My 2013 Movies

Year Two of keeping track of all the films I see during the year.
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This Is 40 (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Pete and Debbie are both about to turn 40, their kids hate each other, both of their businesses are failing, they're on the verge of losing their house, and their relationship is threatening to fall apart. (134 mins.)
Director: Judd Apatow
“ First movie of the year for me. Here were my discoveries from watching this film.

*I discovered a whole new level of awkward in the form of seeing this film with my mother, who is put off by crude humor and especially excessive swearing. Watching/hearing parental sex scenes while sitting next to my mother; think about that for a second.
*I discovered that the empty feeling I've been getting for years is not me, it's Judd Apatow. I don't like his movies very much.

I don't know what it is about Judd Apatow that people love so much. For a guy who's supposed to make such funny movies, I rarely laugh much watching them. There's the occasional snicker, but mostly it's just awkward. The plot is hard to find, the pacing is all over the place, and the story just seems to meander.

*I think the problem is that he just has too much fun making the movies, and forgets to make them enjoyable for other people. He assembles all this talent, lets them have all kinds of fun on-set and on-camera, he messes with his actors, throws them lines during takes; they all enjoy it. But then when you have to try and make a coherent film out of it all, it always ends up overlong and aimless. He needs to stop doing everything for his films, or he at least needs to take it more seriously.
His own real-life family makes up 3/4 of the film family (his wife and daughters with Paul Rudd).

The story is....I guess it's about a couple turning 40 and coping with it. Financial troubles bear down on them; yet they still live in a very expensive house, go on expensive vacations, arrange expensive birthday parties, lend money to people, and make poor financial decisions. You'd think they'd be homeless by the end. Or by the middle. Or even early on. For the amount of money they seem to be losing, it never seems to change much in their lives besides they get frustrated.

There's two dozen supporting characters who are funny people they keep around just because we know from their other work that they're funny people. More than half of them add nothing to the plot or story. The story could have worked with just 2. They're dysfunctional, but so recklessly dysfunctional that it stops being realistic or interesting and just becomes weird and uncomfortable.

There are a couple scenes that are funny, mostly because it's staring/talking at Paul Rudd's anus or swearing ridiculously at each other. But most of it's just awkward.

If it floats your boat, good for you. My boat just passed by it, stared at the weirdness, moved on curious to what it just witnessed, and what, if anything, it should make out of it. ” - danhollow
Django Unchained (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
With the help of a German bounty hunter , a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. (165 mins.)
“ I didn't see this movie until after the Oscar Noms were made, so I didn't put it up for any of my personal Oscars.

I'm not a huge Tarantino fan like some people are, but I still like him well enough. I don't watch many westerns, but this one looked interesting. Leo DiCaprio has a bit to do with that, as does the idea of witty dialogue amongst gunslingers.

The movie was...bloody. That is for sure. Brains plastered against the walls and gunshot wounds galore. Witty as well, and long at times. Part of it was just that I was acutely aware that my shoes were wet for the whole 2 hours, 46 minutes. The movie isn't cut up into chapters like Tarantino's films usually are, it's one long story. And it's hard to tell exactly when it's ending or getting close to ending.

The characters are definitely the drawing point of the film. Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schulz, German dentist-turned-bounty hunter. His matter-of-fact way of looking at everything was the funniest part of the movie for me. Jamie Foxx is a freed slave who learns the bounty hunting profession from Schulz, and in a matter of weeks(?) becomes the quickest hand in the Old West. Leonardo DiCaprio tries something new as the villain, Calvin Candie. What's an adjective to describe Calvin Candie? Detestable. Despicable. Disgusting. One of the most loathsome characters ever put on the screen, with DiCaprio's dashing good looks housing a rotten smile. Points for going outside his comfort zone, but it's hard to really call it a great performance.

Overall a good movie, yes maybe even a great one. But like most Tarantino films, I think it needs to be seen multiple times to really grow on you. ” - danhollow
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own. (122 mins.)
“ I'd been meaning to see this film since I first started seeing trailers for it months ago. It looked serious yet also definitely funny, very Little Miss Sunshine-esque. I kept wondering when it would come out, and around Thanksgiving I found out it was due around Thanksgiving. Yet it never came out anywhere near me. The Oscar nominations were already made and the Golden Globe for Best Actress won by Ms. Jennifer Lawrence by the time this film came out near me.

I jumped at the opportunity to see it. When I did watch it, I have to say it was different than I expected. A warning for anyone going to see this; it's an unconventional film with VERY unconventional characters. It takes a while for the film to really find its rhythm, I felt very lost and confused for a while. But it's Robert De Niro and football (specifically Eagles football) to the rescue, and I went into the final act extremely excited.

The characters are very unconventional in that they seemingly switch between serious and shockingly blunt at a moments notice.
Bradley Cooper plays Pat, an undiagnosed Bipolar struggling to get his life back together after a stay at a mental institution following a violent outburst that alienated him from his wife. He varies between struggling to function and totally socially inappropriate.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Tiffany, who is both crazier than him and more together, although which one she is at any given time is hard to tell.
Robert De Niro is Pat's father, who sees his OCD as a strength, not a weakness, in conjunction with his superstitious beliefs and traditions about the Philadelphia Eagles.

You will laugh at times just because the mood swings are so sudden and unexpected. Other times it's just genuinely funny and hilarious, including one scene which had my whole theater (me included) in stitches. I definitely recommend this movie to anyone who loves football, and especially anyone who loves the Eagles. Or just anyone looking for a film that will help them see their own messed-up life in a new light.

Saw twice. ” - danhollow
Warm Bodies (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
After a highly unusual zombie saves a still-living girl from an attack, the two form a relationship that sets in motion events that might transform the entire lifeless world. (98 mins.)
Director: Jonathan Levine
“ It took a while for me to exhibit interest in this film, but eventually I found myself to be intrigued.

Now I very rarely watch zombie movies, and I generally don't like them. I don't like blood, gore, or seeing people get their guts ripped out and eaten. Not a big fan of rotting/oozing flesh, either. Furthermore, this film struck me (as it has many others) as a Twilight rip-off, but with zombies, and a lukewarm title.

But one day something hit me. Zombies are generally dull and boring because there isn't a whole lot to them. They are almost criminally underdeveloped. The sheer idea that a zombie can be cured or regain its humanity simply has not been done before. Most zombies never become characters because they're just not very interesting to watch. But a zombie that is aware of his own lost humanity and the monotony of his existence is interesting; and when he starts regaining human emotion we have something very new. Think about it, that last breakthrough in zombie films was when they started running as opposed to shuffling. This is exciting new ground being broken here.

Furthermore, the film knows it's going to be compared to Twilight, and so it's smart enough to fix some of the mistakes Twilight made. R's inner narration is helpful in allowing us to stay entertained even when he's just walking around occasionally grunting at other zombies, the film has a wit to it that Twilight never even tried for. R is as emotive as Kristen Stewart, but a hell of a lot funnier. Second, Twilight featured a human girl lusting for an inhuman monster, a vampire, and eventually becoming an inhuman monster to be with him. Not exactly a healthy relationship. Warm Bodies reverses it; R is an inhuman monster, a "corpse", who falls for a human girl, and through his interaction with her regains his humanity. Destructive relationship versus life-saving relationship. Lastly, Twilight took 2 films to introduce both love interests, 4 for anything to happen between Bella and Edward, and 5 for any kind of transformation or resolution. Warm Bodies manages all that in one film.

A warning, if you don't like the idea of watching something eat brains right in front of you, avoid. But if there was ever a zombie film to see, this would be the one (or 28 Days Later). ” - danhollow
Identity Thief (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
Mild mannered businessman Sandy Patterson travels from Denver to Florida to confront the deceptively harmless looking woman who has been living it up after stealing Sandy's identity. (111 mins.)
Director: Seth Gordon
“ Second film of the night (after Warm Bodies). I'm not a huge Jason Bateman fan, but I do love Melissa McCarthy on Mike & Molly, and she left me speechless and somewhat shocked during Bridesmaids. Still, her character looked a little.....too much. However, Horrible Bosses was one of my favorite comedies of the new century, but since little has been heard about a sequel, I'll jump on anything director Seth Gordon will put out.

As for the film itself, there are traces elements of Horrible Bosses. An original setup being one. Okay, maybe it isn't as engaging as killing your evil boss, but it's handle smartly and realistically. Sandy Bigelow Patterson is an accounting manager (or something to that effect) for a boss who does probably deserve to die. But Sandy and his co-workers take a more realistic approach, and leave to start their own company, with Sandy as Vice-President. Everything's all set, until it becomes apparent that someone has stolen Sandy's identity. Enter Melissa McCarthy, who flaunts every reckless personality trait a person could have, although it's clear from the very beginning that she has deep emotional issues (an identity thief with an identity crisis, interesting...) that she hides behind binge spending and ludicrous amounts of expensive items (the two are separate).

Sandy is informed by a very friendly but exceptionally unhelpful police investigator that nothing can be done about Melissa Sandy unless she is brought right in front of him. So Jason Sandy travels from Denver to Florida to convince her to help him. Cue hijinks.

The film has some distinctly hilarious scenes and interactions, many stemming from Bateman's utter seriousness in the face of McCarthy's impulsive lying. Furthermore, like Horrible Bosses, you really get a feel for the characters from their sense of humor. It's hard to describe but easy to recognize.

Again, it isn't Horrible Bosses, but it's still pretty funny. And even a bit emotional and feel-goody. Also, The T-1000 is chasing Melissa and Jason! Be afraid, be VERY afraid! ” - danhollow
A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  
John McClane travels to Russia to help out his seemingly wayward son, Jack, only to discover that Jack is a CIA operative working undercover, causing the father and son to team up against underworld forces. (98 mins.)
Director: John Moore
“ I got into the Die Hard films rather late. The first one I saw was Live Free or Die Hard; which I LOVED. Then I saw Die Hard with a Vengeance, then Die Hard 2, and finally the original Die Hard. I liked them all. Above all, it was the scope and level of action they brought. Everything was bigger, better, and more destructive. The stunts were more intense and real, even when there was CGI there was still real destruction happening. The characters were more distinct. John McClane is a New York cop with a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He doesn't pose or issue one-liners (besides his trademark "yippie ki-yay"). He doesn't get too heavily involved in the story, his only goal is kill the bad guys and go home. A simple man with simple desires.

AGD2DH is not the best in the series, but it's still a good Die Hard movie and an action movie of a higher tier. Everything you need for a Die Hard movie is present: terrorists, explosions, decent characters (it's not a drama, we're not looking for Oscar contenders), car crashes, falls, beatings, gunfire, and McClane treating every new development with non-chalance cynicism. Above all, Die Hard continues to uphold the standard for action; die HARD. Breaking through windows, getting blown through walls, falling from high places through floors and getting in car accidents with BIG cars. Little man versus big weapons.

The story isn't as strong or as engaging as it was in Live Free or Die Hard, but the fact that McClane pays very little attention to anyone's personal story helps us overcome that (the story isn't even bad, it just doesn't feel as important as it should). The story can be seen as simply as John McClane in the wrong place at the wrong time. Basically, McClane is travelling to Moscow to visit his estranged son, Jack. Jack is a CIA operative with a mission to deliver a Russian prisoner of war, and his focus remains on his mission throughout. Like Lucy before him; Jack has issues with his Dad, and the kind of take-no-b.s. attitude that rubs bad guys the wrong way fast. Props to Jai Courtney for exhibiting fierce independence as Jack; he wants to be his own character, not John McClane's kid. Lucy also shows up occasionally, but she doesn't have a big part in the film.

I apologize that I didn't get into this sooner, but what I loved most about this movie was the style and production choices. The biggest sin of action movies these days is relying on just creating explosions or vehicles on a computer because it's faster and easier than doing it for real. In the first 20 minutes of this film they wrecked, smashed, or damaged at least 50 real cars in a variety of distinctive and creative ways. They blew them up (and the buildings around them), crushed them under trucks, smashed them into each other, tore off doors and windows, flew into each other, and all around turned the Moscow turnpike into Carnage Central. They outdid the Blues Brothers car wreck total in 20 minutes. That set the tone of the film pretty concisely.

In summary; it won't revolutionize action movies, but it's still a pretty damn good Die Hard film and a better breed of action film. ” - danhollow
Dark Skies (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
As the Barret family's peaceful suburban life is rocked by an escalating series of disturbing events, they come to learn that a terrifying and deadly force is after them. (97 mins.)
Director: Scott Stewart
“ I've been taking notice of a new trend of horror films over the last few years. I don't quite have a name for them, but they all share common elements. Suburban location, average family, supernatural happenings permeating realistic situations. Low budget, high atmosphere, and above all intense scare factor. These films have one main goal, to scare people. Paranormal Activity started it off (some might even argue it began with The Blair Witch Project), then came its sequels. Then there was Insidious. Last year it was Sinister. The trailers led me to believe this was this year's. In that area, the film was a bit disappointing.

The film does belong in the category I described, but it's a weaker entry than Insidious or Sinister. It does try for a different direction in the form of aliens as opposed to demons or spirits, and the common elements are present. The opening shots tell us very clearly how suburban and typical the setting for this film is. Nothing unusual ever happens here. Until the home security censors start going off in the middle of the night. From there, things steadily get more intense and unsettling, although it isn't quite as gripping as other films.

