Friday, January 30, 2015

Project Almanac
Releases January 30th, 2015
1 hr 46 mins
Rated PG-13
Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Thriller


Dean Israelite

Jonny Weston as David Raskin
Sofia Black D'Elia as Jessie
Sam Lerner as Quinn Goldberg
Allen Evangelista as Adam
Virginia Gardner as Christina
Amy Landecker as Kathy
Michelle DeFraites as Sarah Nathan
Patrick Johnson as Todd
Gary Grubbs as Dr. Lu
Katie Garfield as Liv

Review by Stephen M.

Time paradoxes aside, Project Almanac is a surprisingly enjoyable film in the mode of The Butterfly Effect with the lightheartedness of 21 and Over.  Well acted by the relatively young cast, with a touching love story as is mandatory with these young adult films.  Jonny Weston plays David Raskin who is a M.I.T. hopeful, son of a departed inventor who conveniently leaves a half built time machine with blueprints to complete it hidden in their home.

Filmed in the found footage style as David's sister Christina (Virginia Gardner) records her brother's David's admission video to M.I.T. and later the group of friend's time traveling adventures.  This style actually works well for the film with less motion sickness scenes than most film filmed this manner.  The humor between the friends are hilarious especially with the "groundhog" moments of which actor Sam Lerner kills.  The wall scene between David and Jessie (Sofia Black D'Elia) at Lollapalooza will move you.

As with most time travel films you always run into trouble areas regarding the science of it.  Trying not to give too much away, one example is how can there still be two video cameras given the actions of the character towards the end?  As well, how believable is it for the young adults to experiment on themselves given what happened to the red toy car?  And just how do they determine where the vortex would be or are they just lucky each time?  As smart as these kids are, or at least David, some of the choices they make as well as the filmmakers will have you scratching your head.

Overall I would recommend the film.  From the camaraderie between friends as they set on an adventure of a lifetime to the chemistry of David and Jessie's character, there is just a lot to like.  The humor up until the end is light and fun.  I would only wish the end was not as frantic and short but expanded upon.  But it's understandable given David's state of mind.  What did you think of the film?


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who's excited for this?  FANTASTIC FOUR hits theaters everywhere AUGUST 7, 2015! 

Enjoy the teaser trailer here:


Monday, January 26, 2015

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
Releases VOD January 13, 2015, DVD/Blu Ray January 27, 2015
1 hr 12 mins
Rated PG-13


Director:  Ethan Spaulding

Matt Lanter as Aquaman / Arthur Curry
Sumalee Montano as Mera
Sam Witwer as Ocean Master
Sirena Irwin as Queen Atlanna
Jerry O'Connell as Superman / Clark Kent
Jason O'Mara as Batman / Bruce Wayne
Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman / Diana Prince
Christopher Gorham as Flash / Barry Allen
Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern / Hal Jordan
Shemar Moore as Cyborg / Victor Stone
Sean Astin as Shazam / Billy Batson
Harry Lennix as Black Manta
George Newbern as Steve Trevor
Steven Blum as Cyborg's Armor and Lex Luthor
Melique Berger as Sarah Charles
Juliet Landau as Lois Lane

Review by Stephen M.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis continues DC's The New 52 universe comics being adapted as animations.  The focus as the name implies is Atlantis and thus the hero Aquaman.  With The New 52, DC Comics reintroduces all the heroes to the new generation of readers.  Aquaman, noticeably absent from the last Justice League film replaced with Shazam, gets the origin treatment, while the Justice League is solidified.

When your preference of company includes lobsters instead of humans, you know that something is not quite right.  Arthur, played well by Matt Lanter suffers from weird dreams and displays super strength.  We slowly learn of his origins, though it is quite transparent from the beginning even if you are not familiar with the character.  His family struggles of the underwater kind leads to a conflict between Atlanteans and the surface world orchestrated by two of Aquaman's key villains, Orm (half brother, aka Ocean Master) and Black Manta. 

What the animation does fairly well is the story telling of Aquaman's origin.  Among the original Justice League members, he would often be considered as an afterthought, so it is nice to see him get the spotlight here.  However, Orm and Black Manta, to die hard DC fans, will always be considered as second tier villains.  It is a bit hard to swallow them as real threats to the likes of Superman and Green Lantern, let alone the whole Justice League.  The filmmakers transitions well back and forth between Arthur and the Justice League until they finally come together.  Brushing on the various lives and characters of the Justice League is also a nice touch, such as Cyborg's detachment from humanities for work and Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship with each other in the New 52.

