Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
I almost feel bad for relating how I really feel about this flick because I went into it with such high hopes, but truly just wow, this one stunk.
In the equation of movies this one made sense. Paul Rudd + Jennifer Aniston + quirky premise = good movie? That’s what we all hoped.
What started off as a creative spin on the classic rom-com spiraled into exaggeration and what seemed like painfully scripted antics that had me begging for the credits to roll.
Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are a overworked Manhattan couple that suddenly find themselves out of work and at odds in their relationship. Their only option is to move in with Rudd’s caustically obnoxious brother Rick.
Along the way they stumble upon a laid back hippy commune called Elysium which seems to be exactly what the stressed out duo needed.
At first the stereotyping of both Rick (the commercial polo wearing suburban d-bag) and Elysium (dirty nudist vegan hippies) seemed a delightful contrast.
Quirkiness abounded and the film seemed to be heading the right direction. However not even Rudd’s sarcastic and relatable style of situational humor could not pull this film out of the crapper.
The true issue with the film is that despite a creative and unexplored premise the film squished all of the plot development into the final third of the film.
In the first third I was delightedly optimistic. The second third I started to say hey these jokes are getting old something needs to happen here. In the closing portion however I was biting my lip, checking the time and coming to grips with the reality that this movie was awful.
The actors did their best, truly this film was neither Rudd nor Aniston’s fault. Director David Wain however needs to be sat down…. Immediately. So much potential with so little substance left a bitter taste in my mouth.
A handful of low caliber one liners and an eclectic cast of funny people just can’t overcome the poor plot development. If beating a dead horse was a crime (which it may very well be) everyone who green-lighted this movie should go to jail.
To put it metaphorically this film was like a kid with all the potential in the world who tried meth, and as we all well know you can’t try meth, not even once. This flick is a C-, don’t see it. Just imagine that it w
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Ryan Reynolds has finally left his Van Wilder roots behind as he and Denzel struck espionage silver in Safe House.
I say silver because although Reynolds created a believable CIA agent aura, he’s still no Jason Bourne.
Denzel on the other hand was predictably phenomenal as the enigmatic and extremely dangerous Tobin Frost the ex-CIA double agent that drives the film.
Although the CIA double-crossing conspiracy film genre has been milked harder than any of us feel comfortable with Safe House packs enough star power, shoot-outs and spy mystique to earn a solid B/B+.
If you sat down and really thought about the plot of this film you would realize that it’s predictable as all hell, but when actually watching the star power and loud noises help you to forget about all that.
Reynolds is a rookie CIA agent (if there is such a thing) stationed in Cape Town, South Africa when disavowed wanted man and ebony box office magician Denzel Washington lands in his lap.
What ensues is like a hybrid of Training Day and The Bourne Ultimatum.
That’s really the best way to describe it. Denzel does his thing just like always, Reynolds shows that he’s got some chops as he sheds a few tears and kicks a little ass.
The most rewarding aspect of the film is the sort of begrudging mentor-like relationship that develops between Reynolds and Washington in the film.
For the most part the film remains somewhat on the superficial side of entertainment (car chases, spy intrigue etc.) but the director chose to delve a bit deeper when it came to the relationship between the two stars.
Although director Daniel Espinosa made his A-list debut with this film he did a very solid job handling both his actors and the spy-film context, which can become convoluted or just plain boring if your not careful.
The runtime of 115 minutes gives the film adequate time to develop but doesn’t leave you running for the door when the credits roll like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and the like.
The main success of the film is in moderation. It had all the raw materials to make a solid flick and Espinosa did a great job stepping aside and letting the story tell itself.
When it comes down to it the film delivers what it says it will. Excellent actors in a high budget environment with some high caliber action and the added bonus of some character development make the film a solid Saturday night watch.
If you are fan of either actor it’s a must see, if you’re a fan of action your gonna see it anyway, and if your bored then you should certainly consider seeing Safe House.
IMDB Score: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
By Ben Dauber
Chronicle took the box office by storm this past week and with good reason, high caliber action and solid performances by a bunch of no-name actors make for a solid watch.
Heading into the film I was skeptical. With a title like Chronicle, a focus on teen angst, and a PG-13 rating I was prepared for the worst.
The first 15 minutes I admittedly wanted to head for the door, but once you get into the meat of the film Chronicle grabs your interest and never lets go.
