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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Takes the great ideas of the original film and expands on them., 19 July 2014

'THE PURGE: ANARCHY': Four Stars (Out of Five)

Sequel to the 2013 hit horror flick about an annual 12 hour period of time when all crime is legal. The original film focused on one family, who's attacked in their home during 'the Purge'. This installment tells the story of a cop, a mother and daughter and a couple who all meet and try to survive the Purge together. It was once again written and directed by James DeMonaco and co-produced by Michael Bay. It stars Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Kiele Sanchez, Zach Gilford, Zoe Soul and Michael K. Williams. I thought the first movie was interesting (and as disturbing as hell). This film is even better!

Grillo plays a police sergeant named Leo Barnes. While most people try to stay safe at home, during the Purge, Barnes ventures out into it. He lost his son a year earlier and wants revenge. Sanchez and Gilford play a couple named Liz and Shane. They're driving to Shane's sister's house, to hide out at during the Purge, when their car breaks down shortly before 'commencement'. Ejogo plays a waitress named Eva. Eva is struggling to make enough money to support her sick father, Papa Rico (John Beasley), and young daughter, Cali (Soul). Their apartment building is attacked by a death squad and Eva and Cali are dragged out into the street. Leo sees them about to be killed and reluctantly intervenes. Eva and Cali then look to Barnes for protection. So do Liz and Shane, as they try to escape the gang chasing them.

I find the premise for these movies to be pretty interesting; it's a flawed one but still makes for compelling movies. The first movie was memorable because of the unique plot but it didn't explore the concept very much. It was well directed, disturbing and has a great performance from Ethan Hawke though. This sequel takes the great ideas of the original film and expands on them; it really examines what a society, that lives in a world like that, would be like. It also explains the government's main reasoning for the Purge. The characters are all likable and Grillo makes an awesome anti-hero. I cared about the central characters so much that I even got a little choked up at the ending. I can't remember the last time I did that during a slasher flick. These films are definitely horror done right!

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Not great filmmaking but it is entertaining., 15 July 2014

'DELIVER US FROM EVIL': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Supernatural horror flick about a cop and a renegade priest who team up to fight demonically influenced crime in New York. It was directed by Scott Derrickson and written by Derrickson and Paul Harris Boardman. It's based on the 2001 non-fiction book 'Beware the Night', by Ralph Sarchie and Lisa Collier Cool. The book is said to be based on Sarchie's real life experiences; as an NY police officer who assisted a priest in exorcisms. Eric Bana plays Sarchie, in the film, and Edgar Ramirez plays the priest that works with him. The movie also costars Joel McHale, Olivia Munn and Sean Harris. Being a fan of religiously themed thrillers, and any genre that analyzes spirituality, I found the film to be pretty entertaining.

We meet Ralph Sarchie (Bana) as he's coping with depression, due to his work, and having troubles at home because of it. He's been neglecting his wife (Munn), and young daughter (Lulu Wilson), and has lost his faith in God. His partner, Butler (McHale), is a tough adrenaline junkie who thinks that Sarchie has a 'radar' for finding dangerous criminals. When Sarchie meets Mendoza (Ramirez), a Spanish priest, he finds out his 'radar' might be a special spiritual ability. Mendoza also believes that a series of recent grisly crimes, that Sarchie and his partner have been investigating, are being caused by demonic possessions. Sarchie reluctantly teams up with the priest to stop the horrendous crimes.

Derrickson and Boardman also co-wrote 'THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE' and 'HELLRAISER: INFERNO' together, which Derrickson also directed, and Derrickson also directed and co-wrote 'SINISTER'. Those are all well made and disturbing films. I'd say this movie is about on par with two of them but it's not as good as 'THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE'. That film had some great religious commentary and was equally frightening. This movie has some cool scares but it isn't quite as insightful. I do really like the cop/priest buddy flick aspect to it though and the performances are pretty good. McHale is a scene stealer (as the badass partner), Bana makes a good anti-hero and Ramirez would be good if he wasn't so hard to understand. Overall it's not great filmmaking but it is entertaining.

