Maleficent

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7/10

Angelina Jolie has given the performance of her life as the title character in a re-imagining of Disney’s 1959 animated feature, Sleeping Beauty. Maleficent is narrated by the sleeping beauty in question, Aurora. It is from that point of view that kind of makes me question some things. The first is how she knew about everything that went down before she was born and even when she was a baby. How does she know these things? The common answer is that she was told them by other people, and to that i ask if we know that even this story can be true. That is one thing that is a blessing and a curse with these two films; you never really know which one to believe. It’s nice to leave it completely up to interpretation, but for my money i think Sleeping Beauty is the better and more logical film. As a film by itself, Maleficent is a solid film that has a lot going for it. Lets get it out of the way first, Jolie is was and will always be the best person to play the queen of Disney villains. She gives us a performance that makes us yearn for her whenever she isn’t on screen, and gives us some great one liners with her sinister smile to compliment. God forbid, when Jolie leaves this mortal coil, this will be the film that people will remember her for the most. It’s easily her best performance since 1998’s Gia. The direction of the film is also done well by first time director Roger Stromberg. Stromberg shows a lot of promise considering he has never stood behind the camera. The characters are all pretty well written by Linda Woolverton, and she has a lot of room to stretch these characters beyond their original means because this is a re-imagining. The CGI is something that i loved and hated. I loved it for reasons like the scenary and long shots of the beautiful enchanted forrest. The colors of fairies and lightning bugs give many shots of the characters a beautiful glow that particularly brings out the green in the eyes of Maleficent. The one thing i didn’t like about the CGI is when it’s pointless. You have many CGI animals in the form of a raven and a pack of wolves that could’ve easily been real. Wolves are hard to train, and i undertstand that, but i feel that too much CGI will take a viewer out of the movie and make the humans in the film feel like the only real effect of the movie. I also wasn’t fond of shrinking actresses down to play the three fairies that watch over Aurora. It’s a similar effect that they did in the 2006 bomb Alice In Wonderland. What makes little sense to me is that the ferries can also be full human size. The three are good in their roles when they play it in human form, but look almost too wooden like to be taken seriously as the ferries. I get that it’s a Disney movie, but the ferries look like dolls when they are small but normal human beings when they are big. It didn’t ruin the experience for me, but i wouldn’t be opposed to more creativity when it comes to the look of the film. The movie is nearly perfectly casted with lots of noteworthy performances. Sharlto Coplay plays King Stefan drunk with power and a touch of fear for everything Maleficent opposes him with. Of any character, this is definitely the biggest 360 turn in direction. Sam Riley plays Maleficent’s sidekick Diaval with loyalty to his commander. There is nothing he won’t do for the person who saved him, and i can’t wait to see more from Riley as i feel he has a bright future. Elle Fanning as Aurora was probably the only slight problem i had with the casting. It’s not that she did a terrible job with the character, but the writers of the film did her no favors in getting her across as lovable to the crowd. She did about the best that she could have with the material written for her character, but i would’ve liked to have seen Jaimie King step into the role. She is an actress with a little more emotional depth to bring to a character who learns that her world falls around her at the mercy of a curse. The idea of having the movie shown from the perspective of the villain is something that i would like to see a lot more of from other Disney villains. When i compare it to Sleeping Beauty, i think i appreciate Maleficent more as the villain because of her actions and the personality that she shows. Even in this movie, she was still a very ruthless character when it came to disliking babies, smacking ferries and silencing anyone who gets on her nerves. I give a lot of respect to the writing of the plot with the only scene being similar to Sleeping Beauty was the cursed cristening. They literally wrote a completely new film that deserves a lot more respect than being called a remake. With some tightening of characters, and a little less CGI work, the film could be one of Disney’s best live action features of the 21st century. I would recommend the movie even for Jolie’s performance alone. If you have seen the actress at her worst, it’s time you see her at her best. Maleficient is a story about the mistakes that people make and the guilt that plagues them after those mistakes. Recommended for a matinee showing, but i don’t think it’s worth a full $11 showing.

