Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movie Review: "Father of the Bride" (1991)

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Movie"Father of the Bride"
Director: Charles Shyer
Year: 1991
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

With his daughter Annie (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) returning from Europe, George Banks (Steve Martin) is looking forward to spending some quality time with his little girl. He is hit with the shock of a lifetime when she returns madly in love with a fiance named Bryan (George Newbern). Now, George is facing the very harsh reality that his little girl is now all grown up, and he has to let her go for good, a prospect he is having trouble coping with as the person who used to be the only man in her life.

Directed by Charles Shyer, "Father of the Bride" is a 1990's comedy remake of the 1950's film of the same name. This version stars Steve Martin as George Banks, a father who is having a hard time dealing with the fact his daughter is growing up. Joining Martin is Diane Keaton as George's wife Nina, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who plays their daughter Annie, and a very young Kieran Culkin as George and Nina's "surprise" son Matty. Annie has recently been to Europe for several months to study the architecture there and has just returned home. She surprises her parents with the news that she "met a man in Rome, and he's wonderful and brilliant, and they're getting married." Her fiance's name is Bryan, played by George Newbern, an independent communications consultant who comes from a wealthy Bel Air family. Upon first meeting Bryan, Nina adores him and how much he loves her daughter, but George? George nitpicks every single thing about Bryan and instantly dislikes him and his handsy approach to their daughter. Since George still sees Annie as his little girl despite her being in her early 20's, he has a little trouble coming to terms with his daughter's impending nuptials.

Steve Martin does an excellent job filling the role of the overprotective, zany parent who is at odds with throwing his daughter her dream wedding, but simultaneously doesn't want to let his daughter go. He gets into numerous situations that are extremely awkward but hilarious, though they are almost always due to his own bad judgment. This film takes a more traditional stance on weddings, and as per unwritten rule, the father of the bride is in charge of paying for the wedding. George isn't exactly poor, but he's certainly not as well off as his daughter's soon-to-be in-laws. Very soon after the wedding date is set, the tremendous pressure of the upcoming lush, extravagant, and expensive wedding begins mounting on George. Between having to rearrange his house, having to sit in on cake and china procurement, trying to find a tuxedo that fits and isn't from the 70's, picking and choosing who to invite and discovering who may or may not be's all too much for him. It doesn't help that Annie and Nina have hired a wedding coordinator named Franck, played by Martin Short, who is constantly breathing down his neck. Needless to say, chaos ensues, and as things progress in the planning of this wedding, things start to fall apart for not just George, but those closest to him who have to endure his wedding-induced insanity. As the expenses go up, so too does George's instability, which leads to his eventual breakdown. The only one there to force him to get a grip is his lovely wife Nina, and Diane Keaton does an outstanding job playing his wife, tasked with roping him in on several occasions. Much less agitated and much more levelheaded, Keaton provides the voice of reason during the wedding planning madness. Kimberly Williams-Paisley is not a hugely well known actress, but her portrayal of Annie, a woman who just wants to marry the love of her life, is excellent. She holds her own with veteran actors Martin, Keaton, and Short, and feels wise beyond her years. She and George Newbern have believable, luminous chemistry, as do Martin and Keaton. And speaking of Martin Short, the aforementioned wedding jitters leads to some hilarious, over the top comedic moments from Short, who, odd accent and all, does an equally fabulous job in his smaller role.

I grew up watching "Father of the Bride" and have fond memories of it. Watching it now as a married adult, I love it just the same. The situations might be zany, but there is an underlying tenderness to it all, and though some might see George's actions as abhorrent, pushy, and rude, well, remember, this is a comedy. We always enjoy pulling this movie out, and when we do, we know we're in for a worthy, solid remake that does justice to its source featuring a tremendous cast, some hilarious exchanges, and a whole lot of heart.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 73%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Movie Review #474: "Florence Foster Jenkins" (2016)

Movie"Florence Foster Jenkins"
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
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Wealthy heiress and philanthropist Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) lives for and loves music. Her dream is to sing at Carnegie Hall, but there's just one problem: she can't really sing, though she doesn't know it. Her husband St Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant) will do anything to keep her from learning this fact, even if means bribing a lot of people to do it.

