Friday, October 31, 2014

Nightcrawler Review

There were a lot of things that Nightcrawler had going for it that made me excited to see it. First of all, I'm a really big fan of the crime drama genre and have been since I was really little. I often find myself liking these types of movies even when no one else does. Second, I'm a pretty big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal. Third, I am currently a journalism student and thus have done a lot of journalistic work. So I call this a crime drama, and it is, but if I'm being more specific this is a journalism thriller and I was excited to see where they went with it. And finally, the icing on the cake was the super high early reviews (currently it stands at a 8.4 on IMDb and 92% on RT). So yes, I saw this as soon as I could and I am glad to report that I was not disappointed one bit. In fact, this is yet another reason why I love this time of year as yet again I'm calling this one of the best movies of the year.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Nightcrawler as a pretty messed up man. We aren't told much of his background, but we see right off the bat that he is a very desperate man that will do anything to get work. Early on, he happens to be right there at the scene of a car crash when he sees these freelance crime journalists pull up, take video footage of the car crash, then talk about selling it to whichever news station will pay the most. This is the point where the light bulb goes on in his head as he realizes that he can do the same thing. So he buys a police radar and camera and gets to work. Pretty soon he finds so much success that he pushes himself to go bigger and better, which quickly leads him to go way overboard.

Like I said, I like Jake Gyllenhaal a lot. Early on he did October Sky and that was always the movie I knew him from growing up, but along the way he's done so many other excellent roles in movies such as Zodiac, Source Code, and last year's Prisoners. Despite all this, after looking closely at his whole filmography I can confidently say that I believe this is his best role yet. I have never seen him so crazy and so insane. He really gets lost in his character and it is just super impressive. All he cares about is finding work. Once he finds his niche, he just wants to get better and better. Normally this is a positive thing, but when you get to the point where you have no moral compass or no regard for the law, that definitely crosses the line. He's crazy. He's insane. He's a snake. He's rude. He's manipulative. He's genius. But for some weird reason, you find yourself rooting for him to succeed. At least I did for much of the movie. Pretty soon I was asking myself if I was crazy as well. If this guy is so bad, why am I cheering for him? That's why this movie is so brilliant. You become so invested in Gyllenhaal's character in a dark and twisted sort of way.

But enough about Gyllenhaal for now, the movie as a whole provides a whole lot of interesting themes. The first one surrounds journalism itself. Like I said earlier, I myself am currently studying journalism and thus I've gotten an inside look at what happens behind the scenes. The role of the journalist is to provide the community with the news that is happening. But honestly, there's a lot of news that happens everyday and it's impossible to report on every single story. In the case of broadcasting, you often have 30 minutes to tell all the news you can. And in that 30 minutes, you have an even shorter amount of time to snag your viewers. And while I want to say all journalists have perfect intentions, the honest truth is that it's a business. You need to provide stories that will get people's attention and cause them to actually watch your broadcast. And you need to compete with the other stations or else you're not going to succeed. It's a tough business, especially now that there are so many ways for the public to access news with internet and social media dominating the scene.

So thus the movie asks, how far will you go to be successful? In this not only do we have Gyllenhaal struggling to find work, but the news station itself starts struggling with the moral/legal dilemma of what to show when Gyllenhaal keeps bringing in footage that will certainly make their station the top station. Not only does Gyllenhaal cross the line, but the station itself starts to cross the line as the succumb to Gyllenhaal's trickery and manipulation. As I thought of this scenario that presented, I came to realize that this is not only an issue with broadcast journalism, but these principles in this movie can definitely apply to a very broad spectrum when it comes to the workplace and business in general. Yes, this may have been extreme, but dang did it provide for quite the thrill. Not only does the movie take several twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat, but the conflict of it all makes it even more intense because you really don't know who to root for. The news people and Gyllenhaal are definitely not doing the right thing, but the movie makes you invested in them and thus your mind is completely torn as you go on this high-paced thrill ride.

