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Monday, September 29, 2014

Best Films of the 70s (Top Ten)

Ah the 1970s. Everyone had a full head of hair, leisure suits or bell-bottoms were the thing to wear, Led Zeppelin blew out your speakers, we lost John Wayne, and there were movies! Plenty of great movies! Anyway, here's my 10+ favorites from that colorful decade. Far out man!

1. The Towering Inferno (1974) * * * * Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Scroe: 71% 
Cast: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Fred Astaire
Quote: "I'll be back, with the whole fire department."
My quote as a critic: "The Towering Inferno is a tense, exciting, and flat out entertaining piece of cinema. It has "popcorn flick" written all over it. At 165 minutes, its got a long running time, but it doesn't feel that way. "Inferno" moves by at an unbelievably fast clip and its got a huge cast of stars who look as if they all had a lot of fun making it. Its also got special effects that even today would hold up against any lifeless Michael Bay production."

2. Apocalypse Now (1979) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 99%
Cast: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Marlon Brando
Quote: "The horror...the horror..."

3. Days of Heaven (1978) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 94%
Cast: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams
Quote: "Nobody's perfect. There was never a perfect person around. You just have half-angel and half-devil in you."
My quote as a critic: "Every scene is filled to the brim with little nooks and crannies. You get beautiful waterfalls, close-ups of locusts in their natural habitat, sped up windmills (even wind is a star in this flick), and incredibly lush sky imagery. I read somewhere that a critic said you can take any image from Days of Heaven and frame it as a painting. Darn, that's what's I wanted to say!"

4. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 92%
Cast: Marilyn Burns, Gunnar Hansen
Quote: "My family's always been in meat."
My quote as a critic: "The fact that an unknown director (Tobe Hooper of Poltergeist fame), a cast of nobodies, and a shooting schedule in 100+ degree Texas heat could produce a horror flick light years ahead of its time, is a miracle in itself. Give credit to actress Marilyn Burns who coined the term "scream queen" before Jamie Lee Curtis could even get her hands on it."

5. Saturday Night Fever (1977) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 90%
Cast: John Travolta, Donna Pescow
Quote: "Al Pacino! Attica! Attica! Attica!"
My quote as a critic: "Saturday Night Fever, focusing mainly on Travolta's plight, can be categorized as a snapshot of a young man's pride in his craft (shining at the discotheque) and the sad/troubling moments in between. It's raw, reckless film making that dares you to embrace its rough edges. Truth be told, you come away from this film with memorable sounds, bright images, and unavoidable mental train wrecks."

6. Over the Edge (1979) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 89%
Cast: Matt Dillon, Michael Eric Kramer
Quote: "The first day I ever met him he said: "Hi, I'm Ritchie White, I'm on probation."
My quote as a critic: "For me, this stands as one of the best films of the 1970's (released in the U.S. in 1981) and a clear bonified snapshot of that era. This is a well acted, angst driven vehicle with many unknowns (it marked the first screen appearances for a majority of the cast members). It tells the story of some troubled Colorado kids who cause havoc (gunfire, vandalism, drug dealing, etc...) in their neighborhood at the expense of their mostly misunderstood parents."

7. The Exorcist (1973) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 88%
Cast: Jason Miller, Linda Blair
Quote: "Keep away. This sow is mine."

8. Star Wars (1977) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 93%
Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Quote: "Use the force, Luke."

9. Duel (1971) * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 86%
Cast: Dennis Weaver, Eddie Firestone
Quote: "There you are, right back in the jungle again."

9. (tie) The Conversation (1974)  * * * 1/2 Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 98%
Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale
Quote: "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm am afraid of murder."

10. Breaking Away (1979) * * * Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 94%
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Jackie Earle Haley
Quote: "Refund? Refund?"

10. (tie) Marathon Man (1976) * * * Stars
Rotten Tomatometer Score: 80%
Cast: Lawrence Olivier, Dustin Hoffman
Quote: "Is it safe?"

