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LEGO Movie – movie review

LegoMovieGrade: B

Lego Movie was cute, charming and funny. There’s a great cast of voices and lots of action.

Kids will enjoy this movie and the parents, especially dads, will be eager to get home and head for the kids room to pull out the Legos and start building things again. I give this movie a solid B.

Vampire Academy – movie review

VampireAcademyGrade: A

Vampire Academy is the type of movie that has only a certain kind of fan base. With that being said, I am guilty of having read all the books, so I had a bit of an advantage going in. I was worried about the way they portrayed the main characters in the previews, so I didn’t have very high expectations on this movie. I know the books were great, I just didn’t think they could pull it off. It just so happens they did pull it off, and even exceeded my expectations in doing so. I don’t want to compare it to “Twilight,” so I’m not going to. I feel that this movie appeals to an older crowd, if only by a few years. Better story-line, better acting, and pretty cool special effects.

Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir, Zoey Deutch and Lucy Fry, were great together. They played off of each other nicely, being that they’re polar opposites. The chemistry between all the main characters was refreshing, if not a little surprising. I was very happy with Gabriel Byrne’s character, Victor Dashkov. He’s always sure to please, and brings a great deal more to any movie no matter the genre.

I look forward to seeing the rest of the series. I anticipate Vampire Academy to be the next “big” thing in anything supernatural. If you’re a long time fan, or even a new-found glory, you’re sure to leave pleased and waiting for more.

Monuments Men – movie review

MonumentsMenGrade: B+
The only thing that confuses me about Monuments Men is why it didn’t come out at Christmas. It would have been the perfect movie to see during the holidays. Oh well, at least it doesn’t have much competition in the theaters right now.

Obviously this is a very good movie. It was written, directed, and stars George Clooney. Do you need to know anything else? Well, yes, you need to know that it also has Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett ( a.k.a. Galadriel from Lord of the Rings). Basically, the cast rocks, the story is excellent, and the direction is spot on.

There is the requisite amount of humor in the movie. Not much that is hilarious, but enough for a few laughs.

If you want an enjoyable evening out with a movie then look no further.

That Awkward Moment – movie review

ThatAwkwardMomentGrade: B
That Awkward Moment probably won’t go on your shelf with the great romantic comedies, like When Harry Met Sally, Jerry Maguire, and Pretty Woman, but it might make it to the shelf right below that.

One of my knocks about many romantic movies is that the relationships often feel like a kludge. For instance in the English Patient, not a comedy for sure but rooted in a romance, I never understood why the two main characters sacrificed so much for each other. I felt like I was told a story instead of seeing a story. Thankfully that’s not the case in Awkward Moment.

Two of the relationship stories told in the movie are compelling. It was easy to see why the couples were together even though sometimes they didn’t want to be. The third, involving Mikey and Vera, wasn’t as well explored and felt a little flat. But there wasn’t as much focus placed on that aspect of the story so it’s easy to look past it.

The actors definitely seemed like they had a great time working together and there were numerous funny moments and a few hilarious ones. (Don’t you just hate it when a romantic comedy isn’t really a comedy?)

If you’re jonesing to get out and see a rom-com then I think you’ll enjoy That Awkward Moment.

Gimme Shelter – movie review

GimmeShelterGrade: B

“Gimme Shelter” was an obvious ‘Pro Life’ movie. That being said, I don’t think a movie review is a forum for discussing pro life vs. pro choice. I’m grading this movie based on the script, the acting and the directing.

I give high marks to Vanessa Hudgens, Brendan Fraser and Rosario Dawson. Each did a very good job of bringing their character to life, and  Ron Krauss gave them a fine vehicle to display their talents.

I, Frankenstein – movie review

iFrankensteinGrade: C

What I found most surprising about this movie is the quality of the acting. Usually movies like this pluck their main characters from the B-list. But somehow the creators managed to land Aaron Eckhart, who is an outstandingly good, but underrated, actor. Eckhart brings gravitas to the character of Frankenstein that the story depends on. Without him this movie might have been rubbish.

More surprising yet they got Bill Nighy as the lead for the evil demons. Nighy’s did a fantastic job of showing a character that can just barely manage to keep a seething anger under control. It feels like his character wants to smash everything to bits but he knows that won’t be an effective strategy so he keeps his cool and pursues a more complex plan of attack. Bill Nighy is one of my favorite actors because he has such an astonishing range.

The rest of the cast is pretty much the B-listers but that doesn’t mean they can’t act. Jai Courtney, John McClane’s son in “A Good Day To Die Hard”, Miranda Otto, Eowyn from “Lord of the Rings”, and Yvonne Strahovski, from the TV series “Chuck”, all do a fine job with what they have to work with.

