Friday, June 14, 2013


Black Sheep Reviews is moving! There are still boxes everywhere and I'm still trying to figure out where everything goes but you can come check it out now!

If you subscribe to the site by e-mail, you will need to subscribe to the new site to keep getting updates from me. Please do so when you have a minute. I would not want to lose a single one of you readers.

Currently on the new Black Sheep Reviews, there are all new reviews for THIS IS THE END and THE BLING RING, an interview with Brit Marling from THE EAST, as well as contests to win passes to see THE BLING RING and THE KINGS OF SUMMER. And there's more to come this weekend, like my review of MAN OF STEEL, as well as reviews for a bunch of Pixar classics from youngsters across the country.

So what are you waiting for? Get to the new Black Sheep Reviews right now!

Sunday, June 02, 2013


Written by Richard LaGravenese
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe and Debbie Reynolds

Liberace: I hate my life sometimes, I really do.

It all starts innocently enough, or as innocently as is possible given the surroundings, in a West Hollywood gay bar, or I should say, Steven Soderbergh’s version of a gay bar anyway. A yellowed filter sets the tone as a bright light burns behind the bar for contrast,  and one man is approached by another for a chance meeting that will change his life forever. Instantly, you know just by sight alone and without any question that BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is a Soderbergh film. What you don’t know at this point is that you’re about to see Soderbergh at his absolute best.

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is essentially a love story but one unlike any I’ve ever seen. The relationship between famed piano virtuoso, Liberace (as played in the film by Michael Douglas), and Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), if we are to believe everything we see in this film, is truly one of the most troubled and damaging in the history of relationships. As it is told and shown here though, for all its difficulty, the love they shared was also the most beautiful either had ever known. Perhaps they just didn’t know what to do with it when they found it.

Or perhaps they doomed themselves from the very start. I will say that I am very pleased that Soderbergh, along with screenwriter, Richard LaGravenese (whose work has never been this direct, honest or subtle), took some liberties with the ages of their characters. There are only 26 years difference between Douglas and Damon. When Liberace met Thorson, there were 40 years separating them, with Liberace being 58 in 1977 when they met. (You do the math!) Their love story is a lot to get past but I doubt any viewer would have gotten past their age difference if they had cast it accurately.

Not too long after meeting Thorson, Liberace invites him to move in, which is his first mistake (if you ignore the 40 years between them). Thanks to some very convincing chemistry between Douglas and Damon, it is clear that there is an attraction, as well as affection, developing between them. All the same, and perhaps again because he just doesn’t know how to handle genuine emotion, Liberace invites him onto his payroll at the same time as he invites him into his bed. Thorson moves in right away and the rest of the film focuses on the time they spent together.

Misguided intentions run rampant throughout BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, and do, on some level, make for a strong case for gay marriage equality. Let alone that both of these gentlemen grew up without much love in their lives but, as gay men, especially as gay men in the public spotlight, they were not free to confirm that love openly. And so they sought out other ways to solidify their bond, from Liberace proposing adoption to Thorson so that they can technically be family, to Liberace eventually funding a plastic surgery overhaul so that Thorson would look more like Liberace himself, as though they were again, related. They both want to belong but they are going about it all wrong.

Communicating this delicate balance requires a focused screenplay, with a strong sense of purpose, as well as delicate yet determined direction. It also requires two incredibly fearless performances to make any of this circus seem even remotely believable. I would never think to pair Douglas and Damon in this way but they both blew me away. In fact, when they first meet, you can feel the sexual tension between them burning when Liberace stares directly at Thorson and states emphatically and cheekily, “That’s what I’m all about. I love to give people a good time.”

As Liberace, Douglas is flamboyant and unapologetically so. He never plays him as a joke though. This is a man who had a fancy for much younger boys, who enjoyed decadence and excess, who believed himself to be the reincarnation of a king and who was raised, not so surprisingly, by an overbearing mother. Douglas plays Liberace with tons of charm and charisma, but also with a great deal of awareness of how Liberace lived in a constant state of performance. He was lying to his public about his sexuality so as not to destroy his career and sadly, performance became a defense mechanism at home as well. At one point, it isn’t clear whether he’s fooling everyone else or just himself.

Clearly, Douglas has the showier role, and he prances up and down his stage in full glory. So it becomes Damon’s part to ground the picture. He is young and naive and just looking to be loved. Of course, once you add spoiled rotten to being loved, it can be difficult to separate the two. Thorson, whose biography this film is based upon, became a drug addict while he was with Liberace and, by the time their relationship was at its worst, was nothing more than a pill-popping, stay at home sex toy, and one that was getting older at that. Damon gives a very ernest performance, which allows us to see his life slipping further and further away from him in great detail.

