Barbershop: The Next Cut

Bill I’s Rating – 3.5 out of 5

I enjoyed this film greatly, better than Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which covers the same territory – how to slow down the gang violence in Chicago. It has a perfect mix of comedy and seriousness. I remember almost nothing from the prior Barbershop films, but Ice Cube remains as the owner and spiritual leader of the crew, with Cedric the Entertainer and a great crew of character actors cutting heads among other things. The shop has a female side now, which gives great balance to the macho bullshit being slung around. Nikki Minaj is delightful and proves she’s more than just an awesome butt. The threat of violence gets personal when Cube’s 14 year old son, and his buddy, son of Common’s character, get drawn into the gangster life. The movie avoids simplistic logic of who is to blame, and they conclude that only the South Side community can save themselves and stop the escalating gun deaths. It’s ultimately an uplifting movie, while raising very topical issues. Oh, and I can’t end without mentioning one of my favorite comic actors, JB Smoove, who does his thing, as “One-Stop”, the barber who has a bunch of side businesses.

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Kapoor & Sons, since 1921

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Portraying a couple of the most genuine family arguments scenes I can remember, with every character perfectly cast and believable. Summary: two 20-something brothers, Rahul (little older, successful novelist, entrepreneur, lady killer type looks) and Arjun (aspiring/unsuccessful novelist, restaurant worker, scruffy and lacking the self-assured confidence of his bro, but also super good looking), are called to their family home in India from their lives in London and New Jersey respectively to show respect to their ailing grandfather, Dadu. Dadu is the real star of this film, while in his sickbed due to an ailing heart he hasn’t lost any of his lust for life (emphasis on lust) and is the glue that tries (emphasis on tries) to hold his family together as husband and wife, brother and brother, son and father, son and mother, all have their conflicts over the course of this 2 and a half hour Bollywood film, all contained within mostly a few weeks. Rahul explains his secret to a good novel: give the people the happy ending they want. Does this movie do the same? Go see it to find out, I’m not telling. It’s a lot of fun amid the drama, and especially note the charismatic and beautiful but hyper charmer, Tia (played by Alia Bhat), who quickly captivates the interest of both of the young dudes.

Eye in the Sky

Bill I’s Rating – 3.5 out of 5

Very good thriller, which is conducted in real time, of a British coordinated drone surveillance of a couple of highly wanted British ex-pats turned terrorists arming themselves in a house in the middle of a village, preparing  for a suicide attack in Kenya. Helen Mirren is the Colonel running the operation, which turns urgent into a kill mission once they realize that they can prevent a massacre in a populated area. Her General, played by Alan Rickman in his last role, is risk averse, for both political reasons as well as humanitarian reasons to avoid collateral damage to innocent villagers. The Americans are consulted, because there’s an American citizen/terrorist also in the house, and because the actual drone is piloted remotely by US forces in Nevada. Tense throughout, with realistic portrayals of advanced surveillance technology and techniques and very topical decisions that have to be made and the protocol that has to be followed where the wrong decision could result in massive negative PR repercussions. I would rate this movie higher except when comparing it to Zero Dark Thirty it falls a little short.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I liked this a lot as well.  There’s good tension throughout. The movie does a good job of showing the military options and perspectives as well as the political considerations from a lot of different sides and levels.  Not only does  this show the tough moral choices from the higher up military leaders but also  the lower level operatives as all want to do the right thing under tough circumstances.  This applies not just to those on the ground potentially risking their lives but also from those thousands of miles away.  The director also did a good job of getting us to know the potential collateral damage as the decision makers debated the legality/urgency/morality of trading a high probability of small collateral damage caused by their actions vs high casualties that could be attributed to the terrorists.

This is definitely worth seeing.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

 

Eye in the Sky Poster

Hardcore Henry

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Think of Hardcore Henry as a first person point of view shooter video game made into a movie.   The film makers used Go Pro cameras to achieve the first person effect.   Until the very end (due to a reflective shot) you never even see Henry  – just what he is looking at.  He doesn’t speak either!

When deciding whether  to see this movie, forget my rating and just consider the following:

  • If you think you’ll get nauseous due to the herky jerky action due to filming from cameras attached to peoples heads then skip this movie.
  • If you don’t like tons of violence skip this movie.
  • If you care about a plot or interesting characters skip this movie.
  • If you want 90 minutes of non-stop action with an incredibly high body count then go!
  • If you want some laughs (I’m not sure they were all intended) then go.
  • If you want a very unique movie that you’ll probably remember for a while then go.

