Review: ‘Chef’

chef poster

                One day, over lunch, my friend told me he hates eating.  If he was able to just get the nutrients, energy and whatever else comes from eating without eating, he would do it in a heartbeat.  Not only did it seem like a weird thing to just blurt out, but it was a crazy notion to me because I loved eating.  The smells, the tastes all were awesome to me when I was having a decent to great meal.  Why would I ever want to not have those experiences?  There have been many movies on the subject of food.  Some good, like Ratatouille and some are downright awful like The Last Supper.  Now comes Jon Favreau’s version of a food movie.  Could he do with that subject what he successfully did with comic books?

                Carl Casper (Favreau) is a successful chef at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant.  A food critic is coming to his diner and he excitedly plans a menu that brings forth his passion for cooking.  Tony (Dustin Hoffman) the owner of the restaurant pulls rank and tells Carl to cook the regular menu.  When the critic decimates the food that is set before him in a scathing blog article, Carl is distraught to the point of quitting his job when Tony won’t allow him to try it again with the food critic.  With no job he reluctantly agrees to go with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) to Florida to watch their son (Emjay Anthony) while she does business.  While there he decides to buy a dilapidated food truck and turn it into a truck that serves Cuban food.  With the help of his son and former assistant chef Martin (John Leguizamo) they drive the truck across the country along the way stopping here and there to make food.  All along the way, they grow in popularity and Carl and his son begin to connect in a way they hadn’t before.

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                Favreau has made another great movie, which I hope he continues after the deplorable Cowboys vs. Aliens.  This is one of the better movies so far this year and it is all because of an intimate script, great casting, wonderful cinematography, a love for the subject matter and a touching story that draws the audience in directly.  There is humor, drama and at times a little tear duct manipulation.  Favreau is great as the main character adding an enthusiasm to his character for what he does that seeps through the screen.  John Leguizamo provides most of the laughs but some added heart as well.  Scarlet Johansson, as the hostess at the fancy restaurant isn’t given a lot of screen time, but what she does to help progress the story along is good.  Sofia Vergara is also really good as the ex-wife and does well with her flirtatious nature with Favreaus character.  Anthony as the young son needing his dad’s love and attention was great casting here because he nails it as a kid that wants to act mature but is still hinting at those childhood insecurities.  His scenes together with Favreau are the highlights of the film.  Another highlight is a great cameo appearance from a Favreau favorite.

                Chef is a highly personal film that speaks volumes about the need a child has for his father.  How fathers need to be highly involved with their kids and the importance of family.  I hate admitting it, but there were scenes in this film between the father and son that got me chocked up.  They were very well done and were not manipulative, just honest.  Favreau is able to make a very truthful  and engaging story that is pro family and one that explores what moves us and drives us as people.  While his character is trying to rekindle his love for making good food he is using it as a powerful metaphor and rekindling the love for family.  Great film.

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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Heartbroken

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“When I’m awake, I don’t want to go to sleep. I don’t want the hassle of turning the light off, putting my head down and then all the thoughts. I don’t want all those thoughts…thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts feed on thoughts and I’m; ‘I don’t want this’.  I have to knock myself out.”

Robin Williams from the book Feel

                It has been only a few days since the news broke and yet I still find myself thinking about it.  His family and friends left behind crushed and asking painful questions to themselves and each other.  A man who was generous with his money and time and a man who was adored by so many is gone.  My first experience with Robin Williams was with his first movie role, Popeye.  I loved it.  Couldn’t get enough of it and I remember asking my mom if we could get canned spinach, to which she did.  I opened it up took one look and decided against eating whatever was in that can.  In pools, I would act out the octopus scene because I thought it was the best part of the movie.  This would not be the first time Robin Williams affected my life.

                The Survivors, Club Paradise and the Best of Times would be welcomed company for me on many a weekend afternoon.  I must have seen those movies countless times and they never got old and I still watch them to this day.  Good Morning Vietnam was one of my first R rated movies.  I must have worn down the VHS copy of Hook because I had to watch the dinner scene with the Lost Boys and when his character realized who he was just one more time.  Same thing would happen to my copy of Aladdin and Toys (an underrated film of his).  Jack will always have a special place in my movie life because he portrayed the scared and innocent man child so perfectly that I felt in some instances he was talking to me, even as an adult.  He also did drama…very…very well.

