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Movie Review: Red Lights

Mike Finkelstein is psychic. You pick a card, any card, and he will tell you what it is! Okay…is it the…four of spades?! No?? Um…six of hearts! No…Okay, okay, one more guess! Queen of clubs!!! NO?!?! Damnit…Fine…While he tries to work out his psychic kinks, here is his review for “Red Lights”.

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Mike Finkelstein is psychic.  You pick a card, any card, and he will tell you what it is!  Okay…is it the…four of spades?!  No??  Um…six of hearts!  No…Okay, okay, one more guess!  Queen of clubs!!!  NO?!?!  Damnit…Fine…While he tries to work out his psychic kinks, here is his review for “Red Lights”.

PLOT: Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are two paranormal researchers looking to find any example of real psychic abilities.  They have disproven all cases handed to them except one: a legendary psychic named Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) who retired decades ago after a rival journalist suddenly died at one of his shows.  When Silver randomly comes out of retirement, Buckley, against the wishes of a timid Matheson, pushes forward with an investigation that may lead to the first true example of psychic abilities ever, or the hoax of a lifetime.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  RED LIGHTS is a film that I desperately wanted to like.  Written by the amazing Rodrigo Cortes (scribe and director of BURIED, which I think is a Hitchcockian masterpiece), it seemed to boast an intriguing and original plot, as well as a cast of well respected actors all in need of a career boost.  Yet sadly, when the twists and turns finally came to a halt and a revelation, RED LIGHTS faltered, crumbling under the strain of too many inconsistencies and wrong turns that just left the audience numb.

Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) are two paranormal researchers for hire, looking for the truth behind any and all psychic abilities.  While she believes that everyone is a fraud (it all depends to what extent), he is still trying to make up his mind on the matter.  So when psychic legend Simon Silver (Robert DeNiro) comes out of retirement to do a handful of shows, Matheson and Buckley start to investigate the man, and end up uncovering much more than they bargained for.

For the first forty minutes, RED LIGHTS is pretty captivating.  Its pre-opening credits sequence is both disturbing and funny, with Weaver and Murphy bouncing off of each other beautifully as they take down one of the bigger psychics in the country.  (They’re little relationship is almost more familial than professionalism—a fun dynamic to play.)  Add to that some deep and thought provoking questions about death and the afterlife and an introduction to DeNiro that makes us think the man is finally back to form, and we have a bit of anticipation.

But then, things start to go wrong.  It may have started innocently with a few minor instances of exposition (including a direct line quote from LETHAL WEAPON that made me laugh out loud), but soon, a tangled web starts to form around us, and nothing seemed to blend.  Yes, there were many interesting moments of what seemed to be real psychic abilities and others of what seemed to be obvious psychic fraud, but instead of keeping them on a line toward a huge revelation/payoff, we get a mess of confusion and confliction.  Before we know it, Cortes is intertwining some great scenes with some really irrational ones, and is giving us not intelligent questions worthy of his film, but random creep outs and cheap scares that make us feel almost insulted as an audience.  It’s a mess.

As for our actors, I can’t exactly blame the veterans, but Sigourney Weaver and DeNiro almost seemed bored in their respective roles.  Weaver may still be one of the better actresses out there, but she was definitely going through the motions at points, and DeNiro’s Silver, while mostly engaging, quickly goes from captivating to dull as the confusion rises (not to mention he almost transforms into a sort of silent boogeyman in a scene that made no sense in the big scheme of things).  It really was Cillian Murphy who was the savior in all of this, proving that he is an actor worthy of much more demanding roles (especially some leads other than RED EYE), and Elizabeth Olsen is showing yet again that she is more than just her sisters’ name.  She is cute and fun, and I’m really starting to respect her as an actress.

RED LIGHTS could have been Rodrigo Cortes’ next great film.  The premise was rich with opportunities, and with such a premise came some beautifully shot scenes and some intriguing, thought provoking dialogue.  However, as an entire movie, RED LIGHTS is scattered, messy, and completely off-kilter.  By the time we reach the crazy twist of an ending (one of the few revelations I would have really enjoyed if the rest of the film just made sense with it), I was so frustrated with all the randomness I just went through, that I really didn’t care anymore.  And for a movie that had so much going for it just about an hour-and-a-half earlier, that’s sad to hear.

If only a psychic could have told us in advance and saved us the time…

GRADE: C+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) CILLIAN MURPHY: The man is one of the better young actors out there today.  Calm and collected, but angry and wired when he needed to be, he made for an excellent protagonist.  I really hope he starts to get more mainstream roles, as he should, soon.

2) ELIZABETH OLSEN: This girl is really proving, step by step, that she is more than just her name.  She is cute, fun, and a real actor, and I’m really starting to respect what she can do.

3) ENDING: If you throw away all the inconsistencies and plot holes that destroy the rest of the film, the ending is actually very smart, and almost poetic.  A beautiful tribute that goes a little deeper than just the conflict of “Is he a fake?”, and yet, at the same time…(look at Dislike #4)

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) ROBERT DE NIRO: Yes, the man is menacing and creepy as anything here, but really?  This man is a living legend of acting…I don’t understand why he keeps picking so many roles that are beneath him.  While it is a step in the right direction after LITTLE FOCKERS and NEW YEAR’S EVE, the entire script should have been a warning to go for something a little better.

2) “I’M GETTING TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT”: Really?  Less than fifteen minutes in, and you pull a LETHAL WEAPON line word for word?  Nope…not good…

2) CONVOLUTED/MAJOR PLOT HOLES: Every time you think you know what is going on, something else happens to completely disregard it.  The only problem is with so many disregards (and not to mention moments of sheer idiocy/coincidence/cheap scares), no matter where the film ends up, a LOT of things aren’t going to make any sense.

3) CONSTANT SPOOKS: It almost felt like Cortes cheapened the film with these cheap scares littered throughout…bad guy in the mirror, shadows lurking, a dream within a dream…they’re all here and ready to get to you like a bad HALLOWEEN sequel.

4) ENDING: With such an ending, there was no closure.  Yes, some questions were answered, but others made no sense whatsoever.  Too bad, seeing as how it could have been a beautiful capping if done right.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) If you’re wondering who the Robert De Niro look alike was, it’s actually Spanish director Eugenio Mira.

2) After researching his role and meeting with psychics, Robert De Niro developed a belief in the paranormal, saying, “There’s no way they could have known certain things and they said them, so in that sense, I have no answer than to say that I have to believe that there’s something there that they pick up psychically. I don’t know what it is.”

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 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.

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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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