Saturday, March 26, 2016

Batman v Superman – C+

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams (PBA), Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane (PBA), Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Gal Gadot.
Screenplay by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder.

Rated PG-13 for prolonged intense sequences of violence and destruction, some sensuality, and language.

Amy Adams naked in a bathtub. With no bubbles.

Well, that got your attention. That's actually in the movie, so I don't feel too bad about using it to hook you into the review. More on it later.

When they started making this movie two years ago, I had misgivings about it.

It was to be directed and written by the same guys who did Man of Steel (Review). They didn't totally mess up with that one, so I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But this news didn't exactly fill me with anticipation.

To be continued...

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Identical – D+

Starring Blake Rayne, Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Seth Green, Joe Pantoliano.
Screenplay by Howard Klausner.
Directed by Dustin Marcellino.

Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking.

I can't begin to tell you how bad this movie is. I was suckered in by the fact that it involves Ashley Judd, Seth Green, and Ray Liotta. The first two must have become involved because of the fact that Liotta financed this thing. Or they were off their meds.

They are all good actors and do well in this. But that is the only redeeming characteristic of this train-wreck of a movie.

The creators pose the question, "What if Elvis's twin brother had not died at birth?" It then creates the least imaginative and most unlikely response possible to that question: Why, he'd have been adopted, grown up to be an Elvis impersonator, and would have become almost as famous as the King himself by touring and singing covers of Elvis's songs! (Honestly. That's the plot.)

This movie is basically a vanity project for the "actor" who plays the main character. This actor is an Elvis impersonator in real life. This movie gives him a chance to live out his fantasy of having Elvis see his act and then receiving his blessing as the world's best Elvis impersonator. (Which he isn't.)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tomorrowland - B+

Starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw.
Screenplay by Brad Bird, Damon Lindelof, and Jeff Jensen.
Directed by Brad Bird.

Rated PG for sequences of sci-fi violence, action, and peril, and for some language. IMHO, it should be a PG-13. Many scenes could be very scary for younger grade schoolers.

I absolutely love many things about Tomorrowland but the film as a whole falls short of the greatness it could have and should have achieved. I may likely watch it several more times over the years and there are elements that will always touch and inspire. But I know many others will find it disappointing in the extreme (especially the ending) and move on. And I can't really blame them.

It's hard to review this movie without spoiling it because so much of the plot hinges on mystery and big reveals. So you are forewarned.

What's so disappointing about the movie? Here it comes. The biggest spoiler yet: Tomorrowland doesn't really exist. At least not fully. The characters never actually go there. The utopian vistas and gleaming cities that Casey sees when she touches the pin are, as Frank puts it, just a commercial for a place that was never completed. "An invitation to a party that was canceled."

And that's the gamble that Brad Bird takes in this movie. He stakes the film on the hope that you won't get pissed off when the climax of the story turns out to be a speech. A speech telling you that only you have the power to make Tomorrowland happen. Hollywood can't do it for you. So stop being cynical and lazy. If you want to see it, don't go to the movies. Get out and start creating it. The end.

As cinematically dull as this sounds, I'm just enough of a dreamy idealist to buy into it. But many people may howl in disdain and demand their money back.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel (B+)

Starring Henry Cavill, Amy Adams (PBA), Russell Crowe, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane (PBA), Kevin Costner, Laurence Fishburne, Antje Traue, Ayelet Zurer, Harry Lennix, Richard Schiff, and Christopher Meloni.
Screenplay by David S. Goyer
Directed by Zack Snyder.

Rated PG-13 for prolonged intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for some language.

It's impossible for me to write objectively about a Superman movie. Especially one I've anticipated as long as this one. A friend asked me whether I loved it or was disappointed.


After 2006's middling, milquetoast Superman Returns, which tried to be a direct sequel to 1980's Superman II but retained far too much of it's campy humor, the Man of Tomorrow was in dire need of a theatrical reboot. This film is that and a ton more. In some ways it totally re-imagines the Superman mythology.

My greatest concern about Man of Steel is that Clark/Superman is almost entirely reactive for the whole film. He never formulates a plan to outsmart the bad guys and then executes it. He simply responds to outside forces as they enter his flight path and takes instructions from others. "Hey Clark, your dead alien dad told me how you can fix that ..."

All in all, it's a good, exciting movie and an interesting new take on Big Blue. But it seems more a like a prologue to a real Superman movie than the genuine article.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Flight (A–)

Starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Greenwood, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, and Melissa Leo.
Screenplay by John Gatins.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Rated R for frequent explicit language, heavy reckless alcohol use, detailed drug abuse, and a scene of nudity.

Buy it

This is the first live-action film Zemeckis has directed since "Cast Away" in 2000. Like that film, it has a huge, edge-of-your-seat plane crash scene then becomes a two-hour character study. The trailer makes you think it's either an action-packed rage-against-the-system flick or a courtroom drama. It's neither, although it has elements of those. It's really more like "Lost Weekend" or "Clean and Sober."

The airplane is a metaphor for its pilot, William "Whip" Whitaker (Denzel Washington), a functional alcoholic who is privately crashing during a time when he is publicly flying high as a national hero. Whip coolly and inventively landed the defective airliner, saving most of the 102 souls aboard. But it's discovered that he was legally drunk when the accident occured. Can he come out of his nose-dive before he loses the one soul aboard his personal flight?

Washington's tremendous skill and intense humanity keep you invested in Whip but it's not easy. Whip - as addicts often do - gets increasingly repugnant as the story progresses and the movie dares you to keep caring about him no matter how bad he gets. Kelly Reilly (Dr. Watson's wife in the current Sherlock Holmes movies) also does a terrific, natural job here as a fellow addict/love interest who wants to get sober.

The film poses many questions about God's role in tragedy and accidents, his help in self-control, the efficacy of prayer, and predestination. Christian symbols appear throughout the film. Some of the questions are taken very seriously, some not.

It also keeps you in a very tense, emotional Catch-22 between definitely wanting Whip to be absolved for this particular crash, for which he was not responsible and in which he acted heroically, and definitely wanting to see him be held accountable for his long history of flying drunk.

Some conservative viewers may admire the film's message but may not be able to sit through its very graphic and realistic content.

Final Grade: A–

Friday, April 06, 2012

Wow. Just ... wow.

In the film October Baby, the main character develops a sudden illness that may have congenital origins, discovers she is adopted, and goes searching for her birth mother - only to find she was the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.

Shari Rigby, the actress cast in the role of the birth mother had - unbeknownst to anyone but her husband and closest friends - deeply personal connections to the film's story.

An incredibly touching encounter. Thanks, God.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009