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Saturday, June 29, 2013

‘The Heat’ Emits A Low Flame



The Heat: 2 out of 5

Det. Mullins: I just spend the last 30 minutes thinking of ways to kill you.

This is the story of a by-the-book FBI agent teaming up with a sloppy, but dedicated Boston Police detective to take down some bad guys.  They are mismatched and hate each other at first, but will have to learn to get along if they want to prove themselves to the other officers and agents.  The two will face lots of adversity both from nefarious foes and each other, but they will ultimately use their eventual friendship as a way to work together.  Other agents and officers will doubt the work that these two do, in an attempt to uncover the truth regarding secret drug shipments and heinous criminal activities, including violent murders, but hopefully they will prevail anyway.  These are classic buddy cop movie elements and they have been applied to this film which teams up Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in a comedy that is hit or miss…mostly miss.

Roland Emmerich Brings The ‘White House Down'



White House Down:  3 out of 5

John Cale:   I know that you’re into peace and all that, but you’ve got to stick that thing out there and go to work!

So far we have had three ‘Die Hard’ movies and I have been entertained by two of them; neither of which starred Bruce Willis.  White House Down is the second film this year, following Olympus Has Fallen, to feature the White House being held hostage by terrorists.  While the films are somewhat different in what they are trying to accomplish, the similarities are quite clear.  That said, while ‘Olympus’ was seeped with much more seriousness and jingoism, White House Down is all about being Roland Emmerich-style spectacle.  While Emmerich may not be creating another disaster movie on the scale of his other hit films like Independence Day or 2012, he is certainly doing what he can to make a Die Hard-like film, which has the attitude of one of his disaster films.  In establishing this, it means that along with large-scale thrills, the film also lends itself to being a lot of goofy fun, while also earnest and plenty corny.  It is a good thing that that is what I was in the mood for.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 108 – World War Z And Monsters University



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe, has the gang blacking it up in order to discuss a monsterrific double feature.  World War Z and Monsters University both arrived in theaters this past weekend and Aaron and Abe are joined by Markus Robinson and Salim Lemelle to discuss both films.  Additionally, all of the regular segments are present as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Out Now Quickies”, “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Feedback”, and Trailer Talk (The Wolf of Wall Street and Disney’s Frozen).  Lots of discussion underway this week, but fear not!  These guys are professionals and will do their best to keep it all worth fighting for and worth scaring for!

 So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…
 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Out Now "Nights" - Episode 1: Man of Steel Spoilers and Other Summer Fun!

Here's a new podcast episode that is a little different.  Often times after Aaron and Abe wrap up the main show, they tend to keep talking, sometimes with the guest(s) still around.  So, for this debut, exclusive Podomatic episode, of Out Now "Nights", Aaron, Abe, and Scott Mendelson continue to discuss Man of Steel in more explicit and spoilerific detail, and then bounce around to other films and topics throughout.  Keep in mind that there are a bunch of spoilers for many movies and more foul language, but mainly let us know what you think of this kind of free form discussion.

So now, if you've got an hour to kill...

Friday, June 21, 2013

‘Monsters University’ Is A Fun Trip Back To School


Monsters University:  3 ½ out of 5

Mike Wazowski:  Just wait hotshot, I am going to scare circles around you this year.

I wonder how many of my reviews for Pixar films begin with how I approach their studio with a lot of faith, given their track record.  The notion to mention favorites from the beloved animation studio is also a tendency.  It really should not matter and maybe in another 5-10 years, they will be just another studio that does not need to be called out for their past films.  With all of that in mind, regardless of whatever Pixar has done in the past and how their newer films stack up, I can that I had a lot of fun with Monsters University, the prequel to 2001’s Monsters, Inc.  It is a funny, bright, and colorful underdog story that relies on a lot of good-natured humor to make up for its traditional plotting.  The emotional resonance is there, as per usual with Pixar, but the film is about as affecting as it needs to be, for a film that sets out to simply be a fun, all-ages comedy.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

‘World War Z’ Trades In Cliffnotes Of The Book For Cliffhanger Thrills


World War Z:  3 ½ out of 5

Gerry:  Movement is life.

