Rabu, 20 Agustus 2014

The Giver Movie Preview

The Giver Movie Preview (2014)


Starring: Brenton Thwaites, Jeff Bridges, Meryl Streep, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush, Cameron Monaghan, Taylor Swift

There’s a great scene toward the end of The Giver where Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges get to have a bit of a verbal sparring match. I would have loved to have been an extra in that scene. It’s one of the more exciting scenes in the film, yet it comes far too late. Their community has become a vast, colorless world void of any feeling and emotion. Everything the citizens once knew has been erased from their memories.  There is strict order and rules set in place for everyone to abide by.  Jonas (Thwaites) and his friends Fiona (Rush) and Asher (Monaghan) are at that age where they attend the Ceremony of Growth to receive their official assignment which is part of being a member of the community. The roles are handed out by Chief Elder (Streep), who rules the community with a strict presence. Jonas is passed over and saved for last causing an alert and low rumble amongst the crowd.


Chief Elder reveals to him that he is strong in all of the attributes and therefore is given the task of being the Receiver of Memory. It is a prestigious task that comes with great danger. He is sent to The Giver (Bridges) who lives at the very edge of the community before it disappears into the area known as Elsewhere. They link arm to arm, and Jonas proceeds to learn more and more about the community’s past. When the various memories come into focus, he becomes more distraught over the present state of society. He starts to distrust his Mother (Holmes) and Father (Skarsgard) and those around him. He decides to risk everything by going where no one has succeeded before him in an attempt to restore society back to its original way of life.


The Giver is based on the award winning children’s book by Lois Lawry from 1993. I think I read it when it came out but haven’t picked it up since then. I would like to think this helped me go in with a bit more of an open mind, but it also led to more questions I have with the material and what changes were made with this adaptation. Jeff Bridges is one of the producers of the film and has wanted to get the film made for years hopping from one studio to the next. I can understand why it was now released in the wake of the success of The Hunger Games and Divergent which have similar ideas and themes. The problem is that director Phillip Noyce and beginner screenwriters Michael Mitnick and Robert B. Weide don’t have anything new and interesting to add to this story to make it stand out from those other books that actually came after this one.


The script is quite bland that leaves little for these actors to play around with in terms of their characters. Bridges and Streep fare the best and it should come without surprise that they are the highlights of the movie. As the title character, Bridges has that gruff and mysterious vibe to him that left me wondering what his true motives were with Jonas. There was a bit of mystery that surrounded him where I felt a little on edge with his scenes. With her long grey wig, Streep plays another ice queen with Chief Elder. She’s Goddess Meryl Streep so, of course, she is going to be great with this type of character where she can be menacing and evil without having to really raise her voice or scream. We’ve seen her play this type of character before, and I’ll watch her in anything.


The rest of the cast is an odd mixed bag. As Jonas, Brenton Thwaites is a fresh up-and-coming actor who we previously saw this summer in Maleficent as Prince Phillip. He has a nice boy next door appeal about him. He’s fairly young and will need to take better and more challenging roles as he grows up if he wants to be a stronger leading guy type. Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard play his parents in the film. Don’t let the age difference throw you off as they are not intended to be biological parents. I must admit to having a soft spot for Holmes, but she comes off a bit monotone here. Maybe she was remembering her time of being hypnotized under the Scientology spell and applied that here as a character trait. Lastly, singer Taylor Swift has a very brief role as The Giver’s daughter. It is such a bizarre casting move that I can only assume it was because they wanted another big name to draw people into the movie. I mean, come on. When did we ever think that Taylor Swift and Meryl Streep would ever be in the same movie?


The use of color plays an important part of the world in The Giver. It begins with the black and white of the community and color starts to materialize with Jonas’ awakening. I was reminded of the beautiful Pleasantville which I need to revisit. I think the color shifting was better used in that movie. Even though there is a strict sameness to all of the houses, bikes, and the entire look of the community, there is a distinct look and shape to it without it feeling too drab or boring. The whole art direction and design elements were impressive enough to take some focus off the oddly structured script and bizarre acting. For a ninety minute movie, it felt fairly long with its slow pacing. So much of the backstory is quickly told at the beginning and then it drags out until the finally thirty minutes once Jonas sets his plan into action. Only then does it start to get interesting and pick up in tempo. The broader picture and message of Lois Lawry’s story really comes out in this part, but it takes so long to get there. Without giving too much away, I actually wanted more of an ending. I wanted more of a wrap up and a “what next”. Maybe I’m so used to these types of stories being dragged out into multiple books that I wanted a final scene or two after the resolution. This may be directly how the book ends so I shouldn’t fault the screenwriters if this is indeed a direct match to the source material.

This is one of those movies where you come out perplexed as it has some good things going for it that make the movie enjoyable like Meryl and Jeff, the design elements, and a thrilling final thirty minutes. Then you think about its clunky structure and pacing, odd casting choices, and the whole idea that we have seen that kind of movie before, and it leaves you second guessing on if it’s worth your trip to the movies. In this case, I think more people will enjoy it then not.
Director: Phillip Noyce

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? It's worth seeing on the big screen at matinee prices, but know that it comes with some major flaws.

