Archive for the '4.5' Category

Prisoners

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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“Pray for the best, prepare for the worst.”

Prisoners

The H-Bomb:  What would you do if your child went missing?  Would you not do anything and everything in your power to get them back?  Even if it meant going to any extreme, and doing things you never would have thought yourself capable of?  That is the very question that Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) faces when his young daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), and her friend vanish on Thanksgiving Day.  After a search of the neighborhood turns up nothing, Keller starts to fear that the girls have been abducted.  The only lead that he can give the police is that they were seen playing near an RV parked in the street.

Later that night, the police find the RV and take its driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), into custody.  Alex, as it happens, is a man-child with the mind of a ten-year-old (kind of like the real life Alex Jones), and after hours of being grilled by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), gives up no information as to the whereabouts of the missing girls.  More or less ruling this simpleton out as a suspect, Loki starts to look into other possible leads.

Keller, however, is not at all convinced of Alex’s innocence.  His suspicion turns into certainty when Alex mutters something to him, something about his daughter, while leaving the police station.  Keller tries to tell Loki about this,  but Loki dismisses it, advising Keller to just go home and let him do his job.  But there’s no way Keller can do that.  Every moment that passes, it becomes less and less likely that the girls will be found alive.  Convinced that Alex had something to do with their disappearance, Keller decides to take matters into his own hands…

I passed on Prisoners when it was out in theaters last fall because it looked like nothing more than your typical kidnapping thriller.  The kind of disposable potboiler that everyone did for a quick and easy paycheck.  Fuck me, was I wrong!  A cross between Zodiac and Mystic River, Prisoners is an engrossing, layered, smarter-than-average thriller that taps into every parent’s worst fear, then poses that most important question, “What would you do?”  Director Denis Villeneuve takes a low key, nuanced approach to Aaron Guzikowski’s twist-laden screenplay and builds an unnerving sense of dread that amplifies as the picture progresses.

Remaining fairly subdued and un-intrusive with the camera, Villeneuve effectively shows how two families are shattered by the disappearance of their daughters, and how they are pushed to the limit both emotionally and psychologically.  Keller’s wife, Grace (Maria Bello), bombs herself with pills and stays in bed all day.  The parents of the other missing child, Franklin and Nancy Birch (Terrence Howard, Viola Davis), seem to cope by simply shutting off emotionally.  As for Keller, the survivalist that he is (wait till you see the inside of his basement), he decides, as stated, to do something about it himself.

This is where Prisoners stops being a run of the mill thriller, and turns into a thought provoking, and somewhat disturbing, morality play.  Without giving away any specifics, Keller forces himself to do things that betray every sense of who he is as a decent, God fearing man, in order to get his daughter back.  He is horrified when he realizes the level of brutality that he’s capable of, and Jackman, who gives it everything he’s got, is simply fantastic.  Here, as a desperate man hanging on to his humanity by a thread, he taps in to something deep and dark, and delivers a truly great performance.  His best, I’d say.  He made me feel for Keller, but he also made me afraid of him.  Jackman’s turn is truly award worthy, and naturally, the Academy didn’t nominate it.

Also putting in an excellent showing is Gyllenhaal, as the dogged Detective Loki, who cooly and methodically investigates every possible lead and angle of the case, all the while dealing with a ticking clock, an incompetent chief, and an increasingly unhinged Keller.  I would’ve expected Prisoners to lose a step any time it took focus off of Keller and the other parents, but in actuality, the police procedural aspect of the film, while less emotional, is every bit as engaging.  The deeper Loki delves into the case, the more compelling it becomes, as we discover, along with him, that there’s a lot more to it than a simple kidnapping.

Gyllenhaal is as convincing as he is commanding, and he more than holds his own when he has to butt heads with Jackman, I just would’ve liked to have known the story behind his character’s freaky tattoos, which were a bit distracting.  As for the supporting performances, Dano strikes just the right balance between innocent and creepy as the prime suspect, Alex, a character who we don’t know if we should fear or pity.  Howard and Davis are solid as the other couple, the Birches, though I really would have liked to have gotten a better sense of their relationship and who they are.  Bello, as the constantly crying mother who just can’t deal with her daughter’s disappearance, seemed a bit one note, though I suppose her reaction is a perfectly realistic one.

As for the film’s other imperfections, at two and a half hours, it is definitely on the long side.  Never is it at any point boring, but it certainly could have been tightened.  Is no one capable of making a movie under two and a half hours, anymore?  Another issue, and this is hard to explain without crapping spoilers, but I found the way in which everything tied together at the end to be simply unbelievable.  Again, I can’t go into details, but pretty much every single thing Loki discovers peripheral to the kidnapping, ends up being relevant to it in some way.  Eventually, the coincidences just became too much to swallow.

