2013

Mini Reviews: The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle, Rush and More

thewolfofwallstreet_posterThe Wolf of Wall Street – Poor Leo- he tries and he tries to put in stellar work and never gets his hands on that gold statue. I don’t know at this point if THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is going to put an end to that drought, but man does he lose himself here- and boy is it a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Awkward at times, but a hell of a good time was had watching the hurricane of F-bombs, awkward sexuality and utter debauchery on display here. I just wish it wasn’t so damn long.

DiCaprio headlines as Jordan Belfort in a true life story of a stock broker that works his way from the bottom to the top of his craft only to find himself at the mercy of the federal government. That’s really all one needs to know about the story here- it’s all the other stuff that DiCaprio and his merry bunch of miscreants do with wealth that should be spoken of. For instance, how many times do you see a discussion of throwing a little person at a target and all the scenarios of how this will be pull off. Or close ups of a highly acclaimed actor get a candle stuck up his own rear end. That’s only the tip of the iceberg in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

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Mini Reviews: Escape From Tomorrow, Haunter, 2 Guns, Thor: The Dark World and More!

thor2_posterThor: The Dark World – Following THE AVENGERS, my excitement for new Marvel movies has both grown and lessened. I can’t wait to get more of the adventures of my favorite characters (Iron Man and Captain American) but I also never really cared if I saw more Thor adventures. I don’t hate the character, in fact I actually gave the first THOR a pretty favorable ranking. In retrospect I would probably scale down my review of the first film having tried to rewatch it and barely be able to get halfway through before losing interest.

It didn’t bode well for my viewing of THOR: THE DARK WORLD, but I did my best to view the sequel with virgin eyes- pure and unburdened by my preconceptions of what to expect from the experience. The result being that I again didn’t hate the film, but it did nothing to make me second guess my thoughts on seeing more Thor sequels in the future.

Frankly if not for Tom Hiddleston as Loki, I’m not real sure if I’d have committed to watching the sequel at all. That of course is not entirely fair because Chris Hemsworth actually makes a pretty great Thor and he does a great job at bringing some of the comedic aspects of the character to life. Beyond the funny moments though I don’t particularly find almost anything else about THOR: THE DARK WORLD at all interesting or exacting. (more…)

Movie Review: Dallas Buyers Club

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Well I’ll be damned- Matthew McConaughey is human after all. By they I mean he can look like complete crap like the rest of us, instead of the chizzled specimen we’re used to seeing shirtless and oiled up in most rom coms or some recycled Hollywood action garbage. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB is far and away from your typical Matthew McConaughey film, but definitely puts the actor on stage for one of his best performances yet.

McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a homophobic electrician that enjoys gambling, doing drugs, drinking excessively and partaking in unprotected sex with random women. After he’s hospitalized after an accident at a work site and while in the hospital the doctors inform him that he’s HIV positive. The news lands on dead ears at first, but eventually he “accepts” his dire situation and immediately looks for ways to treat it. When he illegally acquires and abuses AZT he finds a doctor in Mexico that opens his eyes to more effective treatments which are not FDA approved. From there Ron takes it upon himself to bring the drugs to the states and offers the treatments to HIV/AIDS patients for a monthly fee of $400, which draws plenty of negative attention from the FDA.

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Movie Review: Lone Survivor

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I am in desperate need of guidance here. How is the it that the same director that brought us such an intense and ultimately moving story of heroism, bravery, resolve and sacrifice also brought us BATTLESHIP. Peter Berg has had his ups and downs in the director’s chair, but in my eyes his lowest of the low is that complete abomination that was 2012’s BATTLESHIP. It’s one of the reasons I wasn’t all that sold on giving LONE SURVIVOR a chance- but I’m happy to say I did.

It’s no secret that the title alone is a spoiler- at least to anyone that didn’t read the synopsis going in. The film dramatizes a failed Navy SEALS mission to capture a high profile member of the Taliban. Essentially the mission is compromised when the soldiers opt not to kill a pair of civilians that stumble upon them and because they let them go they find themselves surrounded by Taliban forces shortly after.

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Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

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You know how I can tell how authentic the high school dynamics are in THE SPECTACULAR NOW? Because like every like other like word is “like” and the only word the kids can use to accentuate their point is “totally”. In all seriousness, at first I really wanted to sit and be snarky about all the painful teen-speak going on in this film and how awful teenagers are nowadays, but honestly after the film’s gestated in my brain for a while I get it. The overuse of “like” and “totally” still is really annoying, but the emotional center of the film and my ability to relate to it have really stuck with me.

