THRS Movie Reviews

Held prisoner, by Prisoners…

September 23rd, 2013 at 11:51 am by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Prisoners.

prisoners-poster1Prisoners is an all-star production part thriller suspense and drama.  It stars Hugh Jackman as Keller Dover and Maria Bello as his wife Gracie alongside their best friends Franklin Birch (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis).

After Thanksgiving dinner at the Birches’, the two couples daughters Anna and Joy run a quick toy searching errand to the Dover’s house.  When the girls come up missing the movie gets well underway.  Jake Gyllenhaal stars as detective Loki who is the lead investigator assigned to the case of the disappearance.

The first main suspect is apparent manchild Alex Jones (Paul Dano) who lives with his aunt (Melissa Leo).  Lots of circumstantial evidence points to Alex, but there’s nothing concrete about the case against him. So when he’s released from custody, the inner rage of Keller Dover is released along with him.

Dover takes matters into his own hands in order to try and get information out of Alex and find the location of the girls before it is too late.  He does things most parents would want to do, but would stop short of.  And that is precisely the predicament that Franklin and Nancy find themselves in When Dover tells them what he’s done – And even shows them.

Prisoners really challenges your thought process on what would you do; how far would you go; when would you stop… In the quest to find your loved one.   It really pushes the ethical questions.

It also holds so many prisoners… The girls by their captor, the family by the media and situation, suspects by the cops, suspect by Dover, audience by the suspense.

Directed by Academy Award nominee Denis Villanueva (Incendies), the pacing and tension drive the movie despite some issues with the script that weaken the overall impact of the movie.   I personally had figured out a few key things relatively early in the film and found red herring’s thrown in later to be a bit distracting.  Plus, for my taste, it could’ve been tightened up and lose about 20 minutes of the film.  Bring a lunch — this mystery drama clocks in at two hours and 26 minutes!

SIDE NOTE: And speaking of distracting, why bother paying attention to police procedure in a film? It would only help to make it more believable… and who needs that?

The cinematography by Academy Award nominee many times over (from Shawshank Redemption to Skyfall) Roger Deakins is just amazing.  I loved every shot and the overcast monochrome tinting added to the drama.  (Will this guy ever when the Oscar???)

As for the acting much of the all-star cast is wasted in the movie.  The acting talents of Terrence Howard and Viola Davis are sidelined.  They had very few meaty scenes in the film.  Plus, Maria Bello remains drugged up and in bed for 80% of the film.

Jackman turns in a moving performance despite some scenes of overacting.  And then there’s Gyllenhaal – who tries his level best to bring something to the role of Loki.   We never quite get his back story or much of a story about him at all.  What were his motivations?  Inquiring minds want to know.

It might sound like I didn’t enjoy Prisoners, but I did.  It was relatively smart, had something to say and was shot with amazing clarity.  I know I’m being hard on this film, but it’s only because as much as I liked it, it could’ve been so much better.


Rated R for disturbing violent content including torture, and language throughout.

It’s not just about the crawl!

August 26th, 2013 at 5:09 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for The World’s End.

worlds-end-poster20 years ago five childhood friends attempted an epic pub crawl only to fall short due to circumstances we learn about throughout the film.  Fast forward to today and Gary King –  their fearless leader (Simon Pegg) — is trying to get the gang together to finish what they started back then – And that is what they call the Golden Mile– 12 pubs and a pint in each.

I should mention who the gang is… You’ve got the Real-estate agent Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter, the married car salesman (Eddie Marsan), Steven who is divorced and works in construction (Paddy Considine), and Andrew the lawyer (Nick Frost).

Nobody wants to do it — especially not Andrew — but everybody feels sorry for Gary.  They have all moved on with their lives; he is still living in the past.  And so here we are: back in Newton Haven.

I don’t want to ruin it, but suffice it to say they crawl, they get drunk, and some really weird things start to happen.  And as you would expect from drunk middle-aged men, all of their issues come out in the open, fights follow, and then there are robots…? What?  Yes!  But nothing, not even robots or Andrew, is going to keep Gary from fulfilling his mission. And hilarity does ensue.

The World’s End is from director Edgar Wright, we know him from two other Britcoms — Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) also starring two of these actors — Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.  Also Hilarious!

Both actors are on point in this film.  Simon Pegg’s comedic timing is flawless, his facial expressions are hilarious and when he has to pull out the dramatic acting chops, he does. And he sends this one to the top of my list of comedy must-see films for fall.


Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.

Lee Daniels serves up The Butler

August 19th, 2013 at 12:24 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is now playing at theaters across Hampton Roads.

thebutlerLee Daniels’ the Butler stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil and Oprah Winfrey as his wife Gloria and a host of other Hollywood all stars, including Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Robin Williams, John Cusack, and Cuba Gooding Jr.