List compiled by Jesse Burleson

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Equalizer 2014 * * * Stars

The EqualizerDirector: Antoine Fuqua
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Denzel Washington, Chloe Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas

Without hesitation, I will stand by my convictions and say that the crime thriller Training Day was my pick for best film of 2001. Lead actor Denzel Washington won an Oscar playing a revved up Popeye Doyle type (a la The French Connection) and director Antoine Fuqua hurled himself into the spotlight with his fast paced, eclectic shooting style and signature roving camera technique. Now in the fall of 2014, these two have reunited again (and it feels so good, ha!) for The Equalizer, another crime thriller that is based on a fairly successful 80's television series of the same name. Is this film as messy, powerful, dark, cathartic, or as good as Training Day? No not exactly. But if you're a fan of Washington (who isn't) and are curious to see if Fuqua can actually make something worthwhile again (lately he's misfired with flicks like Olympus Has Fallen being a horrible Die Hard ripoff and 2010's Brooklyn's Finest being overlong and out of his collective realm as a filmmaker), then The Equalizer will no doubt satisfy you, the audience member.

With a plot that seems one note at first before kicking into high gear via the second and third act, and an antagonist who resembles Kevin Spacey's evil twin brother in the looks department, The Equalizer follows retired intelligence officer Robert McCall (Washington). Once a trained killer and someone who supposedly had a fellow agent help fake his own death, McCall now leads a boring, middle aged life. He works at I guess, a Home Depot-like hardware store, he lives in a apartment with basically bare walls and a couple of pieces of furniture, he doesn't sleep, he doesn't eat, and when he does go out of his apartment, he frequents a diner where he brings a tea bag with him and orders nothing but hot water (strange don't you think). McCall also reads books like The Invisible Man and The Old Man and the Sea (these books sort of serve as metaphors for the film's storytelling sensibilities) and likes to place silverware and cups on certain spots on a table. Basically, he's an odd, dull dude until Russian gangsters, a common thief, and two dirty cops mess with a few of his acquaintances (Teri, a young prostitute played by the overexposed Chloe Grace Moretz and Ralphie, a budding security guard played by Johnny Skourtis to name two). Within the film's first 30-40 minutes, Washington's McCall (just like his Alonzo Harris in Training Day) gets in big trouble with the Russian Mafia (essentially the film's main plot point). Why? Because he killed five of their U.S. allies in 19 seconds (give or take). They wouldn't give Teri the freedom she deserves from being their sexualized civil servant. So basically in the end, McCall quote unquote "has to find peace" by killing this whole Mafia chain. That is The Equalizer in a nutshell and what helps it rise above most crime thrillers is the intelligence of Washington's resurrected character. He's one step ahead of everybody and you never sense that he is in any danger or peril. The whole nature at which he goes about his situation comes off as predictable and pat. To a degree though, it actually works.

Along with having a similar (or almost identical) film score to Training Day (as mentioned earlier) and eerily possessing its various camera angles, The Equalizer didn't so much remind me of "Day" as it hinted more towards Washington's 2004 effort, Man on Fire. The themes are similar (you know the act of revenge on the despicable schleps who do harm to the innocent) yet "Equalizer" is superior in that Antoine Fuqua doesn't glorify images of grotesque violence coupled with silly, unnecessary subtitles like the late Tony Scott did. He directs with less flash and the results are careful, calculated, and more efficient (just like our hero, Robert McCall). Yes, this flick is violent and at times, Denzel's special ops character dispatches villains in the style of Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th movies (I'm not kidding people). But most of the fight scenes are done with minimal lighting so you don't see a ton of blood and gore. And to assure you that someone is taking a beating, the sound effects with every bone break/throat slash, are louder than they need to be (a Fuqua trademark).

When it's all said and done, this is essentially a thirteen year reunion of a movie featuring director Fuqua and his can't miss collaborator in star Washington. It's a serviceable effort despite descending into your standard, routine bloody action fare towards its conclusion. It works ultimately because of Denzel who along with Al Pacino and Liam Neeson, is up there with being one of my favorite movie stars of all time. If you cut his arm (hypothetically speaking of course), he would literally bleed cool. With the exception of kicking every one's butt all over the place in "Equalizer", he actually underplays this performance. Instead of emoting like a monkey on amphetamines like he did volcanically in Training Day, he instead relies on a natural, burning screen presence and a cool walk through a room exuding confidence and some serious swag. If you choose to take in a viewing of The Equalizer, know that 100% of what goes on involves Washington doing the whole One Man Army thing. Thankfully, he separates himself from the pack (you know, the Schwarzeneggers, the Stallones, and the Seagals) by being a better actor than most action stars, exhibiting some sophistication on eluding (or infiltrating) the bad guys, and essentially showing the audience how the art of being a one man vigilante would realistically go down. So for those reasons, you should buy a ticket, get settled in this fall, and wait for the lights to dim. After taking in an early matinee, The Equalizer "equaled" three stars for me. I think you'll enjoy it as well.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, September 20, 2014