James Ponsoldt’s film had every possibility to wallow in every teen romance cliche there is and at times it does. The story at first glance is nothing more than cool kid befriends and dates unpopular girl to turn her reputation around and my God we’ve all had enough of that. Sutter (played by Miles Teller) is a more complex character than I originally judged him by. At first he’s nothing more than that typical high school cool guy that cares about nothing, shows signs of early alcoholism and is about as deep as a puddle.

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Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Talk about a film premise with limitless possibilities for sequels. Love lorn loners that spend their day daydreaming about their heroism and ways with the ladies are a dime a dozen- only thing left from there is exchanging out silly names. In all seriousness THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY isn’t nearly as dismissive and bland as I imply by suggesting how easily cloned it’s formula could be, but it doesn’t nearly grab life by the horns as well as it could. The reason for that being that it’s fantastical nature is a bit confusing to the senses and hence cannot be taken as seriously as it’s message would like to be.

Walter Mitty is a soft spoken employee for the sinking ship that is Life Magazine which is prepping for its final issue in the midst of mass layoffs. Walter has a knack for spacing out and imagining elaborate fantasies of his life in the particular moment he’s in, but also imagines alternate scenarios of how he’d handle a situation he’s faced with. His department is in charge of storing and filing the negative prints of photos submitted for use in the magazine. When the magazine’s go to photographer’s requested picture turns up missing Walter takes it upon himself to track it down which leads him on a real life adventure that injects new life into the daydreamer.

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Movie Review: 12 Years A Slave

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Whew…that was a rough one. Everyone I’m sure at some point in their lives has sat through a movie that they just couldn’t look away from either from how shocking and repulsed they were or by how engaged they were. I’ve had a few experiences that meet the latter, but few that meet booth and 12 YEARS A SLAVE has the distinction of being one of them.

Steve McQueen has surely made a name for himself with his filmography thus far in terms of movie experiences that tend to be less than comfortable viewings. His previous film, SHAME, might be another film that just had me unable to look away but also a bit disgusted and depressed at the same time. 12 YEARS A SLAVE is not unlike it except that the material is of the polar opposite. The film follows a free black man, Solomon Northrupp (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who is kidnapped and sold into slavery where for 12 years he suffers cruelty beyond recognition at the hands of salve owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) and other plantation hands.

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Movie Review: We Are What We Are

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It’s true, remakes aren’t all they are cracked up to be and aside from a select few, if they come from foreign source material they tend to turn out even worse. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE in both it’s English and Spanish versions have little to no mainstream appeal- one might argue if they have any appeal- but they both at the very least can be called interesting. In this case I don’t know that I would chalk being interesting up as a praise in the film’s quality.

The Parker’s are a peculiar family with peculiar tastes. They seem to follow the ancient wisdom or religion without question. Except that when their mother passes away the two Parker girls question every decision made by their family and hope to be normal like everyone else. Standing in their way is a grieving father that believes deeply in their traditions but through faults of his own their secret may not stay secret for long.

To say what the secret is might seem like a spoiler, but I don’t know how much of a secret it is. If you are aware of the original or have seen the posters for either the remake or the original and have seen the trailer there is no secret. Suffice to say, if the Parkers enter your local chili bake competition, you might just want to skip on seconds- or pass it up altogether. They are cannibals. Not in that they just walk around attacking people and eating them; their diet is based on ritual and is not to be taken lightly. And they don’t as WE ARE WHAT WE ARE IS dead serious with nary a chuckle to be found.

The film pits Frank Parker (Bill Sage) against his teenage daughters that suddenly decided one day, “eating people is like gross and stuff!” The performances by Sage, Ambyr Childers, Juia Garner and Michael Parks all are very good, but the film’s super grim tone doesn’t make for anything resembling entertainment. As a one time viewing it’s perfectly fine if a bit plodding and boring at times. There’s no real meat to the film leaving nothing for the viewer to chew on.