This film relates the true story of Cecil Gaines, a butler who work under eight U.S. Presidents during an amazing and disgraceful time in United States history.

Cecil Gaines grew up on a Southern cotton farm watching his parents be abused and mistreated. When his father is murdered, Cecil is taken into the house and taught how to be a house servant.  It is what sets his whole story in motion and makes all that came after, possible.

Cecil’s story of being a butler to presidents runs parallel with that of the civil rights movement.  All of the key points in history are here and seen as they related to and touched Cecil Gains’ life.  The film chronicles history much in the same way Forrest Gump did, alongside the personal story of the lead character.

Here, one son, Charlie (Isaac White), goes off to the Vietnam War and the other son, Louis (David Oyelowo) becomes a Freedom Rider, works alongside Dr. King, and joins the Black Panther movement.  While his sons stories are playing out, his wife’s does as well.

Gloria is played remarkably by Winfrey.  Gloria has an edge to her as we see a very human woman come to life.  Alcohol, infidelity, loneliness, true love and the bittersweet joy of motherhood are all here in this character.

But it is Cecil’s commitment to being the best domestic servant he can be that sets his story apart.  And the grace and dignity Whitaker brings to Cecil makes this, for me, the role of Whitaker’s life.  Cecil stands by with loyalty and honor watching President after President making decisions that affect his life, his sons’ lives, and the lives of those he works with and loves.  Whitaker plays this perfectly.

The great challenge for Cecil was deciding what was right — was it life as he knew it (serving quietly, not bucking the system) or life as some thought it could be for African Americans (freedom and equality).  It was the same idea that presented a challenge for the screenwriters Danny Strong and Wil Haygood.  The screenplay struggles here and there — mostly with point of view, but Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) stays the course as director.  Despite a few minor flaws, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is a must see.


Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking.

SIDE NOTE:  And be sure you call it by its name: Lee Daniels’ The Butler.   Warner Bros. Pictures won the battle earlier this year preventing The Butler (this film’s original name) from being used.  Warner Bros. has rights to a silent film that’s more than 100 years old with the title The Butler.  So, The Weinstein Company added the directors name to the title for release.  -sc

Planes soars… kind of.

August 12th, 2013 at 10:37 am by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for PLANES!

planes posterjpgTake the incredibly popular film Cars, add some wings and you have Planes –  the latest animated offering from Walt Disney Studios.

Planes takes a crop dusting plane with a dream (named what else? but Dusty Cropduster voiced by Dane Cook) and gives him the chance to race around the world and prove himself.

It’s a chance to follow his dream.  A dream only he could think was possible… In face, the thought that a crop duster could NEVER attempt, let alone complete, this globe-trotting flight occurred to everyone in the Planes world EXCEPT DUSTY.

Once Dusty convinces the key people around him that this plan could fly, the movie starts to take off.  Those key people include: Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher), Chug (voiced by Brad Garrett), and Skipper (voiced by Stacy Keach).

The race around the world pits dusty against some of the top flying machines from all over the world.  And the rest of the cast reads like a celebrity who’s who.  Characters are voiced by Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Anthony Edwards, John Cleese, Cedric the entertainer, Gabriel Iglesias,  Brent Musburger, and Collin Cowherd.

And the streak stays alive: you just can’t have a Disney animated film without John Ratzenberger showing up.  He’s in there!

The color and animation of the film are, of course, spectacular. It’s on par with its predecessor CARS in that regard. But for All of its star power, Planes just can’t seem to stay in the air.  The story is a little flat, tired, and played.  And then there’s the humor — it falls short and comes across corny.

The kids in my screening seemed to enjoy it, but none were on the edge of their seats loving it.  I personally like to judge an animated film on a scale of “how many times could I actually stand having my kids play this over and over and over again on the DVD player.”

I’m giving this two times before I take off myself.


Rated PG for some mild action and rude humor.


Board this train!

July 29th, 2013 at 12:01 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Fruitvale Station.

Fruitvale Station is now playing in many theaters in Hampton Roads.

FRUITVALE-STATION-POSTERThis is based on a true story… And in case you don’t know the story of Oscar Grant and what happened at Fruitvale Station, here it is.

A group of friends are coming home to the Oakland area on the transit train from celebrating New Years in San Francisco when a fight breaks out and the train stops at the Fruitvale Station.  Eventually 22-year-old Oscar Grant is held face down on the platform and shot in the back by a transit cop at close range.  He died seven hours later and the shooting sparked outrage.

The entire incident was recorded by numerous cell phone video cameras that have now had millions and millions of views on YouTube.

But the film about what happened at Fruitvale Station is less about the shooting, riots, and outrage over the verdict and more of an attempt to tell you the story of Oscar — to give him a voice in the craziness, to help us see that for all of his faults, he was loved a great deal, he tried to do the right thing, and he loved his family– especially his daughter.

