‘San Andreas’ Review

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Dir: Brad Peyton

Writer(s): Carlton Cuse (Story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, Will Yun Lee and Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

There is something about disaster movies that we all love. Maybe because disaster movies are almost, and arguably, the ultimate form of escapism we have in movies today. Add in one of the biggest names in Hollywood in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you are bound to have a damn fine entertaining movie. San Andreas is that movie, of course not without its faults and its unfortunate timing, after the earthquake in Nepal. Thankfully, the studio and crew made sure the movie’s promotional material have links to places where you can help with any natural disaster.

 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a L.A.F.D Search and Rescue pilot who has a great reputation of saves. Even though he’s great at his job, he is currently on the brink of divorce with his Emma (Gugino) after an accident that caused them to break away from each other. Ray however is also ready to go on a trip with his daughter, Blake (Daddario) before a massive earthquake hits and has to go on duty. Blake then heads to San Francisco with her Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Gruffudd), a big time architect. There she meets Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Parkinson) when another earthquake hits the city. Meanwhile, a Cal Tech seismologist Lawrence (Giamatti), and his team find out what is causing the earthquakes – and even when they can possibly hit – and tries to warn everyone on what is coming.

 

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San Andreas is arguably the most summer popcorn movie you can have. It’s one of those movies where you can just sit down, watch, and not have a care in the world. Does it stand against other big disasters films like The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, or 2012? Not entirely, but it does have some great moments that will make you invest in the characters and what’s going on. Finally, will it make you an earthquake expert survivor in case the San Andreas Fault actually happens to go off? Sort of.

 

Surprisingly, the best parts of the movie are not the full on destruction of California. In fact the best parts of the movie are the cast members, all lead by Johnson. Johnson doesn’t have to rely on his action chops so much, but more on his dramatic chops which he handles perfectly here. Johnson isn’t a large than life character – of course he is actually larger than life – he is just an ordinary guy. Next to Johnson, Daddario is the next best thing as his resourceful daughter that plays both the role of an strong female character helping Ben and Ollie through the city to get to higher ground so her father can come them, and a bit of a damsel-in-distress with having to really be saved by her father.

 

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Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson brotherly duo work just fine as they have to trek through the city with Daddario’s Blake. Unfortunately there is a forced romance between Ben and Blake, which doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie and it’s in our faces, but it is there. Carla Gugino has her moments to shine, and Ioan Gruffudd’s role could have easily been played by someone else and it wouldn’t have matter that much.

 

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The biggest underused character and actor is Paul Giamatti’s Lawrence. He is basically there to tell us, the audience, what exactly is going on. It doesn’t mean he’s not great in the role, he does the best he can with what he is given. I think what makes it a bit underwhelming is that he has no contact or shares any scenes with Johnson or the rest of the cast. The only connection to Johnson’s character – if you want to call it that – is the reporter, played by Archie Panjabi, who we see in the beginning of the movie with Ray and his team when they rescue a girl from an accident. She also happens to be there with Lawrence and his team as they try to find out what is happening. At the same time however, all of Giamatti’s scenes with his team slow the movie down a bit as they explain how plate tectonics work and what could possibly happen. Only reason I bring it up is because the science in the movie isn’t all that real, just a bit.

 

The science isn’t the only thing wrong with the movie. Some of the CGI during the mayhem has some cool looking moments, but other times it looks a bit cheesy and too cartoony. It doesn’t take you out of the movie completely, but knowing that they actually can’t destroy a city to get what they want, it’s bearable. But, what I believe is a missed opportunity or just a mistake on writer Carlton Cuse’s part, is not having Ray’s team throughout the movie. The team members are played by Colton Haynes, Todd Williams and Matt Gerald. With the expectation of Williams, they only have one scene together. The scene even makes it seem like they are going to be together and go save Blake together, but we never see or hear about them again. It’s a bit of shame, but this leads to the other part of the movie that, apparently, has made a lot of people question Ray’s character. He leaves his duty to go save his family.

 

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Yes, people are questioning Ray’s character because once everything starts to go to hell, he decides to stop where he was going to help others and just help his family. I get why people would be upset about that and see why, but I guess they forgot the part of the movie where he does actually save others people’s lives from getting crushed to death near the end of the movie. Again, I can see that, and to be honest I didn’t even notice that until I read people were pointing it out. Is it “selfish?” I guess, but if you were in the same position, wouldn’t you do probably the same thing?

