Category: Movie Reviews

Movie Review – Looper

Plot: In the year 2072, time travel has been invented, but becomes outlawed.  The Mob uses it illegally to transport people back 30 years, where specialized assassins called ‘Loopers’ make the clean kill.  When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a very successful Looper, has to kill his future self (Bruce Willis) and fails, it puts both Joes in great danger.

Whether it’s Star Wars, the Terminator or Inception, sci-fi is the one genre that when done right creates an instant classic.  Looper has now joined those ranks.  When you can make time travel work, that’s a bonus.  But just like with the films I mentioned before, it’s not the bad ass sci-fi action that makes these movies legendary: it’s the story and character development.  Looper delivers this in spades.  I care about Joe not because he’s merely a bad ass (which he is), but I’m emotionally invested in his arc.

The first act gives us a simple run of the mill cool movie.  The acting is great all around, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is starting to become one of my favorite working actors.  This guy is a total drugged out jackass, yet still charismatic.  I was more than happy to go with this guy as the protagonist.

Jeff Daniels was also a treat as Joe’s mob boss, Abe.  He’s that quiet calm scary mob boss who wants to be your best friend.  Daniels plays it very friendly, but gives you just enough of that ‘evil twinge’ to know this is somebody you don’t want to screw with.  I wish there was more of him.

It’s a stylish first act where the rules and exposition are efficiently explained.  It’s not until Bruce Willis comes into the picture as future Joe where the movie takes a drastic turn and becomes something much more.

The big turning point of the movie is when these guys hash it out at a simple diner.  It’s a phenomenally well written scene, both tense and exhausting.  As the two start talking about time travel, and what future Joe coming back could potentially mean, you can see the pain and headache Willis gets when talking about it, so much so that he doesn’t want to get into the perils of time travel.  Willis plays this so well.  I even got a headache myself watching it.  Levitt is also fantastic in this scene, as this is the moment that really draws a line in the sand of what these guys want.  What’s so fascinating to me is that you’ll end up siding with one of the Joes at the end of this scene, but as the film plays out, these guys almost have reverse character arcs.  Watching this take place is both heartwarming and repulsive at the same time.

The two Joes aren’t the only strong characters.  Towards the middle of the film, a child named Cid is introduced, and let’s just say he plays a critical part in the movie.  He’s played by Pierce Gagnon, and it’s an intense performance.  Gagnon is awesome, albeit a little over the top at times, but I think he’s supposed to be.

The other two characters of note are Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and Sara (Emily Blunt).  Kid Blue is basically the comic relief.  He’s a mafia screw up, and while he is legitimately funny and well played by Segan, his character got a little too much play towards the end.  The movie made it seem like he was bigger then what was portrayed at the beginning.

Blunt is solid as Sara, the female lead of the film.  And while I enjoyed Blunt’s character, present day Joe spends a lot of time with her in the middle of the film, and this is where the movie sort of drags.  There’s some well written dialogue, but it’s fairly slow, and a little yawn inducing mid-way through the second act.

But as much as the second act drags, the third act more than makes up for it.  The last 10-15 minutes are absolutely pulse pounding.  This is where it’s okay to use the cliché ‘I was on the edge of my seat.’  I have to give credit to writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brother’s Bloom), because his script was brilliant all the way through, and the end was a perfect resolution.

It’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling it.  Looper has everything that makes movies great: Story.  Character development.  Acting.  Tension.  Superb direction.  Rian Johnson is someone who will absolutely move up the lists of today’s great directors.  When you’re dealing with sci-fi, the potential for screwing up is pretty damn high, but everything in Looper is explained so well with very little exposition.  Juxtapose this with Green Lantern, which is nothing but exposition, exposition, exposition, exposition, ‘we don’t trust the audience to figure it out,’ and did I mention more exposition?  The only scene that was sort of confusing was an alternate version of one of the bigger moments of the film, but I won’t say anything more.  Other than time travel, they also use another overdone sci-fi trope, but they use it so well, I didn’t mind, even if it did seem a little shoe-horned in.

Bottom-line: This movie kicks ass, and easily one of the best films of the year.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)    

Movie Review – The Muppets

Plot: When the old Muppet theater is scheduled to be torn down so a rich oil tycoon (Chris Cooper) can dig for oil, the Muppets get back together.  With the help of their new friends, Gary (Jason Segal) and his brother Walter (Peter Linz, voice), the Muppets put on one last show to save their theater.

