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Saturday, August 22, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: The IMAX Experience

MOVIE
Mission Impossible:
Rogue Nation

CAST
Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
July 31, 2015

DIRECTOR
Christopher McQuarrie

STUDIO
Paramount Pictures

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 11 minutes







STARS
***1/2











REVIEW:

As someone who didn't love "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" as much as the majority of people, I wasn't particularly pumped to see the latest film in the long-running franchise "Rogue Nation."  This film has Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt on the run to expose the syndicate and bring them down after the IMF is shut down by the CIA.  One has to wonder how the action compares to that from "Ghost Protocol" since the stories in all five films are almost identical.   Well, the opening scene of this movie, that being the sequence involving Cruise hanging off the side of a plane, is the least ridiculous thing to happen.   That should put into perspective how much more ridiculous this movie is compared to the previous one.

The entire cast is a lot of fun here and is clearly having a blast making this flick.  Cruise, in particular, shows that he loves this franchise and will risk his life to keep making these movies.  Christopher McQuarrie, whose last directorial effort was the 2012 film "Jack Reacher" also starring Cruise, does a solid job here as the movie's director/co-writer.  There were jokes and scenarios that fell flat, and the villain wasn't written to be as menacing as he should have been, but McQuarrie's work on the film overall was good.  The action sequences, particularly one involving Cruise going underwater, are spectacular to watch, especially in IMAX.  The movie isn't as fun and ridiculous a summer blockbuster compared to something like "Jurassic World."  Having said that, "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" is still a blast to watch and will be enjoyed by those looking for an action-packed, well-paced popcorn flick.




MINI-REVIEW: Unexpected

MOVIE
Unexpected

CAST
Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm

RATING
R

RELEASE
July 24, 2015 (LIMITED/VOD)

DIRECTOR
Kris Swanberg

STUDIO
The Film Arcade

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 25 minutes








STARS
***1/2










REVIEW:

There were two films starring Cobie Smulders that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The first one,"Results," is a pretty mediocre film overall. There were two films starring Cobie Smulders that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The second one, "Unexpected," is the exact opposite of that. The story follows a teacher and her student who both become pregnant around the same time and end up bonding because of it. It's a simple narrative with very strong results. Cobie Smulders gives a grounded and incredibly wholesome performance as the lead protagonist, and her chemistry with newcomer Gail Bean is great to watch. The scenes she shares with Anders Holm, her husband in the film, are also really engaging. As a whole the film feels a bit rushed at times, but that doesn't take away from the overall impact this has. Writer/director Kris Swanberg has made a sweet, funny, and dramatic little indie flick that is worth seeking out, especially if you want to see Robin Scherbatsky show off her acting chops. "Unexpected" may be the second film in recent memory involving Smulders getting pregnant, the first one being "Delivery Man," but this is the better one of the two. without a doubt




MINI-REVIEW: Southpaw

MOVIE
Southpaw

CAST
Jake Gyllenhaal,
Forest Whitaker

RATING
R

RELEASE
July 24, 2015

DIRECTOR
Antoine Fuqua

STUDIO
The Weinstein Company

RUNNING TIME
2 hours 4 minutes








STARS
****









REVIEW:

It's amazing how far actors go to transform themselves into a character they're playing.  Actors like Christian Bale have lost significant weight for movies only to gain it back in muscle for other films soon after.  Jake Gyllenhaal has done something very similar in the case of his role in "Southpaw."  After losing a shocking amount of weight to play the hauntingly charismatic Lou Bloom in last year's "Nightcrawler," Gyllenhaal gained a lot of muscle and pounds to play Billy Hope in this film.  Hope is a boxer who has it all until a slew of tragic events cause him to lose it all.  This story has been told many times before, making the result pretty predictable.  Having said that, it still doesn't change how powerful this movie is in the long run.

Gyllenhaal gives it all as Hope, bringing the emotion and power into his performance.  Forest Whitaker also shines as a trainer who helps Billy try to get back on top.  The most impressive performance in the film comes from Oona Laurence as Billy's daughter.  In every scene she's in, Laurence brings buckets of emotion with her and pulls at the heartstrings a lot.  The story and script may not be the most original, but it's the performances, the direction from Antoine Fuqua, editing, and the rap-infused soundtrack that make "Southpaw" a movie worth seeing.  From the opening scene of the movie, the grittiness of the film have you engaged with what's on screen, and at 124 minutes it never feels slow.   "Southpaw" is a modern day, R-rated, boxing-themed version of "Rudy," and I loved every second of it.  If you're a fan of underdog stories, despite them being predictable, then this movie is worth checking out.





MINI-REVIEW: Paper Towns

MOVIE
Paper Towns

CAST
Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne

RATING
PG-13

RELEASE
July 24, 2015

DIRECTOR
Jake Schreier

STUDIO
20th Century Fox

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 49 minutes







STARS
***









REVIEW:

Last year, director Josh Boone helped author John Green bring his beloved teen novel "The Fault in Our Stars" to the big screen.  Teens, audiences, and critics alike all fell for the cancer-centered drama starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort.  With Fox believing they have struck a gold mine, they decided to adapt another one of Green's novels as a film.  That novel comes in the form of "Paper Towns," a story of a boy traveling cross-country to find the girl he's in love with and profess his feelings to her.  Considering my love for "The Fault in Our Stars," I can say that I was pretty excited to see what John Green had in store for us next.  While the result wasn't as strong as "Fault," there are still a lot of things to like about this movie.  Nat Wolff is a solid lead, the film itself is relatable, and the story always had my attention despite some unexplained plot points and some annoying supporting characters.  At the end of the day, "Paper Towns" is a step down from Green's previous work, but it's still a good movie overall.





PREVIEWS YOU MAY SEE:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

The Visit

Goosebumps

We Are Your Friends

The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials





Sunday, August 16, 2015

MINI-REVIEW: The Diary of a Teenage Girl

MOVIE
The Diary of a Teenage Girl

CAST
Bel Powley, Alexander SkarsgÄrd

RATING
R

RELEASE
August 7, 2015 (NY/LA)

DIRECTOR
Marielle Heller

STUDIO
Sony Pictures Classics

RUNNING TIME
1 hour 42 minutes








STARS
***1/2









REVIEW:

Being a teenager is an incredibly odd and surreal time in one's life. Boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18 are experiencing new things that they're unfamiliar to, including sex, drugs, and profanity. The main character in the Sundance hit "The Diary of a Teenage Girl," Minnie, is a 15-year-old girl circa 1976 who is just discovering what it's like to have sex with someone. Who better to deflower the sexually curious girl than her mother's boyfriend Monroe, am I right? That's just the beginning of the crazy shenanigans that this girl gets into throughout this movie. To call this film "exploitive" isn't fair because, while it's a graphically depicted story, everything has a purpose to it. Young Minnie is a naive girl who is just trying to grow up a little too fast and doesn't totally understand what she's doing. In a nutshell, this is if the perverted and deviated content presented in "The Wolf of Wall Street" was put into a quirky world reminiscent to that of "Napoleon Dynamite." Replace Jon Heder with Bel Powley in the lead role, and you have yourself this raw, unconfined, relatable, and incredibly well-acted film.