RATING: 3 out of 5 TICKET STUBS



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Minggu, 10 Agustus 2014

Movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES 2014

Director: Jonathan Liebesman


Those gnarly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back to reach a whole new audience of moviegoers. Starring: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Johnny Knoxville, Danny Woodburn, Tony Shalhoub, Tohoru Masamune, Whoopi Goldberg.
The Foot Clan is wreaking havoc across the streets of New York City. Channel 6 field reporter April O’Neil (Fox) is desperate to get to the bottom of who’s behind these masked foes. One night while in the middle of the action, she snaps photos of a group of vigilantes who are out to take down the bad guys. It should come as no surprise that no one back at the station takes her seriously when she tries to show them her evidence. She is later caught by these four mysterious creatures who turn out to be six foot turtles. She puts the pieces together and realizes these are the same turtles that she grew up playing with in her dad’s laboratory when she was a kid. They were part of a scientific experiment known as Project Renaissance, hence their names Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo. Her dad’s lab partner Eric Sacks (Fichtner) is working with the evil Shredder (Masamune) who is the leader of the Foot Clan. Shredder plans on releasing a toxin into the air and Sacks will use an antidote found into the turtles to “save” the citizens and get rich in the process. It’s up to the Ninja Turtles, April, and her cameraman Vernon Fenwick (Arnett) to defeat Shredder and Sacks before it’s too late. As you can tell, we have a super original plot here that we have never seen before. Never…Ever…Oh wait.

What we’ve got here is a reboot from the cartoons and early 1990s movies that I grew up on. The design and production values have been updated with a new vision to fit today’s moviegoers. The Turtles are beefier and it’s far more action packed than the original series. Hesitation set in quickly very early on in the development stages when it was announced that Michael Bay was producing the movie and that Megan Fox was attached to star as our devoted and hard-hitting reporter April. If you read my review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, you know my feelings towards Mr. Bay. Even though many people assume he directed this film, he is only one of the producers. The film definitely feels like a Bay movie though when it comes to all of the up close and personal action scenes. I think it has the wrong tone as well. It takes itself far too seriously most of the time as it's missing that camp factor that should come with a movie about a group of four mutant turtles trying to save the day. The Turtles and their father Splinter are no longer actors in full body costumes, but the work of motion capture technology. I’m a bit confused as to why Leonardo is voiced by Johnny Knoxville while the other Turtles have the same actor doing the voice and body work. Danny Woodburn (Seinfeld) does the motion-capture work for Splinter and has expressed disappointment in not doing the character's voice which was given to Tony Shalhoub (Monk).

It is no secret that Megan Fox and Michael Bay have feuded in the past, so it was a bit surprising that they patched things up enough for her to play April. I haven’t seen the original movies since I was a kid, but now I really miss Paige Turco and Judith Hoag who have previously played the character. Fox is so unbelievably miscast, it is downright eye-rolling most of the time. Right from the very beginning I could never her take her seriously as a journalist. It’s no wonder why her fellow journalists at Channel 6 don’t believe. I wouldn’t either! I am also baffled on why Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg decided to appear as April’s boss. While Goldberg provides some much-needed laughs, her scenes with Fox are just odd. It honestly brought me back to her mid ‘90s days of appearing in such movies as Eddie and Theodore Rex. Will Arnett (Arrested Development) is completely wasted as April’s cameraman. He is not given the comedy and banter that suits him. It is quite evident that he was completely bored making the movie.

The writing is fairly weak and simple throughout most of the movie. I wish more of a specificity would have been given to each of the turtles to make each of their personalities stand out more. There is so much fun to be had with all four of them, and Michelangelo is the only Turtle that really stands out. This is especially unfortunate as it doesn’t give the actors playing them enough to work with. If you had no context of the characters, you would have a hard time differentiating them apart from another. Shredder does not seem nearly as scary as I remember him being when I was younger. He seems to be a mix of Freddy Krueger meets a Transformer with CGI knives always shooting out from his hands. Partial credit should be given for their references to classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles elements like: their origin, the love of pizza, ooze, and living in the sewer, plus the catch phrases “Cowabunga” and “heroes in a half shell”.

While it definitely has that Michael Bay approach to it, I would say that it is nowhere near as bad as Transformers: Age of Extinction. There is potential to be had here, but a lot of work must be done if it wants to compete with the likes of Marvel movies and how universally accepted they are. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will definitely appeal to young kids. You can tell special attention was made to cater toward their sense of humor and attention span as the runtime is kept at under two hours. I just don’t think it will cater to a broad audience like I think it should.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? I’d rather go back and watch the original series that I grew up on.
Watch Full Movie klik here


Jumat, 01 Agustus 2014

Movie GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Review

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2014
Director: James Gunn

With Starring by Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Benecio Del Toro, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, John C. Reilly, Move over Avengers, because Marvel has a whole new set of heroes that are worth checking out and worth our money at the box office. This is the third Marvel release this summer after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Funnyman Chris Pratt suits up as Peter Quill, a.k.a Star-Lord, a pilot who was abducted into space as a kid on the same night his mother died. He now finds himself face to face with a mysterious orb and a bunch of hunters led by Korath (Hounsou). Korath is working for Ronan (Pace) who plans on using the orb to completely destroy the planet of Xandar. Peter is later imprisoned along with the beautiful and fierce warrior Gamora (Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Bautista), the wise-cracking and gun-toting Rocket Raccoon (Cooper), and a tree-like humanoid named Groot (Diesel). All five of them are outcasts and unique in their own special way. In order to save the universe, they band together to protect that little ball of power from the hands of the evil Ronan.

