Movie Reviews 

Tomorrowland

by Alan Rapp on May 22, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Tomorrowland
  • IMDb: link

TomorrowlandIn tone, message, and design Tomorrowland feels very much like an old school Disney live-action film albeit with far better special effects. With a hopeful message, and heart penned to its sleeve, the screenplay by Damon Lindelof and director Brad Bird offers a look at the wonders and dangerous of technology which will bring two strangers together to a place where imagination is the only limitation of what is possible.

Presented with dueling narration by Frank Walker (George Clooney, played as a child by Thomas Robinson) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), Tomorrowland informs the audience of how each first learned of a scientific wonderland just outside our dimension before throwing the pair together to save the city and all of Earth from a mistake that continues to haunt the older scientist.

Clooney’s charm helps soften Frank’ rougher edges and Robertson plays well off of him. The real star, however, is Raffey Cassidy as the android who brings the pair together in an effort to put right what went wrong more than two decades before which got Frank expelled from Tomorrowland forever.

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Mad Max: Fury Road

by Alan Rapp on May 15, 2015

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  • Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • IMDb: link

Mad Max: Fury RoadReturning to his creation for the first time since 1985, director George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road is highly-stylized insanity that is easily one of the most visually-stunning movies of 2015 so far. More engaging than fun, Miller delivers something akin to an action art film rather than summer popcorn movie. And, despite Tom Hardy getting top billing, it’s one hell of a star vehicle for Charlize Theron who proves to any doubters out there that a woman can indeed be the lead character in a big-budget action adventure.

Taking place an indeterminate amount of time following the events of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Max (Hardy) is captured by a cult known as the War Boys, led by the bizarre Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who decide to put the wanderer to use as a universal blood donor. A series of events involving Imperator Furiosa (Theron) stealing Joe’s most precious cargo loaded up in one of the warlord’s war rigs provide the opportunity for Max’s escape and an uneasy partnership with Furiosa and Joes concubines (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) as the small group attempts to stay alive in harsh desert with enemies in every direction and a mad man’s army chomping at their heels.

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Still Slightly Out of Tune

by Alan Rapp on May 15, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Pitch Perfect 2
  • IMDb: link

Pitch Perfect 2Based on the book by Mickey Rapkin 2012’s Pitch Perfect was an occasionally fun, if wildly inconsistent, story glorifying a bizarre college subculture where a capella groups were the biggest celebrities on a college campus. Picking up three years later, loner Freshman Becca (Anna Kendrick) has grown into the Senior leader of the three-time defending a capella champions who face new adversity when a complicated stunt goes wrong at a public event.

Barred from competing, touring, or defending their national championship by the announcers (John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks) who cover the sport (and also run it now?), the Barden Bellas’ only chance for redemption is to become the first American group to win at the World A capella Tournament.

If you thought it was bizarre seeing colleges go wild over a capella singing in the first film you haven’t seen anything yet as, in typical sequel fashion, Pitch Perfect 2 goes bigger this time around. The results are much the same as the first film with awkward romantic subplots and an odd storyline designed to make Becca the outsider of the group once more as she is the only member of the Bellas planning for life after college.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

by Alan Rapp on May 1, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • IMDb: link

Avengers: Age of UltronDespite the build-up to an Infinity War Avengers film, Marvel Studio threw everyone for a loop when they announced fascist robot Ultron (James Spader) would be the villain of The Avengers sequel. Unlike 2012’s The Avengers which was the culmination and payoff for the entirety of Marvel’s Phase One films (everything from Iron Man to Captain America: The First Avenger), Avengers: Age of Ultron suffers from some of the same problems that weighed down Iron Man 2.

Not only does the film have to introduce a brand-new villain (something The Avengers didn’t have to spend time on) and three new supporting characters (with vastly different origins than their comic counterparts), and weave in ongoing events from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. while providing separate in-depth character moments for every single Avenger, Age of Ultron also has to lay the groundwork for the next two Avengers films, Captain America: Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok. While also throwing in supporting characters from pretty much every Marvel film so far it’s something of a marvel, if you’ll forgive the pun, that Avengers: Age of Ultron doesn’t buckle under its own considerable weight.

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The Age of Adaline

by Alan Rapp on April 24, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Age of Adaline
  • IMDb: link

The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline takes an intriguing premise about a woman who has lived for more than a century, through the rise of women’s rights, technological booms, two world wars, and the rise of an Information Age all of which it effectively turns into a Nicholas Sparks trashy romance novel. Blake Lively stars as Adaline Bowman who, through a ridiculous premise of laughable pseudo-science a narrator (Hugh Ross) is needed to help explain, stopped aging and looks the same today as she did in 1929. Hiding for most of her life with only a daughter (Ellen Burstyn) who knows her secret, Adaline sheds her identity every ten years to hide her condition. Preparing for just such a move, Adaline encounters a wealthy artist (Michiel Huisman) and, for the second time in her life, falls in love.

Despite the film’s sci-fi set-up neither director Lee Toland Krieger nor screenwriters J. Mills Goodloe and Salvador Paskowitz are interested in exploring the various times and lives Adaline has lived except in the most superficial of ways. It’s sad because the film casts an actress that looks at home in a variety of styles and the period set direction (what little we see) is competently done.

