Summer Movie Swing Part 1

Now You See Me 2

The trailer wasn’t strong for this second installment causing the movie to seem more spectacle than heist, but the film itself it’s actually a pretty good follow-up to its predecessor.

10NOWYOUSEE-master768A year after the original heist, The Horsemen are stalling for time, waiting for the right time to reappear after their original heist (sans one member who they just write off). Atlas is anxious to get back into the world even going behind Dylan’s back to talk to The Eye on his own. He is ecstatic when he receives a new mission: take down Owen Case and his all-seeing technology. But all does not go along their well thought out plan so they must out to trick the men who first tricked them.

The trailer captured some the biggest showy moments but the movie is more than just spectacle. There is character growth as each character shows them to be human and not just show men. The plot delves into the back story of Dylan, the almost mythical character that helps the team in the first film. The audience learns why magic is so important to him and his involvement with The Eye

The humor adds a great layer keeping things from becoming melodramatic. These moments are some of the best as tension is relieved through this humor for a great balance in mood. It’s a fun movie and worth the ticket price.

The Conjuring 2

Movies like The Conjuring intrigue me. I like things that are based on actual events but they often disappoint because the movies embellish. I have found that real life if often more scary than the clichés used in horror films. While the first movie was enjoyable, the second movie tries to up the ante but really just makes a spectacle of it.

In England, a girl is possessed by a ghost of a man that died at their home. Levitationhttps-%2F%2Fblueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fuploads%2Fstory%2Fthumbnail%2F12071%2FThe-Conjuring-2, teleportation and telekinetic events terrorize the poor family. The Warrens are called in to investigate before the church will perform an exorcism. But Lorraine brings personal baggage into the case keeping answers veiled.

The Conjuring isn’t scary unless you are awake at two in the clock in the morning and are envisioning the nun’s face next to yours. The movie depends on clichés of scary faces, creepy voices, and standard horror fare. While it is not gory (a plus), there isn’t much to distinguish this movie from the many that have come before it. While the first one kept afloat by great casting, this installment does not; it feels like a B movie peddled by Hollywood.

The one thing I did enjoy was the way the writers spun the Amityville Horror and the Enfield Poltergeist. T used hey used Lorraine to explain the portion of the cases that were documented hoaxes .The movie uses Lorraine’s personal issues with a spirit to explain why she feels the spirit is at both places. This allows the Warrens to have some credibility after backing the mockery that was Amityville. (While I know Amityville was faked as a publicity stunt, there is still a picture that was taken in that house that haunts me. I’m sure there are emotions from the family murder that hang in the air at that house.) But otherwise this movie is a dud.

X-Men Apocalypse

The third in the story of the younger X-men turns out to be a lot better than was anticipated. Overshadowing and making fun of X-Men 3, this story follows ten years after the events portrayed in Days of Future Past. Mystique is now a hero, Magneto has a family and Xavier’s school is full of students. But when the First Mutant is revived, the world changes for all whether on the side of good or evil.

x-men-apocalypseThe movie does have some problems. The love story of Scott and Jean is shoved down our throats from the beginning. Its makes the love story artificial and staged. The movie also depends too much on the two starlets who producers consider hot right now. Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress but her character has evolved from the comics to make her a central character only because Lawrence won an Oscar and draws in crowds. The tale of her and Erick is repeated over and over, and it’s boring. The addition of Sophie Turner does nothing for the movie. High off her role as an annoying (but now fan loved) Sansa Stark, she is cast as Jean Grey but brings nothing to the characters and gives the same stilted performance she gives in Game of Thrones. The movie finally remembers that it the relationship between Erik and Xavier that truly propel these line of stories and that’s where the best acting and most interesting arcs lie.

But there are a lot of things the film gets right including the relationship between Xavier and Moira, and Erik’s desire to be a normal person. The two best scenes feature appearance by some of the best characters of the X-Men world. Wolverine makes a cameo and the writers did well explaining his intense love for Jean. The second features Quicksilver and the Eurhythmics. Sweet dreams ARE made of this.

Fun, exciting and often meta, Apocalypse is one of the better of the X-Men movies. Not as good as the first film or First Class, it never the less stands on its own.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Tim Burton does not return for this installment but his vision of the world is alive and well. The writing, on the other hand, needs a coffin.

Through the Looking Glass creates its own story instead of taking from the source material. The Mad Hatter is dying and the only way to save him is to find his family; heAlice_Through_Looking_Glass_tea_240516_620_347_100 believes they did not die like he had originally believed. So Alice, fresh off a sea voyage and looking at disaster in her personal life, descends deep into imagination and time to save him. She must steal the Chrono Sphere from Time to find out what really happened to the Hatter’s family.