Part of what drew us in to those other films was how normal the characters were; they never acted like they were acting or trying to keep the plot moving forward. They didn't ignore what was happening around them, either, and avoided most of the cliches of horror movie characters (when possible). This family definitely feels a bit more stereotypical, and the lines and interactions are less natural and smooth. If I have one beef above all with this film, it's that it doesn't have the realism of some other films.

The film is at least smart enough to keep its monsters hidden and mysterious. They don't make the mistake that Signs made of actually showing the aliens clearly at the very end, allowing them to remain intimidating and unreachable. Still, for the amount of evidence of these creatures' existence that we see, it's hard to believe no one has reported what's going on to the government. Physical marks on the bodies and implants? Come on, at least show a doctor and let him take some pictures.

In the end, while the film was ultimately not as good as it could have been, it does still have some good moments. Furthermore, coming from the director of such over-the-top supernatural CGI flicks like Legion and Priest, it's nice to see that he does know how to work on a low budget and without slow-motion action scenes. Good move for him, sub-par movie for us. ” - danhollow
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Disgraced Secret Service agent (and former presidential guard) Mike Banning finds himself trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack; using his inside knowledge, Banning works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers. (119 mins.)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
“ From what I hear, there's at least one other film that focuses on the concept of "the most secure building in the world (The White House) has been taken". It's an interesting concept, so let's see how this film stacks up.

The elements of the plot worth noting are that the White House is invaded by Koreans (North Koreans, I believe, but don't quote me), using a heavily armed plane, a small army, and a ton of artillery. Not to mention some surprisingly capable and efficient henchmen (a rarity). The taking of the White House (codename: Olympus) is powerful and unsettling, even on a day when they weren't expecting an invasion the amount of defense and security at this location is unmatched by anything seen before. Which is what makes watching each layer get mercilessly cut down and destroyed so affecting. In 13 minutes, the White House defense is down to a single man inside the building, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). His backstory is fairly forgettable.

The other major point I want to draw attention to is the Ultimate Bad Guy Plan, and that's because this had a really good and really clever one. Codename: Cerberus, a fairly brilliant way at crippling the United States, but no one else, using our own defensive measures against us. Realistic, terrifying, and capable of turning the United States into a series of very large craters.

The story and acting in Olympus Has Fallen are nothing too special. But the action is fantastic, the plot arc believable, the destruction scary, and I enjoyed the numerous references to Greek Mythology within it. ” - danhollow
Jurassic Park (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. (127 mins.)
“ 3-D

I still have nightmares about the original Jurassic Park. It was the first movie to scare the living crap out of me as a kid. Every time I heard about it I got scared. When I finally saw it...I didn't sleep that night. Over a decade has passed, and now I look back on those memories with nostalgia. Weird, right?

I went to see Jurassic Park 3-D because I never had the opportunity to see any of the films in theaters. Furthermore, it had been a while since I'd watched any of them, and I was eager to see the original more than any other. So much has been said about the groundbreaking effects the movie showcased, the CGI prominently. But for me, the most effective moments featured the animatronic dinosaurs. In particular, the Tyrannosaurus scene remains one of the most incredible and terrifying experiences I've ever witnessed. And looking back on it now, I spend less time thinking "oh my god you stupid kids what the hell are you doing?!" and more time sitting in silence and fear at the giant eye staring into the window. That scene was so powerful and affecting, it was more than 10 years before I could convince myself that they were not real dinosaurs.

Overall, it remains a fantastic film. It doesn't scare me as much as it used to, which I miss. I miss how much it used to scare me as a kid. I still remember my lifelong promise never to set foot on an island with dinosaurs on it; not for a million dollars, not for a billion dollars. I wouldn't go within 500 miles of real dinosaurs I was so terrified of this island. Every scene in this movie once the power went out was a continuation of my living nightmare. I miss that feeling, wow that sounds weird. ” - danhollow
42 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
This movie is about Jackie Robinson and his journey to becoming a Brooklyn Dodger and his life during that time. (128 mins.)
Director: Brian Helgeland
“ When I was a kid, we had a collection of inspiring stories about real people that I used to tear through. I loved reading them. The first one I read was called "The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson". Over a dozen years later I finally got a chance to see that story come to life on the big screen.

The movie is not quite as good as I was hoping. I was hoping for an early Oscar-contender for Best Picture, which sadly this movie is not. However, it is in no way a bad or even average movie. It is an excellent film and absolutely worth seeing.

Chronicling the story of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues; there isn't a central consecutive storyline so much as a series of confrontations all tied together around Robinson. Aside from Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, there are really no characters that are directly involved in every scene. This actually works well with the film though, because there was no one single opponent Jackie was fighting. It was an everyday battle to endure and withstand and play baseball better than anyone else.

The somewhat episodic manner of the film does allow us to see some pretty impressive (if short) performances by a lot of recognizable (but by no means A List) actors. Possibly the best performances in the film are those by Chadwick Boseman (as Jackie Robinson) and Alan Tudyk, who plays racist Phillies manager Ben Chapman with no reserve and no remorse. He absolutely commits himself to a distinctly unattractive role, but in doing so allows Jackie's perseverance and endurance to shine through even brighter.

The main spirit and driving force of the film is this; baseball doesn't care about color, all that matters are hits, runs, and numbers. Jackie Robinson made it to the Major Leagues because he was an incredible ballplayer, so good that no one could come up with a viable reason to exclude him beyond the color of his skin. To that end, it became the warcry of racists and conservatives to rile Jackie up and get him to act out, to yell and fight back so they could put him down and kick him out. But he never did. He sat and played through the boos and hateful words they threw at him.

This is more than just a movie for African-Americans or even Baseball fanatics. It's a movie for courage and fighting through battles tougher than we ever thought we could face. A movie about standing in the face of adversity and changing it through sheer ability and resolve. ” - danhollow
Evil Dead (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. (91 mins.)
Director: Fede Alvarez
“ This will sadly be an incomplete review. I was unable to finish Evil Dead when I went to see it. I saw the first hour, but nothing more.

The Evil Dead was a landmark film both for horror and for horror enthusiasts; made by a group of college students in a Cabin in the Woods, it opened new possibilities and even helped spawn a new sub-genre, horror-comedy (mostly with its sequels). Still, it was made on the cheap, and this shows in some of the effects work and acting.

This is that movie, but about thirty years later and with a full budget, and a new story. First and foremost I want to praise the premise and setup. It's simple, yet perfect for the iconic Cabin in the Woods horror film. I'm amazed it hasn't been done before (at least, not that I've seen). A group of college students travel to a Cabin in the Woods as part of a plan to detox one of them off dope. She overdosed recently and nearly died. In a deserted cabin without distractions or access to her fix, she's going to quit cold turkey, like it or not. If she starts to freak out, it's normal. If she starts breaking out in cold sweats, normal. If she starts hallucinating seeing demonic girls in messy dresses, trees attacking and raping her; unusual, but within the realm of normality for someone detoxing. The whole setup fits together very nicely, as well as for the other characters.

From there, things take a definitive turn for the creepy. I won't go into too many details, but most of the effects are old-fashioned blood and gore, and they are exceptionally effective. How effective? The reason I didn't see the whole film was that I passed out an hour into it. Literally passed out in the theater. Body shut down and slumped over in the aisle. Got up, made it out to the hallway in a cold sweat, slumped over again, and went face first into the carpet.

I'd call that a testament to the effects work. And a reminder to myself that I generally don't see zombie movies because I don't like blood and gore. Still, for what I saw, it was an exceptional horror film, standing above even its legendary predecessors. If you have a strong stomach for blood, gore, and violence, I highly recommend it. ” - danhollow
Iron Man 3 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
When Tony Stark's world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution. (130 mins.)
Director: Shane Black
“ Iron Man 3 was ultimately disappointing. For me, at least.

Jon Favreau decided against directing this one, which is the main reason I'm choosing for why this sequel proved ineffective for me. It just doesn't feel like an Iron Man movie.

Don't get me wrong, it gets a lot right. Tony is witty, intelligent, and snarky as ever, and his suits are getting cooler by the hour. Pepper is exasperated with him, but ultimately supportive. Rhodey is a loyal soldier, but always has time for Tony (the too few moments they share are some of the best in the movie). The special effects are fantastic as ever.

Now for all that's wrong with Iron Man 3.
1. No SHIELD. Iron Man was where SHIELD was first introduced, as well as Coulson, Fury, Black Widow, etc. SHIELD is completely absent from the picture.
2. Limits Installed. Now that The Avengers has happened, Tony can't be taking on the world alone. His villains can't be too big or everyone will be asking why they didn't call in the Avengers. It makes everything feel less intimidating and less dangerous.
3. Sucky Villain. Iron Man had Jeff Bridges, Iron Man 2 had Mickey Rourke; I'd say they set the standard pretty high. I thought Ben Kingsley was worthy, I thought Guy Pearce wasn't. I like both the actors playing villains, but one is only secondary; the main villain's motivation is that Tony Stark invited him up to a roof to discuss his ideas, then never showed. Drunk Tony Stark blew him off and he responded with national terrorism. Get over it, man.
4. Sucky enemies. Glowing people who can regenerate and melt metal with their touch. I don't care how many Iron Man suits they trash, glowing people are not scary. Not compared to the Iron Monger or Whiplash (with or without the suit).
5. No Hard Rock. The only piece of music anyone will recognize is in the opening, Blue (Da Boo Dee). No AC/DC, no Black Sabbath, no Queen, no Rolling Stones. What the hell!

This movie just feels incomplete. Like Iron Man missing some pieces of armor. Actually, given that's what they advertised in all the posters, I guess they completed the job they set out for.

Saw twice. Once with sister. ” - danhollow
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one-man weapon of mass destruction. (132 mins.)
Director: J.J. Abrams
“ I never watched Star Trek. I mean any of the series or movies. Ever. Just never appealed to me. Still, since it's such a huge aspect of nerd culture, you can't enjoy science fiction without hearing about Star Trek everywhere. From that alone, I've picked up a basic understanding of Star Trek. Nothing too fancy; Kirk, Spock, "Beam me Up, Scotty!", "live long and prosper", Khaaaaaaaaaan!, even films good, odd films bad, etc. Wouldn't you know it? That was enough.

I won't give anything away, but this is one to see. Trust me.

Noteworthy Elements:
-Acting. Benedict Cumberbatch and Zachary Quinto in particular give excellent performances. Cumberbatch hits so many brilliant emotional cues that it'll turn on plenty of people who have never heard of him. As for Quinto, his rare emotional bursts are my favorite part of the new Star Trek films.
-Visuals. It's beautiful to look at, both the cinematography and the visuals (okay, more the visuals). I love their use of practical effects for several elements. My one pet peeve was they seemed to like the new effect they used for warp travel a little too much. Once is really cool, twice is less, every time after twice is just showing off.
-Smart. It keeps you permanently guessing the status quo. Furthermore, there are quite a few situations where you will literally be asking yourself "crap, how ARE they going to get out of this?".

Go see it. ” - danhollow
Oblivion (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A veteran assigned to extract Earth's remaining resources begins to question what he knows about his mission and himself. (124 mins.)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
“ I was waiting in a movie theater and got bored. This movie was (surprisingly) still playing, and even though it was already about and hour in, I had nothing else to do so I bought a ticket and stepped in to watch. I would like to state at this point that this is a bad example for others to follow. I still don't fully understand the story. So I'm just going to review what I can.

This is a visual film. It's all about how cool it looks and how neat and clever it is. There are quite a few twists and turns, to the point where it can become hard to follow at times.

Still, it has a very unique style that is original and creative, although not exactly exhilarating the way movies like Tron: Legacy were (odd given this has the same director). The visual style is drained of color, very pale and white and even grainy. There's also a spherical/geometric core to everything. Admittedly, it's a little bland though, and the turrets we see and are supposed to fear don't seem very intimidating, they look like the kinds of drones that get shot down by one blaster shot. It's still a very well-shot film that always looks interesting.

Acting-wise; I have no problem with Tom Cruise, and I have little time for people that do.

It isn't the most gripping movie, but it is by all means an enjoyable one to sit down and watch. Even if just to kill some time. ” - danhollow
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Hobbs has Dominic and Brian reassemble their crew to take down a team of mercenaries: Dominic unexpectedly gets convoluted also facing his presumed deceased girlfriend, Letty. (130 mins.)
Director: Justin Lin
“ Here's my experience with Fast & Furious.
1st One: Really Liked it.
2nd One: Liked it.
3rd One: Liked it.
4th One: Eh....kinda bland.
5th One: Eh....kinda goofy and ridiculous.
6th One: I want to punch something and slam the gas pedal!

Let there be no doubt this is an action movie. Cars, explosions, insanely pumped characters, fist fights, guns, destruction, and above all cars. That aside, is it a good action movie? Hell yes. This is a movie that gets your adrenaline pumping and keeps it going all the way through to the end. Great stunts, effect work, and some sick crashes.

Personal highlight for me was the brawl between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano; without doubt the best girlfight I've ever seen. Seriously, it's a match made in heaven; Girlfight vs Haywire. It's a brawl that can have no victor, but man is it done well.

Story-wise; someone's got a world-class team of drivers who are smashing through military convoys like Hot Wheels cars. So Agent Hobbs (The Rock) calls in the best team he knows, Toretto's team. Toretto meets a blast from the past in the form of Letty, his girlfriend who "died" in Fast4. There's plenty more, but that's all I'll say for now. I like the way they re-introduce Rodriguez' character (Letty), but the thing that irked me was when they decided to play the "amnesia" card with her. Never works, always annoying. Still, they at least did us a favor and didn't give her a heartwarming scene where she regains her memory and embraces Dom. She sticks to her established character throughout, which I admire.

