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Friday, January 30, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Unbroken

MOVIE
Unbroken

CAST
Jack O'Connell, Miyavi

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 25, 2014

DIRECTOR
Angelina Jolie

STUDIO
Universal Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 17 minutes







STARS
**1/2








REVIEW:

On paper, "Unbroken" has many of the elements that Oscar voters look for in a movie around this time of the year.  These elements include an inspiring/insane true story, a World War II setting, an award-winning actress taking helm as the director, and an up-and-coming actor in the main role of the film.  However, what this movie lacks in that other Oscar hopefuls, such as "The Imitation Game," excels in is a concise narrative, a decent pace that prevents the audience from checking their phones for the time, and emotional moments that are genuine and real rather than forced and manipulative.  It's a shame with this movie as it honestly could have been great, maybe even the Best Picture winner at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony.  Unfortunately, this film is a manipulative, schmaltzy, and sometimes contrived piece of Oscar bait that, despite featuring decent direction, some really good performances, and gorgeous cinematography, only goes as far as being just simply an average movie overall.





MINI-REVIEW: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 3D in 48fps

MOVIE
The Hobbit:
The Battle of the Five Armies

CAST
Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 17, 2014

DIRECTOR
Peter Jackson

STUDIO(S)
Warner Bros. Pictures,
New Line Cinema,
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 24 minutes




STARS
***3/4







REVIEW:

With "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" in theaters now, fans and moviegoers are now saying goodbye to one of the most lauded fantasy series of the 21st century.  Peter Jackson has brought each book, and in the case of "The Hobbit" trilogy every detail, of the beloved series to life with much approval and love from fans, movie-lovers, and critics alike.  Personally speaking, I still believe "An Unexpected Journey" is the best of the entire "Lord of the Rings" series, as it told a coherent story while developing great characters and delivering on great visuals and thrills.  "The Desolation of Smaug" was a fun movie overall, but it had too much going on during it and didn't have the same consistent tone as the first one.  With "The Battle of the Five Armies," not only does the film have a main focus once again, but overall it tells an epic story that delivers on being a satisfying conclusion to an iconic series of modern fantasy flicks.  The film might not be for everyone, but it surely was for me.  Aside from the opening 10 minutes feeling absolutely out of place from the rest of the film, I had absolutely nothing wrong with this.  In my eyes, "The Hobbit" trilogy, and more importantly the "Lord of the Rings" series, has ended on a very high note, and this final installment is definitely something I recommend people going to check out.



PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

Terminator: Genisys

Tomorrowland

Furious 7

The Walk

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Focus

Jupiter Ascending




Thursday, January 29, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Project Almanac

MOVIE
Project Almanac

CAST
Jonny Weston,
Sofia Black-D'Elia

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
January 30, 2015

DIRECTOR
Dean Israelite

STUDIO(S)
Paramount Pictures,
Insurge Pictures

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 46 minutes





STARS
***1/2








REVIEW:

It's hard to believe that it's taken this long to make a found-footage movie about time travel, but alas, we finally have one.  Dean Israelite's "Project Almanac" takes the found footage aspect of films like "Paranormal Activity" and "Chronicle" and puts the time traveling story-lines of films like "Looper" and "About Time" in it as the basis.  The plot of five teens creating time travel and causing effects, both good and bad, to the world's timeline has been done countless times before.  However, what makes this film stand out among the others is its inventive and original ways of messing with time and the people around the central characters, as well as some likable enough leads to help keep the story going.  Sure, some of the movie doesn't fully add up, and there are some angles and ways of editing all of this "found-footage" that seems extremely implausible, but at the end of the day "Project Almanac" is a fun, cool, and even smart movie that is sure to gain an audience with teens and sci-fi fanatics.  Not much else to say except that I totally recommend it.  It's not groundbreaking or genre-defying, but it is an entertaining film that is great to watch with a bucket of popcorn, some friends, and brains slightly turned off.





Friday, January 23, 2015

REVIEW: Black Sea

MOVIE
Black Sea

CAST
Jude Law, Scoot McNairy

RATING
R

RELEASE
January 23, 2015 (NY/LA)

DIRECTOR
Kevin Macdonald

STUDIO
Focus Features

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 55 minutes







STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

When I saw the trailer for Jude Law's newest film "Black Sea," I wasn't particularly impressed, though I wasn't against seeing it overall.  The movie itself is about a group of sailors, led by Jude Law's Captain Robinson, traveling to the depths of the black sea to uncover gold that is potentially hidden within a sunken U-Boat in order to make good with some former employees.  The trailer makes the film out to be a standard thriller when it actually has a lot more depth and intelligence than one would expect.  The whole story of retrieving gold from the bottom of the ocean is merely the shell of the film.  What lies beneath, being the real meat that drove this film home for me, is a rag-tag group of characters who are being consumed by their own fantasies of becoming rich.  Not the film I expected, but definitely the film I'm glad I got in the end.

