Friday, May 24, 2013



Written by Craig Mazin and Todd Phillips
Directed by Todd Phillips
Actors: Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Jutin Bartha, John Goodman, Ken Jeong, Heather Graham.


Written by Chris Morgan based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by Justin Lin
Actors: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Gina Carano, Tyrese Gibson, Luke Evans, Jordanna Brewster, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

The business of sequels can be tricky but actually it is simple, do what you know how to do best and do it well. "The Hangover" creators stunningly forgot this while the creators of "Fast and Furious" have actually made their movies better after making a few terrible ones. "The Hangover 2" pretty much copied the formula of their original even though they failed in being funny. "The Hangover 3" doesn't even copy the formula, it becomes a bad drug dealer, action movie. Where is Will Smith and Martin Lawrence? "Fast and Furious 6" along with Part 5 are the best movies in the series rebounding from a dismal fourth movie. I admire that, it is a high octane and goofy but action packed and fun movie full of great fights and car crashes. I think the "Hangover" creators said this series is hopeless. Let's just be lazy and make a careless ending to get this series over with because our last two movies suck.

Let's start wih the arrogant Todd Phillips, director of "Hangover 3". The movie did not make me laugh at all except for a few chuckles all involving Zach Galfianakis. Ed Helm's straight man act has turned stale and Bradley Cooper is just cashing in a paycheck. Ken Jeong's Chow was funny in the original because the character came in small doses. Now his character is on too much and the writers write the character like they are homophobic, lots of unfunny and mean gay jokes here. The boys only go to Vegas after 45 minutes and get involved with a drug kingpin and then a lot of chases and shootouts ensue, all sloppy and boring. The "Wolfpack" don't even get drunk and chaos doesn't even break out like the first two movies until after the end credits. This is a lazy movie and only Galfianakis and our love of the characters save it from embarrasment.

"Fast and Furious 6" is definitely not lazy, in fact it is way over the top. This is goofy fun like it is trying to be a James Bond movie and I love it's nerve. It is way better at being an entertaining sequel than this year's horrible "Die Hard" sequel and makes the "Transfomers", "G.I. Joe" and "Pirates" sequels look like dumb and badly executed bores. The cars look awesome, the women are hot and beautiful, the action is well directed and easy to follow unlike the aforementioned sequels. I love a movie that isn't afraid to be goofy and make fun of itself and also gives us not one but two well choreographed fight scenes between two hot, beautiful women like Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano.

"Fast and Furious 6" is not trying to be a serious action movie and actually makes fun of itself and does the job of bringing us what we want and bringing it with great craft, skill and energy. It doesn't insult it's audience like "Hangover 3" does. I love all the action because it is clear and focused. Director Justin Lin has directed the last three movies and he has even gotten better with each film. How often do you see sequels that are actually much better than the movies that have come before it? This movie has the action goods and delivers so well plus I love the humor especially by Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris. They are funnier than anybody in "The Hangover 3". "Fast and Furious 6" is how you do a sequel right, it isn't that hard Hollywood,you have the big budgets and all the time.

Thursday, May 16, 2013



Written by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Actors: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Bruce Greenwood, Peter Weller, Alice Eve.

Back in 1982 I was 14 years old and not a "Star Trek" fan. I watched the 1979 film adaptation on video and was bored and quit on it. My mother and sister went to go see "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn" the year of 1982 and we all were not fans but I wanted to go because Siskel and Ebert loved it. We were surprised at how good it was and loved it, I also found it strangely a powerful experience and a lot of fun. It was not only a great "Star Trek" movie, it was a great action thriller period. That is what I felt watching the new sequel in the revamped "Star Trek" franchise. You don't have to be a "Star Trek" fan to love "Star Trek:Into Darkness" cause it is a fun, thrilling, beautiful looking and touching movie going experience and a great movie period.

Credit director J.J. Abrams and writers Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof (Lost) for getting this done to near perfection. I loved the first movie and I love this one even more. The characters we grew to love are now young and learning the ropes, learning about death, committment, honor and friendship while battling one of the greatest "Str Trek" villians in the franchise. It was what I wanted after sitting through the dull and ineffectual "New Generation" movies which were all too complicated and brainy. The new series is smart but also pure adrenaline, fun and always beautiful looking with energy to spare and great writing. We love the original characters and the cast here is up to the task, they don't miss a beat.

