Sunday, May 31, 2015


Tomorrowland is a movie that attempts to give us a glimpse into our world’s potential future.  My initial problem with the film is that it doesn’t look like a future I would want to live in at all.  Everything looks fast, hectic, and confusing.  I guess it’s a matter of personal preference, but the vision of the future that Tomorrowland provides does not appeal to me.  I think that fact inhibited my enjoyment of the film quite a bit. 

                This movie focuses on two main characters.  Frank Walker (George Clooney) is a grumpy old man who has been to Tomorrowland.  Due to events that occurred there, he has become very disillusioned by the experience.  On the other hand, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is an adventurous young girl who has had only a glimpse of Tomorrowland and wants to go there more than anything.  With the help of the mysterious Athena (Raffey Cassidy), Casey seeks out Frank in an attempt to fulfill her ambition and wild imagination.

                This story is ambitious but has some pretty serious flaws that hamper its progress.  The biggest problem I had with the narrative is that I couldn’t get a grip on where it was going.  I didn’t understand any of the characters motivations and I didn’t really think that they did either.  They didn’t seem to have any long term goals.  The story unfolds like a story a kid is telling, making up the details as they go.  Halfway through the film I had completely lost interest because I didn’t understand what anybody was trying to accomplish.  The character of Frank, I really liked.  I did not like the character of Casey, which is the main protagonist.  That is a problem.  She is one of those characters that knows everything, can do anything, and never makes any mistakes.  The general rules of physics and society do not apply to her.  That is lazy writing, allowing a character to ignore realistic limitations in order to do whatever they need to do to move the narrative forward.  I was very disappointed in the villain, played by Hugh Laurie.  He isn’t in the movie much until late, and when he shows up, he is generic and stiff.

                What really works in the movie to me is the kookiness and craziness of some of the characters and situations.  The film definitely had a bit of an identity crises, going back and forth too much between the serious and the surreal.  I feel like the latter is where it should have stayed for the most part. 

                The acting in this film is good and is mostly what makes the whole thing watchable.  This is a different type of role for George Clooney and he didn’t give the phoned in performance that I was expecting.  The star of this show is Britt Robertson.  I liked her performance a lot, even though she was playing a character I pretty much hated.  The movie also has a rare good child performance by Raffey Cassidy. 

                As expected, this movie is filled to the brim with unnecessary and overblown CGI.  What it lacks in substance, it tries to make up for with effects.    This never works.  Special effects are like a paint job on a car or decorations on a Christmas tree.  They can enhance the substance, but they cannot be the substance. 

                There was a story to be told here with a decent message to it.  Unfortunately, the way this was written comes off as pretentious and elitist.  I feel like the filmmakers are telling us that only the people on their level deserve to live and the rest of the humanoids are just bogging them down.  In the middle of all this, there is a monologue that Hugh Laurie delivers toward the end that is brilliant and meaningful.  The problem is that by this point, I just didn’t care anymore.  Tomorrowland is watchable, but nowhere near what it should have been.  The Movie Man gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015


I’ve never hated the idea of remakes in general, but I hate the way that Hollywood has flooded the market with them these past few years.  Some remakes work very well and seem to be a good idea for one reason or another.  On the other hand, the majority of modern remakes seem to be done for no reason at all except to make money without having to use any creativity.  Poltergeist was definitely one of those movies.  The gripe that most people, myself included, had with this going in was that there seemed to be no reason to remake this film in the first place.  That being said, it’s still fair to judge this movie on its own merit. 

                This premise is pretty much exactly the same as the original.  A down on their luck family moves into a new house in a mediocre subdivision.  Pretty soon they discover that their house is occupied by an evil force known as a poltergeist, which takes a special interest in the family’s youngest daughter, Madison. 

                This movie is directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House) and is, for the most part, a well- constructed film.  The first extended scare sequence is particularly well-shot.  The movie is paced well.  It stays interesting all the way through and starts fast, which is a good thing since most people already know the story anyway. 

