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Her Review

Her Promo

Review by contributor Austin Winkler

Her is a romance film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, and the voice of Scarlett Johansson. The story revolves around Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) who starts a relationship with an intelligent operating system named Samantha (Johansson). This is a very late review, and I apologize for that. I rented this film a couple months back, and if I’m being completely honest, I really didn’t see what the big deal was. I thought it was a very well made film, but very boring and pretentious. I never got around to writing a review about it because it was already late and I didn’t think it was anything worth writing about. However, for my interpersonal communication class, I had to watch it again to write a report on it. Since then, I’ve gained a completely new respect for it.

Her Scene 2

The place where the film shines the most is the script. The story is very well written with believable characters and realistic conversations. It’s almost like Pulp Fiction in the way that the dialogue between characters is the best part about this film. It’s filled with so many emotions, it’s ridiculous. One moment you’ll be laughing and the next you have a lump in your throat trying to hold back tears. That’s another thing, this movie packs a good emotional punch. I don’t cry easily in films, but this one came dangerously close to making me shed a few tears. The emotions brought forth from the actors feel genuine to the point where you start viewing these characters as real people. This is one of the most emotionally dynamic films I’ve seen in years.

Her Scene 1

As far as fundamentals go, everything is in pristine condition. The cinematography is breathtaking. In my class, we watched it on DVD, but it was hard for me to tell. Everything from the lighting to the colors is sublime. Joaquin Phoenix and company do exceptionally well in their roles, but Scarlett Johansson’s voice work as the O.S. is something to behold. Her voice work is so incredible, I forgot she was playing an O.S. She never got nominated, but I heard she was getting some Oscar buzz from her voice alone. It would’ve been a long-shot to see her nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but she would’ve been deserving of the honor.

Her Scene 3

Bottom line, Her has since become one of the best romance films I’ve ever seen. I’d highly recommend purchasing this, but if you’re still unsure, rent it before doing so. If you’re like me and don’t care much for it the first go around, I implore you to give it another chance. Probably my only complaints are a couple scenes with an unnecessary amount of vulgar language, but that’s it! Her is a movie you simply don’t want to miss out on.

4.5 out of 5

 
Faith advisory:
-A couple scenes containing vulgar language
-Two scenes involving phone sex. One of them is meant to be comical, but it can get pretty weird as well.
-We see photos of a naked pregnant woman, and a couple minutes later, we see the woman again with one of the characters fantasizing about her. (Bare breast and female genitalia visible but only for a brief second)
-A couple scenes with characters kissing.
-One scene showing two people making out. They’re about to have sex, but change their mind.
-Do not watch this with your children, parents, or grand-parents.
-Accountability partner recommended to fast-forward through the sexual scenes.
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Check out the trailer for Her below:

Night Moves Banner

Night Moves Review

Night Moves CoverNight Moves is an independent drama/thriller directed by Kelly Reichardt starring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard. The film is about three hardcore environmentalists who set out to destroy a hydroelectric dam, by essentially blowing it up.

This is a very melodramatic film, one that relies on tensions and build-up to keep its viewers invested. This tactic works extremely well, mainly because of the interesting characters and their relationships. The acting here is top-notch, especially from the always quirky and immensely talented Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the reserved and sometimes creepy Josh. Dakota Fanning is great as the reluctant Dena and Peter Sarsgaard is wonderful as ex-military man, Harmon. Eisenberg is the main star here, as his performance is simply entrancing. Sure, his character isn’t very likable, but there’s no denying that he’s interesting. The chemistry between these three is undeniably sharp and with an already solid script, the characters only shine even more.

Night Moves 1

The rural Pacific Northwest is the perfect setting and it’s beauty is only expanded due to the cinematography work. The story is something that has been done before…literally. There’s been major controversy surrounding this, as there was a book written years ago that had an eerily similar story line. But, whether Reichardt deliberately copied and pasted is a story for another day. It’s an entertaining premise, for sure. The content here speaks of a message that will resonate with the environmentalist community.

Night Moves is not for everyone. First of all, it’s an independent film and these types of movies are never for everyone. Second of all, the run time pushes nearly 2 hours and most of that time things are quiet and melancholy, albeit tense and gripping. Plus, it has that art-house feel to it…so there are some quirks like naked old women at the beginning (for no apparent reason). So yeah…there’s that. However, weirdness aside, Night Moves is a satisfying, interesting, entertaining and unique film that gets my recommendation.

