Tag Archives: david budo

The Guilt Trip: Popcorn comedy

Seth Rogen is Andrew Brewster and Barbra Streisand is Joyce Brewster in THE GUILT TRIP. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Seth Rogen is Andrew Brewster and Barbra Streisand is Joyce Brewster in THE GUILT TRIP. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures


Moms have a way of loving you… sometimes too much… sometimes to the point of irritation. No matter how much we would like to move to the Arctic to gain freedom from their perpetual nagging, in the end we always succumb to the truth that they always have our best interests at heart.

The Guilt Trip tells the story of an overbearing, but loving, mother whose son takes her on a cross country road trip while he attempts to sell his revolutionary invention to big retailers.

The Guilt Trip 2The screenplay features a large variety of gags ranging from fun to outright hilarious. The filmmakers removed any cultural references to make this movie accessible to all, which is welcome yet unexpected seeing as the two leading stars are hilarious Jewish actors.

On another note, the story doesn’t reach for anything worth mentioning and follows very basic themes. If the cast wasn’t as good they are, this would have been a very… very bad film.

The Guilt Trip 4Barbara Streisand hasn’t had a leading role since Meet the Focker’s (2004), but she hasn’t lost her stride. Streisand and Seth Rogen have great chemistry as a mother and son duo. Both have great comedic energy and play off of each other quite naturally.

The Guilt Trip 3Basically, it’s the perfect hour and a half escape from your relatives who are bound to tug on your last nerve during the holidays.

Bottom Line: Popcorn comedy de jour. Have some laughs then move onto bigger things.
Grade B-

Runtime: 95 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Killing Them Softly: Potential slaughtered by director

Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy, Ben Mendelsohn, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Ray Liotta star in Killing Them Softly. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Amazing movies have that uncanny ability to feel as if time just flew by. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a movie that seems intriguing on the surface but in execution falls short forcing us to check our watches every five seconds. Sadly, Killing Them Softly is one of these films.

Not all is lost as there are some positives in Andrew Dominik’s (The Assassination of Jesse James) latest film.

In Killing Them Softly, a couple of young knuckleheads rob a mob protected poker game only to find themselves hunted by a hired enforcer.

The adapted story has a great deal of promise, but Andrew Dominik’s direction seems to belay the entire film’s plot. Subtlety is clearly not one of Dominik’s strengths as he endlessly beats us over the head with the political speeches of Bush and Obama in an attempt to provide poignant social commentary. It just doesn’t work.

The cast is solid with Brad Pitt, Scoot McNairy (Argo), Ben Mendelsohn, and James Gandolfini putting forth a great combination of dramatic and comedic performances.

The brutally, vivid violence was given a great deal of thought behind shooting at interesting angles and variable framerates.

In the end, the slow pace and lack of tension throughout most of the film forces the audience to nitpick on the faults rather than rejoice in the otherwise thought-provoking story.

Bottom Line: Not worth a trip to the theatre. However, there’s enough potential to give this a chance as a cheap rental.

Grade C

Runtime: 97 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Anna Karenina: Never-ending drama

Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson star in Anna Karenina. Courtesy of Alliance Films


Leo Tolstoy’s first official novel (according to Tolstoy), Anna Karenina, is regarded as the greatest novel of all time (2007 “The Top Ten in Time”). In its thirteenth film adaptation, director Joe Wright gives the story a staged theatrical spin. However, all the glamorous theatrics cannot spark life into this endless melodrama.

Anna is an upper class socialite in 19th century Russia whose affair with an affluent Count defames her among society’s highest ranks and throws her life into disrepute.

Whether it was the director’s or the writer’s idea to have the movie’s scenes transition from stage to the cinematic world – It just doesn’t work. It acts purely to bring the audience out of the fantasy world they are attempting to draw us into.

The story itself is a drawn out soap opera that seldom features a thought provoking moment outside of the infidelity and flashy wardrobes and sets.

The cast makes due with what they are given. No performances stand out or are even worth mentioning. It all felt very… adequate.

This is the first Joe Wright film I did not enjoy. In fact, I downright detested it. Unlike past treasures of his, such as Pride and Prejudice and Atonement (both period pieces), this film fails on every count outside of costume design.

Bottom Line: Unless you are a diehard fan of the novel, stay miles away from this heap of pretentious babble.

Grade D+

Runtime: 130 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Lincoln: Has Oscar written all over it

Daniel Day-Lewis stars in Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Lincoln. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


With the USA battling through election pangs this year, it’s fitting that we take a look back to what a great president like “Honest” Abraham Lincoln can do for their country. In Steven Spielberg’s latest historical epic, we follow Abe as he fiercely battles the confederates and most of the nation to rid the United States of Slavery.

