The Immigrant

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4/10

How does a film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner receive the same rating as an Adam Sandler film? Come with me into the wonderful world of film reviewing as i explain to you where The Immigrant went wrong. It’s a story of two sisters from Poland who come to America in 1921 seeking the American dream. When they get here, Marion Cotillard is purchased by a man running a whorehouse (Joaquin Phoenix), and her sister is detained because she has lung disease. The Immigrant suffers from two very big problems that will put it towards the bottom of my rankings for the year. The first is that it has absolutely no imagination when thinking up anything that would make us remotely relate to these characters. Jeremy Renner who is usually Mr. Personality is plagued by soft spoken dialogue as a magician who is out to win the heart of Cotillard. We are given no time to explore one anothers feelings to the other person, so scene after scene with Renner is almost pointless. To add on to it, he is given a cruel ending that makes his talents feel even more wasted. The second problem that this film has is it suffers from the worst case of boredom since A Winter’s Tale. I can’t even imagine how this movie is given so many rave reviews for it’s performances and well crafted characters when the movie is dreary scene after dreary scene. This is a New York where the sun never shines, the characters are always depressed, and it all just gets old fast. If there is one positive, it’s the wardrobe work. The clothes and backgrounds make us feel like 1921 is brought back to life. The problem is that if this is what is represented for 1921, i will gladly stay in 2014. I understand that we are supposed to feel for this woman as she was forced into a career of slavery and prostitution, but it shows us none of her suffering along the way. It’s one quick edit after another if we ever get any scenes of her with the men who pay for her services. Over the course of the film, Cotillard comes up with a plan to save money to rescue her sister and have the two return to Poland. THe film creates a kind of love triangle while this is going on between the three lead characters. It’s not very well written and feel soap opera at times, but at least it’s something. The reactions of Phoenix as his best girl is being stolen by Renner was something i was looking forward to, and the payoff is over before it even begins. One thing i haven’t talked about are the performances. Cotillard is usually a good actor, but i don’t think her emotional range is deep enough to pull off that of a character who has had everything ripped from her. Jeremy Renner isn’t given enough screen time to make any kind of difference in a sloppy script. Phoenix is the only performance who i would recommend checking out. He plays a character on the borderline of insanity putting up with his business being yanked from him. It’s something that Phoenix always does well because that is the actor we know in real life. He gives the movie what little edge and excitment it has with his slipping from reality. The movie finishes with an ending which is very abrupt and doesn’t present us with anything we didn’t see coming. I know i have been very hard on this film, but i feel very surprised to see it was ranked with an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Looking further into it, that number comes from critics while the casual viewer has given it a 57%. When i saw the trailer, i was looking forward to seeing the way it played out. Watching the trailer again, i can say that it doesn’t do a good job of presenting the real film. The trailer is filled with beautiful tracks that compliment what appears to be a colorful film with a touching rags to riches story. The viewer will be left sadly disappointed when it’s all over. I think this is a movie everyone can skip. Flatlessly written and heartlessly acted is not a movie that we need for story that could’ve been inspiring

