Comic Book Therapy » Movie Reviews http://www.comicbooktherapy.com News, reviews and happenings in the Comic Book World. Get your Daily Comic Book Therapy Today Thu, 11 Jun 2015 14:13:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-avengers-age-of-ultron-276704 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-avengers-age-of-ultron-276704#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 12:02:53 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276704 After three years of hype, it’s finally here. Avengers: Age of Ultron is is on the big screen. It’s an incredibly entertaining movie, but a few things keep it from reaching the greatness of its predecessor Spoiler warning for all Marvel Cinematic Universe films The big “fault” with Age of Ultron is the Bruce Banner […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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After three years of hype, it’s finally here. Avengers: Age of Ultron is is on the big screen. It’s an incredibly entertaining movie, but a few things keep it from reaching the greatness of its predecessor

Spoiler warning for all Marvel Cinematic Universe films

The big “fault” with Age of Ultron is the Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanov romance sub-plot. It starts out surprisingly refreshing, with Natasha knowing what she wants and not being subtle about it. Joss’ script even works in a few hints that while she is a sexy spy, it’s clear when she’s being genuine. It takes a surprising turn for the worse around mid way through the movie when Natasha is a love struck puppy who has nothing else to do but pine over Banner. While she kicks all sorts of ass in the final battle scene, having her solely focused her relationship seems like a step backwards for the character. Especially after the great development we got in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha deserved more than this.  There are some glimmers of hope, such as Natasha’s openness about the Red Room, but they quickly are squandered by showing how tragic Bruce has become. As a Hulk storyline, it’s works on multiple levels. Being accepted, but never truly feeling accepted in his mind is a constant problem for Bruce. The entire sub-plot should have been handled, and written, better.

Ultron is a strange case as a villain. While he’s not as weak as Malekith, he’s not on level with Loki (funny how the two extremes are Thor villains). His plan to “save the world” feels threatening, and watching as an entire town is turned into an asteroid is terrifying. The script undercuts the terror and menace with quips that feel out of place. Joss is a very funny writer, but seeing Ultron make jokes in the middle of battles feels off. Only a couple of times does Ultron reach the level of menace that the trailer showed. Ultron is a villain that becomes more menacing with time, as he learns to fight the Avengers. I hope that he’ll be back for future films. James Spader nails the voice work though. He has the right balance of menacing without turning you off to his ideals.

Near the end, we get a massive exposition dump from Thor. Joss has a penchant for writing things that people don’t say in real life, but they usually work. Thor’s exposition dump, which teases Phase 3, is momentum killer. It’s a necessity, as it helps the Vision become part of the team, but giving such detailed information about a dream is laughably bad. The crack that Joss puts into Tony and Steve’s relationship work really well, although Tony is still painted as a villain in those arguments.

The rest of Age of Ultron is an absolute blast. Unlike Avengers, Age of Ultron feels like a team effort. You pluck one member out of the movie, and the team won’t win the day. Each member contributes, but Iron Man and Captain America do get more screen time than the rest. Hawkeye finally gets some screen time, and his dialogue is some of the funniest. The Vision is going to be the Hulk of this movie. His introduction and dialogue breathe a breath of fresh air to the voices we’ve seen for some time now. The two new members, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, are developed well with the little time they had. Scarlet Witch gets more time than Quicksilver, but she’s always been the more interesting of the duo.

With a massive cast, it’s surprising that no one got left behind. Each member has a sub-plot, and it’s developed as much as the time allows. It does make the movie seem overcrowded at points, especially when everyone is trying to talk. It will be interesting to see how Marvel deals with this problem when Infinity War comes around. Depending on if the Guardians of the Galaxy join up, it could be an insanely crowded film.

It wouldn’t be a Joss Whedon movie without some humor. The jokes are spot on, and had me cracking up more than Avengers. Captain America gets most of the jokes this time around, albeit being the butt of them. Vision ends up being a shot in the arm for humor late in the film, as the jokes start flying from the android. Joss’ script never loses sight of the characters, always breaking up the action routinely to bring the movie back down to the ground.

The special effects are much better this time around. It’s amazing what adding one visual power set will do to a fight scene. Scarlett Witch’s hex powers liven up the brute strength of the men. Ultron’s design starts off great, but gets over complicated by the end of the movie. To quote Tony Stark, “You seem…puffy.” The action feels over bearing at times, but that’s the fight that Ultron has brought to the Avengers. Its in your face and won’t let up. It’s choreographed well, especially the big 360 degree shot with everyone fighting Ultron bots.

The acting is on par with what we’ve seen in past MCU films. Everyone is their usual charming self, but doesn’t strive to reach new heights for their characters. Chris Hemmsowrth seems rejuvenated as Thor. He had an energy that he was lacking severely in Thor: The Dark World. Pal Bettany’s Vision is spot on to the comic characterization of the android. His ideals, speech, and general demeanor are exactly what the Vision should be.

Now to discuss the after credits scene. You have been warned

Unlike Avengers, the mid credits scene wasn’t that big of a deal. We see Thanos grabbing the Infinity Gauntlet and say, “Fine. I’ll do it myself,” hinting at Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 & 2. There could be an AFTER credits scene, but there wasn’t when I saw it, and around the world is reporting that there isn’t. I’ll be seeing it again this weekend and will update if this changes.

End spoilers

Not without it’s faults, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a lot of fun. I still got chills, a dumb smile, and a general happy feeling watching the movie. It entertained me on every level.

Avengers: Age of Ultron gets 4/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Review: Home http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-home-276363 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-home-276363#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:06:09 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276363 I remember when Dreamworks Animation was a name to be reckoned with at the weekend box office. The name, like Disney, all but guaranteed quality. Now they are making movies like Home, which feels lazy films but looks beautiful. Home focuses on Oh (Jim Parsons), an unliked member of an alien species who invades Earth. […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Home

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I remember when Dreamworks Animation was a name to be reckoned with at the weekend box office. The name, like Disney, all but guaranteed quality. Now they are making movies like Home, which feels lazy films but looks beautiful.

Home focuses on Oh (Jim Parsons), an unliked member of an alien species who invades Earth. Tip (Rihanna) is one of the few humans who didn’t get relocated and tries to find her mom. The two bump into each other and their adventure helps save Earth and find Tip’s mom. It’s a cute story, if nothing revolutionary. Unfortunately the movie isn’t sure about what it wants to focus on, which creates an uneven pacing. It’s constantly jumping back and forth between Oh and Tip creating a friendship, and the Oh being chased by their nemesis, then Oh trying to sabotage finding Tip’s mother to find safety from his brethren. The lack of focus on the a specific plot creates a fractured movie that feels like there separate ides thrown into one movie.

Oh and Tip’s friendship isn’t paced well either. She’s given very little reasons to actually trust the alien (that just invaded her planet), but is all of a sudden his best friend after a couple hours in a car. It looked like we were going to get an interesting route, with Tip not trusting him and them creating a truce to better each other’s agenda. Quickly, it slouched back into territory we’ve seen a thousand times before. The few plot twists are fairly predictable, including one that can be figured out in the first twenty minutes.

While the movie might not have a soul, the visuals are gorgeous. One scene in particular had Oh falling into the water, and I was stunned at how lifelike the water looked. The design of the humans is nicely grounded, with small touches that make them appear more cartoon like. Tip’s mom, voiced by Jennifer Lopez, has a strangely football shaped head, giving me flashbacks to Hey Arnold!

The voice acting is a mix of great, and fairly tame. I barley recognized Rihanna’s voice with Tip, and she did a fantastic job of getting into the character. Adults will have their heartstrings tugged at while Tip is crying for her mom, and Rihanna voices it perfectly. Parsons is pretty much voicing an alien version of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, so his voice work feels pretty tame. The character of Oh is an outcast that no one like and constantly gets on people’s nerves while trying to accomplish his own agenda. That’s Sheldon, just in alien form. While understandable that he’d use Sheldon’s speech pattern for Oh, why not mix it up a bit? He’s already in serious danger of being type casted as Sheldon like characters, so why continue to create the problem?

A big factor in adults geared towards children is can it be appreciated with multiple viewings? Kids like to watch things immediately after their over, so will adults get bored? With Home, yes. The adult jokes are lacking, and even the comedic genius of Steve Martin, who voices the leader of the aliens, can’t add anything for adults. Kids will adore the film. I saw the movie at a theater packed with kids, and they were cracking up the entire time. Leaving the theater, the kids had nothing but good things to say. Since this movie is aimed towards kids, I guess Dreamworks got what they wanted.

If you already saw Cinderella and are looking for a family friendly movie to see, Home will do the trick. Otherwise, just see Cinderella. Besides the How to Train Your Dragon movies, Dreamworks has been on a bit of a bad streak. It looks like their challenging of Disney/Pixar at the box-office is a thing of the past.

Home gets 2/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Home

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Review: The Gunman http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-the-gunman-276327 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-the-gunman-276327#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:28:45 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276327 Since aging stars seem to be making a comeback with action movies, it was only a matter of time before Sean Penn went this route. The Gunman feels like Sean Penn is trying to make a superhero movie about his own life. The Gunman, based on a book, feels like every good spy movie you’ve […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Gunman

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Since aging stars seem to be making a comeback with action movies, it was only a matter of time before Sean Penn went this route. The Gunman feels like Sean Penn is trying to make a superhero movie about his own life.

The Gunman, based on a book, feels like every good spy movie you’ve seen before. While normally this can be a compliment, this is an insult. The Gunman uses your familiar knowledge with spy movies to make you think you are seeing a good film. When in fact, you are not. The humanitarian work is incredibly similar to Sean Penn’s high profile work in the same field, and it’s hard to separate art from life here. Penn, who helped write the script, seems to be glamorizing his life, which adds some unintentional humor to the plot. The actual plot is anything but interesting and can’t find any justification to have anything happen. Why is Penn’s character being targeted 8 years later? Why not? Why not 7 years later? SHUT UP.

The Gunman’s script is pretty lackluster and can’t find natural segue ways between sub-plots. Penn is talking about one thing, while Javier Bardem is talking about another. They are having two different conversations with each other and they don’t seem to notice the other one is talking about something different. The script also tries to work in a tragic illness arc with Jim (Penn), that feels like something that would work better in book form. In the movie, it keeps coming out of left field to add tension to the firefight, but feels like lazy writing. It’s a plot thread the script can hold in it’s back pocket until it writes itself into a corner. And when I say write itself into a corner, I mean end the movie. At a few points, The Gunman can seemingly end. Then Jim’s illness pops up, and we extend the movie for another half an hour.

The Gunman is a prime example of a book to film adaptation that shouldn’t have happened. It feels like a book. Colorful side characters continuously appear, then disappear, seemingly at random. Or, they are barely in the movie in the first place. Idris Elba’s character is in the film for around seven minutes. We see a quick hint of him at the beginning, and then right before the credits role. In the book, I’m sure that his character was hinted, or mentioned, or we saw him doing things behind the scenes. Felix (Javier Bardem), is only in half the movie. Why bother enlisting these A-list actors if you’re not going to use them? There is some rampant misogyny, as the script does nothing for Annie other than make her the trophy of Alex or Jim.

Pierre Morel, the director of Taken, must have been afraid to say anything to Sean Penn. Penn is constantly shirtless, even though the situation barely calls for that. He strangely keeps manhandling his love interest Annie (Jasmine Trinca) to a point where you think he’s going to switch sides and kill her. While the illness sub-arc explains that Jim could experience random mood swings, it never comes across that way. Randomly hitting a woman in the head with a lock doesn’t come across as a mood swing, it comes across as you’re a crazy man.

While The Gunman is a bad flick, there are some surprisingly ok performances. Penn gives Jim his usual intensity, and there is even flickers of likability at the beginning. He has zero chemistry with Jasmine Trinca. Even if there was chemistry between them, she looks quite a bit younger than Penn (he’s 20 years older than her). Javier Bardem is fun to watch as Alex, who is a complete asshole, as he messes with Jim. He should have been in the movie more. Oh Idris Elba was in this movie?

Don’t see The Gunman. If you’re slightly interested, rent it or wait until it’s on cable television. Save you’re money or go see Kingsman if you’re looking for an action film.

The Gunman gets 1.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Gunman

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Review: Cinderella http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-cinderella-276276 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-cinderella-276276#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:22:43 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276276 Disney’s new formula of remaking animated classics continues with Cinderella. While not so different than the 1950 classic, it still effectively captures the charm and magic of Walt’s film. Much like Maleficent, Cinderella takes this opportunity to dig into some of the finer points of a classic animated film. Unfortunately for Cinderella, this isn’t necessary. […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Cinderella

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Disney’s new formula of remaking animated classics continues with Cinderella. While not so different than the 1950 classic, it still effectively captures the charm and magic of Walt’s film.

