Tuesday, July 28, 2015


My level of skepticism increases with each one of these comic book movies that come out.  The films have been so successful recently that this has become it’s own genre.  As good as the Marvel movies in particular have been, I feel like this is something that can’t last.  I know one of these films will fall flat eventually and, as I watched the previews for Ant-Man, I couldn’t help believing that this would probably be the one. 

                Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) was a scientist who spent his life developing an armored suit that was capable of shrinking the wearer down to the size of an ant.  Pym intended the technology for military use, but it was stolen by a group that had other, more sinister plans.  Pym decides to recruit convicted cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to become the new Ant-Man and get the original suit back before it is too late. 

                What I really liked about this movie was it’s tone.  Contrary to what most comic book movies try to do these days, this film is pretty light.  It is refreshing to see a movie like this that stays in it’s lane and just tries to be fun.  The movie has a great deal of humor that works very well.  Most of the jokes are provided by Michael Pena, who is just terrific.  This movie was a joy to watch, mainly because it didn’t try to be more than it should have been. 

                Obviously with the whole Ant-Man shrinking thing, visuals are a very big part of this film.  These effects are handled very well by director Peyton Reed and his crew.  When Ant-Man shrinks, it looks terrifically realistic.  A lot is done with these segments that add to the enjoyment of the film.  Regular things like a bathtub drain and toy trains are made to look menacing and provide some of my favorite and most enjoyable sequences of the film. 

                The original screenplay for this film was written by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and it shows because the foundation of the movie is very well written.  It was also clear to me that other people have worked on this script since Wright left the project.  Overall this screenplay is not bad at all.  The story is as good as it could possibly be with this type of premise.  The side characters in the film are amazing, which is a typical characteristic of a great screenplay.  I wouldn’t actually consider this to be a great screenplay, but rather a very good one.  There are a few bothersome clichés used.  My biggest problem with the movie is the character of Hope Van Dyne.  This character could have been great and very instrumental to the film but was unfortunately pretty much just used as PC bait. 

                All the acting in the movie is good but the one that really stands out is Paul Rudd.  I’m glad that he got this role and did such a good job with it.  The light tone I mentioned earlier lent itself very well to Rudd’s talents.  He has been one of my favorite comedic actors for years and I’m glad that he has been introduced to the Marvel universe. 

                This movie turned out to be a lot better than I was expecting.  I had a great deal of fun with it and would certainly recommend it.  The Hope character got on my nerves but I enjoyed pretty much everything else about the film.  Ant-Man is a success because it is not afraid to be what it is and doesn’t try to be something it’s not.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.  
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015


The first of the summer movies that I was really looking forward to this year was After Earth. Being a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan I may be expected to be a little biased. However, I really wasn't expecting too much by the time I actually saw this movie. So, was it good, bad, exciting, boring? Did Will Smith's kid really get top billing? For a full guided tour of After Earth, follow me.

 The mo...
vie is set one thousand years in the future. Humans have left Earth because of a certain race of aliens who can literally smell fear, and now inhabit a planet called Nova Prime (Wasn't that a Transformer or something).

Will Smith plays a character named Chypher Raige. I personally hate the name, but the character itself is well drawn by Shyamalan and brilliantly acted by Smith. Chypher is a great and legendary soldier who has mastered the art of "ghosting", which means to be completely without fear and thus becoming invisible to the aliens. I know, it's a tad cheesy, but I still think it was an interesting concept.

While Chypher Raige is apparently the best soldier....ever, I guess, he is arguably a terrible father to his son Kitai, played by Smith's real life son Jaden. You get the feeling that Kitai has some security issues caused by his father being too hard on him and possibly a little something that happened in his past.

 So Chypher and his son go off into space and, as luck would have it, run into a meteor shower and crash land on a strange planet. A planet called EARTH! (key dramatic music). Chypher and Kitai are the only survivors of the crash. However, daddy's leg is injured, leaving it up to young Kitai to travel the hostel planet to find flares in the tail of the ship.

