Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the edge of a dozen movie dash

Here's what I like to call "The Dozen Movie Dash"... a quick review on 12 movies I've seen recently, some new, some old...

MALEFICENT (2014)... If you love the original film, you may have an issue with this retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. Well, not if you love it, I mean, if you are a loyalist to the original animated film... because this takes that film, flips it over like an Etch-a-Sketch, shakes it, and redraws a new tale... and this tale is very polarizing, as most people either love it or hate it. I don't know that I loved it, but I liked it very much.

Those cheekbones are a little weird... but overall, she's fantastic in this role.
We see Maleficent as a young fairy, meeting Stefan for the first time, forging a friendship and growing up together... and we see the heartbreak Maleficent had when Stefan forgot all about her, in order to chase his dream of being a human king. As the original story goes, a daughter is born (by a queen we see for a few minutes, and then hear that later, she's sick), is cursed by Maleficent, and is put into the care of three bumbling fairies named something, another and whatever (not the Fauna, Flora and Meriweather we all know and loved). The story does take a turn somewhere towards the end, though you might predict the "True Love Kiss" aspect of it, especially if you've seen "Frozen", and ends in a big battle scene, complete with the requisite dragon and everything.

The star of this film, though, is Angelina Jolie... she is completely mesmerizing. I'm one of about four guys in the entire world of 7 billion people who doesn't find Jolie all that attractive (she looked her best when she looked all mussed in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), but in this film, I was just captivated. When she's onscreen, you can't look away, as they put her perfectly sculpted face and ruby red lips front and center each time. Even the cuteness of Elle Fanning as Aurora can't take anything away from AJ... and I'm okay with it. "Maleficent" is Angelina's movie, as I cannot think of anybody who could have done this film as well as she did.

Love it, like, dislike or hate it, this isn't a movie you'll forget, especially Angelina in the title. role. Rated PG for fantasy violence.

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)... There are three things that I learned about this film. First, Tom Cruise still has it. He's excellent in this, he plays cowardice (early in the film) wonderfully, and we know he can be the hero (the rest of the film) from all the other movies he's been in. Second, despite what you hear, this isn't "Groundhog Independence Day", though I could see how one might think it. The whole plot centers the planet Earth, in the midst of an alien invasion, and a solider named Cage (Cruise) who ends up replaying the same day over and over... when he dies in battle, and in the beginning, it's very quickly, he wakes up again the day before, in the same spot. Only every time he starts over, he has learned a little more. Unlike "Groundhog Day", you learn in "Edge" of exactly why he is coming back again and again. And the story itself isn't entirely living the same 24 hours over and over again... the plot expands, and it's very well written, comical at just the right time, and a great popcorn movie to be enjoyed.
Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise facing off in their battle gear.  As long as
Tom stays away from "Oblivion 2", we're okay.
Oh, the third thing I learned? Emily Blunt is beautiful. Well, I already knew this, but she's great in this. PG-13 for language and science fiction violence.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (2014)... In this typical Disney sports film of overcoming the odds, Jon Hamm is JB, a sports agent who has seemingly lost the account that will save his agency. Things look grim, things look bleak, things look downright impossible... and yet, one night, while randomly watching Indian cricket with his friend and business partner Aash, he gets the stroke of inspiration he needs... hold a talent competition in India to find the next, great Major League Baseball pitcher. Off he goes, and first it doesn't work out, then it starts to, and then there are trials and tribulations and toss in Alan Arkin being crotchety as usual, then Bill Paxton in a low key coaching role and the gorgeous Lake Bell for eye candy, plus a few unknowns from Bollywood... and you have this movie.

I liked it okay enough, but I won't remember it in six months. PG for language and drinking and such.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)... I loved this film. I thought it was great, it was inventive, it was funny, and it was so, so well written. The all star cast includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with), Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, who has gotten no love in the last awards season for his part even though his hair alone was amazing... of course, the movie itself got no Oscar love either, nominated for 10 or 11 awards, and won absolutely Zero of them.  The director is David O. Russell, who did The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook... and yeah, those movies contain a many of the aforementioned cast.

Lots of cursing, as you'd expect from a Rated R film to contain... now, the story is a con movie. Who's conning who, who's telling the truth, who is lying, and so on. I figured it about 2/3rd of the way through, but that didn't lesson the enjoyment of the film at all. If you liked The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook (both are superior films), you should enjoy this--the performances, which are marvelous, outdo the story itself.

PAIN & GAIN (2013)... I'll watch anything with The Rock, and am a big fan of Mark Wahlberg as well, so this had potential. Set in the mid-90s, Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) recruits his friends Paul (The Rock) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to help kidnap a millionaire (Tony Shalhoub) because they all feel like they deserve more, and "they are doers". Full of random comedy, yet wanting to be a crime story too, it sorta works. A little long for my tastes, and its hard to believe the characters are as stupid as they are--of course, it was based on a true story. One of the funniest parts sees one The Rock actually grilling hands that have been cut off from dead bodies... to remove the fingerprints. Suddenly the scene freezes, and the words "THIS IS STILL A TRUE STORY" are shown on the screen... and I laughed heartily. Rated R for lots of language, some random boobage, and lots of violence.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014)... Following the success of 300, which was a great movie, this is not only a prequel, but its a sequel... and a... concurrentqual? The storyline of Rise of an Empire begins before the events of "300", during the events of "300" and continues after the ending of "300", with many callbacks to the "300" characters, notably Leonidis (Gerard Butler). His widow, played by Lena Hedley, plays a big part in this one, as well as former Bond Girl, Eva Green. Honestly, I couldn't decide if I found Eva Green attractive, or if I was terrified of her. Not as good as "300", but not as bad as you think it would be. Rated R for language and boobs. And violence.

