Eagan at the Movies

Reviewing movies because we care.

Her

 Image: Yet another man fantasizes about Scarlett Johansson's voice.


Hey, how come my phone doesn't have the voice of Scarlett Johansson? While we're at it, my computer could sound like Emma Stone, my tablet with the voice of Sofia Vergara, and my X BOX 360 could speak with the voice of Jennifer Lawrence. But....Then I would never leave the house, let alone meet my true love....Jennifer Lawrence.

Such is the dilemma of the main character in "Her". Joaquin Phoenix stars as a lonely, soon to be divorced man in the near future, who develops a very personal relationship with a talking operating system (Or, "O.S") with Artificial Intelligence, who sounds amazingly like Scarlett Johannson.

She gives herself the name "Samantha", and the relationship develops into a kind of romantic one, (Though, 'sniff', she can NEVER HAVE CHILDREN!) This odd couple finds that love is a pain in the ass for all of us, though through it he grows in ways he never thought posible. And she discovers that she was created in Taiwan by child slave labor.

It may sound silly, yet "Her" is sweet, touching, and strangely heartbreaking. It's a quirky, romantic film that mixes it's humor and drama expertly. Despite the Human/Technology aspect, "Her" focuses on the characters very human emotions, and makes "Samantha" extremely sympathetic. And very lovable.

I had never seen Joaquin Phoenix in anything, but he is as good as advertised (Maybe an "Eagan Oscar" contender? Hey! I'm building hype! Stay tuned). The wonderful and adorable Amy Adams (As Phoenix's close friend) is wonderful and adorable, and Scarlett Johansson is absolutely perfect (Yes, it's acting!). Her's is the most important role, and she gives her "Character" warmth and depth. "Her" wouldn't work as well without her (I may fix what the Academy Awards won't).

"Her" gives possibly the best description of the reality of how emotional, and frustrating, and uplifting love is supposed to be (Not that I would know). But it did tug at my heartstrings. Because I do have a heart....That just needs be loved. I need a hug from my X BOX. 4 Stars. Rated R for Strong Language, Adult Conversations, and Technological Naughtiness.

Lone Survivor 

 Image: 4 Bad-Ass Americans.


Thank God "Lone Survivor" is a very good film. (I mean, it was directed by the same guy who did "Battleship"). And the heroic American Soldiers whom this film is based on deserved nothing less .

"Lone Survivor" is based on the harrowing true story of a group of U.S. Navy Seals (Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Taylor Kitsch and Emile Hirsch) fighting in Afghanistan. Their mission to go after a Taliban leader goes horribly wrong when they run into Afghan civilians (Who may or may not be sympathetic to the Taliban).

After making the decision to let the civilians go, their worst fears are realized when the civilians reveal their location, and the terrorists unleash Hell on them. The only surviving Navy Seal must then depend on a group of Afghan villagers who risk their own lives to save him.

I know I gave away the important part, but, the film IS called "Lone Survivor". And you know what? Shame on any of us if we don't know the sacrifice our soldiers have made, no matter what our world philosophy is. The film does these guys justice, not only by telling their story, but by being a quality action film. Director Peter Berg has certainly redeemed himself from that awful board game movie. 

"Lone Survivor" is terrifying, as we wait for the inevitable outcome of these soldiers who you admire for their courage and camaraderie (Though I had hoped for some more character setup). The setting and action sequences are dizzying but well filmed, and about as close to the real thing as I guess you could get.

The performances is impressive. Mark Wahlberg is terrific, as is Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch, and, (Surprisingly) Taylor "John Carter/Battleship" Kitsch. Their chemistry is befitting of 4 guys who are willing to lay down their lives for each other.

If you can handle the tension and violence, "Lone Survivor" is both patriotic and thought provoking. Maybe we need more reminders from time to time. Again, thank God I didn't have to give this a bad review. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Realistic War Violence.
 

The Wolf of Wall Street

 Image: "ME MONEY!!!"


Wait, are you saying "The Wolf of Wall Street" ISN'T NC-17? Look, I haven't exactly lived the sheltered life, but what DIDN'T they put in this film? Chock full of the most despicable actions you may ever find on screen, full of Sex, Debauchery, Language, Drugs, Orgies (Gay and Straight- Don't tell the Duck Dynasty guy), and pretty much every excessive behavior you can think of.

And I loved every minute of it. (But Mom, I promise I don't condone it). "The Wolf of Wall Street" is based on the true story of a Wall Street Stockbroker (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is told by his boss (Matthew McConaughey) that the only way to succeed is to give into every excess imaginable, and to live the "Good" life, with no consequences possible.

So DiCaprio says, "Sounds good to me!" and embarks on a hedonistic and illegal lifestyle, involving his new friend (Jonah "Check out those Teeth!" Hill), and builds an empire. He leaves his wife for a new one (Margot Robbie), but begins a downward spiral as FBI Agent (Kyle Chandler) closes in on him. 

This film is as excessive as it's critics have said, but "The Wolf of Wall Street" isn't trying to glorify it's characters behavior (If you can't figure that out after watching it, you've got bigger problems). "Wolf" shows the inevitable conclusion to such behavior. Legendary Director Martin Scorsese just tells the tale from the protagonists perspective, and he thought he was having a Hell of a time!

The performances are all superb, with Leo DiCaprio giving possibly his best performance (And a guaranteed "Eagan Oscar" nomination). Jonah Hill is an absolute riot, as is the entire film (Maybe the funniest film of the year). Martin Scorsese pulls off yet another amazing feat, filming and telling this insane story exactly the right way (Don't listen to the naysayers, Marty!). "Wolf" HAS to be comically excessive, in order to show how absurdly far some people can go. DiCaprio's character never justifies his behavior. He just embraces it.

The smart dialogue and script never fails, though I understand why "The Wolf of Wall Street" isn't for everyone (Though I don't get the "Hatred" by some viewers, at all.) "Wolf" is a classic, one of the best films of the year. I thought I had seen it all. After "The Wolf of Wall Street", now I really have. 4 Stars. Rated R for Anything and Everything.

47 Ronin

 Image: I must destroy the Ninja Turtles!


There goes $200 Million down the crapper.

Seriously! "47 Ronin" cost $200 MILLION! How do you say "Flop" in Japenese?

"Ronin" stars Keanu "I AM AN FBI AGENT!" Reeves, as a "Half Human/Half Demon", or something, who is rescued and brought into a Japanese family. He is raised by the family, despite being considered an outcast (Much like Hollywood) by the rest of the community. 

He falls for a cute Japanese girl, and is living the sweet life, until an evil Warlord (Tadanobu Asano) and his sexy, sorceress friend (Rinko Kikuchi) brainwash the head of Reeve's family, and disgrace him into committing Harry Caray (And Jim Carrey!)

Keanu is then sold into Slavery, where a year later a disgraced Samurai/Ronin (Hiroyuki Sanada) enlists him to join his merry group of Ronin's to take their revenge on the Warlord, and stop the Warlord from marrying Keanu's girlfriend.

Does that sound like it's worth $200 Million? "47 Ronin" is a clunky mess, with choppy editing that makes you feel like the film had been delayed for over 2 years (Which it was). Which is a shame, because what could have been an interesting story instead becomes an uninteresting story with a script and characters that are surprisingly bland.

Now I see what some people complain about with Keanu Revees (Though my Dad swears he's actually been pretty good at times- "Speed", though not at others- "Point Break"). In "Ronin" he lacks any screen presence (Like pretty much every one here), though at least Rinko Kikuchi looks like she's having some fun. But fun is sorely lacking for the most part.

The visuals are generally nice, and the scenery is beautiful, but "47 Ronin" is otherwise pure boredom from start to finish. The film meanders on and on, until I'm ready to commit Jim Carrey myself. (Or whatever). Boring acting, boring story, and boring characters make Jamesie a dull boy. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Samurai Violence and and Stuff.

Grudge Match

 Image: Stallone and De Niro sure have a lot of balls.


Have you ever watched something that you, uh, you know, it's right in front of you, and, uh, your'e watching it and stuff, but you don't really notice it? Ok, how about this. You're there, right? But what you see in front of you just isn't registering with you, like it's just part of the background? No?

Ok, screw it. "Grudge Match" stars Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone as former Boxing rivals who were destined for a title fight that never happened. So, 30 years later, an opportunistic promoter (Kevin Hart) hires them for a video game shoot that leads to senior citizen violence.

So the promoter decides that the public would pay for the boxing match that hadn't happened before. Stallone gets his old trainer back (The ever awesome Alan Arkin), runs into his old, but not old looking girlfriend (Kim Basinger), De Niro meets his long lost son (Jon Bernthal), scores are settled, lessons are learned...And I hardly remember any of it.

I wasn't drunk or anything (I swear!). "Grudge Match" is just one of those instantly forgettable films, despite it's classic cast. And that's the biggest problem. With this cast, you would expect it to be, uh, remember-able, let alone memorable. Instead, despite some humorous moments, the movie rambles on to an inevitable conclusion.

And then...It just ends. "Grudge Match" literally just stops in it's tracks, as if it's asking it's viewers to settle for mediocrity. I wanted to like the film as much as I like the actors in it, but instead I had to remind myself that I had actually paid the ticket for and watched this movie. And I would much rather write a review of a film that truly blows, then something that was, you know....Eh? 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Senior Language and Senior Moments.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 Image: The Secret Life of James Eagan. (I don't think you could handle it.)


We all have escaped to our own dream world, haven't we? I have imagined myself, with my wife, Jennifer Lawrence, fighting Orks in Middle Earth that look like Adam Sandler, while giant Tyler Perry-like Dragons tell me I'll get Aids if I don't find Jesus. But then, inevitably we get pulled back into reality, stuck in your dull, boring Jennifer Lawrence-less existence. We've all been there.

For all of us dreamers, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" really strikes a chord. "Mitty" stars Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty, a middle age (42. Like my middle-aged Father. Keep dreamin', Dad!) employee at LIFE magazine, who zones out of his job by day dreaming about all of the exciting adventures he has never been able to accomplish.

When LIFE magazine is about to shut down and become an online publication, and Walter's new boss (Adam Scott) begins downsizing, Walter receives some negatives (That's photos for those who spend 24/7 online) from a famed photo-journalist (Sean Penn), who has an idea for the final magazine cover. But when the picture goes missing, Walter, with some assistance from the pretty girl he's been pining for (Kristen Wiig), sets off on the adventure he's been dreaming of his entire life.

"Walter Mitty" is a simple story, which is a both a positive and a negative. The film is a bit more style over substance (Walter dreams of adventure, loses picture, goes on adventure, finds picture, gets girl, the end), but the film's simplicity is so beautifully and originally filmed that it gets by on it's charm and likability. "Mitty's" cinematography is stunning, with breathtaking visuals that really enhance Walter's adventures.

This may be Ben Stiller's best performance, playing the straight man to the more hilarious Patton Oswalt (As a VERY enthusiastic "E-Harmony" associate), and smarmy but funny Adam Scott. Sean Penn adds a nice touch in an extended cameo, Shirley MacLaine is wonderful as Stiller's Mother, and Kristen Wiig (Who I swear gets prettier every time I see her) surprises with how good an actress she has become.

The tone of "Mitty" is a tad uneven (Maybe because, as funny as some of the daydreams are, some are too short and unnecessary), but the film succeeds when it focuses on it's adventures. The film makes me want to experience some of the places Walter went (Iceland and Greenland, in particular, look amazing), and it's message of living your dreams is spot on.

"Walter Mitty" is a good family film, and a pure crowd pleaser. In fact, I'm off to my next grand adventure. To see and review Keanu Reeves in "47 Ronin".... Hey, it's my adventure, not yours. 3 Stars. Rated PG for Some Harmless Language.
 

Saving Mr. Banks

 Image: Walt Disney proposes to Emma Thompson.


So "Saving Mr. Banks" may not be completely accurate. But, unless your a Grinch, does it really bother you? Where's your sense of wonder? So maybe the plane didn't really get chased by angry Iranians at the end of "Argo"? So, according to some, maybe "Captain Phillips was a real a$$hole?". Maybe "The Butler" DID do it? And, who knows? Maybe Walt Disney didn't like them Jews? (Would you REALLY want to see THAT movie?)

But unless we know for sure, just enjoy the Disney we all love. "Saving Mr. Banks" tells the story about the Author of "Mary Poppins" (Emma Thompson), and her struggles to let go of the rights to her beloved story to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks.)

The book was incredibly personal to her, as the film tells in flashbacks of her relationship with her alcoholic, but very loving Father (Colin Farrell). So Disney had to beg, plead, cajole and seduce....No, No. Not seduce (THAT would have been a movie!) Anyway, he finally gets her consent (Spoiler alert), and, thus, one of Disney's most beloved movies is born.

A Disney film about a Disney film is bound to be sentimental, but "Saving Mr. Banks" is nevertheless touching and heartfelt, full of all of the no-fail Disney heart and charm. (No one can resist that.) It is also wonderfully acted, and, at times, very funny and always entertaining.

Emma Thompson is bound by British law to be excellent, and she may be "Eagan Oscar" worthy here. Tom Hanks is bound by American law to be excellent, and now he may be up for 2 "Eagan Oscars" (Look for the "Eagan Oscar" nominations in mid to late January!) The supporting cast is, well, excellent too, including Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, B.J Novak, Bradley Whitford, and, especially Colin Farrell.

Again, if the only crime is too much sentimentality, well then I'm a guilty, sentimental Bastard. "Saving Mr. Banks" is a wonderful film, done only as Disney can. If they do decide to make the "Walt Disney Was a Anti-Semite" film, maybe we should all pass. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for A Few Depressing Moments.

American Hustle

 Image: "So, James Eagan. You think you're man enough for Amy Adams?"


The 70's were, uh, something else. The clothes. The hair. The music. I wasn't around for it, of course, but my Dad says it was pretty groovy (The fact that he grew up in the 70's says everything.)

But "American Hustle" sure makes it look entertaining. Sort of loosely inspired by true events (Possibly), "Hustle" stars Christian Bale as a bloated, balding con artist, who has fallen in love with his gorgeous assistant (Amy Adams. And I mean GORGEOUS!)

When they are caught by an overly ambitious FBI Agent (Bradley Cooper), the Agent tells them he will let them off the hook, as long as they help him con some corrupt politicians, one of them being the beloved Mayor of Atlantic City (Jeremy Renner). The con becomes bigger and more elaborate as it goes, and more dangerous, especially since Bale's unstable , but gorgeous young Wife (Jennifer Lawrence. And I mean GORGEOUS!) could blow the whole scheme at any time.

"American Hustle" is straight up one of the most entertaining films of the year. Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) continues to make smart, character (And actor) driven films, and his top notch cast couldn't play it better. The script is witty and intriguing, and the, uh, interesting 70's style looks and sounds perfectly authentic.

Christian Bale is superb in everything, and "Hustle" may be his most challenging role. Bradley Cooper (Playing perhaps the most unsympathetic character) is terrific, Jeremy Renner and his hair may be Oscar worthy, and we even get a great cameo from an Oscar winning Actor.

Now, for the Actresses....Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence.... Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams....Both stunning....And sexy.... But that's beside the point! They are the best part of an exceptional movie, and, as usual, Oscar worthy as well.

Though the plot is convoluted, it's supposed to be, and I never felt lost in the madness. The complexity never takes away from the fun, and the cast makes "American Hustle" a groovy blast throughout. So turn on the Disco music and shake your groove thing. I know I did. Until management threatened to throw me out. 4 Stars. Rated R for 1970's Adult Language and 1970's Adult Situations.

Walking With Dinosaurs

 Image: That bird sure is making that Dino-SORE! (Crap, that's all I got)


"Walking With Dinosaurs" was originally a famous BBC (That's British TV, Y'all) mini-series, which was educational, clever, and all kinds of awesome. "Walking With Dinosaurs", the new 20th Century Fox film, was supposed to be a film of the same sort, told through the prism of beautiful visuals, lush music, and incredible CGI Dinosaurs. The kind of smart, animated film I've ben waiting for....And then the Dinosaurs had to start talking.

The film begins with a live-action Paleontologist (Karl Urban), who takes his niece and nephew on an expedition. The nephew is a little snot-nosed twerp who isn't interested in any of it. That is, until he meets a talking bird (Voiced by John Leguizamo), who tells him the story of a young Dinosaur (Voiced by Justin Long), who lived millions (Or thousands, depending on who's reading this) of years ago.

The young Dinosaur had to to learn to stand up to his older brother (Voiced by Skyler Stone), who is a kind of a "Jock" Dinosaur, falls in love with a young female (Voiced by Tiya Sicar), and learns to be a leader. And, before his extinction, must do battle with ferocious meat-eaters, and awful, awful dialogue. 

And that is the one and only massive flaw with "Walking With Dinosaurs". The Dinosaurs just won't stop talking! With the exception of John Leguizamo (Who at least has some funny lines), the Dino dialogue is completely unnecessary, and dang near ruins what could have been a very interesting film. Like the original mini-series, the movie looks stunning, with beautiful and detailed visuals, soaring music, and impressive cinematography.

But adding silly, childish dialogue and voice-overs does nothing but dumb down "Dinosaurs". The kiddie and juvenile humor derails what could have been an educational, fun experience for children (To be fair, the film does make attempts at educational value.) As a smart, educated young man, this is not the "Walking With Dinosaurs" I was looking for.

If 20th Century Fox can release a version of "Walking With Dinosaurs" without the silly voices and dialogue, then they would would have a winner on their hands. But you HAD to dumb it down for the kiddies, didn't you? And they will probably demand better, anyway. 2 Stars. Rated PG for Dino-Poop Jokes Galore.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

 Image: "Hey...I'm gonna' eat them hairy feet."


So, as I said before about "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". Yeah, the story was stretched out to fit into three movies. And it helps to be a "Hobbit" fan to get through it (And even some of them still complained.) But I knew it all would build up to something amazing. 

The story continues with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug". "Bilbo" (Martin Freeman), "Gandolf" (Sir Ian McKellen), "Thorin" (Richard Armatage), and the rest of the Dwarfs are still on the run from "Azog" (Manu Bennett), who still hasn't forgiven Thorin for chopping off his arm (He had it coming.)

During their adventures, they run into a man who can change into a Bear (Mikael Persbrandt), giant, man-eating Spiders, and the "Elvenking" (Lee Pace) (The Elves and the Dwarfs still aren't exactly buddies.) When they meet "Bard the Bowman", he sneaks them into "Lake-town", while avoiding the town's master (Stephen Fry). All of this is in order to reclaim their homeland from the terrifying Dragon, "Smaug" (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Meanwhile, Gandolf goes off in search of the "Necromancer" (Also, Benedict Cumberbatch), a mysterious sorcerer, and Gandolf uncovers something even more hideous. All of this, naturally, leads to a epic cliffhanger that will make the audience go "Awww!", followed by, "Hell Yeah! I can't wait for the next one!"

"The Desolation of Smaug" is the embodiment of entertainment from start to finish. The plot is relentless (In a good way), keeping up the breathless pace with non-stop action and adventure. Director Peter Jackson is such Hobbit nerd who absolutely loves the story he is telling.

The characters are as memorable as ever, with the extremely lovely Evangeline Lilly (As a bad-ass Elf) as a very welcome addition. Even her love triangle with Legolas (Orlando Bloom, nice to have him back), and "Kili" (Aidan Turner) is surprisingly acceptable.

"The Hobbit 2" has it's usual incredible CGI, and no where is it more impressive than Smaug himself, who is the greatest , on-screen Dragon I have ever seen. The perfectly cast Benedict Cumberbatch (And his indescribably magnificent voice) nails the motion-capture performance, bringing the right mix of menace and charm. In fact, all of the performances are superb (Martin Freeman may repeat as an "Eagan Oscar Nominee").

Being the middle chapter of the trilogy, "The Hobbit 2" isn't a "Casual Viewing" film (You really need to see the first film), and it may be hard to keep up with all of the goings on and characters. But for a fan like me, it's a perfect way to spend three hours. And who doesn't have three hours to spend at the movies? If you can't, you should consider becoming a film critic. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Fantasy Violence and Some Bad Hobbits That Are Hard To Break.

Out of the Furnace

 Image: "So, I take it this ISN'T a comedy?"
 
"Out of the Furnace" seems to be the kind of film that is just too heavy, too depressing, to raw, too down....Just too dang bleak for most audiences. But is it really necessary to walk out of a theater uplifted? Quality makes me happy. Even if no one in the movie ends up happy.
 
Christian Bale stars as "Russell", a nice guy with a sick Dad and a beautiful girlfriend (Zoe Saldana), living in an economically depressed area. He has a close relationship with his Iraq-War veteran brother (Casey Affleck), but a car accident lands Russell in jail, and his families life begins to spiral out of control. When he is released, his Dad has died, his girlfriend has left him for Forest Whitaker (No offense, but, Ouch!), and his brother has been working with a small time gambler (Willem Dafoe), who hooks him up in the world of illegal fighting.
 
Unfortunately, this "Underworld" is run by a complete psycho (Woody Harrelson), where things take a turn for the (Even) worse. So when the Police prove powerless to help, Russell decides to risk everything to try to save his brother. Sounds uplifting for the holidays, right?
 
"Out of the Furnace" is even heavier than I've let on. The mood never lets up, and there is very little humor, but I don't wan't to discourage you from missing out on a captivating tale, with phenomenal performances, and stunning cinematography. Director Scott Cooper keeps the complicated story quite simple for the viewer, and makes you feel like your'e part of the gloomy proceedings.
 
