All posts by billc

SXSW – Days 4-6

Below are some of the highlights from Days 4-6 at SXSW

The Dog – 4 out of 5

More than 40 years after the real-life bank robbery that inspired Dog Day Afternoon comes a documentary about the bank robber that was played by Al Pacino in the movie.  It’s a fascinating portrait that uses archival and recent interviews with the subject, his mother, the transsexual  that motivated John Wojtowicz, and many others.  He’s a great character for a documentary and this also turns into an interesting look at the gay rights movement in the late ’60s and ’70s.

Wicker Kittens – 3.5 out of 5

Wicker Kittens is a cute little documentary about a jigsaw puzzle competition.  The director followed three teams and the organizer of the competition as they prepared and competed.  The teams take the competition seriously but the movie is a pretty lighthearted look at the competition and there are lots of fun moments.  For those who are into jigsaw puzzles, there are also good tips on how to improve your game.  While I liked this, I’d recommend The King of Kong (Donkey Kong competitors) and Spellbound (spelling bee) for those looking for an offbeat movie about competition.

Fort Tilden – 3.5 out of 5

Fort Tilden won the Grand Jury Prize for feature narrative.  This is a drama/comedy about two female friends deciding to spend a day at the beach. They run into problems going to, at and returning from  the beach, and their friendship is tested.  All these problems lead to revelations about their struggles to become responsible adults.

The Great invisible – 4 out of 5

This film won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature.  This explores the problems that led to the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the sad state of the impact to people’s lives several years after the accident.  This is definitely worth seeing.

The Raid 2 – 4 out of 5 

If you like kick-ass action, this is the movie for you!  The hero of the original Raid goes undercover for non-stop, bone-crushing , death-defying Indonesian action.

SXSW 2014 – Days 1-3

Here are some quick reviews of movies I’ve seen so far at SXSW.   SXSW started on Friday, March 7 and goes through Saturday March 15.

Chef – 3.5 out of 5

Chef is a small indie effort written, directed and starring Jon Favreau.  It’s not up there with Swingers but is a  light hearted comedy about a high profile, stressed out chef who loses his job and goes back to discover the basics that made him happy by opening a food truck and reconnecting with his son and family.  The movie picks up and is more entertaining and touching  in the 2nd half when he, his son and friend go on a road trip in the food truck.  This had a great cast (Favreau,  Jon Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman,  Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt (who has obviously stayed around for more of the festival as I’ve seen him around town), Robert Downey Jr. and more) and an entertaining Q+A).

The Legend of Shorty – 2.5 out of 5

I think I just had too high expectations about this timely documentary about 2 journalists searching for the  Mexican drug king who was arrested in late February.  While they appear to get  close to being granted an audience with Shorty they best they do is get to his heavily guarded estate and meet with is mother.  It is interesting to see how his career evolved and the reach of his (former) empire.

No No: A Dockumentary – 4 out of 5

This is a must see documentary for baseball fans.  Doc Ellis pitched for the Pirates (and later the Yankees) back in the seventies.  Doc is famous for throwing a no hitter while supposedly high on LSD.  It is probably true as he let 8 players reach base that day without giving up a hit.  This is very entertaining with many ex players telling stories about Ellis but also very touching due to his battles with drugs and alcohol and his redemption later in life as a drug counselor.

Prredestination – 3.5 out of 5

This is a very slick time travel adventure with great plot twists as they try to prevent a mass murder from taking place. It’s fun trying to follow the plot twists and figure out what is going on.  It’s one of those movies I enjoyed a lot while watching but when thinking about afterwards concluded they probably didn’t need to do quite as much time travel or make it quite as convoluted to prevent the crime. But then  what fun would that have been??

Boyhood – 4.5 out of 5

This is a great movie that everyone should see when it comes out in July.  It’s a narrative that took over 12 years to make.  Richard Linklater shot for 3 days every year with the same actors telling the journey of a boy and his family as he grows from 1st grade to his first few days of college.  While Linklater had the basic arc he wanted to follow it’s interesting to watch as he weaves in the cultural events of the time into the story.  And it’s just fascinating to watch as he and his family go through change (including physical changes during those 12 years.  While nothing incredibly exciting is going on plot wise it’s just fascinating to watch.    This also had an excellent cast led by Ethan Hawke (also great in Predestination), Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane (as the boy) and Lorelei Linklater as his sister).

