BIG HERO 6 – Rated PG

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Leave it to Disney to capitalize on it’s acquisition of MARVEL for billions six years ago, by bringing to the BIG SCREEN a BIG TEAM originally formulated in Marvel Comics – but the names have been changed to protect the innocent – and that just happens to include an adorable marshmallow-man looking robot for good measure, get ready to experience the next Oscar Worthy animated film for 2015 – BIG HERO 6.

 Hiro Haymada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a computer genius lost in where to focus his energies and intelligence after the loss of his parents. When his big brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) tries to steer him on the straight and narrow, he introduces him to very own science experiment – Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). Hiro never knew about the incredible scientific world his brother lived in at college, or about his truly awesome and quirky friends – GO GO (voiced by Jamie Chung), Honey Lemon (voiced by Genisis Rodriquez), Wasabi (Voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.) and Fred (voiced by T. J. Miller). This band of chemistry nerds & adrenaline junkies make the learning experience see to awesome to pass up, and Hiro is ready to join in on all the fun.

Hiro’s next move must be to get into College, so he sets out to prove exactly how smart he truly is, when tragedy strikes, bringing his world crashing down around him once again.

Just when it seems all is lost, Baymax comes to the rescue, showing Hiro that he still has many things to offer the world – especially now that some madman is trying to take over San Fransokyo – as they form a misfit band of Super hero’s to save everyone and everything they know and love…but can they?

I give BIG HERO 6 an A+: Gone are the days of Ice Princesses – can you feel the thaw? As Walt Disney Animation Studios brings us a film for all the SCIENTIFIC GENIUSES of the WORLD to enjoy – both boys and girls – and as always, they sprinkled this film with a little adult humor and enough superior animation that you will be on the edge of your seat for the entire 108 minutes of it. Also leave it these superior storytellers to bring a tear to your eye with real human drama, and then turn around and make each and every person watching this film feel that there is no reason that they too can’t become the SUPER HERO they have always wanted to be! The story is a must see for every child and adult alike, as each all of the characters are INCREDIBLE – including Baymax – because who doesn’t love a BIG Marshmallow man – remember GHOSTBUSTERS! – And rest assured that BIG HERO 6 is going to touch each and every person who views it, in a BIG WAY as it is definitely the must see movie of the week! So, make sure to grab everyone you know this weekend and head out to catch the film that I am certain will be the ACADEMY’s CHOICE for the Best Animated Film of 2014 – BIG HERO 6!

Kathy Kaiser

NEWLY RELEASED ON DVD – BEGIN AGAIN – Rated R

MATINEE CHAT with Kathy Kaiser

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Irish writer and director John Carney brings to life his tale of music, loss, resurgence and redemption with his latest film – BEGIN AGAIN

With the 80’s and 90’s nothing but a faint memory, along with his career of being one of the top executives in the music business,  Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is trying to find some foothold with his career, and his marriage, which too has apparently hit hard times.

Fighting the new wave of music downloading as a way to make money, Dan finds himself in turmoil with his business associate Bey (Mos Def), who thinks the companies only way to survive is to move into this new area of music distribution.

Hell bent on not giving in to the craziness that has gripped the music business, Dan finds himself in search of the “next big thing in music”, or at least a new muse to occupy his…

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NIGHTCRAWLER – Rated R – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

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Writer Dan Gilroy – who has written the screenplays for such action-packed thrillers as TWO FOR THE MONEY, REAL STEEL and THE BOURNE LEGACY decides to sit in the Director’s chair this time around, along with writing the screenplay this time too, for the much anticipated psychological thriller – NIGHTCRAWLER.

As we meet the very odd and out of work Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) he is in search of any way to make a few bucks to get by.  When he happens upon an accident scene and photo journalist Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), he is intrigued to find out that this type of job – filming accidents, crimes, homicides for local television stations is apparently a very lucrative business.