Those rather minor faults aside, Prisoners is an almost unbearably intense, and surprisingly thoughtful thriller that packs one hell of an emotional punch.  I am completely beside myself at how riveted I was by it, and I can say with all honesty that it is one of the best films of 2013, falling behind only 12 Years a Slave and Gravity.  It’s a crying shame that it’s been almost completely overlooked this awards season, as it is a genuinely gripping motion picture that I won’t soon forget.

 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Friday, December 13th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (4 People gave this 4.75 out of 5)
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The Unexpected Journey continues…

Smaug

The H-Bomb: Merry little hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) continues to accompany a band of dwarves, led by the ever brooding badass, Thorin (Richard Armitage), on their quest to take back their homeland of Erebor, the Kingdom under the Mountain, from the fire breathing dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The great wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), who organized this whole escapade, parts company with Bilbo and the gang early on to go in search of The Necromancer, leaving them to their own limited devices for most of the journey. It would seem that for a wise old wizard, Gandalf sure does make a lot of not-so-wise decisions. 

Anyhow, as our posse of thigh-high heroes embark on their adventure, they get themselves caught up in a number of hairy situations, running afoul of just about everyone and everything they come across, including elves, giant killer spiders, and some bi-polar bear-man creature, all the while still having that nasty pack of Orcs pursuing them across Middle-earth. It all seems to be more than a simple hobbit can bear, but as it happens, Bilbo won’t face his real challenge until they reach Erebor, when he finally learns the true reason he was asked to tag along on this quest.

That is something that’s best left undiscussed here, but it will require the heroic little hobbit to summon all of his courage, and the power of a certain “precious,” to travel down into the depths of Erebor to face the ferocious Smaug all by himself… suffice it to say, it’s probably in Bilbo’s best interest to just let sleeping dragons lie.

Last year, director Peter Jackson returned to Lord of the Rings land with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film in a massive, three part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, a (relatively short) prequel novel to his Lord of the Rings books. While An Unexpected Journey certainly wasn’t a bad film, it overall failed to live up to the majestic spectacle of Jackson’s original trilogy. Now we arrive at the second part of his Hobbit adaptation, The Desolation of Smaug, which I can say, with the utmost confidence, is far, far superior to the first part.

Perhaps this is inherent to being the second act of a three act story, but The Desolation of Smaug doesn’t have the copious amounts of bullshit filler or the lumbering exposition that bogged down An Unexpected Journey. It is a bit slow going in the beginning, but once it gets rolling, whoa baby, hang on to your preciouses, as this bitch is, for the most part, full steam ahead with some fan-freaking-tastic action set-pieces, including an escape from a giant spider web, and a roaring river chase involving arrow slinging elves and rolling wine barrels that are balls out breathtaking in 3D. (Definitely shell out the extra dollars for the 3D ticket on this one, folks)

In fact, I would say that visually, in terms of both the cinematography and the effects, this film is a gigantic step up from the last one. To put it plainly, this movie is beautifully cinematic, whereas the first one looked like a TV movie. The most obvious improvement would be not having to deal with that distracting frame rate weirdness (check and make sure your theater isn’t playing it at 48 FPS), so the characters are no longer moving like over-cranked Keystone Kops. Also, Middle-earth is now appropriately dark and grimy, as opposed to the bright and clean amusement park look it had in the first Hobbit.

The most impressive of the film’s visual assets, however, is the rendering of Smaug. Here, he has texture, he has weight, and as I watched him, I wasn’t looking at some CGI effect, I was looking at a living, breathing, humungous ass dragon shooting fire out of its mouth. Combine that amazing special effect with the booming voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, and we easily have the most formidable villain this franchise has seen thus far. The final portion of the movie is entirely made up of Bilbo and the dwarves versus Smaug, and for most of that time, it’s utterly exhilarating.

I say “for most of that time” because as an action scene, it did go on for too long, and in the same way that a piece of gum loses its flavor, the excitement drained out of the scene until it just became tedious. And now that I’m griping, I suppose I should bitch about how the awesome Ian McKellen is barely in the film, and to a surprising extent, Bilbo (played perfectly by Freeman, once again) is pushed into the background. There are many scenes where he’s just kind of there, with little to contribute. It was nice, however, to see Orlando Bloom back, in a considerably meaty role, as the elf warrior, Legolas. Most of his screen time is spent slaying orcs and looking intense, and he’s great at doing both.

