A Cinematic Portrayal of Immortality, Love, and Hastily Developed Backstory

Age of Adaline

            Ever wonder what its like not to age? I know I have, but I never can grasp all the factors that come about with immortality, especially in terms of love and relationships. Well my friends, we have the good fortune to get movies to give us a glimpse, and this weekend it is in the form of the Age of Adaline. This romantic drama has some potential to be an interesting romance story, but one must heed caution when watching trailers. So let’s get started on this review shall we.

When I said interesting, I really meant it, as Age of Adaline is a unique story that centers on immortality. Our heroine doesn’t drink some mystical potion, or undergoes some futuristic operation, but is somehow mutated by a rogue lightning bolt striking the river. All of this is explained in the first 10 minutes, in a hasty montage that sums up her life, which while time efficient left me a little robbed. I didn’t want them to take forever, but a gradual build up of her life pre accident would have given this tale some more depth. Oh well it means we get to the romance aspect of the story faster. This film’s relationships were a bit awkward for me, and a bit hastily developed at first. Her main romance goes nowhere due to fear, and only a few cute dates give us any hope something will happen. But then movie magic hits like lightning and expedites the romance to warp speed.

Regardless of how fast we get to it though, the romance in this movie is not the greatest. Sure it has its cute moments, emphasizing creativity and thoughtfulness in dating, with a little historical twist in it. There is some heartfelt, overemotional dialogue thrown in to feign love, but this movie didn’t sell me in their relationship. However, Adaline’s past runs interference into the relationship, and takes precedence over her life at hand. Fortunately what love we did see was not portrayed as superficial sex that many modern movies like to show.

The movie’s main focus instead is about living life and pushing past your fears, especially ones addressing the concept of life. Age of Adaline has some really depressing moments and left me feeling down in the dumps. Many of the problems she flees from may get in your head, but do provide some good food for thought and philosophical discussions. Yet you will see some overdramatic, spanned out plot lines in this movie that start to grow stale.

Story aside, the editing of this movie is decent. Despite the 100 minute running tme, they still had some issues in terms of pacing and extra scenes. I felt the film cuts through a lot of Adaline’s history, choosing to relive her moments via hastily done flashbacks and narrator monologues. Other times it drags on an issue, moving like molasses down a hill to get to the conclusion.  As for extra scenes, well a few morbid parts could have been snipped out of the final cut, or at least replaced with some happier moments in the grand scheme of things. Despite all the extra fluff, one consistency is the camera work, which captures the emotion of our characters to illicit the intended response. Each age is well designed, makeup, costumes, and scenery all well combined to bring the world to life.

However the acting may be the component that this movie relies on the most. Blake Lovely, I’m sorry, Lively was indeed a beautiful addition to this movie in both acting and physical qualities. She carried a pristine poise that mimicked the personalities of the attitudes back then, and yet she was somehow humble. Lively shed a good amount of tears in this installment and put her somber emotions to good use, though I do wish they had given her character a broader emotional spectrum. Her beauty helps complete the picture and the outfits her wardrobe department designed will distract many from her monotone character. As for the other actors they do their parts well, but they are primarily supportive roles surrounding Adaline’s story. Michiel Huisman does the job of a persistent romantic well. He’s got that nice guys charm and humor that makes him likable, but he is a bit of a bore in terms of romantic interests. His backstory is flatter than a sheet of paper, and his struggles are practically absent in this tale, overshadowed by another relationship stuck in Adaline’s head. As for Ford, his acting is just as strong as ever, but his role was limited in this tale, again constantly interrupted by chaotic slew of Adaline’s mess.

Age of Adaline is a good drama that has a nice change of pace from the sea of mundane plots this genre has recently taken. Adaline’s journey is interesting and emotional, but the romance aspect fell through for me. In addition the tale wasn’t the most exciting thing, and combined with a depressing plot, was not a fun trip for me this weekend. Is it worth a trip to theater? Can’t say it was, but might be good for a girl’s night out soiree. My scores for Age of Adaline are:

Drama/Romance: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6.5

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Should Have Taken A Segway Straight To TV Movie Release

Paul Blart 2

            Many times when I hear a sequel is coming, I cringe in fear at the horrors that studios may churn out. Often many follow ups to a film series pale in comparison to the original, many times being a poor movie overall. Today I hesitantly returned to the theater to see what actor Kevin James had in store for me in the form of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. I can’t say I had my hopes up high for this movie, but you never know what surprises may be in store. So let’s get started shall we?

