Friday, September 30, 2016

Movie review - Storks - Review by Stephen Signor

Run Time: 1:29

Do storks deliver? Well they do in this film! Will millions flock to see this crazy flick? That remains to be seen. But, enough puns. The truth is “Storks” is hilarious from beginning to end, totally exceeding my expectations. This may be the first animated movie from Writer/Producer/Director Nicholas Stoller but it is clear he applied the sense of humor and antics used in the direction of Neighbors (2014). Coupled with animator and director Doug Sweetland who is known for blockbusters such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc. and you have a perfect recipe for the quality entertainment Storks provides.

The concept of storks delivering packages from a global Internet giant is extremely clever well adapted to the overall plot; which thickens when the top delivery stork, Junior, activates the baby making machine. With his preordained promotion on the line Junior must deliver an irresistible little girl before his boss is any the wiser. 


Andy Samberg is Junior and carries over a similar performance as he did when he was Jonathan from 2012s Hotel Transylvania. But Junior is not alone. The only human on Stork Mountain, Tulip joins the quest. Katie Crown is Tulip and her portrayal is reminiscent of Harley in TV animated comedy series Bobs Burgers.

In any good plot of this type there is always a nemesis. He goes by the name of Pigeon Toady and while this is Stephen Kramer Glickman’s first animated film he pulls the character off without a hitch. With comedian Steven Wright-like dry humor there’s little time to recover between laughs. Prior to this he was best known for his role as Gustavo Rocque on the Nickelodeon series Big Time Rush

In all honestly, I do not think that casting for the characters voices could have been any better. Other well known’s include Kelsey Grammar of Cheers fame as Hunter, the Executive CEO of Cornerstore and Jennifer Aniston of Friends fame as Sarah Gardner, a prime figure in what is yet another twist to this crazy adventure. The last time Aniston used her voice was in 1999s The Iron Giant, playing a similar character.

This film has multiple interwoven plots that don’t confuse and in the end will ultimately reveal how storks are capable of restoring myth while enlightening everyone on Stork Mountain their true purpose in the world.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Movie Review - The Light Between Oceans (PG-13) - review by Stephen Signor

Run Time: 1:32

Got Kleenex? Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by M.L. Stedman, The Light between Oceans is a compelling, heartwarming drama that takes place post WWI. The year is 1918, the setting, Western Australia.  Due to unseen circumstances Thomas Sherbourne inherits the duty of lighthouse keeper but not before falling for Isabel Graysmark. Due to local law women are not to visit the lighthouse unless the woman is married to the keeper. I think you know where this is going. Sherbourne is brilliantly played by Michael Fassbender(X-Men: Days of Future Past 2014). Alicia Vikander, (Jason Bourne 2016) and Academy Award winner for 2015’s The Danish Girl is captivating as Graysmark. 

After their marriage they both relish in their existence, holding every moment together as if it were their last. And then one day, with perfect timing, Thomas spots a rowboat bobbing in the water that has apparently drifted to the coastline. To their amazement and joy it holds the precious cargo of a baby. The joy however is short lived as Thomas believes the right thing to do is report the incident while the heroine has longed for a child of her own. Newcomer Florence Clery portrays Lucy-Grace at a young age. Her performance adds to the tear factor as well as the drama.

The character of Hannah Roennfeldt played by Academy award winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener -2005) is a key element to the film. Albeit a shorter leading role than the rest, hers is just as important. Add up the accomplishment of the three leading roles (Weisz, Alicia Vikander and Fassbender) you have a grand total of 137 awards and 210 nominations.

Writer/director Derek Cianfrance (The Place beyond the Pines -2012) and Executive Producer Rosie Alison (Paddington-2014) accomplishes the complex task of bonding the characters together without losing the plot or the viewers interest. Adam Arkapaw’s (Macbeth-2015) cinematography is breathtaking. Granted it is filmed in Stanley, a quiet seaside town in north-west Tasmania but it is the timing of the shots that add to the already spectacular backdrop giving those particular moments extra meaning. 

 The Light between Oceans" will be the last DreamWorks film to be released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Touchstone Pictures under the original agreement. This film is a testament of that success.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Flip to a Different Eagle Section

Movie review - The Wild Life (PG) - review by Stephen Signor

Run Time: 1:30

I have to say that forming an opinion of this film was no easy task. It is neither a good movie nor a bad one. Perhaps I have been spoiled by most other child or young adult movies containing one- liners and innuendos. I kept waiting and they never showed. What also makes this difficult is the cast of voices are of German decent and here lies their filmography in unfamiliar territory. Such is not the case with Director Ben Stassen who was producer of Thunder and the House (2013) and Director Vincent Kesteloot, A Turtles Tale 2 (2012).

However, that being said the animated details of the highs seas and Crusoe’s ship is impressive. The characters interaction with one another is seamless when a daring parrot (Kaya Lanar) recounts how Robinson Crusoe came to be stranded on a tropical island. Matthias Schweigh√∂fer who is considered one of the most promising young German actors uses his voice to give Robinson Crusoe life. Crusoe is more like Pink Panthers Inspector Clouseau, very clumsy and basically inept; until he enlists the help of this parrot named Mak who is later given the name Tuesday by Crusoe. 

