Sex Tape

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3/10

After getting finished with Sex Tape, i couldn’t help but compare the film to that of an actual porno movie. No, not for the charming reasons you are probably thinking, but because it’s like after you watch one scene you feel like you have seen them all. Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz try to rekindle the kind of chemistry they shared on Bad Teacher in Director Jake Kasden’s newest film. Kasden also directed Bad Teacher, so it’s completely understandable why he cast Diaz and Segal as his main characters in this film that is neither funny nor intelligent. I am not an idiot to think that a movie called “Sex Tape” is going to have much going for it at all, but the biggest problem i had with the title is that the movie is very tame. There has been a lot of commotion for seeing Diaz’s butt in this film and it didn’t really give me anything that i felt was noteworthy. Compared to what we see on our own TV’s nowadays, a naked butt hardly turns the gears. The couple in question make a sex tape to spice up their boring marriage. They find out the next day that they send the tape out to other people because it is synched into Segal’s Ipad and all of his friends have his former Ipads, so it sinks to them as well. This concept alone is a little far fetched, but it’s the things that are right under your nose that make you really scratch your head. For starters, how could he give his friends all of these devices and yet still not un-sync the things that connect to his own Ipad? How does he afford all these Ipads when he either doesn’t have a job or doesn’t work many hours? Either way, the film never tells us what he does. Another question is how he knows all of this about technology and about the Ipad itself, but doesn’t know that you can erase the file from going to other synched pads by erasing it from the master Ipad? It’s logic like this that made a film with terrible acting (another porn cliche) and awkward dialogue even worse. I would say that the film is dirty enough that no kid under the age of 16 should be watching it. One thing that completely took me out of enjoying the film any time i tried to get into it was the constant advertisement for Apple and their products. For those of you who read my reviews often, you know i absolutely hate when a movie whores out it’s products just to make a quick buck. This movie is absolutely no exception because it gives us times where the plot freezes to describe what the new Ipad does. One line in particular is Segal talking to Diaz saying “The new Ipad’s have amazing cameras, and the options are so versatile”. This film rivals only Spider-Man 2 as the film with the most shameless plugs of the year. One thing that will always find me on the negative side of a review. If there was one thing i enjoyed about the film it’s Rob Lowe. Lowe is cast as Diaz’s squeaky clean boss, but when they have to go to his home to get his Ipad they find that there is more to him under the collar. It’s hilarious to see Rob cast as a hardcore rock rebel with paintings of his face hung up around the house based on Walt Disney movies. The scenes with him were the only ones that gave me an honest laugh, and this film definitely could’ve used more of that. Rob Coddry and Ellie Kemper also appear as best friends of the main couple, but they don’t have enough to do, and when they do appear it just feels too forced. On a side note that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, could someone find out if Jason Segal has botox treatments done? his upper lip looks like he got out of the dentist’s chair before the numbness wore off. It bothered the hell out of me watching him talk through the whole movie. The verdict? With neither the dedication to embrace its dirty premise nor enough laughs to function as a worthwhile rom-com, the flaccid Sex Tape suffers from cinematic impotence. Skip it

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.

Begin Again

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8.5/10

A very smart movie about life, love, and the music business. Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as the music partner and girlfriend of a famous musician (appropriatly played by Adam Levine). Their worlds get turned upside down when they move to New York to record Levine’s first album, and he ends up cheating on Knightley. She spirals out of control and plans to move back to her home in England when she meets a down on his luck music executive (Mark Ruffalo) looking for one big move to put him back on top of the game. He realizes one night at a bar that Knightley could be that move. This film for me was so irresistably charming and enjoying that it is by far my favorite romantic comedy of the year so far. Director John Carney returns to the silver screen to direct his first music movie since 2007’s smash hit, Once. I personally feel that Begin Again is the man’s best film to date and a lot of that has to do with the flawed but realistic characters he creates in this film. Knightley in particular is a one woman wrecking ball having to play emotions ranging from one extreme to the next in a short instance. She finds her voice in herself to pick up the pieces and conquer the music business by using her own morals. She is absolutely a beautiful down to earth character as Gretta James. I will get to her performances as a singer later on. Ruffalo continues his taking of challenging roles after playing a sex addict in 2013’s Thanks For Sharing and now an alcoholic music executive on the edge of losing his wife in Begin Again. Ruffalo has always been someone to play a contributing supporting character, but not much on lead performance. I am glad that is starting to change, and i can’t wait to see where Hollywood takes him. First time actor Maroon 5’s Adam Levine is the perfect choice for rising musician Dave Kohle. Levine plays it soft spoken and very personable with a hint of arrogance just under the surface. This does wonders for the females in the audience to fall for him in the beginning and then feel what Knightley is feeling when we learn the truth. The movie clearly has done it’s studying on the music business because it paints executives in the lights of always wanting to change their clients. What’s refreshing about Gretta James is that she never changes who she is from start to finish. She educates the viewer on plenty of instances how the music world is flawed and makes us ask the question why the artist only gets $1 for every 10 made. The location of New York is practical but perfect for a movie about people with dreams. The backdrop of landmark places in the city plays perfectly as Gretta records a song for her record at these places in the city. Whatever happens while she plays happens. She decides to leave it all on the record. The music itself is absolutely the best thing about this film. I was very surprised to read that Knightley did her own singing for this film. Levine also plays a couple tracks that are moderately different from his normal Maroon 5 Schtick. Fellow Levine Voice mate Cee Lo Green also makes a brief appearance in this film and supplies a track for the soundtrack that i wish was heard in the movie. Recommendations if you are in the mood for a good listen are Lost Stars by Levine, A Step You Can’t Take Back by Knightley, and my personal favorite of the soundtrack, Like a Fool By Knightley. By the end of the film, you feel that there are three possible directions the movie could take and i’m not entirely pleased or depressed that it took the 2nd best road. It is if anything the only flaw i see in the movie. Begin Again is funny, romantic, and uplifting. It’s one of those films that gives you the passion to get back up and jam to the music that life brings you.

