chris pratt

[Mega Movie Review] Catching Up on 2017

13886469_1267046413328617_7042198926381498825_nBusy time of year folks, so apologies to anyone who actually looks forward to my latest reviews. I didn’t want everything I’ve seen to fall by the wayside, so here are some brief thoughts on everything I’ve seen so far in 2017 but haven’t had time to sit down and put full write ups on. Sit back relax and “enjoy” some candid hot takes on these 2017 releases!

Kong: Skull Island – Come for the star studded cast then shove them aside for the awesome creature fights. Kong is visually impressive, but it lacks humanity in a pretty comical way. The characters very much feel like empty shells taking us from one place to another to be bait for the eventual breathtaking spectacle of the Kong fights. In spite of the lack of characters to hang your hat on this was still a pretty tremendous and crowd pleasing theater experience. Rating: B+

Gifted – Sort of let this one get lost in the shuffle. This is a very understated film. There was almost no marketing push and it just sort of appeared in theaters with little to no fanfare. If its still out there though, get out and see it. I could have used a little more closure for some of the relationships and perhaps a little more emotion out of Chris Evans’ character, but this has been the most affective dramas so far this year that also happens to have a pretty delightful sense of humor. Rating: A- (more…)

Advertisements

Movie Review: Jurassic World

jurassicworld_posterIt’s been over 20 years since Steven Spielberg wowed us with his dino extravaganza Jurassic Park. Since then Joe Johnston and Spielberg himself couldn’t quite catch the same feeling of wonderment in their respective sequels. Now, 14 years after Jurassic Park III Colin Trevorrow has taken the unenviable task of taking audiences back to Isla Nublar for more dinosaur shenanigans in Jurassic World. Fortunatly, Trevorrow managed to find a way to breathe new life into the franchise even if he does stumble a bit out of the gate.

Jurassic World takes place 22 years after the events of Jurassic Park. The park has since evolved and enjoyed a decades of success, however, audiences are getting bored with the attractions and want bigger, better, and scarier reasons to attend. The park’s administrator, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) had the scientists cook up a new dino called the Indominus Rex that’s bigger and faster than the T-Rex. Claire enlists Owen (Chris Pratt), the park’s resident dino expert, to check the enclosure that houses the Indominus Rex to ensure it’s up to snuff. Somehow the Indominus Rex escapes its confinement and begins making its way around the island and toward the crowd killing everything and everyone in its path.  (more…)

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

gotg_posterWith maybe one exception, Marvel is absolutely killing it right now. With each new movie the studio seems to be refining their formula and making better and better movies each time out. This can be attributed to the talent they are hiring to be behind the camera, but it’s also the faith and trust they must be putting in the filmmakers. This has never been clearer than with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. Previous Marvel movies have their charms for sure, but trying to specifically single out a director’s quirks, sense of humor and overall personality was a bit more difficult- not the case here. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a James Gunn movie pure and simply and the movie succeeds based on exactly that. Marvel’s latest is funny, exciting, heartfelt and perhaps most importantly…it’s weird.

James Gunn’s film follows Peter Quill  (Chris Pratt) after he was abducted at a young age by aliens known as Ravagers and raised by Yondu (Michael Rooker) as one of their own. 26 years after his abduction Peter is exploring an abandoned planet in search of an orb. After locating the orb he finds out quickly that plenty of other, more dangerous, characters are also in the market for the item. While trying to sell the orb Peter is assaulted by Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has her own agenda for the item and pursued by Rocket (a genetically altered raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (a tree-like creature voiced by Vin Diesel), as bounty hunters looking to collect the price put out for Peter’s capture. In the midst of the excitement all four are arrested and taken imprisoned by the Nova Corps. There they hatch a plan to escape and sell the orb together and go their separate ways, but also gain an additional member in Drax (Dave Bautista) who is thirsty for revenge against Ronan (Lee Pace), another suiter looking for the orb.

(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: The Lego Movie

thelegomovie_posterThe dilemma for an aging movie lover is sometimes feeling like a creep seeing a kids movie in a theater and not having kids of your own, but also being enthralled by the very same movie intended for children. Personally, I don’t yet have that hangup because I love being transported into my own youth by these nostalgia projects and THE LEGO MOVE did nothing if not make me feel like a kid again. It’s early in the year, but if I see another film that had me grinning ear to ear from beginning to end, I’ll be shocked.

THE LEGO MOVIE brings the popular childhood figures to life with Emmett (Chris Pratt) as a plain faced conformist who wants nothing more in life but to fit in with everyone else. He meets Wild Syle (Elizabeth Banks) during a fall that lands him with a mysterious piece stuck to his back. As it turns out the piece is the key to foiling Lord Business’ plan to make every world in the LEGO universe stay the same forever- promptly putting an end to any and all building and imagination. (more…)

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

image

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest feature has been basking in endless praise since its limited Oscar qualifying release in December while also being criticized for its perceived glorification of torture as a means to attain important information in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. I do not fully buy into either aspect surrounding the film- by that I mean while I think the film is kind of great, it’s also not a perfect film and I think in no way shape or form glorifies the acts people commit to get the information they seek. ZERO DARK THIRTY is intense and engrossing, but it drags due to its bloated runtime and lacks emotional depth.

