Monday, July 21, 2014

Begin Again Review

Last weekend the movie Begin Again showed up in my local theater. Now it may seem weird for some of you, but I actually didn't know a whole lot about the movie before it showed up. I could've done a bunch of research before seeing it to figure out where it came from, because it was one of those limited release movies that sometimes come out of nowhere to get a wide release, but I instead decided to do things the old-fashioned way and go into the movie without knowing anything about it. Sometimes that's fun. All I knew that it was a movie starring Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo and it was getting good reviews. That's about it. I suppose that can be a risky experience, but it's fun and I don't get to do that very often with how much I choose read up on movies, so I enjoyed the experience. And turns out it worked out quite well! Begin Again is a fabulous movie that you should go find in your local theater.

After seeing the movie is when I looked up more information on it. It turns out that the previous title was Can a Song Save Your Life? That actually rang a bell and suddenly I remember hearing about the title change, which I approve of. Begin Again is a better title. As both titles suggest, though, this movie is about redemption. Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley are both in awful situations and the moment where they meet is the moment where things start to change and they are given the opportunity to begin again. I did find it interesting how the movie begins with this moment, then goes back to tell both of their back stories individually up to that point. Ruffalo was a music producer who recently lost his job and had his wife of 18 years cheat on him. Meanwhile, Keira Knightley's boyfriend and music partner has found sudden fame and decides he needs to try his luck with another girl. After these events, Knightley and Ruffalo both end up in a bar. Knightley is pushed into performing a song almost against her will by another friend. This song catches the attention of Ruffalo and thus sparks this grand journey where they are out to create a new album of music together.

In addition to being a movie about redemption and new beginnings, this is also a movie about music. This really isn't a chick-flick or a romance drama at all. The comparison that was going through my mind the whole movie was Inside Llewyn Davis. For those of you who never saw Inside Llewyn Davis, it was a movie about a folk singer back in the 60's trying to make his way in the world. Personally I thought the plot was a bit lacking, but the strength of the movie was the music. There are a lot of folk songs that are sung throughout the movie and it is rather beautiful. It's even more impressive knowing that most of the music was performed and recorded live for the movie. As a side note, it also stars new Star Wars Episode VII cast members Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac for those of you wanting to know more about what they can do. But anywho, Begin Again is the same style where the music they perform throughout the movie is what makes this movie great. I don't know if it was performed live like in Inside Llewyn Davis, but from what I have been able to tell the vocal talent isn't doctored or auto-tuned. I believe it's Keira Knightley's legit singing voice, which gives her kudos.

The cast in this movie is really good. Mark Ruffalo did a fantastic job as always, but as I said Keira Knightley is the big star of this movie with her acting skills and her voice. In interviews Keira mentioned that she was never much of a singer, so this role was way out of her comfort zone and I really appreciate it when an actor is willing do such a thing. But not just that, I think she did a good job. It also has to be mentioned that Adam Levine is in this movie in his acting debut. I thought that was an interesting casting choice because, while he played a very appropriate role as a music star, the man's voice is very unique. Once again I'm going to turn to Inside Llewyn Davis as a comparison. That movie had Justin Timberlake as one of the characters who sang a few songs. I personally thought that was perfect because if you hadn't known that was Timberlake going in, you could've been fooled because he did a good job of disappearing into his role. Adam Levine tried to disappear into his role, and he actually did a great acting job, but his voice won't let him disappear into the role. Every time he sang, all I could think of was Maroon 5. And that was kinda silly. This must be an alternate universe where the world where the band Maroon 5 doesn't exist.