Chef

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8.5/10

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

Blended

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5/10

Adam Sandler’s latest off screen vacation shows him making a movie in the setting of Africa. Sandler stars as a widowed father to three girls while trying to step back into the dating world. Drew Barrymore is his first date, and she carries two boys of her own. When you get past the obvious Brady Bunch kind of storyline that this film has to it, there is a lot of positives and negatives to talk about. After coming out of it, i have to say that i didn’t hate the movie as much as i thought i would. With that said, it’s still not a good film at all. It just has a lot to appreciate. One of those things is that it’s not as terrible as three of his latest efforts in Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy and the painfully awful Jack and Jill. Blended is a two headed dragon that is trying to be two kinds of films at once and only succeeding at one. It fails as a comedy for a lot of the typical reasons Sandler films do these days. It’s childish, slapstick, and loses any kind of moral compass by the opening frame in a toilet (appropriate eh?), or the scene an hour in when rhino’s are having sex. There are many convenient openings for jokes that will make the clear headed viewer roll their eyes. One scene in particular has a character named Dick dating Drew Barrymore’s best friend, Jen (Wendy Mclendon-Covey). Adam Sandler comes across an online rumor of Barrymore and Covey being lesbian lovers, and the joke comes when Jen tells Barrymore “I am done with dick”. Get it? it’s funny because Sandler just called her a lesbian two minutes ago.Every joke just feels like it was written in a board room with the most juvenile setup. I also don’t understand how Sandler and Barrymore are able to take their family of 7 on Sandler’s bosses trip to Africa when his reservation was only for 6 total people. A Sandler fan will say “Well it’s easy to make those reservations change”. And while that may be true for a plane ride, the WHOLE TRIP has already been planned. I am talking hotel, activities and even chairs at the dinner table. I laughed about 5 times total throughout the whole movie and those were light chuckles. Most of the laughs come from Terry Crewes as the entertainer in Africa who follows the families everywhere they go on the trip blending his african music with comedic lyrics. Other than Crewes who is always electric, the kids of the families provide the other laughs. It’s cute little kid laughs that add to the second head of this beast. More on that later. The one part that gave me a legit laugh was a cameo by Allen Covert as Ten Second Tom. For those of you who remember 50 First Dates, that character makes a funny cameo that sort of draws the two films worlds together.. That second head that i referred to is the one that succeeds as a family movie. I knew the film was rated PG-13 coming into my screening, but i was very surprised with how tame this movie was considering all of the crude parts were used for the trailer. Underneath the crude, there is a genuine heart felt story just dying to be told. Barrymore carries the load for this genre as she has a deep bonding with Sandler’s kids. Even Sandler’s backstory with his wife’s passing puts the pieces in place for you to root for these two characters to get together by the end. There are two things that ruin this. One is that Sandler is still a jerk as he is in all of his movies. He once again insults family, friends and anyone else in order to be the hip guy of the film. It makes the viewer wonder why someone as great as Barrymore would ever get with him. The second problem is the chemistry of Sandler and Barrymore. Plenty of Sandler-holics will tell me that the chemistry of the two leads are still there and it was just as good as 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer. To that, i say they are correct……kind of. The chemistry is definitely there, but it feels like more of a friendship chemistry than a romantic one. I understand that these characters don’t really like each other when they go on the trip, but they don’t even kiss till the final 10 seconds of the movie. Drew is leagues above Adam in the romantic family genre, and if she had a leading man who could give her the performance that makes that relationship believable, then Blended would be a 6 or a 6.5. I promise you that i am not being picky about this movie at all. I go into every film with open eyes even if i don’t want to see it. I expected the world out of Godzilla and that kind of disappointed me. This is kind of the opposite. I expected the absolute worst out of Blended, but it actually was a lot better than i thought. As it stands, it’s nowhere close to my 20 worst films of the year. Blended is a film that any Sandler fan will think is a great movie. If you don’t mind tasting the same food for 15 years in a row, then it will always taste the way it did on day one. But if you go into Blended with a clear mind, you will think it’s an easily forgettable movie, and that is kind of sad. It’s sad that movies like Jack and Jill will be remembered more because of how bad they are ,and Blended with all of it’s heartfelt family sentiments will be forgotten because it’s only in the middle of Sandler’s filmography. Blended is two styles of movie that can never really fully commit one way or the other. recommended for Sandler fans, but everyone else can wait for DVD.

