A MOST WANTED MAN Review

by     Posted 3 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my A Most Wanted Man review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The film opens in limited release this weekend.]

The spy thriller genre—like all genres—has its fair share of tropes and clichés.  The best entries are ones that take the foundation of the genre and expand upon it or put a new spin on the material.  Director Anton Corbijn’s latest film, A Most Wanted Man, is a solid and sharply smart entry into the spy genre that manages to explore dark characters and difficult topics while foregoing the typical action-heavy formula, sidestepping audience expectations in the process.  This is not a film that takes shortcuts just to make its audience happy, and though the final results may not delve as deep into some of its themes as one would expect, A Most Wanted Man still manages to be an involving, tense, and slow-burn thriller.  Read my full review after the jump.

LUCY Review

by     Posted 4 days ago

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Luc Besson’s new film Lucy often feels like 10% of a movie, despite its very clear ambitions to be some sort of ultimate experience. Which is weird because it nails so many of its objectives.  It’s gorgeously shot.  It’s incredibly kinetic and, even when it’s not in the middle of an action scene, it’s rarely static.  Scarlett Johansson throws everything she has into the role (or, at least, gives the role everything it requires of her).  And yet I had to do everything I could to keep from falling asleep during the film’s turgid first act.

WALK OF SHAME Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 9 days ago

WALK OF SHAME Blu-ray Review

Elizabeth Banks is one of the best comediennes working today, and she always brings something interesting to a part, be it big or small.  She should be a bigger star and films like Walk of Shame aren’t going to help prove it as the film ended up debuting in theaters and on VOD at the same time for a reason.  A high concept movie that leaves its star to wallow in embarrassment, there’s probably a sharp film to be made of the story of a woman who, after a night of casual sex, ends up having to make her way through the city to finally get her car and life back — but this isn’t it.  James Marsden and Gillian Jacobs co-star and my Walk of Shame Blu-ray review follows after the jump.

WISH I WAS HERE Review

by     Posted 10 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my Wish I Was Here review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The film opens in limited release this weekend.]

It’s been ten long years since Zach Braff directed a feature film.  Those that fell hard for Garden State—myself included—looked forward to seeing another directorial effort from Braff, and now the time has finally come with Wish I Was Here.  Written by Braff and his brother Adam Braff, the story explores late-blooming maturity through the eyes of a struggling actor living in L.A. with his wife and two children.  Braff weaves in plenty of themes about loss, marriage, and parenthood throughout the film, but he throws so much into the pot that not all of it sticks.  The result is a disappointing mixed bag, with some of the film hitting just the right note while the rest of it falls completely flat.  Read my full review after the jump.

I ORIGINS Review

by     Posted 10 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my I Origins review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  The film opens in limited release this weekend.]

The debate between science and religion has been going on for centuries.  It’s a struggle that not only manifests itself in the physical form of heated discussions and protests, but it also takes place within ourselves.  Writer/director Mike Cahill explores this issue on an intimate scale in his new dramatic sci-fi film I Origins, which delves into themes of love, relationships, science, and the afterlife to hauntingly beautiful results.  It’s a highly emotional film that connects on many levels, and while Cahill comes very close to packing too much into the story, it crescendos with an emotionally powerful conclusion that resonates deeply.  Read my full review after the jump.

THE PURGE: ANARCHY Review

by     Posted 11 days ago

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2013′s The Purge had a mish-mash of good ideas.  It was important socioeconomic commentary, but smothered by the confusion of its genre trappings.  The overt commentary was out of sync with the stakes of the story’s moral drama, and the audience ended up identifying more with the violence than the message about economic inequality.  Director James DeMonaco has returned for the sequel The Purge: Anarchy, and although he hasn’t dropped the commentary, he’s reconciled himself to a tight action-thriller that may not be particularly thoughtful, but at least it’s exciting and holds few pretensions.

SEX TAPE Review

by     Posted 11 days ago

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One would think that a movie entitled “Sex Tape” wouldn’t have a problem being raunchy.  Sadly, director Jake Kasdan‘s latest picture can’t seem to find the balance between a sweet relationship and salty dialogue, and mostly goes with the former at the expense of the latter.  Even more baffling is why the movie constantly feels the need to justify its premise as it reiterates plot points, character decisions, and the technological chicanery involved in the story’s inciting event.  There’s always more emphasis on explaining what’s going on instead of going all the way.