My first thought was this was supposed to be a movie about Hatter and would let Johnny Depp shine. But The Hatter is not Jack Sparrow, and his entire performance is subpar. As the movie unfolds it seems to be more about the Queens than about Hatter and his family drama. While it was interesting to see how the Queen of Hearts got such big head, the story drags.

The best sequences are those featuring Time. Sacha Baren Cohen is hilarious and great at character acting and he outshines Depp like a supernova. A semi-villain, Time is given only moderate screen time and not enough chances to break up the monotony of the film.

The only other thing that stands out is the Alan Rickman; but don’t get too excited. His butter fly gets two lines at the beginning of the movie. It’s rather sad that this was all there was. I still have not completely mourned for this great and Alice did nothing to help me.

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Holiday Big Openers

 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In this final installment of The Hobbit adaptation, the story is stretched way beyond the point of APphoto_Film Review The Hobbit The Battle of the Five Armiesentertaining. Peter Jackson uses material from the various appendices by J.R.R. Tolkien himself  to pad the story and just plain makes stuff up.

Laketown must deal with the deadly dragon that was released in the second movie. This hassle is taken of quickly and the story moves on to the fight over the dragon’s treasure. The Dwarves, Elves, Orcs and Humans each want a piece of the treasures held within the Lonely Mountain But the Dwarves, Human, and Elves have to band together to defeat the Orcs and save the legacy of their races.

The problem with this movie is that it is too long. The story suffers at the expense of expanding for three movies.  The entirety of The Hobbit could have easily been two movies while still expanding on Tolkien’s supplemtantal material.

Like the two before it, the movie looks good.  The effects are gorgeous and the make-up is effective. This go-around I did notice something: the two Dwarves we are supposed to empathize with the most  are the two that look the most human.  Quality actors help round out characters but even they can’t smooth over dodgy bits of exposition.

Honestly, I wanted more or the dragon and less of the endless battles. Hell, I just wanted the damn movie to be over.

Into The Woods

Into the Woods follows several well-known fairy tale characters as they try to obtain their greatestdepp-wolf1 wishes. It seems that to have each wish granted, they must enter the spooky woods that surround their homes. The characters find that they help each other achieve their dreams, but then, too late, they learn their wishes were not what they were cut out to be.

Unfortunately, the movie adaption of the Broadway show does not translate well. The story rambles on and changes focus. It becomes preachy and tries too hard to have a moral.  There were some interesting points with the highlight being Johnny’s Depp short appearance as The Wolf. This was the best musical sequence in the whole film.

The casting is the second issue.  James Corden and Emily Blunt are passable but Chris Pine can’t sing even though he’s great at being a charming jerk.  I also don’t understand why everyone loves Anna Kendrick so much, and she does not ever embody Cinderella for me. It seems like the casting was looking for big names instead of talent. But that’s not to say there isn’t some talent there. Meryl Streep was fantastic as was Lilla Crawford who played Red Riding Hood.

I’ll admit it looks good. Director Rob Marshall always manages to make his films look like the worlds they are set whether it is a Cook County Prison, pirate infested jungles, or creepy fairy tale woods.  Marshall does well with what he has, but the biggest issue is that he wasn’t given great material and actors to work with.

Summer Showdown Part 2

Movies walk a fine line when using surrealism. The producers have to encourage viewers to suspend disbelief without them questioning it. Films have notoriously bombed when it didn’t understood when they crossed this line. The Lone Ranger and Furious 6 go head to head as surreal, and, therefore fun, summer flicks.

Johnny and His Horse

771313_017The Long Ranger is a decent film but overall it lacks the true “legend” of what we know as The Lone Ranger. Though Johnny Deep and Armie Hammer are fabulous together, the movie fails to bewitch viewers.

The Lone Ranger is an origins story. Hammer plays John Reid as lawyer who looks like the Western version How I Met Your Mother‘s Marshal. When he joins his brother to tail a villain (William Fichtner) it means both their deaths, but John is chosen to come back. Ostracized Native American Tonto finds the law man and helps him on his quest to take down the villain and become the man in the mask.

The film is strongest when Depp and Hammer are allowed to flex their humor muscles. Their chemistry is reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s and Owen Wilson’s comradeship in Shanghai Noon. They are a hoot to watch, especially when discussing “kemo sabe” actually meant. In fact, Depp is the shining star of the movie. Tonto injects humor when the plot becomes bland and, with Silver, moves the story forward.

