Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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French director and screenwriter Luc Besson has been on the scene since the early 1980s. He is the mind behind some of the better movies that I have seen come out of Europe. Le Femme Nikita, The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Taken are a few that I have really enjoyed. While screenwriting has proven to be a constant source of success for him, Taken is a recent example; direction seems to be a bit of an Achilles heel for him. He has not a directed anything that I would call “good” since The Fifth Element and The Professional back in the mid to late 1990s. Lucy is his most recent endeavor to get back on track as a relevant director.

Besson’s new sci-fi actioner Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson as Lucy, is the story of a young student in Taiwan that is forced to work as a drug mule by Chinese drug smugglers. The smugglers surgically implant a kilogram bag of a designer drug that is ruptured while in her abdomen. After the exposure to the massive dose of the drug, Lucy begins a transformation that results in her unlocking the full potential of her brain. The action follows Lucy across Asia and into Europe as she evolves from a normal slutty looking blonde that uses less than 20% of her brain into a near god that has control of 100%. With the full potential of her mind unlocked, Lucy quickly discovers that she has the ability to things that are equal parts amazing and scary.

The movie has several things going for it and few things working against it. The visual presentation and effects are impressive are definitely a positive. Besson pulled out all of the stops to make the movie as visually striking as possible. As the story progresses and Lucy gains more and more power over her brain, the images that you are presented with give a concrete feel to the abstract changes that Lucy is going through. Near the end of the movie, as Lucy approaches 100%, the montage of the birth of the universe that she gains an understanding of puts the whole of the movie in perspective without a single word being spoken.

The acting as a whole was also impressive. I have seen and heard others say that Johansson seemed flat and/or clunky in the delivery of her performance. I could not disagree more. When you consider what is happening to the character and the perspective and freedom that she is granted the performance is perfectly suited. Morgan Freeman is his normal self, so no criticism is needed; he was a great casting decision. The rest of the cast is mostly unimportant so their performances can be overlooked.

The main negative of the movie is in the complexity of the ideas that are presented and in the way they are relayed to the audience. Once Lucy gains the vast knowledge that she acquires, the changes to her personality and behavior lead the audience to believe that as you get smarter and more mentally powerful, you lose any sense of right or wrong. Also, Lucy tries to explain what she is going through in such a way that it was nearly impossible to wrap your head around. At one point she even says, “your understanding of the universe is like a dog understanding the moon as he stares at it.” The concepts are going to be WAY over the heads of the Average Joe and will, probably, end up being a detractor from their ability to enjoy the movie as a whole.

As I walked out of the screening, I felt like I had just seen a really good movie, but I also felt like a total moron because of how complicated it was. If you can go into the movie, turn off the part of your brain that needs to make sense of things, and just enjoy what you are seeing; Lucy is going to be a 100% awesome experience for you. If you are the type that needs to “get it”, then I would advise you to skip it or bring aspirin for the headache you will get. Either way, Luc Besson has finally made a movie that he can rest his directorial hat on and say, “Yep I still got it.”

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Annie and Jay met in college and immediately discovered that they had a great sexual chemistry. That chemistry turned them into a pair of evenly matched nymphos. They loved sex with each other more than anything. They would find themselves having sex everywhere and anywhere at the drop of hat, ANY HAT.

The sex led to true love, that love led to marriage, and marriage led to kids. Now Annie and Jay are your typical American married couple with kids. Their days start with getting the kids ready for school before they rush off to work themselves. Their evenings and nights are often spent doing “family stuff” and then passing out in order to be ready to repeat the process again the next day. They are living the American Dream.

Wait, what happened to the sex?

