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.

Sabotage

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8/10

This review thing is so much easier when you get a film that you can’t stop talking about. Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as a DEA agent who leads a team to a routine drug bust that goes wrong when 10 million dollars ends up missing. The team is blamed for stealing the money, and we are led on a fast paced action packed whodunnit? This movie surprised me in so many ways that it’s hard to get out in such a small review space. You knew the action was going to be good in an Arnold movie, but it hasn’t been this good since Terminator 2. That should tell you how serious i am. This film is better than anything released by Arnold lately (Expendables films included). The things that do surprise you though are the things you will be remembering when the credits roll. The first is that this script is pretty easy to follow, and will never leave you confused. The clues are all put on the table, and when the taker is revealed, you will understand how it was done. The film also has a ton of beautiful camera angles to go with the vicious violence that it presents. If gore and property damage are your thing, there hasn’t been a movie better made for you in the last ten years. Arnold is Arnold in the film, but i think it is Mirielle Enos (The Killing) who steals the show. She is on a riot of insanity and under the table drug use that casts the actress in a light that we have never seen. She not only carries the script, but she makes the other actors around her even better. Joe Manganello is pretty solid, Sam Worthington jumps outside of his usual comfort zone. But it’s Terrence Howard that was one of the lone dull spots for me in the film. He is the most acclaimed actor in the film, and isn’t given much to do. He easily plays this role asleep and that is kind of a shame. The ending is something i wish i could talk more about, but i don’t want to give away spoilers. To me, it ends in a perfect way that is a little unexpected for an expert in the action genre. Sabotage comes in at a fast paced 100 minutes and i think even that is a good choice for it not to drag. I recommend this film to Arnold and action fans alike. Sadly, a lot of people will wait till DVD to see this film, but i think it definitely deserves your 8-10 bucks. Sabotage is a chaotic violent dream.

300 : Rise of an Empire

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8/10

The battle for Greece continues in this war epic to the 2007 original. Right off of the bat, i will say possibly the most blasphemous sentence to ever be said on this website. This film is better than the original. Rise of an Empire plays off better as an actual movie with a revenge plot storyline that the audience will eat up. In return, the characters are written with more depth and more humanity in this film. The main character is named Thermistocles, and he is an Athenian politician and general. At the same time Leonidas led the 300 spartans, Thermistocles is leading his naval army against the Persians who threaten to take over Greece. I enjoyed that they were showing both armies as they traveled at the same time to fight different sides of the Persian army. The film stars Sullivan Stapleton (Thermistocles), Eva Green and the returning wife of Leonidas, Lena Heady. Green in particular is the best part of this movie. The camera gives her the most screen time, and it is through this that we learn of her very disgusting past. She is after the Greeks for a reason, and will stop at nothing to achieve glory. Green’s dialogue and demeanor show nothing but her having the time of her life in this role. She is sexy, funny and VERY dangerous. It is her sex appeal that makes her at her most dangerous. She’s easy on the eyes, but bad for your health. There is one thing i can say in this review that i have never said and that is that this film has the greatest sex scene in a movie that i have ever seen. Not trying to sound perverted here, but it’s filled with so much passion and aggression that you can see so much of their war emotions coming out on screen. I did see the film in 3D and i have to say that this is one of the only times that i will say it is definitely worth it. My eyes had so much to focus on from falling ash to hundreds of daggers being pushed right in your face. The 3D is also big on pushing a movie that is twice as violent as the original. This movie is not afraid to show buckets of blood, and that is a good and bad thing. It’s good because these films should be brutal. Wars in films should never be PG-13 because of what our soldiers went through. They should be honored in a 100% honest telling. It’s bad though because most of the blood is CGI in this film and it looks horrible. My friend Ryan had an interesting thought. He wondered if the blood looked so bad because we had 3D glasses on and those are like magnifying glasses. I don’t know the answer to his question, but i do think the blood was one of the lone weak spots in the movie. The film also has it’s differences from what actually happened, but i am not going to get into that argument. After everything i said, i still haven’t mentioned the best thing with the film. The two 300 films have some of the best cinematography i have ever seen. Zach Snyder perfected it with the original, but director Noam Murro pushes it to the limit with beautiful sky shots, as well as far and away shots of the naval war scenes that really capture the bloodshed that is present. 300: Rise of an Empire isn’t the best movie i have seen in the first three months of 2014, but it is the most fun i have had at a movie. I think a lot of the problem with these reviewers is that they don’t give sequels a chance to succeed because sequels are mostly a money plot. I think any movie deserves a shot to shine, and if you give Rise of an Empire a chance, it will dazzle you with 100 minutes of powerful battles and characters fighting for the state of civilization. See this film at all costs in theaters and in 3D

