Review: Calvary

calvary still

When I see a movie in theaters, there has to be some pretty strong interest to get me out to the cinema. Whether it’s the actors, the story, the reviews, or a combination of these factors, I need a pretty strong pull to avoid me thinking “eh, I can wait for that on demand or on Netflix.” Calvary had so many things working in its favor that got me out to see it: Brendan Gleeson, a controversy surrounding an Irish priest, and nearly 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (and good word of mouth from someone I know). So, why am I sitting here, writing this somewhat disappointed?

I’m writing this slightly disappointed because there’s another large factor for a movie to succeed: it has to, or something about it, has to stay with me and make me think or impact me in some fashion after the end credits roll. I want to talk about it or think about it, and most of all, care about it. The problem with this film, was that I really didn’t care about the characters or the story or what I just saw, not even ten minutes after leaving the theater. Nothing provoked further thoughts or talks, and that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. One would think that a good lead actor taking on a story about a Catholic priest that’s threatened to be murdered would pretty much equate to instantaneous conversation. Sadly, it was not the case. 

Calvary also felt sort of disjointed, and while I was waiting for the ending, the middle (the huge majority of the film) scenes jumped around and told little stories that didn’t all come together for me. Nothing truly stood out and raised my interest level – I was just waiting for the ending sequence. It’s tough to have a great movie when a big chunk of it feels so slow. Now with that said, this wasn’t a bomb by any stretch. The acting was good, especially from our lead, Brendan Gleeson. The scenery was very nice and lent itself quite well to the ominous plot. The beginning scene had you on the edge of your seat, as did the final scene. So, yes, there were good things…but just not enough in total, and not frequently enough. 


CALVARY:  original_barnstar original_barnstar half_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

'Guardians' featured a great cast, fun action, and a welcome change to the predictable superhero universes. (Marvel Studios/

‘Guardians’ featured a great cast, fun action, and a welcome change to the predictable superhero universes. (Marvel Studios/

It sure seems like a long time since I’ve seen a movie in theaters. And additionally, it sure seems like a long time since I’ve seen a comic book based movie that doesn’t feel like the same…darn…thing, over and over again. The Nolan Batman trilogy aside, can you think of one that stands out as memorable, that hasn’t been tainted or watered down to an extent by sequels and reboots galore? Spiderman, Iron Man, Captain America, X-Men…they keep coming out with new ones that follow the same formula. Do they work? Sure, they’re probably fun, and harmless. But there’s no risk involved, there’s flailing originality in the Marvel and DC universes. Then came along the weirdest, brashest comic book movie I’ve ever seen to partially restore my faith in this genre: Guardians of the Galaxy.

An 80’s kid, a green-skinned warrior, a blue hulk of a destroyer, a maniac raccoon, and a tree with a below-average IQ. Those are your heroes. Those are the main characters in what Marvel hoped would not be an absolute bomb at the box office. Turns out their gamble paid off big time. The breath of fresh air from this band of misfits is so utterly enjoyable, so fun and likable, that it’s hard not to gush at what a good time it was to just sit back and take this film in. Will the story set the world on fire? Will it become an instant classic, or even become your favorite superhero movie ever? Doubtful, on both accounts. But it does so many things right, that those things don’t even seem to matter.

One thing the movie does better than most, is its’ humor. This is led by our main character, Peter Quill (aka, Starlord), played by the incredible Chris Pratt. From minor appearances in Zero Dark Thirty to Moneyball, and his starring role in NBC’s Parks and Recreation, it’s clear that Pratt is on the rise. And this role just put him over the top. He’s a normal guy superhero, with no superpowers or crazy suits and gadgets. He does possess impeccable timing for one-liners and great humor littered throughout the movie. But the laughs don’t end with just Pratt: the entire cast has brief moments of humor that make the watching experience that much more enjoyable.

Without going to the point of labeling this a comedy, it should be noted that Guardians is a hell of a ride when it comes to outerspace action, too. The effects were good (nothing incredible), and the worlds we were introduced to were grimy, realistic (despite being futuristic), and in a funny way…ordinary. That’s not to say they were like what you might see on Earth, but for some reason, they never struck me as crazy as some things in other Marvel or DC movies. Maybe it’s because I liked the characters so much, and was having so much fun watching, that I just accepted things as normal.

Even the voice actors – Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper – were good. Diesel voiced a tree, who had, from what I remember, two different lines he used in the entire movie. And yet, it was suitable and at times, very heartfelt (trust me on this). Cooper on the other hand, was a non-stop chatterbox, who hit it out of the park as an insane, yet insecure, raccoon.


GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXYoriginal_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise delivers in an original action blockbuster (shocking these days!). (Warner Bros/

Tom Cruise delivers in this creative action blockbuster (shocking these days!). (Warner Bros/

In a summer where Transformers 5, Spiderman 2 (but really like, 5), X-Men 2 (again, 5), Planet of the Apes 2 (4? 5?), How to Train Your Dragon 2, Godzilla (so many), and countless other remakes and sequels are hitting the box office, it’s really quite difficult to find something creative and original. In Hollywood, if it makes money, keep making the same thing, no matter how watered down the product becomes. So when a blockbuster action movie comes along with a roughly 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it makes me raise an eyebrow to be sure. And as it would turn out, Edge of Tomorrow was smart, funny, aesthetically pleasing, and an exciting breath of fresh air in this polluted cinematic summer.

