While the word is out on what the future holds for the films from Marvel Studios, they are currently in a place of comfort, as the films produced are consistently entertaining, despite fitting into familiar structures. Given that the films all have reasonable budgets and lots of talent both behind and in front of the camera, it is not too much of a surprise that audiences generally really enjoy these movies. Guardians of the Galaxy is both the wildest step yet for Marvel and the biggest risk since 2008’s Iron Man, as it is based on an obscure comic property and lacks huge name stars in the lead roles for audiences to be easily sold on the film. With that in mind, Guardians of the Galaxy will be a real test of the Marvel brand. It helps that the film is very good. It may only break some new ground, given the setting and style of the film, but even while fitting into a familiar mold, it is a total blast of space opera-style joy.
Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category
In the premise for Lucy, Scarlett Johansson’s character is forced to deliver a package implanted inside of her, only to gain unique abilities after the package is ruptured. I am sure some kind of variation of that description is what got writer/director Luc Besson the means to make this film as a big studio movie, as opposed to a smaller release. With that in mind, it is almost as if Besson was able to pull one over on many, as he may have a film built up to be a slick, easy-to-digest, summer sci-fi/action film, but Lucy has more going on than one may expect. It is unfortunate that the film’s ambition is masked underneath a wavy sense of actual science and Besson’s own penchant for kinetic (and very violent) action beats, but a strong central performance and a very fast pace keep Lucy from ever slowing down in its brief runtime.
Continue reading ‘‘LUCY’ Express (Movie Review)’
I’m not sure what happened, but sometime circa the Black Widow’s entrance into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Iron Man 2 and later on in movies such as Don Jon and most recently Under the Skin (my full Blu-ray reviews of those two titles can be found here and here) I have become a HUGE fan of the sexy starlet Scarlett Johansson. Who isn’t, right? However, I’m not too happy that she’s pregnant and in the process kind of shuffled things around on the newest Avengers set with not one but three stunt doubles, but I suppose a girl has to do what a girl has to do. After all, she did give me one very fine looking performance that I’ll never forget in my favorite Michael Bay movie of all-time, The Island, which came out in 2005 before all those aforementioned movies above. So I suppose I will let her surprise pregnancy slip into the farthest, darkest and remotely inaccessible areas of my brain (since I’m using less than 10% of it) because it absolutely gives me great pleasure to chat about Scarlett and her latest action vehicle down below…Lucy! Continue reading ‘‘Lucy’ Mixes With The Matrix Instead Of The Transporter (Movie Review)’
One of the more impressive aspects of The Purge: Anarchy is not really the movie itself, but the fact that how it was sold managed to get me excited, despite the first ‘Purge’ from a year ago finding its way to my ‘Worst of 2013’ list. Fast-tracked sequel or not, ‘Anarchy’ seemed set out to resolve the main issue that the first film created, which was to go a more open world route, given the endless possibilities that the ridiculous basic concept set up. Here is a film that exists in a reality where crime and unemployment are at all-time lows in America, because a 12-hour period exists one night a year, where all crime (especially murder) is legal. It is a very dumb premise if you stop to think about it, but there is so much to do with that concept, which is something this higher-budgeted sequel tries to do. With all of that said, even when considering the couple degrees that separate this film from reality, in an effort to add some level of social commentary, I did not take away much from this film that will likely stick with me no further than a week.
A few years back, writer/director Mike Cahill made a film called Another Earth, which managed to find itself on my top ten list. It was a debut feature and had some rough edges, but it hit me in just the right way and at just the right time (going well with its existential-sci-fi-drama counterpart – Melancholia), providing me with enough to let the film get to me more than I was expecting. Now we have Cahill’s follow up feature, I Origins, which I cannot say I was as enraptured by, but still found to be interesting. The main curiosity I have outside of this film is whether or not audiences will be happy to go along with what is essentially a character journey that does not really decide to engage in a specific plot until more than halfway through the film. There is a sense looseness here that I think can go either way for people, but I did find myself involved in some key moments that led me to admiring I Origins quite a bit.
