Stephanie Cooke

Exodus: Gods and Kings a bold attempt by Ridley Scott

December 15th, 2014 at 12:18 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings

Director Ridley Scott is back with the story of Moses in a sweeping epic of a movie.  Exodus: Gods and Kings begins post basket-in-the-Nile with Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) as grown men treated nearly as brothers by the Pharoah Seti (John Turturro).

Seti clearly recognizes that Moses is a better person, family member, and leader than even his own actual son could be.  We see him long to leave their kingdom to Moses, but blood lines won’t allow it, since he isn’t actually his son — even though he was raised as such… The story, of course, is that Moses was the son of a general left to be raised by him.

After Seti dies and Ramses gains power — using it for greed and nothing more, Moses learns the truth about his liniage from Nun (Ben Kingsly) a Hebrew slave.  He doesn’t believe it, and so he hides from what he has learned — that the person he knew as Miriam (Tara Fitzgerald) — a servant — is actually his sister who brought him to Seti as a babe.

Meanwhile Ramses gets wind of this wild tale — and endeavors to get to the truth about the man who had saved his life and won his father’s trust more than he ever could have.   The result is Moses being exiled and nearly killed before finding his way, talking with God (Malak – a vision appearing as a child to Moses), and learning his path.  The film follows Moses to his end days, including the amazing re-imagined scene of the parting of waters at the Red Sea and the show down among once-brothers on it’s barren sea floor.

Christian Bale as Moses is sometimes captivating and some times mysterious.  He falters with accents here and there but maintains the spirit, wonder and conflict of Moses throughout the film.  The quiet scenes with his wife (also named Miriam played by Indira Varma) are touching and tender and — played so well by Bale — really allow us to see into Moses.

Joel Edgerton as Ramses is effective in scenes with Bale but again, the accents are distracting.  There are so many accents coming in and out – even within the characters themselves.

Exodus: Gods and Kings recalls Ridley Scott’s Oscar-winning Gladiator but fails to live up to it’s build and finish.  The screen play is wobbly and the film has fits and starts.  But the grandeur of some of the scenes and Bale’s portrayal of the conflict of Moses makes it worth seeing for me.

Rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images. 

Did you see the movie? What did you think? What movie should I review next week?
Tweet me @HRShowEPSteph and let’s talk movies!


Horrible Bosses 2 not horrible

December 1st, 2014 at 5:38 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Horrible Bosses 2.

It has been three years since Horrible Bosses prompted laughs at the box office.  Now Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis are back in Horrible Bosses 2.

The sequel picks up with Nick, Dale, and Kurt ready to launch their own business with a product they think is going to rocket them to success. Of course none of the three of them have any idea how to mass produce their product let alone run a business.
What should they do?

They turn to their ex boss (Oscar-WInner Kevin Spacey) now in prison.  They pay him a visit looking for advice before pursuing a partnership with a wealthy investor (Ocscar-winner Christoph Waltz).  He takes advantage of them in a big way. His son (Chris Pine) is quite disenfranchised with his father and wants to get back at him. So he devises a plan involving the trio – of course, without their knowledge.  But the trio have a plan of their own.  Let the hilarity ensue.

Bateman, Sudeikis, and Day have these characters so locked down, it’s impossible to tell where they stop and the acting begins.  Pine is great in this funny role — not surprising for me though, because I found his Captain Kirk funny as well in Star Trek:Into Darkness. Spacey’s screen time is short but awesome as he always is (forgetting KPax)…  And Christoph Waltz, while dastardly, is so much better than this role.

Jennifer Aniston is back in the sex addicted role she played in the first film.  Her acting here is just as awkward as it was in the first.  Also back as (ahem) “Mr.” Jones is Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx — the character still hilarious in his interactions with the guys.  And he is involved in a self-serving pivotal twist that is also quite funny!

