Review: ‘Lone Survivor’

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               It was almost a full decade of films featuring America’s military where practically all had to do with how bad they were during a certain president’s time in office.  Fast forward just a few years after he left office and not only were films a little bit more lenient on the military as bad guys plots, you also started to see glowing articles about our military, their families and their suffering during war times in celebrity magazines and news segments.  You’d think, better late than never, but you’d be wrong, because regardless of the man in office, these people and their families deserve our respect and gratitude.  This is something Hollywood of the last 40 or so years seems to only have when a democrat is in the White House.  The movies that have shown a good light on the military have been more readily available and produced over the last few years…and they’ve been good.  Act of Valor, Battle: Los Angeles, and others given respect to our military and Lone Survivor tries to continue that trend.  Does it succeed?

               A team of SEAL’s in Afghanistan are about to be sent on a mission called “Operation Red Wings” to scout out if an Taliban terrorist leader is in a nearby village.  The team is led by Lt. Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch) and includes Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg), Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch) and Matthew Axelson (Ben Foster).  During the reconnaissance, the men are found by a group of sheep herders who they capture and debate amongst themselves whether to let them go or not.  When they let them go, the herder’s younger kid runs to tell the Taliban about the Americans and so begins the fight for the SEAL’s lives as they try their best to protect each other against a small army of enemies chasing them.

               Peter Berg continues to show that he is, or at least should be, the go to man for military movies where the American military is seen as they should be, self sacrificing heroes who care more about others than they do themselves.  Here, he gives us his best film to date and it is a heart wrenching real life story of four men whose bond was strong and faithful to each other during extraordinary circumstances.  The direction of the film is amazing, getting A plus performances out of every actor in the film.  The cinematography for the whole movie, especially the combat scenes, looks incredible and you feel the tension through the screen.  The stand out role comes from Ben Foster, which is no surprise here, who gives a very real and emotional role some genuine gravitas and humanity.

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               Prepare to watch a difficult film and yet be extremely touched and moved that men like this still exist around a country of men who is lead by a thin skinned bully of a president who takes no responsibility for anything and filled with hipster, wussified whiners with their hands out.  Real men exist and they know the meaning of loyalty, friendship and sacrifice and they embrace them all unflinchingly.  And yet it is sad to read that one of the reasons that decisions were made by Lt. Murphy were because he did not want his brothers in arms derided by the American liberal media and seeing that they were punished.  This film is not for those rich hypocritical elitists, which is most likely why there were no Oscar noms.  This film was made as a love letter to the military that makes hard decisions, risk their lives, even for those who spit on them.  It is a movie that shows that these men are not just numbers to be added to the ticker in the lower right hand corner of CNN.  These men left behind loving families because they had the calling to defend the defenseless and secure the freedom of the grateful and the ingrates alike.  Thank you Peter Berg and everyone involved for making this movie unashamedly and without any political agenda, just to show that stories of courage and true sacrifice deserve to be told even today.

               If you stay through the credits, you will tear up.  It could be hard to watch in some parts for people and is gory in a lot of parts as well. Well worth the watch if you want to help support this type of film.  

3 and ½ stars out of 4

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Quick Reviews

                Here’s a list of a few recent viewings I have gone through lately that I didn’t or didn’t want to review for whatever reason.  Hopefully I can give a short review that may peak your interests to either watch or pass on a film you might have been considering.  There can be a mix of newer/older movies with a few insights.

Young Adult

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                Elitist drivel from one of the most overhyped and untalented screenwriters in the last few decades, Diablo Cody.  She has no talent except for…never mind…zero talent.  This film was boring and wasted the talents of practically its entire cast.  Although Patten Oswald seems like a intolerant jerk in real life, he is a talented actor that continues to show he isn’t just the chubby comedian.  The movie is pointless and ends on an even more pointless note with the main character learning nothing and still thinking she is better than everyone else.  Only redeeming thing about the film was making fun of liberals and their idol of pushing homosexuality on the masses.  One character is beaten because he is thought to be gay and gets national media coverage for a hate crime, until it is found out he isn’t gay and everyone drops the story.  Pretty much sums up real life.  Ignore this film like I should have continued to do.  1 and ½ stars out of 4

Planes

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                Just about everything goes wrong for this film.  The story is bland and has no real depth to it, which I know is asking too much from the minds behind Cars, but at least that film had some gems in it.  Voice acting has to be some of the worst assembled in years for these types of films with no one standing out but all of them boring and unmemorable.  Animation is fine, but characters bring nothing to the story and you could care less about the outcome of any of them.  Kids will love it, parents will wish they didn’t.  1 and ½ stars out of 4

R.I.P.D.

