Review: Jurassic World

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson

Review: Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon

Review: San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino

Review: Ex Machina

Starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The Pitch is Back!

Friday, August 30, 2013

September 2013 Movie Guide


Vin Diesel, Katee Sackhoff, Karl Urban, Dave Bautista
Why You Should See It: Because Pitch Black was good.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because The Chronicles of Riddick was terrible.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Tentative yes.

Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, Xavier Samuel, Ben Mendelsohn
Why You Should See It: Because Robin Wright and Naomi Watts are strong actresses.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because the older woman in a taboo relationship with a younger man has been done to death recently.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says: Snoooooooze.

Other theatrical releases:  Hell BabyThe Ultimate LifeSalingerWinnie MandelaTouchy Feely

SEPTEMBER 13, 2013 


 Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones, Michelle Pfeifer, Dianna Agron
Why You Should See It: Because it's a solid cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because DeNiro has become a caricature of himself; especially in these mob-related films.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Rental at best.

Starring: Rose Byrne, Patrick Wilson, Barbara Hershey
Why You Should See It: Because director James Wan's last movie (The Conjuring) rocked.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because scary movies keep you up for a week.And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Do it.

Other theatrical releases: And While We Were Here

SEPTEMBER 20, 2013


 Josh Holloway, Chris Brown, Caity Lotz
Why You Should See It: Because you're stranded on an dessert island with only one movie to watch.
Why You Should Avoid It: The premise, the cast, and pretty much everything else associated with it.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Never. Ever.

 Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer
Why You Should See It: Because you're a big fan of Hemsworth in Thor.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because movies about the sport of racing tend to less than thrilling.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Rental…or not.

 Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano
Why You Should See It: Because it features a dynamite cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because the premise and the trailer don't quite live up to that cast.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Yes, just maybe not in the theater.

 Mark Ruffalo, Gwenyth Paltrow, Pink, Josh Gad, Tim Robbins
Why You Should See It: Because the film casts the Hulk and Pepper Potts as sex addicts.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because Ruffalo stinks in RomComs and Paltrow is overrated.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Take a pass.

Other theatrical releases:  Enough SaidA Single Shot

SEPTEMBER 27, 2013 

 Paula Patton, Taye Diggs, Adam Brody, Djimon Hounsou, Christina Millian
Why You Should See It: Because it has a good cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because it is bound to be incredibly predictable.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Eh...

 Anna Faris, Bill Hader, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg
Why You Should See It: Because you have kids that loved the first one.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because you are over the age of twelve.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Don't do it.

 Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Tony Danza, Brie Larson, Julianne Moore
Why You Should See It: Because it's JGL's first feature length directorial effort and it features a loaded cast.
Why You Should Avoid It: Because you don't like racy subject matter.
And the Magic 8 Ball Says:  Must see movie of September.

Other theatrical releases:  Metallica Through the NeverThe Secret Livesof Dorks

Review: R.I.P.D.

I try to avoid Ryan Reynolds' movies.  I have seen him bomb in too many to have any faith in his ability to act.  Once upon a time, he was funny and entertaining, but it seems that as his career has progressed he has regressed.  Green Lantern and The Change-Up are two examples of his cinematic demise that immediately come to mind.  So why then, did I give R.I.PD. a shot given that nothing from the marketing, tracking, and word of mouth suggested that it was worth the one hundred and ten minutes of running time?  Boredom.  And truth be told, the movie did little to cure that ailment. 

At the film’s outset, it did not look like a complete miss.  The narrative starts out well enough painting a picture of the life of Boston Police detective Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a loving husband to his wife Julia –played by the fantastic Stephanie Szostak.  Partnered with fellow detective Hayes (played Mr. Six-Degrees himself, Kevin Bacon), Nick is struggling with the temptation to be a dirt cop, when without warning, he is killed in the line of duty.  Newly deceased, Nick get’s enlisted into the R.I.P.D. – a force of former law enforcement officials charged with sending the undead to judgment.

