Movie News

Friday, April 22, 2016

Now Playing: The Huntsman: Winter's War

The Rundown On What's New In Theaters This Week!


Official Synopsis:
Betrayed by her evil sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron), heartbroken Freya (Emily Blunt) retreats to a northern kingdom to raise an army of huntsmen as her protectors. Gifted with the ability to freeze her enemies in ice, Freya teaches her young soldiers to never fall in love. When Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and fellow warrior Sara defy this rule, the angry queen does whatever she can to stop them. As war between the siblings escalates, Eric and Sara unite with Freya to end Ravenna's wicked reign.

North's Take:
In 2012, Kristen Stewart ruled the box office.
She reprised her role in the Twilight series and starred in Snow White and The Huntsman.
The films combined for a Worldwide Gross of over $1.2 Billion and everything was set:
The sequel got the greenlight and surely, this was the start of her next big franchise.
Well yes, until it wasn't.

They kept the Huntsman and the Evil Queen, but Kristen Stewart?
She's gone, and so is Snow White.
Instead we get to see Emily Blunt (recently great in Sicario) take on Charlize.
That's just fine by me:
Theron and Blunt are top flight talents and can carry an action film:
Did you see Mad Max: Fury Road or Edge Of Tomorrow?
They kick butt with the best of 'em.

The Huntsman is the first feature film for director Cedric Nicolas-Tobin.
However, he is no novice to the industry or this series:
He was nominated for an Oscar for the Visual Effects on Snow White.
Since the effects were the best part of the first film, I'll check it out.



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Friday, April 15, 2016

Now Playing: The Jungle Book, Criminal, Barbershop: The Next Cut

The Rundown On What's New In Theaters This Week!


Official Synopsis:
Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he's ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.

North's Take: 
You had me at Bill Murray.
Throw in Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, director Jon Favreau and some great 3-D:
The Jungle Book has the recipe to become a classic.
I'm not a huge fan of the animated film (give me The Lion King, all day).
However, I completely trust Favreau to deliver:
His other "kid's movies", Zathura, and Elf, are wonderful for all audiences.


Official Synopsis:
CIA agent Bill Pope (Ryan Reynolds) dies while traveling to a secret location to meet a hacker who can launch missiles at will. Desperate to find his whereabouts, officials turn to an experimental neurosurgeon who can transfer memories from one brain to another. The guinea pig for the procedure is Jerico Stewart (Kevin Costner), a violent and dangerous death-row inmate. Now gifted with Pope's skills and knowledge, Stewart must race against time to stop a sinister international conspiracy.

North's Take:
Kevin Costner never stops.
Just check his IMDB page, he's been doing work!
He was recently very good in Draft Day, which was underrated and under-seen.
Here's my quick Top 5 Costner performances:
5. American Flyers
4. Bull Durham
3. The Untouchables
2. Field Of Dreams
1. JFK
With a résumé like that, I bet that him and Ryan Reynolds will make Criminal watchable.


Official Synopsis:
To survive harsh economic times, Calvin and Angie have merged the barbershop and beauty salon into one business. The days of male bonding are gone as Eddie and the crew must now contend with sassy female co-workers and spirited clientele. As the battle of the sexes rages on, a different kind of conflict has taken over Chicago. Crime and gangs are on the rise, leaving Calvin worried about the fate of his son. Together, the friends come up with a bold plan to take back their beloved neighborhood.

North's Take:
The original Barbershop had some good laughs and also pulled at the heartstrings:
Throw out the gun, Ricky!
I expect more of the same from The Next Cut.
I'm pleased to see North/South favorite, Sean Patrick Thomas, is reprising his role.
Just so you know, Chris and I may be the biggest Cruel Intentions fans to ever live.
We used to yell "Valmont!" at each other in public all the time.
Plus, I still use "I guess that puts me in my place", constantly.
My only question about this film:
Can Nicki Minaj can take over the best Rapper/Actor title from Ice Cube?
Head to the theater to find out.


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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Now Playing: Hardcore Henry, The Boss, Demolition

The Rundown On What's New In Theaters This Week!


Official Synopsis:
A man wakes up in a Moscow laboratory to learn that he's been brought back from the dead as a half-human, half-robotic hybrid. With no memory of his former life, a woman who claims to be his wife tells him that his name is Henry. Before she can activate his voice, armed thugs storm in and kidnap her. As Henry starts to understand his new abilities, he embarks on a bloody rampage through the city to save his spouse from a psychopath (Danila Kozlovsky) who plans to destroy the world.

North's Take: 
This movie looks INSANE
Granted, point-of-view is not new, but this is the first time we have ever seen a wide release shot entirely from the perspective. First-person action/shooters are what sent the video game market into the stratosphere, so it was only a matter of time before Hollywood got into the act. I doubt Hardcore Henry will win any awards for it's screenplay, but the action sequences look legit. If you're looking for a unique theater experience, the search is over. 


