Movie Review: Locke (2014)

If I told you about a 90-minute movie where everything takes place within the interior of a car and there are no car chases, you probably wouldn’t be interested in seeing it.

What if this movie starred Tom Hardy? Okay, maybe you would be a teeny bit interested. But that is a pretty big maybe, right?

Well, Locke is that movie and I have to tell you: It is pretty darn brilliant!

The movie stars Hardy as Ivan Locke, a man making an evening drive from his workplace into London. The movie takes place almost in real time. In the beginning of the film, Locke makes a phone call while driving and explains to the other person that he is on his way and will arrive in about 90 minutes which is about the length of the film.

The film and the camera itself focuses on Locke as the other characters only “appear” via speaker phone. There are calls home as Locke explains to his sons that he won’t be coming home that evening. Calls to an employee and his boss take place to coordinate logistics for the next day’s construction job. There are also calls with a woman named Bethan who at one point asks, “Have you even told your wife someone is having your baby?”

Oh my. Not to make a pun, but that really sets the stage for one interesting ride.

With Locke the filmmakers show that one doesn’t need explosions or special effects to create a thrilling ride for audiences. Each phone call is a desperate attempt by Locke to prevent his world from crumbling around him. The minimalist nature of the film combined with the intensity of the story make for an emotional ride for the audience. You become the passenger in a car going to an unknown place yet you are curious how you will get there.

Locke is written and directed by Steven Knight.




Robin Williams’ Best Role?

The news of Robin Williams’ death today at the age of 63 was definitely a shocker. Williams was a great comedic talent, of course, but he also had some great dramatic roles in his repertoire.

My favorite Robin Williams film was One Hour Photo. In this film Williams played Seymour Parrish, an employee at a one hour photo lab. Seymour is a lonely man who lives through the pictures he develops. These pictures fill a void and he becomes obsessed with one particular young family. Through this family’s pictures he observes what he deems to be an injustice and takes it upon himself to right this wrong.

This is a dark film and I loved how it showed a different side of Williams’ acting talent. I don’t recall this film getting a lot of publicity when it first came out. This 2002 film came out one year before Lost In Translation, another film starring a traditionally comedic actor, Bill Murray, in a dramatic role. At times I’ve wondered if the timing was switched, if One Hour Photo had come out after Translation, if people would have been more open to seeing a comedic actor in a dramatic role. Nevertheless, Photo is a gem of a film and I highly recommend watching it.



What To Watch: Time of Death on Showtime

Have you ever had that feeling when you hear about or see a trailer for a show or movie and the subject matter is so important and relevant that everyone- including you- should watch it. Yet at the same time you are scared sh–less to actually do it?

That is the feeling I had after seeing this trailer for the upcoming Showtime documentary series called Time of Death. This series takes an intimate look at the final weeks, days and moments of life. Obviously death is an event we will all have to face and is one of “those conversations” we need to have with our loved ones. I’m sure this series will spark many of us to have that talk.

The series premieres Friday, November 1 at 9 PM ET/PT.

And no, I have not yet decided if I am going to watch it. Even though I know I should.



Tim Burton and Henry Selick Movie Marathon on ABC Family October 20

Be sure to tune in to ABC Family Channel this Sunday, October 20 for a great marathon of films directed by Tim Burton and Henry Selick. These five films are family-friendly yet also incredibly entertaining for adults.

All times listed below are Eastern.

  • 7:00 am Alice in Wonderland
  • 9:26 am Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
  • 11:56 am Coraline
  • 2:00 pm Corpse Bride
  • 3:55 pm Nightmare Before Christmas

A great lineup! If you are looking for an excuse to stay in and watch TV, you’ve got it! My favorite films showing Sunday are Coraline and Nightmare Before Christmas. Looking for more Tim Burton films to watch? Check out Beetlejuice, Sweeney Todd, and Sleepy Hollow.

Happy Watching!



My Own Not-So-Frightful Film Festival

One of my guilty pleasures is having my own movie or TV show marathons. Maybe it’s watching a movie trilogy, several films by the same director or watching an entire season of a great show. But now that we’re approaching the holiday season, my cinematic thoughts often turn to marathons that center on holiday-themed films. And for October, that means Halloween

I have often fantasized about hosting my own film festival and if I did that, here are some films I’d include in a Halloween-themed festival. Nothing too scary, hence why I call it a “Not-So-Frightful Film Festival”.

Nightmare Before Christmas
Can you think of another movie that works as well at Halloween as it does during Christmas? This film was directed by Henry Selick (who also directed one of my other favorite films Coraline) and produced by Tim Burton. It definitely has Burton’s aesthetic and the soundtrack by Danny Elfman is so catchy and delightful.

Loved this animated tale from Tim Burton about a boy who loses his dog and goes to great lengths to bring his beloved pet back.

