Allison - AV

Allison's Blogs

Non-Stop

Part action, part thriller, Non-Stop follows the story of a hijacked flight from New York to London and the US Air Marshall (Liam Neeson) who is believed to be the plane’s hijacker. Throughout the film, I kept trying to piece together the true story of the hijacking and who was really behind it, but the storyline kept me guessing until the very end. The only portion of the film that I did not like in general was the director’s use of on-screen text messages between the mysterious hijacker and Neeson. Though the texts allowed the viewer to see the words as they were typed and read, I had to pay very close attention to ensure that I didn’t miss one. Overall, it was an engaging film, and one that I would recommend to others.Overall Rating: B+
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Pompeii

I was really excited to see Pompeii – mainly because I’ve had a mild obsession with Pompeii, Italy for most of my life – and I will say that I was a little disappointed in the film’s focus. Instead of focusing on a citizen of Pompeii, the movie focuses on Milo, a Celtic slave forced to fight in the gladiator arena, and his life as it pertains to the Pompeian woman he loves, Cassia. Despite his origins, Milo’s character is charming enough to make you want to root for him – and Cassia – for the entirety of the film, even as the city of Pompeii begins to crumble around them. The film’s special effects were spectacular, and the eruption of the volcano was all that it should have been. However, I did find the movie’s reference to the plaster casts of Pompeii’s citizens vague, at best, as their presence in the film was largely unexplained. All-in-all, I think that Pompeii would appeal to a range of viewers thanks to the presence of a love story intertwined with gladiator fights, the subplot of unlikely friendship, and, of course, an erupting volcano.Overall Rating: B-
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Philomena

This Academy Nominated film follows the heartbreaking story of Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), an Irish woman whose father abandoned her at an abbey due to his shame over her teenage pregnancy, and her quest to locate her son, Anthony, who was taken away from her as a toddler. This quest truly begins fifty years after Anthony’s birth when Philomena enlists the help of Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a recently disgraced political journalist, to help her find him. At times, the connections made by Sixsmith during the search are difficult to follow, and some of the characters felt shallow – their actions are left unexplained. In addition, a mild and fairly unobtrusive religious debate between Philomena and Martin weaves its way through the narrative, examining how religious belief – or lack thereof – leads individuals to act as they do. Overall, the film was enjoyable, and the message of love and forgiveness was heartwarming, but I would have liked to have had a little more detail in almost all areas the entire way through.Overall Rating: B-
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The Book Thief

Having never read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, I really had no expectations when I sat down to watch Brian Percival’s movie version, and I must say that I was absolutely blown away. From the very beginning of the film, the beautiful scenery and detailed costumes helped set the stage for the heart-warming story of Liesel Meminger, a child adopted by Hans and Rose Hubermann in a small German town during World War II. As the film follows Liesel’s story, each character that emerges – from the neighbor boy (Rudy) to the Jew (Max) who comes to hide in the basement to the Burgermeister’s wife (Ilsa)who lets Liesel read her books – is well developed, and I harbored a small love for each and every one. Despite the movie’s serious setting, there were moments of humor sprinkled throughout and, though I had tears in my eyes during at least one portion of the film, I didn’t feel emotionally drained by the end. Overall, The Book Thief certainly ranks as one of the best films I have seen recently, and I may even have to go out and buy it, something I don’t say very often.Overall Rating: A
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The Other Woman

The Other Woman, starring Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton, follows the story of three women who all find that they are dating or married to the same man, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. Although the women had three distinct personalities, which allowed for some humorous antics, I felt that the movie was fairly predictable and had a weak storyline. During two separate occasions, I also felt that the film was trying so hard to be funny that it crossed the line between funny and obnoxious, something that does not appeal to me. Overall, I think the acting was decent, and the movie did make the hour and a half I used to watch it pass by quickly. However, I don’t ever need to watch it again, and I am glad that I didn’t spend money to see it in the theater.Overall Rating: C
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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars – based on the young adult novel of the same name – focuses on two teenagers named Hazel (Shailene Woodley) and Augustus (Ansel Elgort) who form a relationship after meeting in a cancer support group. Throughout the movie, Hazel is very frank about her diagnosis and doesn’t revert to the woe-is-me view point, which is refreshing for a film with such a solemn topic. The acting is superb and the storyline stays (mostly) true to the book itself. My only true complaint is that, at several points, text bubbles representing text messages appear on the screen, and they are written in a font that was difficult for me to read. Overall, it was a great film and one that I may have to go out and purchase. Overall Rating: A-
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Chef

