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You would think with all the action movie success Jeremy Renner has been having with The Avengers, The Town, and Bourne Legacy on top of his more dramatic roles that he may finally get to the point where he did not have to star in an action movie with a ridiculous title. Guess not. It sounds like something off the Syfy Channel but despite the primitive title this movie has its share of perks. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters mutates the familiar elements of the fairy tale into a bloody adventure.
A brief introduction to the plot of Hansel & Getel: Witch Hunters is as follows: After being orphaned at a young age, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton respectively) grow to become bounty hunters seeking to avenge their parents by taking out every witch possible. The brother/sister duo meet their match when the evil witch called Muriel (Famke Janssen) who is collecting children born in different months before the Blood Moon approaches to make witches everywhere immune to Hansel and Gretel’s murderous methods. Click here for the trailer.
As I stated above, this movie feels very much like a Syfy Channel original… except with a budget. I say that because it has a really fast pace that tells a decent story but has flat acting and little character development. But what makes this movie superior to Syfy’s run of the mill films is the quality of the sets, make-up of the creatures/witches, and special effects. They looked so cool on the big screen and not that cheesy CGI look that filmmakers seem to prefer these days especially when it came the troll character, Edward. By actually putting an actor underneath the makeup and props it made him feel real. In addition I appreciate the choreography of the fight scenes. Again they avoided the easy CGI effects or shaky camera to make the action appear to be happening fast but took advantage of good old fashion choreography and wiring.
Visuals is about the only perks the movie has. The story is imaginative but at the same time bland and predictable. Like Hansel’s flaw of being diabetic or in need of a sugar shoot because of poisoned candy that a witch gave him as a kid. You knew exactly when that would play a role. Or why it was that they were able to fight the witches successfully where others have failed. Then because the story was standard the acting suffered. Renner I think did what he could with Hansel as a know it all and wanna be loner but Arterton was near unlikeable and annoying at times with how she approached the character. Plus the almost seemed more like a couple than siblings until Hansel found a love interest. Janssen clearly had a fun time playing the conniving witch because it was fun watching her.
Overall, whether or not you see it in 3D Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters the visuals will impress you or at least it did for me. It moves along a good pace despite being predictable with boring characters. I give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a 6/10.
You know that saying about teaching an old dog new tricks? This could not apply more to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the big screen in The Last Stand. I mean that in both a good and bad way. Some of the good include the stoic stare, classic one-liners, and plain action fun. The bad being the low quality of acting, average to poor dialogue, and predictability factor but somehow all of the bad do not negatively impact the overall action experience.
A brief summary of the plot of The Last Stand is as follows: Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) is enjoying his day off on what should be the quietest day of the year when the town of Sommerton Junction’s high school football team travels out of town when suspicious truck drivers arrive. Suspicions heighten when one of the local farmers does not make a delivery followed by a call from FBI agent John Bannister warns that an escaped drug/mob leader, Gabriel Cortez, has escaped custody and may be heading to Sommerton as a means of evading to the Mexican border in a super charged Corvette. Click here for the trailer.
Looking at the credits for The Last Stand with its mish-mash of names that I would have never thought would be in the same movie, it should have been a disaster but it kind of works. Starting with director Jee-woon Kim who is most known for I Saw the Devil (2010), The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008), and A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) making his American film debut with this action/crime/comedy. Kim has proven that he knows how to shoot action scenes, craft intricate stories, and bring out great emotions from characters. The latter two do not exactly describe your typical Schwarzenegger flick. But The Last Stand holds up nice to his credits. The action was really well done which creates some tense and exciting scenes that are well adapted for an older Schwarzenegger character.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of the few actors/movie stars where no matter what movie he is in I will see it and most likely enjoy it even if his characters are practically the same every movie. The Last Stand is no different except that the character is older and not as physically dominating. He still gets in his blows, punchlines, and incredibly accurate when necessary gunfire which makes his return to the big screen a positive addition to Schwarzenegger’s others.