Sex Tape is a hilarious comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as Annie and Jay. The couple answers the question, “what happened to the sex?” by making a homemade porno in the hopes that it will rekindle the sexual chemistry that has escaped them. After “going the whole Lincoln” and making the three hour movie, the couple passes out. While asleep the video, accidently, gets uploaded to the all-knowing entity that is known as “The Cloud.” The couple then has to go on a mission to collect and destroy every copy of the homemade porno that exists. Hilarity ensues…

The story is almost too funny to describe in words, it is the worst case scenario for any couple that has ever filmed themselves having sex. How the couple chooses to deal with the situation leads them into situations that can only be described as ridiculous. A vicious German shepherd, cocaine, extortionists, and even porn kings all stand in their way of stopping the spread of this movie.

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel make a great comedic team. They have great chemistry and balance each other very well. Also, to pull off a movie like this, you have to have actors that have the right balance of comedic ability and true sex appeal. Even at 42 years old, Cameron Diaz has on-screen sex appeal to burn. The scene of her in that roller-girl outfit will be in the minds of men forever.

As a word of caution, this movie is the definition of what it means to be Rated R, don’t let the lack of a frontal nude scene lull you into a false sense of security. It should go without saying that there are MANY scenes depicting some form of crazy sex. There is also a bit of drug use and even a porn reference riddled soliloquy from a surprise cast member that is probably the icing on the cake of social inappropriateness.

If you are in need of a laugh this weekend, make the trip to the theatre and give Sex Tape a try. You will not be disappointed.

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Some movies are good enough all on their own, the story is complete and the issues resolved; the proverbial bow has been tied. Other movies are made with the intention of becoming a franchise or series. The unwillingness of Hollywood to tell a difference in the two scenarios leads me to a real problem in Hollywood; needless sequels. Based off of the success of last years movie, The Purge, director James Demonaco and his group came back to make an obligatory, unnecessary sequel; The Purge: Anarchy.

Last year, I got a taste of excitement with The Purge. It was something different, not amazingly good or anything but different. Before it came out, I looked for a graphic novel for it, a foreign version, an old TV show, anything that might fit the typical Hollywood process of finding ideas. When my efforts came up empty I went to the theatre full of hope that maybe DeMonaco and his group had found something that could break up the un-originality that plagues movie-making today. I left the screening pretty well satisfied, not awe-inspired or anything, but entertained.

Enter the sequel… What part of The Purge made you think a sequel was needed? After watching The Purge: Anarchy I pulled out my DVD of The Purge to see if I missed anything in the story, nope. I also looked for any commonalties between the two movies outside of the setting, still nothing. Finally, I looked to see if any of the characters somehow slipped my attention and appeared in both movies without me noticing, strike three. It is official; The Purge: Anarchy is a money-grab only.

The story is set in the same reality of the first movie. It is one year later from the events of The Purge and people in the downtown areas of the city are preparing. They are all preparing for the one night of the year when laws and morality are suspended and society is encouraged to “release the beast” and “purge for the greater good.” We are introduced to a mother and daughter in their apartment, a husband and wife driving through town, and a very disturbed man suiting up for war. Each is doing what they can to ready themselves for the 12 hours of carnage that are on the way. Once the horn blasts and the purge begins the three different perspectives all come together through circumstances outside their control and are forced to face the night as a team.

The cast of actors in The Purge: Anarchy does not contain a “big name” to anchor the cast like Ethan Hawke did in the first movie. As a matter of fact, it does even have a “bigger” name supporting cast member like Lena Headley. Frank Grillo who played Agent Brock Rumlow in the most recent Captain America movie and Zach Gilford from the TV version of Friday Night Lights were the most well-known, or recognizable, members of the cast. The casting of a large number of, primarily, TV actors will make you think, “I have no idea who that is, but I have seen them somewhere else.” Even considering the cast’s overall lack of big screen experience, no one really stood out as a negative. On the other side of that subject, no one really stood out as that good either.

The main weakness that I found in the movie was the dump truck load of political and sociological undertones that were dropped on my head. I get it! America is a violent country with lots of guns and a disregard for the poor. Can we not just move on with story and not try to solve all the problems of the country with a movie?