Much like Maleficent, Cinderella takes this opportunity to dig into some of the finer points of a classic animated film. Unfortunately for Cinderella, this isn’t necessary. The movie clocks in at an hour and forty five minutes, but it could have been trimmed down from there. The new subplot of the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgård) working with Cinderella’s Step Mother (Cate Blanchett) is unnecessary and doesn’t affect the plot in any way. Remove that plot, and Cinderella (Lily Jame) still ends up with the Prince (Richard Madden) at the end. This is the only major difference, as Cinderella is quite faithful to Disney’s animated version. Cinderella knows what it is and is happy with that. It’s a fairy tale story so why get cluttered in re-imaginations. This helps the movie capture the charm that the classic Disney animated films had. If you’re a good person, you’re an eternal optimist, but if you’re a bad person, you hate everyone. Disney seems to have taken a slight page from Frozen, as the Prince and Cinderella meet a few times before falling in love. They also have a meaningful conversation or two.

The film’s pacing is lighting quick, which is both a good and bad thing. The movie doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, but we also don’t get some wanted development about our leads. Cinderella and the Prince are quite likable, but a scene or two about who they are outside of their traditional scenarios would have been interesting. More interesting than the Grand Duke subplot at least.

Kenneth Branagh’s direction fits the grand and regal feel of the original Cinderella. Sweeping shots and smooth moving cameras make the movie feel elegant. Cinderella and Kit’s (the Prince) dance does a great job of sucking you into the dance and making it impossible to notice anyone else, much like the couple themselves.

There is no denying that Disney is a successful company. So why the hell can’t they create effective CGI in their movies?. Everything has a slight blur to it, and CGI characters feel stapled into every scene. One scene in particular had Cinderella and her Fairy God Mother (Helena Bonham Carter) smushed against some glass. Cinderella’s nose gets squished, but for some reason the Fairy God Mother’s doesn’t? Also, why digitally age the Fairy God Mother for a quick scene instead of using makeup? Did Disney not have faith in this project and didn’t feel like sinking in a lot of money? Disney needs to start looking to an outside company for digital work.

The production values on Cinderella are fantastic. Everything feels lived in enough to be believable, but feels like something out of a dream. The music takes some subtle music queues from the 1950 animated version. Active listeners will notice notes from “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Bo” (although that phrase is never said).

Whomever made Lily James’ dresses needs to rethink how a dress is made. James looked like she was on the verge of passing out the dresses were so tight. Her boobs nearly burst out every time she breathes. Yes, Disney princesses of old have small waists. Wouldn’t this be a good time to change that though? Her inability to properly breath becomes funny at points, and annoying at others.

Lily James is an adequate Cinderella. She’s likable and her eternal optimism is infectious. Her delivery can be stiff at points, especially when trying to convey how much she loves the Prince. Richard Madden is charming as all hell as the Prince. The audience can feel his love for Cinderella, and Madden wears it on his face perfectly. Cate Blanchett’s Step Mother is wicked in every sense of the word. We don’t hate her because we are suppose to, we hate her because she gives us every to hate her. She’s an evil person and revels in it. Blanchett seems to be having a ball playing the Step Mother, and it’s her best performance as a villain I’ve seen. Helena Bonham Carter is good as the Fairy God Mother, but is only in it for five minutes, which gives her barely anything to work with.

Flaws aside, Cinderella is a charming movie. It’s hard to not feel happy at the end of the film. In an era where studios are trying to go gritty and dark, it’s refreshing to see a studio make such an optimistic film.

Cinderella gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Cinderella

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Review: Chappie http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-chappie-276206 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-chappie-276206#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:42:33 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276206 After Neil Blomkamp’s somewhat disappointing Elysium, I had my reservations about Chappie. Those reservations were gone by the end of Chappie, which sees Blomkamp returning to form. Chappie revolves around the police force in Johannesburg using “Scouts”, bulletproof robots, as police. Their creator, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) desires to create an artificial intelligence. […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Chappie

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After Neil Blomkamp’s somewhat disappointing Elysium, I had my reservations about Chappie. Those reservations were gone by the end of Chappie, which sees Blomkamp returning to form.

Chappie revolves around the police force in Johannesburg using “Scouts”, bulletproof robots, as police. Their creator, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) desires to create an artificial intelligence. Chappie is the result, but influence from some low lifes (South African rappers Watkin Jones and Yolanda Visser) changes how Deon wanted to raise his new creation.

The plot doesn’t try to overdo itself with complications. The movie is about Chappie learning to be human and focuses squarely on that. Chappie’s development feels natural for most of the movie and every lesson is earned to the audience and Chappie. This creates some very sweet, and quite funny, sequences. These learning scenes play out you’d expect, but Sharlto Copley’s (District 9) voicing of Chappie kept them endearing and engaging. There is a massive leap in logic, in terms of plot and Chappie’s intelligence, near the end of the movie that feels too convenient considering it took Chappie nearly half an hour of movie time to learn how to speak properly.

The villains of Chappie, a South African drug lord and Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), are underwhelming at best. Neither provide enough menace or motive to be a proper villain. Life itself feels more like the villain in Chappie. The movie keeps the villains in it’s back pocket until the ending when it needs a conflict. There are a few elements of Jackman’s character that could have played out well, his religion and man creating AI, but are only hinted on.

Blomkamp has never been a subtle person with his messages. The idea that the life is naturally good, and can overcome corruption is front and center in every scene. While Chappie is filled with good ideas, the script doesn’t convey them in the best of ways. Emotional scenes feel stiff, with cliched dialogue that ends up being cringe worthy instead of tugging at your heart strings. This is only in the humans though, as Chappie’s stilted dialogue cuts to the core of his feelings and keeps the pace quick.

The motion capture work on Chappie is close to the new Planet of the Apes movies in terms of believability. Chappie fits in seamlessly with every human actor in the room, and didn’t once feel sewn into the scene. The quality of the camera occasionally dips (on purpose), and Chappie continues to feel natural in the scene.

The acting is, ironically enough, quite robotic. Watkins Jones and Yolanda Visser (going by their rapper names Ninja and Yolanda respectively) end up bogging the movie down. They are in almost every scene but can’t seem to muster up emotions or inflection when delivering lines. They’re annoying as hell at points, and their gangster “lifestyle” feels like something a parent from the early 90’s would think the gangster lifestyle would be. Moore isn’t developed enough for Jackman to be anything other than a prick, but at least he pulls that off effectively. Dev Patel’s gives the best performance amongst the humans. We can feel the admiration and terror as a parent that Deon feels as Chappie grows and learns. Sharlto Copley’s motion capture rivals Andy Serkis in terms of feeling life like. While a lot of believability is thanks to the special effects team, Copley’s timid reactions to everything around him quickly worms it’s way into your heart. Copley has a strange knack of playing larger than life characters and excelling at them.

Sony, turn down the product placement a bit. People in the audience were laughing how PS4s were thrusted into a scene where everyone is below the poverty line. At least the Vaio computers looked like crap. The PS4s were, I’m not kidding here, right out of the box brand new.

Problems aside, I had a fun time watching Chappie. I plan on buying Chappie once it hits Blu-Ray in a few months.

Chappie gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Chappie

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Review: Focus http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-focus-276135 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-focus-276135#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 17:12:35 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276135 Will Smith hasn’t had a great run of movies over the past few years. While Focus is far from perfect, it’s a fun movie that should turn the tide in Will Smith’s favor. The trailer makes Focus look more like a heist film that what it really is: a romantic comedy. Nicky (Will Smith) and […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Focus

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Will Smith hasn’t had a great run of movies over the past few years. While Focus is far from perfect, it’s a fun movie that should turn the tide in Will Smith’s favor.

The trailer makes Focus look more like a heist film that what it really is: a romantic comedy. Nicky (Will Smith) and Jess (Margot Robbie) are the real focus of the film, while the stealing aspects become the framework for their relationship. This works for the better, as the stealing/heist aspects become ludicrous as the film goes on. These elaborate cons continuously one up themselves to a point where the audience doesn’t care, because we know that something is going to be pulled out of someone’s ass and everyone will right as rain. The ending breaks the camels back in terms of twists/messing with the audience’s expectations. When it felt like the film was taking a real chance, it twists it around to tie-in with a backstory that really didn’t matter in the long run. Focus messes with our expectations well enough in the beginning, and this helps cement the fun atmosphere for the rest of the movie. Focus nicely doesn’t take itself to serious with a hearty amount of jokes and sight gags to mix up the stealing aspects.

Speaking of stealing, are we really to believe that there are THAT many thieves in one place at one time? Much like the plans themselves, the level of stealing starts at fine level, albeit exaggerated, then movie quickly ramps this up to an unbelievable level. Bending the level of acceptance is fine, but breaking that level quickly can take the audience out of the movie. While the general person is stupid, some of the tactics pulled are in their face and feel a bit forced to show how “smart” these thieves are.

As with any romantic comedy, we need to talk about the chemistry of the two leads. Will Smith and Margot Robbie have some decent chemistry, but it becomes hard to like them together once the real plot of the story kicks in. There really isn’t a spark when both are trying to stab each other in the back. I ended up liking the leads more when they weren’t together. Focusing (no pun intended) on Smith stealing gave the script more room to have fun with the set up and keeps your eyes glued to the screen. The secondary characters almost steal the show at points. The eccentric businessman Liyuan (BD Wong) is hilariously over the top. Farhad (Adrian Martinez) has a few good sight gags, but gets a tad old when he opens his mouth.

Focus seems like it’s trying to appeal to everyone in the room. It targets the romantic comedy crowd and the action crowd in the hopes that more people will see it. It mostly succeeds in this, but the movie feels under developed as a result. It can’t focus (god dammit I did it again) on enough to fully develop one or the other, so it settles with a light surface scratching instead. Considering the desolate release schedule that is normally January-February, you could do a lot worse than Focus.

Will Smith seems to be having more fun in Focus than I’ve seen him have in a long time. He brings a liability to Nicky that only Will Smith can. Margot Robbie is likable as Jess, but she’s slightly relegated to a plot device as the movie goes along. It’s about Nicky getting her back, or Nicky rescuing her, etc. She feels like second fiddle to Nicky even though we’ve seen that she has just as much talent at stealing thing as Nicky.

Focus is a fun enough movie in the theater, but ultimately forgettable. Look for it to hit TBS/TNT eventually in between NCIS and Criminal Minds marathons.

Focus gets 3/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Focus

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Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-hot-tub-time-machine-2-276061 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-hot-tub-time-machine-2-276061#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 14:41:22 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=276061 Hot Tub Time Machine getting a sequel was a massive surprised, even to those (like me) who liked it. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 goes with the “bigger is better” idea, and that doesn’t necessarily work all the time. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is about as stupid as you’d expect. Instead of the past, […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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Hot Tub Time Machine getting a sequel was a massive surprised, even to those (like me) who liked it. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 goes with the “bigger is better” idea, and that doesn’t necessarily work all the time.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 is about as stupid as you’d expect. Instead of the past, the group travels to the future and has to figure out who is going to kill Lou in 2015. The plot continues it’s idiocy well, but seems to forget what started the movie in the first place. The Mystical Time Lord in Chevy Chase makes a quick appearance, but then is completely forgotten again. Adam Yates Jr is getting married, but he constantly has to remind everyone that this is a plot point and it’s rushed near the end. There is some quality development of character, such as Lou and Jacob’s relationship, but that’s ignored a few seconds later. I had to check the IMDB page to see how many people wrote since it seemed to scatter brained. It was one person, John Heald, who wrote Hot Tub Time Machine. While losing someone from the original movie never helps, making a decent amount of references to him makes it worse. Adam (John Cusack) is badly referenced in the first half hour, but again, never brought up again. There are some good ideas, but they could have been executed better.

On the flip side of this, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 could have been a hell of a lot worse. It’s a basic rehash of the first movie, but I never felt like I had seen the movie already. The references to the original are nice, but you don’t need to see the original to appreciate them. While it’s not on level with 22 Jump Street in terms of quality, I still laughed more than I have at most comedy sequels.

Unfortunately the loss of John Cusack seems to have broken the cap on the raunchiness. Lou (Rob Corddry) gets more screen time in the sequel, and this is unfortunate considering his character is pretty one note. Lou works as a side character, not the main focus. Making jokes about dicks gets old within the first forty five minutes and the script never gives anything else for Corddry to do besides have his character a pathetic loser. Nick Webber (Craig Robinson) and Jacob (Clark Duke) get the better jokes of the main group. The “You’re a Nerd” song had me giggling every time. A few scenes seem to have been totally improvised, and it’s clear to the audience that they are having quite a bit of fun. It’s moments like this that had everyone in the theater laughing and not just sparse groups. Not everything is unfunny, as there are some good moments that had me laughing out loud. These started to get fewer and far between as the movie went along and tried to get back to the plot of Lou dying.

