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Monday, April 30, 2012

Some Laughs And Unevenness Throughout This ‘Five-Year Engagement’

The Five-Year Engagement:  2 ½ out of 5
Suzie:  This is supposed to be exciting.  This is your wedding.  You only get a few of these.
Chemistry can certainly make up for a film that is way too relaxed.  The Five-Year Engagement is a film that follows a pretty standard formula, despite the few tweaks and R-rated sensibilities, but ultimately never rises above average at best, given effort to shove so much into a film that runs far too long.  It is fortunate that the film has a large, funny, and mostly likable cast.  The leads, in particular, have a strong chemistry together, which makes the film work better than it could have been, were it to be handled differently.  Still, the over-reliance on various tangents and lack of a stronger core makes the film uneven overall, despite being quite funny when it shines best.  The fact that drama plays heavily into the film also reflects on the tonal issues I had, but there is still enough here that I found nice enough to ease into a very mild recommendation for an easy rental.

You’re Generally ‘Safe’ In The Hands Of Statham

Safe:  3 out of 5
Alex Rosen: You've got huge balls.
Luke Wright: Yeah, it’s amazing I can even walk.
Modern action stars are rare to come by these days.  There are plenty of past action stars who occasionally star in action movies still and there are younger actors that have done a few action movies, but a true action star is not as big a commodity these days.  One of the few still consistently putting out work is Jason Statham.  It is unfortunate that Statham’s films continue to only pick up moderate success, as he has a cool, steely charisma and knows how to deliver a whoopin’, but at least the man is fairly consistent.  Safe delivers a fairly conventional action film experience, which is made better in spurts do to the early work done to really establish the characters, before settling into crazy action mode.  It helps that Statham adds some shades to his performance here, that distinguishes his character a bit more, this time around, but mainly, Safe delivers what fans would want in their standard Statham action film.

The Incredible Hulk Smashes Through B-Movie Fun

The Incredible Hulk: 3 1/2 out of 5

[Note: Given that The Avengers comes out in the very near future, I decided to add my old review of The Incredible Hulk onto the blog, so i can easily have all of these Marvel movie reviews in one location.] 
Gen. Ross: As far as I'm concerned, that man's whole body is property of the U.S. army.
So the logic for making this movie must have been: At first you don't succeed, try try again. After the 2003, Ang Lee-directed Hulk, which I found to be visually interesting and fairly ambitious, despite the over emphasis on the father-son dynamic and spotty CG, this new vision of the Hulk actually returns the characters to a route much more similar to the comics and the old TV series.  It plays well as a fun B-Movie, chase thriller-type, which happens to be set in the Marvel universe and it works.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – Audio Commentary for The Incredible Hulk

Time for another Bonus Commentary Episode!  With The Avengers coming out in the very near future, Aaron and Abe decided to record another special bonus episode that relates to this very ambitious comic book film event.  The Incredible Hulk was the film the group all decided to do a commentary for, which leads to Aaron, Abe, and guests Jordan Grout and Jim Dietz discussing the various positives and negatives about all the Avengers ‘prequels’ in general, as well as the Ang Lee version of Hulk.  Of course, there is always plenty of random banter going on throughout are the wacky Out Now commentaries as well, so if you’re a trooper, have fun settling in and listening to this, with or without the movie playing at the same time.

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…

Saturday, April 28, 2012

‘Pirates!’ Plunder A Plethora of Phun!

The Pirates! A Band of Misfits:  3 ½ out of 5
Pirate Captain: Behind every captain, there's a crew. Sure, some of you are as ugly as a sea cucumber, some of you are closer to being a chair or coat rack than a pirate, and some of you are fish I've just dressed up in a hat...
I will just start by not apologizing for my title, as I will easily sacrifice spelling for the sake of alliteration.  With that out of the way, I think it is wonderful to see a new stop-animation motion picture from Aardman Animations.  Being one who is a big fan of Wallace & Gromit, I was thrilled to be going back into a world of very specific character designs and some dry British humor.  Pirates!’ did manage to deliver quite a bit in that regard, even if it was a bit different from what I was expecting.  Regardless, with plenty of jokes that range from subtle to off-kilter and an inherent level of sweetness that is always seen in Aardman Animations, The Pirates! A Band of Misfits is a fun take on a swashbuckling story and it has a great look to it.