As for the other actors, they did a fine job supporting the big man’s return. Lois Guzman, Johnny Knoxville, and Peter Stormare are excellent comic relief. By the way, I cannot help but feel when casting a villain Peter Stormare must be one of the top choices consistently because he really does come across as sleazy and evil. Whitaker borderline over acted as an over anxious FBI agent but you cannot penalize him for trying to make up for the lack of acting from other minor supporting actors which have been improved by some better writing because the dialogue was the absolute worst thing about this movie.
Most action movies suffer from poor writing especially most Schwarzenegger movies but The Last Stand may be one of the worst offenders I have come across as of late. Dialogue is practically thrown out the window to make room for one-liners and to speed through scenes to get to the action which I am okay with most the time but The Last Stand is just so poorly written that I feel sorry that Kim made his American directing debut with it.
Overall, Arnold Schwarzenegger fans will not be let down but The Last Stand since it meets the formula of a lot of his other movies even though it does struggle more than most in the acting and dialogue area than his other movies. I give The Last Stand a 6/10.
Life of Pi is getting some Oscar buzz and after seeing it I can completely see why. Life of Pi is visually stunning on top of having a great story. A brief introduction to the plot is as follows: A struggling writer in need of a story to help regain his popularity turns to an Pi Patel for a story of adventure that “will make you believe in God.” Pi’s story starts with his upbringing in the zoo his father owned but is sold to pay for an opportunity to move the family west to Canada. A storm flips the boat and the only survivors are Pi, and orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and a tiger named Richard Parker. Pi’s faith and will are put to the test as he struggles with nature and the animals on the boat with him. Click here for the trailer
Ang Lee tells a very thought provoking story. Having never read the book I can only go by what is in the movie but with all emotional ups and downs that Pi experiences with Richard Parker the tiger I could not help being captivated by it. The struggle of power with the tiger and the attempts to bond with the animal was so well done that it does not feel drawn out like I thought it would have been. By the way I found Pi’s attitude towards Parker to be very similar to the relationship Tom Hanks developed with Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away. Pi would say Richard Parker’s name whenever he would address him just like Hanks did when he talked to Wilson.
Not going to lie there were times I forgot that Richard Parker was CGI and the same goes for a lot of the other visual effects in the 3D format. It is not on the level of Avatar by any means but he still creates a very real and beautiful world that you buy into all the vibrant colors. I am a little never about how it might feel in 2D however. I felt the same way about Avatar. Watching it in 2D on my television at home, though still enjoyable, the movie just lost some of that in theater magic.
As far as the acting is concerned, I cannot believe Suraj Sharma is not getting the attention he deserves for this movie. You can see him wearing down while getting stronger at the same time and I would easily give him at least a nomination but I might be alone there. Irrfan Khan for as little screen time as he gets is still phenomenal and I really started to believe that the story he was telling was his own.
Overall, Life of Pi was a very enjoyable theater experience. The only drawback to me was that some of the scenes are simply in the movie to utilize the 3D so I fear in future watches I will be a little less impressed with the effects in 2D. I give Life of Pi an 8/10.
Most who have seen the 1995 Judge Dredd with Sylvester Stallone will admit to the foul taste that was left in their mouth regarding one of the most brutal comic book protagonists. Even Stallone’s action stature could not save that movie (he might even be the one to blame). So there were mixed reactions when Dredd was announced and having seen the movie now, it completely trumps the predecessor in every way. Karl Urban owned his role as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirbly was the perfect compliment by being surprisingly not annoying for a side-kick. The action was extremely well done, cool 3D effects for the SLO-MO drug affects, and a great villain. Dredd 3D easily ranks as one of my favorite movies this year; I give it a 9/10.
