Project Almanac feels like the result of producer Michael Bay taking the film Primer and throwing it into a room where the MTV Films scientists could poke, prod, analyze, disassemble, and reassemble it into a time travel film that could appeal to teenagers of today. That is not inherently a bad thing, but it also does not mean this film will have much lasting appeal for the future, compared to other time travel films or other films that also utilize the ‘found footage’ format to better effect. So with that in mind, despite some clever ideas and an energetic sense of momentum, Project Almanac is only so much fun, if you don’t think too hard about it, but innocent enough to work for what it is, with the target audience likely willing to have enough to enjoy.
Archive for the 'Movie Reviews' Category
I already know what you are thinking. It’s the month of January. This is the month where movies that studios have no faith in go to die. You don’t need to tell me that. I know that all too well. However, there are four main reasons that actually managed to convince me to check to see this one. First up, I wanted to check in on my home girl from the block, J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez). I never hated her or anything so I just wanted to see how she was doing post Marc Anthony. Second, this one is directed by Rob Cohen and he has “some” clout, don’t you think? Third, it’s Rated-R! Hell yeah! And last but not least, there’s a certain list titled “The 20 Greatest Things About This Amazing ‘The Boy Next Door’ Trailer” over here that had me in stitches. That’s enough reasons, right? Continue reading ‘J-Lo Gets Jiggy With ‘The Boy Next Door’ (Movie Review)’
At its best, Mortdecai is an adult-skewing drama that uses its big-name cast to its advantage, as everyone does their best to show how much fun they are having, while being moved along by the comic zip of director David Koepp’s direction. This is not a sentence that I can apply to the whole movie, unfortunately, but Mortdecai is by no means the disaster that would be suggested by its January release date and lack of much publicity, beyond the basic marketing via trailers and posters. Really, it is a globetrotting adventure with fairly low stakes and a lead performance from a very game Johnny Depp that you will either enjoy or find irritating. Fortunately, the film does have other actors also doing their part, even if the film is fairly minor in every sense. That in mind, this is far better than The Tourist or whatever the hell Steve Martin was doing in those Pink Panther movies.
There was a time when I used to say I was not a fan of submarine movies. I have since found that to be inaccurate, given how much I appreciate the ones considered to be the best and even some of the more average attempts. I believe it to come down more to whether or not the film is effective in getting across the key idea of what works best in a submarine movie, which is effectively building the claustrophobic tension that comes from having multiple characters stuck with each other in a narrow enclosure, deep below the ocean’s surface. Black Sea manages to do this. It takes the premise of a heist film and combines that with what you can get from a submarine thriller, making for a unique sort of drama held together by some solid performances and an interesting play on what these characters actually desire most.
I am not sure whether or not I should be surprised by how much I enjoyed Paddington, the film adaptation of the popular children’s literature character created by Michael Bond, but I know without a doubt that I was absolutely charmed by it. Co-writer/director Paul King, best known for his work on the British comedy series The Mighty Boosh, has put together a marvelous little film that has the kind of wonder that makes the film adaptations of certain Roald Dahl books, like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, work so well. He even throws in the plotting of a film like Beethoven to make for a very easily accessible family film, with just enough plot to make this fish-out-of-water story very easy to watch. So grab your coat & red hat and get ready for Paddington.
So director Clint Eastwood decided to pull a Spielberg and be a double threat in 2014, but while Jersey Boys and American Sniper are no Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List (and perhaps not even a Lost World and Amistad), the latter film is certainly his best effort in some time. That may not be saying much, but American Sniper, while not the most engaging war film in terms of having much to say, without adding a layer of schmaltz on top (fitting with the strong war violence presented), did interest me on another level. Despite being an uncomplicated, yet never-dull and efficient war-drama, I was intrigued by seeing a filmmaker like Eastwood make an attempt at a film that studies masculinity, given his own career as a gruff, male action hero.
