjoyed it much more than I did by myself. It’s what he called “a Smith & Wesson commercial.” That’s a movie you watch just to see a lot of shooting and explosions. In that sense, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this movie. It’s silly, but it gets the job done in terms of gratuitous violence.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—A Day at the Races (1937) ***½

NR, 111 min.
Director: Sam Wood
Writers: Robert Pirosh, George Seaton, George Oppenheimer
Starring: Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Allan Jones, Maureen O’Sullivan, Margaret Dumont, Leonard Ceeley, Douglas Dumbrille, Esther Muir, Sig Rumann, Robert Middlemass

This makes my third Marx Brothers movie after “A Night in Casablanca” and “Duck Soup”. After watching those I was surprised to find that I preferred the former. As you can guess by its similar title “A Day at the Races” is more in line with that film. “Duck Soup” is more like unbridled madness, while the “Day/Night” movies have much more traditional storylines. These two are definitely entry point Marx Brothers movies.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel / *½ (PG-13)

Clark Kent/Kal-El: Henry Cavill
Lois Lane: Amy Adams
General Zod: Michael Shannon
Martha Kent: Diane Lane
Jor-El: Russell Crowe
Jonathan Kent: Kevin Costner
Perry White: Laurence Fishburne
Colonel Nathan Hardy: Christopher Meloni
Dr. Emil Hamilton: Richard Schiff
General Swanwick: Harry Lennix
Foara-Ul: Antje Traue
Lara Lor-Van: Ayelet Zurer

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Zach Snyder. Written by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan. Based on the DC Comics characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  Running time: 143 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language).

I’ve written a lot recently about homage and purists and different takes on original concepts. This is because the reboot has become the new sequel for Hollywood. For every sequel that is made, it seems another franchise is being overhauled and approached from completely different points of views these days. Much of that is due to the success of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy, which saw a total revamp of the already successful—at least at the box office—Batman franchise. Nolan’s take on Batman abandoned all the film sources that had come before, and reworked the superhero from the ground up. The Nolan produced “Man of Steel” attempts to do the same thing with the once popular Superman franchise, and somehow it all goes terribly wrong.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Skyfall (2012) ***½

PG-13, 143 min.
Director: Sam Mendes
Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan, Ian Fleming (characters)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Lim Marlohe, Rory Kinnear, Ben Wishaw, Ola Rapace, Albert Finney

You can read the majority of my thoughts on the most recent James Bond film, “Skyfall”, in my original review. What I want to concentrate on in this first Penny Thoughts for the movie are the reasons why I didn’t go all the way and give this movie four stars. Many called it the best Bond ever. I can see where they’re coming from. I liked this one almost as much as the last two. In some ways I liked it even more, but there was a little intangible something missing for me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Superman Returns (2006) ****

PG-13, 154 min.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, Bryan Singer, Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters)
Starring: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando, Kal Penn, Tristan Lake Leabu

Every time I rewatch “Superman Returns” I find myself feeling the need to defend it. I think it is brilliant. Many critics thought it was very good at the time of its release. Audiences: not so much. This defect with the general public is often attributed to the slow pace of the movie and lack of frequent action scenes. I think someone who is bored by this film is defining more about themselves than they are about the movie.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) ***

R, 94 min.
Director: Roger Mitchell
Writer: Richard Nelson
Starring: Laura Linney, Bill Murray, Samuel West, Olivia Coleman, Elizabeth Marvel, Olivia Williams, Elizabeth Wilson
Perhaps I’m just a sucker for backstage historicals, but I’m not sure why the majority of audiences and critics upon its release readily dismissed the film “Hyde Park on Hudson”. It is not a great film, and it’s possible people wanted it to be because of its subject matter. With the recent Oscar winner “The King’s Speech” revealing an aspect of history of which many Americans were previously unaware, it’s possible people wanted this film to reach for that one’s greatness. It doesn’t even try, but that’s part of its charm.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2013) **½

R, 86 min.
Director/Writer: Roman Coppola
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Katheryn Winnick, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette, Aubrey Plaza, Dermot Mulroney, Mary Elizabeth Winstead

I am a huge fan of Roman Coppola’s directorial debut, 2001’s little seen “CQ”. He’s co-written a couple of Wes Anderson’s features, including last year’s brilliant “Moonrise Kingdom”. He’s worked as a second unit director on most of his sister Sofia’s films and all of his father Francis’s later career movies since “Dracula”. He has a unique cinematic mind that has me anxious to see anything he’s involved with.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Superman II (1980) **½