Right from the moment we see the adult Peter Quill, you get the sense that this has a very different feel and tone from the rest of the movies in the Marvel franchise. Whether it’s Marvel's The Avengers destroying New York City or X-Men: Days of Future Past using Richard Nixon as a character, many of those stories are set in a more realistic world. The title of this film tells us that we are dealing with a completely sci-fi/fantasy realm with aliens, species, and creatures of all shapes and sizes. Director James Gunn co-wrote the screenplay with Nicole Perlman, and it’s evident that they were allowed to go to the extremes and bring us a fun, over-the-top ride. There’s a playful attitude that comes across in the wacky fight scenes, the characters, and witty dialogue. It’s great to see the comedic banter given to numerous characters in how they deal with each other. Drax the Destroyer takes everything at face value and doesn’t understand the concept of metaphors while Peter is always joking around and throwing out references left and right. Rocket is the loudmouth partner next to the almost silent Groot. Due to this approach, Guardians of the Galaxy is probably the most family friendly we have seen from Marvel to date. It has a Star Wars-ish vibe but with comic book characters that parents may find more suitable for younger moviegoers. The violence is cartoonish and there aren’t as many overarching life themes that would normally go over a young child’s head.

Chris Pratt is on a roll right now both on the big screen in Her, Zero Dark Thirty, and The Lego Movie as well as playing the goofy Andy Dwyer on Parks & Recreation. Even though Parks & Recreation ends next season, Pratt will not have that post-TV slump as he is currently filming Jurassic World and I’m sure future Guardians movies. He has stated in interviews that he originally turned down this role thinking he was completely wrong for it. I, for one, am thankful he reconsidered as he seems like the perfect choice for Star-Lord. Now, I’ve never read the comics, so I have nothing to compare his performance to in terms of the original source material. Maybe he infused the role with some Pratt-isms that we know from him, but they still work here. He has that nice blend of being believable as an action star and infusing his comedic charm on top of that.

I would never have thought I would find Vin Diesel to be so funny. Maybe I haven’t given those Fast and the Furious movies enough of a shot yet, but there’s a side of him that comes out as Groot that I didn’t see before. He only utters one line, “I am Groot”, but the comedy comes in with how repetitive he gets to be with it. He partners well with Bradley Cooper who voices Rocket. They have that classic comedic duo routine but with a tough edge where one does all the talking and tries to be the wise-guy. If I didn’t already know Cooper was the voice, I may not have recognized him right away.  I applaud him for really going somewhere different with his characterization. Then there’s Lee Pace as Ronan who seems to be getting a lot of villain roles lately. I have no problems with this concept as he can always find the menacing side to any character of his. He’ll return as Thranduil in The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies. Even though Glenn Close and Benecio Del Toro have smaller roles, they have great hair, make-up, and costumes to play around in.

I would not consider myself a comic book aficionado, but I do enjoy seeing the big screen adaptations. I had no idea what to expect with Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailer had a good sense of humor about it, but I didn’t want it to be hokey. Don’t worry, it isn’t. I will say that it took me a bit to get adjusted into this universe as I didn’t know the characters, source material, and how different it is than the other Marvels universes. Once I was in, it was a wild ride of fun. I laughed more here than I have in other Marvel franchises. This film continues to show the quality that this genre has on actors and moviegoers. It’s great to see Oscar winners and nominees like Bradley, Glenn, Benecio, John, and Djimon wanting to be a part of these movies. To top of it, it has a killer soundtrack that plays into the movie and provides for some slick Chris Pratt dance moves.

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Marvel has a hot new series on their hands that will only get better with the next entries to come.

Wacth Full Movie Online

Kamis, 24 Juli 2014

Movie Trailer: FIFTY SHADES OF GREY

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY (2015)


Starring: Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson, Jennifer Ehle, Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Max Martini

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/bb/Fifty_Shades_Darker_book_cover.jpg
I'm pretty sure that if you have never heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, you are probably living under a rock. Maybe that's harsh, but that little book known as "mommy porn" became an international bestseller and was talked about to death. It was only time before they rushed the movie version into production. Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson (Don and Melanie's daughter) were cast as Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, respectively. The first trailer was released today on The Today Show, and I have to admit, it looks better than I had anticipated. I haven't read the book yet, so you will have to fill me in. Is this perfect casting? Will it be as "steamy" as the book? Feel free to sound off below!




Selasa, 17 Juni 2014

22 JUMP STREET Movie Review

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e7/22_Jump_Street_Poster.jpg22 JUMP STREET (2014)


Directors: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Wyatt Russell, Jimmy Tatro, Amber Stevens, Nick Offerman, Peter Stromare

Most movies adapted from television shows rarely work, especially when a new cast and new characters are involved. Who would have thought that 21 Jump Street would have worked so well that a sequel would follow? Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are back for another case as Jenko and Schmidt, respectively. The old church at 21 Jump Street that served as the police headquarters in the first film has been converted back to a church. How convenient for them that there is also a church across the street at 22 Jump Street that can now pose as the police headquarters.

