Monthly Archives: July 2014

Begin Again

Movie:  Begin Again

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Dan (Mark Ruffalo) used to be a pretty big deal in the music business.  He founded a record label, discovered Cee Lo Green, and was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  But now he spends his time swilling booze when he has the money (pawned his Grammy), he’s barely connected to his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) and teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), and is mostly gone from the music world.  Then while nursing his glass of whiskey in a small nightclub on open mike night, he hears Greta (Kiera Knightly) sing her song.

Through his booze infused fog, Dan is sure he has finally discovered a great new talent and does his best to become her producer.  But Greta isn’t interested in becoming a singer; she is a songwriter, and is the girlfriend of Dave (Adam Levine), who is about to become The Next Big Thing in show business.  But things have a way of changing, and soon Dan and Greta are discussing her songs.  And they set out on a brave new adventure in making a record album.

Adam Levine sings great in this movie; passable as an actor.  Keira Knightly can carry a tune, but she’s no threat as a real singer.  Some interesting cameos from Mos Def and Cee Lo Green.  This is a low budget feel good movie that is worth seeing in between the blockbusters that dominate the summer season.  Any movie where you get to listen to Dooley Wilson sing “As Time Goes By” is worth the ticket price.

Actress To Watch:  As always, Hailee Steinfeld is magic when she is in a scene.






Jersey Boys

Movie:  Jersey Boys

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young) was a young guy in 1950s Jersey with a good voice.  He palled around with Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (Michael Lomeda) and Nick DeVito (Johnny Cannizzavo), three young men who spent as much time committing penny ante crimes as they did making a few bucks playing as a group in local clubs.  Frankie, unlike his buddies, avoided doing jail time because of the protection from local crime boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken).

The musical group, The four Lovers, was going nowhere fast.  They decided a name change was in order, but couldn’t decide what it should be.  While they argued about it, a bowling alley sign flickered to life:  The Four Seasons.  And they had their name.  Things really went their way when a young Joe Pesci (future actor) introduced wannabe songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) to the group.  Once Bob’s song Sherry got air time, The Four Seasons were off on a rocket to concert dates and Ed Sullivan TV appearances.

You would think that with major success the lives of these young men would have been golden.  But there was the family issues of life on the road, jealousy and personality conflicts, and one member of the group that was responsible for such major D-baggery that it basically tore the group apart.

It was interesting to see how some of the hit songs came about.  For instance, hanging around in a hotel room the guys were watching a Kirk Douglas movie, Ace In The Hole, on TV, and in one scene Kirk slaps the female star.  One of the guys said, “Oh, she’s going to cry”.  Another of the group disagreed, and said, “Nah, big girls don’t cry”.  Immediately, we see The Four Season on stage belting out, “BIG GIRLS DON’T CRY!”.

Clint Eastwood is a master director and storyteller, and he got everything he could out of the material.  Three of the Four Seasons actors are veterans of the Jersey Boys stage productions, including Tony award winner John Lloyd Young.  All of the singing was done by the actors live during the movie scenes, and it was first rate.  At the very end of the movie, viewers are treated to an all cast ensemble version of one of The Four Seasons biggest hits, one that was not previously included in the movie.  An encore production just like you would get in a big time Broadway production!

Actor To Watch:  Christopher Walken is an old pro.  It is always a pleasure to see him on the screen.  Lead actor John Lloyd Young might get some consideration for acting awards at the end of the year.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Frankie – “I’m going to be as big as Frank Sinatra!”  Girlfriend –  “Yeah, if you stand on a chair!”

“I know that deep, deep, very, very, very deep down, you’re a decent guy.”

Frankie – “You want a contract?  Here (offers hand shake), this is a Jersey contract.”



Movie:  Tammy

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:  Some days you just should not get out of bed.  Tammy (Melissa McCarthy) should have realized that when she hit a deer on the way to work.  The deer survives the encounter; Tammy’s POS vehicle, not so much.  By the time the bloody and disheveled Tammy is able to stagger into her work place (Topper Jacks) to flip burgers, her dipstick boss Keith (real life hubby to McCarthy Ben Falcone) had had enough of his errant employee.  The hilarious drawn-out scene where Tammy gets fired may be the highlight of the movie.

What’s that old saying that bad luck comes in threes?  The bedraggled Tammy, now unemployed and without a vehicle, comes home to the hubby seeking solace and instead gets strike number 3.  What to do?  Run home to Momma (Allison Janney), which in this case is two houses down the street.  Momma cannot provide enough soothing comfort (or a car), but Granny (Susan Sarandon) can.  Fasten your seat belts, and get ready for the road trip from hell.  Somewhere along the way, in-between the boozing, the accidents, felonies, and bizarre encounters, Tammy discovers some truths about herself and maybe even a path to being happy for the first time in her life.

For Melissa McCarthy fans from Bridesmaids and The Heat, you will get the wild and out of control character that has propelled the actress to fame and female movie leads.  The plot line is fairly predictable, but we get a glimpse of the acting chops McCarthy is capable of.  Hopefully in the future she can branch out to do the occasional dramatic role.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “I need you to stop sweating through your shirt and grossing everyone out!”

“This is a Viking funeral for a jet ski, although we did not have the opportunity to feel the mighty engine thrum between our thighs.”

“I was afraid to eat the meat in jail.”

“My Dad is starting to flash his breasts at the lesbians.”

“We die out here we’re just raccoon food.”

“I’m kind of like a Cheeto – you can’t eat just one!”

Actor to Watch:  It was great to see Dan Akeroyd, even in a small supporting role.

Earth To Echo

Movie:  Earth To Echo

Rating:  2 1/2 (Out of 5)

Review:  Alex, Tuck and Munch are about 13 years old, best buds, and totally bummed out.  Their small town Nevada neighborhood is scheduled to be bulldozed to allow an interstate highway to go through.  Their families are frantically packing for the movers, and the boys plan one last adventure before saying adios.

Oddly enough, their cell phones have all gone haywire and show the same map image.  So they pedal furiously out into the desert searching for the image, while avoiding a work site lit up in the nearby desert.  They stumble over a piece of abandoned debris, but lo and behold it starts beeping and doing things that scare the crap out of the youngsters.  They also learn those desert workers are not who they seem, and are actually looking for that piece of debris that now resembles a metal owl with big blue neon eyes.  The kids name it Echo, and they learn it is not of this planet, and it needs their help.  So the three amigos, who are joined up with young teen sweetie Emma, are off on the adventure of their lives.

This is a decent movie; it will be very popular with the 10-16 year old crowd.  A lot of the movie was shot as if it was being filmed on the boys’ video phone function, so there are a lot of quick cuts and semi-blurry action shots.  The story line is not complex, but the movie has a certain charm that makes it watchable for adults.

Actor To Watch:  It was fun to see Jason Gray-Stanford as one of the mysterious desert workers.  He was previously the bumbling but earnest Lt Randall Disher on the TV series Monk.