The Purge : Anarchy

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8/10

Director James Demonaco shows how much he has grown with his ability to capitalize on the original groundbreaking ideas he had during the original film. In this sequel, Demonaco gives us characters who we care about, haunting images that show us the breakdown of not only the city but hope as well, and non stop action that never really stalls or slows down. I am going to be completely honest, i was looking forward to this film but i didn’t think it would be nearly as good as it ended up being. One reason for that could be that i felt this was the best Punnisher movie i have ever seen. No, The Punisher isn’t actually in this movie, but Frank Grillo’s performance of Sergeant absolutely hints at how great a Frank Castle he would be. Grillo plays the main character of this film and is out for vengeance of his own for the death of his son. Along the way, he rescues and picks up citizens who are being kidnapped so the rich can purge against them. The fact that this film was more from the point of the poverty crowd as compared to the wealthy main characters we got in the original film gives these characters more to relate to. They are fighting for a cause much further than just surviving for 12 hours; they are fighting to show the huge differences in the social classes. That is the hidden message i loved in Anarchy. It shows that The Purge itself might not be the cruelest of events that goes on between the world in the movie and our own. It’s a cautionary tale suggestion about a division class system where the lines keep getting thicker and thicker. The characters were definitely written with more humanity in the way they get sucked in to the events of the night. One couple’s car is vandalized into breaking down in the most dangerous part of the city. A mom/daughter team is in their house when a Swat team breaks in to take them. Then there is the Sergeant character, and his night of vengeance against a drunk driver. We get behind his character so much because he isn’t quite a hero, but he always does the right thing. Some of his action scenes make you wonder why Grillo at the age of 51 is just now getting these starring roles. On top of the movie’s heart pounding action, it gives you a lot of well choreographed fight scenes that will leave you on the edge of your seat. One thing that has me thinking while watching these movies is that i wonder if keeping The Purge around is even needed with how many people die every year. Is it all just another reason for the rich to get rid of the lower class? If so, it’s completely genius and only adds to the feeling that these poverty level families are at the mercy of the dollar. There is no doubt that this was the film we should’ve gotten the first time. One of my biggest problems with the first film aside from the ending is that the people made such stupid decisions that put their loved ones at risk every time. If the family from the first film was in the sequel, they would’ve been dead in the first five minutes of this movie. These five people are out on the streets with nowhere to run and no one to trust. That is the most terrifying thing about The Purge. I sit here so shocked by how good this film was that i think it is the best sequel to a film that sucked. The ending to this film was even done very well. There was a point where i felt it was going to screw the viewers out again like they did in the original, but this one makes up for lost time. The Purge : Anarchy clocks in at 100 minutes, and it never feels like it drags or treats itself as anything less than a dirty, grungy, action filled good time. I totally recommend this film to everyone. Even if you hated the first film, you will be flabbergasted at the difference between the two films.

