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Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Journey 2 is a disappointing sequel
Journey 2 failed to meet the original film due to tired tricks, forced dialogue and jokes, and an even more implausible story. The film has some funny and exciting moments that get lost amid slow and boring stretches in the predictable storyline.

While I enjoy both Dwayne Johnson and Josh Hutcherson, they are both stuck in one- dimensional roles. Dwayne Johnson plays a stepfather trying to bond with his troubled teen stepson. He flashes his biceps, smiles, sings, crack codes, and shares insights into geologic activity.

Josh Hutcherson reprises his role as the troubled, belligerent teenager who flips his personality once they begin their big adventure where he faces challenges and pursues the girl.

Together, they find Atlantis, only to discover they must find a way off the island before it disappears. They encounter a surprise visitor, strange creatures, and harrowing challenges - this time on a mysterious island instead of the center of the earth.

I would watch the first Journey film and catch Journey 2 on video.

Kari-gurashi no Arietti

Quietly Beautiful and Touching
The Secret World of Arrietty is a emotional journey of a young borrower who begins to explore the world around here, only to risk her home and family. the movie touches both young and old in this beautiful film.

The story centers around young borrower Arrietty, who lives with her family in the floorboards of a human house. The borrowers remain hidden from humans, however, Arrietty is seen by an ill human boy Sean. They slowly develop a friendship that strengthens both of them as they prepare to face difficult challenges.

The film is visually stunning with beautiful and detailed scenery. The director moves artfully between the perspective of tiny Arrietty and young Sean. The director also emotionally captures the wonder and awe as Arrietty enters a new human world.

Secret World of Arrietty is worth seeing for its beautiful drawings, great direction, and touching story. My daughter (9) and I both recommend this film.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Touching and deeply emotional film about loss and life
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was an outstanding film that highlighted the pain, suffering, and anxiety of a young boy who lost his father and struggles to keep his memory alive. The film does a great job drawing viewers into the mind and heart of the young boy.

While the film covers many difficult aspects of the young boy's struggle, including social anxiety, depression, anger, and self abuse, these scenes are covered in a touching and respectful manner. Viewers can easily relate to the wide range of emotions felt by the character.

Thomas Horn is outstanding as the young boy, who feels alone in the world after the loss of his father on 9/11. He pursues a secret quest that he believes was set up by his father. The quest dominates his life, as he struggles how to adapt to the loss of his father. His acting deserves much recognition in an amazing performance.

The other actors are excellent as well. Tom Hanks is very good as his beloved father, Sandra Bullock does great as a mother who struggles to relate to her unique son, and Max von Snydow is wonderful as "The Renter" who doesn't speak but befriends the young boy on his quest.

The director does an outstanding job of moving through a dual story of the young boy's current quest and the unveiling of the events of 9/11, which haunt the young boy as the "Worst Day". Director effectively captures that raw emotions of the characters in a difficult and touching story.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was an outstanding film that should win many awards for the director, actor, and movie. The film is a touching drama that, despite covering painful emotions and events, provides inspiration as it highlights the strength of relationships and the human spirit.

Safe House

Safe House provides intense, non-stop action
Safe House fulfills its billing as non-stop action thriller that leaves behind a pile of bodies. While the story is formulaic with the requisite good guys, bad guys, and good guys who are really bad guys, the film draws you quickly into the lives of the two main characters and takes you on a high energy thrill ride through the streets of Cape Town, South Africa.

Denzel Washington is tremendous as the ex-CIA agent who arrives at a safe house in Cape Town to be interrogated, after turning himself in to escape from some terrorists. Denzel captivates in every scene and is fully believable as a world-class killer. Denzel alone is worth watching the film.

Ryan Reynolds is good as the inexperienced CIA agent who is pulled into a harrowing adventure for which he is unprepared. The chemistry and interaction between Denzel and Ryan was great. Despite their differnet and contrary objectives, you can't help rooting for a positive ending for both of them.

The directing was frenetic, as the director used many camera techniques to highlight the chaos and action. The techniques are reminiscent of the Bourne Trilogy, but they were a little excessive in some scenes.