For me, this turned out to be a good movie for a snowy afternoon in April while visiting relatives in Pennsylvania.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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SXSW 2016 – Part 2

Below are the hilights from the final few days of SXSW

Movies

The American Epic Sessions – This will be on PBS at some point and is the 4th episode in the series.  20 musical acts were brought into record using original recording equipment from the 1920s that allowed 3 minute recordings.  Interesting with excellent music

Morris from America – Morris has to move to Germany and live with his father.  It is interesting to see how he adjusts to both his new environs and full time life with dad.

And Punching the Cloud – A good comedy (I assume) based on real life experience of struggling comedian Henry Phillips.  He has to decide whether to sell out and go for the big bucks or stay true to himself.

Bang! The Bert Berns Story – A good documentary about 1960s song writer/music producer Bert Berns.  His hits include Hang on Sloopy and he had mob ties which adds to the interest.

My Blind Brother – A good full length romantic comedy based on a short that first debuted at SXSW in 2003.  Two brothers (Nick Kroll and Adam Scott) both fall in love with the same girl (Jenny Slate who was great in Obvious Child).

Music

I saw about 20 bands and here are my top few (not in order)

  • Jake Bugg
  • Avett Brothers
  • Lucius
  • Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
  • Leon Russell
  • Iggy Pop

 

SXSW 2016 – Part 1

Here are some very quick reviews of my favorite movies from SXSW so far.  There are still 4 days to go.

Don’t Think Twice – This is one of my favorites so far.  When it is released in July I recommend it for everyone.  The comedian Mike Birbiglia directs a great ensemble cast.  A successful improv group is at a crossroads.  Some will find more success while others need to decide if this is the life for them.  This movie is both very funny and very moving.  The next day  I went to a taping of Leonard Maltin’s podcast with Birbiglia and Ira  Glas (a producer) as guests.  It should be available in a week or two and I recommend that also.

Tower – An excellent documentary on an early mass shooting incident that took place at the University of Texas Tower in Austin in 1966.  This focused on the survivors (both those that were shot and those that helped either rescue victims or take down the shooter).  Most of the people (who are now mostly in their late 60s or 70s) participated in a Q+A afterwards.   Ironically (and sadly), the 50th anniversary of this shooting on August 1 will also be the day the  new ‘campus carry’ law allowing guns on campus goes into effect in Texas.

Newtown – Another great, very moving  documentary on an American campus shooting tragedy.  This also focused on the victims – both the dead and their survivors.    Twenty 6 and 7 year olds and six educators were killed by a mentally disturbed person with guns they should not have had access to.  Sadly, not enough is being done to prevent future events but hopefully movies like these will help change that.

Everybody Works Some – This is the newest Richard Linklater film.  It opens soon and is being marketed as a natural follow on to his early 90s hit Dazed and Confused.  It’s a semi-autobiographical film of his first few days on campus before classes start as a freshman on his college baseball team.  Its sort of a coming of age movie, has it’s funny moments but also some heart.  I liked it but it’s not as good as Dazed and Confused (and nowhere close to Boyhood).

Gleason – This is a great documentary about Steve Gleason and his wife.  Gleason used to play football for the New Orleans Saints (and is famous for blocking a  punt that lead to a key score in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina).  Shortly after retiring and one month after finding his wife was pregnant he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).  It’s an unflinching look at the toll the disease takes but also shows the courage the couple has as they deal with this horrible disease.  This is often tough to watch but it’s worth the effort.  They were both there for the Q+A.

The Bandit – An entertaining documentary about Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham and the making of Smokey and the Bandit.  I think this will be on CMT later in the year and while not great is worth checking out.  Reynolds was there for a Q+A.

In a Valley of Violence – An homage to some old westerns (it most reminded me of The Outlaw Josey Wales).  If you like westerns this is worth seeing.

Demolition – A good movie, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, as he struggles to deal with the death of his wife.  Gyllenhaal definitely takes on unique roles.  This movie won’t be for everyone but has good performances.

The Trust – Two cops plan a heist.  It stars Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood.   Lots of tension and some humor.  if you are a fan of Cage’s quirkiness he doesn’t disappoint.