Christian Bale is one of the best actors around, and he is fearless in his acting choices. He and Casey Affleck are wonderful and believable together. They are matched by the totally insane (And Scary) performance by Woody Harrelson (Who seemingly can play any role). Willem Dafoe and Sam Shepard (As the Brother's Uncle) are great as always, though Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker (Though very good) have underwritten characters. The doom and gloom is what it is. "Out of the Furnace" tells the slow-paced story the only way it can. Like a punch to the gut. And we can all handle a punch to the gut. Or can we? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Very Strong Language and Depression With a Capital D.

Oldboy

 Image: Stop! Hammer Time!

What a true test of my prowess as a film critic. I have NO idea what "Oldboy" is. I guess it was an Manga graphic novel, made into a South Korean film, and, now, is a Spike Lee "Joint" (It's the only "Joint" I'll ever try. I'm a good boy.) So I hadn't a clue what to expect.

And after seeing it, I still have no clue. "Oldboy" stars Josh Brolin as, well, a complete and utter Jackass. He works as an ad executive, who treats everyone like crap (Particularly women). One day, he is abducted and locked up in a hotel room, where he is held for 20 years by Samuel L. "Mother F@#$ing" Jackson. They leave him a TV, where he sees a news story that his wife was brutally murdered, and that his daughter was given to a foster home. Mysteriously, he is eventually released, with a cell phone and a little money. It's all part of an elaborate game, by some wacko (Sharlto Copley) with a personal vendetta. He finds a young women (Elizabeth Olsen), who helps him discover who ruined his life and why, find his daughter, and have his revenge. And, boy is revenge bloody.

"Oldboy" is flat out weird, and very difficult to watch. It's brutally graphic (In every way. Josh Brolin's ass is permanently scarred on my horrified brain), with such disturbing themes, that I feel for the twisted son of a bitch who thought this stuff up. Having said that, Director Spike Lee makes it interesting, and kind of engrossing. His style is grainy and gritty, and the story keeps me engrossed enough to get me passed some of the messed up sh** I was watching. (Though it's kind of funny that every character barely ages throughout the 20 years.) J

osh Brolin (Who I have discovered is always really good), is excellent, and Elizabeth Olsen is pretty cute, though not given much to do. But the highlights of the film are easily the over-the-top performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Sharlto Copley, who make their outrageous characters a hoot to watch. Yet everything about "Oldboy" is just too much insanity to recommend to most audiences. But, if your'e into having your mind completely screwed with, then "Oldboy" will qualify. Just don't bring anyone who can't handle anything so graphically absurd. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Everything You Can Imagine. And Then Some.

Homefront

 Image: Ready! Fight! In the red corner, Jason "The Growler" Statham.

In the blue corner, James "The Smirker" Franco. In a violent duel to the death. Then why is "Homefront" so, bloody dull?

"Homefront" stars Jason Statham as an American undercover Cop with a British accent, who helps take down a big time Meth dealer (Chuck Zito). In the ensuing chaos, the Meth dealers son is riddled with a million bullets, leaving Statham to reconsider his profession. A few years later, he and his daughter (Izabela Vidovic) move down to Methville, Louisiana, where she beats the crap out of a bully. The bully's Meth headed, redneck mama (Kate Bosworth) gets her Meth dealing brother (James Franco) to try and scare them. But Franco finds out that Statham is a former Cop who took down a Meth kingpin, the wanna-be Meth lord enlists every lowlife in Louisiana to try to kill Statham.

But, as we all know, no amount of dumb rednecks are a match for Jason Statham. It's a predictable action movie plot, but "Homefront" has potential, with scenes that feel like it's genuinely trying for something more. But the Sly Stallone penned script (Yep, you read that right) is preposterous, never deciding if it should be taken seriously enough as anything more than a hodge podge of other silly action movies. The actors really are trying in "Homefront". Jason Statham is a reliable action hero, and James Franco brings way more to the film than the script deserves. The little girl is very good (Clearly an action star in the making), and Wynona Ryder is fine as Franco's girfriend.

The action scenes vary from pretty good to frenetic, and too many characters are cliches, though, as always, it's kind of fun to watch a bunch of trashy rednecks get their asses kicked (Is there something wrong with me?) "Homefront" is no way as bad as some critics say, but it's still too generic and typical to be taken seriously. "Statham vs. Franco?" "Written by Sly Stallone?" You gotta' live up to the hype. 2 Stars. rated R for Graphic Language and Violence to Spare.

Frozen

 Image: My Halloween costume next year.


It's time to talk about Heroine. You know? Brave Women.(What did you think I was talking about?) As someone with a young sister, I'm very happy that there are so many positive female role models for her to look up to, like "Elsa" and "Anna" from "Frozen", "Katniss" from "The Hunger Games", and "Kim Kardashian" from "Tyler Perry's 'Temptation'" (What a courageous girl!)

"Frozen" is Disney's newest classic, telling the story of two very close sisters, "Elsa" and "Anna". Elsa is born with special powers using ice and snow, which leads to tragedy. Their parents enlists the help of some Trolls to "Cure" her of the powers, and erase all her memory of her "Magic". Elsa begins to seclude herself in her room because she feels something is still wrong inside, and the once close sisters begin to grow apart.

Much later, when the now older Elsa (Idina Menzel) is about to become Queen, Anna (Kristen Bell) meets a Prince (Santino Fontana) from another Kingdom, and immediately falls in love, planning their marriage in one day (The story wisely points out how messed up that is.)

With all of the new pressure on her, Elsa can't control her powers any longer, freaking everyone out, especially a greedy Duke (Alan Tudyk), who is looking to exploit the Kingdom for his own profit. When Elsa is chased out of the Kingdom, it accidentally sets off an eternal winter. So Anna teams up with a Mountain Man (Jonathan Groff), his pet Reindeer, and "Olaf" (Josh Gad), a lovable talking Snowman, to find her sister, and stop the eternal winter. 

"Frozen" may sound standard, but it's what Disney does best. A wonderful (And very emotional) story, with memorable characters, and great humor to keep even the most cynical adult laughing (And crying. Seriously. The older lady sitting next to my sister was laughing AND crying). And by the end of "Frozen", the audience was applauding. The way a Disney film should be.

The voice work is superb (Idina Meznel and Kristen Bell make two of Disney's greatest Princesses), with the hilarious Josh Gad, and Alan Tudyk providing the great humor in "Frozen". And yet the film (Added by a wonderful score and musical numbers) finds the right tone of heart and soul. 'Frozen" is a deep movie, and has some of the most beautiful animation you will ever see.

It's an instant Disney classic. Look, I'll keep it simple. If you don't at least smile at 'Frozen", you hate happiness. May God have mercy on your souls. 4 Stars. Rated PG for Crude Humor and Tense Moments.
 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

 Image: Where's the Fashion Police when you need them?


Great. Yet another "Girly Teen Angst" movie, with yet another beautiful, young heroine. And, yes, she is really , really beautiful (I mean, like, Damn!) But if that was the only thing to recommend, then "The Hunger Games" would have been just another teen movie.

And "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is even better. This time, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), (Remember, after their victory, they were gonna' off themselves to piss off the man), but now are going on tour as celebrities. But their act of defiance isn't sitting too well with President Snow (Donald Sutherland), and, being the diabolical monster that he is, he changes the rules, and declares that the next Hunger Games will be fought by some of the former "Victors/Survivors".

So once again, Katniss and Peeta must make new allies in order to survive the new games, starting in motion the revolution that will hopefully free the other districts from the brutality of President Snow and his Storm Troopers.

In fact, much like the original "Star Wars" trilogy, "Catching Fire" plays a lot like "The Empire Strikes Back". Not just in it's darker tone (You know, the whole "Kids Killing Kids" theme), but "Catching Fire" is actually a superior film than the excellent first film. There seems to be even more on the line, and the characters are so well developed that it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Obviously, I could go on and on about how pretty Jennifer Lawrence is, but she is a terrific actress, and makes for a terrific heroine for young girls (My little sister thinks she's awesome). Woody Harrelson (As their mentor) is once again my favorite character, Stanley Tucci (As the wacky game "Host") is hilarious again, and Donald Sutherland makes the perfect villain you love to hate.

Oscar winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (As the new head "Game Maker") is classy, as is the rest of the cast (Elizabeth Banks, Josh Hutcherson, Lenny Kravitz, etc.), but, God help me, Liam Hemsworth is just kind of boring.

The effects for "Catching Fire" is far superior to the first film, and the story is suspenseful and emotional, leading to an exciting, yet unexpected climax that is a real cliffhanger for anyone waiting for the next sequel (Which should be everybody). And unlike the original "Star Wars" trilogy, we don't have to wait three f@#$ing years. One of the best films of the year, and, easily, the best "Girly" film of the year. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Really Intense....Well, This Movie Is Really Intense!

The Best Man Holiday

 Image: "The Four Tops". Or, The "Temptations". (Old People References).


Predictability. Cliches. Melodrama. "The Best Man Holiday" has each of these qualities. All qualities I usually can't stand in a film. Then how come I find it so darn likable? 

A sequel to the film I never saw when I was 5 years old, "The Best Man Holiday" brings back lifelong friends, (Played by Taye Diggs, Morris Chestnut, Terrence Howard, Harold Perrineau, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long and Regina Hall), who reunite for the holidays, resulting in wacky shenanigans and silly misunderstandings, mixed in with some life lessons, tragedy, and a little hot lovin'.

It seems like I've seen this kind of movie before, and "The Best Man Holiday" feels at times like it's going in the wrong direction, yet the cast and characters have more than enough likability to bring me back into it. Each actor (Especially, Morris Chestnut) is perfectly matched with one another, and the film has good humor and plenty of heart.

"Holiday" has a nice message of faith and spirituality, despite the it's R rating, and the film's ending is moving without being too sappy. The overall tone is a bit uneven (Bawdy humor, switched in the blink of an eye to to heavy melodrama), but the cast overcomes it every time. I never saw the original, 1999 film, but "Holiday" is entertaining enough on it's own that I don't think it's necessary.

In full disclosure, I wasn't sure that I, uh, you know (I have to be careful about this), uh, "Got" films geared toward a, uh, "Black" audience (Aw, c'mon! You know what I mean!) But I have discovered that it was really all Tyler Perry's fault. I do get "The Best Man Holiday". I like what I like. 3 Stars. Rated R for Adult Humor and Naughty Situations.

Thor: The Dark World

 Image: "When do I get my Spin-Off?"


Saying that "Thor:The Dark World" is the weakest film in the Marvel Universe series is like picking the least prettiest Cheerleader. I still don't have any problem watching for a couple of hours.

Taking off where "The Avengers" left off (And since all of you saw it, I don't have to explain), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is keeping peace all throughout the universe. But back on Earth, Thor's sweet, sweet love muffin (Natalie Portman) has been infected with a dark energy, called the "Aether".

This awakens the Dark Elves, led by "Malekith" (Christopher Eccleston) who want to rule the universe with their Darkness. So Thor returns to Earth for Jane and takes her to Asgard, though Thor's father (Sir Anthony Hopkins) doesn't want the trouble (No matter how cute she is). When all Hell breaks loose, who can a God turn to but his Mischievous brother, "Loki" (Tom Hiddleston).

"Thor :The Dark World" has a strange structure to it. It doesn't flow as smoothly as the other Marvel films, but that doesn't take too much away from the enjoyment of it. The film still has all of the likable elements of the first "Thor", with plenty of action and good humor throughout. While the special effects are a bit iffy at times, "Thor 2" still looks good, with some great art design in a very colorful world.

The key to any Marvel film is the characters, and Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddelston are as enjoyable together as you could ask for. "Thor" was Hemsworth's first big role, and he continues to bring a ton of charisma and cleverness to all of his roles.

But it's almost impossible to not root (At least a little bit) for Loki, and that's because Tom Hiddleston is impossibly charming as the most deliciously evil bad guy in the Marvel series (I'm serious about the spin-off. It could happen). And though great actors like Anthony Hopkins and Idris Elba are criminally wasted, Natalie Portman (Though WAY too pretty for Chris Hemsworth. But I'm partisan) is excellent, and has real chemistry with Hemsworth.

Kat Dennings is pretty adorable as Portman's best friend, and (Though some say his character is the weak link) I I actually like Christopher Eccleston, and his "Darth Maul" like vibe.

The finale, climactic scenes in "Thor 2" is fun, leading to an awesome ending, and a sneak preview to another Marvel film, "Guardians of the Galaxy". So "Thor 2" has it's flaws, and isn't quite up to the Marvel standard. But if this is as bad as it gets, I'm on board for anything in the Marvel universe. As long as Tom Hiddleston is in it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Comic Book Violence.

Ender's Game

 Image: If Tron mated with Judge Dredd.


I thought I knew a lot about classic literature. From the old classics, such as "Great Expectations", "Dracula", and "Hound of the Baskervilles", to more recent classics, such as "Watership Down" and "Cloud Atlas". So how in the Heck had I not heard of "Enders Game", which seems to be considered as one of the great Sci-Fi books in recent memory? I blame Oprah.

"Enders Game" takes place in the future, after yet another Alien invasion in which humanity barely survived. Young Soldiers are being trained by Colonel Han Solo,er, I mean, Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) head a special academy, and discover their finest young Cadet, "Ender" (Asa Butterfield).

Ender is not exactly a normal kid, but he has a gift for strategy and battle. He also has a gift for remarkable violence, leading Major Anderson to question the decision to train him. But Colonel Graff believes that Ender is the only one who can ensure the survival of the human race, and that (After discussing it with Vice President Cheney), the ends justify the means.

Yet another attempt to make a "Young Adult" film series, "Enders Game" is one of the few enjoyable films of it's type. The performances here are top-notch, with Asa Butterfield proving himself to be one of the best actors of his age. He carries the tough role well, helpin his complex character remain grounded.

Harrison Ford is freakin' Harrison Ford, so, he's, like, awesome, as is Viola Davis, Sir Ben Kingsley (As a mentor of Ender), Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin (Though some of the younger cast is a little iffy). "Enders Game" is an interesting story and different than others in the genre, yet it doesn't quite have the impact that it should with such a heavy story. "Enders Game" is a bit of a downer, but I am curious enough to find out what they're going to do with the sequel (There's meant to be a sequel).

Where "Beautiful Creatures", Mortal Instruments", and "The Host" all flopped (And all sucked), "Enders Game" has a lot of potential to tell a compelling story that I can see myself sticking with. I wonder if there is any other fantasy books out there I can recommend? How about "Jordan Black and the Scepter of Time"? My Uncle's new future best seller. Available on Amazon. Seriously, it is! Check it out! And thank you for allowing me this shameless plug. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Violence and Heavy Subject Matter.

Last Vegas

 Image: "How many Oscars have we won?"


These guys are old. I mean, compared to me, anyway. But I can only hope to be as cool someday as Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. However, "Last Vegas" probably won't be on any of their "Best Of" list.

"Last Vegas" teams the four acting legends as best friends for 60 years, who go to Las Vegas for Douglas's wedding, to a girl young enough for Freeman to call an "Infant". Of course, the gang gets into as many crazy shenanigans as AARP members can. You know, slip "Viagra" into each others Milk of Magnesia. Hide each others "Depends". Use food dye to stain each others Dentures...You know where I'm going with this.

This is another film that doesn't need much detail, but "Last Vegas" is at least fairly enjoyable, in no small part to the likability and charisma of it's four Academy Award winning stars. In fact, include the still incredibly hot Mary Steenburgen (She's 60! Damn!), and you've got five Academy Award winners.

I guess I could wish for a more substantial movie to see them in (My Dad says for me to check out Douglas in "Wall Street", De Niro in "Raging Bull", Freeman in "The Shawshank Redemption", and Kline in "A Fish Called Wanda"), but "Last Vegas" is enough to get by. It's predictable, standard, and affable, but it's stars keep it enjoyable enough to keep you from walking out.

These guys are movie stars for a reason, and help turn "Last Vegas" from bland to bearable. I mean, just imagine a "Vegas" movie with, say, Ashton Kutcher, Gerard Butler, Owen Wilson, and, oh, I don't know, Liam Hemsworth. Dear God! 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Juvenile Behavior by Old Farts.

12 Years a Slave

 Image: 2013 Academy Award winner, Chiwetel Ejiofor.


There are many films that are difficult to watch, almost painful to sit through. For example, pretty much every Romantic Comedy (Especially if they star Gerard Butler.) Obviously, every Happy Madison film (I swear I'm developing an ulcer just thinking about the next one.) Most definitely anything that has a whiff of Tyler Perry.

But with "12 Years a Slave", we're talking about a different kind of uncomfortable. "Slave" tells the remarkable true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who wrote the 1853 novel about his devastating experiences. A free man during the days of Slavery, he was kidnapped and sent down south, where he is sold by a degenerate Slave Trader (Paul Giamatti), to a weak willed Plantation owner (Benedict Cumberbatch), who at least treats Northup (Who has been given a new "Slave" name) with some amount of dignity (How mighty "White" of them).

The "Overseer" of the Plantation (Paul Dano), resents the educated Northup, and immediately forces Northup to defend himself, leading the "Owner" (Don't these terms just Piss you off!) to send Northup to a brutal Slave owner (Michael Fassbender), and his equally brutish wife (Sarah Paulson). The Wife from Hell is also jealous of her husband's obsession with a female Slave (Lupita Nyong'o). Finally, in the course of 12 years, Northup befriends a Canadian Carpenter/Abolitionist (Brad Pitt), a man who may be able to help Northup gain his freedom.

This is an incredible film. "12 Years a Slave" is a true masterpiece, with every facet of this incredible story ringing completely true. Director Steve McQueen (I loved him in "Bullitt". Wait, I'm being told it's the wrong Steve McQueen) does a masterful job making the film feel incredibly authentic, and realistically brutal, yet, somehow, is still beautifully filmed. The story is unforgettable and haunting, with characters and settings that make the viewer feel a part of it (And thank God that they are not).

"12 Years a Slave" is, amazingly, on par with last year's "Lincoln". In other words, perfection. Chiwetel Ejiofor is extraordinary in an unbelievably difficult role (And at the top of my Eagan Oscar List), and everyone in the supporting cast is superb as well. Michael Fassbender plays his despicable character flawlessly, Sarah Paulson is his equal as his repugnant wife, and Lupita Nyongo'o is a revelation in her first major role.

The score from the freakin' awesome Hans Zimmer is chilling, fitting this horrifyingly real account of the atrocities of Slavery (No matter how some will try to water the horror of Slavery down. I've heard them.) It should be mandatory viewing for everyone who gives a damn. 4 Stars. Rated R for Blood-Chilling Violence and Brutality.

Free Birds

 Image: "I know what I'm having for Thanksgiving!"


The movie poster for "Free Birds" claims that the animated film is the "Greatest Turkey Movie of All Time!" That's not false advertising. Unfortunately, "Free Birds" is also the worst Turkey movie of all time. It's also the worst animated film since "Alpha and Omega".

"Free Birds" tells the weird tale of a Turkey named "Reggie" (Owen Wilson), who is pardoned from being a delicious Thanksgiving dinner by the President. Reggie is taken to Camp David, where he's living the sweet life, eating pizza and watching Spanish television.

But Reggie is soon kidnapped by "Jake" (Woody Harrelson) a Turkey who is told by the "Great Turkey" to steal a time machine, and use it to go back in time to the first Thanksgiving, in order to stop Turkey from being on the menu. (Sounds plausible, right?)

Reggie agrees to help Jake team up with the other Turkeys (Who are dressed up in Native American garb. Politically correct, right?) who lead a revolt against the sadistic bastard (Colm Meaney) who decided that Turkey would taste great with Mashed Potatoes. Fortunately, Chuckie Cheese saves the day with some well timed product placement (Don't ask).

"Free Birds" is as forced as it sounds. I don't know what you can do with time traveling Turkeys, but if there is a way, "Free Birds" fails pretty miserably. It's surprisingly un-funny, with the only amusing idea having George Takei voice the Time Machine. Even the talented cast is wasted, with Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson put in silly situations, with weak dialogue and a bad script. And how DARE you put the great Amy Poehler (As the generic, Turkey love interest) in a movie and not let her be funny. You don't DESERVE to have Amy Poehler in your movie!

The animation varies from average, to straight up bad. "Free Birds" fails on every front, and becomes straight up uncomfortable to watch. The "Turkeys as Native Americans" idea looks even worse when they "Real" Native Americans show up (It's just plain wrong.) In fact, "Free Birds" is just the wrong film to try any kind of social commentary.

The poster for "Free Birds" should have said "The Turkey Movie to End All Turkey Movies!".And, this Thanksgiving, that would be something to be thankful for. 1 Star. Rated PG for Making Me Hungry for Thanksgiving Dinner.

The Counselor

 Image: "Look at my hair. You can trust me!"


I don't know. I just don't know. It's all right to admit that, right? "The Counselor" is a film, unlike any I've ever seen before, with a plot so convoluted....Yet, so simple....I mean....AAAHHH! MY HEAD!!!

"The Counselor" stars Michael Fassbender as....Well, they just call him "The Counselor". He's an upscale lawyer with a hot girlfriend (Penélope Cruz), who, after proposing to her, figures she wouldn't mind if he dabbled in a little drug dealing. So naturally he decides to work with the craziest looking couple (Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz) you would ever want to deal drugs with.

The counselor asks "Westray" (Brad Pitt) for help when, inexplicably, people begin to get shot, beheaded, and dismembered, in very new and original ways. By the end, the Counselor learns that, in hindsight, he should have stayed in bed with Penélope Cruz.

