Sunday, July 19, 2015

Jurassic World

Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, & Nick Robinson
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's setting records at the box office and is the most talked about film in years, Jurassic World, the thrilling true sequel to Jurassic Park. I loved Jurassic Park and felt that both sequels didn't do justice to the original, so when they announced that this film would go on the premise that the two sequels never happened, I was extremely excited. Like everyone else, I rushed to the theaters to see, the exact same film I saw twenty years earlier. The tech is better, the effects are better, but the story is almost identical, to the point where each character has an equivalent in the original film. In Jurassic Park, the T-Rex escapes while the kids are in a car, touring the park. In Jurassic World, the Adominus-Rex escapes while the kids are in a sphere, touring the park. This is just one example of literally dozens of parallels to the original film. The only real difference is Chris Pratt, as he is a hell of a lot more believable than Sam Neill was, and his infectious personality makes him the type of guy that everyone wants to be friends with. From his simple start on the WB's Everwood to becoming a Guardian of The Galaxy, Chris Pratt has established himself as one of Hollywood's brightest future stars, but aside from his performance, this is the same film! The Jurassic franchise has the benefit of being created by one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time. It is produced by perhaps the greatest Director of all time, and once again it introduces moviegoers to some amazing new special effects, but none of it matters when the story just isn't there. With this film people were hoping for something new and exciting from the franchise, a turn in a whole other direction, instead they got a film that is little more than a remake of the original, and a disappointing one at that.

Cedar Rapids

Starring: Ed Helms, Anne Heche, & John C. Reilly
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

I really hate all these dry office comedies that are common place today. Films like Office Space and shows like The Office and Community, make me wonder if the people who watch this stuff are truly brain dead to what real comedy is anymore. I assumed that Cedar Rapids would be another of these films, but there is a difference, Ed Helms. Even before he was in films like the Hangover, I thought this guy was hilarious, and I am a great admirer of his work, so I gave this film a shot. Helms plays Tim Lippy, an insurance agent who went right from High School to being an insurance agent. He has never been anywhere, never done anything, and is completely oblivious to the world outside his office. That all changes when Tim is sent to represent his firm at a Midwest insurance conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Alone and exposed for the first time in his life, Tim has a hard time just fitting in an letting loose, so he does what every insurance agent does, and turns to drugs, alcohol, and prostitutes. Cedar Rapids is the second film from Miguel Arteta, whose first film, Youth In Revolt, also surprised me. Neither of these films are the type of comedy I enjoy, but somehow Arteta has the magic touch. Cedar Rapids had me laughing to the point of tears, something that almost never happens, and for once, I saw how these ordinary, everyday situations could be funny. As for the star, Ed Helms, he was just amazing, his extreme anxiety and taking every emotion to it's absolute extreme just gets me every time. Cedar Rapids isn't your typical comedy and even after seeing the preview, I was convinced that it would be terrible, but the combination of Miguel Arteta and Ed Helms make this film a must see comedy classic.


Starring: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, & Adam Rayner
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Taylor Lautner may always be remembered as Jacob, the annoying werewolf boy from the Twilight Series. People have a hard time seeing him as anything else, but Tracers is the second action film I've seen him star in, and this kid has the perfect make up to be a huge action star. Lautner is more than just another good looking actor, as he can speak several languages, is a martial arts expert, and an avid parkourer, all skills he uses in his latest film, Tracers. Lautner plays Cam, a down on his luck bike messenger, who comes to befriend a group of parkour enthusiasts. What they do fascinates Cam and he wants to join them, but when he does, he realizes that they aren't just clowning around, they use their skills to commit crime, and once he's in, Cam has no way out. Original action films are hard to come by, as most people are satisfied with all the special effects and dead bodies. It's a genre that really doesn't call for originality, that's why when you come across a film like this, it's a breath of fresh air. The stunts and moves you see in this film are nothing short of magic, and it's star Taylor Lautner did them all himself. We are so used to seeing Lautner as the sensitive love interest in some romanticized film, that it's hard to even imagine him as an action star, but that changes 10 minutes into this film. It's the stunts, the attitude, his characters whole personality, that makes his a unique a-typical action star, and it is really something to see. On the surface, Tracers may be nothing more than another story about a group of burglars, but what they can do is extraordinary, and was really fun to watch. This film is original, fast paced, and brings to light a new action star, who isn't in his sixties or the WWE. It may not have all the bodies and explosions normally associated with this type of film, but as I said, It was a lot of fun to watch.

Suddenly (2013)

Starring: Ray Liotta, Erin Karpluk, & Dominic Purcell
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Remaking classic films is admirable. It is a great way to introduce a new generation to the classic stories of our culture, when it's done correctly. Suddenly is a remake of the 1954 Frank Sinatra film by the same name, starring Ray Liotta as Tod Shaw. Shaw is an aging, alcoholic cop in a small town, who is at the end of his career. One day, rather suddenly, the President makes a surprise stop in the town where he works. As they make the final preparations for the visit, Shaw comes to realize that a local family has been taken hostage, and the President is in danger. In remaking a film like this, producers should only consider going one of two ways. Either make it a true remake, set in 1954, or adapt the story to fit the times, Uwe Boll did neither. This remake is very much the same story, but takes place in 2013. This is problematic, as it makes the story somewhat unbelievable. There are better ways of doing things, modern technology, many different things the story could have and should have changed, but it didn't. As for Ray Liotta, he's probably the last person I would cast to reprise Frank Sinatra. When Sinatra made this film, he was 39 years old, Liotta is 58 years old, and he more than acts his age. Are we really supposed to believe that at nearly 60 years old, Liotta can even attempt to take on a beast like Dominic Purcell? The whole thing was just way off target, but I am giving it 2 1/2 stars, because of Purcell. This guy just gets better with every performance, weather it's the lovably naive escaped con or the scary cold assassin, Purcell is always believable and fun to watch. Suddenly was never that great of a story to begin with, but for some reason Uwe Boll had a connection to it, and decided to remake it, but the way it is done makes it almost comical and anything but a fitting tribute to the work of Frank Sinatra.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ted 2