This Is Where I Leave You 2014 * 1/2 Stars

This Is Where I Leave YouDirector: Shawn Levy
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda

In my thirty-plus years of watching movies, I have rarely walked out of one. In fact, the only time happened during 1991's Another You. It was a completely misguided Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder exercise that was simply unwatchable. Plus, I forgot that I had to be somewhere else. Anyway, This Is Where I Leave You really tempted me to do what I did over two decades ago. Granted, this is one incoherent mess that felt like it was going to explode. Let me explain.

This Is Where I Leave You is like a comedic version of The Big Chill (without a point or purpose) or a poor man's version of August: Osage County (without the stellar acting). It has characters that are despicable, hypocritical, wishy-washy, and to a fault, underdeveloped. Everyone who walks into frame is someone you wanna throw popcorn at, yell at, or slap (hypothetically speaking of course). The only likable actor that existed was the lead, Jason Bateman. Too bad the rest of the proceedings around him were the movie equivalent of a garbage pale.

Filmed in a residential area of New York City, based on a novel (the novelist is also the screenwriter), and focused on a main character who is frowned upon or held in the lowest esteem, This Is Where I Leave You chronicles the funeral of a doting father who's identity is never totally revealed. His immediate family members and their respective friends/spouses, gather for 7 days of grieving (if you can honestly call it that) in the form of a Jewish ritual called Shiva (a week-long mourning period in Judaism for 1st degree relatives). These relatives that are front and center, consist of Judd Altman (Jason Bateman), Wendy Altman (Tina Fey), Phillip Altman (Adam Driver), Paul Altman (Corey Stoll), and Hillary Altman (the chest-enhanced mother played by Jane Fonda). In general, Jason Bateman's Judd is the film's main oddity. His wife cheated on him, he has no job, and he's about to be a dad even though he's getting a divorce. His character's nasty misfortune is for some reason, this 2014 release's main metaphor. He's the most likable pawn in this family's sorry game. His respective relatives perpetuate him to feel miserable and by that token, they are one messed up bunch of annoying a-holes.

Now as I observed, the family in this film is not dysfunctional but they are a bunch of people that I would wholeheartedly avoid. They obviously don't respect each other, they obviously could care less about their father/husband who died, and they don't mind airing each other's dirty laundry as a form of harassed embarrassment. And I know that actors don't exactly look alike, but at least the casting director could have found 1 or 2 people that resembled the mother played by Jane Fonda. I mean Bateman looks like he could be Fonda's son in real life. As for everybody else, they look adopted, literally.

So OK, you can tell that I've used this vehicle as a forum to vent. I've made some notable observations. Note to Jason Bateman's character: it's not cool anymore to hang out on the roof of your parent's house. And in broad daylight it just seems frat party-induced and creepy. Note to Tina Fey: you are not a dramatic actress. You think you are likable and relevant in movies but you're not. Stick to writing and the SNL stuff. Your acting is the equivalent of Lee Press On Nails running ramped on a chalkboard. Note to director Shawn Levy: a bunch of individual scenes that barely add up to parts of a whole, don't qualify as an actual movie. Look at your previous work (2013's harmless, effective The Internship) and you'll see what I mean.

In retrospect, if you like monotonous and tedious sequences where characters bicker, yell, and fight with each other (as the script requires) then this is the movie for you. If you like scenes where out of nowhere, these same characters are giving each other bad advice that is edited in the most inconsistent way possible, then this is the film for you. And if you think that the sight of a toddler randomly pooping in broad daylight (in the backyard) is funny, then this is the film for you. Bottom line: This Is Where I Leave You equals the notion, "this is where I should have left the theater," a half hour into it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Maze Runner 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

The Maze RunnerDirector: Wes Ball
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Dylan O'Brien, Aml Ameen, Ki Hong Lee