Adam Yates Jr. (Adam Scott) plays the straight man, but not having a deep connection to the rest of the group makes him feel like an outsider. He’s a guinea pig and takes the brunt of the physical comedy. Adam Scott is up to the task, but his character never meshes with the rest of the group as well. There are numerous references to other movies, which ended up being funnier than I thought. The credits ended up being one of the best gags in the movie, and probably should have been the movie in itself. Yes, they do repeat the name of the title and look at the camera. Yes, it is one of the funnier jokes in the movie. Gillian Jacobs might as well not been in this movie. She’s a hysterical actress, and horribly under utilized. Her character is a plot point and nothing above that.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2’s humor can be summed up in one sentence: lowest common dominator. Everyone involved makes it obvious what group they are making this movie for, and that is high school/college guys. While it’s fine to know your audience, the original just tried to be funny instead of pleasing a specific group in the audience.

There is a strange amount of bad editing in Hot Tub Time Machine 2. A couple of times I questioned how a character got from place to place as they moved great distances in the span of half a second. There is numerous uses of ADR (additional dialogue recording), but they don’t line up well over the mouth’s of the actors, making for a lazy looking movie. The added fact that the ADR voices don’t come close to sounding like the actors did in the movie makes Hot Tub Time Machine 2 seem like a TV show at points. The few visual references to actors not in the movie, John Cusack and Lyndsy Fonseca, are painful at points. The production team seems to have CGIed in a still from the production photos of Hot Tub Time Machine instead of finding a decent picture of the actor. If I remember correctly, John Cusack’s picture looks to be him from the Hot Tub Time Machine poster.

You know what you are getting when you go see a movie called Hot Tub Time Machine 2. If you liked the first one, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy the this one as well. This should probably be the end of the series, as I doubt this one will make as much money with on demand service as the original did.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2 gets 2.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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Review: The Boy Next Door http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-boy-next-door-275871 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-boy-next-door-275871#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 16:23:34 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275871 There are days that I hate this job. Seeing movies for free, how could that ever get old? You’d be surprised when you see movies like The Boy Next Door. Where to start with this movie? The plot is quite by the books for a thriller/stalker movie, and is terribly afraid to veer anywhere from […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Boy Next Door

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There are days that I hate this job. Seeing movies for free, how could that ever get old? You’d be surprised when you see movies like The Boy Next Door.

Where to start with this movie? The plot is quite by the books for a thriller/stalker movie, and is terribly afraid to veer anywhere from that. Victim makes mistake by sleeping with stalker, stalker doesn’t like this, stalker tries to ruin life. The stalker, Noah (Ryan Guzman) is a borderline all-knowing person who is able to predict every move of the victim Claire (Jennifer Lopez). How? He hacked her email! Again…how? Shut up you’re asking too many questions. Thankfully this lightly plotted movie only runs at 90 minutes, so the pain doesn’t last forever. It can feel like it’s lasting forever sometimes as the things go into slow mo to show how she “nearly misses” getting caught, which made everyone in the theater laugh instead of tense from the suspense.

The Boy Next Door has to be one of the most misogynistic movies I’ve seen released in the last few years.The woman is constantly wrong and berated when trying to hide everything. The principle accuses her right away without actually talking to her about her issue with Noah, and assumes she’s done something wrong. Claire’s cheating husband, Garret (John Corbett), suddenly comes back in the picture, and everyone around her blames HER for thinking it’s ok to forgive someone. The Boy Next Door is a terrible movie for rape victims, as it seems like you can never say anything because someone will possibly think bad about you. Yeah, she is a teacher, but Claire has a decent amount of proof that this dude is messing with her. Maybe stop, talking to your husband for a second, and figure out your next move? Monday Morning Quarterbacking a movie is expected, but when the character is so dumb she can’t figure out normal routes of action we begin to hate the character instead of sympathizing for h er.

The soundtrack sounds like someone took a Casio keyboard and hit the different tempo buttons.  Tracks constantly repeat and only get louder to build up the supposed “tension”. There is a terrible amount of dubbed scenes, making some look like something out of a Japanese Godzilla film. While not used much, the gun sound effects are laughable. I had PTSD of The Beast of Yucca Flatts as a decent amount of gun shots happen off screen to avoid having to show them. If they HAD been on screen, someone would have been shot. These must have been magic bullets.

The editing makes the entire movie feel off. Every scene has quick takes and cutaways, never letting you linger or get comfortable with a scene. While this is a nice tactic for if Noah was stalking Claire, this is used on ordinary scenes like dinner. It gives the movie a quick feeling, but an unnecessary quick feeling. Let’s explore the relationship with between Kevin (Claire’s son) and his dad more instead of quick scenes of them telling us what they are going to do.

Jennifer Lopez’s makeup goes from caked on to almost nothing at all. Not that one is better than the other, but it seems weird that a consistency can’t be reached when the character is going from work to home. She also seems airbrushed in scenes, which exacerbates the makeup problem.

The acting is just as bad as the rest of the movie. Jennifer Lopez’s delivery is laughable at points and just sad at others. She’s trying to convey terror but only knows how to frown and cry. Her emotions are too forced to be relatable. Ryan Guzman is so over the top that any form of menace he can muster ends up being funny. His creepy face is hysterical, and he keeps going back to it, which makes it even funnier. Granted, he nails the sexual innuendos is pristine fashion. Why is Kristin Chenoweth in this movie? She’s an accomplished Broadway start. This seems below her.

Bottom line: don’t see this movie. Don’t even think about it. I went home after seeing The Boy Next Door and needed a beer to wash the memory of this movie out

The Boy Next Door gets .5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Boy Next Door

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Review: Blackhat http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-blackhat-275821 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-blackhat-275821#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 16:34:02 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275821 January is usually a bad time to see movies. It’s a dumping ground for studios. Blackhat rises above that crap, but still succumbs to some big issues. The plot focuses on Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a brilliant hacker who is going to help the United States and China capture a cyber terrorist. His former room mate, […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Blackhat

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January is usually a bad time to see movies. It’s a dumping ground for studios. Blackhat rises above that crap, but still succumbs to some big issues.

The plot focuses on Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth), a brilliant hacker who is going to help the United States and China capture a cyber terrorist. His former room mate, Leehom Wang (Chen Dawai) just so happens to work in the Chinese military and works with the United States to get him out of prison and help find the cyber terrorist. Naturally, crap hits the fan, and Hathaway and Leehom’s sister, Lien Chen (Wei Tang), run away to catch the terrorist.

Blackhat’s initial problem is pacing. It jumps back and forth from a slow burn cat and mouse chase to a high speed thriller, shoot everyone in sight movie. Both aspects worked fine on their own, but clash when thrown together. It also can’t seem to find a way to juggle all the plot points. Hathaway and Lien Chen have a relationship throughout the movie, but it’s never developed. Having never met, they just start banging and are going to spend their lives together. This is the same woman who said, “You look different than in the pictures my brother showed me.” Clearly, she has never met this man before. As a compatriot, she would have worked great. She’s smart, has the personal ties with Leehom, and is quite likable as a person. The love subplot just destroys it all.

The villain feels like an afterthought. The majority of Blackhat focuses on finding a middleman for the main villain. With around 45 minutes left, it decides to focus on this fat, un-intimidating villain. While a nice parallel for the real world cyber terrorists, it doesn’t make for an interesting villain in a movie. His motivation, making money off the stock markets, just doesn’t feel like a great plot. Maybe if the villain had a background in finance or we knew what he was going to do with the money, but having money for the sake of having it doesn’t feel deep enough.

The shooting the in action scenes is laughable. These bad guys shoot worse than the Assholes aboard Spaceball One in Spaceballs. They can barely hit anything in front of them, but the heroes are getting headshots left and right. It got to a point where the audience was laughing at the display of an American standing alone in the middle of street, and gunfire, and hitting every henchmen with perfect accuracy.

Blackhat isn’t all bad though. There are some great action scenes, and watching Chris Hemsworth kick ass never gets old. Michael Mann’s direction gets you into the face of the fight sequences and makes them feel intimate in a way. It can be a too shaky at points, but there is never anything big going on that you wouldn’t see. Hathaway’s final confrontation with the villain pumped the audience up and made me almost forget the missteps that had come before. The slow burn pace of the cat and mouse held my interest well, and the script doesn’t treat the audience like an idiot. There is a lot of jargon thrown about, but Blackhat forces you to keep up and figure out what is going on. The plot is quite generic, but it still grabs your attention. I didn’t think about checking my phone once during the film. Broken down, Blackhat is a good film. The good pieces don’t make a good film though.

The acting is good in places and quite bad in others. Hemsworth is doing some weird accent that he can’t keep straight, but otherwise is likable as Hathaway. Unfortunately for the audience, he has zero chemistry with Wei Tang. Everything about their relationship feels forced. Tang has some brilliant scenes, but oddly gets shoved out of a lot of scenes. It seems that Tang was a victim of ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording). Numerous scenes have her facing away from the camera, or her mouth not matching her dialogue. This makes for a lot quick cuts that feel jarring.

Blackhat gets 2.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Blackhat

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Review: Unbroken http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-unbroken-275649 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-unbroken-275649#comments Tue, 23 Dec 2014 13:42:59 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275649 With the name power behind Unbroken, I was expecting a great film.  I was incredibly wrong. Unbroken is a mess of a movie that has trouble doing even the basic things right. While the overall film is bad, there is some good film making at points in Unbroken.  When Lou (Jack O’Connell), Phil (Domhnall Gleeson), […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Unbroken

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With the name power behind Unbroken, I was expecting a great film.  I was incredibly wrong. Unbroken is a mess of a movie that has trouble doing even the basic things right.

While the overall film is bad, there is some good film making at points in Unbroken.  When Lou (Jack O’Connell), Phil (Domhnall Gleeson), and Mac (Finn Wittrock) are stuck on the life boats, the movie flourishes.  Their struggle feels real to the audience, and we really connect with their reason to live.  Mixed in is Lou’s reason to go home, Olympic dreams and a family, and we have a great set up for his upcoming hell.  Sadly this is where the crap hits the fan.  Once Lou and company are captured by the Japanese, all connections to his past are lost.  It’s one scene of him getting the crap kicked out of him, then this is repeated over and over.  There isn’t any form of character development other than “Man, this dude can get punched a lot and live.”  This lather, rinse, repeat pattern goes on for over an hour.  It makes for a very boring film and disconnects Lou from the audience.  Since he is getting beaten up, he has no need to speak other than grunting.  So that’s what he does…for the entire third act.  Lou does not speak other than screaming for the entire third act. How did anyone on the production team not catch this?  Or did they think it was a good idea?  Considering this was written by the Coen brothers, I would like to thing something happened in between the original script and filming that cut out all of Lou’s dialogue.

Lou’s sudden urge to become a silent monk isn’t the only problem plaguing this movie.  A few plot points are created, but disappear part way through the film.  Phil as a character is never mentioned again after a certain point.  What happened to him? Where did he go?  Most likely he went to a different camp run by the Japanese, but the movie couldn’t have told/shown us that?  While slightly cliched, I enjoyed the flashbacks that showed how Lou eventually got to be in the war.  So why stop once the Olympics happen? Did nothing interesting happen between the 1936 Olympics and him entering the war?  If occasional flashbacks are going to be your method of developing Lou, then stick with it for the entire film.

As Angelina Jolie’s first major directing job, she shows some promise.  Clint Eastwood is clearly an inspiration for her, as we have countless scenes of people looking just beyond the camera as they witness atrocities.  There are plenty of close ups of people in despair as they get beaten.  The entire movie just feels safe for a biopic.  If I hadn’t seen Jolie’s name during the opening credits, I would have sworn that Eastwood directed this.  While I didn’t like everything Ava DuVernay did with Selma, at least she took risks with her direction.  If Jolie is going to continue directing films, I’d like to have her find her own style instead of copying her inspiration so heavily.

Unbroken’s acting is a mixed bag.  Jack O’Connell has the look of a 1940s hunk, and does a decent job with what he is given.  His time on the life boat shows O’Connell straddling the line of madness while trying to be the rock of the other two soldiers.  Occasionally his delivery is monotone at points and lacks any emotion, but he comes through when it counts.  He is great at getting the shit kicked out of him, which is harder than it looks.  The Bird is horribly miscast. Miyavi can’t create the fear/respect a character like him needs to be intimidating. He latches onto the daddy issue angle for the Bird and runs with it for the entire film.  It’s hard for the audience to get really mad at him other than being a colossal douche.  Garret Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) is likable as John Fitzgerald, but isn’t given much to actually do as a character besides dump exposition.  The child actors are painfully bad.   Besides the terrible stage fighting, they all seem like they are reading cue cards just off screen and haven’t seen the lines before.