PG, 127 min.
Director: Richard Lester
Writers: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman, Tom Mankiewicz, Jerry Siegel (characters), Joe Shuster (characters)
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Gene Hackman, Terence Stamp, Sarah Douglas, Jack O’Halloran, Jackie Cooper, Ned Beatty, Valerie Perrine, Susannah York, Clifton James, E.G. Marshall, Marc McClure

It’s a little harder to be kind to the follow up to the first comic book superhero movie to get it right. “Superman II” didn’t get it right. That’s understandable when you consider the story behind the making of it.  Richard Donner began directing it simultaneously with the original “Superman: The Movie” as an epic 2-part movie. Almost finished with principal photography of the second film, production was halted so he could finish editing the first film so he could make its December 1978 release date. Then, Warner Bros. never returned him to the project. Instead, they hired Richard Lester, who made a name for himself directing the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!”, to finish the project by re-shooting a good portion of Donner’s footage and adding some scenes that Donner had never intended.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Crow (1994) **

R, 102 min.
Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: David J. Schow, John Shirley, James O’Barr (comic book)
Starring: Brandon Lee, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, Sofia Shinas, Anna Thompson, David Patrick Kelly, Angel David, Laurence Mason, Michael Massee, Tony Todd, Jon Polito

It’s more than sad that the most significant thing about the movie “The Crow” is that it was the final screen appearance of Brandon Lee due to a freak accident on set that saw the actor and son of screen legend Bruce Lee killed by a gun shot during shooting. His first headlining role was in 1992’s “Rapid Fire” and with “The Crow” he was poised to become a new action star. Alas, it was not to be so.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Dark Tide (2012) *½

PG-13, 114 min.
Director: John Stockwell
Writers: Ronnie Christensen, Amy Sorlie
Starring: Halle Barry, Oliver Martinez, Ralph Brown, Mark Elderkin, Luke Tyler

“Dark Tide” is a shark diving horror film that tries to make up for its gratuitous use of the shark as a symbol of terror by posting claims of shark protection advocacy and programs where you can learn more about the benevolence of sharks at the end of the credits. The truth is, the sharks in this movie aren’t inaccurately depicted as the species of animal they are in their natural habitat; it’s just that the script surrounds them with humans that make stupid choices placing them in situations where they become natural prey for the ancestrally ancient fish.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Revolution, season 1 (2012-2013) ***

TV-14, 20 45-min. episodes
Creator: Eric Kripke

Directors: Jon Favreau, Charles Beeson, Sanford Bookstaver, Félix Enríquez Alcalá, Jon Cassar, Steve Boyum, Guy Norman Bee, Fred Toye, Miguel Sapochnik, John F. Showalter, Nick Copus, Helen Shaver

Writers: Eric Kripke, Monica Owusu-Breen, Anne Cofell Saunders, Paul Grellong, David Rambo, Matt Pitts, Melissa Glenn, Jim Barnes, Oahna Ly

Starring: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, David Lyons, JD Pardo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Daniella Alonso

Guest starring: Anna Lise Phillips, Graham Rodgers, Tim Guinee, Maria Howell, C. Thomas Howell, David Meunier, Michael Mosley, Mark Pellegrino, Derek Webster, Michael Bowen, Shane Callahan, Jeff Fahey, Ric Reitz, Kim Raver, David Andrews, Maureen Sebastian, Todd Stashwick, Phillip DeVona, Colin Ford, Josh Cox, Conor O’Farrell, Colm Feore, Alyssa Diaz, Reed Diamond, Michael Harding, Nishi Munchi, Glynn Turman, Leland Orser, James Shanklin, Patrick St. Esprit, Glenn Morshower, Nestor Serrano, Malik Yoba, Kate Burton, Leslie Hope, Annie Wersching, Jason Brooks, Timothy Busfield, Michael Gladis, Robert Neary, Rus Blackwell, Robin Spriggs, Ramon Fernandez, Tarek Alame, Omid Abtahi, Raheem Babalola

The first season of Jon Favreau’s action adventure series “Revolution” proved to be one of the few successes for NBC this season. It’s compiled of adventure elements that have worked in other shows and some that haven’t. Of the recent series that it reminds me of the most, last year’s near miss “Terra Nova” comes the closest in spirit. The first half of the season was merely good, but didn’t really take the risks the producers seemed more willing to explore in the second half of the season. I could’ve taken or left the first half. The second half proved much more interesting.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

After Earth / ** (PG-13)

Kitai Raige: Jaden Smith
Cypher Raige: Will Smith
Faia Raige: Sophie Okonedo
Senshi Raige: Zoë Isabella Kravitz

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Written by Gary Whitta and Shyamalan. Based on a story by Will Smith. Running time: 100 min. Rated PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence and some disturbing images).