Million Dollar Arm

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6.5/10

Disney’s latest attempt at the sports world is one that gives us a lot of great innings, but can’t quite complete the full game. Jon Hamm Stars as JB Bernstein, a sports agent who is broke due to a lack of clientel. He comes up with a great idea to tap into India to find the next big bankable star after watching a cricket game. This is based on the true story of Rinku and Dinesh who became pitchers for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That however is not the most interesting part of the story, it’s their struggle to adapt to a game they have never seen, and live in a land they have only dreamed about. Surhaj Sharmar and Madhur Mattal were great as the two ball players. They show the fear in their faces long before they ever even utter a single word. They have the perfect look of two kids who only have each other against a country that expects results quickly out of their sports athletes. The film itself has a typical Disney script with very little surprises. I am glad that aspect didn’t ruin the movie for me though. It’s the performances of Hamm, Alan Arkin and Bill Paxton that show the kind of fun that they had while working on this film. On top of it, we as an audience learn a lot about the way India views baseball. At first, the sports of baseball and cricket seem so similar, but there is a lot more to the psychology that Bernstein must learn along the way. Throwing a 90 MPH fastball is the easy part when it comes to what these kids are facing. For it being a Disney movie, it did take a lot of risks with alcohol, party life and even a little pillow talk. There are parts of this movie where it doesn’t always feel like Disney is dipping their finger in the Kool-Aid, and i appreciated that the most. It seems like they let Director Craig Gillespie make the movie he wanted to make. His shots are done very well with capturing the work of the players. I am not kidding when i say that some sports movies do not know how to shoot the action, and the shots almost spring too fast at times. That is not the case with Million Dollar Arm as there are a lot of beautiful, crisp shots that follow the ball perfectly. I only really had a couple problems with the movie and they are very small. The first is that we are shown Jon Hamm to be a pretty decent human being for the first half hour of the movie, but then without the flick of the light switch, becomes a bit of a jerk by the time the players come to America. I get that Bernstein is going through a lot of pressure as he is broke and quickly losing everything he has, but it just doesn’t feel like the character we have come to know. This is obviously added to create a storyline of him overcoming himself, but it’s not needed at all. Another problem i had was the chemistry between Bernstein and his good looking next door neighbor (Lake Bell). It’s is mentioned twice that these two never even talked before he left for India, but then a couple scenes into his time away we see them Skype chatting almost every night. This seems like a bit of a stretch for someone who didn’t give this woman the time of day. Is she stalking him? If so, that might be another movie Disney might consider exploring. Oh the possibilities. The movie also loses a little steam by the 3rd act as we have already been through every kind of emotional rollercoaster with these characters. We feel spent as a crowd with nothing more to give. The ending is satisfying, but predictable. It’s a bit of a shame that once you get through the journey of these players coming to America, you virtually have nothing else to experience. You know what is coming, and that is the true big weakness that Million Dollar Arm suffers from. Overall, it’s not a bad little film. It did manage to keep my attention considering i knew what was coming next. I would recommend it to sports movie fans. I don’t think it is as good as last month’s Draft Day, but it’s certainly a hell of a lot more believable. If you have an interest to see it, catch a matinee. Not quite worth the full price. Million Dollar Arm is a feel good tale, and it’s proud of it.