Overall, this was a movie that I was very impressed with. Yes, I was thinking Inside Llewyn Davis the entire time, but that's not a bad thing. I love music dramas. And I actually would say that this movie is better than Inside Llewyn Davis because it had an interesting plot where drama and resolution actually happened. The acting was great. The story had a good message with interesting drama. And the music was fantastic. I was actually almost left unsatisfied with the ending because the end credits rolled before the story seemed to be resolved and I was about to be mad at then, but then the movie finished during the credits. That was a bit strange, but it worked. This movie isn't necessarily an epic movie going experience. It probably won't win any huge awards at the Oscars this year, but it was a very enjoyable couple of hours and is well worth your time. I give Begin Again a solid 8/10.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lone Survivor Review

Sparked by the huge success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the world is now exploding with superhero movies. Anyone sick of the movement is in for a rough time because it's not going to slow down for a long time, especially with DC trying to copy with The Justice League and Fox and Sony also trying to catch up to their Marvel counterparts. No, I'm not reviewing any Marvel or DC movie right now, but I bring this up because amidst all the superhero commotion, recently I had the pleasure of watching a movie about real superheroes -- a group of Navy SEALs. That of course is Lone Survivor. For one reason or another, I missed this movie in theaters. After watching it on Redbox, of which it was recently released to, I realized that I had made a mistake in not finding time to see it earlier, because this is one of the best war movies I've seen in quite some time.

The plot of Lone Survivor is no surprise. All you have to do is read the title of the movie and you know what's going to happen. If a friend happens to show you the movie and for some reason you miss the title, after about ten minutes you'll also know what's going to happen. There is a group of US Navy SEALs that go out on a mission and, well, there's only one survivor. However, the point of this movie is not to tell a story with a surprise ending. This is a movie that's all about the journey of these Navy SEALs. This is the true story of Marcus Luttrell, the surviving Navy SEAL. He wrote a book telling his story and this movie is based on his book.

This movie takes place just under ten years ago in June of 2005 and the setting is the Middle East. Yes, everything that has gone on there is super controversial, specifically our involvement, but regardless of your views on the war, you should appreciate this because in no way is this a political movie. This is simply the story of this group of Navy SEALs and I call them superheroes because their courage and bravery is practically super human. There is a lot of set up in the movie, but once it gets into the thick of things it is a crazy, emotional ride throughout. Their mission doesn't go at all as planned and once they start getting attacked is where I realized that no average human would've been able to do what they did. Early on they get backed into a corner and the only option they have is jumping off a cliff. I was thinking to myself that they were screwed. How are they going to get out of... HOLY COW! They all just jumped off that cliff. Wow! But that's only the beginning of things. The whole movie is loaded with scene after scene of this group doing crazy things like this. And why? Because they love their country and they are going to do their best to defend it. And they aren't going to leave any man behind, even if it means jumping off a cliff with a friend on your shoulders or climbing up the cliff to save a friend while bullets are flying left and right.

Yes, this movie is intense. Yes, this movie is emotional. No, you shouldn't show it to younger kids. And no, you shouldn't watch it if you get squeamish easily because parts of this movie were very hard to watch. But as I watched, I developed a strong feeling of gratitude. Not just because of these men, though, but also because this instance also made me reflect on everyone who's sacrificed to fight for this country, past, present, and future. Our soldiers have sacrificed their time to go fight for our country. And in many cases, they have died for our country. Why? So they can protect our freedoms. They did this for me. And for you. And that is awesome. That is what a true hero is. That is what I'd call a superhero.

Mark Wahlberg plays the title character of Marcus Luttrell and in my opinion he gives one of the best performances of his career. Also starring along with Wahlberg is Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster. The four of them play our group of Navy SEALs and together they are what make this movie succeed. I'm sure Marcus Luttrell in watching this movie was pleased with how his group of friends were portrayed (but that of course is just a guess). This movie was nominated for two Oscars and honestly I think it should've gotten a few more because it is one of the best and most emotional war movies that I have seen in quite a while. If you are like me and never got around to seeing it, go Redbox right away. I give Lone Survivor a 9/10.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dawn of the Panet of the Apes Review

Back in 1968 Charleton Heston's Planet of the Apes was a major critical and financial success. The movie spawned four immediate sequels and two TV shows throughout the 70's and is still considered a classic, even though those sequels and TV shows didn't quite get the same reaction. In 2001 Tim Burton remade the movie and while it was a financial success, audiences didn't go for it and thus no sequels were made. Ten years later the series was up for reboot once again and with all the past failures outside the original movie it can be understood why there wasn't a whole lot of hype leading into Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  However, Rise took pretty much everyone by complete surprise by being an excellent movie. Going into it, I personally didn't know what to expect, but I was immediately blown away. In fact, Rise ended up as one of my favorite movies of 2011. Because of this, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was one of my most anticipated movies of this year. I became even more excited when the reviews came out calling the movie excellent. After seeing it, I am happy to add my voice to the many who have praised it. Dawn is a very worthy sequel to Rise and together they are forming one of the better movie franchises of this generation.

