Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

Member of THE LAMB: The Large Association of Movie Blogs LAMB #1588

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich
Starring: Cybill Sheperd, Jeff Bridges, Cloris Leachman, Timothy Bottoms, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Ben Johnson, Randy Quaid

Do you ever have a movie that you have been meaning to sit down and watch, but it always slips through the cracks? It always gets put on the back burner to some crappy new release or some other movie you have seen 800 times. Why is that? I had heard about The Last Picture Show years ago and put it on my “I must see that movie” list. Time passed and I never watched it. Jeff Bridges won an Oscar in 2010 for his magnificent performance in Crazy Heart. At the time, I was looking at his filmography and The Last Picture Show popped up as an early entry in his canon. I was reminded yet again that I needed to watch it. It was on sale for super cheap at Barnes & Noble, so I figured if I bought it that would prompt a viewing. Time passed again without me popping open the case. Was there always some other movie I wanted to watch more? My friend Max had watched it for his movie blog as it appears on the AFI Top 100 list. Again, I felt the dire urge to watch it when I read his opinions about it. That was a couple of months ago.

I had been feeling pretty nostalgic lately. There is something to be said about coming of age movies or revisiting movies and TV shows you watched as a young teenager. The Last Picture Show popped up on an episode of “Dawson’s Creek” that I had watched recently, and it perked my interest yet again. I was going to go crazy if I didn’t just sit down and watch it. All these signs were pointing me to watch it. A couple of weeks ago, I had a night to myself so I popped it in. I think I will be forever happy I made that decision. It is one of those movies that just sticks with you. I found myself haunted by it. I would find myself bored work and would start thinking about those characters. I checked in with Max and we had a good chat about it one night. I have watched it twice now before writing this blog entry and I could easily watch it again and again. There is always something new to pick up with each viewing of this classic. Movies become classics for a reason.

Based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, The Last Picture Show is a coming of age movie set in the deserted, desolate town of Anarene, Texas in 1951. Duane (Bridges), Sonny (Bottoms), and Jacy (Sheperd) lie at the heart of the story. They are seniors in high school not wanting to face the reality of what will come after graduation. Anarene is a pretty empty town. There isn’t a thriving job market of endless possibilities. Duane and Sonny are best friends and Jacy is Duane’s girlfriend. The film follows their lives in their final year of high school and how they decide to deal with the fact that are not getting any younger.

Sexuality plays a huge factor in their lives, especially for Jacy. She is the beautiful model blonde that gets all of the boy’s attention. Duane is the hot stud, so one would think their relationship would be the ideal fit. Duane seems to be sexually frustrated. He and Jacy try to fool around, but he crumbles under the pressure. Jacy is pretty desperate to lose her virginity. After Lester (Quaid) puts the moves on her, she agrees to go to a skinny dipping party with him leaving Duane behind. At the pool party, she meets Bobby and starts flirting with him. He tells her he is not interested in her as she is still a virgin.

Sonny doesn’t have a girlfriend but he strikes up an interesting relationship with the much older Ruth (Leachman). She is in a miserable marriage to the boy’s basketball coach. She is about as fragile as an egg often times breaking down in tears. He takes pity on her and they begin to partake in a romantic relationship thinking that will make them both feel wanted and loved. They share a private kiss behind the restaurant hoping not to get caught. Their first time having sex is awkward and uncomfortable. He doesn’t seem to be enjoying it, and she stars to cry. Ruth says to Sonny, “I can’t seem to do anything without crying about it.”

Duane and Jacy carry on their relationship only to be continually plagued down by their sexual experiences. Duane tries to act like the tough guy. They go to a motel to finally have sex for the first time, but he backs down as he can't perform. She finally loses her virginity after their second attempt. Now that she's no longer a virgin, she breaks up with him over the phone and tries to go back to Bobby who has since eloped with another girl. Feeling like he has nothing without Jacy, Duane joins the Army and leaves town.