There’s no doubt this is the best Muppet movie since The Muppets Take Manhattan way back in 1984…but it could have been better.  Don’t get me wrong: I had a blast with this film.  Every time the Muppets are on screen, they are at the top of their game.  Every Muppet related gag hits those Muppet high notes.  What hinders this from being great though are the non-Muppet moments.  It’s not that these moments are bad, but I found myself asking, ‘Why am I settling for this?  Just go back to the Muppets!’

Jason Segal plays Gary, an upbeat teacher who lives in the small town known as…Smalltown.  He’s got a girlfriend named Mary (Amy Adams), and a brother Walter, who is actually a puppet, and you guessed it, a huge fan of the Muppets.  Here’s the problem:  They dominate the first 15-20 minutes of the film, including a huge musical number.  And like I said, it’s not that these scenes are bad, but they are mediocre.  I don’t understand why they are getting extended screen time for a film called The Muppets.  I really don’t care about Gary and Walter, I’m sorry.  What really irked me though is once the actual Muppets show up, these characters are still on screen for a fair amount of time.  That’s really ridiculous.  Once the Muppets arrive, it’s really time to let them take over the film, yet we are still peppered with Gary and Mary-centric musical numbers.  I want the Muppets!

Now like I said, every thing involving the Muppets is damn good.  My favorite part of the film is just gathering up all the Muppets, and seeing what they’ve been up to.  Fozzie’s (Eric Jacobson, voice) nightclub act is brilliant, Gonzo’s (Dave Goelz, voice) plumbing business is hilarious, and Animal (Eric Jacobson, voice)…well, I’m not going to spoil what Animal’s been up to, but it’s really funny.  And it’s not just the main Muppets who have their time in the spotlight.  Muppets like Statler (Steve Whitmire, voice) & Waldorf (Dave Goelz, voice), Beaker (Steve Whitmire, voice) and Roowlf (Matt Vogel, voice) all have awesome moments.  And as much as I’m complaining about the non-Muppet characters having too many scenes, I don’t feel like any Muppet got short changed.  Gonzo is really only in two scenes, but they are fantastic scenes.  Even with limited screen time, every Muppet leaves their mark.

Even with all the Muppets though, this film was a bit cheapened by too many celebrity cameos.  To the film’s credit, I like a lot of the cameos such as Jack Black, Rashida Jones, Zack Galifianakis and Neil Patrick Harris, who only has one line, but it’s probably the best thing he could have said.  But there are so many useless cameos just for the sake of having cameos: Whoopi Goldberg, Selena Gomez, John Krasinski and James Carville.  Really?!  James Carville?!  He’s just there answering a telephone!  Is that necessary!  Even Donald Glover from Community, who I really like as an actor, randomly comes in, and there’s just no point to it.  Stuff like that really annoyed me.  It’s just so self-indulgent.

One of the performances I did really like though was Chris Cooper as the evil oil tycoon.  Cooper was perfect, and this wasn’t just some random cameo, he actually played a key character, so that was fine.

At the end of the day, this is a Muppet movie, and it hit me pretty hard.  I just wish a lot of the celebrity cameos and hoopla were trimmed down so I could spend more quiet moments with just the Muppets.  If you’re a fan of the Muppets, you will really like this movie.  If you aren’t, I still think you’ll find some enjoyment, and maybe that’s why a lot of these non-Muppet characters are even in the film in the first place.

What really pissed me off though is when Kermit (Steve Whitmire, voice) has this amazing speech at the end, but it’s completely undermined by a plot point they throw in during the credits!  That’s such garbage!  You can’t just throw in a major resolution during the credits!!  Unbelievable!!

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good) 

Movie Review – Warrior

Plot: Two brothers who haven’t spoken in years enter an intense Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) tournament called ‘Sparta.’  One is a physics teacher (Joel Edgerton) who hasn’t fought professionally in years.  The other is a former marine (Tom Hardy) who is trained by his recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) whom both brothers still hold a grudge with.

In many ways, Warrior is your typical cliché sports movie, but the emotions and conflicts in this film are so intense, it transcends the generic sports story.  Yes, it has the underdog story.  Yes, it has the ‘he’s going up against an insurmountable opponent’ plot line, but it’s not about that.  It’s about these two brothers, and how shattered their relationship is between themselves, but more importantly, with their father, played brilliantly by Nick Nolte.

The acting is off the charts.  Nick Nolte plays Paddy Conlon, a recovering alcoholic who’s been sober for almost 1,000 days.  He wants nothing more then to be close with his sons again, but both hate him beyond belief for his past actions.  Yes, it’s a storyline we’ve seen a hundred times, but there are some truly heartbreaking moments Nolte delivers.  One scene that really got to me is when Paddy visits the elder son, Brendan, and Brendan doesn’t even let him come in the house to see his two granddaughters.  The end of this scene is soul crushing, and Nolte nails it.  But his best scene, and what I believe is an Oscar moment, takes place in an Atlantic City hotel room after his younger son Tommy was particularly vicious towards him a few moments earlier.  I’m telling you, this scene really knocks you on your ass.  It’s Christian Bale The Fighter level acting.

