Movie Reviews 

We Used to Be Friends, a Long Time Ago

by Alan Rapp on March 14, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Veronica Mars
  • IMDB: link

“Always.”

Veronica MarsSeven years after going off the air creator Rob Thomas and the cast of Veronica Mars reunite (with the help of an insanely productive Kickstarter campaign) to bring Veronica (Kristen Bell) back to Neptune just in time for her 10 year high-school reunion. Oh, and to help an ex out of a pesky murder charge. It’s just like old times, in the best possible way.

The script by Thomas and Diane Ruggiero finds Veronica living with Piz (Chris Lowell) in New York and interviewing for jobs at prestigious law firms when a voice from the past reaches out in need of help. Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is the lead suspect in the murder of his girlfriend (Andrea Estella). Yep, it really is like old times.

Long ago hanging up her camera and spy gear, Veronica agrees to return only to see her father (Enrico Colantoni) and help Logan find a good lawyer. Things don’t go according to plan. Of course she also have time to reunite with several old friends and enemies, make an enemy of the new sheriff (Jerry O’Connell), and even (against her wishes) attend her class reunion.

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I Feel No Need, No Need for Speed

by Alan Rapp on March 14, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Need for Speed
  • IMDB: link

“This ain’t just about racing.”

Need for SpeedNeed for Speed is no Cannonball Run II. You could even argue it’s no Speed Zone (which replaced Burt Reynolds and company with SCTV vets John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Joe Flaherty along with a host of lesser-known stars for a forgettable third Cannonball Run film). Loosely based on the popular video game franchise, Need for Speed stars Aaron Paul as kick-ass small-time racer and mechanic Tobey Marshall whose rivalry with his old girlfriend’s (Dakota Johnson) new boyfriend (Dominic Cooper) ends with him serving two years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

Recently released, and with the help of his friends (Scott Mescudi, Rami Malek, Ramon Rodriguez) and a new love interest (Imogen Poots) providing a top-grade car, Tobey will try to settle the score on the road by breaking parole (and dozens of traffic laws) to earn a spot in a super-secret race on the West Coast held annually by a reclusive millionaire (Michael Keaton). To get there, however, he and Julia (Poots) will have to survive the trip across country after his rival posts a bounty to make sure Tobey never makes it to the starting line.

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300: Rise of an Empire

by Alan Rapp on March 7, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 300: Rise of an Empire
  • IMDB: link

300: Rise of an EmpireI’m not a Zack Snyder fan. I hated what Snyder and screenwriter David S. Goyer did to Superman, was disappointed with his interpretation of Watchmen, and was disturbed by watching the man make his own wet dreams into a feature film. Of the Snyder films I’ve been forced to endure over the years 300 is the only one I remotely enjoyed.

Despite obvious flaws, Snyder delivered a slick-looking adaption of Frank Miller’s graphic novel that focused on the legendary accomplishments of the 300 Spartans during the Battle of Thermopylae (while completing ignoring the other Greek forces which aided them – as did Miller’s original work). Turning the sequel over to the hands of director Noam Murro, 300: Rise of an Empire is a joyless blood-spattered spectacle lacking in both story and presentation. Sadly, it seems Murro proves unable to recapture what little magic Zack Snyder was able to bring to the screen while balancing the bloodier elements of the first film with 300‘s visual-style and the silly muscle-bound unclothed warriors constantly preening for the camera in various dramatic poses.

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Mr. Peabody & Sherman

by Alan Rapp on March 7, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mr. Peabody & Sherman
  • IMDB: link

Mr. Peabody & ShermanBased on the Mr. Peabody shorts from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show the new full-length feature film from writer Craig Wright and director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, The Forbidden Kingdom) may not as be as clever as the original, but it turns out to enjoyable and far more fun than I expected.

Tweaking the story of the genius dog and his adopted son Sherman who travel in time through the use of the WABAC Machine (originally constructed in the TV-series as a way to keep Sherman occupied an teach him history), Mr. Peabody & Sherman uses the machine as a linchpin of a story involving Sherman’s (Max Charles) trouble with a girl at school named Penny (Ariel Winter) and the pair’s unauthorized use of the time travel machine which leads to serious repercussions.

While trying to stop a nosy social worker (Allison Janney) from removing Sherman from an unsuitable home, and dealing with Penny’s parents (Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann), Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) takes the kids back to set things right.

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The Wind Rises

by Alan Rapp on February 28, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Kaze tachinu
  • IMDB: link

“All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”

The Wind RisesOver a lifetime in animation Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki has made a name for himself as one of the premiere filmmakers of his generation. Although I haven’t always loved his films, I found Princess Mononoke too bizarre for my tastes and a bit unwieldy with its 133-minute running time, it’s impossible to come out of any Miyazaki film without a profound respect for the talented man who brought them to the screen.

For his final film Miyazaki delivers a love story to aviation in the fictionalized biography of Japanese aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno), a young man with dreams of building beautiful flying machines who would design the Mitsubishi A5M and Mitsubishi A6M Zero which Japan used during WWII. Adapted from the novel by Hori Tatsuo, The Wind Rises may not quite be the all-ages adventure some might be hoping for, but it beautifully captures the fire of imagination that drives Jiro in his designs and the lively but ill Naoko (Miori Takimoto) whom he falls desperately in love with. As he approaches his life’s ambition he feels the other great love of his life slowly fading away.