One key member of town is Sam the Lion (Johnson). Sam the Lion is probably one of the oldest residents of Anarene and acts as the moral compass for many of our younger characters. He always seems to have the right answers to any of life's outstanding questions. He runs the pool hall, cafe, and The Royal Picture Show. There is a beautiful scene with Sonny, Billy, and Sam rolling cigarettes down by the river. Sam gives a sincere and honest monologue about how the town has changed and a fling he had with a beautiful but married girl done there at the river. Sonny seems enthralled with Sam's story. Sam dies of a stroke and the residences of the town seem to be in disarray. Mrs. Mosey is forced to close The Royal Picture Show with the rise in baseball and the popularity of television. She thinks Sam could have kept it alive and running. “Won’t be much else to do in town when the picture show closes”, says Duane. The movies seem to be the only escape some of these guys have into a different life or world.

The Last Picture Show is one of Bogdanovich’s earliest movies. In a featurette on the DVD, Bogdanovich explains the reason why he chose to have the movie in black and white. He states the film “needed a hardness and density that you don’t get in color” He uses mainly close up eye level camera shots which gives an intimate look at these characters. Each one is flawed and seems stuck in life. No one seems to be all that happy, but at the same time they do not really know how to move forward in a successful way. After Jacy dumps Duane, he leaves town but comes back. Jacy seems to move from guy to guy desperately looking to feeling wanted by someone. Sonny seeks solace in an older woman who is also lost in life. Their only temporary escape seems to be at the movie theater, but that must come to an end once Sam the Lion passes away. This was the first movie for Cybill Sheperd and the second for Timothy Bottoms. Jeff Bridges had done some television work but this was very early on in his career as well. They all give fantastic performances. You clearly know and understand their character's inner struggles. Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman both won much deserved Oscars for their performances. Bogdanovich reveals that Johnson was not too keen on taking the part. It took a lot of convincing as Johnson thought the role had too many lines. Bogdanovich told Johnson he would win an Oscar if he took the part and that is exactly what happened. Another interesting casting note involves Ellen Burstyn. She was pretty keen on playing Lois, Jacy's mom. Bogdanovich made her read for the Cloris Leachman role and the Eileen Brennan role. After hearing her read all three roles, he was convinced she could play any of them let and he let her decide which role she wanted. She naturally picked Lois. The movie went on to garner eight Oscar nominations but it only won two for Johnson and Leachman. It lost Best Picture to The French Connection. It also ranks as #95 on the AFI All Time 100 Greatest Movies list. If you're looking for something different to watch or want to reflect on a classic piece of American cinema, you can't go wrong with The Last Picture Show.

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Sunday, June 24, 2012


Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand

A sweet little love story is at the heart of Wes Anderson's latest cinematic adventure. Twelve year old Sam Shakusky(Gilman) is an outcast in every way. He is currently a "khaki scout" at Camp Ivanhoe led by Scout Master Ward (Norton). None of his scout mates like him. He was also put up for adoption, and his new parents don't feel like they need him back. Over the past year, he has been writing letters to Suzy Bishop (Hayward) who is another twelve year old outcast. Her parents Mr. Bishop (Murray) and Mrs. Bishop (McDormand) are quite eccentric themselves. Mrs. Bishop seems to always be speaking through a megaphone.

Sam and Suzy decide to run away together. Being the scout that he is, he is equipped with every piece of camping and survival equipment under the sun. She brings along some books and some records and her trusty binoculars. I think they run away despite the fact they know at some point they will get caught. During role call Scout Master Ward realizes one of the scouts is missing. They go to Sam's tent and realize he left Shawshank Redemption style. He cuts a hole out of his tent and covers it with a poster. He contacts Captain Sharp (Willis) and a search team is assembled. Scout Master Ward, the scouts, and Mr. and Mrs. Bishop set out to find Sam and Suzy. Captain Sharp contacts Social Services (Swinton) when it is determined Sam's adoptive parents don't want him back if they find him.