The most frustrating aspect of this movie is that for those first fifteen minutes, it feels like there is a real story here to tell.  Sure, Reynolds' turns in his usual mediocre performance, but with Bacon in the mix as his partner and Szostak bringing emotional value to the plot, I was interested in seeing how things would play out.  But then the film veered off into the world of the undead and tossed credibility out the window.   Sure, it may be difficult to fully blame director Robert Schwentke and writer Phil Hay as they were working off of the comic made famous by Peter Lenkov but the finished product ultimately proves that the duo were not equipped to pull this off.

Putting the source material aside, Hay’s adaptation is sloppy and his plot develops some gaping holes and Schwentke’s tone and pacing are wildly inconsistent.  Worse still are the special effects, which look like they came straight out of the early 2000’s, thus shattering what shred of credibility the movie manages to maintain.  So to say that this production is more or less a disaster from start to finish would be a very fair assessment. 

Still, no one individual does more damage to the film than Jeff Bridges.  As an actor, Bridges is an interesting case study in that even when he is a bit off with his effort and performance, he remains a threat to steal every scene.  Yet despite this talent and his very impressive resume, Bridges puts to film a performance that is so hammed up and misguided that the sound of his voice becomes grating to the senses.  It’s as if his sole purpose in this film was to be so bad that Ryan Reynolds would come off as the second coming of Dustin Hoffman.  And he almost pulls it off, because Bridges – his look, his accent, his delivery, is just that bad.

As for his partner in crime (or in this case, justice), the aforementioned Reynolds is a carbon copy of every performance he has given over the past five years.  As an actor, he has three facial expressions to convey emotion – one smirk, one glare, and one look of heart ache, and is content to cycle through the three to address whatever the script calls for.  As the deceased detective, he is affable enough and emotive enough to make sure you’re not completely apathetic to his plight, but he’s also not interesting enough to carry this film.  While I am not sure that any other actor could have replaced Reynolds and made this film more palatable, his performances reinforces my belief that the actor is best suited to play supporting roles and nothing more.

As for the supporting cast, I really enjoyed most of their work.  Mary-Louise Parker as Proctor has the repressed authority figure vibe down pat.  She is dry but fun and manages to share a bit of chemistry with Bridges despite his horrendous turn.  That alone deserves a measure of recognition.  And if there is anyone who can be dubbed the heart of this film, it would have to be Stephanie Szostak.  I am a huge fan of her work and found myself impressed with how she is able to play the sympathy card in a production that borders on the ridiculous.  Her presence makes it feel like something real is at stake amidst the cartoonish action.  And as for Kevin Bacon, he starts off well enough – straddling the line that is moral ambiguity, but to say that his performance unravels in the third act is a gross understatement. 

In discussing the cast, I would be remised if I did not mention Marisa Miller and James Hong.  Every minute they were onscreen proved to be my favorite parts of the movie.  The easy assumption would be that it’s because Miller is so incredibly easy on the eyes.   And while that might be part of the equation, the other half of that formula is the incredible sight gag that the two represent.  Much credit has to go to veteran actor James Hong, who shows his experience by flexing his comedic tics at just the right moments. 

There really is nothing more to say about R.I.P.D. other than that it’s just not good.  Bad writing and directing, poor special effects, and pockets of bad acting really sums it up.  Is there anyone type of movie fan out there in the world that I could confidently say would like this film?  No.  Are there any circumstances in which this film could be viewed as a good value play?  Probably not.  This one feels like it’s proper place in the world is at the bottom of the Wal-Mart $3.99 DVD bin and nothing more.  Stay away from it and hope that no one you care about ever makes the same mistake I made.

