June Movie Recap

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After Earth

I was initially excited about this movie. Who didn’t get goosebumps during Will Smith’s quote about danger being real, but fear being a choice? Then I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s name (Signs, The Last Airbender, The Happening). Saying I don’t like Shyamalan is like saying Fox News doesn’t like Democrats. The movie isn’t horrible… it’s just… bland. It’s slow paced, Will Smith is dry and emotionless for most of the film, and Jaden Smith can’t quite carry a movie without a supporting cast. *Sigh* So much potential wasted. FINAL GRADE: C-

This Is The End

There are certain movies that aren’t for some people. Those who are very religiously sensitive would probably be irked by several blasphemous moments in this film about the end of days. Everyone else with a sense of humor will find this movie enjoyable from start to finish. I’m in the latter category. The cast, all of whom play parodies of themselves, is absolutely hilarious and it’s evident that they have real chemistry. It’s a comedy. Don’t take it too serious and it is the funniest movie of the summer. Side note: The horde of cameos makes for a nice drinking game too. FINAL GRADE: A-

Man of Steel

Superman’s last venture on the big screen was one of the dullest superhero films ever made (Superman never threw a punch in the entire movie and technically didn’t even defeat Lex Luthor). So it’s hard not to call director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan’s reboot a triumph. While the middle of the film drags a bit and many of the supporting characters are underdeveloped, Snyder succeeds in doing something that is very difficult in this day and age; Make Superman both likable and relevant. Add that to action sequences and fight scenes that are as good, or better, than anything we’ve ever seen, and Man of Steel is just good enough to give us hope that DC Comics can finally start to compete with the cinematic giant that is Marvel. FINAL GRADE: B+

The Heat

Buddy cop movies are as cliché a genre as any in film. But this isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. To make them succeed, you don’t need a good plot, story, or villain. All you need is two likable characters in the main roles. The Heat has just that. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a fantastic duo. McCarthy, specifically, is even funnier here than in her famous role in Bridesmaids. And if you can make the audience laugh, we can forgive little things like a cookie-cutter plot or Marlon Wayans playing a meaningless character.  FINAL GRADE: B+    

World War Z

Remember what I said about clichéd genres? The Zombie genre is one of them. Simply put, it’s hard to make these movies differentiate themselves from one another. Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombieland… they all kind of play by the same rules. In that sense, WWZ is nothing new. Brad Pitt kind of feels wasted in this role. He isn’t bad, but there’s just not much for him to do here. Nevertheless, the movie does at least give enough suspenseful moments to make it worth at least one good look.  FINAL GRADE: B-

Monsters University

Some would argue that Pixar has fallen off as of late. Cars 2 is one of the most unnecessary sequels ever made and Brave, although good, doesn’t measure up to such classics as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or The Incredibles. In Monsters U, there was a huge risk to be another Cars 2. Did we really need a prequel to 2001’s Monster’s, Inc.? The answer is no, we don’t NEED it. But after watching this movie, I’m glad we got it anyway. Monsters U is amazing from start to finish. For anyone who has ever been to college, it is a nostalgic homage to everything that makes the collegiate experience worth while. Even better, however, is the messages of the film which give it a heart and soul that even the first Monsters movie couldn’t match. FINAL GRADE: A

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Kick Ass 2 Full Review

First things first, as with all sequels, if you haven’t seen the first one then see the first one. Secondly, if you didn’t like the first one, then don’t bother. Thirdly, this is a review of the movies, NOT the original graphic novels. Good, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to this review. 

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The first Kick Ass follows the story of a high school comic book nerd, played humbly by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who sets out to become the world’s first super hero. Along the way he meets up with a real life badass Batman and Robin duo, Nicholas Cage’s Big Daddy and his daughter Hit Girl. In the end Kick Ass kills the bad guy, but not before Big Daddy dies.

