Birdman (2014) Miller Meter-9/10

Directed By:  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Written By:  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo

Starring:  Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough

R     1 hr 59 min – Comedy | Drama

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Prisoners (2013) Miller Meter-10/10

Directed By:  Denis Villeneuve

Written By:  Aaron Guzikowski

Starring:  Hugh Jackman,  Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello

R     2 h 33 min – Crime | Drama | Thriller

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Lone Survivor (2013) Miller Meter-9/10

Directed By:  Peter Berg

Written By:  Peter Berg (Marcus Luttrell & Patrick Robinson-book)

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster

R     2 h 1 min – Action | Biography | Drama

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Nightcrawler (2014) Miller Meter-6.5/10

Directed By:  Dan Gilroy

Written By:  Dan Gilroy

Starring:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed

R     1 h 57 min – Crime | Drama | Thriller

 

A lonely and annoyingly eager to please Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) who’s desperate for a steady job finally finds some solace tumbling down the rabbit hole of L.A. powered crime journalism.  The film opens with Lou scrapping some pieces of fence for cash.  He bombards the scrapyard manager trying to land a job and proves to us that we’re in for a long awkward ride.  He’s of course turned down due to his wacky enthusiasm which he thinks is a plus point.  On his way home he drives past the scene of a car accident.  While watching creepily from the distance he sees a rugged camera crew roll up ready to film the carnage.  As the crew is leaving he finds out what they were doing, and that it paid, which was enough for him.  He went at the crew headstrong and the boss Joe (Paxton) brushed him off like the pest he was being.  Lou then steals and pawns his way into a camcorder of his own and BAM!  He’s in business!  He starts off pretty rough, as you could imagine, but quickly forms a business relationship with Nina (Russo) who’s a washed up TV news producer who’s just as desperate as he is to make advances in the field.  Right off the bat Lou’s dedication and willingness to put himself where few people with any shred of social know-how would, he starts getting some of the best footage of all the crews running.  As his fix becomes harder and harder to satisfy, you see his rope of personal ethics start to unravel.  He eventually takes on an apprentice named Nick (Ahmed) who’s pretty useless and equally desperate for work as Lou once was.  Lou takes him on and starts teaching him the ropes and along the way throws the quirkiest management coaching at him I’ve ever seen.  At any error or flub Lou would regurgitate some Tony Robins life skills shit all over him.  Sadly, Nick didn’t catch on to the fact that Lou was just a spun out creeper until it was too late.  Jake Gyllenhaal does a great job (as he typically does) of playing an awkwardly creepy yet somehow loveable maniac.  As his relationship with Nina matures from a business relationship to a romantic one you really see just how creepy he can be.  Several critics compared this performance to that of “Prisoners” yet I disagree.  He was creepy in Nightcrawler, but he could have pushed it more.  There were several times where it would build up to something totally abberated and twisted and what I got was disappointing.  That didn’t go for the plot generally, just a few scenes specifically.  When the movie finally started building towards the very end, I was totally satisfied at crescendo.  One big bummer about this flick was that it was a Halloween release and NOTHING about it was scary.  I understand that it’s JUST a thriller with a previously unexplored plot line and all but I felt it was advertised as more than that, especially with a Halloween release.  Creepy? Yes. Intense? At times, sure.  Scary? Nope.  There were several scenes that were more intense than others, and most of them were done very well.  The first hour of the movie was pretty slow going, which was fine as we were establishing a pretty slow going kind of character.  I did, however, start to lose hope that it would pick up.  It turned it around though towards the end.  I really enjoyed the story as I haven’t really seen one like it before, especially with the gritty take this one had.  It was pushing for a noir kind of flavor, and at times achieved it masterfully.  Overall, it was a good flick, with one hell of an ending, which to me can absolutely make or break a movie.  Keep yourself patient for the first 45 minutes or so and it will pay off at the end.

Godzilla (2014) 6.5/10

Directed By:  Gareth Edwards

Written By:  Max Borenstein, Dave Callaham

Starring:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe

PG-13     2 h 3 min – Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller

 

As most of you know already I had been dying for this flick several months before it was released.  Having been very well educated by my old man, Godzilla was a household favorite for me.  Mothra, Rodan, whoever, I loved it.  So when I heard that Gareth Edwards was doing the reboot I was pumped.  He wrote and directed 2010’s underrated “Monsters” which I thought was unique and promising, so when he was named director of Godzilla, I had high hopes.  It stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston, and Ken Watanabe.  While living in Japan working at a nuclear power plant Joe Brody (Cranston) is alarmed at unusual seismic activity.  The further he investigates, the more paranormal it becomes.  A freak “earthquake” of perfectly patterned shocks shakes the plant to the point of collapse causing evacuation.  In a pretty epic and suspenseful scene, Brody lost what was most dear to him.  Fast forward 15 years or so and we see young Ford Brody (Johnson) all grown up and in the military.  He returns home from tour to wife Elle (Olsen) and a kid of his own.  Almost immediately upon his return he receives word from Japan that his father had been locked up in jail for trespassing.  He decides to go to Japan to bail his old man out and bring him state-side to try and help him out.  Once he reunites with his father he quickly see that his father’s obsession with trying to figure out what EXACTLY happened that day at the plant hasn’t subsided with time.  Ford sr. goes on and on about how it wasn’t a quake, it was something else…what could it have been I wonder?  We hop over to Dr. Ishiro Serizawa (Watanabe) who’s a scientist currently experimenting on some sort of unknown creature.  Shit goes bad real quick (as it typically does in this scenario) and a massive winged creature takes flight from the site.  It starts destroying everything around it and Ishiro’s path ultimately crosses with the Ford fam’s and they form an alliance.  Ford’s data from way back when proves to be useful in understand this creature in the here and now.  Ford Jr. takes action as the military side comes out and starts to help them search and destroy this newly freed monster.  They learn that the monster feeds off nuclear energy, so they do have some ideas as to where they can look.  Unfortunately for them (so we think) they start to notice some more unusual activity stemming from the depths of the sea.  All of a sudden a massive reading pops up…GODZILLA!  From here we have a battle of the monsters, with Dr. Ishiro in one corner saying that there’s a natural order to things and we should let them fight, and then there’s the guys in cams saying we need to blow them all up.  It proved for a pretty entertaining little 3 way of who’s the antagonist? Cities are leveled, bombs blow up, monsters roar, people run, and the movie ends.  What’s my take?  Well to be honest, the trailers made it look absolutely epic and amazing.  It wasn’t.  Epic? Sure, I guess, but nothing like I expected.  There wasn’t enough battle between Godzilla and the others.  I will say that when they did fight, and when we the audience was privy to it I was blown away by the effects and really into it.  It seemed like the action stopped as quickly as it started, leaving me wanting more at every fight scene.  Not good considering it’s an action/epic.  I did like all the characters and I loved the story.  Everyone who showed up brought their A-game especially Cranston, I just love that guy.  There was a time about 1:15 in where I was getting bored and just so badly wanted to see Godzilla tearing it up and didn’t.  Another huge problem I have is when a key scene of a trailer doesn’t make the cut of the final film.  One of the coolest scenes I wanted to see wasn’t even in the movie, total bummer.  Overall it was fun, and Godzilla is extremely badass, I just didn’t get enough of what I wanted.