If you are looking for the feel good warm hearted story of the year, look no further than the newest film from Director Shawn Linden. Three brothers who fought to survive the Sudaneese attacks were known simply as “The Lost Boys.” Orphaned by the brutal Civil war in Sudan that began in 1983, these young victims traveled as many as a thousand miles on foot in search of safety. Fifteen years later, a humanitarian effort would bring 3600 lost boys and girls to America. These young men were given a reset button for a life of violence and hunger day after day. “The Good Lie” felt like it would be another cliche heartstrings movie like 2009’s “The Blind Side”. Where it succeeds differently is the in depth detailing of the backstory for this village in Sudan that was always on the run from these soldiers gunning down their homes. That detailing is what i really loved about this story the most. For the better part of the first 35 minutes, it’s all about their journey to America where most movies would cut a quick 5-10 minute opening to give the viewer just enough of this life before the cutesy moments with American culture. Linden makes sure the viewer knows exactly what these boys have been through, and gives time for that story before showing our main character (Played by Reese Witherspoon). Witherspoon is fantastic in this role, and feels more invested into these characters than Bullock did in 2009. Her character changes rapidly because she learns of conditions in their home country, and the unbearable task of living in a culture they know absolutely nothing about. Her best moments shine as a mentor to these boys that she met by a twist of fate. The script is beautifully constructed without ever feeling too cheesy. It’s clear that a film like this is all about those moments when you rely on family to get through anything, but the film lets these men develop their own personalities by giving them their own traits that make them tick. I was emotionally invested into their story not just for the handicaps they faced in America, but because no character felt bigger than the other. These are three brothers who are given meaningful camera time, and that’s the only way to do it. If i had one lone problem in this film, it was the obvious foreshadowing of future events. I would’ve preferred some scenes to be cut so the end result doesn’t feel so easily predictable. If i were suprised more without being clubbed over the head by obvious unsubtle spots, then i could’ve easily seen this as one of the best films of 2014. With that said, “The Good Lie” will warm even the coldest of hearts in a blizzard of Winter. Witherspoon is the Hollywood star of the film, but the movie’s shimmer comes from three actors new to the big screen (Arnold Oceng, Ger Duany, Emmanuel Jai). Come for the memorable story complete with heart racing visuals, and stay for the authentic performances from three male leads whose scars tell the story of the hell these real life refugees endured day after day. “The Good Lie” will stay with you long after the credits roll, and that isn’t no lie
Perhaps a lump of coal isn’t the worst thing you will receive in your stockings this year, as director Kirk Cameron tells us the story about the real Christmas and some of the symbolic meanings behind those objects. Corrupt with a world of commercialism, Cameron tries to give us back the spirit that should be inside all of us for such a joyous season. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but i absolutely hated this film. As i said before, i am not poking fun at any religious groups, but instead reviewing what i didn’t like about the film, mainly everything. I don’t even know if i can call this movie a film as it is presented in the same way a History Channel biography would. For instance, the film had an antagonist to go against Cameron who explains why Christmas is so evil, and what does the true christianity Christmas have to do with Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and Snow globes. They truly couldn’t pick a more uneducated moron to fill this void of the outsider who hates these cultures. The guy has no argument to combat Cameron and instead chooses to accept every story that Kirk tells with no debate. What is crazy is that this guy leaves his own Christmas party in his OWN HOUSE to go outside and sit the rest of the night in his car. Cameron soon joins him and explains why he has to change and why he should go back inside and apologize to his wife and everyone. Keep in mind that this guy has done nothing to ruin everyone else’s Christmas spirit, as they are all celebrating like a bunch of nuns with their first bottle of Jose Cuervo. It’s Cameron who is being the jerk by telling this guy to change in his own house at his own party where he is bothering NO ONE. By the end of the film, we are supposed to see Cameron as this prophet who has restored the Christmas cheer back into the viewer. As i said before, the film just doesn’t feel like any movie i have seen this year, and that’s not a good thing. It has a run time of 70 minutes, and that is only