Saturday, June 27, 2015


Everybody grew up on the Beach Boys music.  There is not a person of any age in this country that doesn’t recognize several Beach Boys songs by just the first few notes.  That being the case, it is important to understand that Love and Mercy is not about the Beach Boys.  It is about Brian Wilson, the genius behind the group.  If you’re looking for a film that celebrates the heyday of this phenomenal band by showing how they were formed and playing lots of their songs in an obvious and predictable musical biopic, this is not it.   

                This movie highlights two parts of Brian Wilson’s life; a period in the 60’s in which he is in the process of creating Pet Sounds, one of the greatest albums ever made.  The other is in the 80’s when Brian was recovering from a long bout with depression and he is attempting to get his life back on track.  The interesting thing about the film is that it is actually telling two different stories at the same time.  The narratives run parallel to each other, switching back and forth from one to the other.  It is not a situation in which the storylines are going to tie into each other or something like that.  This is legitimately two totally different stories being told, similar to something like Pulp Fiction.  This format is very original and it absolutely works.   The stories are equally engrossing and it is a toss-up at any given time which one is the most interesting. 

                I cannot fully express in this review just how great the acting is in this film.  Every single actor in the movie delivers a great performance.  The unknowns are great.  More famous stars like John Cusack and Paul Giamatti are great.  The real story however, are the performances of Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks.  They are never in the movie at the same time and each owns their portion of the film.  Dano plays the young Brian Wilson.  This is without a doubt the greatest performance of his career and my personal favorite of the year so far.  It is a thrill to watch this terrific young actor portraying the genius Brian Wilson so masterfully.  His performance is so real that it actually feels like a documentary.  The in-studio scenes are so well filmed and expertly acted that it really feels like you are watching a genius at work.  Banks, on the other hand, does her best work in the more subtle moments.  Her facial expressions tell you all you need to know about the way she feels about Brian and what dire straits they are in.  I am so happy to see these two long-underrated performers getting these kind of roles and delivering Oscar worthy performances. 

                If there is one thing that is on par with the acting here it is the screenplay written by Oren Moverman and Michael Lerner.  This is a slow-paced, dialogue driven character story.  The dialogue, which was absolutely crucial to the success of the film, is the best I have heard in a long time.  The conversations between characters feel remarkably real.  The exposition is delivered naturally and intelligently.  This is the best screenplay of the year to this point and I don’t foresee a better one coming any time soon. 

                This is not your average biopic.  It is a totally artistic film.  It is slow with very little action and is not going to appeal to the casual moviegoer.  Don’t let the fact that it is about a real person fool you.  This is not Walk the Line.  I love that movie too.  They are both great, but completely different types of films.

                This is, beyond any doubt at all, the best movie of the year so far.  In fact, this may be the best movie I have ever seen in a theater, including The Dark Knight, Gravity, and Les Miserable.  With the exception of Gone with the Wind, it is the best movie I have ever reviewed.  In case you don’t get the point by now, Love and Mercy is a great, powerful, and moving film.  It was a pleasure to watch.  I will never hear the Beach Boys the same way again.  The Movie Man gives it 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Dope is a film that was marketed very well, which is a rare case in these modern times.  I thought I knew what to expect from the movie, but I had no idea to what depth this film would go.  The trailers were very good, showing enough to draw interest while not exposing too much of the plot.  It was very refreshing to go to a movie thinking I had it all figured out only to realize that I didn’t know the half of it. 

                The story is about Malcolm, a high school senior who lives in a rough part of California.  Malcolm is, by his own admission, a geek.  He spends his time hanging around with his two geek friends, dressing like it’s 1990, and working toward getting into Harvard.  This is Malcolm’s life until he makes a foolish decision that changes everything. 

                 The character of Malcolm may be the best character I have seen in a movie this year.  This is a character driven film and a strong main character is its strength, as it should be.  Shameik Moore does a good job in this role, but he was very fortunate to have such a terrific character to portray.  He seems like a real person.  He is a geek, but not the stereotypical geek we generally see in movies.  He has a lot of confidence in some ways, which is one of the things that gets him in trouble in the film.  He has a demeanor about him that is very likeable but he has flaws.  Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa should be commended for creating such a tremendous character. 

                This is a very original screenplay.  That can be both good and bad.  In this case it is mostly good.  It’s basically a dialogue driven film and most of it is very engaging.  On the other hand, there are scenes in which the dialogue is not all that good, which stands out in a film that is paced as deliberately as this one is.  For the most part, it is a good, original, well written film. 

