Movie Review ~ The Little Things


The Facts

Synopsis: A burnt-out deputy sheriff is sent to Los Angeles for what should have been a quick evidence-gathering assignment and becomes embroiled in a crack LASD detective’s search for a killer who is terrorizing the city.

Stars: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, Sofia Vassilieva, Natalie Morales, Terry Kinney, Michael Hyatt, Chris Bauer, Isabel Arraiza, Joris Jarsky, Sheila Houlahan, John Harlan Kim, Tom Hughes, Jason James Richter, Stephanie Erb, Kerry O’Malley

Director: John Lee Hancock

Rated: R

Running Length: 127 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review:  During the recent long weekend I sat through nearly four hours of the mesmerizing documentary Night Stalker on Netflix which chronicled serial killer Richard Ramirez’s reign of terror over Los Angeles and neighboring counties in the mid ‘80s.  Here was proof positive of evil at its purest form, the killing of innocent people chosen at random with increasingly depraved brutality.  Anyone that’s ever read up on serial killers (or seen the movie Copycat) knows at least a little about Ramirez but I hadn’t truly experienced the full-on assault of his crimes until Night Stalker came along.  The fascination of the film for me wasn’t in the details of his actions, though, it was in the work of the dedicated detectives that called upon their resources, ingenuity, and plain old detective gut instinct to nab the predator.

This investigative work is always what draws me to these serial killer films and why I’ve been sad to see them fall by the wayside in recent years in favor of less complex plots that hinge more on luck than on genius.  Where are the Clarice Starlings from The Silence of the Lambs in film today?  Or a wise William Somerset from Se7en to take young recruits under their wing?  Heck, even Andy Garcia’s troubled detective in the not so beloved Jennifer 8 actually takes the time to investigate the reddest of all herrings. (I love that movie, by the by).  Even more than that, these are popular films that have entertainment value if generated with a modicum of competent thought, despite their often perilously dark subject matter.  Yet they’ve become less prestige over time and more the kind of films that top level B-grade stars frequent…rarely attracting A-list talent.  Plain and simple – we’ve been needing a movie like The Little Things to come around.

Writer/director John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks) has delivered an agreeably formulaic but nonetheless efficiently crackerjack excursion back in time to 1990s Los Angeles, allowing viewers to follow along in a puzzling mystery.  An opening prologue applies just enough pressure to get the blood pumping but then withdraws for a time as introductions are made all around.  After a health scare several years earlier, former L.A. detective Joe ‘Deke’ Deacon (Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.) has retreated to a quieter life of public service as a deputy sheriff in Kern County, two hours outside of Los Angeles.  There’s a slight apprehension when he’s sent back to the big city to retrieve important evidence in a local case and we’ll find out why (but on Hancock’s slightly drawn-out timeline) after he runs into his old partner (Terry Kinney, Promised Land) and a medical examiner (Michael Hyatt, Nightcrawler), both of whom he shares a well-kept secret with.

Deke happens to arrive at an opportune time because his previous department could use an extra set of eyes to help find a killer targeting women.  At first, lead detective Jim Baxter (Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody) wants Deke far away from his case but once Baxter sees how the veteran lawman works, he realizes if there’s a key to catching the evil roaming the streets at night, Deke is holding it.  After examining the latest murder scene and discovering new evidence, the men are threatened with losing the case with the impending arrival of the FBI.   The two men combine their efforts in an attempt to flush out a criminal in hiding, eventually targeting a potential suspect (Jared Leto, Blade Runner 2049) who checks all the boxes to be the man they’re looking for but might also turn out to undo all the work they’ve done if he’s innocent.

Playing like a truncated season of True Detective, The Little Things doesn’t have the meat to fill out an five or six episode order on HBO but for a two hour movie that’s debuting on HBO Max, it’s a largely satisfying endeavor.  It has the appropriate amount of thrill to it at the beginning but benefits from a heat that sparks more than slow burns.  Now, this may be insufficient for some who want that slow burn gradient for their films and enjoy watching the waters rise over the nose the ears the eyes of their protagonists, but I almost found it more interesting how Hancock more or less would dunk his characters in cold water from time to time.  It’s also two mysteries in one, with the current murders being looked into while Deke has re-opened an older case that has haunted him for years.  It’s not always an equal balance between the two cases and I still haven’t decided if Hancock has resolved either fairly enough but it’s certainly more ambitious a plot than not.

