Movie and Music Reviews

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Dolphin Tale 2

By Amy - AV   |  January 23, 2015

Having thoroughly enjoyed Dolphin Tale (the true story of Winter, a rescued dolphin who receives a prosthetic tail), I was excited to watch her continuing story in Dolphin Tale 2, which starred the original cast members Nathan Gamble as Sawyer (the boy who bonded with Winter) and Harry Connick Jr. as Dr. Clay Haskett (who heads the rescue and rehab team at Clearwater Marina). In this adventure, we find the marina thriving as a tourist attraction and animal rehab facility with Winter as the main exhibit, but sadly when Winter loses her pool companion, she becomes depressed and refuses to interact with others or even wear her prosthetic tail. USDA regulations state that a dolphin must have a companion, which means she will be moved to another marina if one cannot be found for her, and this is very troubling to Sawyer, who is also facing personal issues of his own. While I found the sequel to be as enjoyable as the original with its wholesome, inspiring storyline, and lessons about determination after set-back and doing the right thing, the film spends a lot of time showing the minute details of the job of a marine biologist and I think this causes the movie to move a little slowly. The animal antics are really fun to watch though and I especially enjoyed the pelican named Rufus. Overall Rating: A-

Gone Girl

By Angie - AV   |  January 16, 2015

Based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl is a thriller centered around a seemingly perfect love between Nick and Amy Dunne (played by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) that turned hostile, toxic, and possibly murderous. On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy disappears from their home in Missouri, leaving behind a suspicious looking “crime scene” and enough bizarre clues to paint her husband Nick as the prime suspect in her disappearance and possible murder. Nick insists he is innocent, but as the days pass with no sign of Amy, information surfaces that Nick has been unfaithful and short-tempered in their marriage, adding to the appearance of his guilt. Just when you think you have it figured out, the plot takes another turn, adding to the suspense, and keeping you engaged all the way to the end. While I feel that the book provided more details about the story and the relationships between the characters than the movie did, the cast and the acting brought the story to life for me and had me hooked from the beginning. Overall Rating: A

The Equalizer

By Melinda - AV   |  January 9, 2015

Being a die-hard Denzel Washington fan, I was anticipating seeing him star in this 2014 film version of The Equalizer, which is a re-vamp of the T.V. series from the late 1980’s. The movie starts out a little slow showing McCall (Denzel Washington) as a mysterious man living a normal quiet life until he meets Teri, a teenage girl that is being mishandled by Russian gangsters, and he decides that he cannot sit by any longer. With his set of formidable skills, McCall’s desire for justice is awakened. I really enjoyed the movie for the action, but beware: there are quite a few violent, bloody, and gory parts in this film. Although I did like the movie, I can say there were also a few corny, predictable parts that they could have left out of an action-packed, thriller movie. I would recommend this to anyone who loves action-thriller films, and, even though it was not one of the best movies of Denzel Washington’s career, it still gets my thumbs up. Overall Rating: B+

The Maze Runner

By Darla - AV   |  January 2, 2015

Dylan O'Brien stars as Thomas, an amnesiac youth who awakens in a green valley surrounded by a band of boys. An impenetrable, menacing, immense, towering, maze encircles the youth who live in a dystopian society, a way of life that Thomas soon rebels against. The film, although based on a teen novel, appeals to all ages, due to its intriguing developments. The pace of the story and the audio effects were very good, while the special effects were okay. The Maze Runner’s closing needed an overhaul; however, the rest of the film was flawless. Overall Rating: B+