One of the elements of the movie I was so fascinated with was the cinematography. Robert D. Yeoman is the cinematographer and has worked on all of Anderson's movies. His way of capturing the color palette and life on the island was exquisite. Every shot looked to be specifically chosen and set up for a very specific reason. Each frame looks like a picture. There is mood, feeling, and energy with each shot. You will notice a predominant use of tight close up shots throughout the movie. Many times you are looking at one character through the eyes of another character or you are looking at a prop or object from their eyes. The opening segment, which is a tour of the Bishop house, is ingenious.

The opening credits introduces us to the list of characters we will see in this kingdom along with the names of each actor playing them. Like any Wes Anderson movie, you know you are in for a treat when certain names pop up. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman are regulars in every Anderson adventure. It takes a certain kind of actor to be successful in an Anderson movie. They are often asked to play someone quirky and peculiar, often times outside of the general body of characters an actor is used to playing. McDormand and Swinton are perfect as these types of characters so they are always welcome in Anderson's world from now on in my opinion. I was surprised to see Harvey Keitel's name pop up in the credits, but he is terrific as well. This is the first movie for Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. You would never know that as they created unique characters and carried the movie quite well. I always look forward to a new Wes Anderson movie whenever I hear one announced. He is one of the most original and creative writer/directors working today. He always provides a one-of-a-kind creative vision that is truly his own. When you see one of his movies, you know it is a Wes Anderson movie. Moonrise Kingdom is his best work since The Royal Tenenbaums.

RATING: ***** (5 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Movie Review: ROCK OF AGES

Director: Adam Shankman
Starring: Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Malin Ackerman, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Paul Giamatti, Bryan Cranston, Catherine Zeta-Jones

When you see Rock of Ages, you don't go in expecting your mind will be blown away with some existential thoughts and questions. It is not that kind of movie. You go in for fun music that will have you dancing in your seat. Sherrie Christian (Hough) is a young, broke, up and coming singer that leaves her Oklahoma life behind as she buses out to Los Angeles in hopes to make it big. The night she arrives in LA, she is mugged of her sole possessions which are mostly records. She just so happens to meet Drew (Boneta) who is also an up and coming singer and works as a bar back at The Bourbon Room. The Bourbon Room is the hottest concert venue that brings in the best rocks bands. Drew gets Sherrie a job as a waitress and they become smitten with each other.

Dennis (Baldwin) and Lonny (Brand) run The Bourbon Room. They are eagerly anticipating the greatest night yet with Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) playing his final concert with his band Arsenal. Everything is riding on this night with Stacee Jax. A Rolling Stone reporter (Ackerman) desperately tries to interview him before the show only to find that his drunken, lazy, care free attitude does not provide for a good sit down chat. On top of that, Dennis and Lonny are being hounded by the mayor (Cranston) and his church going, bible thumping wife (Zeta-Jones). She is desperately trying to get The Bourbon Room shut done as rock and roll is pure filth that promotes sex and drugs. What she doesn't know is that the mayor is cheating on her behind her back. The opening band for Arsenal quits the day of the show and Drew is given the opportunity to open for them. The big night does not quite go as planned and leaves a lasting impact on everyone involved.

There is a huge trend lately of turning Broadway musicals into movies. Some are phenomenal like Chicago and some are dreadful like The Producers. There are a few that fall right in the middle like Mamma Mia and Hairspray. I would say that Rock of Ages falls in the middle of the pack. Director Adam Shankman seems to be all about getting a huge cast full of big name actors and leaves the production aspect of it to the waste side. One of my biggest beefs with the production value is the poor sound mixing. There were so many times during the numbers where the band or background vocals seemed far louder than the main singer. I wanted to hear Mary J. Blige wail on some of the numbers but she just got drowned out. Sometimes if it is done well, you can believe that the actors are singing live. The lip synching was so bad that it was not even close to believable that they were bursting into song. The camera work and editing during the bigger numbers was sloppy at times. "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" had awesome choreography but it was difficult to fully appreciate it as they kept cutting to the mayor's affair. I may be getting too picky, but I wanted more care given to each of the musical numbers. Too often they were sloppy and there was too much going on with each one.

