Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Master

Film: The Master

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Ides of March) and Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

U.S. Release: September 21st, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 138 minutes

Make no mistake about it, Paul Thomas Anderson is lauded by many purists of cinema as one of the greatest  living directors. Although he has never taken home a Golden Statue from the Academy, he's been regularly recognized with screenplay nominations for past works such as Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood. What's most magnificent about the filmography of Anderson is his inadvertent methods of storytelling and character building through the course of precise dialogue and articulate acting. Paul Thomas Anderson challenges the audience and asks them to look deeper into themselves to fully grasp his work. And with the accomplished director's latest effort, The Master, he sustains his typical trend of expressing his purpose through enigmatic and complex art forms.

Freddie Quell (played by Phoenix) is a post WWII naval veteran with an unclear future. Freddie's battle scars and parental abandonment have reinforced his animalistic lifestyle which thrives on sexual desires and unruly alcoholic concoctions which he mixes so well. But when his poisonous liquor sets him on the run from a cabbage farm he's been working at, the young drifter finds his way onto a yacht in the San Francisco Bay. On this yacht Freddie meets its captain, Lancaster Dodd (played by Hoffman), a charismatic man who claims to be "a writer, a doctor, a nuclear physicist and a theoretical philosopher". But Dodd continues to add that, "above all, I am a man, a hopelessly inquisitive man, just like you". Consumed by Dodd's aura and methods, Freddie becomes a loyal pawn for Dodd and his wife Peggy's (played by Adams) religious/existential movement called "The Cause".

Sluggish but never boring, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is a tantalizing character study that utilizes its entirety to pose questions rather than answer them. To its unfortunate discredit, the film shies away from developing any strong semblance of a plot and reverts its focal point to the psychology of Freddie and Dodd. The pair share a multitude of scenes that are nothing shy of absolute genius. Throughout their constant verbal and sometimes combative encounters, we see Phoenix and Hoffman team up for the kinds of scenes that lend their hands en route to Oscar winning performances. Phoenix portrays such an intriguing and perplexing character, it's a shame that Anderson doesn't create more of an extensive platform to let Freddie expand. By reducing The Master to an almost obsessive examination of the father/son or master/protege relationship with no other plan of action, we're subjected to nothing more than a vague and hollow shell of ideas. Also, it's worthwhile to point out that these relationships are by no means new material to Anderson. The director has used them as valuable subplot in past works like Boogie Nights (i.e between Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg) and There Will Be Blood (i.e. Daniel Day Lewis and his son). In the aforementioned films, the relationships serve meaningful purposes such as adding dimensions to the characters and creating depth to the features. Yet with The Master, Anderson explores this notion through and through without ever complementing the story in any other facet. Now, we're left to only imagine how much an improved and progressive plot would have benefited Phoenix, Hoffman and the entire crop of gifted cast members.

While being as respectful as I can to an icon such as Paul Thomas Anderson, it goes without saying that The Master holds an enormous amount of cinematic value. The cinematography is top notch and Anderson's Malick-like artistic sense is second to none. The Master is a beautifully shot film with some of the greatest acting ever displayed, these and many other notable technical achievements only reiterate the brilliance of its legendary director. And as far as the screenplay goes, Anderson's words spawn so much fire and intensity in the impressive exchanges between Freddie and Dodd. Their co-dependence is often maddening but so perfectly fitted for one another. Freddie, as "an animal" and a drifter searching for acceptance and open arms. While on the other end there's Dodd, a self proclaimed leader desperately seeking a loyal follower to resurrect. As their uncontrollable need for one another continuously leads to doubt and resistance on both ends, we're always left recalling Dodd's words, "If you figure out a way to live without a master, any master, be sure to let the rest of us know, for you would be the first in the history of the world". Dialogue such as this only illustrates how transcendent of a writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson has become.

For as much as I appreciated Anderson's The Master, I found an almost equal amount of displeasure in its lack of a necessary plot. There's plenty of mastery depicted throughout the entire feature, yet the film's failure to develop a proper story will inevitably alienate audiences and diminish its Best Picture chances. And while I find The Master to be a less impressive piece of work than most of Anderson's earlier offerings, cinephiles and critics alike will surely give high praise to the film. However, I would recommend the average moviegoer to look elsewhere.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Film: Looper

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50), Bruce Willis (Hudson Hawk) and Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau)

Director: Rian Johnson (Brick)

U.S. Release: September 28th, 2012 (Rated R)

Genre: Action/Sci-Fi

Runtime: 118 minutes

It's impossible to believe that it's been seven years since director Rian Johnson and a young budding star named Joseph Gordon-Levitt teamed up for the tightly drawn high school noir flick Brick. As a first time writer and director on a major motion picture, Brick introduced us to the creative possibilities of the obviously talented Rian Johnson. Over half a decade later, the tag team of Johnson and Gordon-Levitt have gone and raised the bar even higher with their newly released sci-fi action thriller, Looper.

