X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

I’ve never been able to quite understand the long-lasting appeal of Marvel’s X-Men. There are now seven movies in the series (though not in successive order) and I have long grown tired of the trials and battles between mutants and humans. X-2 is one of the best superhero films ever committed to film, but it is now 11 years and five sequels later and the originality, luster and my own emotional attachment to this world and characters have long faded. Series’ regular Hugh Jackman is once again beefed up and in charge of the show as the Wolverine. Jackman now stands among Moore, Connery, and Stallone as actors who have portrayed the same role in six different movies. He commands the screen as the muscular mutant with iron claws, but Jackman has never been the problem with these flicks. It is the same rudimentary plot devices over and over again, the novelty this time around is the time travel element. This gimmick allows Wolverine to visit an alternate universe that ties the series’ fractured timeline together.
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Terminator Genisys (2015) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s iconic line “I’ll be back” is starting to become a veiled threat. Terminator Genisys is a crushing disappointment for any fan that can recall the pure cinematic joy of experiencing the James Cameron episodes in theaters. T2 was one of the greatest movie-going experiences of my life. To think that years later the series would be relegated to this shambled, unimaginative bore, is devastating. Lethargic direction, bad casting and confused plotting are issues that bedeviled this blockbuster into submission. Even the usually reliable Schwarzenegger seems to be lost in the ho-hum proceedings.
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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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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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Transcendence (2014) – Review

1 Star

Transcendence marks the directing debut of longtime cinematographer and frequent Christopher Nolan collaborator, Wally Pfister. This is of note not because of the promotion given to Pfister, due rather to the close resemblance of style and visual look of Nolan’s work. It looks, talks and moves like a Nolan film but there is a key ingredient missing that ultimately turns the recipe into a bland mixture of heighten techno paranoia and ridiculous plot turns.
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Ex Machina (2015) – Review

3 Stars

Deus ex machina (Latin: dei ex machina) 1.A calque from Greek, meaning “god from the machine”. – Wikipedia

There is an awful lot of discussion about man playing god, in the appropriately titled Ex Machina, the latest thriller from novelist/screenwriter Alex Garland, who also directs. This is a low-key, there are only four cast members, sometimes mesmerizing odyssey into classical literary themes.
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Jurassic World (2015) – Review

4 Stars

Jurassic World‘s director Colin Trevorrow was hand-picked by Steven Spielberg to continue the series. It’s no wonder then that World closely resembles that first film’s style, and sense of fun. This is a thrill ride tuned to perfection by a team of high function craftsmen and a capable cast that turns the ordinary into extraordinarily good. Plus, its great to hear that excellent theme music from John Williams reinterpreted by Michael Giacchino here, again blaring through theater speakers.
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Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The fourth installment in the tired Transformers franchise, is a lumbering unwieldy mess. The bloated running time serves as an invitation for elongated CGI sequences that are as visually confused as the script is simple. Losing the original cast and softly rebooting the series is to no avail, this movie peaks early and is then a steady march through the well-established routines set up by three previous pictures. Knockoffs like Hasbro’s own Battleship, are starting to look good-by comparison, a sure sign that the producers should stop now.
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World War Z (2013) – Review

4 Stars

World War Z is the surprise of the summer, this is the ‘event’ movie audiences have been waiting for. Moving at a breakneck speed, the (oft-reported) troubled production has resulted in a captivating blockbuster with artistic flare and big scares. I didn’t think there was an ounce of creativity left in the genre, but Pitt and director Marc Foster along with a trio of screenwriters have reinvigorated the over-saturated.
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Oblivion (2013) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

There is so much I liked about Tom Cruise’s sci-fi adventure film Oblivion that I’m tempted to recommend it. The film’s first hour is full of beautiful images, sweeping music and shots of Cruise doing his steely eyed determination thing. If the movie had only been these parts it would have been short on plot but big on spectacle, alas the second hour renders the story less interesting as it goes along.
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Death Squad (2015) – Review

1/2 Star

My fellow film critic Trevor Anderson often complains about sci-fi films getting bogged down in their own mythology. Complex backstories meant to add richness to the world on-screen is frequently just confused exposition that overly complicates matters. So it may be refreshing that Death Squad doesn’t rely on these elements for its simple tale, but then the movie is also incomprehensible on a narrative level, visually boring, and features a cast of runaway scenery chewers.
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Tomorrowland (2015) – Review

2 Stars

Just recently I was re-visiting the long forgotten Steven Spielberg produced 1980s television show Amazing Stories. If you are a child of the Lucas/Spielberg era then you will most likely remember the series that ran for a few years back when summer blockbusters were instant classics. As a wanna-be ‘event’ film Tomorrowland is lacking…something, but it would have fit in nicely as an entry into the Amazing Stories show. Those episodes ran an hour and in some cases 90 minutes, unfortunately Tomorrowland runs a lengthy two plus hours and loses its momentum, audience interest and sense of awe somewhere along the way.
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Mega Shark vs. Kolossus (2015) – Review

3 Stars

This is the fourth entry into the unlikely Mega Shark semi franchise for Aslyum pictures. Even though it may not be a direct mock buster, Kolossus bears a striking similarity to a certain, um, Terminator-which just happens to be arriving in theaters a few weeks after this is debuting on television. That is part of the innocuous appeal of the flick that features one-time staunch indie film supporter Illeana Douglas. A filmmaker so anti commercial that she infamously called out Jon Favreau for his escape into studio filmmaking, who now appears in a genre b-movie…go figure.
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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – Review

3 1/2 Stars

George Miller’s return voyage into the imaginative nightmare world of Mad Max Rockatansky is one of the year’s most ingeniously constructed films. With virtually no plot and a minimum of dialogue, Miller and his fellow craftsmen have designed a picture of visceral excitement that brims with innovation and spectacular moments. This is a movie that contains not only the year’s most bizarre looking characters but also, machinery that looks otherworldly, and some heartfelt acting from it’s well cast actors and actresses.
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