Snowpiercer

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8/10

Chris Evans puts away his Captain America shield to play one of the world’s last surviving 1% in the post apocalyptic sci fi film. Evans plays Curtis, a man who decides to lead a revolt against the authority of a train run by the upper class remainder of society. Right off the bat, i enjoyed this film a lot because of the originality of the storyline and the feeling of there being nowhere to run on a train. I also dig movies that really make the viewer think and search to find the hidden meanings in a film. Snowpiercer is full of these kind of such things from the political class treating lower class people like the plague, or the hazzards of eating the foods that they are served. This is very reflective of the kinds of foods that we eat in real life that are full of all kinds of chemicals and hormones that most of the population has no idea about. My favorite scene of the movie involves a brainwashing of children to believe that the leader of the train is a revolutionary and not a blood thirsty maniac who lives by the standards of “my way or death”. Director Joon Ho-Bong hits another home run after having another great political sci fi thriller in The Host. No, not that awful Stephanie Meyer movie that stole half of the mind power from the people who had to sit through it. Bong tells a story that he doesn’t want to be sensitive to anyone, and i dig that about him. He inserts twists of dark humor to add to a story that is already depressing enough, but shows you the up close camera shots of the faces of the lower class citizens to show that they have been fighting through lives of war long before this revolt ever happens. An example of this humor is during one fight scene the two sides stop to acknowledge the new year by passing through this huge bridge that only happens when it’s January 1st. That might not seem like a big deal to you the readers, but i think it’s hilarious that even at the end of the world these people are still trying to hold on to that last piece of normalcy. The only problem i had with the execution of the film is that the shakey cam kind of ruins some of the fighting scenes between the upper class army and the citizens leading the revolt next to Curtis. There were times when i had trouble keeping my eyes on the screen to the point that it even hurt because of how many quick edits there were between fight scenes. It’s a little hard to keep up with the action, and i’m sure it was meant that way, but i would prefer that the camera shots not having to be as heartpounding as the fighting itself. Other than that, Snowpiercer is a perfectly executed film. I wanted to talk abou the performances because there is lots that are noteworthy. Chris Evans is fantastic as the lead of this story. He really has stepped up as one of the best action stars in America, and i am glad because there was a point i was really worried that Evans was being terribly miscast in movies that were totally under him. Octavia Spencer makes a surprising appearance in a film that is completely opposite of anything she has ever done, and she is decent. She plays a mother who gets her child taken from her, but she is joining in the revolt to make the higher ups pay. I think it’s her character who the audience can relate to the most, and that’s not an easy thing in a film where everyone feels like shadows of their former selves. Spencer gives us that last shred of humanity for the audience to hold on to. Tilda Swinton is by far the best part of the movie as the 2nd in command on the train. She gets under your teeth like the stickiest of candies that you just want to pull off. I absolutely hated her and loved her in this role at the same time. This is a prime example of her ranking as one of the best transformational actresses in the world today. There is a surprise with who is the leader of the train named Wilford, but i won’t spoil it for you. The ending is a little open to interpretation, but i don’t take it as very positive with the final solution. I don’t mind it at all when a film does that because it’s certainly a lot better than drilling a Texas sized asteroid to save the world because it’s honest. I definitely recommend this movie for Sci-Fi fans and anyone who is in the mood for an original idea. Snowpiercer is violent, smart, shocking and everything the American Sci-Fi film should be. It’s a long, cold ride that that you never want to get off of.

Begin Again

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8.5/10

A very smart movie about life, love, and the music business. Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as the music partner and girlfriend of a famous musician (appropriatly played by Adam Levine). Their worlds get turned upside down when they move to New York to record Levine’s first album, and he ends up cheating on Knightley. She spirals out of control and plans to move back to her home in England when she meets a down on his luck music executive (Mark Ruffalo) looking for one big move to put him back on top of the game. He realizes one night at a bar that Knightley could be that move. This film for me was so irresistably charming and enjoying that it is by far my favorite romantic comedy of the year so far. Director John Carney returns to the silver screen to direct his first music movie since 2007’s smash hit, Once. I personally feel that Begin Again is the man’s best film to date and a lot of that has to do with the flawed but realistic characters he creates in this film. Knightley in particular is a one woman wrecking ball having to play emotions ranging from one extreme to the next in a short instance. She finds her voice in herself to pick up the pieces and conquer the music business by using her own morals. She is absolutely a beautiful down to earth character as Gretta James. I will get to her performances as a singer later on. Ruffalo continues his taking of challenging roles after playing a sex addict in 2013’s Thanks For Sharing and now an alcoholic music executive on the edge of losing his wife in Begin Again. Ruffalo has always been someone to play a contributing supporting character, but not much on lead performance. I am glad that is starting to change, and i can’t wait to see where Hollywood takes him. First time actor Maroon 5’s Adam Levine is the perfect choice for rising musician Dave Kohle. Levine plays it soft spoken and very personable with a hint of arrogance just under the surface. This does wonders for the females in the audience to fall for him in the beginning and then feel what Knightley is feeling when we learn the truth. The movie clearly has done it’s studying on the music business because it paints executives in the lights of always wanting to change their clients. What’s refreshing about Gretta James is that she never changes who she is from start to finish. She educates the viewer on plenty of instances how the music world is flawed and makes us ask the question why the artist only gets $1 for every 10 made. The location of New York is practical but perfect for a movie about people with dreams. The backdrop of landmark places in the city plays perfectly as Gretta records a song for her record at these places in the city. Whatever happens while she plays happens. She decides to leave it all on the record. The music itself is absolutely the best thing about this film. I was very surprised to read that Knightley did her own singing for this film. Levine also plays a couple tracks that are moderately different from his normal Maroon 5 Schtick. Fellow Levine Voice mate Cee Lo Green also makes a brief appearance in this film and supplies a track for the soundtrack that i wish was heard in the movie. Recommendations if you are in the mood for a good listen are Lost Stars by Levine, A Step You Can’t Take Back by Knightley, and my personal favorite of the soundtrack, Like a Fool By Knightley. By the end of the film, you feel that there are three possible directions the movie could take and i’m not entirely pleased or depressed that it took the 2nd best road. It is if anything the only flaw i see in the movie. Begin Again is funny, romantic, and uplifting. It’s one of those films that gives you the passion to get back up and jam to the music that life brings you.