Ok, the half hearted puns are even making me a little sick, but in all honesty WE ARE WHAT WE ARE suffers from an abundance of horror cliches which in and of itself is weak considering this feels much more like a drama. The last act drifts into more of a thriller than the rest of film, but at that point it’s seems a little too late and isn’t done well enough to feel like it has any weight. One might say the finale lacks….bite- okay, now I’m done.

Director Jim Mickle does deliver quite a bit of style here, but his efforts do not eclipse the work he put in with his previous film, STAKE LAND. The script, the emotions and anything else of merit that might have been in the script fall somewhat flat here. The performances as decent as they are don’t quite sell dread, sadness or even anger- instead it simply serves exactly as my final impression is of the film in general. It passes the time, seems well enough while watching and when it’s over it is forgotten almost as quickly.

WE ARE WHAT WE ARE is what it is- stale entertainment presented with style, but as forgettable as it is stomach churning. The cannibilsm aspect isn’t even all that graphic, but there’s something physiologically gruesome in seeing a bowl if chili presented in front of children that you know is meant to contain human skin and meat- gave me heartburn just looking at it. Jim Mickle’s film isn’t quite the growth of a filmmaker I was hoping for, but there are glimpses of style and composition that still gove me hope for his future projects. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE in the end unfortunately left this viewer with an upset stomach.

Rating: C-

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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I hate sequels. Now, before you start including me in your own elaborate Hunger Game scenario and imagine my ultimate demise let me clarify- I hate good sequels. What an odd complaint to make? Well, you’re right, but the thing is that every now and again a movie comes along and you might enjoy it, but have some lingering doubts about just how much you like it- and then the sequel shows up. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is one of those rare sequels that is so good that it makes me a little embarrassed about how much I loved the first film.

If I had hated THE HUNGER GAMES, then not a one of those two opening statements would matter. The fact of the matter is that I really like Gary Ross’ film, but its flaws became all the more evident with Francis Lawrence’s CATCHING FIRE. I had my doubts after all, Lawrence did ruin a book that I love (I AM LEGEND) with some horribly awkward CGI that couldn’t be saved by Will Smith’s fantastic performance. So I had a thought in the back of my mind that his adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ second Hunger Games book could cause the franchise to fizzle out. Luckily, that’s not the case as Lawrence’s film shattered every expectation I had, minus one or two slight problems.

If you’re unfamiliar with the series I’m not sure why you’d be reading this, but I’ll be vague about the plot either way. The film follows the continued struggle of Katniss Everdeen against the cruel hand of the Capitol following her victory in the previous year’s Hunger Games.

From the get go Francis Lawrence’s vision of Panem feels so much more realized than in the previous film. The characters feel more fleshed out and the actors playing them all seem more comfortable with their roles. Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic in the first and everyone else wasn’t bad necessarily, but their work in CATCHING FIRE is far better. Even some of the new faces are extremely welcome which includes Finnick as played by Sam Claflin, who in spite of not being aware of anything else he’s done almost perfectly captured Finnick’s cocky but charming persona.

The actors are indeed important, but when comparing it to the first film the atmosphere and tempo of the film are also vital to its success. With all the information that has to be crammed into CATCHING FIRE Francis Lawrence is able to lay out every last detail either visually or through the storytelling and pose a pretty incredible world with strong science fiction footing without making it seem overly cheesy.

From there the thematic elements are all nearly pitch perfect. Leading up to the games there is a tremendous portrayal of the fakeness of celebrities and their role in helping people forget their current situations. More than that though the emotions run higher, the action is more exciting and the story is deeper. Lawrence however is not simply stepping on Ross’ head to get to the top, instead he is just filling in the blanks and building on what Ross started in the first film. Where the first film does a more than adequate job at setting this world up this film brings it to the next level. CATCHING FIRE utilizes some of the values from the first film, but injects them with steroids to transition into a far more expansive world to accommodate the more action heavy aspects of the last book.

The next redeeming factor is that when the action starts, we can actually see what’s going on. Most remember Ross’ incredibly dizzying shaky cam from the first film whenever action was taking place- well that’s all gone here and replaced with clean steady shot sequences. However, there are at least two or three scenes that take place at night that are almost too dark to see everything happening which can be disorienting.

