Monday, September 1

MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT






The Film Fatales transport themselves back to the Roaring Twenties to attend a magic show, a séance, and a French fete with the likes of Mr. Darcy himself, Colin Firth. Join them as they dish about Woody Allen’s latest, Magic in the Moonlight

Magic in the Moonlight. 2014. PG-13. 97 minutes. Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney, Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, Eileen Atkins, Hamish Linklater. Written and directed by Woody Allen.
A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue. (IMDb)

September DVD & On Demand Releases a la The Film Fatales

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray September 9th
EARLY RELEASE On Demand: Check your local digital cable provider.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

2014. PG-13. 136 minutes. Starring Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan. Directed by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo and Joss Whedon.

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier. [IMDb]
Nicole: Oh, man, my Fangirl is in overdrive! I can’t believe I’m going to say this but Captain America: The Winter Soldier was actually better than The Avengers. (No! Did she just…? No, she couldn’t possibly have said it, but – oh, yes – she did.) From the second this sequel starts, you better buckle up – cause you’re in for one hell of a ride.

elizabeth: Well, I have never been a fangirl of any of these types of movies. I just don’t get them blowing up everything and calling it acting. Was there any acting or just men in tights (and I am a fangirl of this look).

WORDS AND PICTURES
Read the rest of the review at our home across the pond, Smitten by Britain.

2013. 111 minutes. Starring: Clive Owen, Juliette Binoche, Bruce Davison, Valerie Tian, Navid Negahban, and Amy Brenneman.

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. (IMDb)

Elizabeth: I got all giddy when I saw the trailer of Words and Pictures. A movie for adults, starring adults, about adults–who would have thought it possible? No car chases, nothing blowing up, and just the right amount of obscenities; I nearly fainted. But I’ve been fooled before; sucked into thinking this might be a movie that tells a story about two people not in their twenties, but I’m here to say this movie was a joy to watch. I was happy to see two imperfect souls make me believe again.

Nicole: I had my fair share of great teachers, but I certainly would have enjoyed counting him among them. I sat thoroughly engrossed by this film. It was like a truly great symposium led by talented artists. I felt a deep connection with these characters, mainly with Clive Owen’s Jack Marcus, because he is a man of words. But Juliette Binoche’s Dina Delsanto resonated with me as well, because she spoke to the artist who resides within me. I left the theatre feeling inspired…awakened…and wanting more.


Available on DVD & Blu-Ray September 16th
EARLY RELEASE On Demand: Check your local digital cable provider.

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS 



2014. Rated PG-13. 125 minutes. Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Willen Defoe, and Laura Dern. 


Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel's other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. [IMDb]


Nicole: Elizabeth can attest that for about 80% of this movie I was a slobbering mess and a distinct displeasure to be seated next to. After all, I knew this would happen; I couldn’t make it through the trailer without bawling like a maniac. I was miserable afterward, too; unable to shake the emotions and my eyes were puffy for a solid day-and-a-half. That being said, I want to stress that this is a terrific movie, filled with wonderful performances, which should be seen. Just have plenty of tissues on hand...and chocolate. You’ll need lots of chocolate. 

elizabeth: I have to say that I wanted to see this movie, but had reservations since it is about two teens and I wondered if the people involved could make a movie about two teens  relevant to all who come to sit in the dark for over two hours. They did. The storyline is just miserable. It makes you think about how unfair life is. But then you witness the love of life that Hazel (Woodley) and Gus (Elgort) have and you realize this is life. It is not always fair, but we are here for only a blink of the eye, so what would you do if you knew that life could end before the next sunrise? Most people live like they have time to do everything – thus the stupid bucket list came to life. Don’t make a damn list. Just do it. For the record, I did tear up a little. But I get it – this is life. Life sucks sometimes. Who says we get 80-plus years?


Available on DVD & Blu-Ray September 20th
EARLY RELEASE On Demand: Check your local digital cable provider.

