‘The Heat’ Review

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Dir: Paul Feig (Bridesmaid)

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans, and Michael Rapaport

Synopsis: Uptight FBI special agent Sarah Ashburn is paired with testy Boston cop Shannon Mullins in order to take down a ruthless drug lord. The hitch: neither woman has ever had a partner — or a friend for that matter

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Some have been waiting to see what Paul Feig’s follow-up to his blockbuster Bridesmaids would be and the answer is The Heat staring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as mismatched partners.

Straight-laced FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is an uptight agent who sees taking down a Boston crime ring as her chance at a big promotion. When she gets there her case collides with the foul-mouthed, rough and tumble Boston cop Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) who treats her boss (Thomas F. Wilson) as harshly as she does her suspects. After a series of clashes, Ashburn and Mullins realize they’ll have to work together if they’re going to close this case.

McCarthy and Bullock have great chemistry and are clearly having a blast together going back and forth. The cast features a number of familiar faces that have some moments, including Marlon Wayans as an FBI agent, Demian Bichir as Ashburn’s boss, SNL’s Taran Killam as a cop, and Jane Curtin, Michael Rappaport and Nathan Corddry as members of Mulluns’ family.

The comedy is kind of out there in where some miss their mark completely and others will most likely have you laughing out loud with a good audience. It is a buddy comedy so there will be some things that we’ve seen before in the genre that will probably bore you.

All in all, The Heat is pretty damn funny. McCarthy and Bullock great together and it’s no surprise that they are working in a sequel. The movie has it’s drama moments that might slow down the movie for some people but it does make some sense and raises the stakes a bit.

 

The Heat

4 out of 5

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‘White House Down’ Review

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Dir: Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012)

Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, Nicolas Wright and James Woods

Synopsis: While on a tour of the White House with his young daughter, a Capitol policeman springs into action to save his child and protect the president from a heavily armed group of paramilitary invaders.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

Well here we go again. The White House is under taken and gets taken over from the inside and it’s up to one man to save the President and the world. Only a few months after Olympus Has Fallen we get the “master of disasters” White House Down. Although it sounds like I’m bashing the movie I am truly not. I did think I wouldn’t enjoy it because of Channing Tatum (sorry Tatum fans, I just don’t completely see it) and because I’ve already seen the story. But, Emmerich’s version isn’t too bad.

Capitol policeman to Speaker of the House Ralpheson (Jenkins) John Cale (Tatum) is determined to impress his estranged and government-trivia-obsessed daughter (King) by becoming a part of the Secret Service. Following an ill-fated interview for the position, the White House is taken over by a paramilitary force whose aim is to kidnap President Sawyer (Foxx). Cale must rise to the occasion and against all odds rescue the president, his daughter and the world.

There are a lot more players in the game, like Secret Service deputy Finnerty (Gyllenhaal), leader of the bad guys Stenz (Jason Clarke) and Secret Service chief, Walker (Woods). The script, thankfully, never gets bogged down in its loaded cast and instead uses them to create a long narrative that is constantly flipping between the various players rather than resting solely on Cale and Sawyer.

Emmerich is known for balancing his movies with drama, humor and action when need be, this is no different. The drama-centric scenes do make some of the stakes much higher and bit emotional but never to the point where it overpowers the humor between Tatum and Foxx’s characters. The action should please some fans. It varies from multiple shootouts to some good ol fashion fist fights. However, most of the action is better when it sticks in the House than outside, excluding the decently fun limo chase on the front lawn.

All in all, White House Down is a dumb-fun summer action movie. Some of the CGI is a bit off which is weird to say when reviewing a Roland Emmerich movie.
White House Down

4 out of 5

‘World War Z’ Review

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Dir: Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Quantum of Solace)

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Fana Mokoena and David Morse

Synopsis: United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

Well, it’s finally here. The anticipated adaptation of Max Brooks famous zombie book World War Z. With its very troubled production, Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster not talking to one another, going way over budget, and bringing writers to fix the third act after the movie had been done filming, the movie is out and surprisingly…isn’t too bad.

The film, which Pitt also produced, is designed to be less a horror movie and instead is a globe-spanning, international thriller, with zombies in it. Unlike other zombies movies where the cast is some just some familiar faces that we may or may not see again, this one has Brad Pitt front and center and along with other well known familiar faces thrown in as one off characters. Now, before I go more into the review I do want to say this. As much as we love Brooks’ book (which if you haven’t read you really should) the movie is nothing like the book. Sure there are some moments where the movie throws book readers a bone but the movie really is its own thing. So if you’re a fan of the book, put away you’re expectations and just enjoy for what the movie is. A good fun ride.

Gerry Lane (Pitt) is bought in by his former employer of the U.N to search of an answer to how to stop the plague of zombies that has taken over the world. And if you’re worried that the film would take to long to get to the action you’d be mistaken. After establishing some moments with his family the action starts almost right away. The scale of the zombie outbreak in the city Gerry and his family are in make the familiar zombie take over feel a bit fresh, even while we quickly realize that this film will not be offering up much blood, which didn’t really bother me but will probably bother most zombie (or gore-fanatics’).

