07 5 / 2013
Normally, by a franchise’s third installment, the brand has either run out of steam or ideas, or the production company goes too mainstream in an effort to please the masses. Luckily for the “Iron Man” trilogy, this is in no way the case.
Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark and, let’s face it, this man makes this role and this movie the amazing feat it turned out to be.
Downey is even more snarky, sarcastic and quick witted than ever before, providing laughs in even the darkest scenes.
In addition to Stark’s emphasized personality is that of his increased flaws. Sure, this hero has killed his enemies without a blink and exposed his secret identity sooner than any other super hero, but the man does indeed have a more vulnerable, anxious side.
The chauvinistic hero has just come back from his battle in New York City against Loki and his alien army (“The Avengers”), and, unfortunately, that daunting assignment has left the otherwise cocky individual stricken with numerous panic attacks and sleepless nights.
This humanizing trait makes Stark all the more appealing and a much more interesting character than ever before.
In terms of the film’s main plot, Stark’s Iron Man must save the world from two terrorizing villains: Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) and The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley).
Pearce does a spectacular job, and has proven through this film and 2012’s “Lawless” that he knows how to play the creepiest bad guy ever (It’s meant as a compliment Guy, I promise)!
Even though many of the fight sequences are more absurd and unbelievable than the previous installments, the action is well paced, pretty to look at, and saying the computer graphics within this movie are amazing is an utter understatement.
02 4 / 2013
When the name Walt Disney is plastered above a movie title, one expects the highest quality in movies and top notch story telling.
Although the cast and creators put in valiant efforts, 2005’s animated children’s film about carrier pigeons in World War II is more forgettable than fun.
“Valiant,” produced by Vanguard Animation, follows the title character (voiced by Ewan McGregor) as he strives to be an aviation war hero, despite his scrawny size.
Movies in which the little guy triumphs in the end are always inspirational, but the plot has been the center of so many films that it has become redundant, even when acted out by adorable birds.
If “Valiant” had been more innovative and clever with the story line, which even included the overused boot camp sequence with a strict sergeant, it would have been more memorable and flown above the radar rather than below it.
Additionally, the kid’s movie flew by with few laughs. Any chuckles that did occur, however, came from British comedian Ricky Gervais, who voiced the slimy and overweight pigeon, Bugsy.
It boasts a sky-high voice cast of great comedic actors, yet “Valiant” is about as enjoyable as pigeon crap on a car windshield.
Other Voices Include:
Tim Curry as Von Talon
Hugh Laurie as Gutsy
John Cleese as Mercury
01 4 / 2013
Rule #1 in “Zombieland” - see “Zombieland.”
That may not be the exact rule instilled by human survivor Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), but it is a true statement about a great movie, nonetheless.
This 2009 zombie-comedy perfectly marries two genres: gory horror and laugh-out-loud schticks.
Like many other zombie-related pictures, this violent blood fest is set in a world overrun by zombies, in which an unknown patient zero began an outbreak of flesh-eating monsters with unstoppable appetites.
Few humans remain, but the ones who have survived have doen so either because they follow a strict set of rules, they are handy with guns and baseball bats alike, or they are cunning and street smart.
The story follows Columbus, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin), who have these life-saving qualities, respectively.
The chemistry between the main cast is wonderful, but the best, albeit most awkward, laughs come from the succinct and sweet dialogue from Eisenberg, who has perfected his craft as the nerdy underdog everyone roots for.
Clever zombie kills, pop-up fonts and even a cameo from Bill Murray infect the audience will laughs (and winces) throughout the entire production.
I have viewed this film multiple times, but I never seem to tire of it, for watching the undead has never seemed so lively as it is in “Zombieland!”
Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?
Jesse Eisenberg’s character, Columbus, tells the group that his favorite thing about Zombieland is that there is no Facebook. Funny, Eisenberg since you played Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in 2010’s “The Social Network.”
01 4 / 2013
Why does the wise Professor X reside in a wheel chair? Why is Magneto hell-bent on wiping out humans?
