Posts about Movie Reviews

Film Review: “22 Jump Street”

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures
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Okay, I’ll give it this much: I did laugh out loud. But I must add the disclaimer: I knew it was coming.

22 Jump Street is a mostly worthy successor to the hit buddy comedy starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, but it’s mostly just a reheated version of an old dish without any of its surprising comedic energy. The plot is essentially the same – except the duo goes undercover on a college campus, instead of a high school one.

The jokes are mostly relegated to how “old” Tatum and Hill look in comparison to the college kids they must blend in with. It’s like a masculinized version of an episode of The Golden Girls. That works in a sitcom; here, it gets old quicker than it should and can’t sustain the energy for a feature (even if it’s a mainstream cop buddy comedy).

A little too much winking at itself – and not enough at the audience. Watchable, but not memorable.

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Film Review: “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation

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Let’s get one thing straight off the bat: the original How to Train Your Dragon is one of the exceedingly few non-Pixar animated films that are actually on par with the Pixar repertoire (and even exceeds a few of them). It is as magical and adventurous and heartfelt as the best animated films are – and withstands repeat viewings (unlike, say, The Croods or Ice Age- shudder).

The sequel, thankfully, is just as terrific as the original, stuffed full of visual hijinks and humorous gags that will keep everyone thoroughly entertained from the opening sequence. In fact, its mainstay is its spectacular and stunning flying sequences of an airborne Hiccup atop his dragon . . . and then the endless fleet of flying and warring dragons amid the clouds. This is a movie that makes you want to fly, especially when the story soars along with the visuals. You actually want to live in this world.

The plot picks up where the original left off, with Hiccup venturing into a foreign land where a villainous dragon-hoarder seeks world domination by luring, trapping and enslaving every dragon he can find. There, Hiccup meets a young pretty boy Dragon Rider played by Kit Harrington (Jon Snow, from Game of Thrones). In fact, with the all the dragons and British/Scottish accents, the movie does feel a bit like an animated Game of Thrones. Cate Blanchett also pops in to play one of the leading roles of a mystery character . . . but saying more would give away too much.

A surefire blockbuster hit, and likely the best animated film of the summer. Not to be missed.

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Film Review: “Edge of Tomorrow”

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
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It’s almost incomprehensible these days to give a positive review to a Tom Cruise film that isn’t from the Mission: Impossible franchise….but today is one of those rare, almost incomprehensible days.

In what is the best Tom Cruise movie to emerge in years, Edge of Tomorrow has him playing a soldier in a distant dystopian Earth where humanity is about to be killed off by a foreign species. He is killed on the battlefield, but somehow gets caught in a time loop which brings him back to the day of his death over and over again. He dies again. He is returned again. And so on and so on.

If it sounds like a futuristic, actioner version of Groundhog Day, well, that’s because it is. Cruise is still stuck in warrior mode, but he isn’t playing the greatest weapon wielder on the field: that honor goes to Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, who kicks major intergalactic booty. Together, they figure out a way to destroy their enemies as the soldier learns a new weakness every time he is resurrected.

A bit cerebral for most Cruise franchise fans, but definitely the best thing he’s done in ages. Not to be missed.

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Film Review: “The Fault In Our Stars”

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
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Remember when teens used to be teens? I mean, those hormone-infused, bubble gum-smacking, ever-crushing large kids who worried about getting their algebra homework done on time?

Well, apparently, they’re dead. Or on their way to dying. Which is why the new film The Fault In Our Stars is as affecting and as predictable as it is. The film purports itself as an atypical cancer melodrama, but really the only thing atypical about it is that the protagonists are cancer-stricken teens who fall in love knowing that their love story can only have one conclusion. It’s a Romeo & Juliet told for the modern age . . . only instead of contending with centuries-old clan rivalries, they must fight their own bodies. It’s very sad – and very sentimental.

The film works as well as it does (and when it does) thanks to the faultless performance by its lead Shailene Woodley. She hits every note perfectly – there isn’t a false note in the entire performance. The same can’t be said of its leading man who, despite being quite charming, is faaaaar too literate and well-spoken to be a believable 17-year-old.

This is basically a love story about middle aged fools in teen bodies. Bring the tissues – it manages to out-Notebook the uber sentimental The Notebook.

