The Nut Job

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3.5/10

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

Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit

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6.5/10

Tom Clancy’s latest adaptation stars Chris Pine as the one and only Jack Ryan. Jack has been a staple of Clancy novels and films like The Sum of All Fears, The Fugitive and The Hunt For Red October. The film also stars Kevin Costner as a CIA agent who acts as a mentor to Ryan. Costner is electric in this role that gives him an action star edge. With his future films coming, it seems Costner has decided to take a different direction in the films he does. Pine is great as Ryan. It is nice to see Jack Ryan portrayed as a younger fresh faced person coming out of college. Pine is the combination of intelligence and ignorance to play the Ryan character at it’s all time most human. The film itself is decent. There is a lot going on in this film that people might not be able to comprehend with the quick talking wit of the movie’s characters. If you are understanding when it comes to world currencies and foreign banking, you will pick up on this film with no problems. The action itself is fast paced with lots of high stakes on the line. Towards the end of the film, we learn that there are two missions for Ryan to solve. One in Russia and another on American soil. The Russia storyline is by far the best part of the movie. It is there when we really get to see the CIA at it’s very best in solving terrorism plots. The 2nd mission is the one that kind of brings this film down from a possible 7 or 7.5. It relies a lot more on chances that will make the viewer roll their eyes and the amazing coincidences. The villains are a little overdone like all Clancy novels, but we don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them. Ryan is definitely the main focus here with quick moves and a relationship with a beautiful woman (Keira Knightley) that is hanging in the balance. He is torn between doing his job and telling her what he does for a living. Shadow Recruit is a great film for anyone who enjoys Clancy’s novels or the fast paced American action film. Anyone else will feel left out when it comes to what is really at stake in this film. I enjoyed it, but i feel it can wait until rental.

Devil’s Due

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4/10

This is probably going to be the most credit that i ever give to a film that i rated 4/10. Devil’s Due brings us back to the same tired and predictable genre of found footage. It is a modern day version of Rosemary’s Baby without all of the memorable scares.The film is about a couple that gets married and goes on their honeymoon to Mexico. The two encounter trouble late one night while agreeing to go to an underground party. This film does have it’s chilling images that make you want to take a look for a second longer, but because of the POV camera style you will miss those shots and never get to soak in the true terror. One of my biggest problems with these films are that there is never a good reason as to why the camera is always rolling. In Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones, a gang walks up to a kid who is obviously filming them. WHY WOULD THIS HAPPEN? What gang is stupid enough to show their faces on camera? Devil’s Due actually gives us a reason for the over 20 different cameras used in the film, and i think it is acceptable. There are cheap scares with loud noises that come out of nowhere, but not as many as other franchises rely on. My favorite part of the movie is the wonderful effects done during the possession scenes. There is a shot in the woods where three stranger teenagers go flying up in the air and one of the kids is taping the whole thing on his smart phone. It’s a shot that truly warrants watching just for how impressive it is. Easy in execution, but it goes a long way with true cinema buffs like myself. After this, it’s all downhill. A film like this will always suffer from meaningless characters because the camera isn’t on them long enough for us to learn anything about their backgrounds. They will simply always be actors to us for this reason. Also, for those of you who were upset about 2012’s The Devil Inside not having an ending, you will be disappointed in this film as well. The ending is basically just pushing repeat on your DVD menu with the opening 2 minutes of the film. Devil’s Due shows a lot of heart in a genre that truly should fade out fast. If it can get past some of the weaknesses i mentioned in this review, there might be a chance for a passing grade for one of these films someday. Or maybe i am just tired from a long day at the theater

August : Osage County

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5/10

Osage County is perhaps one of the most overrated films i have ever come across. For all of the Oscar buzz and critical praise that this film received, it really is quite disappointing. The story which is based on a play of the same name is about a dysfunctional family dealing with the loss of the father of the household and the secrets that follow. This 2 hour run time really has nothing to fill in the blanks with but childish arguments. Sure, it is an honest look at a real American family, but the big events in this film happen few and far between. Meryl Streep is definitely Oscar nomination worthy in her portrayal as Violet Weston. She is the same Streep who brings tears of cinematic virtue to every role she plays. Her character struggles with drug abuse, and it’s clear she is ripping apart at the seams. Julia Roberts is ok, but i didn’t feel she deserved an Oscar nomination. She practically plays the same character in every film (my opinion), and i think this film is cluttered with too many characters for it to be a memorable role for her. Two other bright spots in the film are Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale as the brother and sister of Violet. They have amazing chemistry as a couple who have been married far too long, and bring the best comedic chops to the film. It is the great acting performances like this that even give this movie this high of a grade. It tries so hard to be this generation’s Friend Green Tomatoes, but it just doesn’t have the articulate pacing of that film. The characters are so unlikable that by the end of the film we are left with a closing that doesn’t touch our hearts like it should. Overall, i would say that maybe this film will appeal to some female movie goers, but that’s about it. My advice to those fans who want to see it is to wait till a dollar theater or DVD rental. August : Osage County shows brief moments of excellence, but it’s the long waits in between that kill the momentum of this Oscar favorite.

