Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 (2014)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

Directed by Francis Lawrence
Written by Danny Strong and Peter Craig
Based on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Stanley Tucci, and Donald Sutherland

    Looking back at the Hunger Games series as it stands right now, there’s a clear line of escalation. The first film was a serviceable young adult flick, the wrongheaded direction of which was evened out by a terrific central performance by Jennifer Lawrence. Catching Fire upped the ante to become a terrific blend of action and thrills that improved on the original in every way and made the wait for the final films seem much longer. Mockingjay, Part 1 kicks things up another gear, delivering something akin to a war movie. Or, rather, the first half of a war movie. Yeah, while Mockingjay 1.0 is still a worthy entry in the series, it’s still brought down by the fact that it’s only the first half of its story. It’s not as bad as something like, say, The Hobbit, but the lack of momentum and boring love triangle filler almost derail the first chapter of the final chapter of the Hunger Games series.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Big Hero 6 Review

Directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams
Written by Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, and Jordan Roberts
Based on Big Hero 6 by Man of Action
Starring Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., and Genesis Rodriguez

    Walt Disney Animation has been on a roll lately in the computer-animation department, with their latest films ranging from the incredibly clever and funny Tangled, to the incredibly original Wreck-It Ralph, to the incredibly marketable Frozen. In the same way, Marvel (which is, yes, owned by Disney) rules the box office whenever it releases a new movie, and will pretty much continue to do so until either they run out of ideas or audiences simply get tired of superheroes. Finally, someone had the bright idea to make a computer-animated Marvel movie, which would hopefully combine all the charm of a Disney film with all the excitement of a Marvel movie. The result is Big Hero 6, a movie based on a comic so obscure that it makes Guardians of the Galaxy look Batman-levels of mainstream, and which, while entertaining and fun at times, never really seems to live up to the expectations of either of its parent studios’ past work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar Review

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, and Ellen Burstyn

    The marketing for Interstellar was something special, managing to give tantalizing glimpses of the size, scope and plot of the movie without giving too much away. That said, most people would probably say they have a pretty good idea of what the movie is about. They would be wrong. The trailers for Interstellar barely hint at the finished product which is significantly larger in scale and more thought-provoking than anyone ever thought. What looked like a straightforward sci-fi movie about finding another planet for humanity to inhabit ends up looking more like a modern day 2001: A Space Odyssey than anything else, as it reflects on where humanity has been as well as where it could go. While it’s far from perfect, Interstellar is still an incredible ride.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Dear Michael Bay (A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review)

Dear Michael Bay
A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec, and Evan Daugherty
Starring Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszek, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichtner, Johnny Knoxville, and Tony Shalhoub

(To better get across my feeling for this particular film, I have drafted my review as a letter to producer Michael Bay. Enjoy.)

Dear Michael Bay,

    Well, I owe you an apology. After seeing Transformers: Age of Extinction, I was sure that it would stand as my least favorite movie of the summer, if not the year. I was wrong. Not that Age of Extinction was every bit as godawful as I made it out to be. No, it's still a piece of [expletive removed involving feces], and you should continue to be ashamed of yourself, but it no longer holds claim to that dreaded bottom spot. That, Mr. Bay, goes to a movie that you may not have directed, but still had a hand in: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Directed by James Gunn
Written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman
Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, and Benicio del Toro

    This was, without a doubt, the biggest gamble that Marvel has taken thus far. Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the bigger unknowns that they have at their disposal and runs the risk of coming off as halfway original, which is something that audiences, no matter how much they claim otherwise, don’t like to pay to see (see the box office income of Edge of Tomorrow versus that of Transformers: Age of Extinction for more on this phenomenon). There was a very real chance that this could be the first box office failure for Marvel Studios. Fortunately, thanks to a collection of excellent performances from an extremely likable cast, great writing, and a spot-on sense of humor, Guardians of the Galaxy is liable to be one of the most fun films to come out of this year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Review

Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, and Kodi Smit-McPhee

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes was without a doubt one of the more surprising movies of the last few years. What could have been a pointless reboot of a property with one failed reboot already under its belt became a legitimately terrific sci-fi movie with strong writing, effects, and an astounding central performance from Andy Serkis. Naturally, a sequel was put in the works, and here we are three years later with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: one of the rare sequels that improves on its predecessor in every way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Transformers: Age of Extinction Review

Directed by Michael Bay
Produced by Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, and Ian Pryce
Written by Ehren Kruger
Based on Transformers by Hasbro
Starring Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Kelsey Grammer, Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor, Sophia Myles, Li Bingbing, Titus Welliver, T.J. Miller, Melanie Specht, Victoria Summer, Peter Cullen, and Frank Welker
Released: June 27, 2014
Runtime: 2 hr, 45 min
Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, and brief innuendo

    This movie is two hours and forty-five minutes long. That is almost three hours. Three hours of everything that is wrong with a modern Hollywood blockbuster. Three hours of character stereotypes, awful dialogue, wooden acting, idiotic product placement, and boring action. Three hours of audience-insulting, mind-numbing stupidity. Three hours of using strong effects to mask the fact that there’s no story. Three hours of what Michael Bay calls “filmmaking.” And while some of Bay’s other movies can at least be called “dumb fun,” Age of Extinction doesn’t even have that going for it. It looks nice, but that’s all that can be said, as even by Michael Bay standards, Age of Extinction is an awful, awful movie.