The first adventure of Blart was a cute, wholesome adventure that was good for some stupid laughs and the notion that anyone can get a happy ending. Unfortunately, they couldn’t leave it there and thought it would be good to send our aspiring cop back into action to hopefully entertain the crowd. Despite my wishes for fun comedy, Paul Blart 2 fails to deliver the same enjoyment the first one did. Most of the jokes are rehashes, many poking at James’ weight and his clumsiness when it comes to chasing down the bad guys. Blart’s obsessions with Segways have lost their appeal, his over-exaggerated stunts just looking stupid and more ridiculous with each pull. Crushing people with his weight is also crosses into the stupid zone, especially when he lays on a woman and wiggles on top of them trying to knock them out. I would have to say the worse things though are Blart’s rambles about justice, honor, and trying to prove he is a tough guy. His monologues go on and on with much of his dialog being extremely simplistic or drawn out that left me rolling my eyes more so than laughing. I can’t lie that I did laugh at a few jokes and antics, mainly the window ramming scene and a few well-timed limericks. As a whole though this movie lost what made the last one fun.

Storywise there was not much improvement. Mall Cop 2 starts out quite sad, and again ridiculous, as Blart’s world is turned upside down twice in terms of family and love. To escape the depression he heads to Vegas for a convention that will hopefully recognize him for his heroism from the first film, which took six years prior to this movie. Once there the story breaks down to three things: Paul trying to stop the bad guys, Paul learning to let go of his daughter, and Paul trying to find himself. The first aspect is rather pathetic, the bad guys are there to steal art for a client, going through little struggle to acquire their precious cargo. In truth, I found these bad guys more boobs than threats, the main guy lacking any real bite with his bleach blonde hair and different colored eyes. Blart’s whole ordeal against them was too easy, and much more diluted than I had hoped to see. The second tale is probably the best part of the movie. Maya (Raini Rodriguez) is about to go to college, leaving her dad alone and without support. Paul must learn the hard lesson of letting go, something I too struggle with, to allow all parties involved to live a better life. While cheesy as it is in this movie, the morale is sweet and helps bring some of the nostalgic charm. The final story of Paul finding himself is not quite as strong. His struggles of accepting himself start out sweet, but quickly fall back to funny as another joke or gag takes place. There are a few exceptions to the rules where Blart makes a motivational speech, or defends the geeks and mocked. Much of this story though has little sustenance and gets hastily wrapped up near the end of this fortunately short movie.

As for acting, James seems to have a lot of fun with this role, immersing himself in the Mall Cop with a heart as big as his body. James seems like a guy who loves to make people laugh and smile, and the younger audience members love his antics. His delivery of some of his lines is spot on, using his voice to really emphasize the puns and small wit the dialog has. What really made me laugh were his facial expressions though. Somehow James just has to look a certain way and I will crack up, maybe it is due to his chubby cheeks or maybe I’m just weird. Either way James can still bring out some funny moments. On the sweet side, he still has that cuddly teddy bear attitude that we all fell in love with during King of Queens. He is a loveable lug who is willing to take verbal abuse to do what is right, and he gets points for playing the underdog role I relate to so well. However, there is no award winning performance, outside a Kid’s Choice Awards, for this role as it is still the same part he always plays. The other cast do their roles okay, but James is the soul of this movie so I won’t go into details on them.

Paul Blart 2 is a movie I describe as could have gone directly to TV. The humor has been reduced to something only young and young at heart will like, and the story can’t back up the rather bland comedy. I still applaud James for his commitment to roles, but not even the big man can save the drab this film is. You can guess that this movie is not recommended for a theater visit, unless you are looking for something to take your kids too. Wait for it to come on basic cable, and save your money for Avengers 2 in the next few weeks.