Legends of Oz : Dorothy’s Return

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4/10

If i used two words to describe Legends of Oz, it would be “Uninspiring” and “Lazy”. This animation film serves as a sequel to the original classic that transformed color movies on film. That is probably the only similarity that Legends of Oz has with the Judy Garland classic, it’s beautiful to look at. Dorothy (Lea Michele) returns to Oz to save her friends from a derranged clown known as The Jester (Martin Short). Besides this being the first animated Oz film, it just doesn’t feel like an Oz film based on it’s whacky tone of comedy. Just because a film is animated it doesn’t mean that the movie has to be absolutely goofy. One thing i loved about every Oz film so far is that there was that mysterious creepiness involved with every one. Last year’s “OZ:The Great and Powerful” had it in the form of the sister witches casting their spells on OZ with creepy smoke filled visuals. In “The Wizard of Oz”, it had creepy woods filled with an already terrifying Margaret Hamilton as The Witch. Return to OZ…….Well……..the whole movie was creepy. None of that is present with this film. It feels like we are watching a basic animated feature that came out this year. There simply is no charm. Lea Michele did a great job as Dorothy, and her voice is all any casting director should look for when casting the main character hero. She plays through such beautiful songs as “Work With Me”, “One Day” and my personal favorite, “When the World”. The songs are lyrically beautiful giving the film it’s only sense of adventure with the movie. One of my biggest problems with the film is that the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man are such huge characters in the first 20 minutes of the film, but then left on the shelf with the final hour. It’s almost like their characters have to take a backseat to the new Dorothy sidekicks. Those sidekicks include a bird named “Wise”, a china doll named “China Princess”, and an army commander named “Marshall Mallow”. The new characters don’t seem to fit in to the characters we have known and loved. We wish Dorothy would join her original friends, but that time is never seen on camera. My biggest problem with this film is that i question whether Director Dan St-Pierre ever watched the original Wizard of Oz. Toto is a completely different kind of dog and differently colored, Uncle Henry and Aunt EM look NOTHING like the way they did. The funniest thing to me though is that this film is supposed to take place five years after The Wizard of OZ, yet there are fast driving cars and Dorothy hasn’t aged one day. If anything, she looks younger than the teenager that was in The Wizard of Oz. It just all feels too sloppy. I feel bad for fans of a film that becomes as big as The Wizard of Oz did. It means that over a span of 100 years that you will get at least 5 or 6 remakes/sequels and nothing will ever come close to that original magic. I did enjoy last year’s OZ:The Great and Powerful. It restored some of the magic back for Oz fans, but Legends of Oz took that one step forward and added two steps back. When fans of these movies are faced with the choice of staying in or seeing Legends of OZ, most will be forced to conclude that there is no place like home. Not recommended.