Battle Royale
If you thought the movie Hunger Games was a lightweight, you may want to give Battle Royale a viewing. The similarities between these two films is uncanny: both are based on novels, both are centered on teens who fight to the death for the entertainment of others. The fact that the novel BR came out nine years before Games has caused many to accuse Games author Suzanne Collins of ripping off the concept (although Collins has denied knowing about the book before creating her novels). Watch Battle Royale and then watch Hunger Games. You be the judge. While we’re at it…

Hunger Games
Go ahead and add this to the festival lineup. Ripoff or not, still a good film. Can’t wait for the sequel later this year!

Shaun of the Dead
A brilliant rom-com-zom film. That’s right- a romantic comedy zombie film. This film successfully tickled the zombie genre’s funny bone.

28 Days Later
In this film zombies weren’t slow moving creatures. Oh no. They ran- really fast. Great from beginning to end.

This little indie film takes a chapter from The Blair Witch Project with film makers seeking trolls. A little cheesy but still a good film that is at times suspenseful.

Nightwatch and Daywatch
Oh, where do I begin with these two films. Here is the plot: humans with special powers, The Others, are aligned with either the light or the dark. The Others are equally matched between the two factions and have called a truce. But as part of that truce they keep tabs on each other. Hence the titles, Nightwatch and Daywatch. Visually trippy films. Prepare your jaw to be dropped!

Super 8
I love this movie about kids whose film project coincides with a train accident that unleashes something terrible in the town. I have described this film as The Goonies meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Film to Watch: Spinning Plates

My love for documentaries is, um, well-documented (insert drum riff!). And I can tell a film releasing later this month is going to be added to my favorites list.

Spinning Plates gives viewers a firsthand look at restaurants. Everyone goes to restaurants. Some of us do it every day while others do it maybe once a month. Often our goal is simply to get good food (duh). But other times we want an experience. That experience could be an over-the-top culinary journey that we will talk about for years. Maybe it is that local restaurant that everyone goes to for Sunday brunch, where our fellow patrons are like an extended family. Maybe it is that little Italian restaurant that looks like a dive but offers the most authentic dishes this side of Italy.

Okay, now think about the driving force behind those experiences. The chefs. The owners. They don’t just serve food. They are helping to feed our souls. The upcoming documentary Spinning Plates goes behind the counter to show three stories of what it is like to run restaurants in America. While each restaurant is different, the stories are similar. It takes guts to open a restaurant. To open one’s doors and serve food. The passion that these restauranteurs show may change your mind about your favorite local restaurant. Or maybe you will be encouraged to break the cycle of visiting chain restaurants and visit more local ones.

Spinning Plates opens in limited release October 25.



Celebrate Doctober!

Yes you read that right. Doctober. I am a big fan of documentaries and think that October is as great a time as any to discover some great films that entertain while sharing a new perspective.

Here is a list of documentaries you can watch now on Netflix Streaming.

Word Wars This documentary follows four “word nerds” as they prepare for the national Scrabble championship tournament. No- it’s not as dry as you would think. The film perfectly balances the drama, humor and suspense found in any competitive environment. Triple word score!

Wish Me Away This documentary profiles country star Chely Wright as she struggles to hide her homosexuality while succeeding in the music industry.

Pressure Cooker I can not sing the praises of this film enough. Focusing on inner city Philadelphia high school students as they prepare to compete in a citywide cooking competition, this doc will make you cheer!

Mad Hot Ballroom Forget twerking. This doc centers on kids learning ballroom dancing. A joy to watch!

The Queen of Versailles A glimpse into one wealthy family whose fortune made in timeshares begins to crumble in 2008.

Exit Through The Gift Shop Graffiti artist Banksy has made news recently with his work in New York. Check out this 2010 documentary to learn more about the man.

This Film Is Not Yet Rated So how do movies get their ratings? This doc explains why- and why these ratings can be inconsistent and controversial.

Girl Model This raw doc centers on two people: a conflicted model scout- herself a former model- who recruits Russian girls to work in Japan, and a young model who is chosen to make the journey. You will not look at a fashion ad the same way ever again.

A Matter of Taste A delicious film about Paul Liebrandt, a brilliant chef whose haute cuisine and attitude pleases and skewers critics, restaurant owners and other chefs.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There How far will one woman go to convince everyone- even journalists- that she is a 9/11 survivor?

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work I have always kind of liked Joan, but after seeing this doc I gained more respect for this talented comedienne and host. 

Brooklyn Castle Brooklyn’s I.S. 318 is home to America’s best junior high chess team. This doc profiles the students and the challenges the school faces when budget cuts threaten the program.

I know there are even more great docs I left out. But these represent 12 of my favorites..

Happy Doctober!