Where the movie suffers is in the story telling. First, they only have 80 minutes of actual movie time to tell a story that involves a fairly rich and detailed universe. Or at least it could have if they had made the movie an hour longer and given the audience a chance to see the universe they created instead of spoon feeding every little detail with heavy handed exposition. Lets put it this way, if Peter Jackson had directed this movie it would have been a trilogy with nine-plus hours of screen time.

This movie was better than I expected, because I was expecting it to be rubbish, but ultimately is unsatisfying because of the heavy handed story telling and brevity.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit – movie review

ShadowRecruitGrade: B

Shadow Recruit was much better than I expected. The first thing people are going to ask is how well does Chris Pine pull off the role of Jack Ryan compared to his predecessors? In my opinion he did a fantastic job, maybe the best Jack Ryan of them all.

You need to know that this is essentially a reboot of the franchise because the movie begins with Jack still in college and then quickly goes through his stint in the war, injury, and rehabilitation. To do that they had to get someone young and Chris Pine is pretty much the perfect age, 34, to play a character in their early 30s.

Personally, I never really warmed to Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. Ford’s age dictated that they jump into his career mid stream and so we could never see the early years of Ryan’s accidence. And in my opinion “The Hunt for Red October” is by far the best of the Jack Ryan movies and they should have made more movies with Alec Baldwin as Ryan.

I think Keira Knightley is an under rated actress. She did a great job as Ryan’s wife and the two of them had great on screen chemistry.

Kevin Costner as the teacher/mentor was a good choice. He balanced humor and maturity quite well.

The villain of the story was very cardboard. There are only a few short scenes that clue the audience into why he’s so motivated to destroy the USA. There wasn’t enough substance to the villain to see the contrast between he and Ryan.

The last 30 minutes of the movie is fast paced and action packed. In fact I noticed that my heart rate was quite elevated for the final 10 minutes of the movie.

The Legend of Hercules – movie review

the-legend-of-herculesGrade: B

Each week the family sits around waiting anxiously to find out what movie we each get.  I was terribly sad to find out that I was getting the new Hercules movie. I thought to myself that at least three hours of my life would be wasted. When I’m wrong,  which isn’t very often,  I say I’m wrong.  Hercules, in my opinion, was a super fun movie.  My biggest dread was coming from how these types of movies are usually over done and way too long.  They really found a happy medium with this one.  It never dragged,  the action scenes weren’t over played and the actors delivered their lines perfectly.  When I’ve been stuck doing Peetimes for this type of movie in the past I usually amused myself during the movie by making fun of it. This time,  I would have fought right along with Hercules because I believed in his cause.  So in closing,  if you want a quick escape from reality, Hercules is a good option.

Her – movie review

herGrade: B+

I’ve been looking forward to seeing this movie for some time. And I’m happy to report that I liked it, only not for the reasons I thought I would. I don’t want to get into analyzing the story, what worked, what didn’t, what was unexpected, because that would spoil the movie watching experience for you. I can only say that the previews didn’t really get at the meat of the story.

The aesthetics of the movie reminds me a lot of GATACA, one of my favorite science fiction movies ever. It isn’t as sanitized as GATACA but it has that general feeling.

I’m still trying to decide if I liked Joaquin Phoenix in this movie. In almost every scene I thought, “Please shave off that mustache.” Aside from that his character was incredibly wishy-washy, but with moments of genuine insight. So was it brilliant acting of a complex character, or just so-so acting of a poorly defined character. I’ll probably have to see the movie a few more times to really be certain and I’m not sure it’s the kind of movie I’m going to want to rewatch. However, given Joaquin Phoenix’s reputation as an outstanding actor I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one and go with the “brilliant acting of a complex character” option.

I’m a little biased because I have a big crush on Scarlett Johansson but I thought she did an outstanding job doing the computer voice. This isn’t like voicing a character in an animated film because we never see her, or any character’s, expression. Her job is more like Hugo Weaving’s performance in “V for Vendetta” where we see him but never his face. Scarlett did a great job of projecting a range of emotions without overdoing it.

In the end, if you like thought provoking movies with a splash of science fiction then you’ll want to see this movie. However, it might be best left to view on DVD at home.

Lone Survivor – movie review

LoneSurvivorGrade: A

I didn’t have high expectations going into this movie, but even if I had they would have been exceeded. The entire cast was fantastic. Taylor Kitsch, who is routinely panned for his acting performances, did a fantastic job. The only criticism I could possibly offer is that he wasn’t as outstanding as Mark Wahlberg, who turned in, perhaps, the performance of his career.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see anyone getting an Oscar nod for best actor out of this film, but for a film like this Wahlberg, Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, and Ben Foster should all feel very proud that they did such an outstanding job with such meaningful roles.

Lastly, I have to give kudos to the director, Peter Berg. I really expected this to be movie long on patriotic themes and short on production values. But no, the pacing, cinematography, everything was spot on.
As for the story, I must admit that I had to fight back tears even while doing the Peetimes. The comradery expressed in the screenplay and performed by the actors was inspiring.