The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug

 

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8/10

Coming from someone who is not a big fan of this series, i thoroughly enjoyed this film. This film has made walk away with the greatest feeling after seeing it, and that is for a few reasons. The first is that i was on the edge of my seat for this movie. The dragon Smaug is a great villain that adds even more because he can talk. The scene with the gold coins and his awakening scared me to death. There was just something about seeing his huge eye pop out that made my heart pump. The cinematography in these films is second to none. While i didn’t like the first Hobbit film, i can say that it was the most beautiful picture of the year. This one follows that trend, but it does it in a way to match the desolate mood of the Lake Town. This film’s views are seen more as dark and (hate to use this word again) desolate. The high frame rate is something pretty cool to read about with this film. The fact that they shot each frame at 48 frames per second is impressive, and it shows. I also really enjoyed the introduction of Bard the Bowman and felt Luke Evans was a perfect choice to play him. For those who don’t know, Luke has been cast in The Crow reboot, so i am curious to see what he can bring to Eric Draven. Some of the things i haven’t liked about other films are still there in this film, and i am sure i will get ambushed by fans of the series for it. Ultimately though, what kind of critic would i be if i didn’t put all of my cards on the table? These films are just way too long. I get that it is an epic story you are trying to tell with lots of characters, but maybe there in lies the problem; too many characters. I think the same story can be told without a couple of their back stories being learned. I also have never been a fan of Legolas. The guy is just too immortal for me to relate to. I mean seriously, could he get a cut or a scrape just once? Why do they even need an army if this guy can kill ten people in ten seconds? Just send Legolas to take care of any trouble in the town. I did enjoy the way the film ends as it sets up for There and Back Again quite well. I recommend this film to fans of the series for sure. As for non fans, it’s a hard prediction to make. I am not a fan and i loved it for the things i mentioned above. Give it a shot, it might surprise you.

Out of the Furnace

 

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7.5/10

A very deep and dark movie about the lengths we will go when something happens to a member of our families. This film has some amazing character performances and it’s those performances alone that give you every reason to see this film. Those performances are led by Woody Harrelson as a drug selling country hick who runs an underground fighting ring. Harrelson is one of my favorite actors, and it’s always fun seeing what role he will play next. Choosing him to be the villain for this movie was great casting. Is there any role this man can not do? Christian Bale and Casey Affleck are also impressive as the brothers in the story. Affleck has a young charm that makes him too naive for the stupid decisions he makes. Bale continues to be the best character actor bar non on the planet. The man will do anything to prepare for a role. The one thing i will say about this film is without those actors giving amazing performances, this film is nothing. The script is mediocre and plays out like a film you would watch on Lifetime Movies. It knows the points it’s crowd is supposed to cheer and boo and it exploits them. The film has a nice haunted town setting of Pittsburgh and it’s surrounding suburbs. A soundtrack by Pearl Jam gives the town it’s extra feel of hard nosed fighters who just never know when to quit. I recommend checking this film out, but keep in mind that there are some slow parts. Those parts don’t seem as big of a deal with the performances unfolding at hand.

Oldboy

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7/10

This film has it’s advantages to the 2003 Korean original, but falls just short of surpassing it. Josh Brolin gives an amazing performance and stars as a man trapped and imprisoned for 20 years for things he did in his past. He finds out he is framed for the murder of his wife while in that prison. I really enjoyed the 2003 version and was kind of worried about this one. Spike Lee does a decent job in adapting a very violent story to American cinema. There were a couple of things that i actually liked better in this film than the original. I will not spoil those things for the people who have not seen either version. The camera work in this film is supreme to that of it’s original for the quick cuts and views the way Brolin sees things. The ending to this version is also better in my opinion, as i had a couple of problems with the way the original ended. The acting is better in the original as the villain in this film is laughable. It feels like Brolin is controlling him the whole time and that is something that just doesn’t work in this story. There were also some violent things left out of this version that i felt added to the story, and those opportunities were missed. Overall, this film isn’t a bad version of the story. I would recommend this film only after you have seen the 2003 original. If you liked that film, then i really think you will enjoy this one as well.

