Posts Tagged ‘review


After Earth

Today, the average life expectancy for someone born in the United States is approximately 77 years for males and 80-81 years for females.  Whatever the number of years we’re privileged enough to spend on God’s green Earth may be, we can rest assured those years will consist of ups and downs, both personally and professionally.   Now, one person who had his share of ups and downs professionally is director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs).  Shyamalan’s latest directorial project is the new film, After Earth, starring Will Smith.

After Earth is a futuristic science fiction film that takes place, much like its title implies, after planet Earth has undergone extreme warfare and tremendous environmental stress, making it uninhabitable for human beings.  After Earth is the story of a strained father-son relationship between General Cypher Raige (Will Smith) and Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith).  An event, which we see in frequent flashbacks, serves as the primary reason for the great amount of tension between Cypher and Kitai.

While traveling through space to a routine military exercise, in which Cypher has reluctantly allowed Kitai to tag along, their spacecraft malfunctions.  In an attempt to save the crew, Cypher orders the ship crash land on planet Earth.  During the crash all of the crew is lost except Kitai and Cypher who has sustained badly broken legs, which one is life threatening.  To save himself and his father, Kitai races against the clock as he ventures out into the unknown and unpredictable land that is now Earth as Cypher directs Kitai’s every move from the crashed spacecraft.

Without a doubt the biggest grievance After Earth commits is how the film decides to utilize its biggest asset, Will Smith.  The film’s trailer and poster lead you to believe Will Smith is the star of the show, but unfortunately he really isn’t. Instead, Mr. Smith is reduced to basically a voice over role with occasional scene of him grimacing from the pain of his damaged legs.  Most screen time is devoted to the younger Smith, Jaden.  Although, Jaden isn’t terrible, he’s not ready to carry an entire film himself, not yet anyway.  Also, for some odd reason, Will and Jaden display British-like accents that appear and disappear throughout the film.

As I mentioned, After Earth is a sci-fi actioner, but it takes a considerable amount of time getting to any action.  Until any combat begins, the film muddles along with long, extended scenes with monotone dialogue with little to no expression from the actors.  When the action does begin, it’s fairly consistent and rather entertaining. However, it’s pretty standard fare for a sci-fi action film and brings nothing new to the table.

After Earth is better than a typical Shyamalan directed film.  On the other hand, it’s below par for a Will Smith flick. However, the film’s redeeming qualities; the father-son relationship dynamic and enjoyable action sequences are not enough to keep it from drowning in a sea of clichéd sci-fi mediocrity.

Best Buy Latest Deals – JUNE 2-8, 2013 – Warm Bodies – Blu-ray Disc


Fast & Furious 6

From fast food to Nascar, to amusement parks claiming to have the fastest ride on earth, one thing about America is abundantly clear: we’re a nation addicted to speed.  With a nation seemingly unable to get its fill of speed, it’s not a shock that a film franchise built around speed and adrenaline, the Fast and Furious films, would be so successful.  As has become the norm, this summer brings another Fast and Furious film.  The latest, Fast & Furious 6, directed by Justin Lin, stars familiar faces Vin Diesel and Paul Walker.

Fast & Furious 6 begins with our anti-heroes, Dominic (Diesel) and Brian (Walker) weaving in and out of traffic, pulling hair pin turns on a narrow thoroughfare.  When they reach their destination, what they encounter changes Brian and Dom’s life forever.  Soon after this life altering event, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) approaches Brian and Dominic needing help capturing a group of international criminals wreaking havoc and evading police.  Initially, Brian and Dom are uncooperative, but both relent when learning a character previously thought dead may be alive.

The entire gang from Fast Five is off enjoying their new riches in exotic locales with private jets, expensive cars and beautiful women.  Their picture perfect life is quickly interrupted when they all are summoned back into action by Brian and Dom.  They all drop what they’re doing and the entire squad is reunited.  What follows is a film filled with car chases, action, bulging biceps, and more testosterone than Lance Armstrong during the Tour de France.

