Movie Reviews 

The Equalizer

by Alan Rapp on September 27, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Equalizer
  • IMDb: link

The EqualizerBased on the 80s television show of the same name, The Equalizer stars Denzel Washington as a retired military officer with a mysterious past attempting to live a normal life. That normalcy is shattered when an acquaintance (Chloë Grace Moretz) is hospitalized by her pimp (David Meunier) sending Robert McCall in search of justice which will lead him on a one man crusade against crooked cops and the Russian mob.

Washington feels a bit out of place here in a script by Richard Wenk more befitting Steven Seagal in the prime of his B-movie action days. Unsure at times whether it wants to be a drama or old school action/revenge flick, The Equalizer is at its best when it allows McCall to take off the gloves and get to work (such as the movie’s climactic sequence involving several inventive deaths using various implements at the Home Depot where McCall is currently employed).

Eventually the ridiculous scope of what McCall’s quest gets the better of the screenwriter as the script ends in a ludicrous epilogue following the retail warehouse final battle. When it keeps McCall’s actions smaller, and a bit more plausible, the movie has more success.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

by Alan Rapp on August 23, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
  • IMDb: link

Sin City: A Dame to Kill ForIt’s been nine years since Robert Rodriguez teamed with Frank Miller to bring Miller’s Sin City to life. Producing the most faithful comic book movie to date while still finding a way to add value and improve the source material with stylistic choices that continue to make the film visually unique nearly a decade later, I thought enough of the film to make it one of my Top 10 Films of 2005.

Since that time Hollywood has attempted to recapture the magic of Sin City with a series of comic book stylized movies, none of which have measured up. Despite Miller’s involvement The Spirit floundered. And although 300 was marginally passable, if completely ridiculous at times, the sequel was far from impressive.

Returning several of the original film’s stars, while doing some recasting here and there, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original. The opening scene featuring Marv (Mickey Rourke) feels a bit rushed. It doesn’t give us Clive Owen for the post-op Dwight. And we don’t get nearly enough Rosario Dawson.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

by Alan Rapp on August 8, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  • IMDb: link

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesDirected by Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans) and produced by Michael Bay, it’s not really a surprise that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles isn’t a good movie. What is surprising is the fact it isn’t mind-numbingly awful, and at times it even borders on even being dumb fun and mildly entertaining.

Taking more than a few liberties with the comic, television, and toy franchise, the script by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty offers an origin story for our four amphibious heroes (who are mistakenly referred to as reptiles), their first meeting with Channel 6 reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox), and the start of their battle against the Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).

Highlighting the fact that Leonardo (Johnny Knoxville), Raphael (Alan Ritchson), Michelangelo (Noel Fisher), and Donatello (Jeremy Howard) are mutant teenagers, and downplaying he fact that they’re actually ninjas, the film makes some bizarre casting and script decisions that remove much of the oriental influence of the franchise.

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Hercules

by Alan Rapp on August 2, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Hercules (2014)
  • IMDb: link

HerculesBased on the comic book mini-series from writer Steve Moore and artist Admira Wijaya, Hercules removes the myth and legend of the figure choosing to cast Hercules (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson) as a weary nomadic mercenary rather than the true son of Zeus (although he certainly trades on the legend for his own profit) well after completing his legendary 12 labors. With a band of loyal warriors around him, Hercules’ legend has grown over time as his exploits have been exaggerated to the point that everyone believes the mythic warrior to be the unstoppable son of a god.

Director Brett Ratner‘s film reminds me a little of Antoine Fuqua‘s King Arthur which similarly removed the mythical trappings and magic surrounding a legendary figure in an attempt to focus on the man behind the legend and those closest to him. Hercules may not be as successful as Arthur, but The Rock is perfectly cast in the role and Ratner surrounds him with a strong supporting cast and impressive effects for a B-movie that’s better than expected.

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Guardians of the Galaxy

by Alan Rapp on August 1, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Guardians of the Galaxy
  • IMDb: link

“What a bunch of a-holes.”

Guardians of the GalaxyChoosing to go where no Marvel film has gone before, Guardians of the Galaxy not only opens the door to the wider Marvel Universe among the stars but also introduces some of Marvel Studios most memorable characters. I’ve been a fan of the current team since they got together back in 2008, but I had serious doubts about how well Marvel could incorporate a group of space misfits who include thieves, killers, a genetically-enhanced raccoon, and talking tree into a mainstream sci-fi/action film.

I’ve been less impressed by James Gunn‘s body of work up until this point than most (sorry, I’m just not a fan of Slither), but the co-writer/director proves to be the right choice to juggle the various bizarre elements of the script while infusing it with an offbeat sense of humor which fits the characters and cast well. There are some groanworthy moments here or there, such as having Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) dance for the film’s baddie Ronan (Lee Pace), but thankfully they are few and far between as Gunn makes most of the right calls in dealing the team of oddball heroes.