The Legend of Hercules

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4/10

God, this film is bad. How do you screw up a story that is so universally known and embraced? You send in Director Renny Harlan. Kellen Lutz stars as the world’s strongest man and his coming of age against a dictator father and brother who want him dead. This film had a lot of problems, but none were bigger than the terrible miscasts. Kellen Lutz should never be the lead in any film, and i say that as a man who is trying to help him. He works much better as a supporting character like he did in the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. They try to show him off with several wet chested out of the water scenes which does nothing but present him as a piece of meat. I am sure the ladies are going to tell me that Hercules is supposed to be presented in that light, but his story is so much more. I get that sex sells, but Kellen Lutz is laughable whenever he reads a line that is supposed to be an important part of the story. He just doesn’t believe what he says and therefore cannot become the character. I also felt the CGI was disappointing. Some of the objects are terrible when it comes to the real details, but nothing more than a lion in the beginning of the film. You can almost see the invincible object that Hercules fights against that is supposed to be the lion because he just doesn’t put his all into it. This is the only bad fight scene of the film though, as the fighting was one of the only things i enjoyed about the film. The war scenes in particular are done with great design and choreography. It’s like this was the one area they definitely had covered before they started writing the film. I also enjoyed the performance of Scott Adkins as King Amphitryon. Adkins is having the time of his life as he throws all cares out the window and gives us a performance that makes us yell “FINALLY, SOMEONE WHO GETS IT”. The Legend of Hercules clocks in at 99 minutes, and because of the slow pace it feels even longer. With a slow start mixed with an uncomfortable rape scene, this film is tough to get into from the get go. I do think the 3D would probably make for a better experience. I saw it in 2D, and thought some of the scenes would look impressive in 3D. In particular a chain wielding Hercules fight scene. If you want a cheesy movie that you and your friends will have a good time giving funny commentary, this is the film for you. I don’t think even a buff chested Kellen Lutz will be enough for the ladies to like this mess

Lone Survivor

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8/10

Director Peter Berg’s love letter to the men and women who fight for our country is a tale of survival and courage in the fight for freedom. Lone Survivor is the story about Operation Red Wings, a navy seals unit stationed in Afghanistan. This movie focuses on Marcus Luttrell who was the lone survivor in the horrifying real life events that took place. This film doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to the survivor. From the title alone, you know only one person survives this mission, and they reveal who it is in the opening minutes. Instead, it chooses to use it’s 2 hours to focus on the characters and their back stories so you care more when they lose their lives. The problem i have with a lot of war movies is that we don’t find out a lot about the characters that the cameras follow. That leaves me with a sense of not fully invested in them if something bad happens. Peter Berg has definitely done his homework as this is one of the greatest war movies i have ever seen. Led by a tremendous cast of Mark Wahlberg, Emile Hirsch, Eric Bana, Taylor Kitsch and the always great Ben Foster. The shooting is deep in impact as it chooses to give us an up close look at the damage and rounds being fired. I was happy that Luttrell served as a producer on the film as he helps the actors really grasp the feeling of being soldiers. It is this reason alone why i wasn’t 100% behind 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty. The actors in the film never quite feel like soldiers to me because of the little things. My only lone criticism of this film was there being no subtitles with the Taliban soldiers. I think it’s obvious that it needs to be revealed what is being said between them when they encounter American resistance. I have no idea why this wasn’t included, but it needed to be. Lone Survivor is the best survival film i have ever seen, and i think everyone will enjoy this film. It has characters that you can really feel for, and that is something that any good war film definitely needs. It will be in theaters next week, so check it out.