I’ve Seenith ‘The Raven’, Nevermore

The Raven:  2 out of 5
Det. Fields:  Are there any other stories in the collection?
Edgar Allan Poe:  Many.
Det. Fields:  Specifically about murder?
Edgar Allan Poe:  I’m afraid so.
Here is an example of a film that I wish was sillier.  As it stands, The Raven is a slickly made thriller about a serial killer who goes to implausibly complex extents to recreate scenes from the more gruesome works of Edgar Allan Poe, but it suffers due to it not being much fun to watch.  The film could have gone two ways to help itself out.  The Raven could have gone a very serious route and played out like a 19th century Se7en.  Or, the film could have added a layer of camp or more dark humor and turned out to be something like Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow.  Unfortunately, The Raven falls somewhere in the middle; with John Cusack being the only thing to help it along, aside from some neat production aspects.  The story never becomes more than bland; the other characters are equally uninteresting, and the results are fairly lackluster.  What starts out as a neat idea is ultimately unfulfilling.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bravely Accept The ‘Sound Of My Voice’

Sound of My Voice:  4 out of 5
Peter:  Somewhere in the valley, there is a woman living in a basement.  She’s amassing followers; people believing that she will lead them to salvation or whatever.
Last year I gave lots of praise to the quietly chilling Martha Marcy May Marlene and the sci-fi, existential drama Another EarthSound of My Voice functions like a film that has the sensibilities of both and will fit in well for those who at least found intrigue in either of the aforementioned films.  The film is an example of low budget filmmaking succeeding in presenting a story that contains science fiction elements without the use of any special effects and getting the best out of limited production values and a small group of talented actors.  The story is certainly one that can draw the viewer in as well.  Despite wishing for a little more and finding the ending fairly abrupt, I can still say that I took away a lot of appreciation for what came from this interesting and somewhat challenging film.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – 2012 Summer Movie Preview

This exhausting bonus episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe was recorded early and due to the fact that no real new releases of interest were opening on the Friday of April 20, 2012 (Basically, Aaron went to Coachella and the duo had few options from there).  So, with just a few ideas, the decision was to get on a group of the regulars (guests Alan Aguilera, Adam Gentry, and Jordan Grout) and go over all of the summer movies of 2012 week by week, determining which films are the ones being anticipated most, along with some that are not so much being looked forward to.  It’s a ramble and follows the bonus episode protocol of being non-traditional, but enjoy some of the banter nonetheless.

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

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Find Out If You’re ‘The Lucky One’

The Lucky One:  3 out of 5
Beth: Why did you come here?
Logan: To find you.
Vanilla can be an underrated flavor.  The Lucky One is a film that does everything as one would expect it to do and has little shading to really differentiate it from what one expects a romantic drama to be.  It has several impossibly nice characters, one jerk, and plenty of adorable animals living in a beautiful setting, going through the motions of a story that will definitely end in one specific way.  With that said, I have nothing really against any of this.  It is fine for the audiences that this film is meant for (fans of romantic dramas and devotees to Nicholas Sparks books) and does not have anything clunky or poorly handled enough to really make me have any sort of ill will towards the film.  Overall, it may play like a plain, vanilla-type film, but it’s fine.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 53 Cabin in the Woods and Lockout

The best thing about this lengthy episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is the high amount of energy that Abe, Aaron, and special guest Scott Mendelson have in delving into all the various films that they mention and in particular the two films subject to review for this week.  The trio get into Lockout (Space Jail), move onto spoiler-free talk about Cabin in the Woods, and spend a whole extra chunk of time at the end of the episode diving into spoiler-heavy talk about Cabin in the Woods (alerts are given).  The regular segments are here as well, including “Know Everybody”, Trailer Talk (Looper and Chernobyl Diaries), Movie Call Back, Box Office Talk, and more.  The gang also lays out a New Contest in the spoiler section of the film, so stay tuned for that.  It’s another packed episode and certainly fitting for those that saw Cabin in the Woods and want to hear an in-depth discussion on it.

