Wednesday, September 9, 2015

NOW YOU SEE ME MOVIE REVIEW

Do you believe in magic? Are you a skeptic? When you see a great illusionist perform their feats of mysticism, do you accept it for what it is, or are you always looking for the trick up their sleeve? Watch closely, but not too closely. For the closer you look, the less you see.


 At its core, Now You See Me is a heist movie; a heist movie with magic. What could possibly go...
wrong, right? It all begins with four very talented street magicians, all with their own special talents. They each receive a mysterious message to come to this bombed out apartment building, where they meet each other for the first time. The next thing we see, they are on the big stage in Las Vegas performing as The Four Horsemen. Their big finale is something never before seen in the world of magic. They rob a bank. But did they really, or was it just typical slight of hand?

It's funny that this movie is about illusions, because, to me, it was kind of an illusion of a good movie. It was entertaining and fun, but just too silly to actually be good.

I liked the Four Horsemen themselves. Jesse Eisenberg is J. Daniel Atlas and plays pretty much the same character he played in The Social Network. Woody Harrelson stole the show as Merritt McKinney, the mentalist. Isla Fisher and Dave Franco are....adequate. The four of them together are captivating to watch, and make the first half of the movie really enjoyable, if a bit far fetched. 



 It's in the second half that the movie really falls apart. The FBI involvement was interesting at first because they had the issue of, if they really robbed a bank while they were onstage, it had to be magic. That was an interesting concept. Once it was decided that they really had robbed a bank, then it just became your average heist movie chase with the FBI looking really inept and the agent (Mark Ruffalo) looking like an incompetent fool. Somehow, this group goes from a quartet of cocky magicians to a collection of goofy Batman villains.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Michael Cain was in the movie. He was great as always, just wasn't there enough for my taste. Speaking of great actors, Morgan Freeman played Thaddeus Bradley, who was probably my favorite character in the movie. He was a former magician who now makes a series of videos debunking magicians. The FBI enlists him to help figure out how the Horsemen pulled off these robberies, that may or may not have been robberies in the first place. Freeman was great and I actually liked the character. Along with Harrelson, he was one of the best things in the movie. I would have liked to see them do more with him, but.......



 The ending was really, REALLY stupid. It looks like it's headed toward a certain ending, which would have been bad and predictable, but the actual ending they used was even worse. It had a twist, but it made no sense and just felt really cheap.

Now You See Me is pretty entertaining throughout. The acting is very good. There are funny parts and suspenseful parts. In the end however, it's just too nonsensical to amount to much. The lemon of an ending left me feeling taken advantage of. I won't say this is a bad movie exactly, but it is certainly not a good movie either.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 


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Sunday, September 6, 2015

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON MOVIE REVIEW


This film was similar to Walk the Line from 2005 and Notorious from 2009.  The movies were similar because the stories are similar.  They are all three about artists who, not only broke ground in music, but also changed things socially.  This is a story that I personally find fascinating.  If you liked these two previous movies, there is a good chance you will like this one as well. 

 

                This movie is about the NWA.  A very influential rap group from the 1980’s and 90’s.  The story focuses on the three founding members of the group; Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell).  The movie begins with the formation of the group and goes all the way through Eazy-E’s death in 1995. 

                The first thing that sticks out about this movie is the cast.  Simply put, it is perfect.  All three of the main actors do a terrific job in this film.  They all look strikingly like the character they are playing, especially Jackson Jr. who plays his father.  Even the supporting actors who are only in the movie for a short time were good.  This could be the most well cast movie I have seen this year. 

                Two of the main characters portrayed in this film were producers on it.  You might think this would help with the accuracy of the movie, but in this case I think it hurt.  The story is told in a very one-sided way which detracts from the emotional impact of the film in my opinion.  This movie fails to show both sides of the moral issues it presents which minimizes it’s effect to some degree.  I understand that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre didn’t want to make themselves look bad, but there were several real life events that were conveniently left out of the film. 
 

                I thoroughly enjoyed the music in the film.  The live performances sound very good and the movie provides a wide sampling of NWA’s catalogue.  The lyrics are very rough though, so if you are the type that is offended by this, you probably will not enjoy this movie very much. 

                The movie is generally well made by director F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job).  There are written introductions on screen for all the main characters early in the film which I found slightly annoying and unnecessary.  The movie is paced very well and manages to stay fairly interesting all the way through a run time that was probably a little too long.  The movie is sort of in two halves with the first half easily being the best.  The second half loses a lot of the passion and energy of the first half and becomes too much about business deals and petty bickering.  The movie drags just a little toward the end but it was never boring or hard to watch. 
 