because the last twenty minutes are so unbelievably stretched out. The debate between Cameron and Antagonist moron finishes up about fifty minutes into the movie, so what do they do with the other twenty minutes? Why have a hip hop christian music video with all of the zombie guests at the party. Seriously, these actors were so terrible that i was waiting for a ransom note to fly out of Cameron’s back pocket. After the corniest dance off i have ever seen in my life, we get the final ten minutes of Cameron reiterating EVERYTHING we have already been through in the whole movie. He does this a few more times in the last scenes so the studio can be happy with a real movie run time instead of the 48-50 minutes this movie should’ve been. The camera work is absolutely hysterical. Not since the Sears air conditioner infomercials of the 90’s have i seen such cardboard and even creepy shots. There are many close ups in the movie that make you feel like you are sharing breath with Cameron and all of his sweater shepherds. I thought it was weird enough to have Cameron in the faces of all of these people he is talking to, but even creepier when we are put in the camera angle of such recipients. The Christmas music is nice for those of you who like that sort of thing, but it becomes irrelevant when Cameron’s narrations exceed the volume of the music. If this isn’t enough, we get a black stereotype character, and it’s the worst one i have ever seen. This guy spits such holy slang that you will find yourself yelling “SHUT UP!!!!!” and not knowing or remembering that you did it. I found one scene hilarious after the hip hop dance party. There are obviously 50-100 people at this party, but then most of them disappear when food is about to be served. There is only one table present in any shots of the dining room, and only about 15 people at this table. Where did the rest of them go? We dance you around like a jackass and then tell you to go home? The weirdest thing about this film is that Cameron is talking one second about how commercialized the holiday has become, and then supporting it by films end. He explains that giving presents are OK because that is what the three wisemen did during the birth of Christ. It’s like the movie with the highest religious tones supports materialism, greed, and gluttony. I feel terrible after watching films like this for you Christians. As a catholic, i can relate to criticisms, but these are the kind of films you wish would never be made. Kirk Cameron is not casting that religion in the brightest of lights with such an unbelievably bad film. Someone should tell Kirk that Christmas doesn’t need saving. It’s whatever you decide to make it in your own home, and doesn’t have an agenda. Some people have told me that they are waiting for this film to come to the dollar theater, and to that i say you would be spending a dollar too much. This film should be forgotten about without any DVD release. The world could be making much more important DVD uses like “Richard Simmons sweats to Lady Gaga” or “Bad to the Bone: Linoleum tiles”. There is nothing redeeming about it for a second. Continue celebrating the holiday like you normally do. The worst idea you could possibly have is to let this has-been “Save” your Christmas. I find it funny that any guy who tells women that they have a role in the kitchen during Christmas time on CNN, can tell anyone they can save Christmas.
Disney and Marvel team up to soar to exhilarating heights with the most unlikely of heroes in this part comedy, part wholesome family animated feature. “Big Hero 6” delivers on all kinds of levels by leaping off the pages of the Marvel Comic Strip to give the audience something to give them loads of hope when it comes to future Marvel/Disney collaborations. It follows robotics engineer prodigy Hiro Hamada, a 14 year old kid who learns to harness his genius thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends. This group of lovable characters includes adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo (Yes, you read that correctly), Hiro turns to his closest companion,a robot named Baymax and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery. This movie officially knocks “The Lego Movie” off the map to become my favorite animated film of 2014 so far. It does this by structuring individual traits in each of it’s characters to make them stand out. Not only that, but the movie has a lot of heart and tearjerking moments that you don’t often see in kids movies today. I feel wrong describing this film as a “Kids movie” because i feel adults will even find a lot to relate to this film. There are tales of love and bitter loss, tales of finding the potential deep inside of us to be brilliant, as well as tales of strong friendship. I absolutely fell in love with Hiro and Baymax so much that i wanted to be a part of their friendship. The relationship between them is structured very carefully. They become best friends because Hiro realizes this robot may be the only friend he has in the entire world watching his back. The animation is another