Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Bad

images

Let’s get this out of the way first. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is bad. It’s really bad. It’s so bad that it took me days to figure out what to say about it. This film was made by people that actually have credentials in filmaking and acting. Steve Pink is the director and writing credit goes to Josh Heald. It stars Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke and Adam Scott. Gillian Jacobs, Collette Wolfe and Bianca Haase provide the eye candy for this film.

Characters from the first Hot Tub Time Machine movie (minus a very wise John Cusack), return for more time hopping shenanigans. In the present, Lou is grievously and supposedly hilariously wounded. Lou, Nick and Jacob use the hot tub time machine to go back in time to stop Lou’s assailant. However, they somehow wind up in the future with Adam Jr. and wackiness ensues that affects the time stream.

I’m not really sure if the working script used to film this thing was anymore complicated than my previous paragraph. This film is lacking a coherent plot, logical sense of direction and is a waste of the actors talent and an insult to its audience. I really enjoyed Craig Robinson and Clark Duke in The Office and Adam Scott does a terrific job in Parks and Recreation. However, they are working with material that is incredibly weak and they try to do the best they can with it.

When I look at the full cast and crew on IMDB for this film I am amazed at the hundreds of people that worked on it. There are some truly talented folks that were involved with this project. I place blame on the studio that ok’d this project and the writer and director that provided such poorly conceived material.

Hot Tub Time Machine F

The Imitation Game is Riveting

images

 

The Imitation Game is the Oscar nominated film directed by Morten Tyldum, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, Keira Knightley as Joan Clarke, Matthew Goode as Hugh Alexander, and Rory Kinnear as Detective Robert Nock. It is based on the book titled Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

People tend to forget that when a film is portrayed as being based on something that it means exactly that. This is not a documentary and is not a faithful, historical recreation of Alan Turing’s life. What this film does is take 3 specific time periods in Alan Turing’s life and weaves a story about the race to break the codes of the Nazi Enigma machine to help hasten the end of WW II. 

Tyldum does a masterful job of creating an interweaving story that shows Turing’s relationships with the men (and woman)he worked with on the top secret Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, the impact of his experiences as a young boy in boarding school and his friendship with Christopher Morcom, and finally, the consequences in 1951 for Alan Turing after  he is investigated by the police for suspicious behavior.

The film works on so many levels. It is a thriller, a mystery and a tale of prejudice and discrimination. We get a glimpse into the turmoil that Turing must have experienced during his life as a gifted genius who also happens to live in a society where homosexuality is a crime punishable by either prison or chemical castration. It serves as perfect metaphor for so many people today who may be gifted in a variety of areas, but are experiencing prejudice and discrimination in their own lives.

images

 

A director working on a biographical/historical film has a couple of innate problems that must be dealt with, regardless of the subject matter. In an interview with Time magazine, Mr. Tyldum is quoted as saying:

“It’s a huge responsibility when you’re dealing with real-life persons and real-life events to do it accurately. Of course, you have to compress a lot into two hours, and there’s no way you can be totally accurate. You have to convey the emotional accuracy—how did Alan Turing feel at this time?—and to do that, you sort of have to dramatize events.

That’s why I wanted it to feel like a thriller. He was 27 years old when he came to Bletchley Park, where the code-breakers worked. Here was this man plucked straight out of Cambridge. And he ends up with all these incredible secrets being dumped on his shoulders and all this incredible pressure. It would be as if he was living in the middle of this wartime spy thriller, so that’s what we wanted to convey.

One thing people have been saying is it’s not accurate that the machine he built was named Christopher. Here’s the fact though: The machine was inspired by Christopher. We know this because he wrote letters to Christopher’s mom his whole life. We know that from his journals, his obsession about recreating a consciousness that he lost—Christopher. How do we communicate that onscreen without making it a lecture? By naming the machine Christopher.”

The Imitation Game is not the only Oscar nominated biographical film to come under scrutiny this year. American Sniper has had its own share of critics for not being an accurate portrayal of Chris Kyle.

The biographical film will hopefully accomplish several goals. It should give the audience a snapshot of the subject and the circumstances that make this a significant period to observe. It should also create a need to know. What’s the full story? Why did this happen? What impact does it have on my life? In my case, I felt both films were very successful. I researched the lives of both men after I saw those films. When I discovered the differences it did not make me feel like I had been cheated or lied to. Instead, I felt that I was now more educated about events and issues that I had previously been ignorant about.

See The Imitation Game. You might discover some things you didn’t know before. It’s then up to you to find out if you were manipulated or educated.