Blue Ruin

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8.5/10

Revenge is a young person’s game that extends generations in this smart thriller by Director Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party). Dwight (Macon Blair) is a homeless 30 something man living the most simple of lives. He sleeps in an abandoned car, he eats trash scraps, and survives on a couple dollars a day. His quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. On the surface, “Blue Ruin” is a story about payback that actually has a lot more to offer under the surface. What i took and what i loved about this film is that it serves as an ANTI-revenge film. Most people who watch these kind of films can always get behind the protagonist and support their cause no matter how grizzly the retort. What this film does differently is show the art of revenge as a childish act of “Can you top this?”, and it shows that the punishments really are a never ending road of back and forth until no one is left. Saulnier wrote a script that completely blew my mind for how simple, yet multilayered it became. The script has a Cormac McCarthy feel to it with very little dialogue, or positive reinforcement of the actions of Dwight. This man clearly isn’t presented in the light of a hero. He is the victim of misinformation when it comes to those he punishes. He takes the law into his own hands, and this film presents that as a never win option. To see it from this angle, shows how truly refreshing this film is. The acting is extraordinary. Blair hasn’t done many films, but i feel like his career is about to take off as a result of his Dwight performance. His sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) captures him in a perfect quote. She says “I would forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not. You’re weak”. With each little swerve we learn about Dwight, we find out that he is human, and that might be his greatest fault. The action and violence is brutal, but it all avoids the bloodshed. The focus is more on how horrific it is to take a life, and make us reflect wondering how our characters ever got to this point. We find those things out in many swerves and reveals about Dwight’s family, and the family he is going after. We don’t know the starting point of this bloodfeud until the end of the movie, but it’s each unwrapped layer that adds a stroke to a beautifully painted picture. The camera shots are mesmerizing of a blue hills southern landscape represented as the loneliness that the revenge game casts Dwight out in. He is alone in his quest, and it’s because of that it could all end at any time. This film is already out on DVD, and i couldn’t recommend it more. This is a film that didn’t get a theatrical release, but it is definitely well deserved of such screenings. If people don’t see this movie, it is a tragedy. With a run time of 85 minutes, i could’ve easily sat through another half hour of just basic dialogue. My only problem with the film is the logic of some of the events that go into place. For instance, a cop finds Dwight asleep in his car on the beach to tell him about the man who killed his parents is getting out of jail. I find it hard to believe that they would hunt down a homeless man and know he is the man they are looking for to tell him this. A simple fix could’ve seen Dwight walking by a newstand and seeing an article in the paper about him getting out. The man is in there for a double murder, so it certainly has the story to make the press. These logic points aren’t a huge problem, as “Blue Ruin” is the best kept secret of 2014.