Although the movie had it's problems, I thought it was very good. It looked great. Shyamalan created a broad, realistic, and sometimes terrifying future Earth, and reminds us that he knows how to let his characters tell a story.

Will Smith turns in, what I would call, the greatest performance of his career. At least his best since I Am Legend. He left his comfort zone to play a low key, reserved character and really did a great job. He had such an outward presence as a leader and really related well the inner turmoil of Chypher Raige.

On the negative side of things, the movie starts off bad, which is a problem. The opening narration is just painful, and then there are the accents. I understand what Shyamalan was trying to do with the accents. If Earth was evacuated and everybody was mixed up on another planet somewhere for a thousand years, they would certainly have a different accent. Still, this is very hard to deal with for, about the first thirty minutes or so. After a certain point in the movie I stopped noticing it.

 Jaden Smith shows promise to me, although I thought this role was WAY too big for him at this stage in his career. I'm not ready to anoint or condemn him just yet, but there were some glaring weaknesses that definitely showed up here.

The very end of the film is a bit corny, but that's ok to me because the point comes across well, and it is a strong one. I felt good leaving the theater and that's a big compliment to a movie like this.

All in all, I thought After Earth was a solid effort. It had a simple plot, yet well told and strongly acted. If this is an indication of how the summer movie season is going to go then I am ready! The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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While I was watching Minions a massive storm blew through my town.  It knocked down trees and power lines, overturned vehicles, and killed the power in the theater, which was a first for me.  The screen went blank about twenty minutes from the end of the movie.  It was off ten or fifteen minutes, then they got everything going again and they started the movie back where it was when it went off.  Thanks to a conscientious Malco staff, I didn’t miss anything so it shouldn’t affect my ability to review it.  It was an interesting experience though. 

                Minions, if you don’t already know, is basically an origin story about the little yellow guys from the Despicable Me franchise.  It turns out minions have actually been on earth longer than humans and have always been looking for the most evil (or despicable) master to serve.  At some point in the 1960’s the minions, frustrated after years of not being able to find a master, chose three (Kevin, Stuart, and Bob) to go out and find an evil leader. 

                The biggest problem with this film is the same thing that makes it good; the minions themselves.  Sure, they are funny. Sure, they are cute.  But an hour and a half of them is a little much.   There is not a human character introduced in the whole first act.  The minion language was really starting to wear on me by that time.  When we finally get human characters, they all turn out to be flat and don’t really add anything to the film.  The story is generic and lacks focus.  It’s hard to get invested in anything that is going on. 

                I really enjoyed the 60’s pop culture references in the movie. The soundtrack was really good and fun.  These things were the best parts of the movie to me.  There was one scene in particular involving The Beatles that I really enjoyed. 

                The major saving grace for this movie is that it is indeed funny.  Most of the jokes work and the minions themselves are still loveable, it’s just that their particular brand of humor gets a little repetitive after a while.  There was nothing in the movie that was just laugh-out-loud hysterical but I don’t remember any jokes that fell absolutely flat either.  There were a couple of jokes that were arguably inappropriate for a movie clearly aimed at young kids. 

                This is not a very long review because there is not a lot I can say about this film.  It is what it is.  It succeeds at what it sets out to do.  Kids are going to absolutely love it.  It will make tons of money for that reason alone.  Adults may enjoy it for a while but ultimately it will get repetitive and silly.  I didn’t hate the movie by any stretch of the imagination but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as I had hoped it would be.  Watch Inside Out instead.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 
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Sunday, July 12, 2015


One movie trope that always gets on my nerves is the way that phones in movies ring as long as they need to, which is usually a totally unrealistic amount of time.  I always find myself thinking about the person on the other end of the line.  Why would they possibly be letting the phone ring so long?  Especially in a situation where a character is in some kind of trouble and they are trying to get to an incredibly long ringing phone and the person that is calling has no idea they are in trouble, that makes no sense.  The reason I brought that up is because I honestly believe this movie has the longest ringing phone in movie history. 

