Blue Ruin

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8.5/10

Revenge is a young person’s game that extends generations in this smart thriller by Director Jeremy Saulnier (Murder Party). Dwight (Macon Blair) is a homeless 30 something man living the most simple of lives. He sleeps in an abandoned car, he eats trash scraps, and survives on a couple dollars a day. His quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family. On the surface, “Blue Ruin” is a story about payback that actually has a lot more to offer under the surface. What i took and what i loved about this film is that it serves as an ANTI-revenge film. Most people who watch these kind of films can always get behind the protagonist and support their cause no matter how grizzly the retort. What this film does differently is show the art of revenge as a childish act of “Can you top this?”, and it shows that the punishments really are a never ending road of back and forth until no one is left. Saulnier wrote a script that completely blew my mind for how simple, yet multilayered it became. The script has a Cormac McCarthy feel to it with very little dialogue, or positive reinforcement of the actions of Dwight. This man clearly isn’t presented in the light of a hero. He is the victim of misinformation when it comes to those he punishes. He takes the law into his own hands, and this film presents that as a never win option. To see it from this angle, shows how truly refreshing this film is. The acting is extraordinary. Blair hasn’t done many films, but i feel like his career is about to take off as a result of his Dwight performance. His sister Sam (Amy Hargreaves) captures him in a perfect quote. She says “I would forgive you if you were crazy, but you’re not. You’re weak”. With each little swerve we learn about Dwight, we find out that he is human, and that might be his greatest fault. The action and violence is brutal, but it all avoids the bloodshed. The focus is more on how horrific it is to take a life, and make us reflect wondering how our characters ever got to this point. We find those things out in many swerves and reveals about Dwight’s family, and the family he is going after. We don’t know the starting point of this bloodfeud until the end of the movie, but it’s each unwrapped layer that adds a stroke to a beautifully painted picture. The camera shots are mesmerizing of a blue hills southern landscape represented as the loneliness that the revenge game casts Dwight out in. He is alone in his quest, and it’s because of that it could all end at any time. This film is already out on DVD, and i couldn’t recommend it more. This is a film that didn’t get a theatrical release, but it is definitely well deserved of such screenings. If people don’t see this movie, it is a tragedy. With a run time of 85 minutes, i could’ve easily sat through another half hour of just basic dialogue. My only problem with the film is the logic of some of the events that go into place. For instance, a cop finds Dwight asleep in his car on the beach to tell him about the man who killed his parents is getting out of jail. I find it hard to believe that they would hunt down a homeless man and know he is the man they are looking for to tell him this. A simple fix could’ve seen Dwight walking by a newstand and seeing an article in the paper about him getting out. The man is in there for a double murder, so it certainly has the story to make the press. These logic points aren’t a huge problem, as “Blue Ruin” is the best kept secret of 2014.

