Motion Pictures

(Posts from April 2018 to May 2019)

The Phantom of the Opera

With stunning visuals and unique casting, the Phantom of the Opera is an impressive feat for musical films.

In the late 1800s, the Paris Opera house has just been put into the hands of two new managers. On the opening night of the managers' first show, disaster strikes when a stage prop falls from the ceiling and lands on the the lead soprano, Carlotta (Minnie Driver). Outraged by what appears to be another accident in a series of mishaps, Carlotta storms off the stage. The new managers are in a panic, thinking they'll have to cancel their show, but soon discover the impeccable vocal skill of a chorus girl named Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum).

After Christine's debut at the opera house, she reunites with her childhood friend Raoul (Patrick Wilson). Thinking that everything is falling into place, with both her career and love life seemingly on track to succeed, Christine mistakingly lets her guard down, allowing herself to fall prey to the mysterious virtuoso who calls himself the "Opera Ghost", but is known to the inhabitants of the theater as the Phantom of the Opera (Gerard Butler.) The Phantom will not allow for anyone to take the stage from Christine and will stop at nothing in order to ensure she belongs only to him.

The Phantom of the Opera has been a movie I have loved since its original release and since I first watched it, which is why it’s critics' reviews really baffled me when I recently took a look at them. Most of the reviews were highly negative, calling the movie slow paced and dull. It makes me wonder what movie they were watching, because it definitely couldn't have been the Phantom of the Opera I saw through my eyes. Yes, Phantom is a long film, but it’s an even longer musical on the stage, so the length didn’t have a negative impact on me whatsoever. Some may say this movie was garish or overdrawn, but classic opera can be incredibly extravagant and full of flourish, and given that Phantom is set in an opera house and centered around several shows performed by the characters, I find it not only fitting that the film matched the typical operatic feel, but in fact I would have been disappointed and slightly miffed if it hadn’t.

When adapting a musical to the screen, there are obviously elements to it that are going to have to change. For example, the voices being a big one. When you watch a live musical, you expect the big stage sound from the voices of the cast, but on film, that style of singing could appear overdone and just too much for the everyday movie goer. Phantom of the Opera is a little tricky in this sense, because many of the characters are supposed to have the cliche operatic sound to their voice, on Broadway, even the lead Christine has that vocal quality. However, by casting Emmy Rossum as Christine in this film, the filmmakers made a wonderful choice. Her voice is a soprano, but not an operatic soprano. The angelic quality to her singing can appeal to the masses, and won’t be nearly as likely to turn an audience away as the sometimes shrill operatic voice could have. As far as Gerard Butler's Phantom, there are times when I think it’s great, and others where I can take it or leave it. I’m not sure if he would have been my first choice for the iconic title role, but the more emotion he put into the song, the better his performance and voice was.

Even the critics who negatively reviewed Phantom of the Opera, still had positive comments towards the visual styling of the film. The color contrasts and sets of Phantom of the Opera ooze romance and history, and it effortlessly pulls the viewer into the dark fairytale of its world. It is clear that practical effects and staging were heavily in use throughout the film, and that was a brilliant choice on the part of the set designers. Phantom of the Opera may be one of the most famous musicals in history, so to completely pull the movie away from its roots would have been a huge mistake. Watching the movie gives one the sense of being able to get an idea of what the live production must be like to witness, and maybe instilled a budding love for the world of musical theater to an unsuspecting viewer.

There’s very little that I dislike about the Phantom of the Opera, and perhaps my love for musicals is clouding my judgment, but maybe that’s a good thing. Instead of watching this movie, looking for any problem I can nitpick, I would much rather spend my time getting enthralled in the music and the colors swirling around the screen. Maybe those who critique the on-screen musicals should let their judgmental guard down a bit, and just enjoy the show.

Our Idiot Brother

Rating: 3/5

Though the majority of Our Idiot Brother may not exactly be my cup of tea, I still found myself enjoying the bulk of it nonetheless.

Ned (Paul Rudd) is one of four children, and the only boy. Unlike his sisters who lead more traditional lives, Ned has taken to a life of selling organic produce, and marijuana on the side. When he is tricked by a police officer into selling pot to him, Ned is sent to prison for eight months.

When Ned gets out of jail, his first priority is to try and get his dog Willie Nelson back, as well as his job. When his ex Janet (Kathryn Hahn) refuses to give Ned his job or more importantly his dog back, he must to go to his sisters Miranda (Elizabeth Banks), Natalie (Zooey Deschanel), and Liz (Emily Mortimer) for help, money, and a place to stay.

Before I watched Our Idiot Brother, I didn't have the highest expectations about how it was going to be, so perhaps that's why I wasn't overly disappointed with the outcome. Our Idiot Brother is exactly what you'd expect from your typical Paul Rudd comedy. It's dumb, but funny at times, and attempts the occasional pull to the heartstrings. There are definite plot points where the humor didn't exactly tickle my funny bone, but I'm not usually one for raunchy comedy, so those particular efforts were a bit lost on me.

I may not have loved this film, but I will say that its' performances are better than your average comedy. Paul Rudd is always pretty spot on with his comedic timing, and his character's "come what may" attitude was well delivered by Rudd. You'd think that the best scenes in the movie would be the ones that involve any of his three leading sisters, given that they make up the majority of Our Idiot Brother's premise, but I actually preferred the scenes where Ned was spending time with his nephew. The three women who were cast as his sisters are great actresses, don't get me wrong, but I felt that any instance in the film where Ned was trying to cheer up or just hang out with his nephew, were the scenes that came off as the most genuine parts in the movie.

What I appreciated about Our Idiot Brother, was the lack of slapstick humor being used to get a laugh. In fact, there was very little physical comedy throughout the entire movie. Our Idiot Brother is a film that depends on awkwardness to gets its' reactions from the audience, and generally succeeds. For me, I am someone who has always appreciated clever writing more than gross-out comedy, so I commend this movie for mostly excluding any overly immature or foolish elements to its' plot; as I honestly wasn't expecting that from it.

Will I ever watch Our Idiot Brother again? Probably, but not anytime soon. It wasn't a film that I was over the moon about, nor do I think it will ever become one that will be. That being said, I have most certainly seen worse comedies in my time as a film viewer, and I'm sure someday I will decide to give it another go around and see if I like it more the second time.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Rating: 3.5/5

Pokémon Detective Pikachu is not a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it knows not to take itself too seriously and is all the better for it.

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a twenty-one year old living in a small town outside of Ryme City. He is constantly questioned about not possessing a Pokémon partner, but will never give a full explanation as to why. One day, Tim receives a phone call and learns that his estranged father, who's a detective in the big city, has been in an accident.

When Tim goes to Ryme City to try and settle his affairs, he inadvertently stumbles into a mystery. With the help of his father's Pokémon, Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) and a budding and eager reporter Lucy (Kathryn Newton), the three must investigate what happened to Tim's father, and try and figure out why some of the Pokémon in the city are inexplicably turning violent.

After watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu, I can’t say I’m disappointed. It’s exactly what I expected it to be; a little goofy at times, but an overall enjoyable experience. As a child of the 90s who was very much into the Pokémon craze, I’m sure I liked this movie more than those who watched it knowing little to none about the desperation to catch em’ all. Seeing the odd, yet lovable creatures take a more lifelike form was both nostalgic and entertaining for me. Yes, some of the animation wasn’t super convincing, as it was pretty clear they spent the most time on the look of Pikachu, but given that there’s no worldly reference the animators could use to base the designs of the Pokémon off of, the computerized look is to be expected.

Ryan Reynolds was an inspired casting choice for the voice of Pikachu. He is one of the three leads for the film, but is really the only one that matters. As I was watching one of the scenes where Pikachu calls for Tim, I forgot for a moment who Tim was, then realized it was the the main human lead. It’s not that Justice Smith was bad per say, but his full formed performance was just not nearly as memorable as Reynolds’ voice acting. Anytime that I laughed in this movie was because of a comedic line that was delivered by Reynolds' adorably sarcastic yellow Pokémon.

Detective Pikachu is a conundrum of a film, where it had to meet the demands of two different audiences. The creators must have known that part of its target viewers would have been people, like myself, who fell in love with Pokémon as a child and are now adults looking to relive their youth through film. Then they had to consider the fact that a much younger group of movie goers would be heading to the theaters as well, so they had to try and find a balance between the two. For the most part, I would say that Detective Pikachu succeeded in this concept. I was laughing a fair amount throughout the movie, as were the kids in the back of the theater. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, and that’s all you can ask for from a film like this.

If you over analyze Detective Pikachu, you’ll for sure see that it has its problems. It’s highly predictable at times and the two human leads’ acting sometimes appears to be only a couple notches above a Disney Channel original movie; but, somehow, it doesn’t really seem to matter. Detective Pikachu is great for the all around film fan. It’s colorful, funny, and if you go into it with the mindset of looking for some silly but decent entertainment, then you’re sure to be satisfied.

Arctic

Rating: 4.75/5

Arctic is a survival film full of realism and emotion, and proves that dialogue isn't always necessary to tell an amazing story.

In an undisclosed location, a man is found attempting to survive in the merciless landscape of the arctic. He has seemingly been able to make a routine for himself, going throughout the same tasks everyday, which consist of finding food and seeking rescue.

When the SOS beacon he has dug into the snow catches the attention of a helicopter, he is swept with relief thinking he is going to be saved. However, if he has learned anything in his time stranded in the frozen wasteland, it's that nature can be unpredictable, and soon his attempted escape from the snowy tundra turns into a far more perilous escapade.

Arctic is one raw nerve of a movie. So many survival films feel the need to use Hollywood gimmicks in order to sell their story, forgetting the sheer intrigue and suspense the concept of survival itself has to offer. Arctic is nothing more or less than a man and his unyielding will to keep himself alive in a frozen tundra. There is very little information about who this man is or how it is that he found himself there, and that’s one of the best aspects to the film. The movie relies on the incredible power of its lead actor to carry the heavy burden of the plot on his shoulders, and assume that his character will develop along the way, without including any unnecessary nudges from the script. And thanks to Mads Mikkelsen's incredibly strong performance, it certainly succeeds.

Mikkelsen faced a major challenge in this film, in that if you put all his lines down on paper, his script could maybe stretch to be about 2-3 pages long, if that. His performance is almost entirely physical, and I can only wonder how much of it was acting and how much was a real response to the arctic landscape he was surrounded by. You wouldn’t think that you’d be able to feel an emotional attachment to a character that rarely speaks, especially when you consider the wordy dialogue that can be found in many movies today, but Mikkelsen proves that it is more than possible. Even though I was watching this movie from the comfort of my own couch, I found myself getting chills and wanting to counteract the events on the screen by making tea and covering myself with a blanket, which I can only attribute that to the genuine portrayal given by Mads Mikkelsen.

There’s something incredibly refreshing about Arctic. A lesser director or creator would have wanted to glam this film up, and try and add more characters, relationships, or conflict to it to keep the audience interested. Those people would be underestimating the value that this story has on its own. This film is what I wish almost all survival movies would be like. If you look at the budget of this movie in comparison to other likeminded films, it is very small, and it’s all the better for it. There’s no need to jazz anything up and overproduce it. Man vs. man isn’t always the most frightening conflict you can place in a story. One viewing of Arctic can prove that man vs. nature is far more terrifying and unpredictable.

I’m sure there are people who didn’t like this movie because they felt it was slow paced at times or not as exciting as other survival films, and I feel sorry for those who feel this way. Mads Mikkelsen's brilliant performance, along with the stunning scenery and heightened level of reality makes this by far one of the best, if not the best, survival movies I have ever seen.

Isn't It Romantic

Rating: 2.25/5

Isn't It Romantic certainly knows the genre in which it mimics, but tries too hard to be funny to really be enjoyed.

Natalie (Rebel Wilson) has been raised to think the worst of romantic-comedies and assume they are nothing more than fairytales that are spreading lies to the unsuspecting viewer. Her everyday life is as uneventful and drab as can be. Her dog is dirty, her apartment is small, and she's generally unappreciated at her job except by her two friends Josh (Adam Devine) and Whitney (Betty Gilpin).

One day, while going home from work on the subway, she is mugged, and in her attempt to run away, hits her head off a pole. When she awakens, Natalie realizes that her dingy New York existence is gone, and it has been replaced by a colorful and "perfect" romantic-comedy plot line.

I really, really wanted to like this movie more than I did, but unfortunately it just wasn’t in the cards. I am someone who normally defends the cheesiness and predictability of a good romantic comedy, but I’m having a hard time coming up with a case to defend this one. Isn’t It Romantic feels almost like a non-movie. The first three quarters of the film has a hovering awkwardness that refuses to cease, almost like you’re watching rehearsals for the film, rather than the version of the movie made for theaters. It lacks momentum until its final act, which I will say in favor for the movie, the last twenty minutes I did enjoy.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson's other movie, The Final Girls, has a very similar premise, in that is poking fun and creating satire around a specific movie genre. The Final Girls does a great job at creating comedy around all the cliches of horror movies, and Isn’t It Romantic tries to do the same for the romantic comedy genre, but doesn’t hit its mark nearly as well. The thing is, rom-coms are so famously picked apart and poorly reviewed, that we didn’t really need a movie to point out all the flaws that exist in the stereotypical movie of this kind. Yes, Isn’t It Romantic expertly paints a picture of all the expected moments you can find in a romantic comedy, and it does have some humor here and there, but it almost feels like it’s copying other source material too much or working overtime to make fun of something that is mocked on a fairly frequent basis.

As far as the cast goes, Rebel Wilson tries her hardest to sell her role, and she does succeed at times, but at others, either the material fails her efforts, or she fails to deliver the material. You can see she gave it her all, and that definitely helped make the movie better, but even her best attempts couldn’t make me love this movie. Other than her lead role, none of the other characters had enough depth to really matter, but I’m sure that was the film's intention, given its goal of mimicking the problems romantic comedy stories tend to have when it comes to their character development.

I think I will have to give Isn’t It Romantic another try someday, because my viewing experience may have slightly clouded my judgement. Lack of audience laughter and overly high expectations may have set me up for a let down. So , perhaps another rewatch at another time may change my perspective, but for now Isn’t It Romantic will not be going on the list of my favorite rom-coms.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

Rating: 3.25/5

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile is not as good a film as it wants to be, but not a complete waste of time.

Amid the 1970s, Ted Bundy (Zac Efron) has seemingly mastered his charade of appearing to everyone as a charming and kind man, when in secret, he has been leading a far more appalling life than anyone could have imagined. When Ted is pulled over for what looks to be a routine traffic stop, he is taken into custody for the suspicion of an attempted abduction.

As more and more evidence of Bundy's crimes come to light, his girlfriend Liz Kendall (Lily Collins) tries to deny his guilt and assume, along with many others, that he has been wrongly accused, no matter how damning the proof may be.

Before watching this film, I had scruples about whether or not I should watch it, as I feared it would attempt to glorify the acts one of the most vile monsters to walk the earth outside of a horror movie. However, I was surprised and fairly content with the way Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile told the story. If someone were expecting to watch this movie and have it be a slasher film chronicling all the heinous acts committed by Bundy, then they are going to be very disappointed, because Extremely Wicked focuses more on the courtroom aspects of his infamous trial rather than showing the murders themselves. Is Ted Bundy's life something that really needed to be made into a movie? Probably not, but the film industry knows the power of human curiosity and people’s inexplicable fascination with the what causes someone’s mind to do such unspeakable crimes.

Given that this movie is quite a change from what you’d expect to see Zac Efron in, he gives a very respectable performance. Now, I’m not someone who’s spent a lot of their time watching serial killer documentaries or researching Ted Bundy, so I can’t speak very much on the accuracy of his portrayal, but you can certainly see the amount of time and effort that Efron put into the role. There are a handful of moments where his acting doesn’t come off as being well honed, and you can see some of his acting techniques from his Disney days slip through, but overall, he paints a frighteningly charismatic picture as the real life demon who was able to fool almost everyone around him for decades.

There were definite times where I felt Extremely Wicked tried too hard to come off as artistic or edgy, but those were mostly in the very beginning of the movie. In those scenes, you could practically imagine the director thinking how “cool” these shots would look, and unfortunately it came off that way, making them feel a bit clunky and out of place to the rest of the film's attempts at fluidity. The bulk of the movie, especially the scenes involving Bundy's trial, were very well done, especially thanks to the addition of John Malkovich and Jim Parsons. Their roles thrive on subtlety and a quiet disposition, and basically steal the scene, even though they aren’t the central focus of it. Malkovich and Parsons made these pieces of the film feel very authentic as well as helping to heighten their overall impact.

While Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile definitely ran the risk of feeling like an overproduced Lifetime movie, especially given its lead casting choices, it narrowly escaped falling into that trap. The performers give it their all, and though it may not be as well polished as other biopics (likeminded or not) have been, it’s a decent effort nonetheless.

Mulan

Rating: 5+/5

Easily my favorite of the Disney films in the original animation style, Mulan is a movie to be marveled at.

In ancient China, Mulan (Ming-Na Wen) is anxiously awaiting her turn to see the matchmaker and honor her family by becoming a beautiful and poised bride. Unfortunately, given Mulan's klutzy and forgetful nature, her meeting does not go very well and she feels as if she has disgraced her family name.

Meanwhile, the Huns have begun to invade China, and Mulan's elderly and frail father has been drafted into the imperial army. When Mulan tries to protest her father's enlistment, she is told she must know her place as a woman and never speak up in a man's presence. Knowing that her father will die if he goes to war, Mulan secretly takes his armor, cuts her hair so she can impersonate a man, then heads off to battle in her father's place.

Mulan is what I would call my "film awakening". It was the first time in my memory where I can recall being so enthralled and impacted by the combination of film and music that I was witnessing on the screen. To me, Mulan stands apart from the other Disney princess films that precede it, mainly due to its' highly impressive visuals. One look at the montage of Mulan making her decision to go to war in place of her father, or watching the Huns charge down a mountain into battle, should be more than enough to convince any viewer of the skill possessed by the creator of this film.

Up until Mulan, the majority of the Disney princess movies weren't filled wth many empowered female characters. Not to say they didn't exist, but they were few and far between. Mulan is the first time that I can remember as a young girl really noticing a character that was a woman who took charge of her own fate and wasn't afraid to show her strength and integrity. Looking at the premise of the movie, it's no surprise that its' message is largely about females proving their moxie and tenacity, but Mulan presents its' theme in such a way that it can be recognized by a younger audience and inspire them to be strong and powerful as they grow up.

I have always appreciated children's films that weren't just sunshine and roses or wall to wall silliness. Mulan of course has its' humorous moments, it is a Disney film after all, but there are also scenes of drama, emotion, and intensity that can be hard to find in your mainstream kids movie. Mulan isn't afraid to portray the tragedies of the war that create the backdrop for the film, and because of that, I remember feeling privileged as a child to be able to be treated as an intelligent being and not just a kid who could only be expected to enjoy slapstick humor. I watch this movie as an adult today, and I still feel the same way.

Mulan is a movie that made a major impact on me and even when I watch it now, I find myself thinking about it days later. It is a movie that I can view over and over again without ever tiring of it, and I don't think I can say the same for many other children's' films. It is one of a kind, and will always hold a very special place in my heart.

Nocturnal Animals

Rating: 4/5

A story that is more akin to a painting than a film at times, Nocturnal Animals is nothing if not stylistically beautiful.

Susan (Amy Adams) is a wealthy art curator who lives a fairly chilled existence. She and her husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) have a distant relationship and she doesn't appear to have any close friends.

Much to her bewilderment, Susan is sent an unpublished manuscript that is authored by her much estranged ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). Getting wrapped up into his book titled "Nocturnal Animals", Susan begins to unravel with every page she reads. Soon she begins to wonder if the highly violent novel that Edward has dedicated to her isn't somewhat inspired by the events that lead to their separation.

Nocturnal Animals is one of those movies where it has me questioning whether it intended for me to be confused or if I was just not artistic enough to see through the meaning of its symbolism. I was following it fully for about 99% of its duration, but there is that 1% where questions about what happened took over my enjoyment of the brilliant visuals that were placed before me on the screen. This movie certainly took a highly artistic approach to its storytelling, and with that type of film usually comes some heavy imagery and metaphor. Nocturnal Animals is ripe with such tactics, and for the most part, it works very well to tell its twisted tale.

What Nocturnal Animals can almost boast about more than the incredibly skilled performances by its cast, are the stunning looks each scene presented throughout the movie. With each of the three stories told, Susan's present, her past, and the world inside the novel, they had their own individual look; some beautiful and some unsettling. The most striking would be any of the scenes where it followed Susan as she was processing the words she was reading from Edward's book. Every color around her was incredibly vivid and deep, making every moment of screen time, no matter how short, filled with immensely bold visuals.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy adams are two actors who don’t seem to get enough recognition for their work. Yes, Adams has been nominated for an Oscar multiple times, and they have been very well deserved, but Gyllenhaal hasn’t been nominated for any and I find that more than a tad absurd (see Nightcrawler if you disagree). That being said, both leads show their collective talents in this film, specifically Gyllenhaal as he is technically playing two different characters. It’s hard to fully discern the emotions and motives of Adams’ character, but she too plays two different roles in a way. She is able to separate the two, but leave just enough recollection between them to allow the audience to attempt and connect the dots between her character's past and present day persona, as well as seeing her influence on the novel within the film. Even if the movie itself may appear slightly overdone at times, the performances keep it grounded when necessary.

I don't know if I would say that I enjoyed Nocturnal Animals, because the plot itself is intended to unsettle and upset its' viewer. However, it is impossible for anyone to watch this film and not be taken aback by director Tom Ford's breathtaking visual styling.

Stan & Ollie

Rating: 4.5/5

Stan & Ollie is short and sweet, and a wonderful tribute to two Hollywood legends.

Decades have passed since the heyday of Laurel & Hardy, and Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) are about to set out on a multi-city tour to try and remind the audiences of what they have been missing.

Though the attendance for the shows are shockingly low, Stan and Ollie will try their hardest to not let their spirits dampen. After all, they have each other. However, emotions and qualms from the past can't stay suppressed forever, and a stressful tour could potentially make them rise to the surface.

Not that I’m a person who is easily offended or put off, I have to say there’s something really nice about watching a movie intended for adults that is rated PG. Stan & Ollie is a film that is wonderfully innocent and simple. It doesn’t add unnecessary tension to the legendary partnership just for the purpose of enhancing drama. It’s straightforward and a very calm and low-key movie, and that is somewhat of a rarity nowadays.

There’s usually a pretty standard formula that biopics follow, and this one doesn’t necessarily deviate from that pattern, but it doesn’t feel stale either. I was surprised by how little time was focused on Laurel & Hardy’s early career, but the premise of the film was of their later lives, so the editing of the timeline made perfect sense. It’s well known that in world of show businesses, good things have a limited shelf life. As the times change, so do the audiences, and if one doesn’t adapt, then they may disappear all together. Stan & Ollie really shows how a character or routine of a film can become more than just an act, but turn into a lifestyle. It lays out the hardships faced by aging stars, and takes a bit of the romanticized glory out of the Classic Hollywood era. Many films have attempted to do the same, but lack the integrity and honesty that can be found in Stan & Ollie.

I really wish that I had seen more Laurel & Hardy work prior to watching this movie, but from the limited amount of knowledge I had going into it, the lead actors portrayals of the two famed men appeared pretty spot on. It’s near to impossible to see the actors playing Stan and Ollie, and that’s a major tribute to the two leads. Their camaraderie appears to have been one that has grown from decades of friendship, and not just the short amount of time it took to make the film. Through the ups and downs of the events of the movie, Reilly and Coogan make every moment heartfelt and earnest with their tandem performances.

Watching this movie has definitely increased my desire to explore the old works of Laurel & Hardy more than I already have. I for one, have always been drawn to the films from the Golden Hollywood era, so Stan & Ollie's ability to make me want to watch a classic movie isn't completely shocking. However, I would find it pretty easy to assume that this movie may have intrigued some other film viewers into exploring a potentially new and wonderful part of cinema history.


Avengers: Endgame

Rating: 5/5

What may go down in history as the ultimate superhero movie, Avengers: Endgame is a film that shouldn't be missed, especially while it's in the theaters.

It has been decades since the journey for the Avengers began, and it has all boiled down to one final mission. In the wake of the tragedy that has swept the universe, the Avengers must tirelessly fight to right the wrongs created by Thanos (Josh Brolin).

Wow. All I can begin this review with is wow. I am writing this review after just leaving the theaters after having one of the most exhilarating and one of a kind movie experiences of my lifetime. Endgame has been so intensely hyped for what seems like ages, that the anticipation of finally getting to see it had me both giddy and anxious. I had no idea what to expect from the film, but I knew that it had to be epic; and epic it was! I can’t recall from my own movie viewing history a film that has had a grand feel to it such as this. The culmination of all the years and movies boiling down into this masterfully told story is quite the cinematic marvel to behold.

Endgame has a run time off just over three hours, and yet as I write this review, only one hour has passed and I already want to drive back to the theater to watch it again. The amount of adrenaline coursing through my body as I watched the film was almost to the level of energy I felt while first watching Free Solo. Given that I saw Endgame on its premiere night, the audience, myself included, were cheering and clapping along with the events of the film, and it was impossible not to get swept up in the atmosphere and sheer entertainment value of the film. My heart was racing and I found myself actually shaking with excitement as the film built up to its climax. There are very few times, perhaps less than five, where I can remember having a reaction such as this to a movie.

I would never have the audacity to spoil such a film for anyone, but all I can say is that Endgame is most certainly the best and most impactful Avengers film the entire ensemble catalogue has to offer. The camaraderie between the cast is so believable, that you can’t help but feel emotionally attached to these characters. After all, for those who have been watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the first Iron Man film, the Avengers almost feel like our own family. We’ve seen them grow and adapt from movie to movie, and after the events of Infinity War, we are just as determined as they are to try and rectify the actions of Thanos.

I know I will be seeing Endgame again and perhaps even multiple times more before it leaves the theaters. I can actually feel my excitement growing as I think of the prospect of getting to view it once more. Endgame, if not just an incredible superhero movie, is the perfect exhibition of the brilliance, skill, and power of the creators behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I for one am grateful to them for the endless enjoyment they have given me throughout their films.

Murder By Numbers

Rating: 3.5/5

Murder By Numbers isn't by any stretch the greatest film of its' type, but most certainly not the worst.

Looking at Richard Haywood (Ryan Gosling) and Justin Pendleton (Michael Pitt), you wouldn't think they'd have anything in common. Richard is arrogant, attractive, and popular. Justin is reserved, intelligent, and generally pushed around by Richard and his friends. However they may look from the outside, both boys share the same desire; to commit the perfect murder.

When Justin and Richard get together to complete their crime, their collective egos have them thinking that their cleverness and carefulness should make their planned homicide be impossible to figure out by anyone but themselves, but what they didn't expect was for homicide detective Cassie Mayweather (Sandra Bullock) to be put on the case. With Cassie's determination and skill, Justin and Richard will have to work harder than expected to execute their perfect crime.

When getting ready to rewatch Murder By Numbers, out of curiosity, I looked at the reviews that were written upon the film's initial release. Once I read them, I was surprised to discover how negative they were. This movie is in no way flawless, but I don't think it is as bad as past critics would have you believe. If you are someone who finds interest or enjoyment in a crime thriller, than it is pretty easy to like Murder By Numbers. It does feel at times like it is stuck in the middle of being a really well acted Lifetime movie and a film made for theaters, but even so, it is still better than a lot of the generic thrillers that come out on a yearly basis.

Sandra Bullock is commonly cast as a tom-boy/tough girl character. If you don't agree, see Miss Congeniality, The Heat, Oceans 8 and more. Though it may seem like she is being type cast, she doesn't let her characters blend into one another. Even though her role as Cassie Mayweather in Murder By Numbers and Gracie Hart in Miss Congeniality are both members of law enforcement, they are very different in the way she portrays them on screen. Cassie is a character with a very troubled past, and even if Murder By Numbers does a rough job at trying to disperse her violent history into the current timeline of the plot, it still adds a somewhat realistic edge to her character. Bullock is believable as a tough as nails detective, and as she's zeroing on her target, it is clear to see why one would not want to be the criminal on the other end.

I don't claim to know the first thing about the actual science behind forensics, but what I like about Murder By Numbers is that it is more than just a cat and mouse storyline. There's quiet moments of planning and figuring for both the detectives and the criminals, and I personally find those scenes to be more unsettling than ones just filled with gratuitous violence. The fact that the two killers in the film choose their victim at random and go through the details so thoroughly, just puts a small thought in your mind about how little we know about the strangers we pass on a daily basis. Granted, the majority of those we meet at random aren't likely planning a highly violent and illegal crime, but the film's general content is still off-putting enough to let your imagination get the better of you and have your fears linger in your mind during the movie and for a short while after.

Though I would never say that Murder By Numbers is a excellent film, I would never call it bad. It's definitely a product of its' time, but is still intriguing enough to be rewatched almost two decades later.

Captain Marvel

Rating: 4.25/5

Maybe not as enthralling as past Marvel outings, yet Captain Marvel is still an entertaining and exciting film experience.

In the mid 1990's, a Starforce member who goes by the name of Vers (Brie Larson) is on a rescue mission against a race of shapeshifting aliens known as Skrulls. When Vers is abducted by the Skrulls, she is forced into a machine devised to pull memories from her brain, but she breaks free before the Skrulls are able to learn everything her mind has to offer. In the chaos of her escape, Vers finds herself crashing down into planet Earth.

Knowing the shapeshifters won't be far behind, Vers knows she must be acutely aware of any human being that seems off or out of sorts. With the help of newly acquired companion, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Vers must work to regain the memories she was reminded of by the Skrulls while trying protect the innocent people of Earth.

Going into this film, I really didn't know what to expect. All the reviews for Captain Marvel were so mixed, but I assumed I was going to like it. My assumption was correct. Even though I feel Captain Marvel had a few more pacing and predictability problems than other Marvel movies, it is still an enjoyable time overall. It's got a plethora of 90's nostalgia to make any millennial happy, and it's full of excellent chemistry between its' lead and her costar.

There has been much debate over the casting choice of Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers, but I personally feel Brie Larson did a great job at embodying the energy charged heroine. At times, her quips don't feel as naturally placed as other characters' have in past Marvel films, but I think that's more the fault of the movie's timing and not the actress' skill. Her physicality and acting prowess trump any of the few flubbed attempts at comedy, and her performance adds to the already intense hype surrounding the upcoming Avengers film. Aiding in her already impressive portrayal of Danvers, are any scenes in which she shares the screen with Samuel L. Jackson. It's become fairly common knowledge that the two had a real bond on set, and that certainly comes through in their acting. The best scenes in Captain Marvel are easily between the ones where Carol is kicking butt and taking names, and the ones where Carol and Nick's companionship is on display.

The only real negative thing I could say about Captain Marvel is that I wish it had more physical action for Carol rather than CGI based fights. Given the amount of training and effort Brie Larson put into the role, I expected a bit more hand to hand combat. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely moments where we get to see all the hard work and skill Larson acquired and perfected, one viewing of the train scene proves that, but after, her intense strength appears to be almost forgotten and turns into mostly special effect enhanced power. I know that computerized effects are necessary to portray Carol's full potential, but it would have been nice to see Larson's training put to more use in the final act. Perhaps Marvel is saving the best of Danver's real life power for her scenes in End Game and we've just seen the surface of what she can do; because to be honest, that wouldn't surprise me. From the glimpse I saw in this movie, Brie Larson and Captain Marvel are not to be trifled with; with or without superhuman powers.

This movie is ripe with girl power and I love it. I'm a female and not even someone who is overly vocal about such topics, but even I couldn't help but be swept up in the message brought out by Captain Marvel. It clearly empowers women not to be afraid to show our strength and to stick up for ourselves against the never ending barrage of comments that are so frequently thrown at us about not smiling or other like minded nonsense. Captain Marvel may not be the best origin story in the MCU, but it's refreshing for the most part and a great installation into the hopefully growing new trend of female focused superhero movies.

Thor: Ragnarock

Rating: 5/5

Easily the best in the Thor franchise, Thor: Ragnarock is a comedic and exciting ride from beginning to end.

Just when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) thinks his life is going to be back to normal on Asgard, he his thrown some very unexpected curveballs. First, his supposedly deceased brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a return and Thor discovers his sibling has sent his father away. Once the brothers find Odin (Anthony Hopkins) they learn of their sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), goddess of death, who is in fact the first born and heir to Asgard. When she is unleashed from her banishment, Thor and Loki are thrown from the bifrost and out of Asgard.

After being exiled from his home, Thor finds himself on a planet inhabited by scavengers, and is then kidnapped and taken to a planet where he is forced to fight in an arena for sport and entertainment. Without the use of his hammer, Thor must get creative in order to hold onto both his pride and his life. Knowing that Hela is wreaking havoc back Asgard, Thor will stop at nothing to escape his prison and return to his home.

Where the other Thor films suffered from not being able to decide whether it wanted to be a comedy or not, Ragnarock dominates by giving into the humor and allowing the cast to live up to their full comedic potential. With the perfect blend of jokes and action, Ragnarock is an astonishingly good time, and without a doubt in the top five of my favorite films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This film pretty much struck gold with their cast. We already knew that Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were perfect in their roles, with Hemsworth really showing his comedic prowess in this movie, but the addition of Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum was truly a stroke of genius. Blanchett's voice was made for villainy, as proven by her role as the Wicked Stepmother in Cinderella, but allowing her into the action of this film just enhanced her brilliance as an actress. Goldblum is his typical bizarre and quirky self, and I wouldn't want it any other way. As the oppressive and colorful leader of a planet where gladiator style fighting is in fashion, Goldblum hits the performance right on the head.

It is such a rarity to have the third installment of a series be an improvement upon its' two predecessors, but Thor: Ragnarock proves it can be done. Apparently all the Thor franchise needed was to leave the earth nonsense behind and take to the realms of the galaxies. By making this change, Thor suddenly went from two mundane films to something pretty phenomenal. As I have been reworking my way through all the Marvel films, this was the one I was the most excited to get to again, just because I remembered how undeniably enjoyable it was. It holds nothing back in its humor and is also a great lead into the events to come in the later films of the Marvel universe.

I suppose if you're a completist, you would need to view the two previous Thor films in order to get the full experience. However, with that being said, if you're just looking for an exciting and amusing action film, ignore the other two and just watch Ragnarock, because it's all you really need to see.

Veronica Mars

Rating: 4.75/5

Definitely one of the better outings for the recent trend of revivals, Veronica Mars can be easily enjoyed by many.

It's been over a decade since Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) spent her days solving mysteries for her classmates at Neptune High, but now she is trying to put her private detective days behind her and get a respectable job at a law firm. When Veronica learns of the death of her former classmate Carrie Bishop, and that her ex-boyfriend Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is a suspect in the case, her attempt at a new way of life is put to the test.

Hoping to help Logan with the bombardment of lawyers he's been receiving, Veronica goes back home to Neptune. Veronica's dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) is elated to see his daughter again, but is quickly disappointed when he discovers that Veronica is falling into her old detective habits. Try as she might, Veronica is unable to stick to only helping Logan with the lawyers, and finds herself smack dab in the middle of uncovering Carrie Bishop's true killer.

Veronica Mars is a perfect blend of a film made for existing fans and newcomers. As a fan of the show before seeing the movie, I probably loved it more than someone who wasn't privy to all the backstory beforehand, but I could still see the appeal it would have for someone who was just being introduced to the wit and wiles of Veronica Mars. There's a brief opening sequence relaying the main events of the show that are clearly placed to inform the new viewer and also to refresh the memories of those who may have forgotten details from the original series. Whichever way you are viewing Veronica Mars, die hard fan or otherwise, you are almost guaranteed to be entertained.

There are times in film and tv history where an actor just seems like they were born to play a role. Lauren Graham as Lorelei Gilmore is one example, and Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars is another. Mars is not an easy character to portray, due to her constant vivacity and sarcasm, but she's uncannily likable and is a wonderful blend of a femme fatale and Dick Tracy all rolled into one snappy package. Bell is able to embody this character to perfection. Even after a decade has passed since her original stint as Veronica Mars, Bell slips back into the mindset of the private eye with ease, and that has not proven to be a simple task for others in the past. I have seen many a revival where the actors are clearly struggling to find their character again, but Veronica Mars is certainly not one of those instances.

The storyline for this film has plenty of throwbacks to appease the fans, but it boasts a well thought out murder mystery to keep any viewer intrigued. It plays out more like a whodunnit rather than an overly serious plot of espionage, allowing for the audience to play along and try and solve the case before Veronica and company reveal the culprit. It lays out the clues in a way that's helpful but not deprecating to any viewer. This film certainly has its' moments of drama and peril, but they are brilliantly blended in between the effortless charm that is Veronica Mars.

Given that this movie was only made possible by the power of the fans and a Kickstarter campaign, the overwhelming desire to have the film be made should say something about the entertainment value of Veronica Mars. Maybe I'm overselling it due to my intense fandom of the show, but even so, it's a perfect example of how to bring back a series and stay true to its' origins and be just as great .

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Rating: 4/5

Though disliked by many, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a movie that I genuinely enjoyed.

The Avengers are back together in order to infiltrate a secret Hydra base. While on the mission, Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes in contact with Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen), who along with her twin brother has been endowed with powers as a result of Hydra's experiments. Wanda uses her ability of mind control to give Tony a vision of a potential future where all of the Avengers have been killed.

Rattled by their encounter with Wanda and her brother Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the Avengers go back to headquarters and look into a way to use Loki's sceptre to create a defense program devised by Stark. When their plan goes awry and Stark's new technology takes on a life of its' own, the Avengers must ban together in order to stop Ultron (James Spader) from taking over and eliminating what he considers to be Earth's greatest problem; the humans.

Avengers: Age of Ultron did not receive the same caliber of reviews as the first film, but I didn't find it to be as clustered as others seemed to think. Yes, the final battle isn't as impressive as that of its' predecessor, but it's pretty hard to live up to that, and Age of Ultron definitely does an impressive job at trying. It had to be harder to choreograph this film, because there were more people involved in the actual Avengers, but they still were able to show each hero at the right time in order to make the biggest impact possible.

Even though my personal favorite Avenger is Captain America, it is Tony Stark that steals the show for me. He had many one liners or small reactions to various situations throughout the film that were hands down the best comedic moments by any of the actors that made up the cast. Almost all movies of this kind have attempts at humorous quips that sometimes can feel out of place or too forced, but in Infinity War, Iron Man's are definitely the most organic. Whether it be a small remark or his comments towards the Hulk in their battle, Robert Downey Jr. proves he was the perfect choice for his role.

Something Marvel has never seemed to struggle with is pacing. Their films are rarely less than two hours long, but they almost always are able to make every moment in the movie seem important and worthwhile. Age of Ultron is one of the best in this regard. The film opens up right away in full Avengers fight mode, but then simmers down long enough for the audience to drop their guard so they're excited and ready to go for the next action sequence. The movie follows a similar pattern, knowing exactly when to add in the quiet breaks so that the film isn't just wall to wall action from beginning to end, which could prove quite exhausting and overly congested to the audience.

I would consider Avengers: Age of Ultron to be the weakest of the three full Avengers films to be released thus far, but in all fairness, the other two are pretty hard to hold a candle to. Ultron is full of energy and action, and is no doubt entertaining throughout.

The Lego Movie

Rating: 4.5/5

A unique addition for animated film, The Lego Movie is visually innovative and original.

Emmet Brickowski (Christ Pratt) is perfectly content living his life in the same way everyone else in his city does. They all love the same song, watch the same show, and follow the same patterns everyday. None of this bothers Emmet, because as a construction worker, he thinks he has countless friends who value his conformity. One day however, that all changes.

When Emmet is leaving from work, he spots a girl named Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), who is unlike anyone he has ever met. After their chance meeting, Emmet accidentally discovers the Piece of Resistance that Wildstyle was looking for. This coveted item gives Emmet a vision and causes him to go unconscious. When he awakens, he is shocked to realize he has been kidnapped and that the president of his city is not who he thought he was, and is in fact Lord Business (Will Farrell) an evil villain who intends to destroy the lives of everyone with a mysterious object known as the Kragle. With the help of Wildstyle and her knowledge of the prophecy that claims Emmet to be "the Special", they will band together to stop the reign and terror of Lord Business.

As a big fan of both film and Legos, I was pretty excited to see this movie when it first came out. The Lego Movie is far more enjoyable if you are someone who is familiar with the various sets put out by Lego, but even if you've never built a set in your life, you'd still have very hard time not liking this film. It's fast paced, colorful, and incredibly creative.

Most mainstream children's movies almost always have a tendency to be done in a similar or common style of animation, but that is where The Lego Movie really stands apart. It gives off the appearance of stop motion animation, but still has the fluidity of the more generic computer style of animation. The most impressive scenes are the ones where the characters are sailing on the "ocean" and the waves are rolling. Each part of the wave looks to be comprised of small blue Lego pieces and as someone who is familiar with the different Lego pieces, I found this animation to be quite extraordinary.

Looking at this movie as a whole, it can seem a bit chaotic, due to the never ending stream of action and battles the characters need to face. However overstimulating it may seem, it is still still one of the best things to come to the children's film genre in a long time. It takes on a completely inventive story that is guaranteed to keep kids entertained, but easily amuses the adults as well. It has plenty of puns and pop culture references to make anyone happy.

Had The Lego Movie taken a different approach in the end of its' second act, I would likely have given it a full 5/5 rating. I was a bit disappointed in how the film wrapped itself up, but I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie overall.

Thor: The Dark World

Rating: 3.5/5

Possibly the weakest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: The Dark World can only be saved by the charismatic sons of Odin.

After the events that took place in New York in the first Avengers film, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back on Asgard. With the bifrost back in working order, Thor, alongside his fellow warriors, must fight to defend the people of the nine realms. Meanwhile, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned in the dungeons of Asgard for his attempt to take over the other realms.

Back on Earth, Jane (Natalie Portman) has been pining away for Thor and putting all of her energy into her research. With the help of her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Darcy's new intern Ian (Jonathan Howard), the three accidentally discover a dark force called the Aether, which infects Jane. Not only does Thor catch wind of Jane's immediate peril, but the leader of the remaining dark elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), also hears of its' rediscovery and is determined to get it back. Both with completely different motives, Thor and Malekith will stop at nothing to get to Jane and take the Aether.

No matter how much I love Chris Hemsworth as Thor, it will never increase my overall opinion on the Dark World. This film doesn't seem to know what type of tone it wants. It boasts a darker storyline than its' predecessor, what with the evil force that is trying to take over Jane along with the rest of the universe, but there are too many attempts at comedy along the way that fall flat. Loki's sarcasm and humor is always warranted, as it makes perfect sense for his role, but the other characters' attempts become a bit grating after awhile.

