Thursday, April 30, 2015


Anytime a movie employs a gimmick, as The Age of Adaline clearly does, it can be either good or bad.  Sometimes the filmmakers will use the gimmick to cover up a lack of story and make the narrative appear stronger than it actually is.  On the other hand, sometimes a gimmick can be used to enhance a story.  This movie falls into the second category.  There is more to this film than the obvious gimmick, and that is a good thing. 

This is a hard film to summarize because, unlike the trailers for it, I don’t want to give away too much.  The bottom line is that, in the 1930’s, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) had a car accident at 29 years old that caused her to stop aging.  The clever part about this is that her condition was apparently caused by a scientific phenomenon that has not been discovered yet, which eliminates the need for the film to actually explain it.  Everything that happens after that should probably remain a mystery. 

Blake Lively is absolutely terrific in this movie.  I was not expecting this caliber of a performance from her.  She does a great job of making the audience believe that she is a person who has been alive all these years.  Her accent and dialect are a little strange, which would be the case if she were really over 100 years old.  She makes a point of always keeping a very low profile for fear that somebody will figure her out.  Lively’s performance in a pretty tough role is remarkable and, in itself, is a reason to watch the film.  Harrison Ford is in this movie and great as always.  He adds a much needed degree of humor at certain points.  His scenes with Blake Lively toward the end are probably the best in the film. 

I really hated the main guy character in this movie.  I don’t think it was the actor (Michiel Huisman) as much as the way the character was written.  He was a very stereotypical, perfect leading man in a romance movie type.  He reads poetry, donates to all kinds of charity, the usual thing.  I felt like this film was above that.  Also, because of how the story develops, they really didn’t need all that to explain why Adaline is so attracted to him. 

The dialogue in the film is very hit or miss.  Some of it is very clever.  For instance, in one scene, Adaline is looking at pictures of herself in a photo album.  She says, “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”, which is funny because she always looks the same.  This is something subtle that seems natural for her to say.  The majority of the dialogue is way too obvious.  It’s like they think the audience is going to forget about Adaline’s condition so they need to be reminded every two or three minutes through some type of awkward dialogue exchange. 

I thought this was a really good story.  That being said, there are some stupid things that happen in the film that detracts from it.  For instance, I don’t ever remember seeing lightning and snow at the same time before.  There is one scene early in the film where Adaline escapes, far too easily, from FBI custody.  They almost had a very good twist in the film but it was completely spoiled by the trailer.  Also, one unnecessary element of the twist made it far too coincidental for me to buy.  None of these things, however, can even compare to the ridiculousness that is the ending of this film.  Most of the movie goes to great lengths to be realistic and believable.  It is unfortunate that they decided to go with an ending that seemed ripped right out of a Disney fairytale. 

This movie is perfectly watchable, the problem is that it could have been much more than that with only a few minor changes.  I enjoyed the majority of it and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.  The only thing spectacular about the film is the performance of Blake Lively but it is generally well made and worth seeing.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015




Ex Machina is a new sci-fi thriller from first time director Alex Garland.  It is the story of a reclusive technological genius named Nathan (Oscar Isaac) who thinks he has created the world’s first conscious A.I.  Nathan hires a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) to spend a week at his research facility testing his theory. 


This movie starts off in interesting fashion.  I was intrigued right from the start and I stayed that way for the entirety of the film.  The setting has an instantly creepy vibe.  When we meet the character of Nathan, he seems like a really good guy, which puts us a little bit at ease.  However, you constantly have the feeling that Nathan knows something that you don’t. 


The acting in this film is exceptional.  It is somewhat of a contained thriller, which means it relies on the acting and engaging dialogue to make it work.  Oscar Isaac does a terrific job portraying Nathan.  He spends the majority of the film shrouded in a degree of mystery and you are not quite sure if you should like him or not.    The standout performance to me was Alicia Vikander, who played Ava, the A.I.  She is undoubtedly the star of the show.  With the use of some remarkable face acting, Vikander shows us a strangely human quality behind the eyes of the machine. 


