Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
The Grey (2011)
A literal story about man versus beast turns into an inner struggle of a group of Alaskan plane crash survivors as they evaluate the importance of life with mere days left to live. Ottway (Liam Neeson, The A-Team) leads the group through the impossible struggles of the wilderness in attempt to avoid being slaughtered by the majestic relentless beauty of an immense wolfpack hunting them day and night. This is familiar territory for Ottway whose occupation consists of protecting people from the magical creature, however, there can be only one Alpha.
The Good: The film's spiritual journey connects with the audience matched with contemporary dialogue and paired with Liam Neeson's badass head-to-head fights with wolves in the Alaskan Panarama results in a pulse pounding transcendent ride.
The Bad: The first act begins in an ambiguous fashion and only really develops the backstories of three characters. This still tends to work for the film, however, one or two fully functional character arcs may have boosted the film to perfection.
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
"First Act Slump: Rudd's Idealistic Charm"
Director Jesse Peretz's ("The Ex") short filmography has failed to impress audiences until his latest film "Our Idiot Brother". Why did this film turn everything around for him? Is this because of the tier one female casting including Elizabeth Banks ("The Next Three Days"), Zooey Deschanel ("500 Days of Summer"), Rashida Jones (NBC's "Parks and Recreation"), Emily Mortinmer ("Shutter Island") and Kathryn Hahn ("How Do You Know")? Partially, but more importantly Paul Rudd's charming and subtly brilliant performance brings the film out of the first act's chaotic slump into a hilarious stride. Ned (Rudd) is a stereotypical hippie who works on an earthy farm with his soon to be ex-girlfriend, Janet (Hahn) until a police officer comes up to him and tricks him into selling him weed. This lands Ned straight in prison and when he is released he is houseless, jobless and friendless, but not family-less. Ned turns to his three sisters Miranda (Banks), Natalie (Deschanel) and Liz (Mortimer) for a place to stay while he works to get back to the only creature in the world he needs; his dog, Willie Nelson. Ned becomes an easily-targeted scapegoat in his family with his nonchalant loving ways causing his sisters to blame him for all of their problems. Between Miranda's news story and best friend (Adam Scott, NBC's "Parks and Recreation") troubles, Natalie's relationship mishaps with her girlfriend Cindy (Jones) and Liz's marriage to Dylan (Steve Coogan, "The Other Guys") loosing flare; Ned has a lot of denunciation coming his way.
This offbeat comedy relies on three things to rally itself from its rocky start to its emotion-provoking climax. First, as things begin coming together Banks, Deschanel, Jones, Mortinmer and Hahn are able to turn their lightly comedic performance into a dramatified very well acted self-indulgence. Second, the kookiness of the film pays off in its second act as a literary pattern is established. However, the most important thing the film relies on is Paul Rudd's best and most unique performance to date. Rudd's charm has been highly praised, but I would like to give kudos to his realistic angry outburst that should warrant him a best actor in a comedy nomination somewhere.
Besides the opening scene establishing Paul Rudd's character, the first thirty minutes of the film are an oddly assembled mess. However, the biggest issue is not that the plot-structure is off-center, it is that nothing transpires that aids in the overall storytelling. Then after the triumph of the second half of the film, the ending fails to be thought provoking and instead becomes monotonously cliché. Yes it is a cute ending, but it is completely disconnected from the quirky comedy that comes before it taking away from the film's message. Lastly, the whininess of the sisters can become very annoying even if it is important to the story.
Idiosyncratic comedy mixed with Paul Rudd's idealistic charm and a big name cast; lift "Our Idiot Brother" out of its early plunge making it a very oddly funny movie. However, in order to fully enjoy it you have to work to get something out of it and focus on Rudd's performance.
"Caesar's Serkis: A Symbol Against Oppression"
Director Rupert Wyatt ("The Escapist") proves there is always time for firsts by successfully producing a movie of epic proportions and creating the best "Planet of the Apes" film since the original. By taking a different and innovative route Wyatt has saved the once dying franchise making it better than ever. Wyatt generates a completely new origins story in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", however, Wyatt still needed one last thing; an actor that could flawlessly personify an ape's transformation. Consequently, Andy Serkis ("The Lord of the Rings") is Wyatt's ace and casting James Franco ("127 Hours") didn't hurt one bit. Will Rodman (Franco) is a scientist looking for a cure for his father, Charles (John Lithgow, Showtime's "Dexter"), whose Alzheimer's is progressing. To do so, Will gives a dose of his drug to a chimpanzee who shows heightened intelligence. However, when Will presents his findings, an event leads to the shutdown of his project. When told to kill a baby chimp found in the lab, he sneaks it home naming it Caesar (Serkis). Will secretly continues to perfect a cure for his father, while taking care of Caesar with the help of his father and animal doctor Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto, "Slumdog Millionaire"), who almost immediately becomes Will's girl friend. Serkis inevitably steals the show as the film goes through a cycle of drama, action, and Armageddon. He allows Caesar to become more than just a symbol against animal oppression, he becomes a symbol of freedom.
The film has everything an apocalyptic movie needs. To start its plot may have a few minor holes, but the intense drama oriented storyline centered on humanity and personal development is enthralling. This build up culminates in the best action sequence of the year mixing amazing visual effects technology and the raw power of animals. With this being said, James Franco and John Lithgow are superb in their respective roles, but the acting does not stop there. Andy Serkis is the only person that could do the character of Caesar justice proving Serkis's genius and foreshadowing an Oscar nomination in the coming months.
The biggest issues in this film can be attributed to script writing and specifically dialogue. The screenplay has a couple of minor plot holes, but they do not detract much from the story. However, the dialogue is horridly juvenile in sequences and is even worse when actors like Tom Felton ("Harry Potter") are in the spotlight. Then there is the character of Caroline (Freida), whose existence in the film is pointless beyond helping Caesar at the beginning and dating Will. Why do films disregard casting beyond its stars? Ultimately, this is the best apocalypse film I have seen since "I Am Legend" and is a showcase to the future of acting. While Andy Serkis embodies Smeagol/Gollum, he is undistinguishable from Caesar making them one in the same.
30 Minutes or Less (2011)
"One-Liner Craze: Anti-Title Development"
"30 Minutes or Less" writers were ill-informed, relying heavily on randomness and two comedians, Danny McBride ("Your Highness") and Nick Swardson ("Just Got With It") who prove that comedy fails when solely based on wiener jokes. Therefore, it is a good thing Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network") is solidly funny and Aziz Ansari (NBC's "Parks and Recreation") proves himself as more than just a television comedian. However, the role of the antagonists is given too much emphasis. Slacker Dwayne (McBride) has growing hatred for his ex-military father, The Major (Fred Ward, "Armored"), who became rich by winning the lottery. After very little thought and preparation Dwayne and his best friend, Travis (Swardson), decide they want to start their own prostitution ring masked as a tanning salon. First they need to kill The Major in order to inherit his money. Enter a stripper named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich, CBS's "Rules of Engagement") who connects them with Chango (Michael Peña, "The Lincoln Lawyer") a pimp willing to kill The Major for $100,000. Meanwhile, Nick (Eisenberg), an underachiever "30 Minutes or Less" pizza delivery boy, and his best friend Chet (Ansari), a successful teacher, have a falling out centering on Nick's one-night escapade with Chet's sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria, ABC Family's "Greek"). After the fallout Nick is called on a pizza run ending with him getting a bomb strapped to his body by Dwayne and Travis. With the help of Chet, Nick must rob a bank of $100,000 for Dwayne and Travis before the bomb explodes.