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Jenko and Schmidt are assigned their next case and this time it has them going under cover again as college students at MC State College. A new synthetic drug called WHYPHY is being passed around like candy, and one of the students dies of an overdose. The boys are given a picture of the girl getting the drug slipped to her, but the only identifiable feature of the dealer is a tattoo on his arm. Schmidt feels left out of their partnership after Jenko joins the football team and fraternity as fellow teammates Zook (Russell) and Rooster (Tatro) take him under their wing. Schmidt decides to pursue the case at a different angle by dating Maya (Stevens) who lives across the hallway from the victim.

http://blogs-images.forbes.com/markhughes/files/2014/06/22-Jump-Street-5.jpgIf you are thinking that this plot sounds exactly like the first movie, but now they’re in college instead of high school, you are correct in your assessment. I was a bit worried when I first saw the trailer as it looked like a carbon copy of 21 Jump Street. In theory, this film should not work. Comedy sequels that completely rip off the jokes and plot of the first outing are typically insulting to the fans. Nick Offerman’s police chief has a not-so-subtle speech toward the guys describing how the police department was so happy with how the first task turned out that they want to send the boys out again on a similar case but with a bigger budget. This is exactly what studio executives pitch after a comedy makes the big bucks at the box office. They want the original cast to come back and make the same kind of movie again. The Hangover Part II is a prime example of why this is typically a horrible idea. That movie was a messy insult as it was the exact same movie as the first one. 22 Jump Street does that exact same thing, yet succeeds and surpasses expectations. Screenwriters Michael Ball, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman have written about this exact commentary in their script. There are copious jokes and references as to how they are ripping off the first one. Even Mr. Tatum makes a reference to the premise of his movie White House Down at one point.
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Tatum and Hill have this unique chemistry that completely works and is the reason why this rebooted franchise succeeds. Having two cops that are complete opposites is by no means a new concept, but I think part of the charm and humor is grounded in how well they play off each other. While it may have been funny having Jonah Hill paired up with Seth Rogen or James Franco, it would be a completely different kind of story and tone all together. Schmidt and Jenko are exaggerated stereotypes of the images people label under Hill and Tatum. Hill wrote the stories for the films, so I can assume he played into his persona a bit and made Tatum that good looking but dumb jock frat boy that Hollywood has probably labeled him at some point in his career. Ice Cube returns as Captain Dickson whose moments with Jonah Hill provide some of the best laughs in the movie. I’ll forgive him for making Ride Along. Dave Franco and Rob Riggle are back for cameos as prison inmates who offer some advice and help to Hill and Tatum.

http://movieboozer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/22-jump-street.jpgThe directing team of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord are the men behind The LEGO Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The LEGO Movie is another film of theirs that I would not have expected it to be as enjoyable as turned out to be. The laughs are pretty consistent throughout 22 Jump Street which was a surprise and a relief. It's hard not to laugh when Jonah Hill gets in way over his head wtih some of the more dangerous aspects of his job. The movie easily could have gone downhill fast. The comedy isn’t all the clever or original, yet it delivers. This is the baffling thing behind the movie. Everyone involved knows we’ve seen frat movies, spring break scenes, shoot-outs, buddy movies, terrible sequels, franchises, and they make fun of all of that along the way. I give them major credit for pulling this off so well. Make sure to stay through the credits, for a hilarious sequence that left the whole audience in stitches. I’m not sure what was funnier, the sequence or how my mother-in-law completely lost it because she was laughing so loudly.






Rabu, 04 Juni 2014

MALEFICENT Movie Review

http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140404093504/disney/images/f/fc/Maleficent-(2014)-128.jpgMALEFICENT (2014)

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Sam Riley, Brenton Thwaites

We all have an idea of who Maleficent is from the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Disney has taken one of the most diabolical villains and put a fresh twist on a character we all thought we knew. Maleficent (Jolie) is a powerful fairy who lives in the trees of a magical kingdom called The Moors that borders the human kingdom. She has two horns and gigantic wings enabling her to fly all over the kingdom, and her lively spirit fits right in with the other mythical creatures around her. One fateful night, her wings are burned off which sets in motion a vengeful plot against the person that committed the act.

Through the help of her servant Diaval (Riley), Maleficent learns that the cruel act was committed by the new king (Copley) in order to become the heir to the throne. As an act of revenge for his betrayal, she decides to put a curse on his newborn daughter, Aurora, who on her sixteenth birthday will fall into a deep sleep after being pricked by a spinning wheel. A kiss from her one true love will be the only way to break the curse. Even though Aurora is raised by three pixies, Maleficent continues to keep an eye on her from afar. She may not be as evil as she is often portrayed to be as a maternal side of her starts to appear after the innocent Aurora (Fanning) grows up and could be the key to peace between the two kingdoms.
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Maleficent is similar to previous Disney live action movies like Alice in Wonderland and Oz, The Great and Powerful where they reimagine a classic story in a CGI heavy movie. Even though the trailers looked pretty promising I went in with a bit of hesitation as I didn’t want to be burned like I was with both of those wretched films. The naysayers should have no fear as Maleficent is leagues better than both of those, but it doesn’t take much. I wasn’t as bothered by the blatant use of special effects versus realistic sets and effects. The dark and gothic tones seem to work better with the CGI than the bright and colorful palette those other movies used. I still rolled my eyes at some of the Moor creatures and wish they would have treated the pixies a bit differently. They are a weird mix of animation while keeping the faces of Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville. Frankly, I would have been fine with them attempting the Julia Roberts in Hook approach.