In rebooting the franchise, Rise and Dawn have taken a completely different approach than the original and I think that is a big part of the reason why they have succeeded. Now I wasn't alive in 1968 for the premier of Charleton Heston's Planet of the Apes, but I imagine it was a pretty trippy experience. A group of people land on this foreign planet where apes rule and humans are the slaves. At the end of the movie they realize that it is in fact a post-apocalyptic Earth where apes have taken over. The next movie takes place after the first, but then in movie three through five, certain apes go back in time and then we are told the story of how Earth got to the point where it is. While Tim Burton's 2001 remake tried this same approach and failed, Rise of the Planet of the Apes started by actually going in chronological order. We don't start with an ape-ruled planet while telling the origin story later. We start with the origin story of how the apes took over. That was intriguing because we know how the story ends, but we don't know how they get to that point.

In talking about the plot of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I'm going to say a lot less than I usually do when I do my reviews. I went into this movie thinking that the final trailer had given away a lot of the movie, but was pleasantly surprised when I learned it actually gave away very little. We know based off the end of Rise that the apes have run off to a secluded part of the woods to live by themselves. They want peace. We also know from trailer footage that there will be a war between the apes and the humans. I was ready for a simple plot with lots of epic ape battles, but I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more to it than that. After refreshing myself on the original Planet of the Apes series, I did learn that there is actually a lot of similarities between Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the fifth and final installment in the original series Battle for the Planet of the Apes, but I won't specify what. And I feel comfortable saying this because there are enough differences that you can't just go read the plot summary of that movie and know exactly what happens in Dawn simply because the origin story of the original series involved this odd paradox of apes from the future travelling to the past and creating their future. This time around it was a science experiment gone wrong. So yes, it's a lot different. But imagine taking Battle for the Planet of the Apes and using some interesting parts of that while refining the poor parts to make an overall epic Planet of the Apes movie. That's what you get with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Dawn has been called by some as the Empire Strikes Back of the Planet of the Apes movies. This is a comparison that I actually agree with, but allow me to explain why. First off, the makers know what they are doing with this series. This isn't a situation where they come up with a second one just because the first was successful. They had an end goal in mind. When you have an end goal in mind, there is an almost formulaic beginning, middle, and end. In the beginning, the world is set up. The middle part intensifies and is thus either more dark and grim or simply more action-packed. Then we have our grand finale. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings are two movie franchises that have done this to perfection. To save time, I will let you go through the specifics of those franchises. Now that you have done so, I am proclaiming that Planet of the Apes is also following this formula pretty dang good. Rise set the scene and thus is more story-based with some awesome ape action towards the end. Dawn has intensified and is thus more packed with epic ape battles while being less focused on story and development, because that development took place with Rise. Thus we can say that Dawn is the Empire Strikes Back of the Planet of the Apes movies because it follows the Empire Strikes Back formula. Or better yet, a comparison to The Two Towers might fit even more. When you think of The Fellowship of the Ring, you think of mainly this epic journey that has begun. When you think of The Two Towers, you think of the Battle at Helm's Deep. Such is Dawn. Now in using these comparisons, I'm not saying that it is as good as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I'm just saying it follows the same formula and because of that it is pretty dang epic.

Now after all of that, I want to quickly dive into some specifics of what made this movie awesome. First off, just like Rise, this movie is visually brilliant. As Andy Serkis mentioned in an interview with Conan, they used a performance-capture technology to create the apes. I think this is the same thing as motion-capture, but correct me if I'm wrong. Point is, Andy Serkis and company learned how to act like apes and all the movement of the apes in the movie is all what the actors have done. This isn't just 100 percent CGI apes with voices provided by Andy Serkis. This is a legit man acting like an ape performance that rivals any performance you'll ever see. This is why Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar. He is one of the most talented men in the business and if the Academy completely overlooks him again, they should be ashamed of themselves. In addition to the visual effects and the dominate performance by Andy Serkis, the story is brilliant and moving. The ape action is completely epic. The music done by LOST composer Michael Giacchino is beautiful. Overall, this is a very well-done movie.

