Interstellar

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7.5/10

Christopher Nolan writes and directs perhaps his most ambitious film to date. With our time on Earth coming to an end, a team of explorers undertakes the most important mission in human history; traveling beyond this galaxy to discover whether mankind has a future among the stars. The film stars Matthew Mchonaghey and Anne Hathaway among the best cast of actors in a film this year. The film is a 2 hour and 45 minute epic that opens up the thought process on anything you have ever thought about when it comes to space travel. I personally enjoyed the movie……well, the first two hours of it. The film tackles every negative aspect about space travel from the theory of relativity and aging, to the vast temperature changes in different planets. Before i get to what bothered me about the final 45 minutes of the film, i will tell you about the things i thought were done well. First of all, the cinematography is bar none the absolute best that i have seen this year. The wide shots of the planets compared to a very small ship make the audience feel small in their problems even if they are facing extinction. Nolan has a way of shooting where every small morcel of color plays an even bigger part in the overall presentation of an eye popping shot. This was evident in his 2008 film “Inception”, as he bent the way the human mind accepts a film. The sound editing is so crippling and heart pounding that i found myself getting lost in the characters struggles, and saw myself in the ship. There were many times when i had to remind myself that i was just a viewer in a movie theater watching these men and women with no guarantee they will ever return home. The score is a beautiful suspense builder, even if it is a bit repetitive at times. I also loved the realistic look at a bleak future Earth. A lot of films go over the top with gimmick products and imagery for future scenes, but not “Interstellar”. It’s explained some of the programs and institutions retired because of the current state of Earth and it’s believable because some of our own agencies are facing these problems in real life. Meaningless Spoiler – It was pretty funny to see Major League Baseball still being played but in a little league ballpark. It’s that kind of shock humor that points this film in the right direction. The acting is also top notch. Mchonaghey is definitely in the prime of his acting career after “Dallas Buyers Club” and the TV smash hit “True Detective”. There is no stopping this guy right now, and this film kept his acting charms present while adding that family man we knew and loved with earlier films in his catalog. Hathaway bounces well off of him as the two have remarkable chemistry especially when dealing with the conflict of two planets to visit and only enough fuel for one. The movie also features Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, and a surprise cameo that i will not ruin for you the reader. The acting is definitely there even if there are plenty of roll your eyes scenes with some of the dialogue. Some of the cheesiness felt more like those late 90’s- early 2000’s space films like “Armageddon” or “The Core” when it came to the lines that just weren’t needed. The first two hours does everything i listed well, and it’s during that time that the film’s pacing is remarkable considering how long the run time is. So what goes wrong in the last 45 minutes? IT’S TERRIBLE. Not only does the film completely go back on a lot of the rules they established with time comparisons to Earth time, but there are so many confusing layers to a story that already has us barely hanging on. The movie takes on a goofy kind of tone breaking all of the rules set by previous scenes that were done better and explained well to catch us up on the Earth and the backstories to what got it to this point. I am not going to spoil a lot, but there was no age transformation on the faces of our main characters, but there was on other members of the crew. How is this possible? It’s a huge age gap too because there is one scene where they spend 23 years (Earth Time) on a planet, yet Mchonaghey and Hathaway still look as young as they did when they started this mission. Another thing i despised was a robot character who follows the crew on this mission. I am sure i will be alone here, but i felt this character was so meaningless in the plot and ruined so much of the tension building scenes early on with humor one liners, or bouncing jokes off of Mchonaghey. It just wasn’t needed, and felt more of a distraction to me than anything else. I saw an ending in the final twenty minutes that had me completely scratching my head. One thing i wondered throughout this whole movie was why none of the other planets were mentioned in the movie. In real life, it’s been established that Mars is livable and would be the next best option if we ever had to leave Earth. Considering it’s next door to Earth, i didn’t understand why that wasn’t the first option as opposed to a wormhole that is literally years away. Overall, i enjoyed the film and i can’t say that i hated it, but there is too much wrong in the final act of the movie for me to politely ignore it. Some people will see it and think it’s genius, but that is reflective of the two groups of people who will either really love this movie or really hate it. If i graded the first two hours, the film would be a 9/10 for me, but that is how bad the final act drags this movie down for me. If i were watching it again on DVD, i would stop right before the surprise cameo that happens. After that, it’s all down hill. My final thoughts are very weird because i do recommend this film. I think it’s a beautiful piece of cinema history that shouldn’t be missed for the experience it is. However, i recommend you see it in IMAX or XD so you can enjoy the best of many technical aspects from film in 2014. This film should have a couple Oscars coming to it just from that alone. There is a chance you will hate this movie, and i do apologize. But i don’t think anyone will be upset by the gorgeous spectacle in front of your eyes. The film is good, but can’t compare to Nolan’s best like “Inception”, “The Dark Knight”, or “The Prestige”. “Interstellar” gives us the best in what has made Christopher Nolan one of the most demanded directors today. Even it’s intellectual goals exceeds it’s reach, “Interstellar” is a lot like it’s director; one of a kind.

