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 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.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Review

That's a really long name for a movie. It makes typing up a review mildly annoying, but oh well. I'll make it through (It's one of those times I'm grateful for the copy and paste technique). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a movie that definitely caused me to raise an eyebrow when it was first announced. I of course was a 5-year-old at one point. I loved that little book. But did it really need to be made into a movie? I remained skeptic for a long while, but slowly the idea grew on me. Casting news and trailers helped ease my skepticism to the point where I actually thought that this could be a fun little family film. And turns out it is. No, it's nothing special. It's very cliche. Surprisingly boring at times with no twists, turns or surprises. Not that emotionally moving like it could've been. But it's not a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad movie. It's decently fun and, most importantly, the kids are going to love it.

I don't need to tell you what this movie is about. You've read the book. Alexander has a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. But then he realizes that it's not so bad. Boom. Movie done. But how does this make it as a full-length movie? Well, after Alexander has his bad day, he wishes his bad day on his family because they seemingly aren't paying him any attention. So in fact we have two days that are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. And that actually is the movie. It's only 81 minutes long, so it flies by pretty fast and there comes point where you wonder if they could've made it a touch longer. But it works decently. As expected, it's pretty much 81 minutes of gags. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things happening to this family on this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. And they are supposed to make you laugh through it all. The problem is I really wasn't laughing too hard through the whole movie. There's a few laugh out loud moments. But mostly just constant chuckles throughout. And the big reason for that is because it's one of those really annoying moments where the whole movie was in the trailer. I actually laughed at the trailer when I first saw it. It was great. But I wanted more and the movie didn't give me any more. Turns out that in order to make the trailer, they took all the funniest gags from the movie and threw them together in the trailer. And because I watch a lot of movies and thus see a lot of trailers multiple times, I felt like this was the 20th time I was watching this movie and thus it was actually kinda boring. It didn't help that I knew exactly what was going to happen.

But do you know what, as I was sitting watching the movie, I began to think about the target audience. This is not a movie that is made for adults. Sure, I think that adults can enjoy it, but this is a family-friendly movie that is made for kids. No, the story isn't amazing. But kids don't need an amazing story. Sure, the movie is very predictable. But kids don't need an unpredictable movie full of twists and turns. Yes, it's cliche. But cliche isn't so cliche when you're young. Yes, the whole movie was in the trailer. But how often does your 7-year-old sit down and watch trailers? Exactly. It's all going to be new for them. Sure, there's only going to be a few laugh-out-loud moments if you are an adult. But as long as it makes the kids laugh out loud, isn't that all that matters? And as it turns out, I ended up being one of those creepy old guys sitting there in a kids movie by himself with a theater full of kids. And I can tell you by first hand account that all the little kids in my theater were busting out laughing the whole entire time. "That was such a good movie!" said a little girl behind me as we walked out of the theater. I can't give this movie a harsh grade. It was made for the kids and the kids absolutely loved it, so it was successful in it's purpose.

In the end, did I enjoy Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yes, I did. Was it cliche? Yes. Was it super predictable? Yes. Did they show the whole movie in the trailer? Yes. Did I laugh out loud for the entire movie? No. Was it as touching and movie as it could've been? No. Did we really need a movie adaptation of this book? No. But we got it. No changing that. And as it turns out, it's another Disney movie that the kids should fall in love with. So here's my recommendation. If you are an adult with no kids and this movie didn't look super interesting to you, then I wouldn't say you need to rush out and see it. There are a whole lot of movies coming out and this one could be looked over for now. But if you are a parent with kids who has been waiting for a really good movie that your kids will enjoy because the family audience has been neglected as of late, then I would say this movie is a must see. Disney knows how to make movies that kids enjoy. That was their purpose here and they succeeded. So I'm going to give Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day a 7/10.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

