Saturday, June 29, 2013

White House Down Review: Roland Emmerich blows up the white house...again

Dir. Roland Emmerich
137 Minutes
Rated PG-13
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Known for his over-the-top disaster films like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, Roland Emmerich just loves to see America deal with catastrophic situations.  In White House Down, the stakes are just as high as any other of his works; a band of homegrown terrorists led by James Woods take over the white house in an attempt to launch some nukes triggering World War III.  Yup, you read that right.  Jamie Foxx is the president and Channing Tatum is a down-on-his luck father who wants to prove himself despite not having the credentials for a secret service position.  The story is as cliched as anything you'll see all year, and the nearly two and a half hour run time will leave you numb with action, but with lowered expectations, it's a totally "OK" movie with some likable performances.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Heat Review: Without a doubt the funniest movie of the summer

Dir. Paul Feig
117 Minutes
Rated R
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**Update: I apologize...I made a big mistake - Bridesmaids was not Paul Feig's first directed film.  I promise I will check all my information in the future.  Sorry if anybody was upset about this...**  

Paul Feig's feature film debut, Bridesmaids, came out a couple years ago to a staggering amount of critical and financial success, especially for being an R-Rated women-centric gross-out comedy.  It gave a huge boost to Feig's notoriety and showed that Kristen Wiig was more than just a funny lady on SNL (and netted her an Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay to boot).  But one certain supporting actress, Melissa McCarthy, was perhaps one of the least expected overnight Hollywood success stories to have come out of the film.  In a mere two years McCarthy has gone from a no-name sitcom star to a household name that can open a summer blockbuster, in large part to her role as Megan in Bridesmaids.  The Heat marks Feig's return to female-centered comedy and brings together McCarthy and Sandra Bullock for a more vagina-laden take on the buddy cop genre.  Similarly to Bridesmaids, The Heat proves that the ladies can be just as funny and disgusting as the guys, and that Feig might be one of the best comedic directors working today.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Monsters University Review: Pixar gets back on track with its first prequel

Dir. Dan Scanlon
104 Minutes
Rated G
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As of late Pixar's critical scorecard has been disappointingly low, with its last two movies, Cars 2 and Brave, being obvious low points in the company's filmography.  With so much competition in the animation marketplace, and the recent merge between Disney and Pixar, some people believe the hit-making mega-studio could be on the decline. As they announce more and more sequels, which is no doubt a move to make a bigger profit in merchandising, that amazing string of original films from Ratatouille to Up seems like an unrepeatable achievement.  But of all their properties, Monsters Inc has one of the biggest, untapped worlds to delve into.  Monsters University, despite not having that factor of originality, is the Monsters prequel you didn't know you wanted.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

World War Z Review: The biggest zombie movie of all time is an even bigger missed opportunity

Dir. Marc Forster
116 Minutes
Rated PG-13
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It's no secret that World War Z has had a difficult journey on its way to theaters.  Brad Pitt, assuming the roles of both actor and producer on the film, wanted to make this a big new franchise for himself, but reportedly there was a lot of off-set drama between Pitt and the director Marc Forster, the budget got way out of control, and the entire ending, including a 12-minute action sequence was scrapped then re-written and re-shot to make more sense (they got Damon Lindelof of all people to change the ending...because his track record of endings is real solid...).  And all that for a film that completely disregards its source material - a critically acclaimed novel from Max Brooks which to my knowledge has no connection to this movie.  The cards weren't exactly stacked in its favor, but somehow the final product doesn't feel like a pasted together mess.  World War Z is a serviceable, but completely forgettable, horror-action film that managed to overcome its production issues.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Man of Steel Review: It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a reboot!

Dir. Zack Snyder
143 Minutes
Rated PG-13
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To say a lot is riding on Man of Steel is a massive understatement.  At this point Marvel is completely dominating the superhero marketplace with their Avengers setup in place for years and years to come, and DC is struggling to maintain the same momentum towards the inevitable Justice League movie.  Man of Steel is the first film, DC's Iron Man if you will, to establish this world unlike The Dark Knight where it would be possible for god-like aliens to fight each other.  Zach Snyder took the demanding task of rebooting a franchise that not only will set in motion likely all of DC's films in the foreseeable future, but also to make Superman relevant to today's audiences after the relative critical and financial disappointment of Superman Returns.  But Snyder is no stranger to taking on difficult projects (as seen with the previously deemed 'impossible to film' Watchmen), and Man of Steel was everything I could've hoped for.  It fires on all cylinders and reinvents Superman into our world without disrespecting his comic book origins, all while delivering non-stop action and even some philosophy along the way.

