The Signal

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3.5/10

Never before has a movie left me with such difficulty to write a review. I absolutely despised this film for so many reasons that i worry i won’t get them all out in this writing. The Signal is the story of three college students who are on a road trip across the west when they experience the hacking of a computer genius who reveals that this person already has taken over the cameras on their laptops and is currently watching them. The trio decide to go after him only to find themselves in the middle of an isolated area with alien activity. They are taken to a secret lab that has it’s share of hidden agendas, and the students are experimented on there. Beyond that, i can’t explain to you much about what i understood about this film, and that is the biggest problem that The Signal suffers from. It’s a great and original idea on the surface but it’s so poorly executed that director/writer William Eubank probably won’t be writing the screenplay in his next movie. So many things are so poorly explained that the viewer will have more questions coming out of the 90 minute run time than they did going in. Another big problem is that this movie lacked the science in the phrase science fiction. We just don’t get enough shots or talk in the world of the alien intelligence. How can a film whose trailer was flooded in extraterrestrial talk have so little of it in the movie? The performances sadly are nothing to write home about. Laurence Fishburne is probably the best as a soft spoken scientist named Damon who has many conversations with group leader Nic (Brenton Thwaites). Fishburne is pretty much on sleep mode throughout the whole film and that is a shame. If this film had the great moments from a top leading performance it could’ve at least broken into territory that this film never had a chance of reaching. Olivia Cooke has stolen my heart since premiering on Bates Motel, but she just doesn’t have enough screen time here to make a difference. She was the lone good spot in The Quiet Ones but that is because the director knew where his talent was stacked. It’s almost insulting to see her take a back seat to two actors (Thwaites and Beau Knapp) who can never generate a solid emotion from the audience. As for the film’s pacing, it’s so completely boring. The chase scenes in the laboratories even feel too rushed to ever give us the time to invest in the safety of these characters. It feels very artificial without any kind of intelligence. The big reveals at the end of the film aren’t very shocking at all because it doesn’t make the viewer feel like they have earned the money they just spent on this trash. The secret of Fishburne’s character is something that is so childish and poorly written that it reminded me of the reveal of BENSON (Ben’s Son) in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Just awful. When my Mother asked me why i didn’t like the movie i told her because i couldn’t explain what just happened. If i can’t explain anything and leave the theater with some legitimately good questions towards the film, how can i ever say i enjoyed it? Besides the idea of the college kids being the gateway from us the humans to the other species, this film builds the tension decent enough, it’s just a shame that the payoff is never big enough to warrant the trouble. The lighting is excellent, the camera work is very stellar with lots of excellent editing in the form of flashbacks from the characters mindset. Overall, what really upsets me the most about this film in general is it’s wasted potential. More answers and less with the characters on mute could’ve pushed a winner out of Eubank’s script. Instead, we’re left abandoned in the desert without any signal of hope.

Earth To Echo

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5.5/10

Three friends find a mysterious object in the Nevada desert that gives them the adventure of a lifetime before they move and split up forever. There are many problems i had with this movie, and i will get to them later in the review, but this film was nowhere near the mess i was worried about. First of all, the film does have it’s comparisons to E.T. Most notably by adult viewers who will be taking their children to see this film. I definitely think this film works better for the 12 and under crowd but there is enough in the movie to keep adults semi interested. What i loved about this movie is that it’s more about friendship underneath the surface of this story about a robot crashing. These are three boys with a lot of charisma, especially that of a boy named Reginald. He is probably the best written child character that i have seen in a long time. Hollywood seems to think that people shouldn’t care about child characters as long as it’s a fun enough story. That is not the case in Earth To Echo as these three boys each play an important role in the history of their friendship. Sadly, this is one of the only good things about this movie. There are some nice effects when it comes to the look of the robot, and the cinematography was good enough to warrant a passing grade. However, the CGI effects look terrible, especially when they are slowed down for the audience to fully enjoy. If you look close enough, you can almost perfectly see the green screens behind the action in question. The big problem suffering in Earth To Echo is the robot story itself. It’s totally not necessary. Yes, i understand that is the main premise of the movie, but i feel that there is enough of a storyline between the kids being forced out of their homes from the construction of a freeway that i don’t feel Echo was ever needed. The chemistry and passion of the boys would’ve been enough to carry this into a friendship film along the likes of Stand By Me. The point of my rambling is that this movie suffers the most when it’s slowed down during those robot moments. The robot doesn’t talk and barely makes any communication with his handlers. The parts that did have any kind of momentum with the robot was too similar to 2011’s Super 8. The movie just felt completely unoriginal when it didn’t have to be. Another big problem with this movie is the ongoing awful phase of “shot on video” style. It’s totally useless and not needed at all. One will argue that the main boy named Tuck is filming his whole life for his Youtube channel, but it’s just not necessary. The camera angles are too close from people who obviously don’t know how to hold or use a camera, and they action is too quick for a style like this. There were many times when i had trouble understanding what was going on because someone wasn’t told to zoom out when they zoom in. I am more curious in the children who watch this movie, and what they took away from it. E.T was one of my favorite childhood movies, so it’s tough for me to watch a movie that gives you that kind of return to memory lane, but the things that were there before are now torn down. The film could’ve warranted a 6 or possible 7 out of 10 if they made it a little longer (85 minutes only) or focusing more on what these boys need to do to stay together. Earth To Echo shows a lot of sparks, but never fully gives the audience enough to be inspired. It’s a worn out cliche of post 2000 kids adventure movies and never finds it’s own voice to make the audience care. Skip it.