Even though the production values left me wanting more, the movie is full of so many great actors who are willing to let their egos go a little bit by having fun singing awesome '80s tunes. Catherine Zeta-Jones returns to her musical theater roots. She won an Oscar for her work in Chicago and she shines here as well. Her role was written for the movie, so unfortunately it is not as big as the other roles that were in the staged production. Tom Cruise is one devoted actor. He consistently devotes 100% of himself in each role. His commitment to Stacee Jaxx is no different than Ethan Hunt or Frank T.J.Mackey. His swagger and demeanor is perfect for the troubled rocker. Malin Ackerman holds her own next to Cruise in each of their scenes. Their duet is one of my favorite numbers in the movie. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are cute and decent as the two lovers, but they didn't blow me away. While I typically like Alec Baldwin, I felt like he and Russell Brand were basically playing exaggerated versions of themselves instead of making Dennis and Lonny different characters than we typically see them do.

Yes, the movie is made with sloppy production values and a weak script. However, if you go into it and allow yourself to have a campy good time with the fun '80s music, you will enjoy it. You may even find yourself tapping your foot along or have the songs stuck in your head later that evening.

RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins

At a very young age, Snow White (Stewart) must deal with the death of her parents. Not long after her mother dies, her father King Magnus sets off to battle an army approaching their castle. He defeats the army and rescues a young blonde woman named Ravenna (Theron) chained up in a carriage. They end up marrying the very next day. Snow is still dealing with her mother’s death, and Ravenna ensures her that everything will be alright. We all know that is a bold lie as Ravenna kills King Magnus later that night. She reveals herself to be the Master of the Dark Army who Magnus fought against. Her goal was to take over his thrown and rule the kingdom. She seizes control of the kingdom and locks Snow up in a tower.

The once beautiful kingdom turns desolate and grim under Queen Ravenna’s rule. Every day the Queen asks her magic mirror who is the fairest of all, and every day she was told that she was the fairest. Now that Snow White has grown up, the Mirror has a different answer. The Queen is enraged when she hears that Snow is the fairest and could take over the control of the kingdom. She summons her brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to get Snow from the tower and bring her to her. As Finn enters Snow’s room, she uses a nail to attack him. She escapes the castle and heads out to the forbidden Dark Forest. The Queen forces Huntman Eric (Hemsworth) to go into the forest to find her and bring her back with a promise to bring him and his wife back together. Eric finds a beaten down Snow, and she informs him of the Queen’s true ways. They journey out through the Forest to escape the Queen’s henchman. They come across various creatures and realms that have been overtaken by the Queen’s magic. With the help of some dwarves and Snow’s childhood friend Will (Claflin), they gain the strength to head back to the castle and defeat the Queen once and for all.

Charlize Theron has come to play wicked characters very well. I always appreciate it whenever she takes on such flawed characters. For the most part, she takes a “less is more” approach with her demeanor and attitude being more sustained than your average crazy off-the-wall queen. She does scream and wail at times, which I didn’t always find necessary. Kristen Stewart is less successful at creating a fun strong character. She didn’t seem to stray too far from her Twilight character except by being a little less whiny and annoying. I was completely missing the emotional aspect she had with any of the other characters, especially with Eric. One of the final shots of the movie is on her and I couldn’t even begin to think of what he character was going through. Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, and the rest of the dwarves steal the scene once they stumble upon Snow and Eric.

