Review: Prisoners

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano

Director: Denis Villeneuve

R, 2 hr 33 min

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) and his family are spending a quiet Thanksgiving at their neighbors’ house just down the street, when their peaceful holiday takes a turn for the worst: Keller’s six-year-old daughter and her friend go missing.  After a lack of evidence forces the lead detective on the case (Jake Gyllenhaal) to release their only suspect, Keller decides to take his daughter’s fate into his own hands.

I think “Prisoners” is definitely worth renting.  The film kept me guessing, and had me playing my own role as lead detective to the case.  Hugh Jackman did a great job at portraying the terror and sense of urgency that (I’m sure) goes along with having a child who’s gone missing, although you’ll think (more than once), he’s taking this wayyyy too far.  Maria Bello, who plays Hugh Jackman’s wife, did a fine job playing a mother whose life gets put on hold when her daughter’s whereabouts are completely unknown.  As for Jake Gyllenhaal’s role in the film,  I have never felt completely blown away by his work; I’m pretty impartial to him as an actor.  I thought his performance in “Prisoners” was okay.  All in all, “Prisoners” kept my attention throughout the film, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I find myself watching it again on a Friday night.

Reserve your copy of “Prisoners” at Redbox!

40 days until the Oscars!  Have a great Tuesday, FFLs!

-FJ

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Review: The Act of Killing

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin, Ibrahim Sinik, Yapto Soerjosoemarno

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

R, 1 hr 56 min

“The Act of Killing” tells the chilling real-life account of gangsters-turned-death squad leaders in Medan, Indonesia.  After the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his friends went from scalping movie theatre tickets to killing Indonesia’s so-called “communists.” Through dancing and make-believe gangster scenes, ‘The Act of Killing” captures the reenactments of these death squad leaders’ memories of mass murder.

This film was incredibly powerful and eye-opening.  At the same time, watching a film about a country whose people praised death squad leaders in the killing of innocent people, it was incredibly hard to watch.  This film took me back to a feeling I experienced the first time I read a book about the Holocaust; this uneasy, surreal feeling.  Sometimes, amidst the work day and watching “reality” television on my couch at home, I forget about some of the terrible shit that happens around the world. “The Act of Killing” brought me back down to a place of actual reality, not the kind you see on Bravo or E!  I thought Joshua Oppenheimer did a great job at capturing the reality of what actually happened, through the tellings of Anwar and the rest of the death squad leaders’ haunted memories.

The reason I rated “The Act of Killing” a Renter is because I would much rather watch this film in the comfort of my own home over a theatre full of strangers, due to the subject matter of the film.  Although I think the film is a top-contender to go home with an Oscar win for Documentary Feature, there are still a few of the other documentary features I need to see.

“The Act of Killing” is available on Netflix and On Demand (check your cable service provider), but there are some other ways to watch it listed here.

-FJ

41 days to go!

Happy Monday, FFLs!  I hope everyone had a great weekend, filled with lots of movie reviews to share.

My weekend was jam-packed with movies.  Friday night I watched the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing,” Saturday my family and I rented “Runner Runner” (Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake), and last night I watched “Enough Said” (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini) and the Oscar-nominated film, “Prisoners.”  Since “The Act of Killing” and “Prisoners” are both up for an Oscar, I will post more in-depth reviews later today.  As for “Runner Runner” and “Enough Said,” I will give you guys a little snippet of what I thought:

Runner Runner – I thought “Runner Runner” was okay.  I think it’s worth seeing once, but I probably wouldn’t care to watch it again.  The acting was fine, but I didn’t think it was great, and I found myself confused throughout parts of the film.  I just didn’t really get it.

Enough Said – I haven’t seen much of James Gandolfini’s work, but it really is a shame the industry lost him at such a young age.  From Sopranos to “Enough Said,” James Gandolfini had a wide range of talent.  His likability and softer side shined through in this film, and the chemistry between him and Julia Louis-Dreyfus was undeniable.  I loved this film; it was cute, witty, touching, and real.  It made me think about life and the changes that come with aging.  I would watch this movie again and again.

Photo credit: IMDB.com

Photo credit: IMDB.com

I’d love to hear your reviews from over the weekend, so feel free to comment below!

Stay tuned for my reviews of “The Act of Killing” and “Prisoners.”

-FJ

The Movie Lover’s reading list for 2014

Happy Friday, FFLs!

Years ago, when I was in elementary school, I remember reading “The Giver.”  Quite a few years have passed since then (and just a tad of added maturity), so when I heard “The Giver” was being made into a movie, I had no other choice but to revisit it once again.  I luckily still had the book over all these years, so I decided to get a jump start on it before the film comes to theatres (August 15, 2014).

One of my “resolutions” for 2014 is to read more, so why not combine this goal with my love of film and create a reading list of books being made into movies this year.  If you enjoy reading a book before seeing its film version, check out this list I found on BuzzFeed.  There’s a pretty great variety on the list, if I do say so myself.  If anyone does read any of the books on this list, reviews and comments are always welcome!

