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Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category

7 Years Later, Witness ‘300’ Rise Again (Movie Review)

300 rise of an empire whysoblu thumb300 is not a film many would have watched in its original release and thought it could use a sequel.  Back in March of 2007, director Zack Snyder impressed audiences with his stylized cinematic vision of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, which was a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae.  300 was fairly straightforward, but its visual aesthetic paved the way for other films and television series like it.  Having been a large fan of 300, the idea of a sequel, especially one that took its time in getting to theaters, was not exactly a film piquing my interest.  Despite the elements of history that could be creatively portrayed within this same graphic novel universe, I was not sure what a studio was willing to do with a follow up inspired by profits form the first.  To my surprise, 300: Rise of an Empire manages to deliver the familiar spectacle, while adding a more complicated story and an excitingly ferocious villain as well.

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300: Rise of an Empire – ’300′ SUPER-SIZED! (Movie Review)

300 Rise of Empire TNThinking about this today, it’s been way too long hasn’t it?  I’m talking about of course the amount of time that has passed since 2007 when Warner Bros. brought Roman soldiers with unbelievably chiseled pecs and abs into our living rooms on our early adoption HDTV sets during the Red vs. Blu Wars (HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray).  Can you believe it has been that long and for that matter has taken this long to get a sequel out to the wildly insane, testosterone driven 300? I still remember my first theatrical viewing of that feature.  It was quite a visual spectacle to behold and take in.  It was like the raw pages of Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name just magically came to life on the big screen.  Were those chiseled bodies real or CG?  Hell no!  Gerald Butler and the rest of the gang went through some rigorous training to achieve those astonishing physiques.  Now it wasn’t all about the awe, shock and gratuitous violence/sex, it was actually a quite entertaining and solid movie that took us on an incredible journey and did not let go of us leaving us thirsty for even more blood and vengeance by the time the credits rolled.  After all, our king, as mighty as he was, had fallen.   Vengeance was an instant mandate.  And now the time is upon us!  Ladies and gentlemen…I proudly introduce to you 300: Rise of an Empire. Continue reading ’300: Rise of an Empire – ’300′ SUPER-SIZED! (Movie Review)’

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Wes Anderson’s Style Adorns ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (Movie Review)

The Grand Budapest Hotel whysoblu poster 1-001The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film not only packed with characters, sets, costumes, and all the things that tend to typify writer/director Wes Anderson’s style, it is also packed with story.  It is becoming more and more clear to me how much Anderson enjoys having films that are about stories being told to an audience.  There are frequent themes that have been present in Anderson’s other films, namely family, which is clearly seen in The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox and all of his other films as well, which is all well and good, but The Grand Budapest Hotel really goes out of its way to show us that it is a story within a story that is being told to another person.  The result is a film that finds a way to present something that will be entirely familiar to everyone who recognizes Anderson’s style, but ends up feeling like a comment on storytelling itself.  The film combines multiple genres in a rather go-for-broke fashion, while still finding the time to be thoughtful in regards to its key characters, and does not let narrative constraint get in the way.

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A Duo From Way Back, ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ Has Been Reimagined (Movie Review)

peabody and sherman whysoblu thumbWhile I was never a big fan of The Smurfs, among other older cartoons that have since been turned into animated features, Peabody’s Improbable History, which was a part of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, was a series of skits that I always found entertaining.  I haven’t watched Peabody in years, but seeing this new 3D CG version of the concept brought memories flooding back into my mind, once the animated, bow-tied beagle started delivering puns so cringe-worthy they would then become kind of hysterical.  It is not often that I consciously take nostalgia into account, but Mr. Peabody & Sherman won me over by not only providing a fast-paced, time traveling adventure comedy with humor for all ages, but also jogging my memory with thoughts of an old cartoon that I enjoyed a bit more than expected.

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What About ‘Non-Stop’ Though? (Movie Review)

non-stop whysoblu thumbIt is fun to see how much credibility an actor with gravitas can bring to a really silly film.  Liam Neeson has returned to the action/thriller realm once again to star in an airplane-hijacking film, with twists and turns that go way too far in terms of being plausible.  It matters little though, as the film has way too much fun with embracing its ludicrous nature, which manages not to be too much of a fault, as Non-Stop finds a way to keep you guessing, while Neeson once again adds his serious presence to a film that may have once seemed beneath him.  It is not a film that is trying to say anything; it just wants to entertain, with the semblance of some clever ideas, in the midst of its high-octane silliness.