It starts with Zachary Quinto as Spock who is not only dead on in his portrayl of the iconic character but he brings him a warmth that I rarely saw in Spock. Chris Pine is a great looking and competent action hero and a James T. Kirk without the mannerisms, bringing the needed brashness but in a youthful way. Zoe Saldana is a beautiful Uruhu and the love story with Spock and the chemistry between Saldana and Quinto is exciting and sexy reminding me of Leia and Han Solo in "Empires Strikes Back". The rest of the cast is solid and they all bring the extra special touch that make the characters real and fleshed out instead of being impersonations. I love the screenplay paying homage to the original with Doctor Bones's quips like "Dammit Jim I am a doctor not a torpedo expert". I love Checkov's shyness and Scotty's feelings of not being respected and then his hidden heroic talents being revealed.

The movie really breathes with it's villian played by newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch and yes there is speculation who his character is and I am not telling. Explaining the plot, especially in a movie full of surprises like this, wouldn't matter though I will say it is smart and thrilling and the screenplay has heart and charm and some great emotional moments. Benedict Cumberbatch gives a star making performance as fugitive John Harrison. It is a controlled but delightfully evil, cool and explosive performance and the best villain in the franchise or one of the best in any movie for that matter. Cumberbatch already has but should get a slew of more roles coming his way and I think a possible Oscar nomination.

"Star Trek: Into Darkness" is not a dissapointment at all and it is an adrenaline shot of humor, action, thrills and great character development. This is what we expect from the series of movies and we get it in spades. It is a lot of fun and entertaining for families, people of all ages, "Star Trek" fans, non "Star Trek" fans, everybody. It also looks visually awesome and beautiful and the direction is heartfelt, crisp and always in control. I thank the stars that J.J. Abrams is involved because he respects the franchise, pays homage to it lovingly and remembers that these movies are just not for fans but for movie lovers that want a great story with heart, emotion, thrills and great action. It is another great start to the summer movie season and one of the best movies of the year.

Friday, May 10, 2013


'IRON MAN 3' (PG-13) (3 1/2 STARS)

Written by Drew Pearce and Shane Black
Directed by Shane Black
Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, James Dale Badge, Don Cheadle, Ty Simpkins.

This is how you do an action movie, a superhero movie, a love story and a buddy film all wrapped up in one glorious package! I was amazed that "Iron Man 3" was this great, it shouldn't be right? Not many second sequels wind up better than their second movie and equal to their original. I like the "Avengers" a lot but for my money this has more bang for your buck. This has deeper qualities and more fun at it's core. It has surprises that I did not see coming and one of the best villians in superhero movie history just a little short of Heath Ledger as The Joker. I also love the relationship between and love story of Pepper Potts and Tony Stark. This love story blows away the "Spiderman" love story and Paltrow is exceptional and the chemsitry with Downey Jr. is exciting and fresh.

I was expecting maybe a moderately entertaining movie but I didn't expect the energy, carefully created story and the surprises that floored me. This includes some funny and sharp dialogue, a special new friend for Tony, a villian that turns out to be something else and that is a villian that I loved! The surprise twist, for me, I didn't see coming but when it came you couldn't wipe the smile off my face even if you tried. The acting is all top notch and I am not even including Downey and Paltrow. The under rated Guy Pearce is explosive and plain nasty mean as one of the villians, so good he could have equaled Heath Ledger playing The Joker. You get nice additions and great performances by some great elite actors like Ben Kingsley, Don Cheadle and Rebecca Hall also, each playing characters as great as any supporting characters in any superhero movie.

Now let's get to the story which certainly blows away the second "Iron Man" and "The Avengers". It is a smartly written, creative and clear story that is thankfully less convoluted than it should be. The movie just throws a lot at you but director Shane Black makes it work, makes it fresh and keeps it pumping. He is an under rated craftsman and writer revitalizing the buddy cop film with "Lethal Weapon" and gave me one of the best times I have had at a movie with "The Long Kiss Goodnight". His directing is a breath of fresh air from the second movie and I hope he directs the next "Avengers". He also is the co writer of a very solid and smart story and screenplay. Again, writing for a superhero movie shouldn't be this great.

