Weekend Roundup + Quick thoughts on ‘The Founder’ (2017)

Hello all, happy last week of January! Well, it’s another hectic week… as some of you know if you read this post, I have my work cut out for me now that I’ve embarked on my first short film project!

Well, suffice to say I barely have time to blog these days, so sorry for my absence but I know this day would come. Thanks to my wonderful contributors to help keep FlixChatter going. Some of you might’ve noticed I’ve got some new guest reviewers, including CineMuse Films‘ Richard all the way from Down Under!

I did manage to fit in a few episodes of Black Mirror last week. It’s one of the most provocative scifi shows ever, yep even more thought-provoking than Westworld! It’s unsettling and quite bleak but it’s so intriguing you just gotta keep watching! I’ve got 5 more episodes to go on the third (last) season so far. Not sure if I’ll ever get around to blogging about it, but dayum, everyone should check out this show!

Anyway, I promise to still blog once a week, I’m still hoping to finish my review of Lion at some point. But today, here’s my quick thoughts on…

THE FOUNDER (2017)

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Director: John Lee Hancock
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch

The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton), a salesman who turned two brothers’ innovative fast food eatery, McDonald’s, into one of the biggest restaurant businesses in the world. The movie opens with Keaton delivering a pitch directly to camera for a multi-mixer milkshake machine, and we see him going from one restaurant to another trying to sell it. He faces constant rejections, but one day, he learns that a restaurant in San Bernardino California just ordered six of those milkshake machines. Thinking that there might be an error, he ended up driving Route 66 to see that restaurant in person… owned by Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and his brother Dick (Nick Offerman).

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It’s quite intriguing to learn how this giant fast food company got its start, as the McDonalds gave Ray a tour through their super-efficient kitchen. I find myself amused by it all, how this small restaurant revolutionized the speedy service technique in the 50s. It’s also fascinating to watch Ray’s persuasive power once he set his mind to something. He ended up convincing the McDonalds into making him the franchise manager to expand the business to other states.

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Keaton is quite effective as the driven, ruthless, and callous salesman who saw an opportunity and snatched it, letting nothing stand in his way. Yet there’s a certain charm about him that somehow I still don’t completely hate him. Glad to see him getting more meaty roles post his Birdman comeback. Lynch and Offerman were quite memorable as the McDonalds, and it’s quite an understated performance from Offerman, apart from the one scene where he trained his workers as if his restaurant were a military basecamp!

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The film isn’t always engaging though, in fact it’s rather bland at times. For a movie about a fast food, the pacing could’ve been speedier. The performances are rather uneven as well. Keaton delivered quite a performance, but it’s a pity Laura Dern is wasted as Ray’s neglected wife. Still, it’s a pretty intriguing biopic about the dark, shady side of the American dream. Suffice to say, it didn’t make me want to eat at McDonald’s anytime soon.


So how was YOUR weekend? Seen anything good?

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FlixChatter Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

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There’s something so refreshingly frank about this movie right from the start. Though it deals with a difficult subject of terminal illness, the movie is both heartwarming and genuinely funny. The ‘Me’ in the title is Greg (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his free time making parodies of classic films with his friend, whom he refers to as his co-worker, Earl (RJ Cyler). One day his mom tells him that one of his high school mates has cancer and she basically pesters him to spend time with her. His constant protests prove to be futile, so Greg reluctantly visits Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and frankly tells her that he’s there because his mom told him so. He practically begs Rachel to let him hang out with her as his mom would ‘give him hell’ if he doesn’t.
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I was sold on this movie right from this very scene. It reminds me of the 2011 dramedy 50/50 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt which also deals with cancer in a lighthearted-yet-profound way. But Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a smaller, more intimate film and it’s also a lot quirkier. Greg and Earl made for a rather unlikely duo but they’re a hoot to watch as they watch classic movies together and then make a whole bunch of parody movies of them in their spare time. Both of them are a bit of a social outcast and so this movie-making hobby is sort of a release for both of them to channel their frustration as well as creativity. So when one of Rachel’s friends found out that they like to make movies, they’re tasked with making a film about her.