 

All in all, San Andreas has some great moments in the disaster movie sense and if that doesn’t do it for you (why are you really watching the movie?) it’s bearable to watch because of Johnson and Daddario’s performances. It really is one of those movies you can just sit back and enjoy what’s going on. It isn’t with its faults (pun intended), but it is enjoyable.

 

San Andreas

3 out of 5

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‘Poltergeist’ Review

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Dir: Gil Kenan

Writer(s): David Lindsay-Abaire, Steven Spielberg (story)

Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Saxon Sharbino, Kyle Catlett, Kennedi Clements, Jane Adams, Nicholas Braun, Susan Heyward, and Jared Harris

Synopsis: A family whose suburban home is haunted by evil forces must come together to rescue their youngest daughter after the apparitions take her captive.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Before I got into what I think of the movie, let me start by saying this, and this something I have always said to pretty much anyone that listens: I don’t mind remakes/reboots. The original movie will always be there. The day that remakes/reboots comes out and Hollywood decides to burn all original copes of the original movies so we can never see them is the day we can start bitching and moaning that remakes shouldn’t happen. My only thing about remakes/reboots is that they at least try to do their own thing with it, but at least keep some of the spirit or charm of the original if it’s possible. Did we need a remake/reboot of Poltergeist? Probably not, but it is here, so deal with it. Also, I will not compare this to the original movie, I don’t really do that in my reviews and never will. I’m judging this movie for what it is, and not what it was and turned into.

 

Poltergeist follows a family five in the Bowen family; the recently out of work father, Eric (Rockwell), the stay-at-home struggling mom Amy (DeWitt), the teenager Kendra (Sharbino), the youngest Madison (Clements) and the scared of many things and middle child Griffin (Catlett). They move into their new house, which they can barely afford but as soon as they move in, both Griffin and Madison start to encounter strange happenings around the house.

 

Eventually, Eric and Amy find out that the land the house is built on was built on top of a cemetery, but by then it is obviously too late. The spirits target Madison, because she is still innocent enough to not know they are really evil and lure her into her closet and to the other side. On the other side, Kendra and Griffin get attacked as well before their parents come home and find out that Madison is missing. They find out that Madison isn’t really missing of course and instead has crossed somewhere they can’t reach her.

 

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Amy and Eric don’t to the police since Eric says “who will believe us?” and Amy goes to Dr. Brooke Powell (Adams), a professor and expert on Paranormal Research. Powell helps the family with her two assistants Sophie (Heyward) and Boyd (Braun), but when they find out that they are a bit out of their league they get Carrigan Burke, a famous TV host of a show called Haunted House Cleaners. Burke tells the family that they need to work together in order to bring Madison home back safe.

 

Poltergeist has no problem going into the strange occurrences very early on. So much so that one of things I have a bit of problem with is the pacing. Writer David Lindsay-Abaire has things move pretty quickly, but not too quickly that we don’t get a feel for the characters. It’s rather odd. We do get a good sense of the characters that we end up liking the family for the most part, but things move a bit quickly that we are almost forced to care about them too. We want to see Madison returned and the family is especially broken up about and leads to a pretty dramatic scene lead by Sam Rockwell’s Eric when he first meets Jared Harris’ Carrigan Burke. However, the big thing is the family is quick to think that it is a supernatural occurrence. Eric does play the skeptical one of the family, but the love for his daughter and wanting her back takes over. I’m not saying that’s a good reason to overlook the family’s acceptance that her daughter was taken away by evil spirits, but they could have played it out a little more.

 

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The surprising thing about Poltergeist is its sense of humor. Seriously, the movie and characters have a great sense of humor and Rockwell leads the charge with witty one-liners and the attitude of being the “cool dad.” But there is some more injected humor later on in the movie, that isn’t so much out of place, but actually fits with Harris’ Burke.