4 out of 5

Faith Advisory:

Rated “R

-Nudity: Only in one scene, near the beginning, several elderly women are shown at a day spa.

-Sex: It is implied one time, nothing is shown, only briefly heard.

-Profanity: A few curse words through out.

-Sparse consumption of alcohol.

-Violence: Some scenes of struggling and mild fighting; One murder scene (not very violent)

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Check out the trailer for Night Moves below:

Boyhood Banner

Boyhood Review

Boyhood CoverReview by Contributor Austin Winkler

Boyhood is a coming-of-age drama directed by Richard Linklater and stars Ellar Coltrane, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Lorelei Linklater. Filmed over a period of 12 years, the story follows Mason (Coltrane) and his family from his childhood until his early college years.

One of the most impressive things about this movie is what I mentioned earlier: it was filmed over a course of 12 years with the same actors and everything. This film possesses a lot of dedication, and it’s wonderfully made. The cinematography is gorgeous, the writing is impeccable, and the acting is spot on. Ellar Coltrane was casted perfectly for this role, even as a child he was great. Another thing I must add, the soundtrack is killer! I’m tempted to purchase it. You’ll hear music from Coldplay, Kings of Leon, Black Keys, Vampire Weekend, heck, there’s even a Blink-182 song in the beginning.

This is a very intimate film. Conflict is almost nonexistent and there isn’t much of a story. If someone were tBoyhoos Scene 1o ask me what the film’s main story is, I’d say it’s about reaching milestones in life; how you get there, when you get there, and what you’ll do when you get there. As a matter of fact, there’s a scene near the end of the movie where Patricia Arquette’s character blatantly says this. Well, not word for word, but it was something along those lines. I recognize this is a very well made film, but in all honesty, I can’t see myself watching it again. There’s a bunch of very interesting and well written dialogue, but unless you want to examine the film and dig deep beneath the surface of the “story,” I can’t see anyone doing the same. I will say I found relation with the characters and certain events that happened in the film. I saw young Mason watching cartoonBoyhood Scene 2s that I used to watch as a kid and even the little things like him playing a Gameboy Advanced SP and The Oregon Trail on those old-school Mac computers, just like I used to have in elementary school. I also saw the film a few days before I moved to Tampa to further my studies at USF, and the scenes showing him moving off to college really hit home for me.

Bottom line, Boyhood is a work of art in cinema, but it’s not for the casual movie goer. People born in the 1990s or even the late 1980s will really relate to the characters and events. It’s something different from your average movie and it’s very ambitious, so I would recommend checking it out at least once, if you get the chance.

4.5 out of 5

Wade’s Thoughts:

Boyhood was one of my most anticipated films of 2014. Austin and I saw it a quaint, local theater that only plays indie movies. The film is almost 3 hours long, so I was preparing for a marathon. The good thing was, that long run time had no effect because the movie remained interesting from start to finish. This is one of the film’s biggest feats, along with the fact Ellar Coltrane and company have been a part of the production for so many years and remained so solid throughout that time. Every main actor in Boyhood is so good and so human. We see each of their faults, decisions made and daily lives. However, there is some shockingly bad acting in some scenes.

Boyhood Scene 2The story is simple, it’s a coming-of-age story about a typical American boy. There were many things that stuck out that reminded of my own childhood, which had a profound effect on me. Whether it was a video game, movie or music reference, it was somehow relevant to my life and conjured up plenty of nostalgia. I’m pretty sure every single song played is on my iPod right now for goodness sakes! There’s a healthy helping of emotion and sentimentality in the story and characters, along with one biased political agenda that will surely upset some (such as me!).

Boyhood is all about the little things, the special moments, the times in life that truly matter. There’s a certain affinity towards family, friends and relationships. These things, coupled with great directing, acting and characters makes for a wonderful and fresh viewing experience. To conclude, Boyhood is a unique film with solid fundamentals, but it still boasts some glaring chinks in the armor and wasn’t quite the revolutionary film I expected it would be.

