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All about family
If you could see into a window of an average American family what would you see? Movies have always tried to portray the average family life, but there is always one problem, they are played by movie stars. I mean when I walk around my neighborhood I don't see anyone that looks like George Clooney or Jennifer Lawrence. I think that filmmakers get the act down, but the look is just so hard to get, it's hard to fake it. Well with that all said, I think someone finally got it right and also made one of the better movies of the year.
"Nebraska" is Alexander Payne's new movie about life in the Midwest. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has received a letter claiming that he has the winner of a million dollars. All he has to do to travel from Montana to Nebraska to claim his prize. That is exactly what Woody intends to do, even if he has to walk to Nebraska. Lucky for Woody he has a son, David Grant (Will Forte) who wants to help Woody live out his fantasy, even though he knows he hasn't won anything. So against David's mother's wishes, David decides to take Woody on a trip to Nebraska to claim his prize. David, whose life as a home electronic salesman isn't the greatest, wants to use the trip as a chance to spend time with his father. David and Woody decide to stop by Woody's home town and see Woody's brothers and his old business partner Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach). What follows is the perfect story about what family truly is.
I think if you were to ask twenty different people what their definition of family is; you would get about as many different answers. Family to me, put up with you no matter how you act and they are always there when you need them, no matter what adventures you take. Alexander Payne knows how to show a family that just feels right and just like in 2011 "The Descendants" you feel like these families could be your neighbors. Unlike with "The Descendents" though Payne only directed this film, but seems to have found a kindred spirit in writer Bob Nelson. The story is amazing, but what lifts Nebraska to greatness is the performance by the entire cast. Dern, who has always been a great actor, gets one of those roles that win you awards. Forte, who is better known from his days on Saturday Night Live, doesn't welter next to Dern and more than holds his own. As great as those two are, the show is stolen by June Squibb, who plays Woody's wife and somehow gets all the best lines. With this movie you can go from laughing to more laughing, and to just taking in a great flick. If it was up to me it would be required that Alexander Payne makes a movie every year like Woody Allen. I wish I had that power, but I don't, so I will just enjoy his movies when they come out, and I promise you this is one you will enjoy quite a bit.
read this and many more reviews @ http://the2cinemen.blogspot.com/
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Coen's... enough said
Sometimes when you are with your friends you will go into those 'what if' scenarios. You know things like what if you found a million dollars, or what if you only had one week to live? I always remember someone asking me what would be the one thing you would grab if your house was on fire. Well I want to change that question to this: if you could only choose one filmmaker to always make movies, which would you, choose? How do you decide, when there are so many great filmmakers? Well my choice would be the Coen Brothers. Now I know what you are thinking, I said one filmmaker, and my answer happen to be brothers, but my response to that would be, when they direct and write their films they are like one incredible creative force.
I choose the Coen's because they march to their own drummer and tell stories that always seem special, and memorable. They don't make movies that exist in the normal world; instead they invite you into their world. Now in the Coen's world there tends to be a lot of anger, but with that anger you also get passion and the most unique kind of humor as well. In their new film "Inside Llewyn Davis", they tell a story about a young folk singer trying to navigate Greenwich Village in 1961. That singer's name is Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), and if you couldn't guess by the name the story is about him. Llewyn is trying to cope with being on his own after his musical partner jumped off the George Washington Bridge. Although extremely talented things just don't seem to go right for Llewyn, and it is mostly his fault. You see Llewyn does not have the best attitude and always relies on the generosity of others to survive. It could be crashing with his friend's girlfriend Jean (Carey Mulligan) or getting work with Jim (Justin Timberklake) to help pay his debts. No matter how bad his life can get though, Llewyn can always escape into his music.
I know why I love a Coen Brother's movie; to me it is just like comfort food. As in comfort food, you know what you are getting; you will get great characters, a great story, and a little added "Coeness" that makes their stories so special. While their movies have those central elements in common, their stories and themes are never the same. With "Inside Llewyn Davis" everything is there and as with "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" we get a great soundtrack to boot. Oscar Isaac is brilliant as Llewyn Davis, who learned to play guitar for this role. In fact all of the musical scenes where actually recorded live during filming for an authentic sound. Everyone has a favorite Coen movie, because no two seem to ever be alike. The only thing they have in common is they are always seem to be one of the better movies of that year, and with "Inside Llewyn Davis" that trend remains.
read this and other reviews @ http://the2cinemen.blogspot.com/
Last Vegas (2013)
Hopefully the "Last" Vegas
There is an old saying that things get better with age. Now I can believe that is the case for some things, but let's face it, being young is so much better. Being young and being older are just two different worlds, and no better place says that more than Las Vegas. You have downtown for the older and established crowd, and then you have the fresh and new strip. Well a few years ago we were given "Hangover" and we got to see how Vegas can be for that younger generation, but how would it be for the sixty and up crowd?