The movie suffers because it fails to perpetuate the legend that is the Lone Ranger. Until the conflict/resolution scene towards the end, there is nothing very mythical about the Lone Ranger. This action sequence was pure Western fantasy that delights like the old stories. We know it could never possibly be real and we love that about it. Everything that comes before plot wise is just a crappy Western with a titular character who was Mostly Dead. The audience leaves unsatisfied.

Ride or Die

fast_and_furious_6Fast & Furious 6 does not suffer from the lack of surrealism. It shines brightly as an insane action flick that is just about fun and spectacle. While some seriousness is injected into the film, the creators never lose track of what the movie was made for: blowing up fast cars.

The plot? Who the hell cares? But here’s a recap for you. Dom and Brian (or in my world Paul Walker and Vin Diesel; they have no other names) are living the high life after the heist featured in Fast Five. Brian is a father, and Dom seems happy with his new girlfriend.  They have no interest in changing the status quo when Hobbs asks for their help with a military robbery. But when they find out Letty is alive, all bets are off. The two pull together the majority of their heist team to take down the perpetrators and rescue Letty.

The film is full of the absurd action sequences fans love. Use a Mustang to anchor a tank? No problem. Bring down a military grade plane? We got this. The script contains plenty of asinine dialogue but many of them are truly funny (this is the only time I will ever profess love for Ludacris). The story gets a little heavy but then Brian arranges to go to prison one night and then ridiculousness returns. The movie is high adrenaline fun, causing exclamations of amazement and astonishment leaking from viewer’s lips at every turn.

The franchise isn’t over yet. In a year, audience will get their high octane high with a sixth entry (excuse me, seventh installment; Tokyo Drift actually happened, huh?). This is welcome as long as producers remove what makes these movies so popular. The only thing weighing them down is the producers’ wish to add B-list action stars with nominal acting talent. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve had to put up with Dwayne Johnson in the last two and now to add Jason Statham into the mix? Give me a break. Here’s what makes these movies work: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Michele Rodriguez. We don’t need anything else.

F&F6 speeds away in this competition leaving Tonto and the Lone Ranger hobbling along on Silver’s crippled legs.

The Heartthrob Oscars Snubs

The Academy Awards is a political vehicle that believes that attractiveness does not equal good acting-if you’re a man. Time and time again heart throbs have been nominated but never earned the golden statue. Here’s a look at the biggest and most recent Heart Throb Snubs.

Bradley Cooper

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I have loved Cooper since Kitchen Confidential. I saw a lot more than a hot guy. He has charms and had lots of acting potential. When Limitless came out I was so excited; his own starring role. Entertainment Weekly was surprised he could pull it off; but I wasn’t. I knew he could handle comedy with perfect timing but give depth and emotion to serious scenes. In Silver Lining Playbook he managed to incorporate the two. The humor did not take away from the drama, and Cooper nailed the manic life of someone with bi-polar disorder. This was such a frank and earnest portrayal, he deserved the award. Though Jennifer Lawrence was good, she had nothing on Cooper who totally transforms himself in this role. This was a once in a lifetime role and should have been rewarded.

Jeremy Renner

arts-locker-584-summitentThe Hurt Locker took Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay (among others) and Renner was nominated for Best Actor. The Academy went with the older, we’ll respected actor instead of the soon to be heartthrob. He lost out to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Renner was relatively unknown before The Hurt Locker and gave such a powerful performance that he gained the Academy’s attention. For a week, Renner trained at Fort Irwin to play Sergeant First Class William James.  To go from nobody to somebody overnight? Now that’s a feat!

Johnny Depp

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Possibly one of the most snubbed actors in Oscar history. He was nominated three times and did not win a once. In 2003, he was nominated for his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl. Depp became the character and made you love a scoundrel you could have hatred. The next year he was nominated for Finding Neverland, both a biopic and a sure win. But lightening seems to strike twice, and Depp was forever ignored. In 2007, he was nominated for musical performance in Sweeny Todd. He sadly lost that one as well. But this rip off was nothing compared to the earlier snub for Pirates. Depp seems not to mind but I do.

Heath Ledger

heath_ledgerSince his American debut in 10 Things I Hate About You, Ledger has been making women swoon over his Australian accent and long locks. Ledger, not wanting to be stuck in teen pop, branched out doing a variety of projects. Ledger adapted well into dramas and complex characters. It was his turn as a homosexual cowboy in Brokeback Mountain that garnered him critical and academy acclaim. He was nominated for Best Actor in a very fierce year; three of the candidates had been in biopics, Academy Gold. He, in fact, lost to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s amazing portrayal of Capote. But in a twist of fate, Ledger won Best Supporting Actor in 2009 beating out Hoffman. If not for his tragic death, I doubt he would have won. This almost makes up for the Best Actor snub-almost.