Her

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8.5/10

Spike Jonze latest film is his greatest accomplishment to date. Her is a dramatic piece about the depths of loneliness and the things we look to for comfort in an aching wound. I saw the film even a little different from the description that i just typed. I saw it as a piece that warns us about the rise of technological advances, and how the need for human life is slowly getting phased out. Juaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombley, a man who is emotionally scared to open up to the world after the divorce from his wife (Rooney Mara). He buys a new operating system which gives the effect of an actual person in the room with him. What follows becomes the most emotionally invested relationship of Twombley’s life. Phoenix is absolutely breathtaking in this film. It sounds bad when i say this is a one man show, but he is definitely a step above the rest. That doesn’t mean that this amazing ensemble doesn’t do their parts. Led by Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde and the voice herself, Scarlett Johansson. These characters give Phoenix all he needs to play through a series of emotions. The film for me was more sad than anything else. When you think about where we are today in our own technological world, it hits a lot closer to home than people might think. Problems quickly arise in the relationship when the voice lacks personal touch, and i think it is done in a manor that the audience will fully invest in. I wouldn’t be doing my job if i didn’t talk about the phenomenal cinematography. This is the most beautifully shot film that i have seen in a long time. The angles and close ups on characters faces that represent what they are going through is a Jonze classic in his arsenal. It works best in a film like this that plays off nothing but emotional depth. The use of light in the outside shots are like the beautiful path that Twombley is walking on his journey out of solitude. The dialogue does get a little cheesy at times, but the premise itself is kind of cheesy when you think about it. It honestly didn’t bother me as much as it might some other people. The only thing that worries me about a film like this is that it might be too artsy and slow at times for people to enjoy. I think the real lovers of film will truly enjoy this film because it’s everything that is great about Hollywood. Sometimes you only need a great actor like Phoenix to hit with such a powerful piece of cinema gold. The people who are expecting huge things to happen in this film will be set up for disappointment. The big things are there, but they come in the form of character growth. The original cut of this film was 150 minutes, and i would certainly be interested in checking out some of that deleted footage. In the end, this film shows us that the line between human interaction is being cut thinner with time. But if we are willing to accept help from the most unlikely sources, maybe we too can change for the better

Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones

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3/10

What can you say about this film that hasn’t already been said about the previous four Paranormal Activity films? Every time i write a review for one of these, i feel like i am just copying and pasting myself over and over again. The Marked Ones is the 5th film in the franchise. In this film, a boy named Jessie has graduated high school, but finds himself going through some frightening changes before his 18th birthday. After the death of his neighbor, he finds out some eerie things about his past. Lets get the good things out of the way. There are some better characters in this film compared to the other four films. That doesn’t mean 1. They make smart choices or 2. that you care about their survival. These films after all are the cheapest and most satisfying way to make a movie. They cost about 2 million dollars to make, but always see at least 20x the payback because they know cheap horror fans will see them. I also felt the ending had a decent concept but a terribly flawed execution. I won’t spoil much more about this film except that their is time travel. What is going on lately with horror films and time travel? After 2013’s Insidious Part 2 did a similar concept, i guess i can now look forward to Jason traveling back to 1974 to kill the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Wait, that actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea (wink wink). Anyway, The Marked Ones has all of the favorites that are included in these cheap movies; terrible acting, awful dialogue and the worst decisions made throughout this whole series. The film does connect decently with the past films, but it’s not enough to make me care. I am someone who actually did enjoy the first Paranormal Activity, but ever since it’s been a cheap knockoff of that one with small tweaks for originality. I wish horror movies would get back to the old days when a scene was built and built for a big payoff,not just jump scares. Don’t buy a ticket to Paranormal Activity : The Marked Ones. Lets show the studio that they have to quit making a cheap effort to satisfy smarter fans. In closing, if you liked the other Paranormal Activities, you will enjoy this one. Everyone else? You aren’t missing anything

Still Alice

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7/10

When Julianne Moore won the Golden Globe for her turn in this film, i knew i had to check it out. What i found is a film elevated by Moore’s outstanding performance, and an educative look at the disease of alzheimer’s. “Still Alice” shows our title character, Alice Howland, a married woman with three grown children, and a career as an influential linguistics professor. When Alice receives a diagnosis of rare Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease,  Alice and her family find their bonds thoroughly tested. Her struggle to stay connected to who she once was is frightening, heartbreaking, and inspiring. As a film, i found “Still Alice” to be very close to home with a woman close to my life. My Step Mother has been currently battling a disease similar to Alzheimer’s for years, and Moore’s portrayal was a mirrored look at everything you need to know about the condition. The film’s script is a little thin when observed outside of the obvious plot content. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the movie serves as a reminder to the depressing clarity that every one in three faces with such a scary disease. Julianne’s deterioration never seems forced or over the top. The film’s beautiful pacing is complimented well by Moore’s top notch portrayal stepping up more and more the deeper the film goes. The gutting of this legitimately beautiful and inspiring person is one of the toughest thing’s i’ve had to sit through on the silver screen in the last decade. Kristen Stewart surprisingly also hands in what is easily her greatest performance to date. She plays one of Alice’s children, and it’s clear that she has the closest attachment to her mother. The sorrow in Stewart’s eyes shows that she was perfectly cast. To anyone who knows anything about Alzheimer’s, you know i am not spoiling anything by saying the final ten minutes of this film are absolutely heartbreaking. The relationship by Stewart and Moore helps that bittersweet note feel like the appropriate one chosen. Love is the last thing remaining when all else is lost, and i found the moral of that to be smile worthy. The only thing about the cast as well as the film that i didn’t enjoy was the casting of Alec Baldwin as Alice’s husband. Don’t get me wrong, i enjoy Alec Baldwin, and think there is a serious side to his acting that a lot of his fans don’t get to enjoy often. In this film however, Baldwin is a little over the top. I get that he is dealing with a new found condition for he and his family, but he is the most insensitive pig, and i don’t think 100% of that was written that way. During the film’s opening ten minutes, i made a prediction to myself that Baldwin would be cheating on her. I was wrong about that prediction, but i called this because there is something about his performance that just doesn’t gel with a man married to a woman he’s loved for over 30 years. If he does one thing well, his disappearing act every five minutes makes you feel even more sad for everything Moore is going through. Overall, the film is consistent in it’s tear jerking approach. There are moments when the layers in the plot start to wear a little thin, but “Still Alice” is an good film turned into a great film by Julianne Moore. She is acting supremacy at it’s finest, and is a shoe in to take home the Oscar in March. That is something none of us could ever forget.