Transformers : Age of Extinction

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5/10

What can you say about a series of films in which i have disliked every film. Then, director Michael Bay makes his latest effort a 2 hour and 40 minute epic of a film that ruins anything good about this film to begin with. There isn’t going to be any great analysis in this review. The reason this movie is bad mainly centers around the amazingly unnecessary length in time.There is absolutely no reason that a Transformers film ever has to be over 2 hours period. The movie had a decent first hour that was making this the closest i have ever enjoyed a Transformers film. Then it screwed it up with convenient scenarios and a dragging war scene that makes us feel exhausted by the time it reaches the credits. Transformers : Age of Extinction stars Mark Wahlberg taking the leading reigns from Shia Lebouf as a Texas father who finds Optimus Prime and is immediatly hunted down by the government. Wahlberg is one of few welcome breaths of fresh air as a father who is just trying to provide better for his ever growing daughter. Wahlberg works mainly because he is ACTUALLY an action star as opposed to the loud and obnoxious Shia Lebouf. One of the major problems with the other three films is that they don’t create any characters for you to cheer for or hope for their health. Age of Distinction has a few of these and some are surprising because they are bad people. Stanley Tucci is brilliant as Joshua Joyce, the leader of a robot maker who is out to end the autobots once and for all. Tucci glides across the exceeding entertaining point by giving us hilarious lines in the form of panic from the horrors he has created. TJ Miller is decent in the film, but is only in it for a matter of 30 minutes. The film overall has a darker tone with more gruesome imagery than the previous films. Some death scenes are done in a way that show you that Age of Extinction is treading on territory we haven’t seen before. The usual favorites are there that will make you laugh as always. Michael Bay clearly still has no idea how to write real people with real conversations. The boyfriend character of the daughter’s in particular really makes you hate the guy no matter how honorable they try to make him. With lines like “I need this mouthwash when i’m making out with your daughter” and “She has the best hands for my clutch”, it makes you wonder if Bay himself is an autobot who has never actually been around humans. The action to the film is excellent as usual because if there is one thing Michael Bay does is take the same building that has fallen in three previous movies and knock it over again. The final war scene goes on for the last hour of the movie, and this is long by Saving Private Ryan standards. Many fans and non fans of the series will be reaching for their watches by about the 90 minute point of this film. One thing that made me laugh in particular about this film as opposed to the others is that there is no branch of army anywhere to be found. SERIOUSLY. Remember when Josh Duhamel and Tyreese were soldiers who were fighting for mankind? Well, apparently soldiers in Age of Extinction just let everything get torn to hell and assume the autobots will save us even though every news channel is calling them terrorists. The ending leaves the door open for a sequel of course, and even two more films have already been confirmed. I know the fans of Transformers are going to like this movie because they have to, but how many times can you watch the exact same movie? That is exactly what this is, the exact same movie. You don’t really learn anything new to go with the previous three films which makes me even more angry when it comes to the fact that this film was nearly 3 hours. The Wolf of Wall Street was 3 hours long and do you know why? It had amazing performances to match a story that every single bit had to be seen to be believed from the memoirs of Jordan Belfort. The Transformers movies are like a big advertisement for the toys and Chevy vehicles. I can not recommend this movie to anyone except fans of the series. They are going to read my review and say they loved it, and to that i say i am happy that someone enjoyed it. Mark Wahlberg’s daughter said a line in the movie that i wanted to share with everyone because i think it would be the perfect ending to this review. “You can’t keep spending money on junk to make new junk”. Well put Tessa, but you clearly don’t understand what it means to be in a Michael Bay film.