World War Z is a big surprise and in a very favorable way.  As a big fan of the gripping 2006 novel by Max Brooks (Son of Mel), everything I saw in the footage and news leading up to the release of the film adaptation indicated disaster.  It seemed that everything about the book, with the exception of the title, was scrapped in order to make for a summer action film.  That actually is what essentially happened in this film, but the surprising part is how enjoyable I found it to be.  While this film has little to offer in the way of social commentary or political undertones in the ways all the best zombies films do, it has plenty of thrills and real confidence in the way the action and mayhem is presented.  Despite all the production issues and a less satisfying third act, World War Z has far more confidence in its presentation than I expected and it plays as a solid piece of entertainment depicting a pandemic on a global scale.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 107 – Man Of Steel



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is going to test whether or not you believe a podcast can fly!  No, don’t jump out your window, but listen in, as Abe and Aaron discuss (at length, but no spoilers) the new Superman film, Man of Steel, directed by Zack Snyder and produced by Christopher Nolan.  Guests Scott Mendelson and Mark Hobin are on hand to provide their thoughts on the film as well, leading to one of our lengthier reviews/rants.  Additionally, all of the regular segments are present as well, including “Know Everybody”, “Out Now Quickies”, “Movie Call Back”, “Out Now Feedback”, and Trailer Talk (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and 300: Rise of an Empire).  Lots of discussion underway this week and the show even has a new sponsor to help out!

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…


Monday, June 17, 2013

Scorsese Flashback: Mean Streets



Mean Streets:  4 ½ out of 5

I was given the opportunity to provide a guest review of a film by Martin Scorsese for Andy Swinnerton’s site, Rorschach Reviews, which got me so excited that I asked if I could review two films.  As a result, this is the second of two new reviews I have written in regards to Scorsese’s past work, covering his 1973 effort, Mean Streets, starring Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro.

Charlie:  You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit and you know it.

I previously reviewed Bringing out the Dead for my two-part guest reviewing stint that has been focused on covering the career of Martin Scorsese.  Now I am writing about one of Scorsese’s earliest works, which is a fitting companion piece to his 1999 effort.  Mean Streets is one of Scorsese’s more personal films, as it tackles a topic that he has put on film quite often, small-time gangsters, while also factoring in his Catholicism.  The film is less about story and more focused on the lives of these characters and being able to familiarize the audience with the kind of atmosphere they live in.  Many of Scorsese’s best films are more about characters and a series of events that lead up to something, rather than really being driven by a narrative and Mean Streets is one of the best examples of this.  It was made with a fairly low budget and has signs of an early director finding his bearings, but the roots of many of Scorsese’s other films, let alone the work seen from other directors, have been firmly planted here.  While Scorsese would go on to make some of the best films of their respective decades, Mean Streets is a great film to have as one of his starting points.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

‘V/H/S/2’ Now Ready For Playback

V/H/S/2:  4 out of 5

Doctor:  You might see some glitches…

A horror anthology is one of the easiest types of films to see as hit or miss.  Not only can some of the segments either be good, bad, or just okay, but the film itself can drag depending on how many short films we are watching and whether or not the connective tissue between each film (if there is any) is effective.  V/H/S suffered from this issue.  Some of the segments were better than others; one segment was straight up terrible, in my eyes; and I really disliked the wraparound material to keep it connected in some fashion.  What is great about V/H/S 2 is how it manages to correct most of these issues.  It is a leaner and meaner experience.  I had less issue with the wraparounds, I enjoyed all the segments, the film does not drag, and the creativity is even more prevalent throughout.  There may still be curiosity regarding why digital camera footage has been put onto V/H/S tapes, but the film is an effective horror experience overall.

