Movie Reviews 

22 Jump Street

by Alan Rapp on June 14, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 22 Jump Street
  • IMDb: link

22 Jump StreetThe first film’s rebooting of the 80s television show with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as a pair of screw-up cops sent in undercover as high school students turned out to be a surprisingly self-aware dumb-fun action-comedy. Those who enjoyed 21 Jump Street and were left wanting more of the same should enjoy the sequel (which even the script by Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman admits, on multiple occasions, is basically the exact same story all over again).

Poking fun not only at the pair of cops attempting to pass themselves off as college freshman but also sequels in general this time around, 22 Jump Street sends officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) to college to track down a new designer drug WHYPHY. Offering the same friendship and fallout dynamic between partners as 21 Jump Street, the sequel also gives gives Schmidt a new love interest (Amber Stevens) while working Ice Cube into a slightly larger role this time around. It’s not a great film, and you’re certainly going to have to put your brain on hold, but it does provide plenty of dumb fun.

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

by Alan Rapp on June 13, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • IMDb: link

How to Train Your Dragon 2Picking up five years after the events of the first film, How to Train Your Dragon 2 finds Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) dealing with new challenges including his father‘s (Gerard Butler) plans to hand over the kingdom of Birk to his son, an enemy (Djimon Hounsou) creating his own army of dragons to conquer the world, and the unexpected return of Hiccup’s mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) who disappeared and has been presumed dead since Hiccup was a baby.

Returning the original cast of characters including Astrid (America Ferrera), Gobber (Craig Ferguson), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), and Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig), the sequel leaves time for the events of the the television show to take place without forcing the viewer to have seen the series to make sense of the current state of events. Blanchett’s addition of Valka, a woman more at home with dragons than her own son, and that of Hounsou as the film’s new villain Drago Bludvist prove to be excellent choices, but the heart of the film remains Hiccup and Toothless.

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Edge of Tomorrow

by Alan Rapp on June 6, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Edge of Tomorrow
  • IMDB: link

Edge of TomorrowAdapted from the Japanese graphic novel All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as military recruiter Major William Cage forced into service on the front lines of a war between humanity and an unstoppable alien race known as Mimics. Despite dying rather early on his first day in the field, Cage finds himself somehow still alive reliving the previous day’s events over and over, each time more aware of events and what what must be done to win the war.

With the bad taste of Oblivion still fresh, I wasn’t expecting too much from Cruise stepping so quickly back into a sci-fi film. With a structure which will get it compared to Groundhog Day and Source Code, Edge of Tomorrow delivers a smarter-than-expected summer flick which relies heavily on Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt as the kick-ass face of the United Defense Force who alone understands what his character is going through. Although I think the end is a bit too cute for its own good (much like Source Code) director Doug Liman balances action, suspense, and horror with a surprising amount of humor.

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Maleficent

by Alan Rapp on May 30, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Maleficent
  • IMDB: link

MaleficentOffering a new live-action take on Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the original tale’s villain, Maleficent is a pleasant surprise that works better than either of the recent disappointments, Mirror Mirror or Snow White and the Huntsman, both of which failed while attempting a similar approach to the retelling of Snow White.

Not without its own issues, most of which can be traced back to film’s lethargic opening act explaining Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) past and the series of events which led to her inevitable heel turn, Maleficent works largely due to the performances of Jolie and Elle Fanning (as the girl who would become known as Sleeping Beauty) and the film’s impressive style and design. Jolie is perfect for the role, relishing every moment on-screen, although the movie doesn’t really start moving until after Stefan’s (Sharlto Copley) betrayal which leaves the most powerful member of the fairies hell-bent on revenge on the man who stole far more than her heart and ultimately choose power over love.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

by Alan Rapp on May 24, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • IMDB: link

X-Men: Days of Future PastHoping to bridge the gap between the success of X-Men: First Class and the more star-studded original X-Men films, and wash the taste of how horrifically that series ended, 20th Century Fox brought back director Bryan Singer and decided on adapting one of the long-running comic’s most popular stories for the big screen. The task set before Singer was no small one but the director steps up with X-Men: Days of Future Past and, in a Geoff Johns-ian effort of making disparate (and often inane) pieces fit, finds a way to deliver the best X-Men movie to date.

Opening in a dystopian not-too-far future the film sets up its basic premise of the time travel of a character’s mental consciousness in an opening action sequence involving Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) along with several mutants we haven’t seen before: Bishop (Omar Sy), Warpath (Booboo Stewart), Blink (Bingbing Fan), and Sunspot (Adan Canto). What we learn is that Kitty can send a X-Men’s mind back in time to his younger self to warn of coming dangers and change the outcome.