                The movie is highly entertaining.  It is funny in a realistic way.  No matter how bizarre the situation, it seems like something that could actually happen.   This is not a straight comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but there are still plenty of laughs to be had.  In fact, I would say it is probably the funniest movie of the year so far. 

                My biggest problem with the film is its tonal issues.  It can’t decide if it wants to be a light teen comedy or a very heavy drama.  It felt a bit manic at times.  I think some of that was because of the editing, which was all over the place.  Also, there was a major aspect of the plot that I didn’t really get.  This made the second half of the film feel a little disjointed. 

                I thought the ending of the film was very good for the most part.  It went in a different way than I was expecting.  The messages, which were delivered brilliantly in very heavy handed fashion in the final act, were on point and relevant.  There was one line at the end of the movie that bothered me.  It brought up a racial issue that was absolutely not necessary and hadn’t entered into the film at all up until that point.  Other than that, I thought the ending was spectacular. 

                This movie caught me completely by surprise.  That is a good thing.  It had its share of problems, but the originality and effort that was put into it makes up for a lot of that.  This is a movie that is certainly worth seeing and one that I will most likely watch again.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Unlike any movie I have seen in a long time, Inside Out was preceded by a Pixar animated short film.  It was called Lava, and it was about two volcanoes falling in love, or lava. (get it?)   I don’t know if this is something Pixar usually does, as this is the first one of their films I have seen in the theater, but I like the idea.  I did not, however, like the short film itself.  The animation was good, but the story was stupid and just overall weird.  This did not put me in a good frame of mind for the feature film. 
        Inside Out appears to be about a little girl named Riley but it’s actually about the five emotions inside her brain (Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust), which are portrayed as living characters that seem oddly similar to the seven dwarfs.  Everything has been going pretty good for Riley and her five friends until her parents decide to move them all to San Francisco.  That’s when the trouble starts. 

                The concept of this film is absolutely brilliant.  I have known that since the very first trailer I saw.  In a time when Hollywood is rumored to be “out of ideas” (an excuse that I don’t personally buy), it is refreshing to see a story idea that is so original.  This is a high concept film in every respect.  Not only that, it is a high concept film that works on the screen as well as on paper. 
                As I’ve already alluded to, the little girl Riley is not the main character in this film.  She is in fact, a very elaborate plot device.  That being said, I was impressed by her character arc just the same.  She is a very realistic and relatable character and we see her changing as the story progresses.  The movie allows us to get inside her head, quite literally, and we understand why she is doing the things she is doing.  This character actually goes to some surprisingly dark places throughout the course of the film. 

                The voice acting in the film is all very good, as is to be expected from a Pixar film.   The one that stood out to me was Amy Poehler as the voice of Joy.  She is no stranger to voice acting and it really shows here.  She brings a lot of extra humor to what is already a very cleverly funny script. 

                The real strength of this film is in its screenplay.  Much like with Pixar’s Up, also co-written and directed by Pete Docter, this film has phenomenal exposition early.  This exposition in the first five or ten minutes of the film keeps the entire thing from being convoluted.  This is a very good job of parallel story telling.  The screenplay is much more focused than it really has any business being under the circumstances.  Everything is very well organized and easy to follow.  The only issue I had was that there was one little adventure toward the end of the film that seemed slightly unnecessary.   Even so, some good things happened in this segment, so it is okay. 

                This is a very good, well-written movie that the whole family can enjoy (my cliché notwithstanding).  It is actually the best Pixar film in quite some time.  The characters are good and relatable.  The jokes are funny and the climax is….touching to say the least.  This film is definitely worth theater prices.  In fact, I would say please go out and see this film to financially support the fact that a movie this creative was actually made in 2015.  The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.   

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Monday, June 15, 2015


Considering the huge success of Batman, Spiderman, and Ironman franchises as of late, it seemed only a matter of time before Superman made his long awaited return to the big screen. Thanks to producer Christopher Nolan and director Zack Snyder, that hope has now become a reality. Man of Steel opened with as much hype as I have seen attributed to a movie in quite some time. But did it live up to th...e hype? Ah, that is the question.

