Tag Archive | Movie Review

Movie Review: My Way

My Way Movie Poster

Reminiscent of inspiring music documentaries such as The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna (which provided the Riot Grrrl movement founder with the substantial props she deserved), and Anvil, the Story of Anvil (a film that completely resurrected an unsung band’s entire career), My Way, focusing on singer/songwriter guitarist Rebekah Snyder-Starr, showcases one musician’s quest to find success in the music business while doing things on her own terms.

Directed by Dominique Mollee and Vinny Sisson, My Way centers on an engaging cross-country road trip taken by Starr and her close friend Annika, one of two tambourine players/back up singers in the all-femme Rebekah Starr Band, based in Starr’s home town of Kittanning, Pennsylvania.  Unsatisfied in her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, and having recently been fired from her own family’s corporate business, Rebekah is clearly a woman whose dreams have outgrown her small town environment. With little to lose, and no one else in the band able to leave their day jobs or family obligations, Rebekah and Annika map out their adventure from PA to LA, where their goal is to play a gig on the Sunset Strip, and, ultimately, to shoot a video for the titular song, which is Rebekah’s personal “My way or the highway” mantra which keeps her focused on getting what she wants. It does not hurt that she is completely adorable and has actual musical talent.

During the journey (which took place in 2010), the girls play impromptu acoustic gigs in whatever local roadside bar will have them, earn gas money and promote the band by selling their CDs to everyone they meet, reunite with old friends, and make lots of new ones, while working through challenges that arise in their friendship. The storyline is advanced by the appearance of various music industry insiders such as Poison drummer Rikki Rocket (also a Pennsylvania native) who keenly illuminates both what it really means to struggle as an unknown band, as well as the type of relentless effort involved in eventually making it professionally. Enuff Z’Nuff  songwriter/bassist Chip Z’nuff (who has written original material with Rebekah) and former Guns ‘n’ Roses drummer Steven Adler also add their insight, as does veteran Porn Star Ron Jeremy, who appears as comic relief in one of Rebekah’s music videos (available on the DVD as an extra).

Even if you have not heard the Rebekah Starr Band prior to seeing this film, you will become familiar with many of their songs due to the music’s near-ubiquitous presence on the soundtrack, playing like a car radio under almost every scene in the film, adding a kind of biographical narrative enhancement. Comparable to girl bands such as pre-fame Bangles (when the band was know as The Bangs) or Luscious Jackson, Rebekah has an appealing voice, knows how to write a catchy, pop-punk tune and is an accomplished guitarist. The music has both artistic and commercial appeal, and while she certainly cares about looking her best, Rebekah never tries to “get by” on her looks or exploit her sex appeal. Any woman with an ambition to be a rock musician or any genre of artist would take inspiration from Rebekah‘s story while being entertained and also hearing some good music along the way.

My Way open at NYC’s Quad Cinema, located at 34 West 13th Street, New York, New York 10011 on Friday, February 27th. Run Time: 93 minutes. This film is Not Rated but is (probably) fine for ages 13 and up..

GRADE: B+

The Fifty Shades of Grey Review: Not Completely Horrible

Jamie and Dakota
Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson Get Ready to Take a Bath in Fifty Shades of Grey

Confession: The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise is a pop culture phenomenon that has, to this juncture, been completely ignored/held in contempt by me, because I would rather kill myself than read poorly written accounts of blank-slate fictional characters having all kinds of ridiculous sex. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

But sometimes, curiosity gets the best of me when it comes to Bands/Books/TV Shows/Movies that are hyped up the ass, because I not only wonder what the big deal is, but want to know if I am missing something. So, when an invite to attend a free preview of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie came my way, I simply couldn’t refuse. Because 9 times out of 10, even the worst piece of shit movie is worth seeing for free. Just being serious.

Having not read the book then, but expecting to not even be able to sit through all 125 minutes of the film, I came away from the Fifty Shades cinematic experience with the opinion that this is probably the best Lifetime TV Movie ever made! I mean, once you make it past the excruciating first 20 or so minutes, it’s just really not that bad of a film. It’s not going to win any awards, but it will make shit ton of money. And you can’t imagine that the filmmakers were hoping for any more than that.