 

The cast does well with what they’re given. Rockwell, Harris, and the youngest cast members Kyle Catlett and Kenndi Clements get the most work out of the movie. Sharbino’s Kendra has her moment but otherwise sits out the heavy action. Jane Adams’ Dr. Powell and Nicholas Braun’s Boyd also share a couple great moments, with Braun getting probably the best scare/tension scene in the movie, but Susan Heyward is really the one that gets the short end of the stick as Sophie as she really does almost nothing in the movie. Jared Harris could easily be a favorite, if it wasn’t for Rockwell’s good performance. Harris is having fun with his role and it shows, and thankfully, goes against type of this kind of character.

 

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The scares are okay. The majority of them are jump scares and only a few are actually effective. For the most part, Poltergeist works better as a creepy/haunted house movie as an opposed to a flat-out horror movie. My only real mention to the original movie is there are some callbacks to the original that fans will recognize.

 

All in all, Poltergeist has some fun moments and has a surprisingly great sense of humor. What makes it work is the cast and the few effective scares. It isn’t perfect, but it isn’t that bad either.

 

Poltergeist

3 out of 5

‘Tomorrowland’ Review

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Dir: Brad Bird

Writer(s): Damon Lindelof and Brad Bird

Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw, Pierce Gagnon, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, and Hugh Laurie

Synopsis: Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

When Tomorrowland was first announced, and even until now, it was shrouded in mystery. No one knew it the hell the movie was going to be about and that didn’t stop many from throwing in their ideas into the mix. Once the title was revealed, it led to some confusion. Would the movie be about one of the main areas in Disneyland? Or would it build on some connection to it? Well, sort of both, but only loosely.

 

Tomorrowland starts with the story of a young Frank Walker (Robinson), a young and brilliant inventor who goes to 1964 World’s Fair to try and get his invention into a contest for inventors. However, one judge played by Hugh Laurie, is impressed by the invention but when he finds out it doesn’t really work he turns him away. But, Frank’s imagination catches the eye of Athena (Cassidy) and tells him to follow her and judge down a ride, which ends up It’s a Small World. You can probably assume what happens from there.

 

We then fast forward to the present where we are introduced to Casey Newton (Robertson). A young optimist who sees the good in the world and wants to change the future by asking how we can fix it. As seen in the promotion material, Casey ends up in jail after an incident and finds a pin with a ‘T’ on it. When she touches it, she ends up in a grassy plain with a futuristic city in the distance. She starts to question whether it is real and tries to find answers to where she goes when she touches the pin. Eventually, she ends up at the adult Frank’s home, of course the adult Frank is played by George Clooney.

 

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Frank is no longer a happy-go lucky inventor, but rather living in exile and seemingly bitter. He tries to tell Casey to let it go and forget about what she saw, but Casey still wants to go. The two eventually work together by force to get to Tomorrowland, because they are being chased down by robots. What happens next is a big adventure to Tomorrowland, but Casey finds out that she is actually part of a larger plan.

 

For what it’s worth, Tomorrowland is pretty fun. The effects are great, and Tomorrowland itself was highly impressive to dive into. Casey gets to “explore” it at one point and it is something like we’ve never it before. It really does feel like all the smartest people in the world got together and made a world that can thrive off their impressive creations. However, the bad thing is we don’t get to spend a ton of time in Tomorrowland. In fact the movie is more about the adventure to get there and the mystery surrounding it. Which unfortunately is one of the negative things about Tomorrowland.

 

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The film does have so great action sequences, one that involves the escape from Frank’s farm home, which is seen in a lot of the promotional material. But, for me, one of the best is one that happens earlier in the film that involves Casey and Athena. I’ll leave you guessing how Athena shows up in the present until you see the movie. It’s not all that surprising that the action looks great either, after all Brad Bird did direct Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

 

However, the best thing about Tomorrowland is the cast. Britt Robertson’s Casey is likeable, smart, a bit of a rebel, and easy to invest in as she is thrown into this mysterious world just like us the audience. Clooney seems to be enjoying himself playing a begrudged character that wants nothing to do with the situation, however he sees Casey’s will and imagination and starts to see there could be some hope.

 

But the real standout in the cast is Raffey Cassidy as Athena. She is crucial in bringing together Casey and Frank, and later on in the film as well. But what makes her a standout is how she plays her character and how she plays off Robertson and Clooney. She holds her own against a top actor like Clooney, at the age of thirteen.

