review

[Movie Review] ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ is Heavy on Cheese and Light on Kink

fiftyshadesdarker_postertgofLet’s be honest with one another–the Fifty Shades series is an easy target for snarky critics. There’s not much of a challenge in sitting down and pinpointing every illogical turn the movie takes and every laughable line of dialogue uttered by actors who seem as tickled about what they are saying as we are hearing it. It’s hard to take a breath, collect oneself and approach a movie like Fifty Shades Darker and pick out why you should see it–and trust me, no one involved has made it easy.

For every one thing good you can say about James Foley’s film there are a handful more pushing into the spotlight to ruining it for the rest of us. Yet we march on–Fifty Shades Darker picks up shortly after the first film as Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) continues to creepily pine for the plain Jane, Anastasia (Dakota Johnson). After a half-hearted attempt to brush him off, Anastasia agrees to meet with Christian to renegotiate the terms of their “arrangement”. As they embark on their new relationship Christian’s past and Anastasia’s vanilla sex appeal proves to be a little more complicated than they anticipated.  (more…)

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Blu-ray Review: High-Rise

highrise_bluray_tgofBen Wheatley’s High-Rise carries a dreamlike look and feel, but is as far from euphoric in its overall impact. Boosted by breathtaking cinematography High-Rise is all at once a marvel to look at and frustrating to experience.

The film follows the exploits of residents within one of newly erected high-rise, with Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) being the newest inhabitant. Not long after Laing takes up residence the folks on lower floors begin to revolt against the building’s creator and residents of the upper floors.

It would be lovely to expand upon the premise, but essentially that’s the crux of High-Rise, in spite of the higher minded hijinx that Wheatley conducts with an elegant ease. Perhaps though, his intentions of the J.G. Ballard adaptation never feel entirely clear. There is of course socioeconomic implications abound, the problem is that there isn’t much in the way of structure to anything happening on screen.  (more…)

Movie Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

10cloverfieldlane_posterThe way 10 Cloverfield Lane came out of nowhere (at least the marketing) just a month or two before its release reminds one of an exciting time. A time when we didn’t have a year or more to stew about an upcoming release and let the excitement slowly fade by the time it saw the light of day. A time where mystery can still exist in our theatrical experiences.

The less one knows about 10 Cloverfield Lane the better, but here’s the bare minimum just to cover all my bases. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman running away from a relationship when she is in a terrible car accident. When she wakes, she finds herself in a stuffy bunker held by the mysterious and potentially dangerous, Howard (John Goodman). Howard informs her of an attack that happened and that she and another guest, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) may be living together in his shelter for what could be as long as two years. Michelle, must decide if Howard is indeed looking out for her best interest, or if her savior is harboring some questionable and unstable motives.  (more…)

Movie Review: Knock Knock (Blu-ray)

knockknock_posterYou’re home alone, wife and kid out gone for the weekend, and two unbelievably gorgeous women show up at your door. These girls are soaking wet, lost, now waiting for a cab to take them to the correct house. Soon, the flirting begins and gets more intense and before you know it, the women have lured you into some hot and heavy sex. No, this is not the beginning to a Penthouse letter, but the setup for Eli Roth’s latest thriller, Knock Knock.

What would you do? The crux of the film seems to ask this biting question. Surely there isn’t a man out there who doesn’t have an answer ready to draw that makes them look like the perfect boyfriend/husband, but Roth seems to have lazer focus in digging at the itchy scar that is male sexuality and desire.

Yet, this sure doesn’t sound like much of a thriller so far, right? Seems more like the first of many steamy scenes to a porno…except wait..that’s Keanu Reeves. No the actor has not slipped so far as to resort to the adult film industry to make a buck. As it turns out, the gorgeous women that Reeves has just soiled his marital bed with have not happened upon the family man by chance and have some sinister plans to make him pay for his infidelity.  (more…)

Beer Review: Mother Earth Brewing Cali Creamin’

calicreamin_motherearthbrewingOver the last few years of drinking craft beer there’s one thing that I find myself constantly coming back to. Something that I find myself craving in some of my favorite beers- vanilla. I tried to fight it for a long time, in fear that it painted me as liking sissy beer or showing favoritism toward beer aimed more for the female audience. The time has come for me to steer into the skid and own up to it- I love vanilla in my beer.

The problem with my fascination with vanilla in beer, is that even with all the beers out there that use it, it’s often hard to pick out- at least to the extent that I enjoy it. Tallgrass’ Vanilla Bean Buffalo Sweat, while delicious, often doesn’t have the distinct vanilla flavor that I’ve found I really crave- in fact many don’t. Locally, Infusion Brewing Company brews their Vanilla Bean Blonde that I will ALWAYS order if I see it on a menu. So when I received Mother Earth’s Cali Creamin’ my expectations were high. (more…)

Beer Review: Zipline Brewing Dry-Hopped Black IPA

zipline_blackipaNebraska has been enjoying a bit of a craft beer boom over the last few years. Several new breweries have opened their doors over the last year alone and others are celebrating young anniversaries. The fastest growing of the younger breweries is none other than Zipline out of Lincoln. Zipline expanded distribution for the first time last year across the border into Iowa and recently announced a small expansion to Eastern South Dakota. Their growth in the state is very exciting since they are putting out some pretty solid beers and I’d love to see their name growing in the minds of craft beer nerds all over the country.