Easily the best parts of the Dark World are any scenes involving Thor and Loki together. Hemsworth and Hiddleston outplay everyone else in the film with their wit and acting skill. Hiddleston was great from the first Thor film, and Hemsworth has just gotten better at embodying the semi-conceited God of Thunder. They play perfectly well off each other, and are really one of the only reasons I like this movie at all.

Visually, this installment into the Thor franchise doesn't disappoint. Much of this film takes place on or around Asgard, so it takes a lot of creative prowess to make the sets and effects seem as real as they do. When I first began watching the Marvel films, I was probably looking forward to Thor the least, just because I knew it would take place in a fantasy world for majority of the duration. However, I can honestly say that I completely took that opinion back, because the look of Asgard and the characters that inhabit it are some of my favorite aspects to the original film along as well as this one.

Though I may not love this movie, it is still not the worst super hero film that I have seen. It doesn't have the ease and fluidity of the other Marvel movies, but it still manages to be somewhat entertaining for most of its' runtime.

Instant Family

Rating: 3.75/5

Instant Family is definitely overly sappy at times, but manages to pull off the ability to be a likable and heartwarming film.

Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a married couple who have started their own house flipping business. They have been together for years but never made the decision to have kids, that is until Ellie finds a website listing children in the area who are in foster care and in need of a home. Though not fully receptive to the idea at first, Pete falls in love with the idea of being a dad and the two begin the process of becoming foster parents.

In order to become eligible to foster a child, Ellie and Pete must take weeks of classes before even meeting potential children. When their schooling is over, the couple go to a fair where they can meet the kids they may be matched with. Initially apprehensive to foster a teenager, Pete and Ellie are surprised to meet a 15-year old girl named Lizzie (Isabela Moner) that they feel is the child they are meant to foster. The only catch? Lizzie comes with two younger siblings that must go with her. Completely in over their heads, Ellie and Pete agree to foster all three kids, which proves to be much more difficult than they ever could have imagined.

For Instant Family, I am definitely not writing the review I had assumed I would be writing. I expected to be hit in the face with predictable cheese from beginning to end, but was pleasantly surprised to experience a movie with more emotional pull than I had anticipated. Don't get me wrong, it does have its' fair share of overly silly or sentimental moments, but it doesn't go as over the top with it as one would expect from this type of film. What this movie does do, is find a semi-new way to talk about a somewhat forgotten topic. It doesn't make the foster care system seem fully inspirational and glossy, as it isn't afraid to show the serious struggles that can come along with taking on such a major life decision. However, it shows the rewards as well, and for that the film should be commended.

When the characters are trying to adapt to their new lives, it is easy to get lost in the same train of thought Pete and Ellie are stuck in. You are so focused on the stressful situation of raising a teen as it is presenting itself to the new parents, that you completely forget about the other two children, just like Ellie and Pete do. Suddenly, that little light in your brain clicks on and starts to wonder what's going on with the younger kids, just about at the same time as the characters' do. The chaos does seem a bit over choreographed at times, but there are definite moments of spontaneity that keeps the viewer a bit on their toes.

The only major negative that I would have to say towards Instant Family is that I felt the beginning went too fast. You barely get to know the couple before they take in the three foster siblings. Nobody would find this task easy, but had there been a bit more time dedicated to their lives before fostering, it may have made their characters a bit easier to understand and appear to be well rounded. That being said, once the slightly clumsy and fast paced beginning smoothed itself out, the movie continued to improve for the rest of its' duration.

Instant Family is definitely not my favorite film to have been released in recent history, but it definitely caught me by surprise. It's always nice when a movie exceeds your expectations, especially given how rare it is for that to occur.

My Week With Marilyn

Rating: 4.75/5

Based on true events, My Week With Marilyn, is in my opinion one of the best made films about the classic film era.

Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) comes from a wealthy upper class family, but defies their expectations by attempting to enter the film industry. Living in England, he knows of one man who may be able to help him achieve his dreams; Laurence Olivier. At first, Colin can't seem to gain any ground in working on Olivier's newest production, but once Colin is able to prove himself to be an asset to the company, he is appointed the position of Third Assistant Director.

When Olivier's new picture, "the Prince and the Showgirl", gets underway, Colin becomes in charge of arranging temporary housing for the film's leading lady, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams). Though just a simple assistant at first, Colin quickly becomes someone Monroe takes a liking to, and their relationship becomes both a help and a hinderance to the production of the film.

However factually accurate the events of this film may or may not be, the performances of the cast cannot be denied as anything but brilliant. Michelle Williams disappears into the role of Marilyn, creating many scenes throughout the movie where I found myself thinking just how much she looked and sounded like the classic Hollywood star. She shows the darker side to Monroe that many people have heard about, but perhaps have never seen. Williams paints a tragic portrait to the secret life of Monroe, but does so in a way that evokes more sympathy towards her than I would have expected. Even if I may not be the biggest Eddie Redmayne fan, as I feel his characters have a tendency to blur together, his on screen chemistry with Williams is truly great. His character is respectful and caring to Monroe when many were not, and becomes a bit of an unsung hero to her in many ways.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me, that I am a sucker for movies about making movies; especially if they are based in the days of classic Hollywood. So with that in mind, I went into this film already assuming I was going to enjoy it. Even with my biased outlook aside, this is an entertaining film. It's not just the time period, though that is an excellent aspect to it, but the performances, writing, and pacing of the entire movie that is so great. It's not a cheerful film by any means, but it is certainly a captivating one. Just from the opening alone, it is clear it is going to be an impressive movie. The start of the film consists of Redmayne's character sitting in a theater watching a picture starring none other than Monroe herself, and the movie's point of view switches from Colin watching the screen to Monroe looking out of it as if she were on the film set or trapped within the scene. A definitely unique and creative way to start a movie about the film industry.

If the facts the movie states are true, it really unlocks a bit of the mystery of Marilyn Monroe and increases the viewer's desire to learn more about the conflicted star. She was known for her antics on sets, but My Week With Marilyn makes you wonder how much of that was supposedly an act versus how much of it she was almost forced or wheedled into. Some of the best scenes in the film are when Judi Dench's character, Dame Sybil Thorndike, becomes one of the few people show to show a kindness to Monroe. Those moments sadly don't fill the film, but their rarity make them all the more special. It also shows the sheer overwhelming nature of being so recognizable. One watch through the movie and it's a wonder how any person of that level of fame dares to walk out in public.

I don't think we'll ever know the true story behind Marilyn Monroe, but My Week With Marilyn certainly gives a brief glance into the complicated and mysterious existence of one of the most prolific stars in the history of Hollywood.

Kong: Skull Island

Rating: 4/5

When it comes to reinventing a story told many times, Kong: Skull Island is a definite success.

In the early 1970's, Bill Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) are trying to get government approval to lead an experimental expedition to an uncharted island. Though they claim the trip is to find beneficial resources for the U.S., it is clear that Bill has ulterior motives for the dangerous journey.

Once approved, Bill asks for a military escort before heading out to the island. Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) and his squadron are assigned to accompany Bill and Houston on their journey, along with war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and famed tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). Together, the crew head out for the storm inclosed island, discovering much more than they ever could have bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is better than most of the recent monster films I have seen, even if it is a bit "Kong-lite" in the middle. It's got plenty of oversized creatures to be consistently interesting, but seems to be missing its' namesake for the majority of the second act. Visually, the monster fights are great, and much better than those in Peter Jackson's King Kong, in the sense that the duration of the battles don't drag on for too long. The monster action is present just long enough to be fun and exciting, and then allows for the film to move along at a steady pace.

Kong: Skull Island is filled with more impressive cinematography than I would have anticipated from a film of its' nature. The sequence where the main characters first encounter Kong is easily one of the best parts of the movie. The color of the sun against Kong's shape and the helicopters is practically visual eye candy guaranteed to make any film lover happy. That being said, beyond the skilled opening, many of the shots tend to repeat themselves or become too obvious at trying to be artistic or interesting. That aside, Kong: Skull Island is still an undeniably fun watch.

As far as the modern remakes of classic monster flicks go, this one contains my favorite cast. The actors making up the seemingly endless number of expendable soldiers aren't exactly memorable, but you'd be hard pressed to find an action film with Samuel L. Jackson in it that isn't at least improved by his appearance. Brie Larson is quickly becoming one of my more favorite actresses in Hollywood right now, and Tom Hiddleston is great as the mysterious and dangerous lead of the film. Together, they make a solid cast that are up to the challenge for taking on such an iconic franchise.

I've never been one to gravitate towards monster movies, but this newest installation to the world of King Kong has made me excited about the prospects of the crossover films to come. It is effortlessly entertaining and an all around good time.

Iron Man 3

Rating: 4/5

Iron Man 3 may not the weakest in the Iron Man films, but it's definitely not the best.

Time has passed since the Avengers saved New York City, but Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is having a hard time putting his near death experience behind him. Struggling and unable to sleep, Tony spends his time updating and creating new Iron Man suits, with his newest model being one he can summon from a distance away.

Meanwhile, a new threat has begun preying on the fears of America. A terrorist who calls himself the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has taken over the airwaves and has begun broadcasting bombings and killings, making it clear his violence has just begun. When an attack launched by the Mandarin hits close to home, Tony calls him out on national TV, and finds himself as the next target on the Mandarin's reign of terror. Not realizing the severity in his actions, Tony doesn't prepare for an attack at home, but is soon to learn that Pepper (Gwenyth Paltrow) and the rest of America will be in dire need of the Iron Man.

Though it rightfully received better reviews than the 2nd installment of the Iron Man films, the third still isn't my favorite. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, but in my opinion, just not as great as others may seem to think. My reasonings for this is focused around the concept that Marvel is usually quite adept at creating long climactic fight sequences that keep your attention throughout its' duration. For example, look at the ending battle of the first Avengers film. That movie had numerous heroes fighting at once, yet it was brilliantly organized and choreographed so that every character got their moment to shine, and even though the fight scene lasted roughly twenty minutes, it didn't appear to overstay its' welcome. I can't say I feel the same way about the ending of Iron Man 3. For one, there were fewer people involved, yet it still seemed much more disorganized and scrambled compared to other Marvel films, and the need for inserting jokes came off as a bit desperate and out of place. That being said, the visual effects were still just as impressive as they always are.

Marvel always seems to be spot on with their casting, and that can easily be said for Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. He's perfectly arrogant and narcissistic, but not in a repulsive way. Specifically in this film, Tony has truly found someone he cares for, and therefore is no longer as self centered as he once was. He is definitely still conceited, but he no longer thinks only of his own well being. Gwenyth Paltrow is again great in her role of Pepper in Iron Man 3. Paltrow is a somewhat controversial actress in that there have been many reports of audiences disliking her for one reason or another; but I think this role is definitely a bright spot in her career. Pepper's one of the few people who can verbally spar with Tony with equal wit and sarcasm, and she's quite humorous as she does it. It is not hard to believe the two to be a real couple, and it definitely helps to sell one of the central focal points of the film's plot.

What I really appreciate about Iron Man 3 is the way that it discusses the impact the events of New York have had on Tony. In far too many movies, a character experiences some traumatic incident, and then in the sequel, they're basically fine and just barely needing to deal or comprehend with the trauma they've experienced. Even if some may think this film doesn't exactly paint the most realistic picture of someone coping with fear and anxiety, it is still refreshing to see a movie take into consideration the actuality of a human being not being able to just move passed a frightening or traumatic time in their lives. It's bizarre that this appears in a heavily fictionalized film, but not enough those belonging to the more realistic genres.

When it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you'd be hard pressed to find a film that any viewer could consider "bad", as they are almost always so well made. Iron Man 3 isn't as new or exciting as the original, but it is a fun and entertaining superhero movie nonetheless.

Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle

Rating: 4.25/5

One of the more entertaining comedies to come out in recent history, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is the definition of a good time.

Spencer Gilpin (Alex Wolff) is a self proclaimed high-school nerd who spends his time away from school endlessly logging in hours on his favorite video games. School football star Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain) is in danger of being kicked off the team for his grades, and has propositioned Spencer to write a paper for him. Both get caught and find themselves in detention alongside shy and studious Martha (Morgan Turner) and popular mean girl Bethany (Madison Iseman). Their detention task is to help clean out a spare room of the school, but they get distracted when Spencer and Fridge find an old gaming console. When they start to play the game called "Jumanji" that's loaded inside, the four teenagers are terrified to discover they are being sucked into the game.

Now inside the fantasy game world, Spencer (Dwayne Johnson) discovers that all four of them have taken on the appearances and skills of the avatars they chose to play as, making him Dr. Bravestone, the strong, handsome and intelligent hero of Jumanji. Fridge (Kevin Hart) is now the short statured Mouse Finbar the zoologist, Martha (Karen Gillan) is a tall and confident man killer named Ruby Roundhouse, and much to her horror, Bethany (Jack Black) is the middle aged, slightly overweight male cartographer named Dr. Shelley Oberon. Thanks to Spencer's knowledge of video games, he informs the rest that they must follow the rules and timeline of the story. The only way to escape is to save Jumanji and call out its' name.

Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle is a film that genuinely surprised me when I first watched it, and in the best way possible. It is so rare nowadays to have a comedy that isn't filled to the brim with either gross out or overly sexual slapstick humor in order to get a cheap laugh. This movie is proof that a film doesn't have to be overly stupid in order to be funny. It does have its' fair share of simplistic humor, but they are few and far between. What fills the majority of the story is surprisingly good writing and well placed comedic timing by its' cast.

Performance wise, there isn't a weak link in the bunch. At first, you might think Nick Jonas, who plays the avatar chosen by Alex Vreeke (a boy who was trapped in the game in the 90s), wouldn't be able to shine through the star studded cast, but he is unexpectedly just as great as the rest of his costars. My personal favorite would most likely be Jack Black, partially because I almost always get a kick out of his roles, but also because I feel that casting him as a sixteen year girl trapped in the body of a middle aged man was quite a stroke of genius. Jack Black makes the character exactly as silly and naive as it needs to be, creating some of the funniest sequences in the film.

It is very rare for a sequel of any kind, especially one that is connected to a beloved film from the past, to succeed, however Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle is unusual in that it not only succeeded, but was able to create its' own content without just rehashing the same material of its' predecessor. Turning the board game into a video game was a clever plot tactic, and it aided the film in having some great comedic moments for those who play such games and are able to recognize the references. It's easily a big part to the charm of the movie, along with the use of telling a grand adventure that pulls the audience into the story which almost guarantees it to be a triumph.

I would count Jumanji:Welcome to the Jungle as one of my better in theater viewing experiences, just because I was so caught off guard with how much I enjoyed it. It's not a perfect film by any means, but a definite improvement on this day and age's definition on what makes a movie a good comedy.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Rating: 5/5

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a film I have been anxiously waiting to see, and it was most certainly worth the anticipation.

In the early 90's, Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), who was once a prominent writer, has fallen on hard times and has just been fired from her job as a small time editor. She tries to convince her distant literary agent Marjorie (Jane Curtin) that she has fresh ideas for a new book, but her agent refuses to listen. Thinking that her misfortune couldn't get any worse, her beloved elderly cat becomes ill, and Lee is unable to pay her rent, let alone a veterinary bill.

Desperate for money, Lee attempts to sell some of her books, but gets nowhere close to the funds she so badly needs. When she feels she has exhausted all of her options, she is forced to sell her prized possession of a signed letter from Katherine Hepburn. Shocked by the amount she receives for the sale, Lee gets a new idea for a way to make money; she will forge letters written by prominent writers and sell them for an impressive profit. With the help of her newly reacquainted friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), Lee begins to successfully swindle the major collectors of New York City.

What took me by surprise was how emotionally draining this film was. Of course it had laughs brought on by the perfectly timed sarcasm and delivery of its' lead, but it also brought unexpected tears to my eyes. When you see someone's life crumble around them, no matter what type of person they may be, it always makes for some somber and heartbreaking scenes, and Can You Ever Forgive Me? does this in a very skilled way. It builds up to these moments in a manner that the audience knows what's coming, but cannot be saved from experiencing the emotions that come with the excellent styling and performances of all those involved in the film.

Melissa McCarthy's portrayal of Lee Israel is one of the few times where I have wished that the Academy Awards could have named two winners for Best Actress. Though McCarthy's performance was subtle and very toned down compared to many of the past nominees for the category, her impeccable skill left just as much of an impact as any of the past winners' performances. Her character lived life trying to avoid being on anyone's radar, but that solitary existence is what brought her to the criminal acts that lead her to write the novel that inspired the film. McCarthy was able to take a character that is horrid to the majority of people she encounters, and somehow make her sympathetic. You are pulled into every scene, and are almost rooting for her to get away with her unlawful forgeries, even though you know it's wrong. Not many people could have pulled off such a tricky portrayal, but McCarthy proves my theory that behind almost all the excellent comedians, is an equally as talented dramatic actor.

Film editing is something I always pay a lot of attention to in a movie, and it is partially because it is one of my favorite aspects to film, but also because it can really make or break the cohesiveness and power of a plot. As Lee gets closer and closer to being found out by the authorities, the editing is what really makes for the almost stressful culmination of tension. You know she is doomed to be discovered but you just don't know when. The film cuts to each of her buyers as they realize they have been purchasing fraudulent documents, but you don't which will be the one to have her caught. It really could have been any of them, and the editing building up to her arrest create some of the better moments of apprehension that I have seen in recent film history.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is proof that a movie doesn't have to be flashy or historically meaningful in order to be brilliant. It thrives on its' simplicity in order to make a heavy impact. In my opinion, this is one of the best films to come out of 2018, and is one that is certainly going to be a part of my collection of movies that I will watch many times over.

Into the Woods

Rating: 4/5

Into the Woods is the ultimate cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for, and does so through the tactic of song.

In a world filled with magic and enchantment, several classic fairytale characters find themselves needing to go into the woods to fulfill their wishes. The Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) desperately want to have a baby, but have had no luck. They learn that their neighbor witch (Meryl Streep) has put a curse on their home, making it impossible for them to have a child. In order to break the spell, they must collect four very unique ingredients to concoct a potion that will allow them to have a baby.

Meanwhile, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to escape her Wicked Stepmother (Christine Baranski) and stepsisters, and wanders into the woods to find the grave of her mother so she can wish to go to the Prince's (Chris Pine) ball. Also venturing through the trees are Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) on her way to Grannies and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) who's been sent off to sell his beloved cow. Though all the characters think that life will be perfect once their wish has been granted, they will discover that "happily ever after" may not be where the story ends.

I have always been fascinated by how color schemes differ from film to film, and Into the Woods is one of my favorite examples of this concept. The tones used throughout the movie are practically the exact colors I had always envisioned in my head when I was reading fairy tales as a child. Visually, I genuinely love this film. It is completely immersive, which makes it easy to get wrapped up into the world of the fairy tales it portrays. Though the run time feels a bit long, that is something that is not unusual when it comes to musicals adapted to the screen. When you see a musical live, there's an intermission, so there's a moment to catch a brief break, and that is something that is no longer included in the modern movie musical. Given the style of the songs for Into the Woods, being that they run one right into the next, without the ability for an intermission, that is where the potential issue with the film's duration presents itself.

With such an expansive list of characters, it takes an extra impressive performance to stand out amongst the legendary members that make up the cast. Personally, Anna Kendrick's and Emily Blunt's roles were my favorites, but that is a slightly biased opinion given that I am a big fan of both actresses. However, I am so glad that there's a movie that really shows Kendrick's vocal prowess in a classic musical setting. Her voice out does practically everyone in the cast, and it's clear to see that she is no stranger to the world of theatre. Blunt was unknown as a singer at this time, and her unexpected talent and acting skill combine together to make her one of the best parts of the film.

What Into the Woods does very well, is shooting the large group numbers. As someone who has been in and directed my fair share of musicals, I can honestly say that the group songs are the hardest to direct and perform, because there's supposed to either be a layered or collective sound coming from the cast. Into the Woods has many, many of these numbers in its' soundtrack, and the movie does a great job at making those songs feel like a large cast number performed on the stage, without being able to put every performer on the screen at once. It shows the characters at the necessary moments, but doesn't take away from the overall effect of the song, which I know couldn't have been easy to do. Sadly, other movie musicals haven't faired so well on this front, but one watch through of Into the Woods should teach any upcoming musical adaptation how to do it right.

When I first watched Into the Woods, I wasn't as in love with it as I had expected to be. Part of that was because I wasn't as familiar with the music as I was with other Broadway shows, and being able to look forward to certain songs is a huge part of enjoying a musical. That being said, the more I watch it, the more I enjoy it; especially since I have learned the music. Into the Woods stays true to the darker origins of the tales in which it was inspired by, and that's just another element to love about it. If anyone who is a fan of fairytales or musicals has not seen this film yet, then it should become a mandatory viewing.

Cars

Rating: 4.25/5

Perhaps not as not as great as its' popularity would suggest, Cars is still an enjoyable addition to the Pixar archives.

Conceited and flashy race car Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) has just tied in a race that would have won him the mother of all prizes, the Piston Cup. Had he listened to his pit crew and changed his tires, he likely would have won the race, but McQueen had no interest in taking the advice of his team, and claimed he was a "one-man-show", causing them all to quit. Now the only one left working for McQueen is his transportation trailer, Mack (John Ratzenberger) that needs to take him to California for the Piston Cup tie-breaker race.

On the drive to the West-Coast, McQueen won't allow Mack to rest with the other trucks, and insists they push forward in order to be the first ones to arrive at the race. Due to McQueen's orders, Mack falls asleep on the road and swerves to stay in his lane, causing the sleeping McQueen to fall out the back. When Lightning realizes what has happened, he tries to catch up with Mack, but finds himself lost in the middle of nowhere. Panicking, he speeds back in the direction he thinks leads to the interstate, not knowing it is taking him further away from his goal. Catching the attention of a cop with his speed, McQueen tries to avoid him, but finds himself crashing into a forgotten town known as Radiator Springs, where there is seemingly no way out.

Even though Cars may not be my favorite of the films created by Pixar, I have to say that I love the cleverness of it. Many of Pixar's movies give normally non-speaking inanimate objects the personalities and qualities of human beings. There was so much thought involved in making these automobiles something the audience would connect with. Being able to find something in the scenes that we've all done or seen in real life is a genius quality that this movie possesses.

Voice acting is the key to selling an animated film, and Pixar has always been spot on with their choices. Normally, I am not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy in the slightest, but I think he was a great casting choice for this movie. Even the smaller roles really bring these characters to life, and it is all thanks to the voices; Tony Shalhoub being one of the better performances. His role has a few lines scattered here and there, but they add energy and humor to an already charming film.

Many Pixar movies tell an underdog story, but this one takes a bit of a turn. Instead of a character fighting their way to the top, we are given more of a tale of redemption. It's nice to add some variety into the mix, and Cars' story was a good one to do this with. Lightning McQueen is highly unlikable at the start, showering the audience with his arrogance, but Radiator Springs changes all that. What I love is that his transformation doesn't happen over night. Even though the characters are cars, the relationships and emotions appear more genuine with the amount of work, effort, and time it takes for McQueen to prove to his friends and himself that he is a changed car.

Cars may be more tailored to a younger audience, unlike other Pixar films that can be enjoyed by most adults, but it is still a fun movie nonetheless. It is silly and juvenile at times, but has moments where the Pixar skill of being loved by all ages are able to thankfully shine through.

21 Jump Street

Rating: 3.5/5

Even though it may not be my go-to type of comedy, 21 Jump Street is clearly a well made movie that made me laugh more than I anticipated.

Back in high school, Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) was unpopular and bullied by the head of the jocks, Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum). Flash-forward many years later, and both Schmidt and Jenko are training to become police officers. The big difference? This time, instead of hating each other, they discover they need each other in order to succeed in the academy. Morton needs Greg's help on the physical tests, and Greg needs Morton's help for the academic ones. Together, they help each other graduate and become partners ready to take on the bad guys of the world, or so they think.

Greg and Morton's new lives of being cops isn't nearly as exciting as they had dreamed; as they have been assigned to park patrol. However, their luck turns around when, due to their immaturity and young appearance, they are assigned to an undercover job where they are to infiltrate a high school drug ring. The goal is to find the supplier who's giving a dangerous new drug to teenagers. Ready to finally see some action, Greg and Morton eagerly accept their new assignment.

21 Jump Street has many moments where I felt it was quite funny, but for me, they were overshadowed by the excessive use of crude and immature humor. In all fairness, I may not be the best person to judge this film, as I am not someone who enjoys inappropriate or unintelligent comedy, so I'm writing this from a pretty skewed or biased perspective. That being said, I did actually find myself laughing quite a bit while watching 21 Jump Street. Thanks to the two brilliantly cast leads, I found the film to be much more likable than other similarly minded films.

The more I watch movies with Channing Tatum, the more I realize he is actually a decent actor, which is not an opinion I used to hold. He has great comedic timing in this film, and the fact that his dim witted character accidentally gets put into AP classes at the high school, makes for some unexpectedly funny and adorable scenes. Jonah Hill is also great in his role of a high school nerd turned popular. The two leads play incredibly well off each other, and are without a doubt one of the main reasons I liked this movie as much as I did.

21 Jump Street does a great job at satirizing other action films. It takes many of the cliches found in those movies and pokes obvious fun at them. I've always found parodies to be entertaining, and this movie knows exactly how to not only mimic those films, but perhaps even improve upon those expected moments of a chase scene. It brings a new twist to it that is both comical and refreshing.

This is a movie that I liked more upon reflection than I did in the moment. When I was watching 21 Jump Street, I think I was almost too distracted by the vulgarity of some of the jokes, that I was a bit put off from the better scenes of the film. Looking back, I really enjoy like the movie, and definitely will be giving it another run through someday.

The Princess Diaries

Rating: 3.75/5

No matter how much time has passed, the Princess Diaries still holds up as charming favorite for countless millennials.

Fifteen-year old Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) goes through life basically unnoticed. Her high school has the cliche mean girls that terrorize the student body, and even though Mia considers herself practically invisible, Lana (Mandy Moore) and her two sidekicks still find the time to harass Mia whenever the opportunity strikes. The only two people Mia can really count on are her quirky best friend Lilly (Heather Matarazzo) and her eccentric mother, Helen (Caroline Goodall).

Mia's average teenage existence gets a major wrench thrown in it when her distant grandmother Clarice (Julie Andrews) arrives for a visit. When Mia goes to Clarice's estate for tea, she is given the shock of a lifetime when her grandmother tells her that she is the queen of a small country called Genovia, and that Mia is princess and heir to the throne. Completely taken aback by the news, Mia runs back home to her mother, only to discover her mom was aware of this life changing information. Confused and angry, Mia must make the decision of whether or not she will accept her royal destiny or continue her life as an invisible teenager.

To preface this review, let me start by saying it may not be as objective as it should be, as I was watching it completely clouded by nostalgia and my love for Julie Andrews. That being said, the Princess Diaries may not bring anything new to the table, as it is just another spin on the classic teen high school movie, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable or entertaining. As far as movies targeted towards a pre-teen demographic, the Princess Diaries is one of the best.

For her first film role, Anne Hathaway did a wonderful job at becoming a film heroine the audience is rooting for. She has just the right amount of naivety to her predicament to allow for a great juxtaposition to the strength needed to bring revenge upon her high school nemeses. Even though you know how Mia's journey will end, thanks to Hathaway's performance, the road to the results is still fun to watch.

The performances and direction are what really set this film apart from the other members of its' genre. For one, it has Julie Andrews, and that's almost guaranteed to increase the quality of a film. Andrews is tailor-made for the role of Queen of Genovia, as she appears to be soft spoken, elegant, and kind in her everyday life, so it is natural that she be cast as royalty. In addition to Andrews perfect contribution to the film, the Princess Diaries was directed by Gary Marshall, so it had more skill behind the lens than what you'd normally get with a typical teen film.

I truly don't know how many times I've seen the Princess Diaries, but it is a film I remember loving when I was younger, and I have never changed that opinion, not matter what age I may be. It's cheesy and predictable, but nonetheless, it is still one of my favorite films of its' kind.

Grey Gardens (2009)

Rating: 5/5

Based upon the famed documentary of the same title, Grey Gardens (2009), is a movie filled with transformative performances if there ever was one.

In the 1970's, the Maysles brothers decided to make a documentary featuring the lives of Big and Little Edie Beale; a mother-daughter pair who were related to the famous Jackie Kennedy. It is now fairly common knowledge that the two lead very irregular lives, but what events in their younger years took them on the path to the eccentric legacy they left behind? That exact question is answered in the the 2009 film titled, Grey Gardens.

In the late 1930s, Little Edie (Drew Barrymore) Beale lives with her mother, Big Edie (Jessica Lange), though she dreams of moving to New York City and becoming a performer. When Little Edie attempts to make the big leap away from her mother and their home of Grey Gardens, it is too much for Big Edie, and through a series of events, Little Edie moves back to her roots, with her dreams unfulfilled. From then on, Big and Little Edie rarely stray from their house, becoming more and more shut inside Grey Gardens.

Grey Gardens essentially tells two stories; that of the Beale women in their vibrant youth, and of their reclusive personas in their later years. Both are fascinating, but for very different reasons. The women had always been aloof, that didn't develop with age, but it did perhaps become more heightened as the years progressed. Big and Little Edie were two bizarre but fascinatingly wonderful people, who made it very clear as to why the Maysles brothers were so eager to make a film about them. What's so nice about this movie created by HBO, is that we are now able to see a snapshot of their lives before the world only knew them as Jackie Kennedy's hidden cousins.

When portraying real life people, especially ones portrayed in a documentary as well known as the original Grey Gardens, there can no doubt be a lot of pressure to do the real women justice, and both Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore were more than up to the task. Lange's performance is both deeply emotional and incredibly convincing. As the flashbacks progress towards the time in which the documentary was filmed, you can see Big Edie's grasp on reality slowly slipping away, making it very obvious as to why Lange won an Emmy for her role. Drew Barrymore's work in Grey Gardens is not to be overlooked, as she too does a wonderful job; especially given that she doesn't have as long a list of dramatic roles as her co-star does.

Even though this Grey Gardens is a feature film, the movie still has a rawness to it that can be found in most documentaries. The scenes that take place in the past do feel more rooted in the traditional sense of film, but all the moments where the Beales are seen around the time of the actual documentary, appear incredibly natural and real. The two acclaimed actresses disappear into the characters, and it is easy to forget that they aren't the real women. Makeup and styling of the film are a big part in making this happen, as well as those involved with the set design. Throughout the movie, Grey Gardens progressively becomes more and more decrepit, to the point where you can almost feel the filth and grime. Even though this was a movie made for TV, it had all the trademarks of any great film you'd see in the theaters.

This film does an excellent job at not portraying the Beales to be crazy or a mockery, but telling the tale of two women who had their own dreams, but may have been either too afraid or too set in their ways to fully achieve them, and therefore relied on one another for their happiness instead. Their relationship may have been out of the ordinary and strained at times, but it was one of true love between a mother and daughter. It is thanks to the Maysles original documentary and this film, that viewers have been privy to the odd, but beautiful lives of Big and Little Edie Beale.

Hot Fuzz

Rating: 5/5

In this R rated Scooby-Doo moment, Hot Fuzz brings a wonderful amount of surprises and laughs.

Thanks to Constable Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), the streets of London have been safer ever since he came onto the force. Unfortunately, his superiors feel he is making everyone else look bad, so they have decided to transfer him to the small town of Sandford, far away and in the country.

Upon arriving at his new assignment, it is clear for Nicholas to see this village is a far cry from the hustle and bustle he has been used to. On his first day at the job, he is partnered with the chief of police's son, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who has never had a serious day's worth of police work in his life. For Nicholas, things in the quaint town of Sandford seem to be getting further and further away from the career he dreams to have, but he soon learns that appearances can be deceiving.

In my opinion, Hot Fuzz is almost a perfectly crafted comedy. It has scenes within it that are loud and over the top, searching for big time laughs, but even the smaller more subtle moments in it are equally as hilarious. Director Edgar Wright has this uncanny ability to create brilliantly well rounded humor, making his work incredibly unique to any other style comedy I have seen. He is able to have the absolutely ridiculous be not only funny and entertaining, but somehow seem less ludicrous than it would be in any other film.

The opposite personalities between the movie's two lead characters are just one of the many things that makes Hot Fuzz a comedic slam dunk. Nick Frost's character fantasizes of becoming a cop like the hero's in his favorite action films, while Simon Pegg's just wants to uphold justice in the most precise way possible. Together, they create the perfect duo, balancing each other out in their contradictory styles of life and work ethics. It is their on screen chemistry, along with the quick witted dialogue that make Hot Fuzz funny, while not being 100% reliant on physical humor. By having so many excellently timed one liners, it makes the action packed climax all the more fantastic.

Where most comedies focus on slapstick or gross out humor, Hot Fuzz takes a different approach. Some of its' comedy isn't even in a line or an action, but in the film's editing itself. It's almost as if the cuts in the movie have a life of its' own, and it turns out to be a character that is a combination of both Frost's and Pegg's roles. The edits and cinematography are either dry and sarcastic, or in the constant energy of a chase scene; keeping the audience constantly on their toes, never knowing what is going to happen next.

Personally, I am not someone who has a tendency to gravitate towards comedy or action films, and Hot Fuzz is a combination of both, yet I absolutely love it. It revels in its' own absurdity, and not at one moment does it take itself too seriously or try to be anything but the over the top and comically genius film it is.

The Favourite

Rating: 4.5/5

With brilliant performances by its' three leading ladies, The Favourite is a grotesque look at early 18th century monarchy.

In the early 1700s, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is struggling to make political decisions amongst the war between England and France. Luckily, her advisor and long time friend Sarah (Rachel Weisz) is far more educated on matters of state, and is constantly at the Queen's side to help her with her decisions.

Anne and Sarah appear to have a pretty solid routine in their lives, but a shift occurs when Sarah's distant cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives looking for a job serving the Queen. At first, it appears that Abigail will only exist as a scullery made, but when she proves helpful to Anne's health, she quickly moves up the ranks, not only causing a rift between Anne and Sarah, but creating chaos amongst the entire estate.

The Favourite is a film that isn't so much enjoyable as it is impressive. It is incredibly jarring at times with its' imagery and is visually one of the more creative movies that I have seen. The use of fish eye lenses and splitting the film into numbered and titled segments is both unusual and innovative. At first, it is a bit off putting, but then it becomes almost routine and a way to keep the plot moving, making eacb individual section of the story feel more like a chapter in a novel rather than a scene in a film.

In addition to the visual style, the cast is what really makes the Favourite as great as it is. The chemistry between its' three leads is undeniable, and makes the tension in the scenes practically palpable. Weiss' character is using the Queen for professional and political gain and Stone's is doing the same but for a more self serving motive. The hatred and lies between the three are bizarrely comical at times, making you laugh when you feel you shouldn't, and that's all due to the excellent delivery by its' actors.

Olivia Colman's character has a personality an adult that has been stuck with the temperament of a toddler. She is shrill on most occasions, and almost seems to forget she is the Queen and doesn't have to take orders from anyone. She doesn't know her own position, and therefore has had to relinquish her power behind the scenes. In times of great vulnerability, her attempts to rule come back to her, but only in bursts of tantrum like aggression. Cleman delivers this performance with impeccable honesty, making her both horrific and sympathetic.

When watching the Favourite, it is almost impossible to actually let your nerves relax. Everyone in the film has such a heightened level of spite towards one another, that you are constantly in this unsettled state, wondering and feeling apprehensive about what could happen next. So, perhaps not the best movie to watch if you are looking for something pleasant, but a masterfully made film nonetheless.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Rating: 4.5/5

Hands down my favorite of the John Hughes films, Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an entertaining film about the world's most lovable jerk.

Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) is a high school senior who is just months away from graduating. He wakes up one morning and decides that there is not way he could go to school on such a beautiful day, so instead he takes the ultimate day off. Faking a mystery illness, Ferris convinces his parents he needs to stay home and begins to set out his plan.

Knowing that the day would not be nearly as entertaining alone, Ferris ropes his reluctant best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) to join. Tricking their highly suspicious principal Mr.Rooney (Jeffrey Jones), Ferris and Cameron get Ferris's girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) dismissed from school, and the three head for big city of Chicago.

John Hughes' specialty was movies about teenagers who hated authority and knew how to trick them in the most ludicrous ways. Of the John Hughes films that I have seen, I would say that Ferris Bueller's Day Off is the most reasonable when it comes to adult hoodwinking. Of course, there are many moments where it is really hard to believe that an adult wouldn't see past the schemes of three teenagers, but those sequences don't seem as over the top as some of his other works.

Even though Ferris Bueller's Day Off could be considered a teen film, technically, it is more complicated than most. For one, Ferris' character frequently breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the camera. Sometimes in other films, this can be unnerving or out of place, but it makes perfect sense for Ferris' personality, and also adds a wonderfully comical element to the movie. There are times when it is completely straightforward, and Ferris is staring down the barrel of the camera and having a complete conversation with the audience, but there are also times where there is more of a subtlety to it. As much as I love the former, it is the latter that I find the most endearing. When Ferris is frustrated about Cameron's responses, or attempting to avoid being caught and just sneaks a glance at the camera, it adds a genuine facet to Ferris that may not have been there otherwise. By having him make those small gestures, the breaking of the fourth wall feels like just another character trait, and not a gimmick.

In addition to the unusual style of the story, Matthew Broderick is able to take this technique and use it to aid in his role's effortless likability, which is not necessarily easy to do. If you really think about it, Ferris is not exactly the greatest friend or brother, and spends most of his time thinking of lies he can use to get out of his responsibilities. However, Broderick is able to not only make this character entertaining, but someone you are actually rooting for. Broderick has always had a boyish charm about him, and that definitely works for this character and how he plays it. Even though he may be ignoring the reasonable requests of his friends or blatantly lying to his family, it is almost impossible not to like him.

I am not someone who has loved John Hughes movies all my life, and frankly there are some that I am really not a big fan of, but ever since I first saw Ferris Bueller's Day Off, it has not just been a favorite John Hughes film, but a favorite comedy for me in general. There's a beautiful sense of charisma about it and it has a semi-out of sequence musical number smack dab in the middle of it, and that's just too fun not to enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Rating: 4.25/5

Though Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire may not be as faithful as some of the other adaptations, it is a wonderfully magical film nonetheless.

In the summer before Harry Potter's (Danielle Radcliffe) fourth year at Hogwarts, he is invited to go to the Quidditch World Cup with the Weasley family. What is supposed to be a fun and exciting sporting event, is quickly turned into the makings of a nightmare when hooded figures raid the event's campsite and wreak havoc upon the spectators.

After the chaos of the World Cup, Harry, Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) are apprehensive as they head into their new year of school. Before they can even settle into their classes, it is announced that Hogwarts will be hosting the famed and infamous Triwizard Tournament; a set of three incredibly dangerous tasks to be completed by three champions. With the arrival of the students from the other two competing schools, Harry's year becomes anything less than ordinary.

In all fairness to the Goblet of Fire, the book in which it is based upon does have an incredibly vast amount of events and information to cover, so it is understandable that details had to be omitted when turning the book into a movie. However, the film adds in scenes that do not exist in the novel, thus taking away valuable screen time that could have been used for actual moments from its' source. By adding in this previously nonexistent material, the actual events from the book appear to go by in rapid succession and miss the necessary depth needed to fully explain the plot.

Emotionally, things get very heavy in this film in comparison to its' predecessors. One of the most memorable moments comes from not one of the main characters, but one that has only a few minutes of screen time throughout the movie's duration. Without divulging any spoilers to those who somehow are unaware of the events of the film or book, all I can say is that this particular character's sorrow is incredibly real and casts a dark shadow over any previous happiness the story may have had. His performance is one that has always stuck out to me, ever since I first watched this movie many years ago.

As mentioned before, the Goblet of Fire takes a definite turn towards the sinister compared to the previous installments. What this film does incredibly well, is give the movie the tension and build up that is needed to really make the climax of the story have the proper impact. Of course, that is majorly thanks to the excellent writing of J.K. Rowling, but it is also due to the lighting, music, and direction of the film. The color scheme almost has hints of sepia tints in it, taking much of the cheer and light away from the screen. It is clear in the score that the tone of the film is meant to be ominous, and it, along with the visuals, creates a well made combination that matches the necessary feeling of its' brilliantly written source.

Even with the unneeded added scenes to the film, the Goblet of Fire still continues to be one of my more enjoyed installments into the Harry Potter franchise. It may not be 100% in part to the movie itself, and have more to do with the plot, but even so, it is a pretty wonderful combination of story and cinema.

Edward Scissorhands

Rating: 5/5

A film that is part fairytale and part nightmare, Edward Scissorhands is without a doubt down one of the most innovative works created by Tim Burton.

Avon lady, Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), is striking out at trying to sell her product to the local busy bodies of her neighborhood. In need of new clientele, she decides to make a bold choice, and go to the dark and mysterious mansion on hill in the outskirts of the suburb. When she walks inside, she is greeted with cobwebs draped over a seemingly abandoned home, but ventures upstairs to be sure. It is there that she comes across a pale and frightened man named Edward, who has scissors for hands.

Though incredibly taken aback at first, Peg takes pity on Edward and decides to bring him home to live with her family. Given the pleasant and simplistic nature of her neighborhood, Peg's community is incredible interested, but apprehensive of their new member. It is not long before they discover Edward's skill with his scissorhands, and want him to help them in their daily tasks. Even though he is being taken advantage of, Edward is elated to be a part of the human race, but unfortunately all good don't last forever.

One of the many techniques Tim Burton is famed for, is his astonishing use of color. Edward Scissorhands is packed with pastels all through the suburban neighborhood. This not only makes the town feel like a model come to life, but makes Edward stand out more than one would think possible. The colors also give the film an indeterminate time period. It creates a bizarre yet wonderful juxtaposition between a quaint 50's lifestyle and the jarring appearance of its' title character.

Given that the film takes place in an entire neighborhood, there are numerous characters of different levels of eccentricity. At first, it appears that Edward is the odd man out, but he is actually one of the more human-like people in the movie. Even though he is an invention, he has more compassion than most of the people who inhabit the meticulously put together community. Of those people, the best performances are the ones given by Dianne Wiest and Winona Ryder, who plays her daughter Kim. There's definitely something to be said for chemistry, and that can be proven in the scenes between Edward and Peg or Edward and Kim. In those moments of the film, it is really where Edward's innocence and gentility come to light, and make him the gothic hero deserves to be.

It is rare to come upon a Tim Burton film that is not highly stylized in its' cinematography, concept, and dialogue, and Edward Scissorhands is no exception. The story itself is incredibly bizarre, but somehow, not beyond the point of belief. Burton puts so much dedication and soul into his work, that it is almost impossible not to be pulled into his creations. You wouldn't expect a film such as this to have as much emotion attached to it as it does, but Burton knew exactly how to pull at the heartstrings of his viewers. Edward Scissorhands combines its' vivid color contrast with the brilliant performances of its' leads, to create some truly stunning moments of film.