There’s a laid-back vibe to this movie that adds to its indie charm. From the way the characters interact with each other to the seamless way things unfold, it’s a journey that’s rather easy to digest and one that doesn’t feel emotionally manipulative. That last part is tricky given the subject matter, yet director Alfonso Goméz-Rejón stays away from clichés or cloying over-sentimentality that could threaten to weigh this movie down. Also props to Jesse Andrews who wrote both the novel AND the screenplay. I love that the film doesn’t ask us to pity Rachel, and the character is adamant about that in her initial conversation with Greg. She faces her illness head on just as this movie also doesn’t sugar-coat Rachel’s illness and how she, as well as those around her, deals with it.

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I like that there’s mostly unknown in the entire cast. The most famous cast member is Nick Offerman, who along with Connie Britton as Greg’s parents add a dose of eccentricities to the movie. Initially I felt that Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom was perhaps a bit miscast here as you just kept expecting her to do something totally bonkers, but in the end it turns out to be a rather restrained performance from her. It’s also a bit odd to see Jon Bernthal here as Greg’s history teacher who let the two boys have lunch and watch movies in his office. I guess I just never saw him in this kind of role before but I like his understated performance and his character is integral to the moral of the story.

MeEarlDyingGirl_pic4The stars of the film however, is Mann, Cooke and Cyler as the three unlikely friends. The three young actors embody their roles pretty well and Cooke especially had the difficult task of convincing us that she’s indeed ill. The friendship theme run deep in this film, and it’s truly the heart of the film. The scenes ofMeEarlDyingGirl_SockworkOrange Greg and Earl talking about their parody movies are genuinely funny, so are the titles they come up with, i.e. A Sockwork Orange, Senior Citizen Kane, Rosemary Baby Carrots, The 400 Bros, etc. The movie incorporates some animated sequences which gives it a surreal vibe, but it never detracts us from the friendship storyline.

The third act proved to be the most emotional and I find myself tearing up quite a bit towards the end. I suppose you could say the ending is pretty predictable, yet the scene of Greg coming to terms with the situation hit me harder than I thought it would. There have been a lot of dialog throughout the movie up until the finale, but there’s no words necessary to convey the sentiment of the finale. I think it’s fitting that the filmmaker let the scene speak for itself, which made it feel all the more poignant.

Overall though, I like this movie but I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with it. There are some high-school moments that don’t resonate as well with me, and at times some of the supporting characters felt too cartoonish. Strangely enough, I also don’t feel as much an emotional connection with Rachel as I thought I would, but perhaps the story is more about Greg than about her. That said, I do think it’s an outstanding feature film debut from Goméz-Rejón and he’s certainly a director to watch for.

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I listened to an NPR’s Fresh Air interview with Goméz-Rejón who talked about how losing his dad shaped his approach to the film. It’s apparent that this film was a personal project for him and I think his personal experience made this film feel more authentic. He also talked about working as Martin Scorsese‘s personal assistant in his early 20s so he’s definitely learned from the best. The Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize is well-deserved and I have a feeling this would stand as one of the best high school films of this generation. If this is playing near you, I hope you go out and check this one out folks, a refreshingly original story that’d make a great antidote to all the sequels/reboots of the Summer and beyond.

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Have you seen this one? Curious to hear what YOU think!

FlixChatter Review: 22 Jump Street

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I’m a big fan of the TV show 21 Jump Street, heck I think I’ve seen every episodes of the show during its original run. When it was announced that a movie version was coming to the big screen, I was bit a skeptical. I mean how are they going to turn a soap opera crime drama into a feature film? I remember reading online about the film’s early development, they were thinking of making it a full out action/adventure. Thankfully someone at the studio got smart and decided to make it into an action-comedy instead. After the big success of the first movie, a sequel was quickly greenlit and now we get to see more adventures of buddy cops Schmidt and Jenko.

