Friday, May 24, 2013

The Hangover III – Review

The Hangover III – Review

Once again in The Hangover III we see the Wolf Pack Trifecta of Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifanakis innocently again hitting the road to some seemingly benign destination only to be drawn to a series of unintentional, improbable and haphazard circumstances with strangers and chaotic peril.

This time we find where the gang have decided to help Alan (Zack) regain some emotional footing in his zany life through a group intervention with the expressed idea of having him spend some time at a mental health clinic as a means of hoping that he start acting more like a 42 year old adult and a lot less like a 14 year old just coming into puberty.

With Alan coming along again as the seemingly perpetual throw away Wolf Packer for plot purposes only, the four journey together to the desert clinic where their trip is interrupted by a car jacking resulting in all four being held captive albeit briefly. Why? Apparently a big time hood named Marshall (John Goodman) knows that there is some history between the 4 travelers and a former friend - nemesis of theirs named Leslie Chow who apparently has taken something of extreme value from him and unless Phil, Stewart and Alan don’t bring Chow to him he is going to kill (throw away Wolf Packer) Alan in 48 hours. And thus the hilarity begins. Well, I thought it would be hilarious. Actually, it wasn’t hilarious very much.

Instead, of what we had from the 2009 original film which was a light hearted, funny, seemingly both believable and relatable tale of not remembering what happened the night before because of alcohol intoxication, we are now left with what will be clearly the final installment of this franchise as a much darker more violent story of mindless circumstances that were suppose to be funny. Did I laugh, of course I did (occasionally) and there were a few scenes that seem to be nicely executed, but what is lacking in this effort is the genuine humor throughout their peril.

T.H.3 jokes seem less like something that naturally made you laugh, smile and was funny, and more like the numbing affects of Novocain; basically not the feeling I was expecting about 4 guys and alcohol. Oh, did I mention that there was not one scene where anyone was seen drinking any alcohol. Imagine a move called The Hangover without any alcohol consumption. Any way I digress

Directed again by Todd Phillips, T.H.3 was made because for Hollywood it has been and will probably be a huge cash cow again; after all that’s why they make movies anyway. But at it’s best this film is a rental and not something you should spend any time watching other than a rainy day with nothing else better to do.           

But don’t fret if you really think that we saw the last of this type of film, I kid you not, in a few months this year a film called “Las Vegas” will be released starring Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Klein with the plot being four best friends, in their late sixties, throw a bachelor party in Las Vegas for the last one of them to be getting married. Sound familiar. So sad

2 – 1/2 Stars

Friday, May 17, 2013

"Star Trek- Into Darkness" - Review

“Star Trek – Into Darkness” – Review

“Star Trek – Into Darkness” nearly from scene to scene is a energetic, sufficiently funny, aggressive, visually inventive, clever, exhilarating, a fast, fun and furious, zipping along at warp speed kind of film. Oh, did I say it was good too? 

Let’s start with this point; I was weaned on Star Trek when it was a TV show in the 1960’s, so these characters are iconic to me. But, what made the TV show and some of the subsequent feature films memorable was that with all of the bells and whistles of amazing technology to contemplate, the real weighty fabric to this story was the relationship between Kirk and Spock and the rest of the crew; it was the essential DNA to the many boldly adventurous stories that made the show resonate with so many 40 plus years ago and even today.

In his sophomore effort Director JJ Abrams does a much, much better job all around than his somewhat disjointed 2009 effort of capturing the essential elements that the TV show created, those being  the magically but unexplainable nurturing - loving and yet sometime stiff relationship between Kirk and Spock, a much better job of displaying the USS Enterprise itself as this amazing ship in flight and in action and in the end with a few exceptions within the plot itself a real solid job of keeping the story itself well connected throughout with perfect execution by every member of the cast.

One of things some viewers may not notice but was very apparent to me was how much care and detail went into the development of the esthetic background of this film. It was a perfect blend of familiar current 2013 life such as people simply walking about doing the mundane verses more innovative architecturally crafted buildings, floating cars and the right amount of both unimagined but proportioned technology in a not too distant future. There was also great effort to make the Star Trek heroes look more nattily sharp in an array of new uniforms and attire that I was immensely impress with, giving the crew what I thought was an added degree of looking more professional in their chosen careers as space adventurers.