Together, Douglas and Damon are the real deal, made only more believable by the brilliantly recreated sets and costumes that surround them, as well as the incredible supporting cast. Scott Bakula and Dan Aykroyd give solid performances but their show is stolen by, firstly, Rob Lowe, as a permanently stoned, yet highly skilled plastic surgeon, who can barely even keep his eyes open. And then there’s Debbie Reynolds as Liberace’s mother. She is entirely unrecognizable, and with only three scenes in the entire film, she leaves a mark that is almost as unforgettable as the two stars.

Soderbergh is very selective in what he shows us in BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. Bits of information about Liberace’s life and his relationship with Scott are efficiently thrown in here and there so that you feel as though you’re getting the full picture of their lives. More importantly, by not focusing too intensely on any one piece of Liberace’s legacy, the relationship is allowed to feel more real as the central focus of this almost unbelievable tale. After all, amidst all of this excess and all this melodrama, were just two men from Wisconsin looking for love and hoping to hold on to it. That Soderbergh was able to find that center underneath all the glamour and glitter is what makes his work here truly dazzling.

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent

Dylan Rhodes: Wait, did you say magicians?

They say the trick to magic is misdirection. Distract the audience with something flashy over there so they don’t see the nuts and bolts of the trick happening over here. This must have been the very same logic that was applied to NOW YOU SEE ME when they decided to cast it with a plethora of easily recognizable faces. The logic being that if I’m awed by seeing Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Common and Melanie Laurent on screen all at the same time, I couldn’t possibly see how thin and implausible the film I’m watching is. And just in case you’re savvy enough to see past that bunch of actors, why not throw in a couple of pedigreed thespians like Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine into the mix? Between those two, all the younger faces and some non-stop special effects, maybe people will think they’re watching a Christopher Nolan picture. Alas, no. You’re actually watching a movie from the director of the CLASH OF THE TITANS reboot instead.

The following is what director, Louis Leterrier, is trying to draw your attention away from. Four individual magicians (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco), all of which have various levels of success and talent, are mysteriously called to an abandoned apartment in New York City, all believing they are being summoned by one of the greatest magicians of all time. A plan is revealed to them there and they all gladly accept to partake in hopes that their careers will be boosted by the inevitable attention they will get. And so, the Four Horseman, which is what they call themselves, are born. They then embark on a series of magic shows that defy all expectation and capture the world’s attention because their particular brand of trickery also involves an element of thievery. Of course, whatever they steal, they give back to their public so they are naturally adored. And because their thefts are clouded by smoke and mirrors, the authorities (Ruffalo and Laurent), from the FBI to interpol, cannot figure out how they are doing any of it or what they will do next.

We are essentially instructed at the onset of NOW YOU SEE ME to not think too hard about what we’re about to see. Apparently, looking too closely at an elaborate illusion leads to seeing it less clearly. If you defy this advice though, what you do end up seeing is that Leterrier, along with his merry band of writers, are asking you to accept a number of highly unlikely scenarios that need to add up perfectly over a rather lengthy period of time in order for the Four Horsemen’s plan to come off as intended. You might also see how none of this extensive cast is pushing themselves very far past what we all know and expect of them. (What? Eisenberg is cocky? Caine is composed and authoritative? Craziness.) If you do follow this advice, which I’m sure the filmmakers would like you to do, then NOW YOU SEE ME can be reasonably entertaining at times, but if weren’t for the movie magic backing up their actual magic, the tricks themselves would likely just fall as flat as the film itself does.

Friday, May 31, 2013


Written by Chris Galletta
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Offerman

Frank: My house, my rules. This ends today.
Joe: Yes it does.

Being a teenager grounded in your room in the summertime is practically torturous and makes you the king of absolutely nothing. Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) lost his mother recently and is struggling to fit in both at school and at home. The kids at school tease and bully him, while his father micromanages him in an attempt to control and guide him towards a supposedly stable life. Well, Joe is having none of this any longer. He is his own man, dammit, and he will make his own way in the world and he doesn’t need anyone, least of all his dumb dad, to tell him how to do it. And so, he runs away one day and builds an makeshift house in a clearing in the woods outside of town with his two best buds, just like any real man would do. Together, they will be THE KINGS OF SUMMER.

Directed by “Funny or Die Presents” veteran, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a charming and often quite funny indie film. It is however also, a tad forced here and there, a bit too slight here and there, and ultimately just undercooked enough to have left me somewhat underwhelmed. In part, my disconnect with the film stemmed directly from my interaction with the main character. Joe is such a typical teenager that at times, it is difficult to take him seriously as an actual character. Yes, his mother has passed away, and that has clearly left a gaping hole in his life, but he externalizes all of that anger and takes it out on the world around him, mostly focusing it on his father (played by Nick Offerman with great sincerity and earnestness). Does his father deserve his disdain? Of course not. I understand that Joe has to put this anger somewhere but when he aims it at those who don’t warrant it, it isn’t as easy to take his side.