Less than a half hour into 2014's The Maze Runner (my first review of the fall season), the character of Alby (Aml Ameen) says to the main character of Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), "you're not like the others, you're curious". Absotively boss! Absotively! That's the central theme about what's going on here. A confused young gent is catapulted into a dystopian future and unbeknownst to everybody else, wants to change things and break the cycle. Now in all fairness, I hadn't read the series of original books by which this flick is based upon. But as I diligently watched what inhabited the screen, I realized that it reminded me of so many other films that I threatened to make a list. Here's a few that I remember: "Runner" seemed reminiscent of 1990's Lord of the Flies (themes of savagery and the forming of a tribal society), Cabin in the Woods (the whole behind the scenes feel where governmental workers at a hidden station, are manipulating everything and everyone through the use of hidden cameras), 1997's Starship Troopers (there are bugs in a large maze that kill people and they're similar to the ones in Troopers), and 1997's Cube (all the characters wake up in an unknown place, don't know each other, and must find their way out of evil, deadly traps and such). Now am I condemning "Runner" because of these factoids? Not really. This ultimately wasn't the reason for my condensed, two and half star review.

Featuring cinematography that has the look of a 90's Pink Floyd music video and filmed primarily in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, The Maze Runner begins with young Thomas aka "Greenie" (played Dylan O'Brien). As the proceedings first come to light, he's traveling upward in a rundown elevator that ends up surfacing towards a grassy field (with a huge corridor-like structure wrapped around it). When this elevator stops, he finds himself taken in by a bunch of other teenagers. They let him know that he's trapped (along with them) in a location (the Glade) which harbors no escape of any kind. I mean, there is a way to get out, but it involves hightailing through an enormous maze where at night, evil bug-like creatures (I think they're called Grievers) can feast on you. Things to look out for in "Runner": 1. There is less focus on the intricacies of the maze and more on the laughable law and order tactics mitigated by the budding young adults. 2. The movie doesn't really have any twists and turns and when it does, it's fully transparent. 3. Characters wake up in the dystopian world only knowing their name and nothing else about their past. Talk about anesthesia gone afoul.

Bottom line: The Maze Runner is well edited by Dan Zimmerman, scripted in a mumbo-jumbo sort of way by three writers, and crisply directed by Wes Ball (he helmed the Short, A Work in Progress). The storytelling is mostly straightforward and "Runner's" running time (ha ha) glides by for most of the way. However, it's not quite compelling when it should be. Why? My money is on the young actors who come off as novices with the sort of heavy-handed PG-13 material. The tone at which these actors are gauging, is rather muted at best (not to mention low key) and as a result, they can't sell scenes that are pivotal to us, the audience. It's not entirely their fault though because there are times when The Maze Runner itself, can't sell us on its foregone conclusion. Case in point: when the lead player (Dylan O'Brien) goes through the maze, comes out of it all shaken up, and lets everyone know that he might have found a way out, we as involved moviegoers aren't quite convinced. I mean, this dude finds an opening where a wall is raised and deadly, menacing creatures come charging out of it. How in the heck is that a way out? You tell me. As for O'Brien himself in the role of Thomas, well he's got movie star looks (he kinda resembles a young Rob Lowe) and a so-so screen presence. But to be honest, he's about as bland as lentil soup. He's definitely not ready to carry a big studio film just yet.

Overall, I'm gonna give The Maze Runner a mixed review because although it didn't blow my mind, it still sort of held my interest in a mild, time-killing sort of way. Believe me, this isn't an awful vehicle but it's not something you'd totally "run" to see.

Of note: (spoiler alerts) I disliked the way this movie ended immensely. And what threw me for a loop was how it sort of left the window open for a sequel. I mean seriously, what's next? Are these poor kids gonna get dropped into another maze, with enough safe space to build another life, and with possibly a different order and form of governorship? Like I mentioned earlier, I've never read the book (or books) that The Maze Runner is based upon so maybe I'm not getting the gist of what's going on here. Regardless, my questions are as follows: What society allows scientists to manipulate kids like this? Where are their parents? Why are the young guinea pigs all boys with the exception of one girl? I mean, this flick treats the underage like furry rats in a cage. As the credits rolled, I figured that if "Runner" were to make money, there would probably be a new installment in a couple of years or so. In the end I thought to myself, "what's the darn point anyway?"

