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Pitch Perfect (2012)
Musical done right
This new comedic musical is right on pitch. Anna Kendrick plays Beca, a student at Barden University whose dream is to move to LA and become a DJ. Beca is uninterested in college, to say the least. Her father is a professor at her school and he advises her to join clubs to get more involved. Beca starts to work at the school radio station along with her admirer, Jesse (Skylar Astin).
When Beca's voice is heard by Chloe (Brittany Snow), one of the main girls of The Barden Bellas a capella group, Beca is recruited into this singing group. Jesse ends up joining the rival all-boys a capella group called The Treble Makers.
Beca soon realizes that The Bellas need some new music in order to improve their reputation and make it to the finals. However, the leader of the group, Aubrey (Anna Camp), is quite headstrong and refuses to change their music. The tension between these girls and The Treble Makers continues to grow and everything begins to unfold.
Walking into this movie with very low expectations, I definitely was pleasantly surprised. It is a musical done right. There is no breaking out into song; the only time people sing is during competitions. In fact, the music is terrific and I can't wait to download the entire soundtrack.
I was expecting slapstick comedy, especially with Rebel Wilson in the cast, but "Pitch Perfect" rests at the borderline. Speaking of Rebel, this movie would be nothing without her. Hilarious lines mixed with her perfect comedic timing equals a workout for your abs. It comes very close to stupidity but it doesn't quite cross the line.
"Pitch Perfect" is cute, silly, and fun. If you're looking for some laughs, take a watch. I give it a 7 out of 10.
Ben Affleck directs and stars in the newest political thriller, "Argo". It is filled with A-list actors such as Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, and Bryan Cranston who each contribute to this incredibly moving film, which is based on a declassified true story.
It takes place during the Iranian revolution of 1979 and 1980 in Tehran. More than sixty Americans from the US embassy were held as hostages, but six of them escaped and were hiding out in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Garber). Tony Mendez (Affleck), a CIA extraction specialist, came along to concoct a plan to rescue these six Americans.
After speaking to his son while watching a movie one night, Mendez had a creative yet genius idea. He and the escaped hostages would pretend to be the film crew of a new sci-fi movie called "Argo". With the help of Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Arkin), this fake crew made their story quite credible.
Ben Affleck did a spectacular job directing this film, which pretty faithfully follows such an unbelievable story. Every actor is convincing as his/her character and the cast was impeccably chosen. Make sure you stay in the theater to watch the credits. You'll see some real photographs and clips that mirror Affleck's film and actors.
"Argo" is basically only rated R for language, making it appropriate for most teens, in my opinion. I definitely recommend this film to everyone, whether you're an adult who remembers watching this on TV or you're a kid who doesn't know anything about politics. It is extremely dramatic, exciting, and heart wrenching, but also hilarious on many occasions. When the movie ends, the entire audience applauds and cheers. It's an amazing story that deserves to be heard.
I give "Argo" a 10 out of 10. I have no complaints.
Great acting, story, and characters
When the law became corrupt, outlaws became heroes. The new crime/drama "Lawless" is filled with big names, including Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, and Gary Oldman. This film is based on the novel, The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant, a grandson of one of the main characters in the novel.
The plot surrounds the three Bondurant brothers from Franklin County, Virginia during the depression era. The brothers sell moonshine around town, despite the prohibition laws during this time.
Corrupt Special Deputy Charlie Rakes (Pearce) finds out about the bootlegging and decides that he wants a share of the brothers' profits. Forrest (Hardy), the middle brother, has no intention of giving Rakes any of profits. The youngest brother, Jack (LaBeouf), is initially the introverted brother who looks up to his older siblings. Forrest is the brains of the operation; he is in charge and he is feared by many. The oldest brother is Howard (Jason Clarke) who always seems to have a bottle in his hand and gets the dirty work done.
This film is very depressing, at times quite dark, and extremely violent. There is some comic relief every now and then at the appropriate moments, but that didn't stop me from tearing up during the heart wrenching scenes.
The leads' performances were all superb and believable. It is clear that director John Hillcoat greatly focused on character development. The audience genuinely feels relieved when something good happens to the brothers and helpless when something bad happens to them. The audience actually cares about the characters.
I definitely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a crime/drama film with some action and some gore. I also recommend it to those who appreciate stylish films. I give "Lawless" an 8 out of 10.
Step Up Revolution (2012)
Incredible dancing, terrible movie
Each new installment of the "Step Up" franchise is a step down from the last. "Step Up Revolution" stars Kathryn McCormick ("So You Think You Can Dance") and Ryan Guzman. The story is about a group of dancers called The Mob, which performs flash mobs all over the city of Miami. In order to win a YouTube contest with a grand prize, each of their performances are filmed and put online to get the most views that they possibly can receive.