This new movie picked up where the last one ended, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are still doing undercover work. They’re trying to bust a vicious drug dealer known only as The Ghost (the always entertaining Peter Stormare) during a sting, of course their plan didn’t go smoothly and The Ghost and his men got away. After the botched bust, both Schmidt and Jenko got demoted to the Jump Street unit, again. This time instead of going undercover as high school kids, they’re going to college. After a student at a local college was killed in what appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, both heroes were sent to the school to investigate.

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Once they got to campus, Jenko was able to make friends quickly with the school’s football players, especially the team’s QB Zook (Wyatt Russell, yup he’s Kurt Russell’s son). Schmidt on the other hand is not a jock and felt he didn’t belong with the group, so he ventured out to a new area on campus and met a beautiful art student Maya (Amber Stevens). They hit it off quickly and later spent the night together at Maya’s dorm room. Since their work is to investigate who’s behind the drug dealings, Zook and Maya became their main suspects. Of course both Schmidt and Jenko had to go through lots of shenanigans before they solve the case.

Basically the plot of this movie is exactly the same as the previous one, but that’s not a bad thing. Directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did a good job of moving the plot along and didn’t linger too long on some of the jokes. Although I wish they’d cut back on the self aware aspects of a sequel, yes we get it, the movie is a sequel and you might not able to top the original. I thought the jokes worked at the beginning but as the movie progresses, they became a bit tedious and I kind of got annoyed by all of those self-aware references.

Hill and Tatum have a great chemistry and the movie works because of them. Tatum’s Jenko joined the football team and became a star and he’s now questioning whether he made the right choice by becoming a cop. Hill’s Schmidt on the other hand, he’s right back being the nerd again and feels he didn’t belong with cool kids. I also like the supporting cast, including the love interests Zook and Maya. Yes you heard it right, Wyatt Russell‘s Zook was sort of a love interest to Tatum’s Jenko, they had this bromance going on throughout most of the movie and of course  that made Schmidt jealous. Ice Cube also returns as their always angry Captain Dickson. A little plot point involves him and Schmidt might be the funniest gag in the movie. Nick Offerman again appeared in a brief scene as Chief Hardy and he delivered some of the funniest lines in the movie.

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Overall I thought this was a good sequel and I think I might liked it better than its predecessor. It has some laugh out loud moments and everyone seems to have a good time in the movie. What I found a bit surprising was how tame it was for an R-rated comedy. Considering the story took place in college, I expected to see lots of nudity and gross humor. But with the exception of some F-bombs and some mild violence, the movie contained no nudity or any toilet humor and it’s quite “clean” by today’s R-rated comedy standards.

If you enjoyed the first movie then I’m quite sure you’ll have a good time with this one. It’s recommended if you’re in the mood for some good laughs.

3.5 reels


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What did you think of 22 Jump Street?

FlixChatter Review: The LEGO Movie

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We’ve seen a plethora of movie tie-in with the LEGO company for a long time. From the Lord of the Rings to Star Wars, there’s pretty much a LEGO version of pretty much any franchise. So it’s really a matter of time that these colorful interlocking plastic bricks have a movie of their own, I’m quite surprised it took six decades since its inception in the late 1940s.

Who says that February is only for duds? This is one of the most fun experience I had in the movies in a long time, it’s every bit as cute and hilarious as the trailers and featurettes promised us. I’ve heard the term geekstravaganza being used in one of the reviews and that’s the perfect way to describe it. But as fun as those pop-culture characters are, the movie wouldn’t have worked without a protagonist worth rooting for. Seems that I’ve been seeing Chris Pratt quite a lot lately, he had a brief appearance in Her and also as a NAVY Seals in Zero Dark Thirty a few years back. He is perfectly-cast as Emmet, an ordinary construction worker with a happy-go-lucky attitude and contagious hyper-optimistism. In a world where coffee cost $37 a cup, Emmet still thinks life is well, awesome! 😀

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The opening sequence showing him living his day-to-day life is a hoot, the simple shape of each LEGO piece comes to live in this colorful LEGO universe. The LEGO universe is ruled by President (Lord) Business (Will Ferrell), a maniacal tyrant [is there any other kind?] bent on world domination, it’s a totalitarian existence we’ve seen in many dystopian futuristic films.