A few days later, I'm still trying to figure out what the Hell I just saw. "The Counselor" is a mixed bag, for sure, but I KIND of liked it? I THINK? The film has a great cast, but is probably just a bit to odd to recommend, with it's weird dialogue, and it's odd, violent story. Yet I did find it stylish and strangely entertaining, in part thanks to legendary Director Ridley Scott's talent and flourish.

The script is really the big flaw for "The Counselor". I still haven't figured out if the film is smarter than me, or if it just thinks it is, because the dialogue sure seems convinced it is brilliant, making it difficult to embrace some of the characters.

Michael Fassbender is good as usual, but his character is boring, and Penélope Cruz is lovely, but wasted in a thankless role. But the supporting cast keeps things lively, with Cameron Diaz chewing up the scenery in a real change of pace role. Javier Bardem brings his never-fail charisma (Or, should I say, "Hair-isma"? Ha!), and Brad Pitt adds some much needed humor to a film that desperately needs it.

You may not know what is going on through much of "The Counselor", but at least I wanted to know what would happen in the end. Some may find it brilliant. Some may find it pretentious . I find "the Counselor" to be....uh....Wait.... I'm still thinking. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Brutal Violence, and Cameron Diaz Has Sex With a Ferrari.
 

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa

 Image: Ted Cruz told me THIS is what will happen with Obama Care.


Like any other Jackass, "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" is, at heart, nothing more than a collection of scenes of someone being filmed making a Jackass out of himself. Yet, "Bad Grandpa" manages to be the best film ever of someone being filmed making a Jackass out ofhimself.

So the premise of "Bad Grandpa" is this: An 86 year-old widower (Johnny Knoxville) is forced by his daughter to take his precocious grandson (Jackson Nicoll) cross country to live with his Dad, who only wants the kid for the child support money. (Sounds Oscar worthy). But the joke is that Knoxville and Nicoll are setting up a bunch of elaborate pranks on "Real" people along the way.

This "Surprise" leads to such hilarious (And so horribly, morally wrong. Yet, somehow so right) moments of the old man getting his Schlong caught in a vending machine, or, dragging his "Dead" wife along for the ride. 

"Bad Grandpa" isn't exactly the embodiment of class. Clearly, it's not for everyone, but I found it impossible not to laugh at the absurdity, and the surprising professionalism behind it. As crazy as it sounds (And as gross and juvenile as it is), "Bad Grandpa" actually works due to the real reactions of the real people who are forced to endure the mayhem around them.

Johnny Knoxville gives a convincing, uh....Performance? Seriously, he pulls off these pranks convincingly, and, at times, is laugh out loud funny. But "Bad Grandpa" doesn't work as well if it wasn't for little Jackson Nicoll. The little twerp is a riot, with impeccable timing and loads of personality. Their chemistry, and their "Characters" relationship, is sweet in it's own, warped way.

Obviously, "Bad Grandpa" is low-brow, and is only going for an easy laugh, but the "Real" people are good sports, making it easier for the viewer to laugh with them, and not just at them. It's no "Borat", but "Grandpa" isn't trying to be. Sometimes, watching a Jackass can be funny. I know this from a lot of personal experience. 3 Stars. Rated R for Gross, Bodily Functions, and a Few Shots of Old, Wrinkled Peckers.

The Fifth Estate

 Image: Don't you hate it when your Wiki leaks?


Some things may be better off secret. Are there Aliens among us? How Mc'Donald's Chicken McNuggets are made. Why women are visited once a month by their "Special Friend"? Julian Assange does not agree.

"The Fifth Estate" stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the WikiLeaks founder, who brazenly released American (And other Nations) Government secrets, causing the world wide manhunt that gripped the world, and scared the crap out of any Government official with a computer.

Assange meets up with "Daniel" (Daniel Brühl), and they join forces to expose the Government secrets on their website. When the information goes public and the Sh** hits the fan, Daniel begins to fear that the secrets may have some terrible consequences, and risk the lives of innocent people. Assange seems to have no such qualms, believing that the world has a right to know everything.

The Wikileaks issue is a complicated one, and "The Fifth Estate" is a complicated movie. This is neither a great film, nor a bad film, with a facinating premise and terrific performances from both Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl, (Both of them have had a heck of a year).

"The Fifth Estate"'s biggest flaw is it that it feels glossed over. The important details of the film don't give the viewer enough to go on, making it difficult it a difficult film to invest much passion into. When the subplot focuses on the U.S. Government's response, "Estate" loses steam fast, despite having fine actors such as Stanley Tucci and Laura Linney.

Yet my frustrations with "The Fifth Estate" don't outweigh the positives. The film is exciting at times, and the two leads are so convincing, that I do want to know more about the subject. And as for my personal opinion on the subject, I get where Assange was coming from (And he seems pretty brilliant). But he comes across as so self-righteous, that he is a very difficult man to sympathize. Fortunately, "Estate" leaves the opinion up to the viewer to decide.

"The Fifth Estate" is a lot like the issue it covers. Frustrating, complex...And a little scary. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Language and for Seeing Julian Assange's Wiki Leak.
 

Captain Phillips

 Image: You mess with Tom Hanks, you mess with America.


There are certain days in American History you mark down and remember. Like, where was I when Republicans and Democrats finally agreed on a budget? Or, where were you when Adam Sandler finally won that Oscar? Well, I will always remember the day that I saw the best double feature I've ever seen. "Gravity", followed by "Captain Phillips".

Based on a true story (Unless you were a member of the crew. Seriously. Check it out.) "Captain Phillips" stars Tom Hanks as the Captain of an American Cargo ship off the coast of Somalia (I'm planning a cruise there), when they are hijacked by Somali Pirates, led by newcomer Barkhad Abdi.

Captain Phillips offers them all of the money in the ship's safe, the Pirates refuse and hold out for more, take a lifeboat, and hold Captain Phillips hostage for millions in ransom. With the U.S. Navy hot on their heels, Captain Phillips must fight for his survival until the good guys are able to kick some Pirate ass.

Even though most of us know the story, "Captain Phillips" is an edge-of-your-seat thriller that works as both an action and a dramatic film. Director Paul Greengrass is an expert with the "Shaky Cam", making the movie work as well as a Documentary. The action scenes are top notch and filled with tension, with Tom Hanks (As always) carrying exactly amount of gravitas as an average man showing extraordinary courage.

Somehow matching Hanks are the newcomers portraying the Pirates. Barkhad Abdi is astonishing as the desperate leader, somehow pulling off the ability to be both terrifying and sad at the same time. The rest of the Somali Pirate cast (Barkhad Abdiirahman, Faysal Ahmed, and Mahat M. Ali) are incredibly believable. (I've seen veteran actors not be able to hang with Tom Hanks.)

"Captain Phillips" never lets up, building up the tension scene to scene until the final 15 minute climax. It is one of the most powerful conclusions I've ever seen at the movies. Scary, tragic and gut-wrenching, with maybe the finest work Tom Hanks has ever done. (My Eagan Oscar list is filling up fast.)

"Gravity" scared us enough to never go into Space. "Captain Phillips" scared us enough to never take boat ride off the Somali coast. "Tyler Pery's Temptation" scared us from ever cheating on our husbands 'cuz we'll get AIDS. See, we can learn a lot from the movies. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Disturbing Violence and Images.

Gravity

 Image: "Hey! Hey! I'm In Space. SPAAAAAAAACE!"


If I ever have have $100 Million to invest, I'm giving it to Director Alfonso Cuarón. Not only will he probably make me a small fortune, but, based on the stunning visual experience of "Gravity", he clearly knows how to maximize every single dollar of a film budget.

"Gravity" begins with the intense, yet quiet solitude of Space, where Astronauts, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are attempting to service The Hubble Space Telescope. They get word from Mission Control (The voice of Ed Harris) that space debris is headed their way, which kills the rest of the Shuttle crew, leaving Dr. Stone and Kowalski to try and make it back to The International Space Station. 

The rest of "Gravity" needs to be discovered by the viewer, because I don't wan't to take any enjoyment away from this absolute masterpiece of a film. First and foremost, this is quite possibly the most stunning film visually I have ever experienced ( Alfonso Cuarón is freakin' genius! You can imagine how many "Hollywood Experts" told him he was crazy.) The flawless 3-D makes you feel as if you're there in Space, through every gripping moment. Never before has Space looked so beautiful, and yet so utterly terrifying.

Sandra Bullock is easily one of my favorite actresses, and she has never been better, putting her at the top of the coveted "Eagan Oscars" list. She's matched by George Clooney, who is perfect as an even more awesome version of George Clooney (He's clearly had no problem excelling since the "Batman and Robin" debacle 15 years ago. Give Ben Affleck a chance!) 

The film score adds incredible depth to the enthralling story, the chemistry and the dialogue between the actors is perfect, and their fight for survival is intense and raw. "Gravity" constantly challenges, with questions about the preciousness of life and the human spirit. Every moment rings true, right up to the exceptional, intense conclusion. "Gravity" is so thrilling, it's exhausting.

An instant classic, "Gravity" is perfection. It is the rare film (Like "Lincoln") that actually improves my life, making me think and feel and question. A masterpiece. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Making Me NEVER Want to Go Into Space. Ever.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

 Image: I can't eat anything that adorable.

Sometimes, it's good to be predictable, knowing that I will have a nice, relaxing hour and a half with a bunch of cute, silly, and colorful characters. I'll laugh. I'll chuckle. I'll groan at a few bad food puns. And I'll make my little sister very, very happy.

Predictability is what you'll get with "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2", which takes off literally seconds after the original ended. (Imagine "The Empire Strikes Back" beginning seconds after Luke Skywalker blew up the Death Star at the end of "Star Wars". Would have been kind of cool.) 

Their Island has been left uninhabitable after "Flint" (Bill Hader) used his special machine, the "FLDSMDFR", to accidentally destroy the city when giant food plummets from the sky. After shutting down the machine, Flint's childhood idol, "Chester V" (Will Forte) offers to clean up the Island, and relocate the population to a new town, where Flint goes to work for Chester V.

They soon realize that Flint's machine is still on, and it's creating "Foodimals" (Half food, half animal, for our slow readers.) So Chester V sends Flint to shut off the machine with a device called the "BS USB" (Our first sign that Chester V is not to be trusted). Flint then enlists his girlfriend (Anna Faris), his Dad (James Caan), his Monkey (Neil Patrick Harris), a bully turned friend (Andy Samberg), and Manny the Cameraman (Benjamin Bratt). Oh, and the guy who's not "Mr.T." (Terry Crews), to help shut off the device before mass chaos ensues.

"Cloudy" isn't exactly fresh and new at this point, and some of the gags are growing stale, but the film still maintains enough charm to get by just fine. The animation is beautiful and unique, with clever character design. The characters and voice work are still funny and likable, with Will Forte (Playing an even MORE evil version of Steve Jobs than Ashton Kutcher did), Neil Patrick Harris and Benjamin Bratt making me laugh the most.

The franchise still knows it's audience, and the kids literally ate "Cloudy" up in my theater. It's easily worth the short running time, and is a nice family film to bide the time. Unless you're really, really hungry. Then, "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2" will make your stomach grumble because of all of the delicious goodies on screen. Followed by tremendous guilt, because the onscreen food looks so darn cute. Of course, I always think my Cheeseburgers are adorable. Adorably delicious. 3 Stars. Rated PG for Graphic Food Violence and Carnage.
 

Don Jon

 Image: Scarlett Johansson....Oh, and some guy.


So I went to see this movie about a guy's addiction to Porn....I guess our website isn't as "Family Friendly" as it used to be.

Director, Writer, Actor and Porn aficionado Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in "Don Jon" as "Jon", a fun loving Jersey Boy, who is loved by his parents (Tony Danza and Glenne Headly), his friends, "Snooki", and every single girl in New Jersey. He relishes his care free lifestyle, usually finishing his evening with a little "Alone" time. Just he and his computer. And lots and lots of Porn.

His life begins to change when he meets what has to be one of the most beautiful women in the world (Scarlett "One of the most beautiful women in the world" Johansson), who doesn't easily succumb to his charms. (Basically, she makes him work for it.) She begins to try to mold him into "The Perfect Guy", even forcing him....to....to....(It's so , so horrible) take her to see....Crappy, Romantic movies!!! Love stinks.

He agrees, for her sake, to attend Night School, where he meets "Esther" (Julianne Moore), who begins to convince him that his Porn habit is causing him to view women negatively, and helps change how he views himself and his future. It also makes him question how much he needs to change to make himself truly happy. And even make him question how much to change, to make even one of the most beautiful women in the world, truly happy. (In my case, for Scarlett, pretty much anything. I'm shameless.)

This is quite an accomplishment for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He pulls off the Trifecta with "Don Jon", creating a well-filmed, entertaining story, with an interesting character. It's funny and smart, although not quite as clever as it it wants to appear, at times. The premise of a Porn watching Lothario is pretty new, but "Don Jon" doesn't avoid every cliche.

Fortunately, the cast is top-notch, with Levitt nailing his cocky, yet vulnerable role. Scarlett Johansson is wonderful, showing both great humor, and a believable Jersey accent. And I may be the first film critic in history to say that Tony Danza is hilarious and perfectly cast as Levitt's father. But Julianne Moore steals the movie with a sweet and lovely performance (She's at the top of my "Eagan Oscars's" list for Best Supporting Actress).

I've heard some negative reaction to "Don Jon" from audiences about the film's ending, but I think it works well, and it's a mature way to wrap up a story about a young man's, well, his journey towards maturity. And how many films about a guy who loves Porn can you say that about. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Images of Porn. Oh, SO MUCH PORN!

Rush

 Image: "Marlboro", sponsor of Lung Cancer.


I don't get auto racing. Watching cars go as fast as possible in a giant circle, with no consideration for the safety of others. If I thought that was appealing, I could drive with my Uncle Dan. (I'm just kidding, Uncle Dan. Hey, you're all right!) So sitting through a two hour racing movie, from the guy who gave us the unrelenting excitement of "The Dilemma", doesn't exactly make me race to the theater.

But "Rush" is the perfect title for a film with so much adrenaline running through it. "Rush" is based on the true story of 1970's Indy Car Drivers James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda ( Daniel Brühl). Hunt was a British playboy and womanizer who lived on the edge, on and off the track. Lauda was his complete opposite, surly and introverted, and the two became the fiercest of rivals.

Hunt is beloved by fans of the sport, and eventually marries a beautiful British Model (Olivia Wilde, who, fortunately IS beautiful enough to be convincing as a Beautiful Model), but his reckless lifestyle causes instant problems, while Lauda, who isn't liked by anyone at all, settles down quite happily with his Wife (Alexandra Maria Lara). Their brutal rivalry comes to a head when Lauda nearly dies during a race, which surprisingly makes the two enemies develop a grudging respect and admiration for one another.

"Rush" is a complete revelation to me, because it works on every level. It's got to be one of the most exciting films of the year, even though, as I said earlier, I always thought auto racing was boring. Yet Director Ron Howard films his racing scenes as if the viewer is not only part of the action, but part of the car. Adding to the tension is the thrilling score with the legendary Hans Zimmer, helping "Rush" transcend being just a sports film. Instead, it has become one of the best films of the year.

Chris Hemsworth clearly releshes his role. He keeps getting better and better with each film, turning himself into a true movie star, while Daniel Brühl gives an Oscar worthy performance in what may be the most interesting character I've seen this year. The scenes between the two are absolutely great, making both of these very different and complex men fascinating and likable.

There isn't a real flaw in "Rush". Visually striking, terrific performances, a great script, and exciting from start to finish, I couldn't ask for anything else. It even appears to be historically accurate. Geez, what kind of Critic am I if I can't find something to be critical about? 4 Stars.; Rated R for Language, Nudity (Including "Thor's" ass), and Disturbing Racing Carnage.

Battle of the Year

 Image: Yep. It's as bad as it looks.


Remember, way back when I wrote my review of "Prisoners", how I talked about that this was the beginning of Oscar season? How this is when Hollywood began releasing all of their best films of the year? Well, I forgot to tell you , it's also when they get rid of the extra crap they have laying around.

Speaking of which, how bad is "Battle of the Year"? It's a "B-Boy" dance competition, starring Chris Brown, for starters. See, there's this guy with money (Laz Alonso), who wants to bring the coveted "B-Boy" dance trophy back to where we all know it rightfully belongs. America!

So he hires "Standard, Alcoholic, Washed Up Coach, Trying To Overcome a Personal Tragedy" (Josh Holloway), to teach a group of talented dancers (But not talented actors) to do dance battle against Americas greatest international threat. The Koreans.

That description of "Battle of the Year" was more exciting than the film itself. I admit these guys are impressive dancers, but, for crying out loud, rent the Documentary it's based on ("Planet B-Boy") instead. The plot is standard for the genre and painful to watch. The dialogue is groan inducing, with dozens of intellectually stimulating words thrown about, such as "Dope", "Dawg", and (My trigger word, I swear to God), "Swag".

Josh Holloway is trying so hard, he nearly comes away with his dignity intact. But the same can't be said for the rest of the cast. Like in "Red Dawn", Josh Peck is, well, in it. And Chris Brown is here, and his name is "Rooster" (Since it's Chris Brown, I would have gone with "C*ck".... Right?). But the worst aspect of "Battle" is how seriously it takes itself. I swear, Spielberg didn't take "Schindler's List" this seriously.

"Battle of the Year" seems nothing more than an excuse for Director Benson Lee to praise his Documentary (He also Directed "Planet B-Boy"), but instead the film comes across as self-indulgent and excruciating. Maybe it bothers me even more because I walked into "Battle" right out of seeing "Prisoners", a movie deserving to be taken seriously. I'm... I'm sorry, we critics get a little touchy this time of year. 1/2 a Star. Rated PG-13 for Language and WAY Too Much Swag (I swear, that word makes me lose it!)

Priosners

 Image: Hugh Jackman does NOT feel like singing.


The Oscar season seems to be starting earlier this year. Which means there must be more great movies coming out this fall than usual. It also means that I'm going to be spending a lot more time and money, bumming rides to the theater off of my Dad (Getting my license and a car is tough without a real job). But unlike last year, there will be no film that slides through the cracks, meaning the "Eagan Oscars" will have even more meaning and significance. If that's even possible.

Speaking of The Oscars, Hugh Jackman would have won an Eagan Oscar last year, if not for Honest Abe and Spielberg. Jackman (And some of his co-stars) may be giving it another shot with "Prisoners". The film begins with two families (Jackman and Maria Bello, Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) and their children having Thanksgiving together. 

Before dinner, the youngest daughters of each family are playing outside near an old RV when they vanish, leaving the parents to begin a frantic search, along with help Police Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal). They find a suspect (Paul Dano) who seems to fit the type, based on his comments and creepiness, but the Police cannot hold him for lack of evidence.

But Jackman cannot abide by the decison, and, convinced of the suspect's guilt, decides to take the law into his own hands. He kidnaps the young man and begins to torture him, leading to a conclusion of difficult moral choices and consequences. Meanwhile, Detective Loki uncovers a wider mystery of child abductions, as he closes in on the fate of the two girls.

"Prisoners" is as heavy and complex as it sounds. It's a lot of plot to follow, with a bunch of twists and turns, but the film works extremely well due to the unrelenting suspense, and the terrific performances of the cast. Hugh Jackman may be the most versatile actor in Hollywood, and he gives his most powerful performance ever. That goes for Jake Gyllenhaal as well, who is extremely likable and believable. Terrance Howard, Viola Davis and Maria Bello are all great as the devastated parents, as are everyone else in the incredibly talented cast.

The Direction is taut and gritty, keeping up the emotional story for almost 2 1/2 hours (Which is not easy to do for a film this difficult to tell). If anything, "Prisoners" is almost TOO much. Too much story, plot and intensity, which almost overwhelms the viewer. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is one that makes you want to discuss it, because of all of it's moral questions and implications. 

Great films aren't afraid to take risks and push the audience, and "Prisoners" is a gutsy (Albeit, slightly flawed) film, with dynamic performances, getting the Oscar season off to a thrilling start. It looks as if I'm going to be extremely busy the rest of the year. And extremely broke. Don't REAL critics get free screenings? Don't REAL critics have a Movie Theater in their freakin' town? 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Torture, Language, and Disturbing Themes and Imagery.

The Family

Image: Robert De Niro prays for a Home Run.

In my long (3 Years) career reviewing films, one question I am asked repeatedly is, "Have you ever seen a film that was far worse than you thought it would be?". As a critic, it's one of my nightmares. Like so many critics did with films like "The Hobbit", or pretty much any Pixar film that isn't a classic, I don't wan't to judge a film based on my own expectations. On the flip side, it would be wrong to judge a Adam Sandler movie, based solely on the fact that it's an Adam Sandler movie. On second thought, it's NEVER wrong to judge an Adam Sandler movie before I see it. 

"The Family" was one of those high expectations movies. Robert De Niro stars as former Mobster (Go figure), who is placed in the Witness Protection Program, and is hidden away with his smoking hot 55 year old wife (Michelle Pfeiffer. Yep. She's 55! Wow!), his smoking hot, 17 year old daughter (Diana Agron. No, it's ok. She's 27 in real life), and his smoking,...uh, his teenage son (John D'Leo).

They are placed in the French town of Normandy by their FBI supervisor (Tommy Lee Jones), where they can't seem to stay out of trouble, because, well, they're a Mob family. It's what they do. When the Mob finds out where they are, they declare all out war on the family, and, seemingly, half of France, judging by the body count.

Director Luc Besson is known mostly as an action Director, and he seems to struggle with how to mix the dark comedic aspects of "The Family", with it's action and (At times) brutal violence. It's funny enough at times, especially when it focuses on the family dynamic, and their dealings with their FBI handler.