Being a lover of all things food, I thought that the feature film Chef would be right up my alley, and I was absolutely right. In Chef, Carl Casper, played by Jon Favreau (who also wrote and produced the film), loses his job in a restaurant and tries to turn his life around by buying a food truck. As the film progresses, it is easy to relate to the various characters as they react to the storyline with realistic emotions: anger, hurt, despair, disappointment, loyalty and hope, among others. In addition, the film includes several valuable lessons for today’s world, such as the importance of using social media responsibly and appreciating those things that are so easily taken for granted, such as family and good friends. In the end, the film wraps up extremely neat and tidy – almost to the point of being outside believability – but because of all the other wonderful features of the film, it is one that I fully recommend.Overall Rating: B+
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The Guardians of the Galaxy

When I sat down to watch The Guardians of the Galaxy, I had high expectations for the film considering all of the great reviews I had heard, but I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with my level of enjoyment. The movie did have some humorous parts, I admit, and there were a few moments that were especially touching, but I never got as engaged in the storyline as I hoped I would, possibly because I wasn’t familiar with any of the Marvel characters in the film or because I typically don’t watch science fiction. However, I did appreciate the repeated theme of what true friendship is and means. One of my very favorite parts of the film, though, was the inclusion of music in the actual storyline: Unlike many films that use their soundtracks as merely background music, Guardians of the Galaxy allows its soundtrack (“Awesome Mix Vol. 1”) to weave in and out of the storyline, adding another layer of interest to the film, especially for those who enjoy music from the 1960s and 70s. In the end, I will probably watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2 when it is released in 2017, but I’m not sure if I will need a repeat of Guardians until that time.Overall Rating: B-
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Spare Parts (2015)

Based on a true story, Spare Parts describes the journey of four undocumented Mexican boys who, with the help of their substitute teacher (George Lopez), enter an underwater robotics competition. Despite overwhelming odds and an underwhelming budget, Oscar, Christian, Lorenzo, Luis, and “Stinky” (the robot) defeat the reigning champion MIT in this remarkable underdog story. Throughout the film, the boys are faced with numerous hardships, including the difficulties of attending a poverty-stricken high school, being part of families faced with the danger of deportation, and the issues that come from not having an American birth certificate. However, the film also highlights the themes of hope, teamwork, and the importance of doing your best, even if the odds are against you. Overall, Spare Parts was an exceptional, family-friendly film that I would recommend to viewers of all ages. (Also available at the library is Underwater Dreams, a documentary directed by Mary Mazzio that tells the real story of these boys who accomplish what no one thought was possible.) Overall Rating: A
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Get Hard

I thought that Get Hard, a prison comedy starring Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell, looked like a funny movie, but all of my good humor was lost very early in the film. From the onset, I didn’t appreciate the sex, stereotyping, and various racist and homophobic remarks that the film seemed to showcase and, because the storyline was predictable, I found myself losing interest as the movie progressed. Throughout the film, Hart and Ferrell tried too hard to be funny, and I was disappointed to note that many of the funniest parts were shown in the two official trailers. In an effort to find a redeeming feature of the film, I searched the internet for someone with a higher opinion of Get Hard, but, somewhat unsurprisingly, I was unable to find anyone with a positive opinion of the movie’s content. All-in-all, I’m sure there is an audience for this film, but I’m glad I didn’t waste my money to see it in theaters. Overall Rating: D
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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Before sitting down to watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, featuring Kevin James in the lead role, a friend said to me, “Hopefully, this is a good, old-fashioned, funny movie.” When the same friend leaned over later and whispered “Only 15 more minutes left!”, I realized I wasn’t the only person who felt a little let down by the film. Throughout the movie, James’ character could only be described as “over the top”. Every action and interaction was exaggerated to be funny, which actually made it less funny and more annoying. The storyline was too coincidental for my tastes (What are the chances that art thieves would be at the same casino at the same time as a Security Officers convention?) and there were enough gaps and inconsistencies to make me wonder how much the producers were really paying attention as the film came together. However, in spite of it all, the film did have underlying themes of loyalty and the importance of family, and the thoroughly PG humor would probably appeal to pre-teens. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 isn’t necessarily a movie I would recommend, but it might be a good choice for a family pizza night. Overall Rating: C-
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What We Do In The Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows is a fictional documentary that gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of Vlad, Viago, Deacon, Nick, and Petyr, five vampires living in the same flat in New Zealand. Despite the fact that they are creatures of the night, the quintet of vampires is surprisingly easy to relate to: They fight over chores, fret over what to wear, and enjoy visiting nightclubs. These common experiences become humorous, however, as the vampires explain how hard it is to get blood stains out of the couch cushions, to plan outfits without a reflection, and to attend parties when they can’t enter a building unless they are invited in first. The humor continues throughout the film, and I found both my husband and myself laughing out loud at various parts. Although none of the actors have many lead roles under their belts, each portrayed his assigned character wonderfully, and, I admit, I was a bit saddened when one of them met his demise. Even though it is more of a comedy than a horror flick, What We Do in the Shadows is perfect for the Halloween season. Overall Rating: A-
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Ricki and the Flash