                This is a movie I am glad I watched.  It has it’s problems but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  If you can get past a little glossing over of events and hang with it for a relatively long run time, the film certainly has a lot going for it.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.      
 
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

NO ESCAPE MOVIE REVIEW


Ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  It is a simple premise, but one that has been used successfully many times in films over the years.  Alfred Hitchcock used this simple formula expertly throughout his career.  No Escape is very much that type of story. 
 

                This movie is about Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) who moves his family to an unnamed Asian country because of his work.  While they are getting settled in, a revolution breaks out.  Jack must figure out a way to evade the massive rebel force and get his family out of the country. 

                Writer/director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) did a good job with exposition in this movie.  In the opening scenes, we learn just enough about the situation to understand and care about it.  The trick is to explain the situation without getting wordy and boring with it and that is accomplished here.  In fact, the more we know about the situation, the easier it is to nitpick little problems with it.  In this story, the whys of the situation are not that important.  It is a simple story and Dowdle was smart to tell it as simply as possible.  As for the characters, Jack is established very well.  I wish a little more had been done to establish his wife (Lake Bell) as a character however. 
 

                The best thing I can say for this movie is that it does provide real suspense.  There are several very intense moments in the film.  There are even scenes where I was not exactly sure that everybody was going to get out unscathed.  The best and most intense scene in the movie is the one from the trailer in which they are trying to get from one building to another.  Trust me, the trailer does not show enough to spoil it.  The scene is done very well and it totally works in every way. 

                The acting in the movie is pretty good.  Owen Wilson does a good job in an unusual role.  Lake Bell is good as well and the two have believable chemistry together.  The kids are ok, not quite as annoying as they could have been.  The show stealing performance is provided by Pierce Brosnan.  He is not in the movie all that much but when he is there, he is the best thing going.  His character is quite mysterious, but if you are familiar with Roger Ebert’s theory of the economy of characters you will know what purpose he serves immediately. 

                Way too much shaky cam was used in this movie.  I understand that a lot of it is meant to be confusing and disorienting, but when it is making me dizzy, it is too much.  There was also quite a bit of overproduction in some of the action sequences, like music and slow motion, that took me out of it a little bit.  Most of the action in the movie is not filmed as well as I would have liked.  Enough said about that. 
 

                This film at times falls into the trap that a lot of movies of this type fall into.  There are too many conveniences.  There are a couple of scenes that are obviously contrived as a device to put the family in a more suspenseful situation.  Also the ending goes about one step too far.  There is a very uncomfortable scene at the end that is totally unnecessary. 

                I wouldn’t normally say this but one big positive this movie has is a very relevant political message.  Like with the earlier exposition, they talked just enough about it without revealing too much.  It’s not at all preachy but does get the point across and allows you to make a little more sense of what is going on. 

                This was a pretty decent film.  It provided more real and believable suspense than I have seen in a movie in a while.  With a few tweeks (less shaky cam antics for instance) it could have been a great movie.  Even so, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It’s a high intensity film with very little downtime that mostly works.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 
 
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Sunday, August 30, 2015

AMERICAN ULTRA MOVIE REVIEW


American Ultra had one factor going for it that made me really excited about this film.  That factor was Max Landis.  Landis, a relatively new screenwriter, wrote the 2012 film Chronicle, a movie I really liked, and made one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time entitled Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling.  Landis seems to be very creative and does well with material that is unorthodox or unique.  That’s why I had a pretty good bit of anticipation for this movie. 
 

                The movie is about a stoner named Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg).  He sees himself as a total failure and worries that he is holding back his girlfriend Phoebe (Kristen Stewart).  By the looks of things, it is hard to argue with Mike’s concerns and critical opinions of himself.  Then one night he encounters a couple of guys doing something to his car, and all that is changed. 

                Jesse Eisenberg is fantastic in this movie.  This was a great role for him and he fit into it very well.  It was a challenging role because he had to sell a lot of reactions to crazy things that are happening to him.  His reactions is what really makes the film work as well as it does.  He makes it possible to buy the absurdity of the situations he finds himself in.  My biggest concern going into this film was Kristen Stewart.  This seemed like quite an odd role for her.  She plays a very likeable and sympathetic character here, which is something I have never seen her pull off before in her career.  After seeing the movie, I have to give her a lot of credit.  She did a very good job in a role that was as challenging, if not more so, than the lead.  Topher Grace is very good in a supporting role.  He is over the top, but the film calls for that in my opinion.  There are also some very good supporting performances by Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins.  The acting is a high point for this film. 
 

                The film establishes itself early as being totally absurd and audacious, almost to the point of films like Kick Ass or Kill Bill.  A lot of what happens in the movie is clearly impossible and ridiculous, but it kind of works because of how the movie is presented.  This is more of a fun action/comedy than a nail biting thriller.  I actually really enjoyed the tone of this film. 