Dracula Untold

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4/10 –

Luke Evans stars as Vlad The Impaler, a legend on the battlefield just looking for the peace of his Transylvania town during the invasion of the Turkish Army. His only hope is the power of master vampire (Played by Charles Dance) to give Vlad superhuman powers to defeat the army at the cost of becoming a monster. It’s the epic story of one of the most well known Universal Studios monsters of all time given a new side of a classic tale. The film is told from the point of view as Dracula himself which makes this film feel along the same lines as 2014’s “Maleficient” as that film is also told from the point of the historical villain. The film however is a disappointment as it’s so bad on so many scales that it channels similar vibes of failures like “Van Helsing” or “I Frankenstein” just on it’s cinematography alone. The whole film feels like a studio controlled mandate at every turn of the movie with the lack of execution for a human lead character that feels like a superhero cliche even before he is given his powers. By presenting Vlad’s history, it takes away the mysterious nature of the character. I feel that all monsters need that realm of mystery because it adds the suspense of dealing with an enemy you know nothing about. I get that the point of the film was to tell the origins story of Vlad, but i felt that too much was revealed that takes away his powerful presence later on. That’s not to say that Luke Evans isn’t good in this role. I personally agreed with his casting, but the character never feels like Vlad The Impaler even when the best of his legend is being told. I think a straight shot Dracula story would’ve done him better instead of the origins story that we are presented. Most of his problem is in a script that tries to make a character nicknamed “The Impaler” a likeable character and a menace at the same time. Both sides don’t play well off the other, and instead the traits of both end up cancelling each other out. It just doesn’t work for me because the character is described as “Genocidal” killing hundreds of people. Dance is by far the best part of this film. His presence gives the movie the theater like overacting shot in the arm that it needs even when the film is trailing off at the 20 minute mark. Dominic Cooper is cast as the villain (SHOCKER), and the head of the Turkish Army that Dracula is put against. Cooper’s villain turn in this year’s “Need For Speed” was bad, but his role in this film might be worse. Complete with a Borat sounding Turkish accent, and less than ten minutes of screen time that is nowhere close enough to make a lasting impression. The PG-13 rating is also a blunder. It is brutalizing on a character known for his violent tones and appetite of the human flesh. In the end, it all feels too watered down to be a real Dracula telling, and doesn’t hold up well to the Bela Lugosi films of the 20th century. When i think of a vampire film, i think of the color red. In this film, none of it is present because the film is held in shackles to it’s pitiful rating. Complete with a 90 minute run time, Dracula Untold feels like a cash grab that is less interested in paying attention to it’s horror backgrounds, and more interested in CGI gags for cheap thrills. The effects like a Dracula formation in the form of hundreds of bats is quite impressive, but there isn’t enough of these visual effects to leave a lasting memory on the audience 24 hours after they have left the theater. I mentioned before that i had a problem with the time, and that is because there is so much that Director Gary Shore is trying to convey in such a little time frame. By the time the final epic battle takes place on camera, the film feels rushed in a way that feels like a major scene explaining everything was deleted along the way. I wouldn’t recommend this film beyond a rental at Redbox. I can assure you of one thing though. If your child is interested in this film, it’s safe to take them because “Dracula Untold” is a watered down colorless muck that is a story better left untold.