Lou decides that he has just happened upon the PERFECT JOB FOR HIM, and sets forth to make his name as the lead photojournalist in LA.  How do you do this you ask?  By making sure that you have the best shots of any tragic scene – plus – making sure that you form a professional and eventually a personal relationship with the news director of the #3 station in LA, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), as Nina will stop at nothing to make sure that her news station is #1 once the ratings season hits.

Lou decides to bring on “an employee” to help his business, so he secures the efforts of someone else in search of changing his life around, Rick (played by Riz Ahmed).  As Lou and Rick try to establish and formulate the boundaries of this arrangement – which consists of Lou paying Rick next to nothing all the while trying to broaden his business sense by shouting out all of the “business 101 concepts” he can drum up, Rick is feeling like he is being taken advantage of, and is beginning to feel very uncomfortable with Lou, and his scheming ways of making sure they arrive first on the scene each and every time.

When they happen upon a home invasion in progress, and realize they have arrived before any police, Lou decides to film the entire scene, including the perpetrators and the all the victims inside…..say what?

Will Lou and his “crazy ways” make him the professional journalist he wants to become or just make him a liar and killer who creates the news? Will Lou decide that the only way to become #1 may only be achieved by taking out his competition?  Will Lou be able to form the personal relationship he needs in his life with Nina, even though she is fighting him every step of the way? Or will Lou take whatever means necessary to make sure that both his professional and personal life plays out exactly as HE HAS PLANNED?

I give NIGHTCRAWLER a B:  Playing a character far from anything you have ever seen before from Gyllenhaal, he mesmerizes you with his creepy and psychotic demeanor, with glimpses of normal thrown in just for good measure, and the fact that he can go back and forth from normal to psychotic so easily, is the creepiest part of it all.  Russo stands out in her role as the News Director who will do anything to finally be on top – in more ways than one – and Bill Paxton was also the right choice to play to other Nightcrawler, as he gives a very convincing and dramatic performance too.  Rest assured that if you are someone who totally enjoys psychological thrillers, NIGHTCRAWLER is the movie for you to catch this weekend at a theater near you!

Kathy Kaiser  

 

WHIPLASH – Rated R

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Thrust into the drumming world of young Andrew (Miles Teller) at the prestigious music academy he has just entered, Andrew dreams of one day, playing for the revered master of the Jazz Division of the school, Professor Fletcher (played by J.K. Simmons).

As luck would have it, Andrew does catch Prof. Fletcher’s eye and is invited into his classroom (a.k.a. the DEN OF TORTURE) to try out to become lead drummer of his jazz band.  Prof. Fletcher seems to be held in high esteem by everyone, from staff to students, to parents who hope that he can bring out the best in their young adult, but does anyone really know what happens in his class?

Prof. Fletcher has had a few great students over the years excel to greatness…..problem is, his teaching methods consist of mental and physical abuse, as he pushes his students to achieve greatness at all costs.  From yelling and screaming and verbal abuse, to throwing very large objects, Professor Fletcher will only accept perfection from his students, or you do not play FOR HIM.

Andrew is determined to win over Prof. Fletcher, so he practices, and practices, and practices trying to achieve what Prof. Fletcher calls his “perfect tempo”.  Andrew is constantly competing for 1st chair behind the drums, which he eventually achieves by knocking out former 1st drummer Carl (Nate Lang). Feeling comfortable in his new seat, Andrew continues to practice long hours, sometimes playing until his hands bleed, striving to be THE BEST.  It isn’t long before Prof. Fletcher finds another drumming protégé’ Ryan (Austin Stowell), which he brings in to audition, so now Andrew has to compete daily with two other drummers…..dear God please, make the madness stop!

Will Prof. Fletcher ever be happy with his musicians, or will he just continue to dowel out hate and cruelty in everyone’s direction until someone snaps?  Will Andrew end up almost killing himself, just to keep his 1st chair spot in the band?  Or will Prof. Fletcher’s “ABUSIVE TEACHING METHODS finally catch up with him?