16 Stones Review

Don't worry James. I know how you feel. That's how I looked this whole movie
Last weekend I was rummaging through showtimes, deciding what I wanted to see when suddenly I noticed that a movie called 16 Stones was an option. I never heard of it before, but upon brief research I learned it was about a group of Saints in the early days of the LDS church who went on a journey to find the 16 stones that lit up the Jaredite barges. Wait what? Did that really happen? Suddenly my curiosity was piqued and I almost saw it that night. But I waited. Then during the LDS General Conference over the course of the next couple of days, the movie was advertised pretty heavily between sessions. I also noted a billboard or two advertising the movie along I-15 here in Utah. So all that did it. At the very least, I knew that a lot of my LDS readers would be curious about this movie after having watched General Conference, so I figured I'd do my duty and inform that crowd what I thought of the movie. Because, you know, I'm a nice guy like that. Turns out I got really bored really quickly, but I hung in there. Now I'm here informing you that this is a movie that you should just avoid as it's one of the worst LDS-themed movies that I've ever seen. It's right down there with The Singles 2nd Ward and Sons of Provo. That bad.

I'm a pretty big fan of church history. I especially like learning more about stories and events that happened in church history that I didn't know about. It gives me a greater respect knowing everything people went through as well as good insight knowing how people thought and believed back then. That there was the biggest draw from this movie. I had never heard of an event in church history where there was a group of people that went out and searched for the 16 stones. I wanted to know more. Uhhh... turns out there is a reason why I never heard this story. It didn't ever happen! Yes, this movie is purely fictional. Once I realized this I was really disappointed. No history to be learned here. This event didn't happen. What it is is National Treasure, Mormon style. It's set in the early days of the church. Joseph and Emma Smith are even in the movie. We have this kid named James who decides that he wants to go search for the stones because he is convinced that finding it will stop all the persecution going on. His two friends, Elaine and Thomas, join him and the three of them are off on this big treasure hunt that lasts the whole movie.

In theory, this premise could work out. I personally enjoyed both National Treasure movies and even though the things they were searching for could never be found in real life, it was still a lot of fun anyways. Same here. No way in heck is someone going to actually find the 16 stones unless God wanted it to happen. It's kinda like a golden plates type of thing. But yet, if done right, a movie searching for these objects could be a lot of fun. The problem is, everything about this movie is just off. It's definitely a low-budget movie, but that's no excuse. I've seen plenty of amazing low-budget movies. But this is a low-budget movie where you wonder how much effort was actually put into making this. The script is horrendous. The dialogue is clunky and forced. And worse of all, the acting by our three main characters is so bad that it's hard to watch. I'm not really sure if it's their fault or if it's a case where they have nothing to work with and no talented directors to help them. Possibly a bit of both. But whatever the issue is, it makes this hard to watch.

I suppose I can appreciate the intentions behind this film. No big name directors or big name actors. A very low-budget movie where they were just trying to make this inspiring film. And it does have its moments where you feel good after a speech from Joseph Smith about faith. But overall, you need more than just good intentions to make a good movie. Take The Book of Mormon Movie for example. The director there had this amazing vision of bringing the Book of Mormon to the world by making a movie. Love that idea. There's a lot of great, inspiring movies that could be made from the Book of Mormon. But the execution of that was so bad that you wish the director would've just kept that vision to himself and not acted upon it. Same thing here. A Mormon-style National Treasure movie where they are searching for the 16 stones could be a lot of fun. But it isn't. Bad script. Bad acting. Bad story. No interesting drama. Nothing good about this film. I mean, I was literally the only one in the theater Wednesday night during the showing and I took advantage of that and played around on my phone for the last half of the movie. I even took a little quiz that told me how I died in a former life and posted in on my facebook. That was more interesting than the movie I was watching. I'm giving 16 Stones a failing grade, a 4/10.

Gone Girl Review

For some random reason, kidnapping wives has been a popular movie subject in the last few weeks. In my most recent review, I discussed A Walk Among the Tombstones, which is a movie about a drug kingpin who goes to a private investigator played by Liam Neeson after his wife gets kidnapped and murdered. And now it's time to discuss Gone Girl, where Ben Affleck's wife goes missing on their five-year anniversary. This one I was especially excited considering the history of director David Fincher. In the past, Fincher has directed masterpieces such as Se7en and Zodiac. Yes, he's done several more fantastic movies, but I bring up those two because those are probably my favorite of his and Gone Girl seemed like it was similar in style to those two movies. And it definitely was. But it also wasn't. Gone Girl is Gone Girl. It's its own thing. And boy was this quite the movie. David Fincher certainly knows how to make a movie as once again he hits a home run.