In 2044 time traveled hasn't been invented yet, but in 30 years from then, it will be. And although time travel quickly becomes outlawed in the future, crime organizations still find a way to send their targets back in time to have them eliminated by Loopers like Joe (played by Gordon-Levitt). Loopers are paid very well and live a glorious life in a rather desolate futuristic world. But there's one major rule for Loopers though, never let your target escape. Joe's been a loyal assassin and followed the golden rule his entire career, until the day he discovers that his target is his future self (played by Willis).

Rian Johnson's third directorial effort, Looper, is a meticulously crafted and beautifully original sci-fi adventure that proves there's still plenty of creativity floating around Hollywood. As both the writer and director on the film, Johnson conjures up one of the most believable futuristic worlds in sci-fi history. He welcomes us to a 2044 familiar enough to keep the experience authentic, but different enough to serve as an appropriate platform for the story. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Looper is Johnson's unparalleled ability to constantly progress the film's plot. By continually planting the most subtle of seeds throughout the movie, Johnson gives his masterpiece the open-ended potential to go just about anywhere ... which he does. The writer/director clearly had visions of grandeur when he began tackling the concept of Looper. Attempting to address a complex scientific notion such as time travel requires detailed precision and some extremely ambitious ideas. But rather than devoting its entirety to explain time travel, the phenomena merely serves as a backdrop to a much larger and more important examination of the feature's main characters. Clearly Johnson can rest assured knowing that Looper hurdles over every obstacle on its path to becoming an instant sci-fi classic. Thanks, in large part, to an imaginative and taut script that leaves almost no loose ends, Looper manages to finds itself among the elite films of 2012.

For as excellent and clever as the story is, Looper still lands short of perfection. One obvious flaw lies in the surprising amount of screen time given to Noah Segan's character Kid Blue. Overused and unimpressive, Segan finds himself dominating screen time all while the audience waits patiently for the film to progress. More so a complaint about the character than Segan's individual performance, Looper would have been better served without the inclination to give so much attention to such a pointless character. And for as much of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan as I am, he and Willis both demonstrate that they're not quite at the level of some of Hollywood's greats. While the pair's performances are by no means detracting from the film, there are a few occasional moments where they leave a little to be desired. However, these minor blemishes aren't nearly enough to call into questions the apparent success of Looper.

Rarely are we handed an epic sci-fi journey with as much originality and ingenuity as Rian Johnson's Looper. Massively entertaining from start to finish, Looper's success hinges on its innovative script and many of its strong supporting cast members such as Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels. But perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of the film resides in its final moments. With a hair-rising finale that's sure to impress, Looper concludes in grand fashion. As arguably one of 2012's best achievements, I highly recommend getting out to a theatre near you to catch Looper.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B+

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Philadelphia Film Festival Preview 2012

As it's quickly becoming a recurring theme in my life, Christmas will come early again this year. After having the opportunity to catch some of 2011's premier films such as Best Picture winner The Artist, The Descendants and My Week with Marilyn at last year's Philadelphia Film Festival, I couldn't wait for the announcement of this year's lineup. Well the wait has officially ended (click here for a full list of films playing at the 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival). Here's a preview of what's in store for this year's festival which will take over the City of Brotherly Love from October 18th to 28th. Tickets go on sale to the general public for all movies in about a week and any other information can be found online at


Kicking off the festivities on Thursday night (October 18th) will be this year's Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Winner Silver Linings Playbook starring Bradley Cooper and up-and-comer Jennifer Lawrence. Filmed locally and directed by Oscar Nominee David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat (played by Cooper), a former teacher who's forced to move back in with his parents after a stint in a mental institution. While attempting to get his life back in order, Pat gets sidetracked when he meets Tiffany (played by Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own. While Silver Linings Playbook isn't scheduled to hit theatres until Thanksgiving, you can see this highly regarded gem a month in advance at this year's festival.