I give WHIPLASH a B-:  Not being a musician or raising one myself, I can only imagine the trials and tribulations that come with the hours of practice needed to perfect your craft.  Along those lines, I am only guessing that there are many students out there that have been driven to perfection from having instructors that are forceful and demand perfection at all costs. But it is truly my hope that music instructors as mean, crass and down-right hateful as the character that J.K, Simmons plays in this movie, are truly non-existent, and just a figment of the imagination of writer & director Damien Chazelle – I know, putting on my rose-colored glasses about life once again like I always do…….

WHIPLASH for me became a very disturbing experience, as I found myself hoping that Chazelle did not write this film from his own life experience, as I wouldn’t subject my dogs to this cruelty displayed in this film.    But, I also found myself too, beginning to understand the psychosis of what was happening on screen, and that we are each driven by different pressures and outside influences by individuals we come in contact with, as each of us strive for perfection in some aspect of our lives.  I personally have never been driven by demeaning, overbearing individuals who seem to enjoy forcing their ill-will upon me in an attempt to push me to achieve anything, so my response to this film, and the “teaching methods” it displays, became nothing but a big turn off for me.  So, I know you are now asking yourself, then how did I give it the rating I did…..well….the movie itself was rather enlightening to a world I personally have never experienced.  Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons gave incredible performances on screen, and I was even pleasantly surprised to see Paul Rieser on screen playing Andrew’s father Jim.  All in all, WHIPLASH is a cinematic gem which deserves accolades for its storyline, cinematography and incredible acting – I won’t be surprised in J.K. Simmons gets a few nominations come award season for his portrayal in this film either. And even though I personally just couldn’t get into the CRAZINESS playing out on screen – whether I loved the premise or not – WHIPLASH is one masterfully made film that many viewers may find themselves relating to and even enjoying….

Kathy Kaiser

NEWLY RELEASED ON DVD – SEX TAPE – Rated R

MATINEE CHAT with Kathy Kaiser

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Jake Karsdan – the man who brought us Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Bad Teacher, and one of my favorite sitcoms of late – NEW GIRL – brings us the much anticipated summer moviewith the name not leaving much to the imagination – SEX TAPE.

Annie (Cameron Diaz) and Jay (Jason Segel) have been star-crossed lovers since College – okay, let’s cut to the chase – they have been F**k bunnies for as long as they can remember and are now facing the realization that they have been married for 10 years, have two children, and sleep seems to be much more important in the scheme of things, then having sex.

Annie decides that the time has come to “work on the relationship”, so she sends the kids off to grandma and grandpa’s and decides to surprise Jay with the house all to themselves and…

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JOHN WICK – Rated R – MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

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Stunt coordinating geniuses David Leitch and Chad Stahelski decide to sit in the Director’s chair this time around, bringing Keanu Reeves back to the big screen WITH A VENGENCE in their action-packed Directorial debut – JOHN WICK.

As we meet John Wick (Keanu Reeves), he has given up his life as a hit man to live a “normal life” with his beautiful wife Helen (Bridget Moynahan).  When Helen passes after a long illness, John finds comfort from his grief in an unexpected gift that arrives in a crate from his late wife.

Trying to deal with her death becomes overwhelming, so John heads out of the house for some fresh air, when he happens upon a few Russian hoodlums at the gas station, and one of them, Iosaf Tarasov (Alfie Allen) seems very interested in John’s 1969 Mustang, but it’s not for sale.  Iosaf isn’t accustomed to not getting exactly what he wants, exactly when he wants it, so they go to retrieve the vehicle and take care of its owner too!

It seems as if Iosaf has gotten exactly what he wants – as they steal the car and kill John’s dog – and assumes John for dead too, but wait, this is JOHN WICK we are talking about……so when he comes to, he is hell bent on getting his car back and taking care of Iosaf and all of his men too!

