Friday, June 28, 2013

(Movie Review) World War Z (2013)

PG13 zombie movies sound impossible to make, but World War Z pulls it off… barely 

I’m not sure if any of you are like me or not, but at least once a day I like to browse the movie gossip sites to see what has been happening and what is coming out. Sites like, and a few others are my usual hang out spots. For a WHILE now (I mean a couple of YEARS) this movie has been covered in controversy.  Filming was started with an unfinished script, they exceeded their budget by $75M (conservatively) and the entire third act of the movie had to be rewritten and reshot because, in the words of test audiences and those associated with production, the original ending was “abrupt and incoherent”. Since I have been following this since it started principle photography in July of 2011 I was not expecting much. I expected it to be horrible. But the rewrites and the new third act worked really well and makes this movie a really enjoyable summer movie. 

Storyline: When a series of reports claiming widespread rabies is infecting people all across the globe, former UN employee Gerry Lane (Pitt) and his family are evacuated from downtown Philadelphia by the United Nations and secured on a US. Navy Vessel off the coast of New York. The family will be permitted to stay on the vessel as long as Gerry agrees to return to work with the UN in searching for a cure. In an effort to save his family, and humanity, Gerry sets out on a globe scanning effort to find a cure for the disease. 

The premise sounds pretty great, right? And if you are a fan of the book I am sure that you are really excited to see it. Well, be ready for some changes. Instead of being a collection of “field reports”, this is a single story from one man’s perspective. Also, the zombies are SUPER FAST. I mean, Usain Bolt fast! So obviously there are some pretty radical changes to the film. And that third act that I mentioned? Nowhere in the book. So, be prepared for a different take on the subject matter. 

Worth the admission? I think that it was well worth the $8 it costs to see it. While the movie diverges from the source material greatly the film offers up lots of action and, as always, a great performance from Pitt. Special credit should be given to David Lindelof and Drew Goddard for their rewrite of the third act. While I have read the original script, and it is super dark and twisted, the released film offers a much more grounded and personal ending than I was expecting. You, finally, get face to face with some of these zombies instead of seeing them as a horde of speeding blurs. 


If you do get a chances to watch the movie, and liked how it ended, just look at what the original ending was going to be. Be very grateful for the ending that we got. And if you want to read the full article about on the film, go to

"The elderly and the sick are executed and the healthy people, including a very shaken Gerry, are immediately drafted into armed service, though not before one particularly nasty Russian soldier takes Gerry’s cell phone. The story then jumps forward an unknown amount of time and we catch up with Gerry, who now has a full beard and has been a part of Russia’s zombie-clearing squad at least long enough for it to have changed to winter. He looks almost dead inside, but the reality is that over this time he’s become an experienced and ruthless zombie killer, and he’s the leader of his own equally capable unit." -

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(Rental Review) Gangster Squad (2013)

The only thing better than a movie about gangsters and cops is a movie about gangsters and cops that is BUSTING at the seems with quality actors, right? Movies like The Godfather and The Untouchables has shown us this. Gangster Squad is no different to me. Not only do you have some fantastic work out of Sean Penn as mob boss Micky Cohen, but Brolin, Gosling, Nolte, Stone and Ribisi are all fantastic it in. Some of my favorite moments from the movie come from Robert Patrick. I could keep naming people that are in this movie but this is meant to be a "mini review", so I need to get on with it.

Storyline: Los Angeles, 1949: A secret crew of police officers led by two determined sergeants work together in an effort to take down the ruthless mob king Mickey Cohen who runs the city. -

Thoughts? This movie was a fun gangster movie. It didn't take itself so serious that it weighed down the film too much. Sure. There were intense moments. People are dying left and right in this thing. But it still takes time to have fun with the characters and some of the situations that the characters get themselves in. Again, I can't say enough about the actors in this film. Patrick, who is a universally underrated actor, does more with a glancing look than most Hollywood actors can do with Shakespeare.

 It say RENT IT.