If you are picking up the DVD, the extra feature included is a sneak peek at DC's next animation Batman vs. Robin.  The Blu Ray includes additional material including the Throne of Atlantis Panel at New York Comic Con, and the Throne of Atlantis soundtrack among other things.  The VOD does not include any of these.  The movie warrants a rental if you are a big fan of DC to follow along their progression.  But as far as being compelling enough to own the DVD or Blu Ray, it still is hard to put down the dollars even for someone that can summon a giant shark to eat his enemies.  Be sure to watch the short scene after the credits that includes a cameo from one of Metropolis's villains.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Releases January 23rd, 2015
1 hr 47 mins
Rated R
Action/Adventure, Comedy


Director: David Koepp

Johnny Depp as Charlie Mortdecai
Gwyneth Paltrow as Johanna Mortdecai
Ewan McGregor as Inspector Martland
Olivia Munn as Georgina Krampf
Jonny Pasvolsky as Emil Strago
Paul Bettany as Jock Strapp
Jeff Goldblum as TBA
Nicholas Farrell as TBC
Aubrey Plaza as Paula
Oliver Platt as Barry
Tom Hardy as Lola
Guy Burnet as Maurice

Review by Stephen M.

Based on an anthology of books, the first entry is an abomination of epic proportions.  Such that your money would be better spent putting it in a shredder, giving you more entertainment value than the film.  Mortdecai is a convoluted mess with dull dialogue and flat jokes.  Johnny Depp as the lead character Charlie Mortdecai is a bungling aristocratic petty art dealer and thief made successful thanks to his strong competent wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his capable manservant Jock (Paul Bettany).  They work together to recover a lost Goya painting that is believed to have a secret bank account number on the back of it.

If you struggle to remember a successful Johnny Depp film other than his Pirates of the Caribbean series, you are not alone.  Unfortunately, his performance as Mortdecai as well as the film itself is utterly disappointing.  The few saving graces are the interactions between Mortdecai and Jock, where Jock basically gets the short end of the stick each and every time, gets repetitively boring quick.  The stunning Olivia Munn and Gwyneth Paltrow both play intriguing strong woman characters, but fails to save the film with their limited screen time.

Billed as a beginning of a franchise, Mortdecai would do well to reboot their franchise after this poor outing.  Repetitive mustache and manservant jokes can only take you so far since most of everything else is incomprehensible.  You would think that the whole point of the film is just so that Johnny can get a good feel of Olivia, in which case the movie deserves five stars.  Unfortunately since it is not, the film for me at least is among the worst of this short 2015.  If you still want to watch the film, wait for it on free television one day or just watch paint dry.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Atticus Institute
Releases January 20th, 2015 (DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD)
1 hr 22 mins
Not Rated


Director: Chris Sparling

William Mapother as Henry West
Rya Kihlstedt as Judith Winstead
John Rubinstein as Marcus Wheeler
Harry Groener as Lawrence Henault
Anne Betancourt as Joanee Breault
Jake Carpenter as Norman LeClair
Brian Chenoweth as Father Donnelly
Suzanne Jamieson as Cathleen West-Tremello
Sharon Maughan as Susan Gorman
Gerald McCullouch as Steven West
Lauren Rubin as Claire
Bill J. Stevens as John Pruitt
Franklin Dennis Jones as Robert Koepp

Review by Stephen M.

The Atticus Institute is filmed in the documentary format, billed as the only recognized demonic possession by the United States government.  The individual that is possessed is Judith Winstead (Rya Kihlstedt), as unassuming a woman as can be, carried a dark evil within her.  In charge of the Institute that monitored and tested individuals for psychic abilities is Dr. Henry West (William Mapother).  When the institute realizes they are in over their heads, they bring in the Defense department and that's when things get interesting.

What the Director does really well in the film is build up suspense.  This is supported greatly by the superb acting of Rya Kihlstedt as Judith despite the lack of dialogue from her character.  The previously recorded segments of the Institute with the props, set designs and costumes of that time period all plays well to an era famous for horror films like The Omen and The Exorcist.  The idea the movie presents of the military trying to weaponize something as wild, dark and unknown as what lies in Judith is compelling.