Horns

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6.5/10

Based on the novel by Joe Hill, Horns is the story of Iggy Parish (Daniel Radcliffe), the main suspect in the violent rape and murder of his childhood sweetheart girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple). Iggy awakens after a long night of drinking to find that he has grown horns on his head that give him the power to drag peoples dirtiest secrets out. The film itself begins as a dark comedy, but then transitions the 2nd and 3rd acts into a fantasy psychological thriller of a murder mystery whodunnit? Lately, there have been a slew of murder mystery films about couple gone wrong. So what makes Horns any different? It’s wickedly dark humor combined with the performance of Radcliffe as an ever growing actor among Hollywood’s best. Daniel takes on a role in this film that he has never done before, and that can be very refreshing. The film satisfies a lot of genre fans from Horror, comedy, romance, and Mystery. The horror fans in particular will love the film for it’s sparse, but gruesome violence that rivals any horror film this year. Personally, i thought the film worked best when it stuck to the moments of the mystery itself and the various flashbacks made possible by Iggy’s powers. The horns are never explained to the audience as to why or how they got there, but it personally didn’t matter to me. The story itself is something fresh and that is always nice to see for this genre. The things i didn’t enjoy about Horns was the switching back and forth as the film tried desperately to find it’s identity. Many films can pull genre switches during a film, but this one does it so often that it feels jokingly when it’s supposed to be serious, and vice versa. I also felt that the mystery itself wasn’t too hard to predict once your mind opens up to the situation of Merrin’s final night, and the characters that surround her. The film also goes on for about twenty minutes too long after the disappointing reveal of Merrin’s murderer. I think the movie could’ve done well enough if the reveal was followed by the big fight scene, and then the credits. It goes on for too long at the very minute when the film starts dragging. That’s not to say that there isn’t something deeper about Horns. It’s got an independent charm to it mainly because of the director of such B-List horror films like The Hills Have Eyes Remake, Maniac, and Piranha 3D, Alexandre Aja. What Aja does better than a lot of his B-Movie counterparts is that he takes a movie that sounds prepostorous by description, but makes it work casting an actor like Radcliffe who we never expected to dance like the devil. He also adds a beautifully chosen soundtrack to give the film many smiles during certain scenes. The sounds of ‘Where is my Mind’ by The Pixies plays perfectly during childhood innocence, and there is always room for ‘Heroes’ by Alesso when Iggy feels like he is the only believer that he has walking the Earth. It’s a perfectly sounding musical narration of musical trivia for anyone who feels music plays an important part in film. There is a good movie under all of this sillyness somewhere. Horns is a failure, but it’s a beautiful one at that. The camera work is exceptional, and the dark comedy is funnier than anything i have seen in a film with religious tones since 1998’s “Dogma”. The difference with that Kevin Smith film is that he was comfortable in the controversial story he was dancing on. Horns is an OK movie that could be better with a better defined ideal of where Aja wanted to go. I think it’s harmless for a rental at the local Redbox, but anything beyond that is pushing it. See it if only for Radcliffe’s performance, brutal violence, and if a murder mystery is your cup of tea

The Maze Runner

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7/10

Thomas (Dylan O’Bryen) awakens to find himself and a bunch of other teenage boys trapped in a huge maze with very little chance of ever getting out. Who or what put them there remains the mystery in this young adult film based on the book of the same name. The Maze Runner was a pleasant surprise in an almost overflowing genre of young adult novels making the transition to film these days. If there is one thing that has driven me crazy about other films of this genre it’s that they aren’t done in brutal fashion. The Hunger Games shows violence, but it never seems like they are fighting for their lives while in the games. Divergent doesn’t capitalize enough on this being a post apocalyptic world with very little hope. The people in that film feel like they can make it through whatever as long as they have each other. In this film, these kids are fighting brutally against spider scorpion creatures in the maze, and fighting against each other as most of them lack trust with their pasts a mystery. I loved how the dark tones of this film created a presence where you could actually relate to what these kids are going through. The movie isn’t perfect and suffers from a lot of plot holes that become clear with the transition from novel to feature film, but i will get to that more later. Bryen is a really good young actor with a bright future in film. As Thomas, he brings a lot of personality to a character who is a blank slate due to all of the boys memories being wiped. The films mystery in itself as to why these teenagers are in the maze and who is doing it made me very intrigued heading into the movie. There is a decent payoff, but not one that is entirely satisfying. The movie definitely leaves the doors open for all three books to become films, and not everything is answered in this film which can be a good and bad thing. One of the biggest plot hole problems i had with the film is that this is supposed to take place after events of a sun destroying and burning everything including the earth’s ecosystem. So how does the maze have grass, trees, and vines if everything in the world around them is burned and sand filled? It is mentioned that they don’t climb to the top of the maze because vines don’t go up that high, so why not build a wooden ladder? They did this for the club houses they had at their home base, and there is plenty of wood to spare to make something like this. I don’t know if the book answers these questions, but the film didn’t, and it’s just one in the series of unanswered plot holes. That is the lone problem i had in the movie however. The rest of it was very entertaining and enjoyable. The monsters in the actual maze are very creative and original. They play as a spider, but have a robotic metal outer layer to them. The sound editing was also nothing short of brilliant. The background sounds of the maze constantly shifting while the characters don’t realize it and are talking to each other is very impressive. It’s those kind of small details that usually take me out of a film, but The Maze Runner did it’s homework. The action and suspense is also very noteworthy with the question always looming what character is going to die while in the maze. The film isn’t afraid to kill off a character regardless of their age, and i greatly appreciated it. This is not a film to be held down by a PG-13 rating. The film overall had kind a feel of three films to me. It felt like ‘Lord of the Flies’, ‘Cube’, and ‘Resident Evil’. This film takes the best elements of those three films and molds into one that is suspenseful and always darkly entertaining. I definitely recommend this film to everyone. I think even an adult crowd will get enough out of it without nit picking it to death. The Maze Runner is a superior entry in Hollywood’s onslaught of adolescents versus future dystopia films. It’s interesting, well acted, well directed, and delivers an original and mostly satisfying outcome