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

Saturday, April 14, 2012

‘Lockout’: Escape From Space Jail

Lockout: 3 out of 5
Snow:  Don’t’ get me wrong, I mean it’s a dream vacation.  I go inside the maximum security nuthouse, get past all the psychos, save the President’s daughter, if she’s not dead already…I’m thrilled you would think of me.
So I have wrongly been associating this movie with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.  There is a certain attitude and story structure that definitely evokes this classic 80s sci-fi/action combo, but really, Lockout (or Space Jail, as I’ve been calling it) is much more in line with 90s Bruce Willis action movies.  It has such a care free, “screw it” sort of attitude that making fun of the movie will get you nowhere, because it is very much in on the joke already.  Space Jail cares very little about establishing realistic logic and is more concerned with having plenty of fun, as Guy Pearce spits out one-liners, while aboard a prison that is located in space.  It is a simple gimmick, hovering over a familiar action flick plot, but the energy in its delivery kept a smile on my face.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

‘Cabin In The Woods’ Teaches An Old Dog New Tricks (Spoiler Free Review)

The Cabin In The Woods:  4 ½ out of 5
Curt:  The wind must’ve blown it open.
As soon as the marketing for The Cabin in the Woods finally started to kick into gear for this long-delayed release (MGM went bankrupt and the flick was left in limbo), I went on media blackout for it.  Having heard for so long that the movie is quite good and clever (which it is), but also works much better if one goes in completely fresh, I avoided all trailers (not an easy task) and saw the movie with no knowledge of what it was, beyond some of the cast and crew that was involved and understanding that it takes place in the woods, within a cabin.  Now I am tasked with describing why this film is worth your time, while also needing to hold back from revealing any of the surprises.  And that is what I intend to do, so from this point on, while The Cabin in the Woods is certainly a great ride to jump on, I will refrain from any true spoilers.

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 52 – The Raid: Redemption and American Reunion

He made the mistake of bringing a pie to a gun fight.  This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe features Aaron, Abe, and special guest Alan Aguilera piling tons of love hits on The Raid: Redemption.  There is also talk about American Reunion, which was initially going to be some sparse thoughts, but turned into a full review.  They also discuss trailers (Ted and Savages), along with box office results, other recommended films to check out, and get into regular segments like “Know Everybody”, while having lots of fun and games as well.  A somewhat shorter show, but it is still packed with movie talking goodness.

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

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Bonus Episode – The Kid with a Bike, Bully, and More!

This special bonus episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is missing an Abe, but does have an Aaron, and he is joined by Adam Gentry and Mark Hobin to discuss a couple of the recent Art House, Foreign, and Independent films that have been in theaters.  A few different films are discussed, but special emphasis is placed on The Kid with a Bike, Bully, and A Separation.  This is much more a free form show, as the trio simply discusses several films and forgoes having all of the regular show segments.  That said, there is certainly plenty of content to check out.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Gang Returns For An ‘American Reunion’

American Reunion:  3 ½ out of 5
Jim’s Dad:  It seems like only just yesterday when bought all these for you…boy these pages are all stuck together here…
These American Pie films have never been shy about wearing their hearts on their sleeves and their hard-ons in plain sight.  I can admit that I was joining in on the joke of regarding this sequel as an easy way for all of the original actors who have mostly gone nowhere (not entirely true) to cash in on their biggest success; however, I have also enjoyed the previous entries in this series (not counting the direct-to-video spin-offs).  While feeling a bit overdue and being more of a film designed to remind the fans of the series how sweet and funny the guys in this film can be, opposed to making way for new fans, it still is a film that does manage to be successfully sweet and funny for the most part.  It’s also still plenty raunchy as well (though little room is left for pie).