All these questions and plenty more are adressed and answered in 2011’s “X-Men First Class.”
This well-made film focuses on the story and the characters more so than the action, which makes the Marvel tale a more high-quality picture than some of its other super hero counterparts (I’m looking at you, “Green Lantern”).
The sci-fi flick begins in the 1940s and focuses on three adolescent characters: Charles Xavier, Raven and Erik Lehnsherr, or, as comic and movie lovers know them, Professor X, Mystique and Magneto, respectively.
It then jumps ahead to the 1960s, in which the characters have grown up, better honed their powers and have found others like them, with the assistance of the CIA.
The mutants are gathered to aid in the Cuban missile crisis, and also to battle the dastardly deeds of the energy-harnessing villain and former Nazi, Sebastian Shaw, played distractedly by Kevin Bacon.
This prequel is mystical fun because we all know who these characters are destined to become, but we don’t know how they came to be that particular way.
“First Class” clarifies many plot points and character traits found in the previous “X-Men” films.
Speaking of the X-Men franchise, even Rebecca Romijn and Hugh Jackman, who played Mystique and Wolverine, respectively, in the 2000 film, make small appearance.
The movie’s greatest performance, however, came from the incredibly badass and sexy Michael Fassbender, as he twisted both metal and logic in his take on Magneto.
The character is explained in detail, as the audience witnesses his troubled childhood that ultimately fuels his lust for vengeance, death and power. It is a gripping storyline that could have had its own movie centered around it.
James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence escape in their roles as well, as Xavier and Mystique, respectively.
Other supporting super heros include Zoe Kravitz as Angel, Nicholas Holt as Beast, Caleb Landry Jones as Banshee, Edi Gathegi as Darwin and Lucas Till as Havoc.
Yes, the cast is vast and their talents varied, but it is not overwhelming and the viewer still has a chance to emotionally connect with the characters and enjoy the conflicts at hand.
Though I enjoyed 2000’s “X-Men” more than this remodel, it is an enjoyable super hero flick worthy of the praise it has received.
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto
Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw
January Jones as Emma Frost
24 3 / 2013
Physical gags and outlandish premises filled the previews for 2013’s “Identity Thief,” giving cinephiles, such as myself, low hopes for this seemingly basic and forgettable comedy.
Perhaps it was the low expectations, but this road trip movie, reminiscent of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” or “Due Date,” packs in gut-busting laughs and a tender ending few thought the film was capable of.
“Identity Thief” stars Jason Bateman as Sandy Patterson, an average man who gets no respect at work despite his efforts and loyalties. Honestly, the character greatly resembles his persona from 2011’s “Horrible Bosses.” And this makes plenty of sense, since Seth Gordon directed both pictures.
Bateman is paired with the always uninhibited Melissa McCarthy, whose con-woman character steals Sandy’s identity and embarks on a spending spree full of booze, haircuts and cars. McCarthy’s character is repulsive at first, but luckily, for the audience, she transforms and demonstrates likable qualities that allow viewers to root for her in the end after her and Sandy form an unlikely friendship.
The movie is fun, and not only because of the insane antics the protagonists get themselves into, but also because of the miniature ”Bridesmaids” reunion that it hosts.
Ellie Kemper, who played Becca in the 2011 comedy with McCarthy, acts in “Identity Thief” as a waitress. Also, McCarthy’s real-life husband, Ben Falcone, who played Air Marshall Jon in “Bridesmaids,” supports as Tony, the motel desk clerk, in February’s flick.
It cannot be credited as the best comedy of the year, but “Identity Thief” steals many laughs and tender moments that ultimately make it worth viewing.
14 12 / 2012
Shot primarily through hand-held devices and police car cameras, 2012’s “End of Watch” provides a first-person point of view of two vigorous LAPD officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena).
Youthful Taylor and Zavala are more than just police partners working a tough beat in Los Angeles; they are best friends, practically brothers, who may joke around constantly, but they will still take a bullet for one another.