You wouldn’t expect an actor like Washington to show up in film that didn’t have some extra oomph to it, would you?  While it falls into one of Washington’s more outright commercial efforts like the 2016 remake of The Magnificent Seven, you can tell Washington is bringing more to the character than what was on the page…and what was on the page is clearly what attracted him to the role in the first place.  Deke is a flawed character with a range of setbacks he’s been working around.  His return trip to L.A. is causing him to confront those and his relationship with Baxter is a chance for further reflection on the mistakes he’s made both personally and professionally.  In typical Washington fashion, he takes what could have been an average role that a good actor could have made better and turns it into a bona fide star turn.

He’s followed pretty closely by Leto as one of the creepiest characters I’ve seen anyone play in some time.  Wearing dark contacts, a paunch, greasy hair, and a strange gait, he also takes on an affected voice that I was dubious about at first but starts to work into the freak factor if you buy into Deke and Baxter’s hunch that he’s the man they seek.  He certainly plays into their suspicions and Leto goes full, well, Leto in the performance.  I was genuinely unnerved by the actor and he’s well cast from my vantage point.  In the shadow of these two, Malek can’t help but look a little chilly and reserved.  Apparently unaware he isn’t wearing his Freddie Mercury teeth anymore, Malek always appears poised to ask Washington if he has any Grey Poupon and his attempts at being serious come off as bug-eyed confusion.  He’s just the wrong fit for the role as a family man young detective that becomes obsessed with finding this killer.  Another note about the cast in general, Hancock has amassed a fairly phenomenal supporting cast of bit players comprised of, among others, familiar faces (Lee Garlington, Psycho II in a small role as a harried landlady) and grown-up child stars (I didn’t even recognize Free Willy’s Jason James Richter as another LASD detective) – so it’s all around a strong world that’s been created for viewers.

Built on Hancock’s sometimes wobbly script that does require your rapt attention, the editing of the film is what detracts from the overall quality the most.  Several key scenes are hard to follow because, without giving any spoilers, the editor doesn’t properly establish location of certain characters.  That’s a big problem when you’re trying to put a puzzle together with only your brain storing the pieces.  My advice is to pay close attention throughout because important information about characters are given in sometimes offhanded ways, almost as toss away lines.  For a number of people, The Little Things will be seen as a creaky serial killer thriller that’s past its expiration date but it’s actually one that has outlived its sell-by window with better than average results.

31 Days to Scare ~ The Birds


The Facts:

Synopsis: A San Francisco socialite pursues a man to a small Northern California town that takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people.

Stars: Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Suzanne Pleshette, Jessica Tandy, Veronica Cartwright, Ethel Griffies, Charles McGraw, Joe Mantell, Elizabeth Wilson, Doodles Weaver, Richard Deacon

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 119 minutes

TMMM Score: (8.5/10)

Review:  I’m not one of those people that can watch films by the great director Alfred Hitchcock over and over, endlessly analyzing the way he constructed shots and drove narratives in exciting new ways.  I prefer to take long-ish stretches between viewings because not only does it help me appreciate the movie when I return to it, I also come back just a little hazy on all the plot mechanics.  This helps achieve somewhat of a “fresh take” on repeat viewings.  I should also probably confess that I’ve yet to make it through the entire Hithcock catalog, though I’m slowly ticking them off as the years go by.  Shamefully, it took a pandemic to help me watch North by Northwest for the first time!

Anyway, this all goes to say that I can’t even remember the last time I’ve watched 1963’s The Birds from start to finish.  I’ve caught bits and pieces here and there, sure, but taking the whole thing in has been likely decades in the making.  What I do remember is that the first time I saw it as a teenager I found it incredibly slow and talky, not the thrilling horror as promised.  I mean, of course I did!  At that point, all I wanted was to get to the bird-killing action and seeing people running away from beaks and clawed feet.  What’s all this banter between the striking blonde (Tippi Hedren) and stone-jawed hunky leading man (Rod Taylor) got to do with flesh-craving birds?