Overall, Safe House was an intense action thriller that is worth a full-price ticket for the great acting, action/suspense, and wonderful backdrop of Cape Town, South Africa.

Big Miracle

Good Family Movie With Whales & Ensemble Cast
Big Miracle dramatizes the real life struggle of three gray whales trapped in the ice near Barrow, Alaska. While my daughter told me what happens before we saw the movie, I still enjoyed the movie for its heart-warming and touching story of humans and nature.

Big Miracle has an ensemble cast that was very good. Drew Barrymore, in particular, did an outstanding job as a Greenpeace activist trying to save the gray whales. And, Ten Danson was fun as the oil magnate who sees an opportunity to help save the whales for some good PR.

The highlight of the movie was the Inupiat actors, who were charming and added warmth to the movie. The grandfather Inupiat stole every scene with his strong and quiet presence, and he provided several funny moments. His young grandson was also outstanding as the young friend to John Krasinki's character.

Big Miracle, however, did move slowly and many scenes seemed forced in drawing laughter or empathy. My wife and I enjoyed the movie for its touching story and appealing characters, but our kids said they were bored and uninterested. At the very least, catch Big Miracle at a matinée.

The Grey

Gritty Survival Film with Some Good Performances
The Grey presents the struggle of the survivors of a plane crash in the Arctic facing nature and some bloodthirsty wolves. The Grey is heavy on the dramatics and loose on the realism, but the film is tense and suspenseful through the end.

The acting overall is very good. Liam Neeson does well in the lead. He is a strong force in leading the survivors, though he himself struggles with his inner demons. Frank Grillo does an excellent job as an angry loner who lashes out to hide his own fears. The others in the small band of survivors were very good in their desperate struggle.

The director does a great job capturing the beauty and harshness of the Artic, and he effectively moves the survivors from one challenge to the next. He captures their raw emotions - fear and desperation - that overcome the characters in their harrowing predicament, as well as their brotherhood in facing their likely fates.

The film is hurt by a lack of realism in several instances, which stand out in such a "realistic" survival film. The wolves' behavior in many instances is far-fetched, as the director can't resist humanizing the wolves. And, the survivors have an amazing ability to survive freezing temperatures, including falls into ice cold water without suffering hypothermia or death.

The Grey is a worthwhile movie to enjoy at a theater for the tense survival drama, beautiful scenery, and strong acting. You just need to suspend belief in many instances.


Haywire is an average action film that mostly misses
Going in, I wanted to like Haywire and I gave it the benefit of the doubt, but the movie was just average with only a couple positives that couldn't overcome the substantial misses. Gina Carano plays an international spy who is betrayed by her own people and fights to clear her name and save her life.

Gina Carano was good in the lead role. Although she seemed to be reading lines in many scenes, she was captivating as the protagonist. Her action scenes were fun and energetic, and she was effective playing a strong and emotionless spy fighting in a man's world. She has a captivating presence, but she does need some acting lessons.

The supporting actors were very disappointing, as most just mailed in flat performances to collect a check. From Ewan McGregor to Antonio Banderas to Channing Tatum, their acting was flat and disengaged. The actors seemed unsettled in supporting roles to a Hollywood newcomer and enduring some less than flattering scenes for them.

In addition, I struggled with the directing. The movie lacked a good pace, dragging in several places. For example,a scene of the main character walking down a sidewalk seemed to last forever and become almost comical. And, several dramatic and climatic scenes actually drew laughter from the audience, as they seemed almost cartoonish.

Haywire is at best a Netflix rental when you can't find anything else of value to watch. Gina Carano, despite her flaws, is the only positive in an otherwise poorly acted and poorly directed action film.


Mark Walberg is Great in Intense Contraband
Contraband is a well-made action film with strong acting, good directing, and great cinematography that draws you into New Orleans, Panama, and their freight ship. Mark Walberg plays a man pulled back into his smuggling past to right the wrongs of his naive brother-in-law and protect his family.