As good as Nolte was though, the two leads (Joel Edgeton and Tom Hardy) are right there with him.  Edgerton’s performance makes it real easy to root for him.  He’s the guy you really follow in this movie, and I can’t imagine anyone else playing this role.  They also give his character the best secondary relationships.  The bond between him and his wife (Jennifer Morrison) is effective, as well as the banter and friendship between Brendan and his manager (Frank Grillo).

But the man who steals the show is Tom Hardy.  The character he plays is like an angry Rocky Balboa.  He dresses like Rocky, approaches fights similar to Rocky, but he’s certainly not going to tell a joke like Rocky.  He is a bitter, bitter human being, and Hardy’s performance is fascinating.  It’s in the fighting scenes though where he really shines: Hardy is ferocious.   I was already excited for his Bane performance in The Dark Knight Rises next summer, but now I’m foaming at the mouth.

The director for this is Gavin O’Connor, who also did Miracle.  He should just direct every sports movie.  He builds up the tension so well.  The two brothers don’t even have a scene together until much later in the film, and you are on pins and needles waiting for that moment.  When they finally meet up at night on the beach, he withholds their first dialogue exchange just a little bit longer as they slowly walk towards each other.  They probably could have used one more scene together though, which would have made the ending even that much stronger.  And yeah, I’m not spoiling anything here because it’s in the trailers, but they eventually fight in this tournament.  And what’s so interesting is that not only is the fight intense, but they battle their issues with each other within the fight, and it’s really brilliant with how they do it.  They also build up these little mini conflicts between some of the other fighters which are also effective.

The directing isn’t perfect though.  I hated the panel style editing during the training montage.  Didn’t we learn our lesson from this with Ang Lee’s Hulk?  There’s also too many comedic moments in some of the more serious scenes.  There’s this whole section devoted to Brendan’s school, and how the Principal (Kevin Dunn) is a closet MAA fan.  He’s watching Brendan fight at home, and they do all these annoying cut backs to him cheering.  It’s just too much.  The movie is also paced way too slowly.  For the most part, it’s beneficial to the film, but it doesn’t need to be this long.

I can completely forgive the director for these mistakes with how great everything else is.  Coming from someone who’s not a fan of MMA at all, I thought the fights scenes were filmed exceptionally well.

Trust me: you don’t have to be an MMA fan to appreciate this movie.  Like I said, it’s not about that.  It’s about these three characters and exploring how broken their relationships are, and the horrors of their past, especially with what you learn about Hardy’s character.  This film is an emotional roller coaster, especially at the end…maybe even a little too over the top.  This is easily one of the best movies of the year.  The music is great.  The performances are great.  The directing is great.  It’s great.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10 (Really Great)

Movie Review – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Plot: While trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, Will Rodman (James Franco) falls into possession of a baby chimpanzee whose mother was given Will’s experimental drug, making the ape smarter.  Her genetics were passed onto the baby named Caesar, an exceptionally intelligent ape who will later liberate other Apes in this prequel to the original Planet of the Apes.

I was really reluctant towards this movie because Tim Burton’s 2001 remake scared me away from this franchise, even though it has nothing to do with this current version.  But I should have known better.  Look what happened eight years after 1997’s Batman & Robin…we got Batman Begins.  And just like with that franchise, the Apes have risen once again (pardon the pun).  But what shocked me about this film is how character driven it was.  The trailer is very misleading.  You think it’s going to be nothing more than apes ripping apart the city, along with every human in their path.  That’s not at all what happens.

The acting is stellar all around.  I’m not the biggest James Franco fan, and thought his performance in 127 Hours was a tad overrated.  But this is probably the best film he’s ever done.  I’ve never been emotionally invested in any of his characters, but you really care about him in this movie.  Even in a movie called Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of its most engaging stories was a simple one: A man trying to cure his father of Alzheimer’s.  And that relationship fires on all cylinders.  John Lithgow does a great job as Will’s father, and he and Franco play off each other very well.

But let’s stop kidding ourselves.  We all know what the soul of this movie is, and that’s Andy Serkis’ amazing performance as Caesar.  Of course we all know Serkis as the man who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings.  Yeah, it’s CG, but the film simply doesn’t work without Serkis acting the part before the special effects are rendered.  Caesar was always riveting on screen, and he’s practically in the entire film.  There are hundreds of little moments I could talk about, but I’ll have to narrow it down to a few.