The Good: When a film bombards an audience with one-liners, the odds are that at least one will be successful. McBride's brightest moment can be attributed to this phenomenon as a non-wiener joke hits the scene. Otherwise, Eisenberg and Ansari are oddly hilarious with one proving he is plain and simply a great actor and the other revealing silver screen comedic strength. Eisenberg takes on his least nerdy role to date and nails it creating a badass side that was only slightly revealed in "Zombieland". Even so, Ansari is the funniest part of the film with cheeky comedic dialogue.
The film is the most far-fetched and illogical film of the year because of its lack of attention to more than half a dozen significant continuity issues. These issues include the inattention to detail in covering up the bank robbery, the importance of Kate's job offer in Georgia and most importantly the antidevelopment of the movie title beyond the pizza place's motto. When you add the overdevelopment of the potty-mouthed antagonists played by struggling feature film comedians McBride and Swardson, things are bound for failure. And if you are expecting a conclusive ending tying everything together, you won't get it.
Two downers plus two uppers produces an average comedy that may give you a couple quotable one-liners, but the film itself will be forgotten just like the film's title "30 Minutes or Less" was when developing the plot.
Fright Night (2011)
"Vampire's Zombieland: Congenial Farrell Suave"
In the midst of the time of the vampire in American pop culture, Director Craig Gillespie's ("Lars and the Real Girl") remake of the 1985 horror film "Fright Night" has defiled the "Twilight" film series in "Kick Ass" fashion. With more blood, more fun and better acting than the original, "Fright Night" does not concern itself with exposition; instead it recognizes that Colin Farrell ("The Way Back") is a vampire and focuses on the thrill of mixing badassery and clever, creepy, comedy. For those of you who haven't seen the original and do not know the basic plot, or wonder how things may differ from the original this is for you. Charley Brewster (Anton Yelchin, "Star Trek") lives in a small box shaped town just outside the Las Vegas strip with his mother Jane (Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"). Life is normal for high school senior Charley as he strays away from his dorky friend Ed Lee (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, "Kick Ass") by befriending popular boys Mark (Dave Franco, ABC's "Scrubs") and Ben (Reid Ewing, ABC's "Modern Family") and dating the sexy Amy Peterson (Imogen Poots, "Jane Eyre"). Charley's mother also seems to be doing well befriending their lewd new neighbor Jerry Dandrige (Farell). The question is why does it appear as if students are disappearing? Ed has begun an investigation by following the teachings of a Vegas performer obsessed with vampires named Peter Vincent (David Tennant, BBC's "Doctor Who"), but will he get through to Charley about his mysterious new neighbor before its too late? When I first heard that "Fright Night" was going to be in 3D I was very skeptical, but for a horror film its use of 3D is above par in aiding in pursuit of humorous gore. The film exceeds horror remake expectations taking the film in a modern day applicable direction. The casting of Yelchin, Tennant and Mintz-Plasse and the uniqueness each actor brings to their respective characters produces each of them a distinct likability. However, the fact the performances of the rest of the cast are above average for a horror film, along with a new vampire swagger Colin Farrell brings to his character, are the reasons why the remake is a success.
The main issue people may have with the film is that it bases its horror around knowing that Jerry is a vampire instead of making his existence a mystery. So if you are looking for a "Scooby-Doo" mystery search elsewhere. Also, the dialogue is shoddy in places, the vampires look a little off when they aren't in human form, the overall scheme is predictable, and in the end it may be too gory for non-slasher fans. However, if you do not find yourself laughing at the prosaic scenes in the film, you may have missed the point.
"Fright Night" has the most memorable characters and best acting performances that a horror film has had in years. So prepare yourself for a whole lot of congenial Farrell suave in the "Zombieland" of vampire movies.
Final Destination 5 (2011)
"The Final Void: Doom of Boredom"
Same cheating death formula, one twist lightly exploited, more blood and guts than ever before and boring predictable continuity makes "Final Destination 5" a shear sign of a franchise that has run out of gas. For those of you who remember the title of the fourth film it carried connotations that it was going to be "The Final Destination", therefore, the fact that there is a fifth film in 3D shows that it is just a money grubber. The story begins when Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto, "Fired Up") and his coworkers including his ex-girlfriend Molly Harper (Emma Bell, "Frozen) and his best friend Peter Friedkin (Miles Fisher, "Superhero Movie") leave on a bus for an office trip. Everything goes smoothly until Sam wakes up from a deadly dream predicting that the bus was destined for disaster in a suspension bridge accident. Immediately Sam drags Molly with him as he escapes the bus and heads across the bridge to safety. This initiates much commotion among the rest of his coworkers as Peter and his girlfriend Candice (Ellen Wroe) are joined by various staff to flee the scene of death right behind Sam. While these select few were able to escape their doom on the bridge, death does not like to be cheated. So what happens next? Well if you have seen any of the previous films you know that they must avoid their doom in the order they would have been killed in. However, there is a twist. They can murder someone in their place and take their life.
The setups and visualizations of the horridly gory deaths the film's characters must endure are very well done from a slasher perspective. Every single bloody detail is more vivid than ever with some of the most gruesome deaths of the series produced by director Steven Quayle ("Aliens of the Deep") and effects master Ariel Velasco ("300"). And for those of you who wondered how funny guy David Koechner ("Paul") would do in this film, he dies as horribly as everyone else. Short runtime? Everything else in the film is void and utterly terrible in between the various death traps. While many may say that the better-known cast helps push the film through its low points, I beg to differ. The cast is C-list at best with one B-list comedian and how can you totally trash "The Hangover: Part 2" for reusing a plot formula and not give "The Final Destination" franchise a little trouble? I understand the basic plot must be set in stone in a horror franchise, but isn't originality what the last act is for? However, with a short runtime and a drawn out first act, the final acts have no time to escape the predictively of boredom.
Fans of the franchise and the slasher film genre may as well see "Final Destination 5", but not in theaters because you probably want to bring something to read or play while waiting for the next ridiculously crafted death.
The Change-Up (2011)
Freaky Friday: Mindless Fun Finally
The summer of 2011 has been ruled by R-rated comedies loosely based on raunch with very rewarding stories ("Bridesmaids" "Paul" "Horrible Bosses"). Therefore, "The Change-Up" had a lot to live up to with Jason Bateman taking control of the comedy genre this year and Ryan Reynolds returning to his forte after "The Green Lantern" flop. With this being said, "The Change-Up" was the mindless, uninspired, fulfilled film of the summer, relying solely on going above and beyond the usual limits of blunt humor and rallying with a fulfilling emotional finish. This grownup application of the "Freaky Friday" phenomenon follows best friends Dave Lockwood (Bateman) and Mitch Planko (Reynolds) who have drifted apart over the years. Dave has always been a workaholic allowing him to become a rich successful lawyer with a beautiful wife, Jamie (Leslie Mann, "Funny People"), and three kids. Mitch is the complete opposite with a very laid back life style as an aspiring actor who smokes weed and lives off one night stands. As the two reconnect with a night full of drinking and peeing in a fountain they wish that they had each other's lives. Nothing logical happens at this point as lightning strikes causing Dave and Mitch to experience the other's life. Starting with an hour of laugh out loud vulgar comedy and ending with an emotional wakeup call to what is important in life, the film is all over the place. However, everything seems to come together as Olivia Wilde ("Cowboys and Aliens") tops this male-comedy flick off with some good old sexiness.
