Saturday, June 22, 2013

Movie Review: Bling Ring

Celebs living up the high life is nothing new.  In this Sofia Coppala movie, the story of a group of young adults who follow celebrities and break into their homes taking any number of valuables is put to the side by a feeling of staleness and overbearing characters.  I’ve never seen a Sofia Coppala movie and thought this would be an interesting entry into what I expected to be an artsy piece of work.  I’m familiar with off-the-beaten track movies, but this one felt inauthentic from the very beginning.  The cast is made of mostly unknown young actors, save for Harry Potter’s Emma Watson and American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga.

The movie is based off of an article published in Vanity Fair, chronicling how a new kid to a school is convinced by one girl, who he isn’t interested in romantically, to break into celebrity houses and take whatever they like.  The concept of stealing from the rich and keeping for the poor seems to be the underlying concept the kids use, but it becomes clear by the placid, shallow performances that the audience is supposed to believe the kids are remorseless, soulless fiends, as I would expect a celebrity like Sofia Coppala to interpret such an event.  It is an inexcusable act, but to believe that the kids committing the crimes were oblivious to right and wrong is a level of humanity that was so played up, it made the entire movie feel fake.  Worse yet, the main character was the untested Israel Broussard who played the doe-eyed, possibly gay, Marc.  Marc is sucked in by the ring leader of the so-called Bling Ring, Rebecca played by Katie Chang.  Neither were all that believable and early on it wasn’t clear why Marc would be so enthralled with Rebecca.  It made sense that the girls wanted nice things and wouldn’t get them through any normal means.  The character of Marc, the central focus of the movie, was directionless and only slightly interesting.

The movie is worth seeing just to see the beautiful bags, clothes and things that get stolen, but the acting is less than sensational and at times seemed forced.  The characters were caricatures from beginning to end, and it was hard to ignore this.  For $7, this is worth seeing, but you aren’t missing much by passing on it.

Movie Review: World War Z

Zombie movies are a must-see for me.  I’ve seen the whole gamut, from Resident Evil to Dawn of the Dead to 28 Days Later.  The recipe is often the same.  An outbreak occurs, the entire world is compromised, only one person in all the world can save us.  Call me a feminist, but I often enjoyed Alice’s over-amped romps through Racoon City and the like.  After playing Resident Evil 6 and watching the latest RE movie, I think I’ve had my fill.  Enough history, though, I don’t want you to think I’m a complete nerd, too late, no?

In this movie, based off of a book, Jerry is taking his family on a trip and as they drive through Philadelphia, everything falls apart.  Jerry is a former operative with the UN and when this go south, he jumps into action, finding a way to get his family out of the city and into a vehicle after they total theirs.  The family manages to make it to an abandoned apartment complex that isn’t all that abandoned.  Another family is holed up there and takes them in, refusing to go with them once Jerry arranges to be picked up by his former boss.  Once in safety, Jerry is told he can either help them or his family will be sent back out into the world.  With no other choice, he’s asked to find out where the disease started and help find a cure.

Without giving away the real twist in the movie, World War Z is a suspenseful drama.  Brad Pitt plays the familiar role of concerned parent and overly competent operative, knowing what to do in any and all situations, willing to risk everything for the truth, the perfect stand-up kind of guy.  While the idea is so overdone, Pitt manages to make Jerry seem both human and super-human all at once.  The story sucks in you from the very beginning, painting the picture of a perfect life, watching as it is snatched away and then watching as someone fights unmatched odds to find a way out of a terrible situation.  What made this movie so compelling was Pitt’s pitch perfect performance throughout.  The supporting cast was just that, no one taking away from the central figure. In that, this movie goes from your garden variety movie to one that is actually worth seeing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Movie Review: The Heat

I was lucky enough to catch a deal and see this one early courtesy of Gofobo.  At the Regal not far from my house, they were showing a special screening of the movie.  A friend and I knew we wanted to see it anyway, so jumped on the chance to see it both early and free.  I was not disappointed.

The story is pretty transparent from the trailers, but what you don’t see is how well Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy work together throughout the picture.  The story follows an FBI agent (Bullock) who is angling for a promotion and needs to work with a local Boston Detective (McCarthy).  The concept of good cop/bad cop gets tilted slightly as Bullock’s character is forced to work with McCarthy’s character to find a drug dealer.  There is more to the story, things that make both characters more sympathetic, but may ruin the surprise of it.