Now in giving my grade for this movie, this is where things get a bit complex. If I were judging this franchise as a whole (Rise + Dawn), I would give this super high marks. Here we have a franchise that knows where it's going. The first two movies added together paint a brilliant picture that make you confident when the franchise is complete will be one of the greatest movie franchises of this generation. Yes, there have been certain movies in franchises that are better than Rise and Dawn individually, but due to less than epic sequels, their franchise as a whole doesn't equal this new Planet of the Apes franchise. However, I am not judging this Planet of the Apes franchise as a whole in this review. I am only judging Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And I will be honest and say that there are movies this year that I have enjoyed more than Dawn in terms of pure entertainment and there have been movies that I would rank higher than Dawn because of an emotional response that I got from them. So no, this isn't my favorite movie of the year or even my favorite movie of the summer. But it is a dang good one that is right on par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past and thus my grade for Dawn will be the same grade that I gave those four movies. Yes, Dawn gets a 9/10 from me.

P.S.- In comparing Dawn to Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers, it's worth noting that I typically have found myself enjoying the third chapter of these franchises a bit more. Thus I hope that the third Planet of the Apes movie (untitled and scheduled for 2016), becomes my Return of the Jedi or Return of the King. Can't wait!!



Thursday, July 10, 2014

Movie Preview: July 2014

After a very healthy first third of the year, this Summer has taken a very negative toll on the movie business here in the states. After May saw several huge releases all self-destruct (three $90 million openings that all ended below $250 million), June came up rather empty. Out of the three major sequels in June (22 Jump Street, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Transformers: Age of Extinction) only 22 Jump Street will end up higher than its predecessor, while the other two will end up significantly lower (here in the states anyways -- Transformers is going crazy overseas). And with Transformers 4 only being in release for the last four days of June, May release Maleficent took the crown as highest-grossing movie of the month with 22 Jump Street being the highest June release. Looking forward, July is typically the biggest movie month of the year. Despite that trend, though, this July is looking like it will follow in the footsteps of the two previous months as there is really only one guaranteed hit in a month that is full of wildcards.

July 2nd - 6th-

Independence Day isn't typically a holiday where people rush out to the movies as fireworks and other celebrations take precedence. But even with that in mind, this Independence Day was still slower than usual. Despite falling over 60 percent in its second weekend, Transformers 4 still managed to easily take the weekend. As far as new movies, though, Tammy was the biggest newcomer. Melissa McCarthy has become one of the biggest comedy names in Hollywood today as was shown last year with Identity Thief and The Heat. She looked to follow that up this year by leading the road trip comedy Tammy to similar success. This didn't quite work out, though. Yes, McCarthy fans still showed up and led this movie to a decent success, but an uninteresting premise combined with reviews that were in the cellar (4.7 on IMDb; 24% on Rotten Tomatoes) ultimately held this back from breaking out.

Despite not breaking like like McCarthy's recent movies, Tammy was epic compared to the other releases this weekend. After scoring several home runs last year, the horror genre has failed to produce much this year. Early trailers from Deliver Us From Evil made people believe that it would be the first big horror hit of the year (Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Devil's Due, Oculus, and The Quiet Ones all fell flat). This turned out to be wrong as Deliver Us From Evil fell short of $10 million in its 3-day opening weekend. While trailers provided plenty of scares for horror audiences, the movie itself turned out to be loaded with every horror cliche in the book, so horror fans elected to skip it while saving their money for The Purge: Anarchy later in the month.

Family audiences have been neglected this Summer pretty badly because outside a few major busts in May, How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been the only option thus far. Earth to Echo looked to bank on that neglect, but it failed in that goal as it was avoided by pretty much everyone. Problems included a lack of interest in the found footage style it used as well as an uninteresting story that looked too much like a rip-off of E.T. and The Goonies. It was evident that the filmmakers were wanting to introduce that type of movie to this generation, but audiences didn't buy in. Not only did few show up, but reviews show those who did weren't too entertained.