Friday, June 14, 2013

This Is the End Review: The apocalypse for the pop culture-savvy

Dir. Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen
106 Minutes
Rated R
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Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen began their filmmaking journey together when they wrote Superbad at the tender age of 13 and have collaborated on a number of projects since, including Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet.  This Is the End marks both of their directorial debuts however, and they shot for the sky (literally) with this apocalyptic R-Rated raunchy comedy.  The cast joins together comedy superstars Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Jay Baruchel, and Danny McBride, who, along with a smattering of cameos, play alter-ego versions of themselves as they shack up in Franco's place during the end of the world.  It's kind of surprising to see how "end of the world-y" it actually gets, but the plot itself is pretty flimsy.  The magic of the film lies in how these celebrities play off each other, often using their fame and careers as a springboard for comedy.  Without a good sense of pop culture, it'll be a real slog, but for those "in the know," This Is the End is a fun, but flawed, summer action-comedy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Purge Review: Screw it, I'm moving to Canada

Dir. James DeMonaco
85 Minutes
Rated R

Last weekend saw the release of the horror flick The Purge, a box office hit that made its budget back in midnight screenings alone, meaning a sequel was put in development right away.  The film is set 9 years from now in 2022, where America is now under rule by the "New Founders of America" and one night a year for 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is legal.  Ethan Hawke is a well-to-do father of two who sells home security systems that essentially turns your whole house into a big panic room to protect yourself from the purging going on outside.  Unfortunately, his son (who bears a striking resemblance to Christina Ricci), takes pity on a scared homeless man and lets him inside - but a bunch of creepy mask-wearing purge-people want him.  The following is pretty much your typical home invasion movie with some social commentary thrown in.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Maisie Knew Review: A very real insight on divorce as seen through the perspective of a six year old

Dir. Scott McGehee & David Siegel
93 Minutes
Rated R

What Maisie Knew has been making the rounds here and there in a limited release, a contemporary re-telling of a novel written in 1897 by Henry James told from the perspective of a young girl observing her dysfunctional family and the divorce of her parents.  The film stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan as Maisie's feuding parents, each flawed in their own right, and newcomer Onata Aprile as the titular Maisie.  The film is a brilliant portrayal of a broken family life as seen through the eyes of an innocent child, and at times can be hard to watch.  Although the whole custody battle/divorce plot line has been done to death, What Maisie Knew brings a fresh twist on the genre with a wonderful script and amazing actors.

After Earth Review: Will Smith wants to make his son proud, if only he felt the same about the audience

Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
100 Minutes
Rated PG-13

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  M. Night Shyamalan, a director once touted as "the next Spielberg," now has such a negative reputation that his name was hidden on all the promotional material for his latest strike-out, After Earth.  It's unclear if either Sony Pictures or M. Night himself was the reason for not letting the public know this was 'from the director of The Sixth Sense,' but really this felt more like Will Smith's latest attempt at making his child into a movie star than the standard twist-filled Shyamalan fare.  The plot pretty much just focuses on two characters: Cypher Raige (Will Smith), a legendary fearless warrior called a 'ghost,' who returns home to his family to father his son Kitai, who is following in his dad's footsteps, training to be a Ranger.  During a voyage together, Cypher and Kitai's ship crashes on Earth, now a Class-1 quarantined planet, evacuated 1000 years ago.  The only people alive are Will Smith and his son, and Will's legs are broken.  It's up to Jaden to travel across the dangerous forests of Earth to retrieve a signaling device for help, or else they both will DIE.  Sounds like a plateau for a solid survival/sci-fi father/son story, but pretty much every aspect of the film, from the writing to the pacing to the acting, was completely incompetent.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Hangover Part III  Review: Todd Phillips indulges on his worst instincts in this nearly joke-less sequel

Dir. Todd Phillips
100 Minutes
Rated R

The first Hangover film to me is sort of the definitive modern comedy.  It took an ingeniously simple premise - piecing together the previous night after a hangover - and ran with it using lots of  gross-out moments and a solid cast.  Based off of its crazy success, Todd Phillips signed on for two sequels to be made.  Part II, while a success at the box office, was considered a lazy, pandering follow-up.  Beat-for-beat, the entire story followed the exact same path as the first (to an extreme degree), only the gags were less fun and the overall tone was much more serious.  But Todd Phillips must've heard the fans' cries for something different for the third and "final" adventure with the wolf pack, because he did indeed go in a completely different direction for Part III.  The only problem is he pushed it further back into the wrong direction Part II was heading in; this film is the least funny and pointlessly "serious" of the three and shouldn't even be classified as a comedy.

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