                What a versatile actor, comedy and then would blow everyone away with drama.  First one I saw was Good Will Hunting and he was incredible.  His calm, confident portrayal of a grieving widower who has to counsel a snot nosed genius was heartbreaking, painful and honest.  More would come with Insomnia, What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, many of which critics didn’t enjoy but you could see his commitment to his roles and they were phenomenally played with seamless emotion and professionalism.  More great roles would come and he would always be the best part if not the only part of the film that was great.  What other great roles were waiting for him?

                As a Christian who suffers from depression and questioning in those horrible times if God cares, I have intimate experience with the deepest one may go in their own mind with depression.  I do not know how dark it was for him in those final hours, but I have experienced something like it.  I may have never thought of suicide, but I did welcome death.  Depression was always a tough thing to tell people about, not that I wouldn’t tell people if they asked, but I couldn’t make anyone understand what was going inside.  In those times there was nothing more frightening than the darkness that would surround me for days, weeks, months and the utter hopelessness that I would feel.  Surrounded by people, I would still feel alone, unappreciated, unloved, and unwelcome.  The night would be the worst, especially when you’re alone in the dark and you pound away in your mind’s eye what is wrong with you, that things will never get better, this will never end, and everyone has abandoned or could care less about you, especially God.  Hopelessness, despair, helplessness, these words still do not feel strong enough when explaining how deep the damage of depression can be.

                I’ve known the darkness and more often than not welcomed it as my only friend.  It looks like Robin Williams welcomed it one too many times and was crushed by it.  My pastor told me of a pastor in Los Angeles who saw Mr. Williams come into his congregation one Sunday and had lunch with him.  This was shortly after his heart issues and he was looking for answers.  Years ago he was lost, maybe depressed and the depression was too great.  I can’t get him out of my mind, how close have I been to that?  Who do I know that could be going through this struggle right now?  They may be and they don’t want to talk, they don’t think you would care, they are lost and in a lot of pain, I know all too well that sensation.  If you’re someone like this, please talk with people you trust, I bottled it up for almost two decades because I thought no one truly cared no matter how often they said they did.  If you’re a Christian, know that others like you are having the same struggles with trusting Christ; even David dealt with severe depression.  No one is outside the grace of God, you may feel it, but it isn’t true and can never be.  Praise God.

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Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

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                I knew zero about this Marvel product a year ago outside of knowing there was a talking raccoon in the Marvel universe as well as a big walking tree thing.  Needless to say, I had a very small interest in the movie outside of its connection to the overall Marvel universe building.  Then they hired Chris Pratt and my interest shot up.  For those of you who watch the television show called Parks and Recreation you should understand why.  He plays the character Andy, a loveable and caring everyman with an intriguing naiveté when viewing the world.  He is one of the highlights of the show and over the years has proven himself to be the highlights of good and bad movies.  It was only a matter of time he got his big shot; just no one thought it would be this big.  Throw in an awesome introduction trailer and you start getting people excited.  So did it deliver on that excitement?

                After the death of his mother in 1988, Peter Quill is kidnapped by an alien ship.  Flash forward twenty years and Peter (Chris Pratt) is now an adult and a ravager on the search for a mysterious orb worth billions.  He finds it on a desolate planet but soon finds out that he is not the only one looking for it when three other’s try to take it from him.  Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is an alien who wants it to get away from her evil father and Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) want it so they can take Quill in and get some reward money.  They all find themselves in jail and with the help of a man on a mission to kill the man who killed his family, Drax (Dave Bautista) they will escape. After escaping they can get the orb to someone who will give them money and possibly revenge.  They are being chased by the evil Ronan (Lee Pace) who wants to use the orbs power to destroy a planet who betrayed his race.  All of our heroes will band together to stop that from happening.