4 out of 5

Faith Advisory:

-A scene where sex is implied

-Passionate kissing

-Profanity throughout. On scene is especially disgusting as teens spew sexual innuendo.

-Couples arguing

-Some bullying

-There’s a political and religious bias

-Smoking and drinking

-There’s some drug use

-This is not a film children should watch. Recommended for viewers 16 and above

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Check out the trailer for Boyhood below:

True Detective Banner

True Detective Review (Season 1)

True Detective CoverTrue Detective stars Matthew McConaughey as Rust Cohle and Woody Harrelson as Marty Hart, two detectives who’s lives intertwine during a 17-year manhunt for a serial killer known as “The Yellow King” in backwoods Louisiana. The series is written by Nic Pizzolatto and directed by Cary Joji Fukanaga. The music is by T-Bone Burnett. Do the rave reviews warrant excitement? Does it really live up to the hype?

True Detective Scene 2
Rust and Marty are the perfect team.

You better believe it lives up the hype. It punches hype in the face. True Detective is truly one of the most gripping, thrilling, exciting, compelling and ominous television shows I have ever seen. Yes, it’s a TV show, but it acts more as an 8-hour movie. Once I popped that first disc in and finished the first episode, I couldn’t stop watching. I didn’t care how long it was. I was too engaged with the incredible story and characters to think about anything else. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are both at their best here. When I mean best, I mean best. This is probably the best acting I have ever seen. They are equally excellent. It was so good in fact, I had to re-think how I critique acting in TV and film, because it doesn’t get any better than this. Of course, the writing contributes to this too. In the 8-episode season, there were just so many memorable scenes with compelling dialogue that was delivered with such passion and humanity. Some of the lines are just so, so good. Series creator and writer Nic Pizzolatto deserves a ton of credit for his work…and his creation for that matter.

This is some of the best acting in a TV show or movie you will ever see, thanks to Harrelson and McConaughey
This is some of the best acting in a TV show or movie you will ever see, thanks to Harrelson and McConaughey.

Never before have I seen such a natural on-screen chemistry than the one McConaughey and Harrelson share in True Detective. Their dynamics are breathtaking. Eventually, you forget you’re watching a TV show for crying out loud. You can tell these guys respect one another. Rust is pegged by those around him as a loose cannon and a little “loopy”. He has several psychological demons he is deals with through out the show, as he struggles to figure out why he sees things and has visions. The guy never pursues a relationship, he keeps to himself, but when it comes to detective work, he’s one of the best. Rust’s daughter died pre-1995 and this has made him a cold, disturbed individual. Despite this, I still like him as a character. He is very interesting, smart and intriguing. During the show, we see several versions of the characters, which are from 1995, 2002 and 2012. The case they worked on from 1995 to 2002 was opened back up in 2012 and they must collaborate to find the serial killer known as the “Yellow King”. Side note: There is an aspect of mythology that opens another can of worms that won’t fully be covered in this post. Marty Hart is once family man turned introvert single cop. As a matter of fact, both characters turn out this way. Hart is absent of psychological issues, but he makes some morally poor choices that lead to him losing touch with family. Like Rust, when it comes to investigative work, he’s elite. Again, with Marty, even though he has tons of flaws, he is still highly likable. Both Woody and Matthew should have won Emmy’s for their performances. Both Rust and Marty sort of remind us of how flawed each of us are. It goes back to how things started in the world. Man was created, man sinned, man was ashamed, now all men are flawed and are sinners.

McConaughey delivers an utterly riveting performance.
McConaughey delivers an utterly riveting performance.

When you look beyond Rust and Marty, the show is filled with many unique and excellent characters. Maggie, Marty’s wife, is played by Michelle Monaghan. I know, lot’s of “m”s there! She is fantastic as the unhappy, restless and longing spouse. Michael Potts and Tory Kittles are great as Detectives Gilbough and Papania, who are handling the newly re-opened case. Brad Carter was one of my favorites as convict Charlie Lange, who forced me to use subtitles because of his thick, Southern-fried accent. It was amazing. Glenn Fleshler as the downright terrifying, backwoods, inbred creep as also especially great. The exchanges between characters are so real and genuine. For example, When Marty finds himself alone after his wife threatens to divorce him, you feel his agony, his pain, his struggle. He has to face the consequences of his poor decisions. This goes for scenes such as when Rust comes over to Marty’s house for a family dinner or the fight sequence between Rust and Marty. It’s all so real and raw. All around, True Detective offers up some of the finest acting I’ve ever seen.