I also like the villians here much more than I did in "The Avengers". I won't give the surprise away but the two actors playing the villians are brilliant. Ben Kingsley is magnificent as "The Mandarin", a terrorist from the Middle East and his performance is Snavely Award nomination worthy at least. I won't explain the plot because it is delightfully complicated but yet easy to follow. There is some cluttered and non sensical stuff in the final third but I didn't mind, I didn't want it to end. What makes the "Iron Man" movies that more special is the love story in the middle that moved me and made me laugh. This is a love story that outshines any of the "Batman" movies or "Spiderman" movies and equals the greatest superhero love story of all time "Superman 2". , Paltrow and Downey Jr are magnetic together, so much so that I feel that they are a real life couple. That is big time chemistry and Paltrow looks beautiful and energized.

"Iron Man 3" is what a great popcorn movie, superhero movie, love story and summer blockbuster should be. What makes these movies so special is the rapid fire wit, energy and acting prowess of Robert Downey Jr. His performance is the best of any superheroes in any of the superhero movies. He is a special actor that can make a movie like this greater than it is. Shane Black has directed a movie I would see again and again. Great acting, action, dialogue, effects, excitement, visuals and cinematography. The movie never goes out of control, it is a huge amount of fun and not only the best action movie of the year so far but one of the best movies of the year period and the summer movie to beat!



Written by Craig Pearce and Baz Luhrmann based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke.

I never read "The Great Gatsby" in school, my school must have missed that one. I do know that my classmates might have liked to see Baz Luhrmann's movie adaptation. When I was a kid all we had was the boring and staid 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I also did not see that adaptation but I tried once and fell asleep. I wish I would have read the book because when Luhrmann's "Great Gatsby" settles down it is pretty compelling in a soapy, melodramatic way. It also kind of reminds me of a Shakespeare tragedy and that nicely fits with Luhrmann being the director of "Romeo and Juliet" which Leonardo DiCaprio also starred in. "Gatsby" reminds me of "Romeo and Juliet" with it's campy excesses and the actor's theatrical delivery of lines but movie goers will like this better.

In the first hour I was feeling uncomfortable and the movie was just bugging me. It takes a while to settle down and the movie starts roughly because it's weakest character is the only one we see for about 20 minutes. That is how long it takes for DiCaprio to get on screen. That weak character is actually the narrator and friend to Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, played stiffly by Tobey Maguire. I get that we don't see Gatsby till about 20 minutes in because that is the effect of the story. Everyone spreads rumors that Gatsby is a spy, no he has ties to Nazis and we know that Gatsby is a mystery to all and he throws parties where no one can find him at. When we get to finally encounter him we are happy but until then we have Nick who is either a dullard (I don't know, I didn't read the book) or Maguire is miscast and totally ineffective.

The first hour of the movie is also jumpy and the campy excess takes awhile to adapt to, this isn't your mother's "Gatsby". It is the same style as "Romeo and Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge", not my favorite movies but I like that Luhrmann makes his movies come alive and jump around and I like his camera movement. The movie is visually breathtaking and I like his wide angle shots where things come at you from the corner of the screens. The 3D helps and in this case is more necessary than most shameful 3D movies, it enhances the screen. That doesn't help you concentrate in the movie because the modern songs by Jay Z and others can distract. I liked the music though and besides the dull Nick Carraway the movie was always fun to look at. The Nick Carraway character though is still like that third wheel at a party that follows your hotter, more exciting friends around and drags down the party.

Then a really wonderful thing happens in the second hour of the movie. The story settles down and Fitzgerald's poetic dialogue comes through. I really like the writing in the second half and I started to really delve into the characters, now I want to read the book. There is some juicy melodrama and DiCaprio has some explosive moments and shines here. He is a great modern leading man, looks great here and commands the screen. I didn't feel that till the second hour though but his effective performance does come through. Carey Mulligan also continues to shine as Gatsby's love Daisy Buchannan. Joel Edgerton also has become one of our promising new actors with another stellar turn, all three actors adapt well to Luhrmann's heightened theatrical delivery. "The Great Gatsby" kept me spellbound after I got to settle in and I thought it was fun and beautiful to look at. I will take this over a "Titanic" or a stiff version like the 1974 film any day.