Sean (Guzman) first meets Emily (McCormick) at a party and she eventually joins The Mob. However, they soon find out that some successful businessman is planning to tear down The Mob members' neighborhood. This businessman just happens to be Emily's father. Didn't see that one coming
The rest of the movie involves The Mob using their talents to protest and win their neighborhood back, while Emily is conflicted between her father and her new crew.
My expectations were pretty low going in, but somehow this movie is even worse than I had expected. Yes, the dancing is incredible and the choreography is quite inventive, but it doesn't make up for the awful acting and overly familiar story. Kathryn McCormick and Ryan Guzman had no chemistry, nor do they have much of an acting background. The plot is extremely predictable and the script is as cheesy as it gets.
The only enjoyable scenes are those that involve dancing. The rest is tough to sit through. There are a few cameos in an attempt to somehow connect the fourth "Step Up" to the previous two, which was a nice surprise.
If you loved "Step Up 2: The Streets" and "Step Up 3D", I'm sure you'll love this one too. It's incomparable to the first "Step Up", which is less of a 'dance movie' and more of a movie that includes dance within it.
I give "Step Up Revolution" a 4 out of 10. If it weren't for the amazing dancing, I'd give it a 1.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
You won't be disappointed.
"When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die."
Eight years have passed since Harvey Dent's death and the Dark Knight's disappearance from Gotham. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has since been isolated in his bedroom of the Wayne mansion, only interacting with his loyal butler, Alfred (Michael Caine). Now, there is a new villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), who is determined to finish the city of Gotham once and for all.
Wayne realizes that his city needs the Dark Knight to save its people once again. The Dark Knight returns to fight against Bane as well as the Gotham police, while utilizing some brand new toys introduced to him by Fox (Morgan Freeman). Throughout the film, Wayne's true care for his city and its people is extremely evident as always.
This film still includes the ridiculous voice of the Dark Knight and adds the also ridiculous voice of Bane. These voices can be quite comical at times, limiting the believability of a scene.
Although the movie is two hours and forty-five minutes long, it sure doesn't feel that long. The audience's eyes are constantly moving and their brains are constantly trying to find a way to prevent the destruction of Gotham.
As the final film of the Dark Knight Trilogy, this film was expected to be bigger, battier, and better. The stunts are insane, the villains are stronger, and the story is richer. This was definitely a big step up from the previous two films.
Most people who have seen "The Dark Knight Rises" insist that it is the best film of the Christopher Nolan series. However, I beg to differ solely because I enjoyed the character of the Joker (Heath Ledger) as a villain more so than the character of Bane. But see it for yourself.
I give "The Dark Knight Rises" a 9 out of 10. You won't be disappointed.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Fantastic and still realistic
Men in tights still draw people in. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone star in the newest Marvel film, "The Amazing Spider-Man". Peter Parker (Garfield) is a nerdy, awkward teenager whose parents disappeared when he was ten years old. He now lives with his aunt (Sally Field) and uncle (Martin Sheen). When rummaging through an area of his basement, Peter finds his father's briefcase, which holds a clue that will open the door to unlimited scientific possibilities.
This clue leads him to Dr. Curt Connors, a scientist at Oscorp who used to work with Peter's father. Gwen Stacy (Stone), one of Peter's schoolmates, happens to work at Oscorp as well. While snooping through Connors' lab, Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider that brings him supernatural powers, which he decides to use for good. He creates a suit for himself and claims the name, Spider-Man.
Being that this film is another Marvel superhero film, I was expecting to see aliens or portals to other worlds. However, "The Amazing Spider-Man" stays on a realistic level by presenting the scientific descriptions of Spider-Man's powers and the creation of The Lizard. Of course, you have to use your imagination for some aspects, but you have to remember that this was originally a comic book.
One of the few complaints about this movie is the fact that the first "Spider-Man" was released just ten years ago. Many believe that remaking the series is unnecessary. To respond to that, I say that most of the people who are watching "The Amazing Spider-Man" are not the people who watched the first series. I was seven years old in 2002 and I didn't know the Spider-Man series even existed.
"The Amazing Spider-Man" greatly impressed me. My eyes were glued to the screen and I didn't want it to end. I give this movie a 9 out of 10.
Rock of Ages (2012)
High School Musical cheese-fest..
You know a movie is bad when Russell Brand is the best actor in it. "Rock of Ages" is a musical that is infused with 80s rock music. Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, and Catherine Zeta-Jones star in this cheesy remake of a hit Broadway show.
Sherrie Christian (Hough) is a small-town girl from Oklahoma who decides to pursue her dreams of being a singer in Los Angeles (it already sounds like "Burlesque"). Upon arriving, she is mugged and loses her favorite records. Drew Boley (Boneta), a city boy, witnesses Sherrie being mugged and helps her out by getting her a job where he works, at the Bourbon Room.
Stacee Jaxx (Cruise), the front man of an Aerosmith-like band named Arsenal, is set to play at the Bourbon Room for his last performance before going solo. Arsenal is one of Sherrie's favorite bands, causing her to be ecstatic when she finds out that her idols are performing right where she works.
