Hotshots Movie Reviews

Hotshots Movie Reviews by Dan Culberson

Interstellar Movie

Interstellar “Too Much, Too Little”


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Interstellar - Movie PosterINTERSTELLAR is the very epitome of a big movie: big production values, big cast, big story, big ideas, but in the end it just might have a small impact on the audience.

When the movie begins, it is the near future, and the Earth is in trouble, because cities have been abandoned, food production is practically the only industry, and yet blights have wiped out almost all of the crops, and dust storms cause life to be suspended while people are forced to take shelter inside.

Michael McConaughey stars as Cooper, a former pilot for NASA who is now a struggling farmer trying to provide a living for his family, which consists of his daughter Murphy, his son Tom, and his dead wife’s father, who is played by John Lithgow.

The reason Cooper is no longer a pilot for NASA is that science has been abandoned for being too expensive and unncecessary, NASA has gone underground, and children in school are being told that Americans never landed on the moon.

One day Cooper and Murphy stumble into a secret NASA compound, where they learn that NASA is still involved in space exploration, only now as a solution to the world’s problems by searching for a planet in another solar system where humanity can travel to live and survive.

The program is being led by Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine, and he tells Cooper, “We need a pilot, and this is the mission you were trained for.”

Professor Brand’s daughter, Amelia, played by Anne Hathaway, is also a scientist, and she will be accompanying Cooper on the mission, which consists of traveling to the planet Saturn, going through a wormhole that is known to exist there, and emerging at another solar system, where they are to find a planet that will be hospitable to humans.

But wait! The story gets even more preposterous.

A black hole is involved in the journey, and because time will be slowed down for Cooper and his crew, they will age much more slowly than the people on Earth.

Thus, Murphy grows up while Cooper is gone, she is now played by Jessica Chastain, and she also becomes a scientist working with Professor Brand.

INTERSTELLAR goes on way too long, it contains too much technobabble, and the loud sound covers up the dialogue.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Nightcrawler Movie

Nightcrawler “Good and Creepy”


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Nightcrawler - Movie PosterNIGHTCRAWLER is a fascinating and dark movie that affects you the way passing an accident on the highway does: You want to look at it, but you feel a little bit guilty in doing so.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, a petty thief who does come across an automobile accident in Los Angeles, and the experience changes his life so much that he becomes a different man because of it.

It is the middle of the night, Lou stops his car to observe what is happening at the scene, he watches a videographer record footage for morning news programs, and when he sees the footage on television, Lou decides that he can do that, and so he buys himself a camcorder and a police scanner and sets out to become a freelance videographer specializing in accidents and crime scenes that happen in the middle of the night.

Lou makes his first sale for $250, and when the news director tells him he has a good eye, Lou says, “I’m a very, very quick learner; you’ll be seeing me again.”

A carjacking crime wave going on in the city causes business to be so good for Lou that he hires a young homeless man for $30 a night to be his assistant.

Rick’s job is to ride shotgun, watch the traffic, give directions, and handle a second camera for different angles at the scenes.

Well, one night Lou and Rick come onto a crime scene that will change their lives.

It involves shootings during a home invasion, and because Lou and Rick arrive on the scene before the police do, they see the shooters leave the house, and Lou even records them.

Then Lou goes inside the house to get exclusive footage of the victims while Rick stays outside and stands watch.

Lou has no compunction against moving evidence inside the house for better camera angles before the police arrive and gets away with it.

For now.

Lou establishes a business relationship with the news director of one of the TV stations, who is Nina, played by Rene Russo, but he would like their relationship to be more than just business.

Rick wants more money, the police question Lou, and then all hell breaks loose.

NIGHTCRAWLER is fascinating to watch, very good, but very very very very creepy.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Birdman - Movie

Birdman “Unusual and Boring”


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Birdman - Movie PosterBIRDMAN has the full, awkward title of BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE), which sums up the whole movie.

It is long, it is unnecessary, it is complicated, and in the end it is obtuse and doesn’t mean anything.

Michael Keaton stars as Riggan Thomson, an actor who is trying to rejuvenate his career by mounting and starring in a play on Broadway after he used to be somebody in the movies.

You see, some 20 years ago Riggan starred in three popular movies as a comic-book superhero known as Birdman, but after those successful movies playing the superhero, Riggan said no to making BIRDMAN 4.

Remind you of anyone?

Yes, Keaton himself starred as Batman in the 1989 BATMAN and the 1992 BATMAN RETURNS movies, but not in the third Batman movie in the series, although I am not sure why, but there was controversy about his starring in even the first one, with some critics complaining that his chin was too “weak” to be Batman, who wears a mask, remember?