Of course some of the dialogue is trite, the jokes tired and juvenile, and the situations familiar, but that does not take away from the fact there are some plain old hilarious moments in this film.
If you liked the first horrible bosses you will love the second one.  I found the second one funnier than the first.  It’s not great, but it’s not horrible.

Rated R for strong crude sexual content and language throughout.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is beginning of the end

December 1st, 2014 at 5:32 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1.

The film series based on the best-selling The Hunger Games book Trilogy by Suzanne Collins hit the box office this weekend with the third film… It’s the third book – Mockingjay – split into two parts.  This is the first.  Mockingjay-Part 1, is just that… the first part of the end.  For watchers of the last film, you’ll remember as Catching Fire ended… Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) had just taken her arrow to the electronic field surrounding the games and been rescued.

Mockingjay-Part 1 picks up with the Katniss waking up to find herself being held underground by the rebellion… her District destroyed and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) nowhere to be found.

As she mourns the loss of Peeta — she listens to the friends she trusts and President Coin (Julianne Moore), she begins to understand that she needs to be the voice of the rebellion — the Mockingjay.

But it’s not until she learns the truth about Peeta, that she knows what she has to do.  With Peeta alive and being held by the Capitol, Katniss summons the courage to fight again.  To fight the Capitol, to fight to rescue Peeta and the other tributes, and in the process, fight for those that believe in her ability to bring about democracy.

The acting is fine — though it did remind me that Jennifer Lawrence is much better than this role.   The set design is dark and bleak as is the tone of the film.  None of the ostentatiousness of the previous two here. And there are few of the action scenes that movie-goers have come to love in the film series.  No actual Hunger Games in this one.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay-Part 1 is directed by Francis Lawrence from a screenplay by Danny Strong and Peter Craig. In Mockingjay-Part 1, the plot is truly the set up.  … certainly not a stand-alone film.

It had to be a business decision to break this third book into two parts.  I crave a beginning, a middle and an end in all films.  Otherwise I feel no closure walking out of the film.  there is no end.

With 65 million copies of the book series in print in the U.S. alone it has a built in audience that will just love it.  I, on the other hand, really didn’t.  Love it.


Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images and thematic material. 

Beyond the Lights: Beyond expectations

December 1st, 2014 at 5:26 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Beyond the Lights.

Beyond the Lights may have been a distant fourth at the box office this weekend (earning just 6.5 million compared to Interstellar at number three with 29 million.

Beyond the Lights stars Gugu Mbatha Raw as Noni, a breakout superstar the likes of Rihanna but with self-esteem issues galore as the movie begins.

Noni’s album is about to drop and after a huge performance at an awards show we find her perched on the edge of her hotel room balcony ready to jump. That’s when the cop assigned to stand guard outside, Kaz Nicol (played by Nate Parker) comes to her rescue.

In “The Bodyguard” style, only here the cop is saving the star from herself, the love story is set in motion. As love stories always do, there are some hurdles to overcome, and the plot in beyond the lights is no different.

Kaz’s father (Danny Glover) is the driving force behind Kaz’s political aspirations. He only sees bad things to come of the relationship between Kaz and Noni.

Nonies mother (Minnie Driver) is the classic stage mom and driving force behind Noni’s stardom. She wants Noni to have nothing to do with Kaz.  And she is pushing her daughter to places neither of them want to go.

Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball) is on her game developing the characters of Kaz and Noni.
The characters are complex and vulnerable amid the cheesy romance.  But it is worth noting that Prince-Bythewood has her finger on the pulse of what the music industry does to objectify women.

Noni finally finds herself and fights her mother and the record company to put her clothes on and sing the songs she feels she is supposed to be singing.

The acting is what pulls it all together for me. Parker is perfect in this role.  We know him from The Great Debaters and more recently Red Tails.  I hope we see more of him on the big screen.  I first heard of Gugu Mbatha Raw earlier this year in Belle – which was well-received. With this emotional performance and her stunning appearance she is definitely making noise in Hollywood.  She looks and vibes the part  of a superstar — beyond the lights.