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                Another triumph for Marvel and Disney and could be one of the best movies they have made.  The acting is solid with everyone giving there all for each role.  Christ Pratt was genius casting and his natural charm, humor and confidence brings about a character that could stand tall with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark.  Saldana doesn’t do the tough chick thing here, which works for her favor.  She is retrained as well as giving one of her better performances in awhile.  Dave Bautista shows that there can be an MMA fighter that not only can act but do it well and be very funny.  His portrayal of the ultra literal Drax is probably one of the biggest highlights of the film.  As for Cooper and Diesel, well what was guessed by many who looked forward to this movie, they steal the show in practically every scene.  Both comes across with deep emotion and bring some of the best moments of the movie.  Lee Pace gives us a little deeper of a villain than what Marvel has done in the last few movies.  At least this time it seems clear why the villain is doing what he is.  Other cast members like John C. Reilly, Michael Rooker and Djimon Hounsou do great in their roles and add a lot to the movie regardless of how small their roles may be.

                The story is a simple one of misfits from all walks of life and bad pasts that band together to be heroes.  Nothing new there and still very welcome.  Guardians is a perfect example of how to mix many different genres into one fantastic film.  Comedy, science fiction, drama, action all come together perfectly to give the audience one exceptional ride.  The cast comes together with spot on chemistry; it’s amazing how good they are together.  This movie is the reason to go to the theaters in the next few weeks, incredible fun, great story.  Some sexual innuendo and language, so be weary of bringing very little kids.

4 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

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                A few years back, the impossible seemed to happen for me.  A Planet of the Apes movie came out that looked interesting titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  I thought the originals were goofy and outside of the makeup and costumes gave no entertaining value.  The Tim Burton remake was even worse, but then came Rise.  The trailers made it look great, with drama and action and a great yet classic science fiction premise of man creating his own demise.  I saw the film with great enthusiasm and excitement and it became one of my favorite movies of that year.  When a sequel was quickly announced I knew I would be there in the theaters to watch the ongoing story of Caesar and his group.  Would it live up to the promise the first film gave?

                The virus that was released in 2016 has wiped out almost the entire human race.  Ten years on Caesar the highly intelligent ape is leading a village in a forest near San Francisco of other highly intelligent apes who have been living peacefully and happily for years without seeing any humans.  Unbeknownst to him and the rest of the tribe, only a few miles away lays the desolate city that houses a small colony of survivors led by Dreyfus (Gary Oldman).  The man who helped Dreyfus form the colony, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) knows that the colony is about to run out of energy and forms a team to trek into the forest to restart a dam for power.  During their trip they come across apes and one of the humans shoots one causing an out roar among the rest of the apes.  Malcolm is able to keep the peace by talking to Caeser and the ape allows his team to finish their work on the dam.  A traitor in one of the groups causes a huge conflict between the apes and humans to gain leadership through hate and thus begins the first battle of the apes and humans.

                Just as good as Rise and ups the ante a bit with more action and somewhat of a deeper story.  You will need to get past the first fifteen minutes or so because it looks like a scene they spent littler money on the CGI than the rest of the film and its noticeable and takes you out of the movie.  But once that’s over, it’s a great ride.   Jason Clarke is good, not yet leading man material but he holds his own against the rest of the class.  He brings a gentler tone than most actors may have done with the role and it works. Gary Oldman is great in this film even if he isn’t given that much screen time.  You feel the despair and hurt that his character has when trying to lead a suffering colony, loss of loved ones and truly feeling that the apes could pose a very real threat.  It’s one of his more subdued roles and he is all the better for it.  Keri Russell, who has done some great acting these last few years whether the project is good or bad is highly underutilized in this film.  Once again, it is the great Andy Serkis who is the draw for this film.  He brings the usual heart and creativity he does in all his motion capture roles and grows the character of Caeser a lot in a few hours and you can’t wait to see what he does next with him.

                A few weeks before the release of the film there were a lot of stories in entertainment news that made it look like this may be an anti gun diatribe and actually worried me because I was really looking forward to it.  Thankfully it is not even close to that.  In fact, you could argue it could be pro guns in that they are used for protection in the right hands and in the wrong; evil will overcome when the innocent and law-abiding aren’t armed.  Regardless, this is not a story with an agenda; it’s a story that gets to the heart of what it means to be human, philosophically at least.  What makes us human, how do we act in certain circumstances, right versus wrong and so on.  Caeser has a great line in where he states that he does not see a difference between apes and humans, how they are both alike in their desires, interests and violence.  All of this could be tied to some evolutionary theory that could come up in future movies, but really, as one of my friends once put it, evolution is in the right place here…science fiction.