                The biggest problem I had with the movie was that there is too much government drama, especially early in the film.  I actually think they revealed too much too quickly.  We didn’t need all the government stuff in the first act of the film, and I got a little bogged down in it. 

                I wasn’t too impressed with director Nima Nourizadeh (Project X) here.  Most of the film is directed adequately enough, but the action sequences are horrible.  The movie moves pretty fast in general, which is fine, but when the action sequences are cut and edited in this type of choppy fashion in which you can’t tell what is going on, that is a problem. 
 

                For the most part, I really liked the climax of this movie.  Without giving anything away, it reminded me a lot of the climax of the movie The Equalizer, except it actually worked in this film.  I think they missed just a little bit on the way the scene played out but overall it was a very fitting climax. 

                I had a lot of fun with American Ultra.  It is an absurd film in the very best ways.  I loved the way the movie ended and this is one film that I really want to see a sequel to because of the way everything played out.  I think that could really work.  American Ultra is one of the most purely fun films I have seen this year.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.      
 
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

X-MEN MOVIE REVIEW


I have heard it said that X-Men was the beginning of the comic book movie genre that we have today.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it was definitely an important film in it’s own right.  It had a much more serious tone than previous films of its type.  I think that’s the reason this movie is looked at as being the genesis of where the genre is at 15 years later. 
 

                The movie takes place in the “not too distant future”.  In this world, some humans have evolved into mutants, which sparks a debate about what to do with them.  Meanwhile, former colleagues Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellen) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) form groups of mutants for completely different and conflicting purposes. 

                I found the debate about the mutants to be very interesting.  If this were to happen in real life I can see this issue coming up in exactly this way.  One side argues that the mutants are people and deserve the same treatment as everyone else.  The other side claims that mutants are too dangerous to be given equal rights.  There are good points to be made from both perspectives.  This issue was probably my favorite thing about the movie.  In fact, I wish they had done just a little more with that as a central plot point, instead of basically using it as a jumping off point. 
 

                The acting in the movie is very good.  Hugh Jackman seems born to play Wolverine, which this movie succeeded in turning into a totally cinematic character.  I loved the protective relationship he has with Rogue (Anna Paquin).  Those two were my favorite characters in the movie.  I also really liked the interactions between Ian McKellen’s Magneto and Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier.  The chemistry between the characters and actors was a big plus for this film.   

                One problem I had with the film was that it seemed like there were too many mutants.  Either that or maybe they just didn’t explain what everybody’s powers were well enough.  I kept getting a little confused about who could do what.  There were several characters that were key in the end that I didn’t feel like I knew all that well.  That is a small issue, but it made me think too much about the wrong things rather than focusing on the plot. 
 

                The first and third acts of the movie are terrific.  The first act is where the mutant debate takes center stage.  The third act is full of the good kind of tension and builds to a very entertaining and well-conceived climax.  The second act, on the other hand, drags a little bit.  It almost seems like the goal was to maintain the status quo rather than actually trying to advance the plot.  I think the movie may have needed another conflict or two somewhere in the middle. 

                Aside from a couple of problems I had with this movie, I thought it was actually a very good comic book film.  Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) did a very good job of bringing this wildly popular comic franchise to the big screen.  A well-conceived plot and very good acting makes this movie what it is.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars. 
 
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

WORLD WAR Z MOVIE REVIEW

"Another zombie movie?" That was my first reaction upon seeing previews for World War Z. Over the past decade, I think we've all seen about enough of zombies and vampires. The challenge for this movie was clear. Somehow, it had to find a way to avoid being "just another zombie movie". 


 Marc Forster clearly made an effort to avoid beating a dead horse with his first venture in...
to the zombie genre. Weather or not this movie succeeded in that regard is up for debate. I would have to say that it did. It looked more like a thriller than a horror or sci-fi flick, and that is a good thing. It was a lot more than a bunch of people running from flesh eating zombies. There was a legit plot line at work here.

The movie starts just as the initial zombie outbreak occurs. These are viral zombies, like in 28 Days Later, which I find a lot more believable than the classic undead zombies. Let's face it, if we ever have a zombie apocalypse, it will be caused by a rapid, wide spread viral outbreak, which is the case in this movie.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, A retired United Nations employee who is now a devoted father and husband. When the zombie-pocalypse begins, Gerry gets in touch with some former associates inside the government in an attempt to find safety for him and his family. After some pretty nice action/suspense sequences, they all end up on a ship out in the middle of the ocean, where Gerry learns that his family will be able to stay only if he helps find the source of the outbreak.