At any rate, a voice in Riggan’s head says, “We had it all; we gave it away.”

Later in the movie, that voice in Riggan’s head becomes significant.

So, Riggan has written an adaptation of a short story called “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” he is directing the play and also starring in it, and the action in the movie takes place mostly in the theater where the play is going to be produced.

The camera work is made to look as if the whole movie was shot in one continuous take, but the long shots sometimes end in a different location and at a different time in the story, which is another example of unnecessary and complicated, right?

The story takes place before the previews of the production, and also appearing are Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, and Naomi Watts, but when scenes turn surrealistic, such as when Riggan floats and flies above the streets of New York City, you might wonder what is going on and why are you there watching this confusing piece of whatever you want to call it.

We see rehearsals for the play, and the acting is terrible.

BIRDMAN goes on way too long, and it is too unusual and boring for my taste.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

St. Vincent - Movie

St. Vincent “Big Rewards”


“Hotshots” looks at a movie!

stvincentposterST. VINCENT is the latest film starring Bill Murray, and that is all you need to know to make you want to see it, and you will be pleased you did. Murray plays Vincent, who is the furthest thing you can imagine being a saint at the beginning of the movie.

Vincent lives in a run-down house in Brooklyn, he drinks, he gambles, and he has a so-called “friend,” who is a pregnant Russian stripper and hooker named Daka, who is played by Naomi Watts.

Well, one day some new neighbors move in next door, and things get off to a bad start when the moving truck breaks a branch off a tree in Vincent’s front yard, which falls onto Vincent’s car parked in his driveway and damages it.

The car, not the driveway.

The truck also runs over Vincent’s fence, and he wants the new neighbor to pay for that, too, although we have already seen Vincent run over the fence himself while driving his car into the driveway drunk and backwards.

The new neighbors are Maggie, a woman going through a divorce played by Melissa McCarthy in a surprisingly and thankfully toned-down performance, and her young son Oliver, who says when he is told about Vincent, “It’s gonna be a long life.”

Maggie has a new job at a hospital, and Oliver starts a new school, which happens to be Catholic, although he is not, nor are many of the kids in his class, as the teacher finds out when he introduces Oliver to the class.

The teacher, Brother Geraghty, is played by Chris O’Dowd.

On his first day at school, Oliver gets picked on by some bullies, and his clothes are stolen, and so when he gets home he is locked out of the house and goes next door to use Vincent’s phone in order to call Maggie.

When Oliver tries to explain why he wants to use Vinent’s telephone, Vincent says, “I don’t need to hear the whole story,” which Vincent will say more than once in this movie.

When Maggie gets home, she anticipates future needs to use Vincent, and so they agree that Vincent will babysit Oliver for a small wage whenever necessary.

Well, you can see where this arrangement is headed, can’t you?

ST. VINCENT pays off with big rewards.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The Judge - Movie

The Judge “Family Courtroom Drama”


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The Judge - Movie PosterTHE JUDGE is a terrific film about a family and what happens to them in a courtroom during a murder trial.

Robert Downey, Jr., stars as Hank Palmer, a successful attorney in Chicago, and Robert Duvall stars as Joe Palmer, Hank’s father, who has been a judge in a small town in Indiana for 42 years.

Hank has a reputation that is not entirely favorable, and when asked why many of his clients seem to be guilty, he says, “Innocent people can’t afford me.”

Hank and Joe are estranged and barely talk to one another, and the movie begins when Hank returns to his hometown in Indiana to attend his mother’s funeral.

However, while Hank is there, Joe is involved in an automobile accident late at night with a man on a bicycle who is killed.

The evidence seems to indicate that the accident was intentional, and because Joe and the man on the bicycle had a history from a previous trial, the judge is charged with murder.

Joe hires a local attorney to defend him, who is played by Dax Shepard, but because he turns out to be both out of his league and in over his head, Hank reluctantly agrees to help out over the objections of Joe.

However, the story is not all courtroom drama; Vera Farmiga plays Hank’s high-school sweetheart, a single mom with a daughter that Hank might have had something to do with before he left town, and Vincent D’Onofrio and Jeremy Strong play Hank’s brothers, and there is something in their past, too, that enters into the story.

In addition, Hank has a wife and daughter back in Chicago who require some attention during the trial, and Joe has a secret that he is not telling anybody. Hank’s reputation isn’t helping his cause, either, especially when he is known as a bully with a big bag of tricks, and he says that his father is the most brutally difficult client he has ever had.

Now, you might believe from the publicity that the movie consists only of Hank and Joe being at each other’s throats and arguing with each other, but there are also some tender and touching scenes in the movie, as well.