Homefront

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5.5/10

I was really disappointed with this film about Jason Statham and his daughter starting a new life in the country. James Franco played a badass villain who really showed a different level for his acting. I know he has played a villain before, but nothing like this. He is a country hick who takes no lip from anyone. Franco is great, and there are some excellent dramatic scenarios that unwind, but this film has a lot wrong with it. The biggest thing is that these people are natural born idiots. I get that parents can act extreme if someone messes with their child, but even this is taking it over the line. This whole movie unwinds because two kids had a very minor fight at school. The reactions are just stupid and never quite make you feel relative to the subject. I also felt that the fights were very obviously choreographed. Even for a Statham film, the fights were just obviously overdone with everything looking too crisp for country people who probably don’t know anything about martial arts. Finally, i felt the editing was awful. They kept doing something where they would start cutting to the next scene but then stay on the present scene and then go to the next scene. It was just really weird to watch because you are focused on one piece and then they are shoving the other one at you before you are done with the previous scene. Homefront does have it’s charms, and if the film was ever on TV i would probably watch it. It does carry a deeper storyline than most Statham films. It just fails in the execution of the events that unfold. I would like to see this film done as a 20 minute short film by a college student looking to take his strides in Hollywood. Anything more than that just doesn’t make sense to me. Some people might like this film, but i just can’t recommend it.

Frozen

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8/10

The best animated film i have seen in a long time. Before seeing this film, i had no idea that it was a musical. It’s a good thing that it is, because this film has some of the best musical pieces from Disney in a long time. The thing that i love the most about this film is that it reminds me a lot of those Disney films from the 80’s and 90’s. It was a time when the music was possibly the most important aspect of a Disney film, and that is what this is. The film doesn’t have your typical love story or your typical villain. Hell, it even has a swerve. That aspect alone gives Frozen a very original touch. On top of it, there is some of the most beautiful visuals i have ever seen in an animated film. I definitely think this film should win the Oscar for best animated film. The cast is incredible. Outside of Kristen Bell, it’s not really anyone super famous and i like that. Just voice actors here, the way it should be. Idina Menzel has the voice of an angel with amazing songs that she had a part in writing. The comic character (Olaf) was pretty good too. I don’t feel he was desperately needed, but Disney loves their comedy. I definitely recommend everyone see this film. Kids will love the colorful characters, and adults will appreciate the creative songs.

Delivery Man

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6/10

Definitely the most i have enjoyed a Vince Vaughn film since 2011’s The Dilemma. With that said, it is far from a perfect film. Delivery Man goes through an identity crisis not knowing if it wants to be a comedy or a drama. It is because of the drama scenes that tug at your heart strings, that the crude humor does not work in a picture like this. Vaughn is ok in the role of a man who has fathered 533 kids through clinic donations. I feel like since the role doesn’t ask as much as the original version (2011’s Starbuck), Vaughn is an ok choice for the role. If they were trying to keep it like Starbuck, it would demand another actor because Vaughn is unable to push those dramatic scenes to the limit. Vaughn stars as Dave Wozniak, a man who is on the verge of starting a family with his girlfriend when he comes to the discovery of this secret. It’s no secret that i wasn’t a fan of The Internship, and i hated The Watch. Delivery Man is different though because it pits Vaughn in a role that is completely different for once. It was nice to see him not go for the cheap laughs and actually put back on his acting chops like he did in Clay Pigeons or A Cool Dry Place. The film gives us a somewhat unbelievable ending, but it’s forgivable in the fact that Wozniak is made a better man. I recommend this film to all Vince Vaughn fans as i feel if you loved The Internship, there is absolutely no reason you won’t enjoy this. Wait till video though. No reason to jump off the couch to see this film.