There are capable filmmakers and there are mediocre filmmakers and there are former filmmakers. Director M. Night Shyamalan falls in the capable filmmaker category. What keeps him from entering the forth filmmaker category, the great filmmakers, is that he has yet to realize him limitations, which mostly come in the writing department. He will never be a mediocre filmmaker, so the only way for him to stay out of the former filmmaker category is to come to terms with the fact that there are certain scripts that he should leave to more capable hands.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Arrested Development, season 4 (2013) ***½

TV-PG, 15 30-min. episodes
Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz

Directors: Mitchell Hurwitz, Troy Miller

Writers: Mitchell Hurwitz, Jim Vallely, Richard Rosenstock, Caroline Williams, Dean Lorey

Starring: Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Will Arnett, Michael Cera, David Cross, Tony Hale, Alia Shawkat, Jeffrey Tambor, Jessica Walter

Narrator: Ron Howard

Guest starring: Henry Winkler, Kristen Wiig, Seth Rogen, Christine Taylor, Ed Begley Jr., John Beard, Scott Baio, James Lipton, Andy Richter, Conan O’Brien, John Slattery, Ron Howard, Isla Fisher, Maria Bamford, Karen Maruyama, Ed Helms, Jayden Maddux, Chris Diamantopoulos, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Judy Greer, Brian Grazer, Liza Minnelli, Allan Wasserman, Carl Weathers, Max Winkler, Rich Aliaandanost, Jeff Garlin, Ben Stiller, Alan Tudyk, Ione Skye, Mae Whitman, Justin Grant Wade, Bruce McCulloch, Pedro Lopez, Jerry Minor, Clint Howard, Debra Mooney, Terry Crews, Justin Lee, Daniel Amerman, Tommy Tune, Marc Brandt, Daisy Galvis, Carter Hastings, Amy Hill, Bobby Lee, Bernie Kopell, Martin Mull, Suzanne Whang, Jay Johnston, Richard Jin Namkung

The cult TV show “Arrested Development” is back with a fourth season after a seven-year hiatus. The show was resurrected by Netflix to become part of their exclusive original content programming. It returned with record subscription numbers for the company, but not the most glowing of reviews. Critics complained that the format had changed. Some have even complained about how some of the actors, who are all seven years older, look. I suppose such controversy over such a highly anticipated and unprecedented move by the movie and TV streaming company can only be expected.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Cop Land (1997) ***

R, 104 min.
Director: James Mangold
Writer: James Mangold
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, John Spencer, Frank Vincent, Malik Yoba, Arthur J. Nascarella

I originally saw “Cop Land” about six months before it was released in theaters. It was the only test screening I’ve ever been involved with. It might be a good example of how ineffective test screenings are. The version I saw at that screening was about ten minutes shorter than the theatrical release. It was tighter and faster paced, although this isn’t exactly a fast-paced subject matter. Better paced is probably a more accurate way to put it. This theatrical cut is good, but the earlier cut was great.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Light and Time: The Visual Art of Brian Eno (2013) ***½

NR, 7 min.
Director: Scott Thrift
Featuring: Brian Eno

To coincide with Brian Eno’s latest project, a visual art exhibit titled “77 Million Paintings”, which was on display in New York City for the past month, Red Bull Music has produced a short documentary about the famed music producer’s obsession with light and time. The film is a new look inside the mind of a man who has shaped many of today’s musicians that deals with the way he sees visual art, which is not a far cry from how he seems to hear aural art.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Kill List (2012) ****

NR, 95 min.
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writers: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Starring: Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley, MyAnna Buring, Emma Fryer, Stuan Rodger

“Kill List” is a particularly British thriller. In its opening passages it plays like a domestic trouble picture, with an out of work husband and his wife arguing over paying bills and spending their money appropriately on things they need, like toilet paper instead of 10 bottles of wine. Then two friends come over for dinner one night. The men are long time friends and the other man seems to know the wife very well. His date is a new girlfriend who does something very strange at the end of the evening.