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Thursday, March 26, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Faults

MOVIE
Faults

CAST
Leland Orser,
Mary Elizabeth-Winstead

RATING
NR

RELEASE
March 6, 2015 (LIMITED/VOD)

DIRECTOR
Riley Stearns

STUDIO
Screen Media Films

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 30 minutes





STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

Cults are easy to be persuaded by, as shown in Riley Stearns' movie "Faults."  Starring Leland Orser from "The Guest" and Mary Elizabeth-Winstead from such films as "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" and "The Spectacular Now," "Faults" tells the story of the struggle two parents go through when dealing with their daughter, Claire, being taken into a mysterious cult called Faults.  As a last ditch effort to get her out, Claire's parents call upon one of the world's foremost experts in the field of mind control, Ansel Roth, in order to do the deed.  This film is one of the few times where I went into this knowing practically nothing about it, other than the cast and that it deals with cults.  90 minutes later, I emerged from the film with a strange awe pulsating through my eyes and mind.

This is one crazy and surreal movie, and it's one of those indie gems that I'd highly recommend seeking out.  The performances are great, the story is captivating, Riley Stearns' writing/direction was on point and very impressive, and overall this is a movie that I really enjoyed.  It drags a little bit and some performances are better than others, but honestly, this is something that really deserves to be seen and admired.  If you haven't heard of "Faults" before, hopefully now you have, and I recommend seeing it.  However, try to avoid the trailer if possible.  It sells a different movie than what is delivered and kind of spoils some of the twists, turns, and surreal things that go on during the 90 minute duration.





MINI-REVIEW: The Divergent Series: Insurgent 3D

MOVIE
The Divergent Series: Insurgent

CAST
Shailene Woodley, Theo James

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
March 20, 2015

DIRECTOR
Robert Schwentke

STUDIO
Summit Entertainment
(Lionsgate)

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 59 minutes






STARS
***1/4







REVIEW:

It's been just over a year since the novel "Divergent" was adapted for the big screen, and since that film did so well, it only seems appropriate that the book's sequel would be adapted to the big screen as well.  Alas, it was, and here we are with "The Divergent Series: Insurgent," now in post-converted 3D!  I have to point out now that the 3D here is absolutely useless, so if you want to see this, save your money and see this in 2D if possible.  It's taken me a few days to solidify my opinion on this, and I've finally reached a verdict: I enjoyed "Insurgent," plain and simple.  Is the story convoluted at times?  Yes.  Do some characters get introduced only to barely be included in the main story?  Absolutely.  However, did the film keep me entertained and invested?  Yes it very much did.  If you're a fan of the "Divergent" books and/or the first film in the series, then I have a feeling you'll enjoy this one.  It's fun, it's visually gorgeous, and it's well acted.  If you're not a fan of these films, then don't waste your time going to see this because, let's face it, why pay for something you know you're not going to like?  Honestly, that's really all I have to say about this.




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hot Pursuit

Pitch Perfect 2

Pixels

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Age of Adaline

Paper Towns

Poltergeist




Sunday, March 22, 2015

REVIEW: Run All Night

MOVIE
Run All Night

CAST
Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman

RATING
R

RELEASE
March 13, 2015

DIRECTOR
Jaume Collet-Serra

STUDIO
Warner Bros. Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 54 minutes






STARS
***








REVIEW:

Every year it seems we get a new(ish) Liam Neeson action thriller to take our money and showcase one of Hollywood's most badass stars being, well, a badass.  This year we're privileged (depending on who you are) to get two within the first three months of 2015.  The first one was "Taken 3," and the second one is "Run All Night."  Re-teaming with "Unknown" and "Non-Stop" director Jaume Collet-Serra, Neeson stars as Jimmy, an aging mobster who ends up having one hell of a night where he kills the son of his best friend and mob boss Shawn, played by Ed Harris, in order to protect his own estranged son, played by Joel Kinnaman from last year's "Robocop" remake.  Basically it's kind of like if "That's My Boy" or "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" were made into an R rated Liam Neeson action fiesta.  Don't worry, that's a good thing.

Neeson, Kinnaman, and Harris all deliver solid performances here as their respected characters.  Neeson shows that he's having fun while playing this alcoholic gangster who is trying to save his son and make things right for all the wrong he's done.  Kinnaman is very convincing as Neeson's estranged son, giving the emotional punch that this film delivers well with.  The best performance in the movie goes to Harris, who is very menacing and engaging as the main antagonist.  Vincent D'onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, and others make up the overall solid supporting cast.  The problems in the film don't lie in the performance, but rather in the cheesy and even confused screenplay.

At the beginning of the film, Harris' character is against his son's actions and doesn't want anything to do with what he believes is right.  However, his actions lead to his attempt on Liam Neeson's son's life, which causes Neeson to kill him.  Out of nowhere, Harris suddenly has a change of heart and sets his mobsters and the NYPD against Neeson, his best and most loyal friend might I add, and his kid.  This just felt like a complete 180 from what the film had been setting up Harris' character as.  Also, there's a character played by Common who honestly felt like something that came straight out of a "Terminator" movie.  Even when you think this character is done and over with, the film surprises you once again by having him still living and breathing, despite not making and logical sense whatsoever.  I know you're supposed to turn your brain off during these types of films, but here, I honestly couldn't.  Luckily these problems didn't stop me from enjoying the film as a whole.