Paul Blart 2 gets:

 

Action/Comedy: 5.5

Movie Overall: 4.0

An Interesting Twist, but I can’t say I “Like” It

Unfriended

            The age of technology! It is a wonderful time where the Internet allows so much to be shared with a push of a button. The media shared can bring lots of happiness, or quickly become a portal terror just like the theme of today’s movie review Unfriended. From the trailers you might expect:

  1. Found footage bologna we’ve grown accustom too
  2. A simplistic plot with more drama than actual story
  3. Gruesome kills that will chill you to the bone
  4. Acting that is simple

So what do you get? When it comes to found footage films, we have come to expect erratic, dizzying shots of our cast running from some unknown entity. Often we get more headaches than information, leading to frustration and lackluster films. Unfriended is told through the web camera of Blaire (Shelly Hennig), as she skypes, messages, and texts her beloved troop of friends. Being on the computer, the film was limited to mostly stationary footage of Blaire multitasking between instant messaging and video chatting. Many audience members I feel will relate and appreciate the portrayal of teenagers juggling communication with other websites, as the group participates in cheesy exchanges of humorous dialog. That is until the terror starts and the social media becomes an instrument of torture that shrewdly forces our group to confess. Now I can appreciate the ingenuity of using computers and the relevance, but this movie sometimes took this angle a little too far. One particular annoying part was watching Blaire try to phrase her messages, constantly retyping the same message and hesitating to press send. A good lesson indeed for the teenage population, but I didn’t need to see this five times in the movie.

With the interesting camera angle, perhaps the story had some quality to it. Unfriended does have a unique twist, cleverly manipulating the internet to develop the characters and dish out the terror. The biggest strength of this movie is the mystery of the hacker, the suspense of who will uncover the secret keeping me interested in the tale. Unfortunately it still suffers from the predictable Slasher formula starting with the convenient timing that all of their parents aren’t home, on a school night. A majority of the plot is based on uncovering their “Mean Girl” like secrets, horrible, and typical, high school antics that are old hat. It does add further depth to the characters, perhaps even adding some relatable qualities that high school students may latch on to. I however couldn’t stop laughing at how stupid these kids were and the mistakes they kept compounding. I wish I could say the revelation at the end made up for some of the lackluster elements, but the ending didn’t deliver the satisfaction I looked for, and quite honestly seemed like a cheap write off.

Let’s get to the kills you are most likely seeking from the trailer. Unfriended manages to think outside the box in terms of spilling blood, using mundane objects as the means for death. Two deaths in particular are disturbing, the web came giving you enough of the carnage to piece things together without dropping into extreme torture territory. I will admit many of these deaths are ridiculous, overdramatic messes that made some of the audience howl with laughter. Yet I can’t help but applaud their integration of the murder devices into a casual conversation, with the exception of one or two that were obvious foreshadows to their demise. I can’t say much more, or I might ruin this quality, but keep your eyes peeled. Oh well, at least the deaths are fairly “justified” by the mysterious hacker’s actions.

Acting wise, the cast does a good job capturing the stereotypical teenager role. They capture the emotional spectrum of their characters, from shallow minded gossip to the fear and terror of uncertain death. The dialog is definitely “realistic”, but my friend and I agree that all the petty arguing and screaming got old. We did however enjoy the mannerisms of CAPS LOCK and emoticons being used in the movie to mimic the current cyber chat trends. While the acting is okay, the limited characters were not ones I could grasp onto. They all were annoying idiots, whose cruelty and selfishness were over the top, taking away any sympathy I might have felt. Perhaps a good character might have helped balance the bad, but this movie held no moral spectrum other than teenagers being teenagers. Either way the acting is fine for the characters given, and some of the characters (who aren’t teens) were really cute.

Unfriended is not the best horror movie by a long shot, but it has taken an interesting tangent from the normal thriller movie. Teenager and young adults alike will find relevance in the modern technology used, but others may find this more of a comedy than a horror. This rather loud and obnoxious tale fails to deliver on a lot of other levels, and I can’t really recommend this one for a theater visit. Perhaps a Redbox rental is in your future for this one, otherwise let the intended audience tell you how it is.