 

The Imitation Game-A

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service may not be what you think

images

 

We’re all familiar with the James Bond tropes before the current Daniel Craig outings. The typical plot line goes something like this: There’s an over the top threat to the world and James must save us by infiltrating, seducing and fighting his way across several exotic locations before a final showdown where he barely defeats the villain and is rewarded with copious amounts of sex as credits roll. Be assured that there are plenty of quips and double entendres along the way and that there is a diabolical henchman involved possessing some skill or physical attribute that makes it seem like our hero has no chance of victory.

Kingsman: The Secret Service takes these familiar plot lines and gives it a hard R twist with its violence. It is loosely based on comic titled The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons.  It is directed by Matthew Vaughn and stars Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Taron Egerton , Samuel L. Jackson and Sophie Cookson

The film opens in 1997, where we see 4 men interrogating a captured terrorist. The terrorist raises his head to reveal a grenade pin in his mouth. One of the interrogators throws himself on top of the terrorist, thus saving the others. Colin Firth’s character, Harry (codename Galahad), was in charge of that mission. Harry visits his fallen friend’s wife and attempts to give her  a medal in her husband’s memory. There is a phone number on the back of the medal in case she needs a favor, and to say “Oxford’s not brogues” to confirm her identity. She rejects the medal and so Harry give the medal to her son, Gary.

17 years later, another Kingsman operative is attempting the rescue of a kidnapped Professor. The operative is almost successful until he is killed in over the top fashion by Gazelle, a female assassin with bladed prosthetic legs. 

This opening sequence sets up the plot threads for the film. Harry takes the teen, Gary, under his wing and begins his training to become a member of the Kingsmen. The scenes trade off between Gary and other candidate’s training and those that further reveal the villainous intentions of Sam Jackson’s Mr. Valentine.

Kingsman entertains with action set pieces that defy physics and ramp up the budget for blood spatter. One of the highlights of the film is an extended  sequence that takes place in a church. Mr. Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, speaking in only the 2nd most annoying voice this year, has created technology that uses cell phone signals to turn people into murderous hordes. His first test case of the mass murder network he created is in this church. We see an incredibly choreographed sequence of death and destruction in excruciating detail and slow motion that leaves Harry as the sole survivor. Upon emerging from the church, Harry regains his composure and has a fateful encounter with Mr. Valentine. This sets up the plot for the final act of the film.

Kingsman is a fun action movie for its demographic. My problem with the film is that I’m not sure how to take violence that is shown in such gleeful, glorious detail and I’m definitely uncomfortable with the notion of a female character offering sex as a reward for her freedom. (Admittedly a staple of the Roger Moore James Bond years, but at least it was inferred and not graphically described).  

Should I take this as just a modern take on an old formula or should I take it as where we’ve come as a society because we are so desensitized to sex and violence in today’s cinema? I think the answer to this may unfortunately say more about us than it does about the film.

Kingsman: The Secret Service-B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jupiter Ascending Sinks Under its Own Weight

images

Remember The Matrix? Remember how groundbreaking that movie was? Do you remember how it was hailed as an instant classic and how it became an iconic film? Remember how the Wachowski’s were being anointed as the next wunderkind of Cinema? Now think about the reception of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions achieved. These films came nowhere close to fulfilling the promise that was first seen in the Wachowski’s future.

And such is Jupiter Ascending. A film that is the brainchild of Andy and Lana Wachowski. It stars Mila Kuinis as Jupiter Jones and Channing Tatum as Caine.

The film is a rehash of an old Space Opera Trope. Jupiter is the reincarnated Queen of an alien race. The current rulers somehow miraculously know of her existence and must either kill or gain control of her or else their way of life is over. (Why? Who knows? Just roll with it.) A dashing hero is dispatched to protect Jupiter and help her save Earth as well. Wackiness ensues, yada, yada, yada, explosions, love blooms, roll credits.

images

It’s really not anymore complicated than that. The story is pretty bare bones and has some cringeworthy dialogue (“Bees are genetically engineered to recognize royalty” comes to mind.) It’s also the home of one of the strangest acting choices in recent memory. Eddie Redmayne plays Balem Abrasax, the current ruler of this part of the universe. He speaks with such oddly annoying tone to his voice that he comes across more as laughable than credible.

However, the film excels in its cinematography and special effects. It is a gorgeous film to look at. The designs of the ships are creative and other worldly looking. The battle scenes, whether on the streets of Chicago, or in deep space draws the audience in and provides a roller coaster type experience that is difficult to find in a movie theater.

Mila Kunis does a great job in the title role. She is capable of playing the range of emotions necessary of this role to make her truly enjoyable to watch. Channing Tatum was a good choice for the role of Caine and has good chemistry with Ms. Kunis.

