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 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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
I never thought in a million years that I would get to see a live action Green Lantern movie. Of all of the members of the Justice League, he was the one character that seemed to be the least familiar and the hardest to develop into a stand-alone film. Add to that the fact that pretty much all of the Green Lantern’s powers come out of the ring meaning that the special effects would have to be such that they are believable and that most of the film would be using a ton of effects. Luckily the technology is now available to make this a reality and therefore we now have Green Lantern in his own film. My hope is that this might lead to additional individual films for each member of the Justice League leading up to a Justice League movie, just like Marvel has done with the members of the Avengers leading up to the Avengers movie due out next year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that, but in the meantime lets discuss their current effort of Green Lantern.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Green Lantern, he is a member of a larger group called the Green Lantern Corps. They are an organization created by the Guardians of the Universe that patrol the entire galaxy to maintain balance and uphold justice throughout the universe. Each Green Lantern is proved a special ring that allows the Lantern to create anything they can imagine. You see, the ring is powered by willpower and the things it constructs are only as powerful as the willpower of the Lantern using it. This film deals primarily with the first human Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, and also gives us a great introduction to the Green Lantern Corps, the Guardians, and their worst enemy Parallax.
For the most part, I was quite pleased by the story they told about the origin of Earth’s first Green Lantern. The casting of Ryan Reynolds was just about perfect, however the actor who stole the show for me was Mark Strong as Sinestro. I can’t think of anyone else that could have come close to his performance. If only they had made him the villain of the film, however I hope that this one does well enough to warrant a sequel. In fact, the best parts of the entire film were those dealing with the Corps as a whole and all of the scenes filmed on the Lantern home world of Oa. If only they had kept the scenes involving Hal finding Abin Sur and his wrecked space craft and Hal finally accepting the ring, but when he travels to Oa to begin his training and learning about the Corps, the action should have remained there to have Hal and the entire corps battling Parallax then have Hal come back to Earth as it’s protector. I just wasn’t as impressed by the after Hal comes back from Oa when he decides that he doesn’t want to accept the responsibility of becoming the Green Lantern. They could have just as easily created an origin story that took place on Oa and was only on Earth for the beginning and ending of the film. That being said, I was still incredibly impressed by what they did manage to put together and the overall story that they told. This was a good introduction to this amazing character but it is just the tip of the iceberg as to everything the Green Lantern can do and how essential he is to the safety of Earth and the Galaxy he helps to protect.
If you are any fan of Superman or Batman, you should go and check out this film. Keep in mind that Green Lantern is one of the seven founding members of the Justice League that includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman and Martian Manhunter. I can’t tell you how much I hope and pray that we will not only get to see individual films for each of these characters, but also see them joined together in a Justice League movie. Give this film a chance, despite any bad reviews you might have seen, and immerse yourself in this incredible world. If this film doesn’t do well, our chances of seeing more of these characters in their own films will vanish before they are even given the chance.
The release of the X-Men: First Class Theatrical Trailer is now here! Scheduled for release in Theaters June, 3rd, 2011. Yay!
Please let us know what your think!