There is just too much broken (pun intentional) with Unbroken to recommend this movie. Watch it when it’s eventually on TNT on a random Saturday.

Unbroken gets 2/5

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Unbroken

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Review: Into the Woods http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-woods-275641 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-woods-275641#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:15:54 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275641 With Les Miserables doing so well with critics and film goers, it was only a matter of time before we got more musical films.  Into the Woods is a valiant effort, but should have taken a few more pointers from Les Miserables. The plot is basically the same as the famed musical. The realm is […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Into the Woods

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With Les Miserables doing so well with critics and film goers, it was only a matter of time before we got more musical films.  Into the Woods is a valiant effort, but should have taken a few more pointers from Les Miserables.

The plot is basically the same as the famed musical. The realm is filled with classic fairy tale characters as their stories criss cross each other and create mayhem.  The plots are familiar, but the slightly darker tone gives them a new light for those who know the Disney versions of these stories.  Act 1 works out fine with all of this, as four simple stories sort out nicely with the run time.  Act 2 is where the story issues comes to light.  With most of the characters focusing on a common goal, the movie starts to drag.  The plots are interesting, but it feels like nothing much is happening. This is worsened by the sudden drought of songs.  Where Act 1 goes from song to song, we get large breaks in between songs in Act 2.

Instead of live singing, Into the Woods goes for a pre-recorded/lip synching method.  What made Les Miserables such a great film in my eyes was the choice to sing live. It sucked you into the movie and the emotions of the characters. Here, it feels like the audience is slightly disconnected. I know that Meryl Streep, as brilliant as she is, can not sing that clearly with wooden teeth in her mouth.  Not to say that the singing isn’t good, far from it.  The singing is top notch (to someone who hasn’t seen the musical on stage) and was very entertaining.  The lack of live singing cuts the emotion out of the song in a way.  It doesn’t feel as raw or in the moment, as if the actor HAD to sing their emotions to let them out.  The songs themselves were wonderful. If found myself singing “Agony” for days, and then days again after I finally get it out my head and suddenly remember the song.

The special effects are used at a minimum, but they are still used more than I like.  While this is a supernatural story, this is also something that was performed on the stage without the use of CGI.  I would have liked to see more practical effects used to capture the sense of what the musical was like on stage.  Disney didn’t visualize what Jack did when stealing the Giant’s gold at least, so there are some wins to be found.  The visual effects are great, and Witch’s entrance and exit add some visual flair, but it’s unnecessary.  Thankfully the giant in Act 2 isn’t shown as much.  It’s blocked out mostly, which helps build the tension without sacrificing the spirit of the musical.

The acting is my favorite part of Into the Woods. While it’s easy to go on and on about Meryl Streep as the Witch, Chris Pine ends up being the person I talk about the most.  He has that weird sincerity mixed with douchebag that makes for a great performance.  I was crying laughing during “Agony”.  Emily Blunt (the Baker’s Wife) and James Corden (the Baker) have some great chemistry, although Corden loses some of that spark near the end of the movie.  Without delving into spoilers, his character should be very sad, but can’t seem to make us feel his sadness.  Blunt is incredibly likable as the Baker’s Wife, even to the point where I wasn’t too upset whens he does a bad thing later in the movie.  Anna Kendrick is good as Cinderella, but never seems to stride into greatness.

Daniele Huttlestone is decent as Jack, but can’t seem to muster up believable emotions at points.  He’s sad for his mother, but it feels like he’s trying to hard to find the emotions to convey. He’s got the singing chops, as shown in Les Miserables, so there is a win for him at least.  Lilla Crawford has the unfortunate task of being a younger than normal Red Riding Hood. Normally the actress playing her is much older, so the sexual innuendos don’t seem as creepy.  She can sing well though, and balances the abrasive yet sweet Red Riding Hood effectively.  Johnny Depp is the Wolf, but he’s there for like 30 seconds so who cares.

As with most adaptations, there have been some changes. I’ve enlisted my theater major wife, who was stage manager in a production of this musical, to enlighten me on what changed from the stage.  Red Riding Hood is generally played by a young 20’s actress, which makes sense given the overtly sexual lyrics.  I’m not sure why they didn’t age up Red Riding Hood in the film so the lyrics made more sense.  Anna Kendrick has to sing an octave lower than what Cinderella is written for. This doesn’t affect the plot of the musical, but it does beg the question as to why Disney couldn’t have found someone who could sing the role as originally written.  There are a few songs cut, like “Agony (Reprise),” but I’ve been told this actually quickened the movie up.  The song “Your Fault” is slowed down compared the lightning quick version performed on stage. Again, it doesn’t affect the plot, but why not have the actors train more so they could perform it the way it was intended to be performed.

Into the Woods gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Into the Woods

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Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-hobbit-battle-five-armies-275608 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-hobbit-battle-five-armies-275608#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:28:20 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275608 After three years, and three movies, The Hobbit film series has come to an end. Battle of the Five Armies sadly doesn’t end the series on the high note the trilogy desperately needed. Around seventy five percent of the film focuses on the titular battle while little to nothing else goes on. This ends up […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

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After three years, and three movies, The Hobbit film series has come to an end. Battle of the Five Armies sadly doesn’t end the series on the high note the trilogy desperately needed.

Around seventy five percent of the film focuses on the titular battle while little to nothing else goes on. This ends up making Battle of the Five Armies the lightest on plot for the trilogy, and the prime example of why this series should have only been two films. Not enough happens to the main characters to justify the third movie. The battle could have been trimmed down, as could the escape from Lake Town. Some of the side characters could have been cut or trimmed down to quick then pacing. All of this could have helped to make two three hour movies work. Thankfully Battle of the Five Armies is also the shortest at a little under two and a half hours in length, but it’s a small victory.

The interpersonal scenes help save the movie a bit. The death and love scenes are written without going into cheesy territory, and always feel in character. Even the Kili and Tauriel quasi-love story is handled quite nicely without shoving it down our throats. Thorin’s move into madness is nicely handled as well, and never feels unnatural. Sadly these well acted scenes are few and far between as Battle of the Five Armies is determined to bring the focus back on the action.

With the developments of CGI in the ten years since Lord of the Rings, one would think the special effects would be smoother than this final product. It’s painfully obvious in scenes that Martin Freeman was stitched in, or that Billy Connlly’s face is CGIed onto a Dwarf. On the other hand, the massive battles look fantastic, even in 3D. Legolas’ acrobatics are smooth as silk as he jumps around fighting Orks. It’s strange to see such inconsistencies given the studio power behind the scenes.

Battle of the Five Armies also has a problem with consistency of tone. Jumping from seriousness to silly battles does feel right when there are thousands of people dying by the second.  Dain (Billy Connolly) running around while he head butts Orcs to death is hysterical, but not in the heat of the battle like the one happening. Legolas’ acrobatic nature had some nice moments in the original trilogy, but goes overboard here. It’s laughable at how Legolas takes down some Orcs. I understand this is a fantasy world, but some of those kills were just stupid.

The acting, unsurprisingly, is superb. Martin Freeman plays a nuanced Bilbo Baggins and pulls at your heart strings with his reserved emotions. Freeman finds a nice balance of forwarding Bilbo as a character without fully changing him. Much like Ewan McGregor in the prequel Star Wars films, Martin Freeman will be the aspect of this trilogy that everyone will remember. Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield has a nice balance of crazy while still seeing the virtuous character from the previous two films.

With how An Unexpected Journey started, it comes as no surprise that Battle of the Five Armies has ties to the original trilogy. None of them come up naturally though. Jackson ham fists them into scenes and ends up cutting the tone that was built up to that point. A subtle, key word SUBTLE, nod to the original trilogy would have been nice. Instead we get blatant references to events that will come in Lord of the Rings. It feels unnatural, as if the production team is going, “Hey, you remember those movies? Great weren’t they?”

After saying all of this though, I would still call Battle of the Five Armies a good movie. A bit disappointing, but it’s a good movie. The best way I could describe my feelings after seeing the movie was, “I know you can be better.” That feeling where you know a film has great potential but finds small ways to mess it up. It was bittersweet to hear the music for the last time (for now) on the big screen and made me wish that there were more movies coming out.

The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies gets 3/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies

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Review: Mockingjay Part 1 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-mockingjay-part-1-275473 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-mockingjay-part-1-275473#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:16:05 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275473 With Catching Fire having improved on the Hunger Games formula, I had a lot of hope for Mockingjay Part 1.  That hope was misplaced as everyone involved seems to have realized making this movie into two parts was a mistake. The main issue I have with Part 1 is the lack of payoff. While this […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Mockingjay Part 1

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With Catching Fire having improved on the Hunger Games formula, I had a lot of hope for Mockingjay Part 1.  That hope was misplaced as everyone involved seems to have realized making this movie into two parts was a mistake.

The main issue I have with Part 1 is the lack of payoff. While this is a two part movie, there needed to be some sort of payoff for the audience to see.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 had arcs within that were built up and had a resolution.  While the major resolution wasn’t resolved until the second movie, at least there was a sense of things were happening.  We didn’t sit for over two hours to see a build up to ANOTHER movie.  That’s what Mockingjay Part 1 does.  It spends almost two hours getting you ready for another movie.  It sets the chess pieces up then says, “Aren’t these chess pieces so pretty right now?” and refuses to touch them for fear of not having enough to do later.

These errors are infuriating to see given that there are some interesting plot developments to watch in Mockingjay Part 1. The political back and forth with propaganda grabbed my attention and brought me into the world in a way that this series has failed to do so often.  The inspiration that Katniss gives the masses feels legitimate.  There just isn’t enough to sustain an almost two hour movie though.  Too often the movie relies on Katniss complaining that they haven’t rescued Peeta yet (I’ll get more into that later) and then crying in a corner and having to recover.  This is all well and good in the first few minutes when they are establishing Katniss after Catching Fire, but it takes forever to get back into the heat of things.  When the movie finally does get into the issue at hand, the movie is almost over.

Katniss herself doesn’t seem like the character we’ve seen the past few movies. Gone is the Katniss who gave two craps if she had a guy by her side and still fought the good fight. Here, she barely wants to do anything because Peeta isn’t by her side. Granted the guy is captured and probably being tortured, but the people in charge haven’t given her a reason to NOT believe them when they say, “We are working on rescuing him.”  It seems completely 180 on the character.

Francis Lawrence’s direction also takes a turn for the worse. The shaky cam style worked great when everyone was running around and the scenes were tense. With everyone in a bunker and just walking back and forth between a handful of sets, the shaky cam style doesn’t work. The one action scene does look great, and the extraction scene near the end is filled with tension.

The Hunger Games movies have, for the most part, transcended the young adult stereotypes. Yes there is a love triangle, but that’s never the main focus of the movie.  Yes there is some ancient society thing that the main character becomes a part of, but this one is well thought out and established quite well.  To see it fall back onto young adult tropes is quite disappointing.  The love triangle is front and center while the political aspects get pushed to the back.

The music ended up being my favorite part of the movie.  The sound and music mixing was spot on and one never over powered the dialogue.  Although that was my highest praise I could find for the movie once I left the theater.  Mockingjay Part 1 is a prime example that the “one book-two movies” premise needs to end. Only a few books can actually pull it off and this is a prime example of a book that shouldn’t have been.

Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is weaker this time around but this seems to be the fault of the lacking script. There are only so many scenes where Lawrence can cry because Peeta isn’t around before she runs out of interesting ways to convey being sad.  Liam Hemsworth gets the most screen time as Gayle, but can’t seem to muster a sense of charm or likability for us actually care about him.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivers the best performance of the bunch as he steals every scene.  His character understands the aspects of Katniss that make her great while incorporating her into the revolution. In a way, he’s the real hero of this rebellion.  Julianne Moore’s President Coin is likable enough but her “rousing speeches” seem flat.  Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) is just there.  Her character is tertiary at best and I’m shocked that she’s on posters promoting the movie.

When I see a movie like this, one that has a deep fan base, I make sure to see what the fans thought at the end of the movie.  Where fans clapping at the end and seem excited? There were a few claps after Mockingjay Part 1, but it was from a handful of people.

Mockingjay Part 1 gets 3/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Mockingjay Part 1

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Review: Dumb and Dumber To http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-dumb-dumber-275457 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-dumb-dumber-275457#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 21:22:10 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275457 It takes a really bad movie for me to feel angry for sitting down and giving it my free time. Dumb and Dumber To is one of those movies.  Avoid this train wreck at all costs. Taking place 20 years after the original, To follows Harry and Lloyd as they search for Harry’s daughter.  Stupidity […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Dumb and Dumber To

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It takes a really bad movie for me to feel angry for sitting down and giving it my free time. Dumb and Dumber To is one of those movies.  Avoid this train wreck at all costs.