In the end, Nightcrawler is a very intense thrill ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time, and this is led by Jake Gyllenhaal giving the performance of his career. I think it may be too soon to start saying that Gyllenhaal needs to be nominated for an Oscar since I haven't since many of the big contenders yet. But I will say this is definitely an Oscar-worthy performance. Gyllenhaal has set the bar so high that it's going to have to take some amazing performances for me to come to the opinion that there are five more deserving actors. But either way, Oscar or no Oscar, Gyllenhaal's performance is one of the best of the year so far. It's one that I'll probably remember for quite some time. Concurrently, Nightcrawler is also one of my favorite movies of the year so far. I'm going to have a really hard time coming up with my top 10 best movies of year list, but you can probably bet that you will see this make an appearance. My grade for Nightcrawler is a 9.5/10.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John Wick Review

An action/thriller starring Keanu Reeves coming out in the end of October that features the directorial debuts of Chad Stahelski and David Leitch who are both known mainly for their work as stunt coordinators? Sound like a recipe for failure? Yeah, I thought so, too. First off, Keanu Reeves hasn't really done anything interesting since The Matrix trilogy finished. And what he has been in hasn't been very good at all. And then you have directors who have no directing experience. I think this was going to be bad. In fact, at the beginning of the month, I said in my monthly preview that this was probably going to fail. I wasn't even planning on seeing it because it was going to be this nothing action movie that no one cared about or even saw. Boy that couldn't have been more wrong. And that my friends is a great reason why I see a lot of movies. Not only do I like reviewing all kinds of movies, but occasionally there comes a movie that completely catches me off guard by how awesome it is. And that's what happened here with John Wick.

So what is John Wick? Or rather, who is John Wick? Well, John Wick worked as a hitman. At that job, the people there referred to him as the Boogeyman. Not because he was the Boogeyman, but he's who they would call if they wanted to kill the Boogeyman. Well, John Wick retired from that job and tried to live a normal life. But you how it is for ex-hitmen. Bad things happened to John Wick that followed by more bad things happening. The latter bad things came in the hands of his ex-boss's son, who didn't know he had done those bad things to John Wick. After he did those bad things, the son went to a certain person for help and that certain person wouldn't help because he knew who he had done those things to. Well, that certain person soon got a call from boss man and when boss man asked why he hadn't helped, this certain person said that he didn't help the son because the son had done those certain things to John Wick. As an audience, at this point you are waiting for a big threat from boss man, but all you get is "Oh." That was awesome! Then boss man goes and lectures the heck out of his son. Son says he will fix this. Boss man is like, "You can't."

That's who John Wick is. I give you that intro so that you will have an idea of how awesome this movie paints John Wick as, although I tried to be as vague as possible as to not give away the whole first part of the movie. And not only does John Wick get painted as this awesome, but when he goes out to get revenge on his old work place, he's as awesome as they painted him as. The great thing about this movie is two-fold. First off, it knows what it is and it doesn't try to hide that. It's a full-out action movie. It tries to be nothing more or nothing less. And by goodness does it do a great job at doing what it sets out to be as this is one of the most entertaining action movies that I have seen in quite some time. That leads to the second reason why this movie is great. Keanu Reeves. If you are going to be an awesome action movie, the most important thing is your lead star. And by goodness does Keanu Reeves just knock this out of the park. Keanu hasn't been very good in quite some time and this has led him to receive all kinds of harsh criticism. But yeah, he's back. This is easily one of the best performances of his career. Dare I compare him to Jason Bourne. Sure the Bourne movies are a lot different than this movie, but the reason why I loved those movies so much is the same reason why I loved this movie so much. Jason Bourne was just so fun to watch and Matt Damon did such a good job that the movies were just plain out awesome. Same here. Keanu Reeves was just so fun to watch and Keanu Reeves did such a good job that John Wick was just plain out awesome.

I really can't find too many bad things to say about this movie. No, it's not super deep. No, it's not unpredictable. Sure, things seem to happen pretty smoothly. No, it's not going to win any awards. But like I said, this is an action movie. Its purpose is to simply be an awesome action movie. And in that it succeeds in a huge way. If you are expecting something more, than you are going into the wrong movie. If you don't like action movies, then this movie is probably not for you. But if you do like a good, solid action movie, then please check this movie out. It deserves all the attention that it is getting. And moreover it also deserves to be a full out franchise. I loved this movie. It entertained the heck out of me. Keanu Reeves pulled off one of the best performances of his career. Not only was he entertaining, but he also pulled off a great acting performance, which is something I was not expecting. I want more John Wick movies. It had a decent opening weekend, but in order for me to get more John Wick movies, it's going to need to hold well in order to earn enough money for a sequel. I can't make a huge difference by myself, but if I at least convince one or two more people to see this movie, then I've done my part. So please. Go see this movie. It deserves your money. My grade for John Wick is a 9/10.