I wanted to enjoy THE KINGS OF SUMMER more than I did. Although I find the concept of a boy wanting badly to grow up, who believes he is doing so by building what is essentially an elaborate treehouse and running away to it, to be quite telling and touching, the construction of this premise is too tenuous to be taken seriously. In fact, I was never quite sure whether Vogt-Roberts wanted me to take all of this seriously or not. On the one hand, the film works as a light comedy. On the other hand though, kids running away isn’t a terribly funny topic. So when something serious like this is only occasionally treated with seriousness, the tone can be confusing and uneven. Coming of age means coming into your own and I feel THE KINGS OF SUMMER, and the team behind it, still has a little ways to go.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Written by Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling
Directed by Zal Batmanglij
Starring Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard and Ellen Page

Sarah: Why is it self-righteousness goes hand in hand with resistance movements?

The new eco-thriller from the minds of up and coming screenwriting duo, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling, entitled THE EAST, plays about as far east from the middle of the road as one can expect from a studio picture. And with it, Batmanglij and Marling make the leap from independent filmmakers - their first effort being the festival hit, SOUND OF MY VOICE - to full fledged Hollywood filmmakers, without sacrificing one bit of their independent spirit. It’s a far cry from when they themselves lived the lives of nomads, hopping trains and eating discarded food out of dumpsters to survive. Had they never been there though, they might never have written THE EAST.

Marling also stars, just as she did in SOUND OF MY VOICE, in THE EAST, as Sarah, an undercover operative who infiltrates an anarchist group of eco-terrorists who live in some undisclosed woods. Her journey there was no simple one, mind you. To infiltrate this group, known as The East, Sarah had to convince them that she was just like them, that she rejected certain societal norms like having a home and a job to support said home. It also meant that she had to convince them that she was capable of going along with their plots to bring down giant corporations whose policies, practices and products were doing direct damage to the planet and its inhabitants for profit. Of course, in one of the film’s few conventional leanings, the lines become muddied for Sarah when she begins to get close to the group and begins to see their point of view.

What gives THE EAST its edge is not the supposedly shocking revelation that people eat food from the bins in the back of the grocery store instead of buying it off of the shelves, but rather Britmanglij and Marling’s ability not to pick sides. The company Sarah works for, which is led by a callous, Patricia Clarkson, follows whatever money that is thrown its way. It is not interested in doing any great good but rather will protect the interests of whoever can afford said protection. Meanwhile, The East is not so altruistic either. Naturally, the members are just people and people act upon their emotions. They have families and pasts that influence their decisions as well. In the end, THE EAST paints a rather tense but also rather bleak picture about the selfishness of humanity but in doing so, it just may open a few eyes to a whole other way of life.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


Written by Todd Philips and Craig Mazin
Directed by Todd Phillips
Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis and Ken Jeong

Stu: I told myself, I would never come back. 
Phil: Don’t worry, it all ends tonight.

Todd Phillips debuted THE HANGOVER franchise four years ago and ignited a fiery craze among buddy comedy fanatics everywhere. Unfortunately for Philips, everything he’s given us since that initial introduction to those masters of destruction, the Wolf Pack, has been on par with actually feeling hung over. THE HANGOVER had some unexpected charm to it, fully embracing the notion that whatever happens in Vegas, absolutely has to stay in Vegas. After the horrible THE HANGOVER PART II took the action to Thailand, the whole gang has returned to where it all began for THE HANGOVER PART III, Las Vegas, Nevada, and for the better. Ending a trilogy requires a big bang, especially when the middle film was THE HANGOVER PART II. In the end, THE HANGOVER PART III lacks laughs, crosses lines that shouldn’t be crossed, and is only slightly better than the last mess. That’s a kind of bang, right?

If you’ve seen anything of the first two films, then you know that Zach Galifianakis’s Alan is high maintenance, significantly inept, and always getting himself, and his friends, into serious trouble. Would it really be a HANGOVER movie if the entirety of the problem didn’t stem from him again? After Alan is confronted and refuses to change his ways, the only thing that his brother-in-law, Doug (Justin Bartha) sees fit to do with him is send him into a rehabilitation centre. Unfortunately, due to Alan’s resistance, fellow Wolf Packers, Stu (Ed Helms) and Phil (Bradley Cooper) must accompany him or he won’t go. Cue expected mayhem. Remember when Alan bought roofies and drugged his friends in the first HANGOVER? Well, that’s come back to bite them now. And so has the infamous, Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). If the guys have learned anything at all over the years, it’s that Chow shouldn’t be trusted. The Wolf Pack never learns though so someone might finally want to wake up if they ever want to bring all the chaos to a close.