Fast & Furious 6 is peculiarly written and directed.  Anyone buying a ticket to a film in the Fast and Furious franchise knows what they are in for; fast cars, car chases, and some decent action sequences. And Fast & Furious 6 comes with all of the above in an overwhelming amount and that’s when the film works.  But for whatever reason, the story goes off into several tangents that have nothing to do with the central story once so ever.   It’s not only distracting, it slows the film and gets away from what made it so successful; the action and car chases.  The film also spends an unnecessary large amount of time trying to explain the reappearance of a major character which could have been done in a few scenes.

The story is not bad at all. In fact, despite the undisciplined direction, the story is able to hold your attention.  However, the dialogue is very, very bad.  Almost all of it consists of characters speaking in usual tough guy cliché’s.  The acting is ok, except new comer Gina Carano, who is Razzie- worthy bad.

The Fast and Furious franchise has produced some decent to average films (the original) and some not so great ones (Tokyo Drift ).  Fast & Furious 6 starts off on a high note, but as it progresses, the more outrageous and absurd it becomes.  Fast & Furious 6 isn’t the worst in the franchise, but it’s not the best either.


Star Trek into Darkness

There are many things in today’s society that produce legions of fans.  For instance, take any big name performer or singer today and a mass of screaming and adoring fans trampling each other for better seats at the local concert is sure to follow.  But, as we all know singers and performers are a dime a dozen and as their star begins to fade, so do fans and as a result album and concert sales.  However, as fickle as some fans of today’s pop culture tend to be, you will have a hard time finding a more loyal and faithful fan base than Star Trek fans or “trekkies”.   This past weekend, trekkies had a reason to head out to the multiplex as J.J. Abrams Star Trek into Darkness, starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, opened.

The sequel to 2009’s hit Star Trek, sees the return of all the same crew.  Star Trek into Darkness wastes no time getting into the action as we meet the crew from the Starship Enterprise mid mission and the action literally starts from the first frame.  After completing the opening mission where a valuable crew member of the Starship Enterprise is nearly killed, the film really kicks it into high gear and takes the crew and the audience along for the ride.

While being debriefed at Enterprise Headquarters, we learn of a terrorist bombing at an important Enterprise base, where hundreds are killed.  After learning the identity of the individual responsible, the Starship Enterprise is sent on a dangerous manhunt to capture the fugitive alive and bring him to justice.

Before I begin, I must admit to not being a Star Trek fan.  I’ve also never watched a single Star Trek episode.  I did, however, see the first 2009’s Star Trek and did find it mildly entertaining.  With all that being said, Star Trek into Darkness is one of those rare films where it is actually action from the opening credits to the end credits.  The story is exciting, attention-grabbing right from the get go and there isn’t a dull moment the entire film. As fast paced and action packed as the story is, I did find myself predicting the major twists and turns along the way and when they were going to happen and was right on almost every occasion.

The directing here is both top notch.  Star Trek into Darkness is a rare film for yet another reason, there is not a single wasted scene the entire movie. Everything in the film is necessary to tell the story.  Often times with films like these, they seem to throw in an unnecessary love story and that does not happen here and it makes for a much tighter, cohesive film because of it.

While not a “trekkie” or even particularly looking forward to this film, Star Trek into Darkness is an enjoyable way to spend a night out.  It’s a fast paced, fascinating, thrill ride that does not let up until the end credits roll.   So, sit back, buckle up and take the ride!


The Great Gatsby

As we continue further into Hollywood’s make or break season, this past weekend provided more evidence that Hollywood is indeed stuck in a prolonged phase of unoriginal concepts for films. The F. Scott Fitzgerald literary classic, The Great Gatsby, made its debut on the big screen.  Directed by Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby stars Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Carey Mulligan.

Set in the roaring 1920’s, The Great Gatsby features Maguire as integral character and narrator, Nick Carraway.  As the film opens, we first encounter Carraway during a therapy session as he recovers in a mental institution from a laundry list of issues.  As part of his recovery, Carraway is encouraged to write and as he scribes furiously, we soon hear that famous opening line as our story begins.

In addition to being the film’s narrator, Carraway is a World War I veteran, who is now a bond salesman and a struggling writer.  Soon after renting a small, modest house on Long Island across from his cousin, Daisy (Mulligan), her husband Tom, and their lavish mansion, Nick becomes intrigued by his rich, mysterious, and virtually unknown neighbor, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio).  Night after night, Gatsby’s mansion holds extravagant soirées attended by a who’s who of the rich, powerful, and famous.  One day, out of the blue, Nick receives a personalized, handwritten invitation to that night’s celebration at Gatsby’s plush mansion.  Little does Nick know, his attendance at the party sets in motion a series of events with unforeseen and ultimately tragic consequences.