http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/screencrush.com/files/2014/04/MAL-00026-05241_R.jpgAngelina Jolie is the reason to see the movie. How can you NOT be Team Angelina? She brings this heightened, wickedly fun performance to Maleficent. She has a nice blend of being a bit scary and menacing, while not being too cartoonish or over the top. You can tell she is having a hell of a good time playing this character which makes the movie all the more enjoyable. The designers pulled out all the stops to give Maleficent the royal treatment as it is quite evident that so much care and attention is put into the character. The costume design by Anna B. Sheppard (Inglourious Basterds, Captain America: The First Avenger) is exquisite with its sharp and hard structure. The hair and make-up design compliments that quite well and still fits the look of the Disney villain we know and love. The lighting and shadow effects easily pull you into the mystery surrounding her. There is even an ode to the classic Maleficent silhouette.
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The story is a bit simple, and I wish more attention would have been made to character development. It gets a bit lost as the attention seems to all go toward Maleficent and the special effects that were needed. I understand she is the title character, but I wish some of the other characters were written with the same juicy material Maleficent was given. It’s almost as if they didn’t want to pull any focus away from her at any point during the movie. Many of the characters like Sharlto Copley’s King and Brenton Thwaites’ Prince Phillip are pretty plain and generic. Elle Fanning brings that sweet, innocent, and angelic spirit about her that she always has to Princess Aurora. Yes, that is Vivienne Jolie-Pitt who has a cameo as the younger Aurora. There is no denying that she looks exactly like Brad and Angelina. Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple, and Lesley Manville are all talented actresses, but I wish screenwriter Linda Woolverton would have gone even further with the ditzy and klutzy aspects about the pixies to make them the scene-stealers they should be.

http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20140404093512/disney/images/7/7d/Maleficent-(2014)-129.jpgMaleficent is a marked improvement over some of those other CGI heavy Disney live action movies, but it is still missing the mark at times. I recommend seeing the movie in 2D as the copious use of CGI special effects may be ruined with gimmicky post-production 3D crap. If it wasn’t for Angelina Jolie, this would have been another bloated CGI mess. I can’t imagine another actress in this role. A fair warning that the darker tones and approach will be too scary for little kids. It’s not as kid friendly as other live action Disney movies.
Director: Robert Stromberg



Rabu, 16 April 2014

DRAFT DAY Movie Review

http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSIXMJQUVQ8g1d7CJlgPpAmg8hgnm1QCGq-D6XKNLOhGlu3-mfkDRAFT DAY (2014)


Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Frank Langella, Josh Pence, Chadwick Boseman, Terry Crews, Ellen Burstyn, Arian Foster, Tom Welling

2014 seems to be the year of Kevin Costner. It’s only April and he has already been featured in three releases, though I must admit I didn’t see either Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or 3 Days to Kill. I am happy to witness this Costner resurgence – he seemed to have taken a break from acting – since his performance in last year’s Man of Steel was one of that film’s better aspects. We have seen him in numerous baseball films, one golf movie, and one about bike racing. Now he tackles the game of football. As my dad said to me, “He does really well with sports movies.”
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When it rains, it pours for Sonny Weaver, Jr (Costner). He is the manager of the Cleveland Browns and nothing seems to be going well in his life. His current quarterback (Welling) has been having knee issues and his father, the previous coach of the team, recently passed away. His girlfriend, Ali (Gardner), just happens to be the salary cap manager for the team, so they are trying to keep their relationship a secret, but she chooses the morning of draft day to inform Sonny she is pregnant.

The clock counts down the twelve hours leading up to that vital moment when the draft picks are announced. The pressure is all on Sonny as the general manager to get the team back in shape because they haven’t been the same since his father stopped coaching. Sonny and the team’s new coach (Leary) don’t always see eye to eye. Sonny starts trading pick positions with various teams in the NFL, giving up spots in the future that could be the key to their growth. It should go without saying that the coach and the team’s owner (Langella) wholeheartedly disagree with his decisions. Sonny must decide who his first pick is going to be. There is the all-American quarterback Bo Callahan (Pence), who has an impeccable record, Vontae Mack (Bozman), the dark horse with a bad reputation due to his loud mouth, and a running back (Jenning) whose father (Crews) used to play for the Browns. The images and reputations of these young gentlemen come into play as Sonny must decide on the fate of his team.
http://sportsstudio.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/maxresdefault.jpgI should just point out that this is not your average football movie. This is not about some scrappy team full of misfits who can barely play and end up in the hands of an alcoholic coach who then turns them into a winning team. We have seen that movie over and over again, and it’s refreshing to see them take a more original approach to a sports movie. Draft Day takes a look into the business aspect of the game. Football fans should be happy to know Costner has stated that the NFL was in full cooperation with the film. They use real teams in the film and professional players make cameos in the film. I know nothing about football except what I’ve seen in Varsity Blues, Jerry Maguire, and “Friday Night Lights”. However, while I know very little about the game, I was still able to follow along and enjoy the movie. Despite the short time period the film covers, screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph do a decent job of setting up where Costner’s character is coming from and why the stakes are so high for him. That being said, I wish they would have written more for Ellen Burstyn, who plays Costner’s mom. She is such a terrific actress who is only left with a couple of scenes that don’t get to show her off.
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You might be surprised to find out that Ivan Reitman directed a sports movie. Yes, the man who brought us both Ghostbusters films, Dave, Stripes, and three Arnold Schwarzenegger comedies is taking a stab at football. While there is some humor in it, I wouldn’t consider this a comedy nor do I ever feel like his comedic skills as a director are used. The film tries to take this serious, edge-of-your-seat tone as there is a countdown clock that appears throughout as we get closer to draft time. The use of split screens for phone conversations and the way one “slides” in after the next seem like tactics to keep the pace and tension up, but are frankly used far too often. Reitman has gathered himself a pretty decent cast who for the most part, seem believable in this world. Frank Langella can easily play the hot-shot owner. Costner has this way of making so many of his characters likable and relatable. He is one of the reasons why this movie works so well. His character is flawed and has problems, but you still end up rooting for him and understanding him. The character could have easily been this jerk in someone else’s hands. It’s nice to see him in this sort of role again as he clearly anchors the film. Speaking of jerk characters, Denis Leary wears that hat easily as the Browns football coach. He’s really the only cast member I go back and forth on. I don’t know if I necessarily buy Leary as a football coach, but he can easily play the angry bad guy who everyone is rooting against.
http://blogs.houstonpress.com/news/draftday.jpgI must admit I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Like I admitted earlier, my knowledge of football is very limited, and I have never paid attention to the NFL draft. I was concerned if I would understand this movie or if it would be way over my head. Draft Day succeeds at making it accessible to those who don’t know the sport as well as keeping it enjoyable for those die-hard fans who know the sport inside and out.

