The Grinch Review

Illumination Delivers Another Perfectly Acceptable if not Necessarily Exceptional Animated Diversion in this Re-Telling of the Dr. Suess Classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

This Queen biopic Fails to Transcend the Genre the Way its Subjects Transcended the Music Scene, but at Least the Music is Good.

Overlord Review

Overlord Combines the Terror of War with the Terror of a Zombie Apocalypse and Accomplishes Exactly what it Means To.

The Nutcraker and the Four Realms Review

An All-Star Cast Attempts to Usher The Nutcracker Story to a New Generation Via Disney Blockbuster, but Unfortunately the Results Fall Short of the Ambition.

A Star is Born Review

Bradley Cooper Writes, Directs, Sings, and Stars in this Fourth Incarnation of this Story Alongside Lady Gaga to Rapturous Results.

BAD TEACHER Review

Cameron Diaz channels her inner Billy Bob Thorton in "Bad Teacher" and delivers her version of the world's worst educator. In all honesty this is a movie that could have been just as horrible as its main character. Sure, there is plenty of talent here, Diaz herself headlines and is best known for being the pretty girl who isn't afraid to "go there" or make herself look like a fool in front of the camera. It's what made her famous in the first place. We also have the ever expanding appeal of Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel is always golden, and the only inspiring moment of last years comedy dud "Dinner for Schmucks," Lucy Punch gives another great showing here as well. Whether it is due to the buffet of talent or my low expectations for this low brow premise, this film is overall much better and more consistently funny than it ever should have been.

While "Bad Teacher" is ultimately a showcase for Diaz to show she still has what made her a movie star in the first place the movie is able to get past its recycled feeling and instead turns into a pretty enjoyable politically incorrect comedy. As Elizabeth Halsey, Diaz is a gold digger who is discovered by her well off dork of a husband and then divorced thus forcing her to return to public school where she shows inspirational "teacher movies" during class so she can sleep, drink, and do drugs. Halsey is an almost disgusting character who would certainly be fired in an instant were this based in any kind of reality, but in movieland we are of course made to root for this unsympathetic, seriously bad teacher. In a somewhat refreshing turn, our central character never really learns to gain anything from her students but instead embraces her own missteps and applies them to getting these students ready for the world as she sees it.

It may be really going against the grain to say that "Bad Teacher" is a worthwhile film to spend money on and to waste an hour and a half on, but the truth is that the movie delivers what it advertised itself to be. Nothing more, nothing less. Director Jake Kasdan has made a career out of delivering awkward comedies that center around characters who don't want to adapt to the conventions of their natural surroundings. Whether it be Colin Hanks jaded high school student in "Orange County" or John C. Reilly's small town boy who yearns to make it big in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story". Kasdan follows Diaz's Halsey just as loyally. It is with his unflinching faith to his main protagonist or antagonist (whichever way you choose to view her) that allows "Bad Teacher" not to slip into conventions itself. The movie finishes just as awkwardly as it begins. The story lines with Timberlake and Segel never become that of a romantic comedy. They are kept true to their origins and it is with unabashed performances from both actors that we enjoy a trip that is as superficial and as organic as any movie could perpetrate.

That may again sound like giant praise for a sophomoric summer comedy, but you have to take into account all things here and the fact is that Timberlake builds a real character here, granted it is a fairly mild one, it is still good to see him try rather than scoot by on his name and his reputation. Segel delivers where it need be and adds a sense of comedy credibility that might have been lacking had this purely been a Cameron Diaz vehicle. As for the real reason this movie works and has a complete feel to it is the performance as Ms. Squirrel from Punch who completely anchors the film that would have otherwise been toppled by the dirty performance of Diaz's teacher. This isn't the best comedy you'll see this year, it's probably not even going to be the best comedy of the summer, but it's not a bad one and its much better than it had to be.


BAD TEACHER Review

Cameron Diaz channels her inner Billy Bob Thorton in "Bad Teacher" and delivers her version of the world's worst educator. In all honesty this is a movie that could have been just as horrible as its main character. Sure, there is plenty of talent here, Diaz herself headlines and is best known for being the pretty girl who isn't afraid to "go there" or make herself look like a fool in front of the camera. It's what made her famous in the first place. We also have the ever expanding appeal of Justin Timberlake, Jason Segel is always golden, and the only inspiring moment of last years comedy dud "Dinner for Schmucks," Lucy Punch gives another great showing here as well. Whether it is due to the buffet of talent or my low expectations for this low brow premise, this film is overall much better and more consistently funny than it ever should have been.

MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS Review

When Jim Carrey decided he was going to make a family comedy starring penguins it seemed like a safe bet but sadly it also seemed like the only route Carrey could trust to possibly revitalize his slumping career. Lets face it, not that many people turned out for "Yes Man" and did anyone outside the cinephile set see "I Love You, Phillip Morris"? No? Didn't seem like it. But alas, Carrey has landed himself in a family film that takes a childrens book, modernizes it, and though it throws in cliches, stock characters, and well worn lessons galore the movie still works because Carrey is so appealing and dedicated to his part. This might have been a stunt a la Vin Diesel or The Rock when they made "The Pacifier" and "Tooth Fairy" but at least this appears as more than a paycheck. Carrey is the consumate professional and he does his best to lift this material to its greatest potential.

What feels best about "Mr. Popper's Penguins" is the classical type elegance it has about it. This is simply a good-old fashioned family comedy. Yes, it may rely on one too many penguin poop jokes, but besides that there isn't much not to enjoy here. Not if you are able to let yourself go, forget all those rules that tell you you're not supposed to enjoy a film that doesn't have and over abundance of metaphors in its images and all that crap. This is a movie aimed at the ten year-old crowds and below, the biggest metaphor they have to understand is that it sometimes takes something crazy to realize something so simple. That a bunch of penguins could make a too busy for his own kids father realize the time he is letting slip away as his own father did with him.

Popper, as everyone in the film calls him even his kids and ex-wife, is a businessman looking to get his name on the front of the building and in the process has forgotten all that is really important in his life. He has two loving children, a fasinated young boy and a tween girl who gets the advantage of being played by the always great Madeline Carroll here. As for the ex-wife, Carla Gugino makes a fine foil for Carrey, we completely buy their short hand relationship and it is a highlight of the film how effortlessly these two vets make their situation seem to work even when it reaches levels of complete absurdity. When Popper's globe-trotting father passes away and leaves him six penguins is when things begin to turn around for our central character, but it is not without complications that Popper tries to balance his professional (which entails impressing a golden Angela Lansbury enough to sell him her estate) and his new personal life.m Of course, what Lansbury's Mrs. Van Gundy is really looking for is an individual she can trust to continue her business while enriching the same family values Popper is now also learning to appreciate.

Carrey has played this role before, the busy dad who doesn't have time for his kids was funnier in "Liar, Liar" but at least here Carrey is able to make us believe he would go as far as sitting in the cold with a penguin egg just to let his kids know how much he values the new relationships that have grown out of the black and white fellas showing up. Plans are also foiled when a conspicuous Clark Gregg shows up wanting to take the penguins away. Gregg's role here is mostly pointless and only adds to the climax of the film. The scene shows both Carrey and his penguin counterparts overcoming the odds and attaining their hopes and dreams. It may all sound mushy and sweet, and it is, but that is what is so nice about it. Though this may feel more like a Christmas release, Jim Carrey brings an extra warmth to the summer that is no doubt a relief for parents who are tired of sitting through countless animated movies with their children. It doesn't hurt Carrey's charm is in full throttle either, giving everyone in the theater a few genuine laughs and a constant reason to smile.


MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS Review

When Jim Carrey decided he was going to make a family comedy starring penguins it seemed like a safe bet but sadly it also seemed like the only route Carrey could trust to possibly revitalize his slumping career. Lets face it, not that many people turned out for "Yes Man" and did anyone outside the cinephile set see "I Love You, Phillip Morris"? No? Didn't seem like it. But alas, Carrey has landed himself in a family film that takes a childrens book, modernizes it, and though it throws in cliches, stock characters, and well worn lessons galore the movie still works because Carrey is so appealing and dedicated to his part. This might have been a stunt a la Vin Diesel or The Rock when they made "The Pacifier" and "Tooth Fairy" but at least this appears as more than a paycheck. Carrey is the consumate professional and he does his best to lift this material to its greatest potential.

GREEN LANTERN Review

Never should have thought this might have the will to turn itself around from that initial instinct. Back in November when the first trailer appeared I had the feeling this just wasn't going to work. I didn't know much about the history of the Green Lantern and that first glimpse peaked little interest, if anything it made me wonder who's idea it was to make Ryan Reynolds a super hero and why in the world they might think that would be a good career move for him or how that would make their movie any more credible. Turns out Reynolds is probably the best thing about this computer animated mess of a movie. If not for his good natured approach to the role of Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot with a soft spot for his long lost father who is given a magical ring by a dying alien, this movie might have actually been the worst attempt ever to bring a comic book hero to the big screen (here's lookin at you "Punisher: War Zone").