noteworthy feature with plenty of jaw dropping backgrounds that has the best of San Francisco and Tokyo, Japan. With a lot of beautifully crafted chase scenes, you will be begging to buy this DVD just to capture all of the hidden Easter Eggs within the town’s banners and neon electronic signs. Speaking of hidden gems, Stan Lee does make his usual Marvel movie cameo. I won’t spoil where it is, but if you find it please leave some feedback below If the film did hit any sour notes for me, it’s in the 3rd act where too much feels stuffed in the final 20 minutes. There are a lot of twists and turns with the mystery behind a mask wearing evildoer. The mystery shouldn’t be too hard to figure out for anyone paying even remote attention, but my problem lies in how back and forth they push this character. There are times when our protagonists want him dead, but others when they want to help him. It almost decreases the importance of the mission in front of them. The ending works, but the outlining of it should’ve happened a little earlier in the film. Last but not least is the great voice work from a well experienced cast of Hollywood’s comedic best. Maya Rudolph, Damon Wayans JR, and Alan Tudyk all have important roles that add to the shaping of Baymax’s emotions, but if there is one person who stands out more than others, it’s TJ Miller. Miller was cast in another great animated feature this year, “How To Train Your Dragon 2”, but i think his role in this film as Fred is his best vocally to this day. There is something that feels academically challenged and yet a genius with his character at the same time. He is responsible for a majority of the comedy within the film, but he never feels like he is taking the movie hostage, and as a result, there is a nice medium between laughter and those heartfelt moments of loss. I strongly urge everyone to see this film. There is a lot that comic fans can appreciate, but i think this film speaks volumes to all filmgoers respectively. There isn’t a film currently out that speaks to every member of the family equally more than this one, and i think it’s a perfect alternative to leaving behind the nasty weather outside. “Big Hero 6” is beautifully illustrated, and wholesomely engaging. It’s a real coming of age story that you will find yourself relating to and even cheering for.
Give 20th Century Fox credit for finding a holiday that has never been presented on film. The Book of Life tells the legend of Manolo (Diego Luna), a conflicted hero and dreamer who sets off on an epic quest through magical, mythical and wondrous worlds in order to rescue his one true love and defend his village. The film’s first act is dedicated to a love triangle between Manolo, his best friend Joaquin (Channing Tatum), and Maria (Zoe Saldana). It plays for laughs, but is quite predictable within minutes of the film who Maria will choose. Luckily, this isn’t all the film is about. I found myself not only charmed by the laughter, but by the romance and family values that the film represents. The most impressive aspect is that the film manages to pack so much in 85 minutes, which only adds to how impressive it is. With the exception of How To Train Your Dragon 2, i think The Book of Life makes an argument for best animated film of 2014. The animation is breathtakingly beautiful. I compared it to an early Tim Burton animation with lots of skeletons and curses/hex traditions. I didn’t see this film in 3D, but i can imagine that it will make the beautiful multi colored landscape and buildings in the background pop out even that much more. The voice work is average, but it’s never terrible. My grading scale for voicework has always been based on an actor sounding like anyone but themselves. Everyone is pretty noticable in this film, but that’s not a problem. Tatum plays the cocky character, Luna plays the romantic swooner, and Saldana plays the babe. Far stretching these roles are not. One of the most impressive aspects of the film to me was the soundtrack. There are many pop/rock songs played in the film to Mariachi music in the background. The songs are played to a romantic ballad kind of feel, and each one works every time. One song in particular was “Creep” by Radiohead which was magically reworked so beautifully that it took me a minute to figure out what song it was. I would mention more, but i honestly don’t want to spoil it for you the audience. If the DVD of this film came with the soundtrack, you better believe that is a pack definitely worth the extra cash. This film is also unapologetic about the non stop energy that it promotes within it’s magical characters. The film always feels like it’s running in full speed (A good thing), and you have to keep your eyes peeled not to miss anything in the beautiful worlds presented. I think a feature like this definitely warrants future watches because animated films are always known for their hidden Easter eggs. Overall, i would definitely recommend The Book of Life for the whole family. The kids will love the comedy, and the parents will enjoy it for a wonderful date night.