As Above So Below

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3.5/10

A team of explorers search for a lost rock beneath the catacombs of Paris, France in the newest found footage film designed to give you nightmares. As Above So Below is the worst kind of film that you could possibly encounter for an array of reasons. The first is that the plot is actually intriguing enough to get your curriosity flowing. I did a report on the Paris Catacombs in high school, and the caves in them are just begging for a scary movie to be made down there. You get sucked in and then you immediatly regret the decision to spend money on it when you see the presentation. Even for found footage movies, the camera work in this film is awful. Most of the time, you find yourself confused on what you are looking at. It is even more aggravating when a character will say “Look at that” and you can’t tell for one second what is present in front of the camera. It moves around too much and that hurts a film that relies on scary visuals. I won’t say it’s pointless because for once it actually makes sense why everything is being recorded. The main character of the film (Perdita Weeks) is being interviewed for a documentary about her uncovering some great mysteries in the catacombs. Each character is equipped with a helmet camera and it makes sense. What sucks is that we get the feel of constant quick reactions every time a character is scared or hears something. Another thing that annoyed me about the film was just how conveniently these characters figured out mysteries that are a thousand years old. Like i’m sure no one else figured out to touch a tombstone a certain way to get the wall to move, or no one else could figure out the verbal clues given on the walls all around the catacombs. Our characters figure things out like they are sharing the same brain, and it’s aggravating because unless you study alchemy or ancient scriptures, it will all be greek to you. I found myself still stuck on the start of the sentence when these characters have already figured out what moves walls. I mentioned Alchemy before because it’s interesting how much of this film is more about that than Hell and the Devil. I was led to believe that this was a movie about the gates of Hell, but it turns out that it’s more about rocks and the powers that they behold. The film is only 88 minutes and the first 50 or so establishes nothing with no death scenes and not much backstory for the characters. When the film has about 20 minutes left, it starts killing off characters because the movie needs to end soon and we haven’t done much with the threats of this cave. It’s just utterly sloppy. The ending is so frustrating because it’s more of the “Love conquers all” kind of thing. It’s crazy because you wouldn’t expect anything like that in a movie like this. It seriously made me angry the way that this film ends because it’s unlike anything you would ever dream up. I found myself asking how this ending couldn’t have been done 40 minutes prior to this. I won’t give much away, but it’s a solution that was right in front of our characters eyes the whole time. The lone thing i enjoyed about this film was the setting of the actual catacombs. I appreciate that this film was shot mostly in the Paris caves as it shows more on camera than you are used to seeing in documentaries. I just wish the setting had a better story to capitalize on what could’ve been the scariest film of the year. I definitely cannot recommend this film to anyone as it is one of the worst films i have seen in 2014. In closing, if above is anything like below, then leave it as well as this film buried with Paris’s terrible past. The Catacombs hold the remains of about six million people. Hopefully the film won’t affect as many people.