MONEY SAVER: If you don’t want to spend a bunch of money buying each book at a bookstore, check your local library or online (Amazon is a go-to of mine) to get the book at a better (or library=free) cost.

Photo credit: BuzzFeed

Photo credit: BuzzFeed

Have a great weekend!

-FJ

Review: Her

FJ Rating: Big Screener

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara

Director: Spike Jonze

R, 2 hr 0 min

Her” tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely and heartbroken man who makes a living writing love letters for other people.  While he tries to get over his failed marriage, Theodore becomes fixated with his new operating system, “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), and the two eventually form a bond much stronger than friendship.

I will start off by saying I very much enjoyed the film.  Joaquin Phoenix is such a talented actor, and after seeing the film I really understood why people were raving about Scarlett Johansson’s performance.  I will admit that before seeing “Her,” I thought the concept of the movie seemed a little weird and I chuckled when I heard talk about how great Scarlett Johansson was as the voice of Samantha.  I just didn’t get how someone could really call a voice performance Oscar-worthy. However, after seeing the film, I get it.  Scarlett Johansson makes Samantha likable and convincing.  She really does bring Samantha, an operating system, to life.  I found myself hoping that Samantha would somehow come to life in the physical form and that her and Theodore would live happily ever after.

The film just had the right amount of everything.  It made me laugh, it made me sympathize for the characters, and it definitely got me thinking about the influence of technology and what’s to come for the future of the modern world.  The film takes place in a futuristic, not-so-far-down-the-road Los Angeles.  Theodore (and everyone around him) wears an earpiece and carries a device used when needing to see something visually, and with a simple spoken “delete”, an email is magically wiped off his hands.  The film created the future of the modern world as being completely driven by technology, and to be honest, it seemed more realistic than far-fetched (not to say that that isn’t somewhat depressing).  It made me wonder if the world will eventually get to a place where people fall in love with a Samantha.  Scary thought, isn’t it?  The film was great, the acting was great, let’s just hope people continue to fall in love with other people and not operating systems.

EXTRA: Kristen Wiig does the voice of SexyKitten, and Spike Jonze does the voice of the alien in the video game.

Check Fandango to see where “Her” is playing in your area.

Have a great Wednesday, FFLs!

-FJ

Oscar nominations announced tomorrow!!

Although there’s still 46 days left until the 86th Academy Awards (March 2, 7e/4p on ABC), we only have to wait ONE more day until the nominations are announced (!!!).

Last year I tried to see as many Oscar-nominated films as I possibly could before the Oscars aired, and I am going to attempt the same thing again this year (hopefully with a better outcome). Some of the nominated films will still be playing in theatres, but for those that are not, I will do my best to share with you what outlets these nominated films will be available (Netflix, Redbox, On Demand, etc).  If anyone is able to add to the list, please do!

Check out my blog tomorrow as I will be posting the Oscar nominations on FJ!

Happy Wednesday, and look forward to my review of Her (will be posted today).

-FJ

Review: American Hustle

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K.

Director: David O. Russell

R, 2 hr 9 min

American Hustle” tells the story of con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who finds himself caught between his unpredictable wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), and his mistress/charming partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). After being caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), the two are forced to work together with the FBI to help take down some of Jersey’s most powerful political figures, one being the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner).

I didn’t dislike “American Hustle,” but I didn’t leave the theatre ranting and raving about the film either.  If I’m being honest, I thought it was okay.  This may have been partly due to the fact that so many people have been putting it on such a high pedestal, that it just didn’t live up to the expectations I had for it.  The film felt slow to me at times, and I did catch myself wondering how much time was left towards the end.

As for the performances, I will start out by saying I am a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence.  So many people raved about Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in “American Hustle” and I guess I just didn’t get it.  I didn’t find anything exceptionally special about her performance in the film.  I thought she was great in “Winter’s Bone” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” and is perfect for her role as Katniss in “The Hunger Games” films, but I just wasn’t fully-satisfied this time around.  As for everyone else, I thought Christian Bale was great – the look and feel of his character was very convincing.  I thought Amy Adams was great as well – one of her more impressive roles to date.  Bradley Cooper’s performance was pretty good, and Jeremy Renner was so-so.  Overall, I thought the film was entertaining but a little too long.

Check Fandango to see where “American Hustle” is playing in your area.

Have a great weekend, FFLs!  Lots of posts to come in the next few days following my absence.

-FJ

Review: Cutie and the Boxer

FJ Rating: Big Screener/Renter

Cast: Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Alex Shinohara, Ethan Cohen

Director: Zachary Heinzerling

R, 1 hr 22 min

Ushio and his artist wife, Noriko, struggle to make ends meet in New York City.  Known as the renowned “boxing” painter, Ushio treats his wife more like his personal assistant, putting his needs before hers.  After 40-years of marriage, Noriko decides it’s finally time to put her talent and independence at the forefront.

