Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

Before I dive into my review of the latest pile of trash by Michael Bay, I think it's important for me to quickly review to you my history of the Transformers movies. Outside a few exceptions, Michael Bay is a director whose style of movies I just don't enjoy and thus most of the time when a new Michael Bay movie comes out, you can count on a poor review from me. No, I'm not a hater. I don't do this on purpose. That's just what typically happens. As far as exceptions go, the first Transformers movie was one of them. No, it wasn't perfect, but it was a really fun movie and awesome seeing the transformers on the big screen. Then Transformers 2 happened. Holy cow. It was almost epic how quickly this franchise went from being really good to really bad. Transformers 3 was an upgrade over Transformers 2. I will admit that I was mildly entertained, but not enough to say it was a good movie. Going into Transformers 4, I had some hope it could be good. New cast. Dinobots. Perhaps this could be good? Haha! Nope! Transformers: Age of Extinction rivals for the worst Transformers movie yet. So if you hated 2 and 3, but are thinking about giving 4 a chance in hopes that it could be good, let me save you some time and money. It's not worth it. Skip this one.

Yeah, that's how I felt, too
The brand new cast in this movie is something that gave me hope that it could be good. I mean, there is Mark Wahlberg as the lead with Bates Motel's Nicola Peltz playing his daughter. Also in the movie is Kelsey Grammer, Stanley Tucci, John Goodman, and Ken Watanabe. This is a good cast. But as you know, good casts don't always equal good movies even if the cast as a whole does a good job. That's the case here. Mark Wahlberg plays that messed up inventor father who won't even let his 17-year-old daughter go on a date until she graduates High School. In addition to the over-protection, he's not a very smart father or adult as Nicola Peltz' character essentially has to be the one taking care of him. Then one day he finds this old beaten up truck that he takes to his garage. Yup. That truck ends up being Optimus Prime. Before he knows it, the government is over at his house because they are trying to get rid of all transformers. One thing leads to another and suddenly their house has exploded and they are on the run. That's where the movie lost me. What happened next?


 And it didn't stop. In fact, this went on for nearly three hours. Yes, the run time in this movie is 165 minutes. The problem? I got bored. Yes, I love action movies and even if the plot is awful, I can usually turn off my brain and enjoy. But not here. In fact, I was so bored, that I even dozed off a couple of times. And I wasn't tired when I started the movie. Was there an actual plot that goes deeper than what I explained? Kind of. The government is trying to get rid of all the transformers and along with that Stanley Tucci's character has created new transformers while unintentionally using Megatron to do so, so the bad mojo is spread through all these transformers. That's pretty much it. I would say that this is easily the thinnest plot out of all the Transformer movies and yet it's the longest of all of them, meaning even more of Michael Bay's explosions than the others. And they weren't even realistic explosions. You have things exploding when really there is no reason for them to be exploding and all the explosions looked like fireworks. Sure this style is the same in the others, but it's a lot worse and magnified in this.

I don't blame the actors in this movie. Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, and Stanley Tucci are the main players in this one and they did the best they could with what they were given. But what they were given was a bunch of crap. And so despite their good acting, I had zero connection with any of them. In fact, I will say that I actually had more of a connection with Shia LeBeouf and Megan Fox than I did with this new cast, and I didn't even like those two. It was just like, who are these new people? Why do I care about them? Why are they in this Transformers movie? Why on earth have you completely wasted such good talent Michael Bay?

Dinobots? Remember how I said that this was the other thing that gave me a little hope in this movie? Yeah, we were two hours into this movie and they hadn't even shown up yet. And then out of nowhere, Optimus Prime wanders on the outskirts of this city and just like magic there were dinobots that helped them in the final battle. Then they were gone. Yeah, they had like 20 minutes of screen time and how and why they showed up made no sense. What a waste. And speaking of being two hours in, there was a point in this movie where it had been going on for so long, that I felt we must be entering the final act and thus the movie should be almost over. So I checked my phone to see what time it was. First off, when I check the time in the movie, that's a bad enough sign. But second, when I did check the time, I realized that there was a WHOLE HOUR LEFT! AHHHHHH!!!! THIS MOVIE DIDN'T END! IT JUST KEPT GOING AND GOING AND GOING AND GOING AND GOING AND GOING!!!!! Then you are screaming to yourself to for the movie to end and it never did. At the end, I almost cheered. Not because the movie was good, but because it was finally over.