THE JUDGE is a tremendous family courtroom drama that is sure to receive some Academy Award nominations.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Gone Girl Movie

Gone Girl “Excellent Thriller”


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Gone Girl - Movie PosterGONE GIRL is an excellent mystery thriller based on the 2012 best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn, who also wrote the screenplay, and if you haven’t read the novel, you are in for a surprise.

No, you are in for more than one surprise, maybe even shockers.

Ben Affleck stars as Nick, Rosamund Pike stars as Amy, his wife, and one morning Amy goes missing from their home in Missouri under mysterious circumstances.

Evidence left in the living room of the house suggests to the police that Amy might have been murdered, and of course in cases like this, the husband is always the prime suspect.

Kim Dickens plays Detective Rhonda Boney, who is investigating the case, and she and her partner provide what little comic relief occurs in the movie, along with Tyler Perry, who plays Nick’s high-priced, high-profile, and high-powered defense attorney.

One of the many problems for the police is that Nick is not acting as they believe a husband would if his wife was missing and believed to have been murdered, as well as the fact that Amy went missing on their fifth wedding anniversary, and Amy’s present to Nick was a game in which she left clues for him labeled “Clue One,” “Clue Two,” and so on.

Also, when they question Nick, his answers don’t strike them as being filled with the sort of information that they believe a husband should know about his wife.

Nick has a twin sister, Margo, and she tells Nick, “Everyone knows ‘complicated’ is code for ‘bitch.’”

Amy left a diary behind, and we hear Amy’s voice as she reads excerpts from the diary and see flashbacks to when they met in New York City, where they were both writers, and then when they both got laid off and moved to Nick’s hometown in Missouri to take care of Nick’s ailing mother.

From the entries in Amy’s diary, we get the impression that their marriage was not as happy as Nick has been telling the police it was.

Finally, Neil Patrick Harris plays an important role as a former suitor of Amy’s, whose departure from her life was not under the most pleasant circumstances.

GONE GIRL ties all these complicated loose ends up at the end in which some people might believe is a bit ambiguous and messy.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

Love is Strange - Movie

Love is Strange “Downer Movie”


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Love is Strange - Movie PosterLOVE IS STRANGE stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as two gay men who have been living together for years and have been partners for even longer than that, and it is about what happens to them after they can finally get officially married.

The movie begins with the wedding ceremony for Ben and George, which is held outdoors in New York City and attended by their families and friends.

At the reception afterwards, held in the roomy apartment that Ben and George own together, Kate, played by Marisa Tomei, who is married to Elliot, Ban’s nephew, makes a toast and says, “May this marriage last forever and beyond.”

Well, unfortunately, their official marriage causes problems for Ben and George, because George, who teaches music at a Catholic school, loses his job, and their loss of income forces them to sell their apartment and move out.

So, while they are looking for another apartment, Ben moves in with Elliot and Kate, where he sleeps on the bottom bunk in the bedroom of their teenage son, Joey, which causes privacy problems with Joey and his friend Vlad.

George moves in with two policemen friends of theirs, who are also gay, and he sleeps on the couch in their living room.

Now, Kate is a novelist who works at home, Ben likes to talk, and he doesn’t realize at first that his talking to Kate is interrupting her concentration and getting on her nerves.

As Ben tells George, “Sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to.”

Ben is a painter, but when Kate suggests that he do some painting to keep him busy, he tells her that he can’t work if someone else is around, because he can’t concentrate.

George is also having difficulties with his new living arrangement sleeping on the couch, because the policemen have a lot of parties and a lot of friends over for activities that don’t interest George at all.

Now, you might get the impression that this sounds like a pretty depressing movie, and you would be right.

Even though other incidents break up the main complication of Ben and George looking for a new place to live, and even though something lucky happens for them, it gets even more depressing.

LOVE IS STRANGE is a downer movie.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

This Is Where I Leave You - Movie

This Is Where I Leave You “And Stay with You Forever”


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This Is Where I Leave You - Movie PosterTHIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU is a very funny movie with a very unfortunate title, but with a very good ensemble cast about a family who all get back together for a week in order to honor their father’s wishes when he dies.

Jason Bateman plays Judd Altman, and the movie begins when he comes home early from work and finds his wife in bed with his boss having sex.

Tina Fey plays Wendy Altman, Judd’s sister, and she calls Judd while he is still trying to process the new development in his life to tell Judd that their father died, and a dying wish of his was that the whole Altman family return home to sit shiva and mourn his death for seven days even though he wasn’t a practicing Jew.

Jane Fonda plays Hillary Altman, the mother who is a child psychotherapist with a very successful book that contains more information about her children than they cared to share, but she tells them, “Secrets are cancer to a family.”