Action-wise, the stuff these guys pull is insane and impossible; but is pulled off so well here you don't care. The one thing that did bother me was the lack of injuries sustained after a couple characters had their cars completely flipped over and smashed to hell against buildings and other cars. Come on movie, give 'em cuts or bruises at least! Aside from that, awesome action. if you love driving and love Fast & Furious, you'll love this baby. Drive or die, folks. ” - danhollow
After Earth (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.9/10 X  
A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, a millennium after events forced humanity's escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help. (100 mins.)
“ For what few of you do follow my lists and my posts; you know that I am and remain an adamant supporter of M. Night Shyamalan. Even though most people regard his name as the punchline to a joke, I still respect the man as a filmmaker. I was very much looking forward to seeing this movie.

I will admit I feared it might be another movie that missed the mark like several of his recent works. I was wrong. This is without doubt Shyamalan's best film since Signs. Hell, maybe better. If you have problems with any of what has been said so far, take it somewhere else.

The story (written by Will Smith apparently) is that of a futuristic society in which the Earth has been abandoned and mankind has colonized other planets. However, we are also engaged in a war against a rival alien race that has bred biological weapons (Ursas) that literally sense and track us by the pheromones we excrete when we are afraid. One man discovered a way to cut off all fear, becoming as a ghost to the Ursas, that man was Cypher Raige. That is Will Smith's character. His son Kitai (played by Jaden Smith) has had few interactions with his father, but wants to be just like him. However, he has deep-seated fears and insecurities that keep him from being ready for combat. But when a mission goes awry and most of the crew dies on impact with the now-quarantined Earth; Kitai must make his way to part of the ship wreckage and retrieve a signal beacon to save him and his now-crippled father.

The film definitely reminded me of Oblivion in that it has a very unique but reserved visual style. Less gaudiness, more functionality. In this film, everything has a very organic and textile-like feel to it, like snake scales or canvas with everything. It also has an Avatar-like feel to the way Kitai explores the forgotten Earth, and some cool creatures. My favorites were a leaping snake and the Ursa, which is an amazing design and looks just like a nightmare come to life.

It's notable that Will Smith's usual cocky charm is almost completely absent from this film, his Cipher is a man who is strong and powerful, but to become so has apparently discarded a lot of what made him human. As his son grows stronger though, he grows more and more human, and seems to find himself along with his son. The few moments of wit are enjoyable though. Jaden Smith definitely does a great job as Kitai, and you can definitely feel a bit of tension between him and his real-life father; but also a deep sense of personal discovery and transformation.

I greatly enjoyed this movie. ” - danhollow
The Great Gatsby (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A writer and wall street trader, Nick, finds himself drawn to the past and lifestyle of his millionaire neighbor, Jay Gatsby. (143 mins.)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
“ I support any film that gives Leo DiCaprio a shot at an Oscar.
At the same time, The Great Gatsby normally wouldn't be a movie I'd jump to see. I read the book in high school, but found very little that was really gripping or engrossing about it. It was short, confusing to say the least, and the writing was was very weird. I've read several "Great American Novels", and I can usually find something to enjoy in them; but Gatsby came and went and I just felt underwhelmed.
Furthermore, Baz Luhrman is kind of a gray area for me. I've only seen Romeo + Juliet all the way through, and I liked a lot of the style, even if it got too over-the-top and silly at points. Moulin Rouge I've seen only a little of, and while again I enjoyed the style, the movie itself was a little too ridiculous for me.

As for the movie itself, I definitely enjoyed it more than the book. The beginning does drag a little, but once Gatsby shows up that goes away instantly. I did love the way they introduced Gatsby, and DiCaprio is definitely a perfect choice to play him.
The story is of the endless excitement and energy of the "Roaring" 1920's, exemplified by the nightly wonder-fest parties thrown by the mysterious Jay Gatsby, a young man of ridiculous wealth but dark secrets. However, even for the faults he has, his purpose, goal, and driving force is pure; naively so. As with so many great tragic characters, it started with a girl.

The most undeniable strength of this film is the visuals. The costumes are....I won't try to describe them. The Oscar for Best Costuming is in the bag, case closed. Gatsby's house is like nothing you've ever seen or imagined. And while there are still some fast and crazy cuts in the film, it's never annoying or distracting.

The acting. I'm going to run out of space and/or words on the acting, so I'll point out the most notables. DiCaprio (of course); Carey Mulligan is electric as Daisy Buchanan, she seems so real you can feel your own future heartbreak from getting tangled up with this woman. Elizabeth Debicki gives a short but unforgettable performance as Jordan Baker, she embodies this remarkable woman down to her very core. Tobey Maguire does his best, but Nick is a character that is unfortunately doomed to be overshadowed by everything around him.

Come for a good time. ” - danhollow
The Purge (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  
A wealthy family are held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate during the Purge, a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legal. (85 mins.)
Director: James DeMonaco
“ The Purge is okay. It is a different kind of horror from the other Black, White & Red films in that it actually features human antagonists (slashers, essentially) and a fair amount of action. Furthermore, they also add in that it's a future world, and while it doesn't appear too far into the future, things have definitely changed.

Once a year there is a 12-hour period of time in which all crime (murder, rape, robbery, etc) is legal. Rescue services are suspended, and society takes out its pent-up aggression and hostility on the streets uninterrupted. And as we are repeatedly told, this apparently works. Crime is down, and people are much happier.

The family we follow is quite financially wealthy because the father James (Ethan Hawke) sells top-of-the-line security systems. These systems are mainly for upper-class citizens who don't feel the need (or lack the nerve) to go out of Purge night, and instead just try to remain safe until it's over. James is a clear example of this mindset.

However, this Purge night, a homeless man knocks on their door pleading for sanctuary from the mob coming after him. James' son lets him in, and he appears and disappears again throughout the movie. Meanwhile, the mob comes to James' door and politely ask the family to give up the filthy bum so they can "let it all out" on him. I won't say any more.

This film isn't as scary as most of its predecessors, and doesn't rely as much on atmosphere or on the paranormal. The main scare factor is the characters, particularly the upper-class college student who is leading the mob. Imagine a handsome young Catholic boy. Now switch Catholicism with a religion founded upon purging all repressed emotion upon the "ugliness" of society through violent means. Give him a shotgun, a machete, and a charming smile. It's the refinement and elegance of these psychos that really gets to you, they believe in the purge to a very startling degree.

The film does also have quite a fair share of twists, although nothing too groundbreaking. Still, they keep things interesting, and they do catch you off-guard quite effectively. But altogether, there isn't enough draw or depth to make The Purge a really effective scary movie. In this new era of horror, they can't all be gems. ” - danhollow
This Is the End (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
While attending a party at James Franco's house, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel and many other celebrities are faced with the Biblical Apocalypse. (107 mins.)
“ A little anecdote before I begin. I love watching movies, although no one else in my family has quite the same passion for it as I do. Still, I do see films with my family from time to time, and I have a rough idea as to what they like and what they don't like. Take my Mum, for example. She likes comedy, but she hates swearing. Not all swearing, mind you, just excessive swearing that seems to serve no purpose. Her least-favorite film of all time is Hot Tub Time Machine. If she ever saw it, this would be my Mum's new least-favorite movie of all time.

Jay Baruchel and Seth Rogen are two comedic actors and two great buddies. Jay is in LA for a visit and so he stays with Seth, the two of them having been friends for a long time, even though it's been a while since either has seen each other. Seth invites Jay to a party at James Franco's new house, Jay isn't a big fan of the LA scene, but ultimately decides to come along. At the party, they meet a whole host of celebrities; including Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Rihanna, Michael Cera, Jason Segel, Emma Watson, and many more. Then the sky opens up and sets the Hills on fire. Many celebrities die soon thereafter, and Jay, Seth, James, Jonah, and Craig retreat back into James' home. They take stock of their supplies, then try to sleep and pray the whole thing was just a drug-induced hallucination tomorrow. It isn't, and now Danny McBride is in the house eating all their food like nothing's happened.

From there it's a matter of watching how these guys survive the Apocalypse. We find out that it IS the fabled Biblical Judgement Day, in which all worthy people go to heaven while the unworthy burn in the Hell-on-Earth below. If you didn't get sucked up by a bright blue light into heaven, it's for a reason. These guys all have reasons why they're stuck down here. They must try and get to heaven before hell kills them.

It's written pretty loosely and there is a fair amount of referencing between all of them, as all the actors know each other from various movies. Furthermore, there are some of the most crude and raunchy lines ever recorded in this movie. Danny McBride in particular has a rant that is so unbelievably vulgar and obscene, you either have to stop watching in disgust or laugh your head off at this ultimate male-privates-related declaration. At the same time, there are some holes in the movie (how did Emma Watson not get into heaven? Especially when you see who DID make it there).

They make jokes about each other's acting chops, but during the actual film, I thought Craig Robinson did the best and most believable job. James Franco was great when he was cool and in charge during the beginning, but once things get frantic his performance starts to waver. Jay is technically the main character, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about his performance (it was good, but that's about all). Seth Rogen is still doing what he does (best?) every movie. Jonah has some fun playing the ultimate Nice Guy, but if he's still here on Earth, you know he's hiding something. Danny McBride is in his element here, playing a fictional version of himself, which is almost identical to how he plays every character. The reason he gets in so many movies is because he is one of the most gifted actors working today when it comes to being an unabashed a$$hole. He can create conflict out of anything, and sell his horrible persona every single time he does it. There is nothing he won't do if he feels like doing it.

I saw this film for 5$. Watching Emma Watson beat them all up and rob them was worth that 5$, as was Danny's ultimate crude humor rant and a few other scenes. Is it a good movie? Sure, why not. Is it a great comedy? No, not at all. But it's fun enough for most people. As long as you have no reservations about swearing. ” - danhollow
World War Z (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Former United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself. (116 mins.)
Director: Marc Forster
“ I've said this before, I'm not a big fan of zombie movies. Mostly I just don't like gore. I never found zombies to be really scary, just gross. World War Z changed that. It made me truly afraid of zombies for the first time.

To a degree, World War Z is nothing new. A zombie infection breaks out and the world falls into chaos against the overwhelming hordes. The thing that's different with this movie is we actually get to SEE the invasion happen; not just the end results weeks/months/years later. We watch the major cities fall one by one, we feel the fear of wondering where can possibly be safe, and we cry out as these seemingly unstoppable forces spread and consume everything in their path.

As you probably know from the previews, these are not the slow zombies. These are fast-moving infected people who have become incredible aggressive and hostile, basically a fast-spreading case of rabies with semi-self-destructive tendencies added in. The movie also breaks a long tradition in that it actually calls them "zombies". In all honesty, we don't see a lot of rotting flesh or oozing, there's very little blood in the movie at all. But these are the scariest zombies we have ever seen because of this. Watching these swarms just run and invade and squirm into every square inch of space; we are unprepared for this. Forget "shoot them in the head", your only hope is to shoot and shoot and keep shooting until you can't shoot any more.

Watching this invasion, you will wonder how you could ever have been scared of slow zombies, and how they could have ever taken over the world. ” - danhollow
Monsters University (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A look at the relationship between Mike and Sulley during their days at Monsters University -- when they weren't necessarily the best of friends. (104 mins.)
Director: Dan Scanlon
“ Monsters, Inc. is my favorite Pixar movie. So when I heard a prequel was coming out, I leapt with joy.

Monsters, Inc. followed Sully, but this one follows Mike, starting with an adorable look at Mike as a little kid the day he decided he wanted to be a Scarer. He worked hard, studied his butt off, and made it to Monsters University. But Mike has one unavoidable fact that comes bubbling to the surface here (something most of us already thought in the back of our minds); he isn't inherently scary. Sully can roar, others have retractable claws or horns or sharp teeth or assorted talents for scaring, but Mike...

This movie is very much an example how big things have small beginnings. So many answers are given to questions we never even asked about Mike and Sully, and it's a lot of fun to see how so many characters became who they are in Monsters, Inc. My favorite example is Randall, who isn't even a villain here. In fact, he's Mike's first friend and roommate. We come to see that the reason he always squints is not because he's mean and angry; he just can't see very well without his glasses. Simple, but nonetheless the origin of a defining trait.

As for the movie itself, I will admit it was a tad underwhelming in the beginning, but the climax caught me off-guard and the small adventure in the human world shows some of the most beautiful animation of any Pixar film (and scary and the same time). The short trip culminates in a truly wonderful scare that reminded me why I love horror movies. The ending is also fantastic, and manages to say so much in so little time. My biggest regret is that there was no mention of Boo, but that's understandable. This remains a wonderful movie. ” - danhollow
The Heat (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
An uptight FBI Special Agent is paired with a foul-mouthed Boston cop to take down a ruthless drug lord. (117 mins.)
Director: Paul Feig
“ I love Melissa McCarthy, although Sandra Bullock has never really blown me away with anyway. Still, I decided to see this movie in the hopes that it might be a little fun. Here were my reactions:
Sandra Bullock's First Scene: Boring...
Hey! Bawwy Kwipke!
Is that the hook dude from Arrested Development?
Melissa McCarthy's First Scene: *dies laughing*
Biff! Say butthead!
Sweet Dee!
Is that guy....whoa...
Taran Killam!