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Film Review: “A Million Ways to Die In the West”

Photo Credit: Universal
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Be forewarned: if you’re at all reverential about John Wayne and his Good Ol’ West, then this is not the movie for you. If you, like me, enjoy the madcap, socially ironic and politically charged humor of Family Guy, then you stand a good chance of enjoying it.

And that’s because Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways to Die in the West is really just a very long episode of Family Guy, told with live action actors and with MacFarlane at the center of the story. This story of a wimpy guy with a heart of gold is comic fodder for anyone who has empathized with a lovable loser – well, “loser” in the winningest sense of the word.

While A Million Ways to Die in the West is entertaining enough with some hilarious sequences intermittently sprinkled throughout (hello, Sarah Silverman, who hits a knock out playing the town whore engaged to the dumbest virgin on the planet), it is definitely not in the same league as the screamingly funny Ted.

MacFarlane does well enough in the leading role, but he isn’t quite movie star material. He carries the film, but it’s practically carried off by Charlize Theron as his kick ass love interest . . . and then virtually dominated by the hysterical turn from Neil Patrick Harries who plays the villain of the piece (sorry, Liam Neeson). Amanda Seyfried is wasted in a purely ornamental part as the ex-girlfriend.

It doesn’t always deliver the laughs it should, but it’s still quite enjoyable on its own terms. Worth a chuckle or two.

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Film Review: “Maleficent”

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
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For anyone who feared that Disney would do to the villain of Sleeping Beauty what it did with that wretched live action retelling of Snow White which starred Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen: rest assured, they have not.

Maleficent is a much more complex, interesting, and yes, evil villain than the reimagined Evil Queen. The new film, starring Angelina Jolie, gives us Maleficent’s back story – she was once a fanciful fairy who put her trust in another (a man, of course) but when betrayed, she swore vengeance on all of humanity . . . and this poor Princess Aurora is forced to bear alone.

The back story is not exactly novel – many is the film lately which tells us that our favorite movie villains are just misunderstood good guys. (See: Frozen). And in the guise of Angelina Jolie, Maleficent is both beautifully complex and fittingly dark. It is a welcome return of one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses who rarely gets starring vehicles befitting her talent.

The film is quite dark – sometimes almost unrelentingly so. But its depiction of the princess who raises Maleficent’s ire is boringly one-dimensional. Elle Fanning’s performance is hindered by the flat characterization of a super saccharine and innocent Princess Aurora.

Overall, a valiant effort, but not as memorable as it should (or could) have been.

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Film Review: “Blended”

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
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At this point, anyone who ventures into an Adam Sandler movie is just asking to be ripped off. You have long since forsaken any claim to the right to be intelligently entertained when you pony up for films like Blended.

It seems to me that Sandler just doesn’t care anymore that people hate his films (or that most of them bomb nowadays too). Revenues from DVD sales must be good enough for studios to write him a fat check . . . and the fans still seem to be around in enough numbers that movies like Grown Ups 2 are still possible.

He reunites this time with Drew Barrymore in what is basically The Brady Bunch Goes to Africa. Both are single parents with their own broods who go on a blind date together that does not go well… and somehow end up in an African time share where they fall in love. Sandler is a douchey man with no couth, Barrymore his female reformer. You can guess how it goes.

Sandler is pretty unbearable, Barrymore still brings the cute factor. (She actually is quite adorable).

And you can guess that if I didn’t get paid to see the film, I would never have gone.

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Film Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox
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The one thing you need to know about the new X-Men movie (I’ve lost track of how many there have been now – 16?) is that it is both highly entertaining and well-done. As someone who has never read an X-Men comic, I took it as a good sign that the series’ diehard fans seemed mighty pleased on their way out of the screening.

The plot is basically an excuse to bring together future and past versions of all the characters . . . in a dystopian future where most of humanity has been wiped out and the mutants who love them are being hunted down by the Sentinels. Ellen Page (finally) gets a starring role in her bid as Kitty Pryde to go back into the past and stop the evil scientist (Peter Dinklage) from inventing the evil Sentinels in the first place. Hugh Jackman gets the bulk of the action, and the rest of the cast is a bit more than serviceable in their many, many roles (no one has the chance to shine, apart from Page and Jackman, so don’t expect too much, even from Patrick Stewart et al).

All auguries are pointing to huge box-office numbers, even with Godzilla still wrecking the playing field.

Which means we can expect the series to go on indefinitely. Bring on the bluest Jennifer Lawrence!

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