Directed by Stephen Frears, who is known for films like "High Fidelity" and "The Queen," "Florence Foster Jenkins" tells the story of the woman herself. The always fabulous Meryl Streep plays the titular character Florence Foster Jenkins, a wealthy, quirky, odd heiress with a deep and unabashed love for music and the voice of a tortured chimpanzee. As we all know from her other storied, excellent past roles, Streep is actually quite the accomplished singer, so she does a brilliant job pretending she can't sing a note on key. Hugh Grant plays the husband of Florence, Mr. St Clair Bayfield, who loves his wife and is deeply devoted to her despite living in a separate house with a live-in mistress. Florence is very ill and St Clair will do whatever he can to keep her happy and comfortable, even if it means allowing her to perform an operatic concert for the masses. He never lets on that she can't sing and does his best to make sure no one else does either, even if it means bribing critics and surrounding her with agreeable friends and audience members who have benefited from her philanthropy. As the film progresses, we learn more about why Florence loves music so much, as well as understand where she has come from and has been in her life in regards to her money, her family and friends, her relationships, and of course, those who help her musically.

As we fully expected, Meryl Streep is Florence Foster Jenkins. She is absolutely brilliant in this movie. Every horrible note, every tear, every scream, every laugh, we believe Streep as Jenkins 100%, and that's why it is an honor, nay, a privilege to watch her act every time she graces us with her presence. Streep may be closing in on her 20th Academy Award nomination with her performance in this film. Surprisingly, this may be Hugh Grant's best performance to date. Grant is a much more devoted, involved, and believable character than we've seen from him in the past, and we truly loved his performance. Don't be surprised if you hear his name called at the Oscars next year, either. They both give worthwhile, engaging portrayals of their respective persons. Grant and Streep have incredible chemistry together in their aged, mature relationship, and even when they are apart from each other, we never once doubt their love for one another. Joining Grant and Streep is Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon, the man given the fortunate (or unfortunate privilege, depending on how you look at it) of being the pianist for Florence Foster Jenkins. McMoon is all too aware Florence cannot sing, but a steady job paying $150 a week during the time of WWII is just too much to pass up, reputation be damned. We know Helberg in name only and are unfamiliar with most of his work (mainly because we do not watch "The Big Bang Theory"), but his acting here is a pleasant, delightful treat and quite a surprise.

"Florence Foster Jenkins" can be quite funny while Florence is singing, even though it is not really supposed to make us laugh. Whenever she is thrust upon the general, unbribed public, there is a hearty mix of uncontrollable laughter and secondhand embarrassment. At some point, though, many of those who watch her perform take a liking to her ironically because they believe she is a comedic genius, even if that comedy is unintentional. There is a delicate balance between "should we be laughing at her?" and "oh man, she is terrible!" and "awww, she's just so sweet!" Ultimately, this is a charming movie with stellar performances from its three main actors. One could argue it is simply a movie about a wealthy woman feeding her own ego through self-indulgent delusions bolstered by those who benefit financially from her generosity, but this would be a very cynical outlook. There is a deep heart and sincerity to "Florence Foster Jenkins," one that is very endearing even if it feels overlong and mostly drawn out to squeeze a couple more tears from the audience. Mostly, this is an amusing, irresistible film about a woman you should probably know about if you're into music. Check it out if you're into such things.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

"Thelma & Louise" 25th Anniversary Special Event!

Tomorrow, for one night only in select cinemas, Wednesday August 24th, 2016 at 2 PM and 7 PM, relive the classic film "Thelma & Louise" on the big screen for its 25th anniversary, courtesy of Fathom Events, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Park Circus!