Viewing it as an adult who has a more rounded view of cinema and of the oeuvre of the director, I understand the structure of the screenplay of The Birds and how Hitchcock uses the first hour or so to establish time, place, and character.  Without these factors being cemented, the last half of the film wouldn’t work nearly as well because we’d have no idea of the isolation felt by the people fending off flocks of seagulls.  It makes perfect sense to stroll through a curiously event-free 25 minutes before the first angry bird makes its presence known, that way we’ve gotten to know flirty Melanie (Hedren) who has tracked twinkle-eyed Mitch (Taylor) to his weekend retreat in Bodega Bay, California.

Melanie’s arrival appears to coincide with a strange convergence of birds who seem to escalate their assaults rather quickly on the unprepared seaside town.  This allows Hitchcock to stage some masterfully suspenseful scenes, rendered with a mix of live and animatronic birds as well as more that were added in later using a state-of-the-art special effect.  No one is safe in this story, not even the town’s children who become the first targets of a terrifying mob of razor beaked crows.  As the birds continue to destroy Bodega Bay and its residents without any explanation as to why, Melanie winds up with Mitch, his mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy, Still of the Night), and his younger sister Cathy (Veronica Cartwright, Alien) in their remote home far from the town and any true safety.

I still find the film overly talky at points, not so much in the opening when it makes sense but in that final stretch when the momentum should buoyed a bit more.  Hitchcock lets the dramatics of Evan Hunter’s screenplay (Hunter was the pseudonym for popular crime author Ed McBain) be prioritized over sustained suspense which is disappointing considering how truly scary the movie is at times.  Perhaps it was done to give the audience of the time a way to catch their breath but viewed now it comes off like a train that starts to slide back down a hill just as it makes it to the end of a wild ride of twists and turns.  While it did diverge quite significantly from author Daphne du Maurier’s original short story, I think everyone made the right call to tweak it the way they did.  It does have a number of unforgettable images, like a wooden door gradually being pecked away and Hedren’s wild eyes as she is set upon by a swarm of flying evil.

The performances are impressive too, with Hedren one of the more fun “Hitchcock Blondes”; she really earns her paycheck late in the film for a bird attack scene that took a week to film and sent her to the hospital for exhaustion afterward.  Brawny Stewart was never a huge A-lister but he’s a good match of Hedren and the film, though his heavily bronzed face makes him look as old as his mother at times.  Tandy is most remembered for her late in life roles when she played a spry elder so it’s wonderful to watch her forty years before she would win her Best Actress Oscar.  Cartwright and Pleshette have their nice moments but you can’t mention The Birds and not call out the delightfully droll Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Bundy, the natty townslady who just so happens to be an expert on birds.  Her small scene reveals a great deal about the habits of the winged creatures…which is directly contradicted by the unexplained behavior we then witness for the next 60 minutes.

You can see why this is often called the most straight-forward scary film Alfred Hitchcock made because it often pulls no punches when it comes to vicious bird attacks. I’m sure PETA would have a field day with it now but the live birds look positively horrific flapping about the actors and dive bombing for their fingers and faces.  Though not in 3D, it gives off the effect of it by a constant swirl of movement which is disorienting but not hard to follow.  The director earned the title The Master of Suspense for a reason and The Birds is the movie you can point directly to if anyone questions it.  All they have to do is watch the scene where a murder of crows slowly gathers on a jungle gym behind an unsuspecting Hedren – you can literally feel your heart beating faster.  This is a great option if you’re in the mood for a horror film elevated to the highest level of sophistication.

Movie Review ~ Widows

The Facts

Synopsis: Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.

Stars: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Garret Dillahunt, Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Debicki, Brian Tyree Henry, Jacki Weaver, Jon Bernthal, Manuel Garcia Rulfo, Robert Duvall

Director: Steve McQueen

Rated: R

Running Length: 129 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (8.5/10)

Review: If there’s one truly unfortunate thing that happened at the movies this year it’s that Steve McQueen’s Widows failed to catch fire at the box office.  The director of 12 Years a Slave and Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl, have adapted an ‘80s UK crime series and updated it to present day Chicago and cast some of the best actors working today.  It’s a gritty, great film and that it went largely unnoticed just totally baffles me.  Oscar-winner Viola Davis (Suicide Squad) turns in what I think is the best performance of her career as a woman whose life is totally turned upside down and then is tossed sideways by a series of revelations that shock her and the audience.  Gathering together a group of disparate women (Elizabeth Debicki, The Great Gatsby, Michelle Rodriguez, Furious 7) to follow through on a crime their husbands were planning, just when you think you’ve figured out where the movie is going it throws in multiple twists that I just did not see coming.  It’s hard to pull one over on movie-goers but McQueen and Flynn do it twice.