But, back to my bitching, while I said there is appreciably less filler than in the first Hobbit, there is a romantic subplot between some emo dwarf and a hot elf chick that I really, truly could have done without. It didn’t ring true and it didn’t belong, at all. Also, even though everything seems to have been ratcheted up a few notches this time around, the film sadly doesn’t quite capture that incredibly immersive feeling that made the Rings trilogy so, so special. Oh, and while I’m still moaning, I should note that the cliff hanger ending is very abrupt. I’m talking the ending of The Dark Knight kind of abrupt. People complained about the sudden endings of the previous films… well, this one is the worst offender of the lot, in that regard.

Those rather minor, but pesky, quibbles out of the way, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is one awesomely epic fantasy adventure and one of the most roundly satisfying motion pictures I’ve seen this year. For those of you who were fans of The Lord of the Rings films, but were perhaps a wee bit disappointed in the first Hobbit flick, as I kind of was, I say definitely give this one a shot, as I can assure you it delivers much more of the thrills and spectacle that we’ve come to expect from this series. With this grandiose and genuinely exciting second installment, Peter Jackson’s prequel trilogy has finally kicked into gear, and has me counting the days until this time next year.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (4 People gave this 4.50 out of 5)
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Swift shot: Chapter Two sets the stage for the final conflict. I’ve read all three of the books now, because I liked The Hunger Games so much, and I just wanted to know how it was all going to end. I know. And The Hunger Games: Catching Fire directed by Francis Lawrence was almost a page for page interpretation of Suzanne Collins’ “Young Adult” best seller.

When we left Katniss Everdeen (Lennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), they had just beaten Seneca Crane’s 74th Hunger games by convincing Crane that killing them both would be worse than letting them both live. He had to choke on that decision, and now President Snow (Donald Sutherland) is left with a dilemma – if he kills Katniss, he will create a martyr for the Districts to rally around and perhaps lead to the collapse of his fragile, Panem.

Now, the 75th Hunger games is upon the Districts. They must again send tributes to do battle for the Capitol’s amusement. Penance for an otherwise forgotten rebellion. Referred to as the “Quarter Quell,” every 25 years the Capitol throws a wrinkle into the rules of the Quell. The victors are exempt from The Reaping (where tributes are selected in a macabre raffle).  It’s a more or less unwritten rule that no one messes with the victors, because to survive the Hunger Games is the ultimate ordeal.  So, they’ve earned a place of respect and even have their own village within their respective districts.  The District 12 victor’s village has been haunted only by Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) essentially vacant for decades, until Katniss and Peeta have taken up separate residences there.

Katniss and Peeta’s bold action from the previous games has sowed dissent throughout the tyrannical system. Even holding up three fingers is enough of a transgression to meet immediate death.  President Snow has a problem with any form of defiance, and based on some recent uprisings, sparked by the tragic death of Rue from District 11 – Snow comes up with a way to both keep the Capitol fans happy and eliminate the victors. I won’t spoil what he does to the victors. But, Katniss and Peeta find themselves in the middle of another Quell.

These “new” players are experienced and the new Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) sets a diabolical death clock to rid Snow and the Capitol of the trouble-makers from the Districts.  As each hour passes, the players face new horrors.

Thanks to their fame, Team Gold (Katniss and Peeta) make quick alliances with the highly favored to win Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin) and a few of his friends.  There is more political intrigue and less Quell action in Catching Fire. But the message is the same, as these tributes kill one another for the Capitol, there is never a doubt who the real enemy is. But perhaps what serves as a surprise is who the real friends are.  I can’t say anything else without giving away most of the story.

As with The Hunger Games, Academy Award winner, Jennifer Lawrence does a fabulous job as the lethal teen, but there is a damaged element to her character, something all too familiar for us these days, as she is suffering from intense Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  All of her hunting prey now wear faces of those she dispatched last year.  While she struggled to survive in the past, everything is made conveniently available in the victor’s village, hunting now is really something to do to stave off boredom.  And it is also an excuse to meet up with her friend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth).

The other actors were given little opportunity to use dialog to develop their characters, so they needed to be good at conveying a full range of emotion without lines.  While Elizabeth Banks, as Effie Trinket, showed real emotion when she discovered how her Team Gold would be tested, and as she learned the true nature of The Hunger Games and President Snow.

Defiance is the defining message of Catching Fire.  As Katniss learns she must defy her own soul, to feign passion for anything, not even sure if she can ever love . . . now that she has killed people.  She feels broken.  How can someone love her if she can’t love herself?  Defiance of the districts to the Capitol and President Snow.  Defiance of the players to participate in the Quarter Quell, and even defiance of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) to design the most spectacular dress and transformation scene since Black Swan!