Legends of Oz : Dorothy’s Return

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4/10

If i used two words to describe Legends of Oz, it would be “Uninspiring” and “Lazy”. This animation film serves as a sequel to the original classic that transformed color movies on film. That is probably the only similarity that Legends of Oz has with the Judy Garland classic, it’s beautiful to look at. Dorothy (Lea Michele) returns to Oz to save her friends from a derranged clown known as The Jester (Martin Short). Besides this being the first animated Oz film, it just doesn’t feel like an Oz film based on it’s whacky tone of comedy. Just because a film is animated it doesn’t mean that the movie has to be absolutely goofy. One thing i loved about every Oz film so far is that there was that mysterious creepiness involved with every one. Last year’s “OZ:The Great and Powerful” had it in the form of the sister witches casting their spells on OZ with creepy smoke filled visuals. In “The Wizard of Oz”, it had creepy woods filled with an already terrifying Margaret Hamilton as The Witch. Return to OZ…….Well……..the whole movie was creepy. None of that is present with this film. It feels like we are watching a basic animated feature that came out this year. There simply is no charm. Lea Michele did a great job as Dorothy, and her voice is all any casting director should look for when casting the main character hero. She plays through such beautiful songs as “Work With Me”, “One Day” and my personal favorite, “When the World”. The songs are lyrically beautiful giving the film it’s only sense of adventure with the movie. One of my biggest problems with the film is that the Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man are such huge characters in the first 20 minutes of the film, but then left on the shelf with the final hour. It’s almost like their characters have to take a backseat to the new Dorothy sidekicks. Those sidekicks include a bird named “Wise”, a china doll named “China Princess”, and an army commander named “Marshall Mallow”. The new characters don’t seem to fit in to the characters we have known and loved. We wish Dorothy would join her original friends, but that time is never seen on camera. My biggest problem with this film is that i question whether Director Dan St-Pierre ever watched the original Wizard of Oz. Toto is a completely different kind of dog and differently colored, Uncle Henry and Aunt EM look NOTHING like the way they did. The funniest thing to me though is that this film is supposed to take place five years after The Wizard of OZ, yet there are fast driving cars and Dorothy hasn’t aged one day. If anything, she looks younger than the teenager that was in The Wizard of Oz. It just all feels too sloppy. I feel bad for fans of a film that becomes as big as The Wizard of Oz did. It means that over a span of 100 years that you will get at least 5 or 6 remakes/sequels and nothing will ever come close to that original magic. I did enjoy last year’s OZ:The Great and Powerful. It restored some of the magic back for Oz fans, but Legends of Oz took that one step forward and added two steps back. When fans of these movies are faced with the choice of staying in or seeing Legends of OZ, most will be forced to conclude that there is no place like home. Not recommended.

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4/10

When you see a decent actor like Greg Kinnear in a film that doesn’t quite live up to his talents, you start wondering if his best days are behind him. Kinnear stars as the father of a boy who ends up in the hospital with a burst appendix. After his recovery, he mentions to his father that he was briefly in heaven when he was under the knife. This story is an adaptation from the New York Times #1 Bestseller, and while i haven’t read that book, i can say that the film is a big waste of time. There is so much wrong with this film that i hope i can get it all out in a basic review. When i compared this film to Son of God, i realized that this film does come off better as a motion picture. It has enough to keep the viewer interested in it’s questions, but fails when we are served the answers to those questions.Beyond this, the kind of film it comes off as is something that you would see on the Hallmark Channel. Son of God is an overall better film though. The reason being, it wasn’t afraid to take a chance with graphic violence that didn’t quite cater to the audience it was intended for. What i find interesting about Heaven is For Real is that we are led to believe that Greg Kinnear and his family are 30 thousand dollars in the hole when he works as a 1. Preacher, 2. Fireman, 3. Parts installer. He also has a nice countryside house which makes it hard to believe this guy is borderline poor. Another cute ongoing storyline is when word gets out of the little boy’s journey through Heaven and the townspeople find it uncomfortable that this is being talked about. Keep in mind that this is a religious community and all of the people who don’t believe him ARE THE PEOPLE SITTING IN THE CHURCH PEWS!!!! I have only been a Catholic for 23 years, but i thought believing in Heaven and God was kind of like the status quo for this group. The first half hour speeds a little too quickly when we are trying to learn the quirks and ticks of what makes this family. Because it speeds by, these people come off as lunatics when we see the way they act at church and softball games. The ladder, being one of the corniest scenes i have seen this year. Director Randall Wallace definitely tries to make this religious film something more that every kind of fan can relate to. Even to go so far as to add a big bad wicked rock anthem like “We Will Rock You” to the film. It’s cute because the little boy wants nothing to do with religious hymns, and instead sings Queen. It all seems so desperate. Which brings me to the little boy who plays Colton (Connor Corum). He is cute, and i am sure will win the award for “Child actor who every woman wants to pinch his cheeks”, but he is the single strangest child actor i have ever seen. He makes these faces that make him seem like he is hearing voices, and i don’t mean the religious kind. A scene when he vomits in the toilet is one of the funniest things i have seen this year. Not that there is an art to something so disgusting, but his noises are so imitated and made even better when the camera pans up to show nothing in the toilet. This film is just an absolute sloppy mess. I am ready for the backlash that comes with me hating this film because it rightfully deserves every word that i have made clear. The biggest shame with this film is the wasted star power of Margo Martindale and Thomas Haden Church. Two of Hollywood’s best role actors who are on sleep mode because this script would rather show you the cameos and not give them anything to earn that screen time. Heaven is For Real isn’t the worst film i have seen this year, but it’s pretty close. I can now add one more reason to why i left Catholic schooling after nine years; i didn’t want to turn out like the Burpo family in Heaven is For Real. The Burpo family, what an appropriate name. This film made me Burpo for 95 long minutes. Not recommended