This could have been an epic film if the script had received as much attention as the cinematography and effects. As it is, we have something that is pretty exciting to look at but very dull to listen to.

 

Jupiter Ascending: C

 

Project Almanac Fails

 

 

 

images

 

Project Almanac is a sci-fi film done in the quasi documentary/lost footage/shaky camera style made popular by much better films such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Chronicle. It is directed by Dean Israelite and stars Jeremy Weston as David Raskin, Sofia Black-D’Elia as Jessie Pierce, Sam Lerner as Quinn Goldberg , Allen Evangelista as Adam Le and Amy Landecker as Kathy Raskin. This is the first full length film to be directed by Mr. Israelite and although his intentions are good, the result  is a film that travels down familiar roads, doesn’t add anything new or different to time travel tropes and has significant problems with its pacing.

David Raskin is a brilliant high school senior that hopes to get admitted to MIT. His project proposal,while impressive, gains him admission but not a high enough scholarship to make his dream affordable. David prowls around in the attic, looking for inspiration from his father’s notes and projects. (It’s not really made clear if David’s dad is missing or dead.) He discovers an old video recorder and starts looking at footage of his birthday party when he turned 7. David discovers his reflection in a mirror at the party.

David continues searching through his dad’s things and discovers plans for the construction of a time machine (Ta-da!). Naturally, he starts building  the machine and enlists the aid of his closest friends and his sister. Along the way David meets Jessie and develops a crush on her and thereby hangs the conflict that drives the last 1/3 of the film.

Naturally, the time machine works (who knew all you needed was a few car batteries and some hydrogen from the high school locker room to power a time machine!) The time machine works and with a few modifications, our fantastic five are ready to make some history! 

Wackiness ensues in the form of getting payback on a bully, winning the lottery, retaking a test ad nauseum and the longest sequence involves the gang spending the day at Lollapalooza. It is during this scene that David blows a chance to develop a relationship with Jessie but he solves it by going back in time by himself and responding differently so that they become a couple.

Eventually the gang discovers the ripple effect of their actions and decide that they need to undo the things that they have done so that things are put back, yada yada yada. However, David doesn’t want to do this because he doesn’t want to undo his relationship with Jessie (the guy is actually having sex now, so what do you think is more important to a teenager?)  David tries to undo some things and leave others alone, but each action makes things worse, until he finally decides that he must travel back to his 7th birthday party and talk his dad into destroying the machine and its plans so that it is never built. 

Don’t worry there’s a little epilogue that give David and Jessie a happy ending (hooray for teenage love!).

This film suffers from several problems. The manner it which it was filmed is not logical. Supposedly David’s sister is the one who records and chronicles everything. However, there are plenty of scenes filmed in the same manner that don’t fall into this premise. We also have plenty of quick shots to give the (presumably) male members of the audience a gander at cleavage, legs or just a lingering look of the female form. And why would you cut your footage into a long musical montage????

The script suffers from similar lapses in logic. There is a scene where all 5 friends travel back to the same point in time to allow one of them to retake a test. However, there is no explanation as to why they don’t run into their previous past selves who were doing the same thing. Things occur for the sake of convenience and with the hope that the viewer won’t ask questions.

The actors are all quite serviceable in their roles and do the best they can with this stuff. I hope they are able to move onto to better projects in the future. 

Project Almanac is one of the worst films I’ve seen in quite some time. If you want to watch a good time travel movie, watch Looper or 12 Monkeys. If you want a good lost footage film then watch one of the 3 I referenced at the beginning of this article. Just don’t watch Project Almanac.

 

I give Project Almanac a grade of D.

 

images

 

 

American Sniper is an important film

images

American Sniper is the film directed by Clint Eastwood about the life of Navy Seal Sniper, Chris Kyle. It stars Bradley Cooper as Kyle and Sienna Miller as Kyle’s wife, Taya. The film is based on the book of the same name by Chris Kyle.

American Sniper is not so much a biography as it is a character study of the pressures and trials that members of our military face on the battlefield as well as the challenges they face when they return home to their families. There are certainly events in the film that actually occurred to Kyle, but there are also scenes and characters that are amalgams of  other incidents. Some are factual and some are not. Some have criticized the film as an oversimplification of war and a glorification of Kyle. I don’t think that was the goal of the film. I took it as a film with 2 purposes: 1. to show the life and times of the ones who were the “boots on the ground” and 2. to show how their return home could be a crippling experience for both the soldier and his family.