The story here doesn’t break any new ground here, even though there are some contemporary political – military connotations that may take on a familiar resonance to some. Still, I won’t bore you with setting up the plot, because you already know the basic particulars to the franchise. What I will tell is the plot is a bit of a reboot from a previous well known Star Trek story that will be easily recognizable to all, with a solid impenetrable villain in tow who comes across more like Jason Bourne on steroids with a certain Oxford educated erudite scholarly panache. There is also a scene where Kirk has to space leap from ship to ship that was brilliantly conceived and breathe taking to watch.

With the exception of a few minor scenes that added nothing to this fast paced story and maybe a little too much background drama music to supposedly heighten the moment and mood, this installment of Star Trek left me glued to my seat the entire time; enjoying every minute with almost child like enthusiasm.

So, go boldly Trekkies to the theater to see this and if you are not a Trekkie see it anyway for a really fun time.

3 -3/4 Stars

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"Kon-Tiki" - Review

“Kon Tiki” – Review

Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl in 1947 embarks on an astonishing 100 day expedition - a journey of 4,300 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean on a raft made of only of rope, a cloth sail and balsa wood that he named the “Kon-Tiki”.

From his earlier days of living in the Marquesas with his wife Liv, Thor stumbles upon the controversial idea that the South Sea Islands, specifically including the Polynesia Islands had been in fact settled by ancient South Americans from Peru thousands of miles from the east and not the west as conventional theory had surmised.

With book publishing houses and naturalist organizations reluctant to print and support his theory and despite his inability to swim and fear of water from a child hood event, Thor decides to prove his theory by sailing the risky legendary voyage himself. So, after replicating what he thought the ancient raft design would have looked like, with only a radio and no modern tools or equipment for on board repairs Thor and his fellow five adventurers set sail from Peru without any means of rescue for what ultimately was the story of their lives. 

“Kon Tiki” is one of those life reaffirming tales we have seen many times where brave men and women take risk; surviving only by relying on nothing more than intellect, faith of their beliefs and that unexplainable indomitable human spirit to prevail against all odds (i.e. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton Antarctic Expedition).

With a cinematic backdrop of the South Pacific, “Kon –Tiki’ is simply beautiful to look at as it incases Thor and his crew with its vast sense of rich pristine blue isolation, all the while equally interesting for the viewing audience to watch as we self contemplate their sense of wonderment, their sense of adventure, their sense of thrills, their sense of fear and ultimately their sense of joy and triumph.

I liked “Kon –Tiki” very much, mostly as a reminder that the biggest adventure anyone can ever take in their lives is to live the life of their dreams and if you don't take any risks to achieving those dreams then you'll have wasted your soul.

3 -1/4 Stars

"The Great Gatsby" - Review

“The Great Gatsby” – Review

“The Great Gatsby" follows the story of writer Nick Carraway (Maguire) when he comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, where the country is immersed in a new era of loosening morals, jazz playing out at every street corner establishment, bootleg of alcohol is the accepted norm, women and men are adorned in the finest of fashions, glitzy parties are all the rage and every ones wants to be seen as the crème del a crème of Bon Vivants. But not everyone in America is blessed with wealth from the burgeoning country new found prosperity and therefore the idea of being seen poor is not only unbearable but unconscionable to accept.

While others seem oblivious to this contradictory economic dichotomy, through the prism of his Midwest values Nick is not and is uniquely but politely mystified by its vapid acceptance and casual tolerance, especially when he arrives to his new small cottage home where he immediately observes that his neighbor; a mysterious millionaire neighbor by the name of Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) is the perfect personification of this economic divide.  It also does not go unnoticed by Nick that Mr. Gatsby lives in one of the most richly appointed luxurious home he has ever seen diametrically aligned across the beautifully calm and majestic bay from where his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan) lives, who is married to the less than subtle philandering, blue-blooded and arrogant husband Tom Buchanan.