Judith Viorst’s 20 page book comes to life in this adaptation by Walt Disney Studios. “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”follows the exploits of 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould) as he experiences the most terrible and horrible day every day of his young life, followed by one calamity after another. But when Alexander tells his upbeat family about the misadventures of his disastrous day, he finds little sympathy and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him. He soon learns that he’s not alone when his mom (Jennifer Garner), dad (Steve Carell), brother (Dylan Minnette) and sister (Kerris Dorsey) all find themselves living through their own versions of a bad day. “Alexander” isn’t a film that people will remember as a classic for years, but it’s enough entertainment to justify a family sitting, as many peoplr can relate to what this family is going through. They don’t have a last name in the film, and i think that is personally so the film can be relatable to the audience watching and laughing at the very same things that they have gone through. The acting is decent enough, led by Steve Carrell’s wacky schtick. His dry sense of humor provides moviegoers and Carrell fans the same kind of on screen magic that he always gives in any role he undertakes. Oxenbould plays our title character well, but the direction of the movie places him in the background in a film about him. He never feels like a main character because most of this bad stuff isn’t happening to him. For a book that is 20 pages long, i knew they would have to stretch a 75 minute film VERY wide. The movie is too short to ever lag, but 25 minutews into the film, you feel like you have already seen the whole movie, and you have. It just doesn’t feel like Disney panned out much of a script to go with a novel that many of us consider legendary from our childhoods. One scene in particular displays the single worst green screen moment i have ever seen. If you go to see this movie, please keep a look out for all of the driving scenes, but the ones with the drivers door knocked off in particular. I found myself laughing at this part even when the rest of the theater was quiet around me. The film is directed by “Cedar Rapids” director Miguel Arteta, and his direction works on such a film with a sarcastic undertone. The things this family goes through is bad enough to make the audience laugh, but nothing too harmful in the long run. Overall, i enjoyed this film, but it’s too repetitive for me to give a passing grade to. I am still going to recommend the film, but only for a family sitting. I think there are enough comedic elements combined with family unity to give children and grown ups a fun night out away from the kinds of bad days we are all known for having. “Alexander” is a pleasing film without ever trying to be anything more.
Laika Productions latest animated feature takes us underground to the world of The Boxtrolls. They are a group of mischievious creatures who adopt a human boy and raise him as one of their own. When a town maniac is driven to get rid of The Boxtrolls to serve his own political agenda, the creatures find themselves with their backs against the wall to get the truth out to the townspeople. I did enjoy this film, but nowhere near on the level of other Laika features “Coraline” and “Paranorman”, and because of that i consider a disappointment of sorts. That’s not to say that The Boxtrolls isn’t a good movie. It excells highly on the things it does do well. One of those things is outstanding voice acting. I have always said that a voice actor does their best work when you cannot recognize who is voicing the character. In this film, Ben Kingsley carries the reigns as he adds to a resume that is already stacked to the ceiling. He plays the villain, Archibald Snatcher (Not making that up). I seriously thought Eric Idle was playing this role when i heard the voice, and couldn’t believe my eyes when i saw it was “The Sir” himself. Nick Frost is also great playing one of Archibald’s henchmen. Frost co stars in this with his long time business partner and collaborator, Simon Pegg. So i guess we can consider The Boxtrolls another Pegg/Frost production even if they aren’t at the forefront. As with the tradition with Laika films, the animation is the best in children’s films. I fell in love with The Boxtrolls characters even if they served as supporting characters in a film named after them. The design and production that went into creating not only these trolls, but the town which they inhabit is breathtaking. There is a featurette on Youtube that is a making of, and i recommend everyone see it before seeing this film. It’s why i prefer a film like this over a typical animated cartoon any day of the week. There is so much detail that goes into every clay character they create. From wrinkled skin to veins in their eyeballs, you have to admire the time and skill that goes into their craft. One problem i did have with the visual was that of the 3D. There is no reason what so ever for this film to be in 3D. With the