Monday, October 27, 2014

St. Vincent Review

It's been a while since we've had a Bill Murray led movie. I mean, he hasn't disappeared from Hollywood, but his recent appearances all seem to be either supporting roles or cameos in a Wes Anderson. All of which are great, but when I actually heard that we were getting a Bill Murray led movie this year I was ecstatic. The man is a brilliant actor and movies such as Groundhog Day, What About Bob? and The Man Who Knew Too Little are absolutely fantastic. I even find myself loving his movies when others don't. So yeah. I was excited for this. Unfortunately they played this annoying limited release game when they released it, so I had to wait a few weeks longer than I wanted to, but this past weekend I was looking up showtimes and there it was! It didn't take long at all from that moment for me to be sitting in a theater watching it. And I'm happy to report that this doesn't disappoint. In fact, Bill Murray gives one of his best performances to date.

In St. Vincent, Bill Murray plays this grumpy old man whose life isn't going at all the way he wants it to. Because of this, it seems like he's just about given up as not only is he a grumpy old man, but he's a grumpy old man doing a lot of dumb things. Then comes the neighbors. Melissa McCarthy plays a young mother going through a divorce who has moved with her son to start over. Because she's now on her own, she has to work a lot and as fate has it, Bill Murray winds up as a "babysitter" for this 12-year-old son. And thus our story begins! This movie actually really surprised me. I went in expecting more of a comedy between this grumpy old man and this new kid. I was excited for that. Turns out this is a lot more of a drama. I think it was Robert Downey Jr. who said that a drama should be 30 percent comedy and a comedy should be 30 percent drama. Yeah, this is the drama that is 30 percent comedy instead of the other way around.

Sure, you can look at the title of this movie, read the premise, watch the trailer and thus come up with a guess of what happens in the movie. But I don't think they were going for unpredictable with this. This is a very happy, feel good movie that I actually loved for similar reasons that I loved last year's Nebraska. Both center around a crazy, old man played by a talented actor. Both are fairly predictable. But yet, both are very moving in a rather simplistic sort of way. All the characters are just full of layers that give you this "don't judge a book by its cover" theme. Not only do you fall in love with the main three characters, but also even the side characters like the stripper and the bully have this depth to them that you almost don't expect at first. And this really works because all the actors blow it out of the park.

No, I'm not going to claim that this is Bill Murray's best performance. I'd probably save that for something like Groundhog Day or Ghostbusters, but this is certainly one of his best performances. Ever since this movie debuted at Toronto International Film Festival, the Oscar buzz has started to float around Bill Murray. I haven't personally seen enough to make a call as to who I want nominated, but if Bill Murray gets it, I definitely won't be complaining because there are several scenes where I was just like, WOW! But it's not just Bill Murray that does great, I also want to praise Melissa McCarthy. Normally she drives me crazy in all her roles. And when I saw she was a part of this, I was actually really nervous. But she surprised the heck out of me. She is 100 percent dramatic in this with no comedy at all and she totally nails it. And of course, I can't leave out our newcomer Jaeden Lieberher. I don't know where they found this little kid because he really hasn't been in anything, but the casting director here completely struck gold. Not only is he adorable and perfect for this role, but he is a dang good child actor.

So overall, I was really excited for St. Vincent and I was not disappointed. It's nothing crazy or unpredictable, but it's just a simple, feel good movie that you'll walk out of with all these warm fuzzies. There's even this scene towards the end that gets super emotional and thus is quite powerful. So if you like simple, happy, feel good movies, this is definitely a movie that you need to check out. Also, if you are like me and Bill Murray is one of your favorite actors, this is also a must see because Bill Murray definitely gives one of the best performances of his career and would definitely be deserving of an Oscar nomination if the Academy decided to award him with one. My grade for St. Vincent is a very good 8/10.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Book of Life Review

From Reel FX Animation Studios, the animation studio that brought us Free Birds, comes The Book of Life, which is another animated movie about a holiday, this time being the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, aka Day of the Dead. Now I didn't actually write a review on Free Birds. The reasoning for that is because I actually skipped it in theaters and thus didn't see it until it came out on DVD. Given how horrid the reviews were for the movie, I was actually pleasantly surprised. It wasn't the best, but it was a fun little animated movie about Thanksgiving. I do find it interesting that both of Reel FX's feature length animated movies are about holidays that don't have a whole lot of movies about them. It's like they're playing a game of no holiday left behind, which is kinda cool. The Book of Life is a movie that I wasn't completed sold on going into it, but it looked like a could surprise. Turns out it's about what I expected. Despite fantastic animation, the movie as a whole leaves a little be desired for.