Both Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are outrageous with their portrayals of Mitch mixing cursing and sporadic randomness. The ridiculousness of Mitch is offset by calmer comedy found in Dave trying to find himself within his self-reliant role he is stuck in. This is offset even further by a very dramatic performance by Leslie Mann, who is legitimately, scarily and realistically good as a mother wanting her husband to give her attention. Lastly, Olivia Wilde deserves a nod for her satisfyingly sensual performance sexier than ever.
Please prepare yourself and know what you are getting into when going to see this film. The R-rating is rightfully earned with crudity abound and some jokes based on sore subjects. This film is not for everybody and when it comes down to it, the film is all over the place. The film lacks some fluidity as the emotional ending is set up slowly within the extreme continuous comedy in a very predictable manner. Ultimately, neither the comedy routine nor the storyline brings anything fresh to the adult comedy genre making this film only average.
A bellyful of laughs at the start, and an offbeat emotional conclusion awkwardly works in this late summer comedy even though we have seen all of this before and are better off hitting up the three aforementioned comedies for entertainment.
Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011)
"Unification of Love: Awkwardly Realistic Circumstances"
Unification of Love: Awkwardly Realistic Circumstances
Three love stories nay, situations, are explored in Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's ("I Love You Phillip Morris") "Crazy, Stupid Love". It is a drama masked as a comedy fueled by awkwardly realistic circumstances and a handful of highflying actors and actresses that know how to own it. The first story concerns a couple of high school sweethearts, Cal (Steve Carell, "Dinner for Schmucks") and Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore, "The Kids Are All Right"),that have been married for twenty-five years. However, when Emily tells Cal that slept with a man she works with named David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon, "X-Men: First Class"), divorce is on the horizon. Inevitably sending Cal to the bar, Cal meets the player in the second love story, Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling, "Blue Valentince"), who is infamous for his lady-wooing swagger. Jacob sees and hears Cal ranting about his failing marriage and takes him under his wing to help him move on with other women. Even so, Cal may not be the only one changed by their abnormal friendship because of Jacob's hang up on a girl named Hannah (Emma Stone, "Easy A") he was rejected by the previous night. Meanwhile, Cal and Emily's thirteen-year-old son, Robbie (Jonah Bobo, "Zathura"), is in love with his babysitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton, "The Green Hornet") who in turn is in love with Cal. Everything is more connected than you may think and with a flamboyantly annoying performance by Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler") things get crazy and stupid in this multigenerational love story.
The Good: Steve Carell's Post-"Office" years could not of had a stronger start as he conjures the second best performance of his career. However, it would be unfair to say that he is the only reason the film succeeds because of the superb performances of his costars Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore and Emma Stone. Together the cast will keep you on edge as the story unravels in an obstinately realistic manner. And while Scriptwriter Dan Fogelman's ("Bolt") plan was not visible at first by the end his twisty-turny storytelling culminates in grade A fashion with the unification of the three love stories into one full of smart comedy
After the aforementioned culmination of plot unification, the film loses its momentum. dragging on for twenty minutes. The film could have ended anytime during its climatic scene and it would have been perfect (I guess you can't always get what you want). It takes twenty extra minutes to get to the actual sloppy and impractical conclusion. Even though everything seemed to be previously settled, this second fallout to set up a preachy ending creates unnecessary forced conflict. Lastly, the inability to avoid predictivity may irk some viewers and makes characters like Josh Groban's as pointless as their casting.
The first act of "Crazy, Stupid Love" creates a series of situations that setup a remarkable amalgamation at the peak of its second act, making the stars in the film (most notably Steve Carell) into even bigger stars with the power of sharp comedy.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Two Man Alienation: Should of, Could of, Didn't
What should happen when James Bond, Indiana Jones/Han Solo and the hot chick from "Tron" stumble onto a movie set under Jon Favreau's ("Iron Man") direction? What about when cowboys collide with aliens in a film adaptation of Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's graphic novel "Cowboys and Aliens"? The answer is simple; Daniel Craig ("Casino Royale"), Harrison Ford ("Indiana Jones") and Olivia Wilde ("Tron: Legacy") should produce a movie that is nothing short of spectacular. However, Favreau's genre clashing flick "Cowboys and Aliens" is everything it shouldn't have been; monotonously bland. It begins in the year 1875 when a nameless man (Craig) wakes up from a dazed sleep with no memory. The mysteries of his past are closer than he thinks when he enters a small town called Absolution and gets in a scamper with renowned Colonel Dolarhyde's (Ford) son Percy (Paul Dano, "Knight and Day"). His goodwill is commended by a man named Doc (Sam Rockwell, "Iron Man 2") and a woman named Ella Swenson (Wilde). Colonel Dolarhyde hears of the commotion and hastily returns to the town. Enter a group of alien ships that take half the town hostage including the Colonel's son and Doc's wife. A search party forms to bring the town back together and the nameless man joins when he realizes he has a special weapon enabled to destroy the aliens. Worthwhile action is few and far between after the film's opening bid and once the film passes its halfway point not even Craig and Ford can save the film from abduction.
The Good: Favreau abides by the most basic rule of filmmaking by creating an inaugural sequence making the film seem like it is worth the time of the viewer (the hook). If the rest of the movie to follow suit with heroic Daniel Craig action, everything would have be how it should have been. Needless to say, Craig brings his A-game alongside Harrison Ford's grouchy performance, who makes a one man show into a two-man show. Olivia Wilde subsequently turns this two-man show into a three-person show that avoids the typical Hollywood love story formula.
How do you screw up a film about cowboys and aliens? First, create the most cliché action sequences that you can. Then, make the action repetitiously ordinary. Third, make the Native Americans in the film as stereotypically cheesy as possible. Lastly, do not put any effort into choosing a supporting cast. Instead try and cast as many useless, faceless characters as possible so the audience can be uninterested enough to nap while they are on screen. Oh and whatever you do, make sure to put more emphasis on a shoddy script instead of showcasing the badassness of Craig and Ford and the sexiness of Wilde.
"Cowboys and Aliens" was either going to be a nerd's perfect entertaining mindless blockbuster, or a work of audience alienation. With the later being true, stay home, turn on the fourth "Indiana Jones" followed by "Quantum of Solice" and feel infinitely more fulfilled.
Friends with Benefits (2011)
"Contemporarily Relevant: The Sex Buddy Disparity"
"Contemporarily Relevant: The Sex Buddy Disparity" "No Strings Attached 2"? No, it is another film about a couple of people trying to make an emotionless relationship based around sex work; Natalie Portman's "Black Swan" costar just happens to be in it. Director Will Gluck's ("Easy A") "Friends With Benefits" is a better disparity of the sex buddy concept than the aforementioned because of its array of genuine characters starting with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. Dyan (Justin Timberlake, "The Social network") works as an art director of an online media company (my dream job) in California and has just been dumped by his girl friend Kayla (Emma Stone, "Easy A"). The other player, Jamie (Mila Kunis, "Book of Eli") is a headhunter in New York that has also been dumped by her boyfriend Quincy (Andy Samberg, "I Love You Man"). Dyan was "emotionally unavailable" while Jamie was "emotionally damaged" making them the perfect match when Jamie meets Dylan at the airport to facilitate his job offer with a nation renowned magazine. Dylan inevitably takes the job and with one friend in New York to turn to, Dylan and Jamie become really close. As the sexual tension builds, they make fun of a cliché Jason Segel ("Bad Teacher") and Rashida Jones ("The Social Network") rom-com and embark on an emotion free series ofsexual escapades. The relationship becomes much more as they begin to open up to each other transforming the happy-go-lucky comedy into a dramatic (but not overly dramatic) conclusion with splendid performances by Richard Jenkins ("Hall Pass"), Patricia Clarkson ("Easy A") and Woody Harrelson ("Zombieland").