Cold In July

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8/10

A fast paced shoot em up Texas sized crime noir. Cold in July is the film adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s novel about a family who encounter a burglar in the middle of the night with the father (Michael C Hall) shooting and killing the robber. What happens next is what turns the first half of the film into a revenge plot by the burglar’s father (Sam Sheppard). Sheppard stalks Hall’s family and makes light threats to give the police something to look into. I was very surprised where the film ended up considering the way the trailer was treated, as well as the first 35 minutes of the movie. During the second half of the movie, it turns into a crime story shoot em up that keeps the film from ever getting stale. I personally loved the hell out of this film for it’s sharp turns, edgy performances, and incredible lighting that keeps each scene tense and on the edge of your seat. On the subject of performances, the three male leads are all great in their own ways. Hall continues to show that he has a bright future after playing the title character in Dexter. He carries normal traits to the character of Richard Dane that makes him vulnerable and always at risk. Too many of these films feature a main character who is always a badass, and i don’t think you can relate as well to those types of characters. Sheppard shows his wide range in characters with finally playing a role that isn’t a positive supporting type. There are times when it seems like this man is hanging on by the edge of sanity, but it is his facial expressions that create a silent but deadly trait in him. Don Johnson is also in this film, and i have to say that he is the best part of the movie. He plays a bounty hunter who inherits the charms of past Johnson roles. He gives the movie the comedic undertones that it needs to keep it from being just another action mystery. He gives the characters the logic they need to face any challenge in front of them. The lighting of this film is just pure visual art. Some colors represent different actions from the characters, and i have always been a fan of that kind of emotional symbolism in film. What i mean is that you will notice the walls turn completely red when bloodshed is spilled. You will notice a green background when fear is present with something our character is going through. It sort of adds a three dimensional feel that takes it one step higher with the direction of Jim Mickle. Jim did a zombie film in 2011 called Stake Land that i felt was terribly underrated. Cold in July shows that he can indulge in an already established screenplay by including violence with a purpose. He shoots it for honesty and something that is needed in a plot like the one that the characters encounter in this movie. The score is a mixture between synth electronica and southern rock. Two genres that would almost be comical to mix together, but it works perfectly for this movie. The electronic music is used during the long night shots with the characters driving through the landscapes of Houston, Texas. It’s similar to the synth pop used in the 2010 film, Drive. Cold In July is a tough tale of crime and revenge that seduces with the Lone Star lore of guns and killing. It’s got down to earth characters that always keeps us worrying for the next shoe to drop. The movie is currently playing On Demand for Pay Per View, and is totally well worth the $7 ordering price. With that order, you can watch it for 48 hours over and over again. If you enjoy it like i did, you will find yourself waiting for the next showing just to enjoy this feature for a second time. The best paced movie of the year that never slows down

How To Train Your Dragon 2

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8.5/10

One of the best all around animated films that i have ever seen. This might come off as a boring review because i simply have nothing bad to say about the film. Beautifully animated, powefully in depth characters, and war scenes that remind me of Lord of the Rings. I will explain more within the review. How To Train Your Dragon 2 picks up where the 2010 original left off with dragons and humans living in perfect harmony. Hiccup (Voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless are best friends flying through the land side by side when the dragon population is threatened by Drago (Possibly the best voice casting of DJimon Hounsou), a vicious ship master who befriends the Alpha Dragon who commands the other dragons telepathically. Drago is absolutely the most menacing villain that i have ever seen in a Dreamworks film. His actions are never limited, and he shows no fear what so ever when dealing with his enemies. He is the perfect villain to go toe to toe with the viking community. It’s not often where you get a villain who you can’t wait to see them get what they deserve, but Drago takes us back to the characters that terrorized our childhoods. The rest of the voicing is casted perfectly with performances by Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, and the newest addition, Cate Blanchett as Hiccup’s mother, Valka. It was perfect to introduce a character like Valka because it showed us more of the backstory from our main character, but also introduced us to a romance that is so beautifully written between her and Stoick that it will make romance genre films in 2014 weak by comparison. I never thought i would be talking about chemistry in a voiced only film, but the magic between Butler and Blanchett carries the movie into a war scene that carries the pace perfectly. In those war scenes, the camera shots are dominated by artfully colored dragons that stretch as far as the eye can see. However, it’s the little things that amazed me the most about Dreamworks latest masterpiece in the world of animation. The things like the volume of a characters beard, movement of water, and distinguishing marks on a characters skin. It’s impressive to see how far we have come from the days of Shrek. I can only imagine the future of Dreamworks in 5 years. I mentioned before how i don’t have much negatively to say about this film and that is because everything clicks on all cylinders. It’s clear to see that they didn’t make a movie too quick (Planes, Cars) and actually took 4 long years before making a sequel that could live up to the great original. In my opinion, not only does this film live up to the original, but it soars a lot higher. It’s no secret that i am not a big fan of animated sequels, but this film actually has a great chance to match up against Toy Story for the best animated trilogy of all time. It’s that good, and director Dean Deblois is the perfect person for the job if there was a 3rd film. Besides the Dragon films, he made Mulan which is one of my all time favorite Disney films. Dean’s masterpiece (in my opinion) comes in the form of Dragon 2 though. He has taken animated characters and dragons that rarely ever say anything and made them relatable. It shows movies like Cars and Planes that you don’t have to make these material things human for people to relate to them. Rely on emotion and the crowd will come to the theater in dozens. The last three weeks have been amazing for movies. It’s rare that we have a time where 80% of the films out are at least good or better. This really is a good time to get to the movies, and if you have a family then this is the film for you. It’s got something that even the adults will find well produced. I hope the kids will enjoy it because for once they aren’t treated like idiots. They are getting a look at real characters that we meet in our everyday lives, and that is what pays off the most for How to Train Your Dragon 2. A very inspiring piece of escapism that is among the year’s best not only in animated, but in film in general.