                The Gallows opens up by showing a school play from 1993 that went horribly wrong.  In a hanging scene, a prop malfunction caused a kid to actually be hanged on stage.  Now, all these years later, the school has decided to do the play again.  A couple of jocks who do not want the play to be carried out decide to sneak into the school one night and destroy the set.  That is when the terror begins.  Oh, and a ghost shows up too. 

                In a way, I think found footage films get a bad rap.  I complain about them as much as anyone, but the truth is I have seen more good ones than bad ones.  I understand that studios use them as a cheap and lazy way to make a lot of money, but some have used the found footage gimmick very well.  The Gallows is not one of those.  At one point, the main character actually says the line, “Why would you even want to film this?”  That is ironic because that’s exactly how I felt throughout a good portion of the film.  Anytime the guy is not consciously filming for whatever reason the camera just coincidentally happens to be in just the right place to get everything exactly in frame.  Also, at one point they introduce cell phone cameras into the mix, which by the very concept of found footage makes no sense.  This, along with the strange way they screwed the timeline up led to quite a bit of confusion in the second act. 

                The first act of the movie relies heavily on humor to make it work.  Unfortunately, it is one of the worst attempts at humor I have ever seen in a movie.  The guy holding the camera, and thus making most of the jokes, is the most annoying character I can possibly imagine.  Also in the first act, we are introduced to just about every clichéd high school character there is, from geeky drama kids to meat head jocks.  The movie did not get off to a good start. 

                The second act is all about the jump scares.  I always felt like I was either watching a jump scare or anticipating the next one.  If you hate cheap jump scares like I do, this movie is NOT for you.   One of the jump scares in particular is so badly executed that you can’t even tell what happened.  There is just a really loud noise and a bunch of frantic screaming.  That’s not scary.  That is annoying.  There is one good scene in the movie.  Just one, and it is in the trailer…..and on the poster. 

                The characters in this movie are non-existent.  They are just random people running around screaming with a camera and nothing that even closely resembles a personality.  The acting is bad, especially Reese Mishler, who plays the main character.  Everybody in the movie over-acts all the time.    

                The ending of the movie is stupid.  REALLY stupid.  There is a twist at the end that is even more stupid.  The ending makes the whole movie make even less sense than it made in the first place, which is not much. 

                The Gallows insulted my intelligence.  I was not in a good mood after sitting through this ridiculous mess of a found footage film.  Please don’t go see this.  Please do not give these people any more money for making garbage like this.  The Movie Man gives it 1 out of 5 stars. 
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Tuesday, July 7, 2015


One thing I noticed about Ted 2 that I have never noticed with a Seth MacFarlane film before was the similarities, in terms of production style, to Family Guy.  There were at least a couple of the trademark non-sequitur cut away scenes and the long exterior establishing shots of buildings were very prevalent.  There were also a few jokes taken right out of previous Family Guy episodes.  I don’t consider this a positive or negative for the film, I just thought it was interesting and worth mentioning. 

                The movie opens with Ted getting married to Tami-Lynn.  Everybody is happy. Predictably, the happiness does not last too long.  When the odd couple starts to have problems in their marriage, they decide the answer is to adopt a child.  (Ted cannot father a child the natural way for obvious reasons.)  In order to do this, they must first go to court and prove that Ted is, in fact, a person.

                I found the argument about whether or not Ted is a person to be quite interesting.  The movie does a good job of bringing up good points for both sides and putting legitimate opposition in the way of the main characters.  What really does define a person?  That is a question that is worth debating and this movie does that in an intelligent and interesting way. 