Finally, after a few days in limited release, Dinesh D'Souza's America arrived in a little over 1,000 theaters just in time for the Independence holiday. America is D'Souza's follow-up to 2016: Obama's America, which arrived just before election time in 2012. D'Souza's anti-Obama political documentary failed to make an effect in the election as Obama won re-election, but conservative crowds ate it up as it become one of the highest-grossing political documentaries ever. America most likely won't reach that level as not many showed up, but it did score an A+ cinemascore, which infers that at least a portion of those who loved 2016: Obama's America showed up for this one and were also impressed.

July 11th - 13th-

I mentioned earlier that this July does include one guaranteed hit and that would be Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Back in August 2011, no one expected anything from yet another Planet of the Apes movie, especially after Tim Burton's reboot just ten years earlier gave audiences a bitter taste in their mouths as far as those movies go. However, Rise of the Planet of the Apes took everyone by complete surprise by actually being an excellent, well-made film. Thus it became a surprise hit. Dawn is the sequel to Rise and due to the success of Rise, Dawn has been one of the most anticipated movies of the summer. With the bad luck that this summer has brought to movies, it's anyone's guess at this point to how exactly this movie performs. This summer has seen a record number of movies open above $90 million, but all of them have fallen like a rock in their second weekend, regardless of reviews, so Dawn's second weekend will be very telling. Early reviews are very promising as one top critic on Rotten Tomatoes claimed that Dawn is to Rise as Empire Strikes Back was to Star Wars.

July 18th - 20th-

There are three newcomers this third weekend of July that all have decent potential. In theory, one of them could turn out to be a huge breakout hit and steal the top spot away from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. But at this point it seems more likely that Dawn will rule for the second straight week and these three will be fighting it out for second place. I'm won't make any attempt to predict the exact order, but the first one that I will talk about is Planes: Fire and Rescue. Last year, Planes was originally planned as a straight to DVD. Almost last minute, though, Disney made the decision to throw the Cars spin-off into theaters. In August. After several animated movies have come that summer. What's more is that before it actually hit theaters, the sequel was planned for less than a year later. What in the world was Disney doing? Well, $219 million later (worldwide total -- $90 million in the USA) Disney definitely had the last laugh. These Planes movies may not be epic animated movies, but they are there for the smaller kids. And in that aspect, Planes: Fire and Rescue should do it's job just like the first did.

In talking about the failure of Deliver Us From Evil this month, I noted the horror genre is on a really bad streak this year. The Purge: Anarchy is going to try to buck that trend. Last summer when the horror genre was on a huge roll, an intriguing premise led The Purge to a $30 million opening weekend. What would happen if all crime, including murder, was made legal for a period of 12 hours? Even though The Purge tanked after its opening weekend due to poor reviews, making $64 million on a $3 million budget was a huge win and thus now we have a sequel just a year later. Horror franchises do have a tendency to be milked to death and The Purge is the latest to jump on that train due to the huge profit and the easy premise wherein a lot can be done. Look for many more Purge movies to come in the future.

Last, but yet the most likely winner of the three is the raunchy comedy Sex Tape. I really don't have a whole to say about this one. It is what it is and the title says enough. Those who go see this know what they are going to see. A married couple make a certain tape of themselves to spark their relationship and that tape gets into the wrong hands. Audiences will see a lot more of Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz than is typical, if you know what I mean. For better or for worse, Diaz especially seems to have become a lot more comfortable with herself as she has gotten older. Don't expect a review of this movie from yours truly because it won't happen.

