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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


360: Blu Ray Review

360 is available to own on Blu Ray, November 6, 2012. Courtesy of eOne Entertainment


Infidelity makes up such a large portion of entertainment in our society. Soap operas, movies and even reality TV are riddled with some form of adultery.

Fernando Meirelles’ latest film, 360, connects the lives of various sexually corrupt people from different areas of the world.

The crippling factor in this film rests in the story. Unlike brilliant films such as Closer or Little Children, this movie tries especially hard to tell far too many stories (I stopped counting at 7), without ever fully developing any of them.

Luckily, the performances are solid. The star studded cast including Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Jamel Debbouze, Lucia Siposová, Gabriela Marcinkova, and Ben Foster showcase their abundant talents commendably. Foster’s performance as the paroled sexual offender in particular, is fantastic, albeit chilling.

The Blu Ray release delivers the solid cinematography and thoughtful score nicely; however, the special features are fairly thin. Both The Making-of 360 and A look at 360 featurettes feature the cast and filmmakers synopsising the story and its characters. Behind-The-Scenes, however, actually lets you stand behind the camera and watch scenes being filmed or hear discussions between the actors and director Fernando Meirelles. Very cool stuff!

Bottom Line: Unless you’re a fan of the film there isn’t any reason to add this Blu Ray to your collection.

Movie Grade C+
Blu Ray Grade B+

Runtime: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1


Skyfall: Already a classic

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem are brilliant in Skyfall! In IMAX and theatres November 8, 2012. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


Sean Connery brilliantly embodied Britain’s most famous fictional secret agent 50 years ago. When Daniel Craig took the reins as James Bond in 2006, all of his skeptics were thoroughly proven wrong. Craig’s confident, modern, suave portrayal of Bond rivaled Connery’s iconic performances of the 60’s and 70’s. Then there was the writer’s strike of 2008 resulting in the poorly written sequel, Quantum of Solace; an all-around flop. Four years later, we have what may be the best Bond film yet!

In Skyfall, Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when a terrorizing computer genius unleashes his vengeful plans upon them.

The main cast of this film are nothing short of spectacular. Daniel Craig delvers everything we’ve come to expect from his rugged yet composed portrayal of Bond, and Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) is easily one of the all-time greatest Bond villains. His charismatic performance brings a multitude of layers to the surface just waiting to be explored by the audience.

These great characters all stem from the wonderful minds of Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, both of whom worked on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. Together with John Logan (The Last Samurai, Gladiator) they crafted an intriguing, original story, while remaining faithful to the original flavour of our favourite MI6 agent.

Academy Award winning director, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition), was the perfect choice to captain the 23rd Bond film. This isn’t a nonsensical mash-up of endless action scenes. Mendes makes this a methodical film with heart-stopping action woven into a gripping story.

There is absolutely no reason the Academy should not recognize this film as one of the year’s best.

Bottom Line: Don’t miss the ride. This is one film you’ll want to watch over and over and over again.

Grade A+

Runtime: 143 minutes
IMAX: Yes
3D: No


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


Pitch Perfect: Funny never sounded so harmonious

(L to R) Denise (WANETAH WALMSLEY), Ashley (SHELLY REGNER), Cynthia Rose (ESTER DEAN), Fat Amy (REBEL WILSON), Stacie (ALEXIS KNAPP), Beca (ANNA KENDRICK), Chloe (BRITTANY SNOW), Lilly (HANA MAE LEE) and Jessica (KELLEY ALICE JAKLE) in ‘Pitch Perfect’. Courtesy of Universal Pictures


Let’s face it, “teeny bopper” films usually suck! Pitch Perfect looks like your run-of-the-mill, musically driven movie that only young teenage girls and hormone driven boys would enjoy. That is like soooo totally wrong.

Pitch Perfect tells the hilarious story of a rebellious freshman, Beca (Anna Kendrick), who reluctantly joins an all-girl a cappella group trying to win the college a cappella championships.

There is not a five minute gap to be found without a solid laugh in this mix musical/sports comedy. It all stems from the fantastic writing, direction and whimsical comedic performances by the cast.

Kay Cannon’s script is harmoniously transferred to the big screen by first time feature film director Jason Moore. Both managed to provide substance and originality to a thoroughly trodden story.

What really makes the movie shine are the side-splittingly funny performances from the cast. Nobody gets higher praise for this than Rebel Wilson (Fat Amy); the husky girl, with a powerful voice, who freely voices her opinions.

There is also much to be said about the selection and use of the music chosen for the movie. With hits ranging from the 80’s to present day, there’s something in here for everyone to jive with. Also to be appreciated is the lack of unnecessary spectacle common in most musicals.

Bottom Line: Female or male, young or old, singer or window breaker, this movie has an abundance of fun for everyone.

Grade A-

Runtime: 112 minutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


Hysteria: History meets pleasure

Hysteria is available on Blu Ray September 18, 2012. Courtesy of eOne


Injustice comes in all shapes and sizes. Hysteria examines the social injustice women had to bare in Victorian England where doctors treated women diagnosed with Hysteria (By today’s standards they just weren’t “getting any”). What resulted from all of this medical insanity was the invention of the glorious and renowned vibrator.

Director Tanya Wexler does a great job of including different facets of historical fact delivering both drama and humour. Where things fall short is in the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which faulted the credibility of the secondary story.