Phillips, who has penned and directed the entire trilogy, wanted to leave fans with something they would remember fondly, something they could savour after the Wolf Pack has gone away for good. THE HANGOVER PART III certainly leaves a distinct taste in your mouth, but by no means is it a good one. Think of the taste in your mouth after a night of binge drinking perhaps. Sure, there are some cheap laughs and a great line here and there, but there is also an awful lot that is just plain off putting, including an absurdly unnecessary amount of animal cruelty.  What THE HANGOVER PART III does have going for it, is that it is at least a fitting end for this uneven trilogy. The conclusion does feel natural so at least there’s that. Plain and simple though, a good comedy, like say, the original THE HANGOVER, for example, has many moments of hilarity without necessarily sacrificing character or plot. The fact is I’ve had head-splitting, vomit-filled hangovers that were funnier than THE HANGOVER PART III.

PS. If you still insist on seeing THE HANGOVER PART III, stick around after the credits. Funniest two minutes of the entire thing.

Guest Reviewer: Justin Waldman

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Written by Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

Natalia: Just like our lives, we appear and we disappear and we are so important to some but we are just passing through.


The latest, and supposedly last, chapter in Richard Linklater’s “Before” series, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, is both grander and darker then its predecessors. It is also a brilliantly fitting progression in Jesse and Celine’s story, that will surely satisfy the millions of fans who have been desperate to find out what happened to their favorite couple since they last saw Jesse mulling over missing his plane out of Paris while longing, and lusting, for his muse in her living room. Another nine years has passed since that moment and Linklater takes what started as a modern fairy tale, and what then grew into a potentially devastating regret, and gives the audience the chance to see what might finally happen to Jesse and Celine when they don’t have somewhere else to be before the sun rises or sets.

If you don’t want to know what happens next for Jesse and Celine (again, naturally, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy), then read no further. As it turns out, Jesse did miss that plane that day in Paris, and he and Celine then embarked on a spree of passion that led to Jesse’s divorce and subsequent loss of custody of his son, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). Flash forward to nine years later and Jesse and Celine are living in Paris but on summer vacation in Greece, with Hank and their two twin girls of their own (Jennifer and Charlotte Prior). They have been together this entire time but the same witty banter that first drew them to each other still flows freely between them. The conversation has changed though. They now speak to each other like a functional couple that is negotiating at all times to ensure the future of the relationship and the future of their individual selves within that relationship. And of course, they have these lengthy chats while strolling through scenic Greece so there is plenty to feast on both visually and intellectually.

Without a concrete reason for them to part company at a specific time, Linklater explores a more organic desire within most of us to break free from another person, despite how much time we’ve spent with them and despite how much we may care about them. In that sense, BEFORE MIDNIGHT imposes its own more metaphoric deadline upon Jesse and Celine. Formally, the film ends at midnight, but midnight can also refer to the fairy tale romance coming to an end, with chariots turning back into pumpkins and gowns turning back into rags. Neither Jesse nor Celine would dispute that the other is, and always has been, the love of their lives, but Linklater doesn’t allow them to have it all without fully realizing what all entails. In that sense, though their love may seem on the surface to be harder than it was 18 or 9 years ago, their love underneath that surface clearly goes deeper than either ever expected.

Click here to read my reviews of BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Written by Chris Morgan
Directed by Justin Lin
Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez and Luke Evans 

Brian: Maybe the Letty we once knew is gone
Dom: You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do.

Director, Justin Lin took over the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise in 2006, with the overtly disappointing TOKYO DRIFT. Since the true horror of that experience, Lin has gone back to basics by delivering an adrenaline-filled plot that captures the essence of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise. FAST AND FURIOUS 6 is a character driven tale of family and revenge, with loads of unspeakably insane action. This stretch of the franchise has been Lin’s baby and he truly has done great things with it, especially considering his particularly rough start. Introducing a movie, then backtracking and doing a three-part prequel is a risky move. (Yes, the last three films are in fact prequels to TOKYO DRIFT.) The move paid off though as FAST AND FURIOUS 6 truly highlights what this ever-growing franchise is really about: fast cars, family, and the lengths we will go for those we love.

The original gang is finally reunited in FAST 6, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), the leader of this band of former criminals, is on a mission to find out what really happened to his ex-girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), after the events of FAST AND FURIOUS (2009). The entire Toretto family, biological and extended, may have left their life of crime behind them, but a new threat has Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a bounty hunter who once tracked Dom’s gang, coming to Dom and friends for help. Hobbs needs them to assist in taking down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a wanted drug trafficker and killer. Shaw’s team may appear more dynamic and prepared than Dom’s but the only real question is who will emerge from the wreckage.

Chris Morgan, who has penned the last four FAST AND FURIOUS scripts, brings the series to new emotional heights, as he plays with this now familiar family by exploring the extremes in their dynamics and the intensity in their characters. Unfortunately, FAST AND FURIOUS 6 is a fangasm movie. Without the previous knowledge of TOKYO DRIFT and FAST AND FURIOUS (2009) you may be a little lost. What makes FAST AND FURIOUS 6 something of a love letter to the fans, is that it answers questions that have been pondered for years, connects missing dots, and brings back a strong, enjoyable storyline that was lacking last time out. This may be Lin’s final instalment in the franchise, and he almost single handedly killed it in 2006, but he has certainly finished with a bang.