The film follows Kyle as he decides to enlist, through his 4 tours of Iraq and the difficulties he had in reintegrating into his family when home. It opens with a scene that effectively shows the essence of his mission and the mental stress that could occur. Chris is perched on a roof, scoping out the path of a convoy through his rifle. He spots a man talking on a cell phone and reports him on his headset. He’s given the green light to use his discretion, but is unsure. His backup suggests that maybe he’s just talking to a girlfriend. The man leaves, but a few moments later a woman and a young boy appear in a doorway and walk toward the convoy. Kyle reports the duo and sees that the woman hands the boy something. No one can confirm his observation. He watches the woman and realizes it’s a grenade. He again gets the green light, but his backup warns him that he will be sent to prison for shooting a child if he is wrong. At this point the film cuts to a scene of Chris as a little boy on his first deer hunt with his father. Through several scenes we see how Chris’ upbringing has instilled a black and white morality  and has given him a strong sense of being willing to do what is necessary to protect others.

This is the crux of the film. The members of the military that Chris represents were given great latitude to make their own decisions about whether to act….or not. Either way, people died. The correct decision would save American lives. The incorrect decision could result in being sent to prison as a murderer. Regardless of what Chris Kyle decides to do, how does he live with the ramifications of that decision and then go out and do it again and again? 

We see Chris go through 4 tours of Iraq and how his reputation grows with each mission. He is referred to as “The Legend” among his peers and has the most kills of any sniper in American Military History. The film creates an adversary in the guise of Mustafa. He is supposedly a Syrian sniper who was an Olympic medalist and now works for the terrorists. (In fact, Mustafa is only mentioned in one paragraph of Kyle’s book and Kyle says that he believes he was killed by another unit). 

Chris goes through difficult times when he returns home on leave and after his eventual discharge. He can’t enjoy ordinary life and is unable to verbalize his feelings to his family. He grows increasingly distant and may have the beginnings of tendency towards violence. It affects his relationships and is on the verge of threatening his marriage. Eventually Chris receives some counseling that helps him channels his need to protect and save people by talking with soldiers  through a VA hospital. (In fact, Kyle was quoted as saying that he never had any bad feelings about what he did in the service. However, this does not diminish the need to bring awareness to a very tragic problem for many military personnel.)

Bradley Cooper does an incredible job in the role of Chris Kyle. He disappears in the role and his Oscar nomination is well deserved. The scenes between he and Sienna Miller as Taya are both touching and often heartbreaking as well. The battle scenes in Iraq are realistically constructed. The danger is palpable and the violence is shocking.

American Sniper is not a perfect film but it is an important one. It highlights the dangers to both our military and their families in these complicated times and helps to show why we can have conflicting feelings of pride and sadness in today’s world.

My rating for American Sniper: A

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Delivers the Goods

images

Guardians of The Galaxy is another hit out of the ballpark for Marvel Studios. It is on track to have close to a 100 million dollar opening weekend in the US. This is even more amazing when you consider that this particular version of the Guardians (Yes, there have been more than one) has not been the subject of any significant story lines for Marvel in years. It is essentially a group of C and D list characters that Marvel rolled the dice on and won big time.

The story centers around 5 characters that are brought together through a strange series of events (are there any other kind?) and places the fate of the galaxy on their shoulders.

Chris Pratt is a surprisingly perfect choice as Peter Quill (Star-Lord). His charisma and delivery of smart ass remarks is spot on and endearing.

Zoe Saldana does a great job with the role of Gamora. Gamora is the deadliest woman in the universe and her fight scenes show that she did the training to get it right. (In fact she injured Chris Pratt when filming their encounter.

Bradley Cooper voices the character of Rocket. Rocket is a raccoon looking creature that has a lot of pent up anger coupled with a love of guns and explosives.

Vin Diesel gives voice to the character of Groot. Groot is a walking sentient tree like creature. His verbal communication is achieved through the inflection of the way he delivers the words “I am Groot.” Vin does a great job with what might seem to be an blow off part. He carries it off with grace, humor and lots of emotion.

Dave Bautista is a pleasant surprise. The former WWF champion is fantastic as Drax the Destroyer. Drax is an individual whose only purpose in life is to kill those responsible for the death of his family; namely, Ronan the Accuser and Thanos the mad Titan.

This film provides another puzzle piece to the long range plans of Marvel Studios. It is the third film to feature one of the Infinity Stones as the McGuffin of the film. Since it also features Thanos in a supporting role, I’m betting that Avengers 3 will deal with the famous Infinity Gauntlet storyline. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry; you’ve got plenty of time to catch up.).

