Sunday, June 30, 2013

White House Down

In White House Down, Director Roland Emmerich provides the same energy and excitement he gave us in Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow.

For those who think this might be a copy of Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen that came out at the beginning of spring, I would say that would be like thinking, if you’ve seen one Western, you’ve seen them all.  White House trashing has become a genre like heist films, buddy films or romantic comedies and I’m sure we’ll continue to be seeing many more of the years.

Here, the bad guys, extremely well played by Jason Clarke and his team, are domestic terrorists and there is an agenda far worse than that of the foreign terrorists in Olympus Has Fallen. With Jamie Foxx as the President, the situation seems closer to today’s reality.

Channing Tatum as John Cale is not as tough as Gerard Butler in Fuqua’s film, but tough enough to come through in a clutch.

What really sets White House Down apart from Olympus is Joey King, who plays Cale’s 11 year-old daughter and is visiting the White House with her father, when the invasion occurs.  She becomes the real hero of the film and a true role model for tweeners.
 James Vanderbilt’s script provides for non-stop action, Production Designer Kirk M. Petruccelli puts the action in fabulous sets and Cinematographer Anna Foerster captures it all, beautifully. 

For summertime action, I give White House Down a 4 out of 5. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Heat

The Heat, directed by Paul Feig (The Bridesmaids) and written by Katie Dippold, is a hilarious female buddy movie, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Bullock plays an FBI special agent, who is a 10 at her detecting ability, but a zero at interpersonal skills.  McCarthy plays a Boston detective, who is off the charts for psychotic rage, but a zero at couth.  The two are forced to work together to unmask a Bean Town drug king.


It is a tribute to Bullock’s talent that she plays the straight man to McCarthy’s comic character and, in the process, enhances her own comic ability.  McCarthy shows her chops by being able to move from comic psychotic rage to genuine sweetness within the blink of an eye.

Most comedies are successful if they can deliver 3 to 6 good belly laughs.  The Heat delivers upwards of a dozen.

The film is not for children under 13, but anyone else, who wants to sit back and have a good time, should enjoy this film.

I give The Heat a 4+ out of 5. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

World War Z

Director Marc Forster’s World War Z is a nail-biting thriller from beginning to end. 

The well-written screenplay by the writing team of Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof and J. Michael Straczynski moves smoothly through the harrowing events befalling humankind as an unknown virus turns people into zombies within seconds and the attempt by the film's hero Gerry Lane, played brilliantly by Brad Pitt, to determine its origin and an antidote or cure.

Mireille Enos and Daniella Kertesz backup Pitt with strong performances as his wife and aide, respectively.

Forster is superb at balancing action with thoughtful and moving scenes of realistic emotion, the latter highlighted by the scene where Lane tests his theory of what may thwart the zombies.  The movie is worth seeing for this alone.
I must warn you, however, that this film is not for the faint-hearted.  But, World War Z well deserves a 5 out of 5.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Much Ado About Nothing

Writer/Director Joss Wheedon has also taken on the role of Composer and Editor in bringing a modern-day version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to the screen.  And, he’s done a hell of a good job.


Amy Acker as the acid Beatrice, Nathan Fillion as the dolt Dogberry, Jillian Morgese as the sweet Hero and Tom Lenk as the idiotic Verges are the standouts in a cast that is top-notch all the way around.

Jay Hunter’s beautiful black & white cinematography helps to put the iambic pentameter dialogue into a proper setting for the audience’s suspension of disbelief.   

The only issue I have is that, with the talk of war and mention of places like Messina, there might have been a better locale chosen for the action.  But to harp on that would really be much ado about nothing.

With Before Midnight and Much Ado About Nothing, adult audiences now have great reasons to be going to the movies.

I give Much Ado About Nothing a 4 out of 5.



This Is The End

Writer/Directors Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen have created a sometimes hilarious, sometimes gross and even occasionally sweet vision of the apocalypse in This Is The End.


Playing themselves, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and Danny McBride are trapped with James Franco in his Hollywood home, when the end of the world commences during Franco’s party.  After several days, their food and water are running out and their initial camaraderie begins to break down.