Billed as an action-comedy film, I think it might be better off if they just called it a comedy. Seriously, it isn't a very good action movie. Two contrasting cops need to work together while tracking down the leader of a drug ring. The Top Bad Guy is the most throwaway Crime Boss of any action film, there's only one car chase and it's exceedingly dull, for all the ammo we see there is very little actual shooting, no hand-to-hand fight scenes. It's a poor action film.

But it is a GREAT comedy. From the get-go, Melissa McCarthy is absolutely hilarious as a foul-mouthed Irish street cop in Boston (complete with a hilarious Boston Irish family). She dresses more like a thug than a cop. I don't know who's more afraid of her, her perps or her fellow cops.
Sandra Bullock is an ambitious but stuck-up pretentious FBI officer who has the title but none of the respect it entitles. People just don't like her; although it's easy to see why. For quite a while, she's very boring. However, once she starts to loosen up, things get fun.

These two actresses create complete comedy madness. I laughed so hard and so long, I actually cried with laughter at one point. Maybe Bullock's character is a bit stiff, but it's because she's that way that McCarthy's interactions with her are so unbelievably funny. It's going from so unbearably bland to so insanely out-there in a microsecond. There's a catalogue of funny lines and interactions; my favorite might be Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future)'s short-but-hilarious cameo as McCarthy's police chief.

Warning, there's a lot of swearing. But it's also the funniest movie this year; much funnier than Identity Thief (also featuring McCarthy). ” - danhollow
Man of Steel (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Clark Kent, one of the last of an extinguished race disguised as an unremarkable human, is forced to reveal his identity when Earth is invaded by an army of survivors who threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction. (143 mins.)
Director: Zack Snyder
“ I've been excited for this movie, eagerly anticipating it, I even heard it wasn't doing so well critically, but I didn't care. I grew up with Superman (the Animated Series) and I wanted to love this movie so much.
But I can't say I loved it. I can't say it's a great film.

The main problem with this movie is the main problem with Iron Man 3; The Avengers. For IM3, it put a leash and a limit on everything. For MoS, it made DC Comics want to do it's own version. But way too fast. The original Iron Man came out in 2008, Avengers came out in 2012, that gave it 4 years to introduce and explore the Marvel Universe. DC wants to have a Justice League movie for 2015, and this is the first movie (in 2013). It's too much, too big, too fast.

This movie tries to cover so much ground so quickly that it really doesn't cover any of it well. We see the destruction of Krypton and find out it's whole story. We also see the young Man of Steel trying to grow up in short flashbacks intercut with his years as a vagabond and a wanderer. We see him discovering his powers, and his birthright. We meet Ms. Lois Lane, who actually cracks his identity in no time flat. We see his struggle to do the right thing and hold himself to a higher standard. We see the big bad guy from Krypton find him and explain his plan. We see his goons kick our hero's ass. We see him decide to decimate Earth and its inhabitants for a New Krypton. We see Clark have doubts. We see people come to accept him. We see them stand behind him. We watch Superman and Zod tear Metropolis apart for 30 minutes. We see Lois' co-workers and their view of the whole thing. We see Superman save the day, but at a great cost.

WAY too much for one movie.
I will say that Henry Cavill does a fantastic job as the Man of Steel, even though he is given very few scenes where he is not grunting, brooding, or screaming. If they'd really given us a chance to see a character, a person, as he grew up and evolved... that would have been much more engaging. Sadly, mostly he's just there, just waiting. Or he's flying. Or he's involved in giant destructive battles.
Another thing, the visual effects for this movie ARE spectacular. No doubts about that, Zack Snyder is a great visual director. But I think too much time and emphasis is placed on the visuals, and not enough the dialogue, story, pacing, or characters.

I want to say I love this movie; but I cannot. ” - danhollow
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
When Gru, the world's most super-bad turned super-dad has been recruited by a team of officials to stop lethal muscle and a host of Gru's own, He has to fight back with new gadgetry, cars, and more minion madness. (98 mins.)
“ I loved Despicable Me. I like films that view things from the bad guy's point of view. Wreck-It Ralph made me cry and was my favorite movie of last year. I wasn't expecting that kind of a reaction from this film, but I had high hopes it would be fun.

It is.

Gru is recruited by an organization known as the Anti-Villain League to track down a supervillain who could actually take over the world (in a bad way). He is given a partner in the form of Agent Wild, who is a lot more fun than the previews paint her to be.

Gru is a marvel in that he is such a unconditionally caring parent to his girls and yet an immature, grumpy, and unabashed villain. Agnes re-affirms her place as the cutest orphan in movie history. Edith seems to have developed her interest in weapons and destructive to a "Ninja" phase. Margo is discovering young love. Russell Brand has a short but nonetheless excellent return as Dr. Nefario. Kristen Wiig finds a surprising realism in Agent Wild, who switches between proper & businesslike and energetic & lively multiple times during conversation. The Minions remain hilariously juvenile and petty; funny not just for kids, but for all viewers. The villain is fantastic and fun; and has the greatest "Faked Death" story I've ever heard (covered with explosives while fist-fighting a great white shark on top of a bomb flying into an erupting volcano).

Despicable Me manages to stay fresh because it knows how to use normality for comedy. Take crazy and ridiculous characters and scenes, and have them interject and interrupt strict normality. That in itself is the essence of comedy.
*SPOILER* I do love their take on relationships, with Gru not saying "I love her" but "I like her"; and getting married 147 dates later at the end of the movie. ” - danhollow
The Lone Ranger (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Native American warrior Tonto recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice. (150 mins.)
Director: Gore Verbinski
“ Early promotions told me this movie was putting all its eggs into the "Everyone Loves Johnny Depp" basket.
Early critical opinion told me this movie was a "train wreck".
Early comments around the internet told me the movie was doing poorly.
Early on, I stopped caring.

I went to see the movie because I wanted to. I like Johnny Depp plenty, but I'm also very interested in Armie Hammer. For the couple movies I've seen him in, he has a very fresh energy to him. There's a quality to all his performances that I can only describe as sharp and quick. He reacts differently than any other actor I've seen; not in a huge way, but in an interesting way.

I took a liking to the movie early on. I enjoy the way they present the telling, with an elderly Tonto narrating the tale to a boy at a carnival in the 30's. It has a great nostalgia to it. Hammer managed to get a great laugh in his first scene, just from the smallest thing. Johnny Depp is in the zone as Tonto, a character who switches back and forth between supernaturally wise and hilariously petty in every scene. The villain may not have the wild sophistication of Barbossa, but what he lacks in class he makes up for in monstrousness.

Story real quick; Butch Cavendish, a (justifiably) feared criminal due to be hanged escapes his captors. Lawyer John Reid volunteers to go along with his Texas Ranger/Town Hero brother Dan to retrieve the inhuman outlaw. Ambushed and left for dead, John finds himself saved by the comanche Tonto, and they team up to bring Cavendish to justice.

The movie is never short on quick laughs in every scene, and is very reminiscent of the Pirates of the Caribbean films in that respect. The constant reminder that John is less heroic than his brother is brought up a lot, but they manage to keep it from getting annoying. Truth be told, John's early career as the Ranger is a bit lackluster, mostly due to his unshakable belief in the justice system. He rarely shoots anything or anyone, which can get a little irritating.

However, once he sees what is being done in the name of the "justice" he so idolizes, his transformation is pretty quick. The climax of this film aboard trains is truly awesome; utterly fantastic to watch, exciting to witness, brilliantly executed on every level. Trains racing, guns blazing, debris showering, bullets flying, cars crashing; it made every weaker moment of the film worth going through.

Don't take my word for it, and certainly don't take other people's; see this film for yourself. In my opinion, it's a damn good one. ” - danhollow
Pacific Rim (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse. (131 mins.)
“ My first IMAX film in a few years,and my first IMAX 3-D movie in a bit longer. Still, if I was ever going to do it, it'd have to be for a Giant Robots versus Giant Monsters movie. The experience was pretty awesome, everything was so big and the sound almost hurt me it was so powerful. Then there was the movie.

I love Guillermo Del Toro. I love his movies, I love his style, I love his stories; but above all I love his monsters. The man just has this incredible imagination for cool creatures and freaks.
I love Giant Monsters. Godzilla, mostly. I love the feeling of a giant force of nature tearing apart a city like it's made of toothpicks. I love the scale and the power of each step and movement. I love the mass destruction.
Who doesn't love giant robots?

Pacific Rim is one of the greatest giant monster and/or giant robot movies of all time. And that's not just because it had the biggest budget. The monsters are unique and cool, yet many are clearly reminiscent of such classic Kaiju as Anguirus, Rodan, Ebirah, and Guiron. There's also quite a few original Kaiju that don't resemble anything we've seen before. But one thing is consistent; they're all awe-some.
The Mechs (known as "Jaeger") are equally incredible. Countries around the world pour their resources into these fighting machines, creating their own national icons and heroes. Again many are reminiscent of iconic robots, but have their own cool touches.

The story wastes absolutely no time introducing the Kaiju War or the Jaeger. Everything is explained right at the start, allowing us to jump right into the action of a Kaiju Fight. There are several fights in the movie, with the middle brawl taking up a good 40 minutes or more. The characters aren't developed a ton beyond the central pilots Beckett and Mako, their commander Pentecost, and the Kaiju Scientist/Groupie Newt. Charlie Day is absolutely hilarious as Newt, having honed jittery nerves and high-pitched freakouts on It's Always Sunny. Ron Perlman also has a small but hilarious part as a Kaiju Black Market dealer. However, the actress I most wish to shower praise upon is Miss Rinko Kikuchi (Mako). From the moment we meet her, you just can't take your eyes off her she's so engaging and interesting to watch.

I frikin' loved this movie. ” - danhollow
Grown Ups 2 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  
After moving his family back to his hometown to be with his friends and their kids, Lenny finds out that between old bullies, new bullies, schizo bus drivers, drunk cops on skis, and 400 costumed party crashers sometimes crazy follows you. (101 mins.)
Director: Dennis Dugan
“ I never saw the first Grown Ups. It just didn't seem that funny to me. The only reason I went to see the sequel was that a good friend of mine was an extra in it and I wanted to see her. Beyond that, I had no expectations.

However, with my friend's part pretty quick, I found myself watching the rest of the movie as well. There is a lot of stupid and very juvenile humor (the first scene in particular is pretty crude and dumb). Still, I laughed a bit. The numerous celebrity cameos were very hit or miss, although I will say that Shaq gave the best and funniest performance he's ever given in a movie (by which I mean he was actually funny). Stone Cold Steve Austin even showed up, and he did a pretty good job. The movie actually ends with a huge brawl that was pretty fun; although I think I had a little too much leftover adrenaline from Pacific Rim. I kept screaming "BREAK HIM IN HALF" at the screen.

However, the one factor that I enjoyed the most was the sense of family and friendship the movie had. Maybe it's just because the stars are all so close, but it has these moments and scenes that just feel so suburban and casual. The cast feel (for a few moments) like real people just going about their lives. They do things they would normally think are funny, not things guaranteed to get huge laughs.

It's a halfway decent movie, all things considered. ” - danhollow
The Conjuring (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. (112 mins.)
Director: James Wan
“ A horror masterpiece for my Black, White, and Red List.

Most horror fans know the story that when The Exorcist first came out, it was called "The Scariest Film of All Time". There are still many who call it that. But for those of us who didn't experience it when it was fresh and groundbreaking, we see that as a naive exaggeration; how could this film be as scary as they say it was?
After seeing The Conjuration, I think I understand what it was like when The Exorcist was first released.

I was hooked when I saw the "Hide & Clap" trailer for this movie. I loved the way it terrified me without relying on CGI or effects, it was chillingly done with no budget. When I saw the film at its premiere, I was blown away. Our whole theater screamed (myself included). And we screamed at such small things.

This movie is like a realization of every great horror experience. Drawing from so much, the movie is like a living history of scary stories, all wrapped up in a James Wan/Jason Blum low-budget/high-quality horror movie. It starts off with a possessed doll story that feels straight out of an urban legend. From there it moves into haunted house territory, skillfully unnerving the audience with small movements and sounds (Evil Dead). The monster is there, but they wait until we're glued to our seats in panic to show it to us (Jaws). Once the family realizes how powerless they are to this thing, they beg Paranormal Experts Ed and Lorraine Warren to help them (Poltergeist). The Warrens find some fairly disturbing evidence, and ultimately find themselves fighting to save a member of the family from the demonic entity (The Exorcist).

One of the most notable aspects of the movie is how well it uses sound to scare us. Little scratches, creaks, bumping doors, lots of wood knock sounds. The cinematography is wonderful; there's some lovely tracking shots and a bunch of very interesting angles that are exciting to see from. Aside from the main spirit, there is also the creepiest *beep* doll in the history of horror movies, which never fails to add menace and unease to the atmosphere. Worst of all is that we never know what they're going to do with it.

This isn't a movie to see for fun or laughs. This is a movie for getting really really scared.

I saw it a second time, and it still scared the crap out of me. ” - danhollow
R.I.P.D. (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  
A recently slain cop joins a team of undead police officers working for the Rest in Peace Department and tries to find the man who murdered him. (96 mins.)
“ Some movies are beyond saving. However, even for terrible movies there can still be little things that are worth watching. The actors of R.I.P.D. are its one saving grace.

The premise was done better by The Flying Dutchman in Pirates of the Caribbean, and they barely even scratched the surface. When people die, if they were capable and notable in life, they are recruited in death to fight spirits that stayed on Earth ("Deados").
Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston cop (so they tell us, but no Bostonian will believe it) who dies, then is recruited by the R.I.P.D. to hunt and exterminate Deados. His partner is Roy (Jeff Bridges), an Old West lawman who doesn't believe in "partners" and wouldn't break off one of his rants if his hat caught on fire.