Outside of this folly, every member of the large cast delivered solid performances.

The most incredible part of the production were the brilliant sets and art direction that throw you head first into middle class Victorian England.

In the Blu Ray + DVD combo pack, you’ll find some excellent special features to accompany this beautifully shot film. They include Commentary with Tanya Wexler, “An Evening with Tanya Wexler, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce” Featurette, Hysteria: Behind The Scenes, and a set of useless Deleted Scenes. The best feature is a short documentary “Passion & Power: The Technology Of Orgasm”. This fascinating look at the history of female sexual oppression and the history of vibrators from their creation is a must watch!

Bottom Line: With an engaging film and interesting special features, this home release is definitely worth checking out.

Movie Grade B
Blu Ray Grade A

Runtime: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1


Street Dance 2: Blu Ray Review

Street Dance 2 available on Blu Ray Combo Pack July 24th. Courtesy of eOne Media


When you watch a movie about dance, how high do you set your expectations? Given the recent history of the genre, expectations are deservedly set at rock bottom. Street Dance 2 serves only to continue this horrible trend, while hitting the right notes when it came to, yes you got it, the dancing.

In this sequel, a humiliated street dancer has to venture across Europe to put together the best crew in order to win the world dance battle and redeem himself.

The performances and script are just hard to sit through. There are some adequate moments, but they are few and far between. As an actor, the only person worth their paycheque is British comedy legend, Tom Conti (The Dark Knight Rises, Derailed). While his French accent left something to be desired, his performance gave realism to the otherwise predictable dialogue.

On a positive note, the dancing in this movie will make you want to get up and jam with the incredibly talented performers. What the dancers lack in acting ability, they make up for with their tremendous dance experience. The movie features break dancing, popping, locking, Latin dancing and, most intriguing, all of them mixed together for a Street-Latin fusion. The entire movie was shot in 3D, which keeps the dancing the focal point of every dance scene.

The Blu Ray + DVD combo pack includes only the beautifully shot feature with its excellent audio track. It’s sad that there are no behind the scenes featurettes to give us insights into the choreography which would have been nice.

Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of the movie or street dancing, you’ll have fun with this movie. Otherwise, keep your distance.

Movie Grade C
Blu Ray Grade C

Runtime: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1


Ted: Once Upon a Time… for adults

Ted (MACFARLANE) and John (WAHLBERG) in TED. Courtesy of Universal Pictures


If my toys came to life when I was a child, I would never have left my bedroom. This is the premise of Ted, a movie where the impossible becomes possible because of a childhood wish for a teddy bear to come to life.

Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane has conjured a fairy tale no child should ever watch, but every adult can indulge in. Alongside two of his fellow Family Guy writers, the script delivers mountains of hilarious one-liners, 80’s references and gags, while adding a touch of heart to keep the mayhem from getting out of control. In his live-action directorial debut, MacFarlane looked like a veteran and the box office numbers will prove it.

Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane and Mila Kunis balance the constant, memorable humor and demanding emotional moments effectively. Mila Kunis in particular delivers some of her best work trying to reconcile the fact that she is in a relationship with a man who will not grow up.

Seth MacFarlane’s voice-over and motion capture of the adorably dirty Ted is simply, perfect. The CGI of the Snuggle look-a-like convinces you that you’re watching a living stuffed animal doing the most outlandish things imaginable.

This movie will keep you laughing well after the credits roll and you’ll want to own it when it hits shelves at your local store.

Bottom Line: Get ready to laugh… and then laugh some more.

Grade A-

Runtime: 106 mimutes
IMAX: No
3D: No


The Amazing Spider-Man: Well worth the reboot

Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker in The Amazing Spider-Man. In theatres July 3, 2012. Courtesy of Sony Pictures


How many of you are wondering why Spider-Man is being rebooted only five years after the absolute garbage that was Spider-Man 3? Well, if the latter half of your own question doesn’t give you a hint, here’s the answer you’re looking for: In order for Sony to hold the rights to the web-slinging franchise, they had to make a movie within a certain number of years and time was running out. Fortunately for us, The Amazing Spider-Man successfully reboots the dying franchise and fixes all of the character errors running rampant the original trilogy.

In this reboot, high school genius, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield), struggles with the loss of those closest to him and deals with his newfound arachnoid powers.

Correcting Sam Raimi’s production faults of the past was a high priority in this reimagining. The fresh new faces were perfectly cast with the talented Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) delivering a far superior Peter Parker than his predecessor, Tobey Maguire. Matching his excellence in performance is Emma Stone (Easy A), whose subtle character nuances are not something you can teach at drama school.

Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) nailed the character development. Where his direction, and the script from a trio of writers, falls short is in the development of the villain. Had Dr. Connors/The Lizard’s journey been further elaborated upon, he would have been seen as more than your run of the mill mutant monster.

The special effects are fantastic in every aspect except for the CGI rendering of The Lizard, who looked out of place when compared to more accurately rendered characters like The Hulk in The Avengers.

In the end, the solid story and depth left me hungry for a sequel.

Bottom Line: This is Peter Parker as he should be. Definitely venture out to watch this in IMAX 3D on Wednesday, July 3, 2012.

Grade B+

Runtime: 136 minutes
IMAX: Yes
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