Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Heat - Review

“The Heat”- Review

“The Heat” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy is a comedy film that tells the formula story of two seemly opposite people who are compelled by unique and coincidental circumstances to work with each other for a common good. And as you might expect the two are paired together even though they appear to as diametrically opposite in personality that there is no calculable, imaginable or conceivable way these two should ever or could ever want to work well with each other. But hey, this Hollywood and there anything is possible.

First, in the film we see Sandra Bullock playing ambitious  FBI Special Agent “Sarah Ashburn”, an uptight, straight-laced, highly meticulous professional who is not very liked by her colleagues for her not so subtle aloofness and arrogance  but is largely tolerated because of her stellar methodical investigated skills that has earn her an agency wide reputation for excellence.

Second in the film we see Melissa McCarthy who plays “Shannon Mullins” one of Boston PD’s finest, recognized for her street smart – gut instinct approach to investigating felonious activity and capturing elusive criminals, but who also is disliked for her foul-mouthed approach to authorities and colleagues and again is largely tolerated because of her reputation for being an excellent cop.

So, when these two polar opposites meet and are forced to have to work together the over arching question is asked;  can these two incompatible law officers actually join forces together to bring down a culprit that they both have different vested needs to close their respective cases?

Directed by Paul Feig, the director of the very funny "Bridesmaids.", we see what apparently what he and others saw from that effort, that being Melissa McCarthy is truly very talented. She unlike any other actor I have seen in awhile has the capacity to sell her character from beginning to end, staying on course with a sense of believability, humor,  spontaneity, charm, personal appeal and warmth. She sells “Shannon” with genuine creative wit and timing, a turn on a dime good and bad nature side and a sensual feminine quality as well that makes you the viewer want to actually be around her either at a bar, at dinner or at work. She seems real, she seems honest, and she seems fun

The story pairing of Bullock and McCarthy characters is nothing new and has a few scenes that seemed a bit cliché and predictable. What made this movie ultimately fun for me was that it was simply good and refreshing for a wonderful change to see two women carrying a film from start to finish. “The Heat: moves along pretty well with multiple moments of laugh out loud humor and a decent enough written story that held my interest through out.

 But make no mistake about it; what I was left with is McCarthy nearly steals almost every moment and the movie itself, So much so leaving the theater I could not stop thinking about having no doubt Hollywood will continue to find new vehicles for Melissa McCarthy to entertain us. So may I make a suggestion?

Someone needs to write her a script that she and she alone is the principle starring subject. McCarthy not only has the star power now to command such a film project in that way, she also has the talent too; so much so I really believe that someday if given the right role, she will be garnering one of those gold bald headed statues in February as “Best Actress”; she in my estimation is that good.

3 – 1/2 Stars

Thursday, June 20, 2013

World War Z - Review

World War Z – Review

“World War Z” is about Zombies (the undead), people running from them and Zombies chasing them to bite them to make more Zombies – the end. But you already knew that.

WWZ is not an especially smart film, especially in the first hour as it seems to offer up nothing new or clever that I haven’t already seen before. But what it does do effectively overall is provide a highly entertaining film from start to finish, with a second hour much crisper in its story development with scenes more thought out to a reasonable believable conclusion befitting the overall tone of the film.

What I enjoyed largely about the film was its pace. There is no messing around in this film with attempts to explain who characters are or possible hidden subplots. Within the very first few minutes of the films beginning it delivers the audience with a bang as Zombie rush hour is on in full throttle. Zombies everywhere, coming out of nowhere with no attempted explanation for how they came into being. Literally from a birds eyes view we see Zombies running down bewildered pedestrians as if they had a double cocktail mix of espresso and steroids.       

Brad Pitt’s character is the principle figure through the film and makes a reasonable acting case as the somewhat reluctant smart guy who can only save the world hero. And except for a few scenes in the beginning that seem to be a bit confusing he takes charge of the prevailing question about what cause this and what is the cure for this pandemic rabid rage that has infected the entire planet.

A couple of side notes. One I was surprised that the film was not especially gory which did not hurt the film at all for me. Two, there were a couple of highly affective action scenes one being a narrative taking place on the ground in a seemingly well fortified Israel and another one on a jet liner in mid flight. But clearly the best and smartest scene of the entire film takes place at a World Health Facility that is absolutely thrilling, tense, affectively clever and surprisingly funny as well.

