Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

If you’re tired of action films this summer, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is the film to see.  Greg (Thomas Mann) is a shy/awkward high school senior who spends his time making films with his ‘co-worker’ Earl (RJ Cyler) and trying to stay invisible at school.  When Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s mom makes him spend time with her even though they are not friends.

This movie is at times very funny and at other times very sad.  This is a coming-of-age story for Greg as his and Rachel’s friendship develops and she helps him come out of  his shell, and he realizes that, while relationships have their risks, they are worth taking.

In addition to the excellent acting by the three young co stars, there is an excellent supporting cast including Nick Offerman and Connie Britton as Greg’s parents and Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom.

This is also a funny homage to movies. The films that Greg and Earl make are their versions of films that Greg’s father has introduced them to. They are quirky/funny.

This is my favorite movie of the summer so far.

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Dope

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Dope tells the story of Malcolm and his two nerdy friends (Jib and Diggy) as they navigate their senior year of high school.  They live in the ‘Bottoms’ in Englewood, California.  Both are good students (Malcolm is hoping to get into Harvard), are behind the times as they  love the ‘golden age ‘ of hip-hop (1988-2001), and have their own hip-hop band called Awreeoh (sound it out).  Generally they do not fit in and are bullied.

This is sort of a coming-of-age movie for Malcolm.  He and his  friends attend a party and get involved in things they usually avoid.  They then spend most of the movie trying to extricate themselves from the problems they’ve gotten into.  This is a pretty funny movie (although not all of the bits are successful).

This film isn’t for everyone due to the inner city setting, but I liked it.  If you go, stay through the credits for Malcolm’s dance routine.

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Love & Mercy

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

If you’re a fan of The Beach Boys, this is the movie for you!  It’s also good for those just looking for a good drama.  Love & Mercy tells the story of Brian Wilson, the musical genius at two critical junctures of his life.

Paul Dano plays Wilson at his creative peak and the beginning of his emotional issues in the early to mid-60s.  John Cusack plays him in the mid-80s at a low point in his life under the control of a manipulative doctor (played by Paul Giamatti) and separated from his family.

The two eras are cleverly  interwoven and the film does a good job of showing his creative process and the debilitating effects of his mental illness.

Both Dano and Cusack are excellent, as are Giamatti and also  Elizabeth Banks as the woman who tries to rescue him in the 80s.

Of course, the film has great music and packs an emotional wallop.  Today Brian Wilson is on tour (and he and his band put on a great show in Austin this week).

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The Connection

Bill C’s review – 3 out of 5

The Connection is a french thriller set in the 1970s.  A magistrate (Jean Dujardin from The Artist) devotes his life to bringing down a finch drug syndicate.  It’s a companion piece to the French Connection, only made 40+ years later and from the perspective of the  French justice system.

While not  as gritty (or as good) as the French Connection this also  has a gritty view as a cop gets totally caught up in his job and puts everything at risk.

If you don’t mind french subtitles this is an above average film.

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Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films' The Connection (2015).
Jean Dujardin stars as Pierre Michel in Drafthouse Films’ The Connection (2015).

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Of the early summer season action movies (Avengers, Furious 7) this was by far the best.

This had very interesting, non-stop action scenes throughout.  The action is different from your typical action movie today and that made it even better.  While the plot is very basic what was there was interesting as were the characters.

Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy were both great.  Tom Hardy is definitely one of the best actors today with diverse roles in good films.  Some of his most recent have been: this, Locke, The Drop and the Dark Knight Rises.

If you haven’t seen this yet see it while it’s still in theaters.

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Furious 7

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

When you get to the 7th event in a series like this it’s pretty hard to out-do the stunts from the previous films.  Furious 7 gives it it’s best shot and you’ll either  enjoy the effort  and the absurdity of the stunts or hate the movie.  Luckily I was in the mood to go along for the ride.

This was also the farewell to Paul Walker who dies in an automobile accident before the film was finished. The film was delayed as they rewrote the movie to incorporate his departure and to use his brother to shoot his final scenes.  While the film manipulated your expectations with his farewell  they did an ok job here.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Avengers: Age of Ultron was an ok action/sci fi film but not as good as the original.  While the action was pretty good they got a little carried away with figuring out how many different ways  and with how many of the other Avengers they could utilize Captain America’s shield.  I also found Tony Stark’s stubbornness annoying.  Despite that the movie flew by and overall was an entertaining movie.

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Ex Machina

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Ex Machina is a smart, entertaining sci-fi thriller from first-time director Alex Garland (probably best known as the writer of 28 Days Later).  Domhnall Gleason plays Caleb, an employee of a Google/Facebook-like company.  He is the winner(?) of a week with the secretive company owner, Nathan (played by Oscar Isaac) on his massive estate.

