Tag Archives: funny

Jack Reacher: Taking it back to the 80’s

Tom Cruise is JACK REACHER. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

Tom Cruise is JACK REACHER. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions


Remember the good-old days when 80’s action movies were a barrel of fun and laughs? There were no concerns with winning awards or receiving critical acclaim. Instead, entertainment was the highest priority as is the case with Tom Cruise’s latest investigative action film, Jack Reacher.

Cruise plays a funny, smart-mouthed ex-army cop who comes out of hiding to track down a mass murderer.

Jack Reacher 4All of the 80’s clichés have been thoughtfully checked off by director Christopher McQuarrie (The Way of the Gun), who adapted Lee Child’s book, “One Shot”. There’s a wise-cracking detective, a sexy woman, clashing of personalities, a foreign bad guy with a heavy accent, and buckets of action. McQuarrie also was kind enough to keep any gore out of the movie’s action, so those with weak stomachs won’t have to bring their trusty barf bucket.

Jack Reacher 7The recently divorced Tom Cruise gives us nothing we haven’t seen before. Truth is, I love that character and so do you (don’t deny it). The person who deals out the best performance is Joseph Sikora, who made the biggest impact with less than five minutes of screen time.

JACK REACHERFive-time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Caleb Deschanel does an amazing job of lighting every scene to complement McQuarrie’s fantastic shooting style. There’s also some excellent audio design with the sound of firearms having incredible lifelike impact.

Jack Reacher 3Bottom Line: If you enjoy the older action flicks as much as I do, you’ll have a blast with this one.

Grade B-

Runtime: 130 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Beasts of the Southern Wild: The journey you’ve never taken

Pick up your copy of the award contending Beasts of the Southern Wild on December 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media

Pick up your copy of the award contending Beasts of the Southern Wild on December 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Media


Independent films depend purely on the strength of their story, lacking access to flashy special effects and bloated budgets to hide imperfections. Instead, everything is stripped bare revealing the heart of the tale. Sure to be an Academy Award contender, Beasts of the Southern Wild is, at its core, an exemplary demonstration of the rawness that is the independent film.

In this semi-fantastical story, we follow six-year old Hushpuppy and her hot-headed father as they face the harsh realities of life in a bayou cut off from the rest of society.

It takes a while to really sink into this film. The characters are difficult to connect with and their thick Louisiana accents can be troublesome to comprehend at times. However, as the film progresses and you witness the predicaments of the people, you slowly begin to latch on to them – Especially little Hushpuppy, played beautifully by Quvenzhané Wallis.

(Quvenzhané Wallis)Wallis’ performance is astonishingly natural for a first time actor of five years old. Her innocence and strength keep you interested in the film, even if the story appears to drift at times.

Writers Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin, who also directed the film, deliver a psychological look into the daily life of the neglected and underprivileged people of the world.

(Quvenzhané Wallis), (Benh Zeitlin)For the DVD home release, the original film is given good video transfer, even if there is an excessive amount of film grain. The audio, however, is top notch. Subtle details are everywhere to be found and the use of bass at the appropriate moments really adds weight to certain scenes. The special features are solid and include an in-depth, 18 minute Behind the Scenes featurette, Deleted Scenes with director commentary, some of the audition footage for the father and daughter leads, and the short that led to this movie, Glory At Sea.

(Quvenzhzé Wallis), (Dwight Henry)Bottom Line: This movie has Oscar nominations written all over it and the DVD release is one any movie fan will want to check out.

Movie Grade A-
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Up: Blu Ray Review

Grab your copy of Up on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar

Grab your copy of Up on Blu Ray 3D December 4, 2012. Courtesy of DisneyPixar


Finding those complete films that deliver on all accounts is rare these days. When I first watched Up, I laughed, cried and was taken on a rollercoaster ride with the oddly paired old man and his accidental sidekick. As I reviewed the all new Blu Ray release, I was amazed as I relived all these emotions for a second time around. Now that’s a powerful film in my book!

Up 1In DisneyPixar’s Up, Carl Fredricksen deals with his loneliness and a promise to the love of his life by flying his house to the Venezuelan wilderness with the unwelcome assistance of a good-intentioned Boy Scout, Russell.

The team behind this movie provided such incredible depth of character; you see right past their cartoony shells and dive into the soul of a real person. Combine this with a highly entertaining adventure and what you have left is a timeless classic.