Probably my favorite scene in the entire movie is Caesar’s first interaction with other apes.  They all just stare at him as this infinitely smarter creature enters a world he’s never known, and it’s terrifying.  That’s when the character really hits you.  Caesar has been raised by humans, but ultimately can’t live among them.  But he also struggles to live with his own kind.  That’s some powerful stuff.

Another moment I loved is when the caretaker’s (Brian Cox) nasty son (Tom Felton) brings a few friends to the ape cages, and one of the drunken jackasses mocks Caesar.  The stare down Caesar gives this kid was extraordinary.  Not only was it a fantastic special effect, but it illustrated a key character trait.  Now that’s how you do great special effects!  And without spoiling it, there’s a certain something you are waiting for Caesar to do the whole movie, and when that happens, it’s pretty incredible.

What I also loved is how the film makes you feel not only for Caesar, but a couple of the other apes who don’t even get a tenth of the screen time he does.  It’s really towards the end where that comes into play.  And that’s what I mean by this movie being more of a character driven piece rather than sci-fi spectacle.

But don’t worry, you’ll get your action quota.  There’s a truly spectacular battle on the Golden Gate Bridge that really knocks you on your ass.  And the apes don’t attack like you think they would.  It’s more refined and disciplined than what you might expect.  The director Rupert Wyatt is pretty much a new comer here, only having done smaller projects, but he knocks this out of the park.

Now the film isn’t perfect.  The pacing is way too slow.  This is just one of the unfortunate drawbacks to being a prequel to a well established franchise.  The trailer also gives away too much information.  We know where it’s going, and at times I was just like, ‘alright, get on with it already.’

Another criticism I have to give is that it does come off as kind of silly at times.  There are a few moments where I’m staring at all these apes running around and sliding off of buildings and can’t help but snicker.  But really, those moments are barely there.  It’s executed very seriously 99.9% of the time.

While the last few minutes are a bit rushed, leaving the ending a tad unsatisfying, this is a great movie, and definitely the biggest surprise of the summer.  It’s the perfect blending of character development and special effects.  I cared about the humans.  I cared about the apes.  I was invested all the way through.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (Great)      

Movie Review – Cowboys & Aliens

Plot: Set in the Old West, an advanced alien race attacks a small town and kidnaps some of the locals.  A small group heads out to track down the aliens where their only hope of stopping them is an outlaw (Daniel Craig) with no memory, and a powerful weapon attached to his wrist that he may have gotten from the aliens themselves.

What happens when you take a run of the mill cliché western and combine it with a run of the mill cliché alien invasion movie?  You get a run of the mill cliché action movie.  For a film called Cowboys & Aliens, this was an excruciating yawn fest.  There is no pop to this movie.  Everyone looks half asleep, especially our protagonist, Jake Lonergan, played by Daniel Craig.

I get Craig has really intense eyes and looks really cool, but that’s all he does.  He just looks intense throughout the whole movie.  There’s nothing interesting about this character except for the mystery surrounding him because he lost his memory.  And even that gets tiresome and embarrassingly predictable.  And in every scene, director Jon Favreau has to remind us, ‘hey, this guy is a bad ass.’  He always has to punch someone, or take out a group of guys, but there’s nothing clever or interesting about it.  It’s stuff we’ve seen a hundred times, done way better.  And the character barely talks.  Craig flashes his big eyes, and we are just supposed to go, ‘Oh man, Daniel Craig.  What a bad ass.’  Honestly, this movie could have been significantly better if another actor played the role, like a Leonardo DiCaprio or Jeremy Renner.  I put a lot of the blame on this movie to Craig.  There was just nothing there.

As far as the other performances are concerned, Harrison Ford is on auto-pilot as the grisly old war hero Woodrow Dolarhyde.  There’s one scene where he’s talking to this kid (Noah Ringer) whose grandfather was taken by the aliens.  It’s this emotional story about his dad, but I barely remember it because Ford put no effort into this speech whatsoever.  And that’s generally the trend with this film.  It’s just going through the motions.  Now as the film went on, Ford got more into it, and I started to like and sympathize with his character.  And there’s even decent character development between him and Lonergan, but by that point, the movie had lost me.

Two performances I did like though were Sam Rockwell and Paul Dano.  Rockwell is good in everything.  He always elevates the material.  I found myself rooting for his character the most as a guy that always backs down from a fight, but you like him so much, you desperately want to see him become a man by the end.  Dano has a small part as Dolarhyde’s privileged and jackass son, Percy.  Dano brought a lot of life and levity to a film that desperately needed more of it.