End Of Watch: Believable Buddy Cop Movie
It kind of makes you think of a well choreographed COPS episode. That may sound bad but I mean that as a compliment because Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena were very believable not only as police officers but as friends. The main reason I say that was their bantering, it seemed so natural the way they played off each other. Plus for a portion of the film it effectively utilizes a different approach to the found footage style of filming with the shaky hand held camera feel. On top of all that, there was some real drama and at times pretty emotional that is most directly a result of Gyllenhaal and Pena’s chemistry. I hope this movie gets Pena some more leading roles; I give End Of Watch a 8/10.
Trouble With The Curve: More Grumpy Old Men
Clint Eastwood as a stubborn, opinionated, and against-the-odds man…. shocking. Do not get me wrong, he plays the role very well but it gets a little tiresome and borderline annoying at times. His relationship with his daughter played by Amy Adams just seems like a tug of war where the flag in the middle waves stagnate in the same place for nearly 2 hours. Each one proves to be as stubborn as the other despite the fact that Adams’ character despises how Eastwood “got rid of her” when she was a child. Timberlake plays a flirtatious, wise-cracking, and fallen out of grace former baseball player that has aspirations to become a broadcaster and the hots for Adams (who can blame him). I give Trouble With The Curve a 6/10.
Taken 2: As Fast Paced as the First Installment
Luc Besson and Liam Neeson team up again for the sequel to the globally well received Taken. There is an undeniable intensity to Neeson as former CIA Bryan Mills with his “set of skills” that just sucks you into the action. It is not the most creative means of picking up where the previous film left off but who can complain? This sequel has those good hand-to-hand combat scenes, gun fights, car chases, and secret agent tracking training tactics that fans of the first one will love. Overall it is a pretty fun movie but there were times where I did get irritated by the same old I am going to save me family thing. I give Taken 2 a 7/10.
Sinister: Another Stop on the Murder Map
Ethan Hawke in a horror movie? Going into this movie I knew what potential Sinister had with a great lead actor and he delivers a great performance. This has been missing from a lot of horror movies as of late. And his back story that brought him to the house for greed and fame were really well done too so kudos to the writers. The scares were okay but they spoiled a lot of the what would have been good ones in the trailer so that took the air out of a lot of the jumpy parts. Still a pretty cool horror movie, lived up to my expectations. I give Sinister an 8/10.
Here Comes The Boom: Ready to Rot
Following I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Paul Blart: Mall Cop Kevin James seems to be back in the public eye with these near screw-ball comedies. His latest film Here Comes The Boom is no exception. James’ character is a bit of a jerk and is really hard to root for especially when he is trying to help a kooky Henry Winkler and hook up the weird teacher Salma Hayeck plays. I just had a hard time getting behind this wannabe do-gooder that makes nothing but jokes at others’ expense. Most of those jokes fall pretty flat by the way. I give Here Comes The Boom a 5/10 because of one “rotten” scene that came out of nowhere that was pretty funny.
Argo: True Story about a Fake Movie
A lot of early Oscar buzz surrounding this Ben Affleck directed drama. To quote something a friend of mine said about eight years ago, “Ben Affleck is not really an actor, he is a movie star.” So I am glad to see him taking a seat behind the camera a little more often now. What this movie does best is show both sides of the tension without making the US out to being the innocent party and any opposition as evil. Instead you know and understand what upset the Iranians. But again to refer to my earlier quote, Affleck’s acting in this is really stale and boring but all other actors like Cranston, Goodman, and Arkin picked up the slack. It was a little short of the hype for me, I give Argo a 7/10.
Seven Psychopaths: Takes a Psychopath to Write About Psychopaths
This is a superbly written comedy/crime/thriller with great acting. With a stacked cast including Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, and Christopher Walken that helped carry this story of a struggling writer figure what to do for his next screenplay. The most creepy or at least most interesting of the psychopaths is easily played by Tom Waits. Even though there was plenty of humor there was a lot of jokes that fell flat that I had a hard time getting past. Even though this was a very well written story, almost Guy Ritchie-esque, a lot of the humor did not land with me and this is labeled as a comedy first and foremost so I can only give Seven Psychopaths a 7/10.