CHEF 

2014. R. 114 minutes. Starring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vegara, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Emjay Anthony. Written and Directed by Jon Favreau.
A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family. (IMDb)
Nicole: Every now and then a movie comes along that renews your faith in the art of storytelling. Chef is one such movie. I can't wait to express my enthusiasm for this movie. I gotta get it said right now: I loved every second of this wonderful film. From the originality of the story, to the stellar art direction, to the ingenious casting, to the toe-tapping, hip-swaying soundtrack--Chef adds up to one satisfyingly delectable watch.
 
elizabeth: Look at this: Every time you start a review, you read my mind about what I am going to say. Stop it! The day after we saw Chef, I posted that this movie will make you happy, hungry and you will move your moneymaker. Someone sent me a note asking if a moneymaker meant one’s butt. Dear Nervous Smile, yes it does. And this is from someone who just got a new right hip. I couldn’t sit still. It took my mind off the hunger pangs. If this movie does not get some Oscar nominations, I will sell off my red carpet gowns. Once I buy them.

Saturday, August 30

August DVD & On Demand Releases a la The Film Fatales

Now available on DVD, Blu-Ray & On Demand...


SUMMER IN FEBRUARY:
Read the entire review at our home across the pond, SMITTEN BY BRITAIN...


2013. NR. 100 minutes. Starring Dominic Cooper, Dan Stevens and Emily Browning. Directed by Christopher Menaul.
Based on Jonathan Smith’s novel about love and loss among a bohemian colony of artists, which flourished in the wild coastal region of Cornwall before the First World War.  [Metrodome Distribution]

Nicole: I do love a good period piece…unfortunately, not this one. Summer in February had the potential to be one of those sweeping, moody, gripping period pieces that draw you in…were it not for its slowly-timed and unorganized script. The true tale that inspired this film has everything – passion, love, betrayal, death – and yet, despite all of those elements it failed to hold my attention. 

Elizabeth: I think I was a tad disappointed with the film until I realized at the end that these characters were not from someone’s imagination, but that they really existed and impacted each other’s lives and deaths. I must say I wanted to watch the move all over again. I think my annoyance would have been quieted if I had known that Florence Carter-Wood’s inability to choose a lover was for real and not from a bad screenplay. I wanted to slap her about the room.


BELLE
Read the entire review at our home across the pond, SMITTEN BY BRITAIN.

2013. Rated: PG. 104 minutes. Starring:  Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Matthew Goode, Emily Watson, Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid. Directed by Amma Assante
 

An illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is raised by her aristocratic great-uncle. (IMDb)

Everything about Belle, Amma Assante’s romantic and political period piece, is mesmerizing. It must be stated, however, that a tremendous amount of artistic license was taken with respect to the script. It is not historically accurate, except on the vaguest of levels. Nonetheless, this film doesn’t lack merit because it alters events to tell a compelling story.

Thursday, August 14

Robin Williams: RIP

The Film Fatales would like to share their deepest sympathies to the Williams family, his friends, and his colleagues. His talent, energy, and incredible humor will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. 

ROBIN WILLIAMS
1951-2014


Please visit LOVE A HAPPY ENDING, where we share our thoughts and memories about Robin Williams and his career.

Wednesday, August 13

A MOST WANTED MAN



The Film Fatales try to hunt down A Most Wanted Man. 

A Most Wanted Man. 2014. Rated R. 122 minutes. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Rachel McAdams, Willem Defoe, Grigoriy Dobrygin, and Homayoun Ershadi. Based on the novel by John le Carre. Directed by Anton Corbijn



A Chechen Muslim illegally immigrates to Hamburg, where he gets caught in the international war on terror. [IMDb]



Nicole: One would have hoped that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last starring role would have been a revelation…a performance that would epitomize his stellar career as one of America’s finest actors. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hoffman plays a misunderstood and betrayed spy who operates a highly covert small band of Hamburg spies, tasked with tracking down terrorists. By description, one might assume this involves a lot of cloak and dagger, with high-speed chases and Bond-esque high-tech trickery. A Most Wanted Man, however, is more cloak than dagger. But, that is not unusual for film adaptations of le Carre’s novels. His are quiet, cerebral dilemmas solved by navigating by tip-toe through intricate webs of deceit. And, in keeping with the tone of le Carre’s novels, Hoffman’s performance is equally quiet. 


