A man (Daniel Radcliffe) just broken up with his cheating girlfriend meets a girl (Zoe Kazan) at a party, and the two hit it off creating a friendship that develops into more. The catch is that Kazan has a boyfriend, and Radcliffe must keep his crush to a minimum. First of all, we have seen this film a lot, but director Michael Dowse takes What If into territory that keeps it from becoming predictable. Credit is definitely due for the chemistry he creates between Radcliffe and Kazan. Daniel in particular continues to break away from the Harry Potter typecast as an actor who did suspense/horror in The Woman in Black, and now doing comedy in What If. The sharp dialogue between he and Zoe is what keeps the film pushing well beyond a second act that drags a little bit. The film also has a soundtrack that is full of the emotional tones that our characters are going through. It’s an instrumental splash of indie rock music mostly conducted from Carl Newman of the rock band The New Pornographers. One track in particular called “Beach Bummer” collides a dreamy piano with an electric guitar that reminds us of looking up at the stars on a warm summer night. What If isn’t just about setting the mood with the music in the scenes, but the romantic genre scenes it creates. I admit that some of the cliches are a bit corny at times, but i am happy that the story never goes in the direction it seems like it will. There are many opportunities for our two main characters to hook up, but it never happens. If this were another romantic comedy, you could almost write the script yourself based on seeing any five of these films at any point in your life. What If differs itself from those films because it pushes our characters a little further for a possible hook up. The ground work they lay with their chemistry simply isn’t enough to convince these two that they belong together. I always appreciate a movie that is simple enough, but throws serious obstacles at it’s characters that leaves you thinking if they will ever be the same. So what is the problem with What If that leaves it with only a 6/10? The tone of this film overall has troubles distinguishing whether it’s a romantic comedy or a simple comedy. I would normally think the former, but this movie has some roll your eyes scenes with slapstick comedy reminiscent of a Farelly Brothers movie. It seems completely out of place, and i would be OK with this film being just a romantic comedy. Besides that, it just doesn’t seem like Dowse cares about any characters who aren’t his protagonists. From the guy who brought us one of the big surprises of 2012 in Take Me Home Tonight, it seems like he still doesn’t know how to build his supporting characters for anything other than granting a funny reaction for the main character to look at them like they are alien. They serve as cheap eating silverware for a main course that feels too rich to eat with fork or spoons. What If is one of those films that starts strong during the first act and loses a little steam during the second. It builds a relationship that the audience can get behind and cheer for. Perhaps most importantly, it showcases Radcliffe as the A-list actor he was destined to become. He can’t be limited to just one genre, and that is said about only the best of actors. It’s a cute film that is easy to forgive on it’s biggest of faults, but What If will never have you asking questions on what might have been. It’s answers are satisfying enough for a perfect date night. The ladies will love the chemistry, and the men will love the relatable situations to being single and wanting something you just can’t have. What If is going on my recommended list. Enjoy
Woody Allen is back behind the camera directing and writing in his newest film about a magician (Colin Firth) who takes on a mission to try to debunk a supposed psychic medium (Emma Stone) as a phony. Magic in the Moonlight sizzles during a first hour that builds the mystery to the audience as to whether Stone really is a psychic or not. This question is interesting to us because of the wonderful chemistry between Firth and Stone. They are so well playing against the grain of how obvious Woody Allen builds romantic interests. There was a point in this film where i really wondered if these two become romantically involved because the first two acts of the movie focus on their rivalry instead of what they have in common. I am totally for this, and if the film had a better final act, it would’ve been a favorite for romantic film of the year. As it finishes, Allen gives us too many false finishes with turn after turn that makes the movie feel almost unfamiliar from the quirky and cute magical scenes between our two protagonists. The ending is done in a feel good way that only Woody Allen could do, but it’s too predictable. The movie plagues itself into that kind of inevitable ending because there is no possible opposite direction it could go. All of that aside, Magic in the Moonlight is every bit the charming fairy tale that asks the question if it’s possible to give in to belief over reason. The shooting locations are absolutely breathtaking and serve as the perfect transformation into 1928 French Riviera. It’s in that atmosphere where Allen creates the real magic of an eternal time machine through the lens of the camera. The setting makes this film feel like if it were black and white that it could actually be a Fred Astaire or Clark Gable film. Firth certainly casts the charm to compete with such Hollywood icons. He’s