channing tatum

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

thehatefuleight_posterNote: Screened 35mm Roadshow Cut with an Overture and 12 minute Intermission

Quentin Tarantino has an extremely rabid fan base and perhaps even more rabid haters. It’s when those two groups intersect that create some very tumultuous water. His latest opus, The Hateful Eight, is precisely the type of movie with potential to unite on the fence fans and haters alike. You’ll find no argument here that The Hateful Eight contains vile characters, racist/sexist dialogue, and horrendous treatment of women. In spite of all that, Tarantino’s film is still a whole lot of blood soaked fun. Though, it’s understandable if this film in-particular falls too bitter for those with sensitive palates.

Kurt Russell stars as John Ruth, a bounty hunter traveling in the middle of winter in Wyoming, handcuffed to Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a bounty he’s transporting to be hanged. In the middle of nowhere he comes upon a stranded Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), another bounty hunter transporting a trio of dead bodies to collect his bounty. Ruth hesitantly agrees to allow Warren to come on for the ride. The trio stop to hold up at Minnie’s Haberdashery for a couple of days to wait out the storm before continuing on their way. Inside, a handful of gentleman have also taken up residence and Ruth, being a watchful and careful individual, doesn’t trust a one of them. Deciding that at least one of the men isn’t who they say they are he and Warren must keep a watchful eye for someone who might have their eyes set on helping Daisy Domergue go free.  (more…)


Oscar Double Dose Review: American Sniper & Foxcatcher

americansniper_posterClint Eastwood is a legend, no doubt, and I have had quite the love/hate relationship with the films he’s directed. Bradley Cooper is a talented actor, one who I have had no doubt could carry a movie and one day be nominated for an Oscar. So with Eastwood and Cooper collaborating you would think AMERICAN SNIPER would be a harmonious true story about the most lethal sniper in American history- and you’d be wrong…at least in my opinion.

I guess I’m not being entirely fair- you wouldn’t be wrong for having loved this movie, I simply just wouldn’t agree. First things first though, AMERICAN SNIPER simply follows the life and military career of Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). The film does not get into deep detail of Kyle’s early years aside from a few scenes with his father, then moves on to events leading to his decision to become a Navy SEAL, meeting a pretty girl at a bar and starting a relationship, and eventually deciding to join the war in Iraq. As a sniper in the war Kyle racks up a startling amount of kills, earns the title of Legend amongst his peers, becomes a high priority target in the eyes of the enemy and alienates the his wife and growing family.  (more…)

TGoF’s Top 5 Films of 2014 So Far

cheapthrills_posterSometimes around the months of June and July I think it’s fun to take a look back at the movies I’ve been able to see so far in the year. For one, it’s fun to take a look back and see if there’s anything that’s gotten better over time since I watched it and stuff that’s soured on me since. Then as you are about to see I like to take the five that I feel best represent what I’ve enjoyed at that point in the year and see how my taste leans- basically if I’m picking up what Hollywood is throwing down or are the indie filmmakers still pumping out under appreciated gems. Lastly at the end of the year I think it’s fun to revisit this list to see if my picks held up for the whole year or if the year is simply front loaded with movies that make you appreciate the end of the year flicks that much more.

Every year I predict that the list will end up being a mixture of Hollywood dazzle and indie resourcefulness- but it usually depends on just how active I’ve been in keeping up with heading out to the theater or being lazy and resorting to On Demand viewing. I tend to spend equal amounts of time renting movies On Demand and trying not to be a cave dweller by leaving my humble abode to spend time amongst other people to enjoy movies which is why my mid year list tends to show some love to both big budget and ultra low budget films. I’m a sucker for super hero movies, raunchy comedies, heady thrillers and mixture of quirky indies/bizarre black comedies so my lists tend to drift from your typical film snob- but that’s a good thing right? (more…)

Movie Review: 22 Jump Street

22jumpstreet_posterA few years ago I couldn’t imagine ever actively wanting to go to a movie starring Channing Tatum. At the same time I’d probably have said the same thing about Jonah Hill- but mostly because I liked him in smaller roles. Flash forward to the moment I finished 22 JUMP STREET and now I just want every movie to star Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a mismatched bromance. That and in a movie that makes fun of itself and winks at the audience at every opportunity and still manage to not be obnoxious.