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Tammy (2014)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Not a hilarious movie, by any means, but it is funny and uplifting., 14 July 2014

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

Rising superstar Melissa McCarthy stars in this road trip comedy flick about a woman who tries to flee her old life (after being fired and cheated on) by heading to Niagara Falls with her grandmother. McCarthy wrote the screenplay with actor Ben Falcone (who's appeared in a number of films with McCarthy, including this one). Falcone also directed the movie (marking his feature film writing and directing debut). The film also features actors Susan Sarandon, Mark Duplass, Kathy Bates, Gary Cole, Allison Janney, Dan Aykroyd, Toni Collette, Nat Faxon and Sandra Oh in supporting roles. It was produced by McCarthy, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. I found the movie to be mildly funny and sweet; it's definitely entertaining enough for 96 minutes.

The story begins with Tammy (McCarthy) hitting a deer on her way to work, at Topper Jack's (a fast food restaurant). She's fired for being late (again) and goes home to find her husband, Greg (Faxon), having dinner with their neighbor, Missi (Collette). It appears the two have been having an affair and Tammy storms out of the house in anger. She walks a couple of houses down to her parent's. She tells her mother, Lenore (Janney), she's leaving home. Lenore tries to stop her but Tammy's grandmother, Pearl (Sarandon), offers her a ride and cash to fund their trip. The two set out for Niagara Falls and find romance, and other adventure, along the way. Duplass and Cole play two romantic interests for the two leading ladies.

I'm not a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy; I find her comedy style to be a bit too over the top, and simplistic, for my tastes but I've still enjoyed all of her recent movies. I always think I'm not going to like her films (when I watch the trailers for them) but then when I actually see them, I find them to be pretty funny and usually sweet. I haven't found most of McCarthy's smaller supporting roles (in movies like 'THIS IS 40' and 'THE HANGOVER PART III') humorous at all but in her starring roles she always does a good job. She is better paired with a skilled comedic straight man (like Bateman in 'IDENTITY THIEF' or Bullock in 'THE HEAT') than I assume she'd be headlining a movie on her own. This film was promoted that way but she does have a lot of support from Sarandon (who's practically an equal lead in it). I find it very odd that Sarandon (who's only 24 years older than McCarthy) is playing her grandmother in this film and that Janney (who's only 11 years older) plays her mother. There's other things that bothered me about the film as well (it definitely has it's flaws) and it's not a hilarious movie, by any means, but it is funny and uplifting. It's definitely worth a watch in my opinion.

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Very sweet and extremely funny!, 14 July 2014

'OBVIOUS CHILD': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

A romantic comedy flick about a young Brooklyn comedian who becomes unexpectedly pregnant, after a drunken one-night stand. It stars stand-up comedian, and TV star, Jenny Slate as the comedian and costars Jake Lacy (of 'THE OFFICE' fame), Gaby Hoffmann, Gabe Liedman, Richard Kind, Polly Draper and David Cross. It was directed by first time feature filmmaker Gillian Robespierre and written by Robespierre, Karen Maine and Elisabeth Holm. It's based on the 2009 short film, of the same name, directed and co-written by Robespierre. I found the movie to be very sweet and extremely funny.

Slate plays Donna Stern, a comedian in her late twenties who lives in Brooklyn and works at a book store that's going out of business. As the film opens she's dumped by her boyfriend (Paul Briganti), which causes Donna to have an emotional and mental breakdown. She meets a young man named Max (Lacy), at the club where she does shows, and has a fling that night with him. Later she finds out she's pregnant and turns to her friends Nellie (Hoffman) and Joey (Liedman) for advice. She makes up her mind that she wants an abortion but she decides to tell Max about the pregnancy and starts a reluctant romantic relationship with him.

As the film started I had a hard time getting into Slate's comedic style; I'm not a big fan of stand-up comedy to begin with but her jokes are really awkward and 'out there'. As the movie went on though I found her more and more funny, partially because I learned to care more and more about her character but also because I started to understand her sense of humor more and got more used to her joke style. I also found her character very relatable. She incorporates a lot of her life into her comedy (which makes a lot of people uncomfortable, especially those she includes in her jokes) but in my opinion that's the best type of comedy; humor that's based in reality and deals with subjects that most people are afraid to talk about. That's the comedic style I often try to use in my life (most often on Facebook). The film does turn out to be hilarious and mostly because of Slate; she's adorable and extremely funny as well. Like I said the movie is also really sweet and I found the romantic aspects of it to be really well done. Slate and Robespierre both shine here and so does this movie!