The film details the decade long hunt for the mastermind of the September 11th attack and begins with a pitch black screen as we hear 911 calls on the morning of the attacks. Using that as a backdrop alone does not earn the film the emotion I wanted from the crescendo of intensity at the end of the film when we finally get our man, but it starts it off in an engaging fashion. Just because it didn’t focus on the emotional depth from the characters that I would have preferred doesn’t mean that I don’t recognize the skill of Bigelow’s direction. The introduction and the final half hour of film are marvels of tense filmmaking, while the middle of the film I found myself drifting in and out as far as my interest in the events. At first I mistook my feelings as boredom, but essentially I feel it’s just indifference and the fact that the information exchanges happen in such a whirlwind that instead of being in control of my understanding of the events I was just sort of along for the ride rather I connected with it or not.

I’m not a news junkie and I don’t follow current events as closely as some more involved in this story might, but I’m not ignorant to the portrayal of an event I’m perfectly aware of the ending to. I wanted nothing more than to be fascinated by the investigation involved in tracking Bin Laden and there were stretches that I was just that, but certain techniques used by Bigelow and the way the script is written/performed felt a bit more overwhelming and garbled. Essentially at times I felt like I was in a conversation with someone who tends to mumble and rather than ask them to repeat themselves when I didn’t understand what they said, I just kind of nodded, smiled and moved on to the next subject.

Jessica Chastain as a character evolves from someone fresh off the boat in a situation where she has to become comfortable with CIA torture techniques to do her job, to someone who may or may not be too personally involved with the tracking down of a subject to the point that we question if the ethics involved is truly the right thing. Her character is the most developed in the film and you still know almost nothing about her- with no back-story or insight to what is really driving her, the obsession she develops seems more dangerous than ethical and the last shot allows for any number of assumptions about the toll the investigation really played on her. Chastain herself plays the role great and towards the end delivers one of the best lines of the year.

I also really loved Jason Clarke’s performance, but again he’s a character we know nothing about. We know he’s effective as a device to torture detainees and that he loves monkeys and his demeanor is that of someone doing what he’s got to do to get information. Then there are the folks in S.E.A.L. Team 6 that we spend the final half hour with and again there’s not enough time to care about them as people. Sure there’s tension in the staging of the climactic raid on the compound that Bin Laden may or may not be in, but as characters there’s no connection with anyone one of them where you could pick one out and hope nothing bad happens to that one specifically. The raid itself is a legit piece of tense action cinema and well worth the price of admission- the score during the buildup gets the pulse pumping and sound design during the raid is phenomenal. This is a scene that is intricately detailed and paced in an authentic and harrowing way.

My initial reaction to ZERO DARK THIRTY was that I felt the film was overhyped, but I think it’s important to clarify that I do not mean that it’s overrated. Bigelow’s film is worth the praise many people are bestowing upon it, but the extent that I personally believe in that praise is dialed back a bit. At over two and a half hours I feel there’s quite a bit in the middle of this film that could have been chopped down and it would have been better for it. The length is also why I feel the lack of character development for the majority of the cast is as disappointing as it was for me personally. However, even in spite of my issues with the film it is definitely a nail biting procedural that climaxes with a heart pounding action sequence. In the end, for me ZERO DARK THIRTY falls just short of being one of the best films of the year.

Rating: B+

Movie Review: The Five-Year Engagement (2012)

image

I really enjoy just about everything that Jason Segal is involved in- for the most part anyway. I really loved THE MUPPETS and I owe him a debt of gratitude for having the passion to help get the Muppets back into the mainstream even if his name didn’t really sell me on the movie. Overall though, based just on his personality not just as an actor in his specific roles but as a person he just seems like a really nice guy and really hard not to like. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT puts him back into the Aptatow universe and back with director Nicholas Stoller in those likable shoes, but there aren’t enough quality jokes to carry him or the film all the way through its bloated run time.

The title of the film should be self explanatory, but essentially THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT follows a couple (Jason Segal and Emily Blunt) from the moment they get engaged, through to the inevitable end of the engagement- rather it’s a breakup or a wedding I will not say, but obviously it spans five years. Between there are delays because of a career opportunity and the extension of that opportunity, but also because of personal issues rather they be doubts about their stability as a couple due to one being happy and the other holding resentment due to their significant other’s success. The result is a mixed bag of comedy that is sweet at times, ridiculous at others and eventually it just feels way longer than it ever needed to be.