Cold In July

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8/10

A fast paced shoot em up Texas sized crime noir. Cold in July is the film adaptation of Joe Lansdale’s novel about a family who encounter a burglar in the middle of the night with the father (Michael C Hall) shooting and killing the robber. What happens next is what turns the first half of the film into a revenge plot by the burglar’s father (Sam Sheppard). Sheppard stalks Hall’s family and makes light threats to give the police something to look into. I was very surprised where the film ended up considering the way the trailer was treated, as well as the first 35 minutes of the movie. During the second half of the movie, it turns into a crime story shoot em up that keeps the film from ever getting stale. I personally loved the hell out of this film for it’s sharp turns, edgy performances, and incredible lighting that keeps each scene tense and on the edge of your seat. On the subject of performances, the three male leads are all great in their own ways. Hall continues to show that he has a bright future after playing the title character in Dexter. He carries normal traits to the character of Richard Dane that makes him vulnerable and always at risk. Too many of these films feature a main character who is always a badass, and i don’t think you can relate as well to those types of characters. Sheppard shows his wide range in characters with finally playing a role that isn’t a positive supporting type. There are times when it seems like this man is hanging on by the edge of sanity, but it is his facial expressions that create a silent but deadly trait in him. Don Johnson is also in this film, and i have to say that he is the best part of the movie. He plays a bounty hunter who inherits the charms of past Johnson roles. He gives the movie the comedic undertones that it needs to keep it from being just another action mystery. He gives the characters the logic they need to face any challenge in front of them. The lighting of this film is just pure visual art. Some colors represent different actions from the characters, and i have always been a fan of that kind of emotional symbolism in film. What i mean is that you will notice the walls turn completely red when bloodshed is spilled. You will notice a green background when fear is present with something our character is going through. It sort of adds a three dimensional feel that takes it one step higher with the direction of Jim Mickle. Jim did a zombie film in 2011 called Stake Land that i felt was terribly underrated. Cold in July shows that he can indulge in an already established screenplay by including violence with a purpose. He shoots it for honesty and something that is needed in a plot like the one that the characters encounter in this movie. The score is a mixture between synth electronica and southern rock. Two genres that would almost be comical to mix together, but it works perfectly for this movie. The electronic music is used during the long night shots with the characters driving through the landscapes of Houston, Texas. It’s similar to the synth pop used in the 2010 film, Drive. Cold In July is a tough tale of crime and revenge that seduces with the Lone Star lore of guns and killing. It’s got down to earth characters that always keeps us worrying for the next shoe to drop. The movie is currently playing On Demand for Pay Per View, and is totally well worth the $7 ordering price. With that order, you can watch it for 48 hours over and over again. If you enjoy it like i did, you will find yourself waiting for the next showing just to enjoy this feature for a second time. The best paced movie of the year that never slows down

Life Itself

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7.5/10

Film critic Roger Ebert lives again in this part documentary part biography about the life of a man who forever changed the film critic career. First of all, i am not a fan of Ebert’s for unjust things he did while giving his reviews for a couple of films on television for the whole world to see. What he did wasn’t important, but it’s just proof that sometimes we as film critics can go over the line when it comes to hating a movie. I am not foolish for even a second though when it comes to giving respect where it’s due. If it wasn’t for him, i am not sure i would even know or care what a film critic was by the age of 15. Along with his partner Gene Siskel, Ebert became big after winning the pulitzer prize for his work in the Chicago Sun Newspaper and going mainstream with the duo’s TV show. What i really liked about this documentary is a couple of things that you won’t always get from most biographies. For one, the story is told in the present during the final days of Roger Ebert’s life. He pushed through a lot of painful days after losing his jaw and facing several surgeries for Thyroid Cancer. This film by director Steve James is a view from a fan’s perspective. That could usually get old quick, but James spares no expense at the hands of his idol by telling the viewers the whole story. Ebert was at times an ego shovanist who would pout until he got his way at a lot in his life. They also show the outtakes of the pure rivalry between he and Siskel, and those clips alone are worth giving this film a look. I can always look at a biography about a deceased person with interest, but i think it takes a lot more guts to give the whole story even when that person is gone. I also dig how the film will show a clip of a movie he reviewed and then show in text his exact words towards that film. It gives viewers some insight on the films he likes and dislikes and explains to you why. I also learned a lot myself that i didn’t know to begin with including his marriage to a black woman and being welcome into a black family. It was cool to get that perspective from his wife, Chaz and hearing the opinions from the point of view of her family. Ebert served as the first positive white influence for not only Chaz, but her sisters as well. Life Itself is the title of Ebert’s autobiography, and that’s appopriate because the film has on screen chapter wording that take quotes directly from his book. One of those quotes and the sole reason for naming it Life Itself is because he always felt that he was the director, writer and star of the film that was his life. He said he never knew how he got casted for such a big role, but it was the perfect one for him. Life Itself certainly opens up my perspectives about the huge influence he had on not only his readers, but Hollywood elite. Sit down interviews are given by Martin Scorcese, Werner Herzog and Rahmin Bahrani. They paint the picture of a 1960’s film reviewer who was always ahead of his time describing the emotions that he felt when he reviewed a motion picture. Herzog even dedicated one of his films to Ebert’s memory. This is funny because there were numerous times when Ebert openly trashed Herzog as a director, but somehow the two were good friends. Scorsese even states that Ebert knew him better as a director than Martin even knew himself. As if you can’t tell, i definitely recommend this film to not only fans of Ebert but fans of film in general. I think there is a story here that needs to be heard about standing by principles when the big money comes knocking, and appreciating what you have before it’s gone. Life Itself doesn’t just focus on a man’s career. It is a full circle portrait of the way Roger Ebert lived his life, with thumbs up.

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.

Deliver Us From Evil

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3.5/10

One of the things i hate the most about reviewing films is when i feel like i have watched the same movie for the 34th time. This is a result of watching the latest possession film directed by The Exorcism of Emily Rose’s own Scott Derrickson. The film stars Eric Bana in the real life story of New York Police officer, Ralph Sarchie. Ralph works in the paranormal crimes unit fielding calls to the darkest and most satanic of New York’s citizens. He himself does not believe in God and this what blinds him from his work being brought home to him. Soon, his wife and child experience paranormal activity going on in the house that includes toys coming to life (Poltergeist) and children’s voices being heard in Ralph’s head (An American Haunting). That is the biggest problem that makes this film one of my least favorite of the year, it has no original direction. There are some cool albeit laughable effects that happen with the makeup and props department, but none of it feels like anything we haven’t already seen 100 times. Just in the last couple years alone we have had The Quiet Ones, Paranormal Activity films, Sinister, Insidious one and two, The Conjuring, and Devil’s Due. This genre is being completely overrun and as a result it is making every film worst than the last. This film is full of goodies when the Scary Movie franchise wants to make their 14th film in that series. You can’t even be legitimately scared anymore of any of these gags because they set themselves up for an easy parody. Deliver Us From Evil is terribly over acted, and that is sad because Bana is a decent actor in a film that suits his style of acting. This definitely isn’t it. Olivia Munn is in the film for about five total minutes, and that is a shame because i feel like the relationship between husband and wife would’ve impacted how we as the viewers cared about them when they got in trouble. Edgar Ramirez plays possibly the worst priest i have ever seen in my life. He drinks, he smokes, he has sex, and he curses often. I get that the bad ass priest routine is 2014, but there is nothing about this guy that makes me believe for a second that he is a priest or that he studied for this role. The only character i even remotely enjoyed was the goofball of the film, Butler played by Joel Mchale. He almost stops to look at the screen to laugh with the audience on how ridiculous some of these scenes really are, and nobody does sarcastic humor better than Mchale. The atmospheres are well done, but the pacing of the scares ruin any kind of momentum denying the audience to ever remotely scream out in terror. The story itself is also easy to get lost in. I followed pretty thoroughly and there were still parts that i had to go back and remember about because so much gets thrown on you at once. By the time the ending hit, i was so bored out of my mind that i could care less what happened with the ending. The ending though is something we need to talk about. SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!! So in the final 20 minutes of the film, Sarchie’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by the possessed guy Sarchie is hunting with the priest side by side. They arrest the possessed man and are asking him questions while he is still possessed. There are two stupid things with this scenario. 1. Do you really think a man supposedly under the possession of Satan is going to just hand over the woman and the girl? And 2. Why would a man possessed who has killed everyone he has encountered up to this point keep these two alive? I didn’t realize that possession was all about kidnapping and stupid setups for the convenient ending of Sarchie finding them. Perhaps the worst thing about this movie isn’t even anything i mentioned above but the film ruins the music of The Doors for me. It is played throughout the movie to the same effect that Quiet Riot plays in The Quiet Ones or The Rolling Stones play in Fallen. DAMMIT!!! That’s two more possession movies that this film rips off. Deliver Us From Evil suffers from the purest of all evils; evil script, evil acting, and an evil 109 minutes that i will never ever get back.

