Run to Redbox for This Film… Barely

I’m a huge Kristen Bell fan ever since I got sucked into the Veronica Mars series about two years ago.  The feisty blonde knows how to play a variety of roles and characters that I’ve fallen in love with, not only for beauty but also for charisma and spunk.  However, when I saw her latest movie entitled, Hit and Run, I was a little shocked that she not only agreed to act in this movie, but produce it as well.  A film titled after a common vehicle crime does not sound like a hit to me, and from the trailers I wasn’t really excited about this film.  Regardless this reviewer still braved the uncertainty of the trailers and dove into the movie hoping for a surprise.  Did I get it?  Read on to find out.

Hit and Run is essentially about a man named Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) who testified against his fellow bank robbers after a complication with one of their jobs.  Being a snitch lands Charlie in the witness protection program under the eye of accident prone/foul mouthed Randy (Tom Arnold) and into the loving arms of Annie (Kristen Bell).  Charlie’s past catches up with him though when his old buddy and partner in crime (Bradley Cooper) returns with a four year vendetta and a hungering for some ill gotten money.

Despite this clichéd storyline, I was hoping for a lot of laughs and some good chase scenes that the trailers showed glimpses of.  Unfortunately neither of my wishes came true.  Instead of comedy I could relate to, I was subjected to a variety of vulgar jokes, and cursing rants that was probably 75% of the reason for the R rating it got.  Most of the comedy in this film was on racial slurs, insulting stereotypes, and trying to find clever uses of saying rather offensive words.  If you’re a fan of hearing Cooper and Shepard screaming the f word and insulting practically every race, then this movie is right up your alley.  However, there was a ray of sunshine amongst the dreary proverbial slang and that was Arnold’s character.  The former Roseanne star wasn’t afraid to drop F bombs in front of little kids, and unlike the trailers, this movie didn’t leave out a single word.   What entertained me instead was the situational comedy that Randy ran into throughout the movie.  From his first appearance, Randy seems to have car and gun trouble and although the first accident is a little over exaggerated, I still laughed.  As the movie continues, the accidents continue to get wackier and are usually well timed to provide some comedic relief from the boring pace of the movie.  Albeit this wasn’t Arnold’s greatest acting role, his character was about the only thing good in this movie.

The second desire of a good chase scene was also dashed in this film.  Sure there were some cool swerves through traffic, some impressive drifting, and a pinch of close calls, but for the most part the chases were rather boring.  Most of these chases lacked the adrenaline pumping action that I’ve become accustomed to, and even with the metal and rock music playing I just couldn’t get into the scene.  I think the only that impressed me were some of the beautiful cars involved, as both classic and modern attempted to wow the audience.  Despite the beauty, the team failed to really impress the audience and me and actually made a few people leave.

Is there anything else worth reporting on this movie?  One thing is that Kristen Bell still does a good job playing her role, though it’s a little more serious and less entertaining.  Her character is more of a tool that drives Charlie’s actions and also raises some “ethical” dilemmas that are attempting to get the audience think.  Annie and Charlie’s relationship is also a sweet, though rather bland attempt at putting some romance in this movie.  If you don’t care about that kind of stuff, then guys who have a crush on her will like her beauty in the various tough girl t-shirts and tank tops.  Female audience members will also get their money’s worth seeing Shepard in his tight shirts, though his acting is a little bland and emotionally challenged from his earlier roles.  Aside from this cast though, there is a nice scene of Cooper standing up for a dog that animal lovers will like, but you can just YouTube that scene later and save yourself some money.  The camera work and editing for this film are decent as well, but there were still a lot of things they could have cut from this movie, which would have made it shorter, but it was already short enough to be considered for theaters.

Hit and Run is essentially a filler for chase scene junkies as they wait for the next Fast and Furious movie.  For this reviewer though, there is not enough sustenance though to make me recommend seeing this film in theaters as it really fails to deliver.   Yes there are some funny moments here and there, and Kristen Bell is still quite a delight, but you can watch one of her old movies and be just as satisfied.  The scores for this movie are below:

Action/Comedy/Romance:  6.0-6.5

Movie Overall:  4.5-5.0


Paranormal Fun, Less Dark Horror

I love claymation movies and the animated stories they are famous for telling.   The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and the Corpse Bride are classic examples of the movies that keep us entertained, make us laugh, and if done right can add some wicked twists to maximize the story.  So when I saw Paranorman coming out this weekend, naturally I got excited again and my hope of clay mation redeeming itself after Pirates was sprung anew.  What did I think about it?  Please read on to find out.

Paranorman comes from the same studio that brought you Coraline, and follows the horror path much like its older sister.  The plot, for those coming into the news late, is about Norman, a boy who has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead.  His unique gifts though are not accepted by his family and peers, which results in him getting ridiculed and pushed around.  However, Norman’s unique gifts will come in handy when the departed witch of the town decides to return and with it raise the dead to attack the town.  What nightmarish fun is to be had with the colorful cast?