Grudge Match

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5/10

Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro return to the boxing ring in a film that is decent, but easily forgettable. The two fighters fought twice with each of them winning one fight. When Stallone retires from the ring, De Niro has to wait 30 years for his rematch. The two out of shape veteran boxers are laughed out of every press conference and promotion for the fight. This film wasn’t bad considering it’s a tired setting for both actors. Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin each add their brand of humor to the film, and it’s only a few scenes that actually bring a smile to your face. This is one of those films where all of the good lines are said in the trailer and that is unfortunate. I did enjoy the story of the film and how the two boxers are tied closer than their respective sport. I also enjoyed that this film has bravery by actually having a winner. I have seen too many sports movies where it will end in a tie or never tell us the winner that i was expecting that with this film. Pittsburgh is the perfect place to set this film in. It’s the city of workers who are tougher than the concrete they walk on. It makes sense to make both of these fighters from the steel city. Grudge Match is a decent film to see for a family who are looking for something to do to keep them out of the cold. But as a critic, i have to say that this film runs out of energy before it even hits the final round. The verdict – Give it a rental.

47 Ronin

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7.5/10

I cannot understand why this film is sitting at a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. Simply put, 47 Ronin is a perfect film for someone who enjoys the fantasy genre. It’s a samurai dream composed of 2 hours of excellent fighting scenes and a great story to make you care about the characters. Keanu Reeves stars as a samurai who is cast out of his family when he illegally competes in a tournament. Keanu was dealt the right hand for a film like this. I think he is really good because (And i’m not trying to sound mean here) he doesn’t talk a lot. They keep his character very mute and let him show his actions with the sword. Keanu is someone who can show deep emotion without ever saying a word, so why do so many films ruin him with too much dialogue? In addition to what i listed, the fight scenes are excellent in this film. Some of the animation of the monsters can get a little cartoonish for me, but this film is well choreographed from beginning to end. It knows where it’s going and it knows how to get there. The only other problem i had with the film was the 3D. I don’t feel this is a film that is needed with the 3D experience. There are a couple cool tricks with a dragon’s tail coming at your face, or a ball and chain being thrown in your direction, but nothing to write home about. 47 Ronin tells a true story about a group of men who paid the ultimate sacrifice by standing by a leader that they always chose to fight for. It’s a tale of honor and sacrifice, and that is why i recommend the film. Fantasy genre fans will love it.

The Wolf of Wall Street

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9/10

The rise and fall of Jordan Belfort tells a story that is so crazy it can never be touched. I truly couldn’t have been prepared for the things that were coming in this movie. Leonardo Dicaprio gives and Oscar worthy performance as Belfort, a stocks trader who robbed hard working Americans of millions of dollars in the 90’s. Dicaprio is one of those actors who will always be an all time great. In Belfort, he makes us love and hate him which is the sign of any great actor. He brings so much to a character that we are supposed to despise because we cannot relate to him. Jonah Hill is also fantastic as Belfort’s best friend who quits his job to join up with Belfort. There were times when i forgot i was even watching Jonah Hill. It shows how far of an actor he has come from his days in Superbad and Knocked Up. The film is 3 hours long, and this is probably the only time i will ever advocate a single film being that long. You have to show every single scene along the way even when it seems pointless. It will all come together in the end like a puzzle. Martin Scorsese is one of the best directors in the world, and he only further cements his legacy with one of his greatest films ever. The lone problem that i had with the film was that we didn’t learn a lot about the characters after it all came tumbling down. We find out a brief interchange, but it doesn’t fill in the gaps to leave us satisfied. I am also curious to hear a woman’s perspective of this film as there are a lot of male misogynistic scenes where women are degraded and treated as meat. I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must have been to be a woman working at that office. The Wolf of Wall Street is truly one of those films that you have to see to believe. Even though it’s only a film, it tells the story of an insane time in American business. One that will probably never be repeated again. I definitely recommend this film to everyone, but be ready for a long sit and some weird scenes that will make you wonder why they are in there. Once again, if females see this film i would love to hear your thoughts.