The Bag Man

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4.5/10

Somebody should tell director David Grobic that he has obviously watched a lot of David Lynch films. The problem is that he seems to not have taken anything from watching those films except a mysterious setting and characters that don’t add up to personable. John Cusack stars as a down on his luck kind of guy who is hired by Robert De Niro to deliver a bag. He is told not to look in the bag, but to just deliver it. If that setting sounds familiar it is because it has happened a thousand times. The film adds nothing to a premise that is growing literally by the minute. It’s sad that Cusack and De Niro have been demoted to these straight to DVD films because they can be two of Hollywood’s best with the right script. If there is one positive that i took from this film it is that it does indeed keep you guessing what is in the bag. It gives you an answer that is pretty basic with a finale that does up the rating a little bit with a swerve. The film also has Dominic Purcell who stars as a crooked cop. For those of you who know me, you know i love Prison Break, and it was great to see Lincoln Burrows and John Cusack go head to head. The biggest negatives i took away was a sloppy script, too long of a run time (108 minutes) and (Surprisingly) bad acting. Cusack and De Niro are obviously doing this for a paycheck and that makes sense because they are both on sleep mode. I appreciate Grobic’s attempts at a Lynch-like film, but he doesn’t have the intrigue or the dedication from his actors to pull off a Blue Velvet or Mullholland Drive. Pass on The Bag Man.

Devil’s Knot

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4/10

So much wasted potential on a film with a great cast and one of America’s most perplexing court cases for the sake of revealing all the facts. Devil’s Knot is the story about the trial of The West Memphis Three. They were three teenagers who were accused of killing three little boys in the woods. The police department and the courts are using the boys as scapegoats because they are satanic living in a very religious town. I was very intrigued with the opening 20 minutes of this film. The way it is presented as a murder mystery really made me think they were going to explore more than just the three teenagers who were accused of this tragedy. Instead, it becomes a story about religion wars with both sides coming off as ridiculous. Both sides are in a tug of war battle to make the other one seem same, and that is what is the hardest thing to understand with why they made this film. It all just seems very pointless to me with so many better educated documentaries out there. It all is shot and played out like a movie of the week special. It makes me wonder how Director Atom Egoyan ever got such big name actors as Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth and Mirelle Enos to be in this movie. Each of their performances are among the lone bright spots of this 103 minute film. Witherspoon in particular gives one of her top 5 performances of all time as a wounded mother of one of the three deceased children. It’s a shame that all of her hard work and prep in making this mother come to life is wasted on a movie that is earnest and cautious when it comes to it’s revealing of the town and it’s people.Firth is forced to sit and watch from the sidelines. It’s something that really decreases the effect of his character and the film at a time when it needs a saving performance the most. I think Egoyan had a shot to really make this movie into something that doesn’t echo that information already told by the documentaries and thousands of news reports. What we are presented is a film that is entirely pointless. Is it meant as a reminder of the events? There are much better explanations of this tragedy (See Paradise Lost on Youtube) that don’t dull down the events to compliment a boring movie. We learn nothing about the three men who were put through hell because of the different things they believe in. I would have liked some of that time to be shown on the things the men were doing the night of the murders. Devil’s Knot is something i wouldn’t recommend, and will totally never see again. It has no replay value because these are events i already knew before the film. I am not even sure if there was one time watch value now that i think about it.

Adult World

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4.5/10

A tale of growing up and letting our dreams go is told in this drama starring Emma Roberts, John Cusack and Evan Peters. Roberts stars as an aspiring poet who hunts down Cusack (who is a famous poet) to work under him and learn more. At the same time, Roberts runs away from home because her parents are tired of supporting a hobby that isn’t going anywhere. She needs a job quick to pay for her new apartment, so she starts at a porn shop because it’s her only option. The film does have a great premise, and one that hits especially close to home for me. It’s execution though, is forgettable at best. Roberts is good as a whiny and mopey teenager, but she doesn’t grow into much more by the film’s end. When the credits show at the 89 minute mark, we are left with the same suicidal teenager we started with. Cusack is outstanding as always. I like that he is taking on more outside of the box roles with his independent films. Last year, he showed a menacing side as a serial killer in The Frozen Ground, and now he shows a phobic snob in Adult World. He serves as a father figure who is constantly rolling his eyes at a young generation that he doesn’t understand. As i said before, the film doesn’t execute in the way it should. This could easily be a good movie, but it’s slow in it’s search for excitement, it has an attention seeking main character and it’s got an abrupt ending. Overall, Adult World is something that should only be seen if you are a fan of Cusack’s work. He is the only good thing about the film. I would say it’s good for a Redbox rental, but nothing more.