one of my five favorite actors today because he continues to show that there isn’t anything he can’t do. This film shows off more of his comedic touch which is something he began his film career with, but hasn’t had many opportunities to lately. He is extremely arrogant in this film, and only an actor like Firth can pull off a character with such crass and have us enjoying every minute he is on camera. Aside from Firth and Stone, the movie has a veteran cast of who’s who in film history. Marcia Gay Harden plays Stone’s mother, and pulls off another snobby upper class sneak. Eileen Atkins plays Firth’s aunt and hasn’t missed a step at all since The Hours and Gosford Park. The movie clocks in at 92 minutes, and doesn’t drag until the series of false finishes. It’s no secret here that the best parts of the movie are the scenes in which Firth and Stone are at opposites and try to one up the other. Allen’s peak has always been to write stories that are just barely interesting enough, and let the character performances push it even further. Magic in the Moonlight is nothing different. Mostly thanks to the intoxicating scenery and the natural-light cinematography that flourishes in the French countryside, Magic in the Moonlight does weave itself a spell. It’s a romantic charmer perfect for anyone who enjoys films of the past generation. I recommend it for a wonderful date movie for two people who appreciate style over monetary substance. Magic in the Moonlight is far from Allen’s best, but it’s the best punch he has packed in a very long time
5.5/10 (Or 7.5/10)
The next chapter of the longest dance series ever shows most of the stars returning from the previous Step Up movies to form a super team to compete for a 3 year show in Las Vegas. Step Up All In is only the 2nd film of the Step Up Franchise that i have actually seen, and i have to say that it at least did a good job of keeping me well entertained. The reason i gave this movie two ratings is because the first one is if you rank it as an overall movie, and the second one is to rate it as a dance movie only. As a dance film, it absolutely succeeds with the best dancing i have ever seen. The finale match between our protagonists known as Elementrix facing off against the antagonists, The Grim Reapers, makes for the best dance battle i have ever seen in a film. I did enjoy You Got Served a little more than this one, but a close second isn’t bad for a genre that i feel like i have seen too much in. The stages and sets are also very well done, and that has to do with the lights of Las Vegas being a beautiful setting for such a film. The storyline isn’t anything very different from what you see in other Step Up films and i think that is what really hurts it. If the next Step Up film could make a story different from a crew facing off against a villain crew for a prize, they could really take the whole series in a different direction. I know it seems hard to do this as there are only so many avenues you can go with the dance genre, but i think the most creative stories always come from that extra push. The acting isn’t anything amazing as you would expect it to be for this film. It’s really just a bunch of real life dancers playing themselves for the camera. The cliche moments of breaking out into dance in public places is laughable for all the wrong reasons. On top of it, you get the corniest dialogue that makes it sound like the two people competing are about to do a knife or gun fight. One credit i will give Channing Tatum is that he at least brought the feel of a superstar who brought some fraction of emotion to a ridiculous plot. Without Channing Tatum, the appeal of this faltering franchise fades, except for the dance sequences. That is something that the Step Up Franchise will always have. It’s kind of nice to see a series where the main characters return as most (Tatum included) usually run for the hills whenever they hit it big. The running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes was a little long for a plot that you can pretty much predict how it will roll in the first ten minutes. One thing that kept it interesting especially during the dragging second half was the steamy romantic chemistry between the two main stars, Ryan Guzman and Briana Evigan. Their powerful emotion on the dance floor but dry emotion in script reading show two things. The first is that these two are definitely world trained dancers, and that area is where they feel the most comfortable. They say so much in an up close face to face shot on the dance floor that they had trouble communicating during an awkward 105 minutes. I did not see the movie in 3D, and i don’t think there were enough cool shots by watching it to really think it mattered. There were some old school 3D in your face shots with sand and confetti, but i think they are few and far between for paying an extra $4. Overall, Step Up All In isn’t as horrible a film as i originally thought i was in for. It’s not a good film by any means, but it’s not a bad sit if you are in the theater for a date night. If you really have to see it, i recommend just waiting till dollar theater. The big screen is a good experience for this kind of film, but there is no need to drop a ten dollar bill to see the same movie you have seen four times already. You don’t go to a Step Up film to see Oscar winning performances. You go to see remarkable dance moves and beats that always keep your toes tapping. In that perspective, Step Up All In delivers time after time.