Bottom line is if you are tired of Vampires as I am and Zombies are you latest cup of thrilling tea as they are for me, then go ahead and take 2 hours out of your day to see WWZ, you will have fun as I did.

3 -1/2 Stars 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Man of Steel - Review

“Man of Steel” - Review

With the film “Man of Steel we are introduced once again to the timeless story of “Superman” literally from its genesis of where the planet Krypton is standing on the imminent precipice of destruction due to an unstable planet core. Scientist Jor-El and his wife Lara knowing that all is lost make the agonizing decision to send their new born child Kal-El in a ship along with all of the Codex Genetics of the people of Krypton to a distant planet called Earth where they believe it would be suitable for their son to flourish and ultimately help preserve the Krypotonian race.

We also see how the young boy grows up with his human name of Clark Kent; and how he learns both his honest and upright values from his loving and protective human parents, as well as how he manages his unexplainable powers that ultimately cause him great emotional confusion as to who he really is, to know where he really came from and what was the reason he was sent to earth.

I won’t bore you with any more background as I am certain you can take the story from here and the arrival General Zod. What is critical is does the story of “Man of Steel” work in 2013 with all of the possible and available magic of computers, blue screens technology and special affects wizardry not afforded the 1950s George Reeves’s TV show “Superman”. My answer is no.
When I heard Zack Snyder was going to be at the helm Directing this project and not Christopher Nolan who did a superb job with the Christian Bale Batman Trilogy I had immediate reservations on his ability to tell a coherent story. And while Snyder did a good job in the action film “300” and a passable effort in “Watchmen”, my opinion of his vision came to fruition; that being someone who probably in his youth played countless hours on Nintendo or Play station; became proficient at playing various video games and had the epiphany as an adult that directing feature films would be equally as easy.

His direction is like watching someone take a bunch of odd shaped pieces of quilt fabric being push pinned down to the floor to stay in one place and then transition into one huge cloth not with the subtlety of a fine needle and thread but with a thick rope threaded through a hammer. It feels heartless, jagged, stiff, rushed and unconnected from scene to scene and just like with video games where you have the flexibility to make things up as you go along, so was my feeling of   “Man of Steel”, made up as it went along.

No matter what the genre (drama, action, comedy, and romance) making movies is not about simply stringing a series of vertically straight time line scenes together and hoping they work together as entertainment as MOS does. Snyder’s linear punchy approach filled the screen with what can only be described as an infatuation or preoccupation on his part with endless mindless chaotic explosions and zipping visual action across the screen without any regard for a smooth transition from one scene to the next.

From books, to plays, to TV, to movies, it always come back to telling a meaningful soulful story and making the reader or viewer genuinely care for the characters well being; making their plight your plight, their anxiety your anxiety, their fears your fears, their joy your joy and their triumph your triumph. MOS soul is about energy and nothing else.

 “Man of Steel” is never boring, just not well made and not very interesting or memorable either. I felt especially disappointed today in what I saw, particularly in what could have be a fabulous reboot to a solid franchise that is currently in the process of it’s sequel as you read.

So if I can offer a hint to the producers on the sequel; find a different Director next time.

2 – 3/4 Stars

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The East - Review

The East – Review

“The East” is a sharp, smart and suspenseful thriller from proven writer-director - actress producer Brit Marling, a Georgetown University graduate who came into prominence in 2011 with her critically acclaimed debut film effort “Another Earth”.

In her third film “The East” Marling is playing a former FBI agent Sarah Moss who has decided to start a new career at a firm named Hiller Brood, an elite private intelligence firm that with aplomb ruthlessness protects the interests of its A-list corporate chemical, pharmaceutical and petroleum clientele.

Sarah, an incredibly motivated, resourceful and ingenious agent, is handpicked early in the film for an assignment by the company’s CEO Sharon (Patricia Clarkson), to eventually infiltrate deep undercover to locate and report on a domestic terrorist cell called “The East”. An elusive anarchist collective, who has proven to be both aggressive and strategic in their ability to exact espionage revenge, specifically against major corporations who have had a suspicious history of corporate criminal activity but yet still evade the law.

Sarah works her way into eventually meeting one of its members hoping to ingratiate herself to the group by trying to overcome their suspicions, with the idea of her joining them on their next terrorist action or as they referred to it a “Jam.”. But the deeper Sarah gets closer and connected to the motives of the group and its leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgård – “True Blood”), the more she begins to question her own morals for what she is doing with her career and her personal life

“The East” has a lot of interesting components working for it, touching on contemporary issues of eco terrorism, corporate power, environmental impact, moral quandary and matters of individual verses group ethics. The film’s direction is well paced, smart and gripping, and while the plot meanders a moment into scenes with a cultish tone, the overall story is always provocative through out its unflinching two hour running time.