Ricki and the Flash is the story of Linda “Ricki” Brummel (Meryl Streep), a woman who walked out on her family to follow her dream of being a rock star. Shortly into the movie, Ricki receives a phone call from her ex-husband, Pete, telling her that their daughter, Julie, is going through a breakdown and needs Ricki’s comfort. The story that follows is one of anger, frustration, and ultimately love as Ricki tries to make things right with her family. The movie itself was a bit hard to get into at the beginning and, if it had featured spontaneous dance numbers, contained enough music and singing to be considered a musical. However, Streep’s portrayal of Ricki was perfect from her mannerisms to her voice to her hair. In addition, Streep’s real-life daughter (Mamie Gummer) played her on screen daughter, and Rick Springfield (famous for the #1 single “Jessie’s Girl) was the guitarist in Ricki’s band for an added touch of realism. Overall, the movie was enjoyable, but nothing I would need to watch again. Overall Rating: C
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The Intern

The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, follows the story of Ben Whittaker (De Niro) as he takes a Senior [Citizen] Intern position at Jules Ostin's (Hathaway) online fashion company. Ostin initially shuns Whittaker, but eventually warms to his presence in her life. Throughout, the film follows two individual story lines. The first of these is Whittaker's struggle to find relevance in the fast paced world of ecommerce. The second storyline focuses on Ostin's decision of whether or not to hire an experienced CEO to run her quickly growing company. Though both of these threads focus on serious topics faced by individuals in today's high-tech world, the movie was lightened by the humor that was woven throughout. In addition, De Niro and Hathaway portrayed their characters excellently and the (eventual) comradery between them was endearing. Overall, The Intern is a heartwarming film that reminds viewers that a person is never too old (or too young) to follow their dream or make a difference. Overall Rating: A
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Victor Frankenstein

Having an English degree as part of my background, I was interested to see what James McAvoy (Victor Frankenstein) and Daniel Radcliffe (Igor) could add to the classic Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley story of “Frankenstein”. Despite the film’s title, the movie’s main character is actually Igor, Frankenstein’s assistant whom he saved from a life in the circus. Igor is utterly devoted to Frankenstein for being his personal savior, so much so, that, despite his own beliefs, he fails to stand up against Victor Frankenstein’s manic obsession with the creation of artificial life until the very end of the film. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with the movie: The storyline felt muddy, Igor’s transformation from hunchback to upright man seemed too easy, and I never felt a strong desire to get to the film’s end and see its outcome (although, those familiar with the story of Frankenstein’s monster already know the story’s culmination). Not what I would call a true “horror” film, “Victor Frankenstein” does its job in shedding light on how a man could become crazed enough to create a horrific version of artificial life, but I certainly don’t feel as though I need to ever watch it again. Overall Rating: C
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The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave, based on the novel of the same name by Ricky Yancey, is one of the newest book-to-film movies out on DVD. As the film opens, the Earth has already been attacked by aliens four separate times, and mankind is preparing for the 5th wave that experts believe is coming. The previous waves (darkness, destruction, infection, and invasion) have killed the majority of Earth’s inhabitants, and the next wave is expected to lead to human extinction. Cassie Sullivan – played by Chloe Grace Mortez – has survived the first four waves and sets out to locate her little brother, Ben, who has been separated from her. The film creates enough suspense that I was on the edge of my seat several times while watching, but some of the plot points seemed cliché, and I saw a few twists in the storyline coming before they happened. One portion of the plot that I did particularly enjoy, however, was the fact that the film was set in Ohio between the Cuyahoga Valley (near Lake Erie) and Wright Patterson Air Force Base (near Dayton). Although not the most thought provoking movie I’ve seen recently, I enjoyed it throughout and would recommend it for families with teens and tweens. Overall Rating: B-
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