Well lucky or unlucky, depending on whom you are, someone has tried to tell us that story. Billy (Michael Douglas) is what I picture as your typical rich 71 year old Californian. Looking much younger than he really is, very tan, and of course dating a much younger woman. Billy has decided he wants to marry his younger girlfriend, and calls his three childhood friends to meet in Las Vegas for a bachelor party. So Billy calls Sam (Kevin Kline), Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Patty (Robert De Niro) to meet him in Vegas for a great weekend. Once in Vegas we are given all kind of jokes about being old, even throwing in a fanny pack joke for good measure. We have parties, lots of scantily clad women, and of course a reference to Viagra. Just remember the saying," what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas"
I will say I enjoyed watching the first "Hangover", Just because it was different and pushed the envelope. Then they wanted to give us more, and like a real hangover one was enough. I only bring up "Hangover" because you may hear people refer to "Last Vegas" as the hangover for the older crowd. Well let me say that would be a bad comparison, because at least "Hangover" was funny. Yeah there are some cute moments in this movie, and it will definitely play to a certain crowd, a crowd that reached retirement age already. Written by Dan Fogleman, who brought us the very good "Crazy, Stupid, Love" last year and directed by Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure), neither of which live up to their past endeavors. To top it off most of the actors, seem to be mailing it in, and treat this more like a payday than a fun role. The one good thing with this film is that is brought back Kevin Kline, who doesn't act as often as he should. I think what someone should do next is Vegas with a bunch of teenagers, that way the circle is complete. It is easy to make comments about the age factor in this movie, but in the end that does not matter. What matters is, if you are going to make a comedy, the movie should be at least funny, and this movie is not at all. So if you want a story about a weekend in Vegas, book a trip there, just do anything else but watch this movie.
Bad Grandpa (2013)
A great laugh
In 2000 a show started airing on MTV that had a group of guys performing stunts. These were not just regular stunts, these were stunts that required a "don't try this at home warning" before every show. I never was a fan, or I thought I wasn't, the problem was I never actually sat down and watched it. Well it was such a success the guys took their antics to the big screen, and that is where I discovered the joy of Jackass. Johnny Knoxville can take a hit, as well as everyone in his crew. Now, while some things border on disgusting, in the end you can do nothing but laugh at just how far these guys will go. Unlike the previous movies/ TV show, "Bad Grandpa" is a different approach, but provides just as many laughs. Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) has just lost his wife. To make things more complicated, his daughter drops off his grandson Billy (Jackson Nicoll), so that Irving can take him to his father who lives cross country. The deal is, it's all fake. The purpose of the trip is to catch people's reaction to everything from stealing, destroying property, and even crashing a kid beauty pageant. They do this all while having Irving's dead wife in the trunk. It is all done for laughs, and trust me you will have plenty of those as you watch this movie. It is easy to be like how I was before I actually watched these guys in action and judge them as idiots. In the end they may be idiots, but they will make you laugh, and at times cry. I know these movies are not for everyone, but for those of you who go see it, you will have a great time. You get to see a picture of Middle America and the many characters we have living in this great country. I haven't laughed as hard in a movie in a long time, and I have seen a lot of so called comedies this year alone that did very little to bring the funny. So don't be like me, don't judge this book by its cover. Go see "Bad Grandpa" because the world is a much better place with laughter, and this movie provides plenty of it. Brian Taylor
About Time (2013)
About Time a great romantic comedy
When I get together with my friends sometimes we always have the discussion that I think most people have with their friends. That conversations about what super power you would choose if you could choose one, oh wait that is just me and my friends? Anyway the one thing I wish I could do is to be able to travel back in time. I don't want to be able to change history, just to be able to have a redo on something I did. Well that will never happen, but is exactly what "About Time" is about.
Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) has just turned 21 and his father (Bill Nighy) has a family secret to tell him. It is nothing like something evolving a dark secret in their past, the secret is that the men of their family can travel back in time. This secret is met with disbelief and doubt and of course the desire to find out if it is true. Tim decides to go back to the night before at his parents New Year's Eve party and kisses a girl at midnight, something he missed on the first time. What would you do with such a gift? Get rich? Make your life perfect? For Tim his choice is to use it for love. Tim now armed with this new ability heads to London to start his life, and to find his true love. It is not long after that he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) and Tim uses his gift to correct his mistakes in his courting of her. Tim and Mary start a life together and a family, and Tim discovers that living everyday to its fullest is truly the secret for a happy life.
I know what you are thinking a love story about time travel, "The Time Traveler's Wife" all over again. Well I have good news for you, even though they both have Rachel McAdams in common, that is the only thing they share. What makes "About Time" different? Well that is simple it is written and directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually). Curtis knows how to tell a love story, he just seems to make the relationships in his movie feel real. We have all heard the "only in the movies" line before, but Curtis makes it feel real. "About Time" has that feeling, from the awareness of the first time meeting someone, to the feeling you get when you meet the right person. As good as Curtis's material is, it would all be for nothing if it didn't have the right actors. Gleeson and McAdams are magical together, and you can't help to especially enjoy Gleeson's preference. There are so many movies dealing with love and relationships that come out every year. Some are funny, some are sad, but most of them get it wrong, because things that happen in those movies don't happen in real life. Well with "About Time" you get something that feels real, and if that is not enough, you get one of the better movies about love that you will see all year, and it is about time for that.
Escape Plan (2013)
Escape this movie
I sometimes sit with my friends and we talk about the worst job to have. Fast food worker, test subject, maybe that guy who cleans the monkey cages at the zoo. What if your job though was to go to prison? You would have to serve just like every other inmate, but you also have to find a way to break out of the prison you are in. So basically your job is to break out of prisons. It all sounds fun until that day you can't break out, what happens then?