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Yet another masterpiece form Matt Reeves!, 13 July 2014

'DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

This sequel to 2011's 'RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES' is the eighth installment in the 'PLANET OF THE APES' film franchise and the second chapter in the recent reboot series. It was directed by Matt Reeves, who also directed the 2010 teen vampire romance remake 'LET ME IN' and the 2008 found footage monster flick 'CLOVERFIELD'. It was written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (the last two also wrote 'RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES'). It stars Andy Serkis once again (as Caesar) and costars Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell and Codi Smit-McPhee (who also appeared in 'LET ME IN'). I found it to be a really entertaining and well made science fiction flick; an improvement over the last installment and the best of the series since the 1968 Charlton Heston classic.

The story is set in 2028, ten years after the ALZ-113 virus killed off most of the humans on the planet. Caesar (Serkis) leads a growing ape civilization in the Muir Woods. A small group of human survivors, who are immune to the virus, live in San Franciso. They're lead by Dreyfus (Oldman) and are desperately in need of a new source for power. The humans think they can solve their problems by restarting a hydroelectric dam's generator, located in the community of apes. When the two societies discover each other, many (on both sides) want to go to war; out of distrust, bigotry and paranoia. Caesar tells the humans to leave them alone and they won't be harmed but a human named Malcolm (Clarke) begs Caesar to let a small group of human survivors work on the generator. A bond forms between Malcolm, his friends, and the apes but others don't want to give peace a chance; especially an ape named Koba (Kebbell), who wants revenge for past abuse he suffered.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much more the movie revolves around the apes, rather than the humans. The story is really a lot more about the inner struggling of the ape civilization and how it falls apart, for a lot of the same reasons humanity has similar problems. The movie also, of course, deals with the bigotry and hatred that forms between two different societies but it focuses a lot more on the increasing flaws of a new civilization (which at first seemed ideal and perfect). We say human nature causes a lot of our biggest problems but this movie argues those same problems arise in any civilization. It's a really well made and thought provoking movie (and the visual effects are spectacular). Yet another masterpiece form Matt Reeves!

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Sweet and touching at times but nothing too memorable., 8 July 2014

'THE LUNCHBOX': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Indian romance flick about the relationship that develops between a retiring accountant and a married young mother, when the accountant keeps getting lunches that were originally intended for the young woman's husband. The two communicate to one another through notes in the lunchbox. It stars Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur as it's two leads and costars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith and Lillete Dubey. It was written and directed by first time feature filmmaker Ritesh Batra. I found the movie to be sweet and touching at times but nothing too memorable.

Khan plays Saajan Fernandez, an accountant who's been lonely and depressed since his wife died (years earlier). He's about to retire, in a month, and is supposed to train his young replacement, Shaikh (Siddiqui). Saajan is annoyed by the eager young man and does not intend to teach him anything, until he learns he grew up a struggling orphan. An odd friendship develops between the two and another relationship develops between Saajan and a young mother, Ila (Kaur), that he only knows through letters. A lunch Ila made for her husband (Nakul Vaid) was delivered to Saajan by mistake (through an error made by Mumbai's famous lunchbox delivery system). She had put a lot of passion into the cooking of it, in hopes of reviving their struggling marriage. Saajan and Ila continue to communicate through letters, they deliver back and forth in the lunchbox, and tell each other about their problems.

As far as simple romance flicks go this is a pretty good one. There's not a lot to it but the concept is pretty good (about the two leads communicating through letters in a lunchbox). There's a decent amount of good character development and the main characters are all likable. Batra seems to be a capable new filmmaker and the performances are all good, especially Khan (who is always outstanding). I enjoyed the movie a lot while I was watching it, and think it was well made, but it's not one I'll take much away from. It's memorable, because of the unique (but simple) premise, but not a great film by any measure.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
There was potential for something really good here., 8 July 2014

'TRANSCENDENCE': Three Stars (Out of Five)

Sci-fi flick directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister (making his directorial debut) and written by first time film writer Jack Paglen. Christopher Nolan (who Pfister often works with) executive produced the film and Johnny Depp plays the lead role. The movie also stars Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Clifton Collins Jr., Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman. It tells the story of a scientist, experimenting in artificial intelligence, who later becomes a part of his own experiments when he dies and is uploaded online. The film has a lot of cool ideas but due to the inexperience of the filmmakers they're poorly executed.