The Purge: Anarchy was not a bad movie. I went in knowing full well that it was a money grab sequel, I was right. If you liked the first one and wondered what else you could do in the story, then you will probably enjoy this installment. If mindless violence for the sake of violence, intense political undertones, and ambiguous morality in your heroes is a turn-off for you, then I would advise you to skip this one. Overall, when it hits Redbox, throw a dollar at it. Don’t purge $10 from your wallet at a theatre on this one.

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In a world where I see an average of ten movie previews a week The Rover (103 minutes) was an unknown quantity. I knew it was vaguely post-apocalyptic , starred Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson, and it somehow involved a train. Of course, after I watched it I realized only two of those three things were actually true. In my defense, most independent/foreign/limited release trailers end up blended together in my pop culture mixer of a brain, so two out of three is very impressive.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked into the theater. In fact, my expectations were so low it took me a while to realize the strength of the film. What could have become a low-rent Road Warrior knock-off ended up being an unexpectedly powerful story. While I didn’t enjoy watching it in the same way I enjoy, for example, a Harry Potter movie, it was certainly worth my time.

An “unspecified global economic collapse” is the new pandemic/nuclear scenario favored by post-apocalyptic auteurs . In this case, the American dollar is the most accepted currency, even in Australia and a cross-section of humanity ends up down under, including Norte Americanos Henry (Scoot “my first name is funny” McNairy) and Rey (Robert “stupid sparkly vampires” Pattinson). They attempt to rob some kind of military convoy with two background characters, but everything goes horribly wrong. Rey is left behind, while Henry heads for the hills. During the escape they wreck the getaway vehicle and snatch a car that belongs to a guy with very bad hair named Eric (Guy Pearce).

Eric seems incredibly depressed, despite his ability to buy gas and random supplies under what must be conditions of near universal scarcity. When the bad guys steal his car, he steals their abandoned truck and after about five minutes of casual effort drives away after them. The ensuing chase ends rather bizarrely, considering how well everyone involved gets along face-to-face. Perhaps this can be explained by chalking up every bad decision a character makes to the fact that every character is a screaming lunatic.

Eric, having survived thus far, ends up in a sort of Asiatic den of iniquity. He comes across the caravan of a traveling circus, apparently stranded near the local brothel, and arms himself. In a real gem of a scene he confronts people who make it pretty clear that they are just waiting to get shot and don’t particularly care who does the shooting. The dialogue in this section is just—weird. Of course, when he gets back to his commandeered truck he runs into Rey, who becomes his new best friend and traveling companion, and the dialogue gets even weirder.

The two of them set off to intercept Henry and reclaim Eric’s car, managing to make themselves pretty unlikeable in the process. If it reminded me of anything it was a similarly bleak, low-budget Australian film written by Nick Cave (yes, the singer) and also starring Guy Pearce called The Proposition. The minimalist dialogue and sudden, shocking violence also recalls No Country For Old Men.

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When 21 Jump Street premiered in 2012 I felt a good bit of trepidation about the movie. As a fan of the original series that ran on Fox from 87 to 91, I was wary of it being re-imagined as a comedy. After I sat down and gave 21 Jump Street a chance, I found myself thoroughly entertained and impressed by what I was seeing and hearing. My fears about not doing the original show justice were not needed.

Fast forward to 2014 and 22 Jump Street is on its way to theatres. Tatum and Hill are back in their roles, Ice Cube returns as the Captain of Jump Street, and a few other supporting cast members are back for more. With the amount of fun that I had with 21 Jump Street in the back of my mind, I went into 22 Jump Street prepared for a let-down. How many times have we gone to the theatre for a sequel and been let down? I know I have lost count.

Once the movie started, I realized that I really need to work on my attitude…

Right from the start this movie delivers with laughs and fun that rival the first. The writing team of Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill took the formula that was so successful with 21 Jump Street and brought it back with an infusion of cash to amplify it. The jokes were witty and smart, the action scenes were eye catching, and the supporting cast filled out the story.