Rupert Sanders shines high and mighty in his directorial debut. This is the second Snow White themed movie of 2012 following the dismal and boring Mirror Mirror. Snow White and the Huntsman takes a darker grittier look at this fairy tale than we are used to seeing. The production values are stunning across the board. Colleen Atwood consistently creates stunning costumes. Between the crown, chains, and talons, the costume design for The Evil Queen fits the sharp fierce look of the Queen while maintaining the period. Sanders offsets the dark mood by enriching the color palette when appropriate. The magical land that Snow, Eric, and the dwarves stumble upon is alive with color to contrast the Dark Forest. The special effects are top notch. The shattering glass element of the battle scenes and the CGI work on the Dwarves does not feel hokey and computerized like it does on so many other epic movies. Even though the movie does tend to drag in the middle while Snow and Eric are on their journey, there is always something to look at and discover in order to keep the audience engrossed in the story. Be warned that this version of Snow White is not meant for little kids. There is enough violence and dark elements involved that the little ones could deem too scary.

RATING: **** (4 out of 5 stars)

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: PROMETHEUS

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce

The year is 2089 and the origins of humanity are still baffling mankind. Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) have discovered some fascinating hieroglyphics in a cave off the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The hieroglyphics point to a star map. This same pattern/drawing has been found in numerous primitive drawings dating back thousands of years in various locations. They deem this all too eerie and are determined the drawings are meant to lead people to the stars which could unveil the answers to life’s origins. They board the vessel Prometheus which has been funded to explore this unknown world.

They wake up in 2093 as Prometheus has finally reached the new world. Shaw and Holloway are joined by other scientists as well as The Weylan Group who is financing the expedition. Meredith Vickers (Theron) is the Weylan Group representative that makes it perfectly clear that this trip is for the Weylan Group and not Shaw and Holloway. Decisions will be made by her in the best interest for the company instead of the crew or the findings. Rounding out the team is an android simply named David (Fassbender). He is made in the likeness of a human but does not contain a soul. Prometheus docks on a surface containing straight lines leading into a domed cavern. This formation suggests that a species had lived there at some point as the universe does not create straight lines in nature. What lies inside the cave proves to be exactly what they were looking for and then some. Their adventure only just begins as they unravel what is lost, hidden, and lurking in the cavern. One of the biggest pieces of discovery happens to be the head of a creature with human-like features. They bring it onboard to realize that its DNA matches human DNA. I will leave the rest of their discoveries and journey for you to unfold. This is the kind of movie that is better left knowing very little going into it.

When Prometheus was first announced by Ridley Scott, rumors went into overdrive as this was going to be the prequel to Alien. When you have a director returning to the roots of a genre that put him on the map, one can’t help want to make comparisons or try to tie it into a previous work. There is no doubt that Alien was groundbreaking and has left a legacy on the sci-fi genre. Yes, there are some parallels and similar items and themes between both movies. Do not worry if you have not seen Alien or if it has been some time. If you experience the movie as a standalone film and don’t try to make comparisons, I think you will enjoy it more.

Scott has gathered a great group of actors for his ensemble. Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender definitely stand out. Rapace is no stranger to very physical roles after her run as Lisbeth Salander in the Sweden versions of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. She is proving to be a very ballsy actress that can tackle a variety of genres. Fassbender is wicked as David who turns out to be more than your standard robot/android. David is very reminiscent of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Charlize Theron is as strong as ever, but I wish her character would have been fleshed out more.

Many of Ridley Scott’s movies have been hit or miss lately. Prometheus scores as a hit in my book. The dark atmosphere he has created is visually stunning and fully believable. The film was shot in 3D, and the 3D technology works wonders for this style. It completely enhances the dark tight feeling of the cavernous tunnels and the hallways of the Prometheus. I appreciate when 3D is used to enrich a story over using it as a gimmick to make more money at the box office. Men in Black 3 falls into that category. One could say that the plot is fairly simple. I don’t see a problem with that as so many sci-fi films get too heightened and caught up in the science, technology, or conspiracy part of it. In that case, the story and language gets too muddled down with big words and concepts that your average movie audience cannot wrap their brain around. Screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof start the movie asking the question of how we got here on Earth, but turn the movie into asking what happens when you go in search of that big question. Prometheus is by no means a perfect movie. There are flaws and the very tail ending of the movie is a bit hokey. I still found myself on the edge of my seat haunted by what was all unraveling before me.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5)