There is just not enough going on here to justify everything that seems to be happening. With all the exposition that we are dealt in the first ten minutes as well as everything from two villains (Peter Sarsgaard as big headed Hector Hammond and a puff of smoke called Paralax) not to mention the whole green lantern corps thing where there are thousands of chosen protectors who never get the time they deserve in this uneven story. Oh, and there's a girl, Blake Lively plays the heir to the company Hal flies for and also happens to be his biggest competition when it comes to maneuvering those jets and the closest thing he's ever had to a real relationship. I mean, I'm guessing that's what it was, the movie never spends enough time on any of its multiple story lines for the audience to ever become fully invested or involved in them thus, we feel nothing for these characters or their predicaments. And what the world are Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett doing here? Anyone?

"Green Lantern" does have its moments, as limited as they are. The scenes in which Hal Jordan discovers his destiny as a protector of the galaxy are nicely contrasted with the evolution of Hammond from meek college professor to evil scientist mode even if his appearance on the other side of the spectrum is funnier than anything else we've seen in theaters this summer. There is also Mark Strong, making a mean impression as Sinestro, the green lantern that allows a yearning for power to overtake his morals that made him a candidate for the job in the first place. Director Martin Campbell, or at least Warner Bros, were probably banking on this as the beginning of a series of films (stay after the credits for Sinistro's bid for the baddie in part 2) but with reviews as harsh as they've been, box office underwhelming and a general lack of quality to the film overall, I doubt if we'll be making another trip to outer space with Mr. Jordan, at least with Reynolds in the lead and Campbell behind the camera.

Though the Green Lantern is certainly one of the more difficult comics to adapt into a serious if not at least appealing film, but with such stiff competition from Marvel this summer with both "Thor" and "X-Men:First Class" already setting the bar pretty high this just looks like a joke. It is an extended Saturday morning cartoon, and a good one at that. Despite its budget and vision it feels strangely rushed, pieced together with no coherence or real substance but worst of all it isn't even as fun as it should be. It is pure summer sugar, a piece of eye candy that delights for too brief a moment and leaves you feeling underwhelmed by the time the credits begin to roll. Reynolds tries, but nothing else comes together, if only the Green Lantern might have taken a few cues from his fellow DC hero Batman, this movie could have really been something. Instead, it is a missed opportunity at its finest.


GREEN LANTERN Review

Never should have thought this might have the will to turn itself around from that initial instinct. Back in November when the first trailer appeared I had the feeling this just wasn't going to work. I didn't know much about the history of the Green Lantern and that first glimpse peaked little interest, if anything it made me wonder who's idea it was to make Ryan Reynolds a super hero and why in the world they might think that would be a good career move for him or how that would make their movie any more credible. Turns out Reynolds is probably the best thing about this computer animated mess of a movie. If not for his good natured approach to the role of Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot with a soft spot for his long lost father who is given a magical ring by a dying alien, this movie might have actually been the worst attempt ever to bring a comic book hero to the big screen (here's lookin at you "Punisher: War Zone").

My Favorite Super Hero Films


With one of the biggest comic book movies of the summer, "Green Lantern" opening this weekend I thought it a good time to take a look back and compile a list of some of my favorite super hero films. I admit my knowledge of the comic books most of these super heroes spawned from aren't my speciality and I realized there are a few films in this genre others consider to be great that I haven't had the privilege to see yet. Still, I think this list at least covers the movies in my life that have stood as milestones for where the genre of superhero films has been and where it is going. I hope you enjoy and find some treasure you may not have seen and I hope to get some feedback as to the ones you think I'm missing out on. I'm always eager to expand my superhero universe!  