The Deados can be tracked because things stop working and break around them. Also, for some bizarre reason indian food causes them to reveal their true (bloated/disgusting) forms. Nick and Roy carry gigantic pistols that look like the toy guns I played with when I was 6. Their bodies are nigh-invulernable, they feel pain but can't actually get wounded. That's about everything.

We're told that the living public have no idea about Deados or the R.I.P.D., although this illusion is pretty shattered when one (painfully bad) Elvis-impersonating Deado goes for a jog through Boston in all his bloated and disgusting "glory". At least the Men in Black knew how to keep a secret (or how to wipe people's memories).

Ryan Reynolds is a good actor who always seems to end up in movies that just never really pan out. Still, he always does a good job, and he's a fun partner to Jeff Bridges. But Bridges and Kevin Bacon are truly the only saving grace for this movie. Bridges puts the Old West gunslinging into every move he makes, drawing and sheathing his gun, throwing things, talking about the coyotes that ate his body; he deserved a better movie. Bacon's character is weak, but there is not a moment he's on-screen where he does not command every second of your attention. Put simply, even in horrible movies Kevin Bacon is untouchable. ” - danhollow
The Wolverine (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
When Wolverine is summoned to Japan by an old acquaintance, he is embroiled in a conflict that forces him to confront his own demons. (126 mins.)
Director: James Mangold
“ Stop reading this, and go see the movie.
For those of you who need more convincing, allow me to elaborate.

X-Men kicked off the modern Superhero Movie Age. It was awesome.
X-2 was also very good.
X-3 was good (I loved it, personally), but upset a lot of people.
X-Origins *does not exist*.
X-First Class was decent enough (not gonna lie, I was underwhelmed).
The Wolverine is the Best.

At the same time, it's very strange that it even exists. It's hard to imagine the movie getting the green light in the first place. The premise is "Wolverine goes to Japan". There are only 3 mutants in the whole movie, including Wolverine himself. Every major threat is decidedly mortal. The main character is not the strongest of the X-Men, nor the first, nor the deepest or the least-developed. He's a 200-or-so-year-old immortal wanderer who can heal any injury and has metal claws for weapons.
Yet we love him. He is the essential X-Man. We always want more of him, but there are some essential flaws to making a movie about him.

Wolverine is too powerful. His body is unbreakable, he heals any injury instantly, and there are few opponents he cannot overcome through sheer ferocity and tenaciousness. All this makes for a very dull character. Or it would normally.

This movie changes all that. Nothing is constant, and nothing is absolute. Good and evil are blurred, and nothing is untouchable, unbeatable, or unbreakable. The movie keeps you guessing up to the very end, and then throws something huge into the mix in the post-credits scene. I said it once, I'll say it again; stop reading this and go see the movie.

Saw twice, loved it just as much. ” - danhollow
The To Do List (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Feeling pressured to become more sexually experienced before she goes to college, Brandy Klark makes a list of things to accomplish before hitting campus in the fall. (104 mins.)
Director: Maggie Carey
“ An awkward little movie for an awkward little subject.

Brandy Klark is a by-the-books smartypants who graduated valedictorian from her class with the highest GPA in her school's history. She's also a virgin. Guess which sticks out in people's minds.

After falling for a guy who is somewhere between Thor and Adonis, Brandy decides that if she wants to have a chance with him, she needs to become more sexually experienced. Putting together a list of acts to perform before she makes her move on her dream boy, she goes through them over the course of her last summer before college.

The story is decent enough, although there are very few laugh-out loud moments. It's not quite as gross as Judd Apatow's work, but clocks in at a close second (thankfully it has more direction though). The characters are what sell the movie, some well and some not-so-well.

I love Aubrey Plaza's deadpan weirdness, but I think they tried too hard to make her seem naive, which waters down her usual passive-aggressive charm.
Bill Hader plays her boss and manages to be a jerk and a dick that we simply can't hate. He manages to create comedy from some pretty bland lines.
Rachel Bilson plays Brandy's "sexually experienced" (slut) older sister, and is hilarious in every scene she's in. The two of them really feel like sisters who love/hate each other.
Clark Gregg plays their father with all the awkward ignorance of Steve Carrell at his best. He has some incredible moments.

All together, the film feels a little forced (but still consensual) and uncertain of itself. But again, that's kind of the point. The one idea is does get down well is that "sex *is* a big deal, and it isn't". ” - danhollow
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 (2013 Video)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Captured across two nights at Madison Square Garden, the Crossroads Guitar Festival offers a variety... (250 mins.)
Director: Martyn Atkins
“ Didn't get a chance to go to the actual show, so this was the next closest thing. Seeing a concert in a theater is still a pretty awesome experience, provided the concert is good. This was spectacular.

Bill Murray didn't host this time, but Clapton took center stage right from the start with a few classics (Tears in Heaven and Lay Down Sally). Then they moved onto an incredible Green Onions jam that featured close to 7 different solos, each beautiful and distinct. A couple stand-alone guitarists (whose names I want to learn) did some pieces alone while they set up. John Mayer, Derek Trucks, the Allman Brothers Band, and a dozen other artists who I can't think of off the top of my head all performed.

This night was all about guitars and jamming. Lot of instrumental pieces and extended solos, much less singing than your typical concert. But it is an Eric Clapton festival, so that's expected. Its strength began to wane towards the middle, but it ended on a high note with Sunshine of Your Love. Great concert, especially at the beginning.

I'm buying it first chance I get. ” - danhollow
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Following Kick-Ass' heroics, other citizens are inspired to become masked crusaders. But Red Mist leads his own group of evil supervillains to get revenge, kill Kick-Ass and destroy everything he stands for. (103 mins.)
Director: Jeff Wadlow
“ One of those rare occasions where the sequel is better than the original. Oh, I'm sorry, you read that it was a terrible movie? I beg to differ.

Kick-Ass 2 is a fantastic comic book/superhero movie that stays true to its roots while using the sequel to further develop its characters. The first film was all about showing how a regular guy could go about becoming a hero, well this movie is about what comes next. It's about the heroes, their ups, downs, and everything in between.

And Jim Carrey is awesome. Without doubt one of the best heroes we've seen on the big screen, and with no powers whatsoever. He's even better than Big Daddy was, although he doesn't kill people and he refuses to use guns. But you know what? That red, white, & blue beating stick of his kicks some serious ass. He is sadly only in the movie for a short time, but he owns every single second he's on-screen. It just goes to show that even if you take away the rubberface and Carrey's usual high-energy comedy, what you're left with is still a superb actor.

As far as his stance about not promoting the movie due to its level of violence, I stand by it. Particularly because the villain (The *beep*) is so consumed by gaining media attention through violence. He wants to be famous, he wants to be followed, he wants to be a celebrity. Which goes against what people have been trying to do since Sandy Hook and even Aurora. To honor such people, we should memorialize the victims, not the perpetrators. Giving them attention is dishonoring those that suffered at their hands. God bless Jim Carrey for remembering and standing by that.

Another note is that we get to see Hit Girl again, but a side of her we haven't seen before; her feminine side. Sounds awful? It shouldn't. The fact is, as much as we like Chloe Moretz as a little psychopath, her real acting chops show up when she's playing vulnerable, nervous, and shy. She plays those parts so incredibly well, it's great we get to see it here. She's going to make a great Carrie. ” - danhollow
Jobs (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
The story of Steve Jobs' ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century. (128 mins.)
“ This is a movie you only realize is bad after it's over. As far as faulting the people who screwed this movie up, first to blame should be the writer(s).
We meet Steve Jobs, played with strong conviction and commitment by Ashton Kutcher, who hasn't played a serious role in a long time (I doubt most people could name one of his serious roles). It isn't an Oscar-worthy performance, but for a guy who's mostly just an annoying comedic relief, it's a good performance. Kutcher commits to the character, even the decisions he makes that aren't something to be proud of. Let there be no question, Steve Jobs was a demanding and difficult person to work with/for, with a cutthroat attitude about *everything*. He makes Mark Zuckerberg look like Matthew Broderick.

The movie gives us a good look at the building of Apple from its earliest beginnings, but then starts to move at a more frantic pace once they get off the ground. They cover years of development way too fast. Furthermore, they never really take the time to explain exactly what has just gone on, which can leave audience members very confused as to why Jobs is still heavily involved in his company after he's been kicked out of his company. Still, the actors all do a very good job with what they're given, with the best performance given by J.K. Simmons as Arthur, Jobs' chief opponent for about 20-30 minutes before he disappears forever.

But the writing is the issue. We literally go straight from the huge climax with Jobs being outed from his company (i.e. he has NO involvement) to about 13 years later where they beg for him back. He says he wants to make Apple cool again. The End. Those 13 years are a total blank. We meet his daughter Lisa, but she never even looks at the camera and only mumbles a couple lines while sleeping on the couch (why she's sleeping on the couch in a house worth millions is never explained or even addressed).

So what stops this from being a truly terrible film? Steve Jobs. The fact is that I still walked away from this picture looking at the world the way I imagined Jobs did, not just surviving or settling, but always setting the standard for the next advancement. Innovation after innovation. Did he drive people hard? Yes. Did he hemorrhage his company's funds on projects? Oh yes. Did people hate him? God yes. Did he accomplish great things as a result of all the above? Without a doubt, yes. And if I managed to walk away understanding that, the film could not have been a total failure. ” - danhollow
The World's End (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from twenty years earlier unwittingly become humanity's only hope for survival. (109 mins.)
Director: Edgar Wright
“ I won't waste time talking about my love of Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, Edgar Wright, and science fiction. We'll be here all day. Just know I love them all.

The World's End is the story of 5 friends who attempted an epic pub crawl in 1990, fresh out of high school. 12 pubs, 12 pints, all culminating at the final bar; The World's End. They didn't make it. 23 years pass, and 4 of the members have gone on to be productive members of society. The fifth person and leader of the old gang is Gary King (Pegg), and he is pushing 40 while still hanging on to his teens. He decides to get the boys back together and attempt the crawl again. However, once they get into it, they start to notice that their old town has changed. All the people have become....strange. However, they decide to continue their quest to avoid drawing attention to themselves; because by this point they're drunk enough that no one can think of a better idea. And none of them can drive.

The film is a little slow starting, but Simon Pegg does a fantastic job interjecting comedic psychosis into every scene. His Gary King character is definitely fun; something like the most badass and yet pathetic nerd who ever lived. However, it's Nick Frost who really ups the ante in this film. In Shaun of the Dead, he was a fat deadbeat who made fart jokes. In Hot Fuzz, he was a lovable but dim-witted sidekick. Here we see him taking charge, never standing down or letting others overshadow him. He never chews the scenery, but he gives the best performance I've yet seen from him. His character is the first overweight superhero businessman badass juggernaut.

The whole film is layer upon layer of jokes and humor, and absolutely requires at least a couple viewings to really start to catch them all. At the same time, it's extremely funny, action-packed, and above all a deeply enjoyable movie. I love it. And I love the ending. ” - danhollow
You're Next (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
When the Davison family comes under attack during their wedding anniversary getaway, the gang of mysterious killers soon learns that one of the victims harbors a secret talent for fighting back. (95 mins.)
Director: Adam Wingard
“ The year says 2011, so I'm going to assume this was an indie horror flick that finally got a wide release. Good job it did, too.

You're Next is first and foremost an old-school Slasher with some more modern elements. But the first scene alone tells you exactly what you're in for. We open on a couple having sex, while someone watches from outside their deserted house. Guess what happens to them?

From there, we meet the members of a family who are gathered together to celebrate their parents' 35th Anniversary. I have a few doubts at to whether the actors playing the parents are old enough to have a 35th anniversary, but that's not important. Out of nowhere, the family is attacked by a group of 3 animal-mask-wearing killers, who start picking them off one by one. Basic enough, but You're Next definitely puts a twist on the Slasher genre. Our "Final Girl" is not dumb, blonde, inexperienced, or weak. Her name is Erin, she's the new girlfriend (and former student) of one of the family members. Any mockery of their relationship disappears once it becomes clear that Erin knows exactly what to do in such a terrifying situation.

The film starts off weak, nothing too special. Dialogue is dull, characters aren't particularly interesting, lots of shock horror/jump scares. But once the more useless characters are gone and Erin starts fighting back; things get interesting. The explanation for her ingenuity is short but adequate.
These killers manage to balance professionalism, viciousness, efficiency, and believability. The masks have no deeper meaning than striking fear into their victims (they aren't neighbors or anyone the victims have ever met). They aren't as ridiculously omnipotent as Jigsaw nor as inexplicably well-funded as The Collector nor as cruel and sadistic as the guys from Hostel.

It's the first good original slasher I've seen in a while. My favorite part is that there is no need for a sequel! It can exist as a good stand-alone film. ” - danhollow
Riddick (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick's past. (119 mins.)
Director: David Twohy
“ Riddick is why I go to the movies. It is not a re-hash of a million other Hollywood blockbusters, but a visceral and engaging experience that leaves its audience always glued to the action on screen. Watching this, I felt like a kid again.

I loved the idea and style of Pitch Black, it was the creativity of it that made it stand out when it could have just been dismissed as a B-Movie; but they made it something more. Chronicles, I'm less a fan of. While giving Riddick some more backstory is interesting, they try a bit too hard to make it deep and distinct and awesome, and it just comes off as confusing and unnecessary. We really don't need to know more about Riddick than "escaped convict, extremely dangerous, sees in the dark, very hard to kill".