The Homesman

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4.5/10

When the credits role after this nearly 2 hour dedication to 90’s western films, the first thing that comes to mind is the wasted potential of a cast so strong that it makes an argument for the greatest ensemble of 2014. The Homesman is about three women living on the edge of the American frontier that are driven mad by harsh home maker life. the task of saving them falls to the proud, independent-minded Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank). Transporting the women by covered wagon to Iowa. she soon realizes just how daunting the journey will be, and employs a low-life drifter, George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) to join her. While this isn’t Jones’s first directing duties, it is his first wide release directing effort, and the mediocrity certainly shows. The problem with The Homesman isn’t necessarily in it’s direction for the settings and scenes that Jones creates, but rather the narration of the story he is trying to tell. The movie clearly casts Swank as a main character who women can get behind. One of the biggest reason many female movie goers cannot get into westerns is simply because they don’t have a character who they can relate to. For at least the first half hour of The Homesman, they are finally given this wish come true only to have it ripped from under them halfway into the movie. Swank becomes a shadow of the character she was written as. She becomes weak, complaining, and dependent upon Jones character for his strength and his love. I don’t want to cast Jones as a man who wrote this film to serve himself as a hero, but it’s hard not to even think about these things when seeing how his character takes charge of the three mental women as well as become the apple to Swank’s eye. I mentioned earlier how the film has an impressive resume for the cast. This includes Hailee Steinfield, James Spader, John Lithgow, and the great Meryl Streep. For those of you who have seen the trailer to this film, you would think that the actors i just named are prominent figures in this film, but you would be wrong. Spader and Lithgow are each given one scene for characters that they play very well. Steinfield shows a much needed young presence during a time when the film is spiraling out of control. The problem with her character though is that we learn nothing about her or her past. We are told that her character meant a lot to Cuddy, but we never find out why. Streep is pehaps the biggest mystery though in this whole debacle. She appears in the last 15 minutes of the film, and isn’t given any long dialogue or any character trait that makes her role stand out above the rest. For my knowledge, i feel like they cast Streep as a big Hollywood name to bring in more people to this film. Those of you who follow Streep in a dedicated fashion will be disappointed. One thing that made 90’s westerns like “Tombstone” and “Unforgiven” such epics is because they kept over 2 hour films very well paced, and endless charisma from their A-list casts. The Homesman seems intent on doing the exact opposite here as there are long periods of silence in a blank country side. The audience will immediatly be reminded of how bored they are every time one of these scenes pop up. One highlight in an otherwise bleak film, is that of the makeup and props department. The wardrobe feels authentic to represent the 1800’s western culture that the film was trying to get across. James Spader’s character in particular is almost unrecognizable as a pushy hotel owner. If you are a fan of the Westerns genre and are looking for a shoot em up fast paced drama that will make you long for the days when these films were commonplace, this film is not the one for you. Tommy Lee Jones crafts a painters-like scenery, but The Homesman offers nothing of substance to go with the setting. I give it a DVD rental if you find it interesting after watching the trailer.