Sin City 2 : A Dame To Kill For

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5.5/10

Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez return for a sequel of the 2005 original that satisfied eyes with a beautiful art background straight out of Miller’s comics of the same name. A Dame to Kill For is at best a film that was made too late to capitalize on the Sin City lure, and just doesn’t pack the brutal punch that the first film did. I did enjoy Sin City 2, so don’t be too fooled by my rating, but i did feel like there was a lot of time wasted in a movie that will have arguably the best cast of the year. The good things are definitely there in the best cinematography of the year again. Frank Miller gives a comic book feel to the silver screen better than anyone i have ever seen. He knows how his stories are supposed to be translated and he gets the camera work done perfectly. The negative to this is that for those of you who pay extra for the 3D are going to be let down. Sin City are films that are beautiful enough to begin with, so the 3D does nothing extra to show off black and white tones straight out of the noir genre. Back in the cast are Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Rosario Dawson, and Bruce Willis playing a small role as his character died in the first film. Rourke in particular shows us everything we love about Sin City. He is an anti hero who has seen the nasty side of life one too many times. He works as a rescuer of sorts, but always seems like he is in a rut despite being the lone person who acts to save the city at times. Alba wasn’t much different. Her character gets a lethal makeover, but her acting hasn’t improved to bring her character to the next level. We are supposed to believe that this beautiful woman who destroys her face is now ugly, but the look is anything but. Newcomers to the film are Josh Brolin, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and the sexy sultress Eva Green. Green once again steals a film like she did 300 : Rise of an Empire earlier this year. She uses her sexuality to tear apart every man in Sin City, and she is so good at the task that even our biggest of heroes have trouble doubting her capabilities. She is the perfect person for a role of this calling, and was one of the lone bright spots in 3 different dull stories told in Sin City 2. Gordon-Levitt had the best of the three tales in my opinion, but his story ends without much closure. He had a good presence playing off of Boothe in an eye to eye poker game where the winner is anything but a winner. The first act of the film involves this poker game, and that is where this film is at it’s very peak. The story lasts about 25 minutes before we are shown the second story and bulk of the movie in Josh Brolin being used by Eva Green to do terrible things. This story is overwhelmingly long and clocks in around the 50 minute mark. Towards the end of the second story, Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven are thrown in at a point where the story is getting very repetitive. Their characters feel rushed and almost thrown in at the last minute. The third story is Jessica Alba getting revenge on Boothe for the death of detective John Hartigan (Bruce Willis) in the first film. This story is way too short because of the overlapping of the second story, so there isn’t much time for the audience to get behind this revenge tale which on paper would’ve had the best following from the audience who saw the first film. The violence is still in this film, but one thing in particular bothers me about it’s presentation. Any time blood is splattered, it’s a white streak across the film. I think this would be the perfect time to flash some red in a color starved black and white background. The white almost makes the violence come off cartoon like even with it coming from the pages of a comic book. The biggest problem with the violence in this film is that it doesn’t pack the same punch of the first film because we have already been introduced to the worst that Sin City has to offer. The first Sin City was revolutionary because no one had ever seen anything like it, and it’s animation to brutality was ahead of it’s time. The second Sin City just feels like a rehashing that is done too late. A decent film, but not a good one. For those of you who have flat screen TV’s, i would just wait till DVD. The 3D is useless, so there is no point in going the extra mile to see this one on the silver screen. If you have a dollar theater in your area, that would be a good time to see it if you are hell bent on the silver screen. In closing, Sin City : A Dame To Kill For is very stylish, dirty, and sexy, but it lacks character in a movie that is full of them. This film struggles to find it’s identity unlike the first film, and that’s why i can’t give it a passing grade. Disappointing.

The Giver

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5/10

The adaptation of the best selling novel is about an 18 year old named Jonas who is chosen to be the keeper of memories for a town that is without feelings or emotions or memories of any kind of past. The trouble he encounters when he learns the horrific truth is what leaves the boy with the task of trying to change the establishment for the better. The Giver is visually a post George Orwell apocalyptic dream. It has some beautiful cinematography that is enough to keep the viewer interested until the lackluster final scene. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t have much more on the positive side of translation from the novel. The performances are good in the adult form from Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. It’s great to see Streep in particular cast in such a role that is opposite of anything she has portrayed in the last decade. She makes you despise her just enough, but makes you understand her reasoning of the way things are the way they are. The young adult performances were as boring as the black and white scenes that happened in the film. Brenton Thwaites is on a fast track to being forgotten with bad performances this year in The Giver and The Signal. He just doesn’t come across as smart enough or threatening enough to play Jonas with any belief that this kid could take down authority. His best friend and love interest (Odeya Rush) isn’t much better as Fiona. She plays the character so well in the world of lacking emotions, but it’s done a little too well because it keeps her in sleep mode when her character is asked to visually get the horrors of this world across her blank stare. The main characters are so boring and it does no favors to a script that already has problems communicating the story it is trying to translate. At 87 minutes long, i feel like The Giver was just too short to fully explain everything that worked with The Giver’s novel. It’s in that rushed presentation that leaves the movie with a lot of unanswered questions. The ending alone will leave you feeling like you were prepared for a steak dinner and left with appetizer bread. It’s unsatisfying because it solves none of the problems occuring in the bleak world. Besides the ending, there are lots of questions that i had for the film that were not explained. Keep in mind that if you know the answers from the book, i am not reviewing the book. My review is strictly for the film, and the film did an awful job explaining things. My first question is why the townspeople worry so much about a word like “Love” when they don’t know what that word means to begin with? Katie Holmes is one of the higher ups in the film, and when her daughter learns that word she starts freaking out. What does it really matter if Katie Holmes herself doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Love is an emotion, but these people wouldn’t know that anyway because their minds are whiped clean from anything emotional. My second question (and much more important) is why would they keep someone like Jeff Bridges around anyway? Bridges is The Giver who is being replaced by Jonas to carry all of the memories of the former world. Why is this needed at all? If i were Meryl Streep, i would want Bridges killed immediatly so word doesn’t get out of how things used to be. Keeping him alive is only causing stress for the way you currently run things. I did mention that the cinematography was one of the only things i liked about this film, and the camera work in particular gives me enough interest to see what Director Phillip Noyce could do with an independent film. The colorless shots in particular are done so creatively that it really impressed me with how smart it came across. Jonas is the narrator of the film, so everything is coming from his point of view. He is the only character who can see color, so when he is in a scene it’s full of color. Yet when he is out of the shot, the scenes quickly resort back to black and white. I really enjoyed this and it made sense creatively when trying to tell a story about characters who have literally been robbed of everything. I haven’t read the book since 3rd grade, but i remember the novel being a lot more action packed than this, and it just feels like another thing they skimped out on. The Giver isn’t a terrible movie. With the right run time and communication, a remake of this film ten years down the line could succeed. It’s a visual dream, but a translation nightmare filled with carbon performances. Wait till DVD.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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9/10