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                It wasn’t great, but it definitely didn’t deserve the hate it received last year during its theatrical run.    While a decent concept and two stars that can be entertaining to very entertaining, it was just not executed well.  The story does not have any sort of coherence or the ability to draw the audience in with interesting characters.  Instead it tries to dazzle with odd acting choices and special effects that look like they were done about ten years ago.  The movie I was hoping for when I first heard of this project isn’t even here which is a shame because it had a lot of potential.  See it if you’re a Jeff Bridges fan or just want a movie on in the background while you clean the house, but don’t watch it if you’re expecting stupid fun…it isn’t really even that.  1 and ½ stars out of 4

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Hey Buddy’s 2014 Movies to Get Excited About

                A lot later than I had hoped, but here is the list of movies for you to look forward to this year.  Here we go:

10.          The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (November 21st)

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                The third book, for me, was a big letdown.  Dragged on in places and didn’t seem as grounded as the first two, but I hold out hope for the last two movies.  As Catching Fire was a vast improvement on the first film, I have hope that this film will continue to be upgraded to the audience’s great pleasure.  It will be odd to watch the first part of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s last role, but as usual for him, I expect greatness and will not be disappointed.  The bad thing?  How glaring it will be that this splitting of the last book will be unneeded.

9.            Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1st)

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                I had never heard of this comic book series before this movie started filming.  Since I have liked practically all of the recent Marvel movies, I really want to see this as a huge fan of Christ Pratt.  Who knows if he is as nice as he seems in his role as Andy in Parks and Rec. but I like to think he is so I want to see him succeed.  I’m sure this will be a fun summer movie where the brain can be checked at the door and that isn’t always bad.

8.            The Expendables 3 (August 15th)

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                What self respecting man wouldn’t look forward to what could be the last film in the series that was made specifically for men who loved eighties action films?  The addition of Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes and Kelsey Grammer are all just icing on the cake.  The only bad thing is the group of unneeded younger characters to play the more “tech savvy” roles.  Forget that, should have just added more Chuck Norris and find a way to bring back Van Damme!

7.            Unbroken (December 25th)

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                The book is one of the best biographies I have ever read.  Couldn’t put it down!  I hope that my fears of Angelina Jolie doing her first directorial effort to bring the awesome story of Olympic track star turned WWII POW Louis Zamperini are unfounded.  If she messes up what could be one of the best movies of the year…I just…I just can’t imagine.

6.            X-Men: Days of Future Past (May 23rd)

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                I am still holding out enough hope that this won’t be a far cry from the awesome reboot that was X-Men: First Class because Singer is back in the director’s chair that it is on this list.  The idea sounds great on paper, but who knows about the execution.  First trailer was good enough and some of the new stills that have come out show promise, but even though it is number six here, who knows what I will think come the end of May.  Here’s to hoping!

5.            Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (August 22nd)

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                The first Sin City was in my top ten list for best comic book adaptations because of its creativity and adherence to the source material.  This was even on my list of movies to look forward to last year when it was originally schedueled to be released.  I expect this one to live up to the previous and hold out hope that it could exceed it.  Not much has been released on it except for a still here and there, but I have been waiting for this one for years.

4.            Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (July 11th)

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                The first one on this reboot/prequel was one of my favorite films of 2011.  It was one of the better sci-fi films in the last few years not only because of its premise but because the characters and the story drew us in as audience members in a great way.  I am hoping for more of that here and it’s got Gary Oldman in it, huge plus in my book.

3.            The Lego Movie (February 7th)

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                The movie that the original directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs left that franchise for.  I love that movie and its humor and it looks like it transferred well here.  Why has it taken so long for this to happen, it seems like it should have happened over a decade ago, but better late than never.  The voice cast sounds great and the previews have shown that there will be a lot of laughs just like Cloudy.

2.            The Grand Budapest Hotel (March 7th)

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                Wes Anderson is awesome and so far can only do one bad movie…that borefest set on a train in India.  2012’s Moonrise Kingdom was awesome as was most of his films and this one seems to keep the new streak going.  A great all star cast and a newbie to the Anderson crew in Ralph Fiennes looks genius.  I am expecting some great quirky humor surrounded by an even quirkier story. 

1.            Interstellar (November 7th)

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                Yes, the first teaser trailer left something to be desired, but that in no way hastened my excitement for this film.  As a hug fan of Christopher Nolan’s, a man who has to date not made a bad film should be set for another big hit.  Add to that that Matthew Mcconaughey and a story that we may not be fully aware of but nonetheless seems intriguing, I am set to enjoy this one to the hilt.  Expect great cinematography, acting and pacing.  November can’t get here fast enough.