I guess there is something to be said for a Disney film like Planes: Fire & Rescue that does not try to go for the modern Disney approach of being a film for everyone, rather than just kids. While there is nothing about this theatrical sequel to a film that was originally supposed to go straight to video that makes it essential viewing or even all that innovative, there is also nothing here that really makes it unwatchable either. I may have some quibbles over the implied lessons that Dusty Crophopper learns at the end of this film, but it really makes no difference, as Planes: Fire & Rescue is kiddy stuff, through and through, which is not a bad thing, just something to take into consideration.
The only thing more complicated than the time traveling plotline of the original Planet of the Apes franchise is realizing that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the reimagining of the fourth film in the previous franchise, which took place before the first film, chronologically. Relieving the stress of such complications is the fact that ‘Dawn’ may be the 8th film in a long running series of ‘Apes’ movies, but it stands very close to the top, nearly outdoing the Charlton Heston classic. This is a summer movie that is not afraid to embrace the idea of keeping the damn dirty humans in second tier positions, while Andy Serkis, the other actors, and the fantastic visual effects team at Weta Digital do tremendous work at not only creating what appears to be living, breathing apes, but well-developed and empathetic characters. Along with a clever script and some ace direction, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is another very strong entry for the 2014 summer season, let alone a fine sci-fi spectacle.
If the year 2011 taught us nothing but the fact that good things can come from rebooting a beloved franchise, then I’d be alright to call it a day right then and there. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever conjured up the belief or the cohones that the quirky Planet of the Apes franchise could ever be resurrected after that feeble attempt by Tim Burton (I really wish they could have went through with the Adam Rifkin script) way back in the summer of 2001 before our economy took a crap and I have been broke ever since because of low interest rates. However, I digress. We are not here to discuss our nation’s economy because if the fictional ape character of Caesar was real, I have no doubts that it would thrive once again under his direction. All hail Caesar, right? Exactly! That’s exactly the sentimentality I want you to have over the course of the next five minutes or so as I birth into your mind a world dominated by apes, or at least on the cusp of that becoming so in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Continue reading ‘Caesar Reigns in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ (Movie Review)’
There seems to be a scale of how well movies can depict the passage of time with the characters we are following. We constantly see films that effectively (or ineffectively) make us of makeup and other effects to convey a certain age of a character, let alone simply using different actors, based on time jumps. Writer/director Richard Linklater has gone a different route. Rather than using traditional, physical tools to convey the lengthy period of time that Boyhood covers, he worked with the same actors for a 12 year period to deliver a unique and ambitious project. As a result, we see a story about family and change and growth and many other things that make up life from a personal perspective. It was a wonderful idea that has turned into an equally wonderful film.
Roger Ebert was a force to be reckoned with when it came to film criticism, and I was very saddened by his death in April, 2013. The documentary film Life Itself, an adaptation of the late film critic’s memoir and a look at the last few months of his life, puts his story front and center, with no one more fitting than Steve James (director of Hoop Dreams, one of Ebert’s favorites) to be the one to direct the film. The film is rife with stories and insight about the life of Roger Ebert, as far as his career as a writer and onward goes, with plenty of interviews to back up a truthful look at a man who was not perfect, but certainly a huge influence and impressive figure when it came to what he accomplished. This is a documentary for many film fans, as they may not have been shaped by Ebert’s film criticism, but it has certainly been a factor, while he had his time to say something about cinema.
The biggest question I have about Deliver Us from Evil, a film that mixes a police procedural plot with exorcism, is why have it released on July 4th weekend? I understand counter programming and all, but a grimy, R-rated horror feature does not exactly seem like the choice for Independence Day, regardless of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s name being attached to the film. That said, whether or not audiences flock to see HULK and Carlos the assassin exorcise the demons on its opening weekend, Deliver Us from Evil has a neat setup that feels like a throwback detective story fitted with effective atmospheric direction from Scott Derrickson.