Standout Performance:  Marisa Miller and James Hong. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Now You See Me

The last movie that I saw featuring a magician as the protagonist was The Incredible Burt Wonderstone; a comedy that wasn’t funny and wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  Now You See Me is a whole lot better.  It’s not an apples to apples to comparison because while the former set up as a schlocky joke fest, the latter is a caper film wrapped up in deception and misdirection.  Still, Now You See Me is a fun fast-paced film that combines deception and good comedic relief with grand chase scenes to ensure that the tone of the rapidly paced film remains light. 

The plot of this movies features a strong ensemble cast in Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco portraying a quartet of magicians who have been brought together to perform the ultimate set of illusions; illusions that seemingly involve the robbery of institutions.  Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent portray two agent charged with bringing the quartet to justice.  Along the way, they repeated find themselves butting heads with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) – a former magician who makes a living revealing the secrets of his peers.

As you can see from the synopsis, there is a lot going on in this movie; a series of threads that comprise this narrative.  A lot of credit has to go to director Louis Leterrier for bringing these threads together in a way to tell a comprehensive story.  At no point does the movie feel like it’s gone askew or sacrificed pacing to flesh out one of these plot lines, so kudos to him for maintaining that balance.  Likewise, a lot of credit has to go to writer Ed Solomon (writer and inspiration for Chuck DeNomoles from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey) for crafting a fun narrative.  I have no doubt that upon closer inspection, the plot has many holes, but like a magician Solomon’s script utilizes some slight of hand and misdirection to entertain.

Ultimately, the biggest strength of this movie though has to be the ensemble cast.  It’s a group of actors who for the most part are very accomplished and are clearly having fun with what the source material.  Here is how each fared:

Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas is the defacto lead of the film, though it never truly feels that way.  Eisenberg sticks to his usual twitchy performance with staccato delivery but it works as a control-freak-of-a-magician.  Say what you want about his range, but Eisenberg has the smug, holier-than-thou act down to a science and that lends a serious layer of credibility to his character.  What makes his performance pop is the complimentary work of Woody Harrelson as mentalist Merrit McKinny.  Harrelson is flip, sarcastic, and sleezey – the comic relief to Eisenberg’s OCD vibe.  Harrelson always shines in this capacity, as the wildcard supporting player, and his work here is no exception.

Rounding out the criminal quartet are Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.  I like Fisher a lot as an actress, but liked her a bit less in this film.  Of the entire cast, her turn was the least believable.  It doesn’t mean that she was terrible as she did share strong chemistry with Eisenberg and Harrelson, but there are distinct points in the movie where her scenes fewl lacking.  As for Franco, he is satisfactory and nothing more.  He’s looks and feels like a junior version of his brother and I suspect that his casting was more a stunt to broaden the target audience than anything else.

As for the cops’ side of the equations, I really enjoyed the performance of Melanie Laurent.  She is tasked with the most difficult role; that of an Interpol agent who is a believer in magic and mystic myth.  It’s not an easy line to toe for a movie that attempts steep itself in realism, but she does it with a nice touch.  It helps that she shares good chemistry with Mark Ruffalo as FBI agent Dlyan Rhodes.  While it wasn’t one of my favorite Ruffalo performances, he does a good job of pulling off the embattled agent vibe.  He is grizzled, angry, and obsessed, which is precisely what the script calls for.  While his work falls apart a bit for me at the end, Ruffalo does enough good in this movie to keep the proverbial line moving.

As for the rest of the cast, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman could go back and forth reading entries from WebMD and make it entertaining without breaking a sweat and that’s what it feels like they are doing in this film.  Are they giving it their all?  Probably not.  But are they entertaining?  Yes.  Also lending a hand in the narrative are Common and Michael Kelly as FBI Agents.  Their respective performances certainly won’t make their highlight reels, but in very limited screen time they do a nice job of making the film that much better.

