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Movie Review Monday: Friends With Benefits



Mike Finkelstein has a best friend.  She’s a girl.  They argue about how far they could take their relationship before things get complicated.  The argument ends in a draw.  To finally decide who is right, the two head to the movies.  Here is Mike’s review for “Friends With Benefits”

PLOT: After Jamie (Mila Kunis) recruits Dylan (Justin Timberlake) for a job in New York, the two become fast friends.  When they both admit that they’re fed up with relationships, they decide to keep things simple: become friends with benefits, and have sex with no strings attached.  Soon enough, feelings get involved, and things get complicated…

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: Romantic comedies.  In the jumbled up mess that is their genre, there are only a few that really stand out as unique: WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, SERENDIPITY, and LOVE ACTUALLY, just to name a few.  So why not make one that hates on the ridiculousness and shuns all the clichés…while going through all the familiar motions at the same time?

That’s what makes FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS so charming: It’s not afraid to make complete fun of itself and its peers.  From its first moments, ripping on George Clooney and Katherine Heigl (yeah…THE UGLY TRUTH wasn’t very good…) to tearing apart all things wrong with the fake rom-com movie within the movie, you laugh, for no better reason than you know they’re completely right.

Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) are in on this wonderful joke.  Both recently broken up with (some great little cameos by Emma Stone and Andy Samberg), neither want a relationship and just want to have sex—play some tennis, if you will.  And when you look as good and are as smooth talking as Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake, of course it’s going to happen.

What follows is an onslaught of hysterical and honest raunchiness amidst the background of New York City, with both parties calling out as many idiosyncrasies of sex as possible within the 90 minute time frame.  Both guys and girls will be laughing when certain ones hit home and you realize they’re completely right yet again.

But, obviously, like any romantic comedy, the two leads start developing feelings for each other.  And then comes the making love and the hurt and the reconciliation, and the by-the-books third act we all knew was coming.  Yes, it’s predictable, sometimes over-the-top, and we know what’s going to happen, but by that point, we’re so invested in these amusing characters and their truths that we just decide to go with it.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have the chemistry needed to carry a romantic comedy.   They are cute and playful together, and you feel that connection.  Kunis slips perfectly into the role, one very reminiscent of Rachel in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL.  And while Timberlake definitely had his moments where it felt like he was “acting”, his smooth ways and charisma shined through overall.  I still think he’s one of the most talented performers of his generation, and give him a lot of credit for really trying to hone his acting skills through different movies instead of riding the coattails of his music.  He gets better with every film he’s in.

What also helps us get so invested in those two is the supporting cast backing them up. We get just enough of everybody (especially the family members) to give both Jamie and Dylan a bit more depth without getting carried away.  Woody Harrelson steals every scene as Dylan’s very out of the closet co-worker.  He goes from offensive to cordial in about five seconds, and it’s hysterical.  Patricia Clarkson brought a lot of hippie humor and fun to Jamie’s liberated, drunken mother, but still gave enough intensity to show the serious problems Jamie had to go through when she was younger.  Jenna Elfman, whom I haven’t really seen since “Dharma and Greg” was a wonderful little surprise as Dylan’s charming sister (and Nolan Gould was precious as her magic-obsessed son).  And finally, more than anybody, Richard Jenkins deserves a special mention for playing Dylan’s Alzheimer’s inflicted father.  Yes, maybe the plot was processed and overly sentimental, and the moments of clarity were too convenient and perfectly timed, but I saw the guy trying to hold on to his sanity and be thought of as normal, and it was heartbreaking to see him falling apart.

In the end, FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS really isn’t anything new when it comes to the romantic comedy.  Hell, only a few months ago, Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman were trying to pull off the same concept, and two decades ago, Harry told Sally “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way!”  But the movie is well shot, funny, quickly paced, and has no problem making fun of itself, sex, and all its brothers and sisters, and that makes it stand out among a boatload of other bad stuff.  If you’re going out for a date, and want something light, funny and beautiful to look at (in both scenery/shots and actor eye candy), go check out FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) SUPPORTING ROLES: Every supporting actor here deserves a nod.  Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins, and Woody Harrelson all did an amazing job bringing some flavor and fun to Dylan and Jamie’s universe.  Also, Nolan Gould was adorable as Dylan’s magic-loving nephew.

2) PICKING ON ITSELF: It’s a romantic comedy.  It has the beats of a romantic comedy.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t hate on and make fun of those ridiculous beats.  Especially with palm trees in New York…

3) SEX TRUTHS: Inappropriate to write, but there are more than a few points that’ll hysterically hit home for guys and girls…”It’s like two cars merging in rush hour traffic!”


1) TIMBERLAKE SOMEWHAT FORCED: I love Timberlake.  I think he’s one of the most talented guys in the business right now.  But there were certain lines in there where he felt so forced.

2) SHAUN WHITE: Completely unnecessary.  It was the standard “someone famous being an ass” cameo, except it just felt strained and completely unnatural.  Ha ha.  Funny.  It’s been done.


1) Andy Samberg, Justin Timberlake and Patricia Clarkson all appeared in the SNL Digital Short for the song “Motherlover”. Clarkson played Timberlake’s mother in it…


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



“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?



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.


For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

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.



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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