Going into this, I had actually just watched A Walk Among the Tombstones a few days before, so I was definitely in the crime drama mood. I enjoyed that movie and towards the beginning of Gone Girl it felt fairly similar. A man's wife goes missing and before you know it, the police are on it and the detectives are interrogating Ben Affleck. Suddenly, Ben Affleck gets a ton of media scrutiny and before too long everyone is accusing him of killing his wife. At the start, you are on Affleck's side, but as the movie goes on you keep going back and forth in wondering if he actually did it or not. It was a typical crime drama and I was enjoying it just like I enjoyed A Walk Among the Tombstones. And then holy freaking cow! Right as I was settling down to try to solve this mystery in my head, the movie takes a huge turn and as I was watching it I am pretty sure that my jaw literally dropped. As in my mouth was wide open with my hands covering it. Then this becomes a completely different movie. What does it become? I'm not telling you. But what I will say is that's not the only time the movie takes a big twist. The second half of the movie is completely insane with several shocking twists and turns.

There's a whole lot in this movie that I want to talk about. The problem is, the more I talk about certain things, the more the ride would be ruined for you, so I'm going to use a lot of self-restraint in this review. So let's talk about the actors in this movie. First off, Ben Affleck. His character in the movie gets a whole ton of terrible scrutiny from the media and he spends the movie fighting that and trying to fix his image. What I really liked about that in this movie is that it's a reflection of what has happened to Affleck in real life recently. Specifically I am talking about him being cast as Batman. When that announcement came, the comic book world went on a complete revolt and based on the heavy criticism of the casting choice, you would think that they were going to go find him and crucify him. Which is silly in my perspective because the man is actually a really good actor. If you don't believe me, go watch Argo and then go watch this. Once you do so, you'll realize that the casting of him as Batman is not such a horrible thing after all because just like in Argo, Affleck is really good in this movie. Whether or not he's actually guilty of killing his wife is a separate discussion that I'm not even going to go close to touching.

Moving on from Affleck, let's talk about more actors. And how about Tyler Perry? Yes, the same Tyler Perry that directs a thousand movies a year, most of them including himself as the big fat black woman named Madea that is really annoying. I'm not a fan of Perry at all. In fact, I've learned to avoid his movies. However, he shocked the heck out of me in this because he plays Affleck's lawyer and he does a fantastic job. Yes, you heard me. Tyler Perry does a fantastic job. Next up, Carrie Coon. I'd actually never heard of her before this. Looking at her filmography, yeah I've still never heard of her. But she plays Ben Affleck's twin sister and the thing I love about her is that she is very good at being honest and unfiltered like a sibling should be. She asks the type of questions that only a sibling would ask and she does great at it. Next up in actors is Neil Patrick Harris. Out of everyone in the movie, he's had the most mixed opinions. Some say he's completely miscast. I personally actually liked him in this. I enjoy it when actors known for their comedy can step up and play a dramatic role. It's great. Unfortunately, my issue with him is that his character is underused. I wanted to dive into his character more. Give him a bigger role. But that didn't happen. Now if you've seen Gone Girl, you'll notice that I'm missing one major player and that's Rosamund Pike. I bring her up last because I'm wanting to hide her more in this review. I could spend two whole paragraphs on her and her character, and I want to, but the more I say about her the more it ruins your experience. But let me just say that she is legendary. One of my favorite performances from an actress ever.