While there is certainly much to disdain, there are things I liked about this film. First off, I really loved Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of heroine Anastasia Steel. Johnson plays Anastasia as the perfect balance of curious innocent and would-be seductress, and she succeeded in visibly transforming the character from one end of the story to the other, despite its shallow arc. I think it’s largely thanks to Johnson’s acting ability that she and co-star Jamie Dornan (who didn’t impress me as much) were able to infuse some palpable heat into the “romance” part of the Anastasia/Christian storyline. Johnson also has excellent comedic timing and a terrific body. I look forward to seeing her in future film roles where she is working with a great script and is allowed to keep her clothes on for more than 50% of the film.

I enjoyed looking at Luke Grimes, the insanely hot actor who played Christian Grey’s brother, who ends up conveniently hooking up with Anastasia’s Roommate. Because: Real Life!

I loved all the sets, especially Christian Grey’s office, and the aerial panoramic shot of Seattle that opens the film. The film’s art direction is nearly impeccable.

If you’d like more details or plot analysis, I’m going to recommend that you read A.O. Scott’s review over at New York Times Dot Com, because it is a fun read and I can tell that Mr. Scott was in the same screening I attended based on hints he drops regarding the reaction of the preview audience during certain parts of the film. This is just my 2 cents, because nobody is paying me to write this.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens Nationwide this Friday, February 13th, 2015!

Grade: B-

Recommended Viewing: The Circle (Der Kreis)

The Circle Poster

Love doesn’t have to look a certain way, and it is a thoroughly compelling love story that anchors the Gay rights battle at the heart of The Circle, a new German language film from Director Stefan Haupt. In this engaging film that mixes a scripted dramatic narrative (set in 1950s Zurich) with present day documentary interview footage with film’s real-life main characters, The Circle (Der Kreis) is also the name of a gay social organization and the multi-lingual, borderline-homoerotic magazine/newsletter it publishes and distributes to an extensive international list of subscribers.

Although post WWII Switzerland has no laws banning homosexuality, The Circle’s staff members are always careful to avoid excessive censorship by keeping the publication’s nudity “artistically tasteful” and ensuring that any provocative articles are written in a language that the censors don’t speak. It’s obvious from the beginning that The Circle offers an invaluable social outlet and sanctuary for its members; one which they will go to great lengths to preserve and protect.

It’s at one of the organization’s formal dances that reserved Girls School teacher Ernst Ostertag (Matthias Hungerbuehler) meets flamboyant drag performer Robi Rapp (Sven Schelker), and Ernst is instantly smitten. While Ernst’s profession and desire to achieve tenure necessitate that he remain closeted to anyone outside of The Circle — including his ultra-repressed parents –Robi is openly gay and very comfortable inside his own skin. Robi has particularly charming relationship with his very warm and accepting mother (played by actress Marianne Sägebrecht ).

As Robi and Ernst’s relationship develops into a committed romance, Ernst becomes more self-confident and accepting of his sexual identity while also growing more passionate toward his involvement with The Circle and the cause of Gay rights.

Robi and Ernst
Sven Schelker and Matthias Hungerbuehler Portray Lovers Robi and Ernst

Both actors are brilliant in their respective roles, sharing a palpable onscreen chemistry that really brings the deeply loving relationship between Ernst and Robi to life; but it isn’t all about romance. When several friends of The Circle fall victim to a series of murders within the gay community, the formerly liberal authorities begin to crack down on suspected same-sex behavior. This leads to The Circle’s regular dances and social events being declared illegal, and police using strong arm tactics to collect the personal details of all members. With the resulting turmoil, the organization becomes impossible to maintain and must be disbanded.

A unique aspect of The Circle’s method of storytelling is the interspersing of documentary interludes, featuring present-day interviews with the real life Ernst and Robi, now in their eighties. Not only are they still happily together but, in 2003, they actually became the first legally married same-sex couple in Switzerland. Friends and family of the couple, as well as former members of The Circle also contribute their personal stories, to create a very satisfying and entertaining movie-going experience. I really loved this film.