Tammy

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5/10

After finishing the newest comedy starring Melissa McCarthy, i have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the movie actually had possibilities of being a decent film with an emotional hard hitting back story. The bad news is that the execution of that chance is swallowed whole by slapstick comedy and the obnoxious traits of our main characted. Tammy (McCarthy) is a woman who can never win in life. She is fired from her job at a fast food joint, she finds out her husband is cheating on her, and her car is totaled after an accident with wildlife. She goes on a road trip with her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) after feeling like both characters have nothing left to lose of their lives. It’s a kind of Thelma and Louise story which is ironic considering Sarandon is in it. She is absolutely the best part of this film playing an alcoholic almost senile grandmother who is responsible for a lot of the comedic tones of the movie. I was completely wrong about McCarthy playing the same character because this one is slightly different from her roles in The Heat or Identity Thief. She exerts a bottled up sadness that shows she is just too good for screenwriter Ben Falcone’s script with help from McCarthy herself. Falcone cameos in the film as Tammy’s boss who fires her. If i had advice for both of them it’s to stick to acting. Falcone did write 2011’s Bridesmaids which i felt was one of the best films that year, but in Tammy it shows that he still has a long way to go. The scenes almost feel pointless in the first hour of the film with Tammy being put in a different scenario to draw out the cheapest of laughs. The movie gave me two total laughs in the whole film and that is mostly because there are too many tired jokes aimed at Melissa McCarthy’s weight. The parts that did make me giggle dealt with the great comedic timing of Melissa McCarthy and some of her stupid responses to people calling her out on her issues. I do like Melissa, but i am looking more and more forward to her drama role with Bill Murray in Saint Vincent later this year. I think it’s time she advanced her career a little further than the roles that don’t do her justice. This movie has one of the best casts of the year, but i can’t for the life of me figure out why they are all wasted. It’s like Falcone invited them all on screen to make you point and smile, but not take too much away from his genius writing (Eye roll). Dan Akroyd, Kathy Bates, Sandra Oh, Toni Collete, Alison Janney and Gary Cole are all table dressing for a story that could’ve given them something to do with only 92 minutes of running time. Collete in particular only has one line in the film. How could this happen? It’s just pure sloppyness. I really feel like this movie would’ve worked better as one of those female ensamble dramas like Fried Green Tomatoes or August : Osage County. When the boiling issues of our characters hit hard in the final half hour, you wish you got a film like that because it certainly would’ve pushed the audience a lot further. I think the biggest problem with Tammy though is the fact that any audience who isn’t brainwashed by liking anything McCarthy comes out with will find that they can’t relate to her character at all. In fact, from what i gathered The movie’s principal intention is to make you laugh at a loser, and revel in scenes from which polite people would instinctively turn away. It’s annoying when it tries to be funny, and a rambling attempt to cash in on McCarthy’s fame. I don’t recommend this film at all except maybe a Red box rental. Melissa McCarthy gives her all in every performance she is given. Even if those roles aren’t written well at all. Isn’t it time she gets a script that puts her in a leading role that she deserves?

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.

