Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: The Other Woman

Release date: April 25, 2014
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Nicki Minaj
Who to see it with: Your girlfriends


How much do you know about your significant other? Be it your spouse or a newer relationship, there's only so much you can know about a person. What if they had a secret, or multiple secrets? The Other Woman plays off this idea when Carly Whitten (Diaz) discovers that her new boyfriend Mark King (Coster-Waldau) is already married to someone else. This uncomfortable situation, and slight donnybrook, leads Carly to befriend Mark's wife (Mann), and the more they investigate his shenanigans, the larger his lies become. Eventually, the two friends become a triple threat when they meet another one of Mark's girlfriends, Amber (Upton). After they realize how far this has gone, they plot to get revenge on the lying husband/boyfriend/lover.

The cast of The Other Woman is a lot of fun to see on film. Diaz, Mann, and Upton make a nice crew (although Upton is more used for eye candy) and their interactions, especially those of Diaz and Mann, are fun to watch. Surprisingly, Nicki Minaj is very funny as Diaz's no holds barred assistant. The jokes are actually quite funny, although the laugh out loud moments are less frequent than I was hoping. Additionally, because the plot involves the three women, the story takes a long time to get going. It took a little while for Diaz and Mann to become acquainted, and even after that there was an entirely new person to introduce to the group. It made the story drag and feel like it wasn't accomplishing much in the middle. It picks up towards the end but, overall, the pacing felt inconsistent. Altogether, The Other Woman should have probably been limited to just the other woman and not women; it's funny, but unnecessarily long. 

Rent it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: Finding Vivian Maier

Release date: March 28, 2014
Running time: 83 minutes
Starring: Vivian Maier, John Maloof
Who to see it with: Anyone who likes photography or light detective work


Genius are often breeds eccentricity. This is especially true for artistic geniuses, i.e., Van Gogh. Vivian Maier was a brilliant photographer whose street photography was so good that she is now being recognized as one of the best in the field. Her images are instantly recognizable as amazing work. Even those without an eye for photography can appreciate the composition of her pictures. Strangely, despite her superb framing and amazing eye for subjects, Vivian Maier was an unknown photographer until recently. Maybe part of the genius that gave her the ability to produce amazing works of art also affected her in other ways: she was a pack rat and an insanely private person who never showed her work to anyone.

The documentary starts with a chance event: John Maloof, a young college student writing a history text book, purchases a box of negatives of what look like mid-century, Chicago pictures for his book. However, once he develops the film, he quickly realizes that the photographer responsible for these images has a talent that needs to be shared. John goes online to try and find out more about the mysterious Vivian Maier, but is unsuccessful. And so begins a detective-like story as he tries to track down anyone who knew this cryptic woman.

The documentary itself is fascinating, with an interesting story mixed in with some truly amazing photography. Although Vivian is the star, John Maloof takes center stage as he tries to track down anyone who knew her. There's always a risk with a story like this that the person making he documentary can inadvertently eclipse the subject of the film. John skirts this line, and teeters on the edge at some points, but in the end still ensures that Vivian Maier remains the main character. However, in delving into Vivian's past, the movie gets very personal and exposes many aspects of her life (both known and conjectured) that she probably would not have appreciated coming to light. For a film about someone who was extremely secretive, this can feel a little disrespectful at times. Also, the film does start to drag towards the middle; it definitely didn't feel like an 83 minute documentary. That being said, Finding Vivian Maier is a fascinating film about a truly eccentric photographic genius. It should be seen by everyone, but just maybe in the comfort of your home.

Rent it.

Screening: Amazing Spiderman 2

Screening Date: April 30, 2014
Time: 7:00 PM
City: Washington, DC
Theater: AMC Georgetown

Younger, hipper Peter Parker is back. The reboot of the Spiderman franchise was surprisingly well done and the sequel looks to be just as flashy and exciting. Peter Parker still loves swinging through the streets of New York and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone), but once again he is forced to to protect the city of New York from a slew of enemies, including Electro (Jamie Foxx).  If you'd like a chance to see this movie, please enter the giveaway below. 
We will be notifying winners on Monday, April 28th. We will by using Rafflecopter for this one so let us know what you think. To enter, follow the Rafflecopter widget instructions below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Oculus

Release date: April 11, 2014
Running time: 105 minutes
Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane
Who to see it with: Psychological horror fans


Last year, The Conjuring spooked audiences by relying on suspense and creepiness rather than cheap jump scares. Oculus works similarly, with additional doses of psychological horror and sibling drama. In Oculus, the Russell family suffers a tragedy that leaves half of them dead and sends then ten-year old Tim (Brenton Thwaites) to a mental hospital. The police do not buy his claim that the deaths are the fault of the family's haunted antique mirror. When he is released eleven years later, he is now convinced that his memories are delusional, but his older sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) has reacquired the mirror and will not rest until she can prove its role in her family's shattering.

Oculus stands out from many recent horror films with its lack of a traditional monster. There are few truly scary moments; the creative horror premise often feels like a foundation for a creepy supernatural drama. The mirror's vaguely explained "powers" leave Tim and Kaylie struggling to figure out if what they are hearing and seeing is real rather than running from creatures. This story is intermingled with flashbacks to their youth detailing what happened when eleven years before. These looks at the past help the story's pacing, giving a break from the siblings' ordeal while providing important background information.

