Admission (2013)

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i'd hang up, but they said my call is very important to them...

i’d hang up, but they said my call is very important to them…

This is one of those movies that just passes through your brain without really having any effect at all.

It’s not particularly funny (doesn’t even really try to be actually), and the emotional moments are all really low-key.  No characters or scenes have enough energy to be annoying, so you just drift through it with ease.

I will say, though, that the ending is actually somewhat depressing.  Tina Fey’s character is left a bit adrift and sad at the end in some regards, and it gives the movie an overall downer feel.

It seems like this movie should have been an indie drama but somebody decided to morph it into a romantic comedy.  It doesn’t work as either.

But it’s easy to sit through…so it has that going for it…

5.5/10

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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careful driving today...there's a good chance of smaaauuug

careful driving today…there’s a good chance of smaaauuug

Let’s face it, this entire movie series was just leading up to the scene in this movie towards the end where Bilbo meets Smaug and all hell breaks loose.  And hey, that scene delivers.  It’s intense and fun, but it results in a bit of a let down when the movie ends shortly after it.  After a lot of padding and unnecessarily drawn out scenes, we get to the good stuff and then the movie is over!

In some ways I don’t mind Jackson fleshing out this story and adding a little more depth, but at times in this one (more so than in the first film) I found myself getting a little frustrated with some scenes that just went on too long or didn’t seem to belong.  I could feel it being pushed out to 3 movies.

That being said, it’s still a pretty fun ride.  I saw it in 3D IMAX and that was a bit much.  I need to see it again in 2D just to catch a few moments in the action scenes that I missed the first time around.

One last complaint to voice – I wish they had added a couple more dwarves.  Why? So that Smaug would have had something to munch on.  There’s no real sense of danger in the action sequences because you know none of these characters are going to be killed off.  The journey would seem much more perilous if occasionally a dwarf or two were lost.  Just sayin’…

7.8/10

Man of Steel (2013)

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only ONE american flag in this shot?  c'mon...

only ONE american flag in this shot? c’mon…

What do you get when you take Superman, sprinkle in a little Jesus, pour in a few cups of Battlestar Galactica, and then smother it with Matrix Revolutions?  You get this…mess of a movie.

Superman has always been a problematic hero since he’s just too powerful.  Thus, either his powers have to be taken away, or he has to face a villain with equal powers.  This movie basically combines the 1978 and 1980 Superman movies into one, but layers even more convoluted plot lines on top of those stories.  Oh, and more explosions and stuff.  There’s more of that too.  A lot more.

Would someone please make a Superman movie where we see what being Superman would really be like?  The emotional turmoil experienced by someone who could easily just take over the planet and be its ruler in the name of creating real peace.  Yeah, Superman IV touched on this a little with his “quest for peace”, but that movie was awful in ways that most movies could never dream of, so…it doesn’t count.

Or maybe we could see how frustrated Superman is by not being able to save everybody all the time.  He’s only so fast.

I dunno…something besides…this.  This is just indestructible people throwing each other through buildings over and over again.  It lacks…humanity.  Superman doesn’t really seem to care about people in this movie the way he does in the first couple with Christopher Reeve.  If he did, he would have led these villains away from the big city and out into the country somewhere.  But no, he’s happy to throw them through populated buildings and city streets causing incredible amounts of damage.

Just one of the many things in this disappointing movie that doesn’t make sense.

Oh, and the special effects are pretty crappy at times.

4.9/10 

The Conjuring (2013)

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I know, you're wondering why anyone would make such a creepy doll in the first place, right?  Yeah, I get that a lot...

I know, you’re wondering why anyone would make such a creepy doll in the first place, right? Yeah, I get that a lot…

I wonder how much my ratings of horror movies depend on what time of day I see them.  I guess if I see one during the day – without the added atmosphere of the night – and it really affects me, that says a lot about how scary/good it was.

Well, I saw this one in the middle of the day, and it didn’t affect me much at all.  That’s not to say it’s a bad movie.  It’s pretty well done…but I’ve seen this well done stuff many times before.  It has most of the same cliches and plot contrivances that most in the genre have.

It looks good, sounds good, is reasonably well acted (particularly by some of the odd kids), and has a creepy moment or two.  Overall, though, it’s not one that will last with me.  It’s just too typical.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are serviceable, Ron Livingston is…there, but it’s Lili Taylor that has to do all the heavy lifting once things start to go really crazy.  I guess the kids pull some weight too.  They have to make you believe they are terrified, and they do a good job.

I don’t have much else to say about this one.  I’ll leave it to Cinema Sins to point out all the little problems with it. It’s fun at times, but I wouldn’t say it was all that scary, and it didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

How about a little innovation in plots, movie makers?  Enough with the evil spirits that go bump, bump, bump in the night.  Enough with the put-upon mother who is always the object of torment.  Enough with the creepy kids.  Enough with the experts setting up cameras and other ghost hunter equipment.

I think horror writers should start with a list of things (see above) that can NOT appear in their story, then start building a plot.  Maybe then we can see something new…

6.5/10

This Is the End (2013)

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So none of you guys invited Jason Segel...?

So none of you guys invited Jason Segel…?

Well, if you’re looking for theological accuracy, this one probably isn’t for you.  But, if you want to have a few laughs (and see Hollywood types get terrorized during the apocalypse), you’re in luck.