Sherrie and Drew naturally fall for each other and break out into song to sing about their feelings whenever they have the chance. These moments that are reminiscent of scenes from "High School Musical" produce an unrealistic film. As mentioned above, Russell Brand is the only actor who gives a believable and genuinely comedic performance. Tom Cruise is passable as an alcoholic sex-maniac who is emotionally wrecked. Everyone else presents over-the-top, downright bad acting.
The music is the only enjoyable aspect of this unnecessarily two-hour-long movie. I found myself laughing at its stupidity on several occasions and, personally, I couldn't wait for the movie to end. However, I have heard and read some extremely positive opinions about this musical as well.
I give "Rock of Ages" a 4 out of 10. Go ahead and see it for yourself.
The Avengers (2012)
Didn't live up to its expectations for me
The Avengers unite to save the day in Marvel's newest action adventure film "The Avengers". This superhero group is made up of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) puts all of these super humans together when Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor's brother, tries to take over Earth.
Loki plans on achieving this goal by using the Tesseract, an energy-filled cube, which was discovered in the ocean in "Captain America", to bring alien invaders to Earth in order to destroy the planet. Loki even casts a spell on one of the Avengers, making him assist Loki in any way possible.
All of the unique superheroes are supposed to work together, however many of their egos clash, leading to several disagreements that hinder their progress with the task at hand. It is especially difficult for Bruce Banner under these circumstances to keep calm and not transform into a giant, green monster.
The special affects are quite impressive, but the main plot is non-creative. It was clever to incorporate Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, etc. into one movie, yet why would their job be to protect Manhattan from an alien invasion like in so many other contemporary movies? In addition, even thought the script has classic superhero clichés, it gets to be extremely cheesy. I found myself laughing at many of the foolish lines.
My initial reaction to this film was not a good one. I actually couldn't wait to get out of the theater. I was so bored and unimpressed after hearing all the hype about this "epic" movie and being let down. After asking around, I've heard mixed reactions. I've done some research and reevaluating and now I give "The Avengers" a 7 out of 10.
The Lucky One (2012)
There seems to be a consistent trend in the movies based on Nicholas Sparks' romance novels. They all contain sappy clichés and a lack of substance. There are two main elements that are repetitive in these novels: the relationship between two soul mates and the sickness/death of a loved one. From what I've heard, the books are exceptional, however, the movies always fall short.
Logan (Zac Efron) is a marine who serves three tours in Iraq. During the war, he happens to find a photograph of a beautiful girl and "keep safe" is written on the back. Directly after he picks it up, there is an explosion right where he had been standing before he found the picture. Logan asks around, desperately trying to find whose picture it is, but nobody claims it.
Now that he has the picture in his possession, he is invincible and his luck in the treacherous circumstances of war is incredible. After surviving his three tours, Logan is determined to find the girl in the picture to personally thank her for the good luck she brought him. He recognizes a tower in the picture and walks with his German shepherd, Zeus, from Colorado all the way to Louisiana.
Of course, Logan and the woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling), fall deeply in love, but struggle through the conflicts that arise. Sadly, most of this movie is revealed in the trailer, which seems to happen quite often these days.
Zac Efron does a decent job playing the character of Logan, however, he just can't pull off the tough-guy look that is essential in this film. He will always be remembered as Troy Bolton from "High School Musical". In any case, this is a tear-jerking, cheesy movie that most teenage girls would enjoy. It's not terrible, yet nothing special. I give "The Lucky One" a 6 out of 10.
The Vow (2012)
Much worse than expected
Life's all about moments, of impact, and how they change our lives forever. But what if one day you could no longer remember any of them? Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams star in "The Vow", the newest 'romantic tragedy' about a married couple, Leo and Paige, who get in a disastrous car accident. Leo (Tatum) wakes up intact, however, when Paige (McAdams) wakes up from a coma, she has no recollection of the last five years of her life. These five years conveniently include her entire relationship with Leo.
The last part of Paige's life that she can remember is going to law school and being engaged to a man named Jeremy (Scott Speedman). As this time, she is closest with her family because they are the only people in her life that she can clearly remember.
Leo believes that spending time with him in their home and going through her daily routine might help Paige remember the last five years of her life. When she tries living with Leo, who is a complete stranger to her, she has extreme difficulty feeling comfortable.
The bulk of the movie is about Paige trying to bring back the lost years. It gets quite depressing. There are very few scenes that make the audience smile; there is much more crying involved.
This is definitely more of a chick flick, but not a very good one. The acting isn't great, there is very little chemistry between McAdams and Tatum, and the script is poorly written. The story sure had high expectations. Every girl at my school was talking about this movie weeks in advance. Many thought it would be the next "The Notebook". Unfortunately, it doesn't come anywhere near its expectations. For this, I give "The Vow" a 4 out of 10.