Cuban Fury

By Jill - AV   |  December 26, 2014

Cuban Fury is the story of Bruce Garrett, a mild-mannered engineer who was once a salsa-dancing child prodigy until a run-in with a group of bullies convinced him to burn his dancing shoes. When Bruce discovers the fact that his beautiful new boss, Julia, loves salsa dancing, he decides to slip on his dancing heels and sequined shirts once again in an effort to win her affections and defeat his slimy co-worker who has also set his sights on Julia. Some of the highlights of this film are the actors involved – Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, and Kayvan Novak are real standouts, while Rashida Jones, Ian McShane, and Olivia Colman are wonderful but sadly under-utilized. The dance sequences are flashy and fun and the dance-off between Bruce and his rival, played by O’Dowd, which takes place in the office parking garage is downright hilarious. This is a feel-good story about an overweight underdog who finds his “corazon” or heart, gets the girl, and sets the dance floor on fire in the process. Overall Rating: B

The Guardians of the Galaxy

By Allison - AV   |  December 19, 2014

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-

Anything Goes by Florida Georgia Line

By Angie - AV   |  December 5, 2014

With all of the hype surrounding the release of country duo Florida Georgia Line’s second album Anything Goes, I must admit that I was underwhelmed and disappointed after listening to it. There is only one song on the album that I like enough to listen to multiple times, and that is “Dirt”, which is already being played on country radio. Most of the other songs sounded very similar musically, and I had to fight the urge to skip tracks without hearing them all the way through because of the monotony. In my opinion they rely too much on lyrics that don’t make sense, as well as unnecessary clichés throughout (including the track titled “Angel” during which they actually sing the line “Did it hurt when you fell from the sky?”). It appears that with all of their recent success and popularity in the modern country music world, Florida Georgia Line may have been too rushed to release their next album, resulting in an overall boring and repetitive collection of songs that surely will not be as popular as their first album. Overall rating: D

Ping Pong Summer

By Darla - AV   |  November 21, 2014

It is 1985, hip hop and boom boxes are the rage, and 13 year old Radical Miracle (Marcello Conte) and his state trooper father, housewife mother, and goth sister are at their annual summer beach habitat in Ocean City, Maryland. When he is not awkwardly beatboxing or break dancing, Radical spends most of his time at the beach arcade with his new 13 year old friend, Teddy, playing ping pong. Conflict comes in the form of two local rich teens who make it their job to constantly bully Radical and Teddy. Radical finds time to impress a local beauty and navigate around an eccentric neighbor before settling a score with the local bullies through a ping pong challenge. Ping Pong Summer wonderfully captures the Ocean City beach scene, and the nostalgia of the period, but, besides a couple of surprises, the storyline is boring and predictable. Overall Rating: C

747 by Lady Antebellum

By Jill - AV   |  November 14, 2014

On 747, the fifth album by country group Lady Antebellum, the trio debuts a different sound with bigger arrangements and more electric guitar-driven songs than on their earlier albums. Overall the sound leans more toward the pop/adult contemporary vibe of some of the band’s biggest crossover hits (like "Need You Now" and "Downtown") with new singles like "Bartender", "Freestyle", and "Just a Girl". For me, the best tracks on the album are the ones that show off the tight harmonies between Hillary, Dave, and Charles including "Down South", "Long Stretch of Love", "Lie with Me", and the title track. Loyal fans will enjoy this album even if country purists complain about the lack of a more traditional country sound, but Lady A is by no means the only country act that is focusing more on crossover hits these days. The band is clearly stretching its wings and experimenting with new ideas on this album, and I think it will be a successful new direction for them. Grade B+ The deluxe edition of this CD, including three extra songs, is also available on Hoopla, the library’s online streaming service for music, audiobooks, and movies.

Chef

By Allison - AV   |  November 7, 2014

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+

Secrets of the Dead: The Mona Lisa Mystery

By Angie - AV   |  October 24, 2014

In this interesting PBS documentary, a group of experts theorize about the mystery behind Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and whether or not he actually painted his most famous work twice. In the early 1900’s, a second portrait surfaced – the so-called “Isleworth Mona Lisa” – that was strikingly similar to the Mona Lisa which hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Scientists and historians were able to use modern techniques to analyze both works of art in an attempt to determine if they were both created by da Vinci himself or if perhaps the Isleworth painting is nothing more than an excellent forgery. The narrative in this documentary goes back and forth, examining all theories, and by the end many questions are still left up to each individual’s own interpretation. While I learned a great deal from this film regarding the overall history of the famous painting, for me the mystery behind it all still remains a total mystery – but that just adds to the iconic charm of Mona Lisa herself. Overall rating: B+