                MacFarlane’s screenplay is well-structured but far from perfect.  There is a major subplot that emerges that should have been the main plot of the film.  All the marital drama between Ted and Tami-Lynn was ridiculous and should have been left out completely.   The movie also goes about five or ten minutes too long.  There was a point at the end where Ted appears to learn something and the movie actually makes a decent point.  All the stuff that happens after that however makes it completely irrelevant.  There is also a very stupid joke at the end that I could have done without. 

                There is no denying the fact that this movie is very funny.  I would call it the funniest movie of the year, in fact.  The vast majority of the jokes really hit.  There are a ton of pop culture references and cameos that are all on point.  A particularly clever cameo by Liam Neeson was one of my favorite scenes in the film.  The climax of the movie takes place at Comic Con.  This was a brilliant idea because it allowed MacFarlane to just go wild with the pop culture references and all of them are funny and work very well. 

                Dear Hollywood, please put Amanda Seyfried in more stuff.  She was phenomenal in this movie.  She was actually better than the movie required for the role she played.  All of the acting is good.  The chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane is tremendous once again.  I wouldn’t say Seyfried stole the show exactly, because Ted is undoubtedly the star, but she definitely gave the best overall performance. 

                As was to be expected, this movie is not as good as the first Ted.  That being said, it is a perfectly adequate sequel.  I enjoyed watching it.  I actually watched it twice.  It is the funniest movie I’ve seen this year and if you are a fan of pop culture humor this is your thing.  However problems with the plot hold this movie back from being as good as it actually could have been.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 
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Sunday, July 5, 2015


An interesting concept, a very talented actor, and a brand that has produced some of my favorite movies over the last few years. After months of anticipation finally the day came for me to see The Purge! I arrived at the theater early, bought my large popcorn and Coke for $600, and settled into my favorite seat. Now, after seeing the movie, I feel the need to purge myself a little in this review.


A unique concept is something that is unfortunately very rare in Hollywood these days. The Purge had that. It is set in the year 2022. Crime rates and unemployment are at an all time low and it's all due to the annual purge. Once a year for a twelve hour period, all crime is legal. Anyone who deems it necessary is free to purge themselves of negative emotions, and to purge society of it's most undesirables elements.

The movie sets up very well. The opening credits set the eerie pace with a montage of scenes from previous purges filmed from security cameras and set to overly cheerful music.

 The movie opens in a suburban, well-to-do neighborhood. Everybody is talking about the purge and how much good it does for society. All this really gives the movie a nice realistically creepy feeling.

Ethan Hawke plays a character named James Sandin. He sells security systems (very successfully it seems) so his family has everything they need to protect them during the night. Hawke carried the first twenty minutes or so of this movie. Everything else was truly bad. I wasn't familiar with Lena Headey, who played Sandin's wife Mary, nor was I impressed by her performance. I probably won't remember her in the next movie I see her in either. The two kids, Charlie and Zoey, played by Max Burkholder and Adelaide Kane respectively, were nothing but annoying to me from the start. Charlie was the typical long haired geeky but rebellious teenage boy that appears in seven out of ten movies these days. Part of the reason I hated him so may have been that his introduction involved a silly mutilated baby doll head on wheels robot thing with a camera in it. It was right out of Sid's room in Toy Story. Painfully obvious to me was that this contraption was only there to shoehorn a few "shaky cam" effect scene's into this movie. The girl Zoey was Bella from Twilight in a school girl outfit. Why she had a school girl outfit on at 7:00 at night, I have no idea. She was clearly more concerned with making out with her too old boyfriend than the upcoming purge. These random make out scenes contained the worst dialogue of the movie (Everybody says I love you, let's growl instead. They actually said that.) and were shot way too close up. Honestly, they made me feel like some kind of a perv; like I was watching something I shouldn't have been. So, long story short, I hated the kids.....and the family in general. I actually felt bad for Ethan Hawke having to be saddled with all this talentless, uncreative baggage. Was that a little too harsh? Maybe. Moving on.