Official Synopsis:
Wealthy mogul Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) always gets her way, until she's busted for insider trading and sent to federal prison. After leaving jail, Darnell finds herself broke, homeless and hated. Luckily, she tracks down former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), the only person who's willing to help. While staying with Claire and her young daughter, the ex-con devises a new business model for a Brownie empire. Unfortunately, some old enemies stand in the way of her return to the top.

North's Take:
Melissa McCarthy is one of the funniest people on the planet.
If they get her and Will Ferrell to star in a movie together, I may never stop laughing.
I think her and Kristen Bell could make a great duo here and be honest:
Don't you wanna find out why McCarthy is clothes-lining somebody is the above photo?
I always say: there is nothing better than seeing a great comedy in a packed theater.
Let's pray that The Boss will be more like The Heat, or Spy, and less like Tammy.


Official Synopsis:
A sympathetic woman (Naomi Watts) and her rebellious son (Judah Lewis) form a strong bond with an investment banker (Jake Gyllenhaal) whose life begins to unravel following the death of his wife (Heather Lind).

North's Take:
Well the synopsis is short and sweet, but I don't think they left anything out.
This is a showcase film for the acting talents of Jake Gyllenhaal, plain and simple. 
And make no mistake, Gyllenhaal has the goods:
He is nothing short of phenomenal in End Of Watch, Prisoners, and Nightcrawler.
I know Gyllenhaal and (hopefully) Naomi Watts will do their part, but:
Can director Jean-Marc Vallée can replicate the emotional power of Dallas Buyers Club?
If so, don't forget to bring the tissues!

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Dan's Year In Film: 2015

I saw 59 new films in 2015.
Here they are, in glory and failure, ranked from Best To Worst

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mad Max: Fury Road
Steve Jobs
The Martian

Very Good
Love & Mercy
Ex Machina
The Revenant
Bridge Of Spies
Kingsman: The Secret Service
The Night Before

Avengers: Age Of Ultron
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Walk
Mistress America
Black Mass
The Big Short
Mr. Holmes
Jurassic World
The Intern
The Peanuts Movie
Inside Out

Straight Outta Compton
Terminator: Genisys
Furious 7
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
The Hateful Eight

Don't Bother
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Fantastic Four
San Andreas
Divergent: Insurgent
The Good Dinosaur
Unfinished Business
Pitch Perfect 2
The Wedding Ringer
Daddy's Home
Hot Pursuit
Get Hard

Magic Mike XXL
American Ultra
Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Fifty Shades of Gray
Love The Coopers
Ted 2

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Chris's Review: Pixar wonderfully mixes the Joy and the Sadness in ‘Inside Out’

Okay, Pixar. You did it again. You got me. You tugged on my heartstrings. Inside Out, the new film from the reigning king of animation, hit me right in the feels. And it couldn’t have caught me at a more apt time – just a little over a month after the birth of daughter (This is my second review already this week to mention my new daughter. I am sensing a trend).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Chris's Review: ‘Jurassic World’ – T-Rex and nostalgia still reign supreme in worthy sequel

Okay, I really want to go to Jurassic World, you know, before all the dinosaurs escape and start eating people. It seems amazing–equal parts zoo, wildlife reserve, Disney Land, and science project. There is a world-class hotel, petting zoo (petting dinosaurs!), water show, rides, and even a Margaritaville! Okay, maybe that last one isn’t that great, but you get the idea – this place is all-around amazing.

More than two decades ago, Steven Spielberg–the ever-consistent fabricator of childhood wonder and nostalgia–brought audiences Jurassic Park, a truly once-in-a-generation film that captured everyone’s awe and imagination. Since then, the series has endured two significantly sub-par sequels and a nearly 15-year hiatus. It returns (because nothing is ever completely dead in Hollywood), with a new action-packed adventure called Jurassic World. And though nowhere near as great as the original, the new film is still a fun and worthy ride.

Aiming–somewhat successfully–to be a true sequel to the original (and mostly bypassing The Lost World and Jurassic Park III altogether), the new film takes place 22 years after the events of JP. John Hammond’s dreams have finally been realized with the massive success of an interactive theme park filled with live dinosaurs and thousands of daily visitors.

Already in operation for several years, Jurassic World is seeking a new attraction – a bigger, scarier dinosaur – to drum up international interest and attendance. As one character notes in a bit of meta-cinematic commentary, people are not impressed with just dinosaurs anymore, they want bigger, faster, and more dangerous dinosaurs. Makes sense knowing today’s short attention spans and demand for carnage, but still, simultaneously, a good and bad idea.

Caught on opposing sides of this argument are the film’s leads – Owen (Chris Pratt), a cocky, ex-Navy animal trainer, and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), a stuffy workaholic in charge of the park’s day-to-day operations. Naturally, these opposites hate each other, yet are unquestionably attracted to one another. A rather unnecessary romance subplot, of course, unfolds.

