Wednesday, 03 February 2016 16:08

Kicking it with Kung Fu Panda 3'

Animated sequel familiar, but still plenty of fun

As much as we might bemoan the lack of originality in Hollywood, there's no denying the reality that there's a lot of money to be made by giving people what they've already shown that they like.

Animated movies are among the guiltiest of offenders. Any animated film that achieves even a modicum of success swiftly becomes a franchise, a family-friendly cash cow that can be counted on to generate serious box office and merchandising revenue over and over and over again. Granted, all of these animated franchises fall prey to the inevitability of diminishing returns, but some manage their drop-offs better than others.

'Kung Fu Panda 3' is a good example of that sort of quality management. The folks at DreamWorks have never been shy about hitting the same notes repeatedly ('Shrek,' 'How to Train Your Dragon' and most egregiously 'Madagascar'), but they've handled this particular series with a lighter touch. The end result is a film that, while undeniably familiar, still manages to retain a bit of freshness.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 12:04

'13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'

Flawed film features solid action, questionable accuracy

There are few filmmakers in Hollywood who are as commercially successful and as critically reviled as Michael Bay. His over-the-top explosion-laden aesthetic has proven to be extremely popular at the box office, much to the chagrin of just about anyone who actually cares about movies as an art form.

However, it should be noted that Bay has occasionally managed to transcend his inherent schlocky dudebro-ness and create something more. And I do mean occasionally I can think of two, the most recent being 2013's 'Pain & Gain.' Make no mistake these offerings are still very much Michael Bay movies. They just have a less 'lowest common denominator' vibe than his usual fare.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 21:57

A very bumpy Ride Along 2'

Buddy cop sequel blandly mediocre

One of the wonderful things about Hollywood is that you just never know. Every once in a while, a film will come along that becomes a surprise box office hit, drawing huge audiences and making back its relatively meager budget five-fold.

However, one of the not-so-wonderful things about Hollywood is their general attitude of 'If it worked once, it'll work again.'

Published in Movies

Tarantino's latest a stylish, violent Western

Considering his seeming ubiquity in the pop culture landscape since bursting onto the scene with the one-two punch of 'Reservoir Dogs' and 'Pulp Fiction' in the early 1990s, it's a little surprising that Quentin Tarantino has only directed eight films.
(Well by his count, anyway. Depending on how you choose to categorize the two-volume 'Kill Bill' or the 'Death Proof' half of 'Grindhouse,' you could argue that this latest is actually his ninth.)

'The Hateful Eight' is Tarantino's newest work; once again, he's paying homage to a beloved genre in this case, the Western. The director (who also wrote the screenplay) provides himself an abundance of opportunities for sweeping shots and extreme violence just the sort of combination that allows Tarantino's vision to shine brightest.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 19:01

Shooting blanks The Gunman'

There has never been a better time to be an aging action star. We are in a geriatric golden age; whether you're looking at the reinvigorated over-the-top stardom of guys like Stallone and Schwarzenegger or the reinvention of guys like Liam Neeson, the silver screen has seen plenty of old guys shooting guns and blowing stuff up.

Apparently, Sean Penn decided he wanted to get in on some of that action despite not necessarily having a good understanding of what makes those movies work. 'The Gunman' is the unfortunate result of that ill-informed decision.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 24 March 2015 18:59

The caste and the furious Insurgent'

Second installment a step backward for series

It goes without saying that these days, franchises foot the bill in Hollywood. Big-budget multi-movie extravaganzas are the current watchword and if they can be based on a preexisting pop cultural phenomenon, so much the better.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 24 February 2015 16:01

Hot Tub Time Machine 2' barely lukewarm

Comedy sequel offers plenty of jokes, few actual laughs

The current Hollywood climate is such that the slightest modicum of success likely ensures another go-round. No matter how bad a movie might be, if enough people go to see it, a sequel will be made. Unfortunately, this is true even if making a sequel doesn't really make any sense. No one argues that sometimes, sequels are necessary. It's the unnecessary ones that are almost always terrible and generally give the whole process a bad name.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 06 August 2014 10:57

Putting the comic' back in comic book movie'

'Guardians of the Galaxy' hilarious and visually spectacular

There's no arguing the fact that the folks at Marvel are masters of their cinematic domain right now. They are churning out blockbuster after blockbuster their superheroic properties are proving to be some of the biggest box office cash cows in movie history.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 20 May 2014 19:21

Million Dollar Arm' a safe bet

Sports movie follows a familiar script

I'm a sucker for an inspirational sports movie - always have been, especially the ones that are based on a true story. There's the drama inherent to the games being played on the field, of course, and when you can insert a compelling narrative about the human element, the result can be a great movie.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 15:33

Not so Bad Grandpa'

Jackass production full of foul fun

We're rapidly approaching awards season, that time of year when all of the major studios begin trotting out their Oscar bait. Before long, we'll be seeing all manner of prestige pictures hitting the big screen at our local cineplexes.

But that's not all we'll see.

Published in Buzz
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