To add on to the gorgeous cinematography, the special effects are just one more aspect that trumps the original film. One of my biggest gripes with the first film was the horrible CGI in the final scenes and the weird dog creatures which were rendered horribly and the scene took place at night which still didn’t manage to hide the crappy effects. Lawrence is responsible for some pretty terrible CGI in previous movies like Constantine, but more so the “vampires” from I AM LEGEND- not the case in CATCHING FIRE. The effects in the arena are spectacular and the setting is absolutely beautiful to look at, but that also goes for the expanded looks we get at Panem throughout too.

To say that THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is better than the first is not giving it enough credit. Aside from some darkly lit action sequences the film is perfectly paced, exciting, emotional and beautiful. Francis Lawrence has upped his game substantially for this blockbuster franchise and I now have nothing but hope for his involvement in the final two movies. The second CATCHING FIRE ends I was immediately pumped to see the next installment which is a testament to the quality because had it been a middling experience I’d have been okay with a bit of a wait until the next film. Jennifer Lawrence shines once again and helps to make THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE one of this years best films that should not be missed.

Rating: A-

Mini Reviews: The World’s End, This is the End, Thanks For Sharing and more!

theworldsend_posterThe World’s End – It’s been a bit since Edgar Wright directed a film with his two buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost- sure we’ve seen Pegg/Frost together in the nearly terrible PAUL, but I’ve been jonesing for a return to the SHAWN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ type of collaboration. Thankfully 2013 granted that wish with THE WORLD’S END, a film that combines almost all of my favorite things- comedy, action, awesome fight scenes, aliens and drinking.

Wright’s latest effort follows Gary King (Simon Pegg), a man obsessed with completing a legendary pub crawl that he and his friends fell short of years before. Gary manages to talk each of his friends- who don’t think too kindly of him anymore- to accompany him on the pub crawl once again. When they arrive back in town they find their home isn’t quite what it used to be and find themselves not just fighting for their lives, but for the fate of the world.

THE WORLD’S END is the ending chapter of what Wright dubbed the Cornetto trilogy- starting with SHAWN OF THE DEAD, then with HOT FUZZ and ending here in his latest sci fi romp. Now while I believe the film is very funny, filmed spectacularly well and acted just as well- there’s something about the last act that just didn’t fall into place for me.

I don’t have too many big gripes that ruined the movie for me and truth be told with a few more viewings it could end up being my favorite of the aforementioned trilogy. However, after the first one it did leave a little to be desired and luckily I feel this will hold up very well with multiple viewings. Overall THE WORLD’S END is a well shot, funny and exciting little sci-fi buddy comedy that continues to prove just how talented and imaginative Edgar Wright is as a director.

Rating: B+

thanksforsharing_posterThanks For Sharing – I often feel like guys claiming they have a sex addiction to be kind of a joke- a problem for the privileged man, or just a man in general. If there’s one film that truly gets the low lows of the addiction and makes a case for the treatment of such an addiction, it’s SHAME. I’ve grown a bit more sympathetic of the proclaimed addiction, but a movie like THANKS FOR SHARING kind of puts a dent in that sympathy- even if I did get a few good laughs from it.

Who knew that the Hulk suffered so much from an embarrassment if riches in the hanky panky department? THANKS FOR SHARING follows a handful of men as well as one women (played by Pink) as they struggle with the rigors of sex addiction. Mark Ruffalo leads the charge as a man that’s been “sober” for five years and is scared to venture into a relationship with the Gwyneth Paltrow in fear that his addiction will take over.

Ruffalo’s story has the majority of the screen time, followed by Tim Robbins’ older addict that now takes pride in helping people with a variety of addictions, Josh Gad as a perverted doctor that masturbates excessively and lastly Pink who just can’t resist the urge to screw any guy simply because she doesn’t know how to relate to them. Performance wise everyone is actually pretty great, but I feel like Robbins is far more watchable than the rest while Ruffalo just seems to phone it in.

It’s kind of nice to get more of a comedic approach to sex addiction since the drama that is attempted at in regard to it is contrived and silly at times. When We finally get a glimpse at what Ruffalo’s character goes through when his addiction takes hold, it’s the antithesis of what I feel is a joke about the addiction. It’s small lines here and there that serve as why sex addiction is a problem more than the actions- though Gad’s perverse work behavior does give a bit of insight to why it should be contained at times.

THANKS FOR SHARING mines very little that I find meaningful as a drama and succeeds mostly in the comedy, but doesn’t use it to its full potential. It’s great to see Tim Robbins putting in some great work, Josh Gad continues to make somewhat of a name for himself and even Pink adds a bit of fun to the proceedings. Overall the film isn’t quite heavy enough or fun enough to be as memorable as it seems it wants to be.

