Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Kings of Summer

Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, & Moises Arias
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everyone thinks their parents are crazy, but in the case of Joe, Patrick, & Biaggio, their parents really are nuts. Looking to escape the insanity of their every day lives, the boys decide one summer to build a cabin in the woods, where they can live off the land like men. Nick Robinson stars as Joe, and gives a performance that is out of this world. In a film that stars three kids in the woods, it would be very easy for things to turn stupid very quickly, but as the leader of the pack, Joe not only keeps the group together, but keeps the story together. No matter what this young man does over the course of his career, he will have a hard time duplicating what was easily a career defining performance. Robinson is paired with Disney star Moises Arias, who until now I thought was just this weird little guy they used to guest in their shows. Arias plays Biaggio, easily one of the funniest characters I've seen in a very long time, some of the things that come out of his mouth are just fall on the floor funny. As the kids enjoy their time in the woods, their parents really start to show their crazy, as they go on a hunt for the lost boys. The characters were all unique in their own way, but Joe's father, played by Nick Offerman, was far and away the best, leading the parents the same way, his son lead the boys. From gigantic wontons to turtles on kites, The Kings of Summer is an extremely enjoyable film and the rare instance of a film that I wish was longer. I truly loved every second of this smart coming of age comedy, for it's uniqueness and young exciting cast. Blending dramatic and comedic elements, The Kings of Summer is that perfect mix that takes you from laughter to tears and back again. For that, this film is an easy choice for one of our must see movies!

Sabotage (2014)

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mireille Enos, & Sam Worthington
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Arnold is back, and at 67 years old he hasn't missed a beat. Sabotage is the Governor's third starring role since returning from his stint in politics, and it's easily his best one to date. Schwarzenegger stars as Breacher, the commander of an elite DEA swat team, who agrees to help his under appreciated team take part in the theft of millions of dollars, from a top cartel boss. The heist goes relatively smoothly, but when the team goes to retrieve their money, they discover that one of them double crossed the rest and had stolen the pay day. Everyone is upset and trying to figure out who it was, when the cartel shows up looking for retribution. As the cartel picks off the team one by one, the remaining members have to ban together to try and stop them, except this time, they have to do it knowing that one of them is a trader. Arnold isn't doing the crazy stunts or fighting scenes that he's become synonymous for, he's in more of a leadership role in this film, but he's still the man when it comes to action films. Here he's paired with the Killing's Mireille Enos, who as the only female member of the team, gives an amazing performance. I'm used to her always playing these quiet, reserved, troubled characters, and it was a real treat to see her break out as the wild girl on a team full of men. Sabotage is the rarest of Action films, as it is one with a great storyline, that is as gripping as any drama. The film isn't just about killing people and blowing things up, it has plenty of that, but in the case of Sabotage, there is a reason for all of it, and this film will really keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Monuments Men

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, & Cate Blanchett
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

When I saw the preview for The Monuments Men, I was really excited. I've never been all that crazy about George Clooney, but I love Matt Damon, and the film is based on a little known tale from a famous historic event. Stories like this one, are often turned into some of the best films that Hollywood has to offer, and I was sure this film would be a can't miss. Clooney stars and directs this extremely large and diverse cast, which ultimately turns into it's downfall. When you have a large cast of talent, you need to be very careful about how you use them. In The Monuments Men, the cast is split up all across Europe, leading to short scenes, that jump from location to location far too quickly. When the crew is reunited towards the end, the film becomes much better, and in my opinion, this is how the story should have been told right from the beginning. The story centers around a community of art lovers, who are distraught about the Nazi's theft of historic works of art. As the war is winding down and the Nazis defeat is imminent, these men want to make sure that the worlds greatest works of art are protected, and their willing to risk their lives to do so. As I stated earlier, George Clooney stars and gives his usual performance. When Clooney first started doing movies, he was exciting and really gave audiences their moneys worth, but lately all he does is play the same character over and over again. Clooney is the mysterious, handsome stranger, who does a lot without saying much. Some people love that kind of thing, as for me, I find it to be lazy. If you just wanted to direct, there was more than enough talent to carry this film, and in fact, I would have preferred to see Bill Murray or John Goodman in larger roles. The story told in The Monuments Men is extremely interesting, but it's told in these fast paced, short scenes, that do nothing but confuse the audiences and squander the extreme amount of talent this film has to offer. Needless to say, while I thought the film was a great idea, I was far from impressed.