But I digress; this tiny tropical island inhabited by Mak and his quirky animal friends find their paradise interrupted following a violent storm and wake up to find a strange creature on the beach - Robinson Crusoe. Slowly and often reluctantly but eventually surely, they all start living together in harmony, until one day, when their comfortable life is overturned by two savage cats whose hunger has them on a hunt. When a battle ensues between the cats and the group of friends, Crusoe and the animals soon discover the true power of friendship against all odds. 

There are moments of humor, but often they fell flat; perhaps because they were also predictable. The cats I found to be more annoying than entertaining. One positive thing, and I looked for anything, was their facial expressions. The only other positive thing was the last twenty minutes in which everything comes to a head with chase scenes and mass destruction.

Columnist Movie Mom warns “Parents should know that this film includes a scary shipwreck, mean cats, pirates, guns, and fire, characters drink alcohol and there is a sad off-screen death of a character.”

Friday, September 9, 2016

Movie review - Morgan (R) - By Stephen Signor

Run Time1:32
I can see why this film received negative reviews. However, I totally disagree with them. If you are looking for a lot of sci-fi, thriller action you’ll be disappointed. Except for the opening scene and a few others this film was devoid of captivating scenes. But when you have the right cast and crew along with short concise dialog there is no need. What action that is used is sufficient. 
I find simple elements, like the protagonist wearing a hood over her head the entire film adds a sense of mystery, and cunning, making everything else unnecessary. 

Writer Seth W. Owen added just the right touch of deceit he used in Peepers (2010) while Producer Michael Schaeffer provides the necessary element of survival instincts he incorporated in The Martian (2015). 

The plot involves corporate risk management/loss prevention expert Lee Weathers (Kate Mara) who is sent to investigate a terrifying accident at a secluded top-secret laboratory that specializes in genetic engineering. While Weathers investigates she becomes aware of Morgan’s ability to exhibit infinite promise and incalculable danger. This and the fact that rapid progression has her walking and talking within one month and self-sufficient after just six, thicken the plot.  The role of this humanoid with unmatched intelligence is convincingly played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, 2015).

When a group of scientist, led by psychologist and chief scientist Dr. Simon Ziegler (Toby Jones), becomes embroiled in a decision to terminate their experiment (Morgan), this seemingly innocent “human” with super human qualities user her abilities to outwit and neutralize the threat. With a soft spoken demeanor and athletic prowess the outcome appears obvious. However her allies are not, and this is what I believe separates Morgan from other films in the same genre.

Whether or not this debut will become a blockbuster is doubtful, but don’t be discouraged by that. Morgan is a fresh off the shelf sci-fi thriller that uses an equal combination of the unknown and the obvious. Morgan was 92 minutes that seemed like 60 and I like that. Introduce the characters, establish the plot and deliver captivating twists and call it good. Ridley Scott’s name has always been synonymous with sci-fi films. Well, the gene pool must be deep. His son Luke Scott has managed to mirror his father’s talent in what is his directorial debut.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Movie review - Don't Breathe (R) - By Stephen Signor

Run time: 1hr-28min. Rated R

Finally, a horror-suspense film I can really sink my teeth into! True to its title, take the advice. Set in a not so acceptable neighborhood of Detroit, three miscreants elect to rob a house occupied by a wealthy but blind war veteran. This decision is fueled by Rocky (Jane Levy). A young woman wanting to provide a better life for her and her little sister, she agrees to be a part of the robbery researched and set up by boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto). To round out the trio is the reluctant mutual friend of both, Alex (Dylan Minnette). This decision, although well planned becomes their worst nightmare!

As they become discovered the plot unfolds it becomes evident there is no immediate clear means of escape. Trapped and terrified is only the beginning.

Stephen Lang (2009s Avatar) delivers an equal menacing performance as the blind man who’s name, according to Director Alvarez, is Norman Nordstrom. But there is more than meets the eye to this character. He has a secret and when that is accidently discovered the plot thickens, but not before their presence in his house is discovered. A game of cat and mouse ensues and this is where the movie shines. 

What truly elevate this motion picture above others are the elements, or sometimes lack thereof, used to accentuate the situation. Director/screenwriter/producer Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead 2013) takes viewers to another level of suspense with the excellent and very effective use of shadow and light.
To further emphasize Nordstrom’s blindness there are many instances of silence and when used, the background sound is well placed at key moments. Co-writer Rodo Sayagues (Evil Dead 2013) adds just the right touch to particular scenes in the form of disturbing shock effect. For an hour and a half Jane Levy (Evil Dead 2013), Dylan Minnette (Goosebumps 2015) and Daniel Zovatto (Fear the Waling Dead 2015) will leave audiences on the edge of their seats. Even the blind man’s beloved pet Rottweiler and protector will raise the hair on your arms. In the end, Nordstrom will have you drawing a line. Do I hate him or feel sorry? 

With an estimated budget of $10 million, it is money well spent and so was the price of admission.