This movie succeeds in creating the type of atmosphere that I really like.  It is quiet, methodically paced, and very, VERY unsettling.  Garland did a great job building the tension steadily throughout the film.  Another aspect of the film that I really like is how many questions it raises, both obvious and subtle, about humanity and technology.  This could be seen as cliché, but the execution is so good that it didn’t feel that way to me. 


The movie revolves around the relationship between the Caleb character and Ava.  Again, this is something that could have felt very cliché if it hadn’t been executed extremely well.  The dialogue between the two characters is tremendous and the actors commit fully and really sell it.  There is a brilliant scene toward the end in which Caleb tells Ava a story about Mary in a black and white room.  This is the scene that anchors the entire film. 


I hope and expect to see more from Alex Garland in the near future.  I loved the way this story was told through atmosphere, character interaction, and very strong dialogue.  This was just a very well-made film all the way around. 


Ex Machina was a very pleasant surprise for me.  Just when I was starting to lose faith in the depth of modern cinema, this movie was just what I needed.  It is creepy.  It is extremely thought provoking.  It is one of the best films of the year.  The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars.   



Sunday, April 26, 2015

Mall Cop 2 Movie Review



Image result for mall cop 2

The first Paul Blart: Mall Cop was pretty much Die Hard for fat guys.  I personally was a big fan of the movie.  Everything in it didn’t entirely make sense and a lot of it was far-fetched, but the movie worked.  It worked for two reasons. First, it was very creatively written.  Secondly, it worked because Paul Blart was just so darn likeable.  We wanted him to succeed at any cost and the creative way the film was written helped us suspend disbelief just enough to buy it. 

This movie starts with Paul being invited to the SOTA (Security Officers Trade Association) convention in Las Vegas.  He and his daughter check into a very fancy hotel where they soon stumble upon a plot to rob the place.  Once again, it is up to Paul to save the day. 

This movie starts off on a real bummer.  The first thing we see is how many bad things has happened to Paul since the last movie ended.  They try to make a joke out of it but it is just not funny.  I felt sorry for Paul.  That is, until I realized what a jerk he had become.  That’s right, Paul Blart comes off as a real jerk in this movie.  It’s almost like somebody else is playing the part and getting it completely wrong.  I don’t know what happened here.  He is very obnoxious, takes himself way too seriously, and constantly brags about what he did five years ago.  He is terrible to his daughter too.  We find out very early in the film that she has been accepted to UCLA but is apparently afraid to tell her dad because he is so needy and controlling.  I didn’t like this Paul Blart at all. 

While I didn’t think Kevin James was particularly good in this film, he did have a few really funny scenes toward the middle and end that showed flashes of the old Paul Blart.  There is a scene in which he is fighting with some kind of big bird that was really funny.  Another scene that really made me laugh had Paul trying to go from one skyscraper to another on a zip line, but he stopped halfway across and got stuck there.  Kevin James is always good for a few laughs, even if the performance as a whole is not that good. 

 There are a couple of really bad forced romances in the film.  Both Paul and his daughter start up a relationship with hotel employees.  In both cases, the relationship makes no sense and has no place in the movie at all.  Paul’s relationship in particular feels really awkward and seemed to exist only because it was expected to be there. 

 There is one scene in the movie that is so stupid that I just have to mention it.  At one point, two characters are being held hostage in a room in the hotel.  They are frantically trying to figure out an ingenious plan of escape.  All the while, there is a whole big glass door there that leads outside.  That’s right, I said a GLASS door.  You know, glass? That really breakable stuff?  Breaking the glass door with any number of heavy objects around the room and just walking out the huge gaping hole would have been my first plan.  I guess that was too simple for this movie. 

 The movie improves quite a bit toward the end.  We see some of that originality that worked so well in the first movie.  The end is pretty good, except for the very last scene which was spoiled by the trailer.  That scene was way overdone with CGI and looked terrible, kind of ruining the whole ending for me. 

 The ultimate failure of this movie is that the Paul Blart character is not anywhere near as likeable as he was before.  This takes the emotion out of the movie.  We don’t care what happens to him as much because we just don’t really like him anymore.  I was excited about this movie and really wanted it to deliver.  Unfortunately, it never actually gets on track.  The Movie Man gives it 2 out of 5 stars.   

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