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Movie Review: Carnage



Mike Finkelstein had an hour long conversation with a friend.  He wondered how something as simple as a conversation would look dramatized and thrown up on a screen.  To answer his question, he went to the movies.  Here is his review of “Carnage”.

PLOT: Two sets of parents (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, Christophe Waltz and Kate Winslet) meet to discuss a schoolyard fight between their two sons.  What starts off as a cordial, civilized visit slowly disintegrates into a shouting match worthy of that same playground.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  CARNAGE is a movie that I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  I was a big fan of “God of Carnage” when it was on Broadway, and couldn’t wait to see how a director like Roman Polanski and four great actors translated it for the screen.

The thing about “God of Carnage” and CARNAGE is that while it’s almost exactly the same script, they are two completely separate entities.  The feel of the film and the play are so completely diverse, you could almost swear you’re watching a different story.  And for the movie, it really doesn’t work very well…

On the stage, “God of Carnage” is a great time.  Characters and tensions build on themselves like a mountain to the point that the audience is in hysterics.  In the movie, however, that building seems to dissipate, and instead, the tension is more of a flowing river…it goes slightly up and slightly down, it gets a bit rough and then smooth, but nothing too spectacular ever really takes place.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…on a stage, everything is exaggerated and on a film screen, life should play more like reality, but this time, reality led us to watch a conversation that is nothing more than just that: a really long 80-minute conversation that keeps us thinking “Why couldn’t they just have gotten into the elevator instead of accepting that extra piece of cobbler?”

That is not to say that there weren’t a few good notes for CARNAGE.  All four actors are very capable and bring certain nuances to their roles.  Jodie Foster’s veins look like they’re about to pop, Kate Winslet plays drunk beautifully (while the projectile vomit that’s been getting so much press isn’t exactly ‘projectile’, it’s still pretty funny), John C. Reilly’s aloof sheep of a man took me back to his role in CHICAGO, and Christoph Waltz can play menacing and cold in his sleep.  Also, the opening scene when we see the ‘fight’ between the two boys was very cute as our only look to the world outside the apartment.

But sadly, with all that, the power just wasn’t there.  I heard a bunch of lines, I felt many moments of frustration, and I saw a woman vomit all over a stranger’s home, but when the end of the film came, the punch line that had everyone applauding in the Broadway theater fell flat.  To be completely honest, I didn’t even realize it was coming up!  And when something you know could be a golden moment is just DOA like that, you know something went wrong.

Roman Polanski is no doubt one of the best directors today.  If anyone could make a movie based on “God of Carnage” work on the big screen, it’s him.  But when you try to take the exaggeration of a play and turn it into a realistic film focusing on a very long real-time conversation…you need to add SOME spice somewhere.  Polanski didn’t do that, and while most of the parts were there, all we got was a slow-flowing river when we should have had a mountain.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) JODIE FOSTER’S VEINS: Wow, Foster’s veins were popping out of her head like she was Bane in BATMAN AND ROBIN.  I kept thinking they were going to pop, and she was going to die from an aneurysm.  Pretty impressive…

2) KATE WINSELT’S DRUNKENNESS: Kate Winslet started out as the most put together of the four, and slowly turned into the most out of control.  She played drunk beautifully, especially with one speech that could have easily sounded fake.

3) CHRISTOPH WALTZ’S SUBTLENESS: Waltz’s subtlety was a complete 180 from how Jeff Daniels played Alan on stage.  He brought a cold, bitter feeling to the role that almost made him seem as dangerous as Hans Landa (but, you know, without the Nazi feelings…)

4) JOHN C. REILLY’S ALOOFNESS: Watching Reilly here reminded me of Amos Hart in CHICAGO.  The guy was a gentle giant who exploded at the end.


1) MONOTONE: The film had its peaks and valleys, but overall, it seemed to stay on the same plain the entire time.  Yes, I know we were watching a conversation in real time, but I wished it didn’t feel…so much like a damn conversation.

2) DOESN’T PACK A PUNCH: Where the play ended on a high note, the movie ends on a whimper.  Same moment, same lines…there was just no specifically high climax to let that moment pay off.  Very disappointing.


1) The film was chosen to be the opening night feature at The New York Film Festival in September, 2011.

2) Shot in Paris, since Roman Polanski can’t step foot in the United States.


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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