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.

X Men : Days of Futures Past

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9/10

This is the X Men film that fans of the comics deserve. I am still amazed 24 hours later at how much I really loved this film. Everything comes together perfectly in the newest X Men film directed by Bryan Singer. In this installment based on the graphic novels, the worlds of our mutants of the past and present collide. First of all, lets get it out of the way that there are some differences from the comics, but I don’t personally sweat on something like that. I have said before that if everything was 100% the same, there would be no surprises and no point to see the film. As long as the movie doesn’t completely ruin it’s origins, it’s all done in the brilliant world of creativity, and oh boy does the creativity reign supreme in this film. I am strongly debating if this film succeeds The Dark Knight in terms of my favorite comic book movie of all time. It really is that good. The story requires Wolverine to travel back in time to stop an event that eventually leads to the X-Men’s demise. That alone offers all of the opportunities in the world for some great on screen scenes between actors who have never worked together despite being a part of the same story. There are so many good performances that I don’t even know where to start. Hugh Jackman has proven that he can play Wolverine in his sleep at this point. I will never be able to imagine anyone else under the roll. He brings out the witty humor of Wolverine while not losing his intimidation factor. James Mcavoy adds a melancholy feel to Charles Xavier that he hasn’t quite felt in the on screen adaptations. He has lost so much, but he still believes there is a world out there worth saving. Jennifer Lawrence is really the screen stealer of this film. She flashes a dangerous side that Lawrence hasn’t quite gotten a chance to show in any film she has been in. Sexy and intelligent are the two traits that make Mystique the most dangerous weapon in this movie. Peter Dinklage brings a menacing genius to his scientist character that really makes you grit your teeth in hating him. Game of Thrones fans always brag about how great Dinklage is on the show, and I can promise you that you won’t be disappointed by his performance here. Evan Peters is absolutely my favorite thing about the movie as a young Quicksilver. He is so young and naïve, but his charisma comes out in spades as he is having the time of his life as this character. I yearned for more only minutes after he left the screen. Some other people have good time shining, but there are those who are left in the dust of supporting character. Halle Berry in particular as Storm is only given two lines, and you forget she exists until the final fight scene. I get that it’s a huge cast, but many characters are forgotten in this film. That is one of the only problems I had with the movie. Other than that, the 3D is useless. For one, outside of the opening, there is no reason to have it, and two, the cinematography of a future destroyed New York mixed with the 70’s flashbacks offer beautiful eye candy that doesn’t need 3D to enhance it. Singer really does his homework when it comes to the country’s fears and ideals during the Nixon administration. It’s even interesting that some famous events in U.S history are used to compliment X Men storylines. One thing that did surprise me about the film was that it doesn’t rely as much on fighting scenes compared to other X Men movies. There are some beautiful action and fight scenes in the movie, but this 2 hours and 10 minutes relies more on a well written script with great face to face confrontations to push it further. I like that. I like that it’s not like the other X Men films good and bad. The ending is something that I feel was written perfectly and would’ve been the best way to end this series. I already know they have plans on making a sequel, but I can’t see that one beating this in terms of offering something for a X Men reader to enjoy. There is an after credits scene that clearly shows the direction they are heading in with the time traveling aspect. I am fine with another X Men film, but I wish this was it. X Men : Days of Futures Past is the best film in the X Men franchise BY FAR. Singer elevates the action to delight the fans and newcomers but he delivers a fast-paced emotional storyline that blends in all of the previous films without confusing anyone. Certainly a first rate entertainment among the Marvel films to date. Well recommended, but leave the 3D on the shelf.