Enemy

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8/10

I really enjoyed this film about Jake Gyllenhaal playing a school teacher who discovers that he has a twin in the film business. Gyllenhaal once again teams up with Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve to bring a colorless and claustrophobic look at a man who is figuratively being pulled from the inside. I get the feeling that a lot of people who watched Prisoners will feel alienated by this film because it doesn’t lay the answers out as easy as Prisoners. This is a film that will slowly present you piece by piece of the puzzle, and they won’t all come together until the very last shot of the movie. This clearly isn’t a film for everyone, but i think everyone should give it a look because there is a lot of praise to be done in this 88 minute feature.I say that this film isn’t for everyone because it does have it’s moments that have to be left up to interpretation. The tone and soundtrack to this film are not only eerie and intense, but very unique. The twin storyline is something that has been done before, but in Enemy it is done differently. In past films of this genre, the two characters are made to be so different that they’re clearly obvious which one is which when on camera. In Enemy, Gyllenhaal plays two characters that are very much one and the same with the exception of their careers. The shooting of the face to face scenes is done well because it never shows both of their faces at the same time. I think if it did this, it would look hokey and the audience would have a tougher time taking it seriously.I also enjoyed the very bleak California setting. The colors to represent the backgrounds in each shot are given a kind of foggy feel to go with the moods of each doppelganger. It feels very much like a late 90’s David Cronenberg film based on it’s colorful textures alone. I do have a theory for how this whole story pieces together, but i won’t ruin it for those of you who want to check it out. I ordered it on Directv Pay Per View and that certainly helped with the theories i was gathering myself while watching the movie. It presents us with a 10 minute interview with Gylenhaal and Villeneuve after the feature is over. If you are going to check it out, i recommend this as the only way to go. It isn’t currently playing in any theaters, and i don’t know if the DVD will give you the kinds of clues and hints that the DirecTv version will. Enemy brought out everything i liked about independent features. Solid performances, heart pounding situations, and the option to always make you think.