Closing Night Film

Closing the festival this year will be Robert Zemeckis' Flight starring Denzel Washington. After an airline pilot (played by Washington) miraculously saves a flight from crashing, an investigation into the malfunction discovers something troubling about the hero. It's been announced that Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis will be in attendance for the closing night's events. Flight isn't set to arrive in theatres until November 2nd, so this is one you'll definitely want to take advantage of seeing.

Other Notable Selections

While Silver Linings Playbook and Flight are two excellent features scheduled at this year's festival, there's plenty of other big time pictures to get excited about. For example the much anticipated Cloud Atlas will be playing, as well as Quartet, Stand Up Guys, Shadow Dancer, and the Audience Award Winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival The Sessions (pictured below)

If you happen to be a big fan of documentaries, there will be plenty of interesting subject matter floating around the festival as well. Two of the most highly regarded documentaries selected for this year's festival are Ken Burns' own The Central Park Five and emotionally moving Brooklyn CastleBrooklyn Castle tells the remarkable true story of the nation's number one ranked Junior High chess team which continues to dominate the sport, despite the surprising fact that 65% of its students live below the poverty line. 

The 21st annual Philadelphia Film Festival is, once again, shaping up to be an unforgettable event. Don't find yourself on the outside looking in, visit and figure out how to get the most out of the experience. I look forward to the 11 day affair and giving you frequent updates throughout, so stay tuned.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Film: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Starring: Logan Lerman (3:10 to Yuma), Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and Emma Watson (Harry Potter)

Director: Stephen Chbosky

U.S. Release: September 21st, 2012 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 103 minutes

All throughout Hollywood and the indie film scene the phrase "passion project" gets thrown around on a regular basis. Perhaps no one better exemplifies its true meaning than novelist Stephen Chbosky. The Pennsylvanian born writer had his first novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, published by MTV books in 1999. A decade later Chbosky decided to go against standard screenwriter protocol as the author began to adapt his own novel into a screenplay. And if that wasn't enough of a commitment to the project, Chbosky was even able to sign on as the film's director. Pouring all of his blood, sweat and tears into this movie, Chbosky will finally see his "baby", The Perks of Being a Wallflower, reach theatres everywhere on Friday.

Set in western Pennsylvania during the 1990s, The Perks of Being a Wallflower follows an incoming freshman named Charlie (played by Lerman) whose best friend commits suicide before the start of a new school year. Friendless and unable to adapt, Charlie senses a long arduous road ahead of himself. That is, until he befriends a pair of step-sibling seniors named Patrick (played by Miller) and Sam (played by Watson). Together they welcome Charlie into their circle of outcast friends and give him a platform to new experiences, all while he tries to make sense of life and growing up.

Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a fresh and innovative take on the often frequented "coming of age" genre. Passion-filled and sincere, the film benefits from a well written script and some excellent and youthful onscreen talent. First and foremost, Logan Lerman proves to be the perfect casting decision for the movie's main character, Charlie. The gifted young actor plays the role to perfection, knowing exactly when to turn it up a notch and when to dial it down. But despite all of Lerman's high praise, the true star of the feature is Ezra Miller. Miller absolutely dazzles as Patrick, an eccentric openly-homosexual senior at school. We've clearly seen Ezra Miller's talents on display before, as the widely skilled star managed to make my list of 2011's Most Underrated Performances for his exceptional work in the vastly under-seen psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin. With this performance, however, I expect Miller to finally reach the masses and open up everyone's eyes to his masterful abilities. The third leg of the trio is Emma Watson, who seemingly feels over-matched by the brilliant work of her colleagues. Although Watson is clearly the weak link, she holds her own by never deterring from the film at all. Demonstrating a superb amount of youthful talent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower flourishes because of its prolific young cast and Chbosky's surprisingly strong direction.