After a few seemingly random stops and assignments, the duo stumble upon increasingly grotesque and serious crimes, escalating from child endangerment and human trafficking to mass murders and drug cartels.
The reason the “cinematography” consisted of hand held cameras and lenses attached to the officers’ uniforms is the story line that Gyllenhaal’s character is documenting his police duties for a film class he is enrolled in.
This strategy made the film appear more realistic, and some shots even mirrored that of an action packed video game!
Jaw-dropping surprises are increasingly rare in modern day cinema, yet such unbelievable moments and twists are abundant throughout the evenly-paced film.
The violence is graphic and the language is foul, but this gritty sleeper sustains one shocking moment after another, keeping the viewer intensely interested and gasping from the heart-pounding sequence of events.
You Are in This Movie Too?
Anna Kendrick as Janet
America Ferrera as Orozco
12 12 / 2012
movie-hook asked: This isn't actually a question, but I found your blog the other day, and read a couple reviews. I agree with a lot of your observations & enjoy your writing. Just wanted to send some kind words, hope you don't stop writing.
Thank you for the kind words - this comment really brightened my day :)
11 12 / 2012
Although the 2012 action movie “Flight” begins with a frightfully realistic plane crash, and boasts Denzel Washington in front of the camera and Robert Zemeckis in the director’s chair, the film crash lands in more ways than one, and remains as merely a fleeting flick in my cinematic memory bank.
Clocking in at an unnecessarily long 2 hours and 18 minutes, “Flight” glides on a plot focused on Washington’s Captain Whip Whitaker, an airplane pilot who miraculously lands a malfunctioned craft, yet runs into trouble when it is publicly discovered that he was not only drunk while flying the plane, but had cocaine in his system as well.
And so begins the struggle of Whitaker, and also begins the dislike ability of the flawed man.
In great films, a damaged leading man or woman may come with his or her faults, but along the way the audience is introduced to endearing characteristics that make the viewers root for the protagonist’s betterment and evolution.
Unfortunately, the alcoholic Whitaker provides little to no redeemable qualities, making Washington’s character nearly impossible to root for.
Though technically well made and admirably acted, “Flight’s” extensive running time and odious main character make it one tailspin of a tale.
11 12 / 2012
1994’s “The Lion King” may have perfected the circle of life, but 2012’s “Looper” perfected the loop.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues his rule of the king of 2012’s cinema as young Joe, a hit man living in 2044, who murders men sent from 2074, a year when time travel has been invented, but illegalized.
The mob sends the men back to 2044, where Joe and other loopers kill the individuals and dispose of their arguably inexistent bodies.
The plot thickens for Joe, however, when he must close his personal loop, and arrives face to face with his own face. In other words, Joe’s latest target is himself, from the future.
This futuristic thriller may be advertised as a time traveling Sci-Fi flick, and while it is very much based in science fiction, its plot, and even its characters, do not focus on the time traveling aspect of the film.
Instead, “Looper” explored themes such as fate and consequences, and actually takes a very interesting turn, involving prophecies and telekinesis, two features untouched in the trailers.
The pulse-pounder also experiments with makeup and effects, in which Gordon-Levitt plays a young Bruce Willis.
This is at first distracting, but the talented young star entertainingly and fairly accurately embodies Willis’s saunter, and Gordon-Levitt even vocalizes the seasoned actor’s tendency to quickly inhale before uttering a tight-lipped line.
“Looper” is an edge-of-the-seat type of ride, demonstrating palpable performances by Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon.
11 12 / 2012
One may be surprised that a campy, independent comedy made in 1999 is actually a fabulous example of an ironical and observational examination on sexual orientation – oh, and Eddie Cibrian rocks some short shorts too.
“But I’m a Cheerleader” exaggerates gender roles and how society has defined what men and women are meant to do throughout the centuries, all within a hyperbolized environment centered on a small camp in suburban America where homosexual teens are sent to be “fixed.”
The newest camp member at True Directions is good-girl and cheerleader Megan, played by a doe-eyed Natasha Lyonne.