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

The Rover

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4/10

Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in this film about an Australian society ten years after the fall of civilization. Pearce is a man struggling for a reason to live, but that all changes when his car is stolen by a gang of thieves. The leader of which left his mentally challenged brother (Pattinson) on the side of the road to die. The Rover is blessed to have great performances from it’s leading two men. It’s just a shame that the film is riddled in little written dialogue and a very slow pacing. Peace is outstanding as Eric. He expresses his actions in every possible way, but spoken word. He is a wise citizen living in this world that has completely crumbled around him. He knows what to expect of people before it is ever done. There are so many looks that Pearce gives to the camera that are so powerful. It’s mainly because of him why this film is as high as it is to begin with. Pattinson plays a challenged man pretty well. He is never given a lot of screen time awake to accomplish the same rewards as Pearce, but he is a very welcome addition to bounce off of his co-star. The two men start off as strangers with Pearce wanting to kill Pattinson because of guilt by association, but it’s kind of nice to see what their friendship developes into. Other than the performances, the only thing i can really mention in the positives is the beautifully done camera work. The background of the Australian deserts serves as a self storytelling in the viewers eyes. We can see the face of this land that has crumbled around these characters so much, but director David Michod is smart enough to never let us in on too much of what happened here. I think that is very intelligent as no story will ever match what the viewer can come up with in their heads. After what i mentioned, it’s sad that the rest of the film cannot follow suit. For one, the journey of our two main leads to go after the gang never feels worth it. Because of the terrible pacing in between long shots of absolute silence, these scenes make us feel like we have been watching their struggles for over two hours when in reality the running time is slightly over an hour and a half. I feel like there are so many shots that didn’t need to be as long as they were with plain facial reactions. Shoot the reactions yes, but don’t leave the camera on for an unexpected length. A lot of this movie i kept waiting for the scene to end, but a shot would continue to stay on. It sounds like a very nitpicking problem, but i promise you that you will be bored by this film at the halfway point because it never knows when to initiate a successful edit. I mentioned the long journey a couple sentences ago, and how i don’t understand how they could be doing this all for a car when you are living in a society where it’s just as easy to steal one. Trust me, i fully understand that the car is symbolic for the last peace of the old life that Pearce’s character has, but it’s just hard for me to think that anyone would care about something so practical in this new world. The score is another thing that starts off decent enough with soft building beats that can be compared to old John Wayne films, but then is corroded by rap songs that have absolutely no place in a story like this. It takes the viewer completely out of the movie because you can’t help but laugh at why they would ever add that song in here to begin with. I personally would’ve stuck with the instrumentals that were perfectly capturing the emotion coming from Pearce when his car is stolen. The ending is done very sloppy as well. It happens quickly and we never feel fully satisfied from what happens. It’s more of the same from the last hour that has a good idea, but not enough direction to take The Rover over the dull grasp. The Rover is intentionally dry and shapeless. It doesn’t leave much of a lasting presence except for the performances of Pearce and Pattinson. I was hoping for so much more out of a movie that seemed destined to breakthrough from the independent film world.

Jersey Boys

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7.5/10

Clint Eastwood directs this big screen adaptation of the Tony Award winning musical that tells the story of four friend musicians who came together to form the smash 60’s group The Four Seasons. This movie was everything and more to a viewer like me who doesn’t know much about The Four Seasons other than their music catalog. It’s not afraid to get dirty with the behind the scenes problems of guitar player and band founder, Tommy Devito. The thing i find the most impressive about Jersey Boys is that it takes the actors from the Broadway stage and puts them in the film. To me, Broadway acting and film acting are two different spectrums, so to have this great cast of John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda and Vincent Piazza really hit it out of the park, it’s extraordinary. These men were born to play these characters from the enchanted musical numbers to the attitudes that every member brings to the stage. Piazza in particular really impressed me as Tommy Devito, a man whose borrowing problems really put the band in an awkward situation that would normally kill other bands. Young is also outstanding as Frankie Valli. Some of his parts are a little corny with the dialogue, but i realize that in the 50’s and 60’s that was the times. It’s even more impressive that these actors recorded their own versions to classic hits like Big Girls Don’t cry, Sherrie, and Rag Doll. They sound very beautiful being restored to perfect crisp audio with today’s sound technology. The story itself is told very well with the narrative feel of the four characters. It never gets overdone with the way they look into the camera because that was one of the selling points of the original play. It’s each character telling their side of the story. One of the things that always brings me down about musicals is when the song is performed in an unlikely situation. Take Grease for instance. 10 badass guys in a group singing about summer love at the top of their lungs on a set of bleachers. Jersey Boys doesn’t have this problem as every musical number is set during a stage performance. The cinematography is done well, but it’s the wardrobe that really gives this movie the 60’s feel. Everyone is dressed accordingly with old button up suits for the guys, and long dresses for the ladies.. It almost feels like a Scorsese film with it’s glossy kind of look complete with wide shots of wet streets. The very few criticisms i have of the movie are so small that it didn’t really take much away for me. The running time is a little long. During the last 20 minutes i felt like i learned everything there is to know about these characters, and just kind of waited for the film to end. Another thing is that i would’ve liked to know more of the backstory friendship between Devito and Valli. The film starts off with them doing odd mob jobs and playing in this band. We don’t really know anything about them, and then are thrown into this right away. The story is about the band, but some background to fill in the blanks is always good to know. I also had a problem with the jump forward in time without explanation. One second we see Frankie marrying his wife and then 20 minutes later he has three teenage daughters. Some simple on screen text displaying “Fifteen years later” could accomplish this. There were times I was struggling to keep up with the age of the musicians at certain points, but it didn’t completely tear me away from the film. The ending credits were also something noteworthy. They feature the entire cast coming out for one big musical number Broadway style that acts as a final bow to the audience watching. It really ties it together to where it feels like you just sat through a 2 hour play. Eastwood has shown that his place behind the camera to tell a good story is exactly what you get with him. With films like J Edgar, Invictus and Letters from Iwo Jima under his belt, Eastwood continues to fully grasp the kinds of characters he is presented with. The man does his homework and spares no shame in showing his characters at their best and worst. Something i really appreciate in a director. In closing, i recommend this film to everyone. I have heard that some people who saw the stage show first were a little disappointed in the way some of the magic didn’t carry over to screen, but i honestly couldn’t tell you either way. If this is the first time around in the Jersey Boys experience, this film does a good enough job to not only get the facts right, but also have a lot of fun musical numbers with it’s audience. Jersey Boys is a B+ for me.