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Large-Scale Camp Erupts From ‘Pompeii’ (Movie Review)

pompeii whysoblu thumnSometimes it is fine just taking what you can get.  A serviceable film is not necessarily a bad one if you had an overall good time.  I would be curious to revisit my thoughts on Pompeii a week from now or even a couple days from now and figure out what I would do differently in this review, but as of now, I am fine giving a mild recommendation to this disaster epic that aspires to be Gladiator and Titanic combined into a shorter and more streamlined film.  It may lack the ability to be emotionally affecting and there are many elements that are way over-the-top, but at the same time, I knew what I was getting into and was fine with eventually giving in.  Pompeii is not great art, but I cannot say it does not deliver on its goal.  It is just a matter of how far you are willing to go to enjoy a campy B-movie set in the Roman Empire.

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Ashley Judd & Luke Perry Get It On In ‘Normal Life’ (Movie Review)

Normal LifeThe calendar year of 1996 saw a lot of big feature names get released such as Independence Day, Fargo, Trainspotting, Jerry Maguire, The Rock, Scream, From Dusk till Dawn, Twister, The English Patient, Primal Fear and many more, but perhaps none more transcending for two young actors than the movie we are gathered here to discuss today…a blast from my past…Normal Life.  This film may possibly boast the single greatest performances from both Ashley Judd and Luke Perry, but the cold reality of the situation is the fact that it’s also probably their most obscure and least-seen film of their careers.  Now that blanket statement doesn’t hold true as it relates to myself, as I consider Normal Life one of my favorite Ashley Judd films of all-time (and Luke Perry for that matter), but I’d be hard pressed to ever talk to anyone that has seen the movie before, even in the reviewer community that I keep myself so actively engaged in. Continue reading ‘Ashley Judd & Luke Perry Get It On In ‘Normal Life’ (Movie Review)’

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Jiro Dreams Of Fighter Planes: ‘The Wind Rises’ (Movie Review)

the wind rises whysoblu thumbThe Wind Rises is a wonderful addition to Studio Ghibli’s impressive library of anime features.  With only a hint of fantastical elements, which mainly come in the form of dream sequences, The Wind Rises is really an animated biopic of a man responsible for designing Japanese fighter planes during WWII, but with a fictionalized focus on his personal life.  There are numerous themes that the film attempts to explore, but even while it has a sense of melancholy to go with the main character’s own sense of discovery, it stays back from the messy politics of it all.  Really, this is a story of a man who had dreams of creating an ideal design and how he balanced his goals with the reality of life.

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So…About ‘About Last Night’ (Movie Review)

about last night whysoblu thumbSomething that I notice does not get enough attention regarding comedies is editing.  I am not talking about the pace of a film necessarily, which I see brought up a lot; notably with Judd Apatow-produced comedies lately, which tend to feel a bit shaggy.  When I say editing, I am referring more to the structure of scenes and how to create a sense of rhythm that comes from both the delivery of dialogue and actions from the characters involved and the way shots cut back and forth to best achieve a certain level of spark that makes a film click.  About Last Night does not rely on much that is new in the realm of romantic comedies, but what it has is great editing that really sells the work done in the script and by the actors to show the chemistry on screen and keep things moving with a near screwball level of zaniness at times and an effectively biting tone at others.  As a result, About Last Night has easily earned a high spot for me in terms of mainstream romantic comedies released in recent years.

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‘Robocop’ Fails Its Prime Directive (Movie Review)

robocop whysoblu thumb 2There is a reason why robots, cyborgs, and similar devices have gotten a lot of attention in science fiction over the years.  The idea of man creating a machine and what that could mean for life is an intriguing concept that can play on both the positives and negatives of the scenario.  Taking it further and creating a cyborg who is also a law enforcement officer is one way to emphasize the debate of whether it should be done.  If handled properly, a story can flourish by developing those ideas, building a world around why this concept should happen and what the ramifications could be were it to actually happen.  Along with many other main reasons, Robocop fails to embrace the strong ideas that could make it work, in favor of being a noisy and messy action film.