This  movie packs an emotional wallop.

Supermensch – 3.5 out of 5

Mike Myers directorial debut is a documentary about Shep Gordon, the legendary agent for Alice Cooper and many others.  This is a very funny/touching story of his life and some of the careers he touched, Myers, Gordon and Tom Arnold held a good Q+A afterward.

The Raid 2 – ???

I was (am) really looking forward to the sequel to the incredible martial arts film I saw at SXSW a year or two ago.  Unfortunately, after waiting on line and in the theater for quite a while the movie started and was missing the subtitles.  They couldn’t fix it so the director and two of the actors came out did a Q+A and a demo of their fighting skills.  Hopefully I’ll make one of the rescheduled showings (although one is at midnight tonight).

The Lego Movie

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

The Lego Movie is a very funny  and entertaining movie.  At a time without great competition in theaters, this will appeal to Lego lovers of all ages.

The movie is visually stunning.  The jokes come so fast and there is so much happening on the screen that I know I missed a ton of stuff.

The cast is pretty impressive too: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Liam Neeson, Jonah Hill and many others.

I never would have chosen to see this film, but my wife has fond memories of our kids playing Legos and really wanted to see it. As the theme song says: Everything is Awesome (check out this youtube clip)


Rotten Tomatoes


12 O’Clock Boys

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

12 O’Clock Boys is an excellent documentary that follows Pug, an inner city kid from Baltimore, for three years.  Pug is 13 at the beginning of the film and his two goals in life are to be a 12 O’Clock Boy as soon as they let him and to be a veterinarian when he grows up.  12 O’Clock Boys ride dirt bikes and motorcycles through the streets of Baltimore in large groups while doing tricks on their bikes and evading the police.  The police, in theory, have a no-chase policy,  since chasing kids on their bikes could lead to more accidents, but even with that policy, there’s plenty of risk to those riding the bikes and to bystanders.

The movie includes plenty of great footage of the bikers doing their thing.  It’s amazing they don’t have even more accidents. You get great insight into the mindset of the bikers (ranging in age from teens to late 20s) and a view of what it’s like living in an urban environment without much hope for the future.

But most of all, this is a story about family.  In addition to Pug’s interactions with other kids and the 12 O’Clock Boys, there’s plenty of footage of Pug with his family.  His mother has not had the easiest of times and it’s interesting to see her try to keep Pug in line and to observe his relationship with his brother and sister.

Pug is a sharp kid. This movie gives good insight on what life is like for inner city youth, and by the end you have a good idea of which direction Pug’s life is going.


Rotten Tomatoes


Best of 2013

We once again decided to list our best in various categories as well as our overall best.  Please add your comments with your views as that is half the fun.

 Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Overall1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Phillips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. The Spectacular Now
7. Mud
8. This is the End
9. The Way Way Back
10. Fruitvale Station
1. American Hustle
2. Mud
3. 12 Years A Slave
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Dallas Buyers Club
6. This is the End
7. Amour
8. The Way Way Back
9. The World's End
10. Saving Mr. Banka
11. A Band Called Death
12. Gravity
Best Film Based on Historical Events1. 12 Years a Slave
2. American Hustle
3. Dallas Buyer's Club
4. Captain Philips
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Fruitvale Station
1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Dallas Buyers Club
3. Captain Phillips
4. The Act of Killing
5. The Attack
6. War Witch
Best Unique Film1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
4. In a World
5. Concussion
1. This is the End
2. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
3. In a World
4. Elena
Best Crime Film1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street 
3. Ain't Them Bodies Saints
4. The Attack
1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. The Angels Share
4. Graceland
Best Romantic Film1. The Spectacular Now
2. Drinking Buddies
3. Blue is the Warmest Color
1. Amour
2. The Spectacular Now
3. Drinking Buddies
4. Don Jon
5. The Bounceback
Best Comedies1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
1. This is the End
2. The World's End
3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
4. In a World
5. The Heat
Best Documentaries1. Blackfish
2. We Steal Secrects; Story of Wikileaks
3. Elena
4. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. The Act of Killing
3. The Armstrong Lie
4. The Gatekeepers
5. Hawking
6. Elena
7. Linsanity
8. Getting Back to Abnormal
Best Foreign Language Film1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. The Great Beauty (Italy)
3. The Attack (Israel)
1. Wadjda (Saudi Arabia)
2. Graceland (Philippines)
3. The Attack (Israel)
4 War Witch (Canada)
 Bill I's PicksBill C's Picks
Best Music Related Movies1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Twenty Feet from Stardom
3. Sound City
1. A Band Called Death
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. Muscle Shoals
4. Good Ol' Freda
5. Sound City
Best Actor (Not in Order)- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Mud)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
- Ryan Gosling (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Chiwejel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave
- Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
- Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
- Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
- Christian Bale (American Hustle)
Best Actress (not in Order) - Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Rooney Mara (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Amy Adama (American Hustle)
- Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue is the Warmest Color)
- Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies)
- Emanuelle Riva (Amour)
- Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
- Lake Bell (In a World)
- Judi Dench (Philomena)
- Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)
- Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
- Amy Adams (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actor (Not in Order)- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips)
- Keith Carradine (Aint Them Bodies Saints)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
- Tye Sheridan (Mud)
- Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
- Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)
- Sam Rockwell (The Way Way Back)
- Jackson Nicoll (Bad Grandpa)
- Will Forte (Nebraska)
- Barkadh Abdi (Captain Phillips
- Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall street)
- Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
Best Supporting Actress (Not in Order)- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley (Spectacular Now)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
- Reese Witherspoon (Mud)
- Eva Mendes (The Place Beyond the Pines)
- Carey Mulligan (Inside Llewyn Davis)
- Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
- Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
- June Squibb (Nebraska)
- Shailene Woodley
- Julianne Moore (Don Jon)
- Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Worst Movie1. The Wait
2. Maladies
3. Thor, The Dark World
1. Computer Chess
2. The Lone Ranger
3. Maladies
4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
5. The Internship
Worst Actor/Actress1. Christina Applegate (Anchorman 2)1. Jody Foster - Elysium
2. Steve Carrell - The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Lone Survivor

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Lone Survivor is based on the true story of a failed SEAL operation to capture or kill a Taliban leader in Afghanistan in 2005.

This is a very patriotic movie showing incredibly courageous men on a mission where things went wrong.  Probably two-thirds of the movie is devoted to the mission and the battle. This is one of the more realistic war battles filmed—not quite up there with Saving Private Ryan, but pretty good.  Even though the outcome is clear from the beginning, there is tension throughout.  The battle is grittily filmed up and down the tree-lined mountain terrain.

This film has a first-rate cast led by Mark Wahlberg and including  Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster.  They did spend some time  developing the characters, but could have done a bit more in that area.

If you like realistic war movies, this is a movie you should see.


Rotten Tomatoes


Out of the Furnace

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

Out of the Furnace is a mediocre film (at best) with a really good cast. Any movie with Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker should be better than this. Bale, Harrelson and Affleck were excellent and probably got this up to a mediocre rating.

The film centers around two brothers, played by Bale and Affleck. They live in a dying steel mill town and their lives are spiraling out of control. After Affleck’s character disappears,  Bale decides to take matters into his own hands and seek revenge.

This film clearly had high aspirations. I think director Scott Cooper was emulating The Godfather and going heavy on the symbolism during one sequence when he kept cutting between a deer hunting sequence and a pivotal scene for two characters. This also had a heavy Deer Hunter-feel as a story about a couple of lost souls.  But this film didn’t live up to those aspirations. I thought the movie was slow and didn’t think the plot was very good.  While most of the plot was straight-forward, the last frame of the movie (as pointed out by one of our readers) was really confusing and lacked clarity. There are many movies where ambiguous endings work, but this was not one of them.

