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, July 31, 2013


Director: David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Renner

Oh, the hair! The costume design! I already love the look and tone of this 1970s con artist story. Russell’s previous film Silver Linings Playbook was one of my favorite films of 2012. The film’s leads are all veterans of working with David O. Russell and Bale and Lawrence have both won Oscars for their work in The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, respectively. Russell was interviewed on “Good Morning America” and was excited by the fact that his actors are playing all new characters that they have never had a chance to play before. With the Christmas release, it is bound to be another Oscar contender in numerous categories. The film is a fictional story based on the sting operation known as “Abscam”.

Here is the official press synopsis:

“A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell’s previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.”

What are your first impressions?

Release Date: December 25, 2013

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Review: PACIFIC RIM

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Idris Elba, Charlie Day, Robert Kazinski, Ron Perlman

So let me guess this straight. The visionary director of Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy, and The Devil's Backbone is going to make this huge action/sci-fi picture that is basically Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots vs. Godzilla? Yes. That is correct. Let's back up a little. The voice-over expedition at the beginning of the movie fills us in on how the world is being destroyed by the Kaijus, a massive Godzilla like creature that attacks everything in sight that are unleashed from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean floor. In an attempt to combat and destroy these beasts, the outlining countries band together to make Jaegers, ginormous robots that are operated by two soldiers. The two soldiers must have a special relationship as they must get into each other’s minds in order to control each half of the robot. Raleigh (Hunnam) and his brother Yancy were soldiers together until a Kaiju struck down their Jaeger. Raleigh retired from the program after Yancy perished in the attack.

Years pass but the Kaijus are gaining strength and momentum again. Commander Stacker Pentecost (Elba) convinces Raleigh to reenlist in the program. He must be "their only hope" or something. Raleigh knows you need to have a certain connection to your co-pilot so he is particular about who he is paired up with to board a Jaeger. After some training lessons, he feels a connection to Mako Mori (Kikucki) who is one of the directors of the program. Stacker dismisses the idea of Mako piloting a Jaeger and risking her life due to their past and the fact that Stacker is a father figure to her. Scientist Dr. Newton Geiszler (Day) is brought in to study the dead Kaijus. He discovers a way to connect with them which opens up a whole new theory about the species.

Director Guillermo del Toro set out to make a larger than life movie. With such a huge undertaking, the film is too big and too ambitious for its own good. There is so much to take in but the quality of the substance is quite lacking throughout. As soon as the movie started with exposition through narration I was perturbed. If you read my review of Oblivion, you know that I strongly dislike that writing device. I do not want gobs and gobs of exposition told through a voice-over. To state it frankly, the writing is awful. The script is so full of cheesy lines and stereotypical characters; it was immensely laughable and eye-rolling. Was that the point? Was del Toro purposefully trying to make a parody of every other apocalyptic type movie? Idris Elba is a strong enough actor to keep the cheese factor sustained, but every line did come out as the most serious thing he was going to say. He did play the stoic commander character after all. Unfortunately, Charlie Hunnam suffered the most with the bad dialogue. Charlie Day is funny as Dr. Geiszler but can border on annoying at times. I do like the casting choices of some of the supporting characters. The characters are stereotypical, but del Toro picks not-so-obvious choices for them. Day brought a youthful hipster vibe to his scientist. With a name like Hannibal Chau, the Kaiju organ smuggler, you may not picture Ron Perlman in the part. Perlman frequently collaborates with del Toro so it is a smart casting choice to make Hannibal Chau a bit different than you would expect him to be. My problem with Chau is that his whole subplot feels completely pointless. Perlman is great in the part, but it is an odd story that is already an off shoot of the scientist storyline. It just drags down the rest of the film.

The action films this summer seem to have a pattern. The fight sequences seem to last forever and are repeated over and over again without anything new happening in each one. You end up feeling like you are watching the same battle scene over and over again. Man of Steel was a big offender of this. The Kaijus can clone themselves so just because a Jaeger can take one down does not mean the battle is over. Another problem belongs to the cinematography. Another common trend (see World War Z) is having the camera so close up on these battles and moving around so fast that you cannot make out what is happening. I get that it makes you feel like you are in the middle of the action right there with our characters, but I actually want to see what is going on. You may also notice that it continually seems to be raining and dark out which causes more obstacles in fully taking in the scope of the destruction. Maybe I’m getting too picky.