The Circle (Der Kreis) – which is the Official submission of Switzerland to the best foreign language film category of the 87th Academy Awards 2015 – opens in NYC on November 21st and in Los Angeles on December 18th, 2014. Runtime: 102 minutes.

The Worley Gig Gives The Circle Four out of Five Stars

Movie Review: Art And Craft

Art and Craft Movie Poster

While watching the actions of Mark Landis, the undeniably creepy subject of the recently released documentary, Art and Craft (directed by Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman), I had the same feeling as when I watched I Think We’re Alone Now, an indie documentary that follows two obsessed fans of ’80s Pop singer, Tiffany. While the story of Landis‘ 30-year career of flagrant art forgery is truly fascinating — because, how the hell did he get away with it for so long? — his obvious mental illness gives the film a slight aura of exploitation. I do not think that was intentional but, rather, it’s an unavoidable side effect to telling his story. Landis is certainly committing some kind of fraud, which is infuriating, but as his multilayered mental-issues are revealed over the course of Art and Craft‘s 89 minute run time, it’s hard not to feel sadness for someone who is clearly addicted to his (some would argue harmless) pattern of deceptive activity. So, polarizing, I guess, is a good word to describe this film and its borderline unsympathetic anti-hero.

His authentic talent as an artist aside, the real life Mark Landis is a lonely, emaciated hermit, diagnosed with Schizophrenia and a laundry list of other mental issues, who resembles a less-attractive version of well-known character actor Zeljko Ivanek (Big Love, 24, etc). In fact, it’s likely his unassuming nature and lack of overt charisma that allowed him to dupe the representatives of over 50 art institutes across 20 states into accepting the gifts of his forgeries as highly desirable donations of legitimate original works of art. Landis also chose to imitate lesser-known artists, and made his philanthropic gestures (the forged paintings were always given as gifts, never sold or traded for any kind of monetary gain) toward lesser known museums and colleges, which probably did not raise as many red flags as it would have had he chosen to, say, present the gift of a DaVinci drawing to the MFA in Boston.

Landis‘ elaborate prank comes to light in 2008, when Matthew Leininger, Curatorial Department Head of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art — which had accepted multiple donations of the forged paintings — does his “due diligence” (a phrase that is repeated often in Art and Craft), and discovers the forger’s extensive trail of fakes that have been given to many and varied art institutes, even uncovering the fact that Landis had donated up to six copies of the same work to different museums. Mark Landis essentially becomes Leininger’s Great White Whale, as the registrar vows to out the forgers shenanigans and take him down. This is easier said than done, of course, since Landis has never accepted money in exchange for his forged paintings and therefore has not actually broken any laws. Leininger believes that the reward Landis reaps for his actions is the gleeful satisfaction that he has fooled seeming “Art Experts.”

Eventually, Leininger’s incredible sleuthing leads to Mark Landis being nationally exposed as an art forger via articles in publications such as The Art Newspaper (in 2010) and the Financial Times. Since there is no real legal recourse for his actions, it is the strong desire of Leininger and others that Landis simply stop the forgeries. Without spoiling anything, I’ll conclude by admitting that, by the time the movie wraps up with a rather extensive gallery exhibit of Landis’ forgeries and a few of his original pieces, I went from wanting to punch Mark Landis in the face to feeling like he deserved at least a little sympathy.  Mark Landis may be an ass, but he’s obviously battling a few personal demons. I’m not sure he would know how to stop, even if he wanted to.

For a list of theaters showing Art and Craft in your area, visit Art and Craft Film Dot Com.

The Worley Gig Gives Art and Craft 4 out of 5 Stars

Movie Review: The Little Tin Man

The Little Tin Man Poster

Being different is much easier to deal with when the characteristic that sets you apart isn’t immediately visible. In Matthew Perkins‘ very entertaining and heartfelt first film, The Little Tin Man, Herman (Aaron Beelner) is a struggling actor who works as a waiter in his family’s NYC restaurant. Herman also happens to be a little person, something that makes the typecasting he often finds himself up against even more glaring when he auditions for a Martin Scorsese remake of the Wizard of Oz.