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The King of the Format Dives Back Into The Deep End: ‘Titanic 3D’ Thoughts

Thomas Andrews:  I’m sorry that I didn’t build you a stronger ship, young Rose.
Few filmmakers have been able to take a huge chunk of money, spend it on an epic adventure in filmmaking, riding through waves of bad publicity and production troubles, only to create a huge blockbuster success as a result.  James Cameron has done it twice.  Recently, he managed to shatter the record for biggest film of all time with Avatar, but the record shattered was that of his own previous film, TitanicTitanic is a film that by all accounts should not have worked.  A romantic/disaster drama with a huge budget, where everyone already knows the ending, and has no chance of being made into a franchise is not exactly the kind of film studios would want to get their hands on, but Cameron was able to do the impossible and have it succeed.  Now the film has been re-released into theaters with a new 3D conversion, heavily supervised by Cameron, providing audiences with another chance to view the film on a big screen.  My friend and fellow film critic Scott Mendelson has done a job of capturing all of my thoughts regarding Titanic’s legacy HERE, but having now seen this new release, I can still provide some of my own thoughts the conversion and the film, as it stands today.

‘Comic-Con’ Gets Its Own Lighthearted Documentary

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope: 3 out of 5

I believe San Diego Comic-Con has gained enough relevance in the cultural zeitgeist where people are at least aware of its existence, regardless if they truly know what it is or what it used to be.  In the documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope, Morgan Spurlock attempts to pull back the curtain on what Comic-Con used to be about, what it is about now, and what it means to the various people that attend.  At least one of these themes is best explored, but at least it is the area of the film that provides the most stakes cinematically.  As a whole and as a person who has been attending Comic-Con, I think this documentary skirts past some of the more interesting and important aspects of the convention; however, I think the overall tone of the doc is lighthearted enough to certainly make it enjoyable overall.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Out Now with Aaron and Abe: Episode 51 – Wrath of the Titans

This week’s episode of Out Now with Aaron and Abe is another packed affair.  The main review of the week is Wrath of the Titans and Aaron and Abe are joined by Laremy Legal to better discuss the epic-ish Greek action sequel.  We also have the other segments. First up, there are plenty of announcements, including the winners of the contest, which was setup last week.  The winner even provided us a question that is answered on the show.  We then have “Know Everybody”, trailer talk (Total Recall and The Raven), box office results, “Instead or Because of”, games, and plenty of other fun.  Lots to get done, but at least we recorded while riding on a winged Pegasus.

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

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

‘Bully’ Hits The Message Hard

Bully:  3 out of 5
Alex: I feel like I belong somewhere else.
There is a certain power in seeing parents and children alike present inexcusable situations to what is supposed to be a collection of people responsible for not only teaching, but leading and protecting a student body, and have them do little to stop it.  In Bully, there are a number of scenes that reflect poorly on the actions that are not being taken to stop abhorrent behavior and the audience will react accordingly.  This is a documentary that chronicles a few students from schools in a few different states, as they deal with being bullied, which is an interesting idea for a film topic.  I do think that a proper message is established by the end of this film, which is commendable, but that said, I also think this film has issues of redundancy and focuses to closely in some areas, while staying away from others that would seem to be just as important.  Still, regardless of Bully amounting to being fairly average, and despite its needless controversy, the film presents an important topic, which has enough to make it worthy of a wide audience.

Monday, April 2, 2012

‘The Kid With A Bike’ Rides Through An Emotional Journey

The Kid With A Bike:  4 out of 5

Cyril: Dad! I’m here.

Given that the month of March was packed with an unusual amount of high budget, blockbuster films, I figured I would balance things out with a couple of independent/arthouse features as well.  One of these was The Kid with a Bike, a Belgian film from the Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc).  This film follows a young boy dealing with being abandoned by his father and attempting to forge new relationships with other potential role models and caretakers.  The film is very naturalistic, a key type of style when it comes to the Dardenne’s work, as it plays out as more character-driven, as opposed to story-driven and plays around a lot with ambiguity, despite straddling a somewhat familiar path.  With that in mind, the film is very good, well-acted, and filled with moments that evoke emotion as well as thoughts based around developing more of an understanding for one’s self, rather than letting the film tell you what to think.


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