Category: TV and Movies

My Favorite Films of 2017

March 2nd, 2018

And MY envelope goes to …

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani star in The Big Sick.

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Maybe it’s the escapism, putting my mind into a different scenario each time the lights dim and the credits begin. Perhaps it’s the shared experience of seeing movies with others. After all, scientists say we all tend to blink at the same time when we sit together watching movies. But for whatever reason, I’ve been drawn to movies all my life at an almost obsessive level.

I have been writing various versions of these film review pieces for decades and I think it’s partly because I become so immersed in whatever I’m watching, that a piece of me feels like it’s playing a part in the actual movie. Sometimes it feels as though I’m a bit player, just out of camera range. That explains why I don’t do horror films; I empathetically feel all the tension and violence. The Oscar-nominated Get Out was a real struggle for me. Seeing Dunkirk in true IMAX with Dolby multidimensional sound also might not have been my smartest move. It was too vivid, too in-your-face, in-your-body even. I guess I like being a part of it all, unless I’m in danger and can’t hide underneath my seat quickly enough!

So here we go with my picks from the past year. I promise it won’t be too scary, violent or intense.  Read More…

Notes From Down Under: Hobbiton

March 5th, 2017

That time I slept in a Hobbit hole

Taylor poses for Marci outside the Hobbit Motel after a very comfortable night's stay and well before second breakfast and elevenses.

Taylor poses for Marci outside the Hobbit Motel after a very comfortable night’s stay and well before second breakfast and elevenses.

I’m taking a shower in a Hobbit hole. That’s the lead I came up with as the warm, delicious water washed a day of caves off me. Contenders were The hobbit hole has heated blankets or No wifi in Baggin’s place. The one ring to rule them all is embedded in our bed and I look forward to falling asleep in Middle Earth, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Read More…

“Two” of the Best Films of 2016 (so far)

August 14th, 2016

A few hits you may have missed

Sooooo … halfway through the movie year, there are two films I’d like to share and encourage you to see.

“What,” you ask, “August comes eight months into the year, Rodney, how can you say we’re halfway?”

Actually, I’m a bit early. The Academy Awards this year were on February 28th. Everyone knows nothing of note gets released in the new year leading up to the Oscars. (Well, except one of my favorites, but that’s not important right now and it destroys my premise.)

Since the summer blockbuster season has been one of the worst in recent memory, I’d like to restore some hope as I highlight a few of the best movies I’ve seen so far.

Best Films of 2016 so far Where to Invade Next 1920p

Michael Moore writes, directs and stars in Where To Invade Next.

Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next is a wide-ranging, sweeping documentary told in his classic style where he sits himself squarely inside of the narrative. On camera and in voice-over segments, Mr. Moore shows Americans what’s great about other countries and how we can bring those traits back here. There’s a fantastic surprise ending, too. Suffice it to say, the movie exudes hope and encouragement for the United State’s future.

Fans of Michael Moore — and I’m definitely one of them — will love everything about the movie. Detractors will find a lot to like too. If you’re a citizen of America or the world, you’ll probably come away inspired by Where To Invade Next.

I met the man back during the summer of 1987 in Flint, Michigan. He showed up at a few different news events that I was covering as a photographer and it was great chatting with the then largely unknown writer/director/star. He was working on his landmark documentary Roger & Me. Since then, he’s gone on to make many memorable contributions to cinema. His latest is one of his finest. You can rent, stream or buy it anywhere.

Clockwise from 10:00 o'clock: Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key and Tami Sagher star in Don't Think Twice.

Clockwise from 10:00 o’clock: Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key and Tami Sagher star in Don’t Think Twice.

The other fantastic film of 2016 is Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice. The funny and frantic world of improv comedy is viewed through a loving, emotional and seemingly very real-life lens. A New York City band of comedians is thrown into turmoil as some of their members are invited to audition for “Weekend Live,” a fictional Saturday Night Live substitute.

Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci and others react to and deal with the shakeup to their tightly woven team. It’s a fantastic psychological glimpse into group and individual dynamics. Poignant, yet playful, the movie hits lots of different notes: abandonment and contentment; sadness and joy, responsibility to self & group; and — oh yeah — it’s awfully darn funny!

Unfortunately, Don’t Think Twice is still in a limited movie house run. Fortunately it’s playing at my favorite independent theatre — The Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, Michigan. But it’s bound to hit more theaters before it starts its second life streaming or on the DVD rental and retail market.

Oh yeah, there’s one other movie you might want to look for, Sam Neill’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Longtime Jemaine Clement collaborator Taika Waititi wrote and directed the movie about a troubled foster child coming to live with Neill’s character in the wilderness of New Zealand. Look for Rhys Darby, Murray from Flight of the Conchords. It’s still in some theaters, but it hits the rental market next month.

And for now, here’s hoping for a bumper crop of extraordinary films amongst the upcoming fall and winter releases.

Go See Tomorrowland

May 22nd, 2015

The Disney blockbuster holds hope (and a warning) for the future.

Go See Tomorrowland Britt Robertson LOW REZ

Britt Robertson stars in the time-twisting Tomorrowland.

As we were driving home from Tomorrowland, my wife offered up an idea for Detroit. “All the abandoned, vacant land could be turned into wind farms or solar panel forests or even subterranean geothermal facilities.”

That’s the sort of thinking that the new Disney film inspires. Centered around a brilliant young teen (Britt Robertson, who’s actually 25) and a grizzled older genius (George Clooney, who’s also actually 25), the movie offers a peek into parallel worlds. One is our current reality, racing toward full-on global destruction. The other is a utopian existence, created and comprised by the best and brightest minds in science and the arts.

The movie — written and directed by Brad Bird (Up, The Incredibles) — offers equal doses of hope and warning. But even though some may view it as a little preachy, it’s really earth-conscious preachy. And we can’t get enough of that. You can’t help but wish you were part of that alternative world, where kids fly around on jet packs (crashing safely with a laugh), and their peers platform dive — but through platforms of water. Just go with it.

It appears that reviewers across America either love or hate the movie, garnering it a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. So add my little gold star on the positive side of the scale. The Detroit News’ Tom Long said it best: “This should be required viewing. Come for the humor and thrills and visual delights — there are many. Leave with the thought in your head: We can, we need to, do better. This is summer moviemaking at its best.”

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Hopefully future views won’t confuse Britt Robertson (left) and Chloe Grace Moretz (right)

Being a fan of cool quantum physics and fun alternate reality theories, this movie had me hooked with its previews. Sure, there are times when the writers didn’t fully explain their complex dimension shifting narrative. But like I said before, just go with it.

There are enough action sequences to keep younger viewers mesmerized and the special effects are spectacular. The storyline has some great twists, bending time & space to suit its will. Unlike my other recent favorite futuristic film, Ex Machina, this movie sports a mild PG rating, assuring you it’s fine for the whole family.

Look for Britt Robertson to emerge as a first rate talent. Though I kept confusing her with Chloë Grace Moretz (Hugo, 30 Rock). That Clooney guy’s gonna hit it big one day too. Raffey Cassidy is a stunning young actress who carries a lot of the show’s weight. And I loved the cameo by Keegan-Michael Key as well.

More than anything else, this film — with all its Disneyesque glory and morality — is a fun, exciting ride. And if their tomorrow is half as cool, I want my own secret admission pin.

(Just go with it.)

Go See Tomorrowland three actors LOW REZ

Britt Robertson, George Clooney and Raffey Cassidy look to the past for help with the future in Tomorrowland.