The film gives us Michael B Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights) as Oscar for the 24 hours leading up to the shooting.  We see him help people at the store where he’d lost his job, promise to help his sister with rent, love his girlfriend, adore his daughter and pull out all the stops for his mother’s birthday.

Academy Award-winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) plays Oscar’s mother and it’s his mom’s birthday that prompts a flashback.  Oscar served some time in jail, and his mother had to practice some tough love during one visit.

Fruitvale Station is the feature film writing and directorial debut for newcomer Ryan Coogler.   And his first time out of the gate, he scores Jury and Audience awards at Sundance for Fruitvale Station.

Kudos to Coogler who decided the film needed to show you the story of who Oscar Grant was… In all the faults, efforts, caring, challenges, history and love he had in his life.  Coogler knew it would be the shooting Grant would be remembered for, but the love he had for his family and they for him is really his legacy.  He wanted to show that.

Because cell phone video is what defined the shooting at Fruitvale, Coogler employs it in the film from beginning to end.  And it really adds to the tone and effect.  The facts of the shooting are right there on video, yet the jury saw it differently.  He shows us both versions.

Coogler starts the film with the actual cell phone video of the shooting, then rewinds to show us what lead up to it — including the film version of the shooting — shot on the actual Fruitvale Station platform as the jury saw it.  The film is important and relevant to today and speaks volumes without trying to.

Some scenes building to the shooting are cliched, but its the acting of them that keeps the film on track.  Michael B Jordan as Oscar Grant is understated and inviting to the viewer.  He makes us care about him and understand him, so much so that by the time we get to the shooting scene we, the audience, feel like our brother was just shot.  It was wrenching.

And speaking of wrenching…. Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mother is acting perfection in motion.  You see her go through it, trying to do the right things by her kids while so many challenges around them are fighting to take them from her.  She is starting to win the game when the shooting happens, and she stays positive, turning those around her away from anger to focus on Oscar.

Fruitvale Station is more than a statement on race relations in America, (which I don’t think it really set out to be, but is in some ways), it’s everything a beautifully made film does for me… It makes me see myself in the characters, makes me — a 40-something white woman — relate to, understand and sympathize with a 22-year-old black man who lived life seemingly a world away from mine but, in some ways, still are so alike.

Board this train… See this film.


Rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use.

Take me back to The Way, Way Back!

July 22nd, 2013 at 2:08 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for The Way, Way Back!

Now playing in select theaters in Hampton Roads.

The-Way-Way-Back-Movie-PosterThe Way, Way Back is loaded with great acting talent. It is the coming of age story of Duncan (Liam James, 2012) and his mother Pam (Toni Collette) spending the summer with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) at his beach house.

Duncan is struggling to find his way as a teenager post parents divorce. Lucky for Duncan he happens to run into Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a local water park.   Before long Duncan finds himself working at the park, building confidence, getting a nickname, and… there’s even a girl!

There are so many stars in this film including the fantastic Allison Janney as Trent’s next-door neighbor/divorcee/alcoholic/generally crazy woman, as well as Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet as a couple Trent has a long history with; I’ll just leave it at that.

Nat Faxon (FOX’s recently canceled Ben and Kate) plays Roddy –  And Jim Rash (NBC’s Community) plays Lewis.  Roddy and Lewis both work at the park.  I bring that up only because these two guys co-wrote and co-directed the movie (also known as Academy Award winners for best adapted screenplay, The Descendants).

The Way, Way Back is full of nostalgia despite being set in the present day.  It is smartly written — full of jokes that, at times, could seem hokey, but fit right into the nostalgia of it all.

Despite some of the story lines being relatively predictable, the overall film is fresh and enjoyable. The characters are believable, and they are people you want to remember.

If you are looking for a break from the summer blockbusters that are chock full of special effects, but devoid of any real story, if you’re looking for the total opposite: great story, characters and no explosions, this is a great choice.  The Way, Way Back is a must see for casual and discriminating movie-goers alike.

It’s mid-July, and this is easily one of my favorite two films of the year so far.


Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.

Movie Review: Pacific Rim

July 16th, 2013 at 1:24 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for Pacific Rim.

When monsters called Kaiju begin to come up from the sea destroying everything in their path, humankind must find a way to combat them.  After millions of lives lost (which we don’t get to see, only told about in the opening narration) we come up with giant robots (called Jaegers) operated by two humans simultaneously inside each one.

If there are any main characters (outside the Kaiju and the Jaegers) that would be one of the washd-up pilots- Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) — washed up after his brother and co-pilots tragic end; and his new co-pilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi). Leading them all is Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba)… And he is struggling trying to save the earth.