I have heard several of my friends who refuse to see these films or read the books, because they appear to be clones of Twilight and other Young Adult works, but the political intrigue of rebellion sparks a fire in me, as a Galactic Rebel Star Wars fan, that I have been missing for quite some time.  And, since I know how the whole series ends, it is a shame my friends will just overlook what is a very worthy, powerful saga.  Don’t make that mistake! See this film, read the books, live for defiance!

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (2 People gave this 5.00 out of 5)
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You don’t win the Hunger Games… you survive them.

Catching Fire

The H-Bomb: After emerging as the victor of last year’s “Hunger Games,” Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) wants nothing more than to return to District 12 to live in peace with her almost boyfriend, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). Before she can do that, however, she has to fulfill her obligations as a victor by embarking on a Victory Tour through the other districts of Panem (the dystopian nation where North America once stood) with her fellow victor, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). Since they essentially beat the system in order to survive the games together, they have raised the ire of Panem’s slightly fascist President, Snow (Donald Sutherland).

However, as peeved as Snow might be, he is unable to take any overt action against Katniss and Peeta because, well, the people love them. They adore them, idolize them. They are the celebrity couple of the year, Panem’s Sweethearts, even though their romance is a complete fabrication. But there’s something happening with Peeta and Katniss that goes beyond simple celebrity worship, they’ve inspired something in the people. Katniss has shown them that they can stand up to the system, they can change things, and now the winds of rebellion are in the air.

Snow knows this, and he knows that imposing martial law in the districts will not in and of itself stop the uprising. He has to destroy Katniss and Peeta. Destroy them, and what they stand for. So, Snow, along with his new game master, Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman), devises something special for the 75th Annual Hunger Games; The Quarter Quell, in which the games’ tributes will be made up entirely of past winners from each of the districts.

Naturally, Katniss and Peeta are selected, and this time will be forced to square off not against scared children, but fellow victors who are battle hardened and know how to fight. Their very formidable opponents will include the egghead, Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), the brash, cocky Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), and the ax-wielding she-bitch, Johanna Mason (Jena Malone), who has a knack for making a memorable entrance. Katniss and Peeta may think that they are, once again, in for the fight of their lives, but the truth is, they don’t even know the half of it. There’s something happening here that goes far beyond than the two of them, or the games, something that could change Panem forever.

Those of you who have read The Hunger Games books probably know what I’m getting at in that last sentence. Those of you who haven’t will just have to see the movie and find out for yourselves. As for myself, I’m glad that I haven’t read the books, because part of what made The Hunger Games: Catching Fire such a compelling watch was that, for me, it was consistently surprising and unpredictable, particularly once the games themselves finally got underway.

Adapted from the second book in Suzanne Collins’ young adult series, I found Catching Fire to be a considerable improvement over the first Hunger Games film. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a hater of the original, I thought it was all right, I just didn’t go gaga over it the way the rest of the planet seemed to. I thought that Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson were a tad dull and lacked chemistry, Gary Ross’s shaky cam direction almost gave me seizures, and, I know I’m not the first to bring this up, the whole thing felt like a half-baked, watered down Battle Royale knock-off.

While I’m still not a Hunger Games super fan, I will say that Catching Fire is a total and complete step up from its predecessor. The script, the story, the characters, the pacing, just about everything was nailed down and almost perfected in this one. This time, there actually is a spark between Katniss and Peeta, as Hutcherson seems to have a much stronger grasp on his baker boy character. Even though the relationship with Katniss was only supposed to be for the cameras, one could sense that Peeta has developed real feelings for her, even though, as far as he knows, her heart belongs to another. Hutcherson conveyed that repressed emotion beautifully this time around, whereas in the first film, he came off as little… blank.

As Katniss, Lawrence reminds us why she’s an Oscar winner at such a young age, she absolutely shines. She owns this shit. Without even appearing to try, she shows Katniss’ strength, integrity, and humanity. The speech she gives early on in the film in which she pays tribute to a fallen contender is surprisingly moving. I can very easily buy that this woman could inspire people to rise up and take action. Oh, and when it comes to the physical stuff, I totally believe that she can kick ass, as well. Appearing in nearly every single scene, this is absolutely, positively Lawrence’s movie, and she carries it flawlessly.

That’s not to say that she doesn’t have help from the supporting cast, and man is this supporting cast game. Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz are back as the mentors to Katniss and Peeta, and while Harrelson’s drunken Haymich is given more time in the sun, Kravitz seems weirdly shortchanged, having little to say or do. Elizabeth Banks and Stanley Tucci also return, providing the story with its spot on (if not on the nose) media satire. With their ridiculous costumes and hair, they are both funny as all hell, though I found Banks’s over-the-top make-up so grotesque that at times I had trouble looking at her. The best of all the returning supporting players is Sutherland as the President, as this time we truly get to see the sinister snake beneath the façade of the benign old man. He is as chilling as he is ruthless.