This movie is definitely not as dark as Coraline.  Instead, the staff decided to swap the warped, creepy dimensions of the spider queen’s world for a more country town classic that is kid friendly.  Although some of the residents are not alive, they still look funny and friendly to make both young and young at heart chuckling at the crafty design.  In fact until the witch begins to wake, the only scary thing in this movie is the subject of death, which for a kid’s movie is surprisingly covered thoroughly.  Despite this, most younger audience members didn’t seem bothered as the team added some comedic moments to mask the sad topic.  Even when the trouble starts the scare factor of the movie is still relatively low as most of the scenes are still more funny than terrifying; the exception of course being a few screams, roars, and other sudden noises that can make you jump.

Those looking for some cute family fun will be entertained by this film.  For one thing all of the characters in this movie are funny in some form or manner.  The dad has cranky one liners, the mom sort of an airheaded caring that is humorous, the jock being dumb, the bully oblivious, etc.  This diversity helped me continue to laugh at the movie as well as latch on to a few of the characters to pull for them.  My two favorites for this movie are of course Norman and Neil.  Norman is not as funny as the other characters, but his good heart, courage, and other qualities are very relatable to me.  With this connection, Norman’s adventure and journey were more exciting to watch, perhaps even a little inspiring for me.  Neil on the other hand has that ridiculous child humor that I love.  Whether it’s being a klutz, mispronunciation of countless words, or just spouting out dumb child sayings, I was laughing the whole way through as I visualized a clay Chunks from the Goonies.

The other strength of this movie is the animation.  Again I’m a sucker for the hard work that Claymation is, and once again I was impressed.  Norman and the gang move smoothly through their environment from simple walking and talking, to running and escaping zombie attacks.  It surprised me how much detail they took to the animation, even making the sister’s hips sway as she moved.  This fantastic animation also matched the voice work from the cast, which may be no problem for computer animation, but is sure to be more of a challenge for clay animation. Even the ghosts floating motions were well done, the gestures and facial expressions mirroring the attitudes of the ghosts in the movie.  As for zombie moves, well again the team did their homework and got the slow, dragged, labored movements down pat as well.   The editing of the movie also helped keep the movie fun, organized, and smooth in both story and movement as Norman continued to journey through the dead.

Despite all the fun I had with this film though and the amazing animation, there are still a few things that were a little weakening.  For one the story is fun and moving, but for the most predictable and clichéd.  I admit there were a few surprises in the film, one very big twist I didn’t see coming, but other than that you see most things coming.  The lack of darkness also was a little disappointing as well, and could have helped keep things diverse and suspenseful for me.  There are some other weaknesses in this film like lack of adult humor, a few dragged out speeches and chases, and a few stale jokes, but these are minor mistakes that barely affect the grade.

Paranorman may not be the most fun film of the summer, but it does its job well.  Most kids and their parents will enjoy the cuteness of the movie, maybe even to the point of immediately quoting the characters in the movie.  The diverse characters are quite welcoming and the story is a nice fun adventure most people will love.  I warn you once more, in case you haven’t gotten the message, that Coraline’s darkness is barely present in the film, so skip this film if you must have that darkness.  Regardless Paranorman is good in both 3-D and regular, though if you have the option to see it regular I would go for that.  My scores for this film are down below:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0-7.5

Get Your Action On Again!


  It seems not long ago that testosterone the movie, I mean Guy Flick, I mean the Expendables came out.  This action packed, adrenaline pumping, gun shooting, etc. adventure was the most popular movie among guys.  Yes, all of the greatest action stars came together to make that movie, though Sylvester Stallone hogged most of the screen time and did most of the work.  So when I saw the sequel’s trailer months ago I was a little excited, though worried that this movie would be mainly another glorification to the aging actor.  Were my fears and concerns justified or did the movie actually do what it was supposed to do this time.  Read on to find out.

Let’s face it, with this many action stars there is going to be very little story in this movie.  The motif for all the killing in this film is essentially revenge and nothing more, so those looking for one should stay home.  To my surprise however, the film did add a little more background to the team in this film (though not much) to give them additional features to help them stand out.  Most people who go see this movie though probably don’t care about character development so long as they get the action they are promised.  Well my friends, Expendables 2 has plenty of action throughout the movie that will make guys pump their fists in victory, well in parts that is.  Though I haven’t seen the first film in a while, I believe this sequel has more breaks in the action than its predecessor.  After an amazing opening fight, where the team has the accuracy FPS gamers can only dream of, the team shifts gears into a nice hike/plane ride.  Although a few skirmishes happen here and there, the action doesn’t pick back up until the end in an explosive shower of guns.  Despite the slow pace and attempt at story, the first and last battles have more than enough action to keep you stoked for a couple of weeks.  You may wonder if the action or violence has been cut down because of the PG-13 rating.  Relax my friends; you have nothing to worry about as there are plenty of exploding heads, blood, and awesome take downs in this movie.  The only thing the PG-13 movie took away was the overuse of the F word, nudity, and a lack of corny sexual innuendos that we’ve been hit over the head with this summer, which is such a shame (sarcasm).