Rating: B-

thisistheend_posterThis is the End – Time after time chances to see THIS IS THE END in theaters passed me by. It’s a shame really, because I feel like the theatrical experience of this would have been one of the best of the year. The shared experience of enjoying a good laugh with a lot of people is exceedingly rewarding- but on the other hand, the type of comedy at play can also be very polarizing. Male humor is startling and awkward when it’s at its best and it’s something that can disgust and repel members of the opposite gender. THIS IS THE END might easily be one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, but it loses momentum in the last act and is admittedly a bit awkward to watch if you have a significant other that isn’t digging the vibe it’s putting out.

I love how easy this movie is to describe- what would a bunch of comedic celebrities do when the rapture hits? The answer- argue about their bodily fluids and find varies avenues to take jabs at one another in hilarious ways. The actual story beyond the basic set up is the friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel as they’ve grown apart over the last few years and they attempt to respark their once strong relationship.

It might be presumptuous to assume this humor is easily consumed by all males, given how subjective comedy can be. Essentially, the humor here is Apatow-esque if Apatow was an extremely immature college student baked out of his mind and had a thing for 90’s boy bands. The raunch factor isn’t totally out of Apatow’s wheelhouse, considering the actors here gained notoriety from films like KNOCKED UP or 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and TV shows like Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared. Also, the improv nature of the script might wear on some viewers that get a little fatigued by the constant back and forth banter between each character.

The budget is obviously low when you get into shots of the actual apocalypse which lends to the cheap aesthetic that is carried throughout, but the actors are so sharp and clever with their lines that it’s easy to overlook the effects issues that take over during some scenes. The final act of the film is where the film almost completely jumps off the track and the momentum all but dies out. The interactions between characters as the ending finally starts coming into place is extremely weak and the acting is kind of embarrassing- and given the characters are playing exaggerated versions of themselves it doesn’t even come across as naturalistic either. I have fewer problems with the final scene than I do witch the few minutes leading up to it, but it still isn’t near as strong as the rest of the film.

THIS IS THE END flirts with perfection in the face of an obviously low budget and with an extremely simple plot, but trips and falls flat on its face in the home stretch. The humor is laugh out loud funny almost all the way through and even has enough bloodshed and apocalyptic imagery to please horror buffs as well. If you’re a fan of the improvisational style that the actors involved are known for then THIS IS THE END has more than enough good to overcome the extremely weak ending. Be warned that if vulgar humor and imagery even slightly offends you, this might be one to just let slip by the wayside.

Rating: B+

thewaywayback_posterThe Way Way Back – I have a real soft spot for coming of age movies. Everything about them seems to hit all the right chords and turn me into a sappy mess. Particularly stories about the awkward kid that is picked on, left out, looked down upon and can’t seem to find his place- I’m sure one could deduct why that speaks to me. The process of that character finding himself, letting go and being themselves when they find the right people is something that just makes my cold heart turn to mush. THE WAY WAY BACK is a perfect example of everything I just talked about with some incredibly fun and touching performances to bring it all together.

I already kind of summarized exactly what the film is about- an awkward kid, Duncan (Liam James), is on vacation with his mom, his mom’s bf and his mom’s bf’s daughter at a beach house. Duncan’s mom’s bf Trent (Steve Carrel) is a dick and his daughter is your typical annoying teenage brat and his mom seems to put up with more than she probably should in regards to Trent’s behavior and attitude. While on vacation Duncan meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who manages a water park in the area and the two quickly strike a friendship that brings Duncan out of his shell.

Written and directed by the Oscar winning duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (writers of THE DESCENDANTS) the film is not without its beautiful scenery, but more than anything else it’s the relationships and the dialogue that make THE WAY WAY BACK what it is. Sam Rockwell knocks it out if the park in every scene he’s in as a guy that is incredibly comfortable with who he is and lives every moment to its fullest without taking life too seriously. The script is not overly complicated and sticks to the basic fundamentals of a coming of age story, but in that lies it’s strength. It’s relatable to people of all walks of life and accessible for people of all ages.

