Friday, May 16, 2014


It seems so odd to me that summer keeps creeping up on the movie release calendar. It used to be that it started in June when school got out but then it moved to Memorial Day and now it seems to have started at the beginning of May. Weird. Anyway, summer is here once again and there seem to be hundreds of movies hitting theaters. I've narrowed down a small number of the films that really have captured my attention:

All dates are subject to change:


Release date: May 30, 2014

I don't know how many people were actually dying to know the back story of the evil fairy from the 1959 Disney animated film, "Sleeping Beauty" but it's now here. The live-action, "Maleficent" stars the perfectly cast Angelina Jolie as the title character and tells the tale of what events lead her to want to place a horrible curse on Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning), the daughter of her former friend, the King (Sharito Copley). I'm not quite sure how well this film will all turn out but it looks absolutely amazing.


Release date: May 30, 2014

After the big success of "Ted", Seth MacFarlane is back behind the director's chair with the comedy, "A Million Ways To Die In The West". Set during the wild west, MacFarlane stars as a meek sheep farmer who loses his lady love (Amanda Seyfried) to an aggressive suitor (Neil Patrick Harris). He meets a new lady (Charlize Theron) in which he has much more in common however she's married to a ruthless cowboy (Liam Neeson). Since the creator of "Family Guy" is behind this, expect plenty of raunch and tasteless humor.


Release date: June 6, 2014

Jenny Slate is best known for accidentally cursing on live television during her short run as a cast member of "SNL" but hopefully she will become better known as a film actress. In the indie romantic-comedy "Obvious Child", Slate stars as a struggling comedian who has a long history of making bad decisions. After a one-night stand with a cute guy (Jake Lacey), she finds herself in trouble and struggles to finally make some choices that will make her life better. A sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival, writer/director Gillian Robespierre made this feature based on her 2009 short film.

Release date: June 13, 2014

Release date: June 20, 2014

Release date: August 1, 2014

These three films represent a long overdue look in to the lives of a few of the greatest entertainers in music. "Jimi: All Is By My Side" takes a look at Jimi Hendrix shortly before he became a rock guitar legend. Andre Benjamin of the hip-hop outfit, Outkast plays the musician during his life-changing time in London. John Ridley,  a recent Oscar-winner for Best Screenplay for "12 Years A Slave", directs.

The Tony-winning musical, "Jersey Boys" about the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons has finally been made in to a feature film. Clint Eastwood, (of all people) sits in the director's chair as we follow these teenage singers through the early struggles of trying to make it in the tough world of the music business before hitting the top of the charts.

Finally, James Brown, the Godfather of Soul is getting the biopic treatment he deserves in "Get On Up". Last seen on screen as Jackie Robinson, Chadwick Boseman is even more impressive as Brown as  the singer goes from his early childhood in poverty to eventually becoming one of the most electrifying performers ever. This is director, Tate Taylor's follow-up to his debut, "The Help" and his stars, Viola Davis and Oscar-winner, Octavia Spencer also make an appearance here.


Release date: July 11, 2014

Richard Linklater has managed to created a moment that really hasn't been seen before; an actor actually aging in real-time over the course of a fictional film. "Boyhood" follows Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from a six year old boy to a teenager in high school while he struggles through adolescence and his relationship with his divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette). The film was shot over the course of twelve years and manages to capture an experience that CGI could never properly do. Linklater won the Best Director prize at the Berlin Film Festival and I have a feeling that it's just the beginning of the accolades for this film maker.


Release date: July 11, 2014

I didn't expect much from "Rise of The Planet of The Apes", especially after that horrible Mark Wahlberg/Tim Burton reboot but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it. The film was a box-office hit so, a sequel was inevitable."Dawn of The Planet of The Apes" takes us a number of years after the last one and mankind has been almost wiped out by a deadly virus but the apes have managed to thrive, lead by the highly intelligent, Caesar (played in a motion-captured performance by Andy Serkis). A small band of surviving humans (which includes Gary Oldman and Keri Russell) want a place on the planet but the apes have other ideas.


Release date: July 18, 2014

Michel Gondry, the director behind "The Science of Sleep" and "Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind", is back with his latest visual gem, "Mood Indigo". The film maker, who seems to me like the French equivalent of Wes Anderson, tells the whimsical, romantic tale of a wealthy man (Romain Duris) who falls in love with a sweet young lady (Audrey Tautou) but their relationship is threatened by a rare malady of a flower growing in her lungs. It may sound a little silly but I'm sure you can't help being swept away by the magical images.