The film is two hours of romance and cheese with some acting performances worth taking a look at!
Beyond the Lights was beyond my expectations.


Rated PG-13 for sexual content including suggestive gestures, partial nudity, language and thematic elements.



Big Hero 6 is BIG fun!

December 1st, 2014 at 5:21 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Big Hero 6.

Big Hero 6 is the latest offering from Disney animation studios. And it elevates nerd dumb to superhero status. It’s set in the beautifully animated, picturesque melting pot of a city called San Fransokyo.  GET IT!???  LOVE IT.

The main character is Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter). He is a teenager who loves technology and is exceptional at making boys win in the back street game of bot fights.

His brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is a college student working diligently on a new kind of robot he’s named Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit). It’s an inflatable, white vinyl robot with two black eyes as it’s only differentiating feature.
Tadashi’s friends are equally nerdy and inventive… There’s the adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago (Jamie Chung); then you have the neatnik Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), and the chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez).  And rounding out the group is The guy who plays the school mascot and is simply a Superfan all these guys — fanboy Fred (TJ Miller).

As tends to happen in Disney films – disaster strikes – and our hero Hiro is left alone in the world. Well that is except for BeyMax… who he quickly recruits to help him figure out who caused the disaster.  With BayMax running out of battery… Hiro struggles to hide their tracks and get BeyMax home to his charging station.

There’s a dangerous plot unfolding and Hiro, BayMax and Tadashi’s friends have to team up (a team of 6, if your counting) to combat Hiro’s grief and uncover just who caused it.  It plays out like a good Scooby Doo episode, with much better characters and character development.  The voices are great and the voice acting on point.

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams — Big Hero 6 is nearly perfect.  The animation of the inflatable BayMax coupled with his NAIVE care-and-concern-type of personality is so endearing!

The comedic lines and action sequences make this a cross-generational pleaser!  Baymax is such a sweet and loveable character — I can see him joining the likes of so many other Disney characters on the must-have toy lists of the holiday season!

I love that Big Hero 6 elevates the techno nerds of the world to BIG HERO status.  Combining the Marvel brand and the Disney brand was genius, and it works on SO MANY levels!


Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.



Awards Season will feel the “Fury”

October 27th, 2014 at 4:51 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for the film FURY.

Fury opened last week but had such buzz — I had to check it out.  And I can see why it does!

The film’s namesake Fury — is the name of a World War II tank and the film tells the story of her crew battling Nazi forces near the end of the war.  This tank and crew has been in service since Africa three years before. Nearly every body in the tank, of course has a war name.   They consist of “Wardaddy” played by Brad Pitt, “Bible” played by Shia Lebeuff, “Gordo” played by Michael Pena, John Bernthall is Grady, and Norman — the new arrival and should-have-been-clerk-typist-now-a-gunner played by Logan Lerman.
They roll through battles and into country side and cities alike, and as they do, we learn what makes the tank tick, it’s limitations and the crews.
The middle of the film is among some of the tense and most true character development I’ve seen in a war film.  They take a break in a German city and Wardaddy takes a bath, enjoys the company of a lady and her cooking… and teaches a few lessons along the way… But this film is as brutal as they come. It’s practically a horror movie.  The realities of war will make you flinch — as they should.  The depiction of the aftermath of surviving a mean battle… makes you feel like you were there.

Brad Pitt as the Colonel is absolutely perfect.  His tension and build, softness and brutality are amazing to watch.  He reminds me a bit of the old school actors in a film that could have been made fifty years ago.  LeBeouf and Pena are stellar as well, and the green Norman played by Lerman gives just the thing we needed to see to make us understand where all these soldiers came from to get to where they are.  Award season will surely feel this FURY.  David Ayers directs with a steady and grim hand.  Nominations are coming for this director and Pitt for sure.


Rated R for strong sequences of war violence, some grisly images, and language throughout.