You'll find yourself singing that "Everything is Awesome" song a whole
lot after you see it.  It's addicting, as it should be.
THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)... Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome when you see this film... Everything is cool when you are watching this film, everything is awesome! This movie is great... I mean, just great. Its fun, its original, its funny, its filled with hidden jokes, the cast is perfect (Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, so many more), and the ending scene has a great twist that I did even see coming... I know a few people who don't like this movie, and I just don't get how you can't at least find this movie mildly amusing. Its great. Rated PG.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)... This film is excellent. I mean, just excellent in so many ways. The cast is brilliant--Tom Hanks shines as Captain Phillips, while newcomer Barkhad Abdi is the lead Somali pirate, Muse, is both creepy and menacing and sympathetic and pitiful all at the same time. It took a slightly different direction than I expected about halfway through, though the movie is all the better for it... based on a true story, this movie is thrilling and pretty much non-stop all the way through. Rated PG-13 for violence.

THE INTERNSHIP (2013)... Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two dudes who need some direction in their lives, and they end up applying for an internship at Google... there is this summerlong program where people compete in teams, with the winning team landing jobs at the Google empire. Of course, Owen and Vince get placed on a team of misfits (like Dodgeball... or The Watch... ), and though I won't spoil it for you, you can guess where this leads... especially when you toss in Pretty Girl that Seems Unattainable But You Know Will Be Attained and Arrogant Dude That Always Gets His Way Until This Movie, Where He Will Get His Come-Uppance characters. Typical, predictable, yet Owen and Vince are charming enough to make is sorta funny. We enjoyed it, but we also like those guys alot, which might have helped. Rated PG-13

Here is the DIVX cover.  It's all bad.
FIRESTORM (1998)... After the success of Christian Slater and John Travolta in the military plane "Broken Arrow" (a film that is awful awesome awful awesome), someone said, "Hey... Howie Long did pretty good as Travolta's sidekick. Let's give him a movie!" Then someone else said, "Hey! Let's put fire in it!" and then someone else said, "Oh, fire in the wilderness!" and then some big suit down at the end pounded the table with a closed fist, saying, "Dang it! That's it! We make Howie a fire fighter in the woods! By jove, we've got it!" And so they made it. And the results are pretty stinkin' awful. I mean, its bad. Rated R for language and violence.

ENOUGH SAID (2013)... Out of all the great performers we've lost in the last year--Dennis Farina, Larry Hagman, Philip Seymour Hoffman--one of the biggies was James Gandolfini. He was such a versatile actor, and in this romantic comedy-drama, he shows even more range. A divorced father ends up meeting a divorced mother, played perfectly by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and somehow they hit it off. Things get complicated when they end up knowing the same people, and try to make a relationship work, even though neither have dated for a long time. The movie is sweet, and funny, and bittersweet all at the same time. It never tries to bill the characters off as sexy or hot or perfect, or even likable, though they are very likable. The movie just shows them as real people, which is what makes this movie so fun and real. I loved this film, and at the very least, you have to appreciate the performances by both Julia and the late, great Gandolfini. Rated PG-13 for language and sexy stuff.

MONUMENTS MEN (2014)... With a cast like George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, that guy from The Artist, and more, how can this movie not be the best movie like, ever. The premise is that in World War II, there were a group of soldiers commissioned to track down and save priceless works of art, those paintings and sculptures and more that Hitler had seized and stolen, to open his own self-aggrandizing museum in Germany. This is based on a real story, from a real book that I read earlier this year.

And like the book, this movie just didn't do it for me. It felt like a series of vignettes that were only slightly connected to each other. It ran long, parts were just uninteresting, and though the book itself tells you of the hundreds, maybe thousands of men who were a part of this Monuments Men team, the movie doesn't even refer to anyone else but the immediate team. Just eh. Disappointing more than anything, because the cast itself almost promises you a better film, and it breaks that promise.

And a bonus...
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN (2013)... On The Deucecast, we do an Assigned Films segment, where we assign each of the other two co-hosts a film to watch and be prepared to discuss them on the next episode. Sometime we get funny, and give movies to each other that we know they will hate, just for laughs, and other times we hand off movies that we genuinely think the other person will like. And then, for fun, sometimes you get handed a 3 hour and 58 minute documentary about "The Nightmare on Elm Street" films. So, over the course of the last week or so, I watched it via Netflix, in bits and pieces, when I could.

And I loved this movie. Every second of it. Now, I'm not a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan... I liked the original, I thought the third one was pretty good, and the seventh, "New Nightmare", in which all the actors actually play themselves, suddenly terrorized by Freddy Krueger, who has escaped imagination and entered the real world, was just cool.

Though the 238 minute running time is itself a nightmare, it's really an extremely easy watch--it's broken up into 15 and 20 minute segments, each concentrating on a different film in the series. Starting with the first, then the second ("Freddy's Revenge"), then then third ("The Dream Warriors"), then fourth ("Dream Masters), fifth ("The Dream Child"), then the sixth ("Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare"), then the finale ("Wes Craven's New Nightmare") and ending with the encore ("Freddy vs Jason").  Somewhere in the middle, the film even has a segment devoted to the short lived late 80s TV series. 

Along the way, you get great interviews with the actors in each movie, some of them with characters that die in the first few minutes, others that live through multiple films, and of course, lots of Robert Englund (who plays Freddy), Wes Craven (the creator of the series) and Robert Shaye (the former CEO of New Line Cinema, who released the films).

For anyone is even a passing fan of the Elm Street series, this movie is worth a watch, even if you only catch it segment by segment. It goes by much quicker than you think, it's entertaining and it's full of behind the scenes tidbits on how to make scary movies on practically no budget whatsoever.

So there ya go... twelve thirteen movies for your enjoyment... choose wisely.

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