Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

Into the Woods
From Stage to Screen

With lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim, the musical Into the Woods first hit the Broadway stage in 1987. Since that time, various people have attempted to adapt the play for the cinema, but none of these projects ever got any further than the script-reading phase. That changes this year as director Rob Marshall finally brings the musical to the big screen with the help of stars like Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
The Final Chapter?

The final chapter of The Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies is billed as the final film in director Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth film series that included both this trilogy and the three original Lord of the Rings films. The shortest film in the series, The Battle of the Five Armies works both as a final chapter and as a prequel to the original trilogy. Although certainly a better effort than a prequel trilogy for another major film franchise that shall remain nameless, The Hobbit does not quite stand up to its predecessor. Still, there quite a lot of entertainment value in this final film that is essentially two hours and twenty-four minutes of non-stop battle sequences.

The 12 Dates of Christmas
Groundhogs Eve, Anyone?

I first saw Amy Smart in The Butterfly Effect and was blown away by her performance as a young woman traumatized by sexual abuse. I didn’t think Smart got nearly enough attention for that supporting role. So I’ve always been pleased to run across Smart in other offerings–and particularly so when Jenn and I stumbled across The 12 Dates of Christmas on Netflix several years ago. It’s now one of our holiday staples.

The Christmas Secret

Have you ever taken a road trip to someplace like the Grand Canyon, or Disneyland? I’ve done both, and have discovered that the journey there can be just as much fun as the destination itself. Some movies are like that. You know exactly where the plot is going—either because you’ve seen the movie already, or one very much like it—but you don’t mind at all because the getting there is pretty darned pleasant. The Christmas Secret is that kind of movie, particularly when you’re holding a bowl of fresh-popped popcorn. It’s a Hallmark original production in which nothing very surprising happens; but heck, you’ve tuned in to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, right? You’re there for a reason!

Act of Valor
Reality? Check!

As the action unfolds, you never get the sense that something absolutely ridiculous (Mission: Impossible), leaden (The Expendables), or overly-kinetic (Bourne or anything Statham) is going to happen. If bad guys are gonna get taken out, it’s going to happen quick, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something blows up, it’s going to happen… once, and the SEALs are going to move on, fast. If something technologically sophisticated is required, we’re going to see bits of it—it won’t be belabored and shown off—and the SEALs are going to move right along, fast.

Saints and Soldiers

At the crux of the plot is the same dilemma as in Steven Spielberg’s heavy-handed and polemic Saving Private Ryan: Do you show mercy to your enemies? Little’s film doesn’t treat that question in a perfunctory manner, on either end of the spectrum… though, naturally, it just isn’t possible to read this as a “shoot the bastards” tract.

Big Hero 6
Fun with Robots

While the Marvel Cinematic Universe is dominating the live-action box-office with some of the publisher’s more well-known characters, some of the lesser-known characters are finding a home in the animated world. Disney’s latest animated effort is based on a lesser-known Marvel property. They may have been lesser-known characters going in, but the heroes of Big Hero 6 likely won’t remain so obscure for long as this movie is primed to be a major hit.

Morals Need Not Apply

Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming one of our better actors. After bursting onto the scene in 2001’s indie cult hit Donnie Darko, Gyllenhaal earned his first and (so far) only Oscar nomination for his performance opposite the late Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Since then, the actor has delivered many more quality performances in movies like Jarhead, Zodiac, and End of Watch. Sure, he has also had a few duds (Prince of Persia, anyone?), but for the most part the actor has shined. Nightcrawler is just the latest in a long line of good work… and it just might be in best.

St. Vincent
Bill Murray for Sainthood

Bill Murray has been one of our most loved actors for over thirty years now. He’s starred in many a classic comedy and even earned an Oscar nomination for his performance in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Lately, his roles seem to fall into three distinct categories: Wes Anderson character parts, cameos (think Zombieland), and parts designed towards earning him an Oscar, like last year’s Hyde Park on the Hudson. His latest movie, St. Vincent, seems to fall in the latter category.

Men, Women & Children
A Life Lived Through Social Media

Director Jason Reitman started his career off strong with some movies that were able tackle topical issues (the tobacco industry, teenage pregnancy, unemployment) while still serving as great entertainment. But after Thank You For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, while the topical issues are still present, the entertainment value has decreased. His newest movie, Men, Women & Children tackles social media. It’s full of interesting ideas, but it’s just not very fun to watch.

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