The newcomers to the cast of Catching Fire are a real treat. Hoffman plays the new game master with that smarmy sliminess that he’s so damn good at, and I relished every second he was on screen. Like Lawrence, he just makes it look so damn easy. Then there’s Wright as the tribute Beetee, who doesn’t get as much screen time as I would’ve liked, but Wright has shown in the past that he can do a whole lot with very little, and this is no exception. The ever squirrelly Amanda Plummer also has a nice bit as a tribute who kind of loses her shit when the games begin. I can’t even remember the last time I saw her in something, but she was great here.

This brings me to the two members of the supporting cast who nearly steal the movie in its second half, Sam Claflin and Jena Malone, as Finnick and Johanna, respectively. Claflin lays on the oily charm extra thick before the games, then once the shit gets going, he transitions into quite the credible action star. As for Malone, if you didn’t think Donnie Darko’s girlfriend could make a believable badass, guess again. Her bitter, jaded Johanna is utterly convincing. Every line of dialogue that comes out of her mouth is priceless, and you absolutely do not want to be on the receiving end of her ax. Both Claflin and Malone are flat out fucking awesome, and I can’t wait to see more of them in the upcoming sequels.

Not only is the supporting cast upgraded in this sequel, but so is the director, with Francis Lawrence replacing Gary Ross. Ross’ direction was too frenzied and frantic, whereas Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) isn’t afraid to simply back off and allow the script and the story to carry this film. Though, of course, the outlandish sets and costumes do allow for some considerable visual flair, which Lawrence takes full advantage of. Lawrence also has more experience on the action front, and is able to shoot and edit the fight scenes in a way that doesn’t require the herky-jerky shaky cam, instead allowing us to actually see the action, which makes it all the more impactful.

Indeed, Catching Fire is a superior sequel in just about every way, shape, and form, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have some issues with it. My big one being the incredibly half-assed love triangle involving Katniss, Peeta, and Gale, who has just as little screen time in this movie as he did in the first. This isn’t fucking Twilight. The Hunger Games is better than Twilight, it’s smarter than Twilight, and unlike Twilight, it is not driven by a fucking soap opera romance. The love triangle, like the character of Gale himself, is completely extraneous and only cheapens the film. All of that should have been cut from the outset.

My other big beef with Catching Fire is that it took too long to get to the games, and once it got to the games, they didn’t last long enough. Now, the competition is well done, and quite surprising in how it plays out, I just wish it could have gone on for longer than it did, as it seemed to be over way too soon. Those qualms aside, I absolutely loved this second Hunger Games film. The first movie I thought was merely decent, but Catching Fire, again, has raised the stakes in every way possible. It’s smart, exhilarating, and emotionally engaging in a way that the Twilight flicks only wish they could be. It ends on a cliff hanger that many have found reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back, and it has left this reviewer hungry for more.

Frozen

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (4 People gave this 4.25 out of 5)
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Frozen

Frozen is the latest Disney animated masterpiece. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” Frozen tells the tale of sisters Elsa (Idina Menzel) and Anna (Kristen Bell), who live in the kingdom of Arendelle (which looks a lot like the Norway pavilion at EPCOT) with their parents, the King and Queen. Elsa was born with a special power – she has the ability to create snow and ice from her hands (kind of like a frost mage in World of Warcraft). Anna, on the other hand, has no powers of her own.

One evening, while they were young, the girls were playing in the castle’s ballroom. Elsa was creating snow and the girls were having fun, building a snowman and playing, until Elsa accidentally blasted Anna in the head with a bolt of ice and she became unconscious. As a result of the blast, she sprouted a white streak in her hair. The King and Queen brought the girls to the forest to seek out the help of the forest trolls, who were able to save Anna. They advised them that to protect Anna, the girls should be separated, Anna’s memories of Elsa’s power erased, and Elsa’s power should be suppressed.

The girls grow up the castle, living separate, lonely lives. Anna yearns to play with her sister like they used to, but Elsa is afraid of her powers, and she doesn’t want to hurt her sister again. Elsa pretty much stays in her room, wearing gloves to keep her magic under control. Of course, this is a Disney movie, and the King and Queen die, leaving the girls alone. By this point, they are a little older so it’s not as terrible as, for example, Mufasa being murdered while Simba was a young cub.

