The Hampton Roads Show

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.

THREE OUT OF FIVE COOKIES
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.
THREE OUT OF FIVE COOKIES

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.

THREE OUT OF FIVE COOKIES

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.

THREE AND A HALF COOKIES

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!

FOUR OUT OF FIVE COOKIES

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

 

 


The Last Bison’s Gathering

November 21st, 2014 at 10:52 am by under THRS Live Music

LASTBISONGATHERING

It’s the time of year where family and friends get together for a feast, football and good times.  It’s also the time for what’s becoming a new tradition:  The Last Bison’s Gathering.

Now in it’s third year, The Last Bison will takeover The NorVa Saturday, November 29 for an evening of good music and good will.  Presented by 96X, The Gathering is a musical fundraiser for The Foodbank of Southeastern Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore that will feature The Last Bison along with special guests Esbern Snare and Swear and Shake.  Each concert goer should bring a non-perishable food item for The Foodbank.  You can also make a contribution online at this link.  This is an important cause as The Foodbank provides canned, fresh, frozen goods to thousands of individuals and this time is a time when The Foodbank runs low of items in their pantry.  Recently, The Last Bison held a volunteer night there where the band and fans sorted 4000 lbs of food and packaged over 300 backpacks with food to distribute as part of The Foodbank’s BackPack Program.

The Last Bison just got back from their east coast tour in support of their latest record, VA.  The record is simply superb as well as their current live show.  They have added a drum kit and Amos slaps on the electric bass – where it adds a great dynamic to their folkestral tunes of Quill that  we love.  I saw their show in Philadelphia last month and it was nothing short of excellent.  Bottom Line: Go to the show!

Joining them are Esbern Snare, who appeared on Live Music Friday earlier this year and released their debut record, A Violent Peace.  A great band with an intense sound and song craftsmanship that doesn’t leave your head for awhile.  Also joining the bill is New York Americana band,  Swear and Shake.  This band is another great gem with very catchy tunes.  Check out their video below.

This is going to be a great night of music for a great cause.  Like I said before, go the show! You can get your tickets now by clicking on this link.

 


Candycorn and Pennywheels: A Conversation with Sponge

November 14th, 2014 at 2:53 pm by under THRS Live Music

The year was 1994 and five guys from Detroit took the US of A by storm with their debut record, Rotting Pinata.  Fast forward 20 years later and hits from that record, Plowed and Molly (16 Candles), are still getting radio airplay and the band is hitting the road to celebrate that amazing album.  The band will be in Virginia Beach Sunday at Shaka’s with Solemn Flight, 710 Oil and Revery.  I had the pleasure of talking to lead singer and founding member Vinnie Dombroski as they headed down to Greensboro, NC for the opening night of the tour.  ”We have and always had a bar band mentality, whether it’s playing a club or an arena, we want to interact with the crowd as much as possible and make them feel like they’re part of the band.”  This is exactly what you’ll hear in their latest release, Rotting Alive, which is a live record of Rotting Pinata performed in it’s entirety recorded earlier this year in Detroit.  ”We didn’t go out there intending to record an album but a friend had a mobile recorder and we had him record it and the energy the crowd had the night was so magical that we knew we had to put it out.”

Sunday night’s show at Shaka’s is one you can’t miss – not only because of Sponge – but you’re getting a lineup that has three of the best rock bands this area has and all for $15 ($20 at the door).  Solemn Flight, 710 Oil and Revery, who will be playing tonight at Hoss’ Deli in Newport News.  ”I’m really looking forward to this show.” 10522735_10152462282272957_1643161753532077190_n

 


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.

FOUR AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE COOKIES

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.

FOUR OUT OF FIVE COOKIES FOR ME

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 TidewaterArtsOutreach.org

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


You be THE JUDGE

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.

THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE COOKIES

Rated R for language including some sexual references.