Zipline began their bottling sometime in the Fall of 2013 and have slowly been rolling out a number of year round releases such as their Copper Alt, NZ IPA, Nut Brown and Kolsch, but also some larger 750ML Barrel-Aged releases. Their most recent bottled release happens to be the Dry-Hopped Black IPA. As one would expect, this beer pours….black- or a really dark brown as you can see just a bit of highlight around the class from the right angles. It boasts a thin, off white head and once settled appears to be pitch black in the glass- giving it a beautiful black velvety appearance.  (more…)

Movie Review: The Interview

theinterview_posterIf we learn anything from the sh*tstorm that was the Sony hack and subsequent drama surrounding THE INTERVIEW it’s this- people (aka North Korea) just don’t have a sense of humor. I don’t want to get caught up in the whole finger pointingBS, but really though with all the issues present in the world today, a ridiculous comedy of cartoon characters being super immature and trying to pull off the most unrealistic assassination of all time is not one of them. If it’s not enough that an entire country has their panties in a bunch over it, critics seem to have reacted equally as ridiculous as a result. As they say, opinions are like a**holes, everyone’s got one and they all stink- and we’re about to see just how much mine follows suit.

Aaron (Seth Rogen) is a successful producer of Skylark Tonight, a celebrity interview show not well know for it’s hard hitting content. It’s hosted by Aaron’s buddy Dave (James Franco) who is confident in a brash way and is happy with the show’s direction where Aaron dreams about people taking him seriously. With the world’s eye focused on North Korea Dave discovers that the country’s dictator Kim Jong-un’s favorite show happens to be Skylark Tonight. Dave convinces Aaron to push for the interview so that Aaron can have the recognition he craves and get worldwide audiences tuning in to their show. In steps the CIA who are adamant on Dave and Aaron taking this opportunity to rid the world of Kim Jong-un with a bold and risky assassination attempt that does not implicate the United States. (more…)

Movie Review Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

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Brad Bird has made a name for himself directing fantastic animated family films such as RATATOUILLE and THE INCREDIBLES- so to make a leap from emotionally resonate animated family film to high octane action that’s not tailored towards kids seemed to be risky. The extra challenge is to direct a sequel to another well received sequel in a franchise with a pretty good track record. I don’t want to be the person that says I never had a doubt, but after watching MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL I can’t think of a single good reason I would have ever had a doubt that Bird could direct a great adult oriented action film. MI4 isn’t just the best MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie in the franchise- it’s one of the best action movies of the year.

The short synopsis of MI4 is that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is given a team of IMF agents that include Jane (Paula Patton) and Benji (Simon Pegg) to retrieve nuclear launch codes before a crazy extremist can intercept them and initiate global nuclear war. Expanding a little further, once a few things go wrong the team adds another member Brandt (Jeremy Renner) who is an analyst that might have a few secrets he’s hiding. Together they are forced to try and stop the nuclear threat after they have all been disavowed with no outside assistance.

The tension throughout MI4 is excellent throughout. The action is loud and fast paced, but the added complications of situations that never go according to plan and factors that are constantly changing during the action sequences left me breathless. One second you are taking a sigh of relief that the team has escaped the situation they are in and then you are jolted by an unexpected gunshot, explosion or another extremely loud outside force. Bird keeps the action moving and ensures that the brief moments there are to catch your breath are just as tense as the action sequences themselves.

For an action movie the performances are good enough but there isn’t anything here that blew me away in terms of acting in fact there are some that are a little forced and unconvincing at times. Cruise, Renner, Patton and Pegg have some really great chemistry though so with them at the center of attention the film succeeds and overcomes any of the weaker elements.

Given how high the stakes are for the characters and the threat of either death by the foes they are trying to thwart or nuclear war itself, being labeled terrorists by their own country if they are caught and being thrown endless curveballs through each mission, the film is surprisingly funny. One would wonder how you can find so much time to make wisecracks when you are on the verge of nuclear war, but the occasional joke here and there were quite refreshing.

Bird has been able to bring a striking visual style to his movies and moving to live action offered an extra layer of difficulty given the effects have to blend in realistically with actors in the real world. I can’t say that all of the effects are seamless but the film is still extremely impressive in the effects department even if some of the more heavy CGI sequences had hints of being a bit cartoonish. The action during each effects sequence is so exciting and visceral it was pretty hard to even take notice to rather or not the CGI was up to par, but the effects work is still top notch and do nothing bit add to the experience.

Bird has to be commended for putting together a film that has some extremely well shot, staged and choreographed scenes of action. Especially on the IMAX screen the sequences are quite thrilling- you can nearly feel each punch, get rocked by every explosion and jump at every unexpected crash or bullet collision. On a pure visceral level the film is an exercise in endurance with all the hard hitting impact moments from car crashes, explosions and gunshots. The sound design and effects are just as impressive as the CGI and complement each other perfectly.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL is exciting, explosive and a ton of fun even if it is just a little too long. The film is edited together in a way that makes the time go by relatively quickly, but given the unrelenting nature of the tension I can’t help but feel like a little trimming may have made the film even better. There are a few emotionally charged moments that are not terrible done, they just feel a little forced and a few moments that feel a little drawn out. Given the quality of the film and its immensely high entertainment value, length complaints are little more than nitpicks. The rest of MI4 movies like a freight train and with all the visceral thrills if the film has done its job right you will, like me, feel like you’ve been hit by a freight train- but in the best possible way.