Director James Gunn has created a fully fleshed out universe with a great balance of drama, humor, sci fi action and suspense. There are lots of Easter Eggs in the film for the true Marvel Fan. (You get 1000 points if you know the backstory of Cosmo, the space dog and can point out the Celestial in the film).

As always, stay through the very end of the credits to get a tag ending. It will mean nothing to the casual observer but will be a pleasant surprise for Marvel Zombies.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun, summer film that serves as a terrific first chapter to a classic space opera trilogy.

Grade: A-

images

 

 

Devil: Movie Review

Many cultures around the world have ghost stories, myths, fables and tall tales. Whether or not these stories are based on any real events or evidence is anyone’s guess. What if you heard a story that said the devil takes human form from time to time to collect the souls of those who have done wrong and feel no remorse for their actions? Would you believe this story or just chalk it up to stories told round the campfire. This is the premise of the new film “Devil” which is based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan.
M. Night Shyamalan has been in a slump for the past few years. His movies have been less and less interesting and the stories have been nothing to write home about. So, going into this movie I was a little skeptical, but still interested because some of his films have been amazing and I was hoping to see a return to form. This movie is only based on a story that he came up with and is the first concept of his that he has not directed himself. Surprisingly enough, this might be the reason that I actually enjoyed this movie.
Like I said before, this movie is about the devil returning in human form to capture the souls of those who have done wrong and feel no remorse. The people that he is coming for get trapped in an elevator and one of them turns out to be the devil. Little do they know that not only is the devil among them, but there is a connection between them and the people that are trying to save them from the elevator. What is fascinating most about this film is the interconnection between all of the characters. There is a common thread that runs among almost all of the characters that is slowly revealed throughout the film that really kept my attention.
None of the performances really stood out to me, but in a way that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The acting comes second in this film to the story itself. That’s a bold thing to say about a horror film, but in this case I think it’s appropriate. It’s not about the scares, but about belief in things that most people think unbelievable. There were moments that made me jump and set my nerves on edge, but that’s what I look for in a good horror film.
Is this the best film you’ll see this year? No, definitely not. However if you are a fan of the horror genre, you might want to give this one a chance. I certainly enjoyed this film far more than M. Night Shyamalan’s “Lady in the Water”, “The Village” and “The Happening” which were all terrible to me. October is about to start and if you want to start getting into the Halloween spirit, you might want to go and check this out. After you see it, you may be weary of elevators and wonder if you’ve done anything that might warrant the Devil to come looking for you.

J.Chandler : B-

Prince of Persia Movie Review!

One of the few untapped resources that Hollywood has failed to capitalize on is the video game. We’ve seen a few video game movies get released like Super Mario Bros. and the two Tomb Raider films, but not much else. Frankly this surprises me as there are tens of millions of gamers out there and some of the games have great characters and stories. Luckily, Disney wised up and released this past weekend “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” that is based on an extremely popular video game of the same name.
I myself love to play video games, but this one is not one that I’ve had the chance to play. So, went into this film not quite knowing what to expect. What I witnessed was a lot of fun and a film that stayed true to its roots by having most of the action feel like it came straight out of the video game. The title character Prince Dastan, played here exceptionally well by Jake Gyllenhaal, does jumps like you’ve never seen before, can handle a sword with incredible speed, power and finesse, and is faster than your eyes can process. At times I truly felt like I was watching a video game in process and wished at time’s that I was the one controlling the characters.
The story itself is about Prince Dastan, who was born in the slums but was adopted by the king when the king witnessed Dastan perform an act of true kindness in protecting a younger boy. So, Dastan became a prince, along with the king’s two other sons. Their kingdom is provided evidence that the neighboring kingdom has been supplying weapons to their enemies. This leads the princes to take up arms with their army to overthrow this neighboring kingdom. Little did they know at that time that this was all a ruse to begin a war and also to capture a sacred dagger that holds the Sands of Time. With this dagger the user can go back in time a full minute and if they locate the source of the Sand, they can then alter history no matter how far back in time. The king is killed and Dastan is thought to be his killer as he provided the king with the gift that killed him. While escaping being captured, Dastan finds the dagger and vows to find out who really killed the king and clear his name as well as protect the dagger.
There are a few holes in the plot as you watch the film however none of these flaws take away from the enjoyment of watching this rousing adventure. This is a film that I believe the whole family will enjoy. At times it reminded me of the Indiana Jones and Mummy films. The story itself is easy to follow, the action scenes are intense and exciting and the acting it better than most action adventure films. This it the definition of a great summer blockbuster popcorn film! Treat yourself to have some fun!

J. Chandler B+