Special Fathom Feature: Featuring a special introduction from film critic Ben Lyons talking about the legacy of Thelma & Louise and why, after 25 years, it is still considered the ultimate road trip movie.

Movie summary: Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) - a bored housewife and a straight-laced waitress at a coffee shop - are best friends who are sick of what they've settled for. Deciding to escape the tedium of their everyday lives, the pair sneak off in Louise’s '66 T-bird convertible for a three-day fishing trip with no husbands, no boyfriends and no problems. But things don’t go quite according to plan when an encounter with a drunken, foul-mouthed, would-be rapist transforms their quiet getaway into a cross-country escape that will change their lives forever.

This film will be shown in the same aspect ratio as when it was originally released in cinemas.

For tickets, please check out this Fathom Events link. We hope to see you there for this very special occasion!

Movie Review: "The Mechanic" (1972)

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Movie"The Mechanic"
Director: Michael Winner
Year: 1972
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

A meticulous hit-man (Charles Bronson) takes a young apprentice (Jan-Michael Vincent) under his wing to teach him the tricks of the trade.

Directed by Michael Winner and written by Lewis John Carlino, "The Mechanic" tells the story of a cold-blooded, methodical hit-man who has uncounted ways to end the lives of his targets. Charles Bronson plays Arthur Bishop, the aforementioned hired gun who has spent the last many years developing a routine of sorts when it comes to killing. After a health scare and the ultimate realization that he doesn't have anyone in his life, Arthur takes a young man named Steve, played by Jan-Michael Vincent, under his wing to teach him all of the knowledge he has acquired over the years when it comes to being a assassin. Steve has shown he has the proper, borderline sociopathic attitude that makes him an ideal candidate to be a hit-man, and Arthur hopes to capitalize on this, but there's just one problem. Arthur has a secret that may very well flip the script on him once Steve realizes who he really is.

"The Mechanic" is a very solid crime thriller. Early on, the filmmakers set the tone and display the skills of their anti-hero protagonist. They show the lengths he is willing to go to in order to kill his marks, as well as his ability to make his assassinations look like accidents. The first 16 minutes of this film are devoid of any dialogue as we watch Arthur assemble his weapons, listen to classical music at a very loud volume, and learn about his finer tastes in life as he sets up his first mark. We really understand the mentality of this character and get drawn in by him despite the fact he kills people without remorse. When Steve enters the story, he is developed in almost the same way as Arthur, by displaying his cold-blooded nature in a scene involving some sort of romantic fling and the sadistic, borderline inhumane way he treats her.

Unfortunately, this movie is not without its flaws. It is a bit uneven. The beginning is much more of a thriller about planning hits and pulling them off seamlessly whereas the second half of the film falls into a more action-oriented style. The assassinations that take place in the second half of the film include vehicle chases and shootouts and aren't remotely clean, but they are always entertaining in a raw, untainted, boom-tastic way. Charles Bronson really lights up the screen with his gruff, hardened exterior. He is always the perfect choice for roles like this due to his rugged look, piercing eyes, and stoic, steely demeanor. Bronson is not a large, imposing guy with an intimidating stature, but he looks like a person who has been through rough, tough, hard times in life, so much so that it wears it this his face, which gives him his intimidating look. I had personally never seen a Charles Bronson picture prior to "The Mechanic," but I really, really like his style and look forward to watching more of his movies over time. The dude did have a pretty rad, fierce mustache. Jan-Michael Vincent is surprisingly excellent as Steve, the flitty but cold protege of Arthur's, but all eyes are pretty much on Bronson the entire show.

Overall, "The Mechanic" is quite engaging and very exciting at times. It is certainly worth checking out to experience an excellent action thriller with a classic 70's feel and a deeper look into the mind of a hired, well trained assassin. Plus, we have to give the movie props for its incredibly tight, very quick, ballsy ending, which pretty much made the entire thing worth it.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 40%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Movie Review: "Big Fish" (2003)

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Movie"Big Fish"
Director: Tim Burton
Year: 2003
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

A man tries to reconnect with his dying father and learn about his life beyond the fantastical tales his father fed him growing up.