This is one of the most intense scenes in True Detective.
This is one of the most intense scenes in True Detective.

Aside from having some of the best acting in the entertainment biz, True Detective is just as good in nearly every other vicinity. The writing, as I mentioned earlier, impresses in all eight episodes. There’s never a weak moment. The directing is simply fantastic. No wonder Fukunaga won Best Director at the Emmy’s. Some of his work blew my mind. There is one scene during a time where Rust is on some heavy drugs and has to sneak himself out of a very bad situation and it’s all done in one single take. It’s impressive because the scene is rather long and there isn’t one cut. The directing over the course of all eight episodes is brilliant. It doesn’t get much better than this. The cinematography catches the backwoods Louisiana coast and feel perfectly. It’s solving crimes, cajun style! True Detective is just an overall beautifully shot production that warrants universal praise. Enough can’t be said about the music in this show. T-Bone Burnett blew me away. This is some of the most impressive music in a show. It is such an integral part to the look, feel and tone of the show. Each track is tailor-made for specific scenes. It’s haunting, beautiful and heart-pounding stuff. Speaking of heart-pounding, the True Detective boasts arguably one of the most brutal, intense, thrilling and awesome final acts. My jaw was permanently stuck to the floor and my eyes were wide and glued to the screen for a full 15 minutes or so. Yeah, it’s THAT good.

Season 2 will feature an entirely new cast.
Season 2 will feature an entirely new cast.

True Detective has proven to me that a TV series (or very long movies) can be just as successful and impressive as a feature film. This is simply one of the best TV shows of all time. High praise, huh? Well, he show is utterly that impressive. The only negative things you can find to say about the show would be story-based decisions made by the writer. It’s based on an old book from the late 1800’s and who knows how closely it relates to that. But, some may not like the ending. I for one, love it. I won’t spoil anything, but the end touches on the whole “light vs dark” thing and some people may not be satisfied with how things turn out. The story is so relevant to society and culture today, while it uses the age-old debate. Light vs Dark dates back to the Bible. In the show, we see some Satanic characters who are truly under the influence of the evil one. Even Rust and Marty exemplify darkness in many ways. However, it’s how you look at it. Sure, they’re bad men, but they aren’t worshiping the devil like the demented antagonists. They are sinners, like all of us. They make mad decisions, like all of us. They lie, cheat, steal and sin like all of us. Maybe to a higher extent than some, but we’re all screw-ups when it comes to how we live our lives. Sure, Marty could have chosen not to cheat, not to lie, not to make all those decisions, but he is still a sinner. So, if you ponder it, our main characters may not be that bad in the end. They just need to clean up their act and find Christ! Light vs Dark is at the fore front in True Detective. Just let it be known, light will always win.

5 out of 5

Faith Advisory:

-True Detective should only be viewed by adults.

-If your’e a Christian that is new in the faith, I would not advise viewing.

-There is an overall premise of Light vs Dark, which will relate heavily to believers.

-The show reveals consequences of poor decisions.

-There are a few sex scenes, all of which involve female nudity.

-There is one perverted, incest scene.

-There is heavy violence involving guns and other weapons.

-There are many disturbing scenes involving corpses and human remains.

-There’s a fair amount of blood.

-Lots of drinking alcohol, smoking and heavy drug use.

-Many curse words. The Lord’s name is taken in vain a few times.

-There are many symbols, signs and references to Satanism and evil itself.

-There are several references to Christianity shown in a negative light. There’s actually an entire diatribe by Rust that bashes the faith.

-The show is littered with evil, disgusting and unrighteous content.

-I recommend either watching with an accountability partner or fast-forwarding through certain parts. (For example: If you struggle with lust, skip the nudity and sex scenes.)

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Check out the trailer for True Detective below:

Take Shelter Banner

Take Shelter Review

Take Shelter CoverTake Shelter is a drama/thriller directed by Jeff Nichols, starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain. Shannon plays a disoriented father and husband who begins to have apocalyptic visions. He begins to question if these visions are real and if there is imminent danger or if his psychological condition and himself are the real threats. Either way, he builds a storm shelter to protect his family, which include his wife Samantha played by Chastain and his hearing-impaired daughter.