Mark Walberg is excellent as the lead character. He is strong in the action scenes on his smuggling trip to Panama , and he is just as good in dramatic scenes calling his wife to help her back home. He is a strong protagonist who is likable and draws a lot of empathy as he tries to fight the bad guys and save his family.

Walberg is supported by a strong cast. Giovannis Ribisi does well as a dirty, corrupt smuggler who terrorizes his family, Ben Foster is excellent as Walberg's recovering addict and alcoholic ex-smuggling parter who struggles to do the right thing. And, Kate Beckinsale is great as Walberg's wife, who also must fight to protect her family.

The director does a great job of building intensity throughout the film. He brings the audience into the smuggling trade in a realistic and believable manner. And, the director effectively engages the audience in the drama and action at three locations simultaneously as the film builds to its resolution back in New Orleans.

Overall, the film is a strong action film. If you dismiss the standard plot and some lapses of reality, you'll enjoy the intense action, strong acting, and great scenery. Catch Contraband in the theaters to enjoy it on the big screen.

Just be careful about smuggling your own candy into the theater.

We Bought a Zoo

We Bought A Zoo is a Heart-Warming Family Film
We Bought A Zoo highlights the life of a family coping with tragedy that moves to the countryside to take over a rundown zoo. Getting the zoo running provides some funny and touching moments, as the zoo employees and animals serve as entertaining costars.

Matt Damon does a solid job as a widow now raising two young kids alone. His character is unable to move forward after his wife's death. Trying to escape her memory, he transplants his family and takes on a crazy challenge for which he has no experience. Matt shows good emotional range, as he learns to adjust to his new challenges.

The young actors playing Damon's children do a great job. His daughter is adorable, and she lights up every scene. And, Colin Ford does an excellent job as a troubled teenager, who feels that he has lost both of his parents. Damon and Ford do a wonderful job in the fractured relationship that is central to the film.

The supporting characters add warmth to the film. Scarlett Johansen is good as a dedicated zoo keeper, Thomas Haden Church is funny as Damon's concerned older brother, and Elle Fanning is charming as the teenage friend. Several other characters, particularly the zoo inspector, added some fun to the film.

Overall, We Bought a Zoo is a heart-warming family film with a good share of both laughs and touching moments. The film takes us through the struggles of several characters to a satisfying resolution. The film is great for all ages and is worth a full-price ticket.

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Ghost Protocol delivers with intense action, cool settings
The Mission Impossible franchise has had some hits and some misses, but Ghost Protocol may be the best of the Mission Impossible movies. Tom Cruise is intense and focused as the spy Ethan Hunt, who is working to stop a nuclear terrorist. Tom Cruise has some great action scenes, and he is at his best in the chaos of chasing down bad guys.

Ghost Protocal introduces some new characters played by Paula Patton & Jeremy Renner. Paula does a great job as a fellow agent who seeks out revenge in working with Cruise. Jeremy Renner, who I loved in previous movies, starts out slow and forced as an "analyst" before getting into the flow as a spy with skills rivaling Tom Cruise.

Simon Pegg adds the comic relief as the team's IT genius. He has an understated manner that draws quite a few laughs. The spy team has good chemistry that strengthens the movie, and they all come off as believable spies. And, the main characters each have side stories that revolve around the main story, adding some depth to the movie.

While the storyline follows the standard good spies track down evil maniac, the highlight of the movie was some incredible settings. A Russian prison was a great opening to the movie, and Dubai and Mumbai provided unique and fascinating backdrops to the action. The skyscraper and sandstorm scenes were both thrilling and fun.

Overall, Ghost Protocol is worth a full price ticket. Tom Cruise is at his best as Ethan Hunt, the supporting cast is very good, the action is great, and the settings are amazing.

This review will self-destruct in five seconds...

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Game of Shadows is a laugh and thrill-packed adventure
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows follows the pattern of the first movie with Sherlock & Dr. Watson facing off against an evil villain. In this second going around, the great chemistry and interaction of Sherlock & Dr. Watson take the movie to a whole new level of fun and laughs.