Taking place 20 years after the original, To follows Harry and Lloyd as they search for Harry’s daughter.  Stupidity follows as the boys cross the country and try to find Harry’s daughter and give her a gift.  Yes, you guessed it: it’s the exact same plot as the original film.  Granted the end result shouldn’t be the enjoyable part, but the journey to the end.  Except this isn’t enjoyable.

While the original was about two idiots, they could at least function like normal human beings. They had jobs, and were somewhat adept at keeping them.  Here, they can barely function in society without causing some sort of problem.   It’s a massive exaggeration that makes this feel like college students made a movie about a movie they loved as kids. Oh wait, that’s exactly what the Farrelly brothers did here.  Harry and Lloyd feel like caricatures of the characters from the 1994 classic.  Most of the problems stem from the direction of the humor.  In the original, we had slapstick comedy and idiot jokes that could be slightly understood.  Instead of that timeless brand of comedy, we get crass jokes that just aren’t funny.  Under a handful of jokes land, and I can’t even remember which ones did since I was so aggravated at the amount of jokes that DIDN’T land.

The frustration doesn’t end at the jokes the boys tell.  There are numerous pop culture references that horribly date the movie.  This was a problem in their abysmal Three Stooges movie that came out a couple of years ago.  It’s lazy writing and instantly keeps the moving from having any lasting appeal.  The Farrelly brothers seem to have lost their ability to write competent comedies.

Think of a few scenes that stand out in your mind from Dumb and Dumber.  The ones that everyone can quote or you have to watch every time on TBS.  That scene is probably referenced or had the joke rehashed in To. Hell, shots from the original movie play right next to scenes from THIS movie to show you how they are similar. It’s like the Farrelly brother s wanted to see how much of the original they could remake without actually calling it a remake.  Don’t present us with evidence of your laziness.  Movies like 22 Jump Street can have similar jokes and plot elements without it feeling like a complete rehash so there isn’t an excuse for being this lazy.

Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels look incredibly bored throughout To.  Their performances feel like imitations of the characters they created in 1994 and can’t seem to find the spark that made the original so funny.  The chemistry is still there, and occasionally you see hints of what made them so enjoyable in the first.  These small bits are few and far between and are drounded by scenes of Carrey and Daniels doing their best to liven up a terrible script. The duo said they turned down multiple scripts for a sequel as they were waiting for a good story. This is the one they picked?!  Rachel Melvin fills the role as Harry’s daughter.  Her stupidity is supposed to charm us, but instead she feels incredibly fake. She fills the “pretty person” quota for the movie, as she strips almost naked for the sake of a joke.

Comedies are a hard movie to critique. Humor is subjective and while I didn’t find Dumb and Dumber To funny at all, a good junk of the theater was cracking up.  When the credits rolled, quite a few people were clapping in enjoyment.

Dumb and Dumber To gets 1/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Dumb and Dumber To

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Review: Big Hero 6 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-big-hero-6-275411 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-big-hero-6-275411#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 20:05:18 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275411 In the past five years or so, Disney has been able to create a new renaissance rivaling the 90’s in terms of critical acclaim and profit.  Big Hero 6 looks to continue that profitability, but is ultimately a weaker film than other recent efforts from Disney. Big Hero 6 is about a boy names Hiro […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Big Hero 6

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In the past five years or so, Disney has been able to create a new renaissance rivaling the 90’s in terms of critical acclaim and profit.  Big Hero 6 looks to continue that profitability, but is ultimately a weaker film than other recent efforts from Disney.

Big Hero 6 is about a boy names Hiro and his pal robot Baymax.  Without giving too much of the plot away (I’ll do more of that later), Hiro goes through some dark times and Baymax helps him see a new side of life and live again.  That one sentence summarizes the plot, because not much else is developed.  There are six people on the team, but only two of them are given any sort of character development. The other four are there to round out the team and crack jokes.  While the jokes are funny, the other members are interesting enough that I wanted to see more of them and who they were outside of talking to Hiro.  The villain even suffers from a lack of development. His motivation is revealed minutes before the climax begins, and lends no weight to the situation.  Big Hero 6 throws a few red herrings for the villain, but I wish one of those red herrings ended up being the real villain.  That villain would have tied more into the plot and Hiro’s team.

While I criticize, I still enjoyed Big Hero 6. I laughed throughout the movie and felt a real connection with Hiro and Baymax.  Their relationship feels real and their friendship feels earned by the end of the movie.  Disney clearly learned from Wall-E in how to make an audience love a robot with an artificial personality.  The action looks fantastic, even if the animators get a little indulgent with the amount of Hero flying on Baymax shots that were in the movie.  The colors are vibrant, and the city of San Fransokyo has a nice blend of American and Japanese cultures.  It’s a visual treat for the eyes, even in 3D.  The 3D only comes into play a handful of times throughout Big Hero 6.  I recommend seeing it in 2D if you have the chance.

Baymax ends up being a pro and con for Big Hero 6.  He’s adorable and his relationship with Hiro is developed well, but there is almost TOO much of him at points.  The first act is filled with “Baymax is a robot” jokes.  They’re funny the first couple of times, but eventually you hit a wall of diminished returns.  Then again, almost every kid in the theater was laughing their heads off throughout the movie.  Maybe I’m just in the wrong demographic.

Spoiler Warning

The biggest shock throughout Big Hero 6 is how the plot handles the death of Hiro’s brother Tadashi.  The lesson of moving on after a loved one while still keeping them in your heart is the main lesson of Big Hero 6.  In true Disney fashion, it’s handled incredibly well.  Hiro almost goes through the five stages of grief, with Baymax becoming the lightning rod for most of it. When Baymax goes berserk, the music ramps up, and everything else goes quiet.  A metaphor for rage if I ever saw one. It’s genuinely scary for kids and sad for older audience members as you see the lovable Baymax go on a rampage.

End Spoilers

Unfortunately I haven’t read the Marvel comic series that Big Hero 6 is based off of, so I can’t speak to how authentic it is to the source material.  Granted, Big Hero 6 has possibly the greatest Stan Lee cameo in this movie.

Big Hero 6 is a movie that the kids will enjoy and so will the parents. Disney movies like Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen have more lasting quality though.

Big Hero 6 gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Big Hero 6

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Review: Interstellar http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-interstellar-275405 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-interstellar-275405#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 19:15:40 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275405 It’s been four long years since Christopher Nolan last original film, Inception. Interstellar is a good movie, but has a few things keeping it from being a great movie like Inception. Interstellar follows Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot but now a farmer, man a spaceship with hopes of saving the human race.  He […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Interstellar

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It’s been four long years since Christopher Nolan last original film, Inception. Interstellar is a good movie, but has a few things keeping it from being a great movie like Inception.

Interstellar follows Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot but now a farmer, man a spaceship with hopes of saving the human race.  He sadly leaves behind his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy as young Murph, and Jessica Chastain as older Murph) and his son Tom (Timothee Chalamet as young Tom and Casey Affleck as older Tom).  Cooper, along with Brand (Anne Hathaway), Romily (David Gyasi) and Doyle (Wes Bentley), travel through a wormhole to find a new planet for the human species to inhabit.

Interstellar is a long movie. It clocks in at almost three hours, which would make you think there is a ton of plot that fills the movie up.  Unfortunately this is not the case. The plot is basic, with the basic need to keep the human species going as the main focus.  This ends up hurting the movie as it goes along as we don’t care as much about the humans traveling with Cooper. We care about Cooper and his relationship with Murph.  This is peppered throughout Interstellar to break up the heady science talk, but ultimately feels disjointed from the space escapades.  The drive of leaving his daughter should keep him going, but continuously showing Murph and the Earth dying doesn’t work as well as Interstellar initially intended.  The video logs of Murph/Tom keeping Cooper up to date with everything are heartbreaking to say the least.

The science/space is broken down enough so that idiots like me can understand the jargon.  I never felt out of the loop of the vast theories thrown around and could understand the possibilities discussed.  The characters in the spaceship (sans Cooper), don’t develop like they should though. They are exposition pigs who are there to fill Cooper in with everything going on in the ship.  While it’s great for understanding things, it makes Brand and crew impossible to care about.  The small attempt at humanizing Brand doesn’t help with her robot like nature.  Weirdly enough, I felt more for the two robots TARS and CASE, who steal quite a few scenes with their banter.

While the human aspects of things sometimes falter, the overall plot completely sucks you in. To see Cooper and crew going into the final frontier of space and exploring is incredibly fun to watch. The hard decisions made by the team while thinking about everyone back on Earth has a weight to it that a lot of sci-fi films can’t grasp.  The sights and sounds are beautiful to look at.  This is one movie I was happy to see in IMAX.  The booming sound shakes your seat and immerses you in a way I have never experienced before outside of Walt Disney World.

Speaking of the sound, it’s a little loud at point. I understand that it needs to be loud so the audience feels the shake of the rockets taking off, but at a few points I felt like covering my ears.  The score feels oddly reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its grand orchestral moments that overtake everything in the scene.  It helps sell the grand nature of Cooper’s expedition.

The visuals are simply beautiful.  It amazes me that everything we see was done with no green screens.  Granted the space shots were digital, but anything involving a human is completely done in camera.  I even questioned if TARS and CASE, the two robots on the ship, were made via practical effects.  A few establishing sots go one for quite a while, but I found myself not caring that much as the scenery was so picturesque.

The acting is a mix between great and average.  McConaughey leads the pack with being the only human in the movie that is relatable.  Seeing Cooper as he watches his children grow up is gut wrenching, while also providing enough motivation for him to push forward. Unfortunately there isn’t anything for the rest of the cast to latch onto. Chastain is good as older Murph, but we feel disconnected to her after not seeing her for almost an hour in the movie.  Topher Grace seems to be happy that someone allowed him to be in a movie again.  Everyone else just falls into the category of “giving it their best with what they were given.” With everyone being there for exposition reasons, it’s hard for the actors to build with anything.  Anne Hathaway, who I normally love, seems robotic and unlikable here.

Spoiler Warning for Interstellar’s Ending

The ending is an interesting one. I found myself liking bits and pieces of the ending, but not the entire thing.  Having Cooper go into the 5th dimension and somehow make it out feels like a copout after everything Cooper went through.  It ties everything into a nice bow that just doesn’t feel earned.  The movie continues to show that the death of the human race will be bleak and quick, but not for Cooper! I feel like the ending would have worked more if we knew nothing about how Brand made out and Cooper’s death was somewhat quick.  It would fit with the tone that Nolan had set up throughout Interstellar.  Also, are we supposed to believe that Cooper and Brand suddenly have some type of connection? The ending makes an allusion to this, as Murph tells Cooper to go out there and get her.

End Spoiler Warning

Ultimately, Interstellar is a fun movie as long as you don’t look beyond the surface too much. I love that Christopher Nolan is experimenting with his films more, but maybe bring along someone who

Interstellar gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Interstellar

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Review: This is Where I Leave You http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-leave-275062 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-leave-275062#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:53:59 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275062 This Is Where I Leave You had a lot going for it if you only watched the trailer.  The final result mostly delivers, but there are a few problems in between. The plot (based on the novel of the same name) center around Judd (Jason Bateman) and his father dying.  But not before his wife […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: This is Where I Leave You

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This Is Where I Leave You had a lot going for it if you only watched the trailer.  The final result mostly delivers, but there are a few problems in between.

The plot (based on the novel of the same name) center around Judd (Jason Bateman) and his father dying.  But not before his wife Quinn (Abigail Spencer) cheats on him with his boss (Dax Sheppard).  Judd goes home to see his brothers and sister (Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, and Tina Fey) as well as help his mother (Jane Fonda) grieve.  The family works through years of issues as they observe Shiva, where they grieve the death of a loved one for seven days.

This Is Where I Leave You is a very simple story at heart.  We’ve seen stories like this before in “big budget indie” films before. A family doesn’t get along but can’t leave each other’s side for a predetermined period of time and they work their problems out.  With this family though, there are a lot more than most films.  This ends up making the movie a tad scatterbrained at points. Tina Fey’s character, Wendy, has a quick love story with Horry (Timothy Olyphant) which could have been cut entirely.  Adam Driver (Phillip)’s cheating story could have been cut.  Removing these would have made this a very short movie, but the pacing would have been even.