Like I mentioned, The Book of Life is a movie that takes place on Day of the Dead and attempts to honor the Mexican holiday and Mexican tradition. However, nothing says honoring Mexico like Channing Tatum and Mumford and Sons, right? I think it would've actually been really cool if this movie went all in with the Mexican theme, but it was obvious that they were trying to appease both crowds. They did have plenty of Mexican voice actors and music, but there was also just as much American voice actors and music, which just felt a bit weird. It was also obvious that they were trying to appease their non-Mexican audiences by spending a ton of time describing what Day of the Dead actually is. And yes, they used Day of the Dead the whole movie. I don't even remember Día de los Muertos actually being said. I do want to add that our American actors and American music wasn't bad. People like Channing Tatum did a great job. They just felt miscast and slightly out of place. And I did like I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons. It's a great song and I was quietly singing along with it. I was just wondering why it was happening. Mexican music would've worked much better.

That said, them not going 100 percent Mexican in a Day of the Dead movie was only a minor annoyance. Had the rest of the movie been amazing, I could've brushed this aspect off. I mean, I was one of those people that didn't really have a problem with Johnny Depp playing a Native American in The Lone Ranger. The thing is, the story is kinda weak. I can't remember where I read it, but someone compared this movie to Romeo and Juliette with a Day of the Dead backdrop. And while I wouldn't necessarily use the Romeo and Juliette comparison, not every romance has to be compared to Romeo and Juliette, the idea that this is just a romance movie with the Day of the Dead themes being a side note is completely true. In the movie, you have a young Mexican girl and two young boys that both love her. She moves away to Spain and doesn't come back until they are all adults. Then when she does come, the movie is just these two men now fighting for her love. And it's completely predicable and completely cliché. There is a moment in the movie where our main character goes down to the land of the remembered and land of the forgotten. I was hoping they would spend more time on that aspect of the movie and give us a theme of remembering our family, friends and ancestors that have passed on, which is the purpose of the Day of the Dead. That would've been cool. But no, after touching on that a bit, we went straight back to the romance. Added on to that was the even more clichéd theme of writing our own story. Our main character loves singing, but his father insists that he be a bull fighter because everyone in their family was. Well, you know where that's going to go. And you're right. That theme has been done before, and done well, but in this instance it's really boring.

Despite all these negative comments, there are two aspects of the movie that are done very well. The first of this is the animation style. Yes, this is done by the same studio that did Free Birds, but you wouldn't notice that if they didn't say so. Free Birds isn't bad animation, but it's nothing worth writing home over. The style in this movie doesn't even look similar. It's very unique and very spectacular. Thus it makes the movie as a whole visually brilliant. It reminded me of The LEGO Movie from earlier this year. The LEGO Movie wasn't stop motion for the most part, but it was done so well that you almost wondered if they had actually used LEGO figurines. Same case with The Book of Life. The characters are like toy figurines and there's parts of the movie where you wonder if they actually used toy figurines. Sometimes I feel the Oscars look at the animation style when determining the best animated feature award and if that's what they decide to do this year, The Book of Life definitely deserves a nomination. The other thing that I think this movie did very well was the score. Now the movie was almost a musical. There was a lot of singing and several original songs written for the movie. That's not what I'm talking about here. Those songs were good, but not memorable. But the score was fantastic.

