Focus ***



“Focus” finds Will Smith back on the big screen two years following “After Earth”. He also finds himself in R rated territory which is rare for him. It is nice to see him taking on more adult fare and plays well to his strengths. In this film he plays a con artist who takes a protege under his wing then falls in love with her.

Smith plays Nicky. The novice he begins teaching is Jess played by Margot Robbie. When their partnership becomes romantic Nicky ends it abruptly as he believes that there is no room for heart in the con game. Cut to three years later and Nicky is caught up in a con involving race car owners when Jess turns up out of nowhere, reigniting their feelings for each other which makes the game much more dangerous.

“Focus” was written and directed by the team of Glen Ficarra and John Requa who previously directed a little seen gem called “I Love You Phillip Morris” as well as the generic “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. “Focus” is a solid film by this team and contains some seriously entertaining set pieces but I did feel like it was half a story with a rushed ending. A lot of time is spent introducing us to these characters and their world which was truly fascinating. The third act of the film felt rushed and a bit contrived as if they did’nt know where to take it all.

Smith and Robbie are magnetic as Nicky and Jess. They play off each other rather well. Their romance also had some great chemistry. I think my favorite sequence was the betting that took place at the big game half way through the film. It starts out as small time and escalates in to potential danger. Its moments like this that the actors were at their best.

In the end “Focus” is an entertaining and well acted film. There are some short comings in the screenplay but it did not deter me from having a fun time with this flick.

What We Do In The Shadows ****

“What We Do In The Shadows” is the funniest and most original comedy I have seen in a while. Made from the creators of the brilliant show “Flight Of The Choncords”, this hilarious and gore filled horror comedy really caught me by surprise.

If you have ever seen shows like “The Office” or “Parks and Rec” then right away you will be familiar with the setup of this movie. It is told from the point of view of a documentary crew as they follow around their subjects, stopping for side interviews here and there. The catch is that they are observing a group of vampires living in New Zealand played by Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi, and Johnathan Brugh.

I can tell you that these vampires have been living together as roommates for too long. They have lived in the same house for centuries in fact. The film opens with a house meeting as they argue over cleaning dishes and general housekeeping. This sets the tone for a hilariously original flick. I think what I loved the most is how their Vampire powers always pop out unexpectadly such as abilities to fly as well as hyptnotize people. Such things come in handy when the police show up unexpectadly to investigate a disturbance.

I think I laughed the loudest when I one of the characters preps his victim by placing newspapers on the floor around them to minimize the mess. This becomes pointless when the goofy killer accidently hits an artery and it sprays out like a lawn sprinkler.

We also meet other creatures of the night when the vampires run in to a pack of insecure Werewolves lead by the always funny Rhys Darby. He tries to keep his pack as civil as possible by avoiding swearing and chaining them all to trees when the full moon is out.

“What We Do In The Shadows” is a film that you will probably have to look hard to find. It seems like it is destined to find it’s audience on the home front as oppposed to in theatres. Either way I hope it finds great success as it is truly hilarious and is also a damn good horror film. It does not hold back on the gore or violence which has been lost during this whole vampire craze.

Jupiter Ascending ***

“Jupiter Ascending” is not going to be everyones cup of tea. I am shocked to find out that this film had a 170 million dollar budget. Don’t get me wrong you can see where the cash was spent as this is an awesome visual film. I just think that the story and characters are not going to be able to bring in mainstream audiences. There are no superheroes or fast cars. Instead we get a total throw back to when sci-fi films had a sense of goofy adventure. I was reminded of films like “Star Wars” before they became all serious.

The plot of this film is almost indescribable. It involves Mila Kunis as a house maid who is unaware she is a galactic princess and Channing Tatum as a warrior sent to protect her. Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a young woman stuck in a life she is not very satisfied with. Tatum is Caine, a man crossed with the DNA of a wolf, bread to be warrior. Together they find themselves whizzing through the streets and skyline of Chicago then across the galaxy.

The visuals and the effects are the star of the show here. The film is directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski who bring their trade mark visual flair and eye for style to this film. Ever since “The Matrix” they have found themselves working on massive visual effects pictures. Their last movie, “Cloud Atlas” was one of the best films of 2012. “Jupiter Ascending” almost pales in comparison but is fun in it’s own rights.


The action involves some breathtaking sequences mostly involving some killer gravity boots that allow Tatum’s character to glide along any surface as if it was a sheet of ice. I also enjoyed the space bound battles as well.

To enjoy “Jupiter Ascending” I believe you must put your brain on hold for an evening. It is a sugar rush for the senses and not much more. After a lengthy awards season this might be just what we needed.

Paddington ***

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“Paddington” is a surprisingly touching and funny family film. Usually this kind of live action fare goes the way of “Alvin And The Chipmunks”. This film written and directed by Paul King, actually lets us get to know the characters and gives them real stakes and life issues. This is an uncommonly thoughtful movie about a talking CGI bear.

I have never known much about the character of Paddington or the history of the Brown family but on the basis of this movie I would like to know more. They are a loveable bunch who are fully dimensional characters. We even get to know their histories a little bit. Paddington grew up in Peru with his aunt and uncle. When he was very young they came in contact with an English explorer who urges them to move to London one day and stay with him. Years later when Paddington’s home is destroyed in a hurricane he heads to London on his own in search of the explorer. What he finds is the Brown family who are an eclectic mix.

The family sees him at the train station and take him in to their home, much to the dismay of Mr. Brown. An adventure ensues as they try to solve the mystery of who the mystery explorer was. Not surprisingly Paddington becomes fond of the Brown family and they become fond of him.