exception of some light background effects with sparks or smoke, i saw no point for it. I am thankful that i had a free 3D movie ticket in my pocket because i would’ve been very upset with what was arguably my most pointless 3D sitting ever. Besides the 3D which is only a problem if you opt to pay more, i had a problem with the comedy and dry first act of the film. The first act is always the most important in a film because it represents the audience’s interest in the film from the opening line. This film had a lot of problems early on deciding how much of the film was going to be dominated by our title characters. With The Boxtrolls speaking their own language, it’s hard to get any satisfaction out of their exchanges, and the first half hour is riddled in this. I also mentioned before how the comedy wasn’t as great in this film. In “Paranorman”, i found myself constantly chuckling at not only the manneurisms of the character traits, but the hidden classic horror movie winks they were giving to the crowd. The Boxtrolls does improve comedically by the final 40 minutes, but by then it’s too late. This movie needed a better comedic start to get it off the ground to the satisfying climax it received during film’s end. Even with all of that said, The Boxtrolls is entertaining for children and adults alike because it gives a style and design that is completely different from anything Disney or Pixar can do. I always prefer Laika Studios when it comes to animated features, and i hope they can keep the ball rolling. The Boxtrolls is a passing effort in my opinion, but the bar was set too high from the previous two Laika films to keep this from being a slight disappointment
A family gathers after the death of the father/husband for a week in the house they lived in for their whole lives. What ensues is hilariously genuine moments that are both heartwarming and rich. This Is Where i Leave You stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Rose Byrne, and Jane Fonda among many other great and talented cast members. Bateman plays our main character who finds out his wife has been cheating on him with his boss. This forces Bateman to rediscover himself in the place where he grew up. He plays Judd pretty safe in the kinds of traits that we have come to know and love with Bateman. He is sarcastic, soft spoken, and a character we can always get behind because his characters mostly have the best intentions for the ones he loves. The real star of the film for me was Fey as Bateman’s sister, Wendy. The interaction between the two of them feels like an authentic brother/sister relationship where they each know their flaws and how to bring out the best and worst in the other one. Fey has really grown as an actress since her days on SNL. I like her in a role like this where she is fighting to hang on to everything in her life even though she knows it might not be the right thing. The comedy is definitely there in this film, but i think it’s the tender moments where the family stands together that pushed this beyond more than just another comedy at a funeral type film. The laughs are there when the film needs them, but there were parts of these characters that feel so human with their troubles that had the film tugging at my heart strings. If there is one weakness in this film it’s that the ending leaves everything to be tied up perfectly even though the battles will have you thinking otherwise. Everything is conveniently resolved to push this film into predictable territory that you could’ve seen coming from a mile away. Even with there being little surprises, the film does manage to fly into passing territory based on the strengths of it’s characters and comedic timing. It takes all the things that last year’s August : Osage County did wrong and spins them to give every character the equal kind of camera time to tell an individual story. The funeral scenes play out down to a perfect tee with characters answering the same questions to family over and over again no matter how much it’s killing them. I felt myself very able to relate to this film and the premise of sometimes having to go home to find the answers you seek. The pacing of the film is done good, but not great. There are parts of the film that make it seem a little longer than the 98 minute run time. It wraps itself up before any major damage is done on the lasting impression of the Aultman family that we are left with. This is a family that i could watch two or three films with. They take a premise that has been done a hundred times and somehow manages to make it feel like something new. I would recommend this film at least for a matinee showing. It’s something where you can bring the whole family and appreciate the time spent together and relatable events playing out on the screen in front of you. This Is Where i Leave You is overly packed with great talent across the table, but in spite of it all the elements manage to blend together as a family instead of one or two cast mates outshining the others. Family is the most important thing, and there is no greater evidence of that than this film.