Segal and Blunt are extremely likable as a couple which helps when it comes to caring where the film ends up. There is however a section in the middle that feels like it could have been cut altogether and it would have only improved the film. That section involves Segal having grown a mountain man beard and acts like a Neanderthal which is meant to highlight the depression he’s slipping into because he hates where they moved to, but it’s also incredibly ridiculous and out of character with the rest of the film- also wildly silly in its own depiction of life in the Midwest. This is the section of the film is easily the central area of complaints I had- mostly because the majority of it isn’t funny and is very obviously meant to be over the top to create laughs, but is dreadfully inept at doing so.

Stoller and Segal are great at creating moments of hilarious comedy, but did so to better effect in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL than they were able to here. That’s not to say the film isn’t funny, it’s just way more hit and miss this time around. It also has an annoying similarity to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL in the reliance of showing Segal naked in awkward situations which audiences got plenty of in so it just seems like they reached in the well way too many times here. One particular gag that I found very funny didn’t even involve Segal- instead it was Blunt and the always funny and cute Alison Brie as they traded dialogue back and forth as Elmo and Cookie Monster. The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal too including Chris Pratt, Brian Posehn, Kevin Hart, Mindy Kaling, Rhys Ifans and Chris Parnell- all have really great comedic moments.

A handful of the films jokes center around Blunt’s character and her position in the psychology department conducting a series of tests on people to then analyze the results. The gag itself wears thin because it’s the whole reason the couple struggle because she has taken a job to do little but trick people and laugh at how they react and eventually get promoted for doing so. There’s no sense to why she’s so good at what she does- which just leads to why the middle half of the movie is so difficult to watch. There are jokes that come from these “tests” that are funny in their own right, but not funny enough to hang the success of the film on.

Had the film been about a half hour shorter, it could have been one of the best comedies of the year- at just over two hours there’s just too much time where nothing funny or particularly interesting is going on. Things wrap up in a fun and sweet fashion mercifully following the less than satisfactory middle chunk. THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT is very much like the marriage depicted- full of highs and lows, trials and tribulations and comes down in the end as a charming but flawed raunchy romantic comedy.

Rating: 7/10

Movie Review: What’s Your Number? (2011)

image

With the number of movies being written, made and released on a year to year basis isn’t it just expected that more than just a handful will skate on familiar territory? Romantic comedies suffer far too often from being watered down for mass audiences just to pander to the crowds that want the mushy material to push out the vulgar. WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER at times refuses to hide its vulgar side but eventually sells itself out for a more conventional and poorly conceived finale that tries to overshadow its vulgarity with overdone romantic clichés.

Anna Faris stars as Ally, a young girl who happens to read a little too deep into the quizzes and factoids from popular feminine magazines. After being fired from her job, Ally reads that any girl with over 20 sexual partners often never finds that special someone and Ally is hovering on 19 sexual partners. After a drunken escapade leaves her with no wiggle room on the over 20 partners rule she decides that the only way to find her special someone is to sift through her former lovers to find chemistry without raising her number. With the help of her neighbor, Captain Ameri- I mean Colin (Chris Evans), she tracks down each ex in hopes one of them has improved over time and will want to marry her.

I usually really like Anna Faris even if the movie she’s in usually fails to move or entertain me on any spectacular level. The same goes here as I somewhat enjoyed WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER because Faris and Evans have enough chemistry and comedic timing to make the film funny- at least during the first half. Faris’ character has a cute personality but spouts lines that paint her as incredibly shallow which I find to be extremely unlikable. Then there’s Chris Evans, who doesn’t attempt to hide his obvious character flaws which are bad enough but at least he is honest about what he’s doing. Neither have much to work with as far as the script goes- except the filmmakers invent just about every situation possible to get images of Faris’ side boob, Evan’s covering his genitals and eventually both of them exposing their “assets.”

WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER attempts to be as R rated as recent rom coms like LOVE & OTHER DRUGS and FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS but the writing just isn’t as quick or as interesting as either of those two films which are not perfect, but better examples of the genre recently. There are times when the film and the actors hit a grove and can get a few good laughs but when we get closer to the end it gets more and more generic until it totally fizzles out.

Evans does a good job playing a cocky bachelor and his character mixes well with Faris who has always had pretty great comedic timing as far as female actresses are concerned. Together they offer enough good natured laughs and vulgar fun but as romantic interests they don’t quite fit. When they are sparring back and forth you can feel the chemistry, but when the mushy feelings start coming out it doesn’t feel as natural and the sparks just aren’t there.