A few years later, it’s the day of Elsa’s coronation. For the first time in years, the castle gates are going to be opened, there will be a grand party, and Elsa will officially be the Queen of Arendelle. Anna is very excited, as she’s also been shut away in the castle and she will get to interact with people once more. During the party, they meet the Duke of Weselton (Alan Tudyk). Although it’s pronounced like Wezelton, it keeps being mispronounced like Weaselton, which is funny because the Duke of Weselton desperately wants to form an alliance with Arendelle, but for his own selfish reasons. We also meet Hans (Santino Fontana), a prince from a nearby country. Hans has twelve brothers and he is looking for love in Arendelle.

When he and Anna meet, it is love at first sight. They sing a song together, then promptly decide to get married. When they seek Elsa’s blessing for their marriage, Elsa freaks out and her powers are revealed to everyone. She then accidentally creates a magical, eternal winter over the kingdom, then she takes off for the mountains, leaving a plethora of ice and snow in her wake. Even the fjords are frozen, so everyone that came for the coronation is stuck there. Once in the mountains, Elsa is now finally free to embrace her powers. She creates her own castle made of ice, which was really beautiful.

Back in the kingdom, Anna decides to set out to find Elsa and bring her back to undo what she’s done. She reluctantly leaves Hans and heads towards the mountains. Along the way, Anna meets Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), a mountain man who sells ice for a living, and his reindeer Sven. Since the kingdom is now frozen, making the demand for ice pretty much non-existent, Kristoff agrees to help Anna with her mission. Shortly after they set out, they meet Olaf (Josh Gad), a magical, friendly snowman who like warm hugs. If you don’t fall in love with Olaf, then maybe you have ice in your heart. He was hilarious and fun. He was also a little confused, as he was excited to experience summer. A snowman in summer?? How would that work?? You have to wait and see!!

Will Anna be successful in her mission?? Or will it be forever winter in Arendelle?? You will have to watch Frozen to find out!!!

I noticed that there was no typical Disney villain in this movie. There were a few antagonists, but nobody nearly as evil as Maleficent, Jafar, or Ursula. It seemed like they were trying to make Elsa the villain, but she wasn’t really bad. She just had no control of her magic and was afraid of hurting her sister again. It made me sad that these girls were sisters, but they were more like strangers. Your sister is your built-in best friend, but Elsa and Anna weren’t able to have an actual sisterly relationship while they were growing up.

As usual, Disney does not disappoint, between the excellent songs, the amazing animation, and the great story. I took my sister to the screening ,in 3D, which made the snowflakes come alive. Make sure you get there on time. There is a very cool vintage-style Mickey Mouse cartoon, “Get a Horse,” before the movie. And stay tuned for a cute scene after the credits.

About Time

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 4.00 out of 5)
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About Time

Written & Directed by: Richard Curtis
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Rachel McAdams, Bill Nighy, Tom Hollander, Margot Robbie

The secret to making a great film is to endow it with great characters that are slightly strange, intensely interesting, somewhat silly, and immediately recognizable as people we have met or know probably exist. Then you mix those characters with a compelling story that takes us to a place we’ve not been to before yet seems oddly familiar, and top it all off with a simple moral that everyone can understand to be true.

Nobody is better at creating that mix on film than writer/director Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral). For the past 30 years or so he has been making meticulously crafted personal films that resonate with audiences in such a way as to allow us to laugh at ourselves and our foibles, to share a tear over the characters innately human journeys, and that live unforgettably long after we have left the theater. At least that’s my take on this brilliant filmmaker who chooses to give us big little films that ring more human than most. It feels like he never rushes to get a film out, never feels stressed with a deadline, and takes such care of every element that nothing is left to chance. And that goes right down to his tasty and totally relevant music scores.

“About Time” is his latest movie, and hopefully not his “self proclaimed last film.” This movie is a worthy addition to the Curtis legacy and another treat for the audience, and though it’s a wonderful romantic comedy, it seems to me to be more about the tender relationship between son and father than the film’s love stories between its men and women.

Here’s The Storyline…

At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers a life changing hidden family secret. On the eve of his departure from home in Cornwall to pursue a legal career and to find love in London, Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) tells his son that the men in his family have always had the ability to travel through time. Tim can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life. He tries it to mixed results, but learns he can jump time if he wants.

Once in London Tim locks eyes with winsome Mary (Rachel McAdams), he’s found the woman of his dreams. But as soon as they’ve fallen in love, an unexpected glitch in the time travel renders them complete strangers again. Now, in order to win back Mary’s heart, Tim will have to travel into the past time and again. Will he win her love or upset that whole apple-cart? Therein, lies the fun of the story.