With the action living up to par, the next thing to address is the balance of stars in this movie.  Unfortunately despite the two years they have had to improve, the movie still focuses on Stallone’s character as he again has most of the screen time.  The first battle had all the squad members doing something cool to complete the mission and show off their impressive skills.  Past that though, the directors decided to scrap two of the characters and replace them with Stallone’s mug just frowning.  Fans of Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth will need to soak up their parts at the beginning, because they soon leave the movie to make room for the newbies of the film.  Jason Statham fans, however, will be thrilled to see English star continue to kick butt.  The rest of the rag tag crew have some decent scenes, a lot better than the first one, but they still don’t hold a candle to Stallone’s face time.  I even began to fear that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, and Chuck Norris were going to get the shaft.  Luckily the ending battle prevents the audience from getting cheated out of its money, well mostly that is.  As for Jean-Claude Van Damme , he is really only good for a couple of spin kicks and some unemotional acting, which is a shame.

What else can I say about this film?  One enjoyable thing to mention is the numerous references to the stars’ other movies.  The Expendables’ banter loves to use well timed, often over exaggerated, quotes from films like Terminator, Die Hard, or Rambo. Yes I did laugh at these lines, but some of them had me rolling my eyes after the third for fourth time.   If you pay attention you may find other references to movies in this film, one of which should remind you of Raiders of the Lost Ark.     The dialogue is also full of puns that may have you chuckling if you are in the mood, especially the heads up line.   Another aspect I’m proud to announce is that for an action movie the camera work is rather stable.  What does this mean to an action lover?  It means you get all the messy details the action team wanted you to see.  That’s right it means instead of getting camera work that looks like it was filmed during an earthquake, Expendables 2’s camera men managed to find ways to keep the camera stable and smooth.  Combined with some good editing and some close ups of our heroes, the film crew achieved their goal of adventure, though I wonder if they asked Michael Bay for some their explosive.

Overall Expendables 2 is a decent sequel, but the team still has work to do for the third movie that is probably on its way.  In particular I would like to see more of the other action stars than Stallone; otherwise they should just name the movie Rambo 5 and call it a day.  Is it worth a trip to the movies?  This action lover says yes as the surround sound, big screen experience makes the adventure come to life even more.  However, if you would rather skip this flick because of what it lacks, rent it on Netflix at least.  The scores for this film are the following:

Action/Adventure:  8.0-8.5

Movie Overall:  7.0

More Gleam Than Sparkle


  I’m seeing ghosts!  At least I thought I was when I saw that Whitney Houston was starring in a movie.  However, I haven’t received the gift to see dead people, nor have I gone crazy.  Instead I went to see the latest musical drama entitled Sparkle, a movie about an African American girl of the same name.  Sparkle (Jordin Sparks) has a dream to make it big as a musician, but her stage fright and lack of confidence leaves her hiding in the shadows while her sister Sister(Carmen Ejogo) lights up the stage.  To her luck, a young upcoming agent named Stix (Derek Luke) pursues Sparkle and her sisters and attempts to help make them stars in Motown.  However, Sparkle’s life has some complications that will test her character and squash her dreams, especially from her mother (Houston).  Will she succeed?

Does it sound interesting to you?  It didn’t to me, but I went to this film hoping to be surprised or impressed by something.  As usual, we’ll start with the things that did impress me in this film and the first thing I’ll mention is the setting.  Tristar pictures did a nice job bringing the late 60’s Motown world to life with all of its funky soul and gospel power.  The club scene at the beginning is a just the start of the impressive scenery work of the group and helps bring the audience into the world a little bit.  Throw in some well designed outfits and classic mannerisms to help spice up things and you get an impressive artificial MoTown.  Speaking of outfits, the wardrobe department applied their skills well as each of the three sisters wore their own style in both clothes and hair styles.  Various jokes and cultural reference spanned off of the outfits (most of which was clever and cute), and from how the older audience members were reacting seemed to take them back to the good times.