While some stuff could have been cut, a lot of the plot points do work.  The little side stories about he characters past weave their way into the main story nicely without seeming out of place.  Judd’s train wreck of a life relatable and every character development feels earned by the end of the movie.  Judd feels like the only person who really grows throughout the film.  Other characters seem to have small realizations about themselves but nothing major like Judd.  If you can’t tell yet, Judd is the eyes and ears of the story for the audience.  Everything is compared to his life and what his happening with him and Quinn.  It keeps the audience invested, but also makes a few plot points feel forced.  Wendy cheating on her husband with Horry isn’t the same as Quinn cheating on Judd and the audience knows that. But the film feels the need to make sure we know 100% and not pass judgment on Wendy.  Don’t worry movie, we’re already on Wendy’s side.

The humor mostly hits its mark. I laughed quite a bit throughout the movie, and some in the theater laughed even harder than I did.  There were a couple scenes though, while funny, should have stayed away from the humor. They undercut the seriousness and end scenes somewhat awkwardly when keeping the tone serious would have benefited the movie as a whole.

Ultimately, the main draw for the movie is the cast and their chemistry.   The family feels like a true dysfunctional family and we can’t wait to see what other awkward situations they can be placed into next.  Bateman and Driver have incredible chemistry as the younger of the two siblings. Fey and Bateman have a great back and forth as well. This puts Paul, Corey Stoll, on the outside of the family fun.  Stoll isn’t given enough to work with to join in on the comedy aspect. While his character is described as “not a lot of fun,” it seems strange to have one sibling not playing as big a part in the family proceedings. Jane Fonda ends up being a scene stealer throughout This Is Where I Leave You. She’s incredibly funny, and really feels like a mother to the rest of the cast. The massive boob jokes surprisingly didn’t get old.

While I love Jason Bateman, he plays the role he has always played. He’s a character with a dysfunctional family and shit love life.  He’s great in the role, and plays a hurt, confused man really well.  The audience really feels for Judd as the shit constantly hits the fan for him.  The movie as a whole would have worked more if Bateman had any chemistry with Rose Bryne (Penny, who plays Judd’s love interest).  We are told that she loved Judd back in high school, but the spark is never felt.  She serves her purpose to the story, but nothing else.  Which is sad as Bryne is a likable actress and could have excelled in her role.  Penny doesn’t receive much in the way of character development besides “she’s in love with Judd. Oh and she sakes.”  We’re told she’s strange but nothing in the movie SHOWS us why she is strange.  There is nothing there to relate to for her.

This Is Where I Leave You gets 3.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: This is Where I Leave You

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Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-walk-among-tombstones-275059 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-walk-among-tombstones-275059#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:42:19 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=275059 It takes a rare movie to physically pain me when leaving the theater.  While I love Liam Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones is utter garbage. Based on the novel of the same name, A Walk Among the Tombstones follows Matthew Scudder (Neeson) as he investigates a string of kidnappings that have turned into murder. […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

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It takes a rare movie to physically pain me when leaving the theater.  While I love Liam Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones is utter garbage.

Based on the novel of the same name, A Walk Among the Tombstones follows Matthew Scudder (Neeson) as he investigates a string of kidnappings that have turned into murder. Unlike some detective novels, this has nothing to do with his past, which is the only cliché this movie avoids.  Scudder uses his great detective skills to find out who these bad men are and put a stop to them.

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a slave to novel. There are tons of colorful characters that would have worked well on the printed page, but become unnecessary in the movie adaptation.  TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) is the main culprit. He’s a kid who is there to just make fun of Scudder and his lack of understanding “slang” or technology (movie takes place in 1999).  Besides the ending, he offers nothing of value to the plot as a whole. He’s there in the book to break up the seriousness and add some comic relief to Scudder’s life.  In a book, where the writer doesn’t have a specific time to entertain the consumer, TJ would work as a character. Instead he takes up valuable screen time.  Other characters like Loogan (Olafur Darri Olafsson) have small back stories told, when we don’t care about them and/or they have little effect on the plot.

The villains are generic bad guys with little in the way of motivation beyond “they are bad.” There is a sub plot about them being DEA agents but that never gets resolved or develops enough for the audience to figure things out on their own.  Such as, why did they cut that girl’s fingers off? No reason why at all.  For a rated R movie, A Walk Among the Tombstones is surprisingly light on the gory details of what these guys are doing. They rip people’s parts off but we never actually SEE them do this. They are two generic white guys who are a means to an end.

The tone of the movie stays quite serious with small dabs into humor. But the humor never lands or cuts the tension of Scudder’s investigation.  The endless Y2K jokes and sight gags are overdone and make the audience cringe instead of actually laughing. The entire setting of 1999 has little effect on the plot besides a few technology gags.  I was somewhat hoping the killers would be the personification of the Y2K bug brought to live and tried to kill everyone. I was sadly disappointed.  TJ’s jokes get old incredibly fast and had me begging for his scenes to end.  One scene, where the kidnapper sees a little girl and has a weird “first love” moment (the girl is around 14) that tries to add a sense of “villainy” to these guys, but instead borders on absurd weirdly funny.

Fans of the new sub-genre of “Liam Neeson kicking everyone’s ass” will be sadly disappointed in A Walk Among the Tombstones.  Neeson does more investigating than ass kicking, although the phone scene shown in the trailer will thrill a few people.

The acting is terrible to say the least. The only person who can gain any type of emotion is Neeson. Everyone else over acts every line, which makes them feel like caricatures instead of real people.  This over acting actually fits well in book format if you think about it. Each character over acts a tad and gives you a clear picture of who they are in your mind. Dan Stevens (Kenny)’s recap of his wife being taken feels like he is thinking, “Ok, I’m supposed to be angry. OH WAIT sad too. Crap which do I pick.”  It’s funny but incredibly distracting as Neeson can figure out complex emotions without a problem.  The two villains, David Harbour and Adam David Thompson, look quite creepy in their roles. They have the “those two are up to some shit” look.  The script gives them little to work with and, in Thompson’s case, few lines.  I could count on one hand the number of lines Thompson spoke in this movie.

If you’re a fan of the book series, I suggest at least checking it out.  You may enjoy seeing a story you like acted out, but no one else will enjoy this.

A Walk Among the Tombstones gets 1.5/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

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Review: The November Man http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-november-man-274854 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-november-man-274854#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:09:17 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274854 August. That time of the year where the movie theater is a sad and scary place where you never know what is around the bend, but you know what’s over there might be terrible. The November Man is terrible. The November Man is about a spy (Pierce Brosnan) who is trying to crack a conspiracy […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The November Man

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August. That time of the year where the movie theater is a sad and scary place where you never know what is around the bend, but you know what’s over there might be terrible. The November Man is terrible.

The November Man is about a spy (Pierce Brosnan) who is trying to crack a conspiracy that has killed his spy wife and entangled his protégé (Luke Bracey).  The film is based on the novel There Are No Spies, and the series itself is called “The November Man.”  Either way, it doesn’t matter as anyone who sees this movie won’t remember much about it once they are out of the theater. The word that most seemed to use when describing this movie was “generic.” There isn’t anything about the plot that stands out or sinks its teeth into your memory.  The entire plot feels like the writers watched a lot of popular spy movies from the past few years and went, “We got this.” Then made a checklist of every big scene from the movies they watched and wrote a film around stringing those set pieces together.  All of this might have worked as a book, but it doesn’t flow well as a movie.  The few twists worked into the movie hold up neon signs so that can been seen three miles away and spoil any sense of surprise that could have been achieved if done correctly.

The script is nothing short of sad.  Characters barely develop throughout the 108 minute affair.  Bracey’s character, David Mason, fits so well into the “generic white action hero” role that any hint of development is pushed down in favor of more generic character attributes.  Daddy issues? Sure why not have them.  It has nothing to do with the plot and it’s a stab in the dark at character development, but it’s good for one scene and will never be mentioned again so use that.  Characters that do develop suddenly act much differently than how they were just shown a few scenes before. There isn’t a sense of consistency. Brosnan’s character, Peter Deveraux, seems like a fine spy who will do what he needs to do in the hard situations but doesn’t act that way ten minutes later.

While there is a decent amount of action throughout The November Man, the pacing is atrocious. I was checking my phone multiple times to figure out how much time we had left. At around the 45 minute mark, I figured the movie was almost over as it had seemed like the plot was reaching its climax and it also felt like we had been there over an hour. I was horribly wrong.  Scenes drag as we get later in the movie, showing The November Man’s weakness of not having enough to show an audience to fill a 1 hour 30 minute movie.

The November Man is rampant with misogynism.  Women can’t be left to fend for themselves and are often treated like sex objects to the men.  Alice Fournier (Olga Kurylenko) could have been a bad ass heroine alongside Brosnan’s character, but can’t seem to go two feet without tripping over herself and needing Brosnan to rescue her. Kurylenko deserves a better role than this.  There is one female CIA rep named Celia (Caterina Scorsone) who is referred to by tits.  Granted it’s the villain of the movie, but we hear her called tits more than her actual name.

The acting is a mixed bag, but most of that bag is filled with crap. Pierce Brosnan is likable as Deveraux, but the script is so lacking in any concrete form of character development that Brosnan had an uphill battle walking onto set.   Brosnan fills the mentor role of the mentor-protégé dynamic quite well and avoids falling into clichés of “I taught you better” scenes even when the script is calling for it.  As stated before, Kurylenko deserved a better role than the one given to her in this film. Her character is a walking McGuffin that has nothing to do besides be the object everyone wants.  There is a slight subplot about her being abused sexually, but it never pans out. It was an interesting plot point too. It would have given her something to work with and really make the audience root for Deveraux and Fournier to get to safety.  The simplest way to put Luke Bracey’s performance is this: he was there.  His character is completely one note and he portrays him that way.  If you paused a scene, and guessed how he would react after something happened, you’d be able to get 100% on that test.  But the crux of Bracey’s acting issues is the lack of emotion he brings to any scene. Even if there is a bad script, the actor should be able to find some angle that will bring some sort of emotion to the table.

The November Man gets 1/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: The November Man

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Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/movie-review-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-274652 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/movie-review-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-274652#comments Mon, 11 Aug 2014 21:05:21 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274652 Once again our friend and guest contributor from Syndicate Press, Kyle Stephens, has written a review of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Take it away Kyle: I am an 80’s and 90’s kid. I grew up yelling “Cowabunga” and having pretend fights with the Foot Clan. My love of pizza was only furthered […]

Agent Burgos, Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Once again our friend and guest contributor from Syndicate Press, Kyle Stephens, has written a review of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie.

Take it away Kyle:

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I am an 80’s and 90’s kid. I grew up yelling “Cowabunga” and having pretend fights with the Foot Clan. My love of pizza was only furthered because of my love of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. I even joined the Burger King Kids Club just so I could get my hands on the exclusive Ninja Turtles VHS tapes. So when the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came to the big screen in 1990, I was ready to be dazzled. At the ripe ol’ age of five, my every dream came alive on the silver screen.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am now pushing 30 years of age and getting just as excited to see the new Michael Bay produced, Jonathan Liebesman directed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). Launching after a wave of bad press due to them being changed to aliens (then back), issues with the turtle’s look and most recently the upset surrounding their Australian poster; I was holding my expectations pretty low. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

By no means is this the evolution of cinema as we know it. It won’t win any awards for the best acting (by the human components) nor will it go down as the best film ever created. You know what? I am okay with that. In the end I went into the movie expecting to be disappointed and came out pretty happy. I found the 101 minute film to be full of nods to the previous films and television shows. Even the into is a throwback to the original comic series. I was filled with equal parts adrenaline, excitement and nostalgia throughout the movie.

The first thing I noticed while watching the movie was how the turtles were kept hidden for roughly the first 15 minutes or so. While some movies *cough GODZILLA cough* can take over an hour to finally allow viewers to see the namesake character(s); TMNT holds out just long enough. Once finally unveiled, the movies kicks into overdrive. The turtles are bigger than any previous incarnation and look to stand well over six feet. The size alone isn’t the only change. Now each turtle is given personality in their unique look. For example, Michelangelo embraces his surfer inspiration by wearing sea shell necklace. Leonardo on the other hand rocks some make-shift armor that is adorned with a New York City button. It is the little touches like this that I enjoyed. Also, I appreciate that each brother had their own body type. From the tank-like Raphael to the slim and meek Donatello, each of the four were easily distinguished.

On a more technical level, the motion capture and CGI for the brothers (and Splinter) is amazing. The level of detail found on their skin and fur to be extremely well done. While I am on the topic of Splinter, I found him to be a tad to rat like. Yes, that is an odd thing to say since Splinter IS a rat, yet I found those features to stand out. As for the design choices regarding the turtles, I honestly didn’t mind. Give them lips and a nose; didn’t bother me. What mattered to me was their personality; something each turtle had in droves. Each of the four retained their signature style and that was something that pleased me greatly.

