Movie Reviews 

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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Transformers: Age of Extinction

by Alan Rapp on June 27, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • IMDb: link

Transformers: Age of ExtinctionI’m not a fan of Michael Bay‘s Transformers movies. In fact I’ve hated every single one. Transformers: Age of Extinction is not an exception, but on the sliding scale of horrific awfulness that is the Bay Transformers franchise it’s the least objectionable of the lot. Lazy, inane, and almost completely without merit, the latest Transformers film didn’t so much anger me as leave me increasingly confused and apathetic to the “storytelling” that was unfolding before my eyes.

The first film ruined a beloved childhood toy and cartoon franchise by centering the film not on the transforming robots themselves but a lazy 80s teenage sex comedy between Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox and lots of (pointless) robot porn. The sequel lowered the bar with a plot that makes Highlander 2: The Quickening sound plausible involving Transformer reincarnation and various inanity including a sexbot, racist robots, more American flag waving, and even more (pointless) robot porn.

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Jersey Boys

by Alan Rapp on June 20, 2014

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Jersey Boys
  • IMDb: link

Jersey BoysFrom the big musical numbers, to the characters stopping at times to directly address the audience and the staging of much of the action, Jersey Boys feels every bit the adapted stage jukebox musical which spawned it. Fans of The Four Seasons are likely to enjoy themselves, although 134-minutes of Frankie Valli‘s recreated high-pitched crooning in stereo surround started to wear on me before the credits rolled.

Choosing to go mostly without bigger names to sell the film, John Lloyd Young steps in to play the role of Valli which won him a Tony Award for his performance on Broadway. Vincent Piazza, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda round out the group in this mostly by-the-numbers look at the rise and fall of the 60s group who produced a number of hits including “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” Walk Like A Man,” and “Rag Doll.”

A tale of a bunch of Jersey guys who made good, Jersey Boys is your typical modern musical which feels more like a greatest hits of Frankie Valli’s life and music than the true story behind the band.

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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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