Guest reviewer: Justin Waldman

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan

Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

With BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Richard Linklater's unexpected next chapter in the lives of Jesse and Celine, just about to be released, there could be no better time to go back to see how a pairing that has touched so many out there got its start and where it has been since then. 

I can't be certain but I doubt Linklater ever imagined when he met a girl and ended up spending the entire night walking around and talking with her so many years ago, that this event would not only become a film, but rather would become one of his defining works as a filmmaker and also go on to inspire cynical romantics around the globe to believe in possibilities once again. On paper, BEFORE SUNRISE is an experiment at best but on screen, thanks to the charming and somewhat surprisingly innocent performances by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, it is a reminder that love can happen when you least expect it. That being said, it is also a gift that can disappear almost as quickly as it appeared.

BEFORE SUNRISE is a tribute to happenstance. If it weren't for the obnoxious German couple arguing loudly on the train, Celine (Delpy) would never have changed seats and would most likely have never met Jesse (Hawke). Once they strike up a conversation, the exchange becomes a game to see how long they can keep the metaphorical ball in the air while they pass thoughts and ideas back and forth in an effort to impress and to connect.

And pass them, they do. After agreeing to keep each other company for one day in Venice before Jesse's plane leaves in the morning, they get off the train and spend the entire night walking around the beautiful city. It is actually quite fascinating to watch these two individuals carry on about philosophy and novels and art and love. You wait for an awkward silence big enough to take them out of the moment and remind them how ridiculous they're being but it never comes. Pulling this off is again testament to how natural Hawke and Delpy are with each other and themselves. It also doesn't hurt that the characters are in their early 20's and justifiably oblivious to how pedantic they come across.

During the course of their one evening together, they have many a moment that most couples with much more time with each other also have. They are shy but projecting confidence in the depth of their ideas. At times, they boost each other up, while at others, they tear each other down, almost without even realizing it. Their existence is particularly unique as their time together is both limited and entirely their own, given that they are both completely removed from anything they know and because his plane won't wait for him. As the evening progresses though, the reality that they may never see each other again begins to surface in both of their minds.

Their time together ends, just as it always had to, and we pick up with Jesse and Celine again nine years later in BEFORE SUNSET. This sequel was nominated for an Academy Award for its screenplay but I actually found it quite sparse compared to the first entry. Nine years after they met on the train, Jesse and Celine meet again in France, where Jesse is promoting his book that is based on their experience.

There are many things I like about the concept behind BEFORE SUNSET. Jesse and Celine and both nine years older than they were when they first met. Now in their early 30's, it is interesting to see what ideas are still at the forefront of their minds when they have a little more life experience to ground them more. We can also answer some questions that the previous film intentionally left up in the air, like did they sleep together or not that fateful night or did they see each other again six months later when they naively suggested they would do before parting ways. 

There is much to catch up on but barely a moment to do so, which is my biggest complaint about this film. At a scant 80 minutes, the film unspools in near real time, allowing Celine to keep Jesse company, once again, before his plane has to leave. Only this time, he only has a little over an hour. While I'm sure this type of scenario could very well happen in reality, to force this restriction on these two characters feels somewhat punishing and leads me to wonder why Linklater even bothered reuniting them if he wasn't going to give them a chance to breathe.

All the same, their chemistry is still there and, to a large extent, neither character has fully let go of their romantic night together. That night has seemingly informed much of how they approach their romantic lives, with many of their experiences not measuring up with the ideas they've built up over time about just how grande that simple evening truly was. I mean, Jesse wrote a book about it; that's how obsessed he is with it. And of course, both have asked themselves countless times in their head, what if things had been different? What if they had tried instead of freezing that moment in time forever?

Linklater once again leaves Jesse and Celine's future up in the air, as Jesse sits in Celine's living room listening to play her guitar, with his departure time getting closer and closer. Will he make it to the airport on time? Will he catch a later flight and maybe stay the night? Will either one leave their current partners to finally find out what it might be like to be with the very idea of love they hold in their hearts? We will just have to watch BEFORE MIDNIGHT to find out I guess.



Sunday, May 19, 2013


Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana and Benedict Cumberbatch

Kirk: That was a good fight.
Pike: Now, there’s your problem right there.

The last time we caught up with the crew of the Starship Enterprise, a new audience was being introduced to some familiar characters who all had fresh faces. J.J. Abrams’ first attempt to boldly go where in fact many had been before, genuinely felt like maybe no one had actually gone there before. The 2009 STAR TREK was an incredible success; Abrams deftly reinvigorated a franchise that many thought was completely played out. He brought in a brand new audience without entirely alienating the original fanbase, which is all the more impressive when you consider how much he changed some of the long established lore of the series. In the follow-up, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Abrams picks up where he left off and shows us that many of these young Star Fleet academy fledglings still have a thing or two to learn despite their success. The same can be said for Abrams himself.

Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) has just inherited the Enterprise after a rapid rise through the ranks of Star Fleet. His expedited journey to the captain’s chair may now prove to be premature as we catch up with him, and his crew, breaking as many regulations as he can, all for the pursuit of what he personally believes to be what is right for everyone. Meanwhile, his commanding officer, and complicated best friend, Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), is facing the fact that though he may try to avoid emotion in most circumstances, he cannot control how others feel about him at the same time. Both must learn that their egos must be put aside from time to time to see what is going on around them and how it affects the people in their lives and, after they are both very briefly demoted and reassigned, they find themselves fighting alongside each other once again. This time, they will need to work hand in hand if they are ever going to defeat their new foe, the infamous Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Original screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, brought on frequent Abrams collaborator, Damon Lindelof (PROMETHEUS), to help bring STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS to a whole other level, with mixed results. On the one hand, as Kirk and Spock become more familiar with Khan and his plan, it becomes more and more difficult for them to discern the truth in their mission. Perhaps it is my lack of familiarity with the Trekkie history or perhaps it is Cumberbatch’s incredible ability to disorient the viewer with his nearly impenetrable stoicism, but I was riveted throughout the film while trying to decipher just who to trust. That being said, Abrams also allows the film to make the most of some of its more manipulative moments, sometimes so much so that it almost takes away from the overall credibility of the project with obvious music cues and blatant foreshadowing. The missteps are minor but the crew best not get too comfortable in future voyages. I wouldn’t want the final frontier to get any more mainstream then this.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Written and Directed by Jeff Nichols
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan and Reese Witherspoon

Mud: It’s a hell of a thing, a boat in a tree.

Do not be fooled. Just because you see Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon above the title, does not mean you are about to watch another mindless romantic comedy. I’m not sure about Witherspoon but it would appear that McConaughey is done with those, at least for now. MUD, the latest film by independent filmmaker, Jeff Nichols (TAKE SHELTER), is also the latest in a string of films where McConaughey is clearly challenging himself as an actor. Here, he has shed his pristine shine and looks like something that washed ashore years ago and hasn’t bathed since. More importantly though, he is actually succeeding in his quest to reinvent himself and MUD may be his best work yet.

MUD is a fairly straight forward, yet still solidly engaging, coming of age tale. Ellis (Tye Sheridan, fresh off his debut turn in THE TREE OF LIFE) is content with his simple life living with his parents along a river in Arkansas until one fateful week where everything changes. One minute, he’s a normal teenage boy, getting himself into trouble by sneaking off to a neighbouring island at dawn to work on an abandoned boat he found in a tree. The next, he finds himself helping out a fugitive he meets on that island, named Mud (McConaughey). Mud is hiding out until he knows the coast is clear for him to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon, giving her best performance since WALK THE LINE), who is laying low at a motel in waiting. Their love is complicated and troubled to say the least but in Ellis’s eyes, Mud’s mission to be with her despite all obstacles is exactly the inspiration he needs, what with his parents just announcing that they are divorcing.

MUD reminds us that to come of age today does not have to mean getting lost is a barrage of social media and sexually explicit marketing ploys. And thanks to honest performances from the entire ensemble, which also includes Sam Shepard, Sarah Paulson and a hilarious turn from Nichols regular, Michael Shannon, we are also able to get away from the distractions of our supposedly modern lives and remember what it means to truly fight for love while having no idea whether or not it is truly worth fighting for.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013



Thanks to the great people at eOne Entertainment, Black Sheep Reviews has 10 double passes to give away to see Sundance sensation, THE KINGS OF SUMMER in Calgary, Ottawa and Winnipeg in the coming week. Here are the screening details:

Thursday, June 13, 7:00 @ Globe Cinemas

Monday, June 10, 7:00 @ Coliseum

Thursday, June 13, 7:00, Empire Grant Park 8

 If you're interested in procuring one of these double passes for yourself, just follow these instructions:

1. Follow @blacksheeprevs on Twitter. Once you do, tweet your peeps about the contest and link back to this page. Make sure to tell me what city you want the passes for in your tweet. If you already follow @blacksheeprevs, there is a convenient button at the bottom of this post. Just click it and you're in!

2. Like Black Sheep Reviews on Facebook and share the group page with your friends or like the contest link itself. You must then send the Black Sheep page a message so that I can reply with the winning details. No message means no win! There is also a convenient Facebook button at the end of this post that will allow you to share the contest with your friends too.

One entry per person. Winners will be selected at random draw and you have until Sunday, June 9, at 12:00 PM (EST) to get your name in that draw. Only winners will be contacted.

Thank you again to eOne Entertainment. THE KINGS OF SUMMER is now playing in select cities, expanding on June 14. Here is the trailer:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Best of Black Sheep: STAR TREK

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Eric Bana, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg and Leonard Nimoy

James T. Kirk: Who was that pointy-eared bastard?