Overall, Transformers: Age of Extinction was a complete disaster. It had good actors that were completely wasted. It had a storyline that barely existed and made no sense when it did. This led to no connection with any of the characters, human or transformer. And it was just awful explosions and action that went on forever. If you hated the previous two, your going to hate this one as well. If you liked those two, well, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you'll like this one? But for me, the previous worst Transformers movie was definitely Transformers 2 and I'm honestly having a tough time deciding which one is worst, that one or this one. I thought 2 was awful and boring for most of it, but I don't remember finishing it hating it as much as this one, so Transformers 4 could be the worst one in my opinion. But I'm not going to go back and re-watch Transformers 2 just to make that decision, so who knows. Moral of the story is they are probably about equal. Regardless, my grade for Transformers: Age of Extinction is a 4/10.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Chef Review

Summer is a great time for movie-goers like myself as there are plenty of huge blockbusters to enjoy. However, there are always smaller films that sneak in among all the blockbusters and oftentimes I enjoy searching those smaller movies because I find a lot of gems that the casual movie-goer will overlook. Thus was the case with the movie Chef. It snuck into a few theaters back in May and caught enough traction that it has now enjoyed a small nationwide release. On the surface it seemed like surefire thing. It's Jon Favreau's little pet project as he is the writer, producer, director, and main star. The movie also stars Robert Downey Jr., Dustin Hoffman, and Scarlett Johansson. Those three alone made it seem like a home-run cast, especially because it's Favreau and RDJ teaming up for the first time since the Iron Man movies. Impossible to mess this one up, right? Uhhh... WRONG! Holy cow, I was surprised by how stupid and cliche the whole movie was.

First things first, yes the movie does star RDJ, Scarlett Jo, and Hoffman, but it also really doesn't. Those three are all shoe-horned into the movie as they only play cameos. That was the first stupid thing. The only purpose they all served was to help the marketing of the movie by having their names on the cover. That's it. RDJ and Hoffman's characters did something key to the plot, but they could've been played by anybody and I don't even know what the purpose of Scarlett Jo's character was. By the middle of this movie, all three were gone from the movie never to be seen again. So if they aren't the stars, who are? The answer to that is Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Sofia Vergara, and an 11-year-old kid named Emjay Anthony. And out of all of them, the person who did the best job in the movie was in fact Emjay Anthony. I'm not sure if that's impressive on his part or embarrassing on everyone else's part, but perhaps it's a little bit of both. On that note, I will mention that I don't put any blame on RDJ, Scarlett-Jo, or Hoffman. They did great with their cameo roles. It wasn't their fault that they weren't used much.

Onto the story. Chef tells this story of Chef Carl Casper. His marriage has failed and he isn't doing a good job of being the father to his kid, but one thing that he does have going is his job. He's head chef of a certain restaurant and is loving it. However, that all comes to a halt as a food critic comes in to his restaurant. Casper wants to impress this critic by making him a special meal, but the owner of the restaurant insists he serves him something traditional instead. This leads to a bad review from the critic that leads to Casper losing his cool and before you know it, this chef of 10 years is out of a job and is the laughing stock of the world as both the bad review and the video of him losing his cool has gone viral. The rest of the movie is about him trying to recover his reputation and repair his relationship with his family.

Sounds good enough, right? Well here's the problem. The whole story is completely absurd because of how unrealistic it is. First off, if a big name critic is coming in, why would the owner have such a big problem with his amazing chef conjuring up something special? Second, why would this one restaurant review go viral? Third, why would a chef of 10 years care so much about one poor review that he would completely flip out on twitter and again in person in front of the whole restaurant, causing him to lose his job? And this is just the first part of the movie. Throughout the whole movie things just kept happening that would never happen in a real life scenario. And it didn't all sink in until after I was driving home, but the more I thought about this, the worse it got for me. The writing was just plain awful. And being that Jon Favreau did pretty much everything when it comes to this movie, I am putting 100 percent of the blame on him. 

Thought I was done criticizing the writing? Nope. Here's another complaint. The tone and feel of this movie is that of a family-friendly film. I mean, it's a father-son movie that if played right could've been great with family audiences. But for some reason, Favreau didn't want family audiences watching this movie. He wanted this to be an adult-only movie. He does this by throwing in a ton of language that amped up the MPAA rating quite a bit. Censor the language and this movie is PG. Nothing else wrong with it. I just don't understand why this happened.