It may sound like I really hated the movie, but that is a pretty harsh statement. I will say that the special effects are top-notch. The sheer size and proportions of the Kaijus and Jaegers are breathtaking set against the rest of the characters and landscape. It is stunning to see them set against landmarks we know like the Sydney Opera House. Del Toro is known to be a very visual director, and it is clearly evident with the design and look of the Kaijus and Jaegers. The film is dedicated to late greats Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda. You can clearly see the influence these creature creators had on del Toro on the vision he created. The film will definitely resonate with certain audience members. Children and old fans of the creature feature genre films will love it. If that is what del Toro was going for, than he succeeded. I had a higher bar set knowing it was coming from him. I expect more out of one of his movies and feel a little cheapened knowing it felt like something Michael Bay wished he would have done. I will note that Pacific Rim is leagues better than Transformers. I saw the film in 2D but it is also shown in 3D and IMAX. There is so much going on in certain sequences that it can be hard to take it all in. I can’t imagine seeing it on a bigger screen or shown even darker with the 3D projection. At the end of the day, a movie can look really good on the outside but I still want there to be some substance beneath it. Am I asking for too much to have interesting characters, a plotline, and better dialogue?

RATING: ** (2 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Movie Rewind: MODERN TIMES (1936)

Writer/Director: Charlie Chaplin
Starring: Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Tiny Sandford

One of my goals for the blog for 2013 was to go back to the classics and expand my film history knowledge. It is very easy for me to get caught up in the latest new releases opening at my local multiplex or whatever is new on Netflix. This causes me to ignore and neglect all of the films that have beaten the odds and have stayed relevant for so many years after their initial release. It is imperative for any movie lover to go back to the films that have permanently left their mark on society and the film industry. The latest classic I took down from my movie library was Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. I bought it as part of the Criterion Collection sale at Barnes & Noble and recently sat down to watch it.

“Modern Times.” A story of industry, of individual enterprise—humanity crusading in the pursuit of happiness.

Crowds of men are leaving the subway and heading into work like any ordinary day. The head supervisor of the factory is lazily doing his puzzle and reading the paper while his employees work hard in another room. He commands for “more speed” via a huge screen above the work room. Chaplin, one of the workers, is working as fast as he can in his assembly line. He attempts to take a quick break in the bathroom, but the supervisor catches him and orders him back to work. Chaplin’s supervisor is all about speed and more labor. An experimental feeding machine is tried out on Chaplin’s Little Tramp character. The intent is that it will automatically feed the workers as they are working. Needless to say for Chaplin, it is disastrous.

By the middle of the afternoon, Chaplin suffers a nervous breakdown and starts horsing around, playing with all of the controls, and squirting people with oil cans. He gets taken to a hospital and on the day he is released, he gets himself caught up in a labor strike and gets arrested as the police think he is the leader. Meanwhile, a beautiful woman referred to as the gamine (Goddard) and her sisters have become orphans after their father dies. She runs away from the authorities before she becomes property of the state. After a few chance encounters, Chaplin and the gamine fall smitten with each other. Do not think that the antics and shenanigans will stop now that they are a couple.

The gags never end for Chaplin. He is a comedic master by filling every scene with hysterical gems relying on his contorted face and limber body. An encounter with white “nose powder” in jail puts Chaplin in quite a state. Even his growling and upset stomach gets the best of him. This film marks the last time Chaplin used his Little Tramp character. He originally was going to make the movie into his first talkie. He wrote a whole screenplay for it but opted to make it a silent picture instead. He could not justify making a talkie with the history of the Little Tramp character. He sporadically uses sound throughout the film by having it come from very intentional sources.

Chaplin makes Modern Times more than just a silly silent comedy. It is easy to laugh at his never-ending physical gags and flawless timing, but at the same time, he is making a strong commentary on his views toward the shift from the Great Depression to a capitalist technology based world. You see instances of this at his time at the factory between the way his supervisor acts and the endless ways they try to aim for more speed and slave labor practices. The Little Tramp continues to fight for the American dream despite the shift in focus in these changing times.

Part of that American dream is the love story between Little Tramp and the gamine. Having never seen the film before, I was not expecting the love story between the two characters. I was pleasantly surprised and found it quite sweet how they continued to be there for each other no matter what other forces and problems arose. The love story is made even more charming with the Chaplin penned song “Smile” that can be heard throughout the movie. Chaplin composed the instrumental theme specifically for the movie. You will not here the infamous lyrics as they were actually written nearly twenty years later based off some of the lines in the dialogue cards.