How long has it been now? It seems like the last star date was light years ago, that a franchise that had been a cultural mainstay for decades had finally drifted into its final frontier. As the leagues of Trekkies grew older, it seemed that the obsession and admiration for Gene Roddenberry’s benchmark science fiction work would soon die out but one Trekkie would not hear of it. J.J. Abrams, the man responsible for creating a new faction of avid followers with his twisted series, “Lost”, stepped up to bring STAR TREK to this generation. The trick then became how to sell these classic characters to an audience that may widely know them solely as punch lines or wax statues while not shunning those who watched religiously and have had to wait seven years for a new installment. Abrams must be a master trickster then because his reboot feels alive and energized from start to finish. While making a movie to appease particular crowds, both new and old, Abrams has instead made a STAR TREK film everyone can get into.

I never cared much for the original “Star Trek” series and I was only a casual viewer of “The Next Generation”. I have nothing against Trekkies but I most certainly am not one. And I also admit that the thing I was most curious about this film was how Abrams could make STAR TREK relevant again. He did it by owning it. From the very beginning, STAR TREK dives into intense drama. A Starfleet ship is under attack by a rogue Romulan ship that appears out of nowhere and looks like a tentacled mechanical monster. People are dying all around and the situation is grim but the result is instant immersement in an alternate reality that is unfathomable and yet entirely convincing. We proceed to bounce back and forth between Iowa and the planet, Vulcan, as if they were mere minutes apart. Beings, both human and alien, exist in both plains seamlessly and it suddenly isn’t so difficult to relate. Even Michael Giacchino’s score is triumphantly, boldly proclaiming a resounding pride for the project as a whole. STAR TREK makes no apologies for what it is and no concessions to be here now.

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman’s screenplay is surprisingly concise given their studio background. They were faced with the challenge of reintroducing characters that are cultural icons without desecrating their origins. The truth is that bringing the whole cast of characters from the original Enterprise as is could never work today. They are simply too dated to keep up with today’s pace. And while their new incarnations are much more limber, they also have their original values (and a few hilarious catchphrases) in tact. And Abrams did a fine job weaving the old and new into his fresh cast. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is a cocky self-assured womanizer but Pine plays him with a well-hidden insecurity in the back of his head as to what he truly can accomplish. Ohura (Zoe Saldana) is a beautiful and fiercely intelligent woman on a mission to succeed. And Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), the child of a Vulcan father and a human mother, is the most fascinating of them all. Quinto strikes the perfect balance of internal turmoil between honouring his Vulcan roots and indulging his human emotions. Perhaps most important though, the cast just seems to be enjoying every second of their time on deck.

Maybe I should just have a little more faith in reappropriating the past. This is the age of the geek after all so it shouldn’t be so surprising to see this resurgence now. I haven’t discussed the plot because it simply isn’t necessary. Suffice it to say, it is intricate and tight and a lot more fun not to know where anything is going at any point in time. It is such a smooth ride that you can just sit back and enjoy the comfortable warp cruising speed. I didn’t think he could do it but J.J. Abrams has boldly brought STAR TREK where no STAR TREK film has ever gone before … past the niche and to the masses.

(ps. is it wrong to think mr. spock is hot?)

Monday, May 13, 2013


Written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Starring Greta Gerwig, Mickey Sumner and Michael Zegen

Frances: It’s sorta like they say there are all these other realities happening all around us but we can’t perceive them. That’s what I want in a relationship, in life ...

Noah Baumbach has a distinct voice as a director but that voice has been rather heavy handed as of late. This is one of the many reasons why his latest film, FRANCES HA, is such an incredible delight. It is whimsical and insightful and entirely adorable. It is perhaps his best work, as a director anyway, as the man can write a mean screenplay, since his Oscar-nominated THE SQUID AND THE WHALE. And I believe, this is in no small part due to the influence of his latest muse, Greta Gerwig.

Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Baumbach, and is also dating the director, plays Frances, a 27-year old amateur dancer, living in New York City and struggling to make it. She is, in theory, a total cliche. In reality though, Frances is a fascinating character that is brought to vivid life by Gerwig, in her most illustrious performance to date. When her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner) gets the job, the man and the new apartment necessary to grow up already, Frances embarks on a meltdown that she is completely unaware of. Her struggle is told with so much subtlety and respect, making it very easy to love Frances, despite all of her obliviousness to her very real woes.