The three leads make "The Family" worthwhile by their talent alone. Robert De Niro and Tommy Lee Jones (Both "Eagan Oscar Nominees" last year) could play these characters with their eyes closed and be entertaining, and the still beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer keeps up with them effortlessly.

But the uneven tone of "The Family" and story line nearly derail the film. Plot points fail to serve it's purpose throughout and go nowhere, until it brings the focus back around to the family. This leads to a violent and bloody climax that is more unpleasant than anything else.

"The Family" is one of those complex films to review because of it's unevenness. Add in my high expectations, and it becomes nothing more than a middling action comedy, salvaged by it's expert cast. Is "Good Enough", good enough? 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Mob Language and Mob Violence.

 

Riddick

 Image: I gotta get Vin Diesel's 3-D glasses.


Reviewing film's has turned into a full-time job for me. Because there is always some relevant films that I've missed, I end up having to....Ahem....,"Borrow", other people's DVD's. I also....Ahem.....know a "Guy", who.....Ahem...."Borrows," films by downloading them off the Internet. It's the only way I can keep up with the demands of my ....Ahem...."Career".

"Pitch Black" was the first film in the "Riddick" trilogy, a simple but effective Sci-Fi horror film that made Vin Diesel a star (At least in "Fast and Furious" movies). The overblown and bloated sequel, "The Chronicles of Riddick" was tedious enough to stop the franchise in it's tracks for 9 years.

"Riddick" is more of a return to the original idea of "Pitch Black". Diesel is back as "Riddick", who has been banished and left for dead (Along with the Producers of "The Chronicles of Riddick") on some distant planet. He must survive the violent elements and monsters of the Planet alone, save for a surprisingly adorable "Space Dog," who becomes Riddick's pet.

When Riddick is able to send out an emergency signal from the Planet, all he gets is more trouble, in the form of Bounty Hunters who are out for the reward put on Riddick's bald head. It gets worse when another group of Bounty Hunters shows up, one of them (Matt Nable), with a personal vendetta against Riddick.

"Riddick" is interesting in it's structure, which is told in 3 parts. The first act follows Riddick, alone battling the elements, which, despite the shoddy CGI, gives Vin Diesel some interesting moments. The second act is when the Bounty Hunters show up, giving us some hammy acting and dialogue (Especially from Jordi Mollà, as the kind completely revolting human being that "Dog" the Bounty Hunter would not tolerate).

Part 3 is kind of a retelling of "Pitch Black", where the sh** hits the fan, and the survivors must work together to, uh, survive. This is by far the best part of "Riddick" where the action kicks in to gear, and the film shows real atmosphere and suspense. 

I like Vin Diesel in this role, and he somehow makes his vicious, psychopathic killer quite lovable (At least, compared to everyone else around him). But hands down, "Space Dog" steals the film, sort of humanizing Riddick with it's cuteness and cuddly-ness. "Riddick" is flawed and a bit ridiculous (And quite predictable), but it knows what it is, and doesn't reach too far (Which is where "The Chronicles of Riddick" went so wrong).

"Riddick" just wants to entertain it's audience, and succeeds more often than not. It's almost worth buying it when it comes out on DVD, unless I can...Ahem..."Borrow"...someone else's copy. OK, so I'm a cheap Bastard! 3 Stars. Rated R for Graphic....Ahem.... "Everything".

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

 Image: Lily Collins is cute. But "The Mortal Instruments" suck.


I, like many Americans, would like to start forgetting about "Twilight". But we can't, until Hollywood will let us forget. Yet all we get is more and more reminders. "The Host". "Beautiful Creatures". "Percy Jackson" (No,wait. "Percy Jackson" was a "Harry Potter" ripoff). To be fair, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" rips off numerous other flicks. "The Hunger Games". "Lord of the Rings". "Blade". Heck, even "Star Wars".

In "The Mortal Instruments", Lily Collins plays "Clary", a seemingly average girl who just happens to be way, way prettier than every other girl in New York City. When she meets a mysterious, skinny, tattooed dude (Jamie Campbell Bower), she and her geeky friend, "Simon" (Robert Sheehan) are drawn into a world of "Hot Topic" rejects, led by "Valentine" (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who kidnaps Clary's Mom (Lena Headey), cuz' she knows where the "Mortal Cup" is (Mom's know everything).

When Mom drinks some kind of coma-inducing potion, Valentine goes after Cleary, Cleary falls for the Dang near anorexic tattooed boy (Guess thats why its called City of Bones), and her geeky friend continues to pine for her, slowly realizing he hasn't got a shot in Hell. Everything else is just a setup for the sequel I can only pray will never happen.

This was even worse than I thought it would be. "Mortal Instruments" is more (Or less) than just a dumb ripoff. In fact, it's worse than dumb. Yet, I can't seem to find a word worse than dumb that fits. And since words fail to describe how dumb I think it is, I'll just go with stupid.

The plot is, well, stupid! The lead characters are stupid, the villains are stupid, and their motivations are stupid (I really need to take a college English class.) The only thing salvageable about "The Mortal Instruments" is Lily Collins, who is beautiful, has some personality, a HUGE set of ...Eyebrows. In fact, she completely acts circles around her film's love interest, who has only mastered the art of dramatically brushing his long, wavy hair from his face.

If I have to say something else that's positive about "The Mortal Instruments", I guess I could say that the awesome Jared Harris is in it. For a minute or so. But the film goes on forever and ever, and still the plot feels rushed. In conclusion, this film is..... Wait, the right word is coming to me...Nope, it's just stupid. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Stupid Violence and Stupid Language.

The World's End

 Image: Simon Pegg's mouth has been edited for this review.


British humor is something you either get or you don't, I guess. So I prepared for "The World's End" by watching the first two films in the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright trilogy, "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz", to see if I'm the kind of wanker who is cheeky enough to understand the English "Language".

I get it, and I love it. "The World's End" is about five longtime friends (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considene and Eddie Marsan), who, when they were young and foolish, had attempted "The Pub Crawl", a twelve pub in one night adventure in their hometown. They failed in their noble quest to reach "The World's End" (The final pub), so Simon Pegg (Whose character isn't ready to grow up just yet) cajoles them into giving the crawl one last shot.

When they return to their hometown, they notice that something is just a bit off with the townsfolk. But they continue on their journey, and meet up with Martin Freeman's sister (Rosamund Pike, lovely and spot on), who stirs up some romantic tension and history between the friends. And that's when they discover that the town has been taken over by Robots. Well, not really Robots, per say.... You know what? I'm not going to tell you, but, as I said, I love it.

I mean, I absolutely LOVE this movie. "The World's End" is hilarious. But it's also surprisingly heartfelt, smart and poignant. Yes, it's also very British, but the (I assume American, being in College Station, Texas) audience was laughing hysterically throughout. The dialogue is expertly written, delivered by actors who are clearly having the time of their life.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have an unbelievable chemistry together, and are playing characters opposite their normal roles. Pegg's character is lovable, despite being obnoxious, immature and, a borderline alcoholic. "The World's End" has great character depth, finding great moments and camaraderie between the five actors.

An amazing thing about "The World's End": is how exciting and well choreographed the action is. The special effects work very well, and serve the humor perfectly. Clearly the best British comedy of the year, it's also the best comedy of the year. And, dare I say, one of the best films of the year, period. I guess the British really speak my language. 4 Stars. Rated R for Lots of Bad English Language.

Lee Daniels' The Butler

 Image: Butler gone, but pocket still there?!


Hi, and welcome to, James Eagan's, Lee Daniels' "The Butler" film review. For legal reasons, I must clarify that this is not just, "The Butler". Apparently, there was a silent film, long ago, that was called , "The Butler", so God forbid Harvey Weinstein gets to call his film "The Butler", without having to add the Directors name to the title. Lawyers suck.

Inspired by a true story, Lee Daniels' "The Butler" stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil, a man who became the actual White House Butler, serving under 7 Presidents. It follows his life, from his early tragic childhood, through his years inside and outside the White House.

The Butler begins his Washington career for President Eisenhower (Robin Williams), followed by the tragically short Presidency of President Kennedy (James Marsden), his 5 years with President Johnson (Liev Schreiber), through the scandals of President Nixon (John Cusack). The film (Like History), pretty much ignores Presidents Ford and Carter, before finishing his career with President Reagan (Alan Rickman).

The Butler, and his wife's (Oprah Winfrey) personal lives were just as turbulent, as they dealt with incredible social changes, racism, and the differences between themselves and their children. One son (David Oyelowo) becomes more radical as he fights racial injustice, while another son (Elijah Kelly) joins the Military and serves in Vietnam.

Many critics have compared "The Butler" (Oh, I'm sorry), Lee Daniels' "The Butler" (You know what, screw it) to "Forest Gump", and it's a fair comparison. I actually think "The Butler" is a slightly better film. Yes, It's obvious Oscar bait, with some overly sentimental and dramatic moments, but that doesn't take away from the power of the film. There is some real greatness here.

"The Butler" is a performance centered film, and Forest Whittaker knocks it out of the park, pretty much guaranteeing him an Eagan Oscar nomination. His character is both impeccable and complex. And though I hear that Oprah Winfrey was at one time a talk show host of some kind, she is wonderful as Whittaker's Wife. Both of their children in the film are excellent, particularly David Oyelowo, who is a shoo-inn for a nomination as well.

The film is called "The Butler", and not "The Presidents" for a reason, and the portrayals of the leaders and their wives are all solid and respectful, particularly James Marsden as JFK. The make-up crew deserves accolades for making them all look as true to life as possible. As far as any political agenda, "The Butler" only gives one if your'e looking for one.

"The Butler" has so much historical feel to it, it should hold the interest of older children and teens. In fact, my 10 year old sister, Julia, loved the film, and learned (And was far more entertained) as much in 2 hours as she would in an entire class of History or Social Studies. I'm...'Sniff'...So...Proud! 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Intense Racial Moments and Language.

Jobs

 Image: Steve Jobs: Porn Star.


Steve Jobs was a dick.

That's about all I learned from "Jobs", the first of 29 biopics about the man who invented apples. Actually, Steve Jobs was a visionary who helped begin "Apple Computers", led the way in the creation of the "I-Pad" and the "I-Phone", co-founded Pixar, and, according to this film, liked LSD, and could be a real A-Hole.

The film shows Steve Jobs through all his ups and downs, from the start of his career at Atari, where he meets up with the Great and Powerful "Woz" (Josh Gad). They start up Apple Computer, and change the computer world, but Jobs's perfectionist ways eventually force him out. 

A few years later, Jobs is running NeXT, when he is offered the opportunity to return to Apple, where he proceeds to fire all people who had screwed him over, before turning Apple into quite possibly the most innovative company in the world.

For a movie that's over 2 hours long, I honestly didn't come away learning a darn thing about Steve jobs that I didn't already know. At least, anything important. I already knew he was a genius. And I already knew that he was very complicated, but "Jobs" doesn't give nearly enough detail, glossing over important events that may have helped us understand him better.

Like, for instance, the girlfriend he abandoned, and the daughter he refused to acknowledge (at least for a while), or his rivalry with fellow innovator Bill Gates, are rushed through with little explanation. In fact, "Jobs" the movie, isn't nearly as interesting as Jobs, the man. The script just isn't good enough to expand on the fascinating subject matter it has.

To my surprise, Ashton Kutcher is actually not half bad as Jobs, and he's convincing enough (except as the older Jobs, where he mostly just looks like Ashton Kutcher dressed up for Halloween as an old Steve Jobs). Josh Gad comes across best as Steve Wozniak, J.K. Simmons (As an Apple big wig) is always welcome, and Dermot Mulroney is very good as Apple's big early investor. 

"Jobs" isn't a terrible film. It's just such a waste, almost to the point of being forgettable. And Steve Jobs may have been an LSD taking, daughter abandoning, temper tantrum throwing jerk. But he wasn't forgettable. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Language and Drug Tripping.

Kick-Ass 2

 Image: Batman and Robin, if they shopped at Goodwill.


In 2010, "Kick-Ass" became a cult hit, becoming, to my knowledge, the first R rated teen super hero action film in Hollywood history. But since we weren't reviewing R rated flicks yet (My Dad was trying to protect my innocent young mind), I finally took the time to check out the (Still) controversial film. 3 Stars. Kind of clever and fun. Kind of violent and vulgar, too.

Now, the teen crime fighters are back in "Kick-Ass 2". "Dave/Kick Ass" (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and "Mindy/Hit-Girl" ( Chloë Grace Moretz) have retired from vigilante justice, to live normal, non-ass kicking lives. But when Dave sees how other people have been inspired by them, he decides to get back into action. Mindy, however, is discouraged by her guardian (Morris Chestnut) from risking her life anymore (Probably since her Dad, Nicholas Cage, burned to a crisp in the original).

So Kick-Ass joins a new super hero team, led by "Colonel Stars and Stripes" (Jim Carrey), but, (And, yes, this is his name) "The Mother F@#$er " (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is looking for revenge against Kick-Ass for his fathers death, and he begins assembling the world's first super villain team. Meanwhile, Hit-Girl is dealing with teen angst problems at school with the mean girls, so she must decide if it's possible to be a "Normal" girl, or if her destiny is to be a super hero as well.

"Kick-Ass 2" is the definition of sequel overkill. The film attempts to be bigger, badder, and darker than the original, but all it leads to is an unfortunate mess. Too many subplots, and too many characters are short on development, or are all together dropped from the story. The sequel may not be more violent than the last film, but it is harsher. It seems as if it's trying to take some chances, but the erratic tone doesn't mesh with it's eccentric plot.

Chloë Grace Moretz is once again the best part of the movie, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse has some great moments as the mother f@#$ing villain. Jim Carrey,despite limited screen time, makes the most of what he can, in what is otherwise, a surprisingly inconsistent film.

Yet another example of a sequel not living up to it's potential, "Kick-Ass 2" has some inspired ideas and moments, but misses the mark because of lack of focus and direction. I guess it's not as easy to make quality violent and vulgar teen super hero movies as I thought. 2 Stars. Rated R for Kick Ass Violence and Kick Ass Language.

Planes

 Image: Dane Cook. Because Owen Wilson wan't available.


We all know Disney made "Planes" as a Supposed-to-Be-Straight-to-DVD "Re-Telling" of "Cars". Disney knows that we know. But Disney also knows how easy it will be to make a nice hefty profit. Mission accomplished.

But since Disney is usually awesome, I'll try to cut them some slack for this obvious ripoff. "Planes" is, well, like "Cars". Only with planes. Dusty/Lightning McQueen (Dane Cook) is a lowly Crop Duster, who dreams of someday becoming a racer. Unfortunately, he's afraid of heights.

He finally gets his chance, when he meets "Skipper/Doc Hudson" (Stacey Keach), "Chug" (Brad Garrett), "El Chupacabra" (Carlos Alazraqui), and "Ishana" (Priyanka Chopra), and the evil current winner Rigslinger (Roger Craig Smith). Dusty finally gains the confidence he needs to win the big race, Skipper has a horribly disturbing and violent war flashback, and Disney goes home with another $25 Million opening. The end. 

I guess at the least, "Planes" is inoffensive and harmless enough. It's also predictable, bland and boring, taking absolutely no chances of messing with a successful formula. It's like "Turbo", if "Planes" had added the same charm and humor. On the bright side, it's Disney, and they never suck with the animation. "Planes" is pretty to watch and has some genuinely fine moments to look at.

Maybe it's just me, but Dane Cook doesn't sound like he particularly cares about his performance in "Planes", but the rest of the cast is all right, especially Carlos Alazraqui, who easily has the film's funniest moments. In reality, it's clearly geared towards the little members of the audience, but, like those damn "Smurfs", anyone who isn't still potty training will be incredibly bored.

"Planes" is a generally uninteresting, second rate, Disney cash cow. Hopefully, after raking in their obscene profits, Disney will get back to making another instant classic. Like "Planes 2", coming next summer. I wish I was kidding. 2 Stars. Rated PG, But Would Have Been G, Except For That Savagely Graphic War Flashback.

Elysium

 Image: MAATT DAAAYMIN!!!!!!


Great. Yet another movie with a liberal message. More propaganda from the Hollywood elite. Droning on and on about health care rationing and what not. (I feel the same way about conservative propaganda.) In the case of "Elysium", thank God it's also as exciting as Hell.

Star Log, 2154. Earth has gone to crap in a hand basket. Now, only the poor and unfortunate live there (Imagine Detroit). Meanwhile, all the rich folk live on "Elysium", an advanced Space Station that is peaceful, luxurious, and has the ability to cure any one with the means of any disease known to man.

Back on Earth, Matt Damon (MAATT DAAAYMIN!) is suffering from radiation poisoning, and has only 5 days to live. In desperation, he finds "Spider" (Wagner Moura), who agrees to help get to Elysium, provided Matt Damon helps steal important data from the crazy guy from "The Lone Ranger" (William Fichtner). So Matt Damon is implanted (And when I say implanted, I mean he has a powerful Battle Machine/Armor screwed into his head and back. (Yes, Matt Damon gets screwed. Hard.)

Turns out, the information is more important than they imagined, and can reboot Elysium's system, changing it for the good (Or bad) for whoever controls it. Unfortunately, Elysium's Secretary of Defense (Jodie Foster) wants to use the system for her own nefarious and controlling means. Desperate to find Matt Damon, she hires a psychotic (And I mean bonkers) Agent named Kruger (Sharlito Copley) to track him down and retrieve the data.

Yes, "Elysium" at heart is a political cautionary tale about Health Care inequality, but it's also a well told story, with breath taking visuals, fine acting, and edge of your seat excitement. The film is so visually stunning, that I began to think that this world somehow had to exist. It's unlike anything I've ever seen in a futuristic film. Director Neill Blomkamp is a true visionary, creating a world and a story that is original enough to make me forget the obvious Political/Social message.

Matt Damon is terrific, carrying the entire movie on his Robot implanted shoulders, though Sharlito Copley nearly steals the film with his terrifyingly insane performance. Oddly, Jodie Foster seems a bit miscast as the main villain (I'm sure she's a great actress, but something just feels off with her character.)

Unlike the preachy, boring and unoriginal (And WAY overrated) "Avatar", "Elysium" is not too preachy, fast-paced, clever and action packed. Hey James Cameron, if your going to shove more "Avatar" down our throat (Did it warrant a sequel, let alone 3?) put Neill Blomkamp and Matt Damon in charge of it. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Brutal Violence, Strong Language, and the Hard Screwing of Matt Damon.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

 Image: Satan also gives "Percy Jackson" only 1 1/2 Stars.


In all of my conversations about movies with people I know, not once have I heard anyone say, "Hey James, when is that new 'Percy Jackson' movie coming out." "Boy, I sure can't wait for the sequel to 'Percy Jackson'. "Hey James, what did you think about 'Percy Jackson'?"

And since I never bothered to see the first one, here's my review of "Percy Jackson:Sea of Monsters". Sometime after the events of the first film (Again, I got no clue), Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is at a camp for Demi Gods (Apparently, The Gods are horny little buggers, because the camp is full of them). Anyway, the camp is protected is protected by a force field, which comes from a magic tree that is made from a dead girl.

Eventually, the tree begins to die, because a whiny Demi God (Jake Abel), seems to be pissed off at everybody (He wants ultimate power, destroy all life, and resurrect "Kronos". You know, what all pissed off teenagers want.) But thanks to some magical prophecy "Mumbo Jumbo", the camp of Demi Gods gets the idea to find the "Golden Fleece" that can heal everything.

So the top female Demi God at the camp (Levin Ramblin) is sent on the quest to find the Golden Fleece. But "Percy Jackson" is not about her, so Percy, his black Friend/Goat (Brandon T. Jackson), a hot girl with pretty eyes (Alexandra Daddario), and Percy's Cyclops half brother (Douglas Smith) decide to go to the "Sea of Monsters" (Although I only saw one monster in the sea. Ripoff) to get it back.

Well that sure makes a lot of sense. That's a whole lot of silliness and plot for a film that feels so rushed, but "Percy Jackson" feels like one of those films that the studio forgot about, before realizing, "Hey, this was supposed to be a franchise! We better toss this out before the end of the summer to make a quick buck." The plot is bland, and the characters feel generic and boring. The villain is incredibly lame, and the young actors are underwhelming, but Stanley Tucci (As a camp counselor) and Nathan Fillion (As the Villain's Dad) bring some desperately needed humor.

With mediocre CGI (Although "Kronos"and couple of creatures look cool), and scenes that looked directly stolen from a lamer "Harry Potter" story, " Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters" doesn't take nearly enough effort and time to be the next "Harry Potter". As long as it's the last "Percy Jackson". 1/1/2 Stars. Rated PG, Just for the Idea of Gods Having So Much "Procreation".

2 Guns

 Image: Denzel and Wahlberg, blowing through their paychecks, before beginning filming of "2 Guns".


"2 Guns" is the kind of film that is a critic's worst nightmare. It's not exactly good, per say, but, then again, it's not half bad. It's got some of those fun qualities you want in a summer action movie, yet it also has the usual aggravating plot holes that I constantly complain about, leading to some of my most epic rants (And probably causing these blinding, splitting headaches. I'm getting the test results back this week).

But, thank God, "2 Guns" also has Denzel Washington (Who, by virtue of talent, is not allowed to suck. It's in his contract) and Mark Wahlberg, who star as undercover Feds, who are trying to take down a vicious drug lord (Edward James Olmos). For some insane reason, they decide to rob $3 Million from the drug kingpins bank account, only to discover that there was $43 Million in the vault.