Bottom line is if you haven’t seen this movie yet, skip it. There are a ton of other movies just opening that look a lot better.


Rotten Tomatoes



Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Philomena is based on the true story of Philomena Lee (played by Judi Dench). As a Catholic in Ireland in the 1950’s, she was forced to give up her son for adoption, promise never to search for him, AND work for the church for no pay for four years. Helping her on her search is Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a former reporter and government spokesman who has recent been forced from office in a political scandal.

The film recounts her time working for the nuns and when they took her son, and fifty years later deciding once again to search for him despite the nuns’ denial of any knowledge of what happened to him.

The performances by Dench and Coogan are excellent. Besides their search, what makes the movie interesting is the interaction between the two characters. Despite the horrific things the church has done to her, Philomena still has her faith and is much more forgiving. Sixsmith take a much harsher view of their actions.

This is a well-written movie; Coogan co-wrote the script. I expected this to be a real tearjerker, but due to her faith, the humor in the script, and the bonding between the two main characters, this had a much different feel than I expected.


Rotten Tomatoes


Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is a very rude and crude Candid Camera-type movie. It stars Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame along with the amazing 8-year-old, Jackson Nicoll. Probably the only thing more amazing than the great job he does is that his parents let him do it.

While some parts went over the line—even for me—for the most part I found this film very funny. This movie is very Borat-like.  If you liked Borat, there’s a good chance you’ll like this. If you didn’t like Borat or didn’t go because it offended your sensibilities, stay far, far away. I was trying to decide which movie was ruder and cruder. I was leaning towards Bad Grandpa, but then I remembered the nude wrestling scene in Borat….

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Agree with Bill’s review, I loved it. Very funny throughout, the kid is incredible, and I wondered while I was watching, but at the end during closing credits I was convinced that the “real people” who are pranked were not actors, and didn’t know what was coming. Very Borat-like, but with a touching story grounded in reality of a boy who needs his grandpa.


Rotten Tomatoes

Article on the kid


The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This review is not intended for those who are really into this series as all of those people have undoubtedly seen this already (probably twice). I had not seen the first movie, but I watched it on Netflix (what dedication!) once the sequel got such good reviews. I even looked up “dystopia” in the dictionary since everything I heard or read talked about the story set in a dystopian society (and they are right—an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives).

I was glad that I went back and watched the first movie to have a good context for this one. Overall I liked Catching Fire and thought it was better than the first. The movie is almost 2.5 hours long but it did fly by. The characters are interesting and the acting, good, with a surprisingly good cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and more. For the most part, the action was good although I found some of it hard to follow. I did have a couple of quibbles about the ending. It reminded me a little of The Empire Strikes Back--I didn’t think it had a real ending. It just sort of found a good point to stop, so the next film would have a good place to start. I have been told this is how the book ends too. I also didn’t like that they had to explain at the end what happened in the battle towards the end (since there’s no way to have figured it out just by watching), and what happened to some of the characters since they didn’t show that in the movie, but wanted you to know for the next movie.

Despite the quibbles with the last 15-20 minutes overall I enjoyed this.

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I was not as diligent as Bill so I have not seen the first movie, thinking this one should be able to stand on its own. I think it does, but also am sure that I would have appreciated it more if I was familiar with the prior episode and the characters. I agree with everything Bill says in his review, including the excellent acting, the movie moving fast, and the abrupt ending, almost like it’s going to a long commercial. Very imaginative scenarios to go with a very depressing futuristic life under a powerful Donald Sutherland as “President”. The way the government thugs march in and torture and kill citizens without a second thought, much less a trial, reminds me of Syria and other hot spots in our current world. How powerless the citizenry must feel, which is the essence of this story. There’s enough humor to keep me from getting miserable watching, and some situations that stretch logic (OK, count how many arrows Katniss starts out with in her quiver, then count the number she ends up shooting, or firing, or whatever you do with arrows.). I’d be interested in reading comments of anyone who’s a fan of this series.


Rotten Tomatoes