Sadly this movie had potential. It's labeled as a comedy and I will admit that there were plenty of moments that entertained me and made me laugh. The acting was fine by everyone but Favreau. The movie was shot well and I was mildly entertained and hungered by the food sequences, even though it did feel like I was watching the food channel for part of it as opposed to a movie. And the general idea of a father-son movie where the father loses his job and has to learn how to be a better father can be really good. But the writing was just so awful that when all was said and done, all moments where I was actually entertained were completely overshadowed by that awful writing. 

The ironic thing about this is the whole movie is centered around a bad review given to Jon Favreau and I respond to that by giving Jon Favreau a bad review. Now I am just waiting for Favreau to march into my apartment and start throwing food in my face and yell at me about how awesome he thinks his little pet project is. That would actually be rather epic. Bring it on Favreau! If I did a 5-star rating system, I would give you 2/5 stars just like the critic gave your restaurant in the movie. As is, I do an /10 system and for me that translates into a 6/10. I know that mathematically doesn't work out, but it makes perfect sense to me, but now is not the time to explain to you my system. Ask me personally if you want to know. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bates Motel Season 2 Review

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in my opinion is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. In general I love psychological movies and TV shows and Psycho is the best I've seen in that category. Bates Motel started last year as a prequel series to Psycho that is set in the modern day. This premise intrigued me the second I first saw Bates Motel advertised and thus I gave it a shot right when it started, which is rare for me. Turns out I was immediately hooked as the series quickly became one of my favorite current shows. With the seasons only being 10 episodes long -- going from March to May -- it made for a very long wait for season 2, but the wait was worth it. Season 2 ups the ante by diving deeper into the characters and into the story, thus getting us sucked into all the drama both within the Bates family and throughout the whole city.

Season 1 does a great job of introducing us to what's going on. Shortly after the death of Norman's father, Norman and his mother Norma move away to this little fictional town of White Pine Bay, Oregon where they purchase a motel to live in and run. This is of course the infamous Bates Motel. The idea is that this will give them a new start. Being that Norman is only a teenager, you begin to actually feel bad for him. He seems like a good, innocent kid that's just being dragged around in life by his crazy mother. She's super protective of Norman and is also a chronic liar who seems bi-polar as she jumps back and forth from being nice and friendly to bitter and angry or super depressed. Meanwhile, Norman is just trying to make his way through school and fit in just like a normal kid. However, as more background into the family is slowly revealed the tides definitely turn and you begin to sympathize for Norma. Given everything that she's been through, she's doing the best she can, especially because she has a son that occasionally goes through these psychotic breaks and does things that he doesn't even remember doing when he wakes up.

Season 2 picks up where season 1 left off. During season 1, Norman developed this close relationship with one of his teachers, Miss Watson. She did a great job of taking him in under her wing and helping him out through school. At the end of the season, he is at her house and suddenly she is in her room undressing, suspiciously leaving the door wide open for Norman to see. This triggers one of Norman's psychotic breaks, but all he can remember is suddenly being outside running away. The next day Miss Watson is found dead in her home and suddenly as a viewer you are mortified as you first see signs of this innocent, lovable kid turning into the psychopath that we know of in the movie. But yet, you are still torn because when he's not in one of his psychotic breaks, you really can empathize and relate with him.

The story in season 2 begins with the police's investigation of the death of Miss Watson and from there we dive more into the inter-workings of this small town. First off, Norman's brother Dylan has got himself stuck in the middle of a very bad situation with his secret work in the town's marijuana business. Certain events lead to what can be best described as gang wars with the rival drug company. Meanwhile, Norma begins to publicly fight a new bypass that the town has announced that would essentially ruin the Bates Motel business. This leads to her inadvertently getting sucked into this same situation that Dylan is in. Finally we have Norman who is obsessing over Miss Watson's death while working on his taxidermy. He seems a bit of a recluse, but gains a new girlfriend after helping his previous romantic interest escape the city. All this combines leads to lots of drama throughout the season that you get sucked into. At first it seems like this distracts from main purpose of the show, that of diving into the psychology of Norman, but it definitely keeps on the right track as Norman starts getting more and more blackouts during the season and that's when things start to get super intense.