So overall, this isn't a bad movie. Yes, I've complained more than I've praised in this review, but that's because I saw the potential in the movie and had it been polished up, this could've been one of the best animated movies I've seen in a while. As I was watching it, I was amazed by the animation and the overall visuals of the movie. I really loved listening to the score and the original songs they sang were enjoyable, even if they weren't memorable. But I was just watching this story unfold and was disappointed that it was just a big, predictable love triangle story with the cliché theme of you can write your own story added in. I wanted this movie to be a movie about the Day of the Dead. Themes about death and remember those who have died would've made an excellent story. But sadly that was only an afterthought. That said, if you are looking for an animated, family-friendly movie to go see yourself or take your kids to, this isn't a bad option. Sure, I would recommend The Boxtrolls over this if you haven't seen that one, yet. Also, it might not be a terrible idea to wait a few more weeks for Big Hero 6. But if you've already seen The Boxtrolls and you don't want to wait a few weeks for another option, then check this one. You might enjoy it. Because it's not bad. It's just not fantastic. My overall grade for The Book of Life would be a 7/10.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fury Review

Brad Pitt has had quite the illustrious career. And despite the fact that he is extremely recognizable, he does such a good job in each of his roles that he still manages disappear into his roles. That's why I love watching him act. He seems fully invested in whatever he plays. Because of that, you say "starring Brad Pitt" and I'm down. Such was the case with Fury. Also I do always love myself a good war movie. Lone Survivor from early in the year was quite excellent, so I was hoping for a repeat performance like that. Now saying "from the director of End of Watch and Sabotage" isn't something I'd necessarily be all over, but I can give David Ayer a chance. I suppose some will walk out saying this is cliche and predictable, a been there done that type of thing, but I personally walked out of theater really impressed with what I had just witnessed.

Basically you can say that Fury is a day in the life of a World War II soldier. Like literally. This movie only covers one day. It does give us a background. It's April 1945, so the war is almost over, but the Germans are giving it all they've got in these last moments, so the war is as brutal as ever. But despite that setting, the movie isn't focused on the war as a whole. It's just giving us a personal look at an American tank crew. The tank that we follow is named Fury and its story is quite impressive. American tanks apparently didn't do so well in World War II simply because the German tanks were so much better. The American tanks just didn't stand a chance. But Fury did. I don't really know historically accurate this movie is, but it's one of those situations that I don't think this matters at all, so I didn't even bother with it. This is a very personal, intimate movie that really gives a good perspective on what war was like.It's terrible. Brutal. Awful. And that's why I have all the respect in the world for soldiers that have fought in a war. They go through all that they do, putting their lives on the line, so that they can protect the freedoms that me and you enjoy. I love that extreme level of bravery and I hope it's something that we never take for granted.

Being perfectly honest, this is an extremely brutal and gory movie. One of the more gory war movies that I've seen, so I definitely can't recommend it to everyone, especially those with a queezy stomach. I mean, we are moving along and suddenly, almost without warning, there goes that guy's head. Yikes. I hope he made peace with his maker when the day started. Then we come into this German town and everywhere you look there are German citizens hanging everywhere with signs that say this person refused to fight for Germany. And I mean, the movie starts with Brad Pitt stabbing an enemy soldier in the face. But despite this, I wouldn't call this gratuitous, over-the-top violence. It felt real to what actually happened. Also, the movie wasn't non-stop violence the whole time. There was actually a lot of down time. In one instance, Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman walk into this German house and see a couple of German women scared to death, especially since they were hiding and suddenly American soldiers show up. What happens? Brad Pitt sits down and relaxes. They wash up, try to get to know the girls, and have dinner. And this goes on for a quite some time. I loved it! Like I said, this was a very personal, intimate movie. It wasn't just about war. It was about these soldiers. When the inevitable happens and war does break out, it becomes even more intense because of how emotionally attached you become to these characters.

Speaking of characters, I want to spend some time talking about our main cast. Of course we have Brad Pitt as the sergeant and leader of this tank team. Like always, he is fully invested and completely submersed in his character. But despite him being great, this really isn't a movie about Brad Pitt. Sure, Brad Pitt plays the lead role, but this is much more about Logan Lerman's character. Lerman plays a young, inexperienced soldier. At this point, he has only been in war for eight weeks and he didn't even come over to fight. He came over for typing duties. But suddenly he is thrown into this group and by goodness does he struggle with this. You see how shocked and overwhelmed he is at the beginning, so you really feel bad for him. But then you watch as he grows and matures throughout the movie to the point where he becomes a strength for the crew instead of burden. Logan Lerman does such a good job at this that he definitely deserves recognition. A third person who surprisingly also deserves a ton of praise is Shia LaBeouf. Yes, he does an amazing job. I actually liked him in the movie Holes, so it's not like I've never seen him in a good role, it's just been a while. And of course Transformers completely ruined any positive reputation he had and made him one of the most easy to make fun of actors out there. I actually really appreciate it when a seemingly bad actor turns things around and shows the world that he or she can actually act. This is what Shia LaBeouf does and I applaud him.