Dallas Buyers Club

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9/10

Such a great film with the performance of a lifetime from Matthew McConaughey. I have been very impressed lately with Matthew’s roles as i feel he has taken on some films that have brought out the real actor in him. The film stars Matthew, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner as pawns in a new Aids world. McConaughey is a live fast rodeo bull rider who hits a speed bump when he finds out that he has aids. The transformation that he takes is what really makes the movie. McConaughey’s Ron Woodruff is a rugged homophobic jerk who doesn’t care what he does and who he offends as long as he isn’t interpreted as gay. It is in that role that Woodruff becomes a pioneer for these people who are affected by Aids, but have to wait until the right medicine is passed by the FDA in America. Ron travels all over the world to get his clients the drugs that they need to fight the unpredictable disease. He gets closer to Rayon (Leto) as he finds out that there is more that meets the transexual eye. I love Leto in this performance, but i don’t feel it is Oscar worthy like everyone says. Leto isn’t given enough screen time to even make a claim at a Best Supporting Actor nomination. The only real problem i had with the film is that there are times when it drags. The film is nearly 2 hours, but isn’t filled with enough drama to keep you from wondering when the film will end. Even that is a little nitpick, as the film is one of my top ten for 2013. The film kind of surprised me with how funny it was in parts. The dialogue is very entertaining for asshole characters you wouldn’t normally give the time of day too. Dallas Buyers Club isn’t playing in many theaters, but i definitely recommend you give it a chance and see it for yourself. You will understand how the FDA in the country is nowhere near the point we need it to be to give our suffering the treatment that they need

The Hunger Games : Catching Fire

 

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8.5/10

My favorite book of the trilogy is adapted in this sequel that is every bit better than the first adaptation. First off, there are some things that are left out from the book in this film. If you go into every film not wanting anything to change, then you might as well stick to the books. This film got roughly 90% of the book correct. Some of the adaptations are surrounded by beautiful scenery and awesome acted dialogue that puts the first film to shame. The biggest thing i loved about this film as opposed to the first one is the fact that the characters are much better in this one. The characters are given time to shine in their roles. My favorite character in the books has always been Finnick, and Sam Claflin plays him perfectly. The character isn’t too overdone with his charismatic charms that he comes off as feminine, but he carries enough charm to make the character lovable. Jena Malone also turns in an incredible performance as Johanna. She really adds her own attitude to an already rebel character. Phillip Seymour Hoffman kicked so much ass as Plutarch that i could never see anyone else in the role. It’s as simple as that. Peeta and Gale don’t get too much time to shine in this film and i hope their roles will be more important in the 3rd/4th film since they are a huge part of the Mockingjay novel. The film’s 2 hour and 26 minute run time didn’t even feel like it as the time breezed by. With the final novel being adapted into two films, i am curious to see how well they keep with the pacing. Especially since the first of those films comes out in less than a year. I hope they aren’t rushed too quickly. Overall, this film is great and definitely deserves a theater viewing. If you liked the first film, you will love this one. If you hated the first film, you won’t find much charm in this one