I enjoyed the director's style in the movie, though many people will not. The director uses many unique views and lots of slow motion and stop action to highlight the realism of the film. In addition, the director's goes both back in time to highlight how Sherlock unravels specific mysteries and forward in time to visually walkthrough Sherlock's anlaysis of a situation. The style is unique and dynamic.

While Robert Downey Jr. has the central role as Sherlock, Jude Law steals the movie with his portrayal of Dr. Watson. Throughout the movie, the pair have great interactions, and their back-and-forth dialogue generates lots of funny moments. Robert Downey Jr. carries off the eccentricities of Sherlock with great enthusiasm, but Dr. Watson's expanded role adds to the depth of their relationship.

A pleasant surprise in the film was the introduction of Sherlock Holmes' brother, who added some charm and comedy to the film in his small role. On the other hand, I was somewhat disappointed in Sherlock's nemesis Dr. Moriarty. The actor did a competent job, but the role didn't live up to the hype of Sherlock's ultimate foe.

Overall, Game of Shadows was enjoyable with an interesting story line, lots of action, and plenty of laughs. However, many will be put off my the director's unique, in-your-face style, which I enjoyed.

The Descendants

The Descendants is an outstanding and touching drama
The Descendants is a tragic and heartfelt family drama set against a backdrop of the sights and sounds of modern Hawaii. The music is wonderful, and the scenery of several Hawaiian islands is amazing.

George Clooney is outstanding as the father of a family torn apart by tragedy. His character deals with unsettling secrets of his dying wife and his broken relationships with his two troubled daughters. Forced to deal with the consequences of neglecting his family, Clooney does a great job capturing conflicting and powerful emotions.

Shailone Woodley does a wonderful job as the rebellious older daughter, who captures the anger and hurt of a teenager betrayed by her mother and abandoned by her father. Her relationship with her father is the heart of the movie, and they slowly learn to rely on each other for support and strength in dealing with the loss of their mother/wife.

The film has a wonderful supporting cast that adds humanity and heart to the tragic story. Nick Krause stands out as the oldest daughter's friend, who adds a touch of laughter and perspective to the film. His open and carefree personality grates on the characters initially but helps them to eventually gain perspective on the tragic events.

Overall, the Descendants was an excellent movie that captures the raw emotions of a family dealing with betrayal, pain, and loss and learning to draw together for love and support.


Hugo is an Enchanting Film
Hugo is an enchanting film that will dazzle the viewer with its beautiful scenes, real characters, and simple emotional story. This wonderful film reminds me of one of my favorite Italian films "Cinema Paradiso", as they both stir up strong emotions in a simple and beautiful way.

Hugo is an orphan who lives at a train station and cares for the station's clocks. Hugo is devoted to fixing a mechanical robot (an automaton), hoping for a message from his deceased father. Hugo steals from a toy shop owner, constantly dodges the train station policeman, and befriends a young girl. These characters become an important part of Hugo's life, as he works to uncover the mystery of the automaton.

I haven't been a big fan of 3-D technology, which has been disappointing in most films that I've seen in 3D. However, Hugo's 3-D effects are stunning and really make you feel part of the scenes. The director Martin Scorcese does a magical job with this 3-D medium in creating a visual masterpiece.

While billed as a children's movie, this film will be more appreciated by adults and older children. The story moves slowly, but, since the movie pulls you into Paris of many years ago, you don't even notice. Overall, Hugo is a wonderful and unique film that we'll be a rewarding movie experience.


Immortals is a visually stunning, average action film
Immortals was visually stunning with some great fighting scenes and effects. The main actors did a good job in the standard roles of courageous underdog and evil warlord, and the Virgin oracle was beautiful in a supporting role.

The film is very bloody and violent with many disturbing scenes that set up King Hyperion as the ultimate evil. Theseus transitions from a well-trained peasant to an inspirational warrior who gets his chance for revenge with a showdown with Hyperion.

The film also has an ongoing story with the Zeus gods and the Titans. This story arc was weak and inconsistent with the most common versions of Greek mythology. The Greek god actors were pretty disappointing as a group, looking as though they were on leave from a WB teen drama series.