                In my opinion, the strength of the film is not the scares but the characters.  There was real effort put into making these characters feel like real people, and for the most part, they do.    Sam Rockwell is really good in this movie, as he is in most everything he is in.  Rosemarie DeWitt, who plays the mom, is also very good.  It bothered me that there was no Carol Anne in this movie.  The character is the same, but they changed her name to Madison for some reason.  How can you have Poltergeist without Carol Anne?  On a positive note, the kid that played Madison (Kennedi Clements) did a very good job.  My favorite character in the film was the son.  He has a slightly expanded role in this film, and his character arc is written very well, complete with an enormous payoff in the film’s final act.  This was my favorite thing about the movie.  Unfortunately, the actor who played this role (Kyle Catlett) was the weakest actor in the film and nowhere near good enough to pull off what they were asking of him.  His constant, and obviously phony, loud breathing whenever something scary happened was very annoying.  What they did with the Jared Harris character was borderline brilliant.  There is no way they could have recaptured the magic created by Zelda Rubinstein in the original film, so it was smart to go in a completely different direction.  I only wish they had done more with this character, as I feel there was a lot of untapped potential there. 

                One of the things I was concerned about with this film was how they were going to integrate more modern technology into it.  Electronics was such a big aspect of the first movie, I was interested to see how that was going to translate.  I thought they did a good job with that aspect.  Unfortunately, the climax of the film falls into the bad CGI trap a little bit.  Most of this film was built on atmosphere, successfully I might add, so I was disappointed to see that they decided to go with all the CGI effects at the end. 

                The ending of the film is a little bit of a mess.  Aside from the CGI problem, there is a very questionable decision that is made concerning Jared Harris’s character that I didn’t really like.  Also, the film ends way too abruptly for me.  It doesn’t have anywhere near the impact that it should have. 

                This movie was a nice surprise for me.  The thing I liked about it was that I felt like there was genuine effort put into it from a filmmaking perspective.  They deviated from the original just enough, and actually improved upon it in at least one area.  The original is obviously the better film, but this one is a perfectly adequate remake and generally a well-made, enjoyable horror film.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Maggie is a new zombie movie from first time director Henry Hobson.  It focuses on the relationship between the main character, Wade (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin).  Maggie has been infected with a disease of some sort that is causing people to slowly turn into ravenous, cannibalistic zombies.  Wade pulls some strings to get Maggie released from the hospital into his custody.  As Maggie’s disease progresses, Wade struggles with the decision he knows he will ultimately have to make. 

                Let me lead off with a positive.  This is NOT your typical zombie flick.  The movie bravely avoids the same old zombie clich├ęs and establishes itself as its own film.  The atmosphere is dark, quiet, methodical, and very effective.  The narrative moves at a snail’s pace and breaks the audience down to the same state of hopelessness that the characters are in.  This is what the filmmakers did right.  Unfortunately they also did quite a bit wrong. 

                The acting in this film is top heavy.  Arnold is good and shows more dramatic acting chops than he probably ever has before.  Abigail Breslin is very good in her role, which is far darker than anything she has done.  Laura Cayouette is good in a very small role.  The rest of the cast was decent at best.    Joely Richardson, who played Wade’s wife, was particularly bad.  Her performance in this film made me wonder how she ever got a part in a David Fincher project (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

                This movie starts out interesting but gets bogged down pretty quick.  It is a slow paced film.  Very slow, like molasses on a cold day.  To make matters worse, nothing much really happens in the movie.  There are about two short action sequences, neither of which are very well done, especially considering they involved one of the greatest action stars of all time.  The biggest problem here is not the slow pace or the lack of action.  The biggest problem is that there is really no suspense because the fact is established early on that there is absolutely no hope.  There’s really nothing the characters are trying to accomplish.    They are just sitting around watching bad things happen to them.  That’s what makes the movie mostly boring. 

                As the movie approached its end, I had the feeling that the writers had written themselves into a corner.  I didn’t see a good potential ending for the film.  However, of all the things they could have done with this, they probably did the worst thing possible.  The ending here makes little sense and robs the audience of any kind of payoff or satisfaction.  It is also too abrupt.  It’s like the movie just ends all of a sudden with no real conclusion to it. 

