Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Why are Iron Man and Captain America fighting each other when there is a real bad guy out loose? I can’t tell you but it strained my suspension of disbelief. You have to sit back and enjoy the action, including a slew of other action heroes, the most fun being a young Spider “Man” and Ant Man. The plot is mega stupid, but the actors are terrific as is the action. A lot of fun, and will be a super huge blockbuster.
Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Another Montclair Film Festival superb, surprising, film. Similar to another film fest I reviewed, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, this has as its main character a 13 year-old boy (Markees Christmas, in what I assume is his debut, so great) who is in a foreign environment (Heidelberg, Germany in this case), surrounded by unfriendlies (his school mates), and channeling his inner gangster (he’s a wannabee gangster rapper). Craig Robinson is great as his dad, a former soccer player turned coach, who has a unique style of parenting (his wife recently died), and figuring out to deal with his unhappy son. There’s a girl involved, and some embarrassing episodes and an understanding German tutor who gives Morris some motherly attention. This should be a big hit if it gets publicity. See it if you can!
Bill I’s Rating: 4 out of 5
I had a ticket to a different film at the Montclair Film Festival, but went to the wrong theater and ended up seeing this which totally delighted me. Aspects of Home Alone: boy left alone (this boy actually runs away from his foster home), pursued by some mean people (meanest being the Child Welfare lady), and finding an adventure in the local wilderness (instead of Central Park this kid ends up in the New Zealand bush). With some great characters, and spectacular scenery, and what I consider an Oscar worthy performance by the kid, I loved this. Great for kids of all ages, with only a little wild boar violent episode, and some close call rifle shots.
Bill I’s Rating: 3 out of 5
A low budget film at the Montclair Film Festival that has recently been picked up by a distributor, this is a great character study of two old high school friends who reconnect after many years in their hometown of Warwick Rhode Island. Peter is a Wall Street financier, successful and in no way ready to enjoy returning to Warwick to take care of his grandma’s estate and funeral. He loses his wallet on the way and ends up depending on Donald, an unforgettable character played by the director and writer, Kris Avedisian. Over the course of 24 hours the two go through a roller coaster of emotions and experiences, encountering old “friends”, crushes, and haunts along the way. I can’t do justice to the realness, (enhanced by the hand held camera) but I will say that my wife was really upset afterwards due to the Donald character, who is the super clingy friend who literally won’t leave you alone. I really liked it!
Bill I’s Rating: 3 out of 5
Straightforward documentary, played at the Montclair Film Festival, about a great soul singer, Syl Johnson, who never got much acclaim. In fact, I had never even heard of him. He was almost Al Green, and unluckily missed his big shot. He appeared on Soul Train, toured extensively, including today as an 80 something year old, and had a couple of top 100 hit songs. But some key people did find out about him and his songs: Wu Tang Clan, Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and literally hundreds of hip hop artists who sampled him in their songs. Syl is an interesting character, both proud of his accomplishments, resentful he never gained mainstream success, and loving the attention wherever he can get it. The documentary coincided with the release of a $75 boxed set of his catalog, that got a Grammy nomination (for engineering, although Syl perceived it as his). Very cool to hear how his work was sampled, and how good the original songs are. Check him out, and look for this documentary if it gets released.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below are the hilights from the final few days of SXSW
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).
I saw about 20 bands and here are my top few (not in order)
- Jake Bugg
- Avett Brothers
- Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
- Leon Russell
- Iggy Pop