10. Watchmen

I have never read the graphic novel. I would like to, but having skipped before viewing this film I was unsure what to expect from this film as a whole. The previews looked great, the story sounded interesting, but would it all combine for an entertaining 2 hour and 40 minute movie? For the most part, yes. It just didn't have the excitement or greatness that seemed to surround its hype. It also was not as gritty or as violent as I expected. I loved each characters story, their history and how all of this came to be, but the present story involving the comedians death and trying to stop nuclear war seemed a bit lost on me, I was more interested in the history of these superheroes. It is no doubt interesting and very unique in its approach to the genre. In fact, I'm really only sure you can call this a superhero movie because they wear masks. Visually, Snyder delivers again, it is amazing to look at and the special effects are flawless but this doesn't cover up the fact that Snyder lets the massive story get away from him and thus the movie has no real focus point. For its aspirations though, "Watchmen" deserves a spot on this list.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Debuting in 1990 I was only three years-old when this first live-action adaptation of my favorite cartoon hit the big screen. This is no doubt more out of nostalgia than anything, but I own this first film and both of its sequels on DVD to this day and will pop them in occasionally and they never fail to take me right back to my childhood. This first movie, a close tie for my favorite with its sequel "The Secret of the Ooze", follows April O'Neil (Judith Hoag) as she covers the reports and rumors of the "Foot Clan." April stumbles upon Raphael's sigh and then upon the turtles themselves. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it was able to find a balance between a really cheesy kids movie as well as appeal to the kiddies parents with its tongue-in-cheek humor. Watching it as a child they were the coolest super heroes ever and even watching them now it is a great adventure film. And though the credit to this film is no doubt mostly due to the nostalgia, but hey this is the freshest we ever saw the turtles and Elias Koteas makes a nice appearance as the hock-mask wearing Casey Jones. Getting to the bottom of it though, is there any better a way they could have gone about making a movie about crime-fighting teenage turtles? probably not.


8. Superman/Superman Returns

As with my number nine pick, I mainly remember the 1978 "Superman" as a movie I would catch on TNT or something like that. Nothing I ever went out to buy or sought to see again with a more mature perspective on, but when Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, X2) signed on to direct the re-boot of what is without a doubt the most historic of all super heroes, I was excited. Though I never delved too deep into the mythos of Superman, I knew the story of his origin, that his weakness was kryptonite, and that Lex Luthor was his most famous of enemies. I knew enough and I trusted that Singer would fill the rest of the gaps with his fantastic storytelling while bringing the man of steel into a new era that would recieve him just as well as Christopher Reeves "Superman" was thirty years earlier. Though "Superman Returns" was ultimately a failure at the box office people forget that the quality of the movie was actually pretty great. Brandon Routh was an inspiring choice, garnering the ability to walk that line between Clark Kent and his alter ego. Though many complain about Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, I found her rather assuring as well as her love triangle with Clark and James Marsden's Richard White is more real than anything you will find in any of these young adult vampire films today. The onlty complaint for "Superman Returns" that I found valid was the bloated running time. It was a little too much movie, but I'm glad Singer got it in while he could because sadly he was given no second chance.



7. Kick Ass

The question is posed, "How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero?" and that in turn spawns our main character to try it out. What this leads to is the "making fun" of how ridiculous it would be if someone tried to act like the superheroes they read about in the comics. Even the good ones like Big Daddy and Hit Girl are laughable in the way they have chosen to live their lives. It is also fair to question how an 11 year-old can show no remorse after stone cold killing 12 men, but it is established from the beginning that this character has not been raised to show remorse or affection or anything. She has been trained her entire life to kill, why would one expect her to act any differently than the way she did? There is no argument this is not the best way to raise a child, but for the purposes of being shocking and quite original (which I'm positive is what the comic book creators were going for) it works here. This is not for the young crowd, this is for the 17 to 30 audience (mostly males) that enjoy comic book movies and comedies. This is for the college age-kids who's narcissistic tendencies will be satisfied with this piece of satire.



6. Batman Begins

It is sometimes hard to take a look back now at the humble beginnings of director Christopher Nolans Batman saga. With everything that has come after it and the current non-stop hype and mystery surrounding the third (and supposedly final) installment now, it feels as if "Batman Begins" happened eons ago. Looking back at Nolan's first glimpse of the dark atmosphere and most gritty of all the origin stories we have seen for the caped crusader we realize how without this installment, "The Dark Knight" would not have been as epic and grand as it came off without this base for which it grew from. "Begins" just got it right for me. After suffering through a diluted view that I never understood in Tim Burtons productions and even worse in the Schumacher debacles it was the most refreshing thing in the world to have a Batman film that seemed to actually understand its own story and base it in a real world that made all this seem logical and possible. It is a smart, entertaining comic book film and probably the one we owe the desires of other filmmakers to make these gritty and reality-based comic book movies. Nolan set a standard here and in a way refreshed the idea that comic book films can be intelligent, quality films, not just genre pictures or quick cash cows.



5. The Incredibles

The only movie on the list not directly adapted from a comic book, Disney and Pixar's "The Incredibles" is what I consider to be one of their best releases to date. Just behind the classic "Toy Story" films, this beautifully animated tale about a super hero who is reduced to an office job and forced to live a quiet suburban life after his glory days of being a "super" have passed. Living with his family Bob aka Mr. Incredible sneaks out at night and along with one of his old crime fighting buddies attempts to re-live those days when being a supernatural being was praised instead of being looked down upon. But further than just paying homage to the super hero shows and ideals of the 50's, "The Incredibles" is a full story about family dynamics and is almost a dissection of marital drama. These heavy themes combined with the family-friendly comedy and fun action sequences make this more than just a children's film. This would no doubt appeal to parents and their children from beginning to end, something not many animated films can claim to have accomplished.