If setting and outfits aren’t your cup of tea, then the next strength would probably be the music of this movie.  I’ll warn you now that this movie is all about the soul, jazz, and blues music and those who would rather stick carrots in their ears than listen to this music should avoid it.  From the start Cee-Lo Green gets the score pumping with an upbeat, and surprisingly clean, jazz song that will get you rocking in your seat.  After that the music goes into a variety of emotion filled blue tunes, a couple of upbeat hits, and of course one or two gospel like melodies that may you have clapping in awe.  While I’m not the biggest fans of these styles, I have to admit that these girls can sing.  Sparks in particular puts her chords to the test as she hits high pitched notes that drag on for half a minute.  Her powerful voice and spirit in her numbers captures the emotion of the tune, somehow bringing her thoughts and passion to life.  Ejogo has some pipes as well, but her numbers are more of a storytelling/entertaining bit that made some of the audience members howl in delight at her gorgeous body.  As you can guess Houston does well too, but she has only one song on the list that has some power to it, but plays little purpose other than showing off talent.  One last thing to mention is that the songs were selected to coincide with the attitude of the movie at that point.  Happy moments had the girls singing upbeat numbers, while sadder parts of the story had blues and soul music to help mirror the dismay and redemption.  It’s artistic, sappy, and cliché, but it’s something I have to give props to for helping drive the movie along.

Now let me discuss the weaknesses of the film.  For one thing this drama surprisingly has little character and story development for such a cast.  Sure there is the main plot story of Sparkle wanting to become a star, but aside from that the shallow subplots, love interests, and backstory are cheated out.  From the trailers you might know that the girls’ mother failed in the music industry, but Houston’s character never really told us the details of what happened.  Another sister had career desires, but they just skimmed over that and showed very little struggle or challenge to her goals.  There is one positive to this shallow story/character design and that is less time dwelling on a rather stale drama.  Skipping on these details again denies the audience story for their money, it helps get them to the musical songs (and consequentially the ending) faster.  Unfortunately this fast pace fails as one gets closer to the end, where they then decided to drag out the painfully slow details.  While you finally get a few happy ties to the story, by that point I just didn’t care from the spiraling downfall the story was, and just wanted to be out of the theater.  However, those who love good closure on their drama will enjoy the last thirty minutes of the movie, especially if you are a Jordan Sparks fan.  Other than that there is a little overacting, a lot depressing problems that may bring you down,  and a few editing issues that need to be wrapped up.

Sparkle definitely isn’t as shiny as the trailers made it, but it’s not the worse movie I’ve seen this summer.  Fans of the culture and music of the 60’s will probably enjoy this movie more than anyone else, especially fans of Sparks’ powerful voice.  However, the pace of this movie, lack of real character development, and irregular pace makes this movie a Netflix at best so that you can turn it off if you don’t like it and save yourself the time.  My scores for this movie are the following:

Drama: 6.0

Movie Overall: 5.0-5.5

Oddly Realistic, But Still Predictable Disney

It’s new, it’s Disney, and it’s… odd?  Yes, you’ve guessed it my friends, my latest review is on the latest kid movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green starring Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton and CJ Adams.  Now if you’re just tuning into the end of summer movies, you may not know what the plot of this film is about.  In a nutshell, it’s about Cindy (Garner) and Jim (Edgerton) Green, a small town couple who are unable to have children.  After exhausting all their options, they dream up their ideal child and bury their ideas in the dirt as a sign of moving on.  However, fate has other plans for them as the couple are soon blessed with a young boy who shows up in their house.  This is no ordinary boy mind you, but instead one who has many interesting secrets that will change the couple’s world forever.

I know it sounds strange doesn’t it, but if you’re like me you got hooked on the well edited trailer, which I thought had given everything away.  Luckily Disney had a few tricks up their sleeves and managed to throw in a few things I wasn’t expecting.  That is always a nice surprise.  Although I mainly got hooked in by the Kelly Clarkson song, I was also excited to see Garner and Edgerton team up and play this couple.  Both characters I felt were great picks for their parts as the awkward parents who wanted to do everything right in their new experience, but made some blunders.  Garner in particular played the overprotective mother well and seemed to almost be using her personal experiences to guide her characterAs for Edgerton, again he plays his character well as the father who wants to avoid making the same mistakes his dad made.  His character, like in Warrior, has plenty of locked up emotions and family issues to keep the dram interesting.  And once again he manages to have well timed lines that help either drive home the message, or make you laugh at some clever humor.  Yet the character who made the film the most fun for me, was guess who?  That’s right Timothy Green!  Adams had the perfect image for the shy, kind, and friendly boy who doesn’t have to say much to be entertaining.  Despite the lack of dialog, Adams managed to move, smile, and say just enough to entertain the audience and bring out the appropriate emotions.  CJ had a natural cuteness that will make the girls go wild, and his childlike innocence make his shyness more realistic, relatable, and magical to help the movie continue to come alive.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is not just about acting though, as there are plenty of other qualities that make this movie worth a try.  The biggest reason would be the valuable morals and lessons the movie presents to the audience.  Once again Disney finds a way to stand on the soap box and share their feelings on certain topics; however in this movie the presentation is fantasticInstead of filling the movie with overacted speeches, brazen monologues, or plotless romantic kissing, the direction team decided to bring real life issues to the table.  Throughout the entire movie, the trio faces dilemmas and problems that are relatable to the audience in some way.  While you may have seen relatable problems in past movies, this movie does things a little differently by presenting both good and bad sides to the problem and the ways to face your problems.  Even more impressive is that not all these problems end happily.  Yes it’s always nice to see a happy ending, but the randomness of this film helps keep things fresh, entertaining, and realistic. Thus as a warning to those who are prone to crying, bring a box of tissues as I got a little misty eyed near the end.    The thing that struck home the most for this reviewer thought was the message about being odd.  I can’t lie I’m strange, and can sometimes be a little weird in the eyes of my friends.  This movie though accepts weirdness though, and emphasizes that slight differences are not something to put down.  Instead these differences are to be appreciated, assuming they don’t involve any destructive behavior towards others, and can help people see the world in a different way.  So for all those who are different and scorned, take a look at this movie and hopefully get the same message I did from it.