Operation Avalanche – A good comedy about how the CIA faked the moon landing (they really didn’t)

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – This is an Australian  comedy about a city kid that goes to live with a foster family in the Australian bush country.  Unique and funny.

Deadpool

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

I went into this film with almost zero awareness of the character Deadpool, who is from an adult X-rated comic book. Interesting note: the first X-rated movie I ever attended (back when you actually went into a theatre to see an X-rated movie), was Fritz the Cat, based on the X-rated comic book. My mother brought me!!! So I am open to the genre, and wow, Deadpool blew me away with its comic book violence enhanced by slow-motion, freeze-action, special effects, combined with Ryan Reynolds’ sarcastic, funny, dialogue and audience asides. This is an origin story, where you see his character earning money as an intimidator for hire, who then meets his soul mate (played by Morena Baccarin, who plays the beautiful, somewhat boring wife on Homeland, and is perfect here), then gets some bad luck and turns into the mutant super hero (anti-hero?) that he ends up calling Deadpool. Fun surprises abound, including martial arts star/actor Gena Carano  as a kick-ass villain (called Angel Dust I found out, which I don’t think was verbalized during the movie). It’s a combination of spoof of typical Marvel super hero films, but also a model for how to make the genre more exciting and more fun. I recommend this to the guys, but women may not love it. Kids, wait a few years, not for you just yet!

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

While the movies I tended to go to with my mother were the likes  of Mary Poppins and Elf I am in total agreement with Bill on Deadpool.  It was a unique and funny super hero movie (although Deadpool would not call himself a super hero).  As Bill said, the action was  really good with it’s use of slow motion and use of shifting angles (like NFL coverage where they start a play from one perspective and shift to a different one mid replay).  Unlike many movies you could tell what was happening.

I don’t have much to add to Bill’s review.  If you want to see Gina Carano in full kick ass mode check out Haywire.  Dead pool is definitely worth checking out (if you don’t mind violence, etc.).

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

Hail, Caesar!

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Hail, Caesar is the most recent comedy by the Coen Brothers.  The film is entertaining and had several funny scenes. I enjoyed it, but this is not one of their best.

Hail, Caesar is an homage to different movies genres of the 40s and 50s, including Esther Williams films, Gene Kelly musicals, singing cowboy films and more sophisticated films as well as the Hollywood system of that era.  That might have been some deeper meaning, but if there was, it escaped me.

The movie had a great cast, but there were so many characters that many of them didn’t have enough screen time to sink their teeth into their roles. The exceptions to that were Alden Ehrenreich (who I had not heard of) and Ralph Fiennes, who had a great scene together.

Overall I liked Hail, Caesar, but it did not meet my expectations.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I also enjoyed this film, maybe a little more than Bill C. It varied depending on the scene, because the plot is certainly nothing to write here about. Memorable scenes: 1) Channing Tatum channeling his inner Gene Kelly, with an R rated take, and thanks to Coen brothers for fitting in the whole choreography; 2) the cowboy star, played by Alden Ehrenreich (as Bill described above…holy cow, where did they find this guy who can do incredible cowboy roping tricks!), trying to act in a English upper class sitting room scene with Ralph Fiennes’ director coaching him on the proper dialect; 3) Scarlett Johannsen in an incredible water ballet scene followed by some salty language and practical, down to earth approach to having a child out of wedlock in the studio system; 3) George Clooney playing a bumbling, semi-idiot Hollywood star. Josh Brolin is solid as the strict Catholic movie studio head honcho who tries to keep it all together.

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes

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Best of 2015

While we were slackers in terms of writing reviews, we were not slackers in terms of seeing lots of movies.  Here’s our picks for the best of 2015.

