Dntd Film Review: “August: Osage County”

In this family portrait of grief, transgressions and pain, “August: Osage County” is a wonderful adaptation of screenwriter Tracy Letts’ play of the same title. The film is light-humored and moody, utilizing the vast plains of Oklahoma as a central character.

Meryl Streep as Violet, an ill and grieving matriarch of a dysfunctional family, gives an outstanding and raw performance. Julia Roberts is stellar as Barbara, the oldest daughter and foul-mouthed peacekeeper of the family. She carries a intense and sentimental performance. The ensemble features Julianne Nicholson, who is emotionally breathtaking as Ivy, the middle daughter with love life complications and remorse, as well as Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Margo Martindale who is incredible as Aunt Mattie Fae and Benedict Cumberbatch speaking in a cute Southern accent and acting with dorky charm.

This film amidst being a drama is riveting. Then Caleb Followill is singing the song “Last Mile Home” by Kings of Leon as the credits roll. Perfect.

Dntd Film Review: “Philomena”

Charming, humorous, engaging and heartbreaking, “Philomena” boasts fine performances and awe-struck chemistry between Steve Coogan, who also serves as screenwriter and Judi Dench, who play Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee, respectively.

Based on a true story, revealed in the film is companionship and that life does not always have a happy ending but is honest. Director Stephen Frears pays incredible attention to detail for moving the story in location and presence. Co-Screenwriter Jeff Pope created a script that allows the film to breathe for the audience’s enjoyment.

Steve Coogan balances drama and comedy to make the genres mold into one, as does Judi Dench. Seeing her eloquently explain the plot line for “Big Momma’s House” while finding it hysterical is graceful. Her moments of curiosity and small moments of quiet are mesmerizing. Judi as Philomena also has some great tongue in cheek moments.

The film focuses on the title character but gives time to learn about Martin, who is writing a profile about Philomena, and his fears and failures but also his discovery. This film is powerful in its emotional depth and splendor.

Dntd Film Review: “Her”

A very intricate and well-mapped out story from Writer-Director Spike Jonze delivers a story of love for eye-opening realism. Set in futuristic Los Angeles with elements of current Los Angeles, “Her” is much more than a story about a man and the infatuation for his computer. It is truly the unfolding of a love story with complications and a pulse. Also, quite provocative.

Essentially, Joaquin Phoenix (Theodore Twombly) is carrying the film by himself and he is sensational. He brings the essence of the highs and lows of life with the ability to change the mood within a second. Theodore, for his profession, writes the most thoughtful letters but is not able to express his feelings, making for a great contrast to his character and for the story. Scarlett Johansson in her whisper tough voice is sweet, gentle, dramatic and sensual for a career defining and unique performance as Samantha, the OS system. Rooney Mara is great in her supporting role as Catherine, Theodore’s long-suffering soon to be ex-wife. Chris Pratt is sarcastic and lovable as the receptionist where Theodore works. Amy Adams lets her hair down as Amy, Theodore’s bohemian friend from college, in a perfect supporting performance. She is such a stunning actress.

If there is nothing else you take away from the film, remember this: You eat your fruit and juice your vegetables.

Dntd Film Review: “Veronica Mars”

The beginning of the film, “Veronica Mars,” gives a great recap of where the television show left off. With the use of media and celebrity (TMZ, James Franco, etc), the story delves into murder suspect Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) accused of killing his girlfriend Carrie Bishop, also known as semi-sleepy songstress Bonnie Deville.

The film is mysterious, comical and returns with a snarky adult Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) and her best pals Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino), who are the Neptune High School basketball coach and eternal high school nerd and tech whiz respectively. Weevil (Francis Capra) also matures nicely into a cleaned up man. Veronica’s father Keith (Enrico Colantoni), Piz (Chris Lowell), Dick Casablancas (Ryan Hansen), Gia (Kristen Ritter) round out many of the familiar characters. There is also an appearance by Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays a partner at a top New York firm who wants to hire Veronica.

The story moves between slow and very fast. The story ends with the possibility of a sequel but may just be saved for the web series, “Play It Again Dick,” hitting the CW on September 15, 2014. While I would have liked all of the characters we left off with in the show to be in the film, it was probably a better choice to just have the characters poignant to the story. It also added how great the film is because the focus of the story was clearer.

Dntd Film Review: “Bad Words”

Crude. Hilarious. Heartwarming. The story is not just about being the best but wanting to achieve something in this existence we call life.

The character Guy Trilby is a more sensitive role for Jason Bateman, who also makes his directorial debut, and is a welcomed departure. He has the most outstanding chemistry with a young actor named Rohan Chand, who plays Chaitanya Chopra, a precocious, dedicated and curious spelling bee contestant. Rachael Harris is funny as an overbearing mother of one of the contestants and who also despises Guy. Kathryn Hahn, Ben Falcone, Phillip Baker Hall and Allison Janney round out the strong cast.

To have the story set around a spelling bee competition is striking. It pulls the audience to view mistakes and triumphs through the cutthroat competition. Guy relives his lost childhood. Chaitanya is trying to retain his childhood. Jason’s attentive direction and Andrew Dodge’s endearing screenplay make “Bad Words” an engaging and thought provoking film.

Dntd Film Review: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

The story is intricately weaved while being told from multiple perspectives. Recapturing love, escaping to freedom and remembering what could have been all set in the location of the title. The story, inspired by writings of Stefan Zweig, is also unique and clever. The attention to detail is evident throughout the film. Even the bakery Mendl’s is regal and revered for delicate cakes in pink and teal ribboned boxes.

The cast is absolute perfection. Taking actors who have their style of acting to bring it to this film is incredible. There are many actors to name: Adrien Brody, Saiorse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum, Tom Wilkinson, as well as the usual suspects Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman. Ralph Fiennes, who plays Monsieur Gustave H, is such a delight in a multi-dimensional character. Tony Revolori, who plays Young Zero Mustafa, is attentive, humorous and engaging with Ralph’s character and is a standout.

This film is true to Wes Anderson’s genius as a filmmaker. The film is also funny, sexy and violent, surprising in bits throughout the film to help the story move.

Cut the Chair: Toni Collette

Toni Collette continues to be a commanding actress. With “Muriel’s Wedding,” “The Sixth Sense,” “About a Boy,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Way Way Back,” and “Enough Said,” her work appears in many genres for an outstanding filmography. Her engaging talent has also been seen in television with “Tsunami: The Aftermath,” and “The United States of Tara,” as well as the stage in “The Wild Party” and “The Realistic Joneses.”

In the film “The Hours,” she played Kitty, next door neighbor to Laura (Julianne Moore). Toni’s performance was solemn, quiet and patient, capturing the time of a restless housewife trying to connect with the changing times through satisfaction.

She gives life to her characters and thus poises her as a beloved actress. Upcoming roles are in “Hector and the Search for Happiness” and “The Boxtrolls.” A beaming gem is this storyteller, Toni Collette.

Cut the Chair: James Pickens Jr.

With dramas (Menace II Society, Dead President’s, Traffic, 42) and television (Seinfeld, The X-Files, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Private Practice) to his extensive filmography, James Pickens Jr. is a dynamic actor with passion to his craft.

“Grey’s Anatomy” has seen some of the strongest characters on television. As Richard Webber, the former chief of surgery, James certainly carries an attention to power, allegiance and benevolence while balancing an ever evolving character.

While his roles may be supportive, they are an integral part of the pulse of the story. One of the most focused actors to grace the screen in multiple genres, James Pickens Jr. is a storyteller.

Dntd Film Review: “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Visually captivating. Wildly comical. Excellently written. “Guardians of the Galaxy” hit above being a blockbuster along with piecing together a story. The villains were full of evil, notably Nebula played brilliantly with gravitas by Karen Gillan.

Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, balanced the cornball humor audiences are used to but emerged as a bona fide leading man with, dare I say, sex appeal. All the guardians provided comical parts of the film but it was Rocket, the raccoon, who stole the show. Bradley Cooper did a solid job as Rocket, making him sound tough. Zoe Saldana was in tip top shape as Gamora. The character was a badass assassin. It was fantastic to watch because she was vulnerable and strong. Dave Bautista was vicious in the most delightful way as Drax the Destroyer. The cast was strong with Vin Diesel, Glenn Close (!!), John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro (!!), Josh Brolin, and Michael Rooker. Lee Pace, who played Ronan, could have been recasted.

Tyler Bates created a throwback playlist as the focal point of the score to make the film a lot of fun. Director James Gunn also brought a visionary element that sets the bar for future comic book films.

Cut the Chair: Kim Dickens

Range should be a virtue to an actor’s career. With Kim Dickens, she has delivered roles that are comforting and caring (Friday Night Lights, The Blind Side, Footloose) and rousing and dark (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy).

Kim played the ruthless and passionate Janette Desautel on “Treme.” Her performance as Janette was ambitious and angry, carrying emotions that should release from a well-rounded character attributed by strong writing.

Her depth as an actor is rich with feeling. One of her upcoming roles is in “Gone Girl.” Kim Dickens acts with no hesitation as the audience can anticipate the dedication of a storyteller.

Cut the Chair: Jay Hernandez

With his talent onscreen in a multitude of film and television roles, Jay Hernandez stays on the pulse of filmmaking to rise as a knockout talent. His acting has been seen in films “Crazy/Beautiful,” “Friday Night Lights,” and “Takers” all bringing different points of characters to audiences.

As Dante Rivas on the television show “Nashville,” Jay played a sympathetic and recovering alcoholic who turned conniving in the quest to deceive Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere. The role was yet another departure in his work and very well acted.

Jay is playing Daniel Acosta, a naïve and pampered son of one of the most prominent gang leaders in Los Angeles on the pulse pounding drama “Gang Related.” Jay continues to demonstrate his love for acting. As a storyteller, his roles become more complex and a key piece for acclaim worthy performances.

Cut the Chair: Kimberly Elise

An actress with a heart of wisdom, Kimberly Elise becomes a stronger actor with each role. Many audiences gained notice of her talent in the film, “Set it Off,” as T.T. who finds herself between a rock and a hard place over and over again. Her soft demeanor would change fiercely to protect her young child. Roles in “Beloved,” “The Manchurian Candidate,” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” also showcase her wide-eyed force onscreen.

Playing a mother in “John Q” saw Kimberly as a strong woman fighting to gain care for her dying son. Acting alongside Denzel Washington saw her shine to create a bold meet of acting chemistry.

As Sloane Hayes on “Hit the Floor,” Kimberly is confident and commanding while dodging drama and often in the thick of it. Her signature sees to play characters that capture the mind. The characters are full of emotions that the audience can relate to. Because of this, continuing to captivate the screen is this storyteller Kimberly Elise.

Cut the Chair: Tina Majorino

Quirky and intelligent, Tina Majorino is an actor of wit and presence. Her characters do not result to just the sidekick. The characters are intriguing, attributed by Tina’s talent.

Tina shows she is an actor of range, whether the character is plucky tech savvy Mac on the cult classic, “Veronica Mars”, Molly, a vampire on “True Blood” or Deb in the sensationally edgy “Napoleon Dynamite.” Her roles also include “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Big Love,” with two different characters that happened to both be named Heather.

Complimented to the screen is an storyteller of confidence and cool, Tina Majorino.

Cut the Chair: Kurtwood Smith

A multitude of characters from this actor has given him a rich career. His ability to be in many genres attests his talent. For one of the genres to be sci-fi, as seen in “The X-Files” and the original “Robocop,” is a rare yet might feat. Performances in “Dead Poet’s Society” and “24” example his attention to tell stories that form onscreen.

His hilarious performance as Red Foreman on the long-running sitcom, “That’s 70s Show” carried on the tradition of television fathers who are apart of the stitch in American television. Kurtwood played Red to show that deep, deep, deep down in his soul he loved his family and even Eric’s friends. If his only line on the series was “ass” it would be poetic and profound with a touch of perfection.

Kurtwood is on the drama “Resurrection,” captivating audiences as a father coping with the return of his young son. It is a departure but a raw character. Depth exudes for viewing delight from this storyteller, Kurtwood Smith.

Dntd Film Review: “Chef”

I laughed out loud, smiled and marveled at the succulent meats and dishes prepared in the film. I felt something I have not had in a long time while watching a film: pleasantly surprised.

“Chef” is about Carl Casper, a chef working at a swank restaurant who was in a creative rut. When Carl receives a bad review from a well-known food blogger, he decides to go off the grid and open a food truck much to previous resistance. The story focuses on Carl’s relationship with his son. Emjay Anthony, who played Percy, Carl’s son, was magic capturing his age but also keeping up with the big dogs. Sophia Vergara, who played Inez, Carl’s ex-wife, gave the best performance I have seen her in. She was delightful and humorous. The ensemble was superb. John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt and Robert Downey Jr. each played their supportive roles and each stood out.

I have an insatiable appetite to travel. While the film was set in Los Angeles, particularly in the neighborhood of Venice, I loved this film was across the country in Miami, New Orleans and Austin. Music Coordinator Matthieu Shreyer mixed a soundtrack for the film of soul, Cubano and old school that moved and complimented the story. The film also perfectly weaved a story of the good, bad and ugly of social media.

Everyone walked out of the theater asking each other their thoughts on “Chef” and it was unanimous: excellent. The film seemed to unite people for the common love of seeing a story unfold. That unity should also be had when being at the movies.