Friday, June 14, 2013

‘Man Of Steel’ Strives For Greatness, Settles On Good



Man Of Steel:  3 out of 5

Jonathan Kent:  You just have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be, Clark. Whoever that man is, he's going to change the world.

We’ll always have Superman: The Movie.  While Superman has arguably been the most recognizable superhero since his creation in 1938 and has remained a national icon, the 1978 film from Richard Donner seems to be the only time cinema had truly done its best to do him justice, let alone be the film that created the template (still in use) for a majority of superhero movies.  Superman II is a great example as well, though that film is practically the second half of the first, given that it was part of one big story and shot back-to-back with the first film.  For whatever reason, other attempts at a Superman film just cannot seem to do anything else that is interesting with the character, regardless of spectacle, the cast involved, or whoever may be directing or producing.  Man of Steel is the best Superman film since the first two Christopher Reeve films, but it still ends up waving off some of the more interesting ideas in favor of letting us see super fights on an enormous scale and settling for bursts of emotional content, amidst an unfocused story.  As a person who already does not find Superman to be any more fascinating than the story written around him, the potential for this newest iteration to explore the character is downplayed, despite the film still playing out as a visually stimulating experience in the realm of big summer blockbusters.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

‘This Is The End’, Though The Laughter Doesn’t Stop



This Is The End:  4 out of 5

Craig Robinson:  We’re actors!  We pretend to be hard, but really, we’re soft as baby s**t!

The apocalypse has been quite a popular topic for film in recent years.  It has also been handled in various forms; from disaster drama (2012, Knowing), to the various zombie films (the upcoming World War Z), to romantic dramas (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a film I will continue to go to bat for).  Even the provocative, avant-garde filmmaker Lars von Trier took a stab at the end of the world with Melancholia.  So with the end of the world as such a popular subject for film, why not see it as a broad studio comedy?  This Is The End is a wild joke-fest about the world coming to an end, as well as something akin to The Avengers of comedies, given that it stars many comedic actors all playing versions of themselves in a weird sorta-pseudo-sequel to every Judd Apatow-produced comedy, even though he had nothing to do with this film.  Regardless, This Is The End is a hilarious, no-holds bar, star-filled extravaganza that manages to bury some interesting themes within its very bawdy self.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – 2013 Summer Indie Showcase



This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe finds the guys taking a step back from the major theater releases and focusing, instead, on many of the films currently in limited release.  Abe is around for a little fun, but the majority of the episode finds Aaron and guests Adam Gentry and Mark Johnson delving into a good number of films, including Before Midnight, The Place Beyond the Pines, Frances Ha, Mud, and more.  There is a little time for some regular segments, such as “Out Now Quickies”, but this is a different sort of episode, that finds time to mention the smaller films that deserve more attention.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

‘Much Ado About Nothing’, Whedon Addition



Much Ado About Nothing:  3 ½ out of 5

Hero: Nature never framed a woman's heart of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice - disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes.

Writer/director Joss Whedon is in a pretty good place right now.  He is coming off making one of the biggest films ever (The Avengers), which had the bonus pleasure of being pretty universally well-liked, and has essentially elevated from being loved by geek audiences all over to being a filmmaker who has the ability to do whatever he wants.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but Whedon has made, of all things, a new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, simply because he needed a palette cleanser of sorts.  Here’s a film that was made by Whedon, while on vacation from making The Avengers, using his own home in Santa Monica and a cast consisting of many friends/actors he has worked with before.  As a result, the title ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ works as a double meaning for the film overall, as it is entertaining, but slight.  Some may want to make more of a big deal out of it, but I would say even Whedon is just happy with having done something like this, with little thought of it as a big game changer as far as his oeuvre of films is concerned.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Those Precious ‘Kings Of Summer’



The Kings of Summer:  3 ½ out of 5

Joe:  This is the sight of our new house man.
Patrick:  What?  Like a tree house?
Joe:  No, like a real house.