It’s an all star cast of guys who some people love and some people hate.  Yes, all the polarizing actors are there.  Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel…even Michael Cera, all playing themselves.  The good thing is, they know how to have fun with their images, especially James Franco.  I enjoyed his performance the best, followed closely by Danny McBride.

Not much room for women in this one, aside from a brief appearance by Emma Watson, and I think it suffers a little for that.

Still, it’s a comedy, and what’s important is if I laughed.  And yes, I did.  Not throughout the whole thing, but enough to say it’s worth a watch.

7.2/10 

The Last Days on Mars (2013)

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Hold still, there's a bug on your face!

Hold still, there’s a bug on your face!

Ya know, when I saw a brief description of this one, I was hoping for more of a psychological drama.  Maybe they struggle with whether or not they should go back to Earth, knowing they’re infected with an unknown virus, or something like that.

Nope, just another super-violent-killer-monster movie.

People discover living substance on Mars…living substance infects 2 astronauts…they immediately turn into super strong zombie-like creatures…they attack and infect others…etc etc.  Been done before, you might say.  I wonder if this one started with somebody saying, “how about zombies…ON MARS!”

It has a nice look to it, and the mood of the first 20 minutes or so is effectively creepy I suppose, but by the end of it I felt like I had watched a pretty average B-movie about monsters on Mars.  If you stop and think about it (and you probably shouldn’t), not much in the movie really makes any sense.  Plus, none of the characters are developed to any extent at all, so their fates aren’t of any importance to the viewer.  Well, except for the cute girl I guess.  I was hoping she’d make it.

5.5/10

Before Midnight (2013)

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beforemidnight

At least I’m wearing a better shirt this time…

The third in the series from Richard Linklater, and probably my least favorite of the trilogy.  Why?  Maybe because it’s a little too grounded in reality.

The first two movies had a sort of magical, it-was-meant-to-be quality to them.  You were rooting for these two generally likable people to get together.  There were things they disagreed about, and some moments of anger, but overall, they just really dug being with each other.  Well, spoiler alert, it turns out that after the credits rolled on Before Sunset, Jesse DID miss his flight, and he and Celine DID have an affair, and they DID end up together.  Now, another 8 years down the road, they have a couple of kids and are dealing with the ups and downs of a long term relationship.

I guess the problem I had with it is just how ugly it got near the end.  Whereas Jesee was once a bit pompous, he is now just a complete asshole at times, especially in the final scenes.  And did we really need for this character to have cheated on the love of his life?  That just didn’t sit right with me.  The conflicts between them felt a little forced and just there to make a point.  It didn’t seem true to the characters I came to know in the first two films.

All that said, there are still some good walking and talking moments in this one.  It’s a lovely setting (Greece this time), as usual, and we have a few more characters thrown in this time for added conversational interest.  The highlight being a speech given by a woman named Natalia at a dinner gathering relatively early in the film which concludes with, “Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.”

Maybe in another 8 years we’ll get an update on Jesse and Celine (Before Noon?).  Until then…here’s to passing through.

6.2/10

The Way Way Back (2013)

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waywayback

top down, hair up

a) Yes, I still exist and occasionally watch movies.  Not sure why I’ve suddenly decided to write reviews again, but we’ll see if this lasts.

b) This movie was pretty funny.  Not a great movie, but funny.

Surprisingly, it is not Steve Carell’s character that is bringing the funny in this one.  He’s pretty much just an @$$hole from beginning to end.  And not a funny one.  Just an @$$hole.

No, the funny is brought by Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney.  It’s as if the writers (Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) poured all of their creativity into those two characters and left little else for the remaining cast.  When neither one of them is on screen, the movie drags a little.  Thankfully, the writers/directors know how great Sam Rockwell is and have him on screen quite a bit.  Love the Sam Rockwell.

As for the plot…well, it’s not exactly complicated or compelling.  You’ve got your standard awkward teen, Duncan (Liam James), being forced out of his comfort zone in new surroundings.  All the while dealing with his hatred of his mother’s boyfriend, played by Carell.  Of course there’s a cute girl who likes him…maybe…and an older slacker who takes him under his wing and teaches him how to win friends and impress people.

Standard stuff handled in a standard way.  Yet…funny.  I laughed a lot in the first 3rd of it, and just about every time Sam Rockwell was on the the screen.  I guess if you laugh enough, you can overlook other issues.

Did I mention I love the Sam Rockwell?

6.7/10

The Loneliest Planet (2012)

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hey look! nothing is happening over there either…

I like a lot of different types of movies, spanning many genres.  Yet, if there is a common theme that runs through all the movies I like, it’s that generally…stuff happens in them.

That is not the case with this movie.

The story, if you will, is about an engaged couple backpacking through the Caucasus Mountains with the help of a guide.  Everything is all fun and happy until a sudden, but subtle, moment.  From that point on, things aren’t the same for them.

I get the point of it.  One little incident can change the way we see or feel about somebody.  It can happen out of nowhere.  But…all of the stuff surrounding that little incident, before and after, is basically just people walking and barely talking.  And when they do talk, it’s usually not interesting or amusing.  Only the guide, Dato, is given anything interesting or funny to say.

The scenery is beautiful, of course, and the acting is convincing, but at nearly two hours, my patience wore out long before the ending credits suddenly, mercifully rolled…but only after enduring a 5 minute scene of our characters breaking down a campsite.

5.2/10