Honorable Mentions:  Draft Day (April 11th), The Amazing Spider- Man 2 (May 2nd), The Edge of Tomorrow (June 6th)

                That’s it for this year.  What are you looking forward to?

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Hey Buddy’s Worst of 2013

                All right, last week you got the best, this week you get the worst.  Enjoy!

10.          Anything from Tyler Perry

                Can someone please stop this man from making any more movies or television shows, he is a horrible story teller, director, screenwriter and actor.  No more please.   I’m not going to even waste my time on finding a poster for this one.

9.            Only God Forgives

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                I did not hate the movie only because it looks phenomenal, but it is here on this list after being a huge disappointment after Refn’s Drive.  The story is boring and slow paced, which could have been intentional.  The characters are tedious and one note with the exception of Kristen Scott Thomas’s role.  This had the promise of something good but ultimately failed miserably.

Review here

8.            Trance

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                Another movie that seemed to have some promise after trailers started popping up.  But in the end it was another tiresome film that tried to think it was being smart but was actually just a practice in mediocrity.  The characters were horrible, not just in the actor’s portrayal but in none of the characters having any redeeming value to the viewer at all.  They are all bad people getting away with bad behavior and in the end learn nothing about their actions and are perfectly fine in continuing in their atrocious behavior. 

Review here

7.            This is the End

this is the end brandon sostre

                Another “Best Comedy of the Year” that really wasn’t.  Wasted talent (with the exception of Robinson who has very little) and most likely millions of dollars to make a subpar “comedy” that is really just dirty joke after dirty joke.  Throw that all together with the usual Hollywood laziness when it comes to the Bible and then twist the Christian message into some man centered just be good and everything will be fine religion.  I say it every year, but I need to stop listening to the hype surrounding comedies that are always huge let downs.  Hopefully I can stick to that desire this year…

Review here

6.            Evil Dead

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                Mind-numbing!  How can you say that about a remake of a horror classic?  Well here is what you do.  Change the story to some insipid drug detox amongst friends, make the detoxy and everyone else completely and utterly unlikeable and then for no reason at all make the detoxy the hero.  Oh…never mind, the reason was feminism and all the nonsense that comes with it.  If you want the character to be a heroine, just do it outright, don’t pull garbage like this.  I didn’t even finish the film because of all of this.  Way to spit on the memory of the original guys.

Review here

5.            Jack the Giant Slayer

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                The movie that continued my nervousness at Bryan Singer returning to the Xmen world as a director was this atrocity.  Superman Returns was a huge misfire, Valkyrie was a welcomed return to form and then this one came out.  Generic story, decent to bad CGI, bad acting and yet another tiresome film.  You feel every minute of its runtime and it hurts.  What a waste of time.

Review here

4.            Oz the Great and Powerful

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                Another gigantic snooze fest from a good director.  I love Sam Raimi, he was the original creator of the remade number six on this list, but here…I don’t know what happened.  Maybe it was the overuse of CGI and bright colors that give you a headache or most of the miscasting that seemed to have happened here.  The story was interesting enough as an idea, but the implementation left you wanting.  Outside of being “pretty” people, I have no idea why Kunis or Franco are as big as they are in Hollywood.

Review here

3.            The Great Gatsby

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                Finally getting to this film and I am realizing that this column every year makes me angry.  Angry that I wasted time and angry remembering the garbage I’ve watched over the last year.  This one should have been a no brainer for me to skip because I hated the book and the original movie but it was Baz directing.  That means it should have been at least fun to watch.  Nope, it was as dull as everything that has come before.  Even the talents of Joel Edgerton, the only good thing about the film, could save this movie from poorness. 

Review here

2.            The Kings of Summer

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                Couldn’t wait to see this film because of the seemingly brilliant way it was marketed.  Then I saw it and the marketing had to be brilliant to have anyone pay to see this garbage.  More youth as adult themes that are absurd and miserable are spewed out of this film.  A turd of a kid acts like a turd throughout the film, changing nothing by the end of it and we are supposed to love him for it.  This movie made me really angry.

Review here

1.                   Gangster Squad

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                 I had extremely high hopes for this movie when I saw the first trailer.  It seems like it had been awhile since we had a decent old school gangster film and this looked like it could be it.  Looks like we will still be waiting for that.  Story was all over the place and did not gel well.  Acting was very poor, especially from Gosling and Stone.  The movie was already tainted because the producers felt the need to cut out what looked like an incredible scene because a coward opened fire in a crowded Colorado movie theater.  The biggest disappointment for me this year by far.  This had all the marking of being a good movie…alas…

Review here

               There you go, stay as far away as possible.  Next week, the films to look forward to in 2014!

