movie reviews


Transcendence is a good idea, with a great cast, that maybe didn’t end up the way the writer or the director visualized it. There are certainly some interesting concepts here, and some of the ideas will keep you thinking long after the movie’s over. For more, see the full review at buzzymag.

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Transcendence is one of those movies that mixes in a lot of philosophizing and responsibility-for-the-future content in with its story telling. Fortunately for the casual moviegoer, it keeps the message well camouflaged, and it isn’t nearly so preachy as Seagal’s archetypic On Deadly Ground.

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Captain America returns, warming the cockles of my comic-fan heart, as Marvel winds plot lines from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to The Winter Soldier and back again, in true comic book style. This one is chock full of fabulous performances and intrigues and twists. Go see it. Then go see it again. See the full review at buzzymag.

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This one changes everything.

With The Winter Soldier, Marvel Studios is smack in the middle of “Phase II”–and continues to gain momentum. This new Captain America adventure is a conspiracy/action/thriller while remaining a superhero movie and it excels on all counts as it rockets through to the end.

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westown movie theater

I went to a movie at my Brand. New. Local. Theater. on the second day they were opened. Westown Movies. Everyone working there was on the absolute top of their game, with big smiles and helpful questions. The tickets themselves were slightly lower-priced then the franchised theater I usually visit, and the refreshments looked good (especially the local treats) and were very reasonably priced.

Then we got to the theater. It was roomy and comfortable and clean. And it has that “New Car” smell. What a nice experience seeing a movie there was, and then less than ten minutes back home.

Oh–the movie? I went to see the latest Oscar bait to hit theaters. Here’s what I thought.

american hustle poster American Hustle
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Elisabeth Röhm, Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Robert De Niro

“Some of this actually happened” is how American Hustle starts. It’s very loosely based on the Abscam sting run by the FBI in the late 1970s, and the era is re-created beautifully. Wardrobe and makeup in particular were meticulous. It brings back memories.

The script is very loosely structured, with alternating voice-overs from Christian Bale’s Irving and Amy Adams’ Sydney explaining the motivations and philosophies behind what was happening on screen. But writers are told “Show, don’t tell.” And rules are made to sometimes be broken, but the overuse of this device for exposition detracted from a very well-crafted film.

Irving and Sydney work together conning small-time targets. When the FBI busts them, Agent Richie DiMaso sees it as a way to advance his career, offering to let them work off their troubles by helping the FBI catch bigger targets. But DiMaso is a wild card, and the operation turns into something none of them could have controlled, heading in ways no one anticipated.

The performances are remarkably layered and well-done from every one of the major players. It was difficult to identify with con artists and cheats, or politicians playing it less than above board, or even (for me) people who just didn’t listen when things got dangerous, and then acted stupid. So I wasn’t fond of any of the characters, even as I admired the amazing jobs done by the actors.

And remarkable they were, with special call-outs to Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper as the leads, and honorable mentions to Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner (who makes you almost like a career politician).

Recommended if you enjoy watching well-crafted films and fantastic performances, not so much if you’re looking for a mindless shoot-‘em-up (my usual fare).

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If you could travel in time, you might have time for the things you wanted to do, or at the least the things you cared enough about to do right. That’s one of the core themes of About Time, the latest directorial effort from the man who brought you Love Actually. My full review is at buzzymag.

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What would you do if you had all the time in the world?

About Time answers that question. It’s the most adorable time-travel romantic comedy you are ever likely to see. It’s positively precious.

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In a year filled with sequels and three-qals, Catching Fire was highly anticipated and certainly lived up to the hype. More of all the things that made The Hunger Games a big hit, with a different story to tell, and more, bigger everything. See my full review at buzzymag.

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A number of past Hunger Games-victors are also brought into play in Catching Fire. Like Haymitch, they have been shaped by their experiences. Particularly of note are Johanna Mason and Finnick Odair, who combine sharp wits and lethal physicality with charming recklessness.

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This movie picks up after the events of The Avengers, with the world reeling after the discovery of super-powered beings and picking up the pieces after the Battle of New York. There’s more Asgard this time, more physics, and some dark elves for good measure. And it all happens as the planets are moving into a great convergence. See what I had to say at at buzzymag.

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I’ll say up front that I loved this movie, and a big part of it is the awesomeness that is Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

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Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is in theaters now, a sterile big budget adaption that kills lots of aliens while generating a ton of controversy over whether Card’s outspoken views should influence your choice to attend this movie. it’s a personal decision, and each person needs to do what feels right to them: skip th emovie, balance seeing the movie with a donation to an appropriate cause, etc. The political hot potato and projected sales make a sequel unlikely to follow soon.

Ender’s Game effectively creates a disturbing future, full of hard choices. The cast is mostly effective in their roles, the sets are extraordinary, and it’s easy to believe sequences are happening in space. What was missing seemed to be the introspection from the book–it’s not one I’ve read, and I felt there was something missing. My full review is at buzzymag.

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The world’s smartest children have been recruited to fight the war, raised on war games, their quick minds more able to adapt to the possible strategies needed to defeat the enemy. Ender Wiggins is one of these children–intelligent, athletic, well-trained.

This is his story.

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Escape Plan is the newest geri-action flick, showing that Stallone and Schwarzenegger still have it. It’s got a well-crafted script and some great twists. My full review is up at buzzymag.

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Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) wrote the book: Compromising Correctional Institutions Security. Instead of doing a regulation tour, with speaking engagements and signing copies, Ray takes a different approach.

He breaks out of prisons.

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Movies that feature cars driving around in circles can be tricky–yet Ron Howard’s Rush is both entertaining and exciting as it depicts a piece of history. Exotic locations and rich lifestyles enough to satisfy a Bollywood film keep things fresh and interesting as the plot develops. See my full review at buzzymag.

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Movies based on real life can be tricky–after all, the audience knows how they end. Apollo 13 and Titanic are both examples of movies that made history fascinating, by transporting us inside characters’ lives and showing us historical events from their perspective.

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A gorgeous exploration of the loneliness of space, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity will please the casual filmgoer. Those who like their science to be, well, scientifically accurate, may have some issues with it. See what I had to say at buzzymag.

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Those who remember the space shuttle Challenger know how easy it is for something to go horribly, terribly wrong in space. That was over in seconds–what if things start to go wrong and you need to figure out how to get back to Earth?

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