Frozen (2010)

Starring: Shawn Ashmore, Emma Bell, & Kevin Zegers
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 stars

No, not that Frozen, however this Frozen was also critically acclaimed, as one of the best Horror films of 2010. After seeing that it begs the question, were we watching the same movie? 2010's Frozen takes place at a ski resort, where three very unlucky skiers are stranded on a chair lift. Somehow, none of the cameras picked them up and none of the employees at the ski resort realized there were people stuck on their insanely high chair lift. There really isn't a whole lot you can do in a setting like this, so pretty much everything you'd expect to happen, does happen, with little in between. The setting is creepy and I'm sure that getting stuck on a ski lift is someone's worst nightmare, but a whole film just based on that? After the character introductions, this film turns into an hour of talking, with the occasional really bad idea thrown in, and that's it. The Following's Shawn Ashmore stars and he was alright, it's really hard to judge a performance when all the people do is sit in a chair and talk. I honestly don't know what the critics liked about this film and what prompted them to give it such a high rating, because unless you like watching people sitting around in a chair and talking, this film really has nothing going for it. Frozen is painfully slow and worse than that, it's predictable. If I haven't learned by now to ignore my fellow critics and just watch the films that interest me, I probably never will, but please take it from me, Frozen is a film that you can absolutely do without.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Million Ways To Die In The West

Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, & Liam Neesson
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Seth MacFarlane is a comedic genius, who has succeeded in everything from musicals to fart jokes, but could he pull off a romantic comedy, taking place in the wild west? MacFarlane plays Albert, a sheep farmer, who has a reputation for being a coward. After backing out of one duel, he is forced into another, after falling for a woman he didn't know was married to a psychopath. With Seth MacFarlane, you know there is going to a range of comedy from ingenious to low-brow, but this recent film is completely the latter. It is impressive that he got such a large cast to star beside him, but unfortunately they all have very little comedic experience and it shows. Writing, Directing, Casting, and Starring in a film is an admirable feat, but it is completely wasted when the film is a stupid as this one. If your film is going to be rated R, why not go all the way with it? If you take out the sheep fornicating and the fowl language, A Million Ways To Die In The West, is nothing more than an awful kids movie, full of potty jokes, and misleading heroes. The story here is very simplistic and half the time it's not even funny. The parts that are meant to be humerus, turn out to be little more than jokes for the young teens that watch Family Guy. When I saw this film, I was hoping for another unique MacFarlane comedy, like Ted. That film was hilarious and extremely unique. By comparison, A Million Ways To Die In The West is about fifteen minutes of content, and an hour an half of complete and utter nonsense. I suspect some of the big stars in this cast wish they could remove this film from their IMDB page, because it really was that bad.

13 Sins

Starring: Mark Webber, Rutina Wesley, & Ron Perlman
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

It really bothers me when I like a film that is clearly a rip off of another film. 13 Sins is nothing more than a horror writers take on 12 Rounds. There are no wrestlers in this one, although I'm pretty sure Ron Perlman would have made a great one. This film is about a game, millionaires have played for decades, a game that has become more prolific and a lot more fun, with the advent of modern technology. A seemingly random person receives a call telling them that they've been selected for a game show. The subject completes simple tasks and starts earning money, but as the prize goes up, so does the danger. Once the subject is a wanted felon, they must finish the game and earn the grand prize or they could be spending the rest of their lives behind bars. Veteran character actor, Mark Webber, stars in 13 Sins and he was a very odd choice for a leading man. Webber is this small nerdy guy, who seems like he wouldn't be the type to play this game, no matter the reward. Like many others, Webber is suckered in an soon becomes a wanted man, he is being chased by a local detective, played by Ron Perlman. The casting created a very awkward dynamic, as the "good guy" is this huge scary guy, and the "bad guy" is this little nerdy guy, but somehow it works. 13 Sins is certainly more horrific and crazy than 12 Rounds was, however the similarities between the two are so similar that I'm surprised WWE Films didn't attempt to halt it's release. I loved the idea of 12 Rounds and 13 Sins is just taking the same idea to an extreme, but despite the clear similarities, and the odd choice of casting, it's still a thrilling film that was definitely entertaining.