Hopefully, this is one movie that people will rediscover when it arrives on streaming services and then kick themselves for missing it when it was on the big screen.  Perhaps it was marketed wrong or maybe it was released at a bad time of year, but something strange happened with Widows because this is one of the best films of the year that just totally vanished way before it should have.  Find it, see it…you’ll understand what I’m saying when you do.

2015 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst, Grand Totals



Well hello there!  I wound up skipping my Best of 2014 list because when 2015 rolled around there were still too many “2014” movies that I hadn’t been able to catch.  Then one thing lead to another…and it was March!

So here we are starting the fifth year of this blog!  Hard to believe it and boy, does time fly.  Below I’ve compiled my list of the best and worst of 2015.  At first I was going to do a Top 10 for both because I absolutely had candidates to fill all the slots, but then I decided to stick with five each to truly highlight the best of the best and worst of the worst.

As always, I’ve appreciated your feedback, your patronage, and your general presence in my blog. Even if you read this everyday but have never commented or made contact I can still tell you’ve been here and that means a lot.  My readership and subscriptions continue to increase every month and it’s all thanks to your word of mouth, likes, and shares.  If you haven’t already, make sure to follow this blog, follow me on Twitter (@joemnmovieman), and like my Facebook page so you can help me continue spreading the news about The MN Movie Man.

Best Wishes to you and yours for a most Happy New Year!

~Joe (The MN Movie Man)


5. Mad Max: Fury Road – like a lightning rod, the fourth Mad Max film conducted the kind of electricity that could fuel a dozen other pictures.  Director George Miller upped the ante for not only summer blockbusters but for filmmaking as a whole with his non-stop action flick that took no prisoners and left most 2015 films in its fiery dust. Starring Tom Hardy but owned by Charlize Theron, this Mad Max signaled the start of the summer season with a rocking battle cry. Truly amazing.

4. Creed – the best unexpected TKO of the year, Creed is really Rocky 7 but don’t let that stop you from entering the ring.  Star Michael B. Jordan brings a blistering intensity to the role of a young boxer trying to make a name for himself out from under the shadow of his legendary father’s career.  The biggest surprise is original star Sylvester Stallone stepping into the mentor role for his best performance since the original Rocky.  Stallone is valiant, vulnerable, and, under the direction of writer/director Ryan Coogler, fairly unforgettable.  A champion of a film.

3. Carol – anchored by two of the strongest performances of 2015, this love story between young Therese and married Carol is an achingly beautiful achievement from director Todd Haynes.  Delicate as a flower but steely enough to cut deep, it’s a picture about the understanding and acceptance of one’s own desires. Unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, it’s a gorgeous looking film that lingers in the memory long after you’ve left the theater.

2. Brooklyn – the most charming film of 2015, Brooklyn is a sweet love story set against the backdrop of Ireland and New York in the 1950’s.  It’s funny, sad, poignant, and delightfully underplayed so that by the time it reaches its emotional climax the tears it wrings from you are well earned.  Superbly acted and glowing with grace, it’s a wonderful wonderful period piece.

1. The Martian – the best film I saw in 2015 (twice) is Ridley Scott’s grand space adventure adapted from Andy Weir’s best-selling novel.  A full meal of a movie, there’s a little bit of something for everyone here from comedy to action to drama to suspense and even some surprisingly emotional arcs.  Powerfully led by Matt Damon and a small army of familiar faces, movies like The Martian are the reason why we go to movies, to be transported and changed. 

Honorable Mentions: Paddington, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, Far From the Madding CrowdThe Visit, Sicario, Crimson Peak, RoomStar Wars: The Force Awakens


5. Love the Coopers – arriving like a stale piece of fruitcake, this turkey is reason enough for even the sweetest Christmas fan to say “Bah Humbug”.  It’s an obnoxious and lazy attempt at creating a warm family togetherness film with neither the direction nor the performances to help it rise from the sludge. Wasting the talents of its diverse ensemble cast, this is a White Elephant of a yuletide film.