Director Josh Trank took a group of b-list TV starlets and an incredibly commercialized platform and regardless churned out a surprisingly praiseworthy film.
Chronicle defies two of my often failsafe film rules: 1) Teens discovering some sort of superpower is a no-no 2) Handheld style of filming (e.g. The Blair Witch Project) more often leads to headaches than good times.
One thing Trank did well was comprehensively explore the “power” the characters discover. Scenes of the characters fooling around with their abilities are some of the most entertaining in the film.
The other thing the filmmakers did incredibly well was to avoid the Cloverfield syndrome.
Cloverfield (2008) was film that I would have left incredibly angry, if I hadn’t already been incredibly nauseous. The reason for my post-film condition was due to the abuse of the hand held camera technique that has recently become popular.
A shaky camera constantly flashing left or right and remaining obnoxiously out of focus intentionally does not make up for a lack of substance in a film.
The makers of Chronicle realized this and rather than attempting to fool the audience into some false suspense with shoddy camera work they turned the usually crappy into the surprisingly creative.
Scoring a more than solid 85% on rotten tomatoes Chronicle has not only captured 22.0M in the box office but has also impressed the critics.
A solid watch for the action depraved no doubt, but if you want to watch a real man’s movie I still suggest seeing The Grey.
IMDB Score – 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes – 77%
At first glance The Grey may look like another chance for Liam Neeson to kick the crap out of everybody but surprising emotional depth and intelligent filmmaking make it a thinking man’s action flick.
The film centers around a team of exhausted oilrig roughnecks on the plane flight home from the deep Alaskan wilderness. This crew spearheaded by the reliably stoic Neeson battle the wilderness, desperation, and most notably some fierce-ass wolves.
The opening sequence of the film was filmed with such a personal lens that I literally felt uncomfortable watching it. The plane crash and the early moments of the film rival the emotional burden of a well-written novel.
The stunning shots of the wind blown moonscape literally made the theater feel cold. I was truly taken aback by the sincerity of the film; it was truly one of Neeson’s better performances.
To sum the film up in a word, I would have to say realism. Although there is still certainly an atmosphere of nostalgic Neeson kickassery, the director and writer of the film Joe Carnahan (most known for the sci-fi flop that was The Fourth Kind 2009)
let a truly compelling story tell itself.
He succeeded most notably in not ruining the film. Although that seems like somewhat of a slight I mean it a true compliment.
Carnahan let the raw truth of natures wrath and the torturous nature of fate truly come through rather than mask the power of the story with cheesy pump-up music and montages of high-fiving camaraderie.
The only minor bone I have to pick with the film is that in some places conversation did loiter where cinematography or a nice bear fighting sequence could have resided, but hey nobody’s perfect.
With enough action to satisfy the simple-minded (such as myself) and a truly shocking emotional richness The Grey is a strong text.
Go see it, but dress warmly, and don’t necessarily expect to leave the theater feeling optimistic about the human condition.
IMDB Score: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Directed by: Brad Bird
By Ben Dauber
Stylish, sexy, and frantically paced Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol has what it takes to keep butts in the seats.
The makeover of the franchise was successful as director Brad Bird was able to keep all of the action while updating, among other things, the cast and the overall feel of the film.
As always in Mission Impossible films the plot is laid out very simply, and if you choose to accept it and allow the gadgets and hand to hand combat to do their job is always worth a watch.
The gadgets are present in full effect and the exotic locales certainly lend an element of novelty and nuance to the film that was present in its successors.
Despite its PG-13 rating (which to me is a death sentence o most action films) the movie has its fair share of ass kicking, it lacks a love scene but hey you can’t have everything.
Tom Cruise delivers a predictably badass performance as one of his namesake characters Ethan Hunt, but the actors cast around him are what make the film a successful reinvention.
Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, and Simon Pegg each add an element necessary to make the film a successful update on the 90’s hit.
Renner has become an action movie must have and lends a certain sarcastic edge that is his trademark.
Paula Patton is the heartthrob without doubt. Tan, mysterious, and able to kick your ass she makes the film worth watching even if it’s on mute.
Simon Pegg (AKA Shaun of the Dead) lends a plucky sense of humor that helps ensure that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. This was one of Bird’s major successes in the film, keeping the action but ensuring the movie still had some comedic perspective and some self-deprecating jabs.