Kids For Cash

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9.5/10

Ladies and gentlemen, i give you an early favorite for film of the year. It’s very rare that a documentary will hit me in such a way that Kids For Cash does. That’s not to say that i don’t enjoy documentaries, but when compared to the year’s best screenplay films, it never adds up. I think that is about to change with this enraging documentary about the 2007 Kids For Cash scandal that saw many innocent kids under the age of 18 go to jail for minor offenses. The film explores the huge holes in the American legal system and how we are one of the only countries to have no revisions to our original juvenile legal system. This is a film that i feel every parent should watch because it’s about those times when being our children’s protectors is taken from us due to corruption and greed. The story focuses mostly on two judges from Pennsylvania who accepted a 2.2 million dollar bribe from a prison owner to fill his prison in order to get a new prison built and more funding coming through the doors. The judges in question are Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan. One thing that really impresses me about the story that director Robert May tries to tell is that he tells it with both sides debating their points. Ciavarella and Conahan are each given their time to explain why they accepted the bribes that they did, and the only small points that they did wrong. It’s interesting that they take no blame what so ever in sending these kids away and ruining their lives for small things like a stolen bike that the child had no idea was stolen property, a girl creating a fake Myspace page, and a kid getting in a fight at school. While watching this film, you will absolutely despise these two judges and there is no way around that. Without spoiling too much, i can say that one result of a child in particular will get you to the point that you feel like you are this boy’s parent and fighting and yelling against Ciavarella. I am getting off topic, but i promise you that the film itself is very stylishly shot. Screen text throughout the film will always keep the reader side by side with where the story is headed even if you don’t fully understand the legal mumbo jumbo of the lawyers and judges, respectively. There are lots of legal information about ours and other countries around the world when discussing child punishment laws. It paints the picture that even though we are one of the most lucrative countries in the world, and one of the most powerful, we are still years behind on a perfect system. The zero tolerance policy is not a system that will ever work well for children because you can’t compare them to adult criminals. The film goes as far as to explain that the teenage mind will never be fully developed when a child makes a terrible choice. They are literally still being molded into the people they will become one day, and grouping them with murderers and rapists probably isn’t the most logical choice. The background score is done very beautifully as well with lots of mellow tones to accomodate the parents when they tell the horrors of what their children went through. The ending credits are played off to a child choir singing Creep by Radionhead. This is quite appropriate for two reasons. The first is the sad tone coming from the choir voices, and the second is that it’s during that song we learn the fate of the two judges. In his directoral debut, Robert May examines hard hitting details as a result of over a decade of interviews. This is a film that wasn’t made in a year and you have to respect that with how fast films are thrown at the public in the course of a year. Kids for Cash does what any great advocacy doc does: give you the cold hard facts to get you angry and make you want to pay attention so that something like this never happens again. It’s a cruel look at a crime that will never happen again, but baffle you that it ever happened in the first place. No parent can miss Kids For Cash. I am glad that after a 5 month wait i was finally able to catch this film on Amazon Instant Video. INCREDIBLE.

In Fear

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7/10

In Fear grips like a full speed thrill ride even as the tension threatens to spin out of control. I was curious to check out this film if only for the 100% rating it currently has on Rotten Tomatoes, and it didn’t disappoint…….completely. This film is the happiest i have been with an original thriller in a good couple of years. It stars two young adults who have only known each other a couple weeks and are on their way to a festival when they decide to get a hotel room for the night. Just miles from the hotel, they encounter a maze on the way to getting there. They take different ways at different times to get there but end up at the same place they started. I really enjoyed some of the chilling themes of this movie like being stuck in isolation in the woods. Make no mistake, setting is VERY important in a film like this. It’s obvious that not a lot of money was involved in making this picture, so you have to hit the audience with ideas that can make the experience memorable. Alice Englert stars as female lead Lucy. It is in Lucy that we feel her pain as being stuck in the woods with someone she doesn’t fully know or understand. When you really think about it, that can be frightening for anyone. The sound editing/mixing is also something that should be complimented in this film. The suspenseful score starts the engine, but it is the amplified sound that compliment the high speed chases the most. I felt like i was getting the most i possibly could out of a movie with three characters and a car. The last British thriller that i saw was The Descent films, and i think this movie is sooooo much better than those. As the film’s 85 minute run time goes on, it is the darkness that plays the biggest role. Our characters sense a feel of panic and time running out with a car’s gas tank. It’s those little things that sneak up to the audience and hit you hard when you realize what is coming. The only problems i had with the film were a couple of the things the couple encounter during the movie. (Minor spoiler) With only one villain, it’s hard to imagine how all of this stuff was accomplished. I also felt the ending wasn’t entirely satisfying. It did give me a sense of pleasure, but not worth what these characters entailed. Overall, In Fear is a straight to DVD film (March 11th) that is definitely worth a look. If you like 80’s style suspense that is almost complimentary to the John Carpenter feel, this is a good film for you. I don’t know if today’s audience will be completely satisfied with the film, but it will be refreshing compared to today’s standards of shot on video (Or shot on shitteo, as i refer to them) films that are plaguing the genre.