This is because of a vast ( And I'm talking VAST) conspiracy, involving Bill Paxton (With an awesome southern accent), James Marsden (Mark Wahlberg's boss), and Paula Patton (Denzel's lover). All of this leads to a lot of inane nonsense, and more twists and turns than I could possibly explain. And a climax in which the film nearly falls apart because of it.

Yet "2 Guns" is entertaining nonsense, almost completely because of the chemistry between the two leads. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are terrific together, and they somehow hold the film together, due to their humor, charisma, and sheer willpower. They can't exactly keep "2 Guns" grounded in reality, but they are two of the most bankable stars in Hollywood for a reason.

"2 Guns" looks good on the big screen, with some good action sequences, and the movie has a handful of good lines (Bill Paxton is joy to watch in every scene he's in), but this is such an absolute mess of a movie, it feels like complete overkill the longer it drones on. The plot is just too outrageous and implausible for the characters actions to be believed. "2 Guns" just doesn't make any sense.

And so, I walked out of "2 Guns" confused but entertained. So is this a Positive/Negative review? Or a Negative/Positive review? Or is it a mixed bag, a contradiction of feelings that conflicts me in ways even I don't understand. Maybe, entertainment is, well, just that. And thank God for Denzel Washington. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Bloody Violence, and For Paula Patton's Showing Us Her 2 Guns.

The Smurfs 2

 Image: Gargamel proposes to Smurfette in Paris, as she shows off her sparkling engagement ring.


This should be the shortest review of my career. They made a sequel to "The Smurfs", which means the producers of the film had this pre-packaged the minute the first film inexplicably made half a billion dollars worldwide. So all I really have to do is re-publish my review of that predictable, impossibly boring (but unoffensive) kids flick, and, well, you would get the gist.

But in case you feel the need for plot details for "The Smurfs 2", here goes. Gargamel (Hank Azaria, clearly giving more effort than the film deserves), has become a celebrity because of his magic powers. But, like many men his age, he is losing his Smurf "Essence", or Smurf Juice, or, well, that blue stuff that comes out of your Smurf. So, with the help of his "Naughties" (Christina Ricci and J.B.Smoove), he opens his portal, and goes back to Smurf Village. They kidnap "Smurfette" (Katy Perry) and take her back to Paris, where he tries to force her give him her secret spell, in order to turn his Naughties into little blue Smurfs.

So "Papa Smurf" (The late, great Jonathan Winters), "Mexican/New Yorker Smurf" (George Lopez), "Mentally Challenged Smurf" (Anton Yelchin) and "Narcissistic Jackass Smurf" (John Oliver) meet back up with humans, "Pat" (Neil Patrick Harris), and "Grace" (Jayma Mays, and her adorable eyes), who agree to help find Smurfette in Paris. Unfortunately, Pat's Step Dad (Brendan Gleeson), has turned into a duck.

Yep, I just took 30 Smurfin' minutes to explain to you the Smurfin' plot of "The Smurfs 2". We adults knew this was going to be bad, and we get exactly what we paid for. Poop jokes, fart jokes, and lots and lots of really bad Smurf puns. Standard, formulaic, silly plot. Standard kids "Message". Lessons learned. Bloating running time. Dads looking restlessly at their watch, wondering what Katy Perry would look like if she were really blue (Ok, that was me).

Yet, like the first film, "The Smurfs 2" doesn't really bother me. I guess there's nothing really that bad to aggravate me about it (I've seen SO much worse lately). At least the cast is genuinely trying, especially Hank Azaria, who seems to be having a ball. And although we have to tolerate the voice of George Lopez again (No offense to George Lopez, but, c'mon, he's in everything), at least we get the lovable voice of the late Jonathan Winters one last time.

But, by far the best things about "The Smurfs 2" are Katy Perry's cute voice, and Jemma Mays cute everything. Pretty much what I said about the first film, making this film completely unnecessary otherwise. (But your typical 5 to 6 year olds will get a kick out of it). And it's also completely forgettable, thankfully. Until I heard they are already making another sequel. SMURF ME! 2 Stars. Rated PG for Brief Smurfing.

The Wolverine

 Image: For you, ladies, in case you didn't know what James Eagan looks like.


Wait, THIS is the same guy who starred in "Les Miserables"?

You got to hand it hand Hugh Jackman. He is nothing if not versatile, going from singing his little heart out in one film, to beating the crap out of bad guys as a freakishly ripped Super Hero in the next. There are very few actors who can pull this off. For example, as much as I like Harrison Ford, can you imagine him breaking into song? Or John Wayne doing a dance number?

Fortunately, Jackman is not belting out any tunes in "Wolverine". Instead, (Following the chaos, carnage and destruction in "X-Men 3") the Wolverine is hiding out in the forest, where he is having nightmares about Famke Janssen, and "X-Men Origins:Wolverine".

That is, until a cute Japanese girl named "Yukio" (Rila Fukushima) convinces him to come to Japan to meet an old man (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) whom Wolverine had saved from the Atomic Bomb dropped on Nagasaki. The old man tells Wolverine that he can take his immortality away, but dies after Wolverine declines. The Wolverine is then pulled into a mysterious plot involving the old man's grand daughter (Tao Okamoto), her selfish dad (Hiroyuki Sanada), and an evil Snake Lady (Svetlana Khodchenkova...Wait, is this a foreign film?) And to make matters worse, Wolverine begins losing his special powers. All in all, not one of his best weeks.

Despite sounding overly complex, "Wolverine" is a relatively easy to follow action movie, with just enough character development and really good action scenes to keep the viewer invested. The fight sequences are original and well-choreographed, and Hugh Jackman is about as good an action hero as you can get. Jackman fits Wolverine perfectly, matching a great actor with a great character.

The rest of the cast good, particularly Rila Fukushima (I really had to check the spelling on these names. God bless "Wikipedia") as Wolverine's Ninja-like, sword-wielding, adorable bad-ass. The film looks really good on screen, and "Wolverine" makes Japan look absolutely beautiful.

A downside to "Wolverine" are it's villains (Too many, and generic), and the finale is a little cartoonish, and, well, a little weird, to be honest. It doesn't seem out of place, and I guess it ends up making sense in the end, yet it still, well...It's just weird, OK!? And, personally, I just don't like the Bone Claws.

"Wolverine" is still a suitable addition to very good franchise, and gives fans something to look forward to during the credits with an awesome sneak peek at the next Sequel. Just trust me. I geek out just like you all do. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Fairly Brutal Violence, and for Famke Janssen.

R.I.P.D.

 Image: Jeff Bridges has INDIGESTION!


You have no idea how much it hurts to give a film with Jeff Bridges a bad review. Not only is he one of the best actors of our era, but he's the only actor my Grandma use to babysit. Well, OK, he was, like 11, and my Grandma was, like, 16, but, how cool is that?! I think he taught her how to surf. For otherinteresting facts about Jeff Bridges, or my Grandma, Susan Wedell/Eagan, a former actress/model, feel free to ask me. And, if Jeff Bridges is reading this, my Grandma says "Hi"

Now let's get my review of this piece of crap over with. "R.I.P.D." stars Ryan Reynolds as a Cop who is killed by his partner (Kevin Bacon, which means Ryan Reynolds should have seen it coming). In the afterlife, he is assigned to the "Rest in Peace Department", where he is partnered with an old west Lawman (Jeff Bridges) in order to catch these terrible CGI creatures called "Deados", who are causing havoc....Oh. who cares. Nobody saw this anyway.

I'm sorry if you would like to know more, but "R.I.P.D." is such an obvious ripoff of "Men in Black", that it's pointless to explain any more. Imagine "Men in Black", but without fun, humor, effort, etc.. It's so lazily written that it feels like they were writing it on the fly. Certain scenes and moments don't make a lick of sense. For instance, in order to go back to the "Living" world, they must first flush a toilet, then are taken to a VCR repair shop. A toilet?

And why in the heck do the "Deados" turn into monsters whenever there is Indian food around? Is there something I'm missing here? I don't get the joke. "R.I.P.D." feels like a bad joke gone awry. It does have the clever idea of making the dead lawmen come back in the human form of a beautiful female model, and an old Chinese man, but unfortunately the plot device runs it's course very quickly.

As usual, Jeff Bridges is the best thing about "R.I.P.D.", but he and Ryan Reynolds aren't given a chance to develop any chemistry (It doesn't help that Reynolds seems to be playing a variation of characters he's played before). Kevin Bacon can be a great bad guy, but his character here is pretty bland and transparent. Also wasted is Mary-Louise Parker, who is there, but not given anything to do.

Worst of all are the horrendous CGI effects, quite possibly the worst I've ever seen. There's a difference between cheesy and cheap, but in "R.I.P.D" it just looks cheap (And yet the film cost $130 Million. Where did all of that money go?) A movie both expensive and lazy is a recipe for disaster. At least we know Jeff Bridges will be just fine. Jeff, my Grandma says it's going to be all right. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Violence, Language, and Bad CGI Monster Ass.

Turbo

 Image: This snail can't drive 55.


Look, I know that animated films aren't supposed to be realistic. Animals can't talk (At least to us). Toys don't have their own story. Despicable villains can't steal the Moon. Rats can not cook. Monsters don't go to college. Old farts can't fly houses with balloons. But I do want to believe. But a snail inhaling Nitrous Oxide from a turbo sports car does NOT turn him into a super powered racing machine. Imagine the impressionable children who may want to attempt this at home.

But I could be overreacting. In "Turbo", Ryan Reynolds plays "Theo", a snail who dreams of one day being as fast as his hero, Race Car Driver "Guy Gagne" (Bill Hader). One fateful night, Theo gets sucked into a car and, instead of being completely obliterated, ends up fusing with the Nitrous Oxide, turning him into a speed demon.

Theo (Or, "Turbo", as he wants to be called), and his disapproving Brother (Paul Giamatti), are caught by the "Taco Man" (Michael Peña), who introduces Turbo to a group of other snail racers. Leading this renegade band of snails is "Whiplash" (Samuel L. Jackson), who along with "Smoove Move" (Snoop Dogg), "Burn" (Maya Rudolph), "Skidmark" (Ben Schwartz), and "White Shadow" (Michael Bell), join forces with Turbo to convince Taco Man to enter Turbo in the Indy 500.

When Turbo gets his shot at the ultimate race, he soon finds out that his hero is not so heroic, but he's still intent on not only winning, but proving all of his doubters wrong. Basically your average underdog story (It even plays the song "Eye of the Tiger" during the climactic race).

"Turbo" is pretty standard fare for an animated tale, but it's also sweet and harmless. The overall message of chasing your dreams, despite your snail-like size, speed and limitations is well delivered, but where "Turbo" stands out is with the animation (DreamWorks continually gets better and better), which has a unique style and flair.

The voice work is terrific. Ryan Reynolds is very funny and likable (When he's not playing a variation on his own persona, like in "R.I.P.D."), Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast, Bill Hader is surprisingly menacing, and Samuel L. Jackson is a riot. And "Turbo" has also accomplished something never done before. It has helped make Ken Jeong (As a little old lady) incredibly funny.

"Turbo" generally works well, despite it's formulaic plot, and a few too many snail "Puns" (It's as if my Dad provided them. Which he would have. For free). It's not "Monsters University", "The Croods" or "Despicable Me 2", but it's something the kids will thoroughly enjoy. 3 Stars. Rated PG for Crude Humor.

Grown Ups 2

 Image: Adam and company, clearly laughing at another film.


I believe that America is the best country in the world. But, occasionally, the American people can make some very poor decisions. Prohibition. New Coke. Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter (Pretty much the entire 1970's). The Travon Martin verdict (Yep. I went there. Hey, I'm here to give opinions). I also believe that America is wrong to give Adam Sandler so much of their hard earned money. $42 Million dollar opening..... Lord help us. 

Sandler is back in "Grown Ups 2", with his well-compensated friends (Chris Rock, Kevin James and David Spade), basically to do little more than get into all kinds of crazy shenanigans. Like jumping off a cliff naked, getting urinated on by a CGI deer, and hanging out with, and fighting with drunken frat kids. You know, everything you want your kids to see in a "Family" film.

"Grown Ups 2" is not a movie. Like the first "Grown Ups", it is nothing more than a random collection of scenes, with no discernible plot other than to prove to us that Adam Sandler has pretty much just given up. I think the worst thing about this movie is that so many "Professional" film makers (Writers, Directors, Actors, etc.) are at least genuinely trying to create art (Even if they fail miserably). Yet Sandler and his crew have no such aspirations.

In fact, "Grown Ups 2" doesn't even deserve a review. If they aren't going to try, then why the Hell should I? I'm not making 42 cents for this review. But I refuse to phone it in, and will give my readers the professionalism they deserve. But the actors here are phoning it in, all pitching in with little more than fart and poop and bodily function jokes. Yet, somehow they still manage to add a "Heartfelt" message at the end of the film. Which is all too late, because I already dislike every adult involved in this project by then (Chris Rock. Salma Hayek. Steve Buscemi. You are all SO much better than this).

To show their desperation and laziness, every major comedy bit in "Grown Ups 2" inexplicably involves terrible CGI effects (Couldn't they find a real Deer to pee on Adam Sandler?) But they did somehow find a way to give Taylor Lautner (As a cocky college student) the greatest role of his career. I'm not kidding.

2 years ago, famed film critic James Eagan called Sandler's "Jack and Jill" 'An assassination of comedy'. Well, rigamortis has set in. Yes, America. You have decided to make "Grown Ups 2" a summer blockbuster, beating "Pacific Rim" at the box-office. I wanted my "Pacific Rim 2 "! Thanks a whole Hell of a lot. 1/2 a Star. Rated PG-13 for Everything Your Kids Shouldn't See Adults Doing in a PG-13 Film.

Pacific Rim

 Image: The "Kaiju" battles Adam Sandler for world box-office supremacy.


In order to become one of most respected film critics of our time, I need to catch up on watching a number of films, especially those helmed by the top Directors. Usually, a great Director means a film has a potential for greatness (Have you ever seen a great film with a bad Director? Think what Scorcese could do with Sandler!)

"Pacific Rim" is the first film I've ever seen from worldwide acclaimed Director Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy), and, clearly this is a Director who completely relishes what he does. A visual masterpiece, "Rim" is set in the future, when gargantuan Alien beasts, or "Kaijus", have created a portal on Earth, in the middle of the Pacific ocean. Being gargantuan, Alien beasts, they begin destroying everything on the planet.

So us humans decide to create giant, Alien fighting Robots, called "Jaegers". These "Jaegers" are piloted by two people, whose minds are melded together in order to create a stronger bond, making them fight to maximum potential. (Sounds pretty freakin' awesome, huh?!)

In the middle of the war, one pilot (Charlie Hunnam) has gone AWOL, after the death of his brother in battle. Soon after, he is found by the Commander Stacker Petecost (Awesome name), played by Idris Elba (Another awesome name), and is brought back into the program. There, he meets "Mako" (Rinko Kikuchi), and convinces her be his co-pilot when all Hell breaks loose.

"Pacific Rim" is exactly how you do a summer blockbuster. From the sure handed direction from Guiillermo del Toro, to the absolutely stunning special effects, all the way to it's all out sense of fun, "Rim" is everything an Alien/Robot/Action/Blockbuster film should be. Michael Bay, you've been schooled.

The visuals are the best I've seen in a movie this year. Del Toro's preparation and attention to detail is flawless, making every "Kaiju" and "Jaeger" unique and memorable. The characters are not exactly complex, but they work in the context of the film, and the actors are generally good. Charlie Hunnam is solid as the action hero, Rinko Kikuchi is cute, and a fairly complex character. As usual, Idris Elba is a bad-ass, and Charlie Day adds some comic relief as a nerdy Scientist who geeks out at the very thought of the "Kaijus". But by far, my favorite character is the ever entertaining Ron Perlman, who is perfect as a black market "Kaiju" organ dealer.

Perfect musical score, perfect pace, and perfect summer entertainment, "Pacific Rim" made me geek out as much as Charlie Day's nerdy scientist at the spectacle of the monsters. Although maybe not technically a 4 Star film, "Pacific Rim" knows exactly what it takes to please an audience. So 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for The Endless Destruction of our Beautiful Earth.

The Lone Ranger

 Image: The Lone Tonto.


I'm going to take as much time on this review as the scriptwriters did for "The Lone Ranger". About 45 minutes.

"The Lone Ranger" stars Johnny Depp as The Lone Rang...uh, Tonto, who finds a young bloodsucker, er, lawyer (Armie Hammer), whose brother was killed and had his heart eaten (Nice for a Disney Movie) by William Fichtner. So Tonto and his new little friend team up to catch the Demon. 2 uneventful hours later, you've waded through a conspiracy involving millions in silver, Native American rights, and Prostitutes (Yep. Perfect for a Disney Movie).

Director Gore Verbinski clearly knows how to make a top-notch western with Johnny Depp. In "Rango", Depp plays a Lizard with an identity crisis. Yet where "Rango" knew exactly what it was trying to say, "The Lone Ranger" doesn't have a clue where it's going or what it wants to be. Is it an action movie? Is it a comedy? Is it geared toward kids or adults? Is it a Supernatural film, or set in reality. Danged if I know. "The Lone Ranger" is all over the place.

The tone of "The Lone Ranger" is unexplainable. It shifts violently from dark, gruesome imagery (Brutal massacres, Cannibalism,etc.) To jovial, goofy comedy (Drunk Horses, Getting dragged through horse crap, etc.) So what can a very talented cast possibly do with a story this erratic? In Johnny Depp's case, you mug shamelessly for the camera to make up for the scripts inefficiencies. And since Armie Hammer's "Lone Ranger" is clearly second banana to "Tonto", he comes across as kind of a buffoon with nothing to do.

Other fine actors completely wasted are Tom Wilkinson (As Obvious Bad Guy), and Helena Bonham Carter (As Woman way too pretty for Tim Burton). Oh, and Barry Pepper is there, for some reason (As guy with awesome goatee, but no plot motivation). William Fichtner is the only actor who seems to have any fun, and probably because he gets to eat people. (He's a Demon Cannibal, or some such nonsense).

Other things that suck about "The Lone Ranger" are that it's nearly 2 1/2 hours long, and has some surprisingly shoddy special effects. Gore Verbinski does know how to shoot a scene and make it look good. And he clearly has an eye for women's cleavage. Lots and lots of clevage. I had to find something positive to say, about a film that clearly will go down as one of the most expensive flops in Disney History. Unless you want to share in the feel-good, Disney magic of Cannibals, Cleavage and Crap. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Revolting Disney Violence.

Despicable Me 2

 Image: An unchaperoned Minion party gets out of hand.


Al Pacino was wrong.

Granted, Al Pacino is considered by many to be one of the great actors of all time. But either he needs a new agent, or he is just plain high. Either way, what possessed him to take a lead role in "Jack and Jill", the 2011 film that famed film critic James Eagan called, "An assassination of comedy"? And then, due to "Creative Differences", turned down the villain role (Halfway through production, mind you) in what is clearly one of the best comedies of 2013. I'm going with high.

The sequel to 2010's "Despicable Me" (A cute 3 Star family film), "Despicable Me 2" brings back "Gru" (Steve Carell), a former villain turned loving father to 3 orphaned girls. He is soon abducted by the "Anti-Villain League" and is "Asked" by it's Director, Cilas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) to track down a new devious villain, who has stolen some kind of "Super Cream" that turns anyone into a ravenous, purple, monster-thingy (You know, the same stuff Lance Armstrong took).

Gru's and his new partner, "Lucy" (Kristen Wiig), now conduct operations inside of a bakery, where they are spying on their suspects, one of them sporting a resemblance to a famed "Super Villain" (Benjamin Bratt). But complicating matters is Gru and Lucy's budding romance, and Gru's longing for his daughters to have a mother.

You know how much I hate romantic subplots, but (Suprisingly) this is what gives "Despicable Me 2" it's heart. Both Gru and Lucy are so likable, and both characters are played so well by Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig, that it never takes away from the humor. For a fairly predictable plot, "Me 2" is pretty freakin' hilarious.

All the supporting characters are funny and likable, from the three little girls, to Steve Coogan, Russell Brand, and, especially, Benjamin Bratt (Who is having a heck of a year, along with a great turn in "Snitch"). But we all know that the real stars of "Despicable Me 2" are "The Minions", those lovable little yellow twinkies, who are always laugh-out-loud funny, even though you really can't understand what the heck they're saying. Their rendition of "Y.M.C.A" at the end of the film will have adults laughing even harder than the kids.

With very colorful animation and a sweet story, "Despicable Me 2" not only proves to be better than the original, it also proves that no actor, including Al Pacino should ever turn down the chance to work with characters as funny as The Minions. He should have said hello to his little friends. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Crude Humor and Minion Nudity.

White House Down

 Image: Oh Goodie!!! I'm going to blow up the Earth, with my Space Modulator!!!!


I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!!

It's just SO terrible. But that's what makes it great!

Are you following me so far?

O.K.. Here's the plot for "White House Down". President Obama (Jamie Foxx) is proposing a Peace Treaty with our foes in order to bring peace to the Middle East (Yeah, that's totally going to happen), but that doesn't sit to well with some extreme Right-Wing nut cases (This movie is SO Liberal). 

So these mercenaries (Led by Jason "What a step down from 'Zero Dark Thirty'" Clark) somehow take over the White House, with the help of the head of Presidential Security (James Woods. Who clearly didn't go through a background check). But they didn't count on Channing Tatum, a Police Officer on a White House tour with his politics loving daughter (Joey King). He saves President Obama, and they team up to be Bad Boy/Lethal Weapons, stopping the insurrection, while they slowly and gloriously kill our brain cells in the process.

