Review: “Maleficent”

Maleficent poster.jpg“Before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday, she will fall into a sleep-like death.” 

‘Uninspired’ must be the name of the game at Disney these days after manipulating some anticipated and hopeful properties over at Marvel (we’re never going to get over Edgar Wright) just a week before releasing their colossally marketed Maleficent. While our opinions on the backdoor happenings of Ant-Man are for another discussion entirely, Disney themselves have been coming up short with their own self-service properties, and Maleficent is the shortest they’ve come in a long while, even after the saccharine skewering known as Saving Mr. Banks. If all that is left in their creative hub is retelling false backstories about their most treasured productions and warping the perspective found in some of their animated classics, then it’s no wonder that Walt’s conglomerate has scooped up Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm to stand alongside Pixar and spill out profitable and desirable products. Alas, Maleficent, like the Oscar-touted Saving Mr. Banks (though it only received a single nomination), is persistent to acquire stature, unfortunately the newest film was a nine figure expenditure with a huge movie star at the forefront and an inexperienced director trying to make one of the Disney princess canon’s duller stories relevant again. Saving Mr. Banks had few merits, but at least it wasn’t the worst that Disney could do; Robert Stromberg’s Maleficent is a largely thankless reimagining that’s blind to its own CGI gumbo and tone deaf in both what it’s presenting on screen and who it’s hoping to attract. Aggravatingly lifeless, Maleficent wastes a terrifically costumed Angelina Jolie in favor of the most pointless 100 minutes of filmmaking to be on display in recent memory.

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Review: “A Million Ways To Die In The West”

“Somebody here…is gonna die.”

Reviewing comedy is as subjective as the writing practice gets. What I think is funny, some countless others might not find humorous in the slightest, and vice versa. When it comes to big screen comedies, expectations and individual sense of humor is paramount. I like when comedies have heart and respect when they do their damndest at having a plotline. I also like when the humor has been given a lot of thought all the way from conception to delivery; above all, comedies have to have a voice. Nothing is worse than when you hear a zillion wannabe jokes go by and none of them feel like the same person could have come up with them. This relates to creativity, and humor, at the end of the day, is a significant branch of creativity. Still, there might be some person out there who laughs at every single one of those zillion jokes. That doesn’t mean they lack a sense of humor (though they might have a skewed one), but his or her expectations are simply not the same as mine. And here we are, back at the top of the argument, in that telling friends, families, readers, etc. that a new comedy is either good or bad is unequivocal subjectivity. It’s just a fact.

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“Ant-Man”: Who Should Replace Edgar Wright?

Ant Man Art - H 2013Regardless of what Marvel’s upcoming Ant-Man adaptation becomes, we’ll be forever reeling over what it could have been. For the past eight years, director Edgar Wright has been working on bringing the niche property from page to screen, with heavy fanbase support and ceaseless anticipation fueling the director’s persistence and dedication. Before Jon Favreau’s Iron Man was even a thing, giving birth to the now free-flowing Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man was in early, early development, eventually being postponed so that Wright could go on and direct the concluding chapter to his bromantic “Cornetto Trilogy” – The World’s End – and his video game-y take on another famed graphic novel series, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. As Wright helmed these two brilliantly funny features, the Marvel Cinematic Universe evolved into The Avengers, which, thanks to one-of-a-kind work from Joss Whedon, showed what Marvel could really do with the intertwining properties, especially following the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy.

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Review: “The Immigrant”

The Immigrant 2013 poster.jpg

“The things you do to survive.” 

When melodramas work, they are a rather impressive feat. In classic cinema, melodramas were what audiences were eager to see, but decades later audiences aren’t wowed or engrossed by powerful performances and overwrought emotion. They seek substance in other departments, like plot structure, storytelling tricks, directorial gimmicks, visuals and world building. Melodrama still peaks through everywhere, but most modern audiences just aren’t in tuned with the classifications of such to identify its appearances. Still, the types of melodramas that reigned in the golden years of Hollywood don’t come about in the 21st Century because they more or less can no longer survive here. James Gray’s The Immigrant prevails at being such a melodrama, anchored by seamlessly heartbreaking work by actress Marion Cotillard and rich, inviting cinematography from Darius Khondji, gravitating us into an antiquated era that has long since passed. As the dreams of a Polish immigrant are shattered by the unspoken decrees of New York City’s cultural melting pot, two men with intertwined pasts put her fragility to the test by both promising her love and salvation. But as it goes to be shown, those who let their emotions get the best of them cannot survive, and for as beautiful as its aesthetics are, The Immigrant is not a very kind picture.