The movie begins with shots from 24 hour news channels around the world reporting a growing invasion stemming from a meteor that crash landed in Germany. As you might expect, the aliens have quickly taken a liking to Earth and have nearly annihilated most of Europe. Tom Cruise’s character is a marketer, an advertiser, for the coalition of army forces, encouraging young men and women to join up and fight back this enemy. But when he suddenly has to black mail a superior, he winds up on the front lines of the biggest surge the army has planned. From there, well, he dies. He’s not a soldier, and he can barely handle dealing with his fellow troops, let alone a gun. But a funny thing happens when he dies: he wakes up, in the same place, and in the same circumstances as the day before. The day has reset. Shocked and confused, he is forced to live the same day over, and over, and over, as the plot thickens, Emily Blunt comes into play, and a master plan to finally destroy the entire alien race is realized. So, yes, it’s a far more original story that draws you in from the first few minutes and keeps the intrigue going until the credits being to roll.

One of the best parts of the film, and probably the most important that the creators of it had to protect against, was keeping it from becoming boring as we view the same day time and time again. That mission was accomplished pretty successfully, with the use of (surprisingly useful) humor, terrific action, and a story that grows into something pretty fun and extraordinary to watch. And, I think it’s pretty fair to say (for me at least) that Tom Cruise comes out sort of…unlikeable, to put it nicely, in the first fourth or so of the film. Not the character really, but Cruise himself. But as the movie went on, he became less obnoxious, and more likable and funny. Plus, the guy is over 50 and still doing some of his own stunts. Impressive stuff. Toss in a talented supporting actress in Blunt, good special effects, and an ending you’ll be discussing and arguing over, and you’ve got one heck of a summer action ride.


EDGE OF TOMORROW:original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)


Review: 22 Jump Street

Hill and Tatum, once again, prove to be an incredible comedic duo. (Columbia Pictures/

Hill and Tatum, once again, prove to be an incredible comedic duo. (Columbia Pictures/

There have been very few comedies, or movies in general, that have surprised me in such a good way like 21 Jump Street did a few years back. It was such a perfect buddy comedy, and I never expected it to be so damn funny. So with a sequel coming out (the original made money, so this is a given), I was cautiously optimistic at the start. Then the trailers came out, and the really good reviews, and my hopes continued to go up, up, up. And after finally viewing the much anticipated return to Jump Street, I can safely say that this is not a disappointing second installment whatsoever. While I won’t say it’s superior to its predecessor, the bromance is as strong as ever, the jokes as frequent and funny, and an immense amount of fun.

The story picks up with Jump Street, now situated in sweet new digs (at a church with Vietnamese Jesus, not Korean Jesus) in another abandoned church, with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum tracking a new case. When the first ten minutes of your movie have Jonah Hill doing some sort of Puerto Rican imitation, Tatum doing an even worse/hilarious one, and an octopus spraying into Hill’s mouth, you know you’re in for a good ride. Eventually, our two heroes get assigned a case incredibly similar to the one from their high school days in the first movie, but this time…in college. The directors take multiple jabs at themselves for making something exactly the same the way as the original, which is refreshing to see and hear from Hollywood – where studios act like films such as Transformers 2 are still incredibly unique.

But the absolute best and most prominent feature of the movie is the duo of Hill and Tatum. Somehow, someway, the chemistry between the chubby kid from Knocked Up and the star of Magic Mike is just perfection. The two play off of each other so well throughout the entire movie, and there are so many subtle or ‘throwaway’ jokes that heighten the film to new levels of hilarity. And really, how is Channing Tatum so funny? Not sure I understand how that happened. Regardless, I don’t know if there’s going to be a third Jump Street, but if there is, you can count me in. Because while 22 wasn’t quite as good as 21, it’s still better than almost any comedy I’ve seen recently.


22 JUMP STREET: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)

Review: Neighbors

Efron and Rogen bring together some funny co-stars in this enjoyably raunchy comedy. (Universal Pictures/

Efron and Rogen bring together some funny co-stars in this enjoyably raunchy comedy. (Universal Pictures/

It has Seth Rogen, Rose Byrne (from Bridesmaids fame), and Dave Franco. It’s got dildo fights, weed parties, and pube jokes. It has writers that worked on 40-Year-Old Virgin. In other words, how could this movie ever fail me? How could it miss? But despite all of that, and despite some seriously good scenes throughout, Neighbors never completely came together as a home-run comedy. While it had more than its fair share of moments, I would never call it ‘great’, and overall, isn’t up to par with any modern-day comedy classics either.