"Escape Plan" is a movie about guy who makes a living out of breaking out of prisons, just in case the title didn't give that away already. That guy's name is Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and there is not a prison that can hold him. Ray works for the federal prison system to test their maximum control prisons on how escapable they are. Well apparently Ray always gets out, so I would say those prisons are pretty easy to escape from. Well when you are this good, someone is bound to offer you a shot at a prison that someone believes you can't get out of. Ray takes that job, and it sent to a prison unlike any he has seen before. The place is designed by someone who read the book on ways to make your prison escape proof, a book which Breslin wrote. It doesn't take Breslin long to realize that someone wants him to disappear forever, and that this job may be a little harder than planned. Breslin though meets "the man who can get things" in Rottermayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who wants to know who this new prisoner is. Breslin soon lets Rottermayer in on the truth and together they come up with the perfect escape plan.
Now I will hand it to them, the escape plan they come up with is pretty good, now if only the movie was that good. Twenty five years ago this would have been the biggest movie in the world. Stallone and Schwarzenegger would be in big bold letters and every red blooded male would be in line waiting. The problem is this is 2013 and not 1991, but just like this movies formula, the story is behind the times. Watching Arnold and Sly in their primes was fun; I mean you really believed that they could both single handily taken out an army. Now when I see Arnold pick up a M60 and start firing it, I am more worried he might pull something in their prime, Arnold and Sly would pull down twenty million per film, now like all the other aging action stars of the eighties and nineties the only reason they have jobs is because of each other. "Escape Plan" just came out in the wrong decade, written by Miles Chapman and Jason Keller, you get the feeling they watched way to much eighties action movies. Which could have its place in the current state of film, but not here. When I was younger I used to dream about Arnold and Sly teaming up for a movie, well after watching this movie the only escape I was looking for, was the fire exit.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
Things that go bump in the night
When you are making a horror movie it always helps to have a few things around in the movie in order to help set the mood. Things like creaky old doors, a piano, and preferably an old and creepy looking house. Now these are not absolutes, but they can help for sure. Horror movies are not like other movies, because there are so many possibilities for sequels, just look at the "Friday the 13th" series. In 2011 James Wan and Leigh Whannell brought us "Insidious", a story about a family that had unwelcome visitors in their house. The supernatural kind.
That family, the Lamberts, have gotten away from their house and the experience they had in it. Josh (Patrick Wilson), Renai (Rose Byrne), and their three children are all safe and move in with Josh's mom. At the beginning of the film you find out this is not Josh's fist experience with a sprit. It seems Josh has a gift where he sees dead people and with the help from Elise (Lin Shaye) he forgets that gift, until he uses it again to save his son from a place the living shouldn't be. That place I imagine is the same place Carol Anne from "Poltergeist" was in as well, but instead of talking through a TV, a tin can phone is used to communicate to the other side. Renai senses something is not right about Josh, a sentiment that is shared by Josh's mother as well. So with the help from a man named Carl (Steve Coulter) and two guys who provide the comic relief, they all set out to free Josh and his family from the evil that haunts them.
The story picks up exactly where the first film ended, which makes the chapter 2 a perfect title. There are so many more possible chapters to this story, because let's face it there are a lot of ghosts out there. "Insidious: Chapter 2" is part ghost story and part detective story, as we try to unravel what is following the Lamberts around. Lucky, unlike what he did with "Saw" we are still under the direction of James Wan and he keeps us on the same path as the first film. If you are going for jump out of your seat frights, then this is not the film for you. There are some moments that may make you jump a little, thanks to some good camera work, but this movie is more like "Seven" than say, "The Conjuring". In a genre that seems to be getting everything right at the moment, "Insidious: Chapter 2" doesn't disappoint. The only thing that could improve, is to have a little less common sense moments, you know those moments where a character does the thing everyone knows they shouldn't. I think it is very fitting to release this film on Friday the 13th, because like that franchise, you hope this one also has a long life making us afraid to sleep with the lights off.
Fade to black
The science fiction genre is unique in the world of movies. The reason why this is so is because no other genre has fans that are so passionate about certain characters and their respective franchises. Think of the biggest followings out there for movies, with the exception of the comic book movies, are mostly science fiction. Love runs deep with these franchises, and there is little room for error when comes to the fan base. In 2000 "Pitch Black" was released and introduced us to Riddick and a new Sci-fi franchise, and I kind of have mixed feelings about that.
While "Pitch Black" was new and fresh, with that hint of that old school sci-fi, it was everything that after that where the problem lies. "The Chronicles of Riddick" was more on the forgettable side and now we have "Riddick", shorter title, but still the same results. Riddick (Vin Diesel) is in his own words "having one of those legendary bad days". Still trying to get home, Riddick is left for dead on a planet that is unknown. Luckily for Riddick he is a survivor, or was a great Boy Scout at some point in his life, because he figures out how to live off the planet he is on. He does everything from fixing his broken leg, to taming the planets wildlife. For most of the first part of the movie, I thought I was watching a story about a boy and his dog. Riddick takes his new pet and finds a sort of "time share" place for bounty hunters when they are on the planet. He uses an emergency beacon to lure someone there, so that he can hitch a ride. Two different parties show up, and while they don't get along at first, they realize if they want to live, they will need to team up to get Riddick. The problem is that there lies a bigger problem than Riddick, and everyone must work together if they are all going to get off this planet alive.