                I really don’t want to say this is a bad movie, because there was a lot that was done well here.  The atmosphere is tremendous.  I think Henry Hobson shows promise as a director.  The two main actors do a really good job and carry the film through some very long uneventful stretches.  For those reasons, I think this movie is worth watching.  That being said, it will bore most people to tears.  Speaking of tears, this is probably one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.  It never lets up and left me feeling totally depressed.  It’s not exactly an enjoyable experience.  The Movie Man gives it 2.5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015


There was a time when going to the movies was an experience.  It was more than just something to do on the weekend.  People actually went to the theater to experience the artistry of a film.  In recent years, going to the movies has become more akin to sitting around the house watching TV.  We mostly use it to fill our idle time when we can’t think of anything better to do. Now, thanks to 70 year old George Miller, the experience is back. 

                Mad Max: Fury Road is a continuation of the futuristic, post-apocalyptic story of Max Rockatansky.  This story basically consists of a whole group of crazy people chasing another group of slightly less crazy people across the barren wasteland of Australia in some of the coolest vehicles I have ever seen in my life.  There is Mad Max, a female version of Mad Max, A god-like leader, a heavy metal rock band on wheels, and a whole lot of glorious action. 

                The term “visual masterpiece” gets thrown around a lot these days, but that is exactly what this is.  This could be the best looking film I have ever seen.  The cinematography and production value are immaculate.  It is very polished, gritty, and strangely beautiful.  Add in a tremendous score and brilliant sound editing and you get one of the most viscerally enjoyable cinematic experiences that has ever been created. 

                Tom Hardy is excellent as the lead in this movie, mainly because of what he accomplishes without the aid of a lot of dialogue.  He does a great job of getting his point across without it.  He doesn’t say much, but what he does say is important and people listen.  Hardy definitely has a very big on-screen presence.  Charlize Theron is good as expected.  She does all the things she is expected to do but nothing more than that.  The only thing that bothered me about her performance was that I didn’t understand why her character was the only one that didn’t have an accent.  The most emotional performance in the film belongs to Nicholas Hoult, who I was not familiar with but was impressed by. 

                The story is very simple, as it should be.  There is just enough of it to satisfy somebody like me, but not so much that it gets convoluted or boring to people who are only there for the action.  Everybody has a reason for doing what they are doing and the characters are certainly relatable.  My biggest complaint with the film is that there is not enough exposition early.  Not that there should have been a lot, but I spent too much time trying to figure stuff out that could have been explained with two or three lines of dialogue here or there.

                One would have to go back several years to find a movie with action sequences this tremendously shot.  There are actually real stunts and real props used.  There is CGI too, but not all CGI.  The CGI that is in the film looks very good.  Most of the time it is difficult to tell what is real and what is not.  That is a good thing.  The stunning action sequences are edited very well.  No choppy footage or shaky cam.  What a breath of fresh air for old school action movie fans. 

                I think what we have here is our first legitimately great film of 2015.  This is far and away better than the original Mad Max film, which is the only other one I have seen.  I can actually see this being considered a classic in the future.  If you are the kind of person who needs a ton of dialogue or really deep stories to enjoy a movie, this is probably not for you.  However, I do not consider myself an action movie fan and I loved it.  The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. 



Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Dark comedy is one of my favorite things.  When it works it’s because it’s satirical and absurd and the absurdity allows us to see the ridiculousness of a certain situation.  Movies like Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove uses dark comedy to show us something about humanity.  Most comedy is light.  Dark comedy is heavy and impactful.  The D-Train tries to be that dark comedy.  The problem is it relies mostly on shock value and nothing substantial for its impact.

                Jack Black is back on the big screen as Dan Landsman, a self-loathing, unpopular, middle aged guy who, despite having a loving family and a decent job, only seems to care about his twenty year high school reunion he is trying to put together.  When he discovers that Oliver Lawless, the most popular guy from high school, is in a nationwide Banana Boat commercial, he decides that Oliver is the ticket to a successful reunion. 