While I enjoyed the first movie, at no point did I feel like it was doing anything overwhelmingly original from a story standpoint, but it provided R-rated humor and violence which turned out to be pretty entertaining. Kick Ass 2 is essentially more of the same. Hit Girl, played with spunk and style by Chloe Grace Moretz, again steals the show whenever she’s on screen. She’s witty, she’s cool, she’s everything you’d ever want in a real life super heroine. Unfortunately, her story in Kick Ass 2 revolves around her trying to be a normal teenage girl and cope with her new police officer guardian who wants to distance her from her dangerous hero lifestyle (Morris Chestunt replaces Omari Hardwick’s role from the first film). Thus, we’re robbed of the most entertaining aspect of Part One for much of the movie. 

Christopher Mintz-Plasse returns as the son of the first film’s villain, this time named The Motherfucker. Yes, really, the Motherfucker. He’s creepy and crazy, but never really feels like anything more than a wannabe. His sidekick Mother Russia is the real intimidator. The Motherfucker sets out to avenge his father and become the world’s first super villain and take down Kick Ass’ new team, Justice Forever. There are plenty of familiar faces on the team: Scrubs’ Donald Faison is pretty funny as Dr. Gravity and Jim Carry (in a role he now denounces because of the film’s level of violence) is notable as Colonel Stars and Stripes.

The film has its entertaining moments, especially the intense final act, but the first hour is filled with the little things that make a movie feel droll; Mainly cheesy dialogue and stereotyped characters and experiences. Am I really supposed to believe that there are actual Mean Girls walking around high schools in 2013 and that they’d ditch a freshman in the middle of the woods for showing up the popular girl in cheerleading tryouts? It all amounts to one cliché after another which does nothing to fuel a pretty one-dimensional plot. The movie also contains one of my biggest sequel pet peeves: Don’t spend an entire movie, or movies, trying to create a love story just to cheaply get rid of her at the beginning of the sequel (i.e. Megan Fox/Transformers)!!!

At the end of the day, you’ll like the good guys, hate the bad guys and roll your eyes at the poorly written moments sandwiched between. For the most part though, there are far worse things you could watch in August (*cough* Percy Jackson).

FINAL GRADE: C+   

Full Review: Fruitvale Station

Fruitvale Station

There should always be a disclaimer that comes with movies that are based on a true story. And the disclaimer should be that the term “based” means that often writers and directors will deviate from actual events in order to convey a story they want to tell or a message they want to get across. So it is important to get out and do your own research on the actual events, not just take any such movie for face value. So with that said, lets review Fruitvale Station.

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The film tells the story of the real life death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year old father of a 5-year old daughter who is incidentally killed by Oakland transit police following an altercation on New Year’s Day of 2009. The event was famously captured on civilian cell phone cameras where it quickly went viral. Director Ryan Coogler lets you know this from the opening scene where the emotional footage is shown in its entirety.

From this point on, the tone is set. And the rest of the film is left in the hands of relative newcomer Michael B. Jordan. If you’re unfamiliar with Jordan’s work, rent Chronicle and thank me later. Here, in his first major lead role, Jordan gives a performance that should launch him as one of the next great African American actors for years to come. He creates an Oscar Grant that is not a character, but a real person. He is temperamental, he is prideful, but he is also smart, resourceful, and protective. Oscar is not just an ex-con struggling desperately to provide for his family and get his life on track. He is that friend or relative that you grew up with; the one who was the most charismatic, but could never quite stay out of trouble.

It is because of this performance, that we feel like we know Oscar Grant. We scold him when he lies and cheats on his loyal girlfriend and we smile and root for him when he is a loving son and father. And this is what makes the film feel so tragic. Because all along, we know how it will end.

Coogler presents us with the perfect formula for emotional storytelling, but above all, it is Jordan who drives it home by bringing this person to life. Fruitvale Station is about true events, but it would’ve been a powerful movie regardless of its foundations on actuality. And that is what makes it stand out as a great film. It isn’t necessarily about Oscar Grant. Because Oscar Grant could be anyone.

