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After Earth (2013)

2 Jun

Sometime after his last apocalyptic train wreck The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan‘s After Earth features the father/son combo of Will and Jaden Smith learning to survive in a world filled with pheromone smelling beasts.

Things start out with some potential, but the film quickly get dull, predictable, and void of any drama by the time the story is supposed to pick up speed, leaving this movie as an excuse for an established actor to show off his son in front of some poor CGI. Not to rag on someone as young as Jaden, but when you are only preforming alongside a green-screen, minor acting flaws become obviously magnified and things get bad. We’re talking cringe-worthy bad.

The good news here is that Shyamalan’s reputation might rise slightly among his fans, as the movie is more watchable than The Last Airbender. The bad news is that most of his fans are now under the age of 10.

3/10 stars

Similar to: Jumper, Tron: Legacy, 10,000 BC

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Now You See Me (2013)

2 Jun

Like any good magic trick, Now You See Me takes things one step at a time, building interests and expectations until the final reveal. The film starts with three twenty-somethings and Woody Harrelson robbing millions from a bank and outsmarting our nations FBI by playing magic tricks. Sounds campy right? What follows is a cat-and-mouse game between the magicians, Mark Ruffalo, and a mysterious third party lead by Morgan Freeman. Sure, it’s as outrageous as it’s premise may seem, but it’s a fun movie and I was kept well-entertained. Also worth mentioning is the outstanding cast who fill the movie with an overflow of witty banter and coolness – by now, what else can we expect from Jesse Eisenberg in a tux?

6/10 stars

similar to: The PrestigeThe Italian JobOceans Eleven,

This Is the End (2013)

2 Jun

So this is what you get when you take the comedic gang from Freaks and Geeks and lock them all in a room for 24 hours. Oh, and also throw in Emma Watson and the black guy from The Office. And of course you can’t forget Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. And because it’s a post-Superbad comedy Danny McBride has to make an appearance somewhere. Also there is Paul Rudd, Aziz Ansari, and Rihanna because – hey why not?

If they would have taken half the effort in writing the story as they did in the casting, then this film would be amazing. But the randomness and senseless progression of the scenes make it feel like you are watching a bunch of strewn-together YouTube videos. Which is OK, because This Is the End actually is kinda funny, and the film works in an unpredictably offensive way.

I was hoping for something a bit more self-aware and smart in a film where actors play themselves, but instead what I got was some half-baked morality tale about humanity and religion. It is an interesting mix, and the film definitely strayed into territory I wasn’t expecting, but I was satisfied by the time the credits rolled up. If you are a fan of the genre, then this is a must-see.

6/10 stars.

Similar to: Superbad, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder

The Hangover Pt III (2013)

23 May

Not quite as well written as the first, but all the laughs are still there. Melissa McCarthy (though underused) is comedic gold, but Galifiniakis steals the show as the spontaneous wolf pack founder. Most of the big jokes all come from character material that was well explored in the previous films (the crazy Asian, a stripper’s child, and an insecure Alan) and the director fails to branch out and try anything new. The result is something that stays too familiar for too long, even when the film tries to be different than the first two. Most disappointingly no one even gets drunk, which is ironic for a film called “The Hangover“.

6/10 stars

Similar to: The Hangover Pt II, 30 Minutes or Less, Rat Race

The Internship (2013)

23 May

I kinda didn’t like this movie. Vince Vaughn, who must have been paid a fortune from Google (the entire thing is really one big PR piece), wrote the screenplay which is way too formulaic and unoriginal. The film’s cameos (Will Ferrell, John Goodman, BJ Novak, Josh Gad and Rob Riggle all make appearances) are desperate and awkward, and do little to move the story along. While still a better comedy than their recent solo works, (does anyone even still remember The Watch or Hall Pass?) The Internship feels flat, repetitive and unneeded.

4/10 stars

Similar to: Accepted, The School of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen

 

 

Upstream Color (2013)

17 May

Upstream Color isn’t simply a film which you go and see, but rather a film which one experiences.  And it was easily the most surreal, disturbing, emotional and provocative film experience I have had all year.  Shane Carruth, the mastermind behind the mind-melting 2004 Sundance hit Primer, wrote and directed this film, and he brings the same sense of mystery, ambiguity and cinematic exploration.

The film starts with a montage of sorts, displaying several boys collecting some sort of earthworms. We then skip around from a woman named Kris, a man named Jeff, a farmhouse with pigs, and a mysterious old man who enjoys recording different sounds.  We know something connects these characters, but we don’t really know what or how.  Upstream Color is a film that asks the audience questions that have no solid answers, thereby forcing us to come up with our own.
It’s also a film which tells its story through a visual language rather than a spoken one, following in the footsteps of films like The Tree of Life or 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Even if what we are seeing is senseless and bizarre, the cinematography is always beautiful, and the sounds and music of the film add to its unique and enchanting appeal. It is a real challenging film, both intellectually and emotionally, but never a dull one.

If you are someone who needs things explained and a concrete resolution to arrive by the time the credits roll  – this film will bore you to tears.  But if you want something different and can accept critical thinking, mystery, and open endings as an essential part of cinema, then I highly recommend Upstream Color.   I loved it.

9/10 stars

Similar to: The Tree of Life, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Antichrist 

The Great Gatsby (2013)

8 May

As the much anticipated adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby is cool and fun to look at. DiCaprio is solid and charismatic, and fills the shoes of the timeless character Gatsby. Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan are also great and stand-out as some of the film’s highlights. With such a wonderful cast and a big-budget production, the movie had potential to be a modern touch on an epic period drama, following in the footsteps of films like An Education, A Single Man and O Brother Where Art Thou.

Unfortunately though, among all the glitz and shininess, the spirit and emotion of the novel become lost thanks to needless visuals (the 3D was overkill), a lengthy 150-minute running time and a soundtrack from Jay-Z and Lana del Rey.

In other words, what could have been a classic American film adaptation of a beloved novel gets dumbed down specifically for the YOLO generation, and ends up feeling and looking more like a music video that plays on repeat for way too long.

5/10 stars

similar to: Australia, Anna Karenina, Marie Antoinette