A lot of the ideas in this movie’s premise is not groundbreaking, but yet the style in which its presented makes even the most clichéd concept still watchable and entertaining. Borrowing from The Matrix and countless other sci-fis, Emmet is thought of as *the one*, that is the extraordinary MasterBuilder whom the resistant group thinks would lead them to the Piece of Resistance that’d what else, save the LEGO citizens from impending doom. The member of the resistant group is led by fun characters like the Yoda/Gandalf-like Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), the beautiful fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), 80s astronaut Benny (Charlie Day) and Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, Batman (Will Arnett). All of them are hilarious though the most inspired casting of all is Liam Neeson as Good Cop/Bad Cop who’s quite the scene stealer.

I have to admit that halfway through the 100-min running time the action are happening way too fast that it’s borderline ADD. Fortunately the jokes just keep on coming. In the midst of their adventure, Emmet, Wyldstyle & co. encountered a pirate called Metalbeard who’s bent on revenge against Lord Business for taking his body parts, voiced by the always-awesome Nick Offerman. Other pop-culture characters showing up in this one big intergalactic-like conference, which offers plenty of nostalgia to our childhood for everyone born before the 80s. But the focus of the story is always on Emmet, who’s the heart of the film. The ending offers a surprising twist that connects the LEGO universe with our human world, which represents what the LEGO toy is to kids in their creativity process. I think this part is handled quite nicely, though it feels a bit schmaltzy at times but it’s not without its charm. It’d definitely inspire both parents and kids in the audience, but the message of the power of imagination is relatable to anyone of all ages.

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Props to Phil Lord & Christopher Miller and the team of animators for creating such a joyfully entertaining movie that also has plenty of heart to balance the action-packed scenes. I’m still humming the theme song Everything is Awesome, I’d dare not to let this song lift up even your grumpiest mood. Combined with the playful stop-motion animation and hilarious expressions of every single LEGO characters, it’s perhaps the cheeriest sequence you’d see all year. The attention to detail is amazing and hugely entertaining. For a shape so simple, somehow the facial expressions are pretty darn good. Oh and even something as mundane as taking a shower is so adorable when done in LEGO! The water *droplet* and the soap *bubble* are so darn cute!!

It’s no surprise that the box office take blew even the industry estimates by nearly 30% with $69 mil take. This now stands as my favorite Warner Bros. animated features since The Iron Giant. I highly recommend seeing this one on the big screen if you want a mood-lifting movie. The 3D is good though I think seeing it in 2D is perfectly acceptable as well. I’m being pretty generous here on my rating, but it really is hugely entertaining movie I don’t mind watching again.

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Thoughts on The LEGO Movie? I’d love to hear it!

Upcoming Flix Spotlight: The LEGO® Movie Fun Featurettes

Oh who doesn’t love LEGO®. The colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears are perhaps one of the most universally-loved toys in the world. I actually saw a documentary of LEGO on the inception of that company in Billund, Denmark in 1949. I doubt inventor Ole Kirk Christiansen would ever imagine that his creation would be a worldwide phenomenon!

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I’m surprised it took 65 years to finally have the first full-length theatrical LEGO adventure. But the advanced animation technology with 3D rendering allows this toys to REALLY come alive on screen.

Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street) the original 3D computer-animated story follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as The Special, the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously under-prepared.

It’s tough not to be perked up by its buoyant spirits. The voice cast is simply stellar!

