Planes : Fire and Rescue

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5/10

The sequel to last year’s Planes is an overall better movie than it’s predecessor, but the story is too weak, the characters are too many, and the time is too short for anyone to get any kind of good feeling from this film. Dusty Cropduster is back as the top Airplane racer in the world. When he suffers an injury that limits his performance on the track, he finds himself in the middle of a new dream that includes him becoming a firefighter of sorts. The convenient plot with the Fireman gimmick is that there is a fire every 5 minutes in the woods. Whether this is true or not, this is the thing that will bother you the least during the 73 minute run time. Yes, you heard that right. 73 MINUTES!!! What is the most amazing out of the run time is just how boring it is. Believe me when i say i don’t have a short attention span. The movie is terribly boring because we never get to really know the characters due to the short screen time we have to establish their backstories. It’s also boring because Planes is a movie that really didn’t need a sequel. It was one of the worst animated films i have seen of the 21st century, and that doesn’t set the bar high for this sequel. The story feels very rushed and that’s understandable considering they waited a whole 11 months to release Fire and Rescue. That’s bad for Paranormal Activity pacing. The comedy in this had me laughing a couple times, but one of the things i despise the most about kids movies are overdone puns. Kids movies are supposed to have these, but not every single line. One of the characters is named Boat Reynolds, and i have to admit that had me chuckling. I also enjoyed a spoof on the 70’s TV show CHIPS with a show called CHOPS. In fact, i would’ve been completely OK with that movie instead of the one we got. It certainly had a better storyline. As i said before, the amount of characters are outrageous. There are no fewer than 30 characters between the two films, and for anyone to remember four of their names at this point would be amazing. The new characters are nothing great. They are voiced by John Michael Higgins, Regina Hall, and Ed Harris along with many others. Ed’s character is decent, but we don’t get more than a minute of screen time with anyone else. This movie could’ve easily been another 15 minutes or so to build on the character development, and it would’ve done nothing but improved it. Among the things i liked about this film, the 3D is done beautifully with lots of fly by shots, as well as a beautiful ending scene that takes place with the entire forrest in a beautiful auburn blaze. The fire shots really pile on the eye candy of a beautiful 3D presentation. I wouldn’t say the 3D is completely worth it, but if there is a way for you to watch it on DVD in 3D, then by all means go for it. The regular animation is done a little better too with lots of wide angle scenic shots. Most of Planes was done up in the sky near the clouds, and it all got old fast. The score for this film was also noteworthy for a Disney film. AC/DC’s Thunderstruck plays during the first rescue mission, and it sets the heart pounding mission ablaze. There is also a song made just for the movie that is one of my favorite music numbers of the year for film. It’s called “Still i Fly” by Spencer Lee. It’s a beautiful mid 90’s motivational ballad that gives us a point of view from Dusty’s perspective. Kind of Kenny Wayne Sheppard meets Goo Goo Dolls. If Disney would’ve spent more time establishing their characters and building a plot that will keep a child from moving around in their seats, Planes Fire and Rescue could’ve really taken flight. As it remains, Planes Fire and Rescue is a mess of a film of an uninspired sequel to an already uninspired propeller-driven Cars spinoff. Planes is 0/2, and i hope it’s the end of Dusty and his personality-less friends.

Earth To Echo

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5.5/10

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

Transformers : Age of Extinction

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5/10

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

How To Train Your Dragon 2

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8.5/10

One of the best all around animated films that i have ever seen. This might come off as a boring review because i simply have nothing bad to say about the film. Beautifully animated, powefully in depth characters, and war scenes that remind me of Lord of the Rings. I will explain more within the review. How To Train Your Dragon 2 picks up where the 2010 original left off with dragons and humans living in perfect harmony. Hiccup (Voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless are best friends flying through the land side by side when the dragon population is threatened by Drago (Possibly the best voice casting of DJimon Hounsou), a vicious ship master who befriends the Alpha Dragon who commands the other dragons telepathically. Drago is absolutely the most menacing villain that i have ever seen in a Dreamworks film. His actions are never limited, and he shows no fear what so ever when dealing with his enemies. He is the perfect villain to go toe to toe with the viking community. It’s not often where you get a villain who you can’t wait to see them get what they deserve, but Drago takes us back to the characters that terrorized our childhoods. The rest of the voicing is casted perfectly with performances by Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, and the newest addition, Cate Blanchett as Hiccup’s mother, Valka. It was perfect to introduce a character like Valka because it showed us more of the backstory from our main character, but also introduced us to a romance that is so beautifully written between her and Stoick that it will make romance genre films in 2014 weak by comparison. I never thought i would be talking about chemistry in a voiced only film, but the magic between Butler and Blanchett carries the movie into a war scene that carries the pace perfectly. In those war scenes, the camera shots are dominated by artfully colored dragons that stretch as far as the eye can see. However, it’s the little things that amazed me the most about Dreamworks latest masterpiece in the world of animation. The things like the volume of a characters beard, movement of water, and distinguishing marks on a characters skin. It’s impressive to see how far we have come from the days of Shrek. I can only imagine the future of Dreamworks in 5 years. I mentioned before how i don’t have much negatively to say about this film and that is because everything clicks on all cylinders. It’s clear to see that they didn’t make a movie too quick (Planes, Cars) and actually took 4 long years before making a sequel that could live up to the great original. In my opinion, not only does this film live up to the original, but it soars a lot higher. It’s no secret that i am not a big fan of animated sequels, but this film actually has a great chance to match up against Toy Story for the best animated trilogy of all time. It’s that good, and director Dean Deblois is the perfect person for the job if there was a 3rd film. Besides the Dragon films, he made Mulan which is one of my all time favorite Disney films. Dean’s masterpiece (in my opinion) comes in the form of Dragon 2 though. He has taken animated characters and dragons that rarely ever say anything and made them relatable. It shows movies like Cars and Planes that you don’t have to make these material things human for people to relate to them. Rely on emotion and the crowd will come to the theater in dozens. The last three weeks have been amazing for movies. It’s rare that we have a time where 80% of the films out are at least good or better. This really is a good time to get to the movies, and if you have a family then this is the film for you. It’s got something that even the adults will find well produced. I hope the kids will enjoy it because for once they aren’t treated like idiots. They are getting a look at real characters that we meet in our everyday lives, and that is what pays off the most for How to Train Your Dragon 2. A very inspiring piece of escapism that is among the year’s best not only in animated, but in film in general.