Eventually, Gerry and his family make it to the safety of a military fleet at sea, but his old boss wants him back on the job. Sure, his wife and kids are safe with the fleet but Pitt doesn’t want to leave his family but is pushed to and makes his sub-plot with his family a bit more important. Although Mireille Enos (The Killing) who plays Pitt’s wife doesn’t really do much besides wait around with their children.

Now the much talked about third act that was re-worked by Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Drew Goddard (Lost, The Cabin in the Woods) is hit and miss. This part is where most of the tension is but some will see it as dumb, generic, or dare I say even fun. You can also tell if you pay close attention to the rest of the movie that this part was done by different writers but it shouldn’t take you out of the movie.

Now the zombies. This will divide audience since every time a zombie movie comes out everybody seems to complain about them. We’ve seen in the ads the CGI fast movie zombies, there are a lot of them, but we do get some slow moving zombies for brief periods. Although one of the troubles the production had was the design of them, which you can sometimes tell when we get close up shots. As for the CGI zombies it does get a bit clucky at times but when you see the mountains of undead swarm like human-sized insects it kind of works.

Zombie fans (or horror fans) will probably also see the occasional element of pops up, although some are out of the blue. But largely, World War Z is less a zombie movie than it is an intense thriller that just happens to have zombies all over the place. The film’s final moments hint at the possibility of a sequel which honestly I won’t mind seeing, especially if it goes the actual way of the book.

All in all, World War Z has its hit and misses (more hits for me personally) and if you’re a fan of the book and are able to put the book aside (which you should to make the viewing better) you will possibly enjoy the movie.
World War Z

4 out of 5

‘Man of Steel’ Review

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Dir: Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen)

Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Antje Traue, Christopher Meloni, and Kevin Costner

Synopsis: A young boy learns that he has extraordinary powers and is not of this Earth. As a young man, he journeys to discover where he came from and what he was sent here to do. But the hero in him must emerge if he is to save the world from annihilation and become the symbol of hope for all mankind

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always. It will be hard for me because I want to talk about what makes this movie different.*

 

The long-awaited Superman reboot directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan has finally landed and in short, it’s awesome. Besides being a reboot the film serves as an origin story but also makes some welcoming changes to the origin that we known so well. For example, we find out why the costume is the way it is and what the hell the “S” stands for. But just because Superman is a comic book character it doesn’t mean the movie is a comic book movie. It does take many aspects from the comics but the movie is really almost a drama about alien trying to find his place in our world and dealing with humanity’s reaction to his existence.

Clark wants to be one of us but he knows deep down he can’t. That is until he is forced to choose between his adopted world and his home world when General Zod (Shannon) and fellow Kryptonians come to Earth looking for him.

The flashbacks to Clark’s youth, that are thrown in when appropriate, show us his journey and give us a sense of his inner demons like dealing with bullies and his first exposure to one of his abilities. There great moments in the movie and the actors, Dylan Sprayberry (age 13) and Cooper Timberline (age 9), do a great job making us believe they are struggling with their “curse.”

The other big part is, of course, Superman’s moral character that is formed by his two fathers, Jor-El (Crowe) and Jonathan Kent (Costner). Crowe and Costner stand out in their own way. Both loom large whenever they’re not on screen, and their impact on Clark’s life is deeply felt. He struggles with the advice of both men. Both tell him essentially the same thing but in their own way. And if you’re wondering about Jor-El’s screen-time, let’s just say you’ll be happy.

Of course there is Cavill’s Clark/Kal-El that is a great fit. He has his moments where he outshines everyone else but there are also moments where, even when he’s wearing his Superman outfit, he’s vulnerable. Adams is great as Lois Lane, bringing in her own sense of style to the character but this is not a Lois and Clark story. This is a story about Clark finding his place in the world. For those expecting a lot of heat between this famous comic book couple, you might be slightly disappointed. However, by the end you’ll see how their relationship can definitely be taken farther and in more interesting directions in future films.

Shannon is truly imposing as Zod, and dare I say gives Terrence Stamp a run for his money. Zod isn’t just a crazy villain he, at least in his eyes, sees what he’s doing is right and will do anything for the “good” of his people. The only other villain we have any time with is Antje Traue’s Faora who has many moments and might even walk away as people’s favorite when it comes fight sequence.

The supporting cast includes respectable appearances by Diane Lane as Martha Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Daily Planet’s Perry White, Ayelet Zurer as Lara (Clark/Kal-El’s mother), Richard Schiff as Dr. Emil Hamilton, and Harry Lennix and Christopher Meloni as U.S. military brass. The other great surprise is composer Hans Zimmer’s score. His score fits so well with the scenes whether it be an action scene or drama-centric. Also, in a nice refreshing step we don’t hear John Williams’ classic score. Some might be disappointed by that but I thought it was a good step in a new direction.

One of the great things we get that we haven’t gotten a lot of in past Superman films is the action. Snyder is known for his action sequence and thankfully he abandons his use of slo-mo and trades it in for fast and brutal action. We’ll have to wait for it but once it starts you don’t want it to stop. Some might feel that the CGI gets in the way of some of the fights but it’s still something truly worth seeing.