He visits his old friend Aurelio’s (John Leguizamo) body shop, hoping to find his car there.  Aurelio shares that it was there, but that Iosaf has taken it home with him to see his father, Aurelio’s boss man Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), who is none to happy to hear his other “former” employee – a.k.a. John Wick, is on the trail of his idiot son……and when John is after you……there is no ESCAPE!

Will John take out Iosaf and all his men for stealing his car and killing his dog?  Will his Friend Marcus (Willem Dafoe) take a walk on the dark side and accept a contract from Viggo to take John out, or will the Maiden of Mystery, Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) take on the task of ridding the world of this “crazy assassin”?

I give JOHN WICK a B+:  It has been a while since I have had so much actual FUN watching an action packed thriller like JOHN WICK!  You know I love to watch great action films as much most of the guys I know – just as long as it’s not too bloody or gory –  I mean, a girl has to have her standards, and John Wick is neither of those, so YEAH!  And you will also be blown away by Derek Kolstad’s screenplay by infusing some really funny comedic moments into this film, and at the most unexpected times.  It is pure genius how mixing comedy with the incredible action sequences from Leitch and Stahelski, makes John Wick one FANTASTIC ACTION FILM!   Keanu Reeves has upped his game this time around too, because he is so good in all the action, you don’t even remember he is no longer 20 Something – he is just one bad ass making his way through life and taking no prisoners!  Willem Dafoe and Adrianne Palicki are perfection as well, and you couldn’t ask for a better Russian Mobster than Michael Nyquist – the tone of his voice, his ruthless demeanor, his I don’t care who dies as long as it isn’t me attitude plays out like a well-oiled machine – absolutely brilliant.  I was also great to see Lance Reddick (General Caufield in WHITE HOUSE DOWN) as the hotel manager more than ready to help John out when he ends with a severe impaling, or anything along those lines….  You will enjoy each and every frame of the 101 minutes of this film – if you love action and assassins mixed with a comedic twist and turn now and then….the head out to see JOHN WICK and make it your Date Night pick this weekend.

Kathy Kaiser

BIRDMAN – Rated R

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Mexican born director Alejandro González Iñárritu sets forth to make one humanly frail and touching SUPER HERO – no remnants of BATMAN HERE, just in case you were wondering – with his latest film – BIRDMAN (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

When we meet Riggan (Michael Keaton) he has turned down playing yet again his super-hero persona – THE BIRDMAN.  Trying to break free of the hold this part has had on both his professional and personal life for years, Riggan attempts to revive the Broadway play “What we talk about when we talk about Love.”, to show that he is a professional actor – not just this fictional character – as he desperately needs to show his true talents to the world!

Following her father along for his career changing endeavor is Sam (Emma Stone), is trying to refocus her life too, as her father’s assistant. Sam seems to be getting lost in this crazy artistic world too, instead of focusing on what she needs to do to change her own life around.

When the lead actor is mysteriously hurt on the set, Riggan’s lead actress Lesley (Naomi Watts) happens to know that her old boyfriend Mike (Edward Norton) is available and convinces Riggan that he would be perfect for the role. Mike gives Riggan a run for his money when he auditions, so Riggan is sold on Mike and agrees that he is just what the play needs to make a its mark on Broadway.

As Riggan’s best friend and Lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis) tries desperately to get the funding in place and everything set for opening night, Riggan keeps feeling himself being drawn into a delusionary state by his alter-ego – THE BIRDMAN…….

Will Riggan be able to show the world that he is so much more than the world sees him as…..the feathered creature known as THE BIRDMAN?  Will Sam be able to find a way out of her own darkness in order to move on with her own life?  Will Riggan be able to sweet talk the theater critic that promises to destroy him and his show? Or will the pressures of his artistic life, and the bizarre behavior of everyone involved in THIS PLAY be too much for Riggan to overcome…..