Now I always like to root for the hero, but I don't know if Riddick is the hero or the villain. Maybe anti-hero since he is an escape prisoner, so that should be a hint. Either way, I was not really rooting for Riddick to survive, because that could mean another sequel. Vin Diesel has a very limited range, he is a great voice actor (Iron Giant), and he can do the tough guy who is too cool (Fast & Furious), but that is about it. You will never have to worry about seeing Diesel in a David Mamet film, because he is a man of very little words. "Riddick" was written and directed by David Twohy who wrote and directed the previous two films. While surviving is pretty much the theme of the movie, you may wonder how you survived having to watch two hours of something that should have ended after ninety minutes, of the first film. Although Diesel has hit franchise gold with "Fast & Furious ", lighting in most cases does not strike twice. To me it is easy, this is one franchise everyone involved should let fade to pitch black.
The World's End (2013)
Please don't let it end
Everyone remembers the best night of their life. The one thing we all have in common with our best nights is that you never wanted it to end. You and your friends all have those stories, the ones we tell about that perfect night. Well I am going to assure you, that you and your friends don't have a story like this group of guys. Well unless your story can top saving the world, all while making a pub run
didn't think so.
Gary (Simon Pegg) was the cool guy in High School you wanted to be like. Good looking, fun, and didn't care about what anyone thought of him. Gary had a group of friends who followed him; there was Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Andy (Nick Frost). In 1990 they tried to do the golden mile, a trip to twelve pubs ending at The World's End. They did not make it, but it was still one of those nights you won't forget. Flash forward twenty years later and Gary wants to finish what they couldn't finish twenty years earlier. Things have changed though, only Gary has remained the same, somehow he convinces the group to get to give it another try, and they head back home to finish the golden mile. Something about the town is different though, and not the normal time passage different, it is more like the town has been taken over by robots different. That doesn't stop Gary from wanting to complete what he came to do. All he and his friends have to do is fight the evil robots and make it to The World's End.
What is the perfect trilogy? That can be an easy question to answer, if you think of a trilogy in the normal sense. Yeah you have trilogies like "Star Wars" "The Godfather", and "The Matrix" series, but what about the 'Cornetto' Trilogy? Some of you may be asking what the 'Cornetto' trilogy is, well let me tell you. It is "Shaun of the Dead, "Hot Fuzz", and the grand finale "The World's End". The series gets its name from Cornetto Ice Cream, which makes an appearance in all three films. The other thing all three films have in common is that they were all written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg and directed by Edgar Wright. You hope this is not the end of this perfect partnership, a partnership that goes back to 1999 on a great TV series called "Spaced". It is really hard to not enjoy a movie like "The World's End" a movie that provides you with everything you need, it is like the perfect balanced meal. It is easy to say "Edgar Wright has done it again", but he really has. I implore you to go to your local cinema and watch one of the best movies of the summer and would make any day a perfect day. In fact the only thing that could make it any better, would be to enjoy a Cornetto, while you watch the perfect way to end the Cornetto Trilogy.
Just another YA book to movie
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Since the success of the Harry Potter series, publishers and studios alike have been searching for the next billion dollar franchise. Lighting did strike again with Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, but for every success like that there is a lot more failures like "The Golden Compass" and "Beautiful Creatures". How do you know if you got a hit or miss? Well there are only two outcomes, a bomb and you move on, or you can print your own money all the way to Gringott's (Harry Potter joke). The question arises, what will "The Mortal Instruments" be?
The story is your usual young adult novel world. It evolves around a girl, a couple boys fighting for her love, and of course supernatural beings. Clary (Lily Collins) is pretty much your typical teenage girl. Her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headley) is always trying to protect her like a good mother, but she is also hiding something from her as well. Clary can see things that regular people cannot, and not in the "I am crazy" way. Clary finds out that she is a shadowhunter, or someone who fights demons. She can't remember everything, because someone cast a spell on her to help block her memories. Clary meets Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) who is also a shadowhunter as well, and who help explain to her as well as the audience the world she is entering. Together, they must stop the mortal cup from falling into the wrong hands. Yep, there's a mortal cup.
It has to be a hard thing to follow success. Not because it can't be duplicated, but because too often it looks like you are just copying what came before you. Ever since Harry Potter, everyone wanted to ne second in the success on the page and the big screen. When "Twilight" hit, you had the all too familiar forbidden love story, typical conflict if you know vampires and werewolves. With "The Mortal Instruments" you are dealing with a lot of the same formula, even down to the afore mentioned vampires and werewolves. I mean at least the main characters are not the next Bella and Edward, but at times during the film I was trying to figure out if I was on team Jacob or Edward, before I realized "wrong movie". In no way is "The Mortal Instruments" a rip off of "Twilight", it is just not much different, they take place in what seems like the same world. I know I am the wrong audience for this film, I mean I am not an 8 to 16 year old girl. Everyone in this movie looks like they stepped out on the latest issue of YM, and I don't mean that in a good way. Fans of the book series may enjoy this movie, as well as people who like to look at "pretty" people emote. For the rest of us out there, this just isn't our cup of tea. This, in my mind, will go down as another miss in the elusive search for that next franchise that takes the movie world by storm, in other words, this franchise will probably shuffle loose this 'mortal' coil long before they can reach the end of their series on film.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Woody Allen, enough said
I have always been a fan of consistency. It is something that is so hard to achieve in life and most of us are always looking for it. In Hollywood, it's almost impossible. There are plenty of consistent things in life though, things like the sun coming up, The Simpsons, the Cubs not winning a world series, and of course a Woody Allen movie coming out. Since 1977 Woody Allen has released at least one movie every year. Another amazing thing is that a majority of them are really good. So here we are in 2013, and what is Woody offering us this year?