                This movie boasts some pretty big names.  Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Tambor have all had success in the past.  This cast does all they can, but I can’t for the life of me understand how these talented actors read this script and still wanted to be a part of this project.  The dialogue is awkward, the laughs are not there, and nothing makes any sense.  On top of all that, the pacing is terrible.  This was the longest 100 minute movie I have ever tried to sit through.  If only the bad screenplay was the only problem this movie had.  Unfortunately, it’s not even the biggest one. 

                I spent the first half of this movie wondering why in the world a high school reunion was so important to this 38 year old man.  He seems to be doing alright in his life.  He has a supportive wife, which Hahn portrays with the best performance in the film.  He has a teenage son who seems to respect him.  On top of that, he appears to have a very comfortable job.  With all this going for him, he is completely hung up on how bad his high school experience was.  He voluntarily throws all the good things in his life away by lying about having to take a business trip to L.A. (which the movie itself later points out was completely unnecessary) so that he can find this Oliver Lawless and get him to come to the reunion.    This makes no sense to me and destroys the films credibility immediately. 

                So, the first half of the movie is boring and confusing.  Then something happens that makes the rest of the movie, still boring and confusing, but also weird and awkward.  This is part of the films reliance on shock value that I mentioned earlier.  This scene is completely unnecessary to the plot of the movie.  Also unnecessary are the many F-bombs Kathryn Hahn drops while she is holding her baby (which in a few scenes is very obviously a doll) and the way too adult problems that their 13 year old son is having with his new girlfriend.  Awkwardness appears to be the theme of this film.  

                I found very little to like about this movie.  There is a decent point buried in it somewhere but the movie completely misses it.  The performances are good (especially Marsden and Hahn) but they are wasted on a messy script and characters that are impossible to appreciate.  The best compliment I can give this film is that the soundtrack was good.  That should tell you all you need to know. 

                This is one of those movies that is such a mess that I can’t imagine how anybody involved ever thought that it was any good.  It is horribly written, not particularly well directed, and wastes a pretty good collection of talent.  This movie is such a mess that I am honestly ashamed to have seen it.  The Movie Man gives it 1 out of 5 stars. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Hot Pursuit is directed by Anne Fletcher (The Guilt Trip) and stars Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) and Sophia Vergara (Modern Family).  The premise here is quite generic and simple.  It’s essentially a road trip movie in which an inexperienced cop named Cooper (Witherspoon) has stumbled into the dangerous task of having to escort a federal witness (Vergara) across Texas.  Oh, and they are being chased by several different groups of experienced killers.

                Nobody is going to accuse this film of being brilliantly written.  There are a number of problems with David Feeney’s screenplay.  As I’ve already mentioned, it is completely generic.  There is certainly nothing new here.  However, even if something is generic it can still be well executed.  Unfortunately this is not.  The film is clumsy with no real flow.  It is basically just a series of disjointed, albeit funny, events happening one right after another.  There is plenty of stupidity in the film as well.  Not the good kind of stupidity that is funny, but the bad, unintended kind.  This screenplay is an epic failure.  Ironically, the movie as a whole is not.

                The story here is Reese Witherspoon.  Playing what amounts to the spoof comedy version of Clarice Starling, she carried this film from start to finish.  I feel like she went off script quite a bit or maybe it was just that her delivery was so good.  In any event, her jokes are the only ones that really work, and every one of them works big time.  For my money, this is the best comedy performance of the year.  Sofia Vergara is not bad in the movie.  She certainly has her moments, but Reese stole the show.

                Most of the attempted drama in the film falls pathetically flat.  There are some very awkward bonding scenes between the two main characters.  This was forced and unnecessary.  We can clearly see that they are bonding through these events they are going through.  We don’t need to have it forced down our throats in this way.  This is one of those things that feels like a filmmaker is telling the audience they are stupid.  We can see what is happening with the characters.  Leave the horrible attempt at emotional dialogue at home. 

                The ending of the movie was kind of stupid, but I’ll let it fly.  It was okay to me.  They changed the movie up a little, which was a good thing to do.  There were still funny Reese jokes, and this is the one time in the film where the drama kind of works a little bit.  I feel like I should have hated this ending but I didn’t. 