There is some comic relief from the good doctor trying to get inside the Kaiju brain to beat them– that’s Dr Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Horrible Bosses). The doc has to seek out the help of an underground dealer of Kaiju body parts named Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman).

Pacific Rim is the loudest, noise-filled film I have ever seen.  The people are shouting and the robots screeching and the Kaiju screaming.  Even the wind is loud.  The battle scenes are many and often reminiscent of the old school horror/scary monster movies – especially the Japanese monster movies. 

Directed by Benecio Del Toro, Pacific Rim weighs in heavy on battles, fights and destruction, but extremely light on character development.  Even though there are people in it, there wasn’t enough time spent developing them for me to end up caring at all about them.   But you can certainly tell Del Toro really loves this genre and he put a lot of effort into the monsters and the robots.  I wish he’d have balanced that with characters that we could get invested in as well.

The special effects (and almost all of the movie is a special effect) are – for the most part – spectacular.  And of course, I like to give you my take on 3D.  For me, not worth it.  It’s a dark movie made more so by the 3D.   If you’re going, I would skip paying for it. 


Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief language.

Despicable Me 2 far from despicable

July 8th, 2013 at 6:18 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

CLICK HERE to watch the trailer for Despicable Me 2!

Now playing in 2D and 3D in theaters across Hampton Roads.

despicable-me-2-posterSteve Carell and Russell Brand and a host of other celebrities are back as the voices in Despicable Me 2

When last we left them in the 2010 Blockbuster animated feature, Gru (Steve Carell) a notable bad guy had decided to go good.   Now we find Gru living the happy life with Elise Agnes and Margo. But Dr. Nafario (Russell Brand) isn’t so happy with a happy life. He really misses being evil. Meanwhile there is evil lurking out there and the agency needs Gru’s help to find the villain. He has to go to work in a mall and he has a partner — and that’s Lucy (Kristen Wiig).

Then there’s Gru’s minions who soon fall victim to the evil villain El Macho (Benjamin Bratt). That sets the stage for the climax of the film and the test of Gru’s goodness. Along the way we get a taste of Gru the father as Margo (Miranda Cosgrove) begins going out with a boy.

All the storylines are linked and they play so well together, which is such a relief! I mean my biggest concern about the possibility of a Despicable Me 2: how do you make a sequel about an evil villain who is no longer evil? Universal Pictures manages to do that and more providing an entertaining fun family animated film.  I laughed out loud on quite a few occasions!!! No small feat for me.

And quickly – you know I like to weigh in on 3-D… For this one, if your nine-year-old asks why it was in 3-D, its probably okay to not spend the money on the 3D. There were a couple of places where things shot out at you but for me the entertainment value does not equal the amount of money spent.  Aside from THAT, Despicable Me 2 is far from Despicable!  


Despicable Me 2 is Rated PG for rude humor and mild action.

Movie Review: The Lone Ranger

July 8th, 2013 at 6:15 pm by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

CLICK HERE to watch the official trailer for The Lone Ranger.

Now playing in theaters across Hampton Roads.

The-Lone-Ranger-Movie-PosterThis new incarnation of The Lone Ranger stars Armie Hammer as the masked one and Johnny Depp as his faithful sidekick Tonto.

We get the whole backstory here and then some!  We learn how Tonto and the Lone Ranger came to be partners and why he wears a mask and why Tonto was crazy, but we never find out why there are so many chase scenes, shoot outs, and explosions in the wild West in this film. Ugh.

There are a ton of  subplots and characters shoved into this film.  Gore Verbinski directed this and guess what else he directed?  Pirates of the Caribbean!  All of them.

Armie Hammer does an adequate job here, but for me Johnny Depp is just Jack Sparrow reincarnated with make up on speaking broken English to make us buy into him being an old Indian.  The Sparrow-ish dry wit and Depp-esque timing on the humor make it hard for us to forget he’s Johnny Depp.

This is a Disney film, and for the life of me, I just don’t get it. I expected to be much more entertained and feel something through the story. Plus there’s this weird mingling of ancient Tonto pretending to be a statue in a traveling sideshow who comes to life and tells the old story of the Lone Ranger and Tonto to a passing kid. This inner-cutting between old Tonto and young Tonto is really distracting and makes the movie a lot longer than it needs to be — like an hour longer than it needs to be!  Seems more like a ploy to make little kids interested in a film they probably wouldn’t otherwise be interested in.

If you’re askin’…skip this one Tonto!  I mean PRONTO.


Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense action and violence, and some suggestive material.


Dreamworks’ TURBO is coming! Get tickets to an advance screening!

July 8th, 2013 at 6:50 am by under The Hampton Roads Show, THRS Movie Reviews

Tidewater AAA has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox Pictures for a special screening here in Hampton Roads!  So how can you get your hands on passes!?  It’s easy!

Just CLICK HERE for all the details!