Belle

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7.5/10

An Oscar worthy performance, a self conscious period piece, and a story about multiple predjudices are the culmination of Amma Ansante’s feature about the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle. Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a mixed race daughter of Admiral John Lindsay (Matthew Goode). Lindsay passes away in war, so Belle is Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet her status prevents her from the traditions of noble social standing. I felt this movie did a lot of things right considering it’s a period piece and i don’t get into those too often. Raw deserves an early Oscar nomination for the way her character goes through prejudices of not just outsiders, but her family as well. She takes a script that can be very vague with the emotions it is trying to convey and steals every scene with the kind of talent that a movie like this would be lost without. That’s not to say everything else about Belle isn’t enjoyable. It’s got a great cast led by Wilkinson, Watson, and one of my favorite actors Matthew Goode. It’s sad that Goode wasn’t in this movie longer than 10 minutes as it’s his readings with a young Belle that make for some of the most touching scenes of the movie. While watching this film, i was quite surprised to discover that this film isn’t just about racial discrimination but gender discrimination as well. England in the 1700’s became the catalyst for slave trading between many of the Admirals. For a movie like Belle to explore this early in slave history is something that is refreshing for once. I think last year’s 12 Years a Slave was the absolute pinnacle of what a racial prejudice movie could be about, but Belle does it in a way that is factual without being overdone. It’s true, there are no long shots of violence towards Belle or anything that makes us feel great terror for the character, but her situation still has us getting behind her because of the performance of Raw as i listed above. Belle is very polite considering the premise, and that is one thing i wish it could’ve explored deeper. Not every film about race has to be brutal, but it’s important to explore the kinds of hells that our characters go through, so that the payoff means even more at the end. The wardrobe is definitely the best i have seen this year, but i felt the wig designs could have been done a little better. It may be nitpicking, but i felt many of the wigs were giving away the real hair underneath of the actors and actresses. It took me out of a couple scenes where the suspension of disbelief is important. The dialogue was read very well ,and there are many scenes that i would love to go back and look at again on DVD. I think a film like this has great 2nd watch ability as there are many things that could be lost by the viewer in translational dialogue. The score is subtle, but make for enhancements to some of the best and worst moments of our main character. It’s light classical music that might be boring listening to it alone, but it fits so perfectly in a movie like this. Belle is a film that is average in most aspects, but it’s the performances that make this film a front runner in early Oscar favorites. Hard to recommend unless you are interested after watching the trailer. Many people aren’t into period pieces, but this one makes room at the top of the list.