Blackhat is a slickly-produced techno-thriller from co-writer/director Michael Mann. While Mann continually enjoy exploring the relationship between cops and crooks, this film and the last couple efforts from Mann (Miami Vice, Public Enemies) seem to feature same issue: personality vs. interest. The fact is, all of Mann’s films have tons of personality, given his stylish tendencies, but his recent efforts have unfortunately not left us with much to connect with, beyond the visuals, committed (yet somewhat shallow) performances, and visceral quality of the action in his features. Blackhat does nothing to really change that around and while a January release date is harsh sentencing for a director that continues to put what I imagine is tons of effort into his productions, it stands to reason that a film with a couple action-based highlights amidst a world filled with exotic locals, techno-jargon, and the handsomest hacker of them all could only draw up so much excitement. That in mind, I am still a Mann fan and while bloated, I tend to enjoy the visual language Mann puts on the big screen, overweighing my need for a more enjoyable screenplay, which is still unfortunately the issue with these recent Mann projects.
American Sniper saw a limited release theatrically last year on Christmas Day. So if you are in the know with my usual rants, then you have already guessed it and hit the nail on the head. It wasn’t released or screened anywhere near me last Christmas, hence why there is this late film review and possible exclusion from countless Top 10 lists of last year across the multitude of websites comparable to ours. However, it juts goes to show you that you can’t have your cake and eat all the time too. You either pay the high taxes and live in a shoebox in LA or you stuff your face with fatty BBQ, sip back on sweet tea and watch the world pass you by, but I digress. We really do have a movie to discuss here. So ladies and gentlemen, I formally welcome you to my all-American movie review of American Sniper. Continue reading ‘It’s Your Patriotic Duty to See ‘American Sniper’ This Weekend’
My favorite scene in A Walk Among the Tombstones, the previous Liam Neeson thriller that found the 62-year-old actor facing up against a number of deadly foes, involved Neeson’s character talking a knife-wielding man out of fighting, because they both knew how it would end. It showed how much of an intimidating force Neeson can be just by having a conversation. The same can be said for the first and best Taken. While that film had its share of action, the best scenes involved Neeson intimidating his enemies through just his presence and dialogue. Now we are at Taken 3, which is pretty much a joke. Sloppy storytelling, incoherent direction, horrible action (featuring plenty of close-ups); this is a mess of a film. Sure, Neeson knows how to sell his presence, but as the tagline states, I really hope it does end here.
There is something I find fascinating about a man struggling not to be a criminal. This was something played to near-perfection by Al Pacino in The Godfather films, but it is a character type that we have seen a lot in the crime and gangster films before and since those first two ‘masterpieces.’ In regards to this superb crime drama from writer/director J.C. Chandor, I think my fascination has something to do with the idea of understanding lead character Oscar Isaac’s sense of morals, but seeing how much ‘easier’ it would be for him if he more willingly stepped onto the dark side. Regardless of what the case may be, A Most Violent Year is the kind of slow-burn, tactics-heavy, crime drama that I was easily taken in by, thanks to a level of confidence behind the camera and strong performances matched with cinematic beauty in front of it.
In a film about high stakes gambling and the crushing weight an addiction (or whatever Mark Wahlberg’s character wants to call it), knowing how to balance the tension and frustration of someone constantly risking it all with cinematic skill is very important. Rupert Wyatt’s directorial follow-up to Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a drastically different type of film in terms of scale, but this remake of 1974’s The Gambler clearly shows that he can balance entertainment with intelligence within the confines of mainstream studio fare. Not that we do not see this from other filmmakers in any given year and it is also not like The Gambler is not without its share of issues, but as much as Wahlberg is the star actor in the film, Rupert Wyatt is really selling himself as the star director.
I am a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. I even like to refer to him by his full name, Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch, because I enjoy celebrating just how British he is. It is clear to me that I am not alone in my appreciation for BTCC, but I do enjoy that it is coming from not just his work on BBC’s Sherlock, but from seeing him branch out into so many different roles. Now he stars as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game, which feels like a role perfectly suitable for him, given the challenge of portraying this complex persona, yet having a familiarity with portraying someone with an idiosyncratic nature, especially when it comes to interaction with others. As for the film as a whole, it is perfectly entertaining in the “important biopic that you probably won’t feel the need to see more than once” kind of way, but the presence of Cumberbatch and his strong performance may certainly defy that kind of logic.