Of course, not all of his attempts are winners, but this movie is definitely among Burton's top five. I have always had a love hate relationship with Burton's films, however Edward Scissorhands in particular was one that turned my opinion towards his work into a more affectionate light. It is a genuinely remarkable movie that should be viewed by all.

Nanny McPhee

Rating: 4/5

From the outside, Nanny McPhee may not seem like a film for adults, but it is a surprisingly heartwarming tale.

Cedric Brown (Collin Firth) is a newly widowed father of seven. His kids adored their mother, and were also used to getting practically everything they wanted. Since her passing, the children, lead by Simon (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) the eldest, have frightened away seventeen nannies, and are determined to keep them all away. At his wits end, Cedric worries that he is doomed to lead a life where his out of control children will rule his every moment.

While making one final plea to the nanny service, Cedric hears a whisper of the name Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson), but thinks nothing of it, that is until she unexpectedly appears at his doorstep. Nanny McPhee is quick to get to work and not only teach the children her five basic lessons, but help out their father in the process. Her methods are nothing short of unusual, and it is no big surprise when the kids don't immediately take a liking to her and attempt to scare her away. Little do they know that it will take more than a simple trick to get rid of Nanny McPhee.

Nanny McPhee is really a much better film than one would expect. If you are judging the film solely on clips or trailers you may have seen, it would be easy to assume that the movie is just filled with chaos and bizarre magic, including the type that causes a donkey to dance. In all fairness, there is quite the collection of that type of material in the film, but there is much more than what meets the eye. At first, the movie is a bit shocking what with the colors of the home and the volume of the children, but hidden beneath that garish style, is a movie with a lot of heart and enchantment.

For this movie to be a success, the actors playing the children had to be adorable but not obnoxious. Overall, the performances by the kids are excellent, even if they are a bit over exaggerated at times. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Simon, is a brilliant little actor, and to see him battle with Nanny McPhee and desperately try and have a relationship with his emotionally distant father, are some of the most impressive scenes in the film. It is in huge part to his work that Nanny McPhee becomes more than just a silly kids movie.

I have started to come to the conclusion that there's really very little that Emma Thompson cannot do. Her character is so heavily done up in prosthetics and makeup, that you'd think her acting would get lost beneath it all, but her impeccable skill manages to shine through and become a very stern but caring persona. It is clear to see that this film holds a large place in Thompson's heart, and that she took that love for the story to put every ounce of dedication into it she had.

Nanny McPhee is a movie that took me by surprise. Based on the little of what I had seen of it before watching the whole thing, I honestly didn't expect to like it, but it ended up becoming one of my more beloved children's movies. It is a bit off-putting at times, but in the end, it is truly wonderful.

The Devil Wears Prada

Rating: 4/5

A movie that has reached a somewhat iconic status for romantic comedies, The Devil Wears Prada continues to be a fun and amusing film.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) has just graduated college, and dreams of being a serious journalist. Unfortunately, she can't seem to find a job, and ends up applying for an assistant position at a magazine that is a far cry from a job in hard hitting journalism. When walking into the offices of Runway magazine, she is met by Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt), who is first assistant to editor-in-chief of Runway, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep.) Andy is quick to notice that she doesn't fit into the world of high fashion, but knows that the job could open a lot of doors, so she pursues the interview anyway.

Much to Emily's and many other's shock, Andy gets the job. At first, Andy doesn't see the point of changing her style in order to match her work environment, but when she is unable to get the respect she feels she deserves from Miranda, she decides she must update her appearance. With the help of the art director, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), Andy not only changes her sense of fashion, but her work performance as well.

The Devil Wears Prada is a rare film of its' kind, in the sense that it garnered two Academy Award nominations, one for the esteemed Meryl Streep. In all fairness, given her track record, Streep could do a commercial for Applebee's and get nominated, but her performance in this film is pretty great. Her character is icy and unforgiving, and Streep makes Miranda Priestly seem real, and not just a caricature of a viper woman who couldn't possibly exist. She gives her depth where one wouldn't expect to find it and unexpected humor with her relentless criticism of her employees.

Part of what is unusual about this film, is the fact that there are very few likable characters. Andy is supposed to be the heroine of the story, but her naivety towards the demands of the industry and susceptibility to being hoodwinked or wooed by temptation can make her to be a frustrating character at times. I will also never understand why the audience is supposed to be rooting for Andy's relationship with her boyfriend Nate (Adrian Grenier) to thrive. Personally, I have always felt that Nate was almost as rude to Andy as the women who work at Runway . It diminishes the supposed fight in Andy's character that she would stay in relationship with a person like Nate.

So, characters aside, what makes The Devil Wears Prada such a fun movie? It's the underdog story. With movies like this, it is almost guaranteed that the hero/heroine will triumph over adversity and come out on top. Even with the predictability, it is still entertaining to watch the film go through the expected benchmarks. You know the general idea of the outcome, just not how it is going to happen. To make their story differ from the others, The Devil Wears Prada makes the steps Andy takes to success be filled with colorful challenges like dealing with a barrage of insults to her personal appearance, and keeping up with the ever changing fashion industry. It also boasts a lot of great clothing montages, and that's always a good time.

There are many reasons this film is loved by many, and is definitely in part to how easy it is to rewatch. The Devil Wears Prada is a movie that I have seen more times than I can count and is honestly one of my favorite Meryl Streep performances. It is also a great exhibition of the comedic skills of Emily Blunt. The acting is what puts this movie above the rest of its' genre, and is also what makes it such an enjoyable film.

Colette

Rating: 4/5

Colette is an unusually racy period piece, brought to life thanks to its' impressive title lead.

Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley), is a young girl who comes from a small home in the countryside of France. After a brief courtship, Gabrielle becomes married to the famous writer, Henry Gauthier-Villars, who goes by the name Willy (Dominic West). Though their marriage appears to start out strong, it is not long before Gabrielle begins to realize the true man she married.

When Willy is fighting to make financial ends meet, he becomes in dire need of having another literary hit. Unable to come up with his own ideas, Willy asks Gabrielle to write one of her Claudine stories like she used to write in school. Coming as a great surprise to both, Claudine becomes a phenomenon, and begins to take over Paris. Now going by her maiden name, Colette's interest in ghost-writing the Claudine novels is rapidly fading, but Willy's desperation for her to continue writing becomes all too powerful.

Before watching Colette, I knew little to none about the actual woman who inspired Keira Knightley's latest historical film. I had heard mention of her literary works, but nothing really of the woman herself. That being said, upon further research into the topic, it appears that Colette was only allotted enough time to brush the surface of the wildly progressive existence of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. The film covers just over a decade of her life, but given how much happened in that time span, it is easily understandable why the movie was only able to briefly touch base on each important event that came about for Colette in that time.

A big piece to the life of Colette was her attitude towards her love life. Given the time frame in which she lived, her romantic inclinations could be viewed as nothing but salacious. In the film, this part of her history is not represented as a gimmick to flaunt her open sexuality, but is presented in a way as to highlight another facet of Colette's sense of empowerment for her own rights and ambitions. The movie does wonderful job at showing Colette's disregard for the societal norms, and doing so not for the sake of rebellion, but in order to fulfill her own passions.

For me, the best aspects of Colette were its' lead and the score that backed the movie. Keira Knightley is no stranger to films set in another era, so it is clear to see she is right at home playing a character who existed in the early 1900s. Her complete dedication to the character is a major reason why Colette is as good of a movie as it is. Colette is a role that is ripe with heightened emotion, and Knightley sells each and every scene. As far as the score goes, there are many times where it is more in the style of a very classy horror film rather than what you'd expect from a typical period-drama composition. This not only sets the tone for the film, but perfectly matches the rage Colette experiences as her literary rights are ripped away from her, solely based upon her gender.

Colette is one of those rare cases where I really had no idea what to expect from a film before going into it. I had a basic idea of the story, but beyond that, I knew very little. Though I felt the movie tried a bit too hard to shock its' viewers in order to garner a reaction or an emotion from them, overall Colette made an impressive impact, and is a solid example of a daring period film.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Rating: 2.75/5

A movie that has become a bit more iconic than it should be, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is undeniably funny at times, but only thanks to its' fearless lead.

Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey) is an eccentric animal lover who has taken on the profession of pet detective. Though he is very good at his job, there isn't a great need for his expertise and he is struggling to make ends meet. When it seems there may be no hope for his financial struggles, Ace is consulted on the case of the Miami Dolphin's missing mascot, Snowflake.

With the help of the football team's publicist, Melissa Robinson (Courtney Cox), Ace begins the search for the beloved dolphin. Starting out as an assumed animal rights case, Ace quickly realizes that Snowflake's disappearance has a more vengeful intention. Using his very unusual methods, Ace tirelessly searches to uncover the truth behind the missing mascot.

I remember watching this movie when I was younger, and finding it really funny, but the older I get, the dumber Ace Ventura: Pet Detective becomes. Don't get me wrong, there are still a lot of shining points throughout the film, but there's a lot of overly ridiculous moments as well. The sequence in which Ace goes undercover in a mental institution will always be funny to me, but the repetitive catch phrases begin to lose their charm after awhile.

Even though it doesn't need to be said, Jim Carrey is of course the main reason to watch this film. This movie was made during Carrey's prime and it is clear to see he is one-hundred percent in his comfort zone throughout the film. His antics may be incredibly ridiculous and impossible to believe as a real person, but it doesn't seem to fully matter, because it is pretty entertaining to watch. Carrey's work as well as Courtney Cox's, make up for the lackluster or over-the-top performances of the other cast members.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is definitely a product of its' time. If the movie were made today, a lot of its' main plot points would likely be questioned before release, due to a worry of it being potentially offensive. Perhaps that is one of the reasons I didn't enjoy this movie nearly as much this time around as I had in the past. Sometimes, it is easy to remember to keep in mind the time frame in which a film was released, but when a movie is as loud and in your face as Ace Ventura is, it's kind of hard to push passed it.

Ace Ventura is a movie that is fairly legendary in the world of comedies, but I doubt it is attributed to its' plot or writing. I don't think I could ever say that I dislike this movie, because there are still too many funny moments to forget, but it definitely doesn't crack my top ten for comedies.

Sister Act

Rating: 3.5/5

Sister Act may not be one of the better comedies out there, but it sure is a lot of fun.

Deloris Van Cartier (Whoopi Goldberg) is a little known lounge singer in Las Vegas. Her boyfriend Vince LaRocca (Harvey Keitel) is a big league mobster who runs his business out of the lounge where Deloris performs. One night, when Deloris goes to return a coat given to her by Vince, she accidentally walks in on him and his men killing a chauffeur. Terrified by what she saw, Deloris runs to the authorities.

After telling her story, the police realize she is in danger, and have her hide out in a church while pretending to be a nun. Having an incredibly hard time adjusting, Deloris keeps her distance from the other nuns, that is until she is asked to take over the choir.

One of the great things about Sister Act, is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. It seems to know that its' story, as improbable as it may be, is still entertaining. If you think too much while watching it, you may notice characters changing their tune too quickly or focus on the fact that there's an incredibly slim chance that a bunch of nuns would storm the doors of a Las Vegas night club, but if you push that aside and just enjoy the film for what it is, you'll have a good time.

What Sister Act does very well, is create a surprisingly great soundtrack. Even though Whoopi may not be a great singer, her spirit and dedication really sell the role and the music. I am normally not the biggest Whoopi Goldberg fan, but it seems as if she was born to play this role. Her input alongside the beautiful harmonies of the women playing the nuns, create music that propels the story forward, and leaves you waiting in anticipation for more musical numbers to come.

Sister Act was a bizarre case where I had actually grown up watching its' sequel rather than the original, so I had a bit of a backwards view of the movie at first. That being said, what opinion of mine stayed the same, was how much I loved the supporting cast who played the nuns that helped Deloris adapt to the church. Most notably, would be the performances given by Maggie Smith and Mary Wickes. Wickes' character is unapologetically blunt and hilarious while doing so. Smith's character is a stickler for the rules, but learns to loosen her grip as she sees the positive impact Deloris is having on the choir. Smith does a wonderful job at portraying the sternness needed for the role, but allowing the warmth to take over the character when needed.

Sister Act has become one of my go to movies if I am looking for something simple and amusing to watch. With every viewing, I know I am going to be able to sit back, relax, and not only enjoy a comical and easy going movie, but get to listen to some great music as well.

Big

Rating: 4/5

In one of Tom Hanks' best performances, Big is a lovable classic from wonderful decade of film.

Thirteen year old Josh Baskin is fairly content with his life, but when he attempts to impress a girl by going on a frightening ride at the carnival, that all changes. As he is about to get on the ride, he is told that he is too small, and is humiliated in front of the girl he likes. Wandering away from the ride, Josh stumbles upon a mysterious Zoltar machine and makes a wish to be big.

The next morning, Josh (Tom Hanks) is shocked to discover that his wish came true and he is now an adult man. After being chased out his home by his mother, Josh has no choice but to find his friend Billy (Jared Rushton) and head to the city in search of another Zoltar machine to reverse the magic.

The movie Big is one, where if you think about it too much, it could lose a bit of its' charm, and move towards a more slightly unsettling feeling. The majority of the film doesn't fall into this conundrum, just the love story between semi-adult Josh and Elizabeth Perkins' character, Susan. Yes, Josh looks like an adult, and by the time he and Susan's relationship reaches the point of romance, his mindset is more grown up, but he is still thinking for the most part as a thirteen year old, and that's just a bit too creepy to put too much thought into. That being said, this movie came from a simpler time, where movies were not as overanalyzed as they are now, so as a product of its' time, it's more humorous than it is strange.

Tom Hanks was no stranger to the world by this time, but this movie was certainly one the most memorable from his early days of acting. Not only is Hanks incredibly believable as a thirteen year old trapped in the body of an adult, but he is also comical and heartbreaking while doing it. Yes, there are a handful of uplifting iconic moments in this film, most notably being the piano dance, but the scene where Josh is spending his first night in New York City, is one that always sticks out to me. Given that he is mentally only thirteen, Josh is incredibly frightened to be there alone, and Hanks' performance makes you really be able imagine the situation in which Josh finds himself is genuine and actually possible.

With any movie where a character goes through a major transformation, it is important not to spend too much time on the realization phase. What Big does really well, is not overdo Josh's adjustment to being an adult. Even though he is mentally a teenager throughout the entire movie, Josh doesn't spend each scene realizing something new or fascinating about being an adult. He slowly adapts to his new normal, but still keeping his childlike excitement as he encounters the many facets of adulthood. Had Big prevented for Josh go through any mental transformation, the movie itself would not be nearly as charming or well done and the concept would've exhausted itself.

Of the many films directed by Penny Marshall, Big is certainly one of her most legendary, and with good reason. It is brilliantly cast, full of nostalgia, and really just a lot of fun to watch. It's a movie that warrants multiple viewings, even if it is just for a reminder to stay in touch with your inner child.

Spy

Rating: 4.5/5

Where James Bond and the Incredibles meet to create an incredibly R rated love child, you will find Spy.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is the CIA's top analyst. For years, she has been the eyes and ears for Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). The two are a perfect team; Cooper watches, warns, and tells Fine what to do, and he carries out the orders while looking good doing it. It appears that nothing can stop them, that is until Fine finds himself in over his head in search for a bomb in the hands of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).

Hoping to avenge her lost partner, Susan approaches her director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) and tells her she wants to take over Fine's mission. Though questioning her ability, Crocker agrees as long as Cooper acts only in a observing agent capacity; no violence or action. With her new identity in hand, Cooper sets out for Paris in search of answers and closure for Fine.

Spy is a movie that is so jam packed with action, that by the end of it when you're recalling events from earlier on, it's hard to imagine that it could all fit into one movie. Even though it's only a small moment in a film that is full to the brim, the opening credits may be my favorite part. It's rare to see a movie nowadays that has its' opening credit information be put into a sequence that is separate from actual scenes of the film, and I am so glad that Spy chose to do so. From the first couple of scenes, I was intrigued but not overly interested by what I was watching, but the second that opening credit sequence began, I became fully invested and incredibly excited to see what the rest of the movie had in store.

The more I watch movies directed by Paul Feig, the more I realize his incredible talent for composing a dynamite cast. His movies can be lewd, outrageous, and bizarre, but they always feel impeccably done. Feig has the ability to put a cast of people together that you wouldn't necessarily think would work. That being said, all one has to do is watch a film of his to see without a doubt, that Feig knows exactly what he is doing. Spy is just another example of this skill. Never did I think I would see a movie with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham acting side by side, but I love that it exists.

The only negative thing I could really say about Spy, is that to me, it could come off as a but overly crude at times. With that being said, Melissa McCarthy's character is new to the world of being a CIA field agent, so her character is acting in the way that she thinks a hardcore agent does. It is also thanks to McCarthy that she is able to take an albeit absurd, but hilarious concept, and make it come off as believable. Her comedic timing is brilliant, with both her words and physicality, and really proves that she is a master of her craft.

Ever since I saw Spy a few days ago, I haven't been able to get it out of my head. I am not someone who gravitates towards comedies, so for one to make such a lasting impact on me, really says something about the enjoyability of the movie. Spy can push the boundaries and go overboard at times, but it is a wonderfully humorous movie nonetheless.

Saving Mr. Banks

Rating: 4/5

A movie that is at times more fiction than not, Saving Mr. Banks is an emotional ride with a touch of Disney magic.

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), after twenty years of being asked by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), has finally decided to fly out to Los Angeles to discuss giving Disney Studios the rights to her novel, Mary Poppins. Even as she is on the plane to California, she is strongly questioning her decision, fearing that Disney will turn her beloved character into an overly animated songstress.

Once arriving at Walt Disney Studios, Travers wastes no time in making sure that the people involved with the film know who is really in charge of the picture. Much to the dismay of the creative team, they struggle to get their vision across to Travers, who is unwavering in her thoughts of how the characters should be portrayed, especially that of Mr.Banks. Through the use of flashback, P.L. Travers' inspiration for her beloved stories begin to come to life, and her fierce determination to protect her characters becomes understood.

Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that I distinctly remember seeing the previews for, and being incredibly excited to see. I have grown up with a love for Mary Poppins, so getting a peak at the behind the scenes process of creating the film was incredibly intriguing to me. From what I can tell from my own research, historically, this movie does take liberties with its' portrayal of Travers' compliance with Disney Studios. That being said, the movie is made by Disney, so they wouldn't exactly paint Walt in a negative light. However, what it does do is give a voice to P.L. Travers that may have otherwise gone unheard.

With the three main pieces of the film being the flashback of Travers' life, Walt Disney attempting to woo her, and Travers fighting against the songwriters; it is clear that Travers would have to be played by a powerhouse actress, which is why Emma Thompson was a brilliant casting choice. Her performance shines well above the other actors in the film, even Tom Hanks, and is one of the main reasons anyone should see this movie. Don't get me wrong, the other performers in this movie do a wonderful job, it's just Thompson's portrayal of Travers not only makes you laugh with her blunt comments towards the Sherman Brothers, but brings a tear to your eye with her strongly emotional scenes in which Travers is grieving for her father. Though this movie did not win any Academy Awards, it is a shame that Thompson was not at least nominated for her role.

Even if this movie may not have been fully accurate, there is a part of me that will always be a sucker for movies about filmmaking, especially if they're based in the golden days of Hollywood. I love watching the golf carts make their way through the back lots, seeing the concept sketches, and feeling as if I am getting a glimpse into the world of motion pictures. So, factual accuracy aside, Saving Mr.Banks does a brilliant job at portraying this world and time period if nothing else.

Saving Mr.Banks does come off as sappy every now and again, but it's a movie set at Walt Disney Studios, so that's to be expected. It's nostalgic, emotional, and witty; everything one could want from a Disney film. If you're a fan of Mary Poppins in any way, than this movie is a must see.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Rating: 3/5

With a cast that is better than its' material, Ghostbusters is still a better reboot than expected.

Dr. Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig), is a professor at Columbia University. While trying to boost her chances at tenure, Erin discovers that a book about ghosts she had coauthored with her friend Abby (Melisa McCarthy), is being sold on Amazon. Furious that Abby has put the book back into circulation, Erin goes to confront her old colleague. When Erin goes to Abby's lab, she meets Jillian (Kate McKinnon), Abby's slightly crazed new partner.

Though they are at odds, the three women go to investigate the reports of a haunting at a local museum. Not expecting it to be real, Erin is shocked to discover there actually is a ghost living in the museum's basement. Erin's excitement is short lived, as her paranormal escapade not only loses her the opportunity for tenure, but her job as well. To try and make the best out the situation, Abby, Erin, Jillian, and new acquaintance Patty (Leslie Jones), create their own ghost hunting organization, hoping to prove the existence of malevolent spirits.

To preface this review, it should be mentioned that I saw the original Ghostbusters when I was an adult, so I don't have the nostalgic devotion attached to it as many do, therefore, I was not as angry about the reboot as a lot of people seemed to be. With that being said, this movie is by no means a great film, but its' not a terrible one either. Yes, there are times where the humor definitely misses its' mark, or it is overly silly in order to get a laugh, but I have most certainly seen worse comedies in my lifetime.

Though the film's two stars are clearly supposed to be Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy, it is Kate McKinnon that had me laughing the most throughout the movie. Most of her dialogue contains two to three word lines, but it is her delivery that completely sells the comedy. Chris Hemsworth, who plays the Ghostbusters' dim witted secretary, also has his fair share of shining comedic moments. Even if his character is too stupid to be believable, Hemsworth makes his role not only likable, but one of the better parts of the film.

For me, what really made Ghostbusters struggle to be a great movie, was not the acting or direction, but the story itself. There's supposed to be an overarching plot of a violent spiritual takeover of New York City led by a vengeful bell boy, but the story was muddled and a bit hard to follow. Not only was it difficult to keep track of the plot, but it was difficult to care about it as well. The poorly developed plot appeared to be just a means to get the stellar cast together in the same film.

Even if Ghostbusters is incredibly over the top at times, it is clear that the cast had an absolute blast making the movie, and that is almost more fun to watch than the plot itself. I can't say that I would completely recommend this movie to everyone, but if you are a fan of any of the wonderfully talented ladies who make up the cast, then it is definitely worth watching just for them.

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Rating: 4.5/5

A romantic comedy in a class well above most, Crazy, Stupid, Love is charming and humorous.

Cal (Steve Carell) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) are out on their typical date night, when Emily throws a curveball into the evening and asks Cal for a divorce. Completely caught off guard, Cal finds his way to a bar to drink his sorrows away.

A few days later, Cal returns to the bar and tells everyone who will listen about David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), the man who slept with his wife and caused his divorce. While ranting about his failed marriage, Cal catches the eye of a womanizer named Jacob (Ryan Gosling). Jacob sees the way that Cal dresses, and takes it upon himself to improve Cal's appearance and turn him into a man women will want to date. With Jacob's guidance, Cal soon becomes a very different version of himself, but it does not solve his problems in the way he thinks it will.

Crazy, Stupid, Love is a film where there are multiple storylines that have to weave together in order to tell the narrative. The best movies that I have seen using this tactic, get you so focused on one story, that you almost forget about the others until they make an appearance again. Crazy, Stupid, Love has this quality in spades. The main focus of the film is on Steve Carell's character, but the other side plots that intertwine within the film are just as entertaining as his.

Though her role is small in comparison to others, Emma Stone's portrayal of Hannah is one of my favorites in the film. Most of her scenes involve her character interacting with Ryan Gosling's role, and their on screen chemistry is always incredibly fun to watch. Alongside Gosling and Stone's performances, Steve Carell once again proves that he is a Jack of all trades when it comes to acting. His role gives him the opportunity to do the comedy in which he is so good at, but brings a serious and emotional performance to the screen as well. It is his skill that makes Crazy, Stupid, Love such a well rounded film.

When it comes to movies in the realm of the romantic-comedy genre, they are usually fairly predicable. However, Crazy, Stupid, Love did such a good job at connecting their stories together, that I was genuinely surprised at some of the twists that the movie presented. It is the film's ability to keep you on your toes, while keep you laughing and thoroughly invested in the character's lives, that makes it a romantic-comedy that is much better than the usual film of its' genre.

The reason this movie did not receive a full five star rating, is that there are just a few scenes where I think the physical comedy or over-exaggeration is a tad unnecessary. For the most part, this movie thrives on its' charm and great acting, so the brief moments of physical comedy just feel a bit out of place. With those scenes aside, Crazy, Stupid, Love still remains to be one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time.

Crazy Rich Asians

Rating: 4.5/5

A film that is unique in many ways, Crazy Rich Asians is breath of fresh air in the world of romantic comedy.

Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) has been with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) for quite awhile, and has been invited to go to Singapore with him for his best friend's wedding. Excited and anxious to meet his family, Rachel consults her mother on the best way to make an impression. While shopping, her mother warns her of the strictness within the strongly traditional Chinese families, and advises her daughter to be cautious upon meeting them.

At the airport, Rachel is quite surprised when she discovers that she and Nick have first class tickets instead of economy. Quickly, she learns that her boyfriend's family is not only rich, but one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. Once they have landed, Rachel is thrown into a whirlwind of meeting the entirety of the Youngs. Though trying her hardest, it becomes clear to Rachel that being Chinese and well educated is not going to be enough to impress Nick's family, especially his mother.

Crazy Rich Asians is not the first romantic comedy to be focused around a large family of a specific culture, some examples being Bend it Like Beckham and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. What sets this film apart from the other two, is that it appears slightly more mainstream, but still remains unique with its' style and unpredictability. As comical as Crazy Rich Asians was, there were still times where I could feel my mind begin to race as I wondered what hardships would befall Rachel next.

Crazy Rich Asians has a lot of the trademarks of a typical romantic comedy, what with its' eccentric characters and central couple fighting against obstacles for their love, but it is groundbreaking with the stunning visuals in many of its' scenes. There are numerous films in this genre that let the cinematography fall to the wayside in order to tell a story that will be easily liked, but Crazy Rich Asians most certainly does not do that. There's a specific scene in the film, one involving a wedding, that is breathtakingly beautiful and is the main piece of the movie that comes to mind when I think of what makes it so great.

As with any comedy, there are of course going to be characters that are a bit grating or obnoxious, but Crazy Rich Asians does not have nearly as many as most humorous films do. Of the "heroes" within the movie, they are all genuinely quite likable, and very well acted. Most notably, Awkafina, who plays Rachel's old college friend, is a very quirky and at times, abrasive character, but her comedic timing is brilliant and is responsible for the many times in which I laughed out loud while watching the movie.

Crazy Rich Asians is a film that took me far too long to finally watch. I had heard of its' greatness through many other reviews and and interviews, and when I finally watched it for myself, I understood all the hype. Crazy Rich Asians definitely lives up to its' reputation and is a movie that I genuinely look forward to watching again.

Speed

Rating: 4.5/5

Speed has cheesy dialogue, fast paced chase scenes, and a romance produced by chaos; all the elements required to make a great classic 90's action-thriller.

Jack (Keanu Reeves) is a SWAT officer who's team has been called into to deal with an office building that has an elevator shaft that has been rigged with a bomb. After preventing the the elevator from plummeting to the bottom floor, Jack and his friend and partner Harry (Jeff Daniels) come face to face with the bomber (Dennis Hopper). In a quick maneuver, Harry is saved from the bomber's clutches, and the culprit has seemingly blown himself up.

After some time has passed, both Harry and Jack have been awarded for their heroic efforts and are beginning to put the incident behind them. When leaving a coffee shop, Jack witnesses a city bus explode and receives a phone call from the bomber himself. Jack is told that there is a bus that has been rigged with a bomb, and once the bus reaches a speed of 50mph, the bomb will be activated. In a desperate attempt to save the civilians on the bus, Jack races down the highway and pulls himself on board. Soon, it will be up to him and a local woman named Annie (Sandra Bullock) to save the people on the bus.

What Speed does well, is keeping you on your toes, even though it primarily takes place in a singular setting. You'd think that after roughly twenty minutes that the novelty of the bus not being able to go over 50mph would ware out, but the movie does a good job a finding new ways to keep the scenes inside the bus interesting. The characters inside the bus are quite eccentric and unique, and they are definitely one the main reasons why the film's concept works so well.

Speed is the movie that really put Sandra Bullock on the map, and it is pretty clear as to why. Her character is spunky, strong, and instantly likable. Though Bullock doesn't give off any incredibly memorable moments of emotion, it is easy to see that she was going to have a strong future in both action and comedy films due to her impressive timing throughout the movie. It is her performance behind the wheel that makes Speed such an enjoyable film.

As much as I love Speed, I do feel as if it gets to be a bit long winded. If it's not the overly long beginning credits sequence, it's the "twist" that occurs later on in the movie. What may have seen like a good way to hammer in the speed concept, ended up making it feel a bit excessive and make you wonder what was wrong with the person in charge of the Los Angeles transportation maintenance. A good idea in theory, but makes to movie feel a bit as if it has overstayed its' welcome.

Speed is definitely a film that is more for entertainment than it is for critical acclaim, and that's honestly one of the best things about it. It is one of those movies that are a lot of fun, as long as you don't think too hard while watching it.

Searching

Rating: 5/5

With an incredibly innovative concept and stellar performances by its' cast, Searching is a truly impressive movie to behold.

David Kim (John Cho) is a newly single father who is trying his best to be a strong support system for his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La). While talking with her through Facetime, Margot tells her father she is at a study group and won't be home until late in the evening. Assuming all is well, David goes to bed.

The next morning, David wakes up to find that Margot apparently got home late and has already left for school. As he tries to get in touch with her throughout the day, he begins to realize that something sinister has happened, and his daughter is missing. With the help of Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), David begins an endless search to find Margot.

Searching is one of the most creative films that I have seen in a long time. The entire story is told through screens, whether they be on David or Margot's laptops or an iphone. This concept not only created one of the more emotional and heartbreaking opening sequences since Up, but it stayed interesting from beginning to end. You'd think that this particular filmmaking style would lose its' luster after awhile, but it shockingly does not. Instead of tiring of the movie's type of storytelling, you are constantly wondering in what way's the film will get its' plot across next.

Though there are a handful of other actors throughout the film, John Cho carries almost the entirety of the film on his shoulders. His role as a grief and panic stricken father is one of the more believable performances I have watched in recent history. As the search for Margot intensifies, so does Cho's portrayal of David. Where some may have gone overboard with the character, Cho was able to give off the needed desperation for his role, while keeping it firmly rooted in reality.

It is a rare quality in a film when it can be watched, and almost instantly want to be watched again. That is how I felt after first seeing Searching. It is a movie that has so many components to it, big and small, that it demands multiple viewings. The story itself is not overly complicated, but the way in which it is presented allows the viewer to want to watch it over again, just so they can try and pick up on the many different pieces that are shown on the various screens that are used throughout the movie.

Searching is a film that will sadly not receive the critical acclaim that it deserves. Yes, it has been recognized for its' creativity at film festivals here and there, but it is not the type of movie that would garner any main stream accolades. As much as I love watching the Academy Awards and other like minded entertainment based events, it makes me sad that movies that are as influential and as brilliant as Searching don't get nominated; because it most certainly deserves it.

In the Heart of the Sea

Rating: 3/5

Though not as compelling as I'd hoped, In the Heart of the Sea is a respectable attempt at an epic story.

Looking for information to help him with his book, Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) arrives at the home of an old man who used to be a whaler. Incredibly reluctant at first, the man decides to tell Melville of the events that happened on board the Essex; a legendary ship that was sunk by a whale.

As part of the man's story, we learn about Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), an experienced whaler who is getting ready to embark on another journey for whale oil. He wishes to be a captain, but due to his tainted family name, he is only able to be first mate. Their captain, George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), is inexperienced and soon gets the crew into danger. When a large white sperm whale wreaks havoc upon the Essex, the men on board quickly fall into imminent danger.

Considering this movie is about the inspiration for Moby Dick, I expected to be more interested in the scenes involving the whale, but oddly enough, that was not the case. I actually felt that the scenes in the film that did not directly have to do with the whale, were the better ones in the movie. The obvious green screen in the scenes with the whale was just too distracting for me. I found it very hard to take it seriously when I could see the glow of the green screen around the men on the row boat. The whale looked quite real, but the tiny ships chasing it did not.

Acting wise, Chris Hemsworth did well at bringing the needed intensity for the role. Accent wise, he didn't shine quite as much. It would almost have made sense to alter the facts of the real story in order to just let Hemsworth use his real Australian accent, because he basically did it anyways.

What this movie did really well, was show the brutality of the whaling industry. Granted, I didn't have a vast amount of knowledge on the topic before watching the film, but after watching it, I really felt as if I didn't need to know much more. I appreciated how they showed the differed reactions from the members aboard the Essex when they killed their first whale. Many were cheering in their success, but others, even the first mate, were clearly affected by the violence they were committing towards the magnificent being, and you could see the conflict in their eyes.

To me, it seemed like In the Heart of the Sea couldn't decide on what it truly wanted to be. Was it a survival film? Was it a historical picture? Was it an animal rights movie about whales? It was a bit of a combination of all three, but felt torn on what it wanted to be the most. Overall, In the Heart of the Sea put out a strong effort, but it just never really seemed to hit the mark.

Bird Box

Rating: 3.5/5

A film that starts out stronger than it ends, Bird Box is an intense and at times, very disturbing film.

Malorie (Sandra Bullock) is a single woman who is expecting her first child. Before heading to her ultrasound appointment, her sister Jessica (Sarah Paulson) arrives at her apartment and informs her that mass suicides have been taking place in Russia. Brushing the bizarre phenomenon off due to the far away distance, the two head out to the doctor's office. Everything appears to be perfectly normal, that is until Malorie is leaving the hospital and sees a woman hitting her head against the window. Realizing that whatever mania that was taking place in Russia has made its' way to the States, Malorie rushes to the car to join her sister and escape.

What follows is five minutes of mass hysteria as people attempt to flee whatever it is that is causing the human race to exterminate themselves. Finding refuge after being pulled into a stranger's home, Malorie and the other survivors quickly discover that in order to live, they must shield their eyes from the outside world if they are to prevent themselves from falling victim to the suicidal epidemic that has swept over humanity.

Bird Box is what M. Night Shyamalan's the Happening should have been. Both bear a striking resemblance to one another with their plot and "monster". With Bird Box being so similar to Shymalan's film, the movie itself isn't exactly innovative or new, but it is at least a hundred times better than its' sort-of predecessor. Where the Happening tried hard to make a disturbing concept, the acting and laughable dialogue made the movie doomed to never hit its' mark. However that's where Bird Box really shines in comparison. The acting and overall tone of the movie makes Bird Box incredibly tense and upsetting, leaving a much more impressive impact.

There were times while watching the film when I wanted to stop watching, because the images on the screen were almost too disturbing to witness. However, the curiosity in me wouldn't let me turn it off. Would they ever explain what type of creature took over the world? Who would survive the horrific violence? I just had to know! Had the initial story itself not been so compelling, Bird Box may have been one of the few films that I didn't stick through for its' entire duration.

What makes Bird Box a bit more original than other apocalyptic horror films, is its' nonlinear way of story telling. The movie switches back and forth between when the suicides first began, to an undisclosed amount of time later with Melanie going down a river with two unnamed children. In theory, this was an interesting idea, but unfortunately it made any believable connection between the characters to be few and far between. Even with the strong performances by Sandra Bullock, Sarah Paulson, and many of the other cast members, there just wasn't enough screen time for their relationships to truly come to life.

Though it may not be what I would consider to be a great horror movie, Bird Box is still above most films in its' genre. The acting and unsettling realism to the opening scenes, is what really saves Bird Box from landing in the collection of the many forgettable apocalyptic movies that have been made throughout the years.

Nightcrawler

Rating: 5/5

Nightcrawler, being lead by a stunning performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, is frightening in an eerily subtle way.

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a man seemingly at the end of his rope, desperately in search of employment. He hasn't had much "formal" school training, but has spent his time learning online, and has come up with his own business/life plan. When he is driving home from work, he is passed by several police cars, and stops to see what has happened. It is there he sees a videographer getting footage of the car accident. He learns of the job known as "nightcrawling" and discovers his professional calling.

Eager to make his way in this new career, Louis stops at nothing to get the most bloody and graphic footage possible. When a local news station agrees to use his work, fuel is added to the fire, and Louis begins to cross boundaries that should never be crossed.

Nightcrawler is unusual in many ways, one being that as you would expect based on the title, almost the entirety of the film is shot at night. Not only does this amplify any tension that is in the plot, but it also makes any moments of daytime appear jarringly bright. Both purposes are very useful in creating a film with a incredibly strong impact.

Though he did not win the Academy Award he was nominated for his role in the film, Jake Gyllenhaal's performance in Nightcrawler should go down as one of his best. He is completely transformative in his portrayal of Lou, in both his acting and his dedication to his physical appearance. By losing weight for the character, his eyes appear to bulge from his face, making his horrific actions as a nightcrawler appear all the more manic. It is his performance that really sells the intensity of the film.

Upon first watching Nightcrawler, it is pretty hard to believe that this unspoken world of graphic freelance video journalism exists, but it does. Of course, the real videographers most likely don't perform as many illegal escapades Louis Bloom. Not only does Nightcrawler portray an incredibly dark and frightening story, but it exposes a whole other side to the what goes into creating the evening news.

Nightcrawler is a movie that I may not have been drawn to initially, but is one that I am glad to have been introduced to. The content in the movie is hard to watch at times, but tells a phenomenal story. It is almost guaranteed to make your heart race and keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the film's duration.

Mary Poppins Returns

Rating: 4.5/5

With a brilliant performance by its' lead, Mary Poppins Returns is a wonderful echo to the past.

Amid the 1930's, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) has fallen on hard times. His wife has passed away, and he is in danger of losing his home. His three children, Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie (Joel Dawson), are putting on a brave face, and trying their best to look after their father. Also helping is Michael's sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), who is taking time away from her work as an activist for the working class, in order to try and help her brother keep their family home.

Though Anabel and John are working very hard at being responsible and watching out for Georgie, they lose track of him on their way to the market. Georgie, who ran from his siblings while chasing a kite, bumps into a lamplighter named Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). Jack tries to help Georgie pull in his kite, when they both discover that the kite is not all that's at the end of the string. Much to Jane and Michal's shock, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) has returned, and is once again ready to put the lives of the Banks family back in the right direction.

If it weren't for the clarity of the film quality and the impressive special effects, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that Mary Poppins Returns came out in the days of the classic 60's musicals. The music, story, and dances all whisper back to a more innocent time in the world of film. I really feel as if this movie will get a new generation of film goers interested into the older style of film, and remind them to be enchanted by the whimsy of dancing with cartoons and wonderfully over the top musical numbers.

When I heard that they were making a sequel to Mary Poppins, I was slightly pensive at first, but when I heard who the lead was going to played by, all my worries went away. Taking on a role as legendary as Mary Poppins, is no easy task, but Emily Blunt is more than fit for the challenge. From the moment she comes on the screen, there is no doubting that she is Mary Poppins through and through. She is able to take the well known mannerisms of the character, such as the flagrant vanity and posh way of speaking, and completely come into the role with her own personal twist. Blunt doesn't completely copy every trait created by Julie Andrews, but she mimics it enough to appease the fans of the original and charm the viewers who are experiencing Mary Poppins' magic for the first time.

Mary Poppins Returns doesn't exactly tell a brand new story, as it follows many of the same patterns as the original. For me, I don't see anything particularly wrong with that. Even if the general outline of both films are virtually the same, they are both marvelously enjoyable. Given that Mary Poppins Returns is only supposed to take place roughly 20-25 years after her first appearance in the Banks household and the fact that Mary Poppins never ages, it makes complete sense that the two stories would be so similar.

It is truly amazing how well the new songwriters were able to emulate the musical style of the Sherman Brothers. It just shows how hard the entirety of the film worked on staying respectful to its' source material. It is the wonderful songs and overwhelming sense of nostalgia that makes Mary Poppins Returns practically perfect in every way.

The Parent Trap (1998)

Rating: 5/5

With a well thought out cast, The Parent Trap (1998) is one of the more respectable remakes in the world of Disney.

In her debut role, Lindsay Lohan stars as both Hallie Parker and Annie James, two sisters who are unaware they even have a sibling, let alone a twin. By a chance of fate, the two are at the same summer camp and meet one another. At first, they hate each other, but when they both get themselves in trouble and are forced to bunk together in isolation, they begin to form a friendship. As they discuss their home lives, they realize they are twins and begin to devise a plan to get their estranged parents back together. For their plan to work they must switch places, so Annie goes to California to be with their father and Hallie heads to London to meet their mother.

Once in their places, the two begin their plan to reunite their parents. Hallie is elated to be able to spend time with her mother, but Annie isn't having as much luck. Annie quickly learns of her father's engagement to a much younger woman named Meredith (Elaine Hendrix) and informs Hallie of the problem. Knowing time is of the essence, Annie and Hallie go to great lengths to get their parents back together, so they can once again be a family.

For me, remakes are hit or miss. There are times when it seems unnecessary to remake a classic, but other times the story is so great that it makes perfect sense to modernize it for a newer generation. The Parent Trap is most certainly one of the cases where the remake was a great decision. The story of the 90's version stays very, very close to its' source material, but adds in a few new flourishes to make it a bit more relatable for its' new audiences.

As far as child actors go, Lindsay Lohan was definitely one of the better ones to come out of the 90s. As someone who saw this film as a child, I can say she played two separate people quite convincingly, as I remember being shocked to discover that she was not in fact, a twin. It's a testament to both Lohan's performance and the special effects team that the twin effect was so believable throughout the film.

Compared to the original, it takes a pretty impressive actress to be able to come close to the essence that Maureen O'Hara had brought to the screen, but Natasha Richardson comes pretty darn close. She is able to bring the same effortless beauty and grace that O'Hara did, and is just about as lovable as O'Hara was. When it comes to the father, Dennis Quaid was also a very clever casting choice. He may not be as tall and imposing as Brian Keith, but he definitely is just as handsome and charming. The decisions to cast both actors as the parents was inspired, and is definitely one of the reasons the remake works so well.

The Parent Trap was probably one of the first reimaginings of a classic film that I had ever seen, and it was certainly a good one to start with. Whether it be the original or the one from 1998, the story for the Parent Trap will always be enjoyable and amusing, no matter the decade.

Kiki's Delivery Service

Rating: 4.5/5

Kiki's Delivery Service is yet another wonderful and whimsical film brought to the world of cinema by Hayao Miyazaki.

In an undisclosed time period, where witches are well known to the public, a thirteen year old girl named Kiki (Kirsten Dunst) is about to set off on her year long witch training. With her broom at the ready, Kiki and her sarcastic cat Jiji (Phil Hartman) head to the skies in search of a new town to settle in.