While casting directors are enthusiastic about Herman’s chance of landing the part of the Mayor of Munchkin Land, Herman has his sights set on the role of the Tin Man – a part that, due to his height, he is not even allowed to audition for. When his mother passes away suddenly, leaving the restaurant to his flamboyant older half-brother, Gregg (played brilliantly by the hilarious Jeff Hiller, who steals every scene he is in) while Herman’s only “inheritance” is the advice that he get serious about his acting career, he is forced to undertake an ingenious plan to make his dream of playing the Tin Man come true.

The Little Tin Man finds its unique humor and heart when Herman enlists the help of his restaurant co-workers including his brother, best gal-pal Miller (played by comedy writer Kay Cannon), whom he also has a secret crush on, Dishwasher Juan (Emmanual Maldonado) and bartender Pete (Chris Henry Coffey, who reminds me very much of Greg Kinnear) to help him make an audition tape that he can then sneak in to Scorcese while he is guesting on the Rachel Ray Show (don’t ask).

Despite its heavier message of prejudices we all have against people who look different, and serious plot undertones, this is a very sweet, funny and uplifting film. The Little Tin Man has the engaging, laid back feel of a cable TV sitcom similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm or Stephen Merchant’s Hello Ladies, and the appealing ensemble cast shares such a good chemistry, I really felt like I could watch a weekly adventure with these characters. Very highly recommended!

The Little Tin Man now is screening locally at the Williamsburg Cinemas in Brooklyn and is available via Video On Demand nationwide.

The Worley Gig Gives The Little Tin Man Four out of Five Stars

Movie Review: It Was You Charlie

It Was You Charlie
Michael D. Cohen stars in It Was You Charlie

Sometimes, a film unfolds so quietly and subtly that to attempt to explain the plot is to spoil the entire story. It Was You Charlie, written and directed by Emmanuel Shirnian, comes together so invisibly that it’s very much like putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle in which you can’t get a satisfying idea of the big picture until the final, tiny piece is locked in place.

Shirnian’s directorial debut tells the story of Abner (Michael D. Cohen in a spot on performance), a diminutive, shy doorman who works the graveyard shift in an apartment building where he and his fellow doorman are accustomed to secretly entering apartments while tenants are out to make a snack from whatever happens to be in the refrigerator. Through flashbacks, we learn that Abner was once a respected Artist and Professor whose unrequited love for a beautiful student, Madeleine (Anna Hopkins) is rendered all the more poignant by the fact that she has fallen in love with his tall, handsome brother, Tom (Aaron Abrams).

Abner’s loss of his love interest, which consequently results in a deep rift between him and his brother, pitches him into a downward spiral, leading to his involvement in a two car collision in which the driver of the other car does not survive. Despite his continued appreciation for art and his dream of one day moving to Greece, Abner’s world view is bleak and his thoughts of suicide are ever present.

Enter Zoe (played by Emma Fleury, who reminds me very favorably Greta Gerwig) an upbeat and outgoing cab driver who befriends Abner and attempts to cajole him out of his depression. Through his relationship with Zoe, Abner begins to emerge from his funk and seeks to mend his damaged psyche and relationships.

The film segues seamlessly between hyper-reality and surreal, dreamlike scenes that will keep you questioning how much of the action is going on only in Abner’s imagination. For me, being kept guessing also kept me engaged in the journey towards an emotionally resonant outcome that wasn’t necessarily predictable.

And for those wondering, as you should be, who the titular ‘Charlie’ is: “It was you, Charlie” is a quote taken from the most famous scene in the Marlon Brando classic, On the Waterfront, a film that Abner and Tom have a tradition of seeing annually on Abner’s birthday — an event on which several key plot points pivot.

