Author Archives: Dave Bernard

Dave’s Review: Her

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Beautifully shot
A lot of time was spent on creating a believable world
Realistic portrayal of love and relationships
Amazing acting by Phoenix and Johansson
Surprisingly funny

The Bad:

Some may find it too...shall we say...quirky
Some will find it slow
Just vulgar enough to not be for everyone

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Spike Jonze
Written By: Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Chris Pratt

Rated R for language, sexual content and brief graphic nudity

I watch a lot of movies over the course of a film year (Oscar Season-Oscar Season) and I’m going to go ahead and say it, “Her” is the best film I’ve seen all year…hands down.

Set in Los Angeles in the not-so-distant future, “Her” begins by showing a seemingly average day in the life of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix). In the midst of a painful (as they often are) divorce, Theodore spends his working hours being paid to write love letters to other people and his non-working hours in a HERdepression fueled haze. He absent-mindedly sorts through emails, plays video games, and frequents online chat rooms all while clearly yearning for real, meaningful human interaction. This all changes when Theodore sees an advertisement for a new computer operating system that touts an artificial intelligence that learns and evolves on it’s own. His new operating system names herself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). As Theodore and Samantha get to know each other they fall in love and begin an unlikely, yet beautiful, romantic relationship.

With a summary like that it’s easy to understand why some people think this movie may be just a little too off-the-wall for them. This isn’t however, the story of a weird loner/nerd that creepily falls in love with his computer. It’s far more complex than that. It’s a love story, between two equally fleshed out characters that are both growing and evolving in their own ways.

This is not at all your typical feel-good romantic movie…and that’s great news. It’s complex and not just a fluff movie about how wonderful love is. It’s strange to say about a movie where half of the main characters are not “real” people, but this is the most “real” romantic film I’ve seen in a long time. It’s not nice and neat and tidy. We see the euphoric highs and depressing lows in love just as we have all experienced them in our own lives.


Dave’s Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Dicaprio is Great
Great Ensemble Acting
Very Martin Scorsese-y
There's a Monkey in People Clothes

The Bad:

3 Hours Long
Lots of Sex and Nudity
Lots of Drug Use

Cast & Crew:

Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Terence Winter (screenplay), Jordan Belfort (book)
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin

Rated R for sequences of strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and language throughout, and for some violence

As a general disclaimer before you read this review: Martin Scorsese is hands down my favorite director of all time. I am of the opinion that he’s the most talented and knowledgeable director working today and is pretty high up there on the list of best filmmakers of all time. I literally can’t get enough of Martin Scorsese. I am consistently enthralled by anything he’s involved with; features films, documentaries, discussions about film history and preservation, television commercials…anything. This year for Christmas I received not ONE but TWO signed photos of Martin Scorsese. One of my life-long dreams is to meet him and get to call him “Marty” instead of Martin. I even know which of my friends share a birthday with Thelma Schoonmaker, his longtime editing companion. To say that I enjoy Scorsese films would be an understatement, so factor that into your reading of this review. End Disclaimer.

The Wolf of Wall Street is a dark comedy that tells the real life tale of stockbroker/con-man/sleazy egomaniac Jordan Belfort who builds a dicaprio-wolf-of-wall-street-trailer-2Wall Street empire from the ground up based on debauchery, misleading clients, and scamming the system through unethical and often illegal tactics only to eventually become the focus of SEC and FBI investigations that will eventually be his downfall. Thematically the film, as is the style of these hard times, shines an accusatory light on the excess, materialism, and all-around low ethical standards that seemingly rule Wall Street culture. Belfort, while certainly the focal point of the movie, is not at all portrayed as the protagonist or “good guy” of the film. In contrast to Goodfellas (a similar Scorsese film) where mob-member Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta) is portrayed in a more favorable (almost heroic) light, I’m not sure you are ever really supposed to “like” Belfort. If he is the “bad guy” in this film, the “good guy” counterpart is the hard-working public that he so nonchalantly abuses and leaves in financial shambles without a second thought.

Technically this is a very well-done film that seemingly “stars” Martin Scorsese and his unique style just as much as any of the actors. There is no doubt that this is a Scorsese film. Many of the hallmarks of s Scorsese film can be seen in this meticulously crafted film. Characters talking directly to the camera, long tracking shots, exaggerated overhead lighting, beautiful slow motion shots, and even a few seemingly archaic screen wipes as a nod to the films of the past that he loves so much.