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Hey Buddy’s Best of 2013

                It’s that time of year here at Hey Buddy Movies, where I get to decide what the best movies of the year were.  You, as always can disagree, but you’d be wrong…again.  This year was actually really difficult to decide on a list.  As the year came to a close, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a top ten because this really did seem like an anemic year for great movies.  I thought I was going to have to put movies on here that I only gave two stars just to make the list a nice round number.  I even thought of only making this list the five best, but I grew up with top ten lists and I like that tradition.  So without further delay, here we go

10.          The World’s End

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                I still have yet to post a review on this because I saw it during that busy season of gift giving/receiving made me very behind on my reviews.  Nevertheless, while this film may not live up to the sheer greatness of the previous films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it was yet another success for the Corneto trilogy makers.  It was full of the usual movie geek humor that rocketed the first two to instant classics, but this time with a little darker twist.  While not full of the fun and games as the others, The World’s End not only brought some inspired funny moments but a tighter story more interested in character development than the next gag.  It would be great if they decided to all get together and try another film, a western would be awesome, but this could be the end.  If this is the end of this collaboration, it was a good way to go out.

9.            The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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                Far surpassing the first installment, this Hunger Games sequel gave us something that was more focused and entertaining.  Not only that, but the special effects were much better as was the acting from the cast, both old and new.  Just like the last film it really showed what the evils of dictatorship is or when the State is in full control.  The oppression, lies, corruption, suppression of the truth, propaganda and murder are an incredibly scary thing in real life let alone a movie from a book written for teenagers.  This was a far superior movie than the first one in practically every way and in the end left us excited for more.

Review here

8.            World War Z

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                Plagued by rewrites, reshoots, added filming dates and changing the source material made this film seem like it would be one of the biggest bombs of the year.  Knowing all this I went in expecting not to be overly impressed and honestly had some low expectations which probably helped me enjoy it to a very high degree.  Yes there were plot holes, certain decisions didn’t make sense, but dang it, it was a fun summer popcorn movie.  It didn’t have a completely new way to feature the zombie film, but the way in which they had the zombies interact with the world around them seemed energizing to the viewers.  World War Z was filled with multiple scenes of intense suspense and thrilling action while also supplying interesting commentary on the civilization of man sprinkled here and there with a laugh or two. 

Review here

7.            Wolverine

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                The first stand alone Wolverine wasn’t great.  Most people hated it, I thought it had its good parts, but when a multimillion dollar movie spends two dollars on CGI claws, you don’t get a lot of cheerful viewers.  Fast forward a few years and man did they finally seem to get almost all of it right with The Wolverine.   The story was tighter, acting was way better and we finally got CGI that didn’t look like someone drew on the film stock with a crayon.  Hugh Jackman is Wolverine and will always be no matter who eventually replaces him in future installments/reboots.  He gets the character and has a love for it that many actors don’t experience with their roles.  The addition of newer characters like Yashida, Shingen and Yukio were just as good and the actors that portrayed them were just as entertaining to watch on the screen.  The last battle was something that may not have been the best one yet for the franchise, but the movie as a whole did what the makers promised it would do and that was wow and entertain its audience.

Review here

6.            Iron Man 3

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                The first of the Marvel films since the box office behemoth that was The Avengers was this highly anticipated film.  A lot of uproar was made about a certain twist that made a lot of people hate it from then on.  Me?  I loved it!  Not just the twist but the whole movie was everything I expected it to be…fun.  Robert Downey Jr. hit it out of the park again, as did Ben Kingsley.  The story was different and would be a suiting end of a franchise if that was the way they were going to go with it.  Some also hated that Tony Stark spent most of the movie outside of his suit.  I thought it developed the character more than being just a mere man in a suit and that he may not always win.  The character needed this type of development after the last few movies.  While it would have been great to have Jon Favreau finish out the trilogy, Shane Black was still a phenomenal choice as the successor to the franchise.   Though it will happen one day, the thought of anyone but Robert Downey Jr. playing this character was fully cemented in this film.  Here we got another great addition to the Marvel universe as well as comic book movies as a whole.

Review here

5.            Man of Steel

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                This was a huge gamble after the horrendous nature of Superman Returns.  You had a director who is mostly know for slow motion action scenes rather than depth.  A reboot that tells the same origin story that we’ve seen or read before a hundred times and a star that would don the cape that not many people knew of.  Christopher Nolan was involved, but not to an encouraging extent.  Then that first full trailer came out and all bets were off, this could be a good film.  And it was!  Great acting came from everyone involved, especially from Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner and Michael Shannon.  It had touching moments as well as great action scenes.  It showed that the character of Superman can still be refreshing while maintaining its familiarity with the audience in an exceptional way.  A big task was undertaken and a triumph was the outcome.  For those of you that hated it because a certain someone killed a certain someone else…maybe read some of the source material as well as watching previous incarnations with the number 2 after them.