With sparse romantic chemistry and somewhat weak jokes WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER comes off more generic than it ultimately is. Evans and Faris have on and off moments of charming and vulgar comedy and the supporting cast of ex boyfriends provide some decent laughs. The script sometimes relies too heavily on retreading its own jokes (Twitter being the source of more than a few) and often doesn’t try to push the boundaries enough to be truly memorable. There are worse examples of the raunchy rom com movies within the genre but with a decent cast and slightly above average jokes WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER could have added up to something much better.

Movie Review: Moneyball (2011)

image

Billy Beane may very well have achieved something great in Oakland during the 2002 season- but from this point forward he will be able to include this statement in the same breath, “Brad Pitt played me in a movie.” MONEYBALL combines two of my biggest passions, it’s a movie and it’s about baseball- beyond that it’s also an underdog story, a story about not settling for second or third best, being scared to believe in yourself….heck at one point it’s even partly about the fact that David Justice doesn’t like paying for soda. Really though, MONEYBALL does what THE SOCIAL NETWORK did just a year ago- it takes an in depth look at the more mundane details of a bigger picture- and it is phenomenal.

MONEYBALL is the true story of the 2002 Oakland Athletics and GM Billy Beane, played Brad Pitt. The team made it to the playoffs in 2001 only to be eliminated by the New York Yankees in the Division series. During the off season GM Billy Beane and his scouts were faced with losing three of their best players and needing to replace their numbers on a shoestring budget. With the help of Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) the two use an extremely methodical stats system to pick players they can afford to create a winning team. Beane is looked at as crazy as his system fails at first, but begins to miraculously turn around later on in the season.

I have a deep love for baseball- yet I’m also not an Oakland Athletics fan. The beauty here is that you do not have to be an Athletics fan to appreciate MONEYBALL- you don’t even have to be a fan of baseball. MONEYBALL involves the Oakland Athletics, but it is not ABOUT the Oakland Athletics. It’s the story of a former baseball player turned scout, turned General Manager that works against budget constraints to create a winning team- the team just happens to be the Athletics because that’s what happened. In fact there’s even a nice integration of archived footage mixed in to the film. The message and heart of the film is much deeper than being just a movie about scouting and managing baseball.

With a star like Brad Pitt in a film like this it may be hard to separate the star from his character. I myself had trouble at times, but Brad Pitt is a great actor and he still does a fantastic job. Jonah Hill also does an admirable job standing next to Pitt and even Philip Seymour Hoffman in select scenes. MONEYBALL is Pitt’s movie though and he has great comedic timing and delivers all his lines with charisma and charm. The performances all around are great and even the brief moments with Pitt and Hoffman have a sense of tension but also comedy in them.

The thing to know about MONEYBALL is that this is not your typical sports movie. There are in-game sequences but they are not the entire focus. In many ways MONEYBALL has a lot in common with Aaron Sorkin’s Oscar Nominated script from last year THE SOCIAL NETWORK- where it takes a recognizable topic and gives you what happens behind the scenes. Instead of long scenes of play by play games we get lots of stat crunching and Pitt making deals for players or arguing with scouts about who he wants to pick up for the team. MONEYBALL uses lots of smart baseball talk to win over the audience much like Sorkin’s Facebook movie used rapid fire computer lingo to engage the audience.

I do not believe you have to be a baseball fan to enjoy MONEYBALL, but I truly believe anyone who loves baseball will love this film. Baseball hatred can latch on to the great human drama within the film- Pitt’s relationship with his daughter, the friendship between Pitt and Hill, and the way it conveys the overall love of the game Billy Beane had. It was incredibly easy to get lost in how well the movie pushes across the monotony of going through the motions year after year and the driving need to make a change or it can kill the enjoyment of something you once loved. I connected fully with every aspect in regards to Beane’s love of baseball and how fun it is to experience something new amidst the day to day tedious aspects. I also felt the absolute frustration when people refuse to see it from a different perspective and the selfishness that is present not only in sports bit life in general.

MONEYBALL is a quiet film in regards to score- there is a lot of talking so there is no need for loud boisterous music. Baseball lovers will find the general use of baseball jargon and techniques a suitable replacement to a musical score, much as I did. Don’t get me wrong there is a great score it just doesn’t dominate the film. Lots of the best scenes are almost devoid of music at all. The standout scenes for me are the early scenes where Pitt is in meetings with scouts as they argue back and forth, a fantastic monologue at the end when Pitt is meeting with the owner of the Red Sox and the final scene involving Pitt in his car listening to a CD. The two latter scenes pushed me over the edge from loving MONEYBALL to adoring the film outright.

As mentioned earlier on- I believe that MONEYBALL is this year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK for baseball fans. It might be difficult to make the disconnect that Brad Pitt is not playing himself but an influential member in the baseball community- but Pitt still gives a great performance as does everyone else in the film. What it lacks in a truly memorable score it makes up for with witty dialogue that ranges from dramatic to very funny. America’s greatest past-time deserves a film that loves the game as much as the fans and I truly believe that MONEYBALL is that film.