4. Point Break – making the original 1991 film look like High Noon in comparison, this atrocious remake diverts so far from its dopey origins that it should have just ditched the title and shrugged off the obvious comparisons from its detractors.  With his unforgivable man-bun, heinous fake tattoos, and not good enough for the Sci-Fi channel acting, Luke Bracey leads the film right off a cliff sans parachute.  More focused on being an eco-message film than a heist flick, it sports beautiful cinematography but is overall a lamentable effort.

3. The Lazarus Effect – Kudos to you, Olivia Wilde.  You appeared in two of my least favorite films of the year.  Beautiful as she is, Wilde just can’t seem to find a film that suits her in the acting department and The Lazarus Effect is a prime example. Barely 80 minutes long, there’s no amount of spiritual help that could raise this one from the graveyard of bad horror thrillers.

2. Aloha– pay no attention to the critics that championed this gigantic turd of a film in 2015…they’ve been blinded by a devotion to a filmmaker that has lost his way.  Cameron Crowe’s colossal misfire makes every wrong turn in the book, from casting pale Emma Stone as a Native Hawaiian with a half-Asian father to an inability to assemble a movie that makes any kind of sense.  Legendary in its production for going through titles and reshoots like candy, the final product was more of an ‘adios’ to Crowe’s storied status in Hollywood.

1. The Water Diviner – this waste of a film won three Australian Academy Awards.  Three.  And one of them was Best Picture.  Well, turnabout is fair play and I’m awarding Russell Crowe’s directing debut with Worst Picture of the year honors.  An interminable slog through an incomprehensible plot and ridiculously banal performances, I was praying for some sort of divine intervention to cut the screening short.  It’s bad from the moment it starts until it releases us from our agony.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Inherent Vice, Blackhat, The Boy Next Door, Woman in Gold, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Dark Places, American Ultra, Freeheld, Jem and the Holograms, Victor Frankenstein



Most Misunderstood

Hot Pursuit – Ok, so I’m not going to sit here and waste my time telling you that Hot Pursuit is a good movie because it’s fairly derivative from countless other female buddy pictures, too broad for words, and in the end is an inconsequential blip on the careers of stars Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara.  Where I took issue was how the movie was dragged through the grime by critics that would laud the same type of movie had it been released with males in the leading roles.  People took actual offense that Witherspoon went from an Oscar nominated turn in Wild to something so lightweight as Hot Pursuit and I kinda just wanted to tell ‘em all to scoot up a tree.  The film plays right into the strengths (and assets) of both leading ladies and is ultimately harmless.  It’s not great entertainment, but it’s not the garbage mess that people would have you believe.

Honorable Mention: San Andreas

Joe’s Humble Pie Award of 2015

The D Train – I’m a die-hard anti-Jack Black fan but even I had to admit that The D Train was one of the more unexpected small victories of 2015.  Black is winning as a lovable loser running his class reunion that makes a bid to get a famous-ish classmate to attend.  Flying out to California to convince the guy (James Marsden) to make an appearance, the film takes an unanticipated turn that audiences just won’t see coming.  The film has a dark charm and strong performances to justify your seeking it out.  I think you’ll be surprised…I was.

Honorable Mention: Mistress America

Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But Should:

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I’ll See You in My Dreams

Song of the Sea

The Hunting Ground

Beyond the Lights

Playing by Heart

Good Kill

Starry Eyes

The Taking of Deborah Logan

Click HERE for a full listing of films seen in 2015

Total Movies Seen in the Theater: 146

Total Movies Seen at Home: 176

Grand Total for 2015 (not counting films seen multiple times): 317

Where I Saw the Most Movies: Showplace ICON – 66!

New To Blu ~ The Reef


The Facts

Synopsis:  A great white shark hunts the crew of a capsized sailboat along the Great Barrier Reef.
Stars: Damian Walshe-Howling, Gyton Grantley, Zoe Naylor, Adrienne Pickering
Director: Andrew Traucki
Rated: R
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: As far as films go, those that know me well are aware there are three types of movies that I’m nearly instantly sold on: airplane movies, movies set in outer space, and movies with sharks.  I’m ever so glad that I waited until after I returned from my Hawaiian vacation to take in this shark tale – seeing it before wouldn’t have stopped me from venturing out into the open waters but I would surely have been on the lookout for a fin or two while dog paddling to in the Pacific Ocean.