Rob Reiner returns to the directors chair in this film about Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton playing bickering neighbors who are forced to see their mutual connection when Douglas’s son goes to jail leaving his 10 year old daughter at Douglas’s doorstep. As romantic comedies go, this one isn’t terrible but it has problems displaying what kind of film it really wants to be. There are points in the movie that are filtered with dramatic turns from the point of view of Keaton and Douglas conveniently both losing a significant other. Then there are points with raunchy comedy including fecal matter jokes from a dog, Douglas complaining about seeing a child’s private parts, and a baby delivery that seems like it was something out of an Adam Sandler film. And So It Goes would be a much better film if it decided up front what it wanted to be, and didn’t see “How it goes”. Douglas is still charming enough to play a role that really colors him out to be a bastard. He says some of the absolute rudest things, but because of Michael’s ability to wink at the camera, you are left smiling at the once powerful leading man. Keaton isn’t anything spectacular from roles she has played before in The First Wives Club, Something’s Gotta Give, or Father of the Bride. She plays the role pretty safe and never pushes her character to anything more than the voice of reason. It would be nice to see her in a role that isn’t typcast for her, but “So It Goes”. The pacing of the story doesn’t do anyone favors as the movie feels unintentionally like the actors are definitely reading from a script. The two leads are legendary actors of film, and Reiner should’ve given them the reigns to show a different version of themselves than the one that this boring script calls for. It’s predictability at it’s absolute shameless as you pretty much see where the film is going to go 15 minutes into it. The best reason to see the film lies in the performance of good old Frances Sternhagen. Her smokey delivery really is priceless. Most people won’t recognize the name, but if you have seen films like The Mist, Julie and Julia, or Misery, you will remember the magic and show stealing variety that she is famous for. Films like these really make me think back to the times when Nora Ephron birthed the genre known as the rom-com and the different kind of sub genres that it has spawned as a result to careless screenwriting. What surprises me most is that Rob Reiner was at one time one of the top directors in Hollywood, but his film career over the last ten years has been shoddy at best when you consider that the guy acts in better films than he directs. When the credits role after 91 minutes of screen time, you will feel yourself wondering how this film is any different than the tons of John Cusack rom-coms that never hit movie theaters. What is the justification that gives this movie any reason why it had a wide theatrical release? Overall, it’s not going to be one of the worst films of the year in my book, just one of the most forgotten. It’s sad to see such high scale actors settling for this kind of mud. Douglas in particular needs a movie to showcase that he is still a strong presence. In my opinion, his best was always thrillers and smart comedies. And So It Goes is only a movie that i would recommend to the absolute biggest Michael Douglas fans. I think many will balk when they see the trailer, but there are some decent enough laughs and heartfelt moments for you to spend a dollar on this at the local Redbox. As far as theaters go? And so it BLOWS.
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.