Marling proves she is a burgeoning creative talent that will be consistently pushing the envelope on promising future films beyond the more conventional movie fare. Thus far, she has firmly established an eye for producing imaginative and creative films for all of those who want their entertainment meatier in complexity with a story’s execution always moving intelligently in both horizontally and vertically lines.   

3 -1/2 Stars

The Internship - Review

The Internship – Review

“The Internship” starring Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson,  Rose Byrne, John Goodman and a cameo by Will Ferrell tells the story of two high end  wrist watch sales men Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) who are also each other’s best friend.

In the beginning of the film we see the two having a dinner with a frequent long standing customer. But early on in the dinner meeting as the two were making their closing “tried and true sales pitch” Billy and Nick surprisingly learned that their boss had called their customer earlier that day to tell him that his wrist watch business had suddenly gone out of business; basically ending Billy’s and Nick’s 20 plus careers. Apparently unbeknownst to the two, cell phones and other digital devices have completely torpedoed the need for personal watches as the current generation of professionals rely more on their Smart Phones for the current time.

Trying to prove they are not professionally obsolete, they go out to defy their lack of ambition over the years by going against the odds of changing careers by cleverly talking their way into a highly coveted internship at Google. Here the two fish out of water  “Nooglers” find themselves among an array of uniquely brilliant college graduates all running an intellectual gauntlet of hoping that they take their unpaid summer internships into new ambitious careers at the prestigious company.

However, Billy and Nick soon discover with all of their years of personal work experience and street smart, gaining permanent entrance into this utopian company is both a trying battle with much smarter elite, tech-savvy geniuses but also a challenge with themselves to realize the importance of optimism and self worth.

Overall, “The Internship” at its core has a rather sweet, sentimental and life reaffirming sprit to its story as Vaughn and Wilson genuinely have a natural charisma as actors that make them seem like real warm and personable friends. The problem with the film is that the first hour plus was never really funny or interesting with Will Ferrell’s presence adding nothing to the film at all. Also, Vaughn, Wilson and the supporting cast of characters in the beginning of the movie seem to execute their lines rather clumsily in a way that seemed more like a shoe in a spin cycle sounding like frantic bantering noise. There was a lot of talking between characters but not really saying anything interesting or meaningful to each other at all.

It’s only in the last 35 minutes of the film where some elements of grounded direction start to shine through. Specifically the ensemble of actors start to connect a bit, the dialogue seemed more relaxed and natural and personal relationships start to feel more rooted.

Ultimately, “The Internship” was largely a disappointment mostly because it didn’t take its credible cues from the story’s ending and apply them to the 75% rest of the film. 

2 – 1/4 Stars

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Now You See Me - Review

“Now You See Me” – Review

"Now You See Me" is about four people who have one thing in common; they all know elements of the art of magic. Brought together by some unknown and mysterious benefactor they are all rebranded with the unique name of “The Four Horseman”; a super-team of the world’s greatest illusionists.

Their mission is to follow to the letter specific instructions from their benefactor with the ultimate plan of pulling off a series of incredible daring heists against seemingly unrelated corrupt business leaders during their live stage performances. They’re benevolent goal is to eventually close out each performance by showering all of the stolen monetary profits from these various business leaders on to their adoring audiences all the while staying one step ahead of the law of an elite FBI squad and Interpol on their case. It’s the classic film caper of the cat and mouse game of who is exactly the smartest person in the room or in this case in the movie.

The problem with the film is it took what was a genuinely promising premise - plot idea and then spent the next 90 minutes of missing horribly its mark on the story’s development and follow through, resulting in something far more of a series of silly mechanical and over manufactured scenes than anything really magical or interesting. Instead this film was just an excuse to run out the clock on a revenge caper mixing some parts with real magic and a mixed bag of computer generated special affects explained away as magic.

Bottom line this is a film that wanted to borrow some of the stylish mood of Ocean 11, without the smarts, wit, humor or sophistication and for some reason borrow a needless Jason Bourne Identity fight and chase scene to apparently round things off for people like me who were already magically morphing into something called being a bit bored.

2 -1/2 Stars