I also liked Olivia Wilde, but they make it so obvious from the first second you meet her that there’s going to be a huge plot twist with her character.  And when you find out what it is, we could have saved ourselves a lot of time and energy if she just came out and said what her deal was.

And that’s really where the problem comes in.  The pacing is just awful.  Slow is not the right word.  We need a whole new word slower than slow to describe this.  They have to force and shoehorn in so many conflicts that have nothing to do with the main story to draw this out.  There’s a useless scene and a run in with Indians, and an even more pointless stand off with Lonergan’s old gang that I could care less about.  This movie really could have been 80 minutes long.  The fact that it goes on for almost two hours is really unnecessary.

It makes me appreciate a movie like Independence Day that much more.  I’m not going to sit here and say Independence Day is The Godfather, but that movie is nearly two and a half hours long, yet I was never bored.  Why did I not get bored?  It had a lot of charismatic and funny characters with groundbreaking action we had never seen before.  It was a lot of fun.  This is anything but.  They go way too serious with it, and I’m sorry, but the movie is called Cowboys & Aliens…come on!

And speaking of the action, it’s okay.  It’s just average action.  They try and give you jump moments, but I never jumped once.  The action is directed fine, but it’s nothing special.  What I didn’t like was how the Jake Lonergan flashbacks and alien POV shots were filmed.  They looked really silly and kind of shaky cam Blair Witch Project-esque, but just green.  Those did not work for me at all.

Watching this movie makes me think of other sub-par blockbusters this summer like Pirates of the Caribbean: on Stranger Tides and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.  While Cowboys & Aliens never gets to the low points of those films, it’s ultimately a worse movie.  Why is that?  As much as I don’t like Pirates and Transformers, I can at least point out memorable ‘holy crap’ moments like the mermaid scene and the building coming down in Chicago, but I can’t think of one ‘that was awesome’ moment from Cowboys & Aliens.  There isn’t one interesting or cool thing I can recommend about this movie.  There’s some decent acting, but I was bored out of my mind.

Bottom-line: When you keep checking your phone every ten minutes to see when the movie is going to end, I think that means it’s a bad movie.

Rating: 4.5 out of 10 (Bad) 

Movie Review – The Hangover Part II

Plot: Stu (Ed Helms) is getting married in Thailand, and after the events at Doug’s (Justin Bartha) bachelor party in Vegas, he is vehemently against another wild outing.  But when the gang gathers for just one drink, they wake up in Bangkok with no memory again, and Stu’s future brother-in-law Teddy (Mason Lee) is missing.  Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Stu must put the pieces of the night together once again and find Teddy.

I thought the original Hangover was just mediocre, so I really didn’t have any expectations for the sequel.  I thought this was only a minor step down.  But if you loved the first one, you’ll probably be disappointed.

I think every single review for this movie has said the same thing: It’s just the previous film in a different location.  And for the most part, this is an accurate statement.  It has all the same beats as before.  Animals, crime bosses, misunderstandings, etc.  One thing that is different though is that there is more at stake.  These crazy bastards find themselves in a more dangerous situation, and while I appreciated that, it does hurt the film to some extent.

The Hangover 2 is a comedy, but it doesn’t always feel like one.  Right off the bat, newcomer Teddy, who the gang needs to find, is potentially in some serious trouble.  The fact that he’s a sixteen year old college kid hinders the comedy.  This isn’t Doug lost in the confines of Vegas.  This is some kid lost in Bangkok.  I wasn’t saying to myself, ‘Hahaha, they lost the groom.  What morons.’  I was more like, ‘Whoa…what the hell happened to this kid.’  There’s also something that happens to one of the characters about mid-way through the film that is not funny, and certainly ups the danger level.  Although it’s a bit darker and the stakes are raised, it is ultimately still a comedy.

The problem is that this movie, like so many other comedies these days, is nothing but shock jokes.  The first one had a lot of consistent and solid funny dialogue mixed in with the shock.  This is pretty much all shock gags.  And they are all predictable!  If you’re going to have this type of humor, you have to at least catch the audience off guard, and it never does.  Let’s just say there’s a really bad thing involving Stu that you can see coming a mile away.  I knew exactly when to close my eyes.  We’ll leave it at that.

The only person who seemed to have funny one-liners was Alan, the Zach Galifianakis character.  I thought I was going to hate him in this movie.  Galifianakis has been so over exposed.  But surprisingly, he was the funniest part of the film.  They just revved up his stupidity and ridiculous nature so much that I couldn’t help but laugh.  He’s also got a lot of hysterical subtle sight gags that had me rolling.  Bradley Cooper’s Phil had some good dialogue when they were in the Monastery, but other then that, the clever dialogue is non-existent.  Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms are really wasted here.

