Movie Reviews 

Draft Day

by Alan Rapp on April 12, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Draft Day
  • IMDB: link

Draft DaySet over the course of a single day, Draft Day offers the opportunity for sports-film go-to-guy Kevin Costner (now a little too long in the tooth to star as an actual player) to star as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns on the team’s biggest day of the year. Fighting the recent death of his father, an aggressive new head coach (Denis Leary), an owner (Frank Langella) demanding a “big splash,” his own beliefs on the right move and the player he wants to draft (Chadwick Boseman), and the news that his not-so-secret girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) is pregnant, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) will struggle through the day to do what he believes is best for the team.

The script by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph along with the framing of cinematographer Eric Steelberg captures the pressure, size, and scale of the moment Sonny finds himself in the middle of when he makes a questionable deal to trade for the number-one pick to draft “a sure thing” in quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence). Although I think the script does falter a bit in Sonny’s final moves, straining believably, the story director Ivan Reitman sets out to tell is enganging, well-paced, and a hell of a good time.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

by Alan Rapp on April 4, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • IMDB: link

Captain America: The Winter SoldierPicking up some time after the events of The Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans) has grown more accustomed to the current world while going to work for S.H.I.E.L.D. Despite being well-suited for his new role, Steve Rogers has become increasingly uncomfortable with cleaning-up Nick Fury‘s (Samuel L. Jackson) messes including working alongside the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in the film’s opening action sequence involving the hijacking of a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel by Algerian pirates.

Returning home with a few choice words for Fury, and contemplating leaving government service all together while hanging out with his new friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Captain America finds himself in the middle of the action, and a vast conspiracy, following a brazen attack on Nick Fury in broad daylight on the streets of New York and the discovery that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated by HYDRA. Not knowing who to trust, and with the help of only Black Widow and the Falcon, he’ll also have to deal with a mysterious assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

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Noah

by Alan Rapp on March 28, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Noah
  • IMDB: link

NoahObsessed with the story of Noah since he was 13 years-old, writer/director Darren Aronofsky finally sees his vision of a quasi-fantasy/religious take on the biblical tale of the Genesis flood crash into the big screen today like a tidal wave. Sadly, as the characters of Aronofsky’s films usually learn, obsession leads to trouble.

Noah is certainly a labor of love and quite a bit of talent went into the creation of Noah, the ark, and the flood which washed away the sin of man from the face of the Earth. Equally certain, despite the skill on display both in front and behind the camera, is the fact that Noah is a mess on the level of Waterworld. Its grand expectations and epic scale simply can’t find a way to balance its stark character study of a man fighting to do the will of his God against the film’s more fantastical and sci-fi elements which include fallen angels in the form of giant rock creatures, the existence and use of magic, and never-ending storyline that keeps going long after it’s jumped the rails and taken a nosedive into the watery abyss which consumes so many (nameless) characters.

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Bad Words

by Alan Rapp on March 28, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Bad Words
  • IMDB: link

Bad WordsAs with most of the Bad Santa imitators which have popped up in recent years Bad Words is, at best, a mixed bag. Far better than the unfortunate (and best forgotten) Bad Teacher, this film directed by and starring Jason Bateman about a middle-aged man-child entering a national 8th grade spelling competition to deal with his own personal issues certainly provides its share of laughs along the way.

When we first meet Guy Trilby (Bateman) he’s already worming his way into a qualifying round of a local spelling bee with the help of a blogger (Kathryn Hahn) and a loophole in the guidelines which allows anyone who has not yet graduated from the eighth grade entry into the bee.

To call Trilby a self-serving prick isn’t really doing justice to the man determined to make a mockery of the competition on national television much to the dismay of countless parents and those in charge of the spelling bee (Philip Baker Hall, Allison Janney). By the time the film gets around to revealing Trilby’s reasons (which are as self-serving as every other piece of his character) it doesn’t really matter as nothing could possibly justify the actions we witness.

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The Grand Budapest Hotel

by Alan Rapp on March 27, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • IMDB: link

The Grand Budapest HotelFor his latest film writer/director Wes Anderson takes his trademark style to the fictional Republic of Zubrowka and a once-proud mountainside resort known as The Grand Budapest Hotel with a rich history to share. Relying heavily on narration, the film struggles a bit to get going by beginning in the present and slowly peeling back layers (each jumping 20 years or so into the past) until we finally arrive in the pre-World War II 1930s and the story of fastidious old-school concierge M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) and his the new lobby boy Zero (Tony Revolori).

During the overly-elaborate and unnecessarily complicated (although certainly not boring) first 20-minutes or so as the movie introduces an elderly author (Tom Wilkinson) beginning his own flashbacks to his time at the hotel as a younger man (Jude Law) when he happened to meet the elderly version of Zero (F. Murray Abraham) and thus learned his story, Anderson relies on a variety of his usual bag of tricks involving beautiful cinematography and set design highlighted by the use of some marvelous miniatures.

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Muppets Most-ly Wanted

by Alan Rapp on March 21, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Muppets Most Wanted
  • IMDB: link

Muppets Most WantedAfter the success of 2011′s big-screen relaunching of the Muppets franchise, director James Bobin and co-writer Nicholas Stoller return (along with Christophe Beck who once again writes the songs) for a mostly enjoyable sequel that sadly lacks the heart of the previous film.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Muppets Most Wanted. It works as a wacky caper comedy, albeit not nearly as well as The Great Muppet Caper, with the trademarks of The Muppet franchise including cameos, running gags, frog and pig romance, and several fun (if not that memorable) songs. But ranking it against the Muppets other four major theatrical releases I would place it solidly last behind The Muppets Take Manhattan.

Picking up directly following the events of The Muppets, Muppets Most Wanted begins with the group hiring Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) as their new agent who helps his boss, escaped thief Constantine (Matt Vogel) swich places with Kermit (Steve Whitmire) to use the Muppet’s world tour as cover for a series of robberies.

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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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