Fed Up

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8/10

A gritty and disturbing look into the American food distribution system and the negative results that follow in a descensitized society. Fed Up is a documentary that looks into the FDA and slides aside the curtain to corruption involving bribery from major snack companies, surgery for overweight children who haven’t even hit their teenage years yet, and the things hidden in these junk foods that aren’t always revealed on the label. To me, Fed Up opened my eyes to the horrors of processed foods like Super Size Me did for the fast food industry. It was really impactful to see the kinds of stacked decks that we as people have of living healthy. Director Stephanie Soetchtig and narrator Katie Couric state the facts on sugars and salts that hurt our body through each individual portion, and what they do over a ten year span. I enjoyed Fed Up for how feeble minded they made our food government administration look. The same group who characterized pizza as a vegetable are clearly guilty for not having done enough to give us better choices in the real world, and safer choices for our children in schools across the country. I do believe that Fed Up is one of those films that needs to be shown in schools to act as a backlash against the brainwashing that TV does to young minds who see colorful characters like Ronald Mcdonald or Captain Crunch and don’t have anything to oppose this with because these big name corporations have so much money and time invested in the products they present. The narration by Couric was outstanding and reflects decades upon decades that she has studied on this particular issue. The facts are presented with graphic animations that are made easily enough for anyone to understand and receive an education to the horrors that we are putting into our bodies everyday. I also thoroughly enjoyed the dancing around the issue approaches to these administration executives who were asked questions on what they have done to eliminate sugars from their products. They come across as big wigs who have absolutely zero involvement of presenting a healthy option to their customers and are only interested in loading their wallets even fatter. One thing that did surprise me about this film that i never really took the time to think about was the effects this will have on our military soldiers over the next fifty years. One out of every three children now face obesity and where will that leave the men and women fighting for our country who don’t have the right genes to combat a disease as powerful as obesity? The lone problem i had with Fed Up is that it gives some decent minor arguments on what we can do to combat these processed foods as to bringing them into our own homes, but it never really has a bigger picture plan. The documentary profiles how popular cigarettes were in the 60’s and 70’s and how countries came together and took a stand against what they called “Cancer Sticks”. Instead of offering a commentary for how we can fight this juggernaut, Couric rather states that it’s impossible to take down something so huge. Sure, there are dietary suggestions that the closing credits offer, but i left this documentary feeling like it’s a losing battle that will only get greater as 60% of our country now suffers from diabetes. That is a bigger figure than ever before. Even with that in mind, Fed Up is the single greatest look at the single greatest terror driving up our death rates. Obesity is greater than cancer now, and it’s time we woke to treat these corporations the same way we do the alcohol and tobacco corporations. I absolutely recommend Fed Up to every one. I guarantee you that everyone will learn at least one thing in this documentary that they didn’t know before. After you watch this film, you will fear the many colorful aisles of a grocery store in the same way you fear looking at your own tombstone before you ever die.

Lone Survivor

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8/10

Director Peter Berg’s love letter to the men and women who fight for our country is a tale of survival and courage in the fight for freedom. Lone Survivor is the story about Operation Red Wings, a navy seals unit stationed in Afghanistan. This movie focuses on Marcus Luttrell who was the lone survivor in the horrifying real life events that took place. This film doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the survivor. From the title alone, you know only one person survives this mission, and they reveal who it is in the opening minutes. Instead, it chooses to use it’s 2 hours to focus on the characters and their back stories so you care more when they lose their lives. The problem i have with a lot of war movies is that we don’t find out a lot about the characters that the cameras follow. That leaves me with a sense of not fully invested in them if something bad happens. Peter Berg has definitely done his homework as this is one of the greatest war movies i have ever seen. Led by a tremendous cast of Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch and the always great Ben Foster. The shooting is deep in impact as it chooses to give us an up close look at the damage and rounds being fired. I was happy that Luttrell served as a producer on the film as he helps the actors really grasp the feeling of being soldiers. It is this reason alone why i wasn’t 100% behind 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. The actors in the film never quite feel like soldiers to me because of the little things. My only lone criticism of this film was there being no subtitles with the Taliban soldiers. I think it’s obvious that it needs to be revealed what is being said between them when they encounter American resistance. I have no idea why this wasn’t included, but it needed to be. Lone Survivor is the best survival film i have ever seen, and i think everyone will enjoy this film. It has characters that you can really feel for, and that is something that any good war film definitely needs. It will be in theaters next week, so check it out.

