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Monday, September 15, 2014

Movie Review - The Giver


The Giver  $$$$


PG-13
97 Minutes
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, and Odeya Rush.
Director: Phillip Noyce. 
 

            This seems to be the year of the misleading movie trailers. In the case of The Giver, I suspect it has hurt the success of the film. Based on the trailers I expected a typical dystopian movie for the teen market, but boy was I wrong.
            Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in a perfect community. They have done away with war, violence, greed, envy, and emotion. Everyone gets up in the morning and takes their mandatory injection and then goes and does the job they have been assigned. Life is good.
            That is, until Jonas is assigned to be the next Receiver of Memories.   

            The Giver is not a fast-paced action flick. Which is not to say the film was boring. Far from it. Be prepared for a thought-provoking, emotion-provoking tale about human nature that I think you will be mighty glad you watched.
                         

            Here is how I rated the The Giver: 

            1. Fun – I absolutely loved this film. Within the first five minutes I was hooked and sat in the audience mesmerized by the story.
            The Giver gets a Full MB for fun.

            2. Story – Of the four areas which I rate a movie The Giver rates highest in story. It is well-crafted and meaningful. Lots of great emotion and it makes you think. If I could give it a higher rating for this I would, but instead will let it raise the rest of the ratings.
            The Giver gets a Full MB for story.

            3. Technical – Excellent. Some beautiful CGI. Some work with muted colors to enhance the storytelling. A nice futuristic set. All the work to make you feel somewhere else was nicely done. My hat is tipped to Phillip Noyce. I feel the directing of this film is largely responsible for the success of the story.
            The Giver gets a Full MB for Technical.

            4. Acting – Jeff Bridges, as the Giver, does a great job playing a man bearing the burden of a dark secret. Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush, and Cameron Monaghan are adequate as the friends entering the adult stage of their world. They neither impressed me with their acting skill, nor detracted from the movie. It is possible that I am unfairly discounting their efforts since I felt that the movie was a success. I really enjoyed the performance of Alexander Skarsgard as Father.   
            The Giver gets a Full MB for acting even though this is probably the weakest area of the film. Not bad, just not as stellar as everything else. 
 

            The Giver gets a rating of 4 Movie Bucks. I’m going to see it again and take my wife with me this next time. This is definitely one I am considering picking up for my home movie collection. I highly recommend film for adults. It may be too slow for younger audiences.
  

                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Movie Review - The Expendables 3


The Expendables 3  $ 1/2
 


PG-13
126 Minutes
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, and many, many more.
Director: Patrick Hughes. 
 

            The third movie in the Expendables franchise has returned to its roots, which in this case is unfortunate. The Expendables 2 had the insight to not take itself too seriously and the cheesy action worked in that setting. However, The Expendables 3 makes the mistake of thinking that this is anything more than a gimmick that places as many of the action-hero icons into a single movie as they can possibly fit.
            As far as story goes, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) breaks out a member of the Expendables team that none of us knew existed – Doc (Wesley Snipes). Then he announces that he is retiring the team because he can no longer take responsibility for the loss of mercenary lives in an insanely dangerous business. Okay, he doesn’t actually say that, I just put the situation in context.
            But—and there’s always a but—another assignment comes up; one that Barney can’t refuse. It seems that ex-Expendable Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) is not only not dead but back to doing horrible things, which in this case means he’s selling arms to the bad guys. Barney puts together a new and younger team to take out the much dreaded Stonebanks.
            

            Here is how I ranked the film: 

            1. Fun – This is one of those cases where I sat in the theater and wished the movie would end—soon. The plot, if you can call it that, was predictable and unoriginal. Because the film decide to take itself seriously this time the action scenes were just beyond the scope of anything even remotely believable. And frankly, a smorgasbord of minion killing gets boring after awhile.
            The Expendables 3 gets Half a MB for fun, for a few scenes that were fun.

            2. Story – What story? A huge percentage of the movie is dedicated to one scene right after another that depicts some armed, generic bad guys getting killed by the various members of the team. I suppose that someone deserves credit for coming up with so many ways to kill the bad guys. You know, fall on the table and shoot them, crawl under the table and shoot them, flip the table over and shoot through it to shoot them. Variety. There just wasn’t anything original about the story and it has been done so much better elsewhere. It felt like the writer just patched together a script based on all the other action movies that are out there and depended on the all-star cast to make it work.  
            The Expendables 3  gets Zero MB for story.