What interested me the most was just how intimate we become with the Brown family. We get to see how life and family has changed them over the years. Mr. and Mrs. Brown love each other deeply but have grown apart a bit after having children. The kids are growing in to teenagers and are dealing with life at that age as well.

The side plot involving Nicole Kidman as a Cruella Deville type character seems a little thrown in but does create the crisis at the end of the film where the Brown’s must rescue Paddington before he becomes a museum exibit.

Family movies come and go but none of them really leave a lasting impression on us. “Paddington” is the rare exception that is not only fun for the whole family but also quite engaging.

Taken 3 **

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I didn’t really think we needed a second “Taken” movie let alone a third. The plot this time does not even involve anybody actually being taken. We get the same cast of characters and the same title, presumabley to boost the grosses. The result is a fairly enjoyable thriller that really servces no purpose other than to show Liam Neeson shooting and fighting people. It is no where near as bad as the second movie but it is still kind of pointless.

The plot I won’t get in to. Neeson plays Brian Mills who is framed for the murder of his ex-wife. Action and violence occupies the screen until we get to the predictable resolution. If you like your thrillers to be this brainless then you will get a kick out of it. I find myself wondering why the violence was so wated downt his time? The first movie had an R rated edge and was not afraid to delve in to the darker side of criminals and gangsters. This time the action is more frantic and PG-13 like. I found it a little annoying.

When this movie was nearing it’s end I found myself hoping that they would of gone down the road that “22 Jump Street” did and end with a preview for all the potential sequels. I can see some hilarious trailers for “Taken” 4-40 in my mind. Perhaps they take his puppy or his favorite plant. Maybe they need to stop taking us for our money.

The Best Films Of 2014

These were my favourite films of 2014.

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13 “Guardians Of The Galaxy” “I am Groot.”

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12 “The Babadook” “You can’t get rid of the Babadook.”

2015/01/img_1163.jpg11 “Selma” “Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? Every white lawman who abuses the law to terrorize. Every white politician who feeds on prejudice and hatred. Every white preacher who preaches the bible and stays silent before his white congregation. Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? Every Negro man and woman who stands by without joining this fight as their brothers and sisters are brutalized, humiliated, and ripped from this Earth.”

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10 “The Equalizer” “I’ve done some bad things in my life, Nicolai… Things I’m not proud of. I promised someone I love very much that I would never go back to being that person… But for you, I’ll make an exception.”

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9 “Inherent Vice” “ows up with a story about her current billionaire- developer boyfriend, and his wife, and her boyfriend, and a plot to kidnap the billionaire and throw him in a loony bin…Maybe you should just look the other way.”

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8 “Joe” “I don’t know who I am, but I know what keeps me alive is restraint. Keeps me out of jail. Keeps me from hurting people. A mark of some fucked-up faith that there’s a reason. A reason for all this. A reason in most moments I shouldn’t do what I wanna do. Do as I’m told.”

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7 “The Skeleton Twins” “That is bullshit. You’re my brother. And we’re supposed to be there for each other. And if you don’t get that by now, then, I don’t know, I guess I’ll talk to you in another ten years.”

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6 “The Grand Budapest Hotel” “You’re looking so well, darling, you really are… they’ve done a marvelous job. I don’t know what sort of cream they’ve put on you down at the morgue, but… I want some.”

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5 “Birdman” “It’s important to me! Alright? Maybe not to you, or your cynical friends whose only ambition is to go viral. But to me… To me… this is – God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.”

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4 “Whiplash” “Were you rushing or were you dragging? If you deliberately sabotage my band, I will gut you like a pig. Oh my dear God – are you one of those single tear people? You are a worthless pancy-ass who is now weeping and slobbering all over my drumset like a nine year old girl!”

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3 “Boyhood” “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

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2 “Chef” “Ten years ago, I had the good fortune to dine at Chef Casper’s revelatory Miami bistro, Marrow. The sheer audacity of this fresh, brave voice of the culinary scene reminded me why I write about food as a vocation. It is nearly impossible to separate my glowing regard for Chef Casper and how much he inspired me from my expectations as I sat down to dine at the recently remodeled Brentwood Gallic staple, Gauloises. Oh, how times have changed.”

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1 “Nightcrawler” “My motto is if you want to win the lottery you’ve got to make money to get a ticket.”

A Most Violent Year

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“A Most Violent” year has been has been recieving some of the highest critical praise of the year. It has been compared to films like “The Godfather” and “Scarface”. What did I miss here? The film I saw was a very generic crime thriller with performances that bordered on over the top. When I read the synopsis of this film I was expecting something completely different. It is set during the most statistically violent year the city of New York has ever had. Why wasn’t the story about that?

The plot involves an immigrant man played by Oscar Isaac and his family as their business is threatened with indictment for a series of corporate crimes. This leads Isaac and his wife (Jessica Chastain) in to a murky web of deceit while trying to keep meet deadlines and avoid the law. The violence of the city is also threatening their business.

The direction by J.C. Chandelor is first rate but his screenplay is at times confusing and muddled and plays out in rather generic fashion. All throught he movie I was wondering why they were no focusing on the rampat violence in the city and what city officials and the police were doing about it. That could of been some compelling drama. Instead we get a series of family squabbles and dramatic showdowns between the main characters and the police as well as some shady individuals.

I was very dissappointed in “A Most Violent” year. What is more perplexing to me is how this film is getting such praise. What did critics see in this that I did not?