Godzilla

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6/10

Looking at the movies i have been anticipating for a long time, this one is near the top of the list. The most famous mega monster in cinema history is back with a reboot on a genuine classic. This Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor Johnson and Bryan Cranston as a son and father who suffer tragedy in 1999 during the biggest radiation readings in Japan’s history. 15 years later, they return to the spot of the disaster to encounter a new kind of terror. Before i begin with my review, i will say that i liked this film. I liked it, but i didn’t love it. Many people call it a tribute to the Toho Godzilla films, but i politely disagree. I see this as a new breed completely when it comes to the Godzilla. There are other Monsters in the film besides Godzilla, and that is a welcome call back to the past. But when it comes to the film as a whole, Godzilla movies have never been this monetarily invested in. It’s a Godzilla on a whole new scale. I do think it was done well and a hell of a lot better than the 1998 version (THANK GOD), but this is a film with it’s big problems. The biggest of those problems come in the form of the cut away edits. Every time Godzilla was about to fight a monster, the camera cut to a less interesting character with this storyline. I didn’t mind it the first time, but by the 4th time they did it, i was getting angry. Possibly a ploy by the director to get people so excited for when they finally do fight, but i didn’t view it that way. It makes your audience angry when you tease with them too much and don’t deliver. This movie doesn’t deliver on fight scenes until the final 20 minutes of a 2 hour movie. The fight scenes are great, i won’t lie on that. They definitely delivered through an unneccesary wait. It was kind of weird to see the take that this film had on Godzilla. There have been many times in past Godzilla films when Godzilla is the one people root for, but he has never been referred to as “Our Hero” like he was in this film. The lizard is looked at as kind of a protector to us in this film and i don’t know if i necessarily agree with that. As a protector, he has still killed hundreds of people and completely leveled the state of Hawaii and city of Oakland. Another comical part to me was when the creatures were treated like they were little children sneaking up on you in a hallway. I mean come on, these creatures are 300 feet tall and weight over 2 tons and you are surprised when they come out of nowhere? These characters couldn’t hear them coming? I didn’t have a problem with the look of Godzilla like some people did. I felt that to get the point across of how threatening this creature is that they have to make him bigger and stronger than ever. The other two creatures are great when it comes to the threat the present the cities and Godzilla. There are two of them and they team up as a male/female combo that puts Godzilla through a tough fight. I loved that Director Gareth Edwards is faithful in the fire power that Godzilla possesses. The coils on his back are still there to let you know when terror is right around the corner, and that was one of the brightest spots for me. Another thing i didn’t like was the stupidity of some of the armies used in the film. THey go through buildings with the intention of seeing if the creatures have struck their yet and used some of their chemicals, but then are surprised when there is a big hole in a building implying they were already there. Couldn’t they see this hole from the outside? Is there any reason other than filler to use these kinds of scenes? The chemicals are talked about and never mentioned again. The film is riddled with the same typical end of the world movie cliches, but they didn’t bother me as much. There is the cliche of a man trying to get back to his wife and kid, the cliche of the big character dying and it affecting the main character forcing him to fight back harder, and the cliche of the wide open ending. The score is excellent and really sets the tone when building the terror and destruction around the people. The acting was also very passable as Bryan Cranston is by far the best part of the movie. He is the stabilizing force that is this movie. When he goes, the film’s logic goes with it. I know i am talking logic in a movie with a 300 foot lizard, but i can only review what i am given. For once, it made sense to have a buff and macho type as the main character (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) because he is a trained soldier. His acting is typical, but he never really gets to show the kind of emotion that we need to get behind him. I know most of this review sounds like i am trashing the movie, but i am not. I can say i liked it and was disappointed by it at the same time. I think i am disappointed because my expectations were so high for it, and the hype was just as big as the monsters. I was expecting to maybe come out of the theater with a 7.5 or an 8 out of 10, so that is where i am disappointed. The movie does deliver on what you would expect, but it takes some pointless detours along the way. I would like to see another Godzilla movie of this stature, but i hope there is more fighting in the movie. For a film called Godzilla, i think his total screen time was under 10 minutes. I would like more Godzilla and more monster fighting in the next movie. Sparing Godzilla from getting stale is one thing, but abandoning the character is a whole other dish Even if the CGI is cheesy, people know what they are getting into with a movie called “GODZILLA”. Overall, i recommend the movie, but not for the full 10 bucks. If you can catch a before 5 PM showing of this film, i would recommend it. I think most people will like it, but find the same bloated problems with the build that i did. I think the movie ended at the right time just before it was about to fall apart. Thumbs up to Edwards, but as a fan of the old Toho Godzilla films, i do expect more. Good but not great.