Definitely worth a watch, holiday ass-kicking helps people like me stay sane.
Directed by – Martin Scorsese
IMDB – 8.5
Rotten Tomatoes – 94%
A surprising departure from the average children’s film Hugo pairs excellent narrative structure with superb casting to make Martin Scorsese’s fantastic children’s narrative a must watch.
Ranking at an 8.5 out of 10 on IMDB and a shocking 94% on Rotten Tomatoes critics agree that Hugo is something to behold.
Hugo’s Rotten Tomatoes rating eclipses Cinderella, Beauty and The Beast, and Aladdin. I personally wouldn’t mention Hugo and Aladdin in the same sentence but the hype surrounding this film is undeniable.
Hugo is reminiscent of Charlie and The Chocolate if it was bolstered by the advent of 3D and the strong, emotional, and detail heavy narrative style Scorsese brings to all of his films.
The film centers around an orphan named Hugo Cabret, played by Asa Butterfield. Losing his father to a fire at a young age Hugo is pushed into the hands of his drunken uncle who is responsible for maintaining the numerous and ornate clocks of a large train station in Paris.
As Hugo struggles to find his purpose, and what may be left of his family, he goes on an explorative journey that could entertain just about anybody.
The movie is mainly shot on film but Scorsese melds CGI and animation seamlessly to create a truly magnificent dream-like style of moviemaking.
Another area where Hugo excelled was with an excellent supporting cast. Veteran character actor Ben Kingsley and the surprisingly effective Sacha Baron Cohen fill out a strong group of actors that truly make Hugo come to life.
Known for starring in shock-comedy films like Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen makes a surprising departure into family films. Providing will timed comedic breaks and a convincing portrayal of the station inspector and villain Cohen was a strong addition to the cast.
Ben Kingsley also had a convicing performance as the enigmatic Georges Melies whose emotional transformation throughout the work is one of the main reasons the film is worth watching.
Strongly cast, creatively shot and emotionally satisfying Hugo is a holiday family film that would be a shame to miss. The 3D is a plus but the selling point here is the story. The price of admission is more than worth it as Hugo truly pushes the expectations of family films.
IMDB Score: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Directed by: Brett Ratner
By Ben Dauber
Every year as Thanksgiving rolls around a handful of family films seem to be released in an attempt to grab our attention as we sit at grandma’s house the day before the big meal. It’s a film that everyone can watch. It usually has a love story and some family directed emotional appeals, but most of all it has some cheap laughs and a happy ending (that even though it embarrasses me to admit it) makes you feel a little warm and fuzzy on the inside.
Tower Heist securely falls into this category, more gimmick and flash than actual substance the film is entertaining up to a point. And as far as the family/holiday film genre goes it is a solid but not excellent entry.
The cast is comprised of past-their-prime comic icons, and despite playing the same characters they play in every movie Stiller and Murphy still manage to get their fair share of laughs. Ben Stiller is again the neurotic and constantly underestimated hero of the film who is complimented by the brash and extroverted humor of Eddie Murphy.
Even though the style of humor is nothing new the duo still deliver enough entertainment to push the film through its less interesting points. Where I feel the film excelled is in putting a twist on some of the basics as well as bolstering the two stars with a strong supporting cast.
The film centers around the hardworking staff of The Tower condominium complex that houses New York’s ultra-wealthy. Stiller is the manager of this relatable gang of misfits, and it is he that spearheads the heist when they find out their pensions have been defrauded by the excellently evil Arthur Shaw (played by Alan Alda).
Stiller then patches together a band of golden-hearted misfits which help him plan the impossible robbery of Shaw’s penthouse in order to get the working folks of The Tower their money back. With the help of small-time criminal and child hood friend Eddie Murphy the rag tag crew goes through an entertaining series of criminal training exercises.
Without telling you too much about the film (because it is the surprise and single use only comic ploys that make it worth watching) it undoubtedly has the classic Hollywood happy ending we all expected.
A cinematic achievement it is not, but there is something to be said for a film that you can watch with mom and dad without blushing that is still somewhat worth your time. Unless you plan on entertaining your family I may not spend the money to see it in theaters, however if you get the stomach flu and run out of sick-day Netflix options you could do much worse than Tower Heist.