The show is brilliant because with it brings a ton of uncertainty that makes things really intense. Diving into the drama in the town and thus introducing more new characters also is fantastic because you start becoming emotionally attached to these characters and that makes things more intense because you have no guarantee that any of them are safe. The eventual end goal with this is if they do connect with Psycho would be for Norman to be a loner, psychopath in the Bates Motel. This means something has to happen to all of these characters that keep being introduced around him, but you have no idea what is going to happen. Psycho doesn't explain Norman's past, so really there are a lot of ways the show could decide to go with this. In season 1, we dive a little bit into Norman's psychological problems, but not too much. Only enough to tease the idea of Norman completely losing it. Season 2 we get teased even more with Norman's increased blackouts and there are a couple of different scenes in season 2 as pertaining to this that for me were blow-my-mind awesome. Scenes that correlate perfectly with the ending of the movie Psycho. I'm going to leave the details as a surprise, but when they happen, you'll know what I'm talking about. To many people, these scenes wouldn't be described as awesome, but rather freaky. If certain parts of Psycho were too much for you to handle, then I wouldn't suggest Bates Motel, but if you found Psycho just totally awesome like me, then these scenes in season 2 that I reference will be when you will just start praising Bates Motel just like I did.

When all is said and done, in addition to the brilliant writing of this show, what really has to be praised is the cast. Everyone involved completely hits it out of the park. Vera Farmiga is excellent as Norma Bates. Max Thieriot is also excellent as Dylan. We also have Olivia Cook (Emma), Nester Carbonell (Sheriff Romero), and Nicola Peltz (Bradley) returning from season 1 as great side characters. Newly introduced in season 2 is Michael Eklund (Zane), Michael O'Neill (Nick Ford), and Paloma Kwiatkowski (Cody Brennan). All these people combined give a great cast. But of course, you are wondering why I have left out the outright star of this show. The reason is that I'm saving the best for lest. Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. He is absolutely perfect in his role and he is what really makes this show work. If you are going to make do anything with the Psycho world, you need a good Norman Bates to make it work and this is exactly what this show does. Highmore not only is great as an innocent teenager that is relatable and lovable, but when he goes into his psychotic breaks, he is also insanely freaky. There's a look he gives at the end of the season and HOLY COW! That look is the exact look that Norman Bates gives in Psycho. Much praise for Freddie Highmore for pulling that off and much praise to the show for finding this perfect teenage version of Norman Bates.

Overall, if you liked season 1 of Bates Motel, you will love season 2. I can't necessarily pick which season is better because in this instance they are both equally as epic. Season 2 builds off of season 1 and thus they feel like they come together as one whole. If you have read through this review, but haven't yet watched either season, I highly recommend you give this series a chance, especially if you like the movie Psycho or if you enjoy psychological thrillers in general because this show is excellent. It's only two short seasons in, but in that small time-span, I believe that this has become one of the best shows currently on TV. My only issue is that a part of me wishes that I had discovered this show after it had ended because the wait between seasons, which is about 10 months, is torture.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Review

It's commonplace for people to complain at yet another Dreamworks sequel, but in the instance of How to Train Your Dragon, the complaining was at a minimum. How to Train Your Dragon was a beloved movie that introduced a world with many possibilities for more stories. In addition to that, the book series that the movies are very loosely based off of are 11 in number, so a sequel to this makes sense. Now there has been a lot of praise for How to Train Your Dragon 2 and thus it may disappoint some that I won't be praising it as much as other people have, but nevertheless I do think that this was definitely a worthy sequel. While not quite as magical as the first in my own opinion and not the best animated movie this year (that still goes to The LEGO Movie), this is still a really fun and well-made movie.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up five years after the events of the sequel and as far as the events in this one, it goes in a completely different direction than the first, beginning to explore more of the world that was created in the first movie. At the start of the first, the people on the island Berk were enemies to the dragons. However, our main character Hiccup discovered that the dragons were actually very friendly and spent the rest of the movie trying to convince everyone of what he had just realized. Having succeeded in this, vikings and dragons are now in peace and everything seems all fine and dandy. That is until Hiccup is out flying with Toothless and runs into new danger and that's where the plot of this movie takes off.

