“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”

G.I. JOE Retaliation.jpgFor the Game Show Network fans out there, you may remember a Jerry Springer-hosted program from not too long ago called Baggage. On this show – which was really just a slight reworking of The Dating Game – contestants vying for the eyes of the prospective dater must admit, over the course of the program, three different ‘baggages’ that they carry along with them as a person. There is small, medium, and large baggage and the bigger the baggage size, the bigger and probably more embarrassing the secret. If I were to choose a small baggage, it would be that I still play with action figures. There’s no shame in it, it’s just a phase that I have never grown out of. That being said, while action figures are still little plastic parts of my life, I oddly enough never indulged in the mythos of one of the biggest action figure franchises ever: G.I. Joe.

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“The Host”

I’ve never read Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling novel The Host, but after watching writer/director Andrew Niccol’s uneven adaptation, I can admit that underneath Meyer’s typical view of unrequited-love-as-a-saving-grace is a rather fascinating story. Believe me, I wasn’t expecting much from a film based off a novel associated with the author of The Twilight Saga, but The Host surprisingly does science fiction justice since it knows at the core of any great piece of sci-fi – be it Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Blade Runner – is a human story, one with realistic emotions that combat sleek, futuristic worlds with startling advances in technology. Of course, The Host is nowhere near an accomplished work of science-fiction, but in its story of a world where alien “souls” invade, control, and live in human bodies, it gets at a complex age old question that still proves mentally stimulating – what motivates our desires? Is it power or love? Glory or happiness?

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“The Place Beyond The Pines”

When speaking about the acting career of Ryan Gosling, it’s almost impossible not to bring up Blue Valentine. The film, starring Gosling and Michelle Williams, follows the story of a couple, shifting back and forth in time between their courtship and the dissolution of their marriage years later. What’s so fantastic about this film, other than the brilliant performances, is writer and director Derek Cianfrance. Produced on a micro-budget, Cianfrance found a way to convey heart-wrenching emotion through nothing more than dialogue and its representation through his characters. The film mixes together such carefree, loving moments (the ukulele scene gets me every time) with heart wrenching, tear jerking ones so brilliantly that the film sends its audience’s emotions on a roller coaster, much like the marriage being portrayed on screen. When I found out that Cianfrance would be teaming up with Gosling again, this time for the moody crime drama The Place Beyond The Pines, I was pretty excited. After psyching myself out over the trailer that lead to months of anticipation, I can safely and excitingly say that The Place Beyond the Pines is a cinematic masterpiece that transcends reality and emotion.

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Reel Reactions Exclusive: Q&A with Derek Cianfrance & Bradley Cooper (“The Place Beyond The Pines”)

Derek Cianfrance is easily one of the most talented up-and-coming directors. After directing a feature film during his time at the University of Colorado, Cianfrance began a career making documentaries, which took place from the early 2000s to 2008. This background in documentaries transitioned him into his first major directorial debut, Blue Valentine, in 2010. Critically acclaimed and financially successful (making $12 million opposite a $1 million budget), Cianfrance took his experience in documentary filmmaking and provided audiences with an unbelievably realistic adaptation of a marriage gone awry, made all the powerful by strong performances from Ryan Gosling and Michele Williams. The Place Beyond the Pines, his next directorial venture, follows a stunt motorcyclist as he starts to rob banks to support a child he didn’t know he had and crosses paths with a police officer (recent Oscar-nominee Bradley Cooper) who will alter the future forever.

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Critical Reaction: “The Croods” (PODCAST)

DreamWorks Animation has had an interesting decade. In its heyday, the animated studio was the biggest threat to the dominative minds at Pixar thanks to mega-franchises Shrek and Madagascar, as well as the critically acclaimed adventure How To Train Your Dragon. And yet, DreamWorks has taken quite the stumble in recent years as their insistence on starting franchises has yielded nothing but failed attempts in Puss in Boots, Megamind, and Rise of the Guardians. Importantly, Rise of the Guardians bombed last November, grossing just over $100 million domestically opposite a lofty $150 million budget and forcing DreamWorks to write an $83 million mark down. Ouch! Fortunately, DreamWorks returned to the top of the charts this weekend with the wonderful animated family romp The Croods, a movie that could very well signal the return of DreamWorks Animation. Just how good is this movie? Is it really DreamWorks’ version of Avatar? Does a voice cast that includes Emma Stone, Nicholas Cage, and Ryan Reynolds pay off? Join our critics as they talk The Croods and put your own two cents in on the discussion board below:

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Trailer Reaction: “Turbo”

Fresh off my screening of DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods, I awoke the other morning to the pleasantly surprising and colorful second trailer for the studio’s prospective animated blockbuster, Turbo, set for a release this summer. The animated adventure surrounds a snail (voiced by Ryan Reynolds, who’s currently hamming it up as cave-boy Guy in The Croods) who dreams of being able to go fast, and after a freak circumstance, his dream comes true. Blessed with new abilities, he decides to pursue the Indy 500 and be the first snail ever to compete in the famed race. It’s a cute premise, and with Dreamworks’ inherent magic, it could be a really swell summer hit. Check out the trailer below and then see why I’m excited to be ‘slo no mo’:

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Pros & Cons: Shailene Woodley & “The Fault in Our Stars”

John Green’s young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOS) defied expectations when it arrived on the market early last year. Even today, it’s still on the New York Times bestseller list and has received exceptional reviews from Time, The Washington Post, and Booklist. Green himself has a massive and dedicated fan base known as Nerdfighters (they don’t fight nerds, but they do fight things they consider to be “world suck” like global warming, prejudice, and natural disasters). Nerdfighters read Green’s books and religiously watch his YouTube channel, VlogBrothers, where he and his scientist brother, Hank, post sometimes thoughtful, sometimes wacky videos. Their massive following is unique and fascinating to analyze, although that’s an article for another day.

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