The sure fire hit of the summer from Marvel Studios has hit, and the comic world on the big screen will never be the same. Guardians of the Galaxy stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and voice work from Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel. They are known as the title characters in question, and are assembled when all are arrested during a raid for an ancient orb that has powerful gifts that come with it. I absolutely loved everything about this movie. When the credits hit, there was only one thing i had a problem with, but it’s so small in detail and contains spoilers so i’m not going to get into it. Instead, this will serve as a love fest for one of the best films of 2014. The performances are so good in plenty that it’s hard to only mention a select few. Pratt has the charisma of a 1950’s movie star and brings out so much of his personality in Jason “Starlord” Quill. He gives the movie it’s comedy which is hilarious well past the cute one liners you hear in most Marvel movies. Bautista is very surprising as Drax The Destroyer. We all know Dave can play action scenes well from his time in professional wrestling, but Bautista gives Drax a sensitive undertone from the death of his family that we can relate to such a maniac in devastating fashion. The absolute best part of the movie for me was played by a CGI raccoon known as Rocket (Voiced by Cooper). The things Bradley Cooper did with this character with only a voice are purely out of this world. It sounds nothing like Cooper and that is the most impressive thing when anyone does voice work. It’s hard to get lost in a character that you didn’t actually portray, but Bradley Cooper is the best part of this movie. In a group of tough individuals, it is Rocket Raccoon that is perhaps the most unstable with his “Never enough” kind of attitude. The makeup work and costumes are absolutely brilliant for this movie. Oscar worthy even because they bring to life the pages of a comic book that is over 30 years old. The special effects and CGI work are what give the movie it’s sparkle. Lots of wide shots at the beautiful planets that these characters invade are eye candy to anyone who appreciates places that we may not see in our daily lives, like me. The 3D did something different with it’s effects that i really enjoyed. Instead of throwing things at the camera like most films do, the 3D in Guardians of the Galaxy served more as a template for the beautiful colors and imagery that the movie had to offer. There were fireflies that were passing in front of our very eyes, as well as the ashes from constant heart pounding fight scenes that our main characters went through. I don’t often rave about 3D, but if you see one 3D film this year, it has to be this one. The soundtrack and score alike are the very best that film has to offer in 2014. The movie is kind of a calling card to the 70’s and 80’s music trends that Jason Quill grew up in. Everything from Southern rock to club beats of the pre MC 80’s era is to be heard through the headphones of a Sony Walkman. As the viewer, you will actually feel like it is you who is listening with the headphones, and it makes it easier to get lost in the story around you. The overall attitude of the movie is what really took this leaps and bounds above anything Marvel has ever created. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and i think that is needed. How many times can you see a smart or tough superhero go through the same similar story to the same results? Guardians has the most likeable and relatable characters (Minus Iron Man) that you will ever see. What’s most amazing about that is there are a couple of people in this group who can be deemed “Psychopaths”, so to make the character enjoyable without tiring the audience shows Marvel really took their time with this one, and it paid off huge. The movie also has some really enjoyable cameos that i am not going to spoil for you. I managed to catch most of them, but if i didn’t it only leaves the door open for 2nd and 3rd watchings in the future. The action and fight scenes are brilliant with lots of fancy gadgets that we aren’t used to in the comic big screen world because most stories take place on Earth. Overall, i think Marvel waited till the perfect time to release this movie. It’s the best Marvel movie ever (My opinion), but it wouldn’t have been as good with the technology of 1998 or 2002. I am strongly waiting for the sequel to this movie, and i absolutely recommend that you go all out and see it in 3D. Your eyes will thank you for the visual treat in front of you. Guardians of the Galaxy is the most fun you will have at the movie theater this Summer. The schedulers definitely saved the best for last, and it’s the most fun you have had in space since the original three Star Wars movies.