Oh Good Lord, where do i start? This film is by far one of the ten worst films i have EVER seen. There is so much for me to explain that i don’t know if i will get it done in one review. Colin Ferrell stars as a thief in 1914 New York who breaks into the house of a dying young red haired woman to steal her jewels, but ends up stealing her heart instead. Ferrell has been told his whole life to look out for a red head and that he will be her savior. So of course, there is only one red haired woman in the whole world, so it has to be her. STUPID. The acting in this film is severely awful and even comedic at times. Russell Crowe is the villain in this film as a demon thief who was once Ferrell’s boss. He is after Ferrell for reasons we never find out. He is a demon for reasons we never find out. That is one of the biggest problems with this awful narrative; it is nearly 2 hours long and we never find anything out. In my opinion, Crowe is a very overrated actor and that doesn’t shine more than this film. His accent alone couldn’t keep the theater from breaking out into loud laughter. (Spoilers) The woman ends up dying and Ferrell ends up getting beaten down by Crowe and his band of thugs. They dump him in the river and Ferrell ends up waking up in 2014 New York. The only explanation ever given for this is that sometimes miracles happen. This is by far some of the worst storytelling i have ever seen in my life. The only thing that can make something like this even worse is that it’s a deep obnoxious bore. As i said before, the movie is nearly 2 hours and you feel every single minute of it as it drags into a new year. I seriously thought it was 2015 by the time i left the theater. IT’S THAT BAD. The cinematography is something out of a 13 year old’s Mac computer. There are scenes with a flying horse (Whose name is actually Horse) that will make you think you dived into The Neverending Story or something similar. The dialogue is so bad that you will be bored out of the film by the 15th minute. It’s slow and just doesn’t work well with the story it is trying to tell. Everything i have told you is just build up to the actual worst part of this movie. What i am going to tell you is so bad that it has to be witnessed to see it. WILL SMITH CAMEOS AS SATAN. I am not lying at all. He stars as Satan with a filled in deep dark voice as his speech. It is by far the funniest thing i have seen in a long time. I literally couldn’t stop laughing in the theater which was garnering mean looks from the other watchers. Will Smith is possibly the last guy you would ever cast as Satan. I have to ask a serious question, what was the casting director thinking? It’s great to go for a big star, but i can name a million big stars that would be cast better than Smith in that role. I even like Will Smith, but not as Lucifer. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL. Believe it or not, there are two good things to this movie (Besides laughter). It has a beautiful snow covered setting that really sets the mood for an old school eastern tale. It also has great wardrobe. The clothing is a perfect line for 1914, so kudos goes to costume designer Michael Kaplan for his beautiful vision. I couldn’t believe people were leaving the theater talking about how much they liked the movie. Art in general (Film, books, paintings) are based on opinion and i can respect that. I just don’t see how anyone could come out of this saying it’s a good film. That has to be the type who have never hated a film in their lives. To those people i say, hate a film, it will feel great. Shakespeare would be turning in his grave at this adaptation of his writing. I can’t possibly recommend this film to anyone. I guess it would be OK if you were in the presence of friends while having some drinks. It would be a fun film to sit down and just massacre. Winters Tale is one of the biggest disasters i have seen since “The Last Airbender”. Last year’s “Escape From Tomorrow” was bad, but i think Winters Tale is worse because it had a budget of 46 million dollars. Not recommended, but instead i will recommend an episode of Dawson’s Creek called “A Winter’s Tale”, it’s much better. I apologize for this review being outside of my typical fashion. I promise the next review will be much better. Apologies to my readers.
Possibly the early favorite for surprise of the year for me. I really enjoyed this remake of the 1986 story starring Demi Moore and Jim Belushi. In this version, Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant star as two couples whose stories and growth intertwine. This film has a realism to relationships that i haven’t seen since 2006’s “The Break Up”. It’s harsh and realistic when it needs to be, and i appreciate that in a film. We have all been down the same roads that these people have been down. From the changing of who we are as people to pregnancy scares to being the idiot who says the wrong thing at the wrong time. Hart and Hall are amazing as an onscreen item. I think Hollywood has finally found someone who can match Hart pound for pound on the comedy that he drops to the audience. Hall is someone who takes every comedic punch that Hart gives her and throws it right back in his face. I actually thought she was the best part of this film. Ealy and Bryant are supposed to be the main characters of this story, but it just doesn’t work out that way. The audience will be more interested in Hart/Hall because they provide the film with it’s comedic tones. While on that subject, the film does have it’s comedy, but i was very surprised at how serious it became midway through. It has that perfect mix of humor and intelligence that you just don’t see in the romance department anymore. Christopher Mcdonald (Yes Shooter Mcgavin) even cameos in this film to give us a kind of father figure bar owner to Michael Ealy’s character. My only real critique about this film is that it has weird camera edits. It seems the scenes cut before the characters are finished talking. This leads me to believe that a lot of the film was probably improved with someone as comically gifted as Kevin Hart. There is also a weird scene midway through that reveals Mcdonald’s bar being financially in trouble and then nothing. It’s like it changes into a good fortune without telling us how he paid off that debt. About Last Night dives into a deeper territory by testing the limits of friendships and the responsibilities of finally growing up. Out of all the films i saw this weekend, i think it is the perfect date movie. I would recommend it to any couple who are in the mood for laughs, emotional roller coasters and surprisingly spirited performances. Kevin Hart fans will think this is one of his best roles to date, and they would be correct.