 Bill IBill C
Best Movies1 Spotlight
2 The Big Short
3 The Revenant
4 Trainwreck
5 Brooklyn
6 Sicario
7 Bridge of Spies
8 Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
9 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
10 The Martian
11 Creed
12 Trumbo
13 Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
14 Focus
15 Selma
16 Ex Machina
17 The Gift
18 Mr. Holmes
19 Straight Outa Compton
20 Hateful Eight
21 Southpaw
22 Chi-Raq
23 Spy
24 A Most Violent Year
25 Crimson Peak
26 MacFarland, USA
27 The Age of Adaline
28 Girlhood
29 Mad Max – Fury Road
30 Kingsman: The Secret Service
31 Grandma
32 Carol
33 Sisters
34 The Night Before
35 Phoenix
36 The Intern
37 Magic Mike XXL
38 Entourage
39 Black Mass
40 Furious 7
41 Aloha
42 Dope
43 Ricki and the Flash
44 Ted 2
1 The Big Short
2 The Martian
3 Trainwreck
4 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
5 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
6 Mad Max: Fury Road
7 Spotlight
8 Bridge of Spies
9 Son of Saul
10 Sicario
11 Victoria
12 Inside Out
13 Ex Machina
14 Selma
15 Brooklyn
16 The Revenant
17 The Hateful Eight
18 The Gift
19 Straight Outta Compton
20 Green Room
21 Creed
22 Carol
23 Love & Mercy
24 Trumbo
25 Room
Best Documentaries1 Amy
2 Mavis
3 Best of Enemies
4 Meru
5 Raiders
6 Peace Officer
7 By Sidney Lumet
8 Twinsters
9 Being Evel
10 Man Vs. Snake

Bill I’s Best of 2015 Comments

Narrative Films

1. Spotlight – thrilling combination of investigative reporting combined with a spot-on portrayal of how the sexual abuse of children is covered up and repressed until courageous survivors come forward

2. The Big Short – making global financial meltdown understandable and enjoyable to watch

3. The Revenant – Stunning scenes in terms of the natural environment, including a bear mauling Leo. A work of art that captivated me much more then the director’s last one, Birdman.

4. Trainwreck – many hysterical scenes, I’d love to see it again

5. Brooklyn – epic period piece, perfectly done

6. Sicario – brutal action, the other side of Breaking Bad

7.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens – JJ Abrams does it again!

8. Bridge of Spies – true story told very well

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – I had no idea what to expect, and got blown away

10. The Martian – how much time and money does it take to rescue Matt Damon?

11. Creed – Rocky is revitalized as a mentor, and young Creed is his inspiration

Bill C’s Best of 2015 Comments

1. The Big Short – Great job of making an important, potentially dry  topic both informative and entertaining

2. The Martian – Accoring to the golden Globes this is the best comedy of the year!  But the visual and dram were exceptional with a little humor.

3. Trainwreck – Really the best comedy of the year.  Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow made a great movie and Hebron James, comedian, was a revelation.  I did see it again.

4. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Moving story + coming of age story told with touching humor.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Great re-invigoration of series

6. Mad Max: Fury Road– A great, non-stop ride

7. Spotlight – Another story that needed to be told. A modern day ‘All the President’s Men’

8. Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg also still makes great movies

9. Son of Saul – A brutal concentration camp story of a Jewish prisoner trying to give his son with a proper Jewish burial

10. Sicario – Drug war from the good(?) guys side

11. Victoria – This is a two hour movie with a single take! Amazing to watch

12. Inside Out – Another really good, touching Pixar film

The Revenant

Bill I’s Review – 4.5 out of 5

A true artistic film, which I enjoyed much better than the director’s previous (award winner!), Birdman. An incredible nature film combined with revenge plot and survival movie, with an unforgettable scene of a grizzly bear mauling Leo Dicaprio’s character. Very little film trickery and special effects, with a group of trappers trying to get back to their fort (circa 1850?) in the west somewhere, in the middle of winter and intense snow, wind and rain. Native Americans show no mercy in their attacks, but the true savages are the white men (no women in sight besides a raunchy bar scene in the fort) who take what they can from who they can, and true compassion is as rare as a mild day. The plot is as simple as this: Leo needs to make it back to the fort in his wretched bear-mauled state, to get revenge on the dude (great Tom Hardy) who abandoned him and (spoiler alert) killed his kin.

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

A couple of day’s ago I was bitching and moaning about how cold it was when the high barely made 50.  That evening I saw the Revenant.  I don’t think I would have survived very long in the 1820’s (especially after being mauled by a bear).

This is really great film making with great scenery and a brutal story (if you don’t like violence skip this one).  The opening scene reminded me of the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan showing the chaos of battle.

Leo DiCaprio deserves kudos but I’m not sure if it’s for his acting or just for persevering in those conditions.  Tom Hardy was also excellent (I think between Mad Max, Legend, this is the year of Tom Hardy).

IMDB

Rotten Tomatoes