In the end, David Fincher definitely knows how to make a movie and when you watch this movie that knowledge is definitely strengthened. Gone Girl starts as a typical, yet interesting crime drama but then it takes off and goes in directions that will leave you shocked at stunned at what's happening. The acting is brilliant in the movie, especially by Rosamund Pike. It is a long movie, but the length didn't bother me at all. It kept going and going, but I was loving every minute of it and didn't want it to stop. However, when it did finally stop, I was awe. I just sat there speechless, soaking it all in. No, this isn't a perfect movie. But I'm not going to talk about what I didn't like. I'm just going to leave this review by saying that Gone Girl is one of the best movies of the year. I give it a 9.5/10.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones Review

A Liam Neeson action thriller involving a kidnapping? Doesn't it sound like we've done this before, like say in the movie Taken? I'm sure as you watched the trailers for this movie, this is the big question that you probably asked. You also probably thought of his recent filmography and wondered if we've had enough Liam Neeson action thrillers. Well first off let me say that Liam Neeson is great at being an action star, so I'm not opposed to him making more movies like that. They may not be deep or thought-provoking, but they are really entertaining. But second, despite what this may seem to be in the trailers, this actually isn't an action movie at all. Sure, there's a few action scenes, but they are few and far between. This is a crime drama. Rather than it being like the kidnapping movie Taken, it's a lot closer to the kidnapping movie Prisoners. And if you know me, I have always loved movies, TV shows and books that are of this genre, so I was all for A Walk Among the Tombstones. No it's nothing epic or amazing, but if you are like me and you like crime dramas, I would definitely recommend giving this movie a shot.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a movie that is based on the book of the same title by Lawrence Block. It's one of nearly 20 books written by block following private detective Mathew Scudder. I have not read any of these books, but it seems like the type of book that I would actually like. I grew up reading mystery/crime novels. The Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys are two series that I remember loving when I was really young and my passion for that genre never went away. Recently I've seen every episode of Criminal Minds and have enjoyed watching the occasional episode of other shows such as NCIS, Bones, Castle, and Numbers. Most of the plot lines for the individual books or episodes like this are quite similar, but for some reason they just never get old. And I've watched/read hundreds of them if I count all the individual episodes and all the books I've read.

My point with all that is that if you know the background of this movie, you know what you are getting into and if you love watching these crime dramas like I do, you also know that you are going to enjoy the movie and you will. If you've never enjoyed crime dramas, then you shouldn't go see this movie. It's that simple. If you walk in expecting a Liam Neeson action-packed thriller, you are going to be very disappointed because this movie is actually really slow for most of it. Matthew Scudder, played by Neeson, is a former cop and current private investigator. In this case, a drug kingpin comes to Scudder wanting him to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Initially Scudder declines the offer, but is eventually convinced, especially after he learns that this is happening to many people. There's a lot of build up, a lot of mystery, and a lot of detective work. Personally I was fully invested in the case and loved this slower pace. It got more intense as we went along to the point where the ending is quite the thrill.

In conclusion, A Walk Among the Tombstones is definitely your typical crime drama movie. It's nothing mind-blowing or epic. It probably won't stand out of the crowd when you go back and rank all your favorite crime dramas. The villains aren't anything legendary or memorable like Norman Bates or Hannibal Lecter. They're just your typical crime drama villains. But if you're like me and you love shows like Criminal Minds then this is a great movie for you. I'd recommend catching it in theaters while it's still there or finding it when it comes out on DVD if you need a break for a couple of hours. I'd totally be down for Liam Neeson returning again as Matthew Scudder in another Lawrence Block adaptation. Unfortunately I don't know if that will ever happen, but at least I know I have a long series of Matthew Scudder books that I can go read if I want more. My grade for A Walk Among the Tombstones is an 8/10.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Movie Preview: October 2014

You know it was September in Hollywood when the third highest grossing movie of the month was a movie that was released on August 1. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy has been something special, but historically speaking, September is the worst movie month of the year in terms of financial gross and this just evidence of that continuing this year. In fact, even in terms of a typical September this was a bad month as it was the second lowest grossing September since 2005. Now October isn't necessarily known to be much better, but its usually more of an interesting month for people as we have both Halloween season combined with the real start to Oscar season. I'm not sure how this October will stack financially to past Octobers, but I do know there are a lot of interesting movies to talk about, so let's begin!