My scores for Unfriended are:

 

Horror/Thriller: 6.0

Movie Overall: 4.5-5.0

Half A Good Story, A Half A Typical Spark Tale

THe longest ride

Every year we get another Nicholas Sparks movie. These movies try to emphasize “ true love”, but are usually simplistic mushy plots, where eye candy fills the screen. Well this weekend I dive into the dark, surround sound trenches to review his latest installment, The Longest Ride. Out of annoyance, I quickly lowered my expectations at what was in store. What is in store? Read on to find out.

Most know what to expect from Sparks, a good-looking boy and girl meet up and magically start a romance. One of our characters is the perfect specimen of looks, sensitivity, and romance that drives the ideal romance, until it goes to pot for some reason eventually working out in the end. This is only partially the case, the tale of Sophia (Britt Robertson) and Luke (Scott Eastwood) act out following the typical Sparks plot. The beautiful people form another ideal couple that women idealize where chiseled abs, a handsome face are complemented by incredible feats of consideration and sincerity. Naturally I rolled my eyes at the drastically overplayed perfection, but there were many enchanted by the stereotypical romance he painted.

A “nice” distraction that spices things up are the hot scenes, which you can guess involve sex. This movie sex ,starts with another shower scene filled with plenty of butts, and evolves to her riding the bull after he rides the animal of the same name. Some may find it hot, but I found it shallow, pointless, and a waste screen time.

You might think that there are some surprise twists in this half of the story, something that makes you say OH MY GOD. Sophia and Luke’s tale unfortunately has little to shock you, foreshadowing revealing all that is to come in the tale, with the only mystery about when it would happen. I can’t deny this was one of my favorite endings, but it took a bit to get to the ending.

However, there is a saving grace for this film and that is the second story of Ira and Ruth. The tale of the 1940’s relationship could have been a movie by itself, truly showing a developing relationship and the troubles they face. This was the type of relationship I like to see, emphasizing care and compassion for the one you want to share your life with it. The gifts were heartfelt, a tribute to the love they truly felt only to be undermined by the struggles they faced. It was real, and an example of the type of relationship I pray many actually get instead of the shallower loves seen in most movies. This relationship was obviously to show how much love has changed, the comparison illustrating the differences between real and superficial love. Obviously this was the meant to drive Sophia and Luke’s relationship and overcome their few challenges, but it was the more engaging and emotional of the tales.

Despite the great morals, sweet romance, and good looks though what else does this movie have in store. In terms of positives, the beautiful settings of North Carolina will take your breath away and offer you a taste of the country life. I also felt the camera work and sound editing did a nice job combining their talents to bring out the emotional spectrum. Many times the music was more emotional than the actual acting, the orchestra work nearly bringing a few tears to this reviewer’s eyes. The acting is also decent, especially in terms of the young Ira and Rose (Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin) who really brought their characters to life. I felt great chemistry between these two, almost as if they were really in love and a married couple, something I normally don’t say.

As for negatives, I’ve already mentioned a few. First off is that the tale is predictable and still follow closely to the Spark’s formula. I know to expect it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dock the score for unoriginality, which this movie is. In addition the movie was a little too long for me. Again the editing needs to work on what is necessary. I’ll go ahead and say that a 2 hour Spark’s romance is not necessary. There was not enough drive to carry my attention for the whole time, and half of the scenes, especially with her sorority life, could have been left to the director’s cut.

The Longest Ride is definitely not the perfect film, and in the end is another Nicholas Spark’s novel come to life. Yet I can say it is one of my favorite tales of this author, but only due to the first half of the film. I would have liked to have seen more integration of the two tales, but I was pleased with the balance overall. Is it worth a trip to the theater? Not really, but it is a decent romance film definitely good for a RedBox rent. The recommended audience are those that love Nicholas Sparks, want to see romance, or are just looking to stare at beautiful people.