The Fault In Our Stars

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7.5/10

Every once in a while there will come a film in the romance department that a man and a woman can equally enjoy and it not be a one sided occasion. The Fault in Our Stars is that film for this decade. It stars Shailene Woodley as a cancer patient struggling for a reason to live. She meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort) who becomes romantically interested in the girl, and gives her life for the first time in a long time. On the surface, Stars is one of those films that is just another romantic teenager movie about self loathing and love being the only key to happiness. But it takes a deeper look into the 2 hour film to understand that this film is about living for today because tomorrow might not be there. I really enjoyed this film for it’s superior acting, brilliant soundtrack and it’s heartbreaking attitudes without resorting to too much exploitation of the genre. I am happy to say that i did successfully predict the ending of the film, but that didn’t take too much away from it. Stars has something that everyone can enjoy, and a lot of that resorts to Egort who is absolutely fantastic as Augustus. He gives the film the charm and the life it needs from what would otherwise be a depressing teenage tale. This is only the first film i have seen him in, but i think he is a young actor with a bright future. Some actors can just give you a look to make you smile back at the screen, and Egort is one of those lucky few. This review would be pointless if i didn’t talk about how good Woodley is in it as well. I kind of didn’t have an opinion on her before this movie. I liked Divergent, but didn’t think she needed to be a strong actor to play that part. She was good in The Spectacular Now, but was outshined by Miles Teller. Stars is finally her movie. She proves that she can provide the viewer a scope of a character that they can hope the best for without 100% feeling sorry for her. She is very witty as Hazel Lancaster, and speaks and acts in a way that all teenage and young adult females can relate to. Examples even as small as waiting for the boy you like to call you early on in the relationship, or not having that confidence in yourself until someone else makes you see it. Woodley captures superbly the awkwardness of being a teenager and the never say die attitude in being a cancer patient. The only slight problem i had with the acting was Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother. Most people will watch the film and think i was nitpicking, but i just didn’t feel she was cast right for the role. I have never been a fan of Dern’s and i don’t feel this movie did her any favors as well. Her scenes feel so fake whenever she delivers a very important role. It slows down the movie and makes us remember that we are just a viewer in a story and not actually there with the characters. The only other problem i had with the movie was it’s pacing. The first hour is one of the best opening hours in film in 2014 because there is so much packed into that hour. Once we get to the halfway point, we feel like we have been watching the movie for 90 minutes, but that is where the movie starts to show some of it’s problems. The second hour is good, but by that point you know where the film is heading, so it’s hard to stay as excited for a movie that already has a set direction. If the first hour of the film could’ve withheld some of those events and saved them for the early part of the 2nd hour, i think it would’ve made for a smooth transistion into the tearjerking 2nd hour. Speaking of tears, the ladies were absolutely bawling during my showing. I heard several sniffs during the emotional scenes, and plenty of reaches for the tissues. It’s in that area where Stars delivers at it’s best. You know you are coming into a sad movie, and this one never fails to deliver on that promise. I mentioned before that the soundtrack was something very noteworthy. It’s hip, but gives a different kind of feel for everyone from electro pop to indie rock to beautifully constructed piano backgrounds that greatly compliment the struggles that our characters go through. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the biggest surprises of the year for your favorite film critic. The thing i liked the most about it is that it shows that you don’t always need vampires and factions to show teens in all of their angst driven journeys that cultivate into hopeful glory. Well recommended for a good date night. It’s nice to see a weekend that comes out with two can’t miss choices in this and Edge of Tomorrow.