Review here

4.            The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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                If a movie makes you think about it several days afterward, you know you just saw something special.  Yes, it did have some acting and story elements that felt out of place, but dang is it some inventive filmmaking that looks extremely good.  Most, if not all, of the scenes of Mitty’s imagination do not slow the story down or even throw the viewer off.  They conform perfectly to the pace of the movie and are in no way a distraction.  It showed that Ben Stiller has got some dramatic acting talent in that Zoolander frame and showcased that Kristen Wiig can keep up with him.  While it did not fully engage in the philosophy of what should make us happy outside of our own needs being met, it was still a good movie to think about after the credits started to roll.  When a movie makes you think about meaning of life, life choices, etc., that’s not a horrible two hours spent in my opinion, whether they got it wrong or right.

Review here

3.            Monsters University

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                I actually liked this one better than the original only because it connected with me more than the first.  Everyone likes the underdog story and here it is done incredibly well with life lessons that ring true scattered throughout.  The most important ones were being there for your friends when they need you, humility and hard work being a good thing.  The comedy was just as solid as the story and the animation was probably one of the better looking Pixar movies in the last few years.  The colors and depth of each scene popped off the screen and was a continuous flurry of candy for the eyes.  It is not only a clean movie for the family but had less scary moments for little ones than the first one did.  Good story, humor, animation and real world themes that connect with everyone make this an incredibly huge winner in my book.

Review here

2.            American Hustle

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                Out of all the movies that I saw this year and enjoyed, it was this one in particular that had me thinking about it for many days afterward.  It may have felt long, but the story was engrossing and the characters were interesting.  The film looked great, but not only that; this was a true character driven movie, where there is lots of dialogue, character development and so much to do in each scene to make them spark.  It showed that Bradley Cooper wasn’t just a guy who can do dumb comedies, but really has some acting talent.  Christian Bale is one of those actors that will most likely win another Oscar and should at least be nominated for this one.  I said it in my review and I’ll say it again here, the moral ambiguity was the only thing that held this film back from true greatness.  I would have preferred some sort of call to a true change for the good instead of just ignoring the past.  Nevertheless, it was masterfully directed, acted and it looked incredible.

Review here

1.            Mud

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                I’m not sure who slapped Matthew Mcconaughey with a severe sense of going back to his dramatic roots, but somebody find that person and thank him for me.  He’s always been a good actor, but just seemed to be doing too many romcoms, most of which I like and seemed to be squandering his talents.  This movie not only showed us how good he can be with a meaty role, it showcased what it looks like to have a film filled with talent from young to old.  Every character here feels real and tortured and you connect to them very easily.  The film itself feels the same way as you sit and watch and get the strong sense of heat and dryness as the beautifully filmed movie unfolds. Its story is touching as well as well paced and is able to connect with its audience in a personal way.   Hands down the best film of 2013!

Review here

                Well, there you have it.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Next week I hope to have the list of the truly awful films that unfortunately made it to a cinema near you.

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Review: ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)’

the secret life of walter mitty poster

                The 1947 version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Danny Kaye is a great movie with an engaging story of a day dreaming loner.  It also is one of Danny Kaye’s best roles.  Years ago I remember ready that a remake was in the works and that Jim Carrey would star.  Obviously that didn’t come to fruition, but over a decade after reading about that a remake was brought to the big screen by director and star Ben Stiller.  While Carrey seemed a reasonable choice, Stiller gave me pause until I saw the first trailer.  The film looked incredible and the imagination was still there and looked promising.  Will the updated version live up to or even exceed its predecessor or will it fail?

                Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a shy man who mostly keeps to himself and throws himself into his work as the main photo developer for Life magazine.  The company is on the verge of publishing its last paper magazine and going fully web based by the arrogant and mean transition manager, Ted (Adam Scott).  Walter struggles to deal with this and his obsessive crush on another employee named Cheryl (Kristin Wiig).  A freelance photographer named Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) has sent in what he thinks is the best picture he has ever taken for the cover of the magazine, but Walter can’t find it.  What makes everything worse during all of this is that Walter suffers from crippling daydreams that incapacitate him for a few moments which makes it harder for him to concentrate.  After the encouragement from an eHarmony employee and Cheryl herself, Walter embarks on his first adventure as he travels to parts of the world he never thought he would go to to track down Sean and the missing photo.  All the while he has the real life adventure he has always dreamed about.