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Good Cop, Bad Cop(s), Robocop (Movie Review)

Robocop TNGoing into this screening last night I was fearful of only one thing.  Please God!  Don’t let this be a horrible remake like 2012’s Total Recall.  Despite the beauty of Kate Beckinsale in it, life is too precious and short for something of that immeasurable quality.  So here we are and there’s really no way around it.  The twelfth of February 2014 is happening whether we like it or not.  We are living in it and because we are we have a modern day PG-13 remake of the 1987 hard-R Robocop to discuss here.  And guess what?  It’s only been off and on and delayed since it was announced way back in 2005.  How bad can this really be?  Sometimes, as we seen last year with World War Z, not all delays are bad.  Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt at least.  So as the poster tagline for Robocop reads, “Crime Has A New Enemy,” I’m hoping by the crime they are talking about 2012’s Total Recall being made and that this film is the enemy attempting to kick its a$$!  Come on!  You have to be a little curious, don’t you?  Read on! Continue reading ‘Good Cop, Bad Cop(s), Robocop (Movie Review)’

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‘Vampire Academy’ Is A School For Losers (Movie Review)

vampire academy whysoblu thumbVampire Academy seems like it could have been a fun mix of meta-humor surrounding the recent wave of vampire and young adult novel themed-culture and satire dealing with high school drama.  Unfortunately, this new film based on a young adult, paranormal romance book series (which I assume is a best-seller, because they all seem to be, regardless of whether you had ever heard of them before), has very little to offer in terms of wittiness, craftiness, or shrewdness.  The film provides merely one character that has any life to bring to the film, two actors on the adult side to try and ham it up, and a ton of exposition that makes you feel like Vampire Academy will be providing you with a Scantron for the exam that takes place once the film ends.  I can say right now, I didn’t take many notes.

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‘The Lego Movie’ Has Been Built Into Something Awesome (Movie Review)

lego movie whysoblu thumb 1This is one of those “expectations exceeded” situations.  I was already plenty happy to go into The Lego Movie, given the lively and fun marketing presented for this film, along with my knowledge that it has come from the directors or both Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and 21 Jump Street, films I very much enjoy, but the film did not just settle for being an enjoyable animated adventure, it succeeded at going even further.  Along with the humor and vast amount of creativity on display, The Lego Movie goes a number of steps further to really make it stand as something special.  It has fun with the familiar type of story it is telling and then pushes its own boundaries, adding even deeper levels to a film that features millions of blocks moving around the screen.  The added level of cleverness and heart makes this movie not only a lot of fun, but also quite awesome.

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‘The Monuments Men’ aka The Nerdy Dozen (Movie Review)

the monuments men whysoblu thumbFor all the great things The Monuments Men brought together in an effort to make an exciting war picture, with a good-natured twist, the film certainly felt pretty lifeless and dull.  I tend to make it no secret that I am happy to embrace the marketing of films, in an effort to get me excited for them.  A well cut trailer and a solid list of actors and talent behind the camera is plenty to have me happily anticipating a film.  The Monuments Men had all of that and even after the film switched from its awards-friendly release date in December to February, I was still prepared to give the film the benefit of the doubt that I would at least find it quite enjoyable.  The problem, as it turns out, is that screenwriter/director George Clooney and his co-screenwriter/producer Grant Heslov could not find a way to make this particular WWII story into something with more dramatic weight.  There is a good cause being fought for, which is different than the norm in a war movie, but even with A-list talent, the results felt rather inert.

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Everything Is Awesome In ‘The Lego Movie’ (Movie Review)

Lego MovieLet’s get one thing straight from the start.  Even going into the press screening this past Saturday I was against this movie.  While it looked unique and looked like it could be fun, I just did not want to invest the time in it and regret it later because you know life’s too short, yada, yada, yada.  But then again, what if this was really good?  What if I would be missing out on something really special?  That’s a lot of what ifs, huh?  Well, I guess it’s whatever it takes to get me in the seat, but I must admit that I had a small glimmer of hope that I just might like this one because like the tagline says, it’s the story of a nobody who save everybody.  Aren’t all great movies like billed this?  Well, most of them at least.  So I figured as long as The Lego Movie can take me on a journey through the eyes of a hero and I fall for his character arc then just maybe…maybe…I might be able to have a good time with this one.  If not, then there’s always popcorn to be had!  So as nonsensical as this first paragraph really is, what do you say we talk about some Legos? Continue reading ‘Everything Is Awesome In ‘The Lego Movie’ (Movie Review)’