4. Iron Man

When Robert Downey Jr. showed up as Iron Man to kick off the summer movie season in 2008, no one ever expected it to be the massive box office hit as well as critical success it turned out to be. This film had plenty of cool while feeling gritty yet fun at moments. It had a plain baddie, but Jeff Bridges knew how to personify a mad man, and the action and effects were awesome; just the right amount of explosions and justification for the actions to make this more than just your average good vs. evil. What essentially made the film rise above that of any one's expectation though was Downey's performance. His sarcastic, narcissistic performance mixed with Favreau's guiding hand to create the most energized of super hero films to ever appear on screen. It is a pure dose of summer sugary fun. Though the second installment had its moments and provided more of a bridge to the universe Marvel studios plans on unleashing, it is this first installment that really stands on its own and deserves recognition as a separation from most super hero movies.


3. Spider-Man 2

It was with great awe that i approached the Spider-Man franchise. I had loved the cartoon series as a child and even into my early teens when the first live action movie showed up in theaters. Spider-Man was one of the few super heroes I enjoyed enough to actually go out and get a comic book of them and read into their history and learn about different story lines. I loved the first movie, I thought it captured the tone and goofiness that Stan Lee had created in his comics while staying contemporary and cool enough for a modern audience. With the sequel i hoped for bigger and better things, but as always was prepared to be let down. Spider-Man 2 though, is clearly a movie that rises above its genre confines. It is funny, action-packed, much darker than its predecessor and not to mention the last time a quality Spider-Man movie graced the big screen. Raimi upped the ante while hiring Alfred Molina as the evil and heartbroken Doc Ock while maintaining an already great cast with Tobey Maguire as the perfect balance of nerd and hero to become the web-slinger and Kirsten Dunst as his one and only Mary Jane. James Franco in his breakout role as Harry Osborn and the unforgettable JK Simmons as Jameson. This is in the purest form a straight adaptation of its source material and it is a spectacular movie. One that challenged other comic book films to step up and be more than just hopeful franchise launch.  

2. X2: X-Men United

It is a hard choice between the second installments of the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises as they are both far above average in terms super hero films much less the fact they are sequels. It might just be the fact I am in the throws of being rekindled with my love for the X-men franchise after seeing "First Class" a few weeks ago, but in any case both are worthy of being near the top of any super hero film list. With "X2: X-Men United" Director Bryan Singer was constantly saying how he used "The Empire Strikes Back" as a template for his follow-up to the movie that began this whole comic book craze. Singer not only accomplished what he seemed to be going for but he created a much bigger, more ambitious and an even darker film than its predecessor. While many of the films on this list have a few components that make them a great super hero movie, X2 seems to have everything one could want out of a comic book film.
  

1. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is a film that is like nothing many of us have seen before-and that is not said in the sense of the visuals or the performances (although both are great) it is more an acknowledgement of how it penetrates the genres of films, it is much more than a comic book adaptation or a superhero movie-it is a cinematic masterpiece-a crime drama, a mystery, a story of love of loss and of chaos. It is about the way the world and people turn. It may sound like I am making too big a deal out of a movie, but the fact is a billionaire who dresses up as a bat has captured, in Christopher Nolan's vision, what is usually lost in these superhero movies and that is a sense of reality. The city scape shots are gorgeous and the chase scenes are intense. The story becomes more clear with each viewing, the little things you missed the first time because you were so enthralled with the hugeness of it all make themselves more relevant and add another layer to the great editing that causes so many of the scenes to be so tense and only makes you appreciate and see clearly why Batman does what he does at the conclusion of the film. Speaking of tense, it is how you feel every time the Joker is on screen. Heath Ledger not only created a raging psychopath or agent of chaos, but a terrifying human that has no limits-a lunatic who scares you and makes you laugh-although that laugh is a very unsure one. Gary Oldman really inhabits his Com. Gordon and almost disappears into the role-it feels with this second film, he was born to play this role. The rest of the cast is great, Eckhart delivered in what could have been a laughable downfall-but he was able to make you feel his pain. Bale, who essentially plays the straight man in this whole thing is still the best Batman to grace the big screen-he fully embodies his true caped crusader and the front that is Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight is complex in story and visually stunning. It is on a grand scale-it is a big movie-and it delivers on every expectation that was set for it.