This film brings us back to that. Don't let the trailer's or Vin Diesel's name fool you, this is not an action or a horror film; it's a survival film. Richard B. Riddick vs Empty World, man vs nature. Even when the bounty hunters arrive to claim the price on his head, it's more about studying one's enemy and understanding the environment than who has the most muscles or who gets the gun.

The visuals. Riddick's costume is somewhat in vein with the functionality-driven armor/gear of films like Oblivion or After Earth. We get a little peak into his life after Chronicles, but not enough to get annoying or confuse anyone who hasn't seen/didn't like Chronicles. It plays its part and sets up the rest of the film well. The visuals of his past life are a bit more gaudy, but nothing horrible. The planet of Riddick's imprisonment is marvelously desolate; desert, mountains, tar pits, nothing is given to Riddick, everything must be taken by his own hand. There are really only a few types of creatures we see; birds, dogs, and tar-pit-dwelling-scorpion monsters. These things are designed very well, and we get to spend a good deal of time studying them.

The supporting characters manage to be likable and engaging enough that even when we're following them instead of Riddick is doesn't get too dull. They let us get attached to quite a few of them, but without upstaging what's going on. Yes a few of the deaths are predictable, but the mercs always manage to stay at least a step above average trigger-happy muscleheads.

I've been to the the movies about 40 times this year. Not only was this better than I expected, it's one of my favorite films I've seen this year. ” - danhollow
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
The Lamberts believe that they have defeated the spirits that have haunted their family, but they soon discover that evil is not beaten so easily. (106 mins.)
Director: James Wan
“ Most people who know me know I love Insidious. They've seen me go on about how effectively it was made, how inexpensively, and how *beep* scary it is.

I was excited as could be for Chapter 2, especially given how amazing The Conjuring was. And this was Wan and Whannell directing and writing with each other again.

Chapter 2 starts in the past with Josh and Elise's first interaction and meeting with "The Old Woman". From there, we go right back to where the first Insidious ended (Spoilers), with The Old Woman in Josh's body while he remains trapped in The Further. A trip to Grandma's takes a turn for the insidious when the family continues to be haunted by spirits that have followed them.

The scares are not as intense and jarring as the first film. There are some wonderful effects they use, such as making people appear while characters are moving passed them. The filmmakers even make us start to pray that spirits only haunt people, not houses. There are real-world locations that are even scarier than The Further. Aside from that, it's effective but not groundbreaking atmospheric horror.

Now on to my favorite aspects of the film. The characters & style. Chapter 2 shows us more about the characters from the first film, which is a great for putting people at ease right before things take a turn for the terrifying. Just beating the audience's spirit into submission with scare after scare is unpleasant for everyone involved, a good horror movie knows how to relax its audience and make them feel safe before it yanks the rug out from under them.
It's wonderful getting to see Specs and Tucker going about their lives while trying to deal with Elise's death. The Lampton family also does a lot to revert back to some sense of normality, and there are funny lines throughout. As for Elise, she's become my favorite character in the films; she just has a natural way of warming up any scene and making us feel safer while she's around; even if only in spirit.

I love the ending, and I'm psyched for Chapter 3. ” - danhollow
Don Jon (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love. (90 mins.)
“ Don Jon.
What to say, what to say...there is nothing to say. Nothing I can say that can do justice to what this film has done. What Don Jon has managed to capture is something that writers and filmmakers have been trying (in vain) to capture for generations.

At the most basic level, it presents a real-life romantic comedy. But such a description fails to properly convey how much Mr. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has achieved with his first film. This is truly an auteur piece. Mr. Gordon-Levitt's mark and personal creative decisions are the foundation and flavor of this entire film. And it's because he has such creative freedom in the writing, directing, and delivery of the film that it succeeds so well. No filmmaker would have made this movie. No filmmaker would have ever tried to make a film this way.

Johnny is the Don. He is a ladies' man. Not "the", "a". Johnny is the most realistic guy that has ever been presented on the screen. Every guy can relate to exactly the way his mind works, for the most part (most guys do not watch as much porn as Johnny does). Ladies, this *is* how guys think. This is how we are, and we don't even realize it. And this *is* how you ladies are, too. We may be pigs, but you are far from being faultless yourselves. Even the best girl(friend) has faults you don't even notice about yourself.

My favorite part of this film is how it addresses Real Life vs Romantic Comedy Real Life. There's a great scene where Scarlet Johansson and JGL walk out of a RomCom and Scarlet just throws out praise for the cliches that drive every guy nuts about RomComs, right out into the open. They're right there for any writer, director, or actor to react on, scrutinize, and ravage. And Johnny/JGL just nods and casually affirms the way any guy does.
That's why this film works. So many films make the mistake of trying to tell you what's wrong with something. They go for the direct approach to the issue they wish to address; write in conflicts or confrontations that set it up for them, then tell you exactly what's wrong with it. Not Don Jon. Don Jon illustrates the problems with RomComs by showing what a real RomCom is. It teaches us by example. And it succeeds where all others have failed.

There are no praises I cannot shower down upon this film and Mr. Joseph-Gordon-Levitt. Bravo, bravissimo, all hail the new kid on the block.

This is the first film I can give a 100% approval rating for.

Warning for anyone going to see it:
If you have issues with sex scenes, swearing, nudity, and lots of porn clips; skip this one. ” - danhollow
Prisoners (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
When Keller Dover's daughter and her friend go missing, he takes matters into his own hands as the police pursue multiple leads and the pressure mounts. (153 mins.)
“ When your child goes missing, the worst thing is not knowing. Not knowing where they are, not knowing what happened to them, not knowing if they're safe, and not knowing if everything that can be done is being done to find them.

This movie builds everything around that premise. When two little girls go missing, their families react in different ways. Some fall into despair, others struggle to retain some kind of control or power over their situation, and some just try to struggle on with their lives.

Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) will do anything to find his daughter. Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), will do everything in his power to find the girls. And he does everything; sits in on every interrogation, responds first to every development, follows every lead, looks into every possibility. We see how hard he's working on this case. But for Keller, it still isn't enough. For his daughter, Keller will cross every line, and go to any depths.

The movie lives and thrives in the gray area of uncertainty. In never letting the audience or characters know for sure. Every time a dead end seemingly appears, the smallest new development brings it right back into question. Nothing is given, everything must be answered at the end.

The cast is phenomenal, there is nary a sub-par performance among them. Jackman plays Keller with more intensity than I've ever seen from him. Gyllenhaal has clearly held on to everything he learned about being a cop in End of Watch; I hold it that no actor can play one more convincingly than he. The tragically unrecognized Paul Dano has perhaps the most delicate and important role to play, making us constantly question whether he is a villain or a victim from only the smallest of words and reactions.

This is an intense film. Intense because we never know. Never know if Jackman is interrogating a kidnapper or torturing an invalid, never know if he's going crazy or just obsessive, never know if he'll go too far or hold it back. He doesn't know either, and the uncertainty is killing him and us. ” - danhollow
The Family (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
The Manzoni family, a notorious mafia clan, is relocated to Normandy, France under the witness protection program, where fitting in soon becomes challenging as their old habits die hard. (111 mins.)
Director: Luc Besson
“ The Family is as good as a crime drama is allowed to get without venturing into Oscar territory.

Think Goodfellas meets Addams Family Values. That's the best way I can describe The Family.
A former mob boss snitches on his crew, so his family is put into Witness Protection. Having just moved to Normandy, France; the Maznoni Family (now going as "The Blakes") adapts to their newest home. They all do their best to appear normal, but the Mob is less a job and more a way of life. All the while, their old comrades are trying to hunt them down.

It's still great fun watching them try unsuccessfully to fit in, and manages to avoid a lot of annoying cliches. For starters, every member of this family is capable of taking care of themselves. They don't take disrespect from anyone. Second, they act like a real family. Finally! A brother and sister who actually look out for one another instead of just bickering!

I loved this film. The writing is excellent, the acting is great, the characters are all instantly likable (even the cops), and the editing brilliantly serves the black comedy. On top of that, it has a cast of mobsters that any crime drama would be proud of.

It isn't The Godfather or The Departed, but that's because it doesn't want to be. It knows exactly what it wants to accomplish, and it fulfills it perfectly. Luc Besson's best film since Leon the Professional, and without doubt his funniest to date. ” - danhollow
Machete Kills (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  
The U.S. government recruits Machete to battle his way through Mexico in order to take down an arms dealer who looks to launch a weapon into space. (107 mins.)
“ If you don't get the joke, don't bother going. Machete is an exercise in how ridiculous a movie can get. Machete Kills is the sequel.

Blood, carnage, execution, controversy, swearing, sharp weapons and firepower; that is Grindhouse. That is Machete Kills.

This time around, I actually found myself following the other characters more than Machete. He seemed smaller, less of the ultimate badass Mexican he was in the first film.

However, there is never a dull moment with these supporting characters. Above all, I want to single out a few.
Demian Bichir for giving a standout performance as Mendez the Madman. One minute he's a hilariously over-the-top psycho, the next you truly pity him.
The entire cast of actors and actresses portraying El/La Cameleon(a). Every single one of them (Lady Gaga included) gives a flawless performance, and makes this character my absolute favorite.
Marko Zaror, for being the single most bad@$$ henchman I have ever seen. No lines, all awesome.

It's fun in its way, but not quite as adrenaline-pumping as the first. Still psyched for the third (yes, there is a third). ” - danhollow
Carrie (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  
A shy girl, outcasted by her peers and sheltered by her religious mother, unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom. (100 mins.)
Director: Kimberly Peirce
“ Had myself a big movie day. Saw three films, one decent, one really good, and one great.

I went into Carrie with fairly low expectations. I never saw the 1976 version, but I knew the story, I knew effectively what was going to happen, and I knew this was probably the start of a whole slew of Stephen King remakes. I went in after sitting down to a few of the recent horror remakes, and they were just so bad I started yelling for the characters to die already. I had high hopes for Chloe Grace-Moretz, which I brought up in my Kick-Ass 2 review, but that was it.

I was wrong. Completely wrong. Carrie was the great movie. Quiet, unsettling, unnerving, and beautifully realized. I checked the budget, and it was about $30 million. Pretty modest budget I'd say. There is wall-to-wall quality in this movie. The writing is real and emotional; there's a great scene where Carrie tries talking to her rapid-fire-praying Mother, and she just begs her to stop reciting and listen to what she's saying. The whole movie is a great example of that. The lines have a flourish and insight to them that helps them stand out from the usual mindless drivel; there is more going on in these teens' minds than just sex and hormones.

As for the actors themselves, they all bring their A-game. Everyone brings genuine emotional involvement in what they say, no one is just reciting lines. These are the most realistic teenagers I've seen in a horror remake by far. They have feelings, reactions, outbursts, and pride. But they also have shame, guilt, and even regrets. A good deal of the film follows Carrie's classmates, one trying to make up for what she did, another try to get revenge. Above all, these people illustrate what kids like Carrie need to know; there may be bad people, but there are far more good ones. People willing to help out others, whether it be something as small as a little tidbit of advice in a library or as big as giving them one night of happiness and acceptance. These characters build the movie from the ground up.

And we can't forget Carrie or her Mother. Julianne Moore plays Margaret White with a quiet instability that illustrates perfectly why Carrie is afraid of her getting involved in anything. You will be afraid of her. As for Chloe; she knocks it out of the park as Carrie. This should have been her big break. People remember her for being the foul-mouthed sociopathic Hit Girl, but it's roles where she has to play uncomfortable that really make her shine. After all, Chloe is actually 16, the age Carrie is supposed to be (Sissy Spacek was 27); so the isolation and judgement of high school is still fresh in her mind. Furthermore, Chloe isn't the usual Hollywood pretty girl. She has an odd smile and an inherent shyness that makes her perfect for Carrie. There is a pretty girl in there, but nothing like the seemingly dolled-up teenagers all around her.

This is the remake that people should see and take note of, if no other. It's also a perfect starting point for anyone interested in horror movies. ” - danhollow
The Fifth Estate (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
A dramatic thriller based on real events that reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most fiercely debated organization. (128 mins.)
Director: Bill Condon
“ Had myself a big movie day. Saw three films, one decent, one really good, and one great.

This turned out to be surprisingly disappointing. I went in expecting an underrated masterpiece. Instead, this seemed a half-baked realization of a real person/events. Maybe the filmmakers should have waited a little longer before making this film.

The biggest issue with the film is its lack of focus. It's difficult to really narrow down what the film is about. Is it about WikiLeaks? Is it about Julian Assange? Is it about journalism, deception, or pride? It's about 15%-20% of each.

Benedict Cumberbatch is an exceptional actor. He has to be with that name and face. You can hear the beauty and years of training behind every word he says, he manages to express a mastery of the verbal craft while coming off as inexperienced and ineffective. Julian was not the great speaker Steve Jobs or Walt Disney were. But Cumberbatch clearly is. For everything he gives to this performance, he really seems underutilized. Half his scenes he gives the same smile.

The rest of the characters also seem underdeveloped. I have had a soft spot for Daniel Bruhl since Inglorious Basterds and Joyeaux Noel, and I was really hoping this film could give him his big break into American film. Alas, he feels like he's just there to move the plot along, and change allegiances every 30 minutes or so.