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
Director and writer Charles Martin Smith continues his telling of the real life story of an injured dolphin named Winter whose incredible rescue events were well documented in the 2011 original film. A Dolphin’s Tale 2 is a pretty safe bet when it comes to children and animal enthusiasts alike. Adults will find the film a little too safe and predictable to mix with the uneventful tone throughout this sequel. I personally have not seen the first film in this series, but i do know of the story and could understand why they thought to turn it into a major motion picture. A Dolphin’s Tale 2 feels like an unnecessary continuance of characters that have no conflict equal or greater to it’s predecessor. For the first 65 of 97 minutes during the film, it feels like a blending of nutty daily events that happen at the aquarium. It isn’t until the final half hour of the movie that we are faced with some kind of challenge for our characters, but because of a trailer that is very revealing we already know the outcome. The trailer itself makes it feel like the challenge of getting Winter to accept a new dolphin (Hope) is in the very beginning of the film, but it ends up being our final scenes for characters who feel untested by the adversity of a sequel trying to pinch it’s last few dollars. The dialogue is cheesy and corny with most of the film being concentrated on the characters i really didn’t care about. Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Kris Kristofferson feel completely wasted as they are given camera time when a scene needs cheesy side commentary to make the audience giggle. Freeman in particular appears and disappears for long stretches of time, and it makes it entirely obvious when he isn’t there to offer any kind of charm to the film. Not all of the performances were ignored however as Harry Connick JR was great as the operator of the aquarium. He is given the time to make his character feel like more than just another A list actor trying to accept a paycheck. The relationship between he and his daughter (Played by Cozi Zuehlsorf) is a genuine one with a girl ready to step out of the big shadow cast by her father. One of the things that the film does have going for it is the brilliant point of view camera shots from Winter’s angle. I think a POV is a thing of beauty in a film like this trying to communicate the responses between humans and wild animals. The underwater stunts by the dolphins are most authentic with very little CGI. It’s kind of impressive when you think about how unpredictable these animals really are. I give Smith credit for the patience and one of a kind documentation of time with his non human characters. Most films don’t treat animals with the kind of respect and screen time that Smith does, and if one thing is clear it’s that he is an absolute animal lover. There is a hint at a small romance between the two teenage characters, but it’s never capitalized upon. It’s almost like they laid the groundwork to open the eyes of each of these characters and then the ending completely changes everything. Exploring this relationship would’ve made our human characters even remotely as interesting as the animals that the film focuses it’s majority time on. As i said before, the film played off just a little too safe for me which is why it receives a grade in the middle. It wasn’t as bad as i was expecting it to be, but it failed to produce anything out of me that would warrant a second screening. I would only recommend this film during a family screening. It’s a safe bet to give your children enough smiles to leave a theater with. A Dolphin’s Tale 2 has good intentions with a lot of heart, but it feels too uninspired when compared to the original story that was a lot edgier than anything this sequel had to offer. The ending credits show the real camera documentary done on the real life rescue of these animals, and i wish this film would’ve rather been this documentary. I feel that the story itself was good enough to be shown from this pure angle, and didn’t need bland characters and situations to only drag it down. I think a DVD screeining is acceptable, but i don’t think i can even recommend a matinee showing of this.
The newest in a field of high school football films is the story of De La Salle high school football coach Bob Ladeuceur (Jim Caviezel) heading the longest winning streak in sports history of 151 straight wins. When the team finally does lose, the school and town find itself at a crossroads between what is right for these kids, and their own selfish ambitions. I thought this film was good, but not great. The biggest problem this film will face is that it will be forgettable to much better films of the genre like Friday Night Lights, Remember the Titans, and Varsity Blues. What makes those films better is that the players all have legit troubles that they must overcome and not just the loss of a football game. That’s not to say that i didn’t enjoy When The Game Stands Tall because it does communicate to us the sports fan how crazy we get over a child’s game. The acting of some of the townspeople is a little over the top at times, but to get a look from the outside is showing just how extreme some people take sports. The film does a great job communicating the meaningful relationship that this coach has with his players. To him, football is just a stepping stone for turning these kids into respectable men. Caviezel plays Bob well and never getting wrapped up in the things he has accomplished in his 15 years at the school. Supporting performances by Michael Chiklis and Laura Dern are also noteworthy. Dern always tends to get a little sappy and sentimental with her performances, but i think she brought out the best parts in Bob’s wife as a loving and supportive woman who holds the fort down at home. Chiklis is decent, but i wish he had more screen time and lines. He is the most accomplished actor of the film, but he is reduced to a supporting role as an assistant coach. I didn’t have any problems with the running time of 110 minutes as the movie is paced pretty ideally. I personally think the film should’ve ended 15 minutes earlier because i feel like the better example is cast in the first ending. The last fifteen minutes serve as just another accomplishment by this team in a movie that is full of nothing but them. It ended at exactly the right time because the film was starting to dive into dragging mode. Without question, the films biggest problem is the nagging cliches that films like these always accomplish. Whether it’s the fact that there will always be a happy ending, or the unintentionally laughable scenes that make the movie feel like a spoof of itself when it’s not trying to be. An example of this is the sappy inspirtational music that plays every time Ladeuceur gives a speech to his team. Scenes like that make it hard to buy into anything for nearly 2 hours. The same goes for a band of misfits who don’t get along at the start of the season, but then become an unstoppable machine because they realize that they are all they have in the world. It doesn’t ruin the movie, but it keeps it from being the MVP of a story that it is in real life. The camera angles are done well with lots of running down the field shots that are always hard to capture. The camera is right there in the middle of the action when it’s heart pounding. I also thought it was pretty cool to see the real life footage of De La Salle High School during the end credits. It always means more when you see that a film’s protagonist is really thought of in this light for the things he has done to the community. It all goes a lot further than just football; it’s his investment in these kids before he releases them to the world. That is where the game stands the tallest for director Thomas Carter and his cast. When The Game Stands Tall is riddled in cliches and bad dialogue, but it connects in it’s audience when it needs to the most. This team might not have the toughest goals to acheive, but you will be cheering for their success by film’s end. I recommend it to sports fans only, but it would be fine to wait till DVD.
