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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I had high hopes!, 28 August 2015

'AMERICAN ULTRA': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart reunite (after formerly pairing in 2009's 'ADVENTURELAND') for this stoner-comedy action flick! The film tells the story of a slacker clerk, who's actually a secret government assassin (unbeknownst to him), that's been marked for execution; by his unknown employers. The movie also stars Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Tony Hale and Bill Pullman. It was directed by Nima Nourizadeh (who also directed the teen party flick 'PROJECT X') and written by Max Landis (who also co-wrote the indie sci-fi hit 'CHRONICLE'). The movie is funny, and action-packed, although not quite as good as it's trailers promise.

Mike Howell (Eisenberg) is a clerk at a convenience store, that's in love with his girlfriend Phoebe Larson (Stewart). He wants to move away with her, and propose, but he can't; due to extreme panic attacks. He also dreams of publishing a graphic novel, about a superhero monkey; and he spends a lot of his time getting stoned and writing it. His life suddenly changes, for the worse, when he finds out he's a CIA assassin, that hasn't been activated yet, and his secret employers want him dead.

The movie has a lot of cool action scenes, likable characters, some humorous marijuana jokes, and an amusing love story. It does all of these things well, but not that well. It's an entertaining movie, for sure, but it's not as good as the previews make it out to be; and I expected more from Landis. Still I can't say I was that disappointed either; and I do like Nourizadeh's direction style. I also really like Eisenberg, and I can always relate to his characters; especially here, with all of his insecurities and panic attacks. I do think that he and Stewart have great chemistry together too (I love 'ADVENTURELAND'). I had high hopes, which this film doesn't quite match, but it's still a pretty good movie.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Stylistically awesome; Guy Ritchie at his best!, 20 August 2015

'THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Spy flick, directed by Guy Ritchie, and based on the 1964 TV series, of the same name. It stars Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, as two secret agents, one American and one Russian, assigned to work together; to stop a mad couple from building a nuclear weapon. The film also stars Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant; it was written by Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Jeff Kleeman and David Campbell Wilson. I found the film to be stylistically awesome, funny and immensely entertaining; despite a weak plot!

The film begins in 1963 East Berlin. CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill), has just tracked down a woman, by the name of Gabby Teller (Vikander, of 'EX MACHINA' fame). He's being followed by a KGB agent, named Illya Kuryakin (Hammer), who also wants to apprehend Teller. Gabby's father is a Nazi scientist, who's been aiding the U.S. government, but went missing. It turns out that the scientist's knowledge is being used to create a nuclear weapon; for a rich Italian couple (Debicki and Calvani) in Rome, with former Nazi ties. After Solo and Kuryakin try to kill each other, they're forced to team up, by their employers, and stop the completion of the nuclear device. Teller helps them, on their mission in Rome, as well.

Like many previous Guy Ritchie films, I couldn't follow the storyline nearly at all (while I was watching it). Also like previous Guy Ritchie flicks, it didn't matter though. The movie is funny (the jokes almost always work) and the characters are very likable (you actually care what happens to them). I wasn't involved in what was going on with the plot, at all; but I was very involved in what was going on with the characters. Cavill and Hammer are both brilliantly cast, and they have great chemistry together too (the film turns into an awesome buddy flick). Vikander and Debicki are both stunningly beautiful and good in their roles as well; Debicki makes a great femme fatale also. The film is also beautifully stylistic, action-packed and always fascinating to watch; even if you don't always know what's going on. Besides a coherent plot, you can't really ask for a lot more in a film; this is definitely not a movie that demands one though. It's Guy Ritchie at his best!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Mostly a miss and mediocre., 18 August 2015

'NORTHMEN: A VIKING SAGA': Two and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A Viking action flick, about vikings trapped in enemy territory, directed by Claudio Fah (who also helmed the direct to video sequels 'HOLLOW MAN 2' and 'SNIPER: RELOADED') and written by Mattias Bauer and Bastian Zach (who also wrote the Swiss B movie horror flick 'ONE WAY TRIP 3D'). The film stars Tom Hopper, Ed Skrein, Charlie Murphy, Ryan Kwanten, James Norton, Ken Duken, Anatole Tubman, Johan Hegg, Leo Gregory and others. I thought it was entertaining enough, to pass the time with, but nothing special or memorable.