The Amazing Spider Man 2

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6/10

The title doesn’t quite match the result in this sequel to the 2012 original. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot of things that could possibly make it a great movie, but it’s the negatives that leave it as a disappointment when compared to the first film. First of all, I will say that this is nowhere close to the terrible film that was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3. This is actually a good film. Good not great. Some of the things I really enjoyed about this film were done at the top of their game, and it’s those reasons why I saw the film in the first place, so I didn’t go home too unhappy. The 3D is very well done. This is a film that will be in my top 5 current 3D films of all time. For once, it’s not just a blending in background. It offers a lot of in your face effects with the lightning of Electro coming at you, and the beautiful popping out building shots that are around Spider-Man when he webs across New York City. It is for that reason alone why I will recommend this film before the review is even over. 3D is probably the only way to see this film. I also really enjoyed the beautiful cinematography. If I were in charge of next year’s Oscars, this film would get a nomination in that department for the beautiful colors that radiate off of the fight scenes of Spider-Man and Electro. Colorfully, it can only be matched by Watchmen in the super hero genre, and for those of you who know me, that is a great thing indeed. The chemistry between Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man, Peter Parker) and Emma Stone (Gwen Stacy) is present once again with lots of cute couple dialogue to go with it. These two are together in real life, so it’s no surprise that they know how to play a scene for all of the romantic jitterbugs in the audience. There was even a point when this movie kind of felt like a romantic comedy to me that was taking place in a super hero movie. When grading the acting of Garfield and Stone, the Spider-Man character isn’t even needed. I would enjoy a film with those two without gimmicks. The scenes between Sally Field (Aunt May) and Andrew Garfield are also very heartfelt. Field has always been on e of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses, and she shows that she is definitely the big dog on this set. She brings a feeling to Aunt May in this film that she has worked hard for Peter even when she hasn’t always had help. One of my current favorite actors (Dane Dehann) plays Harry Osbourne. A kid supposedly supposed to be Norman’s best friend from childhood. Dehann plays Harry incredibly with giving him a calm madness hiding just below the surface. He suffers from a lack of love from his father, so he tries to do things bigger and better than he ever did. There are a lot of things I didn’t like about the film, but I will go into them in detail. I loved Jamie Foxx as Electro and felt that he played a character with extreme loneliness very convincing. There are however times where he plays this character a little over the top for a science nerd working as Oscorp. His performance reminded me a lot of Jim Carrey as Edward Nigma in Batman Forever. Instead of breaking ground, he falls for too many of the nerd character clichés that never make him feel even on the same level as Spider-Man. I also felt it was a step back for this film to not include point of view shots like it did in it’s predecessor. Spider-Man is definitely a film franchise that could do revolutionary things with the camera work, and they explored this by letting the crowd see through Spider-Man’s eyes in the first film. Without it here, it just feels like we revert back to the Sam Raimi Spider-Man with nothing new to grow on. I was completely disappointed with how bad they hurt the Rhino character. I know he wasn’t supposed to be a big part of this film, but if I were a fan of that character in the comics, I would be pissed. Paul Giamatti is a great actor, but they give him this awful Russian accent (Yes I know the character is Russian) and he is unintentionally funny every time he pops up on screen. Giamatti and Rhino deserved much better. There were also some scenes that the logic had me laughing. I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum here, but I need some to tell my point. There is a store scene where Parker is sick and is buying medicine. A robber comes in and tries to steal the money from the register, but is stopped by Spider-Man. If the worker really wanted to, he could look at the camera in the store and see that Parker (While wearing the mask) walks out with the exact same medicine that Parker had in his hands one minute ago. This could easily be fixable with a 1 minute scene where Spider-Man destroys the cameras, but we need to include a cute scene where people laugh because Spider-Man is sick while leaving the store Another scene shows Jamie Foxx becoming Electro while being electrocuted. It shows the gap in his teeth remarkably become fixed. I don’t have a problem with comic book logic, but what point does that have? Is it to make it hard for Peter and Gwen to recognize him? That is another thing that bothers me. Gwen is the one who realizes that Electro is a man named Max who is a scientist in her lab because Spider-Man refers to him as Max during their first encounter. Ya know, because no one else in New York City is named Max. When Electro rises, the logic becomes even funnier. There is a scene where he shuts off all of the cars in New York’s electricity but 50 feet from that everyone is using their cell phones without problems. What kind of electricity drains the cars, but not the cell phones? The friendship between Peter and Harry bothered me as well. We are supposed to believe that these two are childhood friends after not hearing about Harry for an entire first film. I know he left to go to the academy, but this friendship would mean more to the audience if we even heard Harry’s name once during the first film. It feels rushed and convenient that he returns now to add more adversity to Peter Parker. When Raimi wrote the friendship in the first series, it was beautifully constructed between three films before they ever struck fists. In this, it is rushed and never quite given the fight scene it deserves. The movie didn’t suffer as bad from overcrowding as i originally worried, but the final 20 minutes definitely feel rushed with three fight scenes between three different villains. Next, there is a scene where Peter Parker goes to find his Dad’s lost lab which is actually a train underground. Even if you can swallow that nobody found this train on ground radar and even if you can get past the fact that how Peter finds it is a true shot in the dark, you can’t get by the fact that everything in the train is 2014 technology that has no dust or spider webs in the train. It’s like the train has never been touched. I know this is starting to sound like a negative review of the film, but i really did enjoy it. I am trying to show why the film went from a possible 8/10 to a 6/10. The two worst areas of the film i saved for last because it makes me cringe even thinking about it. Sony owns the writes to Spider-Man, but did this movie have to be a big 2 hour and 20 minute commercial for Sony Products? I am not kidding when i say that there are 3, Sony Laptop shots, 3 Sony Cell phone models being used, and a big Sony desktop monitor. Keep in mind, this is all that i caught and that it’s possible that there are more out there. It just feels like a comedic spoof whenever this kind of thing comes on and takes you totally out of the feelings for the movie. The Sony thing is peanuts though compared to the worst musical score/soundtrack i have heard this year. Every pop/folk song like “For You” by Phillip Phillips is used to distinguish some kind of emotion because the director thinks the crowd is too stupid to pick up on emotions for themselves. If Peter is sad, you must play a song with sad lyrics in them. If Peter won’t quit, you must play a song that describes never giving up. Those emotion jams are nothing compared to the score that plays when Electro invades New York City. It’s some kind of awful dubstep song that has a male voice whispering words from Electro’s point of view. Words like “He lied to me”, “He forgot about me”, “SPIDER MAN SPIDER MAN SPIDER MAN” “DIe Spider Man”. It is single handedly the worst music i have heard in film this year. I get that Electro was a cheap reason to use dubstep in your movies because kids are hip to that music today, but it is so ear bleeding that i want to cover my ears even to risk missing plot dialogue. The ending is also kind of unsatisfying. There are technically two of them, and if they would’ve settled for the first one, it would have been awesome. Instead, they add on ten more minutes to film another fight scene that doesn’t even end. Seriously, they begin fighting and the camera goes to black. One will write this off as build up for the 3rd film, but i saw this final shot in the trailers, and when you see that shot in trailers it is supposed to get you psyched up to see the full fight, not wait another 2 years for another film so that we can maybe see the ending to that fight. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a decent effort by director Marc Webb (Webb, how cute?) but it is riddled in the kinds of negatives that made the first Spider-Man series feel old by the 3rd film. I really hope they can pick it up for the 3rd movie as the groundwork is set for an amazing confrontation. Lets just hope it stylistically resembles the first film more. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is recommended because the super hero era is still very big, but challenge yourself to not accept everything you see just because it’s a super hero movie. We don’t have to agree, but i don’t give any movie favoritism just because it’s a genre i enjoy.