Baumbach shot FRANCES HA in stunning black and white, which grounds this otherwise light and airy experience, reminding us the whole time that Frances does have some serious decisions to make in her life. Before she gets there though, and the film is savvy enough not to be too specific about what she really figures out, if anything, we are treated to a charming, witty contemporary tale that dances as freely on screen as Frances does down the streets of Brooklyn. FRANCES HA is purely and simply a vibrant return to glory for Baumbach that will enchant all who are fortunate enough to see it.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton

Owl Eyes: You won’t find him. This house and everything in it is an elaborate disguise. Gatsby doesn’t exist.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is generally considered by authorities on the subject to be one of the greatest American novels ever written, if not the greatest, and a cautionary tale on the more selfish aspects of the American dream. Before this year, it had been adapted for the screen four times, the most famous of which was made in 1974, directed by Jack Clayton, and starring Robert Redford as the title character, Jay Gatsby, a wealthy socialite and mystery to most who meet him. As effective and timeless as the novel is, the film versions have never resonated with that same weight or properly captured the souls of these seemingly soulless characters. Now, yet another attempt has been made to tame this beast of a work, by one of today’s most vivid filmmakers, Baz Luhrmann, and with it, yet another filmmaker fails to capture what actually makes Gatsby great.

In many ways, Luhrmann would seem like the perfect choice to bring THE GREAT GATSBY back to life. The first half of the novel is all glamour and excess and parties that seem to go on for days at a time. If anyone knows how to party on screen, it’s Luhrmann, whose previous films, like MOULIN ROUGE and ROMEO+JULIET, showcased some of the most chaotic and crafty festivities I’ve ever seen. In those examples though, he was still able to cut through the pandemonium to get to the crux of the characters. In his latest, and most expensive, extravaganza, he doesn’t seem the least bit concerned with what’s hiding underneath all the facade. In fact, at times, the elaborate guise he constructs feels forced and, worse yet, often stinks of overcompensation for a glaring lack of depth. Luhrmann has never been one for subtlety but his work has never felt so far removed from reality either. And when you’re adapting a classic of this magnitude, missing the mark to this degree can almost be misconstrued as an insult to its legacy.

Luhrmann also seemed a good fit because of his ability to bridge the gap between the potentially dated and the contemporary. THE GREAT GATSBY is a commentary on class division and the social injustices suffered at the hands of the disenfranchised to allow for the excessive self-indulgence of the well to do. Given the current class issues faced by many Americans, I would have expected these comparisons to be glaringly obvious, but Luhrmann is too busy throwing money at the problem in hopes we don’t notice (which is ironic really, but not all that engaging). There are certainly elements of THE GREAT GATSBY that work, from Leonardo DiCaprio’s charismatic portrayal of the complex title character to the thrilling, and often thumping, soundtrack. Carey Mulligan is magnificent as Gatsby’s love interest; Joel Edgerton is appropriately creepy as her philandering husband; and Tobey Maguire is, well, competent at least, as the film’s narrator. The cast’s grasp of the subject matter elevates the occasional scene past its visual pomp, but ultimately cannot sustain the bumpy ride. In some ways, I suppose highlighting how the parties were meant to mask the emptiness of the era, is actually authentic to Fitzgerald’s message but, while hollowness on the page can often be haunting, on screen, it is often just hollow.

Best of Black Sheep: STORIES WE TELL

Written and Directed by Sarah Polley

Michael Polley: When you’re in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all. It’s a confusion.

It isn’t often that I feel the need to give a spoiler warning before discussing a documentary, but I feel there is no real way to discuss Sarah Polley’s latest (and dare I say, greatest) film, STORIES WE TELL, without giving away the story itself. Polley decides to turn the camera inward, or as close to inward as is physically possible when you’re still the one directing the film from behind the camera. In doing so, not only does she somehow avoid veering into the hyper-egotistical terrain the subject matter could very easily provide, but she also creates a beautiful film that explores perspective and how it shapes all of our lives. This is the work of a very brave filmmaker.

Polley is very guarded with her information at the onset of STORIES WE TELL, and when you find out why, it only stands to reason. It isn’t quite clear what she’s trying to show us at first but, little by little, and rather organically I might add, the film’s structure takes shape. Polley is interviewing her siblings, or rather interrogating, as she puts it, and filming her father, Michael Polley, as he reads a story he wrote that involves his daughter. It is the story of Polley’s youth, of her parents’ relationship, and of their difficulties. More specifically though, and this is the spoiler part, it becomes clear at one point that this is the story of how Sarah was conceived out of wedlock. 

By having everyone directly and indirectly involved in the film, including her actual birth father, whom I will let the film reveal to you in its own time, Polley is able to piece together a story from so many different sources. As if to acknowledge that she knows that there is no true way to get the real details of this story (as her mother died when Polley was 11), she cuts away to archival family footage of the period her mother would have had her affair, only to later reveal that this footage is staged with actors playing the parts of her parents. Add to this the inevitable filtering Polley has over the overall telling of this story as she sits in the editing room, and you have a crafty and discerning exploration of the art of storytelling itself .The true beauty of STORIES WE TELL though isn’t the scandal or even the insight; no, what resonates most is to see the Polley family still together after surviving what was certainly a difficult story for all of them.