I’m not a huge fan of comedies.  I find them a tad hollow when you get to the end.  I can honestly say I spent the majority of the movie laughing and didn’t really pay more attention to the drama rather than the comedy.  This was one of those rare cases where I found myself enjoying both the serious and not so serious portions of the movie in equal measure and the deliveries between the two actresses was impressive, as expected.  Well worth seeing this movie, even at a full evening price, perhaps.  At less than two hours, it didn’t drag on either.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Review: This is the End

I am not a huge fan of comedies, in general I find them not all that funny or overly funny with very little story.  This one reminded me somewhat of how much celebs think of themselves.  I do understand that the actors claim they were playing caricatures of themselves, but the entire movie just felt like a bunch of actors just having a good time.  There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it just seemed shallow.  I do know that this isn’t the kind of movie you go to for any kind of thought, and it is amusing to think of how celebs would react to being in a situation where the entire world was turning to ash.

The premise is simple enough. Seth Rogen is picking up pal Jay Baruchel.  They spend the day together and then decide to go to James Franco’s house for a party.  Tons of celebs are there and Jay has issues because he isn’t friends with Rogen’s friends.  This minor character discomfort serves as the framework for a thinly veiled story.  The two head out to get cigarettes and while out, everything goes crazy.  People are being sucked into the air, presumably to Heaven, others are fighting for their lives.  When they arrive  back at the party, nothing has happened there, but soon does and tons of celebs get killed in seconds.  What follows is a moderately entertaining and very crude version of six guys being trapped in a house.

The cameos were fun, the movie mildly entertaining.  This is a good movie to see at a matinee price, but more than that and you’re expecting something it won’t deliver, at least it didn’t for me.  I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, but I didn’t love it, not that I expected to.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Purge

Horror movies have a certain draw to them.  In each movie, the story is basically the same: picture of normal life, something erupts to challenge this, people in story must band together (or against one another) to survive, the end.  It isn’t rocket science, but it has been done down to a science.  In this Ethan Hawke movie, this is my second Hawke movie in about a year (two more than any other year), he plays a family man who sells security systems to protect people from an annual activity called The Purge.  The US government has decided that people are violent and if they have one evening to expend that energy over one night, no repercussions.  When Hawke and his family go to bed that night, with the house safely locked up, a threat emerges from within and outside the house, both attributable to the children.  The dangers compound and run into one another and the family that would normally avoid participating.

Without revealing the hooks in the story, the execution comes off at such a wonderful pace that the passable acting can be overlooked.  Hawke plays an excellent father, but the story doesn’t give him great range.  The best performances come from Game of Thrones alum Lena Heady.  The conflict ramps up again and again and her reactions are both expected and yet still come off as a surprise.  At one point, when the house is being bombarded, she is asked to defend one side of the house, but as a woman who hasn’t wielded a weapon before, she predictably acts skittish and endangers herself and children.  While the scene is expected in a horror movie, it still came off with a good amount of tension.

The story was really unusual, something that could have been taken to great heights.  Instead, as seems to be usual with horror movies nowadays, the story backs off as it slows down.  The idea that the government would allow a no-holds-barred evening of killing opens up a variety of stories, and yet this horror movie did little with it.  I often wonder if there is something wrong with Hollywood, other than the obvious and this movie convinces me that original thought isn’t permitted.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Movie Review: Now You See Me

Movies about magic often take the fun out of magic, take the illusion and turn it into a spectacle of its own.  This movie is little different, but with less involving characters and a shoe-string plot, the thing that brings you to the theatre are the special effects and little more.  At the time, I found myself very entertained, but as the day wore on, I felt the movie had less and less staying power.

The story follows four magicians who have hit hard times, none able to deliver the tricks they had in the past, all of them suffering from a bad economy and a public that doesn’t believe in magic, or believes in paying for quality magic.  Each magician has his own skill, together putting together a trick that sees a bank being seemingly robbed and money materialise into bank accounts without their involvement.  The tricks are increasingly elaborate, none truly explained to a satisfactory manner, but enough to keep the audience sated.  The story uses a multitude of narrators, a washed-up magician who is working with the police as well as the magicians themselves.

Without giving away the ending, the movie keeps you engaged, but doesn’t give you anything that truly makes the story stand out.  I thought a lot about other movies about magic I’d seen and still Prestige is the best.  The actors were truly remarkable and the magic tricks were truly magical.  In this movie, the acting was passable, the story draining with its convoluted twists and turns. I respect Hollywood for trying to produce something new, but with no payoff at the end, the movie fell flat.  The current fare in the theatre isn’t great, making this movie worth seeing, but overall, it was mediocre at best.