Picking up exactly where 21 JUMP STREET left off this film places Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) in college to do the exact same thing as they did in the fist film- infiltrate the dealer and find the supplier. The drug they are after on the campus is called WhyPhy and it gives the user intense focus for a period of time followed by a massive high. This time around the roles of Jenko and Schmidt are flip flopped as Jenko finds he fits in at the college setting more than Schmidt. The two once again have to adapt to their differences in order to crack the case. (more…)

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+

Movie Review: Magic Mike (2012)


Before I get started I’d like everyone to put on their big boy pants and read everything here as an adult with an open mind rather than snicker like a little junior high brat that just had to say penis and vagina in front of their Health class. Yes, I am a 20 something male that went to a movie about male strippers and yes I am a 20 something male that went to a movie featuring lots of bare chested men dancing on stage and doing lots of pelvic thrusting and liked it- but not because of any of the previously mentioned reasons. MAGIC MIKE may very well be what all the women will be falling over themselves to see due to all the eye candy, but I’m hoping they also take a second to enjoy the smart and funny screenwriting and appreciate the performances outside of the debauchery.

It seems weird to wish that women appreciate a film about men peeling their clothes off because it’s usually the girls picking men’s tongues off the floor whenever a good looking girl sheds a few layers of clothing. I’ve been to female strip clubs before and never have I ever seen a man muster so much enthusiasm over a woman stripping that my audience of women mustered for a movie about male strippers. I suppose I can see why because if MAGIC MIKE is any indication, the girls at a male strip club get much more of a show than most men do at female strip clubs where it feels much sadder and less theatrical. Here the women will get what they want a majority of the time- plenty of half naked male gyrating- while anyone looking for something deeper also get a little bang for their buck as well.

MAGIC MIKE stars Channing Tatum as an aging male stripper, Mike, who has an entrepreneurial spirit using his talents as a means to get his many business ideas off the ground. Tatum continues to impress with his acting abilities here as well, playing a smart and confident character that’s more than just the piece of meat with a G-string stuffed with $1 bills. Mike befriends a young wanderer, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and decides to teach him his ways on the stage. Mike’s boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), is quite taken with Adam’s potential to help him draw in crowds and Mike takes a fancy to Adam’s sister. Eventually Adam finds the darker corners of the business as Mike starts to contemplate just how much longer he can stay in the spotlight. McConaughey also puts in a pretty great performance even if it was a bit awkward seeing him get groped by dozens of eager women while he sports little more than a loin cloth over his happy place. Pettyfer has his moments but at times does little more than walk around with a scruffy beard and a grimace on his face while Cody Horn who plays his sister, Brooke, does her best portraying an empty shell of a love interest and has one of the most awkward “trying too hard to laugh” scenes I’ve ever seen. All in all though the central performances and some select side characters really sell the film.

Before I lose too many more guys reading this, I’d like to let you know that while you do have to endure a lot of dude sweat before the credits role, the opening scene gives you a bit of a pity shot. While on one side of the screen women will be hooting and hollering at the sight of Tatum’s backside and on the other a very topless Olivia Munn welcomes the eyes of the male audience. In fact aside from the club scenes the film isn’t entirely keen on making the guys uncomfortable so much as it’s just a side effect of portraying a really interesting character study of people living this wild lifestyle.

Guys brushing the film off altogether because the male stripper aspect turns them off should know that the flick is actually very funny. There’s a decent amount of raunchy guy humor and a lot of really clever jokes that at times are sort of misogynistic and less chick friendly- unless they too find two guys talking about getting a girl’s mouth pregnant, funny. The script is far more focused on giving a behind the scenes slice of life story about a real person with hopes and dreams that just so happens to be an extremely talented dancer that goes the extra mile by taking his clothes off in the process. I’m not going to go so far as to say you won’t feel awkward or inadequate during the stripping scenes, but honestly even then there are some pretty funny physical humor and other jokes to have fun with.