Up 3Edward Asner and first time actor Jordan Nagai are perfect together. Director Pete Docter did a fantastic job in getting a very natural performance out of the young Nagai – Not an easy thing to do when working with brand new actor.

Not only will kids love this movie, but as an adult, you’ll be glued to the screen beside the little ones as you watch Carl and Russell’s quest unfold (Just be sure to have a box of tissue handy).

Up 2As far as the Blu Ray release is concerned, this is one of the best. DisneyPixar has included both 3D and 2D Blu Ray discs, a DVD copy and a Digital Copy to future proof you as your home theatre evolves. The video in both the 3D and 2D copies is magnificent. While the 3D copy adds the expected immersion, it is shocking how much depth of image is in the 2D Blu Ray. On top of that, Michael Giacchino’s Academy Award winning original score sounds beautiful alongside the amazing audio design.

There isn’t a single special feature not worth watching in this home release. Included in the vast array of high definition features you’ll find:

• Cine-Explore Commentary

• Adventure Is Out There

• Partly Cloudy

• Dug’s Special Mission

• The Many Endings of Muntz

• Documentaries – A series of behind the scenes featurettes.

• Married Life

• Global Guardian Badge Game

• Up Promo Montage

• Worldwide Trailers

Not only do they include behind the scenes of the making of the film, they also provide a fun educational game for kids (just as much fun for adults).

UPBottom Line: This is how Blu Rays should be done. With a movie this good, why wait to let the fun begin? Pick up your copy today and go on a ride of a lifetime with your wee ones.

Movie Grade A+
Blu Ray Grade A+

Runtime: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


Wreck-It-Ralph: Smashes its way to your heart

John C. Reiley and Sarah Silverman star in the video game bonanza, Wreck-It-Ralph. Courtesy of Disney Pictures


Who remembers the original gaming consoles like ColecoVision, Atari, Nintendo, Sega Master System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, etc…? For many boys, and a fair number of girls, video games and the characters we battled were a vital source of our entertainment during childhood. Reminiscent of Toy Story, Disney Animation’s latest feature, Wreck-It Ralph, brings an old fantasy to life: What happens to the video game characters when we aren’t playing with them?

Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of a gigantic video game baddy who tires of his thankless existence and ventures off into other games to find his heroic moment.

Let’s make something clear right away, this movie will be a hit. The incredible story will push all the right buttons and keep you locked in for the journey. Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston manage a near flawless story arch, with intricate twists and lovable characters. The only downside to their script is the lack of humor. There are a decent amount of jokes, but also a lot of missed opportunities and jokes that fell flat.

Casting was solid in this film. John C. Reilly (Ralph) and Sarah Silverman (Vanellope von Schweetz) are great together, as is the rest of the cast. The benefit of the actors recording their dialogue together, as opposed to the norm of doing them individually really shows.

You’ll definitely want to pay extra for the 3D option that will be sure to take you on an immersive roller coaster ride.

Bottom Line: Ralph and Vanellope’s story will touch your heart, while the pedal-to-the-metal action will rock your world.

Grade A-

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


Moonrise Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Pick up your copy on Oct. 16th. Courtesy of eOne Media


With the Oscars only months away, Moonrise Kingdom, with its quirky and affecting appeal was a solid contender. While the movie is definitely worth watching, the Blu Ray/DVD release could have used some tweaking.

In Wes Anderson’s latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, he collaborates with Roman Coppola to tell the tale of a young couple’s escape from the watchful eyes of their guardians in order to be with one another.

This straight-faced, off-beat film tells its story in a very minimalistic fashion. Instead of being attacked with endless details, Wes Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola unassumingly ask the audience to decipher this decidedly interpretive story.

Every member of the cast brought their A-game, delivering performances both eccentric and memorable. The young first-time actors playing the love-struck couple, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, both displayed a very natural, youthful innocence.

Despite all of its romantic naïveté, Moonrise Kingdom is not a perfect film. Firstly, Wes Anderson clearly neglected necessary (some might say obvious) emotional reactions from the actors, both young and old, which will certainly alienate a large demographic of movie goers. There’s also the lack of enunciation from both Hayward and Gilman; something Anderson should have caught during the shooting process as it was difficult to understand the youngsters during multiple scenes.

For the Blu Ray + DVD release, the audio mastering is perfect. However, Anderson’s choice to shoot the movie with 16mm film, rather than 35mm film, has left the high definition transfer looking like a decent DVD – not a stunning Blu Ray. The special features are also very limited to what boils down to faux “behind the scenes” advertisements for the film. Not what this fan of the film was expecting.