Director: Ivan Reitman


Senin, 10 Februari 2014

LABOR DAY Movie Review

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/12/Labor_Day_Poster.jpgLABOR DAY (2013)


Starring: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Gattlin Griffith, Clark Gregg, Tom Lipinski, James Van der Beek, J.K. Simmons, Brooke Smith

I don’t know if I have ever really expressed my love of Kate Winslet. She is simply one of the greatest actresses working today. I have been known on multiple occasions to go back and rewatch her Best Actress Oscar speech for The Reader. When the trailer for Labor Day was released, I was excited for a new Winslet movie but was perplexed and cautious at the same time. It seemed like an unusual premise that I could not quite wrap by brain around. I trusted it could be good with Winslet in it. Even though it was in limited release in time for Oscar consideration, the wide release was pushed to late January which can never be a good sign.

http://www.thewrap.com//images/2013/11/labor_day.jpgAdele (Winslet) is now living as a single mother to her son, Henry (Griffith). They have a pretty close relationship that some may find a bit too close. He is going through puberty and feels the pressure to grow up faster than he should in order to take care of her. Adele is in a fragile, damaged place after her husband/Henry’s father (Gregg) left them for his secretary. The local townies feel the need to step on eggshells around her and always ask how she’s doing.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-eTKpcwtEMM0/UuvV5RIpLuI/AAAAAAAACHE/2blWVpAJVR4/s1600/Labor+Day.jpgWhile out shopping, Henry is approached by Frank (Brolin) who is bleeding. He quietly takes them hostage and forces them to take him back to their place. Frank is a known criminal as he escaped prison while at the hospital for appendicitis. He has been serving time for murdering his wife. Back at their place Frank acts calm and non-violent. He doesn’t want to cause them any danger as he contemplates his next move. He acts like a gentleman by fixing their car, doing home repairs, and teaches them how to bake. Adele and Henry must save face anytime a neighbor stops by or when the cops patrol the neighborhood. The atmosphere in the house changes as a vulnerable Adele starts to fall for Frank and sexual tension is added into the mix.

The film plays out as part mystery and part romance. This idea of the hostage feeling compassion, empathy, and romantic feelings toward their captor is known as Stockholm syndrome. It is a perplexing situation that is hard to understand, which makes this story a bit of a conundrum. It seems odd to imagine having romantic feelings toward the same person that kidnapped you and is putting your life in danger. Even though he doesn’t necessarily do anything to harm them, you just never know if he may snap at any moment. Winslet is such a strong talented actress that is so good at playing the dimensions, I spent the majority of the film wondering if she was just submitting herself to him just to gain his trust so she could then pull the upper hand and attack him. Unfortunately, Adele is a bit too damaged and vulnerable to be playing those mind games of thinking ahead of her attacker. I was reading more into the character knowing it was Winslet playing her than I probably would have if it was someone else. I have a hard time understanding this idea of Stockholm syndrome, so I could never buy into the romance. I found the chores and repair work he does very odd. The pie making scene to bring the family together was slightly bizarre even though it did provide some good tips on how to make a big peach pie. I will say that the pie did look pretty delicious.
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Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Young Adult, Juno) adapted the screenplay from the novel by Joyce Maynard. He seems to be more successful with the mystery portions of the story. There is suspense and a buildup of tension that really works well whenever the neighbors (Simmons, Smith) stop over to check on Adele or whenever the police start questioning her and Henry. You wonder if at any moment one or both of them might crack and let on that they have been kidnapped. You hope the police read into their nervous energy. The musical score has that slight build and drive keeping the suspense alive in these scenes. It makes the environment more believable and palpable that help is near and ready if they are willing to use it. The story would be way less successful and tolerable if it was just a pure romance story without any underlining hope for them to get out of it. The real question comes into play with Adele and if she wants out of it. There are flashback scenes of a young Frank (Lipinski) that lead up to the incident with his wife. I have not read the novel, but I am assuming that those scenes are part of Maynard's novel. I understand why they are a part of the story, but I question the structure of how it is used in the screenplay. Thank God Lipinski looks just like a young Brolin or I would have been completely lost. It always seems so out of place when the film cuts to these flashback moments. I do not want to give away as to why they are included, but it may have served better if approached and handled differently.