                Compiling all the films I have seen with him, either comedy or drama, this is Ben Stiller’s best film to date.  The way in which he formed this film is visionary and engrossing to its audience.  The locations, set pieces and the different color schemes throughout the film are beautiful to see.  You could probably watch this film on mute and still enjoy it by its sheer look.  The acting is also, for the most part, a great compliment to the scenery.  Stiller plays Mitty as a quiet man who has more to him just waiting to come out and when it does it is believable and caring.  Wiig is unfortunately not given much in this film, but when she does she continues to prove that she is not just a one note comedian but an actor who is still underused in Hollywood.  Sean Penn does his usual smug “I’m above it all” acting, but here it doesn’t grate as much as most times.  The downside is Adam Scott, who I think is another good actor who has more to him than ad-libbing, but the way he does his character does not seem to fit the film. For the most part his role is sometimes very off-putting in keeping the pace of the film going.  Think of his character from Step Brothers but with a beard and less bad language.

walter mitty still

                While the film pulls at your heartstrings masterfully, looks great and connects you to the characters, it is sad in how the main character finds happiness.  While true to this fallen world, where most are out for themselves, having a character mirror that without learning that that is not all there is in life was a bit of a letdown.  Characters push Walter to do something with his life that makes him happy, which in and of itself is not an inherently bad thing, but there isn’t then a sense of something greater outside of himself to serve.  It is a very man centered message that all there is out of life is finding the beautiful thing you like to do and do it better to make yourself happy.  The photographer travels the world because all he wants to do is experience life to please himself with photography and experience.  The mean boss loves to torment people and talk down to them because that makes him happy and satisfied.  Walter is told that you must have adventures in life or else what’s the purpose?  Drink, eat and be merry I guess.  What would have made the film great is if after spending years fantasizing about being someone better and then being that someone, that he finds out that all of it wasn’t what life was about that there was something more to life.  Regrettably, in the end when the credits start to roll, it’s all about you and what makes you happy and gives you meaning.   While not a completely horrible message it is still a very worldly and unsatisfying one.

                Though that is a big critique, I still really enjoyed the film and will revisit it again.  Outside of a few moments of bad language, there really isn’t much that is overly offensive about the film either.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘Delivery Man’

delivery man

                It has been several years since Vince Vaughn has had a big hit.  His last one was in 2008’s incredible Four Christmases.  Unfortunately, since then, he has been in some hugely forgettable films and some major misfires.  This is all a shame because the man is not only a good comic, but he has got a great actor looming inside that massive frame.  Just look at Swingers and the highly underrated Domestic Disturbance to see that he can be really good.  Even the Break Up had moments of good dramatic acting for the man.  After nearly six years of mediocre to downright bad films, can he turn it around with Delivery Man?

                David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a meat delivery driver for his father’s business who is always looking for the next quick buck.  He also is very lazy with no desire to work hard or make anything of himself to the dislike of his family and former girlfriend, Emma (Cobie Smulders).  One day a lawyer shows up in his apartment and declares that during a time where he was making multiple donations to a sperm bank, the sperm bank made a mistake.  Out of the 600 plus donations he made, he was the biological father of 533 children.  The children have all formed a lawsuit to find out who he is and the lawyer leaves him with a packet of information on each individual kid.  His lawyer/best friend Brett (Chris Pratt) tells him to never open the files, which of course David ignores.  He begins to interact with a small number of the children without letting them know that he is their father and it begins to change him.  As he is doing this he is trying to show is ex girlfriend that he can be a good father for their yet to be born child.

                This movie should have been a slam dunk.  An interesting story with a strong lead and a set of unknown and rising stars as a supporting cast seemed like it should have come together better.  Yet, underneath it all it feels like the director may have gotten lazy, seeing how this is a remake of his own movie from only a few years ago.  Not the best sign, not sure who thought that was a good idea.  Vince Vaughn seems a bit off and lazy although he has some really great moments when it came to some of the more dramatic moments.  Christ Pratt is very under used here as is some of the cast who plays Vaughn’s family.  The story has a subplot of loan sharks threatening the main character that just seems way too out of place.  While the story does have moments of cleverness here and there, it stands out more as a bit of a disappointment for all involved and the viewer is left wondering why the film was even made if it came across as sluggish.

delivery man still

                What is surprising about this film is that at its heart, it is unashamedly pro life, which could not have been the filmmakers plan.  During one of the few court scenes, the lawyer for all the kids says that though the father and mother signed a piece of paper that kept their identities a secret, the kids themselves did not get a chance to make that choice, which to people like me is one of the simplest of arguments against abortion.  It’s as plain as day, but pro abortion types figure that the child and in most cases even the father doesn’t get a say in whether the mother gets to slaughter the child in the womb or not.  Nope it should only be the mother’s choice which is not only immoral but extremely saddening, which is why this message of a child’s choice is so central to the movies theme and works to the movies good. 