"Blue Jasmine" is another in a long line of great Woody Allen films. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is having a rough time. You see Jasmine was married to Hal (Alec Baldwin) and they had it all. They lived the life of the rich and famous, you know what some people call the perfect life. Hal loves Jasmine, but Hal also loves other women and is always trying something new. Something happens though, and Jasmine is forced to move to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine has lost it all, and has nothing left, just her clothes from her previous life of being rich. Jasmine is not right and is having a nervous breakdown as she gets accustomed to living life with no money. Her sister Ginger wants to help her, even though she didn't treat her well when Jasmine did not need her. Jasmine though cannot forget the past, but must find a way to do so in order for her to move on with her life.
There are many reasons to love a Woody Allen film. You know it will have great dialogue, amazing locales, and great stories about relationships. For the last few years Allen has given up staring in his films, but has never stopped writing himself in a role. Blanchett plays Allen as good as Allen ever has. She has neurotic down perfectly and Jasmine wouldn't be played the same by many other people. I think Allen has the relationship between a man and a women figured out. I say that because that relationship always plays a central role in all his movies, and they don't feel made up, they feel real. Allen also always finds the perfect actors for his movies, not everyone can do a Woody Allen Film. "Blue Jasmine" is no different, with great roles by Baldwin, Blanchett, Hawkins, and Andrew Dice Clay, yes that one. Allen seems like he has hit his stride again, and is really making movies as good as anything he has ever done. So grab your significant other, go to one of those theaters that serve wine, and sit back and enjoy another film by one of the greatest storytellers in movie history.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Not as kick ass as the first
In 2010 a movie came out that instantly became one of those "have you seen it" movies. It was easy to lose for most people, because it was another movie based off a comic book. It was not like most comic book movies, well maybe a little like Batman, only if he was in high school and had no money, wait that's Spider-Man. Anyway "Kick Ass" was about a regular teenager who wanted to fight crime. No special powers, just a green scuba suit, a couple batons and a can do attitude.
The reason "Kick Ass" was so fun, was because it combined action and comedy and did it in the right way, mostly due to director Matthew Vaughn. Sometimes capturing lighting in a bottle twice can be a hard thing to do, and not many movies franchises have pulled it off. David Lizewski/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) doesn't wear his Kick Ass costume to often anymore. He has just become your average high school senior trying to figure out his life. Meanwhile Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) knows what she wants to do with her life, that is continue what her and her father did before his untimely death. Kick-Ass decides he wants to get back to being a super hero and starts to train with Hit- Girl, so that they can become the new dynamic duo. Kick-Ass soon finds other guys like himself, who wear a costume to help keep the streets clean. Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) still wants revenge on Kick-Ass for blowing up his father with a bazooka. So D'Amico forms a group of bad guys, which sets up the ultimate good vs. evil battle royale.
"Kick-Ass 2" will be enjoyed by a certain group of people. The kind that enjoy over the top violence and of course the comic book series itself. While not as good as the first one, "Kick-Ass 2" has enough good moments to make the movie still fun. Gone is Matthew Vaughn, who did such a great job with the first film. He is replaced by Jeff Wadlow, who does not quite live up to Vaughn's shadow. While "Kick-Ass" relied on humor just as much as action, Wadlow, ups the action and cuts back on the laughs. In fact most of what laughs are generated are provided by Mintz-Plasse. The Flow of the movie gets thrown off a little as Hit-Girl tries to fit in at school and is taken in by the "cool" girls, who of course only try and embarrass her. The best part of the film, are the fight scenes, which get more elaborate as the movie progresses. "Kick-Ass" was one of those movies that I would have been happy with just the one. I think just because something is popular, you don't always have to make another. With that said, "Kick-Ass 2" is a good movie on its own, but just doesn't kick as much ass as the original.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Growing up I always had a pretty utopian view on what being a teenager in high school would be like. Once I got there, it was nothing like what I had thought, and plus we had no kids that looked like James Spader. Just because high school was not like a John Hughes film didn't make it a bad thing, I just think I would have had more fun at those schools than mine. Now a day in the perfect world is not what people want, they want something real, and in "The Spectacular Now" it feels like what being a teenager feels like today.
Now being a middle-aged man this is only a guess, but it sure feels right on. Sutter (Miles Teller) is that guy everyone likes, you know the life if any party. Sutter is enjoying every minute of high school, great times, and a great girlfriend named Cassidy (Brie Larson) to top it off. Sutter also likes to drink, and not the typical teenage drinking, he goes as far as carrying a flask and even putting alcohol in anything he drinks. After Cassidy breaks up with him, Sutter drinks a little too much and ends up passed out in the front of a house, not his own. He is found by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who knows Sutter from school. Sutter starts to gather interest in Aimee, but all the while hoping to land back with the women he thinks he wants in Cassidy. Aimee has never had a boyfriend and quickly starts to fall for Sutter hard. With school ending soon, Sutter is all about the now, and has no idea what his future will hold, he never wants to grow up, because where is the fun in that?
A lot of people think that their high school years were their highest point in their life. I mean you have no worries, no responsibilities, you just live life. Everything is easier, including love because how innocent everything is. Sutter and Aimee are at that point where things start to move, college and life are in front of them making them have to make choices they never had to before. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber (500 Days of Summer) from the book by Tim Tharp, the story is a real coming of age story. I know that is a bad description, but where so many coming of age stories fail, this one soars. It is all perfectly directed by James Ponsoldt (Smashed), who set the movie in his home town of Athens, Georgia, and even shot the film in locations he grew up in. It all comes together by the flawless performances by Woodley and Teller who are perfect for each other on screen. I sometimes think what it would be like to grow up in this day and age, well I think I just got to see what life is like today and like this movie it looks spectacular.