I'm only giving that very basic intro to the movie here in this review mainly because the trailers for this movie failed epically by spoiling several major plot twists. I want to avoid mentioning these plot twists in case there is the chance that some of you out there that have managed to avoid these trailers. Now I did like the story in the movie. As conflict was initially introduces I was super impressed. I had faith that in the direction that this franchise could go and thus I was optimistic about this movie, but as I saw for myself what directions they seemed to be going, I was very pleased. However, I have to admit that the middle of this movie actually did start to lose me. After opening my eyes to the immense potential about the direction this movie and franchise could go, it got lost for a bit and suddenly I couldn't help but wonder where they were actually going. A big part of the problem was that I was bored because there were two high-points in the middle that would've been amazing and emotional for me, but both moments were ruined because of the trailers. Now immediately after reading this, I know that many of you will be saying this is all my fault for watching too many trailers and you will advise me to stop. I'm sorry, this won't happen. I love reading up on movies and watching trailers. That's how I get myself excited for these movies. Also, every time a movie plays in the theater, there are 15-20 minutes of trailers beforehand and these are pretty hard to avoid, especially because I have to desire to avoid them due to trailers on the big screen being awesome to watch.

Moving on, once we were finally done slogging our way through the middle of this movie, the ending happened and that's where the movie picked up again and redeemed itself. Suddenly the vision of the beginning was actually fulfilled and I was thoroughly entertained till the end. Now I will admit that there came a point in the movie where I actually was hoping that the movie would end. Not because it dragged on, but because if it were to end in this way, it would've given it a Dark Knight or Empire Strikes Back type of ending and that would've made me think the movie was totally awesome and we could've spent all of movie three resolving this certain plot point. But because this is a kids movie, there's no way that the movie would've been daring enough to pull off that feat and thus the ending felt a bit too easy. But nonetheless, it was still entertaining enough for me to give it a pass.

Easily the best part of all the movie was the animation. If we were to ignore the story for one second and only focus on the animation, I will easily admit that this is a visual masterpiece. Worthy enough animation to win best animated feature at the Oscars? Yes. Being that I often think that this is the only aspect focused on in this category, I won't be surprised if it wins. That's the only way I can explain the Brave win a couple years back. Also, the music in this movie was quite amazing. Being that several of the songs were written by the great musician Jonsi, I am not surprised. Finally, the voice acting in this movie is impressive. Jay Baruchel has become solidified in my mind as Hiccup. It's kinda like a Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter type of thing. Every time I see Radcliffe I think Harry Potter. Same with Baruchel. Everytime he shows up in other things, I think Hiccup. Now as far as the other voice casting goes, I was rather shocked when I learned who was actually voicing these characters, even though many of them were also in the first. In this movie is Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Fergusen, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and Kit Harrington among others and everyone of those caught me by surprise.

Overall, it may become a slightly unpopular opinion for me to not completely praise this movie as the best thing since sliced bread or better yet one of the best animated movies ever made. I still think I like the first one slightly better and I also like The LEGO Movie as the best animated feature from this year, but don't walk away from this thinking I was disappointed. While not on epic levels, How to Train Your Dragon 2 was a fun movie that I walked out of feeling very pleased with. It is worth your time and money, especially if you are a fan of animated movies as outside the Planes sequel in July, this is the only animated movie for the rest of the summer. Get your animated kick right now before you have to wait until the end of the year to get your fill. My grade for How to Train Your Dragon 2 is an 8/10.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars Review

Being perfectly honest, when trailers for The Fault in Our Stars first came out, I wasn't impressed. I hadn't read the book. In fact, I hadn't even heard of the book until after this movie was announced. What it seemed like was a typical, generic chick-flick. Something along the lines of one of those Nicholas Sparks movies like The Notebook, Dear John or Safe Haven. Now I know those movies have their targeted audience, but I am not a part of that audience as these are movies that I'm usually just not interested in. So two weeks before this was released, I was ready to pass over it. Then the reviews came out. Suddenly I had a double-take. The reviews were excellent. This caused me to make the decision to give the movie a shot. Boy I'm glad I did because my pre-judgments about this movie were so off. I wouldn't even call this a chick flick. Sure, the romance story is the main aspect of the movie, but this isn't just a movie about romance. It's a movie about life. And it's one of the most inspirational movies that I've seen in quite some time.