http://www.elle.com/cm/elle/images/KE/elle-01-labor-day-h.jpgReitman's latest has been receiving fairly negative reviews compared to his previous films. I do not believe it is anywhere near as bad as certain critics want you to believe. Winslet is a powerhouse actress that is perfect for this type of character. Brolin frequently plays these types of untrustworthy, damaged characters. If it wasn't for those two breathing life and dimension into these characters, I would have given up early on. Gattlin Griffith stands out as a sharp young actor who seems to be the smartest of these main characters. Tobey Maguire provides narration throughout as the adult Henry looking back at his childhood and how this one weekend forever changed his and his mother's lives. He only appears on screen during the very ending. That coda adds to the frustration of the film as a whole. With such a perplexing topic at hand that is hard to grasp, Reitman could done a better job at the balance and structure of how this Labor Day weekend of events unfolds. If you can give over to the romantic nature of the film early on, you may be able to enjoy it better. If you try to make sense of it all, you might be scratching your head at times.
Director: Jason Reitman





Selasa, 04 Februari 2014

DIRTY WARS Movie Review

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-0Sspgjub3Uc/UZJ6reyJcXI/AAAAAAAAAYM/C71D8EDnPF4/s1600/Dirty_Wars_Book_Cover_US_FINAL.jpgDIRTY WARS (2013)
Starring: Jeremy Scahill

American journalist and investigator Jeremy Scahill presents a very different view of the American involvement in the war overseas. His mission was to bring light and awareness to the "seen and unseen" things that may be hidden in plain sight or covered up by our military personnel. His first center of focus is on the military raids in Afghanistan. He defies his own safety by going past the certain safe zones NATO has mapped out while risking his life from being caught by Taliban forces. He states that the night belongs to the Taliban. He interviews local citizens about the American raid that killed innocent civilians including two pregnant women in Gardez. These raids were all part of a cover-up by the military and government. A local woman states, "They committed no sin and had no enemies."
The images and stories of these innocent people being gunned down for no apparent reason leaves haunting reminders in Scahill's mind about what may be happening behind closed doors. He sets out to uncover who was behind these raids as the information is not easily accessible. Scahill spends time tacking pictures to his wall, connecting the dots, and researching the faces of the men photographed from the raid. Scahill unmasks these men as being part of a covert ops group called JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, which at the time was not a household name. They were also in charge of airstrikes and killings in Yemen. The American soldiers and members of NATO went to extreme lengths to cover the casualties of their work, which also included U.S. citizens. The film takes an interesting spin when they reveal that JSOC was the group behind the capture of Osama bin Laden.
http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2013/06/06/dirty-wars-film-still-jeremy-scahill-in-somalia_wide-6fb838fa1e3c6a0e654c23795c654925d36557c6.jpgScahill provides an upfront and close look on the global war on terror that he feels is spinning out of control. You do not see many American made movies that take this angle on our involvement in the war. Many films like Zero Dark Thirty or Lone Survivor provide a heroic look at our involvement in some of the various missions that have taken place. Scahill doesn't discredit the act of valor some of our troops go through, but wants to open our eyes to what is not being portrayed in the media. He is able to interview numerous individuals from the citizens of Gardez, members of the military, and pretty much anyone in between that has knowledge of some of the cover-up being done to hide the fact that innocent people are getting killed as part of our involvement on the war on terror.

http://madisonmovie.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/aint-them-bodies-saints-rooney-mara.jpgDirty Wars is the second of the five nominees for Best Documentary at the 2013 Academy Awards I have watched. Scahill based the film on his own book "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield". I applaud him for his probing and dangerous look into these dirty and secretive operations. He often puts himself in severely dangerous territory in order to interview civilians and get a first hand look at some of the destruction some of our missions have had on them. The film may be a bit hard to watch for some as there are images and videos of the some of the dead bodies of the subjects involved. He makes some pretty strong and blunt claims against the President and the decisions made by the White House and other military officials. Scahill's accounts are eye-opening to say the least and will spark controversy and debate. It makes you wonder how much the general public does or does not know about what really is going on behind closed doors.
Director: Rick Rowley


Kamis, 30 Januari 2014

RIDE ALONG Movie Review

http://www.dvdsreleasedates.com/covers/ride-along-blu-ray-cover-32.jpgRIDE ALONG (2014)
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen, Bruce McGill, Laurence Fishburne