                I don’t want to keep harping on this subject, but I just have to mention it.  The trailer pretty much spoiled this entire film.  I had already scene all of the big jokes.  On top of that, there are multiple scenes in the trailers that are not even in the movie.  This is not a new problem in Hollywood, but it is frustrating nonetheless. 

                My general assessment of Hot Pursuit is this; almost everything is bad except Reese Witherspoon.  She is actually so funny that the movie works.  In spite of all the problems, I actually enjoyed the film.  It’s really funny. I laughed a lot.  Isn’t that really the point of a movie like this? I have seen the other reviews, I respectfully disagree with most of them.  This is not anywhere near a classic, but it is a very funny and enjoyable movie.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars.


Friday, May 8, 2015


Predestination is a movie that became an almost fascination among serious movie buffs earlier this year.  I was expecting quite a bit from this film because I have been hearing so many positive things about it.  I didn’t get a chance to see this movie in theaters in January, so when I saw that it was out on demand I decided to go ahead and review it.

                The movie stars Ethan Hawke as a bartender (sort of) in a dimly lit, slightly slummy looking establishment.  A man comes in one day and offers to tell him the most interesting story he has ever heard.  What follows is absolutely insane and I will not spoil any of it for you right here. 

                This film is very brave.  I mean that as a compliment.  It does things and takes twists and turns that are totally unexpected and sometimes hard to fathom.  While this is highly entertaining and holds the viewer’s attention very well,   I feel like the film uses this as a crutch, especially in the second half. 

                The performance of Sarah Snook in this film is good, although I feel a bit overstated by most critics.  She really carried certain parts of the film and in my opinion, gets better as the story progresses.  At the same time, there were moments when she seemed very stiff and robotic.  Also some of the narration she does is not so good.  Ethan Hawke is good, but not any more than you would expect him to be. 

                My big problem with this movie is the screenplay.  It is entertaining, but when I actually thought about the plot I found myself being totally confused about what each characters motivations were.  There are times when the narrative seems intent on shock and nothing else.  A lot of what happens makes no sense when you really think about it.  On top of that, there is one huge aspect of the plot that actually makes the whole thing impossible. This story, by its own admission, cannot happen.  That’s as much as I can say without spoiling anything.  There is also a slight pacing issue.  The second half of the movie moves way too fast making an already convoluted narrative even harder to follow.

                My reservations about the plausibility of the story aside, this is a film that is worth watching.  It encourages you think.  Of course, the more you think the more you realize all the things wrong with the film.  It is a very flawed narrative that provides the audience with a microscope by which to examine it.  I guess that is the best way I can put it. 

                This movie is a lot of things. It is entertaining, convoluted, confusing, riveting, at times even brilliant.  Overall it was disappointing to me, but I am glad I watched it and I would recommend it if you like the type of film you have to think about.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 



Thursday, May 7, 2015


The Big Country is a western drama from 1958 directed by William Wyler.  The story revolves around Jim McKay (Gregory Peck), a sophisticated guy from the east who goes out west to marry a ranch owner’s daughter (Carroll Baker).  When McKay arrives, he finds himself thrust into the middle of an intense and violent range war between his future father in law and another ruthless land owner played by Burl Ives. 

                When this movie first started, I was afraid it was going to turn into a generic, recycled range war story I had seen several times before.  That is not what happened at all.  This is ultimately a story of characters with the land dispute as a backdrop for the events that happen to them.  The screenplay is very well-written by James R. Webb and the characters are very well drawn.  There are twists and turns and a very unexpected and captivating ending sequence.  Overall, this is a very well-written film all the way around. 

                The acting in this movie is terrific.  I would expect no less from this cast, quite frankly.  Jim McKay was a perfect role for Gregory Peck.  It was the type of part that he was used to playing and he did a very good job with it.  Charlton Heston and Carroll Baker are good in the film, although Baker reminds me too much of Jean Arthur.  Chuck Connors, who is probably one of my favorite actors from the period, plays a much different role than I have ever seen him in.  The two that really stand out to me are Jean Simmons and Burl Ives.  Simmons plays a young schoolteacher caught up in the middle of the whole situation.  (Although the fact that they had a schoolteacher and no kids did bother me a little bit.)  Ives performance at the end of the film is powerfully emotional and a joy to watch. 

                The movie is very well directed by William Wyler, who made one of the greatest movies of all time in Ben-Hur right after this.  He does a great job with action sequences.  Two scenes in particular come to mind; one in which Gregory Peck is breaking a horse and another in which his character is fighting Charlton Heston’s character.  The film is well paced with a lot of good slow tension building between the characters early. 

                The ending of the film is absolutely perfect.  It delivers a heavy handed emotional punch straight to the heart.  Peck and Ives performances in the last twenty minutes are sensational.  This film managed to surprise me with an ending sequence that I didn’t quite see coming but was very satisfied by.  Everything wraps up like it should.  It is indeed the perfect ending to a great film. 

                Any problems I may have with this movie would be small and nitpicky.  There is a big decision that Jean Simmons character makes at one point and it seemed to me like she made the decision too fast.  Also, I would have liked to have seen Chuck Connors character fleshed out just a little bit more.  I assume that time restraints are to blame for both of those small problems. 

                The Big Country is a great movie.  I certainly enjoyed it and will definitely see it again.  It is not the era defining classic that Wyler’s next film would be, but it is one that, in my opinion, has fallen through the cracks of history.  You should certainly see this if you get the chance.  The Movie Man gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Friday, May 1, 2015


The biggest thing that Marvel Studios did right was the way they set up the first Avengers movie in 2012.  They didn’t rush it.  They gave all the key stars their own movies so that we could be introduced to each one of them individually.  By the time The Avengers came out, we were all ready for it.  I enjoyed that first movie, although I thought it was a little overrated.  Now, in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, the challenge for Marvel was to meet or exceed the lofty expectations they have set for themselves. 

                In this movie, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) set out to create an A.I. that will protect the earth from potential enemies from other worlds.  Their intentions are honorable enough but, as is often the case in these situations, things don’t quite work out as planned.  Ultron is the result.  His plan is to protect earth by wiping out humanity and starting over with beings more like him. 

                Any time you put together a cast like this, the acting is going to be a high point in the film.  How can you go wrong with names like Downey, Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, James Spader…….the names go on and on.  This is the definition of an all-star cast.  When the stars have the kind of chemistry together that these do, it is something truly special.  Downey clearly stands out as the star once again.  Ruffalo and writer/director Joss Whedon have brought a humanity to the Hulk character never before seen.  The only complaint I have with the acting in this film is that Elizabeth Olsen’s accent is off and on at times, but she is a good actress and her performance as a whole is pretty good. 

                I thought going in that my biggest problem with this film was going to be the main villain, Ultron.  I was wrong about that.  He turned out to be a great villain.  James Spader does a great job with this character.  His motivations were very clear and his dialogue was on point with a sarcastic note that fit very well with the tone of this film. 

                Speaking of dialogue, all of it is written very well.  There is a lot of humor in the film that seems very natural and never awkward or forced.  Whedon wrote a very effective screenplay here.  The word efficiency comes to mind.  Even with so much going on and so many characters to work with, the movie stays focused and never gets the least bit bloated or confusing. 

                While some of the action in the film is over-edited, the majority of it is handled very well.  There are a couple of really good fight sequences in the movie including a very entertaining one between Iron Man and The Hulk.  The final fight scene is designed very cleverly and executed well also.  This extended scene is broken up by tidbits of dialogue that seems relevant to the moment so as not to be intrusive, but also breaks up the action just enough to keep it from getting boring.   

                Not only do I think this movie is very good, but I actually think it is quite a bit better than the first one.  Joss Whedon and this cast of amazing actors, much like The Avengers themselves, met their challenge head on and obliterated it.  This is easily the most entertaining film of the year.  Good luck to all the other comic book movies set for release in 2015.  This one will be hard to top.  The Movie Man gives it 4 out of 5 stars. 
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