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The Jack Nicholson classic helped define a generation in 1970

Stories of the return of the prodigal son are as old as time. Or, at least as old as the Bible, with the most famous example being from the book of Luke. In the classic 1970 film “Five Easy Pieces,” we get another example in the form of Robert Eroica Dupea, played with manic energy and raw, explosive passion by Jack Nicholson. It’s a movie that gives us one of the better rounded characters in the history of cinema. Robert is certainly not perfect. Pretty much everyone will find in Robert things that they do like about him, and things that they don’t. Regardless of how you may feel about Robert at any given time, he is who he is.

This is something that his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) grapples with. There are scenes, such as one that takes place in a bowling alley, where he scolds and humiliates her for not being good at bowling. Clearly, she was just there to have fun with him and their friends Elton (Billy Green Bush) and Stoney (Fannie Flagg). Other times, Nicholson turns on the charm as Robert and gives her his sly smile, making her melt and fall in love with him all over again. Their relationship, however, isn’t melodramatic or tumultuous, like something on a soap opera. It’s genuine. These are two people who love each other, flaws and all, and are trying to make it work.

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Seth MacFarlane's foul-mouthed teddy bear is more offensive than ever, and we love it.

Is it worth $10? Yes

There are a handful of absolute winner, downright hilarious moments in “Ted 2,” but the best might just be a throwaway gag that comes early on at a wedding reception. After a reference to snorting cocaine and the suggestion that “nobody will notice,” director Seth MacFarlane cuts to a guy jumping rope really fast, who then in one motion stops, punches someone in the face and leaps head first out a glass window. The moment is so random, free and out there that I laughed so hard I cried. 

Fans of MacFarlane’s hit Fox TV show “Family Guy” (and I am one) are used to this type of absurdity, so the outlandish silliness is par for the course. MacFarlane is the guy who sang “We Saw Your Boobs” while hosting the Oscars in 2013, after all. If you want anything resembling maturity in your comedy, look elsewhere.

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A movie caught between funny and serious, succeeding at neither

Is it worth $10? No

“The Overnight” opens with a heavy breathing and groaning couple played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling having passionate sex. Good start. Then, to the horror of most and the familiarity of those who have young children, the couple is interrupted by their son, who’s wearing a Superman cape and wants to play.

This scene, like almost every scene in the film, is grounded in seriousness but has a slight humor about it. The problem is we’re not sure if we’re supposed to laugh or be aghast, and it can’t be both. “The Overnight” takes itself too seriously to be a comedy, and it’s got too much outlandish extravagance to be a clear drama.

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Everything goes wrong amidst ample opportunity to do so much right

Is it worth $10? No

When critiquing a film or any other form of work, it is ideal to remove all biases prior to viewing. This ideal is almost impossible to live up to, so most will just claim that they have achieved it, rather than actually putting in the work to mold their mind into a clean slate. It is my view that it is more affective to lay your convictions out on the table at the onset, rather than to masquerade as a detached observer. So here it goes: I wanted "A Little Chaos" to be a good movie because I like Alan Rickman, who both stars as King Louis XIV and directed the film.

At a young age, Rickman captured my heart as the dastardly Hans Gruber in what was immediately my favorite action-hero flick, "Die Hard" (1989). As Professor Severus Snape in the "Harry Potter" films, he played a key role in bringing  to life a pivotal book series from my childhood. I've even enjoyed his comedic turns in films like "Dogma" (1999) and "Galaxy Quest" (1999). Naturally, I would root for his success in what is only his second directorial turn (his first being 1997's "The Winter Guest").

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Even dog lovers won't enjoy this tripe. Makes you feel bad for the dogs.

Is it worth $10? No

There’s a scene in the beginning of “Max” that’s played for heartfelt sentiment, but in reality is incredibly rude and inconsiderate. In a sense it’s a microcosm of the entire movie, which strives for emotional impact but overall is so dull that it’s inconsiderate of the viewer’s time and attention.