The coolest part of the film is that everything from its lingo to the character's jobs and even the credits give the film a relevant contemporary feel. Also, while the characters are goofy, they have a lot of heart making the film's conclusion clichely fulfilling and allowing the cast to fluently connect with the audience. The chemistry between all of which makes the movie feel unscripted, making Timberlake and Kunis into a naturally perfect on screen matchup. Timberlake and Kunis must step aside, as Richard Jenkins runs away with his authentic portrayal of a man suffering from Alzheimer's that will make you laugh and cry (especially for one like me who works at an Alzheimer's and Dementia home).
Everything bad about the film is self-explanatory because if you are expecting a genre defining rom-com without a predictable ending, you have been misled. While, Director Glick follows suit of "Easy A", making fun of the genre, in the end there really isn't much more he could do. The genre is fixed, and can be very repetitive leaving too much room for pointless moments. "Friends With Benefits" seems to avoid space filling jokes most of the time, but still lets moments like the unnecessary Sean White cameo overstay their welcome.
Romantic Comedies have not changed much at all over the years, but if you are looking for a film that is current and has praiseworthy actors embodying genuine characters, "Friends With Benefits" is the fun and true solution.
America's Underdog: Retrofied and Wow-Factor-Free
This is the first "Avengers'" film from Marvel's contemporary franchise that puts aside imprudent jokes and replaces them with retrofied art direction and an old-fashioned superhero scheme powered by superbly written characters. However, while "Captain America: The First Avenger" avoids being classically campy, it falls short of being great with its lack of a wow-factor. Therefore, the film wields a double-edged sword tapping into new comic adaptation ground, but still suffering from clichés and an underwhelming predictable end of the world plot. Consequently, the real triumph in the film comes from Chris Evans's ("Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World") portrayal of Steve Rogers. He becomes a star straying away from his arrogant roots; instead embodying a meek, courageous, man aspiring to serve in the U.S. army in World War II. After Rogers was rejected from the service numerous times because of his small stature and health issues, Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci, "Easy A") sees his valor. Erskine then offers Rogers a chance of a lifetime allowing him to join the army under the command of Colonel Chester Phillips's (Tommy Lee Jones, "No Country for Old Men"). The Colonel begins to doubt Erskine's decision, but Rogers's courage allows him to transform into America's hero with the help of Howard Stark's (Dominic Cooper, "An Education") technology. Now Captain "Rogers" America must lead a group of soldiers on a quest to kill a Nazi named Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving, "Lord of the Rings") who delves into a mystic power changing himself into the infamous Red Skull.
"Captain America" is the classiest and most serious "Avengers'" film because of its authentic acting and art direction. Director Joe Johnson ("The Wolfman") utilizes the color spectrum to perfection creating passé visuals. He pairs this with a screenplay focused on furthering character and story development instead of over-the-top action oriented entertainment allowing Chris Evans to become a star. Evans makes a 360-degree transformation from his accustomed cocky characters, to becoming the face of underdog America. The story is further helped by its supporting casting casting choices including Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, and its worthy villain portrayed by Hugo Weaving.
While trying to redefine the modern superhero film with classic cinematic roots, the film transgresses and loses its momentum. The film is awkwardly stuck in the middle of uniqueness and hopelessly cliché making what could have been a great movie into only being a good flick. Johnson was very aware of the generic environment his film was in and wanted to be different by cutting out the melodramatic action; however, this is still a superhero movie. Therefore, an hour of boring exposition building up to an anticlimactic ending is a disappointment.
"Captain America: The First Avenger" proves that a superhero movie can be well-scripted, well art directed and superbly acted especially by its star. However, where is the wow-factor that makes you want to be a superhero? It must not have existed until the "X-Men" came on the scene in the 60s.
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
"Short and Sweet: A Bear's Snippet of Flawless Storytelling"
"Winnie the Pooh" is not just another classic animated book transformed into a live action movie. Pooh and crew know exactly where they belong; in classic 2D animation leading to a flawless transcription of these characters to contemporary times. "Pooh" does not trying to impress anybody and avoids falling into modern day pop culture stereotypes, instead it is simpler than ever making no better way to spend an hour of authentic entertainment for all ages. The story follows the ideals of the original 1926 book by A.A. Milne originally made into animated productions starting in 1966 told in the definitive page by page storybook form. Narrated by John Cleese ("Monty Python"), Pooh (Jim Cummings, "Princess and the Frog") begins his day like any other. After sleeping in, he wakes up to an empty honey jar inevitably initiating a quest for honey. On the way he runs into Eeyore (Bud Luckey, "Toy Story 3") who is still as downtrodden as ever and misplaced his tail giving Pooh another task to complete. The issue is brought up with the rest of the gang; Tigger (Also Jim Cummings), Rabbit (Tom Kenny, "Meet the Robinsons"), Owl (Craig Ferguson, "How to Train Your Dragon"), Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez), Roo (Wyatt Hall) and Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter). They decide to make it a contest to find Eeyore a replacement tail. After their creativity runs out, Christopher Robin goes missing sending the bunch into song as they find their friend, Eeyore's tail and "huny" for Pooh.
Anyone who grew up with "Pooh" will be instantly transported back to a humbler time through this short and sweet snippet of flawless storytelling. The most important accomplishment of the film is staying true to its routes because of its ability to create context. What do I mean by context? Its simple; from its primary coloring, delicate characterization, stark banter, and tranquil plot, everything is coherently joint together. It is a franchise true to itself and is the best movie parents have had in years to take their little ones to. Its just plain old' harmless, straightforward fun without any unnecessary forced plot conflicts or hang-ups on contemporary spectacle.
Many people may feel short-changed because of the hour runtime, even though this is part of what makes it what it is. This is not a monumental life changing film by any means; therefore, if you are expecting a film synonymous with "Toy Story 3" you will be very disappointed. In the contemporary eye of animated cinema "Winnie the Pooh" does not stand a chance at making money.
A perfect little tale everyone young and old should see at some point because while "Pooh" will not make history, it is a historical flashback to the early days of cinema.
A Magical Adieu: The Unbelievable becomes Believable
"Harry Potter" has become more than a magical book and film series showing us that magic does exist making the unbelievable believable. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II" marks the end of an era impeccably concluding the franchise synonymous with our generation's youth. Director David Yates ("Harry Potter 5-7") brings the series full circle perpetuating an emotional connection within the heart of the viewer that is nothing short of spectacular. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) are the fantasy heroes of our day leading the fight against Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, "The Hurtlocker") As the harsh realities of life set in with the death of Dobby the free elf and evil growing, the war is in full swing. Harry, Ron and Hermione are regrouping at a small cottage planning their next move. Before the final test between good and evil is unleashed Harry has some final business to finish with Voldemort's last Horcruxes.As their quest takes them to Gringotts Bank and the town of Hogsmeade everyone's favorite characters from the series are preparing for the last stand set to take place where it all began; Hogwarts. The problem is the school is in the hands of Voldemort with Severus Snape (Alan Rickman, "Dogma") head master. The journey comes to a close in an epic battle worthy of remembrance accompanied by the relinquishment of the tale's secrets. The dead live on as Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon, "The King's Speech") guides Harry within conveying that nobody ever dies in vein.