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Woman in Gold

by Alan Rapp on April 10, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Woman in Gold
  • IMDb: link

Woman in GoldDirector Simon CurtisWoman in Gold is an odd film not good enough for awards consideration but also choosing not to become an action-suspense film about stolen Nazi art. Much more a straightforward drama, I’d compare it to 1998’s A Civil Action, a more engaging film with a similar arc of a lawyer whose money-first philosophy is changed by taking on an emotional case he can’t possibly win.

Based on the true story of Maria Altmann‘s (Helen Mirren) attempts to regain possession of her family’s lost masterpiece from the Austrian government, Woman in Gold is a slow-moving drama starring Ryan Reynolds as the lawyer hired by Maria to take on a foreign government. Reynolds and Mirren work well together as the unlikely pair to take on Austria (even if Reynolds casting seems like an odd choice). Well-acted and shot against the backdrops of Vienna and southern California, the story is intriguing if never fully engaging. Despite its cast (which also includes Katie Holmes, Tatiana Maslany, Elizabeth McGovern, and Jonathan Pryce) Woman in Gold is a good film that never fully lives up to the promise it offers flashes of early on.

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Furious 7

by Alan Rapp on April 4, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Furious 7
  • IMDb: link

“Cars don’t fly.”

Furious 7The latest entry is neither the best (Fast Five) nor the worst (2 Fast 2 Furious) of the franchise. Taking place after the events of Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7 introduces Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as the brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who the team took down in the last movie, and the man responsible for killing Han (Sung Kang) in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Now Shaw is targeting Hobbs (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson) and every member of Dominic Toretto‘s (Vin Diesel) team.

Despite Paul Walker‘s death during filming, Brian O’Conner‘s role in the film isn’t truncated thanks to the use of CGI and a little trick photography involving his two brothers. The film ends with a nice farewell for its fallen star although, despite discussion of making more Fast & Furious films, the character isn’t killed off on-screen making you wonder what kind of role Brian could possibly play going forward.

As with all the previous movies, the strengths of the latest film are its stunts which get larger and more ridiculous. Like the last film, this one stretches all credibility during its climax.

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Home

by Alan Rapp on March 27, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Home (2015)
  • IMDb: link

HomeAlien occupation has never been so cute. Based on the children’s book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, Home begins with the invasion of Earth by an alien race known as the Boov who relocate the entire world’s population to suburban-style camps while taking the rest of the planet for their own.

Oh (Jim Parsons) is a likable screw-up who finds himself on the run from his own people when he accidentally discloses the location of their new home to the alien race which has been pursuing the Boov across the galaxy. After encountering another fugitive in a human girl named Gratuity “Tip” Tucci (Rihanna) the two, along with Tip’s cat Pig, are thrown together as Oh agrees to help Tip find her mother Lucy (Jennifer Lopez) while learning there’s far more to the planet and its complicated people than the Boov’s buffoonish leader Captain Smek (Steve Martin) believes. Despite the number of humans and Boov shown on screen, Home has a tiny cast list. Other than Oh and Smek the only Boov who gets any lines is traffic cop Kyle (Matt Jones), who Oh mistakenly believes is his best-friend and who is sent to track Oh down after his latest mistake.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

by Alan Rapp on March 6, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • IMDb: link

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasted a cast that was able to elevate its source material to create a likable, if lightweight, film about a group of elderly travelers finding a second home in India by choosing to stay in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the the Elderly and Beautiful.”

The sequel returns most of the cast, and director John Madden, but almost none of the charm of the first film. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wastes it cast and beautiful backdrop with enough romcom cliches, misunderstandings, overreactions, and poor judgement to fill half-a-dozen Three’s Company‘s episodes or three Kate Hudson movies.

The drama surrounding the hotel this time around centers around Sonny Kapoor’s (Dev Patel) impending marriage to Sunaina (Tina Desai) and plans to grow his brand with the acquisition of a second hotel. Neither is going as smoothly as Sonny would like leading to the script slowly turning the charming young man into an intensely dislikable character and his bride into a woman too dense to understand the basic nature of the man she’s about to marry.

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

by Alan Rapp on February 27, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Kingsman: The Secret Service
  • IMDb: link

Kingsman: The Secret ServiceKingsman: The Secret Service isn’t the first time director Matthew Vaughn has signed on to bring a Mark Millar comic to the big screen. Like Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service centers on the life of a young punk who enters a world of violence, ridiculous adventures, and even more ridiculous villains. This time, however, the subject of spies rather than comic book heroes is both celebrated and lampooned.

Based on Millar’s comic The Secret Service, Taron Egerton stars as a working class kid from a bad neighborhood raised by a single mother after his father died in mysterious circumstances working for a secret organization of spies (and tailors?) known as Kingsman. Recruited by the same agent (Colin Firth) who recruited his father, Egsy spends most of the film proving himself against other candidates (Sophie Cookson, Edward Holcroft, Nicholas Banks, Tom Prior, Fiona Hampton) working to take the place of the latest Kingsman (Jack Davenport) who died investigating a link between a kidnapped professor (Mark Hamill) and an eccentric billionaire known as Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson) who has some extreme ideas about lowering the population of the Earth.

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