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Review: “X-Men: Days of Future Past”

X-Men Days of Future Past poster.jpg“We need you to hope again.”

Nobody can deny the impact that The Dark Knight had on the superhero genre. It changed the landscape of moviemaking within the genre, and everything since that fateful day in July of 2008 has more or less been affected by how Christopher Nolan chose to adapt the DC comic. Four years later, Joss Whedon came to bat with The Avengers, a massive gamble that ultimately, and surprisingly, paid off in spades. The ambition shared between Nolan and Whedon’s game-changing films has influenced tone, scope, and world-building, above all else, with each successive superhero film, trying to mine the same fertile soil that birthed these two epic blockbusters. Unfortunately, none have come close. Even the best ones, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, seemed minutely impressive within the barrage of superhero fare, and Nolan’s own The Dark Knight Rises proved too sprawling and grandiose to compare to both of the films that came before it. For all the wrong and right that so many standalone superhero films have done, it was looking less and less likely that Nolan and Whedon were ever going to be met or matched. Until 20th Century Fox put hope back into the only Marvel property the studio still has in their possession.

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“Godzilla”: When “Escalating Suspense” Turns Into “Painful Agony”

This past weekend, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla opened to a monstrous $93 million, which is pretty remarkable for a non-sequel, non-superhero movie, especially one following in the footsteps of one of the most critically panned blockbusters ever (that would be Roland Emmerich’s reviled 1998 version). If someone told me several years ago that a giant reptilian monster would out debut a legendary web-slinger, in the same month no less, I would have shrugged them off without hesitation, but such is the case as Godzilla stomped on Peter Parker and stole his summer crown (although the X-Men will probably steal it again this upcoming weekend). Clearly, Legendary Pictures’ well-planned marketing strategy – which hid the titular monster, played up the massive world destruction, and featured an angry Bryan Cranston trading in meth for mutated beasts – paid off in spades. While anticipation was extremely high going in – not only was the film #2 on Reel Reactions’ 20 Most Anticipated Movies of the Summer Movie Season, but it also received a glowing review from our own Mike Murphy, who called it a “damn good summer blockbuster” – I have to admit that I walked out massively disappointed. Godzilla may get major points for refreshingly holding back from the onslaught of numbing spectacle so common in present day tentpoles, but its laborious suspense results in a tiring, painfully boring summer blockbuster and a complete titular rip-off (the film should have been called MUTOs, or Horny MUTOs for that matter).

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Review: “Million Dollar Arm”

Million Dollar Arm poster.jpg“I’m in the middle of a prayer right now.”

Most sports films have a singular goal, and that is to inspire. From start to finish, the intentions are always the greatest, and when the final game comes to a close the filmmakers hope that you will jump and cheer for the central team or players as if you were sitting in the actual stands. Sometimes it works flawlessly, like Miracle and Remember the Titans, other times the formula is just a bit too obvious and the story a tad too droll for any uplifting juices to really get going. In the off chance that the formula is bypassed, the result has been masterful (The Wrestler), but even when the formula is abided by, it’s all dependent on the viewers’ own desires to get washed away in the film’s enthusiasm and accept the impact. Craig Gillespie’s Million Dollar Arm is that kind of sports film. Its deviations from the formula are few and far between, and the story’s casual arc can be outlined beat for beat well before anyone even sits down in a theater to begin watching, but it remains steady thanks to Tom McCarthy’s warm screenplay and Jon Hamm’s solid lead performance. It won’t be the film that makes you fall in love with baseball all over again, nor will it really provide deep enlightenment toward the true story in which it’s based on, but if you let go of its superficiality and let it do what it wants so desperately to do, Million Dollar Arm is a slightly above average trip to the movies.

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