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A Walk in the Woods (2015)
The Road That Should Not Have Been Taken
This review will contain SPOILERS!!
A Walk in the Woods seems like a pleasant enough film. It ambles along like the two main characters but doesn't really go anywhere. You are left with such a bland taste in your mouth that you have trouble working up enough energy to hate it.
I went to see this film this past weekend as a favor to my Evil Twin, Kathryn. I did not have any real expectations for the film so I can't really say I'm disappointed. I am annoyed. Robert Redford is a great actor. Emma Thompson is a great actress. Nick Nolte rarely fails to amuse. All three of these actors were greatly misused in this movie.
A travel author, Redford, wants to reinvigorate his life since a lot of the people he knows are dying and he wants to do one more great thing. He's a successful, yet unfulfilled, writer. His long suffering wife, Emma Thompson, tries to get him to perk up. The writer hits on an idea to walk the Appalachian Trail to experience and reconnect with his country. He has returned home to New Hampshire after living in the UK for many years. He contacts many of his friends who have better sense than to accompany him on this fool's journey. His wife leaves him articles she gleans from online about the dangers of hiking the trail. He will not be dissuaded. He is finally contacted by an estranged friend who practically begs to be included in this adventure.
These two men are woefully out of shape and ill prepared for this journey. The two actors were woefully mismatched and lack any chemistry. This movie morphs into Ishtar for a new generation.
There's really very little that I can say positive about the film. It shows some beautiful scenery. That's about it. The movie has no real heart. The dialog is preachy on the one hand and mildly misogynistic on the other. It has a grumpiness that never really lifts. The comedic moments, and they are few, are contrived set pieces.
In the end the movie is like bad Divinity candy. Fluffy, light, beautiful but with a nasty aftertaste.
Don't waste your time or your money on this.
The Gift (2015)
Wickedly, Creepily Awesome
This review will contain SPOILERS!!
Sometimes you walk into a theater, plop down in your seat expecting to be mildly entertained and are instead blown out of your chair. The Gift is the movie that does that this summer.
The Gift has been advertised as yet another version of Fatal Attraction. It is NOT! Don't even think of that movie because if you liked that one this one is going to disappoint you. You will think you see a scene from Fatal Attraction about to play out and it will take off in an entirely different direction. The movie does have an atmosphere that will totally have you jumping out of your chair. You will think you know what's going to happen next and most of the time you will be wrong.
The movie is written and directed by Joel Edgerton. You may have seen him in Zero Dark Thirty, or Warrior. I first remember him from King Arthur. I loved him in Kinky Boots. This is his first time directing a full-length film (he has a couple of shorts under his belt...no pun intended).
I went to see this because I did not want to see the other offerings at the multiplex. So I thought it would keep me awake until I could slip quietly out of the theater to meet my friends for a late lunch. I blew off lunch because I was totally drawn into the story. I could not wait to see what would happen next.
The writing is tight. The directing is masterful. The acting is on point. It is as close to perfect as you are likely to see in a late summer movie. So let's get to those spoilers, shall we?
The story revolves around Simon (Jason Bateman in a career-changing role) and Robyn who have moved to California from Chicago because Simon has a slick new job and Robyn is recovering from something tragic in her immediate past. Abuse of prescription drugs is only one of the things that haunts her. She is fragile and is played well by Rebecca Hall (Remember her from Iron Man 3 and Transcendence??). Simon, at first, appears to be the perfect husband. He is supportive, loving, attentive but gives off the vibe that everything is not as perfect as he makes it appear. They even have a charming, lovable dog to round out their family. They move into a beautiful home that has WAY more windows than it should. Okay, got a question...Why do the people in thrillers move into houses where the creepy guy can look in on them interacting with no problem? Have they not heard of blinds, curtains, sheers for Pete's Sake?! I digress....
Simon and Robyn bump into a guy from Simon's past at a store. The guy, Gordon (or Gordo) is played by Edgerton. Gordo went to high school with Simon and starts dropping by their house leaving gifts by their front door and trying to ingratiate himself to the couple. Alarm bells start going off the minute this guy comes on screen but Robyn thinks he's a good person. Simon wants the guy to go away.
Whatever you think you may know or figure out from the first part of the film is totally wrong. Edgerton builds a wonderful house of cards that comes crashing down and no one is left unscathed. The film is not about lost or tortured love. It does not have gratuitous violence or sex. It is an intense thrill ride of a movie. The Gift is about how the past never is truly past. It is about how once something is done it can never be undone. It's about revenge and how the choices we make will come back to haunt us in ways we can't imagine.
I am recommending this film to anyone who loves thrillers. It is flawless. You will not be disappointed.
Kinda Hated it/Kinda Loved it !!
I walked in to view this film not knowing what to expect. I knew that it was going to be brutal, visceral, and overwhelmingly violent...and I was okay with that. After all the script was pinned by Kurt Sutter who has pretty much cornered the market on brutal, visceral, overwhelmingly violent screenplays. The movie is directed by one of my favorites, Antoine Fuqua who knows how to shoot violence. I didn't expect to have such a mixed reaction to the whole thing.
First off, there will definitely be spoilers ahead. So, fair warning, SPOILERS!!
Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way...I'm not sure how anyone can claim they don't know what's going to happen in the movie. Did you watch the trailer? The whole movie is in the trailer. Well, let me qualify that a bit. The whole 'arc' of the movie is in the trailer. I was a bit put off by this especially since I love the director and the screenwriter. This is the Rocky film Sylvester Stallone wish he had made. Except instead of a dim-witted boxer we have a dim-witted boxer totally fueled by rage. He has to get the hell knocked out of him in order to dig deep into his rage and pound the crap out of his opponent.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope. Yeah, yeah, we get it. Billy is the "Great White Hope". Jake has pretty much cornered the market on the tortured, quirky, psychotic anti-hero. Forrest Whittaker is his mentor who teaches him how to get in touch with the talent beneath the rage. Billy loses everything, hits rock bottom, then comes back. Cue tears and cheers.
Now let me tell you what I love about this movie. The film is, at its heart, the story of a father's love for his daughter and what he is willing to do to get her back into his life. Billy Hope is not the brightest bulb in the box, he works in a violent profession, and his rage fuels his ability to do that. But, Billy loves his wife and daughter. He is loyal to his friends. He just puts his trust in the wrong man, his Don King style manager played by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
The relationship between Billy and Leila, his daughter, is one of the things that I really like about this film. Another is his relationship with his trainer, Tick Wills. Billy could have drowned himself in drugs, he could have self-destructed. He almost does. But he digs deep, gets help and comes back.
The movie is beautifully filmed. You are not ringside. You are right in the ring feeling every punch and every blow. The soundtrack has music by Eminem, who was originally intended as the star if the movie had been a sequel to his film 8 Mile. The music is a perfect counterpoint to the action.
I don't know if I can recommend this film. I'd like to but it left me feeling a bit blah. Who knows..it will probably become a cult film.
A Murky Disappointment
There may be SPOILERS below.
I am a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil and James Cameron. Huge fan.
This movie, which has been on my 'must see' list since I saw the trailer, was not up to the standards of either. I sat in the theater (the Malco Grandview in Madison, MS) trying to figure out what went wrong.
Instead of being enthralled and swept up in the stunning Cirque du Soleil visuals the way I was with Dralion and every single other Cirque du Soliel show I've ever seen; I sat shaking my head and trying to actually see the performances through the murky darkness searching desperately for the 'stunning visuals'. I actually tried taking the 3-D glasses off to see if maybe they were dirty. Truthfully, the darn trailer was more 'there' than the actual film.
I expected to have an immersive experience similar to the one I had when I saw Avatar (9 times). Didn't happen. Not even close. I expected to be brought to tears the way I was when I saw my first Cirque show (Nouvelle Experience). Didn't happen.
I knew something was amiss when the film opened with the lead dancer telling us what the storyline of the film was going to be. Really? You have to tell us what happens before it happens? The trailer already set that up..so what's with this little exposition? Well, fellow viewers, if she didn't tell you what was going on you might not have figured it out.
Worlds Away is a huge trailer for Cirque du Soliel shows with a 'story' thrown in to sew the different shows together. And, you know what, that would have been okay except the pieces that were showcased were mindnumbingly repetitive and so boring, so very boring that I started looking at my watch wondering when the mishmash would be over.
I am so disappointed. I parted with several hard-earned dollars, drove miles out of my way to get to the one theater showing the film, re-arranged my schedule and blew off Jack Reacher to see this. I expected better of James Cameron and Cirque du Soliel. Now I have to watch my DVDs of Dralion and Avatar to get the taste of this drivel out of my mind.
Alex Cross (2012)
Tyler Perry IS Alex Cross
!!Spoilers Ahead!! I went in prepared not to like this movie. I read some of the reviews and I was sure I was wasting my money. But I love Alex Cross. I have devoured the books and I know James Patterson has created on of the best characters ever. I was a bit worried about the casting of Tyler Perry. I detest the Madea movies and was praying that I would not see any camera mugging.
I was so surprised to actually enjoy the film and Tyler Perry's nuanced performance as Alex Cross. No disrespect to Morgan Freeman who is a monumental talent...but he was too old to play Alex Cross. I thought so at the time but he was all we had so I went with it. Tyler Perry is closer to the Alex of the books. He looks like I imagined Alex to look. He behaves in the way I have grown to expect from the books. I have read all the books and this is the first Alex Cross movie where I could see the character.
Tyler Perry can act! I didn't believe it but he can and he's GOOD! I've had issues in the past with his writing...but the man has some serious acting chops. His relationships with his children, Nana Mama, and Maria are all believable. His skills as a profiler are shown in several scenes and he doesn't push it over the top.
Matthew Fox was awesome as the assassin/bad guy Picasso/The Butcher of Sligo. He reveled in his evil and, while he tittered on the edge, always kept a hint of reality to his part. Matthew was scarily good. Thank god Rob Cohen didn't try to make the character sympathetic by trying to get us to 'understand' why he does what he does. The character is seriously twisted but smart enough to get someone to pay him to do what he does best. I'm so tired of the movie/TV villain getting 'Dexterized'. As James Patterson shows us in his books...sometimes evil just IS...there's no rational reason for it.
The reasons this review does not give the movie a higher rating are these...The location was changed from DC to Detroit...why? No reason except to set up the sequel. The kids are older than they should be at the time of Maria's death...okay I can go with that to a point. John Sampson is not in the movie. Granted who I was seeing in the part is the late Micheal Clarke Duncan and that didn't happen. Tyler is a big guy so it would take another big actor to fill the role of 'man mountain'...but still...I felt cheated with Tommy.
I'm giving Rob Cohen a pass here to make up for these points in the sequel. There had better be a sequel because one dose of Tyler Perry as Alex Cross is just not enough.
Game Change (2012)
Good Movie with GREAT Acting
The acting in this movie is awesome. Everyone brought their 'A' game and the movie is better for it. We all know the story of what happened during the campaign of 2008. We've all seen the sound bites and watched the SNL skits. What we have not seen is the 'real' story. Juliette Moore is one of my favorites and she is stunning to watch as she inhabits the role of Sarah Palin. She doesn't mock the woman. She doesn't 'wink' at the camera and play her like a joke. She plays her as a real, breathing person. That was a classy move. Woody Harrelson was better in this role than in any he's done in recent memory. Ed Harris did not do a blow-by-blow imitation of John McCain but he did get the spirit of the man just right.
Sarah Palin remains a polarizing figure in the arena of American politics. Love her or hate her...she's still a pivotal personality in the Republican Party. This movie shows how she made her move onto the national political stage. Yes, stage, because politics in this country is very much performance art.
There's only one thing wrong with this movie. It was not released into theaters. Think of it. The protests by Palin supporters alone would have pushed revenue into the upper millions. Moore and Harrelson provided Oscar worthy performances. What am I saying? HBO owns the TV movie market. This movie should sweep the Emmys. I'll be very disappointed if it doesn't.
Real Steel (2011)
Heart of Steel!
You have GOT to go see this movie!! That's the bottom line. Other reviewers have covered the details well. But if you only think of the movie as Rocky meets The Champ meets Transformers then you're missing the point. The point is it's a fun-warm-feel-good-ride. It will remind you why you love going to movies.
I'll admit that the story which is set in the 'not so distant future' is so-so and predictable but Hugh Jackman delivers some great stuff and the kid, Dakoto Goyo, is so adorable and a good little actor. Kevin Durand once again proves he is to 'go to' guy for the requisite dirt bag and turns in quite the credible Texas accent.
The robots...y'all the robots are where this movie soars! The CGI is great and the animatronics blend seamlessly with it. Sure, there are a few plot holes and it does stretch the bonds of plausibility several times...but the movie works despite all that. You will cheer for the underdog. You will shed a tear(come on you know you will) at the big smackdown at the end. The movie satisfies on several levels.
I am sooooo rooting for this to produce a sequel!! I want to know what happens next with Atom. So....why are you still sitting there reading this review?? Go see the movie. Y'all it rocks!
Great Special Effects...Sucky Plot Ends the Series
***SPOILERS ARE HERE*** Stop reading NOW if you want to be surprised (although I don't see HOW you can be).
Michael Bay has done it again. He has blown up yet another U.S. city and made you enjoy it. He's turned into the Roland Emmerich of robot flicks. Bay actually sort of blows up two cities...but D.C. got off pretty easy this time. Chicago...well, I won't be taking any vacations there soon. Just sayin'...
The good points are many. The special effects and explosions kick butt. Awesome, awesome, AWESOME! The transformations of the robots still makes me gasp. It is that good. The robots show more emotional range and character development than the humans. I saw the movie in 3-D and the 3-D effects didn't totally suck. Yea Michael! The footage of the wind flyers is almost as cool as the first time I saw it done in a Lara Croft movie back in 2003. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has a cameo. Leonard Nimoy as the voice of Sentinel Prime was way cool. But...that leads me to the bad stuff.
The bad points are many. There is no plot. Well, there's sort of a plot but it has so many holes in it that you just don't want to think about it. The dialog is rudimentary. Sam screams "OPTIMUS!" or "BUMBLEBEE!" at every turn. Leonard Nimoy swipes his signature phrase from The Wrath of Khan. Even Bumblebee steals a line from the same film. What gives?! The non-PC jokes abound and they are all groaners. I thought we couldn't sink lower than the scrotum reference in the last film...but I was so wrong.
The human actors are not horrible...well, except for the new girl. They really should have waited until the swelling went down on her lips for those kissy closeups. She continues the excessive T&A of the previous actress....what was her name? Megan...something...Fox? The humans don't really matter. We're here to be blown out of our seats and see cool effects. On that the movie delivers.
Go see it in theaters. Don't wait for the Blu-ray. But, be warned, it is a long ride on this roller coaster.
Cameron Shoots...He SCORES!!
I just saw the 3D version of this movie today and I'm still blown away. Is there anything James Cameron can't do?? The actors were wonderful! They are able to transcend the CGI and give touching, believably intense performances.
The movie was so hyped that I went into it expecting to be disappointed. Nothing can be THAT good, right? Read my lips...It is better than good. It's better than awesome. It is genre, medium, and industry changing. It just is.
Like many other viewers I forgot I was watching CGI. Everything is vividly, eye-poppingly alive. Pandora LIVES...it breathes and you believe it all! The interaction between live-action and CGI is seamless. The world is so immersive...it has an almost 360 degree quality. You feel as if you could turn around and see everything happening around you. It's like you are plunked down in the middle of this very real place.
The Na'vi were a concern when I was sitting in the theater waiting for the show to start. Would they disappoint? Would they be buffoonish (a'la JarJar Binks)? Would they be believable? From the first frame the aliens are real. They are beyond cool. They are alive. They are righteous and they are fierce! They are not comic relief.