To start things off, the performances leave will you desiring so much more.  Without a doubt the biggest disappointment comes from the performance of Mr. Titanic, Leo DiCaprio.  To come from Django Unchained, where he was terrific as evil plantation owner Calvin Candie to whatever this was is baffling.  He’s irritating, annoying, overacts and spouts “old sport” ad nauseam.  DiCaprio also produces some of the cheesiest moments I’ve ever seen in a film. At one point, Gatsby turns to the camera in slow-motion with a huge grin; this sent the audience into a fit of laughter.  That’s a problem, considering it wasn’t supposed to be humorous at that moment.  Tobey Maguire turns in a very Tobey Maguiresque performance. He’s predictably boring, bland, and dull.  When you have names like Leo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan attached, you expect so much more and it just wasn’t there.

The Great Gatsby is terribly uneven in feel and at 2 ½ hours, way too long. The first half of the film focuses on the setting; sweeping views of 1920s New York City, the mansions, the clothes, the outrageous and constant parties.  Point made. But the film stresses the setting over and over.  Not until the 2nd half of the film does it center its attention on the actual story and interplay between characters and then it feels odd and forced.

The Great Gatsby could’ve been a good film, but it’s a case where the director gets in the way. There’s way too much style and way too little substance.  Do yourself a favor and read the book instead.


Iron Man 3


We’ve all heard that there are no certainties in life, except death and taxes.   Well, as true as that may have been back when first coined, in today’s world, that phrase is in serious need of revision. Because another, almost guaranteed event is that every year, during the summer months, Hollywood rolls out their big, blockbuster films.  Whether it’s the newest Will Smith actioner, the latest installment of the Transformer series or something else with a $200 million budget, they all begin appearing at the multiplexes.  We have now reached that special time of year as evidenced by the release of the latest Iron Man film, Iron Man 3, starring Robert Downey Jr.

Iron Man 3 begins with our wealthy, playboy hero, Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), at a party in the arms of a woman in Switzerland in 1999.  As Stark and his beautiful companion enter the elevator to retire to their room, Stark is approached by a shady and unkempt character spouting on about some new scientific discovery he has made.  In typical Tony Stark fashion, he brazenly ignores the man and his findings.  Flash forward 14 years to today and we find our hero questioning whether it’s the man or the suit that makes Iron man as he suffers from panic attacks and lack of sleep because of events that occurred in last summer’s The Avenger’s film.

We also learn Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) is now primarily running Stark industries, leaving Tony Stark to tinker with his toys in his laboratory at home.  One day, Pepper has a meeting with Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), he professes to have created the latest and greatest piece of technology. Soon after an individual simply calling himself, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), takes responsibility for several deadly terrorist acts and promises more until his demands are met.  Tony Stark must overcome his psychological problems,

The acting in the film is very similar to the two previous films in the Iron Man series and the rest of the Marvel films.  Downey Jr. brings his trademark wit and wry sense of humor that we’ve all come to know.  Ben Kingsley is a treat as the film’s dark, menacing villain. The film does the audience a disservice because Kingsley’s screen time is astonishingly scarce. However, he’s able to make the most of what he’s given.  The only real ineffective performance in the film is Pearce. He appears to be trying to imitate Javier Bardem’s character as the villain in Skyfall and doesn’t work and is at times, laughably bad.

The story is pretty run-of-the-mill for the comic book film genre. There are several plot holes, but the biggest irritant is that the story’s set up took too long. It’s also way too long at 2 ½ hours.  However, the aforementioned problems are forgiven because of several unforeseen twists.

Does Iron Man 3 entertain? Yes. Is it worth seeing? Probably, if just for all of the Tony Stark’s little quips and gadgets.  Also, you’ll want to stay until the credits are over.