Apparently I have been watching and enjoying a lot of coming-of-age films in recent months (Mud, The Way Way Back), let alone in the past year (Moonrise Kingdom), but I have been quite entertained by each one.  The Kings of Summer joins the ranks as one of these entertaining types of stories, though I would say I am the least warm on it for minor reasons that will surely differ for other viewers.  The film features young and adult actors working well together, exhibiting great chemistry, and making the most out of their comedic and dramatic moments.  It is also a very stylish feature, calling a lot of attention to itself as a film that is very much directed.  I can only wish I got more out of it, but as it stands, The Kings of Summer is another solid picture in limited release, worth checking out as another alternative summer movie option.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – Audio Commentary For Superman: The Movie (Director’s Cut)




Look, up on the web!  It’s a Google search, it’s a YouTube vid…no, it’s a special bonus episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe.  The guys are joined by Scott Mendelson, Brandon Peters, and Jordan Grout for an audio commentary for the original superhero film, Superman: The Movie (Director’s Cut), starring Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brando, and Gene Hackman.  This Richard Donner-directed film set the bar for superhero movies that would follow and everyone is up to the task of discussing the film, its legacy, other superhero films, and more.  As always, feel free to synch up the movie with our recorded commentary or give it a listen on its own, the guys rarely stop talking, it’s their superpower.  

Important Note:  This commentary features both juvenile uses of language and jokes that may be considered un-PC.  We of course are just trying to have a fun time…

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…

Friday, June 7, 2013

‘The Internship’ Should Or Could Lead To A Full-Time Comedy



The Internship:  2 ½ out of 5

Nick:  We’re looking at some kind of mental Hunger Games against a bunch of geniuses for just a handful of jobs.

One would have thought that following the box office success of Wedding Crashers, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson would have teamed up again sooner in an effort to ride on top of that momentum.  Especially given that instead of doing a redundant sequel to a film, they have instead come up with a new premise that has some relevance to society today, even if setting the base at Google feels kind of dated, let alone an excuse to promote Google as the greatest thing their ever was.  The Internship is a new comedy from Vaughn and Wilson, but only time will tell (or at least the box office totals this upcoming weekend) whether or not audiences are still looking forward to seeing this duo play around in films together.  Of course, whether or not the film is a solid comedy will also factor in and I can at least say that I had a good time overall, despite various issues.  Maybe jumping into the premise of this movie about new beginnings will reveal more.

‘The Purge’ Left Me Feeling Empty



The Purge:  2 out of 5

James:  Tonight allows people a release…

The Purge is a good example of an interesting premise being overtaken by idiotic characters.  Here’s a thriller that has a killer setup:  all crime is legal for 12 hours a year.  Even if the film is limited in scope and budget, there are a lot of places one could take this idea and find ways to hit upon social commentary in a violent but exciting sort of way.  Unfortunately, The Purge never really delivers on being anything more than a basic home invasion thriller that is not very thrilling.  It wastes away its potential originality by having every character behave in remarkably dumb fashion and squanders the chance to play up its 1%-ers-on-a-rampage angle in a way that is anything more than just an excuse for violence.  I can enjoy a good thriller, but The Purge misses out on capitalizing on a concept of capitalists committing crime.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 106 – After Earth and Now You See Me




This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is a double episode with plenty of magic and wonder...sorta, because the films of the week are After Earth and Now You See Me.  Regardless of the movies though, this episode finds Aaron and Abe having plenty of fun with the guys from Schmoes Know, Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis, as the group really dives into some fun film chatter.  Even with the fun with the film reviews, there is still plenty of time for segments such as “Know Everybody”, “Out Now Quickies”, Movie Trailer Talk (Machete Kills and Percy Jackon: Sea of Monsters), Box Office Results, “Movie Callback”, “Out Now Feedback”, Games, and other fun stuff.  Plenty to go over in this week’s episode, there is time taken to talk about both Smiths and plenty of tricks.