                If you liked the first one, you’ll like this one.  Even if you haven’t seen the first one you can jump in with this one and follow it fine.  Careful if you plan on bringing young kids though, there could be some pretty scary scenes for them.

3 stars out of 4

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Terrific Trailer Tuesday: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

guardians poster

It’s almost in theaters and it will be glorious!

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Review: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

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                I don’t think there are many directors working today who can capture the true picture of the doctrine of Total Depravity like Martin Scorsese.  He may not see it that way, but the man can capture the essence of mans corruption so well it’s scary.  Take Goodfellas for instance.  Watching the utter demise of the titular character into the lowest rung of the human condition as he is corrupted further and further into the movie grips the audience.  Look at some of his other films where he shows the dirty life of bad people like Raging Bull, Casino or the Departed.  Each movie fascinating in their own right gives a grim picture of most, if not all of their characters and portrays them in such a real way it’s astonishing.  It looked like the Wolf of Wall Street was going to go this route again, but I was not prepared for how in depth it would be.

                Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an up and coming stockbroker who finds himself unemployed after Black Monday.  Needing work he finds himself working for a penny stocks firm and with his natural charisma and thinking on his feet mentality he grows that into his own empire.  From a small Long Island business to a man who becomes an employer of hundreds and making millions a year, he also becomes a bit of a mess.  Addicted to drugs, especially Quaaludes, alcohol and constant sex amid ripping off random people throughout the country, he rides a bullet train to the top.  As the company gets bigger and Jordan continues to do more and more illegal things he is soon investigated by the FBI and eventually gets told to snitch on others or he goes to jail.

                While maybe not Scorcese’s best (I’m still sticking with Goodfellas) it sure is up there as one of DiCaprio’s.  He so completely delved into this role that you aren’t aware you’re watching DiCaprio play a dirtbag.  He is entirely emerged in the role and takes it to such extreme levels that you feel just as energized as he is throughout the film, his energy is that high.  Jonah Hill has incredible chemistry with DiCaprio and gives just as good a performance that it still boggles my mind this is the vulgar fat kid from Superbad.  The rest of the cast, consisting of Matthew McConaughey, Jon Bernthal, Rob Reiner and new comer Margot Robbie are all great in their perspective roles.  Even guys who you know you’ve seen in other movies but can’t place the name, mostly playing DiCaprio’s character’s closest friends/business partners all do very well and bring even more crazy energy to the film.  Though the film is over three hours long, it flies by because the liveliness of the actors is heightened by a tight edit, some great music and a story so crazy that it demands your attention.

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                Many of the reviews I read when this film was initially released in December 2013 were very argumentative that the film glorifies the rich and gives people like Jordan Belfort a pass.  I thought this was odd after seeing the movie because there is absolutely none of that in this film.  Instead you get a movie that shows the evils of utter corruption and what happens when a morally ambiguous guy gets his hands on endless power and money.  This movie is a true exploration on man’s natural ability to and desire for sin with its biggest problem not being the excesses in which it is shown.  Its biggest problem is that there is no repentance, there is no redemption, and there is no grace.  In doing show it shows, powerfully, another great truth…men die in their sin.  That is not only unnerving, it is sad.

This is not a film for everyone; believe me and what you’ve heard about this one.  I was uncomfortable with a lot of what was going on onscreen.  Yet, as odd as it sounds, most of it seemed necessary to convey the message that these characters are utterly corrupt and what you are seeing isn’t to titillate or exploit, but to make you uncomfortable because this entire story is utterly wrong and evil.  For a great example of the total degeneracy of man and his tendency toward sin and his need for grace, this movie shows that fully, but I do not recommend it for most.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

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                The big story on this summer movie was that it was a huge disappointment, as a money earner at least and some called it the further decline of Tom Cruise’s star power.  Even after great reviews and terrific word of mouth it still falters in the theaters, but maybe it will pick up during the home release.  Regardless of all of this, I was really looking forward to it.  I’ve said it here multiple times, but Tom Cruise is a great actor in spite of his odd public behavior and silly beliefs.  His movies the last fifteen years, seventeen in total, have been mixed bags, mostly mixed with box office “bombs” and critical finger wagging.  Out of those seventeen, I’ve only disliked three of them.  After seeing the first trailer for this one, I had little doubt that it would be added to the dislike column.