July 25th - 27th-

If this July is going to save this summer, there needs to be at least one breakout hit to go along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. And while there's a small chance that the third weekend could produce a modest hit, it's really up to this final weekend to discover something as two of the biggest wildcards of the summer open up. The first of these two is another attempt this year at everyone's favorite demi-god via Dwayne Johnson's Hercules. If you are wondering what I'm referring to when I say another attempt at Hercules, let me remind you that in this past January, the movie The Legend of Hercules entered theaters as an attempt to bring Hercules to the big screen. It quickly was booted out of the theater as it's final total in the states was less than $20 million, which is pretty bad considering its $70 million budget. Its IMDb score of 4.2 shows that it's poor reception was at least part of that reason. This time around, Dwayne Johnson and company are going to try to make you forget about that adaption, if you even knew it existed in the first place. Trailers for this have shown a much more recognizable Hercules this time around, fighting monsters and large animals single-handedly. It seems like a perfect fit for Dwayne Johnson, who, despite his reputation, has actually played several decent roles recently. Director Brett Ratner is most well-known for angering pretty much every X-Men fan with X3, but his resume also features other likable projects such as the Rush Hour trilogy and the popular TV show Prison Break.

Challenging Hercules for this weekend will be Scarlett Johansson's Lucy. Not that a cross-over between these two will ever happen, but it would entertaining to watch Hercules vs. Lucy in an actual physical duel, and not just a fight for the box office title. Thanks mainly to Disney, we all know how powerful Hercules is, but the movie Lucy also features an unstoppable human with Scarlett Jo's title charater Lucy. The premise of the movie brings to mind 2011's Limitless as both movies toy with the idea of mankind finding a way to get human beings to access 100 percent of their brain while showing theoretical consequences of such a venture. And before one goes and picks apart this theory that humans can't access 100 percent of their brain, it's worth noting that Lucy doesn't appear to be really taking this seriously, but instead are just using that as a footstool to make an intense action movie. Scarlett Jo has had quite the illustrious career as she has played all kinds of different roles, but this role as an action star brings to mind her most notable role as Black Widow in Marvel's Cinematic Universe. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has most recently put her character front and center, so the timing of Lucy seems quite optimal as plenty of Black Widow fans will show up to watch Scarlett Jo kick butt again this year.

There are two other smaller movies also entering theaters this weekend. First of these two is The Fluffy Movie. People not familiar with comedian Gabriel Iglesias might glance at that title and think that this is a movie about bunnies and unicorns, but this is certainly not the case. Fans of Iglesias have been excited about this for quite some time now as this is indeed Iglesias' stand-up comedy movie. Stand-up comedy movies don't make a ton of money compared to other movies, but they don't need to. Fans of Iglesias will turn up to this as it's like he's doing a quick nationwide tour where he can be everywhere at once.

Last and probably least is the movie And So It Goes. Brand new distributor Clarius Entertainment struck out big time with their first ever movie earlier this year as Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return took in only $8 million total with a production budget of $70 million. Initially it doesn't look like Clarius will do much better with this second movie, but yet it does have the cast and crew that could make it a sleeper hit. It stars prolific actors Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton and is directed by Rob Reiner, who is responsible for movies such as The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally..., and A Few Good Men. The movie itself is a comedy about a man who is suddenly left in charge of the granddaughter he never knew he had.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ride Along Review

This past week I spent some time catching up on some movies that I had missed earlier in the year in theaters that are now on DVD. One such movie was Ride Along. Back in January, Ride Along became a huge surprise hit. Not only did it break the January opening weekend record, but it ruled a top the box office for an impressive three weeks before The LEGO Movie finally dethroned it. Despite this, I really didn't have a huge desire to see this one in theaters. It just didn't look that good. Now yes, I see movies all the time that I think are going to be bad just so I can get my review out, but this was one I decided to wait on since I had better things to do at the time. It finally came out on Redbox and I decided I would give it a shot in hopes that Kevin Hart would at least make me laugh enough to call it an enjoyable experience. Nope. This movie was just plain out bad and I am glad I didn't spend my money to see it in theaters.

Simply put, Ride Along is a buddy cop movie. And one that doesn't really make a ton of sense. Kevin Hart is in love with Ice Cube's sister and they want to get married. But in order to do so, he must get Ice Cube's blessing. I'm not sure why it's the brother's blessing he needs and not the father's, but whatever. The conflict here is Ice Cube hates Kevin Hart, so Kevin Hart needs to prove himself. The agreement is that Kevin Hart will join Ice Cube in a police patrol for 24 hours. Ice Cube is a top police officer and Kevin Hart is only a security guard. Yes, these two actors have actual names in the movie, but who cares.