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‘Labor Day’ Is Not Much Of A Holiday Movie (Movie Review)

labor day whysoblu thumbIt seemed pretty telling of the quality to me that a film by acclaimed director Jason Reitman would be practically swept under the rug, given its low profile release at the end of January, but I had a desire to see it anyway.  I have been a fan of Reitman’s previous films (including Juno, Up In The Air, and Young Adult), so I was more or less pleased at the prospect of seeing another film from him.  While I was not familiar with the novel by Joyce Maynard, which this film is based on, I could get behind a Jason Reitman film that stars Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet.  Unfortunately, while these leads deliver fine work, as that generally comes with casting good actors, the film slipped away from being a poetic coming-of-age story and moved towards being a melodramatic piece of work, finding more in common with familiar Nicholas Sparks dramas.

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‘That Awkward Moment’…Indeed (Movie Review)

that awkward moment whysoblu thumbA few days ago I was discussing the HBO series Entourage with some friends and going over how it began as a fairly entertaining series, but eventually amounted to some conflict that could be extinguished with the simple mantra of, “Vince and the gang are going to be alright.”  The show mainly relied on the easy-going dude chemistry between the guys (and Jeremy Piven), as they lived lives of luxury in Hollywood.  While the setting and premise are very different, That Awkward Moment had me thinking of Entourage quite a bit.  This dude-focused romantic comedy has fairly low stakes, features a group of people who are all fairly successful and especially well-dressed, and it never seems like there is much going on to threaten their existence.  I am not saying the world needed to be crashing down around them, but it is a fairly standard comedy that was rarely very funny and essentially amounted to the mantra of, “Zac Efron and the gang are going to be alright.”

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‘The Past’ is The Past And The Film Is Great (Movie Review)

the past whysoblu poster-001One of the best things about The Past, writer/director Asghar Farhadi’s follow up film to 2011’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, A Separation, is that it makes me want to see all of Farhadi’s previous films.  Once again working with a fairly straight-forward, reality-based premise as the subject for a drama, Farhadi is certainly proving to be one of the best voices in film, when it comes to examining familial relationships.  What makes this impressive is how gripping I have found his films to be, despite being incredibly limited as far as any sort of flashiness is concerned.  With The Past, there are no broad characters, the film has almost no music or score whatsoever, and the film’s stakes are entirely personal to the specific people involved.  Still, The Past was another standout from 2013, as it is so great at being the film it is trying to be.

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‘Jack Ryan’: Plain Recruit (Movie Review)

jack ryan whysoblu thumb 2Does the world need another Jack Ryan?  The character, created by writer Tom Clancy, has never quite taken off, despite their now being five films that feature him.  The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger are solid spy thrillers/procedurals, but are not 90s films that many seem to single out all that often.  This sentiment was challenged in 2002 with The Sum of All Fears, the first reboot of the Jack Ryan character.  Despite receiving decent-to-positive reviews then, The Bourne Identity arrived around the same time, made around the same amount of money, but basically buried Ryan’s analyst ways, as audiences favored the kinetic spy action.  Now we have another take on the character in a new film that flirts with what audiences like in the Bourne films, but still tries to be a Clancy-style spy thriller.  The results are unfortunately very average.

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Buckle Up With Cube, ‘Ride Along’ With Hart, Laugh Maybe (Movie Review)

ride along whysoblu thumbThere is not much work to be done when reviewing a film like Ride Along.  It is a comedy, so I cannot exactly say whether someone will laugh or not, as it is all subjective.  The film is a buddy cop movie, which follows a long list of mismatched pairings designed to work, based on chemistry and the potential comedy that comes with it.  Lastly, the film heavily relies on how much they enjoy a specific performer.  Basically, Ride Along is a completely inoffensive comedy that puts the spotlight on Kevin Hart.  Ice Cube is around to provide straight man support, but if you like Hart, this film may be mildly entertaining.  There is not much more to it than that, but hey, I can still dig into this film anyway and see if anything else important comes to light.

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