The American Film Institute (AFI) has praised the film’s undeniable legacy by placing it in a couple of their “100 Year…100___” lists. The film ranked #33 in the 100 Laughs list and ranked #81 in the 100 Movies list in 1998. For the 10th Anniversary Edition, it moved up to #78 in the 100 Movies list. I can completely understand and support these listings after watching the film. Again, I ask myself “Why did I wait so long to watch this?” The film buff in me wants to go out and buy the other Chaplin films that are available and delve into those. The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, and Monsieur Verdoux are also available through the superior Criterion Collection. My wallet would feel quite a difference after those purchases. There are too many young people these days that have no appreciation for the comedic geniuses that came with the silent film era. I challenge today’s audience to watch one of Chaplin’s films and not come out with a new found understanding of this style of comedy that directly attributed to the comedies of today.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, Joey King

If you are familiar with the Amityville Horror case in Long Island, the names Ed and Lorraine Warren may ring a bell. Ed (Wilson) was a noted author and demonologist and his wife, Lorraine (Farmiga) is a clairvoyant and medium. The Amityville case was just one of thousands of cases they investigated involving spirits, possessions, and hauntings. The Conjuring focuses on the Warren’s work and one particular case that occurred in Harrisville, Rhode Island.

At this point in the career, the Warrens are still very active in their cases but they are also teaching seminars about their past work at universities to fascinated college students. While some of their cases are truly out of the ordinary, they can easily debunk a majority of claims by pointing out old water pipes or warped wood in an attack. Carolyn Perron (Taylor) sits in on one of their seminars and is intrigued and knows they are the only ones that can help her family.

Roger (Livingston), Carolyn, and their five daughters moved into an old home in Harrisville looking for a new beginning and fresh start to their lives. I feel like these types of stories all start like that. Carolyn begs of their help and the Warrens agree to stop by their home. Ever since they have moved in strange occurrences keep happening throughout their house and property. The clocks all stop at 3:07, there is a smell of rotting meat that lingers, the temperature often gets quite cold, birds frequently fly into the house and die, and bruises keep appearing on Carolyn’s body for no explainable reason. One of their daughters sees an imaginary young boy named Rory. The moment Ed and Lorraine arrive at the Perron home, Lorraine immediately feels the presence of a dark spirit that lingers on attaching itself to various members of the Perron family. I am going to stop right there in regards to any more plot details. I would hate to divulge any spoilers or secrets that could lessen the scare factor.

The film is set in 1971 and it feels like director James Wan set out to make the film have the same tone and aura of those horror movies from that era. While there are some spooky moments and jumps earlier on in the movie, it has that slow burn effect as it leads up to the insane ending where the shit hits the fan. It is imperative to have the audience gets to learn about and have a connection to these characters so we have an emotional reaction to what happens to both the Warrens and the Perron Family. Farmiga, Wilson, Livingston, and Taylor are exceptional at bringing the beliefs and fears of these people to life. I think that any good horror film should have a haunting score behind it. Adding to this throwback feel is the score by Joseph Bishara and Mark Isham which is reminiscent of the music heard in the horror films of that era. It elevates the suspense and tension making every jump all the more frightening.

James Wan is a growing into a fine director of the horror genre. The "torture porn" of Saw does not really interest me, but Wan's Insidious is one of the best horror movies of the past five years. If a movie is going to scare me, it needs to be based in some sort of truth or possible reality. I find demonic possession and cases of haunted houses and lingering spirits fascinating. The Conjuring is right up my alley in the kind of horror film that really grabs hold of me. Knowing that it is based on a true story makes the film even more terrifying to me. Regardless of what details in the story are accurate or made up for dramatic purposes, I found the film quite fascinating. The real Lorraine Warren was interviewed many times for research into the story and Wilson and Farmiga spent time with her for preparation. The movie also includes pictures of the Warrens and Perron family over the final credits. I always love when movies based on true stories share photographs, news clippings, and updates from the real case.

I love scary movies. Always have and always will. I think that through all of my years of watching scary movies, I have become somewhat desensitized and a little less likely to jump or scream in a movie. No nightmares for me if I stay up late watching one. The trailers for The Conjuring appealed to me right away and I knew it could be a film that would cause me to jump. I was right as there were a few scenes that got a physical and vocal reaction out of me. The rest of the moviegoers in the theater seemed to be even more spooked than I happed to be. If you feel like the horror genre has been ho-hum lately, rest assured as The Conjuring is one of the best horror films that has come across the screen in the last decade.