In a nut shell, this is a flawed and formulaic action movie.  There are a lot of ridiculous and implausible moments that happen here, and there are some characters who motives aren't quite logical.  Having said that, I managed to get lost in most of the action and on screen chemistry between Neeson and Kinnaman, and at the end of the day I came out of this happy that I saw it.  It might not be as deep or as awesome as "The Grey," but it's still a fun Liam Neeson action movie overall that I'd recommend seeing with friends, whether that's in the theater or at home.  Plus if you watch it with friends, I bet a drinking game could be made out of this.  Either that, or being under the influence while watching this may elevate the film's more absurd moments into sheer hilarity for you. At the end of the day, "Run All Night" is another fun entry into Liam Neeson's supposedly unstoppable reign of action films.  Not as smart or fun as some of his previous flicks, but overall it's a solid two hour thrill ride that is sure to entertain you at least partially.






PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Mad Max: Fury Road

San Andreas





Friday, March 20, 2015

REVIEW: Kingsman: The Secret Service

MOVIE
Kingsman: The Secret Service

CAST
Colin Firth, Taron Egerton

RATING
R

RELEASE
February 13, 2015

DIRECTOR
Matthew Vaughn

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 9 minutes






STARS
****









REVIEW:

Ballsy, tongue-in-cheek, and downright awesome are just a few of the many ways to describe "Kingsman: The Secret Service." The latest outing from "Kick-Ass" and "X-Men: First Class" director Matthew Vaughn boasts a very strong cast, including the likes of Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson. The film tells of a secret British organization filled with proper, classy, and badass gentlemen spies, with Firth's Harry Hart attempting to recruit a young recluse living in the ghetto part of England named Eggsy, played by Taron Egerton. Without going into too much detail, there is a villain who is trying to take over the world, and it's up to the Kingsman to stop him before it's too late. The description given is intentionally vague and generic, because going further into detail with this film may just take out a good amount of the fun present here. "Kingsman" is a film that both pokes fun at old spy films as well as pay homage to them, which as a whole helps to make it one hell of an entertaining ride.

First and foremost, this movie is a true testament to Vaughn's undeniably talented and precise eye to storytelling. From the fast-paced exchanges of dialogue to the brutally spectacular action sequences, he definitely shows that he has a true eye for giving the audience a bloody good time, pun intended. There's a very controversial scene that happens in the middle of the film that involves a shootout inside a church, and honestly, this was my favorite scene of the film. Not only was the action well choreographed and the editing swift and graceful, but the song that goes along with the scene is, for lack of a better term, perfect. If Vaughn was ever to have a director reel to show off what he's done, I would put this and the big shootout scene from "Kick-Ass" set to Joan Jett's rendition "My Generation" front and center. After this and his other two big hits, I don't see anything that can stop his career anytime soon.

It's extremely ironic to have someone as classy and elegant as Colin Firth playing the character of Harry Hart. In case you don't recall, Firth received his Academy Award for playing the stuttering and timid Duke of York in "The King's Speech." If you imagine the exact opposite of how that character was, then you'd basically get what you see here. In short, Firth is a straight up badass here, and arguably the best thing about the movie entirely. From his witty jokes and comments to his amazing moves in the action scenes, Firth stole the show from everyone here. Honestly, he was the absolute perfect choice to play this character, and I couldn't see anyone else doing Harry Hart justice.

Everyone else in the cast, ranging from relative newcomer Taron Egerton as the film's lead protagonist Eggsy to Samuel L. Jackson as the charismatic lisp-bearing villain Richmond Valentine, all add to the comedy and the fun this movie has and overall give great performances.  The visual effects are stellar, the humor really hits, and the action is just a lot of fun to watch.  Honestly I could go on and on about this film, but truth be told, this is just something that should be experienced on the big screen.  "Kingsman" is raunchy, violent, and unapologeticly awesome.  It's the hybrid of the "James Bond" series and "Attack the Block" that you never knew you wanted to see.  If you haven't seen this film yet, then I'd definitely recommend checking it out as soon as possible.  This is one of the best movies of 2015 thus far, and it's Vaughn's best film in my eyes other than "Kick-Ass."




PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE

Ant Man

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.


Trainwreck (Red Band)

Spy

Fantastic Four


Hitman: Agent 47





Thursday, March 19, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Maps to the Stars

MOVIE
Maps to the Stars

CAST
Julianne Moore,
Mia Wasikowska

RATING
R

RELEASE
February 27, 2015
(LIMTIED/VOD)

DIRECTOR
David Cronenberg

STUDIO
Focus World

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 52 minutes







STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

If you love tabloid websites like TMZ, then chances are you may hate David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars."  If there was ever a movie that both glorifies and flips off the Hollywood culture, this would be it.  Julianne Moore won Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival last year for this film, and deservedly so in my eyes.  Moore, along with Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, and other recognizable celebrities make up this ensemble piece about the horrors that lie behind the scenes of the lives of actors and filmmakers.  It's fascinating to see Julianne Moore's character trying to get a role that was originated by her late mother while her ghost haunts her subconscious, while at the same time Evan Bird, the film's scene-stealer in my eyes, plays a teen heartthrob who is trying to make a sequel to the film that made him famous after getting out of drug rehabilitation.  And then Wasikowska shows up out of the blue to stir up the lives of everyone she meets, including those previously mentioned.

Every character in their own way is a flawed individual, which is what makes them all the more fascinating to watch.  Moore and Bird in particular steal every scene they're in, which is truly a testament to how well written the characters are.  This is the first film I've seen from David Cronenberg's catalog, and I'm glad it was.  This biting Hollywood satire might be flawed, particularly in the structure of the third act and the dragging nature of the film, but at the end of the day it is extremely entertaining and worthy of a watch.  Definitely not a movie that will appeal to everyone, but it's definitely something that will leave some type of impact on you once it ends.