Daniel Day-Lewis is absolutely brilliant as the 16th president. His performance is packed with a special blend of both subtlety and power – The kind of which only great actors can deliver. The supporting cast keeps close to Lewis’ charisma, with Sally Field leading the charge.

Spielberg has nothing left to prove in his career, yet shows no complacency in his direction of Tony Kushner’s excellent adapted screenplay. There is a constant tension throughout the film that is perfectly broken with rich comedic relief from the statuesque president himself.

As far as cinematography is concerned, this is some of the best the Hollywood has offered this year.

My only minute criticism is toward the sheer quantity of names being thrown at you. It can lead to confusion when you’re trying to decipher whom the characters are referring to scene after scene.

Again, that is just a tiny blemish in this phenomenal film that will light up the Academy ballots come 2014.

Bottom Line: Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis are a winning combination in this must see taste of American history.

Grade A

Runtime: 149 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Wreck-It-Ralph: Smashes its way to your heart

John C. Reiley and Sarah Silverman star in the video game bonanza, Wreck-It-Ralph. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Who remembers the original gaming consoles like ColecoVision, Atari, Nintendo, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc…? For many boys, and a fair number of girls, video games and the characters we battled were a vital source of our entertainment during childhood. Reminiscent of Toy Story, Disney Animation’s latest feature, Wreck-It Ralph, brings an old fantasy to life: What happens to the video game characters when we aren’t playing with them?

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a gigantic video game baddy who tires of his thankless existence and ventures off into other games to find his heroic moment.

Let’s make something clear right away, this movie will be a hit. The incredible story will push all the right buttons and keep you locked in for the journey. Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston manage a near flawless story arch, with intricate twists and lovable characters. The only downside to their script is the lack of humor. There are a decent amount of jokes, but also a lot of missed opportunities and jokes that fell flat.

Casting was solid in this film. John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) are great together, as is the rest of the cast. The benefit of the actors recording their dialogue together, as opposed to the norm of doing them individually really shows.

You’ll definitely want to pay extra for the 3D option that will be sure to take you on an immersive roller coaster ride.

Bottom Line: Ralph and Vanellope’s story will touch your heart, while the pedal-to-the-metal action will rock your world.

Grade A-

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


The Great Mouse Detective: Blu Ray Review

The Great Mouse Detective is available on Blu Ray + DVD on Oct. 9, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Films


Between 1958-1982, Eve Titus parodied the greatest fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, into a mouse named Basil Rathbone for a series of children novels. His success in making the adult detective series accessible to youngsters led to Disney’s adaptation The Great Mouse Detective.

In this rodent based adaptation, Basil and Dr. Dawson (a parody of Dr. Watson) track down the notorious Professor Ratigan in order to prevent him from committing a heinous crime against the Royalty of Victorian England.

What’s really astonishing about this film is how they’ve retained the original character traits of the base characters, while adding whimsical nuances to entertain younger generations. Disney did a fantastic job of allowing the sophisticated detective genius from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work to shine through, all the while interweaving a daring adventure for younger audiences.

Twenty-six years after its theatrical release, Disney has completely restored both the original film and its audio track for the Blu Ray + DVD release. On top of that, they’ve included some special features worth checking out. “So You Think You Can Sleuth” is entertaining and educational to both children and adults. This featurette looks at the history of crime solvers and provides a lighthearted wrongdoing for the audience to take a stab at solving. There’s also The Making Of The Great Mouse Detective and “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” Sing-A-Long Song.

Bottom Line: This mousy mystery is timeless and definitely worth owning on Blu Ray.

Movie Grade A-
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtime: 74 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Robot and Frank: You can’t help but love them

Frank Langella and Peter Sarsgaard star in Robot in Frank. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


As an elderly person in need of full time care, would you prefer to have a human or a robot take care of your day-to-day needs? What does the future hold for us in terms of humanitarian occupations in the service industry? Robot and Frank gives us a small peak into the potential of robotic care, simultaneously examining the day-to-day happenings of a former thief befriending his mechanical care giver.

Frank Langella delivers an entertaining and convincing performance as an aged man living with memory loss. His chemistry with both Robot and the ever wonderful Susan Sarandon adds layers to an already fantastic story.

Writer Christopher D. Ford and first time director Jake Shreier successfully knit a charming, multilayered film. They give us a rather tight look on Frank’s life and his mischievous adventures with Robot. It would have been nice to see the social ramifications the all-pervading robots have on society at large but that’s just a personal nitpick. Both writer and director molded tight relationships and a highly entertaining story that stays within you after the credits roll.

The special effects department worked marvels with Robot, who never once looked out of place or unconvincing.

Bottom Line: Looking for an original, entertaining, and well thought out film? Then Robot and Frank is exactly what you’re looking for.