The film tells the story of a group of vikings, who become stranded in unfamiliar territory; when their boat crashes, on the coast of Alba in a horrific storm. They're pursued by mercenaries, sent after them by the King of Alba, as they try to make their way to a Viking settlement. They also, unintentionally, kidnap the King's daughter (Murphy). Things become very violent, quickly.

The movie has some cool action scenes; especially considering the budget, and weak storyline. The performances aren't bad either; the directing is decent and the film looks great. If Fah had just had a better script to work with (I blame Bauer and Zach), this could have been a thrilling action flick. I really wanted to like the characters, thanks to the actors, but had no reason to. I also could not get into the story, or what was going on at all, despite cool fight scenes and decent thrills. There's definitely reasons to like things about this film; but it's mostly a miss and mediocre.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Fogelman could definitely learn a little more about directing., 18 August 2015

'DANNY COLLINS': Three Stars (Out of Five)

A comedy-drama flick about a very successful folk singer, that decides to make severe changes in his life; after discovering a 40- year-old letter, written to him from John Lennon (that was never delivered). The movie stars Al Pacino as the musician and it costars Annette Bening, Jennifer Garner, Bobby Cannavale and Christopher Plummer. It was written and directed by first time feature film director Dan Fogelman (who's previously written such recent comedy flicks as 'CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE.' and 'THE GUILT TRIP'). The story was inspired by the life of English folk singer Steve Tilston (who also discovered a letter, written to him from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 34-years later). It's a decent 'feel good' movie, but nothing exceptional or memorable.

Danny Collins (Pacino) is a veteran folk singer (from the 70s) that still parties hard and sleeps with younger women; he recently discovered his much younger fiancé (Katrina Cas) is cheating on him. His manager, Frank Grubman (Plummer), brings him an undelivered letter, written to him from John Lennon (from 40-years earlier), that he recently found. Danny is inspired by it and decides to make major changes in his life. He begins by traveling to New Jersey, to meet his adult son (Cannavale) for the first time. He's not greeted with open arms.

The movie tries to be touching and uplifting, and it goes through all the right motions, but it never quite delivers. It just feels a little forced to me. I didn't especially find if funny, either, and none of the performances are that good (including Pacino); due to the material just not being up to par. I think it's probably, mostly, Fogelman's direction; he's a good writer but he could definitely learn a little more about directing a feature film. It's not bad though, it's just not that good either.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I'm a big fan of Diablo Cody's, and she doesn't let me down here!, 12 August 2015

'RICKI AND THE FLASH': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Meryl Streep stars in this comedy-drama flick; opposite her daughter, for the third time, actress Mamie Gummer. Streep plays a mother, trying to make amends with her family; after abandoning them (years earlier) to pursue a career in rock-and-roll. Kevin Kline, musician Rick Springfield, Sebastian Stan, Nick Westrate and Audra McDonald also costar in the movie. It was directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody. I'm a big fan of Cody's, and she doesn't let me down here.

Ricki (Streep) is the lead singer/guitar player in a rock-and-roll band, called 'Ricki and the Flash'. She left her husband, Pete (Kline), daughter, Julie (Gummer), and two sons, Joshua (Stan) and Adam (Westrate), many years earlier; to pursue fame and fortune, in the music industry. When Pete calls her up, from Indianapolis, and asks Ricki to help Julie deal with her cheating husband; Ricki decides to make the trek home. She's not greeted with open arms though, by her family, but Ricki still does the best she can; to make things right again.

The film is clichéd but it's also uplifting; and filled with good, upbeat music. Streep is (of course) great in the lead; playing a likable, but very flawed, veteran free spirit. The rest of the cast is decent, and Demme's direction is good, but it's Cody's script that really works. She writes great, empowering female roles; and this movie is no different. That's why I saw it, and I wasn't disappointed.

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The Gift (2015/VI)
Keeps you guessing, all the way until the very end!, 12 August 2015

'THE GIFT': Four Stars (Out of Five)

A psychological thriller film written, produced, and directed by Joel Edgerton (in his feature film directorial debut). Edgerton also costars in the movie, with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall. It tells the story of a married couple, who keeps getting unwanted visits, and gifts, from an old high school acquaintance of the husband's. The film is a classic suspense thriller; that keeps you guessing, all the way until the very end!

Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) are a young married couple, that just moved from Chicago to California. They seem happy, but Robyn just suffered a miscarriage; and the couple is looking to start over; away from the big city life. They've also moved, to a part of town, near where Simon grew up; and they run into an old high school classmate (of Simon's), while shopping at the store, named Gordo (Edgerton). Simon doesn't remember Gordo, at first, but he quickly remembers how weird, and bullied, he used to be. Gordo keeps coming by their new home, uninvited and bringing gifts. Things go from awkward, to haunting and disturbing; as Gordo won't seem to leave them alone.

I've been a fan or Edgerton's acting since 2011's 'WARRIOR' (my favorite movie of that year); I've also enjoyed multiple films co- written by him too (like last year's 'THE ROVER'). Now, I'm happy to see, he's a gifted director as well. He says one of his main inspirations, for this movie, was Alfred Hitchcock; and I think he does a great job, paying him homage. He also gives a great, creepy performance, in the film too; and Bateman and Hall are fantastic as well (I love seeing Bateman continue to stretch as an actor, doing more dramas and thrillers). The movie is definitely worth a watch; it's a more than impressive directorial debut, from Edgerton! Can't wait to see what he does next.

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31 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
I'd really like to see a director's cut someday!, 11 August 2015

'FANTASTIC FOUR': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Twentieth Century Fox's reboot to their superhero franchise; which began in 2005 (and had one previous sequel in 2007). It's based on Marvel Comic's first superhero team, of the same name, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (their first comic as well); and tells the story of four young scientists who are transformed into gifted superheroes, by teleporting to another dimension. It was directed by Josh Trank (the man behind the 2012 indie sci-fi hit 'CHRONICLE') and written by Trank, Jeremy Slater and Simon Kinberg. The film stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan (who also costarred in 'CHRONICLE'), Kate Mara, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell and Reg E. Cathey. It's received nothing but negative reviews, from critics and fans alike, due to studio tampering; which greatly altered Trank's true vision. I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the movie, and I'd really like to see a director's cut someday (which Trank insists exists).

Since they met as children, best friends Reed Richards (Teller) and Ben Grimm (Bell) have been working on a special teleportation device. While showing it off, unsuccessfully at a science fair, they impress a local professor, Franklin Storm (Cathey); who's been working on the same thing. Storm invites Reed and Ben to join his research team; which includes his daughter Susan (Mara), his son Johnny (Jordan) and his protégé Victor von Doom (Kebbell). The young scientists succeed at their experiment, and then make a dangerous attempt to teleport themselves, to another universe. Once there, they gain special powers; and each must decide whether to use them for good, or for bad.

The movie begins as a fascinating character study, filled with good performances (from Teller, Jordan and the rest). It's involving, although somewhat slow paced, and pretty entertaining, all the way up till the third act. Then the film morphs into a completely different movie, and ends with CGI filled nonsense (with characters behaving in ways nothing like the film leading up to it). Fox was unhappy with Trank's first cut (a more original, and creative, character driven superhero flick), so they hijacked the movie; demanding reshoots and totally ruining the conclusion of the film. I really like what Trank was trying to do with the genre, before that though, and look forward to seeing more from him in the future. I also hope the upcoming sequel doesn't have so much big business pollution. It's at least not as big of a disappointment as Marvel Studio's 'ANT-MAN' (considering what that could have been, with Edgar Wright at the helm)!

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Minions (2015)
It's probably an OK kids' film., 7 August 2015

'MINIONS': Two Stars (Out of Five)

A prequel/spin-off to the popular 'DESPICABLE ME' animated film series. It tells the origin story of the super-villain Gru's little minion helpers. The film was directed by Pierre Coffin (who also co- directed the two 'DESPICABLE ME' movies) and Kyle Balda; Coffin also voices all of the minions, in the film. It was written by Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy and costars the voice talents of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Allison Janney, Steve Coogan and Geoffrey Rush. The film is pretty silly, and rarely funny, but it's probably an OK kids' film.