My Favorite Super Hero Films


With one of the biggest comic book movies of the summer, "Green Lantern" opening this weekend I thought it a good time to take a look back and compile a list of some of my favorite super hero films. I admit my knowledge of the comic books most of these super heroes spawned from aren't my speciality and I realized there are a few films in this genre others consider to be great that I haven't had the privilege to see yet. Still, I think this list at least covers the movies in my life that have stood as milestones for where the genre of superhero films has been and where it is going. I hope you enjoy and find some treasure you may not have seen and I hope to get some feedback as to the ones you think I'm missing out on. I'm always eager to expand my superhero universe!  

SUPER 8 Review

Audiences of all ages will enjoy "Super 8". If you are of the generation this is inspired by you will be induced with a great amount of nostalgia (Spielberg even throws the classic Amblin emblem in front of this one) and if you are of the generation in between (as I am) or are the same age of the main characters here you will simply be transported back to a time when things just seemed less chaotic. This J.J. Abrams picture, heavily influenced by the young ensemble adventures of Spielberg's early days is a welcome treat in a summer filled with superhero films and sequels. To be able to have a cool, entertaining sci-fi flick hit the theaters and truly experience raw escapism for nearly two hours is what the movies are really about. I have put full trust and will look forward to anything Abrams does after he made me a "Star Trek" fan two years ago (I had never seen an episode or movie before) and with this follow-up he not only collaborates with a legendary mentor to create what will no doubt be the most originally thrilling film of the summer, but probably the most heartwarming as well.
The top-secret story is a bit of a let-down in terms of what lengths they went to with the marketing campaign, but it's not like we couldn't have guessed what was coming the moment that second trailer was released. And though in the latter half of the film the creature that is hidden within the train that derails early in the film dominates the stories attention it is without a doubt the relationship between the young cast that allow this movie to rise above a campy homage to films of yesteryear a la "The Goonies" and "ET". From the first shot of the film we dive into that Spielbergian universe where kids are smarter than the adults that surround them and their are relationships galore that must be mended, reconciled, and formed.

At the center of all this is 14 year-old Joe Lamb, played by wonderfully natural newcomer Joel Courtney. Joe lost his mother only four months ago and has a "real men don't cry" type relationship with his deputy dad. As Mr. Jackson Lamb, Kyle Chandler demonstrates a restraint that lends to creating not just another stock father/son relationship, but one that elicits more from non verbal facial expressions than corny dialogue. Joe is currently helping his friend Charles finish a monster movie which of course leads to them to witnessing a massive train wreck that unlocks a few mysteries that will get them into more trouble when they have no choice but to investigate them further. Joe's gang of friends, led by the bossy Charles and rounded out with the firework obsessed Cary, the cautious Martin, the laid back Preston, and Alice as the object of Joe's affection are the true heart of this movie. Alice is from the wrong side of the tracks and her mysterious father shares a link to Joe's deceased mother, but as inhabited by the amazing Elle Fanning, Alice and Joe become friends with just the right amount of childhood wonder and curiosity. What the film does best is to strike that almost perfect balance between the sci-fi monster movie and the childhood experience that was clearly the inspiration for this whole thing.

Abrams combines these two opposite sides of fantastical memories to create a film that will not only move his career even further in the positive direction but it is made with such wonder, such love for the art that we can so easily enjoy it because we can feel with how much love this thing was made. "Super 8" is that rare film where you can feel the director's hand in crafting it to be exactly as he saw it in his mind. Giving this group of kids a naturalistic flow, an undeniable chemistry that makes it feel like there was hardly any writing done for the movie, that it really is just peeking in on these young teenagers, ignorant to the ways of the world, as they interact with one another and take the set backs they are dealt with a grain of salt. With a perfect blend of comedy, action, and drama this represents the perfect recipe for a summer blockbuster. It is the icing on the cake this movie is smart, well-made, and put together by ow of the greater minds in film making. I enjoyed "Super 8" thoroughly or, as Charlie would say, "It was totally mint!"


SUPER 8 Review

Audiences of all ages will enjoy "Super 8". If you are of the generation this is inspired by you will be induced with a great amount of nostalgia (Spielberg even throws the classic Amblin emblem in front of this one) and if you are of the generation in between (as I am) or are the same age of the main characters here you will simply be transported back to a time when things just seemed less chaotic. This J.J. Abrams picture, heavily influenced by the young ensemble adventures of Spielberg's early days is a welcome treat in a summer filled with superhero films and sequels. To be able to have a cool, entertaining sci-fi flick hit the theaters and truly experience raw escapism for nearly two hours is what the movies are really about. I have put full trust and will look forward to anything Abrams does after he made me a "Star Trek" fan two years ago (I had never seen an episode or movie before) and with this follow-up he not only collaborates with a legendary mentor to create what will no doubt be the most originally thrilling film of the summer, but probably the most heartwarming as well.