                The film should have been much better, but unfortunately we get a mediocre comedy with wasted opportunities but one with a really good message.

2 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘American Hustle’

american hustle poster

                David O. Russell has made some great films during his career.  The Fighter was a great story with some tremendous acting.  Three Kings was another great story as well as being a great looking film.   I Heart Huckabees is a thinking man’s film with some good laughs and some fun philosophical story points.  He also made Flirting with Disaster, proving that nobody is perfect.  His latest, another film based around real events, looks like it could be another success just by its memorable first trailer.  Does he give us another fighter or a disaster not worth flirting with?

                Irving (Christian Bale) is a con man that started coning at a very early age and is now very good at it.  He enlists the help of a woman, Sydney (Amy Adams), who instantly grabs his attention and heart to help him with his cons. After awhile, they are caught in the middle of a con by an overly ambitious FBI agent, Richie (Bradley Cooper) who enlists the two to help him catch more bad guys.  As they try to con a hugely popular mayor named Carmine (Jeremy Renner) in New Jersey, the con becomes much bigger and more involved as they start to realize they can get big name politicians and gangsters arrested.  Soon known as the ABSCAM job, Irving, Sydney and Richie find it hard to work together as they all have very strong personalities that could get them caught and possibly killed.  What makes it even harder is when Irving’s unstable wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), won’t keep her mouth shut in front of the wrong people who could get them all caught.

                This film is just over two hours long and you feel every minute of that.  What makes it weird is that you still walk away from it liking what you just saw.  I saw it a few days ago and the more I think about it the more I liked it and it all came down to the acting.  Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper own this movie and do so with so much confidence it’s insane.  They both took hold of their characters with such strength and conviction that it is a wonder to behold.  Amy Adams continues to show that she is able to morph into practically any role she is offered, make it her own and sell it to a joyful audience.  Louis C.K. gives a performance that is one of the film’s best and a once great actor shows up to give the viewing public a glimpse of how awesome they used to be.  The unfortunate complaint I have with any of the acting lies with Jennifer Lawrence.  Outside of Katniss Everdeen, Lawrence plays pretty much the same character with the same tone only a different accent in just about every film.  I hate saying that because I like her, but having seen four films she was in in the last few weeks makes that observation painful to notice.

american hustle still brandon sostre

                This film looks incredible throughout its runtime.  You can feel the greasiness of Bale’s comb over ooze through the screen.  Every set piece looks unbelievable and the lighting of every scene sets the tone for it all perfectly.  This is a character driven movie where you spend copious amounts of time to get to really know the three main characters and just how flawed and dirty they are.  There are scenes in this film that are so masterfully done that the level of tension that comes across in them makes your heart race.  I really liked this one because of its look and acting but there was something missing from it.  The film was put forth as morally ambiguous when it would have been a lot more satisfying if there were any characters to root for, but alas there was not.  The end of the film brushes over any wrong doing by the main characters and gives them an unsatisfying happy ending.

                The movie is long, but worth it if you can get passed all the bad language.  There are a few violent scenes, but nothing over the top and there is a sex scene with no nudity.  Definitely another win for Russell and team.

3 stars out of 4

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Review: ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’

hobbit_the_desolation_of_smaug_poster

                An Unexpected Journey, the first in an unnecessary Hobbit trilogy, was a huge disappointment to me.  Having mostly to do with boredom with the book itself and the high frame rate version of the film I watched.  It seemed to lack the love in which Peter Jackson brought into the original trilogy, as well as the passion and story elements he gave us in those three films.  Nevertheless, I was determined to see the second installment for a book written for children and less than 300 pages long.  Did Jackson disappoint me again?

                Starting where the last film left off, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and company continue their journey to the Lonely Mountain while still being pursued by a group of orcs.  As they manage to escape, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) is called away to investigate something else mysterious going on in the opposite direction of the mountain, so the dwarves enter the Mirkwood without him.  Soon after entering the Mirkwood, the dwarves are lost and attacked by a group of talking spiders only to be saved by the wooden elves led by Legolas (Orlando Bloom).  The elves enslave the dwarves but, thanks to Bilbo’s magic ring, he is able to stay undetected and is then able to save the dwarves from their prison.  The dwarves soon find themselves in Laketown thanks to one of the townspeople named Bard (Luke Evans).  After spending a short time there, Bilbo and some of the dwarves climb the lonely mountain and send Bilbo in to steal a special stone from a sleeping dragon named Smaug.