You must see this movie and you absolutely MUST see it in 3D.
I Can Do Bad All by Myself (2009)
This Movie Is Bad All By Itself
Look Out Below!! Lots of Spoilers are here!!
For the second weekend in a row I did not get to see the movie I really want to see. Last weekend I saw the Meryl Streep film. This weekend I had to suffer through something else. Something I really had no intention of ever seeing.
I know I'm going to upset some people by what I'm about to say. I know there are going to be a lot of p#$$ed off folk wondering where I'm coming from with all this. Well, I've never minded p#$$ing off people before. I don't see why it should bother me now.
Here goes...Tyler Perry can't write.
More specifically, Tyler Perry can't write well. His scripts are elementary, immature, and preachy. Every single one of them. It's almost like he can't help himself. On the up side he does have his finger on the pulse of what his audience likes and he doesn't mind giving it to them. It would just be really nice if he would take a bit of a writing class or something on script writing and plot development. I'm just saying....
The plot of the current movie goes like this...
Three kids break into Madea's (Perry in his signature character) house in the middle of the night (plot device 1 which drags Madea into a story that's not really about her 'cos Perry's fans must have their Madea fix). Madea takes them to their aunt (Taraji P. Henson) who doesn't want them. The Aunt tries to send them to her mother but finds out that no one knows where she is (heavy handed foreshadowing that keeps popping up and eventually becomes a plot hole...more about that in a bit). Madea leaves them anyway and tells the aunt to bring them by her house so they can work off the debt they incurred by breaking into her house and destroying her property including a VCR (plot device 2 to keep Madea in a story that has nothing to do with her). The aunt is in a dead-end relationship with a 'no count' married man (cliché 1) played by Brian J. White. Aunt is also an alcoholic night club singer (cliché 2). Aunt is estranged from her mother and doesn't really worry that no one has seen hide nor hair of the old lady for three days (tiny little plot hole to move the story forward). Mary J. Blige plays the bartender with a heart of gold (cliche 3) and a huge voice.
A Latino handyman (Adam Rodriguez of CSI Miami fame let me just say, for the record, that Adam is one fine, handy, man!!) from Columbia shows up at the neighborhood church and is told by the pastor (Marvin Winans) that he will find something for him to do. The preacher convinces the aunt to take the handyman in as a boarder who will work off the cost of his board by doing odd jobs around the house (cliche 4). This does not sit well with the boyfriend who is abusively racist (is there any other kind??) to the handyman and leers meaningfully at the young niece played by Hope Olaide Wilson (ham-handed foreshadowing).
Handyman, of course, falls for Aunt because he 'loves her more than she loves herself'. Yeah, right. I found it hard to believe he can love this woman since the Aunt has not shown us, or him, one thing that makes her lovable. She even accuses him of being a child molester because he cares about her niece and nephews. Speaking of which...the three kids are barely more than little stick figures to make us go 'awwww' when the handyman does something nice like fix up one of the Aunt's upstairs rooms as a room for all the kids to sleep in instead of the couch in the living room where the aunt makes them sleep (She won't let them stay in the room although it's obvious the younger kids want to). The handyman buys medicine for one of the sick kids. The handyman saves the girl when the married, pedophile, boyfriend tries to rape her.
What does the aunt do? She tries to kill the deadbeat boyfriend by dropping a CD player into his bathwater. This is when we find out she had been abused as a young girl by her mother's boyfriend (this seems to happen a lot in Tyler Perry's scripts. I realize the incidence of rape for women/girls of color is high but this pops up in almost every one of his scripts. Hmmm...). This revelation is supposed to be the big 'reveal' that explains her alcoholism, poor self-image and her insistence on being involved with married men. Hmmmm....heavy handed? Ya think??
But wait, we've got to have the rushed happy ending where the handyman and aunt get married, have a block party, and boogie down to Mary J's vocal. Cue the credits where we see outtakes of Perry as Madea and Joe riffing off the kids. One good outtake of Taraji and Hope is cute
but you had to sit through this mess of a movie to get there.