Transcendence

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7/10

I am amazed when i see sites like Rotten Tomatoes giving this film a 17%, but give Heaven is For Real a 54%. What movies are these people watching? Transcendence isn’t a film that everyone is going to like, and i understand that. It is a film though that takes a used plot (See Lawnmower Man), but spices it up to bring a level of terror to a world that relies on technology (sound familiar?). Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy and Cole Hauser lead a dynamite cast in a film about two artificial intelligence professors (Depp and Hall) who work to create a sentiment machine that combines intelligence of our data systems with human emotion. The idea comes with backlash at the hands of an extremist group who sees the consequences that something like this could lead to. I am going to mention what i didn’t like about this film first because it’s very few things. First of all, it’s a ridiculous thought that something like this would ever be on a blueprint, i understand that. I think the intention of first time director Wally Pfister was to show that our real life situation of everyone’s need for technology is getting to dangerous levels. It kind of touches Animal Farm levels when it hints that humans will one day no longer be able to make decisions for themselves. That situation alone is enough to make anyone shriek at the idea of a computer God who now controls everything and everyone.I was impressed with the direction that Pfister crafted in this film. It even reminded me of one of my favorite directors, Christopher Nolan, and there is a reason for this. Wally was the cinematographer for all of Nolan’s films. Nolan also works as an executive producer in this film. His influence is easy to spot not only in the camera work, but the cast as well. Hall, Freeman and Murphy have all been staples in Nolan films, and that chemistry reflects in each of their screen time together. Transcendence starts off slow in the first 45 minutes, but then recovers itself with a twist that wasn’t even hinted at in the trailer. Seriously, after watching the trailer, i wasn’t too impressed going into this film. I think what really won me over was the chemistry of Depp and Hall, and their capability to create a product that most humans can’t even begin to understand. Understanding the scientific lingo is something that fans will have trouble fully grasping. In this world, the sky is the limit for these machines and technology, so we have to take that ride with our eyes forward. I also really enjoyed the score by Mychael Danna. He instills a sorrow to future that mankind is creating for itself. The piano notes hit at the most perfect moments when our main characters look across at each other knowing the terrors they have created. The ending is something else i really dug. I enjoy when a film has enough bravery to make an ending that is risky and goes against what might be best for the fans who dig simple cliche endings. It’s one of the reasons i am one of the only people who enjoyed Cabin in the Woods. The ending to this doesn’t back down, and that is something i will always appreciate. Transcendence is a dark and harrowing tale about the road we may be heading down. Technology is one of human’s biggest achievements and possibly biggest downfalls. It’s my opinion that technology is always one step above humans. I think that might be why many critics don’t understand this film. Recommended but wait till DVD, so you can rewind what you might miss.

