Posts

Maleficent – movie review

MaleficentGrade: B-

After seeing what Maleficent – Angelina Jolie – looked like in the previews I had hopes this was going to be a strictly adult oriented movie. That’s not the case. The movie, especially the first 30 minutes, is very much oriented toward children.

There is a frequent voice over that tells us what’s going on, who people are, and why they do the things they do. Starting out the story is very heavy handed – like reading a kids book.

It starts to get better, after about 30 minutes, and improves right to the end. So starting out I thought, “Oy, I’m going to have to sit through 90 minutes of this?” By the end I wished the movie could have gone on a little longer. But, like many movies oriented for children, it’s just less than 90 minutes long – not counting the credits.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Elle Fanning, as Aurora. She wasn’t bad, but didn’t exactly impress.

Sharlto Copley, as Stefan, was also less than inspiring. For one thing he has a thick South African accent and was pretty much the only character in the story with any accent whatsoever. That seemed oddly out of place.

Fortunately Angelina Jolie was fantastic. She added subtleties to Maleficent that created a sympathetic character, exactly as the role required.

Robert Stromberg, the director, brought a nice vision to the movie, contrasting the world of man with the magical world, but I’m not sure he got everything out of his actors that they may have had to offer.

X-Men: Days of Future Pasted – movie review

X-MenDOFPGrade: A

Brian Singer (director), and the writers, set the bar sky high in this film. It’s going to be a chore to top this in the scheduled X-Men sequel, due May 27, 2016.

The acting was spectacular. All the main characters are reprising roles that they have already performed with aplomb. However, I think Hugh Jackman stands out, and I’m not just saying that because I know he loves the RunPee app. Okay – maybe I’m saying it partly because of that. 🙂

Until now, the character of Logan has been consistently defined by incessant pessimism. But that changes in DOFP. Logan helps build a team instead of tearing it apart, and that requires Hugh Jackman to evolve his portrayal of a character that he’s grown accustomed to. I’m no actor, but I can appreciate how scary that must be, because there’s lots of room for that to go horribly wrong. Kudos to Jackman for pulling it off.

The action is fantastic! One of the best action scenes comes right at the beginning of the movie…so don’t be late to this one. Another of the action scenes – the wonderful “Time in a Bottle” sequence – was so good the entire audience erupted in spontaneous, enthusiastic applause as it ended. I can’t remember the last time that happened.

The plot is easy to follow and feels logical throughout. There isn’t anything confusing or contradicting in the story, which is quite an accomplishment for a time travel tale.

High marks should be given to the director, writers, and actors; they did a great job adding humor to such a serious theme. This movie’s appeal would diminish considerably if you subtracted out the numerous cute chuckles and downright hilarious scenes. This is a film worth seeing in the theater.

I would give this movie an A+ but I’m going to save that, hopefully, for X-Men: Apocalypse.

Million Dollar Arm

MillionDallarArmGrade: B-

Million Dollar Arm was a good movie, but I doubt anyone’s going to put it on their list of favorite inspirational sports movies.

The performances were all solid. John Hamm especially stood out, which is good since he’s the main character. He does a good job with his expressions saying more than his dialog. Alan Arkin, as expected, takes a little role and gives it the polish and perfection he does with everything. He pretty much owns every scene he’s in.

There are some amusing scenes but that’s about as good as the humor gets.

The story is predictable but the pacing of the movie kept me engaged. I think where the movie falls short is that there’s not enough at stake for any of the characters. Even if the boys from India don’t make it, they still end up with a great experience and more money than they could have ever hoped for. JB (John Hamm) has a lot riding on the success of his plan, and if he fails then he might lose his company and amazing house, but it’s not like he’s going to be impoverished. Basically, if the story ended with the worst case scenario it wouldn’t be a tragedy. I think that’s what holds the story back from being truly inspirational.

Godzilla – movie review

GodzillaGrade: C

Let me say up front that I enjoyed Godzilla. The movie rolled along at a decent pace and had a few good visual scenes. And I think the creators did a decent job of bridging the classic feel of the Godzilla movies with modern movie making.  That being said, I thought the movie fell way short of being awesome. This is a GODZILLA. I don’t want a good movie. I want a, “Holy cow did you just see what Godzilla did?” I got that feeling exactly once.