Take shelter! Seriously!
Take shelter! Seriously!

Shannon is perfect for the role of Curtis, who is a seemingly typical, hard-working, blue collar family man. When he sees horrific visions of a storm, no one else ever seems to notice, which forces him to ask himself if he’s crazy. His condition leads him to losing his job, his friends and almost his family. It is one of Shannon’s most convincing and unique performances to date and most certainly my personal favorite, but then again, I have a certain affinity toward the psychological thriller genre. You feel Curtis’ pain in every scene, whether it’s a confrontation with his former best friend or it’s one of his terrifying visions. You just want him to be okay and for everyone to believe him when he vehemently proclaims “There’s a storm coming!”. Jessica Chastain is the solid rock of the household and strong-willed, loving mother and wife. She tries her best to stick it out with Curtis as he goes through his “episodes” and visions. Shannon and Chastain make a believable husband and wife, as their on-screen chemistry is immensely natural.

There's a storm a comin'.
There’s a storm a comin’.

Take Shelter is a psychological thriller to the core, and a great one at that. It’s beautifully atmospheric and certainly thrilling at times. Whether it’s birds falling from the sky or a gigantic storm brewing in the heavens, your attention will be solidly captured. The pacing is another one of the film’s strong suits as each and every scene moves and transitions with sublime fluidity. Take Shelter keeps you interested and invested until the credits roll and there’s something to be said for that. It also boasts a strong script that is somewhat minimalist in some respects as Curtis is a relatively quiet character. Regardless, the dialogue is strong and wholly believable.

Yeah...I would already be running.
Yeah…I would already be running.

There isn’t much to complain about with Take Shelter. It is a smart, quiet, engrossing and thrilling film. This movie accomplishes exactly what is sets out to do. Sure, the psychological thriller has been done before and there are some nearly unavoidable cliches here and there, but overall, Take Shelter is definitely worth watching. It is a worthy addition to the genre with its relatable characters, great story, gloomy atmosphere and thrilling aura.

4 out of 5

 

Faith Advisory:

-There is some very brief talk relating to a sexual situation.

-Paranormal/ghost-like figures violently attack the main character in a couple scenes.

-A dog violently bite’s the main characters arm in a dream.

-One scene shows bleeding from the mouth.

-There is a bird attack and we see blood.

-About half a dozen uses of the “f” and “s” words each.

-One drug overdose.

-Overall, there are several terrifying and violent scenes, but there is no gore or large amounts of blood.

Grand Budapest Hotel Banner

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

Grand Budapest Hotel CoverIn Wes Anderson’s new quirky, art house flick, The Grand Budapest Hotel, we follow the story of a concierge and a lobby boy. If you’ve seen Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox, you know what you’re in for, which is an artsy, unorthodox and perplexing picture. Filled with witty dialogue, an utterly ridiculous amount of stars and topped with Wes Anderson’s unique touch, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a nice little package. Yes, it’s an adventure involving a hotel concierge named M. Gustave (played by Ralph Fiennes) and a lobby boy named Zero (played by Tony Revolori). Gustave is framed for murder and now he is out to prove his innocence. The cast also includes Jude Law as a young author, F. Murray Abraham as an older Zero, Tilda Swinton as one of Gustave’s love interests, Jeff Goldblum as a lawyer, Adrien Brody as an angry man who is after an inheritance and Willem Dafoe as a fierce assassin. Bill Murray and Owen Wilson also make brief appearances. This is one star-studded cast! However, the main focus is mostly on Gustave and Zero and their adventures. The performances are fantastic and there’s nothing I can complain about on this front. Each character has his or her own quirks and differences. The downside to having all of these stars is the fact that there just isn’t enough of them. I would have loved to see more of Dafoe, Goldblum, Murray and Wilson. This is a very captivating film as far as star power and wit go. It has an undeniable presence about it. But hey, it’s a Wes Anderson film and all of his films do!

Grand Budapest Hotel Scene 1
Fiennes and Revolori have great on-screen chemistry.