Cutie and the Boxer” is a film about love and sacrifice.  The film really gives its audience a deeper look into the struggles and hardships that come with marriage.  For most of their 40-year marriage, Noriko has been more of a personal assistant/cook/maid to Ushio than the hardworking, talented wife that she is.  Throughout the film, the roles change and Noriko begins to establish her own independence and sense of self through her art.  “Cutie and the Boxer” is eye-opening, funny, and will make you reflect on what’s important in your life.

Check Fandango to see if “Cutie and the Boxer” is playing in your area.  If it isn’t being shown in your area, you can rent or buy it on Amazon or iTunes.

-FJ

Review: Gravity

FJ Rating: Big Screener

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

PG-13, 1 hr 31 min

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission.  Teamed with composed veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), all hell breaks loose when their shuttle is hit by debris.  Losing all communication to Earth, the struggle to return home becomes their newest, most important mission of their lives.

First off, I need to admit that I’m extremely disappointed in myself for not having seen this in IMAX 3D when it was available to me.  Epic fail.  However, I did see it in regular 3D (phew!). I must say, I really enjoyed it.  I was nervous, with my feet up on my chair, hands up near my mouth out of worry, and I even forgot at times that I had a free popcorn waiting for me to munch on (compliments of Marcus Theatres’ Free Popcorn Tuesdays – see below!).

Sandra Bullock’s character is on her first shuttle mission, and although she’s gone through extensive training, I still felt like I was on my first shuttle mission right alongside her.  I felt what she felt – nervousness, worry, frustration, fear.  In my opinion, this role really proved what Sandra Bullock is capable of and I will be shocked if she isn’t nominated for an Oscar (among other awards). Although George Clooney didn’t have as much screen time as Sandra Bullock, the time he was on screen impressed me as much as it possibly could.  The story focuses more on Sandra Bullock’s character anyways, so if you’re planning to see “Gravity” in hopes to see sexy astronaut George Clooney steal the show, don’t get your hopes up.

As for the film itself, critics can go on and on about how certain details of the film weren’t realistic or possible, but I guess I see things in a different light.  I don’t get all technical when watching a film.  I share my opinions based on whether or not the film was enjoyable and the acting up to a certain bar.  If a film is a drama, I want to feel sadness and pain and sympathy while watching it.  If a film is a comedy, I want to laugh and be entertained.  If a film is an action film, I want to be on the edge of my seat and feel my heart beating faster and faster.  These are all the things I take into consideration when giving my opinion of a film.  With that being said, I enjoyed “Gravity.”  I thought the graphics were phenomenal, Sandra Bullock did a great job, and it kept my attention.  I must admit that the film is more graphics than an extensive storyline, so my only piece of advice would be to see “Gravity” in 3D.

MONEY SAVER: Check “Gravity” out while it’s still playing at a Marcus Theatres near you.  Marcus Theatres’ newest promotion lets you see ANY movie for $5 on Tuesdays.  If you want to see a movie in 3D, it’s only a few dollars more.  Not only that, but Tuesdays through December you also get a free 44 oz. popcorn.  That means you could go see “Gravity” in 3D and get a 44 oz. popcorn for next to nothing.  Take advantage of it!

I’m not sure how much longer “Gravity” will be in theatres, so check Fandango to see where “Gravity” is playing in your area.

-FJ

Review: Dallas Buyers Club

FJ Rating: Renter

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn

Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

R, 1 hr 57 min

It’s 1985 in Dallas, Texas, and Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) has just been told he’s HIV+.  Homophobic and uneducated about the disease, Ron’s initial reaction is denial.  Given 30 days to live, he eventually comes to the realization that his diagnosis is probably true and he begins doing research of his own.  After quite a few unsuccessful attempts at smuggling non-FDA approved drugs from Mexico into Texas, Ron starts up a Buyers Club with Rayon (Jared Leto), an HIV+ transvestite he meets while in the hospital.

I’ll start off by admitting I thought Jared Leto made this film.  Jared Leto played the frail HIV+ transvestite, Rayon, who meets Matthew McConaughey’s character in the hospital.  Rayon is free-spirited, flirtatious, sometimes coy, and the drug addict/business partner of Ron Woodroof. Jared Leto did an excellent job at his portrayal of Rayon.  I think it’s safe to say he will definitely be on the nominee list for Actor in a Supporting Role for the 86th Academy Awards (which will air March 2, 2014, so mark your calendars!).  I’m sure Matthew McConaughey will also be nominated for an Oscar – for Actor in a Leading Role – I just wasn’t as impressed with his portrayal of Ron Woodroof as I was Jared Leto’s character.  If I’m being brutally honest, I think the physical transformation was really the only thing that blew me away in regards to Matthew McConaughey’s role in the film.  Certain parts of the film seemed to drag on and lacked to keep my interest, so I’d save your money and wait until “Dallas Buyers Club” is available to rent.

Check Fandango to see when “Dallas Buyers Club” is playing in your area.

-FJ