Now let us hit some negatives on this movie that subtract from its score.  For one thing there is some really hard hitting moments that can leave you feeling depressed, sad, or angry in this film.  As a result emotional time bombs might want to attend this movie with friends or alone depending on your style.  This film is also somewhat predictable and one can start to pick up on things, especially the ending, from the first deed Timothy does.  Although the movie is funny in places, don’t expect a comedy full of one liners and slapstick moments.  Yes there are a few awkward conversations and movements that bring up a laugh, but that’s about it as this movie takes more of the spiritual drama side.  Other than that there really isn’t that much excitement, or suspenseful drama that seems to be the trend these days, which makes this movie a little bland.  While I can live without the teenage paranormal drama, some audiences may just be bored with this movie and miss the messages it presents.

Odd Life is a good, cute, fun movie, but it’s not great.  The acting is good, the messages are solid, and the emotion is there.  However, the blandness and predictability may leave you wanting more for the price of the ticket.  Nevertheless this movie is more Netflix than theater worthy and I only encourage audience members with families, desires to see realistic dramas, or those wanting a good lesson on oddness to head to the theaters.  My scores for the movie are below:

Comedy/Drama/Fantasy:  7.5-8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

Diverse Comedy, Same Old Ferrell and Zach G.

 If action isn’t your cup of tea, then chances are you chose the comedy film that came out this weekend entitled The Campaign.  In case you haven’t heard about this film, it’s essentially two unlikely candidates Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) and Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) running for the North Carolina Delicate position.  With the ballads cast, the two Carolinians decide to go at each other’s throats until only one man is left standing.  Who will be the winner?  Is there any other plot to this already pathetic plot?  Should you care to see it in theaters?  Read on to find out.

So if you think the plot sounds familiar, you’d be right as this is essentially what every election is about in this modern age.  Warner Bros. decided to make fun of current day political campaigns by adding the two, for lack of a better word, eccentric actors to poke, prod, and utterly slap politicians in the face.  Ferrell in particular seemed to have been chosen for mirroring the corrupt, egotistical, self-involved side of the politicians, as he had his eyes on one thing winning.  To no surprise, he did a nice job playing the jackass once more, capturing every detail to the letter as if it were his natural self.  Fans of the former SNL star’s overacting will once again be laughing their heads in every scene with Ferrell as he talks like Ricky Bobby, gives his wide eye stare like Elf, and makes some pretty perverted jokes that cross the lines.  I’ll admit now I didn’t find him that funny, but that’s because his material has grown stale on me for some time now and I just don’t care for him.   Regardless, Ferrell will keep his devoted fans pleased with his naïve stupid character and his irrational, though sometimes funny, political strikes.

Instead the candidate I found to be more humorous was Galifianakis.  The Hangover star still has a natural tendency to make people laugh and this film is no different.  His character mimics the eager politician who goes in for the right reasons, but succumbs to the “outside” factors that supposedly have no influence on politics.  Regardless Zach’s ability to play awkward characters really shines in this movie, as Mr. Huggins is indeed awkward.  The innocence of Marty is childlike and seeing him approach more adult situations put him in some interesting situations that were rather funny to watch.  His reactions to his campaign manager’s constant demands involve many goofy faces, random catch phrases, and some well delivered cursing that had me in stitches.  What might be even more satisfying is the rivalry between Ferrell and Galifianakis has a lot of dreamed up antics come true.  I won’t reveal who gets the better of whom, but if you have distaste for any one of these actors, well you’ll see them take a few hits now and then.  Even Marty’s family opens up some ground for laughs, but it’s really only one scene that kind of does a rapid introduction to Marty.

However there is a shock factor to this movie that I did not see coming.  I’ll warn you now that a lot of scenes were edited in the trailer that was not as audience friendly in the theater.  Many simple insults and teenager terminology was replaced with more vulgar comments, some of which were not needed.  A few of the acts of violence were also more extreme in the actual movie and while they were funny at times, there were times where this kind of humor overstepped some boundaries.  There were even some intense romance scenes were also a little awkward to see as well, especially a rather dirty message to an unsuspecting family, which is funny on the situation, but not on the words.  Those with high boundaries though, will probably be unfazed on a lot of these things though, especially if you like movies like “The Change Up and Horrible Bosses. 