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Thursday, June 7, 2012


Director: Quentin Tarantino
Jamie Foxx as Django
Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz
Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie
Kerry Washington as Broomhilda
Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen
Don Johnson as Spencer Gordon Bennett

There are a few things you can anticipate going into a Tarantino movie
1.      It will be completely unpredictable and blow your mind.
2.      There will be some fantastic performances.
3.      There will most likely be a lot of blood thrashing around
4.      The use of the word “fuck” will be used liberally
5.      Samuel L. Jackson will make an appearance

Tarantino has always hinted at wanting to make a movie in homage to the old spaghetti westerns.  Django Unchained is definitely that movie.  His movies are all very different but still retain that Tarantino stamp we all know and love.  He is a true visionary whose movies always leave a lasting impression on you long after you have left the theater.

In Theaters: December 25, 2012

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Movie Review: BATTLESHIP

Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson

When you decide to make a movie inspired by a two player children's game, where do you even begin? Let’s start with two very good looking brothers. Long haired Alex (Kitsch) is the deadbeat brother that can’t seem to get his act together. He is living off the couch of his older more mature brother, Stone (Skarsgard). They spend Alex’s birthday getting drinks at the local bar having some heart-to-heart conversion. Naturally, Alex gets distracted by beautiful blonde Samantha (Decker) who is at a bar stool all alone. In order to impress her, he breaks into a convenience store and steals a chicken burrito that she is craving. The cops show up as his not-so-stealth moves set off every alarm in the store. Alex gets tasered as he desperately tries to give the burrito to Samantha. Stone is livid as Samantha happens to be the daughter of his Navy Admiral (Neeson). Alex joins the US NAVY in order to get his act together and be with Samantha.

NASA has discovered that there is another planet that could have conditions similar to Earth’s. This means there could be a chance of intelligent life on the planet. They have designated a compound in Hawaii to send signals from a satellite to this planet in hopes of a response from the life forms that might exist. Years later, a response finally comes through. Alex and Stone are participating in the Navy’s RIMPAC opening ceremony exercises. During the exercises, it becomes apparent that five alien ships are approaching the Earth’s orbit. They crash onto Earth hitting Honk Kong and various locations around the Hawaiian Islands including where the Naval exercises are taking place. Alex, Stone, and company are second guessing if this is real or part of the drills. They determine this is no exercise and these aliens are far more than what they could have anticipated. They are a no-nonsense powerful species with massive vessels. You may recognize that the missiles from the aliens look just like the pegs used in the game.

I was hesitant going into Battleship when it first opened. Was it going to be a good popcorn summer action flick or would it be a long drawn out mess like Transformers? I was pleasantly surprised how much fun I had while watching a movie inspired by a game. Let's be real, it is no Marvel's The Avengers or Terminator 2: Judgment Day. With that being said, it is not as horrible as one would think. The actions scenes are loud, big, and very explosive. Berg wastes no time in getting right to the action. There is maybe twenty minutes of exposition and character set-up, but the battle begins pretty quickly after that. You don't need to wait until the final act to see ships blow up. These types of movies do not usually have the best screenplays. This is no exception either. The weak script leads to some pretty corny line readings by some of the actors, especially Rihanna. Maybe I should lay off her as this is her first movie. The production design of the aliens and their vessels seem very unoriginal. The vessels are basically Transformers as they shift around and contort to fire off the missiles. I appreciated that the aliens were given a very human look, but their body armor looks like a rejected Iron Man design. If you can get passed the cheese ball moments and bad one-liners, I think you can still have a lot of fun with the movie. It’s an action movie, and the explosions are pretty fun to watch. The aliens are pretty ruthless leaving any character, big or small, subject to an early death. Sure the movie could be way better and the filmmakers could have made some riskier and original choices, but the movie provides a mindless break that is sometimes needed in the summer.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5)

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