The main issue here comes from Ice Cube. The man can't act to save his life. In every single thing he does he has the same angry, wooden acting style. In fact, every single time I've heard the man speak, movie or not movie, it's the same way. I don't think the man even knows how to talk in a happy or vary his tone of voice at all. He also looks angry at all times. I don't think I've seen him smile or look happy. That face and that voice is pretty much stuck on him at all times. I don't know why anyone would ever cast him in a movie because he can't be anything besides that. He can't be anything else except for Ice Cube. On a side note, I don't know why he calls himself Ice Cube. That's a dumb name. But I suppose it fits because he can't act any better than an actual ice cube. However, going into this movie, I knew Ice Cube was in it and I didn't expect anything but dumb and stupid from him. I did hope that Kevin Hart would would make me laugh, because that man is actually pretty funny. But he was the big disappointment in this because in my opinion he was super, super annoying. He made me chuckle a few times, but for the most part he was like an annoying fly that keeps buzzing around your head that won't go away.

When I go into a comedy, I think it's obvious that the most important part of the movie needs to be the humor. If the comedy makes me laugh, than the movie has succeeded. This movie didn't make me laugh. Yes, the story was dumb, but if the movie had humor, that could've been forgiven. It didn't. Instead one lead was boring and wooden while the other lead was super annoying. If you haven't seen Ride Along because you were like me and it just didn't seem to interest you, than let me do you a favor and tell you that it's not worth your time. Pick a different Redbox for your evening. I give Ride Along a 5/10.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Railway Man Review

I've often heard it said that in war there are no winners. This may be false when we look at things as a whole. In World War II when the United States bombed Japan, we definitely won that war. On a smaller scale, when one side is attempting to invade another side, but fails and survivors are taken prisoner, that may be seen as a victory. When those survivors are rescued, it also may be seen as a victory. But is it really? When we look at the individual and follow them for the rest of their lives, a different story is seen. If a soldier went through an awful experience during war, that experience may haunt that individual for the rest of their life, regardless of whether their side won or lost the war. In their mind, they may not have seen this as a victory because they are still fighting this inner war inside themselves that never seems to go away. The movie The Railway Man dives into these issues as it follows the life of one Eric Lomax, who was a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II.

The experiences of Eric Lomax are told in flashback style. We start with him later in his life as he is riding a train in England and meets a beautiful girl named Patti. We watch the two fall in love and start a relationship and throughout this story we flash back to Eric's past during the war. Certain unfortunate events lead to Eric becoming a prisoner of war. But not just that, he is constantly tortured by the Japanese in an effort for them to get information out of him. Yes, he survives, but throughout his life he is traumatized by these experiences. Jumping back to these future events with him and Patti, he learns of that his torturer is still alive and wants to contact him and he must decide what to do.

What I really liked about this movie is it made me think of an aspect of war that I often don't think about. And no, I'm not talking about an Eric Lomax-like experience. I've had many opportunities in life via movie, documentary, text book, or personal conversation where I've had to ponder on the experiences of a prisoner of war. And I can't even imagine going through what they did and it gives me a ton of respect for those who are brave enough to sign up in any branch of the military and go out to defend our country. What this movie did that was unique was make me reflect on the life of the ex-enemy. I'm trying to say this without giving a ton away, but I can't review this movie without discussing this aspect of the movie because it is a beautiful story of redemption and forgiveness. Have you ever thought about the torturer and what some of them had to live through after things were over? What if they weren't really that evil, but were just fighting for their own country and afterwards felt awful that they spent all that time torturing human beings? What if many years later, one of these torturers tried to approach one person that he tortured to apologize? Could that person be forgiven? Think of what you would do if one of your bitter enemies came to you to apologize. How would you react? Would you be able to forgive him or her? 