Alive Inside documentary shows at the NARO

October 20th, 2014 at 3:31 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Alive Inside.

That’s right we are lucky that the Tidewater Arts Outreach is bringing this documentary to the NARO this Wednesday night for a special showing.  And I am lucky to have gotten to see it in advance so I could tell you about it.

Alive Inside: the Story of Music and Memory is an award-winning documentary that literally feels like a medical magic show.  As the film points out – five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia — many of them alone in nursing homes.

Over three years filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen capturing on camera the magic that seems to happen when music from a patient’s life is introduced to them via iPods and earphones..

We watch as songs from a patient’s past awaken memories and emotions that have been sleeping in the recesses of their minds for years, decades for some of them. Patients who are withdrawn, never speak or recognize anyone — suddenly — with earphones and a song from their past — look up and have a completely lucid conversation — relaying memories, singing every word of the song.  The film is shot so well.  As a good documentary should, it let’s the people being film breath in their space and cuts together the right scenes at the right times, intermixing memory-esque scenes from the past jarred free by the music we hear and see them react to at the same time.

Is this the answer, the cure? Probably not. Could it lead to something new in the industry and how we treat these patients? Hopefully.

It won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and I can see why.  It’s heart breaking and heart warming all at once.  It’s a commentary on dementia and Alzheimer’s and how we treat it.  If this is something close to you (and even if it’s not),  you’ll want to consider making time to see this remarkable film.


Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory
Special Showing in partnership with Tidewater Arts Outreach
Wednesday Night, October 22nd at 7:15
NARO Cinema – Norfolk
For Tickets & Information, Visit

Showing will also include a healthcare panel on arts programs like this in Hampton Roads.


October 20th, 2014 at 3:21 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The Judge.

The Judge is another story of a scattered dysfunctional family brought together thanks to a death and the remaining members forced to deal with each other again.  The difference between This Is Where I Leave You — which we talked about a few weeks ago–  and The Judge is that there’s very little comedy and instead a lot of legal drama.

Robert Downey, Jr. stars as Hank, the son who left the small town and his family behind to become a big city lawyer. When his mother dies, he comes home to face the ghosts that have been chasing him in his difficult relationship with his father Judge Palmer (Robert Duvall).  Also in play are the other ghosts chasing Hank —the high school accident that ended the promising baseball career of Hank’s brother Glen (Vincent D’onofrio), the disability of his little brother Dale (jeremy Strong), and his high school girlfriend (Vera Farmiga).

But it’s really all about the father-son relationship.  Ultimately the Judge has to allow his son to defend him with the help of another local lawyer not up to the task (played by Dax Shepard) and against a great local lawyer — played by Billy Bob Thornton.

The screenplay is by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque and it has so much crammed in you can barely keep it straight. It’s directed (a bit self-indulgently for me) by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Change Up and Shanghai Knights).

The acting is what’s worth seeing here.  I really enjoy Downey, Jr. so much better in real, challenging acting like we see in this film as opposed to donning the sarcasm and superhero suits (although he is what made me love Iron Man).  But Robert Duvall’s complete submission and commitment to this role was exceptional.  As a senior facing the loss of his love, his career, and fighting for his life  — he gives a spectacular performance.

It’s too long and there’s too much going on, but you have to be The Judge.

I couldn’t give it FOUR, and THREE seemed unfair to the amazing acting going on here.


Rated R for language including some sexual references. 

Gone Girl stays in theaters

October 20th, 2014 at 3:14 pm by under THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Gone Girl.
Gone Girl is the latest thriller from Oscar-nominated (Social Network, Curious Case of Benjamin Button)/Emmy-winning (House of Cards) director David Fincher.   It’s a love story gone wrong — a dysfunctional marriage of the highest caliber.

