written by: Luke Dawson & Jeremy Slater
produced by: Michael Blum, Matthew Kaplan, Jimmy Miller, & Cody Zwieg
directed by: David Gelb
rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references)
runtime: 83 min.
U.S. release date: February 27, 2015
“That’s what hell is. You relive the worst moment of your life on a loop over and over and you can never wake up.”
Grab a knife and start cutting through the irony, folks. If there’s anything at all positive I can say about the new horror film “The Lazarus Effect“, it’s thankfully not a found footage movie. Well, it kind of is, but at least it’s not 100% found footage. Let’s start over. If there’s anything positive I can say about this film it’s that it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Clocking in, without credits, at a brisk 76 minutes, the film is never boring. It’s underdeveloped, undercooked, and thoroughly half-assed, but it’s never boring. In fact, it almost feels like a bold experiment in shucking that age-old horror convention of building mood and atmosphere, and jumping right into the stuff people paid their money to see.
So, how did showman Neil Patrick Harris do, hosting the Oscar telecast for the first time? He did fine. Just fine. Not great though. His comic timing was predictably great and the opening song-and-dance number was entertaining, but the Octavia Spencer watching his secured briefcase bit was a bore that had zero payoff. Amid the expectedly long night, NPH said some zingers, some tactless comments and for some reason, relied on hanging out in the aisles to try and change it up, something that Ellen did ad nauseam last year. No selfies this year though. But the most memorable moment of this hosting gig was his homage to “Birdman” where he comes out in his tighty-whiteys, something no other host has done before (or probably ever again). Your parents are still shaking their heads at that. Let’s just get to those winners….
written by: Michele Josue
produced by: Michele Josue, Liam McNuff and Chad Mann
directed by: Michele Josue
runtime: 89 min.
U.S. release date: February 13, 2015 (limited – Chicago and Los Angeles)
It can be easy to forget the details of a brutal hate crime that made worldwide news back in 1998, especially if you didn’t personally know the victim. What the revealing documentary “Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine” effectively reminds us of is how these victims that are often covered and discarded by news outlets had family and friends, they had teachers and parents, just like you and me. That’s because the film is directed by Michele Josue, a good friend since their teen years, who didn’t know the Matthew Shepard we were introduced to, but rather “Matt”, a warm and kind-hearted friend she still mourns. Her film provides a glimpse of who Shepard was, with input from those who knew him intimately and in passing, but it also is most profoundly a look at grief.
written by: Kelly Marcel, based on the book by E.L. James
produced by: Dana Brunetti, Michael DeLuca, E.L. James
directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson
rating: R (for strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity, and for language)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: February 13, 2015
“That’s one hell of a sack, Ms. Steele.”
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who read the book “Fifty Shades of Grey” that would refer to it as high art. As a smutty book that pushes the bounds of believability in both its prose and its depictions of BDSM, it’s a novelty that somehow managed to connect with an astonishing number of readers. The most immediate problem with the new film adaptation directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, is that it reeks of its origins as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.
written by: The Wachowskis
produced by: The Wachowskis and Grant Hill
directed by: The Wachowskis
rating: PG-13 (for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity)
runtime: 127 min.
U.S. release date: February 6, 2015
Being the first big-budget sci-fi flick of the year, “Jupiter Ascending” had some fair anticipation leading up to its release. Although writer/director siblings, Andy and Lana Wachowski, haven’t been able to deliver a sci-fi film as their successful “The Matrix” in terms of box office, scope and depth, there are still some who believe they can pull off such a feat again. Being a big fan of their energetic “Speed Racer” and finding enough to admire the ambitious “Cloud Atlas” (their last theatrical outing), I guess you can consider me one of those guys who still wants to believe. It’s too bad “Jupiter Ascending” doesn’t give me much of anything to maintain such belief.
written by: Glenn Burger and Jonathan Aibel (from a story by Stephen Hillenburg & Paul Tibbitt)
produced by: Mary Parent & Paul Tibbitt
directed by: Paul Tibbitt
rating: PG (for mild action and rude humor)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: February 6, 2015 (wide)
“Come on, Spongebob, join me! We’ll be rich and powerful until I eventually betray you.”
More than fifteen years into its history, “Spongebob Squarepants” remains one of the most delightfully original cartoon series on the air. Sure, they’ve settled into a rhythm where just about every other episode involves Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) trying to steal the Krabby Patty formula, but at this point it’s much more fun to watch how the writers continue to make hay out of the same storyline. It should come as no surprise, then, that the second Spongebob film, “Sponge Out of Water”, also follows that exact same basic plot. In other words, this isn’t a film for casual fans, nor will it likely win over those who have been resistant to the show’s charms, but for those who still get a kick out of the antics of these characters, this is the film you’ve been waiting for.
written by: Bart De Pouw & Wesley Strick
produced by: Hilde De Laere, Matt DeRoss, Steve Golin, Paul Green, Adam Shulman
directed by: Erik Van Looy
rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language, and some drug use)
runtime: 108 min.
U.S. release date: January 30, 2015 (wide)
“You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?”
Every January I get suckered into thinking that a movie’s going to somehow rise above the odds and be halfway decent. Every January brings the promise of a talented director working with a solid cast on something that looks like it could be a worthwhile endeavor, and it almost never works out that way. Two years ago, it was “Broken City“, last year it was “Labor Day“, and this year, “The Loft” seemed to fit nicely into that niche.