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Movie and Music Reviews

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-

Soul Food Junkies

By Darla - AV   |  May 16, 2014

Soul Food Junkies is a documentary film that discusses how the traditional (but delicious) Southern United States/African-American diet is unhealthy, and how to improve that diet through altered cooking methods and food choices. The difficulties and pressures people experience when they try to give up traditional, greasy, salty comfort food for a healthy diet is tactfully revealed. Traditional, heart-healthy, and vegetarian cooks share their methods of preparing soul food, which enhances the film. I liked Soul Food Junkies’ message that improving one’s diet is not easy, but is necessary to improve one’s health. I recommend this film to all, because the methods of healthy cooking are universal. Overall Rating: B

Austenland

By Lorna - AV   |  May 9, 2014

Austenland is a vacation resort where customers are transported to nineteenth century Britain to live out their Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice fantasies. Having purchased the cheapest package, Jane's fantasy character is an "orphan with no wealth" and is treated as such until she decides to change her story. She's caught between two men as fantasy and reality seem to blur. This is a very cute romantic comedy with a slow start (great for girls night in). The cast is great: Keri Russell (Jane), Jane Seymour, Jennifer Coolidge, and good looking British men! Watch the end credits for a cheeky musical number. Enjoy! Overall Rating: B+

Orphan Black

By Jill - AV   |  May 2, 2014

In the opening scene of Orphan Black, the main character, Sarah, watches in shock as a woman who could be her twin calmly sets down her coat, purse and shoes before walking into the path of an oncoming train. Sarah attempts to cash in by taking the woman's purse and identity and quickly falls down the rabbit hole into the world of human cloning as the series explores the themes of sisterhood, nature versus nurture, individuality, scientific experimentation and religious extremism. The Clone Club consists of nine members (so far) all played by the incredible Tatiana Maslany as distinctly different women ranging from an uptight soccer mom, to a homicide detective, to a geeky scientist, to a psychotic killer. Each week this action-packed series takes the viewer on a thrilling ride as Sarah tries to answer the following questions: who created the clones, who is killing them off one by one and who can she trust to help her? The second season of Orphan Black airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. on BBC America. Welcome to the trip. Overall Rating: A

Philomena

By Allison - AV   |  April 25, 2014

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-

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

By Kevin - AV   |  April 18, 2014

In this film, based very roughly on James Thurber’s short story, notorious daydreamer Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller in one of his best roles) plays the Negative Asset Manager for Life Magazine. When Mitty cannot find the negative of famous photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) that is intended to be the cover image for last print version of Life magazine, Mitty must unravel the clues leading to the whereabouts of O’Connell. At times the plotline is both absurd and predictable and yet it is also exhilarating and heartwarming. Along with Walter Mitty, we ask ourselves whether we will settle for mere daydreaming or allow our dreams to propel us to live life to the full. Offering both spectacular scenery and a great soundtrack including songs from David Bowie, Arcade Fire and Of Men and Monsters, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a journey worth taking. Overall Rating: B+

Hannibal

By Darla - AV   |  April 11, 2014

Hannibal stars Mads Mikkelsen as metrosexual psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter, who successfully hides his true identity as a cannibal in one of the best new television shows. In this chilling, psychological thriller, a rash of killings has the FBI calling Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a profiler with a tortured soul, to hunt for a serial killer. A bromance between Hannibal and Will Graham occurs in this cat and mouse thriller. The charismatic Hannibal channels Julia Child and Barnabas Collins, when he entertains his guests with meticulously prepared gourmet meals. The outstanding cinematography complements the dark storyline, especially Will’s uncanny methods of uncovering evidence. Overall Rating: A

Saving Mr. Banks

By Lorna - AV   |  April 4, 2014

I wanted so much to love this film since it has a great cast, but after 10 minutes, I wanted so much more to just turn it off (but I had a review to write). The basic plot is that Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) needs to buy the rights for Mary Poppins from author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) in order to fulfill a 20-year-old promise to his daughters to make the beloved book into a movie. Walt Disney is determined to endure P.L Travers' tantrums in order to obtain the rights while P.L Travers is just as determined to be rude and difficult in an effort to make Disney fold and thus keep the rights even though she needs the money. A trip to Disneyland saves the day (of course) and marks the beginning of the end of P.L Travers opposition to Disney’s “sugary” ideas. Bottom line: Don’t waste your time unless you like propaganda that makes you hate P.L Travers and leaves you annoyed with Walt Disney. Overall Rating: D -

Inside Llewyn Davis

By Jill - AV   |  March 28, 2014

The newest movie from the Coen brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, depicts the life of a struggling folk singer on the streets of Greenwich Village in the winter of 1961. Llewyn Davis, played by the multi-talented Oscar Isaac, spends a week looking for a gig, a couch to crash on and his friend's orange tomcat with varying degrees of success. The movie brilliantly depicts a place and a time before Bob Dylan – who is briefly glimpsed near the end – and other artists who turned folk music into a commercially successful art form in America. The outstanding supporting cast includes Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and John Goodman as just a few of the people Llewyn manages to alienate in his quest to remain true to his artistic principles. One of his friends refers to Llewyn as “King Midas' idiot brother” because everything Llewyn touches turns to excrement instead of gold. The film itself follows the form of a folk song: the viewer experiences various “verses” and a repeated “chorus” scene at the beginning and end of the film, but when the chorus comes around the second time, the audience has gotten to know the character well enough to understand how the extremely talented Llewyn has brought this trouble down on his own head. Overall Rating: A-

The Book Thief

By Allison - AV   |  March 21, 2014

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

About Time

By Kevin - AV   |  March 14, 2014

After turning 21, Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson) is told by his Dad (played by the ever brilliant Bill Nighy) that the men of the family have always been able to travel back in time. Tim first decides to use this unlikely ability to find a girlfriend. Such a romantic science-fiction plot could go wrong so easily, spiraling into cheesy antics and worn-out clichés. Instead, the filmmakers take us on a thoughtful, touching odyssey where we find ourselves connecting with the characters and are rewarded not only with such themes as the magic of romance but also the connection between fathers and sons and even a few lessons on the art of happy living. This film was a delight and one that I will enjoy watching again. Overall Rating: B+

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