Bee People

By Darla - AV   |  October 10, 2014

Bee People: Get Stung is a documentary from director David Knappe that shadows the daily exploits of American rural and urban beekeepers. The Bee Guru, Bee Angel, Bee Medic, Bee Cop and others give attitude and flair when they interact with other beekeepers, whether they retrieve swarms from a barn or extract honey from a city backyard hive. Hilarious, educational, short film clips quiz people on the street to test their bee knowledge. Yes, beekeepers get stung in this film, just as I have, when I visit my own hive. This is one of the best films I’ve seen on beekeeping; the actors entertain, and teach their craft expertly. Overall Raing: A+

True Detective - TV Series

By Jill - AV   |  October 3, 2014

True Detective is the story of the partnership of two Louisiana State detectives named Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. The story ranges between 1995, when the newly partnered detectives begin to investigate a ritualistic and gruesome murder, and 2012 when the two are being questioned separately by two officers who are investigating a new crime with ties to the old case. Together the writer and director of this HBO series create a haunting story shot in a surrealistic Louisiana landscape with a leisurely pace that examines not only the crimes in question but the evolving relationship between the two main characters. The show won several Emmy awards, and I cannot express how perfect the casting, directing, and cinematography are in this series. My one complaint is the fact that, as in most HBO and pay-cable series, there is too much use of gratuitous female nudity and a lack of strong female characters to balance the two male leads. Overall Rating: B+

The Fault in Our Stars

By Allison - AV   |  September 26, 2014

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-

Godzilla

By Kevin - AV   |  September 19, 2014

The newest offering for the long running Godzilla movie series stars Aaron Taylor Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston. The movie certainly has spectacular special effects, and I like the way the creators made Godzilla both menacing and powerful and yet almost endearing in their nod to the original rotund monster. This rendition of Godzilla also resurrects some of the earlier films' portrayals of Godzilla as hero and protector of humanity as it battles against impressive creatures who threaten to destroy civilization. The overall acting is fine, but time after time the absurd coincidences in which characters happen to be in the right place at the right time make believing in the enormous creatures seem easy. Still, it is great to see the iconic monster hit the big screen once again, and if you like great action and superb special effects, you may enjoy this movie. Overall Rating: B-

Blended

By Angie - AV   |  September 12, 2014

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore reunite in this romantic comedy to play single parents Jim and Lauren who meet on a terrible blind date. Although they have no intentions of seeing each other again, they manage (by total coincidence) to end up at the same African safari resort for a spring break vacation with their kids. Their families are forced to interact during activities at the resort – some hilarious, and others kind of heart-warming – which of course leads Jim and Lauren to fall in love and their kids to get along like a real “blended” family. Like most Adam Sandler movies that I’ve seen, this film has its quirky and corny moments throughout, but the on-screen chemistry between Sandler and Barrymore is unmistakable, and almost magical. If you enjoyed their previous movie together (“50 First Dates”) like I did, then I believe you will be entertained by this film as well. Overall rating B+

Elementary - The Second Season

By Kelly - AV   |  September 5, 2014

Robert Doherty, also known for other television shows such as Medium (2005), Tru Calling (2003), and Star Trek: Voyager (1995), presents a compelling modern re-imagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved, iconic Victorian characters, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, in the CBS series Elementary. Set in present day New York City, Sherlock, played by the brilliant and multifaceted Jonny Lee Miller, is portrayed as a recovering drug addict, while the classic character of “John Watson” has been changed to Joan Watson, played by the ever charismatic Lucy Liu. Joan, who was once a surgeon, is now Sherlock’s sober companion and eventually develops into Holmes’ deductive protégée. Season two of Elementary follows in the footsteps of season one with a solid, intriguing, season-long story arc, interspersed with the typical police procedural, deductive, “who done it” episodes. Though it is a different take on Doyle’s classic, Victorian Holmes, Doherty’s Elementary is a successful and fresh reinterpretation. Overall Rating: A-