 We all love a good super hero origin story and that's exactly what this movie is. It starts out on the planet Krypton with the birth of Kal-El. His parents Jor-El and Faura-Ur, played by Russell Crowe and Antje Traue respectively, broke the law and had the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries. Jor-El, the leading scientist in all of Krypton, had built a space ship that could fly their newborn son out of Krypton before the imminent demise of the planet was brought on by General Zod (Michael Shannon). The infant lands in a Kansas field where he is found by Jonathan and Martha Kent, and the rest is history.

I think what I liked most about this movie was that it avoided the corn that had impaired previous Superman franchises. It didn't show you a dehumanized version of boy scout Clark Kent. Instead, Snyder showed us a very nomadic and gritty beginning to Clark's adult life. Drifting from place to place taking random jobs and using different names, we see a down to earth and, dare I say, realistic approach to Superman that I personally loved. He, like all of us, had to find himself; had to learn who Clark Kent was. This is a little bit of an extreme case on account of he could fly and shoot fire from his eyes but at it's core this is a principle we can all relate to.

 Now eventually, General Zod, the guy who destroyed Kal-El's home planet of Krypton, comes to Earth looking for him. Zod, as I mentioned earlier, is played by Michael Shannon. I don't want to say Shannon was bad in the movie, I'll just say he didn't really stand out. He seemed like he would have been a really good TV show villain. That's just not enough for me in an epic movie like this.

On the other hand, I'm about halfway convinced that Henry Cavill is actually Superman. He was excellent! I'm talking about Oscar nomination caliber. I really didn't know who he was coming into this movie, but I will surely know who he is next time. Excellent casting and a STELLAR performance.

 The only real big problem I had with the movie was the excessive use of special effects. I was afraid that would happen under the direction of Zack Snyder (he did do Sucker Punch after all), who I have heard referred to many times as a visual director. What Snyder needs to learn is that there is a difference between being visual, and relying too heavily on the cheap thrills of CG special effects. In Man of Steel, Snyder does the later. In fact, he almost allows the firework show to completely devour the film at one point. With about thirty minutes left, I actually found myself nodding off a little and checking my watch every few minutes. The movie could have been fifteen or twenty minutes shorter, with a few less buildings being demolished. However, thanks to a very nice ending, they were able to put things back on track and win my interest back quickly.

The only other thing I could say is, I really didn't get Amy Adams cast as Lois Lane. I like Amy, this just seemed like a bad role for her to me. I can't say she was bad, just a little too soft spoken for what I wanted Lois to be. A little bit like Michael Shannon, she was sufficient, but not enough of a factor in my opinion.

So, the movie was very good. I would definitely recommend it to anybody, especially fans of the genre. I also think old school Superman fans are going to love this movie. As for me, I'll say it was the second best movie I've seen so far this year (The Great Gatsby was phenomenal), but did it live up to the hype? Tough call.   The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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Friday, June 12, 2015


I’m glad this movie was rated PG-13.  It does a great job of looking PG-13 while not being too soft or cartoony.  I saw a lot of young people in the theater watching this movie.  I think it’s a great thing that they have kept this something that kids can watch and enjoy. 

                Jurassic World is essentially the finally realized vision of John Hammond from Jurassic Park.  It’s a successful theme park/zoo where people can actually see dinosaurs.  It is so successful in fact that the clientele have become bored with the same old attractions.  This being the case, scientists have genetically engineered a new type of dinosaur.  A bigger, more aggressive, scarier dinosaur.  This could get out of hand in a hurry.  

                This movie is directed by Colin Trevorrow.  He is an unknown director and was a question mark for me going into the film.  In my opinion, he did a fantastic job with this movie.  I was particularly impressed by the action sequences.  They were mostly wide shots and long takes instead of the dreaded shaky or choppy style.  Most of the CGI looked really good as well.  Visually speaking, I had very few problems with the film. 

                Chris Pratt carries a good portion of this film.  He is terrific.  Bryce Dallas Howard, one of the most underrated actresses on earth, is good as well.  She does all she can with a character that left a lot to be desired.  Some of the best scenes in the movie are the interactions between these two great actors. 

                This screenplay was written by several different people and it shows.  It is very disjointed at times with several different side stories that don’t belong in the movie at all.  Some of these just seem to pop up out of nowhere and then just go away with little or no resolution to speak of.  There was an anti-military aspect that didn’t do anything but drag the narrative down.  There are also several conveniences in place as well as things happening that don’t make any sense.  I would also say the movie is a little bit too long as well.  One thing I will say positive about the screenplay was the unexpected and interesting ways it tied into the original Jurassic Park. 