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Prince 2014 * * Stars

The PrinceDirector: Brian A. Miller
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Bruce Willis, John Cusack, Jason Patric

Supposedly, 2014's The Prince was released in theaters via the United States on Aug. 22nd of this year. That's news to me because I never saw any movie venue to remotely have it on its bill. Oh well, let's just call this thing your standard straight-to-DVD saturation because of its generically dated (did I mention highly unoriginal) title and its musical score reminiscent of every freaking espionage flick ever made (even though The Prince might be more gangster related than anything else).

Containing probably the most annoying character in the history of cinema (Angela, a flimsy damsel in distress played by Jessica Lowndes) and one of the most implausible as well (Mark played by entertainer Rain. He's a trained killer, an assistant to the lead antagonist (Bruce Willis), and a guy who looks like he's fifteen and can't shave yet), The Prince is directed by first timer Brian A. Miller. With its paint by numbers screenplay and B movie cutting, "Prince" chronicles car mechanic Paul (played by Jason "I wish I could do a sequel to Rush" Patric). He works on cars in I guess Chicago but within twenty minutes, you know instantly that he wasn't always a mechanic. About two decades ago, he was a gangster, an assassin, and one bad dude. And when he finds out that his college student daughter goes missing in New Orleans, he then flies down there with some vengeance on tap. He's going to find out where she is (and find out who might have taken her), kill a bunch of bad guys along the way (kind of like what Arnold Schwarzenegger did in 1985's Commando), and eventually run into an old rival (played by Bruce Willis, who's character's name is Omar, huh?) who's life he supposedly ruined. While viewing The Prince (only if you have nothing else constructive to do), look for some phoned-in performances (especially Brucie until he overacts towards the end), an image of Chicago-style pizza which looks nothing of the sort (I should know, I live in Chi-Town), and a blink or you'll miss it cameo by 50 Cent. Fiddy either needs to star in a good movie, stop taking on small roles in bad ones, or put out a new album, seriously.

Now in terms of its screenplay, The Prince has one that will literally cause you to throw popcorn at all the actors on screen (check that, you'll probably be watching it from home so you'll throw microwave popcorn at all the actors on screen). It requires everyone to be aloof, pissed off, or flat out debased. Every bruised vigilant or supporting role tries to one up the other by being either too macho, steroid induced, or too testosterone fueled. I wanted to climb into the screen and tell them it's only a movie and that there's always anger management classes they could attend.

The Prince also has its fair share of steadily violent shootouts and fistfights (probably the film's only legitimate strong points). The breadth and width of them are impressive yet you still get the feeling that they are from the "been there, done that" variety. For instance, in one scene Jason Patric's character (Paul aka "the Prince") attempts to rescue his daughter from a drug house by killing everyone in the stylings of Travis Bickle (a la Taxi Driver). In many other scenes, Patric's Paul becomes a One Man Army dispatching countless, cardboard villains (mostly henchman who work for Omar) without being fired at or remotely scratched up. I mean, he does get shot at the end (small spoiler) but the plot probably required it to happen. Basically, Patric almost comes off as 2014's version of Chuck Norris (ugh!) and if that ended up being the case, my eyes would have completely rolled out of my head.

All in all, I find it strange that three well known actors (John Cusack, Patric, and Willis) actually agreed to sign on to this hokum. I mean did they need a new hobby? Were they being charged with tax invasion and had to lawyer up? Or did they actually want to work together (oh maybe that's it)? And what's up with their appearances? Should the make-up artist be fired? Bottom line: Bruce Willis looks like he's 70, John Cusack looks like he's having a real terrible hair and face day, and Patric, well looks like he tied one on the night before. Anyway, there's a reason why no theater would be willing to show The Prince. It's not something you pay admission to. It's more like the type of wide eyed fluff you'd wake up to (on cable) at four in the morning. So by that token, I'll end this review by calling this "Prince" The Pauper and just be done with it.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, September 7, 2014

If I Stay 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

If I StayDirector: R. J. Cutler
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Mireille Enos, Jamie Blackley

Hey, everybody cries at the movies. Heck, to this day I even sob when I view the ending of Hoosiers (and I'm 40 years old, crazy right?). So at a screening for what was supposed to be a three handkerchief flick, I checked around the room to see if any audience member had their tear ducts flowing. Not one, nothing but dry eyes. Should I tell everyone to revisit Ghost again (a film that the one I'm about to review sort of resembles)? I guess so. But most people have probably already seen it. Well, to those who haven't viewed that spooky gem from 1990 yet, you'll probably get word of mouth from other moviegoers and figure it out. You don't need my help.

