Friday, January 29, 2016

Movie Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (R) - Jordan dos Santos

144 minutes

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the newest Michael Bay film to hit theaters—I’ve heard it called the “Bay-ghazi” film, which makes me chuckle—and it acts as his first trip back to realism in quite a while.  After spending a majority of the last decade bringing us a slew of Transformers movies, each snowballing into the loudest form of summer-event chaos, Bay finally slows things down and tells a more human story, though still loud and filled with action. As I write this from a very red area in the state of Indiana, I can tell you that 99.9 percent of Benghazi talk has been about one topic: Hillary. 13 Hours is a Hillary (and agenda) free zone, which makes it much easier to digest. If you’re a news follower then you hear Benghazi buzz almost daily due to an ongoing investigation. And as long as you, the viewer, go in agenda free (it’s going to be impossible for some, let’s face it) then you shouldn’t have a problem leaving the theater satisfied with this side of the story. 

To this day the details are still hazy as to why the Benghazi attacks happened. Here’s what’s definite: On September 11, 2012, two different areas of Benghazi acting as shelter for Americans were attacked. One was a makeshift compound to house a visiting ambassador, the other, a secret consulate used by the CIA. 13 Hours follows the six CIA security contractors that were hired to keep the consulate safe. John Krasinski, of NBCs “The Office” fame, stars as former Navy Seal Jack Da Silva. Although he doesn’t act as the leader of these soldiers, he’s definitely the name recognition the studio chose, with the handful of other actors being ones who work regularly, but aren’t well known by the general public. It’s my personal opinion that it would have been a safer bet to go with six well-rounded actors, as opposed to five and one familiar face; I just had a very hard time distancing Kransinski from his “The Office” character, Jim Halpert. Many comedic actors attempt to transition into drama at some point in their lives, I’m just not sure the jump from workplace funny man to bulked-up soldier was the best move in this case. With that said, Krasinski has a few good moments of human drama in which the audience should be able to sympathize. 

While the first act of the movie is dedicated to introducing us to the eponymous soldiers, the last two acts are filled with violent explosions and attacks. Unlike most of Bay’s other films, however, there’s an obligation to show such things in order to stay true to the real-life events. In what seems to be a trend lately, 13 Hours runs just short of 2 ½ hours. Though I felt that part of the fat could be trimmed, it still acts as a better way to learn about the events of Benghazi than to sit at home and listen to the same old Hillary talk. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

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Movie review - Sisters - By Jordan Dos Santos


118 minutes

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler team up as the titular Sisters, proving that you’re never too old to have some of that high school-aged, debauched fun. Poehler plays Maura Ellis, the more responsible half of the Ellis sisters, always playing “party mom” to help cover wild sister Kate’s antics. While related by blood, Kate (Fey) is the perfect opposite to all of Maura’s goodness. In the beginning of the movie, we find that Maura has continued embracing maturity (to the point of being a bore in most every aspect of her life), while Kate has never aspired to achieve it. Maura is financially stable and tries her best to maintain a positive outlook, even though she is coming off of a divorce. Kate, on the other hand, has avoided divorce because she’s avoided marriage, but is stuck in a never-ending loop of quitting jobs and trying to prove to her teenage daughter that she has the initiative to do something with her life.
The Ellis’s lives are turned upside down when their parents drop a bomb on Maura, leaving her the duty of spilling the news to Kate: They’re selling the childhood home. With Maura having a deep personal attachment to the home, and Kate needing it more than ever as a temporary fix to a recent eviction, the sisters come back to their old stomping grounds in order to clean out everything they’ve left behind. Upon returning, the ladies are hit with a harder dose of nostalgia than expected. Long gone are their days of throwing epic “Ellis Island” parties. A duel reading through journals leads Maura to a personal revelation, realizing that she’s never had the wild fun her sister used to revel in. With Kate’s urging, they decide to throw one last party in order to give Maura a chance to even up with Kate’s level of party-dom.