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Chef

by Alan Rapp on May 23, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Chef
  • IMDB: link

ChefAlthough the storyline doesn’t veer far from well-established basic themes we’ve seen in countless films over the years involving reinventing your life, father-son dynamics, road trips, and overcoming adversity, with the right ingredients and cast writer/director/star Jon Favreau delivers a sumptuous treat as delectable as the various food on display. Calling on the help of a handful of his old Iron Man buddies, Favreau offers up his best film yet in front of, or behind, the camera.

When we first meet Carl Casper (Favreau) he’s a successful but unhappy head chef. Estranged from both his ex-wife (Sofía Vergara) and son Percy (Emjay Anthony), in a refreshingly honest take on a divorced family that doesn’t go for cheap hate-filled diatribes, Casper’s only brightspot his his enjoyable but mostly empty relationship with a waitress (Scarlett Johansson) which obviously isn’t going anywhere. With Johansson taking more and more roles as the sexy lead it’s great to see her step back into a more understated role reminding us that the actress can do more than just look good in tight pants and kick ass.

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  • Title: Belle
  • IMDB: link

BelleInspired by the 1779 painting of mixed-raced aristocrat Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) beside her white cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon) with whom she was raised by her uncle William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), Belle is an interesting look at a woman who grew up in lavish luxury but still searched long and hard for her true place both within her family and the wider world to whom she was seen as (at best) an outcast.

With no diary to draw directly from and only scattered reports of what the woman’s life would have been like under her uncle’s roof (such as not being allowed to dine with guests), screenwriter Misan Sagay certainly takes liberties with the story. At its best Belle is a strong character drama although it also devolves at several points into a time-period-specific romance novel. The rougher moments of Sagay’s tale are saved by the terrific performance of Gugu Mbatha-Raw who infuses the character with passion, strength, and a dogged determinedness which serves her well (but also gets her into spots of trouble).

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Godzilla

by Alan Rapp on May 14, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Godzilla (2014)
  • IMDB: link

GodzillaGodzilla returns to the big screen in an American film for the first time since 1998. Although better than Roland Emmerich‘s much despised film, while outdoing the director known for CGI disaster porn, the new version of Godzilla isn’t without its own issues. As a summer popcorn flick the new Godzilla may satisfy in the short term but it’s unlikely to entice me to return to its story anytime soon (if ever).

Opening in 1999 in the Philippines where an ancient monster is awoken before it makes its way to Japan unseen (this happens more than you’d expect in the film) and destroys a nuclear reactor to feed on the radioactivity for the next 15 years, the film jumps forward to present day where the scientist in charge of the facility (Bryan Cranston) still struggles with what really happened. Although much of the extended opening centers around Cranston (which could be trimmed considerably), the movie’s main character is the scientist’s son Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a bomb disposal expert whose skills will come in quite handy before the end of the film.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

by Alan Rapp on May 2, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  • IMDB: link

The Amazing Spider-Man 2Building on the groundwork laid two years ago in The Amazing Spider-Man, the sequel returns all the core members of the first film (minus the Lizard) while continuing the story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and the harsh lessons which frame Spider-Man’s mythology.

Although needing to spend the time setting up two different villain origin stories, one of the aspects of the sequel I most enjoyed was the fact that it never lost focus that this is primarily Peter Parker’s movie. Jamie Foxx is adequate as Electro, a super-villain with the power to absorb and control electricity, even if he’s given a rushed paint-by-the-numbers origin that relies on the introverted electrical engineer going from confused super-powered freak just trying to understand what has happened to him and deal with his new taste for all things electric to full-on super-villain a little too quickly for my tastes. The same could be said for Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan) whose relationship with Peter doesn’t have enough time to develop and deteriorate to the point that the script needs to earn its eventual payoff.

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Transcendence

by Alan Rapp on April 19, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Transcendence
  • IMDB: link

TranscendenceThe question about Transcendence isn’t if its eventual flaws will eventually cause you to lose interest but when. I’ll admit I was surprised, despite the ridiculous nature of what screenwriter Jack Paglen‘s script considers science, that by relying on some intriguing ideas and a solid cast the film kept me interested far longer than I expected. Of course that was before the movie went completely off the rails and crashed in a hideous and head-scratching mess.

Putting human intelligence in a machine is hardly anything new. Well before the invention of computers and the Internet sci-fi and horror authors were playing on the idea. The premise Paglen begins with is sound enough as several of the leaders in artificial intelligence are attacked by an a quasi-religous, sorta anti-technology (but not really) terrorist group. Although Will Caster (Johnny Depp) survives the initial attack, with only months left to live his wife (Rebecca Hall) and best friend (Paul Bettany) use their combined research to create an artificial intelligence out of his mind.

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