If the plot to this one sounds eerily similar to 2003’s Open Water well…it’s because it is essentially the same.  I was and am still a fan of what Open Water did with the genre and how it used its miniscule budget to create great atmosphere out of what we didn’t see.  What separates The Reef from Open Water is a bit more style, a bit more substance, and a lot more scares courtesy of strong production values.  After dozens of lame SyFy Channel movies about sharks (two-headed ones, ones that battle octopi, ones that are half octopi, ones that had lunch with Phyllis Diller {ok…that wasn’t real but it’s probably in development}) we finally receive a decent movie with (PUN INCOMING!) bite.  Leave it to our friends down under to present us with a plot that is ‘based on true events’ but keep us guessing as to how it will all turn out.

After their boat capsizes after a day of fun and sun, five people need to decide whether to stick it out on the sinking boat or try to swim the ten or twelve miles in the direction they think land is.  It’s a gamble either way but as one actor states “I’m not going in the water.  I’ve fished these waters…I know what’s in there.”  Without breaking into a chorus of ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ the decision to make the swim is decided upon and they head out to shore.  This is a movie that takes its time and lets your mind unleash the scare on you.  More than one time I found myself involuntarily drawing my legs up beneath me when I sensed a set of jaws was about to emerge from the surf.  In many cases, the scare was only in my brain and to its credit, the movie relies on cheap ‘gotcha’ moments very fleetingly. 

The entirely Australian cast aren’t familiar faces to me but work together well to establish their roles as hero, damsel in distress, shrieker, and sacrificial lamb.  I’ll leave it to you to determine who is who because it does change throughout the movie which adds to the overall feeling that you don’t know who (if any) will make it out of the water.  Ably directed by Traucki (who also helmed the nice crocodile movie Black Water), the movie is 90 minutes of solid filmmaking.  The score is unobtrusive in a Tangerine Dream-y sort of way and the underwater photography is incredible.  Like Open Water, the budget for this wasn’t huge but it’s clear it was all spent in the right places.   There is precious little CGI shark work and what there is is impressive.  The rest of the stock shark photography looks natural and works well to create some high tension.  I got the shivers when the camera lingered on the depths and slowly, slowly, slowly you start to see a marauding shark appear from the blackness.  That, to me, is scarier than a fast attack – when the swimmers see the danger coming toward them and have no escape.

Out on Blu-Ray for a while now, this is one to look up if you have a taste for this kind of film.  It’s not overly gory or cheesy and the actors are nice to look at especially when their Oz accents come out.

New to Blu ~ Abduction

Have you voted in the poll?  Click here to vote and tell me what movie I should be seeing next!

I’ve updated my Golden Globes page with a list of the Winners.  Click here to see the full list.

And now…on to a New to Blu review…

The Facts:

Synopsis: A thriller centered on a young man who sets out to uncover the truth about his life after finding his baby photo on a missing persons website.

Stars: Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Sigourney Weaver, Alfred Molina, Maria Bello

Director: John Singleton

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 105 minutes

TMMM Score: (1/10)

Review:  You may be Team Jacob but you won’t be Team Lautner if you are unlucky enough to take in this turgid turd of an action film. Lautner is no movie star…he was very nearly replaced as Jacob after the first Twilightmovie and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a pity that so many decent actors appear here in service to a film intended as a star vehicle for someone as poor an actor as Lautner. I’m especially disappointed in Weaver who really dumbs it down here. While not quite as bad as Lautner, caterpillar browed Collins is a dreary leading lady. She spends most of the movie with her mouth slightly agape and her tongue lolling out…making her look like she’s taken a handful of valium.

The movie is cinematic valium with no redeemable qualities. Director Singleton needs to shoulder some of the blame. This mess comes from the Oscar nominated director who gave us Boyz in the Hood? How the mighty have fallen.

Of the many things you may be shaking your head at by the conclusion, consider the title itself. Spoiler alert — the movie has nothing to do with abduction. The only thing being kidnapped here is your time and money…pay the ransom early and find something else to see.  The film gets a 1 simply because it had the decency to end.