While the film is full of suspense, what it lacks for a horror film is a great scare.  Especially with all the buildup throughout the entire film and with the military essentially poking and prodding the "demon."  You would expect a much more gruesome and terrifying ending.  It's not to say that the film doesn't end with a bang or have its moments throughout the film.  The ending just does not meet the expectations of the great build up especially of Dr. Henry West with all the interviews with his family and colleagues.  The logic of the ending also is questionable even when you are factoring that the subject is something that defies our understanding of what is possible.

Overall, I would recommend this to any fans of horror.  The movie, despite not delivering the big scare you would hope for from this type of film, does enough right to warrant you watching the film.  Fans of The Exorcist and perhaps even X-Files would enjoy this film.  If you're expecting pea vomits and blood everywhere, then you would be sorely disappointed.  While the body count doesn't stack up, the film does hold up well enough against films in its genre.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Wedding Ringer
Releases January 16th 2015
1 hr 41 mins
Rated R


Director: Jeremy Garelick

Kevin Hart as Jimmy Callahan
Josh Gad as Doug Harris
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting as Gretchen
Alan Ritchson as Kip Cloris Leachman
Mimi Rogers
Ken Howard as Ed Palmer Affion Crockett as Reggie/DrysDale
Lindsay Pearce as Alexandra Plylow
Jenifer Lewis as Doris Jenkins
Olivia Thirlby as Alison Palmer
Jorge Garcia as Lurch/Garvey
Ignacio Serricchio as Edmuno
Nicky Whelan as Nadia
Anthony L. Fernandez as Angel
Josh Peck as Bad Best Man

Review by Stephen M.

The Wedding Ringer continues Kevin Hart's string of buddy movies, but catapulting him to the forefront alongside Josh Gad.  Josh plays groom-to-be Doug who is lacking of friends to fill out his groomsmen opposite his fiancee's (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) bridesmaids party of  seven.  He enlists Jimmy (Kevin) who is a professional best man, a person that fills in the role of best man at a wedding when you don't have one.  He initially balks at the challenge given the size of the party and short time frame but reluctantly agrees to take on the "Golden Tux."

Despite having the same feel of romantic comedies like Hitch and Wedding Crashers, Kevin Hart and Josh Gad's take on this genre is splendid and enjoyable and will have you laughing out loud.  This is due to their great on screen chemistry, Kevin Hart's continuing growth as an actor, and the well written plot and direction by Director Jeremy Garelick.  The movie really revs up as the duo gels in an extended dance scene between Kevin and Josh.  The supporting cast of motley groomsmen are hilarious with each having their own party distraction trick.  But what really does it for me is how the Director slowly transforms Kevin's character Jimmy as he and Josh's character Doug bonds.

Aside from a bit of a slowdown in the latter part of the movie there is little to find fault in this romantic comedy.  It would have been nice to see an Asian male portrayed positively for once.  But The Wedding Ringer continues the route of bizarre self degradation Asian males like Mr. Chow in the Hangover franchise.  The Wedding Ringer is at least an equal opportunity offender with its diverse talented cast.  Gretchen, Doug's fiancee played by Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting may have been better cast, as Kaley's performance while good is uninspiring.

Overall I would recommend this film especially as a date movie.  With male leads and bawdy jokes, the romantic comedy is geared more toward guys.  That's not to say the ladies would not enjoy it.  However, please leave the kids at home.  With drugs and implied sexual behaviors, why parents would bring their very young children to a screening like this is beyond me.  The cameo appearance of Broadway Joe Namath in what else but a touch football game is cool.  Seeing Kevin Hart step it up a notch, makes this worth watching.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We have been gone for awhile and now are back.  What better way to kick off 2015, then with a giveaway of Fifty Shades of Grey passes.  Be one of the first to see a public screening in New York City on February 12th, 2015.  We have one pair of passes to give away.  And yes, these passes are guaranteed seats and do not require you to wait out in the cold New York City streets.  Contest begins tonight, midnight and ends January 31st, midnight.  Good luck!

Fifty Shades of Grey
Releases February 13, 2015
2 hr 4 mins
Rated R
Drama, Romance