Pretty assinine, right. It gets stupider. I haven't even mentioned the stupidest parts yet. I wouldn't even know where to begin. I'm BEGGING you to see "White House Down" for yourselves, to enjoy it's absurdity. To revel in it's cheese. To generally and genuinely laugh your ass off. I couldn't help but have a giant smile on my face watching the preposterous chaos unravel in front of me. It's so bad....it's GOOD!

The dialogue will go down as classic. (I CHOOSE THE PEN!!! Or. HONEST ABE TOOK A BULLET FOR ME TWICE!!! Or. DONT...TOUCH...MY...WHITE HOUSE!!!) Never before in the history of film have the public enjoyed such awful dialogue. But it's so knowingly cheesy, it's utterly awesome. Or....Is it supposed to be cheesy, or is "White House Down" SUPPOSED to be completely God-Awful. I don't know and I don't care. I haven't had more fun watching a movie this year.

Jamie Foxx does a fine President Obama impersonation, but Channing Tatum doesn't exactly bring his "A" game (Guess he needed some "Stripper" music). The cute Maggie Gyllenhall, and the not-so-cute Richard Jenkins are fine actors, given nothing to do, but the villains are so cartoonishly over-the-top, that I demand they be made the villains in every bad movie, ever. James Woods is predictably, insanely awesome, Jason Clarke is delightful in a role he is already regretting, and Jimmi Simpson (As Wacky Hacker Guy) is so wacky and cool, that I question if he even knew he was being filmed.

The action scenes are impressively silly and full of overwrought symbolism. (Wait for the climactic scene. You'll thank me!), the Liberal message is outrageously (And amusingly) heavy-handed (I'm no Conservative, politically, but c'mon!), and I always admire Director Roland Emmerich's total disregard for human life onscreen. "White House Down" has got to be one of the dumbest films in the history of Hollywood. It's blissfully terrible. And I loved every second of it. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for The Annihilation of Innocent People, and the Blowing Up of Beloved Historical Landmarks.

Monsters University

 Image: My little one-eyed monster, and his two sacks.


It's going to be so nice to not have to listen to critics complaining about Pixar for a while. It's like, "Pixar didn't make a masterpiece!", or, " 'Cars 2' isn't, you know, whatever" , or, " 'Brave' isn't, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!" This time, Pixar decided to concentrate on just being funny.

"Monsters University" is the prequel to "Monsters Inc", and shows where "Sulley" (John Goodman), a giant, harry, blue monster, and "Mike Wazowski" (Billy Crystal), a little, green, one-eyed monster first met. Sulley and Mike have gone to Monsters University to study how to be the world's greatest "Scarers".

They start out as rivals, with Sulley believing that Mike isn't capable of being scary enough. Their rivalry gets them kicked out of the program, so Mike convinces the school's Dean (Helen Mirren) to give them another chance if they can win "The Scare Games", which would prove their scaring ability.

Sulley and Mike join a Fraternity, "Oozma Kappa", filled with misfit monsters and quirky characters (Like "The Intership". Only funny). They all learn confidence and the meaning of teamwork, while Sulley and Mike grow to be the great monster friends we came to love in "Monsters Inc."

I enjoyed "Monsters Inc." quite a bit, yet never thought it was close to being one of Pixar's best, but I find "University" to be a hilarious and heartfelt step up. Where "Monsters Inc." maybe seemed more geared toward the younger audiences, "Monsters University" had the older (Mostly College students) audience cracking up in the theater. Although the characters are all a similar collection from other "College" movies, they are all lovable and memorable, especially "Squishy" (Peter Sohn), a little pinkish blob with endless eyeballs, "Art" (Charlie Day), a furry purple "Thingy", and the Dean (Helen Mirren), possibly the most "Terrifying" monster of all.

Like in the prequel, "Monsters University" works best due to the chemistry and the voice work of John Goodman and Billy Crystal. They are sweet, funny, and thoroughly convincing as the soon to be best friends. And when has Pixar's animation ever been anything less than spectacular? (This includes the cute "Short" before the film, "The Blue Umbrella").

The final third of "Monsters University" is the best, and shows the real heart of the film, with an interesting message of learning from, and succeeding after failure. If only all film makers could learn the same lessons. Or even, film critics. For example, my Dad has learned from his much hated "Judge Dredd" review, and....Well, I guess he hasn't really learned anything yet. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated G.
 

Man of Steel

 Image: Superman is taken into custody after sharing NSA secrets.


Was anyone really interested in another "Superman" reboot, until Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan got involved?Zack Snyder is wonderfully visual as a Director, while Christopher Nolan is, well Christopher Nolan. Think "Batman" meets "300". I'm thinking a deep, well-written, action packed Super Hero classic. With Gladiators.

How about a flashy, standard, fairly exciting Super Hero summer hit? "Man of Steel" begins with the planet Krypton dying, and about to explode (I blame Global Warming). Jor-El (Russell Crowe) decides to send his son, Kal-El (Henry Cavill), to a far away planet in order to carry their legacy on. Unfortunately, crazy-ass General Zod (Michael Shannon) wants to build the Universe in his own warped way. 

Kal-El lands on Earth (Which seems like a step down, except that Amy Adams is on it), and has grown into a super man with unexplained powers. Meanwhile, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) discovers his secret as Kal-El, "a.k.a. Joe. a.k.a. Clark Kent." learns to harness his super powers, and become "Superman".

But then General Zod finds Kal-El on Earth, demanding that Kal-El/Superman surrender to him, or Earth shall face his overly dramatic, sweaty wrath. The rest of the film is basically 45-50 minutes of "Superman vs. Zod" slightly indulgent epic battle scenes.

"Man of Steel" becomes dangerously close to being just a bit too much. Too much CGI. Too much mayhem and chaos. The furious action becomes overwhelming, becoming a little more style over substance (Always Zack Snyder's problem). This hurts the character development, but fortunately the actors are able to rise above it.

Henry Cavill (Who I've never seen in anything, ever), does a very good job as Superman, and he does look the part (Almost as much as I would). Amy Adams is everything she always is. Believable, charming, and, Oh My God So Pretty. Michael Shannon reins in his intensity, and gives his bad guy some depth, and Russell Crowe is an absolute bad-ass as the super Dad.

But the best moments in "Man of Steel" are the flashbacks involving Clark Kent's human foster parents. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are wonderful as the Mom and Dad, giving the film it's much needed moments of emotional grounding. "Man of Steel" should have stuck with the human element, instead of relying so much on spectacle. A little more Christopher Nolan, a little less Zack Snyder.

"Man of Steel" has more good moments than not, enough to at least make me excited for what they are going to do for the sequel. There's always a sequel around the bend. Inevitably leading to the "Justice League" movie. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for A Surprising Amount of Death and Destruction.
 

This Is The End

 Image: Want to spend The Rapture with these guys?


This is the end. Of my old website format! (Unless your's reading this on your mobile phone or on Facebook. Then this joke makes no sense). Seriously, we've got a new Web address coming soon, so "James and His Dad's Reviews" becomes "Eagan at the Movies". We've listened to your demands. The people have spoken!

So if I had a Web Launch party, it would be totally like the party they're having in "This is the End" (Without the drugs. Or alcohol. Or celebrities). Longtime friends Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel (Played by Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel) are going to hang out in L.A., but decide, (against Jay Baruchel's wishes) to go to an epic party at James Franco's (Played by James Franco) house.

At the party, they meet up with Jonah Hill (Jonah Hill) , Craig Robinson (Craig Robinson...Ok, they all play themselves. Freakin' hilarious, right?). Anyway, all of these real life celebrities show up for a night of debauchery. And then comes The Apocalypse. Most of the celebrities begin dying gruesomely funny deaths when Danny McBride shows up as quite possibly the worst human being in the world. And that's when all Hell breaks loose.

There are plenty of other surprises here. But the biggest surprise is how funny and clever "This is the End" is. Although it is very crude. And vulgar. And gross. And probably sacrilegious (Maybe?) It is also an absolute riot, and has some surprising heart to it (In it's own way). It's funny how the actors all play themselves, but it's hilarious how well they all do at playing themselves.

The chemistry between the main cast is remarkable, and their willingness to poke fun at themselves (And everyone else) makes us feel like we're part of the joke. The cameos, particularly an adorable Emma Watson swearing up a storm, all seem to work, and the whole idea of The Apocalypse ends up being very clever, and even a little scary, since the CGI is pretty well done. 

Really, "This is the End" is a perfect film, at least from the point of view of the people making it. As I said, it is so crude (Lots of sights and talk of, uh, Schlongs. You know... Peckers. One-Eyed Monsters. Johnsons. Captain Winky. You get the picture) Add in the drugs and stuff, and "The End" really is as good and funny as your own personal tolerance. 

Toss in an epic finale, and a surprisingly sweet message about friendship and redemption, and you've got the funniest dang movie of the year, so far. I hope the real Apocalypse is this awesome. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Everything You'd Burn in Hell For.

The Internship

 Image: The Google Crashers.


Since I wasn't yet reviewing movies when I was 11, I haven't seen "Wedding Crashers", and can only go on my Dad's review of how funny that movie is, and how well Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson worked together. But after seeing "The Internship", it only further continues the eroding of my faith in my Dad's reviewing skills.

In "The Internship", Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson star as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, two salesmen who lose their job when their boss, John Goodman, decides he only wants to show up for two scenes and a fat paycheck.

Vince Vaughn gets the idea for he and Owen Wilson to get an internship at Google, and since Owen Wilson doesn't much like working for Will Ferrell (A very weird cameo), they join Google as "Noogles" (Heh. Get it?). There they encounter nerdy outcasts, a stuffy authority figure (Aasif Mandvi), a snooty antagonist (Max Minghella), and, of course, a cute romantic diversion (Rose Byrne).

In the end, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teach the youngsters life lessons about babbling incessantly, while the two of them learn that Google must be the greatest company and workplace to ever exist. And I learn that two hours of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson is at least half an hour too much.

Besides the fact that "The Internship" is clearly too long, the film is filled with nothing but stock characters and situations that we've all seen in countless comedies before. Instead of Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson coming across as charming rascals, it just comes across as annoying and soft, in part due to the PG-13 rating. "The Internship" feels watered down and bland.

I guess Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson can be funny, but "The Internship" is clearly not the vehicle to judge them (I should probably see "Wedding Crashers"), and Rose Byrne is cute, but her role is generic. The rest of the cast is pretty standard, save for The Samsung Galaxy Guy (You know who I'm talking about, right? That geeky guy who tied up the movie projector guy in that commercial?), who is incredibly annoying and geeky and white.

Although not the worst film of the year, "The Internship" has one saving grace. It makes "After Earth" look a little better in hindsight. But they both make me desperate to see "Man of Steel", or "This is the End". Or anything. (It's gonna get better, James. It's gonna get better). 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Too Much Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.

After Earth

 Image: The Alien can sense Box Office doom.


What can I say about "After Earth" that hasn't already been said? That it's an epic bore. A colossal failure. A Will Smith family vanity project that....Well, you get the picture. (By the way, sorry for the delay in my review. Thought maybe "After Earth" needed some extra time to reflect upon my harsh initial thought. Didn't help).

Sometime in the future, Earth has become uninhabitable (Again. Hollywood loves to destroy this planet). "After Earth" begins with the human race living on another planet, where they are fighting an epic battle against Aliens that can literally smell fear. Literally. No, seriously. Fear. They can smell it! (I think it's a metaphor).

So Will Smith decides to take his precocious son, Jaden on a space trip, but crash land on Earth instead. Will breaks his legs in the crash, leaving Jaden to search for a beacon to signal for help. Problem is, all of Earth's animals have evolved into the most deadly creatures imaginable (Vicious Baboons, Ferocious Lion/Tiger hybrid. Flying Winged Snakes, etc.) Jaden must then somehow try to overcome his fear and bond with his Dad before I actually fell asleep from boredom.

M. Night Shaymalan. (IF that is his REAL name). What the Hell happened?! "After Earth" sucks. It is atrociously boring, with terrible pacing, and pompous, droning dialogue. Will Smith (One of the most charismatic actors around) is all silly metaphors about "Facing your fears" and whatnot, and putting this dull story on the wee little shoulders of Jaden Smith is just way too much for him too handle.

The CGI is sub par (Especially with the Flying Winged Snake. Seriously, what the Hell?!), and the action and suspense never feels authentic for a second. "After Earth" is also surprisingly nightmarish and cruel for a PG-13 rated "Family" film. Basically, what I'm trying to say is, this film is a disaster. The only likable thing about the movie is the Giant Eagle that tries to feed Jaden Smith to it's babies.

"After Earth" is painfully trying to establish a message of family and Father/Son bonding, but in the end, none of the characters really learns anything. So what was the point of "After Earth"? Other than to force us to love and accept Jaden Smith, I guess. Didn't work. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Violence, Dark Imagery, and Indulgent Psycho Babble.

Epic

 Image: My High School Senior Graduation Photo (I'm the yellow one on the left).


Blue Sky Studios has really got to start working on their originality. You can pretty much depend on beautiful animation and some charm. But what you will never really get is a story that's anything more than your standard, "Little People in the Forest, Crazy Father/Headstrong Daughter Conflict, Dead Mother, and Cute, Wisecracking Creatures". Oh, and of course, "Evil Genius Villain Surrounded By Idiot Henchman".

"Epic" has all of this and more. A teenage girl (Amanda Seyfred) moves back in with her eccentric father (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother passes away. Dad (Much like my Dad) believes that their are tiny, little people who live in the forest, defending it from evil. Crazy as it sounds, Dad is right, and the Daughter gets shrunken by Beyonce. 

There, she meets the "Leafmen", led by "Ronin" (Colin Farrell), a brave Irish leafman who is battling an evil force called "The Boggins". Ruled by a vicious, yet amusingly flamboyant "Boggin" (Christoph Waltz), the young girl is pulled into their war, and learns an important lesson about family and all that jazz. Throw in some Steven Tyler and a just little bit of Pitbull, and you've got yourself an "Epic" movie. (Yep. That's what I said. Steven Tyler. And Pitbull). 

As I said, the story isn't exactly earth shattering. (Think "Ferngully". Minus the Tim Curry. Get well soon, Tim). Yet Blue Sky's animation is top notch, as always. The film looks beautiful, and the detail is impressive, right down to the slime on every slug. The character design is technically impressive, showing all of their intricate facial and body movements. The scope truly is "Epic"

The film is too predictable, which gets in the way of the enjoyment of "Epic". Just a very standard story, enlivened by generally likable characters, with Colin Farrell standing out as the brave little man. Christoph Waltz (Who I helped get an "Oscar" for last year. I have influence) is awesome, and Amanda Seyfred is always cute.

In the end, the kids will love "Epic", so parents can rest assure they are not wasting their hard earned dough. And isn't that what it's all about? Keeping the little people happy. 3 Stars. Rated PG for Intense Moments, Steven Tyler, and Pitbull. .

Star Trek: Into Darkness

 Above: Benedict Cumberbatch breaks wind.


Is it too late to become a "Trekkie"?

I mean, I've never taken the time to see the original "Star Trek" films, let alone the classic original series (The Shatner one.) Or, the other series ( The Patrick Stewart one.) Or any of the other ones (I was too busy with "Star Wars".) 

But the "Star Trek" reboot, especially with the new "Star Trek: Into Darkness", has turned me into a full fledged "Trek" Geek. "Into Darkness" begins with the Terrorist attack by John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). Careful not to start a Galactic war, Enterprise Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) volunteers to hunt him down, along with his faithful crew, including, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban), Scottie (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), and Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

Sounds like your typical "Star Trek" film, right. Wrong! There is a lot more to "Into Darkness" than you would initially think, so I am not allowed to give anything away, but I can say that this is a film that stands on it's own as an all-around, great movie.

The main strength of "Into Darkness" is how character driven the film is. The chemistry and dialogue of the Star Trek crew is impeccable, and the actors feel like they are truly a team, and have known each other for years. Each of the Star Trek crew have great individual moments. The plot itself may not be very story driven, but the connection between the Enterprise crew and the Terrorist they seek is powerful stuff and non-stop excitement.

The visuals are as spectacular as they were in the last film, and the 3-D graphics are great, enhancing "Into Darkness" in a way that many 3-D films don't. The action sequences are thrilling, leading to a perfect final 30 minutes of a near flawless movie (To be honest, I really can't find a flaw.)

But if anything puts "Star Trek" at the top of my best of the year (So far) list, it's the total awesomeness of it's villain. I'm officially starting the "Benedict Cumberbatch for Best Supporting Actor Oscar" campaign, because the guy is the perfect blend of menace, complexity and all-around bad-ass, uh, ness. And that voice! His voice reverberates through the theater even more than the explosions through the surround sound. If Morgan Freeman is the voice of God, Than Benedict Cumberbatch must be the voice of Satan. But in a good way.

"Star Trek: Into Darkness" is a rare, summer action film, that had me thinking about it's wonderful complexity and interesting message it presents at the end of the movie, that makes it rise above even the most enjoyable Hollywood Blockbuster. And since I figure I'm now an honorary "Trekkie", I demand an invitation to Comic-Con. Can anyone hook a "Brother" up? I need 4 tickets. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Intense Action and One, Brief "Pantie" Shot.

The Great Gatsby

 Image: Here's looking up your old address.


Baz Luhrmann is weird. We're talking full blown, Acid trip, high as a kite, Lady Gaga music video, bonkers. But that's not to say that he's isn't an entertaining and ambitious Director.

All of these traits are on full display in his adaption of the classic novel (That I have not read. Hey, I'm not a book critic), "The Great Gatsby". The film is told from the standpoint of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), who has gone mentally hilarious and has been institutionalized (Not in the book) in 1920's New York. He tells the story of, who he calls, the most hopeful man he's ever met, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Gatsby is Nick's wealthy next door neighbor, though no one seems to know how he made his fortune. But, man can he throw a PARTY! Nick becomes friends with Gatsby, who is hoping to rekindle a relationship with Nick's lovely cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who Gatsby feels is the one who got away. Unfortunately, Daisy is married to Tom (Joel Edgerton), a selfish bastard, who is fooling around with a woman named Myrtle (Isla Fisher. Clearly the prettiest girl named "Myrtle" ever.) But Myrtle is married to a gas station owner (Jason Clarke), who..... well, suffice to say everyone learns that everything is not as rosy as they thought, and everything basically goes to Hell in a hand basket.

"The Great Gatsby" (From what I've heard) is pretty faithful to the book. But since I haven't read it, I can only review the film on it's own merits. And there is greatness in "Gatsby". The look of the film, from the costume design to the impressive visuals, is astonishing to see. Baz Luhrman knows how to create a vivid picture, and the 1920's era is a stunning re-creation.

All of the performances are fine, but the real standouts are Leo DiCaprio (Who is terrific), Joel Edgerton (A nasty villain), and Amitabh Bachchan ( A one-scene knockout as a shady businessman.) And Carey Mulligan is all kinds of adorable as the object of Leo's affections.

The soundtrack (Featuring Artists such as Jay-Z, Florence and the Machine, and Lana Del Rey) feels out of place and totally whacked out, and yet, strangely works. Like the film itself, it's kind of hard to explain. And at it's worst, "Gatsby" is very flawed. The biggest flaw is that while, though the actors are all good individually, they have no chemistry chemistry together, making it hard to really feel for the characters. This is because of Baz Luhrman's editing style, which is fast and off putting, and gives the actors no chance to develop.

"The Great Gatsby" really is far more style and than substance. And though there is enough style to make the film entertaining, it just lacks the substance a true classic book deserves. This makes most of the important scenes feel diluted, and takes the effectiveness out of what should be a powerful and meaningful ending.

Baz Luhrman reminds me of a really fun, but completely drunk teacher. While undeniably entertaining, he just doesn't get his message across. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Adult Situations and Flagrant Use of the Term "Old Sport".

Iron Man 3

 Image: Iron Man: 1965-2013


"Iron Man 3" is, obviously, part 3 of the "Iron Man" series. It is also part 1 of phase 2 of "The Avengers" series. Meaning, the upcoming sequel to "Thor" is part 2 of phase 2, making "Captain America 2" part 3 of phase 2, or, is "Iron Man 3" phase 3 of part 1 of, uh... You know what. Who Cares. "Iron Man 3" is awesome.

Starting with the awesomeness of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark, "Iron Man 3" takes place directly after the end of "The Avengers", and Tony is in desperate need of therapy after his experiences flying a Nuclear weapon into a wormhole, filled with "Halo" looking Aliens.

Tony is having nightmares and anxiety attacks, so he's been spending his time building more Iron Man suits and calling out terrorists on live television, much to the chagrin of his long suffering girlfriend, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). And when that terrorist, known only as "The Mandarin" (Sir Ben Kingsley), destroys Tony/Iron Man's house (Kicking Iron Man's butt in the process), Iron Man must quickly get his his head together, with the help of his girl, his best friend "Rhodey" (Don Cheadle), and a precocious boy (Ty Simpkins), who helps Iron Man rebuild his Superhero suit.

Tony must also deal with his "Number 1 Fan", Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who has his own agenda concerning the Mandarin, leading to a thrilling plot twist. And the ire and convulsions of all the Comic book geeks and "Fanboys", who don't take too kindly to messing with their comic book lore.

Despite what could have been an overwhelming plot, "Iron Man 3" still delivers on what everyone should want and expect from this fantastic film series. Great writing, great action, great acting, great characters, and, of course, great humor. "Iron Man" isn't just the best movie so far this year. It's also the funniest.

Of course, this all starts with Robert Downey Jr., who is complete perfection again as Iron Man. He deserved an Oscar nod for the first "Iron Man", and I'm stating here and now he deserves one for "Iron Man 3". The perfect combination of funny and cool.

