On My Way (2014)

elle_sen_va_ver2Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Nemo Schiffman, Gerard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Mylene Demongeot, Hafsia Herzi.

Director: Emmanuelle Bercot
Rating: Unrated (equivalent to an R for language and nudity.)
Running Time: 116 Minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2014

Fidelite Films, Rhone-Alpes Cinema, Wild Bunch, Soficinema 9, Palatine Etoile 10, OCS, and Cohen Media Group.

Written by. Emmanuelle Bercot and Jerome Tonnerre.

OUR REVIEW:

There is a moment in On My Way where French acting icon Catherine Deneuve sits impatiently at a kitchen table while an elderly man with unfortunate swelling in his hands and fingers attempts to roll her a cigarette. He takes forever, trying to get it right, and she goads him along by informing him that she will smoke it as soon as it is ready. In another scene, Deneuve, also looking for cigarettes, hops onto a road and attempts to flag people down by flashing the international sign for smoking – two fingers parsed to the lips. It does not work. Elsewhere, she wakes up in a strange bed, realizing that she has just had a one-night stand with a much younger man. That didn’t work out so well either. Deneuve’s Bettie is on a journey in Emmanuelle Bercot‘s latest film and she is looking for much more than cigarettes or casual sex. Recently jilted, she sets out to find herself, and in a roundabout way, have we not all been there?

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Interior. Leather Bar. (2014)

InteriorPosterStarring: Val Lauren, James Franco, Travis Mathews, Christian Patrick, Brendan Gregory, Brad Roberge, Collin Chavez, A.J. Goodrich.

Director: James Franco, Travis Mathews
Rating: Unrated (equivalent to an NC-17 for explicit sexual content.)
Running Time: 57 Minutes
Release Date: January 3, 2014

RabbitBandini Productions and Strand Releasing.

Written by. Travis Mathews.

OUR REVIEW:

One of the things film critics hate to admit is when they simply do not “get it.” I have heard critics talk all the way around films that simply befuddled them and leave them with more questions than answers, only to be too proud to throw up their hands. I mention this because with the quantity of movies we watch in this line of work, we are understandably expected to comprehend, explain, and distill down every film to its message, its intent, its symbolism, etc.

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Draft Day (2014)

DraftDayPosterStarring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Chadwick Boseman, Frank Langella, Tom Welling, Terry Crews, Griffin Newman, Ellen Burstyn, Josh Pence, Patrick St. Esprit, Rosanna Arquette, Sam Elliott, Chi McBride, W. Earl Brown, Kevin Dunn, Sean Combs, Wallace Langham, Arian Foster.

Director: Ivan Reitman
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language and sexual references.)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2014

OddLot Entertainment, Montecito Picture Company, Lionsgate, and Summit Entertainment.

Written by. Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph.

OUR REVIEW:

As Kevin Costner continues to attempt his comeback, film number three on his 2014 calendar is Draft Day, a rambling wreck of a sports-romance-comedy-drama mashup that never commits to what it wants to be and devolves into a flat, bloated, boring exercise in emotional futility. Costner’s performance is not the problem here, a sleepwalking Ivan Reitman deserves a fair share of the blame, along with the dreadfully empty-headed script by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph.

God bless Costner though. He is gamely trying to carry this story of a desperate NFL General Manager trying to navigate through a lifetime of decisions for his football team on his ample shoulders. And make no mistake, a working Kevin Costner makes the movies a better place to be, but with this serving as his third misfire of the year, might we suggest the Oscar winner find someone new to bring him screenplays to consider?

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Oculus (2014)

OculusPosterStarring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff, Rory Cochrane, Annalise Basso, Garrett Ryan, James Lafferty, Miguel Sandoval, Kate Siegel, Courtney Bell.

Director: Mike Flanagan
Rating: R (for terror, violence, some disturbing images and brief language.)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2014

Intrepid Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, WWE Studios, and Relativity Media.

Written by. Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard (screenplay); based on the short film,”Oculus: Chapter 3 – The Man With The Plan”, written by Mike Flanagan and Jeff Seidman.