THE COMPANY MEN Home Video Review

Why "The Company Men" didn't receive a wider theatrical release is beyond me. It certainly may not be the feel-good movie of the year, but it is poignant and relevant, a film that will represent a part of history. In twenty years, the financial disaster of 2008 will be encapsulated through the experiences and despair that is emulated through these characters writer/director John Wells has created. Not to mention the amount of star power this thing is punching. With Ben Affleck coming off his acting re-boot in his own incredible drama "The Town" he possesses the right amount of credibility and cockiness to pull of this character while at the same time somehow managing to make us fee sorry for this character. In the supporting stories we see Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Craig T. Nelson all dealing with the financial collapse in their own ways while two strong female performances from Maria Bello and Rosemarie DeWitt round out this complete story that may not offer escapism, but does teach us a lesson.

As Bobby Walker, Affleck plays a man who has become accustomed to excess in his life. When that is taken away from him because the company he works for is cutting jobs in order to placate their shareholders he is at first unsure what to do next. What is really interesting about the film is the way in which it shows the ripple effect this kind of loss has not only on the man that held the job, but his family, his friends, and everyone else that is able continue on with their day to day. To Affleck and his fellow employees that have been let-go it is almost an insult that others can go on so casually with their lives while they are suffering through this life-changing event. Internally, it demasculates a man, he is his job. It represents everything he is and all that he is capable of, for someone like Bobby who lives to brag about his golf score, this is a devastating blow. Even more so is the fact no one fought for him after he dedicated twelve years of his life to the company.

First and foremost is Gene McClary (Jones) the head of the division Bobby works for, and someone Bobby thought he could depend on. Gene himself is suffering with the ethical validity behind his best friend and current president of the company James T. Salinger's (Nelson) reasons for making the decision to cut so many people without any sign of guilt or second thought as to how it will effect those people. Gene has a loveless relationship with his wife as she seems present only for the benefits Gene's job allows her to take advantage of. This leads him to complicate things even more as he conducts an affair with Sally Wilcox (Bello) the woman assigned to composing the lists of those that are to be fired. Though more story than this may seem like one is asking for too much to cover in too little time. Even threatening to take away from the central story, but what Chris Cooper's Phil Woodward adds to the mix is the realization of just how far the feeling of disrespect resides in the human spirit. As Woodward, Cooper is at his best, digging into the viewers conscious with his desperate stares and depressingly hopeful pleads to employers. His realization his life was wasted on a company that valued him enough to let him go after thirty years is what validated this film as a strong, powerful piece of writing and acting that will resonate with so many people.

In the midst of all this Affleck discovers what it means to appreciate things again, even the value of hard work as he dips his toes into construction with his brother-in-law Jack. As Jack, Costner is the shining light of the film, offering the perspective of how kind of ridiculous this entire situation is. How messed up this world is when it comes to those who make what they really deserve and those who get paid because of the image they need to uphold. "Company Men" is a fascinating look inside the lives of a few men that go through a crucial yet somehow needed experience in their lives. It is a nicely paced drama that never really has the ability to drag and with enough talent on its roster to always keep the audience entertained and interested. It might have worked better and been given more room to expand on the stories of these men had it been set up in a different format, say a mini-series, but this is still a solid film and one that will require a peaked mind instead of the hope for escapism.


THE COMPANY MEN Home Video Review

Why "The Company Men" didn't receive a wider theatrical release is beyond me. It certainly may not be the feel-good movie of the year, but it is poignant and relevant, a film that will represent a part of history. In twenty years, the financial disaster of 2008 will be encapsulated through the experiences and despair that is emulated through these characters writer/director John Wells has created. Not to mention the amount of star power this thing is punching. With Ben Affleck coming off his acting re-boot in his own incredible drama "The Town" he possesses the right amount of credibility and cockiness to pull of this character while at the same time somehow managing to make us fee sorry for this character. In the supporting stories we see Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, and Craig T. Nelson all dealing with the financial collapse in their own ways while two strong female performances from Maria Bello and Rosemarie DeWitt round out this complete story that may not offer escapism, but does teach us a lesson.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Review

"X-Men: First Class" has a certain element of cheese to it, but in a weird kind of twist it completely works. Not in the way that it laughs at its own campiness but in a way that re-enforces the time period and the ideology of the characters in this world. It is one of many elements that give this re-boot of the X-Men franchise a fresh feel. I am by no means an expert on the X-Men mythology from the comic books, instead I first heard of the mutant team when I saw their Saturday morning cartoon in the early 90's. I welcomed their arrival to the big screen eleven years ago and it is to them we credit with the wave of superhero films that have graced our movie screens every summer since. I loved the first film and think "X2" is one of the better super hero films ever made, and while "The Last Stand" and Wolverine's origin tale tanked in terms of direction and storytelling, "First Class" is the re-boot this series needed. And what better way to go about this then give us an origin story? Answer those burning questions that have always loomed over this franchise. Director Matthew Vaughn delivers answers and much more.