The Amazing Spider Man 2

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6/10

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

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4/10

When you see a decent actor like Greg Kinnear in a film that doesn’t quite live up to his talents, you start wondering if his best days are behind him. Kinnear stars as the father of a boy who ends up in the hospital with a burst appendix. After his recovery, he mentions to his father that he was briefly in heaven when he was under the knife. This story is an adaptation from the New York Times #1 Bestseller, and while i haven’t read that book, i can say that the film is a big waste of time. There is so much wrong with this film that i hope i can get it all out in a basic review. When i compared this film to Son of God, i realized that this film does come off better as a motion picture. It has enough to keep the viewer interested in it’s questions, but fails when we are served the answers to those questions.Beyond this, the kind of film it comes off as is something that you would see on the Hallmark Channel. Son of God is an overall better film though. The reason being, it wasn’t afraid to take a chance with graphic violence that didn’t quite cater to the audience it was intended for. What i find interesting about Heaven is For Real is that we are led to believe that Greg Kinnear and his family are 30 thousand dollars in the hole when he works as a 1. Preacher, 2. Fireman, 3. Parts installer. He also has a nice countryside house which makes it hard to believe this guy is borderline poor. Another cute ongoing storyline is when word gets out of the little boy’s journey through Heaven and the townspeople find it uncomfortable that this is being talked about. Keep in mind that this is a religious community and all of the people who don’t believe him ARE THE PEOPLE SITTING IN THE CHURCH PEWS!!!! I have only been a Catholic for 23 years, but i thought believing in Heaven and God was kind of like the status quo for this group. The first half hour speeds a little too quickly when we are trying to learn the quirks and ticks of what makes this family. Because it speeds by, these people come off as lunatics when we see the way they act at church and softball games. The ladder, being one of the corniest scenes i have seen this year. Director Randall Wallace definitely tries to make this religious film something more that every kind of fan can relate to. Even to go so far as to add a big bad wicked rock anthem like “We Will Rock You” to the film. It’s cute because the little boy wants nothing to do with religious hymns, and instead sings Queen. It all seems so desperate. Which brings me to the little boy who plays Colton (Connor Corum). He is cute, and i am sure will win the award for “Child actor who every woman wants to pinch his cheeks”, but he is the single strangest child actor i have ever seen. He makes these faces that make him seem like he is hearing voices, and i don’t mean the religious kind. A scene when he vomits in the toilet is one of the funniest things i have seen this year. Not that there is an art to something so disgusting, but his noises are so imitated and made even better when the camera pans up to show nothing in the toilet. This film is just an absolute sloppy mess. I am ready for the backlash that comes with me hating this film because it rightfully deserves every word that i have made clear. The biggest shame with this film is the wasted star power of Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church. Two of Hollywood’s best role actors who are on sleep mode because this script would rather show you the cameos and not give them anything to earn that screen time. Heaven is For Real isn’t the worst film i have seen this year, but it’s pretty close. I can now add one more reason to why i left Catholic schooling after nine years; i didn’t want to turn out like the Burpo family in Heaven is For Real. The Burpo family, what an appropriate name. This film made me Burpo for 95 long minutes. Not recommended

Rio 2

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5/10

The effort is on a higher scale in this sequel to the 2011 animated feature that i wasn’t a fan of. I will say that Rio 2 is a better film than it’s predecessor, but it is completely riddled in problems. Blue and the family are back with the mission to move the family to his girlfriend’s (Jewel) homeland of the amazon. Blue runs into some tough adjustments along the way, and he has to prove to Jewel that he has what it takes to rough it in the jungle. This film felt very tedious and overstuffed to me. There are too many characters with too many storylines, and only 95 minutes of screen time to wrap everything up. The characters are so hard to distinguish because a lot of them look the same. It’s a rough animated film when you have to memorize every celebrity (Over 20 of them) just to know who is standing in what scene. Beyond this, the characters and their journeys just aren’t that exciting. One thing that films like Despicable Me and Frozen does well is that they give us characters that we learn so much about in such a small bit of dialogue. I felt like i knew everything about the sisters after i watched Frozen, and that is because that is storytelling done well. The animation is absolutely breathtaking with far away shots of Rio and the amazon. There is definitely nothing to complain about in the graphic department of coloring and shading. I did not see this film in 3D, but i can imagine that you won’t need it to fully enjoy the scenery that compliments the colorful feathers of each bird. I also felt that the songs were done a lot better than the first film. One scene in particular is where the villain of the film, Nigel is singing about how he plans to poop on the party of the main characters. It’s cheap laughs for the kiddies, but that doesn’t mean i didn’t catch myself laughing at it as well. The soundtrack is definitely the highlight of this film, but those tracks are few and far between. Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan and Bruno Mars to name a few, really do a great job for their characters. Their voices don’t necessarily stick out in a scene and that is perfect when doing voice work. It should be about the film and not the actors playing the animation. Overall, i know there are a lot of Rio fans out there, but i would wait till DVD on this one if you absolutely have to see it. I can just hope that this series will stop here because these characters have already squeezed every drop of this less than stellar franchise. Rio 2 is a bust.