Richard Linklater has created something that tops his already impressive resume of film with his newest movie, Boyhood. It’s a never before done way of shooting a movie over a 12 year span. It’s a story through the lives of two children who live with their single mother and deal with the stresses and situations of such an age. Boyhood is seriously unlike anything i have ever seen in my life. It’s impressive to think that these actors signed up for a 12 year shooting schedule that takes them on a transformation much deeper than just character. The children are of course the biggest transformation as watching them grow is literally like watching family video tapes from a young age. It reflects the characterization in a way that makes you question if we are really watching actors playing characters or a legit team that became a family in 12 years of shooting. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the mother (played by Patricia Arquette) cries after her son finally moves out on his own. You feel her tears because this is literally like watching a real life child of hers move out on her. It’s that kind of chemistry that you won’t find in any other film ever. Think about it, what movie ever took twelve years to make while it’s constantly shooting scenes? The pacing is absolutely genius. It is such a coming of age story about growing up and the awkwardness and bittersweet moments that we go through on our journey of adolescence. The awkward scenes are great because usually in a movie you will get an awkward scene for it to go somewhere later in the film, but in Boyhood it’s done just to reflect the lives we once lived in that era. It’s not to set up any kind of storyline, and i really appreciate that. It keeps me on the edge of my seat when the movie is less predictable. The cast is perfectly crafted with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette being the only big time movie stars in the film. The children (Coltrane Ellar and Lorelai Linklater) don’t ever feel like actors, and maybe that is for the best. It’s really a gamble to know if these kids who become adults are going to be good actors when they get that age because they are cast as an 8 year old. So i appreciated even more that director Linklater took a chance on a film for twelve years because it epically paid off. One of the other unique aspects of the movie is that of the soundtrack. During the year it is in, the movie will play only hit songs from that year. It’s a musical scrapbook of songs from the last decade that will have you trying to pick the song from the tip of your tongue as you listen in the backseat with the children. I can also imagine that it probably cost a lot of money to not only license the songs, but license them from bands who are really among the biggest in the world. Linklater spared no expense on his baby of a film, and it’s clear to see why. It’s also pretty cool to see the gadgets like Nintendo 64 and older model cell phones being used for the respective year they were popular. I am curious to know if it really is product placement when the film they are showing these gadgets off is done many years after they have already been discontinued. I found myself laughing when the kids got to be teenagers and the boy talks about wanting to delete his Facebook page because of ongoing drama. It’s situations like this that makes Linklater a master of studying today’s youth. John Hughes used to get credit as knowing teenagers better than anyone, but i think Richard deserves equal the amount of respect for having to learn about real situations in three different decades for our young stars. The only slight problem i had with the movie was the transitioning scenes where the kids would age a year or two. It happens without warning, and some of the past is never fully explained with relationships or what happened to characters who played an important role five minutes ago. I know it’s not Linklater’s style, but i would’ve preferred to see some small text revealing to us how much time has passed before we see the character with a different look. I think this is done so that he can tell us that sometimes our own children grow before our very eyes. That’s the way i interpreted it anyway. That’s why i didn’t get too mad at the long critique i had for the film. For anyone who has seen Linklater’s earlier work, you know the man is a guru with dialogue dominated films. It doesn’t work better than it does in Boyhood because you already know that these kids will grow up and move on someday. That dialogue shows us the viewer in so many words the subtle nature of these characters. You know that Ethan Hawke is a good, but struggling father to relate to his kids because of the way he stutters to find out anything new in their lives. You know that one of Patricia Arquette’s boyfriends are an abusive alcoholic because of random trips to the liquor store between playing father of the year. It gives you subtle hints at these characters without beating you over the head with it. The running time is just shy of 3 hours long, but it never ever dragged for me. I was well invested in these characters because i felt i grew up with them as a viewer of their growth. I sat through the film in one sitting and it never ever felt like 3 hours to me. I would like to say so much more, but i feel i got into spoiler territory towards the end of this review, and i don’t want to ruin it for anyone. I abso-freaking lutely recommend this film to every single one of my readers. Linklater’s satire is monumental in technical direction, but breathtaking in character transition to the eye. Adjectives won’t ever do this film justice because Boyhood is a cinematic masterpiece 12 years in the making. Thank you Mr Linklater for inspiring me to believe in films in 2014.