OUR REVIEW:

Expanding and adapting his own 2006 short film, director Mike Flanagan‘s Oculus is a twisty, bendy, cerebral horror film that attempts to earwig into your mind and run around for awhile. Marketed as something with cheap scares and hinting at graphic violence, Oculus is much different than what you may be anticipating. In the days since I have watched it, I must confess that I have softened my enthusiasm somewhat. But when it has you, and you exist with it, elements of the film work tremendously well.

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Rio 2 (2014)

Rio2PosterStarring the Voices of: Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx, Phillip Lawrence, Jake T. Austin, Tracy Morgan, Andy Garcia, Miguel Ferrer, Bebel Gilberto, Rita Moreno, Rachel Crow, Amandla Steinberg, Pierce Gagnon, Natalie Morales, Janelle Monae.

Director: Carlos Saldanha
Rating: G (read below however; should be rated PG)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Date: April 11, 2014

20th Century Fox Animation, Blue Sky Productions and 20th Century Fox.

Written by. Yoni Brenner (screenplay); Don Rhymer and Carlos Saldanha (story); based on characters created by Carlos Saldanha.

OUR REVIEW:

Three years ago, the animated film Rio took audiences a bit by surprise. A powderkeg of culture and color, the story of two blue macaw birds being brought together in an effort to save the macaw population from extinction found a way to please the eyes and minds of youth and adults. The film received an Oscar nomination in the 2011 Best Original Song category (losing to The Muppets) and became a worldwide success, grossing nearly $485 million in its theatrical run. The story of Blu and Jewel, trying to find love in Rio de Janeiro, while vanquishing an evil cockatoo and some nefarious bird smugglers, simply connected with audiences. So, naturally, and with everyone back on board, reprising their roles from the first film, Rio 2 has arrived and the filmmakers have largely forgotten everything that made the first film such a delight.

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Rob The Mob (2014)

RobTheMobPosterStarring: Michael Pitt, Nina Arianda, Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Burt Young, Griffin Dunne, Michael Rispoli, Aida Turturro, Frank Whaley, Cathy Moriarty, Luke Fava, Joseph R. Gannascoli, Aimee Mullins, Anthony Vincent.

Director: Raymond De Felitta
Rating: R (pervasive language, some sexual material and brief drug use.)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Date: March 21, 2014

The Exchange and Millennium Entertainment.

Written by. Jonathan Fernandez.

OUR REVIEW:

In 2013, Michael Bay brought us Pain & Gain, the unbelievable story of three bodybuilders who kidnapped and tortured a millionaire businessman and saw their attempts at extortion snowball into a killing spree and descent into absolute madness and mayhem. Although the film was torturous to sit through in its own right, at the heart of the film rests a story that is absolutely one of the strangest and more baffling true-crime stories you will ever encounter.

And then we have the story of Tommy and Rosemarie Uva, whose co-dependent, drug-addled relationship took an interesting turn once the couple reunited after a botched flower shop robbery threw them both in prison. Once free and back with one another, the Uvas attempted to go straight. Not making ends meet, Tommy decided he needed to spike in a little robbery to his everyday routine. Inspired by the trial of notorious mob boss John Gotti and looking to re-open an old vendetta against a mob hit on his family’s floral business, Tommy acquired a mask and an Uzi submachine gun and robbed secret mafia social clubs, where no guns are allowed and a casual, stress-free time is supposed to be had by all the gangsters and mobsters in town. Rosemarie drove the getaway car and what was supposed to go down merely once, happened again and again.

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Anita (2014)

AnitaPoster Documentary Featuring Anita Hill.

Director: Freida Lee Mock
Rating: Unrated (equivalent to PG-13 for subject matter.)
Running Time: 76 Minutes
Release Date: March 21, 2014

Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Written by. Freida Lee Mock.