The director, Steven Soderberg, has a knack for giving his film’s a distinct look with the use of colors and he does so here as well. The color scheme is similar to that of CONTAGION in as much as it has a bit of a dirty yellowish color scheme during the day scenes, but at and in the club while you still get the more sepia heavy tone there are still plenty of flashing lights and other vibrant colors to break up the visual style. What I really like though is the fact that Soderberg’s films have a way of mixing indie sensibilities with a Hollywood flare. His camera work is always interesting and I am rarely ever bored by any one scene although here the film does feel a tad overlong.

I’ve already had the chance to get some playful jabs from friends about my enjoyment of this film, but truth be told I’m not the least bit embarrassed to admit how much I liked it. Say what you will about the actual stripping, which isn’t what catches my attention outside of acknowledging that the cast, mostly Tatum have serious dancing talent. The script is full of great dialogue that comes off very naturalistic and really excels in its comedy. MAGIC MIKE does however lose momentum in the last act when it loses its fantastic sense of humor and fun in exchange for less realized drug heavy drama. Soderberg’s vision of the male stripping world isn’t just for women, but an interesting character study that’s surprising full of clever laughs and ends up being a raucous crowd pleaser.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: 21 Jump Street (2012)


I’m just going to get right to the point- I think 21 JUMP STREET may end up being one of the funniest movies I see all year if not THE funniest. From beginning to end I cannot remember a movie that kept me so entertained and laughing almost every second in a long long time.  Some of my favorite comedies over the years combine smart writing with great performances from actors with great comedic timing and ultimately a heart that shows maturity amidst all the raunchy jokes and 21 JUMP STREET met everything I look for in a comedy and then some.

The film opens with Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) attending high school together. Jenko is a jock struggling with his grades but he’s popular- Schmidt on the other hand is a nerd with that gets shot down and embarrassed when he asks a popular girl to prom. Seven years later the two are both in the same recruiting class to join the police force- Jenko is good at the athletic stuff and Schmidt is good at the written stuff so the two join forces to make it through the training. Once on the force they prove to be less than satisfactory so their Captain transfers them to a resurrected undercover program with their new superior, Captain Dickson (Ice Cube). Dickson places them at a high school where a new synthetic drug is being spread around and threatens to go viral if the two don’t uncover the supplier. Schmidt and Jenko go and relive their high school days but the times have changed and Schmidt fits in the popular crowd while Jenko finds himself saddled in the nerd click.

From the moment the film starts and “The Real Slim Shady” kicks in over the speakers the film establishes that it is not taking itself too seriously. It becomes even more evident with every joke and gag during the opening sequences right up till the end so I could just kick bag and laugh it up. The absurd comedy is cranked up to eleven without every entering spoof territory but just ridiculous enough that it feels like somewhat of a joke on the buddy cop/teen comedy.

The anchor of the film is the relationship between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum- their comedic chemistry is pitch perfect. I can’t recall a movie that I loved the character that Tatum was playing, but his character alone was hilarious but combined with Hill it’s really something to behold. Tatum pulls off the dumb meathead and Hill takes the awkward goofball and when they are together riffing off each other I was in stitches. The rest of the cast all enhance the scenes when Tatum and Hill are apart- rather it’s Rob Riggle trading insults with the duo or Ice Cube screaming and threatening them they are all consistently hilarious.

The writing is smart and has incredible timing and at times there are moments that feel unscripted that added to the unpredictable nature of some of the comedy. There’s a sequence where Hill and Tatum are forced to take the drug they are there to snuff out that had me gasping for air that includes Tatum running rampant in a band class while Hill sings and dances his way into a Peter Pan play and then participating in a track meet. There’s even some action towards the end and the laughs don’t stop even while the duo are involved in a three limo chase sequence that ends the film on a hilarious note. Fans of the TV series will get a kick out of a cameo that I was completely unprepared for and laughed at even more. I wish I could say I knew a lot about the original series- but I can assure you that after this I will be checking it out.

I have very little to say about 21 JUMP STREET that’s all that negative apart from I was disappointed when it ended. If I had to choose one thing in particular I would say it’s predictable in terms of anticipating the eventual fallout between friends and love interests along the way and of course the triumphant patching of the friendship but even then the film finds jokes to make it something that’s not been-there-done-that.