The first trailer for this film showed the group watching a disturbing clip of terrorism happening, a clip that would never be seen. They decide the people need to see it. They're journalists, it's believable. That seemed like a good movie. This, it just seems like a mess. The last scene they literally redacted themselves. Twice.

This was messy, bordering on bad. ” - danhollow
Escape Plan (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
When a structural-security authority finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world's most secret and secure prison, he has to use his skills to escape with help from the inside. (115 mins.)
“ Had myself a big movie day. Saw three films, one decent, one really good, and one great.

Well, if you've been following along, you'll know which one this is.

Escape Plan looked good to me. And not just in an "Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone together Action Movie" sort of way. I got into Burn Notice this year, and my favorite element was Michael Westen's voiceovers, in which he would offer insights into spy tactics and common misconceptions people have in/about covert situations. Following someone who knows things the average person doesn't, that's what this movie is.

Premise; Stallone breaks out of prisons for a living, essentially an undercover jail inspector. He receives word of a new prison that claims to be inescapable. He accepts the job, only to find himself thrown into a prison ("The Tomb") designed from the book he wrote on compromising incarceration facilities.

Design; The Tomb is a brilliant design. When Sly wakes up and takes a look around, you can feel your own thoughts and hopes of escape draining just from looking at this place. Glass cells, geometric platforms, nondescript but terrifying guards packing loaded assault rifles, floodlights, heavy metal boxes, narrow corridors; you will believe this is the ultimate prison.

Characters; working with Stallone is Arnold, who seems oddly accepting of a new guy (especially given most of these guys are the criminals every government wants to disappear). He adds an insider's perspective to Stallone's plans. The two of them have fantastic chemistry together. Overseeing the complex is Jim Caviezel (from Person of Interest) who balances a remarkable combination of methodical, impulsive, authoritative, and whimsical.

The film is played straight, no tongue-in-cheek jokes or dumb excuses to blow things up or shoot people. The main characters don't even get to hold a gun until the very end. At the same time, this is probably the best action movie either Stallone or Schwarzenegger have ever done (minus franchises). The writing is good, the characters are likable for the most part, there are even surprises. Also, a fantastic scene where we finally get to hear Arnold speak in his native German. You wouldn't believe he could talk that fast. It's great old-school action that stands on its own. Definitely worth checking out. ” - danhollow
Gravity (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Two astronauts work together to survive after an accident which leaves them alone in space. (91 mins.)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
“ Finally got around to seeing this. Yeah, I know, what took so long? I wanted to wait until the time when I *wanted* to see this movie, not when I felt *obligated* to see it. Every critic and audience member has been showering Gravity with praise for weeks now...

...with good reason. This is the kind of film that inspire more than ripoffs and remakes; it inspires filmmakers to push their limits and see what kind of unique creations they can make reality. Gravity is one of those films that is more an experience than a story. It's also one of those films that needs to be seen in a theater to get the full effect; with 3D and, if you can, Imax.

A team of American astronauts are doing routine maintenance on a space station when they are hit by a wave of debris-turned-shrapnel from an exploded Russian missile. We follow Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as she tries to survive in the single most inhospitable environment in existence; space.

Told primarily through long cuts that make everything feel very instantaneous, the first scene lasts (uninterrupted) for about 20 minutes. Yet those 20 or so minutes alone would constitute a truly mind-blowing movie experience on their own. Without cuts, you are left watching everything as it happens, as well as the fear of what's happening. They make you stay with the characters through the very worst of the experience.

George Clooney is his usual disgustingly charming self. Why can't we hate this man? As for Sandra Bullock, she gives an Oscar-worthy performance (so much better than the conventional one that won her the Oscar in The Blind Side) as Ryan, who struggles to find a reason to stay alive in the face of ultimate fear. ” - danhollow
Ender's Game (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion. (114 mins.)
Director: Gavin Hood
“ Out of Gravity, into Ender's Game. I was in the mood for zero-g movies.

Ender's Game is a good, if conventional movie. I don't mean conventional compared to Gravity; I mean compared to other movies-adapted-from-books. Certain aspects are changed to accommodate the visual style of movies, some better than others. It stands out more here because the book was filled to the brim with Ender's brilliant insights into his surroundings and everything that was going on. But here, it feels like just another narrative. That's my biggest issue with the film, it conventionalizes one who was a distinctly unconventional thinker.

The ensemble of actors do a solid job bringing the characters to life. Some more than others. The actors who diverged most were Asa Butterfield as Ender and Moises Arias as Bonzo.
To his credit, Asa does a great job conveying the endless struggle occurring within Ender, walking the gray area that paints him a military genius one minute and a ruthless killer the next. The biggest problem is (ironically enough) Asa's height. Ender was 10 at the end of the book, his youth and short stature was part of what made others perceive him as weak. Here he stands eye-to-eye with Harrison Ford.
As for Bonzo, no matter how much gusto and intensity you give off, it's hard for audiences to perceive you as a big bad threat/bully when you are a full foot shorter than your intended prey.
A couple actors I will single out for bringing their characters to life are Abigail Breslin as Ender's sister Valentine (she is criminally underutilized here), and Ben Kingsley as Mazer Rackham. For all my grievances with this adaptation, Kingsley was perfect. His introduction was an absolutely perfect realization from the book.

The other elements I will set aside for praise are the handling of Ender's last game and the Formics. Just the shock on everyone's face, the blankness in the face of what should be such an emotional moment. Excitement, anger, frustration, disappointment, praise; that's what we would expect. But the stunned silence adds such weight to what comes next.
As for the Formics, the design for them is utterly fantastic. From afar they fit readily into our preconceptions of bug-eyed monster aliens. But when you see them up close, it's a startling experience. Imagine if the Alien Queen was softened. Softened, that's the best word I can use to describe it. Depicting an alien that can be so easily accepted as hostile, ugly, and terrifying, but actually conveys such softness and understanding; that is quite a task. The design team created something incredible with this creature. ” - danhollow
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
When Dr. Jane Foster gets cursed with a powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor is heralded of the cosmic event known as the Convergence and the genocidal Dark Elves. (112 mins.)
Director: Alan Taylor
“ Many blank ago, before the universe was universe, it was Darkness. Then it stopped being darkness. This upset the Dark Elves & their leader Malekith greatly, so they declared war on the Universe and tried to acquire the source of the Darkness' power, the Aether, to plunge the universe back into eternal night. This upset the Asgardians, who fought the Dark Elves. They wiped them and Malekith from existence, and hid the Aether were it could never be found again.

Except they didn't, and a lost American in London found it. That's Jane Foster, Thor's girlfriend. She finds the Aether, it takes to her, Thor finds out, brings her to Asgard, Malekith wakes up, declares Star Wars on Asgard, horror and sorrow follow, Thor needs to beat Malekith, and the only one who can get him to Malekith is Loki, who is stuck in prison until the day after Hell freezes over.

More of the plot, I will not say.

As for the movie itself, it’s your standard popcorn flick. It’s a lot funnier than the first, and the CGI work is even better. There are some seriously cool effects throughout. As I stated above, a lot of it feels straight out of Star Wars (the good movies), but with a distinct look to it. The villain is nothing special, but if he has one quality worth praising, it’s consistence. He has no sense of humor. He is here to acquire the Aether and plunge the world into endless night, nothing more, nothing less. Also, the actor manages to give Malekith one hell of an icy glare. The mute heavy is actually pretty cool, too. It’s a lot better than the lame Destroyer from the first film, although he seems to get less awesome as the film goes on.

The main draw is Loki. Loki is everywhere. We see Loki before we see Odin, Thor’s LARP friends, Thor, or Jane. He is in almost every other scene. The only one with more screen time is Thor, but it’s pretty close. This works in the movie’s favor, because Loki is the most fun of any character in the movie. He gets the best lines and an abundance of opportunities to steal the show the way only the God of Mischief knows how. And he’s loving every single second of it.

He also manages to keep surprising us. Not with his acts of evil, we all know that’s coming, but with his acts of selflessness. I’ve been hoping since the very beginning that Loki would one day redeem himself. He was never evil, just misguided. In Thor one he pulled a stunt on his brother’s special day because his brother is getting honored while he is overlooked. When Thor goes bullheaded into a bad idea, Loki tags along to keep him in check. When Thor starts a war and Odin goes into his plot-device coma, Loki is tasked with cleaning up Thor’s mess. Everything he does, he does for what he believes to be the betterment of all. Even in Avengers when he is chewing every scene with giddy villainy, when faced with the destruction caused by his actions, you can see the look of realization on his face that maybe he’s wrong.

This film ends on an interesting note. What it means for the future of the Marvel Universe, I don’t know. Still, it’s a fun movie for what it is. ” - danhollow
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. (146 mins.)
“ Improves on the original in every way. Acting, writing, directing, cinematography, editing, pacing, effects, story, action, suspense, costumes and every other aspect of filmmaking. Seeing this, you will realize how much we settled for with the first film. The first was decent at best, but it looks like a low-budget indie flick compared to Catching Fire. Stop reading, go see it. ” - danhollow
Frozen (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
When the newly crowned Queen Elsa accidentally uses her power to turn things into ice to curse her home in infinite winter, her sister, Anna, teams up with a mountain man, his playful reindeer, and a snowman to change the weather condition. (102 mins.)
“ A beautiful adaptation of a fairy tale unfamiliar to most. Two princesses, Elsa & Anna, live in a castle. Elsa was born with the ability to summon ice, but has extreme difficulty controlling this gift. Her parents keep her contained within the castle, cutting her off from the outside world, including Anna. On the day of Elsa's coronation, the castle gates are opened for the first time, with disastrous results. Elsa loses control, revealing her powers which astound and terrify all who witness them. She flees to the North Mountain to keep others safe from her. Anna journeys to the mountain to try and help her emotionally damaged sister and end the permanent winter she has created.
First and foremost, this is the most visually breathtaking animated film I have ever seen. You will be truly amazed at just how far the animators manage to push the concept of "ice". I love the winter and the snow, and this film reminded me why. Every shot is a visual wonder. The Oscar for Best Animated Feature is in the bag for Frozen.
The characters are quite different from the archetypes we've come to expect from fairy tales. None of the principal characters fit the usual mold for princes & princesses. The closest is Kristoff, who is much akin to Flynn from Tangled, but in the best way. Aside from an obvious red herring, the closest thing to a main villain stays well-hidden for most of the movie.
The story has some great emotional moments, although I can't help but think it could still have been taken farther. I was really hoping this film could reach the realm of Wreck-It Ralph with regards to emotional punch, but it fell a little short. I'll admit one scene had me seriously worried, but it ended up being for naught. One aspect I will give praise to is the fresh take on fairy tale "true love". It doesn't always require a prince.
I will admit the music bothered me occasionally. The songs are good enough ("Let It Go" being the well-praised best of the bunch), but Idina Menzel just isn't my thing. Still, the songs mostly occupy the beginning and middle acts, leaving the end to focus on just the story/characters instead of the music.
I still whole-heartedly recommend Frozen to all audiences. And it absolutely requires being seen in 3D; it is without doubt the most beautiful movie I have ever seen. Even Avatar wasn't this incredible.

Also, the single most mind-blowing animated short you will ever see. ” - danhollow
Delivery Man (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
An affable underachiever finds out he's fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them file a lawsuit to reveal his identity. (105 mins.)
Director: Ken Scott
“ I saw this on a quiet night with no one else in the theater; my favorite way to watch movies. I passed on a chair and instead sat right in the middle of the aisle on the stairs. Dead-center.

I went in with good expectations. I’m not a huge Vince Vaughn fan, but the previews made it look like they were going for a goofy comedy with some surprisingly heartwarming moments as well. Having actually seen it, I have to say they marketed it completely wrong.

Delivery Man is 91% heartwarming story and 9% comedy. The comedy isn’t very good, either. This was the first movie I’ve seen where I could actually see the script in my mind. As I watched it became apparent to me that this script needed a lot of work before it got adapted for the screen. Story elements are introduced and then left out to flounder like a candle in the wind. There are several elements that had no place being in this film whatsoever, and others that were just poorly written. Vaughn’s $100,000 debt and the mob enforcers, for example. Ridiculous sum of money, no development of what he owes it for, and it’s all resolved in a rushed and non-believably simple way.

The comedy bits are lame and only drag the movie down. They go on unnecessarily long until they are just uncomfortable. And when they aren’t uncomfortable, they are just blatantly distracting. Mickey Mouse music playing while Vince Vaughn is trying to deal with a drug-addict daughter and her future? What were they thinking?

Vince Vaughn’s family all look believable, except for Vince Vaughn, who bears more resemblance to the guy from the Fertility Clinic than anyone in his actual family. They don’t treat him much like family until the writing forces them too, either. Plus there’s the matter of the entire truck of meat he was supposed to deliver to them that he just gave away for free. Shouldn’t something have happened from that?

Chris Pratt is criminally miscast. When I walked into this movie, I’d been watching (and loving) Parks & Rec with Pratt non-stop for 2 days. There should have been no way for me not to love him. He’s a likable, lovable guy; yet in this movie he is the closest thing to a villain. He offers the worst and most cold-hearted advice to Vince Vaughn’s character. When an actor is well known for playing scruffy but dependable, casting him to play the dream-killer is just stupid.

I have gripes galore for this movie; but only because it could have been so fantastic.