THE WAY WAY BACK is a sweet and heartwarming coming of age movie with a scene stealing performance from Sam Rockwell. There’s plenty of laughs, drama and angsty teen goodness for the film to find fans of any age. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash prove once again they have quite the talent for human stories with charming humor and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Rating: A-

monstersuniversity_posterMonsters University – It took years for me to finally check out MONSTERS INC and even then it was only because my wife kind of convinced me to watch it with her. I was a little ashamed of myself since at the time I was in school studying computer animation and while watching that film it reinvigorated my love of the forum. Disney/Pixar fueled my love of animation- specifically CG animation- for so long and to have that gap in my movie knowledge was very disappointing to myself. I preface that only to limp into my nearly mirrored thoughts on MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.

This film serves as a prequel to MONSTERS INC where we see the origins of Sully and Mike’s friendship and what lead them into becoming scarers. The animation style is exactly the same and rather than going for a lot of realistic mapping in favor of an incredibly slick and colorful cartoon-esque animation which is beautiful and stunning in its own right.

The Pixar quality is upheld in every aspect and the only place I could possibly acknowledge a flaw is that it’s so like many of Pixar’s other efforts including MONSTERS INC that it’s become a little redundant. However, I feel like that complaint is utterly useless and silly that we would feel incensed to complain about an embarrassment if riches in quality family entertainment. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is far beyond other Disney/Pixar disappointments such as CARS AND CARS 2 that it feels petty to say a movie is bad simply because it’s as good but maybe not better than movies from the studio we previously loved.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a great follow up to the original film and follows in its monster sized footsteps maybe a little too much for some. Regardless of the similarities to other movies in the Pixar cannon I believe the film is of extremely high family entertainment quality and one that will please audiences of just about any age- though the kiddos are likely to be more head over heels for it than anyone else.

Rating: B+

whd_posterWhite House Down – Having already seen a White House swigs movie this year and hating the crap out if it I did not have high hopes going into WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I find most of Roland Emmerich’s effects heavy action movies charming on some level, but not one have I felt intellectually challenged by one and this film is not the exception. That being said, I kind of loved this movie even with how incredibly mind numbing and stupid the entire thing was.

Channing Tatum stars as a secret service hopeful currently serving protective duty for the Speaker of the House. He takes his daughter on a tour of the White House after his interview for the secret service doesn’t pan out. While on the tour a group of highly trained mercenaries enact an elaborate takeover of the White House in aim of kidnapping the president and carrying out a plan that has disastrous goals.

All the Emmerich staples are here- incredibly dumb action, goofy one liners, pretty great special effects (one of the many things it has over OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN) and a somewhat bloated run time. Despite its length the film is always entertaining in spite of how dumb it is and you can always see what is happening quite clearly, something else the other White House takeover movie failed spectacularly at.

I’m not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a good movie, but it does exactly what it sets out to do which is be entertaining. It didn’t win me over with stellar writing or even story elements that make any sense whatsoever; it won me over by simply not taking itself too seriously and delivering set pieces that are fun to watch and by being one of the movies it’s easy to shut one’s brain off and enjoy for a short period of time. Every now and again it’s nice to enjoy those empty cinematic calories.

Rating: B

purge_posterThe Purge – Like many other things I think sound like good ideas I sometimes have little faith that they are actually good ideas ideas. When I first watched the trailer for THE PURGE I thought it was an insanely cool concept, but I had strong doubts that it would deliver anything on the level of what I hoped. To an extent I was right, but truth be told this film surprised me and I actually liked far more than I thought I would based on my doubts.

As I debated the concept of THE PURGE, the more ridiculous it became. A distant future where crime is essentially non-existent except for one night a year where, for 12 hours, all crime including murder is 100% legal. The possibilities are endless and instead of exploring those possibilities it focuses on on family headed by Ethan Hawke who are extremely well off due to Hawke’s stellar selling abilities of a heavy duty home security system that nearly everyone in their neighborhood has purchased. The doors close and when the annual Purge begins a bloodied man is seeking help and the son inexplicably shuts the security down long enough to let the man in and inviting a group of psychos looking for him to come down on the house and stop at nothing to get their prey.

The most disappointing thing about THE PURGE is that with all the things that could be done with the concept is that it is staged almost completely within the one house. The tension is great and the performance from the “polite stranger” that wants nothing more than to kill the man Hawke’s family has in their house is nothing short of fantastic in a crazy entertaining sort of way. Everyone else is frustrating beyond belief just because of the actions they make throughout. Stupid horror movie character cliches are out in full force in almost every frame of this film which piles on to the disappointment of the one location nature of it all.