Not District 9, but still not bad
Most of the great works of science fiction take place on a spaceship, another planet, or in the case of the new Neil Blomkamp film, a dystopian future where instead of a wall separating two countries, it's the space between a diseased-ridden Earth and the distant but visible Mercedes-Benz logo looking space station, "Elysium".
On Elysium the haves, have it all, beautiful houses, beautiful children, and even little MRI machines that cure whatever ails you, be it broken arm or life-threatening disease. The have-nots back on Earth live a hard life not to dissimilar from the one that Blomkamp portrayed in his previous film, the fantastic "District 9". Instead of the oppressed aliens in Johannesburg, this time it's a whole planet. On this Earth, in the ruins of L.A. in the year 2154 lives Max (Matt Damon) an ex-con with the heart of gold, which we're told in way too many flashbacks that he is special. On Elysium Jodie Foster runs the show as a government official who keeps the floating paradise safe by killing all who try to enter.
When all too convenient circumstances bring Damon and Foster in opposition the movie really picks up, with a few stops to introduce Alice Braga's character and fits her and her story like a familiar puzzle piece into the narrative. That is the major drawback on the film aside from the constant reminders of rich is bad and poor is good, is that everything feels all too convenient. Characters who all know each other or who only have one degree of separation between the main cast. Plus if you know sci-fi, or even movie logic, you will see everywhere the movie takes you well before you get there.
The performances keep you engaged enough, mostly though through the slightly 'off' character Kruger played fittingly by Sharlto Copley. What really stood out to me was the world building and the incredible, I mean really incredible visuals. From the robot police to the simple 30- plus year effect of a ship flying in space, the visual effects artists really made a beautiful looking film. Writer/Director Blomkamp still needs some work on his storytelling and his fight scenes. Or maybe he shouldn't have got the steady-cam crew from Damon's "Bourne" movies to shoot a lot of his action.
The classics of sci-fi almost always have some sort of social commentary as told through a fictional prism. Who we are, what we are capable of, what we can do to ourselves as well as one another in a society with rules that are followed blindly. Unfortunately "Elysium" is not one of those destined to be a classic, but it reminds you of the potential these types of films still have and gives me hope that Blomkamp can give us another one with his next film.
--Robert L. Castillo
The Smurfs 2 (2013)
A piece of Smurf?
A kid's movie sequel usually follows the formula of the original. Take what worked, no matter how little of it there was, and do more of it. So in "The Smurfs 2" we get more of what the studio felt worked the first time around. More Smurfette, more Gargamel, and more, oh, so much more smurf isms. The less we get this time around is humans, in fact the only play they get here is heavy-handed lessons about family being what you make of it. It's even heavier than the excessive use of the Sony tablet.
Speaking of Sony, their doing okay on the animation front, even the films that don't do well critically, like "Arthur Christmas" and the "Band of Misfit" pirate movie, they still manage to make a lot of money. "The Smurfs 2" will probably be no different, if anything else it is a more simplistic plot compared to the first, which I didn't really care for.
Actually, with fans always clamoring for all these intellectual properties to be more like the original comics or in this case cartoons, this movie is kind of reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoon it was based on. A misunderstanding causes one of the characters to believe something that is not true and leads them to do things that they would normally never do. The specifics involve Smurfette (Katy Perry) and Gargamel (Hank Azaria) and Pappa Smurf played by Jonathon Winters as in his final role. There is a poorly done parallel story involving Neal Patrick Harris's character and Brendan Gleeson who was the only one who got me to chuckle with his line readings. Harris felt like he was phoning it in.
All in all kids will enjoy this Smurf tale in all its blue butt glory. For the adults, it will be kind of a chore to sit through, but its relatively painless once you get past all the smurf this and smurf that. At least it wasn't a big steaming pile of smurf. Yeah, I couldn't resist.
--Robert L. Castillo
2 Guns (2013)
2 the hard way
The right pairing of actors together can make or break a movie. And since 1967 there have been buddy cop movies. Now "In the Heat of the Night" is no "48 Hrs." or "Lethal Weapon", but the concept is the same. Two cops or cons/cops with opposite styles, attitudes, and methods coming together for a common goal. Well with "2 Guns" I think I found one of my favorite pairings in this genre and of the year, Wahlberg and Washington.
I don't know, maybe it has something to do with the screen play written by Blake Masters, or maybe it is the characters created by Steven Grant for his comic book series. I think it's the combination of both, but it was Wahlberg and Washington who make it all come alive. Bobby (Denzel Washington) and Stig (Mark Wahlberg) are two criminals trying to work their way up the crime food chain. Unbeknownst to each other, both Stig and Bobby are undercover, trying to achieve the same goal. The goal is to bring down Papi Greco (Edward James Olmos), who is a drug kingpin. The way they decide to do so is to rob a bank that Greco has some money stashed away in. Instead of getting Greco's money, Stig and Bobby rob the C.I.A of forty three million dollars. What follows is a lot of one-liners, and if the title didn't give it away, a lot of gun fights.