As things unfold we also get the back story of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike, Pride & Prejudice; Jack Reacher)– how they met, Amy’s childhood as the inspiration of her mother’s “Amazing Amy” children’s books, and their move  from New York to the heartland to take care of Nick’s ailing mother. Meanwhile back in the present — police are all over the evidence in Amy’s disappearance, the media is going crazy and with all of that going on — it doesn’t take long for suspicions to turn to Nick.  His own lies start to reveal themselves and paint him as a suspect to Detective Boney, played by Kim Dickens (Footloose, The Blind Side).

Nick and the in-laws turn to the media for help, which backfires on Nick. He becomes — as one news host said — “the most hated man in America”.  Desperate to prove he didn’t do anything, and on the advice of his sister Margo (Carrie Coon), he seeks the help of a star defense attorney named Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) and starts an investigation of his own.  He starts with a visit to old boyfriends of Amy’s — including Desi, played by Neil Patrick Harris.

As the clues to what happened begin to materialize, twists and turns keep coming. We’re getting the narrative from Nick at some points, and from Amy at others.  I’m not giving away the twists, but my mouth was hanging open on some of the turns the film takes.  There are apparently no surprises here if you happened to have read the novel (six million hard copies were sold before paperback!), because Flynn — who adapted it for the screen — stayed meticulously true to the novel, and, in my opinion, to a fault.  Flynn appears to me to have been uninterested in sacrificing parts of the book for the good of the film.

Affleck and Pike have great turns at their characters, but surprisingly to me — Tyler Perry had the performance of the film.  His understated short turn on camera was just what was needed.

Fincher with his dark and moody structure is gripping for 2 hours of the film, but it’s nearly two and a half hours long.  That’s about 20 minutes too long for my taste.  It could have — and should have — ended a bit earlier.

Nevertheless, Gone Girl will certainly be staying in the hunt for award nominations later this year — and given the numbers at the box office… it should be staying in the top ten for awhile.


Rated R for a scene of bloody violence, some strong sexual content/nudity, and language.

The Boxtrolls: EGGS-alent family fun

October 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by under Uncategorized

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The Boxtrolls.

The Boxtrolls is a stop-motion animation family adventure from the creators of “Coraline” and “ParaNorman”.  Both of which I thoroughly enjoyed…. Can this one stack up?

The Boxtrolls themselves are a quirky, weird group of creatures living in a world of their own creation located under the streets of a Charles Dickens-esque town called Cheesebridge.  The leaders are driven by their love of cheese!  And who doesn’t love cheese!?

The Boxtrolls are a mischievous lot who clearly do have a heart — raising an orphaned boy they named Eggs (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright).  In fact, all of them are named for the image or word on the garbage box they wear for clothing.  So Eggs — is wearing… an old egg box!

Of course all family movies like this have to have a bad guy — and the villain here is none other than Archibakld Snatcher — voiced by the Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley.  His end game is to be one of the leaders of Cheesebridge and to do that, he must rid the town of the theiving Boxtrolls.

Enter Winnie (Voiced by Elle Fanning). She’s the priviledged daughter of one of the white-hatted leaders of Cheesebridge.  After she discovers that Eggs is living among the Boxtrolls and Mr. Snatcher’s plan, Winnie hatches a plan of her own that’s sure to save everyone (and the cheese).

It begins with a grand ball that unravels into an action/adventure of the grandest scale. It’s a fantastic watching the dancing at the ball and the crazy chase antics — realizing this is all STOP-MOTION ANIMATION!!!   This is movements done by hand in fractions of milimeters, strung together to create these scenes.  The attention to detail is just so far above par it’s crazy.

Kingsley is superb.  His dastardly voicing of Mr. Snatcher brings the character to life in a big way!  But the star of the movie is the animation coupled with the art direction. Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls delight and scare, tickle your funny bone and warm your heart.   The importance of family is front and center but underhandedly presented — which is perfectly on point.  The Boxtrolls is EGGS-alent family fun.


Rated PG for action, some peril and mild rude humor.