Make no mistake, this is a very good film, it simply is not Oscar winner worthy.

Bottom Line: This Blu Ray is only worth owning if you like the film.

Grade A

Runtime: 94 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Moonrise Kingdom: Trivia and Insights


With the Blu Ray + DVD release of the brilliant Oscar Award contender Moonrise Kingdom due on Oct. 16th, I’ve decided to compile some fun trivia and insight from the cast and crew. Enjoy!

 
 


During filming, Wes Anderson rented an old mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for himself, editor Andrew Weisblum, and director of cinematography Robert D. Yeoman, in which they had a room set up for editing the film. It had been arranged for the cast to stay in a nearby hotel, but eventually some of the actors also decided to stay at the mansion, including Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and Jason Schwartzman. Murray later joked that the theory was to have everyone close by so that they could all work “ungodly art-movie hours.”
Sounds like fun to me!

Fun Fact about Wes Anderson: When asked where audiences would find the next Martin Scorsese, he said to look to Wes Anderson, the young director of Rushmore (1998).
I would cry like a big bald baby if Scorsese said that about me!

The filmmakers wanted the physical production to be focused, not bloated. Accordingly, there were no big trucks, and no actor or filmmaker trailers. Actors were encouraged to arrive camera-ready, requiring them to don their costumes in their hotel rooms before coming to set.
Nice to hear that greatness can be achieved at humbler budgets.

Bill Murray remembers, “My first day at work was on a camp set, and I realized that they didn’t have trailers and so forth. We had tents, pup tents. It was about 40 degrees outside and raining, but once you get 51 people crammed inside a tent, it gets plenty warm. We were cozy after a while.”
That must have been a giant tent to house that many people.

“The director, Wes (Anderson), he wears his pants very short. So he likes everyone in the film to wear them really short. Just a little bit like the kind of person you’d want to mug.”
– Bill Murray
Yes sir, the men all look ready for a flood in this movie.

You can find Bill Murray’s real son in the film as one of the scouts in a Native Indian feathered headdress.
Easier to spot in the special features where they point him out to you.

After an initial audition and three more call-backs over the course of six months, young star Jared Gilman remembers, “I was getting in the car with my mom on the way home from school, and I asked her if she had any news. She didn’t answer; she called up my father instead, and he pulled a Ryan Seacrest [/American Idol results buildup] on me, before he told me I got the part. I screamed, I laughed, and I cried. It was probably the happiest day of my life.”
That’s mean… I love it!

Before filming, neither Kara Hayward nor Jared Gilman had ever seen a typewriter in person. Hayward later said, “Fran (Frances McDormand) had a lot of fun with that. She couldn’t believe it. She showed me that the keys are in the same place as now (on computers).”
This, sadly, is probably the case for most every child in their generation.

As homework for his character, Wes Anderson assigned Jared Gilman to watch Escape from Alcatraz (set in 1963), starring Clint Eastwood.
Proper education.

The film opened in only four theaters, two in New York and two in Los Angeles, but earned $167,250 per screen, the all-time record for highest per-theater box office average of a non-animated film.

You’ll find the Moonrise Kingdom Blu Ray + DVD online and in stores on October 16, 2012.

Bill Murray’s overview of the movie:


All information was taken from eOne’s press notes and IMDB.com


People Like Us: Blu Ray Review

Find the dramatic comedy People Like Us in stores on Oct. 2nd, 2012. Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures


How many perfect families are there? The honesty presented in a film like People Like Us gives us a glimpse into the dysfunctions that plague a modern family, all the while, keeping us readily entertained.

In People Like Us, we follow a struggling salesman, Sam (Chris Pine), as he deals with reconciling with his family after his neglectful father’s passing. When settling his estate, Sam discovers a half-sister and his dad’s secret life.

Witty, truthful, and heartfelt all describe this drama. From the guys who wrote Transformers and Star Trek (2009), both Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci find a completely different angle in which to tell a story. Both writers, with the aid of Jody Lambert, piece together a multitude of character studies in this tightly knit film.

Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde and Michael Hall D’Addario deliver true to life dramatic and comedic performances. It’s one of the truest example of genuine acting I’ve seen in a long while.

The Blu Ray + DVD release features a decent set of special features to accompany the fantastic film. They include a behind the scenes look at how the story came to be and the production footage in Number One With A Bullet: The Story Behind People Like Us. There’s also Taco Talk, which gives you Chris Pine’s and Elizabeth Banks’ complete improvisational and hilarious scene at the taco stand. Deleted Scenes, Gag Reel and Audio Commentary are also included.

