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.

Bad Johnson

Starring: Cam Gigandet, Nick Thune, & Jamie Chung
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Some comedies are hilarious, others are down right stupid, and then there is the story of Rich Johnson (Cam Gigandent). Like most men, Rich only thinks with his penis, and it often gets him into trouble, so one night, Rich makes a wish that his penis would leave him alone, and that's exactly what it does. Rich's penis detaches, and comes to life in the form of a walking, talking, human being. In the beginning, this film is an absolute riot, but how many penis jokes can you squeeze into a 90 minute film? Eventually Bad Johnson deteriorates into an eighth graders favorite movie, and becomes really tiresome, but in the insanity, something emerges, (besides Rich's penis), Cam Gigandent. I've seen Gigandent around, and he's usually playing the good looking guy, who's roles really doesn't have much substance, until now. As is the case with most actors, it takes time to find their niche, but Gigandent's may very well be comedy. He was the level headed one, who really blurts out the hysterical line when it is sorely needed, and he was far better than Nick Thune, the man who literally was playing a penis. Bad Johnson isn't the kind of film you'll want to see twice, the jokes are old before the film is even over, but if you're looking for a few good, cheap laughs, this film is absolutely perfect.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Starring: Zac Efron, Billy Bob Thornton, & Paul Giamatti
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Based on Vincent Bugliosi's book, Four Days in November, the film Parkland chronicles the events following the assassination of JFK. What I liked about this film was how it tells a part of the story that isn't widely known. From the doctors at the hospital, working on the President, to the acquisition of the Zapruder film, Parkland goes behind the scenes to tell the untold story. I was also impressed with how the film managed to stick to the facts and not dwell on any of the conspiracy theories that surround the case. Zac Efron stars and really wasn't all that great. I think that Efron needs to stick to what he does best, taking his cloths off and making people laugh. While the film is kind of slow, I really enjoyed Paul Giamatti's portrayal of Abraham Zapruder, the man who filmed the assassination. Zapruder really struggled with releasing the tape to the media and the events he witnessed ultimately destroyed his life. Giamatti's portrayal of the man is supposedly spot on and truly deserves an honor mention. Parkland gives us a lot of new information about the events that followed the assassination of President Kennedy, but a lot of it are things the general public really aren't that interested in learning about. For a Kennedy aficionado, this film must of been eye opening, as for the rest of us, it was an interesting, non-bias view of history, albeit a little boring.

Blue Bloods

Starring: Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes, Len Cariou, Tom Selleck, Amy Carlson, Tony Terraciano, Andrew Terraciano, Jennifer Esposito, Sami Gayle, & Nicholas Turturro

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The CBS hit show, Blue Bloods, manages to do something that rarely works in an episonic television series. The show blends two very distinctive genres and manages to dedicate an equal amount of time to both, without sacrificing quality. Yes, Blue Bloods is an action packed cop show, but it is also a compelling and touching family drama.

For sixty years, the Reagan family has dedicated itself to a life of civil service. It all started with Henry Reagan (Len Cariou) who worked his way up from a beat cop to the New York City Police Commissioner, a job his son, Frank (Tom Selleck) would eventually inherit. Frank's three kids are also heavily involved in the protection of New York City, as his son Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), is a major case detective, his other son, Jamie (Will Estes), is a rookie officer, and his daughter, Erin (Bridget Moynahan), is an assistant district attorney.

Each week the Reagan's are faced with combating crime in New York City and every Sunday, they take their work home with them, and work out their issues over family dinner. The dinner is as important to each episode as the cases themselves. The family often touches on sensitive issues, and are divided on what the outcomes should be. 

Tom Selleck stars as Police Commissioner, Frank Reagan, and brings to the role over thirty years of experience playing a cop. Frank isn't Magnum P.I. or Jesse Stone, but Selleck has the experiences of being both those men, and he brings aspects of their personalities into this new role.

The other star of the show is Donnie Wahlberg, who while not as good looking as his brother, is much more experienced at playing a detective than Mark is. Donnie has been a cop on more than one occasion, most notably in the Saw franchise, and he gives one of the most believable and accurate portrayals of a detective, that I have ever seen.

Blue Bloods has all the action and drama of any cop show on TV, but it also has a soft, touching, family side to it as well. The cast is as experienced as it gets, and every episode prominently features every Reagan, dealing with their own issues on and off the job. It is as original as any cop show to come along in the last fifteen years, and needless to say I am hooked and highly recommend it.

After (2012)

Starring: Steven Strait & Karolina Wydra
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Late one night, a young man and a young women are taking the bus home. They are chatting and nothing seems out of the ordinary, until there is a big crash. Following the crash, they both wake up safe and sound in their own beds, but as they begin their day, they realize that they are completely alone in the town, and a dense fog is moving in on them. This film is centered on the premise of solving a mystery, what happened to these people and where is everyone else? The actors run around for an hour and a half trying to figure it out, because they are stupid. I had "the big secret" figured out, five minutes into the movie, and that's the problem. If you genuinely don't realize what's going on, and follow along with these two, you might really enjoy this film. If you're like me, however, you will see these two as dumb, and quickly get bored. Steven Strait and Karolina Wydra star and don't do a bad job, it's difficult to hold the audiences interest, when their are only two stars in the entire film, but they manage to do so admirably. Maybe I didn't like this movie as much as I should have or as much as others will, because I did have it all figured out early on. I didn't find the film to be bad, I just felt that it was very on the nose. The secret should have been revealed sooner and more of the film should have been dedicated to it's resolution, for those of us who did manage to figure it out.

Logan's Run (1976)

Starring: Michael York, Richard Jordan, & Jenny Agutter
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Science Fiction is inherently strange, and it seems like the further back you go, the stranger the movies are, perhaps none stranger than Logan's Run. This film is considered by many to be the one of the best science fiction films of all time, so I decide to watch it for the most recent classics review. My first impression, I've seen weird before, but Logan's Run goes way beyond that, to a point of incomprehensible. After a nuclear war, a group of citizens in what was once Washington D.C., live in a self-sustained domed city. Population control is a big problem, so the builders of the city have convinced the citizen's that at the age of 30, they must enter a device known as carrousel, which will decide if they should be renewed or eliminated, the only thing is, no one has ever been renewed. A group of citizens has figured this out and run from carrousel. They are hunted by a group of officers known as sandmen. Logan 5 (Michael York) is one these sandmen, who goes undercover to try to infiltrate the runners, As his time comes closer, Logan 5 realizes they're right and he joins them, hence the name Logan's Run. The premise here is ingenious and at first I thought I'd enjoy this film, but as it went on, the pace slowed, the quality deteriorated, and the story became ridiculous. For example, after exiting the cave, the worst looking robot I've ever seen, named Box, who looks like a child wearing a box, carries on for fifteen minutes about plankton from the sea, and at that point I almost turned it off. Michael York, better know from his Austin Powers fame, stars and is actually very good, (even though it is never explained why this British guy is in a D.C. city, surrounded by Americans). York was entertaining but the rest of the cast was not, in particular Jenny Agutter, who just complained and carried on the whole time. Farrah Fawcett also makes an appears in the film, in a role that amounts to little more than eye candy. In my opinion, she would have made a much more convincing Jessica. Logan's Run starts out as a terrific futuristic adventure and looks like it's going to earn every bit of acclaim it received, but as the film progresses, it just gets worse and worse to the point of being unwatchable.