New to Blu ~ SJP, Carrey, Panda, and Mirren

Every now and then (not often) I miss a movie as it passes through theaters.  I’ve weaned myself off of Netflix so rely on Redbox to help me catch up.  This week I caught up with a few films that now inhabit the ‘box.

Here is the first “New to Blu” entry — small capsule reviews of movies that are being released to DVD/Blu-Ray.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

The Facts:

Synopsis: A comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy, a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids.

Stars: Sarah Jessica Parker, Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Christina Hendricks

Director: Douglas McGrath

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 89 minutes

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review: Insignificant entry on Parker’s resume that looks cheap, sounds cheap, and feels cheap.  Parker needs a good kick in the pants to tell her that she’s no Julia Roberts/Sandra Bullock and doesn’t have a niche market that she is successful with.  I’d love to see her take on a dark role that can allow her to try something new.  Kinnear and Brosnan are both asleep at the wheel here…much like the direction.  Only Hendricks has a few nice moments…but even she ends up sounding like she’s lampooning the script.  Totally skippable.


 Mr. Popper’s Penguins

The Facts:

Synopsis: The life of a businessman begins to change after he inherits six penguins, and as he transforms his apartment into a winter wonderland, his professional side starts to unravel.

Stars: Jim Carrey, Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Ophelia Lovibond

Director: Mark Waters

Rated: PG

Running Length: 94 minutes

TMMM Score: (4/10)

Review:  Like Sarah Jessica Parker, Carrey is another actor that is stuck in a rut of his own making.  I’ve always been a fan of the Mr. Popper stories (I still remember those damn songs and the tap-dancing in CTC’s stage version all those years ago) but this telling of the story is heavy on the schmaltz and silly.  That’s not to say there isn’t a time and place for that in a film about six penguins living in a winterized apartment but it’s all done so dopey that you won’t want to go along for the ride.  Lansbury must really be blowing there her Murder, She Wrote cash…otherwise I can’t see why she took the time for this film which puts her in some pretty unflattering costumes.  Carrey needs to start taking supporting roles…that rubber face that used to break box office records now just looks creepy.


 Kung Fu Panda 2

The Facts:

Synopsis: Po and his friends fight to stop an peacock villain from conquering China with a deadly new weapon, but the Dragon Warrior must come to terms with his past.

Stars: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Gary Oldman

Director: Jennifer Yuh

Rated: PG

Running Length: 90 minutes

TMMM Score: (6.5/10)

Review:  Not being a huge fan of the first film, I can still appreciate the superb computer animation that this film employs.  However hard I try though, I still don’t find myself being taken with these characters.  Both movies have left me a squirming little watch checker – and I normally quite enjoy these off the wall animated films.  What appealed to me more in this entry was the backstory and underlying theme of inner peace…which is a big topic to make interesting and attractive to the younger set.  Voice-wise no one really stood out for me, save for Jean-Claude Van Damme whose character even gets to do one of his signature moves.  Speaking again to the animation, it really in pretty fantastic and I only wish I had seen this in 3D in the theaters.


The Debt

The Facts:

Synopsis: The Debt is the powerful story of Rachel Singer, a former Mossad agent who endeavored to capture and bring to trial a notorious Nazi war criminal—the Surgeon of Birkenau—in a secret Israeli mission that ended with his death on the streets of East Berlin

Stars: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastian, Marton Csokas

Director: John Madden

Rated: R

Running Length: 113 minutes

TMMM Score: (7/10)

Review: An overall solid spy thriller, this remake of Ha-Hov (a 2007 Israeli film) was most notable for me for having yet another knock-out performance by Chastain who had quite the 2011 (Chastain also made an impression in The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, Texas Killing Fields, Coriolanus and The Help this last year).  She appears here as the younger version of Mirren’s character.  Thankfully for the audience the movie has their character as the central focus for most of movie and Chastain/Mirren do not disappoint in keeping us with them.  The film does get a little muddy when the focus shifts to your typical “espionage” elements…fast getaways, close calls, missed opportunities are all part of the proceedings here and they are presented in a straight-forward manner that helps propel the film along.  Director Madden trusts his actors and a good script to get the job done and the results are above average.  Successfully introducing some genuine twists into these films is difficult and the movie got my heart thumping a few times.