Constant dick jokes, liberal usage of the F-bomb, sexual innuendos and situations, plus quite a bit of violence in the last half make 21 JUMP STREET far from an affair for the whole family but perfect for a night out with friends or a significant other if you’re in the mood for a boatload of laughs. The film might prove to be a bit too reliant on risqué humor and immature language for some, but the way in which the jokes are presented felt smarter and perfectly placed than I expected. Hill and Tatum make a perfect comedic duo and I would be first in line for any other film they were paired in. 21 JUMP STREET is one of the best raunchy buddy comedies to come along in recent years and likely one of the best we’ll see this year.

Movie Review: The Vow (2012)


It’s that time of year- stores are littered with guys picking up last minute cards and chocolates for their significant other, restaurants are overly packed with couples celebrating their love and at least one movie is pushed out to cash in on the Valentine’s Day holiday. This year that movie is THE VOW- which surprisingly enough was just tolerable enough to not hate that I would inevitably have to take my own wife to see it. Also to my surprise one that doesn’t overly try to cash in on the more loathsome aspects of chick flicks.

Leo (Channing Tatum) and Paige (Rachel McAdams) have been a happily married couple for about five years. Their relationship however suffers a massive setback when after a night at the movies a truck smashed into the rear of the car they are in and Paige wakes in the hospital with no memory of Leo or their relationship. With Paige now in the mindset that she is back into a life she had long since abandoned before meeting Leo, he must try and find a way to make her remember how in love they were- something that Paige is not entirely convinced was right for her.

THE VOW is undeniably chick flick material- hot co-stars, lovers torn apart must find a way back together- the proof is all there. What I like about it is that while it doesn’t come out without the chick flick pitfalls that are so common, it always has this hint that things may not end so happily ever after. It paints a realistic picture that for all intents and purposes makes the film much more entertaining than I would have ever thought it would. Some parts may be paint by numbers and the portrayal of a married couple might just be the cliff notes of what marriage is really like in what’s ostensibly the “honeymoon” stage, but the intent and final product wasn’t near as painful as I had feared. That and someone must have tipped off the writers that I’m a huge Chicago Cubs fan and have a weakness for red velvet cake because both are referenced at several points in the film- plus it takes place in Chicago, a city I love.

Paige’s accident happens right at the get go and from there the film cuts back and forth from the early days of their relationship to present day basically to compare and contrast her personality then and the personality the accident reverted her back to. It’s after the accident that we as an audience as well as Leo see just how unlikable Paige was before Leo actually met her. She’s high strung, uptight and a bit of a snob where her personality at the time she met Leo was carefree, goofy and extremely easy going. Paige’s competing personalities make the film a little more interesting than I expected, because she not only struggles with if she was actually in love with Leo but also with the fact that she has to fill in the blanks of why she abandoned a promising law career, disowned her parents and ultimately ran away from her pampered life.

Leo on the other hand has to fight with the fact that his wife only remembers being engaged to another man, Jeremy (Scott Speedman), her parents that he never met are trying to turn her against him and the fact that the girl he loves not only doesn’t remember him but is back in a mindset that was the complete opposite of who fell in love with him to begin with. For any guy this is a daunting mountain to climb and for the most part the film conveys that in interesting ways. Most of the time rather than painting Channing Tatum as the faultless romantic with endless tricks up his sleeve to make the girls melt; he instead resorts to begging McAdam’s character to just accept something she can’t remember. Eventually when he embraces making her fall in love with him again even that is more down to Earth than unrealistically romantic which with a character like Leo would have been a stretch.

THE VOW is not without moments designed only for the ladies since the film finds ways to put Channing Tatum shirtless and even manages to expose his backside in a moment I’m sure will have the ladies glued to the screen. Aside from those shots most everything else can be interpreted as straight romantic drama that leans more to the chick flick genre than heavy drama.

Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum do have a decent amount of chemistry and they both have experience starring in chick flicks and both do a decent job on screen. Most of the other characters are straight clichés of the genre and don’t have the depth to take the material to a memorable drama. That’s not to say that someone like Sam Neil is unwatchable, but I still prefer him being chased by dinosaurs.