So now, if you’ve got an hour to kill…
 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

‘Before Midnight’ Completes Linklater’s Wonderful Trilogy



Before Midnight: 4 ½ out of 5

Celine: I feel close to you.
Jesse: Yeah?
Celine: But sometimes, I don't know? I feel like you're breathing helium and I'm breathing oxygen.

In the midst of all of the summer blockbusters going around, I was happy to be just as thrilled by a film that involves nothing but lengthy conversations and arguments.  I am not going to be that person who tries to say that summer blockbusters are nothing compared to exquisite art house films, as I have been happy to enjoy many of the action spectacles so far this summer, but I cannot deny that Before Midnight is a wonderful film that relies on a very minimalist approach to engage the viewer for 109 minutes.  Being the natural follow-up to the previous entries in this series (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) from writer/director Richard Linklater, who co-wrote the film with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Before Midnight completes a series of films that could easily go down as one of the better film trilogies of all time, assuming we never a see a Before The Crystal Skull.  It is a film that plays out very naturally, does not necessarily rely on knowledge of the previous entries, and provides a perspective on life and relationships that feels very appropriate, regardless of how closely associated one his with this depiction of reality.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brief Thoughts: Kon Tiki

Kon-Tiki:  3 out of 5

I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can only deal with certain movies to a briefer extent than I would like sometimes.  This is why I write these occasional "brief thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them.

Kon-Tiki is a film based on a true story, which was already depicted on film in the 1950, Academy Award-winning documentary of the same name, Kon-Tiki.  This new film is a historical drama that tells the story of how adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen) set out to prove his theory that people from South America could have settled the Polynesian islands in pre-Columbian times.  He does so by finding a crew of fellow Scandinavians willing to go on a daring journey on a balsawood raft, constructed exactly as these people would have done in the past.  Once at sea, the crew face various obstacles, which includes the weather and various predators of the sea, which is made more difficult by the fact that they are only working with equipment that would have existed in the past as well, as far as sailing the seas goes.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Retro Review: The Happening

The Happening:  2 1/2 out of 5

[Having just seen the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan, I decided to revisit one of my early written reviews for a film of his that was pretty much universally disliked.  The Happening is not a film I hate.  It has a ton of problems and is laughably bad at points, but still more entertaining to watch than the other disappointing films Shyamalan has delivered in his post-Signs movie career.  So with that said, here is my original (and scrappily written) review for that movie about killer plans.]

Train Conductor: The train service has been discontinued. This will be the last stop for all passengers. Elliot Moore: Hey, what do you mean? Where are we?
Train Conductor: Filbert, Pennsylvania.
Elliot Moore: Filbert? Does anybody know where that is? Why are you giving me one useless piece of information at a time? What's going on? Hey, why would you just stop? You can't just leave us here!
Train Conductor: Sir, we lost contact.
Elliot Moore: With whom?
Train Conductor: Everyone.


This new thriller from director M. Night Shyamalan is not nearly as bad as the dreaded The Village or the incredibly lame Lady in the Water, but an interesting premise, good actors, and cinematic flare do not elevate the meandering story that doesn't really lead anywhere.  The Happening misses a lot of marks, but there are a number of moments that work in terms of terror (mostly early on) as well as in an unintentionally funny, making it far more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

There May Be Danger Before Or After ‘After Earth’



After Earth: 2 out of 5

Cypher Raige:  Do you know where we are?  This is earth.

I have been fairly vocal about two films I have been looking forward to this year from filmmakers who have been written off by almost everyone.  The first was Pain & Gain, which I found to be interesting, but director Michael Bay’s style was still a component that hurt the film overall.  Now I have seen the second film I was surprised to find myself looking forward to, After Earth, the latest feature from director M. Night Shyamalan.  I wish I could have found myself enjoying the film more, but there is a real lack of energy in this fairly somber coming-of-age/survival story about a father and son stranded on a foreign land (which happens to be Earth).  The problem is pretty simple, for a movie that talks about fear being a choice, After Earth is afraid of doing anything truly radical, settling instead for minimalist concept that disregards being anything more than functional.

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