It is unfortunate that Tammy does not quite work overall. Here we have a character-based, R-rated comedy, featuring a large number of female characters, with ideas that extend beyond big-budgeted set pieces, and it is arriving in theaters just in time for the Fourth of July. Melissa McCarthy fans may certainly enjoy the opportunity given to her and her husband, Ben Falcone, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with McCarthy, but perhaps not those who are expecting a traditional slapstick comedy. Or maybe it is the other way around. What Tammy has in character exploration and some actual pathos, whenever McCarthy settles down with her antics, it loses whenever the film amps up its randomness, certain comedy routines, and disjointed plotting. It makes the film an interesting watch, just not one that I found entirely worthwhile, as a whole.
I enjoy science fiction stories quite a bit. Whether it ranges from plausible ideas regarding the future of our current society or to things a bit more abstract, I love the creativity on display. This especially goes for sci-fi films, which allow a large number of filmmakers, actors, production designers, etc., to develop worlds, stories, characters, and concepts, in an effort to put something truly audacious into the theater for people to enjoy. Sometimes that works out quite well, sometimes it is okay, and other times it can be forgettable. Snowpiercer is the kind of film that sits near the top of the pile. It combines skilled filmmaking, big ideas, and some fine, warp-minded writing to create a feature fully prepared to be entertaining, strange, darkly humorous, and plenty of other things that all make it rather brilliant.
How does one approach reviewing a movie like Transformers: Age of Extinction? It ultimately does not matter too much, as this Michael “Boom Boom” Bay-directed franchise has no real problem turning a profit, even while critics and a certain percentage of audiences chuck nothing but garbage its way. This is the fourth installment of the series and while all of the human actors from the past three films have been tossed aside in favor of a new cast, Michael Bay has not moved away from what he has done in the previous installments. There is some directorial evolution, sure, but this is still an overlong exercise in big-budgeted spectacle. Really though, it comes down to what I expected to see and the film with a poster that features one robot riding on the back of a dinosaur-shaped robot gave me a pretty big clue of what I was in for.
Let it be known before we get started here that I wanted nothing to do with this fourth film in the Michael Bay Transformers franchise. The last two, minus seeing Megan Fox and her clubbed thumbs in the second film, were absolute crud. How many times can we see the same story repeated over and over again? Decepticons come down and want to destroy the Earth. Big effing deal! Yawn. I have seen it all before. And from the looks of the trailers that have aired, going into this one, I expected more of the same with just a different looking cast. However, the curator of toys in me really couldn’t pass this press screening opportunity up to see if Michael Bay got any better in the storytelling department or not. One thing for sure, Bay won’t let you down in the hot women department. With 19-year old Nicola Peltz taking center stage, Transformers: Age of Extinction had at least that much going for it before the lights even dimmed Tuesday evening. Continue reading ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction – The Bowel Movement (Movie Review)’
Sometimes the strength of an ensemble can outweigh the bad ideas some have, as far as how to continue on with a film that had no real need to continue. That almost works here. 2012’s Think Like a Man was somewhat of a surprise hit, with Kevin Hart beginning to break out big, and a likable cast that many seemed to respond to. Now it has a sequel, with the word “Too” added to the end, which rarely bodes well for any movie. The cast returns, Hart’s role has been amped up, and some laughs are there, but the film feels too loose for its own good. Think Like a Man Too has all the energy, but wastes it on easy jokes about its Las Vegas setting, stepping away from anything more poignant.
I suppose it comes to no surprise that the soundtrack to Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning-jukebox musical-turned movie, is a good one. Bringing on many involved with the original show led to some solid vocal performances that really let the scenes featuring The Four Seasons and others show off their singing abilities. I only wish the rest of the film had the kind of spark that made me enjoy scenes of songs that I have heard plenty of times before being performed. It was nice to see director Clint Eastwood head in a different direction for the kind of film he wanted to make, but unfortunately his old school talents did not really assist bringing this old school group onto the big screen.
The Signal is the kind of movie I want to support, despite finding some issues with it. It is an original science fiction story with mysterious aspects that unfold as the film goes along in ways that I found consistently engaging. The film ends up biting off a bit more than it can chew, but there is clear ambition in the filmmaking that I was happy to admire. I would not quite say that the style is placed over the substance, as it amounts more to needing to evolve as a screenwriter and a director, but I really dug what William Eubank was going for with this film.