Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

No Escape
Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Actor Owen Wilson is mostly known for his comedies, but over the years he has shown some quality dramatic chops in movies such as Midnight in Paris and Marley & Me. In the new movie No Escape, Wilson has his most intense and dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. Both movies are stories of survival, with No Escape pushing the actor’s character to the very limits of humanity.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Cruise Takes to the Skies

Ever since Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt ran away from a crashing fish tank in 1996, the Mission: Impossible movie series has been all about the big stunts. The same is true of the latest film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which even goes so far as to hang its star outside of an airplane while it takes off. Those crazy practical stunts are refreshing in a summer that to this point has been mostly dominated by computer-aided science-fiction and fantasy movies. For what is really the first time in the series, the new movie picks up right where the last movie left off. In fact, this is the first movie in the franchise in which every member of Ethan Hunt’s core team was in at least one of the previous movies.

Boxing is Life

Director Walter Hill is famously quoted as saying that “most Hollywood boxing movies are metaphors” and it is no wonder. A boxer stands there and takes the punches his opponent throws at him and his success is determined by how well he can take these punches while continuing to fight back. We all face our challenges in life and our success is largely determined by how well we fight back against or through those challenges. Fortunately for the rest of us, those challenges usually don’t involve getting punched in the face. The new movie Southpaw follows the boxing-movie-as-metaphor template laid down by the many great boxing films that have come before it. It succeeds, for sure, but it follows that template a little too closely to truly break any new ground in the genre.

Tiny Hero, Giant Results

Avengers: Age of Ultron was more of the same for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the new chapter in the expanded universe franchise offers something new. A new superhero, Ant-Man, is introduced to the same world that is already occupied by heroes like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. His superpower—the ability to shrink down to the size of an insect—takes the franchise to new heights, quite literally. It’s as if Marvel crossed over with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and it is just as fun as that high-concept idea sounds.

Terminator Genisys
He Said He’d Be Back

Whether or not you were ready for more Terminator movies, you are getting them. The franchise rights revert back to its creator James Cameron in 2019 and current rights owner Paramount intends to release a full trilogy before that happens. The first is this summer’s Terminator Genisys, a movie that is both a sequel to the original films and a reboot of sorts. If you thought the Terminator timeline was confusing already, this movie’s time-traveling plot is really going to drive you crazy.

The Desolation of Smaug

What was that I was saying about An Unexpected Journey not feeling rushed? About the inclusion of songs, in all their silliness and pomposity? About belly laughs and witty homages? Naw. Peter Jackson opens The Desolation of Smaug with a flash-back sequence of Gandalf’s initial encounter with Thorin at the Prancing Pony in Bree. And as the scene opens, just as with the Bree scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson emerges from the darkness munching on an oversized carrot. That’s a fitting metaphor, methinks.

Inside Out
Pixar Plays With Our Emotions

Throughout the entire decade of the 2000s, animation powerhouse Pixar was the king of original cinematic experiences. 2001’s Monsters Inc. was followed by Finding Nemo which was followed by The Incredibles, et cetera, et cetera. All the way through the release of Up in 2009, Pixar was creating high-quality and original new movies seemingly every year. In the current decade, however, Pixar has fallen victim to sequelitis, with 2012’s Brave being their only non-sequel release in the past five years. That changes in 2015, however, as the studio that a desk lamp built plans to release not just one, but two original films. The first is this summer’s comedy Inside Out.

The Return of the King, Extended Edition

I have to assume that those who really want to know about the Extended Edition of The Return of the King are already fans of Peter Jackson’s adapted Lord of the Rings. After all, would anyone who dislikes Krispy Kremes be interested in merely a bigger Krispy Kreme? I doubt it. And what makes a Krispy Kreme special, so I have been told, is all in the eye of the consumer, as it were. But wait, you say. The Return of the King is no light-as-air confection. And of course I agree, though not everyone would. Further, I suggest that the Extended Edition is as much a different movie from the theatrical version as was the extended Fellowship—as different as a slice of New York cheesecake is from a Krispy Kreme.

Jurassic World
How to Train Your Raptor

The original Jurassic Park from 1993 is a legitimate classic, but its two sequels were underwhelming to say the least. They each had individual scenes that were exciting, but on a whole they came nowhere close to the awe-inspiring, majestic thrill ride that was the original. Enter Colin Trevorrow, a director whose only feature film to date, 2012’s Safety Not Guaranteed, as great as it was, doesn’t necessarily scream blockbuster potential. Whatever the producers saw in that movie, however, pays off big time as Jurassic World proves to be the Jurassic Park sequel that we always wanted.

The Two Towers, Extended Edition

While the extended Fellowship is an epic worthy of being called a classic—taking what was already a fine, effective film and improving it by tweaks and bounds—I did not see much hope for a similar treatment of Towers. While the theatrical Towers proved excellent grist for fanboys, I nonetheless found it tedious at times and oppressive as a whole. Without Jackson’s stunning realization of Gollum, the film would have seemed to me a nearly complete loss. Fortunately for the studio—and the audience—Peter Jackson and crew were at the helm of this effort and not me!

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