The scene is set inside a Texas church. It’s the memorial service for Kyle Wincott (Robbie Amell), the proud son of Ray (Thomas Haden Church) and Pamela (Lauren Graham), and young teen Justin’s (Josh Wiggins) older brother. Kyle was a dog-handler U.S. Marine who was killed in action in Afghanistan. His dog – “Best Friend. Hero. Marine.” as the tagline says – was Max, a loyal and handsome Belgian Malinois. As the choir sings “Nearer My God To Thee” and Pamela cries, Marine handler Sgt. Reyes (Jay Hernandez) interrupts the proceeding to drag yelping Max into the church (are dogs allowed in churches?) so he can wail at his owner’s coffin. It’s sad, and so unfathomably discourteous I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I know, “the dog had a right to be at his handler’s memorial service.” I actually agree. The dog also had a right to be there on time so he wouldn’t disrupt literally everything that’s happening in the middle of the ceremony.

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Holly Hunter shines alongside Al Pacino in this insightful drama

Is it worth $10? Yes

"Manglehorn" slaps you across the face and bites you first and only then do you earn its warmth and dizzy intoxication. It's the "Tequila," if you were to call director David Gordon Green's three most recent films the "Liquor Trilogy." His compact, easy masterpiece "Prince Avalanche" (2013) would be "Moonshine" madness, and "Joe" (2014) rotgut "Vodka" straight from the plastic jug. Like the Mexican delicacy, his latest possesses psychoactive properties, facilitates personality shifts, and brings on double vision.

Indeed, Green (along with his go-to, highly talented cinematographer Tim Orr) layers moving images of  A.J. Manglehorn (Al Pacino) talking to himself. He also uses multiple audio tracks, mirroring the lock-and-key man's confusions. Green and Orr, confidently playful, filter light coming through a storefront or vehicle window, adding subtle, otherworldly orange and yellow tints to portions of compositions.

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Robin Williams teams with Jeff Bridges in this touching 1991 drama

In “The Fisher King,” Jack (Jeff Bridges) is a fast talking shock jock on a New York City radio station. In spite of the fact that he is rude to his callers and is a total misanthrope, he is the hottest radio act in town. So much so that he and his agent (David Pierce) are excited about an upcoming role on a television show that could make him a big star.

His enthusiasm quickly crumbles when he learns that Edwin (Christian Clemenson), a daily caller who seems to enjoy getting abused by Jack, has taken Jack’s words a bit too much to heart. Shortly after getting off of the phone with Jack, Edwin went to a local bar and opened fire with a shotgun, killing several people.

Edwin’s actions shake Jack to his core. All of the bile and vitriol that he spilled out over the radio has finally come back to bite him, in a big way. We see that underneath Jack’s gruff, unfeeling, uncaring, people hating exterior is a man who really does care about his fellow man. He is shocked and horrified to the point where, when the movie picks up three years after the incident, Jack is still haunted and tormented by that day. Even though he never told Edwin to commit such atrocities, he feels responsible and is filled with regret. It’s a pain he tries to numb with a lot of heavy drinking.

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Recent Articles

Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Five Easy Pieces
The Jack Nicholson classic helped define a ...
Ted 2 ***
Seth MacFarlane's foul-mouthed teddy bear ...
The Overnight **
A movie caught between funny and serious, ...
A Little Chaos * 1/2
Everything goes wrong amidst ample ...
Max **
Even dog lovers won't enjoy this tripe. ...

Ted 2

Seth MacFarlane's foul-mouthed teddy bear is more offensive than ever, and we love it.

Is it worth $10? Yes

There are a handful of absolute winner, downright hilarious moments in “Ted 2,” but the best might just be a throwaway gag that comes early on at a wedding reception. After a reference to snorting cocaine and the suggestion that “nobody will notice,” director Seth MacFarlane cuts to a guy jumping rope really fast, who then in one motion stops, punches someone in the face and leaps head first out a glass window. The moment is so random, free and out there that I laughed so hard I cried. 

Fans of MacFarlane’s hit Fox TV show “Family Guy” (and I am one) are used to this type of absurdity, so the outlandish silliness is par for the course. MacFarlane is the guy who sang “We Saw Your Boobs” while hosting the Oscars in 2013, after all. If you want anything resembling maturity in your comedy, look elsewhere.

Read more
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