 

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There is a storyline, that I won’t spoil or even hint at, but you’ll know it when you see it, that I was surprised that writers Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof went into. It’s a touching and heartfelt storyline I wish they went more into, but what they did with it was enough to serve the purpose of the scene and why the events happened the way they do.

 

Two of the bad things about Tomorrowland for me, is the “villain,” and the heavy-handed theme and message that it is putting forward. I put villain in quotation marks because it is one of the weakest parts of the whole movie and labeling the character a villain is a bit of a stretch. The motivation is interesting and you could arguably go with it because it makes sense in a lot ways, but the way it’s presented was not good at all. Also, it was a waste of the character, especially since it happens so late in the movie.

 

The theme and message of Tomorrowland is dominate and – like I said – heavy handed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the message that the film is putting out there, but it does feel like Bird and Lindelof are beating us over the head a lot of the time saying “hey, remember this is what we’re trying to tell you!” I found it sometimes to be distracting, and almost going against what Frank tells Casey early in the film “can’t you just be amazed.”

 

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All in all, Tomorrowland is a mixed bag, but for the most part Tomorrowland’s message is clear and a message I can get behind, even though it’s heavy-handed. The trio cast of Robertson, Clooney and Cassidy keep the film going, with Cassidy being the highlight of the cast, and keep the film going to where you want to see where everything is going and how it turns out. Tomorrowland isn’t perfect, but you will have fun.

 

 

Tomorrowland

3.5 out of 5

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‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Review

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Dir: George Miller

Writer(s): George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, and Nick Lathouris

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Bryne, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Nathan Jones and Megan Gale

Synopsis: In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Director George Miller has returned to the wasteland of the “Mad World” he created back in 1981. Now, some odd thirty years later, Miller has bought back the character of Max Rockatansky and his surroundings of crazy-named characters, barren landscapes, insane looking cars, and yes, awesome car chases. But, does this new Mad Max hold its own or does it crumble under the hype? Well, it’s a lovely day!

 

Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t necessarily a remake, reboot or sequel. It does have a nice “Easter Eggs” to the previous movies that fans will notice, including during the opening narration by Max (Hardy) telling us who he is and what the world has become. Really, even if you aren’t a Mad Max fan or never seen the other films, it kind of doesn’t matter. Even without the Easter Eggs, Miller gives the audience enough material to make your own conclusions or flat out shows us, what this world has become. You will have no problem entering the world of the mad.

 

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When it comes to the story of the movie, it is rather simple: Its one long car chase. The chase starts when Imperator Furiosa (Theron), a war lieutenant, leads a group of Immortan Joe’s (Keays-Byrne) War Boys, young pale-looking men who are deathly loyal to Joe, to a supposed oil and ammo run but ends up taking a detour. It’s after Joe finds out that Furiosa is on the detour that he realizes his “Wives” are missing. The Wives, who are five women that Joe uses to breed, are actually in Furiosa’s rig and decides to go out with this army to get back his “property.”

 

On the way to get back The Wives, one of the War Boys, Nux (Hoult) happens to have Max with him and they chase down the rig into the heavy promoted sand storm, which is even better than the promos. Of course, Max and Furiosa eventually cross paths and the two work together to get to safety.

 

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Mad Max: Fury Road is very unapologetic. It doesn’t care if you think it’s weird or over the top, even though it is for the most part. Miller and his crew have done an amazing job of really creating a world that has come and gone, and what is in its place it. There’s very little hope in this bleak and dry world. The world is now filled with killers and survivors, and you better be one or the other, because there is no more for a middle ground.

 

One of the best parts of Fury Road, isn’t just the action (I’ll get to that in a minute), but the cinematography. The film looks beautiful and there are constantly great looking shots that just add to the film even more. Add to that the amount of great detail the costume department spent on making these characters, especially Immortan Joe, look both; great, creepy, and even resourceful. Even better, and thankfully, Miller avoids CGI for a good chuck of the film and leaves all the awe-struck moments to real car crashes and explosions.