So, basically at this point in the movie, you're sitting there watching a family you hate get ready for the purge. You, already want them to die horribly and by the way they are going on and on about how safe they are, one can't help but believe that is exactly what will end up happening. They lock the house down and then the movie falls apart completely. That whole interesting concept of the purge pretty much vaporizes before your eyes leaving in it's place your typical home invasion movie. You know:
"We want in."
"They can't get in, can they dad?"
"No, of course not. Well would ya look at that?"

Basically, the geeky hippie looking son in an act of defiance against the purge lets in a homeless man who is now hiding in the house. There is a group of people outside the house demanding the man be thrown out to them or they will come in and kill everybody. The question I have is, why are they so concerned with killing this one guy on a night when it is legal to kill anybody and everybody you want? Oh there I go again, asking logical questions when there is a perfectly good home invasion/slasher flick going on.

 So these people are outside and they're all dancing around and acting silly in masks, except the apparent leader of the group who is way over the top creepy. The silliness of the whole situation is confounding. The audience in the theater laughed out loud at least five times during the movie.

This experience leaves me with no interest in ever seeing another James DeMonaco movie ever again. The whole thing was shot way too close up and his dialogue was absolutely aweful.

The whole message of the movie, if there was one at all, seems to me to say that without law we all turn into Scarface. That's what I learned anyway. We're all professional killers at heart who can slaughter another human being and not even blink. I honestly never knew human beings were such nasty, vile creatures. Thank you for enlightening me James DeMonaco. Thank you. The Movie Man gives it 2 out of 10 stars.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2015


I think it was about time for a new dog hero movie.  I don’t mean a movie where dogs wear clothes and talk.  I mean an Old Yeller style movie.  When I first heard about Max, I hoped it would be that movie I had been looking for.  On the other hand, when I saw the many awful trailers for this film, they seemed to point in another direction. 

                Max, written and directed by Boaz Yakin (Remember the Titans), is about an MWD (military working dog) who’s handler is killed in action.  Max is sent back to the states where he proves to be dangerously unruly.  Running out of options, the military sends Max to live with his formers master’s family.   

                I didn’t hate the screenplay for this movie but I did hate the pacing of it.  It seemed like too much time was spent on things that really didn’t matter and the important things seemed rushed through.  I would have liked to have seen more time spent establishing the relationship between Max and his marine handler.  Likewise, the bulk of Max’s training after he went to live with the family took place in all of about three minutes or less.  There was an adequate amount of time spent on the bonding of Max with his new master and I can’t really think of anything that absolutely needed to be cut from the film.  I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a little bit longer and been paced a little better. 

                The bulk of the second half of this movie is at once well written and unnecessary.  There was a main subplot in this film that didn’t really seem to belong, but the story is written well enough that it kind of makes sense so it is hard to fault the movie for it.  The characters are all very well drawn and realistic feeling.  The acting is adequate to good and the dialogue is okay, but a tad cheesy at times. 

                Make no mistake about it, the dog is the star of this show.  That is as it should be.  People are going to come out to see the dog.  As I said earlier, I have personally been waiting for an Old Yeller style dog hero and I am pleased to say that Max fits the bill.  Carlos the dog does a terrific job playing Max and Yakin does a good job of keeping him the focus of the film as the story goes off in all directions. He is heroic and tough as nails, while managing to stay sympathetic at the same time.  I enjoyed watching Max work in this film. 

                The ending of the film is almost perfect.  There is one small aspect that I wish they had taken a little farther than they were obviously willing to, but that was a relatively small thing.  This ending provided some very nice payoffs and everybody came out of it exactly as they should have.  This was really a very well-written screenplay, all things considered. 

                I actually enjoyed Max quite a bit more than I expected to.  I could say it was a better movie than it has any business being but I don’t think that is fair.  While the screenplay has some problems, the majority of it is so well written that it makes up for them.  Really good relatable characters and an awesome dog can go a long way.  Max is a good family friendly film and provides just the dog hero that we have been needing.  The Movie Man give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. 
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