Lucy

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5/10

Director Luc Besson is notorious for some terrible movies that he has either directed, produced, or written. His newest film Lucy is possibly the worst from a director always trying to make an artsy commentary about the human race. One of the biggest reasons Lucy is a terrible film is that for a scale so big, it will easily be forgettable in 2 years. Scarlett Johansson stars as the character in title. She is a woman who gets drugged after a gang deal gone wrong, and the drug allows her to use more than the normal 10% of humans. Lucy borrows a lot from the 2011 film Limitless. A film i liked one hundred times more than this horrible mess. The thing i liked most about Limitless as opposed to Lucy is that it’s an original idea, and it makes that idea relatable by doing things that we would do if we could unlock more of our brain. Lucy becomes sort of a superhero of sorts with the most insane of visuals. Everything from erasing life around her to controlling other human beings to becoming a computer system. I have watched films with far fetched ideas, but Lucy presents it to where it’s funny for all the wrong reasons due to vicious overacting. Johansson in particular i felt was miscast in this role. A lot of people will disagree with me here, but she only ever has one reaction to everything and that is her “I’m smarter than you, so i can treat you like an idiot” look. This makes the character hard for the audience to get a read on. Should we cheer for her because she is held prisoner in this drug? or should we go against her because there could be some very dangerous consequences to her using 100% of her brain? Besson never gives us a definitive answer, and like most art pieces he leaves it in the hands of the viewers. The cinematography and action scenes were done very well. Lots of CGI visuals that will make you feel like the first time you watched slowshot camera work in The Matrix. The way everything is shot is very eye popping, and that is why i feel like Besson has the ability to be a decent director. I get that he took a risk with a script that he really believed in, but he didn’t do himself any favors by giving us the motto “Humans are wasting their time in their lives”. I felt this way while i was watching this boring piece of slop. It’s a film that is part philosophical, part action movie that goes from mayhem to boredom and to insanity in an instant. 82 minutes clearly isn’t long enough to give the audience enough time to soak in what they are witnessing. It’s of course new ground to all of us, but we are never given scientific logic as to how she can do these things just because she unlocks more of her brain. We are supposed to just believe because hey it’s unfamiliar to us. I didn’t have a lot of faith going into this film because i sensed it as one of those trying to enlighten the audience into the ways we are negatively living our own life. The problem with that is even if i could unlock more of my brain, i would live more like Bradley Cooper in Limitless than i would Scarlett Johansson in Lucy. It’s amazing that Besson figures out a way to take one of the most popular female action stars currently and make her so unlikable in a script that doesn’t show off her best side. It’s not even the fact that Scarlett can’t do weird independent films because Under the Skin was a riveting watch. She was impactful in that film without barely ever talking. Don’t see Lucy in theaters, but if you feel like giving it a shot when it comes to DVD, then by all means. It currently holds a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and i don’t think there is a better grade for it. You are either going to think this story is innovative or very hard to sit through. Lucy is a movie that pretends to be smarter than it really is. Frustrating and far from intellectually engaging