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

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Thursday, July 18, 2013


Director: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, John Krasinski, Aubrey Plaza, John Ratzenberger

Pixar seems to be cranking out the sequels to their hits these days. I am relieved to say that Monsters University is no Cars 2. Truth be told, I have never seen Cars 2, but I heard disappointing things. Monsters University is their venture into prequel territory. A young Mike Wazowski is touring Monsters Inc. on a school trip and is beyond excited to one day become a scarer. One of the workers (Krasinski) leaves a lasting impression on him and tosses him his Monsters University baseball hat. Years pass and the book smart Mike (Crystal) has never lost sight of attending Monsters University. His first day arrives and he is ready to go. He meets his new roommate Randall (Buscemi) and he thinks they will be best friends.

Mike comes to his first class, gets a spot in the front row, and has all of his books in hand. Showing up late is Jimmy Sullivan (Goodman), the big blue fuzzy monster. He is a legacy to this school as his family all went to Monsters University and they have a reputation of being some of the best scarers to have come out of the school. The class also provides their first encounter with Dean Hardscrabble (Mirren) who is the head of the Scare program. She is not a force to be reckoned with and she warns them all that whoever does not pass the final exam will be kicked out of the program. She puts up with no funny business and eventually kicks Mike and Sully out of the program for their behavior. Mike is crushed as this was his dream in life, and Sully gets kicked out of his fraternity. Bound and determined to get back into the program, they form a fraternity of other scrappy scarers and compete in The Scare Games. Hardscrabble has no faith in them winning and places bets on their placement in the games. If their frat wins, they will be re-entered into the program. If they lose, Mike is forced to leave Monsters University for good.

One of the many reasons why Pixar films are so appealing is that they cater to audiences of various ages. There is something that adults and children can get out of them. Upon initial thought the idea of college classes and fraternities seems like quite a mature topic for a movie catered towards a younger audience. I suppose that is their approach to appealing to the older audience base. Pixar succeeded with this moviegoer as I know exactly how Mike feels. He thinks that he can become a good scarer by reading all the books and studying all of the various kinds of fears and phobias children have. Unfortunately, Mike is never taken seriously as a scarer due to his small stature and likable presence. Sully, on the other hand, relies on his God-given abilities and talents to get him by in the program. Why should he bother to study? He would rather party it up with his frat brothers. I was Mike in college. I was bound and determined to keep my head in the books and study like crazy. I would get so mad when I saw friends breeze right through their coursework or seem at the top of their game when they were always drinking the night away or skipping class. Don’t worry, I grew out of that phase as the years passed.

There have been Pixar movies in the past (Up and Toy Story 3) that have just connected with my inner soul and touched an emotional side of me that most movies cannot do. I was sobbing like crazy with those films. Unfortunately, I feel like Pixar has set the bar so high for themselves that it can be hard for them to continually reach that level. While Monsters University is a great movie, the story and themes are pretty safe territory. There are no human characters in the movie either which could cause a bit of a disconnect for some audience members. I admit I am holding Pixar at a pretty high standard that may seem unrealistic.

It has been twelve years since Monsters Inc., and it is delightful to have Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi back as Mike, Sully, and Randall. They each have such distinct voices, but they all use them so well as these three roles. Helen Mirren is new to the cast, and she is quite perfect in her delivery as the slithery, sharp-as-nails Dean Hardscrabble. John Ratzenberger is a staple to any Pixar film as he has provided a voice in every one of their films. If you are a “Cheers” fan, you will get a kick out of him this time around as his character, the Yeti, works in the mailroom at Monsters Inc. and is a nod to his “Cheers” character Cliff Clavin. The film is cute, funny, and charming and like any Pixar film teaches some good moral lessons along the way. It will appeal to any kid that goes and sees it. They will undoubtedly think about what monsters may be lurking in their bedroom and imagine the cute life they lead. I just wish the creative team would not have played it so safe with the idea and concept behind this prequel.

