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Movie Review Monday: Midnight in Paris

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Mike Finkelstein was looking for a little artistic inspiration last night, and decided to walk around New York City.  The clock struck twelve, and being a little tipsy, he got into a random car with some nice looking fellows.  Luckily, he was able to find his way back from Harlem the next morning (Ella and Louie say hi), and write this review for “Midnight in Paris.”

PLOT: A frustrated screenwriter (Owen Wilson) vacationing in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents begins to fall in love with the city and all its history.  When he decides to take a walk at midnight to avoid some pompous friends (Michael Sheen and Nia Arianda), he ends up discovering the Golden Age of Paris, and more inspiration than he ever could have imagined.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: If you don’t know anything else about MIDNIGHT IN PARIS besides the above plot paragraph, DO NOT LEARN ANYTHING ELSE UNTIL YOU SEE IT!  There is a reason that the trailer is one of the few in recent years that doesn’t give anything away.  Do not talk about it, do not ask questions, and just get to your nearest theater.  And please excuse the fact that this will probably be a very short review, because I will be doing my best to critique without slipping out any details.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is an absolute gem of a film.  Woody Allen has professed his love first to New York, and then to England.  Now, he switches over to Paris, doing a beautiful job painting the city as a land of magic and wonder.  We see the calmness in it.  We have the serenity.  And yet, at the same time, we see the fun side—the partying and the drinking and the art and the music.

But while MIDNIGHT IN PARIS has the city as a beautiful backdrop, its message is much deeper.   Something as simple as Owen Wilson taking walks through Paris’ streets at 12 turns into an entire message about the “Golden Ages” in people’s lives.  What do you consider to be your perfect time?  Who are your heroes…the people you’d give your left foot for just five minutes with?  For every person that you can’t wait to meet, there is someone else who thinks of them as just a friend.  For every time or event you wish you had experienced, there is someone else who thinks of it as just another day.  It is the ultimate message of “The Grass is Greener”, giving the viewer the comfort of knowing that no matter how out of place or lost you feel, life is whatever YOU make of it, and you’ll find your way.

Owen Wilson does a fantastic job in the lead role as Gil.  He embodies Allen’s quick talking, naïve and innocent leading man, and even pumps in a little more charm than Woody usually shells out.  Wilson seems to be trying to break out of the dumb comedy route lately, with some more inspired roles in MARLEY AND ME, THE DARJEELING LIMITED, and HOW DO YOU KNOW, and here, while he may not be venturing far, he shows he can handle a smarter, more sophisticated comedy with some magic.

Rachel McAdams also does what she’s there to do as Wilson’s fiancé, but I have to say that among the family and friends, Michael Sheen stood out above the rest.  The English accent is gone and all that remains is the know-it-all pompous Paul.  Within the first five minutes of meeting him, you just want to slap him and light his shoes on fire (yeah, I went that far…).

And then, there are the inhabitants of The City of Light.  I can’t go into detail without giving too much away, but let’s just say that every person there, no matter how large or small, has a scene stealing moment.  Kathy Bates, Marion Cotillard, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo, Tom Hiddleston, Corey Stall, Adrien Brody, and Alison Pill, among many others, all add to this wonderful fantasy.  They show the extremes and the allure of culture in its different lights, no matter how strange or crazy it may be.

Woody Allen is one of the most iconic directors of our time.  Over the past two decades, he’s been on and off, but with MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, he is back on.  In a time where every film coming out is a billion dollar blockbuster or comic book movie, it is refreshing to have something so simple with a damn good storyline and message.  If I had any advice, I would say if you go into the movie with a little information about your turn-of-the-century artists…Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Dali, T.S.Eliot and Gertrude Stein (to name a few), it’ll help you enjoy the film and its references so much more.  Again, I’m trying to stay hush, hush, but no matter what you already know, you’ll agree that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was original, fun, and effortless.  After seeing it, I just want to take a stroll through the Illuminated City, because just like they say in the trailer, “Paris, at Midnight, is Magic.”

GRADE: A

Mike’s LIKES:

1) OWEN WILSON: Owen Wilson could have a one-note shtick, but it works beautifully here.  The man plays Woody’s role beautifully with a nice amount of confidence, but still gentle wonder.

2) PARIS AT MIDNIGHT: “Paris at Midnight is Magic.” That’s the title card in the trailer.  It’s right.  Allen makes Paris looks gorgeous and elegant in so many ways, and now I want to live there.

3) “THE DETECTIVE IS MISSING”: Great, funny cap to the rest of the story.  That’s all I’ll say

4) THE GOLDEN AGE: The message of the film, concerning every generation’s views on where they are, where the rest have been, and where we all will be.  Beautiful and reflective.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) SLOW BEGINNING: I had to think of some dislike!  The opening shots of Paris were long.  Get into the movie!  Yeah…that’s all I could think of…

2) FAMOUS WRITERS/ARTISTS FROM THE TURN OF THE CENTURY: This isn’t really a dislike, but more of a note for the audience.  Before going into the movie, take a few minutes at work to research some turn of the century artists…Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray, Dali, T.S.Eliot and Gertrude Stein (to name a few).  It’ll help you enjoy the film so much more with a little knowledge on them.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Woody Allen attempted to shoot the film in Paris in 2006, but it was too expensive at the time.

2) The opening film of the 64th Cannes Film Festival (it’s World Premiere).

 

Entertainment

REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod

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“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

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What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.

SHARE YOU PICKS BELOW! AND TWEET YOUR FAVORITES TOO!

For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.

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world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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