The Good: Stereotypical artsy Oscar films beware as the world of magic guns for your heads. David Yates has inspired the minds of millions of people with his interpretation of the second half of the series. Adversity ensued early on in the franchise, but it all came together in the end. Breathtaking visual effects, superb acting on all fronts starting with its stars and ending with one of the best supporting casts ever assembled, make this is more than a blockbuster fantasy. Alan Rickman deserves his an Oscar birth for best supporting actor. Regardless "Harry Potter" has already won; awards would only be a consolation honor.
The Bad: Complaints for this film can all be attributed to perception. If you are a person who never liked the books, or disliked all of the the films why would you waste your time with the eighth installment? This brings me to my second point concerning the film's epilogue. Personally I believe J.K. Rowling's epilogue can be credited to laziness and is the weakest point of the series, but in order to fully conclude the books, Yates had to translate it to film in some way. Yes the film should have ended before this flash forward, but at least Yates approached it as a chance to have some lighthearted fun.
Final Thought: Haters will hate, moviegoers have a reason to experience the saga, fans will be satisfied and die-hard Potter folk will be euphoric. I bid "Potter" adieu one last time; thanks for the memories.
"An Intrigue of Hilarity: The New Creature Feature"
A Norwegian film shot as a documentary bridging the line between comedy, fantasy and thrilling horror, about a man who hunts trolls doesn't get much better than "Troll Hunter". Some parts of the film are a little slow, and the viewer has to concentrate on subtitles and the characters' movement to experience the film. However, this is what gives the film its authenticity. Director André Øvredal ("Future Murder") worked with well-known comedians and relatively new actors alongside the CGI trolls to create this mocumentary. The story begins with the intrigue a group of film students has in a man known as a bear poacher in Western Norway named Hans (Otto Jespersen, Norwegian Television Comedian). Hans refuses to interview with them numerous times, but this fails to dissuade the group from following him on his mysterious afterhours expeditions. Dead bears continue to show up each morning in different areas showing a strong connection with Hans. This finally leads the group to follow Hans into a dangerous, off-limits gated area. Their curiosity gets the best of them when Hans comes running towards them yelling "Troll!", but is he serious? Regardless they flee the scene, but not all of them come away unscathed. Fear and excitement fill their eyes as their film about bear poaching turns into a journey to uncover the truth behind the legend of trolls and the enigmatic troll hunter.
"Troll Hunter" combines a simplistic idea with a straightforward story and uses the perfect medium to capture its development. The film is slowly paced in order to fully cultivate the characters, but fast enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The stand out performance in the film comes from the obdurate frolics of Otto Jespersen. He acts as a double threat by coercing the audience into feeling uneasy while procuring belly laughs in the most ridiculous situations. The oddity of his character is further revealed as his nonchalant yet serious dialogue and actions as he fights realistically comical CGI trolls causing throwback to the "Creature Feature" days.
After the first appearance of a troll on film the subsequent troll encounters become somewhat repetitive in their development. Even so, the biggest problem the film has is with its secondary storyline concerning the character injured in the first troll encounter. The repercussions of the injury received are disregarded until late in the film. To make matters worse the ending sequence in the film is based off of this undeveloped plot tangent. Lastly, audiences may have a hard time focusing on both the shaky documentary style filming and the English subtitles.
A rawer simplistic version of "District 9" about the different species of trolls and the job of a man to keep them in check. The ending isn't as satisfying as it should have been, but it is still laugh out loud funny, gripping, exhilarating and downright cool.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
Balanced Casting: Bosses Better Be Nice!
Everyone who has ever worked can sympathize with having a boss that is horrible to be around. If not, everyone at least has someone in his or her life that makes life hell. Director Seth Gordon ("Four Christmases") has exploited this idea in the perfectly casted, logically over-the-top, daydream comedy "Horrible Bosses". The exposition of the film is very intelligent establishing the relationship a trio of friends has with their respective bosses. Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman, "Paul") works at a large corporation burning the candle on both ends in order to receive a promotion from his boss Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey, "Casino Jack"). However, Harken is unequivocally evil and absorbs the position instead of giving Nick the job. When Nick tries to quit, Harkin threatens to ruin his life. Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis, "Hall Pass") has a similar problem at a chemical plant when his boss Jack Pellit (Donald Sutherland, "The Mechanic") dies, leaving his crazy, coked up son, Bobby (Colin Farrell, "The Way Back"), as the new boss. Conversely, Dale Arbus (Charlie Day, "Going the Distance") is a dental assistant to the overly nice and inappropriately sexy Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston, "Just Go With It"). After Julia blackmails him into not telling his fiancé that she is trying to sleep with him, Dale solidifies a scheme with Nick and Kurt to kill their bosses. With the help of proclaimed murder expert, Dean "MF" Jones (Jamie Foxx, "Due Date"), nothing could go wrong as they challenge the limits of comedy procuring a belly full of laughs.
Finally a great movie idea hasn't been wasted on a slapdash script, poor directing, and unworthy actors. Instead Director Gordon and his screenwriters have contrived a new kind of buddy comedy so ridiculous everyone can relate to it. This is achieved by the smartest casting of the year seamlessly balancing the star power of the protagonists (Bateman, Sudeikis and Day) and antagonists (Spacey, Farrel, and Aniston). Both parties are worthy of the audience's attention with each star distinguishing his or her self from the other with a unique formula of hilarity. TO make things even better Jamie Foxx can do no wrong with his portrayal of murder consultant MF.
Everything is very smooth throughout the majority of the film until the climax is reached and the resolution takes place. Gordon directs a very clever film up to this point connecting all of the characters and expressing the audience's concerns, but when it begins to conclude the film is very lazy. A disconnect sets in that is not necessarily cliché, it just should have been much better. Also, Jennifer Aniston's sexual performance is so over-the-top viewers will either love it or hate it.
"Horrible Bosses"' perfect balanced casting blends acting veterans with up-in-coming comedic stars to create a film that connects with the audience through awkward situations and laugh out loud humor. Bosses beware, you better be nice!
"Man Vs. Gorilla : Pointless Infatuation"
Kevin James ("The Dilemma") is in his element in "Zookeeper" portraying a very familiar character and is even more likable than before. Therefore, Director Frank Coraci ("Click") centers the film around Smith's slapstick comedy to salvage a poorly written script by Jay Scherick and David Ronn ("Norbit"). Horid scriptwriting commences as James's character Griffin Keyes proposes and rejected by his girl friend Stephanie (Leslie Bob, "Iron Man 2") solely on the basis that he was a zookeeper. Five years later, he is more dedicated than ever to the zoo animals, but is still trying to get over her. He has a new woman in his life named Kate (Rosario Dawson, "Unstoppable"), an animal doctor at the zoo, but is too infatuated with his past to read the signs. Meanwhile, Griffin is trying to connect with the zoo's Gorilla Bernie, but is having no luck. Stephanie then reenters his life looking to change Griffin once again. Griffin is determined to do anything to win her back. However, she is in a complicated relationship with a man named Gale (Comedian Joe Rogan) causing Griffin to have to compete for Stephanie's attention. He has no idea where to start until the animals at the zoo give him advice after breaking their biggest rule of not talking to humans. With a little added help from Kate he gets very close to changing his personality for good, but realizes in the end that he is meant for bigger and better things. Ken Jeong ("The Hangover: Part II") and Donnie Wahlberg (CBS's "Blue Bloods") also star as zookeeper in this film.