Overall, Immortals follows a pretty standard good vs. evil story that moves slowly to the ultimate conflict. Theseus needed more depth as the hero, and the story needed more substance. Many scenes were forced (ie, Theseus' go to battle speech), and blood and gore dominated the movie.

Real Steel

The best robot boxing movie of the year
Real Steel provides what is expected - robot boxing - and more.

Hugh Jackman is good in the lead role, as a man running away from his past and responsibilities. He is sucked into the robot boxing world but can't catch a break. With Hugh Jackman, I keep expecting him to turn into Wolverine and take out the bad guys.

Dakota Goyo steals the movie as his son, who is stuck for a summer with his dad he has never met before. Together, they have some touching, emotional, and funny scenes together.

Their characters are brought together by a robot boxer named Atom, who draws out a lot of emotion for a machine who doesn't speak.

The movie follows a Rocky-like script, as they battle Atom in robot fights that are very much like Transformer battles. Overall, the movie is very entertaining with great characters and a satisfying story and a cool underdog robot Atom that you'll find yourself cheering on.

Jack and Jill

Jack & Jill is a Mediocre Sandler Movie
I'm a big Adam Sandler fan, but Jack & Jill was a mediocre effort. The film had some laughs (mostly captured in the trailers), but the movie was stalled by too many somber stretches with Jill (sister played by Adam Sandler) and the forced scenes with Al Pacino.

Sandler's regular cast of sidekicks (his cross-eyed friend, the dumb guy, Rob Schneider, David Spade) filled the movie. They provided a few funny moments, but most of their scenes bombed or were pointless.

The oddest role was Al Pacino playing a desperate Al Pacino. His scenes seemed to drag on with no purpose. The scenes were difficult to endure, as he tried to romance Jill (female Sandler).

The movie had many, many celebrity cameos, which are fun to see and even better if they are funny or add to the movie. Johnny Depp & Shaq were two of the better cameos.

Overall, the movie probably isn't worth a movie ticket. Jack & Jill is more of a Netflix rental down the road. Or, better yet, check out a funnier old school Sandler film like Happy Gilmore, or one of his better relationship films like 50 First Dates or Just Go With It.

Tower Heist

Tower Heist is a Funny & Enjoyable Movie
Tower Heist pretty much follows its movie trailer. Guys working at a exclusive high-rise condo get ripped off by the Wall Street investor living in the penthouse, and they seek revenge by trying to steal their money back.

Eddie Murphy is hilarious as the career "thief" who teaches the straight-laced heist crew how to steal and guides them in their big-time heist. Eddie Murphy's performance took me back to some of his best work in Beverly Hills Cop, where he shines as an over-the-top, in-your-face character. I enjoyed seeing Eddie Murphy have fun in a movie role.

Ben Stiller does a good job as the ringleader, who uses his knowledge of the tower to plan the heist. Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, & Michael Pena all have funny moments as the hapless robbery team. They have a hilarious scene in a mall, where Eddie Murphy challenges them to show their stuff by stealing $50 worth of merchandise.

Gabourey Sidibe is very funny as the maid, who joins the team. While her Jamaican accent is inconsistent, she has some great scenes in the movie. And, Alan Alda is very good as the Wall Street criminal.

Tower Heist is very funny, the actors are great with good chemistry, and the movie has some good suspense and a satisfying conclusion. You just need to overlook the many impracticalities of the heist and enjoy the movie.

The Rum Diary

Depp is a fascinating and flawed hero in Rum Diary
Rum Diary was an interesting movie that tells the story of a writer at a crossroads in his life who flees to Puerto Rico in 1960 to either find something better in himself or get lost in a river of rum.

Johnny Depp goes a good job as a failing novelist who takes to journalism for the San Juan Star in hoping that writing something will help him ultimately succeed at writing novels. Depp is captivating in every scene, as his character falls into endless trouble but inevitably finds ways out. Ultimately, the chaos around him helps Depp's character find focus and purpose.