While the look and technical specs of the movie made pleased me, the story and human element left something to be desired. The plot of the movie, which I will not spoil here, is something we have seen a million times over. Heck, I even called the resolution about midway through the film. But again, I stress, don’t expect an Academy Award winner here. Megan Fox’s April O’neil and Will Arnett’s Vernon Fenwick are alright. Not the best acting I have ever seen, but certainly not the worst. To be fair, I was actually surprised at how much I like Fox’s version of April.

With every hero story, you need an equally great villain. TMNT had two, neither of which I thought were any good. William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sacks, is a one dimensional and stereotypical bad guy. He kind of reminds me of Bill Gates if Gates had decided to go insane and take over New York. Shredder, the turtle’s longstanding nemesis, is a one trick pony. What you see in the third trailer is almost all he does. He is a like a Samurai Swiss Army knife. By the third time he pulled out ALL his blades I was thinking “Oh come on now, we have already seen this.”

I am an 80’s and 90’s kid. I grew up yelling “Cowabunga” and having pretend fights with the Foot Clan. My love of pizza was only furthered because of my love of Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael. I even joined the Burger King Kids Club just so I could get my hands on the exclusive Ninja Turtles VHS tapes. So when the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came to the big screen in 1990, I was ready to be dazzled. At the ripe ol’ age of five, my every dream came alive on the silver screen.

Fast forward to 2014 and I am now pushing 30 years of age and getting just as excited to see the new Michael Bay produced, Jonathan Liebesman directed, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). Launching after a wave of bad press due to them being changed to aliens (then back), issues with the turtle’s look and most recently the upset surrounding their Australian poster; I was holding my expectations pretty low. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

By no means is this the evolution of cinema as we know it. It won’t win any awards for the best acting (by the human components) nor will it go down as the best film ever created. You know what? I am okay with that. In the end I went into the movie expecting to be disappointed and came out pretty happy. I found the 101 minute film to be full of nods to the previous films and television shows. Even the into is a throwback to the original comic series. I was filled with equal parts adrenaline, excitement and nostalgia throughout the movie.

The first thing I noticed while watching the movie was how the turtles were kept hidden for roughly the first 15 minutes or so. While some movies *cough GODZILLA cough* can take over an hour to finally allow viewers to see the namesake character(s); TMNT holds out just long enough. Once finally unveiled, the movies kicks into overdrive. The turtles are bigger than any previous incarnation and look to stand well over six feet. The size alone isn’t the only change. Now each turtle is given personality in their unique look. For example, Michelangelo embraces his surfer inspiration by wearing sea shell necklace. Leonardo on the other hand rocks some make-shift armor that is adorned with a New York City button. It is the little touches like this that I enjoyed. Also, I appreciate that each brother had their own body type. From the tank-like Raphael to the slim and meek Donatello, each of the four were easily distinguished.
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Size comparison. Megan Fox is 5′ 4″. Raph is a giant.

On a more technical level, the motion capture and CGI for the brothers (and Splinter) is amazing. The level of detail found on their skin and fur to be extremely well done. While I am on the topic of Splinter, I found him to be a tad to rat like. Yes, that is an odd thing to say since Splinter IS a rat, yet I found those features to stand out. As for the design choices regarding the turtles, I honestly didn’t mind. Give them lips and a nose; didn’t bother me. What mattered to me was their personality; something each turtle had in droves. Each of the four retained their signature style and that was something that pleased me greatly.

While the look and technical specs of the movie made pleased me, the story and human element left something to be desired. The plot of the movie, which I will not spoil here, is something we have seen a million times over. Heck, I even called the resolution about midway through the film. But again, I stress, don’t expect an Academy Award winner here. Megan Fox’s April O’neil and Will Arnett’s Vernon Fenwick are alright. Not the best acting I have ever seen, but certainly not the worst. To be fair, I was actually surprised at how much I like Fox’s version of April.

With every hero story, you need an equally great villain. TMNT had two, neither of which I thought were any good. William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sacks, is a one dimensional and stereotypical bad guy. He kind of reminds me of Bill Gates if Gates had decided to go insane and take over New York. Shredder, the turtle’s longstanding nemesis, is a one trick pony. What you see in the third trailer is almost all he does. He is a like a Samurai Swiss Army knife. By the third time he pulled out ALL his blades I was thinking “Oh come on now, we have already seen this.”

Splinter meets the Swiss Army version of Shredder. Does he come with a toothpick too?
When all was said and I came out and was happy that I had seen the film. Was it original? Not really, no. Was it the best movie I have seen this year? Nope (that honor goes to Guardians of the Galaxy so far). Did I have a good time? Yes, yes I did. It is by no means perfect, but it is one hell of a fun ride.

SIDE NOTE: Don’t see it in 3D. It isn’t worth the upcharge and the fight scenes are almost unwatchable due to the quick cuts.

Rating: 7 / 10

Agent Burgos, Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Dragonball Z: Battle Of Gods Review http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/dragonball-z-battle-of-gods-review-274528 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/dragonball-z-battle-of-gods-review-274528#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 21:59:14 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274528 The following Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods review is brought to you by Kyle Stephens from Syndicate Press. Everyone who grew up loving Dragonball (and the subsequent “Z” and “GT” series) has their favorite moments. Whether is be the Goku vs Piccalo fight in the original series or the Cell games from DBZ, everyone has […]

Agent Burgos, Dragonball Z: Battle Of Gods Review

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The following Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods review is brought to you by Kyle Stephens from Syndicate Press.

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Everyone who grew up loving Dragonball (and the subsequent “Z” and “GT” series) has their favorite moments. Whether is be the Goku vs Piccalo fight in the original series or the Cell games from DBZ, everyone has a moment they can instantly recall. Personally, I have so many the instantly come to mind. When I heard that the 2013 Japanese release of Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods was dubbed with the English voices and was set to hit theaters, I felt 12 again.

Nostalgia aside, Battle of Gods, is a lot of fun with a few points that drag it down from true greatness. On a technical standpoint, the movie is a thing of beauty. Seeing Goku and all the Z-fighters in HD clarity is something to behold. The action which used to be full of shaky lines and repeated animations is gone thanks to new animation technology and CGI. On top of that, most – not all – of the English voice cast returned for the movie. From beginning to end, your eyes and ears will be treated to the best looking Dragonball Z film to date.

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Story wise, it is a solid “good”. From the beginning we are warned that a certain god of destruction, Lord Beerus, has awoken. He is a legendary warrior who destroys whole galaxies because they annoyed him. Once we are actually introduced to the character, the first thing you will notice is his feline qualities. Appearance aside, his motions and actions resemble that of a cat; down to licking his “paws” to clean himself after waking up. Normally this would take me out of the movie, but this is Dragonball Z. An anime that is filled with talking pigs, little green guardians of Earth and men who get so angry they go blonde. A cat man is nothing to bat a lash at. The reason for Lord Beerus to visit Earth on the other hand is a little silly.

The long and short of it is that Lord Beerus had a dream (or premonition) that he would battle a Super Saiyan God; a legendary form whose power exceeds even that of Super Saiyan 3 (SSJ3). He is surprised at this because it was by his direction that Planet Vegeta (home of the Saiyans) be destroyed by Freeza. Learning that there were Saiyan survivors, Beerus heads out to find said Super Saiyan God. After a quick stop to visit King Kai (which leads to Goku getting his backside handed to him), Beerus makes his way to Earth. This is where the movie falters.

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After being warned by King Kai, Vegeta is tasked with keeping Beerus calm and ushering him off Earth since Goku was quickly defeated. He must do this while trying to entertain all the Z-fighters for Bulma’s birthday. The entire middle section of the movie feels like a filler episode. You know, the ones where Goku spent the episode screaming to power up and the other characters were tasked with finding the Dragonballs. That is how the middle 30 odd minutes went. Yes, there was plenty of humorous moments (including one hilarious dancing segment), but most of the events felt like something to stretch the run time.

Even when Lord Beerus arrived, instead of jumping into battle, he dives into the food and makes himself at home. Even his decision to destroy Earth is fueled by greed and pudding. Yes, pudding. I won’t go into spoilers, but this whole middle section of the movie could have gone in so many more action packed ways. The filler mentality didn’t subside until Goku recovered and arrived to save the plant. Once there, however, the tone of the movie went full force.

While we got to see the Z-fighters each do their thing, I would have liked to see more of their signature moves. There is something special about hearing Piccalo yell “Special Beam Cannon!” Alas, all the flashy moves were saved for Goku. On a side note, my showing of the movie was completely sold out. Every seat was filled. Every person came together to say “Ka-me-ha-me-HA!” with Goku. That moment gave me chills. Any who, back to the topic at hand.

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The ending fight was an adrenaline fueled extravaganza filled with power moves and lots of signature Dragonball Z yelling. What I didn’t expect was the lackluster ending. The last 15 minutes or so set up for another movie that may or may not get made.

When all was said and done, I found the movie to be worth the price of admission. The nostalgia alone is worth the $10. What could have been a great movie was bogged down with to much filler. However, if you love the Dragonball universe, you will find plenty to enjoy here.
Rating: 7.5 / 10

Thank you Kyle Stephens for contributing with this review.

Agent Burgos, Dragonball Z: Battle Of Gods Review

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Guardians of the Galaxy Review (Spoiler Free) http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-review-spoiler-free-274434 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/guardians-of-the-galaxy-review-spoiler-free-274434#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 00:04:47 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274434 We have all been waiting for Marvel’s next big blockbuster franchise “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and in a few days the movie will be released in the USA. Last night I was able to watch and advance screening of the newest James Gunn film, and it did not disappoint. My friend. Kyle Stephens who is […]

Agent Burgos, Guardians of the Galaxy Review (Spoiler Free)

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We have all been waiting for Marvel’s next big blockbuster franchise “Guardians Of The Galaxy” and in a few days the movie will be released in the USA. 20140730-163750-59870105.jpg

Last night I was able to watch and advance screening of the newest James Gunn film, and it did not disappoint. My friend. Kyle Stephens who is an author and comic book writer (Unbound, Syndicate Press) was also there. He wrote a review and wanted me to share it all you fine folks that visit the site

Here’s the review, and it’s spoiler free. Check it out:

Star Wars meets The Avengers and yet so much more

There is something special about Guardians of the Galaxy. It is a unique recipe of titles that many know, yet put in a way that makes it fresh, new and exciting. It has the scope of 2012’s The Avengers mixed with the dynamic teamwork of the X-Men movies. Take both of those titles and blend it with the wonder of Star Wars and you have an idea of what Guardians is like. So, let me get right to the point. Go see this movie as soon as it opens. If you have plans, change them. If you have a date, bring them. If you have work, I will personally write you a semi-believable note for why you were absent.

Now before I go on, let me preface this with saying that while I am a comic writer/lover/collector, I mainly follow DC comics. You can ask me about the history of any Justice League member and I can rattle it off. Marvel on the other hand is something I only dove into in the last few years. I started with Thor and moved through Captain America and the rest of the Avengers lineup. When I heard of this movie, I had some homework to do. While beneficial, it was not needed. Guardians of the Galaxy introduces you to all the members in a natural, fluid manner. It doesn’t hurt that each actor played their role exquisitely. Chris Pratt took on the role of Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) and made him a believable leader. His ability to spit one liners one moment and rallying speeches the next is something not many actors could do; or at least do well.

While Pratt is the leader of this band of wayward souls, he doesn’t over shadow the rest of the cast. Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Dave Bautista (Drax), Bradley Cooper (Rocket) and Vin Diesel (Groot) all give wonderful and captivating performances. I will admit that I was a little worried about Bradley Cooper voicing Rocket. In the trailers leading up the film, I would hear Rocket and think of Cooper. Once unleashed in the full film you will forget about the actor and will be invested in the character alone. As someone who regularly has a difficult time suspending disbelief, this is to be a wonderful thing.

Another actor who needs to be recognized is Dave Bautista. Known to many as Batista in the WWE, he was the one I was most worried about. His lack of acting roles left him open to being the weakest link in the title cast. I am very pleased, however, to confirm that his portrayal of Drax the Destroyer was spot on. Bautista was able to convey the emotion of Drax while still keeping the rage palpable. Also, be ready to laugh as Drax has some of the best lines in the film. The banter between the group is some of the movie’s highest points; even in a film with so many good things.

Every hero, or in this case anti-hero, is only a good as the villain he/she is pitted against. Ronan (Lee Pace) and Nebula (Karen Gillan), while not the true focus of the movie, play their parts well. The two are one of the driving forces that form the heroic group. I won’t say what they are after exactly, but I will mention that they aren’t the only ones. Much bigger things are in play.