Along for the ride are Claire’s young nephews (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson), who are growing apart in age as the family heads for an imminent divorce - another half-formed subplot. The film also stars Irrfan Khan as John Hammond’s ambitious & careless replacement, plus Vincent D’Onofrio as the closest thing to an antagonist (other than the dinosaurs), Jake Johnson as the comedic relief, and BD Wong as the only carryover from the original film.

The film’s action is impressive, as are the set pieces and special effects. The film rightfully hearkens back to the original as often as it can, whether it be familiar locations, recycled dialogue, or old jokes. And I must admit, when John Williams’ iconic original score swells, I cannot help but feel like an 8-year again, staring up in awe at the stunningly captured dinosaurs on the big screen.

As stated before, the film frequently mentions the notion of visitors wanting bigger and better attractions, much like the average moviegoer. The fact that the filmmakers recognize this and utilize it as a slight bit of humor, still does not stop the film from falling into this very same trappings. Most notably, the film sacrifices some story and character development for over-the-top action and killer creatures – such is, unfortunately, the nature of Hollywood blockbusters these days.

But the original was able to maintain both successfully, why couldn’t this long-delayed sequel? Well, in addition to that old “times have changed” adage, there is the issue of pedigree. Through highly capable, director Collin Trevorrow, with his first major studio film, is not Steven Spielberg nor does he have the same control over the story and production that the legendary director had to craft such a memorable film.

The characters are a bit stock and storylines are mostly clichéd, but in the end, audiences are coming for the action, effects, and excitement. And there, Jurassic World succeeds in creating a worthwhile and enjoyable sequel. Though one thing has not changed in the intervening decades, no matter how many new dinosaurs are introduced or artificially created, the T-Rex still reigns supreme.

Jurassic World is now playing on over 4,200 screens nationwide.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chris's Review: ‘Ex Machina’ is an engrossing, satisfyingly cerebral sci-fi film

The idea of artificial intelligence and human-like robots interacting with people is utterly fascinating and is widely explored in the future worlds of sci-fi movies. But in reality, it is far more of a philosophical, and even physically terrifying, conundrum.

Many of today’s great tech minds have expressed awe, desire, and fear over this very topic – as very cleverly outlined in the ominous advertising for the new film, Ex Machina.

    “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”
     – Stephen Hawking

    “AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last.” 
    – Elon Musk

    While many films have touched, or even focused, on both sides of that coin, very few have explored both sides as thoroughly and effectively as Ex Machina.

    Like a more contained Blade Runner for the digital age, Ex Machina probes deep into the minds of creator and creation alike. The brooding Oscar Isaac plays Nathan, an Elon Musk/Mark Zuckerberg hybrid genius, who is a confusing mix of congenial, mysterious, and intimidating. After creating a groundbreaking search engine, he has taken the next step in AI evolution by creating Eva, a nearly flawless humanoid robot. He is well aware of the ramifications of his creation, but casually dismisses them. He is not a mad scientist, just an arrogant one.

    Built with a mesmerizing mesh silhouette, Eva is angelically embodied by Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. Delicate and complicated, manipulative and childlike, it is fascinating to watch her evolve as the film progresses. She learns and adapts quickly, which only makes her more fascinating, yet foreboding. The film does a terrific job of humanizing her. The audience, fully aware of what she is, truly cares about her - perhaps we have already failed the Turing test.

    The other human element in this cinematic Turing test (a frequent reference in the film) is Caleb, the polar opposite of Nathan, played by Domhnall Gleeson. As an employee of Nathan, Caleb is the winner of a company-wide contest selected to visit his boss’ top secret mountain laboratory to help test Eva’s consciousness.

    Everyone (and everything) in this film is incredibly intelligent. The three characters play a continual game of chess (another frequent reference) with one another – and the audience. Motives are questioned, allegiances are switched, and actions are surprising even when they are predictable. From the start, Caleb is seemingly just a pawn in their game, but he eventually attempts to take matters into his own hands. Everyone has an agenda and nothing is revealed to the audience until the filmmakers want us to know. And often our assumptions are wrong, likewise for the characters in the film.

    Though Caleb is the obvious surrogate for the audience, he is not the only relatable character. Quite knowledgeable, but not nearly as smart as he thinks he is (like the audience), this everyman is highly susceptible to emotion (like the audience). Just when he thinks he has figured it out (like the audience), a new wrinkle is revealed. Similarly, Eva also shares connection with the audience. She is constantly learning and building upon previous knowledge (like the audience). She catches on as the action unfolds before her (just like the audience). But with all characters, nothing is at is seems.

    Ex Machina does hit some familiar genre notes – it’s unavoidable – but in the end, it explores them far more deeply and satisfyingly than its predecessors. The film is a multi-layered commentary that plunges the depths of such heady themes as consciousness, voyeurism, technology, and our very existence. The film is a fully engrossing trip, one of the most satisfyingly cerebral sci-fi films in quite awhile, and easily the best film of the year so far.

    * * * * ½ out of 5 stars