The Fault in Our Stars is based off the book of the same name by John Green, of which I hear is also great. If you are a fan of the book, word is that the movie does do the book justice, so that's good news for you. The title of the book/movie comes from the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar. Here is the quote from the play:

"Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus, and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates.
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

That there is really beautiful. Basically, we are masters of our own fates. The hand we have been dished may be a hard one, but it's up to us if our life turns out good. There's been many people that have been put in a bad situation that made the best of it and still were happy. Then there's also been many people that have been put in a good situation that didn't make the best of it and turned out miserable. Now I know you aren't reading this review to get your daily sermon. You are reading it to find out how this movie was. But this is exactly the message that this movie teaches, so now you know what you are in for. If you don't want to be inspired and uplifted, then this isn't the movie for you. The story itself is about a teenage girl named Hazel. Hazel has cancer and honestly believes that her days are numbered. Thus she doesn't have a positive outlook at all and instead is super depressed. Against her wishes, she attends a cancer support group where she meets a boy named Gus. Gus is a cancer survivor who is there at the support group with his friend. Gus isn't problem free, especially because he has a mechanical leg, but he does have a very positive outlook and immediately takes interest in Hazel.

I will be honest, the casting was a bit weird at first. Shailene Woodley plays Hazel and Ansel Elgort plays Gus and the whole movie revolves around their romance. Why was this weird? Well, the movie Divergent just came out in March and is thus fairly fresh on my mind. In Diveregent, Woodley and Elgort play brother and sister. So when Gus first made a move on Hazel, part of me was shouting, "NO GUS, SHE IS YOUR SISTER!!! Oh wait a minute. Wrong movie..." Now this is not a criticism of the movie itself. Just a minor problem with my brain. Once I got over it, I was all for those two. Woodley was fantastic as Hazel, which says a lot coming from me. I didn't hate her in Divergent, but I wasn't blown away either and the fact that she might be cast again as Mary Jane in the Amazing Spider-Man series scared me because she was cast in that role before the character was cut out of the recent movie. Her role in The Fault in Our Stars as Hazel gave me hope that if she is recast as Mary Jane (which isn't official -- just a mere possibility), perhaps I can accept it. Ansel Elgort as Gus also was fantastic. In fact, he was the one who made this movie. Shailene Woodley could've been replaced by someone else and the movie would've been just as good, but Ansel Elgort was absolutely perfect. He was funny, he was charming, he was smooth. He just all out did a great job and made the movie what it was.

Sure, the movie could be seen as predictable. Certain things happened at the beginning that made me think certain other things would happen at the end. And I was right. But that's not the point here. The point is the message and the emotional journey you go on. I personally was blown I way. I was inspired. And yes, there were moments in the movie where I was holding back tears, not just because of events that happen in the movie, but because of emotions from my own life that the movie dug up. Last week I described the phenomenon of Edge of Tomorrow to that of Now You See Me from last year -- not in terms of story but of what happened to me when I watched it. This week I am comparing The Fault in Our Stars to last year's About Time in the same manner. Both Now You See Me and About Time ended up in my best movies of 2013 list. We'll see what happens this year. As for now, I will give The Fault in Our Stars a 9/10 and call it my second favorite movie of the summer.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow Review

The last couple months have been very good for me when it comes to movies. Starting in April, there was Captain America: The Winter Solider. That was followed in May by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, Million Dollar Arm, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. All these movies have been excellent movies in my opinion and if we cheat a little and call The Winter Soldier a Summer movie, we can say it's been a great Summer. However, despite all these great Summer movies, there has been one movie that has risen above the rest and that of course is current movie at hand, Edge of Tomorrow. Going into this movie, I was intrigued. I enjoyed Oblivion last year and in general I've also enjoyed Tom Cruise movies. That and a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day sounded like a lot of fun. So yes, I did expect this movie to be good. However, I did not expect to be completely blown away. But I was. And now it's almost certain that Edge of Tomorrow ends up as one of my favorite movies of the whole year. It's that good.

Live. Die. Repeat. That's been the slogan of this movie that you've seen advertised and that's exactly what this movie is. Earth is being attacked by an alien race and to defend this attack, the military has developed these super-soldier suits. Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, who, despite being an officer, is not much of a soldier at all as he hasn't even had a desire to participate in battle. However, due to a certain chain of events, he is forced into this battle and when they go to attack, the alien force is waiting for them and completely wipes them out. After being killed in battle himself, Cage wakes up and finds himself reliving the same day over again. Now on the surface, this sounds like a redundant and rehashed movie. The time loop idea is far from an original concept and we just barely saw a Tom Cruise sci-fi movie last year in Oblivion. However, there are a lot of things that combine together to make this movie work.