Finally, I have to mention the director, James Gunn. His unique take on directing is really what made Guardians shine. This movie could have easily been a flop if handled by anyone else. His use of lighting, sound and camera work truly transported you out of the theater and into deep space. Not just that, but his ability to let each character have their time in the spotlight, is something worth noting. Too many times have I seen a movie where the hero is either skimmed over or much too much back story is given (do we really need to know how Peter Parker became Spider-Man again?). Gunn also has this knack for assuming the viewer is paying attention. Not once during the films 121 minute running time did I feel as though my hand was being held. A fact that I am grateful for. I am excited to see what he brings to the table for the second movie. A movie which I will surely be in the front of the line to see.

Overall, I found the film – one that must have been a risk in the eyes of Marvel – to be a resounding hit. It gives each actor and the subsequent character their time in the forefront. Guardians of the Galaxy may have villains to fight, yet the movie itself focuses on the group and how they came together. A smart move by the director. As I said in the opening paragraph, go see this movie.

I give it a 9.5 / 10

Oh, one more thing, Thanos. That is all.

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Thanks Kyle for the review!

Agent Burgos, Guardians of the Galaxy Review (Spoiler Free)

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Review: Lucy http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-lucy-274317 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-lucy-274317#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 03:49:34 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274317 In a summer full of sequels, prequels, and rebooks, it’s nice to see something original.  Lucy is certainly original, but also a lot of weird. The premise is quite simple; what would happen if a human used 100% of their brain?  Luc Besson starts with some decent enough science then blows it up with science […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Lucy

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In a summer full of sequels, prequels, and rebooks, it’s nice to see something original.  Lucy is certainly original, but also a lot of weird.

The premise is quite simple; what would happen if a human used 100% of their brain?  Luc Besson starts with some decent enough science then blows it up with science fiction about mid way through.  The result is a lot fun for the audience.  Besson jumps right into the plot ten minutes in and doesn’t lose focus for the brisk 90 minute film.  There is little character development, hero and villain alike, for the sake of showcasing Lucy’s powers as she opens up more of her brain.  This makes the movie quite thin on the plot side of things, but a short run time negates scenes running along with nothing to speak of in terms of development.

The main thing to take away from Lucy is this: this is a weird movie.  It constantly makes gigantic leaps in logic for the sake of a flashy set piece.  This isn’t bad considering its fun to see Scarlet Johansson run around and treat people like rag dolls, but it borders on the stupid side at points.  But these aren’t small leaps of logic we are talking about.  These are massive leaps that make you say, “How the fuck did we get here?”  This is where my enjoyment for the movie started to waver.  I’m fine with not having to think much for a movie, but when I need to think because I don’t understand what the hell is going on, we have a problem.  Most of these moments are near the end, so you have around an hour and fifteen before things start going downward.

The ending is really the big mind fuck.  While the leaps in logic are great it’s possible to see the train of thought of Besson.  If those are leaps of logic, then the ending is a plane ride so far from logic town that you can’t figure out where on Earth you are.  Weirdly enough though, it works.  The zaniness has been established enough that seeing Besson go nuts with theories is expected and encouraged.  And then movie ends with little to no explanation and says, “Deal with it.”  You have to respect a movie for doing that in a day where everything needs to be spoon fed to audiences.

The trailers made it seem like Lucy was going to be a complete badass along the lines of Haywire.  I went in expecting her to be kicking ass and taking names.  Instead she mostly uses her powers to make fools out of the villains.  It created a lot of very funny scenes, but didn’t fit my expectations.  The little ass kicking flows very well, and Johansson looks like a natural when the action heats up.  The villain, a Taiwanese gang, aren’t exactly the greatest villains.  They want their drugs back and you don’t develop much beyond that.

Scarlett Johansson keeps the movie’s wheels from coming undone.  She’s a likable lead and her becoming more robotic as her mind opens up feels believable.  Her deadpan delivery once she goes psedu-robotic becomes annoying and kills the little bit of seriousness this movie creates.  What really impressed me was the opening sequence when Lucy was still normal, and terrified beyond belief.  Scenes like this have been played out before, but Johansson brought so much terror and emotion to the screen that I feared for her life. Morgan Freeman seems to not realize what is going on around him as he’s quite a blank slate.  His only real purpose is to give the insanely large exposition dump at the beginning of the movie, and then provide somewhere for Lucy to go.

Lucy gets 3/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Lucy

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Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-dawn-planet-apes-274081 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-dawn-planet-apes-274081#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 18:26:17 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=274081 Three years after Fox rebooted the Planet of the Apes franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we are getting Dawn of the Plant of the Apes.  Dawn is superior movie to Rise, and what I wish Rise had been in the first place. The plot centers on San Francisco and what happened […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Three years after Fox rebooted the Planet of the Apes franchise with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we are getting Dawn of the Plant of the ApesDawn is superior movie to Rise, and what I wish Rise had been in the first place.

The plot centers on San Francisco and what happened to the area in the 10 years since Rise.  Simian flu has wiped out most of the humans on the planet, and some remaining humans have built a little colony in San Francisco.  The apes meanwhile, have made their home in the woods could care less about humans.  Then they bump into each other and all hell breaks loose over the next two hours.

Dawn is a simple movie at heart, and maybe the simplest of the Ape movies as there is little exposition needed. We know how apes are evolving from the first movie and that the human race is dwindling due to the well used opening credits (a lost art in Hollywood these days).  The weaknesses in the plot rear their ugly head early as the main conflict is condensed into two characters: Carver the human (Kirk Acevedo) and Koba the ape (Toby Kebbell).  Hinging the entire plots catalyst on two characters is lazy writing and doesn’t give the weight that a conflict like this deserves. Having some small threads of speciesism in the rest of the humans and then have their thoughts about the apes be proven wrong would have flowed more and made the subsequent conflict more engaging. The apes have some hesitations for the humans throughout the movie which keeps the plot from falling apart later.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a long movie.  Pacing doesn’t become an issue though until the end of the movie when subplots are brought it in to fill dead space. I didn’t feel the need to check my cell phone during the movie until about the 1 hour 45 minutes mark when most of the action has taken place and we are just waiting on the ending. But when Dawn has your attention, you can’t look away.  There is an even amount of time spent on the colony in San Francisco, the apes, and the humans and I never wondered why we hadn’t seen a specific plot thread in a while.  A few threads could have been cut to make this a brisker movie, such as the superfluous human subplots.  Malcolm’s (Jason Clarke) interaction with the apes and wanting to coexist with them is enough to drive the human element of the movie.

One of Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ weaknesses was the script.  It was often dull and lacked any real emotion.  Considering most of the dialogue in Dawn is “ape no kill ape,” it’s ironic that the script superior to Rise.  The ape dialogue is often stunted, but the ever growing inclusion of speaking apes instead of sign language showcased how much the apes have evolved in the 10 years since the first movie.  Even with The human dialogue has vastly improved and I found myself actually liking the human leads.  Well, really just Malcolm, the only human who gets character development.  The rest of the humans, Gary Oldman included, have little or nothing to do for most of the movie.  Not necessarily a bad thing as we get to focus on the ape/human relations, but wanting the audience to suddenly care about these characters late in the movie causes issues when we could care less if they live or die.

The special effects are simply astonishing.  The line between practical effects and CGI was very blurred throughout Dawn.  I found myself saying, “Well that has to be an ape suit,” and finding out later that I was quite wrong.  The late action sequence looks beautiful and decent in 3D (I was forced to see it this way).  The level of detail on the hair, added with it constantly raining, made the effects that much more impressive.  While a marvelous work of CGI, the monkey double wielding machine guns on a horse going through fire broke the illusion a bit. What was a tense moment now had the audience laughing and sets the wrong tone for the end of the movie.  But hey, it’s a monkey on a horse holding two machine guns jumping through fire. It might be the most badass thing of the summer.

Michael Giacchino (composer for the Star Trek reboot movies and LOST) composes a bombastic soundtrack. He starts the score of softly, but as the apes slowly take over the drums and brass pick up.  While some weren’t a fan of the movie, most everyone agreed the score was very good.

Andy Serkis is a motion capture god in this movie, but I found his performance as Caesar not as great as Rise. That’s a hard performance to live up to as we saw Caesar grown up to become the hero we see in Dawn.  Jason Clarke is likable as the main human Malcolm.  The rest of the humans kind of float into the background except for Kirk Acevedo, who is terrible as the asshole who starts the ape vs. human war.  While I’m one to not place complete blame on the actor as the script calls for him to be an ass, he just isn’t likable in any way. Why would a group bring him along anywhere if he is just going to be an ass 24/7?  The guy shoots an ape, and you want to bring him along…WHERE THE APE HE SHOT IS?!

Kerri Russel is good as Malcolm’s girlfriend.  She’s likable enough that we worry about her a little when the monkey doo doo starts hitting the fan.  Gary Oldman in Dawn is the same as Brian Cranston in Godzilla.  Big name star to put on the movie poster but is barely in the final product.  I somewhat forgot he was in the movie when his character popped up in the final act.

With most Hollywood franchises these days, there is normally some feeling of continuance that leaves an audience wanting more.  There are always sequels so why not leave them wanting to see the next movie already? But Dawn had some closure at the end. If they never made another Apes movie (psh, yeah right) I wouldn’t feel like I needed to see more.  If the later Apes movies hadn’t mucked up the timeline so much, I’d say Rise and Dawn work well as prequels to the 1968 original.  But it looks like a third one will be out in two years and be called Planet of the Apes

While I did not stay to confirm, there isn’t an after credits sequence.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes gets 4/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Review: 22 Jump Street http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-22-jump-street-273213 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/review-22-jump-street-273213#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 13:31:20 +0000 http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/?p=273213 The movie that everyone thought wasn’t going to be funny has received the sequel treatment. While most of the jokes are retreads of 21 Jump Street, I couldn’t help but laugh throughout 22 Jump Street and think that 22 might be a better movie. The plot uses most of the story beats that 21 Jump […]

Kevin Finnigan, Review: 22 Jump Street

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The movie that everyone thought wasn’t going to be funny has received the sequel treatment. While most of the jokes are retreads of 21 Jump Street, I couldn’t help but laugh throughout 22 Jump Street and think that 22 might be a better movie.

The plot uses most of the story beats that 21 Jump Street used, and that was the plan. The screenwriters (Michael Bacall, Oren Uziel, and Rodney Rothman) make liberal use of the fourth wall, letting the audience know what they think of sequels and what studio executives think of sequels.  They lay it on a tad thick in the beginning and it takes the focus off Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill), the real reason why people will pay to see this movie.  These jokes don’t build towards anything so it’s a lot of one liners that make it hard to transition towards the next scene.  The constant reference to “We need to do this the same” gets old fast and seems like an out to do the same thing. The plot is fun as hell so I don’t mind, but don’t draw so much attention to this fact.  Once the dynamic duo starts the investigation though, things really start to pick up plot wise. It follows the same storyline as 21 Jump Street, but there are enough small changes that most audience members won’t feel robbed of their $10.

The script goes with the theory that bigger is better.  The jokes hit at a rapid fire pace that can be a little overwhelming at points. I was laughing so hard from one joke I missed the next two or three.  A friend actually said, “Hey, can they slow down the jokes for a bit?” in the middle of the screening.  Even when the jokes aren’t as funny as others, they still give a great chuckle.  The action is generic action, but thankfully doesn’t overstay its welcome.  It’s also punctuated by some great physical comedy.  I liked the subtle thread of Jenko might be gay.  It was done tastefully and even seemed like a great direction to take Jenko in for future films (more on that later).

While the jokes hit hard and fast, there is a slew of sight gags that went unnoticed by most of the audience. Unfortunately they pop up when something else is already happening and they get lost in the shuffle. I’ll need to watch this movie a few times to see every joke.  My favorite was the Benny Hill reference that is funny its own, but gains another level of humor when you notice what is going on in the background. 21 Jump Street’s original purpose, poking fun at 80’s teen movies, has completely gone by the wayside except for a song or two.  Considering how dense the jokes are at points, I’m glad they decided to leave those jokes out.

The real charm of this series is the electric chemistry of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. Their characters don’t seem to have matured much but who really cares.  Tatum and Hill’s rapport seems to have improved as their jokes and dialogue bounce off each other more naturally than before.  Hill continues to be funny, but I’d argue that Tatum is the funnier one this time around.  He’s dumb but not incredibly dumb like the last outing.  He’s just all around more likable in this outing.  Ice Cube gets a lot of time to develop his character as well as stretch his comedic chops. His antics often got the hardest laughs.  Amber Stevens, as Schmidt’s love interest May, doesn’t get as much to work with as Brie Larson did in 21 Jump Street. She’s more of a plot device and their relationship is dropped near the end of the movie.

Make sure to stay for the credits. The poking fun of sequel culture in Hollywood doesn’t stop once the movie stops.  But in making this joke, it almost eliminates any future sequels.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but does cause that hiccup for the future.

22 Jump Street gets 4/5.

Kevin Finnigan, Review: 22 Jump Street

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