The Fault In Our Stars

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7.5/10

Every once in a while there will come a film in the romance department that a man and a woman can equally enjoy and it not be a one sided occasion. The Fault in Our Stars is that film for this decade. It stars Shailene Woodley as a cancer patient struggling for a reason to live. She meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Egort) who becomes romantically interested in the girl, and gives her life for the first time in a long time. On the surface, Stars is one of those films that is just another romantic teenager movie about self loathing and love being the only key to happiness. But it takes a deeper look into the 2 hour film to understand that this film is about living for today because tomorrow might not be there. I really enjoyed this film for it’s superior acting, brilliant soundtrack and it’s heartbreaking attitudes without resorting to too much exploitation of the genre. I am happy to say that i did successfully predict the ending of the film, but that didn’t take too much away from it. Stars has something that everyone can enjoy, and a lot of that resorts to Egort who is absolutely fantastic as Augustus. He gives the film the charm and the life it needs from what would otherwise be a depressing teenage tale. This is only the first film i have seen him in, but i think he is a young actor with a bright future. Some actors can just give you a look to make you smile back at the screen, and Egort is one of those lucky few. This review would be pointless if i didn’t talk about how good Woodley is in it as well. I kind of didn’t have an opinion on her before this movie. I liked Divergent, but didn’t think she needed to be a strong actor to play that part. She was good in The Spectacular Now, but was outshined by Miles Teller. Stars is finally her movie. She proves that she can provide the viewer a scope of a character that they can hope the best for without 100% feeling sorry for her. She is very witty as Hazel Lancaster, and speaks and acts in a way that all teenage and young adult females can relate to. Examples even as small as waiting for the boy you like to call you early on in the relationship, or not having that confidence in yourself until someone else makes you see it. Woodley captures superbly the awkwardness of being a teenager and the never say die attitude in being a cancer patient. The only slight problem i had with the acting was Laura Dern as Hazel’s mother. Most people will watch the film and think i was nitpicking, but i just didn’t feel she was cast right for the role. I have never been a fan of Dern’s and i don’t feel this movie did her any favors as well. Her scenes feel so fake whenever she delivers a very important role. It slows down the movie and makes us remember that we are just a viewer in a story and not actually there with the characters. The only other problem i had with the movie was it’s pacing. The first hour is one of the best opening hours in film in 2014 because there is so much packed into that hour. Once we get to the halfway point, we feel like we have been watching the movie for 90 minutes, but that is where the movie starts to show some of it’s problems. The second hour is good, but by that point you know where the film is heading, so it’s hard to stay as excited for a movie that already has a set direction. If the first hour of the film could’ve withheld some of those events and saved them for the early part of the 2nd hour, i think it would’ve made for a smooth transistion into the tearjerking 2nd hour. Speaking of tears, the ladies were absolutely bawling during my showing. I heard several sniffs during the emotional scenes, and plenty of reaches for the tissues. It’s in that area where Stars delivers at it’s best. You know you are coming into a sad movie, and this one never fails to deliver on that promise. I mentioned before that the soundtrack was something very noteworthy. It’s hip, but gives a different kind of feel for everyone from electro pop to indie rock to beautifully constructed piano backgrounds that greatly compliment the struggles that our characters go through. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the biggest surprises of the year for your favorite film critic. The thing i liked the most about it is that it shows that you don’t always need vampires and factions to show teens in all of their angst driven journeys that cultivate into hopeful glory. Well recommended for a good date night. It’s nice to see a weekend that comes out with two can’t miss choices in this and Edge of Tomorrow.

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