James has the clear stand out performance, but is strongly supported by an all-star comedic voice cast including Nick Nolte (Bernie the Gorilla), Adam Sandler (Donald the Monkey), Cher (Janet the Lioness), Sylvester Stallone (Joe the Lion) Judd Apatow (Barry the Elephant), Jon Favreau (Jerome the Bear) and Faizon Love (Bruce the Bear). Each animal is personified entertainment in their own way; however, the pair of bears conjure the most laughs. Kids will enjoy the childish predictable plot while older viewers will only be interested in the unlikely friendship that forms between Griffin and Bernie the Gorilla creating a hint of sentiment in the film.
With two of the worst scriptwriters in Hollywood responsible for its screenplay it is not a surprise that after the exposition of the film there isn't any reason to pay attention to the story. Henceforth, the conclusion is inevitably predictable, but Director Coraci evidently wanted to telegraph it even more. Leslie Bob's poor acting and portrayal of Stephanie as a horrible human being make it completely obvious that Griffin will never be with her. The biggest indicator of mediocrity comes in the form of "The Hangover" and "Community" favorite Ken Jeong as he skates through the movie on the track to pointlessness.
First "Mall Cop", now "Zookeeper" brings up the question of what odd profession James will tackle next. What ever it is James will do a solid job, lets just hope horrid writers aren't following him around in his next kids story adventure.
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Animated Action: Second and Third Dimension Pleasantry
Jack Black is at his best when embodying an unlikely kung fu fighting Panda named Po. With more action and even better visuals than the original, Kung Fu Panda 2 is successful at being a memorable and entertaining sequel. Behind the scenes, Direcor Jennifer Yuh creates the visuals of the film by pairing unique 2D story telling animation with traditional contemporary 3D distinguishing between various elements of the film's story. The story builds off of the first film very well continuing the growth of Po as the Dragon Warrior. Questions not explored in the original are delved into uncovering where Po came from. Because lets face it Mr. Ping (James Hong, "Mulan") isn't exactly a panda and is only Po's adopted father. Even so, Mr. Ping acts as a very good loving father and is aided by Po's newfound glory with the growth of his noodle shop's popularity. Po does not see his adopted father as much because of Po's new responsibilities and search for his real parents. A new power crazy antagonist by the name of Lord Shen (Gary Oldman, "The Dark Knight") joins the series threatening the extinction of kung fu forever with the creation of a new weapon. With the help of the furious five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie, "The Tourist"), Monkey (Jackie Chan, "The Karate Kid"), Mantis (Seth Rogen, "Paul"), Viper (Lucy Liu, "Kill Bill: Volume 1), and Crane (David Cross, "Megamind"), Po must save kung fu and China. But where would these six be without Dustin Hoffman reprising his role as the wise Master Shifu providing Po with a new challenge to find and master inner peace.
The film is all about the visual choices of 2D and 3D animation contrasting flashbacks from Po's present creating colorful, visually pleasant film. This is necessary when showcasing the significant increase in action over the original film. This is rightfully so because this is a film about animals showing off their kung fu fighting skills creating an action movie for kids. Also, the voice actors in this franchise could not have been chosen better. Jack Black is in his element masked by a big cuddly panda backed by the writers holding back the urge to overuse the famous phrase "Skadoosh" skillfully waiting for the most epic moment in the film.
A weak story comes with sequel territory; therefore, it almost goes without saying that "Kung Fu Panda 2" has its plot flaws. However, this does not hurt the film as much as it holds the film back from being great. Instead it has to settle for a good solid predictable flick. In the end the story is not the selling point of the movie and acts as a setup for the third installment of the series leaving the audience with an open ending.
Entertaining blockbuster animation at its best placing Jack Black back into his comfort zone as a voice actor within a spectacle of action and color. Perfect timing with the completion of the "Toy Story" franchise leaving room for "Kung Fu Panda" to grow into something great.
Incoherent Action: The Captain Is Back
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is everything a Pirates sequel should be, trumping the previous follow-up attempts. The plot is more over the top and muddled than ever with a plethora of pointless characters and incoherent nonstop action sequences, but Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) creates a film that will please fans and revive people's love for the series that was lost because of the previous two flops. Much of the success of the newest installment comes from the axing of Will and Elizabeth from the story finally being true to the real star of the series, Johnny Depp reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow. His previous nemesis Hector Barbosa is back (Academy Award Nominee Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech), along with newcomers Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda) as Black Beard and Academy Award Winner Penelope Cruz (Vicky Christina Barcelona) as Angelica, a long lost love interest of Jack. The plot is basically about Captain Jack trying his hardest to beat numerous other journeyers to the 'Fountain of Youth' with his deceptive tactics. On the way he has to deal with Black Beard, a reformed Barbosa, the Spanish (even though they only show up a couple times) and an obnoxious love story between a religious man and a Mermaid. The plot doesn't matter much in this Pirates attempt disregarding the development of a storyline completely replacing it with nonstop action. The fast pace is hard to grasp at first, but it never gets out of hand as the rum flows through its veins slowing it down to a comprehensible speed.
On Stranger Tides is the best of the Pirates sequels even though it still fails to come close to The Curse of the Black Pearl. As long as Depp and Rush continue providing entertaining antics with their peculiar relationship the boat will stay afloat for many more installments.. McShane's Black Beard acts as the new and improved Davy Jones succeeding in adding a dark humor to the film. Even so, all that really matters is that it is a blockbuster completely overwhelmed with action commencing with the opening sequence and not taking a breathe until the end.
The most pointless and irritating part of the film is the awkward relationship that forms between a man named Phillip (Sam Claflin) and a mermaid named Syrena (Astrid Bergés-Frisbey). The audience cannot connect to the relationship because Phillip comes off as a creepy nothing character and the only point of the relationship can be attributed to lazy scriptwriting, which becomes a major theme throughout the film. The cleverness is that used to be prevalent in the series is gone causing the predictable to set in.
Leave all high hopes at the door going into this one and you may just be as surprised as I was after seeing this film. Just remember the captain, the action, the rum and that it is nothing more and nothing less than a blockbuster sequel.
Super 8 (2011)
Sci-Fi Magic: Through A Child's Eyes
Producer Steven Spielberg received exactly what he wanted from J.J. Abrams ("Star Trek") with his direction of "Super 8." Back to the old school feel of sci-fi cinema, Abrams directs a cast of average and unknown stars allowing the audience to focus their attention on the movie as a whole instead of individual cast members. The film creates a refreshing kick back to film before the term "tween" was incepted as the young cast takes control of the screen leaving out drama found in abundance in contemporary cinema. Instead this is replaced with a believable love story and logical dramatic situations. The filmatic magic opens in the summer of 1979 after Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney's debut role) loses his mother. Joe's best friend Charles (Riley Griffiths's debut role) is an aspiring young director that continually preaches about "production value" as the two friends film Charles's zombie movie with friends Cary (Ryan Lee, "Shorts"), Preston (Zach Mills, "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium")and Martin (Gabriel Basson, "Alabama Moon"). After realizing the film needs a love story they seek out the talents of the girl of their dreams, Alice Dainard (Elle Fanning, "Somewhere") sparking some unfinished business. During a night of shooting at the local train station they witness a pickup truck run into a train sending it off the tracks and releasing an unknown mysterious being. While trying to finish their movie they investigate the phenomenon. Meanwhile, Joe's father Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler, "King Kong") is coping with the loss of his wife while receiving more and more responsibility becoming the face of hope in the town with everything spinning out of control.
Abrams exploits his patented lens flare filming style abundant in "Star Trek" giving the film an overall mystical, science fiction tone. This adds to the art direction of the film and brings to life a superlative script written by Abrams filled with comic relief attributed from the cheesiness of the lingo of the 1980s. This strong backbone allows the young inexperienced cast to flourish shooting the film through their eyes causing the audience to experience the film as kids. It is refreshing to see the most successful moments of the film coming from the performances of the kids; something hard to find in modern cinema.
