Monday, August 25, 2014

LAND HO! (2014)

Written & Directed by Martha Stephens & Aaron Katz

Where & When: Sundance Sunset Theaters, West Hollywood, CA. August 5, 2014 1:45PM

Maintaining a friendship is hard. Growing old is even harder. "Land Ho!" is a senior buddy, road-trip picture that takes a delightful journey through Iceland as two men decide to reignite their mundane lives at a time when they've feeling increasingly invisible in society. Lead by two sensational performances by Dr. Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn, not much really happens as the film is filled mostly with intimate, very funny and somewhat strange conversations which makes this little film even more impressive. "Land Ho!" is the first film by the team of Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz, both experienced indie filmmakers individually that have done well with their previous works on the festival circuit. Together, they build on their strengths to make a fresh, unpredictable and completely first-rate comedy.

Mitch (Nelson),a currently divorced, recently retired doctor calls on his former brother-in-law, Colin (Eenhoorn), also now divorced, to catch up on old times. It wouldn't seem like these two guys would share much in common as Mitch is boisterous and crass while the Australian Colin is reserved and highly composed. Yet there is some kind of connection although they bicker and make each other crazy much like, I'm quite sure, their former spouses. On a whim, Mitch invites his friend to join him on a trip to Iceland and travel through the country. Colin tries to decline the generous offer but Mitch is a man that doesn't take no for an answer.

After arriving in Reykjavík, the men have very different ideas on how they want to spend their vacation. Colin plans to relax and catch up on some books while Mitch wants to party, meet some women and have a true adventure. Mitch's niece (Karrie Crouse) and her friend, Janet (Elizabeth McKee) just happen to be passing through Reykjavík and plan to spend the day with the fellas. Mitch thinks his plans for a wild party will begin with the arrival of the young women and although Janet does manage to get sloppy drunk, the evening is pretty mild filled with mostly more conversation.

As these golden boys continue their scenic trip through this beautiful country, more bickering ensues but soon these guys begin to really connect. Mitch and Colin actually share their feelings and fears in a way that only men can understand.

With an unobtrusive shooting style, unflashy editing and the actors seemingly not to be performing, "Land Ho!" feels very much like eavesdropping which should appeal to some viewers in this age of reality programming.  "Land Ho!" breaks out of the routine Hollywood buddy comedy and offers an unfussy alternative spin. In between the laughs, there are wistful and poignant moments that take you by surprise.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Sadly, Robin Williams, a comedic genius and highly gifted performer, passed away on August 12th. As we mourn the tragic loss of the Oscar winner, we still have his body of work to look back on to help us remember him and maybe bring a little laughter during this difficult time.

New York Magazine has put together a ranking of some of the actor's best film roles which highlights his accomplished and varied performances over his long career.

Click below to read the article:

The 16 Best Robin Williams Movie Performances

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

LUCY (2014)

Written & Directed by Luc Besson

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. July 25, 2014 8:00PM

"Lucy" offers all you would expect from a summer action flick but with a little something extra. In between the bloody shoot-outs, car chases and bone-crushing combats, there are thoughtful discussions on evolution and fascinating scientific theories on the capacity of the human brain. While these ideas may seem to be out of sync, writer/director Luc Besson, the man behind the engaging crowd-pleasers, "La Femme Nikita", "The Professional" and "Taken", mostly succeeds in making this inspired mash-up of B-movie thrills and compelling sci-fi completely irresistible and a lot of fun.

Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, an American student living in Taiwan who spends much of her time partying hard with her shady current fling (Pilou Asbæk). He turns out to be a really lousy date as he handcuffs a briefcase to Lucy's wrist and forces her to deliver it to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik from "Old Boy"), a ruthless Korean drug lord. The case contains CPH4, a synthetic narcotic that gives the user a sense of heighten awareness. The next thing Lucy knows she's awakening with excruciating pain in her abdomen. A package of the drug has been sewn-up inside of her and has to drop off the contents in New York.

While being held awaiting her departure, one of Lucy's guards makes unwanted advances which is met with swift resistance. Angered, he kicks Lucy relentlessly in the stomach which releases an overdose of the drug in to her system. This creates a reaction that advances her brain functions, giving her incredible mental abilities and physical strength. After Lucy easily escapes, she now has revenge on her mind, leaving a trail of bodies in her wake. When Lucy finally gets to Jang, she doesn't kill him. She merely philosophizes while administering to him some of the gruesome, agonizing pain he has inflicted upon others.

Morgan Freeman appears as Professor Norman, one of the top neurologists in the world. We first see him delivering a lengthy, somewhat dry lecture on the subject of the brain. The reliably, smooth actor demonstrates part of the reason why he was cast as he's effortlessly able to keep your attention throughout. Lucy makes contact with Norman as her brain capacity increases at a phenomenal rate which she puts on display for the skeptical professor. They agree to meet at a Paris conference but first Lucy must round-up the rest of the CPH4 that's stored in the bodies of other mules heading towards destinations across Europe. As her body needs more of the drug to reach maximum intelligence, Lucy enlists a French cop (Amr Waked) to help track down the carriers while a wounded Jang is hot on her trail without a clue to what she has become.

Angelina Jolie was initially approached for the lead in the film but Ms Johansson is an acceptable and perhaps even more appropriate replacement. While the actress shares Ms Jolie's otherworldly beauty and tough chick demeanor, Johansson has always come across as approachable and far more vulnerable. Here, much like her role as an alien in "Under The Skin", her face is a blank slate, revealing nothing on the surface yet we are still capable of understanding her emotions as her mind evolves towards higher consciousness. The actress is able to convey so much with those soulful eyes as Lucy struggles not to completely lose sight of her humanity.

"Lucy" delivers plenty of stylish visuals and nonstop action that even the lectures don't actually slow things down. Sure, some of the plot points don't always add up or are downright silly yet this hardly distracts from the enjoyment of this flick. Mr. Besson is one of the few male filmmakers who has consistently placed a female front and center in many of the action movies he has directed or produced beginning with "Nikita" way back in 1990. While "Lucy" doesn't exactly reach the same heights as some of his previous works but it's still a solid addition.