                Thankfully, after a very slow opening twenty minutes, The Desolation of Smaug shows itself to be far above its predecessor in every way possible.  The story is clearer, the action is better and so is the acting.  Martin Freeman continued to show that he was a brilliant choice for Bilbo Baggins, this time bringing a little more cunning to the character as well as keeping it light hearted.  The problem is, for a movie named after his character, he is barely in it.  Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin and is the leader of the dwarves, brings forth dark confidence but still falls a little short of Vigo Mortenson’s Aragorn.  Many of the dwarves are given more lines and screen time, which works both for the films good but also fell flat at times.  Although the character addition of Tauriel (Evangeline Lily)  doesn’t grate on me as much as I expected it to, it was still very hard not to see the actress who created one of the worst characters ever put on film playing bow and arrow.  Also, the added love story between her character and one of the dwarfs, while not horrible, was not needed and added nothing to the film.  Oddly enough the bland acting comes from McKellan who seems to be on auto pilot and that doesn’t usually fit him.

hobbit 2 still

                The story told in these films still seems like it’s trying to find its footing, which isn’t a great sign when watching the second film in the trilogy.  One of the problems with the story as its being told is that there is plenty of high stakes that set up for potential loses to either the characters or to a big change in their worldview at the end of it, but it doesn’t seem like that will ever happen  There is danger and excitement but there feels like there is such a huge lack of character development, something that was hugely successful in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, that you don’t care about characters and what they are facing.  By this point in the original trilogy you cared about almost all of the characters and what they were up against…here…it’s just one set up for the next action scene.  Normally that wouldn’t matter to me as long as it was entertaining, which it is, but I was expecting more from a man who did the impossible with bringing Middle Earth so successfully on the big screen.  He gave us characters we rooted for, cared about and wanted to emulate.  Where is the sense of good vs. evil or the desire to become more than you think you can be?  It’s not here, not in a tangible way anyway.  Things are happening on the screen in front of our eyes, but we the viewer do not put any stock into caring about the story or characters.

                The scene with Smaug and Bilbo is great as are the set pieces for Laketown.  The big action sequence dealing with dwarves, orcs, elves, raging rapids and barrels is fun to watch as is the design of the insides of the Lonely Mountain.  For some this could be another boring return to a once unflinchingly beloved world only a little better than last time.  But for those of you were liked the first one, then this is going to be even better for you. 

2 and ½ stars out of 4

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Christmas Double Features Part 2

                Part 2 of a random list of some great double features centered on Christmas films.  Here we go:

Die Hard/Die Hard 2

die harder poster

                While this may be the most obvious match up on, the list it still needs to be mentioned.  Not only because of the fact it‘s one of the greatest action franchises ever including one of the best action movies to date.  This one should be a given, even if it isn’t Christmas.  What does the world think Christmas is?  Peace on Earth and good will toward men and nothing else.  Christians know better, but why this is a good Christmas movie is because it is not only set during Christmas, but is about a main character that is willing to sacrifice himself for others, even others he doesn’t know, which is always a good picture during this holiday.  So sit back, relax and enjoy the same story twice in different locations.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang/Iron Man 3

kiss kiss iron man

                Shane Black is one of the better screenwriters out there and for some reason I have yet to figure out, all his films happen during Christmas.  Even more interesting is that practically all of his films are awesome, The Last Boy Scout, Lethal Weapon, the Monster Squad, all great, including the two I’m suggesting here.  Kiss Kiss Bang Ban is the movie that not only gave us Val Kilmer’s best performance, but is credited as the film that put Robert Downey Jr. back on the map as one of the greats.  This is a great up to date noir film with some snappy comedy and quick wit.  Iron Man 3 has that as well, but also has some great action, characters and production values.  Begin with a comedic mystery and end with another great installment to what started it all for Marvel.

Trading Places/The Ref

trading the ref

                Start first with a somewhat lighter town and follow it up with a darker comedy…before that meant gratuitous sex and violence thrown in.  Two former stand-up comics round out this lists last match of movies.  Starting with Eddie Murphy in one of his first film roles and Dan Akroyd in one of his best, you have one of the best comedies of the 1980’s.  Akroyd is a straight laced stock broker and Murphy is a homeless conman.  Two rich men have them switch places and watch what happens, all on a bet of one dollar.  Akroyd and Murphy really have some great onscreen chemistry and its odd that they never got together for another film.  Follow this up with Dennis Leary’s first starring role as a cat burglar who has to kidnap a family on Christmas Eve to get away from the cops.  The thing he didn’t count on was the bickering couple on the verge of divorce and their soon to arrive family of misfits.  It is strong on the language, but once again our Christmas film that sends a positive message of family and forgiveness.

 

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