The film is very good and it may even be labeled as great, but it will always fall in the shadows of "E.T." and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." This is because while being a sci-fi film, "Super 8" is a more logical film than the two aforementioned and therefore some sequences seem to be a little bit of a reach within Abrams's script writing. These tiny details have held the movie back from reaching its full potential, even though it is still a memorable flashback to a great time period in cinema making it one of the year's best.
The film is a mixture of classic films like "The Goonies" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" with a modern feel. And if you let the magic take hold, you may even feel the awe of a carefree kid seeing a science fiction movie for the first time.
Green Lantern (2011)
Out of Sight: Green Lantern's Might
"The Green Lantern" is one of those movies some people will love while others really want to love, but can't because of its numerous flaws starting with its script. The script is not a horrible comic book adaptation; it was just undertaken in a lazy and cheesy way. Even so, Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") has directed an average action movie with a lot of spectacle and no substance. Ryan Reynolds ("Buried") stars as a hotheaded pilot named Hal Jordan destined to be a part of a universal peacekeeping brother hood known as the Green Lantern Corps. The power of the Green Lanterns comes from the power of will wielded by the use of a ring and a special green lantern they each receive. This allows them to produce anything that they see in their minds as long as they are strong willed and fearless. However, after years of peace a new evil plagues their ranks called Parallax whose power comes from fear. Parallax has begun to kill Green Lanterns causing a big weight to rest on Hal Jordan after he is chosen to be the first human Green Lantern by dying alien. In order to succeed, Hal must learn from his past with the help of his love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, "The Town") and the Green Lantern Corps' Sinestro (Mark Strong, "Kick Ass") and Kilowog (Michael Clark Duncan, "The Green Mile") to harness the power of Green Lantern's might to defeat this new evil that has taken hold of Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, "An Education") on earth itself.
Ryan Reynolds was correctly casted as Hal because of his charismatic acting ability. However, he would have been off if he had a script to support him that didn't make a mockery of his character. Consequently, the best parts of the film occur when he uses his unique abilities conjuring colorful visuals consisting of various manipulations of green light. This makes his alter ego the Green Lantern a more fulfilling character than Hal, especially when he is in the realms outside of earth.
Peter Sarsgaard struggles in this film with a script cueing him to scream every five minutes and poor character development making him one of the worst villains to ever be in a superhero movie. Also, the fast pace and weak transitions between earth and the realms of space makes this film seem as if it is made up of two separate movies forced together into one jumbled mess. Another indicator of this can be seen with the indecisiveness of the scriptwriters mixing comedic jeering with dramatic action sequences in awkward fashion.
"The Green Lantern" doesn't bring anything new to its genre and feels like a recycled superhero film covered in green. However, Ryan Reynolds's charm and the visuals of the film's action sequences makes the film a watchable summer flick.
X: First Class (2011)
"Fluid Pace: Classy and Stylish Prequel"
Director Matthew Vaughn is back for a more conventional super hero movie after wowing audiences with last year's "Kick Ass." He has redefined the "X-Men" series with a very stylish work of cinema as attempt two at creating a prequel is successful with "X-Men: First Class." Like "Origins" there are a plethora of characters that the audience has to worry about, however, with the smart use of time and space Vaughn develops the roots of various mutants with a fluid pace. James McAvoy ("Wanted", "The Conspirator") and Michael Fassbender ("Inglourious Bastards","300") set up the best on screen matchup of the year with their respective portrayals of Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto). The film commences as Erik is separated from his mother and killed by a man named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon, "Frost/Nixon"). This is followed by background of a young Charles as he befriends a very familiar character, Raven aka Mystic (Academy Award Nominee Jennifer Lawrence, "Winter's Bone"). After this brief exposition, the audience is taken on a nonstop thrill ride as the mutants influence the Cold War. Erik embarks on a path of vengeance to kill Shaw. Since their last encounter Shaw has started his own mutant army and has a very dangerous right-hand woman, Emma Frost (January Jones, "Mad Men"). Meanwhile, Charles and Raven are tracked down by a woman named Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne, "Bridesmaids") for their mutant expertise. Everything is connected in one way or another as the 1960s setting makes the film a cool cinematic rebirth to a new "X-Men Trilogy."
The Good: Director Vaughn reinvents the film series with a very well written script and a dark old school spectacle. Combining the classic feel of the 1960s and the Marvel comic book guise with McAvoy's ingenious, sexy interpretation of Professor X and Fassbender's rugged vindictive portrayal of Magneto makes this the best superhero film of the year. The casting of two big name congenial actors as antagonists (Bacon and Jones) along with giving their motive multiple purposes is smart cinema. Cinematography finishes it all off with a mixture of "Mad Men" flare in a comic strip.
The character development of Angel Salvadore (Zoe Kravitz, "It's Kind of a Funny Story") is very irritating, failing to produce a motive for her later actions. This can be attributed to the fact that even though Vaughn does a good job juggling the plethora of characters, it is inevitable that one falls through the cracks. Also, the fast pace of the film foreshadows a climatic ending which in actuality fails to impress after the interminable build up.
Vaughn is following in Christopher Nolan's footsteps as he transforms his second superhero comic into motion picture form. He uses more of a comic book approach than Nolan casting to perfection and creating one of the best prequels to ever be made.
The Tree of Life (2011)
"Meditative Limrick: Mysteries of Vivacity"
Director Terrance Mallick ("The Thin Red Line") takes the audience on a journey through life and death with his latest cinematic feat, "The Tree of Life". For many this film may come off as boring and very odd, but if given the chance the dots are connected and the meaning within comes full circle. Within the two hour and fifteen minute prophetic poem about creation, the life of a man named Jack O'Brien (two time Academy Award Winner Sean Penn, "Milk") and his troubled and complicated childhood in the 1950s is explored. Academy Award Nominee Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") stars as Jack's hard-ass father Mr. Obrien who strictly teaches his three boys how to become young men. On the other side of things is Jack's mother, Mrs. Obrien (Jessica Chastain, "The Help"), who nurtures her sons with a mother's caring grace. Newcomer, Hunter McCracken plays Young Jack revealing the pain that his childhood caused him with the conflicting actions of his mother and father and the unfortunate events the family experiences. The family is plagued by loss and sorrow as they are forced to cope with death and a fading belief in God. While the earthly, comprehendible part of the film is based around a family, the true meaning will warrant multiple viewings. An open creative mind is necessary to fathom the divine commencement and culmination of the film expressed through visual representations of a higher power and the gift of life.
"The Tree of Life" is an original meditative cinematic limerick with Oscar worthy direction, cinematography and editing coupled with celestial interpretive images. The acting talents of Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Hunter McCracken and Sean Penn's mild appearance support Mallack's visual artistry. Pitt has another Oscar worthy performance and newcomer Hunter McCracken is in the league of best performance of the year by a young actor. By centering the film around the family of five, each of the main characters is able to completely develop contributing to the acuity of the overall picture.
Mallick proves that patience is a virtue with its peculiar dialogue-free visual story telling. Needless to say, a lot of waiting and persistence is key to extracting meaning from this film. Therefore, if you are not one keen to procuring depth within a film and don't want to wait two plus hours to do so, "The Tree of Life" is not a good movie to go see. Also, while the earthly sequences in the film revolve around Sean Penn's character, do not expect to see or hear much of him in the film.