Paranormal Activity 4: Unfortunate Lack of Scares
I think the best way to describe this movie is it is a blend of the second and third installments. Remember that awkward teen relationship in the second movie, well its awkwardness was trumped by Kathryn Newton and her boyfriend’s relationship (dude says his laptop videotapes her while she sleeps and it does not bother her). The scares were recycled from the others and serves as a 90 commercial for the Xbox Kinect. As much as I love found footage horror, I have to give Paranormal Activity 4 a 4/10.
Anyone one else feel like the only movies released these days about a future with robots always portray robots as these evil or combative. Movies like I, Robot, the Terminator series, and the Transformer movies seen to make the idea of the advancement of robotics absolutely frightening. Don’t get me wrong there are also movies that do paint a nicer picture for robots like Short Circuit, Wall-E, and Batteries Not Included but those do not stick with you as much as ones where the robot is not operating in favor of humans. So it is always nice to catch a movie about a robot that warms your heart like in Jake Schreier’s Robot & Frank.
Here is a brief introduction to Robot & Frank: Frank (Franks Langella) is a retired jewel thief residing in a quiet town “in the near future.” Frank is battling an ailing memory and his two children, Hunter (James Marsden) and Madison (Liv Tyler), are concerned about what to do in his best interest. Being that Madison is off working on her philanthropic endeavors, Hunter spends hours makes weekly trips to check in on Frank and is steadily get tired of doing so. One trip Hunter returns with a robot that is designed to help Frank with his memory and improve his life style. Initially Frank was irritated but its presence but soon finds that the robot will do whatever helps Frank with his memory including planning a couple of heists. Here is the trailer:
Robot & Frank finally puts robots into a modern world and I mean that in two ways. One is that it is not too advanced of a robot in too near a future nor is it too simple. Second is that it presents robots as a sort of like political issue where there are two opposing sides and that comes through Franks’ kids. On one hand you got Hunter could not want more that to find something to help improve his father’s quality of life if that means getting a robot and then you have Madison who balks at the need for artificial life. These days there are always two sides to every argument so it was kind of interesting to see it here.
The other thing I thought they did well was with Frank’s condition. His deteriorating memory was obviously the central piece of the story but it never felt like it was being force down your throat. It was not so much that memories were disappearing but that they were blending together that he essentially cannot seem to put his memories in order. It was very well written and Frank Langella’s performance makes the character feel so real. He develops this cute relationship with Robot that really feels that he not just wants him there but needs the robot.
And when I say relatable I mean it makes you think about your own parent/grandparents. It makes me think of when we got my grandmother satellite TV after she has only been able to watch the same 3 channels for many years. She would always say “What do I need that for?” Then sure enough there was not a day that when we called or went to see her that she did not have Turner Classic Movies playing on one of her TV’s.
Robot & Frank is a well written and sometimes emotional drama about the possibility of robots in a not too distant future. It is definitely worth a watch, I give it an 8/10. Also stay for the credits, shows the amazing advancements already in robotics.
Bruce Willis is known for a lot of high-octane action-thrillers. From his early days of dangling from a fire hose outside the 35 story high Nakatomi building to his brief appearance in the star-studded Expendables series Willis always brings that extra something to make an action movie even better. That is not the case, however, for The Cold Light Of Day. No actor has a resume of just great movies. There are bound to be a few that have you scratching your head wondering “what were they thinking?” So I am willing to let Willis slide on this one because I think the success or failure of a movie is heavily dependent on the editing in my opinion (that does not mean that I am right). The Cold Light of Day has no substance at its all action core.