 The acting is very good in this movie. First of all, there is Brad Pitt of course, who is always great. I don't know if anybody else could have played this character and made him feel human. He was what all us men aspire to be; brave, compassionate, aggressive, and desperately trying to take care of his family. Pitt sells every bit of Gerry Lane and turns in a very sympathetic performance.

Someone who is going to be overlooked in this film is Mireille Enos, who plays Gerry's wife Karen. I had no idea who she was but she was pretty terrific.

While I like what they did with this story for the most part, there is one thing that happens pretty early on that didn't seem to make any sense to me. If you watch the movie you'll definitly notice it and probably scratch your head. Some of the plot got a little fuzzy at times with some confusing dialogue here and there. I almost got a little lost a couple times. Overall it was a pretty well written story for a movie like this, more so than I would have expected. Without spoiling anything, I really liked how they decided to try and resolve the situation. Brad Pitt has this idea all at once, kind of like an epiphany, and he thinks back to all the things that have happened that have supported this idea. In a way, the idea he had made some logical sense. That was refreshing to see. 



 The zombie effects were also a high point for me. They were actually pretty scary and threatening. At no point in the movie did the audience ever laugh at
something the zombies did, which is rare in this type of film. There were a few really breathtaking CGI scenes, like the one from the trailer where all the zombies are climbing on each other to get over that wall. There were good action sequences and some very suspensful quiet scenes in which somebody was trying to sneak around the zombies. It made the creatures seem more threatening that they didn't just charge head on and take them out like we have seen in a lot of these type of movies. The whole thing had a very realistic feel to it.

I disliked the ending a lot. I had an ending in my head that I wanted and they went a completely different way. It almost seemed to me like they ran out of time and just had to go ahead and rap it up. It didn't make any sense. The whole movie was paced really well and then the ending was rushed. I was very disappointed in that.

To sum up, it was a solid movie. It was probably the best Marc Forster movie I have seen. It was suspensful and scary and everything you want a thriller to be. Even if your not typically a fan of the zombie horror genre, I think you may like this movie.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  


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Saturday, August 22, 2015

SINISTER 2 MOVIE REVIEW


It is important to note that Sinister 2 begins right where the first movie left off.  If you haven’t seen the first one you will be pretty lost for a good portion of this film.  I have seen the original multiple times and I was a little lost myself.  That is an entirely different issue, however. 
 

                This movie centers around a single mother (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin boys (played by real life twins Dartanian and Robert Daniel Sloan) who move into an old farmhouse where a gruesome murder took place years ago.  Ex-Deputy So & So (James Ransone) stumbles upon the family as he is investigating the strange occurrences surrounding the death of the writer Ellison Oswalt and his family.

                The thing that made the first movie work so well was that the family drama that set the backdrop for all the scary stuff really worked.  You cared about the family and what happened to them.  This movie tries to do the same thing except this time it doesn’t work nearly as well.  I personally didn’t care about the characters at all which took the tension out of the film.  The whole thing feels quite contrived.  It feels like just what it is; a device by which to inject the scares into the film.  Also, with the mystery of Bughuul no longer intact, the film is far less interesting.  They tried to take a different approach to the story which I respect, but it just didn’t work for me. 
 

                The acting in the film leaves a lot to be desired.  Shannyn Sossamon is ok, but I’ve always thought she was overrated.  James Ransone was good in a supporting role in Sinister but he is not leading man material.  All of the supporting actors were bad except for Lea Coco, who played the villainous husband, pulling strings to get back custody of his sons.  Although Coco did a pretty good job, his character was flat and unrealistic. 

                The star of the first movie was, without a doubt, the 8mm footage.  These scenes provided some of the most disturbing imagery I have ever seen in a movie.  That is one thing that this sequel got right.  It is true that these scenes are more elaborate and contrived than in the first movie but I think they had to be that way in order to live up to what was expected here.  They certainly exceeded my expectations in this area.  While I would agree that these segments don’t have the same unexpected emotional punch that they did in the first movie (which is not entirely the fault of the movie), I would say that these are more disturbing overall. 
 

                Ciaran Foy (Citadel) did not impress me as the director of this film.  There was too much shaky cam stuff.  One scene in the climax of the movie is really hard to watch because of the camera work.  There was also a lot of stupid things happening that would never happen in real life.  It felt like this movie took a lot of shortcuts.  The ending of the movie is overly convoluted with way too much going on, most of which makes no sense. 

                This movie is nowhere near as good as the first Sinister.  It’s not laughably bad, but it is not good either.  If this is your genre, as it is mine, it might be worth seeing when it comes out in Redbox.  I wouldn’t advise paying theater prices to see it.  I hoped for more from this, but ultimately got about what I expected.  The Movie Man gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars. 
 
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