Starring: Chris Evans, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, & Octavia Spencer
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Comedian Daniel Tosh calls Snowpiercer, the worst movie he's ever seen. I however disagree, as it is both highly original and highly imaginative, but set in a very odd location. When global warming has become too much for the planet, top scientist create a cure, a new chemical that will stabilize the planet, however there is a miscalculation leading to a global ice age, which kills off most of the planet. Earth's remaining inhabitants are left stranded on a single luxury train that is forced to continually circle the earth. I understand that this train was a billionaires dream and has this state of the art engine that will last for decades, but why a train? I'd think if the world was ending, these people would put their money into an underground civilization or some super generator for the worlds largest building, because too me, a train doesn't make a whole lot of sense. When the engine fails, you're dead and if the ice causes a derailment or an avalanche crushes the tracks? There are so many things that could go wrong with this idea, that it's virtually impossible, that for 18 years, nothing has gone wrong. Captain America, Chris Evans stars and he is really terrific. I can't believe I never heard of this guy until a couple of years ago. He leads as if he's been doing it for years and Evans is assisted by a unique cast of characters, one stranger than the next, but their goal is all the same, to leave the crowded, filthy, back of the train, for the luxurious front. Every car brings with it new challenges and they must fight for their lives, before they can even worry about their freedom. The fact that this whole movie takes place on a train is intriguing and makes from some pretty unique scenes. Snowpiercer is one of the most imaginative films to come along in a long time and it features a huge cast of talented actors, that span multiple generations and ethnicities. To even my surprise I really enjoyed the film and couldn't wait to see what lay ahead in the next boxcar, but for as much as I liked the film, a thought kept gnawing in the back of my mind, why a train?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Radio Free Albemuth

Starring: Jonathan Scarfe, Shea Whigham, & Alanis Morrisette
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From Philip K. Dick, the mind behind the Terminator, Blade Runner, & Total Recall, (just to name a few) comes one of his most abstract and best reviewed novels, Radio Free Albemuth. Since being released in the early 80's, Science Fiction fans and literary scholars alike have analyzed it over and over again. They seem to think there is a deeper meaning, but to me the meaning of the story is simply that every single person can make a difference and change the world, if they are inspired to do so. Radio Free Albemuth is Philip K. Dick's biography, only in an alternate universe. Dick is a Science Fiction writer and the narrator of the film, who tells the story of his friend Nicholas Brady  (Jonathan Scarfe). Brady is an ordinary guy who one day starts receiving visions of the future. Most people think Brody is crazy, especially his wife, until all of his predictions start to come true. Brady moves his family to L.A., where he becomes a record executive and that's where the story really takes off. The world these people live in is a police state, cause by the hysteria brought on by terrorism and The Cold War. Brady comes to realize that he is the key to changing the world for the better. All he has to do is find out how to do it and who or what is instructing him to do so. The alternate Phillip K. Dick, played admirable by Shea Whigham, is a witness to the events and makes it his mission to chronicle the work of his friend. Like most writers, Dick was known for being more than a little eccentric and many have questioned where this story came from, and weather or not Dick believe he was experiencing the same types of messages that Brady was. As for the film, it is just so well done, and I've always love stories that take place in alternate realities. The story is as much political as it is scientific, and when you throw in the inspirational message that anyone can change the world for the better, you've got one hell of a story. From beginning to end, the cast is terrific, especially the mysterious Sylvia, played by Alanis Morrisette of all people. I knew she was in Dogma, but I had no idea just how good and actress she could be, isn't it ironic? Radio Free Albemuth has everything I look for in a movie and then some, and it is written by one of the best there ever was, I can't possibly recommend it enough.