Michael Ribosi does an outstanding job as Depp's sidekick and American guide to Puerto Rico. Ribosi's character survives on rum and the occasional hamburger. Despite his character's self-destructive nature, his character adds warmth and humanity to the film.

I initially went to see Rum Diary for its setting in Puerto Rico. I have lived in Puerto Rico and visited many times. The rural settings accurately depict the rural Puerto Rican lifestyle even today. And the beauty of the island and Old San Juan is captured nicely throughout the movie, albeit less than I hoped.

The Rum Diary is a captivating look into a fascinating and flawed character in a unique time and place.

Puss in Boots

Fun Movie for Kids and Adults
Puss in Boots was what I expected - interesting characters, some great laughs (including the Shrek-like humor for adults only), and an interesting backstory. Unfortunately, no cameos from major Shrek characters (I always get a kick out of Gingy).

Antonio Banderas does a great job voicing the "hero" Puss, and the movie provides Puss' history with some good laughs and great images. The big eyes look of the adult Puss is topped by the young Puss, and we learn how Puss received his name and his boots.

Humpty Dumpty is Puss' long-time friend, who becomes jealous of the young hero Puss and betrays him. But, Humpty Dumpty returns with a plan to achieve their lifelong goal - get the goose that lays the golden eggs. Humpty Dumpty has some funny lines and great visual humor. My favorite was Humpty wearing a golden egg costume.

Joining the adventure and rounding out the trio is Kitty Soft Paws, who transitions from Puss' nemesis to love interest. The pair has some great chemistry for animated characters. Their adventures include run-ins with Jack & Jill (not what anyone will expect), magic beans, the beanstalk, and the goose that lays the golden egg.

Overall, kids and adults will love the movie for its humor, cute characters, and action. Puss in Boots is a worthy spin-off of Shrek. And, the movie has a great message about learning from our mistakes, retribution, and making good choices.

In Time

Entertaining Movie - Well Worth Your Time
In Time was an interesting and entertaining movie set in the distant future where humans were genetically altered to stop aging at 25, at which point they receive one year of time. Then, they must earn more time to live, and, when they run out, they die.

The movie did a great job of highlighting the different classes. The poor lived day-by-day and hour-by-hour. They watched their time closely and always lived near death. The rich, however, had unlimited time and resources, but they lived in fear of someone killing them for time. The movie had great social commentary - using time instead of money.

Justin Timberlake did a great job as the main character who is given a century of time then becomes a future day Robin Hood, stealing time from the rich and giving to the poor. I loved Timberlake in Social Network, and he shines here as well, dominating the film with a captivating performance.

Amanda Seyfried did a good job as Justin's love interest, who lived a trapped, sheltered life in a wealthy family. After being held captive by Justin, she falls for him and they face their future fighting the system together.

In another excellent performance, Cillian Murphy shines as the Timekeeper trying to stop Justin's character. Although I still picture him as the creepy Sandman from Batman, he does a great job as a timekeeper living day-by-day but committed to protecting the system.

Overall, the movie was entertaining, had engaging actors, and made you think about what it would be like to constantly figure out how you would survive day-by-day collecting time to survive.

The Big Year

Big Year has Big Laughs and Touching Moments
In the Big Year, bird-watching ("birding" for those serious about the activity) takes a beautiful backdrop to the story of three men in different stages of life that are all struggling with priorities and what is important in life. Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson all do a great job as lead actors and come across as real bird lovers.

The settings are incredible - taking viewers from Attu Island in the Aleutians to Brownsville, Texas, and everywhere in between. The race to find birds results in many humorous moments between the three competitors as they scour North America in search of rare bird sightings and compete to be the world's best birder.

Steve Martin does a wonderful job as a man on the verge of retirement, who is struggling to let go of his career. His long-time dream to spend a year birding helps him understand what is important in life. Steve's character develops a father-like relationship with Jack Black's aimless computer programmer whose passion is birds. Steve's character provides fatherly guidance and support that helps Jack Black's character move forward with his life and relationships.