                Set in the future, an alien race has taken over parts of Europe and mankind is now in a world war to stop them from taking over the rest of the world.  Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is tasked with selling the war to the public as a spokesman for NATO’s defense efforts.  When traveling to London to meet with General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), he is told that he will be joining the front lines to cover the combat.  Cage tries to decline but finds himself later waking up after being passed out for an undisclosed amount of time, in handcuffs and known as a deserting private.  He tries to tell people who he really is but all signs of his previously being a high ranking officer are gone.  He is put together with a rag tag team of soldiers who fight within armored exoskeletons and is trained in one day how to use it.  During the big battle, the soldiers are ambushed by the aliens as the aliens were not caught off guard; they knew they were coming somehow and begin to decimate the troops.  During a fight with one of the aliens, Cage kills it and dies in the process only to find himself waking up the previous day as he did on the base in handcuffs all over again.  At first he thinks it is a bad déjà vu incident, but finds himself dying and coming back to life in the very same state each death.  As he tries to figure out why, the answer may lie with a soldier known as “the Angel of Verdun” (Emily Blunt).

                Yes, this is yet another great Tom Cruise movie and it is made all the more great by the performances of each actor, the humor, intricate story and great visuals and special effects.  This is essentially Groundhogs Day with aliens and action but once you get over that you are going to have a fun time with this movie.  The effects are great for practically the whole film, but there are times where it’s obvious that someone’s head is superimposed on one of the exoskeletons.   Tom Cruise is up to his usual charm and confidence in his role as a cowardly soldier who finds his courage throughout his journey.  Emily Blunt is fine, no surprise there, but is relegated to a sometimes lacking supporting role that looked like could have been meatier.  Bill Paxton is used for comedy relief to some great effect throughout the film and the supporting soldiers in his unit are given a surprising amount of things to do that contribute positively to the overall story.

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                The story itself was the usual one of a hero coming from a man with many flaws finding his courage.  When that’s done right, like here, it is always a welcome story in my book.  What was not surprising was the usual anti-feminism that comes out of “feminist” Hollywood in their films, one after the other.  Those who know me will know what I think of the current feminist mindset, laughably ridiculous, but I like pointing out the hypocrites in Hollywood that pretend to be more enlightened than I.  Here we have a heroin that was not able to do with her gifts what she was trying to do.  Along comes a man who is able to do what she failed to do with the very same gift she lost.  Not a noticeable plot point, but still interesting coming from liberal story tellers.

                Edge of Tomorrow is a fun summer movie.  There is no nudity, low language content and the usual sci fi action violence, but nothing overly offensive.  Want to have fun at the movies?  See this one.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Godzilla (2014)’

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                I was never into Godzilla when I was younger.  I had seen bits and pieces of the old films and was familiar with the story but never got into the movies.  I did see the 1998 miserable remake that made me care even less about this franchise.  When the news of another remake broke I just moved on until the first teaser came out.  I gave it a shot and I was glad I did.  It was an engrossing trailer that was the definition of teaser.  It was well paced and looked incredible, this was a modern Godzilla movie that I could get behind and even get a little excited about.  More trailers came out and they just kept getting better, so I knew I was going to be seeing this Godzilla with some anticipation.  So, how was it?

                Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is living in Japan with his family as he supervises one of the country’s nuclear power plants.  One morning, Joe discovers some weird underground seismic activity that he tries to tell his superiors about.  Of course his warnings are ignored and the plant collapses in on itself and Joe’s wife is killed and the town they live in is quarantined.  Fifteen years later his son, Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is returning home to his wife (Elizabeth Olsen) from serving in the Navy as a explosive ordinance disposal officer.  Home for only a short time, he gets a phone call that his dad has been arrested in Japan for trespassing and Ford needs to come get him.  Joe has been spending the last fifteen years trying to explain what the real cause of the disaster at the plant was and is ignored by his son as a crazy man.  They both go to the quarantined town to grab something from the old house when they are arrested by nearby military that take them to the plant the world was told was destroyed by an earthquake.  When they get to the site, they find out the real reason for the disaster and that something bigger is hunting it.