Yet everyone else in "Iron Man 3" are perfectly cast as well. Gwyneth Paltrow finally gets her chance to shine with Pepper's character, Don Cheadle is always terrific, Guy Pearce makes a standout villain, and Sir Ben Kingsley (One of my all-time favorite actors), nearly walks away with the film in a standout performance.

Even the child character is well acted and written (I admit, the previews had me concerned), as Director Shane Black keeps the film action packed and fun throughout. In lesser hands, "Iron Man 3" could have been a complete mess. Instead, it is a film that I can really find no flaw with.

"Iron Man 3" gave me, and every true fan (Except for a few of those Fanboys. Geez, get over it!) could possibly want. A perfect summer Blockbuster. As I said, best film of the year so far. 4 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Violence and Scary Situations.
 

Pain and Gain

Image: So that's what The Rock is cooking? .......ew

Adam Sandler.....Tyler Perry....Michael Bay....

Only a select few Hollywood genuises can get under my skin like these guys can. Crawling their way through my veins like a virus. Laying eggs throughout my body, sowing seeds of frustration, slowly developing into nausea (Eh, I'm sure they're really nice guys, but, c'mon.) It's not personal. I'm sure they can't help but make really crappy films.

"Pain and Gain" is Michael Bay's latest excuse to take a dump on quality. Based on a ridiculous, disturbing, yet true story, "Pain" stars Mark Wahlbeg, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Anthony Mackie as Bodybuilders from Miami (Where everyone is orange. They always are in Bay movies. What's up with that?)

They hatch a hare-brained scheme to kidnap a rich guy (Tony Shalhoub), and take everything he has, in order to finally live the good, orange, steroid fueled life. Naturally, things go wrong. For two reasons. First being, these guys are a bunch of idiots. The second reason is, Michael Bay is involved. Resulting in inappropriate humor, over-the-top violence, embarassing ethnic stereotypes, and scantilly clad women in provacative close-ups. All in all, a typical Michael Bay embarassment.

Now, when you've set the bar as low as Michael "Transformer's 2" Bay has, then at least a film critic's expectations are low. And at least "Pain" has some enjoyable performances. Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson (Who keeps getting better with every film), Anthony Mackie and Tony Shalhoub are all just fine, and Ed Harris (As the Detective on the bad guy's trail) is pretty dang cool. In fact, they should have made the movie about his character.

But aside from one funny two minute scene (Involving the always wonderfully hammy Peter Stormare), the only thing I gained from "Pain" was, well, pain. Followed by queasyness. I mean, I can count on Michael Bay to edit his films sloppily, and to always feel mandated to include one, "Wacky Black Guy" scene (Dude, you got a SERIOUS problem!) And his worldview on women?! The guy needs an intervention.

Yet the worst aspect of "Pain" is the over heated premise, violence and gore. The shocking torture and death scenes are interspersed with uncomfortable and unfunny humor. It makes me feel as if Bay somehow sympathizes with the bad guys, in this horrific, "True" story.

Basically, "Pain and Gain" is a long, unpleasant and hard to watch film. But if Michael Bay thinks (Somewhat justifiably) that this is his career masterpiece, well then good for him. Now stop making movies. 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R for All Around, R Rated Nastiness. 

Oblivion

 Image: Morgan Freeman gives Tom Cruise his Anti-Scientology rehabilitation treatment.


If the film, "Oblivion", is a realistic view into the future, than I must say, the end of the world looks fantastic!

Directed by the same dude (Joseph Kosinski) who directed the visually stunning "Tron:Legacy", "Oblivion" stars Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, er, Jack Harper (He plays a lot of Jacks), who has been left on Earth (Long after it's been destroyed by an "Alien Race") in order to repair Drones that are protecting huge water sucking thingies, that take all the water to a new human outpost on another more habitable planet.

After having nightly dreams of Olga Kurylenko (Just like my Dad does), I'll be darned if he doesn't find a crashed spaceship with Olga Kurylenko in it! This all leads to Tom Cruise discovering a resistance group (Led by Sir Morgan Freeman), which lead to some of the coolest looking visuals and cinematography you will ever see on film.

I'd give you more plot, but it's complicated, and it would ruin the movie for you. Anyway, like "Tron:Legacy", the plot is secondary to the visual feast that is "Oblivion". Joseph Kosinski is a very inventive Director, creating stunning scenes and landscapes, and he is a wonder with an action scene. It truly looks like nothing you've seen before.

I've got to give Tom Cruise credit, because he always seems to give a top notch performance in every film he does, even if the script for "Oblivion" is only solid and certainly not groundbreaking. Olga Kurylenko is very pretty and very good, and Andrea Riseborough is very pretty, and terrific as Cruise's assistant on Earth. Melissa Leo is good as the goofy (And creepy) head of mission control. And of course, Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman. Which is awesome.

"Oblivion" is enhanced by a weirdly neat music score by M83, making the film feel like an event. The score, like the film itself, feels like a 1980's throwback, and works very well as a homage to some of the great Science-Fiction classics we've seen before. And so what if we've seen this all before. If it looks as great, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as much as "Oblivion" does, than the future doesn't have to make a Hell of a lot of sense. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Adult Situations, Scary Situations, and a Little Peek of Female Tushy.

42

 Image: He's safe!!! At the Box Office.


I would like to apologize to our readers for two things. One is for the lateness of my review of "42" (I blame my other job). The other is for the fact that my Dad decided to dare put his review of the ridiculous "Scary Movie 5", before my review of the remarkable story of a true American hero. Even the great Jackie Robinson might not have been able to turn the other cheek to that insult.

"42" tells the true story of Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player to be allowed to play in the (All white) Major Leagues, breaking the color barrier in 1947. Chadwick Boseman stars as Robinson, one of the top baseball players in the Negro (Not my term) leagues, who was chosen by Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to be the first, due to both his talent and his character.

He excelled both on the field and off, somehow becoming an All-Star and MVP (My Dad can tell you all of his statistics. He knows everybody's baseball stats), despite all of the racist bastards who threatened and berated him.

I figured from the previews that "42" would be a little hokey, and the inspiring story is given a little too much of the "Hollywood" treatment. But "42" honestly works as a true crowd pleaser, and is filled with many rousing, well filmed scenes. The film handles the disgusting racial slurs (And worse) directed at Robinson with intelligence, and with the dignity that Robinson deserved.

Newcomer Chadwick Boseman gives a very likable, believable performance as Robinson, carrying the weight of the movie very well. But, honestly, the pleasant surprise here is how good Harrison Ford is as Branch Rickey, because, to be honest, I didn't know he could pull off such an interesting "Character" role. I mean, he's Harrison "Freaking" Ford! Han Solo and Indiana Jones! In fact, all of the performances, from Christopher Meloni (As Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher), Alan Tudyk (As quite possibly the biggest, racist jackass in recent film history), and Nicole Beharie (As Mrs.Jackie Robinson) are top notch.

Even for people who are not baseball fans (I find it quite boring. Don't tell my Dad), "42" is an exciting film, with an important lesson for those of us who had no clue who Jackie Robinson was, and also the struggle that so many Black Americans have had to needlessly suffer through. My generation can stand a history lesson like this from time to time. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Harsh, Disturbing Language.

The Host

 Image: She doesn't look Alien to me.


As so many film critics have already stated, the great Roger Ebert was a true legend for anyone interested in writing about movies. I began following his career a few years ago, and he quickly became one of my true favorites, keeping his sharpness and humor intact all the way up to his (Way too early) passing last week.... R.I.P Roger. If there is a Heaven, Roger Ebert would give us an honest review of it. 



And, if anyone still cares, "The Host" is brought to us by the same writer who made us suffer through those damn Werewolves and Vampires. This one is about Aliens in the future, who have taken over the world and are inhabiting human bodies. A young human girl (Saoirse Ronan) is captured by Aliens, and they put their "Soul" into her (It's just weird. But, hey, it's Stephenie Meyer. Whaddya' expect?) Anyway, the girl's human mind is still there, and we can hear her brain say stuff, even though the Alien part of her is talking. Yet, somehow, "The Host" is even more stupid than it sounds.

When the human part of her convinces the Alien part of her to find her younger brother (Chandler Canterbury) and her boyfriend (Max Irons), along with the surviving human resistance, her reward is to be slapped, beaten, and even backhanded by her boyfriend, just for the fact that she's just a tiny bit Alien. So much for sensitivity!

The rest of the film focuses on the girl and her romantic issues. Human girl loves human boy, but Alien girl loves other human boy (Jake Abel),etc..., all while the girl is being chased by an Alien "Seeker" (Diane Kruger), who is way more violent, and way hotter than the other Aliens, who really are just a bunch of hippies who want world peace.

"The Host" feels incredibly rushed, as if they were actually trying to take advantage of that whole "Twilight" thing, that I understand was quite popular. The back story ( and especially the love story) feels thrown together, and the acting is pretty dull, except for the hotness of Diane Kruger and for William Hurt (As the resistance leader).

A genuinely unlikable story, with unlikable human charcters, "The Host" somehow nearly pulls off the impossible feat of making me root for the Aliens. (If this is how we are going to act when the Aliens arrive, we deserve to be wiped out). The final scene is anti-climactic, yet still "The Host" has $ signs in it's eyes, waiting for the sequel that will now never happen, because, well, it flopped. 1 Star. Rated PG-13 for Blood and Violence.

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor 

 Image: Kim Kardashian is not the worst thing in this movie. I S@#$ You Not!


I swear, I'm not trying to insult Tyler Perry fans. Or "Madea". That, at least is just dumb comedy. But with "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor" (I can't believe I'm writing that title. Seriously. That's the name), he has pushed me too far. Crap is Crap. No matter the demographic.

Editors Note: I AM going to spoil the ending of "Temptation" at the ending of this review. I have to. It deserves it. So please stop reading now if you if I haven't warned you enough to stay the Hell away from this movie.

There's this Marriage Counselor (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) who is telling a woman having an affair, about her "Sister" (Meaning, herself), how she met her Husband (Lance Gross), and how she destroyed his and her life by cheating with some psycho, rich guy ( Robbie Jones). He's supposed to be all suave and smooth, but really is just a creepy pervert.

She continues giving in to temptation, putting on a fast-track, one-way ticket to Hell, as she constantly reminded by her Bible thumping (Literally) Mother (Ella Joyce). Of course, Mama is right. He gonna' hurt you! He gonna' take you down to hell! God is Good. The Devil is bad. Don't cheat on your Husband. Because you WILL go to Hell.

While it's hard to disagree with the morality argument, Tyler Perry is not a competent enough film maker to make "Temptation" anything more than an embarrassing and insulting train wreck. Perry doesn't seem to understand how awful the tone of the film is. One minute is gut-wrenching, cringe-worthy melodrama, the next is inappropriate, unfunny humor. Sometimes, all in the same scene. The script is eye-rolling bad, with dialogue that I would find laughable, if I weren't so busy being pissed off at the constant, Father Tyler Perry as Preacher, morality tale.

The 3 leads are dull, but somehow are better than the supporting cast. Kim Kardashian (Yep, THAT Kim Kardashian) is as bad as you would think, Vanessa Williams and her ridiculous fake, French accent (Never explained why ) is outrageous, and Ella Joyce's character is so horrendous that I never want to see or think of her again. But, in the end, It's all Tyler Perry's fault. It's his demon child.

SPOILER ALERT: A girl (Brandy) who befriends the poor husband, turns out is actually the abused ex of the rich psycho (Duh!) And he gave her AIDS. And when he beats the crap out of the wife he's cheating with ( Because Tyler Perry always insists on forcing us to watch Spousal Abuse. Because that's always pleasant ), the husband comes in and saves the day. Flash forward to the wife recounting the story about her "Sister". Revealing that the husband has moved on, but that, she too, has AIDS. The end. The audience applauds........ARE YOU F@#$ING KIDDING ME??!!!

Screw "Temptation". Screw the egotistical, self-righteous Tyler Perry! Who the Hell do you think you are?! 0 Stars. Rated PG-13 For...Hell with it, I don't care.

The Croods

 Image: The Croods watching their favorite film, "The Flinstones".


Yet again, leave it to a kids movie to finally get things right. As usual, Hollywood has refused to offer anything substantial in the first 3 months of the year, unless it's geared towards our younger demographic. At least until later in the year. But early on, with "Oz: The Great and Powerful", and now, "The Croods", it seems that we get better scripts, better stories and more entertainment than in films directed towards, as I like to call them, old people. 

Taking place millions of years ago (Or, maybe 3000, for those a little more Biblical), "The Croods" is about a caveman family. Just your typical family, really, with Dad (Nicolas Cage), Mom (Katherine Keener), Rebellious Daughter (Emma Stone), Stupid Son (Clark Duke), Crazy Grandma (Cloris Leachman), and an animal-like Baby. They live by the rule of never leaving their cave, because their world is just too dangerous.

But when when imminent disaster looms, they meet a guy named "Guy" (Ryan Reynolds), whom they kidnap and force him to lead them to a mountain, safe and far away. Naturally, Dad struggles with keeping his family and his precious rules together, especially when the daughter falls for Guy the guy.

Not the most original story. but Co-Directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco keep it fresh and heartfelt, with fine, likable characters, and good humor throughout. The animation is absolutely beautiful, giving the characters (And the stunning creatures) a very creative look.

The voice work is terrific, and it's really nice to see Nicolas Cage do work so funny and heartfelt ( I admit, I've been pretty hard on him, and his flaming head). Ryan Reynolds is funnier than I've ever seen him, Emma Stone is adorable as always, and Cloris Leachman steals the film as the Mother-In-Law who Nic Cage can't wait to Die.

"The Croods" has great heart, and is just so darn likable that it's impossible to fret too much about the fact that it's not quite up to PIXAR's level. Kids know best, and they will love it. And it never ceases to amaze me that these so- called "Family" films have so much more attention and care put into them, than many of the more so-called "Grown-Up" films. As I've said before, if they would just ask for my opinion, they wouldn't be having this problem. Because I've never been wrong on a review before. I've checked. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Crood Humor (C'mon. That one was obvious.)

G.I.Joe Retaliation 

 Image: BEST! COSTUME! PARTY! EVAH!


Only 9 1/2 months late.

Originally slated for release in June 2012, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" is clearly a film made in retaliation for the hilarious comedy version of G.I. Joe, 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra", a film so bad, the producers had to kill off half the original cast before releasing the new, improved "Joe".

So "Retaliation" Director John M. Chu decided (Wisely) to reboot the mission, by drastically changing the style and tone of the films, going for a more fun, straight up, action movie. As opposed to the incompetent nightmare that was the original. (Do you remember the Ice Cap sinking underwater? Or hearing the bad guy actually screaming underwater? Priceless.) 

"Retaliation" begins with Cobra Commander (Body of Luke Bracey. Voice of Robert Baker. Not Joseph Gordon- Levitt ) and Destro ( Not Christopher Eccleston) are still in prison, where "G.I. Joe"'s elite soldiers are still led by "Duke" (Channing Tatum. Sexiest Man Alive. I didn't vote for him. I voted for James Eagan), and is now joined by "Roadblock" (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).

When the evil Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who has been impersonating the American President (Does Donald Trump know about this?), orders a hit on the "Joes", Duke and most of the other Joes are killed, leaving only Roadblock, "Lady Jaye" (Adrianne Palicki. Now in my "Top 40". Wow!), and some other, unimportant guy. Now, Cobra, having escaped from prison, begins his annual "I'm going to take over the world" evil scheme, the surviving Joes do what any of us would do. We go get Bruce Willis to save the day. Oh, and there's a cool Ninja fight between "Snake Eyes" (Ray Park) and "Storm Shadow" (Lee Byung-hun).

Like an epic battle between good and evil, my review has to be separated between "Critic" and "Fan". The critic in me says, well, this is all pretty stupid. The entire idea is a little silly, at best, and the plot feels cluttered (The film clearly looks like it had some re-shoots). And anyone who is not a G.I. Joe fan will be wondering just what in heck is going on here. 

But the special effects are so much better than the original, and the stars all are enjoyable (With the exception of Rza. His performance is awful and strange). At least "Retaliation" is light years of the last G.I. Joe. As a critic, 2 Stars.

Now as for the fan in me, "Retaliation" is pretty dang awesome. Since I grew up with G.I. Joe, I know all of the characters, and "Retaliation" does a pretty good job of pleasing it's fan base, bringing most of the fan favorite characters to life (Although they basically give "Destro" the boot). The action is well done, if not ridiculous, but in a cool way. And I don't mind saying that I geeked out at the Ninja battle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. (And Cobra Commander looks bad-ass.)

I especially liked the chemistry between the characters, Jonathan Pryce is a hoot as the "Evil" version of the President (Just how Glenn Beck sees the President), and "Retaliation" has a good sense of humor, where the last G.I Joe. film had me laughing for all the wrong reasons. As a fan, 3 1/2 Stars.

There, now you have two ways of looking at "G.I. Joe: Retaliation", and either way you are guaranteed to have a better time than the last time you went to see a G.I. Joe movie. Overall, for me the fan wins out a little more. He usually does. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Intense Violence and RZA.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

 Image: James and Casey Eagan, at the local talent show.


"The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" has all the ingredients to be a top-notch comedy. Clever idea. Great cast. Laugh out loud humor. Oh well. I guess they couldn't pull that out of their hat.

"Burt Wonderstone" (Steve Carell) is a famous magician, who, along with his friend (Steve Buscemi) and partner (Not in that special, "Siegfried and Roy" kind of way) are at the top of their field for 10 years. Until a mind-freaking street magician (Jim Carrey) becomes the hot new act in Las Vegas. With the pressure of the new magician in town (And, because Burt Wonderstone is a self-absorbed ego-maniac), the duo has a falling out and breaks up the act.

After Burt Wonderstone loses everything but his doves and his bunnies, he finds work in a retirement home, where he meets his childhood idol (Alan Arkin), and finally reclaims his love for magic. So Bert has to win his friend back, along with his self respect, in order to reclaim their greatness.

All pretty standard stuff, and "Burt Wonderstone" does surprisingly little with what it has, wasting a terrific cast in the process. It's nothing more than amusing, with is a major letdown in a comedy with Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Alan Arkin and James Gandolfini. The beautiful Olivia Wilde (As their assistant), and the very not beautiful Steve Buscemi are given absolutely nothing to do. 

Steve Carell is always a likable actor, so it feels odd seeing him in an unlikable role. But Alan Arkin is always a welcome sight, and Jim Carrey provides pretty much the only real laughs to be had. "Burt Wonderstone" just lets them all down with a safe, generic and predictable script and story. It's not as boring to me as "Identity Thief" ( Apparently, the public seems to disagree. Seriously. I don't get it.) It's just that the lack of genuine belly laughs, with all this talent, is unforgivable.

"Burt Wonderstone" is at least, harmless, if forgettable. Which is the best magic trick of all. It erased my memory of a disappointing hour and 40 minutes. I hope for the same magic trick for that new Tyler Perry Movie. 2 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Crude Humor and an Ungodly Use of Spray Tans.

Oz: The Great and Powerful

 Above: Oz and his gang watch in horror at the Great Munchkin Massacre of 1905.


Please, no more comparisons of "Oz: The Great and Powerful", to it's predecessor, "The Wizard of Oz". Which is one of the truly greatest movies of all time. And came out 74 years ago. Instead, the new "Oz" (Which is really a prequel to the original) should be seen as a complementary piece.

So it's certainly not an insult to say that "Oz:The Great and Powerful" won't be considered a classic 74 years from now. In the new prequel, Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a circus magician, traveling through Kansas. The caddish "Oz" ends up being whisked away to the wonderful land of Oz (What are the odds of that?)

Turns out, there is a prophecy in "Oz" that a great Wizard will free the citizens from the wrath of the Wicked Witch. In Oz, he meets a Witch named Theodora (Mila Kunis), and her Witch of a sister (Rachel Weisz), who tell him that in order to become the king of Oz, he must kill yet another Witch (Michelle Williams), who actually turns out to be the good Witch. Meaning that the other two Witches are the bad Witches. Which is very confusing.

But it all makes sense in the end, as Oz discovers his inner hero, follows his yellow brick road, and clicks his ruby red slippers together and says "There's no place like home". (Ok. None of that happens, because the damn MGM Studios wouldn't let Disney use any copyrighted material. Jackasses.)

On it's own merits, "Oz" is a very enjoyable, kid friendly joy ride. The visuals are stunning, as Director Sam Raimi has created a beautiful, creative world, with many of the same flourishes and whimsy as the classic "Wizard". Though in no way as amazing and beloved as "Wizard", were we really expecting "Oz" to be comparable? It's just a really fun, impressive film, especially for kids, who are going to absolutely adore it.

James Franco is as polarizing an actor around, but I think his performance is good, fitting the quirkiness of the character. Michelle Williams is incredibly likable and incredibly beautiful as the Good Witch, and Rachel Weisz is having a ball as a bad one. Mila Kunis is good, although her character's late transformation is not as convincing (Or scary) as it should be. "Oz" shines with it's clever supporting characters, especially the hilarious Zach Braff (As Oz's Monkey sidekick), and the lovable Joey King (As the little China Doll), who is really the heart of the movie.

So if you had never heard of or seen "The Wizard of Oz" (Which is no one), then "Oz: The Great and Powerful" is another top-notch Disney film that is easily the best film of the year so far. And if you are still complaining after seeing "Oz", than try to see the film through the eyes of a child. 3 1/2 Stars. Rated PG for Scary Images and Some Witchy Attitude.