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, & Amanda Seyfried
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

In 2012, Family Guy creator, Seth MacFarlane, introduced the world to Ted, a talking teddy bear. People thought he was crazy, but the vulgar bear quickly gained a cult following and was a rousing success. The first film was really nothing more than an introduction to Ted, that showed just how extreme a talking teddy bear could be, but it lacked a real story line, and the jokes quickly got old. That however is not the case with the sequel. In Ted 2, the newlywed bear is not getting along with his wife. To save the marriage, they do what many couple do, and decide to have a baby. After failing to obtain "celebrity" sperm, Ted and Tami-Lynn decide to adopt, but the state has other ideas, as they determine, Ted can't adopted because he's not a person, he is property. From their Ted has to use every means at his disposal to prove he's a real person. This sequel has an interesting story and Seth MacFarlane finally decided to play on his strengths in regards to a film. Instead of these long drawn out jokes that seven people in the world get, he utilizes cutaways, the same way he does on Family Guy, and it really makes a difference. Half way through the first Ted, I was bored of it already, but Ted 2 is genuinely funny and can hold your interest throughout. This is the kind of film I always expected to see from Seth MacFarlane, and even people who hated the first film, will not be disappointed. Ted is certainly a unique character, but when he's portrayed in the proper setting, he becomes exactly what he was originally intended to be, hilarious! 

Fear of The Dark (2003)

Starring: Jesse James, Kevin Zegers, & Rachel Skarsten
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Production companies will do anything to get people to watch their movies, that's why the trailer almost always looks good, and the description on the back of the box is so eloquently written, but how often does the film live up to the hype? In the case of Fear of The Dark, it doesn't even come close! 12 year old, Ryan Billings (Jesse James), has an acute fear of the dark and his whole family thinks he's crazy. His parents rarely go out, but on one stormy night they decide to do so, leaving Ryan home alone with his older brother, Dale (Kevin Zegers), who comes to realize, his brother isn't so crazy after all. A creepy cover, a cool trailer, and an interesting description lead me to this film, even with the PG-13 rating. Some of the scariest supernatural horror film were rated PG-13, so i convinced myself, this would be a good choice. While the film has no affiliation with R.L. Stine, it is as much a Goosebumps tale as every other one of his stories. I was worried about the PG-13 rating, when the film doesn't even live up to that. How the company convinced the academy to give this film anything more than a PG rating is beyond me. Fear of The Dark has got to be the most tame and dull horror film I've ever seen. That being said, kids would absolutely love it, but it wasn't marketed to them and the creepy cover and PG-13 rating is exactly what would have kept them from this film. As for the performances, the two young actors were as you would expect, both Jesse James and Kevin Zegers, have look resumes as child actors and have done a ton of films like this and know exactly what their doing. Fear of The Dark is market towards teens and young adults when it should be in the children section. If you have kid, this is the kind of horror film you want them watching. As for me, I was utterly disappointed and shocked that a film like this would be marketed towards young adults.

12 & Holding

Starring: Conor Donovan, Jesse Camacho, & Zoe Weizenbaum
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With his utterly shocking debut film, L.I.E., Director Michael Cuesta, quickly proved that he wasn't afraid to push the envelope in order to shock his audience. That is why I was hesitant to see his other coming-of-age film, 12 & Holding. Thankfully, this film was more on the level and told a different kind of story, one that larger audiences can relate to. Rudy Carges (Conor Donovan) is an introverted 12 year old boy, who because of a facial deformity, does not socialize outside of his small circle of friends. A circle which includes a strong leader and protector, his twin brother, Jacob. One summer night, a bullies prank goes horribly wrong and Jacob is killed, leaving the group to find their own direction. As someone who recently lost someone close to me, this film really hit home, it was inspirational and a truly a wake up call. The film does an excellent job of showing everyone's grief from the family, right down to the furthest acquaintance, the type of lose and emptiness that people of all ages feel when a tragedy like this occurs, but then the film takes a turn. The three remaining members of the group realize, at their young age, that life is short and you never know what's going to happen, so they use the tragedy as the inspiration to turn their lives in another direction. Conor Donovan stars and it is miraculous that at his age he could play two completely different characters with such ease. The twins are so different, even though they are played by the same person. This is the kind of performance, actors three times his age can't pull off successfully, but Donovan does and it makes the whole film. Because of this role, the young Donovan actually got a role in the Departed, but hasn't been in much since then, which is truly a shame. 12 & Holding, actually uses actors that are the same age as their characters, and what these kids had to play through, and how they did so was truly phenomenal. IFC films have a reputation for being great, hard hitting stories, but this one really struck a nerve and the performances blew me away. If that's not the definition of a must see movie, than I don't know what is.