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Reviews

19 Jun 2014
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I totally lost it thanks to a laughing fit during 22 Jump Street. There’s a pivotal scene in this always-funny sequel that had me laughing to the point where tears were coming out of my eyes, and I couldn’t breathe. I noticed that a lot of folks around me were having the same problem. I won’t tell you about the scene; you’ll know what I’m talking about when it happens. I will tell you that this sequel is as good as the film that birthed the franchise. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, an unlikely duo if there ever was one, basically repeat the same steps of the very funny 21 Jump Street, and they do it in a way that keeps things fresh—while recycling the same plot. This film acknowledges what it is—a run-of-the mill sequel—for its entire running time. It’s a self-mocking technique that works well thanks to its…
12 Jun 2014
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I will not lie: Sometimes, I walk into a movie theater generally uninterested in what a movie might be offering, perhaps due to weak trailers or press that failed to generate excitement. I walked into The Fault in Our Stars feeling that way, fearing I was in for a sap-fest. Boy, was I wrong. Shailene Woodley is downright incredible as Hazel, a 16-year-old struggling with thyroid cancer. After being sent to a support group by her mother (Laura Dern … God, I love her), she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort, who is so charming it’s almost disgusting), a basketball player who lost his leg to cancer—but he sure as hell hasn’t lost his lust for life. The two hit it off, and the result is the best teen romance since The Spectacular Now, which also starred Woodley. The film handles its subject matter with enough grace for a thousand movies.…
12 Jun 2014
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Tom Cruise must’ve had that Risky Business grin from ear to ear when he first read the script for Edge of Tomorrow: He had to know he had a magnificent movie on his hands. Watching Edge of Tomorrow is like watching James Cameron’s Aliens or J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek for the first time. It provides many surprises, is often scary, has a lot of laughs and always feels original. This is one of those science-fiction movies that truly brings something new to the genre. In the future, Earth is fighting a crazed, vicious alien force that is shredding armies. Cruise plays Cage, an armed-forces officer who serves as a public-relations man and doesn’t necessarily belong on a battlefield. After a publicity tour, he sits down with a hard-nosed general (a cold Brendan Gleeson)—and finds out that he is going into battle. Cage is justifiably terrified, and his first taste of…
05 Jun 2014
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Angelina Jolie plays the title character—the infamous horned villain from Sleeping Beauty—in Maleficent. There’s a little bit of revisionist history here, with Maleficent now portrayed as more of a fallen angel and less of a straight-up baddie. The whole thing almost works, because Jolie is damned good here—especuially when the script allows her to bellow curses and act devilish. It gets a little sleepy at times when it deals with, well, Sleeping Beauty (Elle Fanning), the young woman who stands to have a very bad 16th birthday. Jolie has a creepy getup that I thought would bother me, but I kind of liked looking at after a while. It’s the world surrounding her that I found a bit pedestrian. Director Robert Stromberg worked as a production designer on films like Alice in Wonderland, Avatar and Oz the Great and Powerful. I didn’t like any of those movies, and in the…
05 Jun 2014
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Nothing cinematically sucks more than a comedy that makes you yawn. A Million Ways to Die in the West is one of the summer movie season’s biggest bummers. Seth MacFarlane’s second feature directorial effort (after the breezy and hilarious Ted) is a lumbering enterprise. It’s not awful, and it does have its share of giggles, but it can’t be classified as anything close to a good movie. That’s a kick in the balls, because some slicker editing and a dial-back on the gross-out gags could’ve kept this thing closer to 90 minutes (instead of nearly two hours) and would have gotten rid of the moments that go too far. Like Mel Brooks with the classic Blazing Saddles, MacFarlane tried to make a satirical Western that truly looks and feels like a Western. He gets the cinematography right, but his tempo is way off. While Blazing Saddles had the exuberance of…
29 May 2014
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Maybe I’m crazy, but there is still part of me that believes Adam Sandler will wake up one day and proclaim, in his angry voice, “Alright already! Enough with keeping my no-talent friends working. I can just give them money. It’s time to make decent, funny movies again! Stay home, Dennis Dugan! Screw you Frank Coraci! Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson will put me in a movie again! Flibberdy-Doo!” Blended, Sandler’s latest collaboration with director Coraci—who actually made some of the better Sandler films back in the day with The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer—might be Sandler’s worst movie yet, and that’s saying a lot. He plays a widower who has a terrible first date with a woman (Drew Barrymore) at Hooters. One thing leads to another, and the two wind up on a vacation together in Africa with all of their kids. Yes, you read that right. This all leads…
29 May 2014