I give BIRMAN an A: Gone are the days of black suits and fancy gadgets, as this SUPER HERO may know how to fly just like Batman, but that’s where the similarities end.  Keaton plays a tortured soul perfectly, aiming yet again to snag one of those Sag Awards or Golden Globes that has eluded him over the years.  I think that Oscar may just come a calling this year too, as his performance is absolutely stupendous!  Stone also does a fantastic job playing Keaton’s daughter with as many problems as her father, and Galifianakis is marvelous too, as Keaton’s friend and lawyer trying to save him from self-destruction if this play doesn’t make it past opening night!   Everyone in this film, including Watts and Norton were perfectly cast and put it all there for the world to see, in more ways than one.  Kudos to the cinematographers too, as I felt there wasn’t an inch of the theater that didn’t end up on film, making for one roller-coaster of a ride while viewing.  Suffice to say that BIRDMAN isn’t quite what you are expecting……but many times, that’s a good thing…..and watching this film certainly was for me. I consider BIRDMAN a MUST SEE even though it is in limited release.  This means you may have to travel a little further to see it, but it will be so worth it, as you want to see this one on the BIG SCREEN and not wait to see it on DVD!

Kathy Kaiser 

 

NEWLY RELEASED DIRECT TO DVD – THE CALLING – Rated R

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New Director Jason Stone brings to life a psychological crime thriller – highlighted by an All-star cast – with his new film – THE CALLING.

Hazel Micallef (Susan Sarandon) plays a seasoned cop in the quaint little town of Fort Dundas, which hasn’t seen too much excitement in years.  When she decides to check on a neighbor and good friend of her mother Emily (Ellen Burstyn), Micallef happens upon a gruesome crime scene.

Micallef needs help to solve this type of murder, so she reaches out to Detective Ray Green (Gil Bellows), who doesn’t seem to want to come to her aid, now or ever.  When a younger cop named Ben Wingate (Toper Grace) decides to transfer to their precinct, he might just be the help she needs to find who committed this haneus crime!

Well it looks like we might just have a serial killer on our hands, as more and more people seem to be ending up dead. Problem is, the profiles of the victims don’t fit– different sex, different income status….so how can it be the same person committing all these murders?

As Micallef and Wingate continue their investigation, they realize too, that he may be trying to send them a message – not a written message, that would be to easy – but a message by forming syllables of words with the victims mouths, and according to the forensic pathologist, the only way the killer can do this is by holding their mouth for a few hours until Riga mortise sets in –Ewwww!

Will Micallef and Wingate find this maniac before he kills again?  Will Micallef’s pain killer and alcohol addiction cloud her judgment on how they pursue this “Creeper”?  Will Wingate end up paying the ultimate price for Micallef’s obsession for finding this mad man? Or will peace and tranquility be restored as they finally figure out why, and who, is doing all the killing?

I give THE CALLING 3 out of 5 Stars:  As suspense thrillers go, THE CALLING does keep you guessing, which is always a good sign for this genre of film.   But Sarandon was totally miscast in her role as the drug addict/alcoholic police officer and there was absolutely no mother/daughter chemistry between her and Burstyn either, which was too bad.  Topher Grace seems to be exactly who he is in all his films, which is okay, but I keep hoping that he will eventually bring more depth to his performances. I enjoyed seeing Donald Sutherland too, but his performance as the Priest, didn’t WOW me either.  I’m guessing that between the mediocre acting and the “made for TV Movie” feel you get from this film, may be why THE CALLING didn’t receive a theatrical release, and why it went straight to DVD.  I do have to share however, that Christopher Heyerdahl, who plays Simon in this film, does play the perfect PSYCHO with a higher calling and purpose, and he should be commended for his performance, even if no one else is worthy.  Another positive that I felt when watching this film was that the graphic scenes didn’t get TOO GRAPHIC, which is always a positive for me, as I don’t enjoy all the blood, guts and gore that some of you do!.  Suffice to say that THE CALLING wasn’t the best psychological thriller I have ever seen, but it wasn’t, by far, the worst I have sat through either. 