Shadows of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" are vastly present in "The Tree of Life" as Mallack's creation requires contemplation of the cosmic aptitude of the mysteries of vivacity.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Elusive Perfection: Enchanting, Likable Inspiration
"Elusive Perfection: Enchanting, Likable Inspiration" Woody Allen directs a mish mash of great actors and actresses in "Midnight in Paris" bringing them together to create a story about a man's enchantment in Paris. The best Woody Allen movie made in years is much more majestic than his previous work and feels much more lighthearted than his typical films. Shadows of the charm of "Annie Hall's" success are present, as Owen Wilson ("Hall Pass") becomes a star once again. Wilson's happy-go-lucky attitude combined with his early artsy roots of "Bottle Rocket" make his interpretation of a successful, laidback Hollywood writer Gil the most likable character of the year. Gil is in love with the city of Paris and wishes and is infatuated with life in an earlier time period (the 1920s). Consequently, when Gil and his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams, "Sherlock Holmes") travel to Paris with Inez's parents, he becomes lost in the city as he struggles to finish writing his first novel. Gil is searching for inspiration stumbling upon a routine of walking through Paris after midnight. Inez does not support his ambitions and instead goes out with her old stereotypical snobbish French cultured friend Paul Bates (Michael Sheen, "Tron: Legacy") and his wife Carol (Nina Arianda, "Win Win"). None of this really matters though as the golden art of cinema is revealed with Gil's story as he meets various characters played by Adrian Brody ("Predators"), Marion Coltiard ("Inception"), Tom Hiddleston ("Thor"), Alison Phil ("Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World), and Kathy Bates ("The Blindside") in the illusion of his night pursuits.
Owen Wilson has one of the year's best performances creating one of the most likable characters to ever be on the silver screen. Owen Wilson's personality was perfect for the role, however, his success is ascribed by his ability to delve deeper into his character creating a subtle Oscar worthy performance. The rest of the cast speaks for itself with a handful of contemporary A-list stars guided by an articulate original screenplay of believable imagination. Lastly, praise for the city of Paris is well deserved because without the city where would the movie be? Woody Allen makes one cliché mistake with the development of Rachel McAdam's character Inez. McAdams has a solid performance; the problem is that Inez is portrayed as a complete selfish bitch throughout the film's entirety. Therefore, this brings up questions about why Gil and Inez are together in the first place.
An elusive rom-com about a man's discovery of inner harmony allowing him to find someone that understands him. Magic in the modern day setting has never been more humorous, convincing, or perfect.
Matrimony: Unbelievably Believable
"Matrimony: Unbelievably Believable" Director Paul Feig and Producer Judd Apatow have successfully created a romantic comedy that breaks through the usual limitations and rules of the genre. Bridesmaids proves that women can be as raunchy as men releasing the ridiculous upon audiences in original fashion backed by heart. Kristen Wiig has finally proved that she is much more than the goof seen on Saturday Night Live jumping to the top of the comedy genre brining the buddy comedy to the feminine arena. Wiig stars as a thirty-something year old women named Annie whose life is headed on a downward spiral. Her roommates are impossible to live with, her job sucks and her love life is nonexistent except for meaningless sexual escapades with a man named Ted (Jon Hamm, The Town). To top it off her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph, Away We Go) puts things into perspective when telling Annie she is getting married. On the bright side, Lillian has chosen Annie to be her Maid of Honor giving Annie something worth working for. Annie's excitement doesn't last long as she meets Lillian's diverse bridesmaids choices, Megan (Melissa McCarthy, CBS's Mike and Molly ), Becca (Ellie Kemper, NBC's The Office), and Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Reno 911!: Miami) along with Helen (Rose Byrne, Get Him to the Greek) who uses her wealth and power to takeover as Maif of Honor. Annie has hit bottom and with the support of a police officer named Rhodes (Chris O'Dowd, Gulliver's Travels) and the antics of female relationships, she embarks on a hilarious yet meaningful journey to rediscover herself.
Bridesmaids differentiates itself from the rom-com stereotype with the clever cliché-free scriptwriting of Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo. No matter how outrageous the jokes become, they are smart, fun and unbelievably believable. Consequently, the film controls the outrage allowing the humor to improve the story and support the almost perfect Apatow cast. For example, Melissa McCarthy acts like a complete idiot racking up the laughs giving male raunch a run for its money. However, the stand out performance and the best performance of an actress this year so far comes from Kristen Wiig's multidimensional melding of comedy and drama.
How do you complain about a movie as unique as Bridesmaids? Well first audiences expecting to see a chick flick have no idea what they are getting themselves into and if they cannot take the raunch it is going to be a painful two hours. Also, while the film is titled Bridesmaids, viewers may expect a story based around more than one woman, when in actuality it is not. Even so, the only real problem with the film is its song and dance happy ending, undermining what could have been a great finale.
Comedies bordering the two-hour mark usually have a hard time engrossing the audience as the jokes run thin and the drama ensues, however, Bridesmaids' comedy becomes smarter and smarter giving each of the bridesmaids a matrimonial purpose in Wiig's fasttrack to the A-List.
Insipid Search: A Flawed Cry For Help
"Insipid Search: A Flawed Cry For Help" Director John Ford must be rolling over in his grave this week with the release of Priest taking Ford's masterpiece The Searchers replacing cowboys with priests and Native Americans with vampires. Even if this is just a coincidence as Director Scott Stewart adapts the film from the Korean comic written by Min-Woo Hyung teaming up with Paul Benttany for the second year in a row following last year's Legion. Again he tries to hide strong Christian undertones within a horror flick delving into godly protection. Bettany stars as the main character referred to as Priest, who is specially trained to kill vampires in the name of the church and God. His reputation precedes him after fighting in a war against the vampires resulting in their imprisonment in vampire reservations. However, years later a wasteland sheriff named Hicks (Cam Gigandet, The Roommate) reveals news to Priest that one of Priest's kin has been killed and his niece Lucy (Lily Collins, The Blind Side) kidnapped by vampires and an evil man named Black Hat (Karl Urban, RED). After being told to stand down by his order because Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer, The Last Station) doesn't believe that the vampires are a threat, Priest disobeys and flees to find his niece. Consequently, Monsignor Orelas sends a group of Priest's peer warriors after him to stop him. Priestess (Maggie Q, Live Free or Die Hard) tracks down Priest and Hicks, however, instead of dissuading their journey she helps them as they trail the vampires lead by Black Hat in Searchers fashion. Paul Betanny has chosen some very interesting supernatural roles recently within very horrid films. His role in Priest is no exception, however, he is is still able to have a very average performance portraying his one-dimensional role. Cam Gigandet has had a similar problem with pathetic roles and has a subpar performance at all. Also, with the territory of their characters comes a film that is at its best during its visual driven special effects. They aren't great at any means, but they aren't as trashy as the rest of the film. The film bypasses its development stage after showing a brief exposition of the film's similarity with The Searchers and a poorly animated storybook narration scene. Following is a story stripped down far too lean stretched thin over a short runtime. The script is cliché and messy making the film neither a strong horror film, nor an action adventure flick. It fails to produce any memorable material and has terrible acting overall. Karl Urban is especially despicable in the film with very cheesy dialogue made up of second-rate one-liners. Lastly, while the darkness of the film attempts to act as clever cinematography instead it adds to the dull tone of the film. Priest is underwhelming and insipidly commonplace to be anything more than just a flawed cry for help. Gigandet has achieved a great yet disgraceful feat in 2011, managing to be cast in the two worst films of the year.