It Was You Charlie is billed as a dark comedy/drama, and it definitely isn’t a traditionally funny film. Anyone going in with an expectation of seeing a silly, feel-good movie will be disappointed. While I did laugh out loud a couple of times, the moments of humor derive from the absurdity of the action and discomfort of the characters – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just be advised that this film is unexpectedly heavy, and it will probably take you a few days to really digest and appreciate what you’ve seen.

It Was You Charlie will be available via Video On Demand as of September 23rd and will open in NYC at Cinema Village (22 E 12th Street) on September 26th, 2014.

The Worley Gig Gives It Was You Charlie 3 1/2 Out of 5 Stars

Must See Movie: Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer Poster
Snowpiercer Movie Poster: International Version!

When it comes to taking on the hot button topic of Global Warming and its possible catastrophic effects, Snowpiercer is a movie that believes you should either go big or go home – and the films’ premise is a doozy. Set 17 years in the future, Snowpiercer drops us into the aftermath of a failed chemical experiment; one that was meant to slightly lower the global temperature but which instead propels the Earth into a devastating ice age, annihilating all life on the planet. However, a group of survivors have boarded a global circumnavigating high-speed train, run by a perpetual motion engine. The Snowpiercer, as it is called, is both a utopian haven and hellish prison for its passengers; depending on which car you’re in.

Aboard the Snowpiercer there exists a strictly segregated class system that doesn’t really make any sense, but which you just need to go with in order to let the film tell its story. People unfortunate enough to have boarded at the back of the train live in bleak, congested squalor that portrays a dystopian scenario similar to films like The Road and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The train is governed by its mysterious Wizard of Oz-like inventor, Wilford (Ed Harris), and his strict rules of order are brutally enforced by Mason (Tilda Swinton), in a role that is by turns both terrifying and comical. Fed up with mere survival under constant oppression, those in the back of the train band together, deciding it is time to overthrow the nonnegotiable dictatorship and devise a way to advance to the front of the train in order to take control of the engine.

The rebel’s reluctant leader is Curtis (Chris Evans), who is joined by Edgar (Jamie Bell), Gillam (John Hurt) and Namgoong Minsoo (Koren actor Song Kang-ho), a notorious drug dealer with a keen knowledge of lock picking who is liberated from the train’s prison car in order to help the gang in their quest. The scenes at the back of the train are the least visually compelling of the film and tend to drag a bit, but aside from setting up the film’s main point of conflict, they seed the plot for events and revelations that take place further on, so you need to pay attention rather than just “waiting for them to be over.” As the rebels move forward, the settings of the various train cars change from ones depicting simple comforts to over-the-top opulence and outright hedonistic decadence. This is when Snowpiercer really gets rolling.

I enjoyed Snowpiercer, especially the amazing sets and captivating scenes of the train speeding through the frozen landscape, but I think the script could have used a bit more work, as there are continuity holes big enough to, well, drive a train through. The film does at least partially address the question of how passengers are fed, with the growing of fresh vegetation aboard the train, the aquarium car scene – which is marvelous – and the nauseating revelation of just want goes into making those Protein Blocks that constitute the sole sustenance of the train’s rear car inhabitants. But I couldn’t help but wonder how Namgoong Minsoo could have been able to make an annual observation of a plane crash landmark in the arctic wasteland as the train passes the Ekaterina Bridge each New Years Day, when he’s supposedly been living in a drawer in the train’s jail car for who knows how long? Perhaps I just need to see the film again.

It is worth noting that Snowpiercer is the first English-language film from Korean Director Joon-ho Bong, and while he succeeds in making a compelling film on many levels, perhaps the muddled script is an indication of too much ambition and an unwillingness to glean plot points that confuse and weigh the film down. Certainly it is no accident that Snowpiercer is already on DVD in Europe and Asia while its US theatrical release is not until June 27th. Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer will surely appeal to fans of that genre and anyone who enjoys an original Sci-Fi Action flick.

The Worley Gig Gives Snowpiercer 4 Out of 5 Stars!

Rated R with a Runtime of 2 Hours, 5 Minutes, Snowpiercer Opens Friday June 27th, 2014. Find theaters and show times in your area at Fandango Dot Com.