Archive for the 'Reviews' Category
Johnny 22 is Alive!
Director Neill Blomcamp exploded onto the scene in 2009 with the Oscar-nominated hit District 9 and like J.J. Abrams, he has quickly become a key figure in the science fiction genre. His follow-up Elysium had a little more star power thanks to Matt Damon, but it did not quite have the same impact as his first film. The big news now is that Blomcamp will take over the reins of the Alien franchise in 2017, just like Abrams took over the Star Wars franchise. But first, the director presents us with the story of a sentient robot named Chappie.
The Big Con
The con-artist movie has been a popular sub-genre for movie stars to show up in and just be movie stars over the years. From Paul Newman and Robert Redford in 1973’s Oscar-winner The Sting to 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven—a con-artist movie disguised as a heist movie—these movies have been the perfect vehicle for popular and attractive stars to look cool, act cool, and be cool. In the history of movies, few stars have had cooler personas than Will Smith and so it seems inevitable that he should grace the genre in this year’s Focus.
This Ain't Golf
Disney has been successful with their inspirational sports dramas since 2000’s Remember the Titans, releasing one just about every year. They all feature good acting, well crafted stories, and happy endings. They are always based on a true story and all pretty much follow the same formula. As such, few of the individual movies stand out from any of the others to the public at large. If one of those movies happens to touch members of its audience on some kind of personal level, however, it can accelerate that particular film out of the pack and turn it into a champion. That is how it was for this writer with the latest Disney sports drama, McFarland, USA.
Cynics, Stand Aside
This is a documentary about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Those documented in this film are truly living. They march to the proverbial different drummer. They are the thrill seekers that live among us, people who listen to a different economy and a different system of reward. The carrot on their stick is not a paycheck but the doing of their “thing” itself, from making ice cream, to stunt-flying airplanes, milking cows seven days a week (is it all workdays, or is it all weekends?), to metal sculpting, to [insert your own special ability or interest here].
Spies, Gentleman Spies
There are those out there who feel that the James Bond franchise has gotten a little too serious; that 007 has forgotten himself in his pursuit to be more like Jason Bourne. Fortunately, for those who feel that way, director Matthew Vaughn is on your side. The director of hits like X-Men: First Class and Kick-Ass now brings you Kingsman: The Secret Service, a clear tribute to the earlier Bond films; most notably those of the Roger Moore era. There are gentleman spies, maniacal villains, deadly henchman, and lots and lots of gadgets. The result is a movie that is crazy fun from start to finish.
When the restored “Director’s Cut” of Lawrence of Arabia played at Seattle’s legendary Cinerama theater in 1989, I was naturally at the first showing… even though it meant cutting work that afternoon. As the overture began playing to a fairly crowded house, the lights failed to come down… and the projectionist opened the curtain and unblocked the projection aperture. As the dumbfounded and confused audience looked on, timing marks on the 70mm print were projected onto the screen… and then the curtain closed. So much for the intended effect of the overture.
The Wachowski siblings have had a very up-and-down directing career. After their modestly budged The Matrix became a popular hit in 1999, the directing pair was given carte blanche for its two sequels and the result was a couple of bloated and incoherent movies that were still financial hits. They were reined back in for the ambitious Cloud Atlas, which they co-directed with Tom Tykwer, and which turned out to be very good movie. The critical cred they earned with that movie, however, leads to their latest, Jupiter Ascending, an ambitious and lavish sci-fi spectacle, which unfortunately plays closer to the overblown Matrix sequels than the ground-breaking original.
First Person Shooter
American Sniper is a return to form of sorts for director Clint Eastwood, following a couple of underwhelming releases in J. Edgar and last year’s Jersey Boys. The new film is based on the 2012 book that came with the subtitle “The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.” The book and the movie tell the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, a trained sniper who served four tours in Iraq. During those four tours, Kyle would be credited with 160 confirmed kills, making him, as the subtitle to the book suggests, the most deadly sniper in American history.
A Game of Inches? You Bet!
Coach Bill Courtney is a self-made man from the wrong side of the Deep-Southern tracks. He owns a specialty hardwoods factory, and knows what it means to suck it up when misfortune strikes and rise above it. But the coaching… well, he volunteers at Memphis’ Manassas High, and over the course of six years takes the Tigers from scoring maybe 36 points in an entire winless schedule to a shot at the division title, the playoffs… and maybe, even, an undefeated season.
Lebowski-Esque Detective Work
Having directed films like There Will Be Blood and The Master, director Paul Thomas Anderson is not really known for comedy. Even the film he cast Adam Sandler in, Punch-Drunk Love, is generally remembered as a drama. Anderson’s latest film, Inherent Vice, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays Larry “Doc” Sportello, a drug-fueled private investigator in 1970 Los Angeles, just might be the closest the director ever gets even though the film is still far from being a straight-forward comedy.
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