Bottom Line: Come for the comedy, stay for the heart. Well worth owning.

Movie Grade A
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


ParaNorman: Paranormal fun

Kodi Smit-McPhee stars as the “parNormanly” gifted in ParaNorman. Courtesy of Alliance Media


Like Cole from The Sixth Sense, Norman has the paranormal ability to speak to the deceased. Norman’s story differs as he tries to help the friendly ghosts break an ancient curse that threatens to destroy his town and its inhabitants.

ParaNorman pioneers new and innovative techniques in stop motion animation taking on massive sets and action packed sequences never seen before in this medium. It also tells a heart-felt story combining laughter, horror and poignant social commentary regarding the way people are treated when they don’t fit the “norm” (hard not to pun).

Chris Butler and Sam Fell successfully bring Butler’s massive dream to the screen. The movie powers forward with wonderful pace, only slowing down at stirring moments to deliver their impactful message.

The talented Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road, Let Me In) delivers a solid voice-over performance alongside his cast members. There are only a few moments when the dialogue suffered from feeling read and not acted.

Speaking of the visuals, you’re in for a real treat with easily one of the best stop-motion animation experiences you’ll ever have alongside Coraline. On top of that, you’ll definitely want to immerse yourself in the palpable 3D option that really helps draw you further into the already first-rate film.

Bottom Line: Without a doubt, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth from ParaNorman.

Grade B+

Runtime: 93 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: A fun historical fantasy ride

Benjamin Walker and Dominic Cooper star in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Courtesy of 20th Century Fox


What are the first words that come to mind when “vampire” and “movie” are mentioned together these days? Any of these ring a bell: Bad writing, awful acting, glittering nonsense, ridiculous romance? None of these words will be uttered after you’ve watched Timur Bekmametov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Mixing fiction with history, this movie follows “Honest” Abe’s vengeful quest to rid the USA of vampires.

Going into this movie, it’s hard to wrap your mind around such a fantastical concept. Luckily, director Timur Bekmametov (Wanted) and novelist/screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith (Dark Shadows) pull off the adventure with style.

Audiences will be equally satisfied if they’re looking for either a killing spree or a solid story. Both writer and director balance the bountiful violence and important character development to make this an entertaining film, and not just a blood bath.

Surprisingly, there are also terrific performances to be found with the cast. No actor felt out of place, with Benjamin Walker leading the way as the 16th president. Walker’s performance commands your attention with his portrayal of a great man dealing with loss, love and leading a nation through civil war.

There is a multitude of incredible fantasy-based action choreography to sink your teeth into. However, the CGI can vary from seamless to distracting at times.

You’ll want to take the 3D journey that not only provides depth to the picture, but also a lot of non-distracting, in-your-face moments as well.

Bottom Line: Take the fictitious ride with one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known and you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

Grade B+

Runtime: 105 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: Yes


Men In Black III: Delivers what the second movie couldn’t

Josh Brolin and Will Smith star in Men In Black III. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


The original and highly entertaining Men In Black came out in 1997, taking audiences on a rollercoaster ride of fictional extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. Five years later, an unfortunate mistake was made resulting in the creation of a lackluster sequel that stepped too far from the charm of its predecessor. Fast forward to a decade later, and we’re a little hesitant with the third movie due to the dismal track record of money-driven sequels. Fortunately, Men In Black III returns to the formula that made the first movie a success.

In the third movie, Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time to prevent a ruthless alien, Boris the Animal, from murdering Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).

The producers made the perfect decision to hire an entirely new set of writers to pen the script. They’ve limited the cheesy gags to the bare minimum, making them funnier than expected. This paired with a cohesive story made for a very entertaining movie.

The cast seemed to work very well together, especially Will Smith and Josh Brolin (young Agent K). Their humor and chemistry reinvigorated the characters and made the ride that much more fun.

Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the first two films, returns for the third installment with a welcome case of amnesia that eliminated Men In Black II from his memory. With his second chance at a sequel, he takes the audience on a journey that ties the first and third films together wonderfully.

Even the post-production 3D treatment is well done, as is the thunderous, dynamic audio mastering.

Bottom Line: Leave your well-founded fears at home and trek out for the sequel that should have been.

Grade B+

Runtime: 106 minutes
IMAX: Yes
3D: Yes