That Awkward Moment

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4.5/10

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

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

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

A Madea Christmas

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4/10

93 Minutes has never felt longer. I shouldn’t say that this film was a total waste, there are a few laughs. I hate saying this but Larry the Cable Guy was by far the best part of the film as the father of the husband in this story. Madea goes on vacation with a friend to the country to visit the friend’s daughter. Throughout the weekend, they find out that the daughter is married to a white man. This film does pack a decent message with the point of us all bleeding red, but at what a price. To sit through Madea’s loud rude and crude humor is just not worth another glorified Hallmark movie. Take away the rude jokes and that’s exactly what this is. Cheap acting and a story that totally doesn’t make sense. The people of this small town supposedly invested all of their money in this jubilee, so they all go broke. Sounds like a pretty stupid place to me. By the end of the film, the town gets their money back and some more ($100,000 a year for four years). It’s said that the school will be able to buy a couple computers with that money. How much do they think a computer costs? For that much money, they could build a new building than the town hall building that the kids currently go to school at. I also feel like the reason for some of the racism in the film (Both black and white) are some of the dumbest reasons i have ever heard. A Madea Christmas is the best of the three Madea films i have seen, but it still has a long way to go. This kind of film only appeals to the deepest Tyler Perry fans, and from what i have heard, that isn’t many. I don’t need to tell you this, but pass on this one

The Counselor

 

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4/10

I am now convinced that most of the films i anticipated this year are trash. 2013 is a bad year for film. I had such HIGH hopes for this film and i couldn’t have been more disappointed. Before you see this film, make sure you know everything about the plot and what it is about. I read a ton up on this film and i still had trouble following everything that was going on. We never understand why Michael Fassbender accepts the job of the counselor, and we don’t even understand what that position entails. We are literally just given a bunch of colorful characters and prepare them for the worst. The only things i liked about this film was the beautiful shots in cinematography and the work of Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. Diaz plays the best role of her life and is the only effort on conquering this awfully told story. But even she couldn’t overcome the tremendous odds laid against her. There is pointless and laughable sexual dialogue during the first 20 minutes that will make you roll your eyes when you think professionals wrote this. I was such a huge fan of Mccormick’s 2008 hit No Country For Old Men, but i have trouble believing The Counselor was written by the same person. There is almost no trace of that brilliance with building the story up. Surprisingly, this film has a lot of gore and blood. Some of the death scenes are done really well, but you wonder why they have to happen at all. I couldn’t imagine anyone is going to get any enjoyment out of this film other than the things i mentioned above. If you wish to see it, i would wait till DVD. When you pay 8-10 dollars for a movie, you are kind of forced to stay for the whole thing.

Runner Runner

 

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4/10

This sloppily made film made me want my 8 bucks back. Justin Timberlake stars in this film about the internet gambling world and the hazzards that come with it. First of all, Timberlake is a spoiled brat who doesn’t care about other characters when they get ripped off, but we are supposed to get behind him and root for him to punish the bad guys. As i said earlier, this film is sloppy for a lot of reasons, but i will give you some examples. Timberlake loses all of his money (17 grand) in the first ten minutes of the film by gambling, yet he has enough money to give $40 to his loser father, take a flight to Costa Rica, and get a hotel room for a week. Another mess was a party scene with loud club music being played (The DJ was DeadMau5 – EXCELLENT). Timberlake can hear the female lead talking perfectly word for word from 40-50 feet away. Superman like hearing, ladies and gentlemen. 80 minutes into this film and i wanted to kill the director for all of the poker puns that were being added into EVERY sentence. 1 or 2 is fine in a cliche film like this, but Jesus do we really need one in every scene? The one saving grace for this film was Ben Affleck as the poker website creator. Some people have complained that his role was a little over the top for the villain, but i think it’s perfect. Affleck was so believable as this prick, that i was actually rooting for him by the end of the film. Timberlake is just that unlikable in this film. That is not to say that i haven’t enjoyed Timberlake’s roles in film, but this seems like he took a step backwards. This is the film that pop stars make the first time they step into film (See Britney Spears in Crossroads). I don’t recommend this film to anyone, and it should be avoided at all costs.