Movies like THE VOW carry an unseen aura by most that say it is destined to be a hapless exercise is exploiting the female demographic and one that forces guys against their will to accompany their SO or face the consequences. I’m not here to make excuses or to give the film a complete pass to avoid backlash by the female audience that loves these types of films. Plain and simple, I did not hate THE VOW and I say that as shocked as any red blooded male reading this that would much rather see explosions and gunfire when going to the theater on a weekend. Is it perfect? Not by a long shot, but as someone with a bit of a softer side it did manage to make me smile at some of the character dynamics between leads and even sympathize with them on more than one occasion. That being said THE VOW is first and foremost a chick flick with its fair share of issues that looks to please its female audience first and seeking full approval of a male audience was never in the cards.

Movie Review: The Dilemma (2011)

It has been a few years since I’ve really enjoyed a movie that Vince Vaughn has starred in. The last one that I enjoyed thoroughly was WEDDING CRASHERS and since then of all the ones I’ve seen have been subpar romantic comedies and the completely abysmal FRED CLAUS. While I can’t say that THE DILEMMA is a return to the Vince Vaughn comedy that I’ve come to love it’s definitely quite the mixture of generic relationship comedy and some pretty dark comedy as well.

Ronny Valentine (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Brannen (Kevin James) are on the verge of a huge deal with the car manufacturer, Dodge, to create an engine that fuses the power of earlier muscle cars with the sophistication of today’s luxury cars. The process already has its hiccups even before Ronny, while scoping an area to propose to his girlfriend, stumbles upon Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) having an affair with a young tattooed guy named Zip (Channing Tatum). From there Ronny struggles with the decision of if he should tell his best friend the news and potentially ruin their chance to make some big bucks or keep it from him until the deal is done. Ronny switches back and forth on the idea until things just start spiraling out of control.

From the outset of the film it looks and feels like another lackluster romantic comedy with a lot of very stale jokes and cheesy romantic dialogue. It’s not until Vaughn’s character stumbles on the affair that things start picking up a bit. From that point we have a mixture of hit and miss comedy with a large amount of extremely awkward moments stemming from an anniversary toast involving honesty up to an intervention to confront some demons from one character’s past. In some ways the film tries to juggle a lot of different elements of drama that are real problems people deal with everyday, but because within the confines of an hour and fifty minute movie there isn’t a sufficient amount of time to do it all justice. The stuff that’s currently there services the film decent enough to drive the events but at some point there just doesn’t seem to be enough to connect with every character on a deep level.

For me the redeeming part of the film is the dark places it was willing to explore with Vaughn’s character. There’s a believable amount of rage to the character once he discovers the affair, which makes the film much more bearable since it deviates from the by-the-numbers romantic comedy formula. The other plus as far as aspects that have the potential to keep things generic is that they don’t demonize any specific character throughout the film. Each character has their redeeming and sympathetic sides as well as the deplorable characteristics as well; not a single one is without their flaws, which gives each audience member the opportunity to connect and sympathize with whoever they personally see eye to eye with in the situation.

Kevin James has yet to play a movie character that is as fun or funny as his King of Queens character; and I’d have to say that is still case even with THE DILEMMA. His character is definitely not the key source of comedy, but I have to say this is easily his best film role, which with his filmography isn’t that big of a compliment but still a compliment nonetheless. There isn’t a bad performance to be found, but no one quite matches Vaughn’s intensity and commitment to the material. Jennifer Connelly is good as always along with Winona Ryder. While the film never quite accomplishes the genuine emotional responses it is obviously trying to evoke, it’s elevated by Vince Vaughn’s psychotic yet restrained performance.

Ron Howard and company have a more than half of an interesting film, mostly due to the cast and their performances, but there is a very inconsistent mix of goofy, romantic and dark humor. When it’s all said and done THE DILEMMA is a decent and dark comedic effort that is cheapened by half hearted jokes and sections of dialogue that make no sense whatsoever. It’s a film that will split audiences because of its inconsistency but there is a lot to enjoy if you can get passed the generic rom com pitfalls.