                Pretty much every major character in this film, with the exception of Chris Pratt’s, is totally clichéd.  That was actually the first thing I noticed about the movie.  The actors do a good job with what they have, but the characters are not very well written.  Even the main antagonist dinosaur is written to be way too intelligent and perfect. 

                Regardless of the negative aspects I pointed out, I really enjoyed the majority of this movie.  It was a lot better than the trailers made it look.  The unknown director was impressive and the climax was absolutely terrific.  The ending reminded me a little of the ending of Godzilla.  That is a positive.  It was big and it felt big.  This ending is a major rush.  The movie as a whole is pretty good too.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.      

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Spy is technically a spoof comedy.  It starts off with a very nice opening credits sequence that is clearly a take-off on the Bond franchise.  But don’t expect this movie to be another Austin Powers.  It is more than a straight spoof.  This movie has its own identity.  That is a good thing. 

                This movie stars Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper, a timid office worker for the CIA.  Her job is to assist one of the top agents (Jude Law) when he is in the field.  As fate would have it, events occur that send the inexperienced Susan overseas to track a dangerous female arms dealer. 

                Initially, there was a lot that I really liked about Melissa McCarthy’s character in this film.  She was very relatable and likeable, not nearly the bumbling idiot that I was expecting her to be.  I liked that.  I didn’t want her to be completely incompetent.  My biggest problem with the movie is actually just the opposite; she is entirely too competent.  In fact there is pretty much nothing she can’t do.  Watching Melissa McCarthy make James Bond look like a bum is just bizarre.  She ceases to be the underdog pretty quickly, which pretty much defeats the whole purpose of the film. 

                When the humor in movie works, which is a good portion of the time, it is because the cast is so good.  All of the performances are on point.  This is the best I have seen McCarthy.  Her scenes with Jason Statham are the best in the film.  Rose Byrne is very good as well.  She is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses.  This entire cast is superb and makes the most out of a bunch of jokes that would not really be all that funny if they were delivered by less talented individuals. 

                The screenplay here is not all that good in my opinion.  The first act is the best.  That is a problem right there.  The concept is interesting, but the jokes about Melissa McCarthy’s character being kind of a loser are very heavy handed.  We get it, she is single and kind of timid.  Every character she talks to does not need to remind us of that.  As the story progresses, it just gets worse.  The logic falls apart pretty quickly, and then the plot twists start.  The whole thing becomes pretty overcomplicated.  Most of the action sequences are too unbelievable to be enjoyable, except for one fight scene in a kitchen that was done very well.  The movie limps its way to a climax that is entirely ridiculous.  By the time the film ends it has turned into something that very closely resembles a complete mess. 

                This movie is not entirely unwatchable.  It has several very enjoyable parts.  There are plenty of laughs and the performances are stellar.  I didn’t totally hate it, but my favorite part was the opening credits.  That is not a great sign.  It was certainly not as good as I expected it to be or hoped it would be.  The Movie Man gives it 2 out of 5 stars.      

Saturday, June 6, 2015


In 2010 a movie came along that shook us all with some of the most disturbing visuals put on film in years.  That movie was called Insidious and it not only resurrected the Tiny Tim song Tiptoe Through the Tulips, it resurrected the psychological horror genre itself.  Now, five years later, Insidious is officially a trilogy.  In all my years I don’t recall seeing a horror trilogy with three good installments.  That is to say, until now. 

                The movie is a prequel to the first Insidious chapter.  It features a young girl named Quinn, played by Stefanie Scott, who has just recently lost her mother.  There is a lot of obvious tension between Quinn and her father (Dermot Mulroney) who is also having a hard time dealing with the loss.  Feeling at the end of her rope, Quinn tries to contact her mother.  Unfortunately, when she calls out to mom, something else answers. 

                The issue that made me apprehensive about this film was the change in directors.  James Wan, a proven horror director throughout the past decade, is out and his longtime friend and writing partner Leigh Whannell is in.  I am pleased to say that Whannell is the surprise of this film.  Not only did he maintain in the role of director, but he excelled in it.  The direction here is a high spot.  This is a very well made horror film.  I was also worried that Whannell’s writing may suffer from his taking on extra responsibility, but I actually think this is the best screenplay of the franchise.  It is about as scary as the first two, but more focused and paced better than either one of those films.