Her

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8.5/10

Spike Jonze latest film is his greatest accomplishment to date. Her is a dramatic piece about the depths of loneliness and the things we look to for comfort in an aching wound. I saw the film even a little different from the description that i just typed. I saw it as a piece that warns us about the rise of technological advances, and how the need for human life is slowly getting phased out. Juaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombley, a man who is emotionally scared to open up to the world after the divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara). He buys a new operating system which gives the effect of an actual person in the room with him. What follows becomes the most emotionally invested relationship of Twombley’s life. Phoenix is absolutely breathtaking in this film. It sounds bad when i say this is a one man show, but he is definitely a step above the rest. That doesn’t mean that this amazing ensemble doesn’t do their parts. Led by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde and the voice herself, Scarlett Johansson. These characters give Phoenix all he needs to play through a series of emotions. The film for me was more sad than anything else. When you think about where we are today in our own technological world, it hits a lot closer to home than people might think. Problems quickly arise in the relationship when the voice lacks personal touch, and i think it is done in a manor that the audience will fully invest in. I wouldn’t be doing my job if i didn’t talk about the phenomenal cinematography. This is the most beautifully shot film that i have seen in a long time. The angles and close ups on characters faces that represent what they are going through is a Jonze classic in his arsenal. It works best in a film like this that plays off nothing but emotional depth. The use of light in the outside shots are like the beautiful path that Twombley is walking on his journey out of solitude. The dialogue does get a little cheesy at times, but the premise itself is kind of cheesy when you think about it. It honestly didn’t bother me as much as it might some other people. The only thing that worries me about a film like this is that it might be too artsy and slow at times for people to enjoy. I think the real lovers of film will truly enjoy this film because it’s everything that is great about Hollywood. Sometimes you only need a great actor like Phoenix to hit with such a powerful piece of cinema gold. The people who are expecting huge things to happen in this film will be set up for disappointment. The big things are there, but they come in the form of character growth. The original cut of this film was 150 minutes, and i would certainly be interested in checking out some of that deleted footage. In the end, this film shows us that the line between human interaction is being cut thinner with time. But if we are willing to accept help from the most unlikely sources, maybe we too can change for the better

Nebraska

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8/10

Bruce Dern and Will Forte star in this black and white adventure about an old man (Dern) who receives a letter in the mail claiming he has won 1 million dollars. We know it’s a scam from the start, but that isn’t what the film is about. There are a lot of hidden meanings in this film that you really have to pay attention to get. One of those meanings was a father/son bonding experience across country. We find out that Dern has been kind of an abandoning father to Forte, but there isn’t anything the son wouldn’t do to make his father happy. The film is beautifully shot in black and white which i feel gives an old style feel in the way that we may be seeing the world the way Dern does. There are also excellent performances from Bob Odenkirk and who i think should win the Oscar for Best Supporting Female, June Squibb. Squibb is electric as the nagging wife who is driven crazy by her husband, but stands by him with her devotion to love. Nebraska is a slow sit though. I can’t say i would recommend this film to anyone but fans of director Alexander Payne (Sideways). His style of slow shots and meaningful undertones is something i like in a director. As i said, the film is riddled in slow spots. The dialogue is 100% of this movie. If you are waiting for some big explosion or some earth shattering event, this isn’t the film for you. I think most people will be bored by it, but i enjoyed it. It’s a different film from what you see in 2013, and if you have to travel to Nebraska to find it, well so be it.

Anchorman 2

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8/10

This is going to be blasphemous to some people, but i thought this sequel to the 2004 original was even better. The film definitely steps it up in the laughs department, and i consider the original one of the 40 funniest films of all time. I now understand completely why it took almost 10 years for a sequel of this magnitude; everything is better. Besides the laughs, the movie tells a more epic story of Ron Burgandy and his news team. Some of the scenes will have you scratching your head in absurdity, but that is the kind of movies Will Ferrell is usually a part of. I have to admit that i was worried about this film with how much it has been pimped out on TV. I have seen Will Ferrell as Ron Burgandy everywhere over the last three weeks, and i thought it would be overdoing his best character. Some of the best scenes of the movie involve Ron’s interaction with an African American family, a severely awkward sex scene and another news team war that is twice as good and star studded as the original. I don’t want to give away a lot of spoilers, so this is one of those films you are going to have to see. I think even Ferrell haters will love this movie. It’s got something for everyone. Brick Tambland (Steve Carrell) is the best part of the movie for me. He has more lines with longer screen time in the sequel and that is a great thing. Sometimes Burgandy can get a little overdone with audiences because they know his humor too well. This is when it’s great to have someone like Carrell or Paul Rudd take the reigns and give their humor. The final ten minutes is some of the craziest things i have ever seen in a comedy, but i was laughing the whole time. Anchorman 2 brings back every great character from the first film and gives them more to do in the sequel. I recommend checking it out as it is the funniest film of the year (my opinion).