After being forced to land due to heavy rain, Kiki and Jiji find themselves in a quaint seaside town, that isn't accustomed to having a witch amongst them. Though unwelcome at first, Kiki is taken in by the village baker, and begins to start her own business of delivering goods to the people of the community. Thinking this new occupation will be the solution to all of her problems, Kiki is surprised when her new life has a lot more difficulties than expected.

In almost every Studio Ghibli film, there is a strong plot point revolving around magic, but it is presented in a way that is different from most movies that involve the topic. So many stories that are about magic, have the characters having to hide their powers, but in Studio Ghibli films, the witch's and wizards are known to the world. That's part of the charm of Kiki's Delivery Service. Kiki is free to express her love for her powers and broomstick flying, and by doing so, she becomes a truly lovable character that the audience easily wants to root for.

In addition to the legendary visuals directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli is never short of a comical sidekick for its' main character. Even though Jiji is not the main focus of the film, he is easily one of the best parts. Not only is his character a talking feline, but he is supplied with humorous one liners. Aiding in the character's instant likability, is the wonderful voice acting brought by Phil Hartman. His ability to add the dry wit to Jiji's personality is one of the many reasons why Kiki's Delivery Service is such an entertaining film.

I have always been instantly intrigued by any movie that is based in a small town or in the 50's and 60's. Though it is never stated when Kiki's Delivery Service takes place, it is definitely hinted that it is inspired by those decades. Even though there is magic throughout the story, there is a undeniable simplicity to the characters and setting within the movie. It is the ease of the music and plot that make Kiki's Delivery Service one of the more relaxing films Hayao Miyazaki's collection.

I wouldn't say that Kiki's Delivery Service is my favorite Studio Ghibli film, but it is right up there in the top five. When a film has as much charisma and enchantment to it as this one does, it is near impossible not to love it.

Gone Baby Gone

Rating: 4.75/5

Gone Baby Gone is an incredibly dark and intense film that is not for the faint of heart.

Private Detective Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his partner, both romantically and professionally, Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) have been approached by the aunt and uncle of a little girl named Amanda who has gone missing. Amanda has been kidnapped from a rough neighborhood in Boston, and her Aunt Bea (Amy Madigan), and Uncle Lionel (Titus Welliver) feel that private detectives may have a better chance of finding her than the local cops.

Though incredibly hesitant at first, Patrick and Angie accept the assignment. When they begin their investigation, they start to realize holes in the statements that have been made by the witnesses and family, leading them to wonder who is truly behind the kidnapping. In an intense and twisted race against time, Patrick and Angie will stop at nothing to find justice for Amanda.

As before-mentioned, Gone Baby Gone is most certainly not for the average movie goer. For someone looking for an action packed kidnapping/investigation thriller, then pick a different movie, because this movie is not that. Instead of focusing on giving their audience a glossed over look at an investigation, this film goes into every dark and gritty detail that could be found by a private investigator. This is not a negative comment towards the film, in fact its' quite the opposite. Gone Baby Gone has an alarming sense of realism to it, and it is specifically due to the movie not pulling any punches.

As the director and screenwriter of the film, Ben Affleck's work for Gone Baby Gone is nothing short of impressive. This movie was the first full length feature that he directed, and to make a film with such an impact, is a testament to his creative vision. The entirety of the movie was filmed in Massachusetts, and it is really clear that not only did Affleck know the terrain and language of the location, but that it was important for him to make his work appear as authentic as possible.

Performance wise, the acting in Gone Baby Gone is top notch. Amy Ryan, who played Amanda's mother Helene, earned an Academy Award nomination for this film, and its' incredibly clear as to why. Her character has fallen into a life of drugs and illegal activities, and not only does Ryan give Helene the strained characteristics needed for the role, but is able to completely transform her personal appearance, showing the years of abuse in her every expression. Alongside Amy Ryan, each actor gives an incredibly tense and at times, upsetting performance, that not only aids in believing the story, but in giving the movie its' powerful impression.

The only reason Gone Baby Gone did not receive a full 5/5 rating from me, is because the storyline felt just a tad muddled towards the end. There's a lot going on within the plot, and it takes awhile for things to really become clear for the viewer. That being said, Gone Baby Gone, though hard to watch at times, is a film that I will not be forgetting anytime soon.

National Lampoon's : Christmas Vacation

Rating: 4.5/5

National Lampoon's: Christmas Vacation is a holiday film for the slightly more adult audience and is a comical addition to the Christmas season.

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) wants nothing more than to have a good old fashioned, big family Christmas. To kick off the season, he, his wife, and their two children go out to get their Christmas tree. When they return home, they have to prepare the house for both sets of in-laws to visit for Christmas.

Once Clark's and Ellen's (Beverly D'Angelo) parents have arrived, the hopes for a loving and cheerful family Christmas start to slip away. When Clark's cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) unexpectedly shows up in an RV with his family, even more chaos ensues, and the Griswold Family Christmas appears to be doomed.

What sets Christmas Vacation apart from other comedies, is its' ability to contain silly slapstick humor, but not have it come off as stupid or overly immature. By spacing out the comedy, the film doesn't feel too condensed or obnoxious. It gives the audience a chance to appreciate and process the humor, instead of being hit over the head with joke after joke.

It is the comedic timing of both Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo that really sell the funny moments in the film. It's not even the specific lines that they say, but the way in which they are said, that make their roles so hilarious and memorable. Chase's character is so desperate to have the perfect Christmas, that he will stop at nothing to keep his dream alive. Chase brings the perfect amount of desperation and believability to his role, even if it is a bit far fetched. D'Angelo is the moral backbone for her husband, and her moments of comedy are based around reacting to Clark's crazed decisions. Even if she doesn't say a line, D'Angelo's facial expressions are just as funny as any comedic delivery given by Chase.

A great comedy portrays moments and concepts that we experience every day, but kicks it up a notch. They are able to make their plot humorous by having it be relatable to their viewers. Even if the story and characters are wackier than what you would find in real life, Christmas Vacation still brings the essence of family at Christmastime. This film is a great example of what makes an excellent comedy. Most audiences will be able to connect with the stress of trying to make a perfect family event, but be able to relax in knowing that, at least their family isn't nearly as crazy as the Griswolds.

Christmas Vacation is one of the handful of holiday films that doesn't center on falling in love, shopping, or Santa. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Christmas movie involving the magic of the season, but it's nice to add some variety into the mix. This film has been a staple in my yearly holiday viewings for many years, and that will never change. No matter how many times I watch it, I will always find Christmas Vacation to be a humorous and entertaining movie for the season.

The Holiday

Rating: 4.5/5

Don't let the negative reviews fool you, The Holiday, though not overly innovative, is a fun and entertaining film for any season.

In the days before Christmas, two women find themselves needing a break from their everyday lives. Iris (Kate Winslet), writes about weddings for a newspaper, and has been in love with her co-worker, Jasper (Rufus Sewell), for almost three years. The only catch; he doesn't love her, and has just announced his engagement. Amanda (Cameron Diaz), is a movie trailer editor who has just discovered that her long-term boyfriend has been cheating on her, and thus, kicks him out of her house. With both women feeling very alone, they decide they don't want to be anywhere near their homes during the holiday. Meeting on a home swap website, the two women exchange information and decide to trade houses during the Christmas season.

When Amanda arrives at Iris' cottage in Surrey, England, she struggles to adapt to the small space and lack of excitement. Iris, on the other hand, has no troubles taking to Amanda's Los Angeles mansion and city life. Even though they are both trying to make relationships the last thing on their minds, it is not long before their solo vacations become a bit more crowded.

One of my biggest pet peeves about reviews for romantic comedies, is that they almost always get low ratings due to their lack of originality. Just because a movie isn't necessarily ground breaking, does not mean that it is bad. I really feel as if this is the case for the Holiday. Though it may not necessarily be full of ingenuity, it is still well made and at times, very touching.

As much as I love the acting by Kate Winslet and Jude Law, who plays Cameron Diaz's love interest; it is the acting by Jack Black that really caught me by surprise. Jack Black is commonly cast in roles where is character is outlandish and loud, but in the Holiday, his character, who is a film composer, is gentle and rather soft spoken. Don't get me wrong, Jack Black is great at the over the top comedy, but it is really nice to see him with a role that is a different change of pace.

For me, what sets the Holiday apart from other romantic comedies, is the storyline that follows Kate Winslet's character. When Iris begins to learn about the neighborhood of her L.A. vacation home, she finds out that one of her neighbors is a man named Arthur Abbott (Eli Wallach), who is a retired screenwriter from the classic era of Hollywood. Even if what Iris and Arthur talk about from the golden age of Tinsel Town is somewhat fabricated, it is the inexplicable allure and charm of that time period that adds a really wonderful and unique concept to the movie. That, and the brilliant and charismatic performance given by Eli Wallach.

As before-mentioned, I truly feel as if the Holiday has been unfairly reviewed in the past. Yes, there are times where the plot has a few holes here and there, and the end results are a bit predictable, but that doesn't make it a bad film. Maybe I'm too much of a sucker for love stories and classic Hollywood, but even so, the Holiday is still a wonderful movie for the Christmas season.

Dumplin'

Rating: 4/5

A movie that was much more pleasant than I had anticipated, Dumplin' is charming, empowering, and very sweet.

Willowdeen Dixon (Danielle Macdonald), known as Dumpllin' by her mother Rosie (Jennifr Aniston), is a plus sized teenager who is the daughter of a former pageant queen. She feels as if she pales in comparison to her mother's legacy, and therefore doesn't have a close relationship with her mom. However, she did have an incredibly tight bond with her late aunt Lucy, who not practically raised her, but also instilled in her the love for Dolly Parton.

With pageant season fast approaching, Willowdeen knows that her mom will be high strung and hard to approach, so she intends to stay out of the way as much as possible. That all changes when she discovers that her Aunt Lucy had once planned on entering Miss Teen Bluebonnet alongside her sister; causing Willowdeen to sign up for her mom's pageant as a protest against the stereotypes of it, as well as for Lucy. What starts out as a personal battle, quickly turns into a larger war, when other girls see Willowdeen's entry into the pageant as inspiration, and sign up as well.

When it comes to movies that are based off of modern young adult novels, I don't generally have a tendency to gravitate towards them. I feel as if they often follow the same patterns and the acting can be fairly basic and underwhelming. That being said, even if Dumplin' does fall into some of those stereotypes, it is still better than your average teen film. By being set in such a small town, the story has a tighter feel to it, and seems easier to relate to for its' audiences. You aren't trying to get to know a large collection of characters, and it really allows the viewers to make a connection with Willowdeen "Dumplin", and be pulling for her to succeed throughout the story.

Upon first hearing about Dumplin', I was more intrigued by the idea of using Dolly Parton music as a plot concept, than I was about the teen novel side of the story. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really enjoyed both pieces to the film. The soundtrack of Dolly music is without a doubt, one of the best parts in the movie, but the story, though not overly exciting or new, is sweet, touching, and inspirational.

For a movie that was based on a young adult novel, I was really impressed by the depth and emotion that the actors brought to the story. It definitely has some cliche teen moments throughout it, but the scenes in which Willowdeen is struggling with her grief over the loss of her aunt, are poignant and well acted. Danielle Macdonald's performance shines above the side characters that make up her social life, but that is to be expected, given that she is the title role. Jennifer Aniston's performance shows that she can do more than comedic roles and can also bring the necessary emotions for the character. Same as Willowdeen, Rosie is dealing with a great loss, and though the moments of heavy emotion are rare, they are definitely some of her better scenes in the film.

Dumplin' is unexpected in its' ability to tell a teen story that is accessible to multiple ages. It is very simple, and there's something very comforting in that fact. If someone were to turn away from watching Dumplin' because they thought it seemed to cheesy or juvenile, I would strongly urge them to reconsider, even if it is just to watch the movie for its' wonderful soundtrack.

X-Men

Rating: 4.5/5

An action and fun filled beginning to a franchise, X-Men is intriguing in both its' story and visuals.

In the not too distant future, the existence of mutants, human beings who's genetics have caused them to develop unusual powers, have become known to the world. Though the majority of them pose no threat to society, most of the public fear the mutants, causing them to go into hiding.

Tucked away from the public view, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), is a powerful mind reader, who runs a school for young mutants in order for them to learn how to control their powers, but also to be safe from those who do not understand them. Their semi-quiet existence gets shaken up, when a surly mutant named Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and a runaway mutant who goes by the name Rogue (Anna Paquin), arrive at the school. Though untrained, the two new additions to the school begin to work with Professor Xavier and the other trained mutants to help stop Magneto (Ian McKellen), a villainous mutant who is out to destroy humanity.

As far as movies based on comic books go, X-Men definitely appears to be catered more towards the fans of the comics rather than the general movie goers. This is by no means a criticism towards the film. The fight scenes in X-Men appear more choreographed to mimic those in a comic book, whereas the more recent Marvel films have more of an action movie feel to them instead. Both are great at what they do, but it's quite enjoyable to see the comic book roots take hold in X-Men.

What I really appreciated about X-Men, was that they didn't spend too much time developing the back stories for the characters. They practically drop you into the story, and hope that you can follow along. When movies spend too much time on exposition, it can easily lose its' viewers, and X-Men does a great job at finding the balance of introducing the concepts of the mutants to those unfamiliar with the plot, and appeasing those who are already familiar, by not overdoing the character development.

As far as the movies belonging to the X-Men world, I wouldn't say that the this one is my favorite, but it is by far not the worst in the series. Given that it is the first in the franchise, it hasn't been able to gain the momentum that some of its' sequels will have. This seems to be a fairly common theme for Marvel films, so its' not that shocking that the first installment of X-Men would fall into that pattern.

All in all, X-Men is a really entertaining film. It has moments of unexpected darkness, and whimsical jokes throughout. It is proof positive of Marvel's uncanny ability to tell a great story.

While You Were Sleeping

Rating: 5/5

One of the most adorable and heartwarming romantic comedies out there, While You Were Sleeping should go down in history as one of Sandra Bullock's best films.

Everyday, Lucy (Sandra Bullock) works at her job where she takes tokens for the train. The only bright spot of her menial work, is when the handsome man she dreams of marrying, comes by her booth to pay his train fare. On Christmas Day, Lucy is shocked to see that her fantasy man is being mugged and is then thrown onto the train tracks. Without thinking, Lucy jumps off the platform and saves his life.

At the hospital, Lucy is desperate to see him, but the doctors refuse her visitation rights, because she is not family. Defeated and alone in the hospital hallway, Lucy mutters to herself that she was going to marry the man she saved. Not knowing that a nurse has overheard, Lucy is whisked into the man's hospital room, and discovers his name is Peter Callaghan. Suddenly his family arrives and before Lucy can clear things up, the nurse tells the Callaghans that she is Peter's fiance. Though she attempts to correct them, Lucy is quickly sucked into a white lie that gets way out of her hands.

While You Were Sleeping is one of the rare instances where its' a well made romantic comedy that got the decent reviews it deserves. The story in While You Were Sleeping is charming and warm, and perhaps that's why it is beloved by both the everyday viewer and critics. There is none of the excessive silliness or dumbed down humor that is to be expected in the majority of romantic comedies, and unlike most of its' genre, which are commonly targeted towards female audiences, this film can be enjoyed by all those who love a delightful love story set during the holiday season.

Though Sandra Bullock has starred in a long list of romantic comedies, While You Were Sleeping is perhaps one of her better performances. Her character not only needs to be instantly likable, but able to pull the heartstrings of her viewers by genuinely portraying the personal struggles that she is facing. Bullock is able to emanate these qualities in Lucy, and make you fall in love with her character as quickly as the Callaghans do. As far as the performances by the actors who make up Peter's family; they are all wonderful. Though the characters are portrayed to be quite eccentric at times, they are incredibly believable as a nutty, but lovable family.

While You Are Sleeping is one of those movies that could technically be considered as a Christmas film, but could really be watched any time of the year. It does have a definite seasonal overtone, but it is more about the relationships that develop throughout the holidays, rather than Christmas itself. Though the film is predictable, as about 99% of romantic comedies are, you just don't care. While You Are Sleeping is just too enjoyable to care whether or not you will likely be able to guess how the film will end.

While You Were Sleeping is definitely one of my favorite romantic comedies. The acting and story far surpass the majority of the films in its' genre, and it is a film that gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart that only the most adorable love stories can do.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One

Rating: 4/5

In a film that can only be as good as its' source material, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One is a well acted adaptation.

After collapsing the dome at the 75th Annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself recovering deep inside the bunkers of District 13. Though it was thought to be destroyed in a previous war, District 13 is alive and well, and under the rule of President Coin (Julianne Moore). To make sure they are not exposed to the capital, the members of 13 must follow the strict guidelines set by Coin, and Katniss is not keen to adhering to the rules.

Once she is well enough, Katniss is informed by former games master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), that he and the other leaders of the rebellion who dwell in 13, would like her to become the mockingjay and a symbol of the fight against the Capital. At first, Katniss is hesitant about agreeing to be the face of the rebellion, but when she learns that Peeta is being held against his will in the Capital, she becomes determined to do anything she can to free him from the clutches of President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

In my opinion, I have always felt that Mockingjay was the weakest installment in the Hunger Games books, so it only makes sense that this film would not be as good as the rest. Its' not so much the movie's fault, as it is they just didn't have as strong of material as the previous two films. That being said, this book did not need to be made into two parts. It is painfully obvious that it was done just for the sole purpose of making more money off of the franchise. By making two separate films, the first one spends more time on exposition than needed, making the movie drag in certain segments, until you are suddenly brought out of the depths of District 13 for a few moments of action.

The acting talent in this film is really much better than the story. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's talent is legendary, and even though he is only in handful of scenes, whenever he graces the screen, his performance effortlessly pulls the viewers attention towards him. Elizabeth Banks once again shows that she can give Effie Trinkett a level of depth that one would not think she could have based on her original outward appearance. In this installment, Effie has also found her way to District 13, but has been stripped of all her color and flare. Banks shows Effie's struggle with her bland appearance and being taken away from all she knows, as well as her intense devotion and love for Katniss.

At this point in the series, Katniss has had her spirit practically broken by more than enough grief and tragedy, but somehow she manages to try her best and push through it. In this film, Jennifer Lawrence had the challenge of bringing more intensity to Katniss through her personal struggles rather than through action in the arena, and she definitely was capable to step up to the emotional plate. There is a reason that Lawrence hasn't been defined only as Katniss Everdeen in her acting career. It is because her talent for performing is much greater than that of just a star in a teen franchise.

In all fairness, when I read Mockingjay, I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second, so this film really isn't bad. There are definitely moments in which the combination of the scenery and the score give you chills, and the intensity of the scene can be felt in your gut. Though it doesn't appear as captivating as its predecessors, Mockingjay Part One is still leaps and bounds above the majority of the other dystopian teen novels turned into films.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Rating: 2.5/5

With amped up action and a dumbed down story, National Treasure: Book of Secrets is fun, but not up to par with its' predecessor.

Still reveling in the fame of finding the Templar Treasure, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) is speaking at a Civilian Heroes Conference, discussing his great-great grandfather, Thomas Gates and his contribution to winning the Civil War. Ben is then stunned when he is confronted by Mitch (Ed Harris), a historian and black market dealer, who claims to have potential evidence of Thomas Gates being a co-conspirator in the assassination of President Lincoln.

Determined to clear the Gates family name, Ben sets out on another quest. This time instead of searching for treasure, he is searching for information; but as fate would have it, he stumbles upon a treasure map along the way. Using the newly published book written by co-treasure hunter, Riley (Justin Bartha), Ben and his group learn of a secret book written by the presidents for the presidents. In that book lies the key to exonerating his great-great grandfather, and maybe even finding a city of gold.

One of the things that I loved about the first National Treasure movie, was that Nicolas Cage seemed to be able suppress his urge to overact. Sadly, I cannot say the same for the sequel. In his typical fashion, Nicolas Cage fills a majority of his scenes with bad acting and yelling. Where some may find this entertaining or amusing, I simply find it irritating and distracting. By Nicolas Cage doing his usual style of acting, any potential for taking the film's plot seriously, is almost completely lost.

If the plot for the original National Treasure appeared far fetched, then National Treasure: Book of Secrets is completely inconceivable. Though the first film's central plot of stealing the Declaration of Independence, is clearly pushing the boundaries of what can be believed, at least it made an effort at making it feel somewhat convincing. Book of Secrets takes on another plot where they make the impossible, possible, but throw any attempts at believability, right out the window.

What saves the movie from being completely ridiculous, is the always enjoyable concept of a treasure hunt. It will forever be exciting to see the steps of an elaborate scavenger hunt unfold, and that really is this movie's saving grace. Out of my own curiosity, I looked up some of the history that is discussed throughout the film, and was happily surprised to see the accuracy of the information. So, even if the plot appears more ludicrous than the first film, at least the historical content is fairly legitimate.

I know I tore this film apart quite a bit, but believe it or not, the movie is still entertaining. If you can turn your brain off a little, and just enjoy the movie for its' silliness and treasure hunting, than you will probably really like it. That being said, it says a lot about the quality of a film when even the incomparable Helen Mirren can't make it better.

Happy Christmas

Rating: 3/5

An unusual blend of improv, awkward, and heartwarming, Happy Christmas is a somber addition to the world of holiday films.

In the middle of the Christmas season, Jenny (Anna Kendrick) has just broken up with her boyfriend, and has decided to go to Chicago to stay with her brother Jeff (Joe Swanberg), and see if she wants to live there.

Upon arriving in the city, Jenny goes out with her friend Carson (Lena Dunham), and gets completely wasted and needs to be picked up from the party by her brother. Given her incredibly irresponsible first night, Joe's wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey), worries that Jenny is not mature enough to be living in their house alongside their son Jude. Though their relationship is rocky at first, Jenny does her best to prove to Kelly that she is getting her act together, and the two begin to bond over the course of the holiday season.

One of the many things that sets Happy Christmas apart from other holiday/indie films is that the script is entirely improvised. On the one hand, kudos to director/creator Joe Swanberg for attempting such a bold idea. However, on the other hand, there really is a reason that movies have written scripts. There are scenes, namely the ones involving Swanberg, where the improvisations come off as innovative and charming, but there are others, where the bumbling dialogue is almost too uncomfortable to bear.

The story of Happy Christmas is very mellow and does not require much thought, which is actually quite nice. Nothing extravagant happens in the film, and it seems about as close to real life as a film can get. It is because of this, that I am sure the indie film critics just absolutely love this film, but for the more main stream audiences, it could be quite off putting. Many modern viewers look for instant gratification in their films, and that definitely doesn't happen in Happy Christmas. The plot just saunters along until you reach the end.

The cast of Happy Christmas are definitely to be commended for their work in this film. Being able to do improv is not an easy skill to do, let alone for the entire length of a feature film. Because of the film's unique style, it has some of the best scenes between a father and child that I have ever seen. The child playing Jude, is Joe Swanberg's son in real life, and it is wonderfully obvious. The love between the two make for what I would consider to be my favorite scenes in the film, and I don't think they would have existed had it not been for Swanberg's unique vision.

Happy Christmas is one of those films where the more I think on it, the more I like it. Upon first watching it, I was so focused on the odd and clumsy style of the film, that I didn't really think about actually enjoying it. I will definitely be giving this movie a rewatch next holiday season, and perhaps after a second watch, my overall opinion of the film will improve.

Me and Orson Welles

Rating: 5/5

No matter how accurate or not it may be, Me and Orson Welles is a brilliant portrayal of theatrical life in the 1930's.

Seventeen year old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) is sitting in class, pretending to listen to his teacher, while in reality, he is reading a script and dreaming about life in the theatre. On his way home from school, he bumps into a troupe of actors exiting the Mercury Theatre; a theatre belonging to none other and Orson Welles (Christian McKay). Welles is in need of a young actor to play Lucius in his production of Julius Caesar. When Welles spots Richard, he asks him if he can sing, and when Richard shows he can, he is given the part on the spot.

Once a part of the Mercury Theatre's company, Richard is shown the ropes by Welles' production assistant Sonja (Claire Danes). She explains to him how fickle and intense Orson can be, but to embrace it, given the director's creative genius. Though he is still a high school student, once Richard begins to work on the stage, his studies are the farthest thing from what he cares about. In attempts to impress both Orson and Sonja, Richard will stop at nothing to achieve his dream of becoming an actor.

Me and Orson Welles is a historical film in the same sense that Titanic is. It is set in a real time period in history, where there are facts present that actually happened, but contains fictional characters to aid in the true story's narrative. Orson Welles did put on a production of Julius Caesar, and the accounts of his personality and temper are all documented to be true. If you look at photographs of the real production at the Mercury Theatre, and compare them to the scenes in the film, the similarities are quite remarkable. It is truly impressive what the creative team behind the film were able to do to make the movie really appear as if it were in the Mercury in 1937, especially if you take into consideration that the film was made mostly in England in the late 2000s.

At this point in his career, Zac Efron was most popularly known for his role in the High School Musical franchise, so for him to take a serious role in a period film, could appear as quite a stretch. However, Efron proves himself as a talented actor in this film. His performance doesn't feel quite as polished as some of the other talented vets in the film, but he definitely gives a strong portrayal for his character, and a believable one at that. Claire Danes is also to be commended for her work in Me and Orson Welles. Women's roles were far from easy during the early days of show business, and Danes does an excellent job at portraying the tenacity needed for a woman trying to climb her way to the top of the industry. She will stop and nothing to achieve what she knows she rightfully deserves.

When an actor has to emanate the style and mannerisms of a real life person, it is almost always stated to be a much greater challenge than to create a new character of your own. With that being said, Christian McKay's portrayal of Orson Welles is something to be admired. Though I have only seen and heard a handful of the work done by Welles, it is incredibly hard to watch this film and not believe McKay to be the real man. It is his incredibly dedicated performance that makes Me and Orson Welles to be such a transportive film, and such a wonderful one at that.

I have always been a sucker for movies about show business; especially ones based between the 30's and 60's, so I am really not sure why it took me so long to watch this film. Me and Orson Welles has everything it needs to make a captivating movie. From the music in the background, to its' costumes and cast; Me and Orson Welles is a stunning film from beginning to end.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Rating: 4/5

Personally my least favorite installment in the Harry Potter film franchise, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is a well made movie, but a poor adaptation of a beloved book.

In the summer after his second year at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is being forced to spend his time at the home of his horrific aunt and uncle. Much to Harry's dismay, his Uncle Vernon(Richard Griffiths)'s sister, Marge (Pam Ferris), is coming to the Dursley's house for a visit. When Marge insults Harry's parents, he loses his temper, accidentally turning her into a human balloon.

After the incident, Harry runs away from the Dursley's, and finds himself on the Knight Bus that will take him back to the wizarding world. It is there that he learns of a deranged escaped convict named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman), who happens to be looking for Harry. Knowing that his year at Hogwarts will be plagued by the search for Black, Harry and his loyal friends Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) must once again band together and take on a magical adventure.

What has always baffled me, is how the Prisoner of Azkaban is the highest rated Harry Potter film. Yes, the movie does have its' moments where the scenery around the castle are absolutely breathtaking, and the performances by the cast, both young and old, are impressively done, but that still doesn't make it a great adaptation. Of the eight Harry Potter films, this one appears to be the most disjointed from the franchise. To me, it felt as if director Alfonso Cuaron simply disregarded any previously existing films or concepts, and rebelled against them to go a completely separate way. By minimizing the use of the Hogwarts uniforms, adding in unnecessary fabrications, and leaving out crucial details, not only does Cuaron deviate from the book, but he takes away some of the magic as well.

With every new installment into the world of Harry Potter comes new characters. Most notably in the Prisoner of Azkaban, we are introduced to three very different people. Professor Lupin (David Thewlis) is the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, and is mysterious, but kind. Thewlis emanates the character exactly the way I had imagined while first reading the book, which for me, is one of the highest complements and actor can receive. Joining Lupin, is former Azkaban prisoner, Sirius Black. The number of scenes Oldman's actually in are very few, but the moments in which he is on the screen are dominated by his impeccable talent. Oldman's role is a very complex character, and he is able to perfectly portray every facet that is needed to make up Sirius Black. Lastly, we are introduced to Professor Sybil Trelawney (Emma Thompson), who teaches Divination. Trelawney is an incredibly eccentric character, and Thompson not only makes her oddly believable, but quite humorous as well.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is really where the series begins to get more complicated and dark. The film tries to create the ominous sensation needed for the plot, but doesn't quite hit the mark. The music is almost too perky at times for what is happening throughout the story, and for me, there are too many times where humor is added in where it shouldn't be. Sometimes the comedic moments are taken directly from the book, and that is of course not only fine, but warranted, but there are times where by the film trying to be "funny", it not only takes the seriousness away from the film, but compromises the true nature of its' characters.

I know what you might be thinking; based on this review, how could this film receive a 4/5 of rating? Well, that's because it is a Harry Potter film, and no matter how I feel about the directing or style choices, the core story will still be excellent, because it came from the brilliant mind of J.K. Rowling. When reviewing Harry Potter films, I know I am more critical than I probably should be, but when something is as close to your heart as this, it is practically impossible not to be.

A Lonely Place to Die

Rating: 3/5

A Lonely Place to Die starts out better than it ends, but still attempts to be a decent action packed survival/horror film.

Alison (Melissa George), Rob (Alec Newman), and Ed (Ed Speelers) are all climbing up a mountain in the Scottish highlands. They are on their way to meet up with Alison and Rob's friends, Jenny (Kate Magowan) and Alex (Garry Sweeney). Once the group of five is complete, they set out into the wilderness to continue their climbing expedition.

While on a lunch break, Ed begins to hear a strange noise coming from deep in the woods. He calls the rest of them over to investigate the sound, which leads them to a pipe sticking out of the ground. Once they begin to dig into the ground, they are shocked to discover a little girl who has been buried inside a box underground. Knowing they need to get the girl off the mountain, Rob and Alison split from the group in order to find help. It is not soon after, that the five friends realize that whoever was responsible for taking the child, is still lurking in the woods.

If I could only judge A Lonely Place to Die on 3/4s of it, I would definitely give it a higher rating. When the characters are within the mountains, and trying to save the girl, the film comes off as fast paced and well thought out. Once the characters make their way back to civilization, the plot begins to become overcomplicated and muddled. Decisions are made too quickly, new characters are introduced in the last act, and details seem to be either hidden beneath the chaos, or left out all together.

As the lead in the film, Melissa George does a decent job a portraying the strength and protective nature necessary for the character. Her performance, especially towards the end, is better than the writing that she was given. The names of the other actors in the film may not be as well known, but they exhibit the same level of effort to their roles as George does. Each actor is able to bring the needed energy to fill the scenes where they are trying to save the child. Their exhaustive efforts appear realistic and make those moments in the film incredibly tense.

A Lonely Place to Die is not a very well known film, and therefore there wasn't a lot of time spent on making sure the dialogue was fully understandable by American audiences. Whether they be British or Scottish, the characters have very thick accents, and that can make some of the information in the conversations easily missed. I am not judging the film for this, as it is not their fault that most Americans can't understand fast paced accents from outside their country. However, the dialect could be a big reason as to why the last twenty minutes of the film seemed confusing, or it could just have been the lackluster writing.

Overall, I was a little disappointed by A Lonely Place to Die. Based on the description of the film, I was looking forward to a survival/adventure movie, with a hint of horror mixed in. In all fairness, the movie does follow that concept for the most part, but it just doesn't really seem to know what to do with its' own material once the main concept is expended.


Stardust

Rating: 4/5

Stardust is a colorful fantasy world, filled with magic, romance, and adventure.

Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) lives in the simple village known as Wall. No one is permitted to leave the town, and therefore no one truly knows what lies beyond the stone wall that is guarded day and night. Hoping to impress the woman he loves, Tristan sets out on a quest to capture a fallen star. By doing so, this means Tristan must secretly make his way out of the village.

After using a magic candle, Tristan finds himself in a crater, next to a woman whom to his surprise, is the fallen star herself. Using an enchanted chain, Tristan begins the journey to take the star, Yvaine (Claire Danes), back to his love. Unbeknownst to Tristan, he is not the only person who wants to posses the star. Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), is one of three sister witches, and is the most powerful. When she learns of the star's descent from the sky, she sets out quest to find it in order to cut its' heart out and restore her and her sister's powers and youth. Also searching for Yvaine is the youngest of seven princes, Septimus (Mark Strong). If he can capture the star, he can live for eternity and rule over the kingdom forever.

Stardust is a film that is set in a 100% fantasy world, therefore, there is a requirement of special effects. The use of computerized effects in the movie are impressive, but not overbearing. The breathtaking scenery, the use of real sets, and practical effects that are present throughout the film, make it so the fantastical world within the movie doesn't appear too fake to be believable.

With so many characters in search of the star, it is expected that the film would contain a fairly expansive cast list. Given her reputation, Michelle Pfeiffer's performance is just as excellent as one would expect. Her character is vile and ruthless, and Pfeiffer is able to give her every despicable quality that is needed to make Lamia as frightful as she is. Also deserving recognition for her work is Claire Danes. Yvaine runs the gambit of emotions throughout the film. From the fury of being captured, to the fear of losing what her heart desires, Danes is able to portray it perfectly.

Given the fairly complicated story, it is surprising that the movie isn't difficult to follow. There are a few moments throughout Stardust where the plot appears slightly muddled, or the characters make poor decisions for the purpose of dramatic effect, but those times are few and far between. All in all, given the intricate plot, the film does a decent job at being straightforward and easy to enjoy.

I distinctly remember seeing Stardust for the first time, and being slightly taken aback by it. I didn't expect it to be as innovative or bizarre as it was, and it did impact my initial opinion of the film. Now that I have watched it numerous times since my initial viewing, I have come to truly like it. Stardust is really unlike any other film I have seen, and that's what makes it so great.

17 Again

Rating: 4/5

Though predictable and a little silly at times, 17 Again is fun and overall very entertaining.

Once, Mike O'Donnell (Matthew Perry), was the high school basketball star with a bright future ahead of him. That all changed when he learned his girlfriend was pregnant and decided to get married instead of go for a basketball scholarship. Now, Mike is 37 years old, and disappointed with his current state of life. His wife Scarlett (Leslie Mann) has kicked him out of the house, his two kids don't want anything to do with him, he was just fired from his job, and he's having to live with his high school best friend Ned (Thomas Lennon).

While picking his kids up from school, Mike sees a photo of himself from 1989 in the school's trophy case. Wishing that he could go back to that time, he is approached by a mysterious janitor. While on his way back home, Mike sees the same janitor getting ready to jump off a bridge. In an effort to save him, Mike accidentally falls off of the ledge. The next morning when he wakes up, Mike (Zac Efron) sees that he is now 17 years old. With the help of Ned, Mike sets out to discover why he has aged backwards and also how he can change his life in the process.

If you can look passed the fact that Matthew Perry and Zac Efron look nothing alike, 17 Again is actually quite a decent movie. It is definitely targeted towards a teenaged audience, but that doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed by older viewers, especially if you can wait out the hokey first fifteen minutes of the film. What saves this movie from being completely inaccessible to anyone over the age of twenty, is the comical and well acted performances of its' leads, and the innovative struggles Mike faces throughout the movie.

At this point and time, Zac Efron was still widely known for his work in the High School Musical films. This movie not only showed that he was a talented performer, but that he could be humorous, heartwarming, and not just an attractive Disney Channel actor. He is without a doubt the main reason 17 Again is as enjoyable as it is, and had the lead been given to another actor, it is doubtful the movie would have worked as well.

When a movie has a plot where a character is suddenly given a new power or has been transformed into a different type of being, there is always going to be establishing scenes where the character is excited and shocked by this new development. What I love about 17 Again, is that it doesn't overdo this concept. There is only about ten minutes in the film where Mike is taking in the fact that he is now seventeen, and after that time, it becomes an idea that he quickly accepts. Of course, these types of scenes are necessary to the overall plot, but when they go on for too long, it gets repetitive and sometimes, rather annoying. 17 Again definitely saves itself from that fate, and is a much better film because of it.

I remember seeing this movie as a teenager and being surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Even though I am years beyond the time I first saw 17 Again, I still find it just as likable as I did then. Of course, now that I am older, I do pick up on some of the cheesiness that I would have overlooked when I was younger. Even so, 17 Again is an easygoing and amusing film to sit down and watch, not matter what your age may be.

9 to 5

Rating: 5/5

One of the most iconic comedies of the 80's, 9 to 5 is still just as wonderful and hilarious as ever.

Newly divorced Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda), is a new hire at a large corporation called Consolidated. On her first day, she is to be trained by head supervisor Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin). Though their arrogant and misogynistic boss, Mr.Hart (Dabney Coleman) won't admit it, Violet practically runs the company and all those who work there.

Not only does Mr.Hart blatantly not give Violet the credit and respect she deserves, but he also spreads lies that he is having an affair with his secretary, Doralee (Dolly Parton). When Doralee, a married woman, catches wind of Mr.Hart's fabricated gossip, she storms out of the office, and finds herself at a bar with both Violet and Judy. The three become fast friends, and jokingly plot the ways in which they could off their boss. When their fantasies begin to take form in real life, the three women have to band together in order to prevent Mr.Hart from ruining their lives.

9 to 5, is a movie that is not only incredibly funny, but well acted and clever. The movie definitely takes risks, especially with its' depictions of each of the women's imaginary tales of how they would kill Mr. Hart, but the risks certainly pay off. The film has the perfect combination of the occasional slapstick comedy moment blended along with brilliant timing and writing. The best comedies don't rely on one style of humor, and that is proven by the genius behind the comedy of 9 to 5.

All three women in 9 to 5 are excellent, but Lily Tomlin stands out as the most experienced and natural when it comes to comedy. Tomlin was no stranger to making people laugh and that is proven every time she graces a scene in 9 to 5. As much as I praise the talents of Lily Tomlin, the immense skill of Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton are not to be forgotten. Even though their personalities may vastly differ, the women create a trio of comedy gold.

9 to 5 is unique, in that it has elements that in any other movie, I would most likely find too silly to enjoy. There's a strange quality about this film, where even the most outlandish humor comes off as innovative and comical. It is perhaps the skill behind the movie that make this possible. 9 to 5 doesn't try too hard to get laughs, it just has an indescribable confidence to it that makes the laughs easily produced.

I don't think there will ever be a day when 9 to 5 won't be considered a memorable classic. Whether it be from its' catchy Academy Award nominated song, or the chemistry between its' leads, 9 to 5 will always be fabulous.

Love Actually

Rating: 4.5/5

A film with an incredibly skilled ensemble, Love Actually is delightful addition to the films targeted towards adult audiences during the holiday season.

In the early 2000's, the lives of different couples intertwine during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is a washed up pop star who is attempting to put himself back on the map with a seasonal rendition of one of his classic songs. However, to his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher)'s dismay, Billy can't seem to keep his verbal filter under control. Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are getting married, and Peter's friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is best man and videographer. Attending their wedding are presumed friends of either the bride or groom, Jamie (Colin Firth) and Sarah (Laura Linney).

Jamie is a writer, who after the wedding, spends the season at his cottage in France, where he begins to form a relationship with his Portuguese housekeeper, Aurélia (Lucia Moniz). While Sarah is at work, her boss Harry (Alan Rickman) confronts her and tells her she needs to deal with her secret love of her coworker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro). Harry is married to Karen (Emma Thompson), who's brother is the newly elected prime minster, David (Hugh Grant). Karen is also close friends with Daniel (Liam Neeson), who is struggling with being able to cope with the holiday season after the recent loss of his wife. Though each person leads a drastically different life from one another, in one way or the other, their paths will cross throughout the Christmas season.

With so many different characters and plot lines, it is difficult to choose which one I like the best. I have always gone back and forth between the story focused on Liam Neeson's character and the one involving Colin Firth's. Neeson's parts of the film contain the more heartbreaking and touching scenes in the movie, but they are also some of the most charming. Firth's character is constantly trying to communicate with Aurélia, but they speak different languages. In their scenes, there is a wonderful back and forth dialogue between the two. Even if they don't understand each other, their scenes are definitely some of the most romantic.

When there is a film with such a vast number of actors, and famously talented ones at that, the individual performance has to be quite extraordinary for it to stick out from the crowd. Emma Thompson's scenes are usually quite short in the film, but they are definitely memorable. Her character is blunt and comical, but is also going through her own personal struggles, as she is beginning to see signs of her husband's infidelity. When it comes to Love Actually's emotional impact, there is always one scene that sticks in my mind, and it is one that is solely performed by the incomparable Emma Thompson.

Love Actually is one of the first episodic films that I had ever seen. Since then, I have seen quite a few titles where there are numerous storylines that all connect to one another, but few do it as well as this film. Not only do each and every character have some sort of connection to each other, but the stories are actually quite easy to follow. The movie does a wonderful job at packing the story to the brim with compelling stories, and making almost every one as entertaining as the other.

I have a pretty strict rule about only watching a Christmas movie once Thanksgiving has passed, but Love Actually almost makes me break that rule. Whenever the end of November begins to approach, I get excited just because I know I will soon be able to watch Love Actually.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Rating: 5/5

When given the best book in a trilogy, it is expected that the best film in the series would follow. With The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, that is most certainly the case.

One year after the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is struggling with coming to grips with the trauma she faced in the arena. With the anniversary approaching, Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) must set out on the victor's tour in order to "celebrate" their tandem win with the other districts. When the two are barely out on the tour, they come to the quick realization that tensions and security in the districts are high, and that President Snow may resort to drastic measures in order to keep things under his control.

Once they have returned to their homes in District 12, Katniss and the rest of the world of Panem are watching President Snow's broadcast concerning the 75th Hunger Games. Much to everyone's shock, Snow (Donald Sutherland) announces that the tributes of this year's games will be pulled from the existing pool of previous victors. Knowing that she is the only female victor in her district, Katniss know's that she is destined to be forced back into the arena.

Years ago, when they announced that they were making a film series based on the Hunger Games books, I was the most excited to see Catching Fire. In my opinion, this particular story is the most compelling and creatively written of the three. The film hold's up to its' innovative source material and proves that it is not just the action in the arena that makes this movie so intriguing and intense. Its' the rare quiet moments where the palpable tensions between Katniss and President snow are being shown, that are equally as crucial as the scenes within the arena, to give the film its' overall impact .

Katniss is the heroine of the series, and therefore most of the attention falls on Jennifer Lawrence's performance. As with the previous film in the series, her talent as an actress is undeniable, and she provides a powerful base for the movie. With that being said, in this installment into the series, it is Woody Harrelson's work as Haymitch Abernathy and Elizabeth Banks' portrayal of Effie Trinket, that have always stood out to me the most. Though gruff and crude, Haymitch still manages to be oddly likable. Harrelson's role may be small, but it is his dedication to Katniss that makes him one of the more important roles, and Harrelson portrays it perfectly. Banks' role is not much bigger, but in the beginning of the film, she is there for brief moments of comic relief. Banks makes sure to stay true to Effie's quirks, but also shows the audience that she is more than what meets the eye.