Jumping back to the movie, Colin Firth plays the older version of Eric while Jeremy Irvine plays the younger version of Eric. While both of them do a fantastic job, I really do have to spend a few moments praising Colin Firth. He's played a lot of excellent roles in his prestigious acting career, but despite that, this is one role that I personally think is one of his best. If we were to put on an award ceremony for the first half of 2014 and it were up to me to choose a best actor, Colin Firth in this movie would be my choice. He probably won't get any consideration when the actual Oscar awards happen early next year just because this movie came out so early, but he deserves it. Also Nicole Kidman is in this movie playing the role of Patti and she also does a great job. In fact, she manages to disappear into her role and make me forget it was actually her in the movie. I like it when actors or actresses can pull that off.

Overall, if you are tired of all the huge blockbusters this summer or you just want a change of pace, I highly encourage you to find a way to watch The Railway Man. If there is one major issue I do have, it would be that sometimes the movie suffers from pacing issues, but outside that it's a well-acted, inspirational, emotional movie that is going to stick with me for quite a long time. One fair warning is that the scenes of torture can be a bit graphic and disturbing, so be weary of that as you go in. If you are one that can't handle scenes like that, this may not be the movie for you. But as for me, I will give The Railway Man a 9/10.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Earth to Echo Review

The 1980's were a great time for movies. When you think of 80's movies, one of the first names you will think of is the great Steven Spielberg as he is responsible for multiple classics in that decade that he helped write, direct, and/or produce. Two of these classics include E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, of which he directed, and The Goonies, of which he wrote. Recently there was recently a group of people (Dave Green, Henry Gayden, Andrew Panay) that got together that decided that this upcoming generation needs their own E.T./Goonies movie to love. They apparently didn't want to do an original movie, so they needed to rip off one of these and they also apparently couldn't decide which one to rip off, so they ripped off both. I suppose this could've worked out if done right. It just doesn't.

In Earth to Echo, there is a small group of young friends that are about to be split up because several in the neighborhood are being forced to move for a certain reason. They decide that they need one final adventure together. Several of their phones start going berserk and on one of them they discover this strange static message is actually a map. So they decide that their adventure will be following this map and it leads them right to this adorable little robotic alien that they name Echo. And yes, you guessed it, Echo wants to go home. So these friends go on a fun and sometimes intense adventure trying to help Echo get home. Sound familiar? Yup, this movie is a complete rip-off of E.T. and The Goonies.

As I said, though, this could've worked out. A couple years back there was this movie called Super 8 that did work out. I've gained a reputation as one who hates Super 8, but I really don't. I don't like ending of the movie for various reasons, but the rest was enjoyable. It was about a group of kids on an adventure just like The Goonies. First off, Super 8 worked because it was Steven Spielberg himself that helped work on it. But also, it was an homage to the 80's movies that it emulated and not a complete rip-off. It felt fresh and original. Earth to Echo was done by a no-name director and written by no-name writers and it didn't seem like they had any idea of what they were actually doing and as you are watching, you aren't praising it because it's an homage and you don't feel like it's refreshing. Instead, you are just wondering what in the heck they are doing.

Despite my complaints about this movie being a complete rip-off, there is actually one aspect of this movie that I think is worse. That's the fact that this is done in found footage style. I do want to make it clear that I'm not a hater of the found footage style. If done appropriately, I think it's brilliant. Cloverfield and Chronicle are two movies that are done in that style and both are amazing movies partially because of that style. In fact, if those movies weren't done in found footage, they wouldn't have been as good. Earth to Echo didn't need found footage, though. And when a movie doesn't need to be done in found footage, but is done that way anyways, it completely ruins the movie. This is a classic example. Yes, Earth to Echo was a rip-off of E.T. and The Goonies, and that was disappointing. However, had they shot it normally, it could've been a decently fun movie that was good for kids. It wouldn't have been epic, but it would've been better. As is, though, the found footage made this movie just feel ridiculous.

Overall, I suppose that since I am no longer in the 8-12 year old range, I can't be the best judge of this movie for that age range. Perhaps they will like it. But I just get this feeling that they would find this movie boring. And it's certainly not a movie I would recommend for the smaller kids. If you're looking for a movie to take your kids to, take them to How to Train Your Dragon 2 instead if you haven't already. If you've already seen that, then find a DVD to rent for them. Earth to Echo isn't worth your time. It tries to be the next E.T. or the next Goonies, but it fails. My grade for it is a 6/10.