Friday, June 21, 2013

(Movie Review) Man of Steel (2013)

Breaking Box Office records? This looks like a job for Superman 

There are few things that I have said that I wanted to see before my life ends. Time travel, flying cars, the birth of my little girl (due October 21st), and a Superman movie that is worthy of the title character are the only things that I have asked for. While I am sure that time travel and flying cars are not going to happen anytime soon I can at least check one thing off of that list. Man of Steel proves to be a truly awesome movie and paves the way for DC COMICS to roll out a new wave of superhero themed films…starting with Man of Steel 2 (which has been fast tracked for a 2014/2015 release). 

Storyline: Krypton, an advanced civilization, is on the brink of destruction. Jor-El (Crowe) sends his only son, the first naturally conceived Kryptonian in centuries, to Earth to escape the dying planet and the clutches of General Zod (Shannon), the military general hell bent on overthrowing the Kryptonian government. For his crimes of treason, Zod is sent to the Phantom Zone where he, years after the destruction of the planet, follows a beacon that Clark Kent (Cavil) accidently activates. When Zod threatens the people of Earth, Clark must make a choice. Does he fight for the people of his adoptive planet or continue to hide in the shadows to avoid being judged by the people of Earth? 

Worth the admission? There is not a movie that, for me, has been more worth the price of admission. This film has an appeal to all audiences. While it is filled with CGI fueled slug-fests between the Kryptonian invaders and Clark, it is the story of two fathers and a confused son that makes this story bubble with the appeal  that I ended up loving most about the film. On one hand you have the story of Jor-El, a man who knows that his son will be a “god” among the people of Earth. Who tells his son to take pride in his abilities and lead the human race as opposed to blending in to it. Then you have Jonathan Kent (Costner).  The adoptive father of Clark. The man who wrestles with the struggles of how to raise a humble man with the strength of an army. In the end, both fathers want what is best for their son, but it is up to Clark to forge his own path. 

I could talk about this movie forever, but I will just advise that you go see it. Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe give amazing performances and Amy Adams (who I was not that excited to see as the choice to play Lois Lane) breaths a new life into a character that has been greatly misused in the past. Rounding out the cast is Dian Lane as Martha Kent, and Henry Cavill as Clark. Both giving great performances and showing a fantastic example of a mother/son bond, regardless of bloodline. 


I wanted to point out a few things that felt were some of the best and worst parts of the movie. 

  • 1) The days of old "golly gee shucks" clark is over with, and rightfully so. Just like Batman Begins took Bruce out of that campy junk from the 70's (and end of the 90's) and updated him to a more modern audience, that is what has needed to be done with Clark Kent.
    2) People keep complaining about the neck break, uh, in Superman 2, Ursa gets chunked to the bottom of the fortress and no one blinked an eye. So I don't see what the big deal is. Also, this isn't a Superman that has been Superman his whole life. This is a guy that is JUST NOW discovering his powers and, at times, will be a slave to them. Is breaking someones neck a good thing, no? But it was the only thing that was going to stop Zod from killing those people.

    3) Superman has always had a "never kill" motto in the past, but we never saw why. Having him kill the last remaining person like him basically forced him to commit genocide. I think that finally gives some weight to that rule.

    4) Lois was awesome

    5) Jor-El was awesome

    6) Ma and Pa Kent were awesome

    7) The destruction of Krypton scene might be one of the best scifi scenes I can remember ever seeing (aside from all of the battleships chasing the Firefly through the cloud in Serenity). It was beautiful.

    8) That final scene for Jonathan. When he looks at his kid running around with a cape on and realizes that his son is going to be the most important person to ever walk the face of this earth...I mean, can you imagine the contestant state of pride this man must have had while raising such a good man?

    The Cons___

    1) I will always be a fan of ZOD from Superman II. No one could change that. So Michael Shannon never stood a chance in my book. He was a different breed than Stamp's Zod. I liked the old Zod better.

    2) I saw it in 3D and didn't care for the 3D version. The fight scenes looked really sloppy

    3) The dialog was somewhat "clunky". Some scenes it was great, but some where kind of cringe worthy.

    4) I missed the "superman song" from the old movies.