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

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: WORLD WAR Z

Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, David Morse, Sterling Jerins, Abigail Hargrove

Who would have thought that a morning filled with pancakes and family time would end up as a day of disaster and catastrophic fear? Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former United Nations employee stuck in heavy Philadelphia traffic with his wife Karin (Enos) and their two daughters (Jerins and Hargrove). They listen in on the radio as a rabies outbreak is being broadcast throughout the city. It is not long before the citizens go into a chaotic state. Many people are seen running the hell away from something. Gerry wastes no time by trying to get his family away from the apparent zombies that are taking over the city. They are fast and ferocious as they attack and infect the masses. If a person is infected, they will turn into a zombie within twelve seconds.

The Lanes make their way to Newark in a desperate attempt to escape this outbreak. Unfortunately, the zombie takeover is reaching a pandemic level. The Lanes make their way to a supermarket to gather supplies and asthma medicine for their daughter. Gerry is in communication with friend and former colleague Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) who leads them to safety on a US Navy vessel which is housing other government employees and their families. Gerry is asked to lead an investigation team to find a vaccine for this zombie virus that has swept across the nation. He refuses to leave his family but is blackmailed into the job as they threaten to kick his family off the vessel if he does not assist in finding this vaccine. Gerry and the crew head to South Korea, Jerusalem, and Nova Scotia in their attempt to learn more about what is causing the spread of the zombie infection and what cures may be available to control it.

Rumors have been spreading about World War Z for months now. The film was way over budget; there have been numerous rewrites with various screenwriters, reshoots with various cinematographers, etc… There is a certain aura that comes with films of this magnitude having a troubled production. As one of the main producers and its star, Brad Pitt had a lot lying on how the final product would be received. The film lists three screenwriters. The majority of it was written by Matthew Michael Carnahan and then Drew Goddard and Damon Lindelof were hired in post-production to rewrite the film’s third act. I wish more attention would have been paid toward character development. Pitt is good in the film but is not given much to play around with. Mireille Enos (TV's "The Killing") spends the majority of the time seen on the phone checking in with Pitt thoughout his mission. The action sequences are intense to say the least. There is so much happening in those moments that the camera is often frantic and whizzing around faster than I can handle. I lose a little bit of interest in those scenes when I cannot see what the camera is focused on. Whenever the audience sees an individual zombie, they look great but the CGI zombie masses are all far too phony looking.

Sure the film has its faults, but I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised at how engaging and thrilling this whole roller coaster ride turned out to be. Within the first ten minutes, the audience is catapulted into an edge-of-your-seat thriller that never lets up. Composer Marco Beltrami and British band Muse have created some pulsating music throughout. The beginning piece by Muse has a “Tubular Bells” feel to it that really sets the ground running. The movie is more than just some zombie romp. Based on the book by Max Brooks, he uses zombies as a pandemic threat asking many questions of what would happen to the world and society if there was a global threat that is more advanced than the humans are. I have not read the book, but apparently the film is quite different and only encompasses a portion of the book. I do not want to give too much away, but the ending is left open for a continuation of the story. Sign me up for Part 2 as I will be there!

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

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Joey King, James Wood, Richard Jenkins, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke

Sometimes a mindless silly popcorn action flick is just what you need after a long week. John Cale (Tatum) is hoping to gain a position as part of the US Secret Service. His relationship with his daughter Emily (King) is strained as she lives with her mother. She is book smart, good with technology, and is fascinated with President Sawyer (Foxx) and everything else White House related. John takes Emily with to the White House in order to gain some cool dad points with her.

John's interview with Secret Service Special Agent Carol Finnerty (Gyllenhaal) does not go as well as he was hoping for. They are former college acquaintances and she does not think he has the motivation and hard work ethic for the job. John can't bear to tell Emily the bad news, so they decide to go on a White House tour. A bomb explodes at the U.S. Capitol building and the White House is put on lock down. John and Emily ended up getting separately and now she's left alone in the bathroom while he is with the group. Posing as a repair service, a group of men led by Emil Stenz (Clarke), take the tour group hostage and start killing off members of the cabinet in order to get to the President. John escapes the tour group in attempt to find his daughter. At different times, both John and Emily have first hand encounters with the terrorists. Emily is able to record their actions on her phone and posts them on her blog. The video goes viral instantly and the faces of the terrorists are broadcast all over the news. Even though John is able to rescue the President from the leader of the terrorist group, their escape reaches quite a few road blocks as they realize the terrorist group is far more advanced than they realized at first.

When you go into a Roland Emmerich film, you should probably already know the quality you are getting yourself into when you buy your ticket. It is time to leave your brain at the door and grab a bucket of popcorn. You will be in for a massive action movie that will most likely have cheesy dialogue, implausible situations, massive explosions and some destruction of national monuments. What else would you expect from the filmmaker of Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012?