The cast is just wonderful, seeming more an ensemble than separate parts that make up the whole. As you’d expect both Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams are standouts, if there are any, and Domhnall Gleeson will win you over with his charmingly shy performance.

My take…Go see it, and take someone special.

Rush

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Rush

Click the image for more photos & behind the scenes footage of Ron Howard!

Alyn Darnay gave it 3.5 and Amadarwin gave it 4.5 stars, read both reviews below:

Alyn's take Amadarwin's take

 

Elysium

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (3 People gave this 4.00 out of 5)
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It’s the place to be.

Matt Damon

The H-Bomb: Sometime, in what we can only hope is the very distant future, the Earth has become a contaminated cesspool of pollution and disease. The super wealthy have made a new home for themselves on Elysium, a gigantic space station complete with houses, gardens, and an atmosphere, so they can live quiet lives of comfort. As for the have-nots who make up the rest of the human race, they basically have to toil away back down on scummy, grimy, shit-hole Earth… I smell political subtext… oh dear.

One such have-not is Max (Matt Damon), a reformed criminal now working on a factory line in Los Angeles. Content on simply getting by on his meager wages, Max’s whole world is turned upside down when, due to an accident at work, he is exposed to lethal amounts of radiation that will kill him in five days time. Like any normal person, Max has a very strong desire to not die, but the only place he can find the treatment to save his life is on Elysium, where inside every home there is a magical medical pod that can cure literally every ailment known to man.

All Max has to do to be cured is find a way to get to Elysium… yeah, and all I have to do to become a multimillionaire is pull a winning lotto ticket out of my butt. In other words, getting to Elysium is no easy feat. This is due, in no small part, to Delacourt (Jodie Foster), Elysium’s homeland security chief, who is willing to use the most ruthless of tactics to ensure the sovereignty of the space station, such as shooting down any unauthorized spacecraft that come near it.

Out of sheer desperation, Max makes a deal with underworld boss Spider (Wagner Moura), who runs a line of illegal shuttles to Elysium. All Max has to do is a little job for Spider, and in return he’ll be granted safe passage to the station. Unfortunately, that “little job” is a download heist that involves stealing data that Delacourt and the rest of the Elysium elite don’t want stolen. It’s an extremely high risk job with a slim probability of success… but on the plus side, Max does get a cool, strength enhancing robotic exoskeleton out of the deal.

Naturally, the job goes predictably haywire, and Max is now a wanted man, with Delacourt’s rabid pitbull, a psychotic sleeper agent named Kruger (Sharlto Copley), hot on his tail. Now, with all this going down, Max must find a way to get his ass to Elysium and into one of those magic med pods. His time is quickly running out. As far as plot goes, I’ll stop here, to avoid the risk of divulging that which I shouldn’t.

In 2009, South African writer/director Neil Blomkamp gave us District 9, an impressive feature debut that fused science fiction with social commentary, a combination that he offers up again in his bigger, and dare I say better, second film, Elysium. What impressed me so much about District 9 was how legitimately intelligent it was for a summer blockbuster. Not only were there real brains behind all the bangs and booms, but there was also real heart to it, as well.

This time, Blomkamp has managed to recapture that, as well as up the ante. It’s easy to blow things up in a film, even on a global scale, any Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich can do that. But to make us care about the people at the center of all the carnage, that takes a special kind of something extra. Here, we really become invested in Max and his arduous journey. We care when we see him injured. We care when someone very close to him dies. Even when Max acts like a selfish dick at times, we’re fully on his side. That Blomkamp cast an actor like Damon goes a long way, as he is the type who I’m predisposed to feel empathy towards. I suppose that’s all a ridiculously fancy way of saying that Damon does his typically superb job of portraying an everyman worth rooting for. It’s his effortlessly likable performance, along with Blomkamp’s earnest script, that gives Elysium its emotional heft.

Blomkamp also does a brilliant job at creating a vivid hell-on-earth where the peasants inhabit. Subbing Johannesburg for post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, he really makes the place look like a scary, terminally diseased metropolis that’s rotting from the inside out. It’s in this dust coated wasteland where the impressively imaginative, exciting, and bloody action sequences are staged. The violence is hard R and packs a sick wallop… and that’s exactly how I like it. That bit where some dude gets his face ripped off via hand grenade was truly ouch inducing.

I was surprised at how brutal it could get, especially for a big budget summer flick, but that pales in comparison to how taken aback I was by the performance of Sharlto Copley as the sociopathic super assassin, Kruger. Looking like some half-robot caveman, he is perhaps the most gleefully sadistic cinematic madman since Heath Ledger’s Joker. I’m not bullshitting you, folks, Copley is insanely funny and, far more importantly, completely frightening. He was great as the lead in District 9, but here, he is just out of this world psycho, and he walks away with the whole fucking show. See the film for him, if nothing else.