    5) We never got the reveal. You know, where he opens his shirt and shows the "S". I realize that will probably come a bit later, since he is just now taking on the reporter role, but still. It was missed.

    6) Product placement was overkill

(Rental Review) Bachelorette (2012)

When is a comedy not a comedy? When it's Bachelorette. How is it that a group of such insanely talented people can get together, make a "comedy", and it have absolutely nothing to say? It sounds impossible, but it's not. Apparently all you need is Leslye Headland. The writer and director of this movie. It is one of the worst cases of awesome actors COMPLETELY missing the mark at almost every turn. Good job, Leslye. Good job.

Storyline: On the night of one of their old high school friend's wedding three irresponsible and capricious bridesmaids reunite for one last bachelorette bacchanal in the Big Apple. They unintentionally create a mess of their best friend Becky's wedding dress, before she marries her sweetheart Dale. They attempt to repair the situation by spending the evening before and morning of the wedding desperate to get the dress to Becky on time before the wedding starts, whilst discovering themselves and what they truly want from their lives along the way. Written by

Worth it? NOOOOOOOOOOO. Look, any time you can put Lizzy Caplan, Isla Fisher, and Adam Scott in the same movie and I still don't like have failed. There are very few moments when these characters are even likable, let alone people that can be related to. The jokes, often, miss the target. There are some that land pretty square on the nose and actually are funny, but overall the film is a fail. Spoiled little self important people with not chemistry inside of their little group of friends. But where all of these things made me HATE most of the characters in this movie, this is the first time in a long time that I have liked Kirsten Dunst. Maybe it is just because of the character she is playing, but I thought it was a nice change from what I usually see her play.

(Rental Review) The Guilt Trip (2012)

When did this happen? When did Seth Rogen become someone that I couldn't count on for funny bits in a movie? Was it when Green Hornet came out? Was that when it happened? There is no doubt about it that Rogen has been in some wildly popular comedies over the past 8 years, but the more I go back and watch, the more I realize that he is best when he is in movies that center around a group of people as opposed to focusing on him. So how funny do you think a movie about a son and mom stuck in a car together on a road trip is? That's right, not very.

Storyline: Inventor, Andy Brewster (Rogen),  is about to embark on the road trip of a lifetime as he plans out a cross country trip to try to sell his invention to retailers all over the US. A quick stop at his mom's house turns into an unexpected cross-country voyage with her along for the ride. -

Thoughts? This movie is not your average Rogen comedy. It is a lot softer and, to be honest, not very funny. There are moments that are sweet and funny, but not really laugh-out-loud comedy. Barbra Streisand is actually the funniest thing about this comedy. She is completely believable in the roll and I think that we have all been in situations like this where our moms have embarrassed us.

At the core, this movie has more sweet than sour...and that isn't really in Rogen's wheelhouse. But I think that if you do stumble across this movie on TV you would probably like it enough to check it out. Even if it is just for the moments when you can completely sympathize with Andy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

(Rental Review) The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)

Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly, graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow, beer and hot get the picture. And one would think that a rapper like RZA, a self proclaimed martial arts fan and one of the most successful hip hop producers of my generation, would be able to produce a kung-fu movie that not only paid respect to classic martial arts movies but infused the grit and rawness that comes from the world of hip hop. And for the most part, that is exactly what he does with this movie. The only problem with it is with RZA himself. A horrible actor who should have stuck to directing this film and left the acting to someone else.

Storyline: On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers. -

Thoughts? This movie fails pretty hard. It could have been a fun movie, but RZA keeps that from happening. With his lack of acting ability, his clunky movements, and the fact that he never drops his modern accent makes him the most unconvincing part of this movie...and that includes a man with a brass body. Am I glad I rented it, sure. Would I recommend that you rent it? Not a chance.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

(Movie Review) The Purge (2013)

The Purge offers more debate than scares, but that it’s necessarily a bad thing

Ethan Hawke is a bit of an enigma. He is someone that has made a career out of being forgettable. While you have a movie like Training Day (2001) that has been critical and commercial successes, but then you don’t really see many other films in his past that have been able to be both. His movies are either box office bombs that no one sees or don’t make it to the theater at all. When he is critically praised for a role it is usually a limited release film that, again, no one sees. So to see him in a film that is not only a critical success (most critics agree that the subject matter is an explosive subject and well handled) but is also #1 at the box office is a nice surprise…even if it took him 12 years to do again. 