Hercules

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7/10

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in the dream role he always wanted to play; Hercules. The second version of Hercules in 2014 is much better than the Remy Harlan version by leaps and bounds. The biggest problem with Brett Ratner’s version of Hercules is that it plays it a little too safe with little risks for the audience to enjoy an original telling of the tale. That’s not to say that Hercules isn’t entertaining because it is. It has lots of fast paced action scenes, great characters who i will get to later, beautiful cinematography, and a lead star that can make any role charasmatic. The best thing about Hercules may be how well it meets its goals. It’s not the definitive look at ancient Greek demigods, but it is smart, exciting escapist tale that won’t disappoint Johnson’s fans. It’s very nice to see that The Rock isn’t alone in making this movie a success. There is a supporting cast that the audience can really get behind. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson is not only gorgeous as the arrow shooting Ergenia, but she is also a female that little girls can watch the movie and believe in. She is sexy, smart and dangerous. I would take her in any battle ever. Ian Mcshane is absolutely the best character in the film bar none. He steals Hercules with his blend of smooth talking humor and the motivation for Hercules to always fight at his strongest. I will go as far as to say Mcshane’s role as Amphiarus is one of my favorite of the 2014 movie year. He is just that good. The only minor problems i had with the movie aside from it being played safe, is the pacing issues and the backstory of Hercules 12 challenges. The pacing begins to show especially towards the middle of the movie when we have already seen two heart pounding war scenes. It slows down with dialogue that does nothing except paint the legacy of Hercules even more. The backstory is the problem i really had with this film. It talks of the 12 challenges that Hercules had to go through for his freedom, and tells us how he met every one of his men and women he fights with in these challenges. The problem is that we see him fighting and doing these challenges, but we never see where these soldiers come in. The audience is left to paint the picture of trying to figure out how these people helped Hercules gain his freedom. These are really minor problems in an otherwise entertaining tale of one of the most storied characters in the fantasy genre. I did catch the movie in 3D, and i can say that there are many reasons to pay the extra to catch this one in 3rd dimension. I am usually not a supporter of 3D film because i feel like it is a waste of money for a couple of in your face objects. Hercules uses old school 3D tricks to not only put you in the action, but cast you as throwing the spears. If weapons in your face isn’t enough, the surrounding of falling ash and dirt clouds are enough to really make you do a 2nd take. There are two ways i can really recommend this film. If you have the money and want to have fun watching a movie without using a lot of your brain, catch this and catch it in 3D. It’s totally well worth it. But if you have your doubts and can’t bring yourself to spend that much money on this film, i would definitely rent it when it comes out to DVD. If it’s between this and the January The Legend of Hercules, i say you go open arms into this one, and leave Remy Harlan’s in the trash where it belongs. Dwayne Johnson’s portrayal of Hercules isn’t great cinema, but the movie is “rock” solid (pun intended).

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.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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7.5/10

A growing army of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors bent on taking back their planet in this sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I did enjoy this film more than it’s original. It’s full of emotionally charged dialogue as well as a dark and destroyed setting that is made even more terrifying with the beautiful score by composer Michael Giacchino. The aforementioned does not mean however that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a perfect film or even one worthy of it’s 91% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes. There is a lot that could’ve been done in this film to not only make it one of the year’s best, but create a legacy for the Apes films that no other has done. My first problem comes in the form of predictability. Cesar is the head of the Ape army and in this film he has a wife and child. His wife is sick from the opening bell and you can just sense that a human will come along and cure her of this. Otherwise, what would be the point of her dying from such a rare disease that no one but a human can save her? My second problem is the feel by the ending credits. You literally watch a lot happen from many fight scenes, betrayal actions from human and ape characters alike, and all out war in which everyone’s life is on the line. Yet you don’t feel like much has happened after 2 hours of this film. We are no further in the storyline than we were at the end of the first movie. Some more humans have died, but the film has virtually the same ending as the first movie, and that might not bother the rest of the audience but it felt pointless to me. As i said before, the emotions are great and the CGI is remotely better in this film with the Ape designs. It’s still looks a little ridiculous when an ape is standing next to a human and a human is obviously looking in the wrong direction. It sounds like i hated this film, but i promise you that a film’s setting and feel of the end of civilization has never been better. There is something almost Romero-esque from the world that director Matt Reeves shows us. One scene in particular shows us an abandoned gas station in which nature has reclaimed from the slabs of concrete now cracked. Gary Oldman is also a welcome addition alongside of actors like Keri Russell and the film’s lead, Jason Clark. Oldman is one of Hollywood’s most dependable actors even if he is only in a film for 15 total minutes. I really wish his role was bigger in a film that showcases him as a ruthless leader of the human race. Clark is pretty well, but doesn’t quite channel the same kind of relationship and chemistry that James Franco had with Ceaser. I haven’t heard much for the future of this series, but i hope that a 3rd film will actually showcase no human characters. It will be tough to keep it entertaining from that aspect, but it would be hard to believe that many humans are living after the actions of this sequel. ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ is an intelligent war movie with themes of politics, leadership, trust and betrayal. It’s best moments are those that hit the closest to home that tells us to get it together before we lose our world to a stronger cause. One of the most entertaining big budget films of the summer for sure