The Muppets : Most Wanted

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7.5/10

During the first musical number of the film, Kermit sings about how sequels are never as good as the originals. While this wouldn’t apply to the 2011 Muppets film since that one is the 6th and this is the 7th of the Muppets films, this one nearly comes close to topping the 2011 Muppets. Most Wanted has most of the Jim Henson charms going for it. Creative lyrics with beautiful melodies that are composed by Christophe Beck. One thing you can always count on in Muppets films is that the songs will have you singing them for days and days. A couple of my early favorites are “I’m Number One” and “Stick With Me”. The films puppetry is also quite impressive again. The muppets are each given their own time to shine from the main story involving a kidnapping of Kermit to Walter, Fozzie and Animal figuring out a way to get him back. The storyline itself is enough to keep you intrigued while still giving you the subtle winks every time the outcome seems predictable. That is what makes Muppets films so entertaining; they aren’t your typical children’s films. I am 29 years old and have been a Muppets fan my whole life. Even as i get older, i find that these films still earn the $10 ticket worth. They are very minor reasons, but there are two things that keep this from equaling the magic of the 2011 film. The first is that i didn’t laugh as much during this film. I think there is nothing really wrong with that, but this film was filled more with it’s sentimental moments. When i watch The Muppets, i am in it to laugh. Most Wanted has it’s moments that will have you repeating the lines in laughter. I can just remember the first film being more quotable. The other reason is that the on screen charisma of Jason Segal, Amy Adams and Chris Cooper just can’t be matched by anyone in this film. Sure, Ty Burrell was born to be in a Muppets film, and Tina Fey is a welcome contribution even with a silly russian accent. But Segal was a fan, and you could feel that about that film. Burrell’s buddy cop moments with Sam the Eagle were by far my favorite parts of the film, and i would more than welcome a spin off film with just those two. Muppets Most Wanted is definitely a recommended film for an audience of any age. There is humor, colorful characters and touching moments. It’s a can’t miss for any fan who grew up watching the shows/films.

Mr Peabody and Sherman

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7/10

The re-visioning of the 1960’s side cartoon on Rocky and Bullwinkle sees our main protagonists in trouble traveling back through time to get back home. The voice acting of Ty Burrell (Mr Peabody) and 10 year old Max Charles (Sherman) is done really well, and the perfect choice to compliment old school fans of the cartoon. Peabody is a dog who is the adoptive father of Sherman. He is a very intelligent canine who tries to teach his son about world history through a time machine. Sherman disobeys his father when he takes the time machine out and gets stuck in ancient Egypt. The animation of the film looked very crisp and beautifully textured. Dreamworks once again scores on a beautiful cinematography that really updates the cartoon. One of the biggest benefits to showing this film over another animated feature is that kids will get a history lesson from this film. It makes learning fun by taking our two characters back through some of the world’s biggest events and listing the time and place for those events. Many such historical figures are even brought to life to help the duo get back home. People like George Washington, Marie Antoinette, Da Vinci and even King Tut are given plenty of screen time to represent their respective era’s. There were two things that i thought weren’t necessarily problems but were very interesting about the film. The first is that the film really has no antagonist. I am sure some people will fire back with Mrs Grunion (The Children’s services worker) being the villain, but she doesn’t have enough screen time and isn’t dark inside enough to pull it off. It’s weird to watch a children’s film nowadays that doesn’t have an antagonist. The other thing was that for a film that was marketed as a comedy, it’s not a very funny movie. There is some comedy in the film that will make you chuckle and that is mostly adult comedy. It’s kind of sad to say that the comedy in this film really doesn’t represent children very well. I could be wrong with different kids seeing this, but the children in my theater barely ever laughed. I think all of this is OK because it is still a good and educative film, but it’s just weird that they marketed to kids and it didn’t really do anything for them. I saw this film with my friend who is almost 40 and we both had a couple good laughs when the entire rest of the theater was dead silent. I think that has to do with the comedy that is present being too descriptive for a 5 or 6 year old to understand. Overall, Mr Peabody and Sherman is a delightful ride through the past. It’s a story about our children growing up and having to let go so they can spread their metaphorical wings. It’s also a story about being different and being OK with that. I would recommend waiting till DVD or if you can catch a dollar theater showing of it. It’s a good film, but it can wait.