Nick like a fly on the wall is drawn and enthralled by the sweet decadence of this new world of un ending excesses; where everyone is gaudily super rich, filled with illusions, of new loves and new deceits, and it from this experience that Nick decides to be both an inhabiter and a witness; later penning his observed story of how the power of love can sometimes drive some to corruptible dreams and unintended tragedies.

In the first hour “Gatsby” it is terribly over burdened by Director Baz Lurhrmann (“Moulin Rouge” and “Australia”) proven record of being overly infatuated with beautiful imagery, big production sets, dramatic music, intoxicatingly beautiful people, perfectly tailored clothing and his actors way too meticulous scripted physical  movement.

There is something slightly unnatural to the subliminal visual eye in the way his actors look and speak their lines to each other, that becomes more distraction than compelling. So for the first 60 minutes I found “Gatsby” to be bland and uninspiring, especially from the by the book performances of its supporting actors. It is only when DiCaprio arrives as “Gatsby” that the film feels like it has a recognizable life pulse, as his performance seemed genuine, vivid, honest and mortal. But was it enough to save the film. Not quite, leaving me disappointed in what could have been both a fabulous delectable experience to look at and to feel as well.

“Gatsby” is like being served a three layer white chocolate mousse cake smothered with flecks of thinly sliced smoke almonds, with two strawberries and several blue berries soaked in Amaretto liqueur and a flute of “White Star” Champagne. You take a bite, you ease back in your chair, you sip a bit of sparkling drink, your wipe the corners of your mouth and you respond by saying “needs more salt”. Clearly for such a palette scintillating dessert, you don’t need salt at all, but you know a whole lot of something is missing if it isn’t as sweet as it looks.

2 – 3/4 Stars

Saturday, May 4, 2013

"Iron Man - 3" - Review

“Iron Man 3” – Review

In the latest installment we find once again “Iron Man 3" centering appropriately around industrialist Tony Stark aka Iron Man who finds himself in an unintentional life and death conflict with an enemy whose seeds of hatred and jealously for our hero Tony were innocently planted at a swank hotel inside an elevator on New Years Eve 14 years ago..

Fast forward to current day we find the world renowned and celebrated Tony Stark - Iron Man paying the price from that minimum social slight with a new, highly intelligent and formidable enemy who is obsessively bent on destroying Iron Man and everything he passionately loves. So once again with his back against the wall Tony takes us on a whirl wind journey to survive this mortal threat by relying on his technologically advanced devices, his high I.Q. ingenuity and his snappy instincts to protect all those who are personally closest to him and all the while saving the United States of America as well.

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale with Jon Favreau and Ben Kingsley, "Iron Man 3" is mostly a 2 hour roller coaster ride of uninspiring aerial flying scenes, (though there was one really clever scene involving a skydiving event), less than impressive pedestrian fight scenes, dispassionate unemotional banter, witless quips from the usually reliable Tony’s witty quips and in the end nothing really new or inspiring to leave the audience feeling insatiable full to what looks like the end to this highly profitable film franchise (for now).

I realize it’s hard to take a basic action film from its original genesis and keep it fresh and innovative over three films. Maybe that’s why I have always believed that one sequel to be the appropriate life limit for any popular film’s quality as anything beyond 2 films invariable causes it to compete against itself becoming potentially flat, rudderless and uninspiring. (i.e. The Godfather 3).

Nonetheless “Iron Man  3” is basically entertaining as the pacing of it is so brisk, it doesn’t really allow you to absorb much of what is going on with any real pause or reflection, but again this franchise has never been about that and that is OK. The film held my attention through out, especially with a slightly better second half than the first.

In the end “I.M. - 3” is a bit rusty desperately needing a lube job if it has any chance of being rebooted in the future, hopefully then someone will bring a more unique intensity to it’s nature similar to that of the recently concluded Batman films that Christian Bales help to evolve and possibly for the soon to be released “Man of Steel” as well.