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3 Days to Kill

by Alan Rapp on February 21, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: 3 Days to Kill
  • IMDB: link

3 Days to KillIt would be easy to simply call 3 Days to Kill as a bad movie and move on, and I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone one for doing so. The inconsistent thriller concerning the final mission of dying spy Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) dealing with apartment full of an extended family of squatters, reconnecting with his estranged wife (Connie Nielsen) and daughter (Hailee Steinfeld), and working for a sexy spy (Amber Heard), immediately after promising his wife he was done with the the agency, to find and kill a target known only as The Wolf (Richard Sammel), is one hell of a B-movie mess.

Costner, who has had some notable voice issues earlier this year causing him to pull out of planned appearances, could give Christian Bale‘s gruff Batman voice a run for its money with his gravel monotone performance here. Despite making assurances he’s given up the life, and without explaining to his wife and daughter how killing dozens of people where they live in Paris might come back to haunt them, Renner agrees to slowly kill his way to The Wolf and his top lieutenant The Albino (Tómas Lemarquis).

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Robocop Redux

by Alan Rapp on February 13, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Robocop (2014)
  • IMDB: link

RobocopReleased in 1987, Robocop holds a special spot in the pantheon of 80′s action movies for anyone who has seen it (and its various lesser sequels and spin-offs). Written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner (by far the best script either has done), director Paul Verhoeven‘s satirical, violent, and over-the-top tale of a critically wounded Detroit police officer turned into the first cybernetic soldier by an ominous corporation with its own agenda gets an obligatory, and completely unnecessary, remake. Thankfully this one fares better than the last Verhoeven film Hollywood decided to remake.

Missing the original’s biting wit (none of those terrific commercials this time around) or primal sense of justice and revenge, and substituting a PG-13 gruesomeness for the original’s R-rated violence (meaning we get a much smaller body count but several shots of scientists poking around inside of the still-human pieces of our hero), the new film makes several interesting choices that allow the story to take a slightly different path than the original.

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Everything is Awesome

by Alan Rapp on February 8, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The LEGO Movie
  • IMDB: link

The LEGO MovieWith a mix of stop-motion and CGI effects (some purposely cheesy enough to show you the string holding figures in frame) The LEGO Movie delivers an energetic and enjoyable story with a nice message for kids. A cynical person would note that the film is basically a 100-minute commercial to sell the various (mostly over-priced) specialized sets and figures that make up the LEGO franchise. However, the movie (for the most part) puts the story and characters first while also promoting the basic message of the building blocks that allow you to build anything you can imagine.

Beginning with an awkward opening scene involving a wizard (Morgan Freeman), the film’s villain Lord Business (Will Ferrell), and a prophecy about “The Special,” the movie gets off to a bit of a shaky start (although it does eventually backtrack to put the events into context). Jumping years in the future we’re introduced to our hero, unremarkable construction worker Emmet Brickowoski (Chris Pratt), who finds the mythical Piece of Resistance which can prevent Business’ plans of destruction.

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The Monuments Men

by Alan Rapp on February 7, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Monuments Men
  • IMDB: link

The Monuments MenOriginally planned for a Christmas release, The Monuments Men finally makes it into theaters this weekend. Directed and co-written by George Clooney, who also stars as George L. Stout, the film is a war-time picture highlighting an unusual group of heroes. Based on true accounts, The Monuments Men tells the story of Stout and other over-aged art experts and connoisseurs who were put together by Franklin D. Roosevelt to save priceless art being plundered and destroyed by the Nazis during WWII.

The group of Monuments Men includes Matt DamonBill Murray, John Goodman, and Bob Balaban, along with Englishman Hugh Bonneville, and Frenchman Jean Dujardin. A little bit Ocean’s Eleven and a little bit old school war film, Clooney’s latest project begins with Stout stumping for the need for such and organization and recruiting old friends on what many in both Washington and on the battlefield see as nothing more than a fool’s errand. From basic training through searching abandoned German salt mines after the end of WWII, the film follows the fate of the unusual band of art experts and historians turned soldiers and the treasures they seek.

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  • Title: Labor Day
  • IMDB: link

Labor DayI’m a Jason Reitman fan. Young Adult made my Top Films of 2011, as did Juno a few years earlier. I consider Thank You For Smoking the best satire (by far) of the past decade, and Up in the Air was easily my favorite film of 2009. With a combination of wit, talent, and an eye for casting, the writer-director has produced some terrific films over the past few years. Sadly, Labor Day is not one of them.

Based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day lacks Reitman’s usual flourishes or the trademark edge of the director’s previous work. Although competently acted and well produced, neither the director nor its stars (Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin, Clark Gregg, and Gattlin Griffith) can save the movie from trashy romance novel themes about the nicest escaped murderer (Brolin) this side of Mayberry and an implausible love story that is impossible to take seriously (but also not quite cheesy enough to laugh at or enjoy). It’s with neither malice nor spite, but with a heavy heart, that I dub the film the best produced Lifetime Movie for Women ever made.

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