Kathy Kaiser

NEWLY RELEASED ON DVD – MR PEABODY & SHERMAN – Rated PG

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For all you fans of the 1960’s Mr. Peabody and Sherman shorts that you loved to watch with Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons growing up……rest assured your favorite genius canine and his adopted son aren’t to worse for the wear, as they come full speed into the 21st century.

High atop the city in their Penthouse apartment, Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burell of Modern Family fame) and his son Sherman (voiced by child actor Max Charles) seem to be living the carefree life.  When Sherman gets bored – as most young boys do – Mr. Peabody whisks him away in the WABAC machine he created, to pass the time – sound familiarJ.

And just like the cartoon of yesteryear, Mr. Peabody and Sherman end up in some incredible historically significant places – enjoying cake with Marie Antoinette (voiced by Lauri Fraser), joining the Trojan Army Captain Agamemnon (voiced by Patrick Warburton) as they invade Troy,  even bumping into Leonardo DaVinci (voiced by Stanley Tucci) as he paints his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa (voiced by Lake Bell)  – there aren’t too many historical figures that Sherman hasn’t met over the years, all in preparation to head off to school.

Sherman isn’t enjoying school at all, as he is being belittled by fellow classmate Penny (voiced by Ariel Winter – of Modern Family fame too) for being the son of a dog.  When Mr. Peabody is summoned to school to deal with an unfortunate incident between Sherman and Penny, Mr. Peabody tries to befriend Penny and her parents (voiced by Leslie Mann & Stephen Cobert), in an attempt to ease everyone’s hesitation with Sherman’s parent being an animal – an animal that’s a genius for goodness sake!

Will Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s relationship be tested in more ways than one?  Will Penny and Sherman end up friends instead of foes?  And will Mr. Peabody be forced to save the world from destruction yet again?

I give Mr. Peabody and Sherman a B – As I loved to watch the original series growing up, I was waiting for the all-out annihilation of the premise of the original cartoon. Expecting this film to be slightly lame from seeing the trailer preceding the advanced screening, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the close proximity Director Rob Minkoff and screenwriter Craig Wright brought along from the original series – and of course once you add a little CGI animation to spice things up –what’s not to like.  The only difference in the story line that didn’t play out well for me, was the change from the Buddy premise between Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the original series, and it becoming a “real life drama” of Mr. Peabody facing life as a single parent, with all the trials and tribulations that this premise brings.

But just like in the original series, riddled throughout were the adult undertones and comedic dialogue, that we all must admit, we didn’t truly understand till we were watching reruns much later in life.  The theater was filled with laughter – The kids were laughing at the parts for written for them to understand and the adults were laughing at their parts too– but then who wouldn’t laugh out loud at Bill Clinton and his “bad boy ways”!  Suffice to say, to me it sounded like everyone was having a terrific time watching Mr. Peabody and Sherman.  My 14 year old daughter even thanked me for taking her to see it because she enjoyed so much –which I must add, made it an even more enjoyable movie for me…….

Kathy Kaiser

ST. VINCENT – Rated PG-13

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Writer & Director Theodore Melfi brings to life a story of “neighborly love” with his new film – ST. VINCENT.

As we meet the crass and abrasive Vincent (Bill Murray), he is withering away in this god awful dwelling – a not so nice duplex – with his lady of the night companion Daka (Naomi Watts).   Lucky for Vincent – or not – he gets new neighbors – the sweet though rather robust new divorce’ named Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her adorable son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher).

Maggie is trying to make a life for her and her son, but the long hours she works to keep her son in Catholic school, have turned out to not be conducive with taking care of Oliver after school.   So what better way for Vincent to make some extra cash for the track, and for Maggie not to have to worry about Oliver roaming the streets, than for Vincent to play “baby sitter” for the young lad after school?