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Will Ferrell is the voice of President Business, aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life, and Liam Neeson is the voice of Lord Business’s loyal henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop, who will stop at nothing to catch Emmet. Then there are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest; Elizabeth Banksas the mysterious Batman, a LEGO minifigure with whom Wyldstyle shares a history; Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business; Alison Brie as the sweet and loveable Unikitty and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something Spaceman.

Check out the featurette on how they created the lego movie.


I love the main song Everything is Awesome! Can’t help humming it as it actually makes me feel happy, ahah. LOVE this cute Behind the Bricks featurette, with each LEGO character talking about the actors *playing* them, ahah. What a fun universe to be transported to.


I saw the movie last Saturday and had a blast. I’d have to agree with the critics on this one, so far it’s garnered 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes! The theme of *master builder* fits what the LEGO product is all about, and the sense of adventure will definitely please kids and the kids in all of us. It’s really a joyful film that also has a good message in the end about spurring creativity on kids and for parents to build them up instead of restricting them. I think the studio is confident this movie will do well that there’s already a sequel in the works.


What do you think folks? Are you going to see the LEGO movie?

FlixChatter Review: We’re The Millers

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When I first saw this trailer, I’ve got to admit that I found the premise to be quite hilarious. Former SNL cast member Jason Sudekis plays a small-time pot dealer David, who has to assemble a fake family for a mission to transport a ‘smidgen’ of pot from Mexico. He’s convinced that under the disguise of a family on vacation, they wont run into scrutiny by the border crossing guards.

The first 20 minute or so sets up each of the ‘family’ member and how they ended up agreeing to do this crazy journey together. One of the movie’s highlights was when the ‘family’ first met on the plane on the way to California before they drive to Mexico. I think the situation itself lends to hilarity as they tried to conceal their identity. Though she has such a limited range, Jennifer Aniston is more watchable in comedies than rom-com. There’s a comical moment when she arrives on the plane looking like a demure suburban soccer mom, complete with sensible shoes, but then again she was not believable as a stripper to begin with.

Interesting that I first saw Sudekis in another Aniston movie The Bounty Hunter where he’s basically reduced to a pathetic admirer of her character. This time he’s got the leading role, though his character also pines for Aniston’s Rose, a stripper who’s desperate for cash after she gets evicted from her apartment. I think both Sudekis and Aniston have a natural chemistry together, though for me, the scene stealer is Will Poulter as Kenny, the virgin teen who lives in the same building as David and Rose. He kind of reminds me of Tintin, so maybe he’d be a good fit if they want to make a live action movie of the Belgian comics, ahah. Kenny is instantly likable and hilarious, the scene of him singing the Waterfall song by TLC is a hoot! I just realized that the 20-year-old actor is English who was in The Chronicles of Narnia, which totally floored me as he was so convincing as an awkward Midwestern kid. Emma Roberts is just ok as the Millers ‘daughter’, she’s the least memorable of the ensemble, I think a more comedic young actress would bring something more to the table.

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To me the funniest moments are when the Millers get to Mexico in that giant RV, especially when they encounter a fellow RV-travelin’ tourist family after they managed to cross the border in Mexico. Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn play this squeaky clean, longtime husband and wife who are eager for some adventure to spark up their marriage. Offerman is one of my favorite comedians working today, the guy is naturally hysterical with his deadpan humor. I’d love to see him in a leading role for a change. French actor Tomer Sisley, whom I quite like in The Heir Apparent, was sadly wasted here, playing a stereotypical drug lord as the lame villain of the movie.

I’m usually not into raunchy R-rated comedies, I don’t know, endless profanities just don’t translate to entertainment for me. No doubt there are tons of that here, with vulgar scenes galore and some are quite offensive. The scene with Luis Guzmán as a Mexican cop asking for sexual favors in return of monetary bribe is just downright crude, but nothing could prepare me for the scene when Kenny’s um, testicles get bitten by a Tarantula! Aniston’s stripping scene doesn’t seem risqué by comparison, heck, it’s really nothing more than her showing off that she’s still got a hot bod at 44. One thing for sure, this is a comedy about family that’s definitely NOT for the whole family.