The audiovisual presentation of this film is simply mesmerizing. There’s beautiful, snowy mountains, gorgeous hotel interiors, pretty costumes and a fantastical musical score. It all flows together perfectly and wonderfully. It makes for something pretty to look at and listen to. The story itself is more like a series of adventures involving the two leads, but it never really grabbed a hold of me like I thought it would. Unfortunately, I felt no emotion whatsoever and I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. I was left thinking Anderson and company put too much effort into making the film look pretty and gathering an all-star cast. One thing that did get my attention was the subtle comedy. Sometimes you can’t figure out if what you’re watching is supposed to be funny or serious, which usually leads to you laughing. The film’s lack of seriousness makes it better. It’s not Moonrise Kingdom or Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it’s still a solid movie. Overall, The Grand Budapest Hotel is beautiful, mesmerizing, elaborate, elegant and has one big imagination.

4 out of 5

Faith Advisory:

-There is a very brief sexual scene.

-We hear scattered, mild sexual dialogue.

-There is violence and blood, such as someone getting their fingers chopped off.

-The film includes bad language in several parts.

What did you think of The Grand Budapest Hotel? Sound off in the comments section!

out of the furnace banner 1

Out of the Furnace Review

out of the furnace coverOut of the Furnace is a star-packed drama/thriller directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is a hard-working man’s man living in rural Pennsylvania. His life is crumbling before him. His drunk driving took the life of another and he is sent to prison for several years. When he is released, he discovers the woman he loves, Lena (Zoe Saldana), is now seeing the local police chief, Wesley (Forest Whitaker). Russell’s brother Rodney is fresh out of the military and becomes involved in “fight clubs” to get money. Willem Dafoe is his “agent”, if you will. Eventually, Rodney requests a fight with a backwoods group led by Harlan DeGrout (Woody Harrelson) and gets more than he bargains for. After Rodney mysteriously disappears, the local police fail to anything about it, because of the fear they have for the unpredictable group. This leads to Russell taking matters into his own hands as he sets out to get answers and confront the despicable Harlan Degrout.

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Christian Bale serves up a wonderful performance, making us relate heavily to his character. Woody Harrelson is so good as Degrout that he makes you feel uncomfortable when he is on-screen. I mean, he is brilliant. It’s one of his best performances ever. Director Scott Cooper even claimed in an interview, “Harrelson is like the Michael Jordan of actors”. Call it ludicrous, but boy can he act. Casey Affleck may not be on the same level as big brother Ben, but he is masterful here in one of his personal bests. The almost always great Willem Dafoe does a great job as well. Sam Shepard plays the father of the Baze boys in minimalist fashion. Lastly, Forest Whitaker is surprisingly good playing the pitch perfect police chief. This is Out of the Furnace’s primary strength. These performances make this movie, simple as that. It’s one of the most well-acted films I’ve seen so far this year. Every character is believable and distinct.

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Harrelson is spine-tingling as the scum-of-the-earth Harlan DeGrout.

The premise has its fair share of cliches which tends to bring down the genuineness of the film. We’ve seen most of this stuff before, but one would argue, not this darn good. The pacing may be an issue for some, as the story takes a while to get going. The film boasts some solid emotion and good dialogue. However, as a whole, something feels missing once the credits roll. I can’t put my finger on it either. You know those movies that have all the right things in place but something is just absent, the one piece it needs to be truly great. Despite not having this “piece”, Out of the Furnace is still a darn good movie and has a lot to be proud of. It’s setting isn’t a place you’d want to live. The cinematography makes it looks pretty and depressing, all at the same time.

out of the furnace scene 1
There’s great chemistry between this cast of characters.

Yes, Out of the Furnace is a dark film. There’s blood, intense fighting, some action and a bunch of characters that are rough around the edges to say the least. It’s a movie that isn’t going to be easy to watch. On the contrary, it’s hard to deny the fact that it has this dark, enticing aura about it. In the end, it includes absolutely terrific performances, a hard-knuckle attitude, an engaging and entertaining story and a certain level of relativity. Out of the Furnace may be flawed, but it’s also one heck of a ride.