OUR REVIEW:

Social evolution lies at the heart of documentary Anita, Oscar-winner Freida Lee Mock‘s latest film about Anita Hill, who became an incendiary figure for debate when then-President George H.W. Bush nominated her former boss, Clarence Thomas, as a successor to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s pending vacancy with the United States Supreme Court. Through the vetting process of Thomas, Hill shared stories and details about working for Thomas at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) for two years. Citing numerous examples of inappropriate and sexually-charged comments and conversations, Hill became the poster woman for Sexual Harassment In America. Her testimony at Thomas’ Senate confirmation hearings was broadcast live as it happened, across broadcast and cable television networks. She was praised and vilified in equal measure, and to this day, cannot disassociate her name from any conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Hill, now in her late-50′s, has moved on to a successful professional life after the camera bulbs dimmed and Thomas was voted in as a Supreme Court Justice. Notably, Thomas’ confirmation vote remains the narrowest in history, but in the nearly 23 years which has passed has anyone truly moved on from this event in our nation’s political history? Continue reading

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

CaptainAmericaWinterSoldierPosterStarring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Georges St-Pierre, Garry Shandling, Frank Grillo, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, Thomas Kretschmann, Maximiliano Hernandez, Emily VanCamp, Callan Mulvey, Jenny Agutter, Danny Pudi, Stan Lee, Gary Sinise, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.)
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Date: April 4, 2014

Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks and Walt Disney Pictures.

Written by. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely; based on a concept and story by Ed Brubaker, and the comic books written by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

OUR REVIEW:

There are elements in this 9th entry of the Marvel Cinematic Universe series (the “MCU”) where Captain America: The Winter Soldier which rival the best moments we have seen to date in this Avengers canon of films. Improving significantly on a good and solid first Captain America film in 2011, this second isolated story for The First Avenger is a tremendously entertaining action/comedy hybrid, which does what most truly great canonized films should be able to do – stand apart from its companions and exist on its own merits.

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Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar (2014)

IslandLemursPosterDocumentary Featuring: Morgan Freeman (narrator), Hantanirina Rasamimanana, Patricia Wright

Director: David Douglas
Rating: G
Running Time: 39 Minutes
Release Date: April 4, 2014

IMAX and Warner Bros. Films.

Written by. Drew Fellman.

OUR REVIEW:

Perhaps the biggest drawback to IMAX documentaries is that they are essentially big and grand ideas distilled down to 35-40 minute documentary short subjects that really only scratch the surface of their given subject matter. Always a joy to watch and experience, based in no small part on the presentation of course, IMAX films are often full of “Oohs” and “Aahs” and then easily forgotten the moment the 3D glasses get dumped back in the recycling bin.

Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar is another one of these IMAX ideas that could benefit from an additional half an hour or so more of research and writing. At 39 minutes however, this latest family-oriented documentary serves its audience adequately. Director/cinematographer David Douglas provides stunning and breathtaking visuals while the ubiquitous Morgan Freeman takes viewers through a bullet point-style narration on the lemurs unique and precocious attempts to survive in the one place they can call home – Madagascar.

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Ernest & Celestine (2014)

ErnestCelestinePosterStarring the Voices of: Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Foy, Lauren Bacall, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, Megan Mulally, Nick Offerman, Jeffrey Wright. (English Version)

Starring the Voices of: Lambert Wilson, Pauline Brunner, Anne-Marie Loop, Dominique Collignon, Leonard Louf, Brigitte Virtudes, Patrice Melennec, Feodor Atkine. (French Version)

Director: Stephane Aubier, Vincent Patar, Benjamin Renner
Rating: PG (for some scary moments.)
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Date: February 28, 2014

La Parti Productions, Les Amateurs, Maybe Movies, Melusine Productions, StudioCanal and GKIDS.

Written by. Daniel Pennac; adapted from the children’s book series, “Ernest et Celestine” by Gabrielle Vincent.

OUR REVIEW:

You see fellow animators, it really doesn’t have to be so hard. As the wonderfully endearing Ernest & Celestine shows us, sometimes simple is better. Lacking the 3D visual effects we are now subjected to constantly, and offering a quiet, calming look and feel, this French-Belgian production scored a somewhat surprising but well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature Film last year. Finally receiving a theatrical run, audiences will hopefully stumble upon a film that is sublime in nearly every conceivable way.

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