As one would expect, these films rely quite heavily on the use of special effects. I would definitely say that Catching Fire improved upon the realism of the effects compared to its predecessor. In this movie, once the tributes arrive in the arena, there are plenty of places in which computerized effects are necessary to portray the unfolding action. I have yet to see any movie where the effects appear so real that you almost forget they aren't, but Catching Fire comes pretty close. There is still that slight hint of computerization to some of its' creations, but overall, they are still very impressive.

Whenever I decide to rewatch the Hunger Games movies, it is always because I want to watch this specific film again. I know I could watch it as a standalone, but I'm a completist, so I have to watch all four in a row. That being said, it shows the remarkable pull that this movie has, if it can be the reason someone decides to not only watch one film, but four.

National Treasure

Rating: 3.5/5

A movie that is more entertaining than it is well made, National Treasure is a movie full of fun adventure and questionable historical accuracy.

Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) comes from a long line of history buffs and treasure hunters. His family has believed for generations that there was a treasure hidden by the Knights of Templar. On a trip to the arctic, Ben and a team of like minded hunters are in search of a ship called the Charlotte that had been lost at sea.

When Ben and his crew find the ship, they find a clue that leads them to believe that their is a message hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. When one of the team members, Ian (Sean Bean), hears Ben decipher the clue, he and his two sidekicks double cross Ben and attempt to kill him and his friend Riley (Justin Bartha), so they will be able to have the treasure to themselves. Unbeknownst to Ian, Ben and Riley survive their attempted murder, and set out on a mission to steal the Declaration of Independence and protect it, so Ian and his goons can't get their hands on it.

Going into National Treasure, you know that it won't be a great movie, but you know it will be entertaining. The idea of a scavenger hunt that spans over numerous continents and centuries is just too appealing to be bad. However accurate or not the historical information may be, it is presented in a way in which you really believe and wish for there to be a secret world of clues and puzzles based on important times in American history.

Normally, if I see that Nicolas Cage is in a movie, I tend to stay as far away as possible. He's just not my cup of tea when it comes to acting styles. However, this is one of the only movies where I not only can tolerate him, but I actually like him. The character he plays does not require any incredible acting talent, and perhaps that's why it works so well. Ben Gates knows a lot about history, and gets excited searching for it. Simple character, for a simple performance. My favorite character in the film is that played by Diane Kruger. Her character, Dr. Abigaill Chase, is an expert at looking and studying historical artifacts and Kruger plays it wonderfully. Her acting skill is definitely above the required calibre of the film and she easily gives her character the strong, powerful, and intelligent qualities that are needed.

What I like about National Treasure, is that even though the characters travel to many countries and cities, the movie is still easy to follow. This movie was produced by Disney, so the creators obviously knew that their film had to be accessible to a younger audience. What the character's are doing is fairly complicated, but by vocalizing their plans, though a sometimes overused tactic, allows for National Treasure to be enjoyable and not overly intellectual or complicated.

I think that most everyone who has watched this movie before, knows that there are certainly better movies out there, but that still doesn't make this a bad film. National Treasure appears to know exactly what type of movie it is, and doesn't attempt to be anything more than an entertaining and energetic adventure film.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Rating: 4.5/5

A film that swept the nation upon its' initial release, My Big Fat Greek Wedding still remains humorous and charming.

Thirty year old Toula (Nia Vardalos) comes from a very large, loud, and eccentric Greek family. She still lives at home with her parents, and is constantly being told by her father Gus (Michael Constantine) that she must marry a nice Greek boy. One day while working at her parents' restaurant, a tall attractive man catches Toula's attention, but she is too shy to speak anything remotely coherent to him. Assuming that he wouldn't notice her anyway, she lets him walk away.

When Toula finally tires of working in the restaurant, she decides that she needs a change in her life. Much to her father's dismay, Toula goes back to school to learn more about computers. Once finished with her classes, she begins to work at her aunt's travel agency. It is there that Toula sees the handsome man from the restaurant again. Now more confident in herself, Toula strikes up a conversation with him, learning that his name is Ian (John Corbett). The two fall head over heals for one another, which is great for Toula, until her family learns that she is in love with a non-Greek.

When My Big Fat Greek Wedding first came out, I remember there being an incredible hype about the film. Whenever this happens, it can be both a blessing and a curse. When there is such buzz about a movie, of course the film will get more theater viewings, but it can also create overly heightened expectations for a film. When I first watched this movie, I was slightly underwhelmed from what I saw, compared to what I heard, so I didn't have the greatest first impression of it. However, when I rewatched it many years later, I was able to see the movie for its' appeal and clever writing.

There are times in My Big Fat Greek Wedding where the depictions of Toula's family appear almost too wild or ridiculous, however Vardalos did base many of the sequences in the film off of her real life experiences. I'm sure some things were over exaggerated for the purpose of the film, but even so, because of her personal perspective into the topic, some of the craziest or loudest scenes in the movie come off as unique and witty, rather than garish and overdone. It is Vardalos' performance as well as her Academy Award nominated screenplay that make My Big Fat Greek Wedding as fun and easily rewatchable as it is.

One of the many things that makes My Big Fat Greek Wedding so entertaining, is the simplicity of it. Yes, there are scenes where things appear bizarre or overcrowded, but they are few and far between. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the scenes of Toula's countless family members, and the quiet scenes between her and Ian. Not only does it make the film appear balanced, but it also shows the vast difference between Toula's Greek life and her romantic life. Had this film been completely filled with members of her family, it would have been overbearing with all of the colorful personalities that make up her entire family. By finding the perfect blend of calm and crazy, the film is not only entertaining, but quite well done.

Since my initial rewatch, I have gotten into the habit of watching this film whenever I am in the mood for something fun and easy. It is a great go to for when you need to watch a movie that doesn't make you think or worry. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was unique when it first came out, and is still innovative to this day.

Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald

Rating: 3.5/5

A dark addition into the wizarding world, Fantastic Beasts: the Crimes of Grindelwald, though over complicated at times, is better than I had anticipated.

In the year 1927, dark wizard, Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) sits within his cell, waiting to be transferred back to England. Once in the flying carriage that will take him to his next place of imprisonment, Grindelwald makes his move and escapes alongside one of his new recruits.

Three months later, back at the Ministry of Magic in London, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is trying to earn his right to travel over national waters. When his request is denied, Newt returns home to find comfort from his many magical creatures. It is there that he is reunited with Queenie (Alison Sudol) and Jacob (Dan Fogler), his friends whom he met on his trip to America. When Queenie informs Newt that her sister Tina (Katherine Waterston) thinks he is getting engaged, Newt sets out to Paris to find her and tell her the truth as well as his feelings for her. Though their trip appears simple at first, Newt and Jacob find themselves in the middle of a plot to capture Grindelwald as well as the unhinged and dangerous young boy named Creedence (Ezra Miller). Using their powers, Newt and a collection of other magical companions must band together in order to stop the evil that is taking over the wizarding world.

When I saw the first Fantastic Beasts movie, I wasn't overly impressed, so initially I wasn't very excited about seeing this installment into the franchise. However, I actually like this one better. The special effects or general storyline didn't have any major improvements, but this one felt much more rooted to its' Harry Potter origins, and that is why the Crimes of Grindelwald seemed more interesting to me. I have been a die hard Harry Potter fan since I have been able to read novels, so I am a bit of a purist when it comes to anything having to do with J.K. Rowling's magical world. Though I could be incredibly picky and pin point small details that deviate from the seven original novels, overall this film did a decent job at appeasing the countless Harry Potter fans out there.

Performance wise, though he was the main villain of the film, Johnny Depp was one of my least favorite pieces to the movie. Don't get me wrong, I love Johnny Depp as an actor, but to me he felt out of place in the wizarding world. Personally, I feel he is almost too Americanized for me to believe him as a character in the fantasy world of Harry Potter. His acting wasn't bad, and you could see that he definitely put a lot of effort into the role. However, his accent, or lack there of, and his instant ability to be identified, made him appear ill fitting to the overall magical universe. Other than Depp, I found many of the other actors to be quite suitable for the film. Though she may not be British, Zoe Kravitz, who played Leta Lestrange, did a wonderful job in the movie, and her accent was most certainly believable. Though she is American, she is not nearly as well known as Depp, and I feel that is why her performance worked so well as an addition to the franchise.

As far as special effects go, my opinions didn't really change from my view on the first film. All of the preexisting magic from the Harry Potter films, such as apparating, spells, and charms look just as wonderful as they ever did, but it is the creatures that I have the issues with. For the vast number of magical beasts that the film had to come up with, the animation is not bad at all, but they still don't appear up to par with the beasts from the original eight films. Had the movie not been expected to be done in such a short time frame, I am sure the creatures would have looked better.

I know I am being overly critical, but when it comes to anything relating to Harry Potter, I can't help it. I honestly think if I were able to look at this film from the perspective of someone who enjoys Harry Potter, but isn't enthralled with it, my review would have been much different. That being said, it is impossible for me to distance myself from my viewpoint, even if it is for a good cause. Overall, I really did like this film. Did it give me the same feeling inside as an original Harry Potter story does? No, but any type of creative work, book or film, that is released years after the original run will never have the same atmosphere or momentum. Even if you are not a fan of the work of J.K. Rowling, the Crimes of Grindelwald is still worth a viewing, even if it is just to see how adorable a baby niffler is.

A League of Their Own

Rating: 4.5/5

Definitely one of the more unique baseball films, A League of Their Own is an exciting and nostalgic addition to the sports genre.

In the midst of World War II, two sisters, Dottie (Geena Davis) and Kit (Lori Petty) are playing baseball for their local dairy farm in a small Oregon town. While playing, a scout notices Dottie's talents and tries to recruit her for the All American Girls Professional Baseball League; the league that has been put into place since many of the professional men's players have been drafted into the war. At first, Dottie has no interest in joining any team, but her sister Kit is desperate to leave home and join the league. When Dottie learns that Kit will only be allowed to go to tryouts if she goes as well, she agrees and the two sisters get on the train to head to try out for the league.

Once with the other women who have been recruited for the AAGPBL, Dottie impresses everyone with her skill. Both she and Kit are put onto a team called the Rockford Peaches. With America being unfamiliar with seeing females play professional sports, the attendance for the games is low. With no help from their drunkard manager, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks), Dottie takes it upon herself to get people to be interested in the world of women's baseball.

Sports movies are always full of energy and intrigue, but I am personally drawn to films about baseball more than any other sport. A League of Their Own has been a favorite of mine for many years, and it is not just because of the sport in which the movie is based around. It's the lead actors and most notably, the time period, that make this movie one of my favorite sports films.

A League of Their Own is the ultimate underdog story. Not only are the characters playing a sport in which it was unheard of to have females participating in at a professional level, but it was also in a time in history where women were expected to be homemakers rather than athletes. The actresses who make up the cast had to portray a level of tenacity that would make the women's impressive sports feats be believable as well as inspiring. All of the cast members did an excellent job, but there is a definite reason that Geena Davis played the lead. Watching the film, you would never suspect that baseball was a new sport for her, and it is her effortless athleticism that really sells the heart of the movie.

As much as I love A League of Their Own, I have always been slightly irritated by the portrayal of the baseball players in their older age. On the one hand, the people in charge of the casting did find women who remarkably looked a lot like the actresses that made up the 1940's version of the baseball team. However, on the other hand, it appeared that they were so focused on finding elderly lookalikes, that the concept of their acting ability appeared to be an afterthought. Not to mention, seeing these powerful women hobble around the baseball hall of fame, has a tendency to bring down the energy of the film.

Whatever slight annoyances I may have about the "present day" scenes in the film, A League of Their Own is still, in my opinion, one of the better baseball movies out there. It has one of the most compelling stories and contains some of the best sports montages I've seen. All in all, a great film.

The Hunger Games

Rating: 4.5/5

In a dystopian look at the future, The Hunger Games does an excellent job at portraying its' bleak source material.

In an undisclosed time period set in the future, the world known as Panem has been separated into 12 districts. Each year, every district must send two teenaged citizens to fight to the death in an event known as the Hunger Games. On the day of the reaping, (the ceremony that chooses the tributes from each district), 16 year old Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is spending the morning hunting in the woods with her bow and arrow. When her friend Gale (Liam Hemsworth) finds her, she realizes it is time to get ready for the ceremony.

At the Reaping, Katniss tries her best to reassure her 12 year old sister Prim (Willow Shields) that her name won't be picked for the games. Against all odds, Prim's name is chosen and Katniss bravely offers herself as tribute in order to save her sister. Once the male tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), is chosen, the two are whisked away onto a train that will take them to the capital. After a brief training period, Katniss and Peeta will have no choice but to fight in the deadly battles that will make up the 74th Annual Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games was released in the midst of the boom of young adult novels being turned into films. Many of those titles were lost in the ever growing number of adaptations that were being made, but The Hunger Games is most certainly not one of the movies that fell to the wayside. Not only is the story intense and well written, but the performances make it so the film majorly stands out from the crowd.

Jennifer Lawrence wasn't exactly new to the film world when she made her first appearance as Katniss Everdeen, but she definitely wasn't as well known as she is now. As the powerful heroine, Lawrence gives Katniss the perfect amount of fight and vulnerability that make up the character. The best example of this is when Katniss is realizing the severity of her fear before entering her arena. If anyone had any doubts on whether or not her acting skill could measure up to the requirements of the character, all they would have to do is watch this scene to see that Lawrence has more than enough talent to meet the role.

As far as adaptations go, The Hunger Games does a decent job. As it is with almost all movies based from books, there are going to be details left out. Personally, skipping information doesn't bother me nearly as much as adding in fabrications to the story. Thankfully, from as far as I can remember from the novel, The Hunger Games does not add in any information that was not in the original source. Character and setting wise, the film is pretty spot on, and that definitely helps make up for any neglected details.

Considering the premise of The Hunger Games, it is expected that there will be scenes of violence that will be difficult to watch at times, but the filmmakers make sure not to go overboard with what is happening in any moment of the film where a tribute is killed. It is thanks to that type of restraint that make The Hunger Games such a well done film. Instead of being a movie overly focused on blood and death, it is a well thought out and impressively put together movie about fighting to change a corrupt system.

Now and Then

Rating: 4/5

An iconic movie for girls who grew up in the 90's, Now and Then is a wonderful story full of friendship and adventure.

In the mid 1990's, four best friends reunite in order to support their friend Chrissy (Rita Wilson) who's about to have a baby. When the group officially gets together, Samantha (Demi Moore) begins to reminisce about the when they were 12 and how it was the greatest time of their lives. In a flashback to the summer of 1970, we are officially introduced to each of the girls.

Roberta (Christina Ricci) is a tom boy who is being raised by her father and three older brothers. Teeny (Thora Birch) dreams of becoming a Hollywood movie star, and Chrissy (Ashleigh Aston Moore) is slightly heavyset and incredibly naive. Lastly is Samantha (Gabby Hoffman), who's dealing the fact that her parents are getting a divorce. All four girls are going through a personal struggle, and are relying on their friends to help them get by. One night, the group decides to hold a seance in a cemetery, and one thing leads to another, and the girls believe they have released the spirit a young boy named Johnny. In order to discover what happened to him, the gang sets out on an mission to search for information on the boy with the tombstone labeled "Dear Johnny".

There's always an instant appeal to nostalgic summer bike riding movies like Now and Then. It echoes back to a simpler time, when the most important things in the world were your friends and finding an adventure to fill the summer. From the clothing of the characters to the faded appearance of the scenes based in 1970, Now and Then is similar to films like Stand By Me, in how it can instantly transport the viewer to the time period in which it is set.

When it comes the four girls who make up the main characters of the film, Now and Then has two sets of actresses for each role. The 1970's versions take up the majority of the film, so they are the ones who carry most of the movie's weight on their shoulders. Of the four younger girls, Christina Ricci's role is the one that shines through the most. Given that this film was not her first, you can see the experience behind Ricci's performance, and it is definitely a main part of what makes Now and Then leave the emotional and lasting impact that it does.

When it comes to a film that is set in a different time period, music is crucial to its' ability to pull the viewers in. The soundtrack to Now and Then is filled with timely songs, and not only does it aid in the film's ability to portray the year 1970, but it also propels the story forward. The girls generally listen to music as they are riding their bikes from one place to another, so whenever you hear a new song, you have a pretty good idea that a new step to their adventure is about to take place. It is this tactic that helps keeps the film interesting and entertaining to watch.

Most movies based in the 60's or 70's that are about a group of friends, are commonly focused on boys, not girls. It is partially for that reason that Now and Then has been such a staple in the collection of movies watched by young girls as they grow up, especially those of us who grew up in the early 90s. Though it was released many years ago, Now and Then still holds up, and is just as enjoyable now as it was then.

You Again

Rating: 2.5/5

Definitely not the greatest film, but most certainly not the worst. You Again is humorous at times and contains a fairly creative plot.

Marni Olson (Kristen Bell), works for a public relations company in Los Angeles. As part of an inspirational speech she is giving to new employees at her work, Marni tells the story of her acne covered, glasses and braces wearing high school self. She talks of her teenage tormenter J.J. (Odette Yustman) who would bully her on a daily basis, and how even though her life in high school was a nightmare, she used it to become the woman that she is today.

While on the plane to go home for her brother's wedding, Marni is on the phone with her mother Gail (Jamie Leigh Curtis). It is then that Marni figures out their her future sister in-law in none other than J.J. herself. In a panic over who is about to join her family, Marni goes on a mission to make sure that her family is aware of the real person her brother is about to marry.

So, is You Again a well made movie? No. Is it well written? No. Is it terrible? Surprisingly, no. Going into this film, it is pretty clear what to expect, and that is an overly cheesy and predictable storyline, with plot conflicts that are easily solved if the characters just thought for a moment instead of panicking. All of those reasons would make one think that You Again is not worth watching, and yet, somehow it is.

Its' not really the story of the film that makes the movie watchable, but rather it is the some of the movie's main players. Most notably would be Sigourney Weaver who plays J.J.'s Aunt Ramona, and Gail's high school nemesis. No matter what the film, Weaver can almost always make it better, and You Again certainly proves that concept. Along with Weaver's performance, Kristen Bell's is equally as enjoyable. Though a large portion of Bell's films are not very well received, her adorable charm cannot be denied. Even if the movie itself is not overwhelmingly great, her performance is always fun to watch.

As far as these types of films go, You Again certainly isn't the worst. The idea of having high school rivalries meet up years later in a family based scenario is fairly creative in comparison to other movies in its' genre. For each set of enemies, there is a song connected that matches the time period from which it came. This detail is small, but effective, and is honestly one of the better aspects of the film.

Though You Again didn't receive very decent reviews, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be watched. There is nothing overly complicated or overly impressive about it, but it is a great film to watch when you are looking for something silly and simple.

Away We Go

Rating: 4.5/5

Away We Go is a low-key and unconventional adventure full of emotion, humor, and love.

Verona (Maya Rudolph) and Burt (John Krasinski) have been a couple for years, and they are now expecting their first child. When they go to dinner at Burt's parents' house, they learn that their child's grandparents are moving to Belgium and will not be around for at least two years.

Realizing that they no longer have to live where they are, Burt and Verona decide to take a trip to different locations in the U.S. and Canada, hoping to find a new place to call home.

One of the tactics that Away We Go does best, is weaving its' drama in with its' comedy. There isn't too much of either concept, making it a very well balanced film. When there is a scene that involves heavy emotion, there is usually a quick burst of humor, commonly provided by Krasinksi, to lift the spirit of the movie.

Where this film is a type of road trip movie, Burt and Verona are destined to encounter some colorful characters along the way. The people they meet up with on their trip are some of the best and most bizarre pieces of the film. On the one hand, the personalities of some of the characters are almost too far fetched to be believable, but on the other hand, it adds an anticipatory feeling to the film, keeping the viewer wondering what type of characters Burt and Verona will travel to next.

Truly, the best part of Away We Go is the relationship between Burt and Verona. Not only is it beautifully written, but it is also wonderfully acted. The chemistry between John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph feels incredibly genuine and captivating. There is no denying the acting skill of the two leads, and when you watch the film, it is almost impossible to imagine that they have not been a real couple for years.

Yes, Away We Go bears some resemblance to other indie films that are part of the comedy-drama genre, but it definitely has its' own qualities that make it unique. It is a great film if you are looking for something quirky, romantic, and a tad bittersweet.

Enchanted

Rating: 5/5

An original and magnificent twist on classic Disney, Enchanted is charming, magical, and incredibly fun.

In the animated land of Andalasia, a young maiden named Giselle (Amy Adams) is waiting to meet her prince so the two can share true love's kiss. When Prince Edward (James Marsden) is chasing a troll through the woods, he hears the melodic voice of Giselle, and vows to find the young maiden and make her his bride. With the help of her woodland creature friends, Giselle is ready to run to the alter, when a mysterious old woman who stops her suggests that she make a wish in the fountain before saying "I do". Though reluctant at first, Giselle begins to make a wish, but to her surprise she is pushed in, and is sent spiraling through space and time.

Once on the other side of the fountain, Giselle realizes that she has been sent to a strange land with bright lights, bustling people, and loud mechanical beasts. Little does she know, she has been transported to New York City. Fearing this unfamiliar place, Giselle desperately searches for Prince Edward's castle, only to stumble into a man named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his daughter Morgan. With their help, Giselle will try find her way home to Andalasia.

As far as movies created by Disney, Enchanted is definitely one of their most creative. Not only does this film contain an inventive storyline of a cartoon princess who finds herself real world, but it also cleverly includes hints and references to past Disney movies in a subtle, but innovative way. Enchanted is the epitome of why fairytales can be so exciting and delightful.

As the lead role, Amy Adams is able to give Giselle all of the expected characteristics of the classic bubbly Disney Princess, but does so in a respectful and not overly satirical manner. With this role, Adams proved that she is not only a brilliant actress, but a very talented singer as well. Her singing added a nostalgic element to the film, as did her speaking voice. She definitely increased her pitch when talking, giving Giselle the perfect princess tone to add to her already entertaining and energetic performance.

When Giselle arrives in New York, she encounters many things that she has never experienced before, and that is a main piece to what makes Enchanted such a great movie. The creators behind the film knew how to add this element in, but not over do it. Clearly, when Giselle is running around the city for the first time, she is going to be bombarded with the unexpected, and her reactions would be more of a frightened nature rather than bewildered. As the film progresses, Giselle becomes more curious than afraid, and it really helps in the development of her character.

Enchanted is truly a love letter to Disney. It is easily enjoyed by lifelong fans and new ones alike. For those who have been watching Disney's animated work for many years, Enchanted will be a fun and nostalgic adventure. If you are new to the films created by Disney, than you will be met with a wonderful world full of music, magic, and fun. No matter who watches, it will be practically impossible to resist the effortless charm of Enchanted.

Junebug

Rating: 4.5/5

More poignant than anticipated, Junebug is well acted and unexpected.

Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) is an art dealer who met her new husband George (Alessandro Nivola) at an auction. Hoping to get an unusually gifted painter under contract, Madeleine and George go North Carolina to meet him and also, to spend time with George's family who live near by.

Once in North Carolina, Madeleine is introduced to her new in-laws. Living in George's family home are his parents Peg (Celia Weston) and Eugene (Scott Wilson), and his brother Johnny (Benjamin McKenzie) and his very pregnant wife, Ashley (Amy Adams). Ashley is incredibly eager and excited to get to know Madeleine, whereas the rest of the family feels she is too modern for their simple country life. Trying hard to be unfazed by the lack of hospitality, Madeleine tries her best to make a good impression as well as pursue her new artist at the same time.

Junebug is really unlike any movie that I had ever seen before. It is almost unsettlingly quiet at times; containing scenes within the film that are simple shots of the landscape or home, without any music or actors added in. Though it appears odd at first, the silent scenes definitely help the movie with the low key southern atmosphere it is shooting for.

The only drawback I could see in this movie, was it appeared to be slightly over-sexualized in parts. I'm not saying that films shouldn't have love scenes in them, but there were certain times in Junebug that seemed to be unnecessarily graphic. I understand the importance of the scenes in the movie, as they showed the vast difference of the lifestyles between George and Madeleine compared to his family, but the extent to which the scenes went is what appeared to be out of place from the rest of the film.

Though she had done several TV and movie appearances before this, it appears that Junebug is what really brought Amy Adams into the spotlight. This film gave Adams her first Oscar Nomination, and it is incredibly clear why she was the only cast member to receive an Academy Award Nomination. Her character is borderline over the top in her enthusiasm to meet her new sister in-law, but there is a deep sadness beneath her energy, and it is her performance that really sets the emotional tone of the film.

It is plain to see why Junebug was recognized at so many film festivals. It is definitely not what would be considered a "main stream" movie, but that's part of why it is so good. It is not trying to impress any type of general audience, and is focused on remaining to true to itself; resulting in a film that is both moving and unique.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Rating: 5+/5

A story that will forever transport me back to my childhood, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the wonderful second installment in the world created by J.K Rowling.

In the summer before his second year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is anxiously awaiting for fall to come so he can go back to the castle that he calls his home. When his Uncle Vernon (Richard Griffiths) has a very important guest coming to dinner, Harry is exiled to his room for the evening. Upon entering his bedroom, Harry discovers a house elf named Dobby waiting for him; begging him not to go back to Hogwarts.

Ignoring Dobby's warning, Harry purchases his supplies for school and gets ready for the new year. However, his excitement of returning to school soon fades. From not being able to enter Platform 9 3/4 and to being chased by a rogue bludger; Harry's year has an ominous start and appears to be plagued with misfortune. Quickly, Harry and his friends begin to realize something sinister is happening at Hogwarts and they aim to stop it.

With a new year at Hogwarts comes some new characters, most notably being the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart played by Kenneth Branagh. Lockhart's character is overwhelmingly conceited and arrogant, an Branagh plays the character to perfection. Not only is his portrayal of Lockhart incredibly accurate to the its' written source material, but it adds a much needed burst of comedy to the film.

Composer, John Williams has written some of the most famous scores in film history, and his compositions for the Harry Potter franchise are definitely some of his most recognizable. When the Chamber of Secrets opens with that enchanting chime, you know that you are in for a film full of magic and adventure. I don't think I will ever be too old to have that familiar theme make my heart skip a beat and transport me back into the wizarding world that I have loved since I was little.

Given that this film was made in the early 2000s, the visual effects are quite impressive. My personal favorite scene in the movie is the dueling club, and that is one of the many places in the film where the special effects shine. Even though I know that the wizards in the scene aren't actually slinging spells at one another, it appears so real, that I purposefully let my imagination run away with it.

As far as movies based on books go, the first two Harry Potter films are some of the best; especially if you watch the extended editions. When there are scenes in the movie where the dialogue comes directly from the text, you know you have a well done adaptation. The feeling of seeing such a beloved story and collection of characters come to life on the screen is, for lack of a better word, magical.

Hairspray (2007)

Rating: 5+/5

Whenever I am asked which film I saw the most times at the theater, I immediately know the answer. Hairspray.

In the early 1960s, teenager Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) dreams of being a dancer on the Corny Collins Show. When she and her friend Penny (Amanda Bynes) hear that the show is holding open auditions, Tracy asks her mother, Edna (John Travolta) if she can go. Fearing Tracy will be made fun of because of her weight, Edna refuses to let her try out. Against his wife's word, Tracy's father Wilbur (Christopher Walken) tells Tracy she should go for her dreams, and allows her to go to the audition.

At the studio, Tracy can't contain her excitement at the prospect of auditioning for the show. Unfortunately, the show's manager, Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer) laughs at the idea of having a girl on the show who not only is heavyset, but a proponent of racial integration. Defeated, Tracy returns to school, but is surprised to find her dancing future looking up, in detention of all places. With new moves at the ready, Tracy goes to the hop hosted by Corny Collins (James Marsden) with a mission to make an impression.

As far as movie musicals go, I feel as if Hairspray is the one that has made the biggest impression on me. I remember seeing this in the theater for the first time, and I was immediately captivated by the time period, music, and story. Straight from the opening number, the drum beat and charming naivety of Tracy pull you into the film.

There are numerous characters in Hairspray. From its' lead to its' supporting roles, each role was perfectly cast and are the reason Hairspray has so much energy to it. Perhaps the most unexpectedly good casting choice, would be John Travolta as Edna Turnblad. At first, I would never have pegged him to be able to bring the right amount of humor and color to the role, but Travolta gave it his all, and the end result is him being a comical and enjoyable addition to the film.

As someone who has seen many, many musicals, both stage and film, I have always found it important that if there are any dance sequences within the plot, that they not appear over choreographed or stylized. I have seen movie musicals where the dancing comes off as forced and unnatural, but Hairspray is definitely not one of those movies. Given the plot of the film, dancing is an integral part of the story, but even the large group numbers appear very genuine, and you don't question why there's a collection of people dancing down the street into a school bus. Somehow, it just makes sense.

I don't think the charisma of the story and music of Hairspray will ever be lost on me. This film holds a special place in a my heart, and I enjoy it every time I watch it, just as much as I did the first.

500 Days of Summer

Rating: 5/5

One of my all time favorite films, 500 Days of Summer is innovative, charming, and one of a kind.

Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) believes in the power of love. He has always dreamed about finding his soul mate, and one day at work, he thinks he has. That fateful day, Summer (Zooey Deschanel) comes to work at the same greeting card company Tom works for. Immediately, he becomes enchanted by Summer.

One night, the office decides to go to a karaoke bar for a get together. It is there that Tom officially realizes the extent of his feelings for Summer, but discovers that she is not interested in having any type of committed relationship. Ignoring Summer's comments about never wanting to be married or even be called someone's girlfriend, Tom enters into a strange relationship with Summer, hoping that he can change her mind on commitment.

One of the most impressive pieces to 500 Days of Summer, is the way that the story is told. The movie does not follow any chronological order, and bounces between the first day that Tom met Summer, to their 500th day of them knowing one another. You'd think that this way of storytelling would be confusing, but the creative minds behind the film were able to make the jumbled assortment of days make perfect sense, and as a bonus, add an original and intriguing element to their film.

For a movie of this nature, the two leads were perfectly cast. Zooey Deschanel has made a career on being quirky, adorable, and offbeat, and each of those qualities can be found in the role she plays. Her character is one that you are almost supposed to dislike in a way, but it is impossible because of her large eyes and plucky personality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a naive man who has been blinded by love, incredibly well. You know based on the first five minutes of the film how the relationship between Summer and Tom is going to end, but because of Gordon-Levitt's performance, you are continuously wondering if the outcome may change before the credits roll.

Plot and music wise, the movie does fall into the indie rom-com category, but visually, it stands completely apart from the rest. There are many tricks and concepts throughout the film that make 500 Days of Summer unique in comparison to other movies with a similar storyline. Most notably, there is a scene in which Tom goes to a party hosted by Summer, and in that scene, you see some of the more creative and inventive techniques that the filmmakers were inspired to use.

This movie is one that I can distinctly remember seeing for the first time, because I had never really watched anything like it before. It is unusual in many ways, but it is because of its' peculiarities that 500 Days of Summer is such a wonderful film.

Date Night

Rating: 4.5/5

One of my favorite comedies in recent history, Date Night brings hilarity in the most innovative ways.

Phil (Steve Carrel) and Claire (Tina Fey) Foster are an ordinary couple, living in the suburbs of New Jersey. Every Tuesday night is date night, and they go to the same restaurant and order the same meal. Though their lives may seem boring, they are content with their simple existence.

After hearing that their close friends are getting a divorce, Phil and Claire suddenly want to spice up their date night, and decide to go to dinner in the city. When they get to a popular new restaurant, they are told there aren't any available tables. While waiting at the bar, a hostess calls out the name "Tripplehorn", but the party is a no show. Seizing the opportunity, the Fosters pretend to be the Tripplehorns and take the reservation. Little do they know, their small act of deviance is going to cause them a whole lot of trouble.

When it comes to comedies, I am incredibly picky. I can probably count on two hands the number of comedy films that have been released in the last ten years that I genuinely enjoyed. Date Night is a movie that makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it. It is the excellent comedic timing of its' stars, but also the perfectly integrated combination of minor slapstick humor along with its' incredibly well written script that make Date Night such a great movie.

Steve Carrel and Tina Fey are both brilliant comedians, and they have proven, that even if they are in a mediocre comedy, they will still have their shining moments. Thankfully, Date Night is an occasion where the two talented actors are given the chance to truly show their skills, because the content they have been given is so well done. The two of them perfectly embody their characters, playing a simple suburban couple who have been thrown into the unexpected. No matter how bizarre the situation the Foster's find themselves in, Carrel and Fey are able to bring a sense of realism to the scene that completely sells the believability of the Foster's relationship.

Date Night is filled with action almost from the very beginning. As far as action-comedies go, this one almost never has a moment of down time. The Foster's are propelled from one catastrophe to the next, but the film never feels overcrowded or disjointed. The filmmakers are able to masterfully weave one scenario to the next, and make the storyline effortlessly flow, which when it comes to movies like this, is not an easy task.

I remember seeing Date Night for the first time, and thinking how wonderfully refreshing the film was. The movie doesn't rely on cheesy or inappropriate gimmicks in order to sell the film's humor, but instead is full of hilarious dialogue and a unique plot. If you are a fan of either of the leads, and you have never seen this movie, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Empire Records

Rating: 4.5/5

Quirky, offbeat, and entertaining, Empire Records is a one of a kind film.

Lucas (Rory Cochrane) is an employee at the independent record store Empire Records. He has been asked by his manager Joe (Anthony LaPaglia) to close up the store. While he is counting the money, he discovers that Empire Records may be bought out by the chain Music Town, and decides to take the store's money to Atlantic City, hoping to double it and save the place he works.

The next morning, employees A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) and Mark (Ethan Embry) discover Lucas asleep on his motorcycle, and without the money. Knowing that Joe will soon discover what has happened, they feign ignorance. Meanwhile, two other employees Corey (Liv Tyler) and Gina (Renee Zellweger) are driving to work, and Corey is incredibly excited because 80's pop sensation, Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) is doing an in store signing. With chaos from Rex Manning Day and Lucas' criminal escapade, things at Empire Records are hectic to say the least.

When I looked at other reviews for Empire Records, I was really surprised to discover the negative feedback it received. When I first saw this movie, I was immediately captivated by the peculiar nature of the characters and the portrayal of life working in a record store. I worked in a record store for almost five years, so perhaps that is why I enjoy this movie so much. It paints an over the top picture of that type of retail work, but it is still hilariously accurate in parts.

Acting wise, there really aren't any exceptional performances, but that by no means makes the movie bad. Every character is generally pretty one dimensional, so there isn't a lot of room for them to explore different facets to their character's personalities. My personal favorite is played by Ethan Embry. I find Mark to be the most comical, and probably one of the more realistic depictions of some of the people I had encountered while working in a record store.

Part of what makes Empire Records so great, is the soundtrack that plays in the background. Given that this film is all about music, it makes sense that the soundtrack does not stick to one specific genre. The music is from many different styles, and matches each scene in which it is set to.

It really bothers me that this film was not as well reviewed as it should have been. Yes, it is silly and overdone in parts, but it speaks to the culture and style of the 90's and to the life of working in a record store. Before reading any other review of this film, I would suggest watching the movie first, because I personally feel the other ratings are misleading.

The Nanny Diaries

Rating: 3.5/5

A romantic comedy that contains better acting and more creativity than most, The Nanny Diaries is a better movie than you'd expect.

Annie Braddock (Scarlett Johansson) has just graduated college. She has a passion for anthropology, but is in the process of looking for jobs in the world of finance. At her first interview, Annie realizes that this is not the life she wants, and finds herself in Central Park, daydreaming about what her life should be. At the park, Annie rescues a small boy from being hit by a bicycle, and learns that the child's mother is looking to hire a full time nanny. Thinking that the job will be easy and a nice break, Annie accepts the position.

On her first day, Annie realizes that her new job is far more intense than she could have ever imagined. Her employer, who for the purpose of Annie's filed diary is called "Mrs. X" (Laura Linney), appeared kind at their first meeting, but Annie quickly discovers that she can be incredibly demanding and unreasonable. The child she is to be nannying, Grayer (Nicholas Art), has been cared for by numerous nannies, and does not take kindly to Annie. In over her head, Annie must figure out how to navigate her way in the foreign world of upper class New York and how to prevent her mother from ever knowing what her job is.

Right from the opening credits, it is clear that the Nanny Diaries is going to be different from other romantic-comedies. The movie begins with Annie in the Museum of Natural History, and she is looking at all of the different culture displays, comparing the ancient human civilizations with the modern society of New York City. The style of that opening scene really sets the tone of the film, but it also sets it apart from the many other cliche films that share the same genre.

Acting wise, the Nanny Diaries is slightly above the typical style for a movie of this type. What makes the performance calibre be higher in this film, is not actually due to its' lead, but because of its' sometimes villain. Laura Linney's portrayal of Mrs. X is incredibly layered. There are times when you just can't believe that a person could be so self-centered and intentionally naive, but then there are the moments where you truly feel bad for this woman and the life she has created for herself. It is a complex character, but Linney is masterfully able to tackle everything that is needed for the role.

The Nanny Diaries does fall into certain stereotypes for romantic comedies, but it is pretty hard for any film of that category to completely stray from the pattern. The romance between Annie and the man she calls "Harvard Hottie" (Chris Evans) is quite predictable, but I don't know if there's any other way it could have been written or acted. The simplicity of certain pieces of the film doesn't take away from the overall enjoyability of the movie. What it lacks in plot originality, it makes up for in visual creativity.

Though I know that they are all most likely going to end the same way, I have always been a sucker for a good romantic comedy. I know they aren't going to be the greatest movies that I've ever seen, but there's something about the predictability of them that makes them calming and comforting. It is those qualities and a bit more that make the Nanny Diaries an entertaining film.

Wild

Rating: 4/5

In a daring performance by Reese Witherspoon, Wild is a grueling true story about overcoming your past and starting anew.

In the year 1995, Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) makes the decision to hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail, in hopes to leave her troubled and toxic life behind.

While hiking on the trail, she is plagued with flashbacks of the loss of her mother, and the downward spiral that followed. With every painful memory that resurfaces, she finds a new triumph on the trail, slowly bringing herself closer to a fresh start.

Though Reese Witherspoon has won an Oscar in the past for a dramatic role, she is far more well known for her work in romantic comedies; so seeing her performance in Wild was quite a break from the mold. Her portrayal of Cheryl is incredibly gutsy, as her character goes through an almost unbearable amount of emotional turmoil throughout the film. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to channel the energy that is needed to make those scenes appear believable.

The use of flashback in the film is quite incoherent and choppy, but it works for the style of the story. As Cheryl is hiking the trail, her ability to think clearly is ever so slightly beginning to fade, and that is when her memories become more vivid. It is only then that we see the glimpses into her past, which are only given in quick bursts; causing the viewer to piece them together like a puzzle in order to discern the events that caused Cheryl to hike the Pacific Crest Trail alone.

The only really negative thing that I could say about Wild, is that it is definitely not an easy film to watch. That being said, the movie wouldn't be as impactful had it shied away from the grittier aspects of Cheryl's story. If someone were to go into the film expecting it to be a hiking survival film, they would be pretty shocked at some of the images on the screen, but they are necessary in order to get the full scope of the plot.

Overall, I don't think I could say that I loved Wild, but I most certainly couldn't say that I didn't like it. It is one of those films that you don't necessarily enjoy, but you still are able to take something away from it. Those types of movies are important, they just aren't ones that you can watch on a daily basis. Final statement; definitely worth a watch, but not for the casual film goer.

The Martian

Rating: 5/5

In the not too distant future, the crew of the Ares III is currently on Mars, with each member working on collecting samples and surveying the planet. When the storm they expected comes sooner and stronger than predicted, the crew are forced to prematurely abort their mission. On their way back to the shuttle, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by a rogue satellite dish and taken away into the storm. With the rest of her crew's safety in mind, Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) makes the impossibly difficult decision to assume Mark Watney to be dead, and leave his body and Mars behind.

After regaining consciousness, Mark discovers that he has been left alone on Mars, and must find a way, not only to contact NASA to let them know he is alive, but also to survive on the barren planet, until a rescue mission can bring him home.

As someone who is not incredibly well versed in the world of science, I cannot judge the Martian for its' accuracy, however I can judge it for how accurate it appears. I have seen my fair share of science fiction movies, and most of them focus more on the fiction rather than the science. They are generally about the deep unknowns of space exploration and are set far, far into the future. The fact that the Martian seemed closer to reality than most sci-fi movies, made it much more relatable, and for me, much more enjoyable.

For science fiction films, there is a high expectation as to what the special effects will look like. For the scenes where Watney is living inside the base on Mars, there are minimal effects needed, as he is just surviving off what looks similar to what we already have in this century. However, when he is walking around outside, the creators of the film do an impressive job at turning their filming location into an unexplored planet. The visual effects on board the Ares III shuttle, where the rest of Watney's crew are presiding, are quite sensational. The essence of the crew's life in space appears effortless, and it is truly immersive to the viewer.

Acting wise, Matt Damon has most of the film's weight on his shoulders, even if the movie goes back and forth between Mark Watney on Mars and the people of NASA organizing his rescue. Damon finds the balance of his character's numerous emotions, whether it be attempting to find humor in his bleak situation or suddenly understanding the devastation in the reality of his predicament. No matter what his character is experiencing, Damon is able to portray it with impressive accuracy.

Science fiction can be hit or miss with me, and the Martian is most certainly a hit. I love how it is a survival story, but not based in an common or typical setting. The acting is brilliant and the story equally as great. The Martian is an excellent film, well deserving of its' many Academy Award nominations.

Whip It

Rating: 4/5

In one of only three works directed by Drew Barrymore, Whip It is fun, quirky, and full of energy.

Seventeen year old Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page) lives in the small town of Bodeen, Texas. She doesn't exactly fit in with her family. Her mother Brooke (Marcia Gay Harden) is a former pageant queen and expects her daughters to follow suit. However, being in fancy dresses and being "proper" is the farthest thing from what Bliss wants in her life.

While shopping in Austin, Bliss sees a group of girls on skates putting up flyers for an upcoming roller derby bout. When Bliss and her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) go to view the roller derby match, Bliss immediately becomes captivated by the sport and decides to go to the open try outs being held by the league. After tirelessly practicing, Bliss finds herself as a member of the Hurl Scouts. Knowing that her mother would fiercely disapprove of her new love for roller derby, Bliss must keep her involvement in the sport a secret and hope that it won't interfere with her family life.