What else can I say about The Campaign?  Well surprisingly for a comedy, there were some good messages built into the movie.  Although the team was mainly humiliating many politicians, they also managed to open a lot of people’s eyes to the deals made in the background.  Seeing this corruption fuel the race may make one a little angry, but do not worry because in a comedy there are lots of good things that come from introducing this corruption.  The production team also did a nice job on portraying the two character’s families and how they can be a hindrance or a blessing depending on the character’s morals.  Again there are more laughs to be had, but it’s nice to see a comedy where the characters have some other character trait than extreme horniness.  Who knows, maybe the politicians who come and see this film will actually see the light and do something with their jobs.  Morals aside though, this comedy did a decent job integrating some media tools to help increase their joke variety.  I may have laughed more at some of the media jargon and lingo than I did at either character, but that’s just me.

Despite my initial doubts and judgments, the Campaign wasn’t that bad.  While Ferrell didn’t impress me, Galifianakis managed to get me laughing a lot.  Throw in the insults to the American politicians, the exaggerated stunts, intense rivalry, and characters with morals and you get a decent comedy.  Is it comedy of the year like people are saying?  Not really, and I think this movie is best saved for a rainy day and Netflix.  Again be warned that some of the scenes have been severely altered from the trailer, so if you are planning on taking your younger kids take that into consideration.  My scores for this movie are the following

Comedy: 7.0-7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0-6.5


The Cross Identity! The New Agent For The New Trilogy

Another weekend ,another movie and this time I’m reviewing none other than the latest additions to the Bourne series, the Bourne Legacy.  Now while I am a fan of the original trilogy, I had my doubts that a fourth installment would be able to fit in with its predecessors.  However, the action I’ve seen in the trailers for the last few months held some promise that the same adrenaline rushing scenes would be in this movie.  So is this Matt Damon lacking sequel worth the hype, or should the series have stayed concluded as was promised years ago?  I hope to answer that question below.

I guess the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Bourne series is Matt Damon as Jason Bourne.  Well aside from a few photo ideas, and a brief shot of his gun, there is little to do with the agent who caused so much chaos.  Although his actions are the cause for the plot of this movie, the movie instead focuses on Aaron  Cross  (Jeremy Renner) an agent who has been deemed one of the best agents in his project.   Although he has been complacent in his training and missions, the head of the department and new villain Eric Byer (Edward Norton) has decided to clean up their mistakes by eliminating the other Bourne agents.  Cross however, manages to elude his captors and soon becomes the prey of the organization alongside one of his creators Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).

Despite what you might be thinking, Cross was a fitting character to enter the series.  Like many of his roles, Renner did his homework for this movie and settled into the spy occupation just fine.  However, instead of being the elite, stoic, plays by the book agent we saw in Mission Impossible 4 and goes into the rather clever and improvising killer.  Renner uses his calm demeanor to ruthlessly execute his victims, which adds a layer of terror and threat to an already dangerous position.  The fact that he knows how to deliver his lines with a deep intensity also makes him a little more bad-a$$ than Bourne. Unfortunately the directors decided to also make Cross a drug addict in this movie, so Renner had to practice being a little psychotic dependency as well.  Unlike Nicholas Cage’s acid trip in Ghost Rider though, Renner happens to act dependent without going overboard.  The dependency just makes his mission more urgent and gives his character a weakness to his otherwise superman persona instead of making him do stupid antics that mimic the entire Project X movie.  It’s a good character development skill, but there could have been other weakness Bourne could have had.  As for Weisz, well the actress still has her moves down and still looks stunning in just about every scene with her element withstanding hair.  Fans of hers will be happy to see her return in full glory; essentially she is a non-British Evie minus the ancient Egyptian weapons.

As for the action of the movie, well there have been some cutbacks in that department.  Legacy is a bit slower pace at the beginning focusing on more back story and catch up than actual action.  A few shots of Cross’ training are interspersed through an opening dialog of readouts, medications, statistics, and of course how deadly Bourne is.  The background information that was missing from the first installments was nice to hear as it explained a lot about the political games involved in this project.  Even the science made some sense, though a lot of it was Hollywood magic at its finest,  but those who don’t like the biochemistry jargon and techniques will find it boring.  Despite the interesting information though, there was no reason editing couldn’t have tightened up the dialog and made some cuts to the two hours and fifteen minute film.  You may even find yourself dozing off here or there as you count the minutes until the hunt begins.