We are only thirty days into the new year, so how is it that I have already seen two Kevin Hart movies? If you read my review of Grudge Match, you may remember my feelings toward his brand of comedy. Some may consider Ben Barber (Hart) a bit of a loser. He plays an interactive "shoot 'em up" type of  video game complete with headset and works as a high school security guard. He finds out he has been accepted into the police academy and could not be happier. For someone that is typically loud and obnoxious, I bet you can just imagine how excited he gets. His life could not be any better as he is planning to propose to his girlfriend Angela (Sumpter). Her brother James (Ice Cube) has other plans for Ben. He is an Atlanta police officer who is not so fond of the idea of not only him becoming a cop, but also that he may be his new brother-in-law.
http://springsadvertiser.co.za/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2014/02/20131220_ridealong_trailer3.jpghttp://www.ridealong.com/splash/images/gallery/img5.jpgJames decides to put Ben to the test to see if he is worthy of marrying his sister. He decides to take Ben along on all of the annoying and petty calls that the other cops do not want to handle. Ben's high energy and fast talking nature are a bit of a defense mechanism as he is quick to act all tough and mighty but cowers when actual danger and intimidation sets in. It should come as no surprise that there is a side subplot regarding James and his crew (Leguizamo and Callen) against a gang of weapons dealers led by "Omar" whose identity remains a mystery. The first few times I saw this trailer, I actually found it funny. I was just shocked that I was laughing at a Kevin Hart movie that I would normally not give two thoughts about. I typically do not find him funny in the slightest bit. I was up for seeing Ride Along as I thought this may break my disdain for the comedian. Could I be proven wrong about him? Was he finding his niche? Was I finally embracing the fact that he actually could be funny and that I have been completely wrong about him? His brand/style of comedy is loud, wise-ass, high pitched, high energy and typically jokes around about his short stature. He definitely plays his style in every role. Many stand-up comics do this as they transition into film. People that go to a Kevin Hart film know what kind of humor to expect, which is why I went in with slight hesitation while hoping for the best. At first, I found myself tolerating him. I enjoyed his character and felt a little bad for the guy for the continual slams against him. His style was a bit more reserved in his scenes with Tika Sumpter. I lost focus and found the annoying Hart coming out to play once the ride alongs started happening. That being said, I still had about three good laughs especially during the scene at the shooting range.

http://i.ytimg.com/vi/UKPULWWK-Xk/maxresdefault.jpgThe majority of the story is pretty recycled from other comedic buddy cop type of movies. I had the same issue with last summer's The Heat, another movie with a very similar idea behind it. The whole side plot revolving the Omar character has been done numerous times. There is even the not-so-surprising twist that comes into play, which you can pick up on very early on in the movie. I really thought Ice Cube might have been a better actor as well. I am not trying to compare him to Denzel Washington, but he has been in the business long enough where this feels like an amateur performance from a newbie. His tough guy demeanor falls a bit flat. I will say it was great seeing John Leguizamo again. I feel like I have not seen him in anything outside of those Ice Age movies. Do not be surprised if we see another Ride Along in theaters within the next few years. This one seems to be doing well at the box office as Kevin Hart is a hot commodity right now. I am sure a sequel would be cheap and easy to make and the studio can probably make some extra money out of it.
Director: Tim Story



Senin, 20 Januari 2014

CUTIE AND THE BOXER Movie Review

CUTIE AND THE BOXER (2013)
Starring: Ushio Shinohara, Noriko Shinohara, Alex Shinohara

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The Academy Award nominations have been announced and four of the five nominees for Best Documentary are currently streaming on Netflix. As an artist married to an artist, I was drawn to the story of Cutie and the Boxer. Ushio Shinohara is celebrating his 80th birthday. He came to New York as a young artist from Japan and received acclaim for his sculpture work and paintings. At the age of 41, he met Noriko who was only 19 at the time. She was instantly impressed by his work as she had never seen anything like it. Six months later she was pregnant with their son, Alex. He continued his artwork while living life on the wild side, eventually becoming an alcoholic. Noriko felt forced to put her career on the back burner in order to raise their son and take care of their family due to his lack of responsibility and maturity.
In the present day, they are facing huge money troubles and cannot pay the rent that is due. Ushio opens a new exhibit featuring his boxing glove paintings with a representative from the Guggenheim interested in his work. Noriko has spent her life feeling inferior to him as if he has treated her like his assistant. She believes Alex struggles with a drinking problem and blames Ushio and knows they did not give him a proper environment to grow up in. She decides to let her creative nature come alive again with new illustrations about a girl named "Cutie" and her husband "Bullie". The illustrations begin outlining their relationship to which Ushio dismisses them despite the positive feedback she receives after showing it in their joint exhibition.
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As the film begins, you think you may be watching this story about an elderly artist still working hard at what he loves and will not let age, health, or money stop him from continuing his passion. I am sure Ushio wants you to believe this is his story and that he is the artist of the family. The truth and heart of the story belongs with Noriko as we watch her finally come into her own after a long marriage of feeling like she and her art took the back burner compared to Ushio's lifestyle. There is a sadness and heartbreak to her story as you wish he had been more supportive and that she didn't have these feelings throughout their marriage. At the same time, I do not believe they have a terrible marriage as Noriko still loves Ushio and their love is evident.

http://www.roads.co/uploads/what_we_like/Cutie-And-The-Boxer.jpgCutie and the Boxer is another prime example of a film I probably would not have paid too much attention to as I strolled through the Netflix Streaming options, but I am so glad I gave it a watch. If the title throws you off, do not worry as they are merely nicknames for Ushio (Boxer) and Noriko (Cutie). As an artist, it is easy to understand the trials and tribulations of putting yourself and your work out there to get judged and critiqued by others. When it is your passion, you do not let anyone or anything get in your way. The power art has over us is undeniable. Ushio and Noriko have never given up on their passion no matter how small and cramped their apartment is, no matter how little money they have, and no matter how the public or critics respond to it. Their love for each other and their art grows and molds around each other. They may have disagreements and bicker. There is jealousy and frustrations along the way, but it is inspiring and moving to know their deep internal love prevails and makes them each better people.
Director: Zachary Heinzerling