White House Down has all of that and knows it. I think Emmerich knows what kind of film he is making and makes the most out of it. The story goes to the extremes and is quite laughable at times due to how much these terrorists get away with. The number of explosions and times Channing Tatum dashes across a room of flying bullets is insane, but that is part of the fun. His guns never seem to run out of bullets either. The dialogue is always so serious that it deserves a couple of good laughs. It also helps if you bypass the fact that the casting of Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx is a little unconventional here. While they have both done action movies before, I would not say that this genre is their forte. Tatum seems a bit too young to play the dad to Joey King's character. Foxx also seems a bit too young and hip to play the President. Toward the beginning of the film and before the shit starts to hit the fan, he seems to be trying to pull of his Obama impression a little too much. In all reality, who really cares. The action kicks off into full gear early on and never lets up until the end. In order to like this movie, you have to go in looking to have a fun time and forget about three dimensional characters, a unique plot, logic, reason, and Academy worthy acting. Did I mention Channing Tatum spends good quality time running around in a muscle shirt?

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

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Movie Review: THE HEAT

Director: Paul Feig
Starring: Sandra Bulluck, Melissa McCarthey, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, Jane Curtin, Michael McDonald, Michael Rapaport

Sandra Bullock as an FBI agent. Sound familiar? No, this is not Miss Congeniality 3 although it might have been fun to have Melissa McCarthy join that franchise. Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is your typical by the book, straight laced FBI agent. She knows all the proper hand gestures, codes, and procedures. Despite being pretty straight laced, she is one of the best in the field and has a keen sense to think like a criminal knowing where any possible guns or drugs may be stashed at any given time. She is assigned a drug cartel case in Boston and proceeds in her duties like any other case that has come before. Her work on the case could lead to a big promotion she is after.

Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) is about as opposite in her tactics as you can get from Ashburn. She is a local officer in the precinct Ashburn has been assigned. Mullins is loud, brash, no-nonsense, violent, and threatening in her approach to getting what she needs from her perpetrators. Mullins is determined to stay on the case despite the fact Ashburn is brought in to work it. At first, their styles do not mix well in any regard. The first interrogation goes horribly wrong when Ashburn wants to have a firm sit down approach and Mullins would rather threaten them and roughen them up a bit. The further along they work on the case, the better they learn from each other and appreciate what they bring to their job and society. Things get a bit complicated for the two of them as Mullins' brother (Rapaport) is connected to the drug lords they are going after.

The film works solely because of the two stars. There are other great actors here in supporting roles, but they do not have much to work with as the film is all about Bullock and McCarthy. Bullock is the Felix Ungar to McCarthy’s Oscar Madison if you are familiar with The Odd Couple. Their chemistry together is undeniable and director Paul Feig knows how to keep the comedic jabs and physical bits controlled so it does not fall into obnoxious and drawn out territory. McCarthy is perfect at the deadpan delivery of insult jabs headed toward Bullock’s character or any other character in the film. It is clearly evident how much fun they had working on the movie.

Bullock and McCarthy are two of the best comedic actresses out there. While a female buddy cop movie sounds like the perfect pitch idea for them, I just wish this script would have been better. Maybe I should say plot over script. The script is wickedly funny at times giving plenty of gags and material to showcase both Bullock and McCarthy. The plot is simple, boring, and predictable. You have seen these types of twists and snags before in comedic cop movies. I have seen them both of these actresses in better movies, but I have also seen them both in really bad movies. Here's hoping they do another movie together that gets to showcase their comedic sides, their abilities as actresses, but without it coming from such a contrived and obvious story.

RATING: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Movie Review: THE WAY WAY BACK

Writers/Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Allison Janney

I know I would be pissed if someone rated me a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. That is how fourteen-year-old Duncan (James) is rated by his mom, Pam's (Collette), new boyfriend, Trent (Carell). This depressing discussion is the start of Duncan’s summer vacation as he forced to spend the summer at Trent’s beach house. Trent’s blunt and smug personality does not mesh well with someone like Duncan who is introverted and quiet and tends to keep his feelings bottled up. Even though he is with his mom and sister, Duncan feels trapped as he would rather spend the summer with his father. What he does not realize is that his father has practically abandoned him.