All in all, Man of Steel is a great ride that doesn’t disappoint. We do get a new look to Superman, which is great, but we also get a new story that could go in many different directions. Also be on the lookout for some nice Easter Eggs during all the carnage. One of the only things that I have to complain about is it’s a bit lengthy at two and half hours.

Man of Steel

4.5 out of 5

‘Now You See Me’ Review

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Dir: Louis Leterrier (Transporter 1 & 2, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money

 

*Review Note: As always this is a non-spoiler review*

 

The movie opens with “The closer you look, the less you’ll see” whether that’s true or not is of course left to the viewer.

Calling themselves “The Four Horsemen,” street magicians J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Franco), mentalist Merritt (Harrelson), and escape artist Henley (Fisher) are bought together by a mystery person. A year later they are now a hugely successful Vegas magic act that begins to pull off daring and seemingly unbelievable heists much to the delight of audiences. However that doesn’t bode well with FBI agent Rhodes (Ruffalo) and an Interpol agent (Laurent) assign to the case after they steal from a bank in Paris.

Along the way we meet a tycoon played by Michael Caine in a very small role and a former magician-turned-mythbuster (Freeman) who the FBI may or may not be able to trust. And despite all the marketing focusing on the Four Horsemen, this is really Rhodes’ story. He’s the one who is chasing them down and with the help of Laurent’s Alma Dray and Freeman’s Thaddeus Bradley he finds out what’s going on.

Ruffalo, as always, is great as his frustrated, non-believer, and hard driven agent that wants to take the Horsemen down for their crimes. Laurent’s Interpol agent is more open minded then Rhodes and tries to convince him into thinking it’s possible that the magic is real. The movie does slow down a bit when it’s just the two of them together at times but never really hurts the movie.

As for the rest of the cast, Eisenberg and Harrelson get the most screen time of the Horsemen. Franco and Fisher have their moments but they fall through the cracks as the movie progresses. Which is kind of a shame since their characters in other cases are underwritten. They all play their characters with a bit arrogance which you can’t blame them but it does make it them a little harder to like in some cases.

Now You See Me does have some fun with some “common” magic tricks but some of the magic does have some help with CGI, which has upset some people but since the movie is about a wider objective hopefully people can look past it. Even the revels for the tricks are really cool to see, although some are more hit and miss.

All in all, Now You See Me is a fun and at times funny movie that delivers some clever moments and keep viewers entertained and thinking about the big reveal.

Now You See Me

4 out of 5

‘After Earth’ Review

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Dir: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, and Zoe Kravitz

Synopsis: A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

On the surface After Earth is a sci-fi movie that stars the Smith family powerhouse of Will and his son Jaden. Along with that, the movie is also a coming of age story of sorts with the added effect of a strained father and son relationship.

The story is set 1,000 years after humans have left a now uninhabitable Earth behind and relocated to another planet named Nova Prime. Nova Prime has its own dangers: monstrous aliens that hunt humans. So of course we learn to adapt and get a very brief scene that shows the humans fighting back and pretty much the only scene we get to see Will’s Cypher Rage do anything (more on that in a bit).

Anyway, we follow his son, an aspiring Ranger named Kitai Raige (Jaden) as he tries to impress his father. Kitai however doesn’t exactly have all the qualities it takes to be a Ranger and it disappoints him and knows that it will disappoint his father. However, the two get a chance to have some bonding time as Cypher after coming home briefly has to leave again and takes his son. While traveling something, obliviously, goes wrong the ship is forced and crash lands on the now quarantined planet of Earth.

The only survivors are Kitai and his badly injured father who has to stay on the ship and help guide his son to retrieve a distress beacon from part of their wrecked ship that’s many miles away. Sounds simple right? Well add Earth’s wildlife that has evolved drastically as well as the animals that Kitai has to go through. Still sound simple? Well aboard the ship was a captured alien monster known as an Ursa that has escaped its cage and is know roaming around.

After Earth may have the stigma of being directed by M. Night Shyamalan but Shyamalan actually has been able to craft a movie that, wait for it, is passable. The movie has some pretty good effects going for it but nothing we haven’t really seen before. Probably the best special effect is of the monster Ursa that looks pretty scary once we get a good look at it and maybe the shifting blade.

Although there are some brief roles by Zoe Kravitz and Sophie Okonedo as the female members of the Raige family, this is basically a two-person show, with Jaden Smith really being front and center. Will Smith on the other hand really just sits down for the whole movie and leaves his son to do all the running, jumping and fighting. The dynamic between the two was a bit rough at times. We know Will Smith for being charismatic but his character here restrains his emotions to the point that his performance comes across as wooden or bland, although it makes some sense for this character. Jaden on the other hand has his moments to shine but his facial expression all kind of looked the same. Also, the accents the have in the movie kind of took me out of it. I don’t want to be that person that hates the entire movie because of a small thing and I’m not in this case, I’m just wondering why they made that decision.

All in all, After Earth isn’t the best movie but it surely is passable and hopefully Shyamalan can ride off this and get back to some of his former stride.

After Earth

3 out of 5