As is usually the case, The Perks of Being a Wallflower fails to go from start to finish unscathed. While the feature clearly has a fresh and modern vibe, it still ends up feeling like a multitude of revisited ideas. The film stays mostly systematic to the typical "coming of age" formula. Yet, through well crafted situations and adequately timed humor, The Perks of Being a Wallflower manages to break through every mundane barrier and stand firmly as a source of creative originality. In addition to playing to a specific theme, the film finds faults in its rather abrupt and unforeseen finale. Coming completely out of left field, the latter stages of the picture offer a shocking revelation that seems to take away from the entire story in that exact moment. While I'm sure that the book serves as a justified stage for the big reveal, Chbosky should have either gradually eased it in or done without the saddening surprise. Either way, The Perks of Being a Wallflower battles through its tiny deficiencies and leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

Never lacking and always staying upbeat to keep the audience entertained, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a strong introduction to what hopes to be a fantastic finale of 2012 cinematic releases. Tackling some deeply emotional topics, the film will certainly represent a viable outlet for future generations to cling on to. Hitting theatres everywhere on Friday September 21st, you won't be disappointed with your investment in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hello I Must Be Going

Film: Hello I Must Be Going

Starring: Melanie Lynskey (Win Win), Christopher Abbott (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents)

Director: Todd Louiso (Love Liza)

U.S. Release: September 7th, 2012 (Limited Release - Rated R)

Genre: Drama/Comedy

Runtime: 95 minutes

Perhaps best known as Dick, the reserved music geek in 2000's High Fidelity, actor and director Todd Louiso must have been thrilled to have his latest work, Hello I Must Be Going, announced as the Opening Night film at this year's Sundance Festival. And while critic reviews have been overwhelmingly positive in favor of the drama, Hello I Must Be Going left Sundance as a somewhat forgotten entity. But through the strong collective work of Louiso, screenwriter Sarah Koskoff and the film's leading lady Melanie Lynskey, Hello I Must Be Going looks to start hitting theatres nationwide on September 21st.

Melanie Lynskey stars as Amy, a recently divorced and excessively depressed woman forced to move back in with her parents in Connecticut. But when her father is given the chance of a lifetime to lock down a massive client planning to spend the Summer with his family in a nearby home, Amy is asked to liven up and look presentable. While attempting to do so, she unexpectedly begins a romantic affair with Jeremy (played by Abbott), the 19 year old stepson of the potential client. Although the romance could jeopardize her father's retirement plans, Jeremy is exactly the rejuvenation that Amy needs to piece her life back together.

Hello I Must Be Going is a lighthearted journey in self discovery and self resurgence. Its subtle and gentle demeanor is perfectly complemented by the film's surprising ability to pour on the laughter. With her debut screenplay, actress turned writer Sarah Koskoff demonstrates her innate ability to mold together a genuine character through the use of comedic circumstance. Without the ingenious mixture of humor and drama that it flaunts so well, Hello I Must Be Going may have otherwise fallen by the wayside. Instead, the feature delivers an enduring and joyous viewing experience. Along with Koskoff, the picture's leading actress, Melanie Lynskey, proves she's more than capable of independently carrying a feature length film. The longtime actress has built a strong, yet mostly unrecognized, career that has finally put her in the driver's seat with this role. Lynskey seizes the opportunity and provides a lovable character that the audience can connect with easily. Her onscreen romance with Christopher Abbott, a talented young actor in his own right, feels authentic and honest. By tackling this somewhat taboo premise about a woman's romance with a young man almost half her age, Hello I Must Be Going could have easily come off as creepy or distasteful. However, the talents demonstrated by Lynskey and Abbott keep the chemistry visible and the content believable. Therefore, Hello I Must Be Going is a stellar film on many levels.

For all of its glowing attributes, there's still a little mess involved with Todd Lousio's latest effort. For starters, Lynskey's periodic outbursts of sadness and depression throughout the entire duration of the film undoubtedly wear on the audience. The "woe is me" approach is never endearing and, unfortunately, there's plenty of it to go around. But thanks to the constant smattering of jokes, all of the unamusing self pity somehow becomes forgotten. Another blemish to the film is the inconsistencies of a few characters. For example, Hello I Must Be Going builds up Amy's father to be the only sense of structure and dependability in her life. However, in the third act of the film his character proves to be anything but reliable. Little inconsistencies such as this one are evident from start to finish, and they add up to take away a small sense of credibility from the feature.

All in all Hello I Must Be Going is just another winning feature to come out of 2012's impressive Sundance Film Festival. While it's chances of any awards season recognition are minuscule at best, Hello I Must Be Going still proves to be a worthwhile experience. Its story of self discovery and revitalization is genuine and its script is light and fluffy enough to not "over-do" anything. Never dull or sluggish, Hello I Must Be Going is the type of film anyone can enjoy. Therefore, I recommend taking a flier on this one.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Stand Up Guys Trailer

Al Pacino looks to resurrect his career with the likes of fellow Academy Award Winners Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin in next year's Stand Up Guys. Pacino stars as an aging con man fresh out of prison who reconnects with an old friend (played by Walken) who's been given orders to kill him. Scheduled to hit theatres in January of 2013, check out the trailer for Stand Up Guys below.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Lincoln Trailer

Now that The Dark Knight Rises has come and almost gone, Steven Spielberg's Lincoln is currently atop the list of most anticipated films for 2012. In an unorthodox special online Q&A event, Spielberg premiered his trailer for the biopic starring Academy Award Winners Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field yesterday. Set to hit theatres on November 16th, you should definitely check out the trailer for Lincoln below.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Smashed Trailer

The independent hit Smashed took the Sundance Film Festival by storm and even took home a Special Jury Prize. The dramatic piece stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Aaron Paul (from AMC's Breaking Bad) as Kate and Charlie, a married couple whose relationship is formed upon their joint love of alcohol. But when Kate decides to sober up, their marriage is put to the test. Check out the new trailer for Smashed below.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Parental Guidance Trailer

Billy Crystal makes his return in the upcoming family comedy Parental Guidance. Crystal stars alongside Bette Midler as a pair of grandparents asked to help look after their daughter's (played by Marisa Tomei) three children when she's forced to leave town for work. Due for a Christmas day release, you can check out the trailer for Parental Guidance below.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Double Dipping: Celeste & Jesse Forever and The Good Doctor

Film: Celeste & Jesse Forever

Starring: Rashida Jones (I Love you, Man) and Andy Samberg (That's My Boy)

Director: Lee Toland Krieger (The Vicious Kind)

Genre: Comedy/Drama

As the months pass it becomes more apparent just how great this year's Sundance Film Festival must have been. We've seen an amazing crop of independent films that premiered at the festival such as Safety Not Guaranteed, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Robot & Frank and many others. One of the most recent Sundance selections to arrive in theatres is Lee Toland Krieger's own Celeste & Jesse Forever.

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg play high school sweethearts Celeste and Jesse who fall in love and eventually get married. But when Jesse's lack of ambition becomes too large of an issue, the couple decides to separate ... kind of. With Jesse living in a studio attached to their old home and the two still spending almost every waking moment together, their friends begin to question the couple's decision. Either they reconnect or finally move on from one another.

Celeste & Jesse Forever is a heart-filled and honest film that's carried on the shoulders of its leading lady, Rashida Jones. Proving that, sometimes in life, timing is everything, Celeste & Jesse Forever is the type of romantic comedy that keeps you laughing and tuned into the movie at all times. And although some of the actions and decisions made my the characters will surely irk you, it's a sincere relationship film that forms well to its pair of leads.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Film: The Good Doctor

Starring: Orlando Bloom(Pirates of the Caribbean) and Riley Keough (Magic Mike)

Director: Lance Daly (Kisses)

Genre: Drama/Thriller

I had the pleasure of catching numerous films at the Philadelphia Film Festival last October, but perhaps none creeped me out as much as Lance Daly's The Good Doctor. The feature's star, Orlando Bloom, gives a knockout performance as Dr Martin Blake, a young physician unable to garner the proper respect he feels he deserves at work. But when a pretty 18 year old patient named Diane (played by Keough) is placed into his care, the two form a strange connection. Dr Blake quickly helps Diane recover but when she's finally released from the hospital, we learn of Dr Blake's obsession and willingness to do anything to keep her around.

The Good Doctor is both a riveting and compelling piece of work. And although the natural sequence of events develops rather slowly for a 91 minute movie, The Good Doctor's twisted psychological story of obsession will crawl under your skin. Backed by a strong cast and a captivating plot, there's plenty to enjoy here for a mere hour and a half investment.

The Good Doctor is available in select cities and on Video On Demand. While there's no need to rush out to see the film, it's definitely the type of movie that you can catch when you have some down time. Chance are, you'll be shockingly surprised.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Trouble with the Curve

Film: Trouble with the Curve

Starring: Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Amy Adams (The Fighter) and Justin Timberlake (In Time)

Director: Robert Lorenz

U.S. Release: September 21st, 2012 (Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: TBA (approx 110 minutes)

Just like a minor league ball player awaiting his chance to make it to the big leagues, first time director Robert Lorenz has been preparing for this opportunity his whole life. Constantly playing second fiddle to Clint Eastwood as the "Assistant Director" on hits such as Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River and The Bridges of Madison County, Lorentz has finally been given his chance and he'll step up to the plate with this year's drama Trouble with the Curve.

