Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Bad

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

 

Guardians of the Galaxy Delivers the Goods

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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-

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes Movie Review

Have you ever seen a movie whose premise was so well written and thought out that you imagined it could possibly take place in the real world and not just on movie screens??? This happened to me over the weekend while I watched “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. The way this film was written, performed and put together had me honestly wondering if we were currently using apes to test out drugs meant to repair the brain and it made the apes smarter than they are now. What if these drugs also had the negative effect of killing the humans that come in contact with it? These ideas had me thinking throughout the entire movie and made up one of the best films I’ve seen this summer.
For those of you that didn’t know before, this film is a prequel to the Planet of the Apes film with Charlton Heston from 1968. In this original film, we witness a world where the apes have taken over and the humans are their slaves. Charlton Heston leads a revolt against his ape oppressors and in his escape finds out that the planet is Earth. The big reveal at the end of the film that he is on Earth led to just one question, how did this happen??? Through four sequels and one remake, we are never told how the apes become so intelligent and manage to overwhelm the human population. Well, that is exactly what this new film reveals to us and it does it in such a way to become the best film in the franchise.
In the film, James Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist who is developing a serum that helps the brain to repair itself from the effects of Alzheimer’s. As with most drugs being developed, it is being tested on chimps before they begin the human trials. Things seem to be going well with one of the chimps being tested, who they call Bright Eyes, until one day she seems to snap and breaks out of her cage and is in turn shot by the guard. Rodman comes back later to check her cell and finds out that she was only protecting the baby chimp she had given birth to. He takes the baby back to his home while they try to find a place for it to live when they soon discover that the drug was passed on from the mother and the baby, named Caesar, seems to be highly intelligent and the drug really does work. How the rest of the story plays out you will just have to see for yourself, but I found myself caring for Caesar and wishing things had worked out differently for him instead of what will all know will happen.
What I just couldn’t believe while watching this film was how real Caesar looked and responded. His movements and facial expressions were performed by Andy Serkis, also known as Gollum for you Lord of the Rings fans, using motion capture technology. Even though he doesn’t speak in the movie, I could tell every thought and emotion he was trying to convey and it is nothing short of extraordinary. This movie is about the apes and their journey to become the rulers of the planet, and in practically every scene that includes Caesar or another ape, they steal the show.
I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed this film. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went in and came out thinking they hit a homerun. I do hope this film is remembered when the Oscars roll around. If not for a special award to Andy Serkis for his brilliant work, then at least for the amazing effects in the film. I do hope this will lead to a sequel, but only if they can have a script that is as well written as this one and handled with care by a director that respects the material and the franchise as a whole.

JChandler: grade A-

Green Lantern Movie Review

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.

J.Chandler: B

Toy Story 3 Movie Review

At what point in your life did you realize that you were too old to play with toys any longer? For me, I guess it was about the age of 14. Yes, I realize that is probably older than most people, but I was still having fun with my GI Joe and Star Wars toys up until that time. Once I came to this realization it seemed that my childhood officially ended. I needed to let go of that part of my life and accept the fact that a new chapter of adulthood was about to begin. This is essentially what the new Toy Story 3 is all about, closing one chapter to begin a new one. With this new entry in the Toy Story franchise, we have witnessed the closing of one of the best motion picture trilogies of all time.
It’s hard to believe that Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Rex, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, and Slinky Dog have been around in three movies over the span of the last 15 years. I was 20 when the original Toy Story hit the big screen and I remember being blown away, not only by the incredible animation I was seeing but also by a story that was one of the most imaginative I had ever seen. With this first film, Pixar emerged as the epitome of what an animation studio should be. Year after year they have created films that entertain children and adults of all ages. And it all began with Toy Story.
If you haven’t seen the first two films in this trilogy, do yourself a favor and check them out before going to number three. I watched them both again before seeing the new film and it helped me to remember how great these films truly are. Thus prepared and refreshed on what Toy Story is all about, I went into the theater with incredibly high expectations. I prayed that the Pixar Midas touch was still alive. What I witnessed was sheer perfection. I’m really at a loss for words as to how good this film truly is. I personally believe that this was the best of the three films and certainly the best film I’ve seen in 2010. If this film is not nominated for Best Picture this year, a tragedy will have occurred.
We moviegoers have grown up over the past 15 years just like Andy, the owner of all the toys we know and love. Andy has finally graduated high school and is off to college. As he begins packing and getting ready to move, he comes upon all of his toys that he’s grown up with. When he finds them, you can see the love for them in his eyes. You feel him reliving memories of playing with them throughout his life. He’s unsure if he should keep them, store them or just give them away. He doesn’t want to part with them because of all the good times they had together, but he also knows that he is an adult now and toys are not generally apart of adult life. Does he let them go or not? This is the question throughout this movie.
I hate to go into details of the plot, because honestly I didn’t know much about it myself and therefore most of what I saw was completely unexpected. It was like visiting some old friends again and remembering why you liked them so much in the first place. Go see this movie. If you are a fan of Toy Story, a lover of all things Pixar, or just a movie buff, you owe it to yourself to view this. Because, like Andy, who knows when we are likely to see these friends again.

J. Chandler A+

9 – Movie Review by J. Chandler

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Animation today is so completely different than what I grew up with. I watched movies like “The Fox and the Hound”, “Peter Pan”, “The Jungle Book”, heck, just about every Disney movie you can think of. Now we have computer animation, stop motion animation, 3D animated films and the incredible world of Pixar. Most of these movies are still geared towards kids, but some can be enjoyed by adults. Very rarely do you find an animated movie that is meant mainly for adults. The new movie “9” I believe is something that the older generation would enjoy more than their children would.
9 is a story set in the future in which machines not only battle humans for control, but completely decimate the human race. Like I said, not necessarily a kids movie. Before all of the humans are killed, one professor makes 9 small figures that he transfers part of his soul into in hopes to bring them to life before he dies. He hopes that these figures will carry on the history and some semblance of life to the planet. After the 9th one is created, the professors dies along with the rest of the human race.
Each figure has their own personality and look and they all have a part of the professor in them. One has his strength, another has his wisdom, one his sense of adventure, and another has inherited his scientific mind. They all find each other and realize that they need to band together to stay alive and safe from all of the violent machines that wiped out the humans. It is quite a creative premise and imaginative story. The visuals are absolutely mind blowing and some of the mechanical creatures they have created creeped me out. I can’t imagine what kids thought of them. My only issue was that I wanted more of the back story. How did the professor think up the creation of these figures? How was he able to imbue them with part of his soul? The movie was only an hour and nineteen minutes so they could have spent some more time fleshing out the back story a little further.
All in all, this was quite the creative film and unlike anything I’ve seen before in the animation world. It reminded me of anime however it wasn’t quite as stylized as they are but it certainly was more creative than most animated, and even some live action, films that we get in the States. Prepared to be visually dazzled and let your imagination grow with the possibilities.

~J.Chandler