October 3rd - 5th-

What do the movies Se7en, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have in common? They're great movies? They're praised by critics and viewers alike? They have many Oscar nominations between them? Two of them are in the top 25 on the IMDb top 250? If you answered in any of those ways, you'd be mostly right. The answer I was going for was that they are all directed by David Fincher. My point in all that is to show how great of a track record this man has with making movies people love. He's back at it again with Gone Girl. As you can see, Fincher is well-versed in many different types of movies. However, this one seems right along the lines of Se7en and Zodiac as it's a crime drama. Ben Affleck stars as a man who's accused of killing his wife. He of course claims innocence. Lots of Oscar buzz has followed this movie for quite some time now based on the fact that Fincher's last three movies have a combined total of 26 nominations. With great early reviews, it looks like yet another success for Fincher. Look for potential Oscar nominations for Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Ben Affleck as well as a best picture nomination and most likely several others.

Last summer The Conjuring was a huge success as it made over $300 million worldwide mainly due to the almost universal praise by horror fans. And of course you know what happens when a horror movie gets that type of success, right? YOU GET MORE!!! And because horror movies are so easy to make, you usually get a lot more. But no, we don't have The Conjuring 2. We have Annabelle, which is a prequel. Bold going where no horror has gone before? Nope. Annabelle will give us the haunted doll treatment. Being that this is Halloween and this movie will be around for the whole Halloween season, this is smart timing. Horror fans will have no Paranormal Activity to show up to this October and so instead they should turn to this prequel.

Next up we have the return of one of the most ridiculed actors in the business right now. Nicolas Cage in Left Behind. Now did you know that Nicolas Cage has been nominated for best actor twice? And did you also know that he actually won one of those nominations? Some people might have a hard time believing that, but it's true. He won best actor at the Oscars in 2003 for the movie Adaption. So that shows that he can act and thus is often unfairly ridiculed. However, his problem is that he will accept pretty much any role it seems and this could be another one of those instances that really won't help his case. Left Behind is a Christian drama that centers around the rapture. Christian dramas have been huge wildcards this year as many of them have been huge successes while others have gone nowhere and it's been hard to predict. Freestyle Releasing scored big with God's Not Dead early in the year, but came up completely empty with The Identical last month, so who knows where this will go. If I were to make a wager, I would go for the latter.

And finally in limited release this weekend we have Men, Women & Children. This is a dives into a lot of the real life issues that a lot of people, specifically teenagers and their parents, have to deal with. This specifically has emphasis on the effect that the internet has had on these crowds. This is only in five theaters this weekend as it tests the art-house markets first before expanding nationwide at the end of the month. This was initially thought to be a decent Oscar contender, but got mixed reviews out of the Toronto International Film Festival, which doesn't bode well for it. However, both Ansel Elgort and Adam Sandler have been in conversations when it comes to a best supporting actor nomination at the Oscars. Yes, you heard that right. Adam Sandler and Oscar nomination have been mentioned in the same sentence.

October 10th - 12th-

Like Men, Women & Children, another Oscar hopeful had it's Oscar hopes dashed by a poor showing at the Toronto International Film Festival and that would be The Judge. However, there might not be a whole lot of tears shed in this case because a movie headlined by Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall has a chance to be a pretty good box office hit. RDJ plays a lawyer who is called home to deal with his father (Duvall), who, despite being a judge for a long time, is now suspected of murder. Unlike other Oscar hopefuls, this is skipping the limited release stage and going straight to a wide release, which is another potential sign that this could end up being a movie that is enjoyed more by general audiences than by Oscar.

Family audiences have been somewhat ignored in Hollywood for the last several months. While some did show up for Laika's The Boxtrolls, a more widely appealing movie will be hitting the markets this weekend in Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Don't ask me to type that twice. Many will recognize this from the popular children's book of the same title. It's a very short and simple book about a boy who has a really bad day. Some have questioned the necessity of this being a full-length movie, but Disney certainly seems to be hitting a lot of the right chords by making it a fun family film full of hilarious gags and a touching story.