When it comes to the month of August, it is the place where the questionable movies go. The not-good-enough-for-July dump bin if you will. They are questionable because they are not the "big" summer movies, but summer movies none the less. When it comes to "2 Guns" I think the studio got it right. This is the perfect movie to follow all those sequels and not so fun "big summer movies" (yes I am talking to you Lone Ranger). How about a fun movie with two actors that everyone loves? With plenty of action mixed in with just the right amount of comedy, this is the kind of movie I look forward to seeing. Mark Wahlberg makes the movie, and the reason is simple, he doesn't play that guy he plays in almost every move he is in. You know the quiet but nice guy, who just looks tough. In "2 Guns" Walhberg plays a cocky bad ass, who is good at what he does and he lets you know it every chance he gets. Denzel on the other hand is just Denzel, which after saying that, I have said all I needed to say. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who makes a good version of a Michael Bay movie. This is a great choice if you are looking for something fun to do this weekend, because in my mind, you can never go wrong with a fun time at the movies.
The Way Way Back (2013)
Let's go back.. way back
Growing up is so hard to do. As adults we look at teenagers and wish we had their life again, one of which there is little to no responsibilities. Meanwhile those same teenagers envy adult's lives of being able to have the freedom to do what they want. Now wouldn't the perfect life lie somewhere between those two existences? Now "The Way, Way Back" does not try to answer such a deep question as the one I posted above, but it does try and convey the difficulties of a kid growing up after a divorce.
Now I know you are saying, "This doesn't sound like a fun movie at all." Although the subject matter does not sound appealing, there is plenty good to make this worth a view. Duncan (Liam James) is your typical awkward kid. Lucky for him his mother Pam (Toni Collette) is taking him to the beach for the summer with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter. Duncan does not want to go, even if it is the beach, he would rather spend the summer with his father. Once he arrives he wants to escape and finds himself at a water park. That water park's manger Owen (Sam Rockwell) takes a liking to Duncan and even offers him a job for the summer. At the park Duncan assumes the name "Pop N Lock" and turns what he thought would be a summer to forget to one he will always remember.
"The Way, Way Back" has a lot of things working in its favor. Things like being written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who brought us "The Descendants". The other things it has working for it is Steve Carell in a smaller role. Now don't get me wrong, I like Carell, I just like him more in roles like this, which I think makes him more likable although his character in this movie is not that at all. Rockwell though is the guy you want to hang out with and maybe even date, just not settle down with. He is fun and tells jokes that no one else gets or gets it way after the fact. The movie feels like it takes place back in the past, with only a few things to remind you that it is set in modern times. That is part of the appeal of the movie, because the story in timeless and could have taken place at any point in the last thirty years. "The Way, Way Back" is not one of those movies where you want to watch it multiple times. Instead it is one of those movies you want to watch once, because that is all you need to see of it. This is a story told many times over, but "The Way, Way, Back" still finds a way to put a fresh take on an age old story.
The Conjuring (2013)
Horror done right
Everyone has a ghost story or at least knows someone who does. Some people use these stories as a game, something you do while you sit around a campfire or something. To others those stories are not to be retold, instead they are locked away and you hope you can forget. I have heard stories from people that I couldn't believe and would never want to experience them personally. The only things I have seen that terrified me have been on a movie screen, and I have seen enough of those to know the rules. You never go and investigate a noise in a cellar by yourself, also if things start moving by themselves just get out, and finally never buy a house or some land if you don't know it's history. Unfortunately for the Perron family they didn't follow any of those rules.
"The Conjuring" is a story of a family in the 1970's who buys what they think is their dream home in Rhode Island. Not long after moving in, things start to happen that are unexplained. Things like the house being cold, doors opening and closing on their own, and seeing people that were not really there. After a few months of these things happening, the family seeks out Ed and Lorraine Warren, who are experts on such unexplained occurrences. What the Warren's find is the worst thing they have ever investigated. Let's face it; we all like to be scared. We want to find that horror movie that makes us fear the noises we hear at night when the lights are off. With so many stories out there, you would think that they could make a movie that did that. Well "The Conjuring" is not there, but it is pretty close. Not since watching "The Exorcist" as a child, have I experienced the chills that ran up my neck. This is not a "jump out of your seat" scary movie, this is a tense and at times terrifying scary movie. Making you jump is easy, have someone appear out of nowhere, or a loud noise break dead silence. The trick for me though, is feeling like I should leave the closet light on because of the things I saw. Ed and Lorraine Warren's case files have been used as basis of a few films. Films like "The Amityville Horror". "The Haunting in Connecticut", and "The Haunting". Just like in "The Amityville Horror" in 1979, "The Conjuring" brings a story that will make you believe in things that are unbelievable. I think the best review I can give this movie is after the credits rolled, I believed what I just saw really happened. Imagine that, a based on true horror story that I believed. This is a movie that will have some of you watching it through your fingers. It may not answer all questions or prove to you that some things really exist. What "The Conjuring" will do that most movies like it don't, it will remind you of a time when horror was good and scary.
Everyone loves an underdog story. They are done so much in film, and it's such a common notion that the line is even spoken in the new Dreamworks film "Turbo". The best part in this instance though is, unlike other movies, it's genuine. You feel for this animated snail and his new friend a part owner of a taco shop. Both have dreams and do all they can to make them come true, even when their own family doesn't believe in them. The second best part is that it's fun for the entire family and could very well be the best animated film of the year.