Directed by Tim Burton, "Big Fish" is a fantasy drama based on the Daniel Wallace novel "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions." It boasts a wonderful and fitting cast including Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, and Marion Cotillard, as well as many bit parts performed by the likes of Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew McGrory, Missi Pyle, and Deep Roy, including others. This film is all about a relationship between a father and son mostly told through a love story between a husband and wife. Will Bloom, played by Billy Crudup, has had a falling out with his father Edward, played by Albert Finney. Now, many years later, Ed is dying, and Will is looking to reconcile their strained relationship before it is too late. Will's biggest issue is he feels he doesn't really know his father since his dad has always had a tendency to tell overly fantastical tales about his life that never rang true to reality. Will regales the life of his dad to the audience the way Edward himself told his stories. We get to experience the amazing adventures of Edward Bloom, played by Ewan McGregor in his younger years, embellishments and all, and boy, are they adventures to behold.

This movie hits pretty close to home for us for many reasons, but primarily because BigJ can see many elements of his own father within the character of Edward Bloom. Maybe that's the point of it all. We've seen elements of ourselves and our loved ones in the characters on screen in many different movies and in many different capacities, but few films are able to achieve this with the precision-point accuracy of "Big Fish." This is a visually striking and beautiful film that displays the colorful and whimsical side of Tim Burton rather than the dark, gothic one. There are so many iconic visuals throughout this film that will burn themselves into your memory long after the VCR/DVD/blu-ray/streaming player has been turned off. It's hard to pick our favorite visual moment because there are just too many, but a few that come to mind are when Edward displays his of love for Sandra in the form of thousands and thousands of yellow daffodils outside her dorm room window, and when Edward sees Sandra for the first time at the circus and time freezes as he makes his was through the expansive crowd. This is a true display of Burton at his best. "Big Fish" also has a gorgeous Oscar nominated score by Danny Elfman, which not only adds whimsy, but also aids in the storytelling aspect, too. The acting is great from everyone involved, including a few memorable performances by Finney, Crudup, Lange, and McGregor.

No matter how many times we watch "Big Fish," we are reduced to tear-filled, blubbering little messes by the end of it. Though many viewers might not "get" what this story and movie are really about, at the end of the day, we're willing to call it Tim Burton's best, most underrated film because its message, themes, characters, and essence resonate so strongly with us. We absolutely adore every aspect of this movie, no matter how sad it may make us when all is said and done. The acting is perfect, the vast cast is vibrant, and the story boasts a big, fanciful plot full of lessons in life, love, lies, imagination, and loss. Please do yourself a favor and watch this gem of a film.

My Rating: 10/10
BigJ's Rating: 10/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Movie Review #473: "War Dogs" (2016)

Movie"War Dogs"
Director: Todd Phillips
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
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A massage therapist teams up with his best friend from junior high to start a business selling guns to the US military.

"War Dogs" is directed by Todd Phillips and is based on the true story of American arms dealers Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played here by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller. The primary focus is on the character of David Packouz, who goes from being a massage therapist in Miami working for $75 bucks an hour to an international arms dealer working on a $300 million dollar weapons supply contract with the US military. Being directed by Todd Phillips, who is responsible for movies like "The Hangover" series, "Old School," and "Starsky & Hutch," many expected this to be a comedy, and the marketing for the film certainly didn't try to dissuade this notion. This is very similar to what happened with "Whisky Tango Foxtrot" earlier in the year, how the film was marketed as a comedy and people were surprised and off put when it wasn't. Prepare yourselves, the same can be said of "War Dogs." At best, this film is a dark comedy, but as a whole, it's really more of a biographical drama with a few ironically humorous situations and lines of dialogue. It almost seems lost in a middle ground between genres, never totally sure what it wants to be. There are dramatic moments and some darker comedic ones, but it's also got a couple of scenes meant to be thrilling, all while attempting to be an indictment of the military industrial complex by shedding a light on the use of war as a means to drive the economy. It wants to examine these issues the same way "The Big Short" delved into the 2007-2009 housing and financial crises, but manages to do so with far less sophistication and a much more bro-ha-ha approach.