However once the prolonged introduction is done and the wheels are set into motion, the pace of the film picks up.  Cross’ skills are even more creative than Bourne’s as he uses his superior ingenuity to outsmart his superiors.  Those who have seen the trailer may remember the nail trap, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, as Cross has more moves than a DDR dancer.  Combine his ingenuity with fast paced kung fu, expert wielding of high powered guns, and a fitting soundtrack to add some depth, and you get some decent action scenes that the world has missed.  Perhaps the only thing that could have made the action better was to extend the fight scenes a little longer than they were.  What they lacked in fights though they made in chase.  Renner and Weisz must have practiced their sprinting techniques for this film since most of the action was involved in navigating streets at top speed.  A few of these chases were exciting, most likely due to the use of vehicles and loud instrument music, yet some just felt a little overdramatic or pointless.  I guess when you up the skill level of the enemies, i.e. replacing an army of civilian cops with some elite members of the squad, you have to know your limits.  Regardless fans are sure to enjoy Cross’s moves and be satisfied with where the series is going.

Bourne Legacy is a decent sequel that helps fill in some gaps while opening new uncertainties.  The writing staff has some questions to answer in the next film, which there is sure to be, and also needs to do more with what they introduced in this film.  Perhaps then my wishes for action scenes will come true, but until then this is satisfying enough.  My scores for this film are the following:

Action/Adventure/Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.5

Oh and there is no need to stay after the trailers as well, thought I would save you some time.

Are You Unhappy With Your Marriage?

Are you and your significant other having relationship troubles?  Is your marriage not what is used to be?  Do you feel that the partner you once loved is no longer the same person you fell in love with?  Does this opening sound like a commercial for a love counseling clinic?  If the answer is yes, than I have fooled you, as this is no advertisement, but instead the opening for my latest review.  This time I’m focusing on the latest Dramedy titled Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell.  Can this star filled cast make this comedy worth a shot, or is it better left to Redbox and Netflix for your viewing pleasure.  Read on to find out.

In case you haven’t seen the billion showings of the trailer, Hope Springs is about Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) a couple married for thirty one years who have somehow lost the spark in their relationship.  Wanting to revive the intimacy and passion, Kay discovers Dr. Feld (Carell), an intensive counseling therapist who apparently has the key to fix any despondent marriage, and books a session with him.  Can this marriage guru reunite the two lover’s passions, or is this the end of the line for the two’s love life?  Well I can’t tell you the ending, but I can tell you about the movie itself.

For the most part this Drama/Comedy is skewed more towards the drama than the comedy.  Although the trailers showed a few zingers, most of the movie had a drier sense of humor than the typical slapstick/one liners that most comedies have.  While I was able to understand a few of the references, most of this humor was lost on me.  Instead the delivery and awkwardness of the comedy were the funnier aspects of this movie.  Jones in particular has a way of being funny when he is stubborn, saying whatever he wants without caring what others think.  Streep on the other hand was stronger in the awkward situation comedy, where her innocent, pure nature was challenged by the leap into the modern day sex.  Perhaps what made it funnier for me was that I somehow related to Streep’s nature and was also a little uncomfortable by the movie’s situations.   Fans of classic Carell though will be disappointed, as the only funny thing about him in this movie is seeing the former Office boss as a marriage counselor.

Instead the movie’s biggest strength is the capturing of the hardship of a dying romance.  From the start the directing team has done a fantastic job portraying a struggling couple’s relationship.  All of the obstacles to intimacy, such as television, work, etc. were all realistically portrayed and helped to pull the audience in.  I can’t tell you how many times I could recall a memory that was relatable to these scenarios, which helped me appreciate the movie’s messages more.  Yet no amount of props, or aesthetically pleasing houses can deliver a message better than actors.  Both Jones and Streep put their strong acting talents to work to help create two realistic characters.  Although a little overdramatic on crying at points, I felt both did a great job keeping their characters dynamic and fresh throughout the movie, without getting overemotional and crossing into the soap opera zone.

Yet the most impressive, and surprising, acting was Carell playing the marriage counselor.  This role had him playing the calm therapist and while I’ve seen him calm before, I am usually depressed by his characters.  However, in this movie his serious nature was instead the beacon of light that shined in the darkness of the failing marriage.  Dr. Feld’s character kept the movie going by opening up more situations, opportunities, and choices that the couple had to face.  While this shouldn’t be a surprise, the direction of the movie combined with Carell’s talent managed to also use Dr. Feld’s part to get the audience to think too.  Many of the questions, exercises, and activities he proposed were reliable tools to give the audience a chance to reflect on their own lives as well.  I know I’m sounding like one of the hostesses from the View, but with all the relationship troubles I’ve seen this message really speaks to me.  As I’m sure all of you can guess, the message is that marriage is hard and requires a serious form of communication to truly make it work.  Yes, this is predictable in almost every movie about marriage, but again the delivery of the message is what is impressive.  If Dr. Feld’s questions don’t get the message to you, then Carell’s monologue at the end should strike home.  The hope he inspires with the message is cliché, but Carell does such a good job selling the line, one can’t help but get motivated to go out and do what needs to be done.