Nathan has been working on an advanced AI robot, Ava, played by Alicia Vikander.  Nathan has invited Caleb, as a participant of a ‘Turing Test,’ to determine if the AI is advanced enough to pass as human.

The week turns into a cat-and-mouse game between Ava, Caleb and Nathan with lots of suspense and interesting twists and turns.  I don’t want to give away more of the plot.

The acting is great, especially Oscar Isaac as the manipulative, creepy mogul.  The special effects for Ava are also excellent.

This film is definitely worth checking out.

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SXSW 2015 Days 1-5

Below are some of my favorites for the first half of the SXSW Film Festival.  This year there are about 150 films with about 100 being premieres (world or US).

Trainwreck – 4 out of 5

This is still listed as a work in progress, so it can still change (so I’ll need to see it again!).  This is Judd Apatow’s latest starring Amy Schumer.  Like most Apatow films, it’s rude, crude, very funny and has a heart.  Schumer plays a magazine writer with commitment issues (explained via a very funny opening sequence).  The supporting cast includes Bill Hader (as the orthopedic surgeon for athletes and one of Schumer’s love interests)  and Lebron James in a much larger role than I expected that he totally pulled off (including a very funny 1 on 1 match with Hader).  I thought the ending went a bit overboard, but if you are an Apatow fan, you will definitely like this movie.

Raiders! – 4 out of 5

Back in the 1980’s a bunch of kids spent their summers doing a shot for shot remake of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.  They remade the whole movie from the time they were 11 to around 18 with the exception of the airplane scene (that includes lots of explosions and a guy fighting Indy meeting up with an airplane propeller).  Last summer they decided (with the help of Kickstarter) to film that last scene.

This documentary tells about their making of the remake, their lives since then, and the filming of the final scene.  It’s a fascinating, funny  story.  These kids did an amazing job and this doc shows their obsession and ability to persevere on a film that had tons of special effects, people burning, hanging on to speeding trucks, etc.  Luckily they survived.  The course of their lives and friendship over the next 30 years and the filming of the final scene is also fascinating.

After the screening they showed the final version of The Raiders of the Lost Ark remake with their final scene included.  It was awesome but you don’t need to see that to enjoy this documentary.

Get Hard – 3.5 out of 5

This is the new Kevin Hart and Will Farrell movie coming out  soon. Will Farrell is framed for a crime and headed to jail and hires Kevin Hart to train him on how to survive in prison.  I found it very funny.  It is also rude, crude, politically incorrect and definitely goes over the edge at times (there are parts that are definitely offensive).  Despite that I did like it a lot and this is my favorite Will Farrell movie in quite a while.  While watching this, I wondered if Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor remade Stir Crazy today if this is how it would turn out.

The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson – 3 out of 5  

Another good documentary. Wilco Johnson is a musician who is told he has inoperable cancer and  he has at most 8 months to live.  Instead of just succumbing to his fate, he decides to live the rest of his life to the fullest and goes on one last tour.

T-Rex – 4 out of 5

A very good documentary about a U.S. boxer hoping to become the first winner of Olympic gold in women’s boxing.  This is not just about her training, but also about life in low income neighborhoods and her interactions with family, friends, and trainers.

Peace Officer – 4.5 out of 5

A documentary about a policeman who set up a SWAT team in his city and how thirty years later the SWAT team he originally set up killed his son-in-law.  This explores the militarization of the police in the U.S.  and how in some cases they’ve lost sight of their true mission.  This is a very topical film with events such as Ferguson in the current news.

Spy – 3 out of 5

The latest from Melissa McCarthy.  The title says it all.  If you like her you’ll like this.  If you don’t, you won’t.

Best of Enemies – 3.5 out of 5

Another really good documentary about the 1968 debates between Will F. Buckley and Gore Vidal on ABC during the 1968 political conventions that year.  ABC did this because they were the last-place network and they need to do something out of the ordinary for ratings.  Some say this was the start of the road to our sad state of discourse now with Fox News, MSNBC, etc.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Kingsman: The Secret Service is a joyful spoof of Bond genre films and  is directed by Matthew Vaughn.  Vaughn successfully spoofed superhero movies a few years ago with Kick Ass.

The film is very entertaining with good action and lots of laughs.   Like Kick Ass or Kill Bill, there is a ton of violence  which may offend some.  The plot isn’t the most exciting, but fits right in with Bond spoofs. Samuel L. Jackson is the megalomaniac villain (who can’t stomach watching violence).  Colin Firth does a good job as the Bond-type spy and Taron Egerton is very likable as the young spy trainee.  There are no real ‘Bond’ girls, but dancer Sofia Boutella is great as the villain’s deadly hench-person

If you like Bond spoofs, Kick Ass or Kill Bill, check this movie out.

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