I do enjoy the camaraderie among the group.  They work well together in these movies.  More Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, the gangster from the previous film, also fits into the group seamlessly.  I am biased though because I love Jeong in Community so much.

While I got chuckles on and off, they weren’t as frequent as the original.  It’s just too similar and way too predictable.  Not just with the jokes, but in some of the broader plot points as well.  The audience I saw this with was not laughing very hard.  I did appreciate that the situation they got themselves into was a bit more ridiculous, and part of me is intrigued by a third one just to see what would happen.  But they would need to drastically change the formula.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)

Movie Review – Hanna

Plot: Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) is a 16 year-old trained killer raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the Arctic woods her whole life.  Erik, a former government agent, sends Hanna back into society to kill his former boss (Cate Blanchett) who relentlessly pursues Hanna and her father.

Hanna is like the realistic version of Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass.  Although she’s a bad ass assassin, this movie just didn’t connect with me.  I never felt like Hanna’s story was important, and that all starts with the character of Hanna herself.

Hanna is supposed to act like a robot.  She’s been isolated from the world her whole life, learning only how to fight.  When she’s repeating instructions from her father, she regurgitates them like a computer.  Saoirse Ronan plays Hanna very well, but almost too well.  She acts like such a robot to the point where that’s how I responded to her, with no empathy whatsoever.  Even with a film like Steven Spielberg’s A.I., which certainly has its problems, I connected with Haley Joel Osment’s David a lot more, and he actually is a machine.

But this goes back to the story just not feeling important.  It’s painfully predictable and cliché.  It’s the Bourne Identity, but less fun.  I commend director Joe Wright for making all the action seem more real and grounded, but I just never got invested.  The first half is really slow and meanders along.  Hanna spends a lot of time with this family she discovers on her travels.  While the question of ‘will this family get hurt because they’re with Hanna’ tension was effective, it just moves way too slow.  There are a couple interesting and humorous moments where Hanna is completely lost when experiencing things like a television or running water, but this causes the film to go off track and forget its goal.  And while the second half definitely picks up, the whole feel of the movie is just underwhelming.  I was more interested in the secondary characters than Hanna.

I loved Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett.  Bana’s Erik felt more sympathetic, and you could tell from his performance that he was troubled and forced to do something unethical back when he was an agent.  It’s unfortunate that you spend so little time with him when compared to Hanna.

Blanchett’s Marissa is just so driven and determined.  Even though you get very little information on why Marissa is so desperate to take them down, you know she’s a threatening villain because of her demeanor and approach.  Her interaction with the other characters is easily the best part of the film.  There’s a scene where she manipulates this kid into giving her the information she needs that is so slimy, but great too watch.

The movie has a definitive style of artistic camera angles that you just don’t see in the chase action flick, but it works for the most part.

Probably the first thing you’ll discuss after seeing this though is the music composed by the Chemical Brothers.  It’s a very distinct style that I enjoyed very much, although at times it did feel like it belonged in some old arcade game like Donkey Kong.  One thing that drove me nuts though was this eccentric assassin (Tom Hollander) Marissa hires to catch Hanna who hums the same damn tune throughout the whole movie.  Even now, I can’t get it out of my head!!

Hanna is filled with some good tension, but the chase scenes go on way too long.  I enjoyed the climax, but a lot of the action just felt underwhelming.  While there’s good acting and a distinct style, the premise and character of Hanna was just completely uninteresting to me.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (‘meh’)

Movie Review – The Source Code

Plot: Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) awakes in another man’s body on a train to Chicago that explodes. He’s soon told he has to keep re-living the same eight minutes on the train to discover the identity of the bomber in order to prevent another suspected attack on the city itself.  Stevens tries to fulfill his mission while also trying to discover how he got here, how this technology works and desperately tries to save the life of a woman (Michelle Monaghan) on the train he falls in love with.

The Source Code: or as I like to call it, JV Inception.  No, that’s being unfair.  While they do share similarities, they are totally different animals.  This is a completely ridiculous idea, but I am impressed with how it was handled.  The basics of this whole shebang are explained pretty well.  And all the information is given to you in pieces, but you get enough along the way to stay satisfied.  The director (Duncan Jones) does an admirable job until the last act, but we’ll get into that later.

Jake Gyllenhaal FINALLY gives a performance that isn’t just going through the motions.  I haven’t seen all his movies, but he’s always been ‘Mr. Mediocrity’ for me in films like Jarhead and even Brothers, which isn’t a great movie, but the acting is top notch, yet he melts away compared to everyone else.  In Source Code, he is truly charismatic.  He’s funny, likable, determined, smart and an easy character to root for.  And I really felt for him when he’s just thrown into this ridiculous situation and given barely any information.  The guy is pissed off!!  I would be too.