I would agree with what many Japanese critics are saying, that Godzilla looks a little too – how to say this politely – bulky. I’m not saying I want a Roland Emmerich Godzilla, which was svelte by comparison, but this Godzilla is a little too plodding.

I wasn’t impressed with the Godzilla fight scenes. I felt like the action took place from too far away. We never got up close and personal and felt like we were in the fight. Also, they didn’t do anything to make me want to root for Godzilla. I think they should have taken a lesson from Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong and made us feel more connected with the beast. I didn’t get any of that in this movie.

Lastly, the human characters in the story were a total waste. I didn’t care about any of them either. Take for instance Elle, the wife of the main character, she had a decent amount of screen time but didn’t do anything to advance the plot. She was never heroic, or in need of being saved, nothing. Her character could have been completely removed from the story without losing anything.

One good thing about Godzilla, it made me like Pacific Rim that much more.

Neighbors – movie review

MomsNightOutGrade: A

Have you ever had something so funny happen that when you replay it in your head you start laughing all over again? I am experiencing that while entering my Peetimes for Neighbors. I was reading over my notes and started cackling again and I’m all by myself now. This was a non-stop laugh riot.

Each and every one of the actors did such an amazing job that this just made my top five comedies of all time. The delivery was perfect and the chemistry between everyone was top notch. I can’t decide who my favorite character was. I’m going to go see it again this weekend and maybe I can decide then.

Let me warn you, it’s rated R for a reason. Don’t let your little ones trick you into taking them. It’s not just because of the language. It’s over the top raunchy at some points but it totally worked.

Mom’s Night Out – movie review

MomsNightOutGrade: B-

Because of the way movie releases shook out this week I had to see *Mom’s Night Out* – not exactly my genre. Going in I hadn’t seen a single preview for this movie, a rarity, so I had no expectations whatsoever.

*Mom’s Night Out* isn’t a good movie, but you’re probably going to like it anyway. In case you didn’t know this movie is heavily laden with Christian ethics and it gets thicker as the movie goes on. That surprised me because, as mentioned I hadn’t seen any previews, and I expected a comedy. When was the last Christian comedy movie made?

All that aside, once the night out actually got started the movie did have plenty of humor. Leading up to that there were some cringe worthy scenes which is probably why the critics rating at RottenTomatoes.com is in the teens – very bad. But like I said, your probably going to like the movie as most RottenTomatoes users did – mid 70% range.

The acting was adequate all around and mostly hinges on Sarah Drew (Allyson) being able to pull off a woman on the edge of a mental breakdown.

A public service message
The turning point in Allyson’s life obviously comes from a spiritual revelation – which I thought was nicely done. However, Allyson might also be in need of some medications – just an observation that someone with these issues might need to consider. There shouldn’t be a stigma associated with people who need medications to help with a chemical imbalance in their brain. No one would ever consider that a diabetic is *weak* for taking a medication. Likewise no one should think of themselves, or another person, as weak for taking a medication to balance their brain chemistry.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – movie review

Spider-Man-2Grade: C+

Overall I’m not terribly impressed with Spider-Man 2, but I’ve not been much impressed with any of the movies in either Spider-Man series. My general feeling is that the characters, especially the villains, lack depth and believable motivation – more on that later.

The story was a little jumpy to me. There’s apparently a jump of a month, maybe more, between the opening scenes of the movie and the next bit, but there wasn’t a transition that spelled that out. In retrospect I realized that there was one particular scene that was used to bridge the gap between the two time frames, however they should have used a short montage.

Then there’s a huge amount of stuff that happens all on the same day. So much that it feels, even now, like there’s no way that much could happen in such a short period of time, not that it even needs to. They could have spread it out for a few days, a week maybe,to make it feel right.

It’s ironic that the most unrealistic thing in most super hero movies is the motivation behind their personal problems. I’m here to tell you that Peter Parker isn’t going to feel the anguish that he feels over Stacy’s dads death – from the first movie. I know, they have to make a story, but find something else. No young man is going to take things so seriously. Would it bother him, sure. But to the point that it does? No way. We have to suspend our belief to enjoy this fantasy world where these super hero’s can exist, but don’t make us suspend our beliefs about character motivation. To me this is the primary difference between most of the Avenger and X-Men movies and the Spider-Man movies: the character motivation, usually, works in the prior.