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                Visually, this is a great looking film.  The action is tight and fun to watch and some of the shots, like the soldiers parachuting down to Godzilla, are inspired.  For most of the movie it is just fun to watch the cinematography because there are some truly great shots in this film.  The acting is fine but unfortunately has no real stand outs.  Cranston is good, but isn’t given much to do.  Taylor-Johnson is fine but also not given much to do except move the story along, which he does fine enough.  Olsen is given the least to do by just being the one who is constantly running or worrying about her characters husband and son.  If there was any stand out performance here it would be from David Strathairn who plays a convincing admiral thrown into being in charge of dealing with Godzilla.

                Gareth Edwards has done the impossible in my mind, make a modern Godzilla that keeps your attention and gives the audience a lot to enjoy.    He may have said that this was a “global warming” cautionary tale, but that didn’t get through to audiences and you can read why here.  Thankfully the director failed in any attempt to preach to us that false gospel and instead gave us one of the better summer movies in the last few years.  A true popcorn flick where you can sit back, enjoy the action and check your brain at the door and that’s a good thing.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘The Amazing Spiderman 2′

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                While it did seem unnecessary for Sony to reboot their Spiderman property, the 2012 offering was surprisingly good.  Andrew Garfield was pitch perfect casting for Peter Parker/Spiderman and Emma Stone as his love interest was inspired casting as they both had great chemistry.  This new Spiderman was a little cockier and sure of himself which was an upswing from the sometimes tepid Toby Maguire.  The energy was constant and the casting for all other characters, especially Martin Sheen, were great choices.  It may have underperformed, even though it did make tons of money, it was guaranteed a sequel and thankfully it had everyone returning.  So how was it?

                Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) I still living two lives, one of the high school graduate and the other as superhero Spiderman.  He is in an on again off again relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) because of the promise he made to her dying father.  Spiderman one day rescues the lonely and ignored Max (Jamie Foxx) as he is on his way to work where he is underappreciated for his contribution to the cities new power plant.  Max is made to stay after work to fix a problem one day in the circuitry of the office space he works in and he falls into a electrical tank and transforms into the future villain Electro.  Shy at first, Max is scared but an accidental assassination attempt on him when talking to Spiderman makes him angry and he begins to destroy Times Square until Spiderman stops him.  Harry Osborn (Dan Dehaan) has come back into Peter’s life after a ten year absence and finds out that he has the same illness that killed his father and that maybe Spiderman’s blood may be the way to cure him.  Electro escapes, another villain begins to scheme and Spiderman tries his best to protect the city and the people he loves.

                The Amazing Spiderman 2 is better than the first movie but not really by that much.  Acting is still great, as is the visual appeal, but it just didn’t deliver on what looked like what was promised in the marketing.  This was most likely always going to be the case when a studio is already starting to build an entire movie universe surrounding one superhero and tries to build up in a single movie that anticipation.  Worked in some cases, like giving little nuggets of what is to come by showing more of the secretive Oscorps Corporation.  It unfortunately fails in other ways.  There is a surprising lack in showing growth with the relationship between Peter and Gwen.  Also, bringing in a best friend coming back into Peter’s life out of nowhere and not having that relationship built in a meaningful way was a shortfall.  You also then have a main villain in Electro that becomes a villain for no real reason and really doesn’t make a convincing road to being a bad guy, it just happens in a few seconds.  If you’re able to get over those things then you really are going to see a fun film.

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                The new actors that were brought in to introduce the expanding universe do well in the perspective roles.  Dan Dehaan is the obvious winner in the group, giving the Harry Osborn character a different spin than what James Franco did before him.  This Harry is more believable and a little more fun to watch.  Chris Cooper, though he is only in the film for a few minutes regardless of what the trailers showed us, is always a good choice for casting.  Jamie Foxx is the weak link of the bunch and its most likely that he had some pretty poor dialogue he had to say.  He has his comedic moments that truly are laugh out loud, but when it comes time to be the villain, he holds back too much to wear, outside of his powers, doesn’t seem all that menacing.  Of course Garfield and Stone bring that great chemistry back and the flirtatious scenes are well done.  Sally Field is given a little bit more to do this film as Aunt May and for the scenes that she is in she is fun to watch and brings some needed emotion to some of the more weightier scenes.