Megan’s friends and family suspect she may be a lesbian, and drop her off at the rehabilitation camp where the girls and boys are plastered in respective pinks and blues, and the only thing the campers wear more obviously on their sleeves are lies and suppression, prompted by their leader, Mary Brown, played to perfection by Cathy Moriarty.
The campy style is correctly used in this flick, in which the serious topic of sexual orientation and the concept of being queer are played out with humor and over-the-top visual cues.
It may be a tough one to track down, but “But I’m a Cheerleader” has enough pom poms, pleasure and playful promiscuity to entertain any moviegoer for 1 hour and 25 minutes.
Isn’t It Ironic, Don’t Ya Think?
Cathy Moriarty plays Mary Brown, the coordinator at True Directions, who “teaches” the young men and women how to be straight in 5 easy steps. However, it may be funny to note that Moriarty played a more gender-bending role in 1991’s “Soapdish,” where her character, Montana Moorehead, turns out to be a transgender individual.
True Direction’s male role model is a character named Mike, who is portrayed by none other than RuPaul, arguably the most famous drag queen of all time!
11 12 / 2012
Although the Fox show “Glee” has fallen from glee club grace, the storyline of musical teens and individual expression is not completely tone deaf, as evidenced by 2012’s “Pitch Perfect.”
This female ensemble comedy does exercise a typical formula, which is somewhat ironic since the toe-tapping taping preaches uniqueness and overcoming normality. However, its fresh beats and funny one-liners (supplied primarily by Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy) make this musical too darn fun to pass up.
The audience follows loner DJ-wannabe Beca, played by a tattooed Anna Kendrick, as she unwillingly enrolls at Barden University, and further hesitantly joins the Barden Bellas, an all female a capella group.
The group’s pristine and conservative leader rebukes Beca’s rebellious suggestions, Beca falls for fellow a cappella boy but she is too independent to let him in, everyone comes together at the end and lives happily ever after. I told you: predictable.
Another short coming of the otherwise enjoyable film is the fact that Beca and her love interest Jesse, played by Dane Cook and Zachary Levi’s love child Skylar Astin, have such a painfully formulaic relationship, it left me shaking my head with disappointment.
In between hilarious scenes and unbelievably catchy mash-ups, the two characters, who will obviously be together in the end, participate in such tired, artificial arguments and confrontations that are basic to the story’s structure, but redundant and unnecessary to any viewer in the theater.
After leaving the screening, however, I did not focus on the film’s faults, but on the hilarious individuals gracefully clumped together in the ensemble cast, the pure love given to John Hughes and “The Breakfast Club” throughout the film and the great musical creations energetically performed by the leading ladies.
Surprising Favorite Character
One of the Bellas, Lilly, played by Hana Mae Lee, may have been an inaudible mumbler, but when the camera zoomed in and the audience barely discerned what she was saying, it was discovered that this possibly homicidal pyromaniac was terrifyingly hilarious!
02 12 / 2012
The one, two-step may not be as powerful in “Happy Feet Two” as it was in the original 2006 “Happy Feet,” but this 2011 sequel still grooves its way into the heart.
This Antarctic adventure picks up soon after the last one left off, but now, Mumble, voiced by Elijah Wood, has a son of his own who is teased for not picking up dance steps as easily as his old man.
Unlike the first film, however, “Happy Feet Two” does not truly center on a young penguin finding his way; it instead scatters around like a wind-blown snowflake, picking up on various characters’ plot lines, but somewhat settling on a plot about how a shifting ice burg has trapped the emperor penguin population.
The music and stunning visuals of the tundra and its inhabitants are as spectacular and breathtaking as the first picture, and singer P!nk’s voice actually gave me goose bumps, but it is not as powerful or even as memorable as other animated features.
Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as krill Will and Bill, respectively. I would have watched an entire movie just on these two pint-sized rebels.
Quote Deja Vu
Will the Krill, voiced by Pitt, exclaims, “Adapt or die,” an exact same line uttered by Pitt’s character BIlly Beane in “Moneyball,” a film that also came out in 2011!
