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Wednesday, 01 May 2013 11:29

Pain & Gain' will pump you up

Real-life tale shows truth is stranger than fiction

Michael Bay and 'based on a true story' doesn't really seem to make a lot of sense, does it? This is a guy who somehow managed to make giant transforming alien robots even more infantile and ridiculous in practice than in theory is he really the guy to bring truth to the screen?

Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the answer would be a resounding 'no.' However, he has somehow managed to find the one story where the answer is a giddy, glorious 'yes.'

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 14:07

A beautiful Oblivion'

Sci-fi offering visually striking, narratively hollow

So Tom Cruise has been a movie star for the past 30 years. It was 1983 when he starred in 'The Outsiders,' 'Risky Business' and 'All The Right Moves.' He was launched into the Hollywood stratosphere and has essentially resided there ever since.

So it's remarkable to watch him in a film like 'Oblivion.' It is science fiction that's long on style and short on substance; a fair amount of sizzle with very little steak the sort of criticism that has dogged Cruise for much of his career.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 15:36

42' hits a home run

Film tells the story of Jackie Robinson

I am a sucker for a good sports movie. It doesn't even really matter which sport the drama inherent to athletic competition in general often makes for compelling cinema. And that competitive tension can be mined for humor as well as drama. You don't even need to be a sports fan (though it undoubtedly helps). The very best sports movies are the ones that use what happens on the field as a way to speak to the larger issues of what happens off it. 

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 17 April 2013 15:33

Fifth time not the charm Scary Movie'

Franchise keeps lowering the bar

Even in this age of sequels and reboots in which we currently live, there's such a thing as going too far - especially when the idea being rehashed didn't have much in the way of staying power to begin with. With each copy of a copy, the concept continues its inexorable spiral downward to the bottom of the barrel. When it finally reaches the lowest common denominator?

That's when you get the fifth installment in the 'Scary Movie' franchise.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 April 2013 13:52

Evil Dead' a blood-spattered reboot

Remake of horror classic ratchets up the gore

Every cinephile has a handful of movies that are particularly special to them. For whatever reason, those films serve as touchstones along their own personal pop culture journeys.

For me, Sam Raimi's 'Evil Dead' films definitely fit that bill. The wonderful journey of that trilogy (from low-budget gorefest to hilarious reimagination to full-on epic fantasy/horror/comedy) has ensured that the movies have retained a permanent place of affection in my heart.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 12:31

G.I. Joe: Retaliation' blows (up)

Action sequel unfocused and uninteresting

It's never a good sign when a movie misses its initial release date. Sure, there's always some excuse, but no matter what they wind up 'fixing,' you can rest assured that you're almost certainly not going to get a classic piece of cinema out of the deal.

'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' the not-so-eagerly-anticipated sequel to 2009's 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,' was supposed to hit theaters last year, but it got pulled and (one assumes) frantically reworked before finally being released.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:37

Die Hard' in D.C. - Olympus Has Fallen'

Action movie shoots up the White House

There was a stretch of time when Hollywood was struggling to figure out who the bad guys were going to be. Since the Cold War ended, our conflicts with foreign powers have been seen as standing on murky moral ground. 

However, recent years have granted studios another go-to foreign bad guy to antagonize the red, white and blue. North Korea has been making increasingly frequent appearances as the generic 'country that tries to fight with us.'

Published in Movies
Carell, Carrey headline good-not-great comedy

Any profession that gave us such pop culture touchstones as David Copperfield and Siegfried and Roy is ripe for satire. The world of the Las Vegas magician is one that rarely gets the Hollywood treatment, despite the fact that it is clearly asking for it.

But longtime television director Don Scardino has tackled this high-pressure world of excitement and illusion with the new film 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.' Unfortunately, this star-driven comedy succumbs to the temptation of the formulaic, sacrificing some of the potential impact in the name of the familiar. The end result is a decent studio comedy that could have been ever so much more.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 12:29

The Call' misdials

Thriller starts strong, loses steam

I enjoy a good thriller as much as anyone. There's something wonderfully engaging about the mounting tension that a well-crafted thriller can bring. The agonizing wait as the story unfolds, the squirming in your seat as you question each twist in the action it all makes for good cinema.

Unfortunately, recent tendencies in Hollywood indicate that studios have decided that a film that is 'just' a thriller isn't enough. There's got to be something else, some other kind of hook. Maybe you throw in some big-budget action, maybe you tack on some supernatural elements regardless, you're basically saying that the tension is not enough.

Published in Movies
Disney offering offers decent family fun

There are few places in cinematic history as iconic as the Land of Oz. 1939's 'The Wizard of Oz' is more than a family classic; it's a pop cultural touchstone as significant as any in film. Plenty of subsequent artists have returned there in the years since, with varying degrees of success. Big-screen trips to Oz have basically been flops.

'Oz the Great and Powerful' is Disney's latest attempt (their last was 1985's 'Return to Oz') to travel down the yellow brick road. 

Published in Movies
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