From the never-ending marketing blitz that’s taken place the past couple of months, I’m sure just about everyone knows the premise by now. Frat boys versus family. Let me focus on the family first of all, and that of course includes Seth Rogen. Pudgy, weed-loving, immature adult is who he plays – in other words, pretty much the same character as every film he’s ever been a part of. But with that said, he still manages to make it funny for the most part, and that’s impressive. Rose Byrne, who was surprisingly funny in the breakout comedy Bridesmaids, certainly held her own too. The chemistry between the two, even in the very sparse serious moments, was pretty decent for a stoner/frat comedy. I’ll take it.

Over to the frat…I knew Dave Franco would be solid, and he was, but it was the supporting characters that brought the most humor. Mintz-Plasse, aka ‘McLovin’ was good, Jerrod Carmichael and his memorable Garfield scene was great, and Craig Roberts who played ‘Ass Juice’ was good as well. Zac Efron, who accounted for 90% of the female ticket sales to this movie, was decent. I can’t remember anything hysterical generated from him alone, but he played off of Rogen pretty well (watch for the Batman scenes).

Did the movie drag a bit a times, especially as it got towards the end? Sure it did. And were the truly laugh-out-loud scenes spread just too apart to make it a next-level comedy? Absolutely. But I never truly expected this to be fantastic. I never though it would be elite, despite the early outstanding reviews from Rotten Tomatoes. So while it fell short of greatness, it was funny, it was enjoyable, and it’s worth seeing.


NEIGHBORS: original_barnstar  original_barnstar original_barnstar  (out of 4)

Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I'm not going to use a picture that doesn't have Scarlett. (Walt Disney Pictures/

I’m not going to use a picture that doesn’t have Scarlett. (Walt Disney Pictures/

The first Captain America from a few years back was a decent film. It was…well I can’t really say much more than that. All told, it was mildly enjoyable, but nothing good and certainly nothing great. The villain was sort of laughable, the story…decent, but didn’t pull me in, and the visuals were pretty well done. But after the success of Cap in The Avengers, I suppose Marvel knew they had to pull out all the stops for the sequel. With a much more interesting story, great action sequences, good character chemistry, and fantastic visuals, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a seriously big upgrade from its predecessor.

I think it’s fair to say, even before viewing this movie, that Hollywood has become far too saturated with comic book movies, and there seems to be no slowing down in how many are being released. My interest level coming into Winter Soldier was cautiously optimistic after all the positive reviews I had been reading. But, no matter how I view this movie, I think my brain is becoming just a bit tired of superhero after superhero.

With that out of the way, it’s time to give the film props where they’re due. The characters were much more dynamic, funny, and all around entertaining. The addition of Mackie’s ‘Falcon’, plus loads more screen time for Scarlett Johansson and Sam Jackson eased the bad jokes and bland superhero nature of our title character. The story, which many are comparing to modern-day transparency/government issues, was thoughtful and well-written – something that certainly can’t be said for every superhero movie to be sure. And one issue that I found fault with in the first installment – the visual effects and action sequences – were improved in a huge, huge way. This film looked excellent from start to finish.


CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIERoriginal_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)  



Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

An outrageously fun ride, led by an incredible performance from Ralph Fiennes. (Fox Searchlight/

An outrageously fun ride, led by an incredible performance from Ralph Fiennes. (Fox Searchlight/

Wes Anderson, you’ve won me back. After seeing his last effort, Moonrise Kingdom‘,  back in 2012, I was left feeling underwhelmed and mostly disappointed. Perhaps I had put it on too high a pedestal, comparing it to his earlier, fantastic movies. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d see his next release in the theaters. But after watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I am fully aboard the Wes Anderson train once again. Outrageously fun, remarkably unique, gleefully entertaining – it was such a good movie front beginning to end.

I know that most of Anderson’s movies are stacked with talent, but this one was off the charts. When Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Murray, among others, are only in a handful of scenes, it’s going to be a good thing. The biggest stars of the journey were Ralph Fiennes, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, etc etc etc. Also, there was newcomer and co-star, Tony Revolori.

The story is told in such a unique fashion, as an older version of “Zero”, the former lobby boy and current owner of the Grand Budapest, describes his life surrounding this lavish hotel to a young journalist played by Jude Law (yes, the Hollywood elite keep on coming). There are times when they cut back to present day, of the two men chatting over dinner, which certainly added a nice break between scenes and more serious emotion at times. But the wild adventures that Fiennes and crew go through are so incredible to watch. I really can’t say there was a single moment during this movie that I felt bored – it was all just so much fun to watch. There were moments of laugh-out-loud laughter and a lot of chuckling too, but more than anything, I felt like I was having the time of my life sitting back and enjoying the ride.

As with all of Anderson’s movies, from past to present, there is such a level of originality, quirkiness, and artistic brilliance that set it apart from pretty much anything else you can see on the silver screen. Hotel is no different, as the backdrops, “effects”, wardrobe, and everything else are so insanely and oddly amusing. He truly is a creative genius of a director, and gets everything out of all the actors he employs. For all that shined so bright, it was Fiennes that stood out to be certain. A wonderful performance in such an amazing amount of fun.

I’ll see you for next movie, Wes.


THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: original_barnstar original_barnstar original_barnstar (out of 4)


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