So in the end, yes, this is a very brutal, very gory movie. But such is the case with war and I like how this movie was very honest and real with the audience. What made things worse is that while we as an audience were being horrified at the things that happened, some of the soldiers almost brushed it off as an every day occurrence. No, war wasn't a happy time. It was a terrible time and thus the bravery of these soldiers who risked their lives for us is something I can't really put to words and do it justice, but I have all the respect in the world for those who have fought in a war and these are the feelings I got from this movie. Could this movie be called predictable and cliche? Perhaps. But that wasn't the point here. Is it the most moving and emotionally powerful war movie that I've seen. No. There are other war movies that I might consider better, Lone Survivor being one of them. But yet this is still a very solid, very personal war movie that I really enjoyed. Like I said, I can't recommend this to everyone, but if you enjoy war movies and you are able to stand graphic battle scenes, then you definitely need to give this movie a chance. My grade for Fury is a very solid 8/10.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Judge Review

I'm a pretty big fan of Robert Downey Jr. and I definitely don't shy away from the fact that I love The Avengers. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is absolutely incredible. The man was born to play that role. However, it's also great to see Robert Downey Jr. in his other roles because the man is also just a great actor. Thus when I first heard about The Judge I was really excited. I didn't know much about it back then, but it had Robert Downey Jr. in it and so I was sold. It first debuted in the Toronto International Film Festival and unfortunately it performed poorly. Upon its release, critics were split with it, but audiences actually loved it. Thus I was confused and didn't know how to feel, so I went in completely neutral. As it turns out, I'm about in the middle of the pack. This isn't a bad movie and the acting certainly is fantastic, but it also could've been a lot better.

In The Judge, Robert Downey Jr. plays this pretty stuck-up lawyer. He has attitude problems, marriage problems, and father problems. He doesn't visit his parents much, but upon the death of his mother he takes a leave of absence from his job to go down to the funeral. Right as he's about to return, a situation arises wherein his father, who has been a judge for 40 years, is convicted of murder. Thus Robert Downey Jr. ends up staying down there to be his father's lawyer in the case. This story tries to be super uplifting and emotional, but for the most part it actually falls pretty flat. I'll get into that more in just a bit, but what really saves this movie from being a disaster is the two main leads. Yes, I'm talking about who you think I'm talking about. Robert Downey Jr. I told you loved his acting and he's fantastic in this. I didn't even think about Tony Stark as I was watching. Just Robert Downey Jr. But even more impressive in this is Robert Duvall. Duvall plays the father in this that gets convicted of murder and by goodness there are so many scenes with him that are exceptional. He's been one name been talked about to get an Oscar nomination and as I try to think of the scene that they would show at the Oscars if this does happen, there's just too many to choose from.

While Downey Jr. and Duvall did save this movie from being a disaster, their performances alone weren't enough to turn this into a success. No matter who you have on screen, if you don't have a good screenplay its hard to have a successful movie. The first problem is that almost the whole first half of the movie is just boring. There is a lot of set-up and a lot of personal interaction between the characters. And while many times that's a good thing, this time it just didn't work. The flow was off. The chemistry wasn't great. I didn't care about most of the characters. It was just turning into a mess and I began to think that I was going to end on the side of those who hated the movie. But then it picked up. Specifically the court scenes began to happen and that's where the movie got interesting. However, amid those scenes there still was the annoying fly on the wall that wouldn't go away. Unfortunately that fly was Vera Farmiga. I'm actually a big fan of hers. She stars as Norman Bates' mother Norma in the new TV series Bates Motel and she is fantastic in that. Thus I was excited to see her in this, but her character is completely useless and super annoying the whole time. Disappointing waste of a fantastic actress.

Back to the court cases. When they happen, the movie becomes Robert Downey Jr. versus Billy Bob Thornton in the court room and by goodness is it entertaining. I wish more of the movie was in the court room because then it would've been excellent. Speaking of Billy Bob Thornton, I forgot to mention him earlier, but he's the prosecuting attorney in this, which essentially means he's villain in this and he is just mean. This is the one point where I felt like Downey Jr. was going to pull out his Iron Man suit and turn this thing into an outright physical dual. Which by the way Marvel, if you are reading this, it might not be a bad idea to cast Thornton as a Marvel villain. That would work really well. Finally, I'm not going to talk about the ending, but there was a point where I thought the movie was going to end and I would've been content. But then it kept going. It got to a point where I think it is going to end for a second time and at that point I would've been super happy. But then it keeps going still and the actual ending is pretty terrible in my opinion. I'm not saying the movie is too long. It isn't. I'm just saying the actual ending isn't satisfying.