Theo is a snail who wants to be fast, much like Tom Hanks wanted to be Big and Rocky wanted to be champion. After a freak accident of Spider- Man proportions, he gets his chance to compete in the Indianapolis 500. Along the way he finds a friend and fellow dreamer he never actually speaks with in Tito (Michael Peña). Together they both reach for the impossible dreams that live in us all. The filmmakers of "Turbo" use both wish fulfillment and the belief on oneself to tell a familiar story with most of the troupes we've seen before. What sells it here is voice actors ranging from the comedic Ryan Reynolds as Turbo, to the dramatic Paul Giamatti as his brother Chet. In between you have actors that have a foot in both dramatic works as well as comedy, like Luis Guzmàn, Maya Rudolph, Michelle Rodriguez, Richard Jenkins, and Samuel L. Jackson. It also tells its story with a singular goal in mind and still manages to have fun with sight gags, great one-liners, and involvement of the supporting cast.
My kids loved this film as did I, every year we get so many sequels there's quite a few this summer alone, and it's always refreshing to see a movie with the originality and the bravery to take a chance on a story that could have been a bad rip-off of Rocky, but instead reminded me of it in that good way. So go see "Turbo" this weekend, Adam Sandler and his pals have enough of our money, give it to real grown-ups who know how to make really enjoyable films like "Turbo".
--Robert L. Castillo
Pacific Rim (2013)
Pacific Rim Christmas came early....
How do you make the perfect summer movie? I'm not just talking about the best action movie, or the best summer comedy, just the perfect summer movie. Some would say lots of explosions, while others may say a good love story will always do the trick. Every year all the studios aim to release a movie that you will want to see, their idea of that great summer movie. Well I think Guillermo del Toro has figured it out, Robots Vs. Monsters.
I know it can't be that simple, since we already had a Cowboys and Aliens that didn't live up to expectations, but for me "Pacific Rim" really is. We have always looked to the stars for where we thought visitors might arrive on our planet one day. But, what if they come from deep within our oceans? That is the question "Pacific Rim" poses. Creatures called "Kaiju" have attacked the coastal cities in the Pacific. They start in San Francisco, and then attack cities like Manila, and Cabo. After conventional weapons have little effect, the world's governments decide the only way to fight monsters, is to build monsters of their own. The "Jaeger Program" is born, where giant robots are built to fight for mankind. Each Jaeger is controlled by two pilots, who control each hemisphere in the Jaeger. The Jaegers become mankind's best weapon against the "Kaiju" and their only way to save the planet.
This is what "Transformers" could have been, if del Toro had been at the helm instead of Michael Bay. While Bay has always been a visual director, he just does not have the complete package like del Toro. This movie has something for everyone, but above all it is just fun to watch. It is a big and loud, and one of those movies that are made to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. For everything that is wrong with summer movies like "After Earth" and "The Lone Ranger" this movie gets it right. This is not a movie that is going to get praised for its great story, even though it has a decent one. The main selling point is "come see this movie and you get to see giant robots and monsters beat the crap out of each other." I mean really after that what more do you need? I went in expecting to see one of the best movies of the summer and walked out not thinking any different. The performances for the most part are not anything special, except for every time Idris Elba is on the screen. Given the best dialogue, including a speech any football coach would love, Elba just commands your attention. In a world where sequels rule, we should embrace originally. I mean didn't we say all we needed to say with the original "Grown Ups"? Do we really need another? I say this weekend when you go to the movies see "Pacific Rim". It's like sequels are the "Kaiju" and this is your chance to command a Jaeger and to tell the world you are tired of all the "Kaiju". And if you can, see it 'IMAX' big, because this movie doesn't do anything small.
Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Not so Despicable at all
In a perfect world or in movie-world there is a clear line between good and bad, hero and villain. Well, lives isn't that black and white, nor are the movies now for that matter. Why can't we have a bad guy who is good as well? Movies have already dabbled in the anti-hero, so I think it is time for the lovable villain, or at least one who has a heart. I am not talking about having the next James Bond villain want to take Mr. Bond for ice cream instead of killing him. What I want is someone like Gru (Steve Carell), a bad guy who discovers his heart, but still has that evil streak in him.
In 2010's "Despicable Me" we were introduced to Gru as he tried to take over the world, only to have his life taken over by three little girls. These girls Agnes (Elsie Fisher), Margo (Miranda Crosgrove) and Edith (Dana Gaier) malted Gru's heart and made him not want to be so evil. In fact Gru is out of the 'Evil' business now and he no longer has his minions preparing for world domination, instead he has them making jam. Super villains are still out there, and one of them has stolen a formula that could cause the world problems if they are not found soon. So how do you catch a super villain you ask? You use an ex super villain to track them down. The Anti Villain League recruits Gru and teams him with Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig). Together they must find the mystery villain and save the world from whatever evil plan he has in store for us all.
It seems that most animated movies now are just franchises waiting to happen. Even the mighty Pixar has started to return to the well more often. Why does it seem every animated movie has a sequel now? Well it is pretty simple. Dollar signs. Unlike most sequels though, animated movie's quality can stay relatively the same. Maybe it is because they keep it simple, they don't try to outdo the first film, and they just make a good movie. In the case of "Despicable Me 2" they don't let you down, they bring the same laughs as the first film. Stephen Carell is great as Gru, but the minions once again steal the show. Who don't love a little yellow guy who always seems to want to do well by his boss, but always seems to cause trouble. It's like watching those old Saturday morning cartoons, waiting to see what the minions will get themselves into. The other thing about this film is the 3D looks good, especially as you watch the credits sequence. I look forward to animated movie sequels, because the filmmakers who make them know what they are. These movies are suppose to be fun, something the whole family can enjoy, and with "Despicable Me 2" they did what they were suppose to do, make a fun movie.