 

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But, all of these won’t be worth looking at it, if it weren’t for the characters. Tom Hardy plays a pretty good Max. He’s haunted by his past which is heavily touched on at the beginning and sporadically throughout the film. He’s a man of a few words and let’s his action do the talking. Seriously, Max might have the movie named after him, but he leaves a great chuck of the dialogue for his fellow runaways and is even masked for a good amount of time. It’s almost fair to say that Hardy is a supporting character in the movie and the real star is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.

 

Theron’s Furiosa is a not only a badass fighting woman, but a vulnerable one too. It goes to show you that Theron has a ton of range and can play both the vulnerable and kick-ass characters, that also happens to have one real arm. And yes, arguably, she is the lead character in the movie. We get to know as much of her backstory, surprising without heavy exposition, just through her actions and the way she treats her mission.

 

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I didn’t want to address this in the review, but considering it’s become an issue with not just Theron’s character, but the other female characters in the movie, I’m going to address it. The “Feminist Agenda” in Mad Max: Fury Road is stupid! People outside of Hollywood have wanted more strong female characters and when they finally get more than one, they bitch about and call it a Feminist Agenda, seriously? I know not everyone is calling it this, but the fact out of the things you can complain about in the movie, you choose to call an installment in a film series about awesome looking car chases and ridiculous names, a Feminist movie? Get a life! Also does no one remember Virginia Hey’s Road Warrior character? Hell even Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity was a pretty strong female character in Beyond Thunderdome.

 

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Anyway, let’s talk about The Wives – Toast the Knowing (Kravitz), The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely), Capable (Keough), The Dag (Lee) and Cheedo the Fragile (Eaton). Or as Immortan Joe would call them, his “property,” even though they would you hit and tell you they aren’t property to anyone. Each of them has their own personalities, but you only really get to know Toast, Splendid and Capable. The Dag and Cheedo have their brief moment to shine, but otherwise sit back on the action.

 

Hug Keays-Bryne’s Immortan Joe treats himself like a god or prophet in some sense. His War Boys are loyal because Joe promises them he’ll take them to Valhalla when they die. Keays-Bryne should be a familiar face – although you actually don’t really see his face in this – to the Mad Max world, he played the villain Toecutter in the first movie, but they have no connection in this film so don’t worry about that. Just like his crazy outfit, Immortan Joe is crazy, and ruthless.

 

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Nicholas Hoult plays Nux, the War Boy, looking to prove himself not just to Joe, but to himself and others that he can be a legend. There are other great crazy characters like you’d suspect in the movie like this, people with crazy names like Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) or more straightforward, The People Eater (John Howard) and The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter). They all add to the world that is long and gone and it fully shows.

 

While the movie might be one long big car chase, the film does slow down a bit to let the characters breath a bit, but pretty much to give us, the audience a breather too. Seriously after the first rig chase, I took a deep breath and the rest of the auditorium took one too and even laughed, but a good laugh not a “this is a terrible laugh.” However, I will say during those scenes, it does slow the movie down. It’s not so much of a bad thing to be honest, but considering how much we sit through during an action sequence, the slowed down bits takes you out a bit. However, during those scenes Theron and Hardy bring their characters more to life, so I really can’t complain too much.

 

All in all, Mad Max: Fury Road is a hell of a lot of fun. I do highly recommend multiple views, only because you’re sure to miss a few some awesome shots, or just viewing them all over again. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, more so Theron, keep the film going on the story and actor side of things. More importantly, George Miller brings Mad Max: Fury Road back to the things we love most about the series, awesome car chases and destruction.

 

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

4 out of 5

‘Maggie’ Review

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Dir: Henry Hobson

Writer(s): John Scott 3

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joley Richardson, J.D Evermore, Bryce Romero and Douglas M. Griffin

Synopsis: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a zombie movie? So we can expect some heavy zombie gore, witty one-liners, and moments of horror, right? Well, not with Maggie. Instead, we get a heavy drama about a loving father trying to protect and keep his daughter alive from a virus that is eating away at her. So I bet the question you’re asking is if Maggie is any good? For the most part yes, yes it is.

 

Schwarzenegger stars as Wade, a father who, at the beginning of the film, finds his missing daughter, Maggie (Breslin) in the midst of a virus outbreak. Even after finding out that Maggie has been infected with the virus, he takes her back to their home so they can spend the last couple of weeks together before he is forced by law to send her to quarantine. However, Maggie starts to show signs of the infection rapidly speeding up and Wade has to decide if sending her away is the best option, or tough it out and run the risk of his own life.

 

Maggie for all intent and purposes really works. Like I wrote before, this isn’t a typical zombie film that we’re all use to watching. Instead first time director Henry Hobson gives us a fully blown zombie drama. It also takes a different approach for the most part. The virus, which is called the necroambulist virus, doesn’t automatically make you a zombie (of course they never use the term). Instead the virus takes its time and varies on person to person. Also, society hasn’t fully collapsed, but it is barely holding on from the looks of it. The other thing, which could be considered a slightly negative thing, is we never find out some of the basics. There is a hospital where the infected are put to see how along they are and how severe the virus is in them, but we don’t really get a firm grasp of how the doctors go into checking the infected. But, they are far into the virus because they have pamphlets to give to the infected so they know what is happening to them.

 

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Here is the thing about Maggie that keeps it from being a really great movie. Hobson and screenwriter John Scott 3 (yes the number 3 not III) tried their best to stay away from clichés of the genre, although they do fall into some. At the end of the day, this is a film about a father and daughter relationship in a zombie apocalypse, and not the other way around. There are very brief and few scenes of action, but they feel more like tragic scenes rather than relying on an action beat. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but the film sets up a strong premise, but lacks to really hit a strong execution. The thing that keeps you watching the film without thinking of its faults, is the acting from leads Schwarzenegger and Breslin.

 

Schwarzenegger recently has been opening his career to more dramatic action films, but it was nice, and I’ll admit odd at times to watch him rely on his dramatic chops rather than his action chops. He plays the father role extremely well. His character Wade, loves his daughter and all he wants is to help her through this difficult time. Breslin, on the other hand pulls double duty. She has to play the scarred but strong young woman trying not to fall apart, but also being a bit terrifying when she starts to “turn.”

 

Although being father and daughter isn’t enough. Wade and Maggie do share quite a few scenes and some many of them are powerful and great to watch, but other than that, their relationship is never pushed to that next level even though the opportunity is really there. One of the best scenes of the film doesn’t even have Arnold in it. Maggie goes to a bonfire with some friends before they start school (another sign of how society hasn’t completely fallen yet). The scene and the follow up really show you who Maggie was before the virus hit and how others, besides adults, see it. Maggie finds out that someone she was close to, Trent (Romero), also has the virus. Seeing both of them talk about themselves and seeing the difference between them is great to see.

 

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Finally, the pacing and length could have been worked on. This is something I usually don’t think about too much when watching a movie, only because it really doesn’t matter if the material calls for it and if the length and pace works. For Maggie, however pacing does become its enemy near the middle of the film and during the final act. I read from a few people say the film could work better as a long short film, which I kind of agree with, but even some of the great scenes wouldn’t have worked without the build before it.

 

Also, the ending, obviously I won’t spoil it since this is a spoiler free review, but all I say is that I was very mixed about the ending, and in my theater there was a very audible reaction to it which I wasn’t ready for. The ending will really split you and whoever you’re watching it with. I think the ending barely worked and needed a bit more to really convince me that this is how it should have ended.

 

All in all, Maggie works on a lot of levels, which makes its missteps frustration because the film has a lot of potential to be even greater than it can be. The performances take the film to the next level and the different take on the zombie genre is welcoming. Just remember, you’re watching an actual zombie drama and not a zombie action film.

 

 

Maggie

3.5 out of 5

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Review

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Dir: Joss Whedon

Writer(s): Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader (voice), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

It’s hard to believe that Avengers: Age of Ultron is only Marvel Studios’ eleventh film, and what better way to cap it off with the second outing of one of the biggest teams in history. Joss Whedon returns to direct his last Marvel films – at least for now, hopefully – and boy does he go out with a bang. Avengers: Age of Ultron not only brings the gang back together, but also sets up the craziness that will be the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Whedon doesn’t hold back and really shows us what the movie will be like with the opening sequence, which is a huge action sequence, with some great comedy and humor, involved, on a Hydra base as The Avengers: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Renner) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Ruffalo), led an assault to capture an important item. While there they encounter The Twins, Pietro (Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Olsen), who are also called “enhanced,” and find out how deadly they can be. Wanda uses her powers to show them their worst fears, which varies on each Avenger, and I fears I won’t spoil here in the review.

 

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Moreover, Tony and Bruce discover what they think is a key to unlocking their “Ultron” program, A.I. Their hope is to have another peacekeeping option so their burden is not as strong. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and instead Ultron (voiced and motion captured by Spader) becomes a menace and sees the only way to peace is eliminating the human race and The Avengers.

 

If it is not clear by the opening sequence, Age of Ultron has a lot going on. Not only do we have the new characters, but also the multiple arcs going on that set up not just the rest of the movie, but also the future films, in particular Thor Ragnarok which actually slows down the movie a bit. One of the things that the movie is doing is pretty much showing us these characters aren’t always perfect, but also have their bad or imperfect sides, despite being labeled “superheroes.” They are still, for most of them anyway, human, they have flaws. Can they keep fighting forever?

 

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The other part that slows down the movie is the return of Nick Fury (Jackson). Don’t get me wrong, it is great to see Jackson back as Fury, but even his scenes slow down the movie too. Are they important scenes? Sort of. Fury is there to somewhat remind The Avengers why the world depends on them and why they were bought together, but during the third act they find that out themselves anyway.

 

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So let’s get the cast. Everyone has their moment to shine. The already established cast members do great in the roles as usual and do even better with the added depth the plot of the movie is giving them. Jeremy Renner’s Barton/Hawkeye does get some renewed justice, after playing a zombified henchman in The Avengers. He has a great and surprising arc in this that finally gives the character justice and more than a secondary character. Johansson’s Black Widow and Ruffalo’s Hulk have their blooming romance, which makes a bit more sense when you see it fully played out onscreen. Downey Jr. and Evans tease out their Civil War bout with their ideals on what to do with Ultron, and Hemsworth’s Thor is well, Hemsworth’s Thor (not in a bad way).

 

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As for the new cast members, they’re a bit hit-and-miss. Let’s start with the obvious, James Spader’s Ultron. I don’t like to compare the comics to the movies, because they movies are their own thing, but the Ultron here is a bit different from the comics (and that’s as far as I’ll go with that). The movie version of Ultron is a bit all over the place. For the most part, he is ruthless and wants to rid the world of pretty much everything and everyone. However, he does a quality that Spader really nails and makes Ultron a little bit more complex and truly a creation of Tony Stark. It was rather odd to behold, but kind of welcomed.

 

Secondly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as the twins Pietro and Wanda. Yes, they do have European accents, and no, they are not mutants (damn you 20th Century Fox, DAMN YOU). Instead, the Maximoff twins have been experimented on by Hydra’s scientists, mainly Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschamann), and are called “enhanced,” for their special powers for super speed and telekinesis and other psychic powers. It’s fairly clear in all the promotional that the twins work with Ultron at the start of the film and eventually end up working with The Avengers, which any comic book fan and maybe even casual fans would have guessed, so I don’t really consider that a spoiler. Taylor-Johnson’s Pietro, not Quicksilver which I don’t believe he’s ever called in the film, is cocky and a bit brash, while Olsen’s Wanda –also never called Scarlet Witch from what I recall, but is called witch by Tony– is both vulnerable, but mostly dangerous.

 

The two are a bit underutilized unfortunately. They have their own story as to why they want to team up with Ultron at the start, but after that they really don’t do a hell of a lot. Yes, they play a role in the final act, but this is the trouble with having so many moving parts, it was bound to happen. Again, that isn’t to say they don’t have their moments to shine, more so with Wanda as Olsen gets the edge of screentime than her onscreen brother, but as a whole they are just okay until the final act of the movie.

 

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Finally, Paul Bettany as Jarvis/The Vision. It’s a bit weird to say Bettany is a new cast member, since he has been a part of the MCU since day one as the voice of Stark’s helpful computer program Jarvis. But here in Age of Ultron, he is physically there with everyone as The Vision. I won’t say how he comes to be in the movie, but when he finally shows up and how he shows up it is truly great to see. More importantly, it is more great to see Bettany finally be an actual part/physically there for The Avengers from this point forward.

 

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There are some nice small appearances in there. Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie and Cobie Smulders pop up during the fun and funny party scene that happens before the “Lift Thor’s Hammer Challenge.” Andy Serkis plays Ulysses Klaue, which if you’re not a big comic book fan, you should try to remember his face and name for the future. There is some other surprises, but I’ll leave you to see those yourself.

 

Age of Ultron is filled with great action, the opening sequence is great and the Hulk vs. Tony in his Hulkbuster suit was awesome, but it is also filled with great humor. Yes, some of the jokes fall flat or feel unnecessary, but most of them feel right and it’s nice to have a laugh when despair and destruction is going around. Also, there are some serious surprises in this, that I won’t spoil, but one truly comes to mind that I’m sure many fans will be talking about.

 

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All in all, Avengers: Age of Ultron does have a lot of stuff going on, but Joss Whedon being Joss Whedon manages to be able to balance a large chuck of it and make a great sequel to what many thought, would be an impossible team-up movie. Age of Ultron has it all; action, drama, humor, and a great cast. You will surely have a fun time watching this. Of course, stay for the first credits scene, no after credits scene.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

4.5 out of 5

 

 

May Movie Releases

Hello Boys and Girls!

 

It’s the beginning of the Summer Movie Season!

What better way to start off this run of movies than a great month of films. We got a lot of films to get to, so let’s get to it!

 

 

1st

Limited Release: Far from the Madding Crowd

Based on the novel by Thomas Hardy, the film stars Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, who attracts three different suitors played by Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, and Michael Sheen. The film also stars Jessica Barden, Bardley Hall and Juno Temple.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

I mean come on, it’s the sequel  to one of the biggest superhero team-up movies ever! The cast keeps getting bigger and better. I, for one, am excited about watching this (more than once).

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8th

Limited Release: Maggie

Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a father trying to protect his daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, for as long as he can before she dies of a slow disease that is slowly turning her to a zombie. The trailer shows that Arnold is going to be diving into his dramatic chops, and people that have already seen it are saying it is a great character piece.

 

Hot Pursuit

Reese Witherspoon stars as a by-the-book cop who tries to protect a widow of a drug boss from killers all across Texas. I have to say, for me, this is a weird pairing and the movie doesn’t really seem like anything new to the action/comedy genre.

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15th

Limited Release: Good Kill

Ethan Hawke stars as a man that begins to question the ethics of his job as a drone pilot. The films also stars January Jones, Zoe Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Jake Abel

 

Pitch Perfect 2

The sequel to the surprise hit comes back and it looks like it is going to be better than ever. Not only that, but, producer and star from the first film Elizabeth Banks will take the helm and director the sequel. I didn’t see the first film so I can’t say am going to see this one just yet.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller returns to the world of the Mad with his new installment/reboot Mad Max: Fury Road. Tom Hardy plays the new Max and is joined by Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz and original Mad Max star Hugh Keays-Byrne playing a new character. That and the trailers make the new movie look bad-shit crazy.

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22nd

Poltergeist

A remake of the original cult-classic is coming to the big screens again. The remake actually looks like it could be kind of fun, then again, I’m one that doesn’t mind remakes unless they are done right and do their own thing. The film stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Jared Harris.

 

Tomorrowland

Brad Bird is bringing a mysterious take to what looks like a coming of age story with sci-fi elements and George Clooney. No I’m just kidding, but seriously we know very little about this new film that brings three people together to help save a world called Tomorrowland. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, and Kathryn Hahn.

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29th

Aloha

Cameron Crowe directs  this new film that stars Bradley Cooper, a celebrated military contractor who returns to the site of his triumph and re-connects with a lost love, while falling for a hard-charginig Air Force watchdog assigned to him. The women that Cooper’s character is falling for are Emma Stone and Rachel McAdams. The film also stars, John Krasinski, Alec Baldwin, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, and Bill Murray.

 

San Andreas

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vs. Big Earthquake. Okay, maybe he’s not physically fighting the earthquake, but you can’t pass on something like that. Anyway, Johnson does play a rescue-chopper pilot who goes on a dangerous journey to rescue his estranged daughter played by Alexandra Daddario. The film also stars Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes and Paul Giamatti.

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