All and all, Iron Man has been fun but it’s time to put it up on the rack for a while.

3 - Stars

Friday, May 3, 2013

"The Company You Keep" - Review

“The Company You Keep” – Review
“The Company You Keep” with a stellar cast starring Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Shia LeBeouf, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Sam Elliott, Terrence Howard, Julie Christie, Brendan Gleeason, Richard Jenkins and Brit Martling, is based on true events, revolving largely around a recently widowed man named Jim Grant (Robert Redford) who is a public interest lawyer and single father raising his daughter in the suburbs of Albany, New York.
Grant's world is turned upside down, after an old friend who he is aware committed a murder when they were young radicals decides to surrender herself to the FBI after hiding out for 30 years as a suburban housewife. When a brash young reporter named Ben Shepard (LaBeouf) follows up on her arrests he soon discovers and exposes the true identity of Grant as well who was charged and wanted for the same murder. Grant immediately goes on the run with the FBI in hot pursuit, setting off a cross-country journey by Grant to track down the one person who is hiding also who can possibly clear his name for a crime they both know he did not commit.
“Company” starts out with a keen and sharp beginning with solid performances and writing all around, but after 60 minutes begins to whither a bit on the vine from way too many scenes that seem repetitive and redundant, as well as dialog seemingly stretched out to insure the movie had some quota to run at least a 2 hour running time.  The surprises and secrets revealed didn’t have take so long and the film overall could of been shorten by at least 30 minutes and probably would have been a better film product.
So, if it is raining and you got nothing better to do and it’s on basic free cable, you can watch “Company”. It won’t bore you, just make you yawn.  

2 – 3/4 Stars

"Disconnect" - Review

“Disconnect” – Review
“Disconnect” is part dramatic film, part expose and part two hour eavesdropping - fly on the wall experience on the ever growing consequences (both good and bad) of how modern technology and social media together are affecting and defining our daily relationships with people we love, we generally know and sometimes we really don’t know at all.
The film revolves around 4 group stories.  One is a career obsessed lawyer who is inseparable from his cell phone on his daily job leaving him unintentionally alienated and unable to communicate with any degree of normalcy with his family. The second is a couple inadvertently drawn into a dangerous situation when they experience a criminal invasion of all of their finances and personal identity information largely from social media outlets online. The third is a widowed ex-cop who struggles to raise his mischievous son who cyber-bullies a classmate. And the forth revolves mostly around an ambitious and glaringly naïve journalist seeking a career making story involving underage teens involved in the online adult-only sex sites.
Disconnect for about 90% of the film makes a strong cogent and sound case that the more reliance and greater emphasis technology takes root into our personal lives, the more it starts to almost inhabit some strand within our DNA where we become emotionally altered in as to who we really are, just as evolution does in the natural world altering a certain species legs to adapt to changing conditions in order to survive.
More importantly, the film suggests that we are in fact sacrificing something as we increasingly stop talking to each other and relying more on devices to talk through one another.  Unfortunately, it could be those naturally evolved qualities that tends to bind us all together, honed by a myriad of life long face to face encounters that emanate more delicate, sophisticated, palatable and virtuous responses on matters of intimacy, kindness, joy, sadness, heart ache and happiness.
So is the “Disconnect” from technology taking on equal parts aid and intruder in our lives?  Are we slowly devolving into emotionally atrophied dysfunctional souls left perilously overexposed and psychologically naked? Will technology stunt us in some way leaving us able only to communicate through more the primordial and impulsive traits of rage, revenge, debauchery, decadence, scandal and crime? If so, when does it stop? The film makes the case we seem at every innovative turn to readily welcome it’s every application and advancement with zealot like fervor; where the technology itself becomes both a comforting symbiotic friend and an emotional surrogate crutch to our most basic and simplest routine need.
You should at some point make the effort to watch this film, even though for me the last 10 minutes of the film disappointed me a bit as it felt more like a slapped on rushed convoluted soap opera finale. Still it’s a film I found thought provoking about how computers, the internet, cell phones and social media are in our daily lives just like real family.
3 –1/4   Stars