                The tone of this film is what makes it.  It is the quietest movie I have seen in a while.  That fact lends itself well to suspense building, which Whannell does masterfully here.  The film is dark and intense and feels very similar to the previous two.  There are a few jump scares (no cheap ones) but most of the scares in the film are pulled off the hard way with long takes and good old fashioned artistic talent. 

                The film contains several very subtle and well done tie-ins to the first two Insidious movies.  This is something I hoped they would be able to do, but I was afraid they were going to force it.  This aspect of the film was handled very well and was probably one of my favorite things about the movie. 

                The acting in the film was another pleasant surprise.  I knew that Lin Shaye would be good and I am glad that she got an abundance of screen time in this one.  The Elise character is thoroughly fleshed out in this movie and Shaye is nothing short of brilliant.  She is even better than I expected her to be but the real surprise for me was Stefanie Scott.  You should keep an eye on this young lady.  She was terrific here in a role that was challenging, both emotionally and physically.  Dermott Mulroney did a good job as the father, who was the most interesting character to me.  Angus Sampson and, director Leigh Whannell are very entertaining once again as Tucker and Specs. 

                The last shot of this film is extraordinary, and it ends absolutely correctly.  The only real problem that I had however was that something about the climax just felt a little off.  It’s not a big thing, it just seemed a little too easy or something.  Don’t get me wrong, the ending is good, just not quite what I was hoping for. 

                I was very, VERY surprised by this film.  I loved it.  I cannot say enough for the job that Leigh Whannell did picking up where Wan left off.  This is a very good psychological horror film.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it is close.  The Movie Man gives it 4 out of 5 stars. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


If there is one thing I learned from the movie San Andreas, it is that I never want to move to a big city like LA or San Francisco.  If I am ever in a massive earthquake, I feel like I will have enough to worry about without skyscrapers falling on me.  Let’s face it, if this movie had been set out in the country somewhere, it would have been much less eventful. 

                The plot of this film is pretty easy to summarize.  There is a huge earthquake, lots of CGI, and The Rock.  Disaster movie fun.  That’s about all there is to it, really.  There is an attempt at a little deeper story involving Dwayne Johnson and his family, but none of that really matters in the big scheme of things. 

                This movie is full of conveniences, but the most obvious and important one is when the actual quake happens.  This scientist, played by the excellent Paul Giamatti, is at Hoover Dam studying earthquakes at the very moment when the series of monsters start happening.  In fact, the first thing to be destroyed in these quakes is, in fact, Hoover Dam itself.  That’s the first thing about the movie that really bothered me.  I enjoyed the opening sequence and I was ready to give this film a chance, and then this unbelievable coincidence took me right out of the story. 

                The biggest problem this movie had can be summed up in one word; CLICHES.  Every single cliché in the book came into play here.  They didn’t miss one.  There was even a “twist two wires together to start the car” scene.  The whole story is way too generic.  We have seen all of this a million times before.  There is nothing remotely new or creative anywhere near this movie. 

                It’s not all bad.  Most of the acting in this film is actually pretty good.  Johnson and Giamatti do everything they can to save it.  I would love to see Johnson play in something that is not absolutely terrible.  It has been a while.   All the acting is not great but there is nobody in the movie that is bad.  My favorite character in the film was a British kid played by Art Parkinson.  He was the only character in the movie that wasn’t completely generic.

                There are some cool visuals in the film.  Most of the CGI is done pretty well.  The problem is, there is just way too much of it.  After a while, it gets boring seeing buildings fall down.  Some of the shots I really like were big overhead shots of the city or Golden Gate Bridge.  There was a scene in which two characters are parachuting into AT&T Park that was well done.  For the most part though, it was just a complete CGI bombardment of the senses. 

                The ending was very bad.  It was predictable and, like everything else in the film, as generic as it could possibly be.  I didn’t want anything else bad to happen to these characters.  Not because I cared about any of them, but because I wanted the movie to be over.  At one point, I thought it was over and then some other unrealistic stuff happened and it went on for another few minutes.  The last line of the film is ridiculous and left me wondering what exactly the point was of all this overblown junk I had just sat through. 

                Unless you want to turn your brain completely off and stare at special effects for two hours, do not go see this movie.  There is nothing else here.  I had a pretty good idea what I was going to get with this film, but I gave it a fair chance.  I actually tried to like it.  That attempt didn’t last long.  The Movie Man gives it 2 out of 5 stars.