elizabeth: All through this dull as a doorknob movie, I couldn’t get away from the fact that the brilliant Phillip Seymour Hoffman was playing a man with many addictions – addictions that plagued his real life and ultimately took his life. I was somewhat appalled and horrified that he took on this role. Then I got caught up with what responsibility should studios take when hiring actors for certain roles. He drank too much, smoked too much and ate a lot of crap. He was playing his own life. His battle with addictions was well known, so I left the theatre feeling that this role could have led to his own demise. A little overly theatrical on my part? Well, if I had to play a role that called for inhaling one herbal cigarette after another, I would be back to smoking the killer cigs. I have no doubts.


Nicole: It was, at times, tediously dull. I’m on the fence. It held my attention, certainly, but it is definitely a film I’d never watch again. No one actor stood out. The direction wasn’t spectacular, counter to what was predicted. And, the plot was less than gripping. There are certainly better stories to be told, and I’m not quite sure why Hollywood chose to make this one. 

elizabeth: I also had problems with Hoffman’s accent. I have no problems with him taking on one, but I wished he had enunciated his words. I was giving up even trying to follow the plot because I was getting annoyed.  I think the movie picked up at the end, but it was for about 57 seconds and then back to so bloody dull.  I hate blasting a movie that starred some great actors. I will give slight kudos to Defoe, McAdams and Wright and I apologize to the late Hoffman for not caring about this movie.


Nicole: I’d say, unless you’re a hardcore le Carre or Hoffman fan, wait to see this movie on DVD. Perhaps the extras will be more of a draw than the film itself. 

The Film Fatales give A MOST WANTED MAN

INTO THE STORM



The Film Fatales head Into the Storm, with little protection from the elements.

Into the Storm. 2014. Rated PG-13. 89 minutes. Starring Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Max Deacon, Matt Walsh, Nathan Kress. Directed by Stephen Quayle.



Storm trackers, thrill-seekers, and everyday townspeople document an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes touching down in the town of Silverton. [IMDb]



Nicole: It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 20 years since Hollywood has produced a large-scale tornado disaster film. Twister still remains very present in everyone’s minds, and for that reason Into the Storm has a lot to live up to. Most audience members will probably come out on one side or the other in the argument over which film is better. For many, it’s going to rest on the special effects (let’s not forget the advancements that have occurred over the time span), but others will argue over which story was more compelling. 


elizabeth: I am one of those crazy people who wants to go out with storm chasers. There is something about Mother Nature and her fury that mesmerizes me. But I only want to go out when there are no injuries or property damage. I am a storm chaser with a heart.  I can’t believe that it has been almost 20 years since Twister came out. Makes me think that it might be better to leave things alone. But Hollywood can’t do that.

Nicole:  As for the story, like most disaster epics, the story comes rather secondary to the special effects. These types of films usually offer a very simple setup so the audience can instead be thrilled rather than weighed down by a complicated plot. In this case, the story revolves around three sets of people: a storm chasing team, which is led by Pete (Matt Walsh, from pretty much everything you’ve ever seen) and Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead); the Fuller family, father and Vice Principal Gary (Richard Armitage, The Hobbit Trilogy, North and South), Donnie (Max Deacon, Summer in February), and Trey (Nathan Kress); and two amateur, thrill-seeking storm chasers who are only interested in scoring  YouTube hits. (Of the latter, I was sincerely hoping the storm system would swallow them up first. Spoiler: It, unfortunately, did not.)


elzabeth: You are being too kind about the setup,  but correct that it was very simple and might I add…just  awful.  The actors seemed to have lost their ability to act (maybe their years of crafting their acting skills were sucked up into the vortex) and I quite honestly would have liked them all to see the eye of the storm at about 50,000 feet above sea level. When you don’t care about the characters in a movie, you know that is a near fatal flaw to the movie—with or without winds clocking in at over 100 MPH.