Grade A-

Runtime: 90 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


The Rescuers/The Rescuers Down Under: Blu Ray Review

The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under on Blu Ray + DVD combo available on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Thirty-five years ago, Disney’s animation studios delivered an original tale of two mice risking their lives to save a kidnapped girl from the clutches of a cruel woman. Thirteen years after the success of The Rescuers, Disney delivered one of its first sequels to an animated film in The Rescuers Down Under. For The Rescuers three and a half decade anniversary, both films have been included in the Blu Ray + DVD combo release.

The Rescuers is such a hit simply because it veers away from what so many other films do—talk down to children. Instead, it delivers a darker story everyone can enjoy. Eva Gabor and Bob Newhart work magic together as the unlikely pair of mystery solving, lovable rodents.

In The Rescuers Down Under, the adventure is brought to the other side of the globe where Bernard and Bianca must stop a ruthless poacher in the Outback of Australia. All new characters and phenomenal animation make this sequel a fun ride. Story wise, it just falls short of the first film – But not by much.

This Blu Ray release looked far better than I thought it would on my 60” television and sounded surprisingly good as well. Included you’ll find a wide array of special features to enjoy: “Peoplitis” a deleted song, “Someone’s Waiting For You” Sing-A-Long, and The Making Of The Rescuers Down Under. On top of those, Disney has also included “The Three Blind Mouseketeers” – Silly Symphony Animated Short, and the best feature of all “Water Birds” Disney True Life Adventure. This last feature is a fun video about real birds in nature and how they differ from each other. A must watch for wildlife lovers!

Bottom Line: You and your children will have a blast delving into these timeless mysteries alongside two heroic mice and their companions.

Movie Grades: The Rescuers: A-/The Rescuers Down Under: B
Blu Ray Grade A-

Runtimes: The Rescuers: 78 minutes/The Rescuers Down Under: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1


Chimpanzee: Blu Ray Review

Chimpanzee is available in stores on August 21, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyNature


As our genetic ancestors, chimpanzees give humans a glimpse into our extremely distant past. In DisneyNature’s documentary, Chimpanzee, we follow a group of chimps living in the forests of Africa as they try to keep their home safe from an invading clan of rival chimpanzees (Remind you of anyone you know?). Possibly the most intriguing aspect of this film is the story of baby Oscar and the unlikely relationship he forms with the alpha male of his group, Freddy.

This beautifully shot documentary delivers a powerful story of both spirit and family. The cinematography is absolutely stunning, as is the in-depth camera work the crew managed to achieve in order to bring us intimately close to this group of playful primates.

Directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield managed to show the darker side of the animal’s lives, but successfully cut everything graphic and potentially disturbing out for those younger and ever so sensitive viewers. With the assistance of Tim Allen’s (Toy Story, The Santa Clause) playful narration, younger audience members will be thoroughly engaged in this astonishing world of survival.

DisneyNature has included a fantastic array of special features for the Blu Ray + DVD release. Every minute of the On Location: Making Of Chimpanzee featurette is a must watch. It chronicles the pain-staking efforts the crew went through to deliver this astonishing footage. Also included is “Rise” Music Video By McClain Sisters, Behind The Scenes Of “Rise”, See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzee, Disney’s Friends For Change, and Disney’s Conservation Legacy.

Bottom Line: Whether you live alone or have a large family, everyone will be captivated by this heartfelt documentary and its phenomenal cinematography.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 78 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Here are some fun activities for you to download and print for your little ones to enjoy:

CHIMPANZEE Activites

 


ParaNorman: Paranormal fun

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as the “parNormanly” gifted in ParaNorman. Courtesy of Alliance Media


Like Cole from The Sixth Sense, Norman has the paranormal ability to speak to the deceased. Norman’s story differs as he tries to help the friendly ghosts break an ancient curse that threatens to destroy his town and its inhabitants.

ParaNorman pioneers new and innovative techniques in stop motion animation taking on massive sets and action packed sequences never seen before in this medium. It also tells a heart-felt story combining laughter, horror and poignant social commentary regarding the way people are treated when they don’t fit the “norm” (hard not to pun).

Chris Butler and Sam Fell successfully bring Butler’s massive dream to the screen. The movie powers forward with wonderful pace, only slowing down at stirring moments to deliver their impactful message.

The talented Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road, Let Me In) delivers a solid voice-over performance alongside his cast members. There are only a few moments when the dialogue suffered from feeling read and not acted.

Speaking of the visuals, you’re in for a real treat with easily one of the best stop-motion animation experiences you’ll ever have alongside Coraline. On top of that, you’ll definitely want to immerse yourself in the palpable 3D option that really helps draw you further into the already first-rate film.

Bottom Line: Without a doubt, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from ParaNorman.

Grade B+

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes