Review: The Longest Ride

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Director: George Tillman Jr. (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Faster, Notorious)
Writer: Craig Bolotin, Nicholas Sparks (novel)
Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Theresa Park, Nicholas Sparks
Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Alan Alda
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 139 min.


Here’s the deal: you’ve seen this movie before. It’s not really like The Notebook but it’s as close to it as we’ve come in the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels since. Truth: Sparks knows how to weave a good, if predictable, romantic yarn and The Longest Ride is no different.

Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood are the lovely couple this time around. She, Sophia, is a New Jersey daughter of immigrants studying art at the local college in one of the Carolinas while he, Luke, is a good ‘ole southern boy who spends his days professionally riding bulls. The pair meet at one of his events, there’s a spark and eventually they end up together though not before each is forced to confront their personal problems and put everything on the line for love. The end. Happily ever after. And yes, it is happily ever after. Sparks and Disney are the few bastions of happy endings left. Though Sparks’ usually come at the cost of a few extra tissues.

If, like me, you missed the memo, The Longest Ride also stars Alan Alda as Ira, a crotchety old man that is befriended by Sophia. He shares the story of the hardships and happiness of his relationship with his wife, a relationship he refers to as “the longest ride” and his story prompts Sophia to give Luke another go because, as we all know, true love is hard to find and can sometimes be difficult. I’m sure you can figure out how Ira’s story ends too but seriously, if your complaint about this movie is its predictability, you really need to get out more.

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Review: The Sisterhood of Night

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Director: Caryn Waechter
Writer: Marilyn Fu, Steven Millhauser (short story)
Producers: Elizabeth Cuthrell, Lydia Dean Pilcher
Starring: Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman, Olivia DeJonge, Kal Penn, Laura Fraser
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 104 min.


The current crop of YA movies may be, for the most part, burning up the box office but the majority of them don’t feature regular, everyday kids dealing with regular, everyday problems. Yes, the messages are mostly positive but how likely is it that a girl will have to save the world from the grips of a power hungry leader with her bow and arrow?

The easy thing to do is chalk The Sisterhood of Night up to modern retelling of the Salem witch trials and it certainly is that but it’s also far more. Based on a short story from Pulitzer Prize winning author Steven Millhauser and adapted by Marilyn Fu, the story takes the concept of the witch trials and sets it in today’s highschool world complete with the perils of social media.

The grown-up Georgie Henley (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame) stars as Mary Warren, an artistic and largely independent teen girl who, after a couple of run ins with an attention hungry Emily Parris (Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward) decides to take a break from social media. She updates Facebook one last time and then turns her attention to real world connections. The teen soon befriends a pair of other girls and the trio begin the Sisterhood of Night, a by invitation-only club that sees girls getting together in the middle of the night in the woods and what they do there soon becomes the centre of a scandal.

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2015 Oscar Winners

Welcome to part of the Third Row’s coverage of the 87th annual Academy Awards presentation! We’ll be here all night updating the winners live as they’re announced. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Surprises? Happy? Pissed? Confused? How was NPH?

*winners are marked in red

 
 

BEST MOTION PICTURE:
American Sniper
Birdman
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash

 

DIRECTOR:
Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game

 

ACTOR:
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything

 

ACTRESS:
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

 
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Movie Club Podcast #30: POPEYE and PUNCH DRUNK LOVE

The Movie Club and Row Three want to serve up a great big hug and a kiss for Valentine’s Day with two rather unconventional love stories. The first is Robert Altman’s uniquely weird live-action adaptation of Popeye cartoons. The second, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, is a deconstruction of the Adam Sandler man-child character amongst many other things. Kurt Halfyard is joined by a number of Rowthree regulars Jim Laczkowski (who also runs The Director’s Club Podcast, Bob Turnbull (who is also caretaker for Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind), as well as the Mamo! Podcasts’s Matthew Price to discuss these two films at length. Andrew James produced and edited the episode. Join us if you like, it beats flowers and candy.

The streaming conversation as well as the downloadable audio podcast can be found at:

The Movie Club Site

 

 
 
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The Movie Club Podcast page.

87th Annual Academy Award Nominations [Oscars]

Good day! Welcome to another year of attempting to live blog the annual Oscar Nominations! We’re going to be posting the 2015 nominations for the 87th Academy Awards right here on this page (almost) as quickly as they are announced – and you can watch the presentation in the video above.

The Academy is doing something new this year. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs will take the stage along with actor Chris Pine and directors Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams to present all 24 categories live on stage. Previous years only had the major categories being verbally announced while the rest were posted on the web site a couple hours later.

I’ll be trying to keep up with them as best I can at least the major categories as they (very very quickly, traditionally) announce the titles and names for the nominees.

