Monday, July 21, 2014

Sex Tape (2014)


Starring: Cameron Diaz & Jason Segel
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

From the cast and crew that brought you Bad Teacher, comes Sex Tape, and on the surface it had all the makings of the next big comedic hit. Many people were saying that Sex Tape could be the next Hangover, as it is an original idea with an all-star cast, but sadly it falls well short of expectations. Annie & Jay's marriage has become a little stale, so one night they decide to spice things up by making a Sex Tape. Jay is a music producers and inexplicably neglects the fact that his laptop is connected to many other devices, and the tape finds its way to the cloud. Once again, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz have absolutely no chemistry. They are too different types of actors that just don't compliment each other and they are even less believable as a married couple. If that were the only issue with this film, maybe I could have gotten passed it, but the real problem, as with Bad Teacher, is that the writers don't know their audience. This is an R rated film about a sex tape and in no way meant for children, yet the jokes are on a sixth grade level. As an adult going to see a raunchy comedy, I'm not interested in jokes about erections and diarrhea, it's in very poor taste and isn't something many adults will respond to. This film is supposed to be a laugh out loud comedy, but there was barely even a snicker in the movie theater, which basically tells you all you need to know about this film. Sex Tape is trying to get people to see it under the guise of being raunchy and featuring some pretty attractive stars, that fans hope they will get to see naked. The truth is that it is very amateurish, you really don't see all that much, and the jokes could be out of PG movie. All in all, Sex Tape is a big disappointment and a huge waste of time.

Wolf Creek 2


Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, & Shannon Ashlyn
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

There is a common misconception that Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) was a real person. In fact the character was created from the stories of Australia's most heinous criminals. While the crimes themselves are real, they were committed by a variety of people, not just one man. What made both films work, was the character of Mick Taylor, who while being a horrific serial killer, was still very likeable. Taylor is charismatic and most important of all very funny, and audiences in 2005 ate it up. After the success of the first film, a sequel was immediately planned, but put on hold due to the fact that some of the crimes portrayed in the film, were still being prosecuted in court. The legal issues delayed the film eight years and kept it out of theaters, which is a shame because it was better than the first and received almost no exposure. In the second installment of Wolf Creek, Mick isn't just torturing victims at his dungeon, he's chasing a man through the outback, and when they finally meet, they come to discover that they aren't entirely dissimilar from one another. Ryan Corr (Saw 3D) plays the runner and is just as witty and entertaining as Taylor himself. The chemistry between the too was terrific and gave the series a whole new dynamic, which elevated it to another level. Wolf Creek 2 is so much more intense and at the same time comedic, compared to the first film. It was definitely a risky move by Writer/Director Greg McLean, that really pays off. The Wolf Creek films are no different and no less predictable than any other slasher film. What makes them unique is a character that encompasses the personalities of multiple serial killers and gives the audience the rarest of bad guys, the one that you root for. Even if you don't like slasher films, you may enjoy John Jarratt's extremely strong performance and get a few laughs in between the carnage.

Black Rock


Starring: Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, & Kate Bosworth
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Black Rock is one of those rare films that was written by, directed by, and starring the same person. Back in the early days of film, this was common, but today it's rare. While I admire all the work a single person puts into such an effort, the truth is that most of these films turn out to be a little strange, Black Rock is no exception. Three life long best friends decide to reconnect on a weekend retreat, to a small secluded island, where they had a lot of childhood memories. Once there, they run into a pack of hunters. Testosterone and alcohol mix, leading to a vicious assault, leaving one group a member short, and the other group on the run. Katie Aselton is the Writer, Director, & star of this film and while I admire what she put into it, the truth is that it was very predictable and didn't make a whole lot of sense. First of all, these three women, as children were allowed to play on a secluded island in the middle of nowhere, without supervision? It also doesn't make sense that the hunters would be there, when there was seemingly no wildlife, and of course there had to be exactly three of them. Finally, why did three women, spending a weekend alone on a secluded island, bring enough alcohol to fuel a Todd Phillips movie? The whole thing was just a little too weird to be believable, and when you add how predictable this film was, it's just a recipe for disaster. The one thing I liked was the performance of Jay Paulson. He's usually a guy who gets bit parts and guest appearances here and there, but he was very solid and the most believable of the six characters. Aside from that this is a slow, painfully predictable, mess of a film, that really doesn't have a whole lot going for it.

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)