Ever since I had first seen Juno, Ellen Page had become an actress whose work I was definitely interested in. Though I was intrigued by the fact that Whip It was directed by Drew Barrymore, it was mostly Ellen Page that made me want to see the film. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. Ellen Page does appear to be cast into similar roles, generally angsty teens who beat to their own drum and are misunderstood, however what could be considered "type casting" doesn't feel like a problem in this case. Ellen Page plays those brilliantly well and gives Bliss her many peculiar qualities, but comes by it in a natural and endearing way.

The cast is made up by many supporting female roles, most being the girls who are on Bliss' derby team. The captain of the team, Maggie Mayhem is played by Kristen Wiig, and I have discovered that I enjoy seeing her in films that aren't 100% comedy based, because she is just as good of a dramatic actress as she is a comedian. Oddly enough, even though Drew Barrymore directed the film, which she did wonderfully, her character appeared to be the most disingenuous of the group. Not to say that her performance was bad, but just not as natural as the rest.

Part of what makes Whip It so great, is that it is technically a sports film, but with a major twist. Almost all movies based around athletics are some sort of an underdog story, and Whip It does fall into that category, but with a definite edge to it. It takes a sport that is most certainly not main stream, and makes it just as relatable and exciting as any film about football or basketball. It is thanks to the people behind the editing and cinematography that Whip It becomes a new and lively addition to the sports genre.

As far as I know, this is not a film that has been widely viewed by the world in the way that other sports movies have, and that is a shame. Whip It is truly one of a kind, and a film that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone, whether they be a fan of sports movies, indie comedies, or just film in general.

The Way Way Back

Rating: 4.5/5

The Way Way Back is a surprisingly morose film with a lot of heart and uplifting humor scattered throughout.

14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is being forced to spend the summer at a beach house with his mom Pam (Toni Collette) and her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrel). Once they arrive at Trent's summer home, it is clear to Duncan that he is not wanted on this vacation, and is generally cast aside by his mom and Trent as they try to relive their youth.

To escape his unhappiness, Duncan finds his way to a local amusement park called Water Wizz. Running the park is Owen (Sam Rockwell), who at first, may appear to be resisting adulthood, but immediately takes a liking to Duncan and sees that he needs a friend and someone to talk to. Owen offers Duncan a job, and he very quickly accepts. Not telling his mom about his new employment, Duncan attempts to survive the summer by spending as much time at Water Wizz as possible.

The very first time that I watched The Way Way Back, I was expecting it to be more of a comedy than it was, and that kind of threw my judgment a bit. Since first seeing it, I have watched this movie several times, and have loved it more and more with every viewing. Once I watched it with the correct perception, I was able to see the heartwarming aspects of the film, and the subtle humor that I had missed before.

Sam Rockwell is an actor that I have loved ever since my first viewing of Galaxy Quest, and for the longest time, that I was all I had known him for. Thankfully, that has changed within the past few years. Sam Rockwell is a phenomenal actor, and he plays the role of Owen in an incredibly realistic manner. He adds comedic timing where it is needed to uplift a scene, but also brings a protective nature to his character that makes him the unexpected hero of the film. The Way Way Back also proves that Steve Carrell is more than a comedian. This is a fact that has been known before, but I feel this particular movie really portrays his incredible acting ability. At this time in his career, we had mainly been used to seeing Carrell in very likable roles, so his character in The Way Way Back appeared to be somewhat new territory for him, but it worked incredibly well.

The Way Way Back is akin in tone and style to Little Miss Sunshine, but it doesn't feel like a replication or copy of it. It does have a similar style of music to it, but most indie drama-comedy soundtracks tend to share a resemblance. To me, what makes The Way Way Back be unique in comparison to other like-minded indies, is the location of the filming and the movie's daring choice of having many of the main characters be quite unlikable. The Way Way Back was shot on location at Water Wizz park in Massachusetts, adding an unusually genuine atmosphere to the film. Other than Duncan and the other employees at Water Wizz, the rest of the adults in the movie are pretty appalling human beings. Some have a few redeemable qualities, but by making the people who surround Duncan's life at the beach so awful, it makes his scenes at the water park all the more important and sweet.

The Way Way Back is a movie that I have personally recommended to many people, and they have yet to be disappointed by it. It contains all the expected charm of an indie film, but brings out more feeling than you would think it could. If you have not had a chance to see this movie and are a fan of films like Little Miss Sunshine or Away We Go, than this should be the next movie you watch; you won't be disappointed.

Up in the Air

Rating: 4.5/5

Charming, surprising, and emotional; Up in the Air is unique and unpredictable.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), works for a company that is hired out to other businesses in order to fire their employees. Ryan spends more time in planes and hotels than he does at home, so he lives a very independent existence, but that's the way he likes it. While waiting for a flight, Ryan meets a woman named Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) who appears to share the same ideals as him, and the two immediately hit it off and arrange their schedules to make sure that they can meet again.

When Ryan returns to his home base in Omaha, he is dumbfounded to learn that a young and eager new employee named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) is trying to revolutionize the company by firing people over the internet rather than in person. Determined to prove her wrong, Ryan takes Natalie in the air with him, on a mission to show her the importance of face to face contact in their line of business. While traveling from city to city, Ryan unexpectedly begins to discover a part of him he never thought could exist.

To be perfectly honest, when I watched this film, I initially watched it for Vera Farmiga, and not George Clooney, because as unpopular as my opinion may be, I am usually not the biggest fan of him. That being said, I actually really enjoyed him in Up in the Air. His general air of charisma and mild conceit work very well for his character, and it is one of the only Clooney films that I have seen where I not only like the film, but also like his performance. Vera Farmiga's portrayal of Alex was just as great as I anticipated. It should also be stated that, given this was one of Anna Kendrick's first leading roles, she also did a brilliant job.

I love it when a movie is unpredictable, and Up in the Air most certainly is. It has the vibe of some of the more well known indie comedy-dramas, but makes its' own path when it comes to the pattern of its' plot. I am usually quite good at guessing the end results of a film, but Up in the Air caught me off guard, and I really loved it for that.

With a concept about a company that fires people for a living, you would expect there to be some scenes of raw emotion and anger, which of course, there are. However, I didn't expect the incredibly short scenes to create such a lasting impact. The actors who are playing the characters that are losing their jobs, add a level of poignancy that is both heartbreaking and very hard to get out of your mind.

Up in the Air may not be one of the most watched films in recent history, but it is definitely deserving of its' six Academy Award nominations. I was so pleasantly surprised when I watched this film for the first time, and for those who have never seen, it is definitely worth taking the time to watch, because it is quite great.

Sydney White

Rating: 3/5

A modern retelling of a classic fairytale, Sydney White is a fun twist on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Ever since her mother died, Sydney White (Amanda Bynes) has dreamed of joining the sorority her mother belonged to. When it is finally time for her to go to college, one of her first priorities is to rush Kappa. Upon arrival at the party, Kappa president, Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton) takes an instant disliking to Sydney and vows to make her pledge week as difficult as possible.

At the Kappa initiation, Sydney is forced out of the sorority, finding herself with nowhere to stay. It is then that she stumbles upon a dilapidated house called the Vortex. Living within the home are seven self proclaimed dorks, who take Sydney in. Once living in the Vortex, Sydney not only devotes her time to her studies, but also to ending Rachel Withburn's reign of terror.

When it comes to college based comedies, Sydney White is definitely not one of the best, but it's not one of the worst either. The writing is fairly mediocre, and some of the performances are a tad underwhelming, but what it lacks in skill, it makes up for in creativity.

By far the best part of Sydney White is the thought that went into adapting the different pieces of Snow White into a college campus. It's not even the "seven dorks" that are the most clever parts, but the small details instead. Namely the classic fairytale's famous dialogue that is casually slipped into the characters' conversations, and the way they incorporated the poison apple.

From the late 90's through the early to mid 2000s, Amanda Bynes was seen as comedy gold. She is definitely the most skilled actor in the film, and she carries the majority of the movie on her shoulders. There are some of the "dorks" that are better than others, but Bynes still dominates any of her scenes with them.

So, even if Sydney White may not be great, it is still a fun and enjoyable film nonetheless. It's worth watching for the fairytale adaptation alone, and honestly makes me wish that the creators had done more movies like this, just for the novelty of seeing such a twist on classic tale.

You've Got Mail

Rating: 4.5/5

You've Got Mail is probably my most watched romantic comedy. It has the soul of a classic film, but with a modern twist.

Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) runs a small children's bookstore called The Shop Around the Corner. Her store has a loyal following, and is full of whimsy and enchantment. Everything appears to be perfect, until a large superstore called Fox Books, run by Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), moves in just around the block.

Fearing for her business, Kathleen seeks advice from her mystery pen-pal she's been writing to for several months. Unbeknownst to both, Kathleen's secret correspondent is none other than Joe Fox. While Joe Fox continues to take down Kathleen's business, the two enemies become more infatuated with their anonymous-internet selves in the process.

You've Got Mail was based on the classic film The Shop Around the Corner, and it does well at paying homage to its' original source, but adding its' own flair to the mix. The movie stays faithful to the simplistic style of a classic era romance, resulting in a film that is charming and sweet and not overly sappy or raunchy.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are no strangers to the romantic comedy genre, and their on screen chemistry proves that fact. Together they are the reason that You've Got Mail surpasses most of the films that share its' genre. They add a heart to the movie, and truly make you care about their characters, especially the one Meg Ryan plays. In the height of her career, Ryan was known for playing adorable and kind characters, and I personally feel that Kathleen Kelly was her best.

When it comes to comparing You've Got Mail with its' classic inspiration, it is not as easy as one might think. There are so many times where a remake or an "inspired by" movie drastically pales in comparison to its' original, but You've Got Mail is not one of those times. The acting and modernized storyline, make for a romantic comedy that is much more memorable and enjoyable than most films of the romcom category.

Though it may not have the immediate charisma of a classic film, You've Got Mail most certainly contains its' own natural charm, and is a truly lovable movie.

Little Women

Rating: 5/5

One of the only two movies in existence guaranteed to make me cry, Little Women is a touching, heartwarming, and wonderful story.

In the midst of the Civil War, the March sisters live with their mother, whom they call Marmee (Susan Surandon). The eldest sister Meg (Trini Alvarado), is kind and finds it very important to be viewed as a proper lady. Josephine "Jo" (Winona Ryder) is the spitfire of the family. She dreams of becoming a famous writer and living in the great city of New York. Unlike Meg, the last thing Jo wants to be is a proper lady. The third daughter is Beth (Claire Danes), who's caring, quiet, and shy. The youngest of the sisters is Amy (Kirsten Dunst/Samantha Mathis), who spends her time daydreaming of idealistic romances and wanting to be older.

With her husband away in the war, Marmee must provide for her four daughters, and do her best to raise them to become strong and independent women who will marry for love rather than money. When a young scholar named Laurie (Christian Bale) moves in next door, the lives of the four young ladies takes a turn for the interesting.

Little Women is not an overly complicated story, nor is it incredibly exciting, but that is part of what makes it so lovely. With a plot that is simply about the lives of five women during the Civil War, the readers/viewers are given a chance to truly love and connect with the characters who inhabit the tale. Through its' direction, music, and cast, the end result is a film that is both enchanting and captivating.

When adapting a classic novel, it is imperative that the casting appear accurate and faithful to its' written source. Jo stands out amongst the rest with her wild ideals and love for literature; making her a unique and powerful heroine. Winona Ryder brilliantly captures the essence of Jo and is able to portray her adventurous spirit, but makes sure to show her vulnerabilities as well. Though she may not be as much of a focus as the sisters, Marmee is a character of just as much importance. She must be caring and fiercely protective of her daughters, but not appear too brazen or overdone. Surandon is able to walk this fine line, making Marmee the strong emotional backbone of the movie.

One of the many powerful things about films, is that they can have such an impact on our emotions. Of the countless movies I have seen in my life, many have reduced me to tears, but few have the ability to do it to me every time I watch them. I have never been able to pin point whether its' the plot, acting, music, or a combination of all three, but Little Women will always make me cry. I personally feel that its' a testament to the original novel and the filmmakers, that their work has created a story where the readers or viewers become so wholeheartedly enveloped into the lives of the characters, that they become emotionally invested as well.

Though I just watched this film only a few days ago, I already feel as if I could watch it again. With a story full of such remarkable characters, its' impossible to resist the urge to revisit the world of the March sisters at any chance, and thanks to this magical film, you can.

Pleasantville

Rating: 4.5/5

A dazzling combination of special effects and an imaginative storyline, Pleasantville is unique from beginning to end.

David (Tobey Maguire) is invisible within the walls of his high school, shadowed by the popularity of his twin sister Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon). This doesn't bother David, because when he gets home, he knows that he can watch a perfect family on his favorite old tv show, "Pleasantville".

When the "Pleasantville" marathon is about to air, David and Jennifer fight over who gets to use the tv that night. Arguing over the remote, they break theirs, and almost instantaneously a tv repair man arrives. Learning of David's endless amount of "Pleasantville" knowledge, he gives him a special remote. When Jennifer and David continue to argue over the tv, a button is pressed, and the two are magically zapped into "Pleasantville". Once inside the show, they must figure out how to adapt to the impeccably quaint black and white world, but also how to get out.

The concept of Pleasantville is truly ingenious. As someone who has been watching old television shows since I was very little, I always wondered what it would be like to not only live in the time period in which those shows were in their prime, but what it would be like to be inside those shows. Pleasantville brings out the seemingly perfect lifestyle of the people in the family shows of the 1950's; and does it in a satirical and comical way.

As great as the story for Pleasantville is, the visual effects are even better. As David and Jennifer accidentally add their modern knowledge into the lives of the residents of Pleasantville, color begins to take place in the black and white world. The contrast of the bold colors against the grey landscape and characters is stunning and unbelievably creative.

At first, Pleasantville appears to be just a fun film about two people being transported into a tv show, but then it quickly turns into a movie with a much deeper meaning. It is almost easy to overlook the film's message, because of the brilliant special effects, but it still doesn't hide the overall theme of the film. Pleasantville shows characters who have been introduced to an exciting life of choices, art, and imagination. Some are ready and willing to explore this new world, but others revile the changes happening to their town, and the people who are embracing the transformation of Pleasantville. Through acts of discrimination and violence, those who have been leaving their black and white world behind are being disgraced by the "true" members of the town. Though not necessarily subtle , Pleasantville tackles the difficult concept of diversity and acceptance, and does so in a beautiful way.

Of course when you have a topic about two characters going into a fantasy world, the concept of realism goes out the window. That being said, I feel that the film did leave a couple of loose ends, but that most certainly does not make this a bad movie. Pleasantville is a film that can easily be described as visionary, and should be a must see for everyone.

Matilda

Rating: 4.5/5

Matilda is an absolute 90's classic. I don't know any kid growing up in that time period that didn't want a Miss Honey in their life.

Matilda Wormwood (Mara Wilson) is wise beyond her years. She was born into a family that doesn't accept her love for learning or seem to even want her in their lives. In order to be happy, Matilda spends her time reading as many books as she possibly can.

When her father, Harry Wormwood (Danny DeVito), agrees to let her go to school at last, Matilda is overjoyed. When she arrives at school, she discovers that her principal despises all children, but thankfully her teacher is loving and kind. Thinking that her life is finally improving, Matilda begins to feel she can distance herself from her family, but she gets too comfortable too quick. Soon, she must rely on more than her intelligence to rid her life of the terrible people around her. She must use something hidden within herself that she doesn't even know she has; something magical.

When it comes to the films that I watched the most in my childhood, Matilda is number one on the list. I remember being completely enchanted by the story and the love for books that the film portrayed. I can honestly say that this film is one of the main reasons that I grew up with wanting to learn and read, because I wanted to be just like Matilda.

Matilda is a lovely film based on an equally wonderful book by Roald Dahl. Dahl famously wrote books about children who knew more than the adults that supposedly controlled their lives. He would make his characters be heroes to the children who read the books, and as an added bonus, he would be sure to add a little magic into the mix. You may think watching the movie, that given the whimsical and quirky nature of the film, that the creators must have taken some liberties in the movie, but they didn't. I have read the book, and I can happily say that the film stays incredibly true to its' literary source.

In children's movies, of course the young actors are going to be the main focus, because they are going to be the characters that the target audience will be identifying with. That being said, the adult cast members in Matilda deserve just as much of the credit for the film's success. The actors who play Matilda's tormenters, her parents and principal, are unapologetically horrific. Their characters revel in making Matilda's life as miserable as possible, and the actors who play them hold nothing back. It is partially the performances by the villains of the film, that make Matilda's savior, Miss Honey (Embeth Davidtz), appear all the more wonderful and warm. Other than the title character, Miss Honey is the role that I remember the most from this film, and it is most certainly Davidtz's performance that created that long lasting impression.

When I watch this movie as an adult, I am still captivated by the story and characters. There's something special about any film that can transport you back to your childhood, and that is one of the many reasons why I love Matilda.

Zodiac

Rating: 5/5

A film that is both intriguing and disturbing, Zodiac is perhaps one of the most gripping and realistic crime dramas to date.

In the year 1969, a young couple is viscously attacked by an unknown man at a lovers' lane. The girl dies from her injuries, and a letter is sent to the San Fransisco Chronicle from a man claiming to be the one responsible for her death. In addition to his note, he has included a cryptogram that he wants published in the paper, daring the public to solve it. Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cartoon artist at the Chronicle, but immediately takes an interest in the case. As the murders continue, so do the taunting Zodiac letters. Reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) becomes invested in the case, putting his own life at risk.

When it seems that the killings and threats will not end, Detective Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) are assigned to the case. With countless people working to put an end to the Zodiac, it appears that no amount of brain power can stop the elusive killer.

No matter how many times I watch Zodiac, I still find my heart pounding in anxious anticipation of some of the more gruesome depictions of the Zodiac murders. Unlike other movies that focus on crime or killings, this film does not add in any of the usual fabricated movie tactics. The murders appear horrifically real, and the movie doesn't pull any punches as far as getting the emotions and appalling details across to the viewers.

Zodiac is quite the long film, both in runtime and time span. The movie itself covers twenty-two years, giving a complete and in depth scope of the exhaustive investigation of the Zodiac Killings. If you had known very little about the case that plagued California for over two decades, there is no way you won't feel well informed by the end of the film.

One of the greatest pieces of the movie is the juxtaposition between the two groups of people who are investigating the case. At first, it is the amateurs who work for the Chronicle that are the main focus of those trying to reveal the identity of the Zodiac, but not for long. When the law enforcement come into play, the film switches back and forth between who may be coming the closest to solving the case. This tactic shows how much the Zodiac took over the careers of the people working for the papers or the law during that time in California, and how it impacted not only their professional lives, but their personal lives as well.

Zodiac is a grueling film to get through. It is not for the faint of heart or for those with a low level of patience. The subject matter and film duration test even the biggest of film fanatics, but it is most certainly worth the watch, as it is some of director David Fincher's, best work.

Big Fish

Rating: 5+/5

A movie that is guaranteed to reduce me to tears, Big Fish is hands down, one of my favorite films directed by Tim Burton.

Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor/Albert Finney) has been a story teller all his life. He will tell his tales to anyone who will listen, especially the one about a large fish that swallowed his wedding ring on the day his son was born.

Edward's grown son, Will (Billy Crudup) has grown tired of these stories, and feels that he has never truly known his father. When he learns that his dad is dying, he begins a quest to discover the truth beneath his father's fabrications, and is sent on a magical journey.

Not only is Big Fish a magnificent story, but it is visually stunning as well. Tim Burton is known for his creativity for using color to enhance his scenes, and this film is brilliant example of that skill. The effects that are presented, make the film appear as an enchanting fairy tale, but not in an overdone or forced manner. The visual appeal in this film is just one of the many reasons why Big Fish is such a remarkable addition to the world of motion pictures.

Big Fish is full of bizarre and quirky characters, especially in the scenes showing Edward's colorful stories. This movie walked a fine line of keeping the people within Bloom's tales appear eccentric and peculiar, but not push them to the point of seeming ridiculous. In the pieces of the film where we are in reality, the characters are simple and kind, giving the film its' beautiful sense of contrast.

This movie is one where I know, that by the end of the film, I will have tears in my eyes. It is a combination of the brilliant score by Danny Elfman, the touching story, and the acting, that get to me every time. Most notably would be the scenes between the elder Edward Bloom and Sandra Bloom, played by Albert Finney and Jessica Lange. Together, they portray a couple that have been married for decades, but are still blissfully in love with one another. Though their scenes in the film are few and far between, they definitely leave the strongest impact.

In all honesty, Tim Burton's movies can be a hit or a miss with me. At times, I think he is so intent on making his work strange or unlike any other, that he can lose focus on the film itself. Big Fish is one where Burton's unique style of filmmaking works in an exquisite way. It is bold, daring, and touching. One of Burton's best, and one of my all time favorite films.

13 Going on 30

Rating: 3.5/5

A romantic comedy that is at times, better than most, 13 Going on 30 proves that just because a movie is simple, doesn't mean it can't be entertaining.

In the year 1987, Jenna Rink is celebrating her thirteenth birthday. Her main wish is to be a member of the popular group of girls called the Six Chicks and to be thirty. When Tom-Tom, the leader of the Six Chicks, tricks Jenna at her party, she locks herself in her closet, wishing over and over again to be thirty, flirty, and thriving.

As a major shock to Jenna (Jennifer Garner), her wish comes true, and she finds herself waking up in an apartment she doesn't recognize, as a thirteen year old, trapped inside a thirty year old's body. Rattled at first, Jenna doesn't know what to make of her magical transformation, so she searches for her childhood best friend Matt (Mark Ruffalo). Once she finds him, she discovers that her thirty year old self is incredibly different from what she expected, and she must figure out exactly what kind of a girl she truly is.

Romantic comedies don't generally receive much praise, and it is usually because they are cheesy and predictable. 13 Going on 30 is both of those things, but it is also sweet and charming. The concept for the movie is original, and that definitely helps it not to be as cliche as other films in its' genre, and it also gives the movie a gentle and youthful feel.

13 Going on 30 was the first movie I had ever seen Mark Ruffalo in, and even though I was quite young when I first saw this film, it was clear that Ruffalo was meant to be in bigger and better things. He plays his role not as the love interest in a romantic comedy, but with the amount of effort and dedication of someone acting in a serious and well reviewed film; making his portrayal one of, if not the best, performances in the movie. Jennifer Garner does a wonderful job at making Jenna slowly adapt into being thirty, but still holding on to the naivety and energy of her thirteen year old self. As far fetched as the concept of the film is, Garner is the main reason it appears believable throughout the movie.

One of the big reasons this film is entertaining, is the cleverness behind Jenna's new life. There are moments where Jenna's true age comes to light when she is around other adults, and it makes the viewer anxious to see what other humorous ways her dual age is going to present itself. Adding to the film's whimsical concept, is the ever popular tactic of 80's nostalgia. The soundtrack alone, makes this movie likable from beginning to end.

Even though 13 Going on 30 has some questionable moments to it, I have always enjoyed it. I know that its' not one of the best movies out there, but it is comforting and fun; just as it should be.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Rating: 5+/5

A movie that is truly unlike any other, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World remains as one of the most innovative and wonderfully bizarre films I've ever seen.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is 22 years old, living in Toronto, and playing bass in a band called Sex-Bob-omb. Currently, he is dating a seventeen year old named Knives Chow. His life appears to be fairly normal and uneventful, until the day he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

Ramona captivates Scott, making her all he thinks about. Though she is way out of his league, Ramona agrees to go on a date with Scott. After they begin seeing each other, Scott learns that not only is Ramona incredibly mysterious and complicated, but she also comes with a lot of baggage. There is a league of seven evil exes that are going to come after Scott for dating Ramona, and Scott must fight each and every one in order to be with her.

Right from the opening credits, it is clear that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is going to be an amazing movie. You are immediately immersed into the fast paced and strange universe where Scott Pilgrim exists, and you remain there until the end credits roll. The graphic novel that this film is based off of is heavily inspired by the style of video games, and the movie makes sure to stay incredibly true to its' source material.

Edgar Wright, the director, is probably most famously known for his work on Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but this film may be my favorite of his. Wright has the ability to take a plot or concept that could appear to some, as ridiculous or laughable, and turn it into something that is not only entertaining, but brilliantly put together. His movies almost always contain quick cuts from one thing to the next, but he orchestrates it in a way that never comes off as scattered or unfocused.

Given that Scott must face seven evil exes, there are many characters throughout the film. Within the large cast, of course the two leads are going to stand out from the crowd, as they should, but every other character is just as comical and memorable. Of the exes, my personal favorite was Lucas Lee, played by Chris Evans. Though his character is only in the film for about ten minutes, Evans' performance definitely leaves a strong impression. The roles in Scott Pilgrim are not supposed to be people that you could find in reality, but that is part of the beauty of the film. Each cast member is able to impeccably add the eccentric quirks to their character, aiding in the film's overall surrealistic and hilarious atmosphere.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a movie that I distinctly remember anxiously waiting to come to the theaters. The first time I saw it, I had never seen a film with such a unique and colorful style to it, and it completely captivated me from beginning to end. Though I have seen this movie many times since its' release, I still feel the same way every time I watch it. I am always noticing things that I had never seen before, and that's one of the countless reasons that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is such a wonderful film.

Mean Girls

Rating: 4.5/5

A film that has become iconic for those who were teenagers in the early 2000's, Mean Girls still holds up as a hilarious and entertaining movie.

16 year old Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) has lived in Africa and been homeschooled all her life. When her mom takes a job in the United States, Cady must go to public high school. At first, her new school is overwhelming, but on her second day she meets Janice (Lizzy Caplan) and Damien (Daniel Franzese). Cady's new friends give her the lay of the land, informing her of all the different cliques that preside in the high school. Most notably, they tell her to beware the Plastics; the three most popular girls in school, led by tyrant Regina George (Rachel McAdams).

Unexpectedly, Regina takes an interest in Cady, and asks her to sit at their table. Seeing that Cady has an "in" with the Plastics, Janice devises a plan to take the leaders of the school down. Cady is to pretend to be one of them in order to learn all their secrets, but soon she is unable to differentiate between pretending to be a Plastic, and actually becoming one.

The high-school movie genre is one that has been done countless times. They all tend to have similar characters, whether they be the jocks, the nerds, the cheerleaders etc. Mean Girls does contain these character stereotypes, but presents them in an original and almost satirical way. Though each character falls into some sort of a cliche, they remain unique through the creativity of the dialogue and style of the film.

Tina Fey not only stars in this film as the no nonsense math teacher, but she is also the genius behind the screenplay. Fey is one of the main reasons this film was so successful, and it is incredibly clear as to why. Though the story she created is about the backstabbing, lies, and secrets, her characters have, they do not shy away from speaking their mind and being openly vile. Her writing is why Mean Girls is a high-school comedy that is intelligent and hilarious and doesn't fall into any of the juvenile humor that many of the other films that share its' genre do.

Not only is the dialogue in this film memorable and frequently quoted, but the characters have just as much of an impact. Regina George prides herself in her ability to reduce a person to tears. Through the writing and the acting, there are small moments where you actually feel a small amount of sympathy for her, which is not an emotion one would expect to have for the "mean girl" in a film about high school. Perhaps the second most famous member of the Plastics is Karen, played by Amanda Seyfried. Karen is not what you would call intelligent, and she knows it. Seyfried plays the part in a way that makes Karen seem naive and dim, but also lovable at the same time. Seyfried's character may not be the head of her clique, but even so, she may be the most memorable.

I honestly could not tell you the number of times I have watched Mean Girls, but it is definitely more than I could count on two hands. It is a film that I will always find to be full of humor and ingenuity, and it is most certainly a movie that I will forever enjoy.

Chocolat

Rating: 5/5

In 1960s France, Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk travel from town to town with the changing of the winds. When they arrive at a small village, Vianne begins to transform an old patisserie into a chocolaterie. Normally, this would seem like a wonderful idea, however in this town, Vianne's way of life is not welcome.

The month that she opened her shop happens to fall during lent. The mayor of the village, Comte Paul de Reynaud (Alfred Molina) will stop at nothing to rid his home of Vianne's influence. Just when Reynaud thinks his town cannot be corrupted anymore, a group of river gypsies lead by a man named Roux (Johnny Depp) land on the banks of the village. Fighting against adversity and embracing the unexpected, Vianne sets out on a mission to prove Reynaud wrong, and earn the respect of the town.

First of all Chocolat is not the type of movie you should watch without some sweets within arms reach. Never since Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has chocolate looked so enticing. On my most recent rewatch, I got about fifteen minutes into the movie before searching for sweets in my kitchen. The reaction this movie has on your tastebuds is a testament to the filmmakers attention to detail and focus on their subject matter.

Movies that are based around a small town are always composed of whimsical and unusual characters, and Chocolat is absolutely filled with them. Each member of the town is incredibly set in their ways until Vianne comes along, and it is she who begins to make them want to change. One of the most notable members of the village is Armande Voizin, played by Judi Dench. Her character is perhaps the only person in the town who is not immediately against Vianne. Armande Voizin is tough as nails and determined to be in control of her life, and Dench plays it perfectly.

Chocolat, though based on a full length novel, is essentially a chocolate filled fairy tale. The eccentricity of the music, story, and style give the film its' overall magical feel and does a wonderful job of pulling you into the small french village. As with any folktale, you are thrown into a world of enchantment and quickly become familiar with the story and the characters, which is exactly what happens with Chocolat. Though you are encountering every person in the town for the first time, within fifteen minutes of the film you feel as if you'd known them your whole life.

Sometimes, there are movies that you can watch an infinite number of times and never tire of them; Chocolat is that type of movie for me. I've lost track of the how many times I have watched this film, but every time I do, I fall more in love with it than I had been before. If by some unfortunate circumstance you have never seen this film, do yourself a favor and be sure you do; just make sure you have plenty of chocolate on hand.

Country

Rating: 4.5/5

Gil (Sam Shepard) and Jewell (Jessica Lange) Ivy have a normal country life. Gil, his father in-law, and his son work on the land, and Jewell takes care of the bookkeeping and crop ordering for the farm.

Their quiet life is disrupted when Gil unexpectedly learns that they may lose their farm due to low crop prices and the interest that needs to be paid on their FHA loans. Being one of many families who are going through this crisis, Jewell attempts to band the community together in order to save their land.

Country is an excellent film, exhibiting the concept of triumph over adversity. When the characters discover that their land may be taken from them, some attempt to hide from the government, whereas others are determined to fight. However true the overarching story may or may not be, the movie itself still leaves an impact.

The landscape of the film is powerful enough to hide any flaws the film may have. When a movie is shot on location, it adds a level of realism that cannot be created within the walls of a studio. In addition to the impressive setting, the acting is what truly carries the film; namely Jessica Lange. This film earned her one of her six Academy Award nominations, and its' perfectly clear as to why. Her character is not only the matriarch of the family, but she is the one who leads the charge against the FHA. Her performance ensures that her character is seen as strong, tenacious, and caring; making her to be the best part of the film.

If you are a fan of any other works by Jessica Lange or Sam Shepard and have never watched this movie, than it is a definite must see. Not only is it one of Lange's greatest performances, but it is also one of the few times the then, real life couple, shared the same screen. Their on screen chemistry is undeniable, and it makes their characters seem like real people and not just roles written for the purpose of a story.

Country may not be a movie that has been seen by many, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't deserve to be recognized. This movie proves that even a subject matter that may not appear to be the most interesting or glamorous, can still be compelling if the film is made by the right people.

Drinking Buddies

Rating: 3.5/5

An offbeat comedy/drama, Drinking Buddies is an original story with unexpected poignancy.

Luke (Jake Johnson) works for a craft brewing company called Revolution Brewing. Also working there is Kate (Olivia Wilde) who is the only female employed at the company. Kate and Luke are close friends, but it is clear that beneath the surface, both want more out of their friendship. However they cannot date because they are both seeing other people.

Luke has been seeing a girl named Jill (Anna Kendrick) for years, and Kate has been in a relationship with Chris (Ron Livingston) for several months. On an ill fated couple's weekend at Chris' family camp, both sets of relationships become more strained, and their future together as couples appear uncertain.

Drinking Buddies is quite the unusual film. When the movie begins, you get the impression that it is going to be a type of romantic comedy, but it isn't long before the expected upbeat demeanor of a rom-com fades away, and a more realistic and emotional story takes its' place. The unanticipated turn that the movie takes is what I found to be one of the most enjoyable pieces of the film. When a movie isn't instantly predictable, it always makes for a much better viewing experience.

Its' clear that the creators behind the film were trying to capture a strong sense of realism when it came to relationships between the characters. Most of the time it worked quite well, but there were some scenes that were so realistic, they were almost painfully awkward. I'm sure that's what the filmmakers were going for, but it doesn't make it any less uncomfortable to watch.

Adding to the authenticity the movie brings, are the styling and performances brought by the cast. As someone who knows a few people who work in the craft brewing industry, I can honestly say that at least wardrobe wise, the character of Luke appeared to be spot on. The acting added into that by Jake Johnson, made the interactions between Luke and the other characters seem so genuine, that it didn't even feel like a scene from a movie. It's clear that the cast put their heart and soul into their roles, and they make what could have been a mediocre film, a decent and overall enjoyable movie.

I had heard of this movie for years, but had put off watching it, because I had the wrong impression about the plot. Drinking Buddies pleasantly surprised me. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Goes to show that you can never truly judge a movie until you have given it a chance.

The Breakfast Club

Rating: 4/5

In arguably one of the most famous films about high school, The Breakfast Club doesn't disappoint and brings the classic John Hughes charm.

Five teenagers have been given Saturday detention for various reasons. None of them are friends, but are forced to deal with the tyranny brought upon them by the teacher running detention.

John Bender (Judd Nelson) is the wild one of the group, refusing to listen to authority of any kind. Andy Clark (Emilio Estevez) is the jock that will do anything to please his dad and Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall) is the token nerd, who appears to be the last person you would expect to get in trouble. Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy) is known by her peers to be silent and strange and lastly, Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) is the popular girl, who considers herself above her fellow detention goers. Though they may appear to be nothing alike, the five of them band together to survive their Saturday punishment.

John Hughes dominated the 80s with his movies about teenage angst and resisting authority. The Breakfast Club is definitely one of his most famous works, and it is clear to see why. The entire movie takes place practically in one spot, but Hughes makes sure that there is never a dull moment in the film. The story itself is amusing, occasionally touching and is filled with the trademark John Hughes moments, including simplified teenage caricatures and an upbeat musical scene.

Other than the director and the iconic movie poster, it is the cast that makes this movie to be such a classic. Each actor was able to bring to life both sides of their character's personalities. At first they had to be the example of their cliques' teen stereotype, but then they needed to make sure that the more emotional and personal side to their characters was able to be brought out in a genuine way. There are scenes where the five of them are sharing intimate details of their lives to one another, and though they may not be the most upbeat scenes in the film, they are some of the best.

If you are someone who watched this movie for the first time many years after it was released, you probably noticed some jokes or sequences in the film that may be considered offensive or not politically correct by today's standards. However, that should not put you off the movie, as it is incredibly common for that to happen with many movies that were released over twenty years ago. The Breakfast Club does have its' share of uncomfortable moments like that, but they are easily glossed over, given time the movie was made.

It is always fun when you have a movie that puts an unlikely group of people together into a small space and have them be made to work together. The Breakfast Club fits that description in every, and is one of the many reasons it continues to be a favorite for so many people.

127 Hours

Rating: 4/5

A grueling and harrowing film to watch, 127 Hours is a remarkable true account of the lengths a human being will go in order to survive.

27 year old Aron Ralston (James Franco) is an avid canyoner, mountain climber, and thrill seeker. One weekend, he decides to have an adventure in the Blue John Canyon in Utah. With a backpack of supplies, his bike, and a couple of cameras, Aron heads out into the canyons, but doesn't tell anyone where he's going.

While energetically running through the landscape, Aron falls down into a crack in the canyon, and his arm becomes pinned to the wall by a large boulder. No matter how hard he tries, Aron cannot release his crushed arm from its' trap. With only a small amount of rations, Aron has the gruesome realization that if he doesn't do something drastic to free himself, he will soon die.

Given the film's subject matter, there are only a handful of cast members throughout the movie. We really only see the supporting characters in the beginning and the end of the film, making James Franco cary the weight of the movie on his shoulders. Franco spends most of the movie's duration standing in the same spot, so he must rely on his face to portray his emotions, rather than using a lot of body language to aid in his performance. He is able to tap into the frustration, anguish, and fear that Aron Ralston must have been experiencing during his ordeal, and makes 127 Hours both compelling and distressing to watch.

When a film has a claustrophobic setting, there is the obvious challenge of making sure that the movie stays interesting to its' viewers. 127 Hours makes sure to break the monotony of the scenes of Aron inside the crevasse, with shots of the expansive landscape of the canyons. This not only adds some variation into the film, but also shows how small Aron is in comparison to where he is trapped; making his situation appear even more confined and desolate.

Though I found some of the editing and directorial choices to be a bit over done, 127 Hours is an incredible story. What Aron Ralston went through in order to free himself from the boulder is a concept that is so unfathomable, you have to see it to truly believe and understand it. This movie is the ultimate survival tale, and is proof of how far our instincts to stay alive will take us.

Tea With the Dames

Rating: 5/5

Four classy dames hobnobbing and gossiping. What more could you ever want?

In this documentary, we are given the unexpected pleasure of being invited to tea with four legendary actresses. Unbeknownst to most of the world, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Eileen Atkins get together on a semi-regular basis to have tea, catch up with one another, and reminisce about their early careers.

While watching this movie, you'll be treated to anecdotes the ladies share between each other. With archive footage of some of their stage and screen highlights, the movie delivers a beautifully well rounded view of each woman's accomplishments.

If you had never known it before, not only are these women incredibly talented actresses, but they are also hilarious. They discuss topics of romance, coworkers, and age, with a marvelous sense of grace and humor. They are all charming, but for me it was Maggie Smith and Judi Dench that were the highlights of the film. The two have been friends for years, and when they talk with one another, they are both laughing so much they can barely get the stories out, and its' absolutely wonderful.

As witty and entertaining as this movie is, it does have its' emotional moments. Given the age of the four Dames, they do occasionally discuss some heavier topics and it is then where you can see the love and respect that these women share for each other. It is those small moments that make this film so touching.

Tea With the Dames is a rare type of documentary. Its' not tackling a large subject matter or focusing in on a specific person's life. It is simply allowing viewers to be privy to the intimate conversations between old friends, and I am so happy that the four accomplished actresses allowed for the film to be made, because its' one of the best.

That Thing You Do!

Rating: 5/5

In the year 1964, Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) is working in his father's appliance store by day, and playing drums in the basement by night. When a local band's drummer is no longer able to play, Guy is asked to join the band.

Once a member of the "Oneders", Guy changes their sound, shooting the band into unexpected stardom. With the help of their manager Mr.White (Tom Hanks), their song "That Thing You Do" begins climbing the charts, and the band must learn to handle their sudden fame and also keep the integrity of their sound.

For anyone who has ever read any of my other reviews, I have mentioned my weakness for movies based in the 40s, 50s, or 60s. The story of That Thing You Do is great, but it is the film's impressive ability to transport the viewer into its' nostalgic time period that makes me love this movie. It does such an excellent job at keeping true to its' era, that it is very easy to forget that it was made 1996, not 1964.

Each cast member is great and they play their characters in a very entertaining manner, but sometimes it is the side roles that make the biggest impression. Steve Zahn and Ethan Embry play the less flashy roles of the band, second guitarist and bass player, but they are arguably the most charming, charismatic, and likable characters in the film. Zahn's character, Lenny is naive and living life to its' fullest. Embry is simply known as "the Bass Player", and though he doesn't talk very much, he is sweet natured, kind, and maybe even my favorite role in the movie.

A challenge that this movie faced was having to not only write a song that sounded as if it was from the 60s, but be a song that would be catchy enough to be a hit. The title song created for the film is easily believable as a something that would cause a music craze across the nation. Had the song "That Thing You Do" not met the time period so well, the movie definitely would not have appeared so genuine.

An excellent directorial debut for Tom Hanks and an overall great movie, That Thing You Do is a movie where I find myself ready to watch again as soon as its' over. I love it for the way it portrays the time period, the characters, and of course the music.

Ocean's 8

Rating: 4/5

Let me preface this review by saying that I have actually never seen any of the Ocean movies prior to this one, so my review will be solely based on the level of entertainment that I felt Ocean's 8 brought. Turns out you don't have to see any of the other Ocean's films to enjoy this one.

When Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock)is released from prison after being locked up for five years, she sets out to pull off her biggest heist yet. To do this, she must team up with her old partner Lou (Cate Blanchett). Together they begin their search to complete their elite team of criminals and start their mission to rob the Met Gala.

Joining Debbie and Lou are a handful of women who are masters in their choice of criminal field. One of their recruits is Rose Weil (Helena Bonham-Carter), a washed up fashion designer in crippling debt. Their plan is to get wealthy socialite, Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), to agree to be dressed by Rose for the Met Gala, and convince her to wear the outrageously expensive Toussaint necklace; which of course they plan to steal. With the important piece to their illegal puzzle finally in place, the group of female criminals can officially set their heist into motion.

One of the first things about Ocean's 8 that intrigued me, before I even saw it, was the cast. I would never have thought to put this group of women together in the same movie, but it works surprisingly well. It is clear that Bullock and Blanchett are meant to be the focus of the film, but every other character has their moment to shine. Every woman is comical and quirky in their own way, and the creators of Ocean's 8 clearly knew how to exhibit each actresses' talents in a way that would enhance the overall effect of the movie.

As far as the believability of the concept of their escapade goes, of course there are going to be some holes to their plan here and there, but that doesn't impact the enjoyability of the film. If anything, the writers of the story deserve credit for taking the time to put in enough detail to make such an improbable feat even seem realistic. Watching each step of the plan unfold is equally as fun to watch as the quick witted ladies who make up the cast.

As someone who watched this movie without any previous knowledge of its' predecessors, I can honestly say that Ocean's 8 is an entertaining and amusing film. Even if you aren't a huge fan of heist movies, this one is worth watching for the cast alone.

Easy A

Rating: 5+/5

Easy A is a movie that, whenever it is over, I am always disappointed. Not because its' bad, but for the exact opposite reason. This movie is so great that, when the credits roll, I always find myself wishing there were more.

Oliver Penderghast (Emma Stone) is your typical well behaved high school student. She gets good grades, is nice to her teachers, and has a great relationship with her family. One day at school, Olive tells a white lie to her friend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), claiming that she lost her virginity over the weekend. Much to Olive's surprise, her small lie runs rampant around the school, and her reputation is changed in the blink of an eye.