02 12 / 2012
2008’s “Doubt” was certain to be a critical success with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman at the helm. The two beloved and respected actors always take any production to the next level, and this religious drama is no exception.
Streep stars as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, a principal at a Catholic school in Bronx, New York in 1964. Just imagine Streep’s icy character Miranda Priestly from 2006’s “Devil Wears Prada” left the fashion world, and has traded in her Prada Couture for a habit and rosary beads.
Sister Beauvier embodies the typical persona associated with Catholic nuns; she is as cold as the winter winds and she detests nearly everything, including ballpoint pens and the pagan messages of Frosty the Snowman.
The Sister’s old school and restrictive, conservative ways are challenged by the arrival of Father Brendan Flynn, played by Hoffman.
Father Flynn wishes to bring more secular traditions to the school, and believes in depicting the straight-laced campus as a more warm and loving environment, perhaps too loving, according to Sister Beauvier.
It is assumed that from their first encounter, Sister Beauvier believed something was off with the touchy Father Flynn, making “Doubt” a surprising conspiracy theory tale, in which no questions are truly answered, even by the film’s conclusion.
This uncertain conveyance of information is what makes “Doubt” the convent equivalent of 1974’s “The Conversation.”
Not to overwhelm you with too many other movie titles, but it must be mentioned that “Doubt” also resembles that of 1995’s “Dead Man Walking,” starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. Not only do both pictures feature nuns, but both productions also allow two viewers to see the movie in two separate ways and leave with varying conclusions.
In “Doubt,” one moviegoer may believe Father Flynn is innocent the entire time, whereas the other may be wrought with doubt about what really happened in that rectory.
This sleeper film incorporates a beautifully circular storyline, in which the movie’s introductory scenes perfectly align and intertwine with the concluding setting, as Sister Beauvier and Sister James, played by “Julie and Julia’s” Amy Adams, sit on the snow covered bench.
The performances by the cast are expectedly extraordinary, and the film’s captivating storytelling will leave you praying for more.
02 12 / 2012
You really have to reevaluate the entire world order when three hardcore stoners defeat two local drug gangs and emerge from the clouds of smoke as heroes.
Such an unbelievable, yet laugh-out-loud situation, is the plot for David Gordon Green’s 2008 comedy “Pineapple Express,” in which 25-year-old slacker Dale Denton, played by Seth Rogen, witnesses a murder while on his way to subpoena Ted Jones, played by Gary Cole.
In a fit of panic, Dale drives to his drug dealer Saul Silver’s apartment for help. Saul is well played (a little too well played) by the longhaired, but simply irresistible, James Franco. High-as-a-kite mayhem and bloodshed proceed, as Dale and Saul work together to stay alive.
The best thing about this movie and its two main stars is the fact that it is basically a “Freaks and Geeks” reunion, in which Rogen and Franco are playing Ken Miller and Daniel Desario all grown up; still smoking and still getting into trouble after all of these years.
I was originally afraid that if I wasn’t riding any pineapple express of my own, this stoner comedy would not be funny, but dumb instead. However, I was gladly mistaken, because Franco, Rogen and many funny members of the supporting cast kept the ridiculous laughs coming as the story escalates higher and higher, until a final shoot-out and explosion rattle the film’s climax.
Favorite Minor Characters:
Bill Hader as Private Miller
Craig Robinson as Matheson
Danny McBride as Red
Ed Bagley Jr. as Robert
Saul: “The monkey’s out of the bottle now!”
Saul: “Aw, man. Talk radio? … So boring, man! The car just committed suicide.”
Saul, when talking about the pineapple express: “It’s almost a shame to smoke it. It’s like killing a unicorn … with, like a bomb.”
Private Miller after smoking “item nine”: “Ah, well, sir, I feel like a slice of butter, melting on top of a big-ol’ pile of flapjacks … yeah.”
Favorite New Fact:
Shaving your armpits makes you more aerodynamic when fighting.