Despite all the platitudes, I don’t think it is a perfect film, and I’m sure that people with too much time on their hands could probably go in and pick at some plot holes and logic leaps.  Still, the film is fast, fun, and entertaining.  That’s a good trifecta of qualities for any movie to have.  I would not run out and purchase the DVD because it will not hold up for multiple viewings, but I would definitely recommend this as a rental.  Not every film has to change your life, tell an epic story based on historical events, or set up a franchise.  Some can just provide you with amusement for two hours of your life and Now You See Me is precisely that kind of movie.

Standout Performance:  Woody Harrelson.  Good actor with great comedic timing and it shows well in this movie.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Kick-Ass 2

The original Kick-Ass was a fun, sharp, self-aware play on the superhero genre punctuated by humor, sarcasm, and over-the-top violence.  While the movie was not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, it was an anthem of sorts to anyone who has ever read a comic book, watched a Saturday morning cartoon, or plunked down cash at the cinema to witness caped vigilantes save the day.  Ultimately, because of its cult following (and of course its success in the home entertainment market), Universal decided to move forward with a sequel.  The result of this decision is a movie that hardly resembles (in look and feel) its predecessor, despite the fact that nearly every surviving character from the first movie reprises their respective role.

The plot of Kick-Ass 2 finds Kick-Ass ad Hit Girl moving forward with their leaves after the events of the first film and each is coping with the fallout in different ways.  With the increasing emergence of citizens taking up the role of costumed vigilantes, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Dave feels compelled to once again put on his Kick-Ass costume and join a league dedicated to preserving justice, while Chlore Grace Moretz’s Mindy is convinced by her stepfather to leave behind that life.  Still thirsting for revenge, Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Chris D'Amico assembles a squad of super villains to hunt down and destroy Kick-Ass and his cohorts, thus setting up the ultimate faceoff between the two.

The first and foremost reason why this film fails is that unlike its predecessor, this film is not so much a self-aware tongue-in-cheek look at the superhero genre, but more a straight forward narrative.  Perhaps there is nothing left in the genre to be prodded or perhaps writer/director Jeff Wadlow’s script just isn’t as insightful, but the fact of the matter is that Kick-Ass would not have worked as a nuts-and-bolts credible narrative and neither does this one.  The plot is just too farcical and nonsensical to be played straight and needless to say that the absence of Matthew Vaughn behind the camera is glaring.

Another problem with Kick-Ass 2 is that it feels as though the film loses its way very early on in the plot.  Another strength of its predecessor is that even though it was set in New York City, there was a small intimate feeling to the story.  Everything felt very contained in a specific time and space and that kept the narrative taut and the pacing brisk.  With the expanded scope and scale of Kick-Ass 2, that sort of vibe and pacing that marked the first film gets lost and likewise, the plot holes and logic leaps feel that much bigger and much more egregious.

My last issue with this film has to do with the work of Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  Taylor-Johnson has turned in some good work in the past (Kick-Ass, Anna Karenina), but it doesn’t take too much screen time to realize he has outgrown this role.  The hair, the posture, his voice – it all seems so forced not unlike those last few years of Jaleel White as Urkel on Family Matter.  In fact, that is a perfect analogy.  It makes you feel like there is no credibility to his portrayal of the awkward teen protagonist and that breaks the “reality” of the film.

As for his precocious co-star, Chloe Grace Moretz, she continues to act beyond her years.  Unfortunately, the role is not up to snuff.  Her character’s assimilation into real-life seems so oddly detached from the film, playing out like scenes from Mean Girls 2 that were left on the cutting room floor.  It’s a story no one wants to see that does more harm to the pacing of the film than any good it might do for character development.  Since 500 Days of Summer, it’s been evident that Moretz can act, but with this and her upcoming turn in the Carrie remake, the question remains as to whether she (and her people) are choosing proper roles.