Once again getting in the spirit of Halloween we have the return of one of the most iconic Halloween characters in Dracula Untold. If done right this could be a very popular choice this Halloween because it is Dracula, but as the title suggests, this attempts to tell the untold story of Dracula. The interesting thing with this is that the central character is Vlad Tepes, who was an actual historical figure in the 15th century. Known as Vlad the Impaler by many, he actually went by the title Dracula and was the inspiration of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula. Combining history with fiction could be a brilliant strategy in October for this movie or it could be a confusing disaster like that of I, Frankenstein earlier this year. Universal certainly is hoping for the former as this movie has a huge budget of $100 million. If they don't play their cards right, this could be the biggest financial disaster of the year.

The final wide release of the weekend is the movie Addicted. Based on the best-selling by Zane, this is a thriller about a woman who seemingly has everything she could want -- a loving husband, two kids, and a successful career. Despite this, she manages to get herself involved in an adulterous relationship that causes everything in her life to turn south very quickly as she finds herself down a very dangerous road. In a very crowded weekend, this is looking to do some counter-programming for the adult audiences, which may or may not work out due to the fact that The Judge might be fighting for similar adult audiences.

While that is the end of the wide releases of the weekend, we're only halfway done with this weekend as there are several noteworthy limited release movies. The most noteworthy is a movie that got a lot of praise out of the Toronto International Film Festival and that is St. Vincent. This stars Bill Murray in a role that seems to have been tailor-made for him to play. He plays a care-free, grumpy old man who has to accept this younger kid into his life almost against his will. However, this relationship goes remarkable well, which seemingly changes Bill Murray's outlook on life. The Oscar buzz surrounding Bill Murray for this role is currently very loud.

Next up is the thriller Kill the Messenger. This is the first of a couple of different journalism-related crime dramas and is also the second Avenger this weekend to star in his own Oscar-baited movie as Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) plays a journalist faced with a very tough decision. He's run into a story that he feels needs to get out to the public. However, if he does so, he could be risking the life of him and his family. So what do you do? Save yourself or inform the public of what's happening?

Another Oscar-baited movie being released this weekend is Whiplash. This has J.K. Simmons as the current frontrunner for the best supporting actor award, but also has Miles Teller among the very long list of potential nominees. The movie is a musical drama about a young drummer aspiring for greatness who enrolls in a conservatory where his teacher plans on doing everything possible to make him great.

And finally on this very busy weekend in both limited and wide release, we have the documentary Meet the Mormons, which is the first theatrically released movie made by The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. The movie follows the lives of six devout members of the Church and while telling their amazing stories, it confronts many of the stereotypes that surround the Mormon church. The Church has heavily promoted this movie and while it should be huge in Utah, it isn't just a Utah release. It's being released in quite a few select cities in over 30 states and will go to more as the demand arises.

October 17th - 19th-

Whew! Never thought that previous weekend would end, did you? The third weekend of October doesn't have as many releases as the second, but there are three wide releases to speak of, the most notable one being Fury. Oscar loves Brad Pitt and Oscar loves war movies, so this seems like a match made in heaven when it comes to awards. Fury is a World War II movie that takes place in Germany towards the end of the war when Brad Pitt's character, an army sergeant named Wardaddy, commands a tank with her five-man crew into a deadly mission. While the movie should be in contention for best picture, in terms of acting it's not Brad Pitt getting the most Oscar buzz for this. It's his co-star Logan Lerman in the supporting role.

While I'm sure all the guys will be trying to convince their girls to let them go to the war movie, many of them may be sucked in by their girls to see the latest Nicholas Sparks movie adaption in The Best of Me. This seems like a typical cookie-cutter chick flick. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Conflict happens that separates boy and girl. Boy and girl overcome conflict and live happily ever after. In this run around, the conflict happens to be a separation of many years. But seriously, you watch this trailer and you literally know the whole movie and how every twist and turn works out. These Nicholas Sparks adaptions never vary from that formula. But do you know what, it works for them. There have been eight of these so far and most of them have ended between $60 and $80 million, with a few early ones ending between $40 and $50 million. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. The young version of the couple in this movie is Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato while they older version is James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan.