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The X-Men franchise has taken the time-travel route made popular by James Cameron’s Terminator movies and J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) partakes in a unique form of time-tripping—and the result is the best film in the series since X-Men 2. Another big contributor to the awesomeness of the latest installment is the return of Bryan Singer to the director’s chair. Singer piloted the first two X-Men films; he has a nice command of the characters in both their old and younger incarnations. It’s good to have him back. The film starts in the future, where the likes of Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Wolverine have been reduced to hiding out in a dark, apocalyptic world where their enemy is a vicious robotic force called the Sentinels. Things are looking bad for the mutants. However, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page)…
22 May 2014
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Godzilla movies, with the exception of the decent 1954 original, have never been good movies, right? Instead, they are movies some of us enjoy watching because they deliver a fun dose of camp. Godzilla movies offer the brain a chance to relax and watch something unintentionally laughable. That said, I’m a Godzilla fan—to a certain extent. I used to watch the Thanksgiving Day marathons on TV back in Long Island, N.Y., when I was a kid. I had a special place in my heart for King Kong vs. Godzilla, and appreciate the fodder that Godzilla and Gamera movies provided for Joel Hodgson on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Well, the new, Gareth Edwards-directed Godzilla is, by millions and trillions and billions of miles, the best Godzilla movie ever made. It’s no contest: This movie tramples the other Godzilla movies underfoot like Godzilla trampling a water tower with cheesy dolls meant to…
15 May 2014
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Old School, that funny frat comedy starring Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn that proudly stands alongside Animal House as a genre-best, is already 11 years-old. ELEVEN … YEARS … OLD. So, yes, the world is ripe for a new, quality frat comedy—and it gets a good new entry with the new Seth Rogen offering, Neighbors. Mac and Kelly (Rogen and Rose Byrne) are happily adjusting to their new roles as parents to a baby daughter in a quiet suburban neighborhood. However, while they are adjusting to their new sleep and sex schedules, a fraternity moves in next door. They don’t panic, figuring they are still cool enough to get along with college kids. An initial meeting with frat president Teddy (Zac Efron) goes well, and they even wind up joining the fray (baby monitor in hand) for a drugged-out, booze-drenched party, establishing themselves as cool neighbors who might be able…
08 May 2014
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In my review of The Amazing Spider-Man two years ago, I suggested that director Marc Webb was not a good choice to helm a big-budget blockbuster. After seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which Webb also directed, I can say he’s a truly bad choice to direct a blockbuster. Webb mucks it up big-time with this second film featuring Andrew Garfield cracking wise in Spandex. While Webb proves adept at drama and romance—Garfield and Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacey, are adorable—he botches the action elements and tries to juggle too many bad guys. This movie features a goofy villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx), the Green Goblin (Dane DeHaan) and the robotic Rhino (Paul Giamatti). Electro gets the majority of the villain screen time—an unfortunate circumstance, given that he’s the most uninteresting of the three bad guys. Electro starts off as Max Dillon, a geeky electrical engineer who gets transformed into a…
01 May 2014
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Here we go with another low-cost, poorly lit, flimsily shot horror movie that substitutes loud, jarring noises and cheap parlor tricks for genuine scares. Jared Harris (Mad Men) plays Professor Joseph Coupland, a snobby chain smoker who is conducting an inexplicable experiment on mental-patient Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke). I say inexplicable, because I never did figure out what in the hell was going on. I can tell you that the experiment is being filmed by an amateur filmmaker (Sam Claflin), which allows for some of that “found footage” horror-movie feel that has gotten old. As far as I could gather, Jane is possessed, and the professor is trying to prove that she is just sick, although he seems to believe there are dark forces at hand, or something like that. It’s all very confusing and, ultimately, very stupid. Director John Pogue provides what he would like to think are shock…
01 May 2014
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Leslie Mann is one of my favorite comic actresses, and I’ve been waiting for her to get a project that would put her over the top as one of Hollywood’s go-to actresses. I thought This Is 40 would do the trick, but I was probably the only guy in the world who thought that was a good movie. Now comes The Other Woman, a film that casts her as a wimpy victim of her cheating husband, Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). She winds up befriending Carly, his mistress (Cameron Diaz), and she becomes a stronger, independent person as the film progresses. Whatever. Director Nick Cassavetes is trying for a straight comedy here, and things work well enough for at least half of the movie. Mann is at her pathetic best while stalking Diaz’s character, crying on her doorstep with Boston Market food in hand as a peace offering, and a big Great…