The twists and turns are all equally ridiculous but certainly help to offset the frustration of the characters. What I love is everything that the concept brings to light- the nature of the Purge itself and the social climate it suggests. I only wish that there had been more background on the New Founding Fathers and more insight/visuals as to what is happening all over during the Purge. We can only hope that if there is indeed a sequel it delivers a little more on these levels.

THE PURGE is nowhere near a perfect film- stating the obvious- but it is far more entertaining than it has any right to be given the character flaws and disappointment regarding the one location setting. You should see it if for nothing else than to see Rhys Wakefield’s bizarre but incredibly watchable performance as the film’s main protagonist. There are flaws aplenty, but there is a lot of potential in this concept to carry a franchise and hopefully they improve in the areas this one kind of drops the ball.

Rating: B

internship_posterThe Internship – Eh, that’s really all I have to say about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s latest team up. In the interest of conversation I will elaborate…I guess. I didn’t really have motivation to see THE INTERNSHIP at all, but alas I decided to give it a shot. For the majority of the film it completely justified those feelings and it’s not until the end that it gets into a few “okay” moments that at the most didn’t make me hate myself for riding it out.

Google has a reputation for being an awesome place to work and that’s pretty much all this movie is- even though it does everything it can to paint the people that work there as petty judgmental jerks. Wilson and Vaughn are watch salesmen with zero other skills and when the company they work for goes under they are forced to enter a job market they have almost no hope of successfully navigating. Obviously the next logical step is to apply for internships at one of the most highly sought after place to work in the world with no skill sets. They inexplicably get the opportunity and the rest of the film continues along the same lines of ridiculousness as the set up.

The most relatable aspect of the film is only that if you had nothing to lose why not try and crowbar your way into one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Beyond that, this movie is just stupid. It’s nothing but long shot scenario after long shot scenario that after some point my eyes were rolling so much I was dizzy. Is it not enough to watch two middle aged men with zero tech skills bs there way into an internship filled with hundreds of more than qualified younger applicants that we also have to watch a geek get a girl that’s 1,000,000 times out of his league? These are just some of the frustrating underdog themes at play here and they are all beyond generic.

It isn’t without its crowd pleasing elements and my heart is not made of stone as I mentioned in the end I didn’t completely hate myself, but there just isn’t enough here that I was happy with what I watched. THE INTERNSHIP is loaded with jokes that either don’t work or are recycled from other mediocre movies featuring Vince Vaughn. Rent it if you dare, but you won’t be any wiser to the charms of Google, the heartwarming nature of underdog stories, or that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were ever good actors.

Rating: D+

theconspiracy_posterThe Conspiracy – Found footage movies are in need of a bit of an overhaul in my opinion. I do enjoy one on occasion, but let’s face it, they are getting a little stale and for the most part, there’s nothing all that new about the slew of recent offerings. THE CONSPIRACY isn’t entirely the saving grace of new found footage movies, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The film has footing in real conspiracy theories that have popped up in recent years and uses them to weave an incredibly intricate little story that has a pair of documentary filmmakers making a film centered on a conspiracy lune that shouts his theories on street corners from a loudspeaker. When that man goes missing one day one of the filmmakers, Aaron, takes it upon himself to find a pattern in the research that was left behind. What he uncovers leads them into the heart of an incredibly dangerous secret society.

I don’t want to say THE CONSPIRACY is 100% original as it borrows bits and pieces from found footage faux documentaries that came before it, but it does weave those elements in a way that at the very least makes it feel new and exciting. The way that a lot of the actual conspiracy theories are mixed in with the plot heightens the rest of the film giving it some extra punch from start to finish.

The actors aren’t particularly memorable, but the situations they find themselves in make for some incredibly tense and freaky moments leading up to a finale that is quite frightening. However, as great as the finale is, the actual end of the film left a lot to be desired as opposed to if it had ended immediately after the final bit of action.

THE CONSPIRACY is a fantastic addition to the found footage universe and one that in spite one or two hiccups is a memorable little shocker with some incredibly spooky moments. The use of blurred faces and distorted voices during the finale are nightmarish and help to make the film stick in your head long after it’s over.

Rating: B+