All that being said, this movie is not Scorsese’s best. It’s not bad by any means, in fact I would say I liked it quite a bit, it’s just not his best. In all fairness, saying this is not wenn5920366Scorsese’s best movie is a bit of misleading statement. It would be like saying that the “Last Supper” is not Leonardo Da Vinci’s best painting because the “Mona Lisa” is clearly better. The “Last Supper” is still a very good painting, just not his best. (Another Disclaimer: Most of my knowledge of Renaissance painters comes from Dan Brown books and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons. I only have a cursory knowledge of Da Vinci paintings and in no way actually know that either of these are his best paintings. If you happen to be reading this review and are a Renaissance expert, please don’t go yelling at me about my clear lack of knowledge…it’s just an illustration.) It’s perhaps too early to tell where The Wolf of Wall Street falls in the long list of Scorsese movies. Certainly below Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Departed, and Gangs of New York but almost certainly above Shutter Island, The Aviator, Cape Fear, The King of Comedy and probably several others.


Dave’s Review: The To Do List

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Funny at times
Acting was alright
Some refreshing themes that you don't usually see in a dumb comedy

The Bad:

Just another cookie cutter raunchy teen comedy
Some very lame and obvious jokes
Casting nearly 30 year olds as High Schoolers

Cast & Crew:

Director: Maggie Carey
Writer: Maggie Carey
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Donald Glover, Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Rachel Bilson

Rated R for pervasive strong crude and sexual content including graphic dialogue, drug and alcohol use, and language - all involving teens

Set during the summer of 1993, The To Do List follows the post-graduation exploits of Senior Class Valedictorian and all around Goody Two-Shoes, Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) as she attempts to loosen up and gain, what she sees as, much needed sexual experience before going off to College in the fall.

The tagline for this movie is “She’s going from straight A’s to her first F.” If, like me, you read that tagline and literally groaned out loud in disapproval you should probably just skip this movie. If you aren’t actively repulsed by what I consider to be a really (like really, really) dumb tagline, you may like this film. (more…)

Dave’s Review: Man of Steel

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Great re-imagining of the well-known origin story
Solid Acting from all involved
Amazing visual effects/cinematography
Finally get to see the Man of Steel in a real, all out fight

The Bad:

The details that drove the plot were a bit convoluted
Fight scenes drag after awhile

Cast & Crew:

Director: Zack Snyder
Writer: David S. Goyer
Starring: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane, Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Schiff, Christopher Meloni

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, and for some language

I’m going to start this review with a caveat: I’m a giant Superman nerd. He’s always been my favorite superhero. I used to read the comics religiously and for the most part I have liked every one of the movies…even the bad ones. This movie would have to have been really bad (I’m talking Green Lantern bad) for me not to enjoy it. So knowing that, please read the below review through that lens. (more…)

New Trailer: The Wolf of Wall Street

Scorsese. DiCaprio. A Midget. A Chimpanzee. Watch this trailer…like now.

I literally can’t think of anything I’m not excited about for this trailer. DiCaprio looks awesome as always (seriously, look at the movies he’s done. He almost never misses) in the true story of  Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who refuses to cooperate in a 1990’s securities fraud investigation. This new trailer is chock-full of Goodfellas-like voiceover,  90’s Wall Street extravagance, midget tossing and monkeys dressed as people. What’s not to like?

Based on the autobiographical book by Jordan Belfort and screenplay by Emmy Winner Terence Winter. Directed by Oscar Winner, living legend and the all-around amazing Martin Scorsese.

Starring Oscar Nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (please, someone get that man an Oscar), Oscar Nominee Jonah Hill, Emmy Winner Kyle Chandler, Oscar Nominee Rob Reiner, Oscar Winner Jean Dujardin, and Teen Choice Award Nominee/perpetually stoned Matthew McConaugheyThe Wolf of Wall Street is set to be released on November 13th.

From The Web: Behind the Scenes Photos

Hey movie buffs. Head on over to to take a gander at some pretty sweet behind the scene photos from some pretty sweet classic films. I particularly enjoy the Metropolis (this movie was quite a production considering it was made in 1927) and The Planet of the Apes photos. There is a picture of a ape smoking a cigarette. I dare you not to click the link below after knowing that. It can’t be done. I’ve posted a few of my favorites below, but make sure to click the link below to see them all.

Click this link for Behind the scenes awesomeness.


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Dave’s Review: The Iceman

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Amazing acting performance by Michael Shannon
Reminiscent of 70's cinema
Fascinating character study

The Bad:

Subject matter is not for everyone

Cast & Crew:

Writer: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen
Director: Ariel Vromen
Stars: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer (That's right, David a mob/hitman movie...)

Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content

Co-Writer and Director Ariel Vroman’s The Iceman tells the real life story of mob hitman (and all around psychopath) Richard Kuklinski (played chillingly by Michael Shannon). Kuklinski, who was apparently a generally unstable person and murderer prior to getting involved with the mob, is hired by a New Jersey crime boss (Ray Liotta) to do their dirty work…and he’s good at it. Over the course of 20+ years Kuklinski kills over 100 people before finally being apprehended by the authorities. During this time Kuklinski gets married , has two daughters, a lucrative (and fictitous) investing job and a successful family life in the suburbs of New Jersey. When Kuklinski was captured in 1986 his wife (Winona Ryder) and family had no idea that he had been a ruthless killer for the past 20 years. This film not only tells the story of Kuklinski’s mob killings (which would have been good enough for me…but i’m a little twisted) but also deals with his constant (successful) battle to hide the killer inside of him and maintain the fragile family life that he has established despite his anti-social and psychotic tendencies.


Dave’s Review: Mud

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Believable acting, especially from the two teenage actors
Beautiful style
Surprisingly sweet

The Bad:

Slow paced at points

Cast & Crew:

Writer: Jeff Nichols
Director: Jeff Nichols
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard, Michael Shannon

Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexual references, language, thematic elements and smoking

Set along the banks of the Mississippi River in rural and impoverished Arkansas, Mud is a coming of age story centered around two teenagers’ attempts to help a fugitive evade capture and reunite with his true love no matter how dangerous it may be. Matthew McConaughey plays the eponymous fugitive Mud (that’s right, I used the word eponymous …I may have even used it correctly…It can be your word of the day. Look it up. I learned it from a Jack White song.) who is on the run after killing a man who was abusive towards his on again/off again love interest Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). Mud is discovered hiding on an island on the Mississippi River by Ellis, the teenaged protagonist and his friend, Neckbone (yes, that is actually his name in the film, not some sort of weird autocorrect error). The boys agree to help him make his escape, even though they learn he may be dangerous, so he can be reunited with the woman he loves.


From the Web: Scorsese Talks Film

If you are like me, when Martin Scorsese speaks, you listen. If you are REALLY like me, when Martin Scorsese speaks about film history, you start to salivate and you stare unflinchingly at the screen (for hours on end if need be) until people around you start wondering if you’ve had some sort of stroke.

If that’s the case with you, get ready, because I’ve found 76 minutes and 16 seconds of gold on the internet. Scorsese recently gave the National Endowment for the Humanities 42nd Annual Jefferson Lecture on the subject of Film History and Preservation entitled “Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema”…and it’s ALL online…for free! It’s like free film school. (Jesus, how nerdy do I sound?)

If this sounds boring to you, you probably aren’t as big of a nerd as I am. If it sounds awesome, check out the link below to watch it in its entirety…and maybe warn those around you that you aren’t having a stroke, just nerding out for a little bit.

Click here to nerd out and watch Scorsese talk about film via the NEH website.

Also, if you really are into this sort of thing and want to build up your film knowledge without paying for NYU or USC film school, Scorsese produced a pretty awesome DVD awhile back (production wise, it’s a little dated, but the content is great) that is really informative. It’s called A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies and also has a companion book of the same name…I own both of them…’cause I’m a nerd.

And if you are really, really into this sort of thing, there is a 15 episode non-Scorsese related film history series that I watched on Netflix streaming (also available on DVD and otter streaming venues) called The Story of Film: An Odyssey. It’s not American, a little pretentious, and the narrator has an accent/speech pattern that can be a little overbearing at times, but it does a great job at covering some film history that we may not often hear about here in America.


Dave’s Movie Review: Iron Man 3

Letter Grade:

The Good:

Robert Downey Jr. is amazing as always as witty and confident Tony Stark
Very Funny
Great Special Effects
Not Your Typical Superhero Action Movie

The Bad:

Perhaps too similar to 80’s/90’s action films
A little too violent for a comic book movie
Not Your Typical Superhero Action Movie

Cast & Crew:

Director: Shane Black
Writers: Shane Black, Drew Pearce
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Sir Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence throughout, and brief suggestive content

After two wildly successful Iron Man films, Director and Producer Jon Favreau (and Marvel/Disney) has turned the franchise over to action movie Writer/Director extraordinaire, Shane Black. Iron Man 3 is obviously the third movie in the Iron Man franchise and takes place after the events of Marvel’s Avengers movie. Unlike the over the top, comic-booky (I‘m almost certain that should be a word despite what my spell check says) villains in the previous Iron Man movies (an Iron-Suit-Clad, maniacally evil Jeff Bridges and Iron-Suit-Clad, electric-whip-wielding, and generally dirty looking Mickey Rourke), Tony Stark/Iron Man now battles the international terrorist group lead by The Mandarin. Played with great range by Sir Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin is an all too realistic modern-day-style terrorist who has taken credit for anti-American bombings across the world. After the terror strikes a little too close to home, Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) issues a challenge to The Mandarin which ends in the destruction of Stark’s seaside mansion and general way of life. Stark is then left alone and with only his ingenuity and clever wit to solve the mystery, catch the bad guy, and prove that Tony Stark can be a hero without all of Iron Man’s hi-tech gadgety things.


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