Think Like a Man Too

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5/10

This sequel to the 2012 original shows you the magic of Hollywood when it cuts up the best parts to put into a trailer and leaves you with a tired premise that is seen in every film about Vegas ever.It all feels like a poor excuse for the cast to splurge in Vegas with non stop celebrity cameos to keep the bored observer interested. Kevin Hart and the gang return to celebrate the wedding of two friends in the group (Regina Hall and Terence Cowrley) by going to Las Vegas and having the ultimate bachelor and bachelorette parties. It was strange to me just how similar this film was to Saved By The Bell : Zach and Kelly’s Wedding. As the scenes unfolded, i found myself able to predict each one almost comedically. By this point in his career, Kevin Hart has reached popularity of epic proportions for someone who started off as a quiet side character in many of his earlier films. In Man Too, he doesn’t have enough to do after exhausting his usual “Short guy” Schtick. By the time we are done with every possible joke that he has, his performance almost turns dramatic. This year’s About Last Night was a good example of what Kevin Hart can do when he is presented with a script that allows him to grow (No pun intended). That film was about a lot more than him flexing his comedic abilities; it showed his audience that this guy can be something more. It’s no secret that i am not a big Kevin Hart fan, and it’s mainly for roles like Think Like a Man Too. There are too many characters between the two groups which never gives leads like Hart and Regina Hall room to shine. If that wasn’t enough, we are treated to another movie with that one white guy in the group who is……..wait for it……WEIRD. Between Director Tim Story and other famously terrible director Tyler Perry, i wonder if these guys know how to write white people without being whacky. I am not kidding when i say EVERY SINGLE LINE that comes out of the guy’s mouth is the one that keeps the audience shaking it’s head in lunacy. I have to give this movie credit though, at least he isn’t racist. More craziness happens midway through the film when the female group stops the plot and everything around it to have a Bel Biv Devoe music video. I am dead serious that the movie stops for 5 minutes so the girls can go full R&B star with everything from camera talking to lip synching on a stage with a male dance club as it’s background. That scene is appropriate because that is what the whole film summed up felt like. It was just a bunch of scenes thrown together to see what stuck with no attempt at an ending that was shocking or even entertaining. If there was one thing i enjoyed about this film it would be that they at least attempted to give every character a decent storyline, and not lose them completely in the background. It’s not executed very well though, as it feels too crowded. By the final 20 minutes, we have been through every kind of emotion loud and desperate that we can’t help but look at our watches to see how much time is left. Think Like a Man wasn’t a movie i necessarily enjoyed, but it at least had a great almost novel like structure that was creatively done for the way it was telling it’s story. In this sequel, everything is thrown together on the same page, and it never feels like a sequel beyond the characters. The famous motto goes “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”. In the forgettable presentation from this talented cast, lets hope that credo rings true. Avoid it like the plague

22 Jump Street

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7/10

Some would look at my rating for 22 Jump Street and think i liked it, but didn’t think it was amazing. That is true to a certain degree. I did enjoy this movie and thought it was a more than capable sequel. One thing that might surprise you however, is that i thought the film was very smart in the aspects of the way it mocks the first film and the Hollywood sequel in general. 22 Jump Street returns us to the world of two best friend cops (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) who go undercover at a college this time. It’s a sequel that is told to pack more of a punch because those are the rules that Hollywood instills. It pokes fun in many aspects like the natural progression of the script and how there are many things the same as the first film. If a movie is smart enough to realize that it is putting out the same movie and acknowledge it, then i believe that makes that movie acceptable to be a copy. I shouldn’t really use the word copy because there are a few differences in the sequel that make for fun entertainment. In this film, Tatum is the popular one of the duo, Jonah Hill is the one struggling in his police work, and the most obvious answer in the mystery isn’t the right one. The ladder is one of the things i liked the most about this film. It’s not just a bromance comedy, but a great mystery that had me guessing for a lot of the film. It all culminates in an amazing fast paced action chase scene that makes the last half hour of the film the best part of the movie by far. In fact, if the film didn’t have a slow and terribly paced opening forty minutes, 22 Jump Street would be closer to a 7.5 or an 8. It almost feels like two different directors took the helm of this movie and that makes sense because the co-directors were Phil Lord and Chris Miller. I personally think that the co-honors shows in the different tones and pacing between the first and second acts. It is in the 2nd act where the chemistry of Hill and Tatum return to the glory of the first film. We see their ability to play this duo that have basically become brothers, and the reason why no other relationship in their lives ever seems to fit. There is one shocking reveal in the middle of the movie that involves Ice Cube that absolutely gives the film the adrenaline shot that it needed. Speaking of Cube, he is the best part of the movie. On the surface it may seem like he is playing the typical angry man Ice Cube character that he always plays, but the mystery reveal will take his character in a whole new direction and help the viewer in relating to a character who we didn’t get much time with in the original film. The performances are hit and miss. Jonah Hill is a miss because his character doesn’t grow in the same kind of transformation that Tatum’s character has. Tatum does some parkour routines that make his character the same kind of guy he played in last year’s White House Down. 22 Jump Street even pokes fun at that movie in a scene where the two male leads are practically winking at the audience. I do like Hill in comedies, but i would like to see him get back to his straight roles more often. The guy has some deep acting chops, so i don’t think he needs to always be held down with the same comedic schtick. I could write a two page review on the end credits alone because they are among the best i have ever seen. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it pokes fun at anyone who goes to see the same movie over and over again (Like The Hangover films). It is so brilliant and so funny that no person will want to leave their seats because they will want to see how far this will go. There are some excellent cameos in that credits scene that will make every fan and non fan of the TV show happy they stuck around. Overall, 22 Jump Street is a more than worthy sequel that is definitely worth a look for anyone who liked the first film. I would be interested to know where people think it stands compared to the original. For me, it fell a little short, but 22 Jump Street is a welcome edition to a sequel world that is 50/50 at best.