Anyway, here are the words that I would use to describe the teen tearjerker If I Stay (which takes place in Oregon): manipulative, overlong, and a tad sappy. While there are a few heartfelt moments, this vehicle only comes to life towards the last half hour. Within this half hour, it concentrates solely on hospital scenes showing our protagonist (Chloe Grace Moretz is miscast but she stills radiates a little screen presence as Mia Hall) laying comatose in a trauma ward bed. Prior to that, If I Stay consists of an uneven dispersal involving present day scenes possessing virtually no dramatic tension and tireless, young love flashbacks that resemble an episode of The O.C. as opposed to an actual feature length film.

Like the aforementioned Ghost, If I Stay follows the story arc of the 2004 firefighter drama Ladder 49. "49" is a flick in which the hero or main character, is shown dying at the beginning and the remainder of the proceedings involve flashbacks of their life leading up to that point. If I Stay also feels a lot like the 2005 dramedy Just Like Heaven in which the lead role (Reese Witherspoon as Dr. Elizabeth Masterson) is on the verge of dying, leaves her body, and is able to watch her unconscious self being slowly brought back to life. I have to say that Ladder 49 and Just Like Heaven are unfortunately, really lousy movies. Is If I Stay a better film than the utterly disposable ones just mentioned? Yes, but only slightly better and I'm being generous, trust me.

Based on a novel (of the same name) written by Gayle Forman, If I Stay begins with images of an Oregon forest and treetops of heavy snow. The movie chronicles the character of Mia Hall (Moretz). She grew up the child of hippy rock band parents (Mireille Enos and Joshua Leonard as Denny and Kat Hall). Instead of following in their rock n' roller footsteps, Mia decides instead to concentrate on playing beautiful classical music via her cello. As the proceedings move along, Mia falls in love with a fellow boy musician at her high school (Adam Wilde played by Jamie Blackley who kind of looks like a young Tom Hanks), tries to get into The Juilliard School harnessing her music, and eventually succumbs to a car accident where her, her brother, and her parents become severely injured.

In the first paragraph of the review, I talked about the fact that If I Stay contains flashbacks (and there are a bunch of them). In fact, the whole film is concentrated almost solely on flashbacks. We see Mia's early childhood, her relationship with her family, her love for the cello at a young age, and yes, the soggy melodrama between her and her rocker boyfriend. Every once in a while, If I Stay when it feels like it, decides to intercut these flashbacks with present day scenes in the hospital where Mia is on the verge of death (from her car accident). Here in lies the problem: these scenes are short, underwritten, underplayed, and lack serious dramatic heft. In fact, the car crash sequence that should be designed to illicit a heavy response from your typical moviegoer, has almost no buildup and it happens in the blink of an eye. Honestly, it was so quick it's as if it never happened. Finally, there's Moretz in the title role. She narrates most of the running time and it kills any dramatic momentum that "Stay" could have contained. Ultimately, it's too perky. And I guess she's seventeen in real life but honestly, she looks about 13 or 14 here. She doesn't appear fully developed enough to resemble a high school student and she actually has a PG-13 style love scene. Pretty darn creepy if you ask me.

In conclusion, If I Stay is a mixed bag for sure. And although I believe that Chloe Grace Moretz can indeed act, she looks and comes off as a little too young to carry a romantic drama. Along with a tiring, recycled screenplay (which includes lots of make-up break-up stuff that is better suited for the teenage crowd than a serious adult audience member) and a story that although decently told, seems to drag on and on, If I Stay ends on a down note if you think about it (I won't reveal whether the Mia character lives or dies but (spoiler alert) her family doesn't make it in the car crash and if she had survived, would her life by any less scarred?). Bottom line: if you are not patient with this movie, you as the audience member, might say to yourself, "should I go?"

Of note: if you choose to take in a viewing of If I Stay, look for the stars of the film hovering around a bonfire and singing an acoustic guitar/cello version of "Today" by The Smashing Pumpkins. Gosh, I almost forgot how much I missed that song.

Written by Jesse Burleson