Dr. Will Caster (Depp), and his wife Evelyn (Hall), have been trying to create a fully functioning sentient computer. Will hopes it will help him answer life's most puzzling questions about the universe. Evelyn is more interested in finding cures to humanity's biggest problems. Their work has drawn the attention of radical terrorists though, who want to stop a technological singularity. One extremist (Lukas Haas) shoots Will, with a radioactive bullet, and doctors give him less than a month to live. Evelyn, with the help of their best friend (and colleague) Max Waters (Bettany), tries to upload Will's consciousness to the computer, they've been working on, before he dies. Max fears what this could lead to but he helps Evelyn anyway. Will's body passes on but he is reborn in the computer. Evelyn then loads Will's consciousness online, against Max's warnings, and it looks as though Will's thirst for knowledge and power could lead to certain doom for humanity.

The film, in a lot of ways, is sort of like a darker B movie version of 'HER'. It plays with the concept of singularity, a lot, but not in a very realistic or believable way. The ideas presented in the movie are all interesting, and thought provoking, but the rest of the film gets too bogged down in silly action scenes and cheesy dialogue (and character development). The performances probably would have been a lot better under a different director but as they are they're all pretty bad (especially Depp). The film's biggest flaw is just the inexperience of the director. The screenplay probably could have used a few more rewrites, as well, but a better filmmaker, at the helm, would have seen that. There was potential for something really good here but as it is it's pretty disappointing.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Deserved a wider release!, 7 July 2014

'SNOWPIERCER': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

'SNOWPIERCER' is a post-apocalyptic science fiction film based on the 1982 French graphic novel (of the same name) by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. The movie was directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho (who is famous for helming films like 2006's 'THE HOST' and 2009's 'MOTHER'). It was written by Bong and Kelly Masterson (who also wrote 2007's 'BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD') and it's also Bong's English film debut (80% of it was shot in English). It tells the story of a future world where all of mankind is killed off by a failed experiment to stop global warming, except those lucky enough to board a train (which constantly travels around the world). A nightmarish class system develops. It stars Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho (who's previously worked with the director multiple times before), Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Go Ah-sung (who's also worked with Bong before) and Ed Harris. It was released in South Korea last August, where it more than doubled it's $39 million budget and broke box office records there. It was supposed to have a wide theatrical release here in the US, as well, but Bong refused to make the cuts and changes that the Weinstein Company (who purchased the American distribution rights) demanded. So instead the film received only a limited release in art house cinemas (it also debuts on VOD later this week). I found it to be an immensely entertaining sci-fi action flick.

The film begins 17 years after global warming struck the planet (in 2014). Humanity tried to save itself, through an experiment gone wrong, and instead caused a new ice age. The only survivors boarded a train, which circles the entire planet (throughout the year). A horrible class system was developed, which divided the poor people to the back of the train (surviving in horrendous conditions) and the wealthy people to the front of it (living in luxury). Curtis Everett (Evans) leads the latest rebellion, of the poor, to take over the train; by overcoming guards and fighting their way to the front of it. The super train is called the 'Snowpiercer', by it's inhabitants.

Like all great science fiction the film of course has great social commentary; not only on global warming (and our meager efforts to try to prevent it) but also on the increasing separation of the very wealthy and the starving poor. It's of course extremely exaggerated (and the film does get very fantastical at times) but it's still an excellent examination of where life on this planet could be headed. What I like even more than the political message of the film is just the action. It's pretty violent but it's a lot of fun and it's so refreshing to see an old-school action movie rather than another big budget CGI filled one. Bong's stylistic directing is superb, Evans is great in the lead and the story does have a lot of surprising (and clever) twists and turns. Tilda Swinton is also amazing in the movie; giving a very cartoonish performance but still a very memorable one. The whole movie is just extremely entertaining; the perfect summer popcorn flick. It deserved a wider release! Screw Harvey Weinstein!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
They're definitely not getting any better., 1 July 2014

'TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

The fourth installment in director Michael Bay's live-action adaptation of the popular Hasbro toy line, of the same name, about transforming robot aliens. It's a reboot to the series and has Mark Wahlberg taking over the lead human role (from Shia LaBeouf) as an inventor named Cade Yeager. He now aids the surviving Autobots in a battle against corrupt CIA agents and a robot alien bounty hunter (who's assisting them). Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammar, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor and T.J. Miller also join the new cast. Peter Cullen once again voices Optimus Prime and actors like John Goodman and Ken Watanabe join the voice cast. Bay directed the flick, Steven Spielberg executive produced it and Ehren Kruger returned to write the screenplay. I found the movie to be entertaining at first but then just exhausting (and mind numbing) as it kept going on and on.

The story takes place four years after the Autobots and Decepticons battle in Chicago, of the last film, that left that city in ruins. A CIA unit, led by agent Harold Attinger (Grammer), has been tasked with hunting down the remaining Decepticons. Due to prejudice, and paranoia, Attinger (and his men) secretly hunt down and kill all of the remaining Transformers (including Autobots, who were US allies). Optimus Prime (Cullen) is hiding out in an old theater, wounded, when he's discovered by inventor Cade Yeager. Cade is hoping to find parts, for new inventions, so he can pay for his daughter, Tessa (Peltz), to go to college (and save his house from being sold). After discovering that the old truck he bought is a Transformer, Cade and Optimus team up; with the other remaining Autobots and Tessa's boyfriend Shane (Reynor). They must elude the CIA and an evil Transformer bounty hunter named Lockdown (Ryan). In the meantime a corporation called KSI is trying to use the remains of dead Transformers to build new ones. Joshua Joyce (Tucci) is the ambitious inventor who heads that company.

The movie is a lot less coherent than it sounds; a lot of the time I had no idea what was going on (especially during action sequences). The visuals look great (much better than the earlier films) but the fight scenes just get more and more dull (and less involving) with each movie chapter. Seeing robots fight is always cool, at first, but when it stretches on and on, for nearly three hours of it, it gets really repetitive and boring. If this had been the first installment in the series it probably would have been more entertaining but after three other movies, just like it, the film does seem to be the worst of the bunch (although I hesitate to say it's worse than 'REVENGE OF THE FALLEN'). I also don't think Wahlberg is nearly as talented an actor, or as manically funny, as LaBeouf is (despite what type of people they might be in real life); so it's definitely lacking there as well. I don't hate these films, and I'll keep watching new installments, but they're definitely not getting any better.

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1 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
One of the worst found footage flicks I've ever seen!, 1 July 2014

'WILLOW CREEK': One and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Actor/comedian, turned filmmaker, Bobcat Goldthwait wrote and directed this ultra-low budget found footage flick. Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson star in the movie; as a couple making their own documentary about the Bigfoot myth (and the Patterson-Gimlin film). I enjoyed Goldthwait's last writing/directing effort, 'GOD BLESS America' (to a certain extent), and like him as a comedian and actor, but I have to say this movie was pretty bad. It's one of the worst found footage flicks I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot).

The story revolves around Jim (Johnson), and his girlfriend Kelly (Gilmore), traveling to Willow Creek (in Humboldt County, California) to make their own Bigfoot documentary film; Jim believes in the legend and Kelly does not. Willow Creek is where Roger Patterson and Robert "Bob" Gimlin supposedly captured footage, of a Sasquatch, in October of 1967. Jim interviews various locals, while Kelly films, and they tell all kinds of Sasquatch stories (and sing songs). Then the two travel into the woods, to find the location of Patterson and Gimlin's famous film, but of course something goes horribly wrong.

I will say that parts of the movie are really funny (in the first half) and the two leads are pretty good (they've both worked with Goldthwait before on previous films); especially Gilmore (who's strikingly beautiful). The second half of the movie is where it really goes downhill though. It's a complete rip-off of 'THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT'; there's even a similar tent scene and a portion of the movie where the couple, while trying to leave, circles past the same tree again. It's ridiculous how unoriginal and recycled this movie is (and I really like most found footage films). It's entertaining at times but most of it is a waste. Extremely disappointing coming from Goldthwait.

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