So overall, The Judge is a very mixed bag for me. Yes, Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall are both excellent. I really hope Duvall ends up getting his Oscar nomination because he deserves it. But Downey Jr. and Duvall can't totally carry this movie on their back when they weren't given a whole lot to work with outside the entertaining court scenes in the second half of the movie. But they do the best that they can and together they make it so the movie isn't a complete disaster. It just ends up being disappointing overall because had they polished it up a bit, this could've been an excellent movie. But it's not. My grade for The Judge is a 6.5/10.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Meet the Mormons Review

There's been a lot of LDS-themed movies that have arrived in theaters. I reviewed one the other week. However, Meet the Mormons is unique because it's the first movie that was actually made by the church that is being released in theaters nationwide. Previous efforts by the church such as Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration, The Testaments: Of One Fold and One Shephard, and Legacy were only released in Legacy Theater in downtown Salt Lake City. This is a movie that is specifically targeted towards those who are not members of the Mormon faith as it tries to dispel some of the stereotypes that follow the Mormon church. I don't know how that target audience would react to this movie, but as a devout member myself, I loved this movie and I would recommend that all members go and check this one out.

Meet the Mormons doesn't discuss the history of the Mormon church. It doesn't even get to far into the doctrine.It's just a documentary that follows six very different members of the Mormon church and various obstacles they had to overcome or experiences that they had. The best comparison that I can think of is the "I'm a Mormon" videos that the church has put out on their YouTube channel. This movie is basically six of those put together into one movie. Except, of course, they are extended to fill the space of 78 minutes. We have a young black bishop from Atlanta, the head football coach at Navy, a young couple from Costa Rica where the woman has gained an interest in professional fighting, an older pilot who became known as the candy bomber, an older man who has done a lot of humanitarian work in Nepal, and the mother of a missionary who went through quite the hardship growing up. I really loved these stories. While the candy bomber and the missionary mom were my favorite, all six of them were great stories that were amazing to watch. Yes, this movie is made to give people that are not members of the Mormon church a positive view of the church, but I really think that the people who are going to benefit most are actually members of the church because there's a whole lot to learn from each of these stories. They could be used as teaching tools, family home evening lessons, or other various activities like this.

If I'm being super nit-picky, I wasn't a huge fan of the scenes with the narrator at the beginning and end. While I did like the media clips and the interviews with random people in New York, when it was just the narrator talking to us, it was a little cheesy and mildly uninteresting. I got the feeling that the non-members who it was geared towards wouldn't take it completely seriously. Also, reflecting back to the time I served as a missionary for the church, if I had access to this movie while I was serving, I don't know how much I would've actually used it. I loved showing movies like The Testaments or Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration to those who I was teaching, but I don't know if I would sit down and watch this whole movie with them. But like I said, I did absolutely love the individual clips of the six different members. They were great. And the movie was very well shot, too. They went around the world with all these stories and even if you aren't a fan of the subject matter, you'd have to admit that the movie is a very pretty movie. And the song at the end by David Archuleta is also a very pretty song that you'll be singing as you walk out of the theater.

So overall, I personally thought this was a very good, inspiration movie that everyone should give a shot. However, I will admit that those who are Mormons might appreciate this more than those who are not. But that's not to say non-Mormons should avoid this. I don't think it comes off as preachy or annoying, it just gives you the opportunity to explore the lives of six individuals. If you are a Mormon, though, this is definitely a must see. Although I don't think I really needed to tell you that, since most have already flocked out to theaters to see it this weekend. But if you haven't seen it, definitely make plans to do so. And if it's not in your city, go to meetthemormons.com and request it to come to your city. You could wait for it to come out on DVD if you wanted to, but you'll be supporting a good cause if you see it in theaters since the church has announced that it will donate all money it earns from this to the American Red Cross. Now I have a hard time giving a rating to a documentary since it's a different type of movie, but nevertheless I will award Meet the Mormons an 8/10.