Overall Hope Springs is one of the more realistic dramedies I have ever seen.  The great cast, beautiful scenery, and wonderful direction combine to make a cute movie with an inspiring message.  Unfortunately the comedy and pace of the movie might not be what everyone is looking for and it’s not as diverse as I thought it would be.  Regardless the key audiences for this movie are of course married couples, girl night out groups, spiritual message lookers, or anyone with serious relationship issues.  Is this movie worth a trip to the theater?  If you’re marriage needs some inspiration, then yes I say go for it.  However, if the relationship is fine, then skip this movie and watch it at home with your loved ones.  My scores for this movie are the following:

Comedy/Drama:  7.5-8.0 for the realistic dramatic situations

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0


Is The Remake Better, Or Is It Simply A Dream


  Hollywood seems to be making a living on remakes lately.  This could most likely, as John Goodman says in a recent trailer, to do half the work and take all the credit for it.  Regardless this weekend we have Total Recall, a remake of an Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name.  Now talking with many friends and fans, there was a lot of concern about remaking such a “classic film”, yet the action of the movie held great promise to hold my attention, especially with Miss Action herself Kate Beckinsale being a headliner for the movie.  Did it deliver this and other surprises, or was it merely a “dream” that the trailers implanted in my mind to get me to spend money?  Read on to find out.

The plot of this movie has been edited somewhat from Schwarzenegger’s story, in which Quaid (Colin Farrell) is a depressed factory worker living in the slums of a transformed Earth.  Years of chemical warfare have left only two places in the world habitable, which naturally means one side rich and one side poor, sound familiar like say Hunger Games?  Anyway one night in an attempt to escape the harsh reality, Quaid goes to ReKall a place where memories can be implanted to make you live your dreams.  Unfortunately something horrible goes wrong, and soon a chase to bring the supposed outlaw in begins.

The first thing that might come to mind is where in the world is the Mars atmosphere and the mutants?  Well with the exception a three boobed woman, yes she is still in there guys, all of that has been replaced with a post apocalyptic Earth.  That’s right the red foreboding deserts and caves have been replaced with rather impressive cities that look like something out of George Lucas’ mind, i.e. Coruscant from the Star Wars prequels.  While the sleek and polished cities are rather impressively designed and polished, they still aren’t equivalent to the alien landscape we so much loved in the original movie.  Regardless Len Wiseman and crew did a decent job directing the extras and actors to integrate with the digital art, and kept the environment evolving as the movie continued to go.

Moving away from the scenery though, let’s talk about the highlight of this movie: the action.  Yes despite having a rather linear storyline and some pretty shallow characters, this movie is all about high speed adrenaline and ridiculous chases.  From scene 1 of the movie, one will know that the movie is going to be lots of lights, running, and some gunplay.  Most of the action involves lots of running or fast driving that are similar to the action scenes in Minority Report.  The futuristic cars and pistol shots lead Farrell and Jessica Biel ducking more than acting, which gets stale after a while.  About halfway through the movie though Biel and Farrell’s characters finally get the courage to fire back and start actually shooting against their attackers.  While its impressive that they can wield prop guns and react to fake bullet wounds, there really aren’t that many impressive fight scenes in the movie.  The exception to this would be a brief cat fight between Biel and Beckinsale, where the former vampires shows off some of her acrobatic moves to beat the tears out of Biel.  Aside from that, the action is more about the cast running away from the white artificial police force, cough Clone troopers cough, while Beckinsale continues to fire shots and stare at the camera.

While the action may not have been the style I was looking for, there was another aspect to this movie that was impressive, the gadgets.  Like a futuristic bond movie, Total Recall has some clever integration of spy gadgetry at their disposal.  Cellular phones integrated in their hands, the ability to pull up view screens by touching glass, and many more technological wonders fill this movie to the brim.  Although they weren’t as deadly as some of London’s finest treats, they were well integrated into the movie to help keep the plot going, as well as to throw the audience into a loop as to whether the experience was real or not.  Yet, some of the gadgets were actually rather hastily introduced, or had no meaning to their use, but in this kind of movie I guess you don’t need a reason.  Now are half of these gadgets original?  The answer to that question is not really as we’ve had countless movies do the same technological feats that this film does.  In fact there are a lot of things about this movie that are obvious references to other science fiction works like the Matrix and did I mention Star Wars. However, the delivery is still smoother than Beckinsale’s flowing hair, and I have to appreciate the effort they have made to impress.

Total Recall is not a bad remake.  With some fast paced scenes, nice graphics, and a chance to see to lovely ladies run across the screen it does have its high points.  However, the bar was set pretty high on the classic film, and this movie just didn’t reach the promised potential.   Those looking for a vague ending will get their demands met, as like the first film you still haven’t figured out if it is real.  Yet, the one dimensional characters, the lack of exciting gun play, and the fact that Farrell’s character seems to have endless adrenaline is just not enough to recommend a trip to the theater.  My scores for the movie are below:

Action/Adventure/Sci-fi: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.0