Edge of Tomorrow

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8.5/10

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star as two soldiers dying over and over again while living through the same day in Warner Brothers newest sci fi smash, Edge of Tomorrow.I really enjoyed this film. It was clever, funny (For the right reasons), and surprisingly very well acted. Cruise returns to top form playing a character that is different than anything he has played in 15 years. He plays Major William Cage, a soldier who has risen the ranks without ever actually getting his hands dirty. It’s in that aspect that gives Cruise the vulnerability to show the fear of the soldiers going into this war. Many war films only show the soldiers acting like emotionless machines while going into battle. In Edge of Tomorrow, it’s our main character who is the most afraid. We feel sorry for this man as he doesn’t even know how to remove the safety from one of his weapons. For anyone who has seen the trailer, we know Cruise dies over and over, but what makes seeing the movie special is the comedic undertones of the way every death is played. There were some points in the movie where i got some legitimate laughs that i haven’t gotten from most comedies this year. It’s in that kind of screenplay that Christopher Mcquarrie can bounce all kind of ideas that a film with a similar premise like Groundhog Day only began to touch on. The deaths themselves aren’t played for laughs like Groundhog Day, but rather the situation and the fact that Cage has to memorize every single little thing about his day or he will end up in the same place. Once he has gone so far and dies, we feel the pain of the character because we went through it with him, and we can’t help but smile. Emily Blunt is absolutely the best part of this movie. She plays war machine, Rita Vrataski. She acts as kind of a symbol for the human revolt against the machines that have laid claim to foreign countries. It’s nice to see a woman engage as the toughest character of the film. As Rita, Blunt stands tall and trains Cruise to be the kind of soldier they need him to be to win the war. Her turn in 2012’s Looper showed her range of acting, but it’s in Edge of Tomorrow that Emily shows she has great ability to do her own stunt work. Her performance alone should inspire any female moviegoer who is on the edge of seeing this film to see it. Bill Paxton also hands in a great performance as a tough jerk general who is always the first person to greet Cruise day after day. One of the things i really enjoyed about the movie was the robot creatures. There are some real original takes on the designs of the robots from razor sharp teeth to the way they move around. The moving alone of the creatures kept every fight scene from ever tiring out. I can watch these fight scenes over and over again because i tried to keep my eyes peeled for a new robot every time. The design of the armor suits that the soldiers wear were also very futuristic and original for a motion picture. It did remind me a lot of the Titanfall game and it’s armor, but it’s nice to see it come to life in an actual suit, and not played off as CGI. The pacing of the movie is well done for at least the first 90 minutes. It’s in the final 20 minutes that the movie starts to drag on a little long. By this point in the movie, you know where it’s heading so the surprises are already long gone. The ending was one of the only things i had a tiny problem with and that is because it’s not fully explained all the way. I am not going to spoil it for you the readers, but i wish they would’ve stuck with the ending and the way things appeared to be going. When compared to the Japanese Manga, the movie is completely different. The only similarities are Rita’s name and character, and the premise of the war repeating day after day. Other than that, it’s a completely original screnplay. I can’t really decide on the book or the movie being better because i think they both have their place because they aren’t exactly one in the same. I did like the ending in the book better, so i kind of give it the edge on that front. It was great to see these powerful war battles come to life on screen from the beautiful pages of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel. Edge of Tomorrow is refreshing for it’s comedic tones and not having to rely on action movie cliches that most of Cruise’s last 15 years has relied on. It’s easily his best starring movie since 1996’s Jerry Maguire. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and i definitely recommend it to everyone who watched the trailer and was even remotely interrested. It doesn’t disappoint.