A brief plot synopsis is as follows: Struggling business consultant, Will (Henry Cavill), reluctantly takes time off from his ailing business to spend a week with family in Spain. Will has a resentful relationship with his father, Martin (Willis), which leads to an incident on their yacht and Will has to go into town for a few hours to put some distance between him and his father. He returns to see his family’s yacht torn apart and vacant. When goes to recruit the help of local authorities he finds they are involved and the his father’s government job is not as honest as he had thought and now must scramble between fighting government agencies in order to get his family back. Here is the trailer:
As I hinted at earlier this movie may have had potential had it been edited differently. I have no idea whether this is how the director, Mabrouk El Mechri, had envisioned it but it just seemed sloppy and all over the place. It spent so much time on the action scenes and none on the development of the story. That is a petty complaint for an action movie but when there is an obvious question that needs to be answered and it is not it takes you out of the movie. Now they definitely had shot some more scenes that did not make it into the movie as does every movie, but the way they chose to speed over a lot of what could have been important plot details that needed explaining did not make sense to me. They would allude to explanations but never really make any sense of things and stuck the “just because” reasons. Normally I love when there is a lot of action but not when it is drawn out and goes nowhere especially when it comes to car chases.
Of course with any action movie you do not watch it for the acting. That said it is hard to do wrong. Willis was his good as usual; Sigourney Weaver was very hate-able as a villain, and Cavill was so-so. I kept having a hard time rooting for him because he was winey at the start of the movie and I was getting real tired of the “where’s my family” and “I need to find my family.” It was very much a beating a dead horse kind of movie. They kept saying how bad of a person Willis really was but they never clarify if they were just saying that to get Cavill to do what they wanted him to or if Willis’ character was really a snake in the grass government worker. Kind of makes me nervous about Cavill being the next Superman.
The Cold Light Of Day is easily the biggest disappointment of the year to me. Rarely do I question the title of movies of this one made absolutely no sense to me. It has been a while since Willis has let me down but maybe he saw how bad it was going to turn out and said take me out which is why he is barely in it. Yeah, I will just go with that. It is just a mess so I have to give it a 3/10.
I have been lacking on my movie reviews lately because I manage to find time to set aside to see the movies but the time after to write up a review can be tricky. But with the extra day off from work I am going to cram 12 reviews into this post by only spending a paragraph to talk about each movie. So I will just jump into in
Martin Donovan’s movie about a struggle playwright that gets caught up as a hostage of a former neighbor/childhood “friend” that just wants to catch up over a beer while he is wanted for a murder. A simple plot but the details are what drives this movie mostly because of the unpredictable Gus played brilliantly by David Morse who perfectly channels this big intimidating con with the mental capacity of a teenager who is still gaga over Olivia Williams character (and who would not be?). Donovan’s performance is a tad on the stale side but you could tell he was more focused on the story and the development of Gus. But to me Collaborator’s ending falls kind of flat and tries to be a little too artsy. I give it a 6/10.
For those looking for a new face in action/martial arts movies may just find one in this movie with Scott Adkins. He seems to be a cross between Jean Claude Van Damme and Jason Statham. The fight scenes are pretty cool but the story is eerily similar to the Mel Gibson flick of a similar name of Get The Gringo which is easily the superior gringo film. It is way too predictable even for the easily pleased action fan and just was nothing worth remembering. I give El Gringo a 5/10.
All I can say if you are a fan of Family Guy there is no way you could not like this movie. Seth MacFarlane sticks to the formula that has given him success and I mean that in a good way. I am not a big fan of Family guy but I have always appreciated those seemingly random segues that are hysterical. Not to be cliché but beneath all the vulgarity there is a pretty heartfelt story. Plus unlike The Other Guys, I actually thought Mark Wahlberg was funny in this movie. I give Ted a 7/10.
The Bourne Legacy
I used to say the Bourne films where one of my favorite trilogies but now with a fourth installment I cannot say that anymore. (WARNING THIS PART CONTATINS SPOILERS) Not that this was a poor movie but it just was missing something to me. It tried to explain something that did not need to be explained. I think before this film we just assumed soldiers like Bourne were expertly trained and now it is revealed they are genetically altered. Lame. Plus my favorite part of the films is always when Bourne would duke it out with a similarly trained killer, but in this film Aaron Cross (played very well by Jeremy Renner) never fights someone of equal caliber. I know my opinion is not shared but this one felt short of the others. I give The Bourne Legacy a 6/10.