Storyline: In 2022, the United States is experiencing a success like never before. No crime, no unemployment, and seemingly the people of the US are happier. Credit for this “utopia” is given to The Purge. One night a year when everything is legal. Arson. Murder. Rape. Nothing is off limits. When home security salesman, James (Hawke), and his family lock down for the night they are presented with a problem. The target for a purge “hunting” has made it in to their home and the group declares that if their target is not returned they will kill everyone in the house. Decisions must be made that will end in the deaths of many. Who will survive the purge and who will perish? 

This is probably one of the most interesting concepts that I have seen in a while. The “privileged” think that this is a proper cleansing of the soul for a year’s worth of hate, anger and frustration, but in reality the “swine” are being hunted down like animals in a case of literal class warfare. Sure, the unemployment rates and crime rates are lower during the year…because privileged people with the means to arm themselves heavily are released into the streets and given permission to murder those that they see as “beneath them”. When those people are taken out of the equation the statistics OBVIOUSLY change. So many questions are brought up by the first half of this movie. 

The second half of this movie does away with the ambiguity of choice and consequences. It becomes a siege movie that is more about protecting family and fighting off intruders than about social change. But the seeds of those questions have been planted and the movie moves on. While I thought that the ending was a little lack luster I thought that the movie was the most original that I have seen since In Time (2011). 

Worth the admission? Without a doubt! The movie is unnerving and creepy in the beginning and full of action in the end. An introspection into an exaggerated view of our class structure in the US. 


(Movie Review) The Hangover Part III (2013)

Hangover 3 is miles better than 2 but still can’t touch the original 

The Hangover was a sleeper hit that ended up destroying the box office by sheer awesome force alone. R-Rated comedies are not normally that successful. So obviously the plan had to be to rush a sequel to market. So the film company basically remade the movie in a new setting. Same plot, same characters and the same twists…and people lapped it up. The problem was that people quickly learned that they were basically duped into paying twice to see the same movie. So The Hangover III had to be careful. Audiences were already weary after being let down by The Hangover II, and the last thing the film makers wanted to do was ruin their franchise. While The Hangover III is MILES better than The Hangover II, since this movie actually gives us an original story, it is still nowhere near the quality of the original. 

Storyline: Alan (Galifianakis) has been off of his medication for a while now and it has caused so much stress to his family that his father has a heart attack and dies. The Wolfpack comes together, at the request of Alan’s mother, to convince Alan to check into a mental rehabilitation clinic. While transporting Alan to the clinic a gangster runs them off the road, kidnaps Doug (Bartha), and threatens to kill him unless they can bring him the elusive Mr. Chow (Jeong). Their search ends in the one place that they swore they would never return….Las Vegas. 

As you can tell from the above description there is still one element from the other films that makes it into this one. Doug is, yet again, missing from the majority of the movie. I mean, why did they even cast this guy in the movies. The poor fella ends up missing in every single movie. Still, that is really the only part of the first two films that carries over. There is no “hangover” (at least not until the credits) and there are no roofies that force the group to piece together the events of the previous night. There is only the search for Mr. Chow and the attempt to save their friends life.

Worth the admission? Sure. As you can tell, I’m not “over the moon” excited about the film, but it was a pleasant enough comedy. There are some extremely funny moments in it and the special scene at the end (during the credits) is hysterical. I cried I was laughing so hard at it. But other than that the film is just an average comedy. It’s worth the admission, but not by much. 

What would have been GREAT is if this film would have been the 2nd and The Hangover II would have been the 3rd. I think that the franchise, overall, would have worked much better that way. Still, it’s been a fun ride with Alan, Stu, Phil, Doug, Black Doug and Mr. Chow. Now if only Mike Tyson can get a spin off…