The Simpsons Movie

Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, & Nancy Cartwright
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Many fans of The Simpsons Movie were very critical of it. While I understand why, the fact is that many of them just don't realize that this film wasn't made for them. Criticism range from the film not being edgy enough, to the fact that the film didn't take place in Springfield and didn't utilize the side characters much, but again, the film wasn't meant for the die hard Simpsons fan. While the show has been on for more than a quarter century, prior to the films release, ratings for the show were in the toilet, and it was only being kept alive by syndication and merchandising money. The point of the film was to be childish and geared towards a younger audience. While fans of the show were expecting the film to be extreme like the South Park movie, what they got amounted to little more than a children's movie. The fans were upset, but the studios gamble paid off, as the ratings went up and have continued to be much better. For those who didn't see it, the film focuses on Homer, who made the mistake of polluting the town, to a point where the EPA put a big dome over Springfield to separate it from the rest of the country. As angry town folks form a mob, intent on getting Homer, the family escapes and goes on the run. The film is far from being the best the Simpsons has to offer, but it served it's purpose in attracting younger viewers and raising the ratings. Fans may have been upset with Matt Groening, but what he did saved the show for who knows how many future seasons. The film isn't spectacular, but it was good for introducing new fans to the characters we all know and love.

Odd Thomas

Starring: Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, & Willem Dafoe
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Based on the novel by award winning writer, Dean Koontz, comes the wildly successful Odd Thomas. This story was so popular, that it's become an entire series, one that Koontz has worked on almost exclusively since it's release. This unique story focuses on a unique man, with a unique name. Odd (Anton Yelchin) is a short order cook in a small California town, where he lives a relatively normal life with his girlfriend, Stormy. Odd is no different than any other twenty-something in town,  except for the fact that he sees the dead, specifically people who died prematurely and under suspicious circumstances. They can't talk to him, but the spirits lead Odd to the evidence he needs to find the truth. When a strange man comes to town, the spirits lead Odd to be suspicious, and with good cause. Anton Yelchin stars and once again shows off his loveable charisma. There is something about him that makes Yelchin the guy that everyone wants to be friends with, an ability that comes across in every character he plays. Odd is no different, as he is this complete weirdo, but with an innocent quality, that just makes people want to like him. Here he's more than just a lovable goofball, but he's also an unofficial detective and hero, that people turn to in there time of need. Everyone knows he's weird, but few know his secret, one of those being the Chief of Police, played by the legendary Willem Dafoe. Dafoe usually portrays the bad guy, and it was interesting to see him take on a different challenge. Odd Thomas is smart and extremely well written, with a terrific cast, that really brings the story alive with their own unique style. The story may seem like it's a little out there, but it's not just science fiction, it's a story that crosses many genres and has something for everyone, an easy choice for our list of must see movies!

NOTE: As per the requests from our loyal followers, I will now be including a banner that will inform readers of which movies are currently streaming on Netflix!

Retreat (2011)

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, & Thandie Newton
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Retreat is one of those rare instances, of a film that is slow moving, with a simple story, but strangely fascinating. Films like this are completely reliant on the cast and most times simply don't work, but for some reason, I was really into Retreat and had to know if it was going to end the way I thought it would. As I said, the story isn't that unique, as it features a young couple, who try to reconnect on a secluded island off the cost of England. The island is a rich persons retreat and features one large cottage, that is occupied by one couple at a time. Martin and Kate think that it will be the perfect spot to reconnect, after the recent loss of a child, but the ideal retreat, soon becomes a hell on earth. A member of the army, a man named Jack (Jamie Bell) shows up in bad shape. When he wakes up, Jack informs the couple that a virus has taken hold over the mainland and if they leave the cottage, they could catch it. At first the couple goes along with Jack, but as his behavior becomes more irrational, the couple starts to question weather or not he's actually telling the truth. When you break the film down, it's three people in a cottage on an island, which doesn't sound very interesting, and the only reason this film works is Jamie Bell. The young star who got his start in Billy Elliott almost 15 years ago, has become a modern day Da Vinci in Hollywood, as he is seemingly everywhere and takes on all kinds of roles. Bell is as much an enigma as this film, as the last film I saw him in was some comedy, that was so bad I turned it off. A few months later, he's in this film and outshines everyone. If it wasn't for Bell's character and the fascination in finding out, what's in his head, this a film that would have gone nowhere. Jamie Bell is the key and really does give one of his best performances. Looking back and thinking about this film, it really wasn't anything special, except for one actor who makes all the difference. If you're into great performances, then Retreat is for you, but if you're more into the story then you might want to skip this one.