The motivation for the villains is especially heavy handed. It’s like decent people are just looking for an excuse to be evil. It’s hard to buy on a consistent basis.

There was practically no humor to speak of. Sure, a few chuckles, but nothing memorable. Such a shame. A movie like this needs at least 2-3 scenes that give the audience a good hearty laugh. I’ll have to blame the writers on that.

Not that anyone goes to these movies for the acting but I thought Emma Stone, and of course Sally Fields, were fantastic.  Andrew Garfield (Peter Parker) did okay with what he was given. He may have shined if the writing had been better.

I saw it in 3D just so I could include it in my review. Normally I avoid 3D because it’s hard to take notes and it costs $4 extra. Overall it was decent. The video was crisp, which has been a problem in other movies. The brightness was pretty good, which can also be a problem. There were a few cool 3D scenes. Specifically the fight with Electro worked pretty well. The background is dark which makes nice contrast for the lightning and energy effects that light up the screen in 3D. Also the fight in the clock tower was good in 3D. Other than those scenes I pretty much forgot I was watching in 3D. I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it in 3D unless you’re a big fan of that format.

Transcendence – movie review

transcendenceGrade: C

I didn’t find Transcendence to be bad, but I didn’t think it was very good either.

First, the opening scene in the movie is 5 years after the events that transpire. It leaves no room for suspense during the movie because you already know pretty much how things turn out – not well.

My biggest complaint with the movie is how they built the Artificial Intelligence up to be almost God like in power but were able to defeat it so easily. I know a good bit about computers, networks, nano technology and how they presented the AI was reasonable, if just a little over the top for the sake of effects. But the way they defeated it was total nonsense. So, there’s that.

All in all I think the story just needed a little more time in the oven.

One cool thing that they have in the movie is a new type of zombie. Really, it’s sort of like a nano-tech zombie thing. We’ll probably see more of that in the future.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that they had a great cast. Depp, Bettany, Freeman. That’s a class-A lineup, and Rebecca Hall was pretty good as well. It’s really just the story that’s lacking.

Draft Day – movie review

DraftDay
Grade: B+
I’m a huge football fan. (Roll Tide) When I first saw the previews to Draft Day I thought, “Okay, maybe hard core football fans can get behind this but no one else is going to want to see it.”

Then I discovered that it’s directed by Ivan Reitman, who also directed Dave, Ghost Busters, Kindergarten Cop, et al. The man is a master craftsman in the director’s chair, and he showed his talent again.

Draft Day isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than I thought it would be. A nice character story is told in the midst of the draft drama in such a way that they enhance each other.

Kevin Costner was fantastic in the lead roll and everyone else played their parts wonderfully.

The one thing I think could have been better was the humor. There were some good chuckles but nothing that was laugh out loud. That would have pushed it over the top.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – movie review

Grade: A-

CaptainAmerica-winter-soldierCaptain America: The Winter Soldier has everything you want in an Action/Adventure: action in spades, well paced, great acting, largely believable, and a few good laughs sprinkled throughout.

The Action was pretty much all you could ask for. Chris Evans, as Captain America, is a great combination of grace and brute force. His fight scenes were awesome. However, the one thing that kept distracting me is the number of times he used his shield to protect from gun fire. Can’t the bad guys shoot his legs? Okay, whatever, just don’t question that bit. Everything else was fantastic.

Who isn’t a fan of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow? Too often we see female action figures fight toe-to-toe with men much larger than they are, and exchange blows like it’s no big deal to get punched in the face by someone who’s four times stronger than you. But Natasha doesn’t fight like that. When she gets hit it hurts, but she doesn’t often get hit. Her fighting style looks like that of a terminator ballerina hybrid – maybe her nick name should be the Terminina…nah, that’s stupid. 🙂

There was drama. You know the good guys are going to survive and win, but you never know at what cost. I think that’s the single most difficult thing the writers have for these stories. You know certain characters can’t die, because they have a contract for 5 more films, so how do you ratchet up the drama? The answer is you put them through emotional turmoil, and make the characters question their own motivations. The writers did that to great effect.

A word on 3D. I saw it in 2D because I had to take notes throughout the movie. However, there wasn’t anything in the movie that seemed like it would make for a great 3D film. Personally, if you’re on the fence about which format to see it in then I’d suggest 2D.