Vincent and Oliver become fast friends, as Vincent teaches Oliver how to stand up to the bullies at school, and so much more.  Oliver seems to be good for Vincent too, as he becomes his traveling companion all about town, including visiting this lovely lady at the nursing home named Sandy (Donna Mitchell) that as Oliver comes to find out, is really Vincent’s wife, even though she has no idea who he is.

Oliver is trying to make his way in school and in his new life without his Dad, when Brother Geraghty (Chris O’Dowd) gives them a new assignment to complete – Find a SAINT that is living in your life and share with everyone how they live their lives in a saintly manor…..and of course, who does Oliver choose but Vincent……VINCENT?  The same man that has taught him to gamble at the race track and hang out in bars?  Say what?……

I give ST. VINCENT an A+:  Bill Murray is at HIS FINEST – bringing a little of the man we love from such classics as STRIPES, CADDY SHACK and GROUND HOG DAY, and infusing this VINCENT character with a little more maturity and a lot more compassion than we are accustomed to seeing, but he still manages to play the exceptional jerk that we all know and love.  Melissa McCarthy is also fantastic in her role as the Mom trying to do what’s best for her son, and I am so glad that she chose a dramatic role this time around, as it was a really nice change of pace seeing her in a non-comedic role.  Chris O’Dowd is the perfect Brother/Teacher, and the young up-and-coming actor, Jaeden Lieberher, who plays Oliver, is absolute perfection too!  This film will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will touch every emotion you can muster, yet it was the best 102 Minutes I spent all week!  Make definite plans to see this family friendly film this weekend, as it willl pull on every heart string you have, yet make you happy that you took the time out of your hectic life to see such an incredibly entertaining and truly special film.

Kathy Kaiser

MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN – Rated R

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From the man who brought us JUNO, UP IN THE AIR and one of my favorite movies from last year LABOR DAY – Jason Reitman – comes a film that shows us how the internet has effected each of our lives, and not always in a Positive way, with his new film –  MEN, WOMEN and CHILDREN.

As we meet Don Truby (Adam Sandler) and Helen Truby ( Rosemarie Dewitt), they are both going through their daily lives – wishing and hoping to come up with a way to rekindle their passion, like it was before kids, and a mortgage, and the everyday ups and downs of life. Don has decided to spice up his own life by visiting the internet for some “afternoon delight”.  Little does he know that his wife too, has happened upon a website where you can meet other people seeking to get back that passion they want in their lives…….plus, in Don’s search to find “his perfect girl” on the internet…..he happens upon apparently some porn sites that his 15 year old son Chris (Travis Tope) has been searching out too…..well boys will be boys…..right?

Across town we meet Brandy Beltmeyer (Kaitlyn Dever), a young teenage girl whose mother Patricia       (Jennifer Garner), is stalking her every move on her phone and the internet in an attempt to keep her safe from all the predators out there and to make sure that her daughter is definitely not doing anything that might be considered inappropriate…well by her standards anyway….

We also meet Kent Mooney (Dean Norris) and his son Tim (Ansel Elgort –  of The Fault in our Stars fame) who are trying to figure how to move on with their lives after their wife & Mother decides to leave them both to head off to California with her lover.   Tim is longing to hear from his mom, when he receives a post on Facebook celebrating the fantastic news that she isn’t coming home anytime soon, because now she is engaged to the douch bag who took her away in the first place…..NICE!

As all of these story lines – and a few more dealing with anorexia, unhealthy porn infatuation, and practically prostituting your child in hopes to making her a “Reality Star” unfold – they seem to entwine these families into each other’s lives, as you begin to wonder……is everyone’s life in this movie just a screwed up mess…..or has the fact that the internet seems to play a key role in their productive or non-productive lives, seem to have made everyone lose their minds?