My Scores are:

Drama/Romance: 7.5-8.0

Movie Overall: 6.5-7.0

Seventh Times The Charm for Excitement, Adventure, and “Closure”

Furious 7

            Fast and the Furious is a series that we have all fallen in love with. Ever since 2001 when the series came out, we have been exposed to beautiful cars, hot extras, and plenty of crime and punishment amidst their colorful cast. This weekend we jump into the seventh, yes seventh, installment to see if we get the same thrills and chills that we love. For the virgins of the series, and those who’ve seen the trailers, here is what you might expect:

  • High speed thrills and action
  • Beautiful women seen from all angles
  • Jason Statham being Jason Statham
  • A conclusion to Paul Walker’s legendary role

Fans of the series know that this movie is all about coordinated plans that often involve beautiful cars performing unbelievable stunts. Well that trend continues with at least three lengthy sequences dedicated to showing off expensive cars being pushed to their limits. Fans will be pumping their fists in joy as Dom and the crew take their beauties across the world, country hopping as they fight off terrorism partnered with vendetta. In glorious high definition, alongside stable camera work, adrenaline junkies like myself will be more than happy with the exciting battles this movie has. While some of the situations are ridiculous, and a bit conventional, they are incredible displays of the glorious work special effects can craft.

In addition to the excitement, the directing team did a good job adding some additional character to the scenes. Furious 7 has plenty of laughs, especially in the brotherly exchange between Taj (Ludicrous) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson). I myself laughed the hardest at Gibson’s scenes, where his stunts and dialog, combined with the delivery, were enough to relieve the tension. The action also held suspense, mainly due to the built relationship between the cast of this series. That dynamic, along with the wonder of who will make it, keeps you engaged in the battles, both the necessary and unnecessary battles. Unlike some other action movies, Furious 7 sometimes takes a little too much liberty for making an action sequence. A few of the scenes were a bit overdramatic, some of the fights quick write-ins to allow for cameos and character involvement.

Speaking of cameos, you can expect a lot of filler shots centered on the feminine figure. Guys will love seeing the curves of many beautiful ladies, most getting close enough to touch the derrieres they are shaking. The tight outfits and bountiful bosoms, or missiles as Roman calls them, will make many a man or boy, drool in delight at the gorgeous women before us. This brings me to another point, that Furious 7’s editing could have used a little work. While the movie was exciting, there were plenty of scenes that could have been trimmed, or left out to shorten the run time and make a more conducive movie.

Now I mentioned how the relationship between the stars is a big part of this series, but what about newcomer Jason Statham. No surprise, the action star has little to say, and what he does comes out the same grunting mess he always does. Primarily he talks with his fists, or cars in this case, as the stunt man goes to work on his vendetta plan. I can say Statham still has some moves up his sleeve, but this role was not my favorite of his repertoire. He still had the threatening gaze, but his character lacked the finesse and skills I normally enjoy seeing. Much of his stunts were overexaggerated antics, painting him invincible instead of deadly. Fans of him will have no problem accepting this, but there were a lot of stretches with his character that I didn’t quite enjoy in the grand scheme of things. The man is still good, don’t get me wrong, but I think I enjoy his Expendable work more than the brother with an attitude.

Finally the tribute to Paul Walker; the man who started this series concluded his performance in a great manner. Walker’s tale has heart, soul, and bite in this “final” installment. I felt I got good closure for the character Bryan O’Connor, getting to see the true man in the calm and collected warrior. Sure it wasn’t the greatest backstory, but decent when blended with his action. The ending in particular gave me goosebumps, and captures the essence of the actors’ relationships and the brotherhood they shared. Although not anything what I expected, I bow my head in honor of the action star.

To sum everything up… Furious 7 is an awesome sequel that ranks high on my F&F list. Action wise it is one of the more exciting, and helps tie up the tales of almost all our characters. Is it truly over? I don’t know; there is a lot of open ground to cover for a possible sequel. However, it brings the same excitement you like in the ridiculous world we’ve fallen in love with. Despite the plot conventionalities, disproportionate acting, and interesting editing choices, the movie is one of the better ones I have seen in a long time. Go see it in theaters, for the special effects, the engaging chemistry, and to close out the series.

My scores for Furious 7 are:

Action/Crime/Thriller: 8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5-8.0