There are hilarious scenes with Emma Watson and Channing Tatum and some really excellent computer graphic devils and monsters, but there is also a lot of gross-out situations that will turn off much of the audience, especially women.


However, “the righteous will be saved,” so go find out who will enter the kingdom of heaven.

I give This Is The End a 4 out 5 for males 15 to 35 and a 3+ for the rest of you.




Man Of Steel

Director Zack Snyder scores big time with Man Of Steel, the best film in the long Superman franchise.
While it can be said, deservedly so, the big hero of this movie is Production Designer Alex McDowell, whose sets are absolutely fabulous, some of the best scenes in the film are those on the simple Kent farm with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as Superman’s adoptive earth parents and Cooper Timberline and Dylan Sprayberry as the 9-year old and 13-year old Clark, respectively.  The lessons given the young hero are applicable to all adolescents and Writers David Goyer, Christopher Nolan, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster express them, admirably.

Also of note are the scenes with Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer as Superman’s birth parents.

And, both Michael Shannon and Antje Traue make formidable foes to the Man of Steel as well-played by Henry Cavill and Lois Lane as played by Amy Adams.
Aside from some weak and unintentionally comical lines of Editor Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) in the final scenes and the fact the ultimate battle goes on unnecessarily too long, Man Of Steel moves along, smoothly and briskly.

Even if you’ve not, previously, been a Superman fan, you should enjoy this film.

I give Man Of Steel a 4 out of 5.



Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Internship

Director Shawn Levy’s The Intership is a delightful summer comedy starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, who co-wrote the screenplay with Jared Stern.
Playing basically the same characters as in Wedding Crashers, Wilson and Vaughn are still trying to find their way to survive, this time in the digital age, by joining the competition to get an internship at Google.  They, of course, are put in the “loser group” where their worldly skills, eventually, prove of value to their nerdy team members.

Rose Byrne, Aasif Mandvi, Josh Brener, Tiya Sircar and Tobit Raphael add to the fun their performances with Cinematographer Jonathan Brown and Production Designer Tom Meyer bringing out the bright world of the Disneylandish  Google campus.

The Intership has shades of the Revenge of the Nerds franchise and Animal House and will appeal most to a Gen-Y and Millennial audience.  However, anyone who has had to compete for jobs over the past decade should thoroughly enjoy it, as well.

I give The Intership a 4 out of 5 for the fan base. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The East

Writer/Director Zal Batmanglij, along with co-Writer and Star Brit Marling (Another Earth), has created a strong Erin-Brockovich-goes-rogue eco-thriller with The East.

Marling plays Sarah, an employee of a corporate security firm, who goes undercover to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group that perpetrates clever turn-about-is-fair-play revenge gambits on disreputable corporations.   Eventually, she begins to bond with the group and has to come to terms with how far she is willing to bend her principles.
For me, the real mystery is if and how far Brit Marling will go to bend her indie filmmaker principles?  Ms. Marling is one of the most beautiful actresses that has ever been on screen.  She is potentially the American Cate Blanchett or Naomi Watts.  Will she keep the integrity of her co-Star, the fabulous Patricia Clarkson, or the likes of Parker Posey or will she let fame and Hollywood turn her into a celebrity performer like Julia Roberts?  It will be an interesting process to follow.
In any case, with the fine performances of Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsgård and Julia Ormond, along with that of Marling, I give The East a 4 out of 5.

Now You See Me

Director Louis Leterrier had me with the seven of diamonds at the opening of Now You See Me, the smartest and most fun film of the year, so far.  I, immediately, knew he was in total control and I could just sit back and enjoy.


In this taut thriller, four magicians played by Jessie Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco are brought together by a mysterious person and must bond as a team to eventually create three fantastic crimes under the guise of magical performances.


A New York police detective played by Mark Ruffolo and an Interpol agent played by the incredibly beautiful Mélanie Laurent, who, alone, is worth the price of admission, bond to solve these mysteries, while Morgan Freeman tries to debunk the magicians’ work for his own benefit.

 Writers Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt have created a tight story that will keep you guessing until the very end.  And, Production Designer Peter Wenham gives the film the pizazz worthy of the grand deceptions.

If you like magic, you’re going to love Now You See Me.   I give it an unequivocal  5 out of 5.