                There is no real sense of a central theme bigger than good fighting evil, which is fine; it just wasn’t as big in tone as the first film or the previous trilogy which makes it feel empty.  There are speeches about hope that don’t really go anywhere and that’s a shame because it seemed like that would be the main theme of the movie from the start.  This is more of a highly entertaining filler movie that really only exists to get us to The Amazing Spiderman 3 & 4 and the Sinister Six movie.  It feels a little rushed and the ending seems to wrap up just a little too quickly.  All of a sudden bad guys converge, fight Spiderman for a few minutes and then done.  Even if those last few action scenes are fun to watch, they seem to wrap up a little too neatly and too fast.

                When you see the movie, and if you are a fan I suggest you do, know that there is going to be a lot of stuff missing that we saw in the trailers.  You’ll most likely get annoyed by some things that could have been done better or taken their time to develop more.  It seems, again from the trailers that they were there but ended on the cutting room floor.  Maybe all that stuff could have eased the movies problems if left in, but unless we get a director’s cut, we’ll never know.  All in all, still a entertaining movie.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Grudge Match’

grudgematch poster

                When I first heard about this movie I was hesitantly excited.  Sounded like a no brainer to bring Rocky and the Raging Bull together to make an old timers boxing movie.  Was it going to be great?  Most likely no but it did have that factor that perks a lover of movies ears up.  Most of us who were fans of 80’s action films were downright gitty when we heard Schwarzenegger and Stallone were going to spend some screen time together in The Expendables even if it was for a few minutes.  They were iconic for a generation of men growing up during that time and we all wanted this to happen way back then.  Now, having two stars from two of the best sports movies ever made were brought together to give us another something special.  Was it any good though?

                In the city of Pittsburgh there are two local boxing legends, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (Robert de Niro).  Over the course of their beef with one another, they had each won a title bout against each other, but when it came time for the tie breaking match, Henry retires.  Thirty years later, Henry is working in a local factory while Billy owns a car dealership and restaurant and is still mad about not getting his shot to beat Henry one last time.  In steps eager boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart) who gets the two to begrudgingly agree to fight each other one last time even though they are way past their prime.  As the two beginning training, Henry continues to fight his utter hatred for Billy as they have to work together to promote the fight.  Billy on the other hand is struggling with losing weight while also getting to know his son (Jon Bernthal) he had years ago from a one night stand.

                This film is filled to the brim with cliché after cliché and surrounded by a story where the viewer can guess exactly what is coming, but it doesn’t matter because the talent in the film makes it worthwhile.  Stallone is doing some good stuff in his later years and it’s been a very long time since de Niro has done this good in a comedy.  Kim Basinger is a welcomed addition but isn’t given much to do here.  Alan Arkin is always good and he plays off Kevin Hart very well.  I can’t help shaking off the feeling that Kevin Hart, while extremely talented and very funny, is the new Chris Rock or Eddie Griffin and as soon as Hollywood decides he’s not funny anymore, the roles will dry up, which stinks.  Most comedies don’t look this good, but the gloomy color scheme for the films looks great when looking at the shadier sides of Pittsburgh and the flashy ringside ending pops off the screen.

grudge match still

                The themes are the usual ones for this type of film.  Family is important, coming to terms with the bad decisions you made in your life, forgiveness and so on.  Again, even though some of these themes are clichéd in this sort of film, because of the performance here, they bring the needed heart to these characters that the story requires.  The interaction and chemistry between de Niro and Bernthal, who plays his long lost son, is very touching in certain scenes and doesn’t feel forced.  It’s not a movie that wants to break the rules or give you something different, it knows its formula and brings about a movie that has heart and some fun along the way.  After the credits role, I sat there and wanted to see more of these characters because they felt like they had more story to tell.  That’s a good achievement for a clichéd movie.

                There’s little language here and some sexual references but all in all a pretty save movie to watch.  It’s fun and does have some great turns from aging actors who show they’ve still got it.

3 stars out of 4

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