There are so many wonderful and beautiful moments that the plethora of weak and poorly-handled moments stand out that much more. The story of a man without direction in his life who discovers he is the biological father of 533 children, and how they change his life. So many brilliant learning and exploring opportunities are introduced. From his first child, he learns to start seeing the true potential within himself. His second teaches him to value other people over himself. His third teaches him about the harsh reality of life. One teaches him the simple lesson that just being there can make a huge difference. The lessons keep coming, and it feels great seeing Vaughn’s character evolving before our eyes. We can see the incredible effect these kids are having on him.

I love these kinds of movies where you can see the incredible effect people can have on each other with a little incentive. In Shallow Hal, you got to see how much good it does people to see the best in them. In this you get to see how much good someone can do just when they find their direction in life.

The writing is poor, the direction awkward and clumsy, and the casting awkward; but the two factors that work here are the story and Vince Vaughn. Vaughn came to play ball, he delivers one of his most heartfelt and emotional performances in a long time. You can tell he was willing to go the distance and really gives this movie his all. He deserved a better movie. I wish this movie could get a remake from someone who can give it the treatment it deserves. ” - danhollow
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring. (161 mins.)
Director: Peter Jackson
“ Introduction:
It was only a couple weeks ago that I saw the first Hobbit movie. I somewhat read the first book and a half of Lord of the Rings, and saw each movie at least once. Still, I never finished the books because I found them too ridiculously complicated and detailed to follow. The movies I enjoyed, although I could rarely find the 3+ hours to re-watch them. The Hobbit was a different story. I read it while working on a video project (specifically while waiting for files to render). It’s a lot thinner than the LOTR books, so I finished it in a couple days. I loved it.

When the announcement came out that Guillermo Del Toro would be producing/directing The Hobbit adaptions, I was overjoyed. I love Del Toro as a director, particularly the work he does with creatures and monsters and the like. When Peter Jackson took over, I was a little let down, but I looked on the positive side; Del Toro was still probably the creative force behind the creatures, above all Smaug the Dragon. That was the only incentive I needed to see the movie. Until I found out Smaug wouldn’t even be in the first movie (that little epilogue clip does not count).

I waited until I could see Smaug to watch the first movie. I found a deal for it at Target and bought it to watch. I’m a little sad to say it didn’t blow me away. There were certain details I loved, particularly Thorin and the scenes with Gollum. And of course Sir Ian McKellan, but that’s a given. For part 2, I saw it in theaters.

Part 2 picks up in the past, when Gandalf and Thorin meet to discuss Gandalf’s worries about an ancient evil. He urges Thorin that the key to stopping this great darkness may lie in reclaiming his birthright; the Dwarf Kingdom of (Iforgetthename). Located within the Lonely Mountain, and guarded by that most terrible of dragons, Smaug the (insert adjective).

Back to the present, the dwarves and Bilbo are fleeing the orcs. It’s curious the amount of distance this group seems to cover given they are so short and being pursued by fast orcs on faster beasties. Yet it’s seems like almost every other scene they have crossed some huge wide open space without the orcs surrounding and attacking them. Don’t get me wrong, the shots and locations are beautiful, but it seems like a bit too much to bite off.

From there… okay, this is somewhat rude; I’ll speed it up.
He was chased by wolves,
Lost in the forrest,
Escaped in a barrel from the elf king’s hall…
Bilbo! (Bilbo!) Bilbo Baggins!
Bravest little Hobbit of them all!

The Dragon of the Lonely Mountain. The immeasurable, incomparable, unfathomable Smaug. One of the most famous beasts in all of literary history. The quintessential dragon who guards the treasure. And by treasure, I mean the largest collection of gold, jewels, and wealth ever witnessed. And by dragon, I mean every movement, every twitch, every syllable uttered by this beast is enough to make you feel like an ant. A good hour of the film features Smaug as the most pressing thought on every character’s mind. And like Bilbo, we feel inconsequential and pitiful in the face of such enormity. You’ll be right there with Bilbo saying “Oh Smowg (not “Smog”, “Smowg”) the Magnificent, the Stupendous, the Please-Don’t-Hurt-Me-Yet. Watching and listening to Smaug is somewhat akin to Cronus from Wrath of the Titans in that it makes everything feel longer and heavier. Same time, it’s hard to take your eyes off its every movement.

This was the point where I found myself asking some fundamental questions. What exactly was the plan again? Because now that I was looking at Smaug, I started to see some fundamental flaws in the logic behind this quest. The goal was to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug, but none of the dwarves ever mentioned exactly how they planned on doing it. How exactly did they think they would get it back from Smaug? He took it on his own after incinerating an entire army, what are 12 dwarves and a burglar going to do to him?

Then there was the ending. People are griping about it for good reason. Smaug the Magnificent is now Smaug the Holy-Crap-We-Made-Him-Really-Mad. Smaug is off to lay waste to the nearby town! The End. Absolute tease. Forcing us to wait a year to see what comes next. I’ve read the book, I know what happens next. I’m far from alone. But by ending the movie there, we’re left cheated and angry. It’s like ending the first Pirates of the Caribbean film when Barbossa pulls a pistol on Elizabeth Swan in his duel with Jack Sparrow. ” - danhollow
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government. (180 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
“ Warning:
Excessive excessiveness. The trailers make it look like these guys are just obsessed with having a good time. It goes much further than that. These guys are addicted to the highs of life, all of them. You will witness more sex, swearing, drugs, drinking, partying, hookers, wanton spending, and reckless behavior than you have ever before witnessed. Jordan Belfort lived a life that makes Motley Crüe look like Mr. Rogers. And he isn’t leaving anything out.

The Wolf of Wall Street is less a black comedy and more an exercise in how much, how far, and how depraved a man can go. Jordan Belfort made a name for himself as a quick learner in the stock trade, but what proved to be his best quality was his salesmanship ability.

His particular stock market quick cash scheme involved “penny stocks”. Little background; stockbrokers make their money when their clients purchase stock. However much the client buys, the stockbroker gets a percentage of it, his commission. Most stocks offer a commission of under 15%. So if your client buys $100 of stock, you get $15 or less from the deal. Jordan Belfort discovered that penny stocks offer much higher commissions; 50%. Penny stocks are tiny companies that rarely go anywhere. It’s like investing in a local gumball company. He effectively made his money by convincing rich clients that the gumball they were buying would be worth $50 someday. The guy was an incredible salesman.

He built a company based around those principals, hiring 20-somethings fresh out of college who had the nerve, the energy, the drive, the ambition, and the madness to follow him. By day, he made thousands (and eventually millions) of dollars. By night, he spent it just as quickly. The key to his whole scheme was to always keep people wanting, keep people hungry, keep people greedy, keep people believing they could make more. That applied to his clients and his stockbrokers. Keep them addicted to the highs so they’ll keep pursuing them recklessly. It worked.

The main drawing point of the movie is the methods by which he kept people hungry. Excessive indulgence and materialism. Sex, drugs, cars, boats, houses, watches, clothes, and on and on and on. Jordan Belfort was a sex addict, a drug addict, an addict addict. You will see Leo DiCaprio snort cocaine out of a hooker’s ass and you will see Leo DiCaprio with a lit candle in his ass. You will see boobs like you’ve never seen and more drugs than you ever thought possible. It’s a damn miracle these people survived each week of this lifestyle.

The movie is less comedic and more a demonstration of how far greed and materialism can possibly go. There are some genuinely funny moments; funniest of which is watching DiCaprio attempt to wiggle & worm his way out of a hotel, down a flight of stairs, and into his car. His arms are not responding, his legs are noodles, and he can’t even say his own name his face is so numb. It’s hilarious to watch.

Same time, you have to just watch in shock and awe at what these people did. It isn’t a fall-out-of-your-seat comedy. There are laughs and funny lines, but they aren’t the main focus point. Leo DiCaprio definitely gives his most depraved performance to date, which is a great change of pace. He’s usually so committed to serious roles that we don’t get to see him going crazy or having fun. It actually makes him a great choice to play Jordan Belfort, because we can believe him when he’s acting insane, but we can also believe that under the surface he’s calculating everything he does to serve a point. He was an exceptionally sharp guy, even when drugged out of his mind. ” - danhollow
47 Ronin (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun. (128 mins.)
Director: Carl Rinsch
“ As is expected, I’m going to be completely honest about this film. I went to see it not only willingly, but intentionally. I wanted to see this movie from the moment I saw the trailer. I didn’t care that it was a Keanu Reeves vehicle. Unlike most, I don’t have a problem with Keanu Reeves. This looked like a good movie, and I include his part in it. The effects looked interesting, the visuals breathtaking, and the story engaging.

I was disappointed.

You know how sometimes you see the best parts of a movie in the trailers? Well, this is an oddball in that the best parts of the trailer are not in the movie. First and foremost, Zombie Boy, Rico the Zombie, Rick Genest, however you choose to call him. He’s been all over the trailers and posters, he is being used as one of the main draws. Why? Because he’s wicked cool. He is only in the film for 30 seconds (20 of it from behind) and only has one line; “What are you doing here?”. No pistols, no smoke from his mouth, nothing but a single question. Here’s my question, what the hell, movie? That giant soldier from the trailers and posters? Has one fight, not even to the death, then is blown up the next time he goes to battle. Doesn’t even get to draw his sword, isn’t even revealed to be a living suit of armor until his death. What the hell, movie?

Before I continue my tirade, I will point out the positive aspects. Visuals are breathtaking. The story is actually accurate, or rather, it doesn’t deviate from the actual tale. No overbloating or Hollywood ending, it is the recognized “47 Ronin” story of Japanese history. They take a few liberties with the way it’s told (much like 300), but the story itself is unchanged. The fight scenes are cool. Skillful, impressive, and well-choreographed (if short). The acting is 60% excellent and about 40% par/sub-par. Sadly, that’s about the end of what I may praise.

After their lord is betrayed, shamed,and forced to commit seppuku to salvage the honor of his people, the 47 samurai who formerly served him (“Ronin” or “masterless samurai” after his death) seek to avenge their lord. Aiding them is a mixed breed former slave (Keanu Reeves) who was in love with the Lord’s daughter. They take back the fortress from the one who betrayed their master and invaded, and then surrender themselves to the Shogun. The shogun allows them to die with honor (seppuku) in recognition of their devotion to their master. The End. Sound short? Well it takes them 2 hours to tell it, and they still cut a lot out.

I think the biggest problem is the way they edited and tried to market this film. Keanu Reeves is the star, but he is not the main character by a long shot. Oishi (played brilliantly by Hiroyuki Sanada) has much more at risk. This is his story, not the mixed breed slave he brings along for the ride. He is the leader, he vanquishes the traitor, so why is he playing second duck to Keanu Reeves? Because this is playing in America, and Keanu is the only American in it (besides Zombie Boy, but I’ve already covered that). There is a much better movie in here, I am certain of it. A movie where Hiroyuki is the lead, Reeves a supporting character, Zombie Boy a character at all, the Giant Soldier anything but a giant soldier who doesn’t speak and then dies, and where watching it doesn’t leave you feely wholly underwhelmed after it’s over. ” - danhollow
American Hustle (2013)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. (138 mins.)
“ David O. Russell has a remarkable ability. He can make scenes 3x funnier than they have any right to be, seemingly without effort. Think back to Silver Linings Playbook, the big move Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence pull in the final dance, did you not laugh your ass off at that? Why? I’m honestly curious, because my whole theater (me included) laughed our asses off, and I have no idea why. It shouldn’t have been anywhere near that funny, yet it was. American Hustle is filled with such moments.

The very first scene is just Irving (Christina Bale) adjusting his hairpiece. Putting a clump of hair under his combover to make it appear more full. Why am I in stitches as I watch him do this? Why am I laughing so hard at watching this guy play with his hair? I have no idea, but I can’t stop. That’s only the first scene.

American Hustle is filled with moments. Awkward moments, absurd moments, “Wow.” moments, “Oh my-…” moments, “You dumb b*tch!” moments, “Oh sh*t” moments, and “haHA!” moments. Surprises when you least suspect them (including a cameo that rivals Kevin Spacey in Se7en for secrecy and shock), and an ensemble of wonderful characters.

Besides the beautifully overweight and borderline disgusting Irving, we have Amy Adams permanently bra-less with a London accent that is hard to keep track of, Jeremy Renner as a sleazy politician masquerading extremely convincingly as an honest politician, Bradley Cooper as a curly-haired (again, no idea why it’s so funny) FBI agent who “convinces” Bale and Adams to help him bust other hustlers, and Jennifer Lawrence as Bale’s 50% shrewd, 50% brainless, 100% exasperating wife. There are a couple other surprise appearances not advertised, but they both do a fantastic job.

The movie is a wonderful visit back to the 70’s. Or at least, that’s my impression. Not having actually lived through the 70’s, I can’t say for certain. Still, I think they did a fantastic job. Great music, great costumes, obligatory disco scene, and wonderfully funny hairstyles.

The story can be a little hard to keep track of. Characters fall in & out of our favor throughout the film. One scene we like them, next we don’t, next we do, etc. There is no set moral high ground, so it’s very hard to predict where or what will come next. The ending twist is unexpected and maybe not quite as shocking as I was expecting, but it still packs a hell of a punch. The ending itself is surprisingly suburban, yet it feels beautiful in a way we wouldn’t have expected.

There are great laughs throughout, as well as a couple scenes where you will be literally afraid to breathe. Jennifer Lawrence’s character functions like a time bomb that can go off at any moment, over and over. This woman may be the best hustler of them all or the dumbest blonde in history.

Personally, I would sooner watch this again than The Wolf of Wall Street. The humor is more prevalent and consistent, and there’s a lot less depravity & shock factor. ” - danhollow