The Company You Keep

Politics, government, and scandals seem to interact more than we’d like to admit.  Power has a way of corrupting even those with the purest of intentions. Luckily, our Founding Fathers provided a system which allows the electorate the opportunity to throw out elected officials thought to be corrupt or motivated by self-interest.  They also gave us the right to assemble peacefully and to petition our government, but what happens when the assembling isn’t quite so peaceful and turns violent?  This is subject of the new Robert Redford directed film, The Company You Keep, starring Shia LaBeouf and Redford.

The Company You Keep has Shia LaBeouf as young, ambitious newspaper reporter, Ben Shepard, looking for his first big story.  When a woman is arrested for crimes committed during protests of the war in Vietnam as a member of the radical Weather Underground group, Shepard digs further into the story. Shepard soon discovers local lawyer, Jim Grant (Redford), isn’t who he says he is at all.  In fact, Jim Grant doesn’t even exist, but has been harboring a dark secret for decades.

Knowing he is close to breaking a big story, Shepard continues prodding around and asking questions of law enforcement and other people connected to the man known as Jim Grant.  Aware of Shepard’s persistent efforts, Grant takes off leaving his young daughter with his brother.  Soon a nationwide man hunt ensues as both the FBI and Shepard pursue Grant.  Unfortunately for the FBI and Shepard, Grant is able to stay several steps ahead with a well thought out, methodical plan. When we do finally learn about Jim Grant, his secret is big enough to destroy the lives of many people.

First of all, The Company You Keep boasts a terrific cast.  There’s Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrrence Howard, and even Anna Kendrick makes an appearance in a role so small that if you blink, you’re likely to miss it.  Robert Redford shows he has the ability to put together a great cast and the cast turns in great performances.  The person who stills the show is Shia LaBeouf.  LaBeouf is a great young talent and is able to stand his own against some acting heavy weights. He’s great as ambitious reporter Ben Shepard, which reminds of a character played Redford, close to 40 years ago in All The President’s Men.  The performances are definitely a strong point of the film.

With a run time of two hours, the film is a little long.  There’s plenty that could have been easily cut.  For example, most of Redford’s scenes in the film consist of him running from one place to another.  Also, once we learn Redford’s character’s big, dark, secret, the film goes for another 10-15 minutes that just wasn’t needed.

The Company You Keep isn’t for everyone.  Whenever a film injects politics and its characters have a definite political view, it will inevitably turn off some audience members.  Politics aside, The Company You Keep is an intriguing film with some great performances that’s able to keep your attention throughout.



One look at Tom Cruise’s body of work and you’ll notice he’s done it all. With his latest film, Oblivion, Cruise steps into the science fiction genre.

Oblivion is set in post-apocalyptic USA in the year 2077. In a speedy voice over, we learn humans have won the war against the alien Scavs, machines programmed to destroy, but a select number of humans, Jack Harper (Cruise), had to remain behind to clean up the mess.  As a consequence of the war, all humans were subject to a mandatory memory swipe. Memory swipe and all, Jack keeps seeing visions of walking by a beautiful woman in what appears to be New York City.

Main character, drone technician, Jack Harper (Cruise), spends his days going into what remains of Earth repairing drones so they can continue fighting the Scavs.  Jack only has two more weeks left of duty and can then join the other humans on another planet.  During a routine maintenance outing, Jack discovers a spacecraft falling to the ground.  Upon investigation, Jack discovers the woman he keeps having visions of locked into a protective casing.  Before the Scavs destroy her, Jack is able to drag her to safety, taking her to his house.  After hearing who she is and what she was doing, Jack learns not everything is what it seems.

Oblivion is visually stunning.  There are expansive desert landscapes and magnificent sequences of intergalactic matter. The film’s setting is beautiful and you’ll want to keep your eyes on the screen for that reason alone. This is easily the best aspect of the film.

The acting is decent, nothing cringe worthy. However, early on Cruise is robotic and looks uncomfortable. As the film progresses, he relaxes and delivers an average performance.  Morgan Freeman, who’s underutilized, is good in his small role.

Anyone looking to Oblivion for action will not be disappointed.  Almost from the opening scene, there’s someone running from gunfire and continues to right up until the end credits.

Easily the biggest complaint is the story is so hard to follow.  Once you think you know what’s going on, a twist happens and takes the film in a completely different direction.  This happens on several occasions.  If you’re seeing Oblivion, do not leave your seat until it’s over or you will be lost.


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