As for the rest of the cast, no one stands out from the collection of pedestrian performances.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse as super villain Chris D’Amico plays an iteration of pretty much every other character that he has ever played; ditto for Clark Duke and Donald Faison as Kick-Ass’ friend Marty and the likable but unremarkable Dr. Gravity respectively.  As for the more seasoned of the principle players, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, and Jim Carrey do little more than go through the paces in limited screen time – presumably laughing all the way to the bank.  Ultimately, their performances fall in line with what looks and feels like a mediocre production from start to finish.

When you consider the film from top to bottom it’s impossible not to conclude that Kick-Ass 2 is a sequel that didn’t need to be made.  It’s slower and more violent than the first, but more importantly, not nearly as clever.  Only a small portion of the general public will mine some entertainment value from watching this film, so it is really difficult for me to recommend it.  At best, it’s a rental for fans of the action and/or superhero genre but even then it is not a slam dunk to entertain.  As for those of you who truly loved the first Kick-Ass, The Matrix rules should apply; meaning if you want to preserve your affinity for the first film, then avoid this sequel. 

Standout Performance:  Lindy Booth, since I have noting bad to say.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rental Rewind: 2002

It was the year 2002, when Time Magazine named Whistleblowers such as Cynthia Cooper and Coleen Rowley the Persons of the Year.  Nelly's Hot in Here dominated the summer music charts and the New England Patriots shocked the world with a momentous Super Bowl victory.  The NBA wasn't as fortunate as the Lakers went on to win the NBA title, while the Anaheim Angels and Detroit Red Wings were crowned champions in baseball and hockey respectively.  Led by the Academy Award winning film Chicago (based on the live musical), some really good movies debuted at the cinemas in 2002.   Here’s a look at ten movies (not necessarily the most critically acclaimed) that you may want to go back and take a look at:

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Kal Penn, Tara Reid

Starring: Robin Williams, Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan

Starring: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Rob Morrow, Jesse Eisenberg, Paul Dano

Starring: Robin Williams, Al Pacino, Hillary Swank, Martin Donovan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Christopher Walken, Martin Sheen

Starring: Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Willem DaFoe, JK Simmons

Starring: Matt Damon, Franke Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox

Starring: Hugh Grant, Nicolas Hoult, Rachel Weisz, Toni Collette

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

2013 Vanity Post, Part 2

August 14, 2013 marks the two year anniversary for  To mark the occasion, here is the 2nd annual Vanity Post; a look at ten actors, appearing in films over the last twelve months, who have shown themselves to be easy on ladies' eyes.  This year’s list was comprised with a more analytical approach via a number of web analytics that are far less interesting than the people on the list.  So without further ado, here’s the top ten list for 2013:


9. CHRIS PINE in Star Trek Into Darkness

8. NICOLAS HOULT in Warm Bodies

7. BRADLEY COOPER in The Hangover, Part III

6. DWAYNE JOHNSON in G.I. Joe: Retaliation

5. CHANNING TATUM in White House Down

4. RYAN GOSLING in The Gangster Squad

3. LEONARDO DICAPRIO in Django Unchained

2. HUGH JACKMAN in The Wolverine

1. HENRY CAVILL in Man of Steel

2013 Vanity Post, Part 1

August 14, 2013 marks the two year anniversary for  To mark the occasion, here is the 2nd annual Vanity Post; a look at ten actresses, appearing in films over the last twelve months, who have shown themselves to be very easy on the eyes.  This year’s list was comprised with a more analytical approach via a number of web analytics that are far less interesting than the people on the list.  So without further ado, here’s the top ten list for 2013:

10. MILA KUNIS in Oz the Great and Powerful

9. ROSE BYRNE in The Internship

8. ALEXANDRA DADDARIO in Texas Chainsaw 3D

7. ALICE EVE in Star Trek Into Darkness

6. BAR PALY in Pain and Gain

5. ZOE SALDANA in Star Trek Into Darkness

4. ANNA KENDRICK in Pitch Perfect

3. GAL GADOT in Fast and Furious 6

2. EMMA WATSON in This is the End

1. ROSAMUND PIKE in Jack Reacher