Jude Law does some remarkably great work here as the Captain.  Donning a Scottish accent and a thinning hair line, Law loses himself in this role and becomes a complex and fascinating individual who is trying to keep his crew stable while controlling his desires for gold and money.  It might not be as mad and crazy of a performance as that in "Dom Hemingway," but Law definitely puts his all into his role, which alone made me appreciate the character as a whole.  Scoot McNairy, who recently was in the overlooked indie "Frank" as well as Best Picture Winners "Argo" and "12 Years A Slave," also does some strong work as an American who convinces Law's character to go forth with the expedition.  His selfishness in the story is kind of the epicenter of why the film really grabbed me and kept me invested with what's going on.  The rest of the cast is also quite good, but in the end, I would guess that it's Law and McNairy who will have had a lasting impact on you once the film comes to a close.

Kevin Macdonald has made his mark in the film industry, from documentaries like "Life in a Day" and "Marley" to Oscar winning movies like "The Last King of Scotland."  He directs this film with intense precision, and considering that the majority of the movie takes place within the confines of a submarine, I will say that he manages to keep the illusion of being trapped within a small space well without giving off a claustrophobic feeling whatsoever.  When an intense moment hits, we as an audience really feel the heat that's brewing within the bodies of the crew members, which adds to the constant tension present.  Having not seen any of his other films unfortunately, I will happily say that Macdonald shows a lot of promise in his ever-growing career, and this film is a great place for regular audience members to introduce themselves to his work.

The problems in the film mostly lie in Dennis Kelly's screenplay.  Don't get me wrong, the majority of the writing is well done, and the story itself never lost my attention.  What I found to be problematic was the fact that it never seemed like the film wanted to end.  Personally speaking, I believe there could have been a good 10 minutes trimmed off the film that would have made the writing tighter and the pace quicker. Unfortunately, the movie feels like it just goes on and on and drags scenes out that could have been minutes shorter.  In all honesty, I believe that there could have been a good 10 minutes cut from the final cut that would have made the story tighter and the pace faster.  Other than that, I really don't have anything else negative to say.

Thanks to Jude Law's stand-out performance, a solid supporting cast, a clever yet somewhat predictable script, and Kevin Macdonald's calculated direction, "Black Sea" at the end of the day is an intense and engaging submarine thriller that, while dragging a bit towards the end, has a solid payoff in the end.  What I believe a thriller should be at the end of the day is a story that gets you invested with its characters, tells an intriguing tale, and gives thrills and unexpected turns as the ride goes along.  This film highly succeeds at doing just that, and for that alone I have to give it credit.  I'm not sure if it's going to be something I really remember by the time the year ends, but for the time being, I'm glad I have seen this film, especially in a theater.  It might not be a perfect movie, but in terms of being released here in America during what's called the "stinker month" of every year, it's a masterpiece of aquatic proportions.  So if you're looking for a serious, intense, and great thriller to add onto your list of 2015 films for the year, then I definitely recommend "Black Sea."







ME WITH THE DIRECTOR OF "BLACK SEA," 
KEVIN MACDONALD, AFTER A SPECIAL ADVANCE SCREENING OF THE FILM ON DECEMBER 9, 2014!!


MINI-REVIEW: Still Alice

MOVIE
Still Alice

CAST
Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
December 5, 2014 (Oscar Run)
January 16, 2015 (NY/LA)

DIRECTOR(S)
Richard Glatzer,
Wash Westmoreland

STUDIO
Sony Pictures Classics

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 42 minutes






STARS
***1/2







REVIEW:

As seen before in many movies, including the recently released "The Theory of Everything," actors tend to test their abilities by playing someone who either is very sick, mentally or physically disabled, or someone who has their life deteriorating at the hands of a fatal disease.  Julianne Moore has put her foot in this pool, and in return has given the performance that many have been saying she'll finally win an Oscar for.  When I heard about "Still Alice" and all of the praise that Moore was getting, I didn't really expect it to actually be true.  Sure enough, it is, and a well-told film with some solid performances from co-stars Kristen Stewart and Alec Baldwin accompany her performance.  While some of the film feels manipulative, "Still Alice" manages to keep the audience's attention, pull at the heartstrings, and showcase Julianne Moore's titular character in a shocking and heartbreaking state as well as a career-defining performance on her part.