I think Will Ferrell’s well of laughs is starting to run dry and in a very distasteful way. He resorts trying to find new ways drop the f-bomb and playing the same character that finds nothing wrong with how arrogant he is. Galifianakis was a pleasant surprise in this one and easily the only funny thing about this movie. I give The Campaign a 4/10.
The Expendables 2
It is easily one of the most fun and dumbest movies I have seen this year. Not only does the film flat out mock itself but so do the actors which you cannot help but applaud. The highlights of the movie were easily Norris, Van Damme, Willis, Schwarzenegger, and Lungren. Stallone got old really fast because most of his jokes were lame and I wish Jet Li was in it more because his opening fight was awesome. Don’t expect much plot going in but easily trumps the predecessor. I give The Expendables 2 a 7/10.
The plot is kind of like The Sixth Sense meets Coraline. A loner tries to prevent the dead from rising by being able to speak with those who have pasted on. You cannot help admiring all the work that must have gone into making this movie because it visually is amazing. Plus laughs are ones for everyone. They are not all dumb-down and simple humor but has some pretty intelligent laughs. ParaNorman earns an 8/10.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild
I have never been very good with symbolism whether it is in a movie or in a book. I just do not read too far into things. So this movie had me scratching my head a lot. I get that this movie is through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a child raise by her father in worn down and soon to be flooded neighborhood, but this was a little too artistic for me to follow and enjoy. After leaving the theater I was able to put some things together but I still found myself drawing a blank on what some stuff meant. This movie was way over my head. I can only give Beasts of the Southern Wild a 5/10. Beautifully made, I just had a hard time understanding it.
David Koepp is probably one of the most underappreciated writers in movies in my opinion. I mean he helped write Mission Impossible, Carlito’s Way, and one of my all time favorites Stir of Echoes. So seeing his name and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s attached to this movie, I knew going in it would be enjoyable. The movie has a great pace and never gets dull whether it is the relentless bicycle-stunts or the off the wall dirty cop played by Michael Shannon who stole every scene he was in. I look forward to seeing him in more antagonist roles after this one. My biased rating for Premium Rush is an 8/10.
Absolute ghost garbage is probably the best way to describe The Apparition. The premise had potential. I idea of bringing a spirit into reality through belief is an okay idea; I’ll go along with it. But after that nothing makes sense even for a ghost movie. Stuff molding together, out-of-body experiences, and reach of this unknown entity. Ashley Greene, all be it attractive, was such an irritating lead. I just could not find myself rooting for her or her lovie-dovie boyfriend Ben played by Sebastian Stan. Just a failure of a movie, 3/10.
Leaps and bounds better than The Apparition, but that is not saying much. I liked Jeffery Dean Morgan as a basketball coach striving to make it back to division 1, fighting to earn his marriage back, and now stop a Jewish, demonic entity from consuming one of his two daughters. The two girls were surprisingly not that annoying. The only annoying thing was the inconsistency with the sound it would get really loud and suddenly silence which did not make you jump just cringe for the safety of your hearing. And I was very impressed with the performance from Matisyahu. It is by no means The Exorcist but still a worthy addition to the demonic possession genre. I give The Possession a 7/10.
Hit & Run
I have to give a nod to Dax Shepard on this one, Hit & Run turned out to be a fun ride (no pun intended). It is not too inventive of a story, a con in witness protection hiding what he really did from his girlfriend to keep from losing her and stay safe from a fellow con that he turned on. But you could not deny the chemistry the Shepard and Kristen Bell had together. Their banter seemed natural and not too forced but at times it was a little like “okay we get it, next scene please.” Tom Arnold was hysterical and Bradley Cooper did an alright job. I give it a 7/10.
Okay so there it is. A long post for me but a short wrap up of my thoughts about these 12 movies.