Chef

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8.5/10

A deliciously welcome addition to the world of comedy. Chef’s charming cast and sharp, funny script add enough spice to make this feel-good comedy a flavorful treat. Jon Favreau dives in again as the star and director of this story about a chef who has a passion to cook who loses his job after getting canned by a food critic (Oliver Platt). Chef is a lot deeper than a story about food. It is just table dressing for the main course with Favreau being a less than stellar father to his child. Infact, it’s in the 2nd half of the film that the movie takes a more serious turn with our lead going out on the road with his best friend (John Leguizamo) and son (Emjay Anthony). He finds himself finally getting the relationship with his son that he never had all of these years. The cast is totally a work of art when you think about how many a-listers they packed into this movie. Besides Favreau, Leguizamo and Platt, there is Scarlett Johansson as receptionist and Favreau’s girlfriend, Sofia Vergara as Favreau’s ex-wife, Robert Downey JR as a business associate, and Dustin Hoffman as a jerk of a boss who fires Favreau. All of these characters are mixed together to create a delicious stew of feel good moments. Ok, i promise that is the final food reference i make in this review I will say that this is not the movie to go into if you are hungry. This movie is like pornography for your stomach with the way it presents the delicious trays of food that he places right in front of the camera. The only minor problem i had with this movie is that it is about 15 minutes too long. There are a couple of scenes that didn’t necessarily need cut, but rather shortened. The chemistry is definitely there with the characters, so i understand why there are long takes in the editing. It’s just something i felt could only hurt the film. I will say that there is nothing wrong with the ending, but the movie did end just as the movie was starting to lose some of it’s steam with the predictable direction it was heading. With everything said, Chef is definitely one of the best feel good movies of the year. It’s one of those movies that just puts you in a good reason every time you watch it. It’s in that aspect why i feel Favreau is a terrific film maker. You can always relate to the characters he plays, but i would like to see more of what he could offer as the man behind the scenes. I am sure people would be surprised to realize how many good films Favreau has directed. The first two Iron Man’s, Elf, Made and Chef show that this is a guy with a reputable past, and i look forward to seeing more from him. The setting of California and Miami were two great choices for the film. It’s in those atmospheres where food thrives with mostly cuban dishes. The soundtrack was also something that was fun and trivial at times. Every song featured in the film is given kind of a cuban spice to it, so it’s not always recognizable. When the lyrics finally hit, it’s fun to see the crowd say “Hey, that’s Sexual Healing”. It compliments the scenary of the movie well, and takes our characters across the country with some of the best moments of the movie. Leguizamo has always been one of my favorite actors, so it was nice to see him at the top of his game again. Too many of his films lately haven’t let him shine as the diamond actor he is. Chef is a movie that will give you no choice but to put you in a great mood. I can also predict that many people will eat within an hour of the credits hitting the screen. Well recommended.

The Railway Man

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8/10

Director Jonathan Tiplizky adapts the best selling autobiography about a British army officer who is tormented as a prisoner of war at a Japanese labor camp during World War 2. If there is one thing i learned while watching this film it’s that sometimes we are doomed to repeat the same history that scared us in the first place. Colin Firth stars as the British army officer 30 years after the Japanese army surrendered. He finds himself living with the brutal memory of the torture he went through while taken captive. Firth gives another great performance. As Eric Lomax, we see the face of an emotionally scared man who has trouble getting past the events that have stayed with him for over three decades. The film takes the first half hour of the run time to explore the quick love at first site relationship between Lomax and his wife (played by Nicole Kidman). The love isn’t written out very detailed, but we definitely see how much the love reflects in both of their faces. I thought Kidman was the best part of this movie. It’s kind of a shame that she is such a big part of the film in the first half of the film, but left as just a typical side character in the second half. She stands by her husband no matter what she knows he has to do. Stellan Skarsgaard was also impacting as Lomax’s best friend and fellow soldier, Finlay. The conversations between he and Kidman are the best parts of the film. It’s seen in flashbacks from their conversations the kind of hell that Lomax went through. Besides great cast performances, this film has beautiful scenery in the shots of 1950’s Japan and 1980’s England. The transformations of the time periods are done very well, and really do well to give us that feel of entering a time machine between era’s. If i had one lone criticism for this film, it is that the trailer makes it too predictable. That isn’t necessarily a problem with the film, but you see the ending coming from a mile away, so you aren’t as on the edge of your seat as you could’ve been. Some people will find problem with the ending in the terms of it not being fully satisfying, but i think it’s just right. Closure is the top thing that we want for these characters, and i think they receive it all the same even if they have to take a different road to get there. If you can find it in theaters near you next weekend, i suggest you give this movie a look. It gives a true life account of what many soldiers called reality in this time period. With a lot of story to tell, the 110 minutes are well directed to give the viewer every kind of emotion while watching.