Mystery of the Fallen Giants

By Darla - AV   |  August 29, 2014

Mystery of the Fallen Giants is a National Geographic documentary, investigating the sudden death of five Asian elephants found in a dry riverbed in rural India. The first officials on the scene, the forest department, ruled out poaching and attributed the deaths to a lightning strike. Others suspected that the pachyderms were poisoned by villagers retaliating for crops damaged by elephants; if poisoning was the cause of death, a criminal investigation would criticize the forest department for not protecting the endangered species. The forest department, a forensic pathologist, a chief elephant warden, a professor of lightning, and a world wildlife fund member speculated on the cause of the lost lives. The investigation into the mysterious deaths was methodical and informative; answers unfolded gradually in interesting ways. Overall Rating: B

Only Lovers Left Alive

By Jill - AV   |  August 22, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive is the newest film from director Jim Jarmusch starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as a vampire couple named Adam and Eve that has spent centuries together. Not a lot happens in this movie: Adam creates moody rock music on his antique guitars while Eve speed reads in multiple languages and the couple goes for long moonlight drives while discussing scientific theories and the damage that humans aka “zombies” have done to the planet. A brief visit from Eve’s bratty younger sister, Ava, forces the couple to take some action, but for the most part this film is a languorous look at a long-term relationship between two beautiful creatures. This film may favor style over substance, but that style is beautifully atmospheric and brilliantly acted. Overall Rating: B

The Other Woman

By Allison - AV   |  August 15, 2014

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

Le Week-End

By Kevin - AV   |  August 8, 2014

A British couple, Meg and Nick, (played by the wonderful Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent) return to Paris in an attempt to reinvigorate their struggling marriage. At times raw, vulnerable, scathing, funny and touching, Le Week-End is a wonderful example of intelligent and poignant screen writing at its finest. This character driven plot shines with strong performances by both leading actors and is further enhanced by the supporting role of Jeff Golblum. Long term relationships are rarely black and white and this film brings out both the love and fondness felt between the couple as well as the pain and alienation that each have inflicted upon the other. View this movie and find out if their relationship revitalizes or implodes as well as how they deal with life and with each other. Overall Rating: B+

Divergent: Divergent Trilogy, Book 1 (Audiobook)

By Darla - AV   |  August 1, 2014

Divergent: Divergent Trilogy, Book 1, written by Veronica Roth, narrated by Emma Galvin In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, people were categorized into five factions, each based on a personality trait; Abnegation upheld selflessness, Candor followed honesty, Dauntless practiced bravery, Eurodite exalted intelligence and Amnity practiced peace. Beatrice was tested to see which faction she had a strong aptitude for, and had unusual test results; therefore, she was labeled Divergent, and warned to tell no one. Sixteen-year-olds had to select either their family’s faction or another faction; accordingly, Beatrice left Abnegation for Dauntless, renamed herself Tris, and met Four, her mysterious Dauntless trainer. Beatrice adapted to her new faction, navigated a romantic interest, but found out that her society was deeply flawed, so she acted to save her family and friends. I recommend this young adult, fast paced, entertaining, and lively narrated thriller, full of plot twists, to science fiction lovers of all ages. Overall Rating: A

Endeavour

By Jill - AV   |  July 25, 2014

Inspector Endeavour Morse, based on the character in Colin Dexter’s mystery book series, was played for many years by John Thaw in the popular British series, Inspector Morse. Now the character is reimagined as a brash young Constable Morse played by Shaun Evans in the new series, Endeavour. In the opening scene of the pilot, set in 1965, Constable Morse is writing his letter of resignation when he is called in with other officers to investigate a missing persons case in the city of Oxford, where he was once a student at the university. Many of Morse’s memorable character traits are already present in the young man- he is almost always the smartest man in the room, which does not endear him to his fellow officers, and his love of crossword puzzles and opera music also play a part in his investigations. This series is smartly plotted and well-acted and even those who were not fans of the original series will find themselves hooked, while fans of the original Inspector Morse will enjoy seeing the young man solve his first case, drink his first ale, and sit in his first Jaguar. Grade: A-