Their arrival at the beach house is greeted by neighbor Betty (Janney) who is loud, brash, and practically three sheets to the wind at any given moment. Is a cocktail ever not in her hands? Being the prick that he is, Trent seems to boss Duncan around but at the same time does not really care about having private family time. Pam forces family time with a game of Candyland only for it to turn south when Trent is far too rigid with the rules. She struggles with trying to make her relationship with Trent work out while watching the affects it has on Duncan. He finds it far more important to be engaged with Joan (Peet) and Kip (Corddry), another couple with a beach house nearby.

Duncan finds solace and friendships along the way to combat the attitude and behavior Trent gives him. Owen (Rockwell) is the “cool” guy with a fun car who has not really matured. Susanna (Robb) is the cute girl next door who is actually nice and approachable after their first awkward meeting. Duncan escapes the dreaded beach house each day by biking to Water Wizz Water Park. At first it was just a place to get away, but his new pal Owen hires him to do basic pool duties and cleanup. Owen, his manager/girlfriend Caitlyn (Rudolph), and the rest of the Water Wizz employees make him feel at home and welcome all of his quirks and oddities. His daily trips are kept a secret from his family. Why bother telling people and potentially ruin the one good thing he has going for him. The co-writers and directors of the film, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, have supporting roles as water park employees.

The Way Way Back is another example of those touching and inspiring dramedies like Little Miss Sunshine and Juno that make you feel all good inside after you watch it. The screenplay by Faxon and Rash, who also co-wrote The Descendants, has a good mix of really funny moments (any scene with the always fabulous Allison Janney) against the constant tension with the Carell character and the inner turmoil Duncan feels. Even though these characters may not seem all that original, they have lined up an excellent ensemble of actors that make them believable as people you can feel a connection to from your own life. Carell and Rockwell play outside their typically range. I sometimes have a thin line for Carell especially when it borders on over-the-top comedic antics. He is fantastic and perfectly scuzzy in this role. I applaud him for taking on such a prickly bastard. Rockwell makes his character out to be more than just some beach bum who never grew up. He has heart and well-being and really cares for Duncan.

Any movie that can bring me back to my childhood in some way or another wins a place in my heart. I remember being that awkward teen that was grumpy about going up to the cabin as it got in the way of spending the summer with my friends. I now relish in those weekends that involve cabin getaways. I did not have a water park, but I had the video store where I spent my days getting paid to watch movies and restock the shelves. This is one of the better films I have seen all year. It has that classic summer movie feel that has heart, meaning, and funny characters without feeling too dopey or quirky for its own good.

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

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Movie Review: THIS IS THE END

Writers/Directors: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, Emma Watson, Michael Cera

Who would have ever thought that the end of the world would be this funny? If more end of days/apocalypse type movies were made in this style they would be far more successful. Seth Rogen is picking up his buddy Jay Baruchel from the airport so he can spend the weekend in LA. Apparently, Jay hates the LA lifestyle and refuses to stay there. Yes, all of the actors are playing fictitious or exaggerated versions of themselves. They spend the afternoon gorging on Carl Jr., smoking dope, and playing video games. That evening they go to a big housewarming party thrown by James Franco. Jay is leery about going, but he tags along anyways to be with Seth. Jay thinks Jonah Hill hates him, which is far from the truth after a warm encounter when they get to the party. All of their friends including: Jason Segel, Mindy Kaling, David Krumholz, Aziz Ansari, Rihanna, and Michael Cera are at this party.

After reaching his breaking point, Jay gets Seth to go with him to the convenience store to buy a pack of smokes. A huge explosion rips open the store and various customers are sucked into the air through a blue orb. They manage to escape and run like hell back to James Franco's party. The rest of LA starts to burst into flames and massive sink holes start opening up leading to the deaths of many of our celeb party guests. The lone survivors of this so-called earthquake/apocalypse are: Jay, Seth, James, Jonah, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride, and Emma Watson. Their survival skills and friendship are put to the test as they wait out what is happening outside.

Sometimes when movies start crossing genres, the tone and balance can get out of sync. Movies like Tropic Thunder turn into an action film and the comedy gets left behind. Here, the comedy stays quite present and at the fore front despite the final third of the film turning into a CGI demon/zombie fest. It has the comedy/horror down correctly like Shaun of the Dead did a few years back. I don't want to give too much away, but the script is not all dick jokes and pot smoking. I was pleasantly surprised that Rogen and Goldberg delve into such interesting topics like mortality, how to get into heaven, what heaven is like, etc...Sure, it is done with a more comedic tone than a straight philosophical approach, but I am glad they went for it.