The Gambler is just what Hollywood needs, another remake. The American crime drama, directed by Rupert Wyatt, is simply that, a remake of the 1974 film of the same name (nothing to do with Kenny Rogers). This time out, it stars Mark Wahlberg as the gambler with contributions by big name stars such as John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Brie Larson and more. So I guess you can tell from my less than colorful opening monologue here, the story of a literature professor addicted to gambling who’s in deep with gangsters just doesn’t have me doing excited cartwheels over it, but I digress. That’s what the review below is all about. Continue reading ‘‘The Gambler’ Gambled With My Time (Movie Review)’
[Note: I had no real desire to dig too far into the controversy surrounding this film, as I have been fascinated, but exhausted with keeping up with what has gone on in this surreal situation leading up to the eventual release of this film. That said, my friend Scott Mendeslon, over at Forbes, has written a number of pieces that go into it, including This. As it stands, I just wanted to write about the film.]
A small part of the world cried foul, threats were made from various sources, but here we are with the movie that presents an insane premise and matches it with the same sense of humor and themes that have made successes out of the filmmaking team that is Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. While the real-life fallout from producing The Interview was likely something the duo could not have imagined, the actual film is merely silly fun, with only hints of truly biting social commentary. That said, I know what to expect, for the most part, from Team Rogberg at this point, and while this may not be their greatest effort, it is certainly an entertaining one.
I have been told I have something of a knack for impressions. Not particularly in how I look or even sound, but in finding the cadence in whatever humorous display I may be attempting to put on. David Oyelowo does not really look like Martin Luther King, Jr., but he does more than just get the cadence of the man down in Selma. Oyelowo is able to bring to life the presence and soul of Dr. King in a way that is completely worthwhile in a film that features him as both the man and the influential leader that inspired so many. That is no easy task for an actor or a film that would want to feature such a character in the dominant role, but Selma has found a way to bring Martin Luther King, Jr. into a film, without having to do the heavy-lifting of telling the man’s whole story and trying to truncate all of what he accomplished into a two-hour motion picture. Instead, fitted with a commanding lead performance, as well as several very strong supporting performances, and plenty of other great filmmaking-related aspects, Selma is a film that addresses a particular time in a wonderfully impressive way that is both cinematic and quite relevant to our current time.
On the surface, Unbroken has everything needed to not only be a surefire hit for audiences and critics of a certain generation, but also one that could seemingly have awards just handed over to it. This is a film adaptation of a best-selling and well-reviewed novel based around the true story of a former Olympic athlete, who went to war, survived a plane crash, spent time lost at sea, and then lived a tortured life in a prisoner of war camp, only to prove how strong the human spirit can be. This film is directed by a major Hollywood player, who happens to be female, and was co-scripted by the two of the most celebrated filmmakers working today. What is not to like about that? Certainly not a lot, as Unbroken is a good film, with its heart in the right place and plenty of other positive elements going for it. With that in mind, the film does have an issue with finding a way to connect in a stronger sense, given what we are seeing. Unbroken misunderstands that seeing so much happen to someone is not the same as really getting us to understand how much some of these things may matter.
Given how much they talked/sang about it, I was glad that everyone definitely went into the woods. Two things: I was not at all hip to knowing anything about the original Into the Woods stage musical before this film was announced and I enjoy the musical style of Stephen Sondheim. With that in mind, I can say that, for the most part, I was wrapped up in this story that essentially combines many of the most popular fairy tale characters through a common thread that finds each character heading into the woods at some point. Add to that the style of Sondheim’s musicals, which is a big part of why I love Tim Burton’s Sweeny Tood, and you have a film that is at least great to listen to, let alone watch, as we see a number of gifted performers really delivering in the singing department, within a variety of elaborate sets. Given the heavy emphasis on practical effects, it only leads to more praise I would be happy to give the film, if only I was not let down by the film’s final act.
The second cinematic Middle-Earth trilogy has ended and now we are back where we started in 2002. I am happy for those who are excited to rewatch The Lord of the Rings trilogy, following this ‘defining chapter,’ but I am left with other curiosities. Having never read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, I am curious about whether or not audiences who enjoyed what I am aware is a reasonably amusing book for a younger crowd were hoping to see a blood-thirsty final film to close this three-film adaptation. My impression, after first learning of the films that we would be getting was that of an understanding that we’d be dealing with more light-hearted Middle-Earth adventures. I did not get much of that in the previous Hobbit films and certainly not with The Battle of the Five Armies, but that would be less of an issue, if the movie was still good, regardless. Well, it’s not bad, but as much as I like seeing lots of action on display, there is a point where enough is enough, and with this film…well I’m just happy “One Last Time” is part of its mantra.