Non-Stop

By Allison - AV   |  July 18, 2014

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+

Run & Jump

By Kevin - AV   |  July 11, 2014

Run & Jump stars Will Fort as Ted, an American doctor who travels to Ireland to study the Casey family after the husband, Conor (Edward MacLiam), suffers a stroke, which changes his personality and leaves his wife, Vanetia (Maxine Peake), to hold things together. While this plotline may sound bleak and depressing, the film is actually a beautiful and heartwarming story. At first, Vanetia find's Ted's presence and continual filming to be annoying and stifling but as time progresses, Ted and the family members find themselves influencing each other in positive and powerful ways. It is a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit and the bond of love and support that can develop within us all. At once poignant, funny and thought-provoking, I highly recommend this film. Overall Rating: A-

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Neighbors from Hell: The Play

By Darla - AV   |  July 3, 2014

The play revolves around a foster parent and her three unruly foster children who move into Madea’s small blue collar Georgia neighborhood. The elderly, nosy Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and the irrepressible Madea (Tyler Perry) use their wits and wisdom to bring structure back to the neighborhood. Serious social issues occur with the characters, but the mood is lightened through inspirational singing and comic relief. The stage set is beautiful, and the singing outstanding. I enjoyed the film and recommend it, for viewing and discussion. Overall Rating: B+

Call the Midwife

By Lorna - AV   |  June 13, 2014

Call the Midwife is an award winning BBC drama based on the best selling memoirs of former nurse, Jennifer Worth, that is set in 1950's poverty-ridden East London. Call the Midwife portrays the triumphs and struggles of the midwives and nuns at the nursing convent Nonnatus house as well as the working class people they serve. This season was disappointingly slow despite the writers best efforts - a polio outbreak, ex- nun wedding jitters, a royal visit, and an angry father who threatens to get rid of a baby that is very noticeably not his. As you can read, there was a lot of drama going on and yet it was incredibly boring; the only redeeming qualities being one medical mystery solved and seeing childbirth practice advancements. The first two seasons are excellent and addicting so despite this dud, I highly recommend you hop on another British bandwagon! Overall Rating: B-

Vampire Academy

By Jill - AV   |  June 6, 2014

The Vampire Academy series of novels by Richelle Mead concerns the adventures of two teenagers, Rose and Lissa, who share a psychic bond following their involvement in a near-fatal car crash. Lissa is a princess of the moroi (royal, magic-wielding vampires) and Rose is her dhampir protector (a half-human, half-moroi) who lives to protect her friend. This movie covers the first novel in the series and, frankly, it's a mess. There is too much world-building in the novels to be delivered in a two hour film, even when the snarky dialogue and lengthy exposition are delivered at breakneck speed. If you are longing for a mash-up of the Harry Potter series and Twilight that emphasizes lame special effects and the perils of a high school full of blood-sucking mean girls, this movie is for you. My advice is, stick to the books. Overall Rating: C-

Pompeii

By Allison - AV   |  May 30, 2014

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-

Her

By Kevin - AV   |  May 23, 2014

In the Academy Award Best Picture nominated movie, Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely and sensitive writer who develops a deep relationship with an operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This movie explores the nature of love: what it means to love, how we love, who and what we love, and how we face the loss of love. Phoenix does a brilliant job portraying subtle emotions, vulnerability and human heartache. Scarlett Johansson delivers a strong voice performance, enabling us to accept her as an evolving consciousness rather than a mere software program. This movie was beautifully filmed, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I look forward to viewing it again. Overall Rating: A-

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