21 and Over

 Image: Three cases made for raising the drinking age.


When your movie begins with the sight of three bare, spanked and branded male behinds, well... take my word for it. Leave the theater. Immediately. Save yourself. It..It's too late for me.

And since my job as a film critic is to warn you from making these kind of mistakes, I somehow controlled my gag reflex, and sat through the rest of "21 and Over", which tells the heart warming tale of a young Asian/American College student (Justin Chon), who is about to turn 21, the night before an interview for an important career opportunity. So he and his best friends (Skylar Astin and Miles Teller) take him out for a night of debauchery and stupidity.

Of course, everything gets slightly out of hand. The birthday boy gets completely wasted, the boys get out of control, but they must get the newly legal adult back home in time for his interview, before his psycho of a Dad (Francois Chau) finds out.

I've never liked films in the whole "Let's party, get drunk, and degrade ourselves" genre, and "21 and Over" IS that film. Standard story. Predictable plot. No redeeming values. Worse yet, it's just not funny. And it's not even as outrageous as everyone involved thinks it is. The acting and characters aren't interesting , especially Skylar Astin, whose character and dialogue are absolutely unbearable. Only Francois Chau comes across all right, if only because he was "The Shredder" in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle 2", so he's pretty intimidating and awesome.

"21 and Over" comes to us from the same writers who brought us "The Hangover", so clearly they have no idea how to make any other kind of film. In essence, "21" is unfunny, unoriginal, unappealing, annoying, and just plain disgusting. And I can honestly say I have seen enough bare, spanked male ass to last me a lifetime. 1 Star. Rated R for Male Nudity and One Scene of a Teddy Bear Being Ripped Off of a Guy's Junk.

JAck the Giant Slayer

 Image: "I bet he tastes like chicken."


Warner Brothers spent about $190 million dollars on "Jack the Giant Slayer"? These movie studios need to check with me before they start shelling out this kind of dough. For example, "Mars Needs Moms" bankrupted an entire studio. "John Carter"? "Battleship"? These films all had something in common. They all sucked. I could have told them that, before the films were ever released. I have a sixth sense about these things. I'm like, "The Bad Movie Whisperer".

But "Jack the Giant Slayer" is actually a lot of fun. Just not $190 Million worth of fun. Based on the old, children's fable (With the beanstalk), "Jack" stars Nicholas Hoult as the young man with the magic beans (I ate some magic beans once, man. It was freaky, man). When a beautiful Princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) arrives at his house, he gets his beans wet and they start growing (Wait, what?). Anyway, his giant beanstalk grows, Princess ends up on top. (Maybe I should start over). 

So the King (Ian McShane) sends his finest men, including his finest General, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and the slimy fiancee (Stanley Tucci) of the Princess to rescue her. Jack tags along to rescue the Princess, and do battle with the ferocious, hungry Giants, led by Bill Nighy.

Not the most original story, or script (Peasant Hero, Reluctant Princess, Evil Fiancee, yada, yada...) Yet "Jack the Giant Slayer" is proudly old-fashioned, going for crowd pleasing scenes, action and humor. "Jack" benefits from it's casting. Nicholas Hoult is a fine young actor, Eleanor Tomlinson is a cutie pie, Ewan McGregor is a lot of fun, and Stanley Tucci predictably nails his smarmy, nasty villain (He always looks like he's having a blast).

But it's the Giants that steal the show. Although the special effects don't exactly look real, they are very detailed and expressive, especially the main, two-headed Giant General. One head is menacing and intelligent, the other deformed and, well, dumb. "Jack" has the right combination of humor and excitement (Could have done without the fart jokes, as always). The finale is well done, quite original, and just pretty darn cool.

So maybe it's not worth $190 Million, but "Jack the Giant Slayer" is undeniably fun, despite some intense, dark moments for the little ones. Families will generally love it, and they will have to for "Jack" to make it's money back. Fortunately, I should end up making a small profit on this review. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Frighting Moments and Fantasy Violence.

Snitch

 Image: Your'e a mean one, Mr. Snitch.


Just F.Y.I. I didn't go see "Beautiful Creatures". Nobody saw it anyway. Does anybody really care?

But you know who does care? Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, that's who. But not about "Beautiful Creatures". Nobody does. He cares about taking care of his son in the film, "Snitch", and he'll agree to go undercover for a Federal Agent (Susan Sarandon. We all knew they would star in a film together.) and become a "Snitch", in order get a deal for his boy, who was falsely accused of running drugs.

While undercover as a truck driving, Ecstasy delivery man, he ends up working for a drug kingpin, "El Topo" (Benjamin Bratt), and has to avoid being discovered before wrapping up all the bad guys for the authorities. There's kind of more to it than that, but it's complexity makes it better to see for yourself.

Yes, I'm using the word "Complexity", in the same sentence with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. (I still call him "The Rock". A term of endearment. I hope he won't hurt me.) But Johnson gives a surprisingly emotional and deep performance in "Snitch" as the desperate father, and his acting is a true revelation. (Does "The Rock" smell an 'Oscar'?)

In fact, "Snitch", despite the hard to believe premise, is an interesting film, and succeeds because of some memorable characters and fine performances all around. Susan Sarandon is great when she avoids Adam Sandler movies, Barry Pepper and his beard are amazing, Jon Bernthal (as an ex-con who reluctantly helps) is excellent, and Michael Kenneth Williams and Benjamin Bratt are very good as unique, believable villains.

"Snitch" is appealingly more drama than action, and the film loses a little steam when the action picks up towards the finale. And while the ending wraps up a little too quickly, the resolution is heartfelt and enjoyable. "Snitch" actually asks some important questions about our drug laws and penalties. Yes, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has actually made me think about the political and social ramifications of the day. And, I learned something. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Language and Drug References.

Escape From Planet Earth

 Image:"Nope. No intelligent life here."


"Escape From Planet Earth" is one of those "Early Year, Throwaway, Bland, Forgettable, Yet Surprisingly Profitable" films, that have no real competition at the Box-Office. You and I both know from the previews alone that it will be no more than passable.

"Earth" revolves around two Alien brothers from Planet Baab, "Gary" (Rob Corddry) and "Scorch" (Brendan Fraser. I thought he was dead. Honestly.) Scorch, a famous Astronaut, is captured on a dangerous planet, called "Earth", by William Shatner (William Shatner. Would have been funnier that way).

When Gary, the smarter but nerdier of the two, tries to rescue Scorch, he is also captured by William Shatner, and is forced to work with other captive Aliens in "Area 51". This secret place on Earth is where all of the Aliens have been forced to create all of the wonderful technology we humans have today. But William Shatner has some evil plans of his own.

With "Escape From Planet Earth", there just isn't a lot of "There", there. Kind of amusing, visually decent, but mostly bland and easily forgettable. The animation isn't all that detailed, but it is colorful. And shiny. (Keeps the little ones focused.) The voice work is generally solid, especially Rob Cordray. Brendan Fraser is OK, (And I'm genuinely happy he's still alive), and William Shatner seems happy to be there. Yet throwing in Sofia Vergara (As an Alien News Reporter), Jane Lynch, and especially George "Can I NOT be in every freakin' animated movie!" Lopez, seems to be lazy casting. And not giving Ricky Gervais (As the Alien super computer) more to do is just a complete waste.

"Earth" does have it's funny moments, but the film can't overcome the mostly bland characters and generic script. The overall plot is a bit clumsy and cluttered, and the always necessary "Family Moral Lesson" feels tacked on and overly typical. Nothing about "Escape From Planet Earth" is surprising, but the younger kids will enjoy it, and it is only about 70 minutes long. That doesn't give me enough time to develop any hatred for it. I need at least 90 minutes for that. 2 Stars. Rated PG for No Particular Reason.

Safe Haven

 Image: Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, ruining love.


For all of you hopeless romantics out there, I apologize for not getting your Valentine's Day film reviewed in time for Valentine's Day. I also want to take the time to apologize to my dignity, for having suffered through the horror of walking up to the theater ticket booth, and asking, "One ticket for 'Safe Haven', please". 

Yet another Valentine's Day massacre from Nicholas Sparks, (To be fair, I haven't seen his other "Triumphs"), "Safe Haven" stars Julianne Hough as a girl on the run from the law. "Allegedly", she stabbed her abusive ex-husband, so she changes her look and identity and moves to a small, coastal North Carolina town.

There she meets "Perfect Man" (Josh Duhamel), a widower with 2 kids. They are easily the most attractive people in town, so naturally they fall in love. But their happiness is short lived, when a Police Officer (David Lyons) tracks her down. Turns out, he is her evil, psycho ex-husband, so "Perfect Man" vows to keep her in his safe haven, safely leading her to safety with his safetyness.

This is so "Hollywood" fake. "Safe Haven" pulls out every corny, sappy love story, told a million times before. It's bad enough that I had to see this alone, but "Safe Haven" starts out bland and boring, before veering into total, complete insanity by the end. The characters have no real chemistry, despite the script's overbearing attempts to make us believe that they do. Julianne Hough is cute, but way too perky to believe that she is a a wanted felon, and Josh Duhamel is a kind of bland, "Every Woman's Fantasy", caricature.

The only somewhat enjoyable aspect of "Safe Haven" is the psycho ex-husband, who is so cartoonishly evil, and the script goes so overboard to make him evil, that it at least gives me a few unintended laughs (His death is hilarious!)

And, finally, I feel the need to warn you what may be, possibly the most stupid, inane, asinine plot twist I have ever seen. OH MY GOD! What in the heck is Nicholas Sparks smoking! They must have some really bad Crack in North Carolina. Here's a hint. It involves Colbie Smulders, and I will be surprised if it doesn't make you throw your popcorn at the screen. Or throw up. 1/2 a Star. Rated PG-13 for Forever Destroying My Faith in Love and Romance.

Identity Thief

 Image: "This License proves that we're in the wrong movie."


I had a long night, last night. I had a massive headache, after seeing a film that bored me to tears. In fact, it was so boring that I honestly had forgotten what the film was (I swear I did!) That's the second worst crime a comedy can make. The first is, not being funny.

"Identity Thief" is about a ruthless , uh, identity thief (Melissa McCarthy), who steals the identity of a hapless doofus (Jason Bateman). And since the police in this film are so incompetent, Bateman naturally decides to track her down, and bring her to justice himself. This, of course, leads to a very convenient road trip, involving drug dealers (T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez), a bounty hunter (Robert Patrick), and some terrible CGI snakes.

The two main actors are very talented, and deserve way better than this lousy script. Two funny people are left with nothing funny to do or say. I can't say I laughed even once. (Maybe a chuckle or two. That doesn't count.) With ridiculous, unfunny situations throughout, "Identity Thief" is more boring than offensive. Nothing really too cringe worthy (Except for one scene. Two rather portly people going "At it". Enough said.) Just bad jokes and unnecessary plot points, that push this one joke film into headache inducing mess.

Again, there are some really talented actors involved here, being asked to do absolutely nothing. Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman, at least have some chemistry, and Robert Patrick does what he can with nothing, but most of the other actors (Especially Genesis Rodriguez) just look silly.

My based on my own memory lapse, "Identity Thief" is completely forgettable. But the worst thing of all, just a bore! An unfunny, overlong bore! Thanks for the f@#$ing popcorn! 1 1/2 Stars. Rated R for Language and Fat Sex.

Warm Bodies

 Image: Me, walking home in shock, after seeing "Hansel and Gretel".


Here we go. Now that we've all had our fill of romantic teenage Vampires and Werewolves, now comes romantic teenage Zombies. The Zombies are just as pale, and just as dead as the Vampires, and just as hungry for human flesh as werewolves. Girls my age seemingly can't get enough of these hunky, undead bastards. Me, I'm a live, non-flesh eating 19-year-old with without Rabies, with blood actually rushing to my face, without rigamortis setting in. How can I compete?

"Warm Bodies" begins during a Zombie Apocalypse, when a young Zombie named "R" (Nicholas Hoult) and some other hungry, dead folks, attack a group of survivors. "R" meets the beautiful girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) of the guy he is currently eating the brain of. By virtue of eating the guy's brain, "R" absorbs the dead guy's memories, and falls in love with the girl, vowing to protect her.

Explaining too much more gives away too much. Suffice to say, the two lovebirds connection begins to change all of the Zombies, who slowly begin to remember their own human feelings, and what life was like before they, you know, started to like eating people. It's kind of like like "Romeo and Juliet". If they ate brains.

Yeah, that's a silly premise , but "Warm Bodies" doesn't take itself seriously. It instead embraces the humor and absurdity of the situation. The film is pretty funny, and the actors are well cast. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer are kind of cute together, John Malkovich, (As her father, a General in charge of eradicating the Zombies), is enjoyable as always (And without being completely insane), and Rob Corddry provides great comic relief, as Hoult's Zombie friend.

The look of "Warm Bodies" is pretty interesting, despite some CGI issues with the "Bonies", the more vicious versions of the Zombies. And the Romantic comedy aspects can fall into predictability. "Bodies" wraps up a bit too easily, but the film works for the most part because of it's humor and charm. Who knew that Zombies could be humorous and charming? I'm going to give the Zombie thing a shot. Slouching. Grunting. Feasting on human flesh. The chicks seem to dig it. 3 Stars. Rated PG-13 for Zombie Violence.

HAnsel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

 Above: I hope my sister and I can be Witch Hunters, too.


Maybe I've got this whole, "January is the dung heap of the movie year" thing wrong. I have seen some serviceable movies this month...maybe, even mildly entertaining. So, for my final film of the month, what could be better than reviewing a violent, delirious mess of a German fairy tale about gun toting Witch Hunters?

"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" is based on the beloved, sweet and wholesome children's story, about two revenge minded German twits and siblings, who selfishly attack an innocent, cookie-baking Witch, push her into an oven and burn her alive, just so they can steal all her candy.

This new "Version" stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton as the Witch Hunters. Abandoned as children by their parents, they were almost eaten by an evil Witch. Now they spend their days hunting Witches down and killing them. By the looks of things, that may be their only career choice.

They are hired to find the missing children of a small village. Turns out, a bunch of crazy witches (Headed by Famke Janssen) are planning to sacrifice and/or eat the children. If none of this sounds interesting so far, it doesn't get any better from here.

"Hansel and Gretel" was supposed to have been released early last year. So, right there, you know it's gonna' suck. But the worst thing about low expectations is when thinking that maybe they weren't low enough. The only positive about "Hansel" are the cheesy, practical effects, and that it is mercifully short. There is way too much plot for such a short film, that is written so poorly.

The CGI is lousy (I hate all the constant "Stuff" flying at the screen), the characters aren't interesting, and "Hansel" throws in yet another unnecessary romantic subplot, with some blond, eye-candy (Pihla Viltala). Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton either look very bored, or they are supremely focused on counting down the 85 minutes until they can cash their paychecks. Thomas Mann (As an aspiring Witch Hunter) is as big a nuisance here as he was in "Project X". Fortunately, Peter Stormare is around (As he was in "The Last Stand") to add some levity, and to look like he's actually enjoying himself.

I don't get the elaborate, fancy weapons, and I definitely don't get all of the numerous "F-Bombs" in "Hansel and Gretel", in a desperate attempt to be cool. And because the pacing is so fast, it's impossible to even enjoy "Hansel" as a guilty pleasure. In fact, there is something very important missing here. What is the word I'm looking for. Oh, yeah.... Schwarzenegger! 1 Star. Rated R for Bloody, Gory Violence, Foul Language, and for Famke Janssen....sounds like a swear.

The Last Stand

 Image: HEY BENNY! SCHROOOOWWWWW YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!!


Ah, Arnold. Every film critics dream. The nightmare of the English language. How we have missed you. There is always something enjoyable about your movies. Even if they're terrible. Even if you are terrible in it. One awesome, quotable one-liner can cheer up the darkest day. Bring world peace. Solve world hunger.

It doesn't necessarily guarantee big box-office (10th place! only $6.3 Million! Ouch!) "The Last Stand" stars Arnie as the Sheriff of a small border town, who is told by a federal agent (Forest Whitaker) that Arnold has fathered a child with his housekeeper (Now THAT would have been a movie!) No, it's just a vicious drug lord that is trying to escape to Mexico, and the route they are taking runs right through Arnie's town.

So Arnie and his ragtag group of deputies (Johnny Knoxville, Luis Guzman, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaime Alexander, and Don Knotts...No, not Don Knotts) decide to stand their ground, and do whatever it takes to stop the drug fiends. And to set up Arnie up, for such classic one liners as, "Welcome to Summerton", and "I'm the Sheriff", and "You F@#$ed up my day". 

Let me state the obvious. "The Last Stand" is stupid. But, as typical with Arnold's film, it KNOWS it's stupid. And this film has just the right amount of fun with it. From the over-the-top action and violence, to the over-the-top bad-guys, to Arnold's cheesy performance, this isn't a serious film. Yet it is pretty well directed, has some pretty dang clever action sequences, as some enjoyable performances.

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker (Yes, he won an Oscar) is quite good here, Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzman (Who both can be annoying in large doses) are funny, and Peter Stormare (As the Drug Lord's henchman) seems to be having a blast. But it is Arnold who makes my day. He IS our last action hero. And even though "The Last Stand" won't jingle all the way to the bank, (Oh,no. I'm Gene Shaliting again) "The Last Stand" is pointless fun, maybe even slightly above average Arnold. And I think we're a better world with Arnold in it. I think we all have a little AHNOLD inside us all. 2 1/2 Stars. Rated R for The Same Reasons As All Of Arnold's Other Rated R Movies Are.

Gangster Squad

 Image: Sean Penn as The Grinch.


O.K. All the good movies came out in December. Now, time for the leftovers. Any film that had a chance at an award for 2012 were released just before the end of year, which generally means my January will consist of every cruddy film that didn't make the cut. Oh well, it gives me something to do. Keeps me out of gangs or the Mob, or other criminal activities.

So my first review of 2013 is all about gangs, The Mob, and other criminal activities. "Gangster Squad" is loosely (Very, very loosely) inspired by the notorious 1940's Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn), who pretty much owns the town, and it's law enforcement. In order to bring him to justice, McGruff the Crime Dog (Nick Nolte) creates a special division of 6 Policemen ( Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Michael Pena, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick) to take down the mobster, and take a bite out of crime.

"Gangster Squad" was originally scheduled for a 2012 release, but was pushed back because of the horrific movie theater shooting in Colorado, and was re-edited because of some controversial content. This makes the film's Christmas time setting feel dated and a bit odd. Which, oddly enough, fits the mood of this different kind of action film. 

"Gangster Squad" is not quite what I expected. It can be gloriously over-the-top, and is not set in any kind of reality, which is weird for a "Inspired by a true story" film. Yet "Gangster" is kind of fun, humorous, and self-aware. And when it's not, at the very least it's unintentionally funny. That's about as much as you can expect for January.

Sean Penn is completely demented in his role, and it's pretty hard not to enjoy how much fun he seems to be having. Josh Brolin is great as the leader of the "Gangster Squad", and the rest of the gang is good, although Ryan Gosling's character (And his high-pitched voice) gets on my nerves after a while. And I'm not just saying this because he gets to make out with Emma Stone (As Mickey Cohen's kind-of girlfriend. She looks beautiful, by the way.) But the entire romantic sub-plot is boring and unnecessary.

Despite the flaws, and some distracting, slow motion shots, "Gangster Squad" gets by on action and humor, and is a fine early year film diversion. At least, far better than most of the crap us film critics are given in January. Remember, January is the "Monday's" of the year, especially for movies. God, I hate Mondays! 3 Stars. Rated R for Language and Over-The-Top Brutal Violence.

Zero Dark Thirty

 Above: Jessica Chastain and her symbolic shadow.


Dang you, "Zero Dark Thirty!"

I had just finished the most exhausting work of my life. My search had led me to many dangerous places, faced with the longest journey of my life. The enormous pressure of gathering all of the evidence, that has now led me to an unmistakable conclusion. That I have to re-do my "Top 20 Best Film's Of 2012" list. 

Because "Zero Dark Thirty" is frickin' amazing! And, they say it's based on a true story! "Zero Dark Thirty" follows the incredible story of how we ended up offing the revolting, psychotic bastard who ordered the 9/11 attack on America in 2001. The film follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), a C.I.A. officer who is obsessed with hunting down that "al-Qaeda" dirtbag. Maya follows every intelligence lead, and oversees many difficult (And controversial) moments as our best and bravest finally track down the scum sucking pig, and send him on his one way ticket to hell. 

Clearly, "Zero Dark Thirty" would have been a completely different (And depressing) film had we not found and killed the @#$!er. What the reality and magnitude of this incredible story has given us is an incredibly exciting and suspenseful movie. Which is made all the more amazing because of the historical significance. The script and writing is terrific, with Maya making an incredibly sympathetic and easy to root for heroine.

Jessica Chastain is wonderful in the role, somehow pulling off being endearing and bad-ass (And beautiful) at the same time. And, despite some complaints from other critics, the rest of the main cast is pretty well developed. Maybe not very complex, but still memorable. Director Kathryn Bigelow is an amazing filmaker, and I love the style of "Zero Dark Thirty", making the film so gritty and realistic, that it makes the viewer feel like they are actually part of the very scary process.

The final thirty minutes of "Zero" focuses on the harrowing, climactic moments, in which our heroic "Seal Team 6" take down that vile vermin in one of the most exciting, breathtaking conclusions to a film as you can get. And, as for all the supposed political controversy surrounding the movie, leave the politics at home, because "Zero Dark Thirty" does. All it is is just top notch, award worthy entertainment. 4 Stars. Rated R for Strong Language and Realistic Violence.

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