The biggest thing Vaughn's film gets right is the casting. He nails the two key roles, that without credible, able actors would have caused this film to immediately fail. As a young Xavier, James McAvoy is smooth and spot-on. We would have never though of Professor X as a ladies man, but McAvoy makes it believable and he gives him grounding. We see a young man with huge aspirations and a level-headed, if not slightly cocky, leader. He takes on the task of aiding the American government in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis. In the process of this he comes across another young mutant, a tortured one who is out for revenge on the same man who is responsible for inciting this conflict between America and Russia. As a young Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto, Michael Fassbender not only inhibits a young Ian McKellan, he exudes the tragically torn dilemma with which Magneto has always dealt. All over his face and in his every movement, Fassbender shows how bad he needs to kill the man that killed his family. After meeting Xavier and learning his ideas and vision we see Erick begin to feel more at war with himself. Both McAvoy and Fassbender command the screen every time they are on it, whether together or apart, they drive the movie and complete the grand idea of what this origin story could have been into a concrete reality.

Director Vaughn has also taken care of his supporting players by choosing a fine ensemble of young and experienced talent. We have the soon to be Katniss of the "Hunger Games" trilogy, Jennifer Lawrence as a young Mystique. Who would have guessed Professor X and Mystique were once like brother and sister? Nicholas Hoult who made his debut nearly nine years ago in "About A Boy" and resurfaced last year alongside Colin Firth in "A Single Man" is perfect as a young Hank McCoy/Beast as well as Lucas Till as Havok and possibly Cyclops dad? And an up-and-coming Caleb Landry Jones as the appealing Banshee. While the younger cast fills out the early X-Men team, what is even more surprising is the caliber at which the more seasoned talent takes this material. It was a pleasure to see Rose Byrne here even if she was given the least to do, though I hope her character is included in sequels (and is a possible cause for Xaviers more solemn mood later in life). Having January Jones in the cast just feels like an excuse to put her in skimpy outfits while Kevin Bacon makes a turn as one of the better screen villains this summer. As Sebastian Shaw this man isn't just responsible for almost causing nuclear war he is indeed the inspiration for what we see Magneto as in the first three X-Men films. He is the cause for the rift in Charles and Erik's relationship, he gives Erik the push to do what Xavier had begun to suppress within him and Bacon is absolutely devilish throughout all of it.

Setting this origin tale against real, historic events is another smart move by the makers. This, along with delivering the answers to many questions we may have never thought to ask and Vaughns knack for quick paced, fun and insightful storytelling combine to make his film two hours and ten minutes of pure fun. He manages the large cast well focusing in on the stories the audience would be most intrigued with while giving us excellent action sequence breaks at just the right time. It is the meaning behind these actions that make them all the more painful to watch and exhilarating at the same time. Vaughn flawlessly flows through connecting the dots and by the end of the final frame we are hoping there is more to come. Sadly, as we see the reasons for why things ended up the way they did fall into place we can only hope there are even more curtains to pull back and more mystery to the history of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr that can be unspoiled in the next chapter.


X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Review

"X-Men: First Class" has a certain element of cheese to it, but in a weird kind of twist it completely works. Not in the way that it laughs at its own campiness but in a way that re-enforces the time period and the ideology of the characters in this world. It is one of many elements that give this re-boot of the X-Men franchise a fresh feel. I am by no means an expert on the X-Men mythology from the comic books, instead I first heard of the mutant team when I saw their Saturday morning cartoon in the early 90's. I welcomed their arrival to the big screen eleven years ago and it is to them we credit with the wave of superhero films that have graced our movie screens every summer since. I loved the first film and think "X2" is one of the better super hero films ever made, and while "The Last Stand" and Wolverine's origin tale tanked in terms of direction and storytelling, "First Class" is the re-boot this series needed. And what better way to go about this then give us an origin story? Answer those burning questions that have always loomed over this franchise. Director Matthew Vaughn delivers answers and much more.