I give MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN a B-:  I normally enjoy Jason Reitman’s work, and knowing that Emma Thompson would be narrating made me want to see this film too.  I was even excited about seeing young Katherine Hughes, a previous competitor on Disney’s NBT competition on screen, as I was privileged to meet and her mother while working for Radio Disney her in St. Louis, and she is about as adorable and talented as it gets. But, sadly, when it was all said and done, MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN just became a mixed up mess of stories consisting of sad and extremely depressed individuals whose depression and deep rooted issues went way beyond the affect the internet may have been having on their lives.  Although, to be fair, I did agree with the films stance on how significantly being on the internet does affect many lives, at any age,  every day, as I personally  know how it can ultimately play a role in destroying lives, having done a story here locally on Megan Meyer, who tragically killed herself due to bullying via the internet, so please so not perceive my dislike of this movie in any way, shape or form dismisses the fact that the internet can definitely affect many individuals lives in a very psychological way, I just think that this film didn’t go deep enough in to the subject matter, as it just touched the surface of this issue.  Maybe Reitman skimmed so many different story lines in an attempt to increase the entertainment value of this film, but even the actors that I adore, including Sandler, didn’t make this film something I would send anyone to see…….

Kathy Kaiser

KILL THE MESSENGER – Rated R

Kill the messenger poster

Michael Cuesta branches away from the comfort zone of Executive producing TV series like HOMELAND and DEXTER, to try his hand at Directing this time around, as he brings the true story of Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Gary Webb’s life with – KILL THE MESSENGER.

As we flash back to the 1990’s – Journalist Gary Webb (Jeremy Renner) is making a modest living as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury news.  When Webb uncovers what seems to be a conspiracy involving the CIA and their trafficking of Cocaine into the U.S., and possibly guns into the hands of rebels in Nicaragua, Webb is determined to find out the truth, regardless of where it might lead him.

With the backing of his Editor Anna Simmons (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and his publisher too, Webb dives head first into finding out what really happened.  As the investigation seems to be uncovering more and more illegal activity, Webb’s wife Sue (Rosemarie DeWitt), is trying to keep the home fires burning back in California, and their three children happy, while Webb seeks out the individuals who know the REAL STORY.

Webb is one fantastic investigative reporter, as he identifies the culprits who have been turning LA in to the “CRACK CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE” as he also uncovers who is behind providing arms to the Contra rebels – our very own CIA – as he prepares to release this vital information with his journalistic series – “Dark Alliance.”

What sounded like a great idea in theory – exposing the CIA and it’s operatives for all their wrong doing – ends up backfiring on Webb – as he soon finds himself not being backed by his sources, or his paper for that matter, while the Federal Government breaths down everyone’s neck to make him stop his story telling……

Will Webb be able to finish the job he started, and bring to light everything he has uncovered against the CIA?  Will his professional – and maybe his personal life begin too begin to unravel – as this story is apparently bigger than anyone had anticipated, including his wife? And will the CIA make Webb’s life so unbearable, that he sees no other way to save his family from the destruction he has brought upon them by this investigation, than to take his own life?

I give KILL THE MESSENGER a B+:  Jeremy Renner is bound to be on the radar of any group giving out awards this year, as his performance as journalist Gary Webb was exceptional!  Seeing this story unfold through Renner’s remarkable performance as Webb, made for an incredible 2+ hours of viewing enjoyment.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Rosemarie DeWitt also did wonderful work in their key roles, and the cameo appearance by Andy Garcia, as a drug king-pin was absolutely perfect too!  I have to say that it never seems like a good idea to take on the Feds to uncover their secrets, but it is because of brave individuals like Gary Webb, that we get to live as we do in this incredible country we call HOME.  It is also amazing to me too, that stories like Gary Webb’s – which seem to be whisked under the rug – as I am sure I am not the only one who didn’t know his story until I viewed this film – seem to rear their ugly heads once again, when a story of this magnitude must be told, and they usually are, and in a BIG WAY, on a BIG SCREEN for all the world to see 😉

If you love espionage and intrigue, and film adaptations of real life, then KILL THE MESSENGER is one film you have to see at a theater near you!

Kathy Kaiser