It suffices to say, I liked Elysium, a helluva lot, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues with it. For one thing, as fan-fucking-tastic as Copley is, Jodie Foster is a big fat nothing as the head villain. No spark, no menace, no charisma, she is stone cold boring in this role, and whatever the hell that accent was that she was attempting to do was just ridiculous. Also, I like that this is a sci-fi film with genuine ideas behind it, but the social sermonizing did get a bit heavy handed for my tastes, with an ending that seemed to be a giant, obnoxiously obvious metaphor (and shameless plug) for Obamacare.  Blomkamp definitely could, and should, have dialed that back.

But, my few problems out of the way, I say Elysium is an exhilarating, slam bang science fiction flick that is smart, powerful, and emotionally gripping all the way through. It is far and away the best movie I’ve seen this summer (sorry Man of Steel), and I have a feeling it will make my list for the ten best films of the year. Blomkamp surprised everyone when District 9 was nominated for Best Picture, and now with Elysium, he may just surprise us yet again.

Red 2

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

****½

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (1 People gave this 3.00 out of 5)
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Red 2

Movies today try to blend different genres together to gain a broader audience, and none did it better in the past few years than the action-comedy Red. Well, Red 2 delivers what audiences got from its predecessor and MORE! Skeptics may find it hard to believe that a sequel can deliver the same quality that the original delivered, but fans will be pleasantly surprised in the end. Because there was such great chemistry in Red, it provided Red 2 the greatest challenge of all; will the new members hinder the quality of the first one? Keep reading and find out the answer to this question, and many more you may be pondering.

Red 2 starts with Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and his love interest Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) as they attempt to live normal lives of anonymity after the events that transpired in Red. Frank and Sarah quickly run into an old friend, Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), who warns them of an impending life threatening situation that’s developing. Fans of Red will remember that Marvin was constantly worried about people watching him and trying to kill him; nothing has changed. After some chaotic, and hilarious events happen; Frank is taken into custody for questioning of something he oversaw in his days working for the CIA. While being questioned, another government employee comes in to interrogate Frank in his own special way. Jack Horton (Neil McDounough) is the new pursuer who attempts to question Frank about his knowledge about a secret op from the Cold War.  After that, he’s going to eliminate Frank and his knowledge. Frank narrowly escapes, and this is where all hell breaks loose.

Now that Frank is on the run, in tow with Marvin and Sarah, everyone is trying to find them, and eliminate them. An old friend, Victoria (Helen Mirren), is offered a contract to eliminate Frank. Horton takes matters into his own hands by hiring the most elite contract killer in the world, Han Cho Bai (Byung-hun Lee), to eliminate Frank. While on the run across the world, Frank runs into a former love interest, Katja (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who Sarah has zero fondness for. While securing knowledge, and avoiding those who are trying to kill them, Frank and his gang find out the information they were looking for all along. They found the man with the insights into where and what they need to help clear the whole situation up for everyone. The scatter-brained Bailey (Anthony Hopkins) made more tactical devices and came up with more weapons for countries than most could ever dream of, but will he be of much help?

Now you might ask, with all these new people added to the already stellar cast, does it take anything away? The way the characters interact, and the way the new additions were added takes nothing away from the primary cast. The character interaction actually makes sense. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins are both OSCAR winning actors, and Byung-hun Lee is a great action star as well. Adding talented actors and supplying more action just shows that this movie is pushing forward on all cylinders.

There is so much action going on that you hardly want to blink. The laughs keep coming too, and sometimes when you least expect it. As the movie starts to develop more and more, twists and turns are shelled out at an alarming rate. The transitions from location to location were delivered in a fun and different way. Fans will remember in Red, postcards were used to designate locations of where they were at different times. Red 2 uses the fact it’s based on a Graphic Novel to use the illustrations to cut from location to location. This should make fans of the book happy to read as well.

The movie continues to develop and become this thrill ride of laughs and action galore. The reason this didn’t get a full 5 Stars is that some parts dragged a little. Don’t get me wrong, there were enough laughs and explosions to satisfy everyone, but moments of lapse happened a couple times. That being said, it wasn’t enough to deter from my thorough enjoyment of Red 2. The question that remains for most is; since I enjoyed the first one, can the second live up to my expectations?  I can tell you as a fan of Red that I had pretty high hopes for what Red 2 could deliver, and I left the theater wanting to see it again right away. Red 2 is a movie that allows you an escape from reality for two hours. Sit back, grab your popcorn, and enjoy the ride that is Red 2.