Hill and Tatum picked up right where they left off with 21 Jump Street, their chemistry continued to click and their characters meshed even more than before. It became apparent that what we all saw in 21 Jump Street was no fluke; these two can really make this type of movie work. Maybe they will be able to capture what Glover and Gibson had with the Lethal Weapon series and keep this rolling.

As for the rest of the cast that returned, they stepped up their games as well. Ice Cube brought even more anger and energy to the role of Captain Dickson. The character was the recipient of greater emphasis in this installment with the insertion of his family into the story, his wife’s appearance on screen was a shocking laugh in and of itself. Nick Offerman as Deputy Chief Hardy returned as well and was rewarded with some of the funniest lines of movie. His meeting with the guys to tell them of their new assignment is littered with double-meanings about the movie that we all had in mind.

The new characters that are introduced stole the show in my opinion. The Kenny and Keith Yang are identical twin brothers that are the dorm neighbors to Schmidt and Jenko and Metro State. They are played by a real life set of twin brothers Kenneth and Keith Lucas and are very funny and dynamic in the delivery of their lines, they easily steal every scene they are in. Jillian Bell as quirky roommate Mercedes is also very funny. Bell’s dry delivery of the barrage of insults and jokes Mercedes directs towards Schmidt and Jenko is mechanical and relentless, but also good for several laughs..

Overall, 22 Jump Street is hilarious! It is very worth the trip to the theatre to see on the big screen. Good jokes, funny story, and a great team of actors make this movie really work. The team of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill did what many others have attempted and failed; made a sequel that is as good as the first.

 

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In the near future, aliens land via a series of asteroid impacts and quickly rise up and take over the continent of Europe. The major militaries of the world unify in their efforts to fight the aliens forming a Unified Defense Force. The soldiers of the UDF are not typical soldiers; they are draftees and conscripts equipped with special robotic exo-suits called “jackets” that augment them physically. One such soldier is Sergeant Rita Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt, who is affectionately referred to as The Full Metal Bitch by her fellow soldier due to her prowess at fighting and dispatching the aliens she is put up against.

In direct contrast to the battle prowess and bravery of Rita is US Army Major William Cage, played by Tom Cruise. Cage is a sleazy advertising expert that uses propaganda and spin techniques to give the public a positive view of a war that is quickly being lost. When he uses his slimy skills to get out of an assignment that would take him to the front lines he quickly finds himself demoted to Private and assigned to the draftees and conscripts. During his first battle with the aliens he has a run-in that changes him and the war effort; he is given the ability to reset time every time he dies.

Edge of Tomorrow is a surprisingly entertaining movie, especially when you consider how poorly Tom Cruise’s last 2-3 movies were received.

The story is a well done mash-up of the science fiction, comedy and action genres. The first half of the 113 minute runtime can best be described as an action comedy. It is Saving Private Ryan meets Groundhog Day. As scary as it may sound, it actually works. As you watch Cage train with Vrataski and attempt the mission he is assigned over and over again, you find yourself laughing and wincing each time he dies.

Another funny positive is Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell. Paxton was great as the smart ass drill instructor charged with getting Cage into battle. Paxton is equal parts R. Lee Ermey of Full Metal Jacket and Damon Wayons of Major Payne. Maybe it is just me, but I thought he was hilarious.

The second half of the movie takes on a considerably more serious tone. The story focuses on the dynamics of the relationship between Cage and Vrataski as they attempt to deal a deciding blow to the aliens. The action sequences slow down and the character development picks up. The movie takes on a more bleak and moody feel as you see the two soldiers try and fail over and over at achieving their goals. To me, the chemistry of Cruise and Blunt was a little off, but overall they get a passing grade.

Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is a fun summer action movie that gives you laughs, action, a little suspense, and a good overall payoff. It is available in 3D and regular formats, find the standard as the 3D serves no purpose.

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When I go to the theatre for a show I arrive with a set of expectations that comes from decades of Broadway show patronage. I expect to see a show that has an established story; musical arrangements that progress and add to the story are also a must. I also appreciate a well thought out visual experience made by dynamic sets and lighting. The most important aspect of the experience has to be the performers that take the stage. A good cast can bring even a mediocre show up to new levels, most of the time.

My most recent Broadway show experience was with Mamma Mia at DPAC. The show is the product of playwright Catherine Johnson with music composed by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus of the 70s and 80s Pop group Abba. The show is comprised of the international chart topping music of the band. Since the show debuted on London’s West End in 1999 it has gone on to be performed around the world to much fanfare and acclaim even receiving 5 Tony nominations in 2002. In 2008 the musical was adapted into a feature length movie starring Amanda Seyfried.

As I waited for the show to start, I found myself “people-watching”. I surveyed the audience as they came in and attempted to figure out just who they were. I saw, numerous young fans that I called Teenie Boppers, a few fans that felt the night was right for full length feather boas, and I was even graced by the presence of a local drag queen. To call the audience an eclectic mix would be an understatement, maybe that should have been a warning to flee.

I admit, I went to DPAC as a Mamma Mia virgin, I had never seen the stage version or even the movie. I knew the ABBA songs; my mom would sing them while working around the house during my childhood. What I did know, I liked the songs and I loved theatre. There was a great potential for me to have a good night.

As far as the show goes, I had a hard time with it. As I have felt with other shows like this, American Idiot comes to mind; it felt much more like a rock concert than a Broadway show. The story seemed like it was a bit underdeveloped with some details overlooked. The lack of emphasis on actual story led to some awkward moments. She mails letters to her dads to invite them to her wedding the day before the wedding? Wait Huh?

Much like you would expect at a live rock concert, the volume of the music was set at a level that was bordering on “too damn loud”. It was a reprieve for the show that the audience knew all the words to the songs and sang along, because hearing the singing voices of the actors onstage was not possible. At the start of Act II the music hits so fast and so loud. It is unpleasantly alarmed you and pins you in your seat as you try to figure out if someone messed up or if that was supposed to happen.

In contrast to my auditory experience, the visuals were quite nice. The lighting design was simple yet effective. A very simple Greek style beach inn is the only set piece used. The revolving set pieces help travel between interior scenes, courtyard scenes, and straight to the front door of Donna’s Inn. Well-choreographed set changes utilized the ensemble to help the transition from scene to scene. Simple white stucco walls, small rust stains from metal meeting sea breezes, and a beautiful teal backdrop completed the set. A huge moon was projected to appear and fade giving us the appropriate time changes.

The cast had its highs and lows as well. Chelsea Williams carried the role of Sophie well. Her performance of “I Have a Dream” was impressive. Donna, played by Georgia Kate Haege had a decent singing/acting moment halfway through act II. Her performance of “Slipping Through my Fingers” in Act II had me thinking I was actually in a Broadway show, if only for that moment. The roles of the male characters would have to be the lows. Michael Colavolpe, who played Bill Anderson, had this creepy quality to him that really just made him hard to enjoy.

I know I’m not alone in this opinion, but I believe that the reason this show does well in so many different locations is merely because the audience is coming to an ABBA rock concert. There is a very shaky plot that attempts to weave the songs together, but it was clearly evident that this was just for show. It is impossible to have the words of the songs match 100% to the plot that we are provided. To me, that detail just kills the idea that this show is a true Broadway show. I can hear the audience at the water cooler at work saying, “I went to this ABBA concert” and a Broadway play tried to break out.” DPAC was able to bring a concert to North Carolina that many seemed to enjoy, but is it a true Broadway musical just because there are lines that attempt to connect the songs together? I don’t believe so.