The supporting characters are great as well.  Vera Farmiga.  Jeffrey Wright.  Michelle Monaghan.  They all give wonderful performances.  Especially Michelle Monaghan, who I don’t think could have been any more likable.  Her personality and charm is seeping out of the screen.  It was impressive they were able to develop and juggle so many supporting characters, especially when they are almost all on this one train re-living the same eight minutes and constantly repeating dialogue.

The pacing is very strong.  I promise you won’t be bored.  It’s entertaining despite the fact you re-live a lot of the same crap.  But there’s always something new and clever whenever Stevens goes back into the eight minutes as he progressively unlocks more information.  Unfortunately, for all the good I’ve been saying, the last twenty minutes nearly derails (no pun intended) the entire movie.

(No spoilers, but will discuss tone of the ending from here on out) First of all, the main plot of the story is wrapped up way too predictably.  It’s really anti-climactic.  Really…You couldn’t think of something a little more interesting?

But after the ‘climax,’ the movie goes on a bit longer for an extended epilogue.  It gets pretty damn corny.  It almost feels like the end of Titanic where all the characters stand in the main hallway and watch Jack and Rose kiss.

But the resolution of this movie is like the NFL labor situation…just a giant mess.  It made me think of another recent film, the Adjustment BureauThe Adjustment Bureau goes for a boring, but logical ending.  It made sense.  This goes for the ‘OMFG Oooooooooooooo’ ending, but it doesn’t make any sense!  How the hell did this ending happen!?  It’s just way too out of left field.  Inception had a mysterious ending as well, but you were given the tools to break down what potentially happened.  I don’t even know where to begin on analyzing this ending.  Maybe I need to see it again, but it left me pretty cold.

This is a very solid film.  You’ll be entertained, the acting is great and there are multiple memorable characters.  But it’s one of those situations where the ending frustrated me so much, I can’t call it a good movie.  It’s worth checking out, but prepare for a ‘Huh?’ ending.

Also be prepared for the biggest product placement campaign for Dunkin Donuts.  But I’m fine with it.  Who doesn’t love Dunkin Donuts?

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘meh’) 

Movie Review – Battle: Los Angeles

Plot: When meteors hit around the world, an alien race breaks out and instantly attacks the Earth.  SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) leads a group of Marines to save civilians through the devastation.  His troop are also one of the last remaining to save Los Angeles.

I hate this movie.  I hate this movie.  I hate this movie.  This is an abomination to film, and one of the worst things I’ve seen in the last five years.  The director (Jonathan Liebesman) should be embarrassed of the ridiculous chaos and lack of coherence he throws onto the screen.  There are so many issues I have with Battle: Los Angeles, but the one thing I need to address right off the bat is the shaky cam.

I’ve never been so frustrated and angry with a filming technique.  This is like trying to watch a movie while riding a roller coaster.  I’m not kidding when I say this entire two hour mess is all shaky cam.  Even when there are two guys talking across a desk, the director goes off his rocker with it.  It’s like he was so afraid of making another run of the mill alien invasion movie he cops out and just says, “Ohhhhhhhh, if I use shaky cam, people will think this is artsy and different.”  I wanted to leave ten minutes in because I was literally sick to my stomach at how much the camera was shaking.  If I ever see shaky cam again, I’m leaving the theater.  It’s a disgusting technique, and it needs to stop.  ENOUGH!!!

What’s so bad about it is that it makes me hate the action scenes with a burning passion because I can’t decipher anything that’s going on!  It’s just a bunch of random crap flying around the screen.  Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was easier to follow than this.  I honestly couldn’t tell you what characters were dying or fighting.  I really had no idea what the hell was going on in most of the action sequences.  This leads me to the next flaw; the characters.

This was pathetic.  I couldn’t tell you the name of one character with the exception of the lead guy, Michael Nantz.  Part of this goes back to the shaky cam, in that I didn’t know when people died or not.  They don’t even attempt to give these people personalities.  And their quick attempt at the beginning to give them character distinctions was so lazy and cliché, I wish they didn’t even do it.

Oh hey, you have the guy who is getting married and picking out a ring right before he goes into battle.  You have the loose cannon previously removed from duty but wants back in.  You have the Staff Sergeant who was forced to leave men to die in his previous mission and feels bad about it.  And the dialogue is just so blatant and half ass in introducing these themes.  Actually, it’s worse than half ass; it’s more like one quarter ass.