FINAL GRADE: A

   

 

2013 Summer Movie Recap ~ May Reviews

 So summer is essentially over. School is back in and movies are starting to get less entertaining. So now is a perfect time to recap some of the summer movie season’s biggest films. Here are just a few quick hits from the month of May. Most of these will be out on DVD soon so if you haven’t seen them for your self, definitely check them out. Don’t let my bashing keep you from forming your own opinion. Ok, first up…

Iron Man 3

For the record, if I had never seen any trailer or TV spot for this movie, I probably would’ve loved it. Unfortunately, I did watch them and so, like just about everyone, I was exposed to the coolest moments (Tony Stark being able to point and send his armor anywhere he wants, Tony’s army of suits, Pepper Potts wearing the Iron Man armor) before I even saw the movie. This killed the wow factor that made the first Iron Man stand out. Couple that with Don Cheadle doing basically nothing in his revamped War Machine armor and this movie just felt like a let down. Not to mention the mockery the film made of, historically, Iron Man’s arch villain. I get what they were trying to convey with The Mandarin, but c’mon… that’s like turning the Joker or Lex Luthor into a fake. You just don’t do that! The comic book nerd in me just can’t let that fly. FINAL GRADE: C

The Great Gatsby (in 3D for some reason)

I’ve always been a huge fan of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. It was even a major inspiration for my own novel (insert shameless plug here –> http://www.amazon.com/dp/1432792059). So I was initially excited about this movie. Even when I’d heard that the film was being directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge), I still had faith that the source material and fantastic cast would overcome the presence of one of my least favorite directors. I was wrong. The movie is just too over the top. Is it necessary to have 3 Jay-Z songs playing in a movie set in the 1920’s? Not in the background, but in the actual movie!?!? And why the hell was it in 3D?? It just felt like a long music video, which is a shame, because the story itself carries enough weight to entertain. There are times to make a movie visually OTT. This shouldn’t have been one of them. FINAL GRADE: C

Star Trek into Darkness

Before you go thinking I hated every movie in 2013… along comes Star Trek. I’ve never been a Trekky, but after 2009’s Star Trek reboot, I became a fan. The first film is one of the best examples of how to put together a movie with an ensemble cast of characters. It’s also a great example of how to recreate a world that will appease old fans as well as newcomers to the series. The sequel manages to not only successfully replicate that formula, but also build on those characters’ relationships with each other. The partnership/reluctant best friends dynamic that Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) have is captivating from start to finish. It adds up to being the summer’s best blend of action, adventure, humor, suspense, and emotion without being overly cheesy like many sci-fi movies. Side note: It was also one of the best IMAX 3D films I’ve seen in years. FINAL GRADE: A

Hangover 3

*Sigh*…. If ever there were a poster child for not making sequels… this series is it. The first Hangover is one of the funniest movies of my generation. The second, while it has its moments, is mostly a failed attempt to reproduce the exact same formula as its predecessor. Hangover 3, however, is a failure in a completely different way. It’s just not very funny. Sure, there are some snickers here and there, but nothing memorable. Even the franchise’s best characters, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), crossover into the realm of annoying rather than funny. The movie was so forgettable, that I literally forgot I saw it until I was looking back over the movies released in May. FINAL GRADE: D    

Now You See Me

Every summer there is at least one pleasant surprise. For 2013, it was Now You See Me. Sure, the movie has it’s flaws… many of the films’ tricks are impossible without the help of movie magic… but in the end, the movie should be treated like any magic trick. If you can suspend your sense of what’s possible for just a moment, you’re left with one of the wittiest and most entertaining movies of the year. Here’s hoping the recently announced (and unnecessary) sequel doesn’t suck. FINAL GRADE: A-

 

As always, feel free to leave comments and share. June recap coming soon as well as my first set of full reviews (Kick Ass 2, Fruitvale Station)

 

I’m here now guys… sheesh

By popular demand, I’m finally starting a movie review blog. As a theater manager I get to watch movies for free so it goes without saying that I see A LOT of movies. Unfortunately, this means I’ll have to take on the challenge of seeing movies I already know are going to be terrible (Deep sigh) but I’ll take the sacrifice. Please feel free to hit me up on twitter @B_Sinatra to request any review. Feedback is welcome. I’ll try my best to be objective and not bash every movie 😀 and in return I ask that you guys don’t bash me. Hope you all enjoy, and the first review will come real soon!