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Wish I Was Here

by Alan Rapp on July 28, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Wish I Was Here
  • IMDB: link

Wish I Was HereTen years ago Zack Braff wrote, directed, and starred in a little film called Garden State. Over the next decade the actor continued to work in front of the camera but other than directing a few episodes of Scrubs left the work behind the camera to others. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Braff returns to the big screen with Wish I Was Here which features many of the same quirks of his Garden State while focusing on sensibilities that have evolved over time.

Despite having a similar slice-of-life take on a character not too far removed from his own (here Braff stars as a struggling actor with an overworked wife and demanding children), Wish I Was Here is far less effective than Garden State. Co-written by Braff’s brother Adam, the new feature provides some great individual moments (including reminding us that Kate Hudson can act when called upon to do something more than braindead romcoms), but fails in becoming more than the sum of its parts by offering an overly simplistic ending to a messy (and increasingly cliched) life seemingly freed of all troubles in under two-hours.

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Lucy

by Alan Rapp on July 25, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Lucy
  • IMDb: link

LucyFalling back on a long debunked myth Hollywood fell in love with years ago that somehow a person only uses 10% of their brain, the latest movie from writer/director Luc Besson casts Scarlett Johansson as a completely unexceptional young woman whose mind is opened up by a designer drug allowing her to access more and more of her “unused” brain. The result feels very much like a script where only a fraction of 10% of a person’s brain power was used to write it.

Unapologetically becoming more and more like The Matrix as Lucy’s intelligence grows and gives her access to the hidden code of the world (which is never adequately explained despite the narration by Morgan Freeman‘s character) and various super powers, Besson’s story never differentiates between the ability to absorb knowledge and knowledge itself. Just because Lucy suddenly has a bigger brain doesn’t mean she still wouldn’t have to learn the knowledge or skills (including advanced computer coding and foreign languages) to properly use them.

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Planes: Fire & Rescue

by Alan Rapp on July 18, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Planes: Fire & Rescue
  • IMDB: link

Planes: Fire & RescueLast year’s Cars spin-off starring Dane Cook as a cropduster with dreams of becoming a world-class racer came and went without much fanfare. Made by Disney rather than Pixar, Planes certainly had the feel of far too many of Disney’s straight-to-video sequels (despite the movie actually getting a theatrical release). I found the first film to be more than a little clunky, and certainly the weakest of any of the movies set in the Cars universe, but it still had enough charm and beautiful animation to keep my interest. Planes‘ sequel feels much the same with some uneven writing and cheap fart jokes. However, along with its impressive look, the sequel does celebrate the service of firefighters and offer a nice lesson for its target audience.

Planes: Fire & Rescue returns Cook as cropduster turned world-famous racer Dusty Crophopper whose career is put in jeopardy thanks to nonrepairable damage to the plane’s gearbox. In an attempt to help out an old friend, and keep the local airstrip open, Dusty signs up to train as with a fire and rescue team hoping to become certified as a firefighter.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

by Alan Rapp on July 12, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • IMDb: link

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a surprise hit in attempting to reboot the Planet of the Apes series by explaining how the seeds of humanity’s destruction were sewn and the steps which led the apes to eventually become the dominant species on the planet. The first film has a few plot holes that still nag me, and although I enjoyed Rise of the Planet of the Apes it hasn’t been a story I’ve returned to or have given much thought to seeing expanded in sequels.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has many of the same strengths and weaknesses of the first film with the sly observations on gun violence, race relations, and how militant individuals can spur on a war which isn’t necessary or beneficial for either side. It also has the same types of nagging plot issues that Rise was saddled with as the script relies on some awfully stupid decision making by characters acting against their own interests (such as including a militant human, a one-note character played by Kirk Acevedo, who just shot one of the apes as part of a diplomatic mission the success on which humanity’s survival hinges).

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Can a Song Save Your Life?

by Alan Rapp on July 2, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Begin Again
  • IMDb: link

Begin AgainWritten and directed by John Carney, Begin Again is simply a joy to watch. At times this tale of the mismatched pair of a record label exec (Mark Ruffalo) whose life is swirling around the drain and a young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) dealing with crushing rejection of her now-successful longtime writing partner and boyfriend (Adam Levine) comes dangerously close to being too cute for its own good. Thankfully Carney’s choice to ground the film in serious issues such as heartbreak, betrayal, estranged families, and politics of the music business balances the film’s hopeful tone and message to prevent the movie from ever becoming too cliche or sappy.

While Ruffalo provides both angst and humor, Knightley is the soul of the film. Having only seen her sing in short segments of The Edge of Love (a movie worth seeing more for her performance more than anything else), I was thrilled to find a her lilting voice the perfect match for the indie songwriter thousands of miles from home dealing the emotional yo-yo of immediate heartbreak and at the same time a once-in-a-lifetime record offer.

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