Monthly Archives: February 2015


Movie:  Focus

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Nicky (Will Smith) is a thief.  But he’s no smash and grab, pull a gun for a liquor store hold-up kind of crook.  Nicky is a gentleman thief, a smooth talking sleight-of-hand master artist who can sweet talk you while he is emptying your wallet.  Nicky has confederates that work with him as well, up to a 30 person crew who hit the streets during a big event, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, or a Super Bowl week, and they pluck the valuables out of people in crowds like taking candy from a baby.

One night the stunningly beautiful Jess (Margot Robbie) fumbles her way into Nicky’s life as she tries an amateurish con game on him.  Nicky takes Jess under his wing, teaching her skills to pluck the marks, and finds her to be a quick study.  And from there, the game is afoot.

Visually this is a fun ride.  The actors, especially Will Smith and Margot Robbie, are extremely attractive, and the New Orleans and Vegas setting are appealing.  The first 30 minutes of the movie are probably the most entertaining, as we see the crew employ various stratagems to distract the marks and clean them out.  It is fast paced, entertaining, and authentic, as the actors have been trained by real life security expect and master sleight-of-hand artist Apollo Robbins.  But then things get bogged down, as an elaborate big con unfolds.  Expect some of the usual twists and turns, things are never as they seem.  Some plot twists are actually pretty good here.  Bottom line:  not a bad way to spend two hours.

Actor To Watch For:  Gerald McRaney is the most interesting actor in the film.  He has come a long way from his Simon And Simon TV days.

Dialogue Nuggets:  Nicky – “At the end of the day, it’s a game of focus.  You get that focus, you take whatever you want.”

Gunman:  “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you?”  Nicky – “I’m drawing a blank.”

Jess – “Who was the cop with the wandering hand?”  Nicky – “Oh, he was real.”

Nicky – “There’s no earth shattering hump in the works?”

“In spite of all my hard work, you turned into a good person.  Love will get you killed in this racket.”



Fifty Shades Of Grey


Movie:  Fifty Shades Of Grey

Rating:  1 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is an attractive, young college student who is tasked by ailing roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford) to interview the mysterious and reclusive billionaire tycoon, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), for a piece in the college newspaper.  Anastasia shows up at the Grey Building, armed with Kate’s list of questions, and bumbles her way through the interview.  Despite, or maybe because of her hapless modus operandi, she has intrigued and caught the attention of the handsome young business mogul.

Ana goes back to her regular life, such as working at Clayton’s Hardware Store to pay for college, but almost immediately Mr. Grey begins to show up in her life.  Grey’s brother Elliot (Luke Grimes) begins to date Kate, and Grey’s majordomo Taylor (Max Martini) is close at hand to drive Ana places at Christian’s beck and call.  Anastasia is very rapidly reeled into Christian Grey’s “lifestyle of the rich and reclusive”, and he works hard to dazzle and impress her with his possessions and ability to entertain, such as an impromptu helicopter ride to another city for dinner.  Ana’s head is definitely turned, thinking Christian is wooing her, but soon finds out that he does not date in the normal sense of the word.  Christian Grey makes it very clear he is not a romantic, but a purveyor of dominant and submissive sex practices.  And Christian wants Anastasia to become his next sex toy.

The film is all about how a young innocent woman will respond to a naked (no pun intended) bid for physical and sexual domination of her.  But frankly, the movie fails in almost all areas.  First of all, the two leads have no real chemistry on screen.  They work hard at the sex scenes, which are plenty graphic with clever camera angles and editing to avoid an X rating, but somehow the sex never seems arousing to the audience.  The movie needed a much more dynamic and charismatic Christian Grey, like a young Pierce Brosnan, to pull off a believable scenario as to why women should immediately swoon for his attentions.  Grey just comes off as damaged goods.  Dakota Johnson may hold promise in future roles.  Sadly, the movie was rather boring, strangely non-erotic, just plodding from scene to scene to find out whether Anastasia wants to commit to this guy with his playroom of horrors.  And yes, apparently there is a plan for a trilogy of these movies.  (Loud groan)

Soundtrack A Plus:  Loved the opening song by Annie Lennox, “I Put A Spell On You.”

