Southpaw (2015) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Jake Gyllenhaal’s continued emergence as one of today’s finest actors is the main reason to see Southpaw. Great pugilists are often refered to as having all the tangible qualities,the same could be said of this project. On paper Southpaw possesses fantastic Oscar potential. In actuality, the writing is on the level of a second-tier TV movie and the pacing is slack and rushed in alternating rhythms. Yet, the lead performance by Jake Gyllenhaal and fine turns in supporting roles from Rachel McAdams, Forrest Whittaker, and Oona Laurence are marvels that nearly elevate the mediocre flick to contender level.
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Ted 2 (2015) – Review

3 Stars

The foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, Boston-accented teddy bear is back in the follow-up to the original smash hit. The second trip to the well isn’t quite as fruitful. Ted 2 has narrative issues and a few too many endings, but the laughs do come in large doses, particularly in the first hour. Mark Wahlberg’s innocent gullibility is used well and he is genuinely talented at playing off of the CGI creation, not an easy task when the logistics are considered. Unfortunately, Wahlberg’s character is sidelined for a story that focuses squarely on the bear’s dilemma over individual human rights. The timely issue is veiled in joke about semen, the Kardashians, and numerous other targets.
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Jupiter Ascending (2015) – Review

1 Star

Jupiter Ascending is one of the year’s big cinematic blunders, a bad movie of the first order. This folly is a mega-budgeted picture with name talent on both sides of the camera, like 47 Ronin or Babylon A.D., nothing works and we are left looking at flashy images on-screen without a vested interest or any character to root for. Maybe after receiving criticism over the complicated narrative developments of their unfairly overlooked epic Cloud Atlas, The Wachowski’s intentionally simplified their story to the barest elements. Or the extended and reportedly difficult post-production process cut sections that presumably, would have made things clearer.
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Ender’s Game (2013) – Review

3 Stars

Longtime fans of Orson Scott Card’s novels have cried foul over the many contentious liberties taken by the filmmakers. One department the creative team has not skimmed is in the visual effects arena. Ender’s Game is a beautifully designed picture with some dazzling imagery and a story that is intriguing before it turns anti-climactic. The final reveal may have been more impactful in novel form. On the screen, the third act events seem perfunctory and unsatisfying. On the whole, Ender’s Game stands amongst the better young adult adaptations in recent years.
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Draft Day (2014) – Review

3 Stars

There is something quietly comforting in the sheer professionalism and efficiency of a glossy studio picture like Draft Day. Here, is a movie that Hollywood excels in producing. All the basic principles of screenwriting, the time-tested methods of subtle light touch direction and pin-point casting of supporting players to round-out a veteran cast, combine for an effortlessly enjoyable romp. Perhaps, a bit too venerable in the case of casting Costner in a role that feels like it was written for a thirty-somethings actor.
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Entourage (2015) – Review

3 Stars

I wanted to love this big screen follow-up to the extremely popular HBO show and at times, the magic that made the series so beloved is apparent. However, on more than a few occasions writer/producer/director Doug Ellin writes his characters into a corner. There are many comedic moments that hum along, but there are also sets ups with little or no payoffs and mistimed gags. The overall experience is engaging enough to warrant a sequel though the limited appeal of the characters is more evident than ever on the big screen. Hardcore fans are likely to enjoy the numerous in-jokes and ‘easter eggs’ that populate many scenes and visual frames.
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Heat (1987) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Heat (Not to be confused with the 1995 Pacino/DeNiro classic) was to be Burt Reynolds’ triumphant return to the main stage after years of tabloid rumors and career free fall. During the developmental stages of the project, the movie was to be helmed by auteur Robert Altman. That was not to be the case, the final film had at least three different directors, including credited filmmaker R.M. Richards, who Reynolds punched out during production. So, it is kind of a minor movie miracle that the resulting film hangs together fairly well, but is undone by a unfocused screenplay from William Goldman.
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Magic Mike (2012) – Review

3 Stars

Lets address the elephant in the room at the start. Magic Mike is not the Showgirls of our generation. Thankfully Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh has infused an artistic angle on this dark comedy/drama that adds a level of seriousness and realism that the campy Paul Verhoeven film from the 1990’s could only wish for. Channing Tatum (who co-authored the screenplay based on his experiences as a dancer) is Mike, a Florida based construction worker by day and an exotic male dancer by night. The dual lifestyles are only for income as his real interest is in designing unique furniture.
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Inside Out (2015) – Review

4 Stars

There are two types of Pixar films nowadays, the creatively empty sequel machines or stories with such originality, creativeness and emotions they should be nominated for OSCARS. Inside Out falls into that latter category. This is flat-out one of the best movies of the year. It ranks up there with the touchstones of the genre, created by Pixar in fairness, that will surely stand the test of time and delight audiences for generations.
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Spy (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Recently, I was suggesting that comedies succeed or fail based on the likability of their stars’ appeal. I’m not a fan of Melissa Mcarthy’s antics. There are millions of people who find her schtick amusing and I’m sure she is a nice person but, I don’t think she is very funny. In small doses McCarthy is a scene stealer, as the lead she is dependent on one tone of comedy and after 90 minutes it becomes obnoxious.
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Riddick (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Director\Writer David Twohy’s second attempt at recreating the thrilling experience of his 1999 cult classic Pitch Black, is alternately better and worse than 2004s big-budget flop (and guilty pleasure) The Chronicles of Riddick. This latest sequel simply titled Riddick is besieged with an entirely different set of problems than the larger scale second entry into what has now inexplicably become a trilogy. If Chronicles veered into bad Shakespeare territory, Riddick is content borrowing elements from Conan, I am Legend, and Aliens. This makes for a very uneven viewing experience and the movie, while containing some strong individual scenes, never gels as a whole story.
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