Oculus gets a lot of mileage out of a small cast. Much of the film features only Tim and Kaylie, with the occasional appearance of their parents (Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane) in the flashbacks. I really liked Kaylie. She seems a little smarter and more prepared than the average horror heroine and has a likable intensity. Unfortunately, the story loses some interest toward its end when it shifts away from the first half's question of, "Is the mirror actually haunted?" and the conflict between disbelieving Tim and possibly bonkers Kaylie. And it takes a little too long for the siblings to realize that they may be in over their heads, especially considering Kaylie's extensive research into the mirror's alleged victims. Oculus is not scary, but its focus on psychological horrors and their effects on a family is refreshing and often creepy.

Rent it.

Review: Cuban Fury

Release date: April 11, 2014
Running time: 98 minutes
Starring: Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O'Dowd, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak
Who to see it with: Someone who loves the Cornetto Trilogy


Bruce Garrett (Frost) used to be an international salsa dancing sensation, until a run in with some teenagers squelched the fire under his feet and ended his love affair with Latin dance. However, when he uncovers that his attractive new boss (Jones) also loves the dance of fire, he's determined to rekindle the flame of salsa to win her over. If this sounds like a ridiculous premise, it's because it is. The premise of the film makes no sense but it doesn't have to. The film itself is surprisingly funny and Frost is a loveable character that you want to see succeed. He's joined by a funny supporting cast including his sister (Colman) and a surprisingly outrageous friend / dance companion in Novak. All the characters are over the top, especially Garrett's teacher (played by Ian McShane), and are enjoyable to watch. I didn't care much for Garrett's coworker (played by O'Dowd); I know that he's supposed to be an annoying antagonist but at some point his antics went from being annoying to being absurd.

As I said before, the film has a pretty ridiculous premise and, as a result, the plot is equally comical. But it's supposed to be and it works for this film. Like the dance that inspired the film, the pacing is steady with very little slow down. The dialog is mostly sharp with what appears to be a nice mix of written dialog and improvised content. And, since the film is based on dancing, the dancing itself is mostly enjoyable. Frost, understandably, does not shine as a dancer but the film does what it can to minimize you noticing. He does an admirable job trying to showcase this difficult dance, but there are some noticeable moments that just look off. But, that being said, part of the draw of the film is seeing Frost do the salsa and for fans looking for that won't be disappointed. In the end, Cuban Fury is a ridiculous, but funny, movie that fans of the Cornetto Trilogy should definitely check out.

Watch it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Draft Day

Release date: April 11, 2014
Running time: About 105 minutes
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Ellen Burstyn, Denis Leary, Chadwick Boseman
Who to see it with: Your football friend, maybe someone from Cleveland


How great is it to see Kevin Costner back on the big screen? After a long, Costner-less drought of films, he's back in three movies in the first third of the year. Draft Day follows a newer manager of the Cleveland Browns as he strategizes, manages, and handles the most stressful day in professional sports. 

The story of the film is predictable with enough twists to keep it interesting. The dialog is serviceable but won't win any awards for writing. Kevin Costner's acting is the main draw, playing an experienced but disregarded football manager trying to get his bearings and make a name for himself. Denis Leary is a great addition as the team coach trying to deal with the decisions Costner is making. Garner is mostly forgettable as his girlfriend / salary manager, popping in to solve random problems here and there but without enough of a relationship to make her meaningful. 

One of the interesting aspects of the film is the amount of NFL influence. The sponsors are all NFL sponsors (GM, Dominos, etc). The managers and GMs emphasize player character over all other aspects. You can tell that the NFL was heavily involved in the movie, but if you like the league it probably won't bother you. Draft day isn't a great movie, heck it might not even be a good movie. But, it's an interesting sports movie that follows the game from a different perspective. It's not really a first round draft pick, but it's a fun movie that you might want to check out in the later rounds.

Rent it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Rio 2

Release date: April 11, 2014
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, Bruno Mars
Who to see it with: Someone looking for an Amazon adventure


Rio 2 is the sequel to the surprisingly good original film from Blue Sky Studios (part of 20th Century Fox). The movie sees Blu and Jewel now living comfortably in Rio de Janeiro with their three kids. Blu, since he was raised by humans, is comfortable with the city life and the amenities that it offers, but Jewel prefers her kids grow up in the forest, like she did. Conveniently, a pair of exploring ornithologists discover a hidden nest of blue macaws deep in the rain forest, prompting Jewel to convince the family to travel back and see their roots. 

Starting with the animation, it's absolutely gorgeous. The credits listed separate feather and fur teams, and it shows. The birds look amazing and there are some really intricate details that pop out of all the characters. Additionally, the scenes in the jungles are wonderfully lush, with dense forests and beautiful flowers. The voice acting is good, with a very famous cast including some interesting new comers like Bruno Mars,, and Kristin Chenoweth. I especially liked Chenoweth's character and identified her immediately. The voices are recognizable without being distracting, although I didn't love Eisenberg's Blu. He does a good job, but I just didn't like the overall character. 

The story starts off as an adventure, but that journey is only part of it (although, there is a very beautiful animation effect that happens during the travel, which I enjoyed a lot). The whole story is a little far fetched, even for a kids movie, but it does the job. Once they get to the forest, you meet the bulk of the new characters and many of the main dilemmas. Like many kids films, the plot turns pretty quickly at one point and wraps up with a far too convenient ending. But, the film does have some good overall lessons about family and knowing your roots. Overall, Rio 2 is a beautiful, fun kids movie that you'll enjoy, but won't really stick with you after you leave the theater.

Rent it.