Owen Wilson is great as the obsessed world's greatest birder, who does everything that he can to stop his challengers - Steve Martin & Jack Black. The obsession and drive of Owen's character draws anger, jealousy, and respect from his competitors and other birders. Several supporting actors providing some funny moments with their hatred of Owen.

Overall, Big Year is a funny and heart-warming movie that will make you think about your own priorities and dreams...and maybe grab some binoculars and search out some birds.


Humorous and Touching Story of Dealing with Cancer
Cancer casts a wide net of emotional devastation. 50/50 does an excellent job of capturing the many facets of people dealing with this disease. The story, directing, and acting make you feel with part of the downward emotional and physical spiral of Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's character as he deals with the 50% probability of surviving his cancer.

I'm a big fan of Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's films, and his acting here is exceptional. He captures the whole spectrum of emotions as his character looks in the face of death. Despite the difficult circumstances and the anger, frustration, and hopelessness that comes with it, his character continually seeks out hope and rays of light.

50/50 does a wonderful job at providing insights into both decaying relationships (main character's girlfriend), evolving relationships (main character's mother - excellent acting by Angelica Houston in a supporting role), and new relationships (main character's therapist and fellow cancer patients).

50/50 has many touching moments, as the main character uncovers the strengths of his relationships, as his family and friends deal with their own emotional challenges while trying to help the main character. Seth Rogan does a good job as his aimless, foul-mouthed best friend, and he provides many humorous moments with his loud and direct manner.

Overall, 50/50 does an excellent job with a difficult subject. 50/50 excels where Funny People, about Adam Sandler's character facing cancer, failed a couple years ago.


One of Best Films of Year - Not a baseball movie.
Moneyball is one of the best films of 2011 - and it is not a baseball movie. Moneyball moves briskly through the story, moving through scenes of humor, frustration, excitement - carrying viewers on the emotional roller coaster of Brad Pitt's character.

Baseball is a backdrop not a dominating presence in the film. The interactions between Brad Pitt and the scouts, managers, and players provide some very humorous moments and a few touching scenes. But, they are just a part of the story.

Brad Pitt dominates the film with an outstanding performance of a driven man seeking to prove he is the best in the business of baseball. Brad Pitt does a great job capturing the internal conflict, anger, frustration, and ego of a man born to be a baseball star - but who fell short. Brad Pitt deserves Oscar consideration for this performance.

The heart of the film is the relationship between the characters played by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. Both do a wonderful job in the roles, and they have some great interactions. Jonah did a great job in an understated way. Some of his best moments are quiet reactions to the antics of Brad Pitt's character.

I'm not a baseball fan, but I loved the movie and would highly recommend it.


Germaphobes Beware of Infectious Contagion!
Contagion was surprisingly tense and riveting for a broad film covering a lengthy pandemic that devastates the world.

Overall, the acting was very strong, and the characters were interesting and integral parts of the story. Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, and Laurence Fishburne all did an excellent job with the standard tear-jerking life and loss moments.

Of all the characters, Jude Law stood out playing an eccentric, conspiracy-theory reporter that provided some great moments and comic relief for the film.

Contagion was face-paced and well-directed providing great insights into viral contagions, how they spread, and how they are stopped.

But, if you fear germs, or fear that you may fear germs, this movie is not for you.


Drive moves slowly with lots of violence
Trailers made Drive out to be a car heist, action-type movie (probably to attract a wider audience), but the trailers were misleading.

Drive is a slow-moving, violent drama. Ryan Gosling's character spends much of the movie listening or thinking, often while driving, which tends to really stall the movie (especially with the recurring slow-motion camera work). But, Ryan does a good job with an introverted character who tries to help out his neighbor. He makes you want to root for him.

Ryan's awkward love interest is played by Carey Mulligan. She didn't do much with a rather lifeless character.

After an hour to setup the conflict, the movie quickly devolves into a series of very violent encounters which are at odds with the first half of the movie. The stark contrast heightens the violent feel of the film.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, though it was not what I expected. Ryan Golsing was the highlight of the movie with some great visual camera work and a good soundtrack.

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