I seriously had no idea who any of these people were throughout the entire movie.  So why do I give a damn?  And there is no passion in the acting.  It is the definition of going through the motions.  People want to give Independence Day a hard time?  At least Independence Day had good actors who had distinctive personalities and energy to the roles.  You cared about them.  I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHO SURVIVES AT THE END!

The predictability of these scenes was embarrassing.  There’s one moment where the soldiers are storming a building and it’s really desolate and quiet.  Uh-oh, something is coming out of the building, but it’s just a dog.  Gee, I wonder if two seconds later the aliens are going to bust out and start shooting.  Yup.  Give me a break.

They also have to force in heroic moments to the point of stupidity.  A lot of this happens towards the end.  Look, there’s being movie heroic, but then there’s just being dumb.  There’s one scene where Nantz attempts to do something alone, and there is just no way he’ll be able to survive the first five seconds of what he wants to accomplish.  Oh, but it’s just a lame plot device to get the rest of the troops to join him as the crappy score blasts in the background.  What unbelievably bad writing.

The score is just terrible.  It’s the same damn score you hear in every action movie ever made.  But it doesn’t even try to do anything different.  It’s so over the top and dramatic that you might as well have a chorus of people singing “Cliché” in the background.

Was there anything I liked?  There’s one halfway decent action scene taking place on the freeway where the camera calms down for five minutes, and there’s one watchable emotional moment when one of the characters dies.  Aaron Eckhart is trying his best, but Marlon Brando in his prime couldn’t save this travesty.

Look, I didn’t have any expectations going into this movie.  I just thought it would be solid action and an entertaining two hour alien romp.  I wasn’t prepared to have my intelligence insulted by excruciatingly generic dialogue and two hours of vomit inducing camera movement.  I was very upset when this movie ended, and it ruined my entire day.  I guess the one good use Battle: Los Angeles could have is that if there’s a movie you are really hyped and excited for, but afraid it may not live up to your expectations, watch Battle: Los Angeles, and then any movie you see directly after will feel like The Empire Strikes Back, so I guess that’s something.

Rating: 2 out of 10 (A Complete and Utter Disaster)

Movie Review – Rango

Plot: When a pet lizard is thrown from his owner’s car, he winds up in the gruff western like town of ‘Dirt.’  Going by the name ‘Rango’ (Johnny Depp), he poses as a courageous and tough hero, becoming the town’s Sheriff.  Rango is assigned to protect the town’s small water supply, their only means of survival.

Rango is the definition of an uneven film.  There are moments of greatness, but unfortunately, these moments are overshadowed by boredom and an excruciating slow pace.  The animation in this is downright stunning.  It’s really holy crap incredible.  The character design is gorgeous.  The desolate setting is a thing of beauty.  But much like Avatar, the great visuals get old and we’re left with characters that are as dry as the film’s desert setting.

The first five to ten minutes are fantastic.  It’s funny, thoughtful and deeply delves into the character we come to know as Rango.  Everything about the first action scene was incredible, from the expression on Rango’s face, to the sound of breaking glass.  Right off the bat, I thought I was in for a great movie.  Unfortunately, once Rango is let loose alone in the desert, the film drags on for what seems like eternity.

The heavy dialogue scenes just go on for way too long.  Every time Rango meets a new character, they engage in a boring conversation that is just not funny or interesting.  With the exception of Johnny Depp and Isla Fisher who voices Beans (the love interest), every single voice in here sounds exactly the same.  It’s that droning and gruff voice that you hear in most westerns.  It makes those heavy dialogue scenes even worse.  The best moments in this film are when Rango is by himself and it’s dialogue free.

In fact, there’s a scene towards the last third of the movie where Rango is alone that genuinely got to me and was emotional to watch.  It’s a self reflection moment for Rango, and the director (Gore Verbinski) just nails it.  It was that much more impressive, because the movie for so long had been a yawn fest, so the fact that it was able to bring me back to caring is really saying something.

The only character I did care for was Rango.  Beans also has a distinctive personality, although there’s this quirk with her character where she randomly freezes.  It’s really annoying and it’s not sufficiently explained.  There’s also a bad ass snake (Bill Nighy) that comes in towards the second half whose tail has a cool gimmick.  Other than that, every other character is forgettable.  And the problem is we spend the entire middle of the film with a ton of characters who are all the same and interchangeable.  The story is fairly interesting, revolving around the value of water, but because the majority of the characters are so bland, I couldn’t get into it.

There really are a lot of good elements surrounding this film and it’s got some cool action scenes to be sure, but it’s missing real substance.  I love the first scene, and even though the end brings me back a little, it still moves at a snail’s pace.  It’s also not very funny.  You’ll never hear me complain about an animated film being taken seriously with a dark tone like this one, but this could have used some more jokes.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘meh’)