Posts Tagged movies

Earth to Echo

Echo 2

Armed with their bicycles, a set of hand held cameras, and the bonds of childhood friendship, a group of friends embark on a night-long adventure to help an adorable alien in EARTH TO ECHO. With a team of government agents and scientists hot on their heels, the kids are in a race against time to help the eponymous Echo repair his spaceship and travel home. 

It doesn’t take a canny eye to see the striking similarities between this film and the Spielberg classic E.T. Aside from the obvious parallels in plot, EARTH TO ECHO’s marketing campaign has relied heavily on nostalgia. One notable film poster even depicts an outstretched finger moments from touching Echo as an homage to E.T.’s infamous glowing red finger.  Read the rest of this entry »

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22 Jump Street

© 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

© 2014 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

21 JUMP STREET took me by surprise; while its true that comedy is mostly subjective, comedic reboots of nostalgic television series are usually fodder for the cheap DVD bin at Wal-Mart. Much like the rest of the world, I was surprised at just how much I ended up enjoying 21 JUMP STREET, due in no small part to the finger that directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have on the pulse of the modern comedy landscape. Truth told, after the first installment, I didn’t think I could laugh harder at a film; upon viewing 22 JUMP STREET, I’m proud to announce that I was wrong.

Undercover officers Schmidt and Jenko (Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum) are back in school tracking down the drug dealers and suppliers responsible for the proliferation of a designer drug at a local college. If this sounds suspiciously similar to the plot of the first film, then congratulations! You get the joke. 22 JUMP STREET hinges a lot of its humor on the idea of this film as a sequel, taking pot shots at the idea that the buddy cop duo needs to do more of the same since it worked so well the first time. The film never takes itself seriously, maintaining a fresh self-awareness that is able to expertly blend meta humor with a narrative that still builds on the Schmidt / Jenko relationship. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Hornet’s Nest

Hornet's Nest PosterAs someone who has never served in the military or seen combat first-hand, the nature of warfare has long been the stuff of movies to me. THE HORNET’S NEST, a documentary featuring the footage of war correspondent Mike Boettcher, has come closer than any piece of media to providing me with a glimpse of the harsh reality of the war in Afghanistan. In some ways, it is a difficult film to watch; the tension is uncomfortably palpable, and the stakes are 100% real. Combining POV footage and voice-over narration, Boettcher becomes the avatar for the audience, allowing us to experience vicariously the terror of being caught in the middle of a firefight.

THE HORNET’S NEST wastes no time dropping us into the action. The scene opens on a company of soldiers under heavy fire, trapped between Taliban units hidden in the trees. Bullets whiz over head, ricocheting off rocks, as soldiers yell commands at one another and return fire. The film starts with no context, only tension; the film then rewinds the clock to several months prior, when Mike Boettcher and his son Carlos being their tour in Afghanistan. Mike and Carlos’s relationship has been rocky, with Mike skipping many family functions over the years due to time spent covering foreign wars. The two have decided to use this trip as a bonding exercise, which provides an emotional anchor to the film.
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The Love Punch: A Swing and a Miss

The Love PunchIn THE LOVE PUNCH, divorced couple Richard (Pierce Brosnan) and Kate (Emma Thompson) discover that a corrupt businessman has bought out their business and run it into the ground. Now bankrupt, the pair embark on a trip to the South of France to steal a priceless, multimillion dollar jewel that the businessman has given to his supermodel girlfriend for their wedding. 

As you might expect from the premise, THE LOVE PUNCH is as much about the rekindling of the relationship between Richard and Kate as it is about the heist itself. Pierce Brosnan is a safe bet when casting a romantic comedy, bringing irresistible charm to every line. Likewise, Emma Thompson is an actress for whom I have a great deal of respect as both a leading lady and as a supporting actress due to her poise and pedigree. In spite of the film’s underwhelming script, the two are perfectly paired in this film, displaying a natural chemistry that makes the inevitable and obvious ‘will they / won’t they’ plot more endearing than I was expecting.

The film runs on rapid fire comedy that is as much miss as it is hit. A few of the gags connect, particularly those that are self-aware of the absurdity of an older couple planning a caper. More often, though, the jokes fall flat. Thompson, Brosnan, and supporting cast members Celia Imrie and Timothy Spall do their best to bring life and energy to the comedic beats, but the frenetic pace of the script opts for quantity over quality.

The details of the heist itself are mostly forgettable; the circumstances are contrived and the antagonists are over the top caricatures. In some films, this would be damning, but here, the caper is so secondary to the romantic themes that it almost doesn’t matter. THE LOVE PUNCH caters to a very specific, very niche audience. As a rom com for a more mature couple’s date night, you could do much worse. Otherwise, THE LOVE PUNCH would be more suitable as a lazy Sunday afternoon film than as a theatrical outing.

THE LOVE PUNCH opens in limited markets, including Phoenix, on May 23, 2014.

2 / 5

 

William Lindus
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The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Is Spidey Back?

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Imageworks

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Imageworks

When a film that rakes in big box office numbers faces an alarming volume of critical backlash, it is a challenge for filmmakers and production companies to know what parts of their formula to tweak for the sequel. Case in point, 2012’s THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. While the franchise reboot was not universally panned, fans and critics who saw glaring issues with the film were much more vocal than you might find with other lifeless blockbusters. Sony Pictures and, by extension, director Marc Webb had to have had this in mind when developing THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, and the result is a sequel that is substantially better than that its predecessor. Don’t get me wrong; it isn’t a great film, and perhaps this review will be equal parts whining about what I don’t like and damning the film with otherwise faint praise. Either way, I think it is worth noting that the filmmakers at least tried to make a better film than the previous installment. 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 presents itself more like a trailer for the four upcoming Spider-man franchise films that have been announced than as a work that can stand on its own two feet. I’m not normally one to complain about franchise building in the age of modern-day filmmaking; Disney/Marvel thrives by positioning each of their films as a teaser for the next to come, and Warner Bros. is looking to emulate that strategy with the JUSTICE LEAGUE franchise. What the AVENGERS films do effectively is contain their narratives in way that are individually satisfying if not seen in the context of the overarching cinematic universe. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, on the other hand, clumsily juggles several narrative threads that serve no purpose than to set up the sequels. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cracking DOM HEMINGWAY

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight, 2014

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight, 2014

Clocking in at a brisk runtime of 93 minutes, DOM HEMINGWAY is a curious film that somehow manages to be both too ambitious and too short at the same time. Director Richard Shepard certainly knows the type of stories he wants to tell about the titular Dom Hemingway, a London safe-cracker looking for his place in the world after serving a 12 year stint in prison. Through the film, Hemingway struggles with readjusting to a world that has left him in the dust over the past decade of isolation, tries to collect on an old debt, longs for a relationship with his daughter and grandchild, and tries to reintegrate himself into the criminal underground. 

Each of these story elements holds the potential for solid story telling, but the break-neck pace of the film rushes Dom from situation to situation without every allowing a scene to breath. A longer run time  or a more judicious editing hand with the script may have solved this fatal problem, allowing either more time for plot points to play out, or elimination extraneous sequences. Instead, we’re left with the film that fails to cram four fully realized acts into a three act structure. Read the rest of this entry »

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Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

Elaine Stritch

Like most writers, I try to find an entertaining hook or an interesting angle for each piece I write. As I prepared to write this review of Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a documentary chronicling the life, career, and vivacity of a Broadway and Hollywood legend, my initial instinct was to focus on Elaine herself. After all, at 87 years of age, Elaine Stritch continues to live a fascinating life, performing one-woman musical shows, and making waves dropping F bombs on the set of ‘Today’ with Kathie Lee and Hota. Elaine is a badass who lives her life by a no bullshit policy that somehow makes her refreshing instead of caustic.

We’ll get back to Elaine in a moment, though. The most important thing I can impart to my readers about Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is just how spot-on director and producer Chiemi Karasawa’s instincts are in the creation of this documentary. Karasawa  avoids unnecessary voice-overs and narration, allowing interviews with Elaine herself to carry the narrative of the documentary. When producing a documentary about a woman as full of vigor and charm as Stritch, allowing anyone else to tell her tale would be a disservice to the audience. Sure, Karasawa interweaves short interview segments with colleagues and friends, but these pieces are not meant to tell Stritch’s story as much as to provide framework and structure for the segments featuring Stritch herself to flourish.  Read the rest of this entry »

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