The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

 

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8/10

Coming from someone who is not a big fan of this series, i thoroughly enjoyed this film. This film has made walk away with the greatest feeling after seeing it, and that is for a few reasons. The first is that i was on the edge of my seat for this movie. The dragon Smaug is a great villain that adds even more because he can talk. The scene with the gold coins and his awakening scared me to death. There was just something about seeing his huge eye pop out that made my heart pump. The cinematography in these films is second to none. While i didn’t like the first Hobbit film, i can say that it was the most beautiful picture of the year. This one follows that trend, but it does it in a way to match the desolate mood of the Lake Town. This film’s views are seen more as dark and (hate to use this word again) desolate. The high frame rate is something pretty cool to read about with this film. The fact that they shot each frame at 48 frames per second is impressive, and it shows. I also really enjoyed the introduction of Bard the Bowman and felt Luke Evans was a perfect choice to play him. For those who don’t know, Luke has been cast in The Crow reboot, so i am curious to see what he can bring to Eric Draven. Some of the things i haven’t liked about other films are still there in this film, and i am sure i will get ambushed by fans of the series for it. Ultimately though, what kind of critic would i be if i didn’t put all of my cards on the table? These films are just way too long. I get that it is an epic story you are trying to tell with lots of characters, but maybe there in lies the problem; too many characters. I think the same story can be told without a couple of their back stories being learned. I also have never been a fan of Legolas. The guy is just too immortal for me to relate to. I mean seriously, could he get a cut or a scrape just once? Why do they even need an army if this guy can kill ten people in ten seconds? Just send Legolas to take care of any trouble in the town. I did enjoy the way the film ends as it sets up for There and Back Again quite well. I recommend this film to fans of the series for sure. As for non fans, it’s a hard prediction to make. I am not a fan and i loved it for the things i mentioned above. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

Frozen

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8/10

The best animated film i have seen in a long time. Before seeing this film, i had no idea that it was a musical. It’s a good thing that it is, because this film has some of the best musical pieces from Disney in a long time. The thing that i love the most about this film is that it reminds me a lot of those Disney films from the 80’s and 90’s. It was a time when the music was possibly the most important aspect of a Disney film, and that is what this is. The film doesn’t have your typical love story or your typical villain. Hell, it even has a swerve. That aspect alone gives Frozen a very original touch. On top of it, there is some of the most beautiful visuals i have ever seen in an animated film. I definitely think this film should win the Oscar for best animated film. The cast is incredible. Outside of Kristen Bell, it’s not really anyone super famous and i like that. Just voice actors here, the way it should be. Idina Menzel has the voice of an angel with amazing songs that she had a part in writing. The comic character (Olaf) was pretty good too. I don’t feel he was desperately needed, but Disney loves their comedy. I definitely recommend everyone see this film. Kids will love the colorful characters, and adults will appreciate the creative songs.

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire

 

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8.5/10

My favorite book of the trilogy is adapted in this sequel that is every bit better than the first adaptation. First off, there are some things that are left out from the book in this film. If you go into every film not wanting anything to change, then you might as well stick to the books. This film got roughly 90% of the book correct. Some of the adaptations are surrounded by beautiful scenery and awesome acted dialogue that puts the first film to shame. The biggest thing i loved about this film as opposed to the first one is the fact that the characters are much better in this one. The characters are given time to shine in their roles. My favorite character in the books has always been Finnick, and Sam Claflin plays him perfectly. The character isn’t too overdone with his charismatic charms that he comes off as feminine, but he carries enough charm to make the character lovable. Jena Malone also turns in an incredible performance as Johanna. She really adds her own attitude to an already rebel character. Phillip Seymour Hoffman kicked so much ass as Plutarch that i could never see anyone else in the role. It’s as simple as that. Peeta and Gale don’t get too much time to shine in this film and i hope their roles will be more important in the 3rd/4th film since they are a huge part of the Mockingjay novel. The film’s 2 hour and 26 minute run time didn’t even feel like it as the time breezed by. With the final novel being adapted into two films, i am curious to see how well they keep with the pacing. Especially since the first of those films comes out in less than a year. I hope they aren’t rushed too quickly. Overall, this film is great and definitely deserves a theater viewing. If you liked the first film, you will love this one. If you hated the first film, you won’t find much charm in this one