Have I mentioned how funny this movie is? It is literally the funniest movie I have seen all year. The humor is crude, crass, vulgar, and self-deprecating on these actors. What else do you expect from this team? I think it was smart of Rogen and Goldberg to have the actors play themselves. Much of the humor comes from the exaggerated or fictitious versions of themselves and seeing how far they are willing to push the boundaries of their own images. It also helps if you know each of these actors and their careers as they are constantly referencing past films or performances they've given. James Franco keeps hoards of old props in his basement. Jonah Hill has a dramatic voice now that he's an Oscar nominee. Seth Rogen has sold out. These are just a few of the jabs that are thrown toward each other. Michael Cera went so far as to give people the impression he is an ass-grabbing coke fiend. Where the truth lies is probably somewhere in the middle regarding how much of these "characters" are based on their real-life counterparts. You can tell that some of the movie is ad-libbed as the actors will just go off on these riffs and jabs at each other that are some of the best moments in the film. Like many movies that come from these guys, it does feel a bit long at times. At least the humor is consistent throughout.

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

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013



I alway like to keep a running tally of all of the new movies I have taken in over the year. Whether they are the new 2013 releases, movies from the last few years I'm catching up on, or taking advantage of the old classics, I like to see how my movie watching is growing or decreasing and what the 2013 movie year is shaping up to be like. Let's see how this year has panned out so far:

The Sessions
Promised Land
Broken City
Side Effects
Take This Waltz
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Oz, The Great and Powerful
Side By Side
A Separation
Wreck-It Ralph
The Silence
The Prodigal Son
Evil Dead
Days of Heavan
Jurassic Park 3D
Double Indemnity
Room 237
To the Wonder
The Place Beyond the Pines
Iron Man 3
The Paperboy
The Great Gatsby
Star Trek Into Darkness
Now You See Me
All Good Things
End of Watch
Lars and the Real Girl
The Way Way Back
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
Behind the Candelabra
Man of Steel
Beautiful Creatures
Not Fade Away
Identity Thief

That's a total of 45 movies. Only three down from the 48 movies I saw at this point in 2012 Here's the 2012 list. In my opinion, 2013 has been kind of a dud regarding the quality of films released this year. During the springs months, there seemed to be flop after flop opening each weekend, and I just did not feel moved to waste money on a movie that did not look good just for the sake of seeing a new movie. I recently got married and went on a honeymoon, so my theater going was also put on the back burner throughout most of this past year. I turned to Netflix Streaming to catch up on some of the classics or other movies I may have missed in the past years.

Back to the films of 2013. There were some definite standouts, but overall I found myself disappointed in many movies. Evil Dead and Oz, The Great and Powerful should have been great, but I left just appauled about how bad they were. I wanted to love The Great Gatsby, but left disappointed. What's worse, a movie that is bad because it's bad or a movie that is bad when it had the potential to be oh so good?  We still have the rest of the summer blockbuster season and the fall movie calendar looks to have some great selections, so I will be curious to see if 2013 redeems itself.

Best of the 2013 Releases So Far...

The Way Way Back
Side Effects
The Place Beyond the Pines
Star Trek Into Darkness

Worst of the 2013 Releases So Far...

Evil Dead
Oz, The Great and Powerful
**Boo on Sam Raimi for BOTH of these choices

I'd love to hear your thoughts!  What are your picks for best and worst of 2013?
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Monday, July 1, 2013


Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Vince Vaughn, Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig

The Channel 4 news team is back! After nine years, the whole gang is back together and I couldn't be happier! Ron Burgandy is by far my favorite Will Ferrell character. Many times sequels are made to high grossing comedies and they just bomb. They recycle jokes and the script always seems to be rushed. I am glad McKay and Ferrell took their time to make sure they had the right story to make it work. The first film has a huge following so I think they knew they had to get it right to appease the fans.

With the original news team brings a slew of new cast mates including James Marsden, Harrison Ford, and the hilarious Kristen Wiig who seems to be the perfect counterpart to Steve Carell's Brick Tambland. According to IMDB and Wikipedia, there are a slew of cameo appearances from: Sacha Baron Coen, Nicole Kidman, Tina Fey, Jim Carrey, and Liam Neeson.

I'll be there opening weekend, will you?

RELEASE DATE: December 20, 2013

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