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.

A Million Ways to Die in the West

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5.5/10

Director and star of the movie Seth Macfarlane returns to the silver screen with the anticipated follow up to his 2011 smash hit, Ted. The most surprising thing about A Million Ways to Die in the West is the fact that it’s not a very funny movie. It has it’s cheap laughs, but my biggest problem with Macfarlane’s comedy has always been that his jokes are too drawn out…..FOR WAY TOO LONG. Macfarlane stars as Albert, a sheephearder living in the wild west of Arizona in 1898. Macfarlane is dumped by his girlfriend, Louise (Amanda Seyfried), but falls head over heels for new girl, Anna (Charlize Theron). The problem? Anna has a husband who is the most famous gunslinger in the west, Clinch (Liam Neeson). As i said before, jokes feel drawn out for way too long ruining some legitimately good laughs. The kind of fast paced talking smart man schtick with jokes also doesn’t mix well with the visual slop usually seen in Adam Sandler movies. In this one, there is a vicious diarrhea scene, fecal matter on a child’s pillow, and even being urinated on the face by a sheep. The biggest sin with the laughs that actually work is the fact that they are rendered powerless by a nearly 2 hour run time. By the time the final 20 minutes hit, these jokes feel overused and even exhausting by this point. Macfarlane himself isn’t the kind of guy we can get behind. The underdog story is a good one to use in a old west setting, but Macfarlane is very unlikable and at times annoying. He is the kind of guy who has commentary for everything going on in the town, but has no desire to change any of it. The more a character complains, the more the viewer will roll their eyes. Thank God for his co-stars though, because there are some good performances to recognize. Liam Neeson is by far the best part of this movie. He plays a villain that doesn’t play for jokes once. Neeson is the best when he is himself, and that is exactly who he plays as Clinch. He is every bit the man you see hunting for his family in the Taken films. Neil Patrick Harris is very charasmatic as the rebound man for Macfarlane’s ex-girlfriend. He has a musical number at the saloon that is about moustaches that will be stuck in your head for days. Harris is cocky, but knows how to always look through the screen at the viewer and wink for a smile out of us. Giovanni Ribisi also hands in a buzzworthy performance as Macfarlane’s best friend, Edward. It’s the little things that Ribisi does that has us chuckling. Things like playing a comedic straight man to Macfarlane’s comedic banter. He brings out the best in every scene that he is in. It’s just unfortunate that there aren’t more of those scenes to go around. There is a beautiful score by Joel Mcneely that really takes you back to westerns like Blazing Saddles and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. He does his magic behind these long shots of beautiful mountains that play to twangy guitars and rusty violins. The setting and wardrobe are very complimentary, so no complaints there. It’s a shame that a movie like this didn’t fully deliver with a trailer that was very well done. I saw this trailer almost every time i went to the movies and was so psyched to see it. It’s not nearly one of the worst movies of the year, but i can’t give a pass to this one. As great as Ted was, A Million Ways to Die in the West will always be known as Macfarlane’s clunker. At times, it tries to be Blazing Saddles with creating the kind of racist and degrading religious jokes that would be taboo 40 years ago, but don’t carry the same weight in a Family Guy society that has already explored that avenue. Saddles was a film that at it’s time was so shocking because it was a white and black male leads that were going nose to nose with slander jabs that didn’t often make it to the big screen. It’s a different age in a different era, and A Million Ways to Die in the West is a long joke about how it sucked to live in the wild west…..A very long joke.

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.