Trouble with the Curve follows Gus Lobel (played by Eastwood), an elderly baseball scout in the twilight of his career. In an age where computers and statistics have taken over the analysis of ballplayers, Gus is given one last shot by his employer, the Atlanta Braves, to scout this year's most highly touted prospect. But with an expiring contract and a recent diagnosis of glaucoma, Gus' eyes may not be good enough to help him keep his job. With the aid of his somewhat distant daughter Mickey (played by Adams) and a former ballplayer turned scout Johnny Flanagan (played by Timberlake), Gus and the pair of youngsters must learn to hit any pitch that life throws their way.

Trouble with the Curve is an overly dramatic piece that fails to live up to the legendary status of a big named star like Clint Eastwood. Taking the favorable position of scouting over the newly installed ideas of saber-metrics within professional baseball, Trouble with the Curve sets itself up as the anti-Moneyball. Claiming that a computer can't measure instincts and countless other undervalued variables, the film places a central focus on the ability to see beyond the game. And while avid baseball fans like myself can find a modest level of enjoyment by having the sport as a backdrop to the film's larger story, Trouble with the Curve tip-toes around confronting its major conflict for far too long. Once the big secret behind the broken down relationship between Gus and Mickey is finally revealed, it ends up feeling like an "I've waited all this time for that?" moment. But perhaps the feature's biggest saving grace comes in the form of Justin Timberlake. The singer turned actor has made a natural transformation to the big screen and his success only continues. At times, Timberlake's character Johnny Flanagan appears to be the only reasonable person in the movie. Playing a former phenom who could light up the radar gun with a triple digit fastball, Timberlake portrays Flanagan with an honest sense of humility. Flanagan makes his way into scouting after a devastating injury ends his career, and the audience easily connects with the character's admitted failure and quest for a new beginning. Without the aid of Timberlake and his multi-dimensional character, Trouble with the Curve would fall far into the abyss of mediocrity.

One of the most shocking revelations in Trouble with the Curve is the stunning real life parallel between Clint Eastwood and his onscreen character of Gus Lobel. Lobel is an aging man being forced out of his profession for a lack of fresh perspective. And ironically speaking, Eastwood's performance picks up exactly where his Walt Kowalski character from Gran Torino left off. Offering nothing new to the curmudgeony role he perfected so well in 2008, Eastwood proves to be a major disappointment in the film. Sure his light-hearted old fogey jokes will garner a few laughs, but they all manage to feel slightly recycled. On the other hand, Oscar nominee Amy Adams delivers another stellar performance. But despite her valiant efforts, director Robert Lorenz and screenwriter Randy Brown ultimately mishandle her story. Once the audience buys into her romantic escapades with the charming Johnny Flanagan, they force a conflict into the film that is never seemingly resolved. However, when we're given an unexplained and unbelievable fairy-tale ending, the sentiment becomes almost sickening.

Trouble with the Curve is far from the Oscar-filled hopeful that some early indicators believed it could be. And although the film is massively flawed and unrealistic, Trouble with the Curve is a feel good movie about the greatest game on earth ... so how bad can it be? There are definitely some noticeable lulls throughout the movie, but the budding romance and regularly calculated jokes do their intended job. As a result, Trouble with the Curve is an ever-so-slightly above average drama that you don't have to rush to theatres to see.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

Saturday, September 1, 2012

August 2012 Poll Recap

To honor the release of Christopher Nolan's final Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, last month's poll question asked which of his three caped crusader movies you liked the most. After receiving a nice round number of votes, August has left us and the tally is official. Taking home the win with exactly 50% of the vote was the trilogy's second feature, The Dark Knight. Backed by a posthumous Oscar victory for the late great Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight dazzled audiences with a never before seen force of destruction. Nolan's final installment The Dark Knight Rises (30%) edged out the origin film Batman Begins (20%) for the silver medal. No matter what the order of preference may be one thing is certain, all three movies are undeniably brilliant. Thanks for restoring our favorite superhero Mr Nolan, it will never be forgotten.

Be sure to vote on this month's poll question (located in the upper right hand corner of the page) asking, "Which Tom Hardy Film is Your Favorite".