SABOTAGE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 12 days ago

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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen can’t be called much of a comeback as The Last Stand, Escape Plan and Sabotage were all bombs.  Sabotage tanked the hardest as it was barely able to cross the ten million dollar mark.  Perhaps Arnie will regain his footing from his role in the upcoming Terminator sequel, but it seems unlikely that he will ever front a non-sequel again (or at least for another five years).  That’s too bad as Sabotage is a fun throwback to his early eighties action movies which delivers the “red meat city” PG-13 action movies of late are unable to do.  Mixing Commando with a slasher sensibility, Sabotage has Schwarzenegger leading a team of DEA agents (including Mireille Enos, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Joe Manganiello, and Sam Worthington) who are being hunted and by a mysterious killer.  My Sabotage Blu-ray review follows after the jump.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 13 days ago

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As the supplements suggest, 300: Rise of an Empire is not a straight sequel to Frank Miller and Zack Snyder’s 300, as it can also be described as a prequel, sidequel, and probably some other words that have been invented to describe modern spin-off films that don’t pick up after the last film ended.  Rise of an Empire is meant to be like a glove to the first film, as it surrounds the original narrative with new material.  The results are a film that doesn’t totally work on its own terms, but does offer a delicious scene-stealing performance from Eva Green.  My 300: Rise of an Empire Blu-ray review follows after the jump. 

BOYHOOD Review

by     Posted 17 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Boyhood opens today in limited release.]

Boyhood is a miracle. It is truly unique. It is a masterpiece. It is one of the best coming-of-age movies ever made. These superlatives may seem grandiose or even hyperbolic, but Richard Linklater’s 12-year project is a work of art unlike any other. More importantly, it’s a work that hits a thoughtful and emotional core. It is a movie that not only draws us into the lives of the characters, but also causes us to reexamine our own lives. Boyhood is both intimate and epic, subtle and overwhelming, and an absolute marvel.

“Why Cookie Rocket?” Looking Back at RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES

by     Posted 19 days ago

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[With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opening on Friday, July 11th, I'm taking a look back at the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. These reviews contain spoilers.]

The Planet of the Apes movies have always been interested with time.  The original movie opens with Taylor (Charlton Heston) explaining that his spaceship’s mission isn’t to explore the galaxy, but to use Einstein’s Law of Relativity to leave Earth and return in the distant future where it might not be such a shithole (Taylor was disappointed).  From there, Beneath carried the torch to extinction, Escape traveled back in time, Conquest took a twenty-year jump to begin the downfall of humans, and Battle has a prologue and epilogue that take place in 2670 AD.  So it’s fitting that the series’ reboot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, would restart the clock to unload the baggage of the previous movies rather than throwing us back into the middle of the madhouse.  While it didn’t carry the heavy commentary of the original saga, Rise took a new path by putting a strong focus on family and bringing a level of spectacle far beyond what any Apes film had done before.

The 2014 Emmys: Who Should Be Nominated?

by     Posted 19 days ago

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Before Thursday, when the real 2014 Emmy nominations will become known (and spark, probably, both outrage and boredom), there’s a chance to suggest who should be nominated in each major category.  This isn’t about winners and losers, but about recognizing some of the best talent on TV this past year (or the Emmy year: from June 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014).  There are sure to be some omissions and snubs even within my own list, so hit the jump to check out my choices (and occasional Emmy-rules-bending inclusions).

“Never Send a Monkey to Do a Man’s Job”: Looking Back at the Remake of PLANET OF THE APES

by     Posted 20 days ago

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[With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opening on Friday, July 11th, I'm taking a look back at the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. These reviews contain spoilers.]

Battle for the Planet of the Apes chose to end the original 5-film saga on a message of hope, and then the franchise lay dormant for almost thirty years.  Interest had waned, fans had grown up, and that’s usually the signal for a studio to dig back into the archive to try and reinvent a property—no matter how classic or untouchable—for modern audiences, i.e. male teenagers with disposable income.  Planet of the Apes had endured to where the mainstream was aware of the original insofar as the twist, the final shot, and “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

But after watching the first five movies, I think the franchise’s most admirable trait is its tonal flexibility in service of various themes.  These movies were radically different, but they each had a distinct personality.  Tim Burton‘s 2001 remake “re-invented” the franchise by removing any personality whatsoever.

JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA .5 Blu-ray Review

by     Posted 21 days ago

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The problem with alternative comedy cuts is fairly self-evident: they’re made up of footage deemed less than what was actually released. Thus by their very make-up, they are less funny than whatever original preferred version preceded them.  Bad Grandpa .5 makes a valiant attempt to overcome these short-comings (at least for the first half) by being less a collection of unused footage and more a behind the scenes making of.  Hit the jump for my Bad Grandpa .5 Blu-ray review. 

“He Still Believes He Can Change the Future”: Looking Back at BATTLE FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

by     Posted 21 days ago

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[With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes opening on Friday, July 11th, I'm taking a look back at the Planet of the Apes movie franchise. These reviews contain spoilers.]

Up until Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the series had taken a decidedly dim view of humanity.  Every lens—political, religious, social, historical, and philosophical—carried a fatalistic view of our species.  Even when the commentary wasn’t completely clear, like in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, the tone was unmistakable: Things are going to end horribly for our species, and there is nothing we can do.  But after bumming audiences out over the course of four movies, Battle decided to take a different approach by being the first hopeful movie in the series.  Unfortunately, the film never earns its radical new direction.  In addition to superficially building on the previous films, it also comes to odds with an obligatory pessimism that undermines the movie’s belief in a better tomorrow.

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