Dialogue Nuggets:   Christian – “There are some people who say I don’t have a heart.”   Ana – “Why do they say that?”  Christian – “Because they know me well.”

Ana – “Ropes, ties, tape, you’re the complete serial killer.”

Christian – “Have you been drinking?”  Ana – “Yup, you hit the head on the nail.”

Christian – “I’m not going to touch you.  Not until I have your written consent.”

Ana negotiating contract – “Strike out vaginal fisting.”  Christian – “You sure?”  Ana – “Yup!”

Ana – “I broke rule 7, clause 5.”


Top Ten Movies 2014



For followers of Alan’s Pithy Film Reviews, the following are my Top Ten Movies for 2014 (in no particular priority):

1.  American Sniper

2.  St. Vincent

3.  A Most Unwanted Man

4.  The Judge

5.  Whiplash

6.  Imitation Game

7.  Birdman

8.  Fury

9.  Gone Girl

10.  Chef


Best Picture – Should Win:  Birdman        Will Probably Win:  Boyhood

Best Actor – Should Win:  Michael Keaton       Will Probably Win:  Eddie Redmayne

Best Actress – Should Win:  Rosamund Pike    Will Probably Win:  Julianne Moore

Best Supporting Actor – Should Win:  J.K. Simmons     Will Probably Win:  J.K. Simmons

Best Supporting Actress – Should Win:  Emma Stone   Will Probably Win:  Patricia Arquette

Taken 3


Movie:  Taken 3

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   For the love of God, anyone related to Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) needs to stay clear of him!  Hasn’t that become crystal clear by now?  (Heavy sigh….)  Okay, Bryan is still the super secret government operative apparently in semi retirement, playing golf with his other secret buddies, making time to visit his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace), and even having a bit of a reconciliation with ex-wife Lenore St John (Famke Janssen), much to the chagrin of current hubby Stuart St John (Dougray Scott).  All of this familial bliss goes to heck in a hand-basket when Lenore is found murdered in Bryan’s apartment by the police, and Bryan is left holding the bag (literally, with bagels).

What follows is a protracted series of chases and general mayhem as the police, led by hotshot Detective Lt Dotzier (Forest Whitaker), as they stay on the heels of Mills the fugitive who is out to prove his innocence while tracking down the real perpetrator of his wife’s murder.  Looming in the background is evil Russian mobster Oleg Malankov (Sam Spruell) who seems to have a hand in much of the criminal endeavors in town.  As another movie proclaimed in its title, there will be blood….

As movie plots go, this one is pretty well shopworn with no real surprises.  Plenty of action for the thrill geeks; car chases and gunplay galore.  Liam is still the stoic man of action who will get rough justice done, in the tradition of Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood.  A fun but bruising thrill ride for movie action buffs.

Guest Reviewer From Theater:  “Film was action packed; had some witty parts.  I never really liked that Lenore, so it didn’t bother me that she got popped!”

Dialogue Nuggets:  Bryan – “It looks like I did it.  I don’t know why, I don’t know who.  But I’m going to find out.”

Bryan – “I’m going down the rabbit hole.”

Man – “I’d like to help.”  Bryan – “You’re going to help all right, just like bait helps to catch a shark.”

“Your wife was just part of a business deal.”

Cop – “These guys could lose a tail if it was attached to a dog!”

Bryan – “By now you know who I am, and what I am capable of.”  Dotzier – “My job is to bring you in.”  Bryan – “Good luck.”

Best Scene:   Mills and bad guy in store with tall row of liquor bottles in-between preventing them from seeing each other, all guns blazing trying to take each other out.

Huh?  What the….:  Police car drops 5 stories and no air bags deploy.

A police officer is overpowered and forced to drive the kidnapper away in an escape attempt.  Then fellow police officers blindly pump multiple rounds into the escape vehicle?  Hello, there’s a good guy in the car!!