In our three main options for the weekend, we have first discussed a movie for the men followed by a movie for the women. In a fitting ending, we complete this trio of movies by talking about a movie for the children with The Book of Life. Surprisingly, 2014 has been a year that has been sparse on animated movies. Since June we have had How to Train Your Dragon 2, Planes: Fire & Rescue, and The Boxtrolls. That's it. So The Book of Life could be well-received because of that, especially for those family audiences that skipped out on Planes: Fire and Rescue and The Boxtrolls. The Book of Life is about a young man torn between following his heart and meeting the expectations of his family. Before deciding, he embarks on a journey that spans three separate worlds where he is forced to face his fears. Since this isn't done by a major animation studio, the big draw that advertising has used is producer Guillermo del Toro as well as star voice casts Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum.

On the limited release front, there is only one release that I want to talk about this weekend, but it's a big one. This movie is Birdman. No, this isn't a superhero movie. This is a movie about an old, washed-up actor who used to play a superhero and is trying to make a comeback. The best picture and best actor categories in the Oscars are going to be very competitive, if you haven't been able to tell by just reading this post. But despite that, Birdman is seen as one that is almost guaranteed to a nomination in both. In fact, it'll most likely be in serious contention to win both awards with Michael Keaton being the one in the best actor category. This also has Edward Norton and Emma Stone in strong contention for Oscar nominations. In general, this could be one of those movies that shows up in most categories. The early word is very positive.

October 24th - 26th-

Releasing the weekend before Halloween is our second horror movie of the month in Ouija. This is three weeks removed from Annabelle, so it has the potential to still do good even if Annabelle ends up being a success. This also has the advantage of being a PG-13 horror movie, which could bring in a whole new younger crowd that will most likely skip out on Annabelle due to that movie's R rating. Finally, Ouija boards have a lot of real life horror stories behind them, so this movie looks to play off that psychological aspect of Ouija boards, thus making it different than your typical horror movie. This has sparked concern among a lot of people who say that Ouija boards are not to be messed with. But of course controversy sparks curiosity, so that could play out to the movie's benefit.

Next up is the action thriller John Wick. This movie stars Keanu Reeves in the title role of John Wick, an ex-hitman who who comes out of retirement to take down a group of gangsters that took everything from him. This is the type of movie that would need a big box office draw in order to avoid going completely ignored and unfortunately Reeves isn't what you would call a box office draw. He hasn't really had a big hit since the Matrix trilogy. Not really helping the cause is that this is the directorial debut of Chad Stahelski, who's main body of work has come as a stunt coordinator. This doesn't seem like a recipe for success.

Last up for this weekend is the sports drama 23 Blast, which will only be released in around 600 theaters, so don't look for this to make much of an impact. This is a movie about a high school football player who goes blind, but yet still manages to keep playing the game as a center. No big name actors. Not much in terms of marketing. Actor Dylan Baker, best known for his portrayal of Dr. Curt Conners in Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, is making his directorial debut with this. Just like John Wick, look for this to come and go unnoticed.

October 31st - November 2nd-

Two days from this weekend is in November, but I'm including this in October because that's the month that starts the weekend. It's probably not too likely that a whole ton of people will show up to the theaters on Halloween night, but there's a couple of movies debuting anyways. The first of which is Nightcrawler. Back when I talked about Kill the Messenger, I mentioned that it was one of a couple different journalism-related crime dramas. Nightcrawler is the other one. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a freelance journalist who will go to any lengths, legal or not, to get the story that no one else will get. This is actually a really relevant issue in today's society as journalism has changed quite a bit from what it used to. Nightcrawler will look to bank off word of mouth to be successful and that could work out as it got praised at its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Gyllenhaal is also one of the many names that could be in play for a best actor nomination, although his situation could be a lot like Hugh Jackman from last year's Prisoners who got left in the dust due to a really competitive field.

And we've finally come to the end of this very busy October month. The finale is Before I Go to Sleep, which is another thriller that could get completely ignored. The movie looks like a really intense version of 50 First Dates. Nicole Kidman plays a character who loses her memory every night. When she wakes up, her husband, Colin Firth, has to remind her of who she. Things get tense in the movie when she starts to learn about the secrets of her past. This is released by Clarius Entertainment and they haven't had a whole lot of success with their other two movies from this year. Although they are looking for a third time's the charm with this, it seems more likely that it will instead by a three strikes and you're out.