The story starts at the beginning of time, when the minions were first born; as single-celled yellow organisms. They evolved into little naive creatures, with just one passion; to serve the most despicable master they could find. After killing every villain they've ever met, they go into hiding in Antarctica. But after years of depression, three minions (Kevin, Stuart and Bob; all voiced by Coffin) decide to venture out into the world, to find a new master. They meet Scarlet Overkill (Bullock), in Orlando, and find a purpose to live again.

The movie is probably the kind of stupid cartoon I would have liked as a kid, but it's painful to watch as an adult. Most of the jokes are really stupid and there's no really likable characters to root for (just the minions). A few moments are funny, but it's definitely not as good as either 'DESPICABLE ME' film (which I'm not a big fan of either). Kids will like it though.

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It's bad sitcom style comedy, but it's not that bad!, 7 August 2015

'PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2': Two and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Sequel to the hit 2009 action comedy flick 'PAUL BLART: MALL COP'. Both films star Kevin James; as a security guard who's far too serious about his job, but still manages to find adventure. In this film he takes on viscous art thieves. James also co-wrote the movie (with Nick Backay) and co-produced it (with his buddy Adam Sandler). It was directed by Andy Fickman and costars Neal McDonough, Daniella Alonso, Raini Rodriguez, David Henrie, D.B. Woodside and Nicholas Turturro. Both films were huge hits at the Box Office, but got horrible reviews from critics. I haven't seen the first movie, but I can definitely say that this sequel isn't good enough to be a big hit, or bad enough to get such dismal reviews; it's just mediocre comedy.

The film takes places six years after the events of the first movie; Paul Blart (James) is struggling to get over his wife (Jayma Mays) leaving him, after just six days of marriage, and the sudden death of his mother (Shirley Knight), in a tragic accident involving a milk truck. He finds happiness by continuing to obsess over his mall security job, and spending lots of time with his loving daughter, Maya (Rodriguez). That happiness is threatened, when Maya finds out she was accepted to UCLA, and might have to move to Los Angeles. She doesn't tell her father this news though, in fear that it will break him. Paul is thrilled to find out he's been invited to the security officers' convention, in Las Vegas, and Maya goes with him to the event. Things take a turn for the worse though, when Paul discovers dangerous art thieves are attempting to steal priceless works of art, from the hotel they're staying at, and threatening the safety of his family.

The movie is pretty silly but it does have humorous moments. James is decent in the lead, but his script could have used a few more rewrites. It's bad sitcom style comedy, but it's not that bad. I don't regret watching it and I actually found it mildly amusing. I still wouldn't want to see a third one though; or the first one for the first time.

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It's definitely just as bad, maybe worse, than the others!, 6 August 2015

'SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO!': Three Stars (Out of Five)

The third installment in the popular Syfy B movie series 'SHARKNADO'. This one has Fin Shepard (once again played by Ian Ziering) trying to stop a tornado of killer sharks, which stretches from Washington, D.C. to Orlando, Florida. Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo and Mark McGrath also reprise their roles, from earlier films. Frankie Muniz, Ryan Newman, David Hasselhoff, Mark Cuban and Bo Derek join the cast; which also has returning cameos from Matt Lauer and Al Roker, plus many new ones (including notorious conservatives like Ann Coulter and Michele Bachmann). It was once again directed by Anthony C. Ferrante and written by Thunder Levin. The film is bad, really bad, but so are the others and it should please fans of the series.

While Fin (Ziering) is receiving an award from the president (Cuban), in Washington, D.C., for saving Los Angeles and New York from sharknados, in the first two films, another sharknado hits the capital. This one is even bigger than the previous shark storms, and it stretches from Washington to Orlando, Florida. Fin's wife, April (Reid), is at Universal Orlando; with their daughter, Claudia (Newman), and April's mother, May (Derek). Fin, once again, tries to save his family, and the world, and stop the deadly sharknados for good. He finds help from an old friend (Scerbo) and his father (Hasselhoff).

The movie is filled with really bad acting and cheesy dialogue; it also boasts a ridiculously nonsensical plot and laughable action scenes and gore. That's all part of the fun though! People love these movies; including all of the celebrities willing to do cameos (like George R.R. Martin and Penn and Teller!). I think this installment is almost as good as the others, it's definitely just as bad; maybe worse. I enjoyed it.

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