The heroes in a half shell are back with yet another origins story that comes full circle with a battle against their arch nemesis, The Shredder. Michael Bay’s producer credits in this felt more like a directorial shadow as many of his cliche’s are seen throughout the film. TMNT isn’t a perfect film by any means what so ever. It’s not even close to being the best of the Turtles series, but it’s far from being the worst as well. Considering the reviews that this film has been getting, it could’ve been a lot worse. The film stars Megan Fox (Michael Bay’s apparent #1 crush) as April O Neill as she exposes Shredder’s Foot Clan prompting the Turtles to rise from the sewers and into the public light. I absolutely hated the casting of Megan Fox in this film, and it is as bad as i thought it was going to be. Her terrible capturing for human emotion is what really weighs the film down. April is a character who is smart, but also knows how to handle herself. Megan Fox plays the character almost as a frightened child who is there only as eye candy for the audience. I personally would’ve cast Amy Adams as April, but that’s a discussion for another day. Another problem i had with the film was the origins story in general. After 5 Turtles films, i don’t think the world needs another origins story. They should’ve just went with a basic Turtles story without going through all of the basics that even the youngest fans already know from the TV show. The problem also with telling the origins story is that in this case it is so much different from anything we know about these characters from the comics, to the TV show, to the feature films. Many plot holes make this version scarce from anything else in the series that makes sense. The characters are played off well enough, but they seem to be trapped in a movie that has nothing to do with getting to know them closer. If the movie would just stop and slow down for a minute, it could build some great character chemistry. That’s one thing i loved about the 90’s films; they built the friendship between April and the turtles. In this film, it seems like they are put together for the common enemy. I also didn’t care too much about the voice acting most notably from Johnny Knoxville and Tony Shaloub. When you voice act, it’s best to try to use a voice that fans don’t recognize you with. Take for instance Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy. In TMNT, these voices aren’t that of teenage boys, they are those of grown Hollywood actors who make no effort what so ever to earn the paychecks they are cashing. The look of the Shredder was pretty cool, but was i the only person under the impression that William Fichtner was playing him? He doesn’t, infact for those of you who like Batman Returns, Fichtner plays a character similar to that of Max Schreck. With all of this said, you may be asking what i liked about this movie to even give it a 5.5 out of 10. The movie is a fun sit with great comedic timing from Michaelangelo. You won’t be bored by watching this film, but you might not enjoy it at the same time. I also enjoyed some of the eye popping CGI that i felt improved on what was started in the TMNT animated movie in 2007. The turtles are a little big and overpowering at times, but i can accept that since this is a new telling of a childhood favorite. The fighting scenes are good, but the quick edits ruin this film like it did the latest Die Hard movie that was released last year. It’s all too quick to register who is fighting who and what is happening. Overall, i actually would recommend this film to Turtles fans who are even remotely curious about it. I think it’s the faithful fans who have to see it for themselves to make an opinion. What is mine you ask? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is far from the best movie in the Turtles series, but it’s far from the worst as well. It stays on the safe side of reboots and i can at least remotely appreciate that.