Nicole: Ouch. I think the acting, in this case, hinges on the style of film making. The film is structured around the premise that the main characters are also filming the events of the day, when a never-before-seen storm system delivers its deluge on the town of Silverton, Anywhere USA. This quasi-found footage concept kind of holds the film back in a few ways. First, it limits the perspective of the characters and the storm. (Quayle does, however, include a “God” camera, for those scenes that require large shots to show the magnitude of the various types of tornadoes the protagonists encountered.) Second, it limits the performances. The “home movie” quality of the film means that the actors are often seen reacting to the storm and not given the time to really sink their teeth into their performances. Let me say this to vouchsafe their credibility: I’ve seen many of these actors in other roles, so I know their skills are stellar. (Unlike, say, Bill Paxton in Twister…ooooh, I went there.)

elizabeth: I agree 100% about the “home movie” quality and storyline.  If people react to the storm to end all storms without hardly an ounce of fear (maybe they missed their coffee that morning), then nothing can save this movie. And that makes me a little sad because the scene at the airport scared the hell out of me every time I saw it during the previews.



Nicole: As for the chill factor – let’s just say, I spent 90% of the film with every muscle in my body tensed to capacity. I was literally exhausted afterward. The special effects are astounding. And, many of them are practical – not digital – which is pretty impressive since a lot of directors have been taking the shortcut by going solely green screen. So, if you’re looking for a visually stunning, tension-filled disaster movie…you’ll likely enjoy this movie. Just don’t go alone, because all the shouting and jumping you’ll be doing will look just a bit deranged. 

elizabeth: Yes, there are scenes that will make you go “Whoa” but most of the time I followed that with, “I can’t wait to see them all die.”


The Film Fatales split decision for Into the Storm...

Nicole: 
elizabeth:

Saturday, August 9

GET ON UP



The Film Fatales get down and get funky.

Get On Up. 2014. PG-13. Rated R. 138 minutes. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Nelson Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer. Directed by Tate Taylor. 


A chronicle of James Brown's rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history. [IMDb]
Please note: Elizabeth was digging tunnels from her house to Fox news while Nicole was seeing this film, and therefore unavailable to post her review.





Oh, I hate to do this. I really do. I had such high hopes for this movie, because if anyone is deserving of a good biopic (in the tradition of and possessing of the same quality of Ray and Walk the Line), it’s the Godfather of Soul himself, Mr. James Brown. But…Get On Up was a real disappointment. And, not – I repeat – not because of the performances (both musical and acting). 


All of the problems with this film derive from its “trying to be too clever” direction and editing. It’s a tricky maneuver, to attempt producing a biopic in anything other than a linear fashion. Some directors are up to the task. Unfortunately, Tate Taylor is not one of those directors, which is astounding, really – considering his work on The Help (2011). I do get what he was trying to do, I do. By jumping back and forth between Brown’s childhood and adulthood, he was establishing how much of the jilted, abandoned, and wounded little boy remained with him his entire life. He was trying to prove why Brown’s arrogance and “go it alone” attitude left him unable to form and retain meaningful relationships, both personal and professional. However, the choppy and stylistic editing and art direction, along with the messy and incoherent structure only served to tire the viewer and leave them with the responsibility to fill in blanks. 


One pet peeve of mine is when the actors are directed to break the fourth wall. Don’t get me wrong, I love that technique when it’s cleverly done—and usually works best in comedies. But, when done incorrectly, it can the viewer feel uncomfortable and bring them out of the film instead of inward. 


Despite that, the performances were all well done, but far and above the rest of the cast is Chadwick Boseman, whose portrayal of James Brown was somewhat paranormal. He must have channeled Brown from the great beyond, because it was at times difficult to tell the difference. His stage moves were impeccable and he nailed the speaking voice. Also, the musical performances were staged well and performed well – and thank God, since so much of this movie revolves around music, it would have been a real shame if those were as terrible as the direction. Fortunately, that is not the case. 


One-half of The Film Fatales give Get on Up