This remake of the 1981 deranged love story is anything but a remake. The 2014 version of Endless Love takes us on a completely different road than the original or it’s literature origins. Infact, the only thing similar to those two things is the title and two very small scenes. Everything else is a Dawson’s Creek style re-imagining of what is supposed to be a crazy story. Jade and David are two teenagers who meet during graduation, and David reveals that he has always had a crush on Jade. The two characters are about as emotionless as possible for a story of this magnitude. Jade is the most spoiled and defiant teenager towards her parents that i have ever seen. So much so that it makes it hard to believe this girl is going to school to become a doctor. David has no personality at all. He seems to be stuck between this blank face and a 360 turn in emotions which i will get to later. Every other character though, feels like a model of who they are supposed to represent. There is the snob father of Jade (Played by Bruce Greenwood), the rugged and rough father of David (Played by Robert Patrick) and even the rich mayflower setting. Don’t get me wrong, the setting is one of the only things i liked about this film. The background mixes with a nice folk rock score that perfectly sets the mood for the tale it is telling. Kudos also to the camera people in this film for beautiful shots and shading to represent the moods the characters are going through. The lighting alone is enough to raise the review up one point. The only problem with this setting is that we don’t relate well to the characters. Even David doesn’t seem like one of us. They have different morals and living than the typical viewer seeing this film. So it ends up giving us an anatomy of a stranger. One of the biggest things i look for in a film is my ability to relate to the characters. After seeing the trailer, i was very surprised with the kind of movie i got. I figured it was a remake of the 81 original, so we would get a story similar to 1994’s “Fear”. Instead, this story is a mushy bore that follows into the genre without ever giving us anything new. Midway through the story, the characters change without any warning. The father of Jade becomes a psychopath, and David becomes an emotionally damaged soul based on a frightening past. This happens without any warning what so ever. A couple of things happen towards the end of the film that turn it into an ABC Family movie of the week. The setups and outcomes are predictable and that is the most annoying part of the ending. You feel like you could have predicted what happened in this film just by watching the trailer. The women will probably want to see this movie, and that is fine. What i tell the female readers is that this film doesn’t add anything special. If you have seen one of these films, you have seen them all. I can’t recommend this film as a whole. It’s a book with a lot daring new ground turned into a Nicolas Sparks film. Thank God this love isn’t endless, and only goes 105 minutes.
Who says you can’t grow up to be a child? Zac Efron sure doesn’t. Efron plays the biggest jerk i have seen in a film in a long time. This is seriously the best they had as a main character? This is the guy we are supposed to root for? Three friends (Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan) make a pact to stay single when Jordan finds out his wife has cheated on him. What follows is a fast talking waste of 94 minutes. The first problem comes in the form of the fast talking itself. The film tries to be a hip indie dialogue driven film, but the problem is that NO ADULT TALKS LIKE THIS. These are like grown babies who dress up in adult clothes. The only character that is worth anything is Jordan’s. His character is given plenty of time (Unlike Teller) and isn’t a complete jerk to every female he meets (Unlike Efron). You actually feel for this character, so you get invested into his rises and falls when he gets back with his wife. For those of you wondering, NO!!! The women do not add anything to the film. The have low self esteem insides which pushes them to be with guys like this in the first place. Efron calls his girl a hooker FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!! Other than the Jordan storyline, i didn’t find a lot else to enjoy. The film is lost between trying to be a comedy and an emotional drama. It tells us to laugh at one crude joke after another, and then forces us to try to feel bad when a character gets drunk at Thanksgiving in front of all of their families.It literally adds nothing to the romantic comedy genre. Don’t waste your time on a film this bad. Even for DVD, this is asking too much. The Efron fans will fall for every word he spews, hook line and sinker. I am sure Labor Day isn’t going to be amazing, but i will be glad to get this terrible taste out of my mouth that Director Tom Gormican has left me