With her new identity, Olive is approached by a guy at her school who desperately needs her help to change his image. She agrees to help him trick their classmates into thinking they hooked up, and in turn make the bullies leave him alone. Their plan works, but soon Olive's favor is brought to the attention of other like minded high school boys, and Olive finds herself getting deeper and deeper into a web of lies.

There are so many things that I love about Easy A, that there is no way that I could fit them all into one review. So for starters, I will focus on the wonderfully original take that this movie has on the "high-school comedy" genre. There have been countless comedies made about the horrors of high school, and the mean girls, jocks, nerds etc. Easy A takes a very different approach, and creates a comedy that is intelligent and quirky rather than cliche and sassy.

The movie has a main character that remains likable throughout the entire film, which from what I've seen, is not very common within the genre. Olive is peculiar but very lovable, and Emma Stone plays this role to perfection. Stone had done some movies before this, but it was Easy A that skyrocketed her career. Not only is she incredibly funny with her comedic delivery and her ability to use her very large and expressive eyes, but she also proves her acting skills in the scenes in which the weight of Olive's lies are finally sinking in. I have seen many of Emma Stone's movies, but so far this remains as my favorite.

The dialogue in Easy A is just as excellent as its' direction and cast. It is fast paced, especially the scenes between Olive and her parents, but it is also charming and comical. Sometimes I find that I appreciate humor that doesn't necessarily make me laugh out loud, but just puts a smile on my face during the movie, or even after when I am thinking about a scene from it. I have seen Easy A more times than I can count, but it still falls into that previous description.

Easy A is always one of my go to movies. It says something about the quality of a film when you can watch it over and over again and never tire of it. If by some bizarre chance that you have never seen this movie, then put it to the top of your watchlist, because I can assure you, you won't be disappointed.

Crooked House

Rating: 3.5/5

A slow-paced and eccentric film, Crooked House is a fun whodunit mystery that is brought to life by a talented cast.

When wealthy aristocrat Aristide Leonidies is found dead in his bed, beginner private detective Charles Hayward (Max Irons) is asked by Aristide's granddaughter Sophia (Stephanie Martini), to investigate the mysterious death. Arriving at the magnificent home, Charles begins to question the many members of the Leonidies family. One of the people he first interrogates, is the matriarch of the household, Lady Edith de Haviland (Glenn Close). As the eldest person in the home, Lady Edith oversees the events and conflicts that take place in her house, and also appears to be one of the only members of the family with a heart.

As Charles spends more and more time within the great mansion, his theory of who the murderer could be does not gain any clarity. Each person in the Leonidies/de Haviland family seems to be keeping secrets. The threat of another murder occurring is looming over the house and the detective, and he knows he must work fast in order to find the killer and potentially save a life.

Personally, I enjoyed this movie, but I can understand why some people didn't. The film itself, up until the last half-hour or so, is practically one long interrogation. You follow Charles as he questions each member of the family, and gain a little bit of information about the murder as he goes along. This particular tactic does create a slow moving film, but it also makes it enjoyable for those who like to see if they can solve the mystery before the movie ends.

The acting in Crooked House seems almost too skilled for the direction of the movie. Each offbeat character is played brilliantly well, making every actor's performance be memorable and not blend into the background of the scenes in which the entire family is together. There are times in the film where I questioned the filmmakers' choices about lighting and editing, but the cast and setting make up for any seemingly out of place directorial decisions.

One of the writers of Crooked House is Julian Fellows, who famously penned the script for Downton Abbey. With such a large number of characters, Fellows had the added challenge of not only trying to adapt a book into a screenplay, but also making sure that the style of the script fit each character's personality. Some of the best examples of his skill are the parts in the film in which all of the ten main characters are in the same scene together. Almost as if it were a composed piece of music, each character has their time to shine, but one doesn't outplay the other, making for an impressively well balanced script.

If you are not used to the more relaxed pacing of some British works, then you may find Crooked House to be a little dull. If you are someone who has enjoyed British film or tv in the past, then this is a movie that you should definitely take the time to watch. If its' not for the fact that it is an Agatha Christie story, then at least watch it for the cast, because the definitely make it worth the viewing.

Hitchcock

Rating: 3/5

Though it is sure to be historically inaccurate in parts, I am a sucker for movies about old Hollywood, therefore I found Hitchcock to be not one of the greatest movies based on a true story, but enjoyable nonetheless.

In the year 1959, Alfred Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) has just come off the success of his latest picture, North by Northwest. The feeling of triumph isn't around for long before Hitch begins his desperate search for his new project. Hitch beings looking through countless books trying to find the right story, and his wife and right hand lady Alma (Helen Mirren) suggest a screenplay written by her friend Whitfield Cook (Danny Huston); but it is a ghastly novel called Psycho that draws Hitchcock's attention.

Knowing that Psycho will be unlike any film he had ever done before, Paramount is hesitant to produce it. So, taking a leap of faith, Hitch decides to front the movie with his own money. With putting so much pressure on the success of the film, Hitchcock becomes even more invested and demanding than usual, and as Psycho begins to take form, his personal life starts to fall apart.

Obviously based on the title, this movie is going to be primarily about Alfred Hitchcock, but it is his wife Alma portrayed by Helen Mirren, that is the most memorable character in the film. Perhaps that parallels the true story of Hitchcock's marriage. From what I've learned in my own research, Alma was the unsung hero in Alfred Hitchcock's life and his pictures. It only seems fitting that her character be so important and well acted in the film, that it becomes the stand out role.

The pieces of Hitchcock that focused on the actual filming of Psycho were the most interesting to watch. After watching the movie, I looked further into the real life story behind the making of the 1960s classic, and was slightly irritated to learn that there were quite a few parts in the movie that were either made up or over embellished. I can understand the thought process behind adding false plot elements, trying to make the story appear more interesting, but I feel like Hitchcock's life was fascinating enough without any fabrication.

It had been a very long time since I had first seen this movie, so when I watched it again recently, it was almost like I had never watched it. Had the movie not spent so much time on scenes based inside Hitchcock's twisted fantasies involving notorious serial killer, Ed Gein, I would probably have given the movie a higher rating. Those scenes seemed a bit unnecessary to me, especially considering the novel Psycho wasn't actually based around the murders committed by Gein; they just coincidentally happened to have similarities with one another.

As far as capturing the essence of Hollywood in the 60's, Hitchcock definitely succeeded. There were scenes in the film that were actually shot in Hitchcock's office on the Paramount lot. The movie also put in a lot of effort in trying to match preexisting shots or actors from the original filming, and the hard work paid off. Although there were a few casting choices that I found to be a bit questionable, overall Hitchcock did well at recreating the feeling of old Hollywood. It is a great film to watch if you like movies about making movies, and especially fun if you are a fan of Psycho.

50/50

Rating: 4.5/5

One wouldn't initially think that a movie that has a plot based around a cancer diagnosis would be enjoyable, but somehow 50/50 is able to tackle the solemn topic and bring life, humor, and inspiration to it.

27 year old Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes through life playing it safe and by the rules. Though he maintains an incredibly healthy lifestyle, Adam has been experiencing pain in his back. When he goes to the doctor, he learns that he has a rare form of cancer that has been growing on his spine. He looks his disease up online and discovers that he has a 50/50 chance of survival.

Once diagnosed, Adam tries to go on with his life as normal. He has his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) for support, and he begins seeing a therapist named Katherine (Anna Kendrick) who is training to work with cancer patients. His attempts for keeping his routine the same as usual begins to become a struggle, as the weight of his illness starts to resonate with him. His positive demeanor begins to fade and he slowly learns to rely on his emotional supports more than ever.

Years ago, when I first saw 50/50, I remember thinking how real the movie's approach to the topic seemed to be. Since then, I have learned that not only is the movie based on a true story, but it is based on the life of the screenwriter for the film, who also happens to be one Seth Rogen's close friends. I have seen many other movies that tackle the heavy topic, but few even come close to representing the emotions and struggles of such a diagnosis in the honest way that 50/50 does.

There are many characters in 50/50 and they all do such a brilliant job, that it is impossible to pick a standout amongst the cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance is sincere and heartbreaking. His character is trying his best to keep his frustrations and worries inside, but is barely holding on. Levitt portrays this in a way that adds a poignancy to many scenes in the film. Seth Rogen is instantly believable as Adam's best friend, and that is most likely due to the fact that he had actually lived this storyline once before in real life. His character is profane but lovable at the same time, and that is a hard combination to pull off. Anna Kendrick plays awkward wonderfully well, and though she plays a small role, she makes a big impact in the overall effect of the film.

Not only does 50/50 take on a harrowing subject matter, but it is also innovative in the way that it is filmed. When Adam receives the news from his doctor, the room becomes a blur and the words spoken by his doctor get lost in the haze. The ingenuity behind scenes like that and many more throughout the film are part of what make 50/50 such a great movie.

Given the film's topic, some people may stay away from this movie, but I would strongly encourage anyone with that thought process to reconsider. Of course this movie has moments that will likely bring you to tears, but it is also uplifting at times, as well as beautiful example of determination and friendship. 50/50 is an excellent film and is one that I have recommended to many people.

Gravity

Rating: 4.5/5

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her very first mission in space. She is repairing part of the Hubble Space Telescope when her crew member Mike Kawalksi (George Clooney) hears a transmission from Mission Control that there is a storm of space debris heading their way. They are told to abort their mission, but are unable to get back into the shuttle in time.

The debris hits them with incredible force, and Stone and Kowalski find themselves floating through space as the only survivors of the shuttle mission. Panicked and in great danger, the two must find a way to make it back home to Earth.

As with most movies where there is practically one actor for the duration of the film, the pressure for that singular person to continually captivate the audience must be incredibly high. Sandra Bullock is definitely able to bring the necessary emotion and physicality to the role, and makes the viewer feel as if they are experiencing the harrowing ordeal right alongside her.

The story for Gravity is well done, but the movie really seems to be more about displaying the thought that went into making the space effects seem believable and intelligently put together. There are moments when Dr. Ryan Stone cries or gets a cut on her face and you see the tears or droplets of blood float away from her. Little details like that add to the overall anti-gravity emersion that the movie has on the audience. The runtime for Gravity is actually quite short, but had the movie been any longer, the impressive representation of space may have come off as old or repetitive if the film had been two hours or more.

Normally I am not one that tries to look for some hidden metaphor or meaning that a movie might be trying to show. In fact, it generally seems a bit pretentious when people try and look too deep into a movie in order to find a hidden message. With that being said, Gravity is one of the only movies where I felt that a metaphor was built into the plot rather than hidden within the main story. To me, I felt that Ryan's story was definitely supposed to be a representation of rebirth and starting over. There is a moment where she is floating inside a shuttle, stripped away of her space suit, and the effect, which I'm assuming was intentional, is meant to look as if she is in utero. From that point on she is literally beginning a new life for herself, until she can hopefully make it to Earth to take the first shaky steps of her new existence. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but if that concept was the filmmakers intention, it was very well done.

Gravity is an exhibition of how impressive the world of special effects has become. It is a film that visually stunning, but also contains a story of survival and redemption that is both intense and touching.

42

Rating: 5/5

When it comes to sports, I'm partial to baseball, so perhaps that is why I loved this movie so much. However, biased opinion or not, 42 is an inspiration film about triumph over adversity and the love of America's game.

In the year 1946, sports executive, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decides to shake things up in the baseball world by looking for an African American player for the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. The man he decides to pursue is a young and promising player named Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman).

As expected, Jackie facies numerous hardships when he enters the league. People refuse to play with him, throw the ball at his head, and heckle him with racists slurs from the stands and dugouts. Though hot tempered, Jackie forces himself to keep his emotions in check to ensure that he will be able to continue to play on a major league team. Fighting every step of the way, Jackie will stop at nothing to achieve his dream.

Though I am sure mine is an unpopular opinion, usually I am not the biggest fan of Harrison Ford, but I really liked him in 42. He plays his role as the gruff but open minded executive so well, that any previous opinions I had on his past performances were forgotten. His character doesn't pull his punches when telling Jackie of the battles he will be facing, but also clearly cares about him as well. Chadwick Boseman embodies the real life hero in an impeccable manner. Even if his outward appearance may make Jackie appear calm and collected when he is being harassed, you can see the emotional turmoil in his eyes. It is the incredible true story and Boseman's performance that makes 42 one of the more memorable sports films to be released in recent history.

Along with my love for all things baseball, I am also very drawn to movies that are based in anytime between the 40s to 60s. 42 does a great job at emanating the time in which it is based, and it is the attention to detail and style that add to the genuine effect of the representation of Jackie Robinson's story.

If you have any knowledge of Jackie Robinson's life, you probably have a general idea of what to expect in his story, both good and bad. However, knowing about the injustice that surrounded his early career is one thing, but seeing it, if you'll pardon the expression, is an entirely different ball game. There are many scenes in which you see the mistreatment that Jackie was put through, and it is both uncomfortable and difficult to watch. Then when you remember that this isn't fiction, and it is actually something Robinson was forced to put up with, makes his story of triumph all the more powerful.

Sports movies are almost always meant to be inspirational, so they do have the tendency to be slightly predictable, but with 42 that doesn't seem to matter. The true story of Jackie Robinson will always be important and worth telling. It is a great sports film but also a great biopic; overall a wonderful movie.

Super 8

Rating: 5/5

Though I can't say this for sure, Stranger Things most certainly had to be inspired by the style and plot of Super 8. So with that being said, if you are a fan of the wildly popular Netfilx series, than you will definitely love this movie.

Based in 1979, six teenage boys set out to make a zombie movie. One of the boys, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) is struggling with the recent death of his mother, but is using the film to distract him from his grief. Helping Joe with his loss is Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning). Though she is a new member to the group, Alice seems to understand Joe's feelings more than anyone else.

One night while filming a scene at a train station, the crew witness a train come off the tracks and explode. Fearing for their lives, the group runs from the scene, but don't get far before they realize that the derailment was no accident. By a stroke of bad luck, the kids find themselves stuck in the middle of a government conspiracy, and begin to search for answers.

When I first saw Super 8, I knew very little about the plot, and I think that is the best way of going into it. Knowing too much about the story would spoil the compelling and intense effect the movie has on its' audience. What I can say is that using the boys' film project as a way to propel the story forward was a brilliant idea. With every scene that the kids film for their movie, you are given an extra facet of each child's personality and are also given bits of information about what is going on with the government based storyline of the film.

As it is with movies like the Goonies and Stand By Me, it is important to have a cast that can carry out not only the comical lines, but the scenes with emotional weight to them as well. In Super 8, there are adults throughout the film, but it is definitely the kids that are the main focus. Most notably would be Elle Fanning and Joel Courtney. The emotions they bring to their characters are heartbreakingly real and I will always be in awe of the skill those two brought to the screen.

Science fiction stories can be a hit or a miss with me. If there are too many aspects to the plot that are implausible or far fetched, the movie tends to lose me. Super 8 is able to take a story that is one hundred percent fictional and make it appear believable. What made it work so well is the way it used an intelligent backstory to balance their scifi elements with the real world. Instead of being a movie that was strictly pure fiction, it is a wonderful collaboration of a story about friendship and how far you would go to protect what's important to you.

I remember seeing this film in theaters and immediately falling in love with it. There's always a special quality to a film that is cast primarily with young actors. Whether it be the squeaks of the boys' voices or the memories of your own childhood that the movie may invoke, Super 8 proves that the combination of foul-mouthed teens and nostalgia will always be a winning formula. It is an excellent film that is both entertaining and heartwarming.

A great choice for fans of Stand By Me, It, and Stranger Things.

Waitress

Rating: 4.5/5

Waitress is a film that could technically be described as a romantic-comedy, but is unlike other movies of the genre due to its' strong emotional core.

Jenna (Keri Russel) is a waitress at a pie diner. All she wants to do is make pies and earn enough money to leave her abusive husband Earl, but her plan to get away is stalled when she learns that she is pregnant.

Unlike most expectant mothers, Jenna resents the unborn child that has seemingly ruined her way out of her marriage. With her friends at the diner and her new doctor (Nathan Fillion) for support, Jenna has to find a way to deal with a pregnancy that she does not want and a marriage that she fears she cannot escape.

Waitress is unique in many ways and its' director is definitely one of them. Adrienne Shelly directed this film and she added a very unusual and charming style to the movie that almost place it in a genre all its' own. I have always felt that even if you weren't aware that a movie was directed by a female, as soon as it starts you can usually tell. Female directors generally don't follow the patterns or formulas that most main stream films seem to fall into. Shelly certainly did not stick to any traditional movie design, and Waitress is a better romantic-comedy because of it.

The characters that surround Jenna's life are full of offbeat and eccentric traits, and they add a wonderful sense of whimsy to the film. Adrienne Shelly acts as well as directs, and makes her character adorably awkward. Keri Russel is able to tap into the emotions that are going through Jenna's mind as well as be able to make her strong exterior fit her character and not seem out of place.

Though Waitress isn't incredibly well known, it definitely should be. It flawlessly balances its' poignant emotional scenes with perfectly placed moments of humor; with the end result being a film that is both comical and touching.

Galaxy Quest

Rating: 5/5

With an ingenious concept of merging a cheesy sci-fi show into a reality, Galaxy Quest is a creative and wonderfully comical movie.

At a fan expo for an old show called Galaxy Quest, the original cast members are reluctant to go on stage and relive the roles they can never seem to shake. To add to their disdain of the expo, they are sick of playing second fiddle to Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) who played the Commander on the show.

After the convention, Jason is approached by a group of people who are asking for his help to save their ship and species. Thinking this is just another job, Jason gladly goes along, but is shocked to discover that the group of people are actually aliens who think that the show Galaxy Quest was a documentation of a real life space crew. Jason returns to Earth and rounds up his fellow cast mates and together they begin a true outer-space adventure.

Admittedly I have never been to a sci-fi convention, but I have been to fan expos before, so I have a fairly good understanding of what the environment and type of people who attend the conventions are like. With that being said, Galaxy Quest seems to paint a pretty accurate portrayal of life at a science fiction expo. The idea of taking a cast of washed up actors and putting them inside the real world of their old fame is truly brilliant.

It is the concept of the movie, and the acting that goes along with it, that makes Galaxy Quest one of the better comedies out there. Each of the main actors have the challenge of playing a role that has two different sides to it. There is their character's real life persona and then the role that they played on tv. With such a talented cast, the actors are able to find a perfect balance between the two.

Being that he is the commander of the ship, Tim Allen is the lead of the film. However, in my eyes it was Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Sam Rockwell that created the most impressionable characters. Rickman's deadpan portrayal as a once distinguished English actor who has succumbed to a life of playing an alien, is comical in a way that doesn't need any slapstick humor to make it work. Rockwell's character was only on one episode of Galaxy Quest, yet he desperately clings to his minute fame, and it is his over the top emotions that make for some of the best physical humor in the film. Finally, Weaver is the moral backbone of the crew, and is able to bring stability and sense to those around her in a humorous way.

Galaxy Quest was shown to me many, many years ago, and it is one of the first movies I remember watching and finding myself laughing out loud. When it comes to comedies, I can be very picky. I appreciate originality and intelligent humor, and that is why Galaxy Quest continues to make me laugh no matter how many times I watch it.

Pride and Prejudice

Rating 5/5

When there is a story that has been adapted so many times, it has to be done incredibly well and in a new way for it to stand out amongst the rest. The 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice is original and a beautiful addition to the list of Jane Austen film adaptations.

In 1800s England, the Bennet family leads an ordinary and pleasant life. The house of five daughters is brought into excitement when they hear that an aristocrat named Mr. Bingley (Simon Woods) is going to be moving close by. Mrs. Bennet, desperate to marry off her daughters, demands that the family attend the ball hosted by their new neighbor.

At the ball, they are introduced to Mr. Bingley and his stern companion Mr. Darcy. Jane (Rosamund Pike), the eldest daughter, is immediately captivated by Mr. Bingley's kindness and charm, but Elizabeth (Kiera Knightley) the second oldest, has conflicted feelings towards Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfayden). At first, she is putt off by his rigid demeanor, but cannot help but find herself feeling compelled to know what's going on behind Darcy's steely exterior.

I have seen period piece films that are so focused on staying faithful to the feel and tone of the time in which it portrays, that the tactics it uses can seem repetitive or bland. Pride & Prejudice stays true to the manner and setting of a Jane Austen story, but is filmed and lit in a way that is innovative, unique, and stunning. It dares to be different and makes it work in the most wondrous of ways.

The acting done in this film is equal to the exquisite landscapes and dialogue the movie contains. Though not one of the main characters, Donald Sutherland gives an honest and warm performance as Mr. Bennet and makes him one of the most memorable characters in the film. His eyes gleam with the love for his daughters, and even though Sutherland is not an English actor, I cannot imagine anyone else doing the part as much justice as he did. Kiera Knightley provides Elizabeth with her intelligent and caring qualities that make her stand out amongst her sisters. Matthew Macfarland matches her skill with his regal and imposing portrayal of Mr. Darcy. Whether it be a look in his eyes or the small movement of his hand, Macfarland allows for Darcy's true being be seen, even if it is for the briefest of moments. It is those small gestures that make the relationship between Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth to be so compelling and utterly romantic.

Pride & Prejudice is one of those movies that's practically flawless. Of course the story was going to be brilliant, given its' distinguished source material, but the dialogue is masterfully written and the acting and cinematography combine together to create a film that is truly breathtaking.

Bend It Like Beckham

Rating: 4.5/5

Sports movies always have a lot of energy to them; it's one of the reasons they are such a popular film genre. Bend It Like Beckham is not only a great sports film, but it is a wonderful movie about family and going for your dreams.

Jesminder "Jess" (Parminder Nagra) loves football more than anything, but she has only been able to play unofficial games with her mates. One day while playing, a girl named Juliet (Kiera Knightly) from a local football club approaches Jess and tells her to try out for her team. Overjoyed at the prospect to play for a real club, Jess goes to the trial and becomes a player for the Hounslow Harriers.

Unfortunately for Jess, her excitement for making the team is short lived. Her traditional Indian family doesn't want her playing football anymore and Jess must decide which is more important to her; football or her family.

There have been numerous sports films about American football and baseball, but soccer/football is not as commonly discussed in American film. Bend It Like Beckham is an English movie and that is incredibly clear in the film's style and script. Where some movies may change or modify the phrases and dialect of the characters for the understanding of American audiences, Bend It Like Beckham doesn't try and adapt its' script, and in turn creates a much more authentic film.

Bend It Like Beckham bares some similarities to My Big Fat Greek Wedding with its' portrayal of a large and eccentric family unit that is afraid of the younger members straying from the traditional culture, but Bend It Like Beckham paints a heavier picture than My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Don't get me wrong, Beckham has its' comical moments, but it also has scenes where the weight of Jess' personal struggle between her family and her sport are full of strife and emotion.

Bend It Like Beckham is definitely one of my favorite films from the sports category, and it is for the acting, story, and the sport itself. I have seen many athletics-based movies since I first watched Beckham, but nothing seems to come close to the originality and sincerity of this film, and that is why it continues to be one of my favorites.

A Simple Favor

Rating: 4.5/5

A sexy film with twists and turns around every corner, A Simple Favor is dark, comical, and entertaining.

While picking up her son from school, mommy vlogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) meets a chic and mysterious mom named Emily (Blake Lively). When their two sons won't stop begging for a play date, the two women give in and end up getting to know one another. Stephanie is meek and awkward, and seems woefully out of place inside Emily's glamorous world.

Though seemingly different in numerous ways, the two start a fast and unsettling friendship. When Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favor; to pick up her son from school, Stephanie doesn't think much of it, that is until Emily doesn't return. Desperate to find out what has happened to her new best friend, Stephanie begins a frantic search for answers.

Before I even knew of the plot of this movie, I saw that Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively were doing a film together, and I knew that I had to see it. Once I learned of the plot, my desire to see the movie became even stronger. The two women are easily able to dominate a screen, and putting them together was a stroke of brilliance. Though their characters are drastically different from one another, their on screen demeanor is somehow similar. They know how to command the attention of the audience, but not take away from the work of their costar; creating two performances that blend together in the most wonderfully twisted ways.

The story itself is meant to be a mystery, so going into too much detail would risk spoiling the many intriguing and sometimes disturbing aspects of the film. What I can say, is that A Simple Favor is a dark comedy in every sense of the term. It is one of those movies where you laugh when you know, morally, you probably shouldn't, but that is exactly the film's intention. Sometimes I am not a fan of dark comedies, but this particular movie presents the concept in a way that makes it not only palatable, but oddly enjoyable.

I had been waiting for months for A Simple Favor to come to theaters, hoping that I wouldn't have all my excitement build up only to be disappointed; thankfully that was definitely not the case. It has been a long time since I have seen a movie like this, and I feel it will be a long time before I see another one that comes close to it. It is reminiscent in parts to Gone Girl, but takes its' own path by adding in its' individual quirks and glamour. A Simple Favor is a unique and fun ride, and is a movie I would most certainly recommend.

A good choice for fans of Gone Girl

The World's End

Rating: 5/5

How can something that is absolutely ridiculous be so comical and brilliant? The World's End yet again shows the beauty of any collaboration between Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and director Edgar Wright.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is struggling with accepting his adulthood. Hoping to hold on to what's left of his youth, Gary decides to get his boyhood gang back together and once again, attempt the Golden Mile; a chain of 12 pubs in their hometown of Newton Haven. Though very reluctant at first, Gary's friends Andy (Nick Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) decide to join Gary on his drunken quest.

Once in Newton Haven, everything appears to have remained the same since they left. When they arrive at their first pub, they discover that the locals don't seem to remember them, but Gary isn't fazed. As the night continues, the gang begin to notice more and more bizarre things about the town, and soon they discover that their night is going to be much more eventful and dangerous than they could have ever imagined.

The World's End is a movie that made me laugh out loud numerous times, and when it comes to comedies, that is not something that happens for me very often. What I love about this movie, and really any movie with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, is that their approach to humor is unlike any other film from the comedy genre. They make the outrageous and foolish seem effortlessly clever and intentional.

Given the plot of this movie, the end result of the film could have been truly absurd and awful, and if put into the hands of a different director or different cast, it probably would have been. Each actor perfectly embodies their character, keeping their eccentricities and behaviors believable and consistent throughout the film. Hilariously choreographed fight scenes and fast paced dialogue are key elements in many Edgar Wright movies, and The World's End is no exception. His trademark tactics are part of what makes this movie so much fun to watch.

If for some strange reason any fans of Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead have not seen this movie, than it is an absolute must; though I am assuming that most fans of the former movies have seen the latter. Even if you haven't seen any of the other collaborations between the director and the two leads, the World's End is a wonderfully unique comedy that I feel should be viewed by all people who want to watch a movie and be able to laugh.

A Walk in the Woods

Rating: 4/5

Being from the East Coast, I was quite excited to watch a movie about a trail that I have heard people discuss many times and have even hiked part of, myself. A Walk in the Woods is an amusing and unique type of buddy film that I quite enjoyed.

Travel author Bill Bryson (Robert Redford) is feeling his age creeping up on him and decides that he needs one more adventure in his life. While on a walk, he makes the decision that he is going to attempt to do the Appalachian Trail. Under the orders of his wife Catherine (Emma Thompson), he must find someone to do the trail with and connects with his old and out of shape friend, Stephen Katz (Nick Nolte). Inexperienced and unprepared, the two set out on the trail.

Part of what makes A Walk in the Woods enjoyable, is the straightforward plot-line and characters. The movie doesn't try to be more than it is; a true story of two men over 60 attempting the Appalachian Trail. Though both men are vastly different from one another, it is their contrast of character that makes for a humorous and entertaining movie.

The oddball people that Bill and Stephen meet scattered about the trail add an element of eccentricity to the film. It pushes the movie forward, adding a feeling of anticipation to it, making the viewer wonder who they will meet on the next leg of their journey.

When looking at other reviews for A Walk in the Woods, I couldn't quite understand why it was looked upon so poorly. It isn't an extraordinarily great movie, but there's nothing innately wrong with it. The acting is good, and the scenery beautiful. Clearly this film is more appealing to those with an interest in hiking, but even if you aren't, it is still a fun movie nonetheless.

Julie & Julia

Rating: 5/5

In two separate worlds and times, Julie & Julia wonderfully weaves together the stories of two women determined to make their dreams come true.

In the year 1949, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and her husband Paul (Stanley Tucci) arrive in Paris for his new government assignment. Switching to the year 2002, Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and her husband Eric (Chris Messina) are arriving at their new apartment in Queens.

Growing tired of being a government wife, Julia Child begins looking for an occupation to fill her time. After testing out numerous activities, Julia realizes that what she truly loves more than anything else is food. She begins a cooking class and discovers that she was destined to work in the culinary industry. Back in New York, Julie is growing restless with her government job, and decides that she needs to find a purpose in her life. It is then that she starts a challenge for herself and it is to cook through every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year's time and write blog about it.

Julie & Julia masterfully combines the two women's stories together. Though in different decades and in different parts of the world, Julie Powell and Julia Child's lives echo each other in their determination to reach a seemingly impossible goal.

When I first watched this film almost ten years ago, I knew very little about the life of Julia Child, but that has since changed, and my love for the film has only grown. Meryl Streep's take on Child is respectful and accurate. She adds the unique warble to Julia's voice and is able to embody the larger than life spirit that Julia Child brought to those around her.

There are many ways that Julie & Julia could have gone in the wrong direction, whether it be from a poor Julia Child impersonation, or to having the two storylines feel too disconnected, but thankfully that is not the case. Julia & Julia is able to effortlessly tell two stories as if they were one, and create a film that I will always love and will never watch on an empty stomach.

Ernest & Celestine

Rating: 4.5/5

In a world where so many animated films are done using the same type of computer animation, Ernest & Celestine is a breath of fresh air with its' wonderful story and illustrations.

Bears live above the streets and mice live below; that's the way it has always been. A mouse named Celestine (Mackenzie Foy) lives in an orphanage and is an apprentice for the dentist of her rodent city. Ernest (Forest Whitaker) lives off the grid from his fellow bears, but wakes up from hibernation hungry and looking for food.

One night when Celestine is on a bear tooth collection mission, she finds herself trapped inside of a garbage can. As fate would have it, the next morning Ernest looks in that trash can for food and discovers Celestine. Though the two are supposed to either fear or hate one another, they begin to help one each other and show their world that no matter what type of creature you may be, as long as your care for and accept one another, you can create a most beautiful friendship.

It is movies like Ernest & Celestine that makes me wonder what goes through the minds of the Academy Awards Committee when they are picking the Best Animated Feature winner. It seems that if the movie is not made by Pixar or Dreamworks it doesn't have a chance to win, and that is truly a shame. I love Pixar movies, but Ernest & Celestine brings a softness to the screen that I have rarely seen in any of the main stream animated films that have been released since the creation of the Best Animated Feature category. The illustrations are fair and delicate, which adds to the simple yet sweet quality of the story.

With animated movies, the voices have to be precise to the character for the film to make sense. Forest Whitaker's Ernest can be gruff but gentle, Mackenzie Foy's Celestine is meek but determined, and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly add their effortless humor into the mix. The cast of Ernest & Celestine are able bring life into the drawings and do so in a way that makes their characters unique and genuine.

Whenever I hear talk about animated children's films, I always mention Ernest & Celestine. So many of the movies that are geared towards young viewers are packed with bold colors and action, but Ernest & Celestine is quiet and kind. This movie proves that with beautiful drawings and a story of acceptance, you can create a film with a lasting impact.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Rating: 5/5

Amid the bombings of WWII, the four Pevensie children are sent away to safety at the home of a professor. Peter (William Mosely), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley) are trying to make the best of a rainy day when Lucy suggests that they play hide and seek. While hiding from Peter, Lucy crawls into a wardrobe, only to find herself walking into the magical land of Narnia. There she meets Mr. Tumnis (James McAvoy), a faun who tells Lucy the dangers of the White Witch (Tilda Swinton) who rules over Narnia.

Lucy goes back into the wardrobe and returns to the Professor's home and discovers that no time has passed since she left. She tries to tell her siblings of the wonders of Narnia, but they refuse to believe her, that is until the four of them accidentally find their way into the wardrobe one day and their true Narnian destiny begins.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is an emotional, enchanting, and fantastical adventure. Even though I have seen this movie many times, I still find myself getting chills whenever I watch it. Whether it be from the acting or from the combination of the score with the scenery, Narnia never fails to pull me into its' magical world.

It takes a special kind of child actor to be able to make their performances seem truly believable, and the young cast of Narnia had the added challenge of acting with characters and creatures that weren't actually there. Each of the portrayals of the Pevensie children were superb, but Lucy stands out to be the most magnificent. Georgie Henley was around 8 or 9 when she was in the first Narnia movie, and the emotions and wonderment she brings gives her character the ability to be the true heart of the story.

As with any film that is based in a fantasy world, there will of course need to be CGI special effects, but what I appreciated about Narnia was that it took the time to use practical effects as well. Aslan (Liam Neeson) was CGI and there was really no other way the great lion could have been done, but some of the creatures and beings that were followers of the White Witch were clearly done using prosthetics and makeup, and though that must have taken more time, it shows the level of dedication the filmmakers had in making the world of Narnia seem as real as possible.

The Narnia movies, especially the first, will always hold a special place in my heart. Each time I watch the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I am transported not only to Narnia, but to the first time I watched it; when I was younger and my imagination was almost as vast and as whimsical as Lucy Pevensie's.

The Mountain Between Us

Rating: 3.5/5

A tale of survival, adventure, and perseverance, The Mountain Between Us is, for the most part, an interesting and entertaining movie.

Professional photographer Alex (Kate Winslet) and neurosurgeon Ben (Idris Elba) have both had their flights cancelled and need to get Denver by morning. Alex gets the idea of chartering a plane and asks Ben if he would like to take the flight as well. While in the air, their pilot suffers a stroke and they crash down into the mountains.

With the pilot dead, the two of them and the pilot's dog must find a way to survive. They wait as long as they can in the wreckage of the plane, but soon they run out of food and no one has come to rescue them. Much to Ben's dismay, Alex makes the decision to begin descending the mountain, and knowing he can't stay behind alone, he follows.

The Mountain Between Us is a film where the middle is fast paced and intriguing, but the beginning and end could use some work. It seems to be one of those times where the film has a great central concept, but the creators don't know what to do before or after the idea of their main storyline. Given that the film is primarily about the two character's survival in the wilderness, it is only natural that there is very little to the beginning of the film before they get onto the plane. That being said, it feels a little rushed, as if they were just haphazardly throwing in details about the characters to try and give the audience a sense of who these people were before their plane plummeted to the ground.

The actors are put through hell and back to bring the sense of realism to the film that it has. The misery they seem to feel while surviving on the snow covered mountains most likely didn't need to involve much acting, given that the two cast members were truly put through the hardships their characters were . When it comes to the chemistry between the two, their relationship seems natural and honest when they are in the wilderness, but awkward and forced when they are out of the mountains at any time.

The Mountain Between Us may have some questionable moments scattered throughout its' run time, but the harrowing tale of survival is compelling enough to make for a decent addition to the survival-film genre.

Holes

Rating: 5/5

Holes is part western, part folktale, and part wonderful originality. It was one of the first books I ever remember being engrossed and enchanted by, and the movie brings the same level of excellence as its' source material.

Stanley Yelnats IV (Shia LaBeouf) is from a family that believes a curse was put on them many years ago, and has caused them bad luck ever since. Thinking it just to be a family folktale, Stanley doesn't think much of it, until one day he is wrongly accused of stealing a professional baseball players' shoes that were donated to a charity. Instead of going to prison, Stanley is sent to juvenile work camp called Camp Greenlake.

Once at the camp, Stanley is informed by Mr. Sir (John Voight) that he will be digging holes every day. All the boys at the camp are told that digging the holes is meant to help them build character, but the strange behavior of the adults running the camp leads Stanley and his friends to wonder if they are doing more than just building character.

Holes is a young adult story unlike any other. The movie goes back and forth between life at Camp Greenlake and images of stories being told about the past. The effortless way every plot element comes together and connects is a real tribute to the brilliance of both the book and the film.

With such a great source for the film, casting must have been a daunting task. Shia LaBeouf's take on Stanley Yelnats proves that he is skilled far beyond his humble Disney Channel beginnings. The actors cast as the other boys at the camp do a wonderful job playing their individual and eccentric characters, but LaBeouf was clearly the one who was going to have the strongest career opportunities after the film was released.

One of the many things that I admire about the film Holes is that even though it is a movie produced by Disney, it isn't afraid to stick to the sorrowful and violent storyline of how a curse fell upon Greenlake. Though it is a book and film for young adults, Kissing Kate Barlow's (Patricia Arquette) portion of the plot contains a beautifully sweet and tragic romance that is told in just a few simple scenes. Though a small piece to the entire film, it is the scenes between Kate and Sam that become some of the most memorable parts of the movie.

No matter how many times I watch it, I will never tire of Holes. It will forever be one of my favorite book to film adaptations and one of my favorite children's movies of all time.

Soul Surfer

Rating: 3.5/5

In a movie that has a better plot than some of its' acting, Soul Surfer is an inspiring film based on an incredible true story.

Teenager Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), wants nothing more in her life than to spend her time in the water surfing. On a beautiful day in Hawaii, Bethany goes surfing with her friend Alana. Without a care in the world, the two float in the ocean on their surf boards, but tragedy strikes and a shark comes out of the water and takes Bethany's arm.

Coming back from the brink of death, Bethany must learn to adapt to life without an arm. Knowing that surfing is her purpose, Bethany refuses to let her life altering injury stop her from of achieving her dreams.

Soul Surfer gets stuck in a trap that other films based on a true story seem to do, and that is it struggles to find its' footing until the main plot event takes place. Given that this is a movie about a teenage girl who survives a shark attack, the movie appears a bit aimless until the attack happens. Once it reaches the plot line of Bethany's survival, the movie's pace definitely picks up and becomes much more entertaining.

When it comes to the performances by the cast, some of the minor character's acting is sub-par, but doesn't ruin the overall effect of the movie. The main players such as Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, and AnnaSophia Robb are definitely skilled enough to handle the true story's material and bring a touching and inspiring element to the film.

Soul Surfer does come off as corny on occasion, but the story of Bethany Hamilton is compelling enough to overlook any flaws that the film may have. Her story proves that you can triumph over adversity as long as you have faith in yourself and your dreams.

Legally Blonde

Rating: 4/5

Legally Blonde is a movie that I have loved for a long time. Not because it is necessarily a great movie, but because it is fun, quirky, and a unique addition to its' genre.

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is a bubbly, upbeat, and wealthy sorority girl in her senior year of college. On a date with her boyfriend Warner, she expects him to propose, but is shocked to find he wants to break up with her instead, explaining to Elle that she is not the type of girl he needs for his pre-law image.

Determined to get Warner back, Elle decides that she will enroll into Harvard Law and prove to Warner that she, can in fact be the right girl for him.

Reese Witherspoon's portrayal of Elle Woods is a wonderful spin on the sorority girl image. She gives Elle the stereotypical ditsy and naive qualities associated with the role, but doesn't overdo it. The way Witherspoon performs the role makes the moments when Elle stuns her peers with her intelligence feel believable.

Legally Blonde is a much needed addition to its' genre. There are so many movies that belong to the comedy category where the acting and story are lacking, so they rely on slapstick or immature humor to support the film. Legally Blonde has an original plot and the acting isn't as loud or outrageous as it is in some other comedies that have been released within the past decade or so.

So the plot for Legally Blonde seems improbable and a little silly, but who cares? It's not the type of movie that you watch to judge it for its' impressive film qualities. You watch Legally Blonde to have fun and be entertained and in that sense, it most certainly succeeds.

Panic Room

Rating: 4/5

A movie that takes place in one space always faces the struggle of feeling too claustrophobic or boring, but Panic Room manages to find a balance that makes for a very intense and exciting film.

Jodie Foster plays Meg Altman, a recent divorcee who's looking for a new home with her eleven year old daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart). They tour an expansive four floor home that contains a secret panic room. Though the house seems all too big for two people, they decide to take it.

On their first night in their new home, Meg and Sarah are asleep when three men break in. The criminals, under the impression that the house would be vacant, are alarmed to see the signs of life within the house. What was originally supposed to be a simple robbery has now turned into a far more dangerous endeavor.

What makes Panic Room's one setting seem open and interesting are the clever tricks that director David Fincher uses to expand the view beyond the constraints of the home. Whether it be a small glimpse into the outside world or a look within the walls, Fincher is able to broaden his set, but allow for Meg and Sarah's sense of frightening confinement to remain.

Jodi Foster and Kristen Stewart are convincing as mother and daughter, and it is the way that they play off one another's performances that makes their predicament seem so real. Though I may not be a fan of the work that Kristen Stewart does currently, I have always admired her performance in Panic Room.

There are so many movies in the suspense-thriller category, that it can be hard to make one that doesn't blend in with the rest. Panic Room may follow similar plot patterns to other films that share its' genre, but it remains unique in its' style and its' ability to leave a lasting impression.

Howl's Moving Castle

Rating: 5+/5

Many years ago, I was introduced the magical films of Hayao Miyazaki, and the first movie I fell in love with was Howl's Moving Castle.

In a world where magic is real as the war that plagues the cities, a young woman named Sophie accidentally finds herself as the target of the feared Witch of the Waste. Thinking that she is working with a sorcerer named Howl, the Witch of the Waste puts a curse on Sophie, turning her into an old woman. Knowing that she cannot stay home anymore, Sophie leaves and travels towards the mountains. Not used to her elderly body, Sophie quickly tires on her journey. Desperate for warmth and shelter, she spots the moving castle of the infamous wizard Howl and jumps inside.

With nowhere else to go, Sophie movies into the castle to become Howl's cleaning lady, but discovers that Howl is nothing like she expected. Instead of being dangerous and cruel, he is mysterious and kind. Though her face may be old, her heart is young, and Sophie begins to fall in love with Howl and his magical life within the castle.

When someone first recommended this movie to me about ten years ago, I had never seen an anime film and in all honesty, I was a bit reluctant to it. From the clips and shows that I had seen, anime appeared to me as fast-paced, loud, and overwhelming. How wrong I was to assume that the work of Hayao Miyazaki would fit that description. Like his many other films, Howl's Moving Castle is soft and beautiful. The colors, music, and enchanting story opened my eyes to a whole new world of cinema.

For animated films, the voices are just as important as the illustrations. You can have a wonderfully drawn world, but it is the voices behind the characters that bring the artwork to life. Howl's Moving Castle is cast with some of the most recognizable and memorable voices available. Not only does it contain the instantly humorous voice of Billy Crystal, but it also possesses the seductive vocals of Lauren Bacall and Christian Bale. It is their contributions to the story, that helps to make Howl's Moving Castle the magnificent and sensational film that it is.

It is thanks to Howl's Moving Castle that my view of anime changed. Since watching this, I have recommended it to numerous people who had felt the same way I once did about the genre, and they too fell in love with the wonder and enchantment of the worlds created by Hayao Myazaki.

Jurassic World

Rating: 2/5

Going into this movie I thought to myself, Chris Pratt and dinosaurs, this is going to be awesome right? Wrong. Jurassic World is another one of those movies that I really wanted to enjoy, but found myself being more disappointed than entertained.

It has been 22 years since the first attempt to make an amusement park with dinosaurs, and the concept is back and bigger than ever. Not only are there more dinosaurs, but there is a new hybrid as well. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), is the high strung, workaholic manager of the park who's two nephews are coming to Jurassic World for a visit. Being so busy, she has little time to spend with the boys and asks her assistant to help the two tour the park.

Chris Pratt plays Owen, a velociraptor wrangler. He has proven his dinosaur training skills to be impressive, and is asked by Claire to consult on the reclusive behavior of the new hybrid dinosaur, the Indominous Rex. The observation of the new animal doesn't go as planned, and the Indominous manages to escape its' enclosure, free to run and hunt for the very first time.

One of the things that bothered me about Jurassic World was that it didn't seem to know what type of movie it wanted to be. Action, comedy, drama? The genre was as scattered as the park visitors running from the escaped pterodactyls. Just when there was a moment of slightly excessive dinosaur violence, there would be an uncomfortable joke to try and lighten the mood.

Adding to the bumpy plot was the unnecessary family drama added to the two boys' storyline. It seemed as if it was put there in an attempt to have the audience to feel as if they could relate and have sympathy for the boys, but it came off forced and out of place.

As far as well done CGI action sequences go, Jurassic World does deliver. Sometimes I feel that CGI is used too often, but given what the dinosaurs do in Jurassic World, the use of CGI rather than animatronics makes perfect sense.

Jurassic World is fun as long as you go into it and focus on the special effects rather than the plot or characters. There have been better reboots out there, but there have most certainly been worse, and I'm sure some day in the future I will find myself giving this one another chance.

Gorillas in the Mist

Rating 5/5

Gorillas in the Mist is a prime example of the different paths that human beings can take. Some spend their lives destroying the innocent and beautiful beings of this world, and others, like Dian Fossey, dedicate their lives to saving them.

Dian Fossey, played by Sigourney Weaver, quits her job as a physical therapist to move to Africa and study the lives of mountain gorillas. By mimicking and adapting to the nature of the gorillas, Dian is able to get up close to the remarkable animals, being able to study them in a way no one had ever been able to before. She begins to form an unbreakable connection with the gorillas and soon loves them as is if they were her own family.

Knowing that the gorillas are in great danger of becoming extinct due to poaching, Dian becomes furiously dedicated to saving the magnificent animals. She refuses to be intimidated by the threats of the poachers and will stop at nothing to protect her gorillas.

Gorillas in the Mist is a movie that brought tears to my eyes numerous times. It is one thing to know of the horrific existence of poaching, but seeing it, even a recreation of it, is so upsetting that you can actually feel your heart begin to ache.

As showed in the film, Dian Fossey's methods of protection may have been considered unorthodox, but her fierce determination to protect the gorillas gave a voice to the voiceless. Sigourney Weaver expresses Fossey's love and devotion to her gorillas, and it is that remarkable performance that makes the disgusting images of poaching seem all too real and appalling.

Though it may be difficult to watch, Gorillas in the Mist is an incredibly important film. It truly shows the horrors of poaching as well as the beauty and peace of the animals that we must protect.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To help the gorillas, you can donate to the following foundations.

The Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund International

The Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund

The Mask of Zorro

Rating: 3/5

The Mask of Zorro is one of those movies that I used to watch all the time when I was younger, but now that I have rewatched it as an adult, it doesn't seem as special to me as it once did.

Anthony Hopkins plays Don Diego de la Vega, the original Zorro. As the masked crusader, he prevents Governor Don Rafael Montero from executing three townspeople who have done no wrong. Montero is furious that his plan to use the execution as bait for capturing Zorro did not work. He finds out who the real man behind the mask is, and barges into de la Vega's home that night. De la Vega desperately tries to protect his wife and baby daughter, but fails. His wife is killed, and his daughter is taken away by Montero. De la Vega is sent away to prison, and all hope seems to be lost.

Twenty years later, Montero has returned to California and Diego de la Vega has escaped from his capture. An outlaw named Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) is in search of the man who killed his brother and by a chance of fate, he crosses paths with the escaped de la Vega. Diego begins to train Alejandro to become the new Zorro so both men can exact their revenge. Together they will hatch a plan to take down the men who have taken their loved ones away from them.

As I mentioned before, I found myself not enjoying the Mask of Zorro as much as I once had. I hadn't seen it in many years, so perhaps my viewpoint had changed a little. Zorro is definitely not a bad movie, but I just found it to be sillier than I had remembered it to be. It is pretty hard to find any type of superhero movie that doesn't have some slapstick moments, but the Mask of Zorro seemed to use the tactic too much, perhaps as a way to try and balance out the dark storyline of de la Vega and Governor Montero.

The definite highlights of the movie would be the on screen relationship between Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones, and of course, any scenes involving swordplay. Both actors bring a vitality to their scenes that give the movie an energetic and sometimes comical romance.

As far as most movie action sequences go, they tend involve guns or fists, so it is refreshing to see a different type of choreographed fighting on the screen. The sword-fighting scenes are the most compelling pieces to the movie, but there is less of it than you would expect in a movie about Zorro.

The Mask of Zorro follows the pattern of your basic superhero origin story. Zorro is not unlike Batman; he possesses no special powers, but becomes a vigilante and brings justice to the world, whether or not the law agrees. Though I may think Zorro has some definite flaws, I still find to be enjoyable. Not one of my favorites, but still fun overall.

Alien

Rating: 5/5

For decades there have been movies made about space and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. Though made before the time of advanced special effects, Alien remains to be one of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time.

Alien tells the story of the crew on board the Nostromo. They are all in hypersleep and are traveling through space back to Earth. Slowly, they begin to wake, assuming their ship must be close to home. To their surprise, they learn that they are still about ten months from reaching Earth, and they have been prematurely awakened to investigate a signal that was picked up by their ship. As per their orders, a few members of the crew leave the ship to investigate the planet that the mysterious signal is coming from. The crew that remains on the ship must figure out exactly where they are and what the signal could mean. Among the crew staying behind on the ship is Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).

While investigating the unknown planet, Executive Officer Kane (John Hurt), discovers pod like organisms that appear to have life inside them. While inspecting the pod, and an unidentified life form attaches itself to Kane's helmet. He is rushed back to the ship, and though its' against quarantine protocol and Ripley's orders, Kane is allowed inside.

Alien is the film that shot Sigourney Weaver into stardom, and it is very clear why. Ripley is a tenacious and assertive character and to achieve Ripley's sense of power and strength, any lesser actor could have made the mistake of making Ripley seem controlling or even too masculine. Sigourney Weaver was able to turn Ripley into a famously strong female character, but not to push her to the point of becoming artificially tough.

I often wish that current science fiction movies wouldn't rely so heavily on CGI, and Alien is one of the reasons that I feel this way. It is the perfect example of the phrase less is more. Alien uses practical effects, and by doing so, the actual alien and the terror it ensues seem all too real. No matter how far we've come in the special effects department, you can always tell when something isn't truly there or real, and that is why Alien is so brilliant.

Alien is unnervingly quiet, and it is in that silence that the movie thrives. Without the extra noises of the spaceship or sci-fi gadgets, you are left with the sounds of fear, and that leaves much more of an impact than any fabricated noise that could have been created.

Alien is spectacular in every moment it brings to the screen. It is a tribute to all those involved in its' making, that almost 40 years later, it is still a science fiction film that almost all others are measured by.

Viceroy's House

Rating: 3.5/5

To preface this review I would like to say that before watching this movie I had very little knowledge about the history of the partition of India. With that being said, I will review the movie based on its' merit as a film rather than its' historical accuracy.

Viceroy's House is based on the true story of Lord Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville) as he becomes the final Viceroy of India. His task is to oversee India as it becomes an independent country. Alongside him are his wife Edwina (Gillian Anderson) and his eighteen year old daughter Pamela (Lily Travers). Lord Mountbatten and Edwina both have a vision of acceptance and peace for India, but it seems that other political members do not agree and would rather see India divided instead of united.

Similar to Titanic, this film also creates a fictionalized romance to aid in the historical storytelling. Jeet Kumar has newly been appointed as one of Lord Mountbatten's aids. While he is working in the Viceroy's house, he spots Aalia, a girl whom he has been in love with for years but hasn't seen in a long time. Aalia is Muslim and Jeet is Hindu, so she feels that they can never be married, but that all begins to change as the turmoil in India increases in violence and intensity.

At first, the created romance feels a bit unnecessary. Jeet and Aalia almost seem as if their roles are as the unsuspecting narrators that are simply there to help explain the politics behind the story. Their relationship, however, does seem to become more relevant later on, as it adds a personal connection to the horrors that are created by the partition of India.

Performance wise, Hugh Bonneville's representation of Lord Mountbatten was not unlike his work as Lord Grantham on Downton Abbey. The two roles are so similar, the likeness between portrayals makes perfect sense. Though Gillian Anderson has done a lot of British television and film since her legendary work on The X-Files, her depiction of Edwina seems to be one of her most transformative roles. Viceroy's House is a tribute to her immense talent as an actor and proves that she can tackle any role and bring a level of authenticity to it that cannot be denied.

Without being able to truly judge the historical accuracy of the movie, I can't say much for how well it portrayed such a horrific time in the history of India. What I can speak for is the impact the movie left behind. Accurate or not, the depiction of families being displaced and destroyed from the terrors of war will always be an image that turns your eyes from the screen. Viceroy's House definitely carries that image in its' second half, and it is what leaves the largest impression once the movie is over.

Viceroy's House brings to light a piece of history that is seldom discussed anymore. It may take some liberties with the truth, but it is successful in making sure that the lives of those impacted by the partition are not forgotten.

The Founder

Rating: 5/5

I have seen the Founder several times and that could simply be because I am a sucker for any movie that is based in the 50's or 60's. However, I attribute my multiple viewings to the fact that the movie focuses on a lesser known time in the history of one of the biggest corporations in the world.

Michael Keaton stars as Ray Croc, a salesman constantly searching for the American dream. He has had many failed business endeavors and is currently trying to make it rich by selling milkshake machines. He finds out that a small burger stand named McDonald's is in need of his product, and he ventures out to California to see what is all about.

Immediately Ray sees the potential in the McDonald Brother's business. He soon becomes a partner to the company and begins to franchise the name. Hungry for wealth and recognition, Ray starts to take more than his fair share of the company name. He carelessly makes decisions without consulting the brothers and soon, the McDonald's we all know of today begins to emerge.

What the Founder does brilliantly is tell an infuriating story in a very simple way. It doesn't use any fancy gimmicks to try and make the movie seem more exciting or intense than it needs to be. The acting, directing, and source materials make it one of the better biopics that I have seen.

What Ray Croc did to achieve his success was to completely take advantage of the McDonald Brothers. Just reading about the story would be upsetting enough, but seeing how it played out makes it all the more maddening. Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch play the incredibly likable brothers, and it is their portrayal that makes you heartsick for what was done to them.

Who knew that the story behind the creation of McDonald's involved such back stabbing and deceit? I haven't been a fan of McDonald's for over a decade, but after seeing the Founder, my dislike for the corporation became permanent.

True Grit (2010)

Rating 5/5

I have seen the original True Grit with John Wayne and Glen Campbell, and it is an excellent film. That being said, the Coen Brother's True Grit seems to pack a bit more of a punch. For me, the score, script and cast are what pushed it ahead of the original.

Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross, a fourteen year old girl who's father has been murdered by a man name Tom Chaney. She is determined to find Chaney and make him pay for his crimes. While she is in town to retrieve her father's body, she searches for a man with true grit who will be able to help her hunt down her father's killer. She first meets Marshall Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges. Rooster is a hard souled man who drinks too much and has little sympathy for the human race. Mattie hires Rooster to aid her in the search for Chaney. They are also accompanied by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon). At first, both men try to rid themselves of Mattie, thinking she is too young to go on such a mission, but they soon learn that she is not to be taken advantage of, and she is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Hailee Steinfeld is clearly the standout performance of the film. Considering this was her first movie, what she achieves in her acting is truly astounding. She creates Mattie's hardened exterior seem all too real, but allows for her innocence and grief to shine in her eyes and let the viewer remember Mattie's true age. I can only imagine how intimidating it must have been to be a teenager and have your first movie be alongside Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, but Steinfeld proved herself equal amongst her legendary cast members. As I watched many of the scenes between Mattie and Rooster, specifically the scenes in which Rooster's respect for Mattie is evident, I noticed that Rooster's admiration towards Mattie seemed incredibly genuine. It made me wonder if Jeff Bridges used his own feelings towards Hailee's performance to aid in his portrayal of Cogburn. Jeff Bridges' Rooster seems more gruff than John Wayne's version, which makes sense due to the added level of violence and inhumanity that the Coen Brother's brought to their version of the film.

Alongside the brilliant character depictions brought by the talented cast, the script is another of the many shining moments that True Grit possesses. Admittedly, I have seen fewer westerns than I have films from other genres, but of the ones that I have seen, I have noticed that the dialogue can sometimes come off a bit modern for the time period in which the film is representing. I can honestly say that the screenplay for True Grit is one of the best that I have encountered. The dialogue transports the film into a different era so effortlessly, that it seems the actors have been speaking this way all their lives.

There are so many times that someone decides to remake a classic movie, and you find yourself wondering why. True Grit is one of the rare instances when a remake equals, and at some points, even surpasses its' original.

Stand By Me

Rating: 5/5

Movies based on Stephen King books usually fall into one of two categories, either they're truly awful or they're wonderful; thankfully Stand By Me is a part of the latter.

Based on the short story "The Body" by Stephen King, Stand By Me is the tale of four twelve year old boys and their big adventure of the summer of 59'. Gordie (Will Wheaton), is sensitive kid who has strong aspirations to become a writer. He has recently lost his older brother and is struggling to handle his grief. Only his friend Chris seems to notice or care. Chris (River Phoenix) comes from a very rough family, and everyone assumes the worst of him. He wants nothing more than to leave Castlerock. Alongside Gordie and Chris are Teddy (Corey Feldman) and Verne (Jerry O'Connell).

One day Verne comes running up to the boys' tree house. He tells the other three that he overheard his brother and his friend talking about the body of a young boy that they accidentally found in the woods. Knowing that Verne and his brother won't report it to the police, the boys get it into their heads that they will become heroes if they find the body and tell the authorities. So they pack their gear and head out on what they expect to be an adventure of a lifetime.

I have read many Stephen King books and then watched the film equivalents only to be disappointed. When I watched Stand By Me for the first time, I was so relieved to find that it was one of the best book to movie adaptations that I had seen. The movie embodied the style, tone, and characters of the book perfectly.

A child actors' performance can sometimes make or break a movie, and with this cast being 98% young actors, there was definite risk involved, and the risk most certainly paid off. River Phoenix's performance goes down in history as one of the most earnest and heartbreaking characters of all time. He acts well beyond his years, and it is a great injustice that he was not nominated for his work in Stand By Me. Not to be forgotten is the acting done by Will Wheaton. Together he and River Phoenix create an on screen chemistry so strong, it is almost impossible to believe they hadn't been friends for years before the movie.

If I hadn't read the story beforehand, I know I would still have loved this movie regardless. Stand By Me is poignant, humorous, and nostalgic, and is probably my favorite Stephen King adaptation of all time.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Rating: 3.5/5

I am a huge fan of the original movie, and I am an even bigger fan of Cher, so when I discovered that the two were going to blend; let's just say I was a little excited.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again tells two separate stories that merge into one. First is the present day. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is frantically trying to ready her hotel in Greece for its' grand reopening. She is struggling in a personal and professional way and finds herself needing to connect with her mom. With that thought, we are transported back to when Donna (Lily James), first decided to travel the world and witness how she met the three men who would later become Sophie's dads. From that point on, the movie switches between past and present and memorable faces depicted both young and old appear in a musical manner.

Personally, I felt that Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again took a little while to really get going. There was so much ground work being done to establish who each flashback actor/actress was portraying, that the musical numbers seemed halfheartedly thrown in. About a quarter of the way through the movie that all changes. Finally, the silly, energetic, and melodic Mamma Mia begins to emerge. Though the movie takes a slightly more somber approach than the original, the enjoyability of it can't be denied.

This sequel does reuse some of the same material as its' predecessor, but I think that may have been done more out of necessity for well known ABBA songs. With the cast being considerably larger, I was specifically impressed with the three women who played the young versions of Donna, Tonya, and Rosie. Namely Jessica Keenan Wynn, who played Young Tonya. She bared a remarkable resemblance to Christine Baranski and did a wonderful job at embodying a character that someone else had already created. Of course the highlight of the movie is the entrance of Cher. I have yet to find a situation where Cher doesn't make things more fabulous.

Overall, I think that Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again succeeded at creating a whole new storyline and still keeping true to the tone and style of the first movie. It couldn't have been easy to make a sequel to a Tony Award Nominated musical. If you like the original, than you absolutely must see the sequel. Its' a perfect movie to watch for some great music and a fun time.

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Rating: 5+/5

It takes a lot for a movie to make me cry, but Won't You Be My Neighbor had numerous instances where I was wishing I had brought tissues with me to the theater.

Won't You Be My Neighbor is a documentary that chronicles the life of Fred Rogers and how he came to be one of the most influential people in the history of children's television. Before going into the theater, I knew very little about the history of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I had watched the show as a child in the 90s, and loved every moment of it. As an adult I started to become more aware of the unparalleled level of kindness he gave to others, so with all that in mind, I was eager to learn more about the life and lessons of Fred Rogers.

Coming out of the theater, I had more respect and love for Mr. Rogers than I had ever thought possible. I had never known of the bravery and tenacity that Mr. Rogers possessed. He was daring enough to defy what society viewed as being right, because he knew in his heart that discrimination and violence will always be wrong. He spread the belief of kindness and acceptance using subtlety rather than large gestures, and in that quiet manner his inspirational beliefs found their way into the minds and hearts of those who were fortunate enough to watch him on television.

I have been reduced to tears in other documentaries, but it is because they had been created to show the horrors that the human race is capable of. So I found it wonderfully refreshing to be wiping away tears because I was so touched at the level of kindness that one person can bring to the world. This movie was bound for success from the moment someone suggested making a documentary about Fred Rogers. It's beautiful and heartwarming, a must see for everyone, if only to see the possibilities of what compassion, understanding, and acceptance can do.

The River Wild

Rating: 5/5

The River Wild has been a personal favorite of mine for quite a long time. It may not be one of Meryl Streep's many Oscar nominated roles, but it is still a great movie that is a lot of fun to watch.

Gail Hartman (Streep) was once a whitewater rafting guide. She is now a teacher for the deaf, and a married mother of two. For her son Roarke's birthday, the family is going to go on a multi-day rafting trip. Gail is deeply upset when she learns that her husband Tom, played by David Strathairn, is yet again, unable to go on the family vacation. With her marriage on the rocks, Gail leaves her youngest with her parents and she and Roarke get ready to start their adventure.

Before hitting the river, Roarke meets a friendly stranger named Wade (Kevin Bacon). Wade and his friends Frank and Terry (John C. Reilly) are heading down the river as well. Wade makes a good impression on both Gail and Roarke, and they become fast friends. Just before Gail and Roarke leave, Tom makes an unexpected appearance and joins the trip. Once on their way, everything seems to be going beautifully. Roarke and his dog Maggie are loving the river ride and Gail is back in her old element. Things take a turn for the tense when they come across Wade and Terry and learn that the two men have lost their guide and are in need of help. Gail offers to guide them, much to Tom's dismay and the five of them make their way down the river. Soon, Tom begins to notice that there is something off with Wade, and he wants his family far away from the two strangers. As the movie progresses, we learn more and more about Wade and why he is determined to go down a river full of dangerous rapids, and what that means for Gail and her family.

The River Wild is a great adventure movie. It knows how to introduce new plot twists and how to spread out the action sequences so they don't get too monotonous. Meryl Streep's performance is physically demanding, but she is able to find a balance between the fierce tenacity of her character and the strong emotion of a woman fighting for her marriage and the life of her child. David Strathairn is equally matched as a father and husband who is trying to make amends for his recent behavior, but is suddenly thrown into the role of protector.

Looking at other reviews for this movie, I was surprised to find that it did not get a great reception. I have noticed with other movies like this one, that the reviews forget that adventure movies are meant to be enjoyed and not analyzed. The River Wild keeps you on your toes and Kevin Bacon plays a great villain. I'm sure if you looked hard enough, you could find flaws in the rafting sequences or the motives of the antagonists, but what fun would that be?

The Notebook

Rating: 3.5/5

For starters I'll state that I am personally not a fan of most movies based on Nicholas Sparks' books. I feel almost all of them have a tendency to be predictable, contain poorly written dialogue, and are in need of a better cast . Fortunately, the Notebook doesn't seem to fall into as many of the Sparks' traps and cliches, and it is a better movie because of it.

The Notebook begins in a nursing home, which is not exactly where you'd expect a movie in the romance genre to begin. Miss Allie, played by Gena Rowlands, is suffering from dementia and loss of memory. Duke, played by James Garner, is also a nursing home resident and he starts his day by reading to Allie. He reads her a story about two teenagers in the early 1940s and how they fell in love. As Duke reads to Allie, the movie shifts to the 40s, showing the tale that is being told.

Ryan Gosling plays Noah, a romantic teenager of the working class, who has set his sights on a new girl he meets at a carnival. Allie, played by Rachel McAdams, is from a wealthy family, and is put off at first by Noah and his wild antics. Though originally not interested, Allie begins to fall for Noah's charm and they begin a whirlwind romance. By summer's end, the two have confessed their love for one another, but Allie's family is not pleased with the match. Her family whisks her back home, tearing Allie and Noah's relationship in two. As with many love stories, the couple must face many obstacles in order to be with one another. War, money, and heartbreak will stand in their way.

Though I am not a fan of Nicholas Sparks, I do like the Notebook. While watching it, I found myself enjoying it not so much for the plot or the writing, but because of the acting calibre it possesses. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams carry most of the scenes and it is their skill and chemistry that make this movie stand out from the rest of its' genre. There are a few times in the Notebook where I found myself questioning the believability of the dialogue, but the two leads make the lines work, and that's what makes it worth watching. Not to be forgotten are the performances by James Garner and Gena Rowlands. Both do a fantastic job in their scenes together, and they are definitely the reason many people say that they cry watching the Notebook.

With the way the scenes switch back and forth from Duke reading, to the 1940s depiction of the tale, the Notebook puts its' own spin on the commonly used flashback technique. The Notebook has definitely proven itself to be one of the most popular movie romances of the current film era and I would highly recommend that anyone watch this before any of the other Sparks movies.


Cinderella (2015)

Rating 4.5/5

Cinderella is probably the most retold fairy tale of all time. With the countless adaptations that have made their mark on the Cinderella history, Cinderella(2015) takes the story and makes it new again.

The movie starts out as many Cinderella stories do, with Ella living a wonderful life with her parents. Tragically, illness strikes and Ella loses her mother and many years later, her father. The rest of the story is as famous as the title character's name. After her father passes, she is left in the care of her stepmother and stepsisters. She is horribly mistreated by her new family, and is forced into a life of servitude, until one day she meets her Prince Charming. With the help of mice, magic, and breakable footwear, Cinderella is able to find her happily ever after.

Now, what makes this version any different or better than the other numerous Cinderellas of day's past? Cinderella(2015) was the first in the new series of live-action Disney remakes, and being the first, it made itself a tough act to follow. It does a wonderful job at blending both the 1950 animated story and the original fairytale to create a unique and faithful take on a classic. Many of the post 1950 Cinderella movies are a fairytale spin off that take the story and adapt it so it is about Cinderella, but has its' own path, take Ever After starring Drew Barrymore as an example. Cinderella(2015) isn't a direct shot for shot remake of its' animated namesake, but it pays enough homage to the original to make any die-hard Disney fan happy.

With many past versions of this story, and I have seen a lot of them, I have almost always found the role of the Stepmother to be over the top, and frankly quite obnoxious. My only exception to this opinion had been Angelica Huston in Ever After. Now, I have two exceptions, Ms. Huston, and Cate Blanchett. Cate Blanchett's performance of Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother is probably my favorite fairytale villain portrayal. Blanchett creates a character that the audience despises but also feels pity for, and that is not an easy combination to pull off. Blanchett knows exactly how to balance the many sides of Lady Tremaine, and how to keep her staying believable and not crossing the line into ridiculous.

When I saw Cinderella(2015) for the first time, it quickly made a spot in my list of top movie theater experiences. There is nothing like being surrounded by children in princess dresses, having their first ever Cinderella movie experience. It proves what a timeless tale it is, and how it will always make children excited when the slipper fits. Cinderella does have a few silly moments, but it is a movie meant for kids, so that is to be expected. Perhaps my theater memories have clouded my view of the movie, but regardless, the 2015 Cinderella is a wonderful film for both the truly young and the young at heart.

47 Meters Down

Rating 2/5

You know how sometimes you watch a movie for the first time and don't love it, but the second time you see it you like it a lot more? Well that didn't happen with 47 Meters Down, in fact what happened was quite the opposite.

47 Meters Down tells the story of two sisters on vacation in Mexico. Lisa, played by Mandy Moore, is a reserved woman who has been recently dumped by her long time boyfriend. Lisa's younger sister Kate, played by Claire Holt, is a free spirit who is always looking for the next daring adventure. One night on their vacation, they meet two men who tell them about the exciting thrill ride that is cage diving with sharks. Kate immediately thinks this sounds like a great idea, whereas Lisa is much more hesitant to the idea. Though still very nervous, Lisa is quickly convinced and the next day they set out on their diving excursion.

Once in the water, all seems to be going well, they are even enjoying the sharks that are swarming around their cage. The sisters seem to think it's the thrill of a lifetime, that is until the cable on their cage snaps, and they plummet 47 meters down to the ocean floor.

Overall, a pretty interesting concept, however it is very clumsily executed. It almost seems as if the filmmakers were so excited about their story, that they forgot to remember to make it believable as well. The dialogue seems to ruin any authenticity that the characters could have and I found some major plot elements to be quite infuriating.

That being said, not all of the movie was bad. Major props should be given to the two leads of the movie, as about 98% of the run time is under water. With the bulk of the movie being in such a claustrophobic setting, it does well at making the continuous under water scenes worth watching. I would also like to add that 47 Meters Down contains, in my opinion, one the most frighting scenes in a shark movie. Under water + dark open sea + not knowing what could come at you at any moment = terrifying!

If you are a fan of shark movies or cheesy summer flicks, than you should definitely check it out. Just don't expect it to be the next Jaws or the Shallows. Also for an added bonus, keep in mind that you could make a drinking game out to the number of times Lisa says, "please hurry!", though I'm not sure how coherent you would be by the end of the movie.

Battle of the Sexes

Rating 5/5

Battle of the Sexes follows the real life spectacle of the 1973 exhibition match between tennis veteran Bobby Riggs and #1 female tennis player Billie Jean King. I will preface this review by saying that I was not born when this match took place, so before seeing the movie, I knew little about the events that took place before, during, and after the match.

Billie Jean King, played by Emma Stone, starts out the movie at the top of the female tennis world, but is infuriated to find out that the prize money at the upcoming Pacific Southwest Tennis Tournament is a measly 15% of the men's prize. She and her manager Gladys Heldman (Sara Silverman), confront the head of the organization, Jack Kramer (Bill Pulman). Kramer simply states that the men deserve more money because the are more exciting to watch. With such a comment, Billie Jean decides that she is going to start her own tournament, and she and 8 other female tennis pros leave the organization, putting their careers at a major risk.

On the new tour sponsored by Virginia Slims, King and the other female pros take the country by storm, and many people take notice, most importantly Bobby Riggs. Riggs, played by Steve Carell, is a proud chauvinist and a gambling addict. He realizes that he could make a bet out of an exhibition match against the great Billie Jean King.

As mentioned before, other than knowing of its' existence, I had very little knowledge of the legendary match, so when it came to the point in the film where they recreated the game, I found myself on the edge of my seat as if it were happening live. Battle of the Sexes isn't just a movie that is based in the 70s, it actually transports the viewer to the decade.

What I loved about this movie is that the aspect of King's sexuality didn't take over the many other important features that the true story brings. Of course it is an important piece to the story, but the creators knew when and where to make it relevant. It allowed the viewer to see Billie Jean King not just as a famous figure of the LGBT community, but as an incredible athlete and a powerful woman as well. The character of Bobby Riggs is also presented in a quite a complex way. I never thought that I could feel bad for a character that is portrayed as such an arrogant chauvinist, but Carell does a wonderful job showing the many layers that made up Bobby Riggs.

An excellent movie from beginning to end and it is one that I will most definitely be re-watching many times in the future.

Thelma and Louise

Rating 4/5

Thelma and Louise is the story of two accidental outlaws Thelma and Louise. Louise, played by Susan Sarandon, is a waitress and Thelma, played by Geena Davis, is an unhappy housewife to a demanding husband. Together they are going on a getaway weekend at a cabin to catch a break from their everyday lives. Their exciting road trip takes a sharp left turn when Thelma is assaulted outside of a bar, and Louise takes action to save her friend.

Both women panic after what has happened at the bar, and they decide to continue their road trip, all the way to Mexico. Along the way they meet a charming hitchhiker named J.D., played by a very young Brad Pitt. As their mishaps and misfortunes continue to snowball, both women are faced with making life changing decisions.

Though this movie has its' upsetting moments, it is the comedic ease and strong will that is present in both actresses/characters that make this movie great. Thelma and Louise is considered a classic, and with good reason. It has stood the test of time, and one the reasons is that it's a film where both leads are female, and that can be quite a rare commodity.

I find Thelma and Louise to be a well thought out movie. The decisions of the characters were justified, and you could follow the thought processes that brought Thelma and Louise to their iconic ending. I could assume that anyone who considers themselves a movie fanatic has seen this movie, or at least is aware of the ending, but I would hate to spoil such a thing, so I will just leave off the review with saying that if you haven't seen the movie, make sure you do, it's a good one.

King Kong (1976)

Rating 3/5

With Kong: Skull Island being a semi-recent release, and the new Godzilla movie approaching, I found myself wanting to go back aways to when King Kong was first presented with a soul.

King Kong stars Jeff Bridges as Jack Prescott, a stowaway on a Petrox ship, on its' way to an island encased in fog, suspected to contain enough oil to catapult Petrox into infinite wealth. However, Jack is not interested in the oil, he is interested in the life, or more specifically the primates, that could inhabit the island.

Now anyone who has ever seen a King Kong movie knows that there has to be a blonde woman for Kong to pick up and carry around- Introducing Jessica Lange. Dwan is a young aspiring actress who's finds herself on the Petrox expedition after the ship she was on crashed and sank into the sea. She is full of life and energy, and wants to be involved in the initial exploration of the island, and due to her looks, the crew just can't say no.

Admittedly I have yet to see the original 1933 King Kong, but I do know for a fact that this movie changed the course of all Kong movies by creating a caring relationship between Kong and his captive blonde companion. By adding this new element to the giant ape, the audience sees King Kong as more than just a monster, but as something that deserves protection and respect.

Ok, so this movie is pretty cheesy, but show me a giant monster movie that isn't. Given that the movie was made in the late 70s, the special effects are about as good as the decade would allow, but they do use an impressive amount of practical effects, including the massive mechanical gorilla hands that actually lifted Jessica Lange to a height of about 40ft.

This movie definitely has some flaws, such as the dialogue is quite corny and the capture of Kong has some glaring issues, but the actors approach the story with a sense of integrity that is definitely to be respected. I personally really enjoy this movie, not because it is a great monster movie, but because it is a lot of fun.


Red Eye

Rating 3.5/5

Red Eye tells the story of hotel manager Lisa Reisert, played by Rachel McAdams, who is in Texas due to the death of her grandmother, and must travel home home to Miami on a red eye flight. All seems to be a fairly quiet story, until she meets Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a mysterious stranger and her soon to be seat mate on the flight. Quickly, Lisa discovers that Jackson is not what he seems, and her routine flight turns into one found in the darkest of nightmares.

As with other movies based in a claustrophobic set, Red Eye has the daunting task of making a movie where almost the entirety of its' scenes are filmed in the same location. However, director Wes Craven does a wonderful job at keeping the level of interest and suspense high throughout the duration of its' airplane scenes.

While watching this movie for the 6th or 7th time, I really found that the acting in this movie saves it from being tossed aside with some of the other action-thriller mediocrities of the past. Both Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy put in top rate performances which really electrify the numerous scenes that they have together. McAdams does a great job at showing the clever and determined nature of her character, and Murphy matches her performance by bringing out the cunning and deceptive qualities that his character possesses.

I have always liked Red Eye, even if the last twenty minutes fall into some of the horror/thriller movie cliches. It is definitely not the best thriller that I have ever seen, but I remember seeing it in theaters when I was younger, and being truly engrossed in the story. Entertainment, isn't that what some movies should be all about? Not necessarily being the best of its' kind, but providing an immersive and entertaining experience for those who watch it? If that's the case (as it should be), then Red Eye definitely meets those qualifications and is definitely a fun watch.



The Greatest Showman

Rating 2.5/5

I love musicals. I have seen them, been in them, and even directed them. Which is why I so wanted to like this movie more, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.

The Greatest Showman follows the early life of PT Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, as he starts to bring together his famous Barnum & Bailey Circus. Barnum struggles with not being taken seriously and wanting to be successful for his family and his upper class in-laws. With the help of the young aristocrat Philip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron, Barnum's show begins to take off. It is after the circus grows in popularity that Barnum begins to face challenges of both a financial and moral nature.

As mentioned before, I truly wanted to like this movie, however I found that the music and the story seemed to compete with one another. The story of PT Barnum is fascinating enough by itself, and I felt that the music almost took away from what could have been an interesting period piece about the beginning of the seedier side of show business.

Don't get me wrong, this movie does have some great music in it, admittedly I have listened to the song "Never Enough" numerous times since first seeing the movie. However, it almost seemed as if the visual team of the movie didn't have enough confidence in the music, and therefore went overboard with the choreography and visual effects in each musical number. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the song "Never Enough" so much, as it is the only scene where elaborate dancing isn't taking place, and you can truly focus on the music. I was, however, disappointed to find that the actress playing Jenny Lind, the singer in the scene, did not provide the vocals for the song, but was in fact singing a long to the voice of Loren Allred.

Overall, I didn't hate this movie, but I felt disappointed by the over complicated style that the movie took. The Greatest Showman is definitely worth a watch, especially if you are a fan of musicals or just music in general. Just don't expect it to be the next La La Land.

The Incredibles 2

Rating 5/5

Was it worth the wait? Oh yes it was!

What could arguably be considered even better than the original, the Incredibles 2 does not disappoint in any way.

The film starts out right where we left off. Supers are still shunned by the world and Violet and Dash are still trying to come to terms with their powers. Things take a turn for the interesting when Elastagirl, voiced by Holly Hunter, is offered a job where she can be the face of bringing supers back into a positive spotlight. Elastagirl accepts, leaving Mr. Incredible behind to take care of their children.

One of the things that stood out to me in this movie was the darker side that it took. Pixar has been known to occasionally have a serious edge to their films, most notably being Up, and this movie definitely follows suit.

As far as Pixar sequels go, this one definitely shines the brightest. It enhances its' story by referencing the original just enough to appease the fans, but not so much that it feels like it is just reusing old tricks.

Like all great Pixar films, this movie appeals to both young and old alike. It hits on all points with its' humor, storyline, and charm. It is surprisingly unpredictable for a children's movie, and does a great job of bringing in characters both old and new.

If you aren't a huge fan of Pixar or animated films, you should still see this movie, it's worth it just for Jack-Jack.


Captain America: the First Avenger

Rating 4/5

Enter, my favorite Avenger.

I don't know if it's the story, the characters, or just that I am a sucker for anything based in the 40s, but Captain America is definitely my favorite of the Marvel origin films.

Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a patriotic, brave, and emaciated young man who dreams of fighting for his country in the war against Hitler. Steve has been turned away by the army over a dozen times, but he will let nothing get in his way of being a soldier.

One day, a German doctor decides that Steve is the perfect candidate for a secret super soldier project because he has all the heart, just not the brawn.

Steve Rogers not only gets enlisted into the U.S. Army, but thanks to the experiment, he takes on the new role of Captain America, which turns out to be not quite what he expected.

Captain America fights through many different types of adversaries be it unenthused soldiers, or genetically modified villains. Through it all, he becomes a hero in numerous ways.

This movie is very unique in the Marvel Universe because it is set almost 100% in the past. We are given a window into the Avengers at its' infancy, yet the film feels entirely connected to its' counterparts.It expertly adapts the classic Marvel fight sequences into a different era, and doesn't lose any of its' charm along the way.

I love this movie as a lead in to the Avengers. Of all of the origin films. Captain America left me the most excited for what was to come later on in the franchise.

The only negative thing I will say about this film is that their attempts to make Chris Evans look short and scrawny by superimposing his head on to someone else's body, created a bit of an off putting result, however it made the official transformation into the Captain all the more satisfying.


Thor

Rating 3/5

My rewatch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought me out of the realm of Earth and taken me to Thor.

Though I would consider Thor to be my lease favorite of the origin films, it is still not as bad as Iron Man 2.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor, the mighty and arrogant God of Thunder, who has just been crowned as King of Asgard, taking over the throne from his father Odin. During Thor's coronation, three members of the Frost Giants break into the family weapon's vault and fuels Thor's rage.

Out of revenge, Thor and his warrior friends go to the realm of the Frost Giants and attack, breaking the treaty between the two realms. Due to his lack of judgement, Odin banishes Thor from Asgard.

Jane, played by Natalie Portman, is a scientist searching for the truth about multiple realms, and will stop at nothing to continue her research. Chasing what she thinks is a storm, she accidentally hits a powerless Thor with her car, and romance ensues.

A high point of the film is that we are given Loki. Tom Hiddleston, who shines as the slithery and morally conflicted villain, brings the acting and comedic/dramatic timing that the Marvel viewers expect. The best scenes in the film are the ones that take place between Thor and Loki, as their drastic differences both in appearance and personality, create a unique dynamic that could only be portrayed by the two perfectly cast actors.

As far as the origin stories go, Thor seems very separated from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Whether it's because it literally starts in another realm, or if it's because all human characters in the movie feel expendable, Thor doesn't seem to fit in with the high caliber origin films that Marvel is known to produce.

Overall, it is not a bad movie. Thor definitely contains its' enjoyable moments, and the acting and fight scenes save the film with their Marvel precision.

Plus, watching Thor attempt to fit his enormous frame into a human atmosphere is always amusing.

Definitely worth a watch, but not the best Marvel has to offer.


The Shallows

Rating 4.5/5

Summer is approaching, and with that comes my urge to watch shark movies.

I love sharks and shark movies alike, but I go into every shark movie knowing that is probably not going to be very good, but luckily the Shallows does not fit into the list of ridiculous shark movies that I have been unfortunate enough to see, and believe me, I have seen some pretty bad ones (ex. Shark Week).

Nancy Adams, played by Blake Lively, is a medical school student on a mental health break, who has decided to find the secret beach in Mexico that her late mother used to tell her about. Looking for closure and closeness with her mom, she decides that surfing on this beach is how she is going to find some answers about life and herself.

While she is surfing, she befriends two locals who inform her of the dangers of the beach, such as coral and rocks. However, they don't mention anything about the finned dangers that could lurk beneath the surface.

When the local surfers leave the beach, Nancy goes out for one last wave, and that is where the true story begins. Nancy is attacked by a shark and is forced to survive on a cluster of rocks that have been revealed by the low tide.

This movie is a breath of fresh air in a genre of movies that usually leaves the viewer wondering why they watched it. Blake Lively's performance is powerful, as she carries the entirety of the film on her shoulders. Her fear and determination are fiercely believable, making the viewer feel as if they too are fighting for her survival.

I have seen this movie many times, but it is one that I never seem to tire of. I appreciate that the filmmakers thought about what would keep a shark circling around the same beach other than bloodlust, and that they actually considered the science behind why a shark would remain in one spot.

For anyone who is a fan of Jaws, not just because it is a classic, but because it is the epitome of shark films that all others are measured by, then you will not be disappointed by watching the Shallows. Is it a tad cheesy at the end, of course, but what good is a shark movie with out a little cheddar?



Good for fans of the Reef

Iron Man

Rating: 4/5

With the release of Avengers: Infinity War, I found myself wanting to go back to the very beginning and watch all of the films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from beginning to end, and to do that, I needed to start with Iron Man.

The first Iron Man film starts out with Tony Stark going about his everyday billionaire life, with out much of a care in the world. It is not until he is captured by a group of terrorists in the Middle East, that he sees what his life's work of weapon design is doing to the world and the people in it.

From the moment of his escape, Tony Stark decides that he needs to change his path and start creating for the good of the people.

Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of Tony Stark could not have been better cast. When you are watching the movie, it is very hard to believe that any one else could ever have filled the very large, red shoes of Iron Man.

With Iron Man being the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we know today, you can see the beginning stages of some of their "classic" Marvel tactics. Such as the slapstick but also sarcastic sense of humor that flows throughout the movie, as well as the beautifully designed fight scenes between hero and villain.

As with any good origin story, we need to see the transformation from human to hero, and this movie shows that in full force.

Though Iron Man has never been one of my all time favorite Marvel movies, it still stands the test of time as an excellent addition to the super hero genre.


The Impossible

Rating: 5/5

Raw emotion at its' finest.

the Impossible is a film based on the true story of a family that was vacationing in Thailand when the deadly tsunami of 2004 struck and tore them away from one another.

The film starts out with the family together as a unit, going throughout the beginning stages of their vacation, where the only worry on their minds seems to be if the three boys are getting along.

All of that changes when they are at the hotel pool and a wall of water comes crashing towards them. The film expertly portrays the ensuing chaos that follows the disaster on a shore turned to ocean.

Naomi Watts plays Maria who is the matriarch of the family. Once the tsunami hits, her main goal is to protect her son Lucas, played by Tom Holland. She is so focused on Lucas' safety, that her own health begins to fade away.

The father, played by Ewan McGregor, is separated from his wife and eldest son, and like Maria, is focused on reuniting his family and making sure that everyone is safe.

I personally have seen a lot of disaster films, both partial-fact and fiction, but this film takes the prize. I am not sure if it's the stunning acting done by Tom Holland (Spiderman in the current Marvel Universe), or the film's lack of soundtrack that just leaves the viewer stunned by the sounds of water, confusion, and despair, but this film wins on all accounts.