The first thing that makes this movie work is the fact that the movie is a ton of fun to watch. It goes to show that even if a movie isn't a completely original concept, if the movie is executed well it can still feel very fresh. That's what happens here. First off, it is hilarious watching Tom Cruise die over and over. In all the time loop movies and TV shows that I've seen, that's been my favorite part. That sounds a bit morbid, but it's true. And in this movie it is done very well. On the flip side, though, once Cruise has gone through the loops enough to know exactly what is going to happen, it is also super fun to watch him completely kick trash. Tom Cruise has been in the action star business for a long time and it is good to know that despite being 52 years old, he still has what it takes to carry a movie on his back as if he was still in his 30's. 

This movie isn't just a fun action sci-fi movie, though. The story itself is very smart and very well written. There were several times in the movie where the pace and the feel of the movie changed and this was done at the perfect times so as to not feel redundant and over-done at any time. Not too much action. Not too much drama. Not too much romance. Not too much humor. It was the perfect blend of everything and thus it did a very good job of keeping your attention the whole movie. To help things move along even more perfectly, the acting in the movie was excellent, especially from our two stars, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. In addition to that, the chemistry between them was excellent. Tom Cruise grows closer and closer to her the whole movie, but on her side of things it isn't quite the same because he has to introduce himself to her again each time he gets reset. This has a 50 First Dates type of feel and it is excellent. Even more impressive is that the chemistry is this good despite Tom Cruise being old enough to be Emily Blunt's father in real life. He is 52 and she is only 31. This gives Cruise even more kudos because in this he looks and acts like he is only in his 30's, thus seeming like the perfect match for Emily Blunt's character. This was really really risky casting, but it worked perfectly. 

Overall, I anticipated a good movie out of Edge of Tomorrow, but what I got was a movie that hit all the right chords for me. Even with good reviews, I did not expect this to be my favorite movie of the summer because of all the excellent movies that have come out so far, but that is exactly what happened. The best comparison in this aspect is to last year's Now You See Me. Sure, these two movies have nothing in common when it comes to story and whatnot, but in both cases I went into a movie that looked cool and left with it being my favorite movie of the summer up to that point. Last year I gave Now You See Me a 9.5/10 and it ended up as my number four movie of the year. This year I will also give Edge of Tomorrow a 9.5/10 and I anticipate it getting a similar slot on this year's best movies of the year list, but of course we have to actually wait for the rest of 2014 to play out before anything is set in stone.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Movie Preview: June 2014

Going into May, 2014 was on a huge role. With the slate that was lined up for May, it seemed certain that May would continue that hot streak. While each weekend did have a huge opening, they all also self destructed each other as nothing seemed to have any staying power. Because of this, instead of being one of the highest grossing Mays, this May ended up as the lowest grossing May since 2010. Can June pick up the slack? Well, it does have two movies that are guaranteed to be huge hits, but outside that, June is surprisingly empty. Perhaps everyone is simply trying to avoid releasing their movies during the world cup. Or perhaps it's just coincidence. But either way, it's time to dive into this month and take a closer look at what we do have on the schedule.

June 6th - 8th- 

June starts us off with romance vs. sci-fi. With both getting strong reviews and both targeted for different audiences, both could end up being surprise hits, especially with the non-crowded June. Looking at the sci-fi first, we have Tom Cruise starring in his second sci-fi movie in as many years with Edge of Tomorrow. "Live. Die. Repeat." That's the slogan with this. Yes, Groundhog Day is the movie that comes to everyone's mind, because that's essentially what this is. A sci-fi version of Groundhog Day. That unique twist is working well with audiences right now as early reviews have been really positive. At the time of this post it holds a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1 on IMDb.

Next up is the aforementioned romance movie in The Fault in Our Stars. The movie is based on the recent best-selling novel of the same name by author John Green. The movie is about Hazel and Gus. Hazel carries an oxygen tank around with her while Gus has a prosthetic leg. They met at a cancer support group. So yes, the circumstances are very unique, which could give the movie some heartwarming messages that would make it more than just your average romance movie. It's interesting to note that our two lovers in the movie are played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. The two actors recently teamed up in Divergent where they played brother and sister, so they try out a much different role this time around.