Luckily, the acting in "War Dogs" is acceptable and really drives the entire movie when the story suffers from an identity crisis. Both Jonah Hill and Miles Teller perform their parts convincingly, but Hill is definitely the standout. He plays a very obnoxious and reactionary character in Efraim Diveroli, powered by gaining money and screwing anyone he can to get more of it. He never shows his true persona, instead opting to fit who he is perceived to be based on who he is with at the time. Diveroli is the kind of guy who idolizes the Brian De Palma classic "Scarface" and his rise to power as a drug kingpin, but forgets Montana wound up dead in the end. Miles Teller's David Packouz is the far more levelheaded of the two business partners. Desperate to get himself out of financial hardships, and with a baby on the way with his girlfriend Iz, played by Ana de Armas, Packouz teams up with junior high bestie Diveroli. He can't help but love all the money coming in at first, until he wises up and finally sees Efraim may actually screw him in the long run. Kevin Pollak also has a limited but impactful role as their silent business partner Ralph Slutzky, who owns a chain of dry cleaners and thinks he is investing in doing the lord's work with a devout man in Efraim. Finally, Bradley Cooper plays Henry Girard, a bad ass gun runner who eventually teams up with the guys in order to fulfill their hefty order for the American government. In his limited capacity, Cooper is also effective, talking in a deeper-than-normal voice and with slicked back hair because, you know, he's a gun runner. Girard is also not what he seems, which is a constant theme throughout the film.

We were really hoping for a lot more from "War Dogs," but in the end, we were left with a product that was only "fine," which is super disappointing. This film doesn't know what it wants to be and gets muddled down by trying to be too many things all at once. Todd Phillips may not have been the right directorial choice for this movie, and with too much Miles Teller voice over and not enough risks being taken in its storytelling, we suggest holding off on this one until it comes out to watch at home.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~59%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

Weekend Box Office Report: August 19th, 2016 - August 21st, 2016

"Suicide Squad" gets one more week on top; "Ben-Hur" poised to be one of this year's biggest flops

*all numerical information provided by
Hey, movie lovers! Hope you had a great weekend! Here are your weekend box office results!

"Suicide Squad" was able to hold on to the top spot for one week longer. It made $20,170,000 in its third week out, bringing its domestic total gross to $262,283,335. In second place, once again, was "Sausage Party," which adds another $15,325,000 this weekend, and its two-week total now sits at $65.3 million. The first of the weeks newcomers, the Todd Phillips-directed "War Dogs" came in third place by making $14,300,000. The second newcomer of the week, "Kubo and the Two Strings," made a disappointing $12,610,000. Please go see this film, it deserves your money! Finally, the last of the newcomers, the $100 million dollar "Ben-Hur" remake, made a mere $11,350,000 and is sure to be one of the year's biggest flops. Don't mess with the classics.

This WeekDomestic Gross
1 Suicide Squad$20,170,000$262,283,335
2 Sausage Party$15,325,000$65,326,019
3 War Dogs$14,300,000$14,300,000
4 Kubo and the Two Strings$12,610,000$12,610,000
5 Ben-Hur$11,350,000$11,350,000
6 Pete's Dragon$11,331,000$42,892,269
7 Bad Moms$8,068,000$85,800,428
8 Jason Bourne$7,980,000$140,879,150
9 The Secret Life of Pets$5,770,000$346,724,270
10 Florence Foster Jenkins$4,300,000$14,405,743

*See you at the movies!!!*