American Sniper (2014) – Review

3 Stars

American Sniper is a movie that has aspirations for greatness but settles for being a rather ordinary film about an exceptional human being, Chris Kyle. Clint Eastwood’s dialed back withdrawn directional style is an awkward fit for such an impassioned story. Stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller have never been better used, both do OSCAR worthy work. The real life tragedy of Chris Kyle’s death is acknowledged yet, mercifully not shown.
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Vertical Limit (2000) – Review

2 Stars

I initially saw Vertical Limit in the theaters during the winter of 2000. I can’t decide if the movie played better on the big screen, or that it has simply aged very poorly. This is a big-budget adventure picture set in the climbing world, specifically centering on a disastrous trek for a group led by a feuding brother and sister. Arriving after the vastly superior Cliffhanger, Vertical Limit never comes off as anything more than melodrama with some alternately beautiful location photography and blatant use of sets, backgrounds, and CGI techniques.
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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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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) – Review

4 Stars

The ageless wonder, Tom Cruise, is back to his high energy antics in his latest slam-bang thrill ride, Mission:Impossible-Rogue Nation. This entry is the strongest ‘spy’ movie since Casino Royale back in 2006. Now, that Bond does more brooding than bashing, Ethan Hunt is back on the job to satisfy that international intrigue itch and send audiences home sedated. This fifth film in the M:I series is an absolute joy to behold, clever and clean in terms of storytelling, editing, and overall execution. Director/writer Christopher McQuarrie does an excellent job behind the camera with assured direction and some brilliant set-pieces.
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The Identical (2014) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

The Identical opens with a gorgeous shot of a Cadillac driving along a dirt road in the middle of a deserted cotton field. It’s Alabama 1972, in the back of the luxury car sits Drexel ‘The Dream’ Hemsley (Blake Rayne), sipping on the last of a bourbon cocktail. The look and strange behavior of the character is supposed to invoke an obvious Elvis Presley comparison. Hemsley rolls down the window and peers out to the long stretching acres. The ghost of field workers from the past begin to appear. It’s a sequence that works and it’s noteworthy, because very little else works.
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Paranoia (2013) – Review

2 Stars

If John Grisham ever penned a YA novel and Oliver Stone adapted it for the screen, it would look and play a lot like Paranoia. This is an example of a perfectly mediocre movie. It’s a corporate-thriller b-movie with an A-list cast hamming it up. Slick visuals and a pulsating score unsuccessfully attempt to elevate this routine material.
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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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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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