You can check out all of the nominees printed below soon after they’re announced. See anything interesting or surprising? Anyone snubbed or is anything garnering undeserved attention? Comments will be turned on Thursday morning so you may make your thoughts/rants known!

The award winners will be announced on Sunday, FEBRUARY 22nd at 7pm ET live on ABC at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood.

 

TOTAL NOMINATIONS COUNT:
Birdman 9
The Grand Budapest Hotel 9
The Imitation Game 8
Boyhood 6
American Sniper 6
Foxcatcher 6
Interstellar 5
The Theory of Everything 5
Whiplash 5
Mr. Turner 4


 
 
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Review: The Fault in Our Stars

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Director: Josh Boone (Stuck In Love)
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webe, John Green (book)
Producer: Brendan Prost
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 125 min.


Cancer sucks and generally speaking, movies about cancer suck. They’re saccharin and overtly manipulative of emotions and show you beautiful people dying and those around them suffering and in the end there’s a moment of happiness when you remember the dead soul who so deeply touched the life/lives of the central characters in the short time they knew the sickly person. The Fault in Our Stars is exactly that movie. The only difference here is that this features such charismatic performances that it doesn’t feel like emotional manipulation but more like some sort of catharsis.

Emerging writing superstars Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber are starting to corner the market on touching teen dramas starring Shailene Woodley. Last year they were behind the script for the much loved The Spectacular Now and here they are again adapting from John Green’s best selling novel about cancer kinds falling in love. Hazel (Woodley) is really sick and Gus (Ansel Elgort) is in remission. The pair meet at support group and immediately strike up a friendship that later develops into romance before tragedy strikes. After all, you can’t have a movie about cancer without some sort of tragedy (because having cancer isn’t tragedy enough).

The thing is that in the case of The Fault in Our Stars, the tragedy and emotion that goes with it works. Part of it is the fact that Green’s novel has a streak of bluntness running through it. It’s not all good moments and bad moments but a mix of the two, comedy hand-in-hand with tragedy, and Hazel and Gus tackle life with a sarcasm and sense of mortality that is refreshing. They talk about death, about what comes after (if anything) about the limitless living one can do in our limited time on earth and rather than feel sorry for the sick kids, I couldn’t help but think about what I’m doing with my life. Nothing like seeing young people suffer and possibly die to make you consider if you’ve done enough with your 30 years on earth.

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Review: Night Moves

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When purchasing a used boat for an act of extreme vandalism, the young activist, quips that she chose the one named “Night Moves” because it was better in her mind than “Sea Breeze” or “Heart’s Ease.” I tend to pay attention to the names of boats and films because they are usually chosen with care. This is double-so when that happens to be the name of the film. Part of me wants Kelly Reichardt’s choice of names to be based on the Gene Hackman noir from 1975 (directed by Arthur Penn), which does indeed feature a sinking boat, among other things, along with a healthy dose of paranoia and confusion and stylish ineffectuality.  It’s a better boat name than The Conversation, but I digress. Reichardt has become a marquee name on the festival circuit with her last three films, Old Joy, Wendy & Lucy and Meek’s Cutoff.  All three are decidedly different animals story-wise, but all deal with being lost in a way, and are told with an in-camera intimacy that has made her one of the more interesting American auteur filmmakers.  

Dena (Dakota Fanning) and Ross (Jesse Eisenberg) both work at jobs outside the mainstream.  She helps maintain a ‘wellness spa’ that has old ladies dipping in hot pools while soothing music is piped in.  He works on a co-operative farm that puts local organic vegetables into the hands of local Oregon folks who probably are proponents of the local food movement.  Eschewing the feel-good brand of activism in making earnest documentaries as when they watch the earnest footage shown by a cute young girl at a local meeting. The credits reveal that the film within the film was shot by Reichard’s onetime producer Larry Fessenden which I find cheeky considering his own eco-horror films. Anyway, Dena and Ross have bigger, far more hands on plans of direct activism. They buy the eponymous boat and hook up with the rather shifty Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard at his most Sarsgaard-ian) who can turn 500 pounds of fertilizer into a bomb, for which the Night Moves is the delivery vessel.   

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Super Ticket Episode 3 – New Levels of Thin

The rare collision of Cinecast and Mamo! seems to happen when Kaiju come to town, and this time is no different. Welcome to the third Rowthree Super Ticket, in which Matt, Matt, Matt, Kurt and Andrew discuss big old Godzilla in the context of the 2014 blockbuster model. When will the doctorate thesis on how mega-sized movies gleefully destroy cities be written? What would the HBO version of a monster catastrophe look like? Will the already green-lit sequel feature Godzilla in a back-to-college comedy? Where does Aaron Taylor Johnson rank on the Sam Worthington to Ryan Reynolds index? All these questions and more are answered herein.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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More show details are under the seats…
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