Release date July 25, 2014

The annual Woody Allen film is entitled, "Magic In The Moonlight".and based upon the title, it's safe to say it's a romantic-comedy. Set in the French Rivera in the '20's, Colin Firth stars as an Englishmen out to prove that a fortune teller (Emma Stone) is a fraud. However, he winds up not foreseeing that she would captivate his heart. Marcia Gay Harden, Eileen Atkins and Jacki Weaver also star.


Release date: August 8, 2014

"Lucy" is the latest action-thriller by Luc Besson ("La Femme Nikita", "The Fifth Element")  that features the busy Scarlet Johansson as the title character who is used to smuggle an experimental drug in her body. This narcotic leaks in to her, which alters Lucy's mind and body, giving her super-strength and allowing her to use the full capacity of her brain. This makes her a powerful and unstoppable force although that certainly won't make those responsible not attempt to try.


Release date: August 22, 2014

I really loved "Keep The Lights On" and the writer/director of that, Ira Sachs is back with another intriguing film. "Love Is Strange" stars Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as a long-time New York couple who get married as soon as it becomes legal in the state. However, this happy occasion causes several unexpected ripples in their lives which leads them to actually having to live apart. Cheyenne Jackson and Marisa Tomei also star.

Saturday, May 3, 2014


Written & Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. April 15, 2014  8:15PM

The idea of sitting through another movie about over-exposed vampires was enough to make me want to drive a long, wooden stake through my own heart. With "Only Lovers Left Alive", I was skeptical yet highly intrigued by the prospect of this film mainly because respected indie-filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was behind the camera. The addition of the ethereal Tilda Swinton as one of the the living dead made this simply irresistible. Thankfully, it's less about horror or blood-sucking and more about a loving but tense relationship between a centuries-old couple of hipster vamps who have difficulties living together yet are unable to remain apart. Without much of a plot to be found, this film relies heavily on the complex marriage of these fatigued and somber immortals to keep things interesting, with only moderate success.

Holed up in a ramshackle house in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood, Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a depressed recluse spends his waking evenings creating melancholy music that only he will hear. His only contact to the outside is Ian (Anton Yelchin), an unaware kid who Tom pays to bring hard-to-find music equipment. His wife, Eve (Swinton) has been living a low-key life in Morocco for a number of years. These vampires are discreet and no longer do something as uncouth as getting their blood directly from the source. Dressed as a surgeon ready to operate, Adam buys his plasma from a real doctor (Jeffrey Wright) while Eve gets her supply from fellow vampire, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who just happens to be that English writer. They sip their blood in tiny cocktail glasses which leaves them in a state that's much like an euphoric high.

After video-chatting with Adam, Eve senses that her husband is not in a good mental state and decides to pay him a visit. When the couple are reunited, it's as if no time has past. They spend their nights together listening to music and cruising down the deserted streets of the Motor City. An unwelcome visitor arrives in the form of Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve's wild child sister. She had been seeking out her family through their dreams and finally tracked them down. Adam still hasn't forgiven Ava for an unmentioned previous indiscretion but Eve talks him in to letting her stay with them for a brief period. Big mistake. Ava manages to creates a messy situation that Adam and Eve are forced to sort out.

"Only Lovers Left Alive" is fairly light weight and although there are a few glimmers of a rebellious spirit, the film mostly plays it safe. You would have thought Jarmusch, who is one of the last of the cinematic indie-rebels from the '80's who never sold out for Hollywood glory, would have used this opportunity to create something far more edgy and challenging in this genre. All you have to do is look back on his admired, previous work ("Down By Law", "Stranger Than Paradise", "Ghost Dog" and "Broken Flowers" to name a few) to know he's capable of delivering so much more.

What makes this film even remotely come to life is Swinton and to a lesser degree, Hiddleston. All of the supporting actors have their shining moments but Ms Swinton is the true majestic light. With her pale, otherworldly features, she helps elevate this material much further through the sheer force of her screen presence. Mr Hiddleston, who first came on the radar through his work as the fiendish, Loki in the "Thor" films, is appealing here but not at his best playing such a shaggy brooding character. This feels to be such a waste to tap down the natural charisma of this puckish actor.

Although the stylish performances and the shadowy vibe might capture your attention for awhile but there's not nearly enough bite in "Only Lovers Left Alive" to make you feel fully engaged.