Dom Hemingway

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5/10

Jude Law stars in the role he was born to play. He plays Dom Hemingway, a mob worker who is jailed for 12 years after taking the rep for a drug deal gone wrong. While in prison, he abandons his daughter and wife, the ladder dies from cancer. When he gets out, it’s about a man on the verge of redemption. Law is absolutely amazing as Hemingway. He plays him as a loser who is always looking for the easy way out, but we cheer for him during all 90 minutes of this movie. Dom is an alcoholic, a womanizer, and a guy who has clearly not learned a lot from the 12 years he lost. He picks right up with a drunken three way with two prostitutes paid for by his mob boss. Law is very fast talking with brash English cursing to everyone he ever comes across. It is a role that is easy to like even with his flaws. The movie doesn’t do much beyond that to keep the attention of it’s audience. The film suffers greatly whenever Law isn’t on screen because everyone else is boring compared to our protagonist. The film does have some well shot scenes, but it almost feels like they don’t go on long enough for us to get the background of these other characters. The relationship between Dom and his daughter is presented, but we don’t have a heart to heart between them until the final 10 minutes. By then it is too late to ever get any clarity from this relationship, and that is a shame. This is the biggest probelem with this film; it goes nowhere. The main character really is no better by the end of the film because he is riddled in one bad luck scenario after another. Overall, i wish the film was more along the spark that it kicked off with in the first 20 minutes. It is there that we see so much promise for the journey ahead. By the 87th minute, Dom feels so defeated that there is nothing to look forward to at that point. If you see the trailer and feel like you really have to see this film, get it on DVD. It will be hard to find in theaters in a couple weeks, and i certainly don’t think it’s worth the journey to find it.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

 

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6/10

Ben Stiller is back in a film that is a little different than the films he has been known for over the last decade. He stars as Walter Mitty, a man who daydreams his life away while publishing photos for Life Magazine. The crew at Life are told that this will be the last issue ever published with most of the people losing their jobs. Some of the things i liked about this film was the amazing scenery and beautiful cinematography. It sets epic stages for Mitty to reclaim his life and go on the adventure of a lifetime. The Secret Life also gives us some awkward characters in the form of strangers he meets along the way. It’s sad that in these strangers we find that we care about them more than our two leads (Stiller and Kristen Wiig). Stiller and Wiig are very awkward in their form of conversation. It’s almost like two robots who have never met are talking for the first time. When we find out they have known each other for a couple months, it seems even weirder that they have such a problem being personable. Adam Scott gives another great performance as the villain of the film. Scott has been known to be very famous in these roles including a great performance in Step Brothers. The film runs out of miles in the main base scenes while Stiller is working at Life and at home. It’s kind of symbolic to the way this film goes. It’s only interesting when he is climbing mountains in the Himalayas or playing soccer in Afghanistan. The daydreaming also gets old by about the 3rd of 4th time it’s done. We see how predictable it is to tell the difference, and can see the joke coming from a mile away. Films like A Nightmare on Elm Street have always been great at producing a believable dream scene. I appreciate the explanation of why Stiller has less and less dream scenes by the end of the film, but it’s too late by this time. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty has the ability to be one of the year’s best, but it flutters in the basic bore of Stiller comedy. Give it a shot on DVD, but nothing more. The Film Freak’s Mother – 8/10 – I really enjoyed the scenery of this film. A lot of the fields of green reminded me of my time in Ireland. I also enjoyed the role of the mother (Played by Shirley Maclaine) as she reminded me a lot of myself in the things i do to Christopher. Some of the scenes i didn’t like were the daydreaming. I felt it was really drawn out and overdone with too many minutes wasted on it. I also didn’t like the boss (Adam Scott). I felt he was a jerk.