Starring: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, & Meryl Streep
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The remake of The Manchurian Candidate is one of the few Denzel Washington films I've never seen. To be honest, the story just didn't interest me that much, but it started streaming this month, so I gave it a shot. As expected, it's a someone complex story, that at times was difficult to understand, however an all-star cast manages to pull it together at the end. The story begins in Iraq during the Gulf War, when a U.S. Army platoon goes missing for three days. Even they were unaware of what happened to them, until one of the men starts having nightmares, and bodies start turning up. Denzel Washington plays the commanding officer, who takes it upon himself to investigate the strange deaths of his men, almost a decade later. As always, Washington is at the top of his game, giving off that infectious intensity, that keeps you on the edge of your seat through every step of the investigation. Washington is paired with Liev Schreiber who is one guy that has always just rubbed me the wrong way. It's not that he's a bad actor, there is just something about him and the characters he plays that is inherently unlikeable. He wasn't bad in this film, but being a similarly intense actor, meant that the chemistry with Washington was almost non-existent. The story is complicated and in the beginning of the film, it's going to be somewhat hard to watch. As the film proceeds and the elements become more clear, the film gets easier to watch, and the ending really pulls everything together. The Manchurian Candidate is one of those films that you think is going to be a bust, some people may even turn it off, but those who stick with it will see that it just gets better and better until a surprise ending brings it all together. If I were the writer of this film, I would have made the beginning of the film more intense and less confusing. The truth is the most important parts of a film are the beginning and the end, and without a strong opening, a lot of people will be turned off to the film and have the wrong attitude throughout. If you manage to stick with it, The Manchurian Candidate is great, but it does take a while to get there.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Update



Hey movie fans! I just wanted to stop by and let you know why the blog hasn't been updated in 2 weeks. I unfortunately had a significant death in the family, and just haven't been up for doing much of anything. Things are started to get a little better, as many people have told me they would, and I am able to function a little better than I have been. I have been spending a lot of my time watching TV and movies to keep my mind off things, so I've got a lot of things to review, which I plan on doing, starting Monday morning. Thank you for all the support and kind messages on Facebook. I really do appreciate it.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Place Beyond The Pines


Starring: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, & Dane DeHaan
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Place Beyond The Pines is the kind of film that I love. The film is broken up into three stories, starring three different actors, and it all comes together at the end. The film is about two men, one is a criminal, the other is a cop, and both have a decision to make. One makes the right choice, the other makes the wrong one, and fifteen years later, both decisions have a huge impact on their children, who come together in High School. Each part features a different actor, Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and Dane DeHann. While they were all terrific, it's Cooper who really stands out. I thought he was good in Limitless, but he blows that performance away, giving an Oscar worthy portrayal. Due to the violent nature of the film, of course the Academy overlooked him, but you will be hard pressed to find a better performance all year. He was magically and is the thread that connects the stories. Without Cooper being at his best, this film probably wouldn't have worked out as well as it did. There are so many supporting stars and the story becomes so much more complex than it appears to be. Watching The Place Beyond The Pines was really like seeing three different short plays, that are loosely tied together, but don't make much of an impact until you see the fourth and final act. Once you see the whole picture, you will be blown away, both by the magnitude of the story and an unexpected conclusion. The cast and previews for this film really didn't excite me that much, but the reviews were strong, I gave it a chance, and what I found was another must see movie.

Homicide: Life On The Street


Starring: Ned Beatty, Clark Johnson, Daniel Baldwin, Richard Belzer, Melissa Leo, Andre Braugher, Kyle Secor, Yaphet Kotto, Zeljko Ivanek, & Isabella Hoffman

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Back in the day, networks stood behind the shows they picked up. They believed in them, they advertised them, they pushed them to do whatever they could to get ratings. Unfortunately, things are much different today, as a new show is given 13 episodes to crack the top 50 on the Nielsen charts, and if they fail, they're gone before they even got started. If this had always been the policy, shows like Cheers, The X-Files, Law & Order, & Homicide: Life On The Street never would have gotten started. 

NBC took a real chance on this show, the cast was all unknowns, except for Ned Beatty, and the rating for the first season were in the toilet. NBC saw the potential though, they realized they had a special cast full of future award winners, and a terrific writing staff, so they made the show more intense. Regular characters could be killed off or added every week, they got big name guest stars, and even had crossover episodes with highly successful shows like Law & Order and The X-Files. With the network behind it, the series soared, completing 7 seasons, winning 4 Emmy's, and it was even turned into a full length feature film.

Homicide: Life On The Street, follows a unit of Homicide Detectives in one of the worst areas of Baltimore, which at the time, had one of the highest murder rates in the country. We follow the investigation, similar to the way they do in Law & Order, but what's different here, is that Homicide is more character based. The audience gets to intimately know the Detectives, their families, and their lives, but even that wasn't the real strength of the show. What made Homicide unique, an Emmy winner, and the launching point for almost a dozen big named actors was "The box" A.K.A. the interrogation room. Homicide takes us into the interrogation room in a way that has never been done before, showing all the emotion, stress, and everything that comes with the process.

What I really love about this show is that everyone is used equally and no one is a star! Every member of the cast is important and even the opening credits are in alphabetical order, giving no one top billing. That was how the show was designed, but the truth is that Andre Braugher moved beyond that and become a legend. 

Playing the very complex Detective, Frank Pembelton, Andre Braugher made a name for himself by captivating audiences. Everything that happened was so deep and personal to him, and he put the emotion into everything he did, not only making him the best detective in the squad, but also the best character to watch.

Homicide takes you inside the interrogation room, but also inside the lives of Homicide Detectives the way that no other show has done before or since. It's a one of a kind show that survived, only because someone important at the network actually watched it and saw how amazing it is. If you're looking for a great show to get into, there are 7 seasons and over 100 episodes, and take my word for it, this show is as addicting as anything I've ever seen!