4 out of 5

Faith Advisory:

Out of the Furnace is a dark and often violent film. There’s a fair amount of blood, killing and violent fist fighting. There’s alos some explicit language. It’s not appropriate for children. There is no sexual content whatsoever. We see Russell in prison church several times, where it seems as if he is taking in what is being said. (SPOILERS AHEAD) However, when Russell chooses revenge in place of turning the other cheek, one can assume he got absolutely nothing for those church services.

Labor Day Banner

Labor Day Review

Labor Day CoverLabor Day, directed by Jason Reitman and starring Kate Winslet (as Adele) and Josh Brolin (as Frank) is a film that manages to keep you interested throughout its near 2-hour run time. What seems to be a mystery thriller at first begins to transition into a romance, and I’m not complaining. The film offers a diversity in a sense, with multiple genres tied into one story. It uses the thriller aspect to grab you and uses to romance to keep you. It sure did keep me. Despite Winslet and Brolin not having the greatest on-screen chemistry, the screenwriting does its job masterfully, putting the pieces in place to make for an emotional ride, especially towards the end. You’ll root for this couple, even though the guy is an escaped convict. He has a good heart and good intentions. The two lead characters (Winslet and Brolin) are great, with a surprisingly strong performance from Gattlin Griffith as Adele’s loyal son, Henry. It should be noted that as a child, he is narrated by Tobey Maguire, who’s always excellent. There are several social and psychological tie-ins within the story, adding some depth. Yes, Labor Day has a few flaws, such as a few plot holes, relatively weak character chemistry and some poor storytelling choices. However, these are minor considering the film’s endearing and sentimental love story, excellent acting and strong emotional punch.

4 out of 5

Inside Llewyn Davis Banner

Inside Llewyn Davis Review

Inside Llewyn Davis CoverI had high hopes for Inside Llewyn Davis going in. It’s the type of picture that I am supposed to like. Crazy Heart is one of my all time favorites films. You know, the washed up musician returns to glory kind of deal. I was shocked to learn just how quickly I disliked this movie. Without further ado, let me elocute my disdain for this movie. The lead character, while brilliantly played by Oscar Isaac, is extremely unlikable and unpleasant. He’s one of those guys you wish would get punched in the face as soon as possible. Oh, I forgot to leave out the fact he is whiny, ungrateful, a moocher and he doesn’t even enjoy playing music. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The film has no real direction or plot. We simply watch as Davis travels from town to town, sleeping people’s couches, playing gigs and getting rejected. No one likes Llewyn and trust me, you won’t either. Justin Timberlake’s talents are wasted on a short, uninteresting cameo and while John Goodman plays a unique character, he’s just not on screen enough. There are some positives, however. The film is well-written and the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. It’s also clever and genuinely funny at times. Overall, the film falls flat in too many other areas and isn’t very entertaining. Inside Llewyn Davis’ artistic atmosphere is littered with too many flaws, making it hard to recommend. That’s difficult for me to say because as a musician and fan of the Coen Brothers, I had high expectations.

2 out of 5

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips Review

Go ahead and pencil in Captain Phillips as a serious Oscar contender. This is an incredibly exciting and intense movie that displays Tom Hanks in top form. It’s easily one of his best performances to date. He is the captain of a container ship that gets raided by pirates. The leader of the group is played by Barkhad Abdi, who gives a surprisingly haunting and excellent performance as well. The movie is based on a true story and is directed by Paul Greengrass and written by Billy Ray. In this brilliantly crafted drama we get many frightening moments and usually it’s consistent. Rarely will you feel lethargic or disinterested with what is transpiring onscreen. Abdi’s portrayal as the main antagonist is one of epic proportions as the band of thieves hold Captain Phillips hostage. Hanks just doesn’t get any better. You feel what he feels: dread, anger, frustration, fear. It’s truly a spectacular performance.

There are some incredibly intense moments in Captain Phillips.

Captain Phillips explodes with action, intensity and dread. It defines the drama genre. The script is finely written and includes some of the most profound and realistic dialogue I’ve seen or heard in recent memory. There’s also a relatively good amount of emotional depth here. One of my few complaints is that there’s no character development, but it’s mostly forgivable because of Hanks’ elite acting chops. You genuinely care about this guy, regardless of his background. To be concise, this is a spectacular film, from start to finish. There’s drama, action, great writing and acting, solid pacing and tons of excitement. This is easily one of the best films of 2013, if not the best.

5 out of 5