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.

Only Lovers Left Alive

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7.5/10

Dreamy and mesmerizing are the best words used to describe this film starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as two vampires roaming the earth, and the love story between them that follows. The two lead actors play vampires better than anyone i have seen since John Carpenter’s Vampires (1998). They hate the existence that they live in, but they make the most of every situation. Swinton is very intelligent as she has read thousands of books, and Hiddleston is a 18th century musician who collects vintage instruments. He also uses the Tesla way of running energy through his house.The love story between the two protagonists is something that feels eternal. Their love has lasted for centuries and it shows. They seem incomplete without each other.
I have to speak of the two best things about this movie because they both play IMPORTANT parts in this film. The first is the score. This is a movie that feels like the music never stops. It is mostly instrumental, but it comes in the form of these dark but beautiful pieces that echo off the walls of every scene. I don’t know if a soundtrack has ever been this perfect for a film in terms of generating the kind of feeling that the actors are going for. The second thing is the setting of Detroit. This is absolutely brilliant. It is in Detroit that these characters can go unnoticed and live in silence.The long shots of downtown Detroit play so well with the mood already set by the soundtrack and the characters. As for the vampires, they aren’t violent and there is something i like about that. The film only shows them attack their prey one time, and i am fine with that. It’s expected in too many films that vampires are violent, so it’s nice to go against the cliche. If i have one problem with this film, it’s the pacing. The slow and uneventful periods are what might take someone out of this film. I think to fix this problem they could’ve cut down about 15 minutes in some random script time. A lot of that cut time would be in the beginning because it does get off to a slow start. In comparison to some of the other vampire film lately, this is a beautiful breath of fresh air. Director Jim Jarmusch has created some great characters with his 2005 hit Broken Flowers, but this film i feel is even better than that one. Only Lovers Left Alive shows him venturing into territory that he hasn’t been used to since his mid 90’s days. It’s nice to see the director still has it with a film that pushes characters first and actions second. I recommend this film for anyone who doesn’t mind a slow build. You have to appreciate this film for the relationship and not so much the kinds of actions you are used to seeing in the Vampire genre. Hiddleston and Swinton carry this film to one of the year’s best so far

Divergent

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6/10

I liked this film a lot more than i thought i was going to. The Dystopian genre is really taking off in Hollywood, but this one stands out more than a couple dystopian films that are coming out this year. Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as Tris, a teenage girl who has to choose her future aspiration in a future world controlled by a brainwashing regime. The film is 2 hours and 15 minutes long, and i can safely say that i was entertained for the first 2 hours of it. It’s in the last 15 minutes that the film loses a little bit of it’s steam with a cliche outcome. The ending was weird to me because it almost seems like they went with an ending that could work whether this film gets a sequel or doesn’t do good at all and ends here. Either way, it works. Woodley is excellent in this role. She is young enough to capture a typical 18 year old’s emotions, but she is a good enough actress to channel adult like transformation. She really does transform before our eyes from a weak duckling to a full on fighting machine. Kate Winslet is also outstanding as the lady in charge, Jeanine Matthews. You can tell that Winslet is having a great time as a villain for once. She gets under your skin with smiles and soft speaking. Theo James is a little bland to me as Tobias Eaton, but i think the ladies will love him just fine. They give him the yawning scene of him taking his shirt off showing his tattoo so he and Tris can hook up yada yada yada. He just doesn’t do a good job displaying the emotions of the terrible situation that these people are under. I did enjoy some beautiful scenery which included a capture the flag game at night with the army training. The colors of this dystopian future really work with the wardrobe and emotional symbolism. What i found the most interesting about this film is that it kept me entertained for 2 hours with just building these kids into the soldiers they are born to become. It’s the training and the transformation of Tris that is the best parts of this film. I asked two teenage girls who were sitting 2 rows behind me if the film was a good adaptation, and they said they got just about everything right. They can’t speak for everyone, but that is a good sign for you the readers. Divergent is a film that isn’t as good as Hunger Games (My opinion), but it gives you better character building than that film ever could. I wish a lot of success for this film as i wouldn’t be against seeing the sequels. I just hope they keep out the cliche love dialogue at home. I realize it’s needed because it’s in the books, but i can’t watch those scenes without rolling my eyes. Divergent is recommended to anyone who is into this kind of genre. If you aren’t into books like these, wait till the dollar theater. It’s not essential to see it. Overall verdict – In the middle of the pack for the 33 films i have seen this year.