Since I didn't mention it during May, let me quickly mention the expansion of the movie Chef. It opened in limited release during May, getting strong reviews. It got an official nationwide release in the last weekend with just over 600 theaters, but now gets expanded out more to over 1,000 theaters. Chef is a movie that is directed by Iron Man director Jon Favreau. It also stars Iron Man himself Robert Downey Jr. It also features Jon Favreau himself as an actor in the movie as well as Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman and John Leguizamo. The movie is a comedy about a chef who starts up his own food truck after getting fired from his previous job.

June 13th - 15th- 

Unlike last Summer, which was crowded with animated movies, this Summer is nearly bone-dry. Outside last month's major flop Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return and next month's Planes: Fire and Rescue, there's only one animated movie on the docket. But it's a big one. Yes, it's How to Train Your Dragon 2. Dreamworks has been very spotty in recent years in terms of finance and reception of their movies, but 2010's How to Train Your Dragon was huge in both realms. It's Dreamworks' biggest hit financially outside the Shrek franchise and is also one of the more beloved Dreamworks films. The sequel comes with high anticipation and with practically zero competition it should end up as one of the top films of the entire Summer. Plot-wise, the trailer seems to be very revealing, but that shouldn't deter people from seeing and enjoying the film.

Matching up against How to Train Your Dragon 2 is another highly anticipated sequel in 22 Jump Street. Based off the 80's TV show starring Johnny Depp, 21 Jump Street became a surprise hit back in 2012, earning over $200 million worldwide. Starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, the movie was about two young-looking cops that were sent undercover to a high school to help solve a crime. Now the duo is back, but this time they are sent undercover to a college to help solve a crime. The trailer for the movie has provided lots of laughs which should easily convince fans of the first movie to come back and experience more of Tatum and Hill.

Opening in limited release this week and getting a nationwide expansion the following week is The Rover. It's way too early to be talking Oscars right now, but if there was one movie from the month of June that I had to bet on, this would be it. The slogan for the movie is "Fear the man with nothing else to lose." As that suggests, it is about a man who is hunting down the men that took away his last possession, his car. It's directed by David Michod (Animal Kingdom), written by him and Joel Edgerton, and stars Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy.

June 20th - 22nd-

It almost sounds like a broken record by now, but for the third time this month we are getting a sequel to a surprise hit. And for the second time this month, we are getting a sequel to a surprise comedy hit from the first half of 2012. This movie here is Think Like a Man Too. It was back in April of 2012 when Think Like a Man surprised audiences and ended up with just under $100 million in the US Box Office. It was about a group of women who use Steve Harvey's relationship advice via his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man against their men to keep them in line. This works until the men realize what their women are doing and thus begins a feud. Now the whole gang is back for the sequel as they go to Las Vegas for a wedding. The movie includes an all-black cast led by Kevin Hart, who has been on a roll recently, especially this year with decent hits in Ride Along and About Last Night. He'll look to continue his success with this movie.

Opening against Think Like a Man Too is the Clint Eastwood directed musical Jersey Boys. Jersey Boys is actually a popular Broadway Musical and thus fans of the musical could be interested in checking out the movie version. The movie tells the story of the musical group The Four Seasons. The audience for the movie could be fairly limited with the movie picking up an R-rating. R-rated musicals don't happen that often and there's probably a reason for that. But if Jersey Boys fans and/or The Four Seasons fans show up this, it could be a decent hit. Director Clint Eastwood has never been a surefire box office draw, whether it be in front or behind the camera. But it's been a while since he's directed a movie, 2011's J. Edgar to be exact, so perhaps Eastwood fans might show up to see a movie of his again.

June 27th - 29th-

The final weekend of the month brings us what is almost certainly going to end up as the biggest hit of the month and that is of course Transformers: Age of Extinction. A fourth Transformers movie has many people rolling their eyes, although it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone given the fact that the third movie earned over $1 billion worldwide. Age of Extinction isn't a reboot of the series, but it almost feels that way as it appears that they are trying to start fresh and earn more lovers instead of haters. The previous cast has been wiped clean, meaning no Shia LeBeouf, no Megan Fox, and no Megan Fox's Victoria's Secret model replacement from the third. Instead a more respectable cast has been hired as Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz, Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammar take the stage along with voices lent by Ken Watanabe and John Goodman. In addition to the Transformers, the movie also adds dinobots to the scene. Will all of this help the movie gain respect from Transformers haters? Probably not. Michael Bay is still directing and that's the problem many people have. Although people will still swarm out to see it anyways.