Overall, despite some hilarious moments, I feel like the premise has a lot more potential than what a team of four writers came up with here. I think under a more deft script and direction, this road trip movie could’ve been a comedy classic. At the same time, there’s enough going for it to keep me engaged throughout and some moments actually had me in stitches. So for that I’m going to be pretty generous in my rating. Comedies is tough genre to recommend as what people find funny vary so much, but I’d say this one is at least worth a rental.


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Thoughts on this movie and/or the cast?

Indie Review: The Kings of Summer

thekingsofsummer-posterI almost lost my opportunity to see this movie on the big screen. I was invited to a screening by TCFF a few weeks ago but I couldn’t make it as I wasn’t feeling well. But thankfully, I was able to make it to this press screening and boy, am I glad I did!

This film definitely reminds me of Stand By Me which I saw ages ago. Two best friends Joe & Patrick desperately trying to escape their families and they spend their Summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. The third guy Biaggio, ended up joining them as Joe ‘didn’t know how to get rid of him’ ahah.

I immediately connected with the characters, especially Joe (Nick Robinson) who lives with his overbearing widower dad Frank (the hilarious Nick Offerman). His BFF Patrick (Gabriel Basso) also live with his insufferable parents (Megan Mullally is a hoot as his overprotective mom – oh btw, I just learned today that she & Offerman are real-life married couple!). Both parents are harmless really, but I could see why their um, parenting style drive the kids away from home. And one night after Joe got lost in the woods after a party, with an oddball schoolmate Biaggio in tow, found just the perfect place to escape to.

This movie is billed as a comedy and it’s certainly has some laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s surprisingly heartfelt as well. For all of us who are young at heart, this film is quite relatable and also brings back memories of our youth. The scenes of the three teens trying to survive in the woods and wanting to prove that they’re capable ‘men’ not boys are both moving and funny.

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Top: Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias and Nick Robinson

I’m glad to see an indie film that paints an earnest picture of teens and the struggles of adolescence without resorting to something sinister or somber.  I mean, there are dark moments but by no means bleak. It’s also not overtly sexual, which is very refreshing for a teen film (though it is rated R for the foul language). Even the romance storyline is handled quite well here. It’s not frivolous or gratuitous and fits well with the coming-of-age theme of the story.

This is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts‘ feature film debut as he did mostly TV work, but I hope he does more movies in the future. This is one of the funniest and refreshingly honest films I’ve seen, boasted by engaging performances and beautiful cinematography that makes you want to book your next vacation camping in the woods!! [If you know me at all, that’s saying a lot as I’m not even an outdoor person]

I love movies with memorable characters, and this film is chock full of them. The younger actors are wonderful, they don’t seem as if they’re acting at all, which is impressive in its own right. I’m especially impressed with 18-year-old Nick Robinson as Joe, and this is also his debut feature film! He’s quite a natural on screen, and you could say he’s the protagonist of the film.

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Moises Arias as the quirky Biaggio is a hoot and practically stole every scene he’s in! Those who watch Park & Recreation no doubts would be entertained by Nick Offerman and his deadpan comedic style. His scene with the delivery guy about some large wontons had me in stitches!

I can’t recommend this enough, folks. I hope you get a chance to see this one the big screen or at the very least give it a rent. It’d likely end up in my top 10 of 2013. It’d make an excellent diversion to the big blockbuster Summer movies hitting theaters in the next few months. Great script, performances, scenery and soundtrack — it’s got all the ingredients to make an entertaining film. But mostly, watch it for the funny and engaging story of friendship and family.

This film was nominated for this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. I’d think it might even deserve to win more awards!

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Anybody else’s seen this yet? What do you think of this film?