            3. Technical – The special effects team does a great job of blowing stuff up and making nameless thugs die. Lots of explosions. Lots of guns being fired. They get an A+ in that department. But part of the Technical rating is based on the efforts of the Director. The fact that the second film in the franchise grabbed my attention shows that how the material is handled can make all the difference between entertainment and fodder for ridicule at the workplace water fountain the next day.  
The Expendables 3 gets a HALF a MB for industry standard technical effects and the use of enormous amounts of explosives.

            4. Acting – This was a mixed bag. Stallone is Stallone. The problem is that action-heroes are usually not the best actors. When you fill a movie entirely with action-heroes you are not going to get any Oscar nods for their thespian skills. That being said, a few of the performances were entertaining and the only reason the film received a Half a MB for fun. Antonio Banderas easily handed in the best performance of the film. I enjoyed every minute he was on screen. Kelsey Grammer also turned in a good performance. I wouldn’t mind seeing him do another stint as a grubby merc recruiter. And Mel Gibson was fabulous as the villain. Considering all the trouble he got himself into, this could mark a new direction for his career. He makes for an amazing bad guy.
            The Expendables 3 gets Half a MB for acting.

         Add them up and you get a rating of 1 ½ Movie Bucks. I suggest waiting for it as a rental—if you see it at all. And if you do decide to see it you can play the Body Count game. That’s where you count how many evil lackeys are killed by the good guys. I don’t recommend it as a drinking game because you’d be passed out drunk at the end of the first act.

 
                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Movie Review - Hercules


Hercules  $$$

 

PG-13
98 Minutes
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, John Hurt, and Rufus Sewell.
Director: Brett Ratner.
          

            The previews promised an action-packed retelling of the 12 labors of Hercules, including wrestling with Nemean Lion and a clubbing of the Erymanthian Boar. Combine that with the charm that Dwayne Johnson brings to the big screen and I found myself excited to see this movie.
            Unfortunately, that is not what I got. What I had thought were scenes from within the body of the film were actually packed at the beginning as part of a narrator’s telling of the Herculean labors of fame. I made the mistake of grabbing a drink of water and missed half of them. I felt cheated when I discovered that the scenes in the trailer were nothing more than a compacted history of Hercules and not part of the actual story being told in the film. Had I known that I would have been a little more hesitant about going.
            As it turns out the actual story involves a mortal named Hercules who is quite strong. The legends of the demigod are merely the fabrications of men. Okay, that is a cool concept, but unfortunately rather than base the plot on that it too is used as background for a rather average story about a group of mercenaries who are tricked into helping an evil ruler to become king.


            Here is how I ranked the film: 

1. Fun – If you like cheesy fantasy movies, and I do, then this should entertain you. The characters are interesting and I liked the basic concept. However, all the really cool stuff is jammed into the introduction.
            Hercules gets Half a MB for fun.
 
            2. Story – The concept is original, but the execution of that story is very mundane. It felt as if they lifted the plot from any number of B movies about strong-armed, dim-witted, sword-wielding heroes.
            Hercules gets Half a MB for fun.

            3. Technical – The cinematography and the special effects are on par with any of the big Hollywood productions. However, the directing seemed uninspired and this is where I ding the movie for putting together a movie trailer that I felt mislead me about what I could expect.
Hercules gets a HALF a MB for industry standard technical effects.

             4. Acting – I love Dwayne Johnson when he is charming. His serious acting is less of an attraction to me because he is less of an actor and more of a charismatic personality. In Hercules he attempts for some serious acting with a little bit of charm to go with it. I think it fails. The good news is that Ian McShane is outstanding in his role as the seer, Amphiarius. John Hurt and Rufus Sewell also turn in note-worthy performances.
            Hercules gets a Full MB for acting even though The Rock could have don better.
 
            Hercules gets a rating of 2 ½ Movie Bucks. This definitely felt like a discount theater movie. Even though it has a 2 ½ rating I still suggest waiting for it as a rental.

 
                        Randy’s Rating System 

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.