The Double

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8.5/10

Director Richard Ayoade’s latest film is one of the most original and dark stories that I have seen in quite some time. Jesse Eisenberg stars as a man who has had his life completely turned upside down by a twin. His work life is unappreciative, his romantic life is non existent, and his home life is a nightmare. When the twin comes along, he is treated like he doesn’t exist in the first place, and finds himself in a quest to get it all back. The Double is a harrowing look at we as human beings making the changes that we need to make to become the person we want to be. Eisenberg shines in his best role to date. He has been in better films, but he hasn’t displayed such emotional acting chops as he did in this film. He shows an emotional claustrophobia that really makes us relate to a character who is losing it all. Ayoade does many things the best that I have seen this year. The lighting plays every bit an important part of this film as the cast does. The dark tones and background are reflective of the alienation that Eisenberg is experiencing. The shadows display beautifully how he feels like a stranger in his own life. Also, the sound editing deserves an Oscar. From quick edit shots to the beautifully written score, we are kept on the edge of our seats to the heart pounding finale. The ending was one of the only problems I had with the film as it is one of those left to interpretation. I don’t usually have a problem with endings like that, but The Double deserves the answers by the end that we aren’t given during the 92 minute build up. I felt that a little more explanation would have made this film even more memorable. As it stands, The Double is one of the best films I have seen this year. To recommend it though is a tough thing. If you are into artsy films or thinking films, then you will definitely enjoy this film. I think the hard thing will be for people to enjoy a move that is so original that it’s different from anything they have ever seen. I do think this film is easier to understand than this year’s Enemy. They are two films that have similar plots with The Double being the better film between the two. If you are a Jesse Eisenberg fan, I would recommend this to you. I am personally hoping he does more independent films to show off more than just great comedic timing. It’s the boldly uncompromising approach that makes The Double such enjoyably smart satire.

 

Captain America : The Winter Soldier

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8/10

Steve Rogers is back as the first avenger, Captain America. This time the man donning the red white and blue battles a soldier created by Hydra who carries a dark secret of his own. The sequel to 2011’s Captain America packs an original punch with Marvel’s feature films. It feels very much like an espionage film straight out of a Jack Ryan movie. It gives every fan of the superhero something to appreciate, as it goes much further than a typical superhero movie. This film is completely different from the first film and i think that is what keeps Captain America so fresh. Other series like Thor are set in the same kind of setting and era, but Captain America goes from the 40’s to the current day, and it never misses a beat. Truth be told, i did enjoy this film a little more than the first one because it’s cool to see how the main character interacts with today’s technology and today’s problems like cyber hacking. He feels like he is in more trouble in a world he isn’t quite familiar with. The action is nonstop, and produces the best fight scenes of any Marvel film i have seen in a long time. In particular, the fight between Rogers and Georges Batroc (MMA’s George St-Pierre) has some amazing choreography that feels very authentic. Batroc isn’t on the screen for long, so you will be craving for a rematch between he and Captain America. The 3D wasn’t anything special, and i definitely wouldn’t recommend it when catching this at the theater. With the exception of some shield tosses at the screen, there is nothing to write home about to make it worth $12-14. The only other slight criticism i have is about the time. 2 hours and 10 minutes feels a little long for a film that we already know the back stories of these characters. I want to also mention the makeup design of Haley Atwell. She played the love interest of Captain America in the first film, but she has aged 60 years here. They show her in a hospital bed complete with makeup, and it actually looks great. Prometheus should write down on a piece of paper what to do and what not to do with makeup. It should be subtle and not stick out in the scene. Overall, Captain America : The Winter Soldier is a breath of fresh air in a genre that is getting overcrowded. It is my favorite story saga of the Avengers characters because it doesn’t limit itself to just one era. Looking for something to do with the family? Check out Captain America : The Winter Soldier. It’s well worth the price of admission. Just leave the 3D on the side.