Under The Skin

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6/10

Truly the oddest film of the year i have seen. It’s got a lot of disturbing scenes in the form of Scarlett Johansson in the form of an alien who comes to earth to learn more about the humans she hunts. I say “hunt” because this alien attracts men while taking on the form of a beautiful woman. She brings them back to her apartment where they are all killed while under the sexual spell of Johansson. The idea itself behind Under the Skin is great but it suffers from a lot of the same sci fi problems that this month’s The Signal did. It has problems explaining itself, and maybe that is meant on purpose. You find out very little about the alien itself and why she is here to study these males. You never find out why these men are disposed of in a way that they are. The reason i kind of feel this is on purpose is because the movie has a couple meanings in the form of symbolism that i took from it. The first is that man is the most dangerous creature walking the earth. He is out for sex and doesn’t care who he hurts to get it. I don’t think a film like this can really be called feminism because the woman is clearly using the tool herself even if it is for death purposes. The second thing i took in the form of symbolism is that beauty is only skin deep. I can tell that the ladder is the thing this film was really going for, but it never fully commits itself in this direction. There is a scene midway through the film in which the alien picks up a man with a disfigured face. She continues to hit on him and shows more emotion in picking him up than she did any of the more physically attractive men. This is personally what i enjoyed most about the film as i felt it was heading in a direction that was more original and rare by today’s standards of good looking men and women in movie. The alien looks like Scarlett for a reason obviously and that is to prove how shallow these animals are. As i said before, it doesn’t fully commit itself to this direction and that is unfortunate. The last 30 minutes of the film are a scramble of a film that didn’t know quite how to end. It almost feels like the ending does nothing to add to the film’s originality because it’s the ending we were expecting in the first place. There are a couple other things i enjoyed about the movie. The movie is mostly a silent film with occasional dialogue being thrown in to get across the wants and obvious needs by her male suitors. It’s so hard for a movie to get across the points of it’s characters when there isn’t a lot coming out of their mouths, but Under the Skin made it work. This is by far Johansson’s best acting credit to date. In just a deer in the headlights stare, she makes the alien (no name given in the film) so pale and emotionless that we always prepare for the worst. We feel like these men are in for a world of pain that only we can see coming, but it never quite gets that horrific. SPOILERS – Some of the men are killed, but it only feels as bad to us because of Johansson’s powerful quiet demeanor. She is never too over the top while playing a character and a genre that she has little to no experience with. The camera shots are absolute beautiful and full of artful color. The fast paced shots of a motorcycle rider who is relative to Johansson’s character are done with the road underneath us speeding through quickly. It feels like we are chasing this man on a bike because of the absolutely brilliant and risky shots given. The location of Scotland is absolutely perfect for this kind of movie because of the foggy mist swallowing the forrest landscapes. It gives the area a sense of doom for the unknown that they don’t see coming. The direction is really hit and miss. The idea of the film is great, but it’s not amazingly executed by director Jonathan Glazer. Upon looking into it, he uses actual real citizens for shots of the alien in the mall and in a restaurant. This is brilliant because the star of the film has to react to the improv going on around her. His direction has pieces of miss because I felt like he had many great ideas, but got lost in some of the symbolism and that kept him from finishing a decent film. If the ending wasn’t so bland for me, i would’ve rated this movie a lot higher. It’s only an hour and 40 minutes, but you will be begging for answers by the end of the film, and it’s those answers that never materialize. I did enjoy Under the Skin, but i cannot for a second recommend this movie to a mainstream audience. Sadly, many people don’t like what they can’t understand in today’s society, so i can’t see this movie getting the world wide praise it kind of deserves. If you are curious for more things besides Scarlett Johansson’s nude body, give it a shot for her acting alone. It’s going to be unlike anything you have ever seen from her, but i think this film should be the cherry on the sundae for a great acting year for Johansson. Overall, the message of Under the Skin may go unnoticed by some, but the disturbing imagery and a mesmerizing performance from Johansson makes Under the Skin a haunting viewing experience