The Lego Movie

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9/10

The most creative movie i have seen in a few years deserves all of the critical praise it has received. The Lego Movie is something out of a childhood dream. It combines incredible animation with comedic humor that is totally unlike anything ever seen in the animation world. I loved the hell out of this movie for so many reasons. The first, it has an amazing cast. Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks,Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell and the always great Charlie Day bring so much heart to the voices they deliver. Freeman especially brings us so much dry humor as God. It’s a role that he has gotten so amazing at playing (Bruce+Evan Almighty) that people start to question if this man actually is God. As i said before, the animation is incredible. I give the designers of this film an Oscar based on how they brought the Lego world to life. I kind of want to watch this film again based on what i missed. The designs go on for miles and miles and it truly is incredible. The comedic timing has something for everyone. The kids will laugh because this is after all a movie for them, but the adults will love it too because it’s that kind of humor you can look devilishly at your husband/wife and appreciate. It’s also very creative how they tie the movie together at the end. There is a surprise ending that will really melt your heart for those of us who always played with our toys. A love letter to the child in all of us, if you will. I haven’t felt this good about leaving a theater in a while. Sure, there have been better movies in the last few years, but The Lego Movie makes you feel something that you thought was buried away with adulthood. It makes us feel like we are looking down on the world we create with our minds. A couple of the cameos are also very cool in the movie. I am not going to spoil them all, but only the couple that have already been seen in commercials (Batman, Superman, Spaceman). The only negative critique i have for this film is so little that it doesn’t hurt the movie at all. The 3D is kind of useless. Sure it adds to the coloring and the motion of the animation, but no real big tricks with stuff flying at your face. I think you can see this film without paying extra for 3D and still be amazed. There is also a song in the film titled “Everything is Awesome” that will surely be stuck in my head till the end of time, and that isn’t a good thing. The Lego Movie is a film that shouldn’t be missed by anyone. Moviegoers of all ages will be struck with the magic that Village Roadshow Pictures have created.

The Nut Job

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3.5/10

This is the angriest i have been at a film in a long time. The continuing trend of Hollywood studios treating children like they’re idiots, continues with The Nut Job. This film is the equivalent to a cheesy joke told at a party with friends. It’s an unfunny and uninteresting mess.The film stars a couple squirrels (Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl) who are literally fighting over nuts to feed a park of other animals. The biggest pain in the film is how many times they use the “Nut pun” OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. I think the audience understood the first time that nuts is a dirty pun that you can use as a sexual innuendo. It’s childish the first time and mind numbing by time 1,456. The voice acting is what gives this film as high of a rating as it is. Liam Neeson is outstanding once again. This time he is a villain who is the park’s leader as he is harboring a secret plan to starve them all out. Neeson is one of those actors who doesn’t need a face to truly grasp the emotion that he is delivering. Even in a script this stupid, he finds a way to make his character menacing. The 3D is totally useless. There is absolutely no reason that this film had to be in 3D except to make Pixar own even more of your wallet. There is one part in the film that didn’t make sense to me, but by the film’s end it was put in there just so the bad guy could be defeated. Another villain who is a human is blessed with the ability to hear dog whistles. This talent hurts him as he holds his ears in agony every time it’s blown. It’s never explained why or how he has this ability but it sure enough shows you why it was put in the film at the end of the movie. If it wasn’t for the voice work and Pixar’s excellent animation, this film would have been worse than the latest Paranormal Activity. It was THAT bad. I will recommend this film for kids, but even the ten or so kids in the theater i was in were getting bored with it. I caught several glances of them kicking the chairs in front of them. One even played games on his mother’s cell phone. The kids will like it, but only the hardest of die hard Pixar adults will like this film. I have yet to even explain the worst part. That is saved in the closing credits of the film. The film’s theme is Gagnam Style by Psy, and sure enough he makes an animated appearance dancing on the side of the credits. If 80 minutes of torture won’t make you roll your eyes, Psy’s 2 year old dance on the side of the screen will. It’s great to have a song in a children’s movie (yelling) THAT THE CHILDREN CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE!!!!! Save your money and go see Frozen if you haven’t seen that. If you have, see it again. See it 400 times before this