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Transformers: Age of Extinction
Enough is Enough

After going low-budget (relatively speaking) and directing one of last year’s biggest surprises, Pain & Gain, Michael Bay returns to his big-budget franchise with Transformers: Age of Extinction. The movie is technically a sequel, picking up the story four years after the events of 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but it also has elements of a reboot. Gone are Shia Labeouf’s Sam Witwicky and the rest of the human characters from the first three movies, replaced by a whole new cast led by Mark Wahlberg. With the exception of a few holdovers, most of the robot cast is new as well, including a brand new villain.


Maleficent
Her Side of the Story

The 1959 animated version of Sleeping Beauty is one of Disney’s most successful and memorable hits. Their new live-action version, however, opens with a narration that essentially just tells you to disregard that entire movie. It’s misleading, the narration tells us, and then we are whisked back in time and introduced into the younger version of that film’s menacing villain, who will be the protagonist in Maleficent. Now, we will get to see her side of the story; for better or worse. Perhaps Disney will do better with its upcoming live-action remake of Cinderella.


X-Men: Days of Future Past
Bringing Together Young and Old

Many thought that the original X-Men series had run its course after 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Five years after that film, the series was supposedly rebooted with X-Men: First Class, which took place in the 1960s and introduced the younger versions of many of the main characters. It was an interesting new direction and an opportunity to tie the X-Men franchise in with real-life events, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Instead of creating a direct sequel to First Class, however, director Bryan Singer returned to the franchise and creates X-Men: Days of Future Past, which manages to feature the casts of both the reboot and the original films.


Godzilla
King of the Monsters, Indeed

As movie monsters go, there is one that stands out above the rest. After first appearing in the allegorical Japanese film Gojira in 1954, the character that became known as Godzilla has appeared in over thirty movies. Most of these movies have been Japanese products and for good reason: when Hollywood attempted to make a Godzilla movie in 1998, it was a laughable disaster. Under the theory that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, Hollywood is back with another stab at the legendary movie monster. Does this Godzilla have what it takes to succeed? The answer is a resounding yes.


Million Dollar Arm
Agent of Distraction

Following their success with Remember the Titans in 2000, Disney began releasing based-on-true-events inspirational sports dramas every couple of years. For the most part, these movies have been consistently entertaining and successful with Titans and Miracle being arguably the cream of the crop. As entertaining as they are, however, by following virtually the same formula with every movie, they are feeling less and less fresh with each new outing. That is very apparent in their latest film, Million Dollar Arm, a moderately entertaining effort that hits a little too many clichés on its way around the bases.


Locke
Dramatic Drive

It is one of the greatest challenges an actor can undertake: carrying a movie completely by themselves. It is something Ryan Reynolds did in Buried and, for the most part, Tom Hanks and James Franco did in Castaway and 127 Hours, respectively. In Locke, that challenge falls to the talented Tom Hardy, who plays the entire movie in the front seat of a car with the film’s other actors only participating as voices on a cell phone.


Transcendence
Mucks up the Works

If Transcendence looks like a movie made by Christopher Nolan, it is because the movie is the directorial debut of Wally Pfister, who photographed every movie Nolan has made since Memento. The movie also features a sci-fi heavy premise that sounds a bit like Inception, only replacing dreams with artificial intelligence. Unfortunately, whereas Inception truly felt like it was something new and exciting, Transcendence pulls too many punches to truly be measured in the same category as Nolan’s film.


Draft Day
Superstar or Bust?

It used to be something only hardcore football fans enthusiastically followed, but now the NFL Draft is a primetime television event that gets high ratings every year. It has turned team general managers from behind-the-scenes businessmen into superstars. It seems appropriate, then, that Hollywood would swoop in and try to capitalize on the phenomenon. The result is Draft Day, a film that focuses on one such general manager as he tries to make a splash for his team on the fateful day of the title.


Muppets Most Wanted
Another Muppet Caper

Everybody’s favorite puppets are back in a sequel to their successful 2011 comeback film. Never ones to be afraid of breaking the fourth wall, the movie opens with a musical number about them making a sequel. As Dr. Bunsen Honeydew points out in that number, this is not the first Muppets sequel. In fact, this could actually be considered the seventh sequel to the original The Muppet Movie that came out back in 1979.


Enemy
Cinematic Enigma

Director Denis Villeneuve’s thriller Prisoners was one of the best movies of 2013. In 2014, he reunites with Jake Gyllenhaal for a new thriller called Enemy. Based on the novel The Double by Jose Saramago, Enemy has the same dark tone and intensity as Prisoner, but the plot is less straightforward and more enigmatic. The result is a film that is entertaining, but will have its audience scratching their head for hours afterwards.


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