Screenwriter Paula Pell is a “Saturday Night Live” alum, using her history with both Fey and Poehler as a way to boost what would normally be an average-at-best screenplay. You can tell that these three know one another’s strong suits and they take full advantage of them. This isn’t the kind of comedy you can take your kids to, but if you’re old enough, it’s a perfect chance to go have a laugh at the movies with your siblings. Crude humor trumps sentimentality in Sisters, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few sweeter moments to help balance all of the chaos that comes with this Ellis Island party. A majority of the supporting players are SNL alumni, as well (Bobby Moyahan, a hilarious Maya Rudolph, and Rachel Dratch are just a few). “Mad TV” alum Ike Barinholtz rounds out the cast as a neighbor who comes along just in time, spicing up Maura’s dormant love life while happy to participate in the party antics for a night. Sisters is simple fun—something you don’t get that often these days at the movies. There are plenty of laughs sprinkled throughout, and enough craziness to leave viewers glad (and a little sad) that the party-hard days are (hopefully) behind them.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Movie review - The Revenant (R) - Review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 156 min

The Revenant is a new adventure/drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman) and partially based on the same named novel by Michal Punke, which is based on a true story. This film has been highly anticipated largely due to the success of last year’s Birdman, as well as the undeniable star power of Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. He is actually my favorite actor ever and is one of the absolute best in the business today. DiCaprio brings his best every time, from his Oscar nominated performance (as a teenager) in 1993s Whats Eating Gilbert Grape to 2013s The Wolf of Wall Street and everything else in between. Personally, I feel like his best work is his portrayal of the villainous Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. All of that being said, I just couldn't wait to see what he would do with this incredible project.  

Taking place in 1823, Leonardo DiCaprio plays the famous frontiersman and fur trapper named Hugh Glass. Early on in the film, he gets brutally attacked by a grizzly bear and is left for dead by the rest of his hunting team. Now, Glass must put his unmatched survival skills to the ultimate test as he journeys through the uncharted wilderness of the American frontier in the middle of the winter. He finds himself hunting down John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), the former ally who abandoned him in the first place.  

This movie was an unbelievable project as it was shot completely with natural light in many different remote locations, primarily across Canada. Iñárritu’s hard work absolutely paid off as the cinematography in this film is truly breathtaking. There are more than a few wide shots in the movie that are some of the best I have ever seen in film. Leonardo DiCaprio delivers his best physical acting performance to date as he truly transformed himself while playing this character. Once again, he is worthy of an Academy Award and I really think this could be the one that gets him his well-earned trophy. However, the work from Tom Hardy in this movie cannot be overlooked as he was equally sensational in his supporting role. I will be shocked if those two don't earn Oscar nominations as well as a handful more for the movie. Overall, The Revenant is an outstanding achievement of a film that shouldn't be missed. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

January 8, 2016 - Entertainment

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Movie Review - The Hateful Eight - By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 167 min  
The Hateful Eight is a new Western movie and ironically enough, the eighth film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. For the record, I viewed this film in the general release digital format, but there is a roadshow (70mm) format available in certain theaters across the country. That version runs twenty minutes longer, including a few alternate scenes as well as a full overture and intermission. Although his work is quite controversial, there is no denying that Quentin Tarantino is one of the most talented directors working in Hollywood today. Personally I am a huge fan of his films, from classics like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction to modern masterpieces Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. I couldn't wait to see what he was going to bring us with this next project.  

This movie takes place in the middle of Wyoming, sometime after the Civil War. A bounty hunter called John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) is transporting a fugitive named Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to the town of Red Rock in order to get his reward. However, they get caught in a nasty blizzard while on the road in a stagecoach and end up finding shelter at a cabin called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. They give two more men rides along the way and meet four unfamiliar faces when they arrive at the cabin…

Nobody in Hollywood writes a script better than Quentin Tarantino and it is on full display yet again in this next masterpiece. His longest movie to date, The Hateful Eight is powered by its intriguing story and incredible dialogue that never loses your interest. Everybody in the cast had amazing performances, including Tarantino favorites Samuel L Jackson, Tim Roth and Michael Madsen. Furthermore, Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) delivers his first complete western score in forty years and it sounds absolutely incredible. That contributes to the old-fashioned style of this movie, which I absolutely loved to see. Of course, Tarantino brings plenty of his signature humor to this film, as well as tons of absurd, over the top violence. Keep in mind the time period of this piece, so there is certainly some extreme content that could be found offensive. However, if that doesn't bother you and you are a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work, this film is easily worth seeing in theaters; it is one of his absolute best projects to date.