Adam Driver plays Phillip Altman, the baby of the family, and although he has fancy possessions he is still regarded as worthless, and he shows up with his much older, richer girlfriend, who is a psychotherapist.

Corey Stoll plays Paul Altman, the oldest of the children, who stayed in town to help his father run the family sporting goods store, who is married to Alice, one of Judd’s old girlfriends and who badly wants a baby, but she and Paul are still childless.

And then there are other assorted family members and children, as well as another old girlfriend of Judd’s, Penny, played by Rose Byrne, who not only still lives in town but who also still has longings for Judd.

The family sits on the couch in the living room to receive neighbors and friends who come by to pay their respects, but when they can’t take the bickering anymore or the infighting among them, some sneak out of the house as often as possible.

Also, unexpected people show up unannounced which adds to the discomfort of the family, but delight to the audience, and some scenes are downright hilarious.

You will laugh, you will cry, you will think your pants will never dry.

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU will stay with you forever.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The Drop Movie

The Drop “Definitely Worth Seeing”


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The Drop - Movie PosterTHE DROP is a very good, dark, and gritty movie that revolves around a bar in Brooklyn called Cousin Marv’s, which used to belong to Marv, played by James Gandolfini.

Bob, played by Tom Hardy, who actually is a cousin of Marv’s, tends bar there, and the bar is sometimes used as a “drop bar,” where bookies and dealers leave bundles of cash in envelopes for the crime bosses who control them to come by after hours to collect the money.

There is a rotating circuit of bars that are used as drop bars, but one night when Cousin Marv’s is the drop bar, it is robbed by two men wearing masks, and even though Marv tries to warn them about whose money they are stealing, the two robbers take the money anyway.

Bob notices that one of the men is wearing a wristwatch that is broken, but when he mentions this to the police who investigate, Marv gets upset with Bob.

One night Bob had been out walking in the neighborhood, and he discovers a bleeding puppy in a garbage can. The woman who lives in the house behind the garbage can comes out and starts talking to Bob about the puppy, which is not hers, nor does she know anything about it or why it had been left in her garbage can.

Bob promises to think about taking the dog to the shelter if she will just keep it until Saturday when he will come back to pick it up.

The woman’s name is Nadia, and Bob decides to keep the dog, but because he has never owned a dog before, Nadia goes with Bob to the store and helps him buy the necessities that Bob needs in order to keep he dog, which he names Rocco.

Meanwhile, the police keep coming around to investigate the robbery, the owners of the bar show up wanting the money that had been taken in the robbery, and a menacing man named Eric Deeds, who used to be involved with Nadia, shows up at Bob’s apartment, claiming that the dog is his, but he will let Bob keep Rocco if Bob will pay him $10,000.

The bar is designated the drop bar for Super Bowl Sunday, and everything comes to a head.

THE DROP is definitely worth seeing.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

The November Man Movie

The November Man “The November Movie”


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The November Man - Movie PosterTHE NOVEMBER MAN might not be the worst movie I have seen all year, but it is certainly the worst spy thriller I have seen all year.

It stars Pierce Brosnan as Peter Devereaux, who used to be a CIA agent, and it has the tired old story of someone being pulled out of retirement for one last job.

The story begins in 2008 in Montenegro, and Devereaux is training another agent, a young man named David Mason, part of which training is, “You feel the need for a relationship? Get a dog.”

Mason then botches a mission by not following Devereaux’s orders, and suddenly it is five years later in Switzerland, where Devereaux is living in retirement, and he is notified that a woman in Moscow wants to “come in” because something is scaring her, her name is Natalia, and she is asking only for Devereaux to be the one to rescue her and bring her to safety.

We don’t know it yet, but Natalia and Devereaux have a history together, and he travels to Moscow to rescue her, but the Russians figure out what she is doing, and that mission is badly botched, but not before Natalia gives Devereaux her phone with incriminating photos on it.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, but Mason is involved in that failed mission, too, and now Devereaux wants revenge, because someone close to him was killed.

Now the story gets really confusing with a Russian named Arkady Federov about to become president of Russia, but there is something in his past that might cause him problems, a woman named Alice Fournier has information about his past, and so Devereaux wants to find her and protect her from others who want her dead.

Confusing? You bet! There are too many people and too many complicated stories going on, along with too many shoot-outs, car chases, and crashes to